Dorje Shugden – Dalai Lama conflict (PART 4: THE CONFLICT IN 1996 )

(extracted from research of Ursula Bernis)


The Dalai Lama’s statements during his public teachings March 10th and 21st, 1996 (excerpts quoted below) mark the beginning of what commonly was called “the ban.” In the course of 1996, all governmental, regional and social groups passed resolutions which amounted to a creed-like confession of faith and loyalty oath in one. They were circulated in all the Tibetan communities and people were pressured into signing them, often under threat. Then these signed statements were offered to the Dalai Lama sometimes on special occasions. It was clearly meant to please him. The signed petitions also given to the government officials most instrumental in implementing the ban in order to establish closer bonds with those in power. Tibetans were compelled to prove that they were “clean.”

• March 10, 1996 – Dalai Lama’s Address Circulated by the Department of Information and International Relations

During a religious discourse on the step-like path to enlightenment (lam.rim) in Dharamsala, circulated by the exile government’s Department of Information and International Relations, the Dalai Lama stated more publicly than ever before that there was discord between deities. This served as the reason for his ban of Dorje Shugden which, he says later (March 21, 1996), was already proclaimed by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama on the basis of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s secret visions. “I have repeated time and again that sometimes there is discord between [Tibetan]
deities. These statements I have made in the past still remain unchanged. I hope no one will imagine that there has been change in this regard.” From a translated transcript of the public address to Tibetans during the lam.rim teachings March 19, 1996. He claims that Dorje Shugden is in discord with government approved protectors. “Whether outside of Tibet or within it, a deity in discord with [government deities] whose relationship with the origin of this [exile] government at the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama [is discordant] whatever may be the ultimate reality this is serious in the context of the common cause of Tibet. Therefore, unless I remind you once again there are those who pretend they have not heard it. It will be the last resort if [we] have to knock on [their/your] doors. It would be good if [they/you] can heed this without [us] having to resort to this last step.” For a Tibetan, this is very strong language. The phrase “it would be good, if…” is culturally understood to be an order with a strong warning of very serious consequences if not followed.

In the same talk, the Dalai Lama says, “Some people assume that I am saying this [not to rely on Dorje Shugden] from an interpretive point of view and not a definitive [literal] one. The distinction between definitive and interpretive meanings of Buddhist texts is an important, much debated philosophical one pertaining to Tibetan Buddhism. It is used to distinguish scriptural meanings dealing directly with the Buddhist notion of emptiness from all other texts requiring interpretation. It is usually not applied the way the Dalai Lama does here, i.e. to give an order to his subjects. The Dalai Lama asks for his words to be taken literally and tells those who try to find an honorable space for disagreement when they interpret the Dalai Lama’s words on the subject of Dorje Shugden they presume they know what he thinks. And obviously, nobody can presume to know what anyone else thinks, let alone someone considered to be a Buddha. They act as if they knew what I mean. This is wrong. In other words, the ban is not “advice” open to interpretation. It is to be taken literally. Otherwise the interpreter would assume he or she is capable of second guessing the mind of the Dalai Lama, something considered especially sacrilege among religious Tibetans. This is very important for all of you to know. Some were telling me not to say this, I am not saying it without thinking,” and, “…I am saddened when requested not to address this topic.” It must be difficult for the millions of people familiar with the image of an ever laughing Dalai Lama to imagine the depth of desperation he seems to suffer as a result of the loss of his country and his inability to bring a happy conclusion to the “cause of Tibet” in spite of his super human efforts. This despair is obvious when the Dalai Lama says, in the same talk, “I am insisting on this labor [of working for the cause of Tibet] in the hope that at this bleakest point in the history of Tibetans I can share the suffering of my people and provide them some hope. Do you understand?” It is understandable that Tibetans listening to such intense emotional appeals from the most important person in their lives became whole heartedly motivated to act against anyone disagreeing with the Dalai Lama. He had already pointed them out a long time ago. Only now they were clearly identified as standing in the way of achieving freedom, the “Tibetan cause.”

