Dear Kelsang Rabten


Dear Kelsang Rabten,

This is addressed to you because of the contrast I feel between the mild mannered man in the suit at the talk at SOAS on August 15th this year and the loud speaker wielding ‘Tibetan Buddhist robed monk’ who appears shouting ‘False Dalai Lama’ and other such defamations at the demon-strations you organise against His Holiness.

Just as the Shugden statues the NKT now use appear to have lost the ‘suppression of the ego’ in the form of a human being ‘pressed down’ by the Snow Lion’s feet, and Shugden’s wrath has disappeared into the bland and smoothened face of a fabricated ‘Wisdom’ being, then so too, I feel you have changed. Something is missing or ‘covered up’. I will call it ‘love’. I know you will still profess to possess this. So, let’s change it to ‘respect’. I feel you have lost ‘respect’ for the roots of your passion, which I knew to be Tibetan Buddhism in its many forms. You were one of the most learned and widely read teachers I met in the NKT. So, what happened?

I more or less left the NKT in 2006. I must have seen you at Manjushri, at the Summer Festival that year, probably in the distance, as you were always above and beyond me in the status game. But you were the kindest teacher I had in the NKT – you tried to answer questions properly (did we ever tell you that?) and you were visibly upset and asked me what the problem was when I cried during your teachings. No one else ever did that. You seemed moved when I told you that my self and my daughter were so poor that we had to eat the rice from my mandala kit one evening – the rents at the centre were too high. You told me to ‘sleep less’ when I said that I couldn’t keep up both the centre and the practice commitments. I replied that I was already only sleeping 4 hours a night and you didn’t know what to say. There was no answer, was there? It wasn’t a life that we could sustain.

Unfortunately, you gave me as an example to other mothers – “If Shraddha can do that, why can’t you?” which provoked resentment against me. I don’t think that was your intention. And you accepted my apology for ‘writing to the NKT about a problem at the centre’ which wasn’t yours, but your teacher’s. You tried to make the peace – you told me I ‘had a good heart’ so, it was considered that I deserved to be forgiven. And here we are again.

The concept of having love and respect for those who are ‘mistaken’, even towards your own teachers if necessary (they may not ‘be’ perfect), is essential to the Buddhist path. But as a Shugden follower you do not seem to show any respect for those who could be ‘mistaken’, like you view His Holiness to be, let alone accept any possibility of ‘being mistaken’ yourself. Isn’t ‘being mistaken’ what we are until we are enlightened? If we can’t accept any ‘mistaken minds’, then we can’t get enlightened, can we?

I heard your voice in one of the videos of His Holiness’s teachings this year – you ‘asked him a question’ from the audience but it was just another shouted out slogan. You might be able to explain something to His Holiness he knows nothing about, but not by shouting. I have suggested to the Tibetans that I thought that you would be one of the few protestors who might be open enough to talk with His Holiness rather than shout at him, but now I am not so sure. Aren’t you closing off the spiritual path with your lack of respect as well as any possibility of dialogue?

His Holiness insisted on having an ‘open mic’ question and answer session in Hamburg. Of course, your group was able to use that opportunity well. But if you ask a question, don’t you wait for an answer? Twice, your representative spoke ‘over’ His Holiness. And, of course, accused him of lying… Again. His Holiness is a monk. He follows his vows because he believes in them. Thousands of people have seen him keep his vows. There is private and public evidence of this. He is a very highly trained, intelligent and thoughtful man who keeps his vows. Now, in the NKT I don’t think there is any guarantee of that; of people keeping vows. I know that the ‘vows’ you kept and seem to be keeping were ‘loyalty to your close teacher’, ‘loyalty to Kelsang Gyatso’, ‘loyalty to the NKT’ and ‘loyalty to the Shugden cause’.

I think you changed your clothes at the SOAS event because you decided to ‘not be’ a monk so that you could ‘be’ a representative of the International Shugden Community – is that right? I mentioned that I thought it strange to see you in a suit. You could have mentioned that it was also strange to see me in lay clothes as the last time you saw me I was an NKT nun, but you didn’t. You just looked down at your clothes and sighed and said that you weren’t used to it either. So, why? I forgot to ask. It was as if we shared a moment in which our roles were frozen, both of us paused in a game that others were designing.

Are you a monk if you behave differently with and without robes? You will probably say that the vows aren’t in the robes. For you they appear to rest in the loyalties you profess. But isn’t that the contradiction? Are you ordained? Or are you a ‘loyal servant of your master’?

What stops you ‘being a monk’ all the time if you are telling the truth? Why do you wear robes to shout at His Holiness outside teachings – you ‘represent’ the ISC then, don’t you? – and not wear them inside a university classroom or when filming a video? When you are singing and chanting and shouting and drumming in your robes are you ‘beyond samsara’ because it doesn’t matter to you that, in the Vinaya that you profess your ten vows cover just as efficiently as two hundred or more, it says that this is not behaviour suitable for ordained people?

His Holiness calls himself a ‘Bodhisattva trainee’! He is trying to be a Bodhisattva. I think you may agree on that, whether he ‘is’ the ‘right’ Dalai Lama or not. Yes? No. You can’t agree to that and also hold that he is a ‘liar’. So you are saying that he has broken his Pratimoksha vows at the most basic level? That he is lying? You really think the Dalai Lama has never tried to generate Bodhichitta? You think he does not have your well being at heart? You must think this because if you did not you would know that whatever your views as to his decisions, you should still treat His Holiness with respect or your own suffering in the future will be great. But lack of respect is the essence of your ‘demon-strations’.

I was disappointed that you had no more evidence at your SOAS presentation than you present online. You haul out old data. Rehash. Find a small problem in the Himalayas and make it front page crisis. Add footage from other times and places in a way that deceives the viewer into ‘seeing’ more than a sensible report would show. Teenagers in the UK suffer far more prejudice than your ‘persecuted’ Shugden followers. And when there is prejudice it often comes from fear. At some level, I think you know that. But you are tied. ‘Interrupting’ the Dalai Lama is seen as a hero’s task, a guerrilla romance of great import, an achievement. Any murmur of doubt is hidden behind the celebration. I remember the expression on the face of the young man that security took out of the Hamburg venue. He was in shock…a kind of sheepish shock. The ‘moral muddle’ you and he are in is precisely what His Holiness is trying to warn you against, although his words are culturally more distant than mine. He’s Tibetan. We aren’t.

Your ‘demon-strations’ are precisely the ‘evidence’ of what you are being warned against – you lack respect. You lack respect for your robes and for other practitioners. That same lack of respect blocks your spiritual path, for if you cannot admit to being at all ‘mistaken’, how can you expose the deeper levels of your own mind? And how can you have a dialogue with anyone, let known with His Holiness? There has been no change in policy or in action by His Holiness or of the Central Tibetan Administration in the last few years since you stopped your last demon-strations in 2008. So why start again, why now? It’s as if you want to create a campaign where there is none. Of course, if we are terrified of making mistakes then that same terror will blind us from our mistakes any way! Do you know that, in tradition, (something you claim to be protecting), you can stop engaging in a practice without breaking samaya with a teacher if that teacher understands why. Or if you know that he is completely mistaken about a particular view. You can keep love and respect for them even if you see a particular view as mistaken. But you are trapped, aren’t you? Following instructions, like putting on a suit. And interrupting an answer to your questions.

I didn’t think it ‘was’ Shugden either, the cause of my problems with the NKT ‘view’. I only prayed to him intensely once, with a whole bag of rice Kuten Lama had blessed. Five minutes later my daughter experienced the worst accident the school playground supervisor had ever seen. I had prayed for ‘obstacles’ to my fast path to enlightenment to be removed!

Four months before I was asked to leave Bodhisattva Centre ‘immediately’ , for complaining about my teachers’ conduct, I had prayed to a more ‘generic’ idea of ‘Buddhas’ to sort out a good path for me. It didn’t take them long! There’s a weight I am free of out of the NKT, whatever other things I am also aware of missing, such as the buildings, the space to meditate and the study on a plate, people to talk to and a ‘purpose’ to fulfil in promoting it all. I am free of that weight of obligation to a ‘lineage’ which isn’t anything other than a system – a ‘Shugden’ system based on ‘obedience’ and problems with ‘samaya’. It’s completely different ‘out here’. I’m not judged or rewarded as you are – by your political feats of producing disturbing video news. Or for interrupting His Holiness… I am not forced to have any particular views as proof of my samaya.

Of course, I could be making a mistake. Another one. But, there is something real about vows outside the NKT. People respect them, as a practice. It’s nothing to do with ‘obedience’ and everything to do with ‘respect’. ‘Reality’ has a way of shifting itself into view in the long term so, some day, the reasons behind your actions will become clearer. I blame the views. And the ‘muddled vows’. For Pabongkha and for your teacher, Shugden was a family deity. You discredit him if you think that was by force, but even the Kuten Lama ended up agreeing with His Holiness. You’d be in good company!

May all mistaken views be clarified. May this mess speed us all on our respective paths. Somehow.


Former Kalon Tripa, Ven. Samdhong Rinpoche’s address at Suja TCV School on the issue of Dholgyal (Shugden)

Samdhong Rinpoche at TCV Suja on 26th July, 2014

Samdhong Rinpoche at TCV Suja School on 26th July, 2014

We had a brief mention and summery of Samdhong Rinpoche’s speech about Shugden at Suja TCV School here. The campaigning Western Shugden propagandists, who have no knowledge of Tibetan language and culture, have repeatedly and falsely accused the CTA, the Dalai Lama or Samdhong Rinpoche to “incite hate”. You can see for yourself how much this is true, if you have properly translated accounts of their speeches. Here is another piece.

In fact it are the campaigning Western Shugden propagandists and Kelsang Gyatso, their leader, who incite hate against the Dalai Lama. This is obvious when you were in NKT and under the influence of their Agit-Prop (propaganda) and it will become obvious if you see and reflect about their websites, blogs and Facebook accounts.


Former Kalon Tripa, Ven. Samdhong Rinpoche’s address at Suja TCV School on the issue of Dholgyal (Shugden)

On Saturday, the 26th of July, 2014, the former Kalon Tripa, Ven. Samdhong Rinpoche addressed the staff and students of Suja TCV School on the issue of Dholgyal (Shugden). (The following is English translation of the address.)

To the ordained sangha members, the staff members of Suja TCV School led by the Director and the Principal, and the beloved school children who have assembled here. As was clear from the announcement made earlier, in consideration of a special purpose, students from three schools, namely Gopalpur TCV, Upper TCV , as well as this school, have gathered here for this address, aimed at clarifying some points. Earlier, the plan for me was to arrive here at the end of the previous month. However, due to some health issues, I couldn’t make it then, for which I ask for your forgiveness. The topic for clarification and discussion here today came up in connection with an event put up by the organizers of the recently concluded program of giving Introduction to Buddhism by His Holiness the Dalai Lama held at the Upper TCV School for the benefit of a large number of Tibetans. During that time, the organizers had also arranged an event where they requested the Honorable Sikyong and the Honorable Speaker of Tibetan Parliament to speak on the perspective, stand, and policy of the Central Tibetan Administration concerning the issue of Dholgyal. At that time, both the Honorable Sikyong and the Honorable Speaker had spoken at depth and length on the topic, and the program concluded with a question and answer session wherein the students had asked a variety of questions. Among them, five questions were directed to the Speaker, and six to the Sikyong. So, a total of eleven questions were asked. However, from among those questions, there were six to which we need to pay attention. These six questions may vary in syntax and choice of words, but, in essence, they all seem to imply that the questioners had some reservations regarding propriety and justification of the steps taken by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration on this issue.

If you ask, how? Some of the questions point to this: The Dholgyal issue, these days, has taken on a political twist with the People’s Republic of China (henceforth, PRC) making use of it. Therefore, if we confront and challenge this issue with renewed rigor, wouldn’t this have an adverse effect on the unity of our people? Another one says: If, in the future, the force and influence of them (Dholgyal followers) persistently remain after the Tibetan issue is resolved, isn’t there the danger of Tibet becoming divided along the same lines as that of India and Pakistan upon partition? One questioners asks if the discrimination meted out to them is justified. Particularly, in the eyes of the student-questioner, it appears to suggest that the Dholgyal followers are discriminated against in the society. The questioner cites such instances as children in schools belittling and disliking fellow students when they discover about their association with Dholgyal, and some restaurants and shops posting notices to the effect that Dholgyal followers are not welcome in their premises. The questioner even uses the English term “social discrimination” and wonders if the above instances do amount to social discrimination. One questioner asks if it is not our obligation to give religious freedom to every person. Another one uses the English term “secularism” and asks if, like in the case of India, it is not binding on us to give freedom to profess or propagate any religion. Such were the six questions. During the program, the addresses apparently went on quite long that it was already time to conclude the session. Later, when arrangements were made to clarify on those points, the audience had already begun to disperse. However, it is deemed necessary to make clarifications on these points, and thus this meeting of ours here today is convened. Therefore, in the address today, I will be touching only on the contents of those questions.

We will not have the opportunity to present the background information on the Dholgyal issue, nor there time for that. Let’s assume that you already knew about them. If do not know, then there are several conveniently readable books that are results of research undertaken over a long time. The Central Tibetan Administration has published several books for educating and enlightening people on this issue. There are also introductory books written and published by individuals as well as private committees specifically formed to undertake researches into this. Recently, there was a book written by an editing committee constituted from the Great Monastic Seats of Learning of the Gelug Order located in South India. If you look at these books, you will have a clear understanding.

Today, I have come here on my personal capacity, not as a representative of the Central Administration or any particular group or section. Therefore, I shall relate my personal views and the course of happenings as they actually occurred. Yesterday, when I carefully listened to the entire recordings of the students’ questions, I experienced a mixture of both happiness and sadness. The reason for why I felt a mixture of happiness and sadness is as follows: It has been several years since His Holiness the Dalai Lama has admonished us on this Dholgyal issue. His Holiness began giving the admonishments in the year 1975/1976, and has since been following up on this with extreme clarity. Not only this, numerous individuals and organizations such as the Central Tibetan Administration in exile, the Great Monastic Seats of Learning, and several great masters have also made repeated clarifications. Despite all this, we still see unresolved concerns and seeds of doubts in the minds of younger generation. That, too, the generation of youths who are currently enrolled in schools, thus not a generation of youths without education. That, too, among the youths who are enrolled in schools, in and around Dharamsala, such as those run by the TCV organization and the Central Tibetan Administration. This makes me a little uneasy and surprised. This cannot be blamed on the students. This is due to the lack of a clear and effective guidance from the responsible personnel, the Central Tibetan Administration in exile, and the teachers and staffs of the schools. Due to this lack of guidance, the concerns and doubts in the minds of students remain unresolved. On top of this, the rigorous attempts of the Dholgyal followers in exploring various means to project false propaganda has begun to take effect on the youths. Seeing this, it is but natural to generate fear and a strong feeling of unease.

Previously, a responsible Tibetan visiting from the US also told me of this, that the thinking of several young Tibetans in the US seem to be affected by the false propaganda carried out by the Dholgyal followers, in that there are many young Tibetans who take some exception to the approaches of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration in this regard. This person also told me that some of them even tend to be not so responsive to others’ efforts to clarification. But then, when I think of those living in the US, I can kind of sympathize with their situation. They have almost no other source of information than the social media. They have no access to a person-to-person exchange and discussion. If one depends solely on the social media, then definitely the online sites managed by the Dholgyal followers are far more numerous, forceful, and widespread. In contrast to that, it is quite clear that we, on our side, do not have as many sites presenting our viewpoint. When this issue was first raised in India, unlike in the US, it would have been pertinent for us to have and should have made clarifications. So, from that point of view, to witness that there still are lingering doubts and concerns on this issue is a sad sign. That gave rise to a feeling of sadness.

Earlier, I told you that I had a mixed feeling of happiness and sadness. You may wonder what might be the reason for happiness over this. The fact that those students decided to bring out their doubts and concerns, and seek clarification at the right opportunity, and did not keep their doubts buried inside, is a very good thing, I thought. Whatever the issue at hand may be, it is always very important to table them for open discussion. Unless you do that, the responsible personnel would not be able to know what the students have in their minds. If they do not know, then the opportunity to clarify on them would also be not there. So, I recognize the students’ asking those questions as a righteous behavior. Therefore, I congratulate the questioners. In the future, too, whenever you have similar doubts and concerns, you should not merely carry them in your minds, but must seek clarification and guidance from whoever may be available for that. In the event you do not find them, these days there are many books, websites, as well as many other mediums of information. You could go through them, and, I think, it would be good if your doubts are resolved through that. So, this is the background information.

If you asked what our impressions are about the contents of the aforementioned five/six questions, then here it is. The number of questioners is just a few students. From the factual point of view, as I mentioned, those were the contents that emerge from those questions. However, if you ask, what does that indicate? It indicates that you cannot establish no other students had similar questions in their minds. It indicates that you cannot establish it was only those students who had such questions in their minds. For, it takes someone to have some courage and training to be able to raise questions in a big gathering, others cannot. So, I think, the questions from the six people indicate that it is possible for there to be, and there may actually be, similar doubts and concerns in the student community. There may be many others who have similar thoughts, concerns and doubts. It is possible that the students engage in similar conversations among themselves. Therefore, it is important that we should address their doubts and concerns and give clarifications. Otherwise, if this is left unattended to, naturally there is the danger of giving rise to more concerns and doubts, instead of things becoming clearer. Because of that, when the TCV Administration and the organizing committee for the Introduction of Buddhism asked me to address these points, I was able to see a definite need for that.

With these backgrounds, I would now summarize the themes to address here, this way: The questions put forth by the six students may vary in their syntax, delivery, and clarity. However, when one looks thoroughly into their contents, one may sense the underlying mental feelings associated with them. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has, for long, been giving valuable guidance concerning this Dholgyal issue. In response to the guidance, the Central Tibetan Administration, the Great Monastic Seats of Learning, different monasteries, non-governmental organizations, and individuals have taken many steps and made many efforts. I think that those questions make it clear that some people have the feeling that, among those steps and efforts, there may be some that are slightly unfit, unsuitable, and inadequate. Summarizing the meaning of this, it is clearly reflected in them that some feel that there have been some violations of the human rights and religious freedom of the Dholgyal followers. Second point, there seems to be the feeling that the manner in which the Central Tibetan Administration and the general Tibetan community relate to the Dholgyal followers is wrong, and that there is some discrimination in the society. Third point, there seems to be the feeling that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration are not making enough efforts to build unity between the general Tibetan population and the Dholgyal followers, or that their efforts do not go far enough to achieve that. Lastly, that the unity is important, and, in the interest of unity, objection to/disapproval of/rejection of the worshipping of Dholgyal should be toned down a little. There is the feeling that between the two, i.e. benefits accrued from objecting/disapproving/rejecting the worship of Dholgyal and benefits accrued from forging unity, the latter is more important and that objection to/disapproval of/rejection of the Dholgyal worship is not that important. From the way I understand, the backdrop of the six questions is kind of subsumed into the above four points.

These four points do not convey new concerns and doubts that are affecting the thought of the present youth. From early on, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave repeated guidance on the Dholgyal issue and the Central Tibetan Administration followed up on them with steps and efforts, the Dholgyal groups have engaged in false propaganda concerning these points. Lots of incidents took place in the society. Therefore, taking stock of all of that, the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (henceforth, ATPD) formulated, on June 6, 1996, an eight-point resolution, adopted through general consensus, which lays down guidance for the Central Tibetan Administration in exile, the Great Monastic Seats of Learning, the general public and the individuals on how to deal with the followers of Dholgyal. This is talking of some 19/20 years ago. Still, the complications continued to persist thereafter. Because of that, on Sept. 17, 1997, another 11-point resolution was adopted through general consensus. If one carefully reads the introductory section and the articles of the above two resolutions, one will find that the above four points of concerns and doubts have been thoroughly addressed in those resolutions. Therefore, anyone who harbors such concerns and doubts should study the aforementioned 8-point and 11-point resolutions adopted through general consensus by the ATPD. I have hope that things will become clear through that. All those resolutions are important ones that deal with the public mentality and behavior. Due to the lapse of a long time since, it is possible for these resolutions to have slipped away from the memory of the public. Therefore, I think that it would be good to read them time and again and let the students read them and explain to them. Since these are resolutions that have been adopted after thorough debates in the Assembly, each statement and paragraph in them carry significant meanings. You will be able to find them among the records of the Assembly. The same goes with the books written about the Dholgyal. When the students read them, things will become clear to them. The reason why I make reference to these written records is that, since they are in written form, they can be read over and again. They are terse and comprehensive, and thus they may relate to many doubts and concerns. What we will be hearing live here may or may not be retained by all, and it is possible that people may forget half of them by the time the session is over. Therefore, instead of making references to long treatises, I have referred to two compact resolutions, with the thought that it will be more convenient for you to go through them and benefit from them.

