After watching the France24 TV contribution and reading the comments by Shugden followers who label again a respected Buddhist master, here Samdhong Rinpoche, as a liar just because he holds views which oppose Shugden followers’ understanding, I am somewhat sad about these wrong, misleading and non-Buddhist claims. Also seeing Kundeling Lama, one of my former teachers, who has never been recognized by HH the Dalai Lama as the authentic Kundeling Tulku but claims to be it with the support of Lama Gangchen and Dagom Rinpoche – who were also my past lamas – makes me feel very uncomfortable and sad. For 6 ½ years I followed Shugden Lamas and I was sucked into a dark swamp of self-deception, sectarianism, pride, elite-group thinking and heavy hostility towards HH the Dalai Lama by people who claimed to hold the “pure and stainless tradition of Je Tsongkhapa” – who himself never taught Shugden worship – I feel it is not correct to restrain to pass on some inside information I know.
In general I think it is nowadays common knowledge that Tibet has never been a Shangri-la.* There were power struggles, intrigues and violence, and certain aspects of Tibet’s history are as ordinary as the history of other countries too. On the other hand Tibet has raised a certain amount of highly developed and realised practitioners and Buddhist masters and vast amounts of profound Buddhist teachings, rooted in Indian Buddhism – insights – the Western world can now really enjoy or just make use of.** Although Tibetans have in general much respect to their spiritual masters, like Padmasambhava or the Dalai Lamas, they are also a folk with some radical tendencies. This has been stated by Dzogchen Rinpoche and other Tibetan Buddhist masters and it becomes more evident reading Tibetan history. Also H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama states in his autobiography Freedom in Exile (Dalai Lama 1990 : 9), “Tibetans are by nature quite aggressive people and quite warlike”. So those leading Tibet, like the Dalai Lamas – but also other former regents, are faced with many challenges from within Tibet and from outside Tibet.
Buddhism had a deep impact on the Tibetans, their life and culture. Sir Charles Bell states that since the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet, Tibetans have stopped to invade other countries. Though once a successful warrior nation, the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet and the practice of it led the Tibetans to “abandon their military conquests; they have never attacked any nation; indeed, they have been to unable to defend their own.” (Sir Charles Bell in “Portrait of a Dalai Lama“, 1987:34). Bell is of the opinion that
They experienced a real change of heart, which in Britain and Europe has been so often on the lips of men and women, but has not penetrated within. Buddhism has done for Tibet what Christianity, in spite of high moral code, has failed to do for the nations of Europe. It may be said that the European nations have always been too aggressive and warlike. But so were the Tibetans until they were converted to Buddhism.
Tibet gave up conquest and worldly power, not – as happens with most empires – for economic reasons or lack of military strength; but for religion, and religion only. (Bell 1987:34)
Events and history have to be put into proper perspective.
The 6th and 9th-12th Dalai Lamas had only a very short lives, living to just 9-24 years old and some assume that some of these incarnations were probably murdered. The 13th Dalai Lama can be depicted as a great reformer who tried to improve or modernize the country for the sake of the Tibetan people. He was opposed by many very conservative Gelug purists who claimed e.g. playing football is as bad as playing with the head of the Buddha. For these religious backward conservatives all things representing the old Tibet and its feudal system was something good, genuine and authentic and all reforms or modern thoughts or ideas were made by mara (the devil). When Gendun Cheophel wrote the first realistic account of Tibetan history, stopping all the tales of fantasy – like in Tibet 1000 stupas were built in one day – his book was forbidden. Gendun Choephel, one of the outstanding intellectuals of Tibet, was finally put into prison, not by the 13th Dalai Lama but by the aristocrats and their conservative Lamas. (See also Angry Monk) He was released from prison as the result of a general amnesty proclaimed in the name of the current 14th Dalai Lama, who was then fifteen years old. The 5th, 13th and the 14th Dalai Lama now being accused by Shugden followers of being the backward force of Tibet are rather the most outstanding and open leaders of a better, united and open Tibet and their activities were undermined and are still undermined by narrow minded Shugden fanatics. Reading the Dalai Lama’s works, biographies and the history of Tibet this is just an obvious fact although the Western Shugden Society tries to tell the world the opposite.
