Bhutan: The Rise of Kings and Dorje Shugden

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By: Karmo Tsomo

Bhutan is no ordinary place. A modern-day Shangri-La shrouded in magic and mystery, this is the last of the great Himalayan kingdoms, a place where modernity is embraced alongside traditional Buddhist culture. Known all over the world for its sustainable approach to tourism focused on “low-volume” but “high-value”, the country prides itself for its philosophy of “Gross National Happiness”, placing emphasis on citizens’ wellbeing rather than material indulgences.

The result is a country full of juxtapositions, from Buddhist monks with smartphones, to provocative images etched on the sides of sacred monasteries. Nevertheless, contrary to how it is portrayed for its upkeep of traditional Buddhist values, Bhutan is not a mere museum piece. The Bhutanese are highly educated, well-informed about the world and are extremely fun-loving. It is this very blend of the modern and the ancient that makes the country endlessly fascinating.


Legendary Beginnings

Bhutan’s snow-capped peaks tower above deep and shadowy gorges cloaked in primeval forests. Dotted along this stunning Himalayan landscape are formidable dzongs or fortress monasteries, reminders of how the Bhutanese have made this incredible land their home for centuries. It is no wonder that Bhutan is the land of legends.

Bhutan is known around the world for its beautiful landscapes, from lush green forests to snow-capped mountains dotted with Buddhist temples and fortress dzongs.

And legend has it that the great and powerful Indian tantric adept, Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava, saved King Sindhu Raja of Bumthang from being possessed by a vicious demon spirit. He exorcised this demon, captured it and bound it by oath never to harm others and instead support the practice of Buddhism. By manifesting his extraordinary powers, Guru Rinpoche also converted both the king and his rival to the peaceful Buddhist religion, thereby ending years of strife and restoring peace to the land of what is today known as Bhutan.

On Guru Rinpoche’s second visit to Bhutan, he traversed the districts of Bumthang, Mongar and Lhuentse on his return from Tibet where he had subdued hordes of demons and spirits obstructing the great Abbot Santarakshita from establishing Buddhism there. King Trisong Detsen had invited Guru Rinpoche to Tibet to save Santarakshita’s work from being destroyed by the likes of Pehar (now known as Nechung). Thanks to Guru Rinpoche’s subjugation of the negative interferences, Santarakshita was able to complete the construction of Samye Monastery and establish the order of ordained Sangha there.

While doing all this, Guru Rinpoche left his body print and an impression of his head with a hat in the rocks at Gom Kora, Bhutan. Taking on the form of Dorje Dragpo (one of Guru Rinpoche’s eight primary manifestations) he also flew to Taktsang in Paro on a tigress surrounded by the flames of his wisdom. And it was this event that gave the world-famous Taktsang Monastery its colloquial moniker “Tiger’s Nest”.

Guru Rinpoche later visited Bhutan again, his third visit being during the reign of Muthri Tsenpo (764 – 817 CE), the son of Tibetan King Trisong Detsen. Since then, a host of enlightened beings have empowered the landscape with their holy presence and built Bhutan as a Buddhist kingdom which survives until today.

The Bhutanese landscape is intrinsically linked with Guru Rinpoche, an enlightened Indian tantric adept who visited the country thrice and blessed the land. Here we see a giant statue of the master in the Lhuentse district.


The Bhutanese Identity

By the 16th century however, the kingdom had fallen into political disarray, with local chieftains controlling various territories and engaging in petty feuds. It was during this period that Bhutan’s complex history with Tibet began.

The arrival of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651 CE) of the Drukpa Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism was to change the fate of Bhutan forever. At just eight years old, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal received the layman vows from Mipham Chogyal and was given the name Ngawang Namgyal. He went on to receive teachings from esteemed masters of the time, covering not only teachings from the Drukpa Kagyu lineage but also the Nyingma, Sakya, Gelug and other Kagyu traditions as well. He was also the abbot-prince of Ralung Monastery.

At the age of 12, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was recognized as the reincarnation of Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, the 4th Gyalwang Drukpa, or supreme head of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage. The Gyalwang Drukpas are actually considered to be emanations of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion. He was enthroned at Ralung Monastery at the age of 13 and received the name Drukpa Ngawang Tenzin Namgyal Jigme Drakpa.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of Bhutan and the great master who spread the sacred Drukpa Kagyu lineage in the country.

However, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was not the only recognized reincarnation of Kunkhyen Pema Karpo. There was another candidate, known as Gyalwa Pagsam Wangpo, and this led to disharmony not only within the monastery but also within the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. Gyalwa Pagsam Wangpo eventually earned the favor of the King of Tsang and was enthroned as the 5th Gyalwang Drukpa. Fearing persecution from the King of Tsang, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal decided to flee Tibet.

Receiving signs from the Dharma Protector Yeshe Gonpo (the Wisdom Mahakala) in the form of a raven, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was directed south to Bhutan. Arriving in what is now Bumdeling in eastern Bhutan, in 1616, he established Cheri Monastery, also known as Chagri Dorjeden Monastery. Three years later, he entered solitary retreat in a cave near Cheri where he manifested tremendous spiritual realizations. At the age of 40, he received full monastic ordination.

After establishing Palpungthang Dewa Chenpo Dharma Gandro in 1637, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal become an exalted leader, both spiritually and in secular terms. In fact, he successfully established a system of dzongs, or fortress monasteries, to protect the Bhutanese from marauding Tibetans bent on conquering new lands. The first of these, Simtokha Dzong, even housed a monastic body and administrative facilities. Combining civil, religious and defensive functions, it became the model for all later dzongs in Bhutan.

Simtokha Dzong in the present days

In establishing an order of Buddhist Sangha in Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal commenced the construction of many monasteries and when Punakha Dzong was completed in 1653 CE, two years after his passing, the Sangha were relocated there. It became the dratsang (central monastic body) for Bhutan, headed by the supreme abbot known as the Je Khenpo.

Realizing a need for the Bhutanese to preserve their own culture and identity embellished with the Buddhist religion, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal created a spectrum of unique customs, traditions, ceremonies and rituals in a deliberate attempt to develop a distinctive Bhutanese identity that has since come to be beloved and celebrated by its people. This included not only the codification of the Drukpa Kagyu teachings into a distinctively Bhutanese system, but also the adoption of a national dress and the celebration of new festivals. It was through his foresight and immense efforts that the current nation of Bhutan as we know it was born. He also successfully built good relations with the neighboring kingdoms of Nepal, Cooch Behar and Ladakh, thus securing the Bhutanese kingdom’s status as a sovereign state.

Punakha Dzong


The Rise of Kings

By the late 1800s, as things would have it, Bhutan was once again in the throes of political turmoil although the positions created by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal of Druk Desi (secular ruler) and Je Khenpo (spiritual leader) still had sway with the people. It was the shrewd 51st desi, Jigme Namgyal who installed his 17-year-old son Ugyen Wangchuk as the penlop (governer) of Paro. This move was to change the history of Bhutan forever.


First King: Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuk

Druk Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuk, the first king of Bhutan.

At the age of 20, Ugyen Wangchuk was also installed as the penlop of Trongsa, giving him more influence than the new desi. When fights broke out between various dzong leaders from around the country, he tried to mediate. However during the conflict, some of these leaders were either killed or they fled to Tibet. In the aftermath, Ugyen Wangchuk providentially emerged as the most powerful figure in the country.

