A Teaching on Nyingma Protector Shenpa

By His Eminence Shenpen Dawa Rinpoche

Los Angeles, California | September 1988

Secret: Only Initiated Practitioners

The first protector I will speak about is Shenpa. Shenpa is very important for His Holiness’ swift rebirth, because he is the main protector of the Nyingma lineage.

Shenpa is the main guardian for all of our practices: Troma, Phurba, etc. He is one of the divine protectors that Guru Rinpoche entrusted the terma teachings with, and basically he controls most of the terma teachings.

An interesting thing about Shenpa is that my father met him several times. I’ll tell you about one incident.
Normally, Shenpa was in very close contact with my father all the time, and really served him. It was very difficult for us to even see Shenpa’s face, because he was very wrathful, and he doesn’t show his face as easily as other dharmapalas do. Shenpa is very conservative. Also, it isn’t easy to call on Shenpa to do things, but he could manifest to Rinpoche in person.

Shenpa was the one who brought my mother and father together. Shenpa had gone to my mother’s father in person. My maternal grandfather was a military commander named Shig Go Tey. He was governor of the province called Shig Go Tey, which is very large. My grandfather was also the 13th Dalai Lama’s personal cabinet advisor. He was an aristocrat, but at the same time he was also a minor terton, connected with Guru Rinpoche’s teachings. He would always carry a phurba in his chuba.

At one time my grandfather was looking for a particular text in the area of Lhasa when Shenpa appeared to him in person. He told him that the text could be found with Dudjom Rinpoche, who was in Lhasa at the time. My maternal grandfather had never heard of Dudjom Rinpoche. Shenpa told him where Dudjom Rinpoche was staying and said, “Send your daughter to request the text.” Before he left, he told him, “I have a present for you.” He gave him a bow and arrow, then walked away from the room and disappeared.

My grandfather was so caught up with talking to Shenpa that he forgot that he was in his inner chamber, which was inaccessible to anyone. The chambers are constructed in such a way that the inner chamber is private, and there is an outer chamber where servants guard the inner chamber so that no one enters.

Immediately after Shenpa left he realized that there was no way for this person to enter, and he thought, “How did this person get into my inner chamber?” He rushed out to where his servants were guarding him and asked them where was the man who had just given him the bow and arrow. The servants said there was no such person, that they had been there the whole time and hadn’t let anyone in. That night my grandfather had a very positive indication that he would meet Dudjom Rinpoche and receive teachings from him.

That same night, Shenpa went to Dudjom Rinpoche and told him, “I am going to get the consort for you, so tomorrow morning, let whoever comes in to see you. Set up an auspicious offering on the table, and tomorrow a person will come who will be your future wife.”

Most of Dudjom Rinpoche’s servants at that time were monks, so the next day Rinpoche told them, “If anyone comes today, no matter who they are, I want to see them. A woman will come to see me so don’t stop her from seeing me.” Later that day Rinpoche met my mother.

After that, Dudjom Rinpoche went to my mother’s house and asked my grandfather for her. It was at that time that my grandfather showed Rinpoche the gift that Shenpa had given him, because he felt that the person who had given it to him was a protector. Rinpoche recognized that the bow and arrow was the same bow and arrow that he had placed in his monastery for the protectors. Shenpa had taken the bow and arrow all the way to Lhasa to give to my grandfather. My grandfather then became Rinpoche’s disciple.

Shenpa is a wisdom being with very high realization. My name, “Shenpen,” means “benefactor of others,” but “Shenpa” means “the hunter” –he hunts for human life.

The reason we pray to Shenpa is because he was in such close contact with Rinpoche. Shenpa gives tremendous blessing and protection to students who are in retreat, and for all practitioners of the Tersar lineage. Shenpa vowed that he would continue to benefit people until the next Buddha comes so that the Tersar lineage, its protectors and blessings wouldn’t be lost. So this is a direct prediction and prophecy of Shenpa.

Shenpa came to my father many times like this to help him. Once, when Rinpoche was traveling from one part of Tibet to another –a dangerous thing to do since there are bandits everywhere — he wasn’t able to get where he wanted to by nightfall. My father, mother, and three or four servants, that’s all the people who were in the group, got stuck on a hill. Suddenly they looked up on the hill and saw 30 or 40 bandits.

My mother was very worried. There were no other travelers in sight, and she thought they would all be robbed and killed by those bandits. Bandits do that kind of thing. They were completely desperate. The bandits were howling and making all kinds of noises and coming down the mountain when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, another band of 30 to 40 riders appeared and started riding up from the ravine below, carrying guns and bows and arrows. The bandits coming down from above were frightened and retreated because they were outnumbered.

