May 26, 2010

What will it take to establish a truly Western Dharma?

In Tricycle’s most recent issue there is a piece titled “It Takes a Saint.” In this piece, Tai Situpa Rinpoche shares his beliefs on what it will take for Buddhism to become truly established in the West.  He writes,

"I’ll make it simple: One Western person must attain full enlightenment in the same way as Marpa, Milarepa, or Padmasambhava. If one Westerner—man or woman, doesn’t matter—attains that level of realization, then pure dharma will be established in Western culture, Western language, and environment, and so forth. Until that time, dharma can be taught in the West, which is already happening; it can be practiced in the West, which is already happening; and it can be recited in Western languages. But it’s not yet one hundred percent complete."

Read the whole piece here.

For me, it was love at first sight with this article.  I remember reading it for the first time and holding back the urge to cheer while reading certain passages (particularly when Tai Situpa speaks of what would happen if such a Mahasiddha rose above New York City while singing the perfect dharma song for New Yorkers). Yet before long I realized that what was striking me so deeply was not necessarily what he was saying, but where the piece was taking me in my mind—to a West where the Dharma was utterly thriving.  THAT is what had me on the verge of joyful cheers.   Once I noticed this, I began to question his main point and I realized that while I don't necessarily disagree, I don't necessarily agree either.  I'm not sure what the answer to the question is.  I began to bring this topic up with others to see what they had to say.

I asked a good friend of mine, another second generation Western Buddhist, and she stated that the Dharma IS established in the West, it's just young.  She used an analogy of Western Dharma being like a two foot tall baby tree and explained that just because it's ancestors are massive magnificent old-growth trees it doesn't make it any less of a tree.  I like this analogy.

I also brought this question up while talking to the scholar Jeff Watt, the director of Himalayan Art Resources (and my old boss!) and his response was very different than that of Tai Situpa Rinpoche.  When I first began working for Jeff many years ago, he was very quick to educate me about the traditional meaning of the word "sangha" (as in the third jewel of Buddhism in which we take refuge).  In the tradition I grew up in "sangha" refers somewhat generally to the "community of practitioners" but Jeff explained to me that sangha actually means "community of monastics."  He stated that what is lacking in the West is a strong and dedicated monastic community.  Unlike Tai Situpa's assertion that Western Dharma can become truly established by the attainment of just one Mahasiddha, Watt believes that the monastic commitment of many is what will strengthen and fortify Western Dharma.  The analogy that came out of this conversation is that a dedicated monastic tradition is like an great engine, a tried and true reliable machine, that steadily produces realized practitioners and great teachers.  I think this is a very important point, and the occasional cynic in me can only help but notice that in a culture where what Chogyam Trungpa would call "Spritual Materialism" is so prevalent, there are far more people whose involvement with Buddhism is more like a part-time self-help hobby than there are people that would ever make the serious committment of taking monk's vows.

Please share your own thoughts on this important subject!

Image: Photograph by Felicia Megginson

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Kelsang Gyatso, former Geshe's picture

Bill: What sex is your mind?
Join NKT, they will phuck it!

Neil Elliot's picture

In the old days PR agencies, lobbyists even political parties would type letters using different fonts on different kinds of paper purporting to represent diverse ethnicities targeted to key decision-makers and stakeholders to give the illusion of a groundswell of popular opinion– its so much easier now to assume multiple false identities and flood cyberspace, even a tiny whacko fringe group like NKT/WSS especially if they work hard, with help of the estimated 280,000 full time PRC ‘content-generators’ can cover the globe in astroturf.

Bill's picture

Dorje Shugden.....yada yada yada

(millions of pages of pointless comments later)

Here we go again :-(


Bill's picture


It seems to me you want to justify the sexism inherent in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Acknowledging the equality of men and women is simply a fact, it's not political correctness.

You're going to an extreme with emptiness just to prove your point. We won't go there. I'm not negating sexual differences conventionally, but what sex is your mind? That's where Buddha nature lies.

From an absolute perspective (I assume you mean ultimate as there are no absolutes, everything is relative even ultimate truth), there is no goat or human, so your analysis is pointless. Conventionally human men and women both have the same potential for enlightenment and, if they have met Dharma, an equal opportunity to realize it. Do you have a problem with that for some reason?

Anon's picture

"As to the equality of the sexes, both men and women have equal spiritual potential (Buddhanature) and sexual differences are merely imputed (Shantideva says there is no male and there is no female)."

Pigs have the same potential for enlightenment as humans-this does not mean they have the same abilities when it comes to realizing it.

"Sexual differences are merely imputed" etc, confuse an absolute analysis with a relative one. From an absolute perspective, making love to a goat or another human are of equal status. At a relative level, distinctions pertain.

To justify ones views on relative reality by reducing everything to emptiness is bordering on nihilism. A paedophile might just as easily argue that sex with a child is no different from sex with an adult. Though he might employ reasoning similar to your own, Im afraid I cannot agree.

Again, to use Buddhist teachings to justify adherence to current social mores is a perversion of the teachings. Had Buddha wished to promote political correctness, he would have done so.

Anon's picture

Markham, here is a charming description of the activities of your compassionate protector, an account written at the behest of Trijang Rinpoche, root guru to Kelsang Gyatso. Interestingly, Kelsang Gyatso claims the contents of this, the Yellow Book, are superstition, despite the fact that Zimey describes the contents as the very words of Trijang.

No corresponding text relating to Palden Lhamo's compassionate activities exists.

Excerpts from the Yellow Book by Zimey Rinpoche. Written at the Instruction of Trijang, root guru to Kelsang Gyatso