With the death of the desi, Ugyen Wangchuk was elected the hereditary leader of Bhutan through a unanimous vote of Bhutan’s highest Buddhist lamas and secular chieftains. He was enthroned with the title Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) on 17th December 1907.


Second King: Druk Gyalpo Jigme Wangchuk

Druk Gyalpo Jigme Wangchuk, the second king of Bhutan.

Ugyen Wangchuk was succeeded by his 24-year-old son, Jigme Wangchuk, when he died in 1926. Though King Jigme Wangchuk reigned during the Second World War, Bhutan was unaffected due to its policy of isolationism. During this time, King Jigme Wangchuk successfully brought the entire country under his control through refining the nation’s administrative processes and economic systems.

In 1947, India gained independence from Britain and signed a landmark agreement with King Jigme Wangchuk. This treaty asserted Bhutan’s authority as a sovereign nation state and marked the beginning of very strong relations between the two countries. India also vowed never to interfere with Bhutan’s internal affairs, while Bhutan asked India to guide its external policies in order to build international relations.


Third King: Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk

Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the third king of Bhutan.

King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk succeeded his father to the throne of Bhutan in 1952. Having been educated in both India and England, he was a formidable statesman and spoke fluent Hindi, English and Tibetan as well as his native Bhutanese. In order to build closer relations with India, he invited the then-Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his daughter Indira Gandhi to Bhutan in 1958.

As the Chinese Cultural Revolution spread to Tibet in 1959, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk realized that the Bhutanese policy of isolationism was no longer appropriate in the 20th century and he strove to make Bhutan a member of the larger world community. In 1961, he ended Bhutan’s self-imposed isolation and started a five-year program of development that propelled Bhutan into the modern world. In 1962, Bhutan joined the Colombo Plan, giving it access to technical assistance and training from other member countries throughout Southeast Asia. Improved relations with India also led to the financing of the Chhukha hydroelectric project in western Bhutan. In 1969, Bhutan joined the Universal Postal Union and became a member of the United Nations in 1971.

King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk’s achievements were also equally impressive on the home front. He established a High Court, created the Royal Bhutan Army and police forces, and abolished serfdom throughout the country. Another of his greatest achievements was the creation of the National Assembly known as the Tshogdu, and the implementation of a 12-volume code of law. All the while, the king emphasized the need to preserve Bhutanese culture and tradition.


Fourth King: Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuk

The fourth king of Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuk (right), crowning his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk (left) as the fifth king of Bhutan.

King Jigme Singye Wangchuk assumed the throne at the age of 16 when his father passed away at the age of 44. Similar to his father, he received his education in both India and England. He also studied at the Ugyen Wangchuk Academy in Paro.

Continuing his father’s legacy, he dramatically advanced the modernization process in Bhutan. Making use of Bhutan’s three special circumstances – a small population, a large land mass, and the country’s rich natural resources – he strove to achieve economic self-reliance.

It was King Jigme Singye Wangchuk who implemented the now-famous philosophy of Gross National Happiness. Rather than just a measurement of a person’s individual happiness, this philosophy encompasses criteria to measure development projects and progress in terms related to the greater good of society at large. This in turn feeds back into an individual’s sustainable level of happiness.

He was also the first king to invite foreign press to the country’s capital, Thimphu. A total of 287 guests were invited and many new facilities such as hotels were built to accommodate them. These hotels have since become the basis for the development of tourism in Bhutan, which is one of the industries the country relies on to sustain its economy.

King Jigme Singye Wangchuk was instrumental in improving health care, rural development, education and communications. He was also the mastermind behind Bhutan’s policy of environmental conservation, which stresses ecological considerations above commercial interests. He also strengthened the modernization process through six development goals: sustainability; self-reliance; people’s participation and decentralization; human resource development; regionally balanced development; and the efficiency and development of the private sector.

In 2005, the then 49-year-old king announced that he would abdicate the throne in favor of his son, the Crown Prince Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, and facilitated the transition of the country from an absolute monarchy to a democratic constitutional monarchy in 2008.


Fifth King: Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk

Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, the fifth king of Bhutan

King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk became king on 9th December 2006 and was enthroned on 6th November 2008. Apart from being educated in Bhutan, India and England, he also studied in the USA. He is well-known for his efforts to democratize Bhutan, improve diplomatic relations with foreign nations such as India, Thailand, Japan and Singapore; improve education; and land reforms.

His marriage to Queen Jetsun Pema and the arrival of their son was greatly anticipated by the people of Bhutan who affectionately call him “The People’s King”. His works are leading Bhutan into the modern world, carrying on the legacy of previous kings, all the while retaining Bhutan’s unique culture.


Bhutan’s Tibetan Trouble

Bhutan has a long and complex history with Tibet. As both countries are Buddhist, and as the form of Buddhism practiced in Bhutan has its origins in Tibet, one would assume that the two countries have maintained close cultural and political ties. Both countries even rely on the same writing script that was developed by the great Tibetan translator Thonmi Sambhota.

In theory therefore, the two nation states should get along well with each other. In practice however, Tibetans have been creating problems for Bhutan for a very long time. Since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s settling in Bhutan, the Tibetan leadership have repeatedly tried to take over the country for themselves. This repressive attitude continues even into the modern era — the Central Tibetan Administration’s (“CTA”; Tibetan leadership located in Dharamsala, North India) actions over the last 60 years have been nothing but hostile.

Gyalo Thondup, brother of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He was one of the alleged masterminds behind the assassination attempt on the crown prince of Bhutan.

In 1979, the Bhutanese government issued the Tibetans in their country with an ultimatum: become Bhutanese citizens or go back to China. This ensued after tensions between Tibetans, who were kindly granted refuge by the Bhutanese government, and the local Bhutanese population escalated. Not only did the Tibetans refuse to assimilate into Bhutanese culture but in 1974, a day before the coronation of the young King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, a Tibetan plot to murder the then 18-year-old crown prince was uncovered by the Bhutanese government.

30 Tibetans were arrested and accused of conspiring to assassinate the young king. The group of conspirators, though led by a Bhutanese deputy home minister, was largely made up of Tibetans. This included Gyalo Thondup, the brother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the Dalai Lama’s representative in Thimpu, Bhutan’s capital city. Amongst the others involved was a “Tibetan woman who once used to enjoy considerable influence and privilege in Bhutan”.


The Tibetan Woman

This “Tibetan woman” was a controversial figure known as Yangki. She was the mistress of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the third king of Bhutan. Yangki’s family had no social status or political power before she became the king’s mistress, but as her influence grew, so did the power of her family. Professor Leo Rose of Cornell University describes the machinations of Yangki and her family in his work The Politics of Bhutan, published in 1977. His research makes it clear that Yangki had been involved in more than one political assassination plot. The disposal of certain key figures in the upper echelons of Bhutanese society was her way of consolidating power and moving up the power ladder.

Yangki and Kanaibhu, her father, were the masterminds behind the assassination of Lochen Jigme Dorji, the then-prime minister and close confidant of the king. They had become convinced that the prime minister was trying to murder the king. Since they were solely dependent on the king for economic and social prosperity, they decided the prime minister had to be done away with, lest his plan to kill the king was successful. Kanaibhu even supplied the gun that the assassin used to kill the prime minister.

Queen Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuk and the 3rd king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.