“[..] as Goldstein masterfully demonstrated—the reforms of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama were sacrificed to the selfish interests of ultraconservative monasteries in and around Lhasa.” (Dodin, Räther 2001: 398)
Some Shugden followers like Kundeling Lama or Geshe Kelsang Gyatso try to make their Western followers believe that all the problems in Tibet, including the Shugden issue, were or are due to the leadership of the Dalai Lamas, a view which is plain wrong. Lhasa’s influence in Tibet has never been very strong and the history and the culture, temper or lifestyle of Tibetans is far more complex than they suggest. Also the power structure in Tibet is far more complex, only few of the fourteen Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet and if they did then only for some years. For someone who is realistic and who knows the history of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism even a little it is impossible to put the blame on the Dalai Lamas rather such a person must acknowledge the skills and abilities of the Dalai Lamas, especially the 5th, 13th and 14th Dalai Lama to balance the power struggles in Tibet and to work hard for the welfare of the majority of the Tibetans.
According to Geshe Jampa Gyatso, an eminent Gelug scholar and Buddhist master, from Shugden’s inception 360 years ago the practice was used to oppose the Dalai Lamas’ activities. As the 5th and 13th Dalai Lamas were great reformers who tried to unite the different tribes in Tibet were local warlords ruled, the 14th Dalai Lama continues this heritage and is again opposed – even in the most dark age Tibet has ever been faced with – by Shugden lamas and their followers. I think HH the Dalai Lama does really his best and it will be hard not to acknowledge that he is one of the rare beings who holds very broad, open minded and differentiated views and that his actions are based on compassion and not self-interest. The many international honours and respect he receives are a testimony of this. (For a differentiated portray of the 14th Dalai Lama one may read Pico Iyer’s “The Open Road.”)
Norman claims that “It was in no small part due to the success of the Dorje Shugden movement that the Thirteenth [Dalai Lama] ultimately failed in his attempt not only to build a capable army but also to modernize Tibet.” (Norman 2008:351)
Some of the narrow minded Tibetan lamas have exported their narrow minded views in the West, as the master Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche has put it:
The lamas’ influence and dominance in Tibet have not only weakened many secular aspects of Tibetan life such as art, music and literature, in which the lamas have little interest, but in some cases degraded the Dharma as well. If it were not for Buddhism’s fundamental view of non-theism, the rule of the more narrow-minded lamas could be as tyrannical as that of the Taliban.
Despite their emphasis on an ecumenical attitude, many lamas encourage sectarianism by guarding their Tibetan disciples possessively and discouraging them from studying teachings from other traditions. Of course, they have a convenient excuse: their students will become too confused if they do this. Thus, many Tibetan students from one school have absolutely no idea of the other traditions; but that doesn’t seem to stop them slandering the others. As if it were not enough that they are doing this with Tibetans, the lamas have also coached Westerners in this sectarian game and they have been shockingly successful. They have also jealously guarded their Dharma centres in the West, although many are merely vehicles to generate financial support for the lamas and their monasteries back home. Supporting those Westerners who are genuinely pursuing the Dharma, or facilitating their studies, are not their primary interests. (East-West, West-East)
I think the complete issue is just a topic of cross-cultural-confusion and it should in no way imported to the West and it should be left to Tibetans to solve this problem as Deepak Thapa suggested. The Western media may rejoice to report something controversial but who does this help really?
Some Tibetan Lamas gave too quickly teachings and practice in the West without understanding our cultural background and Westerners’ capacity. On the other hand Westerners are/were as naive as babies regarding complex Tibetan Buddhism. On top of that some lamas, like Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, used this Shugden practice and the Guru-Yoga to make themselves powerful and to manipulate their students, and those students were naive enough to follow them, just due to a lack of understanding of the Dharma and a lack of courage to question things, based on blind faith, which is encouraged by those lamas. (This blog has already pointed out some of this controversial stuff.)
Monasticism and Western Society
Another issue in this cross-cultural confusion is about how monastic communities are run on the basis of the Vinaya. For those who understand this topic, there is no problem at all to accept, that when the majority of monastics disagrees with Shugden worship and they wish that it is not practised in their monasteries, and this wish is supported by the abbots and the highest spiritual authorities, like HH the Dalai Lama the highest Gelug Tulku, then it is correct to ban the Shugden-practice from the monasteries. This is not against any rule or democracy.
