Subject: [CASonline] The "Shugden" File --

Dear Friends @ CAS,

"The public should be thoroughly informed ( about the "shugden" issue ) so that they can gain a clear appreciation of the situation themselves."

-         The Dalai Lama, "An Authorized Biography" by Mayank Chhaya.

        We are sending to our friends, an important folio on one of the most important issues in Tibetan Buddhism: propitiation of the spirit-protector, "shugden" --
        His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all the  other leader-representatives of the 4 main Tibetan Buddhist schools: the Karmapa, the 100th Ganden Trisur, the Sakya Trizin and the Mindro Ling Trichen, have all strongly, clearly and repeatedly advised Tibetan Buddhists on the extreme detrimental consequences of propitiating "shugden" --
    The Heads of these traditions professed unequivocal allegiance to His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

"Everything will ultimately go back to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, because he is the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet. Our aspiration and focus is totally towards the Dalai Lama, because he is the symbol of unity. We have many centuries of skillful means of his manifestation. There is no doubt for anybody, for any lama or any being. He is the final authority."

* Heart-Son of the late Dudjom Rinpoche: Dungse Shenpen Dawa Rinpoche.


        Unfortunately, basing upon the mistaken teaching--advices of otherwise great Teachers such as the late Trijang Rinpoche, the late Pabongka Rinpoche, several high-profile teachers and their followers, both in the west and in some of the main monasteries, these groups have employed radical actions against their respective leaders and communities, in one case, the brutal murder of a respected senior monk, living close to His Holiness, meaning the murder as a threat and warning against His Holiness Himself and anyone whom they feel would speak out against practice of "shugden" --       
        The main justifications of this group of peoples' faith in "shugden" are surprisingly not based on any concrete scriptural reference stemming from the Buddha Himself, but instead, on the "visionary" teachings of mainly two of the famous Teachers of the past century: the late Trijang and the late Pabongka --  
The "Shugdenites"
        Unhelpfully, several active and established Buddhist organizations -- the New Kadampa Tradition headed by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso -- in particular -- have openly organized strategised rallies and campaigns against His Holiness, over this issue --
        This organization has started a center in Singapore, the Odiyana Buddhist Meditation Centre. They ambition to build a big temple here and at the end of this year ( 2007 ), to hold one of their global conferences in Singapore's international convention centre: 
        Besides the New Kadampa Tradition above, the "Chinese Gelugpa" centres, the Singapore branch of which exhibited and offered for stipulated fees, thousands of strange-looking coloured "relics" at the Singapore Expo, have also aggresively attempted to establish presence outside of the traditional Tibetan circle, such as in India and Nepal, where they are very much considered a dangerous deviant group --     
        This chain of centres, headed by a bearded Taiwanese "monk", circulated serious misinformation about the teachings of the Buddha and are very active in the Chinese communities such as in Taiwan and Singapore.   
        Amongst Tibet's historical great monasteries, the Ganden Shartse and the Sera Mey monasteries, are open pools of defiance against His Holiness and the very core and well-spring of "shugden" practice, offering the satellite "shugden" worshippers in the west and around the world, the supposed traditional monastic reference and accreditation, it seriously lacks --
        The Ganden Shartse Monastery, too, appears to be struggling for a stable foothold outside of the mainstream Tibetan Buddhist circle. They have started their official representative centre in Singapore -- Ganden Shartse Dro Pen Ling -- and were visited by their seniormost abbot, Lati Rinpoche as well as the present Official Head of the Gelugpa Tradition, the 101st Ganden Tripa. These two Masters and the centre themselves, have declared allegiance to His Holiness's advice on "shugden".
        These two Masters, are themselves, precious Teachers of many of CAS's friends and are anything but the paragon of virtue, learning and saintliness. 
        However, there are genuine concerns over the costly rituals their devotees are asked to pay up and of course, the subsequent chanelling of these funds back to the main Ganden Shartse monastery in India.
        The monastery has several hostels, one of the main hostels in Ganden Shartse, being the Do-Kham hostel. This hostel is openly performing "shugden" practices and most of the monks of this hostel, constituting a majority of the population of this monastery, strongly boycott teachings given by His Holiness.
        Understanding well the many sacrficies the local centre's management have make for the main monastery, the "win-win" measure to take now may be to exert all viable means to re-direct this monastery's administrators into doing the right thing, although this will be more than an uphill battle. 
    His Holiness Himself comments:
"And yet, many others did not pay heed to what I said. For example, in Pompora Khangtsen in Sera, they have stuck their necks right out. They are continuing the practice with great extravagance. Another example is Gaden Shartse monastery, where they are also being extravagantly zealous."
    Unpleasant and apparently not in the best interests though it is for CAS to be forwarding an email as such, we simply have no choice but to appeal to the discerning Buddhists to adhere to the Buddha's advice to "Take the Precepts as our Teacher", to examine even His Teachings just as a goldsmith would test gold, that friends of CAS, may keep themselves informed and away from spiritual death-traps --
    With our every regards and prayers,
bb & all friends  @ CAS belonging to Thousand-Arm Chenrezig  


From Eric:
The best documented film to-date on the "shugden" issue:
( As quoted from the website of His Holiness's Private Office: ) 
Why does His Holiness advise against propitiating of "shugden" ??

