Thursday 26 February 2015

Open Letter to some Followers of the New Kadampa Tradition 
by Gavin Kilty

Your dispute with the Dalai Lama over Dorjé Shugden, is one that, I believe, has arisen from a lack of information, a lack of investigation, and an unquestioning acceptance of misinformation, all of which makes it difficult to take a reasonable position. Therefore, I would ask you to take a little time to read and consider what is written below. If, after doing that, you find nothing to change your mind, then fine. If, however, you discover something that challenges your position on this issue, then please take it on board.

I think you have conflated events that took place in the 1970s and 80s with the present status of Shugden devotees to produce a distorted perception of the present Dalai Lama. Although everyone agrees the origins of this matter can be found in the 17th century during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, and that conflict had also surfaced during the time of the 13th Dalai Lama, the source of the present troubles can be found during the 1970s in India, in the Tibetan refugee community in Dharamshala and the monasteries in the south. Events at that time caused the 14th Dalai Lama to take the course of action that he did.

The Yellow Book
You have probably heard of the Yellow Book, published in 1973 by Zemey Rinpoché, who was a disciple of Trijang Rinpoché. It contains oral accounts, given by Trijang Rinpoché, of the punishments and murder of several lamas and officials who had adopted some practices of the Nyingma tradition. The relevant parts of this book are readily available on the internet and downloadable as a pdf. In it, the “punishments” take the form of sickness and accidents that befall the victim. These are attributed to the workings of Shugden who had deemed that these persons had strayed from the true path laid down by Je Tsongkhapa.

The book was available in Dharamshala in the early 70s, and was read by many in the community. Whether you attempt to mitigate the events described in the book by designating them as interpretable, and therefore are not to be taken literally, or by determining them to be events you cannot pass judgement on because they are the actions of a higher being, there can be no doubt of the effect the book had on the Tibetan refugee community. Whether it was the intent of Zemey Rinpoché to make the book widely available and to sow fear in the hearts of the people, I cannot say, but it certainly had that effect. as can be understood from the following account. Sometime later in 1975 the Dalai Lama organized a Great Offering (bümtsok) to Guru Rinpoché, Padma Sambhava, in the main Thekchen Chöling temple in Dharamshala. The reason for such an offering was because Padma Sambhava has a special bond with all Tibetan people regardless of sect or tradition, and in these times of exile unity among the Tibetan people is so essential. To his surprise very few people, especially the nuns, turned up. Questioning his officials as to why, he was told of the existence of the Yellow Book, and that it had scared people away, in fear that they too would be punished for attending a ceremony dedicated to the founder of the Nyingma tradition.

 The Dalai Lama describes how devastated he was on hearing this. This book struck at the very heart of his lifelong mission to keep Tibet and Tibetans free from the plague of sectarianism. The accounts of punishments meted out to those Gelukpas who branched out to adopt certain Nyingma practices plunged a dagger into the spirit of unity that existed among the religious traditions of Tibet, when their land was being occupied by hostile Chinese forces.

The Dalai Lama received other indications that something was displeasing the protectors Nechung and Palden Lhamo. These also concerned Dorjé Shugden and were mainly received through the medium of oracles. The cumulative effect of these indications was to propel the Dalai Lama into an investigation of Dorjé Shugden, who he himself had relied upon in times of crisis. The results of this investigation have been documented elsewhere, and you are probably aware of them, so I will not write of them here, although I will refer to them later.

He subsequently took it upon himself to ask those within the Geluk monastic community, especially the abbots, lamas and tulkus, to cease relying upon this protector and if that was not possible, not to attend his teachings as long as they were still propitiating Shugden. You are all aware of these restrictions, and we are all aware of your reactions to them. We are both aware of the responses from the Tibetan community on both sides of the conflict, and we can look at those later. You call the Dalai Lama’s actions a ban, others would not go that far.

The motivation of the Dalai Lama 
Putting aside for a moment how you would designate the actions of the Dalai Lama, I would ask you to consider the motivation or reason behind them. He has made clear again and again that the continuing unity of the Tibetan people, in the form of a complete lack of prejudice or bias to one spiritual tradition over another, or a hostile sectarianism that looks down upon another tradition, is the greater good that he strives for. His investigation of the history of Shugden and its actions led him to the conclusion that its propitiation was inimical to that goal. It was for these reasons he took the actions he did. He was reluctant to but felt he had a responsibility to do so.
These are the reasons as he has stated them. It seems that you do not accept that this is the motivation for his actions. If you did, you would have to accept that these were for the greater good of Tibet in this troubled period of her history. However, your protests and your denunciation of him as a dictator, and even a “false Dalai Lama” suggest that you think he must have another motive for what he has done. My question to you, therefore, is, what is this motive? I have not heard from you any clear account of what you think it is. Maybe I am not listening, but it is hard to hear above all the noise.

