Author Topic: The Shugden Dispute  (Read 13638 times)

WisdomBeing

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The Shugden Dispute
« on: February 29, 2012, 03:25:31 PM »
I found this article and just would like to make a few comments below:

1. "He is adorned with snakes, bones and a garland of freshly severed heads."
I have never heard of this iconography. Has anyone else?

2. "In the case of a protector, the consequences of breaching this commitment are believed to include bad fortune and ill health as well as a rebirth in a hell realm."

Obviously HH Trijang Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, Pabongkha Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe, Dromo Geshe Rinpoche and many more masters who have reincarnated back prove that this statement is so wrong!

3. The author has tried to present a balanced view of the Shugden dispute but by using phrases like "Shugden cult", there is a very obvious bias against Shugdenpas.

4. "The most notable absence from the whole affair is the key Buddhist virtue of tolerance of others who hold differing opinions."

I'm not sure to whom this sweeping statement is aimed at.. the pro-Shugden or anti-Shugden camp...

It is only towards the end of the article that I found out that the author was a non-Tibetan Buddhist, which probably explains some of the inconsistencies. He is a writer and teacher of Buddhism, mindfulness & meditation based in Cardiff. His biography of the Buddha is just out.

Anyway, take a read for yourself. At least it's still keeping Dorje Shugden topical.


The Shugden Dispute
http://www.wiseattention.org/2012/02/the-shugden-dispute/
Posted by Vishvapani on Feb 28, 2012 in Buddhism in the West, Buddhist World | 0 comments

In my last post I wrote about current issues within the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). As promised, to fill out my attitude to the NKT I am posting an article I wrote in 1996 in the second issue of Dharma Life magazine, just as the dispute over Dorje Shugden was breaking out into the open. Much has happened since then and an enormous amount has been written, especially online: this Wikipedia entry is a starting point if you want to find out more, and the contribution of the scholar George Dreyfuss is especially informative. But be warned! The dispute has caused much bad feeling, most dramatically in allegations about the murder of a leading Tibetan critic of the Dorje Shugden practice.

In general, I think this article still hold good. Having reflected further on the subject over the years I have concluded that it is impossible for outsiders to take sides in this dispute: it would mean adjudicating on a dispute concerning the spirit world. That leaves the case for freedom of religious expression, which I think holds as a general principle regardless of the beliefs concerned and whether I like or agree with them.
***
Enemies and Protectors

Dorje Shugden lives in a palace surrounded by a wild sea of blood. It is filled with mounds of destroyed beings and the air is thick with the smell of human flesh. Shugden himself is dark red in colour, fierce like a savage spirit, and his mouth is bottomless like the sky. He is adorned with snakes, bones and a garland of freshly severed heads. He sends forth flames, winds and rain-clouds against opposing forces and, his followers believe, he encloses all evil-doers, vow breakers and obstacle-creating demons within a gigantic wall.

Wrathful figures like Shugden abound in Tibetan Buddhism within which they are believed to have a more than symbolic existence. To understand their role one has to look deep into Tibetan Buddhism’s shamanistic dimension – with its oracles, portents and spirits. All reality in this perspective, is created by the mind, but if you believe in spirits they are real, and the Tibetans certainly do believe in them. There are many classes of spirits and some of them are considered very powerful. However, while some have been converted to the Dharma others are malevolent. But how do you know which are which? The answer is that you ask a high Lama or a monk with shamanistic powers. But what if the lamas disagree? And what if those disagreements coincide with sectarian rivalries on a more mundane level?

Dorje Shugden is at the heart of just such a dispute in the Tibetan Buddhist community, between those who see him as an Enlightened protector and those, led by the Dalai Lama, who see him as an evil spirit. In June this dispute finally boiled over into the UK media as a group called the Shugden Supporters Community (SSC) mounted demonstrations against the Dalai Lama outside the Office of Tibet. They sent out a press release which was headed ‘Dalai Lama persecutes his own people. Tibetan people in China have more religious freedom than Tibetan people in India’. It is widely expected that they will mount further demonstrations at the time of the Dalai Lama’s visit to the UK in July.

The issues involved are complex and arcane, and feelings have been running high. The dispute has pointed up several sensitive areas: the sectarian divisions within Tibetan Buddhism and the role of the Dalai Lama in these divisions; criticisms of the Tibetan government-in-exile; the difficulties posed by Westerners’ involvement in Tibetan Buddhism; and the deep-seated divisions among British Tibetan Buddhists. But for these very reasons, now that the issue has emerged it is important to attempt to clarify what is involved.

