Category Archives: Past Masters

A Sakya Tale- The Mahasiddha’s Prophesy

Imagine, if you will…

The year is 1849, and the Sakya temple known as Mugchug resounds with the sonorous tones of a great assembly of high Sakya lamas engaged in a special ritual practice. The Sakya Throneholder Tashi Rinchen, head of the entire Sakya tradition, is in attendance. In fact, the entire ritual practice has been requested by this Sakya Tri (Throneholder).

Sakya Temple

In the Sakya tradtion, the position of Throneholder passes from father to son. There are two main houses or “phodrang” from which a Sakya Tri may arise, Dolma phodrang and Phuntsog phodrang. These houses alternate such that when a Throneholder passes away and his sons are still in their minority,  a child of the previous Tri will take the throne, allowing the young potential-throneholders to mature and receive the training appropriate to a leader of the Sakya tradition. In this way, the Sakyas ensure the continuity of their tradition’s leadership.

As of this evening in 1849, however, Dolma Phodrang Thegchen Tashi Rinchen, Lord of the Sakyas, Thirty-Fifth Throneholder and supreme leader of the tradition, has no son.

Mahasiddha Pema Dudul

As the Dolma house line carries the most precious and esoteric teachings in the Sakya tradition (1), the situation is considered extremely grave.

Tashi Rinchen himself has requested Mahasiddha Padma Dudul, a very great Sakya master and incidentally both a retired Throneholder himself and also Tashi Rinchen’s father, to perform a ritual to ensure the swift birth of a male child. This is why the high lamas and tulkus have gathered this night. (2)

During a break in the ritual, eager to discover  any results, Tashi Rinchen turns to Mahasiddha Pema Dudul and asks him, “Who will come to take rebirth as my son?”

With joy, the great Mahasiddha replies….

These days times are so degenerate no-one else is coming, but now Grandpa Shugden himself will definitely come as your son!”

To be continued……

___________________

Notes:

1 Drogmi.org, Biography of the Present Sakya Trizin. I assume this refers mainly to the Lamdre tradition, the heart of the Tantric transmission of the Sakyas, which has been passed down through the masters of the Dolma phodrang.

2 Khri chen Drag shul ‘Phrin las rin chen. Rdo rje ‘chang drag shul ‘phrin las rin chen gyi rtogs brjod (The Autobiography of Khri-chen Drag-shul-phrin-las-rin-chen of Sakya). Dehra Dun: Sakya Centre: 1974, pp. 29-31.

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A Sakya Tale (Part Two)- “Grandpa Shugden”

Continued from A Sakya Tale- the Mahasiddha’s Prophesy….

Mahasiddha Pema Dudul’s grandfather was Sachen Kunga Lodro, a great leader of the  Sakya tradition and the 31st Sakya Throneholder, who was believed to have been an incarnation of Dorje Shugden. Kunga Lodro wrote a wrathful torma offering to Dorje Shugden’s five lineages called Swirl of Perfect Sense Offerings and carried on the tradition of his own father, the 30th Throneholder Dagchen Sonam Rinchen, praising Dorje Shugden as an enlightened protector.

Dorje Shugden, Sakya Lineage

Sakya Dagchen Sonam Rinchen, Dorje Shugden practitioner and 30th Supreme Sakya Throneholder

(For more information on these early Sakya Throneholders’ praise of Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being, see Trinley Kalsang’s extraordinary blog Dorjeshugdenhistory.org )

From this we can understand that when Mahasiddha Pema Dudul says

These days times are so degenerate no-one else is coming, but now Grandpa Shugden himself will definitely come as your son!”

he is indicating that his grandfather, the great Kunga Lodro, an emanation of Dorje Shugden, will take rebirth as the son of Throneholder Tashi Rinchen to uphold the Sakya tradition for the benefit of living beings.

Hearing that Kunga Lodro had agreed to be reborn as his son, Tashi Rinchen was extremely pleased, repeating it over and over. To commemorate the kindness of Kunga Lodro/Dorje Shugden coming from the pure lands to uphold the lineage, he established a tradition at Sakya of burning many butter lamps and “proclaiming a vast offering cloud of melodies” with horns and trumpets from the roof of the temple.

