Dorje Shugden controversy

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The Dorje Shugden controversy is a conflict within Tibetan Buddhism over the primacy of the Gelupgpa school, centering on the worship and status of the deity Dorje Shugden.[1][web 1] The controversy has its origins in the 1930's, when Pabongkha started to promote Shugden as a major protector who replaces the traditional Gelug protectors. Dorje Shugden was also a key element in Pabongkha's persecution of the Rimé movement.

Dorje Shugden is believed to protect the Gelugpa school, by harming any Gelupga practitioner who blends his practice with non-Gelugpa practices.[2] This belief is at odds with the role of the Dalai Lama, who although the head of the Gelugpa, respects all Tibetan Buddhist schools, and also teaches practices from these other schools.[3] In 1978 the Dalai Lama started to speak out against the practice of Dorje Shugden.[4] Since the 1990's the New Kadampa Tradition, a mostly British or European organization, has been trying to advocate Kelsang Gyatso's theological views of Dorje Shugden, and protested worldwide against the Dalai Lama's stance.


Dorje Shugden[edit]

Dorje Shugden, also known as Dolgyal, was a "gyalpo" "angry and vengeful spirit" of South Tibet, which was subsequently adopted as a "minor protector" of the Gelug school, the newest of the schools of Tibetan Buddhism,[5] headed by the Dalai Lamas (although nominally the Ganden Tripas).[web 2][web 3]

1930s-1940s Pabongkha[edit]

Promotion of Dorje Shugden[edit]

Dreyfus says "Shuk-den was nothing but a minor Ge-luk protector before the 1930s when Pa-bong-ka started to promote him aggressively as the main Ge-luk protector."[web 3] Dreyfus states "the propitiation of Shukden as a Geluk protector is not an ancestral tradition, but a relatively recent invention of tradition associated with the revival movement within the Geluk spearheaded by Pabongkha."[note 1] Pabongka transformed Dorje Shugden's "marginal practice into a central element of the Ge-luk tradition," thus "replacing the traditional supra-mundane protectors of the Ge-luk tradition",[web 2] namely Pehar, Nechung, Palden Lhamo, Mahakala, Vaisravana and Kalarupa, who was appointed by Tsongkhapa.[note 2][note 3] This change is reflected in artwork, since there is "lack of Dorje Shugden art in the Gelug school prior to the end of the 19th century."[8]

Pabongka fashioned Shugden as a violent protector of the Gelug school, who is employed against other traditions.[note 4][note 5]

Persecution of the Rimé movement[edit]

Phabongkha persecuted the flourishing Rimé movement, an oecumenical movement which compiled together the teachings of the Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma,[10] in response to the dominance of the Gelugpa school. Non-Gelug, and especially Nyingma, monasteries were forced to convert to the Gelug position.[9]}}

Phabongkha feared a decline of gelugpa monasteries, and induced a revival movement, which promoted the Gelugpa as the only pure tradition. He regarded the practice of non-Gelugpa teachings by Gelugpa monks as a threat to the Gepugpa-tradition, and opposed the influence of the other schools, especially the Nyingma.[4] Dorje Shugden was a key element in Phabongkha's persecution of the Rimé movement. He coupled Dorje Shugden to Gelug exclusivism, using it against other traditions, and against Gelugpa's with eclectic tendencies.[9]}} The main function of the deity was presented as "the protection of the Ge-luk tradition through violent means, even including the killing of its enemies."[4]

Response by the 13th Dalai Lama[edit]

Restrictions on the practice of Shugden were implemented by the 13th Dalai Lama.[web 3] Pabongka apologized and promised not to practice Shuk-den any more.[web 2][note 6]

1970s - The Yellow Book[edit]

Publication of the Yellow Book[edit]

The controversy surfaced within the Gelug school during the 1970s.[12][13][3] In 1973, Zemey Rinpoche published the Yellow Book, which included cautionary tales passed down by Pabongkha Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche of 23 members of the Gelugpa sect who also practiced Nyingma teachings and were supposedly "killed" by Shugden.[3][14] [note 7][14] The Yellow Book (so called because of the color of its cover) was actually entitled Thunder of the Stirring Black Cloud: The Oral Transmission of the Intelligent Father. It was written by Dzeme Tulku Lobsang Palden (1927–1996) of Ganden Shartse College and published in 1974 by Chophel Legden in Delhi. This book claims to be a record of stories told to the Dzeme Rinpoche by his guru, Trijang Rinpoche, about how Dorje Shugden punished various Geluk and Nyingma lamas and others who "corrupted the pure Geluk teachings," mainly by studying Nyingma teachings. According to Mumford, Dorje Shugden is "extremely popular, but held in awe and feared among Tibetans because he is highly punitive."[15]

Response by the 14th Dalai Lama[edit]

