How Buddhists view the protests of NKT/WSS

Loud is the noise that ordinary men make. Nobody thinks himself a fool, when divisions arise in the Sangha, nor do they ever value another person higher than themselves. – The Buddha, Mahavagga

Since the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT-IKBU) – via Western Shugden Society – are quite noisy on the streets and very dominant on the internet with their world wide media campaign against the Dalai Lama, the idea came up to collect some views from Buddhist monks and nuns, Buddhist masters, elected members of the Buddhist Communities or just simple Buddhists which counter the claims and perceptions of the Western Shugden Society / NKT. Here is a small collection of statements:

Buddhist monks and nuns

The Australian Sangha Association (ASA):

“The ASA wishes to express its dismay at the conduct of robed members of the New Kadampa Tradition, Western Shugden Society and associated organizations during the teachings given by HH the Dalai Lama on 11-15 June 2008 at Olympic Stadium, Sydney, Australia. [..] Noisy public demonstrations such as these are not appropriate behaviour for monks or nuns and have brought Buddhism in this country into disrepute. [..] Therefore, in the spirit of Dharma and in accordance with Buddhist principles the ASA would encourage the NKT and WSS protesters to request forgiveness from the Dalai Lama for their behaviour and in future to conduct themselves with humility and restraint.” [1]

HH the 14th Dalai Lama:

In a BBC interview, the Dalai Lama said he had not advocated a ban, but he had stopped the worship of the spirit because it was not Buddhist in nature. The exiled Tibetan leader said people were free to protest and it was up to individuals to decide. [2]

Other Buddhists

Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche said in 2005:

“The Dalai Lama never said that he forbade them to do this practice; he simply advised them that it is not good. Everybody can give advice, why not? So when the Dalai Lama went to America, at the two or three different places he visited there were small groups with some Tibetan Gelugpa lamas and their western followers who protested saying: “The Dalai Lama denies us the right to free religion”. Of course the Chinese gave them a lot of support because they like it very much when Tibetans have disagreements among themselves. So you have to be careful because now even in the western world these groups are trying to influence people saying they are spreading dharma teachings. You are always free to decide for yourselves, but you can receive negativities.” [3]

Vajramala, Head Chairwoman of the German Buddhist Union (DBU):

“For a Western Buddhist, this practice appears to me like a relic from old times when – in European Middle Ages – we also had battles for the predominance of a certain religious group. However, such battles are not in accordance with what the Buddha taught.” [4]

Commentator of a video published by a Buddhist Pagode in Germany:

“The aggressive manner with which the “ordained” Shugden followers express their disagreement with the Dalai Lama is not in accordance with the Buddhist behavioural regulations for monks and nuns (Vinaya).” [4]

Thich Thien Son, Former Head Chairman of the German Vinaya Sangha:

“It is also very questionable what this is supposed to accomplish. Here we see two sides. One side is this demonstration, and on the other side are the Chinese who are shouting the same slogans. Therefore, one has to really ask what connection they have. And, since we also come from Asia and have lived under Communist rule, we know how propaganda and brain-washing happens. [..] Actually, it is a real pity to see that for creating peace we have to work together. And, instead the demonstrations and provocations are being staged here. Nevertheless, we hope that eventually these people will absorb Buddha’s guidance and Buddha’s loving kindness. Instead of shouting they should turn inside for meditation. It brings much, much more to settle inside and to have this inner reflection.” [4]

Chris Ward:

“The WSS website gives the impression of a hate filled and vituperative personal campaign against the Dalai Lama, rather than  a compassionate and careful marshalling of evidence and argument. It does not demonstrate Buddhist virtues and it loses the moral high ground.

Precepts and actions are important. Harsh, abusive and divisive words generate anger, fear, and associated negative emotions. That is why there is so much guidance given in Buddhism about being careful with speech and words” [5]

Some East-German witnesses:

“I would like to say how primitive this shouting is. You know, we come from the East. We have lived under a dictatorship for decades. We know how dictatorships feel like. So, you can imagine where our sympathies lay.” [4]

Kamma, a Tibetan living in the West:

“Shugden movement is actually of no interest at all in Europe. This is a topic for ourselves, for Tibetans. This subject is simply critically dangerous for Tibetan affairs and for Buddhism.” [4]

Barbara O’Brien, a Zen Buddhist:

“At a time when Buddhism is still being introduced to the West, it is damaging to all schools of Buddhism to be confused with spirit worship.

