Chronology of Key Events: 1998

January 2, 1998

  • During the inauguration of the debating courtyard of Sera-Mey monastery by H.H. the Dalai Lama, the monks of Pomra Khangtsen, who constitute about 75% of Sera-Mey monastery, and all of whom rely on Dorje Shugden, are prohibited from attending the ceremony. They are prevented from leaving their rooms and kept under virtual house arrest by the local police under instructions from Dharamsala, who allege that the monks are a threat to H.H. the Dalai Lama’s security.
  • During the inauguration ceremony, a large thangkha painting of Tha-wo, the monastic protective deity who looks like Dorje Shugden, is displayed. H.H. the Dalai Lama, thinking that it is Dorje Shugden, bitterly attacks the practice of Dorje Shugden in his talk to the monks. Later he calls the abbots together and starts to chastise them for displaying the thangkha, until it is pointed out to him that it is not Dorje Shugden.
  • During this talk H.H. the Dalai Lama announces that the monks have to choose between H.H. the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden.


January, 1998

  • Tashi Wangdu, president of the Tibetan Regional Council, states on Swiss TV:
    There are governmental and non-governmental gods, To worship gods which are not recognized by our government is against the law.


January 5-8, 1998

  • The Swiss TV news program ’10 vor 10′ features four consecutive news reports on the Dorje Shugden issue.


January 14, 1998

  • Amdo Lobsang Tenzin (President for Domed Cholkha), Bhu Yontan (President for U-Tang Cholkha) and Ratru Ngawang (President for Dotoe Cholkha, all three representing the United Cholsum Organization or UCO in Dharamsala) and Mr. Jampal Yeshe (President), Geshe Kunchog Gyaltsen (Vice-president), Lobsang Gyaltsen (International Relations Coordinator) and Ven. Dhondrub (Treasurer) of Dorje Shugden Society, meet in New Delhi to explore common ground as part of an exercise to resolve the current Tibetan religious crisis.
  • The UCO representatives ask the Society members for the “immediate closure” of their society. The society members offer that the society exists only to see religious freedom restored and the ban lifted. Once these two are achieved, the society will automatically cease to exist. The society points out that both H.H. the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exile govt. have so far ignored all petitions and personal appeals for redress of their legitimate grievances. Deliberations continue for the whole day.


January 25, 1998

  • A second meeting takes place between the United Cholsum Organization and the Dorje Shugden Society in New Delhi. The participants are the same as the previous meeting. At this meeting, the Shugden Society make it clear to the UCO that it is not backed or funded by Communist China. The UCO representatives accept this fact and say they will announce this fact publicly at the proposed United Cholsum Organization’s convention in Dharamsala.


February 26, 1998

  • A third round of meetings takes place between the UCO and the Shugden society. This is held between Ratru Ngawang (president of Dhotoe Province) for the UCO and Geshe Konchog Gyaltsen, Chatreng Gyurmey and Lobsang Gyaltsen of Shugden Society.
  • Ratru Ngawang says that his colleagues at UCO, Kashag and Tibetan exile parliament have observed that the Shugden society is truly blameless in this crisis and deserves every effort for reconciliation. The matter ultimately rests with H.H. the Dalai Lama, but in view of the rigid stance of H.H. the Dalai Lama, they have met with a dead end.
  • Ratru explains that the wishes of H.H. the Dalai Lama are more important than the harmony of Tibetan Society. Lobsang Gyaltsen asks if this is also the stance of the UCO and Ratru said it is.


March: First Week, 1998

  • Four monks from Sog-Shandrug Monastery, Tibet arrive in Dharamsala to participate at a public audience with H.H. the Dalai Lama. They are told that before they are cleared for the audience they need to sign a declaration, saying that they will not worship Dorje Shugden. One of the monks observes that unless H.H. the Dalai Lama personally orders him, he cannot sign such a declaration. After the audience, two monks give their signatures while the other two do not.


