Some Good Advice from Lama Zopa…..


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…..

Lama Yeshe (l) and Lama Zopa (rt) in ahppier times, when both were relying on Dorje Shugden

Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa in happier times, when both were relying sincerely on Dharmapala Dorje Shugden

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….

Trijang Dorjechang

Trijang Dorjechang

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.

Lama Yeshe

Lama Yeshe

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!

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6 thoughts on “Some Good Advice from Lama Zopa…..

  1. Pingback: Lama Zopa, Lama Yeshe and the ban on Dorje Shugden « Western Shugden Society

  2. emptymountains

    Another nuance I detect in Lama Zopa’s advice is that he refers to Kelsang Gyatso as a “Geshe.” But didn’t he get a copy of the expulsion letter? And wasn’t Manjushri Institute “stolen” from the FPMT by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso?

    Seems like a perfect opportunity for someone with a gripe to take a dig at GKG but he didn’t. What you have here is a recognized tulku publically recognizing that Kelsang Gyatso is a Geshe and an authentic Teacher. Otherwise, he would have said, “Forget about him!” But he obviously didn’t!

  3. truthaboutshugden Post author

    Oh that’s good! Ha ha ha! Of course, this only shows the political nature of the beast. EVERYONE referred to Geshe Kelsang as “Geshe Kelsang” before he took a stand and kept his commitments to his root guru. The two most renowned Lamas in all of Tibet, Ling Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche, wrote beautiful intros to his books. even the Dalai Lama himself refered to hin as “Geshe” in his intro to Geshe Kelsang’s Buddhism in the Tibetan Tradition.

    When Geshe Kelsang held his ground and stood up for all Buddhists by showing the example of keeping his commitments to his root Guru, those in power tried to tear him down. What had changed? Nothing, other than the fact the Geshe Kelsang showed that he was willing to ignore the politicians and keep teaching pure Dharma, free from worldly concerns. That what a Dorje Shugden Lama does.

    Lama Zopa must have missed the bulletin about the expulsion, you are right! In any case, it’s a testimony to Lama Zopa that he doesn’t “take a dig.” He has controlled speech, and he KNOWS that Geshe Kelsang is an authentic teacher.

  4. Ryan Hargreaves

    I’m so glad that respect for Venerable Geshe-la extends beyond the nkt, as there are so many unskilled blog posts out there that show how easy it is to succumb to those with political power- even from those who claim to be practising holy dharma! On the other hand, there are those who see that Geshe kelsang is a holy being, yet show immense disrespect to the dalia lama. Although I disagree with the Dali lama- how he has treated pure shugden practitioners and how he has manipulated his spiritual influence for wordly aims, I still believe firmly in Geshe-Las words- he is still our kind mother and should be treated by practitioners aiming to practise purely as being so. I am not saying that we should ignore his henious actions or venerate him, but we should see that his actions are the productions of maras- the delusions, and so we should see these as our real enemy- not those suffering under their influence.

    I would like to take a brief moment to give immeasurable thanks from the depths of my heart to Venerable Geshe kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche’ Lama Zopa and other practitioners who have maintained pure practice and pure instructions, I thank them for allowing Buddhadharma to flourish in this degenerate age and for giving those as fortunate as myself in both the east and west, the opportunity to practice the precious teachings- may the pure doctrine je tsongkhapa flourish for evermore.

  5. Lee Dhi

    Thank you for presenting the issue related to Dorje Shugden so fairly, logically and clearly.

    The recent development of Ganden Tripa changing “camp”, from Ganden Shartse Monastery to Shar Ganden, is another event that reiterates your argument that Dorje Shugden is not a worldly spirit but a Buddha.

    These highly attained Dharma leaders would not make such significant decision and take such drastic actions if it would jeopardize other sentient beings. In fact, I would trust that what they do is always aimed to benefit all sentient beings.

    Having said that, perhaps all this “drama” and controversy has been created to bring Dorje Shugden into the limelight. Dalai Lama – emanation of Avalokiteshvara – is a recognized high lama, respected by many in the Dharma world. I believe such a being would also conmmit himself to benefiting all sentient beings.

    The Dalai Lama has contributed significantly to the spread of Tibetan Buddhism all over the world. As he is now getting old, it is time for him to pass on the reign of spreading Buddhadharma. Therefore, I would ask everyone to consider: Could this be Dalai Lama’s way of creating a lot of attention on Dorje Shugden because he realizes that Dorje Shugden is much needed during these degenerate times? Could this plot be “in the making” for the last decade so that it will come to this grand finale where more and more high lamas are re-endorsing Dorje Shugden practice?

    At the end of it, the focus should be on the spread of Dharma practice and bringing benefit to all sentient beings. I see this to be happening and trust it will continue with efforts from great Dharma leaders as well as individuals like truthaboutshugden!

    In conclusion, I rejoice that Dorje Shugden practice has prevailed and, with the recent turn in events that gave him more recognition and interest, will flourish further all over the world!

    Sincerely, Lee

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