Trijang Rinpoche’s view on Dorje Shugden / Dolgyal and why Shugden harms sentient beings
The Shugden protesters from the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and their ICS spokes persons (usually a NKT teacher or a NKT representative of a country) run a Anti Dalai Lama campaign in which they totally ignore history and facts. The protesters suffer from one-sided information and from being largely misinformed. In a way the protesters protest against their own ignorance they project onto the Dalai Lama …
For instance the NKT/ICS protesters ignore the violent, controversial and sectarian background of Shugden worship and they are not aware that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of NKT, presents them a white washed version of Shugden that makes Shugden more acceptable for Westerners and that is very much different than what the ‘root guru’ of Kelsang Gyatso, Trijang Rinpoche, himself taught about Shugden (see a bit about this in Carol McQuire’s SOAS talk).*
ICS spokes person and NKT’s Germany representative Gen Kelsang Ananda (Markus Rehnert) for instance answered to the leftist newspaper TAZ when confronted with the Yellow Book that mentions 23 government officials and lamas who have been assassinated using the deities power: “I don’t know that book.” Being confronted by the TAZ that this book was a key factor in the controversy Kelsang Ananda tried to escape the facts by answering “There are other texts that say the very opposite.” Also this answer ignored history and fact. Similarly, in 2008 Kelsang Pema, personal assistant of Kelsang Gyatso and spokes person of the Western Shugden Society claimed wrongly to the BBC: “It is a simple prayer that encourages people to develop pure minds of love, peace and compassion.” This ignorance regarding history and facts is a tool in the NKT introduced by Kelsang Gyatso and this tool makes the protesters the uninformed but willing army in Kelsang Gyatso’s unilateral battle against the Dalai Lama.
The NKT protesters ignore the Yellow Book since Kelsang Gyasto said, “I knew Zemey Tulku. However, I do not believe the information contained in The Yellow Book.[…] I would like to suggest to everybody to forget The Yellow Book. The Yellow Book was not written by Buddha, so why should we believe this?” He also says “I don’t know the real reason for his writing this book. Maybe this was his view and he was trying to prevent Gelugpa Lamas from engaging in Nyingma practices.” (see ‘Interview’ with Yvonne Nilles, a disciple of Kelsang Gyatso). This rejection of history and facts aims to deny or to suppress any negative inferences that can be drawn about the Shugden/Dolgyal cult from the “Yellow Book.” The Yellow Book contains the oral stories by Trijang Rinpoche about the violent nature of Dorje Shugden / Dolgyal.
Ok, if the NKT don’t accept the oral stories of Trijang Rinpoche, maybe they can get aware of his own writings?
Trijang Rinpoche’s view**
In Trijang Rinpoche’s text about Shugden, Music Delightning an Ocean of Protectors (PDF), Trijang Rinpoche clearly explains Shugden’s nature and way it arose. He says that Shugden / Dogyal is a mundane (ie. worldly) protector (p. 11), a damsi (vow breaking) spirit (p. 107) and a gyalpo spirit called Dolgyal (p. 109) that harms and kills sentient beings (p. 111–122 and more). About the violence Shugden brings to other sentient beings Trijang Rinpoche states (p. 121–122):
Furthermore, whether they were lords of Tibet, great lamas who held the political power of the throne, lamas and tulkus, great or small, with illustrious lines of incarnation, holy beings rich in scriptural and realized qualities, high lords of vast lands and works, those haughty with pride of family lineage, dominion and wealth, any who hypocritically claimed to be followers of Protector Manjusri Tsongkhapa’s Teachings while remaining unsatisfied with Je Lama’s precious Teachings of Sutra and Tantra which, in terms of view, meditation, and action, need not crave more from any other tradition, and, instead, mixed, polluted, or confused them with other modes of view and practice, whether lay or ordained, regardless of status, there have been many who have met with unpleasant wrathful punishments, such as being punished by authorities, litigation and legal disputes, untimely death, and so forth. Such swift, decisive signs appear to direct perception. Here praise is offered to that manifestation as a great wrathful protector who raises the Yellow Hat Teachings to the heights of the heavens.
This mundane harmful spirit is, according to Trijang Rinpoche, an emanation of Manjushri who emanated for the special purpose (p. 9) of protecting the purity of Tsongkhapa’s tradition and stopping Gelugpa’s taking teachings from other traditions.
HH Dalai Lama (and most Buddhists) doesn’t believe that Manjushri would emanate a mundane spirit to kill and harm sentient beings, but some lamas of his lineage teach exactly that. Kelsang Gyatso plays to a Western audience and says that these stories are just stories but they are told to stop Gelugpas taking teachings from other traditions. Therefore, the raison d’etre for the entire Shugden / Dogyal cult, coming from Dagpo Rinpoche, Pabongkhapa and Trijang Rinpoche, was to restrict the religious freedom of Gelugpas by threatening that if they didn’t stay away from other, particularly Nyingma, teachings, or in NKT speak, remain ‘pure and faithful practitioners’, Shugden / Dogyal would kill them. Trijang Rinpoche tells stories both of ‘hypocritical’ Gelugpas and people of other religions, like Bonpos, being killed by Shugden / Dogyal***.