In the same address, the Dalai Lama also exhorts Tibetans inside Tibet to give up Dorje Shugden. But to them he offers a chance for explanation, something denied those in exile, “Whether in Central Tibet, or Dotoed (Kham) or Domed (Amdo), if there is unreasonableness in what I have said repeatedly, you can give reasons and we can discuss it. In the absence of such reasons, indifference to this talk will affect the cause of Tibet in general; I as a private individual have nothing to lose.” At no time was the Dalai Lama or his government open to discussing the issue. None of the reasons put forth have been accepted or even considered. “It is certainly possible that some of you senior (spiritual masters, practitioners, monks and lay people) have become unchangeable, like twisted tree trunks. It makes no difference to me. Those of you who are studying in the monastic colleges/universities, or wherever you live, think carefully. It is better not to be mistaken from the beginning. There are many young incarnate Lamas [at this teaching today]. At this point, the Dalai Lama pointed directly at the thirteen year old incarnation of his Tutor, Yongdzin Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. Tibetan culture holds as extremely rude the gesture of pointing directly at someone, especially in public. It is cause of great embarrassment and shame. You too should think very carefully from the beginning. To rectify [a mistake] once it has been made is difficult. It is not good. The same goes for those in Tibet.”

• March 21, 1996 – The Dalai Lama Bars Dorje Shugden Practitioners from His Empowerment

From a translated transcript: At a religious gathering, in the main temple in Dharamsala, in preparation for an empowerment of the meditational deity (yid.dam) Tamdin (Hayagriwa), From a translated transcript of the address during the teachings; all of the points discussed here from March 10th and March 21st were quoted and circulated in an announcement by the Kashag (Cabinet of the Tibetan exile government) on May 22, 1996; also video taped, available at the Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable & Religious Society, Delhi. the Dalai Lama states publically that Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden are not permitted to attend. It is the first time that the Dalai Lama publicly bars people from attending empowerments. The reasons he gives are two-pronged. According to government oracles, Dorje Shugden is connected with Chinese deities or spirits. This endangers the cause of Tibet he says. He tells that they had done many prayers for the cause of Tibet the previous year and also mentioned Dorje Shugden by name in their exorcism. Since the deity of empowerment that day was the same as had been used for the exorcism against Dorje Shugden, the Dalai Lama clarified this conflict of interest which points far beyond this particular situation to an irreconcilable conflict within the conception of the “cause of Tibet” itself.

The Dalai Lama gives as religious reasons for barring Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden that their participation would harm his life and health. He quotes a common Tibetan saying, “Giving innumerable empowerments, [did you] fill the world with ruinous practitioners?” This refers to practitioners not able to keep properly the bond (dam.tsig) between spiritual master and disciple and why, therefore, the master must test the disciple before bestowing an empowerment. “This will affect the life span of the spiritual master as well,” the Dalai Lama points out and praises those former practitioners of Dorje Shugden who have given up and “become pure.” To those who might not have given up but refuse to leave he says, “…not only will it not benefit yourself but in the worst case may even become the cause of shortening the life of the Dalai Lama. If you wish the speedy death of the Dalai Lama, then I have no objection.”

Perhaps it needs pointing out here that Buddhist masters can and should exclude those unprepared for a specific empowerment. On these grounds, the exile government and most supporters of the ban claim that the Dalai Lama is perfectly justified in barring disciples from initiations. Although this is true, other Tibetans attending public teachings and empowerments by the Dalai Lama are usually not examined for their religious qualifications as a precondition to attend. Considering that the Dalai Lama is also the head of government, which gives him a unique status among Tibetan Lamas, the unprecedented exclusion of a segment of the Tibetan population from attending even his general discourses — when declared non-Buddhists are permitted to attend even his most esoteric Buddhist rituals See below Part III, (+) the case of the Kalachakra initiation in Bloomington, Indiana, August 1999, for example. — also means that they are excluded from being Tibetan. The Dalai Lama’s teachings are also mass social events that galvanize Tibetans in part designed to strengthen their sense of nationhood in exile. The Dalai Lama’s public exclusion set an example for his followers. How widespread the need to exclude Dorje Shugden followers from Tibetan society became can be seen from the subsequent reactions by all Tibetan governmental and social groups.

