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Dorje Shugden (Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ་ཤུགས་ལྡནWylie: rdo-rje shugs-ldan), "Vajra Possessing Strength", or in his regional appellation Dolgyal Shugden (Tibetan: དོལ་རྒྱལ་ཤུགས་ལྡནWylie: dol rgyal shugs ldan), "Shugden, King of Dhol" is a deity (Tib. lha)[1][2][3] in Tibetan Buddhism, especially its Gelug school, for whom he was regarded as a Dharma Protector or "guardian angel."[4][5] He is regarded as the incarnation of Gelugpa Lama Dragpa Gyaltsen[2][6] of Drepung Monastery, a contemporary of the Fifth Dalai Lama.

Dorje Shugden is a Dharma Protector of the Sakya and Gelug traditions, who has been worshipped for over three hundred years.[7] However, this Dharma Protector's precise nature as either an enlightened being or a worldly being has been the subject of debate among some adherents of Tibetan Buddhism since his appearance in the 17th century. The Dorje Shugden controversy arose in the late 1970s[8] when the Dalai Lama started to speak out against the practice, which has intensified since 1996[9] when he issued an "explicit ban,"[10][11][12][13] suppressing the practice within the Tibetan exile community.[14]

Overview of the controversy

The practice of Dorje Shugden (i.e. different forms of worship and specific meditation techniques) began at the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama Lobsang Gyatso (1617–1682 AD).[15] Those who have followed the practice of Dorje Shugden most recently in the 20th and 21st centuries include the majority of the most famous Gelug teachers, including Pabongka Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche (senior tutor of the current, 14th Dalai Lama),[16] Trijang Rinpoche (junior tutor of the Dalai Lama), Zong Rinpoche, Gangchen Rinpoche, Gonsar Rinpoche, Dagom Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Lama Zopa, Kundeling Rinpoche, Tomo Geshe Rinpoche, and Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche.[17]Template:Primary source claim

Trijang Rinpoche, the root Guru of the 14th Dalai Lama,[18] introduced the Dorje Shugden practice to the Dalai Lama in 1959 prior to the Chinese takeover. The Dalai Lama carried out the practice in private as well as encouraging it in Gelug monasteries.[19] Some twenty years later, the Dalai Lama got involved in a "bitter dispute" with his teacher[20] by stating that the 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.[21] He also stated that the practice was in conflict with his eclectic religious approach as well as his political responsibilities.[22]

In 1976, after the publication of Zemey Rinpoche's The Yellow Book—a text which contained tales of Dorje Shugden punishing those who do not follow the lineage of the Gelugpa sect exclusively and instead also listen to Nyingma teachings—the Dalai Lama, a Gelugpa himself, began to speak out against the use of the deity as an institutional protector.[23] He stated that individuals should decide for themselves if they wanted to practice it privately.[23] From March 1996 onwards, the Dalai Lama decided to move more forcefully on this issue,[23] which "is to be seen in connection with his interest in finding common ground in the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism so as to overcome precisely those exclusivist tendencies that Shugden is said to protect."[24] By doing this, he responded "to growing pressure - particularly from other schools of Tibetan Buddhism such as the Nyingmapa, who threatened withdrawal of their support in the Exiled Government project."[23] The Dalai Lama stated during Buddhist Tantric initiation that Shugden was 'an evil spirit' whose actions were detrimental to the 'cause of Tibet'.[23] The Dalai Lama concluded that henceforth he would not give Tantric initiation to worshippers of Shugden,[23] since "the unbridgeable divergence of their respective positions would inevitably undermine the sacred guru-student relationship, and thus compromise his role as a teacher (and by extension his health)."[23] This introduces a contradiction on the Dalai Lama's part, as von Brück explains:

Many of the present Lamas of the Gelukpa tradition have received their teachings from Trijang Rinpoche or Zong Rinpoche. In those cases where he is the 'root Lama' (rtsa ba'i bla ma) who has handed down all three aspects of the tradition (oral transmission of texts, commentaries, the empowerments), the relationship to him is absolutely binding. This is an essential part of Vajrayana practice. Otherwise, according to Tantric tradition he might be regarded as a person who has broken the Tantric vow (dam-nyams) and this would concern the Dalai Lama himself as having been initiated by Shugden practice.[25]

