Correcting misinformation spread by the anti-Dalai Lama Protesters

Academic Research into the Dolgyal Shugden Issue & the New Kadampa Tradition



Below is a list of available academic research on the Shugden controversy and the New Kadampa Tradition, along with some non-academic sources. The list, which is slightly abridged, appears by courtesy of


The Dorje Shugden Controversy

  • The Shuk-Den Affair: Origins of a Controversy (1998) by Georges Dreyfus, Professor of Religion at Williams College, published in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (Vol., 21, no. 2 [Fall 1998]:227-270)
    • This continues to be the most foundational and influential work written on Dorje Shugden to date, having been cited by nearly every piece of scholarship to discuss the deity or the NKT since it was published. The article itself is so influential that it has become the center of controversy, being used on multiple sides of the Shugden debate to either buttress or dispute competing claims. For instance, opponents of Shugden practice—including the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama—cite Dreyfus’s article to support their position that Dorje Shugden (Dolgyal) is a worldly spirit. Proponents of the deity, meanwhile, suggest that Dreyfus is being biased and attempt to discredit his arguments via ad hominem attacks. Dreyfus himself has refrained from entering into the controversy. Very few have focused solely on the merits of Dreyfus’s arguments, and so an earnest re-evaluation of his article and its historical propriety is still underway.
  • rDo rje shugs ldan” ([1956] 2002) by Réne de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, in Oracles and Demons of Tibet: The Cult and Iconography of the Tibetan Protective Deities, published by Paljor Publications, 134-144.
    • This is the first prolonged discussion of Dorje Shugden in a Western scholarly source. Since it was written in the 1950s, its material predates the contemporary controversy.
  • Religion und Öffentlichkeit in der tibetischen Exilgesellschaft (2009) by Prof. Dr. Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz, in Mariano Delgado, Ansgar Jödicke, Guido Vergauwen (Hrsg.), »Religion und Öffentlichkeit – Probleme und Perspektiven«, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, pp. 199-217.
    • Summary: In the Tibetan government in exile ‘state’,  “state” and religion relate to one another in a way unfamiliar to many. In contrast to general perception , Tibetan societies are characterized by great internal religious diversity as well as by a plurality of religious denominations. Using the “Shugden Affair”, a religious controversy which is splitting the Tibetan government in exile, this contribution shows that the relationship between religion as an expression of private autonomy and its public staging as a symbol of national unity holds considerable potential for conflict for the institution of the Dalai Lamas. The Tibetan form of democracy developed in exile necessitates a constant renegotiating of the boundaries between private religious freedom and its symbolic public representation.
  • Charting the Shugden Interdiction in the Western Himalaya (2009) by Prof. Dr. Martin A. Mills, Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Religion, in Mountains, Monasteries and Mosques: Recent Research on Ladakh and the Western Himalaya: Proceedings of the 13th Colloquium of the International Association for Ladakh Studies. John Bray and Elena de Rossi Filibeck, eds. Rome: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 251-269.
    • Using an anthropological methodology, this article focuses on the decline in Dorje Shugden practice in Ladakh after the Dalai Lama’s interdiction.
  • Politics of Religion: The Worship of Shugden Among the Tibetans” (2002) by R.P. Mitra, in Indian Anthropologist(Vol. 32, nos. 1 and 2:47-58).
    • Explores the practice of Shugden worship among Tibetans in India, as well as the effects of restrictions imposed by the Dalai Lama.
  • Rigumi, Wokar Tso. 2010. “He Who Shall Not Be Named: the Shugden Taboo and Tibetan National Identity in Exile.” In New Views of Tibetan Culture. David Templeman, ed. Caulfield: Monash University Press, pp.93-102.
    • This is perhaps one of the least useful articles published on Shugden in recent years; it is included here only for the sake of comprehensiveness.
  • 西藏多麥區域研究凶天小組 [Dolgyal Research Committee of the Central Tibetan Administration]. 2010. 護法神vs厲鬼: 西藏護法神的探究 [Dharma Protector vs. Malicious Spirit: Investigation of a Tibetan Dharma Protector.]. 見悲靑增格西等 [Geshe Jampal Chozin], trans. Taipei: 雪域出版社 [Snowland Publishers].
    • This book is a Chinese translation of the Tibetan text, Dol rgyal gyi byung rim dang rnyog gleng la dpyad pa g.ya’ sel me long (The Mirror that Clears Away Dirt: an Investigation into the History and Controversy of Dolgyal) published by the Dolgyal Research Committee of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, 2006. This text purports to be a comprehensive monograph of the Committee’s position on the Shugden issue. This Chinese edition was translated by Geshe Jampal Chozin, a head teacher of the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (達賴喇嘛西藏宗教基金會) based in Taipei, Taiwan. The original title is not maintained in the Chinese translation, which opted for a more provocative one.  It is also of note that the Chinese translation for Dolgyal (凶天, xiongtian) is not exact, but is a rather generic expression meaning “fierce deity”. This book was published in Taiwan but is also available in Hong Kong, and likely elsewhere in East Asia.  This indicates that such translated materials on the Shugden issue are becoming more available to a wider East Asian audience.

