A Speech By Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche

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One of the highest Gelugpa lamas, Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s name is synonymous with that of a master having achieved perfect attainments and an exemplar of devotion to the pure lineage founded by Je Tsongkapa. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche studied under Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang and Kyabje Dragri Dorje Chang from whom he received the complete transmissions and all the necessary empowerments that bestowed upon him the responsibility and role of an essential lineage holder.

So highly accomplished was Denma Gonsa Rinpoche, that in his vocation as a Dharma master, he not only represented the three Great Gelugpa Seats of Ganden, Sera and Drepung but also Reting Monastery and other distinguished monastic colleges around Tibet. Such a feat could only be accomplished by a lama who is universally regarded by the Gelugpa establishment as being a most erudite and highly realized master. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s monastery, featuring huge statues of Lama Tsongkapa and Dorje Shugden, is regarded by all as a fortress of the Gelugpa tradition that preserves all the lineage teachings in their purity.

Given Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s widely acknowledged precision and faultlessness in his grasp and mastery of the lineage teachings, his opinion of Dorje Shugden carries significant weight and should be considered by anyone seeking the truth. In a speech to his students, the 19th Denma Gonsa Rinpoche spoke with fervid commitment of how he received the teachings and practice of Dorje Shugden from two of the greatest Gelugpa masters, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso and Kyabje Dragri Dorje Chang, from whom he also received Dorje Shugden’s ‘life-entrustment’ (sogtae).

Denma Gonsa Rinpoche was unwavering in his decision not to give up the practice of the Protector until the end of his life. It is steadfastness such as Rinpoche’s that detractors of Dorje Shugden have pounced on, to wrongly portray Dorje Shugden as the cultish practice of an extreme-fundamentalist sect of the Gelugpa school. Many have spread lies that it is because Dorje Shugden practitioners have surrendered their lives to Shugden and are bound by the life-entrustment vow (which they say is against the refuge vows to the Three Jewels), that they are unable to part with the Protector practice. Such misinformation has been spread on purpose to paint Dorje Shugden in a negative way.

The reality is that ‘sogtae’ is not surrendering one’s life to Dorje Shugden at the expense of one’s refuge vows to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Dorje Shugden ‘sogtae’ resembles ‘rje gnang’ which directly translated means ‘subsequent permission’. In other words, it is an initiation into the Protector practice which requires the initiate to abide by certain commitments such as the fulfillment of monthly pujas to the Protector, and to request Dorje Shugden to protect the practitioner from harm and perform activities on behalf of the practitioner to increase merits and provide dharmic as well as earthly endowments. Commitments are in fact a very common feature of Vajrayana Buddhism.

Moreover, such life-entrustments are common in other protector practices and it is not an extraneous feature of a ‘cult’ practice that those who attack Shugden worship have attempted to induce people to think. For example, the Fifth Dalai Lama performed similar life-entrustment rituals to the protector Dorje Barwa, a life-entrustment ritual to Nechung was found amongst the works of Thuken Dharmavajra, a sogtae to Dorje Setrab was written by Gendun Dhargye, and life-entrustment rituals to Tsiu Marpo and Four-faced Mahakala were found to have been regularly performed by Jamgon Kongtrul.

In fact, there is no requirement whatsoever for any Dorje Shugden practitioner to take ‘life-entrustment’ vows. And so clearly, as Denma Gonsa Rinpoche said in his speech, there are many lies and deceptions designed to malign the practice of Dorje Shugden.

In his speech, Denma Gonsa Rinpoche also tells his students that they should maintain guru devotion even at the cost of their lives, meaning to say that they should never go against their gurus nor abandon the practices that their gurus have given them, for to do so is tantamount to breaking samaya with their gurus. Again, critics of the Dorje Shugden practice have often distorted this resoluteness and labeled it as fanaticism that is characteristic of an extremist cult. Far from being a cult characteristic, firm commitment to the guru is innate in the pure practice of Tsongkapa’s lineage (and indeed Vajrayana Buddhism). Je Tsongkapa himself wrote in The Foundations of All Good Qualities, the following instructions:

Then the foundation for the two attainments,
Is keeping the pure vows and commitments,
Having found unfeigned conviction is this,
Bless me to keep them at the cost of my life.

The importance of keeping strict commitments to the guru is common knowledge to all Vajrayana practitioners. Ironically, some lamas who received the Dorje Shugden practice from their gurus but are now advocating forsaking the Protector are in fact very familiar with the dangers of breaking samaya. For example, Lama Zopa who received the Dorje Shugden practice from Lama Yeshe has taught his students that:

Guru devotion is the quickest way to collect the most extensive merit, the means to achieve enlightenment… but having a pure mind of guru devotion, with no negative mind arising toward the guru – which is very heavy negative karma – is also very important.

