Shining Light on the Misrepresentations of the New Kadampa Tradition and Shugden Protestors


Part 1, 2, and 3 of the following misrepresentations and excerpts as clarifications are based on the new ebook, Dolgyal Shugden: A History by The Dolgyal Shugden Research Society.

PART 1 focuses on the historical background of Shugden up to and including the period of Pabongkha Rinpoche.

Dolgyal Shugden: A History
Dolgyal Shugden: A History. The front cover shows Palden Lhamo.

Misrepresentation: Dorje Shugden is worshiped as an enlightened deity in the Sakya tradition.

Clarification from the text: When a Nyingma lama was trying to subdue the Shugden spirit, it fled and sought refuge in Sakya Monastery where it caused many disturbances. There, Sakya lama Sonam Rinchen bargained with the spirit that in exchange for accepting a torma cake from the monastery, in would not harm those in the region.
Sakya Scholar Jampa Thaye states: “The usual Sakya view about Shugden is that he is controlled by … Four Faced Mahakala. So he is a worldly deity, or demon, who is no harm to the Sakya tradition because he is under the influence of this particular Mahakala.”

Misrepresentation: The Fifth Dalai Lama, although initially opposed to Shugden, realized he was an enlightened being and therefore ordered a temple constructed in his honour at Trode Khangsar, in Lhasa.

Clarification: It is not clear whether or not the Fifth Dalai Lama actually established this temple. What is interesting, is that this temple is actually classified as a “Tsen Khang” (spirit house). Even if the Dalai Lama was involved with the construction of the temple, its location well outside the perimeter indicates that Shugden was worshiped as a worldly deity. Its classification as a Tsen Khang makes it clear the being inside is regarded as a spirit. Because worldly deities were not considered objects of refuge, their shrines were located outside monastic perimeters.

Misrepresentation: The Shugden practice was never controversial amongst Gelug Lamas apart from the Dalai Lamas.

Clarification: This is clearly not the case, many great Gelug lamas were opposed to Shugden practice. The author of famous texts on logic and history, Purchog Ngawang Jampa states: “Nowadays many who consider themselves followers of Tsongkhapa and adopt the three robes of a fully ordained Buddhist monk, go for refuge to worldly spirits. They will have to face the consequence of meeting with great misfortune.

Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen, tutor to the 8th Dalai Lama: The new Dharma protector (Shugden) is the source of ruin of Tashi Lhunpo… if the monastery starts propitiation of some harmful spirit, it will be the source of great inauspiciousness.

The 8th Panchen Lama: “Propitiating and taking refuge in evil spirits like Dolgyal (Shugden), that are wandering hungry spirits, contradicts the practice of taking refuge in the Three Jewels, which is what distinguishes a Buddhist, therefore, such practices should be given up.”

Misrepresentation: We can prove that Dorje Shugden is an emanation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri due to his aspect and function.

Clarification: Contemporary Sakya Scholar Dhongtog Rinpoche: “You who claim that Shugden is inseperable from Manjushri, what is the source of your assertion? There is no prophecy or scriptural reference to this in any of the Buddha’s teachings, or in the works of any Buddhist master, or in the works of Tsongkhapa. If there is one, supply the quote.”

Misrepresentation: Pabongkha Rinpoche’s view of Shugden as an enlightened being is evidence this is the correct view.

Clarification: It seems Pabongkha himself wavered between various views of Shugden. When chastized by the 13th Dalai Lama for propitiating Shugden, Pabongkhapa replied: “I want to say from the depths of my heart that it is only due to my ignorance and not that I have knowingly entered onto an unwholesome path and led others onto that same path.”

Misrepresentation: Pabongkha Rinpoche was never a sectarian lama. He is merely being smeared by the Dalai Lama and his followers for political reasons.

Clarification: It is clear he was sectarian based on this and many other quotations: “… many from our own side, monks or laypeople, high or low, are not content with Tsongkhapa’s doctrine, which is like pure gold, and have mixed and corrupted this tradition with the mistaken views and practices of other schools, tenent systems that are reputed to be incredibly profound and amazingly vast but are in fact mistakes upon mistakes, faulty, dangerous and misleading paths.”

