Declaration by New Kadampa Survivors concerning the Demonstrations against His Holiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We acknowledge there may be some problems within the Tibetan community that need to be addressed but no established Human Rights group or court has ever confirmed any of the NKT/WSS or ISC’s claims of intentional Human Rights abuses by His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Central Tibetan Administration. In 2010 the Indian High Court rejected a law suit by Shugden followers because of ‘vague averments’ and ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’. We offer our support to the Tibetan people in their struggle to preserve their lives and their culture and question the intentions of those who use this culture but appear not to support this struggle.

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

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

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

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

19th August 2014

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

Supporters

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

line-gothicDownload

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

Description by London Ney (Tibetans in London):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The event will be live-streamed in order to provide the opportunity for far greater audiences. Here is the link http://www.livestream.com/Tibetan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

line-gothic

More Academic Material

See also

Statements by Western Buddhists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ICS’ main book “False Dalai Lama”

FalseDalaiLama-coverEditors: Anonymous

Author: Anonymous

Publisher: Self published

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

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

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

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

Author: Dr. Martin Mills

Publisher: Routlede Curzon

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

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

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

line-gothic

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

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

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

See also

* The description of the conference said:

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

Last edited by tenpel on August 18, 2014, 4:07 pm

The Dorje Shugden Ban

There is no ban.
There should be.

There is no ban. There should be.

originally posted by Kelsangs Worldwide

Human Rights and the Dorje Shugden Controversy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elliot claimed:

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

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

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

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

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

author credited on cover: Lama Losang Thubwang Heruka

TheOralInstructionOfMahamudra-KelsangGyatso

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

Contents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back-TheOralInstructionOfMahamudra-KelsangGyatso

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

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

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

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

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

Kelsang Gyatso

line-gothic

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

David with the head of Goliath

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

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

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

LharampaGesheLobsangKalsang

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

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

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

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

I understand this is problematic as

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

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

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

Bad News About Dharma

10368240_10152156712941714_4388166296260391405_n

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

Never think that you will be able to settle your life down by practicing the dharma. The dharma is not therapy.
In fact, it is just the opposite.
The purpose of the dharma is to really stir up your life.
It is meant to turn your life upside down.
If that is what you asked for, why complain?
If it is not turning your life upside down, on the other hand, the dharma is not working.
That kind of dharma is just another one of these New Age methods;
the dharma should really disturb you. –  Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

See also

 

Bringing the Nalanda Tradition to the West: Reflections and Challenges

Dharma Studies in the West: The FPMT Master’s Program

Since the time of the Buddha, approximately 2,500 years ago, the Buddhist teachings have been transmitted in an uninterrupted lineage, eventually reaching Tibet and flourishing there for more than 1,200 years. In recent years, as Buddhism has come to the West, there has been a steady rise in interest among Western students of Buddhism in deepening their understanding of the philosophical teachings that form the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as a wish from the side of Tibetan teachers and scholars to develop study programs to meet these needs. A number of highly respected academic institutions have programs focusing on Tibetan Buddhist religion, culture, and philosophy, but it is a fairly recent phenomenon that Western Dharma centers have attempted to develop serious, in-depth programs for the study of the great philosophical treatises of the Indian and Tibetan masters. One of the most ambitious of these programs has been the FPMT’s Master’s Program in Buddhist Studies,[1] which was initially conceived by Lama Thubten Yeshe, and further developed and taught by Geshe Jampa Gyatso. The Master’s Program (or MP) is aimed at training both lay and ordained Western students in the classical philosophical treatises (known as the “great texts”) and the practice of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The program involves six to seven years of study, and is supplemented by one year of meditation in order for the students to integrate their learning and practice. I graduated from the first full-length program in 2004 and, since 2008, I have served as an online tutor for the most recent program, which just recently concluded.[2] This experience has led me to reflect at length on the challenges involved in developing advanced Buddhist study programs in the West, and I would like to share some of my thoughts on how we might begin to address these challenges.

The MP curriculum is similar to that of the Geshe programs in major Gelug Tibetan monasteries, although it is completed in a much shorter period—obtaining a Geshe degree would normally take from fifteen to twenty years in a Tibetan monastery. This difference in itself presents a huge challenge: how to condense such a vast amount of material into a program that is less than half the length of the traditional course of study. However, we should not make the mistake of assuming that those entering the program are lacking in knowledge or study skills when compared with their Tibetan counterparts: most MP students have already done many years of study before entering the program, many having earned various levels of university degrees, and thus have a wide range of knowledge of different fields, including science, humanities, business, and philosophy. Clearly, such students may begin with little formal Buddhist knowledge, but it would be unwise to underestimate the value of the intellectual and scholarly skills they have acquired in other fields. At this juncture, when the ancient teachings of Buddhism have really begun to penetrate into the fabric of societies that are not traditionally Buddhist and interact with Western fields of thought—philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, just to begin with—we need to think seriously about how an advanced program of Buddhist studies may look in the future.

A central concern in designing and implementing such a study program is how to continue the transmission of traditional Buddhist teachings while bringing them into a modern, Western context and making them relevant to our own times and cultures, without sacrificing their essence and integrity. We need to reflect on how study of these texts can enrich understanding and practice of the Dharma, without their becoming seen as a canon that is beyond question and automatically accepted as infallible. In other words, we should not abandon the spirit of rational and scientific inquiry that forms the basis of modern Western thought, and we should seek ways to harmonize this with our study of Buddhism. This development can only occur when we approach the teachings with a balance of critical analysis and respect, having faith in the teachings without being afraid to challenge and understand them in new ways.

The Nalanda Tradition: Balancing Faith and Reasoning

His Holiness the Dalai Lama often refers to the basis of Tibetan Buddhism as the “Nalanda Tradition,” emphasizing the direct connection between the Tibetan Buddhist tradition with the work of the great scholars of Nalanda University, the ancient Indian Buddhist institution that produced some of Buddhism’s greatest scholar-practitioners, including Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Vasubandhu, and Dharmakirti. A central aspect of the Nalanda Tradition is an emphasis on approaching the Buddhist teachings not just through faith and devotion, but also through rigorous critical inquiry. This emphasis on intelligent investigation in Buddhism is illustrated by the analogy, often cited in Buddhist teachings, of a merchant who only buys gold after determining its quality and purity through various tests. All of the Buddha’s teachings emphasize the importance of investigating the Dharma deeply before accepting it. This critical inquiry is precisely what is being pursued in programs such as the Master’s Program.

Developing such programs is a crucial and difficult step in the transmission of the Buddha’s teachings to the West, and one of the most significant difficulties we face is how to successfully present such complex and dense material to people whose cultures, beliefs, and history are fundamentally different from those of a traditional Asian culture, such as Tibet. I have often struggled to find a balance between respect for tradition and honest critical inquiry, how to cultivate stable faith in Dharma while not giving up a healthy level of skepticism. This process of investigation is an indispensable part of our progression towards a more awakened, more compassionate, and wiser state, the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice. However, it is not easy to skillfully balance these various facets of the spiritual path in our lives. Many Western Buddhists, especially those pursuing advanced philosophical studies, come from a perspective that is highly suspicious of orthodoxy or dogma, religious or otherwise. The past few centuries of European and American thought have, after all, elevated the status of rational inquiry far above that of religious piety. On the one hand, Buddhism appeals to this rationality by deeply challenging engrained ideas about success, happiness, material wealth, and even mainstream religion. On the other hand, when we study Buddhism with traditionally trained Tibetan teachers, we often find that the teachings are intertwined with a wide range of cultural assumptions, which do not always fit neatly or comfortably with a strictly rational perspective.

It is useful to look briefly at how Buddhist philosophy has traditionally been studied by Tibetans, and to consider how this contrasts with Western educational methodologies.[3] (I am mainly referring here to the Gelug tradition, which places strong emphasis on scholastic understanding as a basis for spiritual realization.) Historically, in Tibetan culture the study of high-level Buddhist philosophy has been almost exclusively the domain of monks. The Tibetan monastic approach involves many years of memorization, study, and debate of texts that are complex and multi-layered, sometimes incomprehensible without explanations of highly trained masters. The students learn the art of debate from a young age, methodically analyzing a wide range of subjects, beginning with simple phenomena such as colors and shapes and moving on to more complex topics, such as divisions of the mind, advanced logic, and so forth. The debate format is tightly structured and follows strict rules, requiring students to thoroughly memorize the texts and to internalize the rules of debate to the point of their becoming virtually automatic. Without memorizing the texts, it is impossible to get far in a debate. There is no room for guessing or speculation; the respondent must be able to reply with absolute precision, based on what is stated in the text. As their studies progress, they apply their analysis to increasingly subtle topics, such as the four noble truths, emptiness, dependent arising, and the paths to liberation and enlightenment. After gaining a solid foundation in logic, debate, and the overall Buddhist worldview, those seeking to attain the degree of Geshe (a Buddhist monastic academic degree) spend many years studying subjects such as the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita), Middle Way (Madhyamaka), valid cognition (Pramana), ethical discipline (Vinaya), and manifest knowledge (Abhidharma). Monks (and now nuns) can obtain one of several types of Geshe degree, the highest level being Geshe Lharampa. Although this approach is most emphasized in the Gelug tradition, the different Tibetan traditions offer variants of the Geshe degree. The deep understanding that one gains from these many years of study and debate becomes the basis for the transformational wisdom that one may later gain from deeper meditation on these subjects.

The curriculum of the Master’s Program as it is presently structured includes three of these five “great texts” and their Tibetan commentaries—Maitreya’s Ornament for Clear Realization (Abhisamayalamkara), Chandrakirti’s Supplement to the “Middle Way” (Madhyamakavatara), and Vasubandhu’s Treasury of Manifest Knowledge (Abhidharmakosha)—as well as the “grounds and paths” of tantra and the Guhyasamaja Tantra (which are normally studied only in specialized tantric universities). Supplementary subjects such as mind and awareness, philosophical tenets, or reviews of the main topics are sometimes taught if time allows. Students take regular exams, and at the end of the program, they review and are examined on all five subjects. In order to receive a completion certificate, they are also required to do one year of retreat, which allows them to integrate the material more deeply. Parallel to the residential course is an online course, with students around the world studying via an e-learning environment, with recorded review lectures, quizzes and exams, and online discussion.

Given the much shorter length of the Master’s Program compared to traditional geshe studies, the MP clearly does not aim to produce “Western geshes,” but to give Western students a complete education in Buddhist studies. However, this format is not without its shortcomings. While students in such a program receive an enormous amount of teachings, and thus a good basis for deepening their studies and practice, relatively little time is dedicated to a deep analysis of the teachings, and formal debate is virtually absent. There are numerous reasons for this, one of the principal ones being the difficulty of translating the highly formalized Tibetan debate method, so deeply based on rote memorization, into a Western context where students have little familiarity with memorization as a learning tool. With this lack of debate, the teachers and tutors of such a program are forced to come up with effective tools for helping students not only to learn, but to master such dense, difficult material. So far, this has been one of the greatest challenges of this program.

