Politically Correct at the Expense of the Lineage

Large thangka of Guru Rinpoche hung outside Sera Jey monastery

By Jagger Ko

Originally derived from the Kadam school of Lama Atisha, the Lamrim tradition was popularized by Jamgon Lama Tsongkapa in the 1400s, who through his celebrated Lamrim Chenmo revived the study and practice of Buddhism that was in danger of degeneration. In preserving this holy lineage and tradition, His Eminence the 7th Ling Rinpoche and Ganden Shartse Monastery requested H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama to give a series of 18 teachings on the Jangchub Lamrim from 25 December 2013 to 3 January 2014.

Huge Guru Rinpoche thangka hung in Sera Je

Unfortunately, the recent Jangchub Lamrim teachings saw a tremendous break with tradition. Instead of the traditional Lama Tsongkapa or Gelug refuge tree thangka, Sera Jey monastery decided to display a huge applique thangka of Guru Rinpoche, hung from the top of the 4-storey monastery building, to welcome the Dalai Lama. As the Dalai Lama was escorted into the monastery, he was asked to perform a blessing ceremony on this thangka. It was impossible for any bystander not to notice this seemingly politically-motivated break with tradition.

Sera Jey monastery has been advocating the Rimé movement along with the Dalai Lama for many years. (Rimé is literally translated as non-sectarian in Tibetan and refers to a movement started in the 1900s within the Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu systems of Tibetan Buddhism). In order to look politically correct, there have been instances whereby non-Gelug teachings and practices were adopted into the monastery’s curriculum. For example, the most secret Hayagriva (Tamdring Yangsang) was never part of the Gelugpa system until the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, who introduced this practice to the monastery with the intent of pacifying the Nyingmapas, in order for the Dalai Lama to be able to arise as the secular and spiritual head of the nation.

More recently after exile into India, the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lamas has once again been mixing lineages in line with the Rimé movement, with the intent to preserve Tibetan Buddhism in general. But what the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) need to understand is that the Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu sects do not need/want to adopt the Rimé movement because they are doing very well, with their own sponsors and establishments. However, as the Dalai Lama comes from the Gelug tradition, many Gelugpa followers want only please the Dalai Lama and avoid invoking his wrath.

Many within the Gelugpa school have been affected by this pollution of the lineage. First in line are the Ganden Tripas, or throne holders of Jamgon Tsongkapa’s lineage, who are overshadowed by the Dalai Lama. As a result, those unfamiliar with the history and structure of Tibetan Buddhism assume that the Dalai Lama is the head of the Gelugpas. In addition, there is widespread confusion concerning the authenticity of the current range of Gelug practices, especially since deity practices from other lineages have been incorporated into the Gelugpa school. But on whose authority?

Why does Sera Jey monastery hang a thangka of Guru Rinpoche during the Jangchub Lamrim teachings? What is the association between Guru Rinpoche and the Lamrim teachings? Is this an attempt to be politically correct? No Nyingma, Sakya or Kagyu monasteries would display a thangka of Lama Tsongkapa outside their monastery or on the altar, for lineal and traditional reasons. So why doesn’t Sera Jey monastery similarly stick to the blessings of tradition?

Another incident that raises eyebrows is what the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, or FPMT for short, has been doing in the online sphere. For the past year, the social media channels of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Ven Roger Kunsang have featured constant updates on the making of this thangka. Their website states that the thangka was being made for the Lawudo Retreat Centre and they would like to request the Dalai Lama to bless it, prior to being sent to Lawudo. So, how odd that all news of the thangka was removed from their social media portals as the Jangchub Lamrim event approached. Even stranger, the Jangchub Lamrim website made no mention of the supposed purpose of the thangka.

This post of Lama Zopa inspecting the thangka was removed from his timeline

We all know that His Eminence Lama Zopa Rinpoche is a Gelug Lama yet is a strong advocate of the Rimé movement. Although wearing the yellow hat, we cannot help but notice that he propitiates and promotes Guru Rinpoche’s practices. There have been many Lamrim teachings at FPMT centers but unfortunately, not many practitioners gaining realizations because the focus on the Lamrim is not there. When we mix and pollute the pure teachings, the results can be nothing but polluted. Just by observing FPMT’s social media thread, one can only conclude that FPMT is trying to win the Dalai Lama’s favour for their works.

The Lawudo Gompa Project shares the same picture.

Another example of the Rimé influence is the current 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, who was politically “rescued” and overshadowed by the Dalai Lama. There have been rumors of complaints within the Karma Kagyus, saying that the Karmapa is conveniently staying in Gyuto Tantric College instead of his traditional residence due to the influence of the Dalai Lama. Why would the head of the Kagyu lineage be staying and studying in a Gelug tantric college?

