This article will focus on the real effects of the Dalai Lama’s ban of Dorje Shugden practice on Western practitioners.
On web forums, supporters of the Dalai Lama are often non-plussed that Westerners are involving themeselves in this issue at all. They say “this is a Tibetan issue that doesn’t affect you, so why are you protesting the ban? You can practise this spirit as much as you like”. The problem can be summarised by the following genuine exchange on the Buddhist forum ‘newbuddhist.com’. A question was posed by a new practitioner:
Can anyone explain the controversy surrounding the NKT? I’m very new to Buddhism and there’s an NKT centre quite close to where I live and was thinking of going along. However I’ve been reading a lot of bad press about them, calling them (among other things) cultists and spirit worshippers. Any thoughts?
The reply on the forum by a Tibetan Buddhist following the Dalai Lama was swift and stinging:
They worship what is called a gyalpo. A gyalpo is a class of spirit that is said to grant temporary and swift benefits but can also lead to many nasty provocations. Its a pretty nasty business with some heavy cult propaganda that I am sure you will encounter in this thread shortly.
Breaking with Tradition
The Dalai Lama and his followers have been throwing mud at Dorje Shugden practitioners for the past fourteen years and, as you can see from the above post concerning someone enquiring about the New Kadampa Tradition, a lot of it has stuck in the minds of general Buddhist practitioners. Not only this, but as the above post shows, it’s still continuing to be thrown. This propaganda is having an accumulative poisonous effect on the flourishing of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition not just in the West but throughout the world. The Dalai Lama’s ban is affecting far more than the Tibetan community: in fact, it endangers the existence of the Ganden Tradition of Je Tsongkhapa as practised by the Tibetan and Western traditions of Buddhism.
When the Dalai Lama declared the ban of Dorje Shugden practice in 1996 and declared his Teachers to be ‘wrong’, he effectively broke from the mainstream of the Gelugpa tradition. Reliance on the Spiritual Guide is the foundation of Mahayana Buddhism and by publicly rejecting the teachings of his own Gurus, the Dalai Lama made an unprecedented and shocking break with tradition. Furthermore, the Ganden tradition has worshipped Dorje Shugden for the past 370 years and most of the great Lamas of this tradition have relied upon this precious Wisdom Dharma Protector and have respected the prayers to this Deity. All traditions depend upon lineage, which is the transmission of the teachings and blessings of a teaching stream which can traced back to Buddha Shakyamuni himself. The thread of lineage authenticates the Dharma and ensures its transmission from generation to generation without omission or error. By breaking with the view of his Teachers and adopting the wrong views of Dorje Shugden propounded by the politically motivated 5th Dalai Lama (who was not even a lineage Teacher of the Gelugpa tradition and who tended to mix traditions), the Dalai Lama is no longer practising or transmitting the genuine teachings of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition. Superficially, there may appear to be no difference because he still speaks the same words and may even quote Je Tsongkhapa directly, but having broken the lineage, there is no spiritual life in the oral transmission of the teachings. Lacking the blessings of lineage, the Dalai Lama’s words lack the ability to lead to genuine realization of Buddha’s teachings.
The only genuine practitioners of the Gelugpa tradition are those who have faithfully practised the teachings as taught by the lineage Teachers which also includes the practice of Dorje Shugden, but these genuine mainstream practitioners are being ostracised from Buddhist society through the power of celebrity of the the Dalai Lama; they are being misrepresented as demon worshippers and cultists by him. The followers of the Dalai Lama have adopted this view through blind faith, not reason, and continue to spread it on the internet. This casts doubt on Shugden practitioners as genuine Buddhists, with devastating results. Thus, It is quite possible that people will turn away from the genuine mainstream of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition and follow the non-tradition of the Dalai Lama, who has marooned himself and his followers through his non-faith and mixing Buddhism with politics.
No future under the Dalai Lama
Given the break in lineage, what future does the Ganden tradition have in the hands of the Dalai Lama? Sadly, none whatsoever, especially since he is also promoting a false notion of non-sectarianism that encourages Tibetan Buddhists to mix traditions. What is even worse is that those who are following this false view, such as the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), are casting doubts and aspersions on those who remain faithful to the formulation of the Gelugpa tradition as transmitted by the lineage Gurus Je Pabongkhapa and Trijang Rinpoche. This has the potential to turn seekers away from the very sources of the genuine teachings in this modern day world, with the possible result that Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings will die out altogether. This is the very real and present danger that the Dalai Lama’s ban of Dorje Shugden has caused and is the reason why Western Shugden practitioners are involved in protesting a ban that may signal the death knell of the rare and precious teachings of the greatest scholar-yogi of Tibet. We pray that this will not happen and we ask that you, too, reject the misleading views that the Dalai Lama has introduced into Buddhism before it is too late for the precious lineage of Je Tsongkhapa to be saved.