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Re: The practice of “Dholgyal”

Essence of the letter from the Religious Department of the Central Tibetan Administration of H.H. the Dalai Lama
(This letter is especially for the Geshes of the Tibetan Buddhist Centres and the Leaders of the Tibetan Associations in New Zealand and Australia so they are able to inform the members/students of the centres and the Tibetans)

On 9th January 2008, when HH the Dalai Lama visited Mundgod Tibetan Settlement, He reiterated the issue of the practice of Dholgyal* in detail.

* (This the same as what is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Shugden” or as “the protector.”) At the recent teaching in Mundgod, South India, in response to a Geshe’s use of the word “protector” to refer to Dholgyal, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama explained very clearly what is referred to as “Dholgyal.” His Holiness quoted the Great Fifth Dalai Lama who described Dholgyal as: “This demonic spirit arisen from degenerating spiritual commitment (samaya) and distorted prayers.” His Holiness then explained that: Dholgyal is not a “protector” or “guardian.” If it was a protector or guardian it should protect the Dharma teachings and sentient beings. As regard to the coming into existence of Dholgyal, Dholgyal himself admitted to a high Sakya lama that it was a demonic spirit of Gelug school arisen from degenerating spiritual commitment (samaya). The cause of the arisal of Dholgyal is due to the power of distorted prayers. By nature it is a non-human demonic spirit and its function is to cause violent hostility towards Dharma teachings and all transmigratory beings. [This explanation was translated from a DVD recording of His Holiness’ recent teaching in Mundgod. It is included here for additional clarity. It was not contained in the actual letter from the Religious Department.]

His Holiness stated that it is up to the wishes of the Sangha themselves to choose whether or not to follow Dholgyal. So therefore it would be good to have a referendum in order to draw a clear conclusion about the Sangha’s wishes. If the referendum shows that over sixty percent of the Sangha are interested in doing this practice, then from that moment on, I will never mention anything about this again in the future. In Tibetan we have a saying: “there is a difference between the mouth and the mustache, the meat and the knife.” Like that, if the referendum shows that the majority of the Sangha do not wish to do this practice, nor wish to have any connection with the followers of Dholgyal both in worldly and Dharma matters, then it would be really good to make a clear distinction between those who do the practice and those who do not. In order to make this distinction clear, from then onwards, would it not be better to stop all connections between these two groups, be it regarding Dharma or worldly matters?

Following that, a general committee was established which included the representative of the Ganden Tripa Rinpoche, the ChoJes (the two supreme candidates for the position of the Ganden Tripa) of Shartse and Jangtse colleges of Ganden Monastery, representative from the Tibetan Religious Department, members of Parliament, the Tibetan Settlement Officer and the managers of the colleges of the monasteries. On 21st January 2008, a meeting was held in order to discuss the issue of the referendum and to set a date for the referendum.

Between the 26th and 27th of January and on 9th of February 2008, the actual referendum was implemented. Yellow and red sticks were used. Yellow sticks represented those not wishing to do this practice and also do not wish to have any connection, worldly or religious, with those who do the practice. Red sticks represented those who do wish to do this practice. There are 15,316 monks in fourteen monastic colleges of Geluk school in South India. 12,277 of them have participated in the referendum. 100% of the monks participating in the referendum choose the yellow sticks—indicating they ALL do NOT wish to do the practice, nor want to have any connection with those who are following Dholgyal. Only a few monks of Pomra Khamtsen of Sera Mey Monastery and a few monks from Dokhang Khamtsen of Ganden Shartse College have not participated in the referendum. 3,039 monks were not actually physically present at the monastery. These non-residential monks, although not physically there, said that when they return to the monastery they they will make the right decision. This shows 100% support. Therefore, because 100% showed their support, the result is that now the monasteries will invent a new separate place for the few followers of Dholgyal practice. If it is worthwhile the monastic college will provide them with their due share according to the number of people. If the Tibetan Government sees that it is necessary, it will also provide them some assistance/facilities.

From now on in the future, in order not to degenerate the samaya (commitment) between the spiritual teacher and disciples, the Dholgyal practitioners cannot attend His Holiness’ teachings and according to the general rules and regulations of the Geluk tradition, they also cannot be admitted into the monasteries (the three major Geluk monasteries) and cannot participate in the Geluk exams with non-practitioners. But however, they can equally enjoy all the other rights of the Tibetan people in exile. No one should create any hostility between the two groups of followers and non-followers of Dholgyal. In order to have peace and stability in the society, everyone should think deeply on this matter. All the monastic functions, such as the Great Prayer Festivals should continue smoothly as usual. Anyone who wants to sincerely cease to follow this practice in the future, will always be welcomed.

If you have any further questions on this topic, you are welcome to make an appointment to speak with Geshe Wangchen, Ven Gyälten or Rinchen or visit the FPMT’s website which has extensive information on this topic

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