Documents on the Dorje Shugden - New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) Controversy

A bitter controversy exists within Tibetan Buddhism on the veneration as a protector deity of Dorje Shugden (rDo rje shugs ldan), a practice rejected by the Dalai Lama and defended as essential by the Dorje Shugden Society and by the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), headquartered in Britain and led by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The controversy escalated with a bitter campaign by the NKT during the Dalai Lama's European visit in the Summer of 1996 and with the murder of three Dalai Lama disciples near Dharamsala, India, on February 4, 1997. On May 3, 1998, followers of Dorje Shugden demonstrated against the Dalai Lama in New York during his visit there. For the background of this controversy, a good starting point is the scholarly paper by David Kay, "The New Kadampa Tradition and the Continuity of Tibetan Buddhism in Transition", Journal of Contemporary Religion 12:3 (October 1997), 277-293. Essential for understanding the controversy is vol. VII, n. 3 (Spring 1998) of Tricycle The Buddhist Review, including a scheme of the principal players on the controversy (p. 59), the article by Stephen Batchelor "Letting Daylight into Magic: The Life and Times of Dorje Shugden" (pp. 60-66) and "Two Sides of the Same God" by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (pp. 67-69), introducing Lopez's interviews of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (pp. 70-76) and of Thubten Jigme Norbu, the elder brother of the Dalai Lama (pp. 77-82). Also recommended is Donald S. Lopez, Jr.'s book Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998 (see pages 188-196 on Dorje Shugden).

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Without taking sides -- and in fact deploring the bitter style of many pieces of the controversy and the crude anti-cult language of the journalistic accounts -- CESNUR has collected three essential pieces of the controversy:

(1) the anti-NKT, anti-cult Newsweek article "Cult Mystery" (Newsweek International, April 28, 1997; Newsweek, May 5, 1997);

(2) Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's reply to Newsweek ;

(3) Geshe Kelsang Gyatso's "Open Letter to the Dalai Lama" of December 9, 1997.

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