Mixing Dharma with Politics

The Mahaparinirvana Sutra states:

When a society comes together and makes decisions in harmony, when it respects its most noble traditions, cares for its most vulnerable members, treats its forests and lands with respect, then it will prosper and not decline…

HH the Dalai Lama:

I believe we must consciously develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. We must learn to work not just for our own individual self, family or nation but for the benefit of mankind.[1]

Western Shugden Society prepares next Anti-Dalai-Lama-Protests in Nantes, France

While the NKT/WSS is actually celebrating the NKT annual Buddhist Summer Festival at Manjushri Institute (Ulverston, Cumbria), led by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, they are also preparing the coming protests, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit and teachings in France which will start August 15, 2008 in Nantes.

A witness reported at the New Kadampa Survivor Forum about the present situation at NKT’s head center in Ulverston. Here is an extract:

I went to the festival or should I say political extremism gone mad. There were posters everywhere you looked, recruiting for the French demo against His Holiness. They were on all doors 2 a time inside and out. In all rooms, hallways. On mobile cooking points, walls and outbuildings. Even on the temple wall. The chapel was used as a meeting point. Even more posters! The walls were covered as were the doors and tables! Mein Gott! K.G. called it a Spiritual holiday to practise dharma. It felt like a BNP political rally. Not National Front.[..]
The ordained, although they have not taken ordination vows were sitting round tables watching videos of themselves at the demos! Attachment? Some told me they were prepared to use violence. Hatred? Why? Geshe-la wants us to win at all costs. Confusion? They have truly been poisoned. [..] I found the whole thing quite perverse. G.K giving an empowerment of Avalokiteshvara while before and after festival gathering and organising his Stormtroopers to attack the Living Embodiment of Avalokiteshvara? For an individual to use such an important time in peoples lives to suit his own ignorance I found quite disturbing and sad. With His Holiness at least we have hope for the future.

Another person confirmed this

Yes, they are gathering forces for their all expenses paid trip to France. Not with my money, they aint! I’ve seen people going to demos (quite new to Dharma) with a literal string of criminal convictions to call HHDL a hypocrite and a liar. Who are the hypocrites? The NKT does nothing else for wider society: this is their whole raison d’etre to keep DS practise alive. This, folks, is their real ‘hidden’ agenda. Shameful.

The NKT nun Kelsang N. stated at her blog:

Of the demonstrations against the Dalai Lama – Not surprisingly, mixed feelings abound, but overall people are feeling very positive about what’s happening. The vast majority of people I talked to had gotten to attend at least one demonstration, and most of them had very positive, meaningful experiences, echoing what my own Sangha buddies had said. But naturally, not everyone is so happy about what’s happening. What I did not hear was anyone who thought that the Dalai Lama’s actions are ethical or in the right. But what I did hear are people who are unsure if this is the correct response, and, disturbingly, I also heard stories of people feeling “pushed” by their local Resident Teacher to participate in the demonstrations. (see HappyNKTer’s webblog – PDF file)

She confirmed further at her happynkter webblog that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is the initiator of the protests and views himself as the only remaining representative of Trijang Rinpoche. He also seems to be thinking about suing some critics. She wrote:

Of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso – I always find it interesting to hear stories about what Geshe Kelsang is up to behind the scenes. Rumours always abound, especially at Festivals. So take these stories with a grain of salt!

Geshe-la had a monk read to him all the personal criticism against him that is around on the internet. Apparently it took two hours to read through everything. While the monk read, Geshe-la listened with closed eyes, occasionally saying the word, “Compassion.”

During the annual meeting with the Resident Teachers, he told them what led up to his decision to begin organizing opposition to the Dalai Lama. First, he was invited by some monks to India to see the discrimination that was happening. Upon arriving, he found that the situation had really deteriorated. He talked to many forlorn monks, and ended up giving them a good deal of food and money (food because most vendors will not sell to them, and they cannot buy food within their monasteries). When he returned to England, he spent many sleepless nights and thought to himself, “Perhaps it is the Dalai Lama’s karma to be able to destroy Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition, and it is too late.” But he felt that he was his Guru Trijang Rinpoche’s only remaining representative, and as a representative of his teacher, he had to speak out. He felt he could not sit by and do nothing. One morning he awoke feeling very clear about what to do, and we started down this road of demonstrations.

And watch out — it looks like he may also begin some legal proceedings against some different entities and individuals over all of this.

