Bad News About Dharma


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


[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 (, 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,

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 Regarding the Situation at Sera Mey


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:!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:

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:

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.

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.
  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: 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. There are hours of conferences with panels of leading scientists in discussion with His Holiness on webcasts available on his website ( 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


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.  (

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. (

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. (

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” ( 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. (

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. (

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. (

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.” (”

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.” (

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. (

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. (

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).


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.

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

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)


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


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

The NKT and Its Relationship With Truth: Should People in Glass Houses Throw Stones?

GUEST POST by Joanne Clark

Several months ago, I posted an article on this blog revealing significant flaws in the Tharpa Publications’ translation of Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva. I gave examples of verses in which the Tharpa translation not only differs significantly from other translations, but also is at odds with Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s own commentary on that text. In fact, I found forty-eight such verses! In another ten verses I found discrepancies between the Tharpa translation and other translations that were not at odds with Geshe Kelsang. In the comment section following my post, no one seemed particularly concerned about this trouble—and it appears that NKT students and establishment are not concerned either. So in the interests of bringing high quality Dharma to the West, I would like to bring this subject up once more!

Shortly after I posted the article, I wrote to Tharpa Publications myself and told them of these problems. I have received no response from this email and at this moment, months later (8:27 AM, March 12, 2014), Tharpa still proudly displays this statement on their website, advertising their own (seriously flawed) translation of the text:

Composed in the 8th century by the famous Indian Buddhist master Shantideva, this new translation, made under the guidance of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, conveys the great lucidity and poetic beauty of the original, while preserving its full impact and spiritual insight. Reading these verses slowly, while contemplating their meaning, has a profoundly liberating effect on the mind. The poem invokes special positive states of mind, moves us from suffering and conflict to happiness and peace, and gradually introduces us to the entire Mahayana Buddhist path to enlightenment. (see here)

In case NKT readers doubt the accuracy of my own research, I have provided a verse-by-verse examination below. Perhaps this will save Tharpa translators some trouble and they can get started on the important work of fixing the text! That was my initial motivation in contacting them. Now I also want to inquire why they show so little concern for the truth? Why they proudly advertise the authenticity of a text that might have flaws?

The silence of Tharpa reminds me forcibly of conversations I have had on the website Dialogue Ireland with individuals who have been maliciously maligning the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist lamas—in fact, they are maligning all lamas except for Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Their vitriol and anger reminds me of what I see reflected on the faces of those NKT and Shugden protestors outside of Dalai Lama events.  When I first read the DI comments, they were written with such force and conviction that I was a little frightened they might be true. It challenged my faith. However, I forced myself to investigate. I forced myself to stay true to myself and not let fear govern my actions. I read peer-reviewed histories of Tibet. I read biased histories of Tibet. I read the writings of the Trimondis. I read Communist Chinese propaganda. I also happen to know quite a bit about the activities of HH Dalai Lama myself because he is my teacher and I study from him daily— but I read more of his books and his autobiographies. I listened to Mind and Life Conferences.

The result of my investigation did not particularly surprise me. I discovered that every malicious allegation made by commenters on DI that I investigated was either an outright falsehood, a careless error, an exaggeration, a mis-translation, a complete fabrication, or a quote or fact taken totally out of context.  What’s more, whenever I exposed a falsity or fabrication, I was called a “lamaist cult follower” and the truth of my statement was completely ignored.  This was my first direct experience of this anti-Dalai Lama machine, being initiated by Chinese and Shugden propaganda—and carried forward, it seems, by NKT students.

It seems that my comment to Tharpa was received in the same manner—it was simply disregarded as non-important, probably on the basis of my identity as a devotee of the Dalai Lama—and they simply continued business as usual. This surprised me. Even in the context of simple, proper business conduct, such allegations are usually investigated. I believe that any other publisher would at least reply to my email and investigate the trouble. Further, as a Buddhist practitioner, I find Tharpa’s disregard for the accuracy of their translation of this most sacred of texts to be disturbing at best.

Perhaps this is like translating a Tibetan word with no clear, exact English equivalent into one evocative word—BAN—and writing it on posters and placards to insight protest. These protestors are the same students who are given a flawed translation of an ancient Buddhist scripture and told that it “conveys the great lucidity and poetic beauty of the original, while preserving its full impact and spiritual insight.” Is this deception?

Recently, I have been reading commentaries by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and comparing them to those by my own teacher, HH Dalai Lama. This exercise has been very beneficial to my practice and has deepened my own understanding of Dharma. It has also deepened my faith in the Dalai Lama, whose approach to the Dharma is truly quite remarkable. Is there an NKT student anywhere who would do the same, who would study from HH Dalai Lama in order to investigate how his approach differs from and coincides with the approach being taken by their own lama? Would they ever challenge their faith—in order to make it firm? If not, how can NKT students justify their actions outside Dalai Lama teachings?

Recently, I read a news article from San Francisco in which protestors told the media that they were protesting against the Dalai Lama’s “lavish lifestyle.” I wondered if someone had decided that the Shugden issue wouldn’t sit as well with Western media as this familiar Western issue of “lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous”. Of course, I cannot know what formed the basis of that new idea. But I ask the NKT protestors who spoke to the media if they have ever actually investigated the Dalai Lama’s lifestyle? Are they aware that he accepts no money for teaching? Are they aware of how much he donates to charities? Have they walked through his modest home in India? Are they aware that he wakes at 3:30 am to practice and meditate and study and eats little if any dinner?

When I first began commenting on this website, I discovered an error in a post written by Tenzin, the website owner. In my first comment, I exposed this error. Tenzin’s response was immediate. He investigated, apologized and revised his post. I believe that this does not simply demonstrate Tenzin’s good and honest character—it also demonstrates that he is a sincere practitioner of Dharma. In my little understanding of Buddhist study and practice, students learn to challenge their own beliefs and attitudes constantly in order to deepen their understanding and remain true to themselves.  Is this lacking in the approaches being taken within NKT? Why is Tharpa silent?  It seems that until they can clean up their own house, until they can have the courage to acknowledge and then fix their own errors, they have no right to sit in judgment on the Dalai Lama. They have no right to call him a liar.

Last October, I attended a teaching on the Heart Sutra by HH Dalai Lama in New York City. While I was waiting in line outside Beacon Theater, there was a small band of protestors shouting “Dalai Lama go home!”

I remember smiling to myself and thinking how silly that sounded and thinking, “The Dalai Lama would love to go home!” But then I looked at the face of the elderly Tibetan woman in front of me. She looked hurt and confused. I wondered about the life of that woman, whether she had suffered much in Tibet and whether she had family there still whom she worried over. And then I looked at the red-faced protestors and wondered if they ever gave a thought to Tibetans being human beings. If they ever wondered about the suffering Tibetans had endured in Tibet. Did they ever stop to understand how important the Dalai Lama is to Tibetans, how he inspires them and helps them to maintain hope in the face of terrible tragedy?

I believe that most NKT students are caring, decent Dharma practitioners who would never intentionally harm others. In this context, I simply want to call on them to investigate before their next protest.  Find out where truth lies. Find out if Tibetans have suffered badly at the hands of Chinese. Find out if they deserve to be maligned and abused any further.  Find out if the Dalai Lama is a horrible demon—or simply a religious leader who takes his responsibilities seriously and has made a controversial decision based on information and reasons.  Investigate, investigate. And please, fix the Shantideva translation! Clean your own house before you throw stones at another!

Verses About Which GKG Concords With Padmarkara Translation Group and Not Neil Elliott

(49 Verses)

Some of these discrepancies might seem minor and insignificant to Western eyes. Some are clearly large and important. However, I cannot possibly presume myself capable of distinguishing between which words of Shantideva’s are important enough to be translated exactly and which are not really very important. I can only hope that the translations being made into modern English stay as close as they possibly can to the original intention of Shantideva—and leave it to the great masters to make commentaries on the entire meanings.

Sometimes it has seemed to me as if Neil Elliott is interpreting based on what he believes to be Shantideva’s intended meaning—instead of translating the actual Tibetan or Sanskrit words. This is most probably what accounts for the important discrepancy in Verse 2 in Chapter One. Sometimes, Neil Elliott even decides to add some poetic flourishes of his own, adding his own simile or descriptive phrase.  This I find disturbing.

I did my best to copy these verses exactly as I have found them. However, I am bound to have made typos and errors and for these I apologize.

Chapter One:

Verse 2:


“…My reason for writing this is to benefit others…” (p. 5)

Padmakara Translation Group (PTG):

“I thereby have no thought that this might be of benefit to others…” (p.33).