He also stated: “Apart from the doctrine of Manjughosa Tsongkhapa alone, the views of all Sakyas, Kagyus and Nyingmas are erroneous … for them liberation and the path to omniscience does not exist.”

Misrepresentation: Pabongkha Rinpoche was a completely non-political lama, and was never involved in non-religious affairs.

Clarification: Between 1938 and 1940, Pabongkha Rinpoche made repeated requests to Kham’s Kuomintang military governor, Lui Chuntrang, to forcibly suppress local Sakya, Nyingma and Kagyu monasteries for propounding a “wrong view of emptiness.” (These letters are sourced from Volume Cha of Pabongkhapa’s collected works.

Misrepresentation: None of Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo’s followers or Shugden worshipers were ever involved in violence or sectarian actions.

Clarification: From a historical account included in the book: “The Lhasa administration was forced to send a delegation to the Geluk Shitam Gompa near Chamdo after a group of monks, claiming to be possessed by Shugden, broke down and smashed the doors of the Chamdo temple … the confessed that on their way (to Chamdo) they had entered a Nyingma monastery and destroyed a 30 foot image of Padmasambhava.”


PART 2: The Impetus for the Dalai Lama’s Opposition and an Examination of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and his sectarianism.

Misrepresentation: The Dalai Lama’s words against Shugden have no basis in reason whatsoever.

Clarification: The current Dalai Lama began to speak out on this issue with the publication of a violently sectarian work called “The Yellow Book” by Zemey Rinpoche, threatening “impure Gelugs” with tragedy and mishap.

From the text: Along with the attribution of the deaths of a number of Geluk followers to the deity, the book claimed it was Shugden’s retribution that led to a great flood at Gyantse in 1954, a flood which almost completely destroyed the town and killed thousands of people and animals.

Misrepresentation: The New Kadampa Tradition and Shugden Supporters Community (front group in the 1990s) are seperate organizations.

Clarification: “When Andrew Brown, a freelance journalist working for the Independent Newspaper at the time, rang the contact number given by one of the two groups (Shugden Supporters Community and Freedom Foundation), he soon came to realize that both the SSC and Freedom Foundation were front organizations set up and run by members of Kelsang Gyatso’s New Kadampa Tradition.”

Misrepresentation: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a fully qualified Geshe and completed Geshe examinations at Sera Monastery, he merely did not pick up his certificate.

Clarification: Gyatso’s own statements about his Geshe degree are very contradictory.  “Initially, Gyatso claims to have become a Geshe before  entering Sera, at a monastery where the degree was not awarded. He then claims to have been awarded the degree many years after completing his training at Sera, though he did not take any examinations. He then claims to have been awarded the degree immediately upon having completed the course of study at Sera, where the degree has always been awarded after thorough examinations. Examinations which Gyatso freely agrees to having never taken.”

Misrepresentation: After coming to India  Geshe Kelsang Gyatso spent 18 years in retreat at various locations in the Himalayan region.

Clarification: “Critics suggest Gyatso actually spent much of his time in India in Mussoorie, convalescing as a TB patient …” in addition to 6 years in Dalhousie.

Misrepresentation: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is preserving Tsongkhapa’s tradition from the pollution of mixing instigated by the Dalai Lama.

Clarification: … in rejecting the the eclectic approach to dharma, Kelsang Gyatso was rejecting an approach exemplified by Tsongkhapa’s life and which was demonstrated by his constructing a tradition taken from each of the pre-extant Buddhist traditions of Tibet. Gyatso, in championing Pabonkha’s exclusivism, came to represent an exclusivism which is the very anithesis of the spirit of Tsongkhapa’s eclectic tradition.


PART 3 Deliberate Misrepresentations About the Number of Shugden Followers, NKT’s Financial Transparency and the Murder of Gen Lobsang Gyatso

Misrepresentation: 4 Million people are affected by the Dalai Lama’s activities against the Shugden practice.

Clarification: The policies affect only certain Tibetan government departments and subsidiaries, monastic institutions connected with the Dalai Lama, and those who wish to take the Dalai Lama as their tantric master. According to experts with whom Brown spoke, only 100,000 people could be affected by the “ban”. After communicating with senior Buddhist academics, our conclusions are that the prohibition affects 30,000 at most.

