Dalai Lama Criticizes the Kagyus

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By: Kay Beswick

During a trip to Ladakh, India in 2012, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was filmed making fun of various lineages, most notably the Kagyu lineage. Around the world, the Dalai Lama is known as the paragon of love, kindness and acceptance. People go to him seeking his advice on how to deal with difficult situations, and how to develop compassion and tolerance for others’ differences. It would therefore be reasonable to assume that His Holiness the Dalai Lama practices what he teaches everyone. Hence, when videos like these emerge, some are shocked to discovered that His Holiness can speak in this manner.


All of you doing sectarianism in religion, I think it’s not good. Among the monks, there is no one who said like this but among the lay people, I found some people who said this.

In the past, in Ladakh – if said in English, ‘sectarian’ – there was no sectarianism before but recently, I heard that sectarianism in religion is strongly increasing.

For this, do a gathering once a year and debate on religion or talk, then you all will know about each other and later you will not say, “I am Gelug, I am Kagyu, I am Nyingma…” And in Kagyu also, “I am Drukpa Kagyu, I am Kamsang Kagyu, I am Taklung Kagyu…” Is there Taklung Kagyu?

[Monk off-camera says, “There is Baram Kagyu.”]

I think I should bring Taklung Kagyu later. There is Baram Kagyu, isn’t it? Right?

[Joking] Actually, I want to bring all the religions together then it’s good that you all can fight with each other. [Dalai Lama laughs]

“We are Drukpa Kagyu”. Over there, there was a small banner that says what? “Young Drukpa Kagyu Association”. Drukpa, I thought it means Dragon from Bhutan country. This is useless! It’s not useful. I don’t see it is good. And they have made a flag also. Before, the Karmapa’s house had a flag. On the flag, there is a symbol of a wave. I didn’t find any meaning in that. Kamsang Kagyu also made a flag. Does this make sense?

[Dalai Lama points to a lama] Drigung Rinpoche’s Ladrang has a Buddhist flag and on the corner of the flag, there is a sun and moon and a HUNG.

[Dalai Lama addresses a lama] How is your Drukpa Kagyu flag?

[Monk replies there is a dragon on the flag]

[Joking] Okay okay, that’s good. The dragon is China’s god so better you all go to China. It’s not useful. Why are you following animals? It’s not useful. There is no meaning. HUNG is better! It’s not useful.

[A monk off-camera says something to the Dalai Lama]

Don’t talk about your visions (གཟིགས་སྣང་།), it’s better not to talk about this. Now we have to use our common sense.

Oh! This is someone’s pure vision (དག་སྣང་།), this is someone’s vision, this is someone’s prophecy. I don’t believe in all these things, do you understand? Stop it. In reality, I don’t think it’s good.

[Dalai Lama says to a Gelug monk] Do the Gelugpas have a flag?

[Monk says no] Now you have to make a Gelug flag. What’s the symbol? What about the yak’s head to hit everyone? [Dalai Lama laughs]

Some people might excuse this video as the Dalai Lama’s typical playful manner but the fact is, this was not a passing joke. It was a nearly three-minute long commentary about the decisions and traditions of the Kagyu lineage, about something relatively insignificant as a flag. For those unfamiliar with Tibetan society, they should understand that within the Tibetan communities, the Dalai Lama’s word is law. He does not have to make direct statements about something in order for people to react. Rather, the Dalai Lama only needs to make a passing comment about something not being to his liking for everyone to react negatively against it. For example, when the Dalai Lama did not like Taiwan and made remarks against them, no one was allowed to visit. Those who had connections like Serkong Tritul were accused of being spies, publicly arrested and humiliated.

That is what His Holiness did with the Dorje Shugden practice 20 years ago. In the case of the Dorje Shugden practice however, it was more than a passing remark. His Holiness has dedicated hours over the last 20 years speaking against Dorje Shugden; in one example, a 27-minute speech that he gave resulted in an attack against an elderly monk of Trijang Ladrang. It has been 20 years of systematic and institutionalised discrimination, marginalisation and suppression. Resolutions have been passed against Dorje Shugden practitioners, hit lists of practitioners have been published to direct violence against them, and signs and notices have been circulated warning against association with Dorje Shugden practitioners.

So the fact is, the Dalai Lama’s words carry a lot of weight within the Tibetan community, and in the Tibetan Buddhist community at large. His stature is such that he is able to speak with relative impunity; no one else would tolerate similar jokes if it were made by anyone else. How would the world react if Obama were to start commenting and making fun of the Islamic, Jewish, Baha’i, Hindu and pagan faiths? It would not be unreasonable for leaders and adherents of those religions to become upset; as a secular leader, Obama is expected to remain impartial and fair to all faiths and religions, and to interact with them objectively, without prejudice and free from personal opinion or bias. Hence, as a secular leader of all Tibetans, it was unbecoming of the Dalai Lama to poke fun at another faith when he is supposed to be fair to all.