According to von Brück, after examining Dorje Shugden based on three methodological devices—historical evidence, political reason, and spiritual insight—the Dalai Lama changed his view and now considers Dorje Shugden to be a worldly spirit. von Brück concludes: "However, in spite of these arguments, opposition against this interpretation of the Dalai Lama and the exile government is still strong on two grounds: the truthfulness and commitments to one's root teacher, and religious freedom."[25]

According to news reports by France 24 and Al Jazeera, the words and actions of the Dalai Lama constitute a ban on the practice.[26][27] Others allege that such "Deity discrimination" is illegal according to both the Constitution of India[28] and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,[29] as well as the Constitution of Tibet:

All religious denominations are equal before the law. Every Tibetan shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. These religious rights include the freedom to manifest one's belief, to receive initiation into religious traditions, practice with matters relating to religious commitment, such as preaching and worship of any religion, either alone or in community with others.[30]

Arguments for and against the practice

Views of the 14th Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama is asking people who want to take Tantric initiation from him to let go of the practice of Dorje Shugden,[31] giving three main reasons:[22][32]

  1. The Dalai Lama identifies Dorje Shugden as a "spirit", and claims that tradition of propitiation associated with Shugden elevates this spirit to being equal or superior to the Buddha.[22] He states that encouraging the worship of Dorje Shugden could contribute to reducing Tibetan Buddhism to a form of superstitious spirit worship.[22]
  2. The Dalai Lama states that there is an "acknowledged link" between worship of Dorje Shugden and sectarianism between the various Tibetan Buddhist schools.[22] The Dalai Lama believes non-sectarianism is "his most important commitment", and that the worship of Dorje Shugden may be a barrier to this commitment to non-sectarianism.[22]
  3. The Dalai Lama says that Dorje Shugden has a long history of antagonistic attitude to the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan Government they have headed since the time of the 5th Dalai Lama.[22] He identifies the 5th and 13th Dalai Lamas as having specifically spoken out against Dorje Shugden as a threat "to the welfare of beings in general and the Tibetan government headed by the Dalai Lamas in particular".[22] He states that in light of the current difficult situation endured by the Tibetan people, it is particularly important to resist the worship of Dorje Shugden as a potentially divisive practice.[22]

The Dalai Lama stated conclusively, "I have explained the reasons why I am against the veneration of Shugden and given my sources in a very detailed manner."[31] The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition explains the official advice of the Dalai Lama based on the three points above:

The Dalai Lama has strongly urged his followers to consider carefully the problems of Dolgyal practice on the basis of these three reasons and to act accordingly. He has stated that, as a Buddhist leader with a special concern for the Tibetan people, it is his responsibility to speak out against the damaging consequences of this kind of spirit worship. Whether or not his advice is heeded, His Holiness has made clear, is a matter for the individual. However, since he personally feels strongly about how negative this practice is, he has requested those who continue to propitiate Dolgyal not to attend his formal religious teachings, which traditionally require the establishment of a teacher-disciple relationship.[33]

</blockquote>

Replies from Shugden practitioners

Responding to the above three points, some members of the Western Shugden Society (a campaigning group established in 2008) replied:[34]Template:Primary source claim

  1. The practice of Dorje Shugden is not spirit worship because Dorje Shugden is viewed as the embodiment of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom and because Dorje Shugden practitioners practice the complete Dharma of Buddha Shakyamuni. Moreover, if the Dalai Lama's reason were true, it would meant that the teachings he is giving himself are non-Buddhist as many of these come from his teachers who were faithful Dorje Shugden practitioners.
  2. There is no evidence to support the claim that they are promoting sectarianism. All they are requesting is the freedom to practice the tradition without being ostracized. For example, Muslims, Catholics and even actual spirit worshippers are permitted to attend the "formal religious teachings" of the Dalai Lama, but Buddhist Dorje Shugden practitioners are excluded.[35]
  3. If another political leader were to say someone's spiritual practice was affecting the government headed by that leader and so should be stopped, this would be considered dictatorial and unacceptable. In the same way, it is not correct to say that those who pray to Dorje Shugden for the protection of their Dharma realizations in any way is detrimental to the government headed by the Dalai Lama.

