Category Archives: The Dalai Lama

Ghosts, Stephen Batchelor and the Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is a man revered by nearly the whole world, but surely we are free to ask for clarification when we see blatant contradictions in his words and behaviors?

It seems that people are so desperate to believe that this man is a great being that there immediately develops an air of hysteria should anyone try to investigate or critisize his actions. It is time to realize that the Dharma is still the Dharma even if one very popular political leader is not a perfect practitioner. If the Dharma is to survive in this world, we need to be able to take an honest look at how it is being represented and promoted in the world. Especially when the use of political power to enforce a sectarian agenda is involved.

There are many non-political spiritual guides teaching the pure Dharma of the Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu traditions, as well as the Ganden tradition of Je Tsongkhapa. If we rely on our teachers and forget worldly motivations, the Dharma will thrive here in the west and throughout the world.

I am interested to see if anyone can explain this one to me. Here are the Dalai Lama’s own words…

“Anyway, Ling Rinpoche’s opposition to me receiving the transmission of that Tantra was based upon his fear of Dolgyal. Therefore, what happened was that though I wanted to take that Tantra, because of someone’s fear of Dolgyal, I was unable to. My rights to freedom of religious choice were thus violated.”
-The Dalai Lama,  Second Gelug Conference , Dharamsala, 6 December 2000

So the Dalai Lama is here claiming that his Tantric spiritual guide was afraid of “Dolgyal,” a pejorative way of referring to Dorje Shugden.

“When I generate faith in the precious Dharma, I generate real faith in the precious Buddha. And I also have genuine faith in the qualified followers of the Buddha. The statement that if you have pure refuge, you will not be harmed either by humans or non-humans, is definitive.”
– A talk on Dholgyal by H.H. the Dalai Lama , Dharamsala, October 1997

Any yet here, the Dalai Lama is saying that someone with Refuge has no need to fear spirits. So what is he saying? That Ling Rinpoche doesn’t understand this? Why would Ling Rinpoche be afraid of “Dolgyal?”

In his book Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, Stephen Batchelor recounts an interesting story about Ling Rinpoche…Kyabje Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche

“Shortly before I left Dharamsala, Ani Jampa, an English Buddhist nun, asked me to translate for her in an interview with Ling Rinpoche, the senior Tutor of the Dalai Lama. She explained to Rinpoche that she would shortly be leaving India to visit other countries in Asia and asked if he could provide her with a Sung-du– a knotted protection string- to ward off the influence of harmful spirits. Ling Rinpoche chuckled and said that all she needed to do was to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha (community). If she sincerely entrusted herself to these three guiding principles, which are commitments common to all Buddhists, that would be sufficient to protect her against whatever harmful influences she might encounter.”
-Batchelor, 2010, Pg 209

So, obviously, Ling Rinpoche was not afraid of “Dolgyal,” something that would be immediately obvious to anyone who knows who this lama was. Moreover, Ling Rinpoche was incredibly devoted to his root guru, the renowned lama Pabongka Rinpoche, whose main protector was Dorje Shugden.  There can be no question that he never feared  the protector of his own spiritual guide, who he loved and revered. It seems the Dalai Lama is setting a new precedent for relating to one’s Guru,  a tradition in a style not seen before in the Vajrayana.

So what are we left to conclude? The Dalai Lama says Ling Rinpoche was afraid of spirits.  It seems that either Dalai Lama is lying, or he sincerely believed that his own spiritual guide had no refuge, and therefore is not even a Buddhist. Either way, it is not a pretty picture.

Is there something I am missing here? Is there another conclusion? We all want to see the Dalai Lama as a great man, but how can we, as honest and sincere spiritual practitioners, understand this behavior?

Please feel free to comment, and as always,  scholars and yogis, please check.

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.

The Dalai Lama’s ‘Research’ Concerning Past Masters and Dorje Shugden

When the Dalai Lama speaks out against the practice of Dorje Shugden, he often describes how he came to renounce his own practice of this deity, a practice he engaged in for a quarter-century. In these speeches, he inevitably mentions his own “thorough research.” Due to this reference, repeated over and over again, most people already inclined to believe the Dalai Lama are mollified, and are therefore disinclined to look into the matter further.