Mixing Dharma with Politics

In general Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and NKT put much emphasis on the concept of ‘not mixing dharma with politics’. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso made use if this concept to criticize his fellow student Lama Thubten Yeshe and finally to split from him and FPMT. Lama Thubten Yeshe invited Geshe Kelsang in 1977 from Indian exile to England to teach the ‘General Programme’ of Buddhist studies at his centre Manjushri Institute in Ulverston, Cumbria. Two years later Lama Yeshe installed Geshe Jampa Tegchok there to teach the more advanced ‘Geshe Study Programme’. According to the “Sera expulsion letter” finally Geshe Kelsang Gyatso “usurped the FPMT centre and made it his own NKT”. According to researcher David Kay “in 1991, through the successful exploitation of a legal loophole, the assets of Manjushri Institute finally fell under the sole control of the Priory Group” (the close disciples of Geshe Kelsang). (Kay 2004 : 78) Kay states that Geshe Kelsang’s criticism of Lama Yeshe and FPMT “would often be couched in terms of the destruction of the ‘purity’ of the Dharma.” Geshe Kelsang claimed in the NKT publication “Eradicating wrong views”: the creation of the central governing organisation of the FMPT by Lama Yeshe had ‘mixed the Dharma with politics’ and thereby destroyed it. (Kay 2004 : 66)

More than 20 years after the schism at Manjushri Institute, the students of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso use the same concept and logic to criticise the Dalai Lama of ‘mixing dharma with politics’ and to have “caused one of greatest divisions in Buddhism since its inception.” (see e.g. Six Reasons…) In the heat of their world wide protests and media campaign it seems that they don’t recognise that they actually do those actions they accuse others of doing. Many former NKT members see WSS/NKT’s accusations against the Dalai Lama of being a “hypocrite”, a “liar” and “oppressor of religious freedom” or of “mixing dharma with politics” and creating “divisions” as dishonest and wrong. It may not be unfair and far more close to the facts to say, NKT/WSS can apply all these accusations to portray their own actions.

Regarding political acts, Tibetans in general don’t see politics as something dirty or bad. Their view is mainly if politics are good or bad depends upon the motivation, politic is not bad from its own side. In fact also the Jatakamala about Buddha’s former lives (before he became fully enlightened) show that many times he was a Bodhisattva king who ruled a country for the benefit of the people, thereby helping them to do good actions of patience, tolerance and especially ethics, and creating a karmic link to them. Later when the Bodhisattva became finally the Buddha, 2500 years ago, the Buddha gave also advice to kings, as some centuries later Arya Nagarjuna did as well. (One king even consulted the Buddha when he wished to go to war.)

If NKT uses this concept of ‘mixing dharma with politics’ to point out something very bad and NKT members think it is a valid concept they should apply it also to the Buddha. If they do, it follows that even the Bodhisattva who became the Buddha of our age had ‘mixed dharma with politics’.

What HH the Dalai Lama does, who is seen at least as a high Bodhisattva, ruling a country or a community based on Buddhist (ethical) principles, the Buddha has done too in his former lives as a Bodhisattva. This approach was not only a way to help sentient beings but to accumulate the merit (good karma) to finally get fully enlightened.

HH the Dalai Lama and Tibetans hold the view politics can help others and there is a need for politics so that communities can function in a good way. Someone must do this job, so why not make good politics and choose a person of the highest integrity who actions are based on compassion and wisdom for that? What is wrong with this?

The view of HH the Dalai Lama is:

“If we serve sentient beings by engaging in political activities with a spiritual orientation, we are actually following the Bodhisattva’s way of life.” (Gems of the Heart by the Dalai Lama, booklet)

“We share the view that religion and politics do mix and both agree that it is the clear duty of religion to serve humanity, that it must not ignore reality. It is not sufficient for religious people to be involved in prayer. Rather, they are morally obliged to contribute all they can to solving the world’s problems. [..] Politicians [with the aim to serve people through politics] need religion even more than a hermit on retreat. If a hermit acts out of bad motivation, he harms no one but himself. But if someone who can directly influence the whole of society acts with bad motivation, then a great number of people will adversely effected. I find no contradiction at all between politics and religion. For what is religion? As far as I am concerned, any deed done with good motivation is a religious act. On the other hand, a gathering of people in a temple or church who do not have good motivation are not performing a religious act when they prey together.[2]

The actions of WSS/NKT against the Dalai Lama also reflect other stories from the Jatakamala. There are some stories which show that the Bodhisattva, who finally became the Buddha of this present age, also had an adversary in Devadatta. Devadatta’s actions against the Bodhisattva are portrayed in different stories of the Jatakamala to be similar to a fox competing with a lion or a jackal competing with an elephant. Devadatta was extremely jealous of the Bodhisattva and thought in his deluded pride he would be wiser than the future Buddha. When the Bodhisattva became finally the Buddha, more than 2500 years ago, it was Devadatta who split the Monastic Order (Sangha) by creating his own monastic rules and criticizing the Buddha.

Regarding political acts, it is also true that Buddhist masters advised against political activities. It is said that Nagarjuna prayed not be a politician in all his future lives.[3] In general for religious people politics can be damaging distraction undermining their own practice and inner development; or politics can be caught up in the self-centred attitude into longing for gain, honour and praise, finally leading one towards committing many destructive actions. However, from the Buddhist point of view, if ‘political actions’ are harmful, beneficial or neutral will depend upon the motivation and understanding (wisdom) of the doer. Therefore there are Buddhist teachers who hold e.g. the view: “Spirituality and politics aren’t different. People think they are, but they are the same.” (see Rebecca Novick: The Dharma of Politics: Adventures in Interdependence, Mandala Aug/Sept 2008), and there are Buddhist teachers who are completely restrained of engaging in politics. There are also Buddhist teachers or practitioners practising duplicity by claiming not to practice politics while being actively engaged.