GKG’s commentary: “Also, since he has no skill in the art of rhetoric or poetry, he has no intention of benefitting others who have already understood the teachings of Buddha.” (p. 14)

Chapter Two:

Verse 34-35


“…I have committed many kinds of evil action
With respect to my friends and others.”
And yet my friends will become nothing
And others will also become nothing…” (p.20)


“… for the sake of friend and foe alike,
Provoked and brought about so many evils.”
“My enemies at length will cease to be;
My friends and I myself
Will cease to be…” (p. 44)


“… Out of my ignorance, I committed much non-virtue for the sake of my relatives and friends, and did much evil trying to destroy my foes… I understand now that my enemies, my relatives and friends, and even myself will all eventually pass away and become as nothing… ” (p.80)

Chapter Five: Many errors by Tharpa

Verse 35:


“… But always with a resolute mind,
Be mindful of my gaze.” (p.52)


“…But rather with a focused mind
Will always go with eyes cast down.” (p. 67)


…”We should cast our eyes downwards and look at the ground on which we are about to tread…” (186)

Verse 37:


“To avoid dangers or accidents on the path,
I should occasionally look in all directions,
And prevent my mind from being distracted
By relying upon conscientiousness.” (p. 53)


“And yet, to spy the dangers on the road,
I’ll scrutinize the four directions one by one.
And when I stop to rest, I’ll turn my head
And look behind me, back along my path.” (p.67)


“[37] As we continue walking, we should occasionally look in the four directions to be certain there are no dangers or obstacles.” (p. 186)

Verse 45:

Tharpa: “Whenever I listen to any sort of talk
Whether pleasant or unpleasant
Or observe attractive or unattractive people,
I should prevent attachment or hatred towards them.” (p. 54)

PTG: “And if by chance you must take part
In lengthy conversations worthlessly
Of if you come upon sensational events,
Then cast aside delight and taste for them.” (p. 68)

GKG commentary: “…when we are associating with people engaged in senseless chatter or when we are watching a spectacle or a drama, we should keep our mind free from all attachment.” (p. 190)

Verse 46

Tharpa: “If for no reason I begin to perform actions
That cause damage to the environment
I should recall Buddha’s advice
And, out of respect, stop straightaway. (p. 54)

PTG: “If you find you’re grubbing in the soil
Of pulling up the grass or tracing idle patterns on the ground,
Remembering the teachings of the Blissful One
In fear, restrain yourself at once.” (p.68)

GKG: [46] Unless there is some purpose for our doing so, we should not dig the earth, cut the grass, draw patterns on the ground or engage in any other meaningless activity. We should recall the advice of the enlightened beings, bring to mind the heavy consequences of mindlessness and refrain from all senseless actions.” (p. 190)

Verse 59: The setting in this and following verses is a Charnal ground—and there are references to vultures and jackals eating the flesh as a means to diminishing attachment to the body. The Tharpa translation misses the references to Charnal grounds completely—whereas both GKG and PTG keep that context.

Tharpa: “If mind, you are concerned
About death taking this body from you
And its being burned or buried beneath the ground,
Why do you cherish it so now?” (p. 56)

PTG: ‘When vultures with their love of flesh
Are tugging at this body all around
Small will be the joy you get from it, O mind!
Why are you so besotted with it now?” (p. 70)

GKG commentary: “Why do I cherish this body so strongly? Why do I guard it and think that it is mine? When death separates us from our physical form, we shall depart alone without friends. Who will guard our body then? …Who will inherit our body once we have died? In some countries the discarded body becomes a banquet for vultures and jackals…” (p.198)

Verse 60: I see no reference in any translation of the body being “borrowed from others” and don’t know what it means—is it an addition from Elliott?

Tharpa: “Why, mind, do you hold this body as mine
And grasp it with such affection?
It is only borrowed from others
And will soon be taken from you.” (p.57)

PTG: “Why, O mind, do you protect this body,
Claiming it as though it were yourself?
You and it are each a separate entity,
However can it be of use to you?” (p. 70)

GKG: “We are not the same as our body and soon we shall be separated from it. Therefore, is there any meaning or purpose in protecting and being attached to it?” (p. 199)

Verse 66: And once again, Elliott misses the reference to charnal grounds:

Tharpa: “It is suitable to protect it and care for it
Only for attaining spiritual goals—
This body of a human being
Should be used just for practicing Dharma.” (p. 57)

PTG: As second best, it may indeed be kept
As food to feed the vulture and the fox.
The value of this human form
Lies only in the way that it is used. (p. 71)

Stephen Batchelor: “At second best it is only fit to be guarded
In order to feed the vultures and jackals.
(Truly) this body of a human being
Should only be employed (in the practice of virtue). (p.45)

GKG: “…Perhaps the only reason we are guarding our body is to be able to feed it to the vultures and jackals later on. The only reason for us to be protective of our bodies is if we are going to use it for the practice of virtue.” (p.200)

Verse 67:

Tharpa: “But if you guard it for other purposes
What will you be able to do
When the merciless Lord of Death seizes it
And reduces it to a pile of ashes?” (p.58)

PTG: “Whatever you may do to guard and keep it
What will you do when
The Lord of Death, the ruthless, unrelenting,
Steals and throws it to the birds and dogs?” (p. 71)

GKG: “…Otherwise, we are doing nothing more than preparing food for jackals.” (p. 200)

Verse 69: In this verse, Elliott adds his own piece of advice about not grasping and ignorance, words and meaning I cannot find in any other translation—or in GKG’s commentary.

Tharpa: “In exchange for paying my body its wages,
I will employ it to create virtue for myself and others;
But I should not grasp it as “mine”
Because such grasping is a form of ignorance.” (p. 58)

PTG: “So pay this body due remuneration,
But then be sure to make it work for you.
But do not lavish everything
On what will not bring perfect benefit.” (p. 72)

Stephen Batchelor: “Now having paid my body its wages,
I shall engage it in making my life meaningful.
However, if my body is of no benefit,
Then I shall not give it anything.” (p.45)

GKG: “We should be glad to pay it its proper wages if it helped us to engage in the practice of Dharma for our own and others’ benefit, but critical and strict whenever we discovered that it was not benefitting anyone.” (p. 200)

Verse 81: Elliott’s meaning is much less clear than the other two translations, which also lend themselves very well to GKG’s commentary.

Tharpa: “With either a cultivated motivation
Or one that arises spontaneously
I should always sow seeds of great virtue
In the fields of holy beings and living beings.” (p.60)

PTG: “Always fired by highest aspiration,
Laboring to implement the antidotes,
You will gather virtues in the fields
Of qualities, of benefits, of sorrow.” (p. 73)

Stephen Batchelor: “Always being motivated by great aspiration,
Or being motivated by the remedial forces,
If I work in the fields of excellence, benefit and misery,
Great virtues will come about.” (p.47)

GKG: “Whenever we think to engage in a particular practice we should first contemplate its benefits and thereby develop a strong aspiration for what we are about to do… Shantideva now mentions three groups of objects to which our virtuous activities can be directed. These he refers to as the ‘field of excellence,’ the ‘field of benefit’ and the ‘field of suffering.’” (pp. 203-204)

Verses 88-91: These verses make one wonder if Elliott is reading the same text as everyone else, including his own teacher!

Tharpa: “I should listen to Dharma
With respect and a good heart,
Recognizing it as the supreme medicine
For curing the pains of anger and attachment.

“I should teach the vast and profound Dharma with a pure intention
Free from any wish to acquire wealth or reputation;
And I should always maintain a pure motivation of bodhicitta
And make great effort to put Dharma in practice.

“I should explain Dharma to release those who are listening
From samsara, the cycle of suffering,
And to lead them to the ultimate goal—
The attainment of full enlightenment.

I should keep places clean and not throw litter
But dispose of it correctly.
Moreover, I should not defile
Water or land used by others.” (p. 61)

PTG (consonant with others) translate as follows:

PTG: “Do not teach to those without respect
To those who like the sick wear cloths around their heads,
To those who proudly carry weapons, staffs or parasols,
And those who keep their hats upon their heads.
Do not teach the vast and deep to those
Upon the lower paths, nor, as a monk,
To women unescorted. Teach with equal honor
Low and high according to their path.

Those suited to the teachings vast and deep,
Should not be introduced to lesser paths.
But basic practice you should not forsake,
Confused by talk of sutras and of mantras.

Your spittle and your toothbrushes,
When thrown away, should be concealed.
And it is wrong to foul with urine
Public thoroughfares and water springs.” (pp. 74-75)

GKG: “[88] Dharma should never be taught to someone who lacks respect either for us or for Dharma itself. Teaching such a person will not benefit him or her and will only create downfalls, or obstacles, for ourself… Shantideva next gives a detailed account of the circumstances in which it is improper to teach Dharma. Because teaching should only be given to those who have the proper attitude we should never teach anyone whose dress, manner or bearing demonstrates disrespect. This would include those who cover their heads though they are not sick, those who have not put down their umbrellas…

“[89] When trying to discriminate between proper and improper teaching situations we should take into account the general expectations and preconceptions of the society in which we live. For example, in many societies it is considered shameful for a man to remain alone with an unaccompanied woman unless that woman is somehow related to him. In such societies, therefore, it would bring great disrespect to Dharma for a male teacher to give Dharma to an unaccompanied woman… As far as the contents of our teachings are concerned, we should try to determine the capacity and inclination of our listener’s mind. If a student has a small disposition, we should not force the profound and vast teachings of Mahayana upon him… [90] we should not lead someone into the Hinayana path if he or she has a strong desire to receive Mahayana teachings. And, of course, under no condition should we ever forsake the Bodhisattva way of life…

[91] It is also important to observe good hygiene. We should not spit wherever we like, or throw our cleaning implements, such as the sticks used in India for cleaning teeth, on the ground without covering them up. Neither should we defecate or urinate on the banks of rivers, near water or in any place frequented by others. (pp. 209-210)

Chapter Six

Verse 32:

Tharpa: “If all things were like illusions, who would restrain what?
Surely any restraint would be inappropriate.”
On the contrary, it is precisely because things lack inherent existence
That it is possible to assert the continuum of suffering can be cut.” (p.74)

PTG: “Resistance,” you may say, “is out of place,
For what will be opposed by whom?”
The stream of suffering is cut through by patience;
There’s nothing inappropriate in wanting that!” (p. 82)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: Sanskrit: “[Qualm] ‘Averting anger is inappropriate, for who averts what?’
“[Response] That is appropriate, because it is a state of Dependent Origination and is considered to be the cessation of suffering.”
Tibetan: “[Qualm] ‘What counteracts what? Isn’t even the counteracting inappropriate?’
[Response] ‘There is nothing inappropriate in asserting that miseries are brought to an end in dependence on that.’” (p. 65)

Stephen Batchelor: “–(If everything is unreal like an apparition) then who is there to restrain what (anger)?
Surely (in this case), restraint would be inappropriate—
It would not be inappropriate, because (conventionally) I must maintain
That in dependence upon restraining (anger) the stream of suffering is severed.” (p.58)

GKG: “It might be argued that if everything is like an illusion, who is there who should restrain what anger? Surely all such restraint would be inappropriate in a world of illusions. But this objection is not correct. Although all things are like illusions in that they lack self-existence, suffering is still experienced. Severing this stream of suffering depends upon the efforts we exert in restraining such delusions as our anger. Although things lack independent existence—in fact, because they lack independent existence—cause and effect operate to bring suffering results from non-virtuous actions and beneficial results from virtuous ones. “(p233)

Verse 84: In this verse, Elliott has translated a meaning markedly different from other translators and his own teacher.

