The Truth About The ‘Democratic’ Dorje Shugden Vote-Stick Referendum

The Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has long denied that there is a ban against the practice of the Protector-deity Dorje Shugden. And yet the expulsion of over 900 Buddhist monks from Ganden and Sera Monasteries in the Tibetan settlement in India attest to the opposite. The reason for their expulsion was not due to any wrongdoing or breaches of their monastic codes. Instead they were expelled for their religious beliefs, their integrity and for upholding oaths made to their teachers, which is in essence the heart of the Vajrayana practice. As a result, they provoked the ire of the Dalai Lama who in 1996 set out to ban and criminalize the 400-year-old practice of Dorje Shugden for personal political reasons.

It is incredible that in the 21st century, a single person can yield such unchecked power that allows him to force others to choose to abandon their religious beliefs or face persecution, marginalization, loss of livelihood, and other sorts of punishments. But the Dalai Lama is no ordinary man. He is the most cunning politician alive today and the absolute master of manipulation. Who else can rally the most powerful nations in the world against one’s personal enemy without the use of arms, economic might, promises or coercion? Who else can impose an illegal religious ban right under the noses of the champions of human rights and democracy and at the same time be lauded as a beloved defender of peace, tolerance and compassion? Only the Dalai Lama can, not that he admits that he has infringed on the rights of Shugden Buddhists because to admit so would make him no better than Mao Zedong.

The Dalai Lama and some anti-Dorje Shugden groups claim that there is no ban on the practice and no discrimination against its practitioners. Instead they claim that whilst previously the monks of Ganden Shartse and Sera Mey monasteries did worship Dorje Shugden, they voted to abandon this practice in a democratic process after accepting the Dalai Lama’s advice and conducting their own research into the alleged ‘evil nature’ of this Dharma Protector.

Monks were forced to swear an oath to abandon their Dorje Shugden practice.


Video: The Infamous Red/Yellow Vote Stick Referendum

The impression that the Dalai Lama gives is that he merely provided his opinion regarding Shugden and it was the monks and laypeople themselves who chose to reject the practice after their own research. The oft-quoted example used to support the Dalai Lama’s claim that the monks voluntarily chose to renounce Dorje Shugden is known as the ‘vote stick referendum’ that took place in 2008. In the so-called voting process, monks who did not wish to share spiritual and material relations with Dorje Shugden followers would pick the yellow-colored vote-stick and those who chose to continue their Dorje Shugden worship were asked to choose the red-colored vote-stick.

On the face of it, the monks were given a choice. But this claim is not true. To begin with, the Dalai Lama imposed the Shugden ban in 1996 and yet right until 2008, most Gelugpa monasteries and monks were still practicing Dorje Shugden, indicating that they did not accept the Dalai Lama’s reasons for discarding the Shugden practice as a core ritual of the Gelugpa sect. It was only in 2008 when the Dalai Lama personally enforced the ban with threats and coercion that the monasteries finally succumbed out of fear.

The simple truth is that the Ganden and Sera monks were not given a real choice; they were coerced and threatened into voting to abandon Dorje Shugden. Monks who wished to practice were not allowed to, as video testimony by Losang Gompo, a senior monk of Ganden Monastery confirms. He describes how the monks were herded at gunpoint to hear the announcement of the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden:

40 monks and about 30 policemen surrounded the prayer hall. The police force was called in by the Tibetan Women’s Association, Tibetan Freedom Movement, and the Tibetan Youth Congress.

Before the announcement, there were body searches as the monks came into the prayer hall one by one. All the monks had to keep their hands above their heads like this while they came into the prayer hall. During the actual announcement police with rifles walked through the monks.

There were 40 monks surrounding the main prayer hall of Ganden Monastery during the announcement. These monks had iron bars or clubs in their hands to use on anyone who dared to express an opinion against the announcement.

