The Buddhist Divide – An Unholy Campaign against Religious Freedom
It all started in 1976, when His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama made a public statement that the practice of Dorje Shugden is malevolent and that it should be stopped. As a part of the lineage of living Buddhas and kings of ancient Tibet since the 1600s, it is no surprise that the words of the Dalai Lama is as good as law, beyond question or doubt in a society that only recently rose out of a culture of serfdom.
Step by step, monastery by monastery, family by family, Buddhist by Buddhist, the Dalai Lama’s statement grew into a full-fledged ban with decrees, resolutions and constitutions to persecute and ostracise those who do not abide by the demands of the Tibetan leadership. In the short span of 20 years, Tibetans witnessed a destruction within their society in exile that made the Chinese invasion in 1959 seem tolerable, as their own people (both lay and ordained) turned against each other. Those who were once brothers and sisters began to direct hostility, aggression and violence at each other. A nation is not ruined when they lose the land they call home to foreign invaders; it is truly ruined when they lose the bond that holds the people together through a common vision.
This article aims to give insight, with supporting evidence, to reveal the glaring suffering that is a direct consequence of the Tibetan leadership’s prohibition of Dorje Shugden’s practice. The information presented will show, without a doubt, that despite continued denials by Tibetan authorities, there is a ban on the practice as violence is violence, bloodshed is bloodshed, segregation and discrimination is what it is, and the faces and voices of a divided and disharmonious society cannot be masked any more.
In its feverish commitment to execute the ban, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) directly and indirectly saw to the installation of discriminatory signboards in Tibetan settlements and communities throughout Asia, Europe and America. These signs deny entry and services to Dorje Shugden practitioners on the basis of their religious choice.
Additionally, to inflict fear even within the confines of their own homes, the CTA permitted violent and bloody invasions of private residences of Dorje Shugden practitioners. In their silence and refusal to speak out against these invasions, they became complicit in the crimes. Even the private quarters of one of the most erudite and revered masters of our time was not spared, as five masked and armed men attacked Trijang Ladrang and injured 84-year old Gen Chonze who has been serving the monastic community and the Buddhist faith all his life.
As the execution of the ban gained momentum, vulgarity and bloodshed in the name of Buddhism spread like wildfire. What is most baffling is the trigger and fuel encouraging the violence comes from an icon of peace and tolerance – His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama himself. Eventually, the dangerous permission for the Tibetan public to take the law into their own hands was further fuelled with a hit list published on the CTA’s website, which made the details of Dorje Shugden practitioners publicly available. Where is the rhyme and reason of publishing someone’s name, picture, home address and details of their supposed ‘crime’, other than to direct violent action to be taken against them? (Click here for a screenshot of the CTA’s website listing prominent Dorje Shugden practitioners. This list includes personal information of those who participated in peaceful demonstrations against the ban.)
Contradictions in Dalai Lama’s Speeches on Dorje Shugden
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A once harmonious monastic community was divided as hundreds of Dorje Shugden monks were expelled from their monasteries for upholding the lineage passed on to them by their teachers. Despite the obvious evidence of a ban, the CTA continues to blatantly deny there is a ban on Dorje Shugden although it has caused much suffering and loss to the Tibetan community in exile. And ultimately, this ban threatens the Buddha’s teachings on the whole because it discredits the fundamental principles of karma and reincarnation. It also creates doubt about lineage holders like Pabongka Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche who form an unbroken channel between practitioners and the Buddhas, and are meditation masters whose works have brought great benefit to the Tibetan people.
This article therefore aims to shed light on the suffering and injustice still occurring in the 21st Century, by presenting a compilation of knowledge, news and testimonials to prove that the ban on Dorje Shugden exists and that its impact is very real and detrimental. This article has been compiled with the motivation of helping you make an educated decision to support our cause to end this ban on Dorje Shugden.
Some of the greatest wrongs in human history do not stem from those who performed the misdeed but rather from those who allow the crime to continue. As members of the human race, we have progressed enough to call ourselves ‘civilised’ through the blood, sweat and tears of previous generations. Today, more so than in any other point in history, children of various racial, religious and social backgrounds have the equal opportunity to share a classroom in most parts of the world. Yet, in the Tibetan communities, this remains a dream when the children of Dorje Shugden practitioners are bullied on the basis of their parents’ faith. Hence it is impossible for anyone to turn a blind eye on Dorje Shugden practitioners who are being ostracised by their very own people, who share the same land, traditions, dreams and leadership. The ban must end for the sake of humanity.
We are in the age of the United Colors of Spirituality, a time of acceptance and every time we turn away from those in need, we shed a layer of our potential to fulfil our spiritual awakening.
Introduction to Dorje Shugden
Dorje Shugden is practiced within the Buddhist faith. (Click here for a short introduction to Buddhism) As a Dharma Protector, his role is to avert obstacles and provide conducive conditions for sincere practitioners in their spiritual advancement and awakening. He is the wrathful, worldly emanation of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom. ‘Worldly’ refers to the fact that although Dorje Shugden’s mind is the same as that of Manjushri, an enlightened being, he manifested in the god realm so as to be ‘closer’ to practitioners during this degenerate age when distractions to spiritual practice are greater than ever. With this closer connection, it enables him to act swiftly to help practitioners in both secular and spiritual matters. Hence, emanating in such a form within the six realms of existence (known as samsara) allows Manjushri to be closer to us and assist us more directly.
Dorje Shugden arose about 400 years ago at the specific request of Nechung, an unenlightened being who was bound by oath to serve the Dharma by the Indian tantric master Padmasambhava. Since the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, Nechung has been a trusted advisor to the office of the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan leadership. It was Nechung who requested the eminent monk and practitioner, Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen to arise in a form that would protect the profound Middle View teachings of the Indian pandit Nagarjuna. In particular, Nechung requested Duldzin to protect Nagarjuna’s teachings as taught by Lama Tsongkhapa, since the Tibetan saint’s elucidation was accurate yet relatable and easy to understand for modern day practitioners. Duldzin promised he would do so.
His promise came to fruition in Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen’s later incarnation as Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen. During this lifetime, he was murdered by attendants of the 5th Dalai Lama, thereafter taking rebirth as the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden. (Click here to read the circumstances leading to the manifestation of Dorje Shugden as the Uncommon Protector of our time.) His promise to protect a specific set of teachings is the reason some argue that he is a sectarian Protector of the Gelugpa lineage. However, the evolution of Dorje Shugden’s practice over the centuries will prove otherwise. There are also many examples of other Dharma Protectors who protect specific teachings or even entire lineages of practice without being accused of being sectarian.
Aside from his previous incarnations as Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen and Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen, Dorje Shugden has also previously taken rebirths as many attained teachers and practitioners, all of whom are recognised incarnations who are known to have benefited the practice of Buddhism not only in Tibet, but in its homeland of India. (Click here to read more about Dorje Shugden’s accomplished previous lives.)
An Inclusive Practice
Historically, Dorje Shugden was first recognised and practiced by the Sakya tradition in the early 17th century, beginning with the Sakya Kangsol (prayers to a Dharma Protector) written by Morchen Kunga Lhundrub (1654 – 1728), who was one of the Sakya’s most precious tantric and lineage holders. By tradition, amongst the hierarchs, practices within the Sakya lineage are passed down from father to son, ensuring continuity of the authentic lineage across generations. The practice of Dorje Shugden has been passed down within the Sakya lineage for many generations according to this custom.
Through time, practice and association, Dorje Shugden became a practice so close to the hearts of Sakya leaders that the 31st and 37th Sakya Trizins (Throne Holders) were even recognised to be emanations of Dorje Shugden. Many core Dorje Shugden rituals, praises and prayers recited to this day can be traced back to the Sakya tradition. For example, the wrathful torma offering to Dorje Shugden called ‘Swirl of Perfect Sense Offerings’ was composed by a Sakya master and later adopted by the Gelug master Pabongka Rinpoche as part of his ‘Melodious Drum Victorious in All Directions’. Another beautiful illustration is the Sakya reliance on Gyalpo Sum, consisting of Kache Marpo, Setrap and Dorje Shugden who are practiced in harmony as three Dharma Protectors of the Sakya lineage. It was only recently, when the ban on Dorje Shugden was implemented with fervour that Sakya practitioners wanting to avoid trouble and maintain good rapport with the Tibetan leadership had no choice but to abandon their practice of Dorje Shugden.
It is from the Sakya tradition of Buddhism that the practice of Dorje Shugden flourished and subsequently found a place in the Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug traditions as well. The 4th Jigme Norbu Zhabdrung (1831 – 1861) of Bhutan played a pivotal role in the assimilation of Dorje Shugden into the Kagyu lineage through his compositions. The Kagyus’ close connection with Dorje Shugden continued through Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo co-composed one of the earlier and most significant rituals to Dorje Shugden with Morchen Kunga Lhundrup, titled ‘Granting All Desired Activities’. Subsequently, Serkong Dorje Chang of the Gelugpa lineage incorporated these precious writings into his very extensive written works on Dorje Shugden.
From this, we can see that not only is Dorje Shugden practiced in the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, but there is close harmony and collaboration between the various traditions to produce liturgies, texts and practices that continue to benefit practitioners up to this day.
It was around 250 years later that Dorje Shugden’s lineage was galvanised by Takpu Rinpoche, Pabongka Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche, the three most influential Gelugpa lamas of our time, as a major Dharma Protector of the Gelug lineage. In his 1956 publication titled ‘Oracles and Demons of Tibet’, René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, an Austrian ethnologist and Tibetologist, gives a clear description of how Dorje Shugden was regarded as the next chief Dharma Protector of Tibet.
Despite the Tibetan leadership’s violent efforts to stamp out the practice, the flourishing of Dorje Shugden’s practice up to this day continues in regions beyond the Tibetan leadership’s influence. It is reflected in the large gatherings of practitioners, like the assembly of 200,000 people who congregated for Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s enthronement in Tibet. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche is an eminent lama known for his practice of Dorje Shugden. On a separate occasion, a crowd of 400,000 practitioners celebrated Tibetan New Year (Losar) at Chatreng Sampheling Monastery, known for its adherence to the practice of Dorje Shugden.
The aforementioned three key masters of the lineage – Takpu Rinpoche, Pabongka Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche – taught almost every member of the Gelugpa monastic community, while being renowned practitioners and propagators of Dorje Shugden. Together, their teachings and works were disseminated to hundreds of thousands of practitioners, many of whom grew to become great teachers themselves today.
Of course, all this was before Dorje Shugden’s practice was politicised due to the execution of a ban that began a stream of loss, damage and division within the Tibetan community in exile that was in the midst of rebuilding itself after many Tibetans fled to India.
An Enlightened Mind in Worldly Form
Is it Idol Worship?
Buddhism has been alleged as a school of faith that practices idol worship because of the prominence of Buddha images. The erroneous nature of this accusation becomes evident when we understand the significance behind the iconography of Buddha images which can be explained with logic and appreciation. It is in the iconography that the qualities of the Buddha are illustrated in a tangible manner, infusing what the naked eye sees as an idol with positive energy and blessings.
It is previously been established that Dorje Shugden is an emanation of Lord Manjushri and that they are both of the same mind-stream. What is the significance of an enlightened being taking on a worldly form within the god realm of samsara? It is a reflection of the sheer compassion of both divine and enlightened beings collaborating for this Dharma Protector to arise, as illustrated above. A worldly form enables enlightened activities to be performed swiftly and effectively through a ‘mundane’ vessel that has closer karmic affinity to beings of the six realms in samsara, for example humans.
Therefore, despite appearing with a lower physical form, the body of Dorje Shugden is still that of an enlightened being because each aspect of his form is a direct representation of his virtuous qualities that represent the complete Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim). Hence meditating upon it with correct understanding and motivation will generate great merits and spiritual attainments.
For a detailed explanation of the iconography of Dorje Shugden, kindly refer to Appendix 1 or click here for a visual illustration and explanation of the iconography.
To download basic Sadhana texts, kindly refer to Appendix 2.
A Line of Illustrious Lamas Who Propitiate and Propagate Dorje Shugden
Are They All Wrong?
Dorje Shugden’s practice was established about 400 years ago. Beginning in the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, the practice was embraced not only by the highest masters of the Gelugpa lineage but also the Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingmas.
A number of Sakya Trizins (head of the Sakya lineage), prominent Drukpa Kagyu masters as well as Gaden Tripas (head of the Gelug lineage) personally advocated Dorje Shugden’s practice which grew to become an integral part of the daily practice in the great monasteries.
From these leading figures of Tibetan Buddhism, Dorje Shugden was propagated to millions of ordained and lay practitioners in the Eastern as well as Western hemisphere. These were the very masters who not only worshipped and trusted Dorje Shugden but also composed prayers, liturgies and rituals to praise and invoke key meditational deities for tantric practices which tens of thousands of practitioners still rely on daily.
Could They All Be Wrong? If They Were All Wrong, What Would It Mean for Tibetan Buddhism?
It has been established that many great lamas of the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism have relied on Dorje Shugden throughout history. Furthermore, it is now being claimed that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit and that all of these lamas made a mistake.
If great lamas the calibre of the Sakya Trizins, the Gaden Tripas, Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe and the Dalai Lama who are recognised to be enlightened lamas can be said to have made mistakes with Dorje Shugden, what assurance is there that these very same lamas did not make any other mistakes in other aspects of Tibetan Buddhism? The threat to the entire Vajrayana tradition is unimaginable should we even consider the possibility that the lineage masters are expounding mistaken teachings. This would invalidate one of the core pillars of this school of Buddhism: an unbroken lineage of masters expounding teachings that trace back to the source, the Buddhas themselves.
In Tibetan Buddhism, one cannot overstate the importance of lineage when it comes to a set of teachings and practices. It is through lineage which one can trace the authenticity of teachings, and it is also through lineage that the blessings of the teachings are transmitted. The foundation of these blessings are the refuge vows that every Buddhist practitioner takes, and these refuge vows also form the foundation of other vows like the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva and Tantra vows. Hence when one’s refuge vows are broken, it is significant because it means that the foundation of all further practices is gone. This translates into the loss of blessings and therefore the loss of effect that the teachings have on practitioners.
