A ban by any other name

The Tibetan exile-government have recently been saying that the Dalai Lama has not issued a ban against the practice or worship of the Buddhist Deity Dorje Shugden, but merely advised against this.

The word ‘ban’ means ‘to prohibit esp. by legal means or social pressure’ (Longmans Dictionary); ‘formally prohibit’ or ‘formal or authoritative prohibition’ (The Concise Oxford Dictionary); ‘to prohibit, … forbid’ or ‘an official prohibition’, ‘a public proclamation or edict’ (Collins Dictionary).

In the ‘New Light English-Tibetan Dictionary’ compiled by T.G. Dongthog, second edition, p31, LTWA, 1985, the Tibetan word translated as ‘ban’ is ‘bkag.sdom byed.pa’. The Tibetan word ‘dam.bsgrag’ is more or less synonymous with ‘bkag.sdom’; ‘dam bsgrag’ is taken to mean a ban or official proclamation against something, and carries a stronger emphasis than ‘bkag.sdom’. As one Tibetan put it, a ‘dam.bsgrag’ comes after a ‘bkag.sdom’.

The following are a number of references both in Tibetan and English that clearly demonstrate the imposition of a ban.

  1. On May 22nd 1996 a circular was distributed by the Kashag, the cabinet of the exile Tibetan government, (each page carrying the official seal of the Tibetan government), which quoted extensively from a talk given by the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala on March 21st 1996.The Kashag statement (page 2, 3rd paragraph) reads quoting from the Dalai Lama:

    ‘yang phebs dgongs su lar nas ~ gong sa lnga pa chen po’i skabs la sprul sku grags pa rgyal mtshan dang ma ‘grigs pai gnas tshul rnam thar nang gsal yod la / gsang wa rgya can gyi nang du’ng (letters indistinct) ha cang gsal po yod / de dag la khungs gnang nas sku phreng bcu gsum pas ‘dam bsgrags’ gnang yod / khong dgongs pa gzhan don du gshegs rjes chab srid kyi zhabs ‘degs zhu mkhan cho’i nang nas yin na’ng ‘dra / phyogs gzhan dag nas yin na’ng ‘dra / mdor na lha srung bsten phyogs thog nas yin na’ng ‘ng / mang po zhig sku mdun sku gong ma ‘tso zhing gzhes pa’i skabs la btang stoms (letters indistinct) su yod pa de dag gzhi nas ‘pag ‘tshag brgyab (next word unintelligible) mang po zhig chags yod / dol rgyal ni de’i gras shig chags yod / dom rang ~ gong sa lnga ba chen po’i skye gral du yod pa dang / de bzhin sku mdun sku gong ma dang las ‘brel thong (letter indistinct) ma yin pa yod pa zhig yin pas ~ gong sa lnga ba chen po dang sku mdun sku gong ma’i skabs nas phyag len yod wa ‘de’e mjug bskyal rgyu nga’i ‘gan yin / mi kha shas kyi sang (letter indistinct) war mi ‘gro wa yong gi yod kyang / ‘di nga’i ngos kyi ‘gan yin zhing / …

    ‘Basically the autobiography of the 5th Dalai Lama is explicit on the conflict between the Dalai Lama and Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen. The ‘Secret Vision’ is also clear on this. Based on them, the 13th Dalai Lama issued a ‘ban’. Many things that remained anonymous during his lifetime, on the part of government ministers as well as the common public, started thrashing about after his death. Gyalchen is one of them. I have come to be counted amongst the line of the 5th Dalai Lama. I feel a definite karmic connection with my predecessor. It is my mandate to complete what was in practice during the 5th Dalai Lama and my predecessor. This is my responsibility.’

    The Kashag’s quote is based on the text of the Dalai Lama’s talk at the preparatory session of Tamdrin Yangsang and Sangdrub empowerments, Thekchen Cheoling Temple, McCleod Ganj, March 21st 1996: page 2 line 4, in which he said: ‘…de’i khungs byas te sku phreng bchu gsum pas skabs ‘dam bsgrags’ gnang yod …’

  2. From a booklet entitled ‘Selected Addresses of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the issue of propitiating Protector Deities’, published by Sherig Parkhang, Dharamsala, July 10th 1996
    1. from the address by HH the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, May 5th 1996, p175, line 16

      ‘It may have been about ten years ago. While giving a Lamrim teaching at Drepung I once gave my reasons for issuing the ban (dam.bsgrags).’

    2. ibid, p183, line 11

      ‘In this way came the reasons, on account of which I have issued the ban (dam.bsgrags) in recent times. In banning (this reliance on Shugden), many came forward and declared that henceforth they will abide by my injunctions. I happily thank and appreciate their gesture.’

  3. From a letter to Ganden Shartse Monastic College, from the Tibetan exile- government Department of Religion and Culture, Dharamsala, 5th May 1996:

    ‘A letter of the Private Office of the Dalai Lama dated 30th March 1996, with a video cassette of the Dalai Lama’s address given in the Spring during the Lamrim teachings forbidding (bsten gsol mi chog pa) reliance on Dhogyal as well as an emphatic address (bka’ slob nan pebs) has been sent (to the monastery).’