Pro-Dorje Shugden Lamas such as Geshe Kelsang Gyatso have asked the Dalai Lama to present valid reasons supporting his claims and, in the absence of any response, have continued to engage in the practice.[36] They continue to rely on teachers such as Trijang Rinpoche, who taught that Dorje Shugden is a Buddha. Trijang Rinpoche, the junior tutor and "root guru"[37] of the current Dalai Lama, is seen by the FPMT and others as "[o]ne of the foremost Tibetan Buddhist masters of our time."[38] Remarking on this debate in his text on Dorje Shugden:

Yet all this talk is nothing but babbling speculation. Why? Because this great guardian of the teachings is well known to be the precious supreme emanation from Drepung monastery's upper house, Dragpa Gyaltsen, arising in a wrathful aspect. The proof is unmistaken. Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, as is taught in the lineage, was the final birth in a reincarnation lineage that included the Mahasiddha Birwawa, the great Kashmiri Pandit Shakya Shri, the omniscient Buton, Duldzin Dragpa Gyaltsen, Panchen Sonam Dragpa, and so forth; this is proven by valid scriptural quotation and reasoning. These great beings, from a definitive point of view, were already fully enlightened, and even to common appearances, every one of them was a holy being that attained high states of realization. What worse karma could there be than denying this and asserting that he was born in the preta (spirit) realm?[39]

McCune comments, "As we see, the 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."[40]

History

1970's - The Yellow Book

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.[41]

The controversy surfaced within the Tibetan exile community during the 1970s.[21][42][43] 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.[43]

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."[44]

Georges Dreyfus remarks that the sectarian elements of the Yellow Book were not unusual and do not "justify or explain the Dalai Lama's strong reaction."[8] 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."[45] 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.[46]

The 14th Dalai Lama started to encourage the devotion to Padmasambhava, for the supposed purpose of unifying the Tibetans,[47]Template:Primary source claim and "to protect Tibetans from danger".[48]

Paul Williams states that "The Dalai Lama is trying to modernize the Tibetans' political vision and trying to undermine the factionalism. He has the dilemma of the liberal: do you tolerate the intolerant?"[49] Georges Dreyfus disagrees with such an interpretation:[50]

[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. Thus, this dispute is not between followers of a traditional popular cult and a modernist reformer who tries to discredit this cult by appealing to modern criteria of rationality. Rather, it is between two traditional or clan-based interpretations of the Geluk tradition, that of Shukden's followers who want to set the Geluk tradition apart from others, and the Dalai Lama's more eclectic vision. The fact that the former may be more exclusivistic and that the latter may be more open does not entail that they can be interpreted adequately through the traditional/modern opposition.[51]

Various Shugden supporters assert that there was no factionalism before the ban, and that it is the Dalai Lama who is being intolerant and adhering to a theocratic model of government[52][unreliable source?] by banning their 400-year old religious practice.[53]Template:Primary source claim

1996-1998

In March 1996, responding to increasing political pressure (especially from the Nyingma school, who threatened to withdraw from the TGIE), the Dalai Lama announced that Dorje Shugden was "an evil spirit" detrimental to the cause of a free Tibet,[54] and so he began to request that those who worshiped Shugden no longer attend tantric initiations from him,[55] which "effectively placed them outside the fold of the exiled Tibetan polity."[56] At one Tantric initiation, the Dalai Lama said:

If any among you here are determined to continue propitiating Dolgyal, it would be better for you to stay away from this empowerment, get up and leave this place. It is improper for you to continue to sit here. It will not benefit you. On the contrary it will have the effect of reducing the life span of Gyalwa Rinpoche [the Dalai Lama], which is not good. However, if there are any among you who hope that Gyalwa Rinpoche will soon die, then you can stay.[57]

In remarks to members of the Cholsum Congress on March 4, 1996, the Dalai Lama expressed satisfaction that the Congress had passed a resolution addressing the worship of Dorje Shugden, implying that Tibetan Buddhists ignoring his restrictions might hasten his own death, since "then there would not be any point in my continuing to live silently as a disappointed man."[55] The Dalai Lama's official position is that:

Propitiating Dolgyal does great harm to the cause of Tibet. It also imperils the life of the Dalai Lama. Therefore, it is totally inappropriate for the great monasteries of the Gelug tradition, the Upper and Lower Tantric Monasteries and all other affiliated monasteries which are national institutions ever to propitiate Dolgyal. The public should be thoroughly informed so that they can gain a clear appreciation of the situation themselves. However, everyone is completely free to say: "If the cause of Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s life are undermined so be it. We have religious freedom. We are a democracy. We are free to do as we please. We will not change our tradition of propitiating Dolgyal."[58]

Although the TGIE said that individuals must be free "to decide as they like," it asked that monks in the refugee community sign an agreement in support of the ban, in particular requesting the names of any monks at Sera monastery who continued to worship Dorje Shugden.[55] House to house searches were conducted by the TGIE, "demanding that people sign a declaration" that they had abandoned the practice.[16] The TGIE passed a resolution forbidding governmental and monastic institutions from propitiating Dorje Shugden.[55]

Previously confined primarily to the Tibetan exile community, the dispute over Dorje Shugden developed international dimensions that same year, when the British-based New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) began to publicly oppose the Dalai Lama's position.[59] Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, founder of the New Kadampa Tradition, was a devotee of Shugden, and the nephew of a man who had previously served as a medium for Shugden in Tibetan refugee communities.[59] Unlike other Gelug teachers, some of whom privately worshiped Shugden but did not teach the practice to their Western students, Gyatso made Shugden practices central to the teachings he imparted to non-Tibetan students in England and abroad.[59]

When the Dalai Lama visited England later in the summer of 1996, members of the New Kadampa tradition staged pickets outside venues where the Dalai Lama was speaking, holding placards accusing the Dalai Lama of repressing religious freedom.[59] At the time, the NKT was the largest Buddhist organization in the United Kingdom.[60] Gyatso also founded the Shugden Supporters Community (SSC), which distributed press releases to news outlets covering the Dalai Lama's trip to England.[61] The SSC also initiated a letter-writing campaign to petition the British Home Secretary to revoke the Dalai Lama's visa.[62] In August 1996, Sera Je monastery in India formally expelled Kelsang Gyatso, citing his opposition to the Dalai Lama.[62]

The NKT claimed that the Dalai Lama's remarks had inspired the harassment of Dorje Shugden worshippers among the Tibetan exile community in India.[63] Martin Mills, a lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen, observed while in India that those who did not worship Dorje Shugden seemed to feel that they should "endeavor to eradicate its practice amongst their peers, neighbors and co-workers as an act of loyalty to the Dalai Lama."[64] The alleged abuses included searches of the homes and temples of Shugden devotees, and the destruction of images of Dorje Shugden.[63] In 1996, the TGIE began a campaign to "subdue Dorje Shugden propitiation amongst government employees and Gelug monasteries."[65] Speaking to the press in England, the SSC therefore stated that Shugden worshippers had been dismissed from their jobs and expelled from monasteries.[60]

The numerous denials on the part of TGIE officials between 1996 and 1998 of any kind of "ban" on Dorje Shugden practice were "clearly" and "in all probability simply disingenuous," according to Martin Mills.[66]

