The Shugden Cult, Dalai Lama Protests, Race, and Genocide

Last month, when the Dalai Lama was in Oslo on the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize, he and supporters were confronted with crowds of protesters calling him, among other things, a False Dalai Lama and a persecutor of worshippers of Dorje (or Dolgyal) Shugden, a protector deity associated with the Dalai Lama’s Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism.

In gathering background on the situation, we looked at two prominent scholars of Tibetan Buddhism, Georges Dreyfus and Robert Thurman (who uses the term Cult to describe the group), both of whom paint a more favorable picture of the Dalai Lama than of the protesters. In fact, we found no scholars supporting the Shugden group (who refer to themselves often as Shugdenpas), as authentically facing religious persecution under the Dalai Lama or his broader influence. Followers of Shugden addressed Thurman’s article in a forum of their own here.

The group presses its claims, however, and in the wake of the protests they recently posted this video, claiming “shocking revelations from Dalai Lama’s official for Europe”:

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While it’s not necessarily “shocking” it does look like Thubten Wangchen, the monk and Dalai Lama representative being interviewed, was having a hard time substantiating his claims against the Shugden group. The interviewer presses further, asking about signs in shops saying that no Shugden worshipers are to be admitted. Wangchen responds by calling the worship of Shugden a “cancer” in the Tibetan community. As he says this, the video shows an overlay claiming “this is the language of genocide.” Wangchen says it is the right of people to worship Shugden, but it is also the right of businesses to deny them service.

This does raise serious questions for religious freedom, even in the absence of an explicit “ban” on Shugden worship (a ban and ensuing ‘hit-list’ that Dorje Shugden worshippers insist exists). In the US, for instance, various minorities have had to fight for decades for equal services, from the civil rights battles of the 1960s to battles for rights to service for the LGBTQ community in recent years. And similar cases along purely “faith based” lines have made headlines in recent years as well (Bank refuses to serve Christians, Atheist refused service by N.J. notary). And Buddhists in both Burma and Sri Lanka are actively repressing, sometimes violently, people of other religions. Similar violence between Buddhist groups has a long history throughout Asia, including Tibet. And it is this sectarian fighting, ostensibly, that the Dalai Lama has sought to calm by opposing the worship of Shugden.

Speaking for at least some in the Tibetan community, Angry Tibetan Girl posted this (with an image of mostly white Shugden protesters):

Tibetans on Shugden:

Former SFT director Tendor tells a bunch of white shuggie trouble makers to check their privilege.

The Ultimate Insult: After 300 years of colonizing, plundering and devastating the East, the White man in the West now claims they’re the victims of a homeless refugee monk who has no army nor police nor an inch of territory on which to set up a tent? If these people feel oppressed by the Dalai Lama, all they have to do is take off their robes and walk away, back to their edifice of European privilege built largely from the bricks of former colonies.

And last month Tibet House US published a book detailing the history and current situation around Shugden and the New Kadampa Tradition:

Many visitors attending public talks and teachings of the Dalai Lama have been shocked to encounter nearby crowds of angry protesters, people dressed in Tibetan Buddhist monastic robes, proclaiming the Dalai Lama to be a “liar,” “hypocrite,” “dictator,” etc., and accusing him of robbing them of their religious freedom.

Dolgyal Shugden: A History reveals with clear evidence, how these protests have been organized by a Tibetan monk, Kelsang Gyatso, and have been coordinated and populated by his followers, members of his “New Kadampa Tradition.” It also provides in depth research to show how, though the demonstrations purport to object to the Dalai Lama’s repudiation of their worship of the Dolgyal Shugden, considered by most Tibetans to be a mundane, somewhat demonic spirit, their main aim is simply to attack the Dalai Lama by damaging his reputation, in parallel with the present Chinese government’s worldwide attempts to do the same.

This book seeks to clarify the ignorance and misconceptions surrounding the Dolgyal Shugden spirit cult and its relationship with the Dalai Lamas of Tibet, and goes on to further analyze the record and development of the schismatic New Kadampa Tradition, unveiling the cultic structures and dogmas, the financial mechanisms, the international affiliations, and the driving motivations of its leadership that keep it running and expanding its missionary activities.

Shugden supporters seem to have a response of their own to the race issue: Are Buddhists There are also plenty of Tibetan Shugden supporters living in India (which accounts for the signs there -often in Tibetan- refusing service to Shugden worshippers).

