The Wisdom Buddha Protector of Je Tsongkhapa's Tradition
Discord in exile documentary
View the video footage of this documentary.
The following is a transcript of a Swiss national television's evening news (SF1) series of news reports on the conflict in Tibetan society concerning the worship of the deity Dorje Shugden. Many questions have been raised by these reports, which are of interest for everyone interested in Tibetan politics and religion in general. Grave questions have been raised as to how the Dalai Lama and his government deal with minorities.
The first two programs dealt mainly with the people, lay and ordained, who have been directly influenced by the Dalai Lama's ban on the practice of Dorje Shugden. Worshippers of Dorje Shugden have been ousted from society, their houses burnt down, property destroyed, families torn apart, people have been threatened, stoned and stabbed by fanatical Dalai Lama supporters. The interviews of these individuals were heart moving due to the obvious distress in which they now have to live under the Dalai Lama's ban.
In the third program this evening the Dalai Lama explained his views. His explanations for the ban are: " Tibetan Buddhism is such a profound tradition, that there is a danger of spirit worship, that Buddhism could degenerate into spirit worship by practicing Dorje Shugden."
After this statement footage was shown of the writhing Nechung State Oracle (Nechung is recognized by the Dalai Lama as a worldly deity or spirit), one of the oracles, who the Dalai Lama frequently consults and who suggested the ban on Dorje Shugden worship. "The worship of Dorje Shugden is of great harm to the Tibetan cause and a danger to the life of the Dalai Lama."
The programme clearly shows the actions of the Dalai Lama's Government in Exile which were observed by the Swiss documentary team directly, the devastating effect on Dorje Shugden practitioners living in India and the curt denials of the Dalai Lama himself. For example, when the Dalai Lama was asked why he would not simply advise against the practice and then otherwise be tolerant, advising against violence, he repeated his statement that no one was being harmed. When confronted by the reporter about the announcements advocating violent action in newspapers and wall postings his answer was: "No, No, I think rumour." When asked "All the great masters who have worshipped the deity for centuries, was all of that wrong?" the Dalai Lama replied simply "Wrong! Yes! Wrong!". This is all the Dalai Lama had to say about his great Teachers.
Since these master who practised Dorje Shugden were his very own spiritual masters, and these are now discredited, where is his validation as a spiritual master and what happened to his lineage? This means that his own spiritual practice was wrong for over 40 years.
Please draw your own conclusions from the following transcript.
Transcript of programme "10 vor 10" shown on Swiss National TV SF1 in 1998
Kunsang, renowned fortune teller, on the return of the Tibetans to their native country:
Kunsang: I can see five snow mountains. Between the first and the fifth is a snow lion. But the Tibetan flag is visible on the smallest one."
(prayer wheel pictures)
A difficult prophesy for a quick return to their native country. One hundred thousand Tibetans have lived in India for almost forty years. They have achieved a modest living standard. By Indian standards, it's considerable.
The Ganden monastery, One of the three oldest and most important universities of Tibetan Buddhism. Impressions of a monastic university:
(film of many monks reciting their texts under the watchful eye of their Teacher)
The monastery is large. Over a thousand monks live in the Ganden Shartse section
(film of more chanting, monks taking a tea break during puja) (film of monks debating)
Preparation for philosophical debate. Only a few monasteries practice this so thoroughly. View of a very special School. Two hours a day: the ritual of questions and answers on Buddhist philosophy. Precise logic at the highest level.
(film of vigorous debate in progress with much pointing and shouting)
Debater: "These are the three elements of perfect reasoning!! The object is created and everything created is impermanent!"
The temple of the protector deity Dorje Shugden.
These monks are desperate because of a conflict with the Dalai Lama. The monks grant us entry into this temple.
(film of the Dorje Shugden Temple, a large throne with a picture of Dorje Shugden on it)
At the centre of the conflict, the Protector Deity Dorje Shugden, a very popular deity, mainly called upon to increase the power of meditation. It's the patron deity for whole regions of Tibet. It has been worshipped for centuries. Nothing would be more devastating to the monks than having to break the tradition. But this is precisely what the Dalai Lama has been vehemently demanding for two years. He keeps proclaiming that the practice harms the cause of Tibet and that it endangers his own life. Neither of these points can be comprehended by the monks who are well trained in logic.
(film of monks marching with banners, flanked by Indian Police)
An unusual scene, inconceivable a few years ago. Monks demonstrate against the government of the Dalai Lama.
This man was present at the demonstration. Geshe Phüntsok Tsültrim is sixty- four years old and tells us that he is going through the saddest moments of his life:
Geshe Phüntsok Tsültrim: We had asked our teachers to initiate us into the practice of this deity. Now we have either to act against the words of these great masters or disregard the Dalai Lama's ban. I deeply regret that I could not have died a few years ago before this ban.