Dorje Shugden is considered by his followers to be a dharmapala or Enlightened protector and an emanation of the Bodhisattva Manjushri. These followers are mainly members of the Gelugpa school (although they have also included some Sakyapas), and they consider Shugden a special protector for the Gelugpas. He is therefore associated with the political power the Gelugpas had in independent Tibet.

According to the legend, Shugden is the reincarnation of a Lama who was a rival of the Fifth Dalai Lama and died as a result of their conflict. Then, it is said, he became a hostile spirit, but was eventually ‘tamed’, so that he was a protective force and hence an emanation of the Bodhisattva. But there have always been those who maintain that Shugden was not properly subdued and is a worldly rather than an Enlightened protector. Propitiating such a figure is held to bring wealth and power, but it is also considered extremely dangerous. Shugden is associated by his opponents with Gelugpa sectarianism and said to be opposed to other deities, particularly the state protectors, Nechung and Palden Lhamo. In that case, to follow his cult would be tantamount to devil-worship.

The Dalai Lama’s principal teacher, Trijang Rimpoche, was an ardent devotee of Dorje Shugden and he brought up his pupil to worship the deity. However, in 1976 the Dalai Lama made it known that he had concluded on the basis of divinations that Shugden was a worldly spirit who was indeed engaged in conflict, in the spirit realm with the other protectors. In this he followed the Thirteenth Dalai Lama who had tried to suppress the Shugden practice. The present Dalai Lama stopped doing the practice himself and in the following years he asked others to stop.

Initiation into a practice such as this implies a solemn commitment including a promise to perform it every day for the rest of one’s life. In the case of a protector, the consequences of breaching this commitment are believed to include bad fortune and ill health as well as a rebirth in a hell realm. It would also mean breaching the relationship with the teacher who gave the initiation. The Dalai Lama said he would personally accept the karmic consequences of other people stopping the Shugden practice, meaning that he would do battle with Shugden in the spirit realm to prevent him from causing harm. None the less many Lamas continued as private practitioners and the Dalai Lama’s advice was widely ignored.

In March this year the Dalai Lama changed his tone. Whereas before he had been critical of the practice, he now became insistent that it should be stopped forthwith. Failure to do so, he suggested, was tantamount to treason. Shugden was harming his health and Shugden’s conflict with the other protectors was a reason for the Tibetans’ failure to regain independence. ‘Shugden’, he stated, was ‘a spirit of the dark forces’. Representatives from the Tibetan-Government in exile travelled to the refugee communities across India to try to ensure the ban was enforced and refugee organisations instructed their members to comply.

It is in relation to the way the ban is being enforced that the charges of abuse of religious freedom have been made. Much emotional pressure has clearly been applied. The Dalai Lama argued ‘everyone is free to say “If the cause of Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s life are undermined so be it… We will not change our tradition of propitiating (Shugden).”‘ But this means he is asking people to choose between himself and the Tibetan mainstream on one side, and Shugden and the injunctions of their personal teacher on the other. The SSC, comparing these events with the Spanish Inquisition, have said that unrepentant Shugden devotees have been ‘purged’ from government posts and Tibetan organisations, and even ostracised from the refugee community.

These are serious accusations and a concerted attempt to suppress the Shugden cult is clearly underway. The SSC have won the opening rounds of their media war against the Dalai Lama by using a western language of human rights, while the Dalai Lama’s language is heard as medieval superstition. Their charges are yet not proven, and westerners should keep an open mind until there is conclusive evidence. This will be hard for followers of the Dalai Lama, as it raises the possibility, which they may find hard to countenance, that he has acted unskilfully. The tone of his statements is plainly exasperated. At such times Buddhists should recall the Buddha’s advice that his disciples should not follow blindly, but should ‘test my words as you test gold.’

However, as so often in Tibetan affairs, there are also other more political issues involved. ‘The Shugden schism,’ remarked seasoned commentator Stephen Batchelor, ‘reveals the cultic, shadowy side of a society breaking apart from within.’ Shugden is associated a faction which asserts Gelugpa supremacy and with their sometimes virulent opposition to the Nygmapa sect. According to Rigdzen Shikpo (Mike Hookham) the full Shugden sadhana invokes Shugden against named Nygmapa figures. In the 1940s the ardent Shugdenite, Pabonkha Rimpoche, is reported to have led an anti-Nygmapa campaign including the destruction of Padmasambhava images.

