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His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Advice Concerning Dolgyal (Shugden)

June 2, 2008

May 31, 2008

Dharamshala -- Following a long and careful investigation, His
Holiness the Dalai Lama has strongly discouraged Tibetan Buddhists
from propitiating the fierce spirit known as Dolgyal (Shugden).
Although he once practiced 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 this 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 towards a climate of sectarian
disharmony in various parts of Tibet, and between various communties
of Tibetans. Therefore, from 1975 onwards, His Holiness has regularly
made public his views on the inadvisability of this practice and
underlined the following three key 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 the establishment of
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 promotes a tendency to consider spirits like
Dolgyal (Shugden) as Dharma protectors and moreover to take them 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 promoting
non-sectarianism in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. In doing so His
Holiness is following the personal examples 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
possible 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 the context of the well-being of
Tibetan society: In the context of the current condition of the
Tibetan people in particular, Dolgyal propitiation is especially
problematic. Textual and historical research demonstrates that Dogyal
propitiation 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, which arose out of
misguided intentions and is detrimental to the welfare of beings in
general and the Tibetan government headed by the Dalai Lamas. The
Thirteenth Dalai Lama and other respected Tibetan spiritual masters
also spoke strongly against this practice. Therefore, in the current
context of Tibetan society, where unity among the Tibetan people is
vitally important, engaging in this controversial and divisive
propitiatory practice is inappropriate.

On the basis of these three reasons, His Holiness has strongly urged
his followers to consider carefully the problems of Dolgyal practice
and to act accordingly. He has stated that, as someone in a
leadership position, 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 stated, is a matter for
the individual. However, since he personally feels strongly about the
negativity of this practice, he has requested that those who continue
to propitiate Dolgyal, do not attend his formal religious teachings
which traditionally require the establishment of a teacher-disciple

Issued by Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dharamshala, 30 May 2008
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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