The Yellow Book prompted the 14th Dalai Lama to more carefully research the nature of Dorje Shugden, and conclude that this was not an enlightened deity, but a dangerous mundane spirit. In response, he dramatically refused to accept long life offerings from the Tibetan government in exile following the 1976 Tibetan New Year, and hinted at his possible departure from earthly existence and the cycle of reincarnation. He responded with a denouncement of Dorjé Shukden: {{quote|In 1976, the Dalai Lama publicly denounced the Tibetan Buddhist deity, Dorjé Shukden, urging his followers to discontinue their worship of him." reports McCune.[16][note 8]

Later that year he finally accepted the offerings, indicating his willingness to continue as Dalai Lama, but in 1977 he began speaking out against the use of the deity as an institutional protector and laying restrictions on public performances of the practice.[web 3][3] He stated that the Shugden practice is in conflict with the state protector Pehar and with the main protective goddess of the Gelug tradition and the Tibetan people, Palden Lhamo.[12] He also stated that the practice encourages sectarian rivalry between Tibetan Buddhist schools.[web 4]

According to Georges Dreyfus, the Dalai Lama felt that his own accommodations towards non-Gelugpa sects would make him a target of Shugden's hostility.[web 3] The Dalai Lama states that he has not forbidden the Shugden practice but only advised against it, and that individuals should decide for themselves if they want to practice it privately; however, he does not wish practitioners to attend his formal religious teachings.[web 4]

The 14th Dalai Lama himself said in 2008, that he never used the word "ban", and "restricting a form of practice that restricts others’ religious freedom is actually a protection of religious freedom. So in other words, negation of a negation is an affirmation."[web 5]

The 14th Dalai Lama started to encourage the devotion to Padmasambhava "to protect Tibetans from danger".[18]


Initiations by the 14th Dalai Lama[edit]

With the urging of the other schools who have long been opposed to Shugden,[note 9] and his senior Gelug tutor who always doubted the practice,[note 10] the 14th Dalai Lama asked the increasing number of western Shugden practitioners who were newly being proselytized primarily in Britain to refrain from attending his teachings.[note 11][note 12]

Response by the New Kadampa Tradition[edit]

Thurman notes that members of the New Kadampa Tradition, a global Buddhist organization founded by Kelsang Gyatso in England in 1991, responded by trying force their supposed mentor to adopt their perspective that the demonic spirit is an enlightened being, almost more important than the Buddha himself, and perhaps also rejoin their worship of it, or at least give them all his initiatory teachings in spite of their defiance of his best advice.[20][note 13]

In India, some protests and opposition were organised by the Dorje Shugden Religious and Charitable Society with the support of the SSC.[web 6][better source needed]

In, 1996 the SSC attempted to obtain a statement from Amnesty International (AI) that the TGIE (specifically the 14th Dalai Lama) had violated human rights. However, the AI replied that the SSC's allegations were as yet unsubstantiated.[21] Two years later, the AI stated in an official press release that complaints by Shugden practitioners fell outside its purview of "grave violations of fundamental human rights" (such as torture, the death penalty, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention or imprisonment, or unfair trials), adding that "while recognizing that a spiritual debate can be contentious, [we] cannot become involved in debate on spiritual issues."[web 7] In itself, the nuanced statement neither asserted nor denied the validity of the claims made against the TGIE, just that they were not actionable according to AI's mandate.[22][web 8]

Murder of Lobsang Gyatso[edit]

On February 4, 1997, the principal of the Buddhist School of Dialectics, Geshe Lobsang Gyatso was murdered in Dharmasala, along with two of his students.[23] The murders were linked to the Dorje Shugden faction. Kay notes "The subsequent investigation by the Indian police linked the murders to the Dorje Shugden faction of the exiled Tibetan community."[24]

In a small 1978 pamphlet Lobsang Gyatso alluded to a "knotless heretic teacher," which people took as referring to Trijang Rinpoche and his advocacy of Shugden.[25] According to Lobsang Gyatso's biographer, Gareth Sparham, many Geshes and Lamas were outraged about his criticism:

How could a nobody like Lobsang Gyatso, who was neither from an aristocratic family nor the head of a Tibetan region, indeed not even a full graduate of a religious university, dare to criticize in print an important establishment figure? Georges Dreyfus at the time remarked that in pre-1959 Gen-la would have been killed outright for his temerity. Many in the Tibetan community ostracized Gen-la, even though the Dalai Lama had already by that time begun speaking publicly against the Shugden cult. Even the Dalai Lama appeared to distance himself from Gen-la. "He is headstrong and his lack of sensitivity is making trouble," seemed to be his attitude towards Gen-la at the time.[26]>

Georges Dreyfus added that

Despite being hurt by the polemical attack, Tri-jang Rin-po-che made it clear that violence was out of the question. Gradually, tempers cooled down and the incident was forgotten—or so it seemed.[27]

In June 2007, the Times stated that Interpol had issued a Red notice to China for extraditing two of the alleged killers, Lobsang Chodak and Tenzin Chozin.[web 9] Robert Thurman adds that the alleged killers had their origin within China as well.[20] The Seattle Times reported that:

The two men suspected of stabbing their victims are believed to have fled India. Five others, all linked to the Dorje Shugden Society in New Delhi, were questioned for months about a possible conspiracy. No one has been charged.[web 10]

