"The Western Shugden Group is severely lacking in credibility" – Correction to the Time Magazine Article by Tibet Scholar Robert Barnett

Tibet scholar Robert Barnett of Columbia University has denied Time Magazine’s suggestion with respect to obtaining Indian ID cards as stated in the article  The Dalai Lama’s Buddhist Foes July 18, 2008.

TibetanReview.net states:

Tibet scholar Robert Barnett of Columbia University has denied Time Magazine’s obvious suggestion, in a Jul 18 online posting, that he alleged denial of exile Tibetan government help for worshippers of the controversial Shugden spirit in obtaining Indian government ID card. In an email to this magazine and others, Mr Barnett said he had clearly written to the weekly magazine’s correspondent David van Biema, “ID cards are not given out by the exile administration, but by the Indian authorities”.

He also said he wrote to the correspondent: “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.”


  1. Thanks to Robert Barnett’s clarification on this controversial issue. I have no doubt as a reputable scholar, he would hold a neutral live to his ethic to tell the truth. Unlike those brainwashed and narrow minded worshiper, those who just do anything to give false statement, baseless allegation and malice attack to HHDL, TGIE, the supporters and followers of HHDL.

  2. Oops, I mean to say ‘neutral view’ instead of ‘neutral live’ ;p sorry for the typo mistake

  3. Hi lhundup, I found it on Tricycle blog comments: “Dorje Shugden: Deity or Demon?” post # 611. by murari:

  4. dorjeshugdentruth says:


    You’re funny! You said:

    I have no doubt as a reputable scholar, he would hold a neutral live to his ethic to tell the truth”.

    Robert Thurman, who is from the same faculty as Mr Barnett is not neutral – witness his sycophantic book “why the Dalai Lama Matters”. Mr Barnett’s language is not neutral, but because he’s an academic, you say he’s neutral. You’re from the same brainwashed ‘he’s-an-academic-so-he’s neutral-and-always-right” school as Tenzin Peljor

  5. Dear dorjeshugdentruth, with respect to your last sentence:
    it is true, I am from “the same brainwashed” school as you, the NKT ;-)

    For NKT members there are only one kind of truths, the truth is what “Geshe-la said”, everything else is either wrong or can be ignored – besides of course it acknowledges the NKT beliefs as “the truth”.

    It is clear that the “NKT truths” lack in general the support by Tibetan Buddhists, Gelugpas, and academics, therefore all of them must be wrong, because NKT and its devotees are so right…

    However, I agree if a person is an academic, this does proof nothing. However, if it is a reputable scholar, whose works are acknowledged by those having understanding, it is better to be open for his / her opinion or knowledge.

    With respect to Robert Thurman and his book “Why the Dalai Lama matters” which I haven’t read yet, for those suffering on aversion it is always unbearable if the enemy is praised. The strong rejection of the praise of HHDL’s obvious qualities he really possesses by some NKT members shows more about their own narrow-mindedness or close-mindedness and lack of ability to recognize others’ qualities.

    If you read the accounts of academics carefully, almost all of them were very sceptical with HHDL before they had exchange with him and knew him. And all of them who praise him now (and there are a lot academics / researchers who acknowledge the qualities of HHDL) do this based of having recognized his amazing compassion, wisdom, humour, humility, knowledge, down to earth / realistic approach etc.

    Of course there are scholars who do not praise the Dalai Lama, and there is not the slightest need to do that in any way for them, however, if their statements are congruent with what HHDL states than this just shows, that HHDL has a view shared also by others with understanding and knowledge.

    This is a situation almost unknown for NKT. Almost everybody opposes their views and “truths”. So maybe for some such a situation is unbearable but this does not proof those scholars as being not neutral or biased. This could be rather a projection based on the own beliefs and clinging to them as “the truth”.

    • Rainbow_Ninja says:

      Tenzin Peljor

      Ihave been reading this list of comments and many, many other things on the web about HHDL and Geshe-la. My head is spinning and I have not read one single unbiased and unvitriolic statement anywhere. There are no ‘facts’ that correlate between what either side argues and very little evidence produced by either to back up what they are saying (this is just what I have come across so far) – it is all opinion, arguement and a lot of vitriol.

      I know that your comments are very anti NKT and supportive of the Dalai Lama, but I thought that some of your posts sounded a little less angry and more like you had at least a small desire to help people. I got the impression that you are not (completely) arguing from blind faith, but from compassion and have researched this matter yourself to some degree.

      So, I thought – if you would be kind enough – I would ask for some advice. I have been studying Dharma at an NKT centre. I have had only very positive experiences. The other people there are very wise and I have personally encountered none of the things that I have seen posted all across the web as going on at NKT centres. I find the teachings to be wonderful and have helped me a lot. I know some very realised people … actually, I am sure that this is common to all people who attend a Dharma centre/temple from whatever tradition – I will desist from continuing.

