The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 3

February 13, 2009

For previous installments:

The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 1
The history of the New Kadampa Tradition’s ‘cult’ smear, Part 2

In 1997, the Dalai Lama himself, in a book published in the French language, openly called Geshe Kelsang a cult leader and improbably accused him of thirsting for power. From La Force du Bouddhisme by the Dalai Lama and Jean-Claude Carrière, pp 19-20:

Dalai Lama: …at the moment in England, a well-educated lama is behaving like a true cult leader.

Jean-Claude Carrière: A fundamentalist lama ?

DL : Whatever… he’s banned all my books, all contact with me, all images of the Dalai Lama. He accuses me of this and that. His faithful, a few thousand people, are only allowed to read his books, to display and venerate his photograph, and so on… But there you go, it’s only human. We are either all alike or all different. If our differences get the upper hand, then each individual can mark out their own territory of truth and cling to it with all their might.

J-CC Sometimes to the death…, their own or others’.

DL : Yes, that is the way we are made. On top of that there is the thirst for power, which is invariably corrupting.

(For a refutation of these allegations, which are the same as those in the Guardian and Independent articles, see:

Smear: NKT has no pictures of the Dalai Lama in their Centers
Smear: NKT sells only Geshe Kelsang’s books
Smear: Geshe Kelsang calls himself ‘the Third Buddha’ and seeks veneration from his students

In this book the Dalai Lama did not mention Geshe Kelsang by name, but this happened in an article called A Case to Study. Ostensibly authored by Tenzin Ragyal, the document was issued directly from the Office of the Dalai Lama in Dharamasala and it was understood that the Dalai Lama intended to have its contents promulgated.

The article is a crude propaganda attack on Je Phabongkhapa Dechen Nyingpo, accusing him and those in this lineage of being fanatically sectarian. (It is a shock when one first realizes that the Dalai Lama is actually publishing criticism of his own lineage Gurus.)

Here is the extract labelling Geshe Kelsang as a cult leader:

“It is in everybody’s interest to take a strong and appropriate stand and not to remain indifferent on the activities of Phabongkha’s followers and their cult groups and leaders like, e.g. NKT leader Geshe (self-styled) Kelsang Gyatso in England, Serkong Thritrul in Taiwan, Gangchen Lama in Italy, Drakgom Tulku in Nepal, Dema Gonsar in Tibet, Gonsar Rinpoche in Swiss and Dorje Shugden Society in India and Nepal etc.

The primary objective in providing this information is not to dig out what has happened in the past. It is to draw attention to the fact that even today, in this period of global religious harmony, some short-sighted and narrow-minded people and groups are actively adopting the path of fanaticism and religious intolerance. It is a task and responsibility of all of us to strongly discourage and act against such forms of religious intolerance and fanaticism.”

It is ironic that, in this call to arms, Tenzin Ragyal talks about “a period of global religious harmony” — considering that the purpose of the article is to destroy that harmony by defaming precious Gelugpa Lamas, accusing them of sectarianism and intolerance simply because they wish to practice within their own tradition. The supposed non-sectarianism of the accusers has become a source of self-justification and led to the actual closed off, fanatical, and intolerant attitudes towards so-called sectarians which we are seeing here.

Many Tibetan Buddhists have since heeded this call to arms, attempting to interfere with the development of the NKT and other groups who practice Dorje Shugden by defacing publicity, contacting locations where classes are being held in an attempt to get them canceled, and so on.

Cult Mystery? ~ The Newsweek Article

This propaganda was followed up by what, to this day, is one of the most damaging articles published in the press about the NKT and Dorje Shugden. Whereas only Tibetan Buddhists and interested parties were likely to see the Sera-Je Explusion letter from 1996, the Dalai Lama chose to attack Geshe Kelsang and the NKT using a very high profile and well respected weekly magazine.

On 28th April 1997, an article entitled Cult Mystery? by Tony Clifton was published in Newsweek. This was a stinging, unprovoked attack by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, seemingly in retaliation for the embarrassment that Geshe Kelsang had caused the Dalai Lama in the previous year.