A Swiss TV documentary made in 1997 paints an even grimmer picture. The documentary shows evidence of violence and even death threats towards Dorje Shugden practitioners with wanted posters of Dorje Shugden adherents being posted in Dharamsala, encouraging violence towards practitioners.[67][68] After protests from viewers and especially the Tibetan exile community in Switzerland, the channel broadcast another documentary in which it painted a more balanced picture, retracting some of the statements and impressions left by the first documentary (e.g. the existence of wanted posters).[69]

According to Sara Chamberlain in the New Internationalist, in 1996 the Dalai Lama announced that worship of Dorje Shugden was banned and explained that the Tibetan state oracle, Nechung, had advised him that the deity was a threat to his personal safety and the future of Tibet.[70][unreliable source?] The Dalai Lama stated in 1996: "All final decisions have been concluded only through divination."[71]Template:Primary source claim Thus, the belief that Dorje Shugden is a threat to the Dalai Lama and to Tibet is directly attributable to an oracle in a trance.[72][unreliable source?][16]

In India, some protests and opposition were organised by the Dorje Shugden Religious and Charitable Society with the support of the SSC.[73]Template:Primary source claim 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.[60] 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, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary detention or imprisonment, or unfair trials), adding that "while recognizing that a spiritual debate can be contentious, [we] cannot become inolved in debate on spiritual issues."[74] 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.[75] While the AI report effectively exonerated the TGIE of human rights abuses, Jane Ardley adds that the Dalai Lama was at fault for using his political authority to infringe upon others' religious freedom,[76] saying that "While the Dalai Lama's stated concern, 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."[77]

2008-present

The Dalai Lama has recently stated: "I have meditated and considered (my decision to put aside the Shugden) at length in my soul and spirit before coming to the right decision” and continued: "People have killed, lied, fought each other and set things alight in the name of this deity. These monks must be expelled from all monasteries. If they are not happy, you can tell them that the Dalai Lama himself asked that this be done, and it is very urgent."[78] and "Recently monasteries have fearlessly expelled Shugden monks where needed. I fully support their actions. I praise them. If monasteries find taking action hard, tell them the Dalai Lama is responsible for this."[79]

The opening address of the fifth session of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TPiE), which began on March 4, 2008, was delivered by Karma Chophel. According to the official website of the TGIE, he lauded the bold initiative of Tibetan monastic communities in their resolve to end the Dolgyal (Shugden) worship, following the long life offering to the Dalai Lama held at Drepung monastery in south India in February. "This session will present motions to strengthen the present resolution adopted by the TPiE against the propitiation of Shugden," he added.[80]

Critics of the ban on the practice of Dorje Shugden say that it has caused a large rift in the Tibetan community and is increasing disharmony in the Tibetan diaspora.[81] For example, Dorje Shugden practitioners have been pelted with stones in India[82] and a mob of Dalai Lama followers also threatened Dorje Shugden practitioners in New York.[83]

On April 22, 2008, the newly-founded Western Shugden Society (WSS) began a campaign directed towards the 14th Dalai Lama, claiming he is "banning them from practicing their own lineage of Buddhism". The WSS claims that the Dalai Lama and the TGIE have not responded to any of their attempts to dialogue on the subject and supporters say that the TGIE have simply discredited the opposition.[84]Template:Primary source claim

Sara Chamberlain reported that the TGIE will not employ those worshipping Dorje Shugden, keeping a blacklist of those who do.[72][unreliable source?] The TGIE is also accused of labeling Shugden supporters as "terrorists," as reported by Al Jazeera: "In the Tibetan refugee camps, Shugden worshippers have been turned away from jobs, shops and schools. Posters with the message 'no Shugden followers allowed' cover hospital and shop fronts."[85]

Because of perceived religious discrimination, the founder of Kundeling Monastery, Lobsang Yeshe, who lives in South India, has filed a complaint against the Dalai Lama at the Indian High Court on the grounds of religious persecution. The prosecuting lawyer, Shree Sanjay Jain, argues that when the Dalai Lama excommunicates Dorje Shugden worshippers from Buddhist society, "then it is discrimination of the worst kind."[86]

