Point 1: His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Advice Concerning Dolgyal (Shugden)

Point 1: His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Advice Concerning Dolgyal (Shugden)

http://dalailama.com/messages/dolgyal-shugden/his-holiness-advice

Following long and careful investigations, His Holiness the Dalai Lama strongly discourages Tibetan Buddhists from propitiating the fierce spirit known as Dolgyal (Shugden). Although he once practised Dolgyal propitiation himself, His Holiness renounced the practice in 1975 after discovering the profound historical, social and religious problems associated with it.

(Ed: The people who support this ban – and who most probably wrote this article – are the same people who believe that the Dalai Lama is an emanation of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion. To say that he only suddenly discovered the “problems” associated with this practice in 1975 is to say that a fully enlightened being like Chenrezig is capable of making such a basic mistake and is unable to differentiate between a Buddha and a spirit. How is this possible? It is very contradictory to say on the one hand that the Dalai Lama is enlightened and on the other, to say that he is making such basic errors in judgment.)

He did so with the full knowledge and support of his junior tutor, the late Kyabje Trichang Rinpoche through whom His Holiness first became associated with the practice.

(Ed: it is not accurate to say that Trijang Rinpoche supported Dalai Lama renouncing this practice. If Dalai Lama requests to stop this practice and had no sogtae (empowerment), what else can HH Trijang Rinpoche say. Of course Trijang Rinpoche ‘agreed’. But remember, after Trijang Rinpoche ‘agreed’ to Dalai Lama stopping his propitiations to Shugden, Trijang Rinpoche continued to practice Shugden all the way till the end of his life. This shows clearly Trijang Rinpoche saw no faults in the practice of Shugden. Trijang Rinpoche spoke widely and spread Dorje Shugden’s practice throughout his lifetime until the end. When the ban was implemented, Trijang Rinpoche has already passed away. Zong Rinpoche had passed away. Dalai Lama did not institute any ban during the lives of these great masters. As these Masters can speak out against any ban. Dalai Lama only officially banned the practice much later on. Trijang Rinpoche is not recorded anywhere for having endorsed or supported the view that Dorje Shugden is a spirit. He wrote a vast commentary on Shugden to preserve the practice in fact.

Further, his current incarnation is the only person in the world who is permitted by the Dalai Lama to practice Dorje Shugden. Why would the Dalai Lama allow the incarnation of his Guru to continue this practice when, apparently, he had already “known of and supported” the ban on this practice?

Also, why would the Dalai Lama allow the incarnation of his own teacher to practice something that is supposedly so threatening and harmful? If it is because Trijang Rinpoche is the only person powerful enough in the world to control this “spirit”, then why doesn’t Trijang Rinpoche just subdue, control and tame him completely so that he is no longer a threat? The many issues that are related to Trijang Rinpoche are very contradictory – not because Trijang Rinpoche is causing any contradiction but rather by the ways in which his name is being wrongly use and misappropriated.)

Even within the Geluk and Sakya schools – the Tibetan Buddhist traditions to which majority of Dolgyal practitioners belong – the propitiation of this spirit has been controversial throughout its history. Historical investigation reveals that Dolgyal practice, which has strong sectarian overtones, has a history of contributing to a climate of sectarian disharmony in various parts of Tibet, and between various Tibetan communities.

(Ed: Historically, this is incorrect. There are accounts in many high Lamas’ writings, including those of Trijang Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama’s own tutor) and highly respected oracles that there was great harmony between the sects. Trijang Rinpoche was even famous throughout Tibet for having bestowed Dorje Shugden’s practice on many practitioners in other sects.

We must also remember that historically, Dorje Shugden was first and long propitiated by the Sakyas before his practice was brought into the Gelugpa school of Buddhism. The Sakyas wrote beautiful verses and prayers in praise of Dorje Shugden being an enlightened being and enjoyed peace throughout those many years.

Where exactly do these “sectarian overtones” appear in history? There has never been any direct nor substantial proof that Dorje Shugden’s practice has ever caused any sectarian problems or issues between the schools of Tibetan Buddhism.)