One of the refuge vows includes not taking refuge in anything other than the Buddha, Dharma or Sangha. Hence, if we accept and agree that Dorje Shugden must be banned because he is an evil spirit, it would mean that everyone who has ever relied on Dorje Shugden has broken their refuge vows. This would pull the rug from under the feet of millions of Vajrayana practitioners all over the world, because such a claim means every practitioner who received teachings from the lineage of Takpu Rinpoche of the Gelugpa sect, or the Sakya Trizins, or Kagyu lamas like the 4th Jigme Norbu Zhabdrung, received teachings devoid of blessings and the possibility of gaining any results. The teachings henceforth transmitted by these lamas’ students would also suffer the same impact; that is, they too would be devoid of blessings and the possibility of gaining results from practicing them, because the refuge vows are broken and hence, the lineage is broken too.
Hence, if it is the case that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit (as has been claimed), then every monastery, every holy image, every sangha who was blessed, consecrated and ordained by these ‘mistaken’ teachers are but empty shells that cannot lead practitioners towards attainments and enlightenment.
It is therefore illogical to claim that all the greatest Tibetan Buddhist masters collectively made a mistake and somehow, all of them allowed one ‘minor’ practice, which is demonic according to detractors of Dorje Shugden, to invalidate the entire Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism. In saying Dorje Shugden is a spirit, we degrade these lineage masters’ qualities and abilities. How could they be right in everything else, but be so wrong in allowing Dorje Shugden practice to be propagated?
In this moment of darkness, how do our lineage masters contribute to end this ban on Dorje Shugden? Our lineage masters became beacons of light in the minds of those suffering under the tyranny of the CTA. As the ban on Dorje Shugden continues to invade holy spaces like monasteries and temples as well as the private homes of practitioners, these Lamas become a source of wisdom, strength and hope.
His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche persevered in his commitment to practice Dorje Shugden despite the many attempts made on his life by The Secret Society of External and Internal Enemy Eliminators, one of many illegal societies established by Tibetans who have been incited by the CTA to form hate groups and self-declared vigilantes. Whilst living in India, Trijang Rinpoche was constantly at risk and his life threatened to the extent that he had to be sent away from Dharamsala to safety in Europe and then America. The young Trijang Rinpoche continued his monastic studies and repeatedly requested the Dalai Lama’s acceptance for him to continue his Dorje Shugden practice, with whom the three preceding reincarnations of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoches had a close link. The Dalai Lama repeatedly refused this request and finally in 2003, His Holiness was reported to have said:
“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?”
With this, Trijang Rinpoche was left out on a limb to fend for himself like everyone who chose to remain true to the lineage. He set the example of determination, devotion, faith, strength, compassion and wisdom that others look to. In recent years, Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche has become more open to the public and started to manifest the activities of his previous life, turning the Wheel of Dharma in America, Europe and Asia with a strong focus on Dorje Shugdenྲ. This was a long awaited moment as Trijang Rinpoche is an icon of the Gelugpa lineage and the manifestation of his immensely beneficial activities is likened to the phoenix that rises from the ashes.
H.H. Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche making offerings to Dorje Shugden in Mongolia
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Gangchen Rinpoche also played a pivotal role in preserving the Dorje Shugden lineage by establishing powerful collaborations with global organisations like the United Nations to preserve, promote and enhance world peace, cultural heritage and humanity. By practicing ‘Dharma in Action’ and openly and passionately propitiating Dorje Shugden, Gangchen Rinpoche is preserving and propagating the lineage through his example that Dharma practice is essentially about compassion, wisdom and benefiting all sentient beings.
Gangchen Rinpoche travels the world and builds relationships with nations including China as a means to bring Dharma to the world. It is through his effort together with other important lamas that the Dharma is growing in China. Being a senior master who has worked consistently, Gangchen Rinpoche’s compassionate acts have paved a pure and trusted path for other lineage masters to turn the Wheel of Dharma around the world. These exemplary efforts of Gangchen Rinpoche that focus on equanimity, Bodhicitta and benefiting others reflect that the Dharma Protector practice is a personal and intimate one that supports practitioners to progress in their spiritual aspirations, and it is not the focal point of Dharma practice.
Gangchen Rinpoche lends his support to many Dorje Shugden centres, monasteries and masters by attending or sending representatives to their official ceremonies like the opening of Serpom Monastery and the enthronement of Domo Geshe Rinpoche in South India.
Dorje Shugden Oracle. Gangchen Rinpoche is known for his close connection with Dorje Shugden and is often seen with Dorje Shugden oracles.
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Lama Gangchen Rinpoche goes to Tibet, August 2011
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Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is one of the strongest and most outspoken advocates of the Dorje Shugden lineage. Unwilling to be bound by the illegal ban on Dorje Shugden, Geshe-la and his group known as the New Kadampa Tradition lent their support to the Western Shugden Society and later, the International Shugden Society (ISC) which became a voice for those suffering under the Dorje Shugden ban. It is through the unwavering effort of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s devoted students that the Dorje Shugden ban has received international media attention. Through the ISC’s work, the discrimination, segregation, threat to safety and life of helpless Tibetan Shugden practitioners became known to the world. In many ways, it is the light that was shed on the conduct of the Tibetan leadership through the series of peaceful and global protests that the world became aware of not only the cruelty of the CTA but also their arrogant deception.
Interview with Kelsang Pema, who sheds light on the ban on Dorje Shugden and establishes the motivation of the peaceful protests being organised
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Australian News: Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden Controversy
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Interview with Adar Tsering and Gen Gyatso at the International Shugden Community (ISC) Protest in Washington, DC (March 7, 2014)
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H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche has been practicing Dorje Shugden privately for decades in observation of traditional Buddhist codes that discourage discussions on individual lama’s practices as a sign of humility. However, in 2014, due to the intensifying suffering of Dorje Shugden practitioners worldwide resulting from the ban, Tsem Rinpoche felt compelled to create awareness and understanding about Dorje Shugden, the ban and the sufferings many have had to endure as a consequence of the ban. Tirelessly, Rinpoche has been producing online teachings to educate the public about Dorje Shugden’s real story and his practices and rituals. Rinpoche has also been making available informative and comprehensive video teachings that are readily available on his blog.
Rinpoche also introduced a different approach to lifting the ban, which is one that is more peaceful, moderate in nature and knowledge oriented. Tsem Rinpoche’s method is to create opportunities that engage more practitioners as well as observers who were previously apprehensive, to open their minds to understanding the controversy. Rinpoche’s passion and resolute commitment to keeping his Dorje Shugden practice that was conferred to him by his late root teacher, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, is a pillar of encouragement and shows a great example of pure Dharma practice in the face of adversities, to many Dorje Shugden practitioners worldwide.
Upon reading the biographies of such masters, one cannot deny but acknowledge their compassion, wisdom and devotion to humanity even at the cost of their lives. For more biographies of other distinguished Dorje Shugden lineage masters, kindly refer to Appendix 3.
One more point to consider before proceeding: On the fundamental basis of Buddha’s teachings of karma alone, demon worshippers are supposed to take rebirth in the lower realms and so these lamas who trusted in Dorje Shugden should have taken rebirth in the animal, spirit or hell realms. However, not only did these high lamas return in human form, they return in perfect conditions, resumed their path as ordained sangha and were recognised as tulkus (reincarnated teachers) to continue their Dharma work. This very phenomenon that has been acknowledged and affirmed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama who recognised and enthroned some of these reincarnations, is tangible evidence that Dorje Shugden is not an evil spirit but is in fact an enlightened Protector.
The Implications of the Ban
The materials about Dorje Shugden presented above, from his lineage of reincarnations to his iconography and the story behind his manifestation are proliferated by illustrious lineage masters. It is accepted that Dorje Shugden was proliferated from enlightened masters who are not capable of making a mistake on the nature of Dorje Shugden. Additionally, if the enlightened masters were to make a mistake about the nature of Dorje Shugden, then it would be logical to deduce that these masters have broken their refuge commitments. If we start the ball rolling and accept that these masters have broken their refuge, which is a foundation for higher vows, transmissions and practices, then the lineage itself is undermined.
It would mean that everyone who has relied on Dorje Shugden will take rebirth in the lower realms, such as the hells, as a result of breaking their refuge vows and disseminating harmful practices to people. On the other hand, it is impossible that the mind-stream of such an established line of Dorje Shugden’s incarnations would fall into the lower realms of samsara. These previous incarnations include luminaries such as Mahasiddha Birwapa, Sakya Pandita, Panchen Sonam Drakpa and Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen, whose legacies have had tremendous impact on the development of the teachings and benefit to sentient beings. For them to fall into the lower realms of samsara would contradict the fundamental principle of karma whereby the cause resembles the effect. How can an individual be the source of immense benefit to others and be considered an enlightened mind, and yet simultaneously propagate a practice to sentient beings that results in their negative rebirth? This just doesn’t make sense.
The pillars of Tibetan Buddhism will be shaken if we insist that the most erudite masters of our lineage such as the earlier Sakya Trizins, the Panchen Lama, Pabongka Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche have all made a mistake. If these masters can make a mistake, what assurance is there that no other mistakes are made? If our lineage masters can make mistakes, they are an unreliable source for the impeccable Dharma of Lord Buddha that is perfect and free from contradictions. If our lineage masters are an unreliable source of Buddha’s doctrine, then the teachings, initiation and empowerments we receive from them will have no power to bestow attainments. This will in turn nullify one of the most crucial practices of our tradition which is the invocation of the blessings of the lineage masters at the start of daily prayers. In a nutshell, labelling Dorje Shugden practice as demon worship will open the floodgate of questions, accusation and conclusion that will tear the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism apart.
The origins of Dorje Shugden began with Nechung’s request and he is still the trusted and loyal advisor to the Dalai Lama up to this day via the Nechung oracle. If Dorje Shugden is that harmful to the welfare of the Dalai Lama, a threat to the Tibetan cause and a jeopardy to the purity of the lineage because he is considered unenlightened and a spirit, then wouldn’t it be logical to take one step back and question Nechung as well? According to tradition, it was Nechung who prompted Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen to protect the teachings.
The origins of Dorje Shugden began with Nechung’s request and until today, he is still a trusted advisor to the Dalai Lama via the Nechung oracle. If Dorje Shugden is that harmful to the welfare of the Dalai Lama, a threat to the Tibetan cause as it has been claimed, and jeopardises the purity of the lineage because he is considered unenlightened and a spirit, then wouldn’t it be logical to take one step back and question Nechung as well? According to tradition, it was Nechung who prompted Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen to protect the teachings.
Lastly, if the entire Tibetan leadership can put the fate of their nation and people in the hands of an unenlightened spirit, Nechung, why come down so hard on Dorje Shugden? This is especially so when Nechung has been caught on several independent occasions for giving wrong advice and inaccurate prophecies. In fact, Nechung’s advice and actions are known to have ended the life of the 13th Dalai Lama who consumed medicine that he wrongly prescribed. And if not for Dorje Shugden’s intervention, Nechung would have also prematurely ended the life of the 14th Dalai Lama whom he advised to remain in Tibet despite the advancing threat from China.
Just by reflecting on the previous lives of Dorje Shugden and the accurate advice and pronouncements he has given in the past, it is easy to come to a logical conclusion that there is no substantial evidence to support the reasons given by the CTA to claim that he is a spirit and to impose a ban. If the reasons given by the CTA to justify a ban can be easily refuted, then there are no grounds for the ban to even exist. Having established that the claims against Dorje Shugden are unfounded, the next section will focus on presenting facts, images and testimonials to prove the existence of an unjust ban against Dorje Shugden. Just because the ban does not affect you directly, it does not mean that it does not exist. Similarly, just because some people deny the existence of the ban, it does not mean that the effects of the ban are not felt.
A Piece of Advice With
Life Threatening Consequences
No Option but Conformation
…and still “not a ban”?
A Simple Chronology
The Ban on Dorje Shugden at a Glance
1980 – 1996
The Tibetan leadership continues to insist that there is no ban. The quest to eliminate Dorje Shugden’s practice is selectively described to be advice that the public is free to either accept or reject. However, there is much evidence that demonstrates otherwise. Below is a simple chronology of events between 1980 and 2016 that clearly illustrates how ‘advice’ can lead to the expulsion of monks from monasteries, physical violence, as well as divisions and disharmony in families and relationships.
In 1980, when the Dalai Lama first spoke publicly against the practice of Dorje Shugden, the Dalai Lama said he was merely expressing his own personal opinion on the deity and he was merely discouraging the practice. Hence, the Tibetan community at that time did not take his words seriously.
Nevertheless, some effort to end the practice of Dorje Shugden was made. An image of Dorje Shugden was broken into smaller pieces and removed from the prayer hall of Gaden Monastery and a small Dorje Shugden temple near the main hall of Sera monastery in South India was closed. At this time, individuals were still permitted to continue practicing in private, which is how Dharma Protector practice is traditionally carried out – secretly and in private. However, those who actively challenged the Dalai Lama’s decision in public were severely reprimanded such as the Mongolian master, Guru Deva Rinpoche, who was eventually forced to leave India in 1986 because his printing press published a letter questioning the Dalai Lama’s actions regarding Dorje Shugden.
Only in 1996, during an annual teaching at Thekchen Choeling Temple in Dharamsala, did the Dalai Lama issue a statement imposing the ban on Dorje Shugden practice for the first time. It was also the first time the Dalai Lama requested worshippers of Dorje Shugden to leave the temple, barring them from attending his empowerment. To formalise his actions, the Office of the Dalai Lama issued a decree for everyone to stop practicing Dorje Shugden, with instructions to make people aware of this through government offices, monasteries and associations. The Tibetan Parliament in Exile followed suit with a resolution banning the worship. Finally, the Dalai Lama’s Office issued an official letter to the abbots of the monasteries in South India to implement the ban on a monastic level. This official document and prohibition marks the birth of a ban and a chain of events that transformed a harmonious community in exile into one that is fear-ridden, divisive and self-destructive.
The Tibetan groups and organisations such as the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Tibetan Women’s Association were instructed to enforce the ban as well. Soon, institutions established to serve Tibetan society and the private sectors were given a mandate to enforce the ban. The Department of Health issued a directive to its employees to give up Dorje Shugden’s practice and those who refused would stand to lose their jobs. It came down to the point where Dorje Shugden practitioners were even denied medical service.