The group of riders from below then came up to Rinpoche, and the leader got off his horse asking him, “Oh ho, where are you traveling?” Rinpoche answered, “I am traveling to Lhasa. Where are you going?” He replied, “The next village.” Rinpoche thanked him for coming at just the right moment. The leader asked him, “Who are you?” Rinpoche replied, “Oh, I’m a padma guru, I’ve been recognized as Pedma Guru. My name is Dudjom Rinpoche.”

Then the leader said, “I’ve heard a lot about you. Aren’t you the terton Gillay Terton’s reincarnation?” Rinpoche said, “Yes, I have been recognized as such.” So immediately the leader made prostrations to Rinpoche. Rinpoche asked him, “Do I know you?” The leader replied, “Yes, you know me, but it isn’t important for you to remember me at this moment, but I know you.” That person was Shenpa.

Later that night, at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, Rinpoche had a dream. Shenpa appeared to him and said, ” I came to serve you. Forgive me if I fooled you. That was not my intention. You were traveling in a dangerous place, so I came to serve you. You have commanded me many times to come in times of need.” The next morning, when Rinpoche got up, he made a very elaborate offering to the dharmapalas to thank them for making the bandits go away.

Now he was able to complete his journey safely. The chieftain, or Shenpa, had looked familiar to Rinpoche. He felt he had seen him before, but he couldn’t figure out where. He was completely disguised as a bandit, but when Rinpoche looked at his feet, he saw he was barefoot. People don’t ride barefoot, so it occurred to Rinpoche later on that that was a subtle sign of the protector.

Shenpa serves Rinpoche’s disciples too. One time there was a disciple who went into retreat in Kongbo during the winter, and this disciple was completely cut off by snow and dying of starvation. Right in front of his retreat house someone dragged the body of a dead deer. The disciple was meditating inside when a voice said to him, “I’ve brought you food down there. Eat it.”

When he went outside and looked, he saw the dead deer and brought it inside, and he was able to do another three months of retreat. Later on, Shenpa told Rinpoche, “One of your students was dying, so I took him deer meat.”

The activity of the dharmapalas is incredible. Dharmapalas are wisdom beings that can help you attain realization. Needless to say, there are other protectors, like Trod Gyel Harmo, Tseringma, and other protectors and protectresses that protect the lineage, but Shenpa is the main protector of the Dudjom Tersar lineage.

When Dudjom Lingpa discovered a certain terma, Shenpa was there to help him, taking the terma from the rock. Shenpa is committed to the Dudjom lineage and to whoever practices in the lineage. If a practitioner calls on him, he will be there to answer. This doesn’t mean he will answer all the small detailed things, but if there is crucial need, he will be there. So Shenpa practice is important.

Then, along with this practice, you can add one more practice. It starts with: Kung Jo! Kung Tu Zang Mo Ying Gee Yum. This is the prayer for Mamo Ekadzati, Dorje Legpa and Ralchigma. Sometimes, if you do the Dam Cheen Chi Tor, then you can just recite the Ma Za Dor Sum. That would be great.

If you make the dharmapala offerings, and do dharmapala practice like Ma Za Dor Sum or Shenpa practice, it is important to keep count of your repetitions. You can’t just say it two or three times and just leave it. Unfortunately, we have never done an intensive dharmapala practice together. When I practice, if I have time, sometimes I will recite one mala, but not less than 21 times. It’s very important to invoke them.

What dharmapalas really are is our confidence. They support our confidence to be able to reach out and help others. In fact, if we lack confidence, dharmapalas have a way of subtly communicating with us to bring our confidence back. Confidence is the right way of respecting the teachings, the right way of benefiting people. That is the confidence it will bring up in us.

In fact, dharmapala is the subtle communication of the Buddha in the sambhogakaya realm in which we have developed the fine perception of seeing them, so if you see the form of the dharmapala, you have also seen the form of the Buddha in the dharmakaya realm. Dharmapalas are the subtle communications between these two levels.

Dharmapalas will manifest in an ordinary way because our understanding is ordinary, but when we purify our perception, they manifest in an extraordinary way. It depends on our perception. Dharmapalas are the real communication of a subtle body, and through them we can experience our subtle body in a way that we have never experienced before. Through the dharmapala, we can experience the subtle body immediately in our everyday situations. So these two practices, Shenpa and Ma Za Dor Sum, are important.

The third dharmapala is optional, and it is that of my protectress, Kong Jhyo. When I was young she saved me many times from death. I was very naughty when I was young, and I gave my parents a lot of problems. My protectress, Kongsen Denma, came to me several times and saved me. I’ve seen her several times from childhood to adulthood, and whenever I have a problem, she always comes up.

