This article is a record of events since 1970 leading to the worst dissension the Tibetan community has experienced since centuries. For the past twelve years we have been hoping for this conflict to 'expire'. As it is lacking all historical justification and completely contradicts all Buddhist views and correct way of life, as Tibetans, we always felt embarrassed to present such a shortcoming of the Tibetan society to a large public. For this reason we have also not published an internet page until now. Unfortunately, the situation has become so bad, that we are now desperately seeking the help of every honest, unbiased, kind person of this world.
H.H. Dalai Lama 'bans' a deity
In March 1996, H.H. the Dalai Lama announced a ban against the worship of the Buddhist deity Dorje Shugden, declaring that such worship posed a “danger to his life and the cause of Tibet.” The exile government then began to enforce this ban. Houses were searched and a signature campaigns were carried out. People were coerced into signing their name, agreeing to abandon all worship of this deity from then on. Those refusing to sign were openly declared enemies to the cause of Tibet and as endangering the life of the Dalai Lama. The consequences were dire for those who stood by their faith: employees of the exile government were pushed out of their jobs and children of uncompromising parents were denied school attendance. Even the constitution of the exile government was adapted to this change of policy: “The presiding judge of the Judiciary Commission ... must not be a worshipper of Gyalchen Shugden ...”
Dorje Shugden is one of many Buddhist deities which are worshipped as a protector of the teachings of Buddha. He is worshipped by many of the most venerated Masters of the Gelug and Sakya traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as by many monasteries, families and entire regions. H.H. Dalai Lama himself had a close connection with this deity. His own teacher, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, one of the most revered Buddhist Masters of recent times, worshipped Dorje Shugden. Moreover, entire departments in the monasteries of Sera and Ganden, as well as most of the families in several regions of Tibet (like Chatring, Chamdo, etc.) have been worshipping this deity for centuries. The ban against the faith was seen as shocking because Buddhism is a religion of tolerance, not dogma or force. No secular or religous-political power has the right to change the content of the doctrine. Differences in opinion are resolved with clear logic in public debates and presentation of documents which are left to the judgement and analyses of the scholars. The use of political power to impose religious opinions is unthinkable.
The events since 1996 have created deep divisions, as well as conflict and suspicion, in all levels of Tibetan society: in families, monasteries, and schools.
The background to the reasons for H.H. the Dalai Lama's actions has become a source of much speculation. One easily recognized factor is the increasing influence of the state oracle over H.H. the Dalai Lama since the 70's. The Tibetan state oracle system goes back to a pre-Buddhist time. In Tibetan history, consultation of the state oracle has proven constructive at times, but also destructive at other times. For this reason, the state oracle was not consulted during the Dalai Lama's escape in 1959.
All details of the remarkable escape were arranged by a secret committee consisting of the two tutors of His Holiness, the abbot of Sera-Mey, a few reliable members of the cabinet, the lord chamberlain, and the leader of the Kampa Guerilla organization. The advice and guidance given by Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang with secret consultation of the most reliable Panglung oracle of protector Dorje Shugden was the key to the miraculous escape of His Holiness and his entourage to India.
There have been multiple efforts to distort this historical truth by publishing new 'historical' books, films etc., yet it remains an unchangeable fact of history by the presence of still living eye-witnesses of the time, who participated themselves in the struggle: Some old monks, who had accompanied His Holiness on that secret journey as his life guard are still living, their testimony was shown on Swiss TV in January 1998. They now sadly are a victim of this discrimination. Mr. Lithang Atar, who was an active member of the Khampa-guerilla, left his testament for the world on a video-recording, before he passed away in 2006.
The great help and service on part of Dorje Shugden for the escape of His Holiness in 1959 as well as for the escape in 1951 up to the border of India had pleased His Holiness so deeply, that he composed a beautiful praise to the deity. Both in Tibet and in exile His Holiness showed a great favour for Dorje Shugden, so that even in his private ritual monastery, Namgyal Dratsang, the puja of this protector was regularly offered along with pujas for a host of other protector deities of ancient Tibet and past and present Dalai Lamas.