The cult smear, while in the title, is also prevalent throughout the entire article. Here are the relevant quotes:

“In the last year the Dalai Lama has retaliated, denouncing one Shugden order in particular as a hostile and crass, commercial cult

“And in an interview with NEWSWEEK earlier this month, the Dalai Lama expressed his worries about the Dorje Shugden. “That cult is actually destroying the freedom of religious thought,” he said. “Say I want to practice Nyingma. They say this Protector will harm me. Now, that’s an obstacle to religious freedom. I am trying to promote the tradition of coexistence, but the Shugdens say you should not even touch a Red Hat document. That teaching totally contradicts my efforts.”

“The split grew angry early last year. The Dalai Lama issued a call to all Tibetan Buddhists to avoid the Shugdens. He warned against the cult’s extremism and against public worship of their idol. Soon after, the NKT in London claimed that the Dalai Lama’s remarks had inspired Tibetans to harass Shugden followers in Dharmsala.”

“It’s the fastest growing Buddhist sect in Britain, where it now has about 3,000 members, a thriving publishing business in London and mansions that double as “Dharma Centers” all over the country. It has also been denounced by the London press and the Dalai Lama as a cult that fleeces its own followers.”

“Shugden appeals to crazies by offering instant gratification,” says Thurman. “Once you get involved, you’re told you have to devote your lives to the cult, because the god gets very angry if you don’t attend to him every day. It’s really bad stuff, the way they’re draining money out of people.”

The article contains numerous smears on Dorje Shugden and the NKT. What is interesting is that it is unclear whether “cult” is supposed to refer to the NKT or to Shugden worship – but the effect of blurring the line is to condemn both.

The article also contains the notorious Thurman quote:

“It would not be unfair to call Shugdens the Taliban of Tibetan Buddhism.”

Robert Thurman has never been to an NKT Center nor spent time with an NKT practitioner. He invented bitter nonsense to defend the Dalai Lama, upon whom his own reputation and career depends.

Geshe Kelsang wrote a long factual response to Newsweek refuting the points of the article called False Accusations Against the Innocent. However, given the power of the Dalai Lama’s words and the fervour with which they are believed and upheld, not only in the Buddhist world but in the world in general, the damage was done. This combined with the Sera Expulsion Letter cemented in the minds of many Tibetan Buddhists the belief that the NKT was a cult. 1996 and 1997 were bad times for the NKT. Brave as they were to stand up to the Dalai Lama, their actions were misconstrued and the unfair smear of their being a cult began.

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Letter from a senior FPMT monk

November 24, 2008

Below are some extracts from a letter written by Yeshe Sangye, a senior FPMT monk and close disciple of Lama Yeshe. The full letter can be found here. As he says himself at the end of his letter:

I hope all that read this would understand better.
That is my hope to write. As I have not said anything for over twenty years.

Why are we including his letter here? Because many times NKT-IKBU Centers and students have been at the receiving end of slander and disruption at the hands of FPMT Centers and students, ever since the Dalai Lama spoke out against Dorje Shugden and the FPMT decided to follow his lead. This is a fact, and it is backed up by Yeshe Sangye (below).

It is a serious matter to be involved in criticizing other Mahayana traditions (it’s a downfall of the Bodhisattva vows) and impeding the spreading of pure Buddhadharma is contributing to the suffering of others. This is a big world, big enough for NKT~IKBU and the FPMT and all other Buddhist traditions.  There are billions of suffering beings and these beings all have different karma.  While we rejoice in the FPMT’s work of spreading Buddha’s teachings, we do not rejoice in their political actions against the NKT because of following the Dalai Lama’s view.  Dharma mixed with politics is like delicious food mixed with poison – the only result will be suffering in the end.