In addition:

A negative attitude, such as a thought of giving up respect, even just thinking, ‘What is the use of this teaching?’ creates negative karma; one breaks the samaya vows. A kind of pollution comes, and whatever you offer becomes negative and can invite sickness or obstacles. So, I think, the most important thing is keeping samaya, not doing any wrong thing, not letting heresy arise, having negative thoughts, or losing faith. Lost faith is very heavy [karma]. - http://fpmt.org/tag/guru-devotion/

It is with that thought in mind that Denma Gonsa Rinpoche advises his listeners to see him as their lama and receive teachings which will benefit them, and cautions them that if they view him in a negative light (for instance, as a ghost), there will be nothing he can do for them and their wrong view may hurt them.

This short and very important speech by the most holy Denma Gonsa Rinpoche is an invaluable treasure that demonstrates with clarity why it is extremely harmful to force, coerce or trick practitioners into parting with their gurus and their protector practice, and similarly why those who have disowned their teachers and Protector have wrought very heavy damage unto themselves. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s speech is also a clarion call for all Shugdenpas to persevere and like Rinpoche, be unmoving in their devotion to the guru and the Protector.

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14 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Guru Devotion. What gonsar lama is trying to say is:

    In the name of Guru devotion. Even if the guru says give me all your savings, house, wife and children. You should follow him otherwise no merits will be gained.

    In the name of Guru devotion when ever when a teacher tells you to bend you have to follow other wise no merit and means to achieve enlightenment.

    In the name of Guru devotion, never question a teacher otherwise A negative attitude is created and a negative karma.

    No wonder HHDL advises against shugden practice.

  2. Guru devotion not only important for Shugden practitioners or should I said not specific designed for Shugden practitioners. All great master include HH Dalai Lama know how important Guru Devotion to maintain pure samaya between guru and student in order to gain blessing and attainment. Please do not get it wrong and presume Guru Devotion only for Shugden practice and come out the conclusion that HH Dalai Lama disagree with the Guru Devotion.

  3. Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche is the epitome of a pure guru devotion and in upholding his pure commitment to Dorje Shugden practice despite the Dorje Shugden ban. Detractors of Dorje Shugden practice must heed this: “You should never go against your gurus nor abandon the practices that your gurus have given you, for to do so is tantamount to breaking samaya with your gurus.”

    There will be no spiritual attainment if you have broken samaya with your guru!

  4. I’m not making up a story here, but Denma Gonsa Rinpoche from Yushul Dritui was an honoured friend of Chinese communist leaders; eg. Jiang. He had a position in Beijing and He was a pro-china. You can prove that yourself going to Yushul, you will find all the evidence there.

  5. The importance of the Guru is described by Buddha in almost all of his teachings. For example tantric teaching, every teaching is involved with guru devotion and all of that. Devotion to and submission to our Guru is the beginning of us becoming independent — of our ego, of samsara and of our afflictive emotions. It may look like we have imprisoned ourselves, but if he is a real Guru, the minute we submit to him, believe, trust, let go and do as he says, it is the first step towards total freedom. The Guru will push us, give us assignments and design work for us that will help us achieve the six paramitas, Bodhicitta and compassion, which are necessary prerequisites of higher practices that give us total freedom.
    When we submit to the Guru, it is not to lose our freedom; it is to gain full freedom. Through the practice of Dharma and Enlightenment, we gain full freedom.
    Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s speech is also a clarion call for all Shugdenpas to persevere and like Rinpoche, be unmoving in their devotion to the guru and the Protector.

  6. Remember that people who are in positions of trust and are spiritual guides the more negative thing they engage in the greater the karma that will affect them.

    When the Qinghai earthquake happened all the buildings in that area was flattened except for Denam Gonsa monastery. If we also realise that there is actually no such thing as coincidences then we can have faith that Denma Gonsa in reliance on Dorje Shugden was going the right way. A friend of China is not what determines if a person does dharma or not.

  7. Thank you for the speech given by Denma Gonsa Rinpoche. I rejoice that his reincarnation has returned to continue to great work to uphold and spread the unequaled doctrine of Lama Tsongkhapa!

    It is stated often and clearly and by many parties the importance of Guru devotion for progress in Dharma learning, realization and attainment. From the time of Atisha to Lama Tsongkhapa as written in the Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment (which many subsequent Dharma writings are based on) and Lamrim, Guru devotion is the foundation of any spiritual attainment and possibility of advancement towards enlightenment. That is because, even these great beings, perceive their Guru to be one with the Vajradhara. It is purely due to the Guru’s compassion and wisdom that we have connection to the 3 jewels and this will become more so as degeneration intensify in modern society with increased abundance in temptation and distractions.