Losang Gompo testified to a very different picture to that painted by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership. And as a result of the Dalai Lama’s threats, over 900 Shugden monks were unfairly and unconstitutionally expelled from their monasteries in India.

A senior monk of Ganden Monastery testifies to the threats and coercion that Shugden worshippers faced in the presence of the Dalai Lama, who has denied that there was any discrimination.

Intimidation has always been the mainstay and method of the CTA. To add insult to injury, the CTA lied about what actually happened and deceitfully edited videos to show Ganden monks supposedly casting votes in a democratic way when, in fact, they were surrounded by what was essentially a mob and had no real choice.

Old video footages of the Dalai Lama attest to his instructions to expel Shugden monks, thus exposing the Dalai Lama’ denials that he imposed a ban against Dorje Shugden’s practice. Why expel monks if there is no ban against the practice?

There is no truth that there is no ban, and in reality the ban is willfully and aggressively pursued by the Dalai Lama. The fact that the Dalai Lama can subject monks and laypeople to an oath-swearing campaign is really an offensive against innocent Shugden Buddhists. And the fact that the Tibetan Constitution provides for freedom of religion bears witness to the Dalai Lama being a dictator.

To the world, the Dalai Lama constantly preaches love, compassion, world peace and the practice of tolerance and humanity, but in truth his actions have brought about heavy and unjust persecution and discrimination against innocent Dorje Shugden practitioners, the splitting of monasteries, and the severing of family ties, friends and communities. Increasingly, evidence of the Dalai Lama’s anti-human rights policies are surfacing and it has become undeniable that the Dalai Lama is behind one of the most outrageous breaches of human rights in history even as he accuses China of the same.

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24 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Hello pseudo Tibetan monks and nuns.please stop lying and deceiving innocent people!Stop exploiting Tibetan religious tradition for serving communist government of China.
    Shame on you.

  2. Hey Gyaltsen, this video is true and speak fact. Everytime you Shugden hater see fact you say Shugden is Chinese pay. LOL. Say something fact for change.

  3. Y

  4. I am from Mongolia, in my country people who wanna rich and powerfull they praying and paying to Shugden, they don’t understand true meaning of Buddha is not for the money.

  5. This Dalia Lama is a joke and when he dies , He will be the butt of a joke, Give ti 25 years, The truth will be revealed about this plutocrat~`

  6. Dear

    Thank you for this eye-opening article. In the west we always heard the word that there is no ban on Shugden practice. It is merely an advice from Dalai Lama to not practice Shugden.

    But then, it it is only an advice without consequences, then why ask the monks to choose and identify themselves whether they are a Dorje Shugden practitioners or not. In addition, the circumstance surrounding the referendum was very fishy and full of intimidation – why have so many police officers there? And why the monks risk being expelled once they identify themselves as Dorje Shugden practitioners.

    I can see how an advice can bring so much coercion


  7. It is so unfair that the monks will have to make their choices like that in the prayer hall. Even if they would really like to pick the red stick, they would think again since they will be afraid of what will happen to them.

    From the video, it is already shown that the monastery has already done like a warning before the whole ceremony. Thus, for them to be preparing more yellow sticks as compared to the red sticks that were being prepared for the monks to choose. Even as they were choosing, you can see that some monks will do the gesture that no one will choose the red sticks when the monks that were carrying the red sticks walk pass them. Through this it already acts like a form of oppression. Reason being that the monks that would like to take the red stick would also be afraid. They do not want to be seen as they are against H.H. Dalai Lama. Thus, it is through the peer pressure that the CTA has forced the monks to give up on their practice of Dorje Shudgen.

  8. This is just another example of the level of corruption within the Tibetan Administration. Even the holy Sangha are not safe from the perverted machinations of those leveraging for political power and greed. This just goes to show that the Tibetan Administration care nothing for its own peoples, just their own self-interest.