Of the four points that I brought out, the first relates to whether the actions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Central Tibetan Administration, several governmental/official and non-governmental/official གཞུང་འབྲེལ་དང་གཞུང་འབྲེལ་མིན་པའི་ groups, the monastic institutions do indeed infringe on the Basic Human Rights and Religious Freedom of the Dholgyal followers. To this, I hold that such an accusation is a false one. I can decidedly say that all of our actions, over the time, have not infringed upon their rights, either directly or indirectly. This is not a case of suspecting that we might not have infringed. For, the question of whether or not an infringement has occurred is a legal question. Not just that, it is also an administrative and social question. These need to be looked into carefully. They have been using an English term. I have not seen this rendered into Tibetan. Most of their propaganda are made in English and other western languages. What they have claimed in these propaganda materials is that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has ‘banned’ the worshipping of Dholgyal. They have used this English term. In Tibetan, this English term translates to ‘making something not permissible’. All that His Holiness has done is raise objection to the worshipping and disapprove/reject དགག་བྱ་དང་བཀག་འགོག་གནང་བ་ it. He has not issued an arbitrary decree saying that the Dholgyal worshipping cannot be done. Therefore, he has not banned the practice. We have to understand this clearly. If he has banned it, how come the Dholgyal worshippers are carrying on with the worship? Not only are they carrying on with the worship with freedom, they even have the liberty to deride him, to carry out demonstrations against him wherever he pays a visit, and to express opposition by being in close physical proximity to him. All these clearly demonstrate that His Holiness has not banned the worship; he has not issued any decree banning the practice. Look at the addresses that His Holiness has given over the time. He admonishes us that we would be better off if we do not undertake the worship; that the current approach to the worship goes against the precepts of taking Refuge into the Triple Jewels; and that it (the worshipping) brings down the standard of Buddhism. He also admonishes that it (the worshipping) undermines the harmony among the different Orders of Tibetan Buddhism, and adversely affects the Tibetan cause and unity of Tibetan people. So, His Holiness has only offered the admonishment that it would be better not to engage in the worship. He has never asked us to terminate the worship from now onwards. If one listens to the words of His Holiness, he has, from the beginning, said that it is his duty to give advice to people, and that whether or not people listen to him is up to them. On some occasions, His Holiness conveys this by quoting Khache Phalu, saying: “The heart advice of Khache Phalu has been given; it is now up to you (the listeners) whether to heed or not.” Many of you may have certainly seen His Holiness quoting this. These are all captured in written records. I am not making them up. To tell you of a recent happening, on the 10th of this month (July, 2014), in Ladakh, during the preliminary teachings leading to the Kalachakra empowerment, His Holiness said, “If there are Dholgyal worshippers in the audience, I ask you not to stay for the empowerment. I have always asked you not to carry out that worship, but it is up to you if you listen or not. Nothing is being forced upon anyone. That is individual liberty. However, if you are a worshipper and still insist on receiving any tantric empowerment from me, then it would only cause degeneration of the sacred commitment (samaya), on the part of both the master and the disciple.” When we take this above address into consideration, he never says that one cannot carry out the worship. All he says is that it is not good to carry out the worship and that whether one heeds the advice or not is up to the individuals. Besides that, given the current socio-political situation, there is no way that His Holiness could impose a ‘ban’ on anything. This is something that we need to know very clearly. So, the freedom to choose to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama is left with the Dholgyal followers themselves. This freedom of theirs is never compromised. On the contrary, if you look at the physical and verbal actions of the Dholgyal followers, then it becomes quite clear that it is them who have transgressed the Human Rights and Religious Freedom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Central Tibetan Administration, and the monastic seats of learnings. Basic Human Rights is a general theme. Regarding the question of engaging in Dholgyal-worship or not, when someone suggests not to engage in the worship, the Dholgyal-worshippers interpret this as a violation of their freedom to worship. Since the worship or non-worship (of anything) comes under the question of Religious Freedom, it would, at the first glance, appear that any suggestion to the effect of not engaging in the worship might inflict harm on the undertaking of the worship. It is possible for someone to harbor such suspicion. However, this situation needs to be studied thoroughly. Looking from the perspective of international law, where might the topic of Religious Freedom fit in? There is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. Within that Universal Declaration, the Article 18 deals with, what we might call in Tibetan, ‘Religious Freedom’. In that Article, it deals with freedom related with three things. They are ‘thought, conscience, and religion’. What do all humans have equal right to freedom of? They have the freedom of harboring any thought. They have the freedom of conscience. The have the freedom to have faith in any religion. So, these three freedoms are lumped together. It is not just about religion. In terms of the nature and extent of this right, this “includes freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance, and the freedom to change his religion or belief.” The freedom to change religion is also included within this right to religious freedom. So, the right to denounce or praise a particular religion, and based on that, the right for any individual to change ones’ particular religion are included within this right to religious freedom in the Universal Declaration. So, no one is keeping any individual from worshipping Dholgyal. One may offer guidance. That’s all. When they (Dholgyal worshippers) meet together and engage in the propitiation rituals with the accompaniment of horns, trumpets, drums, and cymbals, there is no one to create any hindrance. When you go to South India and observe the activities of the breakaway Shar Gaden and the breakaway Ser-med Pomra, you will witness how they have, in the past, and still do, in the present, go about their activities with even more pomp and show than the main monasteries. In that, no one, neither the public nor the administrations, is meddling with them. They engage in very rigorous propaganda campaign, and they are able to do that due to the fact that they have freedom, not otherwise. To that, we are not causing even the slightest of hindrances. Instead, when they demand that His Holiness the Dalai Lama should stop publicly disapproving/rejecting??? the Dholgyal worship, that act is an attempt to violate the religious freedom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. On our part, we are not demanding that they stop their propaganda campaign. It is them who stage demonstrations demanding that His Holiness the Dalai Lama should cease to make disapproving statements on Dholgyal worship. So, look who is violating religious freedom, they or we? It is very important for us to understand this clearly. Besides, the right to freedom of religion is not an unconditional right. It is always a conditional right. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it says, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind…” It also says, “No distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs…” So, as much as the Dholgyal followers have the right to freedom of religion, so do His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other Tibetans have the same right. Thus, there has never been any violation of their right to religious freedom. If at all there has been any case of violation, then it is His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the rest of the Tibetans who have suffered the violation. And this fact can be verified both legally and politically, and this can be proven true. That’s what I want to say here. Also, we are living in India, and if we want to raise an issue related to religious freedom in India, we would need to do so in accordance with the Constitution of India. In the Constitution of India, the issue of religious freedom is dealt with in Article 25. If one looks at the subsets 1, 2, and 3 and their implications under the above Article, one will see the provisions on religious freedom in this Article 25. The right to freedom of religion in the Indian context is linked to so many conditions. It is not a right without any conditions attached to it. At the outset of the Article, the following conditions are attached to the right: “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part…” Only after fulfilling these conditions, it goes on to say, “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” If, under the pretext of religious practice and religious rites and rituals, someone were to disrupt the public order. Take, for example, the Dholgyal worshippers. At this present time, they are the biggest cause for public and administrative unease. In terms of contravening morality, the Dholgyal followers have terrorized, murdered, beaten, and tortured people and continue to do so. If one looks at these acts, they have contravened morality. As to whether or not they have disrupted the health condition, it relates to the specifics of the particular situations. For instance, if they persist in their present activities, they are liable to be banned under the law and regulations of the Government of India. In particular, if we look at their ways and activities from the perspectives of the western world, it would be hard for them to defend their status as a religious group. Rather, theirs could be considered a Cult. The centers of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso operating in England had been, on several occasions, suspected to be leaning towards such an organization by the British Government. They have since introduced some changes in the organization to avoid complications. It is slightly settled nowadays.

If one reads Prof. Bob Thurman’s articles, one would see very clearly how the New Kadampa is either a Cult already, or at least leaning towards it. If it becomes one, then it would be liable to a legal ban under the provisions of the Indian law. It cannot escape such a liability. In the subsets 1 and 2 of Article 25 of the Constitution, it is written that “Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law…” It is also written that nothing in the Article shall “prevent the State from making any law (a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.” For instance, in the customs of many Indian religions, they discriminate people on the basis of caste and color, and stipulate that such and such caste people are permitted to enter a temple and such and such people are not. Likewise, they make similar discrimination with regard to education, stipulating that such and such caste people can study this and that, while others cannot. There are also the religious custom of discriminating certain caste and color as untouchable. All these customs have not been granted under the right to freedom of religion. They have all been banned under law.

For instance, discrimination in granting or banning entry to temple has been banned under law. What does this indicate? This makes it very clear by law that in regards to any incident that violates public order and morality, it is legal to intervene, control, and regulate such occurrences. This is the situation under the Constitution of India. However, we have never sought any such intervention, control, and regulation. If we take the Charter of Tibetans-in-exile into consideration, Article 10 deals with the issue of religious freedom. In that section, the first statement says, “All religious denominations are equal before the law.” Even allowing that the worship of Dholgyal constitutes a denomination of its own, it would have the same footing as those of the non-worshippers. Therefore, it is not permissible for one to violate the right of the other. On our part, we do not violate their rights. On their part, there have been attempts to violate the rights of others. If the ATPD were to intervene on those attempts, they are entitled to do so under the provisions of Article 12 of the Charter. Since it states, “Subject to any law imposing restrictions in the immediate and ultimate interest of the Tibetan people and for the benefit of the public”, it is a matter that can be legally intervened into. This has not happened so far. However, in the future if the ATPD decides to pass law and regulations concerning some of their (Dholgyal followers’) activities, the ATPD is legally capable of doing that.

To summarize the first point, I may say that, ever since His Holiness the Dalai Lama has guided us on this Dholgyal issue, he has never engaged in a single act that violates the Basic Human Rights and Religious Freedom of the Dholgyal followers. If any of you have such concerns and doubts to this effect, I wanted to make it clear that such concerns and doubts are baseless. However, there is no reason for you to believe me by this mere statement of mine. It is possible that some of you may already not believe me. On this globe, whenever there is a violation of Human Rights and Religious Freedom, who should you approach for its protection? On the international level, there is the organization of Amnesty International. When one witnesses such violation, one has to appeal to the Amnesty International. In India, there is the National Human Rights Commission. So, in India one has to approach the above National Human Rights Commission. For the protection of these rights, one has to turn to this Commission in India. In the year 1998, the followers of Dholgyal did approach the Amnesty International. Soon afterwards, the Amnesty International carried out a thorough investigation. At the end, Amnesty International came out saying that in Tibet there are several cases of violation of Human Rights and Religious Freedom that the organization was able to verify. However, in the exile community, particularly with regard to the Dholgyal followers, they have not been able to verify even a single incident where the violation of Human Rights and/or Religious Freedom has taken place. So, the international organization told the Dholgyal groups in clear terms that the organization could no longer pursue with their allegations. All this is a widely known fact, well documented in written forms; there is nothing secret and classified about this. If you look at these documents, it will be clear to you.

Later, in the year 2007, they also appealed to the National Human Rights Commission in India. In that appeal, they have specifically brought up the case of the 16 new arrivals from Tibet who were denied admission into one of the Great Monastic Seats of Learning. Usually, the Reception Committee (for the new arrivals) would eventually issue a recommendation letter to the individual new arrivals for admission into either a school or a monastic institution. Such a letter would specify that the individual in question is interested in joining a particular house-group within a particular monastery or monastic seat, and would request, on his/her behalf, for acceptance into the said organization. It would be the same for any particular school or any monastic institution belonging to any religious order, irrespective. However, the Reception Committee did not give this group of individuals the recommendation letter for admission into the Great Monastic Seats of Learning (of Gelug Order). They were all told that they could be issued recommendation letter for any school of their choice, but not of the Great Monastic Seats of Learning. The reason why they could not be given a recommendation letter for those Monastic Seats is because the Charter of the Gelug Order that the dge-ldan bstan-bdag lhan-tshogs (the Central Authority of Gelug Order???) had promulgated lists the requirement that anyone seeking admission into any Gelug monastic institution must be unassociated with Dholgyal worship or must have terminated such previous association. This requirement could not be nullified by the Central Tibetan Administration in exile. In general, monasteries, schools, and universities have the freedom to come up with their own admission requirements. One cannot challenge them on the ground of one’s rights. Whatever rules and regulations an organization may have laid down is governed by the procedure of making rules and regulations of the respective organization. Thus, the Reception Committee could not issue a recommendation that goes against the Charter of the Gelug Order, and so they didn’t.

This is an isolated case they (the Dholgyal followers) had picked on, and there were other allegations they have made and continue to make. For instance, that their children were dropped from schools, that people were not allowed into the hospitals, etc. None of these were substantiated. If one looks at the debate proceedings and the written records of the ATPD, all these allegations would be clearly proven false. Not a single one has truth. The National Human Rights Commission in India has undertaken a thorough investigation over these allegations. The Reception Committee and related Departments received orders for enquiry. Over and above these, the Commission itself carried out thorough investigations. Finally, the Commission released reports, dated Dec. 19, 2007, saying that they had not found a single case of violation of Human Rights and Religious Freedom, and, therefore, no decisions could be taken, and no confirmations could be issued to the allegations they had made. No one can accept the claim that the conclusions drawn by both the Amnesty International and India’s National Human Rights Commission are false. If one insists on the unreliability of the above conclusions, one could and should approach higher courts of justice. But they have not done that. The reason for this is that their allegations were baseless. The conclusions drawn by these organizations were not biased, rather they were arrived at after thorough investigations. That is why, when I decidedly said that there were no violations on our part, it was based on the conclusions drawn by these organizations that have legal authorities. If anyone wants to expose the truth of these conclusions, one must approach the higher courts of justice and have one’s allegations verified. Instead, if one continues to create scenes in the alleyways and allege that one’s rights are being violated, then that is, in clear terms, telling lies, and making baseless and unreliable charges. So, therefore, these incidents should not be a cause for concern and doubts. That is one thing I wanted to let you know.

The second point is that people have a feeling that they (Dholgyal worshippers) are being discriminated against and are meted out unfair treatment. On this allegation, there are things that we need to understand clearly. For instance, no hospitals, stores, restaurants, etc. that are run by the Central Tibetan Administration have ever stated that the Dholgyal followers are not welcome into their facilities. Nor have they put up any posters to that effect. There have been no discrimination whatsoever from the part of the Central Tibetan Administration. From the Reception Committee based in Nepal to the Reception Committee in Dharamsala; from the point of arriving at the Reception Committee in Dharamsala to the point of receiving audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama; from there to the point of being sent to schools—all are being treated same as any other Tibetan would be. This includes those who come openly declaring themselves as Dholgyal worshippers. None is discriminated against. They are given the same facilities and same health care. They are given recommendation letters to enroll into schools. It is possible there may be some among them who are still continuing in those schools. However, when privately owned restaurants and stores carry signs that say the Dholgyal worshippers are not welcome, then that is the freedom of the owners. That is their Fundamental Human Rights. Although I do not clearly remember which order of Article it is, there is definitely the provision for the right to privacy. Under that right, anyone can express their mind of being not receptive of someone. That is their fundamental right. There is no way we can violate that. For instance, when one is staying in a big hotel, one finds several message signs hanging on the door knob to choose from. One of the signs say ‘Do not disturb’. If one does not wish anyone to enter the room for a time being, one could put up that sign on the outside. That is not a case of discriminating against anyone. Be it a room service or a caterer, for the time being the sign keeps them away. At some monasteries and monastic institutions, when they put up signs that say the ‘Dholgyal followers are not welcome for ordering propitiation rituals or for making donations’, that is exercising their lawful rights; that is not at all a case of unlawfully violating the rights of others. Let alone that, in the hospitals, people infected with contagious diseases are quarantined and not allowed to meet with other people. That is not violating the rights of anyone. Instead, that is being done for the benefit of both the patients and others who might, otherwise, contract the disease. They (Dholgyal followers) are deceptively mixing the two concepts of ‘Social discrimination’ and ‘Social boycott’. Social discrimination is one thing, and social boycott is a different thing. The Dholgyal followers are mixing the two together in an attempt to mislead people. When they are affected by social boycott from others, they claim that they are being subjected to social discrimination. In actuality, this is not at all a case of social discrimination. Everyone has the right to engage in a boycott. Above and beyond that, boycott is the best method of non-violently confronting and protesting an unbecoming action. Mahatma Gandhi, in his struggle for independence and several other causes, saw the method/s of non-cooperation/civil disobedience and boycott as the best possible option/s and therefore resorted to it/them. Gandhi-ji gave ‘boycott’ a new name in ‘non-cooperation’. Non-cooperation and boycott have a similar connotation. Therefore, in the Tibetan society, when you see the owners of stores, restaurants, monasteries put up signs saying ‘Dholgyal followers are not welcome’ at the entrances, in order for them to keep away from having any social and spiritual fellowship with the Dholgyal followers, they are merely exercising their lawful rights and not usurping the rights of the Dholgyal followers. This we have to understand clearly. In our Tibetan society, we engage in several forms of boycott. The non-governmental groups such as the Tibetan Youth Congress often promote measures of boycotting Chinese products, irrespective of whether they are successful in making a difference. As far as I can remember, on several occasions, they had campaigns of damaging Chinese thermos and burning Chinese blankets, etc. Even though no one really succeeded in stopping the buying and selling of Chinese products, they did make efforts towards that end. Those measures were not a case of discrimination against the Chinese businessmen and Chinese producers. That was not social discrimination, only a social boycott. We take up such measures because we consider them relevant and just, not because they are irrelevant and untruthful. In particular, what the followers of Dholgyal and the international community need to know is that there would be no way anyone could bother them if they were to carry out their Dholgyal worship privately and in a low-key fashion. The main reason for the social boycott of Dholgyal worshippers is not because they carry out that worship; such a reason is rarely used. Instead, the main pressure for the boycott comes from the fact that they engage in slander campaigns against His Holiness the Dalai Lama and openly oppose the guidance of His Holiness. That is what is making people uneasy about them and difficult to accept them. On the other hand, if someone were to carry out the worship quietly, who would even notice that? The main reason for social dislike and anger is their criticism and opposition to His Holiness. Therefore, to suggest that existing distance between the social boycotters and the Dholgyal groups is not good is not at all tenable. If one feels that both the supporters/approvers and detractors/ disapprovers/ revilers མཚན་སྨད་མ་ཞུ་མཁན་དང་ཞུ་མཁན་གཉིས་ of His Holiness the Dalai Lama could be treated at par, then such thinking is definitely a grave mistake, I think. For instance, in the schools, if the rest of the students were to bully and despise a student who worships Dholgyal, then that is unacceptable. On the other hand, if the other students choose to distance themselves from that student, then, I think, there is nothing wrong with that. There is no reason for anyone to be physically close to each other. Just as one would distance oneself from someone with contagious disease, likewise keeping distance from someone who has incurred a breach of trust/samaya with His Holiness the Dalai Lama would be advisable for the benefit of both the parties involved. There will be no harm from such a choice. Since there is no way any violation of the rights of any concerned party could take place by following the present mode of conduct of the Tibetan society and the Central Tibetan Administration with regard to the Dholgyal followers, I personally feel that there has been not a single wrong in this.

The third point is that people have the feeling that His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Monastic institutions, and Central Tibetan Administration have not made any effort for building unity between those who worship Dholgyal and those who do not. I don’t think that is at all the case. Nor do I personally believe that there has been either inadequate effort or negative efforts in this regard. If you ask for the reasons to feel this way, they are as follows: There is no time limit imposed for amendment in one’s action with regard to Dholgyal worship. Nor is there anyone to འགྲིག་གི་མི་འདུག་གསུང་མཁན་denounce you once have made the amendments accordingly. If a Dholgyal worshiper were to discontinue the worship and choose to return back to a monastery or to the society, he/she could do that any time. Once you have returned back, there would be no one to denounce you and ostracize you on the grounds that you had engaged in the worship previously. This is borne out by the reality on the ground at any one of the Great Monastic Seats of Learning. It has been around 30 years since disapproval/repudiation/rejection of Dholgyal was made public. Even if someone comes forward these days and pledge to make amendments, admitting their mistake, these Great Monastic Seats of Learning will still certainly accept them. If one were to admit mistake and pledge amendment in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama today, he would kindly accept your request. He would never reject you, saying this is too late in coming. So, the door for them to return back to their alma maters and mainstream society is always open, not closed. Not only are the doors open, the act of returning upon making amendment is something anyone should be able to achieve. Anyone should be able to accomplish this. In view of one’s future prospect, both worldly and spiritual prospects, if one insists on not leaving the Dholgyal, and if, faced with the decision of choosing between one’s guru and a spirit, one chooses the spirit, that is really unreasonable. So, the fact that, upon making the amendment, one is welcome anytime to return back to one’s old community and feel treated equally is the most open road to unity and the best road to unity. This is how I think. To date, there has not been a single case at the Great Monastic Seats of Learning, etc. where someone who had earlier engaged in the worship and later made amendments is subjected to denouncement and ostracizing. There are many individuals who are still reeling in uncertainty. Since there is no time limit imposed for them to make amendments, there is no such thing as being too late for a decision, or missing a deadline. So, from our part, there has been a considerate thinking in place. Particularly, on the part of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he has put forth a very clear picture, backed by scriptural sources and reasoning, of what are the harm and benefits, respectively, that one may accrue from Dholgyal worship or otherwise. If anyone is a sensible person, there is nothing in that presentation that one cannot give a favorable thought to, or that one finds no direction which way to think. Therefore, there has not been any lapse, at all, on our part by way of either making inadequate efforts or negative efforts towards building unity. This can be clearly sensed.

