An Exclusive Interview with Claudio Cipullo

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In Tibetan Buddhism, names like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, Geshe Rabten, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe are legendary, illustrious and almost illusive. Hence it would take a practitioner of exceptional merits to have met, and to have received teachings and empowerments from such high lamas. Claudio Cipullo is one such practitioner and deservedly so.

Claudio Cipullo began his practice of Buddhism during its renaissance in the West and he was amongst the fortunate first group of Westerners to have received teachings from lamas who were pioneers of Tibetan Buddhism outside Tibet’s borders. Others in the group include famous personalities such as Professor Robert Thurman and Stephen Batchelor.

He is one of the rare few people who have personally studied under His Holiness the Dalai Lama (for whom Claudio also did translation work), Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang (from whom Claudio received certain tantric empowerments and personal advice), Lama Yeshe (who was Claudio’s root guru), Kyabje Zong Rinpoche (who was Claudio’s preceptor and who ordained Claudio into the Tibetan Buddhist Sangha), Lama Zopa (whom Claudio translated for and assisted), Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche and many others. Claudio was also one of the founders and directors of Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, and a founding member of Kopan Monastery.

In over 40 years of unbroken practice, Claudio has received many important empowerments and instructions, including the initiation of Dorje Shugden from Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang (which Claudio received alongside Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Piero Cerri). Behind a certain humility that Claudio wears with ease is a highly realized Vajrayana practitioner. Today, Claudio Cipullo is a close student of Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche and also serves as a tutor in Gangchen Rinpoche’s Albagnano Healing Meditation Centre in Italy.

With over four decades of exposure to high lamas and key events in Tibetan Buddhism, Claudio’s experience provides important insights into the Dorje Shugden controversy. It is interesting and noteworthy that with the onset of the Dorje Shugden ban, a practitioner of Claudio Cipullo’s caliber chose to continue with his Dorje Shugden practice and was happy to forego the status and recognition he had earned with Lama Zopa and the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). Had Claudio chosen to remain with the FPMT at the cost of his vows to Lama Yeshe, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang and his Dorje Shugden practice, Claudio would no doubt be holding a lofty position within the FPMT network today. Therefore it was an honor and a pleasure for to speak with Claudio Cipullo regarding his views on the Dorje Shugden conflict.

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  1. Thanks I really don’t deserve such an article anyway a donkey even a lucky one will never become an horse race.
    Glory to Dorje Shugden in the ten directions
    Claudio Cipullo

  2. Thank you for sharing with us the interview with Claudio. First of all, I really envied Claudio that he had met so many high lamas before and studied under them. Many of us don’t even have the chance to meet a guru.

    He is very respectful to all lamas, he says all lamas are Buddhas, whether or not they are for or against Dorje Shugden. He said Buddha can manifest in many ways to spread Dharma, we must have not doubt.

    Actually, DS practitioners are not going against Dalai Lama, we are following Dalai Lama’s advice because we do not go to his teachings as per his instruction. :)

    We must stay firm and have strong faith in our guru, do not be affected by the ban and disparage other Lamas. Continue with what our gurus ask us to do, we will see results.

  3. Amazing. Studied under so many great masters? Oh my god..

  4. I do agree with what Claudio said we need to follow our Lama because we trust our own guru because our guru is a Buddha whatever he do will not be wrong, even some of his friend who give up the practice he still become friend so is a personal choice, so why ban the practice ?

  5. How can follow a Buddha be wrong? How can follow a true Guru be wrong? He said, Protector Dorje Shugden is a best friend you could ever have.

    Thank you so much Claudio Cipullo, for your straight forward and sincere interview.

  6. Claudio Cipullo’s humble and calm personality denotes a learned and devoted practitioner. Thank you for sharing your views on your practice especially that of the highly talked about Dorje Shugden. It brings a lot of assurance to many Dorje Shugden practitioners.

  7. Bravo Claudio, you deserve the best in the glory of Buddha Dorje Shugden!

  8. “Just follow your Guru”. “Dorje Shugden is the best friend you can have in the Universe”. Wise words from a serious practitioner who claims to be just a donkey. Well this earthworm will take the donkey’s advice. Lol.