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso denied the involvement of any of his followers in the murder, and condemned the killings.[web 11]

Attempted murder[edit]

Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche revealed an attempt to frame the Tibetan government in exile with murder:

In my own labrang, I have recently witnessed a kind of factionalism, and I have discovered that one person in particular was planning an evil conspiracy. This plan was to murder my assistant, Tharchin, and to implicate His Holiness’s government-in-exile with this odious crime [...] If he had succeeded in his plan, it would have been a cause of great trouble for the labrang, as well as a cause of disgrace to the Tibetan government and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.[28]

Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche declaration disturbed the image of a peacefull community, and the polemics against the Dalai Lama diminshed for a long while.[28]

Court case concludes[edit]

On 5 April 2010, Justice S. Muralidhar dismissed the writ petition filed by the Dorje Shugden Devotees’ Charitable and Religious Society and Kundeling Lama against the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and the Dalai Lama. According to the Central Tibetan Administration,

In response to the allegations of harassment and maltreatment filed by the Dorjee Shugden Devotees’ Charitable and Religious Society against the Central Tibetan Administration and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the High Court of Delhi dismissed their writ petition and application.

In an order dated April 5, 2010, Justice S. Muralidhar dismissed the writ petition and application on the grounds that the allegations of violence and harassment were ‘vague averments’ and that the raised issues ‘do not partake of any public law character and therefore are not justiciable in proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution.’

Citing the ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’ on Dorjee Shugden practitioners, the Court noted the counter affidavit submitted by the respondents, referring to ‘an understanding reached whereby it was left to the monks to decide whether they would want to be associated with the practices of Dorjee Shugden.’

Closing the doors on the possibility of similar complaints in the future, Justice Muralidhar concluded that the ‘matters of religion and the differences among groups concerning propitiation of religion, cannot be adjudicated upon by a High Court in exercise of its writ jurisdiction.’[web 12]

Ongoing protests[edit]

Hundreds of western Shugden practitioners have staged numerous demonstrations against the Dalai Lama, most recently in 2014 in San Francisco, Berkeley, Washington DC, Oslo, Rotterdam and Frankfurt. [web 13] [web 14] [web 15] [web 16] [web 17]


Views of the majority of Tibetan Buddhists[edit]

John Makransky about the cross-cultural confusion in the Dorje Shugden issue:

The current Dalai Lama, seeking to combat the ancient, virulent sectarianisms operative in such quarters, has strongly discouraged the worship of the “protector” deity known as Dorje Shugden, because one of its functions has been to force conformity to the dGe lugs pa sect (with which the Dalai Lama himself is most closely associated) and to assert power over competing sects.[29]

The abbot of Drepung monastery and the 13th Dalai Lama were opposed to Phabongka's propititation of Shugden, resulting in an apology from Phabongka.[web 2][web 3][note 14] Ling Rinpoche, who was the Ganden Tripa and senior Gelug tutor to the 14th Dalai Lama, was opposed to Shugden as he hailed from Drepung monastery.[note 10][note 12]

Dreyfus state that the 14th Dalai Lama favors the traditional Gelugpa traditions and protectors rather than Shugden:

[I]n this dispute the Dalai Lama’s position does not stem from his Buddhist modernism and from a desire to develop a modern nationalism, but from his commitment to another protector, Nechung, who is said to resent Shukden....his opposition to Shukden is motivated by his return to a more traditional stance in which this deity is seen as incompatible with the vision of the tradition (the “clan”) represented by the Fifth Dalai Lama.[web 18]

Kapstein notes the 14th Dalai Lama is "focused upon the role of Shugden as a militantly sectarian protector of the Gelukpa order, and the harm that has been done to Tibetan sectarian relations by the cult's more vociferous proponents."[30]

Views of Shugden practitioners[edit]

Pabongka Rinpoche[edit]

According to Dreyfus, Pabongka Rinpoche refers to Shugden as Dol-gyel and provides a translation:

"The wooden implements (i.e., crate) having been thrown in the water, the pond of Dol became whitish. After abiding there, he became known for a while as (Dol-gyel)."[web 2]

In Phabongkhapa's text, Shugden is to be controlled by Vajrabhairava. As von Brück explains:

The yidam and Shugden are kept apart, and the dharmapāla is to be controlled. The master transfers the power to control Shugden to the disciple, and this is common practice.[31]

Von Brück provides a translation of Phabongkhapa's text which states:

....the disciples visualize themselves as the yidam Vajrabhairava and as such invoke and control Shugden. The dharmapāla Shugden is presented to the disciples as the one who abides by their commands.[31]

Kelsang Gyatso[edit]

According to David Kay Kelsang Gyatso departs from Phabongkha and Trijang Rinpoche by stating that Dorje Shugden's appearance is enlightened, rather than worldly.[32] According to Kay,

Geshe Kelsang takes the elevation of Dorje Shugden’s ontological status another step further, emphasising that the deity is enlightened in both essence and appearance.[32]

