Thupten Jinpa Prostrates to his Guru’s Throne

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Thupten Jinpa

By: Mar Nee

Anyone who has followed the teachings and travels of H.H. the Dalai Lama in the last few decades would know of Thubten Jinpa, his trusted, devoted and learned translator who has earned much accolade and respect himself.

But behind the scenes of this beautiful, long friendship between the world’s most famous Tibetan Buddhist leader and his translator lies a much sadder tale of how Thubten Jinpa himself has long suffered a grave separation from his root Guru, H.E. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche.

First, a short trip down history to understand how these three key figures of the Tibetan Buddhist world have become so intricately entwined within one of the biggest spiritual controversies of today.


Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche – the Dalai Lama’s confidante

H.E. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche

The previous incarnation of H.E. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche was so highly respected within the Tibetan Buddhist world, that he was considered equal to masters like H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. He was known for being one of the two heart disciples of H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (the other being Zong Rinpoche), a very highly recognized tulku, an established scholar of the highest caliber within the Ganden tradition and a sought-after teacher. Throughout his life, Zemey Rinpoche had hundreds of students and gave teachings to Sangha from across all major Gelug monasteries; he was so renowned that monks of Drepung and Sera Monasteries would travel long distances across Tibet just to attend his teachings in Ganden Monastery.

Not only was Zemey Rinpoche highly respected within the monasteries, but he also enjoyed a very close relationship with the Dalai Lama, so much so that he was specially selected to be a part of the Dalai Lama’s entourage to travel to Beijing in the 1950s. This visit was at the invitation of the Chinese government, who wished to enter talks with the Tibetan government about Tibet joining China. Included within this entourage were the Dalai Lama’s tutors Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, the Panchen Lama, the Dalai Lama’s mother and of course, Zemey Rinpoche. We must note that this was at a time when there were over 400 tulkus and a population of over 1,500 monks in Ganden Shartse Monastery. For Zemey Rinpoche to have been specially chosen to escort and advice the Dalai Lama. The fact that Zemey Rinpoche was so deeply trusted to attend such a significant event is evidence that the spiritual leader himself held him in extremely high regard.

Zemey Rinpoche was also among the very tightly knit group that accompanied the Dalai Lama on his long and perilous escape out of Tibet into India in 1959. When they arrived in India and lived temporarily in Buxa with the rest of the Tibetan exiled community, Zemey Rinpoche continued to teach abundantly; so broad was his knowledge that he taught not only on Dharma but also the most fundamental and important aspects of grammar, Tibetan writing, reading and philosophy. Following this period in Buxa, Zemey Rinpoche then joined the courageous community of monks and high lamas who personally rebuilt Ganden Monastery with their own bare hands in South India. This monastery continues to stand strong today with over 3,000 monks.


The Yellow Book

The entourage that accompanied the Dalai Lama to Beijing. Zemey Rinpoche (in red) is standing in the third row from the front

As one of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s closest disciples, Zemey Rinpoche often received many direct and personal teachings from this incredible master, known for being one of the most significant lineage holders and teachers of the Gelug lineage. At one time, Trijang Rinpoche taught and explained how the protector Dorje Shugden had ‘killed’ some lamas who were potentially damaging the teachings of the Gelug lineage. A private manuscript of these teachings leaked out in the form of what has become known as the Yellow Book, which incited a tremendous amount of anger from various factions of the Tibetan Buddhist world.

While this book has been the single and most commonly quoted source to ‘prove’ the harmful, sectarian nature of Dorje Shugden, it is important to understand the gross misunderstanding that has arisen over the years from these private teachings. What Trijang Rinpoche had explained was not to be taken literally – about Dorje Shugden destroying lamas who took teachings from other sects. It was not meant to denigrate the teachings and practices of other traditions in any way. Rather, the teaching was about how Dorje Shugden was protecting the Gelug lineage from potentially being damaged by practitioners from within the Gelug school.

Sadly, however, Zemey Rinpoche never had the opportunity to convey the true meaning of the teachings and the manuscript that he had composed. After the Dalai Lama read the Yellow Book, he started talking against the practice of Dorje Shugden and gave up his own personal practice of this protector. It was around this time that he was supposed to receive the empowerment into Dorje Shugden’s practice (sogtae) but changed his mind at the last minute. Practitioners from other sects also began to react adversely. Some of the Nyingmas especially, became very upset with the Gelugpas. Incited by some of the high lamas of their sect, Nyingma practitioners began creating chakras and writing texts against Dorje Shugden; they also modified images of their Protector Dorje Drolo to be shown stamping upon Dorje Shugden which never existed before.