As it turned out, their reasoning was nothing more than their self-centered need to retain power. Suffice to say, the king was furious and ordered the elimination of both Yangki and her father. They were saved at the last minute when the queen, Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuk interceded. The queen was a paragon of compassion; although she knew she was sparing the life of her husband’s mistress, she was still moved to do so. Eventually, cover-up stories were spread to hide Yangki’s involvement in the assassination as it was commonly known that she was the king’s mistress.

Yangki and Kanaibhu were secretly imprisoned for their part in the assassination, but were later released and reinstated to their eminent positions within the Bhutanese elite. By the time of the king’s passing, Yangki had borne the monarch four children but they were never legitimized or considered to be in the line of succession for the throne. Shortly before his death, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk himself dictated a letter to the crown-prince, countersigned by some of the top Bhutanese government officials. In it, the king made it clear that he regretted his relationship with Yangki, and that her children should never be considered royalty:

“In my life time I have committed a very big blunder by having an affair with Yangki. Being young, I stayed with her a few times and before I could keep the affair within limits, not one or two but four children were born, so I could not sever my connection with her. Kesang Wangchuk is completely in the right. She was consecrated with me in the Tashi Ngasol ceremony as my true Queen, and as such children born from her are the legitimate princes and princesses. In the case of Yangki, she is only a girlfriend and not a legitimate wife, and as such children born from her cannot be considered royal children but are to be considered as illegitimate children.

You should never give any Government service and status to Yangki’s children. If you grant them status, it will create problems for you. It will be enough to treat them like other Bhutanese subjects.

I have given them adequate wealth, so they should not face any hardship. In case they do face hardships, maybe you will help them.

In case I die, let them stay outside the country for a few years; after that do as you deem necessary. The reason why I am saying all this is for your own benefit.”

~ Jigme

Despite the king’s efforts to make the best of a bad situation and provide for his children born out of wedlock, Yangki, her father and their Tibetan cohorts had other ideas.


The Failed Assassination

King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk passed away in 1972 but it was not until 1974 that his heir, Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuk, was to be crowned the king of Bhutan. Following the insidious plot hatched by Gyalo Thondup, the Tibetans set out to murder Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuk and burn down not only the royal palace but also Bhutan’s administrative headquarters. They even managed to smuggle more than 12 trucks of weaponry into the country.

During the ensuring panic and pandemonium, the conspirators planned to install one of Yangki’s illegitimate male children as the monarch, and the group of Tibetans behind the coup would have moved into positions of authority. If the plot had been successful, Bhutan would have come under the control of this group and indirectly, the Tibetan leadership. However, a secret meeting of the Bhutanese National Assembly took steps against the conspirators and with the help of Indian intelligence agencies, the plot was foiled. Yangki fled to India with her family where she settled and lived in exile. Other members of the Tibetan cohort were arrested by the authorities, tried and convicted for their involvement. Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuk went on to become the king.

Map of Bhutan, Nepal and India. Click to enlarge.

To prevent such a situation from arising again, the Bhutanese government had to act appropriately. The government knew that if Tibetans were left to their own devices and were allowed to remain without integrating into Bhutanese society, Tibetans would:

  • Continue to retain their Tibetan identity. This separation from the Bhutanese population would give rise to increased resentment on both sides. The Bhutanese would resent the Tibetans for being refugees, while the Tibetans would presumably make further attempts to take over the country, egged on by the Tibetan leadership who desperately sought a land they could rule.
  • Continue to protest for the ‘Tibetan cause’. This would not only disrupt the peace in Bhutan, but would hinder its move towards modernization and jeopardize future relations with foreign powers.

An archived news article published in The New York Times about the plot to assassinate Jigme Singye Wangchuk before his coronation as the king of Bhutan. Source:

Shockingly, the CTA opposed the Bhutanese government’s 1979 ultimatum. Instead of securing their people’s future as legitimate citizens of a nation state, with all the benefits it provides, they chose to keep the 6,300 Tibetans within Bhutan’s borders as refugees. Bhutan even accused CTA officials of creating difficulties for the Tibetan refugees, although the Tibetans living in Bhutan had already accepted that Bhutan was the country of their future.

Despite the CTA’s objections, 2,300 Tibetans decided to become Bhutanese citizens, swearing allegiance to the king, and integrating into the country’s society. They became full citizens with all the rights accorded to them by law. The remainder resettled in India, where they continued to live under the yoke of the CTA, although some later chose to move to Europe and North America.

Since that time, Bhutan has remained quiet on the issue of the Tibetans, obviously scarred from the devious plot to overthrow the Bhutanese monarchy and plunge the country into chaos. But what does this incident tell us about how the Bhutanese government thinks about the Tibetans?

  • The Bhutanese government was not prejudiced against Tibetans. They simply wanted them to integrate into Bhutanese society for the sake of harmony and peace. Not only that, but the Tibetans would have access to all the legal rights, services, and the economic potential that every Bhutanese citizen has.
  • They wanted to avoid disagreements and struggles with China, something that both Nepal and India had to deal with in the succeeding years. Once the ‘Tibetan refugee’ situation was removed, the Bhutanese could remain focused on developing their country rather than worrying about international relations.
  • They wanted to ensure that Tibetans who remained in Bhutan became contributing members of the country’s Gross National Happiness philosophy rather than relying on hand-outs.

Despite the CTA being exposed for trying to assassinate the country’s beloved future monarch, Bhutan never retaliated. Instead it took a compassionate stance towards the Tibetans, understanding that harmony could never be achieved by keeping the Tibetans as refugees. This was a lesson that the likes of Nepal and India did not learn, and are suffering for now.

It is unfortunate that the CTA have a track record of making the lives of Tibetans difficult no matter where in the world they are. Just as Bhutan accused the CTA of creating issues where there were none to begin with, the CTA is also known to ostracize, discriminate and actively persecute whole swathes of their own society, from the Jonangpas to Dorje Shugden practitioners.

In keeping their people divided and in constant need of support, the CTA have crippled the Tibetan society in-exile. The CTA has failed to provide the Tibetans with a secure future and if the CTA continues down this path, Bhutan will not be the last nation state to remove them from their borders. One day, as countries seek to integrate the Tibetans rather than keep them as refugees, the Tibetan culture and heritage outside the Tibet Autonomous Region of China will cease to exist forever.


Bhutan and Dorje Shugden

The 4th Zhabdrung Rinpoche Jigme Norbu was an ardent practitioner of Guru Rinpoche and Dorje Shugden.

Unbeknownst to many Tibetan Buddhist practitioners, Buddhism in Bhutan has a long and established link to the practice of the enlightened Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden. To understand the tremendous impact of this relationship, one must trace the annals of history back to the time of Bhutan’s legendary founder, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was the first in a successive line of reincarnations that spread the Drukpa Kagyu tradition in Bhutan and secured the country as an independent nation state. He was not only the reincarnation of Kunkhyen Pema Karpo, the 4th Gyalwang Drukpa, and therefore an emanation of Chenrezig; but he was also the figure who effectively ensured Bhutan’s independence and defended it against waves of attacks from Mongolian and Tibetan invaders during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama. After his passing, three of his reincarnations were identified, each representing emanations of his body, speech and mind. However, only one of the three i.e. the mind emanation was enthroned as his successor and was named the 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche.