Kay quotes Kelsang Gyatso's novel interpretation of Shugden's appearance:

"Some people believe that Dorje Shugdan is an emanation of Manjushri who shows the aspect of a worldly being, but this is incorrect. Even Dorje Shugdan’s form reveals the complete stages of the path of Sutra and Tantra, and such qualities are not possessed by the forms of worldly beings."[32]

According to Kay, Kelsang Gyatso downplays the oracle of Shugden, since it conflicts with his notion of Shugden being a Buddha:

the oracle may have been marginalised by Geshe Kelsang because his presence raised a doctrinal ambiguity for the NKT. According to traditional Tibetan teachings, none of the high-ranking supramundane protective deities ‘would condescend to interfere with more or less mundane affairs by speaking through the mouth of a medium’.[33] The notion of oracular divination may thus have been problematised for Geshe Kelsang in light of his portrayal of Dorje Shugden as a fully enlightened being.[34]

Third-party views[edit]

According to McCune,

[T]he Shukden issue is far more complex than it appears at its surface. Both sides offer seemingly convincing arguments in favor of their respective points of view.[35]

1970s response by the Dalai Lama[edit]

According to Georges Dreyfus, the sectarian elements of the Yellow Book were not unusual and do not "justify or explain the Dalai Lama's strong reaction."[web 2] Instead, he traces back the conflict more on the exclusive/inclusive approach and maintain that to understand the Dalai Lama's point of view one has to consider the complex ritual basis for the institution of the Dalai Lamas, which was developed by the Great Fifth and rests upon "an eclectic religious basis in which elements associated with the Nyingma tradition combine with an overall Gelug orientation."[36] This involves the promotion and practices of the Nyingma school. Kay reminds us that "when traditions come into conflict, religious and philosophical differences are often markers of disputes that are primarily economic, material and political in nature."[37]

Exclusion from initiations[edit]

While the AI report effectively exonerated the TGIE of human rights abuses, Jane Ardley comments that the Dalai Lama was at fault for using his political authority to infringe upon others' religious freedom,[17] saying that

While the Dalai Lama's stated concern,[web 19] that worship of the deity threatened the Tibetan struggle, is entirely valid from a political perspective, this was not cause enough to ban it as a religious practice [...] The Dalai Lama used his political authority to deal with what was and should have remained a purely religious issue.[38]

The view by Chandler that the Shugden issue would be a "purely religious issue" is not shared by Tibetologist Thierry Dodin, who denies that it were a pure religious issue and states that it

...can readily be assigned to the category of politics, if only because power issues are bound up with it. At stake here is for instance ownership of monasteries, and/or, in old Tibet, their estates, etc. The greed for power, status and wealth.[web 1]

He also states that

...a source of problems are what we call the 'lineages': within the individual schools, teachings and instructions are passed down from teacher to student and from one generation to the next in uninterrupted succession. Sometimes very crass rivalries exist between these different lines of transmission, which often function as some kind of ‘old-boy’s network’. Overwhelmingly central here is ‘group identity’, the feeling of belonging and togetherness.[web 1]

Background of Shugden practitioners[edit]

According to Tibetologist Thierry Dodin,

The demonstrators are almost exclusively western monks and nuns, ordained in the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) according to the group’s own ritual.[web 1]

Dodin also states that

The NKT can be described typologically as a cult on the basis of its organisational form, its excessive group pressure and blind obedience to its founder. The organisation’s extreme fanaticism and aggressive missionary drive are typical cult features too.[web 1]

Dodin states that it is the New Kadampa Tradition

...that since the 1990’s has held spectacular demonstrations whenever the Dalai Lama went to the West.[web 1]

Thurman and Bultrini note that Shugden practitioners are an offshoot of the Gelug school, and not Tibetan Buddhism as a whole.[20][39][note 15]

According to Dreyfus,

The irony is that Shuk-den is presented by his followers as the protector of the Ge-luk (dge lugs) school, of which the Dalai Lama is the (de facto) leader.[web 2]

According to John Makransky:

[S]ome Tibetan monks who now introduce Westerners to practices centred on a native Tibetan deity, without informing them that one of its primary functions has been to assert hegemony over rival sects! [...] Western followers of a few dGe lugs pa monks who worship that deity, lacking any critical awareness of its sectarian functions in Tibet, have recently followed the Dalai Lama to his speaking engagements to protest his strong stance (for non-sectarianism) in the name of their “religious freedom” to promulgate, now in the West, an embodiment of Tibetan sectarianism. If it were not so harmful to persons and traditions, this would surely be one of the funniest examples of the cross-cultural confusion that lack of critical reflection continues to create.[29]

NKT/WSS claims[edit]

Scholars reject NKT/WSS claims. Robert Thurman for example states "The cult and agency attack campaign is futile since its main claims are so easy to refute."[20]

Scholars reject NKT/WSS claims that the 14th Dalai Lama has suppressed religious freedom, indicating that the situation is actually the opposite. Thurman says:

They then went on the attack, claiming they had been "banned" and "excommunicated," etc., when in fact the Dalai Lama was exercising his religious freedom by not accepting students who reject his advice, and actually go so far as to condemn him![20]

Thurman explains that members of the cult want:

to force their supposed mentor to adopt their perspective that the demonic spirit is an enlightened being, almost more important than the Buddha himself, and perhaps also rejoin their worship of it, or at least give them all his initiatory teachings in spite of their defiance of his best advice.[note 13]

Regarding NKT/WSS claims that there is prohibition of Shugden, and therefore a repression of religious freedom, Thierry Dodin states:

No, such a prohibition does not exist. Religious freedom is not at issue here. No one, and most definitely not the Dalai Lama, is repressing religious freedom.[web 1]

Nathan W. Hill, Lecturer in Tibetan and Linguistics at London University SOAS’ (School of Oriental and African Studies), states that the Dalai Lama does not control the Indian government, or any other government:

This accusation 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 in other parts of the Gelug sect, 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.”[web 20]

Similarly, Tibet scholar Robert Barnett of Columbia University states that "ID cards are not given out by the Tibetan government in exile, but by the Indian authorities".[web 21]

Barnett says the WSS is "severely lacking in credibility":

I also made it clear that the Western Shugden group's allegations are problematic: they are akin to attacking the Pope because some lay Catholics somewhere abuse non-believers or heretics. The Western Shugden Group is severely lacking in credibility, since its form of spirit-worship is heterodox, provocative and highly sectarian in Buddhist terms and so more than likely to be banned from mainstream monasteries – while its claimed concerns about cases of discrimination in India should be addressed by working within the Tibetan community instead of opportunistically attacking the Dalai Lama in order to provoke misinformed publicity for their sect.”[web 21]

Chinese government involvement[edit]

Robert Thurman notes that Shugden activity is financed by the Chinese government as part of its strategy against the Dalai Lama.[20][39]

Raimondo Bultrini documents the Chinese coordination of Shugden activity in the book The Dalai Lama and the King Demon.[11][note 15]

Within Chinese controlled territory, the Chinese government demands monks to worship Shugden, in conjunction with forcing them to denounce the Dalai Lama and fly the Chinese national flag.[40]

According to Ben Hillman,

According to one senior lama from Sichuan, the Chinese government naturally allies itself with the Shugden supporters, not just to undermine the Dalai Lama, but because most Shugden worshippers come from Eastern Tibet, from areas that were only ever loosely under Lhasa’s jurisdiction and are today integrated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan. Monks who had traveled across these areas note that the central government has allocated a disproportionate amount of funds since 1996 to pro-Shugden monasteries to assist them with construction and renovations. Evidence of local government favoritism toward the pro-Shugden faction began to emerge at S Monastery in 2003 when monks applied for permission to undertake studies in India. Despite equal numbers of applications from all khangtsens, of the 12 monks who were issued travel documents, only one was from an anti-Shugden khangtsen. Similarly, in 2004, one of the monastery’s smallest and (previously) poorest khangtsens began to build an elaborate new prayer room and residence for its handful of members. Financial support had been obtained from Beijing through a network of pro-Shugden lamas with access to officials at the highest level.[41]

According to the Tibetologist Thierry Dodin, "China had encouraged division among the Tibetans by promoting followers of the Dorje Shugden sect to key positions of authority.[web 22]

He also provides a couple of examples of China's role in Shugden activity:

For instance, the construction of Shugden temples and monasteries is being subsidised by the State. We also know that most of the teachers surrounding the young man who in 1995 was designated as the Panchen Lama by the Chinese leadership, against the will of the Dalai Lama, belong to the Shugden group. I think these examples clearly demonstrate the role China is playing in this conflict.[web 1]

Also the Central Tibetan Administration in India has stated that "In order to undermine the peace and harmony within the Tibetan people, China provides political and financial support to Shugden worshippers in Tibet, India and Nepal in particular, and in general, across the globe." [web 23] And, in an on-line article published by the Times of India, a source in the Religion and Culture Department of the Tibetan Government in exile is quoted as saying that Dorje Shugden followers "have their people in all Tibetan settlements. We are worried about their sources of funding. It might be China or some other anti-Tibetan elements." [web 24]

