Dalai Lama, please give religious freedom

four Kadampa lineage Buddhas

I have to say that the Dalai Lama’s attacks on me feel quite personal — he calls me a demon-worshipper, a non-Buddhist, and any other number of unflattering things, and he won’t let me or any other Dorje Shugden practitioner go anywhere near him in case we somehow pollute him — but to be honest when I protested the Dalai Lama, I didn’t feel anything personal about it. I protested his speeches and his actions, not his person. I also don’t care about his political position, except insofar as he is using it to effect a religious ban. I don’t care what religion he practices.

So in this article I have addressed a few of what I feel are quite common misconceptions about my own and other Kadampas’ involvement in calling out the Dalai Lama on his ban and speeches against Dorje Shugden practitioners. In writing this, I also seem to have explored what I think are certain general misconceptions about how Buddhists should be – what tolerance means, what patience means, what compassion means, what religious freedom is, can Buddhists act in the world, and so on. I will be happy to read your feedback in the comments. A friend also co-wrote this, and I thank him for his very helpful input. Also, there are some very thoughtful, insightful comments in the comments section, which I hope you have the chance to read as well.

By the way, people are waking up to the fact — even since I first wrote this — that the Dalai Lama is not, after all, perfect. So the fact that he has done something wrong will perhaps not come as so much as a surprise as it might have done in the past. Recently he has been taken to task for his sexist remarks (for the first time, though he has said these kinds of things before). He has been notoriously homophobic on occasion, and he has admitted on many occasions that he gets angry, including most recently with his staff. If he gets angry with his loyal servants, perhaps it is not such a stretch to see how he can be angry with people who don’t agree with him.

As a Buddhist in the tradition of Buddha Shakyamuni, Je Tsongkhapa, and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, I first made peaceful protests against the Dalai Lama in 1996. Then again in 2008. Then again in 2014. And then again in 2015. I did not become a Buddhist in order to do this. Protesting against one of the world’s most popular figures was not something I’d ever envisaged in my life plan.  I have nothing against the man personally and would love nothing more than to live and let live. But the Dalai Lama has made this very difficult for me.

sign in Gelugpa monastery
“Gelugpa Monastery. Sign reads: “Those who propitiate Dorje Shugden or Have Association with Followers of Shugden May Not Attend or Explore The Territory of the On Going Teaching Program.”

I could go into the ins and outs of how and why the Dalai Lama has banned the practice of Dorje Shugden for political gain using mickey-mouse reasoning and jingoistic superstitions that anyone with ten minutes of Buddhist education could refute, eg, doing this practice destroys Tibet’s hopes of independence and shortens the Dalai Lama’s life. I have looked into all the Dalai Lama’s speeches and their refutations in detail in the past, as have many others, including wise and learned scholars, Yogis and Buddhist masters; and you can find the debates all over the Internet. But why I and many others are protesting comes down, I think, to something very simple that everyone can understand. We are standing up for the fundamental human right to defend ourselves against slander and to have the freedom to practice whatever religion we choose. Seen from the perspective of compassion, the maze of arcane reasoning and obscure religious history doesn’t seem so complicated. We are simply asking for freedom. It is not really that complicated at all.

This is in fact is what we are asking for precisely, and surely it is not too much to ask?: Dalai Lama points

 What’s going on
Dalai Lama cultural revolution quote
Words spoken at Trijang Labrang in Ganden Shartse Monastery, 1999. Since then, he has been true to his word. It has gotten worse, a lot worse.

In the East, the Dalai Lama is clamping down heavily on religious freedom.  In the West, he is publicly slandering a huge number of Buddhists, calling them demon worshippers and cultists, among other things. For example, on Friday March 7 2014, for the first time in history, the Washington National Cathedral, “a spiritual resource for our nation… for people of all faiths and perspectives”, would not open its doors to anyone who makes prayers to the Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden. This ban was clearly displayed on the Dalai Lama’s own website, websites of teaching locations during his teaching tour, and other websites under his jurisdiction around the world. And this is happening again this year. These actions are aimed at destroying a tradition that has brought and could continue to bring deep happiness and mental freedom to millions of people.

Including me. I have been a Kadampa Buddhist for 35 years and it has brought me nothing but benefit. As is often pointed out, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to gain benefit from Buddha’s teachings, they’re common sense for everyone. If you find anything helpful on this blog, all I can say is that any bit of sense on it comes from practicing this tradition of Buddhism in my daily life. This includes making prayers to the Protector Dorje Shugden to help me remove unfavorable conditions (mainly delusions) and gather the necessary inner and outer conditions for me to improve my good qualities and help others. If the Buddhism I practice and share is not really Buddhism, but is spirit worship, a weird sectarian cult, etc, then I don’t know what Buddhism is.

Freedom of thought applies to you too

as a Dorje Shugden practitioner I believe in harmonyTo my fellow Buddhists of any tradition, and to anyone reading this, I am not asking you or anyone else to position yourselves one way or another on it, let alone become anxious or heavy. You don’t have to think about it at all if you don’t want to, of course. Compassion is personal. I am not challenging the Dalai Lama out of grasping, anxiety or aversion, only out of the wish to help and the belief that I can help remedy this situation. My teacher Geshe Kelsang received requests from Dorje Shugden practitioners to help, and, feeling for their plight, developed strong compassion. When I heard and saw what was happening, I prayed and meditated, and I wanted to do something practical too.

Everyone is entitled to their own freedom of thought, this is a fundamental human right, and actually what we are fighting for. As my teacher says, everyone has freedom. Staying happy, harmonious and respectful in our Buddhist communities regardless of whether we wish to work directly to resolve this issue or not is also important – we are after all seeking harmony. Rejecting those with a different opinion is also contradictory to what we want, which is an end to ostracism and persecution.

Also, I don’t believe anything real is going on. This situation is as empty of inherent existence as any other situation, and Buddhists’ main job is still and always will be to remove the main causes of suffering, self-grasping ignorance and its samsaric hallucinations. It might be futile to try to get to “the bottom of all this” – in reality, it is dreamlike appearance like everything else — there is nothing to get to the bottom of. Best to follow wisdom and compassion. The world we normally see does not exist, and that includes this problem.

What is Buddhist tolerance?

knock at doorsI am a huge believer in solving problems through meditation and prayer. But those who say Buddhists should sit passively and solve these kinds of problem ONLY through meditation and prayer may be kind of missing the point. Buddhists are not doormats. They are not inert. They don’t just sit around and stare at their navels. Sometimes I think the Western interpretation of Buddhist tolerance and pacifism gives rise to a mistaken understanding that wishy-washy Buddhists are afraid to deal with reality head on, honestly, and as it appears. “I mustn’t do that or suddenly I’ll be seen as unpeaceful or political. I must allow others to abuse me because if I don’t I’m being self-cherishing.” Of course if you have a headache, take a pill. If your car breaks down, fix it. If someone is behaving inappropriately, tell them to stop. This is normal stuff when human beings are living together. Most Buddhists in their day to day lives advocate for others and engage in active compassionate activities. There are some Bodhisattva vows that directly encourage this, such as going to the assistance of those in need, and helping others overcome their bad habits and negative actions.

There are two types of problem requiring two types of solution. For example, if my car breaks down, that is the car’s problem, an outer problem. If I get upset about it, I have a problem now, an inner problem, the only actual problem. The way to solve my problem is by changing my mind through patience, for example. But however patient I am, my car will not miraculously start running again – to solve that outer problem I need to take it to the garage.

Therefore, with a patient heart, I am asking the Dalai Lama (1) to stop lying; and (2) to give religious freedom. That’s all.

The importance of motivation

Dorje Shugden himself is a manifestation of stainless wisdom that is supreme inner peace, not a manifestation of delusion; and yet he appears in the aspect of supreme, skilful, compassionate activity. Buddha Tara likewise. Not to mention all the wrathful Deities in Buddhism. As Buddhists, we work with our minds, so we ask ourselves not so much, “What do my actions look like” but “What is the mind or motivation behind them?” When I ask myself what is my teacher’s reason for speaking up, for example, I can see clearly that it is because of his deep compassion – and he doesn’t mind if his actions make him unpopular amongst the powers that be. Our freedom of speech and action is informed by compassion and wisdom. When it is informed by delusions, we know it is not really free.

Nothing personal

As mentioned at the beginning, the Dalai Lama’s attacks on me can feel quite personal — he calls me a demon-worshipper, a non-Buddhist, and any other number of unflattering things, and he won’t let me or any other Dorje Shugden practitioner go anywhere near him in case we somehow pollute him — but to be honest when I protest the Dalai Lama, I don’t feel anything personal about it. I am protesting his speeches and his actions, not his person. I also don’t care about his political position, except insofar as he is using it to effect a religious ban. I don’t care what religion he practices.

“Stop lying” is not the same as saying “We hate you”. It is not personal. It can even be loving, if that is what is motivating it, just as a mother loves her child even when she tells him off for telling big fat porkies.

He can think what he wants
monks forced to vote
Monks forced to sign saying they will not pray to Dorje Shugden

There is nothing wrong in the Dalai Lama thinking that Dorje Shugden is a sectarian demon, or whatever it is he thinks – it is the ban and persecution that are wrong. The Dalai Lama does not have a right to repress other people’s rights.  The Dalai Lama does have a right to express his opinion … and we have a right to disagree. So if he says such stupid things in public, whoever he is and however popular, I also reserve the right to call him out on that in public, to say “Where is your proof? Why are you slandering us? Please stop.”  If the Dalai Lama says he is challenging our views, then he needs to discuss it – but he has never discussed it with anyone, including Geshe Kelsang, who has written several open letters asking him to. The Dalai Lama needs to give good reasons. A bearded monk strangling a villager in a dream is not going to cut it.