Full Title: Account of the Protective Deity Dorje Shugden, Chief Guardian of the Gelug Sect, and of the Punishments meted out to Religious and Lay Leaders who incurred His Wrath
Published: 1973
BQ4890.R37 D93 00
DELHI : 1973
Praise to you, the protector of the Yellow Hat tradition, you destroy like a pile of dust; Great adepts, high officials and ordinary people; who defile and corrupt the Gelug order.
With this quotation from the praise to Dorje Shugden, Kyabje Yongzin Trijang Dorjeechang told me some highly interesting accounts which he had not written for publication. As is clear from the above mentioned praise, the protector has punished those who corrupted the Gelug order. The symptoms were clear with various episodes of punishments from the king, entanglement with the law and untimely death for many powerful lama regents, incarnate tulkus, highly adept scholars, high officials and rich and powerful people. While being followers of Lama Tsongkhapa tradition, they have corrupted it with other tenets and traditions. Since Kyabje Rinpoche told me about these with great compassion it is very precious for me. With these accounts as the basis, I compiled other reliable material and added to the Ocean of Praise to the Protector.
All knowing Losang Palden Choekyi Dakpa was the lord of the Doctrine and from a very young age proved himself as an eminent scholar. He thus had great potential to serve the Dharma and sentient beings. But he did not make the flawless and well established teachings of the Dharma Raja Lama Tsongkhapa as his principal practice. But instead he studied many treasure texts of Nyingma order and did meditation on those teachings. These were mentioned in his autobiography. Dorjee Shugden repeatedly asked him not to do that. He got annoyed with the deity and performed a wrathful and despicable ritual to burn it. Along with other ingredients he put a thanka of deity in the fire. But the fire could not consume the thanka. Then he took out the thanka and put it under the steps of his door in Tashi Lhunpo. Because of those actions, the Panchen Rinpoche became ill and eventually passed away in the water-sheep year of the 15th rapjung when he was only thirty years of age. In this way the Panchen Rinpoche was unsuccessful in his Dharma propagation deeds.
His successor, Panchen losang Thubten Choekyi Nyima Gelek Namgyal too faced a great deal of problems (as a consequence). Because of misunderstanding between his monastery and the Tibetan Government, he had to escape to Mongolia. Later he wished to come back to U- Tsang, but there were unsurmountable hurdles and he could not succeed. At the age of fifty five, in the year fire-ox, he passed away in Kyigudo. A year before he passed away, Je Phaphongkha Rinpoche Dechen Nyingpo came to pay his respects. During that meeting, the Panchen Rinpoche told Phaphongkha Rinpoche that since Phaphongkha Rinpoche was the incarnation of Lodo Balpa, the Tashi Lhunpo monastery naturally had respect and faith in him The Panchen Rinpoche asked him to give teachings and also asked him to take out the thanka of Shugden deity which was buried by the previous Panchen Rinpoche. In accordance with the instructions of the Panchen Rinpoche, Je phaphongkha went to Tashi Lhunpo monastery in the year of iron-dragon of the 16th rapjung. There he gave many religious sermons including the lamrim teachings. He also took out the thanka of the Shugden deity and put it in a shrine in the Tashi Lhunpo and worshipped it.
Phaphongkha Rinpoche composed a text which was a kind of agreement and understanding between the monastery and the deity.
The next Panchen Rinpoche, Panchen Losang Thinley Lhundup Choekyi Gyaltsen was born in Amdo. He displayed various remarkable deeds which were clear signals of his greatness. When he came to U-Tsang, certain impediments delayed his enthronement. Soon after his arrival to Tashi Lhunpo, he composed a prayer to Dorjee Shugden which helped creating harmony between the deity and the Panchen Rinpoche. However, later things changed. There was a statue of Shugden in a shrine in the palace. When it was seen by the spiritual tutor of the Panchen Rinpoche, Yongzin Kachen Ang Nyima, he told one of the attendants to take out the devil’s statue from there. When it was referred to the Panchen Rinpoche, he told the attendant to keep it where the teacher could not see. The tutor disliked Shugden and often told the Panchen Rinpoche that they practice pure kadampa tradition and that if he sought many deities, it could ruin him. The tutor banned the usual practice of propitiating Gyalchen Shugden at Tashi Lhunpo and the oracle karma, too, was banned from invoking the deity. The special invocation during the new year was also banned. Since then many bad omen occurred one after the other. A battle broke between the Shikatse soldiers and the Tashi Lhunpo subjects. The Tutor Ang Nyima himself fell from his horse two times. Several ominous incidents happened during the opening ceremony of the new palace, Dechen Phodrang. Because of these, they had to restore the practice of worshipping Gyalchen Shugden. On the invitation of China, the Panchen Rinpoche left for China in the wood-horse year.
Soon after the Panchen Rinpoche had departed from Tsang, unprecedented flood rushed from Gyaltse. The flooding totally washed away Kunkyobling, the main residential complex for many Panchen Lamas. Yongzin Ang Nyima could not return home and finally succumbed to an insect bite. Because the Panchen Rinpoche did not practice a pure philosophical tenet, unending disasters followed one after the other.
Tehor Zig-gyab Rinpoche worshipped Dorjee Shugden as the Chief of all deities. He completed his Dharma education at Tashi Lhunpo and earned the coveted Kachen degree. Then he went to Kham and propagated the Dharma and became very popular there. He again came back to Tashi Lhunpo and paid his respect to Panchen Losang Thubten Choekyi Nyima. The Panchen Lama became very fond of this scholar and asked him to be the abbot of Kunkyobling. Later the Panchen Lama gave his text of Nyingmapa teachings and some rituals tools. Due to that reason, he studied various Nyingmapa teachings. During that time a Nyingmapa tantric practitioner called Kyungtul came to see him. This visiter told him that if he learned Nyingma teachings he could become famous like the 5th Dalai Lama. So Zig-gyab Rinpoche decided to get teachings on Rinchen Terzod from the tantric master.
Dorjee Shugden on several occasions asked him not to study and meditate on Nyingmapa teachings. And if he did not heed to the deity’s advice, the Rinpoche would suffer from many hardships and could even shorten his life span. But Zig-gyab Rinpoche did not pay any attention. One day Dorjee Shugden was greatly annoyed and told the Rinpoche that, “I may not pierce you with my deadly claws, but if I did, I cannot take them out.” In this way the deity persuaded the Rinpoche to uphold a pure Gelug tradition. But the latter did not pay any heed and said that he has to abide but the instructions of his Lama. Ziggyab Rinpoche rented a house near Lhasa and received many Nyingma teachings and transmissions from the tantric master, Kyungtul. Gyalchen Shugden created a variety of miracles in their presence. So they decided to do a retreat. During that time Prime Minister Sheta Paljor Dorjee suddenly became very ill. So he requested for Zig-gyab Rinpoche to bestow an initiation for him. When the Rinpoche returned home after giving the initiation, he became very ill and after one day he passed away. If Zig-gyab Rinpoche did not practice Nyingmapa teachings and remained a proper practitioner of pure-gold like Gelug tradition, he could have a long life and his meritorious deeds could have spread far and wide. Kyabje Trijang Dorjeechang told me these accounts who in turn has heard from Tehor Losang Gyatso, an attendant of Zig-gyab Rinpoche until his last days.
Phagpa Lha Losang Thubten Mepham Tsultrim Gyaltsen was a great scholar and as such he should have upheld and propagated pure Gelugpa tradition. But he corrupted his philosophical stand and moral conduct and consequently lost his monk’s vow. He thus had to face the punishment by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso; and he was deprived of his religious and political powers. Later he lived in his house in Chamdo. One day while he was on his way to the toilet, he fell down and a broken bicycle piece pierced near his male organ and no amount of medication was of any help. After a long illness he succumbed to the injury. He had to face these difficulties, because he annoyed the deity Dorjee Shugden. When Je Phaphongkha was on his tour of the Kham area, he stayed over night at Phagpa Lha’s house. During the night he had a very ominous dream in relation to his host. Je Phaphongkha told about the dream to his secretary, Dema Losang Dorjee. All these accounts were told to my ever kind teacher, Kyabje Yongzin Trijang Dorjeechang by Chamdo Gyara Rinpoche.
Regent Reting Rinpoche had to suffer punishment with the king’s order. The misfortune was caused by the miraculous power of the Dharma protector great Dorjee Shugden. Let me explain. The fourth Reting Rinpoche, Ngawang Yeshi Tenpai Gyaltsen, offered the entire possession of Reting Ladang to the Tibetan Government and requested His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, not to search for the future Reting reincarnation. But His Holiness Thubten Gyatso returned everything back to the Ladang and asked them to search for the reincarnation. Accordingly the search party found the reincarnation in a simple family in Dakpo. This Rinpoche had made his foot prints on rocks. I saw one in the Reting monastery. One day while his mother was away the soup started boiling and overflowed from the earthen pot. So he closed the pot with his shoe lace. He displayed such miraculous powers while he was only a child. On the advice of His Holiness Thubten Gyatso, he was recognized as the 5th Reting Rinpoche and named Thubten Jampel Yeshi Gyaltsen.
He was admitted to Sera Je College where he completed his religious education. When H.H. Thubten Gyatso visited the Reting monastery in the water- monkey year, it seemed that he left some instructions to Reting Rinpoche concerning the governance of the nation.
His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama passed away in the water-bird year. For about two months the Prime Minister and the Kashag held the responsibility of the Government. After that the General Assembly nominated the Reting Rinpoche, Gaden throne Holder Yeshi Palden and Yongzin Phurchok Jamgon Rinpoche for the regency. The Reting Rinpoche’s name was confirmed with traditional tests were done in front of Lord Avaloketeshvara in the Potala Palace. Accordingly he was enthroned as the Regent on the 10th day of the first month of the wood-dog year.
Thus he held the responsibility to head the Gaden Phodrang, the Tibetan Government. He took particular interest in the construction of the tomb of the thirteenth Dalai Lama and the search for the next reincarnation. He personally went to the precious lake and saw the visions which gave clear signals of the reincarnation. He then recognized and enthroned the right reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Those were indeed some of his wonderful deeds.
On the fourth day of the tenth month of the earth-hare year, the Reting Rinpoche did the hair cutting ceremony of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. In the last month of that year, he resigned from the post of regency after seven years of service. He had the traditional responsibility to uphold pure Kadampa tradition. His own monastery was the seat of Dromton Gyalpai Jungne. Moreover since the first Reting Rinpoche, Trichen Ngawang Chokden, tutor of His Holiness Kelsang Gyatso, the subsequent reincarnations preserved and propagated pure Gelug tradition. Many illustrious Gelug masters including Je Phaphongka exhorted and persuaded him to maintain and promote the stainless tradition of the great Lama Tsongkhapa. But the Reting Rinpoche did not pay any heed and he sought a number of hidden-treasure teachings of the Nyingma order from Tsenyi Tulku of Chamdo. He also received full transmission on Dzongchen from Sangya Dorjee. Thus the Reting Rinpoche departed from the tradition of his masters.
The final misfortune began to show up when the Reting Rinpoche had disagreement with the then Regent, Tadak. The government found evidence that the Reting Rinpoche had plotted against the life of the Regent Tadak. So, Kalon Surkhang Wangchen Gelek and Kalon Lhalu Gyurme Tsewang Dorjee went to the Reting monastery along with their force and arrested the Reting Rinpoche. Headed by Tsenyi Tulku, many monks from the Sera Je college revolted against the Tibetan government with arms. As the tension grew between the Sera Je College and the government, the latter increased its force and an intense fighting continued for days. Under the command of Kalsang Tsultrim, the government army fired at the Reting monastery and cause much destruction.
When the Reting Rinpoche and his friend Khardo Tulku was interrogated by the General Assembly, the latter confessed that they were guilty. The Reting Rinpoche also acknowledged his mistakes and pleaded for a chance to confess to the Regent himself. The appeal was sent through the Kashag with the endorsement of the General Assembly. But the appeal was rejected. The Reting Rinpoche was kept in Sharchen Chog under tight security with the officials, Lhungshar Orgyen Namdol and Rupon Kalsang Damdul in command. While he was in confinement, he suddenly passed away in the night on the 17th of the third month. No outsider had any knowledge of the cause of his death.
A similar case can be narrated about Khardo Tulku Kelsang Thubten Nyendak. Initially he sought teachings from Je Phaphongkha. But later, he corrupted his philosophical view and practice. He received many Nyingma teachings from Tsenyi Tulku along with the Reting Rinpoche. He was arrested with the Reting Rinpoche on the charges of plotting against the life of the then Regent Tadak. Later he was imprisoned in a dark cell with his legs in chains. After four years in jail, he was released during the amnesty announced when His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was enthroned. After that he was free to live according to his wish, but soon he was passed away. So in short, all his deeds were unsuccessful which was purely due to the miraculous power of Dorje Shugden.
In accordance with the prophecy of the deities and lamas, Kundeling Tatsak Rinpoche Losang Thupten Jigme Gyaltsen was recognized as the reincarnation of his predecessor. He completed his religious education from the Gomang College of Drepung monastery. He had the traditional responsibilities to practice and promote a pure Gelug order. But he departed far away from the stainless system of Gelug practice and received treasure text teachings from Lhatsun Rinpoche and received certain corrupted initiations known as the father’s experience and the mother’s dream which originated from Mongolia. These activities greatly annoyed the king of Gelug Dharma protectors, Dorjee Shugden, and as such Tatsak Rinpoche was accordingly punished. One day he suffered an acute pain in his chest. After consulting many deities and lama, he was told that it was caused by Dorjee Shugden. So, the oracle of the deity was invited and with invocation, he confessed his mistakes with the support of Lhatsun Rinpoche. It was of no help and in that place Lhatsun Rinpoche was scolded for his impure practice. Tatsak Rinpoche’s illness was more serious and he in much pain. So he sent Kundeling Oser Gyaltsen to invite Kyabje Trijang Dorjeechang. Another appeal was made via Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. I personally witnessed the event. During that time the great Dorjee Shugden said that since he had committed himself to protect the Gelug doctrine, there wasn’t much he could do. However, when such evolved Gelug master is supporting, he would see what could be done. But mainly the whole thing depended on how Tatsak Rinpoche behaved. The deity then asked Tatsak Rinpoche, “What will you do in the future ?” Tatsak Rinpoche wept bitterly and replied that he confessed his past mistakes and promised that henceforth he will stop the practice of Nyingma teachings. After that he recovered to some extent. Because he did not keep his promise, his health deteriorated again. Tatsak Rinpoche then left for India for medical treatment and as well as for the purpose of pilgrimage. He went to a big hospital in Calcutta for treatment. Even that was of no avail and he passed away.
Our very kind and exalted master Phaphongkha Dechen Nyingpo, the holder of the vajra, too, received transmission on the secret Hayagriva and the Great Exposition on Pure Vision by the Dalai Lama from Dagri Rinpoche Thinley Pema Kunsang Chogyal, great mahasidhi Ose Thekchog Dorjee,Gungtul Rinpoche Khenrap Palden Tanpai Nyima, Menyak Rekhu Rinpoche Lobsang Chodak Gyatso and others during his early life. Moreover he received initiation on Dupthap Dojoi Bhum-sang from Gungtul Rinpoche. Later Je Phaphongkha received many transmissions and teaching from Nyingma tradition. In those days he used to have strange dreams. Sometimes he saw in his dreams bearded monks and at other times grandly robed monks showing unhappy moods. One night he slept on the bed which was on the east of the room, but when he woke up he found himself on the bed which was on the west side of the room. One night when he was not able to sleep he heard some strange and ominous voices of a woman and another person shouting alternately around mid-night. The noise seemed to be coming from a distant place coming closer to his home, finally he saw a red hand sticking through the curtain. He thought it was due to the miraculous power of Dorjee Shugden. He confessed and asked to be forgiven and the noise returned the way it came. In the water-mouse year, when the Chinese troops had already entered Tibet, the Tibetan Government decided to do some religious service for the peace and safety of the nation. With the instruction from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, JePhaphongkha gave the transmission Kagyur in the Gaden Hall. Soon after that teaching, he was so seriously ill that he almost passed away. The sickness was due to certain poison. When he recovered, his whole body had become bluish. Dorjee Shugden also used other means to persuade Je Phaphongkha to practice and propagate pure Gelug tradition free of defilements. Finally he stopped taking and practicing Nyingma teachings and did not propagate what he had learned. He kept his promise and maintained pure Gelug tradition. Therefore, during the later part of his life, his Dharma deeds spread even to places outside Tibet like China and Mongolia.
Now let me reveal some accounts of powerful officials who received wrathful punishment from Dorjee Shugden. Surkhang Pema Wangchen became a Cabinet Secretary, because of his corrupted view and conduct his life was short lived. He was born in a noble family which had special links with the deity. From a very young age he was highly talented and well versed in Tibetan language. He was proficient in Chinese language too. If you read his Tibetan poetry, it is enchanting. He was referred to as a pundit. At the age of fourteen, he entered the public service and soon afterwards got promotion. Because of his talent, His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama became fond of him and posted him to the rank of the Cabinet Secretary. That was indeed a great honor for him and obviously a great achievement in worldly affairs. But he did not keep his family tradition of the practice of Dorjee Shugden worship nor did he maintain a pure Gelug tradition. In the Surkhang family, they worshipped Dorjee Shugden on every special occasion. They observed the propitiating of the deity on the eight day of every new year. When invoking the deity, very special offerings were made on that day. The family used to invite all their relations for the occasion, and after the worship they had a great feast. So, he had the responsibility to practice Gelug teachings and worship Dorjee Shugden. But his views and practice were corrupted and he showed much interest in the Nyingma teachings. Because of his influence, his father Sonam Wangchen sought teaching on the `treasure-text’ from Nyarong Terdon Sogyal and due to that he died suddenly at the age of thirty seven.
Pema Wangchen sought many Nyingma initiations and teachings from Lama Pao Rinpoche. He also sought many other Nyingma Lamas, including lama Tenzin Dakpa from whom he received a great deal of Dzongchen teachings. He reprinted `Yonten zot’ which was written by Kunkhen Longchen. Pema Wangchen had a good relationship with Geshe Sharab Rinpoche. Since this Geshe was a scholar of pure Gelug order, he refuted certain thesis written by Lama Tenzin Dakpa. Owing to Pema Wangchen’s persuasion, the Geshe did not complete his composition. In that place, the Geshe advised Pema Wangchen by way of some beautiful poems that the latter should follow the flawless doctrine of the Dharma Raja Lama Tsongkhapa.
The Geshe further added that he was not sectarian and his instructions were proper. But Pema Wangchen was adamant and paid no heed to what the Geshe said. Because he did not enter the proper path and abandon the wrong one he fell ill as a result. So with the invocation of Dorjee Shugden the advice was sought for treating the sickness. Dharma protector Dorjee Shugden told him to make the statues of Lama Tsongkhapa and his two chief disciples. He was also asked to do many ritual services. On top of that the deity advised him to eliminate the wrong path and exhorted the need to enter the proper way. As he did not act in accordance with those instructions he suffered from another disease. This time he got sores on his body. Thamcho Palden, the physician to H.H. the Dalai Lama, treated him. When one sore was cured another appeared and the pain was excruciating. In the mean time, his son, too, died due to the same disease. Pema Wangchen suffered with the pain and misery of that disease for about a year. With the help of some Lamas, he confessed to Dorjee Shugden many times. One time the deity was invoked and Pema Wangchen confessed. But the deity declared his final decision. Dorjee Shugden said that he was helpless. People like him, highly educated and holding high post in the government, but who did not practice pure Gelug tradition could harm Gaden Phodrang, the Tibetan government as well as the Gelug doctrine. All his efforts, taking medical treatment, performing religious services and engaging in every possible means proved of no help. The punishment of Dharma protector Dorjee Shugden struck and he died at the age of twenty two.
Originally the Lhalu family practiced pure Gelug tradition. But Lhalu Jigme Namgyal entered Nyingma order and practiced the teaching to the best of his ability. His spiritual master was a tantric practitioner who lived in Bari retreat. Along with himself, Jigme Namgyal’s mother also received a good deal of Nyingma teachings. But the master committed adultery with his mother. Yangzom Tsering of Shetra was married to Lhalu Jigme Namgyal. She had much faith in the Gelug doctrine and worshipped Dorjee Shugden as the protector. So there remained a discord between the husband and wife. When he was young he suffered from a disease and was infested with lice. The pain and misery were immense and finally through numerous miracles of the deity he had to take the long path to the life beyond. Soon his son Phuntsok Rabgyal also died and Yangzom Tsering was left behind. There was no heir to continue the family.
The staff working for the Lhalu family collectively made an application to the Tibetan government stressing the problems in that family. So with instruction from H. H. the 13th Dalai Lama, Tsepon Lungshar was appointed incharge of the Lhalu family. Since the lady in the family, Yangzom Tsering was true to her faith and the deity, there was a clash of faith with Tsepon Lungshar. The man practiced an impure faith as he had heard a great deal of Nyingmapa teachings and received their initiations. Since Lungshar was fairly dogmatic about the Nyingma faith, the lady had to shift the statue of Dorjee Shugden from their house to Tashi Choeling.

