STATEMENT CONCERNING THE CULT OF DOLGYAL SHUGDEN
Issued by Tibetan Community in Britain on 12 June 2015
- Since early 2014, a sectarian group, the International Shugden Community (ISC), has been staging aggressive public protests during His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visits to the West. This group is a front organisation of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), a group of religious extremists based in the UK with a known history of antagonism towards the Dalai Lama.
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama is committed to promoting religious harmony and understanding among the different Buddhist schools, and between the world’s major religious traditions. Given this commitment, His Holiness takes a strong position when it comes to sectarian intolerance.
- In Tibetan Buddhist history, Dolgyal (Shugden) practice has a long association with extremism and causing sectarian disharmony. As a result, His Holiness has advised his followers of the negative consequences of this divisive practice and has discouraged Dolgyal followers from attending his teachings. He has not ‘banned’ the practice as the demonstrators claim. His Holiness has repeatedly said: “It’s my moral responsibility to tell others what I believe to be beneficial or harmful. In the end, it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not they heed my advice.”
NKT followers are mostly non-Tibetan Westerners in monks’ and nuns’ robes. Increasingly, they have adopted aggressive strategies to undermine the Dalai Lama across the world, in the form of social media campaigns and public demonstrations outside teachings and talks by His Holiness.
In doing so, the International Shugden Community has aligned itself with the Chinese Communist Party authorities in Tibet, which are engaged in a systematic ideological campaign against the exiled Tibetan religious leader; a key element of their policies aimed at undermining Tibetan religion and culture. In Tibet, Dolgyal worship is actively financed and promoted as a means of dividing Tibetans and of undermining the Buddhist religion. Discouraging worship of the spirit is now a criminal offence in Tibet, for which one man was recently imprisoned for 10 years.
Clearly aware that the main allegations of its demonstrators are easily disproven, the ISC has made increasingly outrageous claims against His Holiness. ISC propaganda for instance, features an offensive depiction of the Dalai Lama as a pig. And appearing to believe it is an insult to characterize someone as a ‘Muslim’, the Dalai Lama is described by the ISC as a ‘Muslim masquerading as a Buddhist’, and, echoing the allegations of the Chinese government in Beijing, is also compared to Hitler.
The Tibetan Community in Britain is deeply distressed by this inflammatory and extremist campaign against His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s most respected religious teachers and the beloved leader of the Tibetan people. We condemn the protests and baseless allegations against His Holiness made by Dolgyal Shugden organisations. We would like to take this opportunity to express our deepest respect and confidence in His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his advice on the dangerous nature of the practice of Dolgyal Shugden.
Allegations of the International Shugden Community demonstrators
- The demonstrators allege that His Holiness has ‘banned’ Dolgyal worship, but have failed to provide any evidence for this ‘ban’ – because it does not exist. Since the Dolgyal devotees do not acknowledge His Holiness the Dalai Lama as an authority, they are free to simply ignore his advice. In reality, devotees continue practicing freely, both privately and in Dolgyal monasteries and temples in India, Nepal and in NKT communities in the West.
- The majority of monasteries in exile, based on democratic majority decisions and their monastic rules, have decided against this practice. Monks who wish to continue the practice of Dolgyal worship have formed two new monasteries in South India and were provided with land, property and funds by the two parent monasteries. They refused to accept Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala’s monthly allowance for the monks in the Tibetan monasteries.
- The NKT/ISC alleges His Holiness is “restricting religious freedom”. Historically however, the main function of Dolgyal practice has been to prevent open-minded Buddhists from studying outside their own school’s teachings, in other words, restricting religious freedom.
Geshe Tashi la, Spiritual Director at Jamyang Buddhist Centre advises members of Tibetan Community to show restraint against misguided Shugden followers
Further information and contacts
“Shugden: A History” by the Shugden Research Society, published by Tibet House, New York, US, 2014 [Available via Amazon]
 Over the past few years, the Home Office-funded research group ‘Inform‘, whose task is to provide the UK-Government, NGOs and the public with neutral information on New Religious Movements, has received more queries about the NKT annually than any other organization.
 See: His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s advice concerning Dolgyal (Shugden): http://www.dalailama.com/messages/dolgyal-shugden/his-holiness-advice
 In 2014 the Chinese government issued a new internal directive, promoting propitiation of the controversial Tibetan Buddhist spirit in a bid to further discredit the Dalai Lama: http://www.savetibet.org/chinas-new-directive-on-controversial-shugden-spirit-in-tibet-in-bid-to-further-discredit-dalai-lama/#sthash.6cNWqTMX.dpuf
 Even former members of the organisation, who describe themselves as ‘survivors’, have condemned the ISC demonstrators for making “completely unwarranted allegations and insults” against His Holiness: https://buddhism-controversy-blog.com/2014/09/26/revised-declaration-from-new-kadampa-survivors-concerning-the-demonstrations-against-his-holiness-the-dalai-lama/
Tibetan Community UK is a non-governmental community-based organisation. Its affairs are run by a democratically elected Council Members on pro bono service. The Council Members, who serve a two-year term, organise cultural and socio-political events for members and friends of Tibet. We also work with UK-based Tibet-related organisations as well as Tibetan Communities (currently across 15 countries) in Europe towards creating a greater awareness of Tibet’s political and human rights situation.