March 22, 1998

  • The Private Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama precipitates a public meeting on the religious crisis in Delhi. The participants number about 200 including Shri Rathi Lal Prasad Verma, Member of Parliament (BJP Party), Mrs. Dolly Swami, President of Delhi Mazdoor (Laborers), Prof. Dr. P. R. Trivedi, Chairman of Indian Ecological and Environment, Shri Dev Anand Mishra, prominent Human Rights Activist, Prof. Ashwani Kumar, Faculty of Law at Delhi University, and other dignitaries.
  • Mr. Rathi Lal expresses genuine pain over the religious ban, saying it is a clear attack on Religious Freedom as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. He offers to discuss this issue with his colleagues in the government, to bring it on the floor of the parliament.
  • Dolly Swami notes that as long as Tibetans live in India, their leadership has to live by Indian law. Every Indian leader or academic, who speaks at the occasion, expresses deep sympathy with all Tibetans who worship Dorje Shugden and offers encouragement.


March 23, 1998

  • In Tages Anzeiger (Switzerland’s largest newspaper) the Dalai Lama says:
    I think that this Shugden-worship has been for 360 years like a painful boil. Now I have – like a modern surgeon – made a small operation that hurts for a moment but is necessary to solve this problem.


May 9-11, 1998

  • 100 delegates from various branches in India, USA, England, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Nepal gather at the India International Centre in New Delhi for the first General Convention of the Dorje Shugden Society, to review the situation and exchange views on establishing a common plan of positive action.


May 19, 1998

  • The Department of Religion and Culture, sends a letter to all Tibetan ‘Settlement and Welfare Officers’ in India, signed by Tenzin Topgyal, the Assistant General:
    Concerning monks and nuns who wish to travel to foreign countries, after obtaining recommendation letter from the local settlement and welfare officer on the strength of authorisation letter from their monasteries, after these are received at this office, (this office) has to obtain authorisation from the Cabinet Secretariat after verifying whether or not the candidate meets the following requirements …
    3. Attestation from their monastery and the abbot, that neither the host, whether private or organisation, as well as the invitee is a devotee of Dolgyal, that neither the host nor the invitee has any connection with Dolgyal.


June 10, 1998

  • The (then) Tibetan minister for the Department of Religion and Culture, Ven. Kirti Rinpoche, pays an official visit to the Darjeeling Tibetan settlement. At the minister’s instructions, local Tibetans including Amdo Tsultrim and Gyalrong Gyatso visit the home of Gonpo Dekyi, the widow of Amdo Gonpo, a devotee of Dorje Shugden. They forcibly take away the Vase of Shugden from her home and bury it below the local cemetery. The vase had been consecrated by His Holiness Song Rinpoche.


July 14, 1998

  • A group of 400 Shugden monks go on a peace march to call for religious freedom.


July 22, 1998

  • The United Cholsum Organization in Dharamsala issues an announcement for a proposed Tibetan general convention in Dharamsala in August. The theme of the convention is about marginalizing devotees of Shugden in the Tibetan exile community.


August 22, 1998

  • Announcement from Dorje Shugden Society:
    Some reasons for delegates from Dorje Shugden Society to participate in the Convention in Dharamshala”, to set the record straight regarding its non-political nature.
    The United Cholsum Organization has time and again spread the allegation that the Dorje Shugden Society in Delhi has a connection with Beijing and Taiwan. We require the organization to clarify and substantiate their accusation in the presence of the Tibetan public during this convention.
    To accuse an innocent person with this type of allegation is the worst and most despicable method to destroy an innocent person’s happiness and future within the Tibetan society. Therefore, we would like to ask the United Cholsum Organization to produce hard evidence to substantiate their allegations against the Society…


August 22, 1998

  • A delegation consisting of 120 members of the Dorje Shugden Society from different parts of India, including women and elderly survivors from Tibet, leave Delhi for Dharamsala, to participate in the convention with the aim to contribute towards reconciliation and restoration of religious freedom in Tibetan community.


August 25, 1998, around 10pm

  • Officer Dawa Tsering tells the Tibetan public at McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala that busloads of Shugden activists have set out from Delhi to destroy the Tibetan Cathedral, and will thereafter proceed towards H.H. the Dalai Lama’s palace. The Tibetan public, including monks, gather at the bus station of McLeod Ganj throughout the night, waiting to manhandle the delegation.


