The Buddhists Who Hate the Dalai Lama More Than the Chinese Do

Dorje Shugden is an obscure trickster spirit, believed to have originated in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in the 17th century. And though the spirit’s followers in the Western world probably number only a few thousand, they’ve been surprisingly successful at generating attention for themselves and their campaign to discredit the Dalai Lama. Recently, BloombergReuters, and the Washington Post, among other outlets, have covered the Shugden followers’ protests, and in a measured tone — surprising for the absurdity of the Shugden followers’ claims. In its Feb. 6 edition, Newsweek put the Dalai Lama on its cover with the headline “Relentless: The Real Dalai Lama.” A Shugden supporter gleefully handed me a photocopy of the article, in part because the article included the subheading “False Dalai Lama” — the same chant Shugden followers make at protests.

There is a new and thorough article by the Foreign Policy, Meet the Buddhists Who Hate the Dalai Lama More Than the Chinese Dothat covers the recent press coverage, the protesters, who is behind the protests, and the “surprising … absurdity of the Shugden followers’ claims”.

Have the Dalai Lama protesters sought dialogue?

The ISC / Dalai Lama protesters are now frequently claiming that they have sought dialogue with the Dalai Lama but the Dalai Lama has never accepted dialogue with them. Once again however, this claim is misleading.

If you really seek dialogue, you try to put yourself in the shoes of the other person. You try to understand as well as you can the way of thinking of the person with whom you seek dialogue. While you are working towards that aim you don’t denigrate the other person as ‘false’ or a ‘hypocrite’, ‘very professional liar’, ‘worst dictator’ etc, because this isn’t a basis for a dialogue. The Dalai Lama protesters have not done the former but rather stress the latter. Does this behaviour reveal a genuine motivation for a dialogue or is ‘dialogue’ just more rhetoric like the terms ‘human rights’ and ‘religious freedom’?

During the first round of the protests (1996–98) the protesters didn’t seek dialogue. They issued demands. The demand of Kelsang Gyatso – who “masterminded” and led the protests¹ – and the demand of the NKT protesters was that “the Dalai Lama signs a declaration promising freedom to propagate worship of Dorje Shugden.”¹ If the Dalai Lama does so, Kelsang Gyatso said in an interview to The Daily Telepgraph, they will “immediately cease all activity.”¹

Before that interview with The Daily Telegraph in 1996, a dialogue had been arranged in London, at Tibet House, between representatives of the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE, now CTA) and Jim Belither and Lucy James of the NKT, amongst others. However, whilst these NKT members were on the train from Yorkshire to the meeting, a person on the train suffered a heart attack and the train was delayed. This was interpreted by the NKT members as an inauspicious sign and because of this as well as the fact that the time of the meeting coincided with a demonstration arranged at Eccleston Square, they did not attend the meeting. The meeting was portrayed as a trap to disturb the arranged demonstration and no other meeting was arranged. It seems likely, based on the protesters refusal to accept the TGIE offer for a dialogue, that Kelsang Gyatso said to The Daily Telegraph:

There is no point in us meeting. He will reject what I say. He will never agree. Demonstrations are our only outlet.¹

On May 1st, 1998 a petition was delivered to the Dalai Lama in New York, asking him to sign a declaration. In this declaration the Dalai Lama was asked to confirm that former statements he made were “untrue”, and to acknowledge that his “false information” had created “great suffering”. It concluded, “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.” The petition was signed on behalf of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition, Morten Clausen, an NKT teacher.

During the second round (2009–2014) and during the third round (2014–??) of protests there were no calls for a dialogue, but ultimata were issued (if you don’t do as we wish we will organise protests against you, it is now in your hands). These ultimata were again unreasonable demands, such as to revert a democratic decision made via majority vote (Stick Referendum) by monks in the monasteries in 2008. There, the majority of Buddhist monks decided to remove Shugden worship from their monastic practices and to separate themselves from monks who wished to continue Shugden worship. It is the right of the monks to decide under which contitions they want to live. As a single individual, the Dalai Lama cannot go against a monastic procedure and the majority vote within monastic communities.

For analyses with further details regarding the claims of having sought dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, see:

¹ Dalai Lama Faces Revolt For Barring ‘Death Threat’ Deity, The Daily Telegraph, July 15,1996.

Some corrections with respect to claims made about me in the internet by Tenzin Peljor

Of course, as I expected, the NKT tried hard to defame me online and usually I do not bother to correct them. I will continue to follow this approach.

However, I write this post because I feel this time that I have to correct a tiny piece of misinformation with respect to my person because in this case an established institution and one of the research officers working there is (ab?)used to misrepresent my intentions, some of my work, websites and blog. It appears from glancing through a recent article by the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) / International Shugden Society (ISC) activists and reading the title of the DI post that IndyHack / NKT / ISC want to portray me as an agent of the CTA / Tibetan government body in exile. This is wrong. I act on my own. I think and decide for myself according to how I see things and feel them to be correct.

It is the mental set up of ill-informed conspiracy theorists and the own experience of one final lasting, all controlling, all powerful and unquestionable authority in NKT one has to follow with “unwavering faith” – Kelsang Gyatso – that projects these ideas onto me and the CTA and the Dalai Lama. Here the piece from the heap of misinformation available that I became aware of, rather accidentally, and which I wish to correct:

My first concern with Inform was their relationship with Tenzin Peljor and to what degree they were aware that he was working for the CTA. In addressing this aspect Suzanne Newcombe said, “We are aware that he works towards the [sic] promoting the Dalai Lama’s position on various issues.”, adding, “it is clear from his many public websites that Tenzin Peljor works actively in ways that support the agenda of the CTA.”

From the very outset (from 2006 onwards) I started to give information critical of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) that was usually not, or only hardly available. Accounts of critics were actively and successfully repressed by the NKT. Initially I made this in order to warn people about the demerits of an organisation which I consider to be a very destructive cult and which – in the long run – harmed me and many of my friends in many ways (though in the beginning we had a lot of benefits too).

Later my motivation changed into that I wanted to enable people – especially Western newcomers to Buddhism – to understand the harming and manipulative aspects of the organisation in order to empower them to make an informed decision before they follow or commit to NKT since NKT won’t tell them the unpleasant things and will deceive or manipulate them skilfully from the very start, unintentionally or intentionally exploiting the naivety and faith of Buddhist newcomers.

I started this blog under the name of with the aim to correct the misinformation of the NKT spread via a highly professional, media savvy worldwide campaign (via three different front groups) with respect to Shugden because misinformation increases confusion in others and correct information were hardly available in 2008 when NKT editors even manipulated the Wikipedia articles so that they conformed with their press campaign.

Correct information empowers people to understand. I always saw and still see my work as a spiritual task: give reliable information so that based on facts and a broad range of accurate, differentiated information people can make up their own mind, and in the best case, the mind poisons – like confusion, hate and attachment – can dissolve. Understanding (wisdom) is the way to (mental) freedom. My blog and websites were just set up to balance the NKT propaganda without the slightest aim of “promoting the Dalai Lama’s position on various issues.” or to work “actively in ways that support the agenda of the CTA.” 

The same is true for my other websites, including my personal one which I started only to get some control over the misinformation NKT spread about me in the internet in different languages and on different blogs, websites, forums and comment sections.

Other articles and posts on my websites and blogs aim to dispel confusion about topics many Westerners misunderstand and that are related to Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lamas and Tibet. But again, the target is to dispel misunderstandings and the way to do this is to provide as much as possible accurate and reliable, differentiated information and knowledge (mostly but not exclusively from academic experts), correct and differentiated information, which was in the past very difficult to find online.

Moreover, my websites and blog include articles, interviews and comments that are not at all promoting the Dalai Lama or the CTA but actively criticise some of their actions, e.g. the dealing with of the Middle Way Approach is criticised in the Elliot Sperling article, or the CTA list of Tibetan Anti-Dalai Lama protesters or the Dalai Lama’s silence with respect to Sogyal Rinpoche are criticised on this blog.

Congruency of opinion is no valid evidence that a person promotes and actively supports a person who has a similar position. In my case it is rather coincidental that after a long process of investigation and analysis + research my opinion is more in line with that of the CTA and the Dalai Lama. The congruency is then the result of that at the end of a careful analysis both parties found the same facts but this congruency is not a matter of agenda and promotion.

I asked Inform for further clarification as to why they erroneously saw my websites as ‘promoting the Dalai Lama’s position on various issues’ and why they see my websites as working ‘actively in ways that support the agenda of the CTA’.  In response they issued the following statement:

This is the longer quote from which Indy Hack took those two sentences:

“We are aware of Tenzin Peljor’s multiple websites and affiliations with the Bodhicharya Centre, FPMT, and his ordination by the Dalai Lama. We are aware that he works towards the promoting the Dalai Lama’s position on various issues.

“We were not aware that he was currently working at the Central Tibetan Authority’s main offices in Dharamsala. However, it is clear from his many public websites that Tenzin Peljor works actively in ways that support the agenda of the CTA.”

Although Indy Hack has not fully misquoted, Indy Hack has carefully selected from a larger piece of text which makes the final ‘quote’ misrepresentative to some extent. Use of the phrases ‘promoting’ and ‘actively supporting’ does not necessarily imply any kind of formal affiliation; these phrases are also not a comment about Peljor’s ‘intention’ or purpose in providing these websites. 

These two statements were made in a larger response to specific questions raised in an email exchange questioning to what extent Inform was aware of potential bias of people presenting Inform with Information.

Tenzin Peljor’s public biography on openly states ordination by the Dalai Lama as well as affiliations with the Bodhicharya Centre and the FPMT (via study at the Lama Tzong Khapa Institute in Italy); these traditions are broadly supportive of the Dalai Lama’s teachings as a Buddhist spiritual leader.  However, working within these traditions does not necessarily mean that an individual is uncritical of them. People’s beliefs are more nuanced and varied than those presented by institutions. Specifically, Tenzin Peljor is not promoting any of these institutions’ views on his independently-run websites of or The opinions voiced on these website are his as an individual. In particular, on Tenzin Peljor promotes a range of independent academic opinions, some of which are critical of the CTA, and Tibetan Buddhism more generally.  

The website is critical of a number of Tibetan traditions, including the NKT. In particular, the discussion of links between the NKT and ISC/WSS is consistent with the CTA’s more public linking of the two organisations with the survivors’ statement on its official website last summer. However, the published Information on suggesting links between the NKT and the ISC/WSS pre-dates any public statements of the CTA by years.  

While Tenzin Peljor’s websites can be read as working ‘actively in ways that support the agenda of the CTA’ this is not proof that he is actively working as an employee of the CTA or with the intention or purpose of explicitly supporting the CTA or Dalai Lama’s agenda. This Information was contextualised in the correspondence from which the quote was taken, but the nature of the original questions was not incorporated into how the short quotes were used in the blog post. 

Quote given with permission from Inform.

Tenzin Peljor

PS: I am not working for the CTA nor did I set up or run the website However, I gave them permission to use articles from and after their request I gave them also the domain which I bought for another purpose.


See also

How are newcomers introduced to the Dorje Shugden issues in the New Kadampa Tradition?

Question: Is there any NKT documentation that talks about when to introduce the Dorje Shugden issues to new students? Is there a deliberate policy of concealment and delay in introducing this until people are ‘too far in to get out’?

Answer – in three parts by Carol McQuire

[1] It’s simply not talked about that way. Even internally in the NKT documentation, I have not seen any that is that specifically discusses ‘Shugden’.

If you read the Notes on Teaching Skills by Gen Thubten Gyatso there is a lot in there about ‘gradual introduction’, etc,. The implicit understanding is that this is about the ‘real NKT’/Shugden, etc but that method also applies to a lot of things about Dharma, not just to ‘Shugden’.

As ‘Shugden’ is such an integral part of the NKT it’s not managed as being at all ‘dangerous’ or ‘nasty’ to bring people in to do the practice – it’s a kindness to them to do so. People are invited to do Heart Jewel/Shugden as the daily ‘Guru Yoga’ and main centre practice – every day, every centre – to say thank you for the kindness of the centres, books, study programmes, etc. It’s not ‘announced’ as ‘Shugden’ like a ‘secret practice’ or something prohibited or wrong. It’s so normalised and ordinary you have no idea what you are being drawn into. It’s the NKT’s main practice so how would it be ‘managed’ as ‘secret’? Doing Heart Jewel – the Ganden Lhagyema with Shugden prayers attached – is also a commitment when you join a study programme and of course, if you want to teach in the NKT.

It’s the Dalai Lama’s views that are ‘secret’ and as so many people who ‘drop in’ to the NKT know nothing about what the Dalai Lama thinks and as most of them know nothing about Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism, then it’s a ‘non-issue’. We tell people who ask us how to ‘check’ that the best way to find out ‘what the NKT is’ is to ask about His Holiness in a general NKT teaching and watch the ‘reply’! It will most probably be an embarrassing silence or a mumbled excuse! Many people attracted to the NKT find it difficult to believe that there is no refuge in His Holiness the Dalai Lama by the NKT as the NKT sangha look just like him and at some point the ‘lineage’ connection to Tibetan Buddhism will be mentioned by them. People may well go to the NKT because of His Holiness and his positive influence on them. That is the sadness embedded in the lack of clarity surrounding these issues.

The NKT does a lot of ‘secret information’ sharing. Knowing ‘what the Dalai Lama says’, etc, is the more ‘secret information’ that is one of the issues you may talk about in private with your NKT teacher and it’s part of the ‘secret bonding’ between the local teacher and their students that keeps the NKT going and the protests going. NKT students are warned not to trust what is said on the internet, etc. They are told about the ‘poor, victimised’ NKT, and the ‘poor victimised Kelsang Gyatso’, etc. The ‘Shugden’ issue is almost marginalised and it’s certainly minimised – if you look at p. 148 in the ‘Modern Buddhism’ ebook that’s a free download, you can see a line drawing of ‘Shugden’ but he’s only called the ‘Wisdom Protector’ so how would a beginner in the NKT realise what the connection is to the protests against His Holiness? It all appears to be very benign and positive.