If you think he is deliberately setting out to deceive others, or “lying,” as you say, then tell us what you believe is the truth. Apart from the reasons he has stated, what other purpose would he have in asking so many of his followers to give up a practice that their own lamas practiced, knowing full well the pain it was going to cause them? Why would he submit the findings of his investigations to his own lama, Trijang Rinpoché, a great lama who has written practices and praises of Shugden?

Is it because he wants more power for himself? As Dalai Lama he has all the power he wants. Everybody bows to him. Until recently he was the undoubted leader of the Tibetan people. In these days of exile the lay and monastic community turned to him even more than they did to previous Dalai Lamas. If he wanted power, why would he have voluntarily given up the title of political leader? Moreover, restricting the practice of this protector in no way accrues any more power to him.
Is it because he wants to appease and curry favour with the Nyingma tradition, as some have suggested? Why would he want to do that? It is true that once the Yellow Book came to his attention, he felt he had to act. What reasonable and caring leader of any nation or community would not act to protect a section of their society that was being intimidated by some wrathful being and by fundamentalist and puritanical members of another part of the community? Of course he had to act to put their minds at ease, but this was not some sycophantic attempt to get them on his side.

He cites a letter sent by the Nyingma master, Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö, to the great Geluk scholar, Alak Jikmé Damchö, in the first part of the 20th century in Tibet, in which Chökyi Lodrö describes hostile actions carried out by some followers of Phabongkha Rinpoché in southern Tibet, that include destroying images of Padma Sambhava, belittling the recitation of his mantra, burning or throwing in rivers a well-known book on the life of Padma Sambhava. In the letter he said that these people held Gyalpo Shugden as the embodiment of the Three Jewels, but in reality they were damaging the great legacy of the second Buddha, Je Tsongkhapa. He asked Jikmé Damchö to compose a letter highlighting these misdeeds and publish it throughout to Tibet to put an end to such acts. Why wouldn’t anyone try to stop these actions?

Has the Dalai Lama taken these actions because he simply wants to copy the 5th and 13th Dalai lamas who also acted against Shugden? In my long observation of this Dalai Lama I don’t think he is the type of person who wants to copy anyone. However, as the fourteenth incarnation in the long line of Dalai Lamas he certainly wants to take the responsibility of his position seriously, and has often said he wants to live up to his great predecessors. Therefore, he took it seriously when in his research into the actions of Shugden he discovered that the 5th Dalai Lama had taken forceful steps to negate the powerful spirit Dölgyal, whom he had declared was the perfidious spirit rebirth of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen. (It is true that Trijang Rinpoché has written that Drakpa Gyaltsen was a highly realised being, and could not possibly be reborn as a spirit, but more of that later.) He also discovered that the 13th Dalai Lama had placed restrictions on the practice of Shugden, including writing to Phabongkha Rinpoché and asking him to cease the practice, which he promised to do.

Therefore, having investigated the actions of these previous Dalai Lamas, and seen that they had a sound basis, then as the fourteenth Dalai Lama he has carried on that fight, but nowhere can it be proven that he has pursued this matter in a spirit of vengeance against Shugden practitioners or attachment to the institution of the Dalai Lama.

If none of these motivations can be pinned on the Dalai Lama, then what is his motivation for taking the actions that he did? He has stated his reasons. You must state yours. You accuse him of lying and being dictatorial. This suggests that you are not merely disagreeing with his course of actions, which would be perfectly acceptable, but that you suspect he has impure motives behind his actions. In which case you blacken his character with accusations of being false, and by publishing lurid and unpleasant cartoons of him, which does nothing to further your cause but only cheapens it.

These are excessive steps. It is perfectly possible to disagree with one thing a person has done without condemning the whole person. For example, Samdong Rinpoché, the former elected leader of the Tibetan government in exile said that he often disagreed with the Dalai Lama on certain political issues, but that when he took initiation from him, he saw him as Avalokiteśvara. The previous Ling Rinpoché said that he always saw Phabongkha Rinpoché as a perfect Buddha, but when Phabongkha was talking about Dorjé Shugden, he felt some unease. Even the Dalai Lama himself said that he had the utmost respect for Trijang Rinpoché, and regarded him as his root guru, but felt that he was wrong on the Shugden issue. (I know that you have used this to portray the Dalai Lama as someone who has broken his guru devotion vows, but more on this later).

Therefore, my question to you is, why cannot you simply disagree with the Dalai Lama’s course of action regarding Shugden without engaging in a character assassination of him? Anyone of average intelligence and an open mind who studies the behaviour and words of the Dalai Lama over a prolonged length of time cannot fail to see that he is an honourable man and a decent human being. This is borne out by the millions of human beings of all faiths and races all over the world. Are they all wrong? Was the Nobel Peace Prize committee wrong? Is Bishop Tutu wrong in his admiration of him? There are those, of course, who seek to paint him as some kind of demon. The Chinese regime are almost pathological in their attempts to defame him, but then they have an agenda that determines their stance. Do you have an agenda?
Moreover, the Dalai Lama is a monk, and by all accounts a very good monk. His observance of the lesser monastic vows is stricter than that of many other Tibetan monks. To tell a lie is not a lesser vow but one of the serious downfalls of a monk. If he is strict in his observance of the lesser vows why would he break one of the major vows? You call him a liar, and by doing so, you accuse him of breaking a major monastic vow. That does not make sense.