Later Tsepon Lungshar was ill for a long time. They saw many evil omens during that time. One day a vulture actually landed on their house top which was considered very ominous. He consulted many great lamas and was told to do many ritual services including Lama Chopa offerings. The later part of Lungshar’s life became more tense as he was caught up in political intrigues. He had some differences with certain cabinet ministers regarding the governance of the nation. So with the support of some officials, he formed his own group and wrote to the Regent, the Prime minister and the Kashag about their proposals. Along with that letter he made allegations against Trimon Kalon. According to another version, Kendung Lobsang Tenkyong and Tsepon Lungshar were jointly commissioned to look after the provisions for the enlarged Tibetan military. The National Assembly had outlined the source of income for the military.
According to that stipulation, the commission scrutinised the estates of the ministers and other high officials. They made good progress, but later they were accused of partiality and favoritism. His colleague Kendung Lobsang Tenkyong, passed away in the mean time. During that political back-stabbing, Lungshar was arrested and put behind the bars. His eye balls were taken out and in their place boiling oil was poured. The intensity of his pain and misery were beyond imagination. The last few years in he prison were most pathetic. Finally he died in prison.
Kalon Trimon Norbu Wangyal got into the public service during the reign of His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama. He was very efficient and was therefore promoted to higher posts in the bureaucracy. Soon he was raised to the rank of Tsepon. He was chief of the army when the Chinese troops were ousted from Tibet in the water-mouse year and his outstanding job during the time was rewarded. He became knowledgeable in the art of administrations and politics.
His Holiness Thubten Gyatso was very pleased with Kalon Trimon. So later he was appointed as the Governor of Domey with the rank of cabinet minister. He was by all accounts crowned with great success and honor.
Despite his official title and success, he had great faith in the Nyingma tradition and sought various teachings from many Nyingma lamas. He maintained them as his principal practice. These activities annoyed the Gelug Dharma protector Dorjee Shugden and consequently Kalon Trimon became insane. Even when he still had the title of a minister, he did many crazy things. One time he went to the market place and started beating all the cymbals that were arranged for sale. One day he wore a white lower garment, which usually used by Nyingmapas and red upper shawl. In those garments he went straight to see the then regent Reting Rinpoche. The regent said in a matter of jest that he was in the dress of a treasure master. And asked what treasure he had. Since he had many sons, he said, “I have the treasure of human beings.”
So he was out of his senses and did not know what was right and what was wrong. Not only did he suffer, the life for his wife and children were very hard. He did not care for the family property and wealth. He wasted them like anything. So the boys had to leave the home with whatever share they could get. In the process, Kalon Trimon literally became a poor man heavily indebted and at last he had to leave this world.”

