The Dalai Lama’s Advice to Buddhists in the West

Q: Your Holiness, what advice might you give those of us who are working to develop Buddhist communities and organizations in the West?

A: As I often tell my Buddhist friends, if we want to keep the excellent tradition of Buddhism developed in Tibet alive, it will depend on the existence of freedom in Tibet. To that end, since you are already working together, I would like you to continue to work for the cause of Tibet’s freedom with those who are already doing so.

We try to make a distinction between the words “freedom” and “independence.” The use of the word independence is somewhat delicate. Obviously, I have been trying to establish contacts with the Chinese government and begin serious negotiations. For fourteen years I have been trying my best, persisting in this approach, and pursuing my efforts incessantly to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion through direct talks with the Chinese government.

I would like to share some of my thoughts with all of you gathered here, brothers and sisters in Buddhism.

First of all, Buddhism corresponds to a new tradition, a religion which did not previously exist in the West. Consequently, it is normal that all those who are interested in Buddhism in its Tibetan form would also like to be informed about and continue to study other religions and traditions. This is perfectly natural. However, for those who are seriously thinking of converting to Buddhism, that is, of changing your religion, it is very important to take every precaution. This must not be done lightly. Indeed, if one converts without having thought about it in a mature way, this often creates difficulties and leads to great inner confusion. I would therefore advise all who would like to convert to Buddhism to think carefully before doing so.


Second, when an individual is convinced that Buddhist teachings are better adapted to his or her disposition, that they are more effective, it is quite right that this religion be chosen. However, human nature being what it is, after their conversion and in order to justify it, such a person may have a tendency to want to criticize his or her original religion. This must be avoided at all costs. Even if the previous religion does not seem as effective as he or she would have liked (and this is the reason for the change), this is not sufficient reason to claim that the old religion is ineffective for the human spirit. That religion continues to bring immense good to millions of people. For this reason, as Buddhists, we must respect the rights of others, for other religions help millions of people. In particular, we are in the process of trying to create and maintain a perfect harmony among all religions. In these circumstances it is absolutely essential to be aware of the need to respect other religions.

Third, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition emphasis is always placed on the combination of study and practice. Of course, it may happen that you devote yourself more or less to study. Some people may pursue their studies very far, others may be satisfied with a more limited level of study. Whatever the case, at the foundation you must never separate study, reflection, and meditation. You must also preserve the tradition of practice in which study, reflection, and meditation are indivisible.

Fourth, I would like to insist upon the importance of non-sectarianism. It sometimes happens that people attribute an exaggerated importance to one or another of the different schools and different traditions within Buddhism, and this can lead to an accumulation of extremely negative acts with regard to the Dharma. The advantage of non-sectarianism is that after receiving the transmission of the instructions, initiations, and explanations pertinent to each different tradition, we will be able to have a better understanding of the different teachings. From my own experience, this is without doubt very beneficial. Consequently, if we keep a non-sectarian attitude, as we receive teachings from different traditions, think about them, and put them in practice, it is certain we will improve our understanding of the Dharma. This is why non-sectarianism is so important.

Traditionally in Tibet there have been two approaches used by the many great scholars and accomplished masters. Indeed, while some concentrated on the study and practice of their own tradition, their own spiritual heritage, others expanded the field of their study and their practice of Buddhism from a non-sectarian point of view. This tradition already existed in Tibet among the great masters, and I think that today this non-sectarianism is extremely important and is the best Tibetan custom to follow.

There is a fifth point I would like to go into. For just under thirty years, Tibetan Buddhism has been spreading through the different continents of our earth. Lamas, tulkus, and Geshes have made an enormous contribution to the flowering of Tibetan Buddhism all over the world, aided by hundreds of thousands of students and disciples. During the same period, some rather unhealthy situations have arisen, and this has led to difficulties. Initially this was due to an excess of blind faith on the part of the disciples and also to certain teachers who eventually took advantage of their disciples’ weaknesses. There have been scandals, financial and sexual abuses. Such things happen! As a result I must insist at this point that it is absolute necessary that both disciples and teachers keep the goal in mind—to preserve a perfectly pure Dharma. It is the responsibility of us all to put an end to this type of unhealthy activity.

The Buddha taught the four ways to bring together the disciples, and this was to ensure the welfare of others. The six perfections (Sanskrit: paramita) are practised to achieve one’s own good, and the four ways of bringing together the disciples to achieve the good of others. This involves, first of all, giving material gifts, then practising right speech, then providing help, and finally harmonizing one’s words and acts. Above all, it is important to keep this last point in mind. If we do not master our own mind, it is impossible to master the minds of others. We do not know whether or not it is possible to master the mind of another, but it is what we are supposed to do! Whatever the case, it is essential for those who claim they wish to help others that they control their own minds. To do this it is very important nowadays for teachers to be reminded again and again of the teachings of Buddha on how to help others and harmonize words and acts.

As far as the disciple is concerned, to quote a Tibetan proverb: A disciple must not throw himself upon a spiritual master “as a dog throws itself upon a piece of meat.” A disciple must not rush to place their trust immediately in a master, but must rather take the time to reflect carefully and examine the master’s qualities before establishing a spiritual bond with them by receiving their teachings. It is preferable to receive the teachings of a master while viewing him or her first and foremost as a spiritual friend. We must not rush to hear their teachings and consider them our master at the same time. Little by little, if having observed them we are convinced that they are a true master, fully qualified and worthy of trust, we can follow their teachings by considering them our master. We must not hurry.

The sixth point which I would like to go into regarding Dharma centres concerns our oft-invoked prayer: “May all beings find happiness and its causes.” This is something we should apply directly by doing something useful for society. Engaging in social activity in the community, by trying to help those who are in difficulty, such as those with mental or other problems, for example. This does not necessarily mean we should teach them the Dharma, but rather use the teachings ourselves in order to help them. I think such activity directed toward others is something we should develop. It is the natural conclusion of another common prayer: “May all beings attain happiness and be free from suffering.” On this principle, if we can bring good, even if only to one person, we are fulfilling in part the vow we have made. Moreover, the entire Buddhist community of these centres should participate in social engagement by assisting others, and I think this is something very important with regard to the operation of these centres.

A vegetarian diet is not obligatory for Buddhists. Still, for those of us who follow the teachings of the Great Vehicle, it is important. But the teachings of the Buddha were open and flexible on this subject, and each practitioner has the choice to be vegetarian or not. Large gatherings are sometimes held in Dharma centres and when there are such festivities, celebrations, or teachings, I think that if a great number of people are to be fed it is very important to serve only vegetarian food for the entire duration of the meeting.

Seventh point: we often say this prayer, “May the teachings of the Buddha (the Dharma) be propagated.” If Tibet regains its freedom, this will certainly help to preserve the vast and profound teachings of Buddha, including the Lesser and Great Vehicles as well as all the Tantras. There is therefore an obvious connection between the freedom of Tibet and the preservation of the teachings of Buddha in the world. If this were not the case, if the fundamental question of Tibet’s freedom were solely a political issue, then as a monk and a disciple of the Buddha’s tradition I would have no reason for such concern. But the two aspects are closely linked.

Even when I am advocating the demilitarization of Tibet, that it be made into a peace zone, although the term “demilitarization” is not strictly speaking a term from the Dharma, the project is nevertheless closely related to the Dharma. Many of you, representatives and members of the different centres, are among those who have already contributed to the cause of Tibet’s freedom. I thank you for that and ask you to continue your efforts, bearing in mind the relation between the preservation of the teachings and the freedom of Tibet, in order to give practical expression to the vow that the Buddha’s teachings be preserved and developed.

My last point—you must keep your mind happy and know how to laugh!

Found at // Original source: Extended Quote from “Beyond Dogma – the challenge of the modern world” by HH Dalai Lama, pages 139-143. English translation published by Souvenir Press, UK, 1997. Originally published in French as ‘Au-dela des Dogmes’ by Éditions Albin Michel S.A., Paris.


See also


Human Rights Press Award for Reuters Investigates “The Long Arm of China” | Dalai Lama | Shugden


The English Online Grand Prize of the The Human Rights Press Awards 2015 went to David Lague, Paul Mooney, Benjamin Kang Lim, Sui-Lee Wee and Stephanie Nebehay, a cohort of China experts working at Reuters.

Joyce Lau of The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, writes:

In “The long arm of China”, they used multiple articles to draw a larger picture of how China engages with minorities and the outside world.

“This is very good, wide-ranging reporting,” said barrister Jacqueline Leong, who has been a HRPA judge since its first year in 1996. “The package as a whole drew together common threads between three different issues: the Dalai Lama, the UN Human Rights Committee, and the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority in the nation’s far West.”

“These three are rarely put together,” added judge Armin Kalyanram, a former chairperson of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

HRPA-logo-230x350pxThe official website states about the award:

The Human Rights Press Awards recognize top rights-related reporting from around Asia and are organized by The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong KongThe Hong Kong Journalists Association and Amnesty International Hong Kong. The goal of the Awards is to increase respect for people’s basic rights and to focus attention on threats to those freedoms.

Part four of Reuters investigates “The Long Arm of China” covered the Shugden controversy and the role China plays in it, “Special Report: China co-opts a Buddhist sect in global effort to smear Dalai Lama”. This investigative article was written by David Lague, Paul Mooney and Benjamin Kang Lim. They sought among others the expertise of Robert Barnett, Elliot Sperling and Thierry Dodin. Basing their article on Reuters’ investigation, China Digital Times (CDT) wrote a neat summary and linked to different background sources: “China Backs Sect in Global Effort to Smear Dalai Lama”.


On Tuesday, May 24, 2016, the US government Congressional-Executive Commission on China, co-chaired by former presidential candidate Marco Rubio, held a hearing to “examine the Chinese government’s reach beyond its borders to stifle critical discussion of its human rights record and repressive policies …. These efforts include … clandestine efforts to discredit the Dalai Lama through a Communist Party-supported rival Buddhist sect …”. The hearing was held to formulate recommendations for Congressional and Administration action to combat such activities.

According to Phayul and, an American District court penalized a Tibetan Shugden follower, Mr. Lobsang Gyaltsen aka Dowa Gyakpa, yesterday (May 23) for assaulting a senior citizen during a mass protest rally two years ago during His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
There is an English interview portion with the lawyer who represented Mr Ngawang Norbu Sherpa, the victim. What becomes clear – at minute 19:46 – is that the shugden protestor, Lobsang Gyaltsen, was the first to launch a legal complaint, against Mr. Sherpa for defending himself. Because Mr. Sherpa put his arm out when Lobsang Gyaltsen, the Shugden supporter, kicked him. Then, after he was cleared with evidence, Mr. Sherpa made the counter claim, which resulted in 1 year of probation for the defendant and month fines. The Shugden defendant, Mr. Lobsang Gyaltsen, admitted his wrongdoing and if he violates his probation faces two years in jail.

How Rebirth Takes Place, Tulkus, Recognizing Reincarnations – HH the 14th Dalai Lama


A very clear statement by the Dalai Lama on voluntary reincarnation (tulku) in general, and on his own future incarnation as the 15th Dalai Lama from 2011.

Translated from the original Tibetan


My fellow Tibetans, both in and outside Tibet, all those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and everyone who has a connection to Tibet and Tibetans: due to the foresight of our ancient kings, ministers and scholar-adepts, the complete teaching of the Buddha, comprising the scriptural and experiential teachings of the Three Vehicles and the Four Sets of Tantra and their related subjects and disciplines flourished widely in the Land of Snow. Tibet has served as a source of Buddhist and related cultural traditions for the world. In particular, it has contributed significantly to the happiness of countless beings in Asia, including those in China, Tibet and Mongolia.

In the course of upholding the Buddhist tradition in Tibet, we evolved a unique Tibetan tradition of recognizing the reincarnations of scholar-adepts that has been of immense help to both the Dharma and sentient beings, particularly to the monastic community.

Since the omniscient Gedun Gyatso was recognized and confirmed as the reincarnation of Gedun Drub in the fifteenth century and the Gaden Phodrang Labrang (the Dalai Lama’s institution) was established, successive reincarnations have been recognized. The third in the line, Sonam Gyatso, was given the title of the Dalai Lama. The Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, established the Gaden Phodrang Government in 1642, becoming the spiritual and political head of Tibet. For more than 600 years since Gedun Drub, a series of unmistaken reincarnations has been recognised in the lineage of the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lamas have functioned as both the political and spiritual leaders of Tibet for 369 years since 1642. I have now voluntarily brought this to an end, proud and satisfied that we can pursue the kind of democratic system of government flourishing elsewhere in the world. In fact, as far back as 1969, I made clear that concerned people should decide whether the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations should continue in the future. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, should the concerned public express a strong wish for the Dalai Lamas to continue, there is an obvious risk of vested political interests misusing the reincarnation system to fulfil their own political agenda. Therefore, while I remain physically and mentally fit, it seems important to me that we draw up clear guidelines to recognise the next Dalai Lama, so that there is no room for doubt or deception. For these guidelines to be fully comprehensible, it is essential to understand the system of Tulku recognition and the basic concepts behind it. Therefore, I shall briefly explain them below.

Past and future lives

In order to accept reincarnation or the reality of Tulkus, we need to accept the existence of past and future lives. Sentient beings come to this present life from their previous lives and take rebirth again after death. This kind of continuous rebirth is accepted by all the ancient Indian spiritual traditions and schools of philosophy, except the Charvakas, who were a materialist movement. Some modern thinkers deny past and future lives on the premise that we cannot see them. Others do not draw such clear cut conclusions on this basis.

Although many religious traditions accept rebirth, they differ in their views of what it is that is reborn, how it is reborn, and how it passes through the transitional period between two lives. Some religious traditions accept the prospect of future life, but reject the idea of past lives.

Generally, Buddhists believe that there is no beginning to birth and that once we achieve liberation from the cycle of existence by overcoming our karma and destructive emotions, we will not be reborn under the sway of these conditions. Therefore, Buddhists believe that there is an end to being reborn as a result of karma and destructive emotions, but most Buddhist philosophical schools do not accept that the mind-stream comes to an end. To reject past and future rebirth would contradict the Buddhist concept of the ground, path and result, which must be explained on the basis of the disciplined or undisciplined mind. If we accept this argument, logically, we would also have to accept that the world and its inhabitants come about without causes and conditions. Therefore, as long as you are a Buddhist, it is necessary to accept past and future rebirth.

For those who remember their past lives, rebirth is a clear experience. However, most ordinary beings forget their past lives as they go through the process of death, intermediate state and rebirth. As past and future rebirths are slightly obscure to them, we need to use evidence-based logic to prove past and future rebirths to them.

There are many different logical arguments given in the words of the Buddha and subsequent commentaries to prove the existence of past and future lives. In brief, they come down to four points: the logic that things are preceded by things of a similar type, the logic that things are preceded by a substantial cause, the logic that the mind has gained familiarity with things in the past, and the logic of having gained experience of things in the past.

Ultimately all these arguments are based on the idea that the nature of the mind, its clarity and awareness, must have clarity and awareness as its substantial cause. It cannot have any other entity such as an inanimate object as its substantial cause. This is self-evident. Through logical analysis we infer that a new stream of clarity and awareness cannot come about without causes or from unrelated causes. While we observe that mind cannot be produced in a laboratory, we also infer that nothing can eliminate the continuity of subtle clarity and awareness.

As far as I know, no modern psychologist, physicist, or neuroscientist has been able to observe or predict the production of mind either from matter or without cause.

There are people who can remember their immediate past life or even many past lives, as well as being able to recognise places and relatives from those lives. This is not just something that happened in the past. Even today there are many people in the East and West, who can recall incidents and experiences from their past lives. Denying this is not an honest and impartial way of doing research, because it runs counter to this evidence. The Tibetan system of recognising reincarnations is an authentic mode of investigation based on people’s recollection of their past lives.

How rebirth takes place

There are two ways in which someone can take rebirth after death: rebirth under the sway of karma and destructive emotions and rebirth through the power of compassion and prayer. Regarding the first, due to ignorance negative and positive karma are created and their imprints remain on the consciousness. These are reactivated through craving and grasping, propelling us into the next life. We then take rebirth involuntarily in higher or lower realms. This is the way ordinary beings circle incessantly through existence like the turning of a wheel. Even under such circumstances ordinary beings can engage diligently with a positive aspiration in virtuous practices in their day-to-day lives. They familiarise themselves with virtue that at the time of death can be reactivated providing the means for them to take rebirth in a higher realm of existence. On the other hand, superior Bodhisattvas, who have attained the path of seeing, are not reborn through the force of their karma and destructive emotions, but due to the power of their compassion for sentient beings and based on their prayers to benefit others. They are able to choose their place and time of birth as well as their future parents. Such a rebirth, which is solely for the benefit of others, is rebirth through the force of compassion and prayer.

The meaning of Tulku

It seems the Tibetan custom of applying the epithet ‘Tulku’ (Buddha’s Emanation Body) to recognized reincarnations began when devotees used it as an honorary title, but it has since become a common expression. In general, the term Tulku refers to a particular aspect of the Buddha, one of the three or four described in the Sutra Vehicle. According to this explanation of these aspects of the Buddha, a person who is totally bound by destructive emotions and karma has the potential to achieve the Truth Body (Dharmakaya), comprising the Wisdom Truth Body and Nature Truth Body. The former refers to the enlightened mind of a Buddha, which sees everything directly and precisely, as it is, in an instant. It has been cleared of all destructive emotions, as well as their imprints, through the accumulation of merit and wisdom over a long period of time. The latter, the Nature Truth Body, refers to the empty nature of that all-knowing enlightened mind. These two together are aspects of the Buddhas for themselves. However, as they are not directly accessible to others, but only amongst the Buddhas themselves, it is imperative that the Buddhas manifest in physical forms that are accessible to sentient beings in order to help them. Hence, the ultimate physical aspect of a Buddha is the Body of Complete Enjoyment (Sambhogakaya), which is accessible to superior Bodhisattvas, and has five definite qualifications such as residing in the Akanishta Heaven. And from the Body of Complete Enjoyment are manifested the myriad Emanation Bodies or Tulkus (Nirmanakaya), of the Buddhas, which appear as gods or humans and are accessible even to ordinary beings. These two physical aspects of the Buddha are termed Form Bodies, which are meant for others.

The Emanation Body is three-fold: a) the Supreme Emanation Body like Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha, who manifested the twelve deeds of a Buddha such as being born in the place he chose and so forth; b) the Artistic Emanation Body which serves others by appearing as craftsmen, artists and so on; and c) the Incarnate Emanation Body, according to which Buddhas appear in various forms such as human beings, deities, rivers, bridges, medicinal plants, and trees to help sentient beings. Of these three types of Emanation Body, the reincarnations of spiritual masters recognized and known as ‘Tulkus’ in Tibet come under the third category. Among these Tulkus there may be many who are truly qualified Incarnate Emanation Bodies of the Buddhas, but this does not necessarily apply to all of them. Amongst the Tulkus of Tibet there may be those who are reincarnations of superior Bodhisattvas, Bodhisattvas on the paths of accumulation and preparation, as well as masters who are evidently yet to enter these Bodhisattva paths. Therefore, the title of Tulku is given to reincarnate Lamas either on the grounds of their resembling enlightened beings or through their connection to certain qualities of enlightened beings.

As Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo said:

Reincarnation is what happens when someone takes rebirth after the predecessor’s passing away; emanation is when manifestations take place without the source’s passing away.

Recognition of Reincarnations

The practice of recognizing who is who by identifying someone’s previous life occurred even when Shakyamuni Buddha himself was alive. Many accounts are found in the four Agama Sections of the Vinaya Pitaka, the Jataka Stories, the Sutra of the Wise and Foolish, the Sutra of One Hundred Karmas and so on, in which the Tathagata revealed the workings of karma, recounting innumerable stories about how the effects of certain karmas created in a past life are experienced by a person in his or her present life. Also, in the life stories of Indian masters, who lived after the Buddha, many reveal their previous places of birth. There are many such stories, but the system of recognizing and numbering their reincarnations did not occur in India.

The system of recognizing reincarnations in Tibet

Past and future lives were asserted in the indigenous Tibetan Bon tradition before the arrival of Buddhism. And since the spread of Buddhism in Tibet, virtually all Tibetans have believed in past and future lives. Investigating the reincarnations of many spiritual masters who upheld the Dharma, as well as the custom of praying devotedly to them, flourished everywhere in Tibet. Many authentic scriptures, indigenous Tibetan books such as the Mani Kabum and the Fivefold Kathang Teachings and others like the The Books of Kadam Disciples and the Jewel Garland: Responses to Queries, which were recounted by the glorious, incomparable Indian master Dipankara Atisha in the 11th century in Tibet, tell stories of the reincarnations of Arya Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. However, the present tradition of formally recognizing the reincarnations of masters first began in the early 13th century with the recognition of Karmapa Pagshi as the reincarnation of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa by his disciples in accordance with his prediction. Since then, there have been seventeen Karmapa incarnations over more than nine hundred years. Similarly, since the recognition of Kunga Sangmo as the reincarnation of Khandro Choekyi Dronme in the 15th century there have been more than ten incarnations of Samding Dorje Phagmo. So, among the Tulkus recognized in Tibet there are monastics and lay tantric practitioners, male and female. This system of recognizing the reincarnations gradually spread to other Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and Bon, in Tibet. Today, there are recognized Tulkus in all the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu and Nyingma, as well as Jonang and Bodong, who serve the Dharma. It is also evident that amongst these Tulkus some are a disgrace.

The omniscient Gedun Drub, who was a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, founded Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tsang and took care of his students. He passed away in 1474 at the age of 84. Although initially no efforts were made to identify his reincarnation, people were obliged to recognize a child named Sangye Chophel, who had been born in Tanak, Tsang (1476), because of what he had to say about his amazing and flawless recollections of his past life. Since then, a tradition began of searching for and recognizing the successive reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas by the Gaden Phodrang Labrang and later the Gaden Phodrang Government.

The ways of recognizing reincarnations

After the system of recognizing Tulkus came into being, various procedures for going about it began to develop and grow. Among these some of the most important involve the predecessor’s predictive letter and other instructions and indications that might occur; the reincarnation’s reliably recounting his previous life and speaking about it; identifying possessions belonging to the predecessor and recognizing people who had been close to him. Apart from these, additional methods include asking reliable spiritual masters for their divination as well as seeking the predictions of mundane oracles, who appear through mediums in trance, and observing the visions that manifest in sacred lakes of protectors like Lhamoi Latso, a sacred lake south of Lhasa.

When there happens to be more than one prospective candidate for recognition as a Tulku, and it becomes difficult to decide, there is a practice of making the final decision by divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak) before a sacred image while calling upon the power of truth.

Emanation before the passing away of the predecessor (ma-dhey tulku)

Usually a reincarnation has to be someone’s taking rebirth as a human being after previously passing away. Ordinary sentient beings generally cannot manifest an emanation before death (ma-dhey tulku), but superior Bodhisattvas, who can manifest themselves in hundreds or thousands of bodies simultaneously, can manifest an emanation before death. Within the Tibetan system of recognizing Tulkus there are emanations who belong to the same mind-stream as the predecessor, emanations who are connected to others through the power of karma and prayers, and emanations who come as a result of blessings and appointment.

