Followers of Dorje Shugden

The new issue of Vice Magazine has an interesting piece on the reputed conflict between followers of the spirit Dorje Shugden and mainstream Tibetan Buddhists. We don’t vouch for how accurately the beliefs of alleged Gelugpa monks are portrayed or that their relationship with other Buddhist sects. But the article does raise a lot of interesting points many non-Buddhists are likely unaware of. To wit:

“It can be hard to get a straight answer about what Shugden followers believe or how this whole fucking mess got started in the first place, especially in mainstream Tibetan strongholds, where the sect is scarce. The only thing that really sets them apart from other Tibetan Buddhists is their veneration of Shugden. While many Tibetan Buddhists believe in celestial beings that can help or hinder religious practice, not everyone agrees which are good or bad.

“Devotees maintain that Shugden arose to protect the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Gelugpa is one of five schools separated by differences in the interpretation of technical terms or modes of monastic organization so minute that outsiders often can’t spot them. As Tibet was once theocratic, with each school like a political party controlling chunks of territory, monks often squabbled over these details. Shugden supposedly helped the Gelugpa avoid contamination by other schools’ practices and defended their position as the most powerful.

“Despite being the official head of the Gelugpa (and ruler of the Gelugpa and other citizens in a wide swath of Tibet), in the 1930s the previous Dalai Lama campaigned for unity among the schools, promoting the mixing of theologies to create a more integrated Tibetan Buddhist identity. So the sectarian Shugdenites got suppressed. And while the Gelugpa remained the most populous school, a few monks bristled at their leader’s lack of theological purity and their own lack of political favor.

“The current Dalai Lama has continued to strive for unity ever since a diverse group of Tibetans were cast into exile in the 60s. But this has put him at odds with a resurgent call for purity by a small group of former Gelupga monks who say their protector, Shugden, will rain vengeance on those who mix with other traditions.

“Gelugpa monk Kelsang Gyatso split from the mainstream in 1991, forming the pro-Shugden New Kadampa Tradition. Though he claimed it would be tolerant of other schools and open to non-Tibetans, he refused to mix with other sects. Things turned ugly in 1996, when the Dalai Lama publicly declared that he opposed veneration of Dorje Shugden. The triple homicide happened a year later—a fitting act for a spirit of retribution.”

Read the whole article here:

Then do further research on your own and get a fuller picture and then make you own decision about this apparent controversy.


Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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