The effects of the Dalai Lama’s restrictions in the Tibetan community
You complain that followers of Dorjé Shugden in the Tibetan community have suffered discrimination from those who support the Dalai Lama, and that they have been asked not to enter shops and other public places in the Tibetan settlements and monastic centres. It may be that some of the Dalai Lama’s followers have reacted to his statements and actions regarding Shugden by restricting access to Shugden practitioners in their establishments. However, if these actions spill over into superstitious discrimination and prejudice against Shugden followers, then this is excessive and does nothing to cement community relations. Certainly, if there has been any violence used against Shugden followers, that is to be condemned.

Moreover, in my opinion and in that of many others, the Central Tibetan Administration’s handling of this affair has not always been skilful. They may have been excessive in their attempts to counter the protests. Their publication of a list of leaders of the Shugden movement within the Tibetan community, along with photos and personal information, could well be seen as inflammatory and counter-prodcutive.

You say that the Dalai Lama’s actions and those of the Tibetan community have restricted your rights and curtail your religious freedoms. However, I would like to ask you to consider the curtailing of religious freedom perpetuated by this protector of yours. How can the frightening and violent retributions ascribed to Dorjé Shugden in the Yellow Book be anything other than summary judgements on those who dared to exercise their religious freedom to practice beyond the Geluk tradition? The fear that the accounts of his actions engendered in those nuns mentioned previously is a direct opponent to the freedom to worship as one chooses. If a member of the Geluk tradition wants to follow practices of the Nyingma or any other tradition, but they are prevented by the fear that should they do so, they might suffer some horrendous punishment by this protector, how is that not a restriction of their religious freedom?

On the other hand, you, as well-off westerners living in democratic societies, and even Tibetans living in exile in India and abroad, can every day engage in Dorjé Shugden practices without the fear of a midnight knock on the door, or being struck down by some pestilence or dreadful accident brought on by a supernatural force. So where is the restriction?

You speak of and condemn, quite rightly, violent actions perpetrated by the Tibetan community on Shugden followers, but say nothing of the violent actions described in the Yellow Book.

Then there is the murder of the senior monk and principal of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, Venerable Losang Gyatso, in 1997. He was stabbed sixteen times in a room outside the institute while assisting two young monks in the transcribing of a text called In Praise of Dependent Origination, a great work by Je Tsongkhapa, the master whose tradition you want to uphold and preserve. The murderers had come up from Delhi to commit this act. Later the Indian police produced evidence to link the murders with followers of Shugden. The murder was committed near Tibetan New Year, and a little later, a letter appeared stating words to the effect of, “We have sent you three pieces of meat for New Year. There will be more, if you want.”

What is more disgusting than this? Do you want to be associated with such dreadful crimes? Gen Losang Gyatso was an outspoken critic of Dorjé Shugden and he paid for it with his life. Later, one western follower of NKT remarked, “Well, he was an arrogant monk.” So that’s alright then. He deserved to die! Losang Gyatso was my teacher. I was a student at the IBD for eight years, and it was because of his kindness that I was allowed to study there. I think I knew him better than some distant NKT follower.

Who is Drakpa Gyaltsen?
The legitimacy of Dorjé Shugden as a non-worldly, enlightened protector masquerading as a worldly being depends upon understanding the nature of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen. Trijang Rinpoché asserts that the young incarnation that was declared to be the rebirth of Sönam Gelek Palsang, was an enlightened being, who in the past had incarnated as the Mahāsiddha Virupa, the Kashmiri pandit Śākya Śrī, the great scholar Butön Rinpoché, and the Geluk master Panchen Sönam Drakpa. The Dalai Lama cites the 5th Dalai Lama who says that Drakpa Gyaltsen was a false tulku who had gained the recognition he did through the efforts of his mother.

Trijang Rinpoché writes that because of his enlightened status there is no way Drakpa Gyaltsen could have been reborn as a malicious spirit. (Trijang Rinpoché was writing this, probably in Tibet, before the trouble flared up in Dharamshala, but it indicates that the controversy was brewing even then) The 5th Dalai Lama writes, in the 17th century, that when the false tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen died he took birth as a malicious spirit.

Therefore, both sides agree that Dorjé Shugden began at this time. It is his nature that forms the basis of the disagreement. Is he a spirit or a manifestation of Mañjuśrī? Historical facts are difficult to ascertain, and that is even more the case in Tibetan history. Therefore, isn’t it possible that this whole affair rests upon the veracity of, or at least the interpretation of, historical events? You have gone to great lengths to produce a detailed thesis on why the Dalai Lama is a false incarnation. Have you done the same to prove that Drakpa Gyaltsen was a genuine incarnation? If not, why not?