If the NKT can easily disregard what Zemey Tulku wrote in the Yellow Book, can they also disregard what Kelsang Gyatso’s own ‘root guru’ wrote himself because it “was not written by Buddha, so why should we believe this?”
- Sectarian Rivalry – The Yellow Book by Zimey Rinpoche 2008/10/01
- Wikipedia: Dorje Shugden’s Enlightened Lineage or How to Make ‘History’ 2009/04/15
- The NKT/WSS/ISC Campaign Against the Dalai Lama’s ‘Ban’ of Shugden Worship 2014/03/07
* Carol McQuire said:
What ‘Shugden’ practice in the NKT isn’t…
- In my experience, it’s not used as a spirit practice in which you tell Dolgyal Shugden what to do ‘ordering it about like a servant’.
- It’s not used as an ‘oracle’ practice since 1995 when Kuten Lama, the Shugden oracle, last visited the NKT.
- It’s not used as a ‘self-generation’ where you become that Buddha or Yidam yourself.
- It’s not used as ‘wrathful’ practice as in the Nyingma, where as ‘Deva’, the practice allows you to see and work with your own negativities.
** Thanks to Dorje for pointing out these information and for putting it together in the comment section of this blog!
*** The term Dolgyal was also used by Pabongkha Rinpoche for Shugden (see Dreyfus). Consequently, if the claims of NKT and Shugden followers were true that the usage of the name Dolgyal for Shugden is slander, it follows the strongest propagators of Shugden, Trijang Rinpoche and Pabongkha Rinpoche, slandered Shugden too.
The protesters never asked for a dialogue
The NKT/ICS spokes persons repeatedly complained that the Dalai Lama would have refused to pick up a dialogue with them. The problem is that the protesters (NKT via their front groups Dorje Shugden International Coalition, SSC, WSS and ICS) never asked for a dialogue but issued unreasonable demands and ultimatums. Here is a brief overview of the ‘History of Dialogue’ the NKT was looking for.
The following petition was delivered to the Dalai Lama in New York on May 1st 1998 together with 12,000 signatures*, requesting him to sign the attached declaration:
OPEN LETTER TO HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA FROM THE DORJE SHUGDEN INTERNATIONAL COALITION
Out of your great compassion for us, please accept our following request.
As you know, many people both in the East and in the West, are openly saying that the worship of Dorje Shugden is harmful to your health, to the Tibetan cause, and to the development of the Nyingma Tradition. This false information is destroying peace and harmony within the Tibetan and Buddhist communities worldwide. Because of this, many people are losing their religious freedom and are consequently experiencing great suffering.
It is completely untrue that the worship of Dorje Shugden harms Tibetan independence, your health, and the development of the Nyingma Tradition. This is very clear; no one can give valid reasons to prove these statements.
To release many people from this suffering and to restore peace and harmony within the Buddhist community, from the depths of our hearts we request Your Holiness, please please accept our petition and sign the attached Declaration for the happiness and benefit of all. Our sole wish is that the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions flourish in harmony, free from sectarianism, and that all Tibetans and all other living beings may live in
With respect and offerings,
Signed on behalf of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition
New York Representative of the Dorje Shugden International Coalition
Many people are now believing and saying openly that the worship of Dorje Shugden is harmful to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s health, the Tibetan cause, and the development of the Nyingma Tradition. This is completely untrue.
This false information is a cause of serious disharmony within the Tibetan and Buddhist communities, both in the East and in the West, and because of this many people are losing their religious freedom and are experiencing great suffering.
Therefore, I declare that from now on everyone has the complete freedom to worship Dorje Shugden, and that no one should interfere in any way with their worship.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet
The following two letters were received in response to these demands:
1. May 4, 1998
Dear Morten Clausen,
Thank you for your letter of May 1, 1998. There is no possibility for an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
As for your wanting him to issue a declaration drafted by you, please find here a response from the Secretary of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Mr. Tenzin Geyche Tethong.
With best wishes,
Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama
2. May 4, 1998
Dear Morten Clausen,
This is with reference to your petition to His Holiness the Dalai Lama along with a copy of a declaration that you want him to sign saying “everyone has the complete freedom to worship Dorje Shugden.” His Holiness cannot accede to your request to sign the declaration as it is in total contradiction to his carefully considered position on this practice.
Let me say at the onset that this is not an issue of religious freedom, as you portray. You are free to worship or practice what you wish. His
Holiness has said many times that it is his responsibility to provide correct spiritual guidance to his followers, but it is upto individuals whether they want to follow or not.