The main purpose of the appearance of a reincarnation is to continue the predecessor’s unfinished work to serve Dharma and beings. In the case of a Lama who is an ordinary being, instead of having a reincarnation belonging to the same mind-stream, someone else with connections to that Lama through pure karma and prayers may be recognized as his or her emanation. Alternatively it is possible for the Lama to appoint a successor who is either his disciple or someone young who is to be recognized as his emanation. Since these options are possible in the case of an ordinary being, an emanation before death that is not of the same mind-stream is feasible. In some cases one high Lama may have several reincarnations simultaneously, such as incarnations of body, speech and mind and so on. In recent times, there have been well-known emanations before death such as Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje and Chogye Trichen Ngawang Khyenrab.

Using the Golden Urn

As the degenerate age gets worse, and as more reincarnations of high Lamas are being recognized, some of them for political motives, increasing numbers have been recognized through inappropriate and questionable means, as a result of which huge damage has been done to the Dharma.

During the conflict between Tibet and the Gurkhas (1791-93) the Tibetan Government had to call on Manchu military support. Consequently the Gurkha military was expelled from Tibet, but afterwards Manchu officials made a 29-point proposal on the pretext of making the Tibetan Government’s administration more efficient. This proposal included the suggestion of picking lots from a Golden Urn to decide on the recognition of the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and Hutuktus, a Mongolian title given to high Lamas. Therefore, this procedure was followed in the case of recognizing some reincarnations of the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and other high Lamas. The ritual to be followed was written by the Eighth Dalai Lama Jampel Gyatso.  Even after such a system had been introduced, this procedure was dispensed with for the Ninth, Thirteenth and myself, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

Even in the case of the Tenth Dalai Lama, the authentic reincarnation had already been found and in reality this procedure was not followed, but in order to humour the Manchus it was merely announced that this procedure had been observed.

The Golden Urn system was actually used only in the cases of the Eleventh and Twelfth Dalai Lamas. However, the Twelfth Dalai Lama had already been recognized before the procedure was employed. Therefore, there has only been one occasion when a Dalai Lama was recognized by using this method. Likewise, among the reincarnations of the Panchen Lama, apart from the Eighth and the Ninth, there have been no instances of this method being employed. This system was imposed by the Manchus, but Tibetans had no faith in it because it lacked any spiritual quality. However, if it were to be used honestly, it seems that we could consider it as similar to the manner of divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak).

In 1880, during the recognition of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Twelfth, traces of the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and the Manchus still existed. He was recognized as the unmistaken reincarnation by the Eighth Panchen Lama, the predictions of the Nechung and Samye oracles and by observing visions that appeared in Lhamoi Latso, therefore the Golden Urn procedure was not followed. This can be clearly understood from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s final testament of the Water-Monkey Year (1933) in which he states:

As you all know, I was selected not in the customary way of picking lots from the golden urn, but my selection was foretold and divined. In accordance with these divinations and prophecies I was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and enthroned.

When I was recognized as the Fourteenth incarnation of the Dalai Lama in 1939, the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and China had already come to an end. Therefore, there was no question of any need to confirm the reincarnation by employing the Golden Urn. It is well-known that the then Regent of Tibet and the Tibetan National Assembly had followed the procedure for recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation taking account of the predictions of high Lamas, oracles and the visions seen in Lhamoi Latso; the Chinese had no involvement in it whatever. Nevertheless, some concerned officials of the Guomintang later cunningly spread lies in the newspapers claiming that they had agreed to forego the use of the Golden Urn and that Wu Chung-tsin presided over my enthronement, and so on. This lie  was exposed by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, who the People’s Republic of China considered to be a most progressive person, at the Second Session of the Fifth People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region (31st July 1989). This is clear, when, at the end of his speech, in which he gave a detailed explanation of events and presented documentary evidence, he demanded:

What need is there for the Communist Party to follow suit and continue the lies of the Guomintang?

Deceptive strategy and false hopes

In the recent past, there have been cases of irresponsible managers of wealthy Lama-estates who indulged in improper methods to recognize reincarnations, which have undermined the Dharma, the monastic community and our society. Moreover, since the Manchu era Chinese political authorities repeatedly engaged in various deceitful means using Buddhism, Buddhist masters and Tulkus as tools to fulfil their political ends as they involved themselves in Tibetan and Mongolian affairs. Today, the authoritarian rulers of the People’s Republic of China, who as communists reject religion, but still involve themselves in religious affairs, have imposed a so-called re-education campaign and declared the so-called Order No. Five, concerning the control and recognition of reincarnations, which came into force on 1st September 2007. This is outrageous and disgraceful. The enforcement of various inappropriate methods for recognizing reincarnations to eradicate our unique Tibetan cultural traditions is doing damage that will be difficult to repair.

Moreover, they say they are waiting for my death and will recognize a Fifteenth Dalai Lama of their choice. It is clear from their recent rules and regulations and subsequent declarations that they have a detailed strategy to deceive Tibetans, followers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the world community. Therefore, as I have a responsibility to protect the Dharma and sentient beings and counter such detrimental schemes, I make the following declaration.

The next incarnation of the Dalai Lama

As I mentioned earlier, reincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her. It is particularly inappropriate for Chinese communists, who explicitly reject even the idea of past and future lives, let alone the concept of reincarnate Tulkus, to meddle in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas. Such brazen meddling contradicts their own political ideology and reveals their double standards. Should this situation continue in the future, it will be impossible for Tibetans and those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to acknowledge or accept it.

When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.

The Dalai Lama

September 24, 2011

Sogyal Rinpoche & Rigpa – An interview with the former director of Rigpa France Olivier Raurich

Translation of an interview with the former director of Rigpa France Olivier Raurich which appeared in the French magazine “Marianne”¹

Q: When did you become interested in Buddhism and how did you encounter Sogyal Rinpoche?

I studied mathematics at l’ecole normale superieure (teacher training college) in the Rue d’Ulm, aiming to become a scientific researcher. At 24, I had an existential crisis leading to a spiritual quest. When I first discovered Buddhism, I really liked the idea of “verifying with your own experience.” At first, it wasn’t about belief, but getting benefit from meditation. I went to conferences and encountered Sogyal Rinpoche. He spoke English and something resonated.

Sogyal Rinpoche, 2008 Wikipedia Commons

Sogyal Rinpoche, 2008
Wikipedia Commons

After several years, he said that I am very hard-working and spoke very good English. I became his translator in France, without having any personal relationship with him, because Sogyal Rinpoche immediately imposes absolute dominance in relationships. He was the master, inaccessible and irritable — it’s all about carrying out his instructions, full stop.

Q: So you have been a privileged witness to his rise and the growing success of his organisation, Rigpa?

Over the years, I actually became increasingly active in Rigpa, as a meditation teacher and president of Rigpa France. I appeared several times on the television show “Buddhist Wisdom” on France 2.
At the same time I had my job teaching maths, because almost everyone is a volunteer in Rigpa, and the few salaried jobs there are very poorly paid. To make offerings in money and labour is part of Buddhism and it seemed great to me to offer service for free. Later I realised that under this pretext Westerners became veritable milk cows.

The big retreat centre, Lerab Ling, situated in L’Hérault, opened in 1992. The same year, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” appeared. It was drafted by Patrick Gaffney, a brilliant and modest English scholar, and a man I greatly admire, from teachings given by Sogyal Rinpoche and other masters.

It became an international best-seller, and people flocked to Sogyal Rinpoche, who became a global Buddhist star. I was excited — I had the impression we were going to spread Buddhist wisdom throughout society.

Q: Considering his behaviour, especially with his closest disciples, did it ever shock you?

He’s a charismatic communicator, but what shocked me immediately was the disconnect between his rhetoric and his character. He loves luxury, fashion and violent American films. Ecology and social issues do not interest him at all. He is not at all shy about singing his own praises — to excess and in front of everyone. He stays in luxury hotels, surrounded by the most expensive electronic gadgets. I struggled to accept this behaviour, because at the same time some people in Rigpa were very poor. He preached that he had the same contentment, simplicity and renunciation in this life, without needing to practice. For a long time, I thought his behaviour it was related to cultural conditioning from his origins as a Tibetan aristocrat.

He blew hot and cold with me — sometimes he praised my translation to extremes – and sometimes he humiliated me in public. He was always very authoritarian. There were consistent rumours that he abused young women — not by physical violence, but by a huge psychological hold over them. This was officially justified by the concept of “crazy wisdom,” which maintains that great masters can commit acts which are incomprehensible to ordinary mortals.

This applies to everyone — “If the master humiliates you, it is to liberate the ego, to purify the disciples” and “There is no greater action than the will of the master” and so on … the traditional Tibetan texts are very clear on this point.

I was primarily interested in Buddhist teachings. I hosted internships and that side of things, with the team of instructors. We did a good job of spreading Buddhism. That’s what made me stay so long.

Q: How is it that Sogyal Rinpoche was not worried? Why has the Dalai Lama never reacted?

Several crises have occurred. There was the lawsuit for sexual harassment in 1993 in the United States. Subsequently, some former students have told their stories and a lot of people left Rigpa on those occasions, particularly in 2000 and 2007.

Then in 2011, an article appeared in “Marianne” — after this Sogyal Rinpoche decided not to appear at the meditation retreats for newcomers at Lerab Ling.

Many people left. Rigpa paid a very expensive professional agency in Paris, specialising in crisis communication, to train a few spokesmen, including myself, to respond to the allegations of sexual harassment and financial abuse. We were advised not to answer questions, but rather to endlessly repeat certain key phrases – and to quote the Dalai Lama as much as possible for moral support.

Q: The Dalai Lama clearly says (in “Ethics in the Teacher-Student Relationship” , 1993; Healing Anger, Snow Lion, 1997 pp. 83-85) that the abusive behaviour of masters must be exposed publicly and explicitly. Why has he not reacted himself?

My hypothesis is that he cannot discredit Sogyal publicly, because it would undermine Tibetan Buddhism. Sogyal Rinpoche has managed to make himself indispensable in the Tibetan community.

Q: When did you start to have doubts?

I stayed all these years despite my reservations, because I hoped  Rigpa would be able to share profound wisdom with the greatest number of people, which would benefit society as a whole. But it became more and more difficult to invite people to his teachings, because his behaviour became impossible at times — pretentious, even in public. I had begun to write my first book, to illustrate how authentic Buddhist wisdom can be open to the world, adapted to the west, and conforming to humanist ideals.

Beginning with the article in “Marianne,” I felt the tension ratchet up a notch within the Rigpa leadership. All the secrecy and manipulation of information weighed heavily on me. I had come for teachings on humility, love, truth, and trust, and I found myself in a quasi-Stalinist environment and permanent double-talk. His dictatorial side and anger worsened and I was increasingly disturbed by it. He did not hesitate to brutally silence and ridicule people in meetings. Critical thinking is prohibited around him — the door is locked. Negative feedback never reaches him — only praise is reported because people in the close circle are afraid of him. It can make him angry or he would humiliate those close to him. He can also be friendly and full of humour if everything conforms to his wishes.

In the summer of 2014, during a retreat for the older students I made my decision to leave because I saw through him clearly — I saw his falsity. He demanded abundant offerings, specifically in cash, in front of 800 students. Each had to write their name on the envelope, so that he could check the amount.

There is also increasing control over regular students. They are made to feel guilty if they do not come to retreats. There is a lot of pressure — the Rigpa computer database identifies participants in retreats, practices, past meetings, etc. If a student does not attend, it must be justified – if a student leaves in the middle of a teaching, someone has to find them and ask why. This has driven a lot of people away.

Q: What is your assessment of that experience which lasted twenty-eight years?

The fact is that my spiritual education happened through him. Even though he didn’t write The Tibetan book of Living and Dying, he was it’s driving force. It is a very good book, it has helped thousands of people, even if it does contain some elements of Tibetan superstition.

I do not dismiss these years because I have studied, practised and shared meditation, the teaching of the spirit of compassion, the basis for Buddhist philosophy —  impermanence and interdependence. That’s why I asked Sogyal Rinpoche to write the preface for my first book. But for the last few years, he has insisted on more and more religiosity and absolute devotion to the master. Authentic Buddhism is wisdom, founded on experience and reflection, as explained frequently by the Dalai Lama, who embodies exemplary Buddhism.

Today, I have left behind the abusive or traditional aspects which are not adapted to our times. I participate in spreading a secular wisdom for the west in a collaborative and egalitarian manner, without gurus or magic charms, where everyone strives to embody what he preaches. I am finally at peace with myself.

Interview by Élodie Emery
English translation and edited in March 2016

¹ Bouddhisme : l’imposture Sogyal Rinpoché

See also

A comment to Tsem Tulku’s post, “The 14th Dalai Lama’s prayer to Dorje Shugden”

Retain your reverence and admiration for the person, but subject the writing to thorough critical analysis. – A Tibetan saying

Someone sent me a link to a post by Tsem Tulku, The 14th Dalai Lama’s prayer to Dorje Shugden. I wrote a comment to the post because it is based on so many misunderstandings. I was thinking a comment could help Tsem Tulku and his students, NKT or ex-NKT followers, as well as Shugden pas who seem too cling too much to a literal interpretation of the teachings to reconsider, broaden or differentiate their understanding. I copy and paste the comment below. I made also some small corrections. The whole comment to Tsem Tulku’s post is based on a reply I wrote in December 2006 to NKT editors on Wikipedia.


Dear Tsem Tulku,
someone sent me the link to this post and I feel compelled to respond to it. Please forgive me if it hurts your feelings. This is not my intention. My intention is to correct the underlying misunderstandings of the post and to give the discussion a broader and saner perspective.

I think you make it too hard for yourself and others (you mislead yourself and others) by assuming that all the masters – including HH the Dalai Lama – are totally enlightened (omniscient) and therefore can’t make errors. This is typical Tibetan Dharma propaganda and there is no proof whatsoever for such claims. By claiming totally enlightened status for the Dalai Lama or your lineage lamas you ascribe to them an infallibility they highly likely didn’t possess. These recognised Tulkus or high lamas are most often mainly highly gifted people with immense good karma and dedication to Dharma practice, their lineages and sentient beings. Of course they have also certain high realisations but this doesn’t make them free of errors. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is very clear about this and he openly admits his own errors as the great Indian Pandit Atisha has admitted openly his own errors. Similar to as Atisha rejected the false view on emptiness by his most precious guru, Serlingpa, His Holiness the Dalai Lama rejects the false view on Shugden by one of his his most precious gurus, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. It would be good to become more realistic and to see masters as sentient beings who can make also errors otherwise you make one knot after the other in your and your students’ minds and nobody is really helped by claims that don’t match reality or that distort reality and confuse the mind.


It would be a first step to reality to accept that masters can err. That’s why also Je Tsongkhapa wrote in his commentary on the tantric vows that if your master gives an “improper and irreligious command” don’t follow it. Tsongkhapa quotes the Vinaya Sutra: “If someone suggests something which is not consistent with the Dharma, avoid it.” Also the writings on Sutra and Tantra by Tsongkhapa make clear that tantric masters can err and can even go astray. A student must be able to see such faults and to respond wisely to it. By claiming in the literal sense total enlightened status to the gurus you construe them to be unfailing and you go against the scriptures and what past masters like Atisha or Tsongkhapa did. Tsongkhapa distanced himself from Ven. Rendawa’s Madhyamaka view and he rejected Rendawa’s view that the Kalachakra is not authentic. When Atisha was criticised by his most important master, Serlingpa, about his Madhyamaka view, Atisha answered to Serlingpa (who followed Chittamatra school): Whatever you say: I will not give up my view and the more you talk about your Chittamatra view the more clearly I see that my Madhyamaka view is correct. – To see your master as totally enlightened is a tantric training and is not meant to be understood in the literal sense. As you can see the most important Lamas of the Gelug school, Atisha and Tsongkhapa, found faults in their teachers’ views.

If you have really respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, why don’t you read his comments and think about their meanings? For instance in his commentary about the Heart Sutra, The Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama’s Heart of Wisdom, His Holiness gives the following interesting perspective which is worthwhile to reflect:


HeartSutraEarlier we observed that one of the principal features of the Buddha’s teachings is that they were spoken to accord with the varying spiritual and mental needs and dispositions of the listeners. The tenets of the various schools can similarly be viewed as fulfilling these diverse needs. We have just seen how the Mind-only School distinguishes definitive from provisional teachings, and in fact each school has its own criteria for determining whether a teaching of the Buddha is definitive or provisional. In each case, the process is similar: first, one uses analysis to determine the Buddha’s ultimate intention in making a particular statement; second, one determines the Buddha’s contextual rationale for making a particular statement; and third, one demonstrates the logical inconsistency, if any, that arises when the particular statement is taken literally. The need for such an approach is found in the Buddha’s own sutras. There is a verse in which Buddha urges his followers to take his words as they might accept from a jeweler a metal that appears to be gold: only after seeing that the metal does not tarnish when burned, can be easily cut, and can be polished to a bright shine should the metal be accepted as gold. Thus, the Buddha gives us his permission to critically examine even his own teachings. Buddha suggests we make a thorough inquiry into the truth of his words and verify them for ourselves, and only then “accept them, but not out of reverenced”. Taking direction from statements such as these, ancient Indian monastic universities, such as Nalanda, developed a tradition whereby students would critically subject their own teachers’ scholastic work to analysis. Such critical analysis was seen in no way to go against the great admiration and reverence the students had for their teachers. The famous Indian master Vasubandhu, for example, had a disciple known as Vimuktisena, who was said to excel Vasubandhu in his understanding of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. He questioned Vasubandhu’s Mind-only interpretation and instead developed his own understanding of the sutras in accord with the Middle Way School. An example of this in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is Alak Damchoe Tsang, who was one of the disciples of the great nineteenth-century Nyingma master Ju Mipham. Although Alak Damchoe Tsang had tremendous admiration and reverence for his teacher, he voiced his objections to some of Miphams writings. Once a student of Alak Damchoe Tsang is said to have asked if it was appropriate to critically object to the writings of his own teacher. Alak Damchoe Tsang’s immediate response was, “If one’s great teacher says things that are not correct, one must take even ones lama to task!” There is a Tibetan saying, “Retain your reverence and admiration for the person, but subject the writing to thorough critical analysis.” This demonstrates a healthy attitude and illustrates the Buddhist tradition known as the approach of the four reliances:

Do not rely merely on the person, but on the words;
Do not rely merely on the words, but on their meaning;
Do not rely merely on the provisional meaning, but on the definitive meaning; and
Do not rely merely on intellectual understanding, but on direct experience.

As I said already, this is in line with what Atisha and Tsongkhapa did: they corrected the views of their own beloved teachers and corrected errors and misunderstandings.

However Atisha was nevertheless grateful to Serlingpa and honoured him as his most important master. Similarly His Holiness has still deepest respect for Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. He said this and also demonstrated his deep respect different times. He has also explicit auspicious dreams of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche which indicate his deeply felt devotion.

There are other examples were masters corrected or refuted or rejected the views of their masters, His Holiness the Dalai Lama states:

Therefore, Arya Vimuktisena, whose teacher was Vasubhandu, saw that Vasubhandu’s manner of explanation of the Abhisamayalankara had been more affected by his own personal bias towards a particular position than being a true reflection of the author’s ultimate intent. He therefore composed a commentary refuting that view, displacing it with a Madhyamaka interpretation. Now was this a case of a corruption of the spiritual guide – disciple relationship on Arya Vimuktisena’s part or of him showing disrespect for Vasubhandu? It was neither of these things.

Then we could look at accounts of the relationship between Jowo Je Atisha and his teacher Serlingpa. Serlingpa was the teacher who Atisha himself accredited as the one who helped him most in his quest to generate bodhicitta. In this area, he was like his root Lama. Despite this, on the philosophical level they were at variance. Serlingpa held the Cittamatra view. Accounts have it that Serlingpa congratulated Atisha for his practise of bodhicitta, whilst informing him that as far as his philosophical view was concerned he was incorrect. Atisha said though that Serlingpa’s instructions only served to boost his confidence in the correctness of the middle way view.

Likewise, we have the case of Dharmakirti. Vasubhandu had many students, one of whom was Dignaga. He was said to have been the one who surpassed even his own master in terms of his understanding of Pramana. Dignaga then had a disciple called Ishvarasena. He in turn had Dharmakirti as a student. Dharmakirti heard explanation of Dignaga’s Pramanasamuccaya text from Ishvarasena, but rejected Ishvarasena’s interpretation. He then incorporated Ishvarasena’s views as the objects of attack in sections of his Pramanavarttika. Thus, when it comes to helping to clarify the doctrine, creating, and rectifying mistakes, even one’s own teacher may come under criticism. One can see it in terms of one’s teacher having given certain instructions directed at a few specific individuals (when there is a need to give a different message). Whilst this might generally work though, it would be difficult to square in the above-mentioned case of Vasubhandu. At least in the way that Haribhadra has put it, it sounds as though it was Vasubhandu’s own bias (as opposed to consideration of any particular disciple) that led him to interpret things in the way that he did. Anyway, whether the original reasons for certain interpretations were due to individual students, other considerations or plain misunderstanding, it may prove necessary for later individuals to clarify things. Rectifying, clarifying and the like are generally accepted approaches for the learned and completely in step with the correct general approach to the teachings. This is way to proceed and help to guard against decline. (see Gelug Conference)

Another example you’ll find here:

Based on his realization, Tsongkhapa revised completely the understanding of the Prasangika-Madhyamaka teachings on voidness and related topics that the teachers and learned masters of his day had held. In this regard, he was a radical reformer with the courage to go beyond current beliefs when he found them inadequate.

Tsongkhapa always based his reforms strictly on logic and scriptural references. When he established his own view as the deepest meaning of the great Indian texts, he was not committing a breach of his close bond and relationship with his teachers. Seeing our spiritual teachers as Buddhas does not mean that we can not go beyond them in our realizations. Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche II explained this with the following example.

To make a cake, we need to put together many ingredients – flour, butter, milk, eggs, and so on. Our teachers show us how to make a cake and bake a few for us. They may be very delicious and we may enjoy them greatly. Due to our teachers’ kindness, we now know how to make a cake. This does not mean that we cannot make some changes, add some different ingredients, and bake cakes that are even more delicious than those our teachers made. In doing so, we are not being disrespectful toward our teachers. If the teachers are really qualified, they will rejoice in our improvement on the recipe and enjoy the new cakes with us. (see A Short Biography of Tsongkhapa by Dr. Alex Berzin)

(Just as a note: the incarnation of your master Kyabje Zong Rinpoche does NOT practice Shugden and he has abandoned that practice.)

I wish you and your students all the best,

Did Geshe Kelsang Gyatso lie when he claimed that he didn’t receive teachings from H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama?

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) (or “Kadampa Buddhism” / “Modern Buddhism”), makes a big fuss about Guru Yoga, using this teaching to demand utmost obedience from his followers in the name of “Guru Devotion”. While he can’t accept non-obedience or criticism against his own person he put a lot of effort into initiating and running three world wide Anti-Dalai Lama campaigns, using his ill informed or misinformed western converts to attack the Dalai Lama as a “ruthless dictator”, “21st Century Buddhist Dictator”, “destroyer of the Buddhadharma”, “false Dalai Lama”, “saffron-robed Muslim” whose nature is “very cruel and evil”. (For the whys see here.)

