Geshe Lhundub Sopa speaks about Shugden

Before delving into Geshe Sopa’s views, one will come to appreciate his views even more when we understand how eminent this master is and how much His Holiness the Dalai Lama respects him, to write such a glowing foreword and tribute to this great master. The following is but a brief overview of Geshe Sopa’s life and achievements.

Geshe Lhundub Sopa was born in 1923 in the Shang region of Tsang province within Central Tibet. At 9 years old, he was ordained as a novice monk and entered Gaden Chokor Monastery. In 1941, Geshe Sopa traveled to Lhasa and enrolled into Tsangpa Khangtsen of Sera Jey Monastery, one of the three largest and most prestigious monastic institutions of Tibet. He would be one of the last of a generation of Tibetan Buddhist masters who were educated in Tibet under the old, rigorous monastic education system of that time.

In Tibet, Geshe Sopa was already highly sought after for his erudite knowledge as a teacher. Even before completing his own Geshe exams, he was chosen by his Monastery to be one of the 14th Dalai Lama’s debate partners during the annual Prayer Festival in 1959. The Dalai Lama in his foreword to Geshe Sopa’s autobiography, Like A Waking Dream, mentioned this. In this foreword, the Dalai Lama said he had known Geshe Sopa personally for over fifty years, reflecting an enduring friendship throughout this time.

Geshe Sopa would only complete his own Geshe exam in 1962 after seeking political asylum in India and in which he graduated with the highest distinction – Geshe Lharampa. The Dalai Lama went on to place three young tulkus under his care and together with his new charges, the four of them traveled to America where they moved into a small Mongolian Gelug Monastery in Freewood Acres, New Jersey. The young tulkus were to learn English while Geshe Sopa stayed with them for the next five years. Then in 1967, Professor Richard Robinson invited Geshe Sopa to join the Faculty of Buddhist Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Between 1973 and 1985, Geshe Sopa was Assistant Professor of Buddhist Studies and was gradually promoted to the rank of Professor. During his tenure, he taught Tibetan language, general courses in Buddhist philosophy and specialized in a variety of topics in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. He was well-known for his teachings that gave a special insight into the Mahayana philosophy of emptiness. During this time, Geshe Sopa had the opportunity to travel and give Buddhist teachings throughout the United States and around the world, including Canada, Mexico, Italy, England, France, Switzerland, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Tibet, India, Nepal, Thailand, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Brazil.

During his time at the university, many students began to request private teachings outside of the lecture hall. In order to meet this need, Geshe Sopa founded Ganden Mahayana Center in his home in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1981, a piece of land was purchased in Oregon, Wisconsin for the purpose of hosting the Kalachakra empowerment. This land would later become what is known today as Deer Park Buddhist Center. The year the land was purchased, Deer Park hosted the first Kalachakra initiation to be offered in the West by the Dalai Lama. Since then, the Dalai Lama has made five visits to Deer Park to offer scriptural commentary and initiations.

Throughout his illustrious life, Geshe Sopa had many famous students in Lhasa and India including numerous Tibetan scholars and masters like Geshe Jampa Tegchok, Geshe Lobsang Tsering and Geshe Lobsang Donyo. These lamas would later become Abbots of Sera Jey Monastery in India. Geshe Sopa was also the tutor of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tenzin, ex-abbot of Gyume Tantric College and who is currently the Jangtse Choje – one of the highest positions within the Gelug School and is in line to be the Gaden Tripa. Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tenzin is also directly in line for the Ganden Tripa position, representing the highest lineage holder of the Gelug tradition.

Geshe Sopa also had other well-known students including the famous Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. He was also the tutor to the first generation of respected Buddhist scholars and translators in the West, including Jeffrey Hopkins, José Cabezón, John Newman, Beth Newman, Roger Jackson, John Makransky, and countless many others. Just like what was mentioned in the Dalai Lama’s foreword, Geshe Sopa was not only a scholar but also a “teacher of scholars”.

The Dalai Lama would also go on to praise him as an eminent “Buddhist mentor and a guide to hundreds of Western students and a pure lineage holder of the monastic tradition”. Thus, it was clear that the Dalai Lama respected Geshe Sopa and therefore endorsed this autobiography and his views contained within.

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Pabongka Rinpoche: The teacher of teachers

If Geshe Sopa was a teacher of scholars, then surely his own guru was a teacher of teachers, for Geshe Sopa was a direct disciple of Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche. After observing Pabongka Rinpoche and receiving teachings from him for decades, Geshe Sopa did not have a single negative thing to say about his teacher. Being a direct disciple and as someone who practised during Pabongka Rinpoche’s time, Geshe Sopa was able to give many direct observations of the greatness of Pabongka Rinpoche’s teachings and works (click here to read Geshe Sopa’s writings on Pabongka Rinpoche).

We know from Geshe Sopa’s book that Pabongka Rinpoche had a very distinct teaching style that attracted tens of thousands of students, both lay and ordained. Amongst his ordained disciples, the majority of them came from the three great Gelug monasteries of Tibet – Gaden, Sera and Drepung – and received empowerments from Pabongka Rinpoche.

Geshe Sopa makes it clear that Pabongka Rinpoche never actually sought to convert anyone. In fact, he notes that Pabongka Rinpoche was invited to monasteries to teach. Thus Pabongka Rinpoche taught tirelessly only because he was requested, since there was a general decline of teachings in those areas of Tibet. As a result of his incredible Lamrim teachings however, many people began to follow Pabongka Rinpoche of their own accord. Geshe Sopa observed that for the monasteries who did not become Gelug, they came to uphold the Vinaya even more strongly.

Such efforts to revive Shakyamuni’s traditions however, were not appreciated by all parties. Because Pabongka Rinpoche taught only the Gelug set of teachings, other sects viewed him as being critical of their teachings. In response to this, Geshe Sopa likens Pabongka Rinpoche’s activities to that of Lama Atisha and Lama Tsongkhapa who emphasized ethical behaviours and adherence to monastic precepts. In the same way, Pabongka Rinpoche’s teachings were encouraging so-called monks to return to their vows and ethical behaviours, and to stop drinking alcohol and stop doing ‘questionable things in the name of tantra’. It seems strange to the logical mind that such encouragements are unwanted and rejected.

Geshe Sopa clarifies here that it was not Pabongka Rinpoche’s intention to reject other practices and to convert people, but Pabongka Rinpoche became a convenient scapegoat for people who were upset that they were losing their ‘old’ ways, and their students and monasteries. After all, Pabongka Rinpoche’s rise in popularity coincided with a time when there was increased antagonism between Gelugs and members of other sects. Thus Geshe Sopa attributes such talk and controversy to jealousy over Pabongka Rinpoche’s popularity. This jealousy led to several attempts to kill Pabongka Rinpoche.

This jealousy also led Pabongka Rinpoche to be accused of sectarianism because he taught only the Gelug set of teachings. Although this accusation is hypocritical and absurd, it has survived until today in the Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA) current accusation against Pabongka Rinpoche. Penpa Tsering for example, recently accused Pabongka Rinpoche of being sectarian. He however, has not accused high lamas from other traditions of being sectarian. Although lamas such as the Karmapa, Dudjom Rinpoche and Sakya Trizin only promote their lineage and teachings, and have never once promoted Tsongkhapa’s tradition, the CTA does not criticise them as being sectarian. This is again evidence of the Tibetan leadership’s highly inconsistent application of policies, upholding something only when it is self-serving and convenient to them.

Pabongka Rinpoche, a creator of teachers, could count amongst his students luminaries and erudite scholars such as Kyabje Ling Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama’s senior tutor), Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama’s junior tutor) and Drakri Rinpoche. These lamas have been responsible for the spread of Tibetan Buddhism all over the world since the 1950s, thanks to their tutoring the Dalai Lama and countless other teachers. To have students of such calibre reflects the attainments of the master and thus, for someone of Pabongka Rinpoche’s calibre to practice and promote Dorje Shugden should indicate to us the true nature of Dorje Shugden as a protector (and not a spirit, as the CTA is so fond of falsely claiming).


