The Dalai Lama Speaks Clearly About the Dorje Shugden Ban
Since 1996, Dorje Shugden practitioners have been suppressed, marginalised and ostracised as a result of their faith, practice and refusal to give up Dorje Shugden as their Dharma Protector. The ban was formalised and made official with the passing of three resolutions in the Tibetan Parliament which stated clearly the Tibetan leadership’s reasons for discouraging and banning the practice.
As a result, over the last 19 years, thousands of signs, memos and notifications have been disseminated throughout the Tibetan settlements banning Dorje Shugden practitioners. Some of these memos and signs even go so far as to identify Shugden practitioners so that violence may be directed against them.
Despite such overwhelming evidence that there is a ban on Dorje Shugden practice, many supporters of the Tibetan leadership continue to insist that there is no ban. Their insistence contradicts videos like this where His Holiness the Dalai Lama declares that monks who refuse to give up their practice of Dorje Shugden should be expelled from their monasteries.
Or view the video on the server at:
At the time this video above was filmed in Drepung Monastery in 2008, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was still the spiritual and secular leader of Tibet. Speaking in such a capacity, he was directing the monasteries to expel and make homeless hundreds of monks who continued to rely on Dorje Shugden. His Holiness is very clear in this video; if people do not give up the practice, by the order of the Dalai Lama, they should be expelled from their monasteries.
The video also shows that throughout the years, His Holiness has been inconsistent in his speeches about how to treat Dorje Shugden practitioners. In some speeches, His Holiness calls for an outright expulsion of monks from the monastery because there is a ban on the practice. In other speeches, His Holiness says it is just encouragement to give up the practice.
If it’s just advice and encouragement, then it implies there is choice whether people want to keep the practice or not. Since there is a choice, there is no need for His Holiness to keep advising against Dorje Shugden again and again; after expressing his advice, His Holiness should leave the choice up to everyone.
And if it’s just advice, and there is no ban on Dorje Shugden, why do the monks need to be expelled from the monasteries? Why are they not allowed to stay with their teachers and friends whom they have lived and practised with for hundreds of years, without any problem?
If there is no ban on Dorje Shugden, and it is just encouragement, does this mean that the monasteries are free to invite the expelled monks back into the fold since they (the monastic administration) are therefore not necessarily bound by the Tibetan leadership’s advice?
Despite the inconsistencies in His Holiness’ speeches, the overall theme is clear – give up Dorje Shugden’s practice. This is not the first time that His Holiness has made clear his feelings regarding Dorje Shugden and the practice. In another video filmed for Swiss TV, His Holiness the Dalai Lama says that his teachers were wrong for practising and propagating the practice of Dorje Shugden.
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Dorje Shugden has been a Dharma Protector for 400 years, relied upon by countless attained masters, for example His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche and His Holiness Ling Rinpoche, both of whom were the Dalai Lama’s tutors.
Although hundreds, if not thousands, of attained lamas have taught about Dorje Shugden’s enlightened nature, His Holiness the Dalai Lama in this video is saying that all of these great masters are wrong in their knowledge, and only the Dalai Lama is correct in the matter.
Is it possible that 400 years’ worth of attained beings could be wrong on this matter but faultless in all other ways? How can erudite scholars and eminent teachers who are qualified to lead people to Buddhahood, be correct on everything else and be wrong about Dorje Shugden? Is His Holiness really saying that 400 years of Buddhist masters were engaged in and propagating spirit worship? That his own teachers were involved in spirit worship and even he himself, the Dalai Lama, was engaged in spirit worship for over 30 years?
How can such masters who are regarded as Buddhas with full clairvoyance be correct on everything else, and be wrong about Dorje Shugden? And how can ONLY His Holiness the Dalai Lama be correct about Dorje Shugden, and all of these other masters are wrong? Surely if they could be wrong in this, then His Holiness too could also manifest mistakes in some things, for example the ban on Dorje Shugden.
We should examine His Holiness’ declaration that his gurus are wrong according to the 50 Stanzas of Guru Devotion, the seminal text on guru devotion composed by the great Indian pandit Ashvagosha:
24. (A disciple) having great sense should obey the words of his Guru joyfully and with enthusiasm. If you lack the knowledge or ability (to do what he says), explain in (polite) words why you cannot (comply).
Just because His Holiness the Dalai Lama disagrees with the practice of Dorje Shugden and does not wish to continue with the practice himself, other people should not be obliged or required to comply with his decision.
