True Harmony or a Change of Tune?

His Holiness spoke on Religious Harmony and Dorje Shugden at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Mundgod, India, during a Lamrim teaching on December 9, 2012. Please refer especially to 21.00 minutes of the video onwards. A translated summary of what the Dalai Lama says can be found under the video.


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A translated summary of video above, from 21:00 minutes onwards:

“Within the Gelug, the Tsema Namdrol text has become the best. It used to be in Sakya but this has lessened. It would be good if others invited Geshes to teach it. We must have inter-sect harmony. That is why the practice of Gyalpo Shugden is not good. One reason is that Gelugpas have said not to study Nyingma texts. Saying this is not good. We need all lineages to unite and be harmonious.

“In Tibet and here (India), around 99% of you all have reasoned out my explanations of why we shouldn’t practice Gyalpo Shugden. There is no point to pray to a dead monk spirit (Drekpa).

“Since all of you are not practicing and I have talked about Shugden before, I do not need to talk about it again.

“In Tibet, they say that the Three Great Seats of learning (Gaden, Sera and Drepung Monasteries) have turned Nyingma because they have abandoned the practice of Gyalpo Shugden. What purpose is that? Are we now all Nyingmas here?

The Dalai Lama, as seen in this recent teaching, was much calmer and more relaxed when he spoke about Dorje Shugden

“They do not understand the situation but just overtly talk like that in Tibet. They don’t understand. If you practice Gyalpo Shugden and can gain enlightenment, I rejoice!

“Sometimes I tease you. In front of Shakyamuni, we don’t pray or wish for long life, or for no obstacles. Do we even know how to pray like that to Shakyamuni? But in the protector chapel we really ask and pray for no obstacles and long life; we pray, “May things go my way”. And at the end of our prayers, we even pray for an end to our enemies! In the temple, in front of Shakyamuni, we fold our hands. But it’s in the protector chapel that we really open up and lay our hopes.

“The 5th Dalai Lama observed this situation and thus banned Shugden, relegating Shugden practice to that of praying to a dead monk spirit which was clearly not advised.”

 


 

Throughout the ban on Dorje Shugden, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has maintained his stance against the practice. However, what has become notable are the changes in his tone of delivery and the way in which he speaks of the issue. What these apparent inconsistencies portray or if they have a much deeper connotation is of course up to one’s interpretation.

The video of the Dalai Lama’s speech above clearly illustrates this considerable tonal change in manner and speech as well as the ‘lyrical’ change in the way he refers to the subject.

First, there is a noticeable change in the way the Dalai Lama now refers to Dorje Shugden. Since the implementation of the ban, the Dalai Lama has always referred to this protector as “Dholgyal”, meaning “King Spirit of Dhol”. This is a derogatory term which suggests that he must have done something very wrong to reincarnate back as a “spirit king. Now, the Dalai Lama refers to him as Gyalpo Shugden – it is significant that he refers to him by his name Shugden now. Although the term “Gyalpo” is still not respectful, the inclusion of his name and acknowledgement of his identity marks a step up from the previous referrals.

Secondly, the Dalai Lama used to maintain a very hard stance against the practice of Dorje Shugden and even overtly encouraged the expulsion of monks, speaking in very strict tones. He has also been very firm about stating that his own Gurus were wrong for pursuing their practice of Dorje Shugden.

The Dalai Lama used to manifest a much harder stanceagainst the practice of Dorje Shugden

Over the years, we have noticed considerable change in the way the Dalai Lama speaks about the practice. From saying that we should not practice at all, he has begun to say that it is up to the individual to decide if they wish to practice Shugden; that he is not telling us what to do but a choice we can make for ourselves.

The way he speaks about Shugden practice in the video above continues this train of thought and is expressed in a much more relaxed, even playful, way. He says, “If you practice Gyalpo Shugden and can gain enlightenment, I rejoice!” suggesting again that it is a choice and not an instruction that is so forcibly imposed on practitioners.

Further, the essence of this message seems to have evolved from merely emphasizing the harm of spirit worship. Instead here, the Dalai Lama engages in a broader discussion about how most practitioners relate to their Protector practices in a very mundane, base way, when in fact, true essence of enlightenment comes from a more serious propitiation to the Three Jewels.

This evolution of delivery, method and message seems to point to a more relaxed stance towards the ban, in an almost deliberate and conscious precursor to its eventual release in due time. We certainly hope that in time, the tone will relax completely to a point that the ban is released and the practice is freed.

 

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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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