The First Zhabdrung Rinpoche: Jigme Drakpa I

Jigme Drakpa was born in 1724 in the mountain ranges of Yoru, Tibet. He was enthroned at the age of 23 and became a fully ordained monk. At the age of 25, he entered a three-year retreat at Cheri Monastery, following the Kagyu tradition. Engaging in both the generation and completion stages of Highest Yoga Tantra, he gained many spiritual attainments and dedicated his life to serving sentient beings and spreading the Buddhist doctrine. However, his deeds led others to become envious. He was poisoned and subsequently passed away in 1761.


The Second Zhabdrung Rinpoche: Chokyi Gyeltsen

Born in 1762, Chokyi Gyeltsen was enthroned at a young age. Receiving both novice and full monastic ordination, he had not yet completed his studies when again jealousy overtook the minds of others. He was poisoned and passed away in 1788. He was just 27 years old at the time.


The Third Zhabdrung Rinpoche: Jigme Drakpa II

Jigme Drakpa II was born in Bumdeling, Bhutan in 1791. He was enthroned at a young age, and began his study of the monastic codes of conduct as well as sutra and tantra. He also received teachings on the generation and completion stages of Highest Yoga Tantra. While at Talo Sangak Choling Monastery, he expanded the main prayer hall and later took responsibility for the entire institution. He is also noted to have invited a Dharma Protector from Samye Monastery in Tibet, and built a chapel for the Protector.

When he was just 20, he assumed both spiritual and secular responsibility for the country. However, those with untoward intent fostered problems between him and another of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal’s reincarnations who was identified as the speech emanation. Manifesting great disappointment, he resigned from his position as the country’s leader only a year after he had assumed power. He spent the rest of his life in the monastery, practicing and meditating. He passed away in 1830.


The Fourth Zhabdrung Rinpoche: Jigme Norbu

The fourth of the Zhabdrung mind incarnations was Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu (1831-1861 CE). He was born into the respected family line of the renowned Bhutanese Nyingma tertön (discoverer of hidden Buddhist teachings) Pemalingpa (1450-1521 CE).

The 4th Zhabdrung Rinpoche Jigme Norbu. Click on image to enlarge.

Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu received his education from many of the Je Khenpos or supreme heads of Buddhism within Bhutan. These included Sherab Gyeltsen (the 25th Je Khenpo), Padma Zangpo (the 27th/29th Je Khenpo), Jampel Gyatso (the 30th Je Khenpo), and Yonten Gyeltsen (the 31st Je Khenpo).

After being positively identified as the reincarnation of the 3rd Zhabdrung Rinpoche, Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu was enthroned as the 4th mind emanation of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. He was also enthroned as the desi, the secular ruler of the country. Not wanting to remain a monk, he took on a consort named Dechen Tsomo in order to practice advanced Mahamudra meditation.

It was with his consort that he fathered a daughter named Rinchen Tsomo. This did not sit well with the elite of Bhutanese society of the time. Combined with false allegations of his involvement in a failed political coup, he decided to resign from his positions in 1852. He then left his monastic seat of Talo Sangak Choling and travelled to Tibet for some time. Later, he returned to Gorina Monastery in Bhutan, which was originally founded by one of his teachers, Sherab Gyeltsen, and entered clear light at the age of 31.

Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu wrote many texts throughout his life. A compilation of these works, titled ‘The Collected Works of the Fourth Zhabdrung Tulku of Bhutan, Jigme Norbu (1831-1861)‘ was published by the National Library of Bhutan in 1984. Contained within this compilation are various rituals to powerful and important Dharma Protectors such as invocation liturgies, torma offerings and verses of praise to Mahakala, Tsering Chenga, Shingkongma, Palden Lhamo, Tsiu Marpo, Rahula and Dorje Shugden.


A Closer Look at Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s Dorje Shugden Texts

Upon closer examination, Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s Collected Works contain numerous mentions of Dorje Shugden throughout. Specific sections are even dedicated to this enlightened Dharma Protector. For instance, in Volume ‘NA’ of his collected works, which is a 50-page Request for Fulfilment of Activities to All Protectors, Dorje Shugden is mentioned repeatedly, alongside the other Protectors listed above.

Volume NA of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s Collected Works. Click to enlarge.

The prayer begins with mentions of Guru Rinpoche in the form of Pema Totreng or the “Powerful Lotus Garland of Skulls”. This form of Guru Rinpoche was particularly favored by the tertön Pemalingpa and his followers.

Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu composed this text when he was just 27 years old, at the monastery of Ngenlung Sangwa Chenpo Zhelmey Khang. According to the colophon, the author’s name is given as Chime Wangchuk, which is one of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s many known aliases.

According to the colophon, the author of the first part of the prayer is Chime Wangchuk, a known alias of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu. Click to enlarge.

The next part of this work is a daily torma offering ritual to various Dharma Protectors including Dorje Shugden. The authorship of this ritual is also attributed to Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu under the alias Dorje Chechog Dupa Tsel, who composed it after he was requested to do so by the ever-faithful Dagmo Kelsang Karma Tsomo.

The colophon indicates that the author of the daily torma offering ritual is Dorje Chechog Dupa Tsel, another of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s known aliases. Click to enlarge.

A comprehensive list of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s many aliases, as compiled by the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, can be seen below. The Buddhist Digital Resource Center is a reputable US-based non-profit organization that seeks out, preserves, and disseminates Buddhist literature.

A comprehensive list of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s many aliases from the Buddhist Digital Resource Center.

Dorje Shugden’s importance to Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu is most clearly evidenced in Volume “PHA” of his Collected Works, which is a collection of fulfillment rituals to all protectors known as Pawo Jiglu. An entire section of this volume (21 pages in total) is dedicated solely to Dorje Shugden, and includes his visualization, invocation, offerings, torma offerings, praise, fulfilment offering, confessional and enthronement prayers.

Volume PHA of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s Collected Works. Click to enlarge.

It is important to note Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s assertion within Volume PHA that Dorje Shugden is the collection of all the Buddhas’ power. This can be seen in the first line of his praise and it references Dorje Shugden’s unmistaken enlightened nature.

Another important point of note is that throughout the ritual, there are numerous examples of Dorje Shugden’s intricate connection and association with Guru Rinpoche. This is not commonly found in other ritual texts. For example, a confessional verse reads:

“Ordered to protect the essential doctrine
By Padma Wang and Jamyang father and sons
Heruka and Vajrakapalamalin [Guru Rinpoche],
Dorje Shugden and retinue consider me.”

The original Tibetan verse can be viewed here. Click to enlarge.

In another verse within the enthronement prayer, Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu writes:

“Fully empowered and Vajra-sealed
By deathless Vidyadhara Vajrakapalamalin
[Guru Rinpoche Pema Totreng]
To protect the general and specific doctrine,
I enthrone you as the Great King of Dharma Protectors.

The original Tibetan verse can be viewed here. Click to enlarge.

The original Tibetan verse can be viewed here. Click to enlarge.

In view of the unique manner in which Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu combines praises and petitions to both Guru Rinpoche and Dorje Shugden within the same ritual text and even within the same verse, it is highly likely that Dorje Shugden was not only a Protector of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu, but also one who has a special connection to all the people of Bhutan.



Drukpa Kunley

Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s writings on Dorje Shugden have many similarities with those of the 17th century Bhutanese Drukpa Kagyu master, Drubwang Dreuley Tenzin Zangpo, who is also known to have propitiated Dorje Shugden. Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo is considered to be the third reincarnation of Drukpa Kunley, the Bhutanese mahasiddha.