This special connection of His Holiness to the deity Dorje Shugden caused the state oracle to become deeply jealous and it began to extend deceptive influence on His Holiness and some other persons in order to change the positive picture of Dorje Shugden. A direct intervention of the state oracle on this issue occurred just at the moment when His Holiness was preparing to take the initiation of Dorje Shugden from his tutor Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang. His Holiness had personally requested to receive this initiation. Through causing postponement and finally giving up of this plan the state oracle become confident about his influence on His Holiness, and continued to present more and more weird reasons for abandoning Dorje Shugden.
The slander varied and worsened year by year. First the oracle started off saying, "Dorje Shugden a powerful deity, only to be worshipped by beings with high realizations. However worshipping this deity would upset Goddess Palden Lhamo (a superior protecting deity, who does not have an oracle)". Then he said "the deity is appropriate to be worshipped by an individual, but not by a group". Then it was "Dorje Shugden is a deity, suitable to the others, but not to the successor of the 5th Dalai Lama and those working for the Gaden Phodrang Government established by the 5th Dalai Lama." At another occasion: "Dorje Shugden is a spirit born out of a Kagyupa-monk who hated the Tibetan government, and not the incarnation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen" (as it is well-known). At other times: "Dorje Shugden is the spirit of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, whose Samaya bond to the 5th Dalai Lama was not good, thus it is harmful for this government." Then he said: "Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen was a good lama, whose works of composition are praiseworthy, therefore Dorje Shugden cannot be the spirit of such a master." And then: "Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen himself was a false Tulku, who came to be among the candidates for the 5th Dalai Lama and failed to be chosen, but through clever tactics of his mother on the first Panchen Lama Choe Kyi Gyaltsen, he was recognized as the fourth reincarnation of Panchen Sonam Dragpa (the teacher of 3rd Dalai Lama), but was then born as an evil, trouble-making spirit to harm the Tibetan government."
It is amazing to see, how the radical contradiction in these progressive 'prophecies' does not seem to matter at all to those seeking advise from this oracle.
In addition to the state protector, there exists a 'vice state protector', Gadong, who also has an oracle, but this oracle never spoke since the son took over the position after the passing away of his father. Thus the state oracle sought to reinforce his influence by bringing in some other new oracles, who mysteriously came from Tibet; a man and a woman, claiming to speak for a certain Tibetan god and a goddess. They were adopted by the state oracle as his assistants, without judgement of their validity, and at once joined in his efforts of denouncing Dorje Shugden. Under such circumstances of oracles the slander of Dorje Shugden took its heaviest form in the beginning of the nineties, by blaming him as "a Chinese demon, responsible for everything that goes wrong in the Tibetan government, most harmful for the freedom of Tibet, and heaviest of all, harmful for the life of His Holiness".
Although such baseless defamation of the deity Dorje Shugden was repeated by the oracles during 25 years, it did not produce the desired effect on the people, who do not trust the words of these oracles in general. And in particular the predictions of the state oracle about the future of Tibet and the government's policy have continuously proven to be wrong. Here some of his prophecies: "I will send ten billion divine soldiers to China, and Tibet's freedom will shine in the year of the dragon" (1988). And similar prophecies for the year of the pig (1995), and again for the year of the bull (1997). Sometimes he says: "Dorje Shugden had been destroyed by the great masters at the time of the 5th Dalai Lama". At other times: "Dorje Shugden is the most actual and harassing demon that is bothering His Holiness and the Tibetan government at present". Sometimes he advised the government to pursue full independence of Tibet, at other times he advised for autonomy under China, and again at other times to make effort for the so-called 'middle way policy'.
Thoughtful Tibetans neither believe that the freedom of Tibet can be given by gods, nor do they believe that it can be taken away by any demons. However, when His Holiness started to repeated the same slander of the deity Dorje Shugden publicly in 1996 with the harsh wording "if you want me to be damned and do not care about Tibetan freedom, then go ahead worshipping this evil spirit", then it has another impact on the Tibetan people.