If you are content to take the word of Trijang Rinpoché that Drakpa Gyaltsen was a genuine incarnation, why are you not content to take the word of many great lamas, including Trijang Rinpoché, who assert that the present Dalai Lama is the true incarnation of the 13th? Is it that you want the Dalai Lama to be a false incarnation because that is the only way you can have a legitimate basis for your accusations?
However much research you do to prove that the present Dalai Lama is a false incarnation, just as much can be produced to prove the opposite. I have not done exhaustive research into this matter but exposure to the Dalai Lama over many years, listening to his words, and observing his behaviour has led me to believe that here is someone who truly practices the Dharma, who keeps his vows, who has the welfare of others at heart, who has studied well and is wise in scripture, and who is not narrow minded or sectarian, but willing and happy to engage in all religious and non-religious traditions throughout the world.

Guru devotion
You say that he has broken his sacred bond with his guru, Trijang Rinpoché, by declaring Shugden to be spirit and by saying that he thinks Trijang Rinpoché was mistaken in his regarding Shugden as a manifestation of Mañjuśrī. It is true that he has disagreed with his guru, but it was not done from anger, attachment or ignorance. He loved Trijang Rinpoché and had nothing but respect for him. This was indicated in dreams he had, and by the fact that he presented the findings of his research to Trijang Rinpoché before taking any action. It was not done from ignorance because he had carried out meticulous research before coming to any conclusion.

It is permissible to disagree with your guru if you genuinely and honestly believe his actions are mistaken. This was the case here. Merely disagreeing with your guru is not necessarily a breach of the precepts of guru devotion, as mentioned previously. If it were, then you would have to say that your own guru, Kalsang Gyatso, breached his precepts when he disagreed with the Dalai Lama. Every loyal Tibetan monk, nun and layperson regards His Holiness the Dalai Lama as their guru.

From what I have written, clearly I am not writing from a non-aligned position that belongs to neither camp. I have lived in Dharamshala for many years, and in that time I have listened to many teachings from the Dalai Lama. I was also a student of Venerable Losang Gyatso, brutally murdered by Shugden sympathisers. However, I have tried to write the above in the spirit of seeking some understanding, and ultimately resolution to this conflict. I think this is the best way forward. I hope you do too.

Gavin Kilty
Losar, 2015


  1. Well done Gavin. May your fireplace be free from snakes for evermore!

  2. Thanks for the good open letter, Gavin Very reasonable and judicious and persuasive. Whohas hears let him or her hear!


    1. T.D. is a Tibetan living in India and is a Gelug Buddhist by birth. She has felt first hand the effects of the Dalai Lama’s religious discrimination as her family of Gelug Buddhists is torn apart. spoke to T.D. via Facebook.
      “My family experienced a lot of problems in the village but never told us,” she said. “When my father died, I went down to my village. I was taken aback the whole settlement’s reaction. They denied to attend his funeral and even the offerings of the Puja performed for his peaceful soul.”
      In 2003 and 2004, her mother, living alone in the village, faced many difficulties. She was told to declare in public that she was not a Shugden Buddhist if she wanted a peaceful life in the settlement. T.D. recounted what life was like for her mother after T.D.’s sister and brother-in-law left their village. “She went through all the difficulties. I remember my cousin’s brother asking my mother to sign the sheet declaring that we are not Shugden followers. My mother stood strong and denied to do so.”
      “After few years, even my younger brother was not allowed to play in the village football team because he is presumed to be a child of Shugdenpa.”
      In order to have a normal childhood and fit in with his peers, her brother secretly renounced his family’s religion.
      ‘Without our knowledge, he wrote a letter declaring he is not Shugdenpa and submitted it to the local Tibetan representative’s office,” T.D. said. “It is not that I would have ruled over his decision. But since we are staying in the land of secularism, I wonder why he needed to prove anybody of his beliefs.”
      In T.D.’s family, the ban has resulted in more than religious discrimination and ostracism from members of the community; the ban has ripped her family apart from within.
      “My family is divided into two,” she told us. “The ones who stood by the parents and were labelled Shugdenpa and anothers who went against. The village started to horrify my mother. She said she was even threatened to leave the village. She informed the local Indian police, but they could not help her. Kundeling Rinpoche helped her and now she is staying in Shar Gaden [Monastery] at Mundgod.”
      “Here in Shillong, we are not allowed to enter the monastery which was build by all the Tibetans from the state including my father-in-law who was a Shugdenpa long ago,” she said.
      “Now when the issue is raised, they lock the monastery every time we go there. So, we do the prayers outside the monastery. I even heard that few decided not sell the apparel to us.”
      “What deity you follow was not in question in my family and in our neighbourhood till the issue was raised. Then, slowly as the politicians started to play their game with the issue, I could feel my father was getting affected by the issue. I blame the entire scenario on poor governance by Tibetan Exile Government, Indian Government who never tried to solve the issue and yes of course Dalai Lama. I wish he knew his one word could break the peace and unity in his community.”
      According to T.D., there were no problems before the Dalai Lama began his campaign against Shugden Buddhists.
      “There is a small Buddhist temple which has all the deities in our village. Everyone in locality used to go there to pray. All the oldies do Kora there in the temple every morning and evening. But when the issue was raised, people stopped going over there. That’s wrong I felt. Even a few local people planned to demolish the temple. Monks were called from the Bylakuppe Sera Pompara Monastery to safeguard the temple. It was a pathetic time. How drastic and pathetic the situation they created for us.”
      “I hate the issue which broke the Tibetans into two parts, which broke the peace in our community and which was legally a crime,” she said.
      T.D. feels positive about the ongoing campaign by the ISC.
      “I’m glad at last somebody is asking about the solution.”