While the Tibetan leadership was establishing a foothold to execute the ban by enrolling supporters and issuing official decrees and documentation, they were simultaneously removing and eliminating existing support systems of Dorje Shugden’s practice. Leaders who spoke up and publicly challenged the Dalai Lama and the government became targets of persecution and violence. This included the retired Tibetan Minister Mr Kundeling who was stabbed and badly wounded in his own home a few days after he expressed concerns about the new policy. Centres, societies and spaces where Dorje Shugden practitioners could gather to practice were shut down. Dorje Shugden practitioners were ousted from positions of power and directives were issued stating that they would no longer be employed in positions of authority. For example, devotees of Dorje Shugden were barred from the Supreme Court or from holding the monastic position of disciplinarian, which is one of the three highest offices in the monastery.
As the groundwork for the ban took root, more drastic actions had to be implemented. During the inauguration of the debating courtyard of Sera Mey Monastery by H.H. the Dalai Lama, the monks of Pomra Khangtsen who rely on Dorje Shugden were prohibited from attending the ceremony. They were prevented from leaving their rooms and kept under house arrest by the local police acting on the instructions of Dharamsala, because the monks were accused of being a threat to the Dalai Lama’s security. These were trumped up charges and no credible roof has ever been provided to support the accusation that Dorje Shugden practitioners are a threat to the Dalai Lama’s safety. The only ‘crime’ these monks were guilty of was that of being Dorje Shugden practitioners.
1997 – 2007
In 1998 there were still groups and་individuals who expressed their disagreement with the anti-Dorje Shugden policy because they still believed in the democracy that was promised to them. Hence, 120 members of The Dorje Shugden Society travelled from Delhi to Dharamsala to join the convention to address unsubstantiated accusations by the United Cholsum Organisation that the society has political affiliations with Beijing and Taiwan. The Dorje Shugden Society wanted to use this opportunity to clear their name before the Tibetan public because association with China and Taiwan is considered the ultimate treason by the Tibetan people. The society also planned to work towards the reconciliation and restoration of religious freedom in the Tibetan community.
In a separate case, Mr Phuntsok Nudrub, a devotee of Dorje Shugden and resident of Delhi, went to the Foreigners’ Registration Office in Dharamsala to renew his Registration Certificate (the stay permit for Tibetan refugees in India). Officers of the Tibetan Department of Security interrogated Mr Nudrub for two days and the Indian officer observed that it was a difficult choice between the Dalai Lama’s decree or to continue with Dorje Shugden worship. At this point, it became clear that the Tibetans did not have the option to do both.
To teach them a lesson, Officer Dawa Tsering told the Tibetan public at McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala that Dorje Shugden activists were en route to Dharamsala to destroy the Tibetan Cathedral and thereafter the Dalai Lama’s Palace. Sufficiently infuriated by this false accusation, the Tibetan public (both lay and ordained) gathered at the bus station of McLeod Ganj to attack the unsuspecting delegation. In the case of Mr Phuntsok Nudrub, his stay permit was never renewed. These are some of the earlier cases often cited as an example to force Tibetans into compliance with the Dorje Shugden ban.
In August 1998, The Shugden Society convened a meeting with Mr Pema Choejor, Tibetan Minister of Security and Mr Khedrup, Secretary of the Department of Security in Mundgod. The Society expressed their distress from having both their political and religious rights taken away for three years, with no forthcoming sign of any efforts to correct the situation from the side of the government, who also refused any communication, discussion or debate to arrive at an amicable solution. They also explained how Dorje Shugden practitioners are more hated than the Chinese and they are subject to discrimination, defamation and abuse due to baseless allegations. In response to the representation above, the authorities provided a meagre answer:
“We understand your difficulty. We will convey your grievance clearly to the Kashag (cabinet) in Dharamsala. What you say is true, but since the ban comes from His Holiness, we are put into a very difficult situation. H.H. the Dalai Lama is taking a rock-like stand, and if you also take an equally rigid stand, we (exile government) are caught helpless in between.”
From this point onwards, violent outbreaks ensued with no one taking responsibility from the side of the Tibetan leadership who henceforth refused to offer substantial comment on matters related to Dorje Shugden and did virtually nothing to end the discrimination, segregation, attacks, destruction, open threats and violence against Dorje Shugden practitioners.
In the year 2000, a mob of 2,000 lay and ordained Dalai Lama supporters gathered around Dokhang Khangtsen at Gaden Shartse Monastery in South India, and attacked the Dokhang monks with stones and bricks. The Tibetan leadership left it to the Indian authorities to manage the situation and control the crowd.
In 2002, Sera Je Monastery officially announced that it would require every monk joining its monastic community to swear beforehand that he will renounce Dorje Shugden’s practice. One year later, the three highest authorities of Gaden Jangste Monastery – the abbot, chant master and disciplinarian – enforced a re-issuance of Monastic Identity Cards to residents who would take the oath to stop Dorje Shugden’s practice. Consequently, the monks of Serkong Ladrang who continued to worship Dorje Shugden did not receive Identity Cards from the Monastery. This action by Gaden Jangtse effectively cut off the monks from the rest of the monastic community because monks without the Monastic Identity Card lose the monastery’s assistance in terms of housing, schooling and community, and have to fend for themselves.
In 2007, at a public speech in Sera Mey Monastery, the Dalai Lama labelled all devotees of Dorje Shugden as murderers and thugs who receive ‘Chinese money’ with the motivation to kill and harm him. It appeared to be an attempt to create a resurgence of hostilities against Dorje Shugden practitioners, as his supporters would inevitably enact all measures (usually violent and threatening) on the pretext of protecting His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s life.
In 2008, despite the policies executed against Dorje Shugden practitioners, the Dalai Lama reprimanded the abbots of Gaden Jangtse and Gaden Shartse Monasteries for not taking a rigid enough stand against Dorje Shugden devotees. Consequently, the tactics employed against Dorje Shugden practitioners began to take a more reckless upward surge where hundreds of monks were expelled without deliberation [see Appendix J]. The swearing-out process became a mass event where every single monk was forced to swear again that they would stop Dorje Shugden practice openly in front of the entire monastic community and representatives of the Tibetan leadership.
The Himalayan Buddhist Cultural Association & Himalayan Committee for Action on Tibet wrote a letter in Tibetan and English, and sent it to various monasteries and associations. In this letter, they clearly articulate the ban on Dorje Shugden, and the pressure that the monks face to swear against Dorje Shugden’s practice, and impose further discriminations against firm Dorje Shugden practitioners.
The official endorsement by the Dalai Lama praised strong actions meted out against Dorje Shugden’s practitioners and he also praised those who support him unquestioningly. Thus the ban spread like wildfire all over the Tibetan community. As the Tibetan community in exile do not have many opportunities in acquiring real wealth like land, properties or large businesses, many Tibetans grabbed at the chance to be in the good books of the Tibetan leadership and the Dalai Lama. This would allow them to reap the financial and reputational benefits that accompany an endorsement by the Dalai Lama that they are politically ‘clean’ and correct. This is the easiest avenue for most Tibetans towards acquiring wealth and security.
At this point, it would be beneficial to point out the practice of serfdom in Tibet where 95 to 98% of the Tibetan population were indentured slaves who were regularly tortured. With such a history of indentured servitude, it is quite normal and even expected for the majority of Tibetans, especially the older generation, to take every word from the Dalai Lama as law that is to be executed without question or doubt. In fact, the act of challenging the Dalai Lama (who has ruled Tibet since the reign of the 5th Dalai Lama about 400 years ago) is taboo and to question him is considered treasonous.
As the ban began to take on a more tangible shape, cases of Dorje Shugden practitioners worldwide who experienced suffering and loss began to mount up. (Click here to view a resolution signed by administrators of Gaden Monastic University, pertaining to the expulsion of Shugden practitioners.) Therefore, it became a necessity to muster the courage and effort to establish Shar Gaden and Serpom Monasteries to house and allow Dorje Shugden monks to continue their education and practice in peace after being distracted from pure Dharma study and practice for many years. Both Shar Gaden and Serpom received great amount of support and these newly established monastic institution were eventually able to fulfil their objective as a haven for Dorje Shugden practitioners.
In 2013, noticing the tenacity and devotion of Dorje Shugden practitioners, the Tibetan leadership criminalised Dorje Shugden worship. In May 2013, Jamyang Norbu, a prominent Tibetan essayist and author took a picture with a Dorje Shugden lama and was treated to a barrage of criticism, insults and threats from supporters of the Dalai Lama. He was shocked to learn that even taking a photograph with a Dorje Shugden practitioner had become such a crime. In December of that same year, during a Lamrim discourse in Sera Monastery, the Dalai Lama claimed that pujas conducted by the Dorje Shugden people were “killing” him. As a result of this claim combined with Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche’s absence from the Lamrim discourse that year, a group of armed men in masks attacked Gen Chonze, an 84-year old assistant of the previous Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, at Trijang Ladrang.
the crimes against Dorje Shugden practitioners further escalated as a group of 40 monks and laypeople who were followers of the Dalai Lama forced their way into Gaden Choling Monastery in Phedong to occupy and claim ownership of the premises. The extent to which Dalai Lama supporters are willing to go in order to harass Shugden practitioners is frightening because even the police force was unable to protect Dorje Shugden practitioners from the violent and completely unreasonable mob. This also goes to show the lack of gratitude and respect the Tibetan refugees have towards their host country, India, for the last 60 years.
Later, the CTA published a hit list identifying 20 Tibetans who participated in the protest, including their personal details and addresses. Despite negative public reaction to this illegal act, the CTA blatantly followed up by adding 14 more names to the list just a few days later. This list instigated a group known as the United Front of Tibetan People to issue an open letter calling for strong and physical action to be taken against all Dorje Shugden followers and anyone who opposes the Dalai Lama to ‘teach them a lesson’.
The Dorje Shugden issue became such a hot topic that a group of Tibetan youths from the Tibetan Children’s Village questioned the Prime Minister, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay about the discrimination they were witnessing within their community in exile. Visibly disturbed by their public questioning, Lobsang Sangay later arranged for the youths to be reprimanded for their perceived insolence.
In 2016, despite numerous questions raised and rampant opposition from amongst modern Tibetans as well as international human rights activists and conservationists, the CTA is going head-on against the world with this ban on Dorje Shugden. The latest act to discriminate against Dorje Shugden practitioners is the new ruling requiring every monk in Sera Mey Monastery to wear a badge that visibly indicates whether its bearer is a Dorje Shugden practitioner or not.
In summary, the ‘advice’ against Dorje Shugden has caused:
- Thousands of monks to lose their homes and communities
- Dorje Shugden practitioners to be denied access to shops and basic supplies
- Thousands of practitioners to have their religious as well as human rights stripped away overnight
- Learned monks, teachers and Geshes who are living vessels containing the teachings of the Buddha to be and remain divided from their students
- The lineages in which Dorje Shugden was or is practiced to be invalidated on the basis that their lineage masters worshipped a spirit and thus, they have broken their refuge commitments. Therefore everything else within the lineage is invalidated because refuge is the fundamental aspect of the lineage
- The property of Dorje Shugden practitioners to be damaged or looted
- Dorje Shugden practitioners to be attacked with deadly weapons
- Homes of Dorje Shugden to be burnt while the inhabitants were still inside
- Dorje Shugden practitioners to be faced with daily and constant harassment, online and offline, for their refusal to give up the practice
With an overview of events by chronology, in the next section, we will establish how every event that resulted from the implementation of the “advice” constitutes living proof that the ban on Dorje Shugden is painfully real.
An Undeniable Ban!
BAN – A Definition
An official or legal prohibition.
Prohibition: The action of forbidding something, especially by law.
Veto: A constitutional right to reject a decision or proposal made by a law-making body.
Proscription: Condemnation or denunciation of something.
Bar: Prevent or forbid the entrance or movement of.
Suppression: To put an end to the activities of (a person, body of persons, etc.).
Stoppage: Cessation of activity.
Interdict: An authoritative prohibition.
Injunction: An authoritative warning or order.
Dorje Shugden practitioners are prohibited and barred from accessing the most basic amenities, from education and medical attention to buying food and other supplies in local stores. Members of the public who do not want to get caught in the crossfire are forced to act out of self-preservation and enforce this ban.
Al-Jazeera Reports: The Dalai Lama – The Devil Within
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The Central Tibetan Administration and its troop vetoed the basic human right to religious freedom when a public announcement was made to stop the practice of Dorje Shugden.
The Dalai Lama Announcing the Ban
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The Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia (VBCM), a self-appointed council, proscribed against the association of its members and the general public with Dorje Shugden practitioners.
The former Tibetan exile Prime Minister, Samdhong Rinpoche, suppresses the basic human right to freedom of speech even in the United States of America where President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Four Freedoms on January 6, 1941. The President proposed four fundamental freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to enjoy:
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of worship
- Freedom from want
- Freedom from fear
Samdhong Rinpoche Gags Free Speech in New York
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Monasteries, both in India and elsewhere around the world, are stopped from practicing Dorje Shugden as statues of this deity is removed from the prayer halls, destroyed, thrown into rivers and burned.
The CTA imposed an interdiction on freedom of speech and worship on Dorje Shugden practitioners as the supporters label Shugden practitioners as outcasts. Recognising the unethical nature of the interdiction, they tried to destroy footage of the ban captured by international journalists.
Tibetan Public Talk – The True Facts
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By definition of the word “ban”, the actions taken by the CTA to prohibit the worship of Dorje Shugden are undeniably an execution of a ban on Dorje Shugden. Although these actions should suffice to prove the existence of this ban on Dorje Shugden, below is a compilation of solid and tangible policies, rules and regulations captured in writing, in photos, on audio and on video to establish the sad and frightening cruelty and recklessness of the CTA in their execution of Dorje Shugden practitioners.
Evidence of the Ban
- Expulsion of Monks
- Yellow Stick
- List of Practitioners
- Media Coverage
Evidence 1: Expulsion of 900 Monks from Gaden Shartse and Sera Mey Monasteries
In 2008, the Dalai Lama made an announcement at Drepung Monastery encouraging monastic leaders to expel monks who did not give up their Dorje Shugden practice “without hesitation”. His Holiness also extended his full support to the monasteries that gave their full cooperation, and praised those who had the courage to take “hard” actions. This may seem like a simple statement giving the impression that His Holiness was merely expressing his opinion regarding Dorje Shugden whilst the monks and laypeople can choose to reject or continue the practice. However, considering the deeply rooted history of Tibetan serfdom, the Dalai Lama’s endorsement of anything has great significance. In this case, it resulted in the beginning of the end of Tibetan Buddhism as we know it.