Buddhism is a way to come closer to reality and is much more subtle, vast and deep than many of the oversimplified NKT or Shugden follower’s conceptions suggest. Moreover it appears that NKT and some Shugden followers, like “Mahalama” Lobsang Yeshi (Kundeling Lama) or Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, are far more involved in politics than even they seem to think. The question is now to judge to what extent their politics are based on integrity, compassion and wisdom.

[1] The Political Philosophy of His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Editor: A.A. Shiromany, Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre and Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, 1998, p XV, ISBN: 81-86230-20-3

[2] Freedom in Exile: Autobiography of the Dalai Lama by Dalai Lama XIV, p 202-3

[3] This claim is made by NKT but until now I have not seen any stanza or text by Nagarjuna which can approve this claim.

last edits: Dec 31, 2009


  1. It seems they are digging their heels in despite the bad press and in a way want this to end badly. It fits into their apocalyptic vision of the “Pure Dharma” being “Destroyed” in the Tibetan community.

    Far from spontaneous, I believe the whole situation has been planned very carefully from the beginning. But already they have shot themselves in the foot because they Shugden Lamas they are supporting have become apologists for the Chinese policies in Tibet due to the cultural revolution.

    While they may try to distance themselves from Kundeling Losang Yeshi, his statements are already on camera, and his position in the Shugden Society and as a litigant against the Dalai Lama in the write petition are easy to confirm.

    If this was an accident, shame on them for not investigating who they were getting involved with. If it is on purpose, shame on NKT leaders for not being honest with their inexperienced followers who joined the protests.

  2. lightmind says:

    I find the above points really quite interesting as I also attended the Summer festival and it appeared to my mind very differently. Everyone was relaxed and happy to be engaging in Dharma activities and engaging in meditations on developing universal compassion. I was there for the whole 2 weeks and didnt once see people sitting round tables watching video footage of the demos. I saw a few notes up about the demos but not many and I certainly wasnt being harrassed into taking part. What I found very inspiring was that the people I talked to who had been on the demos were saying how peaceful everyone had been and what good intentions people had shown. Perhaps I attended a different summer festival than those ‘witnesses’ that you write about!! It begs the question why do people pay hard earned money to attend such festivals when they seem to have a negative view of the Lama who is teaching and the people attending??

    Oh and also I didnt see any evidence of these gullible western students who arent capable of thinking for themselves and will follow anyone like sheep that you seem to think the NKT is full of!

    take care guys

    comment by TP
    Thank you for sharing your view. As a witness and active member of the protests 1996-1998 and an outer witness of the protests in Nantes, France 15-17 August 2008, I do not refer to these protests as being peaceful. NKT’s self-perception differs a lot from how others perceive them. Most find the protests obstrusive, aggressive or hostile, some more relaxed people, like HH the Dalai Lama, can accept them. (He said he is “happy that they can enjoy freedom of expression”; a view certainly not share by the majority.) Some who believe NKT/WSS’s claims may think the protests are good in revealing injustice acts. There are and will be different opinions based on persons’ understanding, background and ability to judge. The protests in Nantes were portrayed to me by a witness as he had the feeling of “running the gauntlet” and “meeting a military camp”. I felt them likewise. For me aggressive, noisy and deliberately abusive speech is not non-violence, it is verbal violence. Most Buddhist will certainly share this position.

  3. lightmind says:

    Subjective view is fascinating dont you think? I have a positive view of the WSS demonstrators and so they appear to me to be acting in a calm and pleasant way, with a good intention. For someone else who perhaps holds an opposing view (that they or perhaps their actions are negative) they appear angry and abusive and they would therefore say that they are acting with a negative intention (as only neg. intention can come from anger right?).

    So which of us has the correct view?

    comment TP
    Subjective view is fascinating dont you think? I have a positive view of HHDL he appears to me to be acting in a concerned and compassionate manner, not like a dictator, liar or hypocrite, he is acting with a good intention. For someone else who perhaps holds an opposing view (that he is the 21 Century Buddhist Dictator, a liar and hypocrite his actions are negative) he appears angry and abusive and they would therefore say that he is acting with a negative intention (as only neg. intention can come from anger right?).

    So which of us has the correct view?

  4. Hi all,

    Firstly, Tenzin – I appreciate you allowing both points of view on here. I truly believe that the only way to solve this will be through dialogue, so I am inpsired by your openness of mind – this is wonderful

    This leads me to saying thankyou to Ron, I believe that you have made the issue very clear. The pointblank refusal of the dialogue I’m talking about by His Holiness certainly raised an eyebrow.