The monks who were finally expelled (only 180 from 5000 in Sera Monastery) now build their own monastery. NKT has its own place in the West since 1991, so why highlight that issue?
However watching the France24 contribution, that there are some shops who announce not to serve those monks I feel not comfortable either. I see this also as too radical. On the other hand every country and community has their difficulties to deal with and to accept fundamentalists and their stubborn views the more when they are involved in violence. (Prof. Thurman once named Shugden followers “the Taliban of Tibetan Buddhism”, I think this is a heavy exaggeration but it is also not completely untrue.) Because there are victims mainly on the side of Shugden opponents it may be understandable that some Tibetans overreact – although this is not nice. In the past Shugden followers boast about the deity’s (Shugden’s) power being able to kill 23 government officials. The Head of the School of Dialectics, a 70 year old monk, close to the Dalai Lama, living near his place and an opponent of Shugden, has been killed – according to Indian Police (Interpol has issued wanted notices) he and two of his students were killed by Shugden followers. Is it not understandable that in such a difficult time, maybe Tibet’s darkest age, some Tibetans overreact?
Some Monastic Rules Related to that Issue
Once a decision has been made, the monks should follow it, this is in their rules, if they do not, they can be expelled, this is also in their rules. Further if they start to denounce the monastic community for their decision, this again is against their individual rules.
To make this more clear here some explanations of the rules these monks should respect, and at the end the advice of the previous Ganden Tripa, and an insight about the bad or unfair games of some Shugden Lamas. Checking this information, every one can judge for themselves what is correct, and what is wrong or at least that it is not that easy to judge as initial information by Shugden followers may suggest.
The Gelug master Geshe Rabten’s commentary on some of the most important monk’s vows:
10. Causing a Division within the sangha
For example: In a community of monks like this one, which is living in harmony. If one likes one group of monks but dislikes another, and one has the motivation to split these apart, and with this motivation spreads rumours, causes strife and so on. In such a case the sangha will send an emissary, to this person, telling him that his actions are causing, or leading to, a division within the sangha, and that this is an immensely evil and harmful action, and that he must stop such action. If the person does not listen, and carries right on, then two or more times the sangha will again say that this really must stop. At the conclusion of this entire process, if he still continues with this action, then this remainder occurs. Note that there has to be four or more gelongs to constitute there being a sangha, and four or more on each side for a division to be made.
11. Siding with a schismatic
In this case there is already one gelong who is setting about causing a division in the sangha. Then another person having the same motivation comes along and helps him; he also wants to cause that division. The sangha would then come to him as described in the previous remainder, and tell him that he must not help this person who is engaged in the harmful action, that he must resist it by all means. Then if he does not heed this he is asked twice more, and at the conclusion of these appeals if, despite all the efforts of the sangha, he still continues with this action, then this remainder occurs.
Question: Is this division caused when the division is caused or when the offending person refuses to stop trying to cause the division?
Answer: The latter is the case, an actual division does not have to be caused.
Question: Is causing a division in the sangha as described, the same as one of the Heinous Crimes of a similar name?
Answer: No. In the case of the Heinous Crime, the division one causes is such that it causes one section of the sangha to actually become non-Buddhist, to engage in something that is completely contradictory the Teachings of the Buddha.
12. Causing a lay people to lose faith in the sangha.
This remainder is committed when a gelong’s behavior has been such that it causes laypeople to lose faith in the sangha, and when he has ignored the three-fold appeal made to him by the sangha, who ask him to turn away from such action. For example: if a group of gelongs are invited to a householder’s home for a meal or similar, and amongst these gelongs there is one who acts in a very improper way, e.g. drinking, fighting and so on, then the sangha would say to him that he must stop, because such behaviour will cause a lot of anger and disgust on the part of the householder, which could cause him to abuse the sangha and indulge in other unwholesome activities, thus being very unfortunate all round. So he is told that he must stop, but he continues in his degrading behaviour and he then might, out of his anger (due to being told off by other gelongs), say that the sangha were acting hatefully towards him, out of jealousy and so on. Then the sangha would come to him three times and ask him to cease such activity, if he refuses their three-fold appeal then the remainder would occur.
