Abolish the Dorje Shugden ban to further the Tibetan Cause

By: Stevie Lee

Since 1949, when the People’s Liberation Army entered Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has consistently pursued a peaceful approach towards engaging China on the topic of Tibetan Independence. In 1979, the Chinese premier Deng Xiao Peng had issued a proposal to the Dalai Lama that “except independence, all other issues can be resolved through negotiations.” Eventually, the Dalai Lama changed his approach to accommodate the Chinese government’s conditions and formulated the Middle Way, which was to forfeit the pursuit of outright independence in consideration of an autonomous Tibetan rule within the framework of Chinese authority.

Despite this compromise, the dialogue with the Chinese government has not been conclusive to this day. Beijing’s reaction was mixed, but many attempts by the Tibetan envoys have been met with apathy and considerable suspicion.

In 1988, the Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement saying that the People’s Republic of China would not accept Tibet’s “independence, semi-independence or independence in disguised form”. Clearly, Beijing was not impressed with the proposals that were issued by the Tibetan envoys although the proposals of self-autonomy appeared to be aligned with Deng Xiao Peng’s terms.

Deng Xiao Peng held office as the Chinese premier in 1979

For Beijing, the Tibetans have always proved to be an enduring problem, especially with the recent spate of self-immolations occurring all over the Tibetan Xinjiang province. Self-autonomy of the province promises the eventual return of the very powerful figure of the Dalai Lama to the province. As the Tibetans view the Dalai Lama as more than just a ruler for he is a religious icon of the highest order – a living Buddha – that itself could either quell much discontent or spark revolutionary activities. Much depends on China’s belief in the good intentions of the Dalai Lama. Self-autonomy may give the Tibetans what they are fighting for – from the standpoint of the Dalai Lama being able to return to the homeland; the preservation of Tibetan culture, language and religious heritage, and therefore, may very well be the solution to the Sino-Tibetan standoff. However, the Chinese are at the same time, wary of letting a Trojan horse into its midst. It is therefore an issue of trust.

Beijing’s mixed reaction would mean that the Chinese are actually considering Tibetan self-autonomy but are unwilling to conclude any agreement because the intentions of the Tibetan government in exile, now known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), are not clearly reflected in their actions, statements and policies.

Over the years, the sentiment of the Tibetans has made very clear of their widespread resentment of the Chinese rule. This is made painfully apparent with the series of self-immolations that are occurring all over the Tibetan province. It is obvious that the Tibetans are seeking international attention for an outright independent Tibet, which Beijing strongly rejects, and not just for self-autonomy. The very fact that the Dalai Lama and the CTA have not issued any strong statements to condemn the recent spate of self-immolations reaffirms Beijing’s fears and suspicion of the Tibetans’ real objective. To Beijing, the Dalai Lama remains supportive of Tibet as an independent nation, despite the Dalai Lama’s public statements of seeking self-autonomy.

It is important to note that since the 16th century, Tibet has been historically ruled by a line of Dalai Lama incarnations. Even in India, the Dalai Lama has taken an active role in governing the Tibetan community in exile. Therefore, the strength of the Dalai Lama’s power and influence over the Tibetans can never be underestimated. Undoubtedly, Beijing forms this strong opinion by looking at how the word of the Dalai Lama alone is sufficient to challenge the deeply rooted religious traditions of the Tibetans, something the people hold sacrosanct. Since the 1990s, the Dalai Lama had actively sought to stamp out Dorje Shugden practice within the lay and monastic community. Special emphasis has been placed upon enforcing the Dorje Shugden ban within the monastic community over the years. This resulted in a painful schism within the great monasteries. Due to the toxic propaganda against the Dorje Shugden practice, a huge split also emerged within the Tibetan community causing widespread discrimination and fear. Such is the power of the Dalai Lama.

