September 16, 2008

Dorje Shugden: Deity or Demon?

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a lot of activity on this blog and elsewhere around the Buddhist web relating to the Dorje Shugden controversy. While we take no position on this rather arcane sectarian dispute, we have covered it in the past. In order to shed some light on the controversy, we reproduce here the opening two pages of a special section from the Spring 1998 issue with links to the section's contents, including interviews with Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, leader of the New Kadampa Tradition, and Thubten Jigme Norbu, the recently deceased brother of the Dalai Lama. Click on the images below to see larger versions of the opening spread, and the links below that to read the articles themselves. - The Editors

Dorje Shugden page 1 Dorje Shugden page 2


[UPDATE: Thanks to Danny Fisher for pointing out the Wikipedia link on the controversy above.]

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Buddhist Friend's picture

Hey Tenzin Peljor,

I thought you said on your website that you were going to stop engaging with these issues? I wish you would make your mind up - since you said that you have posted on Wikipedia and now on this thread?

Are you giving up or not?

You need to be a man of your word or not make such statements!

Academic Research regarding Shugden Controversy & New Ka's picture

[...] The Bhutan Abbot of Ngor: Stubborn Idealist with a Grudge against Shugs-ldan by David Jackson, published by Amnye Machen Institute, 2001 in Lungta #14, Review by Mark Turin (excerpt see Tricycle Blog comment # 891) [...]

Ron's picture

Of course NKT need to distance themselves being seen to engage in from political activities like sending the 'singing nuns' on boondoggle junkets to 'protest'– they would lose their lucrative charitable tax status and possibly lose their hotels and much of their real estate holdings if they had to pay taxes like us non-cult samsaric people. Why the British government does not scrutinize them more carefully is an open question.

T.P.'s picture

For those interested I received an update about the situation in Sera Monastery India from a monk dwelling there:

Dear Bill Esterhaus,
the personal point of view of Trinley Kalsang, who appears not to be any kind of scholar as LH had claimed previously, and about whom scholarly credit seems not to have been bestowed in any way until now, is of course interesting for some people, however to compare an unknown person with an highly respected academic heavy weight like Prof. George Dreyfus appears to be a case of comparing a fox with a lion.

Prof. George Dreyfus's work on Shugden is often quoted by the highest academic scholars and his work is also listed in their bibliographies. Dreyfus's work on Shugden is also listed with respect to a court case in Australia by Prof. Samuel who is clearly one of the crème academics among Buddhism scholars (see

Maybe you explain the academic credits or scholarly credits of Trinley Kalsang, this can put things into perspectives.

The "true history of Dorje Shugden practice, not the inaccurate, politically motivated distortion put forth by Shugden adepts and other of Dorje Shugden’s followers" will unlikely be published by people who appear to be biased and narrow minded but by those who are qualified to write about this.

Don't worry "The truth will be known despite the Dorje Shugden followers' propaganda." - the truth is already known. I linked the updated list of academic research already many times, so I restrain to do it again. You'll find it on the blog linked first in my post.

However, thank you to add your perspectives.

SeekingClarity's picture


In #1794 you say

Buddha is different. Because Buddha is the Dharmakaya, there is no place where there is no Buddha. Anything can be correctly seen as Buddha’s emanation and such an imputation works through faith. If we have such imputation we will receive blessings.

Does this mean that you impute Chenrezig on the DL?

Dorje's picture

When I use the word synthesis (as in post 1225), I use it specifically in the sense of a new presentation of Buddha’s teachings
Rime was a new presentation of the Buddha's teachings. Nobody had done anything like it before. Jamgon Kongtrul's five great treasures, for example, give a completely different presentation as well as adding new terma teachings that he himself had discovered.
If each of the pre-existent traditions is not an ‘exclusive alternative’ but only a ‘partial description’ of the path, then they are each incomplete! So, ironically, the ‘universalistic’ approach fractures the BuddhadharmaSamuel is not saying that traditions are only partial descriptions because one may lack something another tradition has. He is saying that the ultimate is (according to the shamanic vision) necessarily beyond words, so all teachings are 'partial'.

To Rime lamas the ultimate teachings, be they Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Great Madhyamaka or Shije, all lead to the same place. The reality they point to is the same. You don't need more than one lineage, but having said that, neither do they contradict in any way.

Creating a universal super-tradition is the exact opposite of seeing the whole of Buddha’s teachings in each of its parts.The Rime tradition is not like this in at all. Each of the myriad teachings can lead to liberation. Previously you mentioned that the Migtsema prayer contains a complete path. Jamgon Mipham wrote a teaching (White Lotus) on the tshigdun soldep also explaining how this prayer contains a complete path. All practices are like this. This understanding is what informed the great Rime lamas. They saw the value of all teachings and practices. Each one is cherished as it may help an individual progress on the path.

EM, please tell me why the Rime tradition is not a valid synthesis of the Buddha's teaching.

Dorje's picture

If the hat fits...

Dorje's picture

"Lama Yeshe practiced the Geglupa tradition exclusively, he had a hidden hostility towards other traditions?"

I don't think he did practice Gelug exclusively, as such. I think the FPMT practiced various terma traditions at that time, such as Hayagriva, the Three Wrathful Ones and various prayers to Guru Padmasambhava. In any case, I'm not really interested in what Lama Yeshe did or didn't do.

Tenzin Peljor's picture

Another academic source:

“In present day Kathmandu ‘....Shugden is widely propitiated as a divine bestower of wealth. Because Tibetans in Kathmandu have in fact flourished during the past couple of decades, growing rich through success in the tourist and crafts-export trades, the Dalai Lama’s calls to abandon the Shugden cult have caused no small degree of consternation; the deity, after all, appears to be promoting the ends for which he is sectarian strife appears to undermine the interests of the Tibetan community at large, the Dalai Lama and those who perceive the issue as he does, have concluded that the cult is now a self-defeating one, and that it should therefore be set aside. This of course, leaves some of the business people who are supporters of the Dalai Lama in a position of inner conflict: their loyalty to their leader requires them to obey him, but at the same time, they find it difficult to accept that this practice has in any sense been self-defeating.’”