Geshe Lobsang Dönden, 72 years old:
Geshe Lobsang Dönden: On the one hand we cannot speak to the Dalai Lama. On the other hand, we have no choice but to act against his words. I keep thinking: "If only I were already dead."
(pictures of Je Pabongkhapa, Tagpo Kelsang Khedrub Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche)
For centuries Dorje Shugden has been revered by the greatest and most important Buddhist masters, many of whom are the most renowned Masters of Tibetan history. One of them was the Dalai Lama's Teacher.
If the Dalai Lama thinks that all the great masters were mistaken, he denies them their qualifications as well: they would not be great masters.
Question to the Dalai Lama
Reporter: All the great masters who have worshipped this Deity for the past three hundred years - were they all wrong?
Dalai Lama: "Wrong! Yes, wrong!"
That is all His Holiness says about the old masters.
A ban that shakes many Tibetan Buddhists' at the core of their faith. In just one monastery in southern India about a thousand monks refuse to comply with the Dalai Lama's decision. Anonymous threats are spread against anyone who refuses to obey his directives.
(picture of Tibetan writing)
Whoever reveres Dorje Shugden,
"...must be targeted and firmly opposed. We must bring them before the public. They have to be killed."
Among the targets are two young Lamas:
"...we will interrupt their lives and their activities."
The discipline master of this monastery received the following letter during our visit.
"...you will be dead in seven days' time."
(picture of retired minister)
After expressing concern about the Dalai Lama's ban, this retired minister was attacked with a knife. He barely survived.
Lobsang Tsültrim's Story
Many of the exiled Tibetans living in India today used to worship Dorje Shugden, the deity which has now been banned.The Family of sculptor Lobsang Tsültrim owns two cows and a small field in this southern Indian settlement. They are the only ones here who still revere this deity. Two years ago there were thirty-three families such families.
Social pressure is extremely high within the Tibetan communities. Any contradiction of the Dalai Lama is frowned upon.
Lobsang Tsultrim: Three times a day I have to go check on my wife when she is outside grazing the cows to make sure that nobody has harmed her! We have no friends anymore! Everyone makes life difficult for us. We can't go on living like this!
Lobsang Tsultrim's Wife: Just how many times have they thrown stones against our house! A little child sleeps inside. I don't care if they kill us parents, but I'm afraid that they will harm our child!
Every time I go to work I am scared that they will kill my child or kidnap him before I get back. At meetings they all look at me with contempt. Even old friends. We live in constant fear. We trusted the Dalai Lama. If he does something like this, how far have things gone? We still live in the Tibetan community but we don't belong there any more! They have excluded us completely.
The Thubten Family's Story
The outskirts of Old Delhi. The Tibetan settlement. Those who are even worse off end up here. The Thubten family was literally chased out of their residential area.
Mrs Thubten: About a hundred people attacked us. Had we gone out of our house, they definitely would have killed us."
Fanatical followers of the Dalai Lama tried to burn down this family's house. They successfully forced these people who revere the deity now banned by the Dalai Lama to flee. They lost everything. This family are pariahs of the Tibetan Community in India.
Mrs Thubten: They broke into our house and destroyed everything. They smashed the china. Demolished the TV with stones. Wrecked the fridge. All the windows, they destroyed everything. My husband worked thirty-five years for all this.
Only few victims are willing to speak out against this persecution.
Jampel Yeshe's Story
Victims of attacks by hard line followers of the Dalai Lama find shelter in this house. It is run by an organization of adherents of this deity, Dorje Shugden. In this house they have made a small temple. The organization was founded only after the Dalai Lama did not respond to several petitions. Death threats and insults are the order of the day.
Jampel Yeshe: I have written many letters to the government in exile of the Dalai Lama. Please, please, allow us to keep relying on this deity. Because I never got an answer, I even wrote to the Indian government.
Jampel Yeshe, the president of this organization, has lived alone in his apartment for the past year. His family has been threatened so severely that he had to take his wife and three children abroad.
The following photocopied "wanted" poster hits him the hardest:
Jampel Yeshe: This is my wife's name. The names of all my children are listed, including concrete information on what school they attend. These "wanted" posters have been posted everywhere. I assume this is meant as encouragement to kill us. We came to India because of our religion. We gave up Tibet to preserve Buddha's teachings. That's why we fled. One simply can't just wipe away the devotion to this deity!
Our fathers and our mothers died, the Chinese killed them. Though that was terrible, it didn't strike our innermost being. This ban, however, stabs us right in our hearts. Who proclaimed this ban? Have we come to a point where we are no longer allowed to follow the teachings of the Buddha? From father to son, from generation to generation, from master to master this pure tradition has been passed on.