Tharpa: “People become angry when someone benefits their enemy,
But whether their enemy receives benefit or not,
It is the enemy’s own anger that urges him to attack;
So it is that anger which is to blame, not the benefactor.” (p. 83)

PTG:  “If someone else receives a gift,
Or that gift stays in the benefactor’s house,
In neither case will it be yours—
So given or withheld, why is it your concern? (p. 90)

GKG: “[84] Suppose someone gives our rival some money. The jealousy and unhappiness we feel about this will not do anything to change the situation. Whether that person gives money to our rival or not, there is no way in which we are going to receive that money. So why should we be jealous?” (p. 247)

Verse 87: Here, Elliott gives a nice verse, but it is doubtful that it is what Shantideva wrote!

Tharpa: “The thought that wishes for our enemy to suffer
Harms only us, through creating non-virtue.
Understanding this, we should not develop harmful thoughts
Toward anyone, including our enemy.” (p. 83)

PTG: “If unhappiness befalls your enemy,
Why should this be a cause for rejoicing?
The wishes of your mind alone,
Will not in fact contrive his injury.” (p. 90)

GKG: “[87] There is no reason to be happy and joyful when our enemy meets with suffering. How does such a jealous reaction hurt our enemy or benefit ourselves?” (p. 247)

Verse 90-91: Elliott is consonant with others in Verse 90, but then construes his own conclusion to that verse, which differs from other interpretations, including that of his own teacher.

Tharpa: “Praise, fame and good reputation
Will not increase my merit or extend my life,
Nor will they give me strength, freedom from illness,
Or any form of physical pleasure.

Transient pleasures, such as drinking and playing meaningless games,
Are deceptive.
If I understand the real meaning of a human life,
Such things will have no value for me.” (p. 84)

PTG: “The rigmarole of praise and fame
Serves not to increase merit or one’s span of life,
Bestowing neither health nor strength
And nothing for the body’s ease.

If I am wise in what is good for me,
I’ll ask what benefit these bring.
If it’s entertainment I desire,
I might as well resort to alcohol and cards!” (p. 91)

Stephen Batchelor: “The honor of praise and fame
Will not turn into merit or life;
It will give me neither strength nor freedom from sickness,
And will not provide any physical happiness.
If I were aware of what held meaning for me,

What value would I find in these things?
If all I want is (a little) mental happiness,
I should devote myself to gambling, drinking and so forth.”


GKG: “[90] To answer this doubt we have to examine the value of fame, reputation, praise and the like. How do these benefit us? Will others’ opinions help us to develop our minds, ensure our long life or prevent us from becoming sick?… [91] If our only interest is in obtaining the transient pleasures of a good reputation, wealth and sense gratification, there is no fault in behaving the same heedless way we have always done and continuing to neglect our spiritual training…” (p. 248)

Verse 123: Here, Elliott simply provides his own poetic image, a nice one, but not likely the one that Shantideva intended!

Tharpa: “If we harm a child,
There is no way to please its mother.
In the same way, if we harm any living being,
There is no way to please the compassionate Buddhas.” (p. 89)

PTG: “Just as when a man who’s tortured in a fire,
Remains unmoved by little favors done to him,
There’s no way to delight the great compassionate buddhas,
While we ourselves are causes of another’s pain.” (p. 95)

GKG: “[123] someone who is ablaze with fire finds no pleasure in receiving food and delicacies. Similarly, if we harm sentient beings and then offer elaborate gifts to the compassionate Buddha, these offerings will never please him.” (p. 254)

Chapter Seven

Verse 20: Once again, Elliott seems to miss Shantideva’s essential point.

Tharpa: “Some people might be discouraged out of fear
Of having to sacrifice their flesh,
But this is due to not understanding
What we should give, or when.” (p. 98)

PTG: “’That I must give away my life and limbs
Alarms and frightens me’—if so you say,
Your terror is misplaced. Confused,
You fail to see what’s hard and what is easy.” (p. 101)

GKG: “[20] When we hear about the great sacrifices that the great Bodhisattvas in the past have made while traveling the path we may become discouraged. The thought of giving up our flesh as they did fills us with great fear and we do not even want to contemplate such a ghastly experience. This fear, however, only arises because we are unable to discriminate between great and small suffering.” (p. 269)

Chapter Eight:

Verse 21: Here, Elliott has provided his own simile, with a meaning not consonant with any other translator or his own teacher. Unfortunately, according to my teachers, this verse is an important one, with an important meaning.

Tharpa: “Why am I unhappy when someone criticizes me
And happy when I am praised?
Both criticism and praise are just empty words,
Like echoes in an empty cave.” (p. 116)

PTG: “Why should I be pleased when people praise me?
Others there will be who scorn and criticize.
And why despondent when I’m blamed,
Since there will be others who think well of me?” (p. 113)

Stephen Batchelor: “If there is someone who despises me,
What pleasure can I have in being praised?
And if there is another who praises me,
What displeasure can I have in being despised?” (p. 92)

GKG: “Moreover, [21] there will always be some people who praise us and others who will despise us. So what pleasure can there be in being praised, and what displeasure from being despised?” (p. 296)

Verse 43: The setting for this verse is a traditional Indian wedding—Elliott appears to provide his own commentary instead of translating the actual scene as described by other translators.

Tharpa: “When we are very attached to someone
We want to see their face again and again;
But whether we see their face or not,
The real face always remains covered with skin.” (p. 120)

PTG:  “Oh what pains you went through just to draw the veil,
And lift the face that modestly looked down.
That face which, looked upon or not,
Was always carefully concealed.” (p. 116)

GKG: “[43] In ancient India, whenever a man encountered a woman, her face was hidden by a veil. Even at the marriage ceremony, her face would be covered and she would be very bashful….” (p. 305)

Verse 44: Elliott once again misses the meaning completely, once again missing the setting of a charnel ground.

Tharpa: “If we were to remove that skin,
We would realize that they are not an object of desire
But an object of aversion;
So why do we develop attachment for others’ bodies?” (p. 120)

PTG: “That face for which you languished so…
Well, here it is, now nakedly exposed.
The crows have done their work for you to see
What’s this? You run away so soon?” (p. 116)

GKG: “If this unveiling of a woman’s face can have such a magnetic effect on a man, [44] why is he not similarly attracted when, after death, her face is uncovered by vultures? Why does he not want to copulate with her then? Her body is still there but the man only wants to run away from it.” (p. 305).

Verse 45: And Elliott continues to miss the charnel ground setting in the following verses.

Tharpa: “Although we jealously guard our lover from others’ advances,
The Lord of Death will take him from us
And his body will be burned or buried in the ground;
So what is the point of our jealousy and attachment?” (p. 120)

PTG: “That body that you guarded jealously
And shielded from the eyes of other men,
What, miser that you are, you don’t protect it,
Now that it’s the food of graveyard birds?” (p. 116)

Stephen Batchelor: “(Previously) I completely protected (her body)
When others cast their eyes upon it.
Why, miser, do you not protect it now,
While it is being devoured by these birds?” (p. 96)

GKG: “[45] Lecherous men cherish a woman’s body so much that if another man were merely to look at her, great jealousy would arise. If this is the case, why do we not protect her when the vultures are tearing her to pieces with their beaks?..” (p. 306).

Verse 46: Once again, Elliott misses the charnel ground setting.

Tharpa: “Others’ bodies to which we are very attached
Are just collections of flesh and bone.
At any moment, they could be destroyed by the Lord of Death;
So why develop attachment to them?” (p. 120)

PTG: “Look, this mass of human flesh,
Soon to be the fare of carrion beasts,
You deck with flowers, sandalwood, and jewels,
And yet it is the provender of others!” (p. 116)

Stephen Batchelor: “Since vultures and others are eating
This pile of meat that I behold,
Why did I offer flower garlands, sandalwood and ornaments
To that which is now the food of others?” (p. 96)

GKG: “[46] Why go to the trouble of offering flower garlands, sandalwood and ornaments of gold and silver to something that will shortly be devoured by others?” (p. 306).

Verse 48: Because Elliott has missed the context of the wedding and the charnel ground, his translation here is rendered meaningless.

