Gyalchen Dorje Shugden’s Appearance
Learning about iconography is a great way to discover any deity’s nature, function, and the methods that are applied in their practice. With beauty and power the following excerpts (in quotation marks) from prayers and praises to Gyalchen Dorje Shugden express via his outer appearance his inner intent and wishes.
Although you outwardly exhibit the haughty manner of a terrifier to conquer enemies of Lozang the Victor’s teachings, you are, in nature, that very Manjushri Yamantaka; with the supreme, unsurpassed devotion.
“In the middle of a dark wind-swept wisdom fire, on lotus and sun, and an enemy-trampling, frightening, watchful lion is the supreme heart jewel of Dharma protectors, Dorje Shugden, the mighty King. Monk robes beautifying his body, wearing a domed golden hat, his hands hold wisdom sword and enemy heart. Smiling at practitioners, he destroys enemies and obstructers with a wrathful look.”
“Smiling with ruby complexion of affection and compassion, elegant in whatever emanation of wrath, passion, or smiling peace, the instant one remembers the limitless secrets of your body, all needs and desires are granted, to you I praise.”
“Your razor sword of superior wisdom rips through the foe, samsara, and you hold the heart of great bliss which slaughters the extreme of nirvana; to you who, for the glory of infinite migrators, shows signs of the skilful means, which have arisen from extremes of both samsara and nirvana, I offer praise.”
“The system of Nagarjuna, the highest view, free from extremes, and the supreme behaviour of vinaya, the code of conduct of the Buddha; as an instruction to migrators that one should practice thus, you are adorned by the domed hat and saffron robes, to you I praise.”
A dark wind-swept wisdom fire emanates from the King Protector and burns up our obstacles and obscurations, arisen from negative karma. In short, it consumes whatever keeps us from the most direct path to enlightenment.
The lotus shows his actions are based on great compassion; the sun disc his realization of emptiness. A lion, the fearlessness that arises upon victory over ignorance, attachment and hatred, tramples the enemies, the afflictive emotions arising from self-grasping and self-cherishing. He tramples them into the sun disc, which means he destroys ignorance (self-grasping) by means of realizing emptiness, which frees from self-grasping.
The lion is frightening, from our side because ego fears nothing more than confrontation with truth, from his side because wrath is quick and powerful. The same goes for the King Protector: under his wrathful look selfishness and its resulting obstacles crumble and disintegrate.
Heart jewel: jewel refers to the legendary wish-fulfilling jewel that can grant whatever we desire. Heart refers innermost essence, and our deepest wish – enlightenment. This shows that Dorje Shugden is the essence of the forces that support and protect those who are serious about dedicating their lives to others by striving for the supreme attainment. Then, like Geshe Rabten said, he will give you his very heart.
Monk robes symbolize pure ethical outer conduct (pratimoksha), the domed hat the highest view (vajrayana), Madhyamika, of which Nagarjuna was the first propounder, and which Je Tsongkhapa presented in his teachings with unsurpassed clarity for our present time.
The wisdom sword (Manjushri) cuts through the delusions which keep us from seeing reality directly; enemy heart denotes the root of the problem (ignorance), which Dorje Shugden rips out. The other translation, heart of great bliss, also shows his bodhicitta motivation, to refrain from personal peace (nirvana) for the sake of all living beings.
He furthermore holds a “taming hook” in his left arm, showing that his power works throughout the three realms of existence, as well a jewel-spouting mongoose that provides material needs. Wearing shoes (tiger skin boots) shows that he appears in the disguise of a worldly god, which means that he is closer to us ordinary beings and easier to propitiate than Kalarupa etc. Finally, his third eye (wisdom eye) in the middle of his forehead perceives directly the totality of relative and absolute reality, past, present and future.
32 Deities Mandala
“Although your aggregates, elements, spheres and limbs appear as the five families of Shugden, principal and entourage, they are actually the thirty-two deities of Guyasamaja’s body mandala.”
Five families (aggregates)
- Duldzin Dorje Shugden: consciousness. He gives wisdom and shows the way.
- Vairochana Shugden: form. He purifies negative karma and obstacles.
- Ratna Shugden: feeling. He increases what is good.
- Padma Shugden: discrimination. He brings peace of mind.
- Karma Shugden: compositional factors. He helps in overcoming delusions and harmful energies.
- Nine beautiful consorts: elements. They empower tantric practice.
- Ten monk guides: spheres. They empower monastic code of conduct.
- Ten wrathful guardians: limbs. They avert broken samaya
“… he who is in essence inseparable from Manjushri Yamantaka in the aspect of the protector of Je Tsong Khapa’s teachings, Mighty Gyalchen Dorje Shugden, dark red in colour with one face and two arms, mouth slightly open in a happy smile, tongue curled, three eyes excited by the force of compassion, rolling, beard and eyebrows blazing like fire.The right hand raises a golden razor sword up to the sky.
The left hand holds, at the heart, the heart organ of enemies and obstructors with its root.The left armpit holds a treasure mongoose copiously granting all needs and wishes and a golden hook powerfully summoning the three realms.
On his head he wears the domed hat, brilliant with gold of the Tzambu river with silk adornments.He wears the monk’s garments of three flowing robes.On his feet he wears tiger boots.
His bodily emanations pervade the universe, his verbal activity gives the teachings, and his mind’s thought is endowed with the ten powers. From his body, which exhibits any aspect, never fixed, is generated a tumultuously wind blown fire of wisdom in the centre of which he sits.