I have had the great fortune to study these texts with highly qualified teachers, including my principal teacher Geshe Jampa Gyatso, who helped me to understand that Dharma is not just about knowledge obtained from study, but the skillful integration of this knowledge into our experience, and the transformation of our very way of being. As a tutor for such a program, I have found myself trying to explain Buddhist texts that are often centuries old, with multiple layers of meaning and complex terminology, to students whose culture and worldview differs radically from that which informs these texts. These texts are often obscure and difficult to understand, even for the most erudite lamas and scholars. A Western tutor working with this material may feel obligated to be faithful and respectful to the tradition, on one hand, and wish to make the teachings relevant to students’ lives and spiritual development, on the other—not an easy task. With more general subjects such as the Stages of the Path (lam rim), this is already challenging, but many lam rim subjects are self-explanatory and one has some flexibility in how to present the topics, choosing to emphasize some more than others, offering different interpretations, and so forth. However, with texts as complex as the Abhisamayalamkara or Abhidharmakosha, just to understand the basic meanings of the texts requires extensive study and reflection, and understanding their relevance to practice means taking a huge leap beyond that.

Difficulties for Western Students: Challenging Orthodoxy

Western students of Tibetan Buddhism must wrestle with apparent contradictions between the worldview and didactic methods in our own culture and those that we encounter in traditional Asian Buddhist teachings. The cornerstone of a modern Western education is critical examination of facts from varying points of view, without automatically privileging any one of these points of view as absolutely true. We are taught to value originality and to explore ideas that innovate and challenge orthodoxy. In traditional Buddhist teachings, on the other hand, innovation is often regarded with deep suspicion, and even discouraged. Although we are encouraged to rigorously analyze the teachings before accepting them, this analysis takes place almost entirely within the accepted parameters of the Buddhist worldview, and those propounding new interpretations of the Dharma may be viewed as pariahs, whose straying from accepted explanations might somehow contaminate the teachings—even Tsongkhapa was heavily challenged and criticized for his sometimes radical interpretations of Buddhist teachings.

Despite the strong emphasis on reasoning, it is difficult to escape the weight that the authority of tradition and scripture carries for traditional Buddhists. There are unspoken, but evident, taboos in not accepting certain teachings as infallible truths. Thus we see that when His Holiness the Dalai Lama questions the validity of Abhidharma cosmology or downplays certain aspects of traditional teachings, there is no hesitation in following his lead. However, if a less authoritative teacher or (heaven forbid) a Westerner challenges orthodoxy in the same way, it may even be seen as a degeneration of the purity of the lineage, when in fact such a person is simply following the Buddha’s advice to closely examine the teachings. This can create a sense that one cannot ask honest, critical questions without being judged or criticized; one may begin to feel that one is not a “good Buddhist” if one asks too many questions. We find ourselves in a quandary: our initial sense of skepticism and curiosity, which led us to the apparent tolerance and openness of the Buddhist tradition, now comes to be seen as risky, or even dangerous. However, if we are to develop into mature practitioners of the Buddha’s teachings, we must ask some difficult questions. We may even need to ask what it really means to be “Buddhist.”[4] It would be unusual for Tibetans to question whether or not they are Buddhist—Buddhism is a culture and tradition they are born into and which they, for the most part, readily accept. For Westerners, more investigation is required when one decides to actively engage with Buddhism as a practice and view.

Dharma in the Modern World: Developing New Tools

Let us consider the idea of “transmission” of the Dharma—the Buddha’s teachings—and what that entails. Traditionally, the Buddha’s teachings are divided into the Dharma of scriptures—the texts containing the teachings and commentaries of the Buddha and the lineage masters—and the Dharma of realizations—the internalization of the meanings in these texts, resulting in the final goal: liberation or enlightenment. In reality, these two are intimately related, and both are necessary in order for the Dharma to be effectively and completely transmitted from one culture to another. The transmission of Dharma depends on maintaining an “uninterrupted lineage” of the canonical texts, teachings, and commentaries from qualified masters to their disciples, but just continuing the scriptural transmission is not sufficient, even if done with great faith and diligence, if we do not also transmit the transformative aspect of the teachings, the realizations. A complete transmission of the Dharma is contingent on the development of skillful methods that enable the transmission of these teachings to different cultures, and thus a certain amount of adaptation is unavoidable. This has been the case everywhere that the Dharma has traveled from one culture to another: from India to Tibet, China, Korea, Burma, and other countries that became Buddhist. Now Buddhism has come to the West, in a period in which technological advances have rapidly sped up the availability and exchange of information. Those involved in this exchange must adapt to this reality and utilize a variety of methods in this transmission, not just traditional ones. If we simply mimic the traditional methods of Buddhist study and education without adapting them to their new context, we may well see these sublime teachings, which show us how to develop the greatest human potential, becoming little more than quaint, but largely irrelevant, cultural relics. One of the greatest challenges we face in this process is how to relate Buddhist scholastic practice to the practical, realized aspects of Dharma: cultivation of positive inner qualities such as mindfulness, mental stability, compassion, and wisdom. In Buddhist terms, we need to approach this process with a balance of skillful methods and penetrating wisdom, integrating the insights of the Buddhist tradition with the best of Western pedagogical methods and technology.

When studying the great philosophical texts of Buddhism in a traditional way, students would first memorize the “root text,” and then receive a transmission and detailed commentary on the entire text from start to finish, slowly bringing out the deeper meaning through extensive debate, as mentioned earlier. Without the process of internalization and mastery that occurs through debate, it is difficult for students to identify the essential points in a text that may consist of literally hundreds of lists, definitions, and conflicting assertions from various philosophical points of view. When studying such texts without training in debate, Western students encounter many difficulties in knowing how to “take the essence” of these teachings, and how to put them into practice.

It would be easy to suggest that Western students should simply learn how to debate like Tibetans, but the traditional reliance on memorization brings up many difficulties. We have a strong tendency to suspect or even reject anything resembling dogma or absolutist religious authority. Rote memorization has long been rejected in Western education in favor of developing skills of critical thinking and analysis; originality of thought, rather than repetition of doctrine, is one of the prime objectives of modern education. While a traditionally educated Tibetan student would not have much difficulty accepting that something is true simply because it was stated by the Buddha, Nagarjuna, or Tsongkhapa, a Western-educated student might strongly question the notion of the author’s infallibility. This is not to say that memorization should be rejected outright—it can indeed a very valuable tool for sharpening one’s mental faculties, among other things—but it needs to be supplemented with learning methodologies more familiar to Western students, where one would consider a broader range of viewpoints, even from other traditions or disciplines. We should make use of the many tools we have, not just dismiss them as irrelevant to the study of Buddhism.

We must also remember that while Tibetan monastics often begin their religious studies as children, Western students in programs such as the Master’s Program have already acquired a great deal of knowledge and experience, both through higher education and professional careers. Despite this, it seems that when we approach traditional Dharma studies, we often feel compelled to reject large parts of our “secular” learning, rather than building on it and integrating it with our understanding of Dharma. This only serves to strengthen a false dichotomy between “worldly” knowledge—literature, art, science, philosophy, mathematics, etc.—and “Dharma knowledge,” which concerns questions that somehow transcend this world. I often get the impression that Western Buddhists feel they must ignore the great intellectual, artistic, and spiritual innovations of their own culture—whether they come from Einstein, Jesus, Shakespeare, Picasso, or John Coltrane—in order to be serious Buddhists, rather than appreciating how the insights of great minds, regardless of their culture or religious beliefs, may help to cultivate a broader, deeper understanding of Dharma. Rigidly adhering to such an artificial split contradicts the exemplary openness shown by the Dalai Lama, who has consistently pioneered and encouraged cross-cultural and interdisciplinary dialogues, such as the Mind and Life conferences, and the introduction of scientific education into Tibetan monasteries. He has even appointed an American monk as the abbot of a Tibetan monastery.[5] We would do well to learn from the example of His Holiness, who consistently shows himself to be an innovator in the best sense of the word, as well as being an undisputed master of the subtlest points of Buddhist philosophy and practice and a living example of compassion, kindness, and deep insight. Lama Thubten Yeshe was also a proponent of integrating modern knowledge with Buddhist wisdom: “Today, scientific technology has discovered many things that human beings cannot touch—energy, for example. This development of scientific higher consciousness is beautiful; we can carry it into our meditation. When people who study and practice Dharma examine developments in scientific technology, they can find extraordinary examples that they can use. This understanding of reality is very important.”[6]

Conclusions: The Road Ahead

What can we conclude from all of this? Are we looking at the inevitable degeneration of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, in favor of a dumbed-down Buddhism ready for easy consumption by a public wanting everything to be downloadable as a smartphone app? Not at all. We are looking at an evolution of Buddhism in the West, just as it has evolved in its transmission from India to many other cultures, including Tibet. In order for the Dharma to continue to thrive, and for Dharma education to develop in the West, a few fundamental ingredients are necessary: first, willingness to experiment with the format, and not being obstinately attached to an exclusively traditional approach; second, a clear understanding of the goal of such education: a combination of scholastic depth and experiential application; and third, an approach that builds bridges between the wisdom of Buddhism and of our own cultures, such as science, the humanities, and philosophy, rather than seeing them as contradictory. All of this, of course, needs to be carried out in a way that is balanced and respectful, by teachers who understand the teachings well and have made serious effort to internalize and realize their meanings. My hope is that we will see in the future a proliferation of aspiring bodhisattvas who are able to integrate their intellectual and experiential understanding of the great spiritual insights of the Buddha and the great Indian and Tibetan masters with the thought of Plato and Wittgenstein, quantum theory, neuroscientific research, and expressions of Dharma in literature, art, and poetry, all for the greatest benefit of infinite sentient beings. Why not?

 

Patrick Lambelet
Tutor for the online FPMT Master’s Program
Pomaia, Italy

© Patrick Lambelet
March 23, 2014

Footnotes

[1] Despite being called “Master’s Program,” this program is presently not formally accredited by any university and does not lead to an MA, or Master’s degree.

[2] There was an earlier version of the program, before 1998, but it was not as comprehensive, with regular examinations and certification.

[3] Georges Dreyfus’ book, The Sound of Two Hands Clapping, is an excellent resource for this subject, combining academic research on Tibetan monastic education with reflections drawn from his own experience as a Western Buddhist monk (Dreyfus was the first Westerner to obtain the Geshe Lharampa degree).

[4] Interestingly, the Tibetan word translated as “Buddhist” (nang pa) literally means “insider,” or “practitioner of the inner tradition.” It thus has a broader sense than simply being a follower of the Buddha, unlike, for example, the term “Christian.”

[5]In 2012, His Holiness appointed American monk Nicholas Vreeland as the abbot of Rato Monastery, in India, telling him, “Your special duty is to bridge Tibetan tradition and the Western world.” See Tricycle article (www.tricycle.com), Fall 2012.

[6] Lama Thubten Yeshe, Becoming the Compassion Buddha (2003, Wisdom Publications), p. 44.