Ron's picture

"But one morning, in my electronic mail, I found an item from World Tibetan News. It was an extract from a newspaper article reporting the first conference of pro-Shugden associations in Asia. There were two hundred participants and it was held in the Conference Room of a big hotel in Delhi, and hosted by the Chinese embassy.
I could not be sure the report was true, but it showed that the large numbers of practitioners of the cult in the East did not depend solely on the initiatives of Kelsang Gyatso’s NKT. I took the opportunity to write to the Director of Security for the government in exile in Dharamsala. He wrote back a few days later, attaching some confidential information on Ganchen Tulku and ‘Nga Lama’ Kundeling. In March 1998, shortly after we met, these two men of religion were in Katmandu in Nepal, with other Shugden followers and a member of the Communist Party of the Autonomous Region of Tibet, Gungthang Ngodup, who had come especially from Lhasa. A few days afterwards – wrote Ngodup from Dharamsala – an adviser from the Chinese embassy in Nepal, one ‘Mr. Wang’, visited Ganchen’s house. As far as he could make out, the discussion revolved around the same subject, the type of collaboration between the Shugden followers and the Chinese authorities and possible financial help.

In December of the same year – as reported by The Indian Express and The Tribune – the Under-Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Delhi, Zhao Hongang, went to the monastery of Ganden in India, accompanied by a devotee from Bylakuppe, Thupten Kungsang and by a monk who had arrived from Sera Mey. In July 1999, in Katmandu once more, other meetings were held between pro-Shugden activists and Chinese representatives. This time, ‘Mr. Wang’ was met by Chimi Tsering and other directors of the Delhi ‘Shugden Society’, Lobsang Gyaltsen, Konchok Gyaltsen, Gelek Gyatso, and Soepa Tokhmey, the society’s treasurer. After the final meeting a letter was drafted to be presented to the United Front Department of the Communist Party to ask for help against those discriminating against Shugden practitioners in India.

...The men of Dharamsala’s security forces continued to receive information on the continual ‘pilgrimages’ made by the cult’s leaders to Chinese-occupied Tibet. The list of them included, from 1998 onwards: a lama based in Taiwan and Singapore, Serkong Tritul, who was the guru of one of the alleged Dharamsala murderers: Yongya Tulku, the secretary of the Delhi Shugden Society; Phari Phuntsok, a lama resident in Katmandu; Dragon Rinpoche, Vice–President of the Nepalese Shugden society; Basundara Lhakpa, Chatreng Thinley and Chatreng Topgyal. The latter three were received in Lhasa as official delegation from the authorities of the TAR (autonomous region of Tibet).

The ever closer links between the cult members and the Chinese authorities were not ‘invented’ by Dharamsala’s counter-espionage team. In his long activist history, Kundeling Lama, the leader of the International Coalition who had met Ganchen in Milan, wrote, ‘In the winter (of 2001) I took the bold step to visit Beijing in the hope of reaching out to the 11th Panchen Lama and other prominent Buddhist leaders…In April 2002, once again, I visited Beijing to apprise the Buddhist leaders and the authorities of the threats being faced by Shugden devotees within Tibet’.

This odd request from a Tibetan for China to support the cult seems to have been granted, at least by the national media which published several articles on the subject. On February 27, 2003, with money offered by the Chinese embassy in Katmandu, a bi-monthly review was started, called Times of Democracy, to which a reporter from the Wen Hui Daily of Shanghai contributed. Even the building that housed the offices of the journal and the headquarters of the Nepalese Shugden Society were paid for by the embassy, which contributed 700 thousand rupees, around 6500 euros.

For more see: Raimondo Bultrini IL DEMONE E IL DALAI LAMA

Raimondo Bultrini is a senior journalist of the leading italian newspaper la Repubblica with over 32 years of experience in journalism. Bultrini spent the last 7 years traveling all over South and East Asia as correspondent for one of the bigger Italian editorial groups, La Repubblica/L’Espresso.

Markham's picture

Anon said "This is simply a semantic denial"

It's just a straight denial. I'm not claiming evidence as non-evidence, I just don't feel we've actually seen any here. If you say it is above, please select out the bits that you think prove there is a financial connection between Kelsang Gyatso and the Chinese government, and we can see if they pass muster. Sincerely I request you to put forth your best evidence.

"AFAIK, ‘A Cuckoo in the Peacock Palace” broke no laws. So how come it was suppressed by the NKT in light of the principles of “free speech” you consider praiseworthy?"

I think you do not understand what free speech means. One thing it clearly does not mean is that anyone can say anything they like. A man wrote a book. An organization said they would sue him if he published it. He backed down. If you don't like it, write your government representative. No use complaining on the internet, really.

“There were no words of Hatred being “screamed” at our peaceful demos.” ... No, loudspeakers were used. "

No words of hate were spoken through those loudspeakers, as you know.

“This does not apply across the board, but is a specific teaching for some at certain times.”

This means that these vows are interpreted slightly differently in different schools, and within that, differently in different streams of transmission within each school. For each Tantric Disciple, the teachings and interpretation of his or her Tsawai lama is definitive, all else is interpretative.

"This is totally laughable. Did Buton not accept Maha annutara yoga tantra and its associate vows as valid?"

The main locus for the statement that women have superior faculties can be found in Padmasambhava's Dakini teachings. These were not included in the Kangyur compliled by Buton. As for the rest, ido not think that this is the place to discuss the root vows of Mahaannutarayogatantra. I rejoice in your scholarship, however, such as it is.


Here is a charming description of Palden lhamo, the Dalai Lama's favorite protector.

"Her eyebrows and upper lip blaze like a world's end fire
She has a crown of five dried human heads and
A necklace of fifty freshly severed heads heads oozing blood
Her body is splattered with flecks of fat and drops of blood
and smeared with cremation ashes."

Surely you know these fearsome descriptions apply to all schools of vajrayana, and symbolize various qualities of the enlightened mind. I hate to think it of you, but I think you must be disingenuous.

Anon's picture

"Not so. My Teacher says that this vow, not to disparage women, should be read as ‘not to disparage men’ if you are a woman" and his source for this? Even one source other than a self referent one will do. You wont find it. Blind acceptance of what someone says without checking?

"Wisdom sees that there’s no reason to regard one as superior and another as inferior."
Not according to Guru Rinpoche

"Blindly following someone of high repute is the source of the present Dorje Shugden problem for example"

Isnt it..

Ron's picture

Bill: "Wow, what a bunch of angry people!"
...and NKT's so-called "Heart Jewel"(Dolgyal) : is what–'Bubbles the Clown'?

"From his shoulders hangs a garland of fifty, freshly severed, blood dripping heads. A human skin serves as his carpet...Inside the palace, corpses of men and carcasses of horses are spread out, and the blood of men and horses streams together forming a lake. Human skins and hides if tigers are stretched into curtains. The smoke of the 'great burnt offering',(i.e. human flesh) spreads into the ten quarters of the world.. ..on all sides are hung up as tapestries fresh skins of elephants..."

(and so forth)
–excerpted from 'Oracles and Demons of Tibet: The Cult and Iconography of the Tibetan Protective Deities' by Rene De Nebesky-Wojkowitz.)

Bill's picture

Hi Anon,

Even if you're right, that's no reason to disparage the learning of others. It's possible to correct others with humility. Lovingkindness is the heart of Buddhadharma.

Actually, though, I disagree with some of what you say. You say:

The first tantric vow instructs us to see women as Buddhas and never despise them. No corresponding rule for women exists in relation to men. </blockquote<

Not so. My Teacher says that this vow, not to disparage women, should be read as 'not to disparage men' if you are a woman. This makes complete sense. I don't know of any instruction in HYT to regard women as superior to men, although I accept, as Markham has said, there are some who believe and practise this.