Misrepresentation: The restrictions of the Dalai Lama effectively “bans” Shugden practice in all Tibetan communities in India and Tibet, as well as the West.

Clarification: Nowadays Shugden is propitiated without restraint in NKT centres worldwide, in numerous Chinese funded government monasteries in Tibet, and indeed in non government monasteries set up by devotees in the exile community, both in India, Nepal and beyond. The prohibitions surrounding Shugden worship then do not extend to all devotees but rather to a tiny minority of Tibetan Buddhists, each of whom is linked to the Tibetan government or His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the context of a tantric, guru-disciple relationship.

Misrepresentation: The New Kadampa Tradition is financially transparent and not involved in political activities.

Clarification: … the movement has repeatedly depended on its members collecting government assistance, often under false pretenses, and that this money has then been funneled in to the NKT’s own coffers to fund the expansion of its ever burgeoning property empire … the organization has taken full advantage of its religious status for charitable purposes, while simultaneously its members covertly engage in political activities and protests against the Dalai Lama across the globe.

Misrepresentation: Apart from the accusation of the CTA, and a document that may have been planted, there is no evidence Shugden worshipers were involved in threats to Gen Lobsang Gyatso or his death.

Clarification 1: There are other pieces of evidence. As one example: “A letter received by the Tibetan Government-In-Exile, dated May 5, 1996, and which requested a re-opening of the debate on the Shugden issue and restoration of devotees human rights warned: “… there should be no procrastination. And we, in our present state of desperation, have made up our mind to resort to desperate measures if such a decision is not made. And when we do take desperate actions, you will be filled with remorse.”

Clarification 2: The young suspects named by INTERPOL in the murders, suffered a breakdown of their car in Ambala, on the way to the home of Lobsang Gyatso in Dharamsala. They made a telephone call from a public kiosk, which was traced by the Indian police to the home of Chimme Tsering, the secretary of the Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society in Delhi.

line-gothicDemocracy in the NKT, NKT Ordination, More NKT Finances and Evidence of Shugden Activists’ Connections with the Government of China

Misrepresentation: The NKT is an open and democratic organization, whereas the CTA and its affiliated monasteries behave in a dictatorial manner, for example expelling Shugden monks from monasteries.

Clarification: It is tempting to compare this letter (of KG firing Lucy James from her teaching position) to the expulsion of 6 monks from Sera Monastery three weeks earlier, expulsions that sparked the wave of international demonstrations…However, that particular expulsion was conducted by the monastic community rather than by a single leader, after alleged repeated disruptive behaviour on the part of the six and in accordance with the procedures of the Vinaya, the ancient codes of Moral Discipline set down at the time of the Buddha himself.
In the case of Lucy James, no such process was followed; the draconian decision came down simply as the result of her incurring the wrath of Gyatso and was seemingly his alone. Gyatso took the same decision when another longstanding student of his, Kadam Bjorn Clausen, the Swiss National Spiritual Director, expressed similar concerns about the demonstrations; he too was asked to resigned, purportedly because Gyatso was “concerned for his safety”.

Misrepresentation: NKT students are free to study other teachings if they wish, emphasis on devotion comes from the teachings of Pabongkha Rinpoche.

Clarification: Gyatso’s emphasis on guru devotion, particularly via the fundamental NKT practice of guru yoga, actually represents a hardening of Pabongkha’s perspective (as Pabongkhapa emphasized reliance on the teachings of his Geluk forefathers)… Gyatso, in his “Great Treasury of Merit”… declares:

Experience shows that realizations come from deep, unchanging faith, and that this faith comes as a result of following purely one tradition, relying upon only one teacher, practicing only his teachings, and following his dharma protector.

… in Kay’s words “Even the most exclusively oriented Geluk lamas, such as Phabongkha Rinpoche and Trijiang Rinpoche, do not seem to have encouraged such complete and exclusive reliance in their students as this.”

Misrepresentation: It can be shown that the ordination offered in the NKT is a completely valid ordination, and consistent with Lord Buddha’s teachings.