Don’t shoot the messenger

To those who say that our calling out the famous face of Buddhism is causing disharmony in the Buddhist world and giving Buddhism a bad name, I reply, “Why are you shooting the messenger?” There is already very serious disharmony in both India and over here in the West, and the reputation and very survival of Buddhism is under grave threat as a result of the Dalai Lama’s speeches and actions. He only needs to give one speech retracting the ban and restoring people’s rights, and the problem is over. We can all get on with our lives and practices in peace and harmony.

Calling out the Dalai Lama is like “shooting Bambi”, as one journalist put it to me in the 1990s, saying that no one would want to be the first to do that. But doesn’t someone have to challenge him if his actions are in direct contradiction to his honeyed words?

Was the boy wrong to call out, “But the emperor has no clothes!”?


When we say to the Dalai Lama, “Justify what you are saying and lift the ban”, we are trying to create harmony, not disharmony. We are standing up for Tibetans who practice the same tradition as us but have zero opportunity to question or demonstrate. Challenging someone is not creating disharmony. If someone for whatever reason is saying things that are not true based on whatever reason, we try to correct that in compassionate ways – and if a public figure is influencing others to take on wrong views, we can challenge that publicly. It is a misunderstanding that to act or take a position against others’ views is somehow disharmonious or unBuddhist or not “right action”.

Buddhist tolerance and debate

Buddha Shakyamuni

In King of Concentration Sutra, Buddha says:

If someone generates attachment when hearing this Dharma,
And anger when hearing non-Dharma,
And out of pride destructively refutes,
Later they will experience suffering through the force of their pride.

If we are attached to our own ego, we might think we are a better person because of our special view and have aversion for others with other views, in which case we’d be entirely missing the main point of Buddha’s teachings, which is to overcome the three poisons of self-grasping ignorance, attachment and anger.

This quote seems to me the essence of Buddhist tolerance and wisdom, understanding that everyone needs to find their own path, the one that works for them. We test Buddha’s teachings like gold to see if they work for us personally because no one, not even Buddha himself, can force us to change – we have to want to take the medicine ourselves.  It doesn’t stop us debating with others – there is a long, rich, history of Buddhist masters debating and converting people to Buddhism that way (for the record, both Tibetans and Westerners have been asking and petitioning  to discuss and debate this with the Dalai Lama, but in 6,508 days and counting he hasn’t even agreed to a five-minute meeting with us.) I am not protesting out of attachment to my tradition, or anger that the Dalai Lama doesn’t like my tradition any more (even though he grew up in it). I am not trying to punish or hurt the Dalai Lama. This analogy is more how I feel about it:

To Devotees of Avalokiteśvara
In Camp no. 3, near the mustachioed Amdo’s restaurant, a shop owned by a family of camp 4, they are Shugden worshipers, thus you all are strongly recommended not to walk in or buy anything from this shop.
signed: the group of enemy defeaters

If you were in a burning building, and you were able to hold a fire door open, and someone is standing in front of it saying: “Don’t come through here, it is dangerous, you’ll really regret it”, you’d say “Stop lying, can you let people pass through this door please.” You’re not angry at them; it is not even about them. This is not about the Dalai Lama but about keeping that door open and allowing people to go through. He can go through it or not, or find his own door, but please, we are asking, don’t obstruct other people going through if they want to, they need freedom and choice.

Not only is this not a personal attack, but it is also not contradictory with having love for him, wanting him to come through too, or find his own way, or whatever he can do to stop burning up. This is not being mean to the poor Dalai Lama, or slandering him. That sentimentality is not compassion. Geshe Kelsang once said that protesting the Dalai Lama is loving him.

Or let’s say you’re dispensing some effective medicine that people trust, and another company has some other product and is telling everyone that yours is poison, would you not object: “Hey, a lot of research has gone into this, it has been proven over generations to work, stop lying! Don’t kick people out of their homes, monasteries, health clinics, or communities if they take it! Don’t spit at them! Don’t stop them sending their kids to school!” Etc.

If the Dalai Lama wants to keep victimizing Dorje Shugden practitioners, saying that Dorje Shugden is a spirit, harmful to Tibet, causing him to die early, etc, he has to prove it. But he has provided no evidence for any of it.

Church and state

May everyone have religious freedom Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden I believe that many of the rights we take for granted today came about because the West allows freedom of speech and people have taken advantage of it. The Dalai Lama is slandering us in public and we are replying to him in public. In America there is a healthy history of standing up for ourselves, as we have been doing these last few weeks and years. We are challenging the lie that has been perpetuated because this tradition was very established and we haven’t done anything wrong. We are not spirit worshippers. We are not Chinese agents trying to harm Tibet or the Dalai Lama. We are not an obscure non-Buddhist sect. We are not the Taliban of Buddhism. These are unsubstantiated lies that have made us unpopular and mistrusted among many people in the West. And meantime we protest also because our fellow practitioners are experiencing even deeper abuses in India.

If you research some of the links on here or elsewhere, you’ll find many speeches and videos of the Dalai Lama calling on people to enforce his ban of these prayers, vilifying practitioners, and explicitly saying, “If they are unhappy with this, tell them it comes directly from me.” There are also multiple videos of members of the government in Tibet in Exile saying that they never disagree with the Dalai Lama, have no doubt about any of his decisions, and that he is not human, he is a Buddha. In this case, the Dalai Lama created this religious persecution, he continues to incite people to enforce it, and he has never tried to stop the violence. One word from him and the violence would stop.

yellow card Dalai Lama ban of Dorje Shugden
The infamous yellow card

This is why we have a separation of church and state over here – so that all religions can live together without one deciding to boot out all the others and deny them their rights. Unfortunately, there is no such separation in the office of the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama preaches tolerance, but in Tibetan society you have to sign to say you are not a Dorje Shugden practitioner or associated with one, otherwise you will lose your job, your income, your friends etc. People are being forced to reject their objects of refuge. Different religions in the USA may gripe at each other, but it would be entirely unacceptable over here to have to carry a card around to prove that you had sworn that you were not a Jew, for example, or associated with one.

What is going on in Uganda? An example of the need for free speech.

Switch out some of the words in this news article about Yoweri Museveni suppressing gays in Uganda and you could be talking about what is going on with the Dalai Lama. Eg, “penalty for those convicted of being Dorje Shugden practitioners”, “requires Tibetans to report anyone they suspect of being a Dorje Shugden practitioner”, “the tussle over the ban has drawn attention away from the Dalai Lama’s increasingly autocratic rule”, “local media have made anti-Dorje Shugden sentiment synonymous with patriotism”.

And if Yoweri Museveni came over here to spout anti-gay lies in public, saying gay people are “wrong, all wrong”, etc, (as the Dalai Lama has said about us), would people not stand up in public and say “Give gays in Uganda freedom” and “Stop lying about what it means to be gay”? I think they would. They would not want their freedoms to be eroded through passivity. And would people object to those protestors, “Don’t be so mean to Museveni, you are causing disharmony! And anyway what has it got to do with you what happens to gay people over there, you can be gay over here if you want to …?” I don’t think they would. To me, the two placards held at the peaceful protests, “Stop lying” and “Give religious freedom”, therefore say it all.

In the West people are free to make up their minds for themselves, and not everyone will blindly listen to the Dalai Lama just because he is a famous religious leader.  The protests provide a forum where we can say what we have to say, peacefully, with no one rioting or threatening the Dalai Lama, so that people CAN make up their own minds, can inform themselves rather than simply believing what the Dalai Lama is saying because he is famous and we would all like him to be a perfect, pure being. We are raising a red flag and, hopefully, a debate leading to a solution.

Religion, not politics
Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche
Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. The Dalai Lama’s teachers and Dorje Shugden practitioners.

I think another mistaken view is that any verbal or publicly physical positions are political, in which case you’d have to say that Buddha was a politician and not a spiritual teacher because he took a position. Lying is wrong. Killing is wrong. Harming others is wrong. These actions are wrong. Buddha was not seeking power. Many Buddhist masters have challenged other schools and teachers who have taught wrong views; there is a rich Buddhist history of that. During the so-called Buddhist “golden age”, they would walk directly and fearlessly into those places, their motivation not to gain worldly power but to keep the door to liberation open for that time and place. Tilopa had already sorted out his own problems, for example, and attained enlightenment, so he debated not for his liberation and certainly not for power as he remained a mendicant throughout his life. His purpose was simply Heruka’s compassion to keep the doors to liberation open for the people at that time.

So if someone says Buddha’s teachings are wrong, or Trijang Rinpoche’s teachings are wrong, it seems like partially my responsibility as a practitioner to keep those doors to liberation within the Kadampa lineage open for the people of this world. I am not saying that there are no other doors to liberation, I am not saying that, but this is MY tradition, it is special to me, and I want to share that with other people. And if someone of great influence is telling lies about it, saying it is the doorway to suffering, then it is very normal to respond, “No, actually, you’re wrong. You are lying”. To encourage a debate on that. And that is all I am doing. So where is the politics in that? There is no politics in that.

How can the Dalai Lama and his actions be such a threat to religious freedom for Kadampa practitioners in the West, especially in the U.S.A.?

one does not simply ban Dorje ShugdenEveryone in the media calls the Dalai Lama the leader of the Tibetans and also the Pope-like leader of Buddhism, and he uses this influence within the Buddhist world, claiming to be a representative. “I know Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition,” as he said in a recent encounter with a protesting nun, “and this is wrong”. It is very common for people to come to Kadampa centers, for example, and ask “What does the Dalai Lama think of you?”, even though he is not our religious leader. I believe that due to his position the Dalai Lama has powerful speech and the ability to seriously harm if not destroy the New Kadampa Tradition and Je Tsongkhapa’s pure lineage.  For me, this is the ideal moment to try and protect it.

Right now we have the freedom to practice, but if we don’t challenge those views in a democracy, where there is freedom of speech, then those are the views that get heard, and become influential, it is as simple as that; and finally they are the views that carry. The alternative is to use our freedom of speech to maintain a healthy challenge and a healthy debate so that the power of that speech becomes mixed with the power of debate and uncertainty, which is opposing fanaticism, not creating it. The whole history of feminism, gay rights, civil rights, etc, is all about challenging those views so that people can raise their consciousness about these things. “Hang on a second, perhaps black people are not in fact inferior, and should have the same freedoms as white people.”

