Are You Friends with a Shugden Practitioner?

This unusual, rare photo of H.E. Ling Rinpoche and H.H. 101ST Gaden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal recently came into the hands of It has sparked our interest of course, as any images of high lamas do. This photo is a little more special though for it’s not just a picture about two lamas. Of greater interest is their close association in the picture and what it can signify for thousands of Dorje Shugden practitioners.

But first, a little background of these two lamas:


H.H. the 101st Gaden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche

Gaden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal began his monastic education in Gaden Shartse Monastery, rising in his studies to become the ‘highest lama in the land’, the 101st Gaden Tripa, representing Lama Tsongkhapa here on earth. From the beginning, His Holiness proved his academic prowess when he attained first place in the Geshe Lharam examinations, whereupon he was conferred the highest Geshe qualification. He has also received extensive training in both fields of sutra and tantra.

His Holiness went on to serve as abbot of Gyuto Tantric College and Gaden Shartse Monastery, and was even personally selected by H.H. the Dalai Lama to represent Buddhism in international inter-faith meetings organised by other religious authorities, such as the Pope. His Holiness was then later bestowed the honorary rank of Sharpa Choeje (the second highest rank within the Gelugpa school, along with the Jangtse Choeje) in 1995, before finally being appointed as the 101st Gaden Tripa in 2003.

His Holiness teaching at a packed auditorium in Taiwan

In January 2010, H.H. Gaden Trisur sent shock waves through Tibetan Buddhist community when, upon retiring from his term of service as Gaden Tripa, he left Gaden Monastery to join Shar Gaden, a monastery formed specifically by monks who wished to continue their practice of Dorje Shugden but were being forced to stop by the Dalai Lama. To this day, Gaden Trisur continues to practice peacefully, maintain strong connections with other Shugden lamas around the world and is also starting to create friendships with the Chinese, to bring Dharma back to the people within Tibet and China.

On top of this, Gaden Trisur has also brought Dharma to the West, having established a Dharma center on the outskirts of Paris, where he continues to teach. He also travels broadly, bringing the teachings to practitioners in France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, America, China, and Singapore.

More information can be found below about His Holiness and especially his unwavering devotion to Dorje Shugden.


His Holiness the 7th Ling Rinpoche

This young 7th incarnation of Ling Rinpoche comes from an incredible and impressive incarnation lineage which can be traced back to ancient India and Tibet, including saints, kings of India, scholars, highly attained yogis and practitioners. Of the 6 previous incarnations of Ling Rinpoche, 5 were tutors to several incarnations of Dalai Lamas, maintaining a very close teacher-student disciple across many lifetimes.

The immediate previous incarnation, the 6th Ling Rinpoche, was also again appointed as Tsenshab (debate partner) and then, senior Yongzin (tutor) to His Holiness the current 14th Dalai Lama. He also served as Abbot to Gyuto Tantric College and Sharpa Choeje, the second highest rank within the Gelugpa lineage. Finally, in 1965, he ascended to the highest rank of the Gelugpas, as the 97th Gaden Tripa, the Gaden throne-holder representing Lama Tsongkhapa.

Born in 1985 in India, the current incarnation is a part of the next generation of great Tulkus who have emerged after the exodus from Tibet in the late 1950s. Once again, he has shown immense devotion and focus in his studies as well as begun to turn the wheel of Dharma to practitioners around the world in South Korea, France and India. He currently resides in Drepung Loseling Monastery where he is focusing entirely on studying and acquiring a mastery of the teachings, to emulate the great deeds and teachings of his many exalted predecessors.

More information can be found below about His Holiness Ling Rinpoche.


Friends / Enemies

In recent decades, following the Dalai Lama’s ban on the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has constantly said that Dorje Shugden practitioners must be avoided and 100% segregated from mainstream Tibetan community. Since this time, Shugden practitioners have not been permitted to participate in any common events or activities, nor been permitted access to any of the basic welfare and rights accorded to other Tibetan citizens. Because of this, family members have been estranged from each other; Gurus and disciples have been separated; monks and high Lamas cannot associate with each other even if they have studied and practiced together all their lives; monasteries have had to split into two.

The Dalai Lama and H.H. the 101st Gaden Trisur Rinpoche had long enjoyed a good relationship… until the ban on Dorje Shugden was decreed

However, H.H. Gaden Trisur, the former supreme head of the Gelugpa school chose not to give up the practice of Dorje Shugden. Proudly, he announced his loyalty to the practice and left the ‘mainstream’ Gaden Monastery to join Shar Gaden Monastery, which was established precisely because 700 monks there wished to continue their Shugden practice. He made an extremely bold statement in doing this for it showed the world clearly that the patriarch of the yellow hat lineage, the lama who holds a position even higher than the Dalai Lama within the Gelugpa lineage, practices Dorje Shugden and has not given up.

However, this unique picture of Gaden Trisur Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche tells a different story: while H.H. the 101st Gaden Trisur Rinpoche is a known Dorje Shugden practitioner, Ling Rinpoche, is not. The latter, who still resides in Drepung Monastery, is a part of the ‘mainstream’ community which cannot associate with Shugden devotees. This photograph of him with Gaden Trisur Rinpoche is a very unusual one showing an association which would not be permitted in any way today.

We acknowledge that this photograph may have been taken before the ban on Dorje Shugden, but there are many questions that still arise from their close and affectionate friendship here. First of all, we can see here that the Gaden Tripa was still accorded much respect before he left to Shar Gaden and regarded as the ‘highest lama in the land’. For Ling Rinpoche to be pictured with him suggests that even the incarnation of the Dalai Lama’s senior tutor held him in very high regard. His stance, slightly bowed in reverence next to the then Gaden Tripa, reflects this clearly.