Clarification: Gyatso and his followers claim the ordination is based upon the Mahayana Perfection of Wisdom Sutras … specific scriptural citations, the commonest and most effective method of establishing the validity of assertions made in classical Buddhist texts, are sadly lacking and therefore it is difficult to establish the validity of these claims …

Misrepresentation: The ordination of the NKT was modernized to make it more practical and democratic.

Clarification: Gyatso claims his new system of ordination was invented for reasons of practicality.  Another possible though equally pragmatic reason is that when the NKT was founded, there were insufficient fully ordained monks within the organization to form the necessary quorum required for the transmission of the vows of the Vinaya.

Misrepresentation: Other Buddhist traditions hold this system of ordination as valid.

Clarification: The Australian Sangha Association, made up of Senior monastics of the Theravada, Tibetan and Chinese Mahayana Traditions issued this statement about NKT ordination:

all Buddhist traditions, have always insisted on the necessity of the conventional Sangha to hold Vinaya vows properly received in accordance with the prescribed rituals. The opinion of the ASA is that for NKT to present themselves to the public as authentic Buddhist monks and nuns is wrong and misleading.

Misrepresentation: Those working as volunteers at NKT centres while in some cases receiving social assistance do so in perfect accordance with the law.

Clarification: .… a fundamental requirement of the UK state benefits system is that claimants of unemployment benefit should be available for, as well as actively seeking, employment in order to qualify for that assistance. One ex member, who worked as a cashier in the organization between 1992 and 1993, alleges that many of those within NKT during that period satisfied neither of those requirements, and that they were rather working full-time for the organization. He cited a number of examples:

  • working full-time for NKT while claiming to be unemployed
  • working part-time for the organization while claiming to be unemployed
  • studying full-time on the TTP and claiming benefits, robed members were reported to change into lay clothes borrowed from other residents before visiting their local job centre to register and claim benefits.
  • claiming rent at one NKT centre while living and working part time at others.

Misrepresentation: There is not a shred of evidence of members of the Shugden movement being connected to the government of the People’s Republic of China.

Clarification 1: “In March 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that, at the same time the Chinese government was involved in the destruction of mainstream Buddhist temples, it was rebuilding Shugden monasteries in Tibet.

Clarification 2: “native Tibetan monks are given permission to travel to India by the Chinese government on the condition that they are devotees of the (Shugden) deity.

Clarification 3: Chimme Tsering, the secretary of the Dorje Shugden Devotees’ Charitable and Religious Society (DSDCRS) in Delhi, met a representative from the Chinese embassy in Nepal to draft a letter to the Chinese government asking for their help in raising the profile on the issue of discrimination against Tibetan Shugden practitioners in India.

Clarification 4: In February 2001 DSDCRS organized a “Millenial conference on Human Rights” whose guest of honour was the Chinese ambassador to India. On February 1st 2004, two more officials from the Chinese Consulate in Delhi also met with DSDCRS senior Lobsang Yeshe in Mysore, South India.

Clarification 5: Lama Gangchen, an outspoken proponent of Shugden in Italy, has demonstrable ties to the Chinese government. At Ganchen Monastery in Shigatse Monastery, local Chinese authorities tried to compel monks to accept Gangchen as their spiritual guru and begin Shugden practice. Since (surprisingly) the monastery had no prior history of worshiping the deity, they refused. Monks who continued to refuse the government officials insistence on Shugden and Gangchen, were threatened with arrest, detention and imprisonment.

Photo of Shugden followers celebrating Losar 2013 with Chinese Embassy. Friends identified on this photo lama Ajo from Serpom monastery, lama Gyatso who ger recently in Tibet to criticise HH Dalaï Lama there, as well as US Shugden leaders, Phuntsok and Dechen Tulku. Dechen Tulku is the man who appeared recently on very contraversed photo with Jamyang Norbu.
Photo of Shugden followers celebrating Losar 2013 with Chinese Embassy. Friends identified on this photo lama Ajo from Serpom monastery, lama Gyatso who ger recently in Tibet to criticise HH Dalaï Lama there, as well as US Shugden leaders, Phuntsok and Dechen Tulku. Dechen Tulku is the man who appeared recently on very contraversed photo with Jamyang Norbu.

For China’s involvement see also