      Anyway … this issue with the Dalai Lama and Geshe-la has disturbed me a little and I wanted to look into it further. I have been trying – see above – and have beebn convinced by neitehr side really, as everyone seems to argue from their heart, not their head. I am a little disturbed to see the Dalai Lama (the Buddha of Compassion) defending India’s right to have nuclear misiles and not Pakistan and to hear him claim that 1 to 10 deaths are reasonable if one person’s harm would affect a whole country (clearly his own). I am also saddened to hear him say that he believes all the masters are ‘wrong’.

      Equally, I am worried and saddened by the book that has just been released by The Western Shugden Society which attacks the Dalai Lama so vehemently. I’m not going to debate the truth of these alligations – but the tone and the detail of the book do not sit with Dharma practisioners with me.

      So I am confussed – scared that I am following a wrong spiritual guide; afraid that to change would be very bad karma and thinking that you postulate thart I am an unfit Dharma student anyway so maybe I should just give it all up.

      Do you have any words to offer, if you have the time?

      • Dear Ninja,
        thank you very much for your comment!

        Its one of those rare honest comments and I try to give my best to reply to it according to my own understanding.

        Firstly let me say, that I am very sorry that all this is so confusing and that it appears to you there is not “one single unbiased and unvitriolic statement anywhere” and all appears to be “opinion, arguement and a lot of vitriol.” If this is so, we have to conclude Western Buddhists have not learned much or are in a very childish state of practising the Dharma; and maybe this is actual a fact we have to accept. So where do we go from here?

        Personally I do not feel Anti-NKT, nor do I feel Anti-Shugden and Pro-Dalai Lama, nor feel I Anti-Cult or Pro-Cult. I don’t like these categories. The only point where I personally feel be placed well is, that I do not like injustice and that it is difficult for me to accept – what I see – as “perversions of the facts” or “misleading propaganda”, it is far more difficult to accept that and not to take action when my analysis clearly says this harms people, hence I decided to oppose it and to build bridges for people who look for information which, I believe, is not “misleading”. For me it is also hard to witness how people are – according to my opinion – misled by NKT. For me this is not Anti-NKT. If, for instance, you feel you should protect animals to be caught into the trap of a skilful hunter (the hunter may place something nice to eat into the trap to catch the animal) and you would feel urged to take up responsibility to protect animals to fall into the traps of the hunter (by what ever method), were it correct to say you are an “Anti-Hunter”?
        The answer maybe: not necessarily, it depends. Maybe you are “pro-animal” and you don’t like the actions of the hunter. Of course you could also hate hunters… there are different opportunities here. Personally I think, it is hard to stay in equanimity seeing injustice, though this would be the best case. So from time to time one may get angry, sadly. Then there are different ways to deal with this: a) not to engage b) to engage and accept getting angry from time to time c) engage and trying not to get angry d) if one gets more angry then helping others, its time to stop engagement e)…..

        Going back to your second paragraph. Let’s assume this may be the case. Third paragraph, it appears you are rather new to NKT and your experiences are very good. (This is rather common, if the experiences were not good initially who would continue to go into NKT centres?)

        With respect to your questions in the fourth paragraph:
        I will reply to the other comment(s) separately in the next week. Lets assume it is true that the Dalai Lama said this (I don’t know if this is actual true). Personally I try to understand what could lead that person to say this, in which context it was said, who was the audience and what say the scriptures of the three vehicles to such cases. The Bodhisattva as well as the tantric vows state clearly that a BS should kill a person if that person harms many other sentient beings and he cannot be stopped by other means. (If you need I give you the exact reference for this.) Though this is a teaching for a BS, and you know the Buddha has done this also when he killed the helmsman, one can apply the understanding of dependent arising and question: What is more harm, to allow one person to kill many or to kill one person to protect many? The Vinaya teachings, Shravakayana, forbid killing in all cases, but not the Mahayana and not the Vajrayana teachings. So this gives a slight different perspective to those things. Also the Vajrayana allows “wrath” to make a person fear to perform a very destructive action. Though there is a short term harm (being frightened) there is long term benefit for the person and others that the destructive action was not performed. The BS ethics state one must balance short term harm against long term harm and harm for some against harm for many etc. There are many such advice which support such a opinion of the Dalai Lama. (Again I can give you quotes, I studied that after I left NKT and I used authentic sources like Tsongkhapa or Asanga to explore these issues; and the commentaries by contemporary masters, that I read, and oral teachings of my teachers did not contradict that understanding – in general.)

        Now you say “I am also saddened to hear him say that he believes all the masters are ‘wrong’.” My answer is, you are sad, because you do not understand; you have a simplified concept which you assume to be true. 1. HHDL does not believe that ALL the masters are wrong because he has masters as his teachers, like HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who are against this practice. So there are masters of HHDL who also opposed that practice too, hence some masters of him propagated it some opposed it. 2. To say a practice is wrong does not imply a master is wrong. There are many cases where students disagreed in certain points with their masters, among them Atisha, Vimuktisena, Dharmakirti, Je Tsongkhapa and others. To disagree in one point but to keep respect is not mutually exclusive, hence HHDL says correctly. “My approach to this issue (i.e. differing on one point, whilst retaining respect for the person in question) is completely in line with how such great beings from the past have acted.” If you know the scriptures and biographies of different masters, you know that HHDL’s approach is correct. There is nothing wrong in this – as far as I can see.