M Kapstein (2000) The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation and Memory Oxford University Press p143

post # 902
1. I made clear that this is my position, I didn't claim this is a truth. This is a dissimilar approach than that of NKT and WSS who state their positions as facts without having even sources.
2. My position is not as yours that "‘Gyatsoism’ as you put it is pure Gelugpa teachings". On the most accurate base I would agree that NKT follow a number of Gelug teachings which are seen by GKG as being essential. However, his views do in some aspects not present Je Tsongkhapa's school (e.g. teacher-student-relationship or the definition of sectarianism and the lack of emphasize of the union of the three HYT tantras, the lack of the Kalachakra Tantra and other tantras, the lack of the lineage of Machig Labtroen, and the reduded emphasize on Mahakala, Vaishravana, Kalarupa the lack of open debate and emphasize on the Indian texts etc., the lack of being critical with one's gurus teachings etc.) and NKT misses also a lot of Je Tsongkhapa's own teachings and texts on different subjects, e.g. Golden Rosary, the Commentary on the Abhisamayalamkara - probably 'the essence' of this is in GKG's book on the Heart Sutra ;-)

The 'essence claim' is one of the most important features of NKT to explain why something is missed.

From all of Je Tsongkhapa's works, there are only about four pages of Je Tsongkhapas texts available in NKT: his stages on the path prayer and his root text Namtso Lam Sum (the three principles of the path). I wonder how this can keep his tradition 'purely'?

From Je Tsongkhapa's 18 volumes not even one is present, not even one of his major works e.g.:

* The Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path (Lam-rim chen-mo),
* The Great Exposition of Tantras (sNgag-rim chenmo),
* The Essence of Eloquence on the Interpretive and Definitive Teachings (Drang-nges legs-bshad snying-po),
* The Praise of Relativity (rTen-'brel bstodpa),
* The Clear Exposition of the Five Stages of Guhyasamaja (gSang-'dus rim-lnga gsal-sgron) and
* The Golden Rosary (gSer-phreng).

3. it is nice to see the first time the plural: "his Spiritual Guides". thank you.
4. I agree with "his books are also a synthesis of the instructions of countless other Buddhist masters which he received through his Spiritual Guides." Although 'synthesis' sounds like 'mix', doesn't it ;-)
5. I strongly disagree with "It is a tradition: it’s the Kadampa tradition." Its NKT or 'Gyatsoims' but not the Kadampa tradition. There is too much missed of what the the Kadampas are: there is not even Atisha's 'Lamp on the path' and his auto-commentary available. There is no monastic ordination available. The main texts the Kadampas studied are also not available, Achala and the Sixteen drops; and many precious texts of the Kadampas are also not available. The NKT uses the name of the Kadampa Tradition but by using a name it is not the Kadampa Tradition. For what the Kadampas held for lineages please read this article:

Of course ‘Geshe Kelsang does judge the Vinaya to be unimportant’ that's why he said “Traditionally, Tibetan Buddhism follows the Vinaya Sutra, which belongs to the Hinayana tradition. Personally I find this strange. We are Mahayana Buddhists so why are we following the Vinaya – the Pratimoksha vows - of the Hinayana tradition?” (Such a claim is also in contradiction to the Bodhisattva vows, as I have shown earlier by using Je Tsongkhapa's own work - see #664.)

As you have not studied the Vinaya and repeat only the faulty NKT claims, I think you shouldn't talk about it, and judge based on your own ignorance that others would be ignorant or to try to convince me that it is me who has no understanding.

Although I have indeed less understanding, at least I know enough about the Vinaya and received enough teachings about the Vinaya to be able to judge the NKT position as being wrong. It is clear that other monks and Geshes hold the same position. I think you won't hesitate also to judge them of being ignorant and not to have understood the meaning of ordination?

How do you know what I see as the essence of the Vinaya? I never stated my view about this, yet still you claim wrongly: "For you, Vinaya is a book with a bunch of rules and if you don’t see those rules in the form that you expect, you make outrageous claims that NKT has abandoned the Vinaya."

The first part is not my position, that NKT has abandoned the Vinaya is my position. My reasons are, when there is no getsul and gelong ordination, then there is no order of monks and nuns anymore, then there is no-one whom is allowed to ordain, no sojong can be performed and the vinaya lineage dies out completely. So the Vinaya has been abandoned.

For the correct position and refutation from learned and elected elder monks read their statement:

To study the Vinaya takes about four years in the Gelug tradition, and such a study is not done in weekend courses. That Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa strongly emphasized the vinaya is also a sign that those how claim to follow them should not ignore it.

Of course NKT has 'the essence' and puts the Vinaya in 10 vows and the Lamrim text of GKG... Probably Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa lacked the wisdom to do that.

Tenzin Peljor's picture

Thanks to Dorje and Kagyuepa for clarification.

For me as an ex-NKT the problem lies straight within NKT and its root in 'Gelugpa fundamentalism'.

My understanding is that the organisation functions a bit like a narcissist.

As the mirror to reflect again and again the own prettiness and purity functions the complete self-referential system of the organisation's literature - the 22 books of GKG* - which is seen by the members as 'extremely pure' and unfailing. This includes that of what "Geshe-la said" is the truth, everything else is untrue or can be ignored.

*(The 22 books are praised by the organisation as the first presentation of the complete Buddhist Path to Enlightenment available in any Western language.)