    Regardless of what we hear or read about WSS having ties with the Chinese, the issue for the Shugen people is really quite simple. They are not interested in politics, they simply want religious freedom (I know this first hand as I have spent a lot of time now with both Tibetan and Western Shugden practitioners and I can say thay just want to get on with their practices).

    And it is clear for all to see that His Holiness has abused his political position by using it to enforce his religious beliefs – I think this restriction on people’s beliefs even breaks the Tibetan Govenment in Exile’s own constitution.

    In many ways I am not surprised that China are so interested in the issue – The first reasons His Holiness gave for banning the practise were 1, it shortened his life span and 2, it damaged the cause for Tibetan independance (These 2 reasons are not being applicable anymore – 1, he is 73 – which is double the average lifespan of the previous Dalai Lamas (I think) 2, he has publically stated many times that he wishes for autonomy as and not independence – which be why the reasons for the ban change), so if you were in the Chinese govenment, and you heard this – wouldn’t you be interested? One could say that the ban and it’s reasons are the problem, not those demonstrating for religious freedom.

    In terms of the ‘intention depends upon the mind’ discussion between lightmind and TP – one begs the question: how pure would your mind have to be in order to perceive the banning of hospital treatment for a Shugden practitioner as the action of a compassionate Bodhisattva leader? Perhaps the objection would be that it is not His Holiness banning such treatment, but his followers. I read somewhere that Shugden practitioners should really be protesting against his followers as it is their perogative to enforce such things – my reply would simply be – how could sucj a compassionate leader allow one part of his society to turn on another part? Unless it suited him in some way?

    comment TP
    Thanks for posting. I don’t think that the propblem is a restriction for Shugden practice for those following H.H. the Dalai Lama as their teacher. The problem comes from how people deal with that restriction and how they are able to understand the reasons for the restriction or the way to deal with it, if they can’t accept that restriction.

    For the reasons there are plentiful information at HHDL’s internetsite and many Gelug, Nyingma, Kagyue and also Sakya Lamas stated their opinions – widely supporting the view of HHDL. HHDL said nobody should accept just because he said it: “Others of you may be thinking, “well I am not sure of the reasons, but as it is something that the Dalai Lama has instructed, I must abide by it”. I want to stress again that I do not support this attitude at all. This is a ridiculous approach. This is a position that one should come to by weighing the evidence and then using one’s discernment about what it would be best to adopt and what best to avoid.”

    I have the inpression Kundeling Lama, Gonsar Rinpoche, Geshe Kelsang, Dagom Rinpoche and the many Shugden followers I met are just unwilling to see the issue from a different perspective and just practice it, “because Trijang Rinpoche has taught it”. I see this approach not as being very reasonable. I have never had the feeling that they really tried to understand HHDL’s and the other masters’ position who reject Shugden as being spiritual harmful. Gonsar Rinpoche said: “I do not understand the Dalai Lama.” Dagom Rinpoche said: “I don’t know what the Dalai Lama says.” This doesn’t convince me.

    I recognized a blind clinging onto that practice by Shugden followers besides its controversial background and history; and the praise of Shugden’s power by Zeymed Rinpoche and Pabhongkha Rinpoche how effective Shugden is to kill followers who destroy the “purity” of the Gelug teachings by practising others’ (especially Nyingma) teachings (“mixing” them). That many high Nyingma masters (Yogis) tried different times to destroy Shugden and wrote texts against this ‘deity’ is also an argument for their firm belief of his harmful power and influence. Shugdenpas interprete their non-success as a sign that Shugden must be a Buddha. Although they know this they still deny or reject actively that there are problems with this ‘deity’ and between Nyingma and ‘Shugden-Gelugpas’. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso even claimed wrongly in his open letter to Newsweek that there were never any problems and that all problems come reclusively through the Dalai Lama’s “evil actions”. This is one of a Shugdenpa’s typical denial of historic facts and unrealistic trial to point out as the source of all problems one single being (HHDL). This unrealistic and non-Buddhist pattern is very deep rooted in NKT, Geshe Kelsang’s claims, WSS’s claims and most Shugden followers’ point of view. Kundeling lama is no exception to this.

    My firm conviction from knowing and having spend time with both sides is, that the hurt Shugden followers feel is based on the clinging to that practice and the oral explanation of its importance. Then there is a lot of ignorance about the history up to puting a spin on the facts and introducing ideas which lack historical verifiability.

    HHDL said in Nantes he practiced it from 1951 to the early 70ies just due to ignorance, then he started to investigate and to correct himself. Later seeing the damage of the practice he advised against it in the public. I think, there is nothing wrong with this. He is the highest Gelug tulku, he should give advice (like HH Karmapa gives advice and is the highest authority to his followers and his own teachers) and he should be interested in the spiritual and national wellbeing of those who put him into that position of being the 14th Dalai Lama. He himself made it possible that he can get impeached. He didn’t put himself into the position of the 14th Dalai Lama. He does his job, and most think he does it well. Minority interests will always suffer where the wellfare of the majority is more important, this is nothing new and this is also according to Buddhists’ understanding. As the Buddha has taught suffering comes from the three root poisons and selfishness. Sectarianism is based on mind poisons and Shugden worship is sadly deeply inflicted with sectarianism and many Shugden followers have a very narrow minded and self-centered view. At least this is what I recognized.