In the above case there is mentioned the whole process necessary for a remainder to be incurred, but if one has that motivation, and goes in that direction, preparing for it, then there are many other downfalls incurred.
In the sojong it says, which means “preparation for the preparation” for committing one of these. So there are many downfalls that can be incurred before one commits the actual remainder. The defeats and remainders are the heaviest of all the vows and this is the reason why, during sojong, we say “preparation for preparing to do so” whereas for the lower ones we just say “just preparing to do so,”. This is because the first two categories are heaviest. So if one is going to rob a householder in Vevey, if one is just sitting here having the motivation to do so, that is committing the downfall of preparation for that defeat. To take the train there is committing more downfalls, walking along the street in that direction, more downfalls are committed all the time. The reason for this is that such actions are preparations for committing a defeat.
Question: If a person commits a defeat, does he cease to be a gelong?
Answer: Actually, no. One continues to be a gelong, What is cut is being a pure gelong, that is finished, but one is still a gelong and there is still a degenerated vow. So now if having committed one of these defeats, if after having done so one thinks that “I am no longer a gelong, that I am the same as a layman,” and then goes on doing the same sort of thing, more and more, then one just goes on getting one downfall after another.
13. Not heeding advice about your offences.
This remainder occurs when a gelong commits a downfall which is been seen by another person, and then the other person, with a motivation of compassion tells him that he must desist from such action, that this is a downfall with negative results. The gelong who has committed the downfall replies, “You don’t have to tell me that, I am completely pure,” denying the downfall. So after that the sangha will come to this gelong and tell him that it is obvious that he has committed the downfall, and that he must not deny it. If, after this approach, he persists in his denial, telling the others to mind their own business, then he commits this remainder.
Going back to the defeat of taking that which is not given: there has to be a motivation like “I want to steal this.” Without this, if one sees an article and one believes it to be one’s own, whereas it really belongs to someone else, this defeat does not occur. Similarly, if one thinks an article does not belong to anyone, if it was just lying around, this defeat does not occur.
As Geshe Rinpoche said before, to some the vinaya — the sila — is joyous, whereas for others it is miserable. The reason for this has been explained already. The vinaya is something that we have already agreed to guard ourselves with.
The manner of purifying a remainder is rather difficult. Firstly it must be confessed openly before the sangha. Then the sangha gives the person a number of tasks to do, for a specific length of time. He is also taken out of his position of seniority amongst the sangha and put at the bottom. He remains there while he carries out his tasks, and after some time, if he has pleased the sangha, and they feel that he has carried out his task properly, then again he comes before then, there is then a particular ceremony that is gone through, and then the vow is purified. So this is generally the way but nowadays the custom is no longer in use, for a number of reasons, and what should be done is that one should apply the Four Opponent Powers and practice such things as Vajrasattva practice. So by applying these opponent powers and doing purification practices, the broken vow can be purified.
Question: What about purifying a defeat?
Answer: With regards to restoring a defeat, there is a similar process to be gone through. There are two cases.
• If one commits a defeat and then tells no one, then there is no restoring the vow.
• If one does disclose it, confess it before the sangha, then again the person is taken from his position in seniority, put at the bottom, given a certain amount of work to do for a specific period, and then after that he goes before the sangha and he offers up his vows, he disrobes, and then he takes on new vows. However the best method is the Four Opponent Powers, which have to be practiced from the heart, not just reciting a mantra or something. There is no evil that cannot be purified by the Four Opponent Powers.
Of course Geshe Kelsang didn’t install the Vinaya, so nobody of his followers know it. But the expelled Tibetan monks who work now together with the Western Shugden Society they know the Vinaya. From my point of view, they turn more and more into a very sad and destructive direction.
The previous (100th) Ganden Tripa (Head of the Geluga Order), Lobsang Nyingma Rinpoche, stated:
“If it [Shugden] were a real protector, it should protect the people. There may not be any protector such as this, which needs to be protected by the people. Is it proper to disturb the peace and harmony by causing conflicts, unleashing terror and shooting demeanous words in order to please the Dharmapala? Does this fulfill the wishes of our great masters? Try to analyze and contemplate on the teachings that had been taught in the Lamrim [stages of path], Lojong [training of mind] and other scriptural texts. Does devoting time in framing detrimental plots and committing degrading act, which seems no different from the act of attacking monasteries wielding swords and spears and draining the holy robes of the Buddha with blood, fulfill the wishes of our great masters?”