Almost every Tibetan has taken an empowerment from the Dalai Lama. Thus the channels for the emotional appeal were well established. The perception of Tibetans was that if they did not give up Dorje Shugden, they would cause the death of the Dalai Lama. The emotional appeal was direct. It was unmistakably clear to them. If religious concerns was the source, the following problem should have been addressed. A large number of Tibetans had made similar commitments (dam.tsig) to other realized spiritual masters. Buddhism teaches to see them as equal regardless of their social or political standing. Violating the vowed relationship with those masters would also shorten their lives or cause their death. This is the fundamental moral dilemma.

The Dalai Lama also appealed to the pre-Buddhist belief system still alive among Tibetans. “During my visit to Hunsur [settlement in South India] the previous year, poor and helpless people have been told [through divination] that their illnesses have been brought about by Gyalchen [Dorje Shugden]. I felt this was repugnant. Others have reported dreaming of a bearded monk strangling them. This is a very clear indication that [Dorje Shugden] is a spirit, far from being a deity.” Dorje Shugden is here declared a harmful, evil spirit on the basis of uneducated people’s dreams and local divinations while hundreds of highly educated and realized masters saw him as a powerful protector of religious actions and vows.

• March 30, 1996 – Instructions from the Private Office of the Dalai Lama

The Private Office of the Dalai Lama sends a letter to the abbot of Sera Mey Monastic College where at least two thirds of the monks rely on Dorje Shugden. It quotes the relevant passages of the Dalai Lama’s speeches about the ban of Dorje Shugden, adding that “this [reliance] becomes cause for instability within the Gelugpa order [of Tibetan Buddhism].” After pointing out that some “individuals have actually urged His Holiness to desist from raising this issue since, according to them, this is causing more harm than good in Tibetan communities,” the letter quotes widely from the Dalai Lama’s speeches in political and social fora, such as the Chamber of the Tibetan People’s Deputies and the Congress of the Cholsum Organization, where he spoke against the protector. Referring to the Dalai Lama’s urgent statements from March 21st it says, “Please consider this as important and make each member understand it. Make them aware that in this extremely sad situation of Tibetans, at this point in our history, no one should stubbornly hold onto their individual convictions at the cost of our cause and people.”

“As to the essence of this decree, we urge you to wholeheartedly set this matter straight, in contrast to mouthing deference as in the past. Unable to bear the urgency of this situation, we at the Private Office have not choice but to send this circular.”….

“Therefore, under the auspices of all former abbots, disciplinarians, incarnate Lamas and Geshes, an announcement should be made of these talks by His Holiness regarding the worship of deities in such a way that no one can have the excuse of not having heard it. In addition, ensure total implementation of this decree by each and everyone. With the additional assistance by the house masters, also ensure the explicit announcement of this decree to all ordinary monks [in the monastery]. In implementing this policy, if there is anyone who continues to worship Dholgyal [Dorje Shugden], make a list of their names, house name, birth place, class in the case of students, and the date of arrival in case of new arrivals from Tibet. Keep the original and send us a copy of the list. Please share this responsibility and submit a clear report on the implementation of this circular.”

In response to such instructions from the Private Office and other government departments, signatures of monks were collected swearing to give up their protector practice now for all times. The petitions asked for names, birth place, father’s name and other personal detail. Videotapes, audio cassettes, written material with His Holiness’ emotional appeals from March 10th and 21st were distributed throughout all settlements around India and Nepal to persuade everyone to give up Dorje Shugden. It was a systematic effort more thorough than any other ever made by Tibetans in exile.

• April 5th, 1996- The First Dorje Shugden Statue Destroyed in Dharamsala

Around eight in the morning, the first statue of Dorje Shugden was desecrated, broken, and thrown down the side of the mountain into a garbage heap. Some accounts say it was later dumped into a river. This statue was consecrated by Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Tutor of the Dalai Lama, and presented to the nunnery in Dharamsala which he helped start. A nun in fervent compliance with the Dalai Lama’s wish had “volunteered.” The desecration set off shock waves of different kinds in the Tibetan exile community. Others followed the example reminiscent of actions many believed only the Chinese had done in their homeland.

• April 6, 1996 – The Tibetan Freedom Movement

A circular by the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies specifies “the need to announce that people should stop the tradition of worshiping Gyalchen Shugden…” Quoted in a letter by the Tibetan Freedom Movement to the Assembly.