As explained on the New Kadampa Truth website, FPMT members are regularly contributing to  Internet forums where they criticize the NKT and try to dissuade anyone reading their posts from attending NKT Centers.  The NKT has written to the FPMT asking them to desist from criticizing our tradition and specifically mentioning some individuals on the Geshe program (Tenzin Peljor); but nothing has improved. Quite apart from the fact that the FPMT de facto has an official policy of discrimination in place by not allowing Dorje Shugden practitioners to be teachers, to ordain in the FPMT tradition, or even to attend FPMT teachings, here are a few specific examples of the treatment the NKT has received from the FPMT:

  1. FPMT Mexico has officially criticized NKT on their website.
  2. One FPMT student claimed on an Amazon Buddhist discussion group that we are praying for the death of the Dalai Lama or FPMT Teachers such as Thubten Gonpo, one of our main critics.
  3. A personal story from an NKT Teacher: “A student of mine who was heading for Foundation Programme spent the summer in Nepal.  He took one of the 10 day Lamrim courses at Kopan and told one of the nuns, a Swedish nun called Ven Karen, that he was from Kingston and went to the NKT Centre there.  He said she then spent a long time trying to convince him that we were a cult and that he should not go there.  She brought up things like we worship an evil spirit, we’re all about money etc. He came back disillusioned about our Centre and Buddhism in general. He wasn’t impressed with the FPMT that much, but her words stuck and after a couple of meetings with him, he left, taking with him our core students from the University.”
  4. Another personal story from an NKT Teacher: “We had a student in Taiwan whose auntie became an FPMT nun and was banned from coming to our centre. His name is ***** and N**** is still in touch with him.”
  5. A story of discrimination from France: “Around 2004 Vivre Autrement alternative health fair in Paris. We were denied a stand at this very popular annual event which attracts 1000s. I had applied under the name of Editions Tharpa, mainly to offer books etc. FPMT people turned the organizers against us, as they wanted to have a stand, and we were refused.”
  6. According to one testimonial received from an NKT member in Boston:”We were constantly hearing feedback from General Program students about how they were told by the FPMTers that we who attended NKT centers were not Buddhists, we were a money making cult, we had no authority to teach, our ordinations were not real, Geshe Kelsang was an evil wizard leading us all into hell … you get the idea.”

These are just a few examples – we have many more examples of FPMT interference in the development of the NKT-IKBU, and this sad state of affairs is still continuing today.

Lama Yeshe of the FPMT was no spirit worshipper. His wish in establishing the FPMT was to spread Dharma in the West, a wish that the New Kadampa Tradition is fulfilling. There is no conflict between Lama Yeshe’s and Geshe Kelsang’s intentions, and they were close friends and peers who regularly engaged in Gelugpa spiritual practice together, including monthly Dorje Shugden pujas; so why is the FPMT attacking us? It can only be because FPMT members have become a political tool of the Dalai Lama’s to fulfill his wish to destroy this tradition. Is this any way to repay Lama Yeshe’s kindness?

Here are extracts from the letter:

“LAMA YESHE was the very symbol of skillful compassionate action in constant motion and he mentioned many times that Dorje Shugden made his works grow as far as it did during his life time. Lama stayed true to his root teachers such as H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten and H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche showing us what guru devotion is really meant to be free of political inclinations. In his practice of Dorje Shugden, Lama never hinted even slightly of sectarianism, or disregard for any form of religion never mind Buddhism.….Much simpler back then. Simpler that there was next to zero in lama-bashing, centre-bashing, lineage-bashing or siding up with H.H. the Dalai Lama for political reasons.
….If I must choose between the Dalai Lama and my root guru, Lama Yeshe, then I choose Lama Yeshe. He is the one that cared for me.

….I HOPE FPMT WILL NEVER CRITICIZE DORJE SHUGDEN WHICH IS LAMA’S PERSONAL DHARMA PROTECTOR. I HOPE THAT FPMT STUDENTS WILL RESPECT LAMA’S WISHES AND PRACTICE THE DHARMA. I HOPE THEY NEVER CRITICIZE STUDENTS, CENTRES AND GREAT LAMAS WHO WISH TO CONTINUE THIS PRACTICE OF DORJE SHUGDEN. I am very happy to see Lama Yeshe sacred picture in this website’s masters sections. Many people are afraid to say the truth to look politically wrong. But that is not what the dharma is about. We should let go of attachment of this sort and just do our practice. Ego-less state of mind is the goal of our practice as Lama would say.