Known and loved all over Bhutan for his outlandish mahasiddha behavior and magnificent spiritual attainments, Drukpa Kunley led a very interesting life. He was one of the Nyönpas (“madmen”), a group of spiritual masters who, on an outward level, appeared to be behaving completely in opposition to the Buddhist teachings, but inwardly had great spiritual attainments. Their behavior included eating meat, drinking alcohol, singing, dancing, and engaging in sexual activity.

A painting of Drukpa Kunley

Drukpa Kunley was born in 1455 and was the great grandson of Yeshe Rinchen, a known emanation of Manjushri. From a young age, he showed signs of renunciation and took ordination, receiving the name Kunga Legpa. Around the age of seven, his father, Nangso Rinchen Zangpo, was murdered due to conflict with his paternal uncle. He spent the next six years of his life as a servant. During this time, he realized that if he did not practice the Dharma, his life would be wasted. And so he travelled to U province, giving away his worldly possessions which included a rosary made of 50 pieces of amber, a turquoise earring and a yellow ochre horse.

Arriving at Ralung Monastery, he stayed there for a short while, receiving his main teachings from his root teacher Lhatsun Kunga Chogyam. These included teachings on the body’s energy channels, the Nyingpo Kor, and grammar. He also received teachings on tummo (inner heat meditation) and Mahamudra (Great Seal meditation). He received layman’s vows and novice monastic ordination from Nenying Choje and full ordination from Zhalu Khyen Rabpa. He also received the complete teachings of the Buddha from various erudite Rimé masters such as Kungpo Sangye.

Ralung Monastery

Having attained complete realization of both the sutra and tantra paths within Buddhism, Drukpa Kunley understood that self-liberation, bodhicitta and samaya (spiritual commitment) vows are all contained within the tantric vows, so he returned his monastic vows to the Three Jewels. He had come to the understanding that protecting the mind was more important than outward appearances. It was from then on that the great master manifested the behavior of a madman. Even so, he was extremely compassionate, providing people with whatever they needed, from water and wealth to teaching the Dharma.

One interesting tale recounts his meeting with two other “madmen”, known as the madman Heruka of Tsang (Tsangnyon Heruka) and the madman Kunga Zangpo of U (Unyon Kunga Zangpo). All three happened to meet each other and travelled to Tsari, southeast of Lhasa. Deciding to leave something behind for faith to arise in the minds of future disciples, Tsangnyon Heruka left his footprint in a stone and Unyon Kunga Zangpo left his handprint. Drukpa Kunley however exclaimed that leaving a print in a stone was as easy as leaving a print in the mud for him, and he declared that even his dog could do it. Drukpa Kunley then caught a dog and placed its paw on the stone, where it left an impression.

Drukpa Kunley or Kunga Legpa

Drukpa Kunley also studied under the master Pemalingpa who, as we saw earlier, was the forefather of Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu. Drukpa Kunley’s outrageous behavior is said to have shocked people out of their preconceived notions and misconceptions about not only secular life, but on a higher level, spirituality too.

Drukpa Kunley’s impact on Bhutanese culture cannot be underestimated. He is still honored in religious murals, rituals, and artwork throughout the country. Known as the ‘Madman of the Dragon Lineage’, his legacy lies in his crazy methods of bringing people to enlightenment. Another of his epithets is the ‘Saint of 5,000 Women’, since most of his disciples were female. His strange behavior however was moist with Buddhist teachings.

One story recounts the importance of holding vows. Upon entering a monastery, he emitted a beautiful fragrance while walking past some young monks. As he approached the older monks however, he farted, emitting a foul odor. When confronted, he told the older monks that what they smelled was a reflection of how well or badly they were holding their morality and vows.

The divine madman, Drukpa Kunley. Click to enlarge.

Drukpa Kunley is also known for his unconventional methods of teaching people about desire and attachment. There are numerous accounts of how he would lay down naked in the middle of the road with his private parts exposed and erect. Nuns would walk past him, at first showing how shocked they were, but then coming closer and talking amongst themselves. When asked why he was doing this, he would reply that he was not doing anything at all, and that it was the nuns who were making a spectacle of him. He would then proceed to grant them profound teachings about desire, attachment and how to overcome them.

Towards the end of his life, Drukpa Kunley was invited to Nangkatser. There, he realised he would pass away soon after a rainbow appeared and shone onto his right foot. So, he travelled to where his son, Zhingkyong Drukdrak was staying. He passed away at Thodlung Lampar Monastery and his body was cremated. Incredible images of deities and numerous relics were found in the ashes of his funeral pyre, and were later installed in a silver reliquary stupa.

During his lifetime, Drukpa Kunley served as the abbot of Nyel Dreuley Gon for a brief span of time. This small Drukpa Kagyu monastery was to become the seat of his incarnations, known as the Dreuley Tulkus. Drukpa Kunley was considered the first of his incarnation lineage and his second incarnation was known as Drubtho Rinpoche.


Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo

Drubwang Dreuley Ngawang Tenzin Zangpo was recognised as the third Dreuley Tulku by his root-teacher, Gyalwang Pagsam Wangpo. He was born into a servant family and showed signs of being spiritually attained, such as hooking a leg of lamb onto the rays of the sun.

From a young age, Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo was known to be very humble and held his vows strongly. He was a great meditator and became a well-known religious figure throughout the land. He is particularly noted to have received the initiation of Palden Lhamo and teachings on Mahamudra. He is also remembered for his memorization of the Abbreviated Kalachakra Tantra.

One of his later incarnations, the 5th Dreuley Tulku, Drubwang Kunga Mingyur Dorje composed a prayer in which he praised the incomparable qualities of Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo:

“With his excellent compassion, he performed limitless deeds for the benefit of others,
Skilled in teaching Dharma to those of different propensities,
Teaching the definitive nectar to develop beings’ full understanding of enlightenment,
To the great saffron-clad monk, I make requests.”

It was this incarnation of the Dreuley lineage who began Bhutan’s close connection with Dorje Shugden. The great Gelugpa master Serkong Dorje Chang wrote that one of the earliest and most significant Dorje Shugden ritual texts, known as Petition to Dorje Shugden Tsel: Granting all Desired Activities was most likely co-composed by Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo and Morchen Kunga Lhundrub, a Sakya master. This work was so significant that Serkong Dorje Chang incorporated it into his own writings. It was also included in the extensive catalogue of Dorje Shugden texts compiled by the Mongolian master Lobsang Tamdin.

The Dorje Shugden prayer composed by Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo can be found in Volume KA of the Dorje Shugden bebum. Click to enlarge.

The colophon lists the authors of this Dorje Shugden text as Dreuley (the Drukpa Kagyu master Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo) and Morchen (the Sakya master Morchen Kunga Lhundrub). Click to enlarge.

Both Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo and Morchen Kunga Lhundrub are named in the colophon of the text as ‘Dreuley’ and ‘Morchen’ respectively. Serkong Dorje Chang further states that Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo authored the upper portion of the text while Morchen Kunga Lhudrub authored the lower portion. This text also appears in the Dorje Shugden bebum compiled by H.E. Guru Deva Rinpoche.

Like many other masters who composed texts to this enlightened Dharma Protector, Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo wrote reverentially of Dorje Shugden, with clear allusions to his enlightened nature. For instance, he writes:

“As such appears in the middle of open, wide space from the syllable tsa the King of Dharma, the lord of the powerful and magical, Dorje Shugden.”