The mirror for the own reflection has been expanded now to numerous new truth-websites and truth-blogs with truth-bloggers. And when Al Jazeera or France 24 TV exaggerate events and support the own thinking this is praised as "the truth". -- As long as the members see the own views or prettiness reflected then this is "the truth" and one is happy, and as soon as someone opposes that self-image, this person is denounced as a liar, hypocrite or a stupid follower of the Dalai Lama 'who has too much blind devotion'.

I think, the foundation of a self-centred attitude which is based on a feeling of supremeness and uniqueness was laid when NKT was founded and has its root in the schism from FPMT and in the thinking of its founder. It is also strongly related to the 'Gelug fundamentalism' heritage which was exported to the West by some Gelug teachers.

While researchers (like Bluck, Kay, Prohl) refer to the foundation of NKT as a schismatic event, (which is according to Kay "rooted in conflict and schism") NKT literature ignores this poisonous root and uses euphemisms to announce the events as:

"a wonderful development in the history of the Buddhadharma."

The former NKT secretary Belither states:

Through the kind efforts and pure wishes of our Venerable Teacher, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the sun of Je Tsongkhapa’s Kadam Dharma, having risen from behind the Eastern Snow Mountains, now radiates to many countries throughout the world. Through the pure thoughts and actions of Kadampa Buddhists, now and in the future, may the teachings, example and blessings of the Buddha and Je Tsongkhapa continue to remain and flourish for the greater good and happiness of all beings.

The first successor of GKG, Neil Elliiot / Gen Thubten referred in the NKT magazine Full Moon to GKG as the Third Buddha, because

"he has restored the essential purity of Buddha's doctrine and shown how to practice it in extremely impure times."

At the same time NKT leadership didn't get tired to announce again and again how degenerated the Gelug school or Tibetan Buddhism would be, to establish itself as more supreme and more pure to its followers and newbies. (This is usually called "to praise oneself while criticizing others" - to do this based on attachment to respect, gain and praise is the very first root downfall for a Bodhisattva.). For this approach different concepts were applied like that of "mixing Dharma with politics" or "practising purely" without "mixing the Dharma" with that of other traditions (non-NKT teachings or teachings not given by GKG and his devotees).

To establish the supremacy of NKT the "first fully qualified Tantric Teacher in the West" (NKT literature about GKG's successor Gen Thubten / Neil Elliot) claimed:

"So therefore, this I would like to say, when Geshe Kelsang says that he established the New Kadampa Tradition so as to preserve and protect the Dharma, that was transmitted from the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri to Je Tsongkhapa, this is what he is talking about, the Mahamudra. This is the actual inner practice of the New Kadampa Tradition, the only practice of the New Kadampa Tradition. And we can say these days, previously you could find the practice of the Mahamudra outside this Tradition; other Traditions held this practice. But these days we can say definitely it doesn't exist outside
of our Tradition. Only this Tradition holds the lineage, the pure lineage, of the Vajrayana Mahamudra. So this is what we need to preserve, this is what we need to protect. Geshe-la has carried this entire lineage................................"

Although the organisation has leaned to keep this kind of thinking about the own supremacy more secret, I think the founding views of NKT are still there but difficult to recognize for newcomers or outsiders.

As more as one perceives oneself as supreme, the more aggressively one will attack those opposing the own supremacy.

However for his followers, in his teachings these views of the own purity and the degeneration of others (especially the own roots, the Gelug school) can still be detected. In 1999 GKG explained in his talk about his NKT ordination:

Nowadays the practice of the Vinaya has almost died out, not only the Vinaya but Buddhism in general is degenerating, including the Tibetan Gelug tradition. I am not the only one who says this, many other Lamas have said the same. Over two hundred years ago a Gelugpa lama called Gungtang Jampelyang wrote a praise to Lama Tsongkhapa in which he said ‘Now, although the Ganden doctrine is increasing materially, its practice is seriously degenerating. This makes me very sad.’ Every year it is degenerating and becoming weaker, while political activities are increasing. This is very sad.

However here in the west we are very fortunate. For us this is not a degenerate but an increasing time. During an increasing time the Dharma is flourishing, it is very easy to gain realizations, and there are many pure practitioners and realized beings. When Buddhadharma first began to flourish there were many realized beings, both Yogis and Yoginis. Then gradually they became less and less common, until now it is very rare to find a pure practitioner.

From the pov of the principle of the elder, while the Tibetan Buddhists have to respect the Theravada Buddhists and the schools elder than Tibetan Buddhism, like those from China, Sri Lanka etc., the Gelugpas would do good if they respect the elder schools, especially their practitioners like the Nyingmapas, Sakyapas, and Kagyupas. Showing disrespect to them is against the spirit of the Dharma. Moreover the Gelugs owe almost everything to them.

With respect to the Westerners, we the younger to those elder from the Buddhist countries, should respect them and learn from them, like the Western Theravada followers do it.

With respect to NKT, NKT is the newest and most recent Buddhist movement, they should be humble and show respect to all other Buddhist schools and their representatives, like HHDL, Tai Situ Rinpoche, HH Sakya Trizin etc.; and especially to the own root the Gelugpas who them owe everything. Sadly NKT leadership and its food soldiers show one of the most disrespectful and noisiest behaviour of all the Buddhist schools. The criticism towards this "Ultra-Ego" I think is quite appropriate. If it will help is another question.

However, from the pov of compassion, I think it is important to put also GKG into perspective. He grew up in a rather fundamentalist and extreme situation within the Gelug school and the situation in exile.

When the 13th Dalai Lama died the Gelug purist were successful to gain more power. Pabongkha broke his promise towards the 13th Dalai Lama to stop propagating Shugden (strongly beloved especially among the aristocrats) and could increase the power of the most conservative Gelugpas.

As the Dharma was used to justify and increase power, it is difficult to differentiate for Westerners what is what. The claim by the Gelug purists they would "not mix dharma with politics" is for me nothing else than politics itself.