When Kelsang Gyatso was expelled from his monastery in 1996, the expulsion letter of his monastery college Sera Je found his behaviour against the Dalai Lama unacceptable, especially because Kelsang Gyatso received both sutra and tantra teachings from H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama when he was in Tibet. The letter claimed that Kelsang Gyatso received the fifth Dalai Lama’s Lamrim Jampel Shalung at the Norbu Linka summer palace and the Kalachakra Initiation in 1956.

Having the Dalai Lama as one of his teachers and running international character assassination campaigns in the guise of “religious freedom” against his own teacher is a grave fault according to both, Sutra and Vajrayana teachings. It is also hypocritical by Kelsang Gyatso to demand utmost and rather slavish devotion from his own followers and abusing these followers to run a defamation campaign against one of his own teachers, the Dalai Lama. It is ridiculous to threaten his own followers to “break their guru devotion” if they dare to oppose him even respectfully – threatening them with countless rebirths in the hell realms – while he himself runs disrespectful smear campaigns against one of his own teachers who is widely considered to be a great Bodhisattva.

However, Kelsang Gyatso tried to escape the consequences of his own behaviour and the arguments pointing out his misbehaviour by claiming that he has never received teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama (see for instance this interview).

In a new YouTube video, Geshe Tashi Tsering of the Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London says he has evidence that Kelsang Gyatso “received many teachings from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, including Vajrayana teachings.” As an example Geshe Tashi Tsering mentions a teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Nga Rim Chen Mo, The Great Exposition of the Path of Mantra. Geshe Tashi names two witnesses who are still alive, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin and Geshe Lobsang Tengye who are both of Kelsang Gyatso’s former monastery (Sera), his former college (Sera Je) and his former house (Tsangpa Khangtsen).

I think all NKT followers and ex-NKT alike can relax because there is nothing to be feared by leaving a teacher who does not live what he preaches, and who is – according to his own teachings – on the path to hell ;-)

Actual, it is virtuous and correct to leave a non-virtuous or abusive or misleading teacher because such a teacher will lead his students onto wrong paths.

Je Tsongkhapa citing the Ornament for the Essence said:

Distance yourself from Vajra Masters who are not keeping the three vows, who keep on with a root downfall, who are miserly with the Dharma, and who engage in actions that should be forsaken. Those who worship them go to hell and so on as a result. – Je Tsongkhapa in “Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice”, ISBN 0861712900, p. 46

However, following the 14th Dalai Lama’s advice to former NKT followers, “You should continue to regard him with respect …”


Jamgong Kongtrul Lodro Thaye in “Buddhist Ethics” (Treasury of Knowledge), Snow Lion Publications:

Avoiding Contrary, Harmful Companions

8.1 Obstructions of a harmful friend

The harmful teacher is one of bad temperament, of little pure vision, great in dogmatism; he holds [his own view) as highest, praises himself, and denigrates others.

In general, the nonspiritual teacher (mi-dge-ba’i bshes-gnyen) is a lama, teacher (mkhan-slob), dharma brother [or sister] (grogs-mched), and so forth—all those who are attached to the phenomena (snang) of this life, and who get involved in unvirtuous activity. Therefore, one must abandon the nonspiritual friend. In particular, although they have the manner of goodness in appearance, they cause you to be obstructed in your liberation.

The nonspiritual teacher has a bad temperament, little pure vision (dag-snang), is very dogmatic (phyogs-ris), holds as highest his view (lta-ba) as the only dharma, praises himself, slanders others, implicitly denigrates and rejects others’ systems (lugs) of dharma, and slanders the lama—the true wisdom teacher—who bears the burden of benefiting others. If you associate with those who are of this type, then, because one follows and gets accustomed to the nonspiritual teacher and his approach, his faults stain you by extension, and your mindstream (rgyud) gradually becomes negative. Illustrating this point, it has been said in the Vinaya Scripture:

A fish in front of a person is rotting and is tightly wrapped with kusha grass. If that [package] is not moved for a long time, the kusha itself also becomes like that. Like that [kusha grass], by following the sinful teacher, you will always become like him.

Therefore, as it has been said in The Sutra of the True Dharma of Clear Recollection (mDo dran-pa nyer-bzhag; Saddharmanusmriti-upasthana):

As the chief among the obstructors (bar-du gcod-pa) of all virtuous qualities is the sinful teacher, one should abandon being associated with him, speaking with him, or even being touched by his shadow.

In every aspect one should be diligent in rejecting the sinful teacher.

Who needs facts when we have the Internet?

Guest Post by Sandy Clarke

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal. There are those who do not realise that one day we all must die. But those who do realise this settle their quarrels. – The Dhammapada

So bizarre do I find the notion that I’m behind the ‘Indy Hack’ persona that I struggle to know where to begin in presenting this guest blog. I’m grateful to Tenzin Peljor for providing me the opportunity to offer some of my thoughts on the issue, and to give insights into my brief experiences with Tsem Rinpoche and his Kechara organisation.

From the outset, I wish to say that I’m reluctant to write about either issue: as some on both sides of the argument will know all too well, there are always enough people to fuel the fire. Progress towards an amiable conclusion is a rare gem to be found as controversial discussions evolve and heels are dug deeper into the ground. I’m also keen to avoid dishing out unnecessary criticism. My thoughts here reflect my experiences, and in no way attempt to define any organisation or person in their entirety. I don’t say this out of any fear of retribution or criticism; rather, I say it simply because I don’t know enough to make such judgements or assessments.

Recently, I was mentioned in a (now deleted) tweet by someone who asserted that I was Indy Hack. Prior to this tweet, I had never heard of the Indy Hack persona. According to the Indy Hack Twitter account, the person(s) is apparently from the UK and a journalist, but that’s where the similarities end with regard to the tenuous linking of us both by people who seem eager to jump to wayward conclusions.

Needless to say I don’t know of any affiliations Indy Hack may or may not have to Buddhist organisations or individuals, but some have offered up the idea that I work for Tsem Rinpoche and am attempting to smear the Dalai Lama and his supporters in relation to the Shugden controversy. As someone who tries his best to practice Buddhist principles, it seems to me rather un-Buddhist to smear or be aggressive towards anyone – I can’t imagine any circumstance which would lead me to be a part of – let alone run – such a campaign.

Further, I have very little idea of what the Shugden controversy is, and have even less interest in finding out more beyond what I do know. From my experience as a political journalist, I’m all too aware that debates, in which views and feelings are deep-rooted, rarely come to a conclusion in a short while: an extra voice is often a hindrance more than a help. Suffice it to say, my knowledge of the Shugden issue is negligible. I can no more explain the basics of the matter than I can Quantum Theory.

It’s true that I was, for between two-to-three years, assisting Kechara with some writing and editing work on a freelance basis. I randomly discovered Tsem Rinpoche around seven years ago while watching some videos on Tibetan Buddhism on YouTube and I was, as many others have been, intrigued by his character and charisma, and so I got in touch to see if I could offer my services in any way.

It’s also true that I became captivated by Tsem Rinpoche and his organisation, despite thinking at the time that I was too clever to be caught up in such nonsense. I even wrote embarrassingly gushing and saccharine tributes to Tsem Rinpoche (to save you the hassle of looking, one letter can be found here and a verse can be viewed here). These are examples of how easy it is to get caught up in a romanticised ideal, rather than producing anything of worth based on rational thought and reason. I don’t make any comment on Tsem Rinpoche’s character here – I merely admit a foolishness that can arise from being enthralled by a rose-tinted interpretation of personality.

I disassociated myself from Kechara after a few concerns became one too many. To a degree, I remained sceptical throughout, finding the ritualistic, superstitious aspects of the organisation a bit too fantastical for my tastes. I also disagreed with the “one lama one centre” policy that discouraged associates to seek teachings elsewhere.

There were two occasions that bolstered my decision to disassociate myself from Kechara. On the first occasion, I was told a story by an e-Division member that a disciple of Tsem Rinpoche’s was told to sell 108 Tsongkhapa statues in order to get rid of some heavy karma. She apparently failed to meet this target and died of cancer some months later.

On the second occasion, a personal assistant to Tsem Rinpoche at the time advised me that I could have my karma cleansed by monks during a special ceremony at Ganden monastery … for the small sum of £1500. Even as someone who was captivated by the teachings of Tsem Rinpoche, this leapt out along with the story about the student as being, quite frankly, bonkers. It was at this point that I realised Kechara was definitely not the place for me.

There are other incidents that gave rise to concern, but I trust these examples give a flavour of why I came to have my reservations. The organisation certainly seemed to be keen on welcoming new people into the fold. I was sent a box of gifts to my home in Scotland (including a statue of Tsongkhapa, with whom I apparently (paraphrase) “shared a strong affinity”), and a number of the Kechara members were extremely friendly and welcoming. There was lots of talk of “bringing people into the Dharma” which, although I found strange considering the Buddha seems to have discouraged evangelism, I dismissed at the time as being par for the course at Kechara. I was quite happy to help with the transcription, editing, and writing of publication material (for which I was paid), but I wouldn’t say I ever felt part of the Kechara organisation to the extent others clearly were.

The last correspondence I had with Tsem Rinpoche was via Facebook. We had what I thought to be an engaging debate on vegetarianism in relation to animal suffering. As in the famous Kalama sutra, Buddha strongly encouraged free inquiry and the questioning of scriptures, assumptions and even teachers. As Kechara members leapt to the defence of Tsem Rinpoche (as though he needed it), I was asked who I was to question his views, or comment on the Buddha’s teachings when I am nowhere near the same level of attainment. It’s perhaps at this point the last of my naivety in relation to Kechara fell away.

This last communication was around five years ago. I haven’t been in touch with Tsem Rinpoche since then, nor have I had any dealings with Kechara except for one email I received out the blue recently, offering me freelance work. I politely declined. It would appear that some people have been keeping tabs on what I’ve been up to (which feels weird), and so perhaps my work with a management consultancy firm in KL, Malaysia inspired the idea that I’d be keen to make a reconnection. Needless to say, I have no desire to do so.

I’ve been told – though I’ve been unable to verify as yet – that there may have been posts published recently relating to Tsem Rinpoche, written in my name. If such posts exist, critical or otherwise, for the record, I haven’t written anything for or about Tsem Rinpoche or Kechara since my last communication with him five years ago, nor do I intend to write anything along those lines in future.

I also noticed that a commentator on Tenzin Peljor’s blog appears to have suggested that a member of Kechara’s e-Division has offered rumours implying that I am behind the Indy Hack persona (though I appreciate I may have misinterpreted the comment). However, if it is the case, I have no idea why anyone would spread such a rumour, and would be disappointed to think it started from a Buddhist organisation. Again, it could easily be that I’ve completely misinterpreted the comment.

That I found myself to be involved in a weak conspiracy theory left me bemused; that the person(s) behind Indy Hack has caused some people some grief is upsetting, though I suppose he or she would argue that the people they’re “exposing” are the ones causing the grief. I have contacted one other person besides Tenzin Peljor with regard to this issue, namely Carol McQuire – both of whom I found after reading through a couple of blog posts, and tweets from the Indy Hack account. The reason I point this out is to, hopefully, avoid any assertions that I am, in fact, in the Dalai Lama’s employ, or that of MI5 or Mossad or whoever – my life is much too mundane to be part of some spiritual vigilantism, misguided or otherwise. I’ve perhaps inadvertently written a controversial line on politics, HR or business, but that’s as far as it goes.

For the past five years, I have been inspired by and attempting to follow Theravada Buddhism, discovering that the teachings of Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Chah resonate most with my understanding and appreciation of Buddhism. After my dealings with Kechara, I decided to take the revolutionary step of actually reading the teachings of the Buddha, to take my lead from the source. It can be, in my experience, easy to forget that even the most charismatic modern-day spiritual teachers are flawed beings. To accept any idea without question is silly – to accept everything without question is to actively engage in serfdom.

On a person note, I find it sad that there is so much politics within what is supposed to be a religion of peaceful spiritual practice. It seems easy enough to read verses of, say, The Dhammapada, but much more difficult to heed its advice and warnings. Online aggression and bullying – regardless of where it comes from – is entirely disheartening, and doubly so when much of it is carried out anonymously. It’s sad to see that we’ve reached the point where we forget there are people on the other side, with stories, thoughts, feelings and emotions just like ourselves. Were it not for his equanimity and wisdom, I suspect the Buddha would feel like banging his head against the wall, given that we so often we miss the point of his teachings.

I’d like to thank Tenzin Peljor once again for providing me with a platform to express these thoughts. I don’t intend to write any further on the subject, and I apologise to anyone who may have been offended by anything I have written. As I mentioned earlier, my thoughts are based on the limited experience I have had with Kechara, and I stress again that I don’t know nearly enough about the organisation, Tsem Rinpoche, or the Indy Hack persona to make a bona fide judgement. I’m able only to share some of the experiences I’ve had, and why I disassociated myself from the organisation.

On a final note, perhaps an idea for us all to consider is to check the facts before reaching what we feel to be substantial conclusions. There have been, again on both sides, some ugly, needless criticisms levied at individuals – this isn’t the ideal way to behave, though I should thank the person who said all I brought to the table was an NUJ membership, bad poetry and banalities – a good lesson on ego was provided! A slight correction is in order though: I no longer bring an NUJ membership to the table.

Statements by Lama Tseta Rinpoche, a former head of the Shugden Association of South India

You might have noted that a so far rather unknown Lama, Lama Tseta Rinpoche, issued in June 2015 a statement with respect to his involvement as an official within the Indian Shugden community from 1997 until 2005.

For a transcript see here.

In a new interview with Voice of America (VOA), “The Personal Transformation of a Dorje Shugden Group Leader“, published on 01.12.2015, Lama Tseta revealed the presence of close connections between Tibetan Shugden community leaders and the Chinese Communist government during that time. According to Lama Tseta, these connections  involved direct financing and diplomatic support of Shugden community activities by the Chinese. Lama Tseta also claimed that there was direct involvement of Shugden community leaders in the triple murder of the IBD director and his attendants in Dharamsala in 1997. He claimed that the intention of these leaders, along with their Chinese counterparts, is to cause harm to the person of HH Dalai Lama and the cause of Tibet.

Is Lama Tseta a true whistle blower? Shugden community leaders have refuted his claims. However, Lama Tseta states that they are lying and that he has proof. Hopefully he will show that proof so that the full truth of his claims can be established.

Here is the transcript of the VOA interview:

The Personal Transformation of a Dorje Shugden Group Leader
An Interview with Lama Tseta Rinpoche — VOA November 2015

Note: In the interest of comprehension the English translation has deleted some minor repetitions and used a single term when more than one is used to describe the same thing.

First of all, welcome and thank you for coming to VOA to do this interview. Thank you.

Can you start by telling us a little about yourself, your education, and which monastery you entered?

Let me start by offering greetings to my Tibetan brethren inside and outside Tibet who are watching, and thank you for having me on the program.

My birth place is Lithang, and when I was around age 16, I fled to India. My mother had passed away, and I no longer wanted to stay at home. My mother’s family name was Dheshung Pontsang, they are from a nomadic community in Lithang county. My maternal grandfather’s name was Mala Andrug, from the family of Andrug Gompo Tashi. Andrug Choeki la and he had the same father.

So as I said, I escaped to India when I was 16. It was in the summer and we took the route via Mount Kalaish and entered Nepal. Once in Nepal, since my family is Dheshung Pontsang, which followed the Sakya tradition of Buddhism, I got admission to the Sakya Dharma Center.

And then after staying there for about a year or two, I went to Sera monastery in south India where I was admitted to Sera Mey college, and Pomra Khamtsen House because of affiliations with my birth place.

From your history, you’ve had a long connection with the Shugden group. Was that because most monks in Pomra Khamtsen House propitiated Shugden? How did the relationship begin?

I was not a propitiator or follower of Shugden. I wasn’t aware of Shugden when I was in Tibet, and in exile, I had never heard of it at Sakya center. However at Sera monastery, about 90% of the monks in my House at Sera Mey college, were propitiators of Shugden.  At the time, not thinking that I could study the Buddhist canons, I became an assistant in the kitchen of Sera Mey college where I worked for three years.  But then the former abbot, Gyalrong Khensur Rinpoche, decided that I needed to be in some study program, and so I was enrolled in the Prajnaparamita studies class. So after carrying out Tongo, an offering to the monks as part of a traditional admissions ceremony, I became enrolled in that class.

And later, as part of the tradition at my House to have their four administrative staff approved through divinity done by the Panglung Shugden medium at the Tsongkhapa Center in Taiwan, I was selected to be one of the staff members at Pomra Khamtsen in 1997.

And in 1999. again through the process of approval by Panglung Shugden medium in Taiwan, I was selected to be the President of the Shugden society. That was how I became involved with the Shugden group.

Were you president of a group within Pomra Khamtsen House, or was it for all of south India?

It was for the whole community, both monks and lay people at Bylakuppe settlement who are originally from areas in Kham included under Pomra. So the presidency was over all of that community.

Recently Kunchok Gyaltsen who I believe is associated with the New Delhi Shugden group called ‘Defenders of Gods and Men,’ has said that you did not work for any Shugden group.

How do you respond to that?

Well he is simply lying. Not only did I become President of our Shugden group, the New Delhi Shugden group held a ceremony, and people like Chatring Yeshi and Kunchok Gyaltsen, all made the ritual Mandala offering to me.  What’s important to know is that since I’ve been associated with Shugden work since 1997 and know many of their secrets, he is trying to make me less credible. That’s why he is saying such things. I am a witness and I am the person who knows him thoroughly.

So, what was your main work, so to speak, during that period?

Gangchen Lama with vice chairman of China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture (CAPDTC), Zhu Weiqun

Gangchen Lama (right) with vice chairman of China’s Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture (CAPDTC), Zhu Weiqun.

So there really wasn’t any work on Shugden or Shugden practice itself. However after they started the Delhi Shugden group, they made contact with China for the first time in 1997. And as I stated recently, Kunchok Gyaltsen, Gyen Samser and myself, as representatives of the Shugden organization went to meet Chinese intelligence officials in Nepal.  The meetings included quite high officials, were organized by Gangchen Rinpoche. And in Nepal we met Chinese officials who had come from Lhasa such as Li Shan and Pei Nan. The communication documents that we presented to the Chinese government  were personally handwritten and signed by Kunchok Gyaltsen.

The Chinese said that since we were already in touch with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front work Department, you see the intelligence people had already found that out in advance, that the Delhi Shugden group  could continue to deal directly with the United Front, but that matters relating to intelligence and covert work must be dealt with through the intelligence office. So all contact and associations with China were in place by 1997.

Kunchok Gyaltsen, working through Gangchen Lama, had sold all Shugden followers to China. They informed the Chinese that there were 20,000 Shugden followers in exile who would like to return to China, to which the Chinese responded by saying that, “you people are of greater benefit to China by staying outside the country,”, and that they would help with any problems or aid that the Shugden followers might need. The Chinese also offered to consider ways of making the conditions for Shugden followers inside Tibet better. That was the response of the United Front Work.

Which United Front work department officials did you meet at that time?

There were not any United Front Work officials on that occasion. I was just giving you a general response. The officials that we and Kunchok Gyaltsen met at that occasion were Lisun and Penang from the Lhasa intelligence bureau. They had already done their investigations and had concluded that all intelligence related matters should be dealt with them, and that the Delhi Shugden group, the headquarters, would deal with and be directed by the Chinese government’s United Front Work department, such as the direction for the 20,000 exile Shugden followers to not return to China.


Adar Tsering (left) with Chinese officials.

Kunchok Gyaltsen had already travelled to China several times. He had passports from China, Nepal, and India….all of them. Within the Shugden group the most powerful person was Gangchen Lama, and next was him. So in India, Nepal, and elsewhere, all of the political work that increased danger to the life of the Dalai Lama, and that contributed to the destruction of Tibetan unity, all of this was largely carried out by him, or under his direction. For instance, people like Napo Gyatso, Adar Tsering, all of them worked under him. These people had already bowed down to the Chinese and had been contracted to operate under the direction of the Chinese from 1997 to this day Kunchok Gyaltsen has stated that the Delhi Shugden group had no relations with China, and that they not received funds from China.

According to your knowledge, is that true or not?

That is absolutely not true. He is telling an outright lie. He has stated that Indian intelligence concluded that he didn’t have money when they told him, “You’re so poor you only have a bicycle parked outside your door.” How can an Indian intelligence officer say something like that? That’s not how their work is done.

Adar Tsering (middle) with NKT ISC protesters.

Adar Tsering (middle) with NKT ISC protesters.

Afterwards, on their web TV program called Public Talk, Adar Tsering and Dechen Lama declared that they had wealth and riches, and even used the expression, “The son has greater wealth and power than the mother.”

It was only  after I spoke out and accused them of spying for the Chinese, and working with the Chinese to destroy the Tibetan people, that he  started to say that they didn’t have money, didn’t have anything but a bicycle at the front door. But prior to that, they were saying, ”the son was wealthier than the mother.”

So Kunchok Gyaltsen worked with the Chinese communists, he was their running dog, and he was used by the United Front work to sell our country and people. I am confident that I can prove that wherever I have to, and with whomever I have to speak to.

He is a running dog of the Chinese communists. He is responsible for the killing of the philosophy teacher, he hired the killers. He works to create danger to the Dalai Lama’s life, and he is the main person who takes orders from China’s United Front Work, from Zhu Weiqun and Sither.

You’ve said that you travelled to Tibet and China many times for Shugden group work. Did you travel alone, were other people with you, who did you meet during these trips, and what was the purpose for these trips?

That’s a very crucial question. Now between 2000 and 2005, there was a secret organization belonging to the Shugden in Nepal called Tashi Dekyi Gyantsen Ling. And all the important people from that group had to go to China, and I was among them. For instance Pabongka Rinpoche  went to China, and I went with him. And Changtso Lobsang Yeshi, the highest ranking person at Pomra Khamtsen House went, and I travelled with him also.  He actually returned to Tibet permanently.  Likewise the abbot of Phegyeling, and the Taiwan based Shugden medium, Kunchok Chogyal, we travelled together twice. I was at 70 percent of the meetings between these people and their Chinese bosses. So I know what the Chinese said to them, what they said to the Chinese, and the sort of directives the Chinese gave them.

Dorje Shugden Lamas attend the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) 10th government committee's first conference.

Dorje Shugden Lamas attend the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) 10th government committee’s first conference.

Now on Xu Weiqun of the United Front Work department for instance, what’s most important for us to understand is that even before 1959, when the Chinese had killed over 200,000 Tibetans already, they had acted to destroy the Tibetan nation and people. And afterwards they forced Tibetan workers to beat their employers, and students to beat their teachers …  all of these things were  done by the Chinese back then.

And so today, when there is no freedom in Tibet and Tibetan society is under enormous pressure, the Chinese have seized on the opportunity to use the Shugden issue as the best weapon to sow dissent and disunity in Tibetan society, and they are exploiting these people, these bad elements, to that end. They spend lavishly on these organized trips. They put up these people in five star hotels and then instruct them and provide directives for activities.

For instance, the plans for conducting protests  against His Holiness the Dalai Lama were laid in 2005 already. The protests that started in 2008 and their filing of the lawsuit, all of these were planned and prepared well in advance.

The preparations …

By preparations I mean that these had been agreed to with the Central Chinese government already …

So are you saying that these people had discussed these things with Chinese officials and that they then carried out the activities?