Less than a year later, the great Sakya Kunga Nyingpo was born. He was believed to be the rebirth of  the thirty-first Sakya Trizin Kunga Lodro and an emanation of Avalokiteshvara and Dorje Shugden.

Kunga Nyingpo went on to ascend the Sakya Throne in 1883 and become the 37th Sakya Trizin.

To be continued…..

A Sakya Tale (Part Three)- Dorje Shugden, the Great Compassionate One

Sakya Lineage

(Continued fromabove…)

In 1871 Kunga Nyingpo had his own son, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen. Dragshul Trinley Rinchen grew up to become the 39th Holder of the Sakya Throne.

In his autobiography, this lama explained that his father Kunga Nyingpo was Avalokiteshvara. In order to prove this, he recounted the story about Mahasiddha Pema Dudul and Trinley Rinchen detailed above and then wrote

The Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden Tsel definitively is Avalokiteshvara. The Nyingma Tantra Rinchen Nadun says “The one known as Dolgyal is not mistaken on the path to liberation, he is by nature the Great Compassionate One,” which establishes this by scripture.

The Great Je Sakyapa Kunga Nyingpo is well-known as an incarnation of the Arya Lotus in Hand (Avalokiteshvara). The Arya Lotus in Hand definitively is none other than the Lord of Mandalas, but provisionally by assuming the manner of a tenth level bodhisattva he simultaneously sports billions of superior, middling and inferior emanations to accomplish immeasurable benefit for beings, such as setting them on paths to the higher realms and liberation. (2)

Thus in order to show that his father was Avalokiteshvara, he set out to show that his father was well-known to have been an emanation of Dorje Shugden, and then demonstrated with a quotation from Nyingma tantra that Dorje Shugden and Avalokiteshvara are the same person.

As further demonstrated in his Autobiography, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen was a practitioner of Dorje Shugden as well, and was considered to be “a very great Sakya master, one of the most outstanding masters in our recent time.” (1)

So when we consider the relationship of the Sakya Tradition to the Practice of Dorje Shugden we see that, contrary to the claims of some present-day Sakya Lamas, for more than three hundred years Dorje Shugden has been viewed in Sakya as an Enlightened protector. Not among the provincial practitioners or those without education, but by the Throneholders of the lineage, and the holders of the Sakya’s most precious Tantric transmissions, Lamdre Lineage holders like Morchen Dorjechang who wrote praises to Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being. 


When the leader of an entire Buddhist tradition says “Dorje Shugden is definitively Avolkiteshvara,” it seems to me to be difficult to make the claim, as some have tried to do in the debates over this issue, that the great Sakya masters never viewed Dorje Shugden as anything other than a spirit. In fact it seems that there has been an unbroken tradition of the practice of Dorje Shugden as an enlightened protector from the early 1700’s right through modern times.

It is easy to understand that most lamas don’t write about their Dharma protector practices, which have traditionally been in the nature of secrecy. It isn’t unreasonable, therefore, to assume that there were many masters other than the ones enumerated here that held Dorje Shugden as their protector and as a fully enlightened being. 


Since this material is so readily available, it seems odd that the Dalai Lama, who has attempted to ban this practice as “spirit worship,” doesn’t seem to be aware of it. He doesn’t list the views of these great masters when recounting the results of his research, at any rate.

What could the reason for this oversight possibly be?