What would have happened if no one had ever chained themselves to railings or ridden at the front of a bus, or if MLK or Gandhi had never stood up?  And so on. I have a dream of two different peoples living together. Let us do what we do and you do what you do, and don’t lie about us.

“Oh it’ll just go away on its own”, some people say, but why? There are still racists and homophobes over in the West, but the point is they are challenged daily, and for as long as that happens the rights of vulnerable groups are being protected.

People who protest the status quo don’t necessarily look cool at the time – for example feminists were labelled hysterical, extreme, militant, unwomanly, etc, but today I am very much enjoying their kindness. We Kadampas are often labelled “unBuddhist”, uncool, this is not “right action”. If protesting the Dalai Lama doesn’t make me look cool, but helps lift the ban, I don’t mind looking uncool.

 “And who are we as Kadampas to take the moral high ground when our own tradition is not completely free from stain (not the teachings of course, but the behavior of certain practitioners).”

Someone asked me this question the other day. But I think it is illogical. It’s like saying, who are you to argue that Yoweri Museveni is wrong and abusing human rights in Uganda when you still get angry with your friends or people in your group might be shoplifters? Although I can be wrong about other things and make mistakes in my life, this doesn’t mean what the Dalai Lama is doing is not wrong – it is still wrong. I need to improve and remove my own faults – that is still my main job, of course. But this argument above is like saying, “Why try and protect that shelter dog when you can’t protect yourself yet?” or “If you have any delusions, keep your mouth shut.” We are not being holier than thou. We are just trying to keep the door open.

Most of our lives, of course, hopefully 100%, are spent in trying to practice this tradition ourselves or there is no meaning of the fraction of time we spend in protests.

Thank you for reading this, I know it was long! Your turn now. Comments welcome.


Some news coverage from UK, September 2015.

Evidence of segregation

Dalai Lama must answer tough questions on Shugden Buddhists

May 21 2014 Tibetan Government’s Wanted List of Tibetans attending demonstrations

Hundreds turn out for Dalai Lama’s visit to National Cathedral ~ ABC 7 news story March 7 2014

Washington Post Article ~ March 6 2014

Attending a protest ~ one Buddhist’s account

1990s peaceful prayer vigils.

It is not just advice, he banned it.

Gelugpa monastery surrounded.

Thousands of monks expelled.

Kadampa (NKT) Centers all practice Dorje Shugden. If you haven’t seen this website, it gives a clear indication of why NKT practitioners want to join in with the protests to let the world know the Dalai Lama is slandering us and why we need to ask him to stop. “All this activity is perpetrating a schism in the present-day Buddhist Sangha by marginalizing and demonizing the NKT.”

For incidents of discrimination in India and elsewhere.

Why is the Dalai Lama suppressing religious freedom?  Check out all the links on this fairly comprehensive site.

The False Dalai Lama.

Lots more background, documentation, reasoning, etc.

Dorje Shugden history site.

Dorje Shugden debate site.

NBC coverage of recent protests.

“Not allowed to share religious and material relation with Dholgyal worshippers!” 

First-hand experience of recent discrimination in the East.

First-hand experience of recent discrimination in the West.

The Dalai Lama — love him but stop him.

Dalai Lama, the God-King.

Swiss documentary Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Another independent documentary by France 24.

An interview with Geshe Kelsang for Tricycle magazine.

Background article by one of the Dalai Lama’s translators. 

“I mean if female Dalai Lama come, then that female must be very attractive, otherwise not much use.” ~ Dalai Lama quote September 2015.


Dalai Lama, the “God-King”  The Dalai Lama was enthroned age 5 in Lhasa Tibet in February 1940. Since then there has been 68 years of unelected rule in which the Tibetan (and since 1959 the Tibetan exile community) has had ONE political and religious leader whose decisions can never be questioned.

How NOT to Love Your Enemies – with Prof. Robert Thurman During his book tour, promoting his NEW book: “Love Your Enemies”, Professor Robert Thurman demonstrates how to NOT to love your enemies, by responding to a question by attendee Morten Clausen, who politely asked Professor Thurman why he treats Shugden practitioners with so much antipathy and disrespect.

The dark side of the Dalai Lama ~ in his own words.

The case against the Dalai Lama and the recent history of Shugden discrimination ~ from a panel discussion at SOAS August 2014.

Tibetans from the International Shugden Community talk about the segregation and abuse suffered by friends and family as a result of the Dalai Lama’s actions. August 26 2014.

Click here for more videos.

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

70 thoughts on “Dalai Lama, please give religious freedom”

  1. Thank you for putting this together Luna (and co-author). As someone who is new to Kadampa, I believe that this is an issue that must be researched before feeling comfortable with the Kadampa path. It’s not difficult to find the opposing views online, and this article gives a thorough explanation from the Kadampa side of things. And as with everything you write, it includes flashes of humor now and then to keep the reader’s attention laser-focused.

    1. Patmadigan . . . my root guru originates from Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche, an incredible Dorje Shugden practitioner. These 2 stunning videos will plant your feet solidly on the Kadampa Path: “An Exclusive Interview with Geshe Sopa pt. 1 and pt. 2”
      As a Buddhist and a writer, I am so inspired by Luna Kadampa and aspire to her eloquence.

  2. Great, in-depth, American-approachable writing . . . a little long . . . almost lost me on the Yoweri Mosveni analogy (lost in terms of interest). As an editor full of ego, I would rearrange some of the paragraphs so that the lead paragraph right off draws readers into the issue. For example, this one as a lead: “I have to say that the Dalai Lama’s attacks on me feel quite personal — he calls me a demon-worshipper, a non-Buddhist, and any other number of unflattering things, and he won’t let me or any other Dorje Shugden practitioner go anywhere near him in case we somehow pollute him — but to be honest when I protest the Dalai Lama, I don’t feel anything personal about it. I am protesting his speeches and his actions, not his person. I also don’t care about his political position, except insofar as he is using it to effect a religious ban. I don’t care what religion he practices.”
    I know it seems sensational . . . like a National Enquirer opener, but it will draw readers in to this important history and its direct relevance to Shugden-pas like myself (my Root Guru is Ven. Geshela Lobsang Sopa . . . see him on YouTube in his activism . . . a Master Teacher. I have many of Ven. Geshela Kelsang Gyatso’s books for my studies of 16 years). peace, mickey (lobsang pamo) morgan, Cincinnati, Ohio, US

    1. yes, two excellent points that i will address. Thankyou Mickey Pamo. i also had the honor of meeting your teacher on several occasions and doing some transcribing for him back in the day 🙂

        1. Hi again, sorry I misspoke, I’ve just realized that I thought you meant Geshe Lhundrub Sopa — however, I went to check out your teacher and I know him too! I have had some lovely conversations with him, although I have not transcribed any of his teachings. x

          1. You do have good karma! See youtube “an exclusive interview with Geshe Sopa” . . . he is my Guru, a Shugden-pa like me. I’m not sure Geshe Lhundrub Sopa likes Shugden-pas. I may be wrong.

  3. The Dalai Lama now admits, to a BBC reporter, that there is segregation in the Tibetan refugee community in India. He lays the blame for this solely on the Shugdenpas themselves. His reasoning for this has been fairly consistent. To me he seems to rely on 3 main arguments : the historical, the personal, the religious. These are not entirely separate from each other and taken overall I feel the personal argument predominates in his mind and arguments and is part of a sense that He is Tibet and Tibet is Him. This seems to happen to a lot of leaders in power for a long time and from his point of view he has been in power in Tibet for around 350 years. His actions may be for the good reason of giving leadership to the refugee community, a sense of coherence and hope, but it is being bought with a scapegoat.

    The historical argument seems to be (briefly) : the Fifth Dalai Lama called Dorje Shugden bad and proscribed him, the Seventh did the same, the Thirteenth restricted the practise as well. Therefore I, the Fourteenth, ought to do the same (nb. within his frame of reference the previous Dalai Lamas are himself). Putting aside the logical fallacy involved here (deriving an “ought” from an “is” or “was”), reliance on history is to me a very suspect practise that appeals not to logic but to the crowd.

    Previous Dalai Lamas were not the only figures in history to proscribe religious practises or people. The Fifth Dalai Lama lived contemporaneously to the Thirty Years War in Europe, the British Civil Wars, Witch Hunters General etc. The Thirteenth, Pogroms in Russia, the Dreyfus affair in France, the rise of fascism. What we can learn from history is seldom a guide to a good future.

    For example, while he was still head of the TGIE (forerunner of the Central Tibetan Administration CTA), a resolution was adopted preventing any Shugden practitioners from working for the Tibetan “government” or its subsidiaries. Even an anti-Shugden book accepts that this will affect “no more than 35,000” refugee Tibetans. In other words 25% of the Dalai Lama’s people are to be without that opportunity for employment or to participate in their own civil society. This is still in force. This ban on employment is then followed up with a campaign to secure signatures from those already employed swearing to abjure Dorje Shugden. This is something we did in England during Henry VIII’s time and the 17th Century Test Acts for Catholics; it was legal then in England and Wales but none of us would agree to a return to that would we?

    The Dalai Lama often talks about his own religious freedom needing to be protected against harm from Dorje Shugden himself, this is a personal argument. Also, that he is a humble monk merely advising his followers and the rest may do as they please. I’m unsure whether this is wilful or ordinary ignorance of his position of power.

    The Dalai Lama and his “government” the CTA claim to represent all the Tibetan refugees, they accept any funds associated with that position and seek to negotiate with the Chinese as equals. In short they “govern” the Tibetan Refugee community and claim to represent them. This should mean all of them if it is to accord with notions of government and leadership adopted by the UN and international law. If the Dalai Lama seeks the support of the UN, but ignores the UN Charter on Human Rights should support be given?

