Sectarianism, Dorje Shugden and the Dalai Lama

I would like to now follow on from my previous article in which I quoted Geshe Kelsang Gyatso as stating that sectarianism can arise as a result of a blending of traditions, (as opposed to each one respecting one another whilst maintaining their own individual lineage of teachings). With respect this idea, which I read about some time ago, whilst I had some grasp of it in theory, I did not have much notion of the practical aspects of it until these were illustrated by particular actions of late. One would have thought perhaps that if traditions were mixed then they would at least end up being more open to each other and tolerant (despite losing any special individual characteristics, internal coherence and clarity). Geshe Kelsang is stating precisely the opposite.

Now the recent actions of various individuals and institutions who stand in opposition to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in the Dorje Shugden issue have clearly illustrated Geshe-la’s own point on sectarianism.

First of all many other people including prominent teachers in other Mahayana Buddhist traditions have criticised the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) as a sectarian cult for years. However it is a fact that anyone is allowed to attend an NKT teaching, or be part of an NKT Centre. It is also a fact that NKT students can go to any other teachings as they individually see fit. This is clear within the constitution of the NKT.

The same is not true with respect to the teachings of the Dalai Lama. It is a fact that practitioners of Dorje Shugden are banned from attending his teachings, and are banned from attending his empowerments. They are also not allowed to work within any branch of his government or the Health Service. Here are some very public actions and resolutions relating to this:

March 21st, 1996

The Dalai Lama tells worshippers of Dorje Shugden to leave the temple and bars them from attending the empowerment.

March 30th, 1996
The Private Office of the Dalai Lama issues a decree for everyone to stop practising Dorje Shugden, with instructions to make people aware of this through government offices, monasteries, associations, etc.

The Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (Parliament) passes a resolution banning the worship of Dorje Shugden by Tibetan government employees.

April 18th, 1996
The Tibetan Department of Health gives a special notice to doctors and staff members: ‘We should resolve not to worship Shugden in the future. If there is anyone who worships, they should repent the past and stop worshipping. They must submit a declaration that they will not worship in the future.’

April 22nd, 1996
The decree banning the worship of Dorje Shugden is officially read out at Drepung Monastery. The abbot says that everyone must abide by the ban. Drepung Loseling Monastery distribute a form, saying that anyone who does not sign will be immediately expelled from the monastery. Many monks including Dragpa Rinpoche move to a nearby Indian town.

 

Since then very recently the ban on Dorje Shugden and the marginalisation of Dorje Shugden practitioners has been spread throughout most of the major Tibetan monasteries in India.In addition to this and following the ‘advice’ of the office of the Dalai Lama, the assembly of Tibetan people in Switzerland recently agreed the following:

“On August 16, 2008, in the local assembly of Tibetan people in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, their Deputies discussed thoroughly with great responsibility. After that, the Local Assembly’s Deputies extended their appreciation to the Resolution (1996) adopted by the majority regarding the worshipping of Dholgyal (Shugden). Due to necessity there is now no option but to add three new resolutions on top of the existing five resolutions. We request all Tibetans who are above 18 years old in Switzerland and Liechtenstein to fully follow the content of these resolutions.

A The five resolutions passed unanimously by the Local Assembly’s Deputies on July 6, 1996 were:

The Dholgyal worshipper must completely give up [the practice] henceforth.

Those who do not worship Shugden must follow the instruction without falling into the trap of others.

You all must invite only those who do not worship Dholgyal, when you need to perform puja for oneself or for the Dalai Lama’s well-being.

Be it in private or a group, when you make offerings to the monasteries in Nepal, India, etc., you must do these offerings to those monasteries which do not worship Dholgyal.

You must bear in mind the instructions of politics and religion and abide by them without any contradiction.

B Three additional resolutions adopted on August 16, 2008 by the majority during the Second Session of Local Assembly were:

Recently a few Dholgyal followers have engaged in baseless criticism against the Dalai Lama in public. This we recognise as a conspiracy to spread rumours through gossip.

Those few Tibetans who criticise the Dalai Lama, we recognise them being in the category of Chinese government’s politics, directly, indirectly and thoroughly.

We will collect signatures as a truth witness which represents the volunteer support to the above-mentioned points.”

 

I have no intention here to pass on negative rumours about other traditions or teachers, however I am trying to merely state certain facts relating to this subject.

Another mahayana tradition the FPMT (Foundation for the preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) have also released certain resolutions or measures concerning Dorje Shugden practitioners. They have stated that they have done this in response to the Dalai Lama’s policy. They state their wish to follow the Dalai Lama’s example of prohibiting the practice:

 

“As FPMT follows the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, all those in service or teaching in FPMT centres and projects do not engage in the practice of Shugden. 