Rinpoche, my father, would always say: “Don’t forget to appease her, and don’t forget to always make offerings to her.” But in spite of that, I’ve always been more involved with protectors like Shenpa. Somehow, I never include her in my practice. It’s just recently that things have been pointing out that she is the real one I should be concerned with, so I have been taking more interest in doing her practice. She is my birth goddess. I was born in Kongbo, and she became my protectress.

So this practice is optional. If you do do that practice, she will create more favorable circumstances for me to be able to come and help you all more fully. Also, she will create a situation where you will find time to practice as well.

You have this practice, it starts with Kay Sha Shu Pa Ja Jung Pa Zon Zhu Sho Shu Kay Su Yidam ___ Tum Mo Che. I will give you all the oral transmissions straight away, so you’ll have that.

Normally, when you are doing a tsog puja or a dharmapala practice as a group, it is good to do this practice of Kongsen Denma. It’s not something you have to do every day. It is good to do it collectively as a group. As I said, in my own experience, she has really come and helped me many times.

Normally, as far as your daily practice goes, if you have a dharmapala initiation it is good to do the practice. Why? Because it opens your confidence. Also, your confidence is opened when you are able to relate to the sambhogakaya wisdom body of these deities. These dharmapalas are the protectors of the dharmakaya buddhas that are in the active field – not in the depth of meditation.

Protectors are willing to show their divine form to you, and will show it to you in a way that you can relate to, but they remain behind because we are not subtle enough, and we don’t realize it, and we don’t evoke them enough. But somehow, when the time of need arises, these protectors and protectresses will come and help.

In the Nyingma lineage, and in the whole buddhadharma, one of the most complex things to explain is the dharmapalas. The reason for this is because we must be spoken to on our individual levels of realization; otherwise, it becomes a gross fabrication of a very, very subtle complex.

The explanation can also be very difficult and terrifying, because the dharmapalas arise from the vapors of our blood. There are so many levels of protectors: there are local palas, dharmapalas, wisdom protectors, there is a whole heirarchy of protectors. It is like a comprehensive government of dharmapalas.

If you understand the dharmapala practice, you understand the working mind of the Buddhas. The dharmapalas are the main working force of all the Buddhas, because they communicate the process of our mind. If there is an enemy, what is the enemy? How should we view the enemy? If there is something harming us, how do we defeat it?

It is important to do the dharmapala practice at the beginning and end of each empowerment or wang, and if you are doing a retreat, you must also begin and end with a dharmapala practice. There is no time that you can ever exclude these wisdom beings.

The dharmapala initiation is called “Tsogmay Tsogthig” which means “empowerment giving you the life force of the protectors.” Once you have received the initiation, you must do the practice every day or they will harm you. It’s a commitment, a very serious contract. This empowerment will explain exactly what the protectors are, and how they dwell in our system and energize you.

A general dharmapala practice you can do as a group, even if you haven’t had the initiation, is the Tsomig Tsogthig. It’s a special transmission which I don’t think is being given, unless you are a tulku or really committed to spending the rest of your life in practice. It is a very difficult and risky transmission to give, and it has a very heavy samaya.

So those are the three dharmapala practices I recommend: Shenpa, the three deities, and Kongsen Denma. After that, if there are other protectors you wish to include, then include them, but these three are the root protectors in your practice.

The “Dam Chen Chi Tor” practice contains the entire magnitude of the protectors, and is a complete protector prayer for all lineages. The Dam Chen Chi Tor is so complete that once you have finished it, you have fulfilled the samaya to all the lineages. All protectors for all practices come from there. Once you have done this, you can go to the other protector prayers to pay special respect to individual protectors.

Whenever you pour a liquid as an offering to a protector, you must wear a scarf over your mouth so you don’t breathe into the protectors. The thing about the dharmapalas is that they are very disciplined wisdom Buddhas. They won’t accept any of your faults at all. They will discipline you. If, for example, you breathe into what you are pouring, they will slap you back, and in the same way, if your practice is done correctly and well, you will have a positive reaction back, straight away.

It is good to offer red wine to the dharmapalas, but the best offering is whiskey. Whiskey is expensive, but when you make an offering to the dharmapalas, and to the wisdom Buddhas, you don’t want to be cheap, you should want to offer something good. If you cannot afford whiskey, drop down to wine, and if you cannot afford wine, then offer tea. If you cannot afford tea, what can I say?

Along with the liquid that you offer in the dharmapala cup, you should also offer beef heart. The dharmapala offering is a symbol of activating the heart core. The chanting and beating of the drum that we do in the dharmapala practice vibrates the Buddha’s heart. From that heart vibration, our heart vibrates.

So they vibrate together, which produces the energy that produces the different phenomena. Within the beef heart, all essences are together. If you can’ t afford heart , offer a small piece of meat. If you can’t afford heart or meat, then offer a biscuit, or a little rice.