Brief mentions:

  • David N. Kay The Dorje Shugden Controversy (2004) in Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain published by Routledge, 44-52.
    • Summarizes Dorje Shugden’s main attributes and the controversy as it has unfolded over the last few decades. (PDF)
  • The Dorje Shugden Controversy (1999) by George D. Chryssides, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies, in Exploring New Religions, published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 237-243.
    • This is likewise a very basic summary that rehashes all the major points about the Dorje Shugden controversy and the NKT.
  • Identity, Ritual and State in Tibetan Buddhism – The Foundations of Authority in Gelukpa Monasticism (2003) by Martin Mills
    • The dispute over Dorje Shugden’s ontological status in relation to the dichotomy between worldly and supra-worldly divinities is mentioned in footnote 101 of page 366.  Moreover, according to “Charting the Shugden Interdiction in the Western Himalaya” (2009, p.261n.47) by Dr. Martin Mills above, the deity Sangwa’i Zhin Chenpo, mentioned on page 187 and elsewhere in this book, is actually a pseudonym for Dorje Shugden.
  • The Temples of Lhasa (2005) by André Alexander, Serindia Publications, chapter 10d: “Trodé Khang-sar: The Temple of Dorjé Shukden”, pp. 194-199.

In 1998 CESNUR suggested:

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 interview 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).

“Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West” by Lopez is reviewed by Tsering Shakya and in 2005 Dreyfus responded in an essay, Are We Prisoners of Shangri-la? Orientalism, Nationalism, and the Study of Tibet (PDF) to it. Dreyfus’ essay “examines the consequences of Said’s critique of orientalism for Tibetan studies, particularly in relation to Lopez’s claim that we are all ‘prisoners of Shangri-la.’” Lopez’ “controversial work” “has been refuted by Tsering Shakya and by Germano, who points out Lopez’ latent conservative interpretation of Tibetan culture and history and instead points to the dialectic of autochthonous creativity and inculturation of exogenous ideas so typical of Tibet’s cultural history.” (Dodin, Räther 2001:410)

Martin Brauen‘s book The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History (2005) – reviewed by Jose Cabezon (PDF) – includes an essay by Georges Dreyfus, pp. 172-79, analysing the stance of the XIV. Dalai Lama towards modernity and Buddhism in relation to the propitiation of the protective deity Dorje Shugden: From Protective Deities to International Stardom: An Analysis of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s Stance towards Modernity and Buddhism“.