The Protector Issue

Geshe Sopa explicitly addresses the issues surrounding the practice of Dorje Shugden. The language and imagery used in Pabongka Rinpoche’s texts, rather than sectarian and aggressive as often misunderstood, actually seeks to strengthen pure teachings and destroy wrong views. The texts were composed in response to the degeneration of the monastic system in Kham, where a swift method was necessary to subdue the wild behaviour of the ‘monks’ there. It is clear that Geshe Sopa believes Dorje Shugden practice is not sectarian in nature, as so commonly advertised by the Tibetan leadership.

According to Geshe Sopa, the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden is not a reflection or refutation of the validity of Dorje Shugden’s practice. Geshe Sopa attributes His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s ban on the practice Dorje Shugden as a result of other schools being unable to perceive the practice for its actual purpose (to oppose wrong views). Instead, they see Dorje Shugden practice as aggressively sectarian due to the language and imagery in various ritual texts. Geshe Sopa’s view of this situation has basis – we know from history that members of other sects have previously expressed jealousy towards Pabongka Rinpoche and accused him of being sectarian.

Thus Geshe Sopa feels the ban on Dorje Shugden practice is not a criticism of Pabongka Rinpoche or the tradition of Lama Tsongkhapa. Instead, the Dalai Lama’s decision to instigate the ban is a method to keep peace and social harmony between traditions that have had past rivalry, in a world where the Tibetans have lost their nation, have been displaced and are in dire need of harmony. The facts speak for themselves – there was nothing inherently wrong with the practice until the Dalai Lama and Tibetans were displaced and forced to establish themselves in India. Despite this obvious fact, the CTA continues unabashedly seeking to defame Pabongka Rinpoche and other Lamas as propagators of sectarian practices.

The CTA are also fond of claiming that Dorje Shugden is a minority practice, but Geshe Sopa’s autobiography soundly refutes this on Page 182 when he writes that “many Gelugpas have the propitiation of Dorje Shugden as part of their practice”. Geshe Sopa notes that all of Pabongka Rinpoche’s students, numbering into the tens of thousands, received and practiced whatever Pabongka Rinpoche practiced. Furthermore, lamas such as Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Drakri Rinpoche would have received the entire corpus of teachings, knowledge and practices from their guru Pabongka Rinpoche and no doubt this transmission would have included Dorje Shugden. It is important to recall that Geshe Sopa, being a direct disciple of Pabongka Rinpoche, arrived at this conclusion about the pervasiveness of Dorje Shugden’s practice through his direct observation of Pabongka Rinpoche’s teachings and works. This conclusion was not formed through conjecture or assumptions, or third party information but through his experience of living, practicing, studying in the monasteries and directly under Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche.

So from laypeople to the ordained community, tens of thousands of people would have received Dorje Shugden from Pabongka Rinpoche, thus countering the Tibetan leadership’s claims that Dorje Shugden is a minority practice. According to Geshe Sopa, the majority of monks at Sera Mey practiced Dorje Shugden and as many high lamas from Drepung and Sera were students of Pabongka Rinpoche (and thus practice Dorje Shugden), it would follow suit that their own students would practice too.

Also worth noting is Geshe Sopa’s use of the respectful ‘Dorje Shugden’ to refer to the deity, and the lack of derogatory reference to ‘Dolgyal’. Despite the ban on Dorje Shugden’s practice, and his outward non-reliance of the deity, Geshe Sopa had the respect for his teacher and his teacher’s decisions not to criticize Dorje Shugden by referring to him with a derogatory term. Never once was Dorje Shugden labelled a demon or spirit in his book; Geshe Sopa instead thought to clarify the Dalai Lama’s reasons for banning the practice.

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From Geshe Sopa’s writings, we can see that he respects Dorje Shugden as a legitimate practice that was proliferated by his guru Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche and other high, attained Gelug lamas. He does not share any of the usual negative views of Dorje Shugden that is prevalent today. He has only positive things to say about Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, all of which are based on his own observations and the prevalent view of this great master. Therefore, Geshe Sopa dispels the usual misconceptions of Dorje Shugden and Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche in his writings. One is naturally compelled to concur with Geshe Sopa’s view of Dorje Shugden and Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche based on the fact that he is such an eminent scholar and confidante of the Dalai Lama, who provided a foreword for his autobiography.

The Dalai Lama’s foreword for this autobiography is an endorsement of the views and recollections that Geshe Sopa sets forth, including his views on Dorje Shugden which are contrary to the CTA and Tibetan leadership’s stance. It is clear that this great scholar does not agree with the CTA’s view that Dorje Shugden is an allegedly negative spirit – on Page 180, Geshe Sopa mentions clearly that Dorje Shugden is an “exclusively Gelug dharma protector”. This is significant for two reasons. It is Geshe Sopa’s recognition that the practice of Dorje Shugden belongs to the Gelug set of protectors, and that Dorje Shugden is a Dharma protector and not a spirit, land god or spirit of an evil monk (as the CTA promotes him to be so).

We highly recommend that you read the whole autobiography of this illustrious master and scholar, and please read the scanned pages that we have included for you from the book. See how such an eminent master of such renown has no ill opinion of Dorje Shugden and in fact, refers to him as a Dharma protector. Can Geshe Sopa, the teacher and creator of scholars and debate partner of the Dalai Lama, be wrong too? Of course not.


Kay Beswick


Extract of Geshe Lhundub Sopa’s Autobiography

See below for Ven. Geshe Sopa’s views of Pabongka Rinpoche and Dorje Shugden.


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  1. While it’s nice that the Rinpoche refers to Shugden as Shugden, it’s sort of problematic for me that we are supposed to follow this um, ‘logic’ of it being sectarian because some other school didn’t understand or like it.
    It’s dividing Tibetans, didn’t seem true either, until the Dalai instigated a ban. Perhaps this Geshe is giving the Dalai an out if he wants to remove the ban?

  2. “Because Pabongka Rinpoche taught only the Gelug set of teachings, other sects viewed him as being critical of their teachings.”

    No, other sects viewed him of being critical of their teachings because he was critical of their teachings. As he wrote:
    “The views of all Sakyas, Kagyus, Nyingmas and so on are erroneous. They are not even Svatantra or Cittamatra, let alone the view of Prasanga Madhyamaka – meditating only the nihilist view like tirthikas and Hashang. If one upholds the nihilist view, the result is nothing other than going to Avichi hell.”
    All other traditions lead to hell? Not critical? Really?

  3. To Brian Jones,

    You have taken what Pabongka Rinpoche said out of context. In any case there is much criticism from other sects against Gelugpa lineage. Human nature.

    For example in Bhutan, Je Tsongkapa considered a demon and this is what is pervasively spread.

  4. I fully agree with what Geshe said religion should not be use to create disharmony because the teaching come from pure lineage if people use religion to create harm and disharmony then it will discourage people to practice the more people practice the more peace is the world especially in this degeneration age.

  5. Kelsang Jigme,
    In what context is saying all other traditions lead to hell not sectarian? He wrote similar things elsewhere. Pabongkha’s teachings, especially his teachings on Dolgyal, are very sectarian.
    Is your second point that others are sectarian too an admission of Pabongkha’s sectarianism or just an irrelevant observation?

  6. I cannot see eye to eye with Geshe Sopa that the Dalai Lama by instituting this ban is for the unity of the 4 traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and hence Tibetan community as a whole when it has created much disharmony and disunity as far as the world can see. How is this possible?

  7. To Brian Jones,

    It said in Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand teachings by Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche that criticizing any part of the dharma is heavy karma of abandoning the Dharma. This should be avoided. Therefore it is to conclude Pabongka did not say sectarian words directed at a whole sect. He is the root teacher of Trijang and Ling Rinpoches whom are both the root teachers of Dalai Lama. If Pabongka’s vows and words of honour are broken by this type of talk, then the thousands of teachings he instilled to Ling Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche has been passed down to Dalai Lama are corrupted. Thereby majority of teachings by Dalai Lama given to hundreds of thousands around the world for the last 50 years are without blessings, degenerated and corrupted. This would not be logical. If Pabongka was such a low level practitioner, it would be impossible he had such erudite students who went on to be of tremendous benefit to countless many.