“Expelling monks without hesitation” could and did result in hundreds of monks losing their home, family and school without due examination or observation. The process of declaring their spiritual choice was intentionally done in haste, with limited reflection on the ban’s long-term impact. The CTA added fear to the state of rushed confusion by having 40 monks with weapons surround the main prayer hall of Gaden Monastery. They were there to intimidate unsuspecting monks, many of whom were still practicing Dorje Shugden. One of the monks present, Lobsang Gompo testified that these 40 monks had iron bars in their hands to use on anyone who dared to express an opinion against the announcement. Despite the intimidation, some people bravely decided to retain their Dorje Shugden practice, defying the Dalai Lama’s ban and thus instantly becoming an enemy of the state.
Monks Swearing Out of Dorje Shugden’s Practice – Part 1
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Monks Swearing Out of Dorje Shugden’s Practice – Part 2
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Besides their general tendency for blind adherence towards whatever the Dalai Lama tells them to do, this purposeful rush to implement the ban also did not give people room to think about the policies. Had they been given time to think, they would have seen through the Tibetan leadership’s manipulation. A hurried indoctrination of the monks into the anti-Dorje Shugden camp would hamper thoughts of challenging the government and by the time any significantly large group realised what was really happening, it would be too late to resist. Hence enforcing the ban at speed was essential because the CTA would not have been able to provide substantial reasons for the ban if they had been questioned. In fact, up until today, they are still unable to provide any reasons for the ban, which explains their continued avoidance of an open forum discussion with lamas, Geshes and practitioners up to this day.
Protest on Dalai Lama for Banning Dorje Shugden Practice
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In his statement at Drepung Monastery in 2008, the Dalai Lama promised support for monasteries that complied with his demands. The Dalai Lama’s endorsement carries a great deal of influence both within and outside the Tibetan community. As an international humanitarian icon, the Dalai Lama has access to the vast resources needed for building, developing and maintaining a monastery and its community. For the monastic administration responsible for securing a safe and conducive learning environment for their community, the allure of easy resources may have been encouraging enough for them to close an eye and meet the Dalai Lama’s demands despite any discomfort they personally feel regarding the ban.
True enough the monasteries, centres and teachers who pledged allegiance to the Dalai Lama have had an easier time raising funds while Dorje Shugden outcasts have been left to fend for themselves. Dorje Shugden practitioners in fact, have had a very difficult time because Dalai Lama supporters continue to interfere with their sponsor relationships, claiming that they are against the Dalai Lama. It is not difficult to guess how these sponsors, unfamiliar with Tibetan politics and customs, would react to such an accusation. Stories abound in the Dorje Shugden community of sponsors giving their former recipients a cold shoulder upon hearing they practice Dorje Shugden and are supposedly against the Dalai Lama.
Lastly, for the Tibetan leadership to advocate “harsher” ways to marginalise or punish Dorje Shugden practitioners is not something foreign to the Tibetans. The majority of Tibetans are not highly educated, and lack exposure and experience beyond their relatively insular communities. Thusly unequipped to gather information for themselves and consult independent sources, they rely on their leadership to tell them everything they know. This invariably results in a very one-dimensional way of approaching issues. Consequently, the harsh methods that the leadership advocates for their people to enforce the ban go unquestioned, and any attempts to reason with these enforcers against the illegality of their methods are futile. These individuals become self-appointed law enforcers who act based on emotion instead of knowledge, clarity and neutrality.
Hence violence is a feature in the Tibetan community in exile, who use it to stamp out any sniff of perceived dissent because they have not been equipped with other methods to deal with it. It was violence that Dalai Lama supporters resorted to when they learned that a group of Tibetans had refused to give up Dorje Shugden practice. This violence led to the division of the monastic communities and Dharma centres, and Tibetan Buddhists worldwide were forced to break their samaya (spiritual bond) with their teachers.
Speaking of samaya, one of the reasons many Tibetans felt obliged to give up Dorje Shugden was to preserve their samaya with the Dalai Lama. It is worthwhile to point out here that, contrary to what many people believe, the Dalai Lama is not the leader of any of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism. Additionally, the Dalai Lama is not necessarily the root teacher of every Tibetan monk, nun or lay practitioner. Hence, with respect, the Dalai Lama and the CTA cannot use the reason of “keeping samaya” to emotionally blackmail people into complying to unreasonable demands; most people do not have such a spiritual bond with the Dalai Lama. Neither should they mislead the global public into believing that His Holiness is the highest authority of Tibetan Buddhism. His Holiness’ spiritual authority is only limited to those who are his students. For centuries, each sect of Tibetan Buddhism have had their own leaders: the Gaden Tripa for the Gelugpas, the Sakya Trizins for the Sakyas, the Karmapa for the Karma Kagyus while Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche is currently the head of the Nyingma sect.
Therefore, the expulsion and swearing out conducted at monasteries was executed based on manipulation and subtle threats, which ultimately resulted in monks disrobing, schism in the monastic community and further division of a Tibetan society that is already in exile.
Despite the blatant violation of human rights, the fact the CTA is permitted to avoid responsibility and accountability actually encourages Tibetan leaders to do as they please, leading to an increase in lawlessness. This arrogant attitude of the CTA is destroying the goodwill and faith people have towards the Dalai Lama. Even Tibetan youths beginning to voice their concerns while international supporters like Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Maura Moynihan are taking the CTA to task over their failures and misrepresentations to the public.
Evidence 2: The Yellow Stick
The electoral ballot is the cornerstone of democracy. It is the right of every citizen to express his or her choice towards the final outcome. America, for example, established the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to protect African Americans during the voting process. It was signed into law to ensure fair, safe and non-discriminatory conditions for African Americans exercising their right to vote.
Every central democratic principle was broken when the Tibetan leadership imposed the infamous Yellow Stick Vote in January and February 2008 at 14 Gelugpa monasteries. In front of their entire congregation, and under the watchful eyes of the monastic administration, monks were forced to publicly declare they were stopping their Dorje Shugden practice by picking the yellow vote-stick.
The Dalai Lama and anti-Dorje Shugden groups claim that there is no ban and no discrimination because they used a democratic voting process for people to vote in favour of the ban. It is actually ludicrous to claim that the voting procedure was democratic, when the monks were subject to immense peer pressure and the threat of segregation while making their choice. In the monasteries, they were forced to make this very personal choice in front of the entire assembly of monks, the monastic administration and representatives from the Tibetan leadership (at least 3000 pairs of eyes). “Care not of those piercing eyes” we may say but we have no understanding of the conditions these monks faced. Many, if not all, of these monks had nothing beyond the monastery wall. Some did not have families and those with families would ultimately lose them because the lay community would have pressured families into severing all ties with their Dorje Shugden-practicing relatives. Those monks brave enough to cast an honest vote by taking the red stick faced immediate expulsion from the monastery and segregation from the lay community.
Dalai Lama’s Ban on Dorje Shugden
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This was far from the spirit of democracy. It was hypocrisy and blue murder as the fate of those who chose the red stick would be a dangerous one. By picking the red stick, the entire monastic community would, in one fell swoop, be ‘informed’ that the person was going against the leadership. Faced with this consequence, it is no wonder many felt pressured into choosing the yellow stick. The yellow stick system hence completely contradicts all democratic principles. The result of the CTA’s version of democracy is disharmony, schism as well as tension and division. Many monks were deeply unhappy about making this choice but felt completely helpless due to their dependence on the monastery. It has been said by monks of that time that “whether you agree or not, whether you like it or not, you must follow the words of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile, or you will land in trouble.”
The Infamous Red/Yellow Stick Referendum on Dorje Shugden
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Evidence 3: Shar Gaden and Serpom Monasteries
The Tibetan leadership in exile forced every member of monasteries within their jurisdiction to swear an oath to abandon all practices related to Dorje Shugden. If they did not, they had to leave the monastery for good. 500 monks decided to remain true to their spiritual convictions and left Gaden Shartse Monastery which had been their home since they renounced secular concerns and took on ordination vows. Hence, in order to keep their vows and continue their pursuit of spiritual excellence in the spirit of Lama Tsongkhapa’s doctrine, these monks, primarily from Dokhang Khangtsen, established Shar Gaden Monastery in 2008. Following their lead, 600 monks who were thrown out of their spiritual home, Sera Mey Monastery, established Serpom Monastery in 2011. These new monasteries have become beacons of hope in their struggle to uphold their rights to freedom of worship. Their courage led to many more monks and tulkus joining them in openly continuing their Dorje Shugden practice, by joining Shar Gaden and Serpom.
One of the arguments that the CTA uses to support their assertion there is no ban on Dorje Shugden is the existence of Shar Gaden and Serpom Monasteries. They claim that the fact separate monasteries exist for Dorje Shugden practitioners is proof that there is religious freedom to worship Dorje Shugden. Their assertions could not be more erroneous and far from the truth. Firstly, these monasteries are established under the jurisdiction of the Indian law, which falls outside the direct control of the CTA. Secondly, the CTA is avoiding the fact these two monasteries would not have been established if there was no ban on Dorje Shugden that was enforced by way of swearing out exercises, the yellow stick voting referendum and the expulsion of hundreds of monks who chose to continue their practice. For the hundreds of years that practitioners relied on Dorje Shugden, there were no separate monasteries for Dorje Shugden practitioners until the ban came into effect in 1996.
The establishment of Shar Gaden and Serpom Monasteries does not only establish the fact that there is a ban on Dorje Shugden but it also highlights Gaden Shartse and Sera Monastery’s failure to fulfil their role as a place to protect, preserve and expound the lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings. Gaden Shartse and Sera Mey are two of the three main monasteries of the Gelugpa lineage. After the monks fled Tibet, these monasteries were re-established in India to uphold Lama Tsongkhapa’s doctrine which emphasises monastic discipline and ethics, Bodhicitta and mind transformation as practices on the path to enlightenment. The expulsion of monks in this rampant and thoughtless manner is in complete disregard and contradiction to the spirit of the Gelugpa tradition because Dorje Shugden ban invalidates one vital aspect of the lineage which has been propagated for centuries. If one aspect of the lineage can be wrong, it puts all other aspects at risk of being wrong too. In this way, the Gelug lineage is undermined by the Dorje Shugde ban.
Although the establishment of Shar Gaden and Serpom Monastery resolved most of the fundamental difficulties the expelled monks face, there are still many challenges that these Dorje Shugden practitioners struggle with. Regardless of how qualified they might be, monks who are Dorje Shugden practitioners are denied the opportunity to sit for the examinations necessary to obtain their Geshe degrees (the PhD equivalent in Buddhist philosophy). To obtain this highest monastic accolade, a monk has to engage in inter-monastery debate. This final stage of their education is made impossible because these monks are not permitted to enter the original three main Gelugpa universities, in order to engage in said debates. Imagine being denied this opportunity after a minimum 20 years of intensive study. This brutal tactic was implemented to discourage Dorje Shugden practice.
If there is no ban, why create and implement so many policies, decrees and documentation that aim to divide the monastic community? Fortunately, through the compassion and effort of dedicated high lamas and senior monks still openly practicing Dorje Shugden, a new Gelugpa Buddhist University was set up in Mysore in 2015. It serves as the alternative higher learning monastic institution that issues certificates to qualified Geshes from Shar Gaden and Serpom, thus enabling Shugden monks to complete their monastic education.
Despite the difficulties that Dorje Shugden practitioners face, they still maintain unwavering faith and remain true to their practice by propagating the authentic lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa. The continued growth and success of Shar Gaden and Serpom Monasteries is reflected in the growing number of students and qualified teachers who join them, as well as the graduation of hundreds of elite scholars.
Evidence 4: Destruction of Dorje Shugden Images
After purging those who continue to practice Dorje Shugden, the Tibetan leadership then attempted to eradicate all Dorje Shugden images from temples, monasteries, Dharma centres and even private spaces. Statues, thangkas, tsa tsas (clay votives), prints and scripture… nothing was spared. For that matter, no one was spared as every person within the CTA’s control was manipulated into being an enforcer of the ban against Dorje Shugden. Those who did not cooperate would be considered the enemy of their King, the Dalai Lama and his government.
Even the holy sangha have been forced to behave in ways most unbecoming for a person of the cloth. The sangha is supposed to renounce worldly life and its concerns for a life dedicated to study, practice and mastery of the Dharma. Not only did the CTA failed to support the monks, but they forced the monks into the very difficult position of choosing between their vows and their adherence to the Dalai Lama’s wishes.
In 1996, nuns from Gaden Choeling Nunnery in Dharamsala went into their abbot’s chamber to drag a Dorje Shugden statue into the street by using a rope attached to the neck. The nuns then proceeded to stomp and sit on the statue, and spit on it before eventually breaking it to pieces and throwing it into the garbage dump. Not only were these nuns ordered to destroy a holy image, but they were ordered to destroy an image that was consecrated by their own lineage masters: Trijang Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche. Ironically, these nuns continued to live and study in their nunnery which was founded by these lineage masters. They continued to study Buddhist philosophy as composed and expounded by these masters, and engaged in meditational practices as taught and initiated by the very same lineage masters they had just disparaged. In Buddhism, desecrating any teaching, practice or deity transmitted by any lineage master will not lead to any results in our studies and meditational practices. Hence, the CTA destroyed the spiritual potential of these nuns by making them disparage their teachers through these heinous acts. Some nuns explained in the video below that executors of the destruction acted solely on the basis that the instruction came from the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama’s Actions: Destroying the Gelugpa, Kagyu and Nyingma Traditions
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From the images of Dorje Shugden, the CTA progressed to destroying images of lineage masters who are renowned Dorje Shugden practitioners. The execution of the ban reached ludicrous heights when even pictures of His Holiness’ own tutor, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche was seen as a threat to the Dalai Lama’s life and the fulfilment of his wishes. The CTA’s threats led to discussions about removing Trijang Rinpoche’s throne from the main hall of Gaden Shartse Monastery where almost every monk had received a teaching, initiation or empowerment from this erudite master, known as ‘the teacher of teachers’ for the sheer number of people he had educated. It is said that the monasteries complied because the CTA threatened changes to the annual Great Prayer Festival. The effort to eradicate images of lineage masters reached such an extent where many Tibetans edited the customary photo of the Dalai Lama sitting with his two masters (Ling Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche). In a move reminiscent of Stalin, Trijang Rinpoche was replaced with another lama or altogether redacted. These Tibetans were afraid of being labelled a “Shugden worshipper” if others saw a photo of Trijang Rinpoche in their possession.