I would like to bring everyone’s attention to the creeping influence of the Rimé movement because with the CTA’s meddling in the spiritual affairs of the Gelug tradition, we have seen a great decline in the practice and preservation of the lineage within the Gelug monasteries. If we allow the Rimé movement to continue, the decline of the entire Gelug lineage will not only continue to worsen, but other lineages will eventually be affected. What then happens to the rich tradition, attainments and pure practices held in trust by the other Tibetan Buddhist schools?

Similarly, the current ban on Dorje Shugden based the excuse that Dorje Shugden protects only the Gelugpas and is the main cause for sectarianism does not make sense because the destruction and decline of the teachings clearly arose from the meddling of the CTA. The CTA’s fallacious claims about Dorje Shugden will begin to lose ground as people become more aware of the facts. So if we’re engaged in Dharma practice, is political mileage at the expense of our identity and lineage that important?


For further reading:

Where is Lama Yeshe? (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/features/where-is-lama-yeshe/)

FPMT Lineage Masters are Dorje Shugden Believers (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/features/fpmt-lineage-masters-are-believers-of-dorje-shugden/)

FPMT, Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/features/fpmt-dalai-lama-and-dorje-shugden/)

A True Inspiration: Claudio Cipullo (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/news/a-true-inspiration-claudio-cipullo/)

Fabrizio Pallotti (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/news/fabrizio-pallotti/)

Lama Yeshe and Geshe Rabten (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/mail-out/lama-yeshe-and-geshe-rabten/)

The Broken Samayas of FPMT (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/the-controversy/the-broken-samayas-of-fpmt/)

The Questionable Policies of the FPMT (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/the-controversy/the-questionable-policies-of-the-fpmt/)

Lama Zopa admitted to being recognized by Dorje Shugden (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/others-old/lama-zopa-admitted-to-being-recognized-by-dorje-shugden/)

Recognized by Dorje Shugden, but Speaks against Dorje Shugden (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/the-controversy/recognized-by-dorje-shugden-but-speaks-against-dorje-shugden/)

Kopan Monks Asking for Dorje Shugden Puja for Lama Zopa (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/the-controversy/kopan-monks-asking-for-dorje-shugden-puja-for-lama-zopa/)

Dakini Healed Lama Zopa? (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/the-controversy/dakini-healed-lama-zopa/)

Who made Lama Zopa a Rinpoche? (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/features/who-made-lama-zopa-a-rinpoche/)

A Tribute to Ven. Lama Yeshe Rinpoche (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/great-masters/a-tribute-to-ven-lama-yeshe-rinpoche/)

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6 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Isn’t this an expression of religious freedom?

    I have followed and practised the practices of our Holy Protector of Je Tsongkapa’s tradition for several decades and I feel that it is my right to exercise my religious freeedom in this way. I don’t understand when I hear it said that to follow the practices of Dorje Shugden is to worship a spirit – really I literally don’t understand what that means in a Buddhist context . . .

    At the same time, I understand that Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava was responsible for the initial spread of the Buddha’s Dharma teaching in Tibet (and othe parts of Central and Northern Asia), and I don’t see how honouring him can be wrong. The Rimé movement is a movement that allows individual freedom of expression while not abandoning one’s basic lineage. I think it’s possible to honour Guru Rinpoche and his tradition while still staying true to Je Tsongkapa’s lineage.

    Even within the annals of this website, there is an example of a Guru Rinpoche thangka that shows our Protector Dorje Shugden ( see: http://ur1.ca/h6mau ).

    As we call for religious freedom for ourselves we should be ready to offer the same to others.

    At the very least, what people choose to honour as representations of different aspects of the Buddha’s teaching and different manifestations of the Buddha’s enlightened activities can’t be any less efficacious (or valid) than a dog’s tooth :)