    That there, according to WSS, seem to be some cases were Shugden followers were refused treatment in hospital, if this is true, this is in no way acceptable. I think, HHDL does not support in any way such trials. By having some examples of injustice treatment one should not build up a story line or “religious persecution”. Overstatement only weakens Shugden followers position and undermine their trustability. It does also no favour to them that they see no wrong doings on their own side.

    BTW I unapprooved Ron Cook’s post. I felt it as being the typical NKT/WSS ‘propaganda’ for which this blog is no platform.

  5. Mixing Dharma with Politics

    Hello, I attended the Kadampa Tradition’s Summer Festival at Manjushri Centre and saw several A4 signs regarding notification of the protests against the Dalai Lama in Nantes. The comment that Summer Festival was a political rally for the protests is rubbish.

    Let’s keep this debate clean and set a good example. It’s easy to exaggerate and blow things out of proportion when you’re opposed to someone or something but let’s stick to the facts.

    The person who attended the Summer Festival to gain an insight into NKT hopefully mixed their mind with some beautiful teachings on compassion and wisdom. If they were there to seek faults they would have found faults.

    Regarding the Dalai Lama’s ban and the purpose of the protests, Dorje Shugden is a protector deity. He protects my spiritual practise and I will continue to stand up to the Dalai Lama on this issue. To argue that the Dalai Lama simply advises not to practise this prayer is rubbish. His words are inciting segregation, discrimination and hatred. I wish that he changes his tact, show some compassion and addresses this horrible situation particularly affecting monks in the Tibetan exiled community.

    People have a choice if they want to attend the protests. If people do want to attend they need to know the details, hence the A4 signs.

    All Love


  6. Dear Tenzin,

    I have read your post – but all my points still stand.

    with respect,


  7. Dear Tenzin,

    Please may I also say that I felt Ron Cooks points were not propaganda but a true reflection of how many of us in this actually feel. And although it is fine for you to refute his points, in the interests of free speech – could people not be allowed to see what you are refuting?

    With respect,


    comment TP some days later
    Der JL, Ron Cook posted also at the official WSS website WSS’s misinformation. Moreover this person sent some comments to me in the same style of accusations and propaganda that I received from WisdomBuddha, linegeholder etc., a poster about who some members of NKS say this must be Lucy James, former RT in USA, Florida. They say also after she was expelled as RT by GKG she got the job from GKG to work at Wikipedia, Internet forums, Bloggerscene etc. for the sake of NKT/WSS. I see no need to support this poster at my Blog which aims to balance NKT’s (WSS’s) misinformation. NKT/WSS is present at all other places so there is no need to use also this Blog. Thanks TP

  8. I agree with Junglist. I briefly read Ron’s comment before you removed it and believe he made some valid points. Tenzin if you are refuting points it’s only fair to leave the original comment up. What particularly made an impression on me was Ron’s point that the Dalai Lama won’t enter into any dialogue with fellow buddhists on the Dorje Shugden issue. Dialogue will only serve to resolve this issue.

    Also your comment Tenzin,”That there, according to WSS, seem to be some cases were Shugden followers was refused treatment in hospital, if this is true, this is in no way acceptable.” You’re right it is unacceptable and it is happening. If it is not happening at the hands of the DL, who is responsible? and surely the DL as the political leader can put an end to this.

    But footage such as this confirms it is the DL who is inciting this behaviour. Have a look [link to WSS propaganda video deleted by TP]

    If you have proof otherwise please reveal it.

    You made a comment that Dorje Shugden practitioners seem to have blind faith. For me personally this is partly true, I do have faith without knowing absolutely everything about the history of Dorje Shugden and the Dalai Lamas and I don’t care. What I do know is the effect the prayer has on my mind. I generate a mind of love, compassion, strength and power when I engage in the Dorje Shugden practise. And to follow the teachings of Buddha there is also an element of faith – unfortunately I can’t see the Buddhas yet but I do have complete faith.

    The DL’s words have incited anger, hatred and segregation. It’s not about his practise. In the west we have been undermined, spat on and had bottles thrown at us but this is nothing compared to Tibetans in the exiled community who are denied food, visas, ID cards and medicine.

    Seriously, where is the love?


    comment TP
    I think instead of “I don’t care.” one should care and learn about the controversial and even violent background and history of Shugden worship before one engages or takes sides. Mere good experiences are no proof at all, also Shoko Asahara’s followers had good experiences and described him in a very positive and inspiring way; nevertheless he let his followers astray.