    We should be aware of the vast difference in power between the Dalai Lama and Shugden practitioners. All the power is held by the Dalai Lama. This is unarguable. As such any human rights observer would conclude that the burden of protecting others rights should lie with the Dalai Lama ie. the more powerful of the two. The strong are meant in the scheme of human rights to protect the weak. The government to protect the governed from each other and the government itself; this means all of them regardless of any difference between themselves as to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and so on.

    He is being less than statesmanlike when he uses the religious argument. This argument is based around Tibetan Religious Politics and the tensions between the various schools. There were, and probably still are, internal struggles within all churches. Opus Dei are controversial within the Roman Church today, the Jesuits I believe had issues. The Church of England teeters continuously on the edge over issues like gay marriage and women bishops. Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims are in open conflict. The Dalai Lama’s reasoning against the practise of Dorje Shugden is entirely based on Tibetan Politics (“they harm the cause of Tibet”, “they are agents of the Chinese”) and Tibetan Religious Politics (“they are sectarian and cause divisions”,”they obstruct Rime (the harmonisation of the 4 traditions)”. He does go on to make wider religious claims but he does this only orally by saying practitioners of Dorje Shugden are “wrong” “bad” , his followers refer to us (for I am one) as “criminals in history”,”a cancer”,”devil worshippers”,”spirit worshippers” etc. The only way to reconcile the Dalai Lama’s statements on religious tolerance with his attitude to Dorje Shugden practitioners is to assume he places us outside the sphere of religious practise and therefore not requiring tolerance or ‘religious freedom’. I believe he regards us all as criminals and no society is required to tolerate criminals. The case has sometimes been put that this practise is not a religious one and therefore not requiring religious freedom. Not his strongest argument I have to say. If sectarianism or religious hatred is the problem, why not work to prevent that? His present approach is like trying to stop theft by banning money; or preventing murder by banning marriage because a high number of murders are of wives by husbands or vice versa.

    Tibetan Shugdenpas have been denied the right to participate in their civil society by the Central Tibetan Administration by means of a ban on practise within any “government” body or subsidiary”. All other organs of their civil society (e.g. “tibetan youth congress”) have prohibited them from participation. There is evidence (the extent of which is disputed) that they are being denied access to basic services such as medical facilities and shops. Across the internet they are described by other tibetans as “demon worshippers” “devils” “murderers” “violent” “dangerous to the life of the Dalai Lama” “Criminals in History”.

    History, like samsara, is truly “one bloody thing after another”. European history contains numerous examples of religious intolerance supported at the time by those in power that was at the time “legal”; violence was the only outcome. Human Rights were produced following the terrible wars of the twentieth century to protect the weak from the strong, the governed from the government – a truly radical break from previous international law and a possible triumph of hope over experience. Do we really have to stand by while the Tibetans relive our history or can they perhaps learn something from us about an open, differentiated and tolerant society?

  4. Thank you Luna, I added this post to Facebook which I would also like to share here.

    Dear Facebook friends, I would like to explain that the Dalai Lama is calling me and all practitioners of my tradition of Buddhism an evil spirit worshiping sectarian, an enemy of Tibet, a danger to his life and in the pay of the Chinese. He is asking all people who follow him to have no “material or spiritual connection” with us. In Tibetan society this means you are barred from any public office, it has led to shops, monasteries and medical facilities denying access to services and here in the west it means when I meet another Buddhist I feel intimidated to state who my teacher is. It means I am not welcome in other Buddhist centers here in the UK, even in Buddhist centres founded by teachers of the same tradition as mine (who now also follow Dalai Lama view), such as the FPMT centre in Elephant and Castle called Jamyang (which I have supported with donations in previous years), it was founded by the Shugden practitioner Lama Yeshe.

    The root teacher of the Dalai Lama is the source of the lineage of Buddhism I practice, whilst I respect the Dalai Lama’s right to chose what he wishes to practice and not follow his teachers example, I do not respect his right to slander, lie and spread disharmony amongst communities and buddhists nor to intimidate people due to their religious conscience. If you think of me and recognise truth in his words then tell me and share your reasons so we can discuss.

    These are just some of the reasons why I wholeheartedly support the protests against the Dalai Lama which will be carried out over the weekend.

    Even if you agree with Dalai Lama’s view of my tradition, do you think it is right to practice apartheid, separating entirely both materially and spiritually so that you have no connection to one another. If not, then please do not support the myth of the benevolent, wise and tolerant Dalai Lama – it does not benefit anyone.

    I ask you to consider all you know about me as a person and see if you agree that the Dalai Lama is right. If not, then I very much hope you will support the prayers and protests of Shugden buddhists asking the Dalai Lama to stop lying, stop harming the religious and social lives of others. I firmly believe that asking him to stop is an act of loving him, it is asking him to stop making a big mistake.

    thank you for taking the time to read this. Please also feel free to share it. Robert
    ‪#‎Dalailama‬ ‪#‎FalseDalaiLama‬ ‪#‎Shugden‬

    1. Thank you so much for this, Robert.

      I know there are a lot of you reading this who have similar stories — please feel very welcome to share them here, it could be very helpful for raising awareness as this article and comments get read a lot.

  5. Some people have been wondering who, other than New Kadampa Tradition Centers, practices Dorje Shugden so I got this from a discussion on the subject on Facebook. This is an incomplete list but will do to start with – please feel free to add any more that you know of. Some of the centers and monasteries in Nepal, Mongolia, and Tibet are huge, with hundreds of thousands of practitioners. Everyone is under threat from the Dalai Lama’s ban, speeches, and other actions to crush the practice.


    Shar Gaden and Serpom in India. Segyu, Phelgyeling, Gangchen Labrang and Dagom Labrang in Nepal. Chatring Monastery and a bunch of other monasteries in Kham and Amdo. Amarbayasgalant Monastery in Mongolia. Gaden Khachoe Shing in the US, as well as a host of small dharma centres affiliated with with the North American Gelug Buddhist Association (NAGBA) in the US and Canada. Rabten Choeling in Switzerland and its sister monasteries in the surrounding countries. Albagnano Healing Centre in Italy. And that’s only the places that are open and honest about their practice. If you want to include other monasteries and organisations that practise in secret or “do the dance” as one friend put it, it would include a LOT more.

    Tsem Tulku’s organisation in Malaysia.
    -Pabongkha Labrang, Sokpo Labrang, Jovo Kadhampa Monastery and Jangchub Lam Rim Temple in Nepal.
    -Various other Kadampa (not New Kadampa Tradition) centers and monasteries in Taiwan, New Zealand and USA.
    – Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s monasteries: Samten Choling Monastery, in Ghoom, India; Tashi Choling Monastery in Kurseong, India; Enchey House, in Gangtok, Sikkim; and Gangjong Namgyal in the USA.
    – Dagom Tsong Khapa Dharma Center in Greenfield, MA., USA and Dagom Gaden Tensung Ling in Bloomington, IN., USA.
    – Gadenpa Buddhist Center (Achok Rinpoche), Long Island City, NY., USA.
    – Lamrim International Dharma Center (Yongyal Rinpoche), Los Angeles, CA., USA.

    Even the head of the Gelugpa tradition practices Dorje Shugden: https://truthaboutshugden.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/101st-ganden-tripa-leaves-ganden-shartse-to-join-dorje-shugden-monastery/

  6. i study and practice Buddhism in the New Kadampa Tradition to the best of my ability. I would not say I was learned, or an advanced practitioner, but I try and strive to improve. Sadly I do not have a deep understanding of all the issues surrounding Dorge Shugden, but the whole issue of protests and demonstrations is a concern for me.
    I have often wondered why Buddhists do not take more direct, organised action in the world to help relieve the enormous levels of suffering that exist. Most other religions do this through various charitable organisations, for example. I have always been told that direct action of this sort is not necessary and that prayer and meditation is a better solution. That by becoming a Buddha I can best help the suffering of all other living beings.
    But now, when some people in the NKT feel our religious freedom is being restricted and suffering is being caused (to US) suddenly it is OK to take direct, organised action against it.
    Please can someone explain this inconsistency to me?

    1. (It is the International Shugden Society, not the NKT, who are organizing these demonstrations.) I can’t speak for everyone but for me this is an issue that I feel Dorje Shugden practitioners need to stand up for as, if we don’t, no one will.

      As an organization the NKT needs to focus on its goals, to preserve and promote the Kadam Dharma to bring permanent peace and freedom to people in this world. That is what the NKT is set up for and good at, and it is also a huge amount of work. Within individuals’ lives and jobs, however, I think many are advocating for others and relieving suffering in many different ways, in accordance with our Bodhisattva vows to always go to the assistance of those in need. Main job is to gain enlightenment, but we also try and help in practical ways whenever possible.

      1. “But now, when some people in the NKT feel our religious freedom is being restricted and suffering is being caused (to US) suddenly it is OK to take direct, organised action against it.” I am a DS practionner and I think the same way. Why don’t we just give a spiritual response to the Dalai accusations (pujas, prayers…) rather than a samsaric one (demos), exactly like when we try to reach enlightenment for the benefit of all rather than practically giving all our energy to help in a samsaric way?

        1. I agree that enlightenment is the only lasting solution to the problem of samsara, and we do give a spiritual response and make prayers. Dorje Shugden practitioners spend the vast majority of their time simply practicing Dharma and helping others do the same, that is our main job.

          But if we did not protest the Dalai Lama’s actions, who would? And this tradition that teaches how to attain enlightenment would die out.

          Due to our protests bringing this previously festering issue out of the closet, Tibetan Shugden practitioners the world over have developed the confidence to build monasteries and live their spiritual lives in the open once again. Many Westerners with an interest in this Buddhist tradition who were previously misled by the terrible slander have now understood that we are not, after all, cultists, spirit worshippers, Chinese agents, etc, and so are no longer abandoning Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition in droves. There have been so many good results which are not in fact samsaric but which keep this path to enlightenment open to everyone.