        Now you say that you “know some very realised people” in NKT. Here starts the trap! The emphasize of NKT on “realization” is quite strange. Nobody knows for sure who is realized, those who are realized wouldn’t say they are realized or give the impression they are, rather they come across as very easy, earthed and simple beings who are common people and in no way holy. I lack time and skill to express this point but I base it upon my own experience within and outside NKT. I’d like to suggest to you to go with an open mind to different Buddhist masters and Dharma centres and to explore a bit the Dharma scene and to hear Dharma from non-NKT teachers to get a taste of the differences. Then you know from within. But try to go to teachers and groups that are undisputed.

        I agree with your fifth paragraph, and I know that some actions of NKT help people within NKT to open their eyes and question things, from this perspective and my perspective that NKT is finally harming people, the book is rather helpful, or as someone said: “an eye-opener”. ;-)

        (My eyes were opened by Geshe-la’s own actions. I am extremely grateful for that.)

        Your last paragraph:

        So I am confussed – scared that I am following a wrong spiritual guide; afraid that to change would be very bad karma and thinking that you postulate thart I am an unfit Dharma student anyway so maybe I should just give it all up.

        Again, I am sorry for this, really.
        I know this from own experiences, I had to leave even two close teachers.
        But finally everything went well. After I left two of my teachers, who were according to my analysis heavily misleading their students, one of my teachers said: “You must abandon wrong teachers because they mislead their students onto wrong paths.” This teaching moved directly and deeply my heart and I understood deeply from within, it was correct what I did. My doubts were utterly removed by this teaching, and I felt relieve and joy that I did the correct things. Since I left my two teachers only good things happened to me and I feel more stable and relaxed and happy than ever in NKT. The point is, the feelings you have expressed in this comment above and the part I quoted respectively, are already the sign that the NKT system has control over you, it makes you fear to leave the group or the teacher. To go to other teachers and other schools or traditions is not negative Karma. Also many famous teachers left their first teachers and followed other teachers, like Tsongkhapa; he left his teacher even without saying good bye, Gampopa left his Kadampa teachers to follow Milarepa, Dromtönpa left his teacher to follow Atisha. Almost none of the masters we revere met their main master at the beginning, they came later along the path. There are also teachings that one can make a neutral distance to a teacher when one sees to many obvious faults and that one can make a neutral distance if one relied too quickly on a teacher without careful investigation beforehand, and later, after one already decided to rely on him, one recognizes that the teacher is not really qualified. See this collection of quotes and material which I compiled for NKT people in transition and finally put in the file section of the New Kadampa Survivors Forum. You’ll find in that file also what Je Tsongkhapa taught about the qualities a student of the Mahayana Dharma should have and what faults arise if the person lacks these qualities. There is also the very important link to Alex Berzin’s website who clarifies the “fear of breaking one’s guru devotion“. All this may be very helpful to read. Alex Berzin based his text strongly on the teachings of the Dharma and he had an incredible master too: Tsenshap Serkong Rinpoche, who really trained him in the Dharma.

        I hope this helps a bit. Please be patient but I can only reply step by step, it takes me a lot of time to answer such comments. Though I am happy to serve here a bit, I have very limited time resources.

        Thank you very much for this opportunity and your sincere inquiry.

        PS: Did you know that Geshe-la’s main teacher is Geshe Lhundup Sopa, one of the greatest contemporary Gelug scholars, highly revered by academics and Dharma practitioners? He is still alive and lives in the USA. You can ask yourself why Geshe-la has no contact to his main teacher any more or why you have not even heard of this fact. Trijang Rinpoche didn’t teach Geshe-la all his knowledge. He had many teachers.

  6. dorjeshugdentruth,

    you said : ‘You’re funny!’

    Well, I’m not at hilarious as the one and the only ‘third buddha’ who still so paranoid and to make himself laughing stone to the public, that for sure. haha.

    Then you say :’Robert Thurman, who is from the same faculty as Mr Barnett is not neutral’.

    Well, again, neither any statement of WSS/NKT claimed on their ‘self generate’ web page and link far from baseless allegation, neither it is neutral, too, IMO.
    so who to WSS/NKT are trying to fool???

    Lastly you say : ‘you say he’s neutral. You’re from the same brainwashed ‘he’s-an-academic-so-he’s neutral-and-always-right” school as Tenzin Peljor’

    ‘Brainwashed’? oh ya, I forget, ‘only’ NKT is having the ‘one and the only pure lineage’, and whatever nonsense WSS has done and still doing is out of their ‘compassion’, the rest of the dharma outside NKT are simply degenerate. And How shameful I am not as a part of the ‘disneyland’ who spread the ‘pure lineage’, how ‘impure’ and ‘brainwashed’ I am to see the truth side of NKT, and dare to open my damn mouth to speak up the truth about NKT now after much thorough study and investigation….