Tharpa: “Since both dead bodies and living bodies
Are mere collections of flesh and bone,
Why am I attracted to living bodies but not to dead ones?
Thinking in this way, I should stop attachment to others’ bodies.” (p. 121)

PTG: “You loved them once, when clothed and draped they were.
Well, now they’re naked, why do you not want them?
Ah, you say, your lust is no more there,
But why did you embrace them, all bedecked and covered?” (p.117)

GKG: [48] It is also strange that we are attached to her body when it is covered with skin and clothed, but repulsed by it when it lies exposed on the charnel ground.” (p. 306)

Verse 49: Here, it seems that Elliott has translated a word meaning “excrement” to mean “urine.” Also, he translates “food” to mean “fluids.”

Tharpa: “Both saliva and urine come from the same source—
The intake of fluids into the body—
So why is it that we like saliva when kissing
But have no desire for urine?” (p. 121)

PTG: “From food, a single source, come equally
Their body’s filth, the honey-nectar of their mouths.
So why are you delighted by saliva,
And yet revolted by excrement?” (p. 117)

Stephen Batchelor: “Since both excrement and saliva
Arise solely from food,
Why do I dislike excrement
And find joy in saliva?” (p. 49)

GKG: “[49] When we kiss a woman we drink the saliva from her mouth. Why is it that we like this spit that arises solely from the food she has eaten but not her urine and excrement, which arise from the same source?” (p. 306)

Verse 51: Here, Elliott simply misses the meaning.
Tharpa: “Just as we sometimes get angry at other people,
Why don’t we also get angry at pillows?
For although they too are soft to touch,
We cannot copulate with them!” (p. 121)

PTG: “Lustful ones, befuddled by desire,
Because you cannot copulate with them,
You angrily find fault with pillows,
Even though they’re smooth and soft to touch!” (p. 117)

Stephen Batchelor: “Thinking that they cannot sleep with this cotton,
Although it is soft to the touch,
Confused, negative and lustful people
Become angry towards it instead.” (p. 97)

GKG: “[51] But we are so confused that we cannot tell the difference between what is clean and what is unclean. If we find our pillow uncomfortable one night we are liable to get angry with it, but we never become upset with the discomfort of sleeping next to the impure body of a woman.” (p. 306)

Verse 58: Once again, Elliott does not translate excrement as do other translators.

Tharpa: “If you do not want to touch a place
Covered with impurities such as vomit…” (p. 122)

PTG: “And since you’re disinclined to touch
A place or object grimed with excrement…” (p.118)

Stephen Batchelor: “Since I do not wish to touch
A place that is smeared with excrement…” (p. 98)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “If you do not desire to touch soil and the like because it is smeared with excrement…” (p. 96)

GKG: “If you do not want to touch a place that has been defiled by excrement or vomit….” (p. 307)

Verse 69: Elliott translates the last line in this verse with a meaning different from other translations and his own teacher.

Tharpa: “Putting so much effort into beautifying it
Is just like polishing a sword that will be used to harm you.
It seems the whole world is pervaded by this madness
Because people believe beauty is only external.” (p. 124)

PTG: “Why go to such excess to clean and polish
What is but a weapon that will injure us?
The cares that people squander on themselves in ignorance
Convulse the universe with madness.” (p. 120)

Alan & Vesna Wallace: “Why do you meticulously polish it like a weapon for suicide? The earth is crowded with insane people, diligent in deluding themselves.” (p. 97)

GKG: “[69] this is like polishing and sharpening a weapon that will eventually kill us. There is no reason to engage in activities that will do nothing but harm us, yet this is precisely what people all over the world are constantly doing. They are deeply confused about what is virtuous and non-virtuous, what is clean and unclean.” (p. 309)

Verse 71:

Tharpa: “Furthermore, we do not come to enjoy others’ bodies
Without acquiring material possessions.
We exhaust ourself in non-virtuous activity to gather these
Only to experience suffering in this life and the lower realms
In the next.

PTG:  What’s more, possession of another’s filth
Is not to be acquired free of charge
All is at a price: exhaustion in this life,
And in the next, the sufferings of hell!

GKG: “[71] Furthermore, its basically impure nature is not the only disadvantage of the desirable body of others. We should realize that in order to engage in the sexual act, we tie ourselves ever tighter to the unsatisfactory aspect of samsara. As stated before, we forfeit our wealth, act non-virtuously and work with great difficulty merely to possess the object of our desire. Because of all this we encounter many problems during this lifetime and create the cause to descend to the lower realms where we shall experience even more suffering.” (p. 309)

Verses 97-98: Once again, Elliott misses the meaning—completely in both verses.  I have intentionally highlighted the “not” in Verse 98 and the “is” in GKG’s commentary to show the discrepancy.

Tharpa: “But why should I protect others
If their suffering does me no harm?
If we cherish only others, we find their suffering hard to bear;
So we definitely need to protect them.

It is not a wrong conception to think
That it will be I who experience the future suffering,
Because it will not be another person who dies
And yet another who is reborn.” (p. 129)

PTG:  “Since pains of others do no harm to me
What reason do I have to shield myself?
But why to guard against “my” future pain which
Does no harm to this, my present “me”?

To think that “I will have to suffer it”
In fact is but a false conception—
In the present moment, “I” will perish;
At another time, another will be born.” (p. 124)

GKG: “ As I said before, there is no reason for me to protect others from their misery. It causes me no harm. Then why do we work to eliminate the sicknesses of old age coming in the future or even the discomforts of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow? These future sufferings will do us no harm today. But if such misery is not prevented now I shall experience it in the future. This is a misconception. The self of this life will not experience the suffering of future lives.” (p.335).

Verse 100: Once again, Elliott’s meaning is different from others.

Tharpa: “We alleviate the suffering of the foot with the hand
Because it is a specific method to relieve this pain.
It is also incorrect to grasp at an independent self and others—
Such grasping should be completely abandoned.” (p.129)

PTG: “’This may be irrational,’ you’ll say.
‘It happens simply through the force of ego clinging.’
But that which is illogical for both of us
Should be refuted and dispensed with utterly!” (p. 124)

Stephen Batchelor: “—Although this may not be justified
It is done because of grasping at a self—
Yet surely whatever is not justified for myself or others
Should at all costs be rejected.” (p. 105)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “If one argues that even though it is inappropriate, it happens because of grasping onto a self, our response is: With all one’s might, one should avoid that which is inappropriate, whether it belongs to oneself or to another.” (p. 102)

GKG: “[100] It is inappropriate to relieve the suffering of our foot and of our future lives because we grasp on to these as ‘my foot’s suffering’ and ‘my future life’s suffering.’

It is completely unjustified to cling to the independent existence of the self and the independent existence of others. It is important to stop this grasping at independent existence because this has been the root cause of our floundering in the swamp of samsaric suffering since beginningless time.” (p. 336)

Verse 118:

Tharpa: “Out of his great compassion,
Arya Avalokiteshvara even blessed his own name
To relieve living beings from the fear of self-cherishing;
So I should recite his name mantra to receive his blessings.” (p. 132)

PTG: “This is why the Lord Avalokita
Out of great compassion blessed his name,
That those caught in the midst of multitudes
Might be released and freed from every fear.” (p. 127)

Vesna & Alan Wallace (Sanskrit): “Therefore the protector Avalokita empowered his own name to remove even one’s fear arising from timidity in front of an audience.” (p. 104)

GKG: “[118] The superior bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, out of his great compassion, sought to alleviate peoples’ fears by blessing his own name. He proclaimed, ‘If frightened sentient beings recite my name three times they will be free from all their fears…’” (p. 343)

Verse 181: Once again, Elliott misses the charnel ground analogy.

Tharpa: “Whether I care for it in the way that I do
Or allow it to be harmed by others,
The body itself develops neither attachment nor anger;
So why do I feel so attached to it?” (p. 143)

PTG: “Whether I protect and pamper it,
Or whether it is torn by beaks of carrion birds,
This body feels no pleasure, no aversion—
Why then do I cherish it so much?” (p. 136)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “Whether it is nurtured by me or eaten by vultures, it feels neither affection nor aversion, so why am I fond of it?” (p. 112)

GKG: “[181] Although we spend a lifetime caring for this body and guarding it strongly, in due time, it will be eaten by vultures.” (p. 361)

Chapter Nine

Verse 8: GKG’s commentary clearly comments on the PTG translation and not Elliott’s.

Tharpa: “No, there is no fault, because things exist by conventional, valid cognizers.
From the point of view of worldly people, seeing things is seeing reality;
But worldly people never actually see reality
Because the real nature of things is their emptiness.” (p. 149)

PTG: “Then know that there’s no fault. For momentariness
Is relative for meditators, but for the worldly, absolute.
Were it otherwise, the common view
Could fault our certain insight into corporal impurity.” (p. 138)

GKG: [8] Thus there is no contradiction between the Yogis’ understanding and our statement that things exist merely conventionally… In the world, the body is regarded as something pure and clean but in reality it is not. If it were, then the view of the worldly people would harm the Yogi’s realization that the nature of the bodies of ordinary men and women is impure.” (p. 381)

Verses 41 – 44 in the Tharpa translation are clumped together and so it is not certain exactly which verse is which. However, the GKG commentary follows the translation by PTG, up until Verse 43—and follows Stephen Batchelor’s translation up until verse 44. The overall meaning of Elliott’s translation of those verses misses the point. I have done my best to demonstrate this.