See also

 

 

The New Kadampa Tradition / Kadampa Buddhism: The Real Danger

GUEST POST by Robert – a former NKT monk

The Real Danger

If you are a scifi fan, you may remember the old television show, ‘Stargate: SG1′, where in the later series there were two races who were said to have transcended the mortal realm: the Ori and the Ancients. The Ori created a book, similar to the Bible, called the ‘Book of Origin’ and they promised their followers perfect enlightenment, if they simply put their unwavering faith in the Ori, and put aside their own intelligence for the ‘Will of the Ori’. The most devout of the Ori followers became like mindless zombies, or shells of the people they once were, who emptied their minds and allowed the Ori to speak through them. Then on the other hand, we had the Ancients, who mainly spoke in apparent riddles, not unlike Zen Koans. In stark contrast to the Ori, the Ancients did not tell their followers anything of the truth, and refused to help them directly, as they believed that human beings must think for themselves and realize the truth for themselves. So they would not help them to ‘ascend’, rather they had to learn for themselves.

These two fictional enlightened races are a great metaphor for two ways we could approach religion or a spiritual tradition. The majority of religions are not too dissimilar to the Ori, in the sense that practitioners are told what to think and how to behave, by following a book. In these religions there is not much room for free-thinking, as they are centred around the concept of faith. All good things are promised to those who have faith, and not for those who harbour doubts or refuse to believe what they are taught. Over time, when one has developed ‘faith’ in their religion, they think for themselves less and less, and rather than relying on answers born from their own contemplation, they refer to answers handed to them by their teacher or written for them in a book. They become like a zombie, or a religious parrot. Like the followers of the Ori, they put aside their own intellect, as a sort of lazy mentality emerges, where all the answers are given to them, so they don’t need to bother to contemplate for themselves.

Buddhism, for the most part, is the healthy alternative, where its practitioners, like the followers of the Ancients, are encouraged to think for themselves and arrive at their own understanding. They are encouraged to look for themselves at the reality of their own minds and see what’s there. Through genuine Buddhism, the mind can become strong and healthy, through seeking out its own understanding.

However, even Buddhists can fall into the Ori’s trap, and this is particularly true for one young tradition, which broke away from its much broader-minded and wiser parent, Tibetan Buddhism. This tradition is called the New Kadampa Tradition, or the NKT.

After it’s break-away from Tibetan Buddhism, the NKT became much more fundamentalist and purist than its predecessor. They removed all books from their Dharma centres that were not written by the NKT Guru, and advised their practitioners to only read their Guru’s books. The NKT wants its followers to have only one source of information on the Dharma, or spiritual truth: their source.

When they choose some of their new followers to becomes teachers, they are instructed to teach directly from these books, and not from any other source of information. They are to put their own understanding aside, and are told to imagine the Guru is speaking through them. Over time, the ‘teacher’ becomes like a mindless parrot, with no understanding of their own to share and only speaking the words they have been told to speak. When they are asked a question about the Dharma, they do not refer to their own understanding, but will often begin their thoughts and speech with “my Guru says.”

If a student ever questions or doubts the teaching of the Guru, they are told that their own mind is impure and deluded, so their own intellect is unreliable, and that they must rely on the Guru’s wisdom instead, as he is enlightened. In this way, students of the NKT gradually learn to think less and less for themselves, as they steadily increase their faith in the Guru’s wisdom. Eventually, they never harbour doubts in their mind, as they perceive their own mind as being deluded and unreliable, so they never take their doubts or questions seriously, and always fall back to their ‘faith’ in the Guru.

This is further enforced through manipulation of the students through fear. There is something I forgot to mention about the Ori: those who refuse to put their faith in them are simply destroyed. This is not so different from the NKT’s brand of fear manipulation. Early on in the student’s learning, they are taught to rely on the Guru, and they are also taught that those who abandon the Guru, or break their vows, will create the horrible karma to be reborn in a violent hell realm for a near-infinite period of time. They are also taught that for every moment of doubt that arises in their minds, they are creating a future in hell for themselves. Over time, these beliefs become ingrained in the student’s mind and they come to really believe these statements to be true. So the student does not dare to doubt the Guru, or to leave the tradition, out of a very real fear of hell.

I don’t think I have to connect the dots any further for the reader, as it is clear to see the blatant and horrifying similarities between the New Kadampa Tradition and the Ori. This, I feel, is the real danger of getting involved with this tradition. It is a great shame, that those sincerely interested in Buddhism, may stumble upon this tradition first and not recognize the difference between it and genuine Buddhism. This is a very real threat as well, as no tradition has expanded at the rate the NKT has. Almost every city and major town in England now has an NKT centre, and even the surrounding towns have branch classes, stretching out from the parent centres. This is due to the large amount of income the NKT receives, through donations from its students, excessive fees for its meditation and Buddhism classes, its festivals, Dharma shops and even hotels and other businesses.

Just like the Ancients of Stargate: SG1, the Buddha’s true intention for us, was for our minds to grow strong, through thinking and questioning things for ourselves, through doubting things not blindly believing them, through doing the work for ourselves, looking and seeing what is the reality or the truth of our own minds and the world we live in. The Buddha wanted us to “come and see”, not just believe what he has told us out of laziness or fear. The Buddha himself grew up in a time where the people put their blind faith in books and superstitions, just like the followers of the Ori, but the Buddha was the one who questioned things, who doubted what he was told. His mind grew strong through thinking and looking for himself, and he wanted everyone else, including you and I, to do the same.

Thank you for reading,
Robertline-gothic

Robert set up a Facebook group, Exposing the NKT. The description of the group is:

This community is for those who wish to share and discuss their experiences within the New Kadampa Tradition, so we can support each other, and also we hope that this information may prove valuable to those interested in the tradition, who want to learn more about what they are getting themselves into.

This is also a community for the research into the Dorje Shugden controversy, and the elaborate campaign the NKT has undertaken against His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

We are not a hate community, and we believe in unbiased research. Our goal is simply to make information available to people, with which they can make up their own minds.

We believe that current NKT practitioners, as well as ex-practitioners, deserve our kindness and respect, so this community will not tolerate any hurtful speech, and we wish only to benefit all parties.

See also

 

Dalai Lama: Good and bad Buddhist monks in Tibetan Buddhism

If we look back, many of the things we did in Tibet were wrong — like sectarianism, not … paying enough attention to monks’ Vinaya rules. If we continue with this kind of system, Buddhism will not exist, will not continue, will terminate one day. In Tibetan tradition we have a saying– in some families, a saying: ‘Oh I have a boy, he’s not very clever, he’s kind of sloppy, let’s put him in the monastery.’ If you do like that, the monasteries and Buddhism will not be in good shape.

So if you want to be a good monk, if you are genuine and determined, then it’s good to become Sangha. And don’t enter Sangha just to find a livelihood there … Monks should be knowledgeable, and hardworking, focused on the Dharma. So then the Sangha will have more respect.

In Tibet, we have a system of monk tax. That means each family has to donate … one child to the monastery. That’s not a very good thing to do but it was passed. Real sangha should be voluntary. So we should not leave everything to custom and tradition. I am saying this out of concern. I personally don’t lose anything … that’s why I’m stressing on these things. We must change our system and should not just carry on with old systems, sort of corrupt and hypocritical ways of our functioning in our older system. – (Day 2, Kalachakra preliminary teaching, 2014 Ladakh; position 1:30, 140,000 attendees)

See also

  • The Monk Scam: Faux monastics prey on tourists in New York City by Daisy Radevsky

Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in Theravada Buddhism – Ajahn Brahm

Theravada Buddhist monks, generally speaking, are very conservative. They often claim that they are the guardians of “Original Buddhism” from the time of the Lord Buddha Himself. They consider that one of their most important duties is to preserve these precious and authentic early teachings. In this context, what was the tradition in the time of The Lord Buddha with regard to women in the Sangha?

All monks of all traditions in all countries, and all Buddhist lay scholars as well, fully accept that there were fully ordained women, called Bhikkhuni, in the lifetime of the Buddha. Moreover, it is clearly stated in these early teachings that one of the goals of the Lord Buddha’s mission was to give the full ordination to women:

Ananda, once I was staying at Uruvela on the bank of the river Neranjara (present day Bodh Gaya) under the Goatherd’s Banyan tree, when I had just attained supreme enlightenment. And Mara the Evil One had come to me, stood to one side and said “May the Blessed One now attain final Nibbana, may the Sugata now attain final Nibbana. Now is the time for the Blessed Lord’s final Nibbana.”

At this, I said to Mara: “Evil One, I will not take final Nibbana until I have bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, lay men and lay women followers, who are accomplished, trained, skilled, learned, knowers of the Dhamma, trained in conformity with the Dhamma, correctly trained and walking in the path of the Dhamma, who will pass on what they have gained from their Teacher, teach it, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear, until they shall be able by means of the Dhamma to refute false teachings that have arisen, and teach the Dhamma of wondrous effect (MahaparinibbanaSutta 3. 34-35)

Theravada Buddhists should have an advantage over other major world religions because their tradition explicitly gives such equity to women. Christianity has no tradition of gender equality in their priesthood. Nor does Islam, Judaism or the various schools of Hinduism. Buddhism stands apart and ahead of its time in granting such status to women from “when I (the Lord Buddha) had just attained supreme enlightenment” at Bodh Gaya.

Therefore, full ordination of women is part of the earliest tradition. It is also the declared wish of the Lord Buddha.

Read more …

Sign the petition

More about Full Ordination for Women in Theravada tradition

More about Full Ordination for Women in Tibetan Buddhism

Propaganda: The making of the holy Lama Ole Nydahl

I am not too much interested to discuss Ole Nydahl in this post. I wrote at length on him here on my German website. The German article was the result of a collective effort by Ole Nydahl followers to remove criticism from the German Wikipedia. After a mediation had been provoked by me one of the (female) editors was able to influence the moderator of the Wikipedia mediation by secretly inviting him to a dinner and a lecture of Ole Nydahl. (I found that out when I checked their talk pages and what they had deleted at those pages.) When I realized this I confronted the moderator and the editor with these facts and finally I withdrew from the mediation and the German Wikipedia article about Ole Nydahl and made my own article about him …

According to all information I checked, read, and received, I think, it is safe to say that Ole Nydahl is a classical elitist leader who gathers people who finally identify themselves with an elitist group and its leadership, the Diamond Way; elitists who are convinced that it are they who bring the Dharma (within the context of Tibetan Buddhism) to the West – and Tibetans or Buddhist monks or nuns are not much needed for this process.

Ok, naivety and pride can make you everything believe no matter how stupid it is.

In that sense Ole Nydal and his Diamond Way followers are quite similar to the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT). Another similarity Ole and his Diamond Way Buddhism share with the New Kadampa Tradition is the occupation of a respected name for their spread in the West. Like the NKT occupies and claims to be the inheritor and the possessor of the ancient Kadampa school, Ole Nydahl and his Diamond Way devotees occupy and claim to be the inheritor and the possessor of the Karma Kaygue Tradition in the West. Both share also the missionary drive, rapid expansion, badly educated teachers, and a superficial understanding of the Dharma. Ole Nydahl has been rightly criticized for promoting a hedonist version of Buddhism. Ole Nydahl has also been accused of speaking in a conceited and militaristic way, of being right wing, racist, sexist, and hostile to foreigners. He became also infamous for his strong hostile attacks against Islam.