So what might have begun as a change of practice policy as a move toward greater ecumenism has become itself a source of strife in the Tibetan Buddhist community. The issue has simmered for decades now and, if anything, is becoming more, not less, complex. Given the increasing activity on both sides, it is unlikely to die down any time soon.

Could mediation (not meditation) be effective? Are there any signs that either side wants to meet in discussion? Could Shugden be transformed into a benevolent protector, stripped of the power and willingness to protect the Geluk ‘tradition through violent means, even including the killing of its enemies’ as Dreyfus pointed out in his article? Could the Tibetan administration enforce rights to service for all customers, despite religious affiliation, wherever it has influence?

  • Kathy K-m

    I would like to know why the Dalai Lama, and all Buddhists, have remained so silent about the genocide against the Rohingya people, in Myanmar?
    Every violent act by a Muslim is blamed on Islam. The Christians are expected to take responsibility for every action of their brethren, going back to the Crusades.
    Yet, Buddhists seem to ignore/distance themselves from the atrocities committed in the name of THEIR faith.
    Why? Did you just hope we wouldn’t notice?

    • Jean Paone

      There are several news articles referring to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s appeal to Buddhists in Myanmar to end violence against the Muslims in Myanmar. The most recent articles are from Sept 2013 and can be found in and If you search on google you will find earlier articles in other news outlets.

    • Karze

      Dalai Lama was first to respond not only to the ethnic strife in Burma but also to Muslims in general after 9/11. He has spoken so many times to media but media like CNN and ABC will cover the White House’s pet dog than the Dalai Lama.

      Do you expect Dalai Lama to stage a hunger strike in Burma where he is being denied a visa and almost every Buddhist countries from Thailand to Sri Lanka except for Japan.

      Thanks this is largely due to Chinese and Corporate West who has become China apologist.

      The Dalai Lama even never spoke strongly or harshly about the Chinese occupation and oppression of Tibet and Tibetans even when asked by media.

      Give me a break. We all know the Western hypocrisy very well while condemning so virulently about the Nazi while forgetting their own hand in decimation of Native People of America’s and Nuking Japan twice burning even the innocent people.

      Do all Caucasian take the responsibilities for the Hitler or Stalin crimes so why should the Dalai Lama take responsibility for the mayhem in Burma which has nothing to do with Dalai Lama.

  • Luna Kadampa

    Speaking as someone who has relied on the Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden for over 30 years, I can say that we have asked for dialogue many times on this issue, and all we have received in return is more insults — that we are spirit worshippers, cultists, and worse. There is very real persecution taking place. If your readers would like to know more, there is an article here that gives reasons why these Buddhist practitioners feel impelled to take to the streets in protest against the Dalai Lama’s ban.

    • justinwhitaker

      Many thanks for your comment; my best wishes for progress in this all around.

    • Mick

      Speaking as someone who has relied on the spirit Dorje Shugden for over 6 years, I can say that I never met Shugden people who were able for a dialogue but who want to indoctrinate others with their views that neither match history nor facts. In fact, my NKT teacher said that we don’t exchange with others views (which means that we tell others what the “right view” is and they have to listen.) And since we are right and others are wrong if people hold another view then it follows for us (the NKT people) that the others are liars.

      To reduce religious extremism and a practice that undermines the religious freedom of others (Shugden kills and punishes those who dare to “defile” the Gelug school by studying and practicing also other traditions) is an act to improve religious freedom. The protesters cannot even tell what the “real persecution” is. The protesters can practice Shugden and have their own temples and the Tibetans in India and Tibet can also practice Shugden and have their own temples. The Dalai Lama said clearly that people are free to not accept his advice. And the monasteries decided based on the Vinaya and majority vote to ban Shugden practices at their places because it created too much disharmony and harm. There is not even a general “ban” as the protesters wrongly claim:

  • Atisha’s Cook

    i’m one of the “Shugdenpas”. this is a very emotive topic; because of
    the devotion many Tibetans feel towards the Dalai Lama and the way they
    see him as being inseparable from the Tibetan nation (in its state of
    exile from their homeland) they view anyone, Tibetan or western, who
    speaks out against the Dalai Lama as being necessarily an agent of the
    hated Chinese and, in essence, a devil-worshipper. :( that tends to make discussion difficult!
    in fact, we have been asking the Dalai Lama to enter into dialogue about
    his ban for almost twenty years. to date, unfortunately, he has refused
    all these requests. we are ready when he is.

