Tag Archives: Dorje Shugden Controversy

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- 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.

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

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.