Question to the Dalai Lama
Reporter: Why is this ban in force?
Dalai Lama: Tibetan Buddhism is such a profound tradition. The danger of such practice is for Tibetan Buddhism to degenerate into spirit worship.
(pictures of Nechung oracle writhing in trance)
This is an oracle of the Tibetan deity Nechung. The Dalai Lama keeps calling on him and other oracles. It was these oracles who proposed the ban to the Dalai Lama.
These are the reasons for the ban given by the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan people:
"Propitiating Dholgyal does great harm to the cause of Tibet. It also imperils the life of the Dalai Lama." (May 1996)
Question to the Dalai Lama
Reporter: "Are you aware the potential for violence that your ban contains when Tibetans think that your life is in danger?"
Dalai Lama: No! No!...No No! (meant as denial of the violence)
He continues to bring up the subject in public discussions. A commission of his government in exile found no wrong doing against the worshippers of this deity.
Dalai Lama: "Everybody you can ask. The majority, I think 99%, completely agrees or follows my advice, and from this side, NO SINGLE record about violence."
(old black and white footage of Tibet)
The widespread image of a happy, non-violent old Tibet is a romantic myth. The country was strictly organized hierarchically, ruled by clergy and nobility. Draconian physical punishment was customary.
That, too, was the old Tibet. (picture of men in stocks)
For about the past 350 years, the Dalai Lamas were worldly rulers of the country. They lived in the magnificence of the palace. It was unacceptable to contradict the Dalai Lama. Private audiences were virtually unobtainable for common Tibetans.
Thubten Lungrig, Vice President of the Tibetan Parliament
Dharamsala in Northern India.
Today, the Dalai Lama's seat of government in exile is at the foot of the Himalayas.
His residence has become more modest, but he has formed a government with ministries and a parliament of its own. The Dalai Lama presides over it. Thubten Lungrig is the Vice President of the parliament
Thubten Lungrig: All important decisions need a seventy five per cent majority.
Reporter: Has there ever been a decision against His Holiness the Dalai Lama?
Thubten Lungrig: No, no
Reporter: Is a decision of the parliament opposing the Dalai Lama even conceivable?
Thubten Lungrig: No, no
The personal ritual monastery of the Dalai Lama.
(film of fire puja with the sound of horns)
Dharamsala is small - statements of the government in exile take effect immediately.
After a public talk by the Dalai Lama three nuns removed a statue of the banned deity Dorje Shugden. They destroyed it and threw the remains into this rubbish pit.
The Dalai Lama's followers keep posting denunciations on public walls. They denounce the followers of this deity, giving name, address and often detailed information about the family and its whereabouts.
An advertisement that appeared in the "Times of Tibet" and in the magazine "Knowledge":
"Anyone who is against the Dalai Lama must be opposed without hesitation with men, money and possessions. That is to say with by any means, including violence."
Question to the Dalai Lama
Reporter: Why don't you simply advise people not to worship the deity Dorje Shugden and instruct others to be tolerant and avoid violence towards those who continue to worship it?
Dalai Lama: Nobody harming! Nobody harming on them!
Reporter: But I've seen the calls for violence in the newspapers
Dalai Lama: No, no, no
Reporter: I've seen it with my own eyes
Dalai Lama: No, I think rumors!
Interview with Tashi Angdu, President of the Tibetan Regional Council
Tashi Angdu is the general secretary of the society that published the advertisement demanding ruthless action against all critics of the Dalai Lama. He is a well known politician and president of the Tibetan regional council.
Tashi Angdu: The nature of our work and the views of the government are one. We don't do anything that does against the views of the government.
Willingly he confirms to us that their Society also threatens to use violence against those Dalai Lama critics who won't listen to them.
Tashi Angdu: People and deities are exactly the same. There are official deities and non-official deities. Only deities that are recognized by the government may be worshipped. Worshipping deities that are not recognized by the government is against the law.
The Story of Galok
Those who wanted to continue worshipping the deity had to leave Dharamsala.
Galok and his family came to India from Tibet only seven years ago. He wanted to live close to the Dalai Lama. He has been in Delhi for eight months now. Life in Dharamsala has become unbearable. He almost never leaves his little room, an emergency shelter. He does not speak Hindi and he feels alien in Delhi outside the Tibetan community. He was a carpenter in the Norbulinka Institute in Dharamsala.
Galok: I came here with the Dalai Lama in mind. Now I am here and am not allowed to attend his teachings. I keep thinking about it again and again. My health was weak and is getting worse. I cannot give up the deity, nor can I give up the Dalai Lama. They say the Dalai Lama wants it this way. In Dharamsala everyone was against me."
He does not know what his family's future will be like. In India he feels alien.
