Refuting the Dalai Lama’s Statements Concerning Dorje Shugden

By Steve Lee

The Dalai Lama visited San Francisco, California recently (22 February 2014) to speak at the American Himalayan Foundation. During his speech, the Dalai Lama made a few statements regarding Dorje Shugden, referring to a picketing crowd of Dorje Shugden practitioners just outside the hall. The Dalai Lama’s statements were documented in an article published on EIN News desk. Here are some excerpts from the article, along with a rebuttal to each statement.

#1: Get the facts right

At this point His Holiness digressed to speak about the worshippers of the perfidious spirit Dolgyal or Shugden who had been demonstrating in the street outside the hall as he arrived. They were shouting and waving banners, their faces contorted in aggressive expressions. It was people like these who murdered a good monk and his students as they worked to translate a scripture into Chinese one night in 1997 near His Holiness’s residence in Dharamsala, he said. Today, their slogan was ‘Stop lying’, but the question is who really is lying.

The Dalai Lama is referring to an unresolved murder of a monk by the name of Lobsang Gyatso, who founded the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala. The case is considered unresolved by the Indian police because the two suspects responsible for the murder (allegedly Dorje Shugden practitioners) had escaped and have been untraceable since.

The connection with Dorje Shugden, if indeed there is one at all, is circumstantial and has no bearing on the crime committed. To illustrate this point, there are many wayward followers of the Dalai Lama who have committed theft and murder, but does the fault lay at the Dalai Lama’s feet? It is a certainty that no one would even attempt to blame the Dalai Lama for such crimes. Similarly, for the Dalai Lama to insinuate that the peaceful demonstrators are as good as murderers is unwarranted, nor do the murders provide adequate justification for an all-out ban on Dorje Shugden.

#2: Same mindstream, similar errors?

Turning back once more to the topic of Shugden he declared that he had once worshipped the spirit himself. Gradually, however, he came to realise that there was something wrong with it, particularly in the context of the Buddhist tradition. He looked into its history and discovered that it had come about during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, who had referred to it as a malevolent spirit arisen from distorted prayers that harms the Dharma and sentient beings. He suggested the protestors complain to the 5th Dalai Lama.

Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, the Dalai Lama’s own tutor, along with the Panchen Lama and other High Lamas advocated the worship of Dorje Shugden as an emanation of Manjushri. According to Trijang Rinpoche, the Fifth Dalai Lama statement naming Dorje Shugden as a malevolent spirit was just his initial view and shortly thereafter, the Fifth Dalai Lama was well known to have acknowledged his error and recognized Dorje Shugden as an enlightened Dharma Protector.

The Fifth Dalai Lama also composed a Praise to Dorje Shugden, built Trode Khangsar in Lhasa as a temple of Dorje Shugden, installed Dorje Shugden as the Dharma Protector of Phelgyeling monastery and made several statues of Dorje Shugden. These cannot be the actions of a Dalai Lama who thinks Dorje Shugden is a malevolent spirit.

#3: Is this religious freedom?

As His Holiness left his hotel, some nuns told him that it was a matter of religious freedom, but he sees it the other way. Worship of this spirit goes hand in hand with sectarianism and restrictions on religious freedom. He recalled wanting to receive transmission of a Nyingma teaching from Khunu Lama Rinpoche, and consulting his main tutor Ling Rinpoche. Despite having no connection at all with the worship of this spirit, Ling Rinpoche cautioned him against receiving the transmission for fear of the harm the spirit might do. He cited this as an example of his own religious freedom being constrained. He declared that it was only when he stopped worshipping Dolgyal that he was really able to enjoy religious freedom. The audience broke into applause.

Many great masters have advised that receiving and practicing teachings from different traditions and lineages will lead to confusion. This arises because although all traditions and lineages have the same ultimate goal – Enlightenment, each lineage has different teachings and methods to achieve this, which may take lifetimes to master. Hence, the necessity of not mixing teachings from different lineages is not a sectarian one nor a restriction on religious freedom, but one of great wisdom to keep the lineage and its blessings pure. This advice is particularly relevant for those who have received Dorje Shugden’s sogtae (life-entrustment).

In some of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s writings, there are stories of Dorje Shugden’s retribution on those who transgressed their vows and mixed/corrupted their teachings. However, they are to be regarded as no more than cautionary tales outlying the pitfalls of mixing and confusing the teachings of different lineages.

#4: Political or spiritual?

Due to ignorance and distorted information, the followers of this practice are completely confused. In India, they have their own monasteries where they can do what they want. Kelsang Gyatso, one of their teachers once told a reporter in England that the 14th Dalai Lama had done nothing beneficial for the cause of Tibet. Isn’t this something of a lie?”

The Dalai Lama is of course referring to Serpom and Shar Ganden monasteries, whose monks suffer from discrimination and are ostracized within their own Tibetan community. These two monasteries arose because Dorje Shugden practitioners were forced out of their monasteries by the very same ban that the Dalai Lama imposed. To this day, the CTA (Central Tibetan Administration) continues to enforce the ban, denying Shugden practitioners access to public healthcare, basic supplies, teachings, even stores and households within the Tibetan community, regardless of human rights and religious freedom considerations.

Even worse, Dorje Shugden practitioners are not even allowed to associate with others in the Tibetan community, further breaking apart families and friendships as a result. In the case of Shar Ganden, a great wall was built to separate both monasteries in the name of upholding this ban. Clearly, there is no real freedom for these monks in the manner the Dalai Lama would have you believe.