The TGIE accuses Lobsang Yeshe of being paid by the Chinese and state that he has visited China at least twice. He however denies working for the Chinese, but does confirm that he has Chinese friends and he praises the Chinese "for what they are doing in Tibet," claiming that if Tibetans who followed Dorje Shugden had to live under the Dalai Lama in Tibet, they "would have possibly been crucified."[87]

Since the monks who practice relying upon Dorje Shugden were expelled from Ganden and Sera monasteries in 2008, they have been constructing new premises near these monasteries, called Shar Gaden Monastery[88]Template:Primary source claim and Serpom Norling Monastery,[89]Template:Primary source claim respectively. A newly-erected nine-foot wall separates Ganden monastery from Shar Gaden monastery.

Views on the Conflict

According to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile

According to the Dolgyal Research Committee, instituited by the Tibetan government in exile (TGIE), prominent opponents to the practice have included not only the 5th, 13th and current Dalai Lamas but also the 5th and 8th Panchen Lamas, Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, the 14th and 16th Karmapas among others.[90]

According to Shugden supporters

The claims of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile (TGIE) are denied by the followers of Dorje Shugden. They claim, that for example, in 1921 the 13th Dalai Lama's biography refers to Dorje Shugden as an enlightened Protector (jam mgon bstan srung pa) and explains that the 13th Dalai Lama subsequently restored the Potala and Ganden stupas as an offering to him. According to Shugden adherents, the Fifth Dalai Lama started off in opposition but then changed his mind.[91] As further evidence of their vies they state the example of Phelgye Ling monastery (now in Kathmandu), that was transformed to a Gelug monastery by the 5th Dalai Lama, who gave the monastery a statue (about 20 cm high) of Dorje Shugden riding on a black horse, which still exists in the monastery in Kathmandu.[92]

According to Trijang Rinpoche:

Furthermore, from the definitive point of view, that these holy beings were already fully enlightened innumerable ages ago, is clear if one examines the accounts of their lives, and if one were to say that a fully enlightened being could take birth as an ordinary gyalpo or tsen spirit, then one would be asserting that degeneration is possible from the state of full enlightenment or that someone could be both fully enlightened and an ordinary preta at the same time. Or else, one would have to say that the accounts of those great beings lives are worthless. A mountain of absurd consequences, previously non-existent distorted ideas, would have to be accepted.[93]

This view is also held by other Gelug Lamas past and present who are or were considered great masters, including: Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche (root Guru of many highly regarded Gelug Lamas of the early 20th century), Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (junior tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama). Among those who practised Shugden in the Gelug school were not only the Dalai Lama but also Geshe Rabten, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe (founder of the FPMT), Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (founder of the NKT) and Tomo Geshe Rinpoche.[94] It is also said that some of the Panchen Lamas (e.g. the 9th and 10th) practised Shugden,[95] as does the current Panchen Lama Gyenkyen Norbu.[96] Trijang Rinpoche claims that the view that Dorje Shugden is an emanation of Manjushri has also been held by the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Eleventh Dalai Lama. According to Trijang Rinpoche, the Eleventh Dalai Lama "enthroned Gyalchen Dorje Shugden as the principal protector of the Yellow Hat teachings."[97]

Views of non-Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhists

Dorje Shugden has traditionally been regarded as a protector especially of the Gelugpa tradition. The other schools of Tibetan Buddhism have therefore usually not worshipped him or even, in the historical context of (political) rivalry, seen him as a potential threat.

Sakya Trizin, head of the Sakya lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, notes that at one time followers of his school did make offerings to Shugden but that, in this context, Shugden was regarded as a worldly deity. He also mentions two Lamas of pre-occupation Tibet, Dorjechang Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and Ngor Kangchen Dorjechang, who limited the practice in their monasteries,[98] confirming the existence of the practice within that tradition up to that time.