In December 2012, Lama Jampa Ngodrup, a promoter of the practice of Dorje Shugden, apparently became "the first Tibetan lama to be appointed by the Chinese Government to travel on an official trip abroad to give Dharma teachings." [web 25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to Dreyfus, "...the propitiation of Shukden as a Geluk protector is not an ancestral tradition, but a relatively recent invention of tradition associated with the revival movement within the Geluk spearheaded by Pabongkha."[6]
  2. ^ David Kay: "It seems that during the 1940s, supporters of Phabongkha began to proclaim the fulfilment of this tradition and to maintain that the Tibetan government should turn its allegiance away from Pehar, the state protector, to Dorje Shugden."[7]
  3. ^ George Dreyfus: "These descriptions have been controversial. Traditionally, the Ge-luk tradition has been protected by the Dharma-king (dam can chos rgyal), the supra-mundane deity bound to an oath given to Dzong-ka-ba, the founder of the tradition. The tradition also speaks of three main protectors adapted to the three scopes of practice described in the Stages of the Path (skyes bu gsum gyi srung ma): Mahakala for the person of great scope, Vaibravala for the person of middling scope, and the Dharma-king for the person of small scope. By describing Shuk-den as "the protector of the tradition of the victorious lord Manjushri," Pa-bong-ka suggests that he is the protector of the Ge-luk tradition, replacing the protectors appointed by Dzong-ka-ba himself. This impression is confirmed by one of the stories that Shuk-den's partisans use to justify their claim. According to this story, the Dharma-king has left this world to retire in the pure land of Tushita having entrusted the protection of the Ge-luk tradition to Shuk-den. Thus, Shuk-den has become the main Ge-luk protector replacing the traditional supra-mundane protectors of the Ge-luk tradition, indeed a spectacular promotion in the pantheon of the tradition[web 2]
  4. ^ David Kay: "A key element of Phabongkha Rinpoche’s outlook was the cult of the protective deity Dorje Shugden, which he married to the idea of Gelug exclusivism and employed against other traditions as well as against those within the Gelug who had eclectic tendencies."
  5. ^ Georges Dreyfus: "For Pa-bong-ka, particularly at the end of his life, one of the main functions of Gyel-chen Dor-je Shuk-den as Ge-luk protector is the use of violent means (the adamantine force) to protect the Ge-luk tradition [...] This passage clearly presents the goal of the propitiation of Shuk-den as the protection of the Ge-luk tradition through violent means, even including the killing of its enemies [...] Pa-bong-ka takes the references to eliminating the enemies of the the Ge-luk tradition as more than stylistic conventions or usual ritual incantations. It may concern the elimination of actual people by the protector."[web 2][9]
  6. ^ Raimondo Bultrini: Phabongka said "I shall perform purification and promise with all my heart that in the future I will avoid propitiating, praying to, and making daily offerings to Shugden. I admit to all the errors I have made, disturbing Nechung and contradicting the principle of the refuge, and I beg you, in your great heartfelt compassion, to forgive me and purify my actions."[11]
  7. ^ Dreyfus: "Retrospectively, we can say that the whole affair started from this book and the Dalai Lama's reaction to it. Prior to its publication, there was no controversy concerning Shuk-den.
  8. ^ Ardley: "Worship of this figure is especially popular in eastern Tibet, and the present Dalai Lama prayed to Dorje Shugden for many years. However in 1976 the Dalai Lama announced he was advising against the practice because it was promoting sectarianism, which could potentially damage the Tibetan independence movement."[17]
  9. ^ Raimondo bultrini: HHDL states "The previous Dudjom Rinpoche, one of the great Nyingmapa masters, once told me that Shugden was negative for the Tibetan government."[11]
  10. ^ a b David Kay: "Ling Rinpoche, who was from Drepung monastery, was not a devotee of Dorje Shugden, and at the time of the dispute he naturally sided with the Dalai Lama."[19]
  11. ^ Robert Thurman: "In the late 80s', when certain individual lamas began to proselytize its cult, inducting even Western practitioners new to Buddhism, especially in England, he took the step of asking such persons to refrain from attending his initiations and associated advanced teachings, on the grounds that they were not following his advice and so should not take him as their teacher."[20]
  12. ^ a b Raimondo Bultrini: HHDL states "That same day, when I told my senior tutor Ling Rinpoche, he confessed he was very happy, since he always had harbored doubts regarding the practice. He told me it certainly was the right decision...Ling Rinpoche raised a doubt with Phabongka that was shared by many others. “If we at Drepung start to worship Shugden, isn’t there a risk of a conflict between the two that could bring us harm? Nechung will not be happy,” he said."[19]
  13. ^ a b Robert Thurman: "However, the members of the cult are not content with this situation of having to choose between adopting His Holiness the Dalai Lama as their spiritual mentor or ignoring his judgment and persisting in the Gyalpo Shugden worship. They want to force their supposed mentor to adopt their perspective that the demonic spirit is an enlightened being, almost more important than the Buddha himself, and perhaps also rejoin their worship of it, or at least give them all his initiatory teachings in spite of their defiance of his best advice. So, they feel compelled to attack His Holiness, in order to force him to join their fundamentalist version of a Gelukpa outlook."[39]
  14. ^ Raimondo Bultrini: "But not everyone agreed with the decision to hold that ritual in the monastery dedicated to the guardian deity of the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan government. Among these was the Abbot of Drepung Monastery, who immediately consulted Nechung, the State Oracle. The Oracle’s silence was more explicit than a thousand words. There could not be two protectors under the same roof, wrote the abbot to His Holiness, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. A month had gone by since Phabongka Rinpoche had conferred the initiation at Drepung. From that day the practice of the gyalpo spread like oil on water among the young students in the colleges. The Dalai Lama, aware of the risk of open conflict, decided to have Phabongka formally rebuked by a government functionary. Then he wrote to him personally, revealing how disconcerted he was by his behavior. A few days went by, and a messenger brought Phabongka’s response to the Potala, with a gold coin and a white kata. Phabongka apologized, saying it was his fault alone and that he had nothing to add in his defense: “What I have done is unjustifiable and in the future, as you have asked of me, I shall take your instructions to heart. I ask your forgiveness for what I have done and written.” The Dalai Lama responded to Phabongka’s apology with a second letter, which did not entirely mask his displeasure: "There is much to be said about your words and deeds, in both in logistical and doctrinal terms, but I do not want to continue on this subject. Concerning your references to the practice of the refuge, first of all you are propitiating Shugden as a protector. And since these students now have a connection with you, the practice has notably spread at Drepung. Since the monastery was first founded by Jamyang Choejey, Nechung has been designated as guardian and protector of Drepung, and his oracle has expressed his great dissatisfaction to the abbot on several occasions, saying that appeasing Shugden has accelerated the degeneration of the Buddha’s teaching. This is the root of the problem. In particular, your search for the support of a worldly guardian to ensure benefits in this life is contrary to the principle of the taking of refuge. Therefore, it is contradictory to affirm, as you do “from the bottom of your heart,” that what happened is only the fruit of your “confusion and ignorance,” and that you were not aware of having “followed a wrongful path and led others onto it." Phabongka replied with apparent humility: "You have asked me why I am interested in this protector. I must explain that, according to my old mother, Shugden was a guardian for my family from the start, and that is why I have honored him. But now I want to say that I have repented and I have understood my mistake. I shall perform purification and promise with all my heart that in the future I will avoid propitiating, praying to, and making daily offerings [to Shugden]. I admit to all the errors I have made, disturbing Nechung and contradicting the principle of the refuge, and I beg you, in your great heartfelt compassion, to forgive me and purify my actions."[11]
  15. ^ a b Raimondo Bultrini: "He wrote back a few days later, attaching some confidential information on Ganchen Tulku and “Nga lama” Kundeling. In March 1998, shortly after we met, these two men were in Kathmandu, Nepal, with other Shugden followers and a member of the Communist Party of the Autonomous Region of Tibet, Gungthang Ngodup, who had come especially from Lhasa. A few days afterwards, wrote Director Ngodup, an adviser from the Chinese embassy in Nepal, one “Mr. Wang,” visited Ganchen’s house. As far as he could determine, the discussion revolved around the type of collaboration to be established between the Shugden followers and the Chinese authorities, including possible financial support. In December of the same year, as reported by the Indian Express and the Tribune, the under-secretary of the Chinese embassy in Delhi, Zhao Hongang, went to the Ganden Monastery in India, accompanied by a devotee from Bylakuppe, Thupten Kunsang, and a monk who had arrived from Sera Mey. In July 1999, also in Kathmandu, other meetings were held between pro-Shugden activists and Chinese representatives. This time, “Mr. Wang” met with Chimi Tsering and other directors of the Delhi “Shugden Society,” Lobsang Gyaltsen, Konchok Gyaltsen, Gelek Gyatso, and Soepa Tokhmey, the society’s treasurer. After the final meeting, a letter was drafted to be presented to the United Front Department of the Communist Party to ask for help in countering those discriminating against Shugden practitioners in India…. In January 2000, after the meeting in Kathmandu between representatives of the cult and the Chinese emissaries, the Nepal National Dorje Shugden Society was born, with an office and a full-time staff of three, paid—according to the Dharamsala Security Services—with Communist Party funds funneled through the Chinese embassy. Ganchen Tulku was on the Committee of Consultants. ….Despite the formal denials of the cult’s practitioners, the common strategy of the Chinese authorities by now was obvious. In 2001 the Chinese ambassador was guest of honor at “The Millennium Conference on Human Rights” organized by the Shugden Devotees Religious and Charitable Society of Delhi and held March 20–22 at the most prestigious venue in the Indian capital, the India International Centre. If the reports of the pro-Shugden convention financed by the embassy were only “rumor” spread by World Tibetan News, the ambassador’s presence at the Millennium Conference was hard to reconcile with his routine duties as a diplomat."[11]