          Once the Dalai Lama accepts the four points, we will all go home happily, of course.

  7. I saw this comment online from a practitioner in India, and thought it well expressed, so am posting it in full here:

    “I would like to stress the fact that although I actively protest, albeit online, against the Dalai Lama’s unlawful and deeply divisive ban which I, living and volunteering in various parts of India, have witnessed the effects of first-hand, have never received a penny from the Chinese government, nor has any Dorje Shugden practitioner I know or have ever met. I would like to request those who continually accuse us of this to present clear evidence that we are in the pay and are supported by the Chinese government. As there is none, of course this is impossible. Mere words, however often they are repeated, are not enough to prove anything. I can also attest to the fact that relying upon Dorje Shugden as my Dharma Protector, along with Je Tsongkhapa, Vajrayogini, Medicin e Buddha , Tara and many other common Buddhist deities, has brought only benefit to my life and has only increased my good qualities. My entire family, although all non-Buddhist, would wholeheartedly agree. Therefore I can say from personal experience that the influence of Dorje Shugden has been entirely positive. Those who say otherwise are merely blindly repeating the claims of the Dalai Lama and his supposedly democratic (but actually unashamedly theocratic) government in exile. I have not once prayed for harm to befall the Dalai Lama, nor had any intention to damage the Tibetan cause. I know because I have taken the practice to heart that all the accusations pitted against Dorje Shugden practitioners are lies and slander and cannot stand up to proper and fair investigation. And yet they are repeated again and again by those who are terrified or unable to admit that they may in fact be seriously wrong, and that the particular celebrity monk that they have deified and pay hundreds of dolla rs to hear him repeat a few pleasantries that were passed down to him by precious teachers he now publicly denigrates (all who practiced Dorje Shugden) may in fact be deeply flawed.”

  8. How can I follow the instructions of my chosen Spiritual Guide in order to pacify my delusions if I have to follow The Dalai Lama’s contradictory instructions in order to pacify his? It’s not my job.

  9. Excellent post Luna. I too practice Kadampa Buddhism although not nearly at the same level of many of you 🙂 I completely agree with you that anyone with 10 minutes worth of understanding of Buddha’s teachings would find this ban absurd fundamentally. What’s interesting to me is that half the time, the Dalai Lama is saying there is no ban, there is freedom. The other half he is defending the “non-ban”.

    I watched the 2 hour panel discussion that happened recently in London on youtube yesterday. I have to say I appreciated the moderator’s last comment that behavior on both sides have been unproductive. I think largely from our side we are completely in the right to protest and to say things like “Stop Lying” and “Give Religious Freedom”. I think some of the behavior that is counterproductive (which I see on facebook a lot) is ascribing intentions to the Dalai Lama and often ones that are diabolical. It may be a fringe thing but it just seems distasteful to me and seems to makes us look like loonies. Thats just my opinion. I can understand the position that we have to generate awareness etc, but what kind of awareness just it generate when people post very inflammatory photoshopped pictures of the Dalai Lama?

    My personal opinion is that he is just doing his job. In the best way he thinks he can. And what a terrible job it is, politics. Its no wonder we pray to never be reborn a politician. Just look at the karma he seems to be creating! I would agree that he seems to be a very ineffectual politician at that, but that is wholly different from portraying him to be an evil mastermind only out for a power grab. Ironically, he has resigned as the political leader of Tibet hasnt he. So now he is still just using his religious influence albeit of a political nature.

    It is not at all uncommon to vilify ones opponent among ordinary circles. Its just anger really but it happens every day. Although it does seem that the vast majority of poeple are acting from a genuine compassion and would rather this never have happened, I also sense in our camp some small tendency to enjoy this process of going after a villain. Its that that I am calling out and think is counter to our aims.

    Im probably not making my point very clear so Ill stop. I want to thank you for posting a clear and balanced approach and I, like you, wish we all have and continue to have religious freedom so the door stays wide open in this world for many many many years to come.

  10. I want the ostracism of ordinary innocent people, and the enforced division of the monasteries, to end. I’m not all that bothered about what people in my own Western country think of me. It’s the real suffering of the defenceless and poor in India that bugs me. No Tibetan can feel safe when their neighbours have been told, by someone they regard as a God, that there is an evil spirit being worshipped next door. They need to be told the they don’t have to worry, that there is no evil spirit.

  11. Thank you for this balanced and exhaustive article on what the Dalai Lama is actually doing and why we are demonstrating. People do not realize the gravity of this situation and how it could develop. It is very serious.

    A friend told me this week that his friend had heard first-hand the Dalai Lama quoting recently in a public talk in India, that the Buddhist community needed to be ‘cleansed’ of Dorje Shugden practitioners.

    I follow this practice. So my life or safety might be in danger in the future. For thousands in India their lives and safety are in danger now. I and millions of others are the subject of slander and lies. I have hundreds of friends, they know that I am not an evil person with murderous intentions. I am not a Chinese spy. I am not interested in harming the Dalai Lama. I am not a demon worshipper. These are the things that he is saying about me in public. I am starting to understand how it feels to be targeted, marginalised, ostracized and threatened. Already I have experienced ridicule, anger and suspicion. Some of my friends have experienced far worse as a result of this propoganda.,

    People, please don’t dismiss Luna’s article or forget its message. Please think about it with an unbiased mind free from emotion. Please put aside any pre-conceived, media- supported ideas of the Dalai Lama. Please be open to the truth and not sidetracked from the main issues. I understand that people have to go through a difficult process as they think about this, as did I, but we must be patient and have courage to look, the truth is more important than anything.

    1. hey if anything happen to ur group in india i personally drop my faith in his holiness ok and all you western people since u guys learning buddhism so try to bearing different perceptions ,not everythings are in the room of logical or demoncracy we should not politizing our religions stuff,by the way i just want to say i have 3 friends who are practicing this deity but we never have problem in our daily life ,

  12. Thank you so much for this article 🙂
    I’m also a Kadampa Buddhist and it really helped me to understand better the situation 🙂
    Very clear, complete and useful to solve some doubts I stilk had 😉
    Thank you!

  13. I also want to say that you can’t have a Gelugpa lineage without Dorje Shugden as he is actually Je Tsongkhapa appearing in the form of a Dharma Protector – he’s not merely symbolic but the active Protector of Tsongkhapa’s teachings for these degenerate times. It was Kalarupa but many high lamas felt that Dorje Shugden had replaced him as the protector of the tradition. If you ban Dorje Shugden, you destroy the tradition and that is the Dalai Lama’s aim. It’s completely shameful that the Dalai Lama is repaying the kindness of his Gurus Ling Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche by mixing traditions and going against their teachings.

    I also have to say that the FPMT has completely betrayed Lama Yeshe by going along with this political ban. They could have stood up to the Dalai Lama as Geshe Kelsang has done. I have no idea what Lama Zopa is thinking. Lama Yeshe was a very devoted Shugden practitioner and he used to do Dorje Shugden puja to dispel obstacles before every Kopan Monastery meditation course. So I wonder, does Lama Zopa think that Lama Yeshe was wrong and not a Buddhist? He’s in exactly in the same logical hot water as the Dalai Lama who is trying to claim that although his teachers were wrong and spirit worshippers, this was a very small part of their practice – but it just doesn’t fly. If you worship a spirit, you lose your refuge and are no longer a Buddhist. This is exactly the reasoning that the Dalai Lama is using to try to destroy those traditions that are still practising Shugden, so he’s completely inconsistent in his application of reason.

    Of course, it’s all lies anyway. I would dearly love the Dalai Lama to agree to a debate – his reasons would be demolished in minutes and he knows it too. Dalai Lama, stop lying and give religious freedom.

  14. Dear oliness,

    I don’t agree with your stated reasons for why the Dalai Lama banning the practice of Dorje Shugden. It isn’t a practice that was just developed to scare Gelugpas off practising Nyingma teachings – Dorje Shugden is a genuine Dharma protector who has the power in these degenerate times to propagate the Ganden tradition and to help those practise it and he’s been worshipped for the past 400 years by all the great Lamas of the Sakya and Gelugpa traditions. The stories about Dorje Shugden killing those Gelugpas who practise Nyingma teachings is obviously nonsense – the Dalai Lama has done the most damage to the Gelugpa tradition and he’s still alive! In fact, the average lifespan of a Tibetan male is 67 and the Dalai Lama is 77, so the claims that he makes that Dorje Shugden practice is affecting his health is obviously nonsense and is simply meant to rally the Tibetans who are worried about the death of the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is manipulating people into accepting his ban.

    The charge of sectarianism is also completely trumped up. There is nothing sectarian about wanting to practise one lineage of teachings only while respecting all the others. The Dalai Lama has simply been using this excuse to justify the ban but there’s nothing inherently sectarian in the practice – only to someone who is a mixer and destroyer of lineages like the Dalai Lama! None of his scriptural reasons for banning Shugden practice can be justified, it’s just a smokescreen so that he can weaken the Gelugpa tradition who are now ridiculed as spirit worshippers. His aim is to bring all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism together under his control. This whole sad situation has been created for nothing other than power-hungry politics and the Dalai Lama needs to tell the truth and lift the ban.

  15. Thank you Luna for your profound wisdom written from a good heart and if all Kadampas maintain a pure intention our goal of religious freedom will come to fruition. Please let us all spread this easy to understand explanation of the Dorje Shugden/controversy (which has been a mystery to many) as far as we can.

  16. Having read more about the issue, I have come to, I believe, understand the Dalai Lama’s point of view. It’s still a sad situation, and it may well be better if he would allow Shugden practice, but I do think I’ve gained some knowledge of why he has taken this stance.

    For us in the West, Shugden is just something like a Manjushri figure and completely harmless. But it’s quite different in the Tibetan community. From what I gather the Gelug tradition (which we call New Kadampa) has emphasized celibate monasticism. However, the Nyingma tradition doesn’t so much and has married lamas. This caused some Gelugpas to have an attitude of superiority, believing that they had the pure Dharma and the Nyingma was degenerate and worldly. Thus you got a sectarian division – saying that we have “pure” Dharma occurred in a context of saying that many other people’s Dharma was impure.