However, GKG grew up in a certain environment, later pushed by naive Western followers to be the third Buddha himself, all these things have an impact and will result in effects.

namkhah's picture

Some people are on the payroll, simple as that. Shame for you the present Tomo Geshe Rinpoche (I am not referring to the American woman) will not be a Shugden practitioner, on the other hand, unlike
Trijang's namesake, he will actually get a proper Buddhist education. Who's left? Ganjong...what a joke.

Tenzin Peljor's picture

Hi dougal:
is this a website about religion or politics: ?

Why Shugden lamas wished to replace the state oracle Nechung by Shugden if not for political reasons?

Red's picture

Intellectual rigor and scholarship aside, the NKT cult now has an active celebrity gossip columnist who Geshe-la named Jang-chub Ozer:
Here is a sample of his/her writings:

"So while the chips may be down Mel's friends and family are closing ranks. The perception is that Oksana Grigorieva - otherwise known as the scheming gold digging whore - pushed him over the edge. Now while some claim that this is blaming the victim (it can be hard to tell who the victim is in some of these situations), even they can't deny that the woman has a way with a tape recorder."

Dorje's picture

The NKT is a cult in that it is a group that protects itself and its reputation at the expense of those who suffer at the hands of its leaders. The NKT, like other cults, promote a 'them versus us' mentality, and this was evident in the NKT from its inception. The demonstrations and political media campaign are just an extension of this.

The NKT can claim to have no links to those dogyal worshippers that support the Chinese occupation of Tibet, like kundeling, but the WSS, started by kelsang gets support from those sympathetic to the PRC.

namkhah's picture

We look forward to the Tibetan language version of the white Shugden's own Gene Smith: Rodney Billman 'among Shugden texts'....
what? there's a problem, i thought he was a fluent "scholar" no wonder his bibliography is 90% English, he can't read too good.

SeekingClarity's picture


To clarify my #1827 I wrote in #1839 that

All I’m saying is that imputing Buddha on a gyalpo spirit would be an instance of such a wrong awareness.

You responded

Likewise imputing Buddha on a human born through conception would be an instance of wrong awareness.

If the truth body of a Buddha emanates as human born through conception, then it is valid to impute Buddha. On the other hand it is invalid to impute Buddha on a samsaric human born through conception. Why? Because the samsaric human does not perform the functions of a Buddha.

Likewise, it is invalid to impute Buddha on a samsaric gyalpo spirit. However, if the truth body of a Buddha emanates as a gyalpo spirit and one has a realization of this fact then it is - according to Pabongka, the DL, Dorje and yourself - valid to impute Buddha.

emptymountains's picture

Correction. The last line should read: I’m just maintaining that it was not the Rime movement’s founders' intention to start something new.

Lineageholder's picture

Dear Dorje,

“destroying the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa”

Sectarian spirit worship has NEVER been part of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition.

I agree with you, so the Dalai Lama is wrong.

Relying upon Duldzin Dorje Shugden, the Sublime Protector of the tradition of Manjugosha Je Tsongkhapa, being the iincarnation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, who himself was the incarnation of the omniscient Panchen Sonam Dragpa, certainly is part of Je Tsongkhapa's tradition.

By discrediting all the great Lamas who I listed in the last post, and labelling them as mere spirit worshipers, the Dalai Lama has made a laughing stock of the Gelugpa tradition and completely destroyed its credibility.

emptymountains's picture

Dear Dorje,

Actually, it is always the second extreme (asceticism, nihilism, crazy compassion, eclecticism) that is considered worse than the first (hedonism, eternalism, intellectualism, sectarianism). The second extreme is the one that is *more* destructive in the end. For example:

1. Siddhartha almost died because of asceticism (not because of his previous hedondism).

2. Those who take a nihilistic view are incurable (because you are not allowed to use any conventional truths in your reasoning with them).

3. Many scholars have been reborn in hell (but those who have faith will be reborn in a Pure Land).

4. The eclectic says no tradition is a complete path (thus destroying one's faith in the power of any one tradition to lead him to enlightenment).


Lineageholder's picture

'Geshe Kelsang does not judge the Vinaya to be important' in the last post should read, of course, 'Geshe Kelsang does not judge the Vinaya to be unimportant'

Brian's picture

Lineageholder; A true buddha is way beyond the network of concepts, it may be exciting to think you have encountered one in a mundane place like a supermarket or bus station or that you are well on the way to practically becoming one yourself, but that experience is exceedingly rare and subtle, its much more likely you experienced a series of mundane mental event well within the realm of samsara.

Jimmy Marsden's picture

Sorry, meant to mention also: Pictures of the Wanted posters and the Shugden monks brutalized in the 1990s during their peaceful demonstration can also be found on that blog article:

Tenzin Peljor's picture

Dear Tenzin, I do not support the exaggerated claims of WSS/NKT and some few radical Tibetan Shugden followers. The WSS is presenting only one side of the story, rejecting historical events they do not like, spin history and facts just for the sake to portray HHDL as the "21st Century Buddhist Dictator".

I do not support the trial to point out HHDL as the sole cause of the problems as GKG tells his followers repeatedly while implying indirectly he would be Je Tsongkhapa or "more pure". In my eyes and the eyes of other former NKT members, NKT/GKG just abuses this topic for the sake to cover up the own scandals within NKT. There is no good motivation behind these actions, they are just based on selfish delusion and hostility towards the Dalai Lama. NKT should help the own members to make their mind free and to live according to Buddhism. This would be a greater deed, I think.

Of course WSS or Kundeling were again successful to present their "facts" to Al Jazeera or France 24 TV. Serious press, like BBC they could not convince. A "Dalai Lama controversy" sells just well. There are not 4 million Tibetans practising it etc. etc. Another perspective what happened in Sera can be read here:

Also Swiss TV was a victim of their joy to be able to offer a "controversy about the Dalai Lama" and believed too much Shugden followers, instead of contacting serious researchers or specialists they over took the wrong claims from DSS or some Shugden followers.

