Fruitful discussions on Facebook about the Shugden / Anti Dalai Lama campaign with NKT followers

The Facebook group Talk about Shugden – which I cannot follow due to not being on FB – seems to offer a useful discussion between ill informed NKT zealots and more informed or at least more reasonable and openly investigating people. Here an excerpt which was sent to me based on my request to give an example … In the following discussion you find an exploration of the term “ban” that’s implied meaning in Western context was already rejected by Prof. Thurman, a Tibetologist. Also the Dalai Lama repeatedly said, that he never used the term “ban”. According to the information I got, the term His Holiness the Dalai Lama uses is tenpey nangpey which means determine, not ban, in Tibetan ban means khagdhom.

Is there a Tibetan word that means ‘ban’ as understood by native English speakers?

By Steve Maxwell on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 9:37pm

Silling was having a conversation on fb: wnttas recently where it became clear that Tibetans do not even have a word for ‘ban’ that carries the same meaning to a native English speaker.

Inspired by this and a posting by Khyenrab (posted below) I posed a few questions. The arena is here:

Gen la Khyenrab For those who still claim that there is no ban: The words mostly used are and its synonym meaning “ban,” “prohibition,” “restriction,” “restraint;” New Light English-Tibetan Dictionary compiled by T.G. Dongthog, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA), Dharamsala, 1985, Second Edition, p. 31, p. 352, p. 383, p. 382; also, in Tibetan, one term is used to define the other: bkag.sdom gang jung byed michog pa’i dam.bsrags, Bod Gya Tsig Zoed Chenmo (The Chinese – Tibetan Dictionary), People’s Publishing House, Beijing, Second Edition, 1996. The word bkod.‘doms, “order to stop,” “ban” is used in Resolution No. 21 of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies prohibiting Dorje Shugden in very strong terms as to “never ever” permit the practice, that is, from now until forever. In addition, Resolution No. 21 refers to the 13th and 14th Dalai Lama’s use of the word bkag.’gog, “order” and “prohibition” “to stop” or “to take out forcibly.” The Private Office of the Dalai Lama in a letter to the abbot of Sermay Monastery in Bylakuppe, March 30th, 1996 mentions a ban (bkag.sdom and dam.bsgrags bkag.sdom) by the 13th Dalai Lama to justify the prohibition of Dorje Shugden on the basis of the so-called “prophecies” by government oracles pointing towards danger to the health of the Dalai Lama and the cause of Tibet. On May 8th, 1996 in a public address in Dharamsala (on video tape), for example, the Dalai Lama says, “It has been twenty years since I first mentioned the Dorje Shugden public restriction (ngas dam.bsdrags Also, in an address on May 5, 1996, the Dalai Lama say, “It may have been about ten years ago. While giving a lam.rim teaching at Drepung, I once gave my reasons for issuing the ban.” (Tibetan: dam.bskrags); Select Addresses of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Issue of Propitiating Protector Deities, Sherig Parkhang, Dharamsala, July 10, 1996, p. 175; and “In this way came the reasons, on account of which I have issued the ban (Tibetan: dam.bsgrags) in recent times. In banning [this reliance on Shugden], many came forward and declared that henceforth they will abide by my injunctions….” p. 183. Also, the term dgag.bya spyi nan shugs cher bstsal.rjes or “strong prohibition emphatically proclaimed” is used in Report No. 28/7.8/1997 by the exile Tibetan version of [India’s most secret police] RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) of the Department of Security in Dharamsala, “Specifically, after issuing an emphatic ban at his [the Dalai Lama] spring teachings of 1996, most of the Tibetans living in exile and within Tibet, who are gifted with intelligence and patriotism, have respectfully complied and appreciatively mended their faith accordingly.” When a Swiss journalist asks the Dalai Lama on camera, “Why this ban?” he answers, “Tibetan Buddhism is such a profound tradition. …etc.” The Dalai Lama does not deny a ban when asked “Why the ban?” Swiss TV DRS Series “10 vor 10,” “Bruderzwist,” * broadcast Jan. 5-9, 1998. Also, the Dalai himself refers to his “restriction” of Dorje Shugden as a “harsh step,” quoted in an Announcement by Kashag (Cabinet), May 22, 1996.

Steve Maxwell This is an exploration of Gen la Khyenrab’s post of 27 June at 11:44 which I have just read.

1. I don’t intend to engage in an extended debate, I do not have the intellect or knowledge of the Tibetan language for that.

2. There is a dispute about whether the Dalai Lama has issued a ban against the practice of Dorje Shugden.

3. In part this relies on the words that he used, and how these words have been understood by his supporters and by Shugden supporters.

4. There is an assumption here that the word ‘ban’, while a convenient expression in English, is understood to have the same meaning to Tibetans. If there is ambiguity about its translation / meaning then there is the opportunity for conflict. If the concept of ‘ban’, in an English sense is not precisely the same in a Tibetan sense; then when each side claim and counter-claim there will be no common ground.

6. Notwithstanding dictionary definitions (as quoted by Gel la Khyenrab) is synonymous with Do they have the same meaning? That is, are they widely understood to be the same meaning by Tibetan’s? Do they both mean ‘ban’ by non-Tibetans? Or is there a ‘softer’ meaning such as ‘restriction’ rather than ban?

7. By now it will come as no surprise that I think there is such a difference. ‘Ban’ is easy to fit on placards, fits easily into chants, but probably does not convey the full comprehensive meaning in Tibetan, for Tibetans, of what the Dalai Lama intended.