Basically, the offering should be whiskey, heart, the five kinds of meat, and at last one grain of rice. If you are doing a long practice, cut many pieces of meat, and continue to add heart and whiskey as if to say, “Please have, please have.”

Now it is not just whiskey and meat, but it is nectar we are offering. This offering is a symbol of our heart being opened to the dharmapala and saying, “Have this.” If you have an enemy, the offering symbolizes their heart, as if you were saying, “Please subjugate my enemy.” When you say “subjugate” you don’t mean kill. Subjugate means you want them to see the wisdom of not harming you. It is a means to bring wisdom to that person.

Many times, if someone seeks to harm you, and you are doing dharmapala ractice, that person will suddenly change their mind and decide not to hurt you. Why? Because the dharmapala changes their mind about the benefits of harming you.

Normally, when we make our offering, the power of the five meats and the five nectars increases the offering in an infinite way, like space, but since we don’t have the meditative power to increase it the way it should be increased, if we add a little dudtsi or amrita inside the bottle of whiskey, because the dudtsi has been blessed by the power of meditation, the whiskey will have the strength of meditation. The amrita has the power to make your dharmapala practice successful.

You must have either the power of the practice of relying on your yidam, your meditation, or the substance. The dudtsi contains all three powers, and alone can fulfill all three requirements. It is really powerful. I do that, by the way. You can feel the difference when you add dudtsi to the whiskey. The vibration in the room changes straight away. The protectors come.

In the Nyingma lineage, the key to making dudtsi is knowing how to prepare the nectars. Dudtsi contains five gems, five meats, five nectars, and the relics of all the Buddhas and tertons. It also contains the combination of all the earth that Rinpoche has collected from different areas.

When we make dudtsi, we combine relic upon relic, and concentrate it with the 21-day practice of day and night. The practice goes on for 21 days and nights, without interruption. It is an awesome, overwhelming process. The mantra must continue 24 hours a day.

Herbs are mixed with the dudtsi, and all of these ingredients, these king medicines, are mixed together. Then the mixture is sealed all around. Bell and dorje are placed in different quarters to symbolize the blessing.

The medicine that is prepared must be kept in a mandala, so a whole mandala must be prepared. It must be constantly attended to, with offering lamps and light. And with the practice of Dorje Sempa, Vajrsattva, Phurba, or Avalokitesvara, the lama empowers the medicine with his mind, again and again.

It is an extremely complex process to prepare dudtsi. Throughout the practice tsog is offered. When His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche prepared it, in the end, as a symbolic thing, people would see rainbows coming out of the dudtsi. Rainbows would cross each other in the air in the room where he worked, and other things like that.

Even with an ordinary lama, due to the strength of the blessings, the skull cup will boil over and radiate light on the ceiling. There are always miraculous signs when dudtsi is being prepared. Always.

If you are sick, or have samaya contamination or anything like that, if you eat a little dudtsi it will purify your channels. Dudtsi is really to purify channels. If you add a little to the whiskey, it will make up for whatever you lack in reliance on yidam, meditation, or the power of the substance.

When you practice alone, place the protector offering on your table, not the altar, so you can keep feeding it . Make the offering very carefully, and place a bumpa or water bowl here with a little saffron in it, and keep purifying the protector offering with the water as well. Also, you can turn the incense around the offering.

You must be very diligent, very conscientious of what you are doing. It is very bad if any dirt gets into the offering. The offering receptacle must be washed thoroughly, and make sure your hands are washed too. If you sit down and touch the floor after washing your hands, you might think your hands are washed, but they aren’t. Be careful.

The best way of disposing of a protector offering is in the river or ocean. It is also good to keep it in a high place where birds can eat it, like on a post, or in a tree, or put it on clean ground, blocked by a fence or stone, away from where you walk. If you are in retreat, you can collect it in a plastic garbage bag.

Don’t give the remains to domesticated dogs, cats, or other animals that comprise your extended family. If they are other people’s animals, and strays, it’s not great but it is okay. It is okay for wild animals to consume the offerings. It is good to make the offering every day, especially toward the evening.

Q. I don’t believe in the dharmapalas. Everything else about dharma makes sense, but dharmapalas don’t make sense to me.

A. Everybody has a problem with the dharmapalas. They ask, “Who are they? I don’t believe in them.” And, my dear, I must say two things to you: First, just because you don’t visually see or understand something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Remember this one. Second, what you don’t see is your limitation, not an expansion of your awareness.

The reason it is so hard to relate to the teaching of the dharmapalas is because this teaching is so very, very sophisticated. When you go through all the elaboration of the practice, through all the blood, guts, pus and everything spilling out, and you look at the various vapors that rise up, then you begin to understand.