    It’s a real shame. Since the Tibetan people’s are refugees without their own country, you would think that the government would enact policies that actually care for its people, rather than hinder and split them. I guess that its a tactic used by the government to keep their hold, from the fear that they will loose their power and hold over their people, if their people assimilate into the cultures where they live in exile.

    In any case, this has severely effected, and split the Gelug tradition into two sections. Know people from both sides of the ban but i can never agree with the side, that say there is no ban but just a choice. If there was no ban, than these obvious measures would not have been taken by the Tibetan Administration. If it was simply a personal choice, then there would be no need for sure voting measures to exist within the monastic environment!

  9. How can this be democratic? When you force people to pick a side and if you pick the ‘wrong’ side that the CTA does not like, you will be excommunicated, expelled from your monastery which you have been calling home for many 10,20, 30 years. This is not democratic, this is a manipulation in enforcing your views, decision and ultimatum on people.

    On top of being excommunicated, you are told you cannot talk, contact or be friends with those who does not practice Dorje Shugden and vice versa and if there is communication, there will be repercussion. What kind of democratic government does that to their own people? Segregating them and forcing them to split with family, relatives and friends?

    There is nothing democratic about this and it should be known to the world how unethical the ban on Dorje Shugden is to a point they kick out monks from their own monastery and home. Anyone who says this is democratic must either be really ignorant or they too have a part to play in splitting Tibetans.

  10. This just goes to show how heavily corrupted and backwards the leadership is. Living in the 21st century, every single human being including the Tibetans holds the rights towards their spiritual practise and religious choices. None of us have the authority to override their rights, tell them what and who to believe in.

    The Tibetan leadership should really think of solutions to solve the issue, instead of just focusing on themselves and counting how much money they can get out of it. If they can’t even govern their own peoples’ support, I don’t see how they can lead Tibet.

  11. Time and again proof what is happening to Dorje Shugden monks and practitioners. The image H.H. the Dalai Lama portrays in the West is very different from how he and the CTA acts again Dorje Shugden.

    Being threatened with iron bars and clubs to abandon the practice of Dorje Shugden in the monastery gives an idea of what happened…

    This is not part of Buddhism and should not be part of any religion. May the ban on Dorje Shugden come down swiftly.

    Thank you for fighting the ban and showing proof to the world of the discrimination against Dorje Shugden monks and nuns.

  12. CTA has no same some more telling the world there no BAN OOOO common people don’t u guys see … If there was no ban, than these obvious measures would not have been taken by the Tibetan Government., CTA is very selfish instead of thinking for solutions to solve the issue talks nonsense..

  13. There is no evidence to say that the referendum/stick-vote that took place in the monasteries were rigged but I am more inclined to say that the monks voted against Shukden out of fear. Who wouldn’t be if you know you will be singled out and treated badly if you don’t toe the line.

    What I find wrong is why it was even necessary for a monastery to vote against one particular deity as if a mundane activity can override divinity. To me the Shukden issue is a spiritual one and therefore the monasteries should have engaged in scriptural debates about the nature of Shukden instead of voting which is such an improper and common way to deal with a spiritual matter.

    Also I have been informed that many monks voted against the deity but kept the practice secretly. All this farce for nothing and very damaging to the reputation of Tibetan Buddhism.

  14. If there is no ban? Why is there a need to vote when there is no ban? Why do the monks have to vote if there wasn’t a ban? How can anybody say there is no ban when it is obvious that there is a ban. These are the questions that go through my head as I read this article. The sad thing is the Tibetan leadership claim that this is a democractic process when the monks are clearly brow beatened into voting it. This a very clear proof that there is a ban and that the monks are clearly segregated by the process.

  15. This shows that the CTA does not rule with democracy. For a person to have such power and influence, it is obvious that the ruling party has no power and though the Dalai Lama is supposed to have handed his political power, He remain as the ruler of the Tibet in exile. The CTA executed the Dalai Lama’s ban and reinforce it, they are the shadow in the scene.