    Well, a typical respond from a typical NKTer, nothing much surprise me.

    • Rainbow_Ninja says:

      Personally, I would not listen to such angry comments and believe in the ‘truth’ of what they claim to pronounce. I find it very unsettling how many ‘buddhist’ people are posting here with such badly disguised anger and attack. May I remind people that we have made a commitment ‘never to speak of degenerated limbs’ and ‘never to think about othger’s faults’ – does this ring a bell with anyone? Also guys, remember emptiness – your spiritual guide appears to your mind alone and is essentially empty of inherant existance – so what are you getting so worked up about?

      As far as I can make out, the NKT have never practised religeous intollerance; banned certain people from attending their festivals or spread hatred of any one particular religeous practise. HHDL has done all of these things, for whatever reason, and has openly bad mouthed his spiritual guide on television – when I saw this, I was saddened to the point of having to abandon him as an authentic spiritual guide. When I read about the tortures and punishments in Charles Bell’s book about the 13th Dalai Lama – and how little example to following Buddhist beliefs was shown, then that decision was made absolutely.

      However, the greatest harm that I can see has come from this is that there are rifts within the Buddhist tradition and maybe things would be better if we worked towards understanding what we have in common other than attacking each other’s spiritual guides. We all have great faith in our spiritual guides and we all want to obtain enlightenment for the sake of other living beings – while the debate about HHDL and Gesh-la rages on in your head and heart, mother beings are drowning in Samsara’s oceans and we are moving further away from helping them.

      May we all find the happiness our hearts truely desire and help others to find it too :)

      • Thank you Ninja.

        I think, you learned your lesson well in the NKT. You mainly suggest, that you think that NKT has never done anything wrong, and the sole source to be blamed is the Dalai Lama. You also learned the wrong concept that disagreeing with one’s teacher in one point is ‘badmouthing’. On top of that your learned in NKT that to not accept advise discordant to the Dharma is “abandoning” of one’s guru. This is incorrect because Buddha as well as Je Tsongkhapa said clearly one should reject advice discordant to the Dharma. You’ll find this is in Je Tsongkhapa’s commentary on the Vajrayana vows. (To abandon sectarian practices is concordant to the Dharma. Sectarianism or practices which promotes it are discordant to the teachings of Buddha and have to been abandoned.)

        You also learned to read non-NKT books with highly selective awareness to confirm the group’s beliefs, that the Dalai Lama is evil etc. Charles Bell clearly says that the 13th Dalai Lama was a good and justice ruler who worked selfless for his people and increased justice, education etc.* The image Charles Bell is giving is in many ways accurate, differentiated and balanced, but it is also easy for a biased reader with prejudices to take statements out of the context to portray the Dalai Lama as a cruel being as you and your group do. However, who reads Bell unbiased gets an balanced view and if one is a bit sensible one can also recognize that oneself tends towards to project the own personal and cultural prejudices too easily on that people, and that it is very easy to be judgemental from a Western peace period Dharma arm chair perspective. You have never decided to take responsibility for the welfare of a people, yet you know all things better and rise yourself above the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans?

        Your technique here is:
        First you introduce your Dharma understanding, establishing yourself as a ‘genuine Buddhist’, then you praise NKT as innocent and the Dalai Lama as responsible for tortures (simplifying facts); and then – contrary to Bell, who said that the Tibetans have deeply absorbed and transformed Buddhism and lived their ideals more authentic than the Christians in Europe – you perverse the facts by claiming “how little example to following Buddhist beliefs was shown”.

        This suggests indirectly you are of course better because you have understood the Dharma – unlike the Dalai Lama or the Tibetans. I think this is a case of pride and cross-cultural confusion, due to pride you cannot see the qualities of others, can you?

        With respect to your last paragraph. If you mean that honestly then go ahead, and don’t do what you criticize in others.

        * Bell says that the 13th Dalai Lama was a “good ruler” “on the spiritual as well as on the secular side”. He also says that he was “intensely human” and a “selfless ruler”. “It would be equally true to say of this selfless ruler that he died of overwork in the service of his country.” You can find the achievements of his extremely hard work in the service of his people in chapter 59 – maybe you read it again. It also says how deeply sad the people of Tibet became after they had realised what he has done for them. (After his death they saw it more clearly.) They were then even more convinced that he is actual Chenrezig in person. Whatever is the truth here, the point is you didn’t understand Bell, Tibet and the Dalai Lamas nor the Tibetans.

  7. Kache Marpo says:

    The really funny thing is that in Buddhist lineage the main qualification is that one has a qualified spiritual guide that is coming from a valid, unbroken lineage from teacher to disciple. The importance of this qualification was illustrated in famous examples such as Milarepa and his Guru Marpa, as well as Tilopa & his guru Naropa, and Master Atisha with his lay disciple, Dromtonpa. Without these relationships these disciples would not have achieved enlightenment.

