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ABC News, June 2015

Explained: Who are the Shugden Buddhists criticising the Dalai Lama?

A small but noisy group of Buddhist protesters have been picketing every stop of the Dalai Lama's tour since he arrived in Sydney last week.

Traditionally Gelugpas, including the Dalai Lama, worshipped Shugden along with other deities, but according to Tibetan history professor John Powers from the Australian National University, Shugden worship has long been associated with a history of division.

"Dorje Shugden is feared by other orders and is associated with sectarianism particularly among the Gelugpas," Professor Powers said.

"So because he needed to build a harmonious community among Tibetan exiles, the Dalai Lama wanted to get rid of that practice."

As a result, the Dalai Lama in the 1970s renounced the worship of Shugden, describing it "controversial and divisive".

In the 1990s he requested followers of Shugden not to attend his religious teachings.

Dr Templeman said the protesters emerged among followers of a particular Shugden Lama called Kelsang Gyatso, who moved to Britain in the 1970s and established a teaching school called the New Kadampa Tradition.

"I noticed he's really stepped out of the picture and it's really now up to his predominantly Western followers who have taken up his initial stance, which was a fairly understated one, and they've made something much bigger," he said.

"The Chinese government is putting up statues of Shugden in non-Shugden monasteries and forcing the non-Shugden monasteries to accept them against their will," he said.

"So there is a significant shunning of this practice by most Tibetans."