    • justinwhitaker

      Many thanks for your comment; my best wishes for progress in this.

      • Mick

        A dialogue needs both sides, and if the Israelis would call the Palestinians during public protests “liars, evil, cruel, false, hypocrites”, what basis there is for dialogue? How crazy would this be perceived by the world to attack others baselessly and then to complain about not having a dialogue?

        The protests are not about dialogue or religious freedom but they are the personal battle of Kelsang Gyatso against the Dalai Lama. The protests are “an attempt to dismantle the Dalai Lama’s reputation as a proponent of human rights, tolerance and peace, one that is being carried out with especially fanatical zeal by more recent western adherents of the cult. The question is: cui bono (“To whose benefit”)?”

  • justinwhitaker

    I forgot to mention the petition over at requesting that NKT practitioners stop their protests of the Dalai Lama:

    “We request that you immediately cease the provocative protests and yelling at the public teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”

    (with thanks to sumeru press for pointing it out :

  • Karze

    One of the strange thing is that these very Dolgyal group never protested single time against Chinese total subjugation, oppression and destruction of Buddhism in Tibet by Chinese. Yet on the contrary they cooperate with Chinese officials and get their funding from a special organ of Chinese government called “United Work Front” whose main duty is to contain and control the minorities especially Tibetans from dissenting the oppression and occupation.

    The leader of Shugden very often are invited and are guest of Chinese embassies.

  • Karze

    All that Dalai Lama did was to secularise the Tibetan Buddhism and to wean the Geluk control and hegemony over other 4 schools after coming into exile.

  • Give Religious Freedom

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks so much for your article. It’s been such an uphill battle for Dorje Shugden practitioners to get our side of the story heard. Mostly we are just demonized as being “against the Dalai Lama,” which, given his popularity, is tantamount to saying we’re “against everything good in the world”! :-) All we’re against is religious discrimination. We are good, normal people — not fanatics, not violent or bad or brainwashed cult members.

    There are so many instances showing clear evidence of the 18-year discrimination against Dorje Shugden practitioners. The mere fact that Tibet House uses the word “Dolgyal” for their book, which is a religious slur, shows how brazen and self-righteous many are about mistreating Shugden practitioners.

    Thanks again for your balanced post!

    • Mick

      You are quite uninformed. The term Dolgyal is a term used by Shugden practitioners before they started to claim in around 1960s gradually he were an enlightened protector. Dolgyal means “king spirit from Dol” and this is a common name even used by the protectors’ adherents in the past. It is not a “a religious slur” and therefore it doesn’t show “how brazen and self-righteous many are about mistreating Shugden practitioners.” rather your lack of knowledge shows how much you have been wrongly informed by the NKT and how much you are unable and unwilling to get sober knowledge …

      • Give Religious Freedom

        Dear Mick,

        Regardless of the history of the term, the term is currently certainly not used as a compliment. It is used exclusively these days by opponents to Dorje Shugden prayers.

        Further, I really don’t care if you or others believe Dorje Shugden is a spirit or a Buddha — that is 100% your religious choice and freedom. I will not debate it with you or anyone else; we each have our point of view and that’s fine.

        The protests are not over the nature of Dorje Shugden but over the religious discrimination that’s taking place.

        The simple fact of the matter is that there is government-sanctioned discrimination going on, it was triggered by the Dalai Lama’s inflammatory speech, and we are protesting that discrimination. A few kind words from the Dalai Lama about Dorje Shugden practitioners would go a long way to solving this problem. Why hasn’t the champion of religious tolerance been able to provide any kind words for Shugden practitioners?

        You accuse me of being unable and unwilling to get sober; I could say the same thing to you. So many people are unable or unwilling to look at the blatant discrimination that’s taking place and call it wrong. If they call it wrong, indirectly they would have to call the Dalai Lama wrong, and it seems that the majority of people are afraid to do that.

        • Mick

          This is not a good argument. You continue to ignore history and facts. 

          Dolgyal, king spirit from Dol, is the name attributed to Shugden since a long time even by his proponents. If you claim it were a “religious slur” to call Shugden under the name he is known, Dolgyal, it follows that even his propagators slurred Shugden.