    Understanding comes from knowing not ignorance. Understanding is the key to be compassionate and wise and to act in a way which is constructive. I will not confirm any further or older WSS/NKT followers’ posts, because I lack time to comment them. You can post at all the other internet places where you already offered plenitude of your point of views. This blog aims to balance the misinformation of WSS it doesn’t aim for dialogue or being a platform for WSS ‘propaganda’, please accept this. I think, how Shugden worship is misused for political reasons, violence, fundamentalism, sectarianism and to thread own followers of practising other’s traditions deserves restrictions. Such restrictions in fact reduce harm and religious intolerance. So I see this as compassionate and correct. Nevertheless I do not agree with some overreactions of some Tibetans towards Shugden followers. On the other side you’ll find the same in Western societies regarding religious fundamentalism. It is a challenge for every society to deal with fundamentalism. I do not claim all Shugden followers are religious fundamentalists but I met a lot who are. I guess Shugdenpas reject this claim. But I and many others see them as fundamentalists. Academic research does not hesitate to portray also Pabongha Rinpoche as a religious fundamentalist. I think in general it is difficult to deal with fundamentalism in a balanced manner.

    I wish all Shugden followers happiness and religious freedom. Best Wishes, t.

    Annotation by TP – 29 August, 2008
    Ron Cook wrote some one-sided WSS propaganda comments I didn’t approve, the comment you’ve read here of him I approved accidentally. Maybe he is one of the many pseudonyms of Lucy James, and his view has been already published at the official WSS site: http://www.westernshugdensociety.org/reports/six-principal-reasons-why-the-dalai-lama-is-not-a-buddhist/ As I said already my Blog is no forum for WSS/NKT propaganda or spin doctor ideas, it aims to balance the misinformation of WSS/NKT.

  9. Hi Tenzin,

    I hope you don’t mind but I’ve made some observations.

    You no longer practise the Dorje Shugden prayer. Your call.

    You no longer attend any classes run by the New Kadampa Tradition. Your call.

    You seem to have mixed minds about the conduct of the Dalai Lama.

    You attended the protests in 1996-1998 and just recently in Nantes and say they were not peaceful. I didn’t go to any of those but I have seen videos. The protests in 1996-1998 looked like something out of woodstock, everyone was so content and peaceful. I looked at videos on Youtube of the ones in Nantes. It wasn’t your average protest, it looked orderly and the protesters looked tame. It’s a protest, shouting is involved in order to be heard but this doesn’t mean that the protests weren’t peaceful in nature. We’re not going to be heard any other way – hence Ron’s comments.

    Explanation of the DL according to wikipedia –

    He is the first Dalai Lama to travel to the West, where he has spread Buddhist teachings and promoted ethics and religious harmony.

    Explanation of the Dorje Shugden practice according to wikipedia –

    The practice of Dorje Shugden is currently banned by the 14th Dalai Lama, and this has led to ongoing segregation in the Tibetan community in exile and disharmony amongst Western Buddhist centers.

    Promotes religious harmony yet causes religious and social disharmony. Things aren’t adding up.

    I agree with you that someone can give their opinion, however, when it is a political leader and his/her actions incite hatred and anger it’s irresponsible and I believe that in the long run he/she will be accountable.


    comment TP
    yes yes: “however, when it is a political leader and his/her actions incite hatred and anger it’s irresponsible and I believe that in the long run he/she will be accountable.” this is also very true for the political leader Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, who is behind the misleading protests, isn’t it? Let’s look what the outcome of all this will be…

    Regarding the “peaceful protests” what may appear outwardly as peaceful may not be inwardly peaceful and vice versa. Other NKT members confessed me their hate towards the Dalai Lama and their negative thoughts towards him. I had these negative emotions within my own mind due to NKT’s strong misleading influence, propaganda and militant approach in recruiting and performing the protests. Also I recognized hate among the British NKT protesters of the first wave of protests (e.g. in Swiss they were very aggressive, giving commands and complained about us of being not “wrathful” enough). Because of this I will not be deceived by images or counter-statements. It is WSS/NKT who reported their own mind state: “We are deeply upset”, this sounds not like peace nor do their anonymous websites sound like peace of mind. I have also reports from witnesses of the present protests, and from NKT’s recruiting and I know NKT member’s attitude to repress or deny negative feelings while putting all into nice words, and based on my understanding I see it as I already stated it.

    BTW according to Wikipedia “…”? I think you mean according to WSS?

    Every warrior and dictatorship justifies his aggression and uses euphemic words like “enduring freedom”, “fight for peace”, “justice” etc. and claims to do good… while portraying their enemies as bad, evil and cruel. I try not to get fooled by this. Those who understand the communist dictatorships in the East understand what NKT is and does. According to former NKT members, NKT lost many members of Eastern countries (former communist “East Block”). People from Eastern countries, like me, see more easily the similarities between NKT and communist dictatorship. We know this already. It is not accidental that the slogans of the Chinese Communist Party against the Dalai Lama and WSS/NKT’s slogans against him are quite the same. Pro Chinese protesters have also picked up an old NKT slogan from the first campaign: “Your smile charms, your actions harm.” One of my teachers, who felt the WSS protests in Nottingham as being very aggressive, said, he felt that the pro-Chinese protesters are/were less aggressive than NKT/WSS.