    I think, if you don’t mind please, you should not target the Gelugpa teachings in such a manner by condemning Pabongka with such harsh conclusions where there is no definitive and solid proof. By doing so, you also undermine the thousands of students holding Pabonka’s lineage as well as the Dalai Lama.

    Pabongka criticizing other sects as a whole does not make sense. Kyabje Pabongka may have made comments of certain individuals in the sects who corrupted the teachings but I do not think he criticized the sect on the whole. There is no proof of this.

  8. @Brian Jones, Geshe Sopa’s explanation of Kyabje Pabonga Rinpoche is inspiring in his book. Geshe Sopa mentioned clearly other sects who were not holding their vows but dressed as monks changed after listening to Kyabje Pabongka’s sermons. The amended their ways as they were so inspired. This would cause jealousy naturally. Geshe Sopa has no reason to tell untruths.

    Kyabje Pabongka has thousands of students throughout Sera Jey, Sera Mey, Gadhen Shartze, Gadhen Jangtsey, Drepung Loselling and Drepung Gomang. Many of them such as Dragri Dorje Chang, Daknak Rinpoche, Serkong Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, Geshe Sopa, Abbots, reincarnations, government officials, laity, countless Lharampa Geshes and the list goes on. There are living students of Pabongka now alive. Even the 9th Panchen Rinpoche invited Pabongka to Tashilunpo to do rituals and rites in their special protector chapel which exists till today. The students of these great masters are also holding on to Pabongka’s lineage. Surely if Pabongka was such a sectarian person with evil intent, he would not have attracted so many tens of thousands of students.

    The current Dalai Lama in his teachings which I attended on many occasions said Pabongka is really Heruka incarnate. He is a perfect receptacle of the teachings and truly a great master of Lam Rim and mind training teachings. Who was highly realized. You can go on youtube and look for this speech by Dalai Lama on several occasions. I don’t think all these erudite and great masters are wrong. Just for your information I am a Kagyupa but I read many Gelug and Sakya works.

  9. Geshe Sopa is truly an accomplished lama and he is able to bring dharma to the lives of many. Perhaps this biography of his life can do wonders for the current situation of the ban and he shows to all the people who are against Dorje Shugden the qualities of Je Pabongka that Je Pabongka was not sectarian and Je Pabongka was acting like a ‘consultant’ in his days, correcting and showing the correct manner to approach sutra and tantra.

    I really doubt the Dalai Lama had cause to enact the ban to keep peace and harmony amongst the Tibetans. Tibetans especially those in exile are not bounded by the Tibet anymore, they can go almost any country and place, if the teachings of a particular tradition is not suitable they can go to another place or look for a different dharma organisation. It is true despite other traditions also protect their lineage and practices, why are they not targeted only the Gelug tradition.

  10. Kelsang Jigmed and Chodron,
    I’m sure you think Pabongkha was really great and the people you mention think he was really great. But we know he had sectarian views because he wrote them down.
    All your arguments as to why he couldn’t have said bad things about other traditions fall to pieces when we read the sectarian things he wrote. Faith is one thing, but willful blindness about somebody despite having it in front of our eyes is foolish.

  11. To Brian Jones, Pabongka Rinpoche never wrote anything about sectarianism. Even if he did, it would be quite unintelligent of him to do so wouldn’t you think. It’s the other sectarian people who were jealous of Pabongka Rinpoche and tried to poison him many times or kill him by means of magic in Kham that said he wrote or said so.

    There is no one in any of his erudite students who has ever mentioned the compassionate Pabongka Rinpoche would be as you mentioned. If they did, Pabongka would not be as great and pervasive as he was in his powerful spiritual influence of Tibet. Even his Southern Lam Rim teachings were examined by the great 13th Dalai Lama and approved. 14th Dalai Lama is not wrong in saying Pabongka Rinpoche was a great being and attained teacher. I prefer to believe what Dalai Lama, Trijang Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche and Geshe Sopa says about Pabongka than anyone else’s views. Thanks for the warm debate but I do not believe he was sectarian.

  12. It seems that Geshe Sopa was giving a way out to Dalai Lama in regards to the ban by saying it was to keep peace and harmony. One thing for sure, Geshe Sopa was a direct student of Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche and he observed directly how famous and popular Rinpoche was. Also he observed Shugden has caused no harm from the time of Tibet. From the time of his youth till his maturity he observed we can read, Shugden is a dharma protector to him and not mentioned in any way to be negative. Geshe Sopa is the scholar who created many scholars, surely in his very trained mind, he would have seen something negative in Shugden if there actually was. What’s incredible is 14th Dalai Lama endorses the book with a forward agreeing to the views of Geshe Sopa’s book content.

  13. Dear Brian Jones,

    I find it astonishing that you should deem it fit to speak with such ‘authority’ by quoting merely from a single book (Dholgyal Shugden, A History) produced by the ‘Dholgyal Shugden Research Soceity’ which is none other than the CTA’s propaganda arm set up for disinformation campaigns. Of all the research and reading materials that one can easily find on the internet representing both sides of the Shugden conflict, you zeroed in on the one produced by the CTA who is well known for its lies. The top leaders of CTA have been proven to have told blatant lies about Dorje Shugden. This itself does not lend you much credibility.

    Not only are there many documentations that proof that Pabongkha Rinpoche was never sectarian in his teachings, some of the students Pabongkha Rinpoche
    taught were from other lineages, such as Mongchok Rinpoche who was from the Shangpa Kagyu and held on to some of its practices.

    Brian Jones, you are yet another living proof of how toxic and morally corrupt the CTA is. Too bad you are not heeding your own advice re avoiding ‘willful blindness’?

  14. Geshe Sopa’s writings are true accounts of his life and no doubt that his views of Pabongka Rinpoche are of most respect to his teacher. Pabongka Rinpoche’s views on other sects may be critical but it is for the good of Dharma. It is no way an insult or being sectarian.

    The fact that the Dalai lama endorses his book by writing a foreword speaks true that the Dalai Lama does not reject his practice of Dorje Shugden and what was written about the protector.

  15. Brian Jones, I wonder who have seen Pabongka Rinpoche writing down his sectarian views. Were these people Pabongka Rinpoche’s direct disciples, who had personal contact with him and had been making direct observations of him? Furthermore, these claims can also be based on the writing of Pabongka Rinpoche taken out of context?

    As far as the direct disciples of Pabongka Rinpoche, who have been close to him for years, are concerned, there has been no one among them who has shown any evidence of writing by Pabongka about sectarian views. And these disciples – such as Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Ling Rinpoche – are the ones who have proven themselves beyond the shadow of a doubt – that they are fierce defenders of spiritual truth and integrity.

  16. Looks like Brian Jones is drunk with CTA’s poisonous propaganda to recognise his own ‘willful blindness’ when all the facts and logics are clearly presented.

  17. Hey, Brian Jones – we are your best friends. all those sycophants like the CTA and and Thurman etc. are your worst enemies; they’re enabling your insanity and egging you on while you blaze a trail to hell.

    We are trying to stop you before it’s too late. we are the only ones who actually care about you.

  18. Hey Daniel, Suzie, Doreen, TARA and Chodron,

    My lamp of the Dharma that illuminates the truth is study. My best friends are logic and scriptural evidence. My “willful blindness” makes all suffering disappear.

    We know what Pabongkha wrote because it was printed, published and kept in the several volumes of his collected works. My earlier quotation was from his “Compilation of various replies to questions on sutra and mantra” (mdo sngags skor gyi dris lan sna tshogs phyogs gcig tu bsgrigs pa) from page 399 of volume 6 of his collected works. It’s in his gsung ‘bum in black and white, unless you think his devoted students that compiled his gsung ‘bum attributed things to him he didn’t actually write?
    (His gsung ‘bum was Reproduced under the guidance of the Trijang Rinpoche from the surviving manuscripts and prints from the Lhasa blocks by Chophel Legdan. — New Delhi 1972-1974.)