If there was really no ban, why was it necessary to remove the images of Dorje Shugden and the lineage masters who propitiate and propagate him in such a drastic manner?
Evidence 5: Signs Prohibiting Entry to Dorje Shugden Practitioners
Gone are the days that discriminatory signboards are permitted and tolerated, except in societies where segregation is encouraged and used as a tool of power and suppression. It is extremely unfortunate that the Tibetan community in India is a society where the freedom of worship is disallowed and signage promoting that agenda can be publicly displayed. Since 2008, it has been officially communicated that all who support the Dalai Lama in his ban on Dorje Shugden will be viewed favourably. Spurred on by such a promise, these communications have been translated into the widespread display of signs prohibiting Dorje Shugden practitioners from entering various public places like monasteries, as well as private spaces like retail outlets and grocery stores. The most appalling signs are those displayed at hospitals, denying access to medical assistance for Dorje Shugden devotees. When interviewed, those who dared to articulate their thoughts claimed that their decision to put up such signs was because of their faith in the Dalai Lama. According to them, the Dalai Lama is a living Buddha so these signs, being an enforcement of his rules, would please him. It boggles the mind that anyone can think such actions would please the mind of a real Buddha, especially when these actions cause disharmony, segregation and violence.
Some people might argue that the authorities and their supporters were not aware that these actions are wrong. However, if the Tibetan leadership and their supporters thought what they did was correct, then why were they offended when journalists captured footage of the discriminatory signboards? Why did they try to destroy this evidence? The leadership’s defensiveness clearly demonstrates that they know this ban is wrong, and the general public who helped execute this discrimination and stood by to watch also know it is wrong.
It is worrying to discover that this discrimination and segregation has spread to Tibetan Buddhist communities in other parts of the world. In Singapore, for example, Thekchen Choling has displayed signs proudly announcing that they do not practice Dorje Shugden, in accordance with the Dalai Lama’s wishes. By displaying such signs promoting suppression of Dorje Shugden practitioners, Thekchen Choling undermines the Singaporean government’s two principal commitments: to maintain a thriving economy based on good international relationships with its political and trade partners, and to keep its society stable and respectful of the various races and religious groups that make up their nation.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia (VBCM), the self-appointed police of Malaysian Buddhist organisations, distributes statements to divide Malaysian Buddhists. They promote the Tibetan leadership’s agenda against Dorje Shugden, despite knowing the Malaysian government is committed to establishing strong ties with China for the growth and welfare of their nation and people. Encouraging Tibetan Buddhist centres and practitioners to disrespect the policies of the local government is both secularly and spiritually incorrect.
Even Tibetans living in the United States and Europe, where freedom of religion and speech are social norms, are not protected from the strong undercurrent of threat to their safety because of their Dorje Shugden practice. This social injustice is very real and has given rise to establishments like the International Shugden Community (ISC) who travel to various parts of the world to raise awareness of Tibetans suffering under the ban through interviews and peaceful protests that capture international and media attention.
Exclusive Interview with Kelsang Ananda
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First-Hand Experience of the Dalai Lama’s Persecution
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Besides visible signboards in public spaces, registration forms associated to the various centres and events that pledge allegiance to the Tibetan leadership include a term in their conditions that Dorje Shugden practitioners are disqualified from attending their events.
If there was no ban, why would Tibetan Buddhist centres and practitioners all over the world know about this issue? And why would they, despite not being Tibetans themselves, override the freedoms afforded by their local governments in order to implement the discriminating, violent and uncompassionate policies of the Tibetan leadership? How can simple ‘advice’ spread like wildfire, burning and destroying everything and anything in its path? This is only plausible and logical because there is a ban on Dorje Shugden!
Evidence 6: Dorje Shugden Practitioners Are Denied Identification Documents
Every government has a responsibility towards its nation. In fact, a government that claims to be a democracy has the added responsibility to consider and implement policies, law and regulations that reflect the majority population’s voice.
Article 10 of Chapter 2 in the Tibetan Constitution clearly stipulates that “All religious denominations are equal before the law” and “Every Tibetan shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. It therefore means that it is the Tibetan leadership’s duty to uphold this right of its people. Additionally, it also means that any religious ban contradicts the constitution, which in turn means that any individual or entity that autonomously executes a ban is considered to have breached the constitution. Hence, the “advice” prohibiting Dorje Shugden’s practice executed through various policies, rules and small-print “Terms & Conditions” is without doubt a breach of the constitution.
Amongst the many breaches to religious freedom by the CTA, the cruellest is that which denies Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners possession of legal identification documents. Just take a moment to imagine that your identity card, driver’s licence or passport has been revoked, with no option to apply for a replacement. What becomes of you, especially since you are a refugee and are therefore without legal recourse or any other means of formally identifying yourself? You literally become a “nobody”, belonging to nowhere and having no lawful possession of assets and properties. This is a common dilemma amongst Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners who find themselves in a situation where they do not have any legal status or rights.
As refugees in India, Tibetans are not entitled to hold Indian passports unless they become Indian citizens. Clinging to the hope they will one day be able to return to Tibet, most are extremely reluctant to do this. Hence, their travel document is a makeshift paper commonly known as the Yellow Book that is issued by the Indian authorities. To acquire a Yellow Book, the applicant must first obtain a “Letter of No Objection” from Tibetan authorities. Only with the letter can their Yellow Book application be submitted to the Indian authorities for processing which can take at least six months. The catch for Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners however, is that applicants must declare they are not Dorje Shugden practitioners to be eligible to apply for a “Letter of No Objection”.
Even the ordained community who left the secular world and its concerns are encumbered by the constant obstacles and difficulties from the CTA simply because they chose to continue their Dorje Shugden practice. The application of the Monastery Identity Card is only available to those who do not propitiate Dorje Shugden. This identity card is crucial for the sangha who wish to turn the Wheel of Dharma anywhere in the world. It is likened to a Dharma teaching licence. The very purpose of a monastery is to produce teachers who will disseminate the Buddha’s teachings to benefit all sentient beings. Stopping Dorje Shugden lamas from teaching is one of the biggest wrongs because it is not only stopping the lineage of the most erudite teachers of our time from flourishing, but it also completely contradicts the fundamental existence of Buddhism which is to encourage, empower and support the dissemination of the Dharma. Based on the law of cause and effect, this ban is creating the karma that obstructs our lineage lamas from manifesting their full potential.
If there is no ban on Dorje Shugden, why constantly single out Dorje Shugden propitiators for exclusion? If there is no ban, why is the requirement of non-propitiation included in the terms and conditions of so many official forms and documentation in the Tibetan bureaucracy? The answer to these questions is clear and simple: it is because there is a ban on Dorje Shugden practice.
Evidence 7: List of Practitioners
In 2014, the Tibetan leadership published on their official website a list of Tibetans who had protested against the ban, along with a photo of each individual and their personal details. The CTA denied that it was a hit list but it has been irrefutably established that such a list containing personal information without the individual’s consent is a breach of privacy laws. Moreover, considering the Tibetan leadership’s history of inciting and directing violence against their own people, such a list makes it easy and clear for the Dalai Lama’s supporters to identify who they wish to target next.
As was expected, the hit list was quickly circulated amongst the Tibetan public. The intention some Dalai Lama supporters have with the list was clearly captured in a document by The United Front of the Tibetan People. It was openly stated in this declaration that the 34 people who demonstrated against the CTA and the Dalai Lama must be “taught a lesson” using “strong and physical action”. This document also expresses to the readers that this hit list is a clarion call by the CTA for all Tibetans to fulfil their duty toward the Dalai Lama.
Although claims have been made that The United Front of the Tibetan People is a false entity established to create further chaos in the Dorje Shugden controversy, no official address was made by the Tibetan leadership to disqualify the statements made in the documents that were put into circulation. Hence, whether this organisation exists, the Tibetan leadership’s silence over the letter sent a strong message to Tibetans everywhere – that is, they approved of the letter and what it was directing Tibetans to do. The leadership’s silence also supported the fact that the document was published to have a detrimental impact on the safety and security of the people whose names and details were on their hit list. On the same note, whether or not the publication of names and related details of Tibetans who joined the demonstrations was intentional or not, the fact that actual violence and strong physical actions were taken and permitted to continue against Dorje Shugden practitioners is a clear indication of the CTA’s motivation.
See the links for the letter by The United Front of the Tibetan People:
- The United Front of the Tibetan People – page 1
- The United Front of the Tibetan People – page 2
- The United Front of the Tibetan People – page 3
See the links for list of Dorje Shugden practitioners published on their website:
- List of Dorje Shugden practitioners from the Central Tibetan Adminstation Website – page 1
- List of Dorje Shugden practitioners from the Central Tibetan Adminstation Website – page 2
- List of Dorje Shugden practitioners from the Central Tibetan Adminstation Website – page 3
- List of Dorje Shugden practitioners from the Central Tibetan Adminstation Website – page 4
The danger of letting people ‘get away with murder’ is that it gives the false impression that they are above the law. By their actions, the Tibetan leaders seem to believe that they can disregard the Tibetan constitution and breach the freedom to worship of its people. This disregard towards the constitution and regulations will only spread; if the leaders can behave in such a lawless manner, without any accountability, then the people can behave in the same manner too. This was recently reflected in Sera Monastery’s decision to introduce a new requirement for the monks to wear a badge as a declaration that they are not Dorje Shugden practitioners. Although this is not exactly a hit list, this new identification system makes every monk who does not wear the badge a glaring target for attacks. The badge is just a different tool with the same function and outcome. Instead of being a source of wisdom to its people, the Tibetan leadership stands by to watch their people persecute each other in an attempt to please their leaders.
This spiritual terrorism has also spreading beyond the Gelug lineage, as was clearly and eloquently expressed by the Karma Kagyu lama His Eminence Lodreu Rabsel Rinpoche in his open letter to the Dalai Lama.
The similarity in pattern and tactic that the Tibetan leadership demonstrates is glaringly obvious, when it comes to suppressing those they perceive to be ‘against’ them in any way. In brief, controversy arose in the Karma Kagyu lineage when two reincarnations of the Karmapa, who is the spiritual head of the sect was identified.
Traditionally, the Sharmapa line of reincarnations holds the authority to search, identify and confirm a Karmapa reincarnate. However, during the search for the 17th Karmapa, two candidates were identified: 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje who was recognised by the Sharmapa and Orgyen Trinley Dorje who was recognised by Tai Situ Rinpoche. Instead of resolving the issue as the King of Tibet, the Dalai Lama fuelled the problem by endorsing Orgyen Trinley Dorje, who was not the Sharmapa’s choice. Consequently, Trinley Thaye Dorje has faced obstacles in his work to turn the Wheel of Dharma. As expressed in the letter by Lodreu Rabsel Rinpoche, those who claim to be the Dalai Lama representatives used every means available, including intimidation, to prevent local people from attending Trinley Thaye Dorje’s teachings and initiations in Ladakh and again in Taiwan. These aggressors, who claimed to be acting on behalf of the Dalai Lama, also tried to tarnish the reputation of Trinley Thaye Dorje with unsupported accusations that he practices Dorje Shugden. Thanks to the Tibetan leadership, to be labelled a Dorje Shugden practitioner is now a slur and insult. Where is the religious freedom that they claim Dorje Shugden practitioners have?
Lodreu Rabsel Rinpoche also directly questioned the hypocrisy in His Holiness’ advocacy for religious tolerance and freedom when discrimination, segregation and attacks are afflicted on Tibetans who embrace a religious choice different from that of the Dalai Lama. The clarity, objectivity and honesty of Lodreu Rabsel Rinpoche’s writing reveal that the Karma Kagyu is yet another group who suffers under the domination of the Tibetan leadership. If we search deeper, the reaches of the CTA’s controlling grasp has also found its way into the Jonang and Drukpa Kagyu traditions. Hence there is an urgent need for this injustice to end immediately.
If there is no ban, why publish a list to expose those who are not conforming so as to direct violence and punishment towards them? If there is no ban, why introduce a badge system that visually divides the monks into those who follow the Dalai Lama and those who do not? Again, the only possible response is that there is a ban on Dorje Shugden.
Evidence 8: Violence Against Dorje Shugden Practitioners
One of the most brutal proofs of the ban on Dorje Shugden is the violence against the practitioners. If there is no ban, why is there constant effort to make a visible and clear distinction between those who practice Dorje Shugden and those who do not? If there is no ban, why and how did a society that was once united and peaceful become divided, disharmonious, violent and segregated?
Lay practitioners who rely on Dorje Shugden are attacked physically, have their properties destroyed and their homes looted. These are already poverty stricken individuals who cause no trouble but work hard to make an honest living and continue their spiritual path sincerely. Listening to the testimonials of Dorje Shugden practitioners is heart-breaking and thought-provoking because it is shocking that 100 fanatical Dalai Lama followers would come together and attack a single family, like the Thubtens, to the point that they had to flee their home. The Thubtens lost everything as they watched these invaders wreck their fridge, stone their television set, burn down their house. In moments, 35 years of hard work was destroyed by those who claim to represent the Tibetan leadership. If these violent attackers were in fact not CTA representatives, an official CTA representative should have spoken up to clarify the misrepresentation. However, not only has the CTA watched in silence as Tibetans have lost their homes, dignity and faith, but the leadership denies responsibility by insisting that there is no ban.
Sadly, the monastic community is not spared this violence and humiliation. On December 27, 2013 at 4am, when Gen Chonze (the elderly assistant to Trijang Rinpoche) was making water offerings in Trijang Ladrang (South India), he heard a loud bang on the gate. Assuming that they were practitioners coming to make prayers, Gen Chonze opened the gate, only to find five masked men armed with knives. These men barged in and attacked Gen Chonze who, at 84 years old, was powerless to fend off the attackers. Gen Chonze has resided and served Trijang Ladrang for over 60 years. A simple, quiet monk, Gen Chonze has no known enemies; the only reason he was attacked is because he practices Dorje Shugden. Even when this case was reported with images of Gen Chonze to prove the attack took place, the CTA insisted that there is no ban and Shugden people are not persecuted. Something is extremely wrong.
