Tag Archives: Buddhism

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.

“My guru, kind-in-three-ways, who met face to face with Heruka, whose name I find difficult to utter…” The Great Lama Je Pabongka According to His Disciples and Others

Je Pabonka

Je Pabongka

Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche Dechen Nyingpo was an unbelievable lama who lived in the early part of the twentieth century (bio). His two main students, Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche, were the most highly esteemed Gelugpa Lamas of their day, so respected that they were chosen to guide the education of the Dalai Lama when he was chosen and enthroned.

Pabongka Rinpoche, a recognized reincarnation of Chankya Rolpai Dorje, was the one who was responsible for widely propagating the practice of Dorje Shugden among the Gelugpa tradition.

As a result of the attempt in recent decades to convince the world that Dorje Shugden is a worldly Deity, Je Pabongka’s reputation and lineage has come under attack, so I thought it would be nice for students who practice in his lineage to see, once again, that things are not as cut and dried as his detractors would have you believe….Scholars and yogis, please check!

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

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.