    As I said, his sectarian comments were plentiful. Given the nature of this website I’ll leave you with one from his preliminary supplimental commentary on the Dolgyal life entrustment. (shugs ldan srog gtad kyi sngon ‘gro’i mtshams sbyor kha skong) from volume 7, page 534. Look how he describes his own ‘side’ (like refined gold) and the ‘other side’, or other traditions, reputed to be fast and profound but mistaken, confused and precipitous paths.

    / rang phyogs kyi ser skya mchog dman mang po zhig kyang rje’i ring lugs gser sbyangs btso ma lta bu ‘di nyid kyis go ma chod par gzhan phyogs pa’i lta grub ‘khrul pa las kyang nyid ‘khrul mu ‘byam du song ba’i lam log lam gol gyi grub mtha’ myur myur mo dang / zab zab mor grags pa mang po zhig bse bslad byas pa la brten nas bstan bsrung gnyan po ‘dis rang gzugs dngos su bstan pa dang /…

    If that’s not sectarian, I don’t know what is.

  19. Dear Brian Jones,

    Thank you for your response.

    I don’t read Tibetan and therefore cannot comment on the passages you quoted and in what context they were said. However it is clear to me that what Pabongkha Rinpoche meant when he said ‘his side’ he was referring to the amalgamation of teachings from different lineages that Je Tsongkhapa assembled into the Gelugpa tradition. The Gelugpa lineage can never be sectarian precisely because it is the synthesis of the best teachings from various lineages. There is no doubt that the Gelugpa tradition came about as the result of Je Tsongkhapa’s efforts in restoring the practice of Dharma after its approach had fallen into considerable confusion. This is especially true of tantric instructions that requires the practitioner to observe strict rules regardless of his or her lineage.

    Therefore when Pabongkha Rinpoche defended ‘his side’ he was in fact defending the remedy to the rot that had taken place and not a discrimination of any other lineage in particular. It was an advice not to return to the confusion. The ‘confusion’ and ‘mistake’ refers not to any particular lineage teaching but what a practitioner may suffer by not adhering to precise instructions. This is hardly sectarian and intended only to protect the practitioner.

    Also by accusing Pabongkha Rinpoche of being ‘sectarian’ the inference is that he wanted to dominate the other lineages and perhaps even forcibly convert them into Gelugs. The clearest proof that Pabongkha Rinpoche had no such intention nor desire, was by his turning down of the Regency that was offered to him after the 13th Dalai Lama passed into clear light? Why turn down the very means that would have enabled him t realise his ‘sectarian’ objectives if indeed he harboured them?

  20. Brian Jones,

    As an addendum, Pabongkha Rinpoche’s character was clearly described by the erudite Geshe Sopa (who autobiography is the subject of this post) and it was anything but sectarian. It showed Pabongkha Rinpoche to have taught all manner of people who wanted to learn, but Pabongkha stressed the importance of a practice based on solid monastic codes and that did not find favor with a lot of people.

    To describe Pabongkha Rinpoche differently is to accuse Geshe Sopa of being misleading in his book and it is also to say that the Dalai Lama erred in his endorsement of the autobiography. Why woud the Dalai Lama approve of something that is not accurate?

  21. “There is no doubt that the Gelugpa tradition came about as the result of Je Tsongkhapa’s efforts in restoring the practice of Dharma after its approach had fallen into considerable confusion.”

    This is the standard view that Gelugpas have of their tradition. All other traditions became corrupt in some way then Je Rinpoche came along and offered uncorrupt teachings, perfect union of sutra and tantra, etc. This is sectarian in that it holds that all other sects had fallen into considerable confusion. Other traditions would not agree with that analysis.
    But in his writings Pabongkha goes further. He says other traditions are wrong and lead to hell. In the quotation above, when talking of other traditions he hints he is talking specifically about Dzogchen (renowned for being a quick and profound path) . He doesn’t say the approach of students is confused, he says the path is wrong.
    In any case, I could provide more quotations for his sectarianism, it isn’t just two. There were whole texts written by Pabongkha and his students about how other traditions are inferior like “pha bong kha pa’i slob ma’i dgag lan” three texts describing pabongkha’s views on heresy and intersectarian relations with particular attacks on the philosophical views and practices of the Nyingma tradition.
    I find all the reasons given here as to why pabongkha isn’t sectarian not to be convincing given the ample evidence in his own words that he is.


  22. Well said Daniel! Indeed, anyone who lashes out at the defenders of the Gelug Lineage teachings or Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings as being sectarian, should take a second look at these teachings and see clearly for themselves that they are the fruit of Je Tongkhapa’s unexcelled efforts to bring together the finest of the essence of the teachings of the existing schools of Tibetan Buddhism of his time,as well as those of great Indian masters, like Nagarjuna, Candakirti and Atisha.

    It was a time of confusion and degeneration. Hence to revitalize and rejuvenate Tibetan Buddhism and revive its purity, Tsongkhapa set forth unerringly to bring together all the best of all schools.

  23. @Brian Jones,

    Every protective deity has wrathful liturgy. That is nothing new. They defend dharma and ‘destroy’ those who harm dharma. So is that sectarian or even worse? So if you are not Buddhist or believe in Dharma they destroy you? Or if you oppose Dharma, they destroy you? Even their beginnings are wrathful and violent.

    For example, Pelden Hlamo’s is the main protective deity of Dalai Lama and Namgyal Monastery and etc and this is her beginnings:

    She is usually depicted in nakthang [black-ground style scroll] crossing the sea of blood riding side-saddle on a white mule. There is an eye on the left rump of the mule which is the place where her irate husband’s arrow found a mark. She had killed her son and used his flayed skin as a saddle blanket.

    In many monasteries her image is in a corner and is always kept covered.

    Lhamo (Skt. Kaladevi,) also called Remati, was married to Shinje, the king of the dudpos, who at the time of their marriage was the king of Lanka. She had vowed either to gentle him and make him favourable towards the religion of Buddha, or else to see to it that an end be put to that whole dynasty.

    Hard as she tried over many years, she could not effect any improvement in his evil ways and so she determined to kill their son who was being raised to be the one to finally do away with Buddhism in that kingdom.

    During the king’s absence, Devi accomplished the dreadful dead. She killed her son and flayed him, then drank his blood using his skull for a cup and also ate his flesh. She then left the palace and using her son’s skin as a saddle cloth, set off for her northern home on one of the king’s finest steeds.

    On his return, seeing what had happened, the king seized his bow and with a fierce and terrible curse shot off a poisoned arrow, but the arrow only pierced the animal’s rump and there it stuck fast. The queen easily neutralized the king’s imprecation, and removing the deadly barb she said: “May the wound of my mount become an eye large enough to watch over the twenty-four regions, and may I myself be the one to extirpate the lineage of the malignant kings of Lanka!” Then Palden Lhamo continued northwards, easily traversing India, Tíbet, Mongolia, and part of China, and finally settled, say some people, on the mountain Oikhan, in the Olgon district of Eastern Siberia. This mountain is said to be surrounded by large, uninhabited deserts, and by the ocean Muliding.


    (Pelden Hlamo killed her son, drank his blood, flayed him and used his skin as a saddle. She ate his flesh. Is this compassion? ) So do you lose faith in just Shugden or all wrathful deities? Do you think the liturgy is literal? If not literal for Pelden Hlamo why for Pabongka Rinpoche and Shugden?

    A Sorrowful Song to Palden Lhamo

    by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

    Expanse of Great Bliss, all-pervading, free from elaborations,
    with either angry or desirous forms related to those to be subdued,
    You overpower the whole apparent world, Samsara and Nirvana.
    Sole Mother, Lady Victorious Over the Three Worlds,
    please pay attention here and now!

    During numberless eons, by relying upon and accustoming Yourself to
    the extensive conduct of the Bodhisattvas, which others find difficult
    to follow,

    You obtained the power of the sublime Vajra Enlightenment;
    Loving Mother, You watch and don’t miss the (right) time.
    The winds of conceptuality dissolve into space.