As to the equality of the sexes, both men and women have equal spiritual potential (Buddhanature) and sexual differences are merely imputed (Shantideva says there is no male and there is no female). Wisdom sees that there's no reason to regard one as superior and another as inferior.

You say that someone being called the "3rd Khyentse Rinpoche" makes someone a great master, but this is merely a title and doesn't prove a person's worth. There is much wrong with the Tibetan Tulku system - it is open to abuse and has been abused in the past for prestige and power so it's hardly reliable. Once again I will say that it doesn't matter what title someone has, you must judge their words against the Dharma rather than merely believing someone with a high reputation. The Kalama Sutta says the same thing. Blindly following someone of high repute is the source of the present Dorje Shugden problem for example.

Anon's picture

A few points

"As to your claims for evidence of a China connection, could we see some please?"

This is simply a semantic denial, a claim that everything above that constitutes 'evidence' is not evidence. It is similar to Milosevic's refusal to accept the rights of International Courts at the Hague as having any authority over him. Denying their authority does not mean they do not have it anymore than claiming that evidence is not evidence simply because you say so

"These countries in which we protested have long histories of dissent and free speech, we broke no laws"

AFAIK, 'A Cuckoo in the Peacock Palace" broke no laws. So how come it was suppressed by the NKT in light of the principles of "free speech" you consider praiseworthy?

"There were no words of Hatred being “screamed” at our peaceful demos." No, loudspeakers were used.

"Nowhere in tantra is the superiority of women taught" The first tantric vow instructs us to see women as Buddhas and never despise them. No corresponding rule for women exists in relation to men.

"This does not apply across the board, but is a specific teaching for some at certain times."

So, tantric vows are interpretive, not definitive, dependant on time and place? Check your commentaries or ask someone who has studied a bit more.

"Just because someone is called ‘Rinpoche’ does not make them a great Master"

When someone is called the 3rd Khyentse Rinpoche, it does.

"The equality of the sexes" and "regarding all equally as our kind mothers" are not the same. The first refers to humans, the latter to all beings, irregardless of realm or species. To construe the two is the opportunistic interpretation of politically correct, Western newcomers to the ancient Tibetan traditions .

"Actually in some Tantras, it emphasizes that with the practice of Tantra, women have superior faculties...Also, these Tantras are mainly among those not included in the canon by the great Sakya master Buton Rinchen Drup"

This is totally laughable. Did Buton not accept Maha annutara yoga tantra and its associate vows as valid? What about the Heruka Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini tantras and their vows? Did Buton not accept those?

The more you speak, the more you reveal your lack of knowledge of the history of other traditions, Tibetan Buddhist history, and even your own central tantras. It is this ignorance which Kelsang Gyatso has preyed upon. When people know nothing of Buddhism, it is very easy for the unscrupulous to pass of their own views as the Buddha's Dharma

Markham's picture

Also, these Tantras are mainly among those not included in the canon by the great Sakya master Buton Rinchen Drup. They are however, viewed as valid by those who practice them.

Markham's picture

Hi Bill
Actually in some Tantras, it emphasizes that with the practice of Tantra, women have superior faculties.

Of course this does not apply across the board, but is a specific teaching for some at certain times.

Anyway, in social terms men and women have equal rights, thats what is meant by sexual equality in our western cultures.


Bill's picture

Hi Anon1,

I'm sorry you seem to have such a negative view of the NKT, I'm not sure whether this is your actual experience or it's due to negative propaganda on the internet. Suffice to say, I don't see any evidence for the things you say. My experience is completely different. I wouldn't be part of the organisation you describe.

Hi Anon2,

Nowhere in tantra is the superiority of women taught - what a strange idea! Men are important to female practitioners, and vice versa for male practitioners. Both male and female aspects represent important realizations of the path. I also think it's unwise to talk about tantric matters in public.

Just because someone is called 'Rinpoche' does not make them a great Master. It's wise to check them and their words first and see if they accord with the Dharma. 'Rely upon the Dharma, not the person'. To develop an unquestioning attitude towards a Teacher's statements will not help us to develop the deepest wisdom.

The equality of the sexes is not contrary to Buddha's teachings, quite the contrary, where to develop Bodhichitta we have to develop deep respect, love and compassion for all living beings, regarding them all equally as our kind mothers.

Markham's picture


I almost missed this one!

"How does calling people liars, Nazis, Muslims, and screaming words of hatred outside Buddhist teachings fit in with world peace?"

Again I am going to have to draw you back to the evidence. There were no words of Hatred being "screamed" at our peaceful demos. We shouted "Stop lying" and "Give Religious Freedom" to the Dalai Lama. Given that he is lying and will not abide by his words of tolerance for all religious paths, and further given that he has completely avoided all attempts made at dialogue, we felt htis was justified. These countries in which we protested have long histories of dissent and free speech, we broke no laws, and were congratulated by the police in each place for our orderliness, calm, and organization.

The only people who got upset were those who feel that Dalai Lama should not have to stand for any public criticism.


Markham's picture

Anon said-
" if one changes the label, but the basis of imputation remains the same, apart from the label itself, what is the distinction between the two supposed entities? For the general public if you call a dog a cat, is it a cat or a dog?"

I can see I am in over my head here as I surely cannot debate meaningfully with all these impassioned posters!

Here Anon shows ....almost good logic... but the mistake is that the baiss of imputation of the NKT and WSS are different. As already established, there is considerable overlap, but that makes no difference to the main argument. Clear minds will understand this point easily.

Anon's picture

Sexual equality is not an aspect of Tibetan Buddhist teaching, the superiority of women is-check your tantric vows.
Again, sexual union between a teacher and his (or her) disciple is the pinnacle of the non-monastic tantric path where both are qualified. Your rejection of it is a rejection of tantra.
This is another example of the employment of present social mores (sexual equality, political correctness, freedom of worship) to establish ones own views as valid over those of the Buddha. Yet to properly understand the sublte nuances of the Buddha's path takes ifetimes, not days, weeks or years.

The Dalai Lama is quite right,it was the Tibetans who taught us the Dharma, from the East: (all Buddhas manifest enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, INDIA. Maybe its time to try listening instead of lecturing and referring to such great masters as 'arrogant'? At least until your on the bhumis and you can cautiously begin to start to trust your own perceptions?

Markham's picture

yes, these sites point out that people in his local area used to refer to the DL as the saffron Robed Muslim. As to your claims for evidence of a China connection, could we see some please? As enjoyable as your descriptions of said evidence may be, it would be much more edifying to see that actual article.


You make my point elegantly, listing many many instances of people who both belong to the NKT and also work for the WSS. You conclude that this info is "all available in the public domain" as though it were evidence of things not seen, to quote James Baldwin.

As already stated, it is simple for someone to be a member of both, but this does not indicate that these organizations are the same. The main point is that there is no financial relationship between the two, so the relationship in no way endangers the NKT's Charity status. I encourage you to look into this as deeply as you are able, but as a friendly note would like to advise you not to spend too much of your valuable time, because as you will find no malfeaseance, it will largely be wasted.

Congratulations on emulating Milarepa, I am sad to see you backing out of the discussion. As regards the clear links you mention, we are still waiting to see some evidence so as to share your clarity.

It is pleasant to see that we agree that this debate sheds useful light on the topics at hand!

you seem pretty angry, sorry if anyone has upset you. I know this is a tough issue, and please know it is difficult for everyone on both sides, because of course we are all spiritual brothers and sisters.

have a nice day you three!

Anon's picture

Another Westerner with little experience of Dharma telling an established teacher in a long line of great masters where they are going wrong while completely overlooking the parts of their speech that are directly relevant to them. Here is a post from that just about sums up such naive arrogance-It takes lifetimes not years.

Watching NKT's battles is almost amusing, except that they send too many wrong signals and have led its founder, management, so called clergy and members to jump to ridiculous conclusions.

Why do I write this? I offer what I have learned during my life.

The less folks know, the more certain they think they know it.

Trained individuals see this all the time. Those with little or no training readily assume that they know far more than someone working a field for a lifetime. They assume they are absolutely right about matters they no little or nothing. Of course, this is ego talking.

A personal anecdote. A young person about to enter college and major in biology was talking down to me a few days ago about biology. I earned a Bachelors and Doctorate in the subject, taught several biology courses, published dozens of studies and review articles, was retained by many companies/media outlets/government bodies/agencies for my expertise and made many important discoveries. Still, this student assumed having far more knowledge than I could possibly possess (I must admit, however, the more I have learned, the less I feel I know).

We see similar stories played out everyday. Look at all the armchair know-it-alls that have come out of the woodwork the last couple weeks about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Where were these so called experts a couple months ago, or better yet a couple years ago? Some even blame the catastrophe on President Barack Obama, and of course, calling him a liar (some even a Nazi....not surprisingly, 2 of NKT's favorite weapons).

NKT folks are doing the same thing. They are told to limit themselves to a dozen or so watered down books of its cult leader. They sit in a few feel-good 'retreats'. NKT's founder can say the simplest of things, but they believe what he said is more profound than anything before said or written. They then assume that they are more expert in Buddhism and Buddhist literature than life-long Buddhists and Lamas. They are quick to denegrate those outside NKT, for they 'know' the outsiders' motivations and comprehension skills. They go after those who left NKT out of disgust. They especially have a hate issue with the 75 year old Dalai Lama and claim he knows nothing. NKT claims to know more about peace than a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace, the Dalai Lama.