A list of the supreme heads of the Sakya Lineage who can be shown to have viewed Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being:

  • 30th Sakya Throneholder Sonam Rinchen (1705-1741)
  • 31st Throneholder Sachen Kunga Lodro (1729-1783)
  • 33rd Throneholder Padma Dudul Wangchug (1792-1853)
  • 35th Throneholder Tashi Rinchen (1824-1865)
  • 37th Throneholder Kunga Nyingpo (1850-1899)
  • 39th Throneholder Dragshul Thinley Rinchen (1871-1936)

__________________________________________________________________

…..For more information on past masters who relied on Dorje Shugden as an enlightened protector, please consult Dorjeshugdenhistory.org

1. Gonsar Rinpoche, 1996, Public Talk

2. Khri chen Drag shul ‘Phrin las rin chen. Rdo rje ‘chang drag shul ‘phrin las rin chen gyi rtogs brjod (The Autobiography of Khri-chen Drag-shul-phrin-las-rin-chen of Sakya). Dehra Dun: Sakya Centre: 1974, pp. 29-31.

Think it over.

Trijang Dorjechang

Trijang Dorjechang

“Even these days, some suspect those who rely upon and propitiate Gyalchen (Dorje Shugden) of conjuring ghosts, but it is the babbling talk of those who don’t understand the definitive meaning.”

– Trijang Dorjechang Losang Yeshe, Symphony Delighting an Ocean of Conquerers, 1967

101st Ganden Tripa Leaves Ganden Shartse to Join Dorje Shugden Monastery

Dorje Shugden practitioners have known for some time that Khensur Lungri Namgyal Rinpoche, the 101st holder of Je Tsongkhapa’s throne, or Ganden Tripa, is a practitioner of this protector.

101st Ganden Tripa Lungri Namgyal Rinpoche

It has been very interesting nonetheless, to watch what has happened as he has left office, his official seven year term completed. The Ganden Tripas have been the heads of the Gelugpa lineage since the time of Je Tsongkhapa. Perhaps it is interesting to note that the Ganden Tripa has traditionally been an elected position from within the monastery system of the Gelug tradition, but at some point since 1999, the Dalai Lama has inserted himself into the process, and the head of the Gelug tradition is now appointed by this political leader of Tibetans.

As Lungri Namgyal Rinpoche was nearing the end of his term in April of 2009, he did a remarkable thing. He wrote a letter.

Leaving no doubt as to his authority to do so,

I, the undersigned, Lungri Namgyel, the official head of the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism (Ganden Tripa) and successor to the said order’s founder, Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), whose headquarters are Ganden Monastery in Karnataka state, south India

the Ganden Tripa conferred upon Trijang Rinpoche and his Trijang Buddhist Institute, “the authority to represent and transmit the teachings of the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States.”

The previous Trijang Rinpoche, Trijang Dorjechang Losang Yeshe, was the greatest master of the previous century, and the Root Guru of the Dalai Lama. The current recognized reincarnation fo Trijang Rinpoche, recognized as such by the Dalai Lama, is a well known Dorje Shugden Practitoner like his predecessor, and his Trijang Buddhist Institute openly continues the practice in the United States.

For those who know little about this issue, it may not seem like much, but for anyone aware of the severe social and political penalties in Tibetan society for publicly going against the wishes of the Dalai Lama, it is a statement of tremendous import, not to mention courage. The fact that the Ganden Tripa waited until he was completing his career as a head of the tradition to make such a statement is also rather telling. It shows that while he held the office, it simply would have been too controversial. The Ganden Tri would likely have been removed from his office by the Government. That he had to wait until he was no longer subject to the Dalai Lama’s control to express his views, is indicative of the air of intimidation created by the Tibetan Government in Exile. For more detail on this topic, see Ganden Tripa Authorizes Trijang Buddhist Institute.

But it seems the story doesn’t end there. The latest news from South India is that the Ganden Trisur (the epithet Trisur refers to a retired Ganden Tripa such as Lungri Namgyal Rinpoche) has officially left Ganden Shartse, a monastery under the control of the Tibetan Government in Exile, for Shar Ganden Monastery. Shar Ganden is a new monastery that has recently been formed by those monks and lamas that have been expelled or otherwise made unwelcome at Ganden Shartse. It proudly and openly upholds the tradition of practicing Dorje Shugden as a wisdom protector of Manjushri Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings.