With respect to the claims of suppressing freedom of religion:

“This accusation makes no sense,” states Dr Hill. “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,” Dr Hill concludes.


Dr Nathan W. Hill is Lecturer in Tibetan and Linguistics at London University SOAS’ (School of Oriental and African Studies.

          You can practice Shugden, Shugden people can practice Shugden. There are Shugden monasteries all over India and Tibet. There are only restriction for certain circumstances or places because of the harming effect of this practice.

          Tibetologist Thierry Dodin states in the interview that I linked already however, “It is true that the cult is shunned by the community. But the claim that its remaining followers are systematically discriminated on the basis of an official directive cannot go unchallenged, if for no other reason than the fact that they themselves choose to live in groups largely cut off from the rest of the community. As always in socio-political conflicts, unfortunate incidents did in fact occur here and there. Still, it would be unfair to make the Dalai Lama responsible for the actions of a few overly-zealous individuals. He neither called upon anyone to carry out such actions nor approved of these actions in retrospect. Moreover, such incidents have been wildly exaggerated by Shugden propagandists in terms of their frequency and gravity. Yes, there have certainly been social tensions, but violence has been the exception. The tensions have instead been released in heated debates, demonstrations and boycotts. And if one takes into account that the problem has been in existence since the 17th century and already led to severe tensions in old Tibet, even local wars, one must say that overall this conflict has been quite peacefully managed in the last 30 years.”

          • Give Religious Freedom

            Ok, Mick. So two questions: 1) Are you saying that there is no discrimination? Because that’s just not anywhere close to true.

            2) Why won’t the Dalai Lama simply say the equivalent of, “Hey guys, I think Dorje Shugden is an Evil Spirit, but everyone has a right to worship as they please, so I’d like to encourage people and the government not to treat them any differently than anyone else”?

            • Mick

              There is no persecution or discrimination as the NKT/ICS wrongly claim. They claim wrongly that Shugden people were hindered by the CTA/DL to have access to education, to have access to passport documents, or even to medical health care. There were a few single cases where this happened due to over zealous Tibetans or due to over aggressive Shugden people. However, NKT/ICS claim wrongly that this would be the policy of the CTA or the Dalai Lama which is wrong.

              With respect to the second point. I don’t know if the Dalai didn’t say anything like this or not. The Dalai Lama didn’t encourage people to harm any Shugden practitioner. Tibetans have their own way of dealing with such things. You won’t find a statement by the Dalai Lama either where he says: “Hey guys, though you think Dorje Shugden is a Buddha, everyone has a right not to worship it, so I’d like to encourage the Shugden people not to treat Shugden critics differently than anyone else.” Remember, it were Shugden people who are accused by the Indian police and searched by Interpol for having killed the Shugden critic Gen Lobsang Gyatso and two of his students, it was a Western Shugden person who tried to kill Chatral Rinpoche and it were Shugden people who had the vile plan to murder the assistant of Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche in order to blame for this murder the CTA/Dalai Lama. NKT/ICS is good in accusations but not good in history, facts and understanding of the whole picture. What NKT/ICS perfected is a narrow version of the situation that is totally biased, exaggerated, selfish (only considering the own side), and they perfected the art of victimising themselves and blaming others. In that way they isolate themselves even more and contribute largely that nobody likes them. Not any Shugden person has been killed, tortured put into prison, etc. Not any Human Right organisation has ever approved any of the allegations. The Delhi High Court dismissed the writ filed by the fake Kundeling lama due to ‘vague averments’ and the ‘absence of any specific instances of any such attacks’ on Dorjee
              Shugden practitioners etc.

              • Give Religious Freedom

                I know I won’t change your mind, Mick, but there is plenty of evidence to contradict your claims. I post these links below not so much for you, therefore, but for anyone else out there who’s still reading and has an open mind. Mick, I sincerely wish you all the best in your life and in your spiritual practice. I am done posting here.

                First-hand experience of discrimination by monk in India:

                Tibetans talking about their personal experiences of discrimination: (It’s long so you might want to skip ahead to 5:30)

                An old video but still relevant:

                A more recent news report:

                An article by one of the Dalai Lama’s former translators, suggesting that the famous murder Dorje Shugden practitioners are accused of might be a frame-up job:

                Please note that not one testimonial above is written by an NKT practitioner.