    There is no freedom of choice and speech in the scene, everyone are forced to give up the Dorje Shugden practice. The majority dare not go against the Dalai Lama’s ban due to selfish reasons and fear of losing support financially. Most of them are incapable of taking care of their own basic needs and they rely heavily on CTA’s support.

    This is very unhealthy and backward. The CTA will not grow nor will the Tibetans in exile.

  16. I agree that not many people in the world have the same kind of monopoly over their people as the Dalai Lama but don’t agree with him being called cunning and a master of manipulation. Sorry but there is such a thing as skilful means and to call him cunning and manipulative implies that there is something wrong with his methods. This doesn’t match up if you believe he’s doing all of this (the ban and all) for a bigger purpose.

    Having said that, the way the monks were forced to swear out is quite disgusting. I always wondered, if the abbots of the monasteries had banded together and politely told His Holiness “no” when he announced the ban, would things have been different? If FPMT had grown a set of balls when the ban came about, and joined with NKT to say no to the ban, would things have been different? Hey FPMT. You didn’t say anything when the ban came around. These old monks been browbeaten to swear out, that’s on you.

    By the way, it’s not possible for monks to swear out of a practice if they didn’t give it up in front of the teachers who gave them the practice. So for the old monks who received sogtae from Trijang Rinpoche, well technically they never gave up the practice.

  17. Do you know that before any referendum was held at Sera Monastery or Ganden Monastery, monks were already being expelled and humiliated! I have read and heard from monks that the abbot of Ganden Jangtse Monastery at that time, Geshe Lobsang Tsephel was publicly scolded by the Dalai Lama in a public meeting for being a Dorje Shugden practitioner.

    I agree with the article that it is obvious that monks were not given a real choice. How do you vote for Dorje Shugden if your livelihood was on the line, and you know that once you made that choice, you will have no more acccess to benefits/ welfare like medical, travel documents, and other privileges. You know that once you made that choice you will be expelled from your monastery and subsequently your family may also abandon you. What is worse is that this referendum was held with much intimidation and coercion.

    It is not a matter of ‘personal choice’ or advice, because once you made that choice, it is not only about you. Others had signed the oath to not share material amenities of life. They are also not allowed to associate with you. So you know that you chose the card to ‘doom’.

    Practitioners of Dorje Shugden received a commitment to do this practice from their teachers like Trijang Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, and etc. To force them to vote against the practice is to force the students to abandon their teachers’ advice by voting in favor of the ban to be politically correct. That is purely politics and in this case, CTA definitely does not practice religious freedom as written in their charter. But again, why am I surprise at CTA’s mis-behaviour?

  18. Looks good on the outside, painted a fake public image of Shangri-la, it is actually an autocratic society governed with tyranny. No Shame.

  19. This injustice clearly reveals the factor that fuels this breach of human rights to religious freedom is a society that turns a blind eye and indirectly permits the ban on Dorje Shugden. How much clearer does it have to get for the global society or even the Buddhist population to acknowledge that there is a ban and millions are suffering by it.

    From very visible signboards displayed at store fronts to notification imposing that Dorje Shugden practitoners cannot join the medical team of the Men-tse-khang (tibetan medical institution ) to the emotional trauma when families ties are severed because of the Dorje Shugden controversy, we cannot deny the existence of this violent regulation against the practice of Dorje Shugden. This is not to mention that physical assaults against Dorje Shugden practitioner including Gen Chonze who takes care of Trijang Rinpoche’s ladrang in Dharamsala.

    Why are people pretending that everything is fine and Tibet is still this peaceful world of spiritual awakening, rich in compassion and wisdom? The benefit is certainly one that is political and economical.

    As the nature of these worldly phenomena are impermanent, it is only normal and expected that the winds will change this is exactly what is happening now as China become the world’spreferences partner and the world would do anything to be in China’s good books… including abandoning his Holiness.