As an example, consider this introduction on the Dalai Lama’s own website…

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Advice Concerning Dolgyal (Shugden)
Following long and careful investigations, His Holiness the Dalai Lama strongly discourages Tibetan Buddhists from propitiating the fierce spirit known as Dolgyal (Shugden)….

and from the Dalai Lama’s talk at Lehigh University in July 2008.

During the Fifth Dalai Lama this problem started. From 1951 to the early 70’s, I myself was a worshipper of this spirit, so actually, previously, I was also one of them….Then around early 70’s..using different sort of methods to investigate, also reading the biographies of past many great masters, mainly the lamas of the yellow hat sect, …suppose if this Shugden is truly reliable, most of the great lamas after the fifth Dalai Lama, then I think must practice….but this is not the case. So….I developed some doubt.  Then…thorough investigation, then it became clear.

So, what are the results of all this thorough research? What did the Dalai Lama discover amongst the thousands of works written by the great masters of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition?

Let’s take a look.

Three of the seven “historical references” listed on the Dalai Lama’s website refer to works that do not even mention Dorje Shugden. Of the remaining references, one is by Je Pabongka, one of the most well-know advocates of Dorje Shugden practice. Another is from the Fifth Dalai Lama, although it is believed by many that he later retracted this opinion and changed his view, composing prayers to Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being. The final mention is by one “Jigme Damchoe Gyatso” and is hardly compelling. It is also rejected by several important contemporary Lamas, such as Lama Zopa and Zong Rinpoche.

However, this does not stop the Dalai Lama and his government from citing the many “references” they have found, and representing them as being about Dorje Shugden when they are not.

Trichen Ngawang Chogden

Trichen Ngawang Chogden

This extraordinary master was the root guru of Kelsang Gyatso, the Seventh Dalai Lama. He was also the 54th Ganden Tripa, head of the Gelugpa Tradition. The view that this Lama spoke out against the practice of Dorje Shugden is derived from an episode in his biography written by Chankya Rolpai Dorje, another highly renowned Lama of the Gelug tradition. This Biography, however, never mentions Dorje Shugden. Instead, it talks about a local spirit known as Taktse Gyalpo.

The incident (the Dalai Lama) refers to is narrated in Changya’s biography of Trichen Ngawang Chogden. An evil monk spirit (rgyal.’gong) from Dragsob (brag.sob) who was invoked by some active Lama retired from his monastic office (bla.zur) and a Khamtsen at Ganden. They built a wayside shrine for this spirit in the circumambulation path of Ganden.

Trichen Ngawang Chogden declared this unsuitable. He said that since the time of Je Tsong Khapa and his disciples no worldly spirits were worshiped at his [Ganden] monastery and that in future this would also not be permitted. When that spirit was invoked through an oracle, he said that since the Trichen Rinpoche had said this, he had no choice but to leave and he excused himself and left for Taktse-Shöl. The Lama retired from his monastic office who had relied on that evil spirit died soon after as punishment by Kalarupa [one of Je Tsong Khapa’s protectors]. There is no reference to Dorje Shugden in this passage . The evil monk spirit (rgyal.’gong) was continued to be worshiped as a local deity at the place where he came from.

-Ursula Bernis,  Condemned to Silence A Tibetan Identity Crisis, 1999

The reason this spirit from went back to “the place where he came from,” Taktse, an estate not far from Ganden Monastery, is because the spirit referred to in this verse is Taktse Gyalpo, a local spirit said to have been the spirit of a monk who died in bad circumstances.

In this biography master Changya clearly mentions what Trichen Ngawang Chogden has expelled is a ‘Gyalpo’, instead of ‘Dolgyal’. ‘Gyalpo’ is a general name used for all the deities and spirits born as incarnation of former lamas or monks. Therefore hundreds of Gyalpos exist in the Tibetan pantheon, and the term does not only apply to the Dolgyal. The name Dolgyal is a short term for ‘dol gyi gyalpo’. Dol is the name of a place, where the first temple of Dorje Shugden was erected by the 5th Dalai Lama.