  3. I appreciated this open letter Gavin but feel you may be wasting your words on deaf ears. As an ex-member fo the NKT myself, 20 years back, I can attest to the insular, sectarian nature of the organisation. I'm afraid that the forms of delusion they express at the institutional level are example of the sort of cognitive biases we see in cults such as the Scientologists. I wrote a piece on critical thinking that you may care to look at which illustrates the specific cognitive biases that are rampant amongst NKT followers.

    Critical thinking, creativity & the problem with beliefs: The NKT, Rigpa and SGI

  4. Dear Gavin,

    I'm writing this not representing anyone but myself. I enjoy your beautiful translations of Je Tsongkhapa's poetry but not this politically motivated support of the false Dalai Lama's immoral ban of Dorje Shugden practice. You're better than this.

    Your statements about lacking information, investigation and misinformation are somewhat condescending given that this dispute (as you put it) has been going on for at least twenty years. There's been plenty of time to ascertain the truth. Quite apart from the watertight religious arguments, bigotry and sectarian discrimination is not a part of Buddhism and so, even from this point of view, the false Dalai Lama's ban is wrong. His actions are unkind and un-Buddhist. How you can support this? I suppose as an academic with a close relationship with the Dalai Lama you feel you must.

    Do you really believe that ALL the great Gurus and lineage holders of the Gelugpa and Sakya traditions of the past 350 years who have relied on Dorje Shugden as a Buddha are mistaken? All of them?

    Do you really believe this one false Dalai Lama alone can be right? Seriously?

    Please keep producing beautiful translations of Je Rinpoche's speech, but in your own words, your support of the false Dalai Lama's ban of Dorjé Shugden, is one that, I believe, has arisen from a lack of information, a lack of investigation, and an unquestioning acceptance of misinformation, all of which makes it difficult to take your letter seriously. All that is required is for the Dalai Lama to reverse the persecution of Shugden practitioners by following the following four points:

    1. To allow anyone who wishes to practice Dorje Shugden the freedom to do so

    2. To stop completely the discrimination against Shugden practitioners

    3. To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled to return to their monasteries and nunneries, and to receive the same material and spiritual rights as non-Shugden practitioners

    4. To write to Tibetan communities throughout the world telling them that they should apply practically the above three points.

    I wish you all the best.

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    2. The Dalai Lama does not control the government of India.

      The Dalai Lama is not the prime minister of India.

    3. Should Christian monasteries be forced to accept Vishnu worshipers?

    4. @ DS'truth' - only briefly. I wished for more reasonable arguments and an opening to really understand the facts and truth.

      1. To allow anyone who wishes to practice Dorje Shugden the freedom to do so

      The freedom is there, or how can you explain that you can practice it and that Shugden monks in India have monasteries, land and material goods and can practice it too?

      2. To stop completely the discrimination against Shugden practitioners

      If there is discrimination, is the Dalai Lama a kind of god who can stop it? Can Obama (who has more power, an army, a legal system, police etc.) can stop discrimination?

      Is warning about the demerits of a harmful practice discrimination?

      3. To allow all Shugden monks and nuns who have been expelled to return to their monasteries and nunneries, and to receive the same material and spiritual rights as non-Shugden practitioners

      How can the Dalai Lama revert a democratic majority decision the monks in the monasteries made? Is he a dictator who can act as he likes? Did you know that they got a fair share of all the property and possessions after the decision was made to separate?

      If two parties separate because they cannot reasonable deal with each other, isn't that their right? Is it discrimination to make a divorce? And what about the rights of the Dalai Lama and the other monks, do they not have also rights?

      4. To write to Tibetan communities throughout the world telling them that they should apply practically the above three points.

      So, the Dalai Lama should act like a dictator and ignore the majority vote in the monasteries and the trouble Shugden practice creates because NKT wishes so?

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  7. Dear Gavin,
    There are a few things that should perhaps be explained. You ask the NKT about the Zemey Tulku's so-called Yellow Book. In an 'interview' which Kelsang Gyatso staged with his student Kelsang Dekkyi back in 1996, Kelsang Gyatso explained that he didn't believe what the heart son of his root lama had written. About the book, he said:

    "I don’t know the real reason for his writing this book. Maybe this was his view and he was trying to prevent Gelugpa Lamas from engaging in Nyingma practices. There are two reasons why I don’t believe this. One is that Dorje Shugden never harms any sentient being because he is a Buddha, an enlightened being. He has compassion for all living beings without exception, even those who try to harm him.[...] I would like to suggest to everybody to forget The Yellow Book. The Yellow Book was not written by Buddha, so why should we believe this?"