….Also never to criticize Dorje Shugden and the practices Lama gave us SO THAT HIS CURRENT INCARNATION CAN MANIFEST AS A DHARMA TEACHER. The only way his unmistaken current incarnation can manifest as a great dharma teacher again, is if his students keep samaya clean free of politics and free of politically motivated actions in the name of dharma. Otherwise, it would be the responsibilities of the students if the current Lama Yeshe incarnation cannot perform the actions as he had set out to do. After all, if we as FPMT members criticize others who practice Dorje Shugden, then that will accumulate very heavy karma. Why? Because we destroy the faith of others in their gurus. Do we have the right to do that? Does Lama Zopa’s closeness with H.H. the Dalai Lama validate FPMT CENRES AND MEMBERS TO BE SOME KIND OF SPIRITUAL POLICE. That type of spiritual arrogance will be the downfall of any dharma organization. IT IS CONTRARY TO THE SPIRIT OF LAMA YESHE’S ASPIRATIONS. We should reflect Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa well, by never criticizing other sects, lamas, lineages, practices, Dorje Shugden, etc. Why because it contradicts Lama Yeshe’s Bodhicitta aspirations. We should not especially criticize lamas who are spiritual heirs of Sera, Gaden, Drepung or who are students of Pabongkha, Trijang, Zong Rinpoches. Why? Because they are OUR LINEAGE LAMAS ALSO AND THEY ALL PRACTICED DORJE SHUGDEN AS THEIR PRINCIPLE PROTECTOR.

….We cannot think of Lama’s work just expanding in our life time which it can due to Lama Zopa. But into future lifetimes. Future generations. So for that to happen, we need continuation of Lama’s successor. If we just follow along the current political tides, we may look clean and good, but simultaneously it becomes damaging to what lama’s previous incarnation practiced and that would not be very good. What’s the point if Lama’s centers and works grow now and after Lama Zopa’s passing, it stops, slows down or what not? Is spiritual attainments gained by flashing pictures we have taken together with the Dalai Lama to other centers and justifying our arrogant authoritarian ways with that? I don’t think so. I think if Dalai Lama is close to FPMT we should reflect that well by being even more humble, even more gentle, even more kind so we do not stain the name of H.H. the Dalai Lama. We cannot uplift his name or prove our guru devotion to him by putting down anything in regards to Dorje Shugden. That would be a heavy price to pay at the expense of our own Lama Yeshe’s heart protector. That is Dorje Shugden.

So when Lama was alive, we practice Dorje Shugden and Dorje shugden is ok and a Buddha.
Kopan had monthly ‘secret’ pujas to Dorje Shugden as with most of the centers. The FPMT centers that were fortunate to have a great lama/geshe living nearby would always invite them monthly to the centers to do the monthly Dorje Shugden pujas as instructed by both Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa. The young Kyabje Pabongkha Rinpoche who resides in Nepal was often invited to Kopan Monastery to perform incredible pujas. Even before the current new Kopan Prayer Hall was built, many preliminary pujas had to be done on the land before the foundation was set. Kopan invited Kyabje Pabongkha Rinpoche to perform them. Then when Dharamsala started stepping up on their anti-Shugden campaign, Kopan cut their ties with Pabongkha Rinpoche. It remains so till this day amazingly and he is the reincarnation of our lineage master!!! I was amazed when I heard that from very reliable sources. In fact, Kopan wanted to look good, that the monk administrators influenced some Taiwanese sponsors against Pabongkha Rinpoche. Rinpoche was promised by them to build a Pabongkha Monastery in Nepal, and the Taiwanese had promised to sponsor it. In order to get on Dharamsala’s good side and to get the sponsorship for themselves, Kopan administrative monks told the Taiwanese Sponsors (which I will withhold name from here) that Pabongkha Rinpoche is not following Dalai Lama’s instructions to abandon Shugden practice and that they should not support Pabongkha’s Rinpoche’s intent on building the Monastery in Nepal. Consequently it worked and unfortunately for Kopan’s karma. My question is, who put Kopan as the spiritual police in Nepal and so daringly create schism between their lineage guru’s sponsors??