In a persuasive article in Tibetan Review Gareth Sparham argues that ‘Shugden is a political symbol’ representing a faction which wants to maintain monastic political dominance, and a ‘fundamentalist version of Tibetan Buddhism as a state religion’ which excludes the other schools, who are considered ‘heterodox’. However, in exile the Dalai Lama has sought to represent the Tibetans as a whole and to allow diversity. Although his actions against Shugden seem to have been authoritarian, his supporters claim that his aim is to counter another intolerant faction.

If this is the case, at this stage his actions would appear to have been counter-productive. The reaction in the west, at least, has been angry and hostile and the Dalai Lama’s reputation is undoubtedly suffering. But this too has a context. His western critics in the SSC are closely associated with the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). Indeed, Robbie Barnet of the Tibet Information Network describes SSC as ‘an NKT cover organisation’. NKT, based at the Manjushri institute in Cumbria, is of the most successful Tibetan Buddhist movements in the west, and the Shugden sadhana is one of its ‘essential practices’. Devotion to him is central to the NKT tradition which, furthermore, teaches a highly conservative form of Gelugpa doctrine and is associated with the Shugden faction in India.

In 1983 NKT split acrimoniously from the broader Gelugpa tradition in a dispute arising from its leaders’ desire for autonomy. The split was not over Shugden, but it followed the same fault line and NKT has subsequently, ‘been out of communion’ with the Dalai Lama. Much ill-feeling in the Tibetan Buddhist world has resulted but until now neither side has spoken out publicly. That all changed with the formation of SSC whose attack has extended to virulent personal criticism of the Dalai Lama. In an extraordinary hyperbole, their open letter to the Dalai Lama says ‘Your behaviour is the worst example in Buddhist history.’ They accuse him of causing a schism which for Buddhist is a heinous crime on a par with matricide. Given the literal nature of their own Buddhism, according to which a true Lama’s actions are necessarily skilful, they suggest that he is not, in fact, the true Dalai Lama and is himself a malevolent force.

While it is possible that SSC’s charges of violations of human rights have some justification, their own language is so intemperate that it is highly unskilful in itself. One can understand their sense of grievance at the suppression of a beloved deity, their perplexity at the arcane reasoning with which it has been justified, and their concern that it will make NKT’s teaching work harder. But the nature of their attack seems entirely out of proportion to the evidence they have presented and quite un-Buddhistic. It amounts to a personal attack and appears to be a concerted attempt to destroy the Dalai Lama’s reputation.

As a non-Tibetan Buddhist researching these issues I have found myself perplexed by the literalism of both sides. Believing literally in spirits, in the infallibility of Lamas, and the inviolability of religious vows leave neither side any flexibility with which they can seek to understand the other’s position. And yet these are problems inherent in some Tibetan Buddhist approaches. The most notable absence from the whole affair is the key Buddhist virtue of tolerance of others who hold differing opinions.

Vishvapani
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

Zach

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2012, 04:08:52 PM »
The amount of factual errors and inconsistencies in this article is ridiculous. I give up reading perspectives of people whom involve them self in this issue and are not actually Vajrayana practitoners their understanding is limited.

vajralight

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2012, 06:52:57 PM »
The Triratna movement (FWBO) has no lineage, no lineage blessings an no authentic path to liberation and enlightenment. I have spoken with teachers of FWBO and they don't even have a standard teaching program, every teacher can teach what he wants from the books he/she has read.

That is, without having received the teachings from a qualified teacher, they just pick some text they like and start commenting on it.

No blessings,

vajra

 

Zach

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2012, 11:27:44 PM »
The Triratna movement (FWBO) has no lineage, no lineage blessings an no authentic path to liberation and enlightenment. I have spoken with teachers of FWBO and they don't even have a standard teaching program, every teacher can teach what he wants from the books he/she has read.

That is, without having received the teachings from a qualified teacher, they just pick some text they like and start commenting on it.

No blessings,

vajra

Very true....recently though it appears they have jumped on the bandwagon of the Dalai lama and have tried to get the NKT disqualified from certain Buddhist associations. Even that doesn't give them credibility as an organisation for presenting a path they don't have one, Junk shop Buddhism at its best.

jeremyg

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2012, 07:49:26 AM »
For me what the article fails to address is the fact that despite all the supression that the 'Shugdenpas' are facing the practice is growing faster than ever. How is it that even though everyone else is against Shugden practitioners whilst Shugden is said to be a spirit, that the practice is growing all over the world? There must be some result in his practice otherwise why would people devote themselves to Dorje Shugden.