-Dorje Shugden Charitable Societey, Chronicle, 2008.

So the original text says “Gyalpo,” and clearly refers to Taktse Gylapo, not Dorje Shugden. Dorje Shugden is not mentioned.

The Samlo department of Ganden monastery took over (the Taktse) estate, and with it, adopted that spirit of the estate as a protector deity of the department. It was then worshipped in the Ganden monastery in their department for some time, until it was expelled by the great master Trichen Ngawang Chogden, who at that time was the throne-holder of Ganden. The spirit was sent back to its estate, where it was worshipped by the villagers until 1959.

-Chronicle

The recognized reincarnation of Trichen Ngawang Chogden was called Trichen Tenpa Rabgya. Tenpa Rabgya was a Geshe lharampa from Sera Monastery, and became the tutor to Changkya Yeshe Tenpai Gyaltsen, the reincarnation of Chankya Rolpai Dorje. Among his teachers were such luminaries as Panchen Lama Palden Yeshe and Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen. Tenpa Rabgya was a famous practitioner of Dorje Shugden, and wrote praises and rituals for his practice, requesting him to come from the “wisdom Dharmakaya,” clearly indicating his view that Dorje Shugden was a Buddha.

Black Magic Indeed!

“Later, on another occasion, we were performing a ritual of Hayagriva. It was not particularly aimed at Dholgyal. The aim was to destroy anything, be it human,non-human, a lama, a deity or a ghost, that harms the Dharma and the just cause of Tibet. Whatever it is, it should be eliminated. It can’t be helped. “

the Dalai Lama
“Concerning Dholgyal with reference to the views of past masters and other related matters,” Dharamsala, October 1997 (dalailama.com, emphasis mine)

Dalai Lama, New Kadampa, Dorje Shugden

Wrathful Hayagriva

So the Dalai Lama uses religious rituals to destroy anything, including other people, that harms the cause of Tibet? They should be “eliminated?” Are these the words of Avalokiteshvara, Buddha of Compassion? And meanwhile he accuses Dorje Shugden pracitioners, with no proof and no basis whatsoever, of using “black magic?” (see Not Afraid of Spirits, below).

If mixing politics and religion in this macabre way, and using your prayers to kill others is not black magic, what in the world could black magic be?

Scholars and yogis, please check!

Not Afraid of Spirits

“That’s why, as I just mentioned, when it is said that (my opponents) have been doing lots of black magic, I just have to laugh. I don’t do anything about it, I don’t even visualise the protection wheel(…) I really have true faith. I told the government staff that I have a pure refuge in my continuum. When I generate faith in the precious Dharma, I generate real faith in the precious Buddha. And I also have genuine faith in the qualified followers of the Buddha. The statement that if you have pure refuge, you will not be harmed either by humans or non-humans, is definitive.”

-Concerning Dholgyal with reference to the views of past masters and other related matters
A talk on Dholgyal by H.H. the Dalai Lama , Dharamsala, October 1997, Dalailama.com

Inspiring words. All Buddhists agree that if one has refuge in the three jewels, there need be no fear of harm from spirits or worldly gods. The Dalai Lama himself claims to have “pure refuge in (his) continuum”

And what about Ling Rinpoche, his Spiritual Guide? This is a Lama so renowned that he was chosen to be one of two gurus to the Dalai Lama, who many felt was the most important reincarnate lama in the land. Why would he have any “fear of Dolgyal?” (see The End of Vajrayana, below) This is an odd statement for someone who claims to have guru devotion to his lamas, saying, in effect, “I have this realization, but my spiritual guide does not.”

Moreover, when “opponents,” apparently Dorje Shugden practitioners, engage in “black magic,” he has no fear. So why does he use this reason, that the practice of Dolgyal will harm his life, over and over in justifying his ban? Doesn’t he know that people can check his words and see that there is a huge contradiction?