Many radical Shugden followers never tell the other side of the story e.g. that this Swiss TV contribution has raised itself a controversy in Swiss and that there were five contributions and that they had to correct themselves. see: Google translation may be suited to translate it into English - or that they have beaten up other monks opposing them up to killing their detractors.

However, there is already a lot of research about it and there will be more in the future. The TGIE and the monastery have done WSS a favour by being unwilling to issue a statement or to invite reporters to investigate and to offer a fair report. By this they offered the propaganda machine of WSS to reach its heights. However, I think they didn't do it because they have something to hide but because they think "it is a Tibetan issue" and "a monastery issue" and are maybe unable to over look what such gap of offering proper information for confusion can create.

This situation will change, I hope it changes into a good direction which is of benefit to all.

tenpel's picture

I have compiled some new information about NKT.

There are posts about how NKT is running a bookshop tour to “introduce shoppers to our Spiritual Guide – listening to teachings Geshe-la enters their heart, buying a book Geshe-la enters their home!”, also there is a post about the "balckmail tape" against Lama Yeshe and a post how NKT threatens the NBO to take legal actions against them.

It maybe helpful to have a close look on the internal document provided by Tharpa/NKT with respect to the bookshop campaign.

For details see the blog (click link of my name above).

Brian's picture

The successor of Geshe Kelsang, Gen-la Samden, who is regarded by NKT followers as a Buddha, was involved over a few years in sexual misconduct. Not only that, he also encouraged other NKT monks to have also sex with NKT 'nuns'. Whomever complained about this sexual misbehaviour or asked Geshe Kelsang Gyatso for help was threaten by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso who gave harsh answers to them, like 'You destroy the pure tradition by saying this, stop saying this, this is very negative. If you say this you harm all sentient beings'. Geshe Kelsang, instead of helping the victims and stopping his successor covered it up, threw the blame on those who asked him for help until finally someone made the events in NKT public at E-Sangha. Then Geshe Kelsang immediately removed Gen Samden from his position. After this sex-scandal became public via Internet the confused members didn't receive proper information, they were faced with a misinformation campaign by claiming, Gen-la Samden is tired, he will do three year retreat and the like. NKT leadership tried to cover up the issue as they did also with Gen Thubten, another former successor, who was involved also in sexual misconduct with NKT-'nuns'. When members tried to get clarity about the events, NKT controlled and repressed discussion. When the NKT leadership realised they were not able to control the discussion, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso ordered to close all NKT internet-chat rooms and forbade his followers to engage in internet discussions by naming it "meaningless activities", which he said is inappropriate for a "pure Kadampa".

Gyalpo's picture

Bill Esterhaus: Former Geshe-la last year said 'I need your help' but now WSS/NKT has lost site of their mission in a thick fog of fuzzy 'logic' and half-baked rhetoric like "inaccurate, politically motivated distortion." or "the reprehensible political smear game the TGIE is engaged in to justify their religious oppression of Shugden practitioners, but the truth will be known, it’s just a matter of time, just like the CIA debacle." Stinks to high heaven.
Bill, let's face it: its time to give up and study the dharma for a change. But heres the problem for WSS/NKT: too many constructed concepts, too much ego invested years in of 'devotion' to worshipping your supposedly perfect guru and not enough intellectual humility to pull off the task of practicing Buddhism.

SeekingClarity's picture


Re #1884 and #1911.

Clearly, unlike Dorje, you don't hold that Trijang's use of "Gyalchen" implies he regarded DS's wordly aspect as that of a gyalpo.

However, you, I and Dorje would all agree that Trijang held DS to have a worldly aspect. So can I ask what you think Trijang held this worldly aspect to be?

emptymountains's picture

Dear Dorje,

As I have illustrated above, it seems that your real complaint is with Samuel, Dreyfus, Kay, Ringu Tulku, the Dalai Lama, and others—not with me.

To stop sectarianism between the world's religions, do we need to create a new religion like Bahá'í? Ringu Tulku uses this specific example to show what ri-me applied at an inter-faith level is not trying to achieve. That is to say, it is not necessary to start a new religion in order to do away with potential sectarianism between existing religions.

Likewise, for ri-me to be applied at an intra-faith level, it is not necessary to synthesize a new tradition in order to do away with potential sectarianism between existing traditions. I'm just maintaining that it was not the Rime movement's founders to start something new.


Dorje's picture

Trouble is, SC, all the lamas in both of these lists thought that this protector at least had the conventional appearance of a worldly spirit and acted, through violebt actions, as a worldly spirit. Kelsang Gyatso is completely alone in holding that this protector is a Buddha with the appearance of a Buddha.

emptymountains's picture

Dear Dorje,

I think I need to bring this up again. In response to your post #1140, by implication are you saying that because Lama Yeshe practiced the Geglupa tradition exclusively, he had a hidden hostility towards other traditions?

Are you also saying that Lama Yeshe was practicing only *some* of Buddha's teachings but not others (since he wasn't practicing all traditions)? Does that mean he was following an incomplete path?


Lineageholder's picture

Dear Tenzin,

As usual, what you say is exaggerated and inaccurate.

The problem I see with NKT is that NKT is no tradition or school in the sense like the other Buddhist traditions, its rather ‘Gyatsoism’, based on GKG’s books understanding and what he selected as being important and what he rejected as being unimportant (e.g. the Vinaya).

'Gyatsoism' as you put it is pure Gelugpa teachings. It's Buddhism. Geshe Kelsang always quotes scriptural sources, so his books are also a synthesis of the instructions of countless other Buddhist masters which he received through his Spiritual Guides.

It is a tradition: it's the Kadampa tradition.