  2. ye Tsongkhapa and Guru Rinpoche practiced exchange self and other

  3. It didn’t have to be this way – Lama Osel disrobed, never finished his studies, achieved nothing much in his secular life, just running around with his girlfriend and clubbing in Ibizia, Spain. His previous life accomplished so much with the help of his determination, hard work and Dorje Shugden. Lama Yeshe credited much of his success to the help he was bestowed by Dorje Shugden. By FPMT abanding Dorje Shugden, they broke their samaya with their lineage gurus such as Trijang Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche from whom they received the Dorje Shugden sogtae commitment practice. Also it was with Lama Yeshe’s permission they received sogtae from these great masters. By abandoning the practice, they broke their spiritual bond (samaya) which is sacred in tantra with Lama Yeshe and lineage lamas. So it is no surprise Lama Yeshe came back in this incarnation unable to manifest being a great dharma teacher like his previous life. It is a shame and embarrassment to FPMT that Lama Osel ended up not doing much. It is a testimony to their failure in keeping their samaya to their guru and lineage lamas. FPMT wanted fame and rub shoulders with the famous and in return, they lost Lama Yeshe. After Lama Zopa passes away, FPMT will just go down for sure. No one can take over. Breaking their samaya was the wrong thing to do. 💔

    So many more pictures and information to read here: http://www.dorjeshugden.com/forum/index.php?topic=6197.0



    lama Yeshe as Vajrasattva with consort in Tushita FPMT dharamsala

  4. Lama Zopa, who has received sogtae (initiation of Dorje Shugden) from His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, had said that:
    “Lama (Yeshe) and I practiced Shugden for many years. That was always the main thing that Lama did whenever there were problems to overcome. At the beginning of every Kopan course, Lama always did Shugden puja to eliminate hindrances.”

    “My root guru, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche; Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s guru’s root guru; His Holiness Zong Rinpoche, from whom many of the older students received the initiation of Shugden; and the previous incarnation of Gomo Rinpoche, who has a strong connection with Istituto Lama Tsongkhapa, here in Italy, all promoted the practice of Shugden.”

    Photos: 1) Teachings by H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche to FPMT students. 2) As Lama Yeshe reached the end of his life, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche came to the hospital to do prayers for Lama Yeshe. Lama Yeshe was very devoted to Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Dorje Shugden till the end. 💔


    ZR - LY

  5. In FPMT’s centre called Tushita in Dharamsala, North India, they have a statue of Lama Yeshe in the form of Vajrasattva with consort. Now the question is simple: If Lama Yeshe practised Dorje Shugden, then he is a bad lama, so why doesn’t FPMT stop the homage/respect to their founding father Lama Yeshe? If they trust him, they will go to three lower realms for worshipping Lama Yeshe who worshipped Dorje Shugden. And all statues of Lama Yeshe should be discarded from all their centres right? In fact, in nearby Gaden Choling Nunnery in Dharamsala, the nun’s took their Dorje Shugden statue out of their main prayer hall where it was worshipped for decades and destroyed the statue in the garbage dump and jumped up and down on it to further desecrate it.

    Furthermore they make a Dorje Shugden worshipping Lama Yeshe in the form of divinity as Buddha Vajrasattva. That is a double-whammy no right? Why is FPMT so contradictory? Why are they blind to this double standard?

    If they wish to disassociate from Dorje Shugden lamas, they have to disassociate from their own centre-founding Lama who is Lama Yeshe. They must set the example right. Everyone knows Lama Yeshe worshipped, trusted and believed in Dorje Shugden till the end of his life. Lama Yeshe is the one that founded FPMT, so they have to be clean across the board and be honest right? If disassociate, then do it all the way. They should have no pictures, statues and images of Lama Yeshe at all. They should not be making images of him as a deity (Vajrasattva) as that is even more wrong according to their stance against Shugden and Shugden Lamas.

    Why encourage their members to worship a Dorje Shugden loving Lama like Lama Yeshe? That is what they are doing when they keep all his images in their centres around the world. They are sending the wrong message out. Lama Yeshe was wrong in their view to practice Dorje Shugden. Lama Yeshe broke his refuge vows by practicing Dorje Shugden. Lama Yeshe’s lineage, teachings, initiations and commentaries are all corrupted because he worshipped Dorje Shugden. So they should ritually expel his images from their centres with immediate effect to be in the clean arena.

    Dalai Lama said if you worship Dorje Shugden, no one should associate with you and you will go to hell. So how come FPMT still keeps a statue of Lama Yeshe in many of their centers? Is that not hypocrisy?

    Photos attached: Lama Yeshe as Vajrasattva with Consort housed in Tushita Centre, Dharamsala AND Lama Zopa prostrating to a statue of Lama Yeshe



  6. I do not understand how a Lama like Lama Rinpoche can write things like this, when it is well-known that he himself gave Dorje Shugden initiations and told the initiates that they were incurring a lifelong obligation to continue the practice, and that breaking such an obligation would incur grave negative karma. It is very confusing and frankly, depressing.

