… they use the word “ban.” I never use that. – The 14th Dalai Lama¹
Over the past two decades and, more recently during his tour of the US, the International Shugden Community (the latest New Kadampa Tradition ‘front organization‘ and its political wing) have protested against the Dalai Lama’s decision to ‘ban’ the worship of the gyalpo Shugden.
When asked to provide explicit evidence of such a ban, supporters of the deity frequently point to the following statement, purportedly from the Dalai Lama, which appears at YouTube (see 2:53 onwards):
I began this ban to continue the Fifth Dalai Lama’s legacy, I started this by myself and I have to continue, and carry it to the end.
The word “ban” has Western, ecclesiastic connotations and refers to a practice whereby a Church authority can prohibit any member of the congregation or denomination from doing something on pain of excommunication from the Church.
The YouTube video the NKT/ISC claim as ‘evidence’ that the Dalai Lama used that word—and thus invoked their demand for redress—uses clips from a speech in Tibetan by the Dalai Lama to Tibetan monks. The text of the English translation and voice-over are supplied by supporters of the deity and it is they who use the word ‘ban’.
In fact, as any Tibetan speaker will confirm, the Dalai Lama uses a Tibetan word translatable as ‘disapprove’, or even stronger, ‘condemnation’, in the sense of to ‘consider it unworthy of doing’ in the video. The Shugden devotees however translate this as “ban,” in their subtitles, clearly with the deceptive intent that English speaking persons, opponents, neutrals and even their own followers, will assume that the Dalai Lama actually said it [which he did not], and thus invoke horrifying images of the Catholicism of the Inquisition, with its connotations of burning at the stake, direct descent into hell, and so forth.
This is not the first instance of such cynical manipulation of the truth. In 2010, Shugden devotees (this time in the guise of ‘The Dorjee Shugden Devotees’ Charitable and Religious Society-the Indian office of the ISC, with close links to Chinese Government officials) went to the High Court in Delhi with allegations of ‘violence and harassment’. When the issue was not resolved in their favour, it was claimed that the Court had been ‘unable to reach a conclusive decision’.
Examining Court documents however, we learn that the case was actually thrown out of Court, even before the proceedings commenced, with the presiding judge stating that ‘the allegations of violence and harassment were ‘vague averments’ and that the raised issues ‘do not partake of any public law character and therefore are not justiciable in proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution.’
Citing the ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’ on Shugden practitioners, the Court noted the counter affidavit submitted by the respondents,referring to ‘an understanding reached whereby it was left to the monks to decide whether they would want to be associated with the practices of Dorjee Shugden.’ (ie the practice had not been ‘banned’)
Closing the doors on the possibility of similar complaints in the future, Justice Muralidhar concluded that the ‘matters of religion and the differences among groups concerning propitiation of religion, cannot be adjudicated upon by a High Court in exercise of its writ jurisdiction.’ (See http://info-buddhism.com/tibet.net-Delhi_High_Court_Dismisses_Dorjee_Shugden_Devotees_Charges.pdf)
It is difficult to understand how this can be construed as the Court being ‘unable to reach a conclusive decision’. Indeed the decision to close the doors on similar complaints in the future, because the allegations were ‘vague’ and there was an ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’ seems quite final. One can only assume that, as with the translation of the term ‘ban’ in the YouTube video, the decision to publicly misconstrue the truth was a cynical propagandist manipulation of fact in order to provide ‘evidence’ to support the ongoing divisive activities of Shugden devotees in the East and West.
¹ see The Dalai Lama on Sectarianism, Religious Freedom and the Shugden Issue, spoken during a teaching in Madison, Wisconsin, 2008
- The Dalai Lama And The Cult Of Dolgyal Shugden – Robert Thurman in The Huffinton Post
- Document – China: AI’s position on alleged abuses against worshippers of Tibetan deity Dorje Shugden by Amnesty International (PDF)
- China’s Involvement in the Dorje Shugden Controversy
- Kelsang’s monks and nuns protest again, accusing the Dalai Lama of religious persecution and human rights abuses
Academic Research about Shugden
Overview about Shugden
- Dorje Shugden – An overview article mainly based on academic papers