Example the Delhi FPMT Branch centre in the past on monthly basis would invite the great Rongtha Gyabgon Rinpoche who lived in Ladakh Budh Vihar, New Delhi to perform the pujas at their centre every month. Dorje Shugden full puja was done at FPMT centre in Delhi monthly with great offerings. It was advised by Lama Zopa. In fact, Lama Zopa used to perform the Dorje Shugden pujas in both Kopan and Delhi himself on many occasions!! Himalayan Yogic Institute in Katmandu had a Dorje Shugden statue in their side shrine room in a box with offerings, it would be opened from time to time as did the Delhi centre.

So Kopan is now very great, how did Dorje Shugden damage Kopan?? What was the wrong results manifesting now due to the decades that Lama Yeshe practiced Dorje Shugden and had Kopan do pujas monthly?? So if a friend helped us in the past, and we get a new friend, we simply abandon the old friend? Is that ethical or dharmic?

Then Lama dies and we don’t practice because H.H. the Dalai Lama says not to. And HH has reasons beyond our ordinary minds can conceive. Then one unfortunate day, H.H. Dalai Lama passes away (very sad time) and Lama Yeshe is back and then we again practice Dorje Shugden?? I mean that is a strange scenario. Back and forth that is.

It is very sad, because many of the FPMT centers now go on spiritual witch-hunts condemning other centers in their same cities. Using Dorje Shugden practice as negative as their ‘pure’ reasoning to take students away from their respective centers to join the nearby FPMT centers. But in fact they are just as I see it, trying to increase their own memberships. I have witnessed this. Many, many, many of the older Lama Yeshe students have gone underground with their practices of Dorje Shugden. Some like me do not really go to the centers here in the USA anymore. They will not abandon their practice of Dorje Shugden because of their great devotion to Lama Yeshe and are somewhat flabbergasted at the direction that some new FPMT centers’ are going with their arrogant witch hunts. What is important to remember is JUST BECAUSE YOU ATTEND THE DALAI LAMA’S TEACHINGS, OR HAVE TAKEN PHOTOS WITH HH DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY VALIDATE YOU AS A SPIRITUAL POLICEMAN AND GO ON WITCH-HUNTS. We must practice the essence of what HH teaches as did Lama Yeshe, which are tolerance, compassion, forgiveness and not ever slandering any lama, dharma, lineage or practice. As the karmic retributions will fall onto us. We should never mislead new FPMT students toward this line of thought. We are destroying our organization slowly if we do so.
FPMT centers citing so and so practice Dorje Shugden and so therefore they are not pure. That is so hypocritical and political because Lama Yeshe practiced and Lama Zopa was recognized as a tulku by Dorje Shugden himself. In Dorje Shugden is a ghost, then Lama Zopa’s recognition becomes nil. In fact some of the FPMT centers’ committees are in direct competition to attach students to their OWN centers for fundraising, attendance, membership, etc. So they use the heinous method of condemning Dorje Shugden to scare other centre members into joining FPMT. In fact when they do that, it is a disgrace. Older/senior FPMT students should speak up to new and younger ones who have not had the great fortune to meet our founder, Lama Yeshe.

Lama Yeshe’s main protector practice was Dorje Shugden till the end. He didn’t take an unfortunate rebirth. Dorje Shugden didn’t harm him? IF LAMA YESHE WAS PRAYING TO A GHOST, THEN WHY DIDN’T HE TAKE REBIRTH IN THE THREE LOWER REALMS??


We must think clearly and not be swept away by convenient political tides in order to fill our dharma centers with membership so it gives it a successful appearance. If that was done, what would be the cost?  It would affect Lama Osel’s current incarnation in not being able to manifest as a dharma teacher. We destroy other people’s faith in their lama, and help them break their samaya with their lama, that karma would return back to us PERSONALLY AND AS A GROUP.

We as FPMT should respect our founder’s wishes and not ever criticize Dorje Shugden, his practitioners, his lineage, his followers in anyway because our founder, Lama Yeshe was one of them. We shouldn’t practice or not practice what the current political situation pressures us to or not to. We should do what our lama says. So during Lama’s life Dorje Shugden is good and now Lama is dead, so Dorje Shugden is bad??? Wouldn’t that infer that lama was wrong, had bad degenerate practices, lacking in wisdom, had no refuge, had no attainments and wasted his life praying to a spirit?? So if lama gave us Heruka initiation and practice, then it had no blessings because lama’s refuge degenerated due to his practice of Dorje Shugden?? Since Dorje Shugden is a spirit and Lama kept up his ‘sogtae’ (Dorje Shugden’s initiation) or life entrustment practices his whole life, then all of the other practices lama did was degenerated and ineffective when passed to us.
So any practices Lama Zopa received from Lama Yeshe and passes it to others would logically be degenerate also??? Wouldn’t it?