    The emphasis of this relationship is that the disciple is actually practicing what his Guru is teaching him and walking the path to liberation.

    It seems to me that many academics in the west do not have this qualification, though they do have other qualifications in the form of university degrees and publications that give their speech power and influence over large numbers of people. In my opinion this is unfortunate since they influence people yet do not have a qualified spiritual guide inspiring and guiding them towards achieving higher spiritual realization.

    I wish you all much love and wisdom along your way.

  8. Dear KM,
    I agree.
    In general this is true, but not every master has the qualities of Marpa or Tilopa and not every student has the qualities and maturity of Milarepa or Naropa.

    H.E. Dagyab Rinpoche, a close disciple of Trijang Rinpoche said, that the instances of those relationships are mentioned so often among Tibetans, because such a relationship is so rare.

    I think, to not understand this context properly – as it can be found in NKT and among Ole Nydahl’s followers – leads to the trial of a fox who tries to perform the function of a lion. This will not work.

    I guess you are from NKT? Based on this assumption I will add some points which could be helpful to know. Please forgive me my wordiness.

    Many masters, like Milarepa, Naropa, Gampopa and also Dromtönpa met their masters with whom they had the closest relation not in the beginning. Moreover they left their former masters to meet their main masters. Not only that, they and their masters had visions or prophesies that they would meet each other, and these students had a spiritual maturity that outshone that of other students.

    All this can not be said for the majority of Buddhist students, especially Westerners.

    With respect to Dromtönpa: He had a master who was defeated by Tirthikas in a debate, completely embarrassed the master escaped into a cave in the mountains and Dromtönpa left him to finally meet Atisha.

    The life-stories of these masters are far more complex than Geshe Kelsang Gyatso or Ole Nydahl tell their devotees.

    It is Je Tsongkhapa who made clear that a student must be able to discriminate wrong Dharma teachings from correct ones, and that he should not follow if the Guru gives an improper religious advice (or command). He also made clear, that if a person is partisan, then this person will see faults as qualities and qualities as faults.

    To emphasize these examples of Marpa/Milarepa & Tilopa/Naropa too much without putting them into context is rather dangerous, because it invites the Buddhist beginner to emulate the wise without that they have the qualities of them. They risk based on self-delusion to follow not proper qualified spiritual teachers, and to think they would be like those great students of the past.

    Moreover if immature students rely on a spiritual guide who has gone astray (which happens) they will create their own hell, if they don’t disassociate from them. That’s why Je Tsongkhapa said:

    Distance yourself from Vajra Masters who are not keeping the three vows, who keep on with a root downfall, who are miserly with the Dharma, and who engage in actions that should be forsaken. Those who worship them go to hell and so on as a result.

    and Patrul Rinpoche warned:

    The Great Master of Oddiyana warns:

    No to examine the teacher
    Is like drinking poison;
    Not to examine the disciple
    Is like leaping from a precipice.

    You place your trust in your spiritual teacher for all your future lives. It is he who will teach you what to do and what not to do. If you encounter a false spiritual friend without examining him properly, you will be throwing away the possibility a person with faith has to accumulate merits for a whole lifetime, and the freedoms and advantages of the human existence, you have now obtained will be wasted. It is like being killed by a venomous serpent coiled beneath a tree that you approached, thinking what you saw was just the tree’s cool shadow.

    By not examining a teacher with great care
    The faithful waste their gathered merit.
    Like taking for the shadow of a tree a vicious snake,
    Beg, uiled, they lose the freedom they at last had found.

    and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche quoting Buddha’s words taught

    Avoiding Contrary, Harmful Companions

    8.1 Obstructions of a harmful friend

    “The harmful teacher is one of bad temperament, of little pure vision, great in dogmatism; he holds [his own view) as highest, praises himself, and denigrates others.”

    In general, the nonspiritual teacher (mi-dge-ba’i bshes-gnyen) is a lama, teacher (mkhan-slob), dharma brother [or sister] (grogs-mched), and so forth—all those who are attached to the phenomena (snang) of this life, and who get involved in unvirtuous activity. Therefore, one must abandon the nonspiritual friend. In particular, although they have the manner of goodness in appearance, they cause you to be obstructed in your liberation.

    The nonspiritual teacher has a bad temperament, little pure vision (dag-snang), is very dogmatic (phyogs-ris), holds as highest his view (lta-ba) as the only dharma, praises himself, slanders others, implicitly denigrates and rejects others’ systems (lugs) of dharma, and slanders the lama—the true wisdom teacher—who bears the burden of benefiting others. If you associate with those who are of this type, then, because one follows and gets accustomed to the nonspiritual teacher and his approach, his faults stain you by extension, and your mindstream (rgyud) gradually becomes negative. Illustrating this point, it has been said in the Vinaya Scripture:

    “A fish in front of a person is rotting and is tightly wrapped with kusha grass. If that [package] is not moved for a long time, the kusha itself also becomes like that. Like that [kusha grass], by following the sinful teacher, you will always become like him.”