When the Dalai Lama enquired after the author of this book, he was told that it was Zemey Rinpoche. From that moment onwards, all contact with Zemey Rinpoche was completely severed. The Dalai Lama announced that he would never speak to Zemey Rinpoche again, questioning how he could write texts that were so sectarian and went against the Nyingma tradition. True to his word, the Dalai Lama never spoke to Zemey Rinpoche again; all of Zemey Rinpoche’s sincerest requests for audience were denied. From that time onwards, Ganden, Sera, Drepung and Tashi Lhunpo Monasteries, and the Tibetan government proclaimed Zemey Rinpoche to be a very bad lama and he was publicly ostracized and despised.

The young incarnation of
Zemey Rinpoche

Zemey Rinpoche was thence prohibited from attending any teachings that the Dalai Lama gave at Ganden, Sera and Drepung Monasteries. As bodyguards stood outside the teaching hall to stop him from entering, Zemey Rinpoche would stand outside – come rain or shine – prostrating for the entire duration of the teaching as a request for forgiveness from the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama never acknowledged him.

In 1974, Zemey Rinpoche retired from public life and entered a period of semi-retreat in the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe, Mysore, South India. Four years later, he re-entered public life and moved his permanent residence to Ganden Monastery in Mundgod. There, he taught extensively and also wrote prolifically. Rinpoche also travelled widely during this time, in response to requests for him to teach in the various Tibetan communities in India and Nepal.

Tragedy struck in 1984, when Rinpoche suffered a stroke while on tour in North India. Though unable to speak, Rinpoche supervised the compilation and editing of all six volumes of his collected works, while leading a retired life at his residence at Ganden Monastery. Zemey Rinpoche entered into clear light in 1996, amidst many auspicious signs.

True to all highly attained beings, Zemey Rinpoche has reincarnated back in Tibet, right next to his own monastery of his previous life – Yangding Monastery. High lamas throughout India, Nepal and Tibet have confirmed that this is the unmistaken incarnation of Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche.


Thubten Jinpa – A Very Special Student

Thubten Jinpa, H.H. the Dalai Lama’s translator

Among the many, many students whom Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche had taught throughout his lifetime, there was one very special boy he took under his wing. A young monk by the name of Thubten Jinpa was studying in a monastery in Bylakuppe, South India, when Zemey Rinpoche visited this monastery. There, upon meeting Thubten Jinpa, Zemey Rinpoche recognized him as a special child and requested for the boy to come with him to Ganden to study. Thubten Jinpa agreed and moved into Zemey Ladrang in Ganden Monastery.

Thubten Jinpa continued to study in Ganden for many years, also receiving teachings from other esteemed masters there such as H.E. Lati Rinpoche and H.E. Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche. He taught himself English until he perfected the language, and successfully obtained a degree at Cambridge University. Eventually, he moved to Canada, returned his monk vows and became a personal translator to the Dalai Lama.

Thubten Jinpa is very often by the Dalai Lama’s side, translating for him during teachings, meetings and talks

The Dalai Lama studied under Ling Rinpoche (of Drepung Loseling Monastery) and Trijang Rinpoche (of Ganden Shartse Monastery); Thubten Jinpa studied under Zemey Rinpoche (a close student of Trijang Rinpoche and of the Ganden Shartse lineage). As such, they both share the same lineage, practices, teachings and monastic education system – mainly the texts of Panchen Sonam Drakpa which are studied by all monks of Ganden Shartse and Drepung Loseling Monasteries. Thubten Jinpa was an ideal translator for the Dalai Lama, as he understood the many intricacies of the Dalai Lama’s teachings and initiations. He went on to serve His Holiness for many years, both as an interpreter at live teachings as well as a translator of books.

Thubten Jinpa continues to enjoy a very close relationship with the Dalai Lama to this day. This means that he has also been close to and around the Dalai Lama throughout the time that the ban against Dorje Shugden was being implemented and spoken about frequently. He would most certainly have been near the Dalai Lama at the time that accusations were being leveled against Zemey Rinpoche – Thubten Jinpa’s own root Guru – for being sectarian and creating schism. He would have been around to hear the Dalai Lama speak strongly and incessantly about just how disappointed he was in Zemey Rinpoche, how heartbroken he was and how he would never speak to him again.