    Vajra-dance of the mind which produces all the animate and inanimate world,

    as the sole friend yielding the pleasures of existence and peace,

    Having conquered them all,

    You are well praised as the Triumphant Mother.

    By heroically guarding the Dharma and Dharma-holders, with the four
    types of actions, flashing like lightning

    You soar up openly, like the full moon in the midst of a garland of powerful Dharma Protectors.
    When from the troublesome nature of this most degenerated time
    the hosts of evil omens — desire, anger, deceit — increasingly rise, even then

    Your power is unimpeded, sharp, swift and limitless.

    How wonderful! Longingly remembering You, O Goddess, from my heart,
    I confess my broken vows and satisfy all Your pleasures.
    Having enthroned You as the Supreme Protector, Greatest amongst the
    Great, accomplish Your appointed tasks with unflinching energy!
    Fierce protecting deities and Your retinues who, in accordance with
    the instructions of the Supreme Siddha, the Lotus-born Vajra, and by
    the power of karma and prayers, have a close connection as Guardians
    of Tibet, heighten Your majesty and increase Your powers!

    All beings in the country of Tibet , although destroyed by the enemy and tormented by unbearable suffering, abide in the constant hope of glorious freedom.

    How could they bear to not be given Your compassionate hand?

    Thus please come forth to face the great murderers, the malevolent enemy.

    O Lady who performs the actions of war and weapons;

    Dakini, I summon You with this sorrowful song:

    The time has come to bring forth
    Your skill and power.

    ~ Any errors or omissions in this translation are solely the responsibility of her humble follower,

    Jangchub Ngawang Paldon Gyalmo.

    (This is a prayer to Pelden Hlamo by Dalai Lama asking Her to perform actions of war and weapons. Asking her to face the murderers (violent), the malevolent enemy who took over Tibet. Why would she perform war and weapons? Is that not violent? What non-Tibetan Buddhist would accept this as compassion. Waging war and weapons against enemies? This sounds much more than sectarianism)

    Don’t judge and see the words as normal, you have to read beyond the lines and meaning. Pabongka was never sectarian and neither is Shugden.

  24. @Brian Jones,

    Achi Chokyi Drolma is the lineage protector of Drigung Kagyu Sect. She ‘only’ protects those of the Drigung Kagyu Sect. She suppose to be Vajra Yogini yet she is a ‘sectarian’ protector. How can that be? How can a protector only protect Drigung Kagyu or just for Drigung Kagyu? Pretty sectarian wouldn’t you say?. So if a Gelug or Sakya follower propitiates her, looks like there is no effect? That is pretty sectarian. Like her, each of the sects of Tibetan Buddhism and sub-sects have special protectors that protect ‘only’ their sect.

    Achi Chokyi Drolma

    Once when Jigten Sumgon was staying at Jangchub Ling in Drikung Thil, he heard the sound of the damaru accompanied by beautiful celestial songs. A great yogi disciple was there and asked Jigten Sumgon about the music. Jigten Sumgon said, ‘The incomparable sounds are from Achi Chokyi Drolma, my grandmother, who is a wisdom-dakini.’ Then this yogi insistently requested that he be given a method on how to practice Achi Chokyi Drolma and Jigten Sumgon composed a sadhana consisting of ten leaves which is contained in the ‘Achi Pebum.’

    As a protectress, Achi is visualized on her blue wisdom horse to symbolize the swiftness of her enlightened activities, and she holds a wish-fullfilling jewel to symbolize her ability to bestow everything needed and desired when asked.

    She vowed to protect the Drikung Kagyu lineage and its practitioners, removing inner and outer obstacles to practice and laying the groundwork for circumstances best suited to our progress along the path. Those who practice her meditation and recite her mantra are sure to be protected from obstacles and hindrances.

    Om Mama Tsakra Soha
    Yar Du Sarwa Du
    Ra Dza Ra Dza Du
    Mama Du
    Hung Phat Soha


    From Achi’s propitiation text – Source:

    Composed by Achi Chökyi Dolma-Translated by Tashi T. Jamyangling

    “Smear the blood of human, horse, and dog (on it). Place an effigy of the enemy inside the triangular shape.

    This Torma of the three times, garnished with flesh and blood, to Achi, the great performer, and her retinue, by visualizing the torma as the flesh and the blood of the enemy, (recite the following).

    (Here in this liturgy to propitiate Achi Chokyi Dolma is violent and mentions destruction of the enemy. smearing blood of human, horse and dog on it still. How can anyone in Buddhism have an enemy. If this liturgy is to be taken literally, then simple, all protectors are violent. If it is not literal, then you cannot penalize Shugden or Pabongka for seemingly violent words with deeper meaning that would need qualified commentating. Why all the blood?)

  25. @Brian Jones

    If you want to talk about sectarian. See this letter dated September 10, 2014. Gyalwang Drukpa said certain high lamas of the Karma Kagyu are now forcibly taking over the monasteries that belong to Drukpa Kagyu. It also says, “Monks of the Drukpa Lineage looking after the monasteries, are suddenly exiled from their spiritual homes by the Karma Kagyu monks.” So let’s not keep targeting Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche and Gelugs being so called sectarian. Pabongka Rinpoche is not sectarian and never was. Only his teachings are twisted out of context to make him look that way by jealous people. You can see modern day sectarian high lamas and monks currently taking and taken over monasteries sometimes by force belonging to different lineage. Is Karmapa allowing this? Are the high lamas of Karma Kagyu sectarian? Is Gyalwang Drukpa lying? Why don’t you turn your attention to so many other genuine sectarian happenings in your own backyard. This is happening as we have our interesting debates here. Why don’t you let dead dogs lie. Approach something genuine and current. Approach CTA and do something about this. Why is CTA silent about this? There is no harmony here at all since you are fixated on harmony. Historically Karmapa’s are found by lamas of their own lineage, when CTA interfered by recognizing their choice of Karmapa that’s when we started to see disharmony even with the Karma Kagyu which fragmented into two groups, fighting, law suits and even violence ( . Watch the video carefully. The issue now is still unresolved. This was started by Tibetan Govt. in exile or CTA and Dalai Lama. Gyalwang Drukpa is saying this in his letter that his monasteries are being taken over. Is Gyalwang Drukpa creating sectarian disharmony or CTA? You can see this has nothing to do with Shugden, Pabongka, Gyalwang Drukpa. It is CTA making all the trouble always within the sects. Your ‘enemy’ is NOT Pabongka or Shugden or Gyalwang Drukpa, but CTA. CTA involvement is selective and if it only suits their purpose. This is clear.

    Read the letter below:

    10th September 2014

    Over the last few days I have been receiving disturbing information from Tibet regarding the forced conversion of Drukpa Lineage monasteries in the Mount Kailash region by the Karma Kagyu Lineage. My followers in Tibet tell me that nearly all of the historic Drukpa Lineage monasteries in Mount Kailash region are being forcibly occupied by the Karma Kagyu Lineage, using money, coercion and certain Chinese support. Monks of the Drukpa Lineage looking after the monasteries, are suddenly exiled from their spiritual homes by the Karma Kagyu monks.

    Historically the Drukpa Lineage and the Karma Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism have shared a deep and close spiritual bond. The Gyalwang Drukpas and Gyalwa Karmapas were known as Gyalwa Kar-Druk Yab-sey or “spiritual father and son” because whoever was elder would give spiritual guidance to the younger one. This close bond continued till the time of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa.

    More than 15 years ago, Dri-ra Phug monastery, the seat of Gyalwa Gotsangpa who was the most illustrious disciple of the 1st Gyalwang Drukpa Tsangpa Gyare, was forcibly taken over by monks of the Karma Kagyu, saying that they were instructed to do so by His Holiness Karmapa Ugyen Thinley Dorjee. I did not believe then that His Holiness Karmapa Ugyen Thinley Dorjee would have given such an instruction because he was just a child at that time. Even today the name “His Holiness Karmapa Ugyen Thinley Dorjee” is being used to forcibly take over and convert the Drukpa Lineage monasteries to the Karma Kagyu. Historic pictures, images and art of Drukpa Lineage Lamas are being defaced and removed by the Karma Kagyu in an attempt to rewrite history. Despite what I have been informed, I still do not believe that His Holiness Karmapa Ugyen Thinley Dorjee would give instructions to forcibly take over Drukpa Lineage monasteries and convert them to Karma Kagyu.