To NKT, most Buddhist teachers and students in the world are illegitimate for not serving NKT's questionable deity, Shugden, pitched and defended like an NKT-patented product, even though the objects of their scorn are thousands of times greater in numbers and history than NKT's clan. Many of those who NKT has wrongly denegrated have exemplary credentials.

I've seen this trait in recent assessments of the commentators on this web site. NKT supporters claim your commentators can neither read nor comprehend.

They even try armchair 'logic' to demean your intellects. For example,

"I have said something along the lines of "A is false" and reports on its website that *I* said and confirmed that "A is TRUE!" How dishonest!"

Politicians and con artists, of course, thrive on this phenomenon. This is why it looks to me that NKT is political and a con. The threats from its lawyers and its founder written about so much are, therefore, to be expected.

Buddha gave no teaching pertaining to Shugden or rationalizing NKT's battles with Buddhists. NKT's explosion on the Internet is conduct unbecoming anyone who cares about others.

Bill's picture

I've read Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's article and while I agree with some of the points he makes regarding relying on a Spiritual Teacher, he seems to make a false distinction between East and West and even imply that Dharma is 'Eastern' and is too subtle and difficult for Westerners. This is completely wrong and is, in my view, completely arrogant. It seems to echo the Dalai Lama's arrogance concerning Westerners. On July 14th 1995, in Caux Switzerland the Dalai Lama said:

“Everyone who is affiliated with the Tibetan society of the Ganden Phodrang government (Tibetan government), should relinquish ties with Dhogyal. This is necessary since it poses danger to the religious and temporal situation of Tibet. As for foreigners, it makes no difference to us if they walk with their feet up and their head down. We have taught Dharma to them, not they to us…

Rinpoche implies that Westerners have unique problems that seemingly don't apply to Easterners, but that's silly. All sentient beings have delusions as well as Buddha nature, so we're not that different. The problems described in relation to Westerners must also apply to some Easterners, surely? In sidestepping this equality, Rinpoche's article comes over as arrogant, implying an Eastern superiority over a Western inferiority, but surely this is just grasping at inherent characteristics of 'Western' and 'Eastern'? In reality, I don't believe there is much difference, just as there was not much difference between the original Indian Teachers who had to be patient and teach their Tibetan students. Dharma is universal - it's not Eastern, Western, Tibetan or anything else. It's the common medicine for all beings who have delusions.

Rather worryingly, Rinpoche also seems to defend Tibetan Lamas abusing their students in the name of 'getting rid of their egos' In my view, there should be no sexual relationships between Teachers and students and where this has happened, it's a mistake. There are many cases of sexual abuse in all traditions of Buddhism. I guess this is human nature but it shouldn't be allowed to happen and it certainly shouldn't be justified. Also, on the subject of sexual equality, for centuries, there has been a massive inequality between monks and nuns, something that Western traditions are beginning to put right. Rinpoche seems to dismiss this. Of course it's important to realize the equality of samsara and nirvana, but how can you realize this unless you have a genuine attitude of equanimity towards both sexes? This is something that has been missing from many Buddhist traditions until the recent development of a genuine Western Buddhism.

Bill's picture

Wow, what a bunch of angry people!

Your sole purpose is to destroy the reputation of a Buddhist tradition that hasn't done any harm to you but has done a lot of good in this world and will continue to do so.

If there's a reason why a Western form of Buddhism is needed, you need only to look at the angry outbursts of the people on this list; people need methods to help increase their inner peace.

Anon's picture

The Distortions We Bring To The Study of Buddhism

By Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

For NKT mother sentient beings

LRon's picture

How does calling people liars, Nazis, Muslims, and screaming words of hatred outside Buddhist teachings fit in with world peace?

Anonymous's picture

Heres a topical line from Tharpa publications 'How to Organise a Successful Bookstore Talk'

"Together we’re building Temples with our books, and creating causes for world peace."

Shameless; even preying on the ignorance of their own followers.

Anonymous's picture

Hey George
You just pointed to another 'essential' aspect of the new Western form of Buddhism, namely World Peace. While I am aware of sentiments such as 'May all beings be happy', I just dont seem to be able to find any references to 'World Peace' in the Buddhas teachings, except perhaps among the followers of Nichiren, who invented his own Buddhism 1500 years after the historical Buddha and advised his followers to slaughter the followers of other sects as they were causing the degeneration of Buddhism in Japan-I guess the idea is if you kill all your enemies, there'll be no more war?

Truth is, as admirable a sentiment as it is, it just aint there. Yet the NKT run Peace festivals and 'World Peace' cafes and advise their followers to study to bring about this admirable goal. Wonder why?

Perhaps if we look at who else is pushing the world peace vibe, it might give us a clue. Lets see, Soka Gakkai, the Moonies, and Gangchen Lama, favourite bedfellow of the Asian wing of the NKT?WSS, the DSDCRS AND the Chinese.

Thank goodness the NKT/WSS find themselves in such distinguished company. Otherwise, they might find themselves accused of shameless opportunism and preying on the ignorance of the masses for the sake of profit.

Would they do that? Well, of course not. Thats why they are so up front about their involvement in byzantine Tibetan politics and aggressive attacks on the Dalai Lama at their beginners groups.

I guess we've discerned a few more of the essential elements of the emerging 'Western Buddhism'. Personally, I'll stick to the old style. Call me anachronistic but I just prefer what the Buddha said to hate filled politically minded pragmatists who prey on the ignorance of sentient beings world wide

George's picture

Markham: You are blithely not aware of your own book if you doubt the vile gossip published by WSS. Below are chapter headings from the contents from 'A Great Deception" (a production not hindered by libel lawsuits, by the way)

-Reting: Lama – How he chose the false Dalai Lama
-A Dictator, A Hypocrite (referring to HHDL)
-The Assassination of Gungtang Tsultrim/The Karmapa Affair
-The Dalai Lama's fascination with war and Nazism

I would want to distance myself from this rubbish as well. I cannot believe a word you say, you are just playing the old shell game you must have learned at NKT 'Peace' Carnivals.

Anonymous's picture

Markham/Thomas/David Canada/Empty Mountains

"Just because Geshe Kelsang is part of both does not make the organizations the same, no?"

Kelsang Gyatso
"As the representative of the Western Shugden Society, I personally will organise demonstrations against the Dalai Lama directly"

WSS Press speaker: Kelsang Pema (Helen Gradwell) - personal assistant to Kelsang Gyatso for more than 8 years

Front man and leader of WSS demos in the USA: Gen-la Kelsang Khyenrab - Deputy Spiritual Director of the NKT

Front woman and leader of WSS demos in USA: Gen Kelsang Dekyong - National Spiritual Director of NKT USA

Front man and leader of WSS demos in Germany: Gen Kelsang Ananda - National Spiritual Director of NKT Germany

Leader of WSS demos in Australia: Gen Kelsang Rabten - National Spiritual Director of NKT Australia and New Zealand

Please, remove the fundamental premise on which your assertions are based ie people ARE that stupid.

To use 'insider terminology', common in cults and therefore easily accessible to NKT/WSS followers, if one changes the label, but the basis of imputation remains the same, apart from the label itself, what is the distinction between the two supposed entities? For the general public (we need things explaining because were all stupid), if you call a dog a cat, is it a cat or a dog?

Anon's picture

Please everyone, forgive Markham for his/her ignorance. While all of the things being said are true, (s)he, by his/her own admission, is in the NKT. How could (s)he possibly know about ALL the vile lies, allegations of Nazism, simultaneous insults to Muslims and the Dalai, legal threats and intimidation tactics that are practiced by his leaders in the name of truth? I mean, even Ive lost count of the legal threats he's issued (I think they even threatened Tricycle!) Still it just shows how wide and varied Kelsangs teachings are, and how perfectly suited they are to the needs of a modern society where political agitation and legal threats are the norm and Islamophobia is rife.

Lron's picture

Dear 'Markham'

You state:
"The WSS was formed (not sure by who[remember the vows]) to create an alternate umbrella under which people could unite while not necessarily having to become a member of the NKT."

That the Western Shugden Society IS the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), an UK charity trust, is clearly indicated by all the following:

Kelsang Gyatso asked all his students by email to participate the protests. Among other things he wrote in one of his emails: "[dated above] To stop this evil action, as the representative of the Western Shugden Society, I personally will organise demonstrations against the Dalai Lama directly. I requested Kelsang Pema and Kelsang Thubchen to do this job for me and they have accepted. Please help Pema and Thubchen with whatever they need. With much love and prayers, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso".

WSS Press speaker: Kelsang Pema (Helen Gradwell) - personal assistant to Kelsang Gyatso for more than 8 years

Front man and leader of WSS demos in the USA: Gen-la Kelsang Khyenrab - Deputy Spiritual Director of the NKT

Front woman and leader of WSS demos in USA: Gen Kelsang Dekyong - National Spiritual Director of NKT USA

Front man and leader of WSS demos in Germany: Gen Kelsang Ananda - National Spiritual Director of NKT Germany

Leader of WSS demos in Australia: Gen Kelsang Rabten - National Spiritual Director of NKT Australia and New Zealand

Moreover, Lucy James (USA), official editor of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's books and Resident Teacher for several NKT centers, who did not encourage her students enough, was immediately removed by Geshe Kelsang from her position as a NKT resident teacher. This is clear evidence of pressure on local NKT resident teachers to convince their members to go to the protests.