[2] When you ‘normalise’ Shugden like that, the Dalai Lama then comes across as ‘crazy’ for criticising it and you slot everyone into supporting the campaign as a ‘nice’ thing to do because His Holiness is ‘so mistaken’.

The ‘hardcore’ activists, like IndyHack and Gen La Khyenrab, ‘rev up’ the protest team with all the online accusations and that can deflect criticism of the campaign in general into criticism of their ‘crude’ techniques – this might be an actual ‘campaign ploy’ so people don’t look too much into the real issues and instead they stay ‘in house’ – but in general, it’s seen as the ‘decent’ thing to do to tell His Holiness that he is wrong.

What is also remarkable is that NKT people really seem to fear ‘going outside the box’. Sometimes their idea of ‘research’ is to watch Rabten’s videos for the International Shugden Commuity or look at the Dorje Shugden Tibetan Follower’s videos. Nothing else! Everything outside the ‘NKT view’ they really see as propaganda. I know, because that’s how I thought when I was there! His Holiness was really a ‘bad deal’! It’s fascinating how they do that – all of us ask afterwards how it happened – to university graduates and intellectuals who feel proud of our ability to ‘think independently’! I feel it’s the normalising of the NKT value system – a consistent, inward looking barrage of subtle and not so subtle praise of the ‘Special Kadampa’ techniques. Everything from the Dharma is attributed to Kelsang Gyatso’s ‘kindness’ and when we first ‘fall in love’ with Dharma the NKT justifications and consistently ‘shifted’ teachings slip in too. All your gratitude is highly focused towards the NKT and ‘Geshe-la’, not to ‘Budddha’ or ‘Tibetan Buddhism’.

That’s why a ‘normal, logical’ method when analysing the protest ‘justifications’ will fall short – it’s the whole fabric of ‘how the NKT did it with Shugden’ that needs analysing.
When the NKT/ISC, etc say that His Holiness the Dalai Lama ‘wants to destroy the NKT’, this feels like the truth as discrediting Shugden discredits the NKT world completely. So, the NKT ‘war’ becomes the almost desperate need to preserve ‘their’ tradition, which is then ‘overlaid’ back again onto a ‘Tibetan’ issue as a wider justification of their actions.

The game of ‘creating our own tradition’ which will ‘be’ Tibetan but not ‘Tibetan’ in practice (‘connected’ but ‘isolated’) started when Neil Elliott and other westerners met Kelsang Gyatso at Manjushri Institute in the 1970s. His Holiness wasn’t publicly against Shugden worship then, so it was a ‘sensible risk’ for Gyatso and Neil to create their ‘separate, Shugden tradition’ and ‘world’ during the 80s. They had designed most of it by 1992 – the music was still missing but the basic, simplified books and sadhanas in English were ready. Then, all their great new structure which had the ‘guru yoga of Shugden’ at its heart was torn apart in 1996 by His Holiness’ decision – which I am sure was not at all directed at ‘attacking the NKT’. The decision was taken to help conflicts simmer down and this eventually worked within the Indian diaspora – but Kelsang Gyatso and Neil, then ‘Gen Thubten Gyatso’ were then stuck in the cul de sac of being primarily a ‘Shugden’ group – I think that’s why Kelsang Gyatso went to India with Kelsang Pema in 1996 – to see what he could salvage as a ‘campaign’ against His Holiness, not just ostensibly to ‘see’ the political realities.

Gavin Kilty talks about the wider context here:

[3] It’s almost as if, the more logic you use ‘against’ the anti Dalai Lama protesters, the more you alienate them, as Shugden is so ‘normal’ and listening to what His Holiness says is such a big conceptual contrast to what they have been taught to think, that it produces ‘cognitive dissonance’ and ends up increasing their faith in the NKT. It’s difficult for them to think ‘beyond’ the NKT view.

It’s very, very clever. Bound onto the back of Kelsang Gyatso’s ‘love’ for Shugden as it seems to represent his bond with Trijang Rinpoche and his ‘lineage’ and is the ‘residue’ of the actual Tibetan lineage that Kelsang Gyatso holds and tried to give to his students but in a very crude way (without him having to make the actual effort to ‘be’ a spiritual guide to anyone in person), Neil Elliott used this ‘Kelsang Gyatso figurehead’ to create their own ‘New Kadampa Tradition’ using educational, psychological and politically astute management techniques. What many people don’t understand from outside the NKT is how unimportant the actual person of Kelsang Gyatso is in everyday NKT life – your local teacher, centre and the books are far more so. ‘Geshe-la’ was always more of a ‘concept’ than an actual ‘spiritual guide’ – this is more evident now that he no longer appears in public – he ‘appears’ through ‘Heart Jewel’ practice to ‘talk’ to students who so often say they feel ‘close’ to him but what are they actually close ‘to’?

It was a brilliant plan – to make their own ‘tradition’ and then sell ‘their’ Dharma as a product using corporate commercial techniques and building up a world wide empire of real estate by using students almost like ‘slave workers’ – NKT volunteers, including most of the teachers, work for nothing except the ‘privilege of being allowed’ to work for the NKT! The plan inevitably got warped – their campaign hasn’t changed with the times – it used to be more realistic in the late 90s. It’s not now – they have to look harder for justification – which is why their campaigns are becoming more and more absurd. Last week ‘Atisha’s Cook’ – one of the anonymous online protesters – produced a meme stating that His Holiness is ‘worse than Hitler’. ‘Shugden’ is even hyped up as a ‘religion’ in itself.

10  Atishas Cook the Dalai Lama is worse than HitlerThe NKT simultaneously ‘uses’ Tibetan Buddhism as validation and has to keep itself completely separate from it. The protests function to do both, very neatly. It’s difficult to do that, but they managed to pull it off – at least for their own followers! The reality that Gavin Kilty analyses, in the face of this, seems ‘abnormal’ and ‘absurd’. And to us, on this side, the NKT appear utterly absurd! It takes a lot of thought for people of either side to ‘understand’ where the ‘other side’ is coming from at all.

Carol McQuire

NEWS: Articles related to the New Kadampa Tradition, Ripga, SGI & A Review of “Dolgyal Shugden: A History”

There are some new interesting articles related to the New Kadampa Tradition and Shugden:

* Gavin Kilty has been a full-time translator for the Institute of Tibetan Classics since 2001. Before that he lived in Dharamsala, India, for fourteen years, where he spent eight years training in the traditional Geluk monastic curriculum through the medium of class and debate at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. He also teaches Tibetan language courses in India, Nepal, and elsewhere, and is a translation reviewer for the organization 84000, Translating the Words of the Buddha.


In case you were not aware of it … Newsweek (January 29, 2015) covers the protests and the Shugden controversy in an extensive article that also mentions “The Yellow Book”: Relentless: The Dalai Lama’s Heart of Steel.

NKT Survivor Testimony: “I Am Not Your Teacher”

I Am Not Your Teacher

by Andrea Ballance

The shortcoming of hanging pawns is that they present a convenient target for attack. As the exchange of men proceeds, their potential strength lessens and during the endgame they turn out, as a rule, to be weak. – Boris Spassky

Definition: Hanging pawns are an open, half-isolated duo. It means that they are standing next to each other on the adjacent half-open files, usually on the fourth rank, mutually protecting their stop squares. They share a number of characteristics of weak pawns they are not directly protected by other pawns and may become targets of attack.


Photograph of Kelsang Gyatso, founder of the New Kadampa Tradition, taken from the back cover of “Clear Light of Bliss” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Wisdom Publications, London, 1992. No photographer credited.

I was ordained and living in Manjushri Centre. For as long as I had been there I experienced a troubled relationship with the centre teacher who at the time was Samten Kelsang. I would ask him questions, get cryptic answers, bad answers, an answer read out of one of Kelsang Gyatso’s books or no answer at all.

In his defence, I was passionate about the Dharma and had an unending list of questions to ask and get answers to. I was so utterly blown away by the scriptures and what their meanings could be. I was desperate to talk to people who had more knowledge than me. I probably annoyed him. I know he had no idea how to ‘deal’ with me.

I had tried for many years to be a friend to this teacher and he would fluctuate between being a friend, treating me like a stranger or treating me like I was an enemy trying to harm him. He refused to let me join the Teacher Training Programme like the other students. When my friend asked him why, he just replied, “she is not ready”.

Gradually over the years I became sicker and sicker with what I now think was some form of chronic exhaustion brought on by stress. This also played a part in what people and this teacher thought of me. I think it was widely accepted that I was a shirker and I was lazy.

I was constantly thrown into arguments with this guy. He would say the most shallow things and I would have to check if they were for real or not. I have used this example before, where he said that, “Fat people do not look good, but that thin people might be sick”. He would sit and just stare at people when they were in asking for advice. He would be inappropriate and fixate on lay people. He was unsupportive and very obsessed with his own reputation and his pond-like fame. He was also in very poor health a lot of the time and he tried to hide that from his students. Could one be a Buddha and still be epileptic?

Samten tended to work by the ‘dogs tooth’ method of being a teacher. Better to hide all the flaws, not be open about who you are and let the student ‘project’ pure teacher onto you.

This idiotic and traumatic student-teacher connection ended one summer when this teacher decided he wanted me to be kicked out of Manjushri Centre. He got the management together and convinced them that the best thing for him would be if I was told to leave the centre. I was completely devastated.

Photograph taken by Andrea Ballance.

Photograph taken by Andrea Ballance.

As a nun I never and, I can truly say this, never, approached this teacher without meditating. Either meditating on the cushion, if I felt what was going to be broached would end in an argument, or breathing and taking refuge as I walked up towards him. To me, he had a powerful energy and I found it hard to breathe around him, so I always needed to be clear as to why I was talking to him. So I would take refuge in my guru and the Buddhas…imagine their light shining in through my crown chakra into my heart and then deal with whatever ridiculous situation was before me.

Because of this, because I would take this confusion into my meditations and practice, I was confident that even though I had had troubles with this teacher, I had always done my best. So when the centre management ganged up on me and told me I was to be thrown out, I refused to leave without seeing Kelsang Gyatso. After all I felt that I was straight with my guru and the Buddhas.

I remember in the days that followed the management’s request for me to leave that I cried a lot. Manjushri Centre meant a lot to me and although I had never fitted in and I was endlessly confused there, it was the only place I had ever been a nun. One afternoon while this was all kicking off, I went to the toilet. I had to walk over the chapel to get to the toilets. As I opened the doors I heard two people chatting in the chapel.

The male voice said,

“She will not leave unless she sees Geshe-la’”

A female voice replied,

“She will see him over my dead body”.

Of course they were discussing me.

I was devastated. Exhausted from illness and sure no one would take on a nun that had been thrown out of another centre, I was lost. I had no chance of speaking to my guru – the one person who would be able to see my intention and help me. I had people actively preventing my situation from being told to him. So I would leave the centre, be barred from my guru and have nowhere to go. I was gutted.

Like I said, I was passionate about the Dharma and completely dedicated to my ordination and the life I had stumbled upon. At that point, I had no plan B and I was panicking. My friends started to help me. People tried to smuggle me in to see him and I wrote a letter that a friend either gave to him or just left in his room after she had been to see him. I remember the letter. I could hardly write it. It looked as though it had been written by a child.

A few more days passed and I still was not sure that he had even read the letter. I went to the office and checked my mail and the nun who had exclaimed that I would see Geshe Kelsang “over her dead body” walked up to me. She seemed amused and her voice had softened and she said “Geshe-la will see you” and she gave me a date and time. I said thank you and felt relieved. I nearly didn’t hear what she said over the blood rushing through my veins and the anxiety filling my mind.

I had to prepare to see the guru now. I think I had met him briefly a couple of times but he didn’t know me. In fact, the first time I ever met him was as he was walking around the centre with his entourage. A boy called Chris really wanted Geshe-la to meet me and kept pointing at me and saying my name. Eventually Kelsang Gyatso looked over at me and instead of saying, “Hello”, he said,
“This one is trouble.”

So we weren’t best buddies. We didn’t ‘know’ each other in the ordinary sense of the word but he had ordained me so I thought I could call him my guru and see him in that way. I had no Dharma possessions left because from the moment he arrived in Manjushri Centre, I slowly gave him everything. I don’t want to talk about that because I really was trying to be pure and make good karma for people, and in the hope I made some I don’t want to ruin it by feeling embarrassed about it now.

So I had nothing to take to offer him and I had to buy something. I had a little money and so I managed to get an unfilled statue that was unpainted and a katag and then I just had to wait. I just had to wait and hope he would help me.

Most of the rest of this is a blur for me. I went to the audience with him. He was much smaller than I had remembered him. Bird-like. I sat down and the door was left open. I gave him my offering. We talked about things and the main reason I cannot remember what was actually said was because he was looking at me with a really peaceful face while at the same time shouting at me with a really annoyed, angry voice. He was like two people. He indicated that he needed to sound angry with me for the people outside of the room.

In this audience he told me that I needed to act more like a nun and that he was not my teacher.

I think at that point my mind left the room and shortly after that he let me leave. I stood up and as I left the room the little bird-like guru hugged me. It was a hug that was made out of the energy “sorry”. It said, “I am sorry”. He did not say I am sorry, though the energy of the hug felt like he was trying to say “I am really, really sorry.” After that I went back to my room.

I was devastated all over again. I was just a person who wanted to go to teachings, be a nun, to have a teacher… The whole stream of teachings and pujas and meditations demand that you respect your teacher… that you have a teacher, that you devote yourself to a teacher… When you ordain – you have to realize here that I genuinely thought I was actually ordained – the moment you ordain, your guru is Geshe-la. Every prayer book, meditation guide and ritual prescribe visualizations of the Teacher, the guru – Geshe-la… except he just told me that he wasn’t my teacher.