It seems that there are some who feel we should make some concessions to the Dholgyal worshippers who are unable to stop the worship so that they could return to the mainstream society. Particularly, there are some who feel that there could be a way to make some kind of compromise and reach an understanding between those who worship Dholgyal and those who do not. For instance, in that meeting (at TCV), one of the questioners wondered if some kind of agreement might be struck (with the Dholgyal worshippers). This same suggestion had appeared before and has appeared this time also. In general, if the other one is a human being, one would expect him/her to be able to be made to understand. Those who could not be brought to an understanding thus far, what additional things are left that might be done, what additional information might be given to bring them to an understanding. Is there any? We should think over this. If there are people who want to make efforts in bringing about an understanding between the Dholgyal worshippers and the Central Tibetan Administration, what are you going to bring on the agenda for discussion, as an effort to this end? On our part, it is an easy job to come up with a clear demand. That is to ask them to stop the worship of Dholgyal. On the very day that they stopped the Dholgyal worship, they could readily enter into the old community. There would be no need for them to have the backing of an influential person; there would be no need for a reference person. All they do is to declare that they stopped the worship. If one asks if there is any way by which they could receive acceptance without having to stop the Dholgyal worship, then, decidedly, the answer is that there is none. If one were to hypothetically allow for that, then that would mean all of our previous claims of harm accrued from the worship would have been baseless; all those would have to be withdrawn. So, there is nothing that could be compromised and harmonized here. So, it comes to the same thing as I mentioned earlier. I may conclude this point on that same note.

Supposing someone asks the following question: For the purpose of forging unity between those who haven’t stopped Dholgyal worship and those who have stopped the worship, is there a way by which a Dholgyal worshipper could be accepted to continue with the worship? Then, what would be the response on our part? Getting rid of its roundabout way of asking, this question, in simple terms, amounts to the following: Would it be okay to carry on with the worship? Could we accept the worshipping of Dholgyal? If this were to be the case, then all the guidance that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been giving us thus far would come to nothing. Therefore, if one thinks that may be there is a way by which such a unity could be forged by both sides budging a little to make room for each other (Tibetan proverb: both the pass and the mdzo budging a little, by lowering down and holding out, respectively, to make for a smooth passage—–the sense is incorporated into the text; so this could be left out if one so chooses) and give the Dholgyal worshippers the okay to continue with the worship, then (it should be understood that) there is no room for such an immunity. The option is only between continuing and discontinuing the worship. If they stop the worship, then the sky would be cleared of clouds and the ground cleared of dust. There would be no more inconveniences. If they insist on continuing with the worship, then it is not a feasibility at all for those who have discontinued the worship and those who continue the worship to live in one community through a fellowship of engaging in spiritual and social activities together; they cannot continue to live together like water mixed with milk. Therefore, unity and Dholgyal worship are two options to choose from, not something that could go together hand-in-hand. This should become clear in our minds without any lingering concerns and doubts. If that does not happen, then there is the danger of remaining unclear on so many other things. Among the questions asked before, there was one that says that the PRC is extending support to the Dholgyal worshippers, in all nations, by all the three means of manpower, finance, and technology, and that there is danger of Tibet dividing into two at the time when the question of Tibet is resolved, like it happened in the case of India and Pakistan. So there was this thought expressed there. Such a thought is fueled by extreme speculation which has no backing of any reason or reality on the ground. In the first place, what is the percentage of people worshipping Dholgyal, both in and outside Tibet? It is a very small percentage. Majority of the people coming to the demonstrations are paid a daily wage for their participation. In Tibet, too, the number of people worshipping Dholgyal is dropping on a daily basis. From among the worshippers, too, the majority of them make the outward show of a Dholgyal worshipper solely for the sake of protecting their livelihood, work, position, etc. There is a very little number of those who carry out the worship from the depth of their hearts. When they claim that they have some 4 million followers, this is an utter exaggeration. Let alone 4 million, there may be hardly one hundred thousand of them in actuality, I think. Besides, currently we are going through a phase of period when the Dalai Lama-led Tibetans and the PRC look at each other as adversaries. So the present support for the Dholgyal groups from the PRC is a reflection of that phase of relation. However, in the future, if His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the PRC reached some agreement and the day arrives for the Tibetan issue becoming resolved, then the support of the PRC to the Dholgyal groups would not be forthcoming, nor would it be deemed necessary. There would be no purpose to gain from such a support then. On that day, it would be easily clear how many of them worship from the depth of their hearts. Therefore, such a spate of concern and doubt is extremely exaggerated. One of the Tibetan sayings goes: If you tell a lie big enough as a mountain, you may get truth the size of a yak. The above is an instance of reposing hope in such a belief. So, the above speculation is just a case of someone being carried over by their exaggeration, which has no basis, whatsoever, in reality. Besides that, whatever activities the Dholgyal followers are undertaking, be that inside Tibet or outside of it, they are all baseless and contrary to truth. There is not a single one that has truth in it. The most spoken out allegation they make is that they are denied religious freedom. As related earlier, I have elaborately exposed this allegation of theirs. They allege that they are being unjustifiably discriminated against. I have fully explained the situation which shows that is not the case. If they have the desire to live together in the society, the door is always open. Be that in private and public life, organization and group life, the door is always open. I have explained this clearly. That they cannot divide Tibet into two parts in the future is obvious beyond doubt (squarely visible even if looked at from the sides—–the sense is incorporated into the text; so this could be left out if one so chooses)). This is something that anyone can comprehend. Therefore, I think it would be better off if we can clear our thoughts completely of the above concerns and doubts. When I speak of clearing our thoughts of them, I am saying so on the basis of reason and truth. I am not saying that because this is our position and is faultless, or that that is their position and, therefore, is faulty. This is not a statement of discrimination. Point by point, if we closely investigate who is reasonable, who is lawful, and who has truth, it should be verifiable. If one has no desire to investigate, but insists on remaining biased like that of a soiled pot, then there is nothing that could be done. If the few Dholgyal followers insist on their current stand, saying they do not intend to change from their present behavior and that they do not intend to accept reason and truth, then that is a case of foolish stubbornness. There is hardly any way to respond to that. Such things are better off to be left unattended. By leaving them unattended, even if some of them breakaway from the mainstream society, it is more beneficial both to the Tibetan cause and our ultimate situation. If they continue to stick around, it is not going to be any more beneficial. Not just that, if they continue to stick around, as a result of that there is going to be great harm both in the short term and long term as well as in the ultimate. This is very clearly evident. I can say this without mincing any words.

Now, as per the program schedule, my time is up. So, I will stop here. For the remaining time, if you have any questions to ask or doubts to be clarified, I ask you to be frank and open. Thank you.

(Following the above address, Rinpoche responded to the questions asked by the students present there).

Trijang Rinpoche’s view about Shugden / Dolgyal: A trouble maker and killing spirit +++ The protesters never asked for a dialogue

Trijang Rinpoche’s view about Dorje Shugden / Dolgyal and why Shugden harms sentient beings

The Shugden protesters from the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and their ICS spokes persons (usually a NKT teacher or a NKT representative of a country) run a Anti Dalai Lama campaign in which they totally ignore history and facts. The protesters suffer from one-sided information and from being largely misinformed. In a way the protesters protest against their own ignorance they project onto the Dalai Lama …

For instance the NKT/ICS protesters ignore the violent, controversial and sectarian background of Shugden worship and they are not aware that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of NKT, presents them a white washed version of Shugden that makes Shugden more acceptable for Westerners and that is very much different than what the ‘root guru’ of Kelsang Gyatso, Trijang Rinpoche, himself taught about Shugden (see a bit about this in Carol McQuire’s SOAS talk).*

ICS spokes person and NKT’s Germany representative Gen Kelsang Ananda (Markus Rehnert) for instance answered to the leftist newspaper TAZ  when confronted with the Yellow Book that mentions 23 government officials and lamas who have been assassinated using the deities power: “I don’t know that book.” Being confronted by the TAZ that this book was a key factor in the controversy Kelsang Ananda tried to escape the facts by answering “There are other texts that say the very opposite.” Also this answer ignored history and fact. Similarly, in 2008 Kelsang Pema, personal assistant of Kelsang Gyatso and spokes person of the Western Shugden Society claimed wrongly to the BBC: “It is a simple prayer that encourages people to develop pure minds of love, peace and compassion.” This ignorance regarding history and facts is a tool in the NKT introduced by Kelsang Gyatso and this tool makes the protesters the uninformed but willing army in Kelsang Gyatso’s unilateral battle against the Dalai Lama.

The NKT protesters ignore the Yellow Book since Kelsang Gyasto said, “I knew Zemey Tulku. However, I do not believe the information contained in The Yellow Book.[...] I would like to suggest to everybody to forget The Yellow Book. The Yellow Book was not written by Buddha, so why should we believe this?” He also says “I don’t know the real reason for his writing this book. Maybe this was his view and he was trying to prevent Gelugpa Lamas from engaging in Nyingma practices.” (see ‘Interview’ with Yvonne Nilles, a disciple of Kelsang Gyatso). This rejection of history and facts aims to deny or to suppress any negative inferences that can be drawn about the Shugden/Dolgyal cult from the “Yellow Book.” The Yellow Book contains the oral stories by Trijang Rinpoche about the violent nature of Dorje Shugden / Dolgyal.

Ok, if the NKT don’t accept the oral stories of Trijang Rinpoche, maybe they can get aware of his own writings?

Trijang Rinpoche’s view**

In Trijang Rinpoche’s text about Shugden, Music Delightning an Ocean of Protectors (PDF), Trijang Rinpoche clearly explains Shugden’s nature and way it arose. He says that Shugden / Dogyal is a mundane (ie. worldly) protector (p. 11), a damsi (vow breaking) spirit (p. 107) and a gyalpo spirit called Dolgyal (p. 109) that harms and kills sentient beings (p. 111–122 and more). About the violence Shugden brings to other sentient beings Trijang Rinpoche states (p. 121–122:

Furthermore, whether they were lords of Tibet, great lamas who held the political power of the throne, lamas and tulkus, great or small, with illustrious lines of incarnation, holy beings rich in scriptural and realized qualities, high lords of vast lands and works, those haughty with pride of family lineage, dominion and wealth, any who hypocritically claimed to be followers of Protector Manjusri Tsongkhapa’s Teachings while remaining unsatisfied with Je Lama’s precious Teachings of Sutra and Tantra which, in terms of view, meditation, and action, need not crave more from any other tradition, and, instead, mixed, polluted, or confused them with other modes of view and practice, whether lay or ordained, regardless of status, there have been many who have met with unpleasant wrathful punishments, such as being punished by authorities, litigation and legal disputes, untimely death, and so forth. Such swift, decisive signs appear to direct perception. Here praise is offered to that manifestation as a great wrathful protector who raises the Yellow Hat Teachings to the heights of the heavens.

This mundane harmful spirit is, according to Trijang Rinpoche, an emanation of Manjushri who emanated for the special purpose (p. 9) of protecting the purity of Tsongkhapa’s tradition and stopping Gelugpa’s taking teachings from other traditions.

HH Dalai Lama (and most Buddhists) doesn’t believe that Manjushri would emanate a mundane spirit to kill and harm sentient beings, but some lamas of his lineage teach exactly that. Kelsang Gyatso plays to a Western audience and says that these stories are just stories but they are told to stop Gelugpas taking teachings from other traditions. Therefore, the raison d’etre for the entire Shugden / Dogyal cult, coming from Dagpo Rinpoche, Pabongkhapa and Trijang Rinpoche, was to restrict the religious freedom of Gelugpas by threatening that if they didn’t stay away from other, particularly Nyingma, teachings, or in NKT speak, remain ‘pure and faithful practitioners’, Shugden / Dogyal would kill them. Trijang Rinpoche tells stories both of ‘hypocritical’ Gelugpas and people of other religions, like Bonpos, being killed by Shugden / Dogyal***.

If the NKT can easily disregard what Zemey Tulku wrote in the Yellow Book, can they also disregard what Kelsang Gyatso’s own ‘root guru’ wrote himself because it “was not written by Buddha, so why should we believe this?”

See also

* Carol McQuire said
What ‘Shugden’ practice in the NKT isn’t…

  1. I my experience, it’s not used as a spirit practice in which you tell Dolgyal Shugden what to do ‘ordering it about like a servant’.
  2. It’s not used as an ‘oracle’ practice since 1995 when Kuten Lama, the Shugden oracle, last visited the NKT.
  3. It’s not used as a ‘self-generation’ where you become that Buddha or Yidam yourself.
  4. It’s not used as ‘wrathful’ practice as in the Nyingma, where as ‘Deva’, the practice allows you to see and work with your own negativities.

** Thanks to Dorje for pointing out these information and for putting it together in the comment section of this blog!
*** The term Dolgyal was also used by Pabongkha Rinpoche for Shugden (see Dreyfus). Consequently, if the claims by the NKT and Shugden followers that the usage of the name Dolgyal for Shugden would be slanderous were true, it follows the strongest propagators of Shugden, Trijang Rinpoche and Pabongkha Rinpoche, slandered Shugden too.


The protesters never asked for a dialogue

The NKT/ICS spokes persons repeatedly complained that the Dalai Lama would have refused to pick up a dialogue with them. The problem is that the protesters (NKT via their front groups Dorje Shugden International Coalition, SSC, WSS and ICS) never asked for a dialogue but issued unreasonable demands and ultimatums. Here is a brief overview of the ‘History of Dialogue’ the NKT was looking for.

The following petition was delivered to the Dalai Lama in New York on May 1st 1998 together with 12,000 signatures*, requesting him to sign the attached declaration:


Your Holiness,

Out of your great compassion for us, please accept our following request.

As you know, many people both in the East and in the West, are openly saying that the worship of Dorje Shugden is harmful to your health, to the Tibetan cause, and to the development of the Nyingma Tradition. This false information is destroying peace and harmony within the Tibetan and Buddhist communities worldwide. Because of this, many people are losing their religious freedom and are consequently experiencing great suffering.

It is completely untrue that the worship of Dorje Shugden harms Tibetan independence, your health, and the development of the Nyingma Tradition. This is very clear; no one can give valid reasons to prove these statements.

To release many people from this suffering and to restore peace and harmony within the Buddhist community, from the depths of our hearts we request Your Holiness, please please accept our petition and sign the attached Declaration for the happiness and benefit of all. Our sole wish is that the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions flourish in harmony, free from sectarianism, and that all Tibetans and all other living beings may live in

With respect and offerings,

Signed on behalf of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition
Morten Clausen
New York Representative of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition


Many people are now believing and saying openly that the worship of Dorje Shugden is harmful to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s health, the Tibetan cause, and the development of the Nyingma Tradition. This is completely untrue.

This false information is a cause of serious disharmony within the Tibetan and Buddhist communities, both in the East and in the West, and because of this many people are losing their religious freedom and are experiencing great suffering.

Therefore, I declare that from now on everyone has the complete freedom to worship Dorje Shugden, and that no one should interfere in any way with their worship.

Signed by
His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet

The following two letters were received in response to these demands:

1. May 4, 1998

Dear Morten Clausen,
Thank you for your letter of May 1, 1998. There is no possibility for an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

As for your wanting him to issue a declaration drafted by you, please find here a response from the Secretary of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Mr. Tenzin Geyche Tethong.

With best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
Dawa Tsering
Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama

2. May 4, 1998

Dear Morten Clausen,

This is with reference to your petition to His Holiness the Dalai Lama along with a copy of a declaration that you want him to sign saying “everyone has the complete freedom to worship Dorje Shugden.”  His Holiness cannot accede to your request to sign the declaration as it is in total contradiction to his carefully considered position on this practice.

Let me say at the onset that this is not an issue of religious freedom, as you portray.  You are free to worship or practice what you wish.  His
Holiness has said many times that it is his responsibility to provide correct spiritual guidance to his followers, but it is upto individuals whether they want to follow or not.

I would like to reiterate here briefly the three main reasons why His Holiness is advising Tibetan Buddhists against following this practice:

a)  the nature of this practice is leading to the degeneration of the profound teachings of the Buddha into little more than spirit worship;

b)  it is encouraging sectarianism, which is totally against His Holiness’ basic approach towards religious harmony, particularly within the Tibetan Buddhist traditions; and,

c)  the Great Fifth, and the Thirteenth Dalai Lamas, as well as many other prominent Tibetan lamas, who are revered by the majority of Tibetans, have categorically stated the harmful effects of this practice.

Therefore, there is no way His Holiness can sign your declaration.  You will recall that on an earlier occasion, too, Mrs. Chungdak Koren, His Holiness’s Representative stationed in Geneva, and myself met with some of your representatives at Caux, Switzerland, in 1996 and conveyed a similar message.

With warm wishes,
Yours sincerely,

Tenzin Geyche Tethong
Secretary to H.H. the Dalai Lama


The NKT tried to force the Dalai Lama to sign a declaration that goes against his own investigation, research and opinion and is in favor of the opinion of Kelsang Gyatso / NKT. Is this a call for a dialogue?

In 2008, when the NKT started their second world wide media “against the Dalai Lama”**, via Western Shugden Society (WSS) the official website of the WSS stated:

“Dalai Lama, stop your lies, give religious freedom”

The purpose of this website is to expose the hypocrisy of the Dalai Lama who presents himself as a champion of human rights and defender of religious freedom while inflicting terrible human rights abuses on his own people and interfering with the religious freedom of thousands and thousands of people around the world.

The site is presented by the Western Shugden Society (WSS), an ad hoc coalition of Dorje Shugden practitioners from many different countries. The immediate aims of the WSS are expressed in a recent letter we sent to the Dalai Lama.

Because the Dalai Lama refuses even to acknowledge our correspondence, let alone enter into meaningful dialog, we are left with no alternative but to organize protest demonstrations wherever the Dalai Lama teaches. We will continue to organize demonstrations to coincide with the Dalai Lama’s schedule until he agrees to our requests.

We hope that through our actions, international scrutiny will be brought to bear on the Dalai Lama’s lies and actions of religious persecution so that the Tibetans he is oppressing will receive justice and Dorje Shugden practitioners around the world will receive religious freedom.

What was the ‘correspondence’ and ‘meaningful dialogue’ the NKT claimed to seek? It were against unreasonable demands (see Tibetan Situation Today, PDF):

12th April 2008
To the Dalai Lama of Tibet,

We the Western Shugden Society ask you to accomplish four things:

  1. To give freedom to practice Dorje Shugden to whoever wishes to rely upon this Deity.
  2. To stop completely the discrimination between Shugden people and non-Shugden practitioners.
  3. To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled from their monasteries and nunneries to return to their monasteries and nunneries where they should receive the same material and spiritual rights as the non-Shugden practitioners.
  4. That you tell in writing to the Tibetan community throughout the world that they should practically apply the above three points.

Do you accept these four points? We require your answer by the 22 April 2008, signed and delivered by registered post to:

Western Shugden Society
c/o Dorje Shugden Devotees Society,
House No 105, Old Tibetan Camp, Majnu Ka Tilla, Delhi-54

With a copy of your letter sent to the following email address:

These demands are unreasonable because Dorje Shugden practitioners have freedoms. They can practice privately and at their own monasteries and places. It is the freedom of others to restrict a practice that they regard as harmful and oppressing religious freedom, similar how nowadays smokers are banned from public places but can smoke at their own places. The majority of the monasteries have the right to ban a practice at the institutional level that is not in accordance with their understanding of Buddhist practice and that brings disharmony. The rights of the majority have to be considered too. Banning Shugden practice from the monastery grounds was based on a majority vote that is according to the Vinaya as laid down by the Buddha (see ‘Stick Referendum). Going against this majority vote would make the Dalai Lama indeed a dictator. The Vinaya Stick Referendum and its outcome has to be accepted by both, the Dalai Lama and the Shugden protesters.

What we experience now with the ICS in 2014 is just a repetition of the past. The NKT’s/ICS’s unreasonable demands for ‘dialogue’ – which they do not actually seek – are addressed in this post:

* This number can be doubted because the NKT and their front groups were witnessed for creating signatures by invented names and persons.
** Letter by Kelsang Gyatso to his students: “[…] To stop this evil action, as the representative of the Western Shugden Society, I personally will organise demonstrations against the Dalai Lama directly. I requested Kelsang Pema and Kelsang Thubchen to do this job for me and they have accepted. Please help Pema and Thubchen with whatever they need. With much love and prayers, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso”

The Benefits of the Anti-Dalai Lama protests by the Shugden group (NKT/ICS)



I think it is important to reflect from different angles about the NKT/ICS protests. On a mundane and spiritual level you can establish many good reasons why the protests bring more harm than benefit. Such a situation might lead easily to a rejection or to ignoring the protests and the protesters. Especially this blog focuses strongly on the negative sides of the NKT/ICS and the protests – an approach that can easily lead to aversion, anger or hate. However, this is not the aim of the blog. The aim of this blog is to correct the misinformation being spread by the Western Shugden group (NKT) since 1996.