• April 9, 1996- The Tibetan Freedom Movement

The Tibetan Freedom Movement is one of the “non”-governmental organizations. Although the Tibetan exile government consistently denies that these types of social groups work for the government, it is clear from looking at their functions that, in fact, they do. For example, Tashi Angdu, the President of the Cholsum Organization, the largest regional association with the most political clout, confirmed the close collaboration between the social-regional groups and the exile government,”The nature of our work and views of our government are the same. We do not do anything which contradicts the views of the government.” Interview, Beat Regli: “Discord in Exile,” a mini-series of “10 vor 10,” DRS Swiss Television, January 7, 1998. Members of the exile government are also active in various social groups and attend meetings. The Committee for the Protection of Tibetan Religious and Political Affairs, for example, is a minister of the exile government. It is the duty of this organization to collect taxes for the government. Every Tibetan is obliged to pay one rupee per month recorded in the “green book” (rang.dzen lag.deb). The Tibetan Freedom Movement responds to a government circular (April 6, 1996), “Since it is important to purge worshipers of Shugden within our own membership…we found no one [who relies on Dorje Shugden] and we solemnly declare the henceforth in the future also there will be no one in our membership who will worship [this deity]. (5 signatures and seal of the organization)

• April 14, 1996 – Department of Health of the Central Tibetan Administration

The Guchusum Movement of Tibet Formed after the demonstrations in Lhasa starting in 1987 and subsequent repressive actions by the Chinese by those who escaped from that persecution. in a letter to the Assembly of the Tibetan Peoples’ Deputies, “As per your decree of April 6, 1996, banning the worship of Dholgyal Shugden among the public, we have convened a special meeting…to purge any member who worships Shugden in this Association. We solemnly declare that through this purge among our standing committee members there is not one who is or will worship Shugden. Moreover, in the future also we will abide by this decree.” (11 signatures and seal of the organization)

The cover letter to the announcement is addressed “to all patriotic members of this Association.” It states that the organization resolves to purge all members in compliance with the addresses of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the decree of the Chamber of the Tibetan People’s Deputies banning the worship of Gyalchen Shugden. The Association further states that “…far more significant [than achieving our common interests of "obtaining freedom for Tibet which is the duty ordained by history,"] are the decrees of the Dalai Lama and the exile government. These two are indispensable for obtaining our aims.” The announcement ends with an exhortation, “Even if it were a member who does not worship Shugden, in view of the welfare of the six million Tibetans, they should still declare that they will abide by this resolution in the future. [Signed] declarations to this effect should be received at this office before the 15th day of the 4th Tibetan month (May 31, 1996).

• April 18, 1996 – Department of Health of the Central Tibetan Administration

From a “Special Notice to Doctors and Staff Members” issued by the Department of Health of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, (signed by Assistant General Secretary and seal of the Department of Health)

“As we all know, our exile government oracles pointed out repeatedly and in naked words that the worship of Dorje Shugden poses danger to the well being of the Dalai Lama, besides posing danger to the cause of Tibet…. Regarding this, all government employees in Dharamsala have already passed resolutions in favor or it. Since it concerns the cause of the Tibetan people and above all His Holiness well being, we cannot leave it as it is. Therefore, if we do not have among us anyone who worships Dorje Shugden, we should resolve not to worship Shugden in the future. Whereas if there is anyone who worships Dorje Shugden, they should repent the past and stop worshiping. They must submit a declaration that they will not worship in the future. In case there is anyone who does not abide by the addresses of His Holiness to give up Shugden worship, then, since there is nothing more important than the well being of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause, such person should submit their resignation. There is no other alternative for such a person. We should also take stringent responsibility to urge relatives who worship Shugden to abandon this worship. At the gathering of the relevant staff members, make this announcement and make sure that no one comes up with excuses of not having heard it. We also request you to send us the signed resolution at once from each and everyone.”