Yes that’s right. For instance in the US, people like Adar Tsering, Dechen Lama, Napo Gyatso, these people are just doing proxy work for the Chinese. They have no real affinity for Shugden, Tsongkhapa,  or Buddha Dharma at all. They are only interested in the money and doing China’s bidding to destroy Tibetan society. That’s what they are doing.

Shugden is a only a pretext for them, in reality they have fallen under the Chinese influence and are working to destroy Tibetan unity, and to defame and endanger the safety of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

HH Gaden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche with Chinese Panchen

HH Gaden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche with Chinese Panchen Lama.

The overall top person is Gangchen Lama, and under him is Kunchok Gyaltsen. Then there’s that fake Geshe named Kelsang Gyatso in England, the fake Kundeling called Nga Lama in India, the one named Tritul in Taiwan, and the Shugden medium Panglung Chogyal –  all of these people share a dislike for His Holiness the Dalai Lama on a personal level and form a group that works with the Chinese. The Chinese communists see this as a great opportunity to exploit and didn’t even need to expend a lot of funding on them. The bulk of the Chinese funding for Shugden operations went through Gangchen Lama, then Kunchok Gyaltsen, and also others like Napo Gyatso and Adar Tsering. The few people you see at protests are there because of their strong fervor and allegiance to Shugden, but they are part of the 20,000 people who were already betrayed and sold to the Chinese in 1997, with Kunchok Gyaltsen and Gangchen Lama receiving the payment for them.

In all of their talks and communications, they deny having received funding from the Chinese government.

Since you’ve said that you travelled with them and were present when funds were distributed, perhaps you yourself received money also. Did that happen?

Yes that happened. The Chinese paid for all our expenses and gave gift money, and I received them along with all the others. I received funds that were allocated to me personally and they paid for all my expenses.

But funds for the organization as a whole, for example like the funds provided since 1997 to the Delhi Shugden group by the Chinese government, and the funds that went to monasteries such as Phegyeling, these went directly to them.  Phegyeling’s funding went to the abbot and funds for Pomra Khamtsen House were given to Kusho Chogyal.  And likewise other groups also had people who received the money for their own organizations. These funds were transferred in different ways; through Hong Kong, through Gangchen Lama, and through Chinese embassies and consulates.

So when I travelled with a group of seven or eight people, all of my expenses would be paid and then I would receive some gift payment for myself as all of us did. The Chinese separated their funding between those to individuals and those for groups and organizations.

So when you travelled with this group to Tibet, and also to China, what sorts of work was the Shugden organization agreeing to do, and what kinds of activities did the Chinese government want them to carry out?

We travelled in many different ways, and with different travel documents. Sometimes in ordinary clothing, sometimes in monk’s robes. Sometimes openly, sometimes in secrecy. We travelled in whatever manner the Chinese had either arranged, or directed us to do so.

For instance when Kunchok Chogyal  and I went at one time, the Panglung medium from Taiwan met us in Nepal, we all switched to Nepalese passports and dressed in lay clothes.

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 members. Friends identified on this photo lama Ajo from Serpom monastery, lama Gyatso who recently criticised in Tibet HH the Dalai Lama, as well as US Shugden leaders, Phuntsok and Dechen Tulku.

That’s what the Chinese had directed us to do. The most important work for the Chinese is to destroy the standing of the Dalai Lama, who is the head of 6 million Tibetans, and in whom the Tibetans inside Tibet place all their faith and hope. The Chinese fully understand that the Dalai Lama is held with high respect and affection around the world, and that the exile Tibetan government is stable and functioning. So in order to destroy these things, they will attack through defamation and misinformation campaigns.

The Chinese communists used these people that I’ve mentioned and exploited the Shugden issue to  open a lawsuit against the Dalai Lama, and to cause danger to the Dalai Lama’s safety.  Zhu Weiqun  told the Shugden people that if they were to succeed in these, then the “sun will shine on them.”

So the kind of work that people like Kunchok  Gyaltsen and Gangchen Lama have agreed to do around the world as substitutes for the Chinese communists  are activities that increase danger to the Dalai Lama’s life, destroy the Tibetan nation and people, defame and bring down all Tibetans who work for the cause of Tibet, such as the brave heroes who  have carried out self-immolation protests, and the exile Tibetan administration.  The Chinese government is behind all of these things.

In the past Delhi had been the center for the Shugden group but you’ve said that much of the coordinating and meetings you saw took place in Nepal. Was this move to Nepal because of difficulties of operating in India, or because it was more convenient. What prompted the move to Nepal?

There was not a move to Nepal but there was a separate secret Shugden group set up there. The Delhi group was still in place. It was based first in the hotel owned by the Chatring Welfare Association, and later when the Shugden group started receiving funding from China, they bought a house.

However the covert meetings and activities were more easily carried out in Nepal. Since China had gained influence over the Nepalese government, any problems that the Shugden group ran into in Nepal could be handled by the Chinese.

For instance, because of China’s sway over the Nepalese government, even someone as low ranking as myself could meet with the Nepalese king and Prime Minister as often as needed. Anything that we needed was communicated to the Nepalese by the Chinese embassy, and it got done. For instance, they wouldn’t encounter any problems from the Nepalese if they were caught using three or four Nepalese passports because of the Chinese influence.

You’ve said that you often met with high Nepalese, which is usually not that easy, and likewise I’m assuming that others in your group did also. So how do you think you got that level of access so easily?

Well firstly, it’s because of China’s influence in Nepal, and secondly it’s because of the funds that the Shugden group received from the Chinese to use as gifts for Nepalese officials. For instance when the Shugden group was set up there, it was arranged for Nepalese officials to attend and wide media coverage was organized.

So money was used to pave the way for all of these activities, and the money came from the Chinese government.  And if the Shugden group ran into any problems there, the Chinese would exert their influence on the Nepalese and resolve the problems.

So when you all were operating in Nepal, was your group’s relationship with the Chinese Embassy openly known?

It was a well known fact to everyone in Nepal.  For instance for events such as the Tibetan New Year celebrations, it was just back and forth between the embassy and the Shugden center.

It was like one community. It’s like that in Nepal, and it’s like that in America where they hold annual dinners, and Shugden followers are called to attend dinners and talks at the embassy whenever officials and important people visit from Tibet and China. They are used as representatives of the Tibetan people at these functions.

You’ve said that the Chinese gave directions to your group, and that your group gave the Chinese suggested lists of activities you could undertake. So my question is, firstly, what sorts of things were in the written documents you presented to the Chinese, and secondly, did the Chinese give clear and detailed guidance and instructions for your group to follow?

In terms of instructions, activities such as endangering the life of His Holiness the Dalai lama, taking him to court, and organizing protests against him are the sorts of things that a few of the Shugden people were in favor of, and these were also desirable projects for the Chinese. Just as we’re sitting together here, they would discuss these things and decide how to implement the work.

60th Anniversary of the "Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu (2011)

60th Anniversary of the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu (2011)

Documents were signed and given to the Chinese a long time back saying that the 20,000 Shugden followers would no longer stay under the exile Tibetan government, that we would obey the Chinese communist party, we agree that Tibet was not independent, and that it is part of the People’s Republic of China.

In reality, the Shugden organization is selling our nation, and people like Kunchok Gyaltsen and Gangchen Lama are the worst enemies amongst Tibetans. They have signed documents saying that they do not want a Tibetan people and a Tibetan nation, and that they do not want independence. The Chinese told them that it was more beneficial for the 20,000 Shugden followers to remain outside China and do proxy work for the Chinese. So the decisions made in 2005 between Zhu Weiqun, Kunchok Gyaltsen and Gangchen Lama to organize protests accusing the Dalai Lama of denying human rights, and to file a lawsuit against His Holiness, all started to take place in 2008.

A Shugden monk during the celebration

60th Anniversary of the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu (2011). A Shugden monk during the celebration

But they can’t deceive the world. The Indian Government waived the need for His Holiness the Dalai Lama to appear in court. The international human rights organizations said that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had not done of the things he was accused of, and that the Shugden groups were in the wrong.

But the Chinese are very adept at deception. They would instruct the Shugden groups to say one thing today, and another thing tomorrow.

Large amounts of money have been accepted by the Shugden groups, so in a way their actions are to be expected.  Kunchok Gyaltsen himself and Gangchen Lama have made a name for themselves in the Chinese government and gotten large sums of money. But Kunchok Gyaltsen is feeling a lot of pressure and anxiety on the inside. The Indians would be concerned if he didn’t report daily, and so he has to keep paying money everywhere, wherever he goes in India.

He has no mental peace or sense of  freedom because he has done illegal things in India, like organizing the killing of the philosophy teacher , being on the payroll of the Chinese Communists, and he working to create divisions in India. He is acting on behalf of the Chinese communists in planning demonstrations against His Holiness the Dalai Lama and working for the destruction of Tibet and Tibetan unity around out the world.

Shugden monks prataking the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the "Peaceful Liberation of Tibet"

Shugden monks partaking the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet”

The Shugden group talks of not having freedom.  For example, Napa Gyatso has tried to say that he has no freedom under the exile Tibetan government. But his family have all immigrated here carrying Indian travel papers which require the exile Tibetan Government’s confirmation that they were legitimate Tibetan refugees. He has brought over 15 or 16 relatives, and all of them had gotten documents from the Tibetan Administration. These are people who try to profit from both sides.

You said that you had worked with people like Napa Gyatso and Adhar Tsering. Had you known them before or did you meet them after you started working for the Shugden group. What was the main work that you did with them?

Well I know of them as we are from the same area in Tibet. But our establishing a relationship of trust began in 1997 when I became one of the four officials of a Shugden group, and even more when I became president of the local Shugden society. The two of them already had ties withChina by then. Through Kunchok Gyaltsen, both Napo Gyatso and Adhar Tsering had already submitted to the Chinese in 1997. Napo Gyatso had gone to Tibet and the Indian intelligence having found out about it did not allow him back into India. So he came to the United States.

How long did you all work together?

Our work was different. For example, Napo Gyatso worked from Sera monastery, I was working from Nepal.  The purpose was to accomplish work for the Chinese.  Napo Gyatso worked while residing at Sera, and Adhar Tsering operated in Nepal and was the Secretary of the Shugden society there.

From among the Shugden propitiators, the people who have ties with the Chinese and those that I can prove with evidence are Gangchen Lama, Kunchok Gyaltsen, Nga Lama, Adhar Tsering, and Dechen Lama. I can provide evidence and testify wherever necessary. I raised their cases and I can take these cases to their conclusion. These people don’t want a Tibetan society and don’t have a shred of loyalty to the Tibetan people and nation. Once I start something, I will not leave it easily.

It is said that the US State Department issued an alert that identifies Shugden society and followers of Shugden as being possible sources of threat to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Since you have ties with them and have worked with them, do you think the Shugden society is thinking along those lines? How have they worked to date?

Yes, it seems that both the US intelligence and Indian intelligence have informed His Holiness that the Shugden society would be the prime suspect if there were any danger to his life. That’s a fact. For example, in 2006, during the Kalachakra teachings, Adhar Tsering had gone to the places in India where His Holiness the Dalai Lama was visiting to place bombs. This is widely known.

Adhar Tsering told a businessman who dealt in Buddhist statues, that he would make a lot of money if he assassinated the Dalai Lama. Maybe he said that thinking that someone selling sacred statues would not have any feelings for Buddhism or for the Tibetan people. Adhar told the man that, “for traders of deity figures like us, nothing would be more profitable than assassinating the figure of the Dalai Lama.”

But the most important evidence I can provide is what I have heard with my ears and seen with my eyes. I saw Zhu Weiqun telling Kunchok Gyaltsen and others that they should eliminate the Dalai Lama. I was a witness and I can give evidence wherever in the world I have to.

American intelligence is not like those from some of our small countries. Best of all, you can’t manipulate things so easily with money in the United States, and truth and evidence can lead to clear and just outcomes.  That’s why the American intelligence became suspicious and discovered that these people pose a risk to the safety of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

* * *

Did you yourself have direct connections to or take part in any of these activities?

I never took part with them in such activities. But I know that Zhu Weiqun gave them the assignment. I found out later that Adhar Tsering had gone to plant bombs during the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra teachings in 2006. He had a few people working with him at the time, one of whom has now defected from the Shugden group. He would know  quite a lot about that.

One of the most widely believed things about the Shugden group is that it was behind the murder of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics (IBD) monk teacher. The Shugden group have denied it. Since you were part of the group at the time, in your opinion, was the murder masterminded by Delhi Shugden group?

Yes that was planned by the Delhi group. I was not an official at the time, and I didn’t have any responsibilities. I was made an official after the killing of the teacher.

However, it was known clearly then that one of killers was a man named Lobsang Phuntsok. He was one of the three people from Sera, and the other three were from Ganden. Altogether six people were involved in assassinating the IBD teacher.  And the one who plotted the assassination and organized the killers was Kunchok Gyaltsen.  However, after the assassination, he did not distribute the reward money properly. So Lobsang Phuntsok, carrying a Chinese passport, came out to Nepal expressly to collect money from him. If Pabongka Rinpoche had not intervened and resolved the matter, that could have flared up into a crises for the group.

So the murder took place around February 1996, I think, and I became an official in the Pomra Shugden group in 1997.  So I’m familiar with the group’s relations with the Chinese, what sorts of covert communications took place, and which Chinese officials the group had contact with through Ganagchen Rinpoche from 1997 onwards.

So did your relationship with Gangchen start with your first trips to China?

No I knew him before that. I knew him when I became the president of our local Shugden group. In fact he was of great help to me and paid for my enthronement ceremony as a reincarnated Lama.

It was for his turning away from the Tibetan people and nation, and his use of the Shugden issue on behalf of China that he receives a lot of funding from the Chinese communists. That is how he is able to travel around, handing out money for these activities. On a personal level, he liked me and trusted me. He would invite me to sit on his throne, and even held a ceremony for me in Nepal. So he was good to me. In 2008, he called to encourage me to work for Shugden in

America, and to become president of the US group. I didn’t accept his offers.

Your involvement with Shugden followers appears to have been quite extensive, involving trips to China, meetings with Chinese leaders, and being a part of many projects. So what is the reason for your sudden change of heart and for coming out to speak on the issue?

Well His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been making many efforts for the sake of the Tibetan people and nation from age 16 to now 80. So as it became clearer to me that the activities carried out by these people who were exploiting the Shugden issue and colluding with the Chinese Communists was becoming more and more serious and more and more dangerous, I started to feel that I had no choice but to speak out. I had the feeling that if I didn’t do anything, something bad would happen, even though I was afraid that something could happen to me and that they would direct their anger at me.

Asian ladies dressed as Tibetans, participating the ISC protests.

Asian ladies dressed as Tibetans, participating in the ISC protests.

However after working with the Chinese Communists from 1997 to 2008, and seeing that their only goal was in destroying the respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the reputation of exile Tibetan Administration … they saw those two things as being problems that needed to be destroyed. They were supposed to be meetings on Shugden, but in fact they were all political meetings about work to create divisions among Tibetans. And the longer I stayed engaged with them, the clearer it became for me that I was making a serious mistake. I couldn’t continue with what I was doing.

So by 2008, I stopped all spiritual and mundane relations with them.  It was during the period when monasteries were seeking clarity when the abbot of Sera Mey and others informed me that I could be expelled from the monastery if I continued to carry out activities for the Shugden organization after the referendum. I then decided to take the oath to not associate with them anymore and so within the monastery everything was clear in 2008.

Then the Lithang Association in the US voluntarily took up the issue of associating with fellow Lithangpas Adhar Tsering and Napo Gyatso; received an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and took an oath before the two protecting deities of no longer associating with the two.

In general it was clear and I had the opportunity to attend the Kalachakra and teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  However, there was still something that troubled me inside.  If I say, there were certain risks, if I did not say anything; I felt it would not do. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has, from the age of 16, been (the only one who can save the Tibetan religion and politics from extinction is His Holiness the Dalai Lama) has been working for Tibetan religion and politics. If His Holiness the Dalai Lama was no longer there, Tibet is gone.

So I wanted to seek the forgiveness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for what I had done.  There were many reasons and factors for why I could not speak out before. It will be even correct to say that I lacked courage to speak up because the people on the other side have been involved in violent acts in the past.

I had made a very big mistake in getting involved with these people. I redeemed myself in front of His Holiness who is my guru in this life, and my savior in the next.

I received a special audience with him where I was able to express my feelings and he forgave me. It went extremely well.

But there may be some people in our society who are wondering what my motives are and other things.

I do not want to disappoint or cause concern to sincere and dedicated Tibetans who faith in His Holiness. To them I want to say that I had my reasons for not speaking out earlier, offer my apologies and ask  their forgiveness for whatever I have done wrong in the past.

We have come to a critical period where we must think very carefully. It’s time to go beyond simply saying that His Holiness has worked tirelessly for Tibet since the age of 16.

It’s time for all levels of Tibetan society to join together to achieve the Dalai Lama’s wishes. The Chinese are exploiting the Dalai Lama’s devolution of political power, and using the Shugden issue to try and destabilize the exile Tibetan government, at the same time that they are cracking down on dissent inside Tibet.  And then there are some people who think it is politically sophisticated to criticize His Holiness.

At a time when China is occupying our country and violently suppressing our freedoms, and when people using the name of Shugden are collaborating with the Chinese, there are those amongst us who instead of challenging these things, are instead levelling criticisms at His Holiness.  I don’t think we should be doing this at all.

So what are your thoughts today when you look back at your involvement with the Shugden followers, taking directions from the Chinese, and the many other experiences that you’ve had?

Well I think it was a very mistake, and it was a big mistake. My actions were motivated by money: I said things that were purely based on my reading of what the Chinese wanted and directed. It had nothing to do with the practice of Shugden. There was no room for me to consider my people, my lama, or my religion.

The Chinese communist party knows that 99.9% of Tibetans will follow the wishes of His Holiness.

They know that the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the Bon religion are all united in following the Dalai Lama’s wishes.

They understand that all the traditionally prominent people and monastic heads in Tibet have or have the desire to receive teachings from His Holiness, and are therefore united with him.

And finally, they know that the world respects the Dalai Lama’s work on religious harmony and world peace, and that his Middle Way solution for Tibet is gaining wide support.

It is work that tries to reduce the power of these things, and that to try to reduce the faith in His Holiness, and trust in the exile Tibetan government that the Shugden group is being used for.

It is also because of these factors that drive the Chinese to violently crackdown inside Tibet. But despite all the violence and suppression, there have been over 142 people who carried out self-immolation protests in Tibet, and their overwhelming call was for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

So it dawned on me that I was making a catastrophic mistake by calling myself a Lama but doing such work only for money while Tibetans are sacrificing their lives for Tibet.

I offer my deepest apologies to His Holiness for everything I’ve done, and to all the dedicated Tibetans working for our people and our nation, I offer my apologies and ask their understanding in why I have not come forward sooner.

Thank you for coming to our studio today and giving us this interview.

Last edited by Joanne Clark & Tenpel on Dec 13, 2015

Update Dec 21 2015: Reuter’s investigation about the Shugden controversy and Lama Tseta’s claims

“Name only”: The dangerous attitude of Nihilism being taught in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)

Just as a chariot is verbalized
In dependence on collections of parts.

So conventionally a sentient being
Is set up depending on the mental and physical aggregates.
— The Buddha

Buddhism itself is very radical but this involves an understanding that none of the things we normally perceive exist.
Kadam Lucy James

As a former NKT teacher and as a student of the founder of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) Kelsang Gyatso, I am quite convinced that within the NKT there is a profound misunderstanding of reality. A misunderstanding which can be pointed out as “Nihilism” – the rejection that conventional phenomena exist. This rejection is going along with the belief that it depends only on you what phenomena are and how they function – dependent on the name you give to phenomena. According to this thinking NKT teachers teach, “if you see Geshe la [Kelsang Gyatso] as a Buddha he will function for you as a Buddha” or “if you see Shugden [Dolgyal] as a Buddha he will function for you as a Buddha”. Likewise, NKT teachers teach, “if we understand emptiness we can impute things in a way that they are most beneficial to us.”

These explanations reflect a nihilistic attitude. This nihilistic attitude is wide spread within the NKT and permeates the minds and arguments of the majority of NKT followers, including NKT teachers.

A sidetrack reflection about pure and impure minds and labelling

Funnily, NKT leadership and their followers are inconsequential in applying their own teachings – and thus would have to be regarded according to their own logic as being “hypocritical”. Seeing “Geshe la” and Shugden as Buddhas or NKT as pure is a valid approach and true (if you see them as Buddhas you get the blessings of the Buddhas but if you see them as ordinary beings you get nothing – so they say). The NKT leadership encourages to project perfection and purity onto those things that form the basis of the NKT and onto the NKT leadership itself. But when it comes to the Dalai Lama or Tibetan Buddhism in general, labels such as “worst 21st Buddhist century dictator”, “hypocrite”, “evil and cruel”, or “quite degenerated” etc. are regarded as valid labels and are believed to reflect reality.

Now, according to NKT’s own arguments, why labelling the worst things onto the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism? Weren’t it better to see them in a more positive light, or in a more beneficial way, “if we understand emptiness we can impute things in a way that they are most beneficial to us.”? What’s so beneficial to see the most negative things in the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism? Why can’t NKT followers see the Dalai lama also as a Buddha and Tibetan Buddhism as pure? Does the NKT leadership has a need to create outer enemies as a power tool and as a part to form a nationalist NKT identity?

What does this labelling of negative attributes to outer NKT forces tell about the NKT leadership and their devoted followers? Gen-la Kelsang Kunsang, the Deputy Spiritual Director of the New Kadampa Tradition and the National Spiritual Director of Mexico, teaches about “The Purity of Mind” as follows:

Following Gen la Kunsang’s teachings, it follows, how impure must be the minds of the NKT leadership and many of the NKT followers who slander and harass the Dalai Lama or Samdhong Rinpoche as “cruel and evil or “corrupt and evil”? How does this reflect NKT followers’ minds according to the NKT teachings?


In the center NKT nun Gen Kelsang Norden.

Back to topic – The nihilistic attitude within NKT

The nihilistic attitude, which is so present in the NKT, is dangerous and is also used for what I call sometimes “brainwashing” or “indoctrination” within the NKT.

It forms an important part to bring reality in line with the NKT ideology of a pure NKT world that is threatened by a “very degenerated” outer world. This attitude serves as an important basis to bend reality until it fits the NKT party line. Such a way of seeing things won’t bring you closer to reality – as the Buddhist path should do – but it brings you far away from enlightenment and undermines your conviction in the law of cause and effect (Karma) and subsequently it undermines ethics and good ethical conduct – which makes a nihilistic attitude really dangerous. That’s why Buddhist commentaries – including those by Je Tsongkhapa – state that Eternalism is less dangerous than Nihilism because the latter is going to undermine your faith in the law of karma and then your behaviour will degenerate and the result, when the misdeeds ripen, will be suffering. Eternalism doesn’t have these detrimental effects and can coexist with faith in the law of Karma.

I think, the misunderstandings of conventional reality and the nihilistic view within NKT are based on a lack of substantial and open debate, a lack of substantial knowledge of the works of Gelug masters such as Je Tsongkhapa, Khedrup Je or Gyaltsab Je, and the narrow, sectarian and stupid attitude promoted by the NKT that if you read only the books of its founder, Kelsang Gyatso, this would be good enough to reach enlightenment – “its all in his books” as NKT teachers use to claim.