Violence, Destruction, and Death
Nothing fans fanatic concern of Tibetans more violently than the thought that His Holiness' life could be in danger. H.H. the Dalai Lama, deliberately giving this as a reason for justifying the ban of Dorje Shugden, triggered within a few weeks heavy discord, fights, and destructions of holy images. The repeated pleas of concerned individuals were ignored by the office of H.H. the Dalai Lama.
Manipulation of Public Opinion
The Indian press initially reacted with critical reports regarding the new developments in the Tibetan community. From the West came concerned questions about how the actions of the exile government could be compatible with freedom of religion and democracy. The exile government soon carried out an extensive campaign to shape public opinion. These were aimed especially at Tibet support groups, Buddhist centres, and the Western media. The Indian police force was also strongly misinformed.
The original reasons that "the worship of the deity is a danger to the Dalai Lama's life and the cause of Tibet" was quickly questioned in the West. How could the worship of a deity endanger the Dalai Lama? What is the cause of Tibet? Is it a political or a religious issue?
New justifications were created which sounded more credible to western ears. Dorje Shugden was depicted as an evil spirit destroying the harmony of the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, and the ban of its worship was declared as a means for "safeguarding the profound and philosophical Tibetan Buddhism from degenerating into spirit worship". Thus the great number of Tibetan people who adhere to Dorje Shugden traditionally were declared to be a small minority and demonic sect. To the shock of many knowledgeable people, the first (and after disrobed) American Buddhist monk, who has the prestigious position of professor at the university of Columbia, even dared to label Dorje Shugden worshippers as 'Taliban' in time magazine.
The justifications for the ban, as they are given by His Holiness in the West, look reasonable at first glance. Yet, they are merely 'made up justifications', lacking real truth:
In comparison to many other religious groups and schools, the harmony between the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions is remarkably good. For example, 1500 monks from all four traditions lived together after their escape from Tibet in a place called Buxaduar in India. They lived in great harmony, like in one family - and remarkable to note: Most of the Gelug- and Sakya-monks there were Dorje Shugden practitioners. There are no inter-traditional conflicts or disputes of any kind. Disputes are primarily within one tradition, such as problems due to reincarnations, such as the two Karmapas, which has led to a division within the Karma-Kagyu. The current deity-issue created by the exile government is a dispute within the Gelug-tradition.
The second reason His Holiness gives, implies the objective of reforming Tibetan Buddhism through reducing the multitude of deities. However, the reality is, that all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism recognize thousands of deities, among which hundreds are protector deities. Some of these deities originated in India, others in Tibet, and among those some are pre-Buddhist, others are of Buddhist origin. None of the Tibetan lamas, including His Holiness, have any interest to reduce even one of these deities. This is particularly the case for the monasteries closely linked with His Holiness, like Namgyal monastery and Nechung monastery, where more protecting deities are worshipped than in any other community, and the fervour of their deity worship is stronger than ever, well along with a number of new prayers to such gods recently composed by His Holiness himself. At least four oracles are consulted regularly by His Holiness and the exile government for various purposes. Such close reliance on oracles was not common even in old Tibet. Therefore, this ban has nothing to do with reforming Tibetan Buddhism, but rather with personal disfavour towards Dorje Shugden.
The fame and respect of H.H. the Dalai Lama though seemed enough to make it easy for the exile government to spread false statements. If one looks for true accounts of the history of Dorje Shugden, this can be found in many writings of important Sakya- and Gelug-masters of Tibet of the past 300 years.
Searching for justifications
Some time after the ban was issued, the exile government began to install a special research group, with the hope to find eligible historical support in the works of early masters that might be usable as justification of the ban. What this research then came up with were three verses among the earlier works of the 5th Dalai Lama. These verses had been written during the short period of discord, which then existed between the 5th Dalai Lama and the newly arosen deity, whose identity was then not yet understood. In course of the ensuing events the great 5th Dalai Lama recognised the true nature of the deity, repented, and composed the first prayers to the deity, and thus discredited the previously composed three verses.