The wrong is so apparent that even China, an enemy that the Tibetan leadership accuses of attempting to suppress religious freedom and Tibetan culture, is passing laws to protect Dorje Shugden practitioners from their “elected” leaders. On January 20, 2016, a public notice announced that the Chinese law will take legal action against those who use religion as a means to cause trouble, with specific mention of the Dorje Shugden conflict. For China to intervene in this public and direct manner, it is evident that the Dorje Shugden conflict is no longer limited to issues of religious faith and freedom of worship. This controversy is merely a seed of CTA-style “democracy” that, if permitted to continue, can and will further fuel the Tibetan leadership’s reckless abuse of power. The increasingly blatant corruption of the CTA already manifested during the 2016 electoral campaign for Tibetan Sikyong (Prime Minister). The elections attracted domestic and international criticism for the high levels of manipulation, corruption and questionable management of electoral funds.
Extract from the Public Notice in Markham (January 20, 2016):
“In order to effectively protect Markham’s social stability, long term stability, overall stability, to further encourage Markham’s religious harmony, all Buddhist matters to progress smoothly, harmony between monasteries, according to the “Constitution of the People’s Republic of China”, “Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China”, “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Penalties for Administration of Public Security”, “Regulation on Religious Affairs”, and other laws and regulations, from today onwards, legal actions will be taken against those who commit ten types of violations below; for those using religion to cause trouble, especially those who use the conflict of the practice of Protector Dorje Shugden to incite religious discriminations, create social conflicts, destroy national unity, and attempt to split the motherland, regulations will be centralised and these actions that violate the laws will be severely cracked down, hence the special announcement…”
We learn that in this modern day, with the ever-expanding virtual space of the Internet, the power of speech is without boundary. The abuse of this power can turn it into a weapon that destroys lives. Cyber-bullying has become the new crime of the 21st Century, one that leads victims to experience mental and emotional trauma and for serious cases, suicide. Cyber-bullying is an online strategy applied by the CTA to terrorise Dorje Shugden practitioners all over the world. Bullies constantly post defamatory, humiliating and threatening comments on social media platforms against those who practice Dorje Shugden. H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche who has strong online presence is not exempt from these vulgarities. Upon closer examination, it is possible that the continuous attacks are from paid labour, as many are copy-and-pastes of the same comments and accusations. Furthermore, when approached for reasonable debate, these online attackers respond with name-calling and vulgarities, or disappear altogether. More often than not, the attacks are carried out using anonymous profiles. At its peak, there have been open death threats. When the CTA is not confronted with its evident abuse of the Internet, they develop a sense of invincibility that only escalates into greater vulgarities against Dorje Shugden practitioners online.
Death threats are common in Tibetan society, where people are encouraged to use violence against anyone that the leadership perceives as detractors. Read more here.
Why are anti-Dorje Shugden and pro-Dalai Lama groups constantly haunting the websites and social media accounts of Dorje Shugden lamas to spread negativities? What is the motivation behind these destructive actions? Read more here.
Evidence abounds to demonstrate the abhorrent behaviour of the Tibetan leadership’s supporters. Instead of protesting their leadership’s breach of the Tibetan Constitution, and pressuring their leadership to uphold the law, these supporters focus on attacking Dorje Shugden practitioners instead. So it is no surprise that the Tibetan leadership does nothing to hold these people accountable for their behaviour. Perhaps in the eyes of the government, these people are not breaking the law; the violence is not viewed as attacks but as upholding the government’s intentions.
France 24 Coverage of the Dorje Shugden Issue
Testimonies of Dorje Shugden practitioners who fled from their homes for safety from violent Dalai Lama supporters
Or view the video on the server at:
Understanding this, it would therefore be no surprise then that the Tibetan leadership does nothing to identify and apprehend offline attackers like those who attacked Gen Chonze. If it is the Tibetan leadership’s view that the ends justify the means, then it is reasonable to conclude that they recognise and advocate the ban and all resulting actions taken to enforce it, violent or otherwise.
Or perhaps this is all just a big misunderstanding? If so, then why is the Tibetan leadership refusing requests to have open discussions and respectful debates on this issue, to clear up said misunderstanding?
It is for this reason that those suffering the outrage of the ban experience a betrayal and pain far greater than that of the Chinese invasion. This ban strikes at the heart of Tibet, its people, the culture and the religion. It breaks the purity of the lineage that has been passed down from father to son, from master to student, and from generation to generation. When there was so much despair after the Chinese invasion, the Tibetans walked into exile with their heads held high because they believed they were protecting and upholding their tradition, religion and nation. The ban on Dorje Shugden is the greatest betrayal to this spirit and its executors are the real traitors of Tibet.
Evidence 9: Media Coverage & Demonstrations
The intense suffering arising from the ban on Dorje Shugden combined with the Tibetan leadership’s refusal for open discussion and communication forced a group of practitioners to try a new method to put an end to the ban: peaceful demonstrations. Dorje Shugden Religious and Charitable Society organised the first peaceful protests in India. They did so with the support of the Shugden Supporters Community, which was later called Western Shugden Society and then renamed the International Shugden Community.
Dalai Lama – Buddha of Compassion. Interview with a monk at peaceful demonstration.
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Since the very first protests, the demonstrations have grown in scale and impact as they captured the attention of international media outlets, from media agencies like Reuters to television news channels like Al-Jazeera and France 24, to online news platforms like those operated by the BBC.
After investigating the Dorje Shugden controversy, journalists have almost universally reported that there is a ban on Dorje Shugden, both by the definition of the word as well as by the actions taken by the Dalai Lama and his government to ostracise, segregate and reprimand those who do not conform to his demand and stop the practice. At the end of the coverage by France 24, for example, one of the reporters shared her discovery of the political side of the Dalai Lama that the common public is usually unaware of.
In essence, she said that the world knows of the Dalai Lama through his spiritual advice but he is also a political leader to the government in exile and about 100,000 Tibetan refugees in India. The reporter observed that the Dalai Lama took a political stance in relation to the Dorje Shugden issue because “instead of negotiating with them, he banned them” and forbid his people from associating with them. In other words, the Tibetan people had to choose between the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden. The reporter also captured the strong association that the Dalai Lama creates between Dorje Shugden practitioners and China which, upon her examination, she discovered there was little basis for amongst Tibetans in exile. In closing, the reporter confirms that it is the view of traditional Tibetans that it is completely taboo to challenge the authority of the Dalai Lama who is a living Buddha, and whose decision is a rule of law. She discovered for herself that anyone who goes against the Dalai Lama is automatically presumed a Chinese spy by default.
With the initial exposure given by credible media platforms, private materials like blogs and websites, as well as video teachings are becoming more available to shed light on the truth behind the Dorje Shugden controversy. One of the most comprehensive sources is the detailed sharing and teachings by H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche, titled “Dorje Shugden: My Side of the Story”.
Dorje Shugden, My Side of the Story (complete)
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Media coverage has created awareness about the Dorje Shugden controversy and shed light on the existence of a ban on Dorje Shugden. Despite the Tibetan leadership’s best efforts to insist on the contrary, people are now more aware than ever before of the existence of a ban, and of the suppression and violence that the Tibetan leadership directs against their own people.
One has to wonder why the Dalai Lama and Tibetan leadership have been so resistant in engaging in open dialogue with Dorje Shugden practitioners. After all, they have access to the largest pool of Tibetan Buddhist scholars and masters. If there is no ban, surely such a discussion would not be difficult to arrange and facilitate. Dorje Shugden practitioners have certainly made it clear on repeated occasions that they would be very interested in participating in such a debate.
Or perhaps the Tibetan leadership are reluctant to engage in such dialogue because to do so would prove, once and for all, that the demonstrations by Dorje Shugden practitioners from all over the world has basis. Maybe that is why this open forum or debate was never arranged, because not even the brightest and most eloquent debater would be able to refute the existence of an unjust ban on Dorje Shugden.
Evidence 10: Dorje Shugden Practitioners Are Officially Criminals
The world often forgets that the CTA has no borders since it does not govern a physical country. Hence, the Tibetan leadership may be emboldened to approach basic principles of governance with a greater degree of flippancy compared to governments ‘limited’ by having physical countries. These basic principles include the right to religious freedom and free speech. Since the Tibetan leadership are not limited by physical country, a ban or ‘advice’ issued by their political King (the Dalai Lama) and the enforcement of his ‘advice’ is similarly not limited by geographical boundaries.
If we take a step back, this is most frightening because this ‘law’ can be applied anywhere in the world where someone feels a sense of kinship with the Tibetans, thereby completely superseding the legal constitution of the host country. Thekchen Choling in Singapore is a perfect example of this phenomenon; the discrimination they impose against Dorje Shugden practitioners contradicts Singapore’s commitment to maintain a thriving economy based on good international relationships with its political and trade partners, as well as to protect national harmony by respecting the social diversity which comprises its nation.
As an administration, the official website of the CTA (like any other governmental entity) is as good as ‘law’ because it represents the vision, objectives, guiding principles and rules and regulations of the leadership. The website is the voice of the government. In the CTA’s case, their website has an entire page dedicated to the ‘Key Issues’ related to the practice of Dorje Shugden. If this were truly a minor practice involving only a few members of society, why would the CTA qualify it to be a ‘key issue’? Why dedicate an entire section of their website towards the suppression of their people’s faith? This page displays a host of official documents from almost 20 years of institutionalised persecution of Dorje Shugden practitioners that has been instigated by the CTA, a supposedly ‘democratic’ government. What other democratic nation in the world warns against this? There would be an uproar in the US if, for example, the Congress’ website had a section dedicated to discriminating against any aspect of American life.
Additionally, in the Tibetan Parliament’s Resolution that was published on March 17, 2014, the Dalai Lama is stated to have ‘never prohibited the practice although restrictions were imposed’. Normally, this would sound like a mild application of authority by those in power. However, as citizens of the 21st Century capable of logical reasoning, the question must be raised: when an entire webpage is dedicated to a ‘key issue’, is this mild treatment? If there is no prohibition of the practice, why are restrictions necessary? And if there is no prohibition of the practice, why the need for restrictions resulting in mass expulsions of monks from their monasteries? Is it mild treatment when these ‘restrictions’ result in a series of violent acts across the globe, as well as a level of discrimination that even restricts one’s freedom of movement and travel?
Global silence has given the CTA the liberty to loosely redefine regulations and the laws of every country in which the Tibetan diaspora are given refuge. Furthermore, although these ‘restrictions’ are intended to control Tibetans in exile all over the world, they are beginning to govern the actions of local societies such as that of the Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia and individual practitioners who claim to be Buddhist but are attacking and threatening the safety of Dorje Shugden practitioners online.
The online space is a dangerous one if people are permitted to incite and propagate violence. Click here to read a multitude of derogatory comments posted against Dorje Shugden practitioners.
Another contradiction in the CTA’s treatment of Dorje Shugden practitioners is the Parliamentary resolution passed on March 17, 2014 declaring Dorje Shugden practitioners to be criminals and Chinese pawns who have violated the law of karma by threatening the faith and the polity of Tibet. Despite invoking the law of karma to justify their treatment of Shugden practitioners, the CTA still adamantly insists that “the issue has nothing to do with religious freedom.”
And hypocritically, while the Tibetan leadership condemns reliance on Dorje Shugden as spirit worship, they find that it is acceptable for the Dalai Lama and his people to rely on Nechung, an unenlightened oath-bound spirit for his guidance on state matters. So how come the CTA who are guilty of the same so-called crime as Dorje Shugden practitioners, is not criminalised for the same violation? The double standard of the Tibetan leadership is a direct violation of non-partisanship on a secular level, and of the Buddhist principle of equanimity on a spiritual level. The biased persecution of this ‘minor’ practice by top-level Tibetan members of authority reveals clearly that this is not a minor problem. In fact, the extensive effort directed towards executing and maintaining the Dalai Lama’s advice shows that what we are dealing with is not mere restrictions but a full-fledged ban on Dorje Shugden.
While the voices of its own people are muffled and ignored, the CTA promotes the unsubstantiated rantings of individuals who degrade Dorje Shugden. Non-Tibetans who have no relevance to Tibetan culture, politics or even religion are given the space to voice their opinions through the CTA’s website, while Tibetans who want to exercise their freedom of religion in peace are ostracised and viewed as criminals. Hence, as long as someone supports their stance, they need not even be Tibetan in order for the Tibetan leadership to abandon their own people in favour of the words of foreigners. In this way, the opinions of non-Tibetans are prioritised over the pleas and requests of religious leaders such as Trijang Rinpoche and ordinary Tibetans.
Why would the CTA do such a thing unless individuals like these serve the CTA by executing and propagating the ban on Dorje Shugden? How come the opinion of a Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioner is less important to the opinion of a non-Tibetan, non-Dorje Shugden practitioner? It would seem that in the eyes of the Tibetan leadership, if you practice Dorje Shugden then you are not equal to other Tibetans. Whether a person is acting according to Buddhist principles or not, it should not matter as they are a citizen of Tibet and should be treated equally. It is not the job of the leadership to discriminate against their citizens on the basis of their faith; it is the job of the leadership to look beyond faith and afford equal treatment to all their people. There should be no rules or regulations against a person based on religion. All Tibetans should be treated equally regardless of their religion or lack of it.
Hence, it is established: There is a ban.
So, what is next?
In moving forward, a good place to start is to examine, reflect on and understand the real motivation behind the ban that is beginning to reveal itself with the passing of time and unfolding of events.
The Non-Purpose of The Ban
It’s not Humane, It’s not Dharmic, It’s Simply Nonsense
Unfortunately, even if we tried to tell ourselves otherwise, the ban is:
- Not going to extend the lifespan of the Dalai Lama
- Not going to free Tibet
- Not going to create a unified or inclusive school of Vajrayana Buddhism
In truth, if we look deeper, these were never the real reasons for the implementation of the ban from the very beginning.
Many people believe that the Dalai Lama is the emanation of an enlightened being – Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion. Enlightened beings are not bound by karma because they have, by definition, purified all karma. Hence, karma does not arise for the emanations of enlightened beings; they do not have karma which can manifest for them to experience harm and suffering since they have no karma at all.
Thus if we wish to believe that the Dalai Lama is an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, we cannot believe that the practice of an ‘evil spirit’ can affect him since he has no karma at all. Being that he is without karma, he would not have the karma for any ‘evil spirit’ to harm him. Furthermore, following the principle of karma, if we were to assume that the Dalai Lama could be affected by karma, the Dalai Lama’s lifespan is determined by his own actions and consequent karma. No spirit or even Buddha for that matter could change that.