No words can describe the utter confusion and loss I experienced after that meeting. If he was not my teacher, then what was this ordination about? What was my life about? I was horribly lost. Slowly all the corner pins of my good intention and determination were being kicked out from beneath me.

I really could not resolve the meeting I had had with Geshe-la and I still cannot today.

About a week after the meeting, Geshe-la sent someone to ask me if I would move to Losang Dragpa centre in Todmorden. I was really unsure because I just had a gut instinct that I would not get along with Samden Gyatso, the teacher there, but I agreed because Geshe-la was ‘the guru’.

A few weeks later Samten Kelsang got transferred from Manjushri Centre and appointed the resident teacher of Losang Dragpa Centre – the centre I was moving to. Samden Gyatso was transferred to Manjushri Centre and took over as Resident teacher of the ‘Mother Centre’.

Make what you will of all of I have explained above, because I still have not worked through it all and I have been disrobed for over ten years.

After all of that I just felt like a lost jigsaw piece. I realized that in some way my reputation had been reinstated through moving me to Losang Dragpa rather than simply asking me to leave Manjushri, but there was no solidity, no definite plan, no one who said “Oh, this has been done to help you.” It just felt like I was a joke being played on Samten but maybe I was just being used as a pawn in the bigger NKT game – a game that I had not consented to and still have no understanding of.

This testimony was originally posted on this Facebook Page and is protected by Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND.


More NKT survivors’ testimonies

Another letter to Kelsang Rabten

The following is another letter by Carol McQuire to Kelsang Rabten in reply to his interview posted on YouTube and the dorjeshugden[.]com site.


Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

Kelsang Rabten at Anti Dalai Lama protests

Kelsang Rabten, in your first interview, you state that it was ‘outrageous’ for a boy to want to ‘smash an image’ on your public shrine. Your demos, Kelsang Rabten, are designed to ‘smash an image’ of much more than a statue (I don’t think you can ‘smash’ either a postcard or a metal statue so that choice of verb is of itself confusing). I would suggest that the ‘potent negativity’ you mention that boy had received from His Holiness, is actually what has been put into you by your teacher, quite the reverse of what you claim. What His Holiness the Dalai Lama does is empower and encourage each person he meets to see and know their own mind.

You do however, follow your own teacher in such ways, that if he says something, you consider it must be true. I have made the acquaintance of His Holiness and can say that at no level whatsoever am I expected or required to ‘believe what he says is true’ without investigation or analysis nor do anything by obligation or force. It would go against the path and be considered mistaken, confused and even repugnant if I felt I ought to do something that goes against my own sense of integrity, values or logic. However, when I was in the NKT I was expected to accept mistaken ideas that Kelsang Gyatso himself said from the throne as being the truth – statements such as ‘You will not get enlightened if you disrobe!’ You must know this cannot be true as it contradicts the basic philosophy of Buddhism which states that everyone has the potential to become a Buddha. This statement was the source of much confusing debate amongst the NKT sangha that year, after Sojong at Manjushri Centre, in 2005 or 2006. I would dare to say that what you see as ‘discrimination’ is actually a desire to protect people from this kind of confusion. In other words, it means using the ‘discrimination’ of correctly assessing the dangers of a situation.

You demean Tibetans by thinking them so cowardly that they would not protest or negotiate with His Holiness if there were problems such as those you proclaim. The monastic separation happened through the wishes of Tibetans – through voting and negotiation. You show great pretension to think that you can ‘sort out’ problems that belong to Tibetans, especially when they have already been sorted and in particular when you have so many ex NKT complaining about mistreatment when in NKT hands. I do not know of any ex NKT who have left a centre with some of the NKT’s profits in their pockets, quite unlike the monks in India who had rights to monastic funds. Other Tibetan refugees are impoverished, but not the Shugdenpa monks!

You should focus on your spiritual practice if that is your main life and your wish. These issues are not as important as you think, unless you are not telling us the real reason why you are doing these demonstrations. Why are you sitting in a café in a suit and tie when you would probably much prefer to be wearing your robes? Who tells you to do this? Where are these millions of Tibetans you are saving? You know in your heart that they do not exist. No one can find them. So who are you actually doing these demonstrations for?

The Tibetans who were watching you from the steps outside the venue in Basel must be the ones you do these demonstrations for, and for your own students and NKT followers. You want to be ‘seen’ by these people; you want to offend those Tibetans who love His Holiness for many justifiable reasons. You know you cannot convince them with your banners, shouts and slogans – you do it to ‘provoke’. I think you need a proper teacher.

When you say that His Holiness is ‘wiping out this precious tradition’ you actually express your fears for your own tradition, don’t you, not Je Tsongkhapa’s at all! Trijang Rinpoche did not start a ‘tradition’ nor did Pabongkha. They were teachers of a tradition, not a tradition in themselves. And Je Tsongkhapa never needed a’ Shugden’. Do you really think your Shugden is so weak that His Holiness saying that his students should not do this practice will ruin Shugden?  Or do you think that everything your ‘tradition’ has will be ruined and lost if Shugden is not practised by a few more people? Such dependence is extraordinary! So is such craving for His Holiness’s approval!

See also

A Tibetan Translator’s Testimony by Tenzing Wangdak


My Diary – The Ticking Bomb That Took 23 Years To Explode

My name is Tenzing Wangdak. I woke up at around 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning, December 17th, 2014. I was in no mood to go to work. Looking around my bedside, I saw my small computer. I picked it up to navigate through the websites on the internet. There were messages from my Facebook friends. There was one particularly interesting message. The title was “We need to talk about Shugden.” My younger brother Zoksang, who lives in Kingston, New York City, sent it to me. It was about one western Buddhist nun who tells the story of her woeful life when she was studying in the New Kadampa Tradition. She is one of those ex-students of the NKT who came out very strongly against the high level of religious fanaticism and sexual scandals prevailing in the tradition. I asked myself a question – is it the right time to tell my part of the story of the Shugden controversy?

It was way back in March 1991 when I had a face-to-face confrontation with Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. It all started with the decision taken by the FPMT of not allowing any teachers working under the spiritual direction of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso to teach Buddhism at any Buddhist centre affiliated to the FPMT. In Menorca, we had a Dharma centre run under the direction of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The resident lama was Geshe Tamding Gyatso, and I was his translator at this modest centre, on this small and beautiful island of Spain. Every year we visited some Buddhist centres in other parts of Spain, mainly in Madrid, Valencia, Alicante and Seville. The FPMT run those centres. Unfortunately, they informed us that Geshe Tamding Gyatso was not allowed to teach anymore at these centres from now onwards.

Well, I thought there might be some good reason that the FPMT had for taking such a decision. Quickly, we learnt that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso had taken the drastic step of transforming the face of all his centres on the pretext of establishing and following a pure Gelugpa tradition. He removed the pictures of H.H. the Dalai Lama from Manjushri Institute, Cumbria, and from all other centres in the United Kingdom. In those days he was a Buddhist teacher highly admired by his disciples, both in England and Spain, for gentleness, simplicity, pure ethical discipline, knowledge and meditation. I thought a great meditation master would never make such a mistake. Someone who, I thought, was a role model for those who followed the model of study and practice established and guided by Lama Tsongkapa.

Photo of Kyabje Khen Tamding Gyatso Rimpoche

Photo of Kyabje Khen Tamding Gyatso Rimpoche

Here at Menorca, we learnt the true news. Geshe Tamding Gyatso, our resident teacher, was very upset. It was in the middle of November, 1990, we were at the house of the director of our centre. I said to Geshe-la that there might be some kind of misunderstanding, and Geshe Kelsang Gyatso would not make such a mistake. I even insisted he make a call to clarify the situation. At the beginning he was hesitant but decided to do so. They talked for almost one hour and we were wondering what was going on. He was not saying much. Yes, yes, here and there, nothing more. The person on the other end of the phone line was doing all the talking. After the call, Geshe Tamding Gyatso said to me; “How could he be such a ruthless sectarian?” There was a deep frown on his face. I found him really upset. The board members of our centre were nervous and very unhappy. They openly told us that the attitude of Geshe Kelsang was not justifiable, and they were thinking of having a separate Dharma centre independent of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

After a few days, we invited Geshe Kelsang Gyatso to come over to our centre to clarifying the on-going controversy of Shugden worship. At that time he was at Manjushri Institute, he accepted the invitation and decided to impart some basic Buddhist teachings during one weekend in March, the following year.

Our director was so sure of himself that the prospect of opening an independent Dharma centre under the direct spiritual direction of the resident Lama, Geshe Tamding Gyatso seemed a reality. The visit of Geshe Kelsang was drawing near and we were cleaning the centre to welcome him. The centre was in a three-storey building on the main street of Notario Quintana in Cuitadella de Menorca. Geshe Kelsang was to stay in my room. So I cleaned it up. One night I dreamt of Geshe Kelsang entering the main door of the centre and giving me a stick. I woke up in the morning with a strong feeling that something unpleasant was going to happen.

On Friday 23rd, March 1991 he visited our centre. I greeted him warmly. He reciprocated with the same customary Tibetan greeting. One Spanish nun accompanied him wherever he went. He looked thin and frail. On the same day, in evening, the centre performed the Dorjee Shugden Invocation Ritual. From September 1987 to March 1991 when the centre performed the Shugden Invocation Ritual, there were not usually more than three or four persons participating. It was always done on the 29th day of every month. That same evening, Geshe Tamding Gyatso, the resident teacher, invited Geshe Kelsang Gyatso to assist in the ceremony, but he was too tired and too weak to attend. I was on the ground floor, lying on the sofa, watching TV. I saw more and more people coming one after another to join the ritual for the first time in more than three years. Later, I could hear the sound of damarus, ringing bells and chanting in perfect harmony. I felt very sad, frustrated and helpless. There was nothing I could do to prevent them from joining the ceremony. I was completely broken inside. They were completely overwhelmed by Geshe Kelsang’s presence. After the completion of the ritual, the people returned home happily. The director saw me sullen and sulky. I had a brief conversation with him. “Well”, he said to me, “we are very happy to have you here as our translator. We want you to stay with us.” I looked straight at his face.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso commanded respect and submission. The sight of him fascinated them with awe and reverence. They idolised him the way I used to idolise some Bollywood hero when I was a teenager.

Next day, March 24th, Geshe Kelsang gave Dorjee Shugden initiation for which some new people joined to receive it. It was shocking to see people happily participating it in the hope of receiving protection from the worldly spirit in their lives. I found the arrangement manipulative in the hope of attracting more people to spread it far and wide.

On 25th/26th March, in the morning around 10 a.m., the two Geshes met in the room where Geshe Kelsang was staying. Their talk lasted for 2 hours. I was in the kitchen, and suddenly Geshe Tamding Gyatso entered to prepare momo (Tibetan dumplings) for lunch. He was not his usual self, but a bit agitated. So, I asked him, “What has happened to you?” Geshela replied, “Geshe Kelsang Gyatso was accusing me of trying to separate him from his centre. I told him frankly that I would never do such thing. It was, in fact, the board members of the centre who wanted to do it.” Geshe Kelsang continued, “If it was not you, then, most probably, it was Tenzing, the translator, who influenced them to do so, because he was from Dharamsala.” Geshe Tamding Gyatso came to my defence telling him that it was not true at all. What prompted me to meet Geshe Kelsang in his room to have a private talk was his sheer lack of respect towards a senior geshe. Geshe Tamding Gyatso was senior to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. He was an authentic geshe of the highest class, whose mastery over tantric knowledge of Shri Guhasamaja, Heruka, Yamantaka, Kalachakra and Vajra Yogini was just breath taking. All kinds of tantric rituals were at his fingertips. I saw him performing them by heart. The wrong accusation was the last straw that broke the camel´s back.

After lunch, I went straight into Geshe Kelsang´s room. I greeted him warmly and hesitantly asked him if I could have a talk with him. He called me in warmly and I sat down on the floor. He was sitting upright on the bed. So I took the initiative of breaking the ice.

“Geshela, I am not happy with the way that the Shugden empowerment was given here yesterday, because there were several new people who had never received the basic Buddhist teaching and have no idea whatsoever of the protector Dorjee Shugden. They received the Empowerment. I think it is against the basic guideline of Tibetan Buddhism.” My explanation provoked a strong anger in him. He angrily replied, “Tenzing, it is not your business.” He repeated the phrase several times. Then he continued, “the work of a translator is to translate and nothing more, and the work of a resident teacher is to teach, nothing more. It is the board members who run the centre.” He continued, “Yesterday, the board members came up here to tell me that, not only you hate Dorjee shugden, you also hate me?” I was bewildered, could not believe my ears. However, I kept my cool and answered him firmly, “It is a sheer lie, and how could I hate Dorjee Shugden when I don´t know him. I continued saying, “I have never hated you. Had I hated you I would have never read your books and manuscripts!” I looked up at him and saw him seething with sheer anger, taking in a deep breath, and looking up at the ceiling. Suddenly he looked down and questioned me defiantly, “I want to test your skill in the art of debate, for you have studied Buddhist philosophy for many years. “Is Kyabje Trijang Dorjeechang a root spiritual teacher of H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama?” I replied, ”He, indeed, is one of them.” Kelsang Gyatso continued, “If he is one of the root teachers, how could Dalai Lama possibly go against the words of his own teacher?” At this point, he went ballistic and yelled, “He cannot go against his own teacher´s words. When we do Dorjee Shugden practice we are doing a favour to the Dalai Lama. We do not bring disgrace to him.” He then kept silence for a moment and came out with more aggressive, cold and calculated comments.

“He (the Dalai Lama) is Nyingmapa, Zogchenpa, and the one who has broken the spiritual relationship between himself and his teacher. His lineage is impure.” At this stage of the conversation I found the atmosphere in the room unbearable. I felt unsettled. Anyhow, I kept cool and retaliated with the following answer, “If a disciple can not comply with the words of his lama, he can tell this politely to his teacher.” I cited the 24th stanza from the text of Ashavagosha, Fifty stanzas of Guru yoga”.

