Chronology of Key Events: 1996

March 10, 1996

  • During an annual teaching at Thekchen Choeling Temple in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama for the first time imposes an outright ban on the practice of Dorje Shugden.
    Whether outside of Tibet or within Tibet, this Deity is [in] discord with [government Deities]… this is serious in the context of the common cause of Tibet. Therefore unless I remind you once again, there are ones who pretend they have not heard it.
    It will be good if you comply [with what we are saying] without our having to resort to this last step. It will be the last resort if [we] have to knock on doors. It will be good if [they] can heed without having to resort to this last step.
  • The Dalai Lama announces that all Tibetans who have the interests of Tibet at heart should follow His advice on giving up Dorje Shugden’s practice immediately.
    … If you consider the cause of Tibet, if you agree to the leadership of the Dalai Lama, if you support my part in the [exile] government, your stand should not be otherwise [on this point].


March 21, 1996

  • H.H. the Dalai Lama asks worshippers of Dorje Shugden to leave the temple and bars them from attending his empowerment.
    … yesterday we decreed that it will not be right for worshippers of Gyalchen to be among our audience … If there are any people unknown to me who have crept into this audience who are nevertheless worshippers of Shugden, it is better for you not to stay among us.
    He continues:
    If you private monks and spiritual masters in the monastic colleges continue making excuses and continue worshipping thus, you shall have a day of regret… it will not be good if we have to knock on your doors.


March 30, 1996

  • The Private Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama issues a decree for everyone to stop practising Dorje Shugden, with instructions to make people aware of this through government offices, monasteries, associations, etc.
  • Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (Parliament) passes a resolution banning the worship of Dorje Shugden by Tibetan government employees.
  • Letters from the Private Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama are sent to the abbots of various monasteries in South India.


March 31, 1996

  • The only independent newspaper in Dharamsala, known as ‘Democracy’, stops publishing.


April 5, 1996

  • H.H. the Dalai Lama addresses the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Women Association to encourage them to take up the cause of enforcing the ban. During this talk, H.H. the Dalai Lama says that there may be one or two persons who might be willing to give up their life for him. Although this was later removed from the talk, it is believed that the talk was videoed by a Japanese film crew.
  • At 8 am, a group of nuns enter the abbot’s chamber and drag a Dorje Shugden statue into the street by using a rope attached to its neck. This statue was from the Ganden Choeling Nunnery, which was consecrated by His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, the junior tutor of H.H. the Dalai Lama, H.H. Ling Rinpoche, the senior tutor of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Kyabje Song Rinpoche and Kyabje Rato Rinpoche. The perpetrators, Lobsang Dechen, disciplinarian of the nunnery, assisted by nun Tenzin Tselha and Dolma Yangzom, spit at, sit on, break up into pieces, and throw the remains into the town’s garbage dump.


April 9, 1996

  • The Tibetan Freedom Movement prohibits the worship of Dorje Shugden among its members


April 14, 1996

  • The Guchusum Movement Organization passes a resolution banning Dorje Shugden among its members


April 18, 1996

  • The Tibetan Department of Health gives a special notice to doctors and staff:
    Therefore if we do not have amongst us those who worship Dorje Shugden, we should resolve not to worship Shugden in the future. Whereas if there is anyone who worships Dorje Shugden, they should repent the past and stop worshipping. They must submit a declaration that they will not worship in the future.
    In case there is anyone who doesn’t abide by the addresses of His Holiness to give up Shugden worship, then, since there is nothing more important that the well-being of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause, such persons should submit their resignation. There is no other alternative for such person.


April 19, 1996

  • The Toepa Association (Regional Group) passes a resolution declaring Dorje Shugden a ‘Chinese ghost’
  • Employees of the Tibetan Children’s Village are urged to take loyalty oaths
  • A decree is sent to all Tibetan monasteries by the Dalai Lama’s Private Office, making it mandatory for the administrators and abbots to enforce the ban
  • Representatives of H.H. the Dalai Lama’s Private Office start to arrive in the monasteries and Tibetan settlements to generate pressure and supervise the signature drive.