Shar Ganden Monastery, South India

Thousands of practitioners have left the traditional monasteries where they are subjected to bans, harassment and repression by the government and its enforcers, to join monasteries like Shar Ganden and Serpom Norling, a monastery formed from the practitioners previously associated with the Pomra Khangtsen of Sera monastery. These new monasteries are increasingly seen as the actual repositories of the Ganden tradition, free from Government interference, and many high lamas and tulkus have left the Government’s monasteries to join them.

Now, in a shocking move, the most recent head of the Ganden tradition along with his Labrang, or office, has joined them. The Ganden Trisur’s personal assistant related that, in the words of one member of the Dorje Shugden Forum,

HH Trisur Rinpoche had to wait this long until the term of office as Gaden Tripa completed to MAKE THIS MOVE BECAUSE IF HE HAD MADE THIS MOVE EARLIER, THE DALAI LAMA WOULD HAVE REMOVED HIM FROM OFFICE. And that would not be good for the Gelug on the whole. NOW THAT HE HAS FINISHED HIS TERM, HE CAN DO WHAT HE LIKES. NO ONE CAN TOUCH HIM, DISTURB HIM OR DISGRACE HIS POSITION. INCREDIBLE PLANNING. THIS WAS RELAYED BY HIS PERSONAL ASSISTANT!

It seems that the current Trijang Rinpoche and his entire office have also joined Shar Ganden Monastery.

Above all, it is sadly ironic that great Gelug Lamas like the Ganden Tripa and Trijang Rinpoche, whose previous incarnations include several Ganden Tripas, have had to leave Ganden Monastery in order to uphold Je Tsongkhapa’s lineage when Je Tsongkhapa established Ganden Monastery for precisely this purpose.

Has it ever been more clear that religion and politics should not be mixed? The brilliant founding fathers of the United States gave this gift to the people of this country, and this policy is also enshrined in the guiding documents of many of the most influential and prosperous western democracies. May the Tibetan people too gain the privilege of engaging in their spiritual practices without the ominous shadow of government control obscuring the light of religious freedom.

“An Unbelievable Expert on All Subjects…”

Sermey Jetsun Khen Rinpoche Losang Tharchin on Pabonka Rinpoche

Dalai Lama, Corje Shugden, NKT, Kadampa Tradition

Khen Rinpoche, Geshe Lharampa, ex-Abbot Sera Monastery

KYABJE PABONGKA RINPOCHE DECHEN NYINGPO and his classmate, Gyelrong Sharpa Choje—known as Jangsem Choje Lobsang Nyima—went together very often to debate when they were at their monastery. Indeed, both of them became Geshes. Later Jangsem Choje Lobsang Nyima entered Gyu Me Tantric College and became a great scholar. He proceeded to become gi-go, an administrator, as I did, then Lama Umdze, then Abbot, and finally almost reached the position of Ganden Tripa.

Pabongka Rinpoche Kyabje Dechen Nyingpo’s life proceeded in another direction such that he was later to become a very famous teacher of Sutra and Tantra, especially of the Lam Rim (Stages of the Path to Enlightenment) tradition. Whenever he taught, many people came from miles and miles around to attend his teachings. Everybody said he was an unbelievable expert on all subjects.

Later, when Lobsang Nyima had learned that Kyabje Dechen Nyingpo was going to be in nearby Chusang Ritro, his curiousity piqued from having heard so much relating to Kyabje Pabongka’s fame coming from all quarters, he decided to visit him and so he brought along a pot of excellent yogurt as a gift for Rinpoche. During that visit they met for a long time discussing many points on numerous topics. Since Kyabje Pabongka had answered every one of his questions so thoroughly, Lobsang Nyima couldn’t argue with him at all on any of the points.

Upon his return, when others asked about the visit he remarked: “When we were on the debate ground at Sera Mey, Kyabje Dechen Nyingpo wasn’t an expert at debate by any means. At the time I didn’t think he had learned very much. But now I understand that his way of studying and mine went in different directions. For instance, when we debated, I for my part, would apply reasons and quotations to back up my arguments, all the time focusing on the other debater. But Kyabje Pabongka, for his part, when studying, asking questions, giving answers, reciting quotations, giving reasons, everything, would focus all of these on himself, applying them to his own mind. Therefore, by using such a method, there is no way to argue with him on any of the points since he has mastered them all.”