Verse 41:

Tharpa: “‘Because we do not believe in the Mahayana, your
Quoting from Mahayana scriptures is pointless.’
We both believe that the Hinayana scriptures are valid;
So you should apply your reasons for believing the Hinayana equally to the Mahayana.
Thus we understand that both are the holy Dharma taught by Buddha
Himself.” (p. 156)

PTG: “You say the Mahayana has no certainty.
But how do you substantiate your own tradition?
‘Because it is accepted by both parties,’ you will say.
But at the outset, you yourself lacked proof!” (p. 143)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “[Hinayanist:] The Madyamaka is certainly not authenticated.
[Madyamaka:] How is your scripture authenticated?
[Hinayanist:] Because it is authenticated by both of us.
[Madyamaka:] Then it is not authenticated by you from the beginning.” (p. 120)

GKG: “Hinayanist: The citations you are using to establish your point are from the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, which are Mahayana texts. [41] But we do not except that the Mahayana scriptures are the word of Buddha, so it is of no avail to try to prove your points on the basis of their authority…”

Prasangika: For that matter, how are your own scriptures established as the word of Buddha?

Hinayanist: Our Sutras are clearly the word of Buddha because both of us accept them as such.

Prasangika: Nevertheless, those Sutras were not established as the word of Buddha for you before you accepted the validity of your tradition.” (p. 397)

Verse 42: Here, it almost seems to me as if Elliott is providing his own commentary, missing Shantideva’s point completely.

Tharpa: “Because they do not understand its profundity,
The Vaibashika schools deny the Mahayana;
And because they do not believe in nirvana,
Some non-Buddhist schools deny the Hinayana.” (p. 156)

PTG: “The reasons why you trust in your tradition
May likewise be applied to Mahayana.
Moreover, if accord between two parties shows the truth,
The Vedas and rest are also true.” (p. 143)

GKG: “[42] These reasons are equally able to establish the Mahayana Sutras as the word of Buddha. Also, just because two people accept something as true, this is no real proof. If it were, then since many people believe the Vedic scriptures to be true, it would follow that they are true.” (p. 397)

Verses 43-44:

Tharpa: “Buddha’s purpose in teaching both the Mahayana and the Hinayana
Was to lead living beings to permanent liberation from the cycle of Suffering.
Focusing on this ultimate aim, practitioners of both the Mahayana and the Hinayana
Emphasize the three higher trainings of moral discipline, concentration and Wisdom.” (p. 156)

PTG: “’Mahayana is at fault,’ you say, ‘because it is contested.’
But by non-Buddhists are your scriptures also questioned,
While other Buddhist schools impugn and spurn them.
Therefore, your tradition you must now abandon.”

“The true monk is the very root of Dharma,
But difficult it is to be a monk indeed.
And hard it is for minds enmeshed in thoughts
To pass beyond the bonds of suffering.” (p. 143)

Stephen Batchelor: “Vaibhashika: (43) The Mahayana scriptures are not credible because they are disputed.

Madyamaka: However, since all your scriptures are disputed by the non-Buddhist and some by other Buddhist schools, you should reject your own scriptures, too. (44) You accept any teachings which can be classified into the three scriptural categories (Tripitaka) as the word of the Buddha, according to whether it discusses the higher training of moral discipline, concentration or wisdom. If this is so, since these three trainings are taught in most Mahayana scriptures, such as the ‘Samdhinirmochana Sutra,’ they are therefore similar to your scriptures. Why then do you not accept them as the word of the Buddha?” (p. 131)

GKG: “Hinayanist: [43] There is much dispute about the Mahayana scriptures; thus their credibility is put into question.

Prasangika: The Hinayana scriptures are greatly disputed by the followers of the non-Buddhist schools yet you do not question their credibility… Therefore if you can reject the validity of the Mahayana Sutras on the grounds that they are under dispute, you should equally reject the validity of your own scriptures.

[44] For you the criterion for a sutra being considered as the word of the Buddha is if it can be included within the Tripitaka: the three sets of scripture. Most of the Mahayana Sutras teach all of the three higher trainings; therefore they too can be included in the Tripitaka. If you accept the teachings of the first turning of the Wheel of Dharma as the word of Buddha, why do you not accept the teachings of the second and third turnings as well?” (p. 397)

Verse 47:

Tharpa: “The principle holders of Buddhadharma were said to be those who have
Attained Nirvana, the Arhats;
But the Arhats that you proponents of things assert
Cannot be real Arhats because, according to your view,
Their minds still grasp at truly existent things.” (p. 157)

PTG: (as in verse 44): “The true monk is the very root of Dharma
But difficult it is to be a monk indeed.
And hard it is for minds enmeshed in thoughts
To pass beyond the bonds of suffering.” (p. 143)

GKG: “[47] After Buddha’s passing away, the monk Arhats were those who upheld and were responsible for the propagation of the Buddha’s teachings. They became like the root of the teachings. However if, as you maintain, they had not understood that all phenomena are devoid of true existence, it would be extremely difficult to maintain that they were actual Arhats. It is impossible for there to be an Arhat, a being liberated from samsara, who still clings to true existence.” (p. 398)

Verse 65: Elliott renders a different meaning here to other translators, as well as his own teacher.

Tharpa: “’It’s like an actor changing roles and being seen in different aspects.’
Well, if the I changes in this way, it cannot be permanent!
Although the aspects change, its nature remains one and the same.’
But you cannot establish an unchangeable nature of the I, because you
Deny the ultimate nature of I, the lack of a truly existent I.” (p. 161)

PTG: “’But like an actor,’ you will say, ‘it takes on different roles.’
If so, this consciousness is not a changeless thing.
‘It’s one thing,’ you will say, ‘with different modes.’
That’s unity indeed and never seen before!” (p. 146)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “If it is the same thing taking another guise, like an actor, he too is not permanent. If he has different natures, then this unity of his is unprecedented.” (p. 123)

GKG: “Samkya: [65] The self is like an actor who is constantly forsaking one role and assuming another. When the conscious self apprehends visual form, it ceases to apprehend sound.

Prasangika: In that case, it would follow that the self is impermanent because, just like an actor, it changes its role and aspect.”

Samkya: There is no mistake because although the aspects change its nature remains one and the same. Hence, the apprehender of sound has the same nature as the apprehender of visual form.

Prasangika: So you assert that two unrelated phenomena—the apprehenders of sound and of visual form—can be of one nature. But such a proposition has never been heard of before.” (p. 410)

Verse 125: Elliott’s translation here definitely lacks the clarity of the other translations.

Tharpa: “If effects such as suffering are produced without Ishvara’s wishing for them,
It follows that they are produced through the power of something other than him.
You say that all effects are produced according to Ishvara’s wishes,
But those wishes have no power to produce all things, so how can Ishvara
Be the creator of everything?” (p. 174)

PTG: “If Almighty God does not intend,
But yet creates, another thing has forced him.
If he wishes to create, he’s swayed by his desire.
Even though Creator, then, what comes of his Omnipotence?” (p. 155)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “If Ishvara creates without desiring to do so, it would follow that he is dependent on something other than himself. Even if he desires to create, he is dependent on that desire. Whence is the supremacy of that creator?” (p.130).

GKG: [125] The god Ishvara can have no wish to produce the effect of suffering; this is something produced by our own actions. But if this is so you can no longer maintain that Ishvara is the creator of all possible effects. Alternatively, you would have to maintain that he is responsible for the unsought sufferings of the beings he created.

“Moreover, if all effects were wished for by Ishvara, it would follow that creation depends upon the wishes of Ishvara. These wishes are impermanent whereas Ishvara is permanent; now it seems that creation is not produced by the permanent Ishvara but by impermanent wishes. Therefore, how can you say that Ishvara is the cause of everything?” (p. 439)


(10 verses)

Chapter 5, Verse 77: PTG and Stephen Batchelor interpret this verse to be in reference to finding happiness in rejoicing over the good qualities of others, whereas both Elliott and GKG simply see it as acting for others’ happiness. Given the context of the verses preceding it, I would expect that PTG and Batchelor’s meanings were more likely correct.

Tharpa: “I should perform all actions for others’ happiness.
This good quality is precious and rare,
And through it, I shall enjoy the pure happiness and joy
That arises from actions that benefit others. (p.59)

PTG: ‘The goal of every act is happiness itself,
Though even with great wealth, it’s rarely found.
So take your pleasure in the qualities of others.
Let them be a heartfelt joy to you.” (p.73)

Stephen Batchelor: “All deeds (of others) are the source of a joy
That would be rare even if it could be bought with money.
Therefore, I should be happy in finding this joy
In the good things that are done by others.” (p. 46)

GKG: “In brief, we should let all our actions of body, speech and mind be directed towards the happiness of others. Such beneficial conduct is rarely found in the world…” (p. 202)

Chapter 6, Verse 4:

Tharpa: “Overcome by a fit of anger,
I might even kill a benefactor
Upon whose kindness I depend
For my wealth or reputation.” (p.69)

PTG: “Noble chieftans full of hate
Will be attacked and slain
By even those who look to them
For honors and possessions. (p.78)

Stephen Batchelor: “A master who has hatred
Is in danger of being killed
Even by those who, for their wealth and happiness,
Depend upon the master’s kindness.” (p. 53)

GKG: “[4] Wishing to retaliate against those who have harmed us, we expose ourselves to great physical danger merely to exact our petty revenge. .. Sometimes this blind rage is even directed at our loved ones and benefactors.” (p. 217)

Chapter 7, Verse 13: Here, the difference of interpretation has to do with the question of whether someone is dying and “crying out like the gods” or whether we wish to “remain like a long-life god while living in the jaws of death.”