Here is one example for this Nihilism from the former, closely moderated, official NKT internet chat forum, a comment NKT lay teacher and NKT advocate Kadam Ryan gave:

There are three main things to think about when thinking about the ‘Dorje Shugden issue’. The first is that Buddhas do not exist from their own side, but depend upon the minds of the living beings who view them. If you view Dorje Shugden as a Buddha, then for you he will function as a Buddha. If you view him as big blob of orange Jell- O, then for you he will be a big blob of orange Jell-O.

When I remember correctly, this explanation was not only accepted but also praised by NKT forum members as “profound” or “wise” etc. For sure nobody challenged it or doubted that explanation in any way. Expressions and discussions of such views occur not only in NKT teachings by NKT teachers but they were expressed also on this blog and Wikipedia talk pages.

The view of the NKT leadership and what Tsongkhapa actual states about conventional reality

Now lets focus on what NKT leadership teaches. Kelsang Gyatso, NKT’s final and only authority, states:

I am not saying all phenomena do not exist. All phenomena do exist. The way they exist is as mere name. Anything other than mere name does not exist. But all the phenomena that we normally see or perceive do not exist even as mere name because they are all mistaken appearance. – The Oral Instructions of Mahamudra

Gen Kelsang Dekyong, the Spiritual Director of the NKT and the Resident Teacher at Manjushri KMC, the Mother Center of “Kadampa Buddhism“, explains emptiness this way:

If you carefully analyse what Kelsang Gyatso and Kelsang Dekyong say, you can detect that there is a lack of clarity that gives space to the interpretation or misunderstanding that things are name only – a type of Idealism. And from this it makes perfectly sense (if you don’t question it or dig deeper into the topic using authentic Buddhist scriptures), when NKT teachers teach “if we understand emptiness we can impute things in a way that they are most beneficial to us.” The reason for this heavy misunderstanding and wrong view I think is, that the NKT leadership does not properly and in-depth explain what “mere name” really means. As a result of this, there is too much space for interpretation, a space that invites to fill the gaps of knowledge with fantasy. I think, there is an ambiguity and a lack of clarity or scrutiny within NKT what conventional phenomena are – at least according to how Tsongkhapa explained it.

The insight chapter of Je Tsongkhapa’s Lam Rim Chen Mo (folio 313b Tibetan, p. 178 of English) states:

How does one determine whether something exists conventionally? We hold that something exists conventionally:

  1. if it is known to a conventional consciousness;
  2. if no other conventional valid cognition contradicts its being as it is thus known
  3. if reason that accurately analyses reality – that is, analyses whether something intrinsically exists – does not contradict it.

We hold that what fails to meet those criteria does not exist.

The meaning of “mere name” or “name only”

Now, what does “mere name” or “name only” actually mean within the context of the Gelug school which the NKT claims to be the “pure” heir of?

In Buddhism the term self has two meanings that must be differentiated in order to avoid confusion. One meaning of self is “person,” or “living being.” This is the being who loves and hates, who performs actions and accumulates good and bad karma, who experiences the fruits of those actions, who is reborn in cyclic existence, who cultivates spiritual paths, and so on.

The other meaning of self occurs in the term selflessness, where it refers to a falsely imagined, overconcretized status of existence called “inherent existence”. The ignorance that adheres to such an exaggeration is indeed the source of ruination, the mother of all wrong attitudes — perhaps we could even say devilish. In observing the “I” that depends upon mental and physical attributes, this mind exaggerates it into being inherently existent, despite the fact that the mental and physical elements being observed do not contain any such exaggerated being.

What is the actual Status of a sentient being? Just as a car exists in dependence upon its parts, such as wheels, axles, and so forth, so a sentient being is conventionally set up in dependence upon mind and body. There is no person to be found either separate from mind and body or within mind and body.


This is the reason why the “I” and all other phenomena are described in Buddhism as “name-only.” The meaning of this is not that the “I” and all other phenomena are just words, since the words for these phenomena do indeed refer to actual objects. Rather, these phenomena do not exist in and of themselves; the term name-only eliminates the possibility that they are established from the object’s own side. We need this reminder because the “I” and other phenomena do not appear to be merely set up by name and thought. Quite the contrary.

For instance, we say that the Dalai Lama is a monk, a human, and a Tibetan. Does it not seem that you are saying this not with respect to his body or his mind but about something separate? Without stopping to think about it, it seems that there is a Dalai Lama that is separate from his body, and independent even of his mind. Or consider yourself. If your name is Jane, for instance, we say, “Jane’s body, Jane’s mind,” so it seems to you that there is a Jane who owns her mind and body, and a mind and body that Jane owns.

How can you understand that this perspective is mistaken? Focus on the fact that there is nothing within the mind and body that can be “I.” Mind and body are empty of a tangible “I.” Rather, just as a car is set up in dependence upon its parts and is not even the sum of its parts, so the I depends upon mind and body. An “I” without depending on mind and body does not exist, whereas an “I” that is understood to be dependent upon mind and body exists in accordance with the conventions of the world. Understanding this type of “I” that is not at all to be found within mind and body, and is not even the sum of mind and body but exists only through the power of its name and our thoughts, is helpful as we strive to seeourselves as we really are.

– “Realizing That You Do Not Exist in and of Yourself”, pp. 126–29 – HH the 14th Dalai Lama

You can’t label things arbitrarily as you like – A clarification by Pabongkha Rinpoche

Ok, NKT followers won’t except what His Holiness teaches nor won’t they sincerely check what Je Tsongkhapa taught or challenge easily the view of their leadership. However, maybe they accept Pabongkha Rinpoche as a valid source of information within the context of their own school of thought. Pabongkha Rinpoche states in his commentary to Je Tsongkhapa’s Three Principles of the Path – published by Mahayana Sutra and Trantra Press and Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, whose root gurus were Pabongkha Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche:

If we look for the very root that keeps you and I going round in this circle of life, we come down to ignorance, to our grasping for a “self”. To cut this root, we must develop wisdom which perceives that no such “self” exists. If we were to discuss what no-self is in any detailled way, it would be best to apply a number of sections from the works on the Steps to the path [Tsongkhapa’s Lam Rim Chen Mo]; one example would be the “fourfold analysis.”Here though we will give only a brief presentation of the most vital points concerning correct view, and we will use the classical reasoning based on interdependence.

Now every existent object is a product of something to be given a name and something else to give it a name. There is not a single atom of anything in the universe which does not rely on this process—there is nothing which exists from its own side. I too then am a product: someone has taken two things together, my body and my I mind, and called it “me.” I am nothing more than that. There is no “me” which exists from its own side; there is no “me” which does not rely on someone taking my body and mind together and granting it the name. Neither in fact do my body or my mind themselves exist from their own sides.

We can express all this in the classical form of a logical statement:

Consider all objects, those of the cycle and those beyond it.
They have none of the true and solid existence that I hold them to have; they cannot exist on their own.
Because they are interdependent.

What we mean here by “interdependence” is that all objects are interrelated with others on which they depend; that is, they occur through dependence on other objects. This is why there is absolutely no way they can exist on their own.

We can take for example the way we appoint the chanting master of a monastery, or the governor of some district, or any similar figure. First there must be a reasonable basis to be called “chanting master”: there must be a person who is worthy of being the chanting master.

Then there must be someone like the abbot of the monastery who says, “He is now the chanting master.” Until the abbot does so, until the abbot applies the name and the concept to this person, he cannot be the chanting master—even though he may have all the qualities you need to be named “chanting master.”

If this were not the case, and if the person were somehow the chanting master from the beginning, all on his own without anyone putting the name or idea on him, then he would have to have been the chanting master all along—from the time he lay in his mother’s womb. And when he was bom, the moment he came out of her womb, people then should have said, “Here comes the chanting master!”

But people didn’t say it, because getting to be the chanting master depends on many other factors. We don’t call someone “chanting master” until there is a basis to give the name—a monk who is fit to be chanting master, and until a person qualified to give him the name hangs it on him, and says “This is the chanting master.” Neither until this time does the person himself think “I am the chanting master.” But once the concept has been applied to him, “You are the chanting master,” then people start to talk about him as “chanting master,” and he too begins to think “I am the chanting master.”

The case is the same with something like a horse. We take the body and the mind of the horse, and we put them together— we take all the proper causes and conditions together—and label them with the name “horse.” A building is the same too: nothing but a name put on a certain collection of parts that act as the basis to receive the name.

And the same goes for every existing entity: they arc nothing but a name and a concept, “This we call this, and that we call that,” applied to the collection of parts that acts as the basis of the particular entity’s name. There does not exist the single tiniest bit of anything thatis some kind of object on its own, divorced of the parts we give its name.

“Well then,” you might think to yourself, “if every object is nothing more that what we label it, then I can go out and call gold ‘brass,’ or call a pillar a ‘pitcher,’ and that’s just what they will be.” But it’s not; we do say that things are just labelled what they are, but for the label to be applied, the basis that gets it must be a reasonable one for the particular label.

When we apply a label, three conditions must be present. The three are as follows: (1) the object must be known to a conventional perception; (2) no other conventional perception can contradict its existence; and (3) no ultimate analysis can contradict its existence either. All three must be there.

Now here is what we mean when we say that one conventional perception has been contradicted by another. We can be standing looking at a scarecrow way off in the distance, and someone next to us says ‘That’s a man over there,” and we believe him. Then someone comes up who’s seen for himself that the thing is a scarecrow and tells us “It’s just a scarecrow.” Our initial perception of the thing as a man then vanishes. This is an indication that the basis was not a reasonable one for the given name.

That’s not all—we can go around giving out all sorts of names, we can say “Rabbits have horns,” but that’s not going to make the horns exist; there’s no reasonable basis to get the label. Therefore we must have a reasonable, conventional state of mind that is applying a name to a reasonable collection of parts which acts as the basis we want to give the name—and which actually exists.

Thus too when we go to name somebody governor of a district we have to have a person who is suitable to be given the name—we must have a reasonable basis for our label. We don’t take some deaf-mute bastard kid and appoint him governor.

A Final thought

What the NKT teachings often ignore is that for a correct process of labelling a name to a basis, the basis must have the respective qualities and must be able to perform the function the label is referring to. If I label rope to a vicious snake and use that “rope” as a belt to fix my trousers, the vicious snake won’t accept that usage, to serve as my belt, and highly likely this vicious snake, that is not a rope, is going to bite me – no matter how much or how deep I believe or convince myself that this vicious snake is a rope and suitable to be used as a belt.
Similarly, the rope won’t serve as a basis from which poison for medical purposes can be extracted. No matter how much you “squeeze” the rope and no matter how much you pray or how deeply you believe the rope to be a poisonous snake, no poison can be extracted from the rope.

Last edited by tenpel on October 31, 2015 at 11:50 pm

A Must Watch: Video About the Historic Conference of Western Buddhist Teachers with H.H. the Dalai Lama

Many, many years ago, when I had the chance to escape my Buddhist “cults” – the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and Ganden Tashi Choeling (GTC) – I had the good luck to see a video about a conference where Western Buddhist teachers met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and three other Tibetan lamas, Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche, Panchen Otrul Rinpoche and Amchok Rinpoche. They discussed problematic issues in bringing Buddhism to the West.

The teachers were from the various Tibetan, Zen and Theravadin traditions, among them Ven. Thubten Chodron, Jetsun Tenzin Palmo, Ven. Ajahn Amaro, Jack Kornfield, Junpo Sensei, and Prof. Dr. Robert Thurman.  I’ve always missed that this documentary is not available in the internet. By now, only a written summary of this historic meeting was available. However, the situation has changed now because The Meridan Trust made the documentary available:

Bildschirmfoto 2015-10-18 um 19.47.46I remember vividly how His Holiness was somewhat perplex after Ven. Tenzin Palmo told about the lack of structures for ordained – especially for nuns (!) – in the West, and how His Holiness started first to laugh and then to weep. I was amazed to see this response and subsequent compassion. (The NKT had convinced me after years of “brainwashing” that His Holiness has no compassion, is an ordinary and even bad politician – who aims to “destroy the pure Buddhadharma”, a spiritual beguiler par excellence – in short the worst person on this planet. But here, in this video, I could see the opposite. I’ve never seen Kelsang Gyatso, the founder of the NKT, who chose H.H. the Dalai Lama as his main enemy, being moved or even starting to cry when being faced with the suffering of others. This video and especially this episode was a mile stone in my re-evaluating who the Dalai Lama is and if or if he hasn’t spiritual qualities.)

A Victory for Shugden protesters? The Dalai Lama’s US visit has been cancelled due to medical reasons

Guest Post

The announcement that His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 2015 tour of the US had been cancelled due to medical reasons was viewed by many as a tragic event. For some however, it will be considered a victory.

Kelsang Norden / Rachel Jeffrey

Ever since early 2014, when the New Kadampa Tradition ‘nun’ Kelsang Norden (Rachel Jeffrey) mindlessly chanting her mantra, “Stop lying Dalai Lama”, deliberately cyber-baited His Holiness in a San Francisco hotel lobby, only for the video to be then paraded on Youtube as if it were evidence of a moral ‘victory’, it has become increasingly clear that the ISC’s campaigning is not merely political protest. Rather, their protests are designed to bully and intimidate His Holiness personally, to confront him face to face and push him without respite, until finally he loses his resolve and succumbs to the Shugden Community’s demands. Like spoiled children who, when all else fails, stamp their feet and scream until they get what they want, the ISC have realised their twenty year campaign has failed to achieve anything and in response have decided, as a matter of deliberate policy, to physically and verbally bully the Dalai Lama personally, with their stated intent being to “vilify, belittle, humiliate and denigrate” His Holiness at every given opportunity.

Since then, Shugden supporters, no doubt desperate to win the admiration of their cult contemporaries for acts they no doubt conceive of as some perverse kind of martyrdom,  have made, and filmed, similar efforts to bait His Holiness with varying degrees of ‘success’, applying the same tactics in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the US. On two occasions in Copenhagen, a small cohort of Shugden supporters managed to get within just a few metres of his hotel room, only to be prevented from reaching their goal by an alert Tibetan security guard. Three months earlier in Holland, three ISC members attempted the same by booking into his hotel; forewarned this might happen by security services, management refused them admission and the attempt was thwarted. In each instance, it was clear that the Shugden followers’ intent had gone well beyond mere political protest and had ventured quite deliberately into the realms of direct, personal confrontation.

Tibet supporters and Tibetans stage protest in front of the NKT Tibet supporters and Tibetans stage protest in front of the NKT. (c) The Tibet Post

His Holiness’ nine day visit to the UK presented an unparalleled opportunity for zealots on the lunatic fringe of this already ‘extremist sect’ to once again play out their puerile ‘war game’ at the expense of His Holiness’ well being. With the UK Government clearly terrified of offending potential Chinese paymasters and thus refusing His Holiness the offer of any semblance of protection [one of only two countries in the world to do so], and with the UK premier and his chancellor trade touring China, unashamedly ignoring issues of human rights while contorting themselves into a seemingly infinite variety of impossible yogic positions to facilitate the simultaneous licking of as many boots as possible, the stage was set for an ISC free for all. With the fort held bravely by only a tiny group of dedicated Tibetan and Western security guards, in the face of screaming mobs of hate-filled Kelsang Gyatso devotees, eyes glazed over in blind obeisance, this was the proverbial accident waiting to happen.

Thus it was that throughout the visit, NKT Shugden devotees repeatedly rode roughshod over Buddhist moral principles, applying their ‘end justifies the means’ cult philosophy whenever the opportunity presented itself, doing their utmost, “out of compassion for him”,  to confront, intimidate and insult His Holiness whenever the opportunity arose. The debacle reached its climax on the final day in a virtual car chase through London, as the Dalai Lama made his way to the airport, with NKT/ISC fanatics jumping red lights to keep up, ranting and verbally haranguing His Holiness when his motorcade was forced to stop. And this, all in the name of the ‘compassionate Buddha, Dorje Shugden’.

Kelsang Tsangpa / Ian Povey, who also hurled abuse at His Holiness and was identified as the driver who tailed his vehicle to the airport.

Kelsang Tsangpa / Ian Povey, who also hurled abuse at His Holiness and was identified as the driver who tailed his vehicle to the airport.

While His Holiness recuperated at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic from the ordeals he had endured, one was tempted to ask whether the NKT/ISC’s incessant intimidation had contributed in any way to the latest concerns over his health. This is not to suggest for a moment that His Holiness is anything other than a fully enlightened Buddha, whose infinite wisdom and compassion render him immovable in the face of these zealots’ infantile antics. However, he is not Superman; if it rains, he needs an umbrella, just like the rest of us. And if someone threatens him at every opportunity given, bullying and harassing, day after day screaming and shouting insults without respite or reason, doesn’t the question arise as to whether these despicable acts might in some way be connected to current concerns about His Holiness’ health?

According to the ISC’s latest list of four demands, the aim of their protests is to “bring to an end all discrimination against Shugden practitioners” and restore “harmonious relationships with Shugden practitioners”; as one placard put it, to “let all Buddhists become brothers and sisters again”. Bearing in mind that throughout his last two UK visits, the NKT/ISC have repeatedly threatened and harassed His Holiness, screaming and shouting their insults and slogans without respite, one has to wonder what on earth it is that these people think their antics will achieve? One has to ask in what way will their confronting and threatening His Holiness ever restore “harmonious relations”? How will their attempts to intimidate him, bullying and haranguing the Dalai Lama until they are blue in the face, cause any Buddhists anywhere to want  to live together ‘in harmony’ with them, as “brothers and sisters”, ever again?

During his visit to Cambridge, the Dalai Lama was asked whether there was any segregation of Shugden devotees in the exile community. His response, “Yes; They themselves created that.” was immediately seized upon by the ISC as more ‘evidence’ of his hypocrisy. Sadly, as ever, their willingness to interpret his every action as disingenuous rendered  them unable to hear the real message His Holiness was sending them: “Yes, there is some discrimination and it is the demonstrations and personal hate campaign of the NKT/ISC  that are causing it.”

Recent reports from Tibetan settlements in India suggest a direct correlation between NKT/ISC demonstrations in the West and manifestations of discrimination in the East; visitors to Tibetan encampments reported that the principal indicators of the Shugden problem, the signs in shop windows asking devotees to go elsewhere, had all but disappeared once the NKT/ISC demonstrations stopped, and that things had begun to return to a semblance of normality as the dust from the previous wave of demonstrations settled and monastics and laypersons from the different factions began to live alongside one another in harmony. However, as soon as the NKT/ISC demonstrations began again, the old situation reared its ugly head; signs in shops increased and feelings of resentment once again began to run high.

When will the NKT/ISC realise that, like the ancient ouroboros symbol, the legendary serpent that consumes its own tail, their demonstrations are self perpetuating, a self fulfilling prophecy? Designed to bring discrimination to an end, they in fact perpetuate it, just as the serpents’ attempts at consuming itself only cause it to grow ever larger.

When will the NKT/ISC realise that if they continue with their tactics of direct intimidation and personal confrontation of His Holiness and some ill should actually befall him, their aim will never be achieved, and they will instead render themselves the pariahs of the Tibetan Buddhist world for hundreds, indeed thousands of years to come?

This post was slightly edited by the author.

Response to the refutation of Tenzin Wangdak by an anonymous Shugden supporter

These days in exile unity among the Tibetans is more important than ever. The last thing they want is some puritanical protector terrifying those who wander between spiritual traditions. Harmony between the main religious traditions is essential. Shugden hardly fits the role of a mediator or peace-bringer, does he? – Gavin Kilty

The article that this is a response to is found at:

I would like to reply to the above. I don’t do this with anger or resentment, or because I am partisan to Tenzin Wangdak, or that I belong to one side in this dispute. Anger, indignation, partiality and resentment will only entrench a position, and prevent any understanding or consideration of the other side. Anger, in particular, fogs the mind and obscures any rational and middle-way thinking.

In that spirit, I do hope you publish this reply. If you are sure of your views, there is nothing to fear in publishing those views that disagree with yours. For a discussion to proceed both positions must be aired. If for some reason you do not publish this reply, I will publish it elsewhere, together with your article for all to see.

In your very first sentence you prefix the title Dalai Lama with the derogatory “false.” You do this throughout the article, and indeed in most articles posted online and elsewhere you cannot refer to him without using this prefix. If you think that by bombarding the public and your followers with this appellation it will gradually come to be accepted as true, you woefully underestimate the intelligence of your target audience. You might think that if you say it enough it will be accepted as fact, but most intelligent readers will just become tired of it. Moreover, they will compare your assertion with what they know of the Dalai Lama from their own personal experience and observation of him, and rely upon that for their assessment of him, because mere name-calling is childish and baseless.

You might refute this by saying you have published a book “proving” that the Dalai Lama is a false incarnation. But it seems to me that this book is mere retaliation for the Dalai Lama labeling Shugden as a malevolent spirit or a ghost. You regard Shugden as a manifestation of Mañjuśrī, and so any denigration of him is not going to be taken kindly. (I know that Trijang Rinpoche and Phabongkha Rinpoche both proclaimed him thus but we can deal with that later). Just as the Dalai Lama addresses him as a worldly spirit or as Dölgyal, so you seek to retaliate by addressing the Dalai Lama as “false” in all mention of him. This is a childish way of dealing with criticism.

Your book, The False Dalai Lama, comes across as a predetermined conclusion seeking justification. You have already decided that he is false and so you set about finding “proof” to back up that claim. If that is not the case, and I am making baseless allegations, then why several years after the Dalai Lama stated his doubts about Shugden do you suddenly produce this book? Would you have produced it if the Dalai Lama had not said the things he did?

Moreover, the Dalai Lama has set out clearly reasons for his stance that Shugden is not an exclusive protector of Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings or the Geluk tradition, not an emanation of Mañjuśrī, and that he is a spirit who does more harm than good. Therefore, your book seeks to mirror that process by setting out reasons why the Dalai Lama is not a genuine Tülku entrusted with the welfare of the Tibetan people, and not an emanation of Avalokiteśvara, and just a politician and dictator who harms the Tibetan people. Again, this just seems like childish tit for tat. Unable to deal with the criticism of your protector, you respond by lashing out instead of employing careful thought and consideration of the issues.

12029810_1621626281438205_4281468213525069386_oMoreover, look at the motivations for the Dalai Lama’s position on Shugden and your position on the Dalai Lama. He did not denigrate Shugden from some perceived slight, or out of resentment for what someone had said, or from any innate dislike of Shugden. He too was a believer in Shugden for many years. The doubts surfaced in the 70’s from circumstances that have been well documented elsewhere, and he felt it was his responsibility to act upon what he had discovered. He explained everything to Trijang Rinpoche before taking any action, because he felt his conscience would not allow him to do otherwise. Your motivations for deriding him as false, however, seem far removed from those. They appear to come from an open hostility to the Dalai Lama, and his public pronouncements on Shugden.

If you think for a minute that your book provides reliable proof of the Dalai Lama being false, and that it is a shining example of non-partisan, academic scholarship, then think again. This is not the place to go through the book chapter by chapter, but some of the reasoning is laughable. He is a Marxist? He is a Muslim? He lost his temper when he was a child? These are proofs? He is not a Marxist ideologue to the exclusion of everything else. He is first and foremost a Buddhist, and spends every morning from 3.30am onwards engaged in Buddhist practice, the most fundamental of which is going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. He is a Buddhist monk and keeps his vows purely (despite your slanderous accusation of lying, which is a root downfall for a monk). Just because he expresses sympathy for Marxist economics does not disqualify him from being a Buddhist!