    Regarding the reasons that Kelsang gives for the Dalai Lama's position on Shugden, he says:
    "His main wish is to destroy the practice of Dorje Shugden and then to change the entire Gelug tradition. He wants to integrate all the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism into one so that the leaders of the other traditions will no longer have a role and he will become the only leader of Tibetan Buddhism. In this way he can easily control the spiritual life of all practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. I know this is his wish; he has been working towards this for many years."

  8. Kelsang Gyatso's rejection of the Yellow Book is problematic as it ignores the fact that the source of the book was Trijang Rinpoche, Kelsang Gyatso's 'root lama'. Trijang Rinpoche's other book on the subject, “Music Delighting an Ocean of Oath-Bound Protectors” (dam can rgya mtsho dges pa'i rol mo), is in exactly the same vein as the Yellow Book and is no less blood thirsty, actually it is probably worse in that it also recounts dogyal being responsible for the deaths of a number of Bonpo lamas and an attack on a Nyingma monastery, as well as the standard killing of eclectic Gelugpas. Trijang Rinpoche's book, coming directly from the hand of Kelsang Gyatso's root lama is an excellent example of glorifying sectarian violence and illustrates well why the tide turned on the Dogyal cult. Of course, Kelsang can also reject the teaching of his root lama but I doubt he would do so in quite such strident terms.

    You suggest Trijang Rinpoche wrote this work in Tibet but I understand it was written in the late '60s, not long before the Yellow Book. The Yellow Book seems to be alluded to in the 'Music Delighting...' as a series of stories he couldn't include in his volume for fear of making it too long.

    Triang Rinpoche addresses the issue of Dogyal being either an enlightened deity or a spirit and he says it is Manjushri emanating as a worldly spirit for the special purpose of protecting the Gelug tradition by killing all the people he then lists. It really is a far better source for the reasons to avoid Dogyal than the partial translation of the Yellow Book. In his conclusion to the book Trijang Rinpoche reserves special opprobrium for people that might criticise the Dalai Lama out of admiration for Dogyal (and vice versa). He says such people will face unbearable suffering in the future. Tsem Tulku's website has the text available for download in a number of languages including English:

    Kelsang Gyatso's old claim that the Dalai Lama wants to integrate all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, etc. is obvious nonsense given that the four schools are now probably more independent and autonomous but harmonious than ever before in Tibetan history. If the Dalai Lama really wants to mount a power grab he'd better hurry up about it. Kelsang's claim is little more than paranoid ramblings aimed at misleading his own naive western followers more than anyone else.

    ps. I removed then resubmitted posts to ensure they carried the correct links to Kelsang Gyatso's comments that seem to answer Gavin's questions.

    1. Kelsang Gyatso, as a minor monk, was NEVER a student of Trijang Rinpoche.

    2. But thanks for pointing out that Trijang Rinpoche emphatically detailed the violent and sectarian nature of Shugden.

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  11. I think this open letter is one of the best and most balanced contributions responding to the demonstrations that I have seen. It is particularly powerful because it is more balanced than some other criticisms of the demonstrators.

    There was a small point, I would like to make. Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö was brought up Nyingma by Katok Situ, who was a Nyingma disciple of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and was entrusted with the education of one of the many tulkus of Khyentse Wangpo. The main tulku was nominally Sakya, as was Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and was the one who took the seat at Dzongsar Monastery. However, this tulku died very young and Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö was brought to Dzongsar to replace him until the incarnation was found and educated. In the event, for complicated reasons (See Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche 'The Lamp that Enlightens Narrow Minds') Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro remained at Dzongsar and is generally considered a Sakya. Although, he of course followed the Rimé (unbiased) tradition of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

    The reason I think this is particularly significant is that this controversial practice was also done, although to a lesser extent than in the Geluk, in the Sakya where I understand it was seen as a minor protector. I have heard from oral teachings that Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö took personal responsibility for ritually expelling it from Sakya Monasteries. I think this would have been quite a courageous thing to do and quite a step beyond simply writing a letter as a Nyingmapa. His courage in taking these steps is in line with the courage and leadership now being demonstrated by HH Dalai Lama. I completely agree with Gavin, what possible bad motivation could HH have for taking such a stand?

    1. There were three influential Sakya lamas that were very opposed to Shugden being worshipped in their monasteries. These were Ngor Khangsar Ngawang Lodrö Shenpen Nyingpo (1876-1952), Ngor Ngawang Yonten Gyatso (1902-1963) and Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1893-1959).

