El·e·na [el-uh-nuh, uh-ley-nuh; It. e-le-nah] /ˈɛlənə, əˈleɪnə; It. ɛˈlɛnɑ/ –noun a female given name, form of Helen // A proud student of His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche // Personal assistant with a BSc (Hons) Psych from Uni of Warwick // These are snapshots of my life, in words and pictures

"...it really doesn't make sense if the Dalai Lama issued this ban without any regards"

January 4, 2016 0

Someone asked this question on Rinpoche’s blog chat, and Rinpoche gave me the opportunity to reply. Below I append my response because I’m pretty sure there will be more people wondering the same thing. Hopefully it helps clear up some confusion for some people :)



Tsem Rinpoche, I think that you are a wonderfully wise and awesome teacher, and I respect your voice on the issues of Dorje Shugden. But I have several issues with your argument against the Dalai Lama’s voice. I have not found any real stance given by the Dalai Lama as to WHY he has made the ban (either in your posts or in most posts on the internet). Even more disturbingly, after exploring a little bit more I have found that Dorje Shugden has relations with the Communist Party of China and this makes it very controversial. The Communist Party wishes to destroy the Dalai Lama and even replace him with their own spiritual leader–in other words there is a Conflict of Interest. While I do believe people should have the right to believe in what they wish, it seems to me that Dorje Shugden practitioners are being supported by Communist members of China with a HIDDEN AGENDA. I believe this is why the Dalai Lama has ousted this sect.

Please correct me if I am wrong. I only want some clarity, because it really doesn’t make sense if the Dalai Lama issued this ban without any regards. There has to be a reason, and if Dorje Shugden practitioners are being supported by Communist China, then it is obvious that Dorje Shugden intentions are not good for the community of Tibetan Buddhism.



Hi John,

You didn’t leave any contact details so I’m replying to you here, hopefully you see my response! Thank you for writing on the blog chat and for giving us the opportunity to answer your questions. In answer to your multiple-fold query, Dorje Shugden is a 400-year old practice which has been relied upon by countless masters over the last four centuries. We are talking about masters who are considered fully omniscient Buddhas, whose teachings are relied upon to lead people to enlightenment. It’s not possible that 400 years of lamas were mistaken about Shugden.

The reliance of Dorje Shugden has been ongoing long before the modern Chinese state existed, and long before the political troubles of the 1950s. So it would be inaccurate for anyone to say that Shugden practice is directly related to any modern day Tibetan political problems when the deity was propitiated for hundreds of years without issue.

Also, I was happy to read you agree there is a ban because that indicates that you also believe that it was the Tibetan leadership who implemented a ban against Shugden in 1996 :)

It also means that if there was no ban, then there’d be nothing for the Chinese authorities to allegedly support. That is, if they were supporting anything at all – no proof (for example receipts, bank statements, etc) has ever been produced for any of the allegations made about Shugden practitioners receiving financial support from the Chinese leadership.

The solution to the problem is very simple – lift the ban and there will be nothing for the Chinese leadership to allegedly exploit or manipulate.

Also, as Justin Whitaker wrote in his analysis of the Reuters report, there’s no one single Shugden lama or organisation that represents all practitioners. So just because a few Shugden people MAY receive support from the Chinese leadership, this is their personal decision which does not represent or reflect a choice made by all Shugden practitioners. Purely logically speaking, it would be unfeasible for the Chinese leadership to financially support four million Shugden practitioners…logistically, where would they even channel the money to, individual bank accounts? It really does not make sense :)

Finally, I am sorry to hear that you are in confusion. This is exactly what the ban does to people, it confuses them. It confuses the people who were forced to choose between their teachers and practice and being ostracised. It confuses the people who were forced to choose between their families and their practice. It confuses people who are forced to choose between friends.

Whether or not the practice is supported by any government is irrelevant of the fact people should be given the choice to rely on any deity they like. Like you say, our faith should be our personal choice and not one enforced by the state. BUT this right to religious freedom should be universally applicable because once we involve our opinions in the matter of someone else’s rights, we stop allowing them to have free and ultimate control over their choice. It no longer becomes their full right to decide and therefore, it is no longer religious freedom.

Now as for why His Holiness implemented the ban on Dorje Shugden, we believe it was to spread Dorje Shugden’s name everywhere. The previous Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s tutors) wrote that in the future, Dorje Shugden and high lamas will manifest disagreement. During such a time, we should not lose faith in either. That is why Tsem Rinpoche always advises us never to disparage or criticise His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In today’s day and age, controversy sells and there are fewer things more controversial than people saying “the Dalai Lama, the embodiment of compassion, banned a religious practice”. If you think about it, before 1996, the name and practice of Dorje Shugden was confined to the Tibetan settlements. Since 1996 however, the issue has been endlessly covered because it is controversial and as a result, many people outside of the Tibetan settlements have come to know about this emanation of Manjushri.

Then there are the institutions that continue to propitiate Dorje Shugden which have been established, free from any political interferences (Tibetan or otherwise). Since church and state should be kept separate, there is an opportunity to return to that in these institutions which do not have to abide by the decisions made by the Tibetan leadership.

Finally, I have to clarify one more thing – there is no such thing as “a Shugden sect”. Dorje Shugden is relied upon as part of the Gelug tradition, and not as a separate and individualistic practice. He has been a part of the Gelug school just as much as Kalarupa or Mahakala or Palden Lhamo practice is :) in fact, all Tibetan Buddhist traditions have evidence of relying on Dorje Shugden as an enlightened Protector. So to say this is a sect, as though it is separate from mainstream Gelug teachings, would not be accurate. Shugden lamas are in actuality Gelug lamas who teach Gelug teachings…they just happen to propitiate Shugden too.

Hope my answers went some way to answering your questions. You may also like to read this analysis which you may find helpful :) http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=83332

If you’ve any further questions, you’re very welcome to contact me at elena.khong@kechara.com

Thank you!

Dorje Shugden

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