The book states that he lost his temper when he was a child, thereby casting doubt on his suitability as an emanation of Avalokiteśvara. Well, emanations of enlightened beings act in worldly ways, something that you would attest to when pronouncing Dorjé Shugden to be a manifestation of Mañjuśrī. However, if that is a reason for proclaiming the Dalai Lama to be false, then how false must Shugden be when engaging in killing and bring sickness to many lamas who “strayed” to Nyingma teachings? It is no good dismissing these allegations as “superstition,” as you do, because they are the claims of Trijang Rinpoche written down by Zemé Rinpoche in his Yellow Book. They are there for all to see. Trijang Rinpoche even repeats some of these in his own writings.

It is true that protectors sometimes engage in wrathful actions for good reasons, but to condemn as worldly a little boy for getting angry while justifying the violent actions of a protector as enlightened, or dismissing them as “old wife’s tales to stop Gelugpas from mixing traditions” as you do is a contradiction.

I am not even going to bother dealing with the allegation that the 14th Dalai of Tibet is in fact a Muslim!


ISC propaganda video by Gen Kelsang Rabten / Nicholas Pitts

Therefore, it is hard to escape the conclusion that this book is written out of spite, and any reason, no matter how flimsy, is thrown in to bolster an already predetermined outcome.

You say, “Dorjé Shugden is an emanation of Mañjuśrī and the principal protector of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings in this age.” Phabongkha Rinpoche and Dakpo Kalsang Khedrup, the author of the verses of praise that Trijang Rinpoche commented, did assert that Shugden was an emanation of Mañjuśrī, and consequently so did Trijang Rinpoche. However, before that most masters in the Sakya tradition, where devotion to Shugden began, regarded him as a powerful spirit. Moreover, several Geluk masters regarded him as a spirit. I realize that these are assertions with no back up of scriptural reference, but to do that would turn this article in to a lengthy book. One day such a book, well researched and complete with references, will be published.

However, for now this short response is to introduce the fact that there are doubts abut the claims surrounding Shugden. There have been doubts all throughout the past three hundred years, from his beginning as Drakpa Gyaltsen in the 17th century. All parties accept that Drakpa Gyaltsen was the origin of Shugden, but at that time, the 5th Dalai Lama and those around him had their doubts. You may dismiss the 5th Dalai Lama as being unaware of the activities of his Desi’s supposed involvement in Drakgyen’s murder, or even as being complicit in it, but the written evidence at that time, as opposed to hearsay and rumour, points to other explanations. There is even no written evidence at that time that Drakgyen was actually killed.

You back up the claim that Shugden is the principal protector of the Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings with a quote from Trijang Rinpoche’s commentary on Dakpo Kalsang Khedrup’s verses of praise to Dorjé Shugden, which states that the 11th Dalai Lama enthroned him as such together with the Chinese emperor. The 11th Dalai Lama passed away when he was only seventeen, hardly a mature age to be making decisions on who is the protector of Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings. It is telling that you choose a Dalai Lama as an authoritative source to back up your position. You ignore the stances of the three most influential Dalai Lamas: the 5th, 13th and 14th , and hone in on a young Dalai Lama who almost certainly had little or no influence in affairs. But then these three Dalai Lamas don’t follow your views on Shugden and so they are denounced and ignored.

If you say that the mention of the 11th Dalai Lama as someone who enthroned Shugden was a comment made by Trijang Rinpoche, that is true, but one (among many) differences between you and Trijang Rinpoche is that he had the greatest of respect and devotion for all the Dalai Lamas. He didn’t cherry pick those who supported his views. In his commentary to these verses of praise he goes out of his way to show nothing but total respect to the Great Fifth. Moreover, in his works and teachings he repeatedly praised the 14th Dalai Lama, urging his disciples to dedicate themselves to him. If you claim you are followers of Trijang Rinpoche, why don’t you follow his advice?

You say that Trijang Rinpoche “regarded the upholding of the Shugden practice to be very important.” Maybe, but he also regarded devotion to the 14th Dalai Lama as very important. So why don’t you follow that advice too? You berate Tenzin Wangdak for not bowing to Trijang Rinpoche, but it seems that you don’t either.

You say that the reason Dorjé Shugden is preferable these days to Kālarūpa, Vaiśravana and six-armed Mahākāla is, “The Dharma Protector who has the strongest karmic connection with the practitioners of Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition in this modern times is Dorjé Shugden. He is the one who is most able to help.” Really? And how does he help? By picking on those who practice any tradition other than the Geluk? These days in exile unity among the Tibetans is more important than ever. The last thing they want is some puritanical protector terrifying those who wander between spiritual traditions. Harmony between the main religious traditions is essential. Shugden hardly fits the role of a mediator or peace-bringer, does he?

If you respond by saying that it is the Dalai Lama who has caused divisions in the Tibetan community by introducing restrictions (no, not a ban) on Shugden practice, you should know that no-one has worked harder than him to bring all traditions together. Just look at his record in doing this since they arrived in exile. Just for once, be fair. Give him some credit. He has organized inter-tradition conferences, regularly welcomes, visits and shows respect to leaders of other traditions. He even included the Bon in Tibetan traditions. In teachings he will often try to bring the various philosophical traditions together (Dzokchen, Mahamudra, Mādhyamika) by unpicking the tradition-specific terminology and finding common ground. Isn’t this working for the unity of the Tibetan communities?

It was in this spirit of responsibility that he expressed his thoughts on Shugden. In 1975 the local Tibetans in Dharamshala were frightened to attend a Padma Saṃbhava offering ritual in the temple because they were afraid of what Shugden would do to them. Is this how Shugden helps? That was the catalyst for Dalai Lama’s embarking on an investigation into Shugden, culminating with the pronouncements he made. How can this be seen as anything other than a genuine concern for the unity of the Tibetan people? It is the unfortunate response of others that has caused the problems we have now.

These days in exile, and in the 21st century, the days of petty sectarianism are over. There is no place for each tradition to tightly cling to their own tradition to the exclusion of others. That may have worked in Tibet but not now in the modern world. The tradition of Tsongkhapa is open to everyone. The traditions of the Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyü are open to everyone. Does Shugden facilitate that? If so, please let me know.

You say, “You are all lost and confused because you have broken your Guru devotion by abandoning your reliance on the great Masters of the Gelugpa tradition such as Je Pabongkhapa and Trijang Rinpoche. You don’t trust your Gurus, you trust politics.”

What nonsense this is. And what an insulting judgment to pass on others you don’t even know. Guru devotion (as in the Fifty Verses on the Guru) allows for disagreement with the guru on certain points, as long as that disagreement is not based on anger or prejudice. If it is allowed in guru devotion practice, it must be something that exists within that practice and does not constitute an abandonment of the guru. Ling Rinpoche said he regarded Phabongkha as a perfect Buddha but when the Shugden issue came up he was uneasy. Did he too abandon his guru? The Dalai Lama has said many times that he has never lost devotion for Trijang Rinpoche as his guru. However, you believe he is a false Dalai Lama, and so you wouldn’t believe him. It is very convenient for your position if the person you are disagreeing with is damned as unreliable from the outset, because then you don’t have to disprove anything he says, as to your eyes he is almost certainly lying!

Your insults such as “lost and confused,” “wrongheaded,” “betrayers and purveyors of wrong views,” (the last one sounds almost evangelical!) are built on the notion that people such as Tenzin Wangdak have abandoned and defame great Geluk masters such as Phabongkha and Trijang Rinpoche. But they have nothing but respect for these masters as great practitioners. And they also are devoted to the Dalai Lama. The only people who are denouncing great lamas are you and your group who regularly turn up at events where the Dalai Lama is speaking and engage in your childish chant of “False Dalai Lama stop lying!”

Your proof that Shugden does not punish people is that if he did, “the False Dalai Lama would be dead for all the harm he has done to Tibetan Buddhism in general and the Gelugpa tradition in particular.” Goodness, where did you learn logic? The reason is based on the assumption that the Dalai Lama is false and that he has caused harm. As these are not accepted by those you are aiming the logic at, it falls rather flat. I could just return the logic: Shugden has not harmed the Dalai Lama because he can’t, because he is not false, and because he has not harmed Buddhism.

However, as I said above, read the Yellow Book. It is full of terrifying punishments meted out to those who practiced Nyingma teachings. As I said before, sometimes protectors can be violent, but please don’t paint Shugden as portraying only a peaceful aspect. If, as you say, Shugden’s “fearsome reputation is superstition: old wife’s tales to stop Gelugpas from mixing traditions,” then you are tagging Trijang Rinpoche’s writing as “old wives’ tales,” and that would be denigrating the words of a great Geluk master, something you would never do, surely!

You say that Shugden followers have no religious freedom because they must choose between breaking away from Shugden and breaking commitment to their gurus, or risk being ostracized from their families. Thousands of Tibetans have given up their Shugden practice, and enjoy plenty of religious freedom. They are not breaking their samaya with their gurus, as explained above. Those who continue the practice are free to do so. That is their choice. If there has been discrimination against Shugden followers in the Tibetan community that is wrong.

But look at this. Buddhist practice takes place in the mind. What you do in your mind is your choice. No one can stop you, and no one knows what you are doing. Think back to those brave Tibetans who spent years in Chinese prisons. Did they suffer the loss of religious freedom you complain about? Or were they able to practice bravely in the privacy of their own minds, away from the vicious hands of the prison guards? Palden Gyatso (author of Fire Under the Snow) spent over thirty years in prison. He managed to practice love and compassion for his jailers. I know him and he has told me these things personally. Such people did not let the vicious oppression of the Chinese daunt them. They used it to further their practice. In the face of that I find your cries of persecution rather hollow.

Recently I met a western NKT nun here in the UK. She told me she had nothing to do with the politics of the Shugden issue, but quietly went about her devotions to Shugden. Does she not have religious freedom? Nobody was stopping her from doing her practice. As I said, if there are those in the Tibetan community who discriminate against Shugden practitioners, that is not right. But before they complain, think about Palden Gyatso.

You talk a bit about Tibetan history, in which you say that, “this practice has been passed down for three hundred and fifty years from Teacher to Student and was practiced by all the great Gelugpa Lamas and Sakya throne holders.”

Tibetan history is a hall of mirrors. You are never sure what you are looking at. The secretive nature of Tibetan society and its tendency for interpretation (outer, inner, secret, and so on) of events make it difficult, but not impossible, to come down on one side or the other. The Dorjé Shugden history site looks well researched, and I will take some time to read it.

However, it is not the case that ALL great Geluk lamas and Sakya throne holders practiced Shugden as you maintain. Moreover, much of the practice before Phabongkha centered on Shugden as a fierce worldly spirit, rather than an emanation of Mañjuśrī, even though the two may not be contradictory. Moreover, if this practice has been handed down for 350 years, that would mean it began around 1665, nine years or so after Drakpa Gyaltsen’s death. But the first recorded contact between a lama and Shugden was some 54 years after his death when he appeared before a Sakya Lama. Minor point maybe, but you would probably pick me up for it.

Maybe we should pool our research and thrash these issues out at a conference some time. What do you think? These points of history need to be sorted out in a calm and rational fashion.

You mention the murder of Ven. Losang Gyatso, and cast doubt on his killers being Shugden supporters. Yes, there have been no convictions, and without a trial it cannot be conclusively determined either way. But, come on. Is your doubt based on a fair appraisal of the available evidence or is it a product of your bias toward Shugden? You level the same charge at the Tibetan government, but is there no bias in your stance of attempting to exonerate Shugden supporters of this crime?

Having said that, I must declare an interest here. He was my teacher for eight years at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. I owe him a great debt of gratitude. He allowed me, a layman, to enter the school and join in the classes and debate sessions. I value my time at that school highly. It helped me make sense of the Dharma. So maybe I am biased too, but look at the evidence.

He was indeed outspoken. Many in the Geluk tradition complained about him as you say. And who are the most puritanical of the Geluk? Who are those who would not take kindly to criticism of the tradition? He had received threats from the Dorje Shugden Charitable and Religious Society. This letter is for all to see. And what about the obscene letter received after the murder in which the sender asks if they enjoyed the three carcasses of meat as a Losar present, and that there would be more carcasses if the present practice is continued? Although it is not signed, the contents make it clear on whose behalf the letter is written.

You suggest that Namgyal Monastery might have committed the murder. Are you serious? Namgyal is the monastery of the Dalai Lama, who appointed Ven. Losang Gyatso as principal. What possible motive could they have? The proof offered is that there was a movie being played at Namgyal the night of the murder, and that this was unusual and could have been set up to drown out the noise of the act. Is this a serious piece of evidence!

The Indian press reported on the murders, quoting the police as clearly linking the murders to Shugden followers, and even naming four of the accused. The whole story of the taxi pursuit from Delhi and the phone call to the Dorje Shugden Society in Delhi is there. I will not go into detail here, as it is too lengthy, and this has been well documented. Also you could, and probably would, just dismiss it as uncorroborated, and so we would enter the back and forth process of discussion and argument.

In conclusion, your vilification of the Dalai Lama is unprecedented in the long history of this institution. Never before has there been such a focused attack on a Dalai Lama because of one particular action he has taken. Even if you disagree with his stance on Shugden, which of course you are perfectly entitled to, why then do you proceed to condemn the whole person with claims that he is a false incarnation, a liar, a mere politician, a harmer of the Geluk tradition, and so on. What excessive defamation just because of his stance on a particular protector. Have you never looked at the whole of his character, his dedication to world peace, the Tibet struggle? Are the hundreds of institutions who have showered awards upon him blind? Are the millions who revere him stupid? And are you, and Chinese communist party, the only ones who see the truth?

If you see someone as wholly bad because of one action that he or she has taken, then you will interpret everything they do as bad. Nobody can know everything about a person, but you can come down on one side or the other by looking at the whole person, not just one action he has committed, and making a sensible choice. I have been around the Dalai Lama since the early seventies. I have met him several times. I have taken teachings from him many times, I have examined what he teaches, I have observed him closely, and my conclusion is, at the very least he is an honourable man, an ethical person, a good monk, a kind hearted soul who puts others first, a great thinker, someone who takes his responsibility as Dalai Lama very seriously, and everyday tries tirelessly to put every Buddhist teaching he has learned into practice. How many of us can claim the same?

You could of course just dismiss me as a Dalai Lama cheerleader, and that is up to you. Or we could try and work this out, settle it once and for all. We could sit around a table and talk about it. A meeting was held in California recently. It didn’t get very far, because it was only the first one. But who knows what is possible if we only try?

Gavin Kilty
September 2015.

line-gothicGavin Kilty has been a full-time translator for the Institute of Tibetan Classics since 2001. Before that he lived in Dharamsala, India, for fourteen years, where he spent eight years training in the traditional Geluk monastic curriculum through the medium of class and debate at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. He also teaches Tibetan language courses in India, Nepal, and elsewhere, and is a translation reviewer for the organization 84000, Translating the Words of the Buddha

Related posts

Is there no medical treatment for Shugden followers as Anti-Dalai Lama protesters claim?


by Carol McQuire

The latest ISC/NKT leaflet ‘evidence’ of prejudice against Shugden practitioners states that the Shugden monks and families in India do not get access to proper medical treatment. This is not the case. The actual situation is more complex and culturally distinct to the medical system the ISC/NKT are accustomed to.

In the the images of discrimination section of the ISC leaflet there is a picture of a sign supposedly at the Drepung Loseling Clinic at Mundgod Tibetan Settlement.

This image caption from the new ISC leaflet is totally misleading. The ban from entry into the monastery has not relation to the claim that health treatment is refused for Shugden proprietors.

Screen shot from the new ISC leaflet.

These signs are unfortunate as they can be easily misunderstood; all this means in practice is that Shar Gaden and Serpom monks use the clinic of their own colleges – just like every other Tibetan monk.

Through fundraising there are now 5 new clinics for monastics all providing the same services.

Each of the large Gelug Monasteries there (Gaden Shartse, Gaden Jangtse, Drepung Gomang, Drepung Loseling) has its own clinic providing basic medical care. They all use their own clinics.

It’s Tibetan style: Sera Jey monks go to the Sera Jey Clinic, Sera Mey monks to Sera Mey clinic. Penor Rinpoche’s Nyingma monastery has its own hospital. Ganden Jangtse monks  go to Jangtse clinic, Gaden Shartse to Shartse clinic.

Laypeople go to settlement clinics in either Bylakuppe or Mundgod, neither of which have signs at the moment.

Many monks prefer Indian GPs in the nearby towns to the clinics, as there are less wait times.

For anything beyond minor ailments all Tibetans are compelled to use Indian hospitals, which will treat anyone who can afford it, as the clinics are not equipped.

So the story that people are dying because of a sign at Loseling clinic is like most of the other stories the NKT/ISC present as evidence; inaccurate and misinformed.

As is so often the case, the ISC/NKT mix a little realism with exaggeration.

line-gothicSee also

Information by acknowledged academic authority

Update 21/09/15

Dalai Lama protesters & Shugden followers – Propaganda unlimited

Is there a need to go again into the bizarre, distorted and hateful propaganda spread worldwide either by the International Shugden Community (ISC) / New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) or the Indian and Singapore based organised pro Shugden campaigners?* Is there any need to address the hundreds of claims made by the organised pro Shugden campaigners on dozens of websites and blogs, press releases, tweeds, Facebook posts etc. they issue around the clock?

I would like to say, “No!” because for any person with some common sense and understanding of the issue it is hard to take the whole campaign seriously in any way or to find any creditability in it. However, the majority of the media worldwide seem to be still too naive or too busy or too uninformed (see Foreign Policy) so that they easily fall pray to the propaganda and human rights rhetoric of the campaigning Shugden groups … What ever the causes for the lack of care of so many journalists and media is, many of them have given the propaganda of the Shugden campaigners and their false or distorted claims a lot of space in their articles. By doing this they have provided a platform for the spread of propaganda and for bullying the Dalai Lama. I would be happy if this stops with the upcoming UK visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

For a tiny but clear glimpse into their propaganda universe here a quick overview*:

The claimed persecution of Shugden followers …

The claimed persecution of Shugden followers …

We had similar bizarre and untrue claims right from the start of the campaign in 2008. See for instance:

Joanne Clark unravelled a lot more of those distortions, outright lies and propaganda on her blog. Here a brief overview about this endless stream of misinformation:

But what about the young Tibetan whose finger were cut off? You can buy the mutilated hand online:



But what about the house set on fire? Well, for details see here:

Thanks to Steve Maxwell for his investigation about the mutilated hand!

See also

* It is not clear if those memes were made by Tsem Tulku and his followers (Kechara group) or Kelsang Gyatso and his followers (NKT/ISC). The memes of NKT/ISC are similar ridiculous but more focused on insulting and undermining the Dalai Lama – comparing the Dalai Lama with Hitler, portraying him as a pig etc. Whoever made the memes, NKT/ISC campaigners read such memes, believe in it, share it and use it as ‘evidence’ of discrimination. Such memes become a means to further fuel their fighting power (or aggression) against the Dalai Lama.

What does the Dalai Lama mean to a young Tibetan, grown up in occupied Tibet under Chinese rule?

One of Seven Billion Human Beings
by Jamyang Tashi 

“What does the Dalai Lama mean to you?” One of my American friends asked me this question about two years ago after we had a long conversation about the self-immolations inside Tibet that had reached media attention all over the world. My instant answer to my friend was: “It’s going to take a long time to talk about him”. It wasn’t an attempt to avoid answering but rather to see if he would be willing to listen to me explaining such a renowned person in my imperfect English. My answer had doubled my friend’s curiosity. He jerked forward and expectantly said, “Please, I have nothing but time”.

I realized that I had misunderstood his question. He wasn’t asking me to talk about the Dalai Lama. He wanted to know how I felt about the Dalai Lama. Oddly this was a new question to me. I began noticing the difference between telling who the Dalai Lama is and explaining what he means to me. I immediately found myself in a situation I had never been in before. To explain what the Dalai Lama meant to me didn’t seem to require knowing any of his biographical data but to recall my own life. At this point the question had become personal and I became very emotional, and couldn’t say anything while my friend was staring at me. I felt embarrassed not having an answer after I had told him that I had a long answer to his question. At the same time, I was getting worried that he was going to notice my internal struggle to hold down the stirring emotion that might burst out from my eyes. I can’t remember how long I had paused but at some point my friend said: “It’s ok. I think I can guess how much he means to you”. Part of me was relieved, but his question remained with me. What I am going to say below is a very common experience shared by thousands of Tibetans, and so if I had a purpose in writing such a common story, it would be for my non-Tibetan friends who are so curious about why I am so attached to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

– See the full story at:

Dialogue with Dalai Lama protesters: What is the Dalai Lama lying about?

“Dalai Lama stop lying” – Which lie did he tell?

Many people wonder, why the Anti-Dalai Lama protesters (NKT via SSC, WSS, ISC) accuse His Holiness the Dalai Lama of lying or even of being a “very professional liar”. In fact, the Anti-Dalai Lama protesters are confused about this themselves. During the first wave of protest campaigns, from 1996–98, they accused the Dalai Lama to have lied about the following things, among others:

Berlin, Tempodrom, 8th June 1998. From 1996–1998 the New Kadampa Tradition organised world wide protests via Shugden Supporters Community (SSC). The big yellow banner reads: ‘Dalai Lama, please grant us religious freedom.’ From left to right the signs read (signs with the same slogan are listed only once): ‘Please stop ignoring human and religious freedom’, ‘Dorje Shugden is a Buddha of compassion, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden is no wicked Chinese spirit, please don’t lie’, ‘You know that Dorje Shugden doesn’t harm anybody, Dalai Lama please stop to spreading lies’, ‘Dorje Shugden worship is no cult, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden is not sectarian, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden loves Nyingmapas, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden loves all Buddhist traditions, stop spreading lies’, ‘You know that Dorje Shugden doesn’t harm anybody, Dalai Lama please stop spreading lies’, ‘These bodyguards helped the Dalai Lama on his escape from Chinese troops based on the Dalai Lama’s illegally ban they are now persecuted’.

Berlin, Tempodrom, 8th June 1998. From 1996–1998 the New Kadampa Tradition organised world wide protests via Shugden Supporters Community (SSC). The big yellow banner reads: ‘Dalai Lama, please grant us religious freedom.’
From left to right the signs read (signs with the same slogan are listed only once): ‘Please stop ignoring human and religious freedom’, ‘Dorje Shugden is a Buddha of compassion, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden is no wicked Chinese spirit, please don’t lie’, ‘You know that Dorje Shugden doesn’t harm anybody, Dalai Lama please stop to spreading lies’, ‘Dorje Shugden worship is no cult, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden is not sectarian, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden loves Nyingmapas, please don’t lie’, ‘Dorje Shugden loves all Buddhist traditions, stop spreading lies’, ‘You know that Dorje Shugden doesn’t harm anybody, Dalai Lama please stop spreading lies’, ‘These bodyguards helped the Dalai Lama on his escape from Chinese troops based on the Dalai Lama’s illegally ban they are now persecuted’.