  9. His advise is to follow the Lama’s advise and even though the Dalai Lama is one of his Lama, he still follow HH instruction of not attending his teachings. Claudio Cipullo is very wise and to him the ban has its reasons that he says he do not understand. To me to follow the Lama’s instructions is supreme and the instructions is always to practice the Dharma and never to hurt others. This to me is the way to solve the ban not lifting it but at least to maintain harmony. I mean in the Dalai Lama does not want anything to do with the Protector Dorje Shugden, His disciples should listen but please maintain the Dharma within and that is to respect’s others practice.

  10. Amazing background Claudio has! Over 4 decades of learning, receiving instructions & empowerment, and also serving so many High Lamas, you must be very learned and blessed. I’m in awed. I’m glad to know currently u r a close student of Gangchen Rinpoche and as a tutor in the healing centre. The students there must be very lucky.

    Thank u for speaking up to protect this sacred lineage through this issue. And yes, for all serious practitioners, listening to one guru’s advice and instructions and act out of it is the core objective to be spiritual. Thank u Claudio.

  11. What an amazing interview! Claudio Cipullo is indeed deserving of meeting so many illustrious attained Masters and to receive teachings, initiation and empowerments from them. From his interview one can so clearly the devotion he has for his many Gurus and how realized he himself is. He has that mental clarity that he is does not have problems following his Guru’s instructions. The one that caught me off guard was when he mentioned that the Dalai Lama said practitioners of Dorje Shugden should not attend his teachings and Claudio who is also a student of the Dalai Lama, obeyed and did not attend. It really takes clarity to see his way through and accept. Amazing! In other words, he kept his vow to his main Guru of Dorje Shugden practice and at the same time kept his Guru samaya with the Dalai Lama.

    Also when asked what he thought of the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden, he chose the way to be humble and compared himself to be a donkey not in the position to comment about a beautiful horse. He understood that highly attained Lamas have their enlightened reasons and we should not be judgmental but to always follow our own Gurus.

    After more than 40 years of practice, Claudio is still practicing Dorje Shugden in keeping with his vow taken from his Guru and to be beneficial. Such strong Guru devotion and very inspiring!

  12. So humble that he thank his lama for his incredible kindness to teach the basic teachings. He must have collected a whole loadful of merits for him to meet so many high lamas and studied under them. He keeps referring to his gurus as Buddhas and Mahasiddhas. So much reverence for the high lamas and their works.

    He has so much faith in Dorje Shugden and just follow his lama’s advice. As his root Guru pacticed Dorje Shugden and gave him the practice,he see no conflict. He’s so clear on this issue. I agree that the Protector is very personal and private.

    And, he has studied Dorje Shugden and has satisfied himself that Dorje Shugden is Manjushri and keeps his faith in that. He is so clear on Dorje Shugden and samaya and devotion that there is no conflict. As he said, ‘just follow your lama’.

    His devotion to Dorje Shugden and his lamas is so clear to see. That is very telling, coming from someone who has met and became a student of some the most illustrious lamas that came out of Tibet in this half century.

    That is an example to follow, study and keep your samaya clean. See you Guru as a Buddha and Mahasiddha and you will see with clarity.

  13. What will the all the people around the world and in Tibet do now? Dalai Lama says he is happy that Tibet is a part of China and should remain a part of China. So many Tibetans self-immolated for Tibet to be independent and now Dalai Lama did a 360 degree turn and says he wants to go back to Tibet and China and Tibet should be a part of China. So unbelievable. So many are angry and disappointed.

    Tibetans ready to be part of China: Dalai Lama
    Organised by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the event was a part of “Thank You India – 2018″ held by the Tibetan community across India to mark 60 years of its exile in the country.
    Indo-Asian News Service
    Tibetans are ready to be a part of China if guaranteed full rights to preserve their culture, the Dalai Lama said on Friday.
    “Tibetans are not asking for independence. We are okay with remaining with the People’s Republic of China, provided we have full rights to preserve our culture,” the 83-year-old spiritual leader said at “Thank You Karnataka” event here in the city.
    Organised by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the event was a part of “Thank You India – 2018″ held by the Tibetan community across India to mark 60 years of its exile in the country.
    “Several of Chinese citizens practicing Buddhism are keen on Tibetan Buddhism as it is considered scientific,” the Nobel laureate said.
    Born in Taktser hamlet in northeastern Tibet, the Dalai Lama was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. He fled to India from Tibet after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule in 1959.
    China annexed Tibet in 1950, forcing thousands of Tibetans, including monks, to flee the mountain country and settle in India as refugees.
    Since then, India has been home to over 100,000 Tibetans majorly settled in Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh among other states.


