The Dalai Lama And The Cult Of Dolgyal Shugden
by Robert Thurman
Ever since 1997, when, according to detailed Indian police investigations, pseudo- monks who infiltrated to Dharamsala from China murdered the Venerable Lobsang Gyatso, a noted lama close to the Dalai Lama, and his two young disciples, the cult of the Dolgyal-Shugden spirit has been on the attack. The well-evidenced culprits were not tried as they escaped back into Tibet and China, but the cult continued its campaign at the behest of, and with substantial funding from, the United Front department of the People's Republic of China, the agency handling relations with non-Chinese "minority nationalities." The futile effort of the cult backed by the agency seeks to alienate Tibetans from the Dalai Lama, their beloved leader and even to turn world public opinion against the acclaimed Nobel Laureate and Gandhi heir. The final aim is to disrupt the Dalai Lama's fifty-year-long nonviolent "truth and justice" campaign, to free the six million Tibetan people to be themselves in the special autonomous minority region offered them by the Chinese constitution, so far only on paper.
The cult and agency attack campaign is futile since its main claims are so easy to refute:
1) The worship of their chosen deity was not "banned" by the Dalai Lama, since he has no authority to "ban" what Tibetan Buddhists practice. "Banning" and "excommunicating" are not Tibetan Buddhist procedures.
Although they are Buddhists who should focus on emulating the Buddha, members of the cult are free to worship their chosen "protector deity," whom they call Dorje Shugden, as much as they like. The young Dalai Lama himself did propitiate it as a minor worldly spirit or angel, until he studied the history of its cult and decided it was not a protector at all, but instead a mischievous "king" spirit known as Dolgyal ("king demon from Dol"). Once his historical studies brought him to that conclusion, he recommended that other lamas in his school cease their relationship, or at least keep it to themselves, since its liturgy contains condemnation of the minority sects of Tibetan Buddhism and of non-Buddhist religions. In the late 80s', when certain individual lamas began to proselytize its cult, inducting even Western practitioners new to Buddhism, especially in England, he took the step of asking such persons to refrain from attending his initiations and associated advanced teachings, on the grounds that they were not following his advice and so should not take him as their teacher. They then went on the attack, claiming they had been "banned" and "excommunicated," etc., when in fact the Dalai Lama was exercising his religious freedom by not accepting students who reject his advice, and actually go so far as to condemn him!
2) The cult of Dolgyal Shugden is that of a minor angel or demon, and never has been mainstream, To claim that "four million" people belong to it, or even "millions," is untrue.
3) The members of the cult do not come from numerous Tibetan sects, but exclusively from the super-orthodox fundamentalists of the majority Gelukpa sect or order.
4) The Dalai Lama has never asked anyone to persecute anyone, and members of the cult who mind their own business and do not attack the Dalai Lama are not bothered by other Tibetans. Those who do attack the Dalai Lama with outrageous name-calling--"dictator," "false lama," even "demon," and "liar," etc., naturally do provoke the vast majority of Tibetans, who adore their Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama himself has never approved of either the provocations or any harsh responses, and remains steadfast in his adherence to nonviolence in principle and practice.
5) The whole fuss would have died down long ago except for the fact that the "hard-line" operatives of the "United Front Work Department" of the People's Republic of China, the agency in charge of dealing with China's "minority nationalities," sees the cult as a potential wedge they hope to drive between the Dalai Lama and his people and between him and world opinion. They therefore fund the leaders of the cult in Tibet, Mongolia, India and the West, and provide them the means to carry on their expensive propaganda campaigns. Evidence for this is very plain on the surface. For example, the so-called "Panchen Lama" reincarnation, whom the Communist party chiefs appointed after abducting and disappearing the five year old boy properly chosen in the traditional way by a committee of his monastery with approval of the Dalai Lama, is shown on the internet in various photographs sitting in front of a large icon of Dolgyal Shugden, as a sign of aggressive defiance of the Dalai Lama. The obvious fact is that the clearly stated purpose of the cult and the United Front agency of the PRC is to try to prove to the world that the Dalai Lama is not as nice as we all think, but is a bad, even "evil," person.
Whatever one believes about the reality of fierce angels or demons, it is clear that the leaders of the Dolgyal Shugden cult have done nothing over the last 30 years but cause trouble, both to their own followers and to the unity of the Tibetan people, both in exile and in Tibet. It has benefited no one except those misguided operatives in the Chinese government who wish to destroy Tibetan Buddhist culture, in order to assimilate systematically deracinated Tibetans into becoming second class Chinese citizens, and thus, through such a policy of crushing the identities and even lives of the "minority nationality" Tibetans, to secure forever their claim to the vast territories and resources of the Tibetan plateau. But as we have seen all over the world--and as aware persons can attest here in America with our still very much present First Americans--history never does end, people do not give up their distinctive identities, and truth and justice inevitably arise from the ashes of even genocidal flames.
Those who would like to read a thorough study of the Dolgyal Shugden cult by a distinguished professional journalist, can download a kindle copy of R. Bultrini, The Dalai Lama and the King Demon, published by Tibet House US.
Originally published on the Huffington Post on March 5, 2014