When I was just in Hamburg attending the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama – which were very inspiring and moving – I realized that my strategy just to ignore the protesters might be good for my own mind only from a short term perspective. This strategy helps me to prevent to think negatively about the protesters / NKT (or the few Tibetans who joined the protests) and to get upset or disturbed. Though this is a functioning strategy (like Shantideva suggests in his Patience Chapter of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara: “be like a piece of wood”), in the long run ignoring others is not a very powerful training for the mind.

Many reported that they feel that the protesters are very aggressive and that this in turn disturbs their own mind. I made a test in Hamburg by walking through the protesters without ignoring them and I have to agree, not ignoring them but opening up for the noise and what they shout disturbed also my mind.

However, these protests are a very rare and useful opportunity to practice patience and different Dharma methods to increase the positive mental energy by being mindful of the content of the mind (aversion, anger) and just observing it or by actively cultivating an antidote of non-hatred or an understanding of dependent arising etc.

If the protesters were just Christian fundamentalists, I would generously accept them, so why do I take them so seriously? From a dharmic perspective they are my best friends. They offer the rare chance to practice patience, they help me to learn to be at peace and calm, not getting disturbed. The protesters are my sponsors, donors and friends; no!, they are better than my sponsors, donors and friends because they serve as a basis to cultivate the quality of patience and love, precious gems not even my sponsors, donors and friends can offer me. So they are the best thing I can meet or encounter in order to train my mind! Instead of ignoring them I should appreciate their presence and make the best use out of this opportunity which soon may cease.

The protests remind me also of the Four Trainings of a Trainee in Virtue (of a Buddhist monk) that are included in the Bodhisattva vows*:

  1. not to respond to being chided by chiding
  2. not to respond to anger by expressing anger**
  3. not to respond to being struck by striking back
  4. not to respond to insult by insulting

So, I would like to commit myself to use the protests in a more powerful way for training my mind and I would like to encourage others to do so too. Actual it is a very precious opportunity which should not be left unused. Thank you, dear protesters!

Geshe Langri Tangpa

Geshe Langri Tangpa

When I see ill-natured people,
Overwhelmed by wrongdoing and pain,
May I cherish them as something rare,
As though I had found a treasure-trove.

Geshe Langri Tangpa


* “Buddhist Ethics” by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, Snow Lion, 1998, p. 189. The training is not only meant with respect to the own person but also to those close and dear to yourself.

** I understand this also as an advice not to allow even the slightest anger in my mind if someone is attacking me or someone dear to me angrily.

Some Media and the Shugden Controversy – How TV Channels and YouTube Can Deceive You

Me (Kelsang Tashi at that time) protesting against the Dalai Lama with the New Kadampa Tradition under the front group Shugden Supporters Community (SSC) in Berlin, Tempodrom, 6. August 1998.

Me (Kelsang Tashi at that time) protesting against the Dalai Lama with the New Kadampa Tradition under the front group Shugden Supporters Community (SSC) in Berlin, Tempodrom, 6. August 1998.

Going back to my time in NKT from 1995–2000, I remember the point in 1996 when the Dalai Lama was introduced to me as being a bad person who “oppresses religious freedom”, as a politician who “mixes Dharma with politics“, who had no spiritual qualities whatsoever and who had “broken with his root guru”. At that time I still admired the Dalai Lama as a Bodhisattva, as Chenrezig in person. Although I had thrown my Dalai Lama book and a Dzogchen book into the garbage, having learned by the manipulative skills of my NKT teacher that these are not “pure Dharma” books, whereas “Geshe-la’s” (Kelsang Gyatso’s) books are “pure Dharma”, my veneration for the Dalai Lama was still there.

Such veneration wasn’t good for the protests. So my NKT teacher tried her best to convince me that the Dalai Lama was a very ordinary person. It was hard for her, but finally she succeeded. Along with the NKT information I was fed, she was so successful that I really hated the Dalai Lama. I couldn’t bear even to see a picture of him. I immediately felt repulsion and hostility, thinking “this man fools the whole world”. Not only this, I also was thinking that it would be better for the Dalai Lama to be killed because he harms so many sentient beings. I wondered: “Is it my task to kill him out of compassion?” After I left the NKT, it took me years to clear up my mind from these wrong views and projections against His Holiness.

During this process of indoctrination by the NKT, two German speaking TV broadcasts played a major role. They were shown to us to “give evidence” that the Dalai Lama was a “ruthless dictator” who “oppresses his own people”. These were the TV broadcast by DRS (SF 1) “10 vor 10″ of Switzerland TV “Bruderzwist zwischen Tibetern” (‪05. January 1998) and the TV broadcast by a major TV station in Germany PANORAMA of ARD “Verklärt, verkitscht – Hollywood feiert den Dalai Lama” (20. November 1997). You can find both of them on YouTube uploaded by the NKT or other Shugden groups. The former is being translated into English and both were used for the new NKT video Mr. McBretney (NKT/ICS) showed at SOAS. These broadcasts approved the claims of NKT and tried to convince the audience that indeed the Dalai Lama has a dark shadow that the world ignores.

I remember that while watching “Bruderzwist” from ‪05. January 98

when I saw and heard the old Tibetan monk who cried and said: “I would prefer to have died than to experience this” my mind was thinking ‘but why doesn’t he consider Karma, cause and effect? And why does he cling so much, that he feels pain?’

However, after we watched the documentary, there wasn’t space for an open discussion in the NKT centre, just instructions of why and how we must continue to organize the protests and attend them at different places.

What most English-speaking people don’t know about that documentary is that it was only part one of a five part TV series on Swiss TV SF1. This part one was considered – and is, in fact – a heavily biased part, which had led to a serious controversy in Switzerland. The TV Chief, Christoph Müller, had to excuse himself, saying in defense that they are only an “Infotainment-Magazine”, “we don’t make academic research.” The protests by Tibetans, the media and scientists forced the TV channel to re-investigate their claims, to consult academic experts and to send another broadcast that corrected most of the former claims. You won’t find this self-correction on YouTube with English subtitles, because it doesn’t support the aims of the proselytizing Shugden group that is very active on YouTube. (The full German version of this “self correction” by the TV channel can be found here.)

The self-correction by Swiss TV corrected and balanced all of their former TV contributions about this issue. It provided explanations from the Indian police – see the English transcript here – and it corrected some of the many misleading claims SF1 made in the first parts of their series which the NKT/WSS/Shugden groups have now spread all over the internet and YouTube. For instance, ex-Minister Mr. Kundeling says in this documentary

I don’t practice Shugden, hence I can’t be stabbed for practicing it, they claimed I would be stabbed by the Tibetan Government because I worship Shugden, this is not true, this is a lie.

The self-correction by SF1 also made it clear that the document about ten Shugden practitioners (hysterically announced by the organized Shugden groups as “The ten most hated enemies of the Dalai Lama” etc) was made on behalf of the Tibetan Parliament and was stamped as being “internal”. The reason for making this document was in response to the brutal killing of the Dalai Lama’s confident and Shugden critic Gen Lobsang Gyatso and two of his students (allegedly by  Shugden practitioners). The Parliament made the document to investigate security risks for the Dalai Lama and who might be behind those brutal murders. The announcements of the Shugden practitioners’ names and faces in the public on posters was not spread by the government but leaked by a parliament member.

The moderator acknowledges that, according to the Indian police, there are “fanaticalizations” and “fundamental tendencies” among Shugden practitioners. The SF1 documentation makes clear that every society has a right to decide what is authentic and what violates their rights and that of course, if Shugden practitioners are elected into the government, this will be accepted. […]

However, the constant misinformation by NKT, together with these two one-sided documentaries (which are just propaganda, as a Tibetologist once said to me) were a key factor in convincing me that the NKT was right and the Dalai Lama and the world were wrong.

It was a hard process of more than 4 years after I left NKT to reconsider the validity and claims of all the information and broadcasts. For instance, I didn’t know that some leftist journalists (who often have a problem with religion and authority in general) were in favor of the distorted Shugden claims. They were obviously happy to write something bad about the Dalai Lama, misunderstanding propaganda with enlightenment (“Aufklärung”). This is also true for the well spread PANORAMA broadcast, which was also shown to myself and other NKT followers.

Some of the reporters and journalists who reported about the Shugden controversy in a one-sided way might have been driven by sensationalist greed or by underestimating the complexity of the issue, simply taking the claims of Shugden informants at face value.

However, PANORAMA topped the misinformation, because they incorporated the interviews with two academic experts, Prof Donald Lopez (USA) and Prof Jens-Uwe Hartmann (Germany), into their misrepresentation of the situation which lent their report more creditability. It was only around 2008 (11 years later) that I learned that both academic experts had distanced themselves from this documentary and what distortions and errors it contained. Prof. Hartmann wrote (unauthorized English translation of his German article):

In a report on Tibet on November 20, 1997 in the Panorama program [of German National TV Channel 1], the Dalai Lama was criticized for his stance in the conflict over the protective deity Dorje Shugden (rDo-rje shugs-ldan). The occasion for the broadcast was the latest Hollywood film on Heinrich Harrer’s stay in Tibet and the Tibet image conveyed in that film; and the presentation was characterized by a desire to scrutinize the “Tibet Myth” and especially the “Dalai Lama Myth” in relation to the reality and to reveal the discrepancies. To illuminate the contradictory nature of the person of the Dalai Lama, he was first introduced as the world’s most highly respected Nobel Peace Laureate, and then shown, in light of the Shugden conflict, as being an entirely different person behind this façade, namely that, together with the Tibetan government-in-exile, he uncompromisingly suppresses the religious freedom of his countrymen.

The show drew its effect from the skillfully constructed contrast. That this approach was mainly aimed to rouse emotion in the viewers, and less on informing critically and emotion-free is a common feature nowadays for all such television magazines and tells something about the general information culture even within the Public Broadcasting Services. However, another thing was the tendentious handling of facts, which was aimed at creating as sensational an impact as possible. Although the editors of the program knew the facts and had the background information, the inclusion of these would have necessitated a much more positive view of the Dalai Lama and, as such, they were left aside in order not to jeopardize the “emotion targeting” effect. This is unfair sensationalist journalism.

As I now know from numerous conversations with viewers, there were misunderstandings not only because of the one-sidedness of the report, but also because of the blurred depiction of individual facts. As such, the viewers got the impression that the murder of Geshe Losang Gyatsho and his two students in Dharamsala earlier that year had been perpetrated by the pro-Dalai Lama faction, as they did not clearly express in the report that the Geshe was a close confidant of the Dalai Lama supporting his position in the Shugden conflict.

In July Prof. Jens-Uwe Hartmann wrote an updated version of his 1997 article and this is now online and has been translated into English (note his clear statement at the end about this broadcast):

It was information and academic papers such as these that helped me to make up my own mind about Shugden. And I am very happy that I found them and that I could re-investigate all of the information I received – not only from the NKT, but also from Shugden lamas such as the self-proclaimed (or fake) Kundeling Lama (Lobsang Yeshi) [note there is an officially recognized, genuine, Kundeling Rinpoche], Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, Gonsar Rinpoche and some of their students.

In 2008, there were two similar documentaries by Al Jazeera, The Dalai Lama: The devil within and France 24 TV, The Dalai Lama’s demon which repeated similar to the Swiss SF1 TV documentary and the German Panorama documentary distorted claims of proselytizing Shugden groups (e.g. 4 million practitioners).

I would like to encourage any open minded person and those in NKT, those who have left the NKT or who are wondering about all of this, to take time to thoroughly investigate the claims being made by using reasons based on facts. It’s worth doing it. Your mind will come to peace and you will enjoy certainty and confidence about these matters.

Last edited by tenpel August 30, 2014 at 09:55 pm

Kelsang Rabten Calls for Dialogue at the SOAS Conference: Is Dialogue Possible?

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

At the SOAS conference, Rabten began his talk by stating:

Gen Kelsang Rabten at SOAS.

Gen Kelsang Rabten at SOAS.


“I’d like to make quite clear that we’re not here to argue. We very much want to move towards a resolution to this issue.

“We have tried to have dialogue on this with the Dalai Lama and his representatives for nearly twenty years … So even though they’re not here, maybe this is a step in that direction, who knows?”

Indeed, his stance was calm and reasonable. However, beside him on the table was a book entitled The False Dalai Lama: The Worst Dictator in the Modern World. How could the Dalai Lama ever have dialogue with people who write such things? In my mind, much of this dispute rests on the fact that many within the organized (rather fanatic) Shugden community have now demoted His Holiness from any position of religious or spiritual authority at all.

Given that the Dalai Lama’s stance regarding Shugden worship is based on him fulfilling his responsibility and duty as a religious leader, dialogue seems pointless. He made his points about Shugden, but insists that people should not follow him without investigating this issue and its 400 years of history thoroughly. He also states that its up to the individual to accept or to reject his advice. Shugden people can practice Shugden, Rabten can practice it. They have their own monasteries, their own places, but there are restrictions on the institutional level. So their rights to practice are met. However they cannot practice at places where the majority of the community decided against it– by a procedure laid down in the Vinaya (monastic code of discipline) by the  Buddha. This is comparable to prohibiting smoking in public places because it harms the non smoker. So, the real point of difference is not about the rights of Shugden worshippers, but about the Dalai Lama’s right advice and the right of people to follow his advice and to decide against smoking (Shugden worship) at public places —and that’s a different topic entirely!

Further, if Shugden worshippers see hidden agendas behind everything the Dalai Lama’s says and won’t take his words on face value, what is the point of speaking with him? They will come to their own conclusions regardless of what he says! Further, to call the person whom you claim to seek dialogue with a liar, evil and cruel, ruthless dictator, worst dictator of the modern world—is this a basis for a dialogue? Are Kelsang Rabten and NKT, or the organised Shugden fanatics, really willing to listen to anyone’s point of view but their own in dialogue?

In addition, how can there be dialogue while there is still so much deceit? I have found evidence of fifteen incidents of deception just in a few videos on the International Shugden Community (ISC) website—fifteen and I’m still counting. (see here) Some of these are unsubstantiated claims and some can only be called outright lies. This was the problem Tibetans encountered with the Chinese, where finally dialogue was proven to be fruitless.

In my view, the only dialogue that would be worth having in this situation would be regarding living conditions of Shugden worshippers in India. These would include the claims that Shugden worshippers aren’t given basic services, community membership or proper housing and are subjected to violence. The Indian legal system and the Tibetan Government in Exile could be part of these dialogues—and the Dalai Lama’s presence wouldn’t be needed at all. However, in view of the impossible demands Rabten makes at the end of his SOAS talk, such a constructive approach is clearly not what he is advocating.

Sometimes it even seems as if the ISC is more interested in harming the Dalai Lama than in helping Shugden worshippers in India.

Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

As to Rabten’s claim that concerned Shugden worshippers have been trying to have this dialogue for nearly twenty years, it is clear that the slanderous ideas in the past and in the book beside him on the table are not new. Claims that the Dalai Lama is a horrible “dictator” and a conniving conspirator have been slung at him for nearly twenty years now from Shugden worshippers. The following quote from Rabten’s own teacher, Kelsang Gyatso, was written in 1997:

In reality [the Dalai Lama] is misleading people in order to
 fulfill his wishes. His main wish is to destroy the practice of Dorje Shugden 
and then to change the entire Gelug tradition. He wants to integrate all the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism into one so that the leaders of the other 
traditions will no longer have a role and he will become the only leader of
 Tibetan Buddhism. In this way he can easily control the spiritual life of 
all practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. I know this is his wish; he has been 
working towards this for many years.

Once again, how can there be dialogue if this is Kelsang Gyatso’s impression of who the Dalai Lama is? And how can there be dialogue if protesters are willing to go so far in their smear campaign as to hold insulting placards, depicting a revered teacher of Dharma, a fully ordained monk in robes in mocking caricature?

How can there be dialogue until the weapons are withdrawn?

Rabten then closes his talk at the SOAS conference by listing Shugden worshippers’ “requests” (which sound very much like demands). He states,

So to resolve this issue, we would request that everyone, especially those of you who care about the Dalai Lama’s image and reputation, to ask the Dalai Lama to accept the following four points:

  1. To allow anyone who wishes to practice Dorje Shugden the freedom to do so.
  2. To stop completely the discrimination against Shugden practitioners.
  3. To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled to return to their monasteries and nunneries. And to receive the same spiritual and material rights as non-shugden practitioners.
  4. To write to Tibetan communities throughout the world telling them that they should apply practically the above three points.

The moment this happens, all our demonstrations will finish. I don’t think any of those requests are unreasonable. We simply want these people to have genuine and complete religious freedom. If that happens, all of our protesting will finish.

This is not a statement for dialogue; it is an ultimatum. Rabten repeats several times that if the demands are met, “protests will finish.” Rabten needs to understand first that the Dalai Lama cannot over rule the majority vote of the monks in the monasteries, who decided democratically, and based on the Buddha’s Vinaya, to separate from Shugden monks. If the Dalai Lama were to force the monasteries to go against their majority vote this would be an act of a dictator. On the other hand, His Holiness was clear: whatever the outcome of the vote is, also if it is pro Shudgen, he would definitely accept it. Now the NKT/ICS/Shugdenists should accept the rights of the majority and practice at their own places—which they can do freely.

Rabten also demonstrates his complete lack of understanding as to what followers of the Dalai Lama “care about.” This is not about “the Dalai Lama’s image and reputation.” Rabten’s is a jaded viewpoint regarding sincere students and followers of the Dalai Lama—who see his message as a world treasure.

Let me say to Rabten clearly: The Dalai Lama can take care of himself. His image and reputation are only important as tools towards fulfilling his life’s work. Beyond that, they have no role or importance.

And I would also remind Rabten that everywhere the Dalai Lama goes, people gather in the thousands and continue to be inspired to become more caring, decent human beings. Many people are so deeply moved by his words and presence that they start to weep – no matter what background, be they criminal, atheist, Christian or Muslim, scientist or old lady.  A few small bands of protesters have barely scratched the surface of his popularity or his work to make the world a better place. Recently, when he was in Ladakh, 140,00- 200,000 attendees came to hear him teach and give an empowerment. The countryside was a sea of attendees.

Rabten’s last words sounded to me like a threat from a man who imagines he has more power than he possesses. He imagines that the protests and the smears will force the Dalai Lama to change his mind. At the same time, he calls for dialogue! I fear he has little understanding of the situation. He fails to understand that the Dalai Lama spent years of investigation, reflection and contemplation regarding the issue of Shugden worship before he came to the difficult decision to restrict this practice. He is not going to change that because of a few people shouting themselves hoarse outside his events! He has said on different occasions that he has done his research expressed the results and now it is up to others to do their own unbiased, open research into the 400 years of Shugden worship.

From my own point of view, watching the aggressive faces or the dancing, hypnotic hilarity, or the robotic repetitions of protesters—or listening to accounts from X-NKT students—I have only gained a greater conviction that the Dalai Lama’s decision was the right and wise one. By its results, particularly within the NKT, Shugden worship appears like a dangerous, cult practice to me. The Dalai Lama is clearly protecting the Buddha Dharma by restricting it. How can there be dialogue while Shugden worshippers behave in these ways?


This morning, (August 25), during the question-and-answer at HH Dalai Lama’s teaching on the Bodhicharyavatara in Hamburg, a questioner asked something to this effect:

“If Trijang Rinpoche saw Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being, then why have you gone against your guru’s advice and banned the practice?”

His Holiness replied, “Good question.” and proceeded to answer.

However, the questioner immediately interrupted him and shouted loudly, “Stop lying!”

His Holiness then attempted to explain that as a Buddhist monk, he was committed to telling the truth.

Whereupon the questioner continued to shout loudly, “Stop lying, stop lying, stop lying.” He had a microphone, so it was quite loud!

This man was ultimately asked to leave by security and we could hear him shouting his slogan off in the distance as he was escorted out of the venue.

Is this what Rabten and the ISC/NKT mean by dialogue?

See also

See also by Joanne Clark

Six monks came to Ferguson accompanied by two unidentified Tibetans to support justice for Michael Brown

The fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9 has sent shockwaves not just through the nation, but throughout the globe. Photos of the clashes between protestors and police in Ferguson, Missouri, could be easily mistaken for a war zone, as tear gas, molotov cocktails, and tanks fill the town’s streets.