“The Mahayana teachings advocate an altruistic attitude of sacrificing few for the sake of many. Thus why is it not possible for one, who acclaims oneself to be a Mahayana, to stop worshipping these dubious gods and deities for the sake and benefit of the Tibetans in whole and for the well-being of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In the Vinaya [Buddhist code of discipline], it is held that since a controversial issue is settled by picking the mandatory twig by “accepting the voice of many by the few” the resolution should be accepted by all. As it has been supported by ninety five percent it would be wise and advisable for the rest five percent to stop worshipping the deity keeping in mind that there exists provisions such as the four Severe Punishments [Nan tur bzhi], the seven Expulsions [Gnas dbyung bdun] and the four Convictions [Grangs gzhug bzhi] in the Vinaya [Code of Discipline].”
My Personal Witness Report of the Background of some of the Activities of some Shugden Lamas
For the case that anybody should think to follow Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Kundeling Rinpoche, Gangchen Rinpoche or the Delhi Shugden Society would be something worthwhile, something one can put faith in, something trustworthy; I’ll give now some personal background information, I was a witness of:
When Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (GKG) came 2000 to Berlin to expel the NKT-representative Gen Kelsang Dechen, before his arrival, Gen Kelsang Dekyong and Gen Kelsang Kunsang gave us a letter. The letter was signed by GKG and claimed: she has stolen his centres, she has stolen his teachings, and concluded she is a very bad person and her actions are very bad. The style of the letter was quite similar to the “21st Century Buddhist Dictator” (pp. 11-14) manifest of WSS. It sounded rude, aggressive, deluded, and everyone of us, based on common sense, said, this letter is not from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, this letter can never be written by an enlightened being. However, the letter was from GKG. Due to the similarities of this letter (similar line of arguments and accusations), with the “21st Century Dictator” manifest, I think, the latter was also written by GKG.
Here some background information about other Shugden Lamas, I met personally and their interconnections and actions. I wish to do that, because, when I left NKT 2000, I thought I escaped my hellish nightmare, but I was in a second one with the same taste, but other Shugden Lamas. After 2 1/2 years with them, by distancing from them completely, I was able to renew my spiritual path and to escape that “mandala of deception”, I was in.
Gen Kelsang Dechen, who was expelled by Geshe Kelsang in July 2000, had contacts with three Shugden Lamas: Kundeling Rinpoche, Lama Gangchen Rinpoche and Tritul Rinpoche. It is true that Kundeling Rinpoche wanted to recognize her as a Tulku, before she was expelled by GKG. A major role in that played Sumati Arya, a nun (at that time) from the Netherlands. (Most may know her from the website sumatiarya.nl)
I read most of the correspondence regarding this tulku stuff, so I know what I say. However when GKG asked them, all three denied any involvement. (see http://info-buddhismus.de/tibetanletter.pdf) This is at least wrong from the point of view of Kundeling Lama, because I read his letters personally, he supported her Tulku recognition, and Sumati Arya confirmed, that the other two Lamas agreed as well in the tulku recognition. In Bangalore at the place of Kundeling lama a semi-enthronement of Dechen was performed and this was reported and we were shown the pictures of that event.
Alexander Berzin, whom we asked later about that, suggested to understand that Tulku recognition as an unfair tactic of those three against GKG, he added some Tibetans can be like this.
