Conventional Untruths: Orchestrated Deception in the ban on Dorje Shugden Prayer

Following the media coverage of the protests against the Dalai Lama by the Western Shugden Society, one inevitably comes across a very basic contradiction. On the one hand, here is this Buddhist group protesting the ban on Dorje Shugden practice, and on the other hand there is the world’s generally accepted “face” of Buddhism, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, along with representatives of the Tibetan Government in Exile, saying there is no ban.

So what exactly is going on?

We can all agree that the Dalai Lama doesn’t like the practice of Dorje Shugden and that he has his stated reasons for disapproving of it. Leaving these reasons for future debate, the intention here is to focus on whether or not the Dalai Lama is using his position as a political leader to ban Dorje Shugden prayer, which is clearly a religious practice.

This is an important point for investigation because the Dalai Lama declares publicly that he is not banning the practice, merely advising against it because it is not “Buddhist in nature.”

“In a BBC interview, the Dalai Lama said he had not advocated a ban, but he had stopped the worship of the spirit because it was not Buddhist in nature. The exiled Tibetan leader said people were free to protest and it was up to individuals to decide.”

(BBC News 2008, Click here for source article)

Factually speaking, the consequence of this statement is that those speaking up about the ban on Dorje Shugden prayer by the Dalai Lama are being routinely discredited, and the documented crimes and abuses that they are protesting against are being disregarded as non-existent. Politics has a long history of employing such tactics. If a fact is denied often enough and loud enough and by enough people (especially if a weighty figure of authority lends his or her voice to the dismissal), the fact eventually becomes generally viewed as a falsehood.

Question: How many Iraqi nationals were on the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center buildings?

I have nothing against the Dalai Lama personally, and I possess no abiding need to defame him, but I do have to say, Dalai Lama, “Your pants are on fire!” In a speech the Dalai Lama made at a Tibetan University in Southern India January 2008:

“I have meditated and considered (my decision to put aside the Shugden) at length in my soul and spirit before coming to the right decision”, he said. People have killed, lied, fought each other and set things alight in the name of this deity. These monks must be expelled from all monasteries. If they are not happy, you can tell them that the Dalai Lama himself asked that this be done, and it is very urgent.”

(To see the Dalai Lama saying this on video please click here)

For more quotes and translations of speeches given by the Dalai Lama where he bans the practice of Dorje Shugden please refer to:

It is through words that we reveal our mind and our heart. A cool-headed assessment of the words of the Dalai Lama on this subject reveal quite a complexity of ‘truths’ about what this revered leader is actually saying and actually meaning.

Much of the confusion that has presently developed in the Tibetan diaspora and within the Buddhist community surrounding the Dorje Shugden issue is a result of these contradictory messages, because there is, quite plainly, a ban. And a severe ban at that. The free flow of information is crucial to the ability of human beings to use reason in order to make correct decisions about what the proper course of action is in any situation. This is one of the guiding principles of a qualified democracy; that the free flow of information to the masses via the press will lead to an organic system of checks and balances wherein the actions of the government can be scrutinized by the reason and intelligence of the populace. We see all too often that when governments seek to distort, censor, and manufacture the information that is fed to the populace, this natural immune system against political despotism shuts down because of course there is no basis for rational discourse.

The Dalai Lama’ s wordplay in the matter of his clearly intended ban on the practice of Dorje Shugden is no different. Ultimately it is the Tibetan society and the Buddhist community as a whole that suffer as a result of any manipulation of information by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE). In the face of such manipulations, public forums even for discussing the pros and cons of the policies become increasingly crippled, and even vanish altogether. An honest argument can only be built on facts. Distort – or remove – the facts, and healthy discourse ceases. Meaningful discourse ceases. Essentially, manipulation of ‘facts’ is the means of manipulating an entire populace. Muddy the waters sufficiently, and uncertainty and confusion as to what are the actual policies and intentions of the government are the guaranteed result.

This confusion can be highlighted by the following example.

(Taken from news on July 16th, 2008:

(Editor’s Note: This link appears to have been removed from the mentioned website)

John Ackerly, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group that promotes human rights for Tibet, said that the Dalai Lama had discussed the issue in a question-and-answer session after an address Monday at Lehigh University.

“He’s really trying to create an atmospheric tolerance around this by saying . . . that he thinks the worship of Shugden is inadvisable and harmful,” Ackerly said. “But he says people can worship it or not. That’s their choice. There’s nothing that should befall anyone who chooses to do so… People have the right to demonstrate, and the important thing is that there really needs to be an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance,” Ackerly said. “To my knowledge, there is no tolerance for any discrimination, and certainly nothing that says in writing that followers in Shugden should be excluded [from anything].”

Well, that was Lehigh. Clearly John Ackerly didn’t hear the Dalai Lama’s speech quoted above where he says that “These monks must be expelled from all monasteries.” In fact Ackerly’s statement is perfectly in-line with the misinformation put forth in the BBC interview where the Dalai Lama says that “he had not advocated a ban.” This highlights the basic problem that is created by this misinformation; the public’s perception of the Dalai Lama’s policies is the exact opposite of what his actual policies are. In this environment how is one to determine whether or not the Dalai Lama is governing in an ethical and humane fashion?

How are we to question, or even discuss, His Holiness’s leadership of the Tibetan people, not to mention Buddhist practitioners worldwide? It seems to me that the implication of the don’t-question-him mindset falls under the very scary category of “divine justification for the exercise of power.” The Buddha himself certainly never advocated such a truth-killing notion. After all it was Buddha who said “Do not accept my teachings simply because I am called Buddha.” Unfortunately in our current environment, the Dalai Lama’s well-tended spiritual stature serves to stifle discourse to the point where it is deemed inappropriate simply to raise a dissenting voice.

dalai lama protest

If one looks, it doesn’t take much to see the layers of deception taking place. In addition to denying that the ban on Dorje Shugden practice exists there is a consistent campaign by the Dalai Lama and the TGIE to discredit the idea that the government is responsible for the ban. (although in doing so it is discrediting its first assertion that there is no ban).

For example, in a Time Magazine Online article on July 18, 2008 (Click here to see source article):,8599,1824531,00.html

“Tashi Wangdi, the Dalai Lama’s American representative, denied the allegations. “I have heard about the ,” he said. “But as far as official policy goes, there’s no discrimination.” Regarding the oath to give no assistance, he said, “I am sure that no Tibetan government administration office has asked anyone to sign this document.” However, he notes, “It is within the rights of individual organizations to have conditions that they stipulate for members.”

This quote from Tashi Wangdi clearly distances the Dalai Lama and the TGIE from the ban, portraying it as the activity of “individual organizations.” Once again I have to say: “Tashi Wangdi, your pants are on fire!” The following is an excerpt from the TGIE website:

“In sum, the departments, their branches and subsidiaries, monasteries and their branches that are functioning under the administrative control of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile should be strictly instructed, in accordance with the rules and regulations, not to indulge in the propitiation of Shugden.” (Source:

The government departments, monasteries, and their branches where these practices are prohibited are under the control of the Tibetan Government in Exile. The irony (the inconsistency; the willful manipulation of facts) is that the Tibetan Government website claims there is no ban, no abuse of human rights, and that they are merely discouraging the practice. But then on the very same web page they “strictly instruct” people to “not indulge in the propitiation of Shugden.” Let me translate that into English for you: There is a ban.


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  1. Sorry, unfortunately I have to actually dispute with this post. Never the less, I understand that in fact we all may have our totally different way of thinking.

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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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