                • Mick

                  True, you cannot change my mind. Shugden people changed my mind in the past for over 6 years. I believed them, and found convincing what they had to say because I relied only on their information and hadn’t different information nor was I encouraged to seek such. When I left them because they didn’t live what they preached, it took me about 8 years of investigation, acquiring knowledge and analysis to find out that all what they said in those more than 6 years was either untrue, exaggerations, a mixture of half-truths with untruths and some truths or blatant lies.

                  Now briefly to your links: Helmut Gassner slanders without a shred of evidence Gen Lobsang Gyatso by claiming about this brutally murdered person he had been involved in dirty businesses. This is similar as to claim Kennedy was murdered because he was involved in dirty business. Gareth Sparham, who is a student of Gen Lobsang Gyatso, states in his biografie about Lobsang Gyatso, that Gen-la, was devoted to raise knowledge and critical thinking in his students, and he was devoted to help his Chinese students as he did it with his Tibetans, and Westerners. It lacks any sense of shame by Gassner to denounce Gen-la and to speak so badly and wrongly about a murdered person. Not only that he speaks badly about him without having evidence, he ignored the evidence of the Indian police who accuse Shugden followers for this crime and who also name the suspects which are searched by Interpol still.

                  The Swiss TV documentation that you link was so wrong, that the TV station had to excuse to the public in Switzerland and the chief justified himself “we are an infotainment magazine and not a scientific format”, they didn’t consult independent experts (from Universities) nor the Indian police but repeated (like France 24 TV) the allegations of the Shugden people without proper fact checking. As a result the Swiss TV station had to make a self-corection in which they corrected many of their former claims and for the first time asked an academic expert. When I remember correctly France 24 TV asked a Shugden person as an independent expert, this is not much convincing.

                  Indirectly you claim I would not have an open mind and it were thats why why you cannot convince me. But this is not true. I made up my own mind after I learned the arguments from both sides and as a former Shudgen follower and practitioner. Lies, exaggeration and propaganda won’t convince me. I don’t say that there are no problems, I don’t say that Shugdenpas are also bullied, but I see also the difficulties the Tibetans and other practitioners have with Shugdenpas. It is a dependent arising and therefore I don’t follow your and NKT/ICS’s arguments that the sole source of these problems were the Dalai Lama. This is totally wrong.

  • 456inthemix .

    Does this guy speak or understand Tibetan ??? Before he get involved into Tibetan Buddhism he should learn the language properly to understand what is he following :D and read about Shuden History. He might get shocked, when he knows the facts. Why do you think H.H. giave up ??? The western is advanced in technology but what do you know about the other dimenstions? Shugden is a dangerous guy. Btw H.H. never banned he just requested not to take any empowerments but one can still attend his teaching. Actually I feel little bit sorry for Justin: Den er weiss nicht, was er tut.

  • 456inthemix .

    The following excerpt describes the macabre rGyal po spirit Do rJe Shugs ldan, usually accompanied by ten armed youths (stag slrar bcu) as depicted on two posters displayed in New Kadampa centres worldwide.(translation by Rene de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Ph. D.)

    “A great number of various objects and substances is offered to rDo rje shugs ldan at the time of his worship: heart-blood in which yellow-red bubbles rise one after the other, quivering flowers made out of the organs of the five senses, expanding clouds of smoke which rises from the burnt offering of white incense and the smouldering “great meat”; the fire of the lamp made of human fat and having a wick made of human hair. The strongly smelling liquid consisting of brain, blood, and bile, the heap of food composed of the organs of the five senses, hearts, meat, and bone; the pleasing “offering of the sound” of great trumpets, thighbone trumpets, and skull-drums. A great number of animals are sacrificed symbolically: the khyung, dragons, lions, elephants, mules and horses, wild yak, tame yak and hybrid yak, goats, sheep, Indian tigers, leopards, bear, hyenas, jackals,iong:tailed and grey-haired monkeys, wolves, wild boars, lynx, Manchurian tigers, stags, kyang, musk-deer, wild sheep, rhinos, dgo-antelopes, and other game; owls and screech-owls, crows, vultures, peacocks; parrots, cuckoos, mouse-hawks and falcons, raven, and domestic fowl. …The precious apron made of human bone, the human corpse which serves as a carpet, a freshly drawn elephant-skin and a tiger-skin which serves as a loin-cloth; a divination-arrow, a skull-cup, a flat basin full of jewels, and a tshe bum. The black hat of a magician, a garment with long sleeves, jewels, snakes serving as bangles, ornaments made of human bone, leather boots, a girdle, a parasol decorated with silken tassels, a .. banner of victory”. and the horse-trimmings. An armour consisting of a strong cuirass and a helmet made of thunderbolts whose brilliancy fills all quarters of the world, a sword, arrows, a battleaxe, and a knife. …The gtor ma consisting of a heap of piled up meat and bone of slaughtered inimical obstacle-creating demons, and the disturbed seas of biood, beer, and Chinese tea which are offered as a drink.