  1. ^ Mills 2003, p. 55.
  2. ^ Mills 2003, p. 55-56.
  3. ^ a b c d Mills 2003, p. 56.
  4. ^ a b c Kay 2004, p. 47.
  5. ^ Schaik 2011, p. 129.
  6. ^ Dreyfus 2005.
  7. ^ Kay 2004, p. 48.
  8. ^ Watt 2013.
  9. ^ a b c Kay 2004, p. 43.
  10. ^ Schaik 2011, p. 165-169.
  11. ^ a b c d e Bultrini 2013.
  12. ^ a b Kay 2004, p. 49.
  13. ^ Dreyfus 2003, p. 300.
  14. ^ a b Dreyfus 1998.
  15. ^ Mumford 1989:125-126
  16. ^ McCune 2007.
  17. ^ a b Ardley 2002, p. 175.
  18. ^ Dreyfus 1998, p. 262.
  19. ^ a b Kay 2004, p. 90.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g Thurman 2013-a.
  21. ^ Lopez 1998, p. 194.
  22. ^ Wilson 2003, p. 57.
  23. ^ Lopez 1998, p. 195-196.
  24. ^ Kay 2004, p. 212.
  25. ^ Dreyfus 2003, p. 301.
  26. ^ Sparham 1998, p. 321.
  27. ^ Dreyfus 2003, p. 303.
  28. ^ a b Bultrini 2013, p. 311–312.
  29. ^ a b Makransky 2000, p. 20.
  30. ^ Kapstein 2000, p. 143.
  31. ^ a b von Brück 2001, p. 340-341.
  32. ^ a b c Kay 2004, p. 101-102.
  33. ^ Nebesky-Wojkowitz 1956, p. 409.
  34. ^ Kay 2004, p. 102.
  35. ^ McCune 2007, p. 44.
  36. ^ Dreyfus 1998: 269
  37. ^ Kay 2004, p. 41.
  38. ^ Ardley 2002, p. 175, 176.
  39. ^ a b c Thurman 2013-b.
  40. ^ Smith 2010, p. 34.
  41. ^ Hillman 2005.