Understanding the dharmapala is really understanding how your blood and your heart beat relate to your practice. We say your heart is the drum of the dharmapala. The pumping of the blood is the offering to the protectors, and the beating of the heart is their drum.

You must be brought up in the context of being with them, or having seen them or the local protectors. If you can’t see the local protectors, how can you hope to see the dharmapalas? If you can’t see your ancestors who have died on this land, how can you hope to see a local protector, let alone a dharmapala? The level of energy is very high, very subtle. Once your energy is very subtle, then you want to name the subtleness of the protectors. This is what you want to come to.

For example, once, in His Holiness’ temple, a man named Pedma Longdu used to beat the dharmapala drum every evening and make offerings. He had made a commitment to His Holiness to perform this offering ritual, and it was his routine. One night he got drunk and didn’t make the offering. He went to sleep.

In the middle of the night my mother woke up, maybe around 2:00 a.m., when the dharmapala drum began beating on its own. She woke up my father and asked him, “Did you ask for a special extension of the practice? What is going on?” Rinpoche just got up and smiled, and said, “It doesn’t matter. No, it doesn’t matter.”

The drum beat the whole night, and all the people surrounding the temple could not sleep. The dharmapala had become very violent, hitting the drum, because the offering had not been put there.

The next morning Rinpoche called Pema Longdu, who is now the head lama of the Buddha Monastery in Kaleekoh, and asked him, “Why didn’t you do the dharmapala practice last night?” The lama became arrogant and said, “If I miss one day’s practice, are they going to get so hungry?”

The next day Pema Longdu was hit by a fever, becoming violently ill and almost losing his life. This was because he talked about the protectors as if they were hungry for an offering, and were so attached to that offering that they couldn’t go even one day without it.

Right after he said that his blood started warming up. He couldn’t sleep all night, and his heart kept on beating, beating, beating. The next morning, he started vomiting blood. So Rinpoche told him to go straight away into the temple and make prostrations to the protectors, or they would take his life.

The protectors can take your life force. It really is in their hands. Why? The life force we are talking about in the Chi Med Tsog Thig is the protector. There is nothing other than that. It wasn’t that the dharmapalas missed the offering. They just showed him that he had lost his discipline in the training of his mind. That is why the dharmapala showed its hand. It can be a very costly affair.

Let me tell you another story about the dharmapalas. The reason my father, Dudjom Rinpoche, was never angry towards any particular person is because once he had a bad experience, and he vowed never to get angry again. I’ll explain what happened, but we should not talk about it to anyone.

When Rinpoche was young, he had some financial difficulties, as all of us do have at one time or another. Rinpoche was sponsoring many things, and his finances weren’t so good. So he borrowed quite a large sum from these three brothers, because Rinpoche was always borrowing money.

He was going to pay it back, but in Tibet it is horrible to borrow money because the interest is so high. You cannot believe it. After one or two years, if you can’t repay a loan, your interest is four or five times the amount you borrowed.

Rinpoche couldn’t pay the loan back the first year. He had started building a monastery and just couldn’t pay it. So in the second or third year one of the brothers became very angry. Rinpoche said, “Please wait. I think my situation will soon be a little bit better.” Rinpoche was already making payments, but he had borrowed quite a large amount of money.

One day Rinpoche was teaching, and in those days lamas would teach very casually, sitting in front of the house in the garden letting people come and go as they wanted, when all of a sudden this brother turns up and says, “Give me the money right now.” Rinpoche said, “I don’t have it.” So the brother said, “Then what you need is a whack,” and he grabbed Rinpoche by the throat and dragged him out.

Now all of his disciples were warriors, because as you know Tibetans are fighters, so his disciples were dragging their swords out, and Rinpoche was screaming, “Don’t touch him, don’t touch him.” Everyone there had a knife and gun and were prepared to kill this brother straight away, but Rinpoche stopped them. So the angry brother kicked him two or three times, and Rinpcohe felt really bad, but he said, “He’s right. It is his money that I haven’t been able to give him. It is true.”

Early one morning, before the dawn light, Rinpoche was doing his practice around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. In the middle of his practice, someone came in and put something on the table in front of him, and made a big noise in the dark.

So Rinpoche goes looking for a torch — batteries were brought from Lhasa, and from there they came from China, so who could afford them? — finds it, and lighting it he finds a fresh head cut off, with the brains intact. He immediately realizes that it is the head of the brother who grabbed him by the neck. The protector could not bear to see him humiliated, so he lopped that person’s head off and brought it to Rinpoche.

From that time on Rinpoche swore never to feel any emotion, or show any emotion. He had been thinking, “Why did that man treat me so badly?” He deserved it, but not in this way. Two days later, another brother went completely crazy and stabbed himself.

