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Late 2008

Some Tibetan Shugdens at Sera who are not part of the militant wing have been shocked by the claims on the WSS website that this is a false Dalai Lama. They believe the tactics of these Western neophytes to Buddhism have harmed their cause more than helped it.

Despite threats from Shugden worshippers, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will perform hundreds of bhikshu ordinations for novice monks of both Sera Mey and Jey.

His Holiness has continued to withdraw from any political responsibilities in order to allow the Tibetans to take charge of their own future. The current meeting is being held largely in his absenceā€¦and he begs Tibetans to discuss every option openly.

Shugden monks have established a monastery, separate of Sera Mey. They do their own debates, prayers, food and school. They kept the buildings of the old Kangsten and the new one in building, plus, well, almost everything.

By all accounts the situation at Sera, despite the anti-Dalai Lama vitriol of some Shugden monks in the breakaway faction of Pomra Khangtsen, is largely peaceful. Both sides are continuing their practices without interruption and, through the division into two monasteries, there has been little conflict to mention. Both sides have kept all their own buildings and no one is homeless as a result of this dispute.

The separation has in fact eased tensions and made it easier for both sides to focus on their divergent goals.


Early 2009

I spent the last couple of days reuniting with friends and teachers at Sera monastery, and attending the teachings and Medicine Buddha Jenang of HH Dalai Lama at the Sera Mey temple.

The event passed peacefully. The Pomra Shugden faction continued with prayers and debate while HHDL taught directly across the road. It was a very calm and well-organized event, with thousands of monks and laypeople from the Southern Settlements attending

During this event, HHDL spent only perhaps 90 seconds talking about the Shugden issue. He stated that he knew it had been a hard year for Sera Mey monastery, but now the situation has improved and seems peaceful, as both sides are no longer practicing under one roof.

The Pomra Khangsten Shugden faction has engaged in a building spree, despite not having many new monks. An entire third floor has been added to their khangtsen, and an enormous prayer hall (similar in size to Sera Lachi) has been constructed down the hill from the medical centre. I am told it will open shortly. They have kept everything belonging to the Pomra Khangtsen, despite the fact that nearly half the khangtsen has signed the oath and supports HHDL.

The Sera administration made a clear decision to let the Shugden monks keep the buildings (including several large dormitories, kitchen, and the old and new khangtsen prayer halls).

The Monks at Pomra khangtsen are receiving many thousands of rupees in pocket money for long Kangso pujas to Shugden. Despite this, monks are continuing to leave Pomra, signing the oath and re-joining Sera Mey. As more leave, naturally, the amount each monk gets for the Shugden puja increases.

The Pomra monks who chose to sign the oath now no longer have khangsten pujas, so the income they used to receive from this is gone. This leaves many in far poorer circumstances. A piece of land has been granted by the Indian government in order for them to build a small hall in which to hold non-Shugden Pomra Prayers.

The large banner near the Sera Jey guesthouse stating "Shugden Followers Requested Not to Come" has been removed. The administration felt it was too heavy handed. Monks are no longer asked to show ID when going to the monastery shops. I observed very carefully when I was there and this practice has definitely stopped. My friend told me now that there are several monks from the Pomra Shugden faction using the shops on the main road near the Sera Lachi. This practice was very short-lived, and, I am told, was a safety precaution to prevent any violence from either side. The Indian government very nearly closed the monastery so it was important to keep the two sides very separate so as to avoid any incidents.

Many monks indicated to me that the protests organized by Kelsang Gyatso had greatly damaged the reputation of both Sera Monastery and Shugden devotees in the eyes of the Tibetan people, and that this damage would take a long time to repair.

My great hope it that this situation can continue to simmer down and that eventually the baseless campaign against the Dalai Lama and slander against Sera and its abbots can end.


Editor's Note:
WSS refers to Western Shugden Society, the publicity arm of Gyatso and NKT.

Pomra Kangsten Shugden refers to the section of Sera Mey monastery for Shugden worshipers.