However, he and his followers see themselves as yogis … maybe, the first yogis of the Karma Kaygue Tradition who do not live in caves, solitude or the forest and who do not have to rely on renunciation but (samsaric) joys like bungee jumping, fast motorbike races, parachuting, sex etc.

In Germany people reported to me that Ole Nydahl and his followers took over most of the German Karma Kaygue Centers and made them their own centers. They said they did it by making devoted followers members of the respective charity trusts, removing the old board and installing a new board that followed Ole Nydahl and his favorite Karmapa candidate (Thaye Dorje). There were mainly only three very strong persons in Germany who were able to resist Ole Nydahl’s taking over strategy, a former army general and two architects. The latter also won the court case (after Nydahl and his followers took over their centre in Hamburg) and they kicked him and his followers out of it.

Having said this, there are also some good things about Ole Nydahl and his Diamond Way Buddhism:

  • it is not too difficult to leave the group (though similar to NKT to go to other Buddhist teachers, centers or Buddhist traditions, is seen as something to be avoided, and Nydahl and his followers share also an attitude of sectarianism with Kelsang Gyatso and his followers)
  • those who left the group are not damaged too much but report that mainly there has been benefit for them and they can continue under good teachers outside of Diamond Way very easily
  • many (but not all) think with gratitude about their time in Diamond Way, and say it was a good initial start for Dharma practice to them
  • Ole does not establish himself as the sole authority for his students or even as a Buddhist master but Ole invites also other Buddhist teachers like the late Shamar Rinpoche etc.
  • Ole accepts when a student leaves him and when the student says he wants to follow another teacher. A former student told me that Ole wished him all the best and let him go without grasping or hostility.

What I want you to make aware of is the following propaganda video:

Here is an analysis to it:

For a video about Tibetan yogis see here

More critical information about Ole Nydahl

Burkhard Scherer (a desciple of Ole Nydahl) about Nydahl and his group from an (rather biased) academic point of view

Dorje Shugden – a paper about the cessation of Shugden worship in Ladakh and the Western Himalaya

There is now a paper by Prof. Martin A. Mills, Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Religion at the University of Aberdeen, available online that offers interesting insights and a well informed background how the people from Ladakh and the Western Himalaya dealt with the Shugden interdiction and how Shugden worship disappeared in in that area.

Martin Mills also explains how the protests of the New Kadampa Tradition via the Shugden Supporters’ Community made it impossible for the people there to keep their practice and still to see the Dalai Lama as their highest authority and why and how they decided against Shugden and for the Dalai Lama, finally starting to destroy all statues and shrines of Shugden/Dolgyal. The paper gives also an insight about oracles and how a Shugden oracle in that region was found and trained and what rules he had to follow. In a footnote Martin Mills also hints an important point Westerners seem to not be aware of: they judge the Shugden Controversy from a Western/Christian based value system and don’t put themselves into the shoes of Tibetans and their society understanding their internal logic and values, easily falling pray to a European centered view to this issue. The footnote says:

This is another subtle, but important distinction between the Ladakhi view and that commonly expressed by Western supporters of Shugden, who often questioned how the Dalai Lama, who was after all a mere worldly ruler, could intervene in peoples’ beliefs and practices pertaining to a deity. While this view has strong implications in terms of European understandings of human rights (see MILLS 2003a), it is arguably based on a Christian understanding of the distinction between divine and human realms which is simply not shared by most religious adherents within Tibetan Buddhism or, for that matter, Hinduism (see Fuller 1992: Ch. 1).

Read more

Charting the Shugden Interdiction in the Western Himalaya” (2009) by Prof. Dr. Martin A. Mills, Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Religion, in Mountains, Monasteries and Mosques: Recent Research on Ladakh and the Western Himalaya: Proceedings of the 13th Colloquium of the International Association for Ladakh Studies. John Bray and Elena de Rossi Filibeck, eds. Rome: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 251-269.

See also

A Brief Correction of Deliberately Misleading Information on Dorjeshugden.com Regarding the Situation at Sera Mey

GUEST POST

The then Abbot of Sera Mey, Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Rabga, who presided over the separation and segregation of monastic assets allowed Serpom Monastery (formally Pomra Khamtsen) to keep only the buildings on Pomra Khamtsen land, leaving the Serpom monks without a prayer hall, without a school and with insufficient accommodation.

1. This statement is rich, as Khensur Rinpoche Rabga did not leave Pomra Khamtsen without a prayer hall. They were able to keep the kangtsen prayer hall, a picture of which is in the very same article which prints this misleading information! The hall was plenty large enough to accommodate the Pomra monks at the time I was there. If they recruited for new monks amongst children in Nepal and needed a larger prayer hall due to that, this was well after the separation.

In fact, it was the Sera Mey Pomra monks who chose to follow HH Dalai Lama’s advice to stop propitiating Shugden who were left in the lurch. These students of the Dalai Lama have been holding their prayers in the basement of the main Sera Mey temple as they have nowhere else to go at the moment. There is project to build a new prayer hall for the kangtsen, now called Pobhor, on land donated by HHDL and the CTA. You can see a photo of the construction here: http://gedenshoelingcenter.wix.com/geden-insook#!sera-mey-pobhor-khamtsen/zoom/mainPage/imagefaa

2. In fact, it was the monks who decided to follow the advice of the Dalai Lama who were left with insufficient accommodation. Apart from those living at Jungpa and Gosok lhabrangs, monks who stayed in the main Pobhor hostel were made to feel uncomfortable and needed a new place to go. This is why the Pobhor Kangtsen building project also includes new space for accommodation.

3. In regards to the point about only being able to build on Pomra Kangtsen land- the land of Pomra Kangtsen was and is extensive, far more than that of any other kangtsen in Sera Mey. There are still significant amounts of undeveloped land under their control.

The monks of Serpom thus struggled to rebuild from near-zero, and eventually succeeded in raising sufficient funds to build a new prayer hall – the most basic structure required for a monastery.

Misleading, the monks of Serpom already had their prayer hall, the kangtsen kitchen, several large accommodation buildings, the office, a protector chapel, several shops and the kangtsen restaurant. All of which they kept after the separation. As mentioned above, it was the non-Shugden section of Pomra which had to start again from scratch.

The original monk quarters of Pomra Khamtsen

This photo of the original buildings of the khangtsen gives the impression that this is the only accommodation that Pomra was left with after the separation when they founded the Serpom Monastery. This is not the case. Pomra has significant housing assets, the buildings shown in this picture were only the first ones built. It is dishonest to publish these pictures, which give an impression of poverty.

To give you an idea of what the housing is like now, take a look to the right side of the picture, to the structure that rises above the buildings in the forefront. That is Serpom accommodation, built before the separation and which the monks kept after the separation. Very misleading.

Serpom housing includes several large, new and attractive structures to the right and left of the Sera Mey Temple Road, as you towards the temple. I encourage those who visit Sera to take a look.

Behind this wall is Sera Mey’s hospital. It was sponsored by Panglung Rinpoche, a Dorje Shugden lama

The Sera Social Service website, of which the hospital is a part, lists H. Poitner from Germany as the main sponsor of the hospital, not Panglung Rinpoche. Since the Health Centre has been named “The H. Poitner Health Centre” since before the separation of Sera Mey and Serpom, it seems the above quote is easily proven to be misinformation.

H.Poitner Health centre,

H. Poitner Health Centre

The financial plight of Sera Mey went on for some time until Kensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche single-handedly paid off all the monastery’s debts from funds raised through his center in America. With the advice of his root teacher, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Kensur Rinpoche also initiated a number of projects to support the Sera Mey monks, thus allowing them to rebuild Sera Mey Monastery in South India to what it is today.

Although Khensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche (known as Ari Khensur Rinpoche) was an important benefactor, it is an exaggeration to say that he allowed Sera Mey in South India to be rebuilt into what it is today.

For example, the prayer hall project (pictured) history is as follows from the official Sera Mey website: http://serameymonastery.org/historyInExile.aspx

With the compassionate guidance and blessing of His Holiness, the indestructible blessing of the monastic congregation, the swift activities of Sera Mey’s Dharma protector Tha Ok Choegyal Chenmo, the extensive responsibilities shouldered by the most venerable ex-abbot Khyabje Khensur Rinpoche Jetsun Ngawang Thekchok and abbot Khyabje Khen Rinpoche Jetsun Lobsang Jamyang, and through the great financial supports of our sponsors, in 2002, the new monastic assembly was ready for inauguration.

However, when this great Abbot Emeritus visited Sera Mey’s kitchens after the separation, he was denied food and drink – the Sera Mey monks refused to serve him just because of his practice of Dorje Shugden.

This story is doubtful, as the author was present at Sera Mey monastery at the time of Khensur Rinpoche’s passing. Khensur Rinpoche passed away in 2004, BEFORE the separation of Sera Mey and Serpom Monasteries.

In addition, after his passing, Sera Mey performed extensive pujas for him in the main prayer hall. His name still adorns several buildings he helped finance to this day. (link to photos of pujas performed for Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin after his passing in the main assembly hall of Sera Mey: http://gravesinindia.com/blog2/2009/12/ari-khensur-rinpoche-lobsang-tharchin-memorial-service-in-sera/)

Rubbish intentionally strewn alongside the main access road to Serpom Monastery, once again to deter others from visiting. As the land belongs to Sera Mey, Serpom monks are unable to clean up the debris as they will be charged with trespassing.

This area is at the border of the monastery, and has been a place for both Tibetan and local Indians to throw litter well since before Serpom Monastery was founded. It is located near a small creek choked with plastic, and so became a refuse ground.

See also

The White Shadow of the Dalai Lama

Some people from China – especially some communist “concrete heads”, far left wing people, pro Shugden campaigners and a few uninformed journalists or blogger claim a shadow side of the Dalai Lama.

Personally I have nothing against pointing out shadow sides or things which should be addressed. But what they say about the Dalai Lama is often a projection of their own shadows than being based on a real shadow side of the Dalai Lama or just facts and sober knowledge.

In the following guest post Joanne Clark sums up some points worth to consider.

line-gothic
GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

It has impressed me that Shugden websites describe this person they call the “hidden Dalai Lama.” I am impressed because I follow the visible Dalai Lama, listening daily to his teachings, talks and conferences and I am awed by how any man can fit all that he does into one lifetime—yet now I am being told that he can fit even more! I would expect that during those hours that I don’t see of the Dalai Lama, he would need to be resting. But no, according to the Shugden websites, there is this “shadow” Dalai Lama who can fit an entire other lifetime in, complete with secret strategies and agendas, and he doesn’t need any rest! At the same time, they claim he is not an enlightened being!

To demonstrate my confusion, I would like to simply present a few of the facts that are clearly visible about the Dalai Lama. He is arguably the most visible and transparent individual on earth. There are literally thousands of hours of talks, interviews, teachings, conferences, photos, speech transcripts, books and random video clips of His Holiness in action in the world. I once even saw a video of him brushing his teeth!