Tharpa: “I wish for higher attainments without having to make any effort,
Permanent freedom without having patiently to endure any pain,
And to remain like a long-life god while living in the jaws of death.
How foolish I am! When death comes, I shall be overwhelmed by suffering!” (p. 97)

PTG: “Much harm will come to those with small forbearance,
Who wish to have the fruit without endeavor.
Seized by death, they’ll cry out like the gods:
‘Alas I fall, by pain and sorrow crushed.’” (p. 100)

Stephen Batchelor: “Much harm befalls those with little forbearance
And those who want results without making any effort.
While clasped by death, they shall cry like the gods,
‘Oh no, I am overcome by misery.’” (p. 78)

GKG: “[13] We want to gain swift enlightenment without having to apply any effort, and we want to be happy without having to create virtuous causes. Furthermore, unwilling to endure the slightest discomfort we wish to vanquish all suffering, and while living in the mouth of the Lord of Death we wish to remain like a long-life god…” (p. 266)

Chapter 7, Verse 38: Here, the difference is between whether I have only accomplished my own discomfort in my mother’s womb—or her discomfort.

Tharpa: “Do I give help to those in danger?
Or relief to those who are suffering?
No! All I have done is experience the discomforts
Of being in my mother’s womb, and all the subsequent sufferings.” (p. 101)

PTG: “The frightened I have not encouraged
And to the weary I have given no rest,
My mother’s birth pangs and her womb’s discomfort,
These alone are my accomplishments!” (p. 103)

Stephen Batchelor: “I have not granted fearlessness to the frightened
And I have not given happiness to the weak.
All I have given rise to is
The agonies in the mother’s womb and to suffering.” (p. 82)

Vesna & B. Alan Wallace: “I have not granted fearlessness to the frightened, nor have
I comforted the distressed. I became a spear in the womb just for my mother to suffer.” (p. 81)

Kate Crosby & Andrew Skilton: “I have not given fearlessness to the fearful, nor have
I comforted the afflicted. I became a barb in the womb solely to my mother’s suffering.” (p. 70)

GKG: “[37-38]…Have I granted fearlessness to people who are frightened by those in authority, robbers, adversaries, wild animals and so forth? Have I confessed all my non-virtues and accumulated a wealth of virtue? No I have done none of these things.

“We should take a good look at how our life has been spent. Since the agonies of our birth we have encountered the sufferings of sickness, ageing, not getting what we want and receiving what we do not want.” (p. 274)

Chapter 8, Verse 60: Did Shantideva himself actually write “thirty-six different kinds of impurity”?

Tharpa: “You have no desire for the body of an insect, however small,
That emerges from a pile of dung;
So why do you desire a gross, impure body
That is produced from thirty-six impure substances?” (p. 123)

PTG: “The fetid worms that live in filth—
You have no love for them, even little ones.
And yet you’re lusting for a human form,
From filth arisen, and replete with it!” (p. 119)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “You do not desire a dirty worm originating from filth because it is small, but you desire a body that consists of much filth and is also born from filth.” (p. 96)

Stephen Batchelor: “I have no wish for a small, dirty maggot
That has come from a pile of filth,
So why do I desire this body, which by nature is grossly unclean,
For it too was produced by filth?” (p. 99)

GKG: “[60] Not even a particle of desire arises in us for the small insect that arises from a pile of dung. Why then are we so attached to a body, made up of thirty-six different kinds of impurity?” (p. 307-308)

Chapter 8, Verse 104:

Tharpa: “But such compassion will bring me suffering
So why should I strive to develop it?
How can compassion bring suffering?
It is the very nature of a peaceful mind!” (p. 130)

PTG: “’The sorrow felt in pity aggravates,’ you say
‘The pain already felt. So why engender it?’
But can the sting of pity be compared
With all that other beings have to suffer?” (p. 125)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “[Qualm]: Much suffering comes from compassion, so why should one force it to arise?

[Response]: After seeing the suffering of the world, how can this suffering from compassion be considered great?” (p. 102)

GKG: “[104-105] It is too much of a burden to cherish others as we do ourself. These others have limitless suffering. Why should I want to take on more suffering than I already have? If a bodhisattva had to experience more suffering in the course of helping other sentient beings overcome their misery, he or she would gladly endure it… But do not be concerned that such a being will have more suffering from his practices. When he sees someone in misery, his own great compassion protects him from experiencing any problems or suffering…” (p. 337)

Chapter 8, Verse 152: This is a clear difference of interpretation. Whose hair pores are tingling? In this verse, it seems that the entire purpose of this particular visualization practice has been missed by GKG and Elliott.

Tharpa: “When others hear of my good qualities
As they are proclaimed to the world
May they experience so much delight
That their hair pores tingle with excitement.” (p. 138)

PTG: “Just to hear them talk about my qualities,
My reputation on the lips of all,
The thrill of it sends shivers down my spine,
The pleasure that I bask and revel in!” (p. 131)

Vesna & Alan Wallace (Sanskrit): “Hearing my own good qualities being praised everywhere in this way, thrilled, with my hair standing on end, I shall enjoy the delight of happiness.” (p. 108)

GKG: “… May my superior qualities and realizations be known to all beings and, as a result, may they develop such bliss that their hair pores tingle with delight!…” (p. 355)

Chapter 9, Verse 3: GKG and Elliott later run into trouble with their interpretation of this verse.

Tharpa: “Of those who assert the two truths, two types of person can be distinguished:
Madyamika-Prasangika yogis and proponents of things.
The views held by the proponents of things, who assert that things are truly existent
Are refuted by the logical reasonings of the Prasangika Yogis.” (p. 148)

PTG: “Two kinds of people are to be distinguished:
Meditative thinkers and ordinary folk;
The common views of ordinary people
Are superseded by the views of meditators.” (p. 137)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: “In light of this, people are seen to be of two types: the contemplative and the ordinary person. The ordinary folks are superseded by the contemplative.” (p. 116)

GKG: “The views of the common Yogis who assert that all things are inherently existent are refuted by the logical reasonings presented by the Yogis who hold the Prasangika viewpoint, such as Shantideva.” (p. 370)

Chapter 9, Verse 4: GKG demonstrates the trouble with his and Elliott’s interpretation. In one line he interprets this verse as referring to the many levels of insight of the Prasangika. In the next line, he says that Shantideva’s purpose in mentioning the different levels of understanding of yogis is to point out that “the Prasangika the he represents is superior to and cannot be contradicted by any of the other philosophical schools.” It seems he is contradicting himself and would have done better to have interpreted both verses as did PTG.

Tharpa: “Moreover, among the Prasangika Yogis, there are different levels of insight-
Those with greater understanding surpassing those with lesser understanding.
All establish their view through valid, analytical reasons.
Giving and so forth are practiced without investigation for the sake of achieving resultant Buddhahood.” (p. 148)

PTG:  “And within the ranks of meditators,
The lower, in degrees of insight, are confuted by the higher.
For all employ the same comparisons,
And the goal, if left unanalyzed, they all accept.” (p. 137)

GKG: “[4] Furthermore, yogis holding the Prasangika view include those with many levels of insight; therefore, those with higher levels of understanding surpass and go beyond those with lesser degrees of realization. (It should be noted that a Yogi is someone who has achieved the concentration of the union of tranquil abiding and superior seeing.) But why is it necessary for Shantideva to mention the different levels of understanding of Yogis? He does so in order to point out that the Prasangika that he represents is superior to and cannot be contradicted by any of the other philosophical schools.” (p. 370)

Chapter 9, Verse 49: Because I have a lot of trouble getting my mind around the idea of a “non-deluded confusion”, I’m afraid I prefer the PTG translation, which makes sense to me. I’ll leave this debate up to those wiser than myself!

Tharpa; “The abandonment that Arhats achieve is not temporary.
They definitely do not take rebirth in samsara again.
But just as you say that they have non-deluded confusion,
Why not also say they have non-deluded craving?” (p. 157)

GKG (agrees): “Proponent of things: [49] The abandonment of delusions that we attain through meditating on the sixteen characteristics of the four noble truths is not temporary but final, and it includes the abandonment of all impurities as well. Such Arhats are free from craving, the principle cause for being born in samsara; thus there is no chance of their being born in samsara again.”

Prasangika: For you there are two kinds of confusion: deluded and non-deluded confusion. If you can talk of a non-deluded confusion then why not of a non-deluded craving? Such a craving would then have to be possessed by your so-called Arhats. Although temporarily they may not have the craving derived from grasping at a self-supporting, substantially existent self, they will still have the craving derived from grasping at a truly existent self.” (p. 399)

PTG: (as in Verse 46): “’Only for a while,’ you say. ‘For it is certain
That the cause of rebirth, craving, is exhausted.’
They have no craving, granted, through defiled emotion.
But how could they avoid the craving linked with ignorance?” (p. 143)

Vesna & Alan Wallace: (as in Verse 46): “If you think that as long as there is no craving there is no grasping onto rebirth, why could their craving, even though free of mental afflictions, not exist as delusion?”

Footnote: “The Pranjika p. 208: ‘As the lack of knowledge (ajnana) that is free of mental afflictions.’ The point here is that according to the Abhidharmakosha, there are two types of delusion: afflictive and non-afflictive. Thus, Shantideva is suggesting that there may similarly be both afflictive and non-afflictive craving and that Sravaka Arhats may be subject to non-afflictive craving.” (p. 121)

Stephen Batchelor: “Vaibhashikas: Although they (49) temporarily are not freed from suffering, as soon as they abandon their disturbing conceptions, they will be freed when they leave their bodies because they definitely do not have any craving for the aggregates of body and mind, which is a principle condition for conditioned existence.

