One of the main aims of my having created this blog is to help people to see that the situation around the practice of Dorje Shugden is much more nuanced than the Tibetan Government in Exile lets on. People who know little about Dharma and the historical situation around this issue are seemingly innocent enough to believe things just because someone as famous as the Dalai Lama puts them forward as fact, But upon closer inspection…..
Here we have a letter of advice from Lama Zopa, the current head of the FPMT, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. The FPMT was, as many already know, founded by Lama Thubten Yeshe, a Lama who relied with great faith upon the Dharmapala Dorje Shugden for the whole of his life, even persevering long after the Dalai Lama began offering his “advice ” on the subject.
Of course, Lama Yeshe never spoke out against the Dalai Lama’s unkind and illegal actions. This was likely necessitated by the teacher/student relationship established between the two through the process of Tantric initiation and commitment, a bond nearly all Tantric Buddhists regard as inviolable.
From the FPMT website (the full text can be found there, all emphases mine):
A student wrote to Rinpoche (Lama Zopa) saying that he had forsaken one of his gurus, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (a teacher in the UK, who continues to engage in and encourage the Dorje Shugden Protector practice.) The student said that he was not keeping his vows and was aware of the negative karma that could result from these actions. Rinpoche (Lama Zopa) answered as follows.
….By giving up Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, you have created heavy negative karma in this life. Since you haven’t given me up, I suggest that you confess to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso about what happened, and devote yourself again to this virtuous friend….
…So, change your attitude and apologize to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Confess to him and follow him again, unless he says, “No”. This will help lighten your heaviest negative karma….
…If you don’t want to be free from suffering and its causes, then there is no need to practice Buddhism. If you don’t want happiness, then don’t practice virtue….
What does this say about the view of Lama Zopa with respect to the practice of Dorje Shugden? Poor Lama Zopa is in a most awkward position. His root lamas, Lama Yeshe , who nutured him and taught him the dharma throuought his life, and Trijang Dorjechang, who elsewhere he refers to as “His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s guru and the lama of all the Tibetan people” who “in his previous life (as the Dalai Lama’s root guru) performed incredibly holy actions, ” were staunch practitoners of Dharmapala Dorje Shugden. They were also universally acknowledeged to be realized yogis, beings of pure love, wisdom and compassion. Through their efforts and the hard work of their disciples, the Dharma of the great Dharma king Lama Tsongkhapa has spread throughout the entire world.
So, what does it mean that lama Zopa says “go back, apologize, follow him? (refering to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, a fearless advocate of the Protector)” Does Lama Zopa really think Dorje Shugden is an evil Demon who’s practice destroys the Dharma? When I consider the mental contortions one would have to engage in to hold the view both that Dorje Shugden is a worldly spirit AND that Lama Yeshe and Trijang Rinpoche, who quite manifestly ignored the Dalai Lama’s injunctions to abandon the practice, were realized beings, my head begins to spin.
How could realized beings encourage the propagation and practice of a tradition that brings harm to living beings?! IMPOSSIBLE! So we are left with the fact that either Lama Zopa doesn’t actually believe that his Lamas were in reality realized beings, which is contradicted repeatedly by his own words, or he did not believe that Dorje Shugden is actually, in and of himself, a worldly spirit, an idea for which there is ample evidence in Lama Zopa’s own words, such as those above, for someone with the eyes to see it.
Surely anyone can imagine that even pure Buddhist practices can be misused through the distorted minds of deluded living beings, and there are many scriptural examples of this. But how could one assert that a practice is harmful from its own side, and still advise one’s own students to engage in it?!? It beggars the imagination.
What this indicates is that Lama Zopa’s actual view of Dorje Shugden may not be the one that he puts forth publicly when he says that this Dharma Protector is in fact a worldly spirit, but rather is that of one who understands that if this Protector is relied upon as a Buddha, one will receive a continual stream of liberating blessings that will carry one all the way to enlightenment.
Scholars and Yogis, Please Check!