    However, it is definite that some high Lama of the Karma Kagyu with certain Chinese connections is misappropriating the name of Karmapa. Therefore, for the sake of religious and humanitarian harmony, I urge His Holiness Karmapa Ugyen Thinley Dorjee, as head of the Karma Kagyu, to instruct his followers in Tibet and elsewhere to refrain from taking over and forcefully converting Drukpa Lineage monasteries, and to issue a statement so that those within his lineage who have been using his name to conduct such oppression to leave forcibly occupied Drukpa Lineage monasteries and return those sacred heritage of all kinds, taken forcibly, to the Drukpa Lineage.

    The Gyalwang Drukpa


  26. Hello Kelsang Jigmed,
    That is a remarkable amount of irrelevant information. Are you going for a record?
    The question wasn’t wether wrathful protectors have wrathful appearance and even have stories of them doing wrathful stuff. I think we all know they do.

    Nor was it about possible politicking amongst various Kagyupas. (I don’t think you will find any example of any Karma Kagyu lama saying Drukpa practice leads to hell no matter what apparent land grab is going on.)

    The question of Pabongkha’s sectarianism arose because the claim was made that people only said Pabongkha was sectarian because he only gave Gelug teachings. This is simply not true. Actually, people said he was sectarian because he taught sectarian things and wrote them down so we can all read them. I showed you where to find these teachings in at least three texts (there are actually many more) so you can read them all to your heart’s content and see that there is no contextualising that makes the statement that ‘other traditions are mistaken and false paths that lead to hell’ not sectarian.

    The problem here is that you are holding a view about Pabongkha not because you have looked at his writings but because you have been told what to think. This is an act of faith and that in itself is not a problem, but you must understand that an act of faith isn’t a very good route to understanding history. Here we are discussing history, backed up by textual evidence. Do you have any relevant textual evidence to back up your claim that Pabongkha didn’t mean what he wrote but was just joking or perhaps lying?

  27. @Brian Jones, I took the time to give you information because it is a friendly debate. You do not need to comment that the information is irrelevant or be sarcastic. That is unnecessary.

    As usual when the information is accurate and overwhelming you avoid it. There is no claim that Pabongka Rinpoche is sectarian except from you. You are the only one falsely claiming this. Based on your assertion of Pabongka being sectarian, what shall we conclude, his lineage is false and wrong? We should abandon the whole lineage because of this? We should abandon his lineage because of your assertion?I don’t think so. If that is the case that we should abandon, shall we abandon the Karma Kagyu teachings also? I gave you clear indication of other sects being sectarian as in the case of Gyalwang Drukpa and Karma Kagyu saga. Why do you not acknowledge this evidence. Why are you fixated on Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang the great lineage master of Tsongkapa’s undisputed lineage being sectarian? You can figure it out for yourself. I will not debate any longer because you are fixed and stuck. It was fun though. You don’t have to practice this lineage nor be a Buddhist. Your life’s mission is not to defame Kyabje Pabongka. Please find something much more useful to do.

    I shall listen to His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, His Holiness Kyabje Ling Dorje Chang, Sharpa Choeje Jetsun Lobsang Nyima, Loseling Kyabje Denma Locho Rinpoche, Gaden Throne holder Trisur Lungrik Namgyal, Gelek Rinpoche, Dakpo Rinpoche, Jampa Rinpoche, Kyabje Yongyal Rinpoche, Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, Drakri Dorje Chang of Sera Je, Geshe Lhundrup Sopa and the numerous thousands of erudite Geshes and Masters who hold Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang to the crown of their heads as a great stainless master. I think they will be a much more reliable source of information than you. In this book Geshe Lhundrub Sopa clearly states from personal experience how profoundly beneficial Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang was and is. No offence intended to you when I do not agree with your views in comparison to these great dharma masters. Good day to you.

  28. “There is no claim that Pabongka Rinpoche is sectarian except from you. You are the only one falsely claiming this.”

    Bizarre response considering that the issue of pabongkha being sectarian was not raised by me but the article I was responding to. The evidence that pabongkha propagated a sectarian view is incontrovertible, in black and white in his own writings. What anyone does with that information is entirely up to them, but I wouldn’t personally write off an entire lineage on this basis. Tibetan sectarian politics has always been a bit messy but over-idealising a historical figure when his legacy is chequered to say the least is not smart either.

  29. Dear Brian Jones,

    Thank you for your views but I am a bit puzzled by what you hope to achieve here. Is your objective to establish that Pabongkha Rinpoche was sectarian and therefore a flawed teacher?

    The simple fact is, there isn’t one single view, lineage, tradition, guru, instruction, yidam or protector that can claim to be the only one that is correct or flawless or guarantees the path to enlightenment. There has been many teachers and practitioners from different lineages who have attained liberation by following their own chosen path. Pabongkha Rinpoche may have had his views but he did not go to students of other gurus from other lineages and force upon them his opinion that their way is incorrect. He told his own students that the path he taught them, which in turn was founded by Je Tsongkhapa, is correct FOR THEM. This is especially true of Pabongkha Rinpoche’s higher teaching initiates whose practice required them to have total commitment and unwavering faith in the Guru’s instructions, lest they commit a root downfall. What is wrong with that?

    If your purpose in this debate is to show that Pabongkha Rinpoche was sectarian, inferring that his teachings were wrong, then can you cite examples of which non-sectarian teaching(s) you personally deem to be the correct path? And would that also mean that, by your measure, all other lamas who do not follow your prescribed and recommended set(s) of teachings are also sectarian? And would that not make you the consummate sectarian? Is there an official set of non-sectarian teachings you would endorse?

    For instance, would you regard Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo known to be a non-sectarian guru to have the right approach? Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo practiced and taught teachings that incorporated the Long Lineage of the Nyingmas whose instructions and tantras came from Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita; the Kadampa teachings brought to Tibet by the Atisha and passed down by Dromtonpa; Sakya teachings including the profound instructions of the Path and Fruit, which is the essential lineage of Birupa passed down to Lotsawa and Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen etc; Kagyu teachings include the Six Yogas of Naropa; instructions from the Shangpa Kagyu which is the lineage of the golden doctrines the learned and accomplished master Khyungpo Naljor received from Niguma, the Six-limbed Yoga tradition of the King of Tantras Kalachakra, and other teachings from the Jonangpas; and so on.

    If that is the meaning of non-sectarian, then Pabongkha Rinpoche taught the teachings of Je Tsongkhapa which in turn followed Sakya teachings which Tsongkhapa received from Redawa; the six yogas of Naropa and Mahamudra from the Kagyu Tradition; the six yogas of Niguma from Shangpa; Machik Kabdrin’s Chod tradition; Kalachakra from the Jonagpas and teachings from the Nyingma tradition which Tsongkhaoa received from Lekyi Dorje. In fact, Je Tsongkhapa’s teachings which Pabongkha Rinpoche adhered is a perfect example of non-sectarianism. So if your idea of a non-sectarian teaching is that of Khyentse’s, what is it that makes his teaching non-sectarian and Tsongkhapa/Pabongkha’s teachings sectarian?

    Also if you regard Pabongkha Rinpoche to be sectarian, do you mean to say that he intended to maliciously destroy other traditions leaving only the one he decided on? I don’t think you can substantiate that. In addition, the only lama who is unashamedly coercing other lamas to cease in their lineage practice today is the Dalai Lama and his CTA.

    Or by ‘sectarian’ do you mean he forbade his OWN students to stray from the teachings he instructed them in, in which case, what is wrong with that? After all, it is very much up to the students to select a teacher they have an affinity with and vice versa and Pabongkha Rinpoche would not be the only teacher then or now who restricts his students from having their own mix of teachings.