After GKG expelled Dechen, we went to Lama Gangchen Rinpoche in Italy. There we heard from Geshe Lobsang Pende, that GKG actions were not the actions of a master at all and that his good motivation he had in the past turned into something bad. Lama Gangchen said to Dechen, instead of doing Vajrasattva retreat, she should go on to teach Buddhism, because “now is the time”. Dechen was curious about two things: Lama Gangchen’s close Chinese relations and that he asked her at a late time to come to his room, and wore “Mahasiddha cloths”, which she found inappropriate in the presence of a nun. (see also Forceful evacuation in Gangchen Monastery and Allegiance to the Dalai Lama and those who “become rich by opposing splittism”)
Kundeling Lama is not recognized by HH the Dalai Lama, who is the spiritual authority to recognize the Kundeling tulku, therefore the TGIE refers to Kundeling Lama as a self-proclaimed Lama. The Dalai Lama recognized someone else as the Kundeling tulku. Kundeling Lama (Lobsang Yeshi) received his longlife prayer and tulku recognition etc. from Gangchen Rinpoche and Dagom Rinpoche. (see http://www.kundeling.net/tagtsha.htm) Kundeling Lama, who was introduced to us by GKG as “a good friend”, said about Geshe Kelsang Gyatso ‘he acts like the dictator Adolf Hitler’. Kundeling Lama told this personally to me during a telephone call I had with him in 2000 after Geshe Kelsang Gyatso had expelled Ani Dechen accusing her of making businesses with Kundeling Lama and stealing his NKT centres and students.
Kundeling refused later to recognize Dechen as a Tulku, until she shows more “devotion” to him. When Kundeling gave a Yamantaka empowerment in our place, immediately after he finished, and I and another monk brought him back to his room, he said, we should bring Dechen, now to him, because he is now her master, and he wants to give her some instructions, and how our place (a huge castle: “Schloss Sommerswalde“) should be run.
The monk and I were shocked… then Dechen and Kundeling had a one hour quarrel about this, and when he insisted she should follow him, she was clever enough to say: there are different ways to take empowerments, I mainly received blessings. By this she defended, that he could take control over her and our place. (However at the end he was victorious over her, because she needed someone who had a big name and title to support her activities.)
Sumati Arya, who said to me that she is so happy that she participated to help to “recognize a tulku”, insisted, I should write a leaflet about Dechen and naming her Her Holiness Dechen Tulku Rinpoche. Her reason: when Dechen goes to Taiwan, this will help her to collect money for our place. When I asked Dechen about this, she said: ‘Yes, Her Eminence, Her Excellence or Her Holiness’, this is correct. So I did as she said and published that flyer. (Very interesting to be a witness of how easy and for what purpose ‘Holinesses’ come into existence.., also Kundeling Lama has a visiting card starting with “His Holiness”.) The former Gen Dechen transformed into Her Holiness, and Kundeling Rinpoche himself named her in letters, Lama Dechen Rinpoche. After complaints by other Buddhists I removed Her Holiness, now she is just Lama Dechen Rinpoche.
In 2002 we went to Dagom Rinpoche, who was seen as the highest of the Shugden Lamas, he kindly gave us Novice and Gelong ordination respectively. And, he wrote the longlife prayer for Dechen, stating she is “like the pure white snow mountain” “the stainless upholder of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings” and the like, also composing a name mantra for her.
Dechen was just a participant of the NKT teacher training programme for some years and only via correspondence course, lacking any proper education, and having only very few transmissions. I was surprised to see how easy one becomes an upholder in the Gelug school.
Now about ‘Her Holiness Dechen Tulku Rinpoche': From my understanding and investigation (I was more then six years with her together) she seems to be a mentally sick person. She suffers attacks of aggressions, using harsh words, including naming her disciples “you arsehole”, sometimes she has visions the world is going down or she sees “the sun in the sky of Je Tsongkhapa”. Two psychologists I know suggested that she may suffer a narcissistic personality disorder syndrome. (I passed this information also to Kundeling Lama in the hope he would help her and her students.) The system she established I see as far more dangerous and more destructive than this of NKT. Different members of her group had to go to a psychiatric health clinic, because of their suffering arising from that setting. However, she claims, all problems of those persons come from “faults in the Guru reliance”. My personal understanding is that the psychic signs of GKG and Dechen are not very different. Both think they are something very special and more intelligent and genuine practitioners as the Dalai Lama viewing him as “possessed by a Mara” and a “destroyer of the pure Buddhadharma”. (A view Kundeling lama also holds.)
