Caught in the Middle

By: TK

One of the most difficult situations that has arisen from the ban on Dorje Shugden is that of Buddhist practitioners having to literally choose between their Gurus.

In many cases, monks and lay practitioners have one Guru (such as the Dalai Lama) who has instructed them to stop the practice of Dorje Shugden and another Guru from whom they have received Shugden’s practice / initiation and to whom they hold lifelong commitments. When a ban like this is decreed, how do they decide which teacher’s advice to follow, without forsaking the other?

The following article has been extracted from the forum, where poster TK shares the various situations that a student may find himself in and shares how the student can make this difficult choice in the best possible way.



There are some people who can easily ‘choose’ to follow either the Dalai Lama or another Lama because they have not received Dharma (teachings / initiations) from both. When a situation like the ban on Dorje Shugden arises, it is very easy for them to decide whose advice they will follow and there is no conflict.

However, there are many who are caught between the Dalai Lama who advises against the practice and another lama who has given and taught them the practice to uphold for life. There are many practitioners in this predicament and many are caught between the same difficult decisions. Personally, I choose to respect both the Dalai Lama and Shugden lamas because how can we possibly make someone choose between the two? Unfortunately, most are in a situation now that they have to choose.

It is important to consider who our root teachers are, who have had the greatest impact on our spiritual path

Below, I have outlined several scenarios that a student may find himself in and shared how he might make the best “choice” within each situation:

1. The student should examine which lama has had a more direct and stronger impact on his spiritual practice. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is great, but if you only meet him from a distance once every few years and only receive one teaching, that is the extent of the relationship. On the other hand, you meet your root teacher often; he advises you, helps you through the rough times, nurtures you and bestows Dharma on you very often. Then, in this case, your root teacher would have had a stronger impact on you and you should follow the practice of your root teacher if forced to choose.

You should make this ‘choice’ without harboring negative thoughts against the Dalai Lama and if others disparage him, you should not participate. However, in your tantric and Guru Yoga practices and visualizations, you still have to ‘dissolve’ all your gurus, including the Dalai Lama, into your root Guru before your root guru dissolves into you. Attainments depend on pure relationships with all your gurus. In other words, you must believe that whichever Guru you visualize in your practices is representative of all the Gurus you have taken teachings from.

2. You may have received teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but if your heart wishes to continue with your practice of Shugden, then you just follow Shugden’s lineage without disparaging the Dalai Lama.

Disparaging either the Dalai Lama or Dorje Shugden will mean we are also disparaging his teachers (Ling Rinpoche, left; Trijang Rinpoche, right), who also practiced Dorje Shugden throughout their lives

3. If you have more faith and a stronger relationship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, or you have not met other lamas, then you can follow the Dalai Lama’s advice and not practice Shugden. However, you should not criticize Shugden or Shugden practitioners, because all of the Dalai Lama’s lineage Gurus practice Shugden. If you disparage Shugden, you are also disparaging the source from which the Dalai Lama received his teachings.

4. If you choose both Dorje Shugden and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, then just practice quietly. If the Dalai Lama is a Buddha (and he is, as we believe him to be an emanation of Chenrezig), he cannot be angry. If Shugden is a Buddha (and he is, as an emanation of Manjushri), he also cannot be angry. Both cannot be angry on the ultimate level. So we view them both from the ultimate level, at the level of Dharmakaya, no matter what the nirmanakaya manifests for the time being.

Whatever the case, a true practitioner will not disparage others. If our motivation is totally pure, then we can speak up or ask about something we do not agree with, but in accordance with our Bodhisattva vows. We ask, understand and practice.

There are many more scenarios. But for now this suffices.

This opinion piece has been extracted from the forum. Please add to the discussions on the forum if you have further perspectives, comments and thoughts. We always welcome debate and exchange. The original thread can be viewed at

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3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Very logical write up, and I must say it is something that will help many DS practitioners to get pass the crossroads they have to face due to the ban.

  2. This article offers sound and practical advice to practitioners who find themselves in a dilemma of having to choose in any of the scenarios described. I understand better how one can deal with one’s own situation in a skillful manner without creating negative karma.

  3. Very true. Do not disparage others and their practice. The dharma comes from the same source. Only the vessel is different. Akin to taking water from the same river with different containers from different parts of the river.

    Just follow your root guru and do your practice without collecting negative karma by disparaging others’ practice or the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is Avalokiteshvara, he will have his reasons beyond our comprehension. Only we ourselves can save us and gain enlightenment.

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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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