Intelligent disciple, with joyful mind,
Listen the lama’s words with enthusiasm.
Explain to him in words
If you can´t comply with it.

For a moment, silence reigned in the room and I took the opportunity to end the conversation with the following comforting words.

“I am an ordinary monk who works as a Dharma translator and you are a Dharma teacher. So, there is no comparison whatsoever. We do have very distinct viewpoints with regard to Shugden issue. You think you are always right, and I think I am right. But, who knows who is right? I follow H.H. the Dalai Lama. I, therefore, will leave the centre for good. You find a good Dharma translator for Geshela, someone who propitiates Dorjee Shugden. The voice within me says that I am right, not wrong. Excuse me if I am wrong.” He was completely taken aback by my final words. He kept silent meanwhile I went out of the room.

He realized that I could not be pushed over easily. I kept my cool under the most difficult situation. At the end of the day, I found him callous, ruthless, devious, obstinate and unyielding. Indeed, he was a hard nut to crack.

After the summer, 1991, I left the centre. In Menorca, life was easy and comfortable. I enjoyed summer life on beautiful beaches for three years with my Spanish friends. However, I decided to leave the centre. I worked there for more than three years without any payment. I had nothing to lose and more to gain from such a decision. I stepped out of my comfort zone and took the risk to find a better future life.

I used to admire Geshe Kelsang. At one stage of my life I thought he was a role model for many Buddhist practitioners. Unfortunately, he turns out to be one of the worst Buddhist fundamentalists the Buddhist world has seen in many years. He has completely forgotten the life of Lama Tsongkapa who studied under the great masters of other schools. My teacher, Gen Lobsang Gyatso, was completely right when he said to me in 1986, “It is ironic that when you meet Kelsang Gyatso for the first time, he appears be a gentle, soft, and simple monk. He gives you the impression of someone who is on the verge of attaining Buddhahood in two or three days, but, he is rotten from inside in real life.”

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso was once considered a great meditation master, but now he is outcast officially not only from his own monastery of Sera Je, but also from the Gelukpa Society. At present, he is lying low, but still he is using his students to defame the Dalai Lama at all costs. He accuses the Dalai Lama of the violation of Human Rights, but he is blind to his own act of destroying lives of NKT survivors. He accuses the Dalai Lama of banning religious freedom but he prohibits people from reading Dharma books of fellow Buddhist teachers. How dare he say that he is following the pure lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa, while not allowing his own students to read Lama Tsongkapa’s books! I was flabbergasted to realize that there were no Dharma books other than his own books in the bookstores of his centres.

He says that the Shugden is Lama Tsongkapa’s manifestation, when more than 95% of Tibetan Buddhists consider him as a terrifying worldly spirit. He, in fact, degrades Tsongkapa to the status of a worldly deity. What a shame!

His long, reclusive life has taken a mental toll on him. He has gone insane to the point of no return. His hatred and resentment towards the Dalai Lama is clearly reflected on the banners and the placards written with “21st century Buddhist Dictator”, a “liar”, “the saffron robed Muslim”, a man whose “real nature is cruel and very evil”, etc.

It was in January, 1993, one year and a half after I left their dharma centre, when Geshe Kelsang Gyatso revisited it and carried out the so-called “Lineage cleansing”. He threw out some old members of the centre, who were his fervent admirers and Dorjee Shugden worshippers, without obvious reason.

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso once said that Geshe Tamding Gyatso was the most qualified dharma teacher to come to the west. This time, he gave him no choice but to leave the centre. Geshe Kunchok Tsewang, then resident teacher at Manjushri Institute, retired at the age of 68 without choice. They sent him back to his monastery in South India. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is now 83 years old, but still holds a firm grip on all the centres of NKT. He does not want to renounce the absolute power he enjoys. What I find so unbelievable is that a man who is considered “the third Buddha” by his own followers is not spared from the unholy trinity of power, status and wealth.

The big difference between the two geshes is that Geshe Tamding Gyatso went on to become the abbot of Ganden Shartse Monastery, thus fulfilling his lifelong dream before his death, whereas Geshe Kelsang Gyatso remains a monastic outcast of Gelugpa Society.

The devil inside him makes his Dharma
Practice dust
Resentment flows deep in his blood,
Nipping the bud of empathy in his heart.
Ignorance obscures his mind completely
His frenzied mind runs like a wild elephant
His ego fills up like a balloon
That is sure to burst.
His behaviours do not match his preaching.
Hence, his books are worthless scrap of paper.
I feel sorry for him.

I write this testimony to fully support the NKT survivors who have taken the right decision to break away from the NKT. One of my Tibetan friends insisted that I do this. Personally, I have nothing against Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. His attitude and behaviour in the recent years are so intolerable for Tibetans that I take the opportunity to tell the truth. The people of the NKT need to take the blindfolds off their eyes and see the wider world of Buddhism. It is high time for them to stop running the ugly show of protest and come to their senses. Geshe Kelsang needs to recover from his spiritual madness. He can still rectify his mistakes and leave them behind as if they were a terrible nightmare. It is not surprising that a human being makes mistakes – one after another. Man is the only animal who trips over the same stone twice. After all, we are emotional creatures.

By Tenzing Wangdak.

20th January 2015


Originally posted

More Testimonies

Buddhist Bullshit

Originally posted on Post-Traditional Buddhism:

I generally avoid getting political on this blog. Not because I am apolitical, or think it too messy a subject to broach, but because I have used this blog primarily as an exercise in exploring ideas and experiences I personally find curious and interesting. It’s been a primarily personal affair.
Although I have been attempting to write a blog post on non-duality this December, I have failed three times and the pleasure in the task has evaporated, which is never a good sign. In wondering what to write next, I was surfing the net on Boxing Day and came across a couple of videos by ex-members of a Western Buddhist organisation of which I was a solid member for a number of years, even once considering ordination (yikes!). The organisation is called the NKT (New Kadampa Tradition) and is to be found on many cult-watch websites.
I was involved with…

View original 998 more words

Is there a relation between self-immolations and Buddhism or even martyrdom and Buddhism?

Buddha-extreme-ascetic-practicesYou might have noted that there a lot of views if the self-immolations of Tibetans and Buddhists in other countries are in line with Buddhism / Buddhist scriptures or not. The Tibetan writer and activist Jamyang Norbu claimed they are. The Dalai Lama has never approved them as being Buddhist in principle but once was very outspoken when Thubten Ngodrup burned himself and when the Tibetan Youth Congress set up a hunger protest in 1998. (These issues were covered already by this blog, see links below.)

I made an interview with Thierry Dodin to clarify many tricky points of this debate and now the interview in three parts is online. For a discussion of Buddhism, self-immolations. martyrdom and self-secrifice see Part II:

Part I:

Part III:

Former posts and discussions on this blog about this very sad and tragic topic see here:

Interview about Self-immolations of Tibetans in three parts & 2014 in review

I have around 5 to 7 days online access in India and can make you aware of a new interview with Thierry Dodin about the self-immolations of Tibetans. Part one deals with the question, why Tibetans are doing this:

Part two will investigate if there is a relation between self-immolations and Buddhism and the third part will analyse the reactions by Tibetans, Chinese and consequences. The upcoming links under which the last two parts of the interview will be posted are:

Note that this blog has already posts and discussions about this very sad and tragic topic:


You might be curious about the stats of the blog, here they are. The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 190,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 8 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Concerning The Protests At The Teachings Of H.H. The Dalai Lama: A Resolution Proposal II

Dear Nicholas Pitts/Kelsang Rabten,

Re: Resolution of the Shugden Conflict by the Removal of its Causes

First of all, can I thank you for responding in a spirit which demonstrates a sincere wish to resolve this unfortunate dispute.

I would like to address your response to my original request [copied after minor editing below] by taking each point at a time.

Your response suggests the following:

  1. That I send this current reply directly to the ISC
  2. Provide you with information about the nature of my relationship with the Dalai Lama.
  3. Confirm whether the Dalai Lama has knowledge of the contact being made and whether he supports it.
  4. You advise that “If someone genuinely close to the Dalai Lama made contact, and did so with the Dalai Lama’s knowledge and support, with the intention of moving towards a resolution I am certain there would be a very positive response from the ISC”

With regard to point 1, I would like to offer the following observation.

This point is a request that our communications be conducted privately, beyond public scrutiny. I am afraid I am unwilling to do this. You are aware, I am sure, of your anonymous correspondent Indy Hack’s recent, controversial decision to publish the content of a personal communication with Columbia University’s Professor Barnett online, despite Professor Barnett stating categorically that he objected to this in no uncertain terms. Indy Hack justified the decision to publicize the comments, stating, “What he said to me has such bearing on the protests and is so overwhelmingly in the public interest, I felt there was no choice but to share it”.

Since the current communication concerns bringing those same protests to an end, I feel it is similarly appropriate that our communication be conducted in the full glare of public scrutiny. This will ensure that nothing is hidden from anyone, as well as ensuring that all those involved, those affected, the general public and the press are free at all times to observe our progress and conduct. This is only fair; there should be no secrets, nor a ruling elite who decide how the situation should unfold from behind closed doors.

Points 2 asks that I provide you with information about the nature of my relationship with the Dalai Lama as a prerequisite to further dialogue.

Here, I would refer you to two useful ideas from the Buddhist tradition. While personally, I abhor the tendency in myself and others to preach to others how to practice Dharma, there are nevertheless certain teachings that can help us understand practicalities in life and indeed how to set such preconditions might be limiting and unwise. I hope you will forgive my apparent condescent.

The first of these is the parable of the poisoned arrow, from the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta from the Theravadin Majjhima Nikaya, which I am sure you are familiar with. For the sake of those who are not, and to paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first.”

The second is the the teaching on the ‘Four Reliances’, common to the Theravadin and Mahayana traditions, in particular the first two, which state:

  1. Do not rely on the personality of the individual but on the message
  2. Do not rely on the words of the message but on their meaning

I will not preach to you about the meaning of these; they are self explanatory.

Nevertheless, I hope you understand my point. Who I am and the nature of my relationship with the Dalai Lama are somewhat irrelevant here. What is most important, whoever I am and whatever that relationship, is that I have the ear of many of the important players in this issue, Tibetans and Westerners alike and moreover, that they consider my ideas and opinions valid and important. I can assure that both are definitely the case, as those who know me and with whom you have conversed have confirmed. This is a genuine offer to you on my part for me to use whatever influence I have to help all those affected by the discrimination you and I both find abhorrent.

Moreover, I would point out to you that, even imagining I were part of the Dalai Lama’s innermost circle, this would be to your distinct disadvantage rather than to your benefit. Historically, in such situations those closest to such figures are often reactionary in their outlook, overwhelmed by a sense of their own importance along with their opinions, enduring deep seated delusions of their own grandeur. Clearly, such an individual would be useless to you in resolving issues such as those we wish to address here. Far better that you have an independent who holds a moderate perspective and yet has the ear of the hierarchs, who advocates a ‘middle way’ and who has the interests of all parties involved at heart.

Your final points are related and as follows:

3. Confirm whether the Dalai Lama has knowledge of the contact being made and whether he supports it.

4. You advise that “If someone genuinely close to the Dalai Lama made contact, and did so with the Dalai Lama’s knowledge and support, with the intention of moving towards a resolution I am certain there would be a very positive response from the ISC”

With regard to point 3, I have no idea whether His Holiness is yet aware of my decision to suggest all that I have done below since, as I made clear originally, I am entirely independent; I do not work for the Dalai Lama and I therefore do not need to seek his permission to act. Moreover, my decision to approach the issue in this manner was made less than 72 hours ago and is therefore a relatively new development. Nevertheless, I will forward the content of this communication to the relevant persons and ask that he be made aware. As to whether he supports such a contact, it goes without saying that His Holiness’ only concern is the happiness and freedom from suffering of all beings, regardless of their persuasion. In light of this, I think it safe to assume that he would support our initiative, since its sole purpose is to end suffering and restore peace and happiness to our communities.

I have already answered point 4 above, inter alia. I sincerely hope that we can move forwards on this and achieve a happy end as soon as possible, for the benefit of all involved.

Please take time to consider your response. The festive season is upon is, which usually brings with it a significant drop in activity on many fronts. Can I suggest you let me have your response to my original suggestions no later than the 5th of January, 2015, by which time you should have been able to discuss the issues and reached your conclusions?

Best wishes


Subsequent to posting the offer below, I was advised that in Dharamsala, The ‘Global Tibetan Volunteers for the Truth’ (GTVT which have a definite connection to the CTA) are now placing NEW signs around town —I’ve seen the image. The new sign from the GTVT reads: ‘Give up alcohol your health will be better – Give up Shugden you will be happier / feel better.”

The GTVT have previously posted unattributed inflammatory material. Whether they are linked to the CTA is open to investigation. Nevertheless, it is clear that they have an aggressive agenda, which can only harm any peace process. Should you respond favourably, I can assure that everything will be done to bring such aggressive manifestations to an end.

Original  Proposal [edited version]


Helpful background interviews



Note by blog owner

The blog is actually closed, however until Saturday, 20th Dec. 14, 10am updates will be given and comments will be approved.

This Blog will be closed from now on to the end of April 2015

Dear Reader of this blog,

I will be in India for four months and I will be offline during that time. You can read the posts and comments and you can also add new comments. Please note: new comments need to be approved by me because this is a closely moderated blog due to the contentious nature of the topics. Until I am back new comments will be stored in a waiting queue and I will approve them at the end of April 2015. Thank you for your understanding.

For further updates or new information you could visit for instance:

Use your life well. I am going to enjoy this break and media abstinence very much ;-)
Thank you for everything. Tenpel

Update 01.01.2015

I had a change of the schedule in India and some limited internet access. Therefore there was a bit time to confirm comments and to add some additional posts. I might be able to continue this until the 3rd or latest 5th January and then I am totally offline as I said already.