Soon afterward, the third brother was riding his horse and fell. Once a protector gets angry, he won’t stop until he cuts the entire family line. You might ask, “What logic is there in hurting family members?”, but I’m trying to tell you it goes beyond logic.

So immediately, Rinpoche had to stop this, because it was spreading to the other family members. So he told the parents and relatives to come to the monastery and do prostrations in the temple and ask for forgiveness. Rinpoche accepted their petitions for forgiveness, then it was cut. It didn’t get the father and mother, but next it would have been the uncles.

The wisdom mind of the dharmapalas is such that when people are cut, they are also liberated. Don’t forget this. It is not that they are suffering. The dharmapalas have the right to take the life force away. The life force we are talking about is a vitality which is in the grasp of the dharmapalas.

The truth is contained in this awareness. It is very difficult to understand at this moment, but the more you do dharmapala practice, the more you will be able to see many things you did not see before.

Rinpoche felt very bad that he showed a little emotion, because he felt that it was that emotion which transformed into the activity of the dharmapalas. It doesn’t make sense to say the dharmapalas felt anger, because they are the wisdom deities, and are beyond anger. But when you violate a holy body, the dharmapala is sworn to protect that, so they will come into action.

Regarding the lamas who are being killed in Tibet, as I said, the dharmapalas are sworn to protect the body of divine truth –not outside, but inside. Physically speaking, these lamas still have to go through the same experiences of birth, old age, sickness and death, just like anyone else. They have chosen to go through these challenges, which is why they are called bodhisattva.

Bodhisattva means accepting the challenge to come back into samsara and go through the same poisons and training, again and again. But innerly they will perceive their sickness differently. They will stay in the dharmakaya perception, and when they die, they will dissolve into light. It is only because our perception is impure that we see them suffering in an outer way. That is the difference.

Now that you have been given the explanation of the dharmapalas, if you don’t have respect for that explanation, then you are in serious trouble. Then you won’t practice as you should. If you haven’t had enough explanation, and you do the practice a little wrong, that is a little okay, but once you’ve had the explanation, and you do it any other way, then you break your commitment. What is more, there is the difficult matter of all the levels of the protectors, arising from intangibility, from that which is unseen. It is very complex.

I’ve seen thousands of examples of what the protectors can do. When you do their practices, you will find your confidence. As you move toward realization, the thing you will lack is the protectors. That is when the protectors arise.

What we have not understood so far is the strength of the blood, the strength of the heart, and the strength of the flesh. This means we haven’t really understood the dharmapalas at all.

If you practice consistently, then the dharmapalas have to reveal themselves to you. Their qualities will reveal in the depth of you — in the breath, in the blood vapor, in the nerve vapor — and you will be able to see them for the first time. Then you will begin to understand what is called “the unhindered action of the Buddhas.”

Right now, the closest you will come to seeing the perfect enlightened mind of the Buddhas is from the point of view of the protectors. It is very complex. You need to do a one month retreat of the dharmapala before you can realize, through the beat of the drum, just whose heart it is that is beating.

The drum beat is not your heartbeat, it is the heartbeat of the dharmapalas. And when you begin to understand that, fear begins to rise, because without beating the drum, the drum is still beating. Then more fear will arise. That is how you go about looking for the protectors. If you see the protectors, you might just faint. Sometimes, the life force will just run away.

When you pray for protection, you probably think you are praying to be protected from something, but though it is isn’t written, what you are really praying for is the protection of the dharmapalas. The dharmapala is the manifestation of the wisdom activity of the Buddhas. Suppose you are doing practice and someone wants to kill you, but you are saved. Who saved you? It was the dharmapalas. The bridge between the intellect and the wisdom mind is the dharmapalas.

The dharmapalas are implicit in all dharma practices. Only through the dharmapalas do you explicitly bring up the full range and magnitude of the activity of the Buddhas. You practice with wishful thought, but when you do dharmapala practice, that wishful thought translates into action.

Every time something happens to you that brings a change or realization in your life, or gives you strength to live again, that is the activity of the dharmapalas. It is not just happening by accident; it is the movement of the dharmapala. The heartbeat is the heartbeat of the dharmapala.

For example, sometimes they manifest as a person, blocking you from going a certain way, and later on you see that someone going that way was hit by a car, or they go into another person’s mind and block you so you will be safe, or physically manifest so that you are saved. These are all common activities of the dharmapala. They push you from this to that until you make the auspicious connection. It just depends on how you understand it.

Non-physical things which happen to you, which are good for you, are also the dharmapala. If you think the person or situation that was good for you, and continue to practice, someday the dharmapala will come and say, “Yes, I did that for you. I gave you that situation a long time ago.” That is the way it is.