  14. Dear Dalai Lama,

    Since you started the cruel ban against the 350 year Dorje Shugden practice, how has it benefit your Tibetan society and Buddhism in the world? Things have become worse and most educated Tibetans can see this. They don’t speak out not because they don’t see your ban as wrong, but you instill fear in them and not respect. It is like fear of a dictator. I am sorry to say so. Everyone is divided. There is no harmony. Before your ban there was more harmony and unity.

    By enacting the ban, you split the monasteries, split so many families, split regions in Tibet apart, split your disciples from you, split your own gurus from you, split Tibetan Buddhism apart. You have created so much disharmony.

    It is not democratic what you have done to ban a religion within your community. You always talk of tolerance and acceptance and democracy and yet you do not accept and tolerate something different from your beliefs. When people practice Dorje Shugden you ostracize them, ban them from seeing you, ban them from using Tibetan facilities. You know you have done that. There are videos that capture your speech and prove this point. You even had people expelled from monasteries just because they practice Dorje Shugden. Some of the monks you expelled have been in the monastery for over 40 years. Many older monks shed tears because of this.

    Many young educated Tibetans lost confidence in you as they saw the damage the Dorje Shugden ban created and they lose hope. Many have become free thinkers. They reject what you have done. So many people in the west left Buddhism because of the confusion you created with this ban against Dorje Shugden which is immoral.

    You could of had millions of people who practice Dorje Shugden to support, love and follow you, but you scared them away. They are hurt and very disappointed. They loved you and respected you deeply before the ban. It has been 60 years and you have failed to get Tibet back. Your biggest failure is not getting Tibet back after 57 years in exile. Now you are begging China to allow you to return to Tibet to the disappointment of thousands of people who fought for a free Tibet believing in you. So many self-immolated for a free Tibet and now you want Tibet to be a part of China with no referendum from Tibetans. Just like a dictator, you decide on your own. It was your government and you that lost Tibet in the first place. Your policies and style of doing things do not benefit Tibet and Buddhism. You have been the sole ruler of Tibet your whole life and you still have not gotten our country of Tibet back for us. Our families and us are separated. Yet you create more pain by creating a ban to further divide people. Please have compassion.

    No other Buddhist leader has banned or condemned any religion except for you. It looks very bad. You are a Nobel laureate and this is not fitting of a laureate. You should unite people and not separate them by religious differences.

    You said Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi did not do right to the Rohingya people in Myanmar due to religious differences, but you are doing the same thing to the Shugden Buddhists within your own society. There is a parallel in this. You separate the Shugden Buddhists from the others in Tibetan society.

    You have lost so many people who would have loved and supported you. You have lost so much support around the world. The Shugden Buddhists who love you number in the millions. When you are fast losing support from governments and private people, it will not do you well to lose more.

    After you are passed away in the future, the rift you created between the Dorje Shugden and non-Dorje Shugden people will remain for a while and that will be your legacy. Disharmony. You will be remembered for this. Not as a hero but a disharmony creator.

    Dorje Shugden will spread and further grow, but you will be no more as you are a human. No one wishes you bad and in fact we hope you have a long and healthy life, but we have lost so much hope and have so much despair because of you. All the hundreds of Dorje Shugden lamas, tulkus and geshes are maturing and there are hundreds of Dorje Shugden monasteries in Tibet who will not give up Dorje Shugden. You have made a mistake. These hundreds of teachers and teachers to be will spread Dorje Shugden further in the future.

    The gurus that gave us Dorje Shugden as a spiritual practice and you have called these holy gurus wrong and they are mistaken in giving us Dorje Shugden. How can you insult our gurus whom we respect so much? If they can be wrong, then you can be wrong. Then all gurus can be wrong. So no one needs to listen to any guru? You have created this trend. It is not healthy. Your own gurus practiced Dorje Shugden their whole lives. Your own gurus were exemplary and highly learned.

    Dalai Lama you have created so much pain with this ban against so many people due to religion. You are ageing fast. Are you going to do anything about it or stay stubborn, hard and un-moving. You show a smile and preach peace and harmony wherever you go. But will you do the same to your own people? Please rectify the wrong you have done. Please before it is too late. You can create harmony again or you can pass away in the future with this legacy of peace. May you live long and think carefully and admit what was a mistake in having this unethical ban against Dorje Shugden religion.

  15. 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.


    lama Yeshe as Vajrasattva with consort in Tushita FPMT dharamsala


    Lama Yeshe (1)

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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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