    And it is in that environment that Dorje Shugden worship arose. It was promoted to try and block Gelugpas mixing with the supposedly degenerate Nyingmapas, for they believed that the Nyingma was an impure lineage. Worse, stories arose of Shugden performing the wrathful action of killing Gelugpas who accepted Nyingma teachings so that they themselves wouldn’t create bad karma. This is the attitude which existed and is the real context of the Dalai Lama’s opposition to Shugden. He didn’t just do it to be an authoritarian jerk. Most of us don’t speak Tibetan and don’t know the culture, but he knows the history of sectarianism among the people and didn’t want any practice that was used to imply that the earliest Tibetan school (Nyingma) is impure. He with good reason wants a unified, non-sectarian Buddhism and sees Shugden practice as coming from a place of division.

    Now it is probably true that the cure is worse than the disease, and opposing Shugden has created more divisions and problems than it’s solved. Particularly because in the West Shugden practice was mainly transmitted through Geshe Kelsang, who is a perfectly good and pure Dharma teacher who only wants to pass down the lineage he learned (and doesn’t himself have any negative minds towards other Buddhist lineages). For those of us who only really know Geshe Kelsang’s presentation of the Dharma, the ban seems incomprehensible. But if you lived among the internal divisions of Tibetan Buddhism you might come to a different conclusion – and see Shugden as intrinsically, negatively sectarian.

  17. Fantastic blog post, Luna!

    I was thinking that with the demonstrations happening (and I deeply rejoice in everyone’s virtue here, how wonderful), it is a fantastic opportunity to deepen our love, compassion, wisdom and guru yoga, in particular seeing how compassion does not prevent but actually motivates us to engage in appropriate actions (such as protests). And how there is no contradiction between keeping pure view and engaging in the such actions.

    After all, there is never anything outside the mandala of bliss and emptiness, including the charnel grounds. Our kind guru sees unmistakably that there is nothing outside his mind, and this recognition combined with limitless compassion causes him to take action. We can be the same!


  18. I disagree that giving up Dorje Shugden would be losing nothing except a symbolic protector. For me he is a wisdom Buddha, so giving up my belief would be abandoning refuge in the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The fourteenth Dalai Lama has repudiated his Spiritual Guide and the lineage of his Spiritual Guide, stating unequivocally that they were “all wrong” for practicing Dorje Shugden. He has deleted the names of his Spiritual Guide (Trijang Rinpoche) and lineage Gurus from sadhanas, books, and teachings.

    1. I enjoy the articles on the teachings, but that is all. I am follower of Thich Nhat Hanh school and think that instead of creating more division, it would be wiser to find a path to reconciliation. The political infighting is unbecoming and sad. Wake up.

      1. Thank you for your comment. I understand that you are not interested in this issue, and I don’t find that a problem at all.

        However, to answer you, this is a question of practitioners not being given religious freedom and being persecuted when they refuse to sign oaths not to do their prayers and practices or associate with anyone who does. This is not political in-fighting. I would LOVE to find a path to reconciliation. However, the Dalai Lama has refused to discuss this at all in decades. Ever, in fact. He just makes proclamations and bans and spreads false information, as he did again yesterday in the National Cathedral, when he said again that this was spirit worship, and that although he did it himself for several decades he now saw the error of his ways. (I would have thought that if he’d been practicing spirit worship for decades, he might have noticed it.) I have never worshipped a spirit in my life. Dorje Shugden is an enlightened Dharma Protector, the same nature as Wisdom Buddha Manjushri, appearing in a protecting aspect, who I rely upon to help increase my Dharma realizations, especially the wisdom realizing emptiness. But even if I was a spirit worshipper, the Dalai Lama has no right to ban this practice. That is what is unbecoming and sad.

  19. I don’t agree with the ban and I do not understand the Dalai Lama’s reasons for it. From what I gather he is worried about some Shugden practitioners becoming too fundamentalist but has overreacted in banning it completely. However, there is one thought I keep on having: is Dorje Shugden practice really so important? If we give up Shugden practice, we’ve still got dozens of other Buddha figures. We’re only losing one wrathful protector figure. It doesn’t prevent us having Avalokiteshvara, Tara, etc as our inspiration. I see all these figures as symbolic, archetypal depictions of aspects of the Buddha-mind; they’re not that literally real anyway. Without Shugden, we’ve got Tsongkhapa’s teaching and inspiration. Nothing is lost except a symbolic protector.

    The FPMT tradition has taken this view. Their lamas practiced Shugden, but stopped when the Dalai Lama opposed it. It’s important to remember that none of us are suffering as much as those in Tibet who are in many cases banned from any Buddhist practice. And without the Dalai Lama’s advocacy they are certain to be forgotten and defeated. I don’t see I’m afraid in the NKT much concern for the Tibetans in Tibet. The focus has been on transmitting the Dharma to the Western world – which is wonderful. But we mustn’t lose compassion for the native practitioners who have been banned by the Chinese government from practicing any Buddhism freely. They are I believe much more important than us continuing Shugden practice.

    So again, I do agree with you that this ban is a mistake and I think it shows a limited awareness of the Dalai Lama. But I’d rather not protest openly because the result of doing that will be so negative that it is just not worth it.

    1. You said: “But I’d rather not protest openly because the result of doing that will be so negative that it is just not worth it.”

      That’s the thing… Gueshe Kelsang knows it’s not worth it, but his compassion leads him to say it aloud, so the world also knows about this… even if it creates bad reputation for the NKT.

      Everybody and almost every government already knows about Chinese bans, and maybe it’s even worse than Dorje Shugden ban. But who else will defend this position about Dorje Shugden if nobody raises his voice? If it’s not true, unfair or simply damages human rights, I think somebody should say it aloud. Just to raise awareness.

      That’s the thing… Gueshe Kelsang knows it’s not worth it, but his compassion leads him to say it aloud, so the world also knows about this… even if it creates bad reputation for the NKT.

      Everybody and almost every government already knows about Chinese bans, and maybe it’s even worse than Dorje Shugden ban. But who else will defend this position about Dorje Shugden if nobody raises his voice? If it’s not true, unfair or simply damages human rights, I think somebody should say it aloud. Just to raise awareness.

  20. Thanks Luna. I side with you and Shugden practitioners in standing against the Dalai Lama’s ban. The Dalai Lama is clearly not reasonable, despite his education from experts such as Trijang Rinpoche, and is incapable of listening to introductory Buddhist argument that would normally clear up the case in ten minutes, as you say. For this reason, and in the absence of other options incorporating negotiation or mediation, I believe that the legal route must be the most effective way to go (although pressurizing him to stop lying and stop oppressing practitioners can’t do any harm either). Another effect of settling this in the court is that a precedent against this type of ban will be set for the future.

    Why can’t he see that the practitioners use Dorje Shugden as a channel to connect with Buddha? There is no evidence the practice has been used in any other way. And where’s his emptiness wisdom? The mismatch between his discursive background and his statements is so striking that I doubt he really believes what he is saying about the nature of Dorje Shugden, and he is acting out of purely political will like many others have said, or due to pressure from outside parties.

  21. Thank you for such an inspiring informative and balanced view , this is compassion and wisdom in practice, sadly this is not evident in the Dalai Llama,s actions.

  22. “This Friday, for the first time in history, the Washington National Cathedral, “a spiritual resource for our nation… for people of all faiths and perspectives”, will not open its doors to anyone who makes prayers to the Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden.”

    Really? How come? How is it possible that the DL can make an American religious centre close its doors to any particular group of people? Surely this is unconstitutional?

    Brilliant article Luna, thank you very much. I have shared it on my FB timeline.

    1. It is simply not true that everyone was not welcome. This was a public teaching, and anyone could, and did, walk in, as evidenced from the disruption of teachings inside by hecklers. No one stood at the door and asked what your religious practices were before you were granted entry. This was not an empowerment or event in which a serious teacher/student or guru/disciple relationship was needed. Please don’t exaggerate.

      1. Hi Liz, people who rely upon Dorje Shugden were definitely not welcome to the Dalai Lama’s talk at the cathedral. It is made clear on his website and elsewhere that he doesn’t want them attending any of his teachings. The two Shugden practitioners who attended the talk did not say who they were — had they done so, they would not have been welcome.

        They were not hecklers — they asked two reasonable questions in a very peaceful way, and were not deriding the Dalai Lama in the least. The first person bravely stood up while the Dalai Lama was talking about tolerance and freedom to ask about why he thought this could not also apply to Dorje Shugden practitioners? After the Dalai Lama had given yet another false history of the practice, denigrating his own spiritual teachers and many other great Lamas of the Gelugpa tradition, saying they were ignorant spirit worshippers and sectarian cultists, the second person stood up and asked him to please explain about Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama’s main tutors, both Dorje Shugden practitioners, and highly revered scholars, Buddhist masters, and Yogis). He was removed from the cathedral.

        The Dalai Lama has refused every request for discussion and debate.

        During his “history”, he said he did this practice for several decades himself before realizing his mistake. Did he really not know he was worshipping an evil spirit all those years?!

        1. Hi, Luna, well it’s hard to understand why someone who disagrees with His Holiness so fundamentally would attend his teachings. But I think you overstate the case, and have never seen any challenge in an American venue where public teachings are concerned. Further, there was no verbiage on the Cathedral’s website regarding who could or could not attend.

          The Dalai Lama’s website says,” 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 D. not to attend his formal religious teachings, which traditionally require the establishment of a teacher-disciple relationship.”

          That’s all I see.