Geshe Kelsang does not judge the Vinaya to be important. I think you have a very narrow idea of what Vinaya is. For you, Vinaya is a book with a bunch of rules and if you don't see those rules in the form that you expect, you make outrageous claims that NKT has abandoned the Vinaya. This is because you don't really understand what Vinaya, which to me is astounding considering you're a Buddhist monk. It's this kind of ignorance of the real meaning of Dharma that does lead me to conclude that Buddha's teachings are degenerating - you're following the words and not the meaning because you don't know the meaning. It's all rather sad.

Dorje's picture

"It’s like this: you have a belief, based on the words of some people that Dorje Shugden is an evil spirit. I have experience that he’s a Buddha, so what could you do to convince me otherwise?"

As quoted above, Phabongkhapa said that this protector killed people. Buddhas don't tend to murder people. By Phabongkhapa's reasoning, Tsongkhapa should have been killed for taking teachings from Sakya, Nyingma and Kagyu lamas.

It seems we have come to the crux of your argument. You believe this protector is a Buddha because of your own personal experience of worshipping it. This is fine, assuming you are on one of the higher bodhisattva bhumis or at least on the path of seeing, but if you have not yet reached that level, your argument becomes problematic. We are in samsara and samsara is marked by delusion. Beings are open to all sorts of delusion and their subjective experience cannot be trusted. Many people hold beliefs they feel are confirmed by their personal experience, this does not make them true.

Supposing for a moment that the object of your worship is actually a harmful spirit. How would you know? Would it tell you so? Would it make you feel bad and unhappy, or would it help increase your confidence and give you dreams, visions and experiences that you feel could only come from a Buddha?

Some people marry the person that later kills them, based on their feelings and personal experience of the person. Is it not feasible that a powerful spirit could also have people fall in love and become proudly devoted to it?

Regarding the benefits of taking refuge, I believe that the Buddha shows us the way, the rest is up to us. No doubt, some people have experienced good karma ripening at times of danger, but the number of monks and nuns that starved to death in the Cambodian famine or were butchered by the Chinese invaders in Tibet suggests refuge is not a universal defence from physical harm, unless we dismiss those that were killed as lacking in refuge. And if we do that, how can we assume that we are somehow better?

Jimmy Marsden's picture

To answer Namkhah's post, please check out this first-hand account of a WSS demonstration:

From a Tibetan who dared to stand up and demonstrate:

"They accuse us of being Chinese agents and against Tibet, but we love our country. Of course we want a free Tibet. This is why we bring the Tibetan flags to our demonstrations. It is because of the Dalai Lama's words that we have been thrown out of Tibetan exile communities. Now we are like refugees among refugees.”

All of a sudden, the atmosphere in the bus changed and the Tibetans began speaking amongst themselves in hushed tones. Some of them started texting and making phone calls. Clearly something had come up.

One of the Tibetans who spoke good English came and sat down next to me and explained that they had just received a text. All their photos had been posted on the wall of a Tibetan restaurant in Queens, wanted posters, along with sentences such as: "These people are paid by the Chinese", "These people are bad", and other implicit and explicit threats.

For a while the Tibetans discussed what to do, but then they decided that they could not run from this.

As Lobsang explained to me: “Where am I going to go now? I've already left India for America. There is no place else to run. Now is the time for me to make my stand. I have to do this even though I have a mother in India and they have threatened her, and told her that she must stop all contact with me, her son. My wife and children don't want me to do this but I feel I have no choice. The Dalai Lama and his government and security forces are destroying our lineage. They are killing our Gurus.

We have to take these threats in Queens very seriously. They have killed people. For example, it is an open secret -- everyone in the Tibetan community talks about this -- that Dagom Rinpoche was quite possibly poisoned in 2006. Two or three days afterward, one of the oracles of Dorje Shugden was killed in similarly mysterious circumstances. They can use sophisticated poisons; after all they are trained by the CIA. When two young and healthy pro-Shugden leaders die for such unexplained causes, this is a strange coincidence. [NB No autopsy was performed and the cause of death remains unknown.]

Lobsang continued: “Most of the Tibetans on this bus do not have family in India. Their families are in Tibet. Most Dorje Shugden practitioners in the West who still have families in India feel that they are not able to stand with us in public demonstrations because it puts their families in danger. However, they call me and thank me for what we are doing. They say they want to help, for example with money.

There are hundreds of Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners in the New York area. There are hundreds in the Madison area. All of them are behind us, but mostly they cannot show their support in public.

In Tibet, there are still whole regions where people practise Dorje Shugden and so there is no danger in those areas at this time. However they have begun to bring the oath swearing to Tibet as well.

They are very skilful. They have one piece of paper that is kept hidden and the other one that is legal. The secret one is the Dalai Lama's saying that you have to sign this. The legal one is how would you like to have a vote in which you decide whether to do this or not?

Most of the Tibetans here used to be monks. We were all forced to leave our monasteries after what happened in 1996 when the Dalai Lama first implemented and enforced the ban on Dorje Shugden.

For example, for one of the Tibetans, what took place during the New York demonstrations [when thousands of Tibetans started shouting and pelting us with spit, water bottles and coins] was nothing in comparison to what happened to him in India. He said: "Oh that was nothing. When the monks demonstrated against the ban in 1996 in India, we were pelted with stones and sixty monks had to be taken to hospital."

All we want to do is practice our lineage in peace. Lately the Dalai Lama has been giving a new justification. He says: "I give religious freedom and they take it away." This is completely untrue. We don't want to restrict anyone's right to practice their religion. Why should we? We are just trying to protect our own lineage from being destroyed. Now we need to make a stand. We had a big meeting in which we decided this and now we will see it through. What else can we do?

