Basel, Switzerland: - Dolgyal "protestors have tried to create a mistaken impression, particularly in Tibet," His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, adding that "the issue has nothing to do with "religious freedom because it's about spirit worship."
Over 7500 people had gathered in Basel to listen to the teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama held on Saturday, according to media reports.
Meeting with members of the media, His Holiness told them that he is "one of the 7 billion human beings alive today."
"We are social creatures and today everything is interdependent. Therefore, we have to consider the welfare of the whole of humanity and the health of the planet," he added.
"You media people have an important role to play in keeping people informed of the importance of ecology," he said. "Promoting awareness of the need to protect the environment is one of my own commitments."
In the context of religious freedom he was asked what he had to say to the pro-Shugden protestors on the street outside. He replied that the issue has nothing to do with religious freedom because it's about spirit worship.
"The Buddha counselled his followers only to take refuge in and seek guidance from the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha," he said.
His Holiness said that "the Shugden's belief system was misguided, far from Buddha's teachings. Instead, he said that Buddhism does not force its beliefs on anyone – similar to the freedom of opinion found in Switzerland," according to a report by swissinfo.
He said 'we should not seek refuge in spirits. The history of the controversy goes back to the time of the 5th Dalai Lama in 17th century. And the 5th Dalai Lama pronounced Dolgyal or Shugden an evil spirit. Many prominent Gelugpa masters concurred.'
His Holiness continued- "In 1951, at Yatung, due to a variety of circumstances I took up the practice. However, my Senior Tutor remained sceptical about it. In 1970, because I already harboured doubts about it I investigated further and discovered what the 5th Dalai Lama had written about this practice."
"Realizing it was a mistake, I stopped and eventually word got out," His Holiness said.
He explained that these protestors have tried to create a mistaken impression, particularly in Tibet, that the Dalai Lama opposes this practice because he's pandering to the Nyingmapas. He said 'this is nonsense.'
They accuse him of lying, but he asserts that he is not, while they just don't know the reality of the situation. His advice, he said, is to investigate the matter more thoroughly.
“I haven’t banned it, but it’s my duty to make clear what’s true. These people are still free to exercise freedom of choice,” His Holiness said on Sunday.
His Holiness concluded that 'the protestors are clearly able to exercise their freedom of expression, which is good. Nevertheless, it remains his duty also to share what he knows. That's all he's done.'
The Tibetan spiritual leader also told reporters that 'wars in the name of religion are hard to tolerate and that the younger generation is lacking in empathy.'
He added that 'young children should learn moral and ethical qualities instead of religion and emphasised the danger of blindly following religion without questioning its tenets.
Responding to allegations against His Holiness, accusing him of religious persecution, Buddhist scholars say that His Holiness the Dalai Lama's call is in fact simply advice, aimed at protecting Tibetan Buddhism from the sectarian influence of this Deity's practice.
His Holiness repeatedly said he "strongly discourages Tibetan Buddhists from propitiating the fierce spirit known as Dolgyal, following long and careful investigations."
His Holiness also said he "strongly urged his followers to consider carefully the problems of Dolgyal practice" and to "act accordingly."
The spiritual leader last visited Switzerland in 2013, when His Holiness went to Bern. About 6500 Tibetans live in Switzerland, making it the largest population in Europe.