April 22, 1996

  • The decree banning the worship of Dorje Shugden is officially read out at Drepung Monastery. The abbot says that everyone must abide by the ban. Drepung Loseling Monastery distributes a form, saying that anyone who does not sign will be immediately expelled from the monastery. Many monks are left with no choice but to move to a nearby Indian town.
  • At Golathala Tibetan settlement near Bylakuppe, a large statue of Dorje Shugden together with smaller images and pictures of His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche are taken on behalf of frightened Tibetans on an all-night car journey to the Shugden temple in Ganden Shartse monastery. In Bylakuppe, when a search party is looking for Shugden images, an attendant of the young Lama Dakyab Rinpoche reports that he has thrown one into the lake near Tibetan settlement No 2. It is reported that many Shugden statues were thrown into that lake.


April 23, 1996

  • At Drepung Gomang Monastery, in the main assembly hall, the abbot announces a strict ban on the worship of Shugden. In the evening, the windows of the house of Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche, a prominent devotee of Dorje Shugden, are smashed. An atmosphere of intimidation pervades the monastery. Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche’s disciples complain to the abbot, but are ignored. The abbot orders the signing of a declaration to give up the worship of Shugden. Two monks from Ngari Khamtsen show up at the Shugden temple in Ganden Shartse monastery, weeping and saying that although they didn’t want to give up their religious beliefs, they had no choice but to sign, or face immediate expulsion from the monastery. One of them leaves his monastery the next day.


April 25, 1996

  • On the orders of their abbot, Achog Tulku, Ganden Shartse Monastery convenes a meeting to discuss the status of its Dorje Shugden shrine. The meeting resolves not to curtail the religious freedom to practice Shugden.


April 26, 1996

  • A Hayagriva puja group of Sera Jey Monastery receives a special commission from the Private Office of the Dalai Lama to perform twenty-one days of exorcism by the Deity Hayagriva Tamdim Yangsang, against Dorje Shugden and its practitioners. Bari Rinpoche is asked to preside over the exorcism, and in return the Private Office offers to award him the position of ‘Geshe Lharampa’ (the highest geshe degree) in the following year, with exemption from the Geshe examinations normally required.


April 27 – 30, 1996

  • A period of great tension in the monasteries of South India. There is fighting among monks from Ganden and Drepung. At Ganden Jangtse monastery, a monk is beaten by supporters of the ban and has to be hospitalized. Windows of prominent Shugden worshippers are smashed.


Late April, 1996

  • Zungchu Rinpoche collects signatures agreeing to the ban from Ganden Shartse schoolchildren. When an 11-year-old monk asks what the signed form is for, Zungchu replies that it is a form to find western sponsors for the schoolchildren.


May 1, 1996

  • Government officials proclaim the decree of the ban while under armed police protection at Ganden Monastery in Mundgod, South India.


May 9, 1996

  • Representatives from Tibetan Dorje Shugden monasteries from all over India meet in Delhi and resolve not to give up their faith. They submit their first appeal to the Private Secretary of H.H. the Dalai Lama.


May 10, 1996

  • In hope of a dialogue, Shugden devotees send a petition to H.H. the Dalai Lama, followed by petitions on May 20, May 30, and June 5. Requests for audiences are also made on several occasions. They are all rejected.


May 10 & 11, 1996

  • The Tibetan Youth Congress convenes and resolves to implement the ban in every Tibetan settlement. House to house searches start; statues, paintings, other holy objects are burned or desecrated.


May 14, 1996

  • The Kashag releases a statement denying any religious suppression


May 15, 1996

  • Kundeling Rinpoche, Director of Atisha Charitable Trust, organizes peaceful demonstrations against the ban. Dharamsala makes baseless allegations that he is a Chinese spy, and a warrant for his arrest is issued.

    Peaceful demonstration held by the monks in hope that the ban on Dorje Shugden practice will be recalled


May 23, 1996

  • The Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society (The Dorje Shugden Society) is formally registered in Delhi. Documents including Tibetan government decrees relating to the ban on the practice of Dorje Shugden are mailed by the Society to about 75 human rights groups around the world, as well as to Tibet support and cultural groups.