    The offerings presented to rDo rje shugs ldan are to please his sense of seeing, one should offer: the light of the lamp nourished by human fat and having a wick made from the hair of a corpse.”

    So, the question is: is this a demon or is it “Modern Buddhism”?

  • Khedrup

    The petition was not a response to the ISC’s petition. It was simply drawn up as a response to this very noisy and disrespectful campaign that is damaging the image of Buddhism and includes methods such as injecting NKT members into the audience at the teachings to scream and yell at HH Dalai Lama.
    My hope is that reporters and news sites will hold the NKT and Shugden spokespersons to a higher standard in regards to their information. For example, recently Rabten on the ISC “News” videos indicated a Shugden person had been stabbed in India. There was no evidence, no photo, no police report given to confirm this. One would think that in India, where various religions have co-existed, and indeed disputed, for hundreds of years, the story would have been picked up. While the NKT and ISC malign the DL “side” for speaking about the murder of Gen Lobsang Gyatso and his assistants, at least there is an INTERPOL notice, which, although of course not the final word in the matter, at least indicates that there are doubts.

    My request is that any reporter ask for clear documentation and evidence of such claims.

    With regards to the book posted by Tibet house, there is now an article on TP’s website using the information from the book to clarify various misrepresentations from the NKT and Shugden groups about the origin of Shugden, his true nature, the conduct of the Shugden protestors, and the exaggerations about such key matters as the number of practitioners. I hope readers will take a look at the evidence.

  • Mick

    Justin have you really checked if Thubten Wangchuk is the Dalai Lama’s representative for Europe? As far as I know Thubten Samdup is the Tibetan government in exile representative in Europe. Thubten Wangchuk is a Tibet activist and the Director of Tibet House in Barcelona.

  • Mick

    Hi Justin,
    thank you for your post. A mediation might be a good solution if both sides are willing and open to listen to each other. If that is not the case a separation (similar to a divorce) might be another solution.

    As you admit the issue is incredible complex. In my experience with “Shugdenpas” I never experienced them to be open to listen and to be flexible enough to see the issue from different angles, to accept history or facts. Never ever, they have even admitted or agreed upon that Nyingma and Kagyue fear that practice … I never witnessed any openness to understand Shugden critics.

    Contrary to this, the Dalai Lama used in the beginning a soft approach. He agreed in the beginning with two Professors with whom he discussed that issue, that a ban is no option at all. But he was pushed from different sides to be more explicit. The Nyingmas refused to participate in a Tibetan Governement In Exile as long as there are government officials that practice something that is against themselves, the Shugdenpas spread untruths and claimed the Dalai Lama only says he gave up the practice but would practice it secretly. So in a long term process the Dalai Lama had to become more and more explicit facing the issue and using strong means to reduce its influence and an the same time to give enough freedom for those who ignore his advice.

    IMO the organised Shugdenpas follow a fundamentalist approach.* So how do you mediate between fundamentalists and the needs of a society?

    * They possess the “truth” all others are wrong, liars etc. No capability to see things in a differentiated manner, to accept history, facts, opposing views and contradictions, washing it all away with rewritings of history and events. The base idea is the belief in a supremacy of the Gelug school and an inherent existent “purity” of it that is threatened by “mixing the pure Gelug school with different traditions”. Such black and white pattern are difficult to be mediated …

    • justinwhitaker

      Mick, I cannot get into this too much more at the moment, but sentences like “The Nyingmas refused to participate in a Tibetan Governement In Exile as long as there are government officials that practice something that is against themselves…” really have me scratching my head. Imagine if you replaced Nyingmas with “Catholics” or “Jews” and the “against them” was Protestantism or some other, simply different, belief.

      Everyone is going to have to work with people that might seem to be “against them” in the modern world.

      • Mick

        Maybe you don’t know the details?