From the principal deity’s skandhas, elements, sources, and limbs, a bit of light emanates becoming: in front of the principal deity, mighty Vairochana Shugden, white in colour, smiling wrathfully, holding in his right hand a lance adorned by a mirror and in his left a noose.White silk robe on his body, he wears a golden turban on his head and rides a long trunked elephant.
To the right, mighty Ratna Shugden, yellow in colour, holding in his right hand a golden long life vase filled with nectar of deathless life with the ornamented lid of a wish granting tree raised to the sky. In his left hand he holds a vessel of jewels.He wears jewelled ornaments and yellow long life robes and rides a saddled, bridled, beautifully adorned divine light yellow palomino.
To the back, mighty Padma Shugden, wrathful brilliant blood red in colour, smiling with desirous menace, holding in his right hand a hook adorned with red silk powerfully summoning the three realms raised to the sky and in his left a jewelled noose. He wears garments of red silk adorned with red flowers and the clothing of a minister of Shang Shung and rides a turquoise blue dragon.
To the left, mighty Karma Shugden, very dark red with a wrathful manner, holding in his right hand a sword raised to enemies and devouring a crystal heart with his left. He has clothes of black silk and rides a wrathful garuda.
Surrounding them are their avowed outer, inner, and secret entourage. First in the encircling order, like the eight powerful goddesses of Kalachakra, are the principal deity’s nine union consorts with power over the four elements, holding the five types of sensual objects. They are bedecked with the eight jewelled ornaments and garments of varicoloured silks, nine beautiful goddesses who grant boons on the path of vajrayana.
Next are the eight monks who guide the activity of propagating the precise tradition of vinaya such as the pure pratimoksha discipline, the root of Buddha’s teachings. They wear the saffron robes and some wear the domed hat, some the pandit’s hat, some the yellow hat, and some the split open meditation hat. In their hands, as well, they hold mendicant’s staves, begging bowls, scriptures, vajras and bells. From their mouths they thunder eloquent explanations of the Dharma.
Then there are the ten young wrathful guardians, slaughterers with terrifying forms, holding various weapons in their hands, some with cheerful, some with fierce expressions, in various outfits of China, Mongolia, Nepal, Tibet, Kashmir, and India.
They strike with lightning harsh punishments those tantrikas, priests, and shamans who, because of having fallen into prejudiced tenets, criticize, abuse, and slander that activity of study and practice in which the entire doctrine of sutra and tantra is collected while acting, themselves, like drunken yakshas, cheating ordinary worldly people – and especially those evil human and nonhuman beings who deeply detest and harm all supreme and lesser beings who, with faith and devotion, worship the upholders of the system of Manjunatha Tsong Khapa.”
Gyalchen Dorje Shugden
“You said, “I will protect the highest stainless essence of the Sugata’s teachings as the precious jewel of the merit of all beings!”Heroic Manjushri Yamantaka in a worldly, haughty disguise,to you, endowed with strength of ten million dharma protectors, I offer praise.
Smiling with ruby complexion of affection and compassion,elegant in whatever emanation of wrath, passion, or smiling peace, the instant one remembers the limitless secrets of your body, all needs and desires are granted, to you I praise.
Your razor sword of superior wisdom rips through the foe, samsara, and you hold the heart of great bliss which slaughters the extreme of nirvana; to you who, for the glory of infinite migrators, shows signs of the skilful means, which have arisen from extremes of both samsara and nirvana, I offer praise.
The system of Nagarjuna, the highest view, free from extremes, and the supreme behaviour of vinaya, the code of conduct of the Buddha; as an instruction to migrators that one should practice thus, you are adorned by the domed hat and saffron robes, to you I praise.
Having various mounts, unfixed, such as lions, agile garudas, and dragons, emanating as whatever will tame beings in infinite realms, for the sake of migrators, ever tireless, to you I praise.
Although you have the manner of a very fierce slaughterer, in the midst of a tumultuous mass of extremely blazing fire, you don’t move even slightly from a state of peace, love and compassion; to this especially exalted wonder, I offer praise.”
“O you whose purified aggregate of form, in the dance of the pacifier, is a new youthful body of a hundred thousand autumn moons, holding silk beribboned arrow and noose, riding the king of elephants, the dispeller of negative conditions and obstructors, to you I praise.”
“O you whose purified aggregate of feeling, in the dance of the increaser, is a body, magnificient with the brilliance of ten million suns. Holding vessel of jewels and vase, riding a divine yellow palamino, the increaser of wealth, prosperity and all desirables, to you I praise.”
“O you whose purified aggregate of recognition, in the dance of the subjugator, is a body blazing with the glory of a ruby mountain, holding hook and noose, riding a blue turquoise dragon, the powerful summoner of the three realms, to you I praise.”
“O you whose purified aggregate of compositional factors, in the dance of the terrifier, is a body like a dark red intolerable tumultuous storm of fire, riding an agile garuda, holding razor-edged sword and enemy heart, the reducer of enemies and obstructors to ashes, to you I praise.”
Nine beautiful goddesses
“The purified nature of the four elements and five sense objects such as form are the nine beautiful great consorts of each family who, exquisite in their youth, with the arts of love, liberate from the bindings of existence, to you I praise.”
“The purified nature of the sources, nerves, veins, ligaments, and joints are the eight monks who guide in virtuous activity who, with an emanated drama of whatever tames each being, protect those bound by samaya like a son, to you I praise.”
Ten young wrathful guardians
“The purified limbs of the body, in a powerful, wrathful dance, in the manner of torturers ruling over the lives of those with degenerated samaya, wandering in all directions, wearing outfits of China , Mongolia , Nepal , Tibet and Kashmir , to the ten wrathful young guardians, I offer praise.”
Surely you’ll agree the above are self-explanatory.