Furthermore, as a Gelug leader, one has to examine how appropriate it was for the Dalai Lama, a Gelug lama, to make such remarks about other lineages other than the Gelug faith. What other leader within the Tibetan community would be able to make the same type of comments without raising the ire of other lineages, and without being accused of sectarianism? Would the Karmapa, for example, be able to make comments about Gelug activities without being criticised for it? He would immediately face accusations of sectarianism.

So in fact, videos like these are not very surprising, especially for Dorje Shugden practitioners. They simply tell us what we as Shugden practitioners have always already known – be careful when the Tibetan leadership is not happy with you. Now the real question is, what else and who else is safe from the Dalai Lama’s remarks and how long more will they be safe for? If the Dalai Lama can disparage the great Kagyu lineage, with its thousands of centres worldwide, when will it be someone else’s turn to experience the repercussions of the Dalai Lama’s displeasure? When living in such uncertain times which are dependent on the opinions of one individual alone, the Tibetan leadership in Dharamsala therefore cannot be said to be a democracy in any sense of the word.


Addendum: A Critical Meme

This is not the first time His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been shown to be critical of other faiths. On WeChat, an extremely popular instant messaging program used by Tibetans all over the world, this meme below has been circulating highlighting the Dalai Lama’s criticisms of the Kagyu lineage while simultaneously promoting the merits of the Gelug lineage.


Monasteries teaching about Milarepa is not widespread or well-known. Mahasiddhas like Milarepa hardly benefited the Dharma. Kagyus following the religious instruction of mahasiddhas, this does not have beneficial purposes for the Dharma. It is [only beneficial] for individual people. If you want to experience pure Dharma, there is nothing greater than the lineage and teachings of Je Tsongkhapa. Je Tsongkhapa’s lineage is constituted of [teachings from] the lineage and teachings of great Indian mahasiddhas.

Would such remarks be tolerated if they had been made by leaders of other Tibetan Buddhist traditions? Dorje Shugden practitioners are often accused of sectarianism by virtue of our choice to keep our practice. Yet, even as His Holiness continues to criticise other lineages, he is never labelled as sectarian. We are not asking for the Dalai Lama to be criticized, nor do we rejoice in the fact his criticisms of others are being highlighted. All we are asking is for the same standards of religious freedoms and even judgements to be applied to all. If we wish to equate sectarianism with being critical of other lineages, then whenever anyone is critical of other lineages, they should be considered sectarian too, regardless of their rank, stature, reputation or office. In reality however, it oftentimes seems like only Gelug practitioners bear the brunt of this false accusation of sectarianism, and have become hypervigilant against such accusations.

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15 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. If religions ignore non-duality and turn the wheel of illusions like god and devil duality/god and bad duality and so on, that only effects impermanent luck/peace and pain/war that comes along with, well then we also should question this like Shakyamuni did, who did not belived into the former vedic beleifsystem with their rituals like killing animals for whatever and so on.

    Shakyamuni questioned the beliefsystems and their rituals, the traditions, the government, the law, just anything and discovered by himself non-duality/shunyata by being curious about reality and questioning just anything and trying out diffrent methods of mindfulness in order to finaly become aware of shunyata and to understand reality for himself and all of us for the benifit of all beings!

    Shakyamuni did all that he did, all his research and practice just for us! He was thinking of us and wanted to help us to liberate us from our suffering and all causes of suffering, he is what a true leader is, he is what a true king is, he is what a true being is that is not an enemy nor a friend but beyond this limitation of duality for the benifit of all beings.

    I study and practice dharma because of I continue his work and fulfill his wish for the benifit of all beings.

    May Shakyamuni guide us all with his wisdom and compassion, may his heartadvice be the light on our path to discover our inner light for the benifit of all beings. May Shakyamunis whish always be my wish, to help all beings to liberate themself from suffering and all causes of suffering.

    This is why we took bodhisattva vow and that’s why our lama has bound us under oath of this precious and sublime bodhichitta. Also to take this vow and to be bound by a lama to this oath is protecting and dharmapalas of all kayas take care of it for the benifit of all beings. So let’s destroy all illusions. May the wrath of vajrakilaya destroy all harmful powers that are hostile against wisom and compassion, outer, inner and secret and may all lineages be protected by the wisdom of non-duality.

    The being of a Buddha like Shakyamuni is the reason why we all study and practice dharma for ourself and others. We have the same qualities of conciousness, we want the same he wanted when he started to find answers to his question how to liberate himself and all beings from suffering. We all have the same wishes and we all do the same and we all continue his enlightend activitiy for the benifit of all beings here with form within nirmanakaya for the benifit of all beings with form and without form and who are not able to perceive and experience sambhogakaya and dharmakaya reality.