The situation is so dire that a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks have reportedly traveled to Ferguson all the way from India, where they live in exile, in order to advocate for justice for Michael Brown, according to Alderman Antonio French. – Huffington Post

Tibetan Buddhist monks in Ferguson

Tibetan Buddhist monks in Ferguson

 @AntonioFrench This photo makes me weep. May we all be at peace with each other. May there be justice for all. – Tracy Seeley

UPDATE The six Tibetan Buddhist monks are from the Drepung Monastery and in the U.S. as part of the Drepung Gomang Sacred Arts Tour 2014. They traveled from one of their first stops on the tour, St. Louis, to nearby Ferguson, to stand in solidarity with the townspeople there in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer.


Declaration by New Kadampa Survivors concerning the Demonstrations against His Holiness

We, the undersigned, as former members of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and ex-practitioners of Dorje Shugden, are appalled and saddened that those who were once our NKT sangha demonstrate against and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Inaccuracies and distortions of what we know to be the truth have been published as fact. The New Kadampa Tradition currently operates as the ‘International Shugden Community’ (ISC). Many allegations and insults are made against His Holiness which are completely unwarranted.

At demonstrations and on numerous web sites and Facebook pages, the NKT/ISC viciously attacks the reputation of His Holiness. We have tried to address inaccuracies with the group, but without success. We believe it is time to speak out with one voice. Here we highlight a few of the issues created by the New Kadampa Tradition, their leader Kelsang Gyatso, and his followers:

1) The NKT/WSS/ISC say that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a ‘liar’. A difference of opinion does not equate to lying. His Holiness holds a different opinion from Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT about the nature and history of Dolgyal Shugden and the effects of this practice upon the well-being of His Holiness, the Tibetan people and their cause. To call His Holiness a ‘liar’ because of this difference of opinion makes no sense.

2) The NKT/WSS/ISC claim that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has gone against all his teachers, broken his samaya and destroyed the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa by rejecting the practice of Dolgyal Shugden. His Holiness states that after conducting extensive research into the history and problems of Shugden practice, he consulted with his Junior Tutor Trijang Rinpoche and explained the reasons why it was his duty to reject this practice. The historical record shows that Shugden practice is often contentiously associated with sectarian views and ‘distorted aspiration’ and was viewed as problematic by His Holiness’ Senior Tutor, Ling Rinpoche. In fact, in this action His Holiness was actually following a course which, according to Buddhist scriptures and past masters, as Kelsang Gyatso himself states, is absolutely correct and appropriate.

In his book Clear Light of Bliss Kelsang Gyatso states: “When deciding which doctrine to rely upon, we should not be satisfied with the fame or reputation of a particular teacher, but instead should examine what he or she teaches. If, upon investigation, we find the teachings reasonable and faultless, we should accept them, but if they lack these qualities we should reject them, no matter how famous or charismatic their expounder might be.”

Kelsang Gyatso therefore contradicts his own advice when he asserts that His Holiness has broken his samaya with Trijang Rinpoche.

3) Kelsang Gyatso also claims that by rejecting one particular protector practice, this means that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is rejecting all Gelug teachings, the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa. His Holiness has not rejected all Gelug teachings and still holds his lineage gurus in the highest esteem. Kelsang Gyatso, however, is never seen in public with any teachers connected to the lineage he claims to represent. He is alone, without the influence of either peers or superiors. He created the NKT in 1992 after a schism with another Tibetan Buddhist group which invited him to the UK to teach in 1977 and whose property he then kept as the ‘mother centre’ of the NKT. In 1996 he was unanimously expelled from Sera Je Tibetan Buddhist monastery, where he trained, for being a ‘holder of broken commitments and wrong view’. As he is the only Tibetan teacher in his own tradition of ‘Modern Buddhism’, with his own ‘new’ ordination and no study of the traditional Vinaya teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, he also effectively isolates his own students from the wider Buddhist world.

4) In 1998 Kelsang Gyatso stated that the NKT would no longer be involved in any further demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He admitted that the Shugden issue was, in reality, an issue of Tibetan politics and promised that the NKT would not take part in any further inappropriate actions. Since then Kelsang Gyatso and the NKT have organised two further rounds of protests, one beginning in 2008, and the latest round currently being staged.

5) In 2008 Kelsang Gyatso wrote to all his dharma centres stating that he was personally organising the NKT’s participation in the protests. He also said the protests were being organised by a group called the Western Shugden Society (WSS). A simple check reveals that all the Directors of WSS were and are members of the New Kadampa Tradition. Yet the NKT often denies that they have any connection to the WSS. Kelsang Pema, Gyatso’s former assistant, informed journalists that the WSS had no leader.

6) Even if the NKT say that it is only an ‘individual decision’ for a student to support the protests, we know that at present the ISC directly and actively recruits protestors and fundraises for demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama inside NKT centres.

7) The 2014 NKT campaign is delivered by its latest front group, the International Shugden Community. Currently, the ISC has two registered groups. In Norway ISC records show the Executive Director and Chairman to be NKT teachers. The ISC US based non-profit company in California shares an address with a large health food company of which Len Foley, an ex NKT teacher, is CEO. His wife, Rebecca Gauthier, an NKT Resident Teacher, is also spokesperson for the ISC in the US.

The ISC front-man is a senior NKT monk named Kelsang Rabten. In his YouTube “News Broadcasts” Kelsang Rabten does not wear his monk’s robes and appears to be a professional journalist. He hides his status and biased position. One ISC video uses footage of young Burmese monks conducting traditional alms-rounds to fraudulently misrepresent the situation in India regarding the supposed ‘ostracism’ of Shugden followers. Techniques such as these are deceitful, designed only to exaggerate their claims against His Holiness.

8) The allegation that the Dalai Lama is engaging in repression of Freedom of Religion is, in fact, more relevant to the way the NKT itself operates. NKT Centres are dedicated to the exclusive devotion of Kelsang Gyatso. NKT centres and teachers are only permitted to teach from books written by Kelsang Gyatso. Teachers other than those trained by the NKT and appointed by Kelsang Gyatso are not allowed. Ordained NKT people and others are told they will be reborn in the hell realms and may not get enlightened if they leave the NKT.

9) With the backdrop of continued Human Rights abuses against the Tibetan people, who number little more than 6 million in total, and the mass slaughter of an unknown number of Tibetans due to the Chinese occupation and colonisation often quoted as being more than one million, claims made by the ISC such as that ‘4 million Dorje Shugden practitioners are suffering’ are obviously lies.

No established Human Rights group or court has ever confirmed any of the NKT/WSS or ISC’s claims of intentional Human Rights abuses by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Central Tibetan Administration. In 2010 the Indian High Court rejected a law suit by Shugden followers because of ‘vague averments’ and ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’.

We offer our support to the Tibetan people in their struggle to preserve their lives and their culture and question the intentions of those who use this culture but appear not to support this struggle.

Both in 1996-7 and in 2008 the demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama coincided with the public exposure on the internet of the alleged sexual misconduct of the Deputy Spiritual Directors of the NKT.

10) There are many documented cases where the NKT threatened to sue using libel law and thus silenced other Buddhist organisations, umbrella groups, internet discussion forums and academics, authors and publishers. People inside the group can realistically fear social exclusion, illegal eviction or police arrest if they criticise policies. In our experience, the NKT generally prioritises the expansion of the group over the welfare of individuals. The NKT Survivors internet group numbers over 1,200 subscribers. There is no Dalai Lama Survivor’s group.

In view of the consistently unkind behaviour of his own organisation, we feel that Kelsang Gyatso and his students can have no moral right for making such attempts to discredit and defame His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Those of us who once belonged to the New Kadampa Tradition are resolved to bring these inaccuracies, disinformation, and outright lies to light. Who better to reveal the truth than we who were once inside the organisation?

19th August 2014

Carol McQuire
Jamie Kostek
Lynne Cracknell
Ani Tsultrim
Graham Smetham
Linda Ciardiello
Ian Thomas
David Cutshaw
Robert Helms
Steve Maxwell
Michael Brown
Charles Wesley
Andrew Durling
Andrew Cheadle
Kevan Webb
Tenzin Peljor
James Tregaskis
Tim Ford
Karma Yonten
Amanda Zinski
Stuart Everard
Andrea Ballance
Carol Dawson (Yeshe Tsomo)
Richard Litchfield
Steve Cody


Lyn G Farrell
Charlie Worthington
Tony Allen
Cynthia von Hendricks
Ashoka von Hendricks
Dan Ballance
Joanne Clark


Full video: Panel Discussion at SOAS: “The Shugden Controversy & the 14th Dalai Lama”

Description by London Ney (Tibetans in London):

Panel Discussion: “The Shugden Controversy & the 14th Dalai Lama”

Organised by Dr Nathan W. Hill of the School of Oriental and African Studies with LondonNey

Friday, 15th Aug 2014, from 6pm to 8pm at SOAS, University of LONDON, UK

This panel discussion will address the on-going ‘Shugden controversy’ in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, which is surrounded by confusion, misinformation, and disagreement. While the Dalai Lama and many Tibetans have ceased to honour ‘Shugden’ and regard the propitiation of Shugden as problematic, a vocal minority, especially the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) established in the West, believe the Shugden deity to be an essential component or Dharma protector of the Gelug School, and claim to be a minority discriminated against on religious grounds.

The community of Tibetan Buddhists has been agitated and are puzzled by the intensity of this dispute concerning the practice of the controversial deity – Shugden. Tibetans are generally bewildered by the actions of Western Buddhist organisations such as the NKT and their protests wherever the Dalai Lama travels, leading many Tibetans to become suspicious of Western Buddhist practitioners in general.

Then, many Tibetans accuse the Shugden protesters as “devil worshippers”, “Chinese agents” and “Taliban Buddhists” while the pro-Shugden protestors question the very authenticity of the 14th Dalai Lama, using slogans such as “fake Dalai Lama”, “Muslin Dalai Lama”, “lying Dalai Lama”, and so on.

The purpose of this unprecedented, moderated discussion among experts and representatives from different sides of the dispute is to openly address this issue. The event is open to the general public with the aim of providing a better understanding of this issue.

The event will be live-streamed in order to provide the opportunity for far greater audiences. Here is the link

This discussion will be moderated by Dr Nathan W. Hill, Lecturer in Tibetan and Linguistics at SOAS and the speakers include:

Dr Martin A. Mills (University of Aberdeen), ‘Human rights and the Shugden ban amongst Himalayan communities’

Thierry Dodin (Tibetologist) ‘From Lhasa to Shigatse: History and function of Shugden worship”

Kelsang Rabten (Shugden Community), ‘Refuting the claim of Tenzin Gyatso as an authentic Dalai Lama’

Geshe Tashi Tsering (Jamyang Buddhist Centre), ‘Refuting the claim of Dolgyal (Shugden) as a protector in the Tsongkhapa tradition’

Carol McQuire (former member of New Kadampa Tradition) ‘Shugden practitioners or Shugden followers’

John McBretney (Shugden Community), ‘The suffering of Shugden Buddhists within the Tibetan exile community, and the Dalai Lama’s role in this’

Venue: Vernon Square Room V211
The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
University of London, WC1X 9EW


More Academic Material

See also

Statements by Western Buddhists

‘Shugden practitioners or Shugden followers’? Thoughts about my Shugden practice in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT).

by Carol McQuire

Thank you for asking me to talk.*

I will speak about what I think Shugden practice is in the New Kadampa Tradition or NKT.

I believe that the NKT is a ‘closed system’ that needs to silence those who could interfere with its claimed ‘authority’. I will argue that the NKT uses ‘Shugden’ to do this. Shugden practice in the NKT does not look like, and is not used in the same way as the Shugden protector practice in traditional Tibetan Buddhism.

Shugden is used by the NKT as a psychological technique to silence and control the most committed ‘insiders’ using ‘meditation’, and secondly, to silence critical ‘outsiders’, for example, using ‘Shugden’ to demonstrate against the so-called ‘Human Rights abuses’ of the Dalai Lama. These demonstrations also, importantly, have kept ‘insiders’ from asking awkward questions about issues ‘back home’ in the UK, such as the sexual misconduct of senior teachers in the past.

The NKT fiercely protects its own ‘renown’ or ‘reputation’ in the west. NKT students have reluctance and even fear of speaking out about possible ‘abuses’ within the NKT for fear of the consequences, such as criminal arrest, being sued for libel, or social exclusion. There are enough documented cases of the NKT making legal threats against ‘speaking’ to understand this is valid fear. But ‘Shugden’ isn’t often mentioned in these complaints by NKT survivors. They usually complain about issues of control leading to a lack of kindness.

But Shugden practice is the ‘essential practice’ of the NKT – praises, offerings and requests to Shugden are made every day in every NKT centre all over the world. To ‘be’ an NKT centre, you have to do these prayers. And every ‘qualified, pure NKT Dharma’ teacher is supposed to practice the NKT Shugden meditations before giving any teachings.

As ‘Shugden practice is the essence of the NKT’ and ‘critics of the NKT need to be silenced’, then if the Dalai Lama criticises Shugden, we have to conclude that the Dalai Lama must be silenced too.

But the Dalai Lama isn’t criticising the NKT, he’s only criticising Shugden practice. The murmur of the bad reputation of the NKT is not coming from the Dalai Lama. That’s mostly coming from ex NKT members like myself, who believe what we practiced in the NKT caused us harm and once we’ve seen how Dharma is taught elsewhere.

And there are no restrictions on Shugden practice in the UK, so, to justify silencing the Dalai Lama you have to believe he must be harming Tibetans, and you need to find evidence. And try and create a campaign where most people say there is no reason for a campaign as there is very little evidence of Human Rights abuses. And any campaign will always pale in comparison to the problem of the Chinese invasion.

So, why this seemingly irrational loyalty to ‘Shugden’?

I will discuss how I feel that ‘Shugden’ uses our own hope, attachment and fear to keep us tied and tongue tied in the NKT.

For the beginner, the NKT offers meditation with ‘gardens and tea’! Nothing to interfere with your normal life! The NKT also ‘brands’ a fast path to enlightenment – a ‘Modern Buddhism’ that is nothing like ‘that boring Tibetan stuff’! To have the ‘confidence’ to get enlightened you need ‘merit’. So, you live in and pay rent at a centre and help to run it and you ‘work for the Guru’ by promoting this ‘pure Dharma of Je Tsongkhapa’. ‘Teaching’ gives you vast merit for a ‘faster path’; if you have enough merit to be ‘authorised’ to teach. That’s when you get hooked, as I did, by my new hope for quick results into the trio of NKT study, being a teacher and Shugden meditations. You ‘accumulate merit’ even faster if you ordain. But, you are told, if you disrobe you won’t get enlightened!

The NKT needs teachers. It has to produce them very quickly as teachers leave and new centres are opening. Kelsang Gyatso is the reclusive Tibetan monk who created the NKT ‘system’. As a teacher you may only teach using Kelsang Gyatso’s books. You study so that you can memorise Kelsang Gyatso’s books. ‘Heart Jewel’ is the NKT’s basic Shugden meditation practice that Kelsang Gyatso created. That’s where you are told to ‘talk to the Guru’ if you have any questions your NKT teachers can’t answer. You can’t ask Kelsang Gyatso in person! And if you have any other problems you are told to do more ‘Heart Jewel’; Shugden will help you with it all.

It is the most confusing ‘meditation practice’ I have ever done.

What is it?

Looking at the basic sadhana of ‘Heart Jewel’, the first half is the traditional Gelug Ganden Lhygma – Je Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga.

The second part of Heart Jewel is offerings and requests made to Shugden; an ‘outer’ practice of Shugden that is very similar to the Gelug Palden Lhamo protector tea offering.

In this second part of ‘Heart Jewel’ you request knowledge, protection, compassion and power from the ‘Guru as Shugden’ and meditate on ‘downloading’ the confidence and ‘power’ to teach or for success in your activities. ‘Shugden’ is almost everything; he shows ‘all the paths of Sutra and Tantra’. Vajradhara, as well as Buddha Shakyamuni, Manjushri, Je Tsongkhapa and above all, Kelsang Gyatso appear ‘as’ Shugden. You take this ‘Shugden’ with you when you come out of meditation.

I quote three ‘benefits’ of doing this meditation from Kelsang Gyatso’s commentary to Heart Jewel.

By putting your trust in Shugden your practice will

  1. ‘naturally become pure’,
  2. you will have a ‘powerful ally’ and
  3. you will ‘always make the right decisions’.

Naturally become pure’ is what I felt ‘holding’ the Guru in my heart.

‘Having a powerful ally’ is what I felt when I taught – I could teach the perfect Dharma!

You ‘always make the right decisions’ – after teaching I often felt as if I was protected from making any ‘mistakes’ but only if I stayed on this NKT ‘path’.

Purity, power and infallibility!

In time, this practice led me to feel – and other teachers around me – that not only was ‘the Guru’ infallible and could make no mistakes but that I myself was also ‘without fault in any decision’ I made, ‘completely pure’ and ‘powerful’ too! And not only during teaching…every day with everything I did!

‘With my Guru’s blessings I can accomplish anything!’

This feeling is blissful to gorge yourself with and addictive. You aren’t ‘ordinary’ any more; you are ‘extraordinary’ and ‘special’ on this ‘unmistaken’ path. So you ‘have to’ protect’ the absent Guru, which is this power you now possess; you have to protect his ‘good renown’ and ‘his pure lineage’.

So you go to the demos and join in the defamation campaign – as I did from a distance – because without Shugden you think there will be no lineage in the teachings. I started to act as if I would do almost anything to protect my access to that feeling of power and control…what else could it be but the power of the lineage?

But, isn’t this twisting of the concept of the purity of the Dharma into ‘our own’ purity, power and ‘unmistaken’ actions as NKT teachers, exactly the ‘Shugden’ of ‘distorted aspiration’ that causes His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s concern? And the real ‘unvoiced harm’ the NKT system creates? As a ‘perfect’ NKT teacher, you feel no sense of personal responsibility for the harm your actions could create.

While in the NKT I increasingly saw this system as a hoax I was holding up. And feeling that doctrine of purity, infallibility and power in my teachers led to my conflicts with them…Good teachers I have met since ‘show’ you what to look for in your own mind, as they know it in their own minds already. It’s not about control.

Is the NKT trying to blame His Holiness the Dalai Lama for its own problems in maintaining authority? Surely by trying to silence His Holiness, NKT students are also silencing their own ‘inner critics’ or ‘intuition’; their own capacity to see what might have gone wrong.

As long as ‘Shugden practice’ feels so good, and Kelsang Gyatso is conceptually confused with Shugden, then NKT followers will remain deeply attached to the ‘Shugden Guru’, fearful of stopping the practice without ‘breaking samaya’ and going to hell, and fiercely protective of what appears to them to be perfect as it makes them feel perfect. You can’t see this while you are in it, but I see the ‘Shugden, NKT and Kelsang Gyatso ‘system as only seeking to maintain itself. Not a lineage.

I think that I can seriously state that in the NKT you become, not a ‘practitioner’, but a ‘Shugden follower’. You have very little idea of what you are missing out on and the price you will pay for your loyalty if you walk in that door wanting to be a better person and make the world a better place, ‘wanting Dharma’. That is the sadness.

Thank you!

* Talk given on 15th August 2014 at the SOAS panel discussion “The Shugden Controversy and the 14th Dalai Lama

Thoughts & Observations: The SOAS Panel Discussion “The Shugden Controversy and the 14th Dalai Lama” – Part 1

Yesterday there was the SOAS Panel Discussion about “The Shugden Controversy and the 14th Dalai Lama”. This blog discussed it a bit here (see comment section). I would like to write a review and add some thoughts, comments and observations highlighting some points that seem to be important to me. I will do this in two parts. This part will contain mainly some basic observations about the set up and changes made from the initial announced topics and how this influenced the conference and its results.

First of all it worked and it was not as bad as I feared when it became clear that there are two International Shugden Community people speaking at the panel and that the audience might be filled mainly with New Kadampa Tradition devotees who tend to disguise themselves as “concerned Buddhist”, “impartial observer”, “not from NKT” etc in order to manipulate the discussions and to deceive others. The reason why it worked was because Prof. Dr Nathan Hill changed the format of the panel discussion in a way that gave space for a rather constructive atmosphere and prevented that too many distortions of the facts can circle around this panel discussion. My gratitude and thanks go to him and his team for this. (For how the format finally was set up and what has been said see please the upcoming video at the London Ney YouTube Channel. The London Ney sponsored this event and they are a group of Tibetans in London.)

How the ICS/NKT won the Human Rights & Religious Discrimination topic for their propaganda

The scientists were not really prepared or fit for the points being addressed by the International Shugden Community (ICS) / New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) representatives, Gen Kelsang Rabten and Kadam John McBretney. The scientists (Prof Dr Nathan Hill, Prof Dr Martin Mills, Thierry Dodin) were not really well prepared to address the claims the ICS/NKT men made with respect to human rights violations, religious persecution or even the claims that Shugden people would have been “tortured” and “killed” (McBretney). The scientists were rarely to the point. In that sense, my hope that the ridiculous fringe theories of the ICS – that lack academic or juridical support and are rather a type of conspiracy theory or propaganda – would collapse in front of knowledgeable scientists or are revealed as what they are, nonsense or propaganda (that is a mixture of untruths, semi-truths and some truths), was not fulfilled.