August 25, 1998, around midnight

  • Two Tibetan ministers call on the Sub Divisional Commissioner of Police, alerting the district authorities to the potential ‘law and order’ situation, urging them to detain the Shugden delegation before the situation explodes.


August 26, 1998, morning

  • All 120 delegate members of the Dorje Shugden Society, including many old people and women, are forced to stay back at Samela village, on the outskirts of Kangra town. The delegates are stranded at Samela from 9 am till evening.


August 26, 1998, evening

  • The entire delegation is directed by the police to move to the nearby Dehra town into judicial custody.


August 26, 1998, 10:30pm-2am

  • The district administration arranges a meeting between the delegation and the United Cholsum Organization at the police headquarters in Dharamsala under the supervision of the additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) (Mrs.) Anuradha Thakur, attended by top district police officers.
  • The Shugden delegation asks the UCO heads, as well as the Tibetan Exile Government’s representative Samkhar Tenpa and Tashi Namgyal, to produce hard evidence, if any, to substantiate their allegation about the Shugden Society being funded by Communist China or Taiwan. In the absence of such evidence, the Shugden delegates add that the UCO should allow them to attend the convention where they will clear the public misconception about the matter once for all.
  • The UCO delegates do not produce any evidence but repeatedly point out that the delegates must return to Delhi as they may be attacked, beaten, and killed by the Tibetans if they proceed towards Dharamsala.


August 27, 1998

  • At the Annual Convention of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) at the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) in Dharamsala, H.H. the Dalai Lama in the course of his opening address, says:
    I have imposed this ban for three reasons: (1) Throughout history this worship has been at odds with the Ganden Phodrang ruling government of Tibet, (2) Buddhism, which is very profound, is in danger of degenerating into spirit worship, and (3) worship of Dholgyal (Shugden) creates sectarianism. For these three reasons I have imposed the ban. You, the younger generation, should be careful. It is dangerous. I was informed that more than a hundred worshippers of Dholgyal were coming.


August 31, 1998

  • The United Cholsum Organization convention passes a resolution:
    Agenda 3: In view of the fact that till date in our society, followers of Communist Chinese and Taiwanese money and means, who under the pretext of (the Shugden) religious conflict, have been engaged in systematic implementation of the enemy’s designs and thereby undermine the cause of Tibet. How best these bad elements can be exposed to all. What should be done to stop this?
    F.) To make it impossible for those who are engaged in undermining the prestige of His Holiness H.H. the Dalai Lama and our government to get access to ‘Clearance for Foreign Travel’, admission into schools, old-age benefits, child support system, and aid for the destitute, we will urge that these people are not put on a par with other Tibetans. They should be subjected to scrutiny in the local Tibetan enclaves. It should also be checked whether these people have membership card of their respective provinces. In short, we will urge (the exile Tibetan Govt.) not disappoint the general Tibetan public (By treating those who worship Dorje Shugden against the ban imposed by H.H. the Dalai Lama on par with other Tibetan). Likewise, the local Tibetan freedom movement offices should check whether or not any Tibetan applying for or updating the green book (without which no Tibetan applying for or updating the green book (without which no Tibetan is eligible for any Tibetan exile Govt, benefit programs or foreign aid channelled through the Tibetan exile govt.) has a valid membership card of his on her local (birth) province issued by the local UCO branch.
    G.) Furthermore, in all Tibetan enclaves, unless and until devotees of Dorje Shugden voluntarily give up their worship, no one should patronize Tibetan restaurants, shops stores, guest houses etc. run by any devotee of Shugden. “Learning from history, as long as the religion and politics of the Tibetan people survive, each Tibetan should pledge that he or she will never attend any (religious) teachings, or establish any spiritual bond with, any Tibetan spiritual master or reincarnation lama who is related to Dorje Shugden.
    H.) Since books, documents, newsletters and whatever literature published by so-called Dorje Shugden Society are nothing other than ideology and activity of communist China, no Tibetan will be allowed to subscribe to, purchase, or read any of the above books or pamphlets. Nor should they be allowed to subscribe to, purchase, or read any issue of the Drang-den (the Truth) and Nyenchen Thang-Lha Tibetan (private) newspaper. If these arrive by mail, they should be returned to the sender.