All of us on this bus and elsewhere have had to flee India for America. Now that they are bringing in the signature campaign and destroying our lineage even here in America, I have nowhere else to run to. When you know that they are destroying your lineage and killing your Gurus, you have to make a stand. I have no choice. I don't care if I myself die. Of course I am worried about my wife, children and mother. But I have taken out life insurance so then I don't need to worry.

Many of these people here don't have a wife or children because they used to be monks until they were expelled from their monastery and home. I used to run my own monastic community. A small monastery that practiced Dorje Shugden. Now I work twelve hours a day, six days a week, in a restaurant.”

[Another Tibetan, who was actually a Rinpoche, laughingly told me that he used to debate for twelve hours a day in a monastery. Now he spends twelve hours a day cutting vegetables.]

Lobsang continued: “We were very happy to come to America because at least we have freedom here to do our spiritual practice. But even now here in America we are completely ostracized from our communities. My child cannot go to a school where there are other Tibetan children because they have been told to ignore any child connected with a Dorje Shugden practitioner.

We have been discussing these threats against us in Queens. And we have made a decision. We will contact Radio Free Asia and let them know that these threats have been issued and let them know that if anything should happen to any one of us, it will be the Dalai Lama's responsibility. Previously we would never have said it like this but now we have no choice. It is his responsibility to protect his people but instead he is doing the opposite.”

I reflected to myself on the reasons articulated in the recent New York Times article for the Dalai Lama's defence of his position on the practice of Dorje Shugden, where he had said that 99 percent of his people are with him and only 1 per cent against him. He said: "I am for freedom of expression so let them have freedom of talk."

It is considerably more than 1 percent of his people who are against him. Once upon a time, the practice of Dorje Shugden was relied upon by almost every Gelugpa, which was the largest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. However, even if it was only 1 percent, any normal Western politician would actually have said that the 1 percent is very precious to our democracy and that they need to be protected. They wouldn't just be given freedom to talk but freedom to practice.

The Dalai Lama's statement "give them freedom to talk" was actually patronizing and dismissive and clearly did nothing to curb the anger of the Tibetans listening to him, who came out in New York and promptly attacked us. It is amazing how people are bedazzled by his words and overlook his contradictory actions.

I thanked Lobsang for his explanation and first-hand stories. He replied: "I know it is useful to hear personal first-hand accounts. When you just read the various words, it is easy to develop doubts and therefore we feel the need to tell our stories.”

namkhah's picture

dougal: Keep spinning. Good luck with your will-o'-the-wisp bourgeois manufactured issue fought remotely from the UK. India: a country where hundreds of people are trampled to death in temples, brides set alight daily, bonded labour and child labour is still prevalent and Naxalites are fighting the government sometimes even with bows and arrows. You can kiss all that money for legal counsel goodbye, hopefully brings your spurious movement down for good.

Red's picture

NKKKT does not even recognize Trijang Choktrul, its only a matter of time before the cultists start ripping each other apart in bitter internecine feuds over real estate assets, especially since the old boy will kick the bucket soon. The cult been totally infiltrated with Chinese operatives, supporters of agenda of the Chinese Buddhist Association (Communist Party of China)

Ron's picture

Truthsayer: NKT should not be afraid of the word cult, as in the sense of culture, the cult of Tara, and so on– what ought to concern you is evidenced by pictures of NKT centres in various cities that show an image of the gold bonneted mascot situated ABOVE images and statues of Lord Buddha and blo bzang grags pa. Not only that– this modern kitsch NKT painting shows armed minions of the demon gyalpo god including a fanatic with a rifle! The only object that should be higher than a buddha rupa in a proper buddhist shrine is scriptures (by that I do not mean Tharpa ghostwritten paperbacks) But then, nobody in NKT including so-called teachers can even read let alone understand them them so the lack of respect is understandable. So therefore the word cult alone is insufficient to describe NKT, it is more apt to say it is a deviant cult. Small town England may seem to you to be the hub of dharmic culture when in fact it is an ignorant cultural backwater in this regard.
The time is up for your PR ruse, respect for NKT is plummeting, natural consequences for false and divisive speech. Forfeit means you lose respect for bad behavior. You are the one who is mixed up, 'Truthsayer' (is that an Anglo-Saxon name?) you might consider deprogramming to free your mind from its delusions.

Bill Esterhaus's picture

For anyone who wants to know the true history of Dorje Shugden practice, not the inaccurate, politically motivated distortion put forth by George Dreyfus and other of the Dalai Lama's followers, please see this site:

The truth will be known despite the DL's propaganda.

Lineageholder's picture

Dear all,

Of course ‘using more than the measure for an itch bandage’ - rule number 135" in my last post should read 'NOT using more than a measure for an itch bandage'

Pesky rules.

Dorje's picture

EM, other than the supposed lack of monastic institutions, how does the Rime tradition vary from other traditions? What makes it an invalid synthesis, in your view? Are you seriously saying that the great lamas that synthesised the Rime tradition were not able to pass on a tradition that leads to liberation? Are you carrying on with your sectarian attack on a valid synthesis, motivated by your Gelug supremacism?

SeekingClarity's picture


Shugdenpas produce a great long list of lamas who practised Shugden.

Anti-Shugdenpas produce a great long list of lamas who were opposed to Shugden practice.

First, both sides can equally make the argument "how can this great long list of esteemed lamas be wrong". So LH making the argument for his side cuts no ice. More importantly, the unfortunate fact is that one great long list of lamas is wrong!

Second, even if the Shugdenpa list were longer (and I don't think it is) it would prove absolutely nothing about the nature of DS. To claim it would, would be to commit the fallacy of argumentum ad populum.

Dorje's picture

so, with or without the word, I think it would be a far better extreme than the benign and positively useful approach that you, for some reason, posited as an extreme.