This lack of clarity in that respect (human rights violation claims, religious persecution claims) might be also owed to the fact that there was obviously not a well thought out concept what this panel discussion aims to achieve. Was it just meant that everybody can talk as he pleases?*

There were two other contributing factors for the lack of clarity with respect to addressing the ICS/NKT human rights violation & religious persecution claims I wished for as a service for neutral observers of the discussion and people who want to get a better insight into this controversy as it is presented in the West. Gen Kelsang Rabten was supposed to speak about ‘Refuting the claim of Tenzin Gyatso as an authentic Dalai Lama’ but he didn’t; instead he chose as his new topic Human Rights Violations and Religious Persecution and why the Dalai Lama would lie. This was a clever move. Additionally, in the internet either he himself (IndyHack?) or the ICS team (where he seems to be the front man) attacked all three scientists (Nathan Hill, Martin Mills, Thierry Dodin) that they wouldn’t have the authority to state any thing about Human Rights (see Are Buddhists Racist – Human Rights):

So far we have been advised to consult Dr Hill, Mr Dodin, and Dr Martin Mills, all of whom we have been assured are qualified to address the issue of human rights, yet on closer inspection none of them have any formal qualifications in human rights or international law.

Based on the remarks by Dr Nathan Hill & Dr Martin Mills during the discussion at SOAS it became clear that Dr. Hill and Dr. Mills got aware of the attacks against their academic authority by the ICS (see Are Buddhists Racist – The SOAS University).

As a background: It is a common tactic of the New Kadampa Tradition to discredit or better to bully any perceived opponent and to denounce them in the internet. The Dalai Lama is the main target of the NKT/ICS/SSC/WSS (slander) campaign but on the way almost everybody who is a threat to the NKT Agit Prop will be denounced or bullied online, in that case even prior to an event. Also the work of researcher David N. Kay (PDF of his 2004 research published by Routledge Curzon) was denounced by the NKT as a “heavily biased ‘academic’ book by David Kay (who had his own disgruntled history with the NKT when he briefly attended meditation classes in Lancaster)”.

Dr. Mills didn’t give the planned talk he wanted to give and which was announced by SOAS ‘Human rights and the Shugden ban amongst Himalayan communities’. As a result of this Rabten and McBretney dominated that topic totally one-sided – the latter even with a propaganda film …)

In that way, Kelsang Rabten and his ICS team – who do not have any academic credits or even an academic approach – won the topic about claimed Human Rights Violations and claimed Religious Discrimination as if THEY were THE EXPERTS and not someone like Martin Mills.

To show you the discrepancy have a look at both of their publications and credits:

ICS’ main book “False Dalai Lama”

FalseDalaiLama-coverEditors: Anonymous

Author: Anonymous

Publisher: Self published

Title: The False Dalai Lama – The Worst Dictator in the Modern World

Description: Exposing the dark side of the Dalai Lama
The False Dalai Lama – a new book exploring the hidden, dark side of everyone’s favourite “celebrity monk”. This explosive book overturns the myth of the Dalai Lama, revealing the scheming political mind behind the media-friendly smiles and soundbites. Admired by many as one of the world’s leading advocates of peace and harmony, this thorough investigation exposes how the Dalai Lama is, in fact, lying. Prepare to meet the worst dictator in the modern world.

Dr Martin Mills’ 2003 Shugden paper about Shugden and Religious Rights

41CYH755GYLEditors: Richard A. Wilson is Reader in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex. He has written and edited numerous works on political violence and human rights, including Human Rights, Culture and Context (1997), Culture and Rights (2001) and The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa (2001). Jon P. Mitchell is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex. His books include Ambivalent Europeans (Routledge, 2001).

Author: Dr. Martin Mills

Publisher: Routledge Curzon

Title: This Turbulent Priest: Contesting Religious Rights and the State in the Tibetan Shugden Controversy, in Richard Wilson, Jon P. Mitchell (eds. 2003) Human Rights in Global Perspective: Anthropological Studies of Rights, Claims and Entitlements, Routledge, pp. 54-70:

Description: In the West we frequently pay lip service to universal notions of human rights. But do we ever consider how these work in local contexts and across diverse cultural and ethical structures? Do human rights agendas address the problems many people face, or are they more often the imposition of Western values onto largely non-Western communities?

Human Rights in a Global Perspective develops a social critique of rights agendas. It provides an understanding of how rights discussions and institutions can construct certain types of subjects such as victims and perpetrators, and certain types of act, such as common crimes and crimes against humanity. Using examples from the United States, Europe, India and South Africa, the authors restore the social dimension to rights processes and suggest some ethical alternatives to current practice.


As a summery: The conference was well intended and well set up. The SOAS team seems to have worked hard and made the SOAS conference possible besides all attacks and criticism prior to the conference. However, it would have been better if the panelists (Rabten, Dr. Mills) hadn’t been allowed to change their topic from what has been announced because this led to a situation where the ICS/NKT representatives were able to dominate the topic of human rights and religious persecution and to misinform in a one-sided manner the audience. There was not too much of a relation between what the ICS/NKT representatives said and what the scientists said in their talks. As a result the scientist weren’t really able to balance and to correct the human rights and religious persecution claims of the ICS/NKT. Rather they gave a forum to propound such claims. This doesn’t mean that the scientists didn’t say any thing to these claims. There were some corrections. e.g. from Thierry Dodin who addressed briefly the “torture” and “Shugden people have been killed” claims as “I have not seen much evidence for this.” But in the light of the self-assertive and massive claims by Rabten and McBretney, I found the corrections rather very weak. That’s why the use of the SOAS conference for a less informed general public has been undermined to a certain extent. That the corrections by the scientists were rather weak is also due to the fact that claims are easily set into public domain but their correction and refutation needs a lot of expertise and study, like in the case of the so-called “Nazi-Tibet-Connection”.

My understanding is, that the claims and assertions of the ICS/NKT have to be investigated and corrected with respect to their lack of substance before such a conference or separately. If a scientist or any knowledgeable, diligent person had put together neatly the crude accusations and allegations of the ISC/NKT and had made them known together with a factual correct analysis, then some scientists would certainly think twice before they run blindly into such a panel discussion rather unprepared and with ill educated people / propagandists.

In an upcoming second part, I will review, comment and add thoughts and some judgments about the speakers and what they said at the SOAS panel conference.

See also

* The description of the conference said:

This event will address the controversy surrounding the propitiation of Dorje Shugden in the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. Although many members of the school have ceased to honor Shugden and regard his propitiation as problematic, a vocal minority sees him as an essential component of Geluk orthodoxy. The latter now understand themselves as minority discriminated against on religious grounds. This workshop will include presentations by traditional exponents of both sides of the controversy and by academic authorities. The discussion is moderated by Dr Nathan W. Hill, Lecturer in Tibetan and Linguistics at SOAS.

Last edited by tenpel on September 2, 2014, 03:06 pm

CTA List of Shugden protestors & Dalai Lama protests in Hamburg

Many Westerners have criticized the “List of Dolgyal protestors”. Now the CTA issued a statement with respect to this “List of Dolgyal protestors”. There the CTA states:

Statement on the Dolgyal Protestors List

August 14, 2014

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) recently released a list containing the names with other personal information of Tibetans, who demonstrated during H.H. the Dalai Lama’s last visit to Europe and the USA. The following seeks to address questions as to what led to this action. Essentially, the posting of this information stems from security concerns and to raise awareness within the Tibetan community about members of a group with a history of violence e.g. murder, physical assault and arson. Both Indian and US authorities have recognized that Dolgyal-related groups are a security threat to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

For several years now, Dolgyal followers have persistently made baseless allegations against H.H. the Dalai Lama and the CTA. This campaign reached a new level with demonstrations specifically targeting His Holiness during his last visits abroad. The physical proximity of the demonstrators to His Holiness has alarmed the Tibetan community as have slogans such as “False Dalai Lama” and “Dictator”. Hence, the CTA has felt a responsibility to disclose and raise awareness about the demonstrators’ identity. As the official governing institution of the Tibetan people, the Central Tibetan Administration is accountable to the people and must address such concerns.  Matters pertaining to His Holiness the Dalai Lama are treated with utmost seriousness.

The identity of the Tibetan protestors posted on the CTA web site is for the most part already in the public domain. People familiar with publicity materials released by the Dolgyal groups will know this, as several of the Tibetans whose name and photo were posted, have appeared on their own You Tube videos, printed materials, social media Facebook page, and photographs with Chinese officials. For Tibetans who do not have access to Dolgyal-related websites, CTA deems it their right to know and thus reproduced their materials.

The Central Tibetan Administration stands firm by its belief that freedom of speech is to be exercised responsibly and truthfully. The Tibetan struggle is based on non-violence, a fundamental principle which also applies to how we address internal matters such as the subject of Dolgyal. This sentiment is shared by the Tibetan people as demonstrated by the fact that none of the Dolgyal protesters whose names were posted have been subjected to any attacks within the Tibetan community since the public posting of their names. In fact, not a single Dolgyal propitiator has been harmed by the Tibetan community. Dolgyal propitiating monasteries freely exist in the Tibetan settlements and Dolgyal propitiators are issued Indian Registration Certificates (RC) which, without discrimination, allows residency in settlements, access to school, health services, scholarships, old age stipend and any other benefits.

The children of Dolgyal propitiators study in the Tibetan school system without a single case of expulsion. Moreover, far from denying them their religious freedom, Tibetan Dolgyal propitiators continue to travel within India and abroad on documents issued by the Indian government with the endorsement of the Central Tibetan Administration. In seeking legal status or political asylum in North America and Europe, Dolgyal followers could be using “denial of religious freedom” as an excuse, but the very documents on which they stay in India and travel abroad, are issued by the government of India with the endorsement of the Central Tibetan Administration. Therefore, they have neither been denied their religious freedom nor their rights to live in India and travel abroad.

It is clear that Dolgyal activities have become a tool for the Chinese government to slander His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s name.

The Kashag

My counter argument to this self-defense is: in Western democracy (except the US) such lists are treated internally by the security departments etc. because there is a respect for the private sphere of people; such a list wouldn’t be put in the public domain. In the heat of that controversy such a list might stimulate aggression against these individuals. However, I understand that the Tibetans in exile do not have a police nor an own legal force etc. while there is indeed a security risk for the life of the Dalai Lama and that the CTA / Kashag might feel compelled to find other ways to deal with these security threats & this Shugden topic, still, it’s not a wise treatment of it in my eyes. The list should be removed.

line-gothicJoanne Clark has written a new post with respect to the International Shugden Community (ICS) / New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) campaign against the Dalai Lama who are now preparing their protests against the Dalai Lama in Hamburg, Germany from the 23rd to the 26th of August. The ICS sent quite stupid, anonymous and strange documents to German journalists and media, signed by “Indy” with the title “State Surveillance and Public Shaming of Tibetan Protester“. You can find her analysis here:

However, the ICS’s/NKT’s German press release includes a skilfully made video. (Details in German see here. For a background of the video in English see here.)

At 6pm German time there will be a new article online about the Shugden controversy and the ICS/NKT protests by Prof. Jens Uwe Hartmann who explores the background of the Shugden controversy and the protests. Prof. Hartmann became known in that context because he was quoted as an Tibet expert by a well known but highly manipulative TV broadcast about the DaLai Lama & Shugden by PANORAMA, ARD (a German main TV station). He makes clear that he totally distanced himself from that broadcast:

Up to the present, I am still today being mentioned time and again in connection with the show, and frequently most viewers remember not my words, but my association with that show in which the Dalai Lama was attacked in a perfidious way. Therefore, I would like to put on record once again that I strongly and emphatically reject this attack as a person and as an academic.

Also Prof. Donald Lopez who contributed to that broadcast distanced himself from it when he heard how manipulative it had been made.

line-gothic¹ for more about this Panorama documentary see:

Last edited by tenpel on August 28, 2014 at 11:44 pm

The Dorje Shugden Ban

There is no ban.
There should be.

There is no ban. There should be.

originally posted by Kelsangs Worldwide

Part 2 of Correcting Deliberate Misrepresentations on about the Situation at Sera Mey Monastery


Here some new, more specific information has become available to clarify the lies on regarding Sera Mey monastery.
This information was posted by two people living in monastery on the Talk About Shugden facebook group. misrepresentation: The Serpom Shugden group had to rebuild from near zero after the referendum and separation at Sera Mey regarding the Shugden issue.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Eyewitness clarification from facebook: To say they had to build from near-zero is scandalous. Here is a picture took in October 2008, 6 months after the split (figure 1), showing the fields around the monastery during harvest. Notice the huge building on the right on the picture I posted here? It’s the same building as the one on the top center of the photo of the first post of this article (the red roof hardly visible towering above the older houses. To the top left is the prayers hall of Sera Mey). That building is much longer than shown here. See the building in construction in the middle of the fields? That was part of Serpom accommodations at the time of the split and now is personal household of their Abbot. Knowing indian construction standards, it is impossible for such a building to spring out in 6-7 months. So, Serpom housing was not built from near-zero … They also kept many of the old houses built in the 70’s, in the older section of Sera. They were thus able to kept on with their activities rather well off. misrepresentation: Sera Mey refused to share their water with Shugden followers.

Eyewitness Clarification from facebook:  Saying they had no proper source water is false as, up until last year, many of their water pipes where still connected to the main feeding source of Sera Mey. Those who were in residence in 2013 will remember well the drought that affected us leaving the Sera Mey kitchen, main building complex and various housing group with NO water. Hence, Sera Mey requested Serpom to find an alternative source for their water for which they complied and the matter was settled peacefully and without a hint of conflict. From 2008 to 2013 give us a gap of 5 years for which they were provide with water misrepresentation: After the separation the Shugden faction of Pomra Khangtsen, renamed Serpom monastery, was left with little land, no temple and next to nothing.

Eyewitness Clarification from facebook: The land where Pobhor Khamtsen of Sera Mey Monastery has built their living quarters and now the monastic building, was given by CTA not the Government of India. Of course every inch of Tibetan refugee land belong to the government of India and not an iota of Indian land belong to Tibetans. The land was under CTA’s undertaking and after the split, was allotted to the remaining monks of Sermey Pomra Khamtsen, which has earlier, housed the largest number of Shugden worshippers prior to the separation in 2008.
Since the original Pomra Khamtsen monks had lost everything because at the time of separation the Shugden followers of the Pomra Khamtsen asked for all the property: monastic temple, monetary funds, living quarters et al, CTA gave the above mentioned land to the original Sermey Pomra Khamtsen monks where they have already built living quarters now and is halfway through building the monastic temple. The Shugden followers of Sermey Pomra Khamtsen went on to found a new monastery named Serpom – a derivative of Sera Mey and Pomra, and got all the lands, money and living quarters, monetary funds and as well as a newly built temple ready-made!(all belonging to the erstwhile Pomra Khamtsen of Sera Mey monastery)

See also


Religious Persecution?


* The person is known to the blog owner.

Human Rights and the Dorje Shugden Controversy

In summary, the Shugden dispute represents a battleground of views on what is meant by religious and cultural freedom. – Martin A. Mills

The Western Shugden groups brought into the discussion the issue of Human Rights and alleged the Dalai Lama of human rights violations and that he had infringed the right to religious freedom amongst Tibetans by restricting the worship of the controversial protector-deity Dorje Shugden. These allegations became widespread on the international level via the aggressive campaigning of the Western Shugden Groups and were repeatedly reported in the news worldwide (rather often without any deeper investigation about their truthfulness and validity – especially from 2008 onwards.)

The following paper by Martin A. Mills, a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom), and co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research, examines “some of the causes for the signal failure of those claims, despite relatively strong evidence for the widespread persecution of Shugden worshippers within the Tibetan diaspora context. More broadly, it will examine the degree to which the notion of human rights assumes the context of a particular kind of state ideology – centered around the modern nation-state – and the difficulties that attend articulating the notion of human rights (and their abuse) in the context of transnational theocratic rule.”

Getty Image Capture: “The Dalai Lama, Amidst Protests, Visits Frankfurt” – FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY – MAY 14: Supporters of the International Shugden Community (ISC) protest outside a press conference during the current visit of the Dalai Lama on May 14, 2014 in Frankfurt, Germany. The ISC claims the Dalai Lama discriminates against them and denies them religious freedom, while critics charge the ISC is actually a front for the New Kadampa Tradition and brand it as a rigid cult run by fanatics who demand blind obedience from its followers. The Dalai Lama is visiting Frankfurt from May 13-16. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

More academic papers about the Dorje Shugden Controversy and the
New Kadampa Tradition (the organizers of the Anti Dalai Lama protests in the West)

Ordained Too Early: An NKT Survivor Tale (Another New Kadampa Tradition Monk’s Story)


In the NKT doubts about the NKT leadership are explained to be very dangerous and negative, they are said to be "doubts going into the wrong direction", deriving from an "impure mind", a "pure mind" NKT teachers explain doesn’t see faults. And faith Geshe Kelsang Gyatso – commonly called "Geshe-la" in NKT – is explained by Geshe-la "that functions mainly to oppose the perception of faults in its observed object." Of course such a context helps the NKT student to be "be like a wise blind person who relies totally upon one trusted guide instead of attempting to follow a number of people at once." (all quotes from the books of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.)

In the NKT doubts about the NKT leadership are explained to be very dangerous and negative. Doubts about the NKT and its leadership are said to be “doubts going into the wrong direction”, deriving from an “impure mind”. A “pure mind”, NKT teachers explain, doesn’t perceive faults. And faith is explained by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso – commonly called “Geshe-la” in NKT – to have the “function mainly to oppose the perception of faults in its observed object.” Such views encourage an NKT follower to “be like a wise blind person who relies totally upon one trusted guide instead of attempting to follow a number of people at once.” (All quotes from the books of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Image & capture added by Tenpel.)


Someone suggested I tell my story, so thought I’d write a bit here about my time in the NKT, in case it’s interesting or helpful to anyone. There’s nothing incredibly scandalous or juicy, but why not.

I got involved in the NKT at a young age: 19. I first discovered Manjushri Centre at a low-point in my life when I really needed an escape. The atmosphere of kindness was very new to me, and I was hooked in almost immediately because of that. I didn’t know a whole lot about the different traditions of Buddhism at the time, so this was also the time I fell in love with Buddhism, without realizing what I had found intertwined with the good stuff.

After I returned home from a working visit, I meditated on my own and felt my heart chakra lit up for the first time in a special way, which I felt was the presence of Buddha at the time. This experience confirmed to me that everything was true and good. (I think this is one of the main ways we get hooked into traditions. We have spiritual experiences, and this leads us to adopt the associated beliefs with less questioning. At least this is my experience. Like a Christian who feels the “holy spirit”, then adopts the bible because of it.)

I then got involved with my local centre in Preston. I starting attending the pujas and GP classes, not really knowing what was going on at the time. A couple months later I was encouraged to move into a centre, and so I moved into the centre in Lancaster. Due to the meditation experiences I was having at the time, I never really questioned anything for a long time. Meditation in general and chanting can have a big effect on the mind, no matter what tradition or religion you’re in. In my mind, everything I was being told was true, because the practice felt really good.

I soon became the resident teacher’s lap-dog, and she joked with another nun that I was like Milarepa, and I felt like him (thankfully without the back-blisters!) Though I had been a lazy person in general, so I was thankful for the kick up the backside. I was scared of spiders, so I had to clean all the spiderwebs from the gompa, and capture the spiders and release them in the basement. The agony! I designed the centre publicity, with her over my shoulder, having me scrap one version after another and redo, over and over again (like Milarepa! but admittedly, a bit easier, heh.)

I was always taught to keep a pure view, so I had become to believe she was a Buddha and I ignored any mistakes or strange behaviour I saw. Looking back I know she was very young herself and inexperienced. Running a dharma centre after 6 years experience. But she was a good woman and person, but very indoctrinated.

I ordained at the age of 21, having only lived in the dharma centre for 1 year. I was entranced with the robes. I guess inside I wanted to be “special” like that, like I was getting into some kind of secret society. I really don’t feel I was mature enough at the time to make that decision.

As a monk, I never really felt 100 percent a monk. The lifestyle didn’t feel “monk-like” enough. I felt in-genuine. If I saw monks from the original Tibetan traditions, I would feel like they were proper monks, and I was a pretender. I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself, and yet, in a way I was right. It was all too easy to get robed up, without having the real motivations behind it.

Over time, due to working closely one-on-one with my RT, I began to develop attraction and feelings for her. So I decided to move to the centre in Preston. Where it was not long before I was enrolled on TTP and teaching a branch GP class.

I always felt a lot of guilt in my practice, that I was never doing enough. Every time I saw Geshe-la speak, he would give us a new practice and tell us to do it every day. And I really tried. I had all the hours of the day mapped out, and my daily practice became intense. Combined with the stress of TTP and teaching my GP class, I became like a time-bomb. I was doing too much and pushing myself too much. But I didn’t feel like there was any other way. I was frightened of entering the lower realms, dieing before my time. And I’d made all sorts of commitments to different practices, and I didn’t want to break them. I felt trapped.