The identity of the website of the Western Shugden Society is hidden via proxy server (Domains by Proxy). However media data in the earliest files refer to the German office of “Tharpa”, which publishes only Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s books, and WSS webpage Spanish translations were done by a person of the same name as the translator of Kelsang Gyatso's books in Spain.(All this info was removed when these facts came to light-fortunately, the print screen facility is common to most computers these days).

A public letter of the NKT Bodhisattva Centre indicates the WSS website as being a NKT website stating "You may be interested to visit the following websites for further information about our Centre, our tradition – the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) the WSS: Bodhisattva Buddhist Centre [..] Western Shugden Society website: [..] for information about the NKT and our side of the story!!"

Evidence of all the above is freely available in the public domain.

Furthermore, the past media campaign of the New Kadampa Tradition (1996-1998) against the Dalai Lama was performed under the banner Shugden Supporters Community. Andrew Brown's 'Battle of the Buddhists' in the 'Independent' newspaper *
exposed the totally dishonest manner in which the NKT pretended to have nothing to do with those demonstrations too.

I will refrain from engaging in the slippery semantics with which you wriggle out of answering the questions concerning the clear links between the Chinese and Kelsang Gyatso's hate campaign. As the great yogi Milarepa said in the Challenge from the Logicians, "Having abandoned thoughts of my own importance, I have renounced the saliva spitting debate"

Nor do I wish to employ phony spiritual arrogance by ending this mail with such statements as "I find this type of debate helpful, because it gives people the opportunity to see what is actually going on in this discussion"

However, I agree, it most certainly, "gives people the opportunity to see what is actually going on"

Ron's picture

It only tales a couple of seconds, search "saffron robed muslim" and it takes one directly to WSS propaganda websites. Speaking to the question of the cult and China it is documented and certainly no secret that Gangchen and Nga Lama Kundeling take money from China. The Sxxxxxn Society in Delhi, likewise. Where have you been, hiding in a priory or simply feigning ignorance of the facts.

Gyalpo Nyi's picture

Hey Gyalpo Chig

Actually, in the UK it is perfectly acceptable for a religious charity to hire the services of an external body to lobby on their behalf in the political arena, though they are advised no to do the lobbying themselves.

However, what is completely immoral, illegal and unacceptable for a charity is for that religious organization to POSE as an external organization and then lobby on its own behalf. This is exactly what the NKT did and exactly why they are desperate to maintain what is only in truth a nominal distinction between themselves and the WSS. After all, tax exemption for charities is very useful, especially when ones annual income amounts to tens of millions of pounds.

It is certain that the UK Charity Commission has received numerous complaints about the NKT. It is equally certain that the Charity Commission, notorious for its apathy (they refused to revoke the charitable status of gun clubs until an horrific massacre of 16 children and 1 adult in 1996 at Dunblane, Scotland) has wriggled out of doing anything that might potentially damage its own name by employing the above argument.

However, I dont think anyone has questioned the Charity Commission on the legality of a charity POSING as an external lobbying group, then carrying out its own poisonous propaganda for it, something which in the NKTs case, there is clear evidence of.

I guess its only a matter of time before this discrepancy is pointed out to the Fraud Team at the Commissions Liverpool Office, which is run by Kenneth Rogers,
Charity Commission Direct - Caseworking Team
tel: 0845 300 0218

Markham's picture


I am happy to see you are willing to discuss, thank you.
I agree with you, a financial statement would dispel all suspicions of ties to China, so I think the WSS should issue one.

As to the issue of WSS=NKT, I think this is a red herring. People write about it with great excitement as though anyone were trying to hide the fact that they are related. Of course, Geshe Kelsang decided to organize protests. That is not a crime, and from where I stand, was an excellent idea. Certainly this is up for debate.

The WSS was formed (not sure by who) to create an alternate umbrella under which people could unite while not necessarily having to become a member of the NKT. Also, NKT students who do not support the protests are under no pressure to do so, as the NKT is not protesting. Many people are from the NKT but are not part of WSS, and vice versa.

It is pretty simple. OF course all are free to be a part of both, one, or neither. But they ar not the same entity, and they do not have a financial relationship. Many members of the NKT may offer money to WSS, but no class fees, fundraising profits, fesitvals monies etc go towards supporting the WSS activities.

Just because Geshe Kelsang is part of both does not make the organizations the same, no? If there were a local birdwatching club and he joined, it would not make it the NKT would it? Even if a great number of NKY members joined and made private donations, it would still not make them the same. I hope you are able to see this.

Second topic: No need to debate, Thomas Canada is not a representative of the WSS, therefore, these cannot be categorized as "racist remarks from WSS." I agree with you that the things he said are offensive.

As to calling the DL "Liar," what can I say? It's borne out by the facts. I agree it's not so pleasant to have to say so, but it became necessary to bring this issue to a wider public, and as DL would not agree to dialogue after repeated requests, we made the decision to tell the truth publicly. As to "Muslim" and "Nazi," if you look more carefully you''ll see that the DL was called neither. I never heard they said that DL tried to kill Karmapa. That would be most surprising if he had done so. Seems somewhat ... unlikely, to say the least.

Hi Lron- I AM a member of the NKT. You'll find the answers to most of your questions in my response to Gyalpo above. As to why Geshe Kelsang co-signed a letter with someone with ties to China, I don't know. I am not sure that it is established that DSDCRS has ties to China that are inappropriate, and moreover it is not the case that because I go in on a joint venture with a friend of yours, that that makes you and I friends, Clear?

Anon- You manage to create a great deal of confusion when you conflate the NKT with one poster on an anonymous website. Just because "a friend" made the above quoted remark, in no way means that the NKT made the remark, as you erroneously state. All I know is that I am sure I am not lying, and I don't believe there are actually any Nazis at play here. If you are unhappy with this use of inflammatory rhetoric, as I am, I recommend staying away from it yourself. Then when you condemn it, your outrage looks more sincere.

I find this type of debate helpful, because it gives people the opportunity to see what is actually going on in this discussion

Best Wishes to all,

Anon's picture

Here's another quote from the NKT, this time about Gary Beesley, author of "A Cuckoo in the Peacock Palace", the book the NKT/WSS banned.(Banned? What were they protesting against?)

"I would say that not to stop such harmful book to appear would be a mistake. Lies, lies, lies ... basta! The nazis used as astute propaganda weapon the notion that you only need to repeat a lie enough number of times for it to become a truth"

This attempt to blacken the author's name by referring to him as a liar who employs Nazi tactics is a common one in NKT/WSS propaganda.

Beesley himself made it clear that the book was withdrawn from publication not, as the NKT/WSS assert, because it contained false information but because of financial constraints and concern for his wife and children. So who are the liars and who are the Nazis?

LRon's picture

Markham is clearly an NKT member and apologist.

If the NKT is not the WSS, then why did Kelsang Gyatso offer to organise demos against the Dalai Lama as the representative of the Western Shugden Society. Why were the demos led by NKT leaders? Why were the demos populaited overwhelmingly by NKT followers?

If the WSS has no links to China, how come they countersign letters from the DSDCRS in Delhi, a group with well established links to China via Kundeling, Gangchen and Chime Tsering?

For too long the NKT have played on the ignorance of the masses.Now the masses are getting educated, where is their response?

Gyalpo's picture

I'm also all for clarification, which is why a financial statement would dispel suspicion of financial ties to China once and for all. . "as the representative of the Western Shugden Society, I personally will organise demonstrations against the Dalai Lama directly." wrote Kelsang Gyatso in an open letter dated April 27, 2008 to his students. We also identify al the top NKT "teachers" like Kelsang Khyenrab,the "Spiritual Director" of the NKT So NKT trying to distance itself from WSS is shallow posturing, they know their charitable status in the UK will be revoked. Being tax free (and free labour) has allowed NKT to acquire two hotels in Europe as well as numerous choice chateaus and other properties.For example Schloss Sommerswalde was bought for 1 million Euro, proceeds from an NKT 'festival'. Or 730 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota
purchased for $1.25 million. Now, NKT is obliged to publish their income and 2004 was an banner year for the cult with a gross income of £9,235,306!

Second topic: racist remarks from WSS. Here’s a quote from Maclean’s Magazine blog from WSS scholar Thomas David Canada aka "Lhakpa Gyaltshen" addressed to Tibetans–

” No wonder you lost your land, only cowards run away…………………….



Come on down and we’ll check your skin or better yet, We’ll just deport you back to China”

As a Tibetan by birth, I find this comment (one of several in the same vein) rather offensive–I do not feel demanding an apology is is amiss. We are similarly not happy about NKT/WSS calling our spiritual and temporal leader "liar'' ,"Muslim","Nazi" and so forth as well as accusing him of plotting to murder his colleague and Dharma brother HH the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa.

Markham, I expect you are asking the wrong party to cool their rhetoric here!

Markham's picture


'Such misdemeanors should not be just politely ignored."

You have a point. I am not aware of any racist remarks however.

In any case, threatening litigation and shouting through a bullhorn are not misdemeanors. Moreover, the travel expenses were not paid from out of donations, they were paid for by private contributions.

As far as publishing a financial statement, I am not sure. They are not a public company, so I am not sure if they have any responsibility to do so.

