Some Thoughts on the History of a Practice

I was recently contemplating the excellent good qualities of the tradition protected by Dharmapala Dorje Shugden, and a great reverence for “Manjushri in a terrifying, wrathful form” rose up in my heart. Duldzin, King of the Dharma

Shortly on the heels of this, I was struck dumb with the perverse audacity of our present Dalai Lama and his misguided attempt to suppress this amazing practice that he himself received from his root Guru, Trijang Rinpoche.

It occurred to me how the DL is actually cutting himself off from the blessings of his own teachers, his own lineage, and defaming them in the process. He argues on his own website, rather mawkishly and unconvincingly, that he has faith in the lineage and deep respect for his teachers, but when you take a good long look at his actions, this stance seems increasingly hard to credit.

Lama Yeshe

Lama Yeshe

If he were simply claiming that one or two teachers had made a minor mistake, as he seems to want to do, this might be one thing, but in fact this practice has pervaded the Gelug tradition at least since the sixteen hundreds (for you non-Gelugs) and indeed since it’s very inception (if you are a Gelugpa with faith in your lineage gurus…).

In his “The Shuk-den Affair: Origins of a Controversy,” George Dreyfus mentions that “(the practice of Dorje Shugden) must have had a certain extension to have been adopted by several Ga-den Tri-bas.”  We need to contemplate what that means.  How many is several? At least three, no? Although it could also mean five, or nine, let’s just assume it means three. A Ganden Tripa, or throne-holder is the leader of the Gelug tradition, the one holding the throne of Je Tsongkhapa himself. In order to become a throne-holder, generally one needs to have been the abbot of Ganden Monastery, and then the Abbot of one of the tantric colleges, Gyumed or Gyuto, and be a Lharampa Geshe besides.

To characterize Dorje Shugden practitioners as outside the mainstream of the tradition is therefore shown to be a ridiculous fiction. Both Ling Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche, the most renowned Gelug lamas of their generation, were Ganden Tris or recognized incarnations of Ganden Tris as well, and of course practiced Dorje Shugden.

Lama Tsongkhapa

It requires tremendous good qualities to ascend to this level, to receive this recognition. It is a position that, until recently, when the Dalai Lama mysteriously took upon himself the responsibility of ‘appointing’ the Ganden Tripa, was an elected position, based on hard work, merit and the recognition of the abbots and high lamas of one’s tradition. Quite different from what it requires to become a Dalai Lama, in fact. As we have seen with the most recent Panchen lama, being recognized as a high incarnation is sometimes a matter of politics, money or simply brute force.

And what about the high abbots that practiced and revered Dorje Shugden from the depths of their hearts? I can think of many abbots of the great Gelug monasteries and tantric colleges that were devoted Dorje Shugden practitioners.

Ribur Rinpoche

Ribur Rinpoche

What about the great Gelug yogis of the twentieth century, a list that overlaps with the other two in many places? What about Zong Rinpoche, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Lama Yeshe, Khen Rinpoche Losang Tharchin, Geshe Rabten, Geshe Lhundrub Sopa, Lati Rinpoche, Ribur Rinpoche, Gelek Rinpoche, Serkong Rinpoche, Gonsar Rinpoche, Zasep tulku etc etc etc? What about Kyabje Domo Geshe Rinpoche, who the Thirteenth Dalai Lama himself regarded as an emanation of Je Tsongkhapa? What about the previous Serkong Rinpoche, who the Thirteenth Dalai Lama regarded as being Vajradhara himself, adding the appellation “Dorjechang” (Vajradhara) to his name?

What about the many thousands of tantric disciples of these lamas, those who held samayas with them and revered them as living buddhas? It is enough to make your heart crack in two when you consider the sadness they must have felt at the Dalai Lama’s actions.

Ngulchu Dharmabhadra

Ngulchu Dharmabhadra

What about Ngulchu Dharmabhadra? Ngulchu Dharmabhadra is a lineage guru in Je Tsongkhapa’s Ganden ear-whispered Mahamudra lineage, and in his collected work identifies Dorje Shugden him as having arisen from the continuum of great, realized yogis that includes Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen, Panchen Sonam Drakpa and Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen.

If your mahamudra lineage gurus can’t tell the difference between a malicious ghost and the eanation of realized beings, what you have is a dead lineage, and when you examine it, this is what the Dalai Lama is claiming. He even claims Je Dharmabhadra is “against the practice” on his website. We can only pray that his scholarship is merely sloppy, because otherwise we are forced to accept that this man is deceptive in the extreme.

Finally, it looks like we are talking about the cream of the Gelug tantric tradition. When one considers all the great beings that have venerated this supreme emanated protector, it gives tremendous faith, and also forces one to examine the Dalai Lama’s words and actions. This Dalai Lama presents the issue as though it were extremely clear cut, and would have it that the great yogis of the past all agree with him, but in fact it is much, much more complex than he lets on. Even his historical evidence is very shoddy (more on this later).

It is almost…as if…. there were a…. political motivation behind his actions…

Scholars and yogis, please check!


7 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the History of a Practice

  1. dorjeshugdentruth

    Thanks so much for this post, my heart is filled with faith in the Great Protector.

    It’s interesting what you say about Ngulchu Dharmabhadra because Lama Zopa also says that he was against the practice.

    The Dalai Lama is slowly suffocating the Gelugpa lineage through his ignorance and willful pride. When you think of the Great Beings you mentioned who have nurtured and protected Je Rinpoche’s traditions until now, and think of what the Dalai Lama is doing, it breaks your heart.

  2. InfiniteEons

    Simply put: The Dalai Lama just doesn’t want to follow whoever might be deemed to be his spiritual guide. And he does not want anyone on top of him.

    I believe it is clear… and this shows that the Dalai Lama does not want to be Avalokiteshvara (even if he takes advantage of his followers blind faith on this)

    Why is Avalokiteshvara pressing his hands together at his heart (even though he is a Buddha)? Who is at his crown?

    Find out… then compare what Avalokiteshvara shows and what does the 14th Dalai Lama shows.

  3. Geoff

    This is a great article, thank you so much. It is wonderful that you are so well-informed and I look forward to reading more from you. I am sure it will help in educating people more about our beautiful, mainstream and authentic lineage of spiritual practice, and help them see that the Dalai Lama is behaving irrationally, pridefully and cruelly (not to mention illegally etc) in trying to stamp it out. If enough people understand this, he will have to stop, for his reputation is very important to him.

    (You might want to make your blog a little easier to navigate, if you know how? But the main thing is just to write more!)

  4. Many Thanks

    Wow where to begin I have had the great fortune of recently finding so much information that is entirely new to me and has helped clarify this issue a bit more In my mind, and I am more and more starting to think that the Dalai Lama’s decision must either be politically motivated or by some other factor that has he is deciding not to make public or to speak of.

    For many and myself included we have never really had any reason to doubt what he has said as far as the practice has gone, but with a bit more information it really makes you rethink things.

    Please keep the information flowing.

  5. Steve Rogers

    Reading this article again my belly filled with a great sadness at all this blind destructiveness. How lucky this world is that the Tantric teachings of Je Tsongkhapa are still practised and taught purely here and there. I am really sorry that there are people whose appreciation for this scholarly and efficient spiritual path has been contaminated by the stink of short-term, nationalistic, egotistical politics. May people become wiser and less fearful, I pray.

  6. Robert

    Very nice posting. Thank you for making the effort to gather all these insights into a single article and then share them. Keep up the great work – it’s a wonderful blog.

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