From The FPMT Handbook:

All those who offer service or teach in FPMT centres are committed to follow the advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As an example, His Holiness has prohibited the practice of the so-called protector, Do Gyel (Shugden), so teachers or others affiliated with the FPMT should not engage in this practice.”

 

Without showing disrespect to the FPMT, it appears to be clear that (as they have explained) they are merely doing this out of the wish to follow the Dalai Lama and the wishes expressed by his office. Otherwise it would be hard to argue the standpoint that they would ever have issued any prohibition on the practice of Dorje Shugden given the fact that their founder Lama Yeshe practised, and relied sincerely upon Dorje Shugden throughout his life.

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Mixing Traditions -by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

There is much speculation on Geshe-la’s stance with respect to mixing traditions and sectarianism. I think this section summarizes Geshe Kelsang’s opinion very well.

In the chapter on effort in Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life Shantideva advises us that before we commit ourself to engaging in a practice we should investigate it carefully to see whether it is suitable and whether we can sustain it; but once we have committed ourself to it we should never turn back but continue until we attain the final result. Switching from one practice to another unrelated practice not only prevents us from fulfilling our wishes in this life, but also makes it difficult for us to accomplish our goals in future lives. Moreover, it is often the cause of breaking our commitments and severing precious relationships, such as those that exist between Guru and disciple, and between spiritual friends.

We must be careful not to misunderstand the effort of non-satisfaction. Practicing this effort does not mean that we should become dissatisfied with our tradition or with our main practice, and try to follow many different traditions or mix together many different practices. Every Teacher and every tradition has a slightly different approach and employs different methods. The practices taught by one Teacher will differ from those taught by another, and if we try to combine them we shall become confused, develop doubts, and lose direction. If we try to create a synthesis of different traditions we shall destroy the special power of each and be left only with a mishmash of our own making that will be a source of confusion and doubt. Having chosen our tradition and our daily practices we should rely upon them single-pointedly, never allowing dissatisfaction to arise. At the same time as cherishing our own tradition we should respect all other traditions and the right of each individual to follow the tradition of their choosing. This approach leads to harmony and tolerance. It is mixing different religious traditions that causes sectarianism. This is why it is said that studying non-religious subjects is less of an obstacle to our spiritual progress than studying religions of different traditions.

Once we have decided which tradition to follow and which practices to do, we should engage in them wholeheartedly with a joyful mind. This is the power of joy. Whether we are listening to Dharma teachings, reading Dharma books, reciting prayers, contemplating, or meditating, we should do so with a light and happy mind, like a child at play. If we enjoy a practice we shall naturally have enthusiasm for it. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Understanding the Mind: an Explanation of the Nature and Functions of the Mindpp. 161-162, © 1993, 1997, 2002)

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

I will start this section by giving a couple of short quotes I have found which have been given within Geshe Kelsang’s books.

These quotes are by two Lamas, Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche. 

Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche was senior tutor to the Dalai Lama and the 97th Ganden Tripa (holder of the Ganden throne and head of the Gelugpa tradition)

Trijang Rinpche was also appointed Ganden Tripa and was the junior tutor to the Dalai Lama.

 

In the foreword to Geshe Kelsang’s book, Clear Light of Bliss, Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche says:

This excellent commentary on the joyous Mahamudra

Derived from churning the essence of the ocean of Tantric scriptures

That arose from the heart of this most precious Spiritual Guide

Is published with a pure wish to benefit migrators.

He goes on to say, “I am very happy that Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has given extensive teachings on Secret Mantra based on Protector Manjushri Je Tsongkhapa’s great treatises and on other authentic commentaries on Mahamudra, including the first Panchen Lama’s root text.”

 

In the foreword to Geshe Kelsang’s book Meaningful to Behold, Venerable Trijang Rinpoche says:

The excellent expounder, the great Spiritual Master Kelsang Gyatso, who studied myriad Buddhist scriptures at the famous Je College of the great monastic university of Sera, Tegchen Ling, practised the meaning of the teachings he received, and became a wise, serious and realized Teacher. From the rain of profound and extensive Dharma that he has bestowed upon his fortunate disciples, he has recently given comprehensive instructions on the great Bodhisattvacharyavatara (Guide to The Bodhisattva’s Way of Life).

In the prayer for the long life of the Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Trijang Rinpoche says:

You who are skilled in the wisdom that unties the sealed knots
of the profound meaning of the Sutras and Tantras of the Fourth
deliverer of this fortunate aeon,
who possess an abundance of good qualities like a thousand petalled lotus,
O peerless, great Spiritual Guide, may you live for a very long time.

Published in: on September 11, 2008 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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