The story of a New Kadampa Tradition monk or How I got sucked into a cult

My name is Tenzin Peljor / Michael Jäckel. I was 29 when I met the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) in December 1995. At that time the general public didn’t know about any controversy relating to the NKT or how people have been damaged by the NKT. No Buddhist informed or warned any person interested in Buddhism to carefully consider whether they should develop their interest in Buddhism by placing their faith in the NKT. Here is a summary of my story.

Enlightenment by 21 Lamrim meditations! – What a marketing!

Enlightenment by 21 Lamrim meditations! – What a marketing!

I wanted to become a Buddhist monk after reading about the Four Noble Truths. Even in my childhood I wished to become a monk (though back then, a Christian one). Looking for a place where I could become a Buddhist monk, I learned about the New Kadampa Tradition through Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book, »The Meditation Handbook«, and the posters and advertisements of the NKT.

My NKT teacher, who was the NKT representative in my country, convinced me to move into the NKT center and to pay rent – about three times as much for a small room as I had paid for a whole apartment. When I complained, she said, “You should think about how much you value following this path.”

Moving into the NKT center, I had some Dharma books, including a Dzogchen book and one from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When the teacher saw me with these books she said, “We only study pure Dharma books here,” looking displeasingly on my two non-NKT Dharma books. Shortly after this episode, she showed me Geshe-la’s books, saying “These are pure Dharma books!” Then I heard about the dangers of mixing ‘pure Dharma’ with ‘impure Dharma’, as Geshe Kelsang puts it.

The ugly, unfortunate result of not understanding pure Dharma and of following misleading teachings that pretend to be pure Dharma is sectarianism. This is one of the greatest hindrances to the flourishing of Dharma, especially in the West. Anything that gives rise to such an evil, destructive mind should be eliminated as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. (Clear Light of Bliss, 1982, page 154).

Assuming this to be true I threw these and my other Dharma texts into the garbage because I now feared that I might destroy pure Dharma by mixing it and thereby ‘harming countless living beings’ – doing evil. Subsequently, I did not read any Dharma book other than Geshe-la’s because I feared polluting my mind and destroying “this pure tradition”.

Later, I learned that I needed faith, and that doubt is the opposite of faith and very bad. It was explained to me that there are three kinds of doubt, but it was especially made clear that doubting Geshe-la, his teachings or NKT teachers is “doubt going in the wrong direction.”

When I studied Geshe-la’s book »Understanding the Mind«, I became even more convinced that I had acted correctly in throwing my previous Dharma books in the garbage, because on pp. 166–167 Geshe-la states,

It is mixing different religious traditions that causes sectarianism … studying non-religious subjects is less of an obstacle to our spiritual progress than studying religions of different traditions … the practices taught by one teacher will differ from those taught by another, and if we try to combine them we will become confused, develop doubts, and lose direction.

I didn’t want to loose direction or get confused. He was the master, he knew. My NKT teacher told me that we all are deluded beings and our analyses, thoughts and perceptions are not reliable: “Buddha says, we are not only wrong, he says we are totally wrong”.

The next things I learned were: Geshe-la is a Buddha, Geshe-la is completely reliable and knows the three times (present, past and future), and my NKT teacher is no different from him. If I see faults in them this is due to my impure mind, because Buddhas – unlike myself who is a deluded being whose perception is not reliable – don’t see faults, they have “pure view”.

Three years after I left the NKT in 2000. Losang Tashi was my monks name at that time.

Three years after I left the NKT in 2000. Losang Tashi was my monk’s name at that time.

The next step for me was that I was asked to lend my computer to the NKT office. When I asked for it back (to do my final university exams), I was told that I had donated the computer and I must be confused about what I had said. My NKT teacher explained to me, “Sometimes we do not remember what we say, you know …” It was explained to me that this academic study is worldly and unnecessary, a distraction from pure Dharma. Eventually, my NKT teacher and her most devoted students convinced me of this and I gave up the idea of finishing my academic study by doing my final exams. There is no need for an academic degree I thought. When I worried about it they told me I should not think too much, saying “Leave the thinking to the horses, they have a bigger head.”

I was asked to give a loan. I gave them all my savings and later when I asked for it back they said I should be patient. They made me feel that I was addicted to my money and that it was inappropriate to ask for it back. Likewise, my cupboard and another person’s couch were also taken. This other person was told he were addicted to his couch; therefore, he may be reborn as a tiny insect in that couch in the future.

The NKT center was gradually “inspiring” me to do more and more unpaid work for them (in order to ‘accumulate merit which we need for our spiritual progress’) and at the same time complained that I was away too often from the NKT centre as I had a mundane job in a private school: “You are too samsaric”, they said. Nonetheless I was giving them about 90% of my earnings.

Due to the gradual shift to do more and more unpaid work for the NKT and doing lesser mundane work from which I could make a living I could no longer pay the high rent the NKT centre demanded from me. Only one day after the date I should have paid my high rent they complained about my behaviour. They warned me about how much negative Karma I had created by not paying my rent on time. They denied that it was possible to balance it with their debts to me, “This is something very different, you should not even think like this.” They suggested that I should ask my friends to help me and to give me money. I did this; I asked a medical doctor who was a friend and she gave me the money. I didn’t get my savings back; so finally I decide to “donate” them.

I observed a similar pattern with all other NKT monks and nuns: finally, all of their savings, time and energy were taken over.

When I visited the NKT festivals in UK, we were told that we should have faith in our teachers, they are good teachers, and properly qualified. Later I found out that my NKT teacher had studied for only two years within NKT and that my NKT ordination was not an authentic monk’s ordination. A friend who complained about our NKT teacher to Geshe Kelsang was told, “If you would have Bodhichitta (a pure mind) you would see the Bodhichitta in your NKT teacher.” So of course my friend was wrong, he had no pure Bodhichitta, no pure mind, therefore he saw faults in his NKT teachers.

I didn’t want to receive the Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, but I had received so much pressure (manipulation) from my NKT teacher and the group that I took it. Afterwards, I was told that Geshe-la was now my root guru, and that if you leave your root guru you will be reborn in hell, all of your realizations will be lost and in all your future lives you will be without a qualified teacher.

Step by step, I was sucked into the system of NKT until I was quite brainwashed, deceiving myself and others. All of us were only worried about gaining “realizations” by being devoted to Geshe-la and doing what he says and giving our money, time and energy to the NKT to accumulate merit for ourselves (+ “inspiring” new followers of NKT to do it likewise), because without merit there would be no spiritual progress and no realizations.

This is me (Kelsang Tashi at that time) protesting against the Dalai Lama with the <a href="" target="_blank">New Kadampa Tradition</a> under the front group <a href="" target="_blank">Shugden Supporters Community</a> (SSC) in Berlin, Tempodrom, 6. August 1998. The Slogans were created by Kelsang Gyatso and state for instance "Dorje Shugden loves Nyingmapas. Please don’t lie." or "Dalai Lama please grand us religious freedom."

This is 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. The Slogans were created by Kelsang Gyatso and state for instance “Dorje Shugden loves Nyingmapas. Please don’t lie.” or “Dalai Lama, please grant us religious freedom.”

I learned also that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was possessed by a Mara (evil spirit) and was destroying the pure Buddhadharma and had broken with his root guru (implying that he will most certainly go to hell for this) and forcing others to do likewise. So, all of us, including myself, organized international protests against the Dalai Lama from 1996-1998. The NKT convinced me that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was so completely evil that I started to hate him and to also convince all the people I met how bad the Dalai Lama was. Another nun in deep despair, shedding tears confessed to me how much she hated His Holiness; another nun shredded her picture of the Dalai Lama. The protests became very aggressive and hostile; I felt very uncomfortable.

I learned that the last pure being on earth is Geshe-la and His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an evil oppressor of religious freedom. I learned in NKT that the Dalai Lama is merely a worldly politician and is destroying the pure tradition of his root guru, Trijang Rinpoche.

Finally, I woke up, realising how one-sided Geshe-la’s claims were when he pointed out that the reason for some wrong developments within NKT was another person. Geshe-la completely blamed this person alone while stating that he (Geshe-la) had not done anything wrong and that NKT had not done anything wrong. I realized that this is not the Dharma and that my teacher’s and Geshe-la’s approach was not consistent with Buddhist teachings (for example, the Four Noble Truths) because delusions are the cause of suffering and things are interdependent / dependent arising and appear due to many causes and conditions and not due to a single cause. It is impossible to blame a single person for a conflict. I finally realized that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is not a Buddhist master because he hasn’t understood even the basics (dependent arising, patience, kindness and modesty), and I became determined to leave him.

Later, I recognized that I was not the only person who had such experiences; they seemed to be symptomatic and systemic for people in the NKT (Experiences of other NKT monks appear elsewhere on this website).

My NKT experience was like eating a sweet but poisoned fruit. The taste was sweet in the beginning; there were good times and good things I learned. Later, the poison started to ruin me.

Art work by Carol McQuire – A NKT Survivor

Art work by Carol McQuire – NKT Survivor

I expect that NKT will use their common strategy to blame the monk reporting here as mentally unhealthy or emotionally unstable or something similar (e.g. “disgruntled ex-member”) – as they have done so often in the past.

Nevertheless, I wish to express my gratitude to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and NKT. I learned a lot and I do not want to forget my positive experiences. Actually, in the end, my negative experiences turned into something good by my learning from my faults and those of Geshe-la and NKT – a great teaching that I will treasure. However, I would be happy if others could avoid stepping into such a devastating situation, which I see as a spiritual trap.

May His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the one who really cares for the welfare of migrating beings, have a very long life and may all his prayers and holy deeds be fulfilled.

May Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and his students of past, present and future attain the state of full enlightenment, may they have faith in the Three Jewels, follow genuine teachers and rejoice in the ten virtuous actions.

Written around the year 2006 or at the time when the New Kadampa Survivors Forum was set up.


See also


Open Letter by Chairman of the Board of Trustees of New Kadampa Tradition’s Maitreya Buddhist Centre

GUEST POST – re-posted with prior permission from the author

I think it might be useful to post here the open letter I wrote back in 2012 in my attempt to try and summarise how an NKT Centre, Maitreya Buddhist Centre in Bexhill, England, became fatally undermined by the authoritarian tactics of an NKT monk sent in by NKT head office with a hidden agenda to make sweeping changes against the wishes or best interests of the centre’s members:

Message from one of the charity trustees of Maitreya Buddhist Centre

Dear members and supporters of Maitreya Centre,

Maitreya Buddhist Centre, Sea Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, District of Rother, England.I would like to present to you the reasons for the charity trustees of Maitreya Centre refusing to comply any further with the instructions of the NKT (New Kadampa Tradition) head office. This is our side of the story and undoubtedly different to the one presented by Kelsang Chodor, the Resident Teacher, who did not give us the courtesy of allowing us to present our case at the same time as he presented his case to the members.

When Kelsang Chodor first arrived at Maitreya Centre, he promised to work with everybody at the centre and to give everyone the chance to get involved if they wished to help move the centre forward. However, right from the beginning he did not wish to discuss any matters concerning the centre with the trustees collectively, and frequently ignored the considered advice of the Admin Director (AD) and Education Programme Co-ordinator (EPC), who became very frustrated that much of their hard work was being undone and undermined. He called a meeting of all the members in January without consultation with the trustees. January being the traditional month of retreat in NKT centres, just holding this meeting at that time was deeply disruptive of the retreat; indeed, some people coming to the meeting were expecting to be able to have a retreat meditation but were stuck in the meeting instead. Chodor then announced his wish that the centre move to residential accommodation in Hastings. The fact that many members at that meeting expressed their concerns about aspects of this proposal and that there was not sufficient momentum generated for such a move, together with the concern of many that Sonam should still have a place within the centre if it moved to Hastings, probably goes a long way to explain what happened next, because very soon afterwards Kelsang Sonam was banned by NKT head office from all teaching activities. No explanation for this decision was given by the NKT despite repeated requests by the trustees. Finally, after several weeks, a brief statement was issued by NKT head office stating that Sonam was ‘impure’, without giving any evidence whatsoever for that claim and failing to give Sonam or anyone an opportunity to challenge that claim. I have known Sonam for 20 years now and I can honestly say that the claim of ‘impurity’ is just ridiculous. He has taught Kadam Dharma faithfully for many years to many hundreds of people and led many of them into the path of the NKT and has shown great compassion and loving-kindness in his practice of moral discipline and in his behaviour towards others. He has shown great patience whenever he has been the victim of malicious gossip by others in the centre, and has always served Lam-ma faithfully when she was Resident Teacher, helping her massively to cope with the burden of her duties. His humility and good heart is obvious to all who take the trouble to meet him and get to know him. The loss of access to his teachings has been devastating for the people in Hastings who attended his classes and derived great benefit from them, and the arbitrary, sudden, and unjustified nature of that loss has significantly damaged the reputation and credibility of the NKT in that area. But, perhaps more importantly, from the centre’s point of view, he ran two branches in the Hastings area, one of which was very successful indeed and brought a lot of much-needed income into the centre, and his series of Saturday Meditation Workshops were always very well attended and also brought much needed income into the centre. All this was lost when Sonam was ordered to stop teaching, placing a massive strain upon the centre’s cash-flow at a time when economic conditions worsening in the general economy were beginning to affect the centre too. Chodor made no serious attempt to retain those branches and workshops and never discussed with the trustees how they could be retained.

Then Chodor asked me to stop teaching the Friday afternoon class, again with no explanation and no justification provided other than that the Internal Rules give him the power to do so. Again he did not offer to discuss this decision with me although I asked him to do so, as I had genuine concerns about how the decision would affect those attending the class, especially as Chodor was not offering to find another teacher or to keep the class going; bear in mind that one of the ladies attending that class is a 95 year old lady for whom that class is the only one she can attend given her frailty and for whom it is precious to her at her time of life (she has also been a devoted member of the centre ever since it started). I ask you: would you have had the heart to deny her that class? Furthermore, the class was also generating significant income for the centre, income that would be lost and making the financial strain on the centre even worse. For these reasons I therefore decided to refuse Chodor’s request to stand down as a teacher. My moral conscience and bodhisattva vow did not allow me to abandon both the people attending that class and to weaken the centre still further by denying it a source of income. This has of course allowed Chodor to claim that I have broken the Internal Rules, but if that is true, then so be it. Here I stand, I can do no other.