Palpung Tai Situ Rinpoche, one of the most important Lamas in the the Karma Kagyu tradition has said that the practice of Shugden "causes fear." He adds the practice is considered to create obstacles to spiritual practice.[99]

While traditionally, the relationship between Shugden and the Nyingma is one of enmity, there is some evidence of latter day Nyingma[100] practitioners in Nepal having received and propitiated Dorje Shugden via a patriarchal rather than politico-institutional lineage. Mumford writes based on his anthropological studies in Nepal in the late 1970s:

Tibetans in Kathmandu regard Shugs-ldan as a guardian honored by those who adhere to the Gelug sect, while members of the Nyingma sect think of Shug-ldan as an enemy, sent against them by the rival sect. But in the villages these sectarian differences are not well understood. In Gyasumdo the lamas are Nyingmapa, yet most of them honor Shugs-ldan as a lineage guardian picked up in Tibet in the past by their patriline.[101]

Chogyal Namkhai Norbu claims that Shugden can cause devotees to become "nervous, confused and upset."[102] Minling Trichen Rinpoche, late head of the Nyingma tradition,[103] said that "Shugden is a ghost. We Nyingma practitioner do not follow him. We propagate only those protectors that were bound by Padmasambhava. Shugden came after Padmasambhava."[104]

Claims of violence/discrimination

Claims of violence/discrimination against Shugden practitioners

David Van Biema reports: "Addressing charges of shunning, threats and even physical abuse against Shugdenites, American Dalai Lama adviser John Ackerly admits that 'there have been cases of harassment,' all condemned by the High Lama."[105]

Dorje Shugden worshippers say the ban and its implementation are in direct conflict with the proposed constitution of a free Tibet, laid down by the Dalai Lama in 1963, which states that all religious denominations are equal before the law, and every Tibetan shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.[106] But when Dorje Shugden worshippers challenged the ban on these grounds, the TGIE responded: "Concepts like democracy and freedom of religion are empty when it comes to the well-being of the Dalai Lama and the common cause of Tibet."[72] Lama Zopa of the FPMT explains that the main reason he stopped the practice of Dorje Shugden himself and among his students was to support the Dalai Lama's political efforts on behalf of Tibet.[107] Brendan O'Neill argues that the extreme idolization of the Dalai Lama by his followers only serves to undermine democracy in a future free Tibet.[108] Ursula Bernis commented that second-guessing any pronouncement made by the Dalai Lama is "sacrilege among religious Tibetans."[109]

The Dalai Lama claims that Dorje Shugden conflicts with government-approved Dharma Protectors,[110] so Al Jazeera asked one of the Tibetan government's Members of Parliament, Tsultrim Tenzin, whether there had been any parliamentary debate about Dorje Shugden. He replied that there had been no debate simply because there was no opposition, adding "We do not have any doubt about Dalai Lama's decisions. We do not think he is a human being. He's a supreme human being and he is god, he is Avalokiteshvara."[111]

According to PK Dey, a human-rights lawyer from Delhi, Dorje Shugden worshippers are suffering harassment from the Dalai Lama's followers and his government, citing door-to-door searches and wanted posters as examples.[72] In 1998, Dey stated that he had gathered 300 statements from Tibetans living throughout India who claimed to have been subject to harassment or attack because of their worship of Dorje Shugden.[112]

Shugden practitioners claim that they have been subjected to violence while protesting the ban, both in the 1990s and in the present-day.[113] They state that in 1996, outside a monastery in southern India, a group of pro Dalai Lama supporters (including monks) surrounded hundreds of monks who had gathered to demonstrate against the Dalai Lama's ban on Dorje Shugden and threw stones and bricks. Approximately 60 Dorje Shugden monks were hospitalized with serious injuries.[114][unreliable source?] Chryssides reported that "it is certainly true that, in July 1997, 200 of the Dalai Lama's followers physically attacked Shugden supporters."[115]

Deccan Herald reported on Monday, September 11, 2000:

Three police officers and more than 30 persons were injured in stone pelting incident in Lama camp of Tibetan settlement, Mundgod on Sunday morning. More than 2000 Lamas including 200 women who are said to be the followers of Dalai Lama took out procession under the leadership of Prema Tsering and tried to destroy Shugden temple and started pelting stones on Shugden devotees. Police personnel resorted to lathi charge and later bursted teargass shells.[116]