    So we should question just anything, we should question duality, we should question all illusions, we should question all religions, we should question all traditions, we should question government and law, because reality is free of lastingness and non-existence and only wisdom and compassion can cause and effect freedom and wellbeing because there is spacecontinuum that is free of lastingness and non-existence or non-duality/shunyata.

    But we should also remeber that King Shakyamuni did not teached buddhism, dharma is not an ism because dharma is free of ism.

    I do not study and practice buddhism, i am not a buddhist! Everyone who studies and practices buddhism is not following Shakyamuni at all but rather going away from dharma.

    We are curious about reality or our conciousness is able to become/be aware of non-duality/shunyata. So we are able to become free of illusions and suffering by becoming aware of non-duality/shunyata.

    How do we become aware of non-duality, by mindfulness regarding non-duality or by so called analytical and resting dharma study and practice. This is what Shakyamuni did and it works very well.

    Everyone has eaten chocolate, so no matter what is written or said about the taste of chocolate, everyone understand that the written text or the words about chocolate are not the taste of chocolate itself and also if there is something wrong about the text or words about chocolate everyone who has eaten chocolate will see the faults within the text or words about chocolate if there are some.

    Same with dharma, all those who never ever had the experience of non-dual awareness/shunyata might have dificulties to understand or to use what is communicated by words or texts about non-duality and if you don’t understand then also some people might spread duslism and you did not got it at all.

    So forget all texts, words and so on, don’t get stock in duality but go beyond duality!

    O precious and sublime liberating wisdom and compassion/non-dual awareness, may it arise in those in whom it has not arisen, may it never decline where it has arisen, but go on increasing, further and further!

    I would say HHDL is doing all this to wake up all students of dharma and to bring all students of dharma closer together. If HHDL made mistakes, may the wisdom and compasion of all kayas liberate them, help them, guide them into freedom and wellbeing for the benifit of all beings.

    May all lineages of dharma in all directions, be protected by the wisdom of non-duality and may all harmful powers that are hostile to all lineages of dharma be destroyed by the wrath of vajrakilaya.

  2. In this age and times, it is indeed very difficult to ask for peace and tolerance and acceptance. People are too quick to judge, to accuse and to condemn. we have gotten used to not thinking because we have not been thought to think. in fact, the opposite is encouraged and the education system perpetuate it.

    As more and more within the Tibetan communities are criticized, the people will be terribly fragmented. How can the Tibetans unite to fight for their country? How can there be peace when they are fighting among themselves? A civil war fought on foreign soil not even for their homeland.

    May the attained be able to explain all the actions of the Dalai Lama and bring some understanding.

  3. Deities are programs, Shugden is an obsolete and dangerous program.

  4. Indeed. The words of Dalai Lama carry a lot of weight especially among the people who was born into the culture of respecting Dalai Lama as the ultimate ruler. But the fact is that, the people do not take every words from Dalai Lama seriously. Dalai Lama promotes love, peace, harmony and religious freedom. Were all these being carried out? Dalai Lama also said. “All of you doing sectarianism in religion, I think it’s not good.” But this was blatantly ignored too.

    May the followers of Dalai Lama have clarity and practice Buddha Dharma purely.

  5. We are the drop of water in the lake … for a separate moment, but belonging to the total.

  6. OmG. This is extremely fake… Its a stretigy of the one who don’t like His holiness n I can bet you that the one who did this is a person who don’t have respect for his holiness. Yes I am Tibetan and I respect his holiness and I know that many of you watched his holiness speech n u will find in most of speech his holiness making fun or jokes but that doesnot mean his holiness is making fun if his own religion. There is big difference between making fun from core heart and normal jokes n the one who say bad things from his core heart is the worse thing n normal joke is like a joke which was not said from core heart n not purpose to hurt people and his holiness jokes was second one. I saw a pic protesting against his holiness## OK## can anyone tell me, did his holiness ever make speration according to religion or class while giving speech around the world So kindly please stop posting this nonsense and silly articles on his holiness. I slightly know who dare to do this kind of things. But I could not explain it properly due to ma weakness in English language. Let me give u example before I conclude here ( can u able to say bad things on the one who who is so close to u. ???? ##nope na## so this is the reason of uploading this kind of nonsense article about his holiness.

  7. I hope His Holiness the Dalai Lama will refrain making ambiguous statements that can led to greater fracturing amongst the Tibetan society. Tibetan society is already quite fractured over many issues.

    If it is not ambiguous statements, the Kagyyu leadership hasn’t really come out to praise the words of the Dalai Lama, calling it enlightened jokes etc.

  8. It is clearly stated that HH Dalai Lama’s word is the law and it is considered carry a lot of weight within the Tibetan communities. Whatever he says, the people will take actions accordingly.