Then we come to the next significant action of Chodor which was to ask for one of the monks of Bodhisattva Centre to move into the centre’s flat. That would have meant asking one of the existing residents to leave to make way for that monk, even though there were no grounds for ending his tenancy, and also giving priority to that monk above those people already on the waiting list of applicants (all dharma practitioners) who wanted to move in whenever a vacancy occurred. No doubt this refusal of Chodor’s request by myself and my colleagues has undoubtedly contributed to his, and NKT head office’s, present determination to remove us completely from any role within the centre, even though, according to our constitution, the administration of the flat is purely an administrative matter for the AD and trustees to manage, and is not the final responsibility of the Resident Teacher. Again, the trustees invited Chodor to attend a trustees meeting in order to discuss why he made this request and how we might be able to help him, but again he refused. He has always refused to discuss anything with the trustees.

Now, under charity law the registered charity trustees of this centre have a legal responsibility to ensure that the administrative and financial affairs of the centre are maintained in good order. We now feel that we are legally obliged to step in and prevent Chodor from continuing further to undermine the centre financially and, more importantly, undermining people’s access to the dharma by arbitrarily shutting down classes and courses without due cause or explanation/justification, and without adequate consultation with anyone or respect for the advice of the AD and EPC.

It should be borne in mind that under section 12 of the very Internal Rules that Chodor and NKT head office like to quote so much, the centre is obliged to emphasise its development by, amongst other things, “increasing the number of students, through caring for people with kindness and by making good publicity” and “ maintaining the centre as a pure, peaceful and harmonious society” and “increasing the number of branches of the Centre”. I charge that Chodor, backed by NKT head office, has been guilty of breaking the Internal Rules himself because his actions have helped to decrease the number of students, has treated many of them with great unkindness, minimised good publicity (Chodor refused to authorise a new Centre brochure for 2012 despite one that had been painstakingly prepared in good time by the EPC), decreased the number of branches and classes, and has turned what was a peaceful and harmonious centre for 6 years under the loving guidance of Lam-ma into one now riven by discord and irreversibly split. If Chodor is a completely pure and reliable teacher as the NKT says he is, what does such chaos say about his style of management and motivation in the short time he has been here?

Therefore, I am totally unapologetic about the actions that I and my colleagues have taken at this time, and I am willing to discuss them in detail and answer any questions that members have and I totally concur with Mr R. B. in his letter when he says the trustees will abide by whatever the members want when ALL of them have had a chance to express their agreement/disagreement with the trustees decisions. People who know me know what I have done for the centre over the years and my devoted service to the NKT for 20 years; I would never have taken a decision to stand up to the NKT lightly. I and my colleagues are having to take this extreme stance because there is nowhere to go within the NKT for our legitimate concerns to be addressed or even listened to. I am perfectly happy to stand down if a majority of local members want me and the other trustees to stand down, but I am equally happy to carry on as trustee if the majority of members wish me to.

The latest attempt by Chodor to allow only his side of the argument to be presented before the trustees can do so is just typical of the divisive manoeuvrings he has been engaging in throughout. Bear in mind that none of the trustees or centre officers were invited to the meeting he called yesterday with the members to discuss the private letter the NKT sent to the centre trustees, a private letter that he deliberately leaked to as many members as possible BEFORE the trustees had had a chance to compose a reply to NKT head office. Also bear in mind that I and my colleagues are just volunteers, not paid employees of a corporation. We cannot be compelled to obey orders coming from a head office over 300 miles away if we feel that they are unjustified. We have given up much of our time and energy to help the centre flourish for 6 years. If we go, other members will have to be volunteers and generate a high level of commitment and hard work to keep the centre going; total obedience to orders, regardless of circumstances, is not, and should never be, the requirement or expectation of volunteers in this or any other organisation.

Thank you for reading this and best wishes for your health and happiness,

Andrew Durling,

Chairman of the Board of Trustees,

Maitreya Buddhist Centre.

1st March 2012


See also

The story of a New Kadampa Tradition nun: “Disrobing”


My name is Andrea Ballance. I was a member of the New Kadampa Tradition. I was ordained in this tradition. I was a fully absorbed, dedicated, misguided and later an abandoned devotee of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

I thought when I joined (before the internet as we know it, now you can always google the group you are getting involved with!) that this was a mainstream Buddhist organisation similar to being in a religion like the Church of England but the Buddhist version.

I joined as one of their main teachers called Gen-la Thubten was being exposed for having sexual relations under the guise of a spiritual practice with nuns, single students, students who were married and in long term relationships. I was kept oblivious to all of this so I had no qualms about diving head first into the tradition. I was extremely naive back then. I thought all Buddhism was connected to the Dalai Lama. He was on TV, had books in normal bookshops, etc., he had to be legit, except it turned out (more to do with my happy blindness rather than it being hidden) this tradition had nothing to do with the Dalai Lama and I had not noticed.

Andrea Ballance as a nun in the NKT.

Andrea Ballance as a nun in the NKT.

I was ordained for about five years. Disrobing (this is the name they give taking off robes and dressing like a normal person again) from being, what I thought was an ordained nun, took me a long time. The process had started really from the first year of my ordination. Small chinks and rips in my integrity and ideas of what is moral and right were my first warnings.

I can not tell you how much I loved being a nun. No words can describe to anyone the absolute amazement and joy I felt when I realised not only that I, ME, could be a nun but that I was actually going to get ordained. The freedom I felt, freedom from conventional demands of beauty, behaviour, dress and female expectation. The joy of being allowed to be something I admired with all my heart. A nun – to me the ultimate expression of spiritual compassion and bravery. I loved nuns and monks so much that I have to admit I did not feel worthy of the robes. I hid in my ordination photos – I did not want to ruin the pictures with my obviously misplaced aspiration.

After ordination I was living, motivated to the best of my ability, a REAL life. A life dedicated to compassion and growth. A life that really had the power to benefit and influence the world, starting with the people around me. I was an object of trust and unconditional love for people, albeit aspirational. I could be useful to people who like me, may have had dark times and needed just one human to project ‘good’ on to so that they could chose to keep going. The slow cracking and poisoning of this well meant life choice practically nearly killed me.

I never fitted in. I was never allowed to fit in. I would call out teachers if I thought what they were saying was wrong. For example a teacher said, in front of a crowd of mixed ordained and lay people, “Fat people do not look very nice but thin people might be sick”. This ended in me having stern words with this particular teacher pointing out the shallowness of the statement. Pointing out that people saw him as Buddha on the throne (although to be fair Buddha was no stranger to being portly) and Buddha never said anything like that! Pointing out that thin people may be anorexic and that he may have caused some serious damage and pointing out that fat people only ‘look bad’ to people who can not live in the real world. I was not liked. I was seen as a troublemaker and a problem. I was excluded and pacified and basically ignored as much as possible.

I moved around from one centre to another – asked by the guru himself to move into the centre my first terrible cold and selfish teacher was moved to. I could not move straight away and spent sometime with the new teacher that had been ‘promoted’ to the main centre, Manjushri Centre. I realised quickly that we would not get on. I felt physically sick when a nun cornered me in the main hallway and whispered that I had been ‘picked to be in Genla Samden’s inner circle’. I left as soon as I could.

I then moved to the centre run by my first teacher called Losang Dragpa Centre. This particular centre has been shut down and it is now and sold off. It was deemed too impure. Unsurprisingly I was kicked out of that centre after a couple of years accused of ruining people’s faith and ‘stalking’ the teacher. I have to add that this teacher I thought was like a best friend. Like family. I loved him very much and even though I saw him as terribly flawed I was devoted to him.

They then allowed me to move to another big centre called Madhyamaka Centre. This was run by a teacher called Chodzom who it was later revealed was having sexual relations not only with the teacher Genla Samden but also with her own students. I did not know that at the time but knew I was not welcome there. My problem was that if I left the Dharma centre and tried to go it alone as a nun without a group I knew that I would become lonely and isolated and that that would not be right for my spiritual growth. Needless to say leaving this Dharma centre was the rusty nail in the coffin of my ordination.

I did not know how to leave. Barely no relationship with my family. I was stuck. No money. No deposit for a flat. Nowhere to go to. No one who would understand me outside of this group. I couldn’t stay, it was just too painful. I knew of the current sexual habits of the promoted main teacher. I couldn’t settle with the way I had been cast out of my last centre. I was not welcome in the new centre and was policed. I had become very ill and suffered from exhaustion; this was seen as laziness and selfishness and I was bullied for it by the centre management.

The months before I finally left I completed a month of silent retreat. I had found myself thinking everyday that the students were not compassionate in the Dharma centre and tradition. Not interested in practice of Buddhism as I understood it. No compassion, no Dharma. If there was no Dharma there then why was I trying to be a nun there? This echoing would not leave me alone. It would start the minute I sat on my cushion to meditate and repeat mantras.

This month long silent retreat helped me to come to terms with my undeniable realisation that the tradition I was involved with was not right for me and questionable for others. With this came the realisation I could not wear the robes of a tradition, be their advertising so to speak, if the tradition had no integrity or compassion. I just couldn’t do it.

The whole experience leaving the Dharma centre and choosing to go it alone was so traumatic. I can not even remember how it all came about. When had I contacted my family? I cannot remember emptying my room. Where we went… How we got wherever we ended up. All that part of my memory is a blank, a void. Same with the following months, they are missing completely from my memory. I remember nothing until I remember that I was living back with my family.

I couldn’t talk about the things that interested, healed and motivated me. I felt like I had been dropped into another country and I didn’t know the language or the customs. It felt to me like I was a character in a dark comedy horror film – a film where I was the main character, a ghost of some drowned, gray, dripping, cold, uncomfortable to be around ex Buddhist nun. Forced, for a plot twist, to live in a normal warm blooded family. I was a bald-headed woman, wearing funny clothes, in a world that doesn’t recognize a desire to be a pure Buddhist.

If I had been isolated as a member of the NKT it was nothing to the isolation I experienced here. The confusion and darkness that filled my life was unbearable. I couldn’t talk about the pain I was in with anyone. How could they possibly understand? No one to turn to that could understand that my mind felt like it was being held in acid, burning all day and all night with no relief. The only relief was dreamless sleep. I tried to sleep all the time. I was a shell. No Sangha, no Dharma teachings, no deep conversations. Alone, exhausted, stripped bare. No practice, no prayers and eroding faith. Guilt for letting everyone down and not making it as a nun. Pathetic, untouchable, unlovable, rightly abandoned and ignored. Ignored even by my guru.

I couldn’t get angry and back on my feet because I can remember the underlying feeling that everything that had happened was meant to be for my benefit. It is what the wrathful guru, a real teacher like Marpa would do right! A guru who really believed in my potential and really believed in the fact this pathetic human could use Buddhist teachings to purify their intention. Become a really useful living being. A real guru, who trusted my intention to be pure, who would force me to go it alone, to face my darkest fears. In particular, my fear of being in a world that doesn’t recognize bodhichitta.

It did not occur to me at the time to question the fact this ‘test’ was being given to a nun who had never been able to get any personal guidance on her practice or even stabilize any meditation techniques. With no one to take refuge in. I was left with an unsettling, undermining feeling that I should be grateful. That all my feelings of utter devastation, confusion, my feelings of isolation and abandonment were the evidence no one could work with me. That I deserved abandonment. The crushing and humiliating proof of what a self-obsessed, ego-driven, selfish person I was.

This invisible acid bath of torture I found myself lying in had the words MY and SELF forming in its vapours. The biggest crime an aspirant of unconditional love could commit. Everything I was, was harmful mind disease. I did not want to reach out and contaminate another human being. I was contagious and a vortex of badness that would ruin peoples lives.

I would like to say this dark place taught me loads of positive things and that i was back on my feet in months. But being an ex- cult member doesn’t heal like that. It just doesn’t make sense one morning and TA DA! you jump out of bed shouting, “Oh! That was unpleasant but I learnt a valuable lesson there”. The reality is, you exist. You exist until something manages to get inside the darkness and empty greyness and make life have meaning. That thing has to get in almost against your wishes. It needs to germinate when you are not looking and often it is just time and space away from the cult that gives the seed of happiness a fighting chance.

For a long, long time nothing has ‘enough’ meaning. Nothing really motivates you. Nothing makes you feel happy naturally as a by product of it just being there. It is grim, exhausting, lonely and relentless. You become a bedfellow with suicidal thoughts and the arguments for not ending it all. You revisit your guilt and pathetic-ness, each time fighting their gravity because the only thing left in you is the belief that negativity is a bad thing. Of course you know what negativity is, you have a degree in that. An intimate knowledge that can be called upon for varying levels of self abuse your cult no longer needs to provide people for because you have taken on their job for them.

You do survive however. You do become endowed with a creeping feeling of meaning in your life and you do go on to achieve awesome things and be an awesome person. It just might take ten years or more before you can get it together enough. For your memory to stay strong enough to be useful. And, as in my case, you might find you are no longer motivated by love and kindness just a desperation to be free of being remembered as ‘that person who brought it upon themselves, because they willingly joined a cult’.

You may also find that when you go through periods of having a good time… or people being nice to you… or a run of good luck… or even something small like someone checking how you are feeling, that you have an overwhelming need to run, hide and cry. The panic may swallow you whole and leave you breathless and you may feel lost in this new and unchartered experience. You must be your ultimate bravest at these points. You are entitled to be loved and experience happiness after all you are a sentient being and there are Bodhisattvas out there working on your behalf too.

May EVERY living being be free from suffering – even us.