The End of the Vajrayana


“…Then I thought of taking the
Secret Essence Tantra from (Kunnu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen) as well. I happened to mention this to Ling Rinpoche one day, but he discouraged me. He told me that it was rather controversial and that it would be better not to take it.

Now what actually had happened was that Ling Rinpoche, being rather timid, seems to have been under the impression that if I were to take the transmission, Dholgyal was likely to have responded by inflicting some harm.

I was the one who was pushing to take this. The Secret Essence Tantra is, I believe, one of the texts that Buton Rinpoche decided to exclude from the collection of the Kangyur. However, it is a text that the Nyingma and Karma Kagyu treat as authentic.

Anyway, Ling Rinpoche’s opposition to me receiving the transmission of that Tantra was based upon his fear of Dholgyal. Therefore, what happened was that though I wanted to take that Tantra, because of someone’s fear of Dholgyal, I was unable to. My rights to freedom of religious choice were thus violated.”

-Tenzin Gyatso XIV Dalai Lama

Kyabje Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche

Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche

Does this strike anyone else as strange? Was Ling Rinpoche, Guru to the Dalai Lama, tantric master, and pure preceptor, really afraid of harm from a worldly spirit? All Buddhists know that pure refuge protects from spirits and the like, that is why the Dalai Lama said, in reference to Dorje Shugden, “I don’t even visualize the protection wheel.”

If the Dalai Lama had nothing to fear from Dorje Shugden, why should Ling Rinpoche, his own Guru?!?

Perhaps more distubing still, this quotation raises an important question….

Since when does following the advice of your Vajrayana guru constitute a loss of religious freedom?!?

The only freedom lost through following the advice of one’s spiritual guide is the freedom to wander endlessly in the scorching pits of samsara.

This kind of attitude marks the begining of the end of the secret Mantra path in this world. The Guru gradually comes to be seen as outmoded, unecessary in the attempt to attain liberation from suffering. The result of this view spreading in our world is that the Vajrayana becomes a hollow shell,  a vehicle without power, a car with no engine.

Scholars and Yogis, PLEASE check.

Ganden Tripa Authorizes Dorje Shugden Pratitioners to represent the Gelugpa tradition

"I confer upon Trijang Buddhist Institute the authority to represent and transmit the teachings of the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States."

"I confer upon Trijang Buddhist Institute the authority to represent and transmit the teachings of the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States."

In April of this Year, the Ganden Tripa, spiritual head of the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, wrote a letter authorizing Trijang Buddhist Institute of Northfeild Vermont to “represent and transmit the teachings of the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States.”

He also stated catacorically that Trijang Chogtrul Rinpoche (“having been educated in the teachings of the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism, and officially recognized by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as being the incarnation of the late Trijang Dorje Chang, Tutor to the 14th Dalai Lama and one of the greatest twentieth-century Buddhist masters of this order…”) is fully qualified to act as director of TBI.

As it is widely known that Trijang Rinpoche has steadfastly refused to abandon the Dorje Shugden practice that was so precious to his predecessor, this letter seems somewhat remarkable. The Ganden Tri, holder of the throne of Je Tsongkhapa and leader of the Gelugpa tradition, authorizes a famous Dorje Shugden Lama and his institute to represent and transmit the teachings of the Gelugpas?

If he feels that Dorje Shugden practitioners “represent the teachings of the

Ganden Tri Letter

Click to Read Letter

Gelug order,” this clearly indicates that Dorje Shugden practice is a valid part of the Gelug tradition, does it not? At very least, it gives lie to the idea, much promoted on the internet of late, that Dorje Shugden practitioners are a fringe group who do not represent mainstream Buddhist practice.

He also wrote ”Thus authorized, Trijang Buddhist Institute is dedicated to preserving, representing, and transmitting the Buddhist teachings of the Gelug tradition.”

I find it noteworthy that has authorized a Dorje Shugden lama to “preserve” the teachings. Perhaps he, too, is concerned that certain aspects of the precious Ganden Tradition that have been passed down master to disciple for hundreds of years, will be wiped out if someone doesn’t do something.

Scholars and yogis, Please check!