    However, HH Dalai Lama did mention for not doing sectarianism in religion. His Holiness’s intention is to bring all the religions together. But the problem now, are the people really follow His Holiness not doing sectarianism? The current situation shows they have made their own flag.

    The people who listen selectively or want to take action follow their own judgement or favour, may eventually lead to suffering of others.

  9. Lombu – if it’s obsolete, then maybe the Dalai Lama should stop talking about it and let us do what we want.

    Tenzin – in answer to your ridiculous comment, yes the Dalai Lama banned it. Just go to Dharamsala and look at the sign on his gate. It says very clearly Shugden people are not allowed to go in. If the Dalai Lama is the leader of ALL the Tibetan people, how come Shugden people cannot go in? Imagine if Obama put a sign on the White House saying Jews or Hindus cannot go in. Is that okay? So why is it okay for the Dalai Lama to discriminate like that?

    Face the facts. This video is real. The Dalai Lama is making fun of another religion. The video of the Dalai Lama making fun of Trump is real. The video of the Dalai Lama in Drepung expelling monks is real. Your problem is the same as Dharamsala’s. You just don’t want to see reality and that is why after 60 years, you are still trying to kiss Western butt. What’s the point of making friends with the USA and UK, when they are not the ones controlling Tibet? Use your brain, please, thank you!

  10. The Shugden groups can dare defy the Dalai Lama because they don’t have a country. The Tibetans are scattered all over the world and they have their various power basis from their various countries. I’ve spoken to Ms. Dhardon Sharling about this. If all the Tibetans were back in Tibet, they would have no chance to defy the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama’s government would crush them into silence. How dare they defy the Dalai Lama. Democracy is not for the backwards and illiterate Tibetans. They need a strong, smart and able ruler like the Dalai Lama and his ministers to tell them what is good or bad for them. The Dorje Shugden practice should be banned completely from the Tibetans and Tibetan nation because it is a harmful practice. And no religious freedom should be allowed to let this Dorje Shugden religion arise. In history, many other harmful religions were suppressed for the good of mankind. Shugden should be suppressed and all people who practice him should be forced to give up the practice.

  11. Everyone should go and take a picture with the Dalai Lama and post it. It will boost ‘business’. It’s made me look really valid and more people trust what I am saying simply because I have my picture taken with the Dalai Lama. I’ve roped in Carole MccQuirre and gang to do the same things. You see because I am from East Germany and we don’t believe in any sort of religious freedom. Whatever the regime in the past told you to do, you do it without question. The Shugden groups should not be allowed to practice their religion because the Dalai lama says so. We shouldn’t question the Dalai Lama or defy him. After all he is not human but a god. So if Dalai Lama says don’t practice Dorje Shugden, just follow along without question because why should there be religious freedom. The populace are too stupid to see what religion is good and what is harmful.

  12. I agree with you Paljor. The Tibetans do not need democracy, but a strong firm hand to tell them what to do. They are not like we educated English people who can handle and know what to do with democracy. The fact that Tibetans have no real elected leaders and the leader is really the Dalai Lama for the last 60 years is good news. Tibetans cannot elect their own leaders. When the Dalai Lama dies, we wait for him to reincarnate back and take over again because he is the only leader that can handle Tibetans.

  13. The Dalai Lama is a Rimé practitioner so he practices in ALL the Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Why would he say anything disrespectful about Milarepa? I believe this must be a misquote. Regardless of what one might think of the Dalai Lama, or the Shugden issue, I don’t believe he would speak out disrespectfully against Milarepa. Whatever he said was taken out of context.

  14. The Dalai Lama is a God/King to the Tibetans and every word or nuances are taken as instructions or law. So when the Dalai Lama starts to criticise against other sects of Tibetan Buddhism, isn’t he creating schism and actual sectarianism amongst his people? All four sects of Tibetan Buddhist school of thoughts are centuries old and each has its own Masters who gained attainments from their own school of practices. As such, why is the Dalai Lama seeking to put down this or that schools? Even within Gelug schools, the Dalai Lama created segregation with the banning of authentic protector practice of Dorje Shugden. It is so illogical when Masters who practiced Dorje Shugden had their incarnations personally recognised by the Dalai Lama. These Masters include the great Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and so many more. Is the Dalai Lama saying that he had sudden lapses of attainments when he recognised them? Makes no sense at all.

  15. Nechung is ZUMA 👎 before I m think he is one of d best when I m watch dis video By Geshe Dorjee la but now I m think is not d truth n he is lie to Tibet people we r not back to Tibet yt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIDZLzXIgW8 Chithue Tenpa Yarphel la tq for talk about truth of Nechung . I m watch to this video many time la https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if2dFMKIr_8 n after I hear you talk I m not belief to Nechung

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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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