The Tibetan people didn’t want the ban on Shugden or the persecution that followed. Up until 1996, in whole regions of the Tibetan diaspora the worship of Shugden was ‘almost universal within the dominant Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism’15. He was viewed as a trusted protector that had served them well16.
The Dalai Lama changed his mind about Shugden in the mid-seventies. He gave up the practice his root guru, Trijang Rinpoche, had given to him and began to advise others to give up the practice too. Some followed his advice, the majority chose to continue their worship.
Since simply advising had not had the effect the Dalai Lama hoped for, in 1996 he issued his decree banning the practice. Even after this, in many speeches he expressed his disappointment that people weren’t abandoning the practice and doing more to enforce his ban.
In order to instigate the extreme persecution of Shugden Buddhists that we have seen throughout the exile community and even in Tibet, the Dalai Lama had to make the emotive (and patently absurd) claims that worshipping Shugden was a danger to his life and the reason the Tibetans hadn’t been able to return to Tibet.
With these provocations, as he himself admits, he ‘stirred up’ the Tibetan people and created the internal conflict that we see now.
During a private meeting at Trijang Labrang, Venerable Gen Chonze, the eldest monk in the assembly, humbly asks the Dalai Lama if he would kindly consider revoking the ban on Shugden worship because of the hostile atmosphere it had created within the Tibetan communities comparing it to cultural revolution the Tibetans had suffered in China. To this the Dalai Lama angrily replied:
“There will be no change in my stand. I will never revoke the ban. You are right. It will be like the cultural revolution. If they do not listen to my words the situation will grow worse for them. You sit and watch. It will only grow worse for them”17
In December 2013, Venerable Gen Chonze was attacked inside the grounds of the temple he has cared for for 60 years by five men armed with knives18. There is no doubt that unless the Dalai Lama’s persecution of Shugden Buddhists can be reversed the situation will get worse and worse.
Dalai Lama threatens his own people -
‘I will carry through to completion the work I have begun. I will not back off because of a few disgruntled individuals. I am determined to implement the conclusions of my careful research and will not let it be. […] Even private individuals may later have cause for regret if you take this lightly now in the hope that perhaps things will turn out all right after all.’19
“The Dalai Lama had made the decision alone, but his followers were now forced to join in the demonization […] Accomplices spoke out in the streets to condemn their brothers and sisters, who began to suffer serious discrimination.”
- Maxime Vivas, Behind the Smile: The Hidden Side of the Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama acknowledges that he is the sole source of the persecution of Shugden practitioners.
The Tibetan prime minister states that the ban on Shugden worship is the Dalai Lama’s wish and should be enforced even if it leads to segregation within the Tibetan Community.