Such blatant religious discrimination would definitely have adversely coloured Beijing’s view of the CTA as an autonomous government, capable of governing the Tibetan people within the Chinese infrastructure. After all, the People’s Republic of China is essentially an atheist state since the days of Mao Tse Tung. They would not want one of its autonomous provinces to have its own agenda, let alone a religious one within its governing policies that would adversely affect and possibly destabilize not only the state but the entire country as well. Therefore, the CTA maintaining the ban on Dorje Shugden would not be in the best interest of the Tibetan cause. In fact, the ban on Dorje Shugden has showed Beijing that the CTA’s democratic surface is just a façade for an archaic and ‘feudalistic’ government that is more concerned with carrying out a religious agenda than to maintain social order.

Dr Lobsang Sangye, the first democratically elected head of the CTA and the Tibetan community in India

Even after the Dalai Lama resigned from his position as the political head of Tibet on 14 March 2011, very little has changed in way of the internal policies of the CTA. The top position within CTA is now the office of a democratically elected Sikyong. A Harvard graduate, Dr Lobsang Sangye is currently holding this office. However, there has been not much difference since the days of the Dalai Lama. Expectations were high and some even dared to hope that the CTA would pursue a secular government and leave religious ruling to the great lamas of the monastic circle. However, the CTA continues to uphold the ban on Dorje Shugden despite the fact that a totally lay and secular government is in place. Some wonder who is in fact pulling the strings.

As it is, the CTA is invested with the power to implement changes into the governing policies of the community. If they are serious about engaging with China to gain Tibetan autonomy, then they have to ensure that all governing policies are strictly secular and that religion, of which the Dalai Lama is the undeniable central authority, would not be a factor. Therefore, the ban on Dorje Shugden has no place in the secular running of CTA and should be abolished. Should this happen, it would prove to the Chinese government that the CTA is separating the church from the state, and this may positively influence the current Chinese sentiment towards the Tibetan proposal for autonomy.

China’s worry is augmented by looking at the Dalai Lama’s refusal to stamp out self-immolations by the Tibetans. The Chinese have seen how the Dalai Lama has been so influential that he is able to implement and enforce a religious ban on Dorje Shugden, a popular protector deity. If he can use his influence on the Tibetan people to get them to follow his religious view, then he can also use it to get the Tibetan people to toe the line with the agenda of self-autonomy and to stamp out self-immolation completely. Now, the Chinese knows this and to the Chinese, the lack of anti-immolation conviction from CTA and the Dalai Lama reaffirms their belief that the Dalai Lama and the CTA are not really seeking self-autonomy but total independence.

So what’s the solution? Abolish the Dorje Shugden ban, and issue stronger statements against self-immolations, while unifying the people in a stand against self-immolation and the Tibetan autonomy agenda. After all, if the Chinese government were to consider self-autonomy for the Tibetan province, they are expecting a secular running of the Tibetan autonomous province and one that adheres to the policies of the central government. In order to have the Chinese reconsider the Tibetan proposal, the CTA has to ensure that the proposal and the CTA’s policies appear secular, and are in line with Chinese interests. Therefore, the easiest way for the CTA to achieve this is to lift the ban on Dorje Shugden.


Source: http://tibet.net/important-issues/sino-tibetan-dialogue/an-overview-of-sino-tibetan-dialogue/

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6 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Yes, lifting the ban, separating religion and state, and Tibet’s either being an independent democracy or remaining in exile would be much preferable to returning to Tibet under China’s rule. The Chinese people are probably very nice people, but their form of government is very oppressive; they insist on okaying Christian Bishops, for example, rather than allowing the Christians to do this. Please note that China ‘okayed’ a certain candidate for Karmapa, who was not chosen by the agreement of the four regents, and definitely not by the head regent, Shamar Rinpoche. Who is better at finding reincarnate lamas? The head of the Kagyus or the communist government of China? What might China’s agenda be? (These are rheorical questions).
    Communism is really an oppressive form of government, where our freedoms and endowments are negated by the state and politics. I am praying for the Tibetan and Chinese people that they will both be allowed freedom of religion and democracy. Dorje Shugden protects pure Buddhadharma to be free from politics, not just those of state but also agendas of anyone that aren’t pure dharma. So, let’s pray to Dorje Shugden, help by separating religion and state, and allow for democracy with personal freedoms protected.

