The Cult of Dorje Shugden or the Cult of the Dalai Lama?

The Dalai Lama’s big lie

“In an interview with NEWSWEEK earlier this month, the Dalai Lama expressed his worries about the Dorje Shugden. “That cult is actually destroying the freedom of religious thought,” he said.”
– Newsweek April 1997

“The problem with Dolgyal practice is that it presents the spirit Dolgyal (Shugden) as a Dharma protector and what’s more tends to promote the spirit as more important than the Buddha himself. If this trend goes unchecked, and innocent people become seduced by cult-like practices of this kind.”
– The Dalai Lama’s Advice Concerning Dolgyal (Shugden), June 2008

This shows that in ten years, nothing has changed. The Dalai Lama is consistently using this derogatory term in relation to Dorje Shugden practice and practitioners, throwing mud that he hopes will stick so that Buddhists who have faith in him will also share this view. He uses the term ‘cult’ to dismiss the practice and humiliate those who practise it, but — as with most of the Dalai Lama’s pronouncements – few of his fervent followers have checked to see if there is truth in what he is saying.

What is a cult?

Let’s examine objectively the claim that Dorje Shugden practice is a cult.

Firstly, a definition from the Chambers Dictionary:


  1. an unorthodox or false religion;
  2. the people adhering to such a system.

For the practice of Dorje Shugden to be a cult, it would have to be unorthodox and/or a false religion.

The practice of Dorje Shugden and the pure Gelugpa tradition is not unorthodox.

  • It is estimated that before the Dalai Lama began forcing Tibetans to give up the practice of this Deity 30 years ago, two thirds of Tibetan Buddhists were sincere Gelugpas who practiced Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition without mixing it with other traditions and relied upon Dorje Shugden as the main Dharma Protector of this tradition. Shugden practice was never regarded as heretical before the Dalai Lama began criticising it. It was a mainstream practice.
  • The Dalai Lama himself practised it until he was in his forties and his eminent Teacher Trijang Rinpoche — the greatest Gelug Master of the twentieth century, who was the Throne Holder of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition — also practised it and promoted it widely until his death. Most Gelug Lamas relied upon Dorje Shugden.

  • Before the Dalai Lama’s ban, Shugden practice was relied upon as the main Dharma Protector of the Gelug tradition. If the practice of Dorje Shugden is cult-like, it follows that the Gelug tradition he has protected for the last 400 years must be a cult.

The practice of Dorje Shugden and the pure Gelugpa tradition is not a false religion.

  • This authentic spiritual practice was transmitted and practiced by great Gelug Spiritual Guides such as Tagpo Kelsang Khedrub Rinpoche, Phabongkha Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Song Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten, Geshe Ngawang Dargye, Domo Geshe Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, to name but a few — not to mention many Sakya Masters such as Morchen Dorjechang Kunga Lhundrup. The integrity of these Masters is beyond reproach — one has only to check their life stories to see their qualifications and their teachings to see that they taught the genuine Dharma of Buddha Shakyamuni. These great Masters are therefore completely trustworthy.
  • Dorje Shugden is an incarnation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri because he comes from a long line of enlightened Masters starting with Manjushri himself. The proofs by Trijang Dorjechang are irrefutable and are given here.
  • The spiritual benefits of relying upon Dorje Shugden are well known by those who sincerely pray to him with compassion. In his praise to Dorje Shugden, the 14th Dalai Lama says:

Especially pacify all harm to us, the yogis and entourages,
That arises because of previous karma and immediate conditions,
And spontaneously accomplish, just as we wish,
All good things, both spiritual and temporal!

These are precisely the results of practising this Dharma: all obstacles are pacified and all good conditions for quick spiritual progress are gathered through this Dharma Protector’s blessings.

Why is the Dalai Lama getting away with this big lie?

In summary, there is no valid reason whatsoever for the Dalai Lama to keep using the word ‘cult’ in relation to Dorje Shugden practice. Dorje Shugden practice was in the mainstream of the Gelugpa tradition before the Dalai Lama’s ban. It is neither heretical nor extreme, as can be seen by the way in which people rely upon this Buddha and the prayers they make to him.

How the Dalai Lama can get away with making such statements without valid reasons is astounding. No other leader’s words would be accepted just because of who he is.
(And, even if some people agree with his view, it is still entirely wrong for the Dalai Lama to impose his view on those who do not agree through political and secular means, backed up by the Tibetan Government in Exile.)