Therefore, from 1975 onwards, His Holiness has regularly made public his view that this practice is inadvisable, based on the following three reasons:

1. The danger of Tibetan Buddhism degenerating into a form of spirit worship: Tibetan Buddhism originally evolved from the authentic and ancient tradition upheld at the great Indian monastic university of Nalanda, a tradition that His Holiness often describes as a complete form of Buddhism. It embodies the original teaching of the Buddha as developed through the rich philosophical, psychological and spiritual insights of such great Buddhist masters as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga and Dharamakirti. Since the great philosopher and logician Shantarakshita was instrumental in establishing Buddhism in Tibet in its earliest stages in the 8th century, philosophical enquiry and critical analysis have always been important hallmarks of Tibetan Buddhism. The problem with Dolgyal practice is that it presents the spirit Dolgyal (Shugden) as a Dharma Protector and what’s more tends to promote the spirit as more important than the Buddha himself. If this trend goes unchecked, and innocent people become seduced by cult-like practices of this kind, the danger is that the rich tradition of Tibetan Buddhism may degenerate into the mere propitiation of spirits.

(Ed: It is completely incorrect to say that Dorje Shugden is a spirit, as he has been clearly acknowledged and recognized by many high and enlightened Lamas as an emanation of the Buddha Manjushri. These Lamas include the Dalai Lama’s own root Gurus as well as the Dalai Lama himself in the earlier part of his life. Many, many highly attained and enlightened teachers throughout history have also relied on Dorje Shugden and clearly acknowledged his enlightened nature. How can it be that all these Lamas are wrong in their judgment?

There has also been clear evidence and acknowledgement of Dorje Shugden’s enlightened incarnation lineage. One of his previous incarnations, Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen, has even been identified as an emanation of Tsongkhapa – so this would definitely an enlightened being! It is not possible for a being to be enlightened in one lifetime and then degenerate into being a spirit or samsaric being in the next. This is completely impossible.

See the full story here:

His previous incarnations, such as Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen, Panchen Sonam Drakpa and Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen were widely recognized as enlightened beings in their own right. Texts composed by Panchen Sonam Drakpa continued to be used as central study texts for the Geshe degree in Gaden and Drepung Monasteries. Isn’t it contradictory to claim that Dorje Shugden is a spirit, but simultaneously be studying texts composed by his previous incarnation?

If indeed Dorje Shugden really is a spirit, then why doesn’t the Dalai Lama, or any of the high Lamas in the world (of which they are many) simply destroy him, subdue or control him? To say that he is not controllable is to say that all the enlightened and attained Lamas of the world are not able to control a mere spirit; it is saying that a spirit is more powerful and has more influence than a fully enlightened being. This is not possible and defies all of the most basic Dharma logic.

There are many contradicting accounts which claim that Dorje Shugden was destroyed in fire pujas during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama. Witnesses even claimed that they could smell burning flesh, which was considered to be proof that he was killed. If this was the case, then why are we still so worried and threatened by this “spirit”? Why should we be living in such fear of a spirit that has supposedly been destroyed hundreds of years ago?

It is clear therefore that no rituals, throughout these many hundreds of years, have been able to destroy or “tame” this “spirit”. Actually, there is only one type of being that cannot be destroyed in any way – a Buddha. The fact that no one, of any enlightened or attained level, has been able to destroy Dorje Shugden is a clear enough sign that he is no ordinary samsaric being or spirit, but a fully enlightened Buddha.

Lastly, It is also completely contradictory for the Dalai Lama to claim that we should not propitiate Dorje Shugden because he is as spirit. The state oracle of the Tibetan government has been Nechung for hundreds of years – and he is widely acknowledged and accepted as a subdued spirit. He is most definitely far less enlightened than Dorje Shugden! Why does the Dalai Lama and his government rely on and seek the advice of a spirit themselves but ban the practice of a fully enlightened Protector?)

2. Obstacles to the emergence of genuine non-sectarianism: His Holiness has often stated that one of his most important commitments is the promotion of inter-religious understanding and harmony. As part of this endeavour, His Holiness is committed to encouraging non-sectarianism in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In this His Holiness is following the example set by his predecessors, especially the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. Not only is a non-sectarian approach mutually enriching for all Tibetan Buddhist schools, but it is also the best safeguard against a rise of sectarianism that could have damaging consequences for the Tibetan tradition as a whole. Given the acknowledged link between Dolgyal worship and sectarianism, this particular practice remains a fundamental obstacle to fostering a genuine non-sectarian spirit within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

(Ed: This is completely illogical. How can a single practice cause sectarianism? Dorje Shugden did not arise as a Protector to cause any conflict between the schools. He arose to protect the teachings and practitioners of Tsongkhapa, but this does not mean it is at the expense or detriment of other schools. Remember that he had also served as a Protector for the Sakyas for hundreds of years. How can he be sectarian if he so happily protected practitioners of another school for this long?