        Prof. Martin Mills: “in defence of the deity’s efficacy as a protector, [the Yellow Book] named 23 government officials and high lamas that had been assassinated using the deity’s powers.” “Shugden was a protector deity – a choskyong – whose historical role served to bolster the symbolic distinction between the ruling Gelukpa order and the influence of other school of Buddhist institutional thought in Tibet. As a choskyong, however, the deity’s role was more than a question of personal belief: it existed as an element within the functioning structure of state law and practice. As such, the continuity of the deity’s institutional worship within the diaspora supported a State that was institutionally sectarian at a symbolic level. This consequence of continued Shugden practice was so strongly felt, for example, that during the early 1990s
        the Nyingmapa school threatened to remove their presence from the Tibetan Assembly of People’s Deputies – they sought to secede from a State structure whose very form and functioning was antagonistic to their presence.”

        Do the Catholics perform practices that are feared or threaten the Jews or Protestants? If yes, your example can be applied to the situation if no, then your example doesn’t fit to the situation.

        I think cases such as these should be carefully investigated and then one can place a sober judgement.

        • justinwhitaker

          I’m still not convinced that Shugden worship is threatening per se.

          Protestants and Catholics practiced shedding rivers of one another’s blood for centuries and certain partisans of each might hold views or perform practices that partisans of the other find threatening. But for the most part they’ve learned to live with each other. Things like Tony Blair being unable to “come out” as a Catholic while he was PM show that there is still some distance to go, but gone are the days (I hope) of Catholic shop owners denying service to Protestants or vise versa.

          I think we all need to agree that nobody is “assassinated using [this or any other] deity’s powers.” If Shugdenpas killed people, those individuals should be held responsible. Next, a simple halt of any/all deity worship inside the structures of the government (but not a ban on woshippers) could solve the antagonistic institutional symbolic sectarian issues.

          • Mick

            This is up to you, what convinces you.

            IMO, and also in Tibetan’s opionion, it is mainly the Tibetan’s business how they deal with their issues, and they have to find their own way to deal with this Shugden matter according to their capacity, their believes, understandings and value system.

            If you as a Westerner write to me »I think we all need to agree that nobody is “assassinated using [this or any other] deity’s powers.”« you are looking from a Western perspective and Western value based angle – a european centred view – and you decide not to put yourself in the shoes of others.

            From such a european centred view it is easy as well as misleading to impose Western/Christian based values on another people … it is misleading because such an approach misses to understand the Tibetan society’s own internal logic. If you do that you don’t get what the Tibetans are discussing about. And it would be similar unfair as to ask the Aborigines to skip their own world in order to embrace the Western based value system. And this is exactly what you are doing when you write: “Next, a simple halt of any/all deity worship inside the structures of the government …”: you give a rather ignorant “solution” to people that think and act completely differently to you. Mills describes in his 2009 paper how important the religious rituals and protectors are for Tibetans, how the protectors and ritual form the very core of the government of the Tibetans/Dalai Lamas: “Protector deities mark the volatile boundary between religious and state authority for Tibetans: they are used as guarantors to secure legal oaths, and their powers are evoked as part of the combined ritual-military defence of Buddhist states.”

            IMO, you interpret the issue from a mere religious point of view and Western/Christian based values while it is rather a political issue and embedded in a complex cosmology for Tibetans. You look onto it (and in that sense you follow the distortions of the Western protesters who mix Western values with ignorance about the situation and who ignore values and structures which are dear to Tibetans) from a narrow mere Western perspective that does not discriminate between cross cultural differences … In a footnote of his 2009 research Mills adds that “This is another subtle, but important distinction between the Ladakhi view and that commonly expressed by Western supporters of Shugden, who often questioned how the Dalai Lama, who was after all a mere worldly ruler, could intervene in peoples’ beliefs and practices pertaining to a deity. While this view has strong implications in terms of European understandings of human rights (see MILLS 2003a), it is arguably based on a Christian understanding of the distinction between divine and human realms which is simply not shared by most religious adherents within Tibetan Buddhism or, for that matter, Hinduism (see Fuller 1992: Ch. 1).”


  • JMS

    I have followed this schism for several years. It has exasperated to a ridiculous level.

  • NaphiSoc

    I am disturbed by the OCD posts these people post on Twitter – it really sows seeds of discord in the unity of the Buddhist community.