So we ask: why is it that the Gaden Tripa is regarded so highly and seen to be such a holy monk before, but is then so quickly disregarded when he declares his decision to continue his practice? Why is it that he is accorded such respect just a few years ago but has to be so obviously segregated from the community now? Are all his attainments, his knowledge, his service to the Dharma erased and denied now just because of one protector practice?

If we believe that Ling Rinpoche is the incarnation of a highly attained being and comes from such a realized incarnation lineage, then we must also believe that he will be able to know if someone is engaged in harmful, negative practices and not a good practitioner. Why is it that he would openly associate with Gaden Trisur in one instance but then suddenly have to boycott him in the next? Would an incarnation as high as Ling Rinpoche be so fickle and undecided over something as crucial as someone’s Dharma practice? It might be useful to note too that the previous 6th Ling Rinpoche had even written a prayer requesting the activity of enlightened protectors, which included Dorje Shugden – a clear sign that he too had faith in this Dharmapala as an enlightened being. How is it possible that an enlightened being can have a certain view of a deity at one time and then change to have a completely opposite view at another?

Finally, at the heart of the matter lies the fact that every Gaden Tripa is formally ‘endorsed’ by the Dalai Lama and supported by the abbots of all the Gelug monasteries (since this is the institution that each Gaden Tripa arises from). How is it possible that the Dalai Lama – who we believe to be Chenrezig – would approve of someone as the head of his own lineage if he was such a bad and harmful practitioner? Now that Gaden Trisur openly ‘admits’ that he is still praying to Dorje Shugden and stoically refuses to abide by the Dalai Lama’s directives, does it mean that the Dalai Lama, his government and all the abbots under him were wrong in their initial approval of him? Should they go back on their word?


If It’s Good Enough for Gaden Tri…

The position of the Gaden Tripa is not an easy one to come by. Every Gelug practitioner understands the vigorous process that one has to go through to even be considered for this supremely respected position. Every Gaden Tripa is not only academically astute in the Dharma teachings but would have also had a lifetime of experience in serving the Dharma. He is a known scholar, devoted yogi and prolific writer. He would have profound knowledge of the lineage’s many practices and teachings, and the ability to discern, through irrefutable logic, the validity of every practice.

H.H. Gaden Trisur Rinpoche proudly maintains friendships other Dorje Shugden practitioners such as Lama Jampa Ngodup Rinpoche (left)

After so many decades of practice, teaching and service to the Sangha, it would be entirely safe for us to assume that His Holiness the 101st Gaden Trisur has a sound understanding of all the main practices of the Gelug lineage. So if this patriarch of the Gelug school chooses to practice Dorje Shugden and recognizes him as a fully enlightened Being, then what doubt should we have, as ordinary practitioners?

There is no way we are as learned or practiced as His Holiness right now; so if we wish to criticize the validity of a practice like Dorje Shugden, consider for a moment how much less qualified we are than a master like Gaden Trisur to question a practice he has chosen and maintained for a lifetime.


Further reading about the Gaden Tripas and H.H. 101st Gaden Trisur Rinpoche:

A History of the Gaden Tripas
A Tribute to His Holiness the 101st Gaden Tripa
Interview with His Holiness the 101st Gaden Tripa Lungrik Namgyal
A Biography of His Holiness the 101st Gaden Tripa
H.H. Gaden Trisur Rinpoche Defects to the Dorje Shugden Camp
H.H. Gaden Tripa’s Dedication to Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche


Further reading about H.H. Ling Rinpoche

A Tribute to His Holiness Ling Rinpoche
A Prayer to Dharma Protectors (including Dorje Shugden), composed by the previous 6th Ling Rinpoche
A Biography of the Ling Rinpoche Incarnation Lineage (from Drepung Loseling’s website)
A Biography of the 6th Ling Rinpoche (from FPMT’s archives)

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7 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. photo from Trisur Rinpoche’s website:

  2. “We acknowledge that this photograph may have been taken before the ban on Dorje Shugden”

    this is obviously not the case…. he was born in 85, so unlesss he is 11 in that picture, no need to a’cknowledge any such thing, it was obviously taken well after the ban.

  3. I think the point is to show that the ban has changed a lot of things for the lamas, and not necessarily for the better, and to point it out to the not-very-bright people who might accuse the website and say that the photograph was taken after the ban. Lay off the cherrypicking mate, not everyones as bright as you to spot these things

  4. Politics and Buddhism doesn’t go well together. What you see here is a result of politics and human error.

  5. you are great lama jyu……! Please, teach them who lose peace.

  6. i like to say i don’t have fear to die as like dalai lama… i saw he never use bullteproof glass like Mr. kadri used in Pakistan few days before or many so called sant in India used.
    every question will be solved after awakening of Kundalini. is a organization like your monestory. this is run by a Nath yogi’s deciple called Sant Ramlal Siyag… Kundalini awakening is free for everyone… you know better what if after awakening…

  7. The 101st Gaden Tripa is no dingbat. He’s a very qualified and erudite scholar. The training required to even qualify for that post is more than what we hope to achieve in 3 lifetimes.

    So, from that perspective, I’ll think that his actions shows us what is a good practice. It may not be suitable for all as we all have different karma. So, I’ll respect both sides of the story as they come from different perspective and I’m the dingbat that needs a lot of purification.

    I would like to believe the validity of the book by Trijang Rinpoche – Music Delighting an Ocean of Protectors. Afterall, all said and done he was the tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama.

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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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