Arguments For and Against

5th Dalai Lama The Dalai Lama has said that:

  1. Shugden is a worldly spirit.
  2. Shugden practice has the potential to promote sectarianism.
  3. Shugden practice harms the health of the Dalai Lama and is contrary to the interests of Tibet and the Tibetan people.
  4. The Nechung State Oracle (bound by Padmasambhava) stated that it is harmful.
  5. Tibetan people using divination have received bad omens to the effect that Shugden is harming them.
  6. The Fifth Dalai Lama said: He will talk over and over again and not stop to say: Shugden is a negative force. And the Fourteenth Dalai Lama said that he sees himself in the footsteps of the Thirteenth and Fifth Dalai Lamas.[49]

None of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism today accepts Shugden as a Dharmapala, citing his origin and activities against other schools. Masters from the other Tibetan Buddhist schools (Kagyu, Nyingma and Sakya) agree with the view of the 14th Dalai Lama that Shugden (Dhogyal) is a worldly spirit with demonic power. Shugden was not mentioned by the Buddha, Atisha, or Tsongkhapa, or any Indian Tantric yogi or Indian pandit who developed the basis for Tibetan Buddhism.

Shugden was not accepted as an official part of the Gelug school by the Ganden Tripa, the head of the Gelug school. Because the worship of Shugden has led to conflicts within the Tibetan Buddhist community (for instance, it is said that disciples of Lama Pabongkha destroyed Nyingma monasteries and statues of Padmasambhava and converted these monasteries into Gelug monasteries – and not only Nyingmapas had many difficulties with that spirit, also Kagyu practitioners made cleaning rituals after they visited Gelug monasteries), the 14th Dalai Lama used his status as the spiritual and political head of the Tibetan people to speak out about the practice.

Then he asked Shugden followers not to come to his teachings, because there is no basis for a faithful teacher-disciple relationship if they don’t believe him. He also advised Gelug monasteries to stop the practice and to prmote harmony within the Tibetan Buddhist community. In Tibetan Buddhism everyone is free not to follow the Dalai Lama’s advice, so he asked that people do the practice in private if they cannot give it up. There are now members of the Gelug school (for instance in Sera Monastery, India) who follow his advice, and some who do not.

One member of the Tibetan Government in Exile (Kashag) suggested that practitioners of Dolgyal should not be allowed to hold public office within the Tibetan Government in Exile, but this was not taken up.

The 14th Dalai Lama was given that practice by one of his teachers without respecting what the 13th Dalai Lama and 5th Dalai Lama had to say about it. Because the practice of Dolgyal is sectarian and propagates a special Gelugpa exclusiveness which does not fit to the views, behavior, and tasks of a Dalai Lama and his function as the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, he told his teachers about his conflict and they agreed that he stop the practice.

The Dalai Lama doesn’t deny anyone’s freedom to practice Shugden worship, but he insists on his right to ask those accepting Vajrayana teachings and empowerments from him to abstain from such practices. In addition, he sees discussion of the problem of “sectarianism” within the Tibetan community as his responsibility in his capacity as the spiritual and political leader of Tibet.

Arguments by followers of Shugden

Shugden supporters responded point-by-point as follows:


  1. The statement that Dorje Shugden is a worldly spirit is unsubstantiated and contradicts the view of many spiritual masters of the Gelug tradition who hold him to be a manifestation of the Wisdom Buddha.
  2. Furthermore, the essential Mahayana Buddhist doctrine of the emptiness of persons requires that one should not attribute inherently existent qualities to any being. Thus, Shugden like any other being has the qualities that one’s own mind sees in him.
  3. Prior to instigating this ban, there was no history of disharmony between practitioners of Dorje Shugden and other traditions – it is the ban itself that is a manifestation of sectarianism.
  4. There is no evidence to support the claims that the Dalai Lama’s health and the interests of the Tibetan people have been affected.
  5. Divination is not a reliable means of deciding such issues. Furthermore, evidence from oracles is not admissible either.
  6. The Dalai Lama might claim that his teachers agreed to him stopping the practice, but in reality they had no choice but to accept, as to go against the Dalai Lama results in grave consequences. It is said that Trijang Rinpoche in particular was ‘very disappointed’ that the Dalai Lama abandoned his practice of Dorje Shugden.

Pro-Dorje Shugden Gelug teachers have asked the Dalai Lama to present valid reasons supporting these claims and, in the absence of any response, have continued to engage in the practice.

Shugden supporters accuse the Dalai Lama of “banning” them, with the following specifics:

  1. Such practitioners are discouraged from attending teachings by the Dalai Lama.
  2. Practitioners of Dorje Shugden are not allowed to hold public office within the Tibetan Government in Exile.
  3. Many monasteries and individuals publicly engaging in the practice have been pressed to stop.
  4. The official ban on this practice has sparked debate within the Tibetan community and widespread public pressure upon those maintaining the practice.

Shugden-followers claim there is documentary evidence to support this. The Tibetan Government in Exile reject the claims [50]

Referenced Links

*49. The 14th Dalai Lama’s Teachings in Swiss 2003 on Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara, published by Auditorium, see also “Jokers Edition”

*50. Documentary, Dorje Shugden, The Spirit and the Controversy, by the TGIE

Source :

(Editor’s Note: This link appears to have been removed from the mentioned website)

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3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Even if Dorje Shugden is a spirit he has done no harm. He has given much help to the Tibetan government and the Dalai Lama, predicting what route the Dalai Lama should take to escape to India. Because of the Ban that was imposed on the practioners of Dorje Shugden in the Gelug School of Buddhism by the Tibetan Government and the Dalai Lama. This then has caused a segregation. The practice of Dorje Shugden has not started only recently. All most every Tibetan was practicing Dorje Shugden before the Dalai Lama was born. And if harm has to come to Dalai Lama’s health it would have happened and he would not have lived until today.

  2. If Dorje Shugden is a spirit, why the 5th Dalai Lama could not “kill” him when Dorje Shugden emanated as a Protector? And recent articles and evidence had proofed that it was Dorje Shugden who saved the 14th Dalai Lama’s life during HH’s escape during the Chinese oppression into Tibet.

  3. All this controversy is very sad.
    Both sides have shown their selves not in the best way.

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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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