I would like to reiterate here briefly the three main reasons why His Holiness is advising Tibetan Buddhists against following this practice:
a) the nature of this practice is leading to the degeneration of the profound teachings of the Buddha into little more than spirit worship;
b) it is encouraging sectarianism, which is totally against His Holiness’ basic approach towards religious harmony, particularly within the Tibetan Buddhist traditions; and,
c) the Great Fifth, and the Thirteenth Dalai Lamas, as well as many other prominent Tibetan lamas, who are revered by the majority of Tibetans, have categorically stated the harmful effects of this practice.
Therefore, there is no way His Holiness can sign your declaration. You will recall that on an earlier occasion, too, Mrs. Chungdak Koren, His Holiness’s Representative stationed in Geneva, and myself met with some of your representatives at Caux, Switzerland, in 1996 and conveyed a similar message.
With warm wishes,
Tenzin Geyche Tethong
Secretary to H.H. the Dalai Lama
The NKT tried to force the Dalai Lama to sign a declaration that goes against his own investigation, research and opinion and is in favor of the opinion of Kelsang Gyatso / NKT. Is this a call for a dialogue?
In 2008, when the NKT started their second world wide media “against the Dalai Lama”**, via Western Shugden Society (WSS) the official website of the WSS stated:
“Dalai Lama, stop your lies, give religious freedom”
The purpose of this website is to expose the hypocrisy of the Dalai Lama who presents himself as a champion of human rights and defender of religious freedom while inflicting terrible human rights abuses on his own people and interfering with the religious freedom of thousands and thousands of people around the world.
The site is presented by the Western Shugden Society (WSS), an ad hoc coalition of Dorje Shugden practitioners from many different countries. The immediate aims of the WSS are expressed in a recent letter we sent to the Dalai Lama.
Because the Dalai Lama refuses even to acknowledge our correspondence, let alone enter into meaningful dialog, we are left with no alternative but to organize protest demonstrations wherever the Dalai Lama teaches. We will continue to organize demonstrations to coincide with the Dalai Lama’s schedule until he agrees to our requests.
We hope that through our actions, international scrutiny will be brought to bear on the Dalai Lama’s lies and actions of religious persecution so that the Tibetans he is oppressing will receive justice and Dorje Shugden practitioners around the world will receive religious freedom.
What was the ‘correspondence’ and ‘meaningful dialogue’ the NKT claimed to seek? It were against unreasonable demands (see Tibetan Situation Today, PDF):
12th April 2008
To the Dalai Lama of Tibet,
We the Western Shugden Society ask you to accomplish four things:
- To give freedom to practice Dorje Shugden to whoever wishes to rely upon this Deity.
- To stop completely the discrimination between Shugden people and non-Shugden practitioners.
- To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled from their monasteries and nunneries to return to their monasteries and nunneries where they should receive the same material and spiritual rights as the non-Shugden practitioners.
- That you tell in writing to the Tibetan community throughout the world that they should practically apply the above three points.
Do you accept these four points? We require your answer by the 22 April 2008, signed and delivered by registered post to:
Western Shugden Society
c/o Dorje Shugden Devotees Society,
House No 105, Old Tibetan Camp, Majnu Ka Tilla, Delhi-54
With a copy of your letter sent to the following email address:
These demands are unreasonable because Dorje Shugden practitioners have freedoms. They can practice privately and at their own monasteries and places. It is the freedom of others to restrict a practice that they regard as harmful and oppressing religious freedom, similar how nowadays smokers are banned from public places but can smoke at their own places. The majority of the monasteries have the right to ban a practice at the institutional level that is not in accordance with their understanding of Buddhist practice and that brings disharmony. The rights of the majority have to be considered too. Banning Shugden practice from the monastery grounds was based on a majority vote that is according to the Vinaya as laid down by the Buddha (see ‘Stick Referendum’). Going against this majority vote would make the Dalai Lama indeed a dictator. The Vinaya Stick Referendum and its outcome has to be accepted by both, the Dalai Lama and the Shugden protesters.
What we experience now with the ICS in 2014 is just a repetition of the past. The NKT’s/ICS’s unreasonable demands for ‘dialogue’ – which they do not actually seek – are addressed in this post:
* This number can be doubted because the NKT and their front groups were witnessed for creating signatures by invented names and persons.
** Letter by Kelsang Gyatso to his students: “[…] To stop this evil action, as the representative of the Western Shugden Society, I personally will organise demonstrations against the Dalai Lama directly. I requested Kelsang Pema and Kelsang Thubchen to do this job for me and they have accepted. Please help Pema and Thubchen with whatever they need. With much love and prayers, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso”
Update 31 Oct 2014
A dialogue had been arranged in London, at Tibet House, in 1996 between representatives of the Tibetan Government in Exile and Jim Belither and Lucy James of the NKT, amongst others. However, whilst these NKT members were on the train from Yorkshire to the meeting, a person on the train suffered a heart attack and the train was delayed. This was interpreted by the NKT members as an inauspicious sign and because of this as well as the fact that the time of the meeting coincided with a demonstration arranged at Eccleston Square, (the Buddhist Society I assume), they did not attend the meeting. The meeting was interpreted as a trap to disturb the arranged demonstration and no other meeting was arranged.