There is absolutely no proof that Dorje Shugden’s practice has caused any direct problems in sectarianism between the schools of Buddhism. To say that Dorje Shugden practitioners are sectarian is illogical. There are different sects within Buddhism (not just within the Tibetan Buddhist lineages, but throughout all Buddhist traditions in the world). Each sect will have its own practices, methods and teachings; practitioners within those sects would thus focus on the teachings of their school. If they are not fully engaged with other schools, this is not considered sectarianism. It simply means that they wish to focus on the teachings of their own school first until they have attained a stable foundation and understanding of the teachings. It is not uncommon for more advanced practitioners to begin taking teachings from other schools also; but only when they are firm in their study and practices.

This is very common practice throughout all schools of Buddhism, and is no different for practitioners of Dorje Shugden. If one claims that Dorje Shugden’s practitioners are sectarian, that would be akin to saying that anyone else who practices Palden Lhamo or Mahakala or Kalarupa etc exclusively as their Protectors are also sectarian, which of course is illogical and ridiculous.)

3. Especially inappropriate in relation to the well-being of Tibetan society: Propitiating Dolgyal is particularly troublesome, given the Tibetan people’s present difficult circumstances. Textual and historical research demonstrates that the spirit Dolgyal arose out of hostility to the great Fifth Dalai Lama and his government. The Fifth Dalai Lama, who assumed both the spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet in the 17th century, personally denounced Dolgyal as a malevolent spirit that arose out of misguided intentions and is detrimental to the welfare of beings in general and the Tibetan government headed by the Dalai Lamas in particular. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama and other respected Tibetan spiritual masters have also spoken out strongly against this practice. Therefore, in the current Tibetan context, in which unity among the Tibetan people is vitally important, engaging in this controversial and divisive propitiatory practice is inappropriate.

(Ed: Again, Dorje Shugden did not arise to create any hostility or cause any harm to any being! He arose to safeguard and spread the teachings of Tsongkhapa. How can this be harmful in any way? Further, he was encouraged by Nechung to arise as a Dharma Protector. How is it logical that this same Protector that Nechung encouraged is now being banned as a spirit? Is that to say that the Dalai Lama is going against the advice of his entire state’s own Protector?

There has also never been any proof of any “harm” that Dorje Shugden has caused to practitioners. Any evidence so far has been mere assumption or very loose accusations. There is no substantiated proof at all anywhere.

It is important to note that the 5th Dalai Lama had also written verses and prayers in praise of Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being. So to say that he only denounced Dorje Shugden as a spirit is historically incorrect. Other incarnations of the Dalai Lama, such as the 11th, had also been known to propitiate Dorje Shugden, even building chapels in his honor. If we consider that the Dalai Lama is of one mindstream from lifetime to lifetime, then isn’t he supposedly displaying a very contradictory nature? Which lifetime do we choose to follow? The ones that promoted the practice or the ones that denounced it? In this very lifetime, the Dalai Lama also used to propitiate Dorje Shugden strongly and has also written praises in honor of his enlightened nature. As mentioned above, is it really that the Dalai Lama is this fickle and uncertain?)

His Holiness has strongly urged his followers to consider carefully the problems of Dolgyal practice on the basis of these three reasons and to act accordingly. He has stated that, as a Buddhist leader with a special concern for the Tibetan people, it is his responsibility to speak out against the damaging consequences of this kind of spirit worship. Whether or not his advice is heeded, His Holiness has made clear, is a matter for the individual. However, since he personally feels strongly about how negative this practice is, he has requested those who continue to propitiate Dolgyal not to attend his formal religious teachings, which traditionally require the establishment of a teacher-disciple relationship.

(Ed: Yes, spirit worship can be damaging to anyone who chooses to engage in this, but it is clear that Dorje Shugden is NOT a spirit and his practice is NOT harmful. There has been no substantiated evidence anywhere to prove that he is harmful. Moreover, there are many, many high Lamas who were famous for having propitiated Dorje Shugden throughout their lifetime – e.g. Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa, Zong Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten, Pabongka Rinpoche etc. If this “spirit” was so harmful, why weren’t any of them harmed? If his practice is so damaging, then why weren’t any of them “damaged”? On the contrary, these Lamas all returned and many of these Lamas’ unmistaken incarnations were recognized by the Dalai Lama himself! Isn’t this all very contradictory?)