When I recognized the abuse and sufferings in Dechen’s environment, I phoned with Lama Gangchen’s assistant, Cosy, in Italy. She strongly rejected anything, warning me that I speak about holy masters and that I accumulate so much negative karma, and she urged me to stop speaking. Then I told her, quite strict: “Now you listen to me, what I have to say, and you report it to Lama Gangchen”. I told her some of the strange and crazy stories I witnessed and she was really touched and became very silent. Then she said: But never tell this to other persons, when they hear it they will believe that Dorje Shugden followers are like a cult. I said to her: Lama Gangchen is responsible for this, because he gave Dechen allowance to teach, he should help her and the community. She strongly rejected. She said he would not be responsible “if I give a weapon to my neighbour, and he shoots someone, this is his responsibility, not my responsibility”. We ended with the agreement, that she informs Lama Gangchen.
When a Tibetan monk, Gelong J.G., became himself a victim of Dechen’s cult system, he wrote to me in an email about her:
Why I said you she’s not a Lama and even she is not a Nun because she never ordained properly with pure lineage and she always lies with her students. “I am this I’m that, it’s so pure and I’m very high reincarnation.” You can forget about all this talk. I knew from last year in front of protector it is really reincarnation or not when we went to lama Gangchen’s birthday in Italy. She is really not a proper Dharma teacher and she’s using Dharma tales and deceiving people there in Germany. It is really pretty sad they are many good monks and nuns but they are all under control of her. I think you know better than me and it’s very long story and I must stop here. Many greetings and best wishes for you and all of our friends from G.
This Tibetan monk is a disciple of Dagom Rinpoche and Kundeling lama, and he said to me, he had to hide his image of the Dalai Lama, so that Kundeling Rinpoche does not take it away from him. When later Kundeling found a photo of the Dalai Lama Kundeling insisted J.G. should give it to him, but he refused. (From all I met, J.G. was the most honest and clear among all Shugden followers I have ever met. I cherish his honesty and attitudes very much.)
I asked J.G. to report the abuse of Dechen to Dagom Rinpoche, and I wrote personally also to Dagom Rinpoche. J.G. reported to me that Dagom Rinpoche said: “I will go to a distance to Dechen”. However, he didn’t go to a distance, he supported her, and ordained all her followers, until he passed away. He also visited her in Berlin, as well as Kundeling and Lama Gangchen do.
Moreover Dechen was recognized by the Delhi based Dorje Shugden Society as an authentic Lama and received the Je Tsongkhapa award in 2006.
»The Tsongkhapa Award is being conferred on the Lama and Geshe who has been effectively contributing on Gelug Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Also, the Award recognize the recipient as a qualified Gelugpa Master.« (see http://info-buddhismus.de/tsongkhapa_award_big.jpg)
Does this sound like a spiritual path, or lamas and organisations one should follow or can rely on?
Not for me.
I am sorry that I offend all those involved, but this bad game of those people denouncing His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a “Liar”, “Hypocrite” etc. turning the facts upside down, I think I should not support by being silent. All the verbal mud they throw, their accusations of “liar”, “hypocrisy”, “religious intolerance” and “persecution” seem to me to be just their own projections arisen from their own deluded mind and questionable actions, being unable to discriminate holy beings from wrong gurus.
I learned my lesson and I am deeply grateful to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was brave enough to make this Shugden-issue public and advising against it, this saved my spiritual lives.
I would not have said this in public without the basis of an actual public situation. I hope it contributes to get a better understanding of the background, and helps those misled to wake up.
I’ll conclude with some Dharma-quotes:
Dza Patrul Rinpoche in “Words of my perfect teacher”:
The Great Master of Oddiyana warns:
Not to examine the teacher
Is like drinking poison;
Not to examine the disciple
Is like leaping from a precipice.
You place your trust in your spiritual teacher for all your future lives. It is he who will teach you what to do and what not to do. If you encounter a false spiritual friend without examining him properly, you will be throwing away the possibility a person with faith has to accumulate merits for a whole lifetime, and the freedoms and advantages of the human existence, you have now obtained will be wasted. It is like being killed by a venomous serpent coiled beneath a tree that you approached, thinking what you saw was just the tree’s cool shadow.
By not examining a teacher with great care
The faithful waste their gathered merit.
Like taking for the shadow of a tree a vicious snake,
Beguiled, they lose the freedom they at last had found.