The implications are quite big if we choose to believe that way….So that would mean many of the practices that Lama Zopa does now and gives others that are directly from Lama Yeshe are degenerated because Lama Yeshe was degenerated?? Of course not. Very dangerous line of thought. Very ruinous direction we are heading toward. I watched Lama Zopa get brow-beaten into ‘giving’ up his Dorje Shugden practices. And Lama has to be degenerated because H.H. Kyabje Trijang and Zong Rinpoches were degenerated we have to falsely assume. Both these lamas practiced Dorje Shugden till they entered parinirvana (deaths)…Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche entered into 12 days of clear light meditations in Dharamsala and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, three days. And their unmistaken incarnations are back recognized by both H.H. the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden via his oracle again. How come they didn’t go to the Three Lower Realms since they worshipped Dorje Shugden the ‘spirit’ their whole lives in fact in all their previous many incarnations they worshipped also.

They didn’t descend into the lower realms from a lifetime of practicing and propagating a Dorje Shugden. Since these great lamas have ‘degenerated’ their refuge by the practice of Dorje Shugden which implies they have zero attainments in the first place to choose a spirit to worship, then their other practices naturally became defiled. Do we choose to believe that way of thought?? I and many others clearly don’t. It doesn’t make sense. Many teachers and thousands of their disciples around the world today are committed and practice Dorje Shugden today. Because they have been given this practice by H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. They are following the commands of their root gurus, so what are they doing wrong? We switch gurus like status symbols?? These are both the root gurus of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa. So we should not criticize other centers, lamas, students that practice Dorje Shugden. Be true to your dharma practice.

Even if hypothetically lama had given up his Dorje Shugden practices during his life, which he did not, his gurus didn’t give it up. So if his gurus did not give it up, then the practices received by Lama Yeshe would have been degenerated since his lamas are degenerated. Lama Yeshe was inviting H.H. kyabje Zong Rinpoche up till his death in the early 80’s to his centers giving teachings, initiations, transmissions and commentaries. And Dorje Shugden life empowerments to hundreds. So however you want to look at it, then many of the practice graciously conferred by lama Zopa today are in one way or another defiled or at least contaminated. Could that be so? I don’t want to go that direction.

So however many photos lama Zopa takes together with H.H. the Dalai Lama and advertised (as today, affiliations with Dalai Lama in any way would hint at authenticity/genuine practice whether you are or not) or whoever many events of H.H. are sponsored by Lama Zopa, it still cannot wash away the inner degenerate practices received from Lama Yeshe. Is that what we choose to believe? Even if Lama Zopa truly gave up his Dorje Shugden practices to be ‘absolved’, then he would have to give up all the practices that Lama Yeshe gave him also or at least don’t pass it to others. Then we have to believe the founder of our FPMT Lama Yeshe WAS WRONG.


In order to be truly clean? Just giving up Dorje Shugden wouldn’t be enough as his root lama, Lama Yeshe would have to be thought of as WRONG IN LAMA ZOPA’S DAILY MEDITATIONS. I also don’t think so. So I again request everyone to think of the implications….

Yeshe Sangye”

The full letter can be found here.


Another Reply to the Bodhisattva Centre Protestors, Part Two

September 14, 2008

Dear Carol and friends, here we continue our answers to your questions!

Questions about Dorje Shugden

Is the practice of Dorje Shugden modern?

The practice of Dorje Shugden can implicitly be traced back to the time of Buddha Shakyamuni because, at that time, one of Buddha’s eight Bodhisattva disciples was Manjushri, and Manjushri and Dorje Shugden are the same person.