• April 23, 1996 – Toepa Welfare Association

From a declaration of the Toepa Welfare Association of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Office of the Executive Committee, Dharamsala, “In compliance with this address [March 21, 1996] by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and in compliance with the oracles of our government,…in compliance with the decree of the Chamber of Tibetan Peoples’ Deputies of April 6, 1996 banning the worship of Shugden, and mindful of this decree of our government, we hold this special convention….. Most of our members have not worshiped Shugden in the past and… we the subjects of His Holiness belonging to this Association solemnly declare that we shall have nothing to do with this deity. We hereby also resolve to expel anyone [from our membership] who worships Dholgyal [Dorje Shugden]. To this resolution we put our signatures…”

• May 1, 1996- Ganden Monastery

In preparation for the proclamation of the ban by officials from the exile government at Ganden Monastery in the south of India the following warning preceded the announcement. The government officials in a dramatic show of force came to the monastery with a large Indian state police escort. Thus flanked, the monastic administration under instructions from Dharamsala through a former highly respected abbot read the following resolution in order to silence any questions during the government’s announcement on the issue:

“Whereas an announcement is going to be made at the behest of the Tibetan exile government, and whereas we want this announcement to be accomplished with satisfaction, we have called an extended meeting of the two abbots, former abbot Lati Rinpoche, the administrators of the great assembly (lachi) of Ganden monastery, the chanting master of the joint assembly (lachi), the administrators of the two colleges [Jangtse and Shartse] of Ganden, the chanting masters of these two colleges, and the masters of the twenty three houses of Ganden, this day of May 1, 1996 unanimously resolve that

“If during the announcement there is any action on the part of anyone that will smear the reputation of Ganden Lachi that person will be expelled from the monastery. Likewise, anyone who supports him, voices opinions or asks questions will be expelled from this establishment.

“Moreover, the mentor of the said offender shall make a very elaborate gift of tea and bread to the entire monastic establishment.” An elaborate offering of tea and bread to two to three thousand people adds up to a substantial sum of money. Punishing another for one’s actions is a type of social control usually practiced among Communists.

The announcement shows that the government had anticipated widespread disagreement with the ban and that monks might publically disagree. The show of force was not only to silence the monks but also a statement of determination. But to other Tibetans it carried the humiliating message that Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden are violent. It confirmed to them something they believed the oracles had meant with the projected threat to the Dalai Lama’s life.

• May 5, 1996 Wall Posters & Threats to Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche & Kyabje Zong Rinpoche

Wall posters went up attacking the young incarnations of two of the most acclaimed and famous Buddhist masters, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche the Tutor of the Dalai Lama and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. They were from Ganden monastery and known to have relied on Dorje Shugden. They had made his practice known to large numbers of people.

A highlighted area on top of the poster reads, “Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Religious and Political Leader of Tibet.” The notice from two hundred fifty-five members of the “Secret Society of External and Internal Enemy Eliminators reads:” “Anyone who goes against the policy of the government must be singled out one-pointedly, opposed and given the death penalty. … The previous incarnations of Trijang Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche have gone against the repeated advice of the Dalai Lam to leave the practice of Dorje Shugden. This statement that the Dalai Lama would “advise” his own Guru to leave a religious practice integral to the lineages of which he was at the time the most prominent representative is preposterous and shows a complete lack of knowledge and respect for any religious considerations. If the current incarnations do not stop practicing and continue to contradict the words of the Dalai Lama, not only will we not be able to respect them and oppose them single pointedly, but their lives and activities will definitely be destroyed. This is our first warning.”

The two Rinpoches mentioned are age thirteen and eleven respectively. The threats to their lives deeply shocked many people around the world. The two young Lamas had to leave the country for safety reasons. With it they also left behind their traditional studies not available as completely anywhere else in the world as currently in the exile communities in India. Thus, the threats to the lives of the young Lamas immediately confirmed the second threat to their lives’ work.

• May 10-11, 1996 – Tibetan Youth Congress

The resolution of the special session of the Tibetan Youth Congress, Dharamsala, claims “…negligence on the part of the public toward these addresses [March 10th and 21st] with active propagation of this worship on the part of some [spiritual masters], and whereas this negligence is beyond tolerance anymore…” The Tibetan Youth Congress is a nationalistic organization that has not ruled out force in its pro-independence stand. In this it has clashed with official policy of the exile government and His Holiness’ stand on non-violence. Focusing more on the political side of issues and down playing religion, their patriotism is of a different, more aggressive kind. A statement like the above from the TYC carries more weight than from other organizations in its implicit call to fight because of the TYC’s long term activism in Tibetan society and use of violence. It is currently the largest “non-governmental” organization with over sixty chapters around the world. Although claiming to be funded by membership fees and other fund raisers, members nevertheless get funds from the exile government for taking care of elderly or other types of social work.