Andrea Ballance also created the video cartoons :: Watno Guru

More NKT survivors’ testimonies

Concerning The Protests At The Teachings Of H.H. The Dalai Lama: A Resolution Proposal I


@ Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Len Foley, Neil Elliott, and Nicholas Pitts (Kelsang Rabten)

I am a member of a small, unofficial, though well connected group of activists who have at heart the best interests of all parties concerned in the Shugden issue. I would like to offer my hand to you in a spirit of reconciliation and ask you to consider the following.

Since 1996 you have been protesting at various events wherever and whenever the Dalai Lama has appeared. You state the reason for your protests is that the followers of Shugden are being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.

As principal evidence of this discrimination you circulate press packs which provide photographs of signs requesting Shugden devotees not to enter certain premises. These premises are of three types: religious institutions such as temples and monasteries; medical facilities; and shops owned by private individuals.

With regard to the first of these, you should be aware that it is a right enshrined in law, both in India and elsewhere in the civilized world, for the patrons and proprietors of religious institutions such as temples to ask those who hold differing religious views from their own not to enter certain buildings or areas. In India, non- Hindus are frequently instructed not to enter Hindu temples; thus exercising a right of admission refusal enshrined in Indian law. Elsewhere, in Saudi Arabia non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the city of Mekkah. In the West too, similar prohibitions exist: Gentiles are asked not to enter certain areas of synagogues, non-Catholics are prohibited from teaching in Catholic schools without the permission of the Church in some European countries, and so on. Even in the temples of the New Kadampa Tradition, those who have chosen not to receive certain tantric initiations such as Vajrayogini cannot enter premises where Vajrayogini teachings are taking place.

In short, ‘discrimination’ on religious grounds is quite normal practice in many of the religious traditions across the world and followers of these religions accept this, without claiming that they are being deprived of their human right to religious freedom or that they are the victims of discrimination. Please explain why followers of Shugden should be treated any differently in this regard and why normal accepted protocols should not be observed in their case.

However, you should be aware that if it is the case you consider yourselves discriminated against by the signs in religious institutions, there is very little that can be done about these, since such prohibitions are entirely legal, accepted practice internationally, with regard to the followers of many faiths. If you remain concerned over these signs, please lobby the Government of India, since it is they aho sre responsible for legilating in this regard.

Secondly, with regard to the documentary evidence provided from medical facilities, these images are over 15 years old and apparently no longer current. Please provide current evidence of  discrimination in a medical context so that, if it should prove to exist, those responsible can be informed of the disagreeable nature of their conduct and the problems their actions are causing and asked to remove all signs and restrictions, with a view to restoring harmony between our communities.

If you can provide current evidence of discrimination with regard to medical care, you are welcome to do so since it will give us an opportunity to rectify this discrimination immediately. If on the other hand you cannot provide current evidence, it would be entirely appropriate for you to cease protesting in this regard, since the offending circumstances have clearly ceased to exist.

Thirdly, with regard to the signs in shops in the exiled Tibetan community, these have been placed there as the result of individuals’ personal decisions, after considering the advice of HH the Dalai Lama. As such, His Holiness cannot instruct them to now remove them since this would imply that His Holiness had instructed them to be placed there in the first place and indeed that he was wielding political control over these individuals, neither of which is the case.

Nevertheless, I can confirm that many of  the individuals concerned have already realised their actions are providing ammunition for the critics of His Holiness and have therefore chosen to remove the offending signs. I can now confirm, categorically, that there are no more signs in Dharamsala or Mundgod. If you dispute this, please provide appropriate, dated photographic evidence. The situation in the settlement at Bylakuppe is not yet as clear but I do know efforts are underway to advise those who post such signs that, though they may well be acting in good faith, their actions are causing great harm at many levels and that it would be best therefore to remove them.

In summary, every effort is being made to ensure that, where actionable, any instances of discrimination against Shugden worshippers you claim are brought to an end.

In response, if it can be shown that the remaining shop signs in Bylakuppe and anywhere else they may have arisen have been removed, will you cease your demonstrations? If you are unwilling to do this, please state your reasons so they can be addressed at the earliest opportunity and this unfortunate situation can be resolved.

Please send your response to this website as soon as possible for public scrutiny and so any problems can be addressed.

Thank you.

updated December 18, 2014, at 01:24 pm

line-gothicSee also

Helpful background interviews

Update Dec. 18, 2014

The Pope and Dalai in the eyes of Beijing by Raimondo Bultrini

English Translation by Raimondo Bultrini & Francesca Paoletti of Papa e Dalai agli occhi di Pechino

“One thing is certain: that the commitment to peace by Pope Francis is indubitable. But for what reason did the pontiff not meet the Dalai Lama?” This is what Il Giornale [translator’s comment: this is a mainstream Italian newspaper] asks after the announcement that the Vatican is “snubbing” – to quote the words of the Guardian – the Tibetan leader. “There are no official reasons – writes Il Giornale – The background could be the relationships (which today are still very tense) between Beijing and the Holy See, with the claim by the [Chinese] government to nominate the bishops (this has become a common practice), totally ignoring the approval coming from the Pope. But negotiations are ongoing and, soon,relations could improve. For this, Tibet’s reasons can wait …”

I found this text in front of me while I was trying to answer the same questions. Why does the Pope, who is so inclined towards social outcasts and the victims of injustice, not receive a man who was forced to escape from his country as a refugee, one of the many that – according to Bergoglio’s words – are living on the sacrifice of Christ himself?

OK, the Dalai is a “refugee” holding a Peace Nobel Prize, he has had good fortune in terms of fame, not only as the representative of an oppressed culture, but also as a wise one coming from a different religion, Buddhism, who has so far given advice that was able to change millions of lives. Nothing compared to the multitudes of the followers of Christ’s message. But still he is the victim of a huge injustice, such as was the expropriation of his country, of his home, depriving him of the contact of those people that, after generations, still love him and are loved in return, despite all Chinese attempts to conquer minds and hearts of the Tibetans. If the Italian government, instead of the Lateran Treaty, had imposed on the Church the seizure of all goods and the submission of the Pontiff to the Party of the Duce [Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party], it would not have been a nice thing. So out of mutuality, between persons who believe in the freedom of faith, an embrace of solidarity with the Dalai Lama, just like those given to leaders of other religions and to Muslims, would have been universally appreciated. But certainly not by China.

Screenshot article

The kiss between the Pope and the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church Bartholomew (Photo Filippo Monteforte/Epa). On the right, the embrace with the Argentinean Rabbi.

Now, we can assume that the Pope might be moved by the compassionate intention not to hurt Beijing, especially – as Il Giornale reminds us – while there are currently delicate discussions going on, but for sure this leaves many others disappointed. Especially because the Catholics in China do not have much hope left for a treatment different from that reserved to the Tibetans, should they actually choose to go under the patronage of the Pope and not only or no longer under that of the United Front Department, Section for Religious and Ethnical Affairs of the Communist Party.

We do not know what image Pope Francis has of the religious situation in China and the consequences that befall individuals and movements that may pose any threat to the power control of the Party and the State. The Falun Gong and its annihilation with torture, killings and mass arrests of followers are a warning from history. Since the Vatican well  knows what the persecution of priests and devotees means in the same People’s Republic, it can therefore also imagine why, in turn, the highly spiritual Tibetans look for support, from an entity of perhaps moral and ethical “infallible compassion” such as the head the largest body in the Western Church.

A patrol of the Chinese army in front of the Potala in Lhasa.

A patrol of the Chinese army in front of the Potala in Lhasa.

The Vatican only need observe the photos and videos on social networks where you can see the Chinese tourists entering the monasteries and temples with shoes on, throwing the butts of cigarettes around, taking selfies with two V fingers amidst devotees and monks who meditate or prostrate themselves to the Buddha. Sure, they are acting in a gentler fashion than the soldiers of the PLA did when they razed religious buildings and statues and trampled the rosaries and prayer wheels of the devotees, and sometimes still do, according to reports from human rights groups and Tibetan exiles.

But in today’s China, there are more subtle ways to denigrate a religion and with it the love that binds the people to their current spiritual leader. To this end, China is supporting a group that accuses the Tibetan leader of committing injustices against the devotees of a certain deity of fierce aspect called Gyalpo Shugden or Gyalchen. This organization, which is headed by an old lama who was expelled years ago from his monastery for “severe violations of religious bond with the Buddhist community,” is so rich they can ship hundreds of people around the world  in order to demonstrate in the street and accuse the Dalai Lama of being a liar.

There is evidence of payments made by the followers of this erudite scholar and recognized heretic, Kelsang Gyatso, to organize the travel of the wandering protesters. Gyatso, the founder of the “New Kadampa Tradition”, whose aim is to revitalise the tradition of the original school to which the Dalai lama still belongs. With a luxurious seat in England and hundreds of centers in America and other countries where they practice the worship of Shugden, considered powerful and effective against all enemies inside and out, but that according to the Dalai Lama, is a source of discord and tension between the Tibetans from its origin to the time of his fifth predecessor, in the seventeenth century. The operational arm [of the NKT] in the current international anti Dalai campaign is the Western Shugden Society, recently renamed the International Shugden Community; their first public appearance, with the same tenor as that of today, was at a protest in central London in 1996.

One of the three monks killed in the name of the Gyalpo Shugden cult in '97

One of the three monks killed in the name of the Gyalpo Shugden cult in ’97

It ‘s a story full of intrigue and mysteries, including a triple murder in Dharamsala in India the year after that first demonstration in England, near the residence of the present Dalai Lama. A group of Tibetans who belonged to the same cult and was – at that time officially – connected to the NKT, was investigated and has not yet been acquitted in the investigation based on the substantial evidence of a plot to assassinate the director of the local school of Tibetan Dialectics, who had sided with the Dalai [Lama] against this practice considered so “dangerous”. In the assault, three monks were killed by stabbing them. Among the investigation papers were seized a list of authorities of the then Tibetan government in exile, the Dalai lama at the head, to be eliminated. A risk that according to intelligence Tibetan exiles still exists today.

Since there were no other “tracks” plausible, the culmination of the investigation of the triple murder focused inconclusively on the role of the association  owned by a group of Tibetan monks and lay people of a district in New Delhi, the Dorje Shugden Devotee’s Charitable & Religious Society, passed into the background. Yet it would have been important to get to the bottom of this, as it was its adherents that opened up for the first time to the Chinese the opportunity to realize the benefits of their special version of Tibetan Buddhism, based on the worship of a spirit which, ideally, is on their side and not that of the enemy, the “separatist” Dalai.

Starting in the days just after the triple murder in February of 1997, the Chinese authorities granted special privileges to practitioners of Shugden (the killers entered China via Nepal despite an arrest warrant being still pending), and invite them regularly to political and strategic consultations on how to reduce the influence of the Dalai Lama in Tibet. In exchange for this, they offer help in building yet more new temples dedicated to their “Buddha” Shugden, while Tibetans urging people not to follow this worship, as recommended the Dalai Lama, are even arrested as happened in these current hours to the 77-year old Jamyang Tsering.

A statue of Shugden with the fierce face hidden

A statue of Shugden with the fierce face hidden

At the international level, the current media strategy of the International Shugden Community is much subtler and employs millions of posts on social networks and invitations to the followers to participate in the campaign “Dalai lama stop lying” via twitter or more directly in places where demonstrations that are taking place in several places in the world visited by the Tibetan leader.

China naturally observes this, rubbing its hands together at this controversy which aims to undermine the figure of the Tibetan leader right on his personal strong point of human rights. The Dalai explained  his position many times on this subject and there are hundreds of gigabytes of online documents and testimonials from his own voice as well as books by scholars such as Georges B.J. Dreyfus [‘The Shugden Affair: Origins of a Controversy‘] and the Dolgyal Shugden Research Society (‘Dolgyal Shugden: A History’).

In this way, even the experts of the Vatican can investigate the background of this case and catch here and there a glimpse of the kind of strategy of defamation and denigration that China could take to downsize, just like the Dalai Lama, even the Pope of Rome.

For example, some more recent history, and equally embarrassing for the Catholic Church as that Tibetan spirit-demon, could re-emerge, history which has as protagonists Pope Bergoglio and other priests during the darkest period in modern Argentine history. In 2000 a court in Buenos Aires wrote in the judgment against three former soldiers sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two progressive priests, that the church hierarchy had “closed its eyes” to that double murder. Those were the years when the current pope was leading the argentines Jesuit order (1973-1979), at the top of the Catholic hierarchy who were asking the faithful to act as “patriots”.

A young Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires

A young Jorge Bergoglio in Buenos Aires

Bergoglio remained officially silent even during the kidnapping of two other priests of his congregation, who were accused of conniving with the opponents of the regime while they were working in the slums. The Pontiff has always denied that he abandoned his men and instead always said that he helped several times the priests of the underground resistance. But he refused twice to act as a witness in related lawsuits, until in 2010 when he decided to appear in front of the judges and the lawyers said he had been overly “evasive”.

The accusations, from which Bergoglio has always been acquitted, are relatively important in the past of a monk of flawless faithfulness to the ideals of the Church. But when making agreements with men of power, such as for sure are the Chinese politicians negotiating with the Vatican, there are many surprises to be encountered. Considering all this, St. Peter’s hierarchs would have been well advised to reconsider their decision to renounce the meeting with the Dalai Lama only in order not to offend Beijing. If one day it could deem useful, the mud of those years under the generals in Buenos Aires could come back to the surface and the Pontiff would find himself – just as the Dalai Lama –at the centre of a controversy built up by others and backed up by the religious Department of the Communist Party.

For even in Chinese they say: “Defame, defame, something will remain”.

Originally published at La Repubblica Blog: Papa e Dalai agli occhi di Pechino (14 Dec. 2014)

line-gothicRelated articles

Interviews about ‘the Shugden controversy’ with academic experts

Related blog posts

Raimondo Bultrini about Shugden, the protests against the Dalai Lama and China’s role in it

The 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates ceases today. A brief summery covering the ISC / New Kadampa Tradition protests and links to new academic material can be read here. Raimondo Bultrini posted on the La Repubblica blog an article on the matter of the Pope who did not receive the Dalai Lama. Here is a rough translation of the relevant section related to the Anti Dalai Lama protests and Shugden.