The dharmapalas can be violent, but they can be peaceful too. They can be a butterfly, they can be warmth, they can be anything. They don’t have to be just one particular form. The activity aspect is dharmapala.

To tell the truth, even for myself:, the complexity of the dharmapalas is such that sometimes I say to myself, “What am I doing?” When you practice, you will understand, but when you don’t, then it is difficult. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve seen them or not, if you continue to do your protector practices, different situations will arise from that.

Somehow, what I always see is the wrathful. When I was small I couldn’t sleep. When I grew up I was constantly seeing the movement of the dharmapala. I remember my father saying, “Ah, these are things practitioners wish to see but can’t. These are your protectors.”

At that time I couldn’t understand what these protectors were, though in my depth I could. They had three eyes, six eyes, and I couldn’t relate to them. And the words they spoke weren’t words a small kid could understand like, “I love you.”

Instead they would say, “Give me your heart. I want to eat you,” or something like that. Those were their exact words, and I was only five or six years old. I couldn’t sleep. I would see their translucent bodies, and they would come and grab me.

In the daytime, I couldn’t play either. My eldest sister would never play with me because I would see these things, and when I would point them out to her, she would see the same things. And my servants, the young men who were looking after me, none of them would take responsibility for me at night. That is how bad it was.

In the daytime, I would be playing a game like hide and seek, and sometimes I would be running and all of a sudden I would fall into a gigantic lap. When I would look up I would see this horrible face, and then I’d faint. Most of my childhood was spent in either a fainting or unconscious state. I’ve always been like that. I had a difficult life as a kid.

My mother and father would sleep together and put me in the middle between them, and as soon as they fell asleep, someone would shake me. I’m not joking. The protector would shake me so I would wake up, and then I would see on the ceiling this deity with three heads, tongue rolled up, guts hanging out, one hand holding a knife, saying, “Come, come, I want to just cut your neck.”

It helped that Rinpoche told me it was good that I had these protectors, and that they were the wisdom deities. As a child I could relate to something nice, but seeing something like that just scared the hell out of me. I couldn’t understand why they would do that, why they would frighten me. And later in my life, I didn’t understand why they didn’t have the wisdom to know I was just a child.

Rinpoche would be doing a tsog, and I would look inside the tsog offering and see a whole host of non-existent people. Sometimes they would bring dead people to Rinpoche for his blessing. I would see that person walk in, sit down and observe. I saw many things that terrified me.

My mother would fight with my father, saying, “If this continues a long time, you will have no son left.” It was true. Anything that moved, I was frightened. She wanted him to seal off my mind so I wouldn’t see these visions. Rinpoche had a way of sealing this vision off, totally.

My father said no, we must leave it as it is, that it was really beneficial for me. I couldn’t understand how it was beneficial. But later, after a big fight with my mother, he sealed it.

Rinpoche called me in to him and said, “It is very unfortunate what I am going to do, but I am going to seal your vision completely.” I was maybe seven or eight years old. There was an altar set up with some nectar on it. He told me to put it on my eyes.

So I put it on my eyes and forehead, and he said, “From today on, I’ve sealed this one.” Truly speaking, after that I never saw them again. I could feel them move for another year, but the vision aspect was gone. Now I think it was a great mistake.

My mother should have listened to Rinpoche, because he was talking from his wisdom mind. I’m sure I wouldn’t have died, but I was so happy when my mother requested that. Believe me, my servants couldn’t bear to be with me. At night they wouldn’t go out with me, because just like with my sister, if I pointed the dharmapalas out, they would see them too.

I would be sitting in a room, and the door curtains would start moving, and something would catch my eye and I would see this gigantic finger saying, “Come, come. ” I wouldn’t want to look at it, so I’d tell my sister, “there, there,” and she would see the same gigantic finger saying, “Come, come,” and then she’d start screaming.

It is no wonder I had no one to play with. If it had been a dream, I would have understood it as a dream, but it wasn’t a dream. I really saw it. I couldn’t hide in any corner.

The only time I felt secure that nothing was going to come was when I would sit right next to my father or mother when they were doing things. Even then, when I looked around, I would see things, but they wouldn’t frighten me because my mother or father was there.

Rinpoche told me that later on my vision would reopen on its own, but I think it was good for my health that he sealed it off; otherwise, I don’t know what would have happened to me. It was a terrible part of my life.

So when you ask about the dharmapala, I’ve had the same kinds of questions, like why would they scare the hell out of me? If they had just showed themselves to me once, I would have said, ” I’ve had an experience,” but showing me again and again, daytime, evening, nighttime, whenever I played they were running after me, attacking me.