          Sorry that the characterization of those who tried to disrupt the teaching didn’t agree with you, but I have to argue that I merely used the word ‘heckling’ as it’s defined: To try to embarrass and annoy (someone speaking or performing in public) by questions, gibes, or objections; badger. (quoted from thefreedictionary.com)

          Despite your impassioned description of the brave … jeez, what do I call them without getting myself in trouble? … people, I guess… people that stood to ask HHDL questions, in fact they were disrespectful. I don’t care the venue or audience, to try to speak over or on top of someone whom thousands of people have taken their time and energy to see is disruptive, impolite and disrespectful of everyone present. The manner of the questioners is fairly irrelevant. They tried to disrupt the teaching, That is bad behavior.

          Surely they didn’t believe that HHDL would stop his talk to discuss this matter with them, as he has repeated himself so many times already it’s a wonder he’s not blue in the face. So I cannot believe they had a good motivation – this was badgering. I’m surprised HHDL went to the trouble to explain the situation patiently again. That you do not like or believe his explanation is your problem. I have no investment in this, except to try to see what is true and what is exaggeration, and have no wish to try to change your view.

          As for your question as to whether or not he knew what he was practicing, I can only say that I personally engaged in the practice for a number of years without examining it and sympathize with him on that point. I find the question itself uncharitable and think it beneath you, honestly.

          1. “Hearing a teaching (transmission) readies the hearer for realization based on it. The person from whom one hears the teaching should have heard it as one link in a succession of listeners going back to the original speaker: the Buddha in the case of a sutra or the author in the case of a book. Then the hearing constitutes an authentic lineage of transmission. Authenticity of the oral lineage is a prerequisite for realization, hence the importance of lineages.”

            “The great master Pabongka was in the first half of the twentieth century the pivotal or key lineage holder of the Oral Geden Tradition. Many other teachers before him mastered certain aspects of the tradition’s teachings, but it was Pabongka Rinpoche’s particular merit to locate and find all these partial transmissions, to learn and realize them, and bring them together once again to pass them on through a single person. In his lifetime there was hardly a significant figure of the Geden tradition who had not been Pabongka Rinpoche’s disciple. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche was the one capable of receiving and passing on the entirety of the Oral Geden Tradition once again. The Dorje Shugden practice is an integral part of that tradition.”

          2. Hi Liz, thanks for your comment. But the Dalai Lama has never answered those two questions: (1) Why he can’t practice what he preaches and give tolerance and religious freedom to Dorje Shugden practitioners and (2) How can he denigrate these great Lamas so badly in public, again and again, when they have done nothing wrong, and millions of people have relied upon them for beautiful Dharma teachings (including himself)? He has never agreed to a debate, that is why those men stood up to ask. Call it heckling if you like, but they were just asking to be heard, and it was the first time he has answered — at least he gave his standard speel in response to the first questioner, the second questioner was escorted out (and the Dalai Lama never answered why he was so against his tutors Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche, after all they taught him for decades, so much Dharma that he now uses for teaching Westerners.) And you are right — I don’t agree with the Dalai Lama’s explanation at all, it is full of faulty reasoning and political bias. See this recent interview with Tibetans for why people don’t agree with his “reasons” for the ban: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtube_gdata_player&isappinstalled=0&from=message&v=8xw-la2_-Yw&app=desktop

            I don’t see why that last question is uncharitable (even though i admit to phrasing it in a slightly ironic way, sorry). If the Dalai Lama is the supposed spiritual leader of the Tibetans and also an emanation of the Compassion Buddha Avalokiteshvara (as he himself said Dalai Lamas are during his cathedral talk), how could he not know that he was worshipping an evil spirit? I do genuinely wonder that. I know full well that I am not worshipping one, and you can say that this is my ignorance if you like, but that would mean that you were being uncharitable 😉

            For Tibetans to be excluded from the Dalai Lama’s talks is far worse than it is for Westerners — you are right that I don’t much mind either way for myself (even though it feels odd to be unwanted at a supposed Buddhist teaching when I haven’t done anything), but it means utter social exclusion if you live in Tibetan society where everything comes under the Dalai Lama.

            1. First let me say that I make no judgements about what kind of entity Dorje Shugden is. I do think the evidence, by which I mean historical information, shrines, their locations, images, etc., do not exactly give me confidence that he is a Buddha in the same sense as Tara. That is just my personal opinion after many hours of research, with a lack of primary sources and no knowledge of the Tibetan language. It’s nothing to argue about as my personal conclusion was to stop the practice and then there is no problem for me. That he is of help to you in your Dharma practice I willingly accept if that is the truth of your experience. Likewise I willingly accept that he may appear otherwise to others.

              So with that disclaimer, a few more thoughts. Thank you for posting the video, it was interesting. What I thought while viewing it was that the complaints about the medical situation, being able to go to restaurants, etc., are secular complaints, not religious. I have to wonder why these allegations are not taken up in a secular manner, i.e., with the CTA. The Tibetan people now have a democratically elected leader, and are no longer led politically by His Holiness. It would seem to me that Tibetans working to solve this Tibetan problem would make a lot of sense. Everything no longer “comes under” the Dalai Lama. So perhaps this situation can now shift?

              I do not conflate advice to stop a practice with denigration of one’s lama. I do not believe that the Gaden tradition is useless without the practice of a particular dharma protector. Nor do a long list of lamas in the Tibetan tradition. So about this point we disagree.

              Your question of HHDL practicing what he preaches literally makes no sense to me. He has decided that one practice is more detrimental than useful to his spiritual followers, who are Tibetan Buddhists. He believes the practice to increase intolerance and sectarianism. So you expect him to tolerate religious intolerance in the name of religious tolerance? Sorry, it makes my head kind of explode to consider this. It is his function as a spiritual guide to point his followers in the way that he believes conforms most with Dharma. We may not like the repercussions, but job done.

              Strictly speaking, I would say that HHDL has not answered your first “unanswered” question to YOUR satisfaction. (Sorry, don’t mean to yell, I just don’t know any other way to put the emphasis in that sentence so it is understandable.) He has given many answers. But it’s not my job to defend any position, so I will leave it at that.

              I greatly appreciate this dialog, it has been very helpful to me in clarifying my thoughts. Thank you for making your website a place where questions and debate can occur. It is very kind of you to indulge alternative points of view.

              1. Dear Liz,

                The Dorje Shugden history site http://www.dorjeshugdenhistory,org gives many citations from rituals from great Lamas of the Sakya and Gelugpa traditions showing that Dorje Shugden is a Buddha, the synthesis of Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani. This would then mean that he is inseparable from Je Tsongkhapa himself and this is, indeed, what Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says.

                I am curious why people choose to follow the Dalai Lama’s view that Dorje Shugden is a spirit when there is evidence of 400 years of worship of this Buddha by beings who were regarded as inseparable from Buddha themselves. Also, the incarnation lineage of Dorje Shugden includes beings who were most definitely regarded as enlightened themselves – such as Manjushri, Sakya Pandita and Panchen Sonam Dragpa. The integrity of these great Teachers is such that how could anyone doubt that Tulku Dragpa Gyatsen and therefore Dorje Shugden himself are enlightened? I have seen no evidence from the Dalai Lama to the contrary. All I see His Holiness say is that because the Fifth and Thirteenth Dalai Lamas had a problem with Dorje Shugden he has to follow their view! That’s not logical, especially when it flies in the face of the endorsement of great Teachers over 400 years! How can they all be wrong? If they were wrong, then both the present Sakya and Gelugpa traditions are invalid because the refuge in the Three Jewels and therefore the lineage is broken. If that’s true, which it would be, it would also mean that his own spiritual education was invalid as he was taught by spirit worshippers and not Buddhists. Do you see how the Dalai Lama’s views lead to unwanted consequences for himself? I want to see the Dalai Lama present some credible logical evidence for his view; none is, as yet, forthcoming.

                Where also is the Dalai Lama’s evidence that the practice of Dorje Shugden is sectarian? It is certainly a sectarian issue since the Dalai Lama decided to ban the practice! It’s he that has made it such an international issue. Before 1978 there was no problem – Gelugpas and Nyingmas practised side by side and there was harmony as I understand it, although some Nyingmas do seem to have a problem with Pabongkha Rinpoche, claiming that he was sectarian. Of course there have been sectarian disputes over the course of history and there is evidence that the Fifth Dalai Lama in particular persecuted sects of Buddhists who held views that he did not agree with such as the Jonangpas, but there was no problem with Dorje Shugden. As far as I can see, it’s the Dalai Lama who has created this problem. What have Shugden practitioners (including his Teachers) done that is so heinous that the practice has to be banned and its adherents ostracised from mainstream Tibetan society? There are no clear answers and no justification unless you know of one.

              2. Thanks Liz. Speaking just from my own experience, I found Protector Dorje Shugden to be of invaluable help to me when I was doing a long retreat of nearly three years. Buddhas appear as teachers and as protectors. My teacher Geshe Kelsang, and his teachers before him, have taught that Dorje Shugden helps us specifically to gain Mahamudra realizations of the Ganden oral lineage and i believe that to be the case – he manifests from the Dharmakaya whatever is needed and removes outer, inner and secret obstacles.

                Between Dorje Shugden and the Dakinis, and of course the Spiritual Guide, I have the experience of being immensely supported and protected in my spiritual life.

                Most people who rely upon him could tell you how effective and important his blessings and care are for them.

        2. I don’t understand why there has to be so many insults, anger and mockery thrown around on Facebook about the Dalai Lama. Why is the Dalai Lama “the exception” to the Kadampa teaching of compassion and karma? Even if he is to blame, even if he is a liar, why mockery? I understand that movements and causes sometimes take radical actions to get launched and recognized it just feels odd for Buddhists to do this. This kind of behavior encourages the media portrayal of Dorje Shugden followers as a cult. The strategy needs to be refined. Perhaps prayers and loving images might help. If the allegations against the Dalai Lama are true it needs to be proven and verified by an outside, international agency. I see verification by a reputable international agency as an important step that I can fully support.

    2. I watched the live web-cast up until the request for blessings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama looked in a good mood and fantastic health for his age. The speech “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World” was going well with such phrases as “We need constant effort to promote religious understanding on the basis of mutual compassion, mutual respect,”. So when he denounced Dorje Shugden practice as spirit worship it jarred and contradicted the rest of the speech’s message for me.

