Dorje Shugden and Saint George – Brothers in Arms

Some time ago I was attending teachings at a Dharma center. During a break I joined a group of visitors who were being shown round. One of them expressed surprise at the figure of a Tibetan Buddha who was holding a sword and riding a fierce looking Himalayan snow lion. She wanted to know why, if Buddhism was a religion of peace and gentleness, this Buddha was armed.

The guide explained that the Buddha was Dorje Shugden, who was the Dharma Protector of the center. A Dharma Protector has the function of spiritual guidance and protection of those who follow a particular Buddhist path. The sword was symbolic and was used to cut through the bonds of ignorance and attachment which bind us to Samsara. It was certainly not for injuring sentient beings.

This explanation of the role of Dorje Shugden (also spelled Dorje Shugdan) very much reminded me of the concept of a Patron Saint in Christianity, and in particular of Saint George, who is also depicted as an armed knight.

Saint George is usually shown in combat with a dragon, which he is attempting to slay using a sword, or sometimes when depicted on horseback he has a lance.

Of course the dragon also is not a sentient being. Terrestrial reptiles of that size (let alone fire-breathing ones!) have not existed during human history, so they can’t be some sort of folk memory of dinosaurs – though I suppose it is possible that dinosaur fossils may have been unearthed in ancient times and given rise to legends of dragons.

But, as Brian Bates points out in The Real Middle Earth [1], to ancient peoples dragons had an allegorical and symbolic significance. The typical dragon would gather and guard a hoard of treasure, and fly into fiery and destructive anger if any of the treasure were removed. And yet the dragon could not spend any of its wealth. Tolkien’s Smaug in The Hobbit has many precedents in ancient folklore.

So the symbol of the dragon represents the two useless and destructive delusions of attachment and anger, which Saint George is attempting to destroy.

The historical Saint George was a native of Cappadocia and was martyred for his beliefs in 303 AD by the emperor Diocletian. Thus the legend of St George dates from the earliest period of Christianity, when it was still close to its Buddhist roots [2].

Saint George is the Patron Saint of several countries and cities, and is often regarded, like some of the Arthurian knights, as a symbol of Christian chivalry.

As with Saint George, the historical Dorje Shugden also suffered martyrdom for speaking his mind. According to Donald Lopez Jr.[3] he was a learned and virtuous monk of the seventeenth century. He was also an expert debater, but one day his debating skills annoyed the establishment and he was found dead soon after with a ceremonial scarf stuffed down his throat.

Following his death, Dorje Shudgen was adopted as the protector of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. In common with St. George, he has a chivalrous aspect, his forceful functions being to ‘dispel false accusations against the innocent’ and to act as the ‘protector of the protectorless’ [4] .

So we can perhaps think of the two supramundane knights – one Buddhist, the other Christian – as brothers-in-arms in the bloodless war against delusions.

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
‘Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free, with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth.



  1. ReferencesThe Real Middle Earth by Brian Bates, published Sidgwick and Jackson 2002. ISBN 0 283 07353 5
  2. ReferencesKey dates for the politically inspired removal of the Buddhist teachings from Christianity are -In the East, the Second Council of Constantinople 553 AD.
    In the West, the Synod of Whitby in 664.
    The process was completed with the Papal extermination of the Cathars (Albigensians) in the 13th century.
  3. References’Two Sides of the same God’ by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. in Tricycle, Vol VII, No 3 Spring 1998, pp 67 to 69.
  4. References’Heart Jewel’ by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, second edition published Tharpa 1997 ISBN 0 948006 56 0 p.119.

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  1. Well for me this is always exciting as I love history. Since the DNA and ancestry revelations gave me a glimpse of whom I can call my ancestry is really a Free Ride as it is the history. I often wondered why I was drawn to desperate situations that appeared insurmountable. That I learned, I descend from the Protector of England until we resumed our journey to the Promised Land and settled the Chesapeake founding a Nation of Liberty.The Sinclairs came to America as Templars and set the boundary markers all the way from Delaware to the Missouri River in 1352.
    Sir Dymoke, ancestral Grand father to Washington and myself. Warriors alway, Standing Our Ground, when Pippin third sired the Frank that became the King of the France, pounded the Muslims and drove them back to Spain.We put the sword to the throat of King John and saw the first rights for others than the Ordained Kings and Queens. Sir Robert de Bouillon first conqueored Jerusalem in 1190. Major Dale commanded Jametown and founded the first fort on the Bay Of Bengal in 1619. Across the World.
    Any thought of being fearful of the Dalia Lamas is impossible.
    We will Defeat this Charlatan that spreads discontent and malice.
    So Help me We Will!
    So as I puruse the history, I see Protection of Others is the Number One Gene.

  2. I remember I was given a book by a friend. The name of the book is called one faith two masters. On the book cover was a picture of 2 persons. One is a Buddhist monk and the other person is Jesus Christ. I thought and find similaritites to that. That shows the Christians also practices the same concept as the Buddhist under different method. Both also work with Compassion and Wisdom. In Buddhism Dorje Shugden rides on a snow lion while St. George rides on a horse in the Christian faith. Both these two beings each hold a sword meaning they want to cut of all delusions of people symbolically.

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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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