8. Gen la Khyenrab, please tell us where (minutes and seconds please) in which video, the Dalai Lama uses the expressions and (your expressions since I am no Tibetan scholar, The Dalai Lama may say something slightly different.)

9. Here I focus on just the words, there are plenty of other discussions to be had, I prefer not to muddy the waters with these.

… deletions here …

Jamyang Dakpa The phrase is far different from HH never used as far as I know.

The word is used when you are urging to do something. But is used when you are ordering. HH never ordered to stop worshiping Dhogyal so there is no reason to use the phrase དཀག་སྡོམ་བྱས་པ། **

Kelsang Jangdom Hi Steve Maxwell

In a Resolution about this issue published on the Dalai Lama’s own website it says

“7. Together with documents pertaining to this ban on the worship of Dholgyal, this Congress will urge each and every spiritual master, including geshes, that in the interest of the health of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Independence, they should stop worshipping Dholgyal;”

Check it out – point 7 (of 9).…/dolgyal-shugden/tyc-resolution

This shows the influential Tibetan Youth Congress describe it as a ban.

Kelsang Jangdom Regarding the ban, this quote comes from the following article: Condemned to Silence: A Tibetan Identity Crisis 1996-1999 by Ursula Bernis, p. 11,

“In March 1996, His Holiness strongly advised his followers not to rely on the Dharmapala Dorje Shugden because, according to the prophecies of his oracles, Dorje Shugden harms the institution of Dalai Lama, his life, his government, and the cause of Tibet. Immediately government offices promulgated this advice, stated in no uncertain terms by the Dalai Lama, and turned it into a full-fledged ban” ***

Steve Maxwell Kelsang Jangdom, I am not yet convinced that the authors are using the word ‘ban’ in that same sense that natural English speakers are using it. Which Is why I was asking Khyenrab, or preferably a natural Tibetan speaker, where in the video does HH The Dalai Lama use the Tibetan words specified. Specifically at what times were each word used in which video.

Your reply about the resolution, point 7 does not quote the words of the Dalai Lama; and it is what he says that is disputed here. Revealingly though, the quote that you use does illustrate the point that I am making. It says, “Congress will urge …”, The word ‘urge’ does not carry the same sense of compulsion that the word ‘ban’ carries.

I have not yet read your later reply.

Atisha’s Cook Steve – it’s disingenuous in the extreme to claim there’s no ban.
about an hour ago · Like · 4

Gen la Khyenrab Debating ‘no ban’ is a waste of time – Steve is just wasting time
44 minutes ago · Like · 2

Steve Maxwell Kelsang Jangdom, your quote, “In March 1996, His Holiness strongly advised his followers not to rely on the Dharmapala Dorje Shugden …”

Again you support the point that I am making. ‘His Holiness strongly advised’, is not the sort of wording a person would normally use when describing a ‘ban’.

Gen la Khyenrab, a pity that you think so lightly about clarifying a key issue such as where and when did HH Dalai Lama say the equivalent of ‘ban’ in Tibetan. You spent some time in your earlier post quoting from dictionaries, all that I am asking for is at what time, in which videos did he use words that you interpret as ‘ban’.

Atisha’s Cook, I know that there are many other issues. I know that the restrictions placed on Shugden practitioners have upset people (yes I know you would put that much more strongly). Since Gen la lists the Tibetan words, and I don’t know Tibetan, in the interest of clarity I would like to know where HH The Dalai Lama uses them.


Here is another discussion with Gen Kelsang Khyenrab (see comment section) on the Hindustan Times:

Brief annotations

* This video Khyenrab is referring to is from a series of documentaries and was the start of it. This documentary has created a lot of controversy in Switzerland (see “Dorje Shugden Übersicht – Quelle: Tibet Focus“), and was not only criticized by Tibetans but also by journalists and researchers for its one-sidedness and sensationalist approach that missed to ask Tibet experts, and believed blindly in whatever was told to the film makers.

The magazine had to apologize to the public for the the one-sided report defending themselves “We are an infotainment-magazine and not a research institution.” At the end they produced a new documentary to balance the faults of the first documentary – that has become now so widespread on YouTube and which Khyenrab is referring to. In that documentary the same magazine interviewed for the first time the Indian police and a researcher, and look, things shine in quite another light, and the TV magazine had to correct many of their former claims.

However, this ‘self-correcting documentary’ has never been translated into English nor is there an English version of it on YouTube – balanced information seems to be too boring … The documentary can be seen here in German only.

** A senior Tibetan scholar wrote in an email today:

Dam-sgrags, which is the term cited as the term His Holiness has used, is translated as “restriction” in Goldstein’s Tibetan-English Dictionary of Modern Tibetan. In Bod-rgya tshig-mdzod chen-mo it is defined as ‘khrims-kyis ‘doms-pa’am do-dam btsan-po, which means a regulation or strong directive (made) by law.  It is clear from the Chinese translations in the dictionary and the examples of the usage of the term that it means a regulation restricting something, like a directive for a curfew  regulating when or where you can and cannot go walking  at night. This does not have the same connotation as a ban.

We need to differentiate what His Holiness has actually said and what various departments in the Central Tibetan administration have said.

*** Ursula Bernis wanted to publish her work at a reputable academic publisher. That publisher asked established scientists (among them a professor at a university) about the quality of Ursula Bernis’ work. The scientists came to the conclusion that it is a one-sided, partisan piece that doesn’t meet academic criteria for publications. That’s why her work has never been published by any publisher and the Delhi Shugden Society made it finally available on their website as a PDF.

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