And their words were not sweet or gentle, they were always, “I want to chop you,” or “I want to eat your heart.” The only gentle thing I’ve seen is Kongsen Denma, and she’s important to me. She always appears in the most beautiful form.

One day I was playing outside in the field and suddenly this beautiful lady came and said, “I’ll take you to the main garden in Lhasa.” I said, “Yes, I want to go.” So I just held her hand and went. I saw everything in the lingka. I’d never been to the lingka before. I was lost for seven hours.

My mother was worried , and she went to my father and he said, “No, no. There is nothing wrong with him. He’ll come back home. It looks alright.” During the seven hours I was lost, my memory was that I went to this lingka and had a nice time. I watched all the fish in the water.

Then, all of a sudden, I was back in front of the gate, and a servant came and grabbed me and dragged me in, because all the servants were out looking for me. I didn’t know what had happened. I didn’t realize I had been gone for seven hours. It had seemed just a few minutes to me. The beautiful lady had said, “Go back. I’ll come and visit you again.”

My mother asked me what happened, and where had I been, and who took me, so I told her. The lingka is a 1/2- day’s horse ride from my house. Rinpoche knew nothing was wrong. He could see everything was intact, that I hadn’t been taken by a demon or a spirit. Rinpoche said most probably it must have been one of his protectors.

So she was the only elegant lady with all the ornaments saying, “come” with gentle words. The rest I’ve seen were all (he makes a grimace). That’s what I mean when I say dharmapalas.

(The two stories about laying down on the road and letting the Chinese Trucks roll over him, and Falling in the Well were not translated.)


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  1. “The activity of the dharmapalas is incredible. Dharmapalas are wisdom beings that can help you attain realization”.
    “The dharmapalas are the main working force of all the Buddhas, because they communicate the process of your mind. If there is an enemy, what is the enemy? How should we view the enemy? If there is something harming us, how do we defeat it?”
    I would like to recount a story told by HE Shenpen Dewa Rinpoche about the Nyingma Protector, Shenpa,(main Protector of the Nyingma lineage, particularly the Dudjom Tersar lineage) and his enlightened activity ,which to ordinary minds may appear very gross and revolting. In essence, it demonstrates the incredible activities of an enlightened wisdom Protector so as to secure a realization for you.
    This story concerns HH Dudjom Rinpoche(Shenpa Dewa Rinpoche’s father). This Holy Being learned from this “bad experience” never to become angry with any particular person again(although, my own perception is that His Holiness is already an enlightened being and this “experience” was meant to help transform the minds of those other people around Him and the other party in this story, and for them to gain realizations).
    In this story, Dudjom Rinpoche had borrowed a big sum of money, from three brothers, to fund the construction of a monastery and could not repay the whole sum. With high interests, the total amount owed became much bigger.
    One day, whilst Dudjom Rinpoche was giving a teaching, one of the brothers rudely presented himself, disrupted the teaching, and demanded repayment of the loan, and even had the audacity to drag Dudjom Rinpoche out and kicked him, when he said he could not repay the loan.
    Although Dudjom Rinpoche stopped his disciples from hurting or killing this brother, and defended him outwardly by saying that he was “right” to threaten him, yet inwardly, he was thinking , “Why did that man treat me so badly?”.
    Early, one morning, while Rinpoche was doing his practice, the freshly cut head of the brother, who had kicked and threatened him, was brought and placed on the table in front of him. It was the Protector who had done it, as he could not bear to see Rinpoche so humiliated. The other two brothers were also killed in bizarre situations. Rinpoche then called the rest of the family to go to the temple and do prostrations and ask for forgiveness. Only thus was the ‘chain reaction’ from interdependent arising cut.
    The ‘cutting’ here signified that all the people involved in the ‘cutting’ were liberated, through the working of the wisdom mind of the Dharmapala. The real ‘enemy’ in this story that had to be defeated and put down is the inner, more dangerous ‘enemy’ of Anger. So that Anger had to be put down and cut off.
    Thus does this Wisdom Protector help beings in gaining Dharma realizations.

  2. The stories and teachings in this article totally blows my mind away. I love reading stories of the workings of the wisdom beings. Some people say we should not put faith in miracles…but miracles happen and are workings of extraordinary beings. It is called a miracle not because it’s not normal…it’s not normal to us just because we don’t understand them and because we can’t perform these deeds ourselves.

    Just like what Shenpen Rinpoche said, “First, just because you don’t visually see or understand something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Remember this one. Second, what you don’t see is your limitation, not an expansion of your awareness.”

    Reading this article makes me gain more faith in my very kind and compassionate protector, Dorje Shugden whom I believe to have saved my life and brought me to the path of the Dharma, not only that, but have done much to help me stay on the path.

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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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