Q: What are the politics behind the ban by the Dalai Lama and what may have prompted him to issue such a ban?
In 1961 the Dalai Lama tried to become the supreme head of Tibetan Buddhism by merging all the schools of Buddhism into one (a position never held by any previous Dalai Lama). This move was opposed by many. From the Western Shugden Society booklet: “The Tibetan Situation Today, Surprising Hidden News”:
As soon as you arrived to India as a refugee you made a plan to transform the four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism—Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug—into one single tradition called Rigme (Non Lineage) tradition. This was your method to destroy the pure lineages of the Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug and make you alone the head of all of them by establishing a new tradition. In this way you now have complete power and control of everything at a spiritual, political and material level.
At that time, the Tso Kha Chusum (“Thirteen Groups of Tibetans”) were against your plan and because of this for many years the Tibetan community lost their harmony and peace. Finally, the leader of the Tso Kha Chusum, Gungthang Tsultrim, was murdered by a shotgun. Tibetan people believe that Gungthang Tsultrim was killed by people working for you. Later, some other important members of the Tso Kha Chusum suddenly died, and people believed your organizations created the conditions for their death.
At that time he had so much opposition that he had to abandon his ambition, but it seems he did not give it up. For example, he later meddled with the internal spiritual affairs of the Kagyus, going against their tradition and choosing his own Karmapa, which has led to a well-documented schism, conflict and opposition to him amongst those who follow the Sharmapa and want to preserve the autonomy of the Kagyu lineage. The most likely reason for his issuing a ban on the Protector of Tsongkhapa’s tradition is to weaken the Gelugpas, thus bringing them under his power as well.
There is no doubt that he is trying to destroy the autonomy of the four different schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The only school he has not directly meddled with is the Sakyas, probably as there are too few of them to oppose him.
He is getting away with this by appealing to a liberal West, calling his approach “ecumenical” or “inclusive” whereas those who want to keep to their own tradition are “sectarian” or “exclusive”. The reality is that he is dispensing with centuries of authentic time-honored tradition and starting his own tradition so that he can be the head of it, stomping over people’s freedom of worship to do so
In other words, it is likely that he is banning Dorje Shugden out of a political motivation to increase his power and influence. This could be the only justification for saying that his own Teachers (who were universally beloved in Tibetan society just 30 years ago) were wrong and banning the practice. How sad!
The reasons he gives to convince people to support him are that relying upon Dorje Shugden amounts to spirit worship. This then leads to many paradoxes (explained in detail on this website and elsewhere); not least of which is that, if it were true, his own Teachers would be non-Buddhists for taking refuge in a spirit! It would invalidate the whole Gelugpa lineage and what could be said, then, for his own Buddhist education? However, the greatness of the deeds and teachings of these Lamas attests to their state of realization, which would not be possible if they were non-Buddhists relying on a spirit. The only conclusion we can come to is that the Dalai Lama is definitely wrong!
Trijang Rinpoche also gives many valid reasons why Dorje Shugden is a Buddha which can be read here. In summary, Dorje Shugden is a Buddha because he is the incarnation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen who himself is from a long line of enlightened Masters including Manjushri. Since all these incarnations practised pure moral discipline for centuries, how would it be possible for Dragpa Gyaltsen to be reborn as a spirit? This would contradict the law of karma and imply that ethical conduct can lead to lower rebirth. Either that, or it would mean that an enlightened being could degenerate from the state of enlightenment and become a hungry ghost! All of these are the absurd consequences of holding Dorje Shugden to be a spirit.
The Dalai Lama has also repeatedly claimed that Dorje Shugden harms his health and the cause of Tibetan independence. He seems to be playing this down more recently because, again, it is ludicrous. If Dorje Shugden is harming his health, how is he a healthy-looking 72-year old? Also, one of the benefits of Buddhist refuge is that one is not harmed by demons or other evil influences. If the Dalai Lama is being harmed, he must be a non-Buddhist. Furthermore he abandoned the cause of Tibetan independence a long time ago, so how can Dorje Shugden harm it more than the Dalai Lama has by completely letting it go?