For thousands of people His Holiness advises to give up the practice of Dorje Shugden, these people have received direct instructions from their own teachers to rely on Dorje Shugden. It is not right or ethical for any teacher to override the instructions of another teacher; it is not right or ethical for His Holiness to override the instructions other people have received from their teachers.
16. (If from a lack of awareness you have shown disrespect) to your Guru, reverently present an offering to him and seek his forgiveness. Then in the future such harms and plagues will not befall you.
In saying that his teachers are wrong, His Holiness the Dalai Lama opens the possibility that other teachings that his tutors Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Ling Rinpoche gave to him are also incorrect. In that case, what is right and what is wrong that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is teaching everyone today? Perhaps some of the other teachings that His Holiness the Dalai Lama transmits to his students today, which he received from Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche, are also mistaken.
If we create the view that our teacher is wrong, then we also open up the doors for our gurus to be wrong in many other things. If that is the case, the whole basis for guru devotion is gone because what other things can our teachers also be wrong in?
Guru devotion and never disparaging our teachers is not a fanatical or archaic practice that should be done away with. As you study Buddhism further, there are deeper reasons for this and it is very important to practise this especially within the tantric practices which is the highest vehicle to Buddhahood. We should not be selective and choose based on our personal convenience what the ancient masters have written clearly that we should and should not do.
According to the guidelines composed by the Indian pandit Ashvagosha for sutric and tantric practitioners, we should never disparage, criticise or say our guru is wrong. By His Holiness the Dalai Lama clearly saying that all previous gurus are wrong and he is correct, the Dalai Lama is breaking an ancient, yet still relevant, Buddhist tantric code of never showing disrespect to our gurus. This code includes never saying our guru is wrong. When we say our guru is wrong as His Holiness the Dalai Lama here says about Trijang Rinpoche, then he decreases everyone’s faith in Trijang Rinpoche.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama also makes everyone decrease their faith in him. It makes people wonder, if other teachers can be wrong, then His Holiness the Dalai Lama can also manifest being wrong too. And if His Holiness the Dalai Lama can also manifest being wrong too then due to this manifestation, we can say that his view of Dorje Shugden’s practice is also wrong.
15. Therefore, exert yourself wholeheartedly never to belittle your Tantric Master who makes no display of his great wisdom and virtues.
The pandit and erudite master Ashvagosha here says we should never belittle our Tantric Master. His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, one of the Dalai Lama’s tutors, has conferred countless initiations of the four classes of tantra to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is therefore without a doubt that His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche is His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s Tantric Master.
Dorje Shugden was the heart Protector of His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche throughout his life, and Trijang Rinpoche diligently practised and relied upon Dorje Shugden. Trijang Rinpoche composed an extremely comprehensive volume about Dorje Shugden, covering everything about Dorje Shugden, his background, nature and practice. And Trijang Rinpoche, the teacher of teachers, also advised and instructed his thousands of disciples (inclusive of erudite masters, tulkus, geshes and students) to practise Dorje Shugden.
So if His Holiness the Dalai Lama is saying his gurus are wrong, as can clearly be seen in the video above, would that not constitute belittling his Tantric Master, which His Holiness the Dalai Lama is manifesting? How then can His Holiness the Dalai Lama say something like this about his teacher, yet still expect us to respect his decisions regarding Dorje Shugden?
To this day, Dorje Shugden practitioners continue to be abused, belittled, ostracised and violently discriminated against. They are denied the treatment at clinics and hospitals in the Tibetan settlements, barred from shops and restaurants, and forbidden from holding any position in the Tibetan civil service. Their children are blacklisted and bullied at school. Shugden practitioners are shunned by their family and relatives; in the community, they are treated as pariahs.
Contrast this to, for example, an immigrant in the United States or United Kingdom. Once naturalised as a citizen, they are treated exactly the same as people born in the USA or UK. They are afforded the same rights and viewed as American or British; they are not viewed nor treated as immigrants. Their children are not viewed as immigrants or outsiders, and can ascend to the highest offices of the land, even becoming President of the United States or Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
The Tibetan leadership wants Dorje Shugden practitioners to respect the Dalai Lama. They want Tibetan society to be united, and for Dorje Shugden practitioners to join in protests, events and activities in support of the Tibetan cause. But the same leadership that expects Dorje Shugden practitioners to be loyal to the Dalai Lama and Tibet, are the same leadership who actively discriminate against Shugden practitioners. They institutionalise the discrimination and abuse of Dorje Shugden practitioners by enshrining it within their own Tibetan constitution.