    Or do you mean that you find that Pabongkha Rinpoche’s statements about other lineages to be insulting and therefore sectarian? If so, then might I also remind you that there are Sakya and Nyingma teachings that claim adamantly that Tsongkhapa’s (and therefore Pabongkha’s) view of the Madyamika to be flawed and therefore useless. Is that not also a put down and therefore sectarian? Why pick on Pabongkhapa Rinpoche specifically?

    What do you hope to achieve by coming to this site and insinuate that Pabongkha Rinpoche was a flawed teacher? Pabongkha Rinpoche is the undisputed guru of so many high lamas, Geshes and scholars of this century, until the politics of the CTA decided to disparage him? Ultimately Pabongkha Rinpoche’s instructions to students who follow the Gelugpa tradition is as follows:

    “Abandoning Dharma is disparaging the Mahayana and favouring the Hinayana;
    disparaging the Hinayana and favouring the Mahayana; playing off sutra
    against tantra; favouring one of the Tibetan schools – the Sakya, Gelug,
    Kagyu, or Nyingma – and disparaging the rest…” (Liberation in the Palm of
    Your Hand, p 165-6, Wisdom Pub, Ed. by Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche).

    Seems very clear to me that Pabongkha Rinpoche had no ill-will towards other lineages as you seem to suggest.

  30. Daniel Bear and Kelsang Jigmed,

    You have given clear and very precise debates here in regards to Brian Jones. It was a total pleasure for me to read and I’ve copied and saved everything to share with friends. Both of you have incredible learning and really represent the debate in favor of Dorje Shugden’s practice well. You present stunning evidence and your arguments are logical, clear and free of personal malign. In a debate you can really see issues clearly. Thank you both. I am not even a Dorje Shugden practitioner yet, but I have begun to read about him on this informative website after attending a teaching in Indiana by Kuten Lama last year.

  31. Many thanks to Geshe Lhundub Sopa for his unbiased, factual & clear view of the protector Dorje Shugden which is based solely on his personal observation & experience being a direct disciple of Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche. Since the Dalai Lama himself also is highly respected of Geshe Sopa, even praise him as a teacher of scholars & a pure lineage holder of the monastic tradition, one can only say that the views & comments of such eminent master (Geshe Sopa) can only be correct & trustworthy.

    As for the CTA & pro Dalai Lama people, please read the autobiography of Geshe Lhundub Sopa & get the facts right, stop the discrimination & misguiding the world by putting the blame on the protector Dorje Shugden for the failure in your political pursuit for Tibet’s independent.

  32. Je Phabongka Rinpoche was operating at a time whereby the teachings started to reach the common people and naturally he was famous due to his oratory skills and his ability to teach at the level of his listeners. U know what people never are criticised until they become famous, I used to read that people accused Je Phabongka of being sectarian, due to their jealousy everyone and many students was going to Je Phabongka because he gave them what they needed in terms of dharma. I did not have conviction that this was the real reason but now, well Je PHabongka had no problems when he was not as famous and had that many students. So the jealousy motive fits perfectly in my opinion. It is only the last 100-200 years buddhism began to be taught to lay people, as lay people learnt how to read and some were literate earlier teachings usually were available to the elite like in China.

    If Je Phabongka was indeed sectarian if he took the ministerial post to be the regent to the Dalai Lama, he would be placed perfectly to truly wipe out all other Tibetan traditions? The Dalai Lama then still wielded political power and if the young Dalai Lama followed Pabhonga Rinpoche, what cannot be accomplished in this way? Are these the actions of a sectarian monk? oh my goodness. For the beings of this age if Heruka stood in front of them, they would see him harming humans and animals I bet. Sectarianism is both worldly and political, Je Phabongka by refusing the regrncy showed he was all about doing practice and dharma.

    The 13th Dalai Lama asked Phabongka Rinpoche to teach the lamrim after checking out the credentials of Phabongka Rinpoche, instead of Gaden Tripa. Why would anyone ask a sectarian person to teach the holy Lamrim?

  33. Sectarianism results in bloodshed more often than not, like the Northern Ireland conflict, Hutus versus Tutsi in Rwanda, Yuogoslavia melt down? Was there any sectarian violence during the time of Je Phabongka?

    The Fifth Dalai Lama faction engaged in a war with the Kagyus? Isn’t that sectarianism. So If the 5th Dalai Lama is sectarian, can we trust his teachings?

    Ra Lotsawa killed other practitioners to proof the superiority of the Yamantaka tantras. Why isn’t he sectarian? He killed Nyingma and Kagyu masters of that time, certain lay people are part of the collateral damages too.

    What did Je Phabongka produce in the end? A host of teachers who teach genuine dharma and practice and look at his lineage line of students are any now promoting sectarianism and sectarian violence?

  34. At every juncture High Lamas have to use different skills and methods to help all beings to Enlightment. No one method or one teaching fits all. If one fits all, why did The Buddha give us 84000 teachings ! Hence, debates are great but not a means to an end. We all have to be very grateful to all these kind Gurus who put themselves through so much slander and misunderstandings just to get us out of samsara !

  35. It is incredible a real story of a high Lama. I don’t know who is Geshe Lhundub Sopa until read through this post “Geshe Lhundub Sopa speaks about Shugden” from Thank you for the team who always contribute in behind for benefit all of us. I really enjoyed myself read the post.

    Geshe Sopa’s teacher is Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche. Geshe Sopa had learned and observed from Pabongka Rinpoche for many years. Geshe Sopa was a teacher of scholars, however then Pabongka Rinpoche should be the teacher of teachers.

    I really surprised that Geshe Sopa had clearly tell all of us and gave the strong evident of the Dorje Shugden practice through this paragraph “The CTA are also fond of claiming that Dorje Shugden is a minority practice, but Geshe Sopa’s autobiography soundly refutes this on Page 182 when he writes that “many Gelugpas have the propitiation of Dorje Shugden as part of their practice”. Geshe Sopa notes that all of Pabongka Rinpoche’s students, numbering into the tens of thousands, received and practiced whatever Pabongka Rinpoche practiced. Furthermore, lamas such as Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Drakri Rinpoche would have received the entire corpus of teachings, knowledge and practices from their guru Pabongka Rinpoche and no doubt this transmission would have included Dorje Shugden.” As a Dorje Shugden practitioner, I am so happy to read this kind of post appeared.

    I must said again, thank you all the teams and affords.

  36. I really like this post which spoke the truth. To me, many great Geshe like Geshe Sopa whatever they are doing just to benefit all beings who have affinity with him. What he want to do is just spread Dharma which his Guru taught him.

    The DS practitioner is facing a lot of difficulties of their spiritual journey. However, many still continue and never give up then created a cause for Dorje Shugden practice continue and spread all over the world. The great Lamas like Geshe Sopa bravely to speak out the truth really help a lot to lift the ban. Thank you for the strong prove.

    No matter what happen, still have a group of people continue to fight for the truth. I seem them as my hero! Let’s fight for lift the ban! Become the hero to benefit many more important than only pursuit for fame, reputation or status.

  37. As a regular reader of this website, I always can receive the most latest update from here. On other hands, I also can read through a lot of interesting post like this post which has an short introduction of Geshe Lhundub Sopa. And the most interesting thing is all the Lamas have some relationship with Geshe such as Dorje Shugden practitioner such as Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe, Drakri Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, they are dorje shugden practitioner. It is very clear showed how close his relationship with Dorje Shugden…

  38. This is a very good article on this great scholar who truly is a great dharma practitioner and teacher. One who did not say or write negative things of the lineage masters, his own guru, other sects, and Dorje Shugden. One I fold my hands to in great respect and reverence.

    What Geshe Lhundub Sopa writes here is so true that nowadays so much violence is made in the name of religion, that religion should not be used to harm people or justify discrimination and hatred toward others, and these are not times for division for the Tibetan people.

    Just look at what the ban is doing now.

  39. I think Geshe Sopa is really great and I believe his story told through is book, Like a Waking Dream, will benefit others of how a Dharma practitioner should act or aspire to act.