 


 

The original article at dalailama.com in full:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Advice Concerning Dolgyal (Shugden)

Following long and careful investigations, His Holiness the Dalai Lama strongly discourages Tibetan Buddhists from propitiating the fierce spirit known as Dolgyal (Shugden). Although he once practised Dolgyal propitiation himself, His Holiness renounced the practice in 1975 after discovering the profound historical, social and religious problems associated with it. He did so with the full knowledge and support of his junior tutor, the late Kyabje Trichang Rinpoche through whom His Holiness first became associated with the practice. Even within the Geluk and Sakya schools – the Tibetan Buddhist traditions to which majority of Dolgyal practitioners belong – the propitiation of this spirit has been controversial throughout its history. Historical investigation reveals that Dolgyal practice, which has strong sectarian overtones, has a history of contributing to a climate of sectarian disharmony in various parts of Tibet, and between various Tibetan communities. Therefore, from 1975 onwards, His Holiness has regularly made public his view that this practice is inadvisable, based on the following three reasons:

  1. The danger of Tibetan Buddhism degenerating into a form of spirit worship: Tibetan Buddhism originally evolved from the authentic and ancient tradition upheld at the great Indian monastic university of Nalanda, a tradition that His Holiness often describes as a complete form of Buddhism. It embodies the original teaching of the Buddha as developed through the rich philosophical, psychological and spiritual insights of such great Buddhist masters as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga and Dharamakirti. Since the great philosopher and logician Shantarakshita was instrumental in establishing Buddhism in Tibet in its earliest stages in the 8th century, philosophical enquiry and critical analysis have always been important hallmarks of Tibetan Buddhism. The problem with Dolgyal practice is that it presents the spirit Dolgyal (Shugden) as a Dharma protector and what’s more tends to promote the spirit as more important than the Buddha himself. If this trend goes unchecked, and innocent people become seduced by cult-like practices of this kind, the danger is that the rich tradition of Tibetan Buddhism may degenerate into the mere propitiation of spirits.
  2. Obstacles to the emergence of genuine non-sectarianism: His Holiness has often stated that one of his most important commitments is the promotion of inter-religious understanding and harmony. As part of this endeavour, His Holiness is committed to encouraging non-sectarianism in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In this His Holiness is following the example set by his predecessors, especially the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. Not only is a non-sectarian approach mutually enriching for all Tibetan Buddhist schools, but it is also the best safeguard against a rise of sectarianism that could have damaging consequences for the Tibetan tradition as a whole. Given the acknowledged link between Dolgyal worship and sectarianism, this particular practice remains a fundamental obstacle to fostering a genuine non-sectarian spirit within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
  3. Especially inappropriate in relation to the well-being of Tibetan society: Propitiating Dolgyal is particularly troublesome, given the Tibetan people’s present difficult circumstances. Textual and historical research demonstrates that the spirit Dolgyal arose out of hostility to the great Fifth Dalai Lama and his government. The Fifth Dalai Lama, who assumed both the spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet in the 17th century, personally denounced Dolgyal as a malevolent spirit that arose out of misguided intentions and is detrimental to the welfare of beings in general and the Tibetan government headed by the Dalai Lamas in particular. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama and other respected Tibetan spiritual masters have also spoken out strongly against this practice. Therefore, in the current Tibetan context, in which unity among the Tibetan people is vitally important, engaging in this controversial and divisive propitiatory practice is inappropriate.

His Holiness has strongly urged his followers to consider carefully the problems of Dolgyal practice on the basis of these three reasons and to act accordingly. He has stated that, as a Buddhist leader with a special concern for the Tibetan people, it is his responsibility to speak out against the damaging consequences of this kind of spirit worship. Whether or not his advice is heeded, His Holiness has made clear, is a matter for the individual. However, since he personally feels strongly about how negative this practice is, he has requested those who continue to propitiate Dolgyal not to attend his formal religious teachings, which traditionally require the establishment of a teacher-disciple relationship.

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  1. It’s great that you are replying to the these statements on the Dalai Lama’s website and you’ve made some great points. Just one thing – the Dalai Lama is not saying that Trijang Rinpoche supported the ban, as there was no ban when he was alive: I’m sure the ban began in 1996, well after Trijang Rinpoche’s passing, unless you know for a fact that it started earlier. What the statement is saying is that Trijang Rinpoche supported the Dalai Lama’s decision to stop doing Dorje Shugden practice. I don’t think this is true either. Trijang Rinpoche would not have any option other that to accept what the Dalai Lama forcefully rejected -I doubt he was consulted, given how much the Dalai Lama has been seen to disrespect him subsequently.

    Also, as you know, Chenrezig is the Buddha of Compassion, not wisdom – just a slip of the keyboard, no doubt! ;-)

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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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