The original Tibetan verse can be viewed here. Click to enlarge.

The original Tibetan verse can be viewed here. Click to enlarge.


“Kye! Fast and powerful protector of the Buddhadharma
Overwhelmingly frightful body mandala,
Like the sun illuminating a coral mountain,
Blazing glory clothed as a renunciate,
With one face both wrathful and virtuous.”

The original Tibetan verse can be viewed here. Click to enlarge.

It is also known that Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu based his own Dorje Shugden compositions on that authored by Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo. Thus, it is logical to deduce that prayer texts to Dorje Shugden were easily available, indicative of the fact that his practice was once popular in Bhutan.


  • Click here to download Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo’s Dorje Shugden text.


Non-Sectarian Nature

In the present environment where divisions and schism based on religion are becoming pervasive, it is vital that we take special note of past Buddhist masters’ inclusiveness in their approach to practices and practitioners of other traditions.

Today, some people attempt to claim that Dorje Shugden is a sectarian Gelugpa protector, only practiced by a handful of Tibetan Buddhists. His practice is mistakenly labelled as wrong and not something we should engage in, but these people are ignoring historical facts – Dorje Shugden was practiced first in the Sakya tradition and, as we have seen, he was practiced in the Kagyu tradition too. Furthermore, his practice even spread to Bhutan centuries ago.

Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu was a Drukpa Kagyu master, but respected the Nyingma tradition and also propitiated Dorje Shugden. His view of Dorje Shugden’s nature is made clear in his reference to the Protector as being the “embodiment of all the Buddha’s power”. Only an enlightened being can be worthy of such a title, so it is an indication that Dorje Shugden is in fact an enlightened being, contrary to what others, including the Tibetan leadership would have you believe.

Dorje Shugden Tanag (Dorje Shugden on a Black Horse) originating from the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism

Hailing from such an important and revered incarnation lineage, it is impossible to believe that Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu would make a blunder in identifying Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being. To say so would effectively nullify the entire lineage of Zhabdrung incarnations since that time, and even call into question the spiritual authority of his first incarnation, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Coupled with the fact that the Zhabdrung incarnations are believed to be emanations of Chenrezig, if one were to say that Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu was mistaken, it would be tantamount to claiming Chenrezig himself is wrong. Furthermore, since the Tibetan leadership are fond of declaring that the Dalai Lama cannot be wrong because he is an emanation of Chenrezig, surely the Bhutanese leadership should similarly back up Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s praise of Dorje Shugden as an enlightened Protector since he too is also an emanation of Chenrezig?

More than that however, Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu’s and Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo’s texts prove that Dorje Shugden is not a sectarian deity that protects only Gelug practitioners. Both Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu and Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo belonged to the Drukpa Kagyu lineage, which had by then incorporated Nyingma practices into their tradition. On the other hand, Morchen Kunga Lhundrub belonged to the Sakya tradition, which has a long history of Shugden propitiation. For such masters to compose texts to Dorje Shugden shows without question that Dorje Shugden practice can benefit anyone, regardless of what sect they belong to. Add to this the fact that Dagmo Kelsang Karma Tsomo, an ordinary practitioner, petitioned Zhabdrung Jigme Norbu to compose a daily torma offering which included Dorje Shugden is clear evidence of Dorje Shugden’s practice having once been popular in Bhutan.

Dorje Shugden, one of the Three Kings (Gyalpo Sum), is part of the Sakya pantheon of Dharma Protectors.

The Tibetan leadership regularly try to pass off lies and warped logic as truth. However, this is not unexpected from an autocratic regime that is only pretending to be a democracy. What is strange however is the unfortunate fact that Bhutan, a real democratic nation also banned the practice of Dorje Shugden, even though the country has such an intimate link to it.

The truth of the matter becomes clear when we understand Bhutan’s troublesome history with the Tibetan leadership. Nothing good has ever come from having any association with the Tibetan leadership and Bhutan is no exception. First it was the endless plots of the Tibetan government to get the better of Bhutan, then the assassination attempt on the life of Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuk. Thus, the Dorje Shugden practice may very well have been an attrition of the Bhutanese leadership’s loathing and fear of the Tibetan government, within whose ranks the practice of Dorje Shugden was once very common.

The Tibetan leadership’s wrongful segregation and discrimination of their own people based on their religious choices (Dorje Shugden practice) for political reasons would not have gone un-noticed by Bhutan’s leaders. So perhaps in order to prevent the Tibetan leadership from spreading the conflict into their borders, the Bhutanese government decided to take an unfortunate pre-emptive measure and banned Dorje Shugden before it became a trigger for division, infighting and strife to creep into Bhutan. Looking at the state of the Tibetan community, who could blame the Bhutanese government? But in doing so, they sacrificed an important component of Bhutanese history and part of their spiritual heritage.


A Real Buddhist Democracy

Comparing historical Bhutan with its modern version makes a few things very clear. Chiefly, it is thanks to the forward-thinking policies of their broadminded monarchy that Bhutan has managed to retain its unique identity, marrying 21st century technological advancements with ancient Buddhist values as well as a practical appreciation for nature. This open-minded thinking has filtered down to every sector of Bhutanese society, allowing Bhutan and its people to decide for themselves what works best for them, at their own pace.

The 5th Druk Gyalpo His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk and the current 70th Je Khenpo Tulku Jigme Choedra. The position of the Je Khenpos was created by none other than Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.

Thus, we see in Bhutan today a model of what a successful Buddhist democracy truly looks like, where religious principles are an intrinsic part of everyday life for both ordinary citizens as well as the government. These Buddhist principles are applied to better the Bhutanese people’s lives instead of being used to manipulate them, as we see the Tibetan leadership do as a matter of habit. In this way, Bhutan has found a gentle and yet sure method of upholding and preserving its traditions. Unfortunately, due to the machinations of the Tibetan leadership in wanting to meddle in Bhutan’s affairs, the practice of Dorje Shugden was banned, denying everyday citizens their right and heritage to the practice.

ARTICLE 7 FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS: A Bhutanese citizen shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. No person shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement… No one shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, sex, language, religion, politics, or other status. Source: The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan,

Both the Bhutanese and the Tibetan people once practiced Dorje Shugden. And both the Tibetan and Bhutanese governments banned the practice of Dorje Shugden for different reasons. And yet we see very different outcomes. The Tibetan leadership blamed Dorje Shugden for their political failures and the loss of the Tibetan nation. If the Tibetan people’s problems were truly related to Dorje Shugden, then the Tibetan leadership is still no better off after having institutionalized a prohibition against the protector practice. Clearly it has nothing to do with a deity but very much to do with the attitude and caliber of the Tibetan leadership.

An official statement banning Dorje Shugden’s practice in Bhutan, as issued by the 70th Je Khenpo. Click to enlarge.

The Bhutanese spiritual leadership banned Dorje Shugden too but the country prospered before the ban and continued to do so after. Again, it is clear that the fortune of the nation has nothing to do with Dorje Shugden or indeed any deity. Therefore, it is a shame that the Bhutanese people are still denied the Dorje Shugden practice, a very important aspect of their Buddhist heritage bestowed upon them by the holy line of the Zhabdrung Rinpoches.