According to the brochure of the Youth Congress, it was founded in 1970 by Tenzin Gyeche, still Private Secretary of the Dalai Lama, and other prominent figures in the exile government was and inaugurated by the Dalai Lama. Aside from the struggle for total independence even at the cost of one’s life mentioned in the aims and objectives of the TYC, it calls on members to “dedicate oneself to the task of serving one’s country and people under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Spiritual and Temporal Ruler of Tibet and to promote and protect national unity and integrity by giving up all distinctions based on religion, regionalism and status.” Further, “Being a national movement, activities of TYC are not restricted just to its members, but, also receive the active support of all Tibetans young and old, men and women, monks and lay. Furthermore, TYC commands a large following inside Tibet. … From its very inception TYC emerged as an active force with clear aims and objectives. It also served as a catalyst to bring about certain reforms and changes within the Tibetan community so as to enhance the development of a truly democratic society. TYC, therefore, sees itself as an instrument to fulfill the wishes of the Tibetan people.” Political activities to keep alive the question of Tibetan independence in the international arena include, “making direct and indirect representations at various international forums regarding China’s invasion and continued occupation of Tibet and initiating and organizing different activities such as peace marches, public demonstrations, picketing & fasting to internationalize the issues related to China’s occupation of Tibet.” Clearly, Tibetans seen to interfere or harm this cause, i.e. Tibetan independence, would be perceived as betraying the very basis for the existence of such an organization and thus as serious adversaries. From the resolution:

  • Since there is nothing more important [for Tibetans] than the cause of Tibet and the health of the Dalai Lama, the participants solemnly agree to abide by these addresses of His Holiness the Dalai Lama;
  • Upon arriving back at our respective areas, after showing the video clip of this talk to local Youth Congress members and announcing the resolution of this Congress, the local representatives will solemnly declare that they will abide by these addresses of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and will report back within two weeks from this date on the progress made in this direction;
  • When it is confirmed there is no one in the Tibetan Youth Congress membership worshiping Dholgyal, we will gradually present the [said] video clip to the public, announce our policy on this issue and especially urge the Tibetan youth to evaluate their decisions in this regard;
  • Even in places without Youth Congress branches, the nearest Youth Congress affiliate will try to urgently promote this message by presenting the [said] video clip, etc.;
  • This Congress urges the Cabinet, the Chamber of Tibetan People’s Deputies, the Religious and Educational Council, and the Ministry of Home Affairs [of the Tibetan exile government] to implement this policy in their respective areas of responsibility;
  • This executive committee will likewise announce its policy to all Tibetan monasteries and urge that everyone must abide by the address of the Dalai Lama;
  • Together with documents pertaining to this ban on the worship of Dholgyal, this Congress will urge each and every spiritual master, including Geshes, that in the interest of the health of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence they should stop worshiping Dholgyal;
  • If anyone in the Youth Congress membership is found to still worship Dholgyal, that member will be immediately expelled from Tibetan Youth Congress membership;
  • This Congress will also urge all other Tibetan organizations not to enroll anyone into their membership who venerates and worships Dholgyal. An estimated 60% of Tibetans belong the to the Tibetan Youth Congress. Every Tibetan belongs to at least one, but usually more than one of such social organizations. By uniformly taking up the ban, they effectively controlled Tibetan society. Thus, every Tibetan became directly involved in this issue.

The Youth Congress rose to the challenge and took up the issue and even officials of the Tibetan exile government privately admitted two years later that excesses had occurred, especially from groups like the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Tibetan Women’s Association. The type of social pressure exercised by these groups was reminiscent of methods used in Tibet most Tibetans thought they had escaped. One can easily imagine that when a zealous young Tibetan without religious upbringing or interest and without any other politically relevant domain of action pressures a learned, older religious master — someone who fled Communist rule for religious freedom — about which part of his religion to practice and which not that two very different worlds collide. By the end of May, the family of the president of the newly formed Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society had received death threats by phone and threatening letters written by D.P. Gyatso, President, Secret Youth Group, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and a Volunteer Youth Group. Whether or not these were actual organizations or in any way related to the Tibetan Youth Congress could not be established.