I began to see my practice as this big, complex struggle, that I had to go through every day. It all seems so complicated, when the whole point was supposed to be inner peace. It just didn’t seem right. I began to sit out in the garden at night, and just sit and do nothing at all, and my mind would go quiet and I’d feel at ease.

I discovered a Theravada teacher online, called Ajahn Brahm, and I watched his videos, and his teachings made a whole lot of sense, showing a maturity that I didn’t see in the teachers of the NKT. “Pure view” had stopped my from seeing that. There was always a voice in the back of my mind, when Geshe-la was teaching, that told me he was basically reading from a book. Geshe-la teachings were never that inspiring to me, now that I think back. He sounded like he was just parroting his teacher, just like all the NKT teachers parroted him. Ajahn Brahm, on the other hand, was not a parrot. He spoke from his own experience, person to person. He knew the essence of the teaching, so he didn’t need to recite his own teacher’s words, word for word.

I attended the protests against the Dalai Lama in London, which I sincerely regret now. I don’t feel guilty, as I had no malice at all, but I regret it. I remember at the time, shouting the words with the others. I don’t even remember what the words were now. When I saw the supporters and students of his holiness walking by, after his teachings, I felt a lot of peace and love emanating from them, and I knew there was nothing wrong about them. I even saw the Dalai Lama in his car, and he waved to us all, as if we were dear friends. Some of the monks protesting with me seems pretty angry and aggressive. Some made a point of being peaceful, but there were a lot with aggression. One in particular was my own RT at the time, who is a well-respected monk. I suppose he thought he was being “wrathful”?

The leaflets we were given during the time of the protests were quite shocking, and caused many doubts among practitioners. The issue was that our propaganda brochures appeared to be written by an angry baby. The wording was very immature. We wondered, “had Geshe-la written this himself? And if not, surely he has at least approved the brochure?”

Going back to my life in the centre, my practice began to crumble, and I dropped out of TTP and stopped teaching GP. I began watching DVDs in my room instead, of Dirty Harry and the like, heheh. Luckily, I had a friend in the centre. A “non-Buddhist resident”. He’d spent some time with Theravada monks years ago, and had a “distaste” for the NKT. I’m wondering if the whole reason he moved into the centre was to rescue people from the NKT. He acted like a father figure for me, and was there for me, and backed me up when I was developing my doubts and considering disrobing and leaving the NKT.

I wanted a simpler path. And I began to question all the things I’d been believing blindly. Then there came a time when I decided in my mind that I had disrobed. As soon as my RT found out, he wanted me to leave the centre the very next day, without giving me chance to sort somewhere else out to live. Luckily my friend had some knowledge of the law, and told me they couldn’t do that. So I refused to leave, and carried out another month, mostly staying away from everyone except “the non-buddhists”.

When I finally left, I fell into a bad depression. All my beliefs were stripped away through what seemed like an unstoppable process, and I was left knowing completely nothing, and I was scared. I didn’t know where to turn, what tradition or religion, or what. I didn’t know what to believe anymore, but all the NKT stuff was still ingrained, and for the next year or so, and even now I suppose, I feel like there’s something I should be doing to avoid the hell realms, or something like that. And Sometimes I randomly worry that I’ve made the wrong decision, and I don’t want to accept it if I have, as I “abandoned me spiritual guide”, which equates to a billion aeons in hell or something. It sounds ridiculous, but the beliefs really get ingrained. The mind gets familiar, as the NKT would say.

I really feel lately, as I really feel like a child. I don’t know anything at all. Everything has gotten so complicated, and life seems really challenging. I don’t know who is right or wrong, how I should live my life or what.

I also seem to have developed some level of realization of death. It was one of my main practices as a monk, I did it every day, but never had a feeling for it. But now I think about death every day, in a spontaneous and frightening way. Like the raw, reality of it hits me in the face, like a very sober awakening, but I don’t know what to do with it. With no faith in anything, there’s nowhere to turn with that fear. I feel paralysed in my life, and I’m slowly wrecking everything. I don’t have a job, and I’ve been getting sanctions on my benefits. I’ve even been smoking weed. I just don’t have any ambition any more, or any clue as to what to do with my life, and I just can’t find an answer.

To wrap it up, some positive things I got from my time in the NKT:

I learned a lot about acceptance, and it’s a skill I can still use to deal with any situation, even pain. Though this was due to my own constant practising and contemplation, learning to notice the way the mind resists, and releasing it. I wouldn’t say it was down to anything written in the NKT texts, aside from the initial few sentences that got me thinking about it.

I learned to still my mind with concentration, and my ability to do this in meditation is still in-tact, post-nkt. Though again, I kindof feel like I learned this in-spite of the NKT. The whole practice never seemed that conducive to concentration to me, as there were just too many different objects to concentrate on, that it seemed ridiculous in the end.

Though now that I think about it, I think I had to basically re-learn meditation after the NKT, as for a long time I just couldn’t do it. Later I came to realize that meditation wasn’t taught that well at all in the NKT, after I listened to other meditation teachers, who clearly had a lot more genuine experience, which they spoke from, rather than para-phrasing books. Now I’ve learned to be at ease with myself, and it is a big difference to the constant struggling I experience in the NKT.

Ajahn Brahm had explained about Goal-Orientated paths and Source-Orientated path, and the NKT is a goal-orientated path. There is a lot of striving, at least that is my experience. Which is not very conducive to peace in my opinion.

It is nice to have let go of all that.

Anyway, hope this wasn’t too long and boring. Forgive me if the writing is a bit scattered.
(Oct. 4th, 2012)

See also

Kalon Trisur Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche – Talk on the clarification of the current issue of Dolgyal at TCV Suja on 26th July, 2014

Here a summery of the video in English: The reason for the discussion is related to the questions that were put to the officials during the last discussion on Shugden in the Dharamsala TCV school. He mentioned that there were seeds of doubt regarding this issue that he wished to clarify the issues to clarify these doubts.

  • He also mentioned that he was happy that the students of the TCV school raised those doubts rather than hiding them, as this allows for an open discussion and gives people like himself to clarify the situation and provide further information. It is important to have questions in the context of a proper discussion, and without that the opportunity to explain and clarify is not available.
  • Therefore it is excellent that the students asked questions. He liked that the students asked questions and asked them to take advantage in the future of opportunities to ask them rather than remaining silent about doubts. He realized that only 6 students asked the questions in Dharamsala, but understands other students may share their questions and not be so confident to stand up in a crowd and share them. So some of what he shares in the talk will be based on these questions.
  • The allegations from the Shugden side that HH Dalai Lama is harming their religious freedom and their human rights are incorrect. An example of the incorrect allegations is the explanation of HHDL’s advice regarding this matter as a “ban”, this English word “ban” features in their materials. If we were to render this English word into Tibetan it would mean something like “not allowed, not permitted”. The Dalai Lama gave advice regarding this issue, critiqued it , but never said that Shugden practice was “not allowed”. (Tibetan for not allowed: mi chog). Therefore we can clearly state there is not a “ban”.
  • It is on this incorrect basis of HHDL issuing a “ban”, that the Shugden groups are loudly protesting, organizing against HHDL whenever they have the opportunity.
  • But we can clearly state that HHDL has never said Shugden practice is “not allowed”. He has said that it is good if one does not rely (on Shugden). It is clear, if one continues to rely (on Shugden), this becomes a case of disharmony with the advice of the Lama, and for this reason the Dalai Lama asked these people not to attend his religious discourses. It is stated clearly though that whether people listen to the advice or not, is their choice. Since there is extensive written evidence of this, there is no need for further clarification.
  • The policy of HHDL remains the same, for example during the Kalachakra initiation he requested those who rely (upon Shugden) to not come to the initiation, but whether one relies on Shugden or not is in one’s own hands (one’s own choice).
  • Therefore we see HHDL did not say “you are absolutely not allowed to rely on Shugden”. He said that it is “good if you do not rely on it, but whether you listen to this advice or not is up to you.” Therefore we understand that within the Tibetan community HHDL has not and cannot issue a “ban”, this is clear.
  • So we can see this is not an issue of freedom as people were clearly told it was up to them whether they acted according to the Dalai Lama’s advice or not. However, the Shugden side is explaining that due to the advice of the Dalai Lama, the result has been that this harms their religious freedom or their human rights. So some people may have a doubt that even to advise against the practice may have a result of harming the (Shugden side’s) religious freedom. To really understand this situation properly, one needs to do one’s own research.
  • If we examine the way of working of these (Shugden) organizations in the West, we can see that they fit in with the word “cult”. It would be difficult to come up with reasons to refute that they are a cult. For example, in the dharma centres of Geshe Kelsang, there were questions brought forth in the British government about their cult-like aspects. They managed somehow to prevent those questions from ripening into bigger problems. Bob Thurman has said that if the New Kadampa organization is not a cult, it is very clearly going in the direction of a cult.
  • In terms of the Refugee Welcome Centres and Schools, every Tibetan has been provided with the same facilities and conditions, including those who have said they rely on Dolgyal-the administration has not discriminated in this regard. They have been given the same access to health facilities and schools.
  • The previous Ganden Throneholder, Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche (now resident in France) deceived HH Dalai Lama and promised to avoid Shugden in order to secure enough supporters to take the Ganden throneholder position. There should be a something in writing to this effect. As soon as this ended his tenure as Ganden Throneholder, he revealed he was still practicing Shugden.
    The CTA has requested documentation of specific incidents, individuals and evidence of Shugden believers being turned away from essential services such as medical help and education, and has received none.
  • Samdhong Rinpoche urged the students not to believe what he said because of which “side” he was on. He also urged them not to believe Shugden claims simply because they identified with that “side”, but to do the reading and checking necessary to form their own opinions.
    He mentioned that prominent Shugden people, of whom the CTA is well aware, were recently issued travel documents through the assistance of the CTA and the Indian government just like any other Tibetan. He noted the significant number of known Shugden people travelling on these documents. Therefore there are no human rights violation on freedom to movement, Shugden people are regularly leaving for foreign countries and returning to  India.
  • Mentioned that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and Gangchen Rinpoche have an incorrect understanding (extreme?) with regards to the teachings on “How to Rely on the Virtuous Friend (Teacher)”.
  • Even though the above people have caused problems, still according to Buddhism actually we should have compassion for them. Especially compassion considering the future karmic consequences of their actions.
  • Has reiterated that in the case of Kelsang Gyatso and Gangchen, they have been safe for many years. That the CTA NEVER issued orders to kill or harm these people. At the same time, compassion does not mean that their incorrect views, and mistakes, should not be pointed out and corrected.
  • He mentioned that Shugden people being refused from certain shops was not a campaign of the government.  This was a decision of the individual shopholders-that they had a right to privacy. This is a boycott, rather than human rights abuse, that began due to negative actions of Shugden party. That this is a personal decision. Explained it as an individual grassroots political action, like boycotting Chinese products as a way of effecting change in policy. It could be looked at as the shop or restaurant owners following a policy of what Gandhiji calls “non co-operation” with the Shugden side as a way of boycotting to affect change. So it is not social discrimination, but a social boycott. This manifests as a choice not to engage in material exchanges with the Shugden side.
  • Such a boycott is not necessarily negative. If the students harm others, this is negative. We can understand the current boycott as being a temporary and direct response to the lies and protest actions currently being done against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We understand that whether one relies on Dolgyal or not is a decision within one’s mind. The current boycott that we see in some cases is a response to the misleading protests of the Shugden group, as this harms Tibetan society. Therefore we cannot say the decision to remain at a distance from  those participating in such Dolgyal organizations is a bad thing.
  • At the school for example, if the students are criticizing or harming them, this is not proper. But it should not be required to maintain close relationships with those of Dolgyal organizations. Choosing not to do so is not necessarily harmful for either party, from the point of view  of damtsik (samaya) it could be beneficial, in my personal opinion.
  • Mentioned that Shugdens took their case to both Amnesty International and the National Human Rights Campaign, and neither organization felt what was presented to them required a mandate to action.
  • Sees this issue through the lens of democracy like this: Democracy is open society that takes decisions for the well being of the people. Hence, considering harm of Shugden practice, for the well being of the people it should be spoken out against.

Update: Full Speech

Panel Discussion at SOAS: The Shugden Controversy and the 14th Dalai Lama

Here is a copy of an announcement of a conference at SOAS at the 15th August 2014 in London.

The Shugden Controversy and the 14th Dalai Lama

Date: 15 August 2014Time: 6:00 PM
Finishes: 15 August 2014 Time: 8:00 PM
Venue: Vernon SquareRoom: V211
Type of Event: Panel Discussion
Series: Tibetan Studies Outreach Lecture Series

This event will address the controversy surrounding the propitiation of Dorje Shugden in the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. Although many members of the school have ceased to honor Shugden and regard his propitiation as problematic, a vocal minority sees him as an essential component of Geluk orthodoxy. The latter now understand themselves as minority discriminated against on religious grounds. This workshop will include presentations by traditional exponents of both sides of the controversy and by academic authorities. The discussion is moderated by Dr Nathan W. Hill, Lecturer in Tibetan and Linguistics at SOAS. Speakers include:

  • Kelsang Rabten (International Shugden Community): ‘Refuting the claim of Tenzin Gyatso as an authentic Dalai Lama’
  • Geshe Tashi Tsering (Jamyang Buddhist Centre): ‘Refuting the claim of Dugyal (Shugden) as a protector in the Tsongkhapa tradition’
  • Carol McQuire (former member of New Kadampa Tradition): ‘Shugden ‘practitioners’ or Shugden ‘followers’?
  • Dr Martin A. Mills (University of Aberdeen): ‘Human rights and the Shugden ban amongst Himalayan communities’
  • Thierry Dodin: ‘From Lhasa to Singapore: History and function of Shugden worship’
  • John McBretney (International Shugden Community): ‘The suffering of Shugden Buddhists within the Tibetan Exile Community, and the Dalai Lama’s role in this’

Organiser: Dr Nathan W. Hill
Sponsor: London Ney

Live stream:

Free tickets:


To Protest or Not to Protest: What is an NKT Student to Think?

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

Dear NKT students, fellow brothers and sisters in the Dharma. It is my belief that most of you are sincere, goodhearted, well meaning practitioners of the Buddha’s Dharma. None of you would intentionally harm his teachings or other sentient beings. I suspect that at this time there are calls being made to many of you to come out and protest against HH Dalai Lama when he teaches in the West. I am writing this in order to help you decide whether to accept or reject this call.

Standing outside a precious Dharma event and shouting insults at the teacher is a serious action. I personally cannot think of anything that would make this ok. I personally wonder about the negative karma from such an action. In that light, I want to ask:

Why do the protestors dance, play drums, sing and laugh while they chant, “Dalai Lama liar?” Is this a funny affair? Is it a joyful affair?

I will also tell you that in the monastic tradition created by Buddha, the tradition that Tsongkhapa revered and upheld, monks and nuns are forbidden from singing and dancing. Why do NKT monks and nuns dance and play drums, while they call a Buddhist teacher a liar?

I heard that during a protest years ago, fliers were handed out that called the Dalai Lama a “Saffron Robed Muslim.” Is that true? Is that the type of action you would support?

Recently the Central Tibetan Authority (CTA) made the (somewhat unwise) move of publishing pictures and names of some Tibetans who had been involved in recent protests in Europe. While most of us in the West were opposed to the CTA’s move, the International Shugden Community (ISC) took their reaction to new heights by calling it an “intifada.” Perhaps they think that inciting Islamaphobic emotions is useful for inspiring Westerners to action. Do you want to support this?

I want to point readers to the twelfth Jataka tale, entitled “The Story of the Brahman.” For those not familiar with the Jataka tales, these are stories of some of Buddha’s previous lives. They are stories of courage and altruism that demonstrate what is needed to successfully traverse the Buddhist path from lifetime to lifetime. In this particular story, Buddha is reborn as a Brahman. As a young student, he and his fellow Brahman students are asked by their teacher to steal in order to alleviate the teacher’s poverty and misery. All the students but Buddha readily agree to this because their devotion to their teacher is very strong and they are willing to do anything that he asks. However, Buddha goes very quiet and stubbornly—but respectfully—he refuses to do what his teacher asks.

In fact, it turns out that this particular teacher was testing his students, testing their moral mettle. And Buddha was the only one who could not be swayed from his moral code, despite the fact that his devotion and respect for his teacher were strong.

Along the same lines, Tsongkhapa quotes from the Cloud of Jewels Sutra with the following: “’With respect to virtue, act in accord with the guru’s words, but do not act in accord with the gurus’ words with respect to nonvirtue.’” And Tsongkhapa then concludes, “Therefore, you must not listen to nonvirtuous instructions. The twelfth birth story clearly gives the meaning of not engaging in what is improper.” (Lamrim Chenmo, Vol. 1; p.86)

So I am saying to you that we have it from Buddha—and Tsongkhapa—and many other great teachers—that it is not only ok to seek approval from your own moral code before following an instruction from a teacher, it is mandatory. This is true, even if you revere that teacher, even if you think he/she is Buddha himself. It is ok to look closer at what you are being asked to do and even to refuse if that is necessary.

Towards that end, I wish to pick some key points from the pages and pages of information provided on this website and others that will help you better decide if protesting is an action that fits well with your own moral code. Ultimately, before you decide to protest, you should—and must—do extensive research and investigate the reasons for protesting to test if those reasons are moral and valid. However, it might be that only a few key points are necessary in order to decide NOT to protest—and then you could save yourself some work! So here are some few key points:

1. Is HH Dalai Lama threatening the Kadampa tradition of Buddhism?

This seems to be a central reason for protesting provided to NKT students, so it seems a good place to start.

As a student of HH Dalai Lama, I find this claim to be quite extraordinary. I have listened to hundreds of hours of his teachings on texts from Buddha, Nagarjuna, Atisha, Tsongkhapa and many other masters who form the pillars of the Kadampa tradition. In fact, it is under his guidance that many Kadampa texts are being translated into different languages, so that practitioners around the world can benefit from them. How could he be threatening this tradition that he reveres?

There seems to be some implication that Shugden worship is essential to furthering the Kadampa tradition. Given that none of the great Kadam trailblazers, such as Atisha, Dromtonpa and Tsongkhapa, worshipped Shugden themselves, then this doesn’t make any sense at all. These great masters practiced the great Kadampa tradition perfectly well without worshipping Shugden. So what is this claim all about? I have read nothing that makes any sense at all.

2. Is HH Dalai Lama restricting religious freedom?

Is he restricting yours? He’s not restricting mine.

For those who care about his opinion and guidance, HH Dalai Lama is restricting them from worshiping Shugden. For those who don’t, they are free to do as they please. Is that restricting religious freedom? If you believe that Shugden is a spirit capable of harm, the Dalai Lama is protecting your religious freedom. If you believe that Shugden is a Buddha and he is essential to Buddhist practice, then you might object to the Dalai Lama’s warnings. You might want to prove that his advice is wrong. Or you might simply want to go your own way and practice as you please.

One point is clear. As spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama’s job is to warn practitioners of dangerous practices. That is his responsibility and sacred duty. From one perspective, that is all this is about. The Dalai Lama has warned against propitiating a spirit. Those who are particularly fond of this spirit have protested. That’s one, very simple way of looking at all this trouble.

However, you should know a few undisputable facts. First, as I mentioned above, Shugden was not worshipped by Buddha, Nagarjuna, Atisha, Tsongkhapa or any other trailblazer of the Kadampa tradition. He wasn’t even around in their times. Shugden played no part in establishing the Gelug or Kadampa tradition whatsoever. This is fact.

Second, Shugden was considered a spirit, not a Buddha, for hundreds of years. It is only recently that the idea of him being a Buddha has emerged—and there are only a few teachers making such a claim. In fact, there was an Oracle of Shugden. Buddhas do not have Oracles!

So when you hear the claim that Shugden worship is an ancient religious tradition, what are they saying? Did he give teachings? What is this tradition exactly? Is it different or the same as the Kadampa tradition I practice without worshipping Shugden?

This is why His Holiness spoke forcefully to an NKT nun who was calling him a liar who restricted religious freedom. He told her that this is not about religious freedom; this is about spirit worship. Without Shugden, there would still be the complete Kadampa tradition of the great Gelug masters. That is certain.

3. Are Shugden worshippers being persecuted?

If there were widespread persecution of Shugden worshippers, then:

  1. Why have neither Amnesty International nor the Indian Courts found evidence of this?
  2. Why are there no media or police reports of cases that the ISC and Western Shugden Society claim have occurred?
  3. Why does the ISC need to resort to deceit in order to substantiate the claims of persecution?
  4. Why are there no full transcripts of research results or the Dalai Lama’s words provided on the ISC website?

NKT students need to know that Amnesty International and the Indian Courts both investigated claims of religious persecution of Shugden worshippers and found insufficient evidence for the claims. The fact that Western protestors are being asked to protest about persecution allegedly occurring in India—despite the conclusions reached by the Indian courts recently—is disturbing.