The Bhutanese leadership have come a long way and must by now have the maturity to separate religion from politics and also the confidence to be a proper democratic state that allows its people to practice his or her faith openly, freely and without fear, even if they decide to resurrect the practice of Dorje Shugden which the 4th Zhabdrung Rinpoche Jigme Norbu and Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo hailed. This is especially important given the fact that Dorje Shugden is a proven and indivisible part of their history.

Hopefully the Bhutanese nation will lead the way again and lean away from the medieval attitudes of the Tibetan government that have proven time and again to be the cause of much failure and grief to the people. Indeed, there are many lessons that the Tibetan leadership can learn from this mountainous Land of the Thunder Dragon and if Bhutan’s history is anything to go by, then one thing is for sure – the world has not heard the last of the dragon’s roar, nor the beautiful chant of Dorje Shugden prayers.



The current incarnation of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal known as the 10th Zhabdrung Jigdrel Ngawang Namgyal was placed under unwarranted house arrest by the Bhutanese government as a young child. This news even appeared on the Buddhist Channel website. Click on the image below to read more.

Click to enlarge. (Source:,3674,0,0,1,0#.WyK4w1Uzayp)


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  1. The cracks in Tibetan society are starting to show, and it is now coming to the attention of local Indians who have all but identified the Tibetan leadership as the source of the divisions. According to this author, disunity amongst the Tibetans is now creating problems for Indian law enforcement agencies, and this disunity may culminate in young Tibetans holding silent grudges against their host country. It is incredible that after six decades of generosity from India, Indians are now facing the very real possibility Tibetans can be ungrateful towards India. The Tibetan leadership totally failed to impart positive values upon their exiled community, like gratitude for those kindest to them and the need to repay these kindnesses with real, tangible results. It’s also very unlikely that the Tibetan leadership will now start to do this, after six decades of failing to do so. Indians need to realise this, and see that there is no benefit for their nation to align themselves with the Tibetan leadership, and there never will be.
    Tibetan disunity not in India’s interest
    John S. Shilshi
    Updated: August 7, 2018, 11:00 AM
    India is home to the Dalai Lama and an estimated 120,000 Tibetan refugees. Though this humanitarian gesture on India’s part comes at the cost of risking New Delhi’s relations with China, India has never wavered in ensuring that Tibetans live with dignity and respect. Notified settlements across the country were made available so that they can live as independently as possible and practice Tibetan religion and culture. They are also allowed to establish centres of higher learning in Tibetan Buddhism. As a result, several reputed Buddhist institutes came up in Karnataka, and in the Indian Himalayan belt. In what may be termed as a gesture well reciprocated, and because of the respect and influence His Holiness the Dalai Lama commands, the Tibetan diaspora also lived as a peaceful community, rarely creating problems for India’s law enforcement agencies.
    The situation, however, changed from 2000 onwards when unity amongst Tibetans suffered some setback due to developments like the Karmapa succession controversy and the controversy over worshiping of Dorje Shugden. In a unique case of politics getting the better of religion, two senior monks of the Karma kargyue sect of Tibetan Buddhism, Tai Situ Rinpoche and late Shamar Rinpoche, developed serious differences after the demise of Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, in 1981. This animosity ultimately led to emergence of two 17th Karmapa candidates in the early nineties. While Tai Situ Rinpoche identified and recognised UghyanThinley Dorje, late Shamar Rinpoche anointed Thinley Thaye Dorje as his Karmapa candidate. Enthronement of their respective protégés at the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, the supreme seat of the Karma Kargue linage, being their primary objective, both started indulging in activities monks normally are expected to, and bitterness spewed against each other.
    The bitter rivalry assumed a new dimension when UghyenThinley Dorje suddenly appeared in India in January 2000. The competition became fiercer and hectic political lobbying, never known in the history of Tibetan Buddhism on Indian soil, became common place. Apart from pulling strings at their disposal in Sikkim as well as in the power corridors of New Delhi, these senior monks spat against each other with allegations and counter allegations, widening the gaps between their supporters. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, choosing to favour one of the candidates—a decision many Tibet watchers felt was ill-timed—had also limited possible scope of rapprochement. Hence, the Karma Kargyue followers are now vertically divided, while the camps are dragged into a long drawn legal battle.
    Another development that unfortunately split the Tibetans is the controversy over Shugden worshipping, which again is an internal matter of the Gelugpa sect, to which the Dalai Lama belongs. It erupted as a result of the Dalai Lama urging Tibetans to refrain from worshiping Dorje Shugden, a deity believed to be a protector, according to Tibetan legend. Shugden practitioners, who felt offended by the call, describe it as an attack on freedom of religion, a right, which Dalai Lama himself tirelessly fought for. On the other hand, die hard Dalai Lama followers perceived the questioning of the decision as one challenging the wisdom of the Dalai Lama and mounted massive pressure on Dorje Shugden practitioners to relent, with some even demolishing the statues of the deity. The rivalry ultimately led to split in two Gelug monasteries in Karnataka, and Serpom and Shar Garden monasteries in Bylakupe and Mundgod respectively came under the control of Shugden followers. The bitterness associated with the split is exemplified by the fact that till today, members of these monasteries are treated as some sort of outcasts by the others. Thus, for the first time, the Tibetan diaspora in India gave birth to sections opposed to the Dalai Lama, with spillover effects in Tibet and elsewhere.
    For India, with a fragile internal security profile, a divided Tibetan population on its soil is not good news. It has several long-term implications. It is common knowledge that China considers Dalai Lama as a secessionist, one plotting to divide their country. The latter’s claim of “all that Tibetans were asking for, was a status of genuine autonomy within the Constitution of the Peoples’ Republic of China”, had fallen into deaf ears. China also considers him as someone who plays to the Indian tune to tickle China. Therefore, at a time when China has successfully shrunk the Dalai Lama’s space internationally, India continuing to extend the usual space for him is viewed as complicity. Sharp reaction from China when he was allowed to visit Arunachal Pradesh in April 2017, is a recent example. Such being the delicate nature of India-China relations on matters and issues concerning Tibetans, India can hardly afford to ignore the division within the diaspora. Past experience of dubious elements from Tibet having succeeded in infiltrating the Central Tibetan Administration, including the security wing, should be a warning.
    It is also time India understands the reason behind Tibetans seeking Indian passports, despite an existing arrangement for issue of Identity Certificates, which is passport equivalent. Some had even successfully taken recourse to legal remedy on the issue, and left the government of India red-faced. These changing moods should not be viewed as desires by Tibetans to become Indian citizens. They are triggered by the pathetic state of affairs associated with issuing of Identity Certificates, where delays in most cases are anything between six months to one year. Early streamlining of the process will drastically reduce their desire to hold Indian passport. It will also remove the wrongly perceived notion among some educated Tibetan youth, that the cumbersome process was a ploy by India to confine them in this country. While India should not shy from requesting the Dalai Lama to use his good offices to end all differences within the community in the interest of India’s internal security, it will also be necessary to ensure that young Tibetans do not nurse a silent grudge against the very country they called their second home.

  2. Why does the Bhutanese Dzongsar Kyentse Rinpoche behave and dress in a way that makes people lose faith in Buddhism and it’s teachers? 😒

    Dzongsar kyentse tattoo

  3. Although the Dalai Lama has offered an apology, the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) still expressed their disappointment over his controversial comment on Nehru, the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC). Dalai Lama called Nehru self-centred.

    The Congress said Dalai Lama being a foreigner should shun and refrain from interfering in the internal as well as external affairs of India.