Not only is he transparent, but he is definitely the most consistent individual I have ever known. Sometimes, for a follower such as myself, it can be a little boring listening to the same message again and again, the same stories and jokes. I have seen him jetlagged and badgered, but I have never seen him stray from who he is. Surely if there was this other “hidden” Dalai Lama, he would show up in the cracks now and then, show up under pressure or extreme fatigue?

I am concerned that the strategy of the Shugden camp is to repeat their fallacies about the Dalai Lama again and again, on many different websites, in order to create an illusion that these fallacies are true and widespread. Over time, I have noticed that even assertions that can be clearly refuted by evident fact are becoming assumptions amongst NKT students. So to counter that, I am providing the following list of evident facts about the Dalai Lama. These are not things that need to be proven or argued about. They are simply clearly evident facts. Hopefully, wise and reflective NKT students can pause a moment and ask themselves if all that they are hearing about a “hidden” Dalai Lama can be true. That’s all I ask, simply for a moment of reflection and pause.

  1. His Holiness is no longer the political leader of Tibet. He fully relinquished that role in 2011. Before that, he was in “semi-retirement”, meaning that he was in the role only of an advisor. He has been working towards the democratization of the Tibetan government for many years. Does he advise on political matters still? I see no evidence of that. If you read his speech on retirement, it is clear that his interest is now solely on his spiritual responsibilities. He has also said on many occasions that he believes that combining spiritual and political powers is not a good thing. http://www.dalailama.com/messages/retirement/retirement-remarks
  2. His Holiness takes no money for teachings or talks. Teachings in India are free and Tibetan tea and bread are generously served to attendees. Proceeds for events overseas are used to cover the expenses of his visit. Any excess is used by the host sponsors either for charitable purposes or to further their own mission. If you want to donate to His Holiness, you will be redirected by his website to the Dalai Lama Trust: http://www.dalailamatrust.org This is a non-profit charity, supporting many causes. In 2013, the trust contributed $50,000 to the Red Cross to support typhoon relief efforts in the Phillipines and $1,250,000 to the Emory-Tibet Science Partnership. In 2012, the trust contributed $1,510,000 to support science partnership projects in the West, including $1,250,000 to the Mind and Life Institute in Hadley, Mass. In that year, $10,000 went to the Tibet Fund in New York and $84,350 went to the Tibetan Village project in Westminster, Colorado.
  3. As evidenced by his generous donations, His Holiness is passionately interested in dialogue between science and contemplative traditions. His interest is based on the belief that contemplative traditions have much to learn from science and science has much to learn from contemplative traditions. http://www.mindandlife.org There are hours of conferences with panels of leading scientists in discussion with His Holiness on webcasts available on his website (www.dalailama.com). His Holiness spends most of the time during those conferences listening to scientists report on findings and asking questions. The topic is always grounded on themes of altruism and mindfulness.
  4. Resulting from these conferences are several projects that His Holiness is very enthusiastic about. These include bringing altruism/secular ethics as a subject and discipline into schools around the world—and bringing Western science as a subject and discipline into Tibetan monastic institutions.
  5. In addition to this commitment to human values, His Holiness is also committed to the promotion of religious harmony. Towards this end, he meets with religious leaders around the world, visits different religious temples and mosques, prays and chants side by side with other religious practitioners. He teaches frequently on the sameness of all religions in terms of their emphasis on human values of love, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness.
  6. I have listened to many hours of his teachings and talks and conferences. I have never heard him speak about Geshe Kelsang or the NKT. He does speak about lamas misbehaving, but does not specifically name any lama. He speaks about Shugden only when asked a direct question about the practice or when he is about to give an initiation (in which case, he requests that Shugden practitioners not attend). On both these occasions, he calmly gives his extensive reasons for discouraging worship of Shugden and for his belief that Shugden worship limits religious freedom. Citations of these reasons can be found on this website and his own website.
  7. Every time His Holiness teaches in the West, he advises attendees that it is safer to keep to their own traditional religions and he discourages them from conversion. He has many friends and followers from other religious traditions. He never propagates Buddhism—but he does propagate altruism!
  8. His Holiness teaches from Buddha, Tsongkhapa, Nagarjuna, Shantideva and Kamalashila frequently. These are clearly his favorite teachers. He says frequently that the Tibetan tradition is the Nalanda tradition and that we need to base our practice and study on those scholars of ancient India. This is the basis of his non-sectarian approach—returning to the root and foundation of all the Tibetan traditions and lineages. He has books out on Dzogchen and Mahamudra, but he does not teach extensively from traditions other than Gelug.
  9. His Holiness requests that students have copies of the root texts that he is teaching from. He will ask during teachings if they have brought their copies. Often these texts are provided. I attended a teaching on the Bodhicharyavatara in New York and attendees were given copies of the entire text.
  10. His Holiness states many times that students need to be “21st century Buddhists” and be well read. By this he means studying from a broad base of Buddhist texts as well as reading scientific and other modern texts. He encourages students to investigate and question, even their own teachers if necessary. He quotes Tsongkhapa and the Buddha—and cites stories from past masters such as Atisha—to support this approach.
  11. Yes, His Holiness “hobnobs” with the rich and famous. He also communicates with and never forgets the poor and destitute. There are stories of him making sure to meet with the employees of his hotels and teaching venues. There are photos of him with those employees. I have also seen pictures of him stopping his car in order to give to a beggar. I have seen him lovingly touching the face of a lepper. I have heard that most Tibetans who make the dangerous trip over mountain passes to leave Tibet receive an audience with His Holiness upon arriving in India. I sponsor a nun who spent some years in a Chinese prison before escaping Tibet. She is just an ordinary nun, but received an audience with His Holiness upon her arrival in India. I believe he is the most accessible of all the Dalai Lamas.
  12. When I attend his teachings, talks and conferences, I sit beside Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. All of them are deeply moved by his presence. Some of them weep. Some of them rush up to the stage to touch his hand after the event. Some of them call out “I love you.” These are people in the thousands and they are not going crazy, because they leave more grounded in reality and basic human values than they were when they came in. I have communicated with some of these people afterwards. These emotional experiences do not make them abject followers of His Holiness. They don’t cause them to become crazy. Nor do they lead them to become Buddhists. Rather, they make them more interested in their inner values, less interested in material gain and more kind to their fellow human being. Simple things. These are clearly what motivate the visible Dalai Lama.

See also

The Call of the Dalai Lama to settle the Shugden controversy by majority vote

The following video from 2008 shows how China uses the Shugden issue to create schism and how China covers and destroys Padmasambhava statues and how these and other developments in India led the Dalai Lama to suggest to solve the Shugden controversy based on the Vinaya (the monastic rules for monks and nuns as laid down by the Buddha) via majority vote. The Dalai Lama states:

Up to now, I have only given advice about the disadvantages of such a practice, based on my own experience and words of past great masters, as it is my duty to point out faults of such practice. But, it is up to the individual whether they want to heed my advice or not. Never ever I told anyone that you cannot propitiate Doegyal. Right from the beginning I have always quoted a stanza from Khache Bhalu’s advice, that “I Khache Bhalu have given you my sincere advice, now it is up to you if you listen or not.” … But, now time has come, where we no longer can continue … [and HH the Dalai Lama asks for a coloured stick vote, a referendum] … Now the time has come to ask the majority! …

  1. Whether you want to propitiate Doegyal or not? Those who want to propitiate Doegyal should sign: “Yes, I want to propitiate.” Those who don’t want to propitiate Doegyal should sign: “No, I don’t want to propitiate Doegyal.” …
  2. Those who want to share religious and mundane activities with Doegyal propitiators, should sign: “Yes, I want to share!”. Then, those who don’t want to share religious as well as mundane activities with Doegyal propitiators, should sign: “No!”.

Then see what happens. Let’s do the voting, nobody is forcing. If the final result of voting shows more than 60% want to propitiate Doegyal, then from this day onward I shall never utter even a single word about Doegyal.

His Holiness Dalai Lama Talk on Dolgyal (English Subs) Drepung Monastery, Mundgod. 7th Jan, 2008.

See also

The Organizational Similarities Between Scientology and the New Kadampa Tradition, and the Impact on the ISC’s Shugden Protest Campaign

GUEST POST

It struck me that last year the British based independent charity INFORM – providing reliable and up-to-date information about cults, sects, new religious movements (NRMs) etc., founded in 1988 by Professor Eileen Barker with the support of the British Home Office and the mainstream Churches – received more inquiries regarding the New Kadampa Tradition than regarding Scientology. In the West, especially in North America, Scientology is famous for its front organizations that claim to represent causes such as “religious freedom” but in effect serve Scientology’s financial and missionary interests.

This piece will first examine the organizational similarities between the Church of Scientology and the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and then seek to explain how this impacts the flavour of the current International Shugden Community’s (ISC’s) hate campaign against the Dalai Lama.

Top Down Organizational Structure

Scientology claims to be a modern organization, calling its upper echelons a  “system of international ecclesiastical management”. However, according to former church members such as Debbie Cook and Mike Rinder, the decision making power of these bodies is extremely limited. All decisions are made by David Miscavige, the “ecclesiastical leader”, and when members question his decisions they are immediately removed from the organization.

Likewise, the NKT claims to be a democratic body under the leadership of “elected spiritual directors and the education council”. This, however, is a smokescreen as all of the real power continues to lie with Kelsang Gyatso and one or two close attendants. KG, as is revealed in the letter where he fires Lucy James, makes all final decisions regarding the appointment and expulsion of resident teachers. This is very clear in the letter where he states “Since you don’t trust me, I cannot work with you. Therefore, I am appointing a new resident teacher.”

Closure of Branches that Do Not Follow the Franchise Rules

Scientology Centres (Orgs) have to offer exactly the same programs and toe the party line of the headquarters. Orgs that try to exert a degree of independence have their leaders immediately disciplined. Scientology attempts to shut them down, as is the case in the Org located in Isreal.

The New Kadampa Tradition has a similar structure. All centres must unquestioningly abide by the decisions of the leader, Kelsang Gyatso, and the Education council that he dominates. When members of the centre in Bexhill, UK tried to rally around a resident monk who was the most active teacher at their centre, as he was being fired for teaching impurely, NKT broke UK charity laws, appointed a completely new board, and locked the board members out of the centre. Repeated inquiries about why the resident monk was impure were met with silence. To this day the illegally ousted board members’ pleas for mediation have been ignored by the NKT’s central office and education council.