    With the rising intensity of distractions, I have personally experience the difficulty to devote sufficient time and effort to study and practice the Dharma. The obstacles on our Dharma journey is further fueled by our negative karma and lack of merits. In it stated that one of the most fundamental efforts Dharma practitioners must engage in is the accumulation of merits and purification of karma. The Guru is the perfect “doctor” to prescribe the medicine for building up our merit stock and purifying our negative karma because he is right there on our journey with us…our Guru knows our obscuration and is therefore able to give the exact antidote that is most efficient and effective for us.

    Lastly, Buddha himself said that in the future, the Buddha will manifest in the form of Gurus due to the collective karma of the people. Therefore, criticizing and abandoning the teachings and blessings of one’s Guru is equal to discrediting the Buddha himself. If this is the case, then why even bother to call oneself a Buddhist?

  8. Guru Devotion means attainment. having broken samaya means no attainment so need not talk about enlightenment. Having a wrong view or negative thought of our guru is a no no.. Guru represent the pure lineage of the Buddha Dharma all the way up to the Buddha Shakyamuni. That’s the powerful blessings and merits we are receiving. If we do not have faith in our guru, then why are we following that guru at the first place? This reminds me the story of Milarepa, who was a highly intelligent man but he gain no attainment because he had such a wrong view and negative thought about his guru. The moment he let go of his ego and trusted his guru. He became enlightenment in his meditation.

  9. dear spank
    i think you are not familiar with tibetan Buddhism; anyway, in ALL the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism – including ,as you can read in the article, those given by Lama Zopa who is not practicing Dorje Shugden , and by ALL other Tibetan Lamas – it is clearly said that IF you choose to have a Guru ( you are not obliged to do that) , you should follow his instructions.
    And it’s up to you to choose the right one: a real and pure Master will never ever try to make you his slave or servant as you are portraiting!!!!
    Up to you to choose the right one!!: first of all, I would never choose a Teacher who betrayed all the teachings of his Guru… – as unfortunately some did with the practice of Dorje Shugden given by their own Gurus.
    If a Guru is not himself following his Gurus purely , how can we expect him to be a good one? How can we think he will respect his commitments to the disciples? No way!

  10. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche on the Lamrim, for people familiar with Tibetan anyways http://www.dharmasoundarchive.com/2011/01/lamrim-sungshe-kyabje-denma-gonsar-rinpoche/

  11. So, now we have the dalai lama telling everyone that it is ok to break their samaya with their teachers? And we have certain lamas following this? What the…..
    What does he possibly want to achieve- Political power by stepping on his own people into submission?
    Now Tibetan Buddhism has a new trend, the new lineage by dalai lama, who boldly said his gurus were wrong. Sheeesh.

  12. Guru Devotion is just such an important part of Tibetan Buddhism practice. We should always trust what out guru say and give us. Without our guru, we would not even have the chance to be doing any dharma at all.

    It is through the guru that we are able to learn and benefit from the dharma.

    However, the funny thing now is that the Dalai Lama is telling us students to break our samaya and guru devtion towards our guru because of this ban on Dorje Shugden? We should give up our teachers because they practice Dorje Shugden? We should also be breaking all the commitments and promises that we have made to our guru? And only Dalai Lama is our guru?

    How is it possible that we should all be following what the Dalai Lama has said when we did not receive any teachings from the Dalai Lama? Would he still be considered as our guru then?

    Why is it that only what the Dalai Lama has said is true and correct even though he may have broken his samaya with his own gurus?

    Why did he say that only his guru Trijang Rinpoche is able to practice and no one else is able to practice Dorje Shugden practices? Is the Dalai Lama the guru to all Tibetan Buddhists because he is like a public figure for Tibetan Buddhism?

    If people have thought through all these questions it makes what the Dalai Lama has said or is saying contradicting. I just do not understand why is there even such a ban when the 14th Dalai Lama has made prayers to Dorje Shugden in his younger days as well.

  13. It is very clear that Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche has kept his Guru samaya and practises pure as evidenced by the fact the Denam Gonsa monastery was the only building left standing during the devastating quake in Qinghai. When such an attained Lama tells us that we should keep our Guru samaya clean and to have faith in our Protector, Dorje Shugden, then we should really take note and aspire to do so. After all, why are we hoping to accomplish if we can’t fully place our trust in our Guru? Any doubts in our Guru will create doubts in the precious practises we received. Simple logic and nothing negative at all!