  23. I don’t have an opinion on this particular issue of the ban because I don’t know enough about it yet. However, anything that doesn’t stand up to examination isn’t worth believing. Whether or not we characterize the Dali Lama as a religious or a political leader, he has a responsibility to discuss his position. That he isn’t responding to requests to do so is very concerning.

    But on another note, I want to say how pleased I am see you underscore how solving our inner problems through practice doesn’t preclude addressing outer problems with some kind of action, or what I’d probably call activism. The fact that you felt the need to explain at length your activism on this particular issue suggests to me that you are perhaps well aware of what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say it anyway. I’ve heard a lot of commentary from Buddhists to the effect of “politics isn’t necessary when you have Buddhism.” That’s actually a quote from someone I met at a festival I attended a couple of years ago, and something that was echoed again and again at the center I attended. While I never doubted that there was some kind of misinterpretation of the teachings driving this, I have from time to time been quite disturbed by how pervasive this belief seems to be. How caring about problems in the world enough that you want to take action to correct them is almost seen as evidence of a lack of spiritual progress. For me this has the effect of marginalizing the things that precede my interest in Buddhism. In fact, I think one of the most compelling aspects of Buddhism is how it has the power to fuel this kind of action, and give me the tools to do so more effectively. My experience at the particular center I attended didn’t support this. For this reason the “spiritual community of like-minded people” never feel like-minded to me.

    As a byproduct of explaining your position on this issue of the ban, you seem to have also raised a really important secondary issue that is well worth getting some clarity around.

  24. Thank you so much for the article it is quite comprehensive.

    I have struggled with this topic from the first time I stepped into a Kadampa center and saw no picture of the Dalai Lama anywhere. I asked the resident teacher about this and she told me that the Dalai Lama has a more scientific approach and the founder of the NKT has a more spiritual approach based upon faith and practical common sense. When I researched this asinine analysis I first became aware of Dorje Shugden and the whole idea of a dharma protector. This went way over my head. What I determined from my own analysis that the NKT was growing quickly, had hundreds of groups and centers and the founder distanced himself from politics of “Free Tibet” ideology and was following the instructions of his teacher to bring pure dharma to the West! Therefore , Tibetan politics was behind the whole controversy. To make things worse, Geshe-la opened the esoteric tantric teachings with books like “Clear Light of Bliss” and all hell broke lose! Giving these teachings for free without having to provide financial and other support to the “FreeTibet” movement was heresy!

    Mind you, this is my own personal analysis from what I was able to piece together over the internet. This activity was where I first read about the Dorje Shugden “problem.” Not understanding anything about the tantric teachings I actually developed a fear of the picture of Dorje Shugden we had at the center and avoided looking at it! I enjoyed the teachings so and if I could only get beyond the fear of the dharma protector that everyone was praying to. One day Gen – la Dekyong came to our center for a public talk. I asked her if everything is an appearance to mind and all the things I see do not exist where is this dharma protector that everyone prays to. It can’t possibly be outside my mind. She said, “when I am asked questions like this I need to know the intention behind the question. It seems to me you already know the answer but are just curious as to what I will say. Why not ask Dorje Shugden for advice instead of me? I loved that answer and from that day on I loved Dorje Shugden practice! I use to have wisdom matches between Gesh-la and Dorje Shugden they were wonderful and enlightening.. They both always had very smart things to say and helped my practice immensely. Whenever I was having tea with Geshe-la I would ask him why is there so much ignorance in the practice of Buddhism itself? Why do practitioners argue with one another about which path is best? No matter what I asked him he would take a nice long sip of tea and just wink at me! just a wink! He is a smart one and knew how to let me figure things out for myself.

    The fact that people are being harmed over Shugden practice is such a waste of human potential. The enlightened mind has two aspects and two inclinations, in my opinion, to teach the dharma to others or to protect the dharma so the very precious dharma realizations can manifest. To create a road block for the dharma protector aspect develop in the mind of a fellow being is most unskillful.

  25. Thank you for your kindness in writing this. Peace and love and freedom to practice for all💗

  26. I may be just a simple Atheist with a mistrust of any organisation that pronounces their views to be the only “correct” way to live a life but …. Isn’t the very raison d’être of any organised collective of life views (aka religion) perversely always going to be religious intolerance ? Which is what the Big Guy here seems to be guilty of ? Inherent in any religion no matter how caring and tolerant is surely to lead, guide, persuade, educate, enlighten, “save” others into their way of thinking rather than their own ? Otherwise what would be the point ? We’d all be atheists picking and choosing wisely all the good and sensible stuff about how to treat others and ourselves without the need to join a club and have to follow broadly the same plan (church ?) even if parts of that plan might not agree with us ? The part in the blog reading ” there is a long, rich, history of Buddhist masters debating and converting people to Buddhism that way” surely demonstrates this ? Have a debate, listen to the other guy but the ultimate aim is always to educate them that your gangs way is the “correct” way ?
    Long winded way of me saying isn’t it a bit odd to knock the DL for religious intolerance (for that’s what it is, intolerance of opposing views as they clash with your own ) when that’s what the whole point of the club you joined anyway ?
    Sometimes I think simple , considered atheism ( it’s sort of an implicit part of our rules that there is no club we’re on our own but if we had one … ) is perhaps the most tolerant gang of all. See the whole point of our raison d’être is that we are our own moral compass and there is no spiritual guide to follow therefore we cannot convert educate or coerce anyone into our way of thinking. We merely point out (alone ?!) that organised religion is inherently wrong due to its intolerance and too often leads to the sort of infighting seen here. Negative and divisive are ugly words and shouldn’t be part of anyone’s plan.
    Anyway ! Love and peace and good vibes to you. I must say if I chose a gang it would be yours 🙂

    1. This is not about who is correct and who is not. (I tried to explain that with this article, including the quote from Buddha; it seems to answer your points?) It is not about debate and discussion, which is not contradictory with tolerance — in fact, it can foster it, knowing more about others’ traditions.

      This is about forcing others to give up their freedoms, which is contradictory to tolerance.

  27. Thank you for taking the time to write this piece. Perfectly stated. May religious freedom be realized and my this precious door remain open to all sentient beings.

  28. It is quite simple, as stated in this postcard I received from dorjeshugden.com:

    *”In a true 21st century democracy, respectable leaders and governments do not speak against or enshrine in their constitution any bias or prejudice against any religious practise and worship.* *The Tibetan leadership, however, continues to suppress Dorje Shugden practitioners. We call your attention to this ongoing suppression of religious freedom in the Tibetan communities, achieved through the denial of access to health care, education,social and government services and expulsion from monasteries and shops.”*

    This says what everyone needs to know. No one needs to have any opinion of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans, or of Dorje Shugden or of those who rely upon him in order to understand that denying religious freedom to anyone is wrong. It is simple enough – for whatever reasons that may be given by the DalaiLama or the Tibetan exile government, they are denying religious freedom to people and encouraging others to shun them and refuse them their normal rights and privileges. In Canada this is called a “hate crime.” It is illegal. It is very serious. It is also illegal in India, in the USA, in the UK, Switzerland,and many many other countries of this world.

    We are simply asking the world to wake up to this problem, to call their attention to it, so that the Dalai Lama, who we know through careful research and direct understanding is the instigator of this crime, must, under pressure of the democratic, free world, change his mind, lift the ban and stop encouraging others to hate us and our fellow practitioners.

    Most people are simply confused when there is so much detail and information to absorb about this simple issue. They may ask questions, which we can answer with clarity, but keeping the issue simple is a good idea.

    The Dalai Lama must stop lying. The Dalai Lama must give religious freedom!

    sincerely, Kelsang Dema

  29. The Dalai Lama was free to practice Dorje Shugden for many many years; how can he possibly justify denying this very same freedom to other practitioners? He complains to the world about the freedoms of Tibetans who have been imposed upon by the Chinese government; how can he possibly justify denying freedom to sincere Buddhist practitioners? This is shocking and beyond belief for rational modern western Buddhists who take the time to examine, and who have an open enough mind to question the popular view of this man. All that glitters is not gold! Thank you for applying your clarity, wisdom and energy to succinctly describing this troubling state of affairs

  30. Reading this brought me into a very deep and humble place within. I am so moved. I wish this article was disseminated prior to the start of the demonstrations 2014. You magnify the significance of our moving our voices into the public-for freedom, for justice, for others, for the right to follow our own non-harmful beliefs without fear of persecution-the rights of all humans. You clarify how this is not about disliking another human but denouncing the hypocrisy and misrepresentation of our beautiful faith. Eventually, the truth will emerge. You expose the lies graciously and why we have the right to denounce these lies. Thank you for your wisdom and clarity and courage. Shugden Strong!

  31. A timely summary of this appearing situation. Very well said, indeed, Luna. xxxx

  32. Dear Luna, I was very much saddened to learn of the banning of people within Buddhist tradition and if I understood correctly this is coming from the top. I have not had the chance to read all the submission slowly as yet but HH the Dalai Lama is not God (though I realise the epithet God King is one of the titles of the Dalai Lama) and therefore the talk of banning people is un Buddhist, un Godlike and an attack on freedom of conscience and practice which is rightly a human right that we should all uphold. I am a lover of the Tibetan people and of Tibetan Buddhism and support a free and independent Tibet. I have admired and read many of HH Dalai Lama’s works but I do not agree with some of his positions regarding the future of Tibet and the traditions of Tibet etc including how the next Dalai Lama should be selected.

    1. Pls, he never ban u to practice any thing u want to do. he said if u practice Dhogyal, then u better not to att his teaching, Coz it s like conflict of intrest. if u don’t agree with him u don’t have to fellow his teaching, that simple

  33. Wow, very comprehensive. Thank you Luna. It would be good if everyone who has heard about the ‘Dorje Shugden controversy’/protests for religious freedom could read this.

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