Buddha Shakyamuni encouraged many of his disciples such as King Ajatashatru to rely on Manjushri because they had a strong karmic connection with him. In the same way, Gelugpa teachers such as Je Phabongkhapa, the late Panchen Lama Chokyi Gyaltsen, Tomo Geshe Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche and Geshe Kelsang and Sakya Teachers such as Sachen Kunga Lodro, Morchen Dorjechang Kunga Lhundrup and Dagchen Trinley Rinchen have encouraged disciples to rely on Dorje Shugden because of their strong karmic connection with this particular embodiment of Manjushri.

Manjushri manifests as many different Dharma Protectors, such as the various Mahakalas and Kalarupa. It is accepted by the Dalai Lama and his followers that these Protectors are manifestations of Manjushri, but not Dorje Shugden. Why? If your Teacher tells you “Mahakala is Manjushri” and he also says “Dorje Shugden is Manjushri”, why believe one statement and not the other?

The point is the Dalai Lama doesn’t trust his own lineage Gurus, and in particular his teacher Trijang Rinpoche. The Dalai Lama previously referred to Trijang Rinpoche as his root guru:

‘I received the transmission of the guru yoga (Lama Chopa Guru Yoga Practice) from my root guru, the late Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche.’  – Dalai Lama  – The Union of Bliss and Emptiness, Snow Lion Pub.1988.

Rejecting any Buddhist teaching is one of the “great faults”, but the Dalai Lama seems to think he has the wisdom to decide what people should practice and what they should not, even though his view is clearly not in keeping with his teachers’ and he does not have the spiritual authority of being the head of any lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Such interference in the religious practices of others by a political leader is unheard of in the history of Buddhism.

Refuting that Dorje Shugden is separate from Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition

You ask: If you live in a residential centre of the NKT you are also not allowed to engage in the religious practices of another tradition. For instance, you would not be allowed to have a picture of the Dalai Lama on your shrine. What difference is there in this and in the situation in India?

(It is not completely clear to me what you are comparing here, so let me know if I have missed your point). I personally know of several NKT residents who have pictures or books of the Dalai Lama in their rooms, and this is not disallowed — much less have these residents been asked to leave, as is sometimes claimed elsewhere. We don’t have pictures of the Dalai Lama on the Centre shrines as he is not the NKT’s (or Gelugpa’s for that matter) Spiritual Guide or lineage Guru (see Smear: NKT has split away from the Dalai Lama). It is unlikely that many of the Dalai Lama’s followers have a picture of Geshe Kelsang on their shrines for the same reason! In India, even pictures of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche are currently being removed from monasteries.

The situation in the monasteries in India is that over a thousand monks have been expelled (from the homes they have lived in since they were children, in many cases). This is for the crime of continuing to do a beneficial spiritual practice they have done their entire lives in those same monasteries, taught to them by their beloved Spiritual Guides who were Abbots, high Lamas and so on of those monasteries. In many cases, they have a life entrustment to do this practice. Some who chose the expediency of giving in to the Dalai Lama and giving up their reliance on their Spiritual Guide have described it as having their heart ripped out.

Just to get this into context, the practice of relying upon Dorje Shugden was a key practice of Je Phabongkhapa (the most famous Gelug Lama in the first part of the twentieth century) and of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (the most famous Gelug Lama in the second half of that century). Since the Gelug tradition was by far the largest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, it is safe to assume that relying upon Dorje Shugden was a key practice of a large proportion of Tibetan Buddhists at the time of the Chinese invasion and in the early years of the Tibetan diaspora.

Meanwhile, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) have followed the Dalai Lama’s suit and recently barred from their Centres anyone who practices Dorje Shugden. This policy of discrimination is stated clearly on their website, and it seems extraordinary that, in this day and age, no one in the FPMT or elsewhere has questioned it. The NKT does not have anything remotely comparable to this policy and allows anyone to attend teachings; and yet it is accused by its detractors of sectarianism. If the NKT had a blatant policy of sectarianism like the one spelt out on the FPMT website, there would be a huge outcry. Naturally, the NKT would never hear the end of it. So why is there not even a small outcry about the FPMT’s policy? It seems because they feel safe hiding behind the popularity of the Dalai Lama, assuming that people will not question it; and, so far, they are correct in this assumption.