Printed sources[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h The Dorje Shugden conflict: Interview with Thierry Dodin
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Georges Dreyfus, The Shugden Affair: Origins of a Controversy (Part I)
  3. ^ a b c d e f Georges Dreyfus, The Shugden Affair: Origins of a Controversy (Part II)
  4. ^ a b Dalai Lama (1997), Concerning Dolgyal with Reference to the Views of Past Masters and other Related Matters, accessed 2013-12-31
  5. ^ The Dalai Lama on Sectarianism, Religious Freedom and the Shugden Issue, Madison, Wisconsin, July, 2008, retrieved 03/11/2014.
  6. ^ Allegations of Religious Persecution by Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society and Shugden Supporters Community (Delhi), 1996-06-19, retrieved 2008-12-04
  7. ^ Amnesty International's position on alleged abuses against worshippers of Tibetan deity Dorje Shugden, AI Index 17/14/98, 1998-06, quoted in The Dalai Lama's Buddhist Foes by David Van Biema (2008-07-18), retrieved 2009-10-31.
  8. ^ Chandler, Jeannie M. Hunting the Guru: Lineage, Culture, and Conflict in the Development of Tibetan Buddhism in America (2009), p. 211
  9. ^ Interpol on trail of Buddhist killers by Jane Macartney, The Times, 2007-06-22, retrieved 2014-03-03
  10. ^ Dalai Lama Fighting Ghost In Religious Dispute by Arthur Max, Seattle Times, 21 August 1997, retrieved 2009-05-22.
  11. ^ Clifton, Tony. Did an obscure Tibetan sect murder three monks close to the Dalai Lama?. Newsweek. 1997-04-28. Retrieved 2009-04-10.
  12. ^ Delhi High Court Dismisses Dorjee Shugden Devotees’ Charges 2010-04-10, retrieved 2010-04-29.
  13. ^ Laila Kearney (22 Feb 2014). "Buddhist faction protests Dalai Lama as he visits U.S". Reuters. Reuters. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Kathleen Tierney (24 Feb 2014). "Shugden Buddhists protest during Dalai Lama’s visit to Berkeley". Daily Californian. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  15. ^ Lauren Markoe; Religion New Services LLC) (6 March 2014). "Protesters denounce the Dalai Lama as a ‘dictator’". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  16. ^ =Michael Sandelson (8 May 2014). "Demonstratie tegen Dalai Lama in Rotterdam". The Foreigner. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  17. ^ "Demonstratie tegen Dalai Lama in Rotterdam". / (in Dutch). Boeddhistisch Dagblad (Buddhist Newspaper). Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  18. ^ Are We Prisoners of Shangrila? Orientalism, Nationalism, and the Study of Tibet by Georges Dreyfus, JIATS, no. 1 (October 2005), THL #T1218, 21, section 3: The Shukden Affair and Buddhist Modernism, retrieved 2009-10-04.
  19. ^ Chandler, Jeannie M. Hunting the Guru: Lineage, Culture, and Conflict in the Development of Tibetan Buddhism in America (2009), p. 207
  20. ^ Distance from Dalai Lama protests among differing opinions, May 8th, 2014,
  21. ^ a b Tibet scholar denies making Time magazine Shugden comment, 2008-07-23, retrieved 2009-10-31.
  22. ^ Dalai Lama 'behind Lhasa unrest', 10 May 2006.
  23. ^ "Statement by the CTA on Shugden/Dholgyal followers from Tibet". Central Tibetan Administration ( the Central Tibetan Administration. 7 October 2007. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  24. ^ Gopal Puri (10 July 2013). "Rift among Tibetans riddles security agencies' task". The Times of India. The Times of India. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  25. ^ Mar Nee (25 January 2013). "The First Lama That China Sent Abroad". Dorje Shugden. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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