    It is time to end this karma. It is time to practice dharma.and push for the ban to be lifted and encourage practitioners to focus on pure dharma and not politics and secular gains.

  20. The highest level of democracy, of recognizing and living ones own inherent dignity, is to elect your own wisdom and compassion.

  21. How can someone ever call what is happening simply advice given by Dalai Lama. This is utterly ridiculous, if a monastery implements a vote by force and then evicts those who do not give up their practice, this is NOT A VOTE BUT PERSECUTION. It is a ban outright.

    Some people have left comments that some monks who voted against the practice of Dorje Shugden did so out of fear. And I am not surprised that some did. Having spent the majority of their lives in the monastic environment, they would have surely felt afraid that they would lose everything they know, their teachers, their home. I’m a sure that some of the monks who stayed behind in their monasteries still practice Dorje Shugden privately.

  22. This is a poor excuse for democracy but then again, this is the monastery and the monastic order is just expected to comply with the policies of the elders. The whole idea of subservience and obedience is in the spirit of Buddhism and the teachings. Furthermore, we as lay folks have no real say in this matter because we are not saffron upholders of the Vinaya. I believe it it the great elder lamas and lineage holders like the Gaden Tri Rinpoche and the great incarnate lamas like Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and so forth that have a real say in this matter.

  23. 900 Buddhist monks were expelled from Ganden and Sera Monasteries in the Tibetan settlement in India. The reason for their expulsion was not due to any wrongdoing or breaches of their monastic codes. But it was because they follow and practice their religious belief and uphold oath made to their teachers. Unfortunately, being a good monk with integrity is not something that pleases the Dalai Lama. In fact, it was Dalai Lama who ordered the expulsion of these monks starting 1996 when he criminalized the 400 years old Dorje Shugden practice for reasons only he knows.

    Monks of Ganden Shartse and Sera Mey monasteries were forced to abandon their oath to their teachers and sown not to worship Dorje Shugden anymore. An absurd voting process, called the ‘vote stick referendum’ was designed just to manipulate the monks into renouncing their oath and vow. In the so-called voting process, monks who did not wish to share spiritual and material relations with Dorje Shugden followers would pick the yellow-colored vote-stick and those who chose to continue their Dorje Shugden worship were asked to choose the red-colored vote-stick.

    Those who chose the red stick will be expelled and ostracized and labelled anti-Dalai Lama. All these hurt and pain imposed on sangha community by the single person who lauded by the world as a beloved defender of peace, tolerance and compassion, how ironic?

  24. It is so disheartening to read of the monks who practised purely by upholding oaths made to their teachers, which is in essence the heart of the Vajrayana practice being forced out of their monasteries. Whilst those who could denounce their Gurus and their vows made, had been “rewarded” to stay on in the monasteries.

    It is true that the Dalai Lama must be the best politician in the world, as the world leaders were beguiled into accepting his facade of compassion and humility whilst his actions belied his teachings. After 20 years of these travesty, the Dalai Lama and CTA are still instigating monks and their followers to take actions against Shugden practitioners. As it is, much sufferings had been inflicted on the Shugden Lamas and practitioners where they are physically and verbally abused, threaten and in fear of their lives, segregated and denied entries into hospital, sundry shops, schools, etc., denied their papers for travel and denied of any financial aids from the millions sponsored for support the Tibetans-In-Exile.

    Thank you for bringing us the truth that are usually white-washed for the public. We certainly wouldn’t have known that there were policemen with rifles and monks had iron bars or clubs surrounding the monks, threatening those who defied the ban and vote stick referendum. So what freedom are the Dalai Lama and CTA practising when the monks are threaten and forced against their wills to vote for the yellow stick? When will the Dalai Lama manifests his true Buddha nature to lift the illegal and illogical ban on Dorje Shugden. It has gone beyond a ban on a Protector practise and is hurting the very core of the pure lineage teachings and practises.

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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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