Dalai Lama Urges Shugden Followers to Rely on Research, not Anger

By Craig Lewis
Buddhistdoor Global | 2015-09-23 |
The Dalai Lama. From Dalai Lama. From

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has called on followers of the spirit Dorje Shugden, who have been vocal protestors outside venues of his recent talks in the UK and in Australia in June, to do more research into their dispute. In an interview with BBC journalist Clive Myrie, His Holiness said that followers of the spirit should not allow their judgment to be clouded by anger, urging people wishing to know the reality of the situation to visit monasteries in South India where almost 2,000 monks practicing the spirit reside peacefully.

Also known as Dolgyal, Dorje Shugden is considered by some Tibetan Buddhists to be a protector of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, to which the Dalai Lamas belong (there are four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism: Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug). Dorje Shugden first became a point of dispute some 80 years ago over the acceptance of non-Gelug teachings within the Gelug School.

In 1930s Tibet, Shugden was promulgated as a protector of Gelug who would harm practitioners who blended their practice with non-Gelug teachings. The conflict was amplified in 1976 with the publication of a book of stories about the wrathful acts of Shugden against Gelug practitioners who practiced Nyingma teachings. The Dalai Lama, advocating a more inclusive approach to Tibetan Buddhism, started to speak out against the practice of Dorje Shugden in 1978.

The Dalai Lama touched upon the issue in response to a question from an audience member during his address on 19 September at London’s O2 Arena: “I suppose you are asking about the Shugden question, a controversy that has been going on for nearly 400 years. However, it’s only come to prominence in the last 80 years or so. In my own case, while I propitiated this spirit, I had no religious freedom. I only gained that freedom once I understood its nature and background and stopped that practice. You have no religious freedom when you worship this spirit. It is very much sectarian. Since then it’s been my duty to make this clear to others. If you want to pay attention to what I have to say, that’s up to you.” (

Protestors demonstrate outside Magdalene College in Cambridge on 16 September. From rt.comProtestors demonstrate outside Magdalene College in Cambridge on 16 September. From

Protestors were vocal in Australia in June this year. International Shugden Community spokesman Nicholas Pitts said, “There’s lots of placards, banners, caricatures of the Dalai Lama illustrating how he’s suppressing his own people, there’s images of the Buddha he’s trying to ban,” adding, “He can’t get away with touring the world, presenting himself as a champion of peace and harmony, and in his backyard doing this horrible discrimination.” (The Guardian). Pitts alleged that Shugden Buddhists were banned from government positions within the exiled Tibetan community and refused services in shops and even hospitals.

Due to his personal feelings on the practice, the Dalai Lama has previously requested those who propitiate Dorje Shugden not to attend his formal religious teachings, which traditionally require the establishment of a teacher-disciple relationship, saying, “It’s my moral responsibility to tell others what I believe to be beneficial or harmful. In the end, it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not they heed my advice.” (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

See more

Dalai Lama asks protesters of controversial deity to research (
Protesters call on Dalai Lama to end 'persecution of Shugden Buddhists' (The Guardian)
Talks on Ethics and Ahimsa (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)
In Response to the Shugden Protestors’ Allegations (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Advice Concerning Dolgyal (Shugden) (The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama)

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