In 2007, Lindsay McCune completed her master’s thesis at Florida State University “TALES OF INTRIGUE FROM TIBET’S HOLY CITY: THE HISTORICAL UNDERPINNINGS OF A MODERN BUDDHIST CRISIS”. According to McCune: “Dreyfus’s work [The Shuk-Den Affair: Origins of a Controversy] has been the most thorough. It asks the most insightful questions and employs many diverse means of answering these queries…” However, the main aim of McCune’s thesis is to critique Dreyfus’s assessment of the 17th-century history regarding Drakpa Gyeltsen and her conclusion is that it has little historical foundation. The essay by Dreyfus is used in different academic research and it is also listed in bibliographies of reputable scholars. Prof. Geoffrey Samuel also referred to it in his expert testimony: The Recognition of Incarnate Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism and the Role of the Dalai Lama (*.DOC) for a court case.

Furthermore there is a short piece by Prof. Paul Williams: A quick note on Dorje Shugden (rDo rje shugs ldan) (1996) and a thesis by Michael Nau (Miami University) ‘Killing for the Dharma: An Analysis of the Shugden Deity and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism (2007).

On May 8, 2014 an Interview about the Shugden conflict with Tibetologist Thierry Dodin was posted, and there are also four articles by Thierry Dodin (TibetInfoNet):

At the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in November 2009, Christopher Paul Bell, University of Virginia, presented a paper Dorjé Shukden: The Conflicting Narratives and Constructed Histories of a Tibetan Protector Deity in the context of the ‘Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Group’. Bell has already explored Dorje Shugden in relation to the section on oracles in his master’s thesis (Florida State University, 2006) Tsiu Marpo The Career of a Tibetan Protector Deity (PDF). However, his mention of Shugden is incredibly brief, only citing Nebesky-Wojkowitz’s description of a Shukden oracle to discuss Tibetan oracles in general. In Dec. 2009, Klaus Löhrer, a student of Tibetology at the University of Kopenhagen, wrote a paper on the democratic implications of the Shugden controversy called Pluralism the Hard Way: Governance Implications of the Dorje Shugden Controversy and the Democracy- and Rights Rhetoric Pertaining to It.

Other scholarly sources covering a variety of issues of the  Shugden controversy or the nature and function of  Shugden include:

See also

New Kadampa Tradition

(in chronological order)

David N. Kay’s research “Tibetan and Zen Buddhism in Britain: Transplantation, Development and Adaptation – The New Kadampa Tradition (NKT), and the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives (OBC)” (2004) (PDF) was reviewed by

There is a Book Extract available.

In 1995 Prof. Geoffrey Samuel published Tibetan Buddhism as a World Religion: Global Networking and its Consequences curtly discussing NKT’s split from FPMT (see The Problem of Stability).

The Guardian article of Bunting, Madeleine (1996), Shadow boxing on the path to Nirvana (PDF), is also used in Bluck’s, Kay’s, Lopez’s and other’s academic research.


Other Sources

Pico Iyer discusses the Shugden issue and some details in his book The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (pages 135-139)—Iyer’s book was reviewed by Robert Barnett and Patrick French. Jeff Watt from the Sakya Resource Guide explains the point of view of the Sakya Tradition: Do Sakyas rely upon Dorje Shugden?

As researcher Mills puts it: “The Shugden dispute represents a battleground of views on what is meant by religious and cultural freedom.” The point of view of the Dalai Lama can be found here and the point of view of Shugden followers can be found here. There is also an EssayExiled from Exile by Bernis, although it has not been utilised in any academic research nor has it been published by an academic publisher, but can be found at the website of the Dorje Shugden Devotee’s Charitable & Religious Society.

A book by investigative journalist Raimondo Bultrini IL DEMONE E IL DALAI LAMA (2008) includes details about the political and ideological background of the Shugden Controversy and the main players of that controversy; the book is written from an investigative perspective. The book has been translated into English in 2013: The Dalai Lama and the King Demon Tracking a Triple Murder Mystery Through the Mists of Time. A summary of Bultrini’s investigation can be read in A Spirit of the XVII Century.  The Department of Religion & Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration (TGIE) published in 1989 a work called A Brief Opposition to Shugden.

UK journalist Isabel Hilton wrote The Search for the Panchen Lama (see p. 297-298):