    2 factors that is impressionable in this post is Geshe Sopa’s practice of Dharma.

    1) Despite his own accomplishment as a revered “teacher of scholars”, Geshe Sopa remains humble and continues to practice pure Guru devotion as reflected in his view, words and writings. The ways Geshe Sopa respects Pabongka Rinpoche as reflected in the pages from his book (pages 178-182) that the website team so helpfully shared above. This reinforces the principal that the Guru is fundamental to form a strong foundation in our Dharma journey for our Dharma attainments and the ultimate liberation.

    2) The truly neutral and respectful stand he takes in relation to the Dorje Shugden controversy. Each and every individual has the basic human right to freedom of religion and Geshe Sopa openly states that he chooses not to practice Dorje Shugden. However, what I appreciate about Geshe Sopa is that he does not criticize Dorje Shugden or the practitioners in any manner. This is aligned to the Dalai Lama’s statement in the foreword of Like a Waking Dream: Geshe Sopa is truly scholar and practitioner who possesses “a deep and vast understanding of the Buddha’s teachings…” to protect and uphold the purity and authenticity of the Dharma.

    His Holiness also states that Geshe Sopa is exemplary and this would mean that if we respect his words, we would make effort to follow Geshe Sopa as an example of our own spiritual practice.

    The other lesson I learn from Geshe Sopa’s approach to the Dorje Shugden controversy is the lack of importance to be “right”. Instead of engaging in heat disagreements with focus on rights and wrongs, harmony is most important especially during this degenerate age. If we are the lucky few who have the merits and karma to have awareness of the Dharma and the fortune to actually learn and practice it, we must truly cherish it by show of action.

    I appreciate the quote below very much.

    As the glorious Chandrakirti said:
    Any time you have freedom and your state is favorable,
    If you do not take their advantage
    And lose your freedom by falling to the lower realm,
    Who will then raise you up again?
    - Pabongka Dorje Chang, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand

  40. The article on Geshe Lhundub Sopa provides more evidence of the loopholes of HHDL’s negative claims of Dorje Shugden. HHDL’s endorsement of Geshela shows that he is indirectly ok with the practice of Dorje Shugden even though HHDL bans it. Regardless, without Guru devotion, one will not gain any attainments.

    The only reason I believe why we are even participating in this website is because we are fighting for religious freedom. We want the world to know how a large number of Tibetans are ostracized because of their religious choice. This is not acceptable as it infringes on human rights.

    Whether a person chooses to practice Dorje Shugden or not is a personal choice. Whether a person chooses to follow the Gelug lineage is also a personal choice. But to criticize a lineage lama is disrespectful.

    My message to Brian Jones is, “Please choose another religion or lineage if you find HH Pabongka Rinpoche not credible. Please do not criticize based on your own findings. In my opinion, you are not an accomplished Buddhist master and hence, are not qualified to pass any judgment on our lineage guru. If your opinions are credible and you are so learned and highly realised, I believe we would have heard of you in the Buddhist scene and you would have attained students under your tutelage.

    Many things we read can easily be taken out of context. That’s why we need a qualified teacher to guide us. As spiritual practitioners we practise respect, tolerance, compassion and kindness. We don’t go around criticising other lineages and religions.

    If you truly want to have any spiritual attainments, choose a lineage or religion and go all the way with it. At the end of the day, we’ll die and what really matters is our karma and spiritual development.”

  41. @Brian Jones
    There were many rumours about Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche being sectarian against other traditions. However, there were circumstantial and often Pabongka Rinpoche did make numerous reference against Nyingma practices and teachings. That’s not specifically against Nyingma but against the traditions of relying on teachings and practices derived from mystical visions and dreams as they are without a lineage. That is generally frown up in the Gelug because of a strict adherence to teachings and practices that have a lineage that extends back to the Indian masters. Admittedly, the language used by Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche was rather strong but they have to be viewed in this context. Therefore, please understand that it is not sectarianism but an emphasis on authenticity of lineage and practice.

  42. ww

  43. I am surprised that no one commenting here seems to be aware that Geshe Sopa died recently, this article quotes him as if it was a recent text and he is still with us. Though Geshe Sopa would not have spoken badly of his guru Pabongka Rinpoche, I suspect that by now his comments about Shugden may have become more robust. Its interesting the article concludes this is an issue that occured since the Tibetan diaspora, while at the same time mentioning that the 13th Dalai Lama held the same views.
    The 13th did hold the same views of Shugden.

  44. Majority of highly attained lamas never against Dorje Shugden practice and they do posted a lot of positive feedback. We have also noticed that Shugden Practitioners have been well behave and used to threaten and attacked by others. We can see the Shugden practitioners are real Buddhist. They are patient, low profile and compassion. They have tried to voice out and requesting to lift the ban peacefully but no violent. Shugden practitioners endure the sufferings and never want to give up the practice. Please be considerate and contemplate over the ban. Why listen to one person to impose the ban and not the majority?

  45. @Kelsang Jigmed ( Oct 2 )

    1) WRT the Drukpa Kagyu and Karma Kagyu: if this is true even in part, then I am very sad.

    2) Yes, I directly follow the teachings of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. That is called Rime’.

    Re: “How can a protector only protect Drigung Kagyu or just for Drigung Kagyu? Pretty sectarian wouldn’t you say?. So if a Gelug or Sakya follower propitiates her [ Achi Chokyi Drolma ], looks like there is no effect? That is pretty sectarian. Like her [ Achi ], each of the sects of Tibetan Buddhism and sub-sects have special protectors that protect ‘only’ their sect.

    This is totally wrong. The original statement says otherwise.
    Go to the website cited, and read it, please! It says the opposite of your interpretation:
    and I quote
    “Although Achi has a particular commitment to protect the Drikung Kagyu, she is recognized and practiced by all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.”

    Why misinterpret the entire first paragraph? You are claiming that somehow the Drikung protectress Achi is only for Drikung Kagyu, but no one ever said that except you!
    I am certain you have no means of backing up your very very strange statement.
    Do yourself a big favor Kelsang Jigmed and withdraw this unfounded claim.

    The protectress Achi has a PARTICULAR commitment to the Drikung Kagyu, but that need not mean anything like an EXCLUSIVE commitment.
    Achi is Mahayana, meaning universal. Any good and decent Mahayana practitioner of any lineage who receives a major Drikung empowerment automatically receives some connection to Achi.

    The core practice of the Drikung Kagyu is standard Sarma/ New School, and they do lots of Nyingma. I have lots of both from them, e.g. from HH Kyabgon Chetsang Tulku and HE Kyabje Garchen Rinpoche, among others.
    I also have many Sarma and Nyingma transmissions from the Karma Kagyu and from the Sakya.
    These protectors are NOT “exclusive” in serving members of only one school or another.

    Protector Vajrakilaya is originally Nyingma, but Vajrakilaya is Very important in the Sakya and Kagyu schools. I have many Vajrakilaya transmissions, and the first was Kagyu.
    It is evident that Vajrakilaya is big in three of the Tibetan schools. And Vajrapani is THE protector of the Medicine Buddha teachings for ANY Mahayana school.
    It is wrong to say there is a specifically “Sakya Vajrapani” or “Gelugpa Vajrapani” or “Chinese Vajrapani”.

    I have well over one hundred high Vajrasattva / Vajrapani empowerments from all Tibetan schools plus a Chinese school, so I know what I am talking about.
    Someone has to know how this stuff works!

    Kelsang Jigmed, you need to learn to be more careful, especially when making serious charges of this kind against a whole lineage. Recklessness does not work, especially in vajrayana!
    Humility and patience and diagnostic queries are better.

    I have spent many hours over many years examining sectarian issues in Buddhism for several countries, not to mention inter-religious strife.
    All these issues are very complicated and simple judgements do not work.
    Instead they backfire. You have been warned.

    So do not accuse the Drikungpas in this way. It will only cause you problems, not them.
    And the Drikungpas don’t care what you say about them. They don’t argue, they just practice.

  46. 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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