May 24, 1996

  • The Shugden Society receives a letter dated May 22, 1996, under the name of Kalon Sonam Topgyal, announcing that now there will be a complete ban on Shugden:
    …concepts like democracy and freedom of religion are empty when it concerns the well-being of H.H. the Dalai Lama and the common cause of Tibet.


May 28, 1996

  • The exile Tibetan Cabinet Secretariat restricts Geshe Cheme Tsering from travelling abroad to lead a cultural tour to raise funds on behalf of his monastery, Ganden Shartse, situated in Karnataka State. (Geshe Cheme Tsering is a devotee of Dorje Shugden and general secretary of the Dorje Shugden Society.)


June 5, 1996

  • During the 12th session of the Tibetan National Assembly, Dharamsala, (held between May 31 and June 6), Kalon Sonam Topgyal, Chairman of the Exile Tibetan Cabinet (Kashag), addresses the assembly:
    Now on the matter of propitiation of Dharma protectors, I think we first have to come up with explanations on whether this (ban) infringes upon human rights or not. Therefore, it is clear that no one is dictating do’s and don’ts to all our religious traditions including the four Buddhist Traditions and Bon. Anyone in our Tibetan society can engage in the religious practices of either Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, or Bon. However, once having entered a particular religious faith, (one has to) conform to the standard practices pertaining to that religious faith; it is not proper, however, for Buddhist monks to enter and practice (Buddhism) in mosques in the name of freedom of religion.
    This being the case, this (ban) is imposed without infringing upon religious freedom. In particular, since we are a dual system nation, we have to proceed in accordance with this religio-political structure (of our nation); it is not proper to engage in whims in the name of religious freedom. In short, the great monastic institutions and those under the (exile Tibetan) administration are not allowed to rely (on Dorje Shugden).


June 6, 1996

  • The Tibetan peoples’ parliament passes the 8-point resolution to impose a ban on the worship of Shugden. It is a comprehensive, clear and worthy standard of do’s and don’ts for both public and private individuals.


June, 1996

  • The retired Tibetan minister Mr. Kundeling is stabbed and badly wounded at his house. A few days before at a meeting in Dharamsala he had mentioned his concerns about the new course of the exile policy.


July 7, 1996

  • Geshe Losang Chotar from Sera Jey Monastery burns a thangkha [religious painting] of the wrathful aspect of Dorje Shugden that came from Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh.


July 8, 1996

  • A Public Notice is posted:
    On July 8, at 9 a.m. there will be the preparatory rite for the empowerment of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion). And on July 8 there will be the actual empowerment. However, those who worship Dolgyal (Shugden) are not allowed to attend this empowerment. By order of the Private Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama.
    (Dolgyal is one of the names of Dorje Shugden, which the Tibetan administration is inclined to use in place of Shugden, thinking it to be a derogatory name)

    Public Notice posted by the Private Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama


July 11, 1996

  • A total of ten Tibetans including eight males and two women, are expelled from the Tibetan Youth Congress and Tibetan Women’s Association, for refusing to give up their religious faith in Dorje Shugden. This incident takes place in the Tibetan community in Shillong, Meghalaya.


July 13 – 14, 1996

  • Over 700 Shugden monks conduct a peaceful demonstration against the suppression of Dorje Shugden in Mundgod, South India. Eleven monks from Serkong House join the march and are expelled from their monastery. A month later, the Tibetan Exile Government sends a letter to Ganden Jangtse monastery in appreciation of the monks’ expulsion.

    The eleven expelled monks made news headlines


July 14, 1996

  • In a closed meeting held in Caux, Switzerland, the Dalai Lama speaks to the legislative members of the Tibetan exile community in Switzerland. An extract from his talk reads:
    Everyone who is affiliated with the Tibetan society of Ganden Phodrang government, should relinquish ties with Dolgyal. This is necessary since it poses danger to the religious and temporal situation in Tibet … Until now you have done a good job on this issue. Hereafter also, continue this policy in a clever way. We should do it in such a way to ensure that in future generations not even the name Dolgyal is remembered.