    Lama Zopa has written some excellent books, such as his work on the Medicine Buddha. However, his logic in this foreword is gravely flawed and perhaps even essentially anti-Buddhist. For instance, he says, “If the Precious Victorious One, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is not the actual Buddha and Arya Avalokiteshvara, then you can say that in this world there is no emanation of Buddha benefiting sentient beings. In this way bodhicitta and the entire teachings of the Buddha become false.”

    Say what??? I do not know whether the Dalai Lama is or is not an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, though, based on his words and actions, I sincerely doubt it. (I mean, the man has repeatedly stated in countless interviews that he is not enlightened, and seems to relish scoffing at the notion that he might be). Regardless, the fact that the Dalai Lama is or is not such an emanation has nothing whatsoever to do with whether there are other emanations of Buddha currently on earth benefitting sentient beings.

    Logically, one does not rule out the possibility that other living Buddhas exist today, or other emanations of Avalokiteshvara, simply by denying that the Dalai Lama is such a one. If I deny that my wife is a panda bear, I am not denying that pandas exist. Indeed, to make a claim of exclusivity on the Dalai Lama’s behalf, as Lama Zopa has done, is really anti-Mahayanan in spirit, for it belittles and denigrates the efficacy of all other Buddhist schools and traditions. Someone seems to have imported the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility into Dharamsala, and now they are beginning to round up the infidels and burn them at the stake.

    It is the height of irony that Lama Zopa urges practitioners to examine their beliefs openly and honestly, and then states as a matter of fact that the Dalai Lama is omniscient and one must adhere to what the ‘omniscient one’ says. Am I not permitted to question whether the Dalai Lama is truly omniscient, and to judge this claim by the evidence of the man’s words and actions? Am I not allowed to take him at his word when he says he is NOT omniscient? Am I not allowed to question his lack of success in defending the cause of Tibet, or his lack of compassion in his treatment of Shugden practitioners, or his bumbling manner in any number of interviews, or his willingness to be used as a CIA puppet or guest editor of a highly immoral fashion magazine?

    Sadly, the recent actions of Lama Zopa and the Dalai Lama have completely soured me on Tibetan Buddhism. I have been forced to turn back to the Theravadan and Chinese teachings, because I will never again turn my will and intellect over to a guru who demands total obedience, even when he teaches one thing today and a completely different thing tomorrow. With this version of Buddhism, it’s a heads-you-win, tails-I-lose situation for the sincere follower … any faults of the guru are really the fault of the practitioner, whose bad karma has caused those faults to manifest. And even when the guru manifests obvious error, he still is not to be questioned because the error again is in the eye of the practitioner and only through blind loyalty can he cleanse his karma to the point where sincere questioning is of any value. If this is the case, then there is no point in advising practitioners to question and judge the teachings, because their bad karma will not allow them to make reasonable judgments. Reason itself is banished; it has become soiled and fallen and no longer can be trusted. Blind obedience becomes the only permitted path … you must believe in the Dalai Lama because he is a priori infallible and any evidence to the contrary is not credible, because ONLY the Dalai Lama represents Buddha in today’s world and EVERYONE ELSE is deluded.

    And so the question arises: if I am required to have blind faith in the Dalai Lama in order to be “saved”, what separates this form of Buddhism from any other exclusivist, country-club members only, religion? What separates Buddhism from the monotheistic religions once reason has been outlawed? You can use the same “your bad karma prevents you from seeing things as they are” argument to justify any religion, any cult, any superstition, any belief whatsoever. It might take a slightly different form — “your ways are not God’s ways,” or “your reason was broken in the original fall from grace of sinful man,” but the essence is the same: don’t trust yourself, look to others, particularly those who are held up as masters, for the truth. In this way, Lama Zopa’s attempt to defend the Dalai Lama becomes an atomic weapon capable of destroying any and all religious belief, or empowering any and all zealots of every stripe.

    I find all of this unworthy of the spirit of inquiry I believe Buddha Shakyamuni promoted, and the spirit of compassion that Avalokiteshvara represents. I hope that one day all the confusion that these modern-day avatars have sowed will be cleared up and those of us who relied upon them as examples and guides on the spiritual path will have our disappointments honestly and frankly acknowledged and rectified.

    Comment left by a Howard from http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/the-controversy/recognized-by-dorje-shugden-but-speaks-against-dorje-shugden/comment-page-1/#comment-911810

    Image attached: Kyabje Zong Rinpoche performs last rites for Venerable Lama Yeshe. Both these lamas were totally devoted to Dorje Shugden until they passed. Decades later, Lama Zopa who has abandoned his guru Lama Yeshe’s practice of Dorje Shugden, to befriend the Dalai Lama.


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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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