Censure of Independent Teachers

Scientology is jealously protective of its “religious technology” or teachings. Anyone who leaves scientology, no matter how experienced in its practice, is not allowed to use what they learned. When Marty Rathbun, a Scientology official with decades of experience, left the Church, he was harassed for “Squirreling” or presenting Scientology teachings outside of the organization. Scientology made every effort to prevent him from continuing to teach.  (http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/07/scientologys_do.php)

The NKT is exactly the same. No one who leaves, even with decades of experience, is allowed to teach Buddhism according to their rules. In the case of Tenzin Peljor, he was told if he studied with other teachers he would automatically lose his monk’s ordination. Nick Gillespie, an NKT pioneer with decades of experience, was fired for reasons that were very unclear. When he tried to publish a book about Buddhism, even though it was laudatory of the NKT, he was banned and threatened with a lawsuit by Kelsang Gyatso. As punishment for daring to write his own book, Nick was banned forever from NKT. (http://www.nktworld.org/nixed.html)

Closed Systems

Scientology is not a developing or fluid philosophy. Only books by L. Ron Hubbard are deemed appropriate reading. Scientology’s who spent their lives in the system are not considered qualified writers. Similarly, in NKT only the books of Kelsang Gyatso are permitted to be sold and used at centres. Teachers who refer to other books or teachings, even of the Gelug founder Lama Tzongkhapa (the lineage Gyatso claims to represent), can be fired immediately.

Working for Free

Both the NKT and Scientology depend on members who work for free and have no qualms about kicking people out after years of service and leaving them with nothing. The Sea Org (Scientology’s clergy) makes no attempt to secure health plans, retirement options or housing once its members are no longer useful. Similarly, NKT takes no responsibility for its “monks and nuns” who often devote years of their lives to the organization when they become old or sick.

Harassment of Critics, Litigiousness

Both NKT and Scientology are highly litigious, seeking to harass and intimidate anyone who critiques their organizations. In the case of Scientology, critics are “fair gamed”- harassed and intimidated into silence. News organizations who report critically on Scientology are routinely threatened with legal action through Scientology lawyer Kendrick Moxon. (http://www.xenu-directory.net/practices/silencing.html)

NKT is equally litigious, and has threatened other Buddhist organizations, umbrella groups, internet discussion forums and private individuals. Of special note is Gary Beasley, who was about to publish an extensively researched book on the NKT and its involvement in the Shugden controversy. Gary was threatened with a lawsuit and was unable to incur the legal costs necessary to publish the book due to the United Kingdom’s archaic libel laws.

NKT also used Scientology’s “Fair Game” style tactics against several of its critics on the internet. In several cases, it alluded to psychological problems in an effort to assassinate the character of its critics. NKT members have mentioned finding out where the Dalai Lama’s friends live so they can picket them. Scientology has used exactly the same tactic in the past.

Unpaid Clergy Promise To Stay For Lifetimes

The Sea Org, Scientology’s “clergy” of dedicated members, are considered the elites of the organization. All work is without, and a number of religious vows and commitments are undertaken. When one is accepted into the Sea Org, one signs a “Billion Year Contract” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Org) promising to remain in the clergy for many future lifetimes. One can never leave even after one’s physical body has been left behind.

NKT’s monks and nuns, who are not ordained according to the Buddhist precepts of other orders, but instead a unique NKT formula, are also expected to return in future lifetimes. In an academically published memoir of her time in the NKT, Carol McQuire mentions her suprise when Kelsang Gyatso informed the new monks and nuns at her ordination that they should promise to “ordain again in future lifetimes”. Shocked at making a promise lifetimes long, McQuire was surprised that she seemed the only one in the group disturbed by this.

Concerted Efforts To Manipulate Wikipedia Entries

Scientology is famous for putting together organized groups of people to repeatedly delete and re-write any passages on Wikipedia critical of its beliefs or organization. Whenever the material re-appeared Scientology would immediately post someone to once again remove it, or begin the lengthy and painful Wikipedia arbitration process. The hope was basically to try and tire out any opposition so that Scientology’s version of the articles would be the only ones left. In the end, Wikipedia made the only decision it could- to block editing by confirmed members of the movement. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Scientology_editing_on_Wikipedia)

The New Kadampa Tradition has also organized teams of members (often during its ‘festivals”) to edit and purge wikipedia articles critical of both Dorje Shugden and the NKT movement. Tenzin Peljor mentions on this blog how NKT posters to wikipedia  fought tooth and nail against any academic or historic sources and passages not fitting their image of Shugden. They managed, in fact, to completely re-write the history of Shugden into that of a fully enlightened Buddha, and remove traces of even the most minor critical comments about the practice from Wikipedia articles. NKT was deeply dishonest in this campaign, using sockpuppets and dodgy sources to win the day.

Substandard Living Conditions Of Committed Members

Members of Scientology’s Sea Org often speak about the substandard living conditions they endured while serving the mission of Scientology. Rather than show concern for their Welfare, Scientology directs its money to “the mission”, establishing large and flashy churches called “Ideal Orgs” while ordinary members live in sub-standard conditions. (http://tonyortega.org/2014/03/23/three-weeks-out-of-scientology-fresh-information-from-a-blown-sea-org-member/)

In the New Kadampa Tradition, the health and comfort of residents comes second to the NKT’s missionary activities. Carol McQuire mentions enduring the smell of dead rats under the floorboards in her dharma centre. In online cartoons created about her experience in the NKT, a former nun mentions how when chronically ill and unable to work for the centre, she was shifted to a drafty room with insufficient insulation during the cold and damp English winter. Eventually she was simply kicked out.

While the ground troops of the mission suffer, NKT sends its funds to its own “Ideal Orgs”- the flashy International Temples with guilded shrines and hardwood floors.

Pressure To Donate And Dishonest Fundraising Tactics

Scientology is famous for its constant demands for the financial resources of its members. Big is never big enough and Scientology has no qualms about putting pressure on members for donations. Stature within the organization is determined by the generosity of one’s donations. Scientology asks for loans from its members, but often takes a very long time to pay them back or doesn’t pay them back at all. Wealthy members are targeted with special treatment and flattery, in an effort to secure their financial resources. (http://www.christianpost.com/news/scientology-official-criticizes-leader-for-obsessively-fundraising-1-billion-66266/)

The New Kadampa Tradition also has an insatiable appetite for funds. Like Scientology, it often begins fundraising efforts by asking members for “interest-free loans”. One former monk mentioned what happened when he asked for the return of the loan money, ironically so that he would be able to cover his rent costs in the NKT Centre’s flat!:

“I was asked to give a loan. I gave all my savings and when I asked later to get it back they said I should be patient. They gave me the feeling that I was addicted to my money and that it is inappropriate to ask to get it back.

Only one day after the date I had to pay my high rent they complained about my behaviour. They warned me about how much negative Karma I created by not paying my rent on time. They denied that it is 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.” (http://www.newkadampatruths.org/?page_id=83)”

The NKT also uses benefit systems of countries such as the United Kingdom to cover the living expenses of volunteers and teachers within the organization. This reduces overhead and allows those funds to be channeled towards establishing new centres for the mission. This was well documented in the article “Shadow Boxing on the Path to Nirvana”:

“In some centres a substantial proportion of NKT resident members are on income support and housing benefit. Nuns and monks told former NKT members that they took off their traditional Tibetan robes to sign on at the local benefit office. “At the Tara Centre in Derbyshire, they told me that all 24 residents were on benefit except one Swiss nun,” says the ex-NKT member.” (http://www.tibet.ca/en/library/wtn/archive/old?y=1996&m=7&p=6_3)

No Questioning Of Decisions Allowed

While Scientology and the NKT try to promote an image that they are open, democratic organizations, this is not at all the case. Both institutions require unquestioning loyalty and the penalties for expressing opinions against those of the leadership are harsh and immediate.

In Scientology those critical of the leadership are immediately subjected to a strict disciplinary process and unless they recant can be subject to “excommunication”. Members of the clergy and staff working at the Orgs are subject to “sec-checks- security measures that make sure they are towing the party line. They are led to believe that “their eternity is at stake” and they will be set back thousands of lives of spiritual progress if they do not submit to the authority of the organization. (http://leavingscientology.wordpress.com/)

In the NKT spiritual authority lies solely with Kelsang Gyatso and his appointed “spiritual directors”. To question any decision, such as the protests against Dorje Shugden, leads to immediate expulsion as mentioned above. Members live in fear of displeasing the Guru and highly placed “resident teachers”. This is because they are taught that the karmic result of that is misery in future lives. Anything less than complete obedience is considered anti-Buddhist:

“Kelsang wrote to one follower after he left him: “You are going against my spiritual wishes and as you say … rebelling against my system, such a thing has never happened before in Buddhist history.” To a devout Buddhist, this was devastating.”

After taking tantric empowerments, which involve commitments to the preceptor of such initiations, members feel even more bound and fearful. Often, they have no idea the level of commitment these empowerments entail. Only after receiving them are they warned that now they must unquestioningly follow any instruction, lest they fall into Vajra Hell. This is stated by several former NKT members in the BBC documentary “Unholy Row”:

Scientology’s Citizens Commission for Human Rights and NKT’s International Shugden Community

All of us brings us to a discussion of the NKT’s current anti-Dalai Lama campaign and its striking similarity to various Scientology campaigns that also claim to fight for “human rights”.

The first thing to note is that Scientology and the NKT both use front organizations and try to deny any connection to the leadership of their “religious organizations”. In fact, both of these organizations are not about human rights at all, but methods to anonymously attack critics. And especially, to attack their enemies. In the case of Scientology, Psychiatry and various governments. In the case of the NKT, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).

Both of these organizations make comparisons between their “enemies” and Nazism. Scientology has a traveling museum connecting the Psychiatric profession with the suffering that occurred in concentration camps. (http://www.xenu.net/archive/infopack/12.htm)

NKT members have on their facebook pages compared the Dalai Lama to Hitler for his opposition to the Shugden practice. They have tried to link walls that were constructed in monasteries with the isolation of Jews into ghettos in prior to the second world war. (Incidentally, this claim about the walls in Tibetan monasteries was easily disproven with photographic evidence).

fireshot-capture-67-segregation-wall-at-ganden-monastery-c2ab-western-shugden-society-shugdensociety_wordpress_com_2008_07_16_segregation-ganden-monastery

When connections between the ISC and NKT are drawn, NKT members incredulously deny them, despite the fact that the most recent ISC meetings took place during the NKT’s Summer Festival in Cumbria, UK. The supposed separation between the NKT and ISC is crucial to posit as the NKT is supposed to function as a non-profit religious organization and could lose its tax breaks in the UK if it was shown to be involved in political activities.

It is hoped that the NKT will take a step back and recognize how its behaviour mirrors that of one of the world’s most notorious organizations, Scientology. Before being considered the “Scientology of Buddhism”, the NKT should take immediate steps to democratize its organization, and be more transparent about its involvement in the very political Shugden protests.

Rather than blaming the Dalai Lama for its various problems, the NKT would be wise to improve the way it treats its members. To be more transparent in the way it makes decisions, to allow alternate points of view, and to provide at least some security to those who have devoted their lives to the organization when they become old and sick.