On July 17, 2008, a mob of Dalai Lama supporters surrounded Shugden protestors after the Dalai Lama's teachings at Radio City in New York, spitting, screaming, and throwing water bottles and coins.[117][118] The New York riot police led the protestors away to safety.[117][119]

Jamphel Yeshe, the President of the Dorje Shugden Society, stated that information about he and his family were posted on "wanted posters" in Tibetan communities in India and Nepal.[120] Yeshe said in an interview that these posters had resulted in threats being made against himself and his family.[120]

Wanted posters described people believed to be Shugden leaders as the "top ten enemies of the state". The posters were put up in monasteries, settlements and in Dharamsala by the TGIE. In Clementown, India, "the house of a family of Shugden worshippers was stoned and then firebombed."[72]

Shugden supporters say that in July 2008, wanted posters of several monks involved in the WSS protests appeared in Queens, New York.[121][unreliable source?] Al Jazeera reported about public shunning via posters of Dorje Shugden practitioners displayed in public, adding "No Shugden worshipper has ever been charged or investigated for terrorism, and yet the monks that continue to worship Shugden remain victims of a campaign of name and shame."[122] Dorje Shugden practitioners have also received other warning and death threats since the 1990s.[123]

In October 2008, Radio Free Asia reported that the residence of a Dorje Shugden practitioner had been firebombed by Tibetan monks "loyal to the Dalai Lama."[124]

Most recently, in May 2009 two Shugden monks were attacked at Shar Gaden Monastery.[125]

Claims of violence/discrimination against non-Shugden practitioners

A year after the Dalai Lama's 1996 banning of the practice, Gen Lobsang Gyatso was murdered in Dharmasala, along with two of his students.[126]

Lobsang Gyatso had been a vocal supporter of the Dalai Lama's position on the worship of Dorje Shugden since the 1970s. In 1978, he wrote a book apparently criticizing the Dalai Lama’s teacher, Trijang Rinpoche, for his propagation of the Shugden cult, calling him a "knotless heretic teacher—that is, a heretic disguised as a Buddhist monk."[20] 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 publically 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.[127]

Georges Dreyfus adds 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."[128]

After the murder, Indian police interviewed several men they identified as worshippers of Dorje Shugden,[63] but, given the lack of any evidence, could not formally charge anyone. Though no arrest was made,[129] many within the CTA assumed that it had been carried out by supporters of Dorje Shugden. 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."[130]

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso denied the involvement of any of his followers in the murder, and condemned the killings.[63] The Tibetan government in exile has opened itself to severe criticism for maintaining, without any evidence whatsoever, that the murder of Lobsang Gyatso was carried out by followers of Dorje Shugden.[131][broken citation]

In June 2007, the Times stated that Interpol had issued a Red notice to China for extraditing two of the alleged killers.[132]

See also

References

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Further reading

  • Curren, Erik (2006). Buddha's Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today. Staunton, Virginia: Alaya Press. pp. 15–20, 299. ISBN 9780977225309. 
  • Dreyfus, Georges (1998). "The Shuk-Den Affair: Origins of a Controversy". Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (Leuven: Peeters Publishers) 21 (2): 227–270. ISSN 0193-600X. 
  • Kay, David (2004). Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain: Transplantation, Development and Adaptation. London: Routlge Curzon. ISBN 9780415297653. 
  • Lopez, Donald (1998). Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press. pp. 188–196. ISBN 9780226493107. 
  • René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz (1956). Oracles and demons of Tibet: the cult and iconography of the Tibetan protective deities. The Hauge: Mouton. 
  • Tenpai Gyaltsen Dhongthog; Lucjan Shila (translator) (2000). The Earth Shaking Thunder of True Word. A refutation of attacks on the advice of H.H. the Dalai Lama regarding the propitiation of guardian deities.. Shoreline, Washington: Sapan Institute. 

External links

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