Controversial Buddhism

To our friends in the Dharma,

“When teachers break the precepts, behaving in ways that are clearly damaging to themselves and others,  students must face the situation,  even though this can be challenging, criticize openly, that’s the only way.”

- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

We bring a topic of interest and great importance to you today and hope you will take the time to read what we have to say. As you will probably know, there are many controversies and scandals that occur across every religion. Buddhism is no exception. We found a very interesting article online on, which we have attached here for your reference: “Controversial ‘Buddhist’ Teachers and Groups.” (

First, however, we must make it clear that we are NOT condoning everything that is stated in this article and we are not proclaiming to be an authority to comment on the authenticity or actions of any of the teachers mentioned in the article. We wish to simply draw your attention to some aspects to be aware of as we thread our spiritual path.

In particular, we wish to point out the relationship that the Dalai Lama has with some of these personalities. As the spiritual head of millions of Tibetan Buddhists around the world, we believe it is all the more important that he is transparent in his teachings and instructions. In the last two decades, the Dalai Lama has taken a very militant stance against people who pray to the Buddhist Protector Dorje Shugden, going to the extent of banning the practice. People who continue the practice are considered traitors to the Dalai Lama and to the cause of Tibet’s independence (we will never understand why a religious practice would have any bearing on a political issue but that is not a point that seems to be ever addressed by the Dalai Lama and his supporters).

Today, the situation is such that anyone of any faith, background, religious tradition or culture may attend teachings and public events with the Dalai Lama. Newspapers the world over splash headlines of historic meetings between the Dalai Lama, religious leaders and spiritual groups everywhere. He is widely photographed in inter-faith prayer sessions with Christians, the Pope, Muslims, secular leaders and presidents (see photos below).

The Dalai Lama with Muslim leaders of over 30 nations, at a global peace gathering

The Dalai Lama at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, with the cathedral’s canon pastor, Michael Colclough, left, and the bishop of London, Richard Chartres

However, Dorje Shugden practitioners – who are also Buddhists and of the same Buddhist school (Gelug) as the Dalai Lama himself – are prohibited from even going to greet him. Non-Shugden practitioners within the Tibetan communities are not allowed to associate, practice or even talk to Shugden practitioners. In most cases, grocery shops are not even permitted to sell items to Shugden practitioners.

Now, let’s look again at this article from The beginnings of the article quotes His Holiness the Dalai Lama calling for the action of individuals to “face the situation” and “criticize openly” when “teachers break precepts, behaving in ways that are clearly damaging to themselves and others”.

This has been the biggest question within the Buddhist community. How can such blatant exclusion of a group of practitioners and the denial of religious freedom towards fellow Buddhists be in line with any Buddhist precept or vow? The heart of Buddhism is kindness and not to harm anyone. But in this case, Shugden practitioners are being discriminated against and even attacked by their own fellow Buddhists.

Above all, they are denied and rejected by their own spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. In many cases, the Dalai Lama is also one of their teachers. Many Shugden practitioners find themselves in the terrible dilemma of having to “choose” between one teacher who has advised them to pray to Dorje Shugden and the Dalai Lama who is now telling them it is a wrong practice. The relationship with the spiritual teacher is a most crucial part of the Vajrayana Buddhist practices, so this dilemma is an especially difficult one for practitioners.

The Dalai Lama with Shoko Asahara, leader of the Aum Shinrikyo group

In stark contrast, we note that the Dalai Lama has been seen to publicly meet, support and even praise other very controversial spiritual figures, including people listed on this article. For example, he has been clearly photographed with Shoko Asahara of the Aum Shinrikyo group in Japan, famous for having launched sarin gas attacks on train passengers. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying to Asahara, “You should spread real Buddhism there [in Japan]. … You can do that well, because you have the mind of a Buddha. If you do so, I shall be very pleased. It will help me with my mission.” The Dalai Lama has also been seen to closely associate with Sogyal Rinpoche, also on this list of questionable masters (See more information on Sogyal Rinpoche here:

So it seems that the Dalai Lama will meet anyone, of any faith, except those who pray to Dorje Shugden. Is this fair? Does this support human rights in anyway? Is this the action of a globally loved religious leader? There are many contradictions and inconsistencies within this issue of Dorje Shugden’s practice. Much of what the Dalai Lama says or does not accord with the teachings or the Dharma. Even the reasons for why the practice is not correct are illogical and go far against the most basic principles of Buddhism. (There is much discussion about this on or on its forum,

The Dalai Lama and Sogyal Rinpoche

We do not mean any disrespect towards the Dalai Lama. We have always maintained a great deal of respect and love for His Holiness, with much admiration for how much he has been able to bring Buddhism to so many millions in the world. We wish only for transparency, dialogue and a clear explanation about what seems to be very contradictory and illogical actions on the part of the Dalai Lama, his supporters and government in exile (the Central Tibetan Administration).

We wish only to understand why it is okay for people of every other faith and belief to meet with the Dalai Lama, but his own students are shunned by him, simply because of a single religious choice they have made.

We urgently call for a change and for much needed progress within such religious policies. It is much needed for our modern times. We should not be contributing and creating further controversies than there already are in the world, especially not in one of the world’s fastest growing and beloved religions.


With much concern,   |        |

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. In Buddhism, there 84,000 methods inclusively of all religions. The very principle is to know what is Bodhi the inherent mind of all. Shugden is another method for developing peace and bliss in all suffering beings who love to be with Shugden. Buddha Sakyamuni who is the only most respected teacher in the Saha world never attached and controlled its disciple but skilfully exterminated the affliction of all beings either personally or through his disciples, in this case, the Dalai Lama, Shugden among others. If there is any controversy, contemplate into your benevolent and compassionate heart.

  2. I found the article very misleading, I am tibetan refugee, i have lived almost all my life in tibetan community, some of my relatives and school friends(tibetan government school) practice shugden. but i have never seen them not being allowed in shops or restaurants by fellow tibetans.There is a shugden monastery rite in front of my house, never have i seen any tibetan going there to fight with them or assault them in roads. It is another thing that after i don’t talk to them but its because i don’t agree with the practice of shugden. Especially after knowing about writings of zemey tulku, deeds of Phapongka Rinpoche towards other schools and killings in india. Most importantly after seeing what happened to those practicing Shugden(unnatural deaths). His Holiness said during a teaching that if you are shugden partitioner don’t bother to come to his teachings because it will be harmful to both him and also the shugden practitioner because samaya breakage, now if you don’t believe in samaya then why bother coming at the first place.

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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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