- Published on February 28, 2010
Advice ContentsFrom His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Advice from other important lamas
Advice from Lama Zopa Rinpoche:
- Foreword for book on Dolgyal/Shugden - July 2012. English/Tibetan
- Excerpt from a letter to Lozang Jinpa, private secretary to His Holiness the Dalai Lama - April 2001
- Excerpt from A Talk Given At Aryatara Institute, Germany - 7 April 2001
- Personal Advice Given To Students Asking About This Issue
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Advice Concerning Dolgyal (Shugden)
Following long and careful investigations, His Holiness the Dalai Lama strongly discourages Tibetan Buddhists from propitiating the fierce spirit known as Dolgyal (Shugden). Although he once practised Dolgyal propitiation himself, His Holiness renounced the practice in 1975 after discovering the profound historical, social and religious problems associated with it. He did so with the full knowledge and support of his junior tutor, the late Kyabje Trichang Rinpoche through whom His Holiness first became associated with the practice. Even within the Geluk and Sakya schools - the Tibetan Buddhist traditions to which majority of Dolgyal practitioners belong - the propitiation of this spirit has been controversial throughout its history. Historical investigation reveals that Dolgyal practice, which has strong sectarian overtones, has a history of contributing to a climate of sectarian disharmony in various parts of Tibet, and between various Tibetan communities. Therefore, from 1975 onwards, His Holiness has regularly made public his view that this practice is inadvisable, based on the following three reasons:
1. The danger of Tibetan Buddhism degenerating into a form of spirit worship: Tibetan Buddhism originally evolved from the authentic and ancient tradition upheld at the great Indian monastic university of Nalanda, a tradition that His Holiness often describes as a complete form of Buddhism. It embodies the original teaching of the Buddha as developed through the rich philosophical, psychological and spiritual insights of such great Buddhist masters as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga and Dharamakirti. Since the great philosopher and logician Shantarakshita was instrumental in establishing Buddhism in Tibet in its earliest stages in the 8th century, philosophical enquiry and critical analysis have always been important hallmarks of Tibetan Buddhism. The problem with Dolgyal practice is that it presents the spirit Dolgyal (Shugden) as a Dharma protector and what’s more tends to promote the spirit as more important than the Buddha himself. If this trend goes unchecked, and innocent people become seduced by cult-like practices of this kind, the danger is that the rich tradition of Tibetan Buddhism may degenerate into the mere propitiation of spirits.
2. Obstacles to the emergence of genuine non-sectarianism: His Holiness has often stated that one of his most important commitments is the promotion of inter-religious understanding and harmony. As part of this endeavour, His Holiness is committed to encouraging non-sectarianism in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In this His Holiness is following the example set by his predecessors, especially the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. Not only is a non-sectarian approach mutually enriching for all Tibetan Buddhist schools, but it is also the best safeguard against a rise of sectarianism that could have damaging consequences for the Tibetan tradition as a whole. Given the acknowledged link between Dolgyal worship and sectarianism, this particular practice remains a fundamental obstacle to fostering a genuine non-sectarian spirit within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
3. Especially inappropriate in relation to the well-being of Tibetan society: Propitiating Dolgyal is particularly troublesome, given the Tibetan people’s present difficult circumstances. Textual and historical research demonstrates that the spirit Dolgyal arose out of hostility to the great Fifth Dalai Lama and his government. The Fifth Dalai Lama, who assumed both the spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet in the 17th century, personally denounced Dolgyal as a malevolent spirit that arose out of misguided intentions and is detrimental to the welfare of beings in general and the Tibetan government headed by the Dalai Lamas in particular. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama and other respected Tibetan spiritual masters have also spoken out strongly against this practice. Therefore, in the current Tibetan context, in which unity among the Tibetan people is vitally important, engaging in this controversial and divisive propitiatory practice is inappropriate.
His Holiness has strongly urged his followers to consider carefully the problems of Dolgyal practice on the basis of these three reasons and to act accordingly. He has stated that, as a Buddhist leader with a special concern for the Tibetan people, it is his responsibility to speak out against the damaging consequences of this kind of spirit worship. Whether or not his advice is heeded, His Holiness has made clear, is a matter for the individual. However, since he personally feels strongly about how negative this practice is, he has requested those who continue to propitiate Dolgyal not to attend his formal religious teachings, which traditionally require the establishment of a teacher-disciple relationship.
More information and advice about this from His Holiness the Dalai Lama is available at http://www.dalailama.com/page.132.htm
His Holiness at the Second International Gelug Conference
FPMT sponsored Geshe Sherab Gyatso to translate the talk given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Second International Gelugpa Conference, Dharamsala, Dec 2000 - to read it click here (the translation also appears on www.dalailama.com)
Advice from Other Important Lamas
To read other important lamas, such as the Ganden Tri Rinpoche (the head of the Gelug lineage) advising on this issue: http://www.tibet.com/dholgyal/
- Those in service or teaching in FPMT centers and projects do not engage in the practice of Shugden.
- Students regularly attending FPMT centers should not practice Shugden.
- FPMT teachers and key staff should not attend teachings by teachers who are known Shugden practitioners.
FROM LAMA ZOPA RINPOCHE, SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR OF THE FPMT
Foreword for a book on Dolgyal/Shugden - July 2012. English/Tibetan
The book is a compilation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings on Shugden given between 2000 and 2007, and is only available in Tibetan and Mongolian. The Tibetan title of the book is Dolgyal sGor Lam sDon Ga-sLob kNyi-pa.
"The FPMT Board of Directors has just made a policy regarding the practice of Shugden.
FPMT will not invite anyone who practices this as a resident teacher or a visiting teacher. Of course sometimes it is difficult to say if someone is hiding the practice."
Talk given at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, 22 October 2000.
Rinpoche reads from a letter He was writing to Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, explaining about the qualities of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and how we can trust His Holiness' advice not to practice Shugden. Also how to practice guru devotion, and how to give up the practice without criticizing the guru.
Excerpt From A Talk Given At Aryatara Institute, Germany - 7 April 2001
"..Then, I want to specify one extra point, on the basis of the usual examination that is explained in the teachings. I want to add that, if you are making a new Dharma connection with a teacher, you should examine to make sure that that teacher is not someone who is against His Holiness the Dalai Lama, particularly with respect to the practice of the being called Dholgyel or Shugden. These days, that's an extra analysis you should make. In that way, you'll avoid problems in the future..."
[Rinpoche goes on to describe how to practice guru devotion without criticizing the guru].
Personal Advice Given To Students Asking About This Issue
The Worship of Shugden - Documents Related to a Tibetan Controversy
Dept of Religion and Culture, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala, India.
A Brief History of Opposition to Shugden
Edited and Compiled by The Dolgyal Research Committee, c/o Dept of Religion and Culture, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala, India.
The Shuk-Den Affair - Origins of a Controversy
Georges Dreyfus, Williams College, Fall 1999.
Narthang Publications, Narthang Buildling, Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala, HP, India.
(The main essay is available to read at http://www.dalailama.com/page.149.htm)
NB: If any center would like a copy of these books, please write to Tushita Meditation Center.