    Dalai Lama should abstain from imparting controversial information to students: Arunachal Congress
    Dalai Lama should know that a spiritual leader like him is shouldering great expectation: APCC
    | DAMIEN LEPCHA | ITANAGAR | August 12, 2018 9:58 pm
    disappointment over the recent statement made by Tibetan Spiritual Leader the 14th Dalai Lama in which he called Jawaharlal Nehru, the former Prime Minister of India as “self-centered” and the one responsible for parting India and Pakistan.
    “Although Dalai Lama expressed regret over his controversial comment, the APCC is extremely thwarted by it. A Tibetan spiritual leader calling names to an Indian leader who sweated most to keep him and his followers safe from Chinese aggression is simply not acceptable. Today, India is home to lakhs of Tibetan refugees who are living in 37 settlements and 70 scattered communities across different states of India,” APCC vice-president Minkir Lollen said in a statement on Sunday.
    “Dalai Lama may have forgotten that India provided a beam of light and hope to Tibetans remaining in Chinese-dominated Tibet and in the neighbouring Chinese provinces politically cut off from the Tibetan heart land. All these happened only because India has great leaders like Gandhi and Nehru who took the responsibility of social burden to shelter thousands of persecuted Tibetans then in 1959,” Lollen added.
    Minkir said Dalai Lama should know that a spiritual leader like him is shouldering great expectation, hope and trust of millions on record and the same are watching his contribution towards the mankind.
    “In such circumstances, Dalai Lama should abstain from imparting partial and controversial information to the students who are the torch bearer of the nation,” the Congress said.
    Further stating that the statement of the spiritual leader could be a politically motivated one and made with an effort to approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi for survival of his continuation in the country, the Congress said Dalai Lama being a foreigner should shun and refrain from interfering in the internal as well as external affairs of India.

  4. I am not surprised when I read about how the Tibetans have been causing problems for Bhutan. They are the kind of people that are always up to no good and keep creating problems and trouble for those who are around them. Their greed for power, fame, and money is disgustingly strong that kills anything good in its path and leave everything in ruins.

    They have been takers for their whole life and they accomplished nothing. They lost their country due to their incompetence to protect it despite numerous help and advice from Dorje Shugden oracle who took trance to warn them of the situation. They choose to ignore the signs and advice pointed out by Dorje Shugden which caused Tibet to be invaded by China and His Holiness Dalai Lama was forced to leave Potala Palace and take refuge in India until now.

    Now despite putting in real effort in negotiating with China to get their country back, they accuse a Buddhist deity of their failure to bring Tibetans back to Tibet. They make a big fuss out of it and made the issue huge to distract the public from seeing their failure for 60years. Now that China is getting stronger and H.H Dalai Lama has expressed that he would like to go back to Tibet under China, CTA has nothing to say. CTA will not last long and soon they will have to dissolve their little party.

  5. It is bewildering that His Holiness the Dalai Lama mentioned that he had known of sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers since the 1990s, yet nothing was done to reprimand these Buddhist teachers. After all, such abuses inflict substantial damage to the reputation of Tibetan Buddhism as a whole as compared to smaller issues like Dorje Shugden.

    The Central Tibetan Administration was fervent in executing the Dorje Shugden ban, launching a documentary film, books, expelling monks, splitting monasteries and denying access to hospitals, clinics, schools, retail shops and so forth down to even publishing a hit list of Shugden activists in order to encourage violence and lynch mob. Yet, the damage done to Tibetan Buddhism by these lamas seems to be ignored and hushed. Why is the Central Tibetan Administration not doing more to warn the public about these sex offenders like posting a warning list on their website?

    Dalai Lama knew sex abuse by Buddhist teachers; it’s ‘nothing new’
    Agence France-Presse
    THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The Dalai Lama said Saturday that he had known of sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers since the 1990s and that such allegations were “nothing new.”
    The Tibetan spiritual leader, revered by millions of Buddhists around the world, made the admission during a four-day visit to the Netherlands, where he met on Friday with victims of sexual abuse allegedly committed by Buddhist teachers.
    He was responding to a call from a dozen of the victims who had launched a petition asking to meet him during his trip, part of a tour of Europe.
    “We found refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and heart, until we were raped in its name,” the victims said in their petition.
    “I already did know these things, nothing new,” the Dalai Lama said in response on Dutch public television NOS late Saturday.
    “Twenty-five years ago… someone mentioned about a problem of sexual allegations” at a conference for western Buddhist teachers in Dharamshala, a hill town in northern India, he added.
    The Dalai Lama, 83, lives in exile in Dharamshala.
    People who commit sexual abuse “don’t care about the Buddha’s teaching. So now that everything has been made public, people may concern about their shame,” he said, speaking in English.
    Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, a representative of the Tibetan spiritual leader in Europe, said Friday that the Dalai Lama “has consistently denounced such irresponsible and unethical behavior”.
    Tibetan spiritual leaders are due to meet in Dharamshala in November.
    “At that time they should talk about it,” the Dalai Lama said in his televised comments Saturday. “I think the religious leaders should pay more attention.”

  6. His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the Tibetan spiritual leader revered by millions of Buddhists around the world should ensure that the Tibetan spiritual leaders do more to denounce sexual misconduct and abuse of Buddhist teachers as there are far-reaching repercussions and negative impact on Tibetan Buddhism.

    While His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been consistent in reminding practitioners about not practising Dorje Shugden in lieu of the social and religious problems associated with it, despite the unsubstantiated claims or justifications, the indolence of the Central Tibetan Administration in taking action to pacify the public disgust against the misconduct of these Buddhist teachers is severely lacking and appalling. The bias in dealing with these issues related to religious matter has again proven the political nature and conspiracy behind the ban on Dorje Shugden.

    ‘Nothing new’: Dalai Lama says he knew about sex abuse by Buddhist teachers
    The Dalai Lama said Sunday he has known about sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers since the 1990s and that such allegations are “nothing new”.
    Agence France-Presse
    The Dalai Lama said Sunday he has known about sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers since the 1990s and that such allegations are “nothing new”.
    The Tibetan spiritual leader, revered by millions of Buddhists around the world, made the admission during a four-day visit to the Netherlands, where he met on Friday with victims of sexual abuse allegedly committed by Buddhist teachers.
    He was responding to a call from a dozen of the victims who had launched a petition asking to meet him during his trip, part of a tour of Europe.
    “We found refuge in Buddhism with an open mind and heart, until we were raped in its name,” the victims said in their petition.
    “I already did know these things, nothing new,” the Dalai Lama said in response on Dutch public television NOS late Saturday.
    “Twenty-five years ago… someone mentioned about a problem of sexual allegations” at a conference for western Buddhist teachers in Dharamshala, a hill town in Himachal Pradesh, he added.
    The Dalai Lama, 83, lives in exile in Dharamshala.
    People who commit sexual abuse “don’t care about the Buddha’s teaching. So now that everything has been made public, people may concern about their shame,” he said, speaking in English.
    Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, a representative of the Tibetan spiritual leader in Europe, said Friday that the Dalai Lama “has consistently denounced such irresponsible and unethical behaviour”.
    Tibetan spiritual leaders are due to meet in Dharamshala in November.
    “At that time they should talk about it,” the Dalai Lama said in his televised comments Saturday. “I think the religious leaders should pay more attention.”

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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