They would be wise to stop their campaign of yelling and hatred against the Dalai Lama, as this takes away from the very critical organizational problems within the NKT that cause suffering to so many of its members. Please NKT, consider the truth of these words and change, for the benefit of the reputation of Buddhism in general and for the welfare of your members.

last updated on June 01, 2014 at 8:30 pm

New Kadampa Tradition, Shugden and the Dangers of an Exclusivist Attitude

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

Recently, I sat for long hours throughout the night and day beside my mother’s bed as she lay dying. I sang her hymns. I read her verses from the bible. My mala was around my wrist, ready, but it remained mostly unused. Instead, I entered my mother’s devout Christian world in order to better help her. Not only did this give her comfort, it comforted me as well to know that she could be helped. I felt a strong gratitude towards Christianity for that fact.

Unfortunately, this was not the case eleven years before, when I sat beside my father’s deathbed. All I could do then was recite mantra. I lacked the courage and insight to see what he might find comforting and what his unique needs were. I dared not enter his theistic world to better help him die and provide him comfort—because I was Buddhist. I was exclusively Buddhist, “pure” Buddhist, born-again, Kagyu Buddhist. I had taken a vow to help all sentient beings, down to the smallest insect, until every one is totally helped—yet I lacked a perspective broad enough to help my own father.

I was also psychologically damaged at that time, a cult-follower. I dressed, acted, decorated my house and spoke in ways that divorced me from my family and friends. I thought in ways that divorced me from my greater intelligence. My life had become narrowed to a single, totalistic view of the world, a simplistic menu of mantra, devotion and puja practice—nothing like the vast expanse of the Buddha’s wisdom—of Nagarjuna and Tsongkhapa’s teachings. I did not read or commune with any views outside of my single Tibetan Buddhist lineage of the time. I was a nice person, but I was unprepared for reality, unable to help a soul. This is what I call cultism—and sectarianism—at their very worst.

When I turned away from my last Dharma center and decided to study and practice in exile, through the guidance of HH Dalai Lama, it took me many years to break free of that exclusivist, narrow outlook. I wanted one practice, one thought, one “pure tradition” that would help me get better. Instead, I found myself in a nuanced, multi-dimensional, contextual, complex reality—the Buddha’s reality. There was this approach to a bad day—and that approach—and yet another approach still. I kept my vows and commitments strictly, but I discovered that they also were vast and inclusive of many realities and approaches. This new outlook became the source of my mental health and my ability finally to sit beside my mother’s deathbed and provide some small assistance in her greatest time of need.

In this context, whenever I hear protestors accusing the Dalai Lama of limiting their religious freedom, I am always shocked. That is very far from my own experience! The Dalai Lama’s approach to dharma gave me back my religious freedom—it freed me from deep biases and exclusivism. In those dark, early days of my recovery, the words that penetrated most deeply were his instructions to “read more books,” to “become a 21st century Buddhist,” to “know the reality” and “study, study, study.” By this, he did not mean his own books—he meant the texts by the Nalanda scholars and Buddha himself and many other great Buddhist scholars, such as Kamalashila and Tsongkhapa. He also meant books by scientists and leaders of other religions. He meant that we live in a world of mass communication and interdependence and it is no longer appropriate or wise or compassionate to hide away and practice in a narrow, exclusive reality.

Recently, my courage in this regard was challenged when I found myself engaged in debate with bloggers on the website Dialogue Ireland. The comments there were full of vitriol and venom towards my teacher, the Dalai Lama, accusing him of deceit and evil intentions, of being the mastermind of a great conspiracy to take over the minds of millions of human beings. They called him a “lamaist cult leader.” Despite the fact that their comments were mostly silly, illogical and childish, they seemed to have a momentum and power and so I took upon myself the job of checking on their allegations to see if they contained any truth.

I read widely. I read Tibetan history according to legitimate mainstream scholars—and also according to biased reports such as the Trimondis, Chinese propaganda and Dalai Lama devotees. I read from the Dalai Lama’s autobiographies. I read from the websites that were quoted on Dialogue Ireland. I discovered that their allegations were all either complete fabrications, statements and facts taken out of context, or flagrant exaggerations.

Later, I discovered that there was a strong possibility these commenters had some connection to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso—because he was the only Tibetan Buddhist lama they refused to criticize. So I started reading his books as well. I have been surprised to find within them an exclusivist approach to the Dharma that is very different from the approach of my own teacher. So today I am asking how far that exclusivism goes? I ask if those protestors shouting themselves hoarse outside a Dalai Lama teaching would allow themselves the freedom to do as I am doing? Would they read the Dalai Lama’s two autobiographies? Would they read his Buddhist teachings and books on secular topics? Would they attend his conferences with scientists and religious leaders? Would they read histories of Tibet by peer-reviewed scholars? If not, how can they give themselves the right to shout?

Last October, I attended a teaching with the Dalai Lama in New York city. While waiting in line, I was subjected to a small band of protestors, shouting over and over “Dalai Lama go home.” I smiled to myself, thinking how silly that sounded, thinking to myself, “The Dalai Lama would love to go home.” But then I noticed the elderly Tibetan woman in front of me. She looked hurt and bewildered by the shouting. I wondered about her life in Tibet before leaving, whether she had suffered badly. I wondered whether she had family still in Tibet whom she worried about.

I write this only to remind Shugden protestors that reality is much bigger than their one narrow view, that there are suffering human beings involved and so, it is their duty to read widely and objectively—to know all the details and complexities of the reality they are claiming to know.

In this context, I question the exclusivist approach to dharma being taken within the NKT study program. I question its potential danger to students and to others. I question whether it is realistic—or does it limit students’ ability to help others and honor their bodhisattva vows? With only one teacher interpreting the entire Buddhist canon, with very few exceptions, I believe that the NKT study program risks being biased and dangerously limited. In his commentary on Lamrim, Geshe Kelsang writes:

If possible, we should study Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way and Chandrakirti’s Guide to the Middle Way together with their commentaries, especially the commentaries by Je Tsongkhapa. A commentary to the Guide to the Middle Way can be found in the book Ocean of Nectar [by Geshe Kelsang himself]. The texts by Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti are like doors that open the meaning of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, and Je Tsongkhapa’s texts are like keys to those doors. However, if we cannot study so extensively we should study and practice according to the following Lamrim instructions because they contain the essential meaning of all the other great texts. (p. 518)

Given that “the following Lamrim instructions” are Geshe Kelsang’s own interpretation of Lamrim, and given that he lists another of his commentaries in the list of important texts students should read, it would seem that he is telling students that his teachings are sufficient and all that they need to read in order to tread on the Buddhist path.

I have never read such a statement from any teacher before. One trouble with this statement is that it might easily feed laziness and wrong views in a practitioner. For example, we in the West are prone to searching for that quick fix, that pill, that easy, cheap, fast path to enlightenment. If someone says we don’t need to work as hard as Milarepa or other great masters of the past, we might not want to argue!

I have learned from hard experience myself that the greatest, most precious of freedoms is the freedom to be informed. The first step in any totalitarian effort, whether of governments or cults, is to limit access to information. This can be blatant or very subtle—externally imposed or internally imposed. Robert Lifton (1986), who is still quoted today in discussions about cultic characteristics in groups, listed “milieu control” as the first of eight such characteristics:

  1. Milieu Control.  This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.

http://www.csj.org/studyindex/studymindctr/study_mindctr_lifton.htm

Ex-NKT students claim that milieu control exists in the NKT culture. They say that it is subtle in the early years of students’ involvement, but by the time a student becomes a teacher, the milieu control is blatant and rigid. They claim that teachers are not allowed to study from texts other than Geshe Kelsang’s prescribed texts—and are expelled if they bring texts from outside into NKT premises. Is that true?  I cannot judge myself, but I think NKT students need to ask it—again and again.

Recently, I read a comment by an NKT student on this website which alarmed me:

… the Heart Commitment of Dorje Shugden is to follow one tradition purely without mixing while respecting everyone else’s spiritual path as appropriate for them. So individually, we choose to not mix, but externally we respect everyone’s freedom to practice as they wish.

Is this true? What does it mean to make this “Heart Commitment” (with capital letters) and not mix? I would ask Shugden worshippers if this heart commitment means any of the following:

  • Not reading the texts or scriptures from other religious traditions.
  • Not singing hymns or chanting from another tradition in order to provide comfort to another human being or bring a spirit of religious tolerance within one’s community.
  • Not finding out about other Buddhist traditions, such as other Tibetan Buddhist lineages, Zen, Theravada etc., in order to deepen one’s own understanding and ability to help others.
  • Not investigating the words of one’s teacher and being prepared to question them if necessary.
  • Not doing any of these things because of fear. Not reading a Nyingma text or a text by the Dalai Lama because the thought of doing so brings fear.

If Shugden supporters answer yes, would that be milieu control? Is the NKT approach to dharma exclusive and sectarian? Here is another passage from Geshe Kelsang’s commentary on Lamrim, that demonstrates his perspective on this:

If we know how to practice the whole Lamrim, we shall know how to practice all other scriptures. Whenever we receive any other teaching, we shall know where to place it within Lamrim. In this way, each new instruction we receive will amplify and reinforce those we have already learnt. Suppose someone is given a handful of rice that he or she cannot use immediately.  If that person has nowhere to store the rice he will not be able to put it to good use and will have to throw it away, but if he has built a storeroom to hold bags of different cereals he will be able to put the rice in the appropriate bag and increase his store. When the time is right he will be able to put the rice to good use. Lamrim is like such a storeroom.  For example, Hinayana teachings can be stored amongst the stages of the path of a person of intermediate scope. Mahayana teachings can be stored amongst the stages of the path of a person of great scope, Vajrayana teachings can be stored amongst the stages of Secret Mantra within Lamrim, teachings on dependent relationship and the middle way can be stored within the stage of superior seeing, and so forth. Without studying the entire Lamrim we may receive many different instructions and still be wondering what to do, like a person standing with a handful of rice wondering where to put it. If we are like this, we shall waste most of the instructions we receive.