So, in the view of the protesters, the Dalai Lama lied because he holds different views than the protesters such as: that he does not see Shugden as a Buddha of Compassion – this is a lie, that Nyingmas have a problem with Shugden – this is a lie. [the former is an opinion or belief, the latter a fact]

Also, on the banner above words and claims are put into the mouth of the Dalai Lama that he never said – but this is a very common method used by the protesters, to mix untruths with semi-truths and some truths.

I was part of that campaign from 1996-98. Back then, the main reason why the Dalai Lama was considered a liar was because he stated that Shugden is a spirit and not a Buddha. This is why the German Buddhist Monastic Association (DBO) made clear in their statement:

Assertion: “The Dalai Lama is lying.” – Correction: To have a different perspective on Shugden than its devotees is not a lie, but the exercise of the right to have one’s own opinion.

The protesters cannot tolerate another person’s opinion. If the opinion differs from theirs, then they regard the other party as a liar. This is a confusion much ingrained into the whole campaign and their way of thinking.

Also media are accused of lying if they don’t agree with the protesters’ point of view.

Also media are liars if they don’t agree with the protesters’ point of view.

From 2008 onwards, the anti-Dalai Lama protesters repeated via WSS this initial “reason” for why the Dalai Lama is allegedly lying and blew it up. They now spoke of a “Big Lie”, a term that means in a monastic environment that a Buddhist monk or Buddhist nun has lost his or her root vows (Parajika) and is no longer a monk or nun because of having lied about “supramundane attainments” such as realisation of a concentration (jhana) or emptiness etc.

Here is the PDF of the WSS website where the Dalai Lama protesters state:

The Big Lie

The Dalai Lama says Dorje Shugden is a harmful spirit.

For centuries, every great Master in the Buddhist Tradition passed down from Je Tsongkhapa, including the Dalai Lama’s root Guru Trijang Rinpoche, has revered Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being who helps sincere practitioners progress on the spiritual path by developing pure minds of love, compassion, and wisdom.

The Dalai Lama himself was trained in this tradition, and for 40 years relied upon Dorje Shugden, even composing a prayer of his own praising Dorje Shugden and requesting his help.

Then, suddenly in 1975 he abandoned the practice because he had ‘discovered’ Dorje Shugden was a harmful spirit!
Incredibly, we are being asked to believe that the Dalai Lama accidentally worshipped a harmful spirit for 40 years without noticing!

The protesters obviously cannot understand that human beings and spiritual masters can err and that they are able also to see their errors and to correct them. This seeing and correcting of one’s own errors is the very root of spiritual practice and any spiritual path and achievement. Even the Arhats of the Buddha made mistakes and erred, and even Je Tsongkhapa and Atisha (whose lineages they claim to uphold) saw their errors and corrected them.

From 2011 onwards the anti-Dalai Lama protesters invented new ideas for why the Dalai Lama allegedly lied. They claimed he lied because he said there is no (general) ban (which is factually correct), or because he lied about what his junior tutor (junior in rank) Trijang Rinpoche said to him. However, if you truly investigate these things and if you get to know and to see the context, it becomes clear: none of those things can be correctly considered a lie.

During the SOAS panel discussion in 2014, Rabten / Pitts – quite likely feeling the weakness of the previous “reason” why the Dalai Lama allegedly lied – offered a new “reason”:

He begins by quoting a statement from the Kashag in 1996 regarding the Dalai Lama’s restriction on Dolgyal (Shugden):

… the essence of His Holiness’s advice [to stop worship of Shugden] is that this propitiating Dolgyal does great harm to the cause of Tibet. It also imperils the life of the Dalai Lama.

Then Rabten / PItts comments:

Now, in this statement, the cause for Tibet refers to restoring the freedom of their country. So this statement by the Dalai Lama is at the root of the discrimination that  Shugden Buddhists have endured for the last thirty years. So I question whether any reasonable person could really believe that the reason the Chinese invaded Tibet is because some people were praying to Dorje Shugden. I question whether any reasonable person could really believe that the reason the Chinese continue to occupy Tibet is because of some people praying to Dorje Shugden. And I don’t think any reasonable person really believes the Dalai Lama’s life is in danger if people continue to follow their teacher’s advice by praying to Dorje Shugden.

So I would say none of these statements are true and when we say, “Stop lying,” these are the statements we’re referring to.

It’s not clear if Rabten is really so uninformed, incapable of putting himself into the shoes of others or just a grand manipulateur. The Dalai Lama’s statement is based on the sectarianism, disharmony and schism conjoined with Shugden worship or what he feels is at Shugden worship’s “root”. Sectarianism, schism and disharmony do “great harm to the cause of Tibet”.

It would be totally hypocritical to ask the Dalai Lama – who practices teachings from different Buddhist schools – to be the protector and guide of Tibetans and then propitiating Shugden who is praised by its propagators to kill, and shorten the life span of persons who are open and ecumenical as the Dalai Lama is, that’s why the Dalai Lama states “It also imperils the life of the Dalai Lama.” Martin Mills made clear that this is far from being heterodox:

Many Western observers of this issue find this last element of the Dalai Lama’s declaration surprising, but it is far from heterodox or arbitrary in terms of Tibetan Buddhist understandings of the place of lamas, or spiritual guides. The general Mahayana Buddhist view of higher teachers such as the Dalai Lama is that, as manifestations of Buddhahood, they appear only as a consequence of people’s good karma, and do so only to teach and guide other beings to liberation from samsara. As such, if people fail to take the advice of the spiritual guide, he simply withdraws his earthly presence. The present Dalai Lama had previously indicated that the matter of Shugden was decisive in this regard during the mid-1970s, when resistance to his reforms within the heart of the Tibetan Government-in-exile caused him to refuse their annual long-life offering, and to hint that there would not be a fifteenth Dalai Lama.

Rabten puts his own ideas and confusion into the mouth of His Holiness and criticises the Dalai Lama for his own projections instead of freeing himself from his confusion and projections.  – This is another deeply ingrained pattern of the protesters: they project their own confusion, hate, cultish group structure and sectarianism etc. onto the Dalai Lama, not seeing that what they attach to him are their own faults.


On 7th July 2015, representatives of the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (OHHDL) invited the International Shugden Community (ISC) to meet and explain what they are accusing His Holiness of lying about. Nicholas Pitts / Kelsang Rabten and two other ISC representatives accepted the meeting and an discussion unfolded. See here what the official website of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has to say about this:

See also

Updated on July 13, 2015 3:13

What is faith or devotion in Buddhism? – Asanga/Abhidharmasammuccaya

Here is a brief introduction approaching to clarify the terms “faith” and “devotion” in Buddhism / Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. To clarify the terms “faith” and “devotion”, a sober definition from Buddhist scriptures is essential as a start for further investigation.

Faith and devotion are synonymous.

Faith / Devotion (skt. shraddha, tib. dad pa)

The essential key point is that faith has as its object an existent phenomenon. Also the faults of an object (like the faults of Samsara or the faults of delusions) can be the object of faith [they can be the objects of the faith of conviction but not the objects of the faith of wishing]; so, it needn’t be only existing qualities which are the objects of faith.

In the definition below given by Asanga in his Abhidharmasammuccaya one must pair the following types of faith with their respective objects:

(1) the mind of the faith of clarity (or inspirational faith) has as its object excellent qualities
(2) the mind of the faith of conviction has as its object existent phenomena
(3) the mind of the faith of wishing has as its object phenomena that have power/potential (one sees the potential and wishes to bring it to full maturation)

The faith of clarity is free of delusions and apprehends its object, which is really existent excellent qualities, therefore very clearly. This type of faith leads usually to a strong emotion; one is touched by what one has as the object of faith (e.g. the qualities of compassion, the qualities of concentration or the qualities of a person) and bodily responses can manifest like getting goose bumps, tears fill the eyes, the body hairs stand on end. That’s why it is also called “faith of inspiration”.

Here the explanation by Yeshe Gyaltsen from his Lorig Commentary (translated from the Tibetan by Toh Sze Gee)

[C1] Faith (dad pa)
Regarding the entity of faith, the Compendium of Knowledge [Asanga’s Abhidharmasammuccaya] says:

QUESTION: What is faith?
RESPONSE: It is a conviction, clarity, and wishing with respect to an existent that is endowed with excellent qualities and power. It has the function of acting as a support for aspiration.

Just as it has been said above, faith is a knower that has the aspect of conviction, clarity, or wishing, and it serves as the direct antidote for non-faith. When divided, faith is of three types:

1. clarifying faith,
2. faith of conviction and
3. wishing faith.

Clarifying faith is a clear mind engendered by seeing the excellent qualities of those so endowed, such as the Three Jewels. Why is it called “clarifying”? For example, when one places a water-purifying gem in dirty water, the murkiness of the water is immediately cleared away. Similarly, when this faith is generated, the murkiness of the mind is cleared away, whereupon all excellent qualities of realization become suitable to arise in one’s continuum.

Faith of conviction is the gaining of conviction through contemplating the modes of dependent-arising, cause and result, and so forth that are taught by the Conqueror.

Wishing faith, is, for instance, having contemplated the modes of the four noble truths, ascertained true sufferings and true origins as objects of abandonment, and true cessations and true paths as objects of attainment, and having understood that these can be attained if one makes the proper effort, the faith thinking, “I shall definitely obtain them.”

Here I have merely identified some illustrations of the three types of faith; it is not that all [instances] have been exhausted here. Nowadays, in our world, liking and faith are spoken of as if they are the same; liking beer is said to be “faith in beer,” but liking and faith are nevertheless not the same. Faith is by entity a virtuous mental factor, whereas liking has both virtuous and non-virtuous factors. If this is explained in detail, there are the four possibilities:

1. that which is liking but not faith
2. that which is faith but not liking
3. that which is both
4. that which is neither

The first, that which is liking but not faith is, for example, liking one’s son, one’s wife and so forth, and liking sources of misdeeds, such as drinking alcohol and eating meals after noon [when ordained].

The second, that which is faith but not liking is, for example, fear from one’s depths and faith of conviction regarding the drawbacks of the sufferings of cyclic existence.

That which is both faith and liking is, for example, faith from one’s depths and liking due to contemplating the excellent qualities of the spiritual guide and the benefits of wholesome actions and their results.

That which is neither faith nor liking is anger, suffering, and so forth.

QUALM: Well then, are liking and respect the same or are they different?
RESPONSE: Again, in the world we speak of them as if they are the same, but in fact they are not. Liking a spiritual friend is faith, but respect for him involves contemplating his kindness, knowing shame, and valuing him highly. Hence, when [liking and respect] arise in the continuum, they are separate mental factors.

If, in accordance with how they appear in the great treatises, you analyze these modes in detail with the wisdom of individual investigation, examining the way in which they are generated in the continuum by turning your mind inwards, then you will get to know them; you cannot know them merely through words. With these meanings in mind, the Foremost Omniscient [Tsong-kha-pa] repeatedly advises that, in order to perform wholehearted practice, you must rely upon a skilful spiritual friend and acquire much hearing on the meaning of the scriptures. However, nowadays, when these great textual systems are explained to foolish beings who are deprived of the gem of intelligence and are inferior in merit, they become frightened, terrified and flee faraway, as though a poisonous snake had sensed the odor of musk, or a little child had caught sight of a whirlpool.

Those who view the exalted speech of the great scholars and adepts from the Land of Superiors [i.e., India] as pith instructions seem like stars during daytime.
Here, the function of faith is specified as “acting as a support for aspiration,” because, as explained above, the cause of all excellent qualities is effort; in order to generate effort, one needs the aspiration that seeks; in order to generate aspiration, one needs to see the excellent qualities as well as possess the faith of conviction. For this reason, faith is praised more than once as the foundation of all virtuous qualities in the scriptures and their commentaries. In this vein, the Formulae of the Three Jewels’ Blaze (Ratnolka-dharani) also says:

“Faith is the forerunner, and, like a mother, is the procreator.
It guards and increases all excellent qualities.
It dispels doubts and frees you from the four great rivers[1],
Faith signifies the city of happiness and goodness.

Faith is without murkiness and clarifies the mind.
It abandons pride and is the root of respect.
Faith is a jewel, a treasure,
And the best of feet.
Like hands, it is the root of gathering virtue.”

Also the Ten Teachings Sutra (Dasa-dharmaka-sutra) says:

“Faith is the best of vehicles
Through which you will be guided and definitely emerge.
Therefore, intelligent people
Rely on following faith.

Wholesome qualities do not grow
In people who have no faith,
Just as green sprouts [do not grow]
From seeds scorched by fire.”

Thus, all wholesome qualities are companions of faith. [Shantideva’s] Compendium of Trainings (Siksasamuccaya), stating, “having made firm the root of faith,” also teaches that faith is the root of all paths. Even the Great Being, the Protector Nagarjuna, emphatically taught that faith is the foundation of all paths. With these meanings in mind, the Foremost Omniscient [Tsong-kha-pa] made the statement “Training in faith, the root” one of the outlines in his Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path, and stated that “the root of all happiness and goodness is the faith of conviction.”

[1] From the causal point of view, the four rivers are: (1) ignorance, (2) views, (3) existence, and (4) craving.
From the resultant point of view, they are: (1) birth, (2) aging, (3) sickness, and (4) death.

The key thing is to understand that faith in Buddhism doesn’t mean to project qualities onto animate or inanimate objects they don’t possess, and that faith includes to see the really existing faults of an animate or inanimate object, like the faults of Samsara.

Haribhadra (ca. 700–770) discriminates additionally between faith based on reasoning and faith not based on reasoning. The former is stable and the attribute of beings with sharp intellectual faculties and the latter is not stable and it is the attribute of beings with dull intellectual faculties. The Abhisamayalamkara and its commentaries explain that both types of person, sharp faculty Bodhisattvas and dull faculty Bodhisattvas, will reach their destiny.

This topic is quite complex and it has many consequences for Buddhist practice, spirituality and our society in general. A sober understanding and a careful thorough analysis of it, using different texts and angles, is therefore crucial.

To give some hints for further investigation & analysis:

  1. The meaning of faith includes to be able to see the really existing qualities in others, like to see the generosity of a child, the patience of person or the affection, compassion or care of an animal.
  2. Faith is the basis for striving and striving is the basis for joyous perseverance; from joyous perseverance comes the fulfillment of one’s wishes (Nagarjuna). If you suffer from the three types of laziness the right response is not to push and force yourself but to go back to cultivate faith in the qualities you are striving for, the more you are touched and moved by the qualities of the object you are striving for, the more you strive for it and the more joyous perseverance naturally will unfold to attain it.
  3. In western society we have lost somewhat to stress and to see real human values, like compassion, self-restrained, patience, generosity, contentment, respect, gratitude, a sense of caring for others etc. With this lack of focus on qualities and an overly emphasis on seeing and discussing the faults of others our western society tends towards to not see qualities therefore basis human qualities cannot be cultivated and will degenerate. That’s why, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s emphasis on secular ethics and science is a real gift to the western world with far reaching consequences for generations to come.
  4. Self-confidence arises naturally when one sees one’s own qualities and faults realistically as they are. This needs introspection and honesty. That’s why the Dalai Lama stresses correctly that self-confidence comes from honesty: “If you conduct your life on the basis of truth and honesty, it gives you a sense of satisfaction and self-confidence.” Compassion itself gives us also self-confidence because it makes more open and strong; strong enough to admit our faults. Again the Dalai Lama: “Kindness and compassion give rise to self-confidence, which in turn empowers us to be honest, truthful and transparent.”

In 2014 I had the honour to be part of the opening discussion about »Cultures of Faith« at the International Festival of Literature in Berlin. The Danish writer Janne Teller spoke about ethics, power and confidence in the context of writing and the South African Bishop Dr. Ndanganeni P. Phaswana spoke about reconciliation and the ubuntu philosophy, which forms the basis for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission held in South Africa. It was a very inspiring fruitful intercultural discussion about these topics.

It’s really worth to dig deeply into these topics and not to be satisfied with a mere superficial understanding of the terms faith, trust, belief or confidence. As the Dalai Lama put it: We need to be 21st century Buddhists.

See also

Secarianism within Buddhism

The Anti-Dalai Lama Protests: Separating Fact From Fiction

by Linda Ciardiello

For about the last 18 months the Dalai Lama has been under sustained public attack from a group of mostly white westerners calling themselves the International Shugden Community (ISC), for alleged human rights abuses, supression of religious freedom and for causing a schism in the Tibetan Buddhist community.

The executive leadership of the ISC consists entirely of senior members and teachers of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), such as Nicholas Pitts, aka Kelsang Rabten, the National Spiritual Director of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT-IKBU) for New Zealand and Australia, residing currently in Hong Kong, who recently wrote a piece for the Lanchester Review.

His article was rife with accusations and insults against the Dalai Lama and against anyone who disagrees with the ISC’s critical stance towards him, such as The Guardian, Geshe Tashi and the International Campaign for Tibet – that they are all vitriolic, ill-informed or liars. Not only is the leadership of ISC made up entirely of NKT members, but likewise are the vast majority of its rank and file members. Given these facts about the leadership and membership of the ISC, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the ISC is effectively just the latest in a string of political front groups for the NKT, who have been openly targeting the Dalai Lama for attack since 1996.

The NKT/ISC protest close to the Guardian building in London. Only when The Guardian came under pressure themselves by protesters they started to seek advice by an academic expert. Here is the response to the NKT/ISC Guardian Campaign.

NKT/ISC protest close to the Guardian building in London on Jun2 27, 2015. Only when The Guardian came under pressure themselves by the protesters The Guardian started to seek advice by an academic expert. Here is their response to the NKT/ISC Guardian Campaign.

NKT members, both lay and ordained, are seen protesting at the highest volume they can muster, complete with dozens of drums and megaphones, displaying to the world a disrespect bordering on contempt towards the millions of Tibetans and others who revere the Dalai Lama as a great Buddhist teacher. To blur the image of only westerners’ engagement, the NKT brings in few Tibetans they gather from different places to place them in the front row.

At his recent talk in Aldershot Football Stadium, to which people flocked in their thousands, many ordinary and sincere Buddhists – westerners, Nepalis and Tibetans – were prevented from being able to hear and listen to the Dalai Lama speak, due to the huge cacophonous volume of the NKT protesters just outside the stadium gates.

The Dalai Lama and most of the attendees kept calm in the face of this provocation, but sadly a few lost their tempers afterwards with the protesters. Their angry reactions were caught on video and gleefully posted online by the ISC, in a manner reminiscent of psychopathic bullies who torment their victims and then gloat triumphantly at their visible pain.

So who are the NKT? Is there any truth in their allegations against the Dalai Lama? Or, as many of their critics claim, are these allegations more a case of projection of the faults of their own organisation and their own teacher, Kelsang Gyatso, onto the Dalai Lama?

So let’s start with the allegation that the Dalai Lama has created a schism in the Tibetan Buddhist community and restricts religious freedom. Actually, the New Kadampa Tradition itself formed after its founder created a schism in the fledgling FPMT Tibetan Buddhist community in the UK, to start his own “tradition” of Buddhism, which many critics and former members describe as a cult.

On the advice of the Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyatso was invited to teach at the FPMT’s Manjushri Centre in the 1970s, only to promptly repay this kindness by wresting control of the centre for himself and his own purposes, allegedly using shady means to achieve this (see the Good Night Lama transcript).

Having usurped control of Manjushri Centre he then set about restricting the religious freedom of its residents by banning the display of any photos of the Dalai Lama there and ordering the removal of all books from the centre’s library, other than his own.

Since its inception in 1991, all NKT bookshops stock books by one author only – Kelsang Gyatso. Anyone bringing other books into NKT centres are usually scolded and warned about the danger of polluting the “pure dharma” of Kelsang Gyatso. Any resident of Manjushri Centre who was not prepared to accept Kelsang Gyatso as their one and only teacher, to the exclusion of all other Buddhist teachers, was asked to leave. See the BBC’s documentary “An Unholy Row” for more details on this.

Nowadays, if an NKT centre resident studying on one of their programmes lets slip that they are also attending teachings from other Buddhist lamas, this will usually result in summary eviction from the centre. So if you value “religious freedom” joining the NKT is not recommended and the NKT’s charge that the Dalai Lama is a dictator who destroys religious freedom seems highly ironic, to say the least.

Now let’s examine some of Pitts allegations in his article.

He claims that the Dalai Lama “uses (his) position as a veil to conceal his true actions and intentions, exploiting his celebrity status to further his own personal and political ambitions.“

The problem with this claim has been pointed out by Gavin Kilty in his Open Letter to the New Kadampa Tradition already: “If he wanted power, why would he have voluntarily given up the title of political leader? Moreover, restricting the practice of this protector (Shugden) in no way accrues any more power to him.”

Because Pitts lacks a deep understanding of Tibetan history and Shugden history, not knowing or ignoring its sectarian and divisive character within Tibetan society, he has succumbed to sloppy conspiracy theory thinking, reducing the complex history of Shugden worship in Tibetan Buddhism and society to the false premises of simplistic black and white thinking.

What Pitts and the protesters fail to recognise is that the Dalai Lama, as spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, had no choice but to address the Shugden issue because of its divisive character, in the context of Tibetan society, and because of its marriage with sectarianism and Gelug exclusivism, at the cost of the other Tibetan religious schools. There is no academic paper, nor any established academic expert on Tibetan issues, who does not understand the need that the Dalai Lama had to address the Shugden issue.

Their inability to understand or consider the broader context of this issue, demonstrates that Pitts and the protesters cannot put themselves into the shoes of others, but instead view the matter from a narrow, parochial and selfish angle, that clings to its own likes, views and wishes, unable to see the whole picture, including the detrimental effects of Shugden worship for the unity of the Tibetan people.

Jens-Uwe Hartmann, Professor of Indology and Tibetology at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, explains the dilemma of the Dalai Lama by pointing out, that this protective deity carries with it,

a constant potential for conflict, both within the Gelugpas and between the Gelugpas and the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The fact that Shugden is definitely not a protective deity for Tibetan Buddhism in its entirety, but that the followers of other schools reject it, and some even vehemently, is of the utmost importance in understanding the dilemma in which the Dalai Lama finds himself today.

According to Hartmann, the Dalai Lama’s “intentions accordingly can be interpreted as that he considers the balance between the different schools as a supreme good, rather than exclusively favoring his own school in the style of a party politician, and that he is even ready to pay for this a high price of massive conflict within his own school. Only by doing so would he be able to fulfill his stated claim to be the Dalai Lama of all Tibetans”.

Pitts and the protesters ignore these points. For them Shugden worship is seen as being as innocuous as “The Lord’s Prayer”, because Kelsang Gyatso has taught them a white-washed, sanitised version of the practice that sweeps under the carpet the aspects of it which inspire very real fear among many Tibetan Buddhists.

Given their wilful ignorance, in order to explain the Dalai Lama’s rejection of Shugden practice, it seems the NKT Buddhists can barely avoid constructing for themselves a conspiracy theory in which the Dalai Lama has a secret agenda, is an omnipotent and almighty ruler who is slavishly followed by dumb Tibetans, fearing to question him and who are brutally oppressed by this “worst dictator of the 21st century”.

Interestingly, the exiled Tibetans who live all over the world in freedom stream in their thousands to the Dalai Lama’s teachings. The vast majority of Tibetans love this “worst dictator of the 21st century” deeply, and are greatly offended by the actions of the protesters. Yet according to Pitts, probably the Dalai Lama has just manipulated them or maybe Tibetans are just stupid?