Since you seem to be against defamation, would you consider being more straightforward in your language? For example, you cannot say they have misused donations if you have never seen a financial statement, no? Where are you getting YOUR information from? Are you just voicing your suspicions as though they were established fact?

so, while I agree that you are not obliged to "politely ignore," I think you could do better at politely challenging. Name calling is exactly what you seem to be against, so it would make your arguments more substantial if you could avoid it yourself.

best wishes,

Gyalpo's picture

Markham: The question arises then, practice of what? Threatening litigation, shouting through a bullhorn, publishing defamatory political gossip books, misusing donations for travel expenses, etc.?
No, WSS have a lot to answer for, they refuse to publish a financial statement or apologize for their divisive campaign including uttering several baldly racist remarks. Such misdemeanors should not be just politely ignored.

Markham's picture

I hope that people of good intention see how extreme this language is, as well as this point of view.

"Talibanesque buffoon?"
"fundamentalist faction?"
"fanatical Pabonkaite predeccesors?"
"cult mouthpiece?"

If you check the allegations, there is nothing more than innuendo here, all being treated like fact.

Back to practice, everyone.

LRon's picture

Au contraire-these recent exchanges are an indication that the sickness that caused the degeneration of Buddhism into power politics has now infected Western Buddhism. 'Diversity' is an popular contemporary expression that sometimes leads to individuals not distinguishing between that which accords with the teaching of the Buddha and that which does not. It is that which does not distinguish between Dharma taught for the benefit of others and Dharma taught for the glory of one particular tradition above all others.

There is nothing wrong with cherishing the ability to discriminate between right and wrong, true and false. Of course, from an absolute perspective, both are of the same essence. Relatively however, if people do not distinguish, the outcome will be disastrous, for both individuals as well as the future of the Dharma. Everything is NOT beautiful in its own way. Some things suck. Thats how it is in the dualistic universe .I for one, have removed the flowers from my hair and no longer adhere to sentiments more at home in Haight Ashbury's summer of love than in the age of enlightenment which commenced with the Buddha's awakening in Bodh Gaya

Don's picture

This exchange is the indication Buddhism is alive and well here...and will grow in many ways. The diversity at our disposal is truly amazing. Just don't stop sharing your opinions. Only don't cherish them.

Anon's picture

It is a great shame that the fundamentalist faction within the Gelug as it existed in Tibet, lead by Pabongka and already engaged in violent aggressive acts against other traditions in the name of Dorje Shugden in the 1930s, should have stolen a march on the other Tibetan traditions on arrival here in the West. By concentrating on expansion and recruitment rather than the Dharma itself, the NKT, as Pabongkas direct spiritual descendants, have established themselves at the very fore in Western Buddhist circles and are now perpetuating the aggressive politicised version of Buddhism Pabongka and his cohorts forcefully imposed in Tibet, an imposition which created the very conditions by which the Chinese justified their Tibetan incursion.
It seems that the 'Cuckoo in the peacock Palace' laid bare this fundamental flaw in the NKTs history, a flaw which has led to pseudo Buddhist fanaticism being considered a genuine and valid aspect of Buddhist practice. Obviously, the reason the NKT banned this book was because it threatened to undermine the very false premise on which its actions in the guise of the Western Shugden Society have been based.
There is no doubt that the NKT are the WSS, as little doubt as that they are involved with the Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society in Delhi, with whom they countersign threatening letters to the Dalai Lama and political leaders worldwide. It has also been reported in the Tibetan media that DSDCRS seniors have held meetings with Chinese government officials since the late 90s. The link to China is therefore a thoroughly established one and demonstrates that the NKT and the Chinese have chosen one another as allies in their common battle for religious and political dominance, one within Tibet and the other outside it.

Gyalpo's picture

The Talibanesque buffoon Lineageholder’s comment: “The reason why the book (Cuckoo in the Peacock Palace) should not be published is because it contains false information that defames the reputation of the New Kadampa Tradition”

So, did Lineageholder actually read the book?…no, it was suppressed by NKT litigation before anyone had a chance. This is reminiscent of the criticisms of the Satanic Verses by fanatical fascists who also did not read the book, and typical what we have come to expect from the WSS/NKT skinheads.

BTW go ahead…sue me!

Lisa's picture

Yet another truly modern aspect to NKT practice is the tendency to issue legal threats. This is a real step forward from what their fanatical Pabonkaite predeccesors would do in the face of criticism which was to throw people in prison and gouge their eyes out. (Read Goldstein) Fortunately though, the NKT have maintained that other wonderful aspect of Gelug hegemonic practice, the book ban. The Gelug banned Jonagpa texts, Pabongka's followers condmened and destroyed Nyingma ones in the thirties, and he invited the Chinese to destroy monasteries where 'false texts' were being taught or reproduced. The ban of 'A Cuckoo in the Peacock Palace" shows the NKT are definitely not Gelugpas; They are Pabongka-Shugdenites, who employ the same intimidatory and immoral tactics their fanatical forebears employed to maintian their dominant political position.

LRon's picture

Clearly, the best way to establish a truly Western form of Buddhism is for ua to dress up like Tibetans, worship a Tibetan spirit, demonstrate against great teachers of our spiritual forefathers and suppress any critical information about us that is about to emerge into the public domain-Its like combining all the wise and compassionate elements of reactionary political dominance in old Tibet with the wonders of modern fascism. All you need do then is develop an aggressive attitude to expansion and recruitment and, hey presto! The perfect form of Buddhism for the West! (Oh I forgot, change the Tibetan chants to English with guitar and flute-radical!) Experience tells us this is so!

R. Donald Rollo's picture

Here's what WSS cult mouthpiece Rodney Bilman said about the suppression of Gary Beesley's book ‘A Cuckoo in the Peacock Palace’:
"I'm not saying freedom of speech is flawed, but there's little to govern bringing in non-truth and irrelevent material."

NKT is a dangerous cult, there is no question.

Ron's picture

Bill: I guess NKT is really well established, it has aggressive lawyers threatening to ruin the family of anyone who dares write a book about its corporate-like expansionism. Please read on:

Gary Beesley Buddhist scholar forced to withdraw ‘A Cuckoo in the Peacock Palace’

Dear Colleagues:

It is with sincere regret that I write to inform you that, due to the threat of legal action from the New Kadampa Tradition, and in light of the inadequacies of UK libel law, I have been forced to withdraw my forthcoming book, ‘A Cuckoo in the Peacock Palace: The Decline of Tradition in 21st Century Western Buddhism and the Rise of the New Kadampa Tradition’ from publication.

I appreciate that many of you will be very disappointed by this decision, a disappointment that I share with you from the very depths of my heart. However, as a Buddhist layman with a wife and children, I must place the short and long term well being of my family at the very fore of my considerations. Having raised myself up from poverty through dedication, hard work and the blessings of the Buddhas, I could not bear to impose an undeserved life of poverty on my wife and children when I leave this world. Therefore, for the sake of my family, as well as the good name of the Dharma, I have made this difficult, indeed heart wrenching decision. The NKTs legal representative kindly reminded me that, as Buddhists it is very important that we try to resolve our problems in a peaceful manner. I hope the withdrawal of the book is an indication of my intention to observe such advice in my dealings with others from now on.

With respect and sincere regret for any hurt or disappointment I may have caused.

Yours in the Dharma

The layman Gary Beesley
[Dialogue Ireland goes on to say:]

We were very sorry to hear the news of the withdrawal of the book. This raises great issues of free speech and reminds the Director of an experience he had in 1996. Jon Caven Atack, author of “A piece of blue sky,” had his book destroyed by Scientology. He had to withdraw from all forms of commentary and it also resulted in his family breaking up. So it is great understanding that we read what Gary has written. We appeal to all world wide to rise to his support and to consider ways to address this crisis of free speech. To misquote JK Kennedy, Ask not what your freedom can do for you, but what it can do for Gary. Here in Ireland where we have a written constitution we decided to sell the book here in Ireland. We went into the court and told Scientology to lodge £50,000 to defend their position after they threatened me with ruin. Our barrister was Adrian Hardiman currently one of our Supreme Court Justices. We call on all right thinking people to stand up and be counted on this issue.”

Kyle's picture

I think this discussion while important around the 'Intellectual' community, I feel it is blown way out of proportion, as we have far more pressing issues about Buddhism in North America than semantics. Here is my comments on it.

Klaas van den burg's picture

My God all this intelectual speculation, if you ask me, just listen to Thai Situ, have compassion, devotion and practice that will do...

no name thanx's picture

How we define the "West" really DOES matter. First of all, without defining ambiguous terms we get ambiguous results. Second, do we really think that the "West" is that homogeneous? I certainly don't. Lubbock, Texas is not the same as Bogotá, Columbia or London, UK. Americans tend to want to make the U.S. the prototype of all things Western, but it's just not so.

Also, for Asian Americans and diasporic groups, it's always a question whether or not they count as "Western" or not. When we use the word "Western," do we use it to include these groups? Much of the writing in this area draws a distinction between "Western" and "Asian American" Buddhists (as if Asian Americans cannot be Western). This is especially important because some of the most "established" (i.e., older than 100 years) Buddhist groups in the United States are Asian American traditions without monastics. Are we leaving them out because it's more convenient? Because they aren't really Western? Because they don't practice "real" Buddhism?

Anyway, it would be nice if people could share their views and opinions without launching personal attacks. I admit I'm a terrible Buddhist, but it's clear that that sure ain't the Dharma. Peace.