On Shugden websites, there are obscure pictures of wounds on the heads, hands and backs of monks, along with implications that these were inflicted by anti-Shugden persecutors . There are also obscure video clips, claiming to be “evidence” of violent protests against Shugden worshippers instigated by the Dalai Lama. However, I have yet to see any press coverage—or any other substantiated evidence—of any of these claims. I have even checked police reports and found no evidence. Have I missed something? Have the Indian courts missed something? Has Amnesty International missed something?

On the home page of the ISC website, there are numerous video clips attempting to expose the alleged deceitfulness of the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, all of them are deceitful themselves! For example, one is entitled “Surprising Revelations From Dalai Lama’s Official for Europe.” However, the man they are referring to, Mr. Wangchen, is a member of the Tibetan Parliament. He’s neither connected to Europe nor the Dalai Lama (who is no longer in political office)!

Another Video is entitled: “Dalai Lama Loses Cool With Peaceful Nun.” By peaceful, they are referring to a nun who says to the Dalai Lama, “Dalai Lama stop lying, Dalai Lama stop lying, Dalai Lama stop lying.” The idea seems to be that because her voice is quiet, she is peaceful—however, her words are not peaceful! And because the Dalai Lama speaks with feeling, he “loses his cool.” One way to look at that video is that the nun sounds robotic and the Dalai Lama sounds human!

And yet another video is entitled “Exiles in Exile: Tibetan Monks Outcast by the Dalai Lama.” There is a short clip in this video of young monks begging for food. The implication seems to be that the Dalai Lama’s restrictions on Shugden practice have made these monks homeless and they now have to beg for food. However, these monks appear from their robes to be Theravada monks, making their traditional begging rounds and they are not Tibetan monks at all! Why was there the need to deceive?

Later in this same video, a monk spoke of the CTA’s recent publication of that list of Tibetan Shugden protestors—and he then claimed that such a list had been made in the past and people had been hurt because of it and someone had even been murdered. As far as anyone knows, this is simply not true—and there is no evidence of such an event provided anywhere on this website or anywhere else. It appears to be an outright lie.

There are also two videos on the ISC home page about “why the Dalai Lama is lying.” On one of these, claims are made about how there are large numbers (probably millions) of Shugden worshippers in the Himalayan regions and elsewhere who are being harmed by the Dalai Lama’s restrictions. There is talk about research done by Mills in the Himalayas that demonstrates this. According to this “news” clip, Mills found solid evidence that the Dalai Lama sent his brother into Sikkim to destroy Shugden images and coerce the people to stop worshipping Shugden.

When I investigated this, I could find no research from Mills on Sikkim, (which is not to say that no research exists). However, I did find research by Mills on Ladakh. In this research, Mills came to very different conclusions than those suggested in the video clip. He concluded that Ladakhis worshipped Shugden as a mundane spirit and lamas were considered higher than mundane spirits. So it was a clear choice for Ladakhis to follow the advice of the Dalai Lama, whom they revered as their lama, and stop worshipping Shugden. And yes, it appears that the Dalai Lama’s brother might have been involved in destroying images of Shugden—but this was under the compliance of the Ladakhi people! They were not coerced!

What is most glaring about all the ISC spin is the fact that if you click on the link “Articles and Resources” on their website, you will not find articles and resources. You will not find the research by Mills that is referenced in the video. You will not find substantiated media reports of persecution of monks as claimed in another video. You will not find police reports. You will not find any solid evidence to back the claims whatsoever.

What you will find is an obscure copy of a “letter” that was allegedly sent to an NKT nun. In this letter, which rambles on and on, “physical action” against those who were listed by the CTA is encouraged. The Dalai Lama is called a “god”, over and over. Over and over, the author says that Tibetans must do what the Dalai Lama says, without question. Tibetans must take action against those who are listed by the CTA. The CTA does whatever the Dalai Lama asks etc. etc. etc.

This letter is a clear fabrication. Clear, because it presents every crazy spin of the ISC—and those of us who have spent time within Tibetan communities know that it does not ring true in terms of Tibetans attitudes, language or approaches (e.g. I have never heard a Tibetan calling the Dalai Lama a “god”— a Buddha, yes, but not a “god”). Also, I would simply ask: why on earth would such a letter be sent to an NKT nun? It doesn’t threaten her or even speak to her directly.

And so it goes, on and on. Tenzin, the owner of this website, has been chasing this type of deceit for many years. It seems one could spend a lifetime chasing after the deceit of these people. My experience is that, like a fire, it only takes seconds to start a lie—while it takes hours, days, weeks and months sometimes to expose the truth and put the fire out. This is sad. Doesn’t everyone have better things to do?

So with all those little distortions of fact, all adding up to a very distorted attitude, when you are asked to protest against the alleged persecution of Shugden worshippers in India, can you believe that it’s necessary? Can you believe the claims? If the Indian Courts and Amnesty International found no evidence—if the ISC website has to be deceitful in order to provide “evidence” of persecution—if their website can’t provide media or police reports of injuries or other sufferings inflicted on Shugden worshippers—can you believe that there is due cause to protest? Can you trust your sources? Surely, if there had been criminal destruction of Shugden shrines in Sikkim, for example, this would have been a reportable event. Police would have been called in. Media would have arrived. Where is that evidence?

On the other hand, I imagine there probably are Tibetans who are giving Shugden worshippers a hard time. I would imagine there might be—people don’t always get along. Emotions run high around this issue and there are bound to be incidences here and there of misbehavior. This is true around disputes in every community on earth.

Along these lines, NKT students need to know that there was a vicious, gruesome, bloody murder of a monk and his two attendants in 1997 not far from the Dalai Lama’s residence in MacLeod Ganj, India. This murder still has not been solved, but the two key suspects are members of a Delhi Shugden society (who escaped into China). There is clear, media reported evidence of this. Ever since that event, some Tibetans became more fearful of Shugden worshippers, ostracizing them from shops and restaurants in MacLeod Ganj and Dharamsala. Within the context of a culture that believes in dangerous spirits, one might ask: is this persecution or just simple human fear?

Surely it is best to leave these questions to the courts and Amnesty International. It seems to me that whether there are or aren’t instances of persecution in India is a Tibetan problem, with cultural and historical ramifications that lay Westerners, such as ourselves, cannot possibly hope to understand fully or easily. Let’s not fool ourselves. To understand this problem properly entails study and investigation.

For these reasons, I suggest it is enough for us to understand and explore our own place in all of this. We need to understand what is important to our own practice and what isn’t. In this context, why have you, as a lay Westerner, been asked to protest and become involved in these issues that are not directly relevant to you? Why are the protests being held mainly in the West and not in India?

I ask you, dear NKT practitioner, are you being persecuted? Are your religious rights at risk in any way? If not, then why would you protest? I suggest that before you agree to protest, you make an effort to understand the situation fully, with all its cultural and historical contexts. I suggest that you listen to teachings and talks by HH Dalai Lama and investigate how he spends his time. Most of all, read his long and considered reasons for restricting Shugden practice. Find out for yourself if he is in the wrong. If you are not willing to do that bare minimum, how can you justify disturbing his teachings and calling him a liar?

4. Is the Dalai Lama Lying?

There’s a difference between lying and disagreeing. There’s a lot of talk about that word “ban” and whether or not His Holiness has “banned” Shugden practice. His Holiness says he hasn’t “banned” anything. Shugden worshippers say that it is a ban and he’s lying. Is that a lie or simply a difference of opinion?

There is no Tibetan word, “ban.” In that context, His Holiness has not said he “bans” worship of Shugden. Full stop. When His Holiness spoke to the monasteries all those years ago, advising them not to worship Shugden, he spoke in Tibetan. There is no exact translation from English—“ban”—to any equivalent Tibetan word, so how can His Holiness be lying? The discussion is semantic and is a disagreement about the extent of the restrictions he imposed or didn’t impose. Whether you agree or disagree with His Holiness, you can’t say he’s lying. That’s an emotive term that simply fires up protestors, looks impressive on placards, but does little to advance understanding.

As for other claims that he is lying, I have addressed most of those already, as most of those have to do with claims of religious persecution. Many of them are based on the assumption that every action done by any Tibetan is done under the complete knowledge and direction of HH Dalai Lama, and that is simply untrue and silly.

So please, dear fellow Dharma student, consider the facts and look within your heart before you decide to protest or not. It is ok that you and I have some robust disagreements between us. However, I believe that it is not ok to give ourselves permission to transgress on each other’s sacred space. I hope that I would never do that to you—and I ask that you think twice before doing that yourself.

You need to know that when I attend a Dalai Lama teaching, this is a very precious occasion for me. It is a time of deep spiritual meaning and reflection. He is my teacher. I believe you might understand what this means. So then you would also understand how I might feel to hear the shouting and the drums and the joyful dancing as others insult him loudly. I believe that most of the people who attend these events with me feel the same. It is disturbing and disruptive. So please, think deeply before you respond to the next call for protests. Look into your heart, consult your moral compass.

See also

The last Upholder of the Gelug Mahamudra Tradition: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

In the past it was the designated successor of Kelsang Gyatso, Kadam Neil Elliot, who claimed that the (whole) Vajrayana Mahamudra tradition is only existent in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and not outside of NKT. (There is still the recording of his voice).

Elliot claimed:

From 1991 to 1995 Gelong Thubten Gyatso (a.k.a. Neil Elliot) was 'the chosen one' to succeed former Geshe Kelsang. He was known as the 'heart-disciple' of GKG, who wrote a long life prayer for him recited regularly at NKT centres. Thubten was later disrobed because of a 'breach of his monastic vows', a polite way of saying sexual abuse. Neil Elliot (Thubten) organized and attended the WSS demonstrations–the old man himself reassigned Elliot to 'special ops'.

From 1991 to 1995 Gelong Thubten Gyatso (a.k.a. Neil Elliot) was the officially appointed successor and the ‘heart-disciple’ of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Kelsang Gyatso wrote a long life prayer for him recited regularly at NKT centres. Neil Elliot, who is very charismatic, played a key role in attracting Westerners to the NKT and he was the driving force that removed eclectic practitioners, who were not keen to exclusively rely on NKT/Kelsang Gyatso, from NKT. Such practitioners were seen as a threat for the “purity” of NKT. Later, Kelsang Gyatso had to strip Elliot officially from power after it became public via internet that Elliot was involved in sexual misconduct. (The NKT tried by all means to hide the reasons for this power change and the same story – even worse – repeated itself with the second officially appointed successor of Kelsang Gyatso, Samden Gyatso, a.k.a. Steve Wass.) Currently Neil Elliot is the resident teacher of NKT’s London Centre “Kadam Meditation Centre”. People aware of the NKT history find it very hypocritical that Elliot partakes in the protests against the Dalai Lama, calling the fully ordained monk and the holder of the monastic discipline the 14th Dalai Lama a hypocrite and liar, while Elliot turns a blind eye on his own inglorious past.

And we can say these days, previously you could find the practice of the Mahamudra outside this Tradition; other Traditions held this practice. But these days we can say definitely it doesn’t exist outside of our Tradition. Only this Tradition holds the lineage, the pure lineage, of the Vajrayana Mahamudra. So this is what we need to preserve, this is what we need to protect.

As some (controversial) Buddhist leaders get older, they or their Western students seem to be concerned about their legacy (see also Propaganda: The making of the holy Lama Ole Nydahl). There seems to be a need to establish their uniqueness and special contributions even before they die. For that purposes myths are created which single out those persons as unique and extraordinary. Tharpa publications produced a new book where NKT is publicly announcing such a myth in order to raise awareness within the Tibetan community about the uniqueness of the NKT founder Kelsang Gyatso. After NKT – based on the diligence of Kelsang Gyatso – has denounced the Dalai Lama (who Tibetans regard in the majority as their supreme leader) worldwide as a liar, hypocrite, saffron-robed Muslim, evil, cruel, worst dictator etc., it seems now is the time to teach Tibetans about the supremacy of Kelsang Gyatso by publishing a book in Tibetan, The Oral Instruction of Mahamudra. Via the NKT publishing arm, Tharpa publications, Kelsang Gyatso himself is keen to insinuate that he might be the last person on the planet who possesses the oral lineage of Mahamudra passed on by Trijang Rinpoche to him. Which means, enlightenment goes only through him (or his books) nowadays.

line-gothicTitle: “Meaningful to Behold” (mthong ba don ldan) : The Mahamudra of the Ganden Hearing Lineage Well Explained, Combined with A Summary of Essential Instructions of the Hearing Lineage

author credited on cover: Lama Losang Thubwang Heruka


Front cover of “The Oral Instruction Of Mahamudra” by Kelsang Gyatso


1.”Meaningful to Behold”: The Mahamudra of the Ganden Hearing Lineage Well Explained

2. The Preliminary Practice of the Mahamudra of the Ganden Hearing Lineage: How to Practice the Guru Yoga of the Hundreds of Deities of Tushita – in Accordance with the Mantrayana System

3. The Ganden Whispered Lineage Mind Ornament (“Adornment of Realization”): The Meaning of Profound Emptiness Well Explained (in verse)

4.”Essence of Tantra” Way of Practice of the Method of Accomplishment (Sadhana) of the Great Ghantapa’s Body Mandala of Glorious Chakrasamvara

Summary of Forward (Quick, Rough Rendition, Not Checked or Polished):

Many years ago Gelek Rinpoche, now resident in America, via telephone, asked a question to the Honorable Palden la of Trijang lhabrang. Gelek Rinpoche asked Palden la if there was anyone who had received the Mahamudra commentary instruction lineage suitably.

Palden la replied that he remembered, back in Tibet, at Tsechokling Monastery, among those who requested teachings of the Profound Instruction of Mahamudra there was Tsangpa Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, now of England, present. He also indicated another suitable receiver of this teaching may not exist.


Back cover of “The Oral Instruction Of Mahamudra” by Kelsang Gyatso

Then, at the insistence of a few lamas and geshes in both India and the West, who said since you are advanced in age it would be difficult for you yourself to teach/transmit this to assemblies of Tibetan people.

Within Tibet, Lama Thubten Purbu Rinpoche said you must offer this lineage of Mahamudra Instruction that you hold.

The reason to offer this is to revive the essence of the Conqueror’s doctrine (Gelug tradition), which has degenerated, and also to develop it, amongst the Tibetan people.

In this way may hearts  hold a cherishing of Jamgon Tsongkhapa’s Doctrine.

Kelsang Gyatso


It is clear that after the Dalai Lama failed so tremendously (in the eyes of Kelsang Gyatso and NKT) there is now only one shining star that is the bearer of the holy, secret and pure lineage of Trijang Rinpoche and Tsongkhapa, which is Kelsang Gyatso. “How fortunate we are!” (as NKT would joyfully exclaim the underlying message.)

Apparently the book seems to be looking for legitimacy from Tibetans (although two people who speak Tibetan say it is full of grammatical mistakes). It claims that Kelsang Gyatso received this transmission from Trijang Rinpoche at a place called Tsechokling in Tibet and that he might be the only living person who has it. This increases his importance and subsequently he claims that he was urged to “offer this lineage of Mahamudra Instruction” – and kindly he did. As the back cover puts it: “This precious text was written by Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in Tibetan.” The author credited on the front cover: Lama Losang Thubwang Heruka (which insinuates an enlightened being) is one with the author credited on the back cover: Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Quite modest. According to the book, the name of the person who officially requested the book is a lama in Tibet, Lama Thupten Phurbu Rinpoche.


David with the head of Goliath

The book must be seen in wider context of a long battle (or vendetta) of Kelsang Gyatso against the Dalai Lama. It appears a bit as the fight of the small David (Kelsang Gyatso) against the giant Goliath (Dalai Lama). Kelsang Gyatso spend a lot of time and effort to denounce the Dalai Lama as a total non-spiritual fake Dalai Lama and he himself personally took responsibility to organize the international protests against the Dalai Lama in 1996-98 and from 2008 onwards. Kelsang Gyatso also tried to educate Tibetans with his own pamphlets in Tibetan language where he claimed such things as:

He (the Dalai Lama) spent his whole life only collecting the wealth of simple Tibetan People. What material help has he provided to the Tibetan people? And regarding the issue of Tibet, what has he done that is really helpful? – see “A refutation of attacks on the advice of H.H. the Dalai Lama regarding the propitiation of guardian deities” by Tenpai Gyaltsan Dhongthog, 1996, p.33

In that context it is noteworthy to watch how NKT tries by all means to claim that the Dalai Lama would have lied with respect to Trijang Rinpoche’s acceptance of HH the Dalai Lama’s stance on Dorje Shugden. The NKT wants to tell: this man is not reliable (whereas Kelsang Gyatso is). The more the giant Dalai Lama is put down the higher the glory of small David. The NKT put a new video on YouTube that continues to spin the NKT myths. Without having any convincing argument the NKT / ICS still claim that the Dalai Lama lied. As a part of the video the NKT / ICS present a rather young monk, Geshe Lobsang Kalsang, as the Disciplinarian Master of Sera Mey Monastery.


According to the screen shot of this new NKT / ISC video this Lharampa Geshe Lobsang Kalsang is ‘from Sera Mey Monastery, Pomra Khamsten, Disciplinary Master from 200-2003′. However, according to Siling Tongkhor, Coordinator at Geden Tulku Association and Spiritual Director at Sermey Rongpo Khangsten, previously at Sera Mey Monastic University and Sera Tulkus group: “This monk, Lobsang Kalsang has never been the Disciplinarian Master of Sera Mey Monastery. He was from Sera Mey Monastery prior to the 2008 separation. And he became the disciplinarian master of Serpom, the Shugden monastery near Sera Mey.”

Geshe Lobsang Kelsang who was surely not any witness of the discussions between the Dalai Lama with Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche issues forth one claim after the other what Trijang Rinpoche had said without naming any reliable source. Mere claims that prove not anything.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-08-03 um 20.29.26The cover of the book is a portrait of Kelsang Gyatso ‘as’ Je Tsongkhapa, with Buddha Shakyamuni at his heart, and Heruka inside his heart. That makes Kelsang Gyatso appear as the direct ‘successor’ of Je Tsongkhapa, insinuating to bring to fruition the prediction of the Whispered Lineage – the Ganden Oral lineage – that states that one of the Buddhas of this fortunate aeon will actually be a manifestation of Tsongkhapa and will teach tantra … (In the past NKT spread quotes “from a Sutra” that in extremely degenerate times – which is now according to NKT – a very pure being will appear that restores the “pure Dharma”. Such claims are part of the myths which NKT creates to attribute a special role in this world to their leader Kelsang Gyatso – a special role also Kelsang Gyatso is convinced of to have.)

Lama Lobsang Thupwang Dorje Chang is now called ‘Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka’ (on the frontspiece) and in Tibetan ‘Lama Losang Tubwang Heruka’.

I understand this is problematic as

a) This kind of portrait of the teacher as ‘the Guru Tsongkhapa’ is a private part of practice and paintings such as this are traditionally not done until a teacher has died.

b) Siling Tongkhor told that ‘this is acceptable, technically’, or ‘theoretically’ ‘as long as they don’t regard him as a Yidam but merely as an spiritual protector – Dharmapala’. This requires more thought.

c) The cover features a living teacher seated on a lotus. This lotus seat is traditionally only used for teachers who are dead and it is considered highly inauspicious to depict a living teacher in this way; if I remember correctly it is said to be the cause of premature death. (This is also true for the NKT practice to put a hair of Kelsang Gyatso in statues. This is done only with hairs of dead teachers. If it is done with the hairs of a living teacher, such an action too is seen as very inauspicious and as a cause for calamities.)

Update August 30, 1014

1. Enquiries in Dharamsala suggest that His Holiness has taught it at least 5 times. Once back in the 70s or early 80s during one of Lama Yeshi’s Dharma celebrations; a couple of times since in the Tsuglagkhang here; last year at Gyumey and at Emory University in USA. He says he received the transmission from both his tutors. Apparently recently he asked Samdhong Rinpoche to give it somewhere and when Rinpoche said he was willing, but he didn’t have the transmission, His Holiness said then I’ll give it you. It doesn’t sound as rare and exclusive as the NKT make out.

2. Palden la was the manager of Trijang Labrang when Trijang Rinpoche was still alive.

When shown Kelsang Gyatso’s book, a Rinpoche in Dharamsala who had studied in Sera said almost immediately responded “O this looks like a lie” particularly in reference to Gelek Rinpoche. About Lobsang Kelsang he said “O he’s crazy.” Checked with a translator he said that in the Sera mey he was known as Palden Nyonpa which roughly means Glorious Nutcase. He said he was wild and eccentric; inclined to cause a splash. Even about his own teacher Gyarong Khensur he could be disparaging. Therefore this person is not a particularly credible witness.

3. His Holiness has been quite clear about the fact that he kept his tutors informed about his views and activities. He didn’t ask Ling Rinpoche to prevail on Trijang Rinpoche. He has himself described how he asked Trijang Rinpoche to speak out on the matter because of the weight of his influence.


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