And when Dorje Shugden practitioners supposedly receive support from China, the Tibetan community complain and accuse them of being traitors. But it was their ostracisation and marginalisation that drove Shugden practitioners in that direction to begin with! It was the Tibetan leadership’s discrimination that isolated Dorje Shugden worshipers, and prevented them from assimilating with Tibetan society, and supposedly pushed Dorje Shugden practitioners in the direction of alleged Chinese support! Ironically, China being an atheist government fully gives religious freedom and supports the practice of Dorje Shugden, saying it is a private affair.
Considering all of this, Shugden practitioners have very little incentive to give up their Dharma Protector practice. If the Tibetan leadership want Shugden practitioners to fully assimilate into Tibetan society, and to comply with everything the Tibetan leadership expects of the Tibetans, then the leadership must view Dorje Shugden practitioners as Tibetans with full-fledged rights, regardless of their faith or beliefs. They must grant the same rights and privileges to Shugden practitioners that all other Tibetans receive, whether they are Tibetan Buddhist, Bön practitioners, Jonangpas or Tibetan Muslims.
Despite videos like these where His Holiness is insistent that there is a ban on Dorje Shugden, there are people who continue to insist there is no ban. For something as significant as a ban on religious practice that removes people’s freedoms, everyone should be clear on it. The mixed reaction towards the ban on Dorje Shugden reflects the Tibetan leadership’s intent to confuse their people and to send out inconsistent messages. These messages are inconsistent because the ban is illogical and as the reasons given for the ban are broken down, then the advice and reasons to give up the practice of course have to change from time to time.
The issue is not whether there is a ban or not. The real issue is whether people have the religious freedom to select whatever faith they wish. People’s faiths should be a personal matter and choice, and not one that is selected, dictated or governed by the state. From these videos, it is very clear to see that there is a ban on the practice of Dorje Shugden started by the Tibetan leadership, and it is not something that has been dreamt up and made up by the four million practitioners all over the world.
So in Tibetan society, the expectation for you to respect the leadership and the Dalai Lama is the same regardless of whether you are a Shugden practitioner or not. But there are different rules of law and treatment depending on your faith and religion – if you do not practise Shugden, you are accepted and receive all the “benefits” of being an accepted member of Tibetan society. I am not saying I do not like the Dalai Lama, which I do, but democratically-speaking, the citizens of the country are allowed to have opinions about their leaders. Democratically, they may or may not like their leaders, and they have every right to express their opinions. However, the leaders of every country must still respect their citizens equally and remain impartial. So a person may not like the Dalai Lama, a person may not agree with him, but His Holiness the Dalai Lama still has to like them. He still has to respect them because he is a leader and as a leader, he cannot be biased. In every democratic country, you can see millions of citizens who criticise their leaders or are not in agreement with their policies, but the leaders must still be impartial and must still treat those citizens equally with the citizens who do agree with their policies.
But this is not the case in Tibetan society. In Tibetan society, if you practise Dorje Shugden, you are not treated equally. If you practise Dorje Shugden, you must still support the Tibetan cause. You must still respect the leadership even though the leadership are the ones isolating you because of your choice of faith. So where is the incentive for Dorje Shugden practitioners to assimilate into Tibetan society? How do we assimilate when the Tibetan leadership does not allow it due to our religious choice of practising Dorje Shugden? I would like to again reiterate, leaders must care about and treat all of their citizens equally regardless of race, gender and religion but all citizens do not necessarily have to agree with everything their leaders say. That treatment of a leader to its citizens equally without having the citizens necessarily agreeing with the leadership is a mark of democracy, human rights and fair leadership. In other words in any democratic nation, the leaders must respect and treat all citizens equally regardless if the citizens agree with all policies and beliefs of the leadership. Should this not apply to Tibetan society also?
I am sorry if my words towards His Holiness the Dalai Lama is strong and seems disrespectful as I do not mean it to be. Please remember we have suffered the Dorje Shugden ban and segregation nearly for two decades now. We really would like the peaceful resolution to the ban against Dorje Shugden practitioners to manifest very soon.
Humbly and apologetically,
Together with Pastor Khong Jean Ai
For more interesting information:
- The Dorje Shugden category on my blog
- Can Tibetan Lamas Make Mistakes?
- They want to kill me
- Dorje Shugden people
- Will the Dalai Lama agree with this?
- Why can’t we be friends?
- Dorje Shugden: My side of the story (多杰雄登：我这方面的说法)
- To Sum It Up
- I pray to what I want to
- I will not be pulled into conflict
- Reuters Anti-Dorje Shugden Report Backfires
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