    Therefore, as it has been said in The Sutra of the True Dharma of Clear Recollection (mDo dran-pa nyer-bzhag; Saddharmanusmriti-upasthana):

    “As the chief among the obstructors (bar-du gcod-pa) of all virtuous qualities is the sinful teacher, one should abandon being associated with him, speaking with him, or even being touched by his shadow.”

    In every aspect one should be diligent in rejecting the sinful teacher.

    I think academics in the West are very helpful for Buddhists, because they offer a neutral outsider perspective which can help to verify, correct, to proof, to broaden and to deepen one’s understanding. They can also help to increase one’s conviction in facts (which is usually called ‘faith’). Academics are in general no Spiritual Guides who thinks like this is probably a bit confused. However most Buddhist do not neglect the results of their research either, because what Buddhist have to do is to learn to see the things as they are. Science offers great tools to come closer to reality.

    However, Western Buddhists in general do not follow academics, they have their own masters who teach them the path. So they have also a proper spiritual practice and guidance + the results of research. It was the Buddha who said, his followers should investigate and not just believe what is said. So, reasoning and common sense is what should be applied, and what was advised by the Buddha and Je Tsongkhapa.

    The use of 3rd party sources and results of research are no hindrance for spiritual practice, it can be a great help for spiritual practice (but also a distraction of course). However, a far more real hindrance and unfortunate circumstance is, if immature Westerners follow not proper qualified spiritual teachers, who claim to be more supreme than the wise. (see quote above of Jamgon Kongtrul.)

    That’s why Je Tsongkhapa prayed:

    May I be cared for by true spiritual friends,
    filled with knowledge and insight,
    sense stilled, minds controlled, loving, compassionate,
    and with courage untiring in working for others.

    May I never fall under sway
    of false teachers and misleading friends
    their flawed views of existence and nonexistence
    well outside the Buddhas intention.

    I pray that I listen insatiably
    to countless teachings at the feet of a master,
    single-handedly with logic unflawed,
    prizing open scriptures’ meanings.

    I pray that in no way I be misled
    by unwholesome friends and deceiving Mara
    but in care of true spiritual friends,
    complete the enlightened way.

    May I bring to the path praised by the Buddha
    those lost and fallen onto wrong paths,
    swayed by deluded teachers and misleading friends.

    The head turned by dark forces
    hinders experience of the joyful festival
    that is the community of the Dharma life.
    May I never encounter misleading friends,
    in reality the cohorts of Mara.

    So you can see that the masters, including Je Tsongkhapa, really emphasised to be careful not to follow wrong spiritual guides who mislead their students.

    You said: “The really funny thing is that in Buddhist lineage the main qualification is that one has a qualified spiritual guide that is coming from a valid…”

    I wish to broaden this point. It is true that this is an important qualification, however the very first qualification is to have the qualities of a qualified Dharma student. According to Je Tsongkhapa / Dharmakirti / Aryadeva, the student should possess the three defining qualities of a proper vessel for the Mahayana dharma (see Lam Rim Chen Mo by Je Tsongkhpa)
    a) being non-partisan (not to take sides)
    b) having discriminating intelligence to discriminate wrong from correct Dharma teachings
    c) diligence;

    Without this qualification the student won’t be able to check and judge who is a proper qualified spiritual guide and who not. The danger is that it could happen, that one perceives a beguiler as a spiritual guide and a wise person as a beguiler.

    A Western monk from Sera just told me how the Tibetans wonder that Westerners see so many unqualified Buddhist teachers as qualified, and blindly follow them just because they are Tibetans or hold a Geshe degree. For them this is hard to understand.

    These are my points. Please excuse when this sounds a bit cautionary.
    Maybe its of use. If not just forget it.

    best wishes, t

  9. Kache Marpo says:

    I Always appreciate good quotes from the great master, Manjushri Je Tsongkhapa… thank you.

    I do agree with what you have said regarding the need to check the validity of the Spiritual Guide that you have chosen.

    Discriminating intelligence as outlined by Je Tsongkhapa as one of the qualities of a qualified student is absolutely necessary as well as being non-partisan and having diligence.

    However, the student must also be careful not to be haughty, conceited, or prideful otherwise he will doubt his spiritual guide in a way that is leaning towards non-faith. Once you have examined the qualifications of the spiritual guide and have made your decision regarding him (or her) you must hold to this commitment. So it is a very important decision indeed when you decide who your spiritual guide will be and take commitments accordingly.

    Gyalwa Ensapa said:
    Your experiences and realizations will be great or small,
    just as your familiarity with faith is great or small.
    Your kind guru is the source of all siddhis.
    Contemplate his qualities and ignore his faults.
    Hold his instructions in your palm,
    and promise to keep them to the last.

    from Essence of Nectar:
    As long as you are not free
    Of the veil of karma and obscurations,
    Even if all the Buddhas actually came to you,
    you would not have the good fortune to see
    their supreme bodies adorned
    with the marks and signs;
    you are only fortunate enough
    to see what appears to you at present.