Madyamaka: Yet while they still have a form of craving that is a completely undisturbing state of confusion, why would they not take rebirth with aggregates contaminated by actions and disturbing conceptions?

And footnote on the term “completely undisturbing state of confusion” : “Nyon-mongs ma-yin pa’I rmongs-pa According to the Hinayanists, the subtle confusion existent in the mind of an Arhat that distinguishes that state of realization from that of a Buddha.”

Sources Cited

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, 2007, Meaningful to Behold, Tharpa Publications, Glen Spey, N.Y.

Shantideva, (Padmakara Translation Group translator) 2003, The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shambhala Publications, Boston, MA.

Shantideva (Neil Elliott translator) 2002, Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Tharpa Publications, Glen Spey, NY.

Shantideva (Stephen Batchelor translator) 2010, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, India.

Shantideva (Vesna A Wallace & B. Alan Wallace translators) 1997, A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY.

The Dangers of Meditation. Advice for Meditators. An interview with Leigh Brasington by Willoughby Britton.

You might have heard that there are people who did retreat but came back rather insane than sane? Then there are people for whom meditation works very well, they become more grounded. Why is this? And if you do meditation or intensive retreat isn’t there a chance to also get deeply confused and disturbed? Yes, there is. In the following video Leigh Brasington – who studied under Ayya Khema specializing in concentration practices and Jhanas, and who led more than 91 residential Jhana retreats – speaks about the dangers of meditation and gives advice how to deal with upcoming problems. (IMO, there is no danger with meditation, the danger is rather the ignorance that doesn’t know that you might face problems which you are not prepared for or that you cannot resolve on your own.)

Leigh Brasington says in the following interview that it is not uncommon that unresolved psychological issues (like trauma or bad parenting) will probably show up if you are getting more tranquil because they don’t come to the surface due to the daily distractions and because the energy was used so far to keep them down. Though for Asians, because they have another way to raise up their children, meditation might sort out also their psychological issues, for Westerners highly likely meditation cannot resolve all the psychological stuff and there is the risk of spiritual bypassing and other problems you can face.

See also

Leigh Brasington – What are Jhanas?

David Treleaven – Meditation and Trauma

Dr. Willoughby Britton – Progress or Pathology


Thank you Carol, for pointing this material out!

Too much wind energy (lung problems)


  Last edited by tenpel on March 11, 2014 at 12:56 am

The Dalai Lama on Sectarianism, Religious Freedom and the Shugden Issue

So in fact, restricting a form of practice that restricts others’ religious freedom is actually a protection of religious freedom. So in other words, negation of a negation is an affirmation.

Spoken During a Teaching in Madison, Wisconsin, 2008

This particular spirit, called Shugden … start[ed] during Fifth Dalai Lama, so now over 370 years. Since fifth Dalai Lama, almost I think, 300 years, this spirit, this deity, [has] always remain[ed] very very controversial. Only last 70 years, after 13th Dalai Lama’s death, then this spirit became more prominent in some area, in Lhasa area. That also, I think, almost like reaction to 13th Dalai Lama’s restriction.

… Since ’51 to early ’70, I myself [was] also a sincere worshipper of this spirit. I made [a] great mistake with [the] Dalai Lama’s name to worship this, due to my junior tutor. So eventually, I notice[d] this [was] something wrong, as a result of reading the autobiography of the fifth Dalai Lama and then many reliable, well known Gelugpa masters’ biographies. Then it became clear, this is wrong. This is evil spirit. So, Fifth Dalai Lama {translator}“clearly wrote and identified this spirit to be a spirit that has arisen on the basis of a distorted aspiration and its nature is that of destructive[ness] and its consequence is also harmful to the Buddha dharma and sentient beings in general.

So therefore, eventually I noticed that and then I dropped my practice. And then eventually [I] made [this] known to those monasteries , to those scholars or monks. Then they also [were] fully convinced because [there were] sufficient reasons or facts there. And 13th Dalai Lama also put restrictions.

Then [there are several reasons that] I feel [this]. Number one: Tibetan Buddhism [is] Nalanda tradition, such a profound tradition … Some Tibetans now not only [worship] this deity, but also some [other] spirits—Tibetans sometimes [put] too much emphasis on the importance of these spirits, rather than Buddha—or Nagarjuna—that’s a disgrace. So there’s real danger, such profound Nalanda tradition eventually degenerate [and] become something [like] spirit worship. It is [a] pity. Number one.

Of course, we can offer [to] those local spirit[s], or something like [asking] someone, please do some help, like that, then ok. But worship, or something very important, it is totally a mistake. {Translator} “In fact, the 13th Dalai Lama has actually made this statement to Gyabje Phabonkha Rinpoche, very clearly that if someone worships Shugden with such devotion, there is a danger that it could conflict with one’s precepts of taking refuge in the Three Jewels.”

So that is one factor, one reason. Second reason [is] I think part of [the] first reason … The second reason is: As you know, I [am] fully committed [to] non-sectarian principle. As fifth Dalai Lama and Second Dalai Lama, First Dalai Lama, Third Dalai Lama, all these previous masters, previous Dalai Lamas, as well as many great masters from all sects, Gelug, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Chonang, and many sects, many great masters, well known masters, [follow] according to non-sectarian principle. So worshipper of this spirit, they are very sectarian …

So therefore, I [am] fully committed to [the] promotion of nonsectarian principle. So therefore, this Shugden spirit—There are reliable stories [which] mention, according to my Junior tutor’s verbal accounts, [that] some of the Gelugpa lamas, as well as high officials, who practice Nyingma tradition, because of that, this deity destroyed [them], killed [them]. It’s recorded. About 13 cases mentioned in that story. So very sectarian.

So therefore, these two reasons. Then third, because the fifth Dalai Lama consider this [to be an] evil spirit, I have the name of 14th Dalai Lama, so therefore, I have to follow the principle of previous Dalai Lamas, fifth Dalai Lama and 13th Dalai Lama. So, I am trying to follow their example.

Then … religious freedom. Now here, firstly, spirit worship is not, I think, genuine religious practice. Certainly, this is not genuine Buddhist religion. But aside [from that], … now, my own story. In late 60’s, as I mentioned … this morning, 1967, I received teaching [from] Shantideva’s book from late Khunu Lama Rinpoche. Then, [I] received many other teachings from him, very rare teachings, which [were] not available from my two tutors.

Then later, I developed one desire to receive some text according to Nyingma tradition. I asked Ling Rinpoche, my senior tutor, [that] I have that kind of desire to receive one important Nyingma text, that I very much want to receive oral transmission from late Khunu Lama Rinpoche. {Translator} “Guhyagarbha Tantra”. Then, although Ling Rinpoche himself was very cautious about this spirit [Shugden], … he also you see, heard that if Gelugpa lama touch Nyingma tradition, then this spirit will harm them. So Ling Rinpoche [was] a little cautious. Then, [he] advised me, “Be cautious, not good [to] receive Nyingma tradition from him.”

Although I already [had] received many texts, many teachings from [Khunu Lama Rinpoche] already, but [about receiving] this particular Nyingma text, Ling Rinpoche [was] very very cautious. So then I stopped. {Translator} “So at that time, it seems I did not get my own religious freedom.”

Because [of] fear, exaggerated fear, I lost genuine religious freedom. Because I dropped this practice, then I got religious freedom. I received teachings from Nyingma tradition, from Sakya tradition, from Kagyu tradition, from various reliable lamas, I received teachings. Now, I think I can say, with a little pride, I think I have some knowledge of all these traditions. So it is very useful.

Another sort of sad story. In the late 60s, one old Kuno (?) monk, I think age around—I still remember his face—age around 60, like that. Physically also quite small. He came to see me and ask me for some Nyingma teachings. Then I [had] no knowledge of that teaching. So I asked him, “That subject I do not know. Please go to Varanasi or Bodhgaya”– and Khunu Lama Rinpoche still alive, so—“approach Khunu Lama Rinpoche and ask him. I have no [knowledge about] that teaching.”

So later, I found, “Oh I’m Buddhist.” {Translator} “For example, the Buddha states in the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra that the bodhisattva should cultivate the knowledge of all the paths, the paths of the disciples, the paths of the self-enlightened ones and the paths of the bodhisattvas. So the bodhisattvas may be able to fulfill the needs of all people who aspire for teachings that are appropriate to their own mental faculties.”

So at that time, I really felt very sad … I failed to fulfill the wishes of that poor monk. Still I feel like that.

Now today, suppose that person come, then I proudly explain …

So also, past Tibetan history. Unnecessary conflict in the name of religion also happen, frankly speaking. Sometimes we call Sarma—“So sometimes when two monasteries clash with each other, it’s called the yellow war.” Very sad. Really sad.

Actually, after 13th Dalai Lama passed away, due to this deity, this spirit, some small Nyingma monastery or temple in some cases actually destroyed—because of the sectarian conflict. These things I later came to know. So therefore, religious freedom: {Translator} “So in fact, restricting a form of practice that restricts others’ religious freedom is actually a protection of religious freedom. So in other words, negation of a negation is an affirmation.”

So, now some of their accusations, including Chinese officials also accuse me—the Dalai Lama … sort of violated religious freedom because of Shugden worshipper. Now Chinese officially accuse me. So therefore, they use the word “ban.” I never use that. I am fully committed about freedom of speech, freedom of expression. So, right from the beginning, I made it very clear. It is my moral responsibility to make clear what is wrong, what is right. But whether listen or not, it’s up to them, [up to each] individual. I have no power to impose.