If the practice of Dorje Shugden threatens the life of the Dalai Lama, the ban itself is certainly proving otherwise. Although the ban is intended to end the practice of Dorje Shugden, on hindsight, it is generating the opposite result. Today, more people than ever worship Dorje Shugden. Dorje Shugden is now on the altars of countless homes far beyond Tibet, including on American soil, across the European continent and in various parts of Asia. The Dalai Lama himself is a healthy 80-year old, vibrant and alert with no hints of illness. Therefore, the Dalai Lama’s claim that Dorje Shugden will shorten his life is proven wrong by the fact that he is 80 years old, which is an age above the average lifespan of his line of reincarnations. In fact, the Dalai Lama is expected to live up to 113 years old, according to his own prophetic dreams.
The claim that Dorje Shugden is a spirit that harms the Dalai Lama’s life is in itself a slap on the face of all other Dharma Protectors in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon. The claim implies that no other deity, Buddha or otherwise, is powerful enough to protect the Dalai Lama from a so-called spirit. If we have faith in the enlightened beings, then we should trust Setrap and Kache Marpo who have been Dharma Protectors for centuries. Would these emanations of Amitabha and Hayagriva respectively, share a mandala (divine abode) with Dorje Shugden if he were an evil spirit? As Dharma Protectors whose role is to support sincere practitioners to overcome obstacles and progress in their spiritual journey, would such enlightened beings allow Dharma practitioners to propitiate Dorje Shugden if he were a demon that harms the cause of a free Tibet?
On the contrary, Dorje Shugden has a very close and ancient association with Setrap and Kache Marpo with whom he shares the same mandala. The Sakya tradition propitiates all three protectors in their practice known as Gyalpo Sum. In the Gelug lineage, Dorje Shugden and Setrap are propitiated together in monthly prayers (kangsol) at the main monasteries such as Gaden Monastery. Hence if we challenge the practice of Dorje Shugden, we are demonstrating that we do not trust Setrap, Kache Marpo and our lineage masters’ clairvoyance, wisdom and commitment to serve the Dharma and its practitioners. As such, we are risking the opening of floodgates to discredit the major principles, rituals and teachings of our lineage.
In this way, claiming Dorje Shugden is a spirit who harms the Tibetan independence movement is an erroneous claim. If the Tibetans and their welfare are a priority for the Tibetan leadership, why would the leadership impose a ban that further divides their people who are already suffering greatly as a community in exile? To date, the persecution of Dorje Shugden practitioners has only created more schism and animosity amongst fellow Tibetans. Poisoning society from within can only weaken their position; it harms any leverage they may have for negotiations.
This in turn jeopardises the reputation and stature of their internationally prized spokesperson, the Dalai Lama, who is the sole reason world leaders, influential people and corporations support the Tibetan cause. The inhumane ban on Dorje Shugden practice discredits every word of peace, compassion and tolerance the Dalai Lama has ever preached. With international media exposure and intense circulation of online information regarding ban, the public is beginning to question the Dalai Lama on a global scale. Consequently, leaders of countries like Norway, United States of America and United Kingdom are shying away from making public appearances with His Holiness. By enforcing an illegal and groundless religious ban that has split the Buddhist world, the CTA is also helping China prove to the world that accusations against the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist are accurate.
Proponents of the Dorje Shugden ban also claim that he is sectarian and harmful to the reputation and growth of Buddhism. Besides the points presented above that reveal the inclusiveness of Dorje Shugden’s practice since its establishment amongst the Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug traditions, there are many examples illustrating that this is a non-sectarian practice. For example, Dorje Shugden’s reincarnation as Sakya Pandita and Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen played pivotal roles in the Sakya and Gelugpa sects. Moreover, the renowned teachers who propitiated Dorje Shugden before the ban included great lamas from various sects of Tibetan Buddhism. What is more damaging to Tibetan Buddhism is the hypocrisy of the Tibetan leadership that is evidenced on paper, video and photographs. What is truly sectarian are the policies that divide a once united, harmonious and peaceful community into a disintegrated society that cannot and will not interact with each other. The true destruction of Buddha’s teachings is when wisdom, compassion, tolerance and gratitude are replaced with animosity, fear, violence and broken samaya.
In truth and with all honesty, the excuses presented by the Tibetan leadership to justify the ban belittle the Dalai Lama and the Three Jewels. They diminish the power, stature and attainments of the Dalai Lama when they claim a so-called ‘mere spirit’ can be harmful to a Buddha. So, what could be the ulterior motive behind the ban on Dorje Shugden?
Considering more recent events and reflecting on the actions of the CTA, there are reasons with supporting evidence that prove the CTA is using Dorje Shugden as a scapegoat for their failures.
Failures of the CTA
Failure 1: No Freedom for Tibet and No More Funds
Despite large donations and sponsorship from various influential and wealthy individuals as well as corporates towards Tibet’s cause to regain sovereignty, there is literally no progress on this front. Not only have all talks with China stopped because they have proven to be futile and a waste of time and effort, China has openly declared that they will not consider granting Tibet its independence. Instead, China’s actions show their commitment to making Tibet prosperous, stable and safe. There must be some truth to this statement because even a close ally and former biographer of the Dalai Lama has returned to Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
Therefore, not only is an independent Tibet a distant child’s fantasy that is unlikely to become a reality, the whereabouts of the funds allocated for this purpose is being questioned. There is also an increase of accusations of fund mismanagement by Tibetans and international leaders like Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
Failure 2: No Freedom for Tibet and No Happy Tibetans
If you cannot make things better, then at least do not make it worst.
The CTA has not only failed to defend and sustain the welfare of Tibetans through insisting they live as refugees for almost 60 years, the CTA is personally making sure that the lives of Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners are insufferable. In addition to the various difficulties they face as refugees, Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners are denied the right to healthcare, possession of sufficient identification documents, religious freedom and freedom of speech by their own government. Unable to provide a country for its people, the CTA worsens the situation by dividing its people, instigating violence and vulgarity and violates the monastic community with politics through the Dorje Shugden ban.
Instead of pushing their domineering and assertive ways on its own people as observed in their execution of the Dorje Shugden ban, the CTA should apply this attitude towards securing a free Tibet or at least better living conditions for its people. The CTA’s ‘successful failure’ to negotiate with China over 60 long years makes it apparent that the CTA actually has no intention of freeing Tibet or providing a better quality of life for its people whose refugee status seems indefinite. As refugees who have no official long-term identification documents that are recognised internationally, the CTA retain complete control over Tibetans that reside in India. As a government without a country, land or significant public assets, all they have is their people. However, due to the deeply ingrained culture of serfdom, instead of earning the loyalty and devotion of the people through effort, the CTA strategized to imprison its people by fear. In addition to receiving almost no support from the Tibetan leadership, every Tibetan must contribute tax to the CTA through the Green Card system.
Although most Tibetans still hold the Dalai Lama in high esteem, the younger generation are expecting more from its government. The nostalgia and mysticism of ancient Tibet is lost as the educated young Tibetans are aware of the fundamental responsibilities of a worthy leadership. As young Tibetans witness the glaring failures of the CTA they are beginning to speak up to question and expose their leaders, which has so far only led to embarrassing situations for CTA representatives such as Penpa Tsering and Sikyong Lobsang Sangye.
Failure 3: The leadership are Court Jesters
When healthy patriotism exists, a nation stands together and looks beyond differences. However a leadership that does everything to kill patriotism causes the birth of a generation of Tibetans who seek to humiliate, chastise and expose their government. This is because there is little else they can do to an autocratic government that promotes suppression, demands loyalty and obedience instead of encouraging or valuing freedom of speech.
The latest in a long series of embarrassing situations for the CTA is a short video captured by an audience member during a trance session depicting CTA leaders Sikyong Lobsang Sangye and Penpa Tsering being scolded by Nechung and Tseringma via their oracles. The circulation of this video spread like wild fire amongst Tibetans. Instead of protecting their government, the Tibetan public is doing just the opposite and, sad to say for good reasons.
What is the significance of this? Tibetan youths have become disenchanted by the primitive and irresponsible use of spiritual customs by their government. This poses a potential risk of losing an ancient heritage as Tibet has one of the most potent and unbroken spiritual cultures in the world, which is a crucial contribution to our global archive of cultural and traditional treasures. However, the poor judgment and behavior of the CTA has made young Tibetans want to reduce and maybe even eliminate the influence of this previous deeply ingrained aspect of their cultural inheritance, potentially marking the extinction of another part of human heritage.
Dalai Lama’s oracle Goddess chastises Penpa Tsering and Sikyong Lobsang Sangye 2016
Or view the video on the server at:
Failure 4: The Dalai Lama is Not Smiling
Even the Dalai Lama himself has publicly addressed the misconduct of the CTA during his address at the opening ceremony of Men-Tse- Khang. The disregard the CTA and its leadership such as Penpa Tsering and Sikyong Lobsang Sangye have towards the Dalai Lama is reflected in their non-adherence to implementing policies that benefit the Tibetan public. In his address at the Centenary Celebrations of the Men-Tsee-Khang, His Holiness spoke about the leadership’s hypocrisy as he pointed to the poor healthcare services they are providing within the four walls of the medical centre while organising ‘grand’ ceremonies that do not contribute to the mission of Men-Tsee-Khang, which is to relieve some of the hardship and suffering of the community in exile.
On a deeper level, this grand opening ceremony reveals to His Holiness the true dangers of a governing body that prioritises image and reputation above the wellbeing of their people. The allocation of resources reflected in this supposedly simple celebration, also confirms suspicions of fund mismanagement that even the Dalai Lama is beginning to openly question.
Failures all round for the CTA. However, we will be no better than the likes of Lobsang Sangya and Penpa Tsering if we simply blame the suffering of Tibet and Dorje Shugden practitioners on the CTA. We need to take action. After all, the CTA could continue to remain in power despite its many failures because of the ‘reliable’ silence of bystanders. The lesson: not to remain silent and do the right thing. The immediate, reasonable and relatively achievable action to take would be to end the Dorje Shugden ban because the ban is the basis from which many other failures and suffering are based.
How to Help End this Ban?
As there is always a silver lining in every cloud, the good news about bans is that they are not written in stone. Hence, the more informal and temporary characteristic of a ban makes it comparatively easier for a ban to be lifted or removed…as long as sufficient and consistent effort is applied by united voices of humanity.
In understanding that the ban is very real and many people are suffering as a consequence, it is crucial to put an end to this ban because silence is a sign of acceptance. If left to its own accord, the recklessness, irresponsibility and relentlessness of a corrupt government will only escalate with time. As all things are interconnected, injustice and the lack of effort to end it will spread. This ban on Dorje Shugden has already taken root in America, Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia…basically anywhere where Tibetan Buddhism has a strong following, hence the urgent need for action to be taken.
This is a humble and passionate call for you to
“Don’t wait for the light, BE the light.”
~ H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche
When we clearly see how the ban is intricately connected to our wellbeing we will commit to lifting this ban for we realise that this is not about Dorje Shugden, Tibet, Buddhism or religion. It is ultimately about humanity: our innate nature to know right from wrong and our integrity and dignity to do the right thing.
Be the voice for those who are silenced
Dorje Shugden is an enlightened being whose purpose is to help sentient beings in an often chaotic and complicated world. Many people have suffered to preserve this practice for the generations to come. With greater understanding of Dorje Shugden and the ban, we ask that you voice your thoughts, share your questions and communicate your experiences to those who vowed to uphold human dignity and preserve basic human rights.
UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency)
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Help to Relieve the Suffering of the Sangha and the Monasteries
The pure lineage of Dorje Shugden and Lama Tsongkhapa depends on the monastic sangha, who live only to uphold and preserve this precious lineage. Through them, the Buddha’s teachings have survived and flourished to this day. Making offerings to monks is regarded as a highly meritorious and effective practice to draw positive energies into our lives.
Contributions will be allocated to the basic necessities such as food, clothing, medicines and Dharma texts for the ordained communities within the Dorje Shugden monasteries like Shar Gaden and Serpom, who suffer from a lack of sponsorship due to their ‘unclean’ status as Dorje Shugden practitioners. Click here to donate.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is there a ban?
Yes, there is a ban. The Dalai Lama has been captured on film, audio and print instructing the execution of the ban against those who practice Dorje Shugden. Since 1996, four resolutions have been passed by the Tibetan Parliament in exile urging Tibetans to support and enforce the ban against Dorje Shugden practitioners. Punishments include:
- Expulsion from the monasteries
- Forbidden possession of identification documents like a Yellow Pass (likened to a passport)
- Denying issuance of Monk Identification Card that legitimises a sangha member
- Discriminatory treatment where signs forbidding entry of Dorje Shugden practitioners into public spaces like schools, temples and restaurants were commonly displayed
- Memos and notices forcing employees to give up their practice of Dorje Shugden in order to keep their jobs were widely circulated
- People who protest against the ban are called traitors of Tibetan society and had their personal details listed in a hit list that was published
2. What is this conflict about?
The Dalai Lama prohibited the practice of Dorje Shugden on the basis that his worship will:
- Jeopardise any works towards the Tibetan cause
- Threaten the life of the Dalai Lama
- Contaminate the practice of pure Buddhadharma because Dorje Shugden is a demon or unenlightened spirit
The execution of the ban is done by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) based in Dharamsala, North India.
The points presented above have been consistently refuted through logic and debate by various schools of Dorje Shugden practitioners (Note: The points below are made with the assumption that Dorje Shugden is a spirit, for argument’s sake. In actuality, Dorje Shugden is an enlightened Dharma Protector):
- The Dalai Lama is a living Buddha, the emanation of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion). How could a spirit threaten the life of an enlightened being? Is this ban suggesting that the Dalai Lama is neither a living Buddha nor an emanation of Avalokiteshvara?
- It is said in the Dharma that any sangha who purely and completely upholds his or her vows are protected from all spiritual disturbances. Is this ban implying that His Holiness has not upheld his vows and hence can be disturbed and threatened by a spirit?