    For me, my Guru would be the most compassionate person as he is the one making the effort to teach and guide me on my dharma path whereas the Dalai Lama teaches only masses. How can any of his followers even be sure that he considers them his students? If they need help or further guidance, will the Dalai Lama be there for them? Since the Dalai Lama has broken his samaya with his Guru, H.E. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, would his teachings hold merits or blessings? Points for them to ponder.

  14. Dear Dalai Lama,

    Since you started the cruel ban against the 350 year Dorje Shugden practice, how has it benefit your Tibetan society and Buddhism in the world? Things have become worse and most educated Tibetans can see this. They don’t speak out not because they don’t see your ban as wrong, but you instill fear in them and not respect. It is like fear of a dictator. I am sorry to say so. Everyone is divided. There is no harmony. Before your ban there was more harmony and unity.

    By enacting the ban, you split the monasteries, split so many families, split regions in Tibet apart, split your disciples from you, split your own gurus from you, split Tibetan Buddhism apart. You have created so much disharmony.

    It is not democratic what you have done to ban a religion within your community. You always talk of tolerance and acceptance and democracy and yet you do not accept and tolerate something different from your beliefs. When people practice Dorje Shugden you ostracize them, ban them from seeing you, ban them from using Tibetan facilities. You know you have done that. There are videos that capture your speech and prove this point. You even had people expelled from monasteries just because they practice Dorje Shugden. Some of the monks you expelled have been in the monastery for over 40 years. Many older monks shed tears because of this.

    Many young educated Tibetans lost confidence in you as they saw the damage the Dorje Shugden ban created and they lose hope. Many have become free thinkers. They reject what you have done. So many people in the west left Buddhism because of the confusion you created with this ban against Dorje Shugden which is immoral.

    You could of had millions of people who practice Dorje Shugden to support, love and follow you, but you scared them away. They are hurt and very disappointed. They loved you and respected you deeply before the ban. It has been 60 years and you have failed to get Tibet back. Your biggest failure is not getting Tibet back after 57 years in exile. Now you are begging China to allow you to return to Tibet to the disappointment of thousands of people who fought for a free Tibet believing in you. So many self-immolated for a free Tibet and now you want Tibet to be a part of China with no referendum from Tibetans. Just like a dictator, you decide on your own. It was your government and you that lost Tibet in the first place. Your policies and style of doing things do not benefit Tibet and Buddhism. You have been the sole ruler of Tibet your whole life and you still have not gotten our country of Tibet back for us. Our families and us are separated. Yet you create more pain by creating a ban to further divide people. Please have compassion.

    No other Buddhist leader has banned or condemned any religion except for you. It looks very bad. You are a Nobel laureate and this is not fitting of a laureate. You should unite people and not separate them by religious differences.

    You said Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi did not do right to the Rohingya people in Myanmar due to religious differences, but you are doing the same thing to the Shugden Buddhists within your own society. There is a parallel in this. You separate the Shugden Buddhists from the others in Tibetan society.

    You have lost so many people who would have loved and supported you. You have lost so much support around the world. The Shugden Buddhists who love you number in the millions. When you are fast losing support from governments and private people, it will not do you well to lose more.

    After you are passed away in the future, the rift you created between the Dorje Shugden and non-Dorje Shugden people will remain for a while and that will be your legacy. Disharmony. You will be remembered for this. Not as a hero but a disharmony creator.

    Dorje Shugden will spread and further grow, but you will be no more as you are a human. No one wishes you bad and in fact we hope you have a long and healthy life, but we have lost so much hope and have so much despair because of you. All the hundreds of Dorje Shugden lamas, tulkus and geshes are maturing and there are hundreds of Dorje Shugden monasteries in Tibet who will not give up Dorje Shugden. You have made a mistake. These hundreds of teachers and teachers to be will spread Dorje Shugden further in the future.

    The gurus that gave us Dorje Shugden as a spiritual practice and you have called these holy gurus wrong and they are mistaken in giving us Dorje Shugden. How can you insult our gurus whom we respect so much? If they can be wrong, then you can be wrong. Then all gurus can be wrong. So no one needs to listen to any guru? You have created this trend. It is not healthy. Your own gurus practiced Dorje Shugden their whole lives. Your own gurus were exemplary and highly learned.

    Dalai Lama you have created so much pain with this ban against so many people due to religion. You are ageing fast. Are you going to do anything about it or stay stubborn, hard and un-moving. You show a smile and preach peace and harmony wherever you go. But will you do the same to your own people? Please rectify the wrong you have done. Please before it is too late. You can create harmony again or you can pass away in the future with this legacy of peace. May you live long and think carefully and admit what was a mistake in having this unethical ban against Dorje Shugden religion.

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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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