  10. lightmind says:


  11. Hi Tenzin,

    Sorry I don’t think I explained myself well. I know enough history to be confident in the Dorje Shugden practise and I don’t care to explore it further.

    One thing that strikes me from five or so people that used to be follow the New Kadampa Tradition and are now vocal in its opposition is that the seem to have had bad experiences with some other practitioners, negative minds, challenges. But we all do in Samsara. If it is true that some NKT practitioners have a mind of hatred towards the Dalai Lama as you say then that is incredibly sad – this goes against the heart of Buddhist teachings and has definitely not been encouraged. I cherish the Dalai and I believe he is misguided and deluded.

    Also regarding the link you removed revealing the Dalai Lama’s speech confirming his negative actions if you believe that is propaganda have a look at the France 24 report on this issue.

    thanks for your time.

    I wish you all the best.


    comment TP
    Thank you Lubov.

  12. What I find completely dishonest is that while the NKT people complain about Tenzin’s moderation of comments, at least he ALLOWS a different point of you.

    In the pro-NKT blogs, on the youtube comments, on the WSS website, NKT moderators do not allow ANY opposing viewpoints to be expressed.

    So, here is my proposition. Before you complain about Ven. Tenzin’s moderation, open all NKT and WSS comment sections to free expression by by both sides.


  13. Manjushri'sSword says:

    I for one respect Tenzin for allowing an open debate on this page, thank you very much Tenzin!

    With respect, I have to say that you only know the protests and protestors from 1996 (what you call the ‘first wave of protests’). These present protests are very peaceful. I don’t see any angry people and only one person expressed to me their anger towards the Dalai Lama. Anger is a totally inappropriate response when you consider the karma and dependent relationship of the situation. However, action still has to be taken to stop the destruction of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition.

    If the person you are trying to address doesn’t hear you, you have to shout loudly. The Dalai Lama appears not to be hearing us so we will keep shouting until he does, no matter how long that may take.

    comment TP
    Compared with what I witnessed August 2008 in Nantes and the protests 10 years ago, the latter I felt as more peaceful than these present loudly and aggressive/militant protests abusing words like “liar” etc. In Nantes the WSS protesters didn’t event stop their loudly recitation of “Dalai Lama stop lying” – using megaphones – when people came out of the teachings to relax and enjoy their meals. In the lunch time they recited their loudly accusation for 2 1/2 hour only 50 meter away from the place where people ate; and some NKT members even mixed under the people enjoying their meals. The atmosphere they spread was not nice, disrespectful and pushy. Similar impressions were reported from other places where WSS/NKT performed their protests. 10 years ago we just chanted the Four Immeasurable, and when people complaint we stopped chanting. This was much more nice then the present more militant approach.

    Again I received some WSS/NKT comments here, to reduce my work I will not approve them. It is clear that NKT defends their protests as peaceful and as needed, calm and led by compassion and Buddhists condemn them.

    It is also clear for me that the protests are based on wrong views. There is no destruction of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition by HHDL or by the Gelug monasteries, they uphold it, and Shugden is no part of Tsongkhapa’s school. Neither Je Tsongkhapa nor any Indian pandit have taught Shugden worship.

    I think it is NKT who destroys Buddhism and Je Tsongkhapa’s school by going against Buddhist Ethics, against Buddhist principles, against respected elder members of the order, destroying the faith of lay people and offering a surfaced Buddhism in which there is no Vinaya any more and not a single volume of Je Tsongkhapa’s great 18 scriptures, including the absence of the union of the three Highest Yoga Tantras.

    For me it is is amazing to see how deep NKT is involved to project their own inner problems onto the outer world or HHDL. It is even more amazing that it is NKT who tells their members all the time: “All is in your mind” or “all is coming from your mind” and refuting in that way any criticism against themselves, stating things like “if you have a pure mind you will see no faults” – but forget to apply these teachings with respect to HH the Dalai Lama.

    On top of that I see WSS/NKT’s claims as not based on facts. It is a spin story in their head based on some events, exaggeration, non-knowledge and some misunderstandings. Now they believe their self-created story and wonder why the world don’t believes them. Like someone who believes strongly e.g. “the earth is carried by a turtle” they cling on their point of view and must shout it out loudly. This is their freedom of expression and others may believe them or not.

  14. Hi all,

    I agree with Khedrup here. I think it is very kind of Tenzin to allow the comments and even to spend time replying to them. If we want freedom of speech we must give it too.

    I haven’t heard of this before, so i will say that if the majority of complaints have come from people posting abusive material on the blogs and youtube, then it is understandable that they have been rejected. But it doesn’t seem fair that reasonable differing opinions shouldn’t be published.

    I don’t see the necessity for comments on the WSS site since it is an information site and not a blog. Which says more about Tenzin since this site also seems more like an information site than a blog

  15. Hi Tenzin,

    I just wanted to offer my view on some things you said in your reply to Lubov. Regarding the protests.