      Ngor Ngawang Yonten Gyatso was probably most outspoken and active of the three, destroying as many dolgyal statues and ritual masks as he could get his hands on. You can read about his activities in David Jackson's "The 'Bhutan Abbot' of Ngor: Stubborn Idealist with a Grudge against Shugs-ldan" published in issue 14 of the Lungta journal of the Amnye Machen Institute.

      These are just a few of the lamas that opposed shugden worship over the centuries. There were many more. This shows the NKT claim that the Dalai Lama is a lone opponent to the cult of dolgyal is demonstrably false.

    2. Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö, as all Khyentse tulkus, was Sakya.

    3. Although Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was Sakya, he was the main holder of the teachings of other lineages as well. When his incarnations were recognised, the main disciples from different traditions took responsibility for one each, which was how Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö came to be educated at Katok, a Nyingma Monastery. The second head of the Nyingma in exile, HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, was an incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. What they have in common is that all the incarnations I am aware of follow the Rimé, unbiased, tradition, practising and teaching other traditions.

    4. Forgive me if I am wrong but I understood your point to be that Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro opposed dogyal as he was essentially a Khatok educated Nyingma lama rather than a Sakya lama. But, as I showed, a number of other more 'purely' Sakya lamas (to use an NKTesque phrase) opposed dogyal with greater enthusiasm than Jamyang Khyentse.
      Other well known and outspoken Sakya lamas that were very vocal in their opposition to the cult of dogyal include Dongthog Rinpoche Tenpe Gyaltsen. Opposition to dogyal was by no means a 'purely' Nyingma concern.

    5. Gavin Kilty's refers to Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro as a Nyingma. My point was that it was as a leading Sakya Lama that he opposed this practice.

    6. Hi. The DL gave up working for Tibet as a free and independent country and instead wants it to be part of China. This has upset a lot of Tibetans, and so now the DL has said that Tibetans who pray to Dorje Shugden are damaging Tibet. Is this true, that Buddhist Monks praying in their monastery are damaging Tibet? Or is it true that he is trying to stop people criticizing his actions in giving up working for a free Tibet? He has also said that he relied on a spirit called Nechung for advice on Dorje Shugden so he may be taking bad advice from spirits and mediums.

  12. Trijang Rinpoche himself said Shugden was a sectarian protector which causes all sorts of misfortunes.

    Read "Music Delighting an Ocean of Protectors" in the original Tibetan.

  13. Dear Gavin, thank you very much. This is really well thought out, reasonable, intelligent and well put together. Well done! (Though I fear, the far majority of NKT followers live too much in their agit-prop bubble to be touched by it BUT it might reach some – hopefully.) I hope it gets a reasonable reply by at least one or some NKT followers. Best, T

  14. A well balanced and intelligently thought out piece by far, from Gavin la, on the subject. I read it with much optimism.

    Personally, i am not much of a religious person, but by virtue of my race, as a “Tibetan” (second generation), i do see myself directly affiliated to this problem- an affair that has left the Tibetan world, in a state of self-disgust … portrayal of a perfect irony as far as the teachings and values of Buddhism is concerned in its truest sense. The episodes that followed in both the lay and monastic institutes, after HH the Dalai Lama made the official statement to relinquish the practice of Shugdhen has come out to be, regretfully, grim and sordid. Furthermore, the Tibetan spirit of solidarity and its long struggle for independence has completely lost its soundness. Ensuing to this, talks are being organized and articles, degrading one another in the papers and social media has become a regular social occurrence. It can be also held true that in this engagement of diatribes 80% of them (both the parties involved) have no grasp of intelligently-backed knowledge to debate it out, but driven by their sheer allegiance to their spiritual leader, which in fact, under any context of argument poses a frightening reality . On the other hand, amidst such a shameful melee of instances our leaders at the seat of the Tibetan Administration in-exile goes on to display a very poor handling; in many instances making the matter even more wicked, resulting in further retributive action from the opposition, hence making this problem a perennial one. Protests spearheaded by the NKT with such spiteful slogans against HH the Dalai Lama only demonstrates vehemence of magnitude unprecedented in the Tibetan history – a sad and unimaginably disturbing to the minds of Tibetans like myself. It has come to me quite surprisingly with a mixture of misgivings as to why so many “InJi monks” are openly bent on the character assassination of HH The Dalai Lama, when actually you have so many learned Shugdhen high ranking lamas who, by far, comparatively speaking hasn’t come out that strongly(?) Is it suggestive to a reconciliatory gesture or more so a display of their bit of adoration to their once, the most revered spiritual head?
    Is it then fair to beg the question, why then HH the Dalai Lama to this day has not made a conciliatory gesture or remarks, at least in the spirit of uniting the “Tibetans”. Because, if there is anyone in this realm of hope that can put an end to this problem is none, other than the HH Dalai Lama who is the embodiment of the lord of compassion.

    1. I don't believe you are Tibetan, since you speak like a NKT spokesperson.

      Secondly, the issue has nothing to do with the Dalai Lama despite the attempts of the NKT to make it so.