- If Dorje Shugden is demon worship and threatens the purity of the Buddhadharma, how could renowned Dorje Shugden practitioners like Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe reincarnate in perfect conditions to continue turning the Wheel of Dharma? In fact, it was the 14th Dalai Lama himself who recognised these reincarnations. Additionally, it is Lama Yeshe’s reincarnation, Lama Osel whose students and centres condemn Dorje Shugden, who is facing many obstacles to manifest the full potential of this lineage of incarnation. Meanwhile, Trijang Rinpoche who chose to remain committed to the lineage he received from his teacher is beginning the turn the Wheel of Dharma in America, Europe and Asia.
- It does not make sense that the leadership of a living Buddha of Compassion who is advised by State Oracle Nechung and Tseringma is unable to overcome the disturbances of one spirit to achieve Tibetan political goals
- Witnesses have also testified that it was the Dorje Shugden oracle who advised the Dalai Lama to immediately escape Tibet, even providing the escape route. If Dorje Shugden had wanted to harm Tibet’s cause, would it not be easier to just let Dalai Lama remain in Tibet during the troubles of 1959?
The Dalai Lama is a Living Buddha, the emanation of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion). How could a spirit threaten the life of an enlightened being? Is this ban suggesting that the Dalai Lama is neither a living Buddha nor an emanation of Avalokiteshvara?
3. If Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit, why can’t he be destroyed by one of those famous Tibetan rituals?
This is a very good point indeed. Tibetan Buddhism is renowned for deity practices and rituals that can effectively dispel and repel spirit disturbances, hauntings, black magic and possessions. In fact one of the most powerful rituals is the Fire Puja. Certain lamas such as the Mindroling Lamas are considered highly accomplished masters of this particular ritual.
When Dorje Shugden first arose as a Protector, many mistook him for a spirit due to the calamities that befell Tibet soon after. However, after various rituals including the famed Fire Puja was done and none of them had any effect on Dorje Shugden, it was clearly established and accepted by even the 5th Dalai Lama that Dorje Shugden is not a spirit but an enlightened Dharma Protector.
Today, almost 400 years later, no rituals have yet been able to dispel Dorje Shugden. This clearly reiterates the fact that Dorje Shugden is not a spirit.
4. How did the ban come about?
Since 1976, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has spoken on countless occasions against Dorje Shugden. In July 1996, the Central Tibetan Administration’s constitution was changed, without a referendum, discussion or notification, to include the ban on Dorje Shugden.
In a nutshell, the ban came about solely from the unquestioned and unchallenged instructions of the Dalai Lama, the designated King of Tibet.
5. How is the ban enforced?
The ban was propagated and enforced using the deep-rooted serfdom culture of traditional Tibet. Tapping into the people’s ingrained fear of the Dalai Lama and his government, unreasonable and unjustified demands could be made for the execution of the ban.
The execution started with the introduction of new policies, decrees and resolutions by the Private Office of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Parliament in exile. Thereafter, the ban was executed progressively with:
- Execution of the policies in government bodies. Civil service employees have to renounce Dorje Shugden as a practice in order to keep their jobs
- Forced swearing and signing out of monks at the monasteries
- Expulsion of Dorje Shugden monks. They were also denied food from the monastery kitchen, prohibited from attending teachings, initiation and empowerments simply because they practiced Dorje Shugden
- Slowly, Dorje Shugden practitioners were removed from all positions of authority such as the Supreme Court, the top three ranking positions of the monasteries (abbot, disciplinarian and lead chanter), etc.
- Riots, death threats and violent attacks were organised to scare Dorje Shugden practitioners into compliance
- Dorje Shugden practitioners are denied travel documents, identity cards, Monk Identification Cards, etc. so they are not legally recognised by law anywhere
- Dorje Shugden practitioners are prohibited from having any contact with non-Shugden practitioners or enter public places like schools, hospitals, restaurants, temples, etc.
- Non-Dorje Shugden practitioners who show any form of empathy towards Dorje Shugden practitioners are considered traitors to the Dalai Lama and CTA. Hence, restaurants, shops and hospitals are forbidden to serve Dorje Shugden practitioners
- The publication and display of a hit list with personal information of Shugden practitioners
The execution was initially concentrated in Tibetan societies all over the world but has since spread to places like Singapore and Malaysia through supporters of the CTA like Thekchen Choeling and Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia.
6. A lot of emphasis is put into lineage. What exactly is this and why does the ban affect lineage?
One of the most potent practices of Tibetan Buddhism, which is considered by some to be a world cultural heritage, is the sacred teacher-disciple relationship. For non-practitioners, this beautiful relationship is likened to the pure family bond between a young monk and his spiritual father. On a spiritual level, this relationship expands into the crucial principle of lineage master.
The lineage master endows teachings, empowerments and initiations with the essence and power to bestow attainments that eventually lead to enlightenment. And the method that has been used to preserve the authenticity of Vajrayana Buddhism is the transmission of an unbroken lineage of teachings passed down from spiritual father to son that can be traced back to the Buddhas.
The Dorje Shugden ban broke this sacred relationship as it forced students to disparage their teachers. The teaching thrones and images of Trijang Rinpoche, from whom almost every Gelug practitioner has received the Dharma, has been removed from prayers halls and Dharma centres who are particularly zealous about enforcing the ban. Dharma centres such as those founded by Lama Yeshe now actually sneer their teacher when they openly put down Dorje Shugden, knowing well that Lama Yeshe accredited all of his accomplishments to the assistance of his Protector.
When you discredit the source from which you receive the Dharma, then it is only logical that the Dharma from it will also be contaminated and unreliable. Additionally, if one teaching can be mistaken, there is always a possibility that other teachings disseminated could also be mistaken. This opens the floodgates of doubt and distrust.
In the case of the Dorje Shugden ban, this break in the lineage affects every Gelug practitioner because each would have directly or indirectly received a teaching, initiation or empowerment from Pabongka Rinpoche or Trijang Rinpoche who are strong and established practitioners and promoters of the Dorje Shugden practice. So, if the teachers who gave you the Dharma have broken their refuge vows by propitiating an evil spirit, then all the teachings they disseminate will have no power to grant attainments since the teachers themselves are no longer even Buddhist.
7. Many centres disparage their teachers from whom they learned everything. Why would these centres do such a thing?
In summary, the motivation is secular in nature and executed at the expense of human rights of both lay and ordained Dorje Shugden practitioners. Some reasons some centres are willing to break the teacher-disciple bond include:
- To avoid attacks from the Tibetan leadership
- To avoid attacks from the Tibetan public that can distract and hinder the centre’s or the teacher’s work
- To be politically correct and get in the good books of the Tibetan leadership
- To access resources and support from the Tibetan leadership for the continued survival of their centres
- To be associated to the Dalai Lama who is an international spiritual icon because this can open doors to stronger “networking”
8. How did the ban get so violent?
The ban was not introduced or implemented based on logic, reason or compassion. The ban was, and still is, fuelled by the emotional factor of the Tibetan public that is well known for being blindly faithful towards the Dalai Lama. In the various interviews and statements by enforcers and bystanders, all admit that they are acting on the ban simply because the Dalai Lama said so.
Additionally, the Tibetan leadership skilfully pulled at the heartstrings of its community in exile by stating that Dorje Shugden threatens the Tibetans’ political goals. The Tibetans have little to hold them together if not for their hope that one day they will return to their homeland. Hence, a threat to that is a direct threat to their dreams and purpose in life.
Not to mention, since 2008, the Dalai Lama openly praised “hard actions” against Dorje Shugden practitioners to ensure the worship is completely eliminated. By praising such actions, His Holiness encourages people to engage in them since they wish to please his mind. In fact, His Holiness empowers the ban enforcers to act using his name as authority. The general traditional Tibetan public is mostly uneducated and has limited exposure. Hence, they easily and blindly accept what the leadership says to be the law. It is not in their culture to question or think deeper when it comes to something the Dalai Lama has said.
9. Does the Dorje Shugden ban not constitute an illegal act against international human rights law?
Without doubt, the ban breaches basic human rights to religious freedom and freedom of speech. On a universal level, it contradicts Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which India is a signatory of. This is significant because the Tibetan leadership themselves are guests of India, and are therefore subject to all treaties and agreements that the Indian government signs.
In fact, as a leadership without a country, the Tibetan leadership have no right to their own separate judicial or legal system. Just as they are subject to all treaties that the Indian government signs, so too are they subject to all Indian laws and the ban on Dorje Shugden directly goes against the Indian Constitution that guarantees freedom of worship. Hence, in enforcing the ban, the Tibetan leadership breaches human rights on a national level by failing to respect and adhere to the constitution of their host country.
Additionally, this ban also contradicts the Tibetan Constitution itself where it is clearly stated in Article 10 of Chapter 2 that “All religious denominations are equal before the law. Every Tibetan shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. The ban therefore contravenes laws on many levels. Repeated prompts to the Tibetan leadership for them to end the ban, which is being enforced illegally, have gone unheeded.
The fact that the ban can continue and no authority is able to put an end to this atrocity is baffling. Questions must be raised about the progress of human civilisation when law enforcement turns a blind eye on a group of people who are blatantly flouting the law.
When they disrespect laws on religious freedom, who is to say it will not escalate into a disrespect for other laws like fraud or even murder? Hence, the need for devoted efforts by individuals like Tsem Rinpoche and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso to create awareness of this injustice and enrol support to pressure the Tibetan leadership into lifting this ban.
10. Now that the ban has been implemented for 20 years, is there any progress towards the Tibetans accomplishing their political aims?
Any observer with a firm grasp of Sino-Tibetan relationships can see that no progress has been made towards achieving any of the Tibetans’ political goals. While the Tibetan leadership was busy creating disharmony, division and bloodshed within their society, China rose to become a world superpower that is influential politically, economically and socially. Not only are world leaders in America, Europe and others parts of Asia enthusiastic to build good relations with China, but now they even try to avoid offending China in any way.
Hence, when China declared that it will never return sovereignty or autonomy of Tibet to the Dalai Lama and his administration, nobody publicly questioned or challenged this decision. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government have been requesting the world for decades, to pressure China into dialogue. Empty promises and ineffectual resolutions have been passed by many politicians, with no effect.
The fact of the matter is no one wants to offend China, and no one feels strongly enough about the Tibetan cause to risk offending China and therefore risk their own trade relationships. It is the incompetence of the CTA in failing to build relationships with politicians, such that these relationships compel influential leaders to speak up on behalf of the Tibetans. It is for this reason that many feel strongly that the ban on Dorje Shugden was a diversion and scapegoat for the failures of the Tibetan leadership and if in fact there was ever any truth in the claim that Dorje Shugden worship hinders the accomplishment of the Tibetan cause.
11. What are the key consequences of the ban on Dorje Shugden?
- Monks who lost their home and spiritual family when they were expelled by the hundreds through the swearing out and signing out campaigns
- The Tibetan community-in-exile is divided as trust amongst them is replaced by hatred, anger and violence. Even family ties are brutally broken in the name of the Dalai Lama
- The lineage of the teachings are broken and hence do not have the power to bestow attainments, which are essential for spiritual awakening
- The distinction between politics and religion in the Gelug lineage is blurred with long-term damage because fundamental principles of the tradition like lineage masters have been discredited by the ban
- Tibetan leadership has not been held accountable for such wrongdoings, thus giving rise to the perception that they can continue to do as they please. This is reflected in the recent Tibetan election where candidacy selection was manipulated and fund allocation was shrouded by suspicion of mismanagement
- Permitting the ban on Dorje Shugden is setting precedence and indirectly giving consent to breach of rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech
- The Tibetan leadership is imposing their influence in other lineages such as the Karma Kagyu sect, as eloquently expressed by H.E. Lodreu Rabsel Rinpoche. The Drukpa Kagyu and the Sakya lineages are not exempt from the Tibetan leadership’s discrimination. His Holiness also freely prescribes “advice” to Burmese Buddhists monks to end the violence in their communities, when discrimination, segregation and breached human rights of his own people are not addressed and resolved
- Degeneration of humanity because politics becomes an accepted justification to attack helpless and unarmed victims such as Gen Chonze
12. How would the ban on Dorje Shugden impact Buddhism as a whole?
Buddhism is a school of faith that has gained growing interest and a following because it is viewed as a way of life instead of an institutionalised religion. Practitioners are respectfully given the freedom to study, understand and apply. The principles of karma, compassion, mind training and impermanence are all very logical and relatable in this global era of the 21st Century.
However, the ban on Dorje Shugden totally contradicts these fundamentals of the Buddha’s teachings. The hypocrisy of those with authority such as the Dalai Lama would therefore cause many to doubt the teachings. A form of cognitive dissonance arises from the idea that the ban on Dorje Shugden could be so violently enforced and promoted by someone who travels the world touting the importance of peace, compassion and universal responsibility.
Furthermore, Buddhism has been very much respected for having kept away from politics and internal fighting for power and material gains. The Dorje Shugden ban has caused bloodshed, violence, fight for power and grasping for material gains. This scenario will inevitably raise doubts in the purity and reliability of the teachings and practices.
For people who would benefit from the teachings, but thus develop disgust or aversion as a result of hearing about the ban, the ban therefore has a detrimental effect on people’s minds and potential to realise happiness.
Appendix 1: Iconography of Dorje Shugden
Appendix 2: Basic Sadhana Texts for the Practice of Dorje Shugden
- Click here to view the Diamond Path, A Daily Sadhana of Dorje Shugden.
- Click here to view the Gyenze Dorje Shugden practice, to increase life, merits and wisdom.
- Click here to view the Wangze Dorje Shugden practice, for power and influence.
- Click here to view the Trakze Dorje Shugden practice, to dispel black magic and spirit harm.
Appendix 3: A Line of Illustrious Lamas who Propitiate & Propogate Dorje Shugden
Appedix 4: Glossary
For more interesting information:
- H.E. the 25th Tsem Tulku Rinpoche’s Biography
- Karma Kagyu’s Lodreu Rabsel Rinpoche asks the Dalai Lama for Religious Freedom
- Is This True Religious Freedom?
- Tibetan refugee youth speaking up
- Fantastic NEW Dorje Shugden website launched!!
- When Reuters becomes a tool of oppression
- Badge of Shame
- Markham makes it illegal to ban Dorje Shugden
- The Dalai Lama Speaks Clearly About the Dorje Shugden Ban
- Dear Dalai Lama, please read this
- Updated: Dorje Shugden Teaching Videos
- Why so rude?
- My plea to His Holiness the Dalai Lama
- Dorje Shugden: My side of the story
- To Sum It Up
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