We do not know that idea has made Pope Francis of the religious situation in China and the consequences that befall individuals and movements that may pose any threat to the power control of the Party and the State. The Falun Gong and its annihilation with torture killings and mass arrests of his followers is a warning in history. Since the Vatican knows what they mean persecution of priests and devotees in the same People’s Republic, can ‘therefore also imagine why in turn the Tibetans try spiritualissimi support, perhaps by an entity moral and ethical “infallible compassion” what is the boss the largest in the Western Church.

The Vatican would be enough to observe the photos and videos on social networks where you see the Chinese tourists enter the monasteries and temples with shoes throwing around the butts of cigarettes, taking Selfie with two fingers in V between devotees and monks who meditate or prostrate themselves the Buddha. Sure, they act so only milder than did the soldiers of the PLA, which razed edfici and religious statues, rosaries and trampled mills prayer of the devotees. And sometimes still do, according to reports from human rights groups and Tibetan exiles.

But in China today, there are more subtle ways to denigrate a religion and with it the love that binds the people to their current spiritual leader. To this end, China is supporting how can ‘a group that accuses the Tibetan leader of committing injustices against the devotees of a certain deity of fierce called Gyalpo Shugden or Gyalchen. This organization, which is headed by an old … moved away years ago from his monastery for “severe violations of religious bond with the Buddhist community,” is so rich you can ship around the world hundreds of people in order to demonstrate in the street and accuse the Dalai Lama of being a liar.

There is evidence of payments made by the followers of this erudite scholar and considered heretical, Kelsang Gyatso, to organize the travel of the protesters traveling. Gyatso is the founder of the “New Kadampa Tradition”, with the aim to revive the tradition of the original school which still belongs to the Dalai lama. It has a luxurious home in England and hundreds of centers in America and other countries where they practice the worship of Shugden, considered powerful and effective against all enemies inside and outside, but that according to the Dalai Lama is a source of discord and tension between the Tibetans since origin at the time of his fifth predecessor, in the seventeenth century. The operational arm in the current international campaign anti Dalai is the Western Shugden Society, later renamed International Community Shugden, and their first public appearance was in 1996, during a protest in central London, the same standard of those of today.

It ‘a story full of intrigue and mysteries, including a triple murder in Dharamsala in India the year after that first demonstration English, near the residence of the Dalai Lama. A group of Tibetans who belonged to the same cult and was – at that time officially – connected to the NKT, was investigated and then acquitted in the investigation despite the serious evidence of a plot to assassinate the director of the local school of Tibetan Dialectics, who had sided with the Dalai against this practice considered “dangerous”. In the assault were killed by stabbing two monks. Among the papers of the investigation was seized a list of authorities of the then Tibetan government in exile, the Dalai lama in the head, to be eliminated. A risk that according to intelligence Tibetan exiles still exists today.

Since there were no other “tracks” plausible, with the end of the investigation on the triple murder is passed into the background the role of the association that was owned by a group of Tibetan monks and lay people of the district of New Delhi, the Dorje Shugden Devotee’s Charitable & Religious Society. Yet it would be important to get to the bottom, as were its adherents to open for the first time to the Chinese the opportunity to realize the benefits of their special version of Tibetan Buddhism, based on the worship of a spirit which, ideally, is on their side and not that of the enemy “separatist” Dalai.

Starting with the days of the triple murder in February of 1997, the Chinese authorities have granted special privileges to students of Shugden (the killer entered China via Nepal despite an arrest warrant still pending), and invite them to regular political consultations and strategy on how to reduce the influence of the Dalai Lama in Tibet. In exchange for help to build more new temples dedicated to their “Buddha” Shugden, while Tibetans urging people not to worship as recommended the Dalai Lama, are even arrested as happened in these hours to the 77-year old Jamyang Tsering.

At international level, the current media strategy of the International Community Shugden is much thinner and employs millions of posts on social networks and invitations to the followers to participate in the campaign “Dalai lama stop lying” via twitter or directly in the places of the events that are taking place in several places in the world visited by the Tibetan leader.

China observes naturally rubbing his hands this controversy which aims to weaken the figure of the Tibetan leader in his own strong point of human rights. The Dalai explained many times its position on the subject and there are hundreds of gigabytes of online documents and testimony from his hands and books of scholars such as Georges BJ Dreyfus and the Dolgyal Shugden Research Society (‘Dolgyal Shugden: A History’). So even the experts can investigate the Vatican about the background of the case and here and there a glimpse of the kind of strategy of defamation and denigration that China could take to resize, as well as the Dalai Lama, even the Pope of Rome.

For example would reappear out some more recent history and equally embarrassing for the Catholic Church of that spirit-Tibetan demon, whose protagonists Pope Bergoglio and other priests in the darkest period in modern Argentine history. In 2000 a court in Buenos Aires wrote in the judgment against three former soldiers sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two priests progressives, that the church hierarchy had “closed eyes” of the double murder. Those were the years when the current pope led the Jesuit order Argentines (1973-1979), at the top of the Catholic hierarchy who asked the faithful to act as patriots.

See also

Dalai Lama in Rome: Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Summit, media, protests & interview with Robert Barnett


Logo of the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates from 12–14 Dec 2014 in Rome

The International Shugden Community / New Kadampa Tradition protesters try diligently to get their message and accusations through during this weekend in Rome, Italy, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama participates in the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. (Why the summit moved from South Africa to Italy read here.)

It seems that weeks before this event started the protester prepared their media campaign and began quite early to flood for instance twitter via the hash tags ‪#‎dalailama‬ and ‪#‎nobelpeacesummit‬ with propaganda. (I guess Facebook was used in a similar way though – as far as I understand it – Facebook cannot be so easily abused for slanderous accusations or a hate campaign as Twitter.)

Twitter campaigning example teeded by NKT students

Twitter campaigning example tweeted by NKT students

The ISC/NKT also offered free flights, free accommodation and free food for the protesters. (see PDF)

However, the ISC campaign doesn’t turn the 14th Nobel Peace Prize Laureates’ Summit to the protesters’ favour and the campaign appears to be less successful than the ISC campaigning in the US. This year in the US the Western Shugden campaigners got at least some of their messages and accusations (slander) reported by local news and also some few major news.

The lead in the press in Italy was set by a major newspaper, La Repubblica, with an interview by Raimondo Bultrini – a well known expert on the Shugden issue, an investigative journalist with a high standing and a mafia expert who is also a Buddhist and close student of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. Namkhai Norbu is a well known Buddhist master from the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism and he worked at an university in Italy as a professor.

Unlike past noisy protests this time the protesters had to perform their protests rather far away from the location. The Tibetan National Congress had campaigned for this end.

Most of the Italian newspapers followed the lead by La Repubblica. This is a common media phenomenon, how and what one of the greatest newspaper of a country reports first sets the record for the other media in that country. According to a friend, the Italian newspapers took over most of the content of Raimondo Bultrini’s La Repubblica interview, and the position of the protesters is rather downplayed if not even ridiculed by the media.

The biggest issue in Italy are not the protesters but the indignation that there is no meeting of His Holiness the Pope with His Holiness the Dalai Lama because the Pope gave in to the pressure by China – fearing bad consequences for his 120 million Christian believers in China. Open Doors (UK) estimates that 100 million Christians face persecution in China. (see also BBC)

Some of the outrages commenters in Italy argued that the H.H. the Pope Francis seems to be more happy to visit mosques in Turkey than to welcome a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate but this seems to be quite unfair to me because Pope Francis’ faithful Christian brothers and sisters in China and their welfare might be more important to him … though it doesn’t feel very brave or solidly. I feel reluctant to condemn the pope’s decision.

However, the appeasement politics to China by almost all Western countries, the giving in of Westerners to China’s bullying tactics indicate also a lack of integrity. Human Rights are talked about a lot but when the economics come in Human Rights are easily set aside.

There is an interview with Tibet scholar Robert Barnett from Columbia University that covers different subjects related to the Shugden controversy and the protests, including an investigation into the claims of the protesters, and the role and power of the Dalai Lama. Many things Robert Barnett says are not known to the general public. The interview and what he has to say is really worth reading – and it is balanced and fair:

There is also an article by Prof. Hartmann about religious freedom and the Shugden conflict that investigates and criticizes a frequently used media from Germany, ARD’s Panorama magazine, who offered under the guise of enlightenment a strange propaganda piece:

And finally, here is the translation by Francesca Paoletti of the La Repubblica article from 11 Dec. 2014:

The values of the Dalai Lama: “Like Malala, I am fighting for truth”

The Buddhist leader is in Rome, but he will not meet the Pope: “Religion is not enough, we need a secular ethics”.

“Pope Francis? I would be very happy to meet him.”
This is what the Dalai Lama says in this interview to La Repubblica, just ahead of the summit of Nobel Peace Prize holders that will take place in Rome from tomorrow [Friday] until Sunday. But a summit between the pontiff and the Buddhist spiritual leader will not take place. “An audience is not scheduled. There will be a message from the Pope to the Dalai Lama, signed by the State Secretary Parolin.” is what is communicated by the Vatican.

The other topics discussed in this interview are the difficult relations with China, the Nobel Prize to Malala and the right to education, and the controversy of the “dissident Tibetan Buddhists”, who have also announced protests against the Dalai Lama in the coming days in Rome. But he also adds that religion alone is not enough to solve the troubles and the injustice in the world: “We need a secular ethics, which is shared also with non-believers”.

Your Holiness, following Chinese pressure the Nobel Peace Prize holders have moved their world summit meeting dedicated to Mandela after you had been denied the visa to enter South Africa. What was your reaction?

“You see, at the beginning, two Nobel Prize holders from South Africa had invited me and of course I accepted. However, the embassy in India refused to issue a visa for me. Even previously I wasn’t allowed to meet and pay my respects to Mandela before he died, but I accept things as they are.

Of course, for the involved governments, national interests are important, but I can reassure them that the Dalai Lama is not a harmful person. My interest is in promoting human values, in a world of 7 billion members of the same family.

We have to carry these values within us whatever we are doing, be it in politics, economics, religion or education. If I had a political agenda, I would feel disappointed, but this is not the case. And certainly I appreciate my friends from the Nobel Prize for their warm support. Thanks to them and to the support of the Mayor of Rome, this time I will be able to participate.”

Many people cannot understand why powerful China is so afraid of you.

“They call me a demon and a separatist, but in reality it is the Chinese army that acts like a separatist in Tibet. If you hit a dog, it will run away. If you want the dog to stay, you have to treat it with kindness.

Tibetans are human beings and it is not enough to blandish them with infrastructure if afterwards there is a complete lack of respect. The fight is between the power of guns and the power of truth. At present, the weapons are winning, but in the end, truth will prevail.”

Malala, who received the Nobel Prize yesterday, became a symbol for the right to education. Do you believe that education can be a substitute for religion?

“Many people that create problems in many parts of the world are often well educated, so we must not talk only about education, but also about values. And it is religion that takes care of this. But today we must also pay as much attention to the secular ethics that is the foundation of all religious traditions. If education is combined with a spirit of kindness, then your education, your knowledge will be constructive throughout all your life. You will be able to contribute to society and to the improvement of humanity.

Despite its role as a moral guide which gives  meaning to life, in our modern secular world, religion alone is no longer adequate as a foundation for ethics. One reason for this is that many people do not follow any particular faith and so we should find an ethical approach to counter this lack of values which is acceptable both for those who have a religious faith and for those who do not. I am talking about a secular ethics; inner values that should be transmitted through education, which today is more focused on material things than on moral principles.”

You said you are eager to meet Pope Francis. There seem to be similarities in the simplicity of your approach to the world.

“I had a favourable impression of him and I would be very happy to meet him in person. I was impressed by his decision to remove that German archbishop who was preaching restraint to his church while living in luxury. I also admired his attempt to build peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It was a good, beneficial effort.”

You have said repeatedly that you might be the last of the Dalai Lama lineage, but the Chinese authorities have replied: “Whether he likes it or not, he must be reborn”.

“If I were to die today, I think that the Tibetan people would choose to have another Dalai Lama. But in future, if this institution is no longer relevant or beneficial and Tibet changes, then the institution of the Dalai Lama will cease. Personally, I feel that it has achieved its goal. When in 2011 I transferred my responsibility to a new lay leader, elected by the exiled people, I didn’t do it reluctantly, but with joy.”

But China has already recognized and taken control of another “reincarnated” Tibetan.

“Reincarnation should arise out of free will or at least on the basis of karma, of merit and of the prayers of the person involved. Nobody else can force or manipulate the way in which one person wants to be reborn in their next life. And it is particularly inappropriate for the Chinese communists, who explicitly reject the notion of past and future lives, thus leaving aside the notion of reincarnated Lamas. They only think in terms of politics and power.”

A group of dissidents that used to belong to your same religious tradition has been protesting for some time in various parts of the world and they will also be in Rome today. They ask for the freedom to worship a being that you consider a “sinister spirit” and they say they feel discriminated against.

“Out of ignorance, from 1951 until 1970, I also worshipped this ghost. Then I found out that the 5th Dalai Lama, who had a profound knowledge of this matter, referred to this spirit as an entity born of distorted prayers and as harmful to the Buddha’s teachings.

Making a mistake out of ignorance is understandable, but to consciously act mistakenly is another matter. Those people that manifest against me in public, in the USA and in Europe call me an enemy of Buddhism; they shout, beat drums and carry banners. Their faces are contorted in aggressive expressions. Their slogan is “Stop lying”: but who is lying really?

Because of distorted information, the followers of this practice are totally confused. But in the end it is good thing that these things draw attention to this problem, since they encourage people to investigate what the whole thing is about.”

(With the cooperation of Jeremy Russell)


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