Dorje's picture

"Yeah, right, more ‘neutral’ stuff from academics? Nope. More propaganda from the Tibetan Government in Exile. Anything from Dharamsala can be throughly rejected"

David Jackson is a highly respected academic who has done much to explain the inter-sectarian debates, especially from a Sakya point of view. You cannot dismiss an account just on the basis of where it came from, just as you cannot accept a point of view based only on where it came from. These are logical falacies, as you are no doubt aware.

If you disagree with Jackson's explaination of how your protector and its Gelugpa followers were viewed by Sakyapas, show us where and give evidence. Dismissing an article because of where its publisher is situated is surely beyond even you.

Dorje's picture

"The only reason the heads of lineages say this publicly is because if they don’t the Dalai Lama will dispatch a group of Tibetans to throw stones at their monastery."

This is simply not true. Nyingmapas and Kagyupas especially have opposed this practice and seen it as harmful since it was first propagated by Phabongkhapa, precisely because it was used by those that oppressed them.

The Nyingma and Kagyu schools have specific practices to reduce the harmful influence of what they see as this evil spirit. Both schools have suffered persecution at the hands of the Gelug hegemony and their Mongol backers.

Sakyapas have also widely condemned the Gelugpa version of this spread by Phabongkhapa. I quoted Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro earlier, but also the Sakya scholar T.G Dhongthog Rinpoche has written a few books on the subject of why this practice is bad.

The opposition to this protector predates anything the Dalai Lama has said about it.

namkhah's picture

Dear Khorwa Lineageholder: Don't try to snow me, mate, I'm from the Land of Snows.

WSS press speaker: Kelsang Pema (NKT)
WSS front man and leader in the USA: Kelsang Khyenrab (present successor of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso)
WSS front woman and leader in USA: Kelsang Dekyong (NKT USA representative)
WSS front man and leader in Germany: Kelsang Ananda (NKT representative in Germany)
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, founder of the New Kadampa Tradition, has requested all his students by email to participate the WSS protests.

dougal's picture

it's also very popular, so *lots* more people have now heard of the Dalai Lama & TGIE's illegal persecution.

Tom's picture

Shugden, deity or demon?

Looks like the matter will soon be definitively resolved.

What NKT has been waiting for, Shugden's return in human form to revolutionize the world and maybe end NKT's demons (or invigorate them).

Truthsayer's picture


Your post sounds pretty mixed up to me, sorry.

The New Kadampa Tradition is not a cult, it's a Western tradition of Mahayana Buddhism following the teachings of Je Tsongkhapa as presented by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. NKT is not involved in a lawsuit against the Dalai Lama. It also has nothing to do with the monasteries that were built by Tibetan Dorje Shugden practitioners in Southern India.

As far as victimization is concerned, these monasteries were necessary because of the monks being expelled from their original monasteries. Tibetans were coerced into signing papers and had to swear that they would not share resources with Shugden practitioners, as the Al Jazeera and France 24 reports clearly show. In the Al-Jazeera report, the Dalai Lama himself is shown shamefully encouraging discrimination toward Shugden practitioners while addressing a large crowd of Tibetans. So much for his teachings on love, compassion, acceptance and respectful dialog.

It's the TGIE's persecution of Shugden practitioners that was responsible for the new monasteries. That they have recovered from this persecution to some extent (although they are still suffering discrimination and demonization) is no thanks to the Dalai Lama or his 'government' who caused the problem in the first place, therefore, of course there has been victimization, discrimination and hypocrisy by the TGIE, that much is very clear.

Dorje's picture

I'm not the one trying to change history. It is you and your cult leader saying that there was no problem with the evil spirit you worship until the Dalai Lama spoke out against it. You view is incorrect and I have shown it to be inaccurate.

To find out more about the incorrect views of Kelsang and his cult members please watch the BBC documentary “An Unholy Row” found on the following website:

Lineageholder's picture

Dear Kagyupa,

Dressing as Gelongs, while not holding the vows of Gelongs, is disrespectful to Gelongs, no matter what they say.

You also seem to have a similar misunderstanding of the meaning of Gelong. Surely the vow of a Gelong is 'to abandon all delusions and to attain nirvana' which is ultimate commitment of Kadampa ordination through practising the three higher trainings, not simply 'using more than the measure for an itch bandage' - rule number 135

As I said before, a Gelong is someone who has realization of Dharma, not just someone who holds a certain number of vows. What's disrespectful to Buddha's concept of Gelong is having 253 vows but not being able to remember them, much less keep them, and therefore not being able to see the wood for the trees by clinging to minor rules that Buddha himself gave permission to abolish.

As Thich Nhat Hahn said in Freedom Wherever We Go :

When the Buddha was about to enter Nirvana, he told his attendant, the Venerable Ananda, that the minor and lesser rules [of the Vinaya] could be removed, so that the text would remain light, relevant, and appropriate. At that time, Ananda did not inquire which specific trainings the Buddha was referring to. So after Buddha’s passing into Nirvana, the elder monk Kassyapa did not dare to remove any of the precepts. Two thousand six hundred years have gone by, and this recommendation by the Buddha has not been carried out.

Geshe Kelsang has carried out this recommendation by the Buddha.

Dorje's picture

At bottom, every single Lama maintains their own tradition, if you want to get down to brass tacks.
Earlier in this thread TP (mis)quoted a well known Tibetan saying, "one lama, one Dharma". The actual saying is more closely rendered as "every valley has its own lama, every lama has his own Dharma." This is closer to the reality. Each time a lama goes to teach, he is handed on what he has received but adding it by changing the emphasis. As you say, Phabongkhapa's 'synthesis' differs from Je Tsongkhapa's, Kelsang Gyatso's differs from Trijang Rinpoche's. In a way it is natural for a lama to have present the teachings different to their lamas, as interests change.

In this way, we could say that each lama presents his own tradition. The idea of a set 'tradition' separate from the monastic institutional traditions means nothing.