    I do take great caution relying on western academics (or any so called “unbiased” scholar) because they are not practitioners working to purify their negative karma, nor training their minds in the path of realization. They still maintain in their mind the three poisons, attachment, hatred, and ignorance. What is unbiased about that?
    Another question is why should I, a lowly being striving for enlightenment, rely beings who are wandering in the darkness of ignorance themselves?

    Jangsem Retrengwa said:
    Do not put your hopes in people — petition the divine!

    I’m arguing a point here… I actually don’t have time to finish, but I’m eager to hear what you have to say thus far.


  10. Not only academics have – as every sentient beings – mind poisons, also Gurus and even Bodhisattvas have it – except they are fully enlightened or on one of the three pure grounds (Bhumis).

    The main point – besides the proper qualification of student and teacher – is to check if what has been said is reasonable or not, if it accords with the Dharma or not. Every person can help one to improve the own qualities. The Buddha also speaks through other persons. My teachers live and show a very open approach, they also cooperate with researchers. The Bodhisattva tries to see every sentient being as a teacher. This is even one of his trainings with respect to enhancing Bodhichitta (included in the four white and four black actions).

    The commentaries state that there are Gurus with more qualities than faults, there are Gurus with equal qualities than faults and more faults than qualities. The texts say in degenerate times the latter are many, and those with more qualities than faults are rare.

    To have a fully enlightened Guru will be the exception, therefore, if you wish to avoid to “rely (on) beings who are wandering in the darkness of ignorance themselves” you will have not much choice. The Buddha didn’t emphasize that one must follow only a fully awakened being (although this would be the best case), he emphasized (besides the needed qualities if disciple and teacher) the four reliances, which mainly point out the need to rely on the meaning on the words and to check if they accord with reality or are in contradiction to it. This emphasize on critical investigation and analysis makes every Buddhist naturally a researcher of the truth.

    So what I wish to say with this is, that a wish to rely only on those “who are not wandering in the darkness of ignorance themselves” maybe exaggerated and unrealistic, and every unrealistic approach will lead to faults and suffering. Because the Guru can make faults the student is advised only to accept what accords with the Dharma.

    In general with respect to taking a spiritual guide I think the own qualifications and a double check how the teacher is praised or not praised by the wise is the best protection. I always look what the teacher has for relations to other masters, how deep he is embedded in a healthy spiritual environment, and how much he honestly praises the wise and is humble with respect to his own qualities.

    BTW also the quote of Gyalwa Ensapa indicates that the guru may have faults but one should ignore them. (This advice is general given to avoid to loose faith by looking to much on faults, inspiration comes from seeing the qualities; however there is also a meditation by Atisha which includes the contemplation of faults, which helps to deal with them realistically.) Some of HHDL’s Gurus were involved in controversial deeds (I think even killing or turmoil) so a realistic approach is very helpful.

    Here is a link to a Kadam meditation by Atisha which includes “Focusing on Good Qualities while Not Denying Shortcomings”:


  11. messenger says:

    How interesting that monk Tenzin Peljor is giving everyone here a lecture about reliance on the spiritual guide – given that his guide is the Dalai Lama he is truly being contradictory as can be seen by the following information….

    The root of the spiritual path according to Buddha’s teachings is complete faith and reliance upon one’s Spiritual Guide. This practice has been demonstrated by all the previous accomplished Masters throughout Buddhist history. They all taught such reliance to their disciples, who in turn did the same.
    In the traditional prayer practice called Lama Chopa it says:
    “The Guru is Buddha,
    The Guru is Dharma,
    The Guru is also Sangha,
    The Guru is the source of all joys”

    The meaning is that the Guru is a manifestation of Buddha Shakyamuni. The second line means that he is the embodiment of the realizations of the stages of the path to enlightenment. The third line means that through putting his instructions into practice causes sentient beings to attain supreme results. Therefore, the Guru is the source of all joys.

    The fourteenth Dalai Lama has repudiated his Spiritual Guide and the lineage of his Spiritual Guide, stating unequivocally that they were “all wrong” for practicing Dorje Shugden. He has deleted the names of his Spiritual Guide (Trijang Rinpoche) and lineage Gurus from sadhanas, books, and teachings. This action of deleting the names of lineage gurus demonstrates without any doubt that he is not a Buddhist. It is a direct attack on Buddhadharma. Moreover, it has been his wish since 1960 to merge all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism into one. His real intention is to destroy all existing lineages and establish the Dalai Lama(s) as the sole holder(s) of Buddha’s teachings.

    The Dalai Lama cannot be a spiritual guide as he has rejected his own spiritual guide – when will Tenzin finally see this truth?

  12. dear messanger, sorry but i think you have learnt a rather fundamentalist, literal, and very narrow minded approach with respect to the teacher-student-relationship. i would like to encourage you to deepen, broaden and differentiate your understanding, because a differentiated understanding avoids misconceptions and the deep sufferings they (can) produce.

    a good starting point could be this site and the related articles:


    i have checked these issues thoroughly and received many teachings about it, including one teaching which explained “teachers who have to be abandoned… because they lead people onto wrong paths”.

    after having received a lot of teachings, and contemplated and meditated about it, i completely agree with my main teacher: “If it comes to reliance on a teacher follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his views accord 100% with Sutra and Tantra.”

    Of course you will have a different opinion, but that’s your freedom and to check the correctness of your views is your business. it is my duty and responsibility to check and correct my own views.

    May you see the truth, and may all your spiritual wishes be fulfilled. t
    PS. your claims about the deletion of names is probably as untrue as almost everything else NKT spreads nowadays via wss and their propaganda machine. some of the wrong claims were already addressed and corrected at this blog see e.g. https://thedorjeshugdengroup.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/scandalous-feeding-on-rumors-and-gossips-by-pro-shugden/ and the comments there.

    added comment (4 feb 2009)
    We received today teachings on teacher-student-relationship.
    To make it short: the main point is:

    If a fully qualified teacher meets a fully qualified student then there is quick progress possible, if either the teacher or the student are not fully qualified it is just dangerous. Tilopa/Naropa and Milarepa/Gampopa etc were both fully qualified.

    In the case of NKT at least the students are most times not qualified, just too new in the Dharma or they possess only a superficial Dharma understanding, and according to my investigation are are either biased or lack the ability to discriminate wrong from correct Dharma teachings., which makes most improper vessels to receive Mahayana Dharma. Of course this can’t be generalized but this is my observation and opinion. The teacher, Kelsang Gyatso, is also seen as unqualified by many former NKT members and non-NKT Buddhists. (see e.g. the newly added Video by BBC “The unholy Row” this shows that this opinion exist since many years)

    Je Tsongkhapa states clearly one should not follow a Guru’s command it it is contradicting the Dharma. When Buddha in his former lives was asked by his teacher to steal, he refused. Later this teacher praised the Bodhisattva for that he rejected his improper command.

    As I said, there are many and different perspectives and understandings on different level.s I think it is important not to stay on a superficial black and white or fundamentalist level, but to really penetrate the meaning of the teachings on its deepest levels.

    As the Buddhist tradition of the four reliances state it:

    Do not rely merely on the person, but on the words;
    Do not rely merely on the words, but on their meaning;
    Do not rely merely on the provisional meaning, but on the definitive meaning; and
    Do not rely merely on intellectual understanding, but on direct experience.

    For more see POV “One of the strongest tenants of Buddhism is to never forsake your teachers teachings.

  13. Mahayana Disciple says:

    I’ve only just come across these pages so please forgive me if my points have been discussed already elsewhere. If I could be so bold as to add a comment to your last post please:
    “In the case of NKT at least the students are most times not qualified, just too new in the Dharma or they possess only a superficial Dharma understanding, and according to my investigation are are either biased or lack the ability to discriminate wrong from correct Dharma teachings., which makes most improper vessels to receive Mahayana Dharma.”
    I can only speak from my own experience as I do not know the realisations of others within the NKT and I definitely would not call myself a fully qualified student but I certainly aspire to be such a highly realised being.

    My personal intention for receiving teachings on holy Dharma is to be able to realise the meaning of Buddhas intention so that I can bring the suffering of my mothers to an end. Right now, as we debate these things, living beings continue to suffer in the hell realms. How can we bear this? This is my priority – to free living beings from their samsara. Thus, I may not be a perfect Mahayana Disciple ‘yet’ but don’t we become one by first aspiring to be one and then through applying strong effort, we develop the qualifications we need. From your statement, you make it sound as though we can only rely upon a fully qualified spiritual guide once we become a fully qualified student – and yet the way to become a fully qualified student is to rely upon a spiritual guide. It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg statement. Also, if we had perfected our wisdom of discriminating then we would no longer be a student – we’d be a fully qualified spiritual guide!

    “Do not rely merely on intellectual understanding, but on direct experience.” This seems to contradict your earlier statement – forgive me if I have misunderstood your meaning. I agree that we need some basic understanding of Dharma so that we can check that what our Teacher says is in accordance with it. However, being able to express this understanding well is not an indication of how well the subject is understood. Being eloquent is not one of the qualifications of a fully qualified Mahayana Disciple.

    For myself, the way I began my spiritual path was just this. I made strong prayers to Buddha that I would meet a fully qualified spiritual guide so that I could follow the Buddhist path to enlightenment. I do not profess to have great intellectual understanding but I do try and keep a pure motivation and am working at developing my qualifications – so for this reason I consider myself to be a proper vessel to receive the Mahayana Dharma.

    with love MD


  1. […] “The Western Shugden Group is severely lacking in credibility” – Correction to the Time Magazine Article by Tibet Scholar Robert Barnett (2008/12/14) […]

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