Prayers of Je Tsongkhapa (The Splendor of an Autumn Moon : The
Devotional Verse of Tsongkhapa):
May I be cared for by true spiritual friends,
filled with knowledge and insight,
sense stilled, minds controlled, loving, compassionate,
and with courage untiring in working for others.
May I never fall under sway
of false teachers and misleading friends
their flawed views of existence and nonexistence
well outside the Buddhas intention.
I pray that I listen insatiably
to countless teachings at the feet of a master,
single-handedly with logic unflawed,
prizing open scriptures’ meanings.
I pray that in no way I be misled
by unwholesome friends and deceiving Mara
but in care of true spiritual friends,
complete the enlightened way.
May I bring to the path praised by the Buddha
those lost and fallen onto wrong paths,
swayed by deluded teachers and misleading friends.
The head turned by dark forces
hinders experience of the joyful festival
that is the community of the Dharma life.
May I never encounter misleading friends,
in reality the cohorts of Mara.
Buddhist Ethics (Treasury of Knowledge) by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye
Avoiding Contrary, Harmful Companions
8.1 Obstructions of a harmful friend
“The harmful teacher is one of bad temperament, of little pure vision, great in dogmatism; he holds [his own view] as highest, praises himself, and denigrates others.”
In general, the nonspiritual teacher (mi-dge-ba’i bshes-gnyen) is a lama, teacher (mkhan-slob), dharma brother [or sister] (grogs-mched), and so forth—all those who are attached to the phenomena (snang) of this life, and who get involved in unvirtuous activity. Therefore, one must abandon the nonspiritual friend. In particular, although they have the manner of goodness in appearance, they cause you to be obstructed in your liberation.
The nonspiritual teacher has a bad temperament, little pure vision (dag-snang), is very dogmatic (phyogs-ris), holds as highest his view (lta-ba) as the only dharma, praises himself, slanders others, implicitly denigrates and rejects others’ systems (lugs) of dharma, and slanders the lama—the true wisdom teacher—who bears the burden of benefiting others. If you associate with those who are of this type, then, because one follows and gets accustomed to the nonspiritual teacher and his approach, his faults stain you by extension, and your mindstream (rgyud) gradually becomes negative. Illustrating this point, it has been said in the Vinaya Scripture:
“A fish in front of a person is rotting and is tightly wrapped with kusha grass. If that [package] is not moved for a long time, the kusha itself also becomes like that. Like that [kusha grass], by following the sinful teacher, you will always become like him.”
Therefore, as it has been said in The Sutra of the True Dharma of Clear Recollection (mDo dran-pa nyer-bzhag; Saddharmanusmriti-upasthana):
“As the chief among the obstructors (bar-du gcod-pa) of all virtuous qualities is the sinful teacher, one should abandon being associated with him, speaking with him, or even being touched by his shadow.”
In every aspect one should be diligent in rejecting the sinful teacher.
* Tibet was also no feudal hell on earth led by a brutal theocracy as some like to misrepresent it. Tibet seems to invite the projections of Westerners, and in in the case of China’s propaganda misrepresentations of Tibet, they are needed to justify China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet as a “liberation”. A highly recommendable book shedding light on these and other misrepresentations of Tibet is Imagining Tibet – Perceptions, Projections, and Fantasies ed. by Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther.
** I look here solely from a perspective of the influence of Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism. I am aware that Bön is the old religion of Tibet, that there are many Bön masters, and that the Bön tradition has also a very rich heritage and culture. There are of course also Christian, Muslim, Communist and Atheist Tibetans. However, for this post such a differentiation seems not to be needed.
For a better background of the present state of the Shugden Controversy in Tibet, India and Western countries see:
- India: Sowing dissent and undermining the Dalai Lama by TibetInfoNet (PDF)
- Tibet: Shugden in Kham by TibetInfoNet (PDF) (more by TibetInfoNet and TibetanReview)
- India, CTA, SDCRS, WSS: Pluralism the Hard Way: Governance Implications of the Dorje Shugden Controversy and the Democracy- and Rights Rhetoric Pertaining to It by Klaus Löhrer
- China’s Involvement in the Dorje Shugden Controversy
updated: August 25, 2012 (images were added)