  4. From a letter to the Abbot of Sermey Monastic College, Byllakuppe, from the Private Office of HH the Dalai Lama, March 30th 1996:

    ‘As you are aware, the great 13th Dalai Lama had issued a ‘ban’ on the worship of Dorje Shugden on the basis of the Great 5th Dalai Lama’s secret visions. In addition to our government oracles pointing towards danger to the health of HH the Dalai Lama, as well as the cause of Tibet due to the worship of Shugden, after this ‘ban’, this observation is also the conclusion reached by His Holiness after years of observation.’

    ‘ched ‘bul / dgongs par mnga’ gsal ~ rgyal mchog lnga pa chen poi gsung rgya can nang dol rgyal ‘bkag sdom’ dgos pa gsal ba ltar bka’ drin zla med ~ rgyal mchog sku phreng bcu gsum pa chen pos dmigs bsal ‘dam bsgrags bkag sdom’ mdzad yod pa de ltar yang / dus phyes rgyal chen bsten gsol rgya che byas pa ‘dis spyi nor ~ gong sa ~ skyabs mgon chen poi sku pya dang / bod bstan srid mi rigs rang dwang dang bcas par gnod ‘gal bar chad ci che yong sum skor gzhung bsten chos skyong kun nas snga rjes su bka’ lung phebs pai khar/ gtso che spyi nor ~ gong sa ~ kyabs mgon chen po mchog nas lo mang ring brtag dpyad zab nan sgo gang sa nas bkyangs pai snying por / bstan srung dmar nag gnyis dang / …’

  5. From information produced by the Research and Analysis Wing, Tibetan exile government, Department of Security, report number: 28/7.8/1997:

    ‘His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in view of the present and future pros and cons on Tibetan politics and religion, through various religious investigations, has given repeated talks about the need to give up reliance on Dolgyal. Specifically, after issuing an emphatic ban at his spring teachings of 1996, most of the Tibetans living in exile and within Tibet, who are gifted with intelligence and patriotism, have respectfully compiled and appreciatively mended their faith accordingly. This deserves to be applauded.’‘… skyabs mgon chen po mchog gis / bod bstan srid spyi byu’i ‘phral phugs kyi khe nyen la gzhigs te / chos phyogs kyi brtag thabs sna tshogs brgyud / dol rgyal bsten gsol mtshams ‘jog dgos gal che ba’i blang dor bka’ slob snga rjes phebs pa dang / lhag par du 1996 loi dpyid chos skabs ‘dgag bya spyi nan shugs cher’ bstsal rjes / rigs zhen blo gros dang ldan pa’i gzhigs byes gnyis su gnas ‘khod bod mi phal mo ches bka’ gsung spyi bos blangs te /

  6. From an interview with the Dalai Lama, ‘The World Tonight’ BBC Radio 4, 10.00 p.m. 16th July 1996:

    ‘It is well known that the worshipper of that spirit usual approach, a little bit sectarian. So that does not go well with my approach. I myself, in early age, I also did practise this. I was also a worshipper of the Deity. Then about 20 years ago I found through my own investigation, not suitable. So therefore, you see I also started some restriction. Then, beginning of this year, once more I repeated this. This time our exile parliament and many big monasteries made some effort. That is why a few individuals here and there complain.’

    Most people would regard making an ‘effort’ to enforce a ‘restriction’ as fulfilling the definition of a ban. Since the Dalai Lama initiated the restriction, and the effort is being made by the exile parliament, with the Dalai Lama being the head of the exile government, it is clear that the ban both originates from the Dalai Lama and is being implemented in his name, with his knowledge, approval and support.

  7. From an interview with the Dalai Lama on Swiss TV ’10 vor 10’ 7th January 1998
    Although originally transmitted in German, the questions and answers can be heard distinctly in English. The numbers on the side refer to the time on the video recording.
    (Question to the Dalai Lama by Swiss journalist Beat Regli:)

    14:58 [BR] ‘Why this ban?’
    15:04 [DL]
    ‘Tibetan Buddhism is such a profound tradition. The danger of such practice is for Tibetan Buddhism to degenerate into spirit worship.’15:41 [Commentator]
    To his own people he gave these written reasons:
    ‘Propitiating Dolgyal does great harm to the cause of Tibet. It also imperils the life of the Dalai Lama.’ May 199615:24 [BR]
    ‘Are you aware the extent to which your ban can lead to violence when Tibetans think that your life is in danger?’
    16:01 [DL] ‘No! No!’
    16:06 [Commentator]
    He continues to bring up the subject in public talks. A commission of his exile government found no wrongdoing against the worshippers of this deity.
    16:21 [DL]
    ‘Everybody you can ask. The majority, I think 99%, completely agrees
    or follows my advice, and from this side, no single record about violence.’

    19:05 [BR]
    ‘Why don’t you simply advise people not to revere the deity and to be tolerant with those who continue to practice it and under no circumstances to use violence?’
    19:18 [DL]
    ‘Nobody harming! Nobody harming on them!’

