12 June 2015

Response to the current pro-Shugden protests in Australia

The current visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Australia has attracted protesters asserting that he has banned the worship of a fierce spirit called Dolgyal/Shugden. There is no ban.

The worship of their chosen spirit was not "banned" by the Dalai Lama, since he has no authority to "ban" what any Buddhists practice. "Banning" and "excommunicating" are not Tibetan Buddhist procedures.

In February of this year, His Holiness said, “It’s my moral responsibility to tell others what I believe to be beneficial or harmful. In the end, it’s up to each individual to choose whether or not they heed my advice.” A majority of the Dalai Lama’s Buddhist followers respected his counsel.

The core of the members of the International Shugden community belong to the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) which is based in the UK. Professor Bob Thurman of Columbia University, in a recent article in the Huffington Post, referred to them as a cult.

Its members study and practise only instructions given by its founder. Study or even interest in other Buddhist teachings or teachers is actively discouraged in the NKT. Their worship of this spirit as an enlightened being goes against mainstream Buddhist practice. Because of its fiercely sectarian associations, the Dalai Lama concluded that worshipping the Shugden spirit was divisive.

The Dalai Lama is a staunch advocate of religious freedom and has always respected individual choice. Those who attack the Dalai Lama with outrageous name-calling—"dictator," "false Dalai Lama," even "demon," and "liar," etc., naturally provoke dismay in the vast majority of Tibetans. The Dalai Lama himself has never condoned any harsh responses to these provocations and remains steadfast in his adherence to non-violence in principle and practice.

Whatever one believes about the reality of fierce spirits it is clear that the leaders of the Dolgyal Shugden cult have done nothing but cause trouble among their own followers and sought to create friction among Tibetan Buddhists.

The Australian Tibetan community and Buddhist centres in Australia are saddened by this spectacle and have formally disassociated themselves from the ISC/NKT and their defamatory campaign.

Rob Keldoulis
Chairman, Dalai Lama in Australia