• May 22, 1996 – the Kashag (Cabinet)

The response to the Dalai Lama’s addresses of March 10th and 21st by the Kashag (Cabinet), “In consideration for the well being of the Dalai Lama, the common cause of Tibet and the edification of the Gelugpa tradition, since it is the responsibility of the government to see to it that these addresses of His Holiness are followed to the letter, we have taken these steps: to be clean followers of Lama Tsong Khapa and to facilitate clear understanding of right and wrong as well as proper appreciation of present and long term benefit, the standing committee of the Peoples’ Deputies, the Private Office [of the Dalai Lama], the Information and International Relations Department have distributed tapes and transcriptions of His Holiness’ speeches in successive support…. The Cabinet received signed declarations from monasteries, organizations and private individuals, convinced of the detrimental effects both for the public and private individuals through these persuasions, stating their decision to stop worshiping Dholgyal [Dorje Shugden] henceforth. We recognize this gesture of self-responsibility toward our common cause.” “Self-responsibility” here is to be understood in the same way as self-censorship under pressure. Many people gave up the practice and signed the petitions simply because they believed the reasons given: harm to the Dalai Lama and to their common cause. Others signed by force of social pressure and out of a sense for self preservation. Sign or face possible expulsion from the monastery, job, welfare organization, or school.

“If worshiping Dholgyal poses a threat to our cause and the well being of His Holiness, there is no benefit in talking about democracy or freedom of religion.” This statement was seen by many Tibetans as the equivalent to an “emergency” where the protection of civil liberties is suspended. Since the exile government is not a legitimate government with its own police force, and Tibetans generally do not trust the Indian police, they often take matters into their own hands.
The government also makes clear that it acts on the perception of Dorje Shugden as an evil spirit without any regard for large numbers of people It was explained to me by many different oral sources that approximately one third of all practicing Buddhists in the Tibetan tradition are connected with Dorje Shugden, either by relying directly or through their spiritual master. who have a very different view of this protector and acted responsibly both in the religious and secular spheres. “His Holiness is the incomparable secular and religious head of this government. In virtue of his religious and political office it is his responsibility and right to guide [us] and restrain harmful factors toward Tibetan governance. How is this against democracy? To make such a complaint is similar to leveling charges of denial of religious freedom by a black magician who is restrained from practicing his art on a subject. Whether this restraint constitutes infringement of (religious) freedom is self-evident to any nation or person.”

“In summary, no Tibetan monastic establishment under this exile government is permitted to worship Dholgyal. Given this condition, anyone who continues to worship Dholgyal, indifferent to our cause and threatening the well-being of His Holiness, fervent about freedom of religion [saying] ‘we will never change our faith in Dholgyal’ is free, of course, to howl this way. This freedom is also given by His Holiness. However, the perception toward such a person/ organization will be decided by the majority of the Tibetan populace. Therefore, at this juncture, irrespective of time or place [including Tibetans abroad], everyone should make common cause of this issue.”

“Heads of our religious traditions, abbots and reincarnate Lamas, Geshes, representative officers [of the government] and people in areas of responsibility you are requested to bear the recent addresses of His Holiness about Dholgyal in mind and, just as the body is under the head, bring into the fold everyone under your jurisdiction. Furthermore, since this is liable to be exploited by others, give clear explanations to the public. On the part of the general Tibetan populace, without changing sides and with patriotism in your heart you are urged to come out and express your convictions and use your talent, abilities, and strength as contribution to your exile government.”

• May 22, 1996 – Department of Religion and Culture

The same day, the Department of Religion and Culture sent out materials explaining the ban and how it should be enforced through published material, the addresses by the Dalai Lama concerning this subject on audio cassette and video, and a booklet of the oracular pronouncements. The cover letter to Sera Mey Pomra Khangtsen opens as follows:

“As you know, the book titled “Secret Visions of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama stipulates ‘Dholgyal should be banned’.” In conjunction with this, the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama specifically issued a ban. The government oracles have continually pronounced that the subsequent worship and propitiation of Gyalchen [Dorje Shugden] continues to affect the well being and effort of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, religion and politics of Tibet, freedom and the people of Tibet.”

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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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