Tag Archives: Ganden Tripa

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.

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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.

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!