  15. Hi.
    The demonstrations are organised by the International Shugden Community, not the NKT.
    In one of their books they explain that they the Dalai Lama began his discrimination against Shugden Buddhists to hide his political failures in giving up working for Tibetan Independence. It was in 1996 when the DL first began to discriminate against Tibetans who pray to Dorje Shugden and he has said that they are damaging Tibet, so this seems to me like one possible reason for the DLs actions, rather than the Yellow Book, which came out in the 1970s.
    The DL has also said that he began his campaign against Tibetans who are Shugden Buddhists after taking advice from a spirit medium called Nechung.
    One argument for saying that he is lying is because the DL says that Shugden Buddhists are damaging his health (when he is quite old for a Tibetan) and Shugden Buddhists are damaging Tibet (when the DL gave up working for a free Tibet years ago and wants it to be part of China).
    One argument for saying that he is false is that he was said he is a Marxist, and Marxism and Buddhism are completely different - you can't be a Buddhist Monk and a Marxist.
    The DL has also been involved in splitting the Kagyu tradition by going against the wishes of the Shamarpa as well as splitting the Gelug tradition so it could be argued he isn't interested in unity in the Tibetan population.
    The Dalai Lama isn't the Guru for Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The DL has said that if you see any faults in your Guru they are actually faults in your own mind so it could be argued he isn't practicing his own teachings with his actions towards Dorje Shugden.
    Hope this helps.

    1. Patrick, it would be nice if you could pick up a bit the arguments Gavin gave and relate to them in a reasonable manner. What do you think, is this possible?

      You first sentence doesn’t make sense. If NKT is not organising the protests, then how can you in a reasonable manner relate to the facts that when Kelsang Gyatso, the head of NKT, ordered to stop the protest in 1998, that they stopped. And when he decided to run the protests again in 2008, the protests started again, after Kelsang Gyatso wrote to his followers: "To stop this evil action, as the representative of the Western Shugden Society, I personally will organise demonstrations against the Dalai Lama directly. I requested Kelsang Pema and Kelsang Thubchen to do this job for me and they have accepted. Please help Pema and Thubchen with whatever they need. With much love and prayers, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso."

      Moreover, how can you explain that the registered offices of the campaigning groups (ISC, WSS) were established by NKT Resident Teachers, and all spokes persons are NKT teachers?

      And here we go. What you write next, is the common NKT propaganda, that has no basis in facts. How about starting from the basis of accepting facts as facts instead of blurring them and spreading bizarre conspiracy myths?

      Did you read what Gavin wrote, what the motivation of the Dalai Lama was? How can you explain that this contradicts your assertion that the Dalai Lama wanted to find a culprit "to hide his political failures"?

      Did you get aware of that the Dalai Lama didn't rely only on Nechung but also on reasoning, evidence and a thorough investigation, an investigation also you could do? The Dalai Lama relied on "basically three methodological devices or arguments: (1) historical evidence, (2) political reason, (3) spiritual insight." (google this quote and you find the respective article).

      The NKT used different bizarre arguments to slander the Dalai Lama as a liar. Initially they accused him of being a liar because he said that Shugden is not a Buddha but an malevolent spirit.

      Do you know what a lie really is? The determinative factor behind a lie is the intention to deceive. How can you correctly establish that the Dalai Lama has the intention to deceive when he says that Shugden is a spirit and not a Buddha and that Shugden practice (not "Shugden Buddhists" – what's that btw?) damages his health? Shugden kills and harms those who do what the Dalai Lama does (following a non sectarian approach in the Gelug school). Your claim has therefore no basis in reality, and the argument of the Dalai Lama still stands.

      Also, if one speaks something false believing it to be true, there is no lie as the intention to deceive is absent.

      It were the highest Kagyue masters, Tai Situ Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche who sought the advise of HHDL. Since what is answering their question "splitting the Kagyu tradition"? It was the late Sharmapa who disagreed with the former mutually agreement of the four main disciples of the Karmapa and started to split away to find his own candidate. In that process he lied by wrongly claiming – after being asked what evidence he has for his recognition – that a high Sakya lama gave the hints. When this Sakya lama was asked by the CTA, he said that he never ever said what Shamarpa claimed.

      It is also not true that the Dalai Lama is not the guru of Kelsang Gyatso, Kelsang Gyatso received teachings and empowerments from him. There are witnesses for this.

      Hope this helps ;-)

    2. This part of my answer didn’t fit in the former comment. So I add it here:

      You seem also not to have studied the Dalai Lama’s teachings (he never would say or said what you claim he said). Instead what you do is, you put the words of Kelsang Gyatso in the mouth of the Dalai Lama. Correct is the following statement "Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has said that if you see any faults in your Guru they are actually faults in your own mind so it could be argued he isn't practicing his own teachings with his actions towards the Dalai Lama."
      Therefore, since this is what KG (but not the DL) really propounds to his NKT followers, the argument falls back on you and KG respectively ;-)

      Hope this helps too ;-)