July 17, 1996

  • A resolution of the Tibetan exile parliament is tabled by Yonten Phuntsog and seconded by Tsering Phuntsog:
    8: In essence, government departments organizations/ associations, monasteries and their branches under the direction of the exile Tibetan government should abide by the ban against the worship of Dholgyal (Shugden). …however, if the person is a worshipper of Dholgyal, he should be urged not to come to any teachings such as Tantric empowerment given by H.H. the Dalai Lama.


Mid-July, 1996

  • Ms. Chogpa, 70 and a widow, in Rajpur Tibetan settlement, near Dehradun, U.P, is harassed beyond tolerance by local Tibetans and her neighbours. Helpless against so many people, she sells her home, kitchen, and small vegetable garden for Rs 5000. She takes shelter in Lama Camp No 1, Mundgod, Karnataka State.


July, 1996

  • The Tibetan Democratic draft constitution for a future free Tibet is amended to read that no judge or juror can be an adherent of Dorje Shugden.


July 25, 1996

  • A letter is sent to various monasteries recruiting monks for the Buddhist School of Dialectics in Dharamsala. One of the four qualifications required is:
    4: The candidate should not be a worshipper of Dholgyal (Shugden).


July 29, 1996

  • 900 monks from Sera Mey Monastery conduct a peaceful demonstration against the ban on Dorje Shugden.


August, 1996

  • The Secret Society of Eliminators of the External and Internal Enemies of Tibet announces its death threat against the two young reincarnations of high Lamas who rely on Dorje Shugden, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (13) and Kyabje Song Rinpoche (11). An extract reads:
    Anyone who goes against the policy of the government must be singled out, opposed and give the death penalty… As for the reincarnations of Trijang and Song Rinpoche, if they do not stop practising Dholgyal (Shugden) and continue to contradict with the words of His Holiness H.H. the Dalai Lama, not only will we not be able to respect them, but their life and activities will suffer destruction. This is our first warning.


August 8, 1996

  • Tibetan school children are taught for the first time a new song called Tibetan Cause, which includes the lines:
    All Tibetans, listen to the advice of the Dalai Lama and rely on pure protectors. This is the Tibetan cause.


October 4-6, 1996

  • The Board of Gelug teachers in Europe (19 members) meets and requests an audience with H.H. the Dalai Lama to discuss this issue. The audience is denied, with a letter from the private office of H.H. Dalai Lama stating:
    You have nothing else to say apart from taking care of the 18 volumes of Je Tsongkhapa’s works.
    From then on the members of the board are too scared to ever meet again.
  • The Dorje Shugden Society meets with abbots from Sera, Drepung and Ganden in New Delhi. The abbots request an audience with H.H. the Dalai Lama to discuss the issue. The audience is denied, as have all previous requests by the Dorje Shugden Society for audiences concerning this matter.


November 7-8, 1996

  • The house of the retired school teacher Mr. Thupten is attacked and set on fire with his daughter and a relative intentionally locked in. Fortunately they survive. In a tape published by Dorje Shugden Society, Mr. Thupten had given a number of historical accounts, showing the blatant injustice in the Exile Government’s actions.


November 11, 1996

  • A notice is posted banning devotees of Dholgyal (Shugden) from attending a Guhyasamaja empowerment by H.H. the Dalai Lama.


November 19-21, 1996

  • H.H. the Dalai Lama travels to South India to visit Tibetan Monasteries in Mundgod, without traditional request, an unprecedented move for a Dalai Lama. The Shugden Society holds off a peaceful demonstration in the hope of reconciliation with H.H. the Dalai Lama, and petitions H.H. the Dalai Lama. They are denied the audience and H.H. the Dalai Lama speaks in even harsher terms about the ban, and threatens:
    You might feel that by publishing letters, pamphlets, etc. against this ban, H.H. the Dalai Lama will revoke the ban. This will never be the case. If you take a hard stand, I will tighten this ban still further.


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Contemplate This

.…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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