( A )

Three Main Reasons

The three main reasons why His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has advised people against the propitiation of Dholgyal 


Such practices degenerate the profound and vast teachings of Buddhism, wherein our ultimate refuge is the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.  While the profound teachings of the Buddha are based on the two truths and the Four Noble Truths, the appeasing and propitiating of Dholgyal, to the extent it is done by those who do this practice, degenerate the Buddhist practice into a form of spirit worship.


It goes against His Holiness the Dalai Lama's non-sectarian approach especially within the Tibetan Buddhist traditions.  His Holiness himself practices teachings from the other traditions such as Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu simultaneously with the Geluk tradition and encourages others to do the same.  However, the practice of Dholgyal is extremely sectarian. 


The Dholgyal spirit has a long history of antagonistic attitude to the Dalai Lamas and the Tibetan Government they head since the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Throughout that period, it has also been very controversial in both the Geluk and Sakya traditions. In fact, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama and the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama, as well as many other prominent Tibetan lamas have categorically stated the harmful effects of this practice and have advised against the practice and propitiation

 ( B )
The Dalai Lama:

"Now, I belong to the line coming from Kyabje Phabongkha, and I hold the lineage of my two tutors. At the same time, since I sit on the throne of the Dalai Lama, I have to carry the responsibility of this institution on my shoulders. From this point of view, I have said before that even Gyalchog Kalsang Gyatso, the Seventh Dalai Lama ( being a practitioner, solely of the Gelugpa tradition ), was not fully qualified to sit on the throne of the Dalai Lama."



( C )


The Dalai Lama:

"There are clear reasons why I was compelled to take the extreme action of banning the worship of Dolgyal [ or 'Shugden' ]. I believe such a practice can turn Tibetan Buddhsim into spirit worship?­.reducing it into a set of strange beliefs. Propitiating Dolgyal is greatly harmful to the Tibetan cause as well as my life personally."


"When the protector concerned is disloyal to its commitments, the person concerned become disloyal in turn. As I said yesterday, this gives rise to breach of commitments which carries with it a definite threat to the life of a lama."


Is His Holiness going against His own Teachers by advising against practice of "shugden" ??


The Dalai Lama:


Now, let me tell you a little about Yongzin (Ling) Rinpoche [ His Holiness's Senior Tutor ]. Until I started restricting the practice of Dholgyal, he never said anything to me about it. He remained silent and very cautious. Once I started restricting it, Yongzin Rinpoche said, "Yes, you have done the right thing".




Are His Holiness's Junior Tutor and the late Pabongka Rinpoche not authentic Master then ??


Anyway, I am of the opinion that Phabongkha and Trijang Rinpoche's promotion of the worship of Dholgyal [ or "shugden" ] was a mistake. But their worship represents merely a fraction of what they did in their lives. Their contributions in the areas of Stages of the Path, Mind Training and Tantra teachings were considerable. Their contribution in these areas was unquestionable and in no way invalidated by involvement with Dholgyal.



During the past sixty years the practice of Dholgyal became very widespread. Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche was really an incredibly great master. As I always say, he is virtually the supreme holder of the Stages of the Path (Lam rim) and Mind Training (Lo jong) traditions. But with regard to Dholgyal, he seems to have made mistakes. Rinpoche himself was a highly realized being. He was capable of enthralling anything - human or non-human - at will and so call on their assistance. That is quite possible, but it is a different matter (from seeking ordinary assistance). Trijang Rinpoche was also an exception. However, it is a great and dangerous mistake for those following them simply to imitate what these lamas did. Although Dragyab Tokden Rinpoche was an incalculably great master of the Stages of the Path, following Phabongkha's visit to different areas of Kham, he went too far with regard to the Dholgyal Practice. As a result, many difficulties connected with religious sectarianism arose in Kham. Likewise, many controversial incidents took place in parts of Utsang and Lhoka, which even today many older even can clearly recount.


Similarly, with regard to Trijang Rinpoche, I don't believe his behaviour in relation to Gyalchen [ or "shugden" ] was correct. I don't visualise it as divine activity. However, I don't use it as ground for losing faith in him either. He was really such an important Lama to me. I received immeasurable kindness from him even when I was very small?­.So, I do have single pointed faith in him. But the fact that I have faith in him doesn't mean that I should have faith in everything that he did. And when Kyabje Rinpoche was still alive, I was able to tell him so.




The late Pabongka's admission-confession


Phabongkhapa wrote to the 13th Dalai Lama:

"You have therefore instructed me to give you an answer. I have propitiated Shugden until now because my old mother told me that Shugden is the deity of my maternal lineage. I wish to inform you that henceforth, with intense regret (for what is past) and (with the intention of) restraining my faults (in the future), I will never again propitiate (Shugden) or make daily offerings and supporting prayers and that I will wholeheartedly keep this commitment in the core of my heart. Whatever mistakes I have committed until now, such as having become a cause for the mental displeasure of the Great Nechung Choegyal, contradicting the precepts of taking refuge and so forth, I request you, the supreme protector, who is especially compassionate to the lowly, to regard me with love and great compassion and patiently to forgive me.




The sectarian overtones associated with "shugden" practice


People usually say that in general Gelugpas are not allowed to become Nyingmas and, in particular, once people start propitiating Dholgyal [ or "shugden" ], if they engage in Nyingma practices, Dholgyal will destroy them. So, when they say this, they are taking exactly the opposite line to what I say - "We should try to practice all the four traditions in a complete form within one single physical basis". This attitude poses an obstacle to my efforts to try to introduce this good example. Therefore, I have had to put a stop to it.