  2. There are some problems with your statement here. Orgyen trinley was approved by Tai Situpa and was championed by Tai Situpa. Tai Situpa is one of the 4 regents of the Karma Kagyu school. It is pretty obvious that Tai Situpa is using Orgyen trinley as a political puppet in some ways if you want to see it from a conventional point of view, but also remember that Sharmar Rinpoche and Tai Situpa both grew up as children together.

  3. Hello, Tenzin Choje,
    Yes, Tai Situ Rinpoche was involved in chosing the Orgyen Trinley; however, he directly contradicted Shamar RInpoche’s wishes by doing so, and has historically been 3rd to the Karmapa, while Shamar Rinpoche has been 2nd. I’m afraid we are dealing a little too much with China here for me, though I certainly concede the point that Tai Situ may be an emanating Buddha whose activity is to show us what not to do, and also to decoy the Chinese into chasing around after the wrong Karmapa, and to make us do lojong.
    For a reference that Orgyen Trinley might be too easily a puppet of the Chinese government please see the link:

  4. There is one question I must ask: why is it not possible to have 2 Karmapas, existing side by side? Why is it that it must only be one? Is it not possible for him to emanate into 2 different individuals?

  5. It looks like that should Tibet want self-autonomy or independence it needs to prove to be stable and consistent and not have double standards and confusing secular and religious components. I cannot help but think that for this to happen, does it mean that the Dalai Lama needs to cease existence? There is so much bad blood and discredit with the actions of the Dalai Lama that I cannot help but think that for all affairs – from political state to this Ban – to move forward the Dalai Lama needs to be replaced. Is there a successor to the Dalai Lama whom can deliver the same religious weight and sincerely not have political inclinations? Is this even possible? This Lobsang Sangye guy is not doing much to apply his Harvard education. Is Orgyen Trinley a possible solution? The Chinese back him… The Chinese also support Dorje Shugden temples in China…

    Where is all this going? So much man made suffering… Just out of curiosity, anyone ever think that Tibet is better off being a part of China? This Dorje Shugden practise could be the new Buddhism for China and it needs no Dalai Lama.

    I think that China should tell Dalai Lama and the CTA, lift the Ban and we can talk more! May DS bless China!

  6. Tenzin,
    Of course it is possible to have two emanations of any Buddha; however, is it wise let China and the Dalai Lama pick one of them, or just leave that to the Kagyus? Without China’s support would Tai Situ have opposed Shamar Rinpoche’s candidate?
    Concerning Agnes Kohl’s post, yes, a successor to the Dalai Lama that would be really helpful to Tibetans and all living beings would be a fully democratically elected government; for instance, a freely elected Parliament and Prime Minister, along with a rules for government which allow for religious freedom and human rights; it really won’t help Tibet to keep finding these leaders, who, elected or not, have most of the control and no official allowance for basic human rights like freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
    Concerning China, China may allow Dorje Shugden prayers, along with other Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim or Christian prayers, but the government of China is still severely limiting religious freedom; it is technically okay to be a Buddhist, as long as one isn’t holding Party office, but that is of course a detriment to those who would be good at running the state and still might have a religious affiliation. Furthermore, being Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, etc., isn’t only about freedom to pray or meditate when the state gives it’s okay; of course if a Buddhist needs to go on retreat for several years, this can be problematic in a communist society; if a Buddhist needs to travel to a teaching, it can be problematic; if a Christian wants to proselytize, that can be problematic to the Chinese. In other words, freedoms which are basic to our religious life are not being upheld in Tibet; while it is helpful that China is allowing some religion, it would be much better, of course, if they would adopt a human rights policy that allowed for freedom of religion more like that in the West. So, China may allow Dorje Shugden prayers, but Dorje Shugden practitioners and all other Buddhists would face the same difficulties actually carrying out retreat or travel to teachings, basically because the government of China is far too controlling.

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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