The cult of the Dalai Lama

Buddha himself advised those who wanted to follow him not just to accept his words but to check them carefully for the truth. Buddha’s words of wisdom have benefited this world a great deal and are worthy of veneration and trust. However, the Dalai Lama’s non-Buddhist words on the issue of Dorje Shugden have caused nothing but disharmony, division and suffering to the Buddhist community and are therefore not to be trusted.

Perhaps it is more appropriate to talk about the cult of the Dalai Lama, who is not the head of any spiritual tradition but who expects people to follow his spiritual diktats blindly, without checking the truth of what he is saying.

It is characteristic of a cult to unquestioningly follow a charismatic leader and to have no freedom as to what to practice. The Dalai Lama’s ban gives people no freedom to follow the completely orthodox Buddhist practice of the Gelugpa tradition, symbolized by its Protector Dorje Shugden. He alone dictates what is Buddhist and what is not; and others — assuming that he is a genuine religious authority rather than a self-appointed one — blindly believe what he says despite hundreds of years of evidence to the contrary.

Posted courtesy of Lineage Holder.


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7 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. The explanations here are very clear. By any definition, there is no basis to assert DS is a cult practice.

    Personally, I don’t care what others say. Its just a label and subjective. I go by what the practice entails. I can see nothing in the DS sadhana, instructions and prayers that goes against Buddha’s teachings. In fact, Heart Jewel , right from the beginning reminds practitioners that it is to help those on the Buddha vehicle not other Samsaric vehicles.

    Actually , propitiating DS keeps us mindful that we are our own biggest obstacle and enemy . To invoke a real Dharma protector, we ourselves need to maintain pure motivation and with others’ welfare in mind. The purer is our practice, the more likely we will be able to receive help from such a Protector.

    By the same token, we do not need to label HH as cultish.

  2. Despite much ‘Shugden-bashing’ and despite it being labelled as a cult, the practice of Dharmapala Dorje Shugden is growing and spreading in an unstoppable fashion. This proves that Dorje Shugden,who had been relied on greatly by many highly attained Masters in the past, including Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, is an Enlightened or Supramundane Dharma Protector. It also proves that the practice Of Dorje Shugden is an authentic Dharma practice that has brought much benefit to Dharma practitioners in the cultivation of their practice of the Path to Enlightenment. So therefore, it is not a ‘cult’ practice.
    On the other hand,HH Dalai Lama, who is without doubt, the greatly compassionate Boddhisattva Chenrezig, has spread the Buddhadharma so very rapidly throughout the world. Indeed, through him and through his indefatigable efforts, Buddhism has become a household word and Tibetan Buddhism has become ‘demystified’. Hence he Not a cult leader and the Dharma he practices and transmits through his teachings cannot be called a cult.

  3. The Dalai Lama is the Sovereign of Tibet. And whatever he says must be obeyed and followed even if people do not want to. Dalai Lama says practicing Dorje Shugden is a cult. And he does not believe in praying to a cult. So he stop his people from praying to Dorje Shugden. But if Dorje Shugden is a cult and Dalai Lama has also been practicing Dorje Shugden all this while. He has even written a praise to Dorje Shugden for people to follow. Dalai Lama is a Buddha why then is he practicing Doje Shugsen until now. Buddhas cannot be wrong. Why the switch? There must be a reason why the Dalai Lama has to do this.

  4. If Dalai Lama proclaims that Dorje Shugden practice is a cult. Why then does he follow his Root Guru Trijang Rinpoche for so many years and practice Dorje Shugden. Buddhism is supposed to be a pure Religion and also a way of life. It is to be applied to everyday life. Dorje Shugden is an Enlightened being or a Buddha. And praying to a Buddha is a Religion and not a cult.

  5. H.H. the Dalai Lama was probably acting as a mirror. Many practitioners do not stick to their tradition and seek teachings from other traditions. Westerners, in particular, are very protective of their rights, especially the freedom of religious practice. They also tend to impose this “freedom” on others. To me, it’s a kind of mirror of what people do, to show them that what is right for one may not be right for another. In fact, there is no “right” or “wrong” practice. “Right” and “wrong” are both impermanent.

  6. I never meet part og Tibetan Buddhisme that wasnt a cult, so propably both. Ore though I am not familier with shugden.
    I know the Tibetans and nepalneese are incredibly naive….
    If Dalai Lama is not a cult leader, why is all the various groups under the Dalai Lama, plus one og his nearest familly members, doing different kinds of serious abusive stuff to people who seek refugees ore women who can’t defensive themselves ?

  7. To Sarah:
    How do you learned from a mirror?

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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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