Out of the more than 30 large volumes of the open and secret works of the great 5th Dalai Lama on various subjects of Dharma and Tibetan culture, those three verses are the only writings that were widely distributed and thus made available to the general public. In the monasteries it has been made compulsory to recite these verses. Regarding the other remarkable works of the 5th Dalai Lama, besides being known to a few scholars, the majority of the people does not even know about their existence.
As for the prayers to Dorje Shugden that were composed by the 5th Dalai Lama, the exile government now proclaims them not to exist among the works of the 5th. If true, this would not be surprising, because what is included in or omitted from collected works is in the hand of the person compiling these. The great poet and yogi Longdoel Lama Rinpoche has said: "Not all the teachings of a master are necessarily contained in his collected works, for example: the pure vision long-life-sadhana called chime dorje sog shing was composed by the victorious Sonam Gyatso (3rd Dalai Lama), but it is not contained in his collected works". Besides, the issue of which Sutras are contained in the Tripitaka (collected teachings of the Buddhas) according to Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism is still a subject of discussion.
However, it seems to be the policy of the exile government to stress items that cause division, rather than point to the items that would cause reconciliation.
A second concrete reference which is quoted over and over again, is the single one mentioning of the name Dolgyal in the biography of master Changkya where the biography narrates an episode of master Changkya's Guru, Trichen Ngawang Chogden, expelling 'Dolgyal' from Ganden monastery. However, the hazy portrayal of the episode in that very point is also naturally refuted and clarified by the very work of master Chankya himself in the biography of his Guru Trichen Ngawang Chogden. In this biography master Changya clearly mentions what Trichen Ngawang Chogden has expelled is a 'Gyalpo', instead of 'Dolgyal'. 'Gyalpo' is a general name used for all the deities and spirits born as incarnation of former lamas or monks. Therefore hundreds of Gyalpos exist in the Tibetan pantheon, and the term does not only apply to the Dolgyal. The name Dolgyal is a short term for 'dol gyi gyalpo'. Dol is the name of a place, where the first temple of Dorje Shugden was erected by the 5th Dalai Lama.
The state protector Gyalpo Kunga is also one of the chief Gyalpos of Tibet. Besides, it is a well-known fact that the Gyalpo spirit, which was expelled by Trichen Ngawang Chogden, is the so-called Tagtse Gyalpo, a spirit of the Tagtse estate, which is not far from Ganden monastery. The Samlo department of Ganden monastery took over this estate, and with it, adopted that spirit of the estate as a protector deity of the department. It was then worshipped in the Ganden monastery in their department for some time, until it was expelled by the great master Trichen Ngawang Chogden, who at that time was the throne-holder of Ganden. The spirit was sent back to its estate, where it was worshipped by the villagers until 1959. So it is clear, that the spirit expelled from Ganden monastery by Trichen Ngawang Chogden is not at all Dolgyal (Dorje Shugden).
Still one more important reason to support this statement regards the next incarnation of Trichen Ngawang Chogden, who was also a Ganden throne-holder, with the name Trichen Tenpa Rabgyä. Out of his deep devotion to Dorje Shugden this master requested his disciple Dragri Choejor Gyatso to compose the first extensive Dorje Shugden ritual for the Gelug tradition, finding the first ritual composed by the 5th Dalai Lama too short. Until then there only existed an extensive ritual in the Sakya-tradition. Followed by this more extensive ritual other great Gelug-masters, like Shide Njungnae Lama, the great Serkong Dorje Chang, Tagpu Dorje Chang, Phabonka Dorje Chang, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, and many more.
Repeatedly quoted as 'justification' are also some indirect short admonitions by masters like Phurchog Ngawang Jampa and Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen. These admonitions were given with words like "the favour of reliance on a new deity is unsuitable". The master does not mention the name of the 'new deity' he is referring to, so such words are now interpreted as if they all refer to Dorje Shugden, which is a newly invented interpretation.