Dorje Shugden's assistance of the Dalai Lama in escaping from Tibet
Tibet at the end of the fifties. The Dalai Lama at his doctorate exams. Shortly thereafter he had to flee. It was the oracle of the deity Nechung that advised him to flee, writes the Dalai Lama in his autobiography.
(Quotation from the autobiography):
"Still in trance the medium stumbled forward, took paper and a pencil and drew clearly and precisely the escape route....."
To find out more about the escape, a trip to the south of India. The vegetable market in Mysore.
The Buddhist monks have lived in the Indian state of Karnataka for almost forty years.
No ordinary monks, they were the bodyguards of the Dalai Lama during his escape into exile in India.
The monastery of Sera, near Mysore. The previous abbot of this monastery accompanied the Dalai Lama. Lobsang Yeshe was his assistant. He went to the oracle of Dorje Shugden in his retreat in order to request exact instructions, says Lobsang Yeshe. The oracle of this deity that is now prohibited by the Dalai Lama.
Losang Yeshe: I was sent to ask the oracle. I was the only one present. The oracle said that the Chinese had prepared everything. The life of the Dalai Lama is no longer safe. You should go to the Summer Palace tomorrow and ask the Dalai Lama to leave the country via the southern route.
Reporter: Was this the advice of the oracle?
Lobsang Yeshe: Yes. That is what the protector told me through the oracle. Just like we are talking to each other.
Lobsang Yeshe tells us that the oracle gave precise instructions as to how and by which route the escape should take place with the monks as his bodyguard.
Reporter: But the Dalai Lama does not recognize the help of this deity!
Lobsang Yeshe: That contradicts the law of truth! Actually, how can he speak like that? If it had not been for Dorje Shugden's help at that time, an escape would have been really difficult.
The bodyguards left the summer palace first. Further in the south, at a secret place, they met with the Dalai Lama troops.
Bodyguard Monk one: "Normally it is so difficult to see or meet the Dalai Lama. I thought what a lucky moment. On the one hand I was happy....on the other hand I was also very sad and tears came to my eyes. The others rode horses and we followed them on foot. We had to carry all sorts of things. Swords, rifles and so forth. We walked and walked and could not keep up."
The escape took thirteen days. At the border the bodyguards said good- bye to the Dalai Lama and returned to Tibet.
Bodyguard Monk two: I was very sad. Now the Dalai Lama and his great teachers are going - they're all going to India; we must return. On the one hand I was happy that they were in safety but on the other hand I was very sad when I thought of the future. We owe so much to His Holiness. I think of this always. But nowadays it's so desperate. Now they insult us for relying on this deity. The Tibetans harass us. We have never criticized the Dalai Lama; we worked so hard for him. We have never done anything against the Dalai Lama, he is our teacher.
In the months to come, one hundred thousand Tibetans followed the Dalai Lama into exile.
Follow the story of the Dalai Lama's 30-year political campaign to destroy a centuries-old spiritual tradition taught to him by his own Spiritual Guide, and the efforts of those he's hurting to stop him:
- What is happening
- What is the Western Shugden Society (WSS)?
- Detailed reports of discrimination from inside India and elsewhere
The Dalai Lama's position
- A Great Deception
- Praise to Wisdom Buddha Dorje Shugden by the Dalai Lama
- In the Dalai Lama's words
Why is this happening?
- Why is this religious suppression taking place?
- Are the Dalai Lama's reasons valid?
Efforts to restore religious freedom
- Geshe Kelsang's open letter
- The ban is illegal and unconstitutional
- Press reports and videos
- Dorje Shugden Devotee's Charitable and Religious Society
- Dalai Lama sued for repressing religious freedom
- A conflict with a solution
- Announcement from Serpom Norling Monastery
Analysis of situation
- Can the Dalai Lama ever make a mistake?
- Is the Dalai Lama the only spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism?
- Theocracy or democracy?
- Spirit worship or authentic Buddhist practice?
- Freedom of worship
- The Dalai Lama's justifications
- Analysis by Dalai Lama's translator (PDF)
- What would Thomas Jefferson think of the 14th Dalai Lama?
- Book Reviews
Evidence and first-hand accounts
- Chronological background
- Discord in exile documentary
- Political motivations for the ban
- Summary to date from Tibetan exiles
Ongoing persecution 2008-2010
- Recent vote sticks and call for help
- Forced signature and ID card campaign
- Persecution of monks at Sera Monasteries
- Public humiliation and explusion of monks
- Letter to Indian Prime Minister regarding abuses
- Letters from Dorje Shugden Devotees
- Urgent appeal from Sera Monasteries
- Support from Indian police
- Western Shugden Society letter to Sera monasteries
- Western Shugden Society letter to TGIE
- Heartfelt request from monks in Mundgod
- More discrimination planned around the world
- Letter from an FPMT monk
- What you can do