Tibetan Buddhism is being systematically flushed out of Tibet by the government of China. As Tibetan Buddhism scatters, disembodied, around the globe, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is struggling to maintain some cohesion and integrity within it. The Shugden controversy clearly is weakening that effort.” [6]

Anonymous Buddhist:

“To those watching the news or attending a precious speaking engagement of The Dalai Lama, this is what they see. NKT militants raising their fists and yelling about their selfishly egocentric and ugly unilateral dominance-seeking war with The Dalai Lama. Armed with web sites, press releases, protest caravans, and its ultra ego, the Western Shugden Society, NKT’s multi-media power-hungry PR machine ‘chants’ that The Dalai Lama is evil and a liar. For its ego gratification NKT is defiling Buddhism with its worldwide assault.” [7]

Bino Tulku to BBC:

“This demonstration isn’t damaging for the Dalai Lama, but it’s damaging for Tibet because it detracts from the argument over our independence.” [8]

Tibetan refugee Diki Dolma:

“That’s nonsense! We know the Tibetan exile community and we know it’s just not true. Very, very few follow this practice. I feel sorry for these protesters. I think they don’t know much about Buddhism. They make out they are monks, but, look they don’t even know how to wear their robes properly!” [9]


George D. Chryssides:*

“While Buddhists have occasionally engaged in active protests about actions and policies which they regarded as serious contraventions of Buddhist teaching (such as the Vietnam war in the 1960s), a demonstration against fellow Buddhists, and particularly against such a respected leader as the Dalai Lama was surprising, to say the least.” [10]

John Makransky:

“Western followers of a few dGe lugs pa monks who worship that deity, lacking any critical awareness of its sectarian functions in Tibet, have recently followed the Dalai Lama to his speaking engagements to protest his strong stance (for non-sectarianism) in the name of their “religious freedom” to promulgate, now in the West, an embodiment of Tibetan sectarianism. If it were not so harmful to persons and traditions, this would surely be one of the funniest examples of the cross-cultural confusion that lack of critical reflection continues to create.” [11]

Robert Barnett:*

“I also made it clear that the Western Shugden group’s allegations are problematic: they are akin to attacking the Pope because some lay Catholics somewhere abuse non-believers or heretics. The Western Shugden Group is severely lacking in credibility, since its form of spirit-worship is heterodox, provocative and highly sectarian in Buddhist terms and so more than likely to be banned from mainstream monasteries – while its claimed concerns about cases of discrimination in India should be addressed by working within the Tibetan community instead of opportunistically attacking the Dalai Lama in order to provoke misinformed publicity for their sect.”[12]

According to Indian Authorities in Dharamsala

“it can not be excluded that such groups are supported by the Chinese Government in order to significantly weaken the XIV Dalai Lama’s powerful influence.” [4]

for more details see:

Related Links (chronological order)


Academic Research


[1] Australian Sangha Association Statement by ASA (22 July 2008)

[2] BBC (Nottingham) (27 May 2008)

[3] Provocations of the Gyalpo by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

[4] The Shugden Group by Pagode Path Hue (Aug 2008)

[5] Spirit Worship is not Buddhist by TripleGem (12 June 08) (see PDF-copy)

[6] Destroying Tibetan Buddhism in Order to Save It? by Barbara O’Brien (2008)

[7] Buddhism under Assault (2008)

[8] BBC: Peace and placards greet Dalai Lama (May 22, 2008)

[9] Buddhist at Loggerheads by New Internationalist, Vanessa Baird (May 30, 2008)

[10] Chryssides, George D. (1999) ‘The Dorje Shugden Controversy‘ in “Exploring New Religions“, Continuum International Publishing Group, 235

[11] Makransky, John J. (2000). “Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections by Contemporary Buddhist Scholars”, p. 20, Routledge

[12] Barnett, Robert (2008). “Tibet scholar denies making Time magazine Shugden comment” by

* Chryssides and Barnett are probably not Buddhists but two of very few academics who give a type of judgement in this context.

last update: March 31, 2010