For me the article is heavily biased. Despite trying to be as even as possible, it is obvious that the author has taken the side against Shugden. He/She has stated all the facts against Shugden that don't even make the slightest sense, yet has failed to list all the benefits, and accounts of Shugden practitioners as to how they feel about it.

Having said that i do agree with the author's last line of: 

Quote
The most notable absence from the whole affair is the key Buddhist virtue of tolerance of others who hold differing opinions.

To me this one line, takes down the whole argument against Shugden and the Dalai Lama. What a powerful statement to end with.

WisdomBeing

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2012, 11:46:56 AM »
What worries me is that people who are seen as Buddhist teachers are so uninformed about Dorje Shugden – his history, iconography etc. Things which are so basic, let alone the subtle intricacies of the controversy. When people who are seen as authorities make articles like this, which are factually wrong, with undercurrents of condemnation, it gives a hugely WRONG impression to people who have not investigated further or have NO interest in the truth.

Let’s hope that at least those who ARE interested in the truth will search on the internet for more information and find sites like this which provide a balanced view of the situation and most importantly accurate information about the history, lineage and iconography and its related symbolism. 
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

Zach

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2012, 06:01:28 PM »
What worries me is that people who are seen as Buddhist teachers are so uninformed about Dorje Shugden – his history, iconography etc. Things which are so basic, let alone the subtle intricacies of the controversy. When people who are seen as authorities make articles like this, which are factually wrong, with undercurrents of condemnation, it gives a hugely WRONG impression to people who have not investigated further or have NO interest in the truth.

Let’s hope that at least those who ARE interested in the truth will search on the internet for more information and find sites like this which provide a balanced view of the situation and most importantly accurate information about the history, lineage and iconography and its related symbolism.

This chap is in no way an authority on such matters  >:(

Ensapa

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2012, 07:34:43 PM »
Yet another attention grabbing article who tries to use the name of Dorje Shugden to get fame and attention to their own organization, unwittingly getting attention for their own gain. Everyone wants to talk about Dorje Shugden now because he is a hot topic in the Buddhist world and that they want to piggyback on the fame and hot issues generated by this topic. Everyone wants to comment on Dorje Shugden but sadly most of the comments contain 0 credibility and it is written based purely on their imagination…this article is the worst.

The thing is..why do so many people depend on opinion pieces to form their conclusions instead of the facts..i guess it is really the kaliyuga age where people are too lazy and distracted to read the actual facts and make their own conclusions…it is so much easier to just trust someone else's opinion…never mind if the author turns out to be a 10 year old kid. If it is published online it must be true, right?

And why is he commenting on Tibetan Budhdism despite not knowing much on the subject? What is the motivation? Does the university accept a PhD thesis about mathematics from a literature student? Why choose to comment on something that is more complex and hard to understand than what it appears to be? Also why talk from only one angle? Who would want to read an incomplete piece of work?

FWBO has been branded as a cult by many other Buddhist organizations as they do not follow the standard interpretations of the teachings and lineages. Its more of a take what you want to and interpret it yourself approach because the Buddha said my Dharma is an open palm…yes it is but what if your interpretations is damaging and not true? did you bother to check? Then it would be to use the Dharma to increase the ego…dangerous..

ilikeshugden

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2012, 08:01:36 AM »
1. I have never heard of that iconography before too. I searched on the web but still can't find it.
2. Yes. That statement is absolutely wrong. High Lamas still reincarnate in the human realm. If the High Lamas who practice Dorje Shugden go to hell, then who on earth are His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, Pabongkha Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe, Dromo Geshe Rinpoche, Song Rinpoche????
3. There is no balanced view when he calls Shugdenpas cultists.
4. I think that that statement is aimed for both sides. Not pro-shugden or anti-shugden.

I also think that it is very interesting that a non-Tibetan has posted something like this. At least it will create more awareness about Dorje Shugden.

Ensapa

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2013, 10:38:53 AM »
actually, i have read of the description in Oracles and Demons of Tibet.