Kelsang Gyatso’s statement was also taken out of context; his point was originally directed to the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden and the damage it wrought to the unity of the Tibetan community and the Tibetan cause. It is evident that the Dalai Lama’s ban is self-defeating because it creates huge chasms within the Tibetan community and within practitioners of the same tradition. Conventional theorists summarize the Dorje Shugden ban as a political strategy to gain the upper hand but clearly, the ban does nothing beneficial except create negative press for the Dalai Lama and CTA and much suffering for the affected populace. Therefore, wouldn’t it be beneficial for everyone if the ban on Dorje Shugden was abolished?

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7 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Well done you x

  2. Thank you for this article. If one does not know in greater depth the background of the controversy as well as the history of the practice, one would be easily misled by the public statement made about Dorje Shugden and His practitioners.

    What comes forth most strongly for me is how the ban is against the fundamental human right to freedom of religion. The human rights of Dorje Shugden practitioners are further stripped away when basic healthcare and education is denied to them.

    Regardless of whether Dorje Shugden practice is right or wrong, the implementation of the ban and its consequential impact of the Buddhist community is completely contradictory to the teachings of Lord Buddha. The stepping stones of Buddhadharma is Boddhicitta and the policy to oust an entire community simply because they choice of faith is break of Boddhicitta.

    By looking from a logical perspective, Dorje Shugden practitioners are displaying greater levels of wisdom and compassion in their actions by building new centers and monasteries to continue the practice of their faith after being expelled from non-Dorke Shugden monasteries as well as peaceful demonstrations and requests for debate and discussion.

    All in all, the Dorje Shugden practitioners seems to show in a consistent manner more authentic traits of “real” Buddhist compared to the aggressive, abusive and murderous anti-Shugden camp.

  3. Dana Drake commented on my FB page on 2nd March 2014 :

    The Dalai Lama has researched Dorje Shugden and feels he is a malevolent, imposter spirit. Should you choose to pray to him, it is your right. However do not ask the Dalai Lama to change his beliefs or his followers beliefs. If you do not agree, how can you expect to remain in monasteries that practice different beliefs? Also it is highly believed that China is using Shugden to attack and undermine the Dalai Lama. Shugden has caused division in Tibet and Dharamsala which is what the Chinese want. It is no coincidence.

    My reply:
    I find it strange that the Dalai Lama who is considered to be the emanation of Chenrezig needed to research and feels that Dorje Shugden is a malevolent, imposter spirit. That implies that he would have researched and feels his gurus are not highly attained masters since he claims that his teachers are wrong. That would mean his learning from his gurus is flawed. Hence his gurus’ gurus and so on leading to Buddha Shakyamuni were all wrong. Therefore the Dalai Lama is the only one who is right.

    Since it is the right for one to exercise one’s religious belief, then the Dalai Lama should not have put a ban on others who are practicing their belief. Where is religious freedom?

    Those who continue to practice are segregated and they have no voting right, they cannot be admitted to any Tibetan hospitals and schools, they cannot join any monasteries and public events, they cannot get travel documents such as passports, they are not allowed to enter certain places of business and restaurants, nor can they get jobs within the Tibetan administration. If they practice Dorje Shugden, none of the above is allowed to them, their immediate family, their children or their parents. And this is all within the Tibetan constitution. Where is human right?

  4. How could a true practitioner of Buddhism ban, insult, oppress and abuse another practitioner? The crux of Buddhism is compassion. The fact that HHDL is so adamant in upholding the ban goes against the very spirit of Buddhism.

  5. It is important for us to read up the history & background of the Dorje Shugden controversy in order to have a better understanding & to avoid being confused or misled by these statements made about Dorje Shugden.

    When this article is examined deeper, these statements made are clearly unsubstantiable & do not justified the suffering of the followers due to the ban. Under the law, even if a member of the family is found quilty, not everyone is punished but only the one who is at fault. However & in the case of the ban on Dorje Shugden practice, the suffering of discrimination, family members being separated, segregation in the community & deny of social welfare support are all very real among the Dorje Shugden followers eventhough the murderer is not found & the case is not proven quilty of the crime.

    From the spiritual point of view & since the Dalai Lama is advocating world peace, love & compassion, why not do the same for the millions of Dorje Shugden followers who are suffering due to the ban? Isn’t compasssion go beyond skin colour, race, language, gender, religion & what our beliefs are?

  6. It is really contradictory that the Dalai Lama an emanation of the Chenrezig, a highly attained being, could have made such remark… “Turning back once more to the topic of Shugden he declared that he had once worshiped the spirit himself”. Why as a highly realized being only at this juncture, Dalai Lama only realized that Dorje Shugden is a negative being after holding it dearly for years ? “Love and Compassion are necessities, not luxuries,Without them humanity cannot survive.” (adapted from one of Dalai Lama’s quote) Where is the freedom of religion and why are those DS practitioners living in dire straits?

  7. To convince others to support our view point, whatever accusation we wish to hurl against other whom we think are in wrong doing should be backed-up by logic and proof of actual facts. This article of refutation of false accusation from HHDL camp serves as a proof that the learned scholar of disciples of lineage stamped from wisdom Buddha Manjushri could rebut all allegations against their lineage practice one by one based on logic and scriptural reference and not by hearsay. Base on this we can proof to all Shugden- hater or wannabe that how can disciples of devil worshipper come up with such informative website that filled with logic and wisdom? Hence, it could say that all these must have been due to the blessing of Lord Manjushri himself !

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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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