As Dr Nathan Hills from London’s SOAS pointed out:

This accusation [of suppressing freedom of religion] makes no sense … the Dalai Lama is not head of any state; he has no military or police at his command; he has no political jurisdiction over which he can exercise suppression. … Some members of the Gelug sect left the authority of the Dalai Lama in order to follow what they see as a purer form of religion. These people may not be very popular … but their human rights have not been violated, nor their freedoms suppressed; even if some people did want to suppress or silence the pro-Shugen side, they simply have no means of doing so.

Dr Nathan Hill is not alone in this assessment either. The protesters and some Shugden activists in India have taken their claims of human rights abuses to organisations like Amnesty International and the High Court of India, but no authority beyond themselves has found any evidence to back their claims of persecution and human rights abuses.

In fact, there exists a thriving minority of Tibetan monks in India who reject the Dalai Lama’s advice on Shugden. Contrary to the protesters oft-repeated claim, none of these monks were made homeless. The ISC circulate a deceptive propaganda video entitled “Exiles in Exile” which, complete with violin music, shows children wandering dusty streets with begging bowls, while the voice-over claims they are homeless due to the Dalai Lama’s “ban”. It turns out that the footage is of young Burmese monks doing traditional alms rounds, not Tibetan monks at all, let alone homeless Shugden monks. For the truth is no Shugden monks have been made homeless. The Shugden-worshipping and non-Shugden worshipping monks took a vote and decided, in effect, to “divorce”. Each group was given their fair share of monastic property and resources and the Shugden monasteries in India are now thriving, well-funded, beautiful places, by all accounts.

Nor have there been any police reports or independent media reports of any of the abuses they claim. On the other hand, there have been several police reports of attacks by Shugden worshippers on Dalai Lama followers and there are still Interpol Red Notices on two Shugden worshippers, wanted for questioning regarding murder crimes.

Amnesty International’s report could even be interpreted as a mild rebuke to the Shugden group, insofar as their campaign deflects media attention away from the very real persecution and abuse of human rights being suffered by Tibetans in Tibet at the hands of the Chinese regime there.

Pitts also alleges that the Dalai Lama has an “elaborate public relations machine, financed by the millions he shamefully earns from Buddha’s teachings”. This is just not true. On the Dalai Lama’s website it states “as a long-standing policy His Holiness the Dalai Lama does not accept any fees for his talks”.

Indeed, his teachings in India are free, with tea and bread generously served to attendees. Proceeds for events overseas are used to cover visit expenses with excess used by the host sponsors either for charitable purposes or to further their own mission. If you want to donate to the Dalai Lama, you will be directed to the Dalai Lama Trust, a charity which supports many causes. For example in 2013 it contributed $50,000 to the Red Cross Philippines typhoon relief effort. In 2012 $1,250,000 was donated to the Mind and Life Institute in Massachussetts, $10,000 to the New York Tibet Fund and $84,350 to the Tibetan Village project in Colorado. On the other hand, the NKT make no charitable donations at all to such causes.¹

For those who wish to be more informed on the issue based on facts, not on propagandist fiction, there are interviews with two established academics about the protests and the Shugden controversy available here:

Our call to the media is this: please be more careful and seek the expertise of the academic disciplines of Tibetology and Buddhist Studies when it comes to reporting on the complex religious, political and social issues of Tibet. There is already too much inaccurate information and confusion out there and it benefits nobody when the media helps spread extreme religious views without challenge.

¹ The White Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Joanne Clark


Linda Ciardiello is a former member of the New Kadampa Tradition. Linda Ciardiello also wrote How ‘Kadampa Buddhists’ (NKT) Use Systematic Fraud to Manipulate Twitter Trend Statistics.

Press coverage with a critical or an enlightening approach (chronological order)

Still worth a read

What is the Link Between the International Shugden Community (ISC) and the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT)?

The zealous, successful and media savvy Anti-Dalai Lama campaigners try to push more and more the misleading claim that the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) is not the power behind the International Shugden Community (ISC) and the international campaign they run via ISC “against the Dalai Lama directly”. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)

The reason why it is needed to hide this fact goes back mainly to the experience of the NKT leadership during their first wave of protests, from 1996 to 1998. During that time the NKT was clearly identified by the press/media as the organizers of the protest campaign and the NKT leadership and their followers didn’t deny it – though they had tried it.

The media response to the 1996-98 protests was so damaging to the NKT that its sole leader, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, publicly withdrew from his political engagement and promised not to engage again. He also apologised “sincerely” to those who were upset about a public letter he wrote. In an interview with his student Yvonne Nilles he said:

After the third demonstration, I strongly requested the members of the Shugden Supporters Community to stop all political activity immediately. Because I understood that HH would not accept, there was no meaning in continuing. I requested the people in Dharma Centers to forget all these politics and concentrate solely on their Dharma practice. In this way our activity lasted from May until July, only three months. This was my first experience of politics in this life. I pray that this will never happen again in the future.

The misleading and dishonest trial to hide behind a front organization during the current campaign and to cover up who is organizing the protests fulfills mainly three aims:

1) too stay free from the contradiction to go against the own former promises and public proclamations once made by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in different open letters to the press and elsewhere,

2) to avoid a similar financial and reputational damage as experienced while and after the 1996-98 campaign, and

3) to pretend to be truthful to not “mixing Dharma with politics” – a feature NKT claims to possess and that forms the very nucleus of the NKT identity and the NKT pride to be “purer” than “degenerated” Tibetan Buddhism.

In the following brief summary – Once and For All: Who’s Organizing the Protests? – Joanne Clark has kindly clarified the illogic nature of the claim that NKT is not behind the Anti Dalai Lama campaign.


If it weren’t so tragic and sad, I would find it funny to watch the Shugden community dance around their claim that the NKT are not the organizers of the protests against the Dalai Lama. Recently, an article in the Guardian stated:

The UK protests are being organised by the New Kadampa Tradition, which emerged in the 1990s and now has nearly 50 centres in the UK promoting Shugden practices.

This has caused something of an uproar within the Shugden community, who claim that while NKT members do participate in the protests, so do members of other Shugden worshipping groups– and that proves that the NKT don’t organize the protests. So what is the truth?

First, as this article discloses clearly, there is no doubt whatsoever that the International Shugden Community (ISC) is an NKT organization. Given that all the leaders of the ISC are NKT teachers and senior members, it is only the name that distinguishes the ISC from being a mere branch of the NKT.

As a friend of mine recently observed:

The point is if the NKT removed themselves from the ISC equation what shape would these demos take: No spokesperson, no organizers, 95% of demonstrators absent, no printed banners, no transport, no food or lodging THEY WOULD SIMPLY NOT HAPPEN

Nonetheless, the NKT still claim that the two organizations are independent of each other– still claim that the NKT keep politics and dharma separate. However, they do struggle with keeping this boundary straight!

For example, in 2014, the SOAS University of London held a conference on the Shugden controversy. Kelsang Rabten (AKA Nicholas Pitts) was one of the speakers. He introduced himself as a representative of the International Shugden Community. And he concluded his talk with a list of demands that the protesters would need the Dalai Lama to address before the protests would stop. So he was clearly identifying himself as an ISC leader, organizer of the protests.

However, on the screen he was identified as “NKT Representative”:

“Good Evening, my name is Rabten. I’m here tonight as one of the representatives of the International Shugden Community, a not-for-profit organization registered in the United States.”– Notice on the screen is written “Kelsang Rabten/ NKT Representative.”

In fact, I came upon a discussion under the YouTube version of this conference in which someone commented on the fact that Rabten was a representative of the NKT. Rabten replied, “I’m not an NKT representative.” Whereupon the other commenter pointed out the label on the screen. Shortly afterwards, the comments were removed!

Indeed, Rabten is a senior teacher in the NKT; he is resident teacher of the NKT HongKong Center. He is also spokesperson for the ISC, appearing in media outlets. So who does he represent? Why is such a fuss made to separate the ISC from the NKT? One of the dances he has made recently in order to separate the two is to change his name to Nicholas Pitts while representing the ISC and back again to Kelsang Rabten while teaching for the NKT! He wears a suit to represent the ISC and robes to represent the NKT. Is that honest?

[The following paragraph and two screenshots are an addition placed June 29, 2015]

In fact, Rabten is not the only one struggling to keep his hats straight. As the following screenshots demonstrate, the Heruka Kadampa Meditation Centre (NKT Centre) and the ISC letterhead shown on one of the protest websites both sport the same address, 13 Woodstock Rd., Golders Green, London, NW11 8ES!

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 8.27.41 AM

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 8.28.46 AM

And here is another demonstration of confusion over this issue within the Shugden community. Here is a screen shot (Taken June 19, 2015) of Kelsang Khyenrab stating that the NKT have “never” organized the protests:

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 3.49.10 PM

Investigation clearly shows that Khyenrab is not telling the truth here. In an interview with the London Daily Telegraph on July 15, 1996, Kelsang Gyatso himself is introduced by the journalist as having “masterminded the protests.” And Kelsang Gyatso is quoted as saying:

There is no point in us [he and the Dalai Lama] meeting. He will reject what I say. He will never agree. Demonstrations are our only outlet.

And in this interview that Kelsang Gyatso gave to Tricycle Magazine, published in Spring of 1998, he makes no effort to hide his and the NKT’s involvement in the protests, but speaks openly about his intentions regarding the protests.

Nonetheless, the habit of subterfuge was evident even in those early days of protest, as evidenced in an article written by The Independent in 1996. In this article, the journalist interviewed two members of a group calling themselves the “Shugden Supporters Community,” Ruth and Ron Lister. According to The Independent, this community were “central figures in an unprecedented attack on the Dalai Lama and [were] among the organisers of demonstrations against him planned for his visit to this country”

What is particularly striking to me in the interview is one passage:

Ron Lister and his wife claimed to not to be members of the NKT, but merely “concerned Buddhists”. However, when I went to use the telephone in the hall, I noticed that the first number on their speed dial was for “Geshe-la”, as the devotees of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso call their guru; later I discovered that Ron and Ruth Lister had edited the first of Geshe Kelsang’s books to be published in English, and Geshe Kelsang himself told me that he had accompanied Ron Lister on his “fact-finding” tour round India to find evidence of the Dalai Lama’s alleged persecutions.

The more one digs into this story, the more everything comes back to the NKT, a sect founded by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in the late 1970s after he gained control of the Buddhist centre at Coniston Priory in Cumbria from a rival Buddhist organization …

Sadly, this sounds so familiar. It appears that the protests and the smear campaign against the Dalai Lama have been shrouded in a lack of transparency from their inception! And it also seems that what is relevant in that 1996 interview is relevant today. One can only wonder how many ISC leaders today might also have direct speed dial lines to Geshe-la– or his equivalent?

However, it was only after the 1996 protests that Kelsang Gyatso decided to officially separate organization of the protests away from official NKT control.  Here is a statement from him to the Washington Times:

… in October 1998 we decided to completely stop being involved in this Shugden issue because we realized that in reality this is a Tibetan political problem and not the problem of Buddhism in general or the NKT. We made our decision public at this time — everyone knows the NKT and myself completely stopped being involved in this Shugden issue at all levels.

Unfortunately, the NKT did NOT stop being involved in “this Shugden issue at all levels.” So there is still confusion and trouble about that statement of Kelsang Gyatso’s. Perhaps in an effort to help mitigate all the confusion, the Western Shugden Society (WSS) was then created when the NKT decided they did, in fact, want to be involved in this Shugden issue again. The WSS became  the official “organizer” of the 2008 round of protests. But that separation as well was not without disturbing ambivalence. In this letter from the Bodhisattva Buddhist Center, dated 6 September, 2008, and signed by resident teacher Kelsang Nyingpo, there seems to be no separation between the NKT and the WSS at all!

Welcome to Bodhisattva Centre

You may be interested to visit the following websites for further information about our Centre, our tradition – the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), the WSS:

Bodhisattva Buddhist Centre Website:

NKT website:

Westem Shugden Society website:

And for information about the NKT and our side of the story!!

And here are some observations of life within the NKT as they prepared for the 2008 demonstrations during the Annual Buddhist Summer Festival of that same year: This is from the New Kadampa Survivor Forum:

I went to the festival or should I say political extremism gone mad. There were posters everywhere you looked, recruiting for the French demo against His Holiness. They were on all doors 2 a time inside and out. In all rooms, hallways. On mobile cooking points, walls and outbuildings. Even on the temple wall. The chapel was used as a meeting point. Even more posters! The walls were covered as were the doors and tables! Mein Gott! K.G. called it a Spiritual holiday to practise dharma. It felt like a BNP political rally. Not National Front. […]

The ordained, although they have not taken ordination vows were sitting round tables watching videos of themselves at the demos! Attachment? Some told me they were prepared to use violence. Hatred? Why? Geshe-la wants us to win at all costs. Confusion? They have truly been poisoned. […] I found the whole thing quite perverse. G.K giving an empowerment of Avalokiteshvara while before and after festival gathering and organising his Stormtroopers to attack the Living Embodiment of Avalokiteshvara? For an individual to use such an important time in peoples lives to suit his own ignorance I found quite disturbing and sad. With His Holiness at least we have hope for the future.

This was confirmed by another observer:

Yes, they are gathering forces for their all expenses paid trip to France. Not with my money, they aint! I’ve seen people going to demos (quite new to Dharma) with a literal string of criminal convictions to call HHDL a hypocrite and a liar. Who are the hypocrites? The NKT does nothing else for wider society: this is their whole raison d’etre to keep DS practise alive. This, folks, is their real ‘hidden’ agenda. Shameful.

And Kelsang N, an NKT nun, stated on her blog:

Of the demonstrations against the Dalai Lama – Not surprisingly, mixed feelings abound, but overall people are feeling very positive about what’s happening. The vast majority of people I talked to had gotten to attend at least one demonstration, and most of them had very positive, meaningful experiences, echoing what my own Sangha buddies had said. But naturally, not everyone is so happy about what’s happening. What I did not hear was anyone who thought that the Dalai Lama’s actions are ethical or in the right. But what I did hear are people who are unsure if this is the correct response, and, disturbingly, I also heard stories of people feeling “pushed” by their local Resident Teacher to participate in the demonstrations. (see HappyNKTer’s webblog – PDF file)

And as stated on that blog entry, this nun

confirmed further at her happynkter webblog that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is the initiator of the protests and views himself as the only remaining representative of Trijang Rinpoche.

Indeed, the confusion about the alleged separation of NKT and WSS continued throughout those 2008 protests. For example, as seen here, Lucy James was allegedly removed from her teaching position by Kelsang Gyatso when she complained about the amount of involvement the NKT had with the protests, concerned that it was mixing politics with dharma. And to truly sum up all the ambivalence and crazy dance that prevails within the NKT there is a letter on that link from Kelsang Gyatso to his students which states:

To stop this evil action, [of the Dalai Lama] 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.

So Kelsang Gyatso was representative of the WSS? Perhaps he’s now representative of the ISC? In fact, a recent Facebook conversation on a public group (see PDF) reveals that Kelsang Gyatso – and the NKT! – are still very much the driving force behind the demonstrations. The conversation began with a post by NKT student, Simon Drye, in which he asks people to address some of his concerns about the protests. It is beyond my scope here to talk about Simon’s concerns (which are good ones!), but some of the responses to his concerns are very illuminating:

Will Smith: I don’t know about all of that. It’s very simple in my mind. I just try to do what my Root Guru, Venerable Geshe Kelsang, asks of me, such as to demonstrate, and have faith that he knows because he is Buddha. For the rest of it we pray for the best out …

So according to Will, Kelsang Gyatso is still behind the protests?! And here’s another, from Kelsang Pagpa:

Kelsang Pagpa: There’s no question in Venerable Geshe-la’s mind that without the protests, Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition will be destroyed by the false Dalai Lama. That’s good enough for me and trumps any other considerations.

So according to Pagpa as well, senior teacher in the NKT, Geshe-la is behind the mandate to NKT to protest! And here’s another comment from Pagpa in full recruitment mode:

Kelsang Pagpa: My question to everyone who is resisting being involved in the protests is: if no one protests the Dalai Lama and he succeeds in destroying our tradition (he’s trying very hard to do so), how will you feel about having done nothing? …

And another statement from Pagpa, indicating that Geshe-la is the orchestrator of the protests:

Kelsang Pagpa It doesn’t matter what we think – it’s what Geshe-la sees that counts. I trust his judgement, everything else is secondary. What do I know?

But most important of all, coming from a senior teacher of the NKT is this instruction that practice is not enough – we have to protest as well! We have to mix politics and dharma.

Kelsang Pagpa: I think it’s a big misconception to think that all we have to do is keep our head down and keep practising and everything will be a-okay. Don’t you think that if that was the case the protests wouldn’t be necessary?

And finally this  statement, this time by Evelyn, describing “special classes” on the protests given by the ISC spokesperson himself, Kelsang Rabten [Nicholas Pitts], in the NKT Hong Kong center:

Evelyn Tang: Janice Njoo Kelsang Pagpa in hong Kong we did have two special classes arranged before the protest. One is by Kelsang Rabten and one is hy Kelsang Tonglam. I guess you may request if you think your centre need one like this to dispel confusion.

It seems that the ISC and the WSS are just figureheads, just ways to fool the public into believing that the NKT aren’t centrally involved in the protests. The ISC/WSS are something like telephone booths fitted with superman suits. NKT leaders, teachers and devoted followers hop into the booths and put on their ISC/WSS suits and then they shout “False Dalai Lama, stop lying” and go and speak to the press. Then they write outraged letters to the Guardian about any suggestion that the NKT might be organizing the protests.

And this is the dance of subterfuge. This is all simply so that the NKT can tell their members, the public and other organizations that they are true to their mission of being non-political, of not mixing Dharma and politics – and have no role in organizing the demonstrations.

I call this dishonest. I call the outcry now occurring in response to the Guardian news article dishonest. It’s time to simply come clear.

Last updated on June 23, 2015



kelsang pagpa protests dalai lamaOn July 1, 2015, Kelsang Pagpa, former director of Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Center, hinted who is in charge for the protests: “Your Resident Teacher or your centre is the best place to make enquires about the protests.”

See also

Statement of Buddhist Organisations in the UK on the Protests against His Holiness the Dalai Lama by the International Shugden Community/ New Kadampa Tradition

London Wednesday 17th June 2015

We the undersigned UK Buddhist Organisations formally dissociate ourselves from the protests against His Holiness the Dalai Lama which are being staged by the International Shugden Community/New Kadampa Tradition.

We remain convinced that differences of opinion among Buddhists should be expressed in a peaceful, respectful, truthful and reasonable manner. We are very concerned about the protestors’ aggressive, misleading and unethical behaviour and the false image being presented to the public.

The UK Buddhist Organisations signed up to this statement express their respect and support for His Holiness’ stance on promoting wider religious harmony between the religious traditions and on promoting mutual respect and admiration between the Buddhist traditions. The UK Tibetan Buddhist Organisations signed up to this statement further express their complete confidence in His Holiness the Dalai Lama and in his advice on the divisive and dangerous nature of the worship of Dholgyal/ Shugden.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is committed to promoting religious harmony and understanding among the world’s major religious traditions, and mutual respect and admiration across the Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Given this position His Holiness has taken a strong stance when it comes to sectarian intolerance.

The Dholgyal/ Shugden controversy

The propitiation and worship of Shugden has a long history of sectarian disharmony between the Geluk (1) and the other Tibetan traditions. Given this history, and at this crucial time for the future of Tibetan Buddhism when the need is for greater harmony and co-operation, His Holiness has advised of the negative influences of this sectarian and divisive practice, and has asked his students not to propitiate or worship this entity. Whether or not his advice is heeded, His Holiness has made clear, is a matter for the individual to decide (2). Contrary to the protesters’ claims, His Holiness has not banned this practice. He has neither the power nor the authority to do so. Neither Amnesty International (1998) nor the Supreme Court in Delhi (2010) was able to ascertain a violation of human rights when checking on claims that Shugden devotees have been subject to systematic discrimination and infringement of their human rights within the exile Community.

Who are the International Shugden Community/ New Kadampa Tradition?

Since early 2014 a highly sectarian group calling itself the International Shugden Community (ISC) has been staging aggressive protests during His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visits to America, Australia and Europe. The ISC is the latest in a series of front organisations set up by members connected to the Ulverston, Cumbria based UK religious charity known as the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), itself under the guidance of Kelsang Gyatso (3). This highly materially successful group claiming 1,200 groups worldwide has a long history of antagonism to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and rejects his authority.

The NKT is composed in the main of non-Tibetans who have little or no ability to speak or read Tibetan language and therefore little or no access to Tibetan Buddhist culture except through the writings of their supreme leader Kelsang Gyatso.

Though following an ethnic Tibetan teacher and utilising Tibetan Buddhist methods the NKT does not count itself as a Tibetan Buddhist Organisation, which leads one to wonder why they do not simply ignore the Dalai Lama, in the same way that protestant Christians generally ignore what His Holiness the Pope says.

What is the aim of the ISC/ NKT?

The aim of the International Shugden Community/ New Kadampa Tradition is to destroy the religious and moral authority of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This also suits the Chinese Communist Party very well, a fact noted as far back as 1996 in Madeleine Bunting’s article of 6 July 1996 entitled “Shadow Boxing on the Path to Nirvana” (4).

Notes for Editors

(1) There are four main traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, the oldest the Nyingma (8th century), then the two newer ones the Sakya and Kagyu (11th/ 12th centuries), with the most recent the Geluk (14th/ 15th centuries). There is an even more ancient tradition, that of Bon, and a number of surviving smaller schools.
(2) The Dalai Lama’s advice on Dholgyal/ Shugden can be found on his official website
(3) More information on the history of these front organisations (International Shugden Community 2014 – 2015, Western Shugden Society 2008 – 2014, Shugden Supporters Committee) and of the New Kadampa Tradition itself and its Supreme Leader Kelsang Gyatso can be found on Tibetan Buddhism in the West
(4) Shadow Boxing on the Path to Nirvana by Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian London 6 July 1996 “The SSC’s [Shugden Supporters Committee] campaign against the Dalai Lama is a dream scenario for the Chinese Government. In 1993, they decided their best tactic for Tibet, this most troublesome province of the People’s Republic, was to divide the Tibetans among
themselves. Eighteen months ago, Chinese documents began to appear undermining the Dalai Lama as a religious authority, indicating a shift of strategy. The SSC insist in their press releases that they have no connection with the Chinese. But are they inadvertently doing the Chinese’s work for them?”

Signatory Buddhist Organisations
The Awakened Heart Sangha
The Buddhist Society
Lelung Dharma Centre
Lam Rim Wales
Lam Rim (Wilts and Glos)
Bodhicarya (West Sussex)
Bodhicarya (Somerset)
Samye Dzong
Cham Tse Ling Preston
FPMT UK (Jamyang Leeds, Thogme Zangpo Findhorn, Yeshe Buddhist Group Cumbria,
Jamyang Leeds, Jamyang Liverpool, Saraswati Buddhist Group, Jamyang Bath, Jamyang
Mindrol-ling Coventry, Jamyang Salisbury, Jamyang London)



Nicholas Pitts / Kelsang Rabten

LEFT: Nicholas Pitts / Kelsang Rabten, “a pure disciple who has trained under the guidance of Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso for over 20 years.”

See also

The Guardian / The Independent

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