My Position on Dorje Shugden

This will not be a re-hashing of the pros and cons of this controversy. In this respect, I take a position of neutrality. Recent conversations with Lamas and other Dharma practitioners have convinced me that it is time for me to make a public statement. As a long-time Dharma practitioner in the Gelug Lineage, this is not a topic with which I am unfamiliar.

My Tsawa-Lama is Chodag Tulku Rinpoche, with whom I studied until his passing at the end of 2001. I was ordained by Dagom Rinpoche at Dagom Ganden Tensung Ling Monastery in Bloomington, Indiana.

Chodag Tulku and I had many long and detailed conversations about this matter. He gave me very specific instructions regarding how I was to handle discourse on this topic and the things I have to say about it are either his direct words or are informed by what he taught me. His teaching was that while this all started as an internecine religious squabble some centuries ago, it has degenerated into a squabble about Tibetan politics and not religion.

Tibetan politics, both before and since the introduction of Buddhism, has a long, violent, bloody history filled with deep political intrigue, and long-standing sectarian hatred, including the assassinations of many religious figures, even the Dalai Lamas, and open warfare between monks in rival monasteries. My Lama said that as a practitioner and a monastic, I am to avoid the mixing of politics and Dharma. It is always disastrous and always poisons both.

This first thing I want to address is the first question usually asked, aside from, perhaps, “What is all this Shugden mess?” And that question is: “Are you a Shugden practitioner?” As with ALL tantric practices, I will neither deny nor confirm any connection to this practice. As with all of one’s practices, especially Tantra, it is an inappropriate topic for public discourse for any practitioner; period. A true Tantric practitioner will not engage in any public discourse with respect to whether or not they have an empowerment for a specific practice. To do so violates one’s tantric vows. This is the teaching of my Tsawa-Lama.

Some of you will make an immediate assumption one way or the other about what my answer “means”. If you actually care one way or the other about whether or not I, or anyone else, is a Shugdenpa then you already have a proclivity for wasting your time and meddling in affairs that do not concern you. My personal observation would simply be that you do not spend enough time on your meditation seat or reading the Bodhisattva and Tantric vows.

The second thing I wish to address is this. I do not have relationships with Lamas and other practitioners, or friendships and acquaintances with anyone, based on their position on this matter. I don’t know how most people feel about this controversy and, truthfully, don’t much care what anyone thinks.

I know many people who are Shugden practitioners, even more who are not and, for the most part, have no clue about the vast majority of the practitioners I know. If it matters to you, then I’m probably not someone you want to know. I base my decisions regarding friendship on how one treats other people and whether or not they are disruptive to my mind-stream.

My Lama’s teaching on this was, also, quite clear.

  • You can have all the compassion and loving-kindness toward another sentient being and, quite reasonably (and well within the dictates of yogic principles) not want that being to be anywhere near you.
  • You should always avoid those who are disruptive to your mind-stream regardless of who they may be.

Any of you who have gone to hear Tibetan Lamas since the introduction of the Dharma in the West has taken teachings from, studied with, or has been empowered by one or more Shugden Lamas, whether you know it or not. Many of you still take teachings from a Lama who is a practicing Shugdenpa. The fact that you don’t know is an example of the both the critical importance of secrecy in Tantra and the facetious pretense of superiority that is at the heart of this centuries-old, occasionally rehashed, squabble about political influence and sectarian persecution.

I have a zero-tolerance policy toward, and absolutely no respect for, anyone who engages in such nonsense, who perpetuates this blatant disrespect for the teachings of the Buddha, or for anyone who harasses or intimidates another person for their spiritual beliefs and practices.

My Lama was very clear on this aspect of the teaching of Shakyamuni: The beliefs of others are not your concern.


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  1. I Salute you. True equanimity!

  2. I fully respect and agree on aspect of the teaching of Shakyamuni: that the beliefs of others are not in our concern, too. May dharma forever grow and may the teachings of Lama Tsongkahapa forever flourish.

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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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