Indeed, this simile lays a broad outline for Lamrim, one that could easily incorporate a non-sectarian and inclusive approach to dharma practice and study. However, in the next paragraph, Geshe Kelsang narrows this perspective down dramatically:

While the great Tibetan Master Kyabje Phabongkha was living in Kham in eastern Tibet, a Geshe arrived there from one of the great Gelug monasteries and went to receive practical instructions from a Nyingma Lama. The local people concluded that the Gelugpas had no practice since such a great Geshe needed to go looking for one. When Kyabje Phabongkha heard of this he said that it was a great shame that this Geshe had wasted so many years of instruction by failing to realize that all his previous study was to be put into practice. It was possible for the Geshe to lose so much time because he had not built the storeroom of Lamrim within his own mind. (p. 21)

Would Tsongkhapa agree with such a sectarian division carved into Lamrim? Though he was often critical of unethical practices within other lineages, he himself studied and received vows from teachers of different Tibetan Buddhist lineages. In fact, Atisha’s lineage of Lamrim spread throughout Tibet and not only to the Gelug lineage. HH Dalai Lama states in his commentary on Lamrim Chenmo:

Following Atisha’s arrival in Tibet and composition of the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, each of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism in some way adopted the pattern and structure of the stages of the path teachings. For example, in the Nyingma tradition, Longchenpa’s Mind at Ease presents the path in a way that follows the basic structure of Atisha’s approach. The same is true of Sakya Pandita’s Clear Elucidation of the Buddha’s Intent, which could be seen as a fusion of the stages of the path teachings with mind-training (lojong) teachings. Similarly, in the Kagyu tradition, Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation presents the basic structure of the path in a manner just like what Atisha lays out. Sometimes, slightly different sequences are adopted, but basically in all of these traditions the stages of the path are very similar. For example, the Jewel Ornament of Liberation speaks of turning one’s mind away from four things.  If you look at these four turnings of the mind, they echo teachings in the stages of the path tradition. (p.20)

Historically, it has been a tradition among Tibetan masters to study and also to practice all the lineages—Sakya, Kagyu, Gelug, Nyingma—and Jonang as well. This is an excellent model. We should adopt a nonsectarian approach, not just studying all of these lineages but also putting all of their teachings into practice. (p. 24)

Why couldn’t the great, inclusive “storehouse” of Lamrim that Geshe Kelsang describes be used to store “grains” from other religious traditions? Why does he use the simile to exclude? Here is what Tsongkhapa says in Lamrim Chenmo about how inclusive students need to be in their practice:

Bodhisattvas make it their goal to accomplish the good of the world [all living beings]. Since bodhisattvas must take care of students who are followers of all three lineages [those of sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas], they must train in the paths of these lineages…

By stating, ‘Those benefactors of beings who accomplish the good of the world through the knowledge of paths…’ Ajita indicates in the Ornament for Clear Knowledge that knowing the paths of the three vehicles is the method for bodhisattvas to achieve the goal they have set. Also the Mother of Conquerors [The Eighteen-Thousand-Verse Perfection of Wisdom Sutra] says:

Bodhisattvas should produce all paths—whatever is the path of a sravaka, a pratyekabuddha,or a Buddha—and should know all paths. They should also perform the deeds of these paths and bring all of them to completion. (Vol. 1: pp. 46-47)

This is in line with the words of HH Dalai Lama, who states,

… Tsong-kha-pa cites many texts, including the Perfection of Wisdom sutras, where the Buddha states that a practitioner must study, understand and actually practice all aspects of the path. If you really aspire to help many billions of living beings with diverse mental dispositions, then you have to understand and practice many diverse teachings and approaches. This is what prepares you.

Later in his commentary on Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo, His Holiness furthers his inclusive and pluralistic viewpoint by quoting from the Buddha:

For example, in Lankavatara sutra, (Descending Into Lanka sutra), there is a statement where the Buddha identifies various types of vehicles and he calls them the vehicles of the celestial beings, vehicles of the humans, and vehicles of the disciples, vehicles of the bodhisattvas and so on– and where the point is made that as long as there would exist, among the sentient beings, tremendous diversity of mental dispositions and spiritual inclinations, there will evolve tremendously diverse forms of vehicles, spiritual vehicles. So in this sutra, the spirit of pluralism is very clearly presented. (Day Four am: HH Dalai Lama; Teaching on Tsongkhapa’s Great Treatises on the Stages of the Path; 2008, Pennsylvania, USA http://www.dalailama.com/webcasts/post/301-great-treatise-on-the-stages-of-the-path-to-englightenment

The Dalai Lama bases his nonsectarian, inclusive approach on quotes from the Buddha and Tsongkhapa. Where are the scriptural sources for the heart commitment of Shugden? Where are the scriptural sources for the claim that Shugden is a Buddha and not a mundane spirit? If one looks at the bibliographies provided in the three volumes of Tsongkhapa’s great text on Lamrim, one will find pages and pages, listing a great number of sources. However, if one looks at the bibliography of Geshe Kelsang’s commentary on Lamrim, one will find only book titles from Tharpa Publications—only books (with one exception) that are authored by Geshe Kelsang himself! Is this a subtle milieu control?

HH Dalai Lama’s main objection to the worship of Shugden is that it promotes sectarianism. NKT claim that they are not sectarian, that they practice “one tradition purely” while respecting others’ rights to practice as they please. Sectarianism is a big term, one that includes many meanings, such as partisanship, exclusivism and prejudice. Here, I have primarily focused on its meaning of exclusivism, in order to start addressing the issue in meaningful ways. I suggest that respecting others’ rights to practice as they please is limited if it does not include the freedom to share, understand and learn about others’ traditions. When you don’t permit yourself to better understand and experience another person’s reality, then it is difficult to do anything but lip service to the idea of respecting his/her religion. It is also difficult to benefit that being!

Ignorance in our world is clearly the source of intolerance, sectarian violence and hatred. Without full access to knowledge about other religions and cultures, intolerance and sectarianism cannot be combatted. This is my belief, gained through hard experience. By all means, it is important for us to embrace our own religious traditions fully and single-pointedly. However, doing this cannot be done in a narrow chamber. It cannot be done at the expense of broad knowledge and understanding. Otherwise, over time, prejudice and bias creep in and real trouble starts.

So my question to NKT students is finally this: If your mother was a devoted Nyingma practitioner, would you be able to help her if she needed you? Would your heart commitment to Dorje Shugden allow you to step into the role of a true bodhisattva and chant her Nyingma mantras and prayers?

The Dalai Lama Responds to the Protests: Sectarianism and Shugden Worship

With respect to virtue, act in accord with the gurus’ words, but do not act in accord with the gurus’ words with respect to nonvirtue. – Buddha¹

Through taking sides the mind is distressed, Whereby you will never know peace. – Bhavaviveka²

If you are partisan, you will be obstructed by your bias and will not recognize good qualities. Because of this, you will not discover the meaning of good teachings. – Tsongkhapa³

The following extract has been taken from the Dalai Lama’s commentary on Tsonkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo:

Avoiding the Error of Rejecting Buddha’s Teachings

“Tsong-kha-pa (I: 53-54) identifies the final greatness of the stages of the path approach as its preventing the grave error of rejecting the Buddha’s teachings, rejecting the Dharma. Here, Tsong-kha-pa cites many texts, including the Perfection of Wisdom sutras, where the Buddha states that a practitioner must study, understand and actually practice all aspects of the path. If you really aspire to help many billions of living beings with diverse mental dispositions, then you have to understand and practice many diverse teachings and approaches. This is what prepares you.

“Historically it has been the tradition among Tibetan masters to study and also to practice all the lineages—Sakya, Gagyu, Geluk, Nyingma—and Jonang as well. This is an excellent model. We should adopt a nonsectarian approach, not just studying all of these lineages but also putting their teachings into practice.

“Question: Your Holiness, I feel agitated to see and hear the Shugden protestors outside the building here. How do I help myself? Please address this issue as many are uninformed about this.

“Answer: We have had this problem for 370 years. It started during the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama. And from 1951 until the 1970’s, I myself worshipped this spirit. I used to be one of the practitioners!

“One of my reasons for abandoning Shugden worship is that much of my efforts are directed toward promoting nonsectarianism—especially within Tibetan Buddhism. I always encourage people to receive teachings from the teachers of diverse traditions. This is like the Fifth Dalai Lama and many other great lamas, who received teachings within many traditions.  Since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, down to today, I have been practicing this way myself.

“A Nyingma teacher, Khunu Lama Rinpoche, initially gave me teachings on Shantideva’s texts. This lama was very nonsectarian, having received innumerable teachings from many different traditions. After this, I wanted to receive from this great lama a certain teaching distinct to the Nyingma tradition. I asked my tutor, Ling Rinpoche, pointing out that I had already received some teachings from this lama, but I now wanted to receive teachings on an important Nyingma tantric text.

“Ling Rinpoche was a little bit cautious about this because of Shugden. He never worshipped the spirit but he was cautious about it. (My other tutor, Trijang Rinpoche, was very close to this spirit practice.) The rumor that was circulating was that if a Geluk lama takes teachings in the Nyingma tradition, Shugden would destroy him. Ling Rinpoche was a bit frightened for me and he really warned me to be careful. The Shugden worshippers have a tradition that one must be extremely strict about one’s own distinctive Geluk tradition.

“Actually, I think this standpoint deprives people of religious freedom, preventing them from taking other teachings. In practice, discouraging a standpoint that deprives people of the freedom to choose is actually an affirmation of religious freedom. A double negation is an affirmation.

“Around 1970, I was reading the life stories of many great lamas, mainly of the Geluk tradition. I had the idea that if Shugden is truly reliable, then most of the great lamas who tutored the Dalai Lamas must have practiced Shugden worship. It turns out that this is not the case. So I developed some doubt and the more I investigated, the clearer it became.

“For example, the Fifth Dalai Lama very explicitly explains his position vis-à-vis the worship of this spirit [Two sources are cited here, from autobiographical works of the Fifth Dalai Lama—see below]. He explains what it is and he explains the causes and conditions that gave rise to it. He describes the destructive functions of this particular spirit. He says that it arose from misguided motivation and that as a spirit it manifests as a violator of a pledge. According to the Fifth Dalai Lama, its function is to harm both the Buddhist doctrine and living beings.

“Once I realized these things, it was my moral responsibility to make the facts clear. Whether you listen to me is entirely up to you as an individual. From the outset, I told both Tibetans and some of our other friends what I had come to understand. They are free to listen to my advice or not. It is an individual right to accept religion or not to accept it. Accepting this religion or that religion is entirely up to the individual.

“My opinion is that Shugden worship is actually not a genuine practice of Dharma; it is simply worship of a worldly spirit. This is another aspect of the problem: from what I have taught, I think you can see that Tibetan Buddhism is a continuation of the pure lineage of the Nalanda tradition, which relies on reasoning, not blind belief. So it is very sad that certain Tibetan practices could cause this profound and rich tradition to become a sort of spirit worship.

“Both the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama were gravely critical toward this spirit. Since I am considered the reincarnation of these Dalai Lamas, it is only logical that my life should follow theirs. One could say that it proves that I am a true reincarnation!

“It seems that these people outside are really fond of worshipping this spirit. OK, it is their life; I have no problem if that is what they want to do. When I taught in Germany a group of Shugden followers shouted for at least three or four hours.  Eventually I felt great concern about how their throats would be affected by so much shouting.” (pp. 24-26)

Footnotes

¹ Buddha in Cloud of Jewels Sutra/ Ratna-megha-sutra, as quoted by Lama Tsongkhapa in Lamrim Chenmo, English translation, p. 82

² Madhyamaka-hrdaya, quoted in Lam Rim Chen Mo by Tsongkhapa

³ Tsongkhapa in Lam Rim Chen Mo

Sources

Dalai Lama, (Translated and edited by Guy Newland); 2012; From Here to Enlightenment: An Introduction to Tsong-kha-pa’s Classic Text, The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment; Snowlion Publications; Boston, MA.

Fifth Dalai Lama, Collected Works, vol. Ha, pp. 423-424, as well as the Fifth’s autobiography.

Tsong-kha-pa, (Translated by The Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee) 2000; The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment: Lamrim Chenmo; Snowlion Publications, Ithaca, NY.

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark
two quotes from Lam Rim Chen Mo added by tenpel

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 333 other followers

%d bloggers like this: