Italian Tibetan Buddhist centers’ statement concerning the cult of Dolgyal/Shugden and the protests against the Dalai Lama

Shugden protests in Livorno, Italy
June 9, 2014 12:39 pm

We the undersigned Buddhist centers wish to express our full confidence in and respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and our complete agreement with regard to the dangerous nature of the practice of the Dolgyal/Shugden cult.

Since 1978 His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in his capacity as spiritual leader, has repeatedly stated publicly the extent to which the practice of the spirit called Dolgyal/Shugden has degenerated, to the point of becoming a real cult, with strong sectarian features. In the past, this spirit was often invoked both as a Dharma protector as well as for more mundane purposes, but there have always been contradictory points of view about its nature and function. Thus, even though the Dalai Lama himself engaged in this spiritual practice until the age of forty, in 1975, after extensive research, he decided not only to cease this practice, but also to speak out publicly about the historical, social and cultural issues associated with this practice.

In short, the harmfulness of Dolgyal/Shugden can be summed up as follows:

  1. In spite of what his followers affirm, Dolgyal/Shugden is not an enlightened protector, but a being arisen as an effect of distorted prayers and invocations.
  2. His nature is that of a devilish harmful spirit.
  3. His effect is that of destroying the Buddhadharma and harmony among practitioners.

The problems deriving from this practice can be summed up in three essential points:

  1. There is the danger that Tibetan Buddhism could degenerate into a kind of spirit cult, as the practice of Dolgyal/Shugden brings its followers to consider this spirit as more important than Buddha himself.
  2. There is the actual possibility that this practice could be an obstacle toward the creation of a true non-sectarian culture, in total contrast with one of the objectives that His Holiness is mostly concerned with, namely, the fostering of true harmony amongst all religions.
  3. Finally, there are problems connected to the preservation of Tibetan culture, which have existed since the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama (seventeenth century).

For these reasons, the Dharma practitioners belonging to the undersigned centers are constantly engaged in informing the public about the truth regarding this ancient issue, supported – as mentioned – by broad and carefully examined research. Out of great compassion, feeling strongly his responsibility as a religious leader – namely, as one who should indicate the correct spiritual path to be followed – His Holiness advises against the practice of this cult. He does this not for personal profit, but because the danger has been clearly shown.

Therefore, we the undersigned centers dissociate ourselves from and firmly condemn any protests against His Holiness the Dalai Lama carried out by organizations devoted to the Dolgyal/Shugden cult, which organizations are carrying out an exploitative and denigrating campaign against Him, spreading accusations totally lacking any foundation:

1) His Holiness is accused of banning this practice. This is untrue, as the Dalai Lama himself has repeatedly stated that this is a decision that lies with each individual, and must be taken after a thorough analysis of what He says and not by a mere acceptance of His words. As for the request of His Holiness not to attend his teachings or empowerments, transmissions, and instructions as well as not to receive religious vows from Him by those who follow Dolgyal/Shugden, the reason is that this will endanger both teacher and students because of a tainted relationship. As a spiritual master, His Holiness has every right to allow or not to allow anyone to access His teachings.

2) His Holiness is accused of suppressing freedom of religion. This is untrue, as nobody has ever been banned from invoking this spirit privately, in temples and monasteries where this practice is followed. There have been instances wherein Dolgyal/Shugden followers left their monasteries of origin. This happened as a result of a referendum carried out in accordance with the rules of the monastic tradition of Vinaya. These monks were free to keep their own shares of money and land, and have been completely free to practice Dolgyal/Shugden on their own without any threat to their activities. In addition, if they don’t have religious freedom, then how is it that the practitioners of Dolgyal/Shugden can travel freely to all parts of the world, raising this issue and trying to find new supporters from amongst those who are in the dark about the facts?

3) They maintain that the Dalai Lama is lying. Such criticism has no solid base, since holding a different point of view from that of the Dolgyal/Shugden practitioners is not lying, but only exercising one’s right of opinion.

4) They accuse the Dalai Lama of being the only one to hold this point of view. This is absolutely untrue, as the first controversies about this matter date back to the seventeenth century.

It is worth noting that the protests of some Shugden practitioners have degenerated to the point of criminal acts, such as the one perpetrated near Dharamsala in 1997, when two Shugden followers, currently wanted by Interpol, killed the Headmaster of the School of Dialectics at the time, together with two of his disciples. Moreover, it appears that these organizations have sided many times with the decisions by several Western governments not to meet with the Dalai Lama, because of the strong political and economic pressures exerted by the Chinese government (as recently happened in Norway), thus demonstrating that there are other interests at play beyond those aspects related to the religious tradition.

We invite all those who are unaware of this issue to pay careful attention when choosing their spiritual path, on the basis of thorough analysis and research, and we strongly reaffirm our full support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the international activities he has carried out for more than fifty years all over the world, where his figure is recognized as one of the greatest advocates for world peace and harmony in our time.

S.No Tibetan Buddhist Centres in Italy

1. Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, Pomaia (Pi)

2. Ghe Pel Ling Istituto Studi Di Buddhismo Tibetano, Milano

3. Centro Milarepa Torino

4. Comunita’ Dzog-Chen, Arcidosso (Gr)

5. Fpmt Fondazione Per La Preservazione Della Tradizione Mahayana, Pomaia (Pi)

6. Centro Studi Kalachakra,  Bordighera (Im)

7. Centro Dharma Visuddha, Verona

8. Centro Cenresig, Bologna

9. Centro Buddhista Muni Gyana, Palermo

10. Centro Tara Cittamani, Padova

11. Istituto Samantabhadra, Roma

12. Mandala Centro Studi Tibetani, Milano

13. Centro Studi Tibetani Sangye Cieling Sondrio

14. Monastero Mandala Samten Ling Biella

15. Centro Studi Tibetani Mandala Deua Ling, Merano (Bz)

16. Centro Terra Di Unificazione Ewam, Firenze

17. Centro Vajrapani, Bosentino (Tn)

18. Centro Dharna Karuna, Modena

19. Centro Lama Tzong Khapa, Zero Branco (Tv)

20. Centro Studi Tibetani Tenzin Cio Ling, Sondrio

21. Centro Gajang Giang Chub, Paladina (Bg)

22. Centro Buddhista Cenresig, Domodossola (Vb)

23. Centro Sakyamuni, Messina

24. Centro Di Meditazione Kushi Ling, Livorno


See also

Images from the NKT/ISC Anti Dalai Lama protests in Frankfurt May 2014