    I am a pacifist, something i realized in my early teens, so i take any chance i can to calm any anger towards the DL that my fellow companions may be holding onto. Usually it turns out that they were feeling frustrated that their practice is being denounced by his HH, or something related. I suppose we get attached to our practices too. But I have never come across an NKTer who has confessed to me their hate towards our man in question. I have also never being encouraged, in the way you say, to have bad views of HH. I have questioned many high ranking people, asking them what minds to cultivate and which to avoid (regarding HH), and i am always told to keep a happy mind, to let go of anger and replace it with love, etc. Since i’m always insisting people don’t be angry i’m surprised nobody has scolded me for encouraging people NOT to be “wrathful” like you put it.

    I was not around for the 96 (right date?) protests so of course i believe you could be speaking the truth about them. But you say that because of your previous experience “I will not be deceived by images or counter-statements”. I can understand that you have various motives not to trust WSS, but on this particular matter, impermanence dictates that the emotion in the protests may have changed. I mean perhaps KG realized that the way the protests were conducted then wasn’t conducive to peaceful minds so he advised the WSS with a format that would reduce and prevent anger and instead give rise to love and compassion. I don’t know about then, but i know that now motivation is explained before every session of the protest.

    I am another witness to the protests, who attended as a spectator, not as an active participant. The reason i only attended to look, was that like you, i wasn’t too sure about these so called “peaceful” protests. Even though i have a lot of trust in KG and my Sangha i’m not the blind faith type, and in this case i wasn’t sure that i liked what was going on. But i’m glad i went because it turned out (to my eyes anyway) to be peaceful, even joyous i was baffled to see.

    And finally it is obvious that the words “We are deeply upset” are to be taken in the right context. It would be a bit brainless of the WSS to be claiming to be very deluded about the issue on their own very website. In the english language this is easily understood in the same way that a mother says to her child “i am very upset with your behaviour”, or a politician may say about a natural disaster “we are very upset by the damages done”. In both situations it indicates feelings of sadness or disappointment, but it doesn’t usually denote anger or other self-indulgent states. Even the feelings of sadness and disappointment are overridden with a sense of responsibility and a wish to act so as to resolve the problem (the examples of the politician and the mother would illustrate this). We perceive that our traditions are being trampled on and that people are being trampled on too in the process, of course we are upset! Even if our perceptions are incorrect (regarding DS and the DL) our upset is not necessarily a deluded one.

    Thanks for listening.

    comment TP
    I lack time to read your comment and to add some thoughts. So I just approved it unread. Hopefully I will find time to read it carefully and to respond to it in a reasonable way. Maybe Khedrub or someone else can add some thoughts. In general I reduce my engagement and don’t like to invest more time. I’ll try to answer it in the future. Nevertheless thank you for your thoughts. TP

  16. There is quite an interesting statement by HH the 17th Karmapa about dharma and politics http://kagyuoffice.org/PastActivities-09-Dec.html#09Monlam6

    “Some people say that politics and religion should be kept separate and that Dharma practitioners ought to steer clear of politics,” His Holiness commented. “However, this is entirely mistaken,” he said. He cited the example of Buddha Shakyamuni himself, who began life as a prince and later, after his enlightenment, actively guided and advised numerous kings. Nagarjuna and many other holy beings also addressed kings in their compositions. Gyalwang Karmapa especially hailed His Holiness the Dalai as a consummate example of one who actively applies the Dharma to social needs in a manner that benefits not only Tibetan people but also the entire world. This reflects the fact that the Dharma exists as a means of creating peace and harmony in the world.

    If Dharma practitioners remain completely aloof from society, even though it is clear that the Dharma has so much to offer society, then we are failing to allow our Dharma practice to live up to its fullest purpose. Gyalwang Karmapa noted that people in Tibet are undergoing a very difficult period of great instability. If we choose not to seek to act in response to this situation, we cannot call what we are engaged in Dharma or compassion.

    “If we had only our own well-being to think of,” His Holiness said, “it would be fine to simply remain in mountain hermitages meditating alone. However, this is not the case. Given the extreme sufferings taking place in the world and in Tibet in particular, we cannot afford to sit back and do nothing for society.”

    However, His Holiness cautioned that there are negative and positive ways to engage in politics. If we engage in politics, or political activism, interacting with our ‘opponents’ in an egocentric manner, this goes against the principles of our Dharma practice. But with what he called ‘positive politics,’ our engagement is completely motivated out of a concern for the well-being of others, and of future generations and future lives as well. This form of ‘politics’ is entirely consistent with Dharma.


  1. […] round of protests. But that separation as well was not without disturbing ambivalence.  Here are some observations of life within the NKT as they prepared for the 2008 demonstrations during the Annual Buddhist […]

  2. […] here are some observations of life within the NKT as they prepared for the 2008 demonstrations during the Annual Buddhist […]

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