Quote
He has One face and two hands. With his right hand he brandishes towards heaven a fiercely flaming sword, made of meteoric iron, cutting with it the life-roots ofall evil-doers, those who break an oath, and inimi- cal obstacle-creating demons. With his left hand he holds in front of his breast, and lifting it to his mouth, a skull-cup filled with the organs of the five senses, hearts, brains, and warm blood of the evil-doers, oath- breakers, and the inimical obstacle-creating demons. In the crook of his left arm rests an ichneumon - producing all treasures desired - and a golden hook, with which he brings the "three worlds" into his power. On his head he wears a crown of five dry skulls, from his shoulders hangs a garland of fifty freshly severed, blood-dripping heads. Snakes and rings made of human bone are his ear-ornaments, and his whole body is adorned with jewels, etc. A human skin serves him as a carpet. He wears a freshly drawn elephant-skin as a garment covering the upper portion of his body, a loin-cloth of tiger-skin and the "cemetery-objects", frightful to look at. He is victorious over all the obstacle-creating demons of the upper, lower, and middle spheres, these three, and resting in the raja-paryanka on a layer of one hundred thousand brilliant thunderbolts, he floats on the wings of a khyung of meteoric iron, thus vanquishing the "three worlds", bringing all the dregs pa sde brgyad under his command and frightening terribly at the frightful ones.


But I believe that this is  the iconographic description of Trakze:



who is indeed, adorned with snakes and freshly severed human heads. But then again, the person writing this article is very weak at research and is giving incomplete information. Sigh.

kris

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2013, 10:02:46 AM »
To me, this is just another random articles written to put down Dorje Shugden. The author is not credible, and the is no reference on where the information come from. Anyone can write anything they like.

I would not even spend time on this.

Ensapa

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2013, 02:59:15 PM »
To me, this is just another random articles written to put down Dorje Shugden. The author is not credible, and the is no reference on where the information come from. Anyone can write anything they like.

I would not even spend time on this.

This is considered one of the better articles against Dorje Shugden out there. There are worse ones that distort the truth and include even more gossip, lies and unproved propaganda. And the sad part is, there are people out there who consider this kind of articles a credible source of information. so we have to read and learn how to counter such articles and replies. This is not about not spending time on it, but learning how to counter and answer and expose the lies that these articles carry with them. That is very important as this is one of the many.

Rinchen

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2013, 04:58:56 PM »
This is one of the worst articles that I have read to try to make Dorje Shugden sound really bad, making Dorje Shugden sound like a demon.

It is so not true that people that practice Dorje Shugden would go to hell. If that is really the case, the Dalai Lama would also be in hell together with high lamas like Trijand Rinpoche, Pabongka Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, etc. As Dalai Lama too practiced Dorje Shugden before this ban he has put on Dorje Shugden.

The writer's research is so weak and not factual at all. This is really very bad. How can the writer be a Buddhist teacher when he does not even know his stuff at all?

Ensapa

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2013, 07:10:12 AM »
This is one of the worst articles that I have read to try to make Dorje Shugden sound really bad, making Dorje Shugden sound like a demon.

It is so not true that people that practice Dorje Shugden would go to hell. If that is really the case, the Dalai Lama would also be in hell together with high lamas like Trijand Rinpoche, Pabongka Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, etc. As Dalai Lama too practiced Dorje Shugden before this ban he has put on Dorje Shugden.

The writer's research is so weak and not factual at all. This is really very bad. How can the writer be a Buddhist teacher when he does not even know his stuff at all?


these days, anyone can call themselves a Dharma teacher without producing credentials or whatsoever and teach their own Dharma while saying that it is the Buddha's teachings. That is why it is very important to check the lineage of the teacher beforehand. That aside, we can all agree that articles of this nature is very misleading and deceptive and should  not be trusted. The author obviously wrote this article to get more people to the Dalai Lama's side and to demonize Dorje Shugden but at the cost of mismatched facts.

Rinchen

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Re: The Shugden Dispute
« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2013, 09:49:25 PM »
these days, anyone can call themselves a Dharma teacher without producing credentials or whatsoever and teach their own Dharma while saying that it is the Buddha's teachings. That is why it is very important to check the lineage of the teacher beforehand. That aside, we can all agree that articles of this nature is very misleading and deceptive and should  not be trusted. The author obviously wrote this article to get more people to the Dalai Lama's side and to demonize Dorje Shugden but at the cost of mismatched facts.

Yes, I do agree with you that articles of this nature is very misleading. Especially for those who are very new to dharma and do not understand many of the dharma knowledge yet. It is just sad to see that dharma in the eyes of these "dharma teachers" has degenerated by so much with their bogus teachings, views, and articles.