“…It was in his private quarters at the Tashi Chuling hermitage that I first met Pabongka Rinpoche…”

(From the Forward to The Principal Teachings of Buddhism by Tsongkhapa, with a commentary by Pabongka Rinpoche, translated by Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 1998, all emphasis and formatting mine…)

Meeting Je Pabongka….

Je Pabongka It was in his private quarters at the Tashi Chuling hermitage that I first met Pabongka

Je Pabongka

Je Pabongka

Rinpoche. He had been away on an extended teaching tour in eastern Tibet, and just returned. I was still the wild teenager and had been stuck with the distasteful job of nyerpa for Gyalrong House—this means I was a kind of quartermaster and had to make sure there was enough firewood and food to keep the house kitchen going for several hundred monks. Since the Rinpoche was a member of Gyalrong, we were supposed to send a committee over to the hermitage to welcome him back and present him gifts. As nyerpa I was expected to arrange some supplies and help carry them along.

In private conversation Pabongka Rinpoche was in the habit of constantly attaching “Quite right! Quite right!” to everything he said. So I distinctly remember when I came into his presence, and he put his hand on my head, and he said “Quite right! Quite right! Now this one looks like a bright boy!”

From that day on I felt as though I had received his blessing, and some special power to pursue my studies.

On the Power of Je Pabongkha’s speech…..

….

The effects on his audience were striking and immediate.

I remember particularly the case of Dapon Tsago, a member of the nobility who held a powerful position equivalent to Minister of Defense. Public teachings in Tibet were as much social as religious affairs, and aristocrats would show up in their best finery, often it seemed not to hear the dharma but rather to put in an appearance. So one day this great general marches in to the hall, decked out in silk, his long hair flowing in carefully tailored locks (this was considered manly and high fashion in old Tibet).

A great ceremonial sword hung from his belt, clanging importantly as he swaggered in. By the end of the first section of the teaching he was seen leaving the hall quietly, deep in thought—he had wrapped his weapon of war in a cloth to hide it, and was taking it home. Later on we could see he had actually trimmed off his warrior’s locks, and finally one day he threw himself before the Rinpoche and asked to be granted the special lifetime religious vows for laymen. Thereafter he always followed Pabongka Rinpoche around, to every public teaching he gave.

On Je Pabongka’s meditation hermitage…..

Jetsun Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin

Jetsun Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin

The Rinpoche had never spent much time at the small monastery atop the Pabongka rock, and his fame Jetsun Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin Jetsun Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin soon reached such proportions that the Ngakpa College of Sera Monastery offered him a large retreat complex on the hillside above Pabongka. The name of this hermitage was Tashi Chuling, or “Auspicious Spiritual Isle.” There were some sixty Buddhist monks in residence there, and as I remember about sixteen personal attendants who helped the Lama with his pressing schedule: two monk-secretaries, a manager for finances, and so on.

The Rinpoche would divide his time between his quarters here and a small meditation cell built around the mouth of a cave, further up the side of the mountain. The cave was known as Takden, and it was here that Pabongka Rinpoche would escape for long periods to do his private practice and meditations. The central chamber had a high vaulted ceiling, so high that the light of a regular fire-torch could not even reach it, and the darkness seemed to go up forever.

In the center of the ceiling there was an odd natural triangle in the rock, which looked exactly like the outer shape of one of the mystic worlds described in our secret teachings. In the corner of this wonderful cave, an underground spring flowed froma rock—and above it was another natural drawing, this one just like the third eye that we see painted on the forehead of one of our female Buddhas.

Buddhist "Angel"

Buddhist "Angel"

By the way, this “third eye” you hear about is  largely metaphorical, and stands for the spiritual understanding in one’s heart. We believed the cave was home for a dakini—sort of a Buddhist angel—because people often said they saw a wondrous lady come from the cave, but no one had ever seen her enter.