    19:24 [BR]
    ‘I saw them myself in the newspapers.’
    [DL] 19:28 ‘No!’
    ‘I think rumours!’
    19:31 [Commentator]
    Tashi Angdu is the general secretary of the society that published the ad which demands ruthless action against all critics of the Dalai Lama. He is a renowned politician, president of the Tibetan regional council.
    19:50 [TA]
    The nature of our work and the views of the government are one. We don’t do anything that goes against the views of the government.’
    19:59 [Commentator]
    Willingly he confirms to us that their Society also threatens to use violence against those Dalai Lama critics who won’t listen to them.
    20:09 [TA]

    ‘People and deities are exactly the same. There are official deities and non-official deities. Only deities that are recognized by the government may be worshipped. Worshipping deities that are not recognized by the government is against the law.’

  8. It is clear from the recordings that the Dalai Lama well understands the meaning of the word ‘ban’ (there is a translator present who is occasionally heard speaking in the background). The Dalai Lama does not deny that there is a ban, only that this ban has led to violence. Furthermore, it is clear from the Dalai Lama’s answer to the third question that his intention was not simply to give advice.
    If the Dalai Lama doesn’t deny the existence of a ban against the practice of Dorje Shugden, why should anyone else?
  9. The following document, though not containing the word ‘ban’, nevertheless clearly fulfils the requirements of a ‘prohibition by legal means or social pressure’; a ban by any other name:A copy of a ‘Special Notice to Doctors and Staff Members’ written on paper letter-headed Department of Health, Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala etc. The English translation that accompanied this reads:

    ‘As we all know our exile government oracles pointed out repeatedly and in explicit clarity that the worship of Dorje Shugden poses danger to the well-being of the Dalai Lama, besides posing danger to the cause of Tibet.

    ‘Above all, in the recent Lamrim and Tamdrin Yangsang addresses, His Holiness has again emphasised on the worship of Dorje Shugden. Herewith we bring out an extract of the addresses. Regarding this, all government employees in Dharamsala have already passed resolution in favour of it. Since it concerns the cause of the Tibetan people and above all His Holiness well-being, we cannot leave it as it is.

    ‘Therefore if we do not have amongst us [anyone] who worships Dorje Shugden, we should resolve not to worship Shugden in the future. Whereas if there is anyone who worships Dorje Shugden they should repent the past and stop worshipping. They must submit a declaration that they will not worship in the future. In case there is anyone who doesn’t abide by the addresses of His Holiness to give up Shugden worship, then, since there is nothing more important than the well-being of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause, such person should submit their resignation. There is no other alternative for such [a] person.

    ‘One should also take stringent responsibility to urge relatives who worship Shugden to abandon this worship. At the gathering of the relevant staff members, make this announcement. And make sure that no one comes up with excuses of not having heard it. We also request you to send us the signed resolution at once from each and every one.
    from the Department of Health
    Dated: April 18, 1996
    c.c. Welfare Officer
    Signed by Assistant General Secretary and bearing Seal of the Department of Health.

  10. In an interview with the Dalai Lama in the Swiss newspaper ‘Tages Anzeiger’ March 7th 1998
    When asked how Tibetans in exile and in his home country took up his advice to stop worshipping Dorje Shugden, he says: ‘Many Tibetans took my advice. But in certain areas of Tibet the Shugden worship increased and also in India there were monasteries who purposely worshipped Shugden. For this reason I strengthened the restriction of the practice in 1995.’ (translated from German).
    It is clear that the Dalai Lama is making a distinction between ‘advice’ and ‘restriction’, and that his intention after 1995 was not simply to advise but to strengthen a restriction.

Source : http://www.westernshugdensociety.org/guest-blogs/ban-by-another-name

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. The word “ban” is such a taboo word. It just somehow doesn’t fit into the mainstream modern, democratic societies throughout the world. Why would Dalai Lama impose ban on Dorje Shugden?

    Why would he take on this unfavorable approach? Imposing a religious ban by using political power just doesn’t send a positive message to the world.

    Shouldn’t he be adopting all the acceptable ways as favored by the modern world in order to garner as much support and to show that the TGIE is a progressive ruling power? Well, obviously he’s not.

    There has been much debate in the forum of this website. One of the view is the “Big Picture”… that though things look bad and the actions of Dalai Lama and TGIE are contradictory, there is a bigger goal to achieve from all these actions. Keep a pure view of the lineage gurus and an open mind.

    Do visit the forum for more information.

  2. If the Dalai Lama says he has practice Dorje Shugden for 20 years and then he stops. Because he don’t find the practice suitable. The reason he gives to his Tibetan people is that propitiating Dolgyal or dorje Shugden will bring harm to the country of Tibet. And it is also a threat to the Dalai Lama’s life. I feel that’s not reason enough. If harm or threat were to occur it could have happened during the 20 years that he was practicing. If the Ban is only restricted to Tibetan people then why do non Tibetans outside Tibet have also to lie low practicing Dorje Shugden.

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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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