August, 1998

  • The Secret Society of External and Internal Enemy Eliminators makes death threats against the two young incarnations of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (13), Tutor of H.H. the Dalai Lama, and Song Rinpoche (11). Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche is forced to stop his traditional studies and leave India.
  • Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche, later living in Western Europe, asks for audience each time the H.H. Dalai Lama visits Europe and requests His Holiness’ unconditioned, compassionate acceptance to allow him to continue his relation to Dorje Shugden, who has been closely linked with the last three predecessors of the line of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoches. This is repeatedly refused.
  • In their last meeting in Europe, in Graz, Austria, in 2003, H.H. Dalai Lama states his Final Judgement:
    If you give up this deity, myself and all Tibetan people will appreciate it very much and our protector Nechung will take care of you and make you more successful and famous than ever. If you do not give up this deity, then your monastic career, like receiving the full monk’s ordination and taking Geshe examinations will not be possible. So I leave it to your judgement.YES or NO?
    Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche, in great disappointment, neither wanting to give up the tradition of his own predecessors, nor wanting to stick out as opponent to His Holiness, chooses to change his life-style totally and now lives freely, concentrating in his own Dharma-studies and practices in the USA.


September, 1998

  • The last of several letter writing campaigns starts with letters coming from all over the world, seeking explanations from H.H. the Dalai Lama, as the ban affects thousands of Western Buddhists. There is no reply.


September 2, 1998

  • Two hundred delegates of the Dorje Shugden Society from all over India and Nepal gather in New Delhi to conduct a silent and peaceful march against the ban, with banners and placards calling upon the Tibetan exile administration in Dharamsala to:
    Stop your religious intolerance and discrimination. …Stop your lies about Dorje Shugden Society, We are being condemned behind our back. Keep politics out of religion.


September 15, 1998

  • Mr. Phuntsok Nudrub, a devotee of Dorje Shugden and resident of Delhi, goes to the Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRO) in Dharamsala to renew his Registration Certificate (Stay permit for Tibetan refugees in India). He is interrogated for two days, attended by officers of the Tibetan Department of Security.
  • The Indian officer asks Phuntsok if he is a worshipper of Dorje Shugden and Phuntsok says yes. On cue from the Tibetan officers present, the Indian officer observes that
    as every other Tibetan, you can either accept H.H. the Dalai Lama or worship Dorje Shugden. You cannot be both.
  • Phuntsok raises serious objections to this unprecedented interference with his religious faith. Noting that the FRO cannot renew his stay permit unless he gives up the worship, the Indian officer refuses extension of Phuntsok’s stay permit.


November 23, 1998

  • Samten Choling Monastery receives a message from the Tibetan organization in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, India, that delegates will be arriving at the monastery to ask the monastic community to give up its traditional worship of Dorje Shugden. The following day, Ven. Umze Thupten (71) has a massive heart attack and dies on the spot when he hears the news.


December 21, 1998

  • The president of the All India Singsha Bhutia Association, one of the largest Indian social organizations in Kalimpong, writes to the Department of Religion and Culture of the Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala on behalf of its Indian citizens:
    We have been hearing that your Dept is raising some sort of objection against a particular deity in our place of worship. If this were true, then it is very unfortunate, for it is against the very nature and spirit of our secular democratic country. Hence, under the circumstances, we would like to request you to kindly refrain from interfering in our place of worship, so that peace and amity will not be disturbed among the followers of all sects of Lamaism.


December 30, 1998

  • Upon instructions from the advance party for H.H. the Dalai Lama’s visit, the Mundgod Tibetan settlement’s office issues a circular:
    To the office bearers, disciplinarian of the monasteries, president of organizations and camp leaders.
    …in keeping with the spirit of H.H. the Dalai Lama’s repeated talks, it is imperative that those attending the teachings should be confirmed non-worshippers of Dholgyal (Shugden). Therefore we have no choice but to announce that keeping this stringently in mind, the respective institutions and organizations should implement this requirement without failure. For this purpose, they should minutely scrutinize the list of attendance to these teachings of H.H. the Dalai Lama. At the same time, the settlement office has prepared special badges for all the monks, nuns and the laity.


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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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