It was a well known fact, that these admonitions were referring to the state protector. Due to the 5th Dalai Lama receiving the political power, the influence of some new deities like the state protector have become more and more widespread in the Gelug-tradition. In the earlier period of the Gelug-tradition, in the centuries directly following master Je Tsongkhapa, there was no link of the tradition to state and political power. Therefore deities like the state protector also had no links with Gelug-tradition.
The principal protecting deities of Je Tsongkhapa were Mahakala, Kalarupa, Vaisravana, and Machen-Pomra. Machen-Pomra is the ruler of the great mountain carrying the same name. This mountain lies in East-Tibet, and is the source of the yellow river.
The deity Machen-Pomra is also known as the 'birth-place-god' of the region where master Je Tsongkhapa took birth. It is said, that this god followed Je Tsongkhapa as his protector when he travelled to central Tibet. This god is a Deva-Upassaka, and is also venerated commonly in Gelug-monasteries.
Apart from these few protecting deities, the many Tibetan gods and goddesses had little place in the Gelug-tradition. Even the veneration of supreme protectress Palden Lhamo only came into the Gelug-tradition due to its personal special link to the first and second Dalai Lama.
All the pomp and ceremony relating to state protectors and their entourage with this mixture of religion and state-affairs is a completely new development starting with the founding of the Gaden Podrang reign (the reign of the Dalai Lamas). Since the original seat of Gaden Podrang is in Drepung monastery, the monastery has also become the main seat of all those multitude of protectors. Drepung Deyang college for example, used to contain a very important Goen-khang (protector temple) with a huge representation of Nechung along with hundreds of other protectors in his entourage represented in most terrifying figures and masks.
These new developments in the major philosophical Gelug monasteries were the subject of the admonitions given by masters like Purchog Ngawang Jampa, and master Yeshe Gyaltsen.
Dorje Shugden has no rank and no position as the state deities have, and also never had any influence of this kind on any community. Therefore, Dorje Shugden always was and remains a pure protector of Dharma alone, relied upon by many great masters and their followers.
Thus, apart from such a few, misinterpreted references, there is not a single valid argument to disqualify the practice of this great Dharma protector. On the other hand, the true and clear sources affirming the extraordinary qualities of this deity are abundant among the works of earlier and later indisputable Sakya- and Gelug-masters. More extensive accounts and references to this subject will follow on this site.
The Dorje Shugden Devotee's Charitable and Religious Society
In April of 1996, the Dorje Shugden Devotee's Charitable and Religious Society was established. Its aim is to restore religious freedom and human rights to those who worship and rely on Dorje Shugden across the world.
A Conflict with a Solution
H.H. Dalai Lama has the tendency to trace the issue over Dorje Shugden to the 5th Dalai Lama. Fact of history is, that whatever negative circumstances have occurred at that time, they were wholesomely resolved by H.H. 5th Dalai Lama recognizing Dorje Shugden as a powerful Dharma protector. The 5th Dalai Lama then composed the first prayer dedicated to the deity and helped to found the first temple of this deity in Lhasa, called Trode Khangsar, and entrusted such monasteries as Nyanang Phelgye Ling and Chong-gye Riwo Choeling to the protection of Dorje Shugden. Still now-a-days these monasteries are housing the holy image of Dorje Shugden they received from the 5th Dalai Lama and carry on with the prayers of the deity composed by the great 5th one.
However, through those unfortunate wrong influences, the present H.H. Dalai Lama tries to give existence to a trouble, which has been nonexistent for the last 300 years. Many thoughtful observers find this most unfortunate to occur for a Tibet, that is going through a most difficult time of its history, and having more than enough concrete problems to be solved on a human level.
This conflict was started by the present H.H. the Dalai Lama, and it can also be ended by him at any time, if he wishes. Up until now, H.H. the Dalai Lama has done nothing to settle the dispute, instead he caused it to escalate, as if the annihilation of Dorje Shugden has become the most important objective to be pursued in his very life.
We exile Tibetans dependent on the good favour and support of the West, like many other people in the world. If the western media would therefore recognize and accurately represent the current behaviour of the Tibetan exile government, changes in this government would certainly happen, and this embarrassing situation would improve.