It may be worth pointing out that the Dalai Lama’s discrediting of Dorje Shugden is not simply an attack upon a Dharma Protector who, being a Buddha, needs no defending. Because relying upon Dorje Shugden was a key practice of Je Phabongkhapa and his disciples, an attack on Dorje Shugden is an attack on the spiritual heritage of all these Buddhist masters. If it is true, as the Dalai Lama claims, that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit, it follows that these and many other Buddhist masters were relying upon an evil spirit — thus discrediting them, their followers, their Gelugpa tradition and their lineages of spiritual transmission. It is this, along with the unprecedented attempt to forcibly ban this practice, that Dorje Shugden practitioners find so unacceptable. They are not saying that non-Dorje Shugden practitioners are not entitled to their own religious practices and traditions, only that they are entitled to theirs.

Is the ‘Dorje Shugden problem’ a political issue?

You say: Concern for the ‘Tibetan people’ is a ‘political’ cause but concern for Dorje Shugden practitioners is not?

Tibet is a country that has a Government in Exile (TGIE) and the issues of Tibet are the issues of the government and political by nature. The practice of Dorje Shugden is an essential part of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition and it is a spiritual practice. Campaigning for religious freedom is very important because it affects the spiritual lives of Buddhists. The WSS believes that by practising Buddha’s teachings people can attain permanent liberation from suffering. If these teachings are lost or corrupted, there will be no possiblity of finding permanent release from suffering; so maintaining these teachings is a religious and not a political issue.

It may be uncomfortable to hear but, according to Buddha’s teachings, politics, such as campaigning for a free Tibet, will never lead to permanent liberation from suffering, whereas restoring and protecting a pure spiritual practice that can get people out of samsara will.

You say: If this is about religious freedom and not a political issue, why can’t the NKT itself protest against the Dalai Lama? If it is a political issue then why are members of the NKT engaging in Tibetan politics when the NKT pertains to be non-political?

I can understand your confusion. This problem comes from not distinguishing between the religious and the political dual role of the Dalai Lama. I believe even the Dalai Lama has this problem.

The pure practice of Dorje Shugden has never been ‘Tibetan politics’. The Dalai Lama has made Dorje Shugden into a political scapegoat, blaming his failure to get Tibetan independence on the worship of this Deity. All the WSS is trying to do is to protect the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa. Why is this political? Who is engaging in politics here?

The NKT itself does not protest against the Dalai Lama because many more people than those in the NKT are affected by the Dalai Lama’s ban. As mentioned above, there are many Gelugpas in this world. The WSS is an ad-hoc association of Dorje Shugden practitioners. It is not only the NKT that disagrees with what the Dalai Lama has done.

You say: If Tibetan problems are nothing to do with the WSS then why are you protesting against the Tibetan political leader about his management of Tibetan monasteries? There is no ban on practising Dorje Shugden for NKT practitioners. Do you wish to have the approval of the Dalai Lama?

If the Dalai Lama is a political leader, why is he involved in the management of Tibetan monasteries? This would be like President Bush making decisions about what US Dharma Centres do.

The Dalai Lama wants to have his cake and to eat it – he wants to be a politician and he wants to be a spiritual leader at the same time. These roles are incompatible. With all due respect, confusion over what he is seems evident from your questions and responses, and I think this confusion stems from his ambiguous dual role – is he the political or the religious leader? What does he want from the world and its people? Even the media is often unsure how to refer to him and world politicians are ambivalent about whether or not to meet with him. His theocratic role is unique in this modern world and, for those who disagree with him, there is no recourse because of it.

Practitioners of Dorje Shugden will probably never get the Dalai Lama’s approval, which of course makes many of them very sad, as you can see from their stories on this video. But what they need is the freedom to practice, the freedom not to be ostracised from their communities, and the freedom not to be demonized as non-Buddhists engaging in ‘cult-like’ practices worshipping an evil spirit. Since the Dalai Lama is the source of this slander, the Western Shugden Society need him to retract his statements and give religious freedom; nothing more.

I’ll post the final part of the replies tomorrow. Once again, thank you Carol for the opportunity to answer your questions. Hopefully these answers will be helpful for others also who are wrestling with doubts, at least enough for them to respect this position even if they do not agree with it.


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