So I am happy these people enjoy their freedom of speech, freedom of expression, very good. So the other day, in Germany, [during] my recent visit, again a group [of protestors] shouting. I hear their voice, particularly one lady’s, I think one nun maybe, so quite strong. So I think at least three or four hours shouting. Then I got real sort of worry, “oh her throat may suffer.”

Madison, Wisconsin, July, 2008

See also

Academic Research about Shugden

Overview about Shugden

  • Dorje Shugden – An overview article mainly based on academic papers

Dorje Shugden and Wikipedia

Women monastics are indispensible

We need to understand that the situation now with Bhikshunis is an important issue. Some people think that there have been some foreign nuns who’ve come over and started making an issue out of it and it’s only then that the Bhikshuni issue has become an important question, and that before it wasn’t important. But that is absolutely not the case. The fact that it was not an important issue for us before is our fault. It’s our problem, and it’s us not living up to our own responsibility. And this is for monks and nuns both—we have both let this slide, so it is all of our responsibility. – HH the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje

There is a teaching by HH the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, during the 1st Arya Kshema Nuns’ Gathering – Why Bhikshuni Ordination is Important:

You find it a written summery here:

H.H. the 17th Karmapa will come to Germany and Berlin from the 28 May to the 9th June 2014. Details here.

More about Bhikshuni Ordination

Dalai Lama fake quotes

This week I got twice the “18 Rules for Living” attributed to the Dalai Lama. The first time I received it via a Powerpoint presentation attached to an email asking me to share it within 96 hours with many people, claiming tremendous benefit I would receive by spreading it. The second time I received it today via a Newsletter of a respected Buddhist organization, included in the Losar New Years’ greetings of a most wonderful, kind and wise teacher. There it was said:

Let us all remember The Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules for Living:

  1. Take into account that great love & great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three Rs: – Respect for self – Respect for others – Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  7. When you realize you have made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older & think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go someplace you have never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

Now, look more closely on those rules: is this the way the Dalai Lama expresses himself? Is this his way he puts things or is it the Dalai Lama’s style of phrasing things? Does he have an attitude or a tendency to render things in such slogans? Would he really say: “Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly”? – a man, who always lists among the good qualities a human being should cultivate self-discipline?

I replied to both persons, that I think these 18 rules are a fake. To the Buddhist teacher I expressed my doubts and added some reasons why I believe that this is not from the Dalai Lama. After I sent the email I checked on the internet if these 18 rules are by the Dalai Lama, and, indeed they are a fake: Not again! The Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules for Living: Another fake

But there are more Dalai Lama fake quotes and recordings.

Did you ever stumble upon “The Paradox of Our Time” by the Dalai Lama?

The paradox of our time.

We have bigger houses but smaller families.

We have more degrees but less sense;
more knowledge but less judgements;
more experts but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but we have trouble crossing the street
to meet the new neighbour.

We build more computers
to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever,
but we have less communication.

We have become long on quantity
but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods,
but slow digestion;
tall man, but short character;
steep profits, but shallow relationships.

It is time when there is much in the window
but nothing in the room.

Dalai Lama

You can apply the same analysis: is this the way the Dalai Lama renders things? Would he say this? I doubted that always, and I always saw it as a fake. In Italy, at Istituto Lama Tsong Khapa, where I studied they sell it even in the shop to people.

The attribution of “The Paradox of Our Time” to the Dalai Lama is also wrong:

The reason why I became more cautious in these matters is that I was fooled in the past by a mantra that was given to me by prisoners some years ago on a CD that claimed that “This is a recording of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his entourage chanting prayers at the sickbed of his dear friend Vaclav Havel.” I believed it naively to be true and posted it on New Kadampa Survivors. You can find it here on YouTube:

Later a member of the New Kadampa Survivor forum found out that it is simply a Hindu Mantra called the Gayatri Mantra: Details of the recording’s origin can be found here:

Realize how you are fooled believing what the video claims:

This is a recording of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his entourage chanting prayers at the sickbed of his dear friend Vaclav Havel.

It was recorded on a battery powered hand-held tape recorder. His Holiness gave his permission to for it to be reproduced and given as a non-commercial FREE gift.

Why do I think it matters to be careful in this regard?

Some yeas ago in Germany, the Dalai Lama was nastily attacked by an online newspaper article for his “naive sayings” but when I checked what they claimed the Dalai Lama said, I found out, that it was not from the Dalai Lama but an anonymous website full of such sayings. So they attacked him as being naive and foolish for things he never said, and a lot of people believed this online newspaper article.

I think this is not a good development and I wish people are more careful. In the long run it distorts the real message of His Holiness the Dalai Lama which is by far profounder than many of those superficial sayings that sound nice but don’t have much of a substance. The Dalai Lama has a special way of expressing himself and how he renders things, with some carefulness you can prevent to spread things the Dalai Lama never said. And I would like to invite you also to be more careful. Thank you.

See also

The greater the light, the greater the shadow – One has to learn from it all, even from misdirected gurus

A friend sent me a link to a very useful article about the traps of unhealthy relationships between Westerners and their gurus or Buddhist teachers.

Here an excerpt:

Many Westerners who turn to the new religions — Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age cults, etc. — are of course very vulnerable. The mainstream Western re­ligious traditions, long es­tranged from the wellsprings of true inspiration, have signally failed to provide them with satisfactory spiritual support and guidance. It has moreover been persuasively argued by the American commentator Ken Wilber (in his book Up from Eden) that contemporary so­ciety does not provide the conditions necessary for proper psychological and spiritual de­velopment.

So vulnerable people quite naturally turn to where what is deficient seems to be on offer-In the short-term the guru and the cult may offer support, guidance and conducive con­ditions for healing and auth­entic spiritual development. In the long-term, however, there is sometimes a very high price to pay. There is in short usually an initial giving, but later a subtle withholding is brought into play. This of course is the basic mechanism of addiction.

An authentic teacher, like the Buddha himself (see The Kalama Sutta), will always seek to put his spiritual charges in touch with their own internal spiritual centre — with the Buddha within. While some of our modern gurus purport to be doing this, they often fail to confer the sacred talisman that bestows self-reliance. Perhaps this is not really so surprising. To allow their followers to become free would after all be to risk depleting the willing labour force that creates and runs their centres and publicity machines, and which also prov­ides that intoxicating adulation to which some gurus become so addicted.

It’s worth to read all of it:

See also

The followers of the New Kadampa Tradition revive their protests against the Dalai Lama

It seems to me it becomes more obvious why the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) / Western Shugden Society (WSS) use Google ads to defame the Dalai Lama, they revived their protests against him and undermine his activities in the United States now:


Followers of Kelsang Gyatso/NKT protest in San Francisco

Norden Kelsang – a 38-year-old nun of the New Kadampa Tradition and a Shugden adherent, who practices in New York – at Saturday’s rally said the demonstrators want religious freedom. But she doesn’t seem to see that this wish contradicts her own statement (and reality) when she says: “We don’t need the Dalai Lama to practice our religion or for us to practice his”.

Everybody in NKT can practice Shugden, none has to respect the Dalai Lama (images of him are not welcomed in NKT as it is in Tibet under Chinese occupation), and though there is a certain amount of dependent arising trouble in India, the Tibetans in India who practice Shugden have their own monasteries and can practice Shugden there …

It is also somewhat strange to me, that Norden Kelsang sees Shugden practice as a religion and seems to believe that her religion (Tibetan Buddhism, Gelug order) would be another religion than that of the Dalai Lama …

The Dalai Lama said during the speech in San Francisco, California, USA, 22 February 2014, the following things about the protesters and Shudgen practice in general (excerpt taken from a summery of the speech by the American Himalayan Foundation):

At this point His Holiness digressed to speak about the worshippers of the perfidious spirit Dolgyal or Shugden who had been demonstrating in the street outside the hall as he arrived. They were shouting and waving banners, their faces contorted in aggressive expressions. It was people like these who murdered a good monk and his students as they worked to translate a scripture into Chinese one night in 1997 near His Holiness’s residence in Dharamsala, he said. Today, their slogan was ‘Stop lying’, but the question is who really is lying.

Turning back once more to the topic of Shugden he declared that he had once worshipped the spirit himself. Gradually, however, he came to realise that there was something wrong with it, particularly in the context of the Buddhist tradition. He looked into its history and discovered that it had come about during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, who had referred to it as a malevolent spirit arisen from distorted prayers that harms the Dharma and sentient beings. He suggested the protestors complain to the 5th Dalai Lama.

As His Holiness left his hotel, some nuns told him that it was a matter of religious freedom, but he sees it the other way. Worship of this spirit goes hand in hand with sectarianism and restrictions on religious freedom. He recalled wanting to receive transmission of a Nyingma teaching from Khunu Lama Rinpoche, and consulting his main tutor Ling Rinpoche. Despite having no connection at all with the worship of this spirit, Ling Rinpoche cautioned him against receiving the transmission for fear of the harm the spirit might do. He cited this as an example of his own religious freedom being constrained. He declared that it was only when he stopped worshipping Dolgyal that he was really able to enjoy religious freedom. The audience broke into applause.

“Due to ignorance and distorted information, the followers of this practice are completely confused. In India, they have their own monasteries where they can do what they want. Kelsang Gyatso, one of their teachers once told a reporter in England that the 14th Dalai Lama had done nothing beneficial for the cause of Tibet. Isn’t this something of a lie?”


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