Zemey Ladrang in Ganden, south India

Imagine how painful and difficult it must have been for Thubten Jinpa to listen to the Dalai Lama – the supreme spiritual head of all Tibetan Buddhists – speaking about his own dearest root Guru in this way and to cut off all contact with him. It would naturally have followed that Thubten Jinpa himself – in serving the Dalai Lama – would have been forbidden to associate with or see his own teacher, Zemey Rinpoche. Suddenly, all contact would have been severed. This was the very same predicament that thousands of practitioners the world over would have found themselves in – having to choose one teacher over another, and/or never being able to see their teachers again within that lifetime, because to do so would be tantamount to treason against the Dalai Lama.

Interestingly enough, it was Zemey Rinpoche who had instructed Thubten Jinpa to serve the Dalai Lama, for all the years that Zemey Rinpoche was not allowed to see or contact the Dalai Lama. More surprisingly, the Dalai Lama accepted Thubten Jinpa as his translator, especially knowing that he was a close disciple of Zemey Rinpoche, the very lama that the Dalai Lama now shunned. This brings up a strange contradiction: Why would the Dalai Lama allow such a close associate of the ‘enemy’ to be within such close proximity to him, privy to so many of his most significant, intimate teachings and dealings?

In spite of all this, Thubten Jinpa continued to serve the Dalai Lama for many years as his faithful translator, even travelling great distances with His Holiness for many teachings and initiations. Throughout all these years, Thubten Jinpa never openly returned to Zemey Ladrang, the home and official seat of his root Guru. It was as if Zemey Rinpoche had never been a part of Ganden Monastery.

Ironic as it may seem, this loyalty to the Dalai Lama was a result of Thubten Jinpa’s unwavering, strong devotion to Zemey Rinpoche; he continued to serve the Dalai Lama precisely because it was Zemey Rinpoche’s instruction to him. The obvious tragedy of this situation can only be seen as incredibly painful and unnecessary.


How Thubten Jinpa Never Forgot His Guru

In recent times, there was great news in December 2012 about the Dalai Lama travelling to Ganden Monastery to give teachings to the monastic community there. Thubten Jinpa also attended as a part of the Dalai Lama’s entourage.

However, this visit was marked by an event of great significance, making it a little different from previous visits. During these few days in Ganden, Thubten Jinpa was seen going to Zemey Ladrang and prostrating to his Guru, Zemey Rinpoche’s throne. Considering that it would have been seen as traitorous to associate in any way with Zemey Rinpoche, going to his ladrang and prostrating to his throne was a very bold and courageous statement to make.

This single act of prostrating to his Guru’s throne is not just about a few prostrations, but reveals many highly significant developments, particularly for the practice of Dorje Shugden:

  1. It shows that in spite of all the slanderous comments and accusations against his Guru all these decades, Thubten Jinpa still maintains strong faith in Zemey Rinpoche.
    Unlike many who have cut off contact with their teachers, declaring that they are wrong and engaging in incorrect, harmful practices, Thubten Jinpa still believes in his teacher and has not wavered in his devotion. For him to prostrate to Zemey Rinpoche’s throne – a clear practice of humility and submission to the teacher – is to say that he still believes in his Guru. He effectively says that Zemey Rinpoche was never wrong in his practices and teachings.
  2. The act of prostrating implies that Thubten Jinpa does not think that Zemey Rinpoche was wrong in his practice of Dorje Shugden.
  3. Most of all, it shows that Thubten Jinpa is not afraid to show respect to his teacher. He is willing to brave the possible consequences of setting foot into a known Dorje Shugden lama’s ladrang, particularly one that is so explicitly ‘banned’ by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government. And yet, he continued to do so even in the near presence of the Dalai Lama himself.

Even more surprisingly, the Dalai Lama never said anything about this – an act that would surely be seen as both defiant and disloyal – which he must have known about. For someone to even enter premises that are related to Dorje Shugden practitioners is tantamount to going against the instruction of the Dalai Lama. Yet Thubten Jinpa was not at all reprimanded: after all, he not only entered one of the most ‘controversial’ Dorje Shugden’s lamas’ home but also prostrated towards the throne, the most central, significant part of the ladrang.

Could the Dalai Lama really be relaxing his stance on Dorje Shugden?

Could it be that the Dalai Lama really is going to stop condemning Dorje Shugden and his practitioners, as he said he would? As recent developments have shown, the Dalai Lama has also seemed to be relaxing his tone when speaking about Dorje Shugden and the ban. Now, when one of the closest members of the Dalai Lama’s entourage is seen to so openly enter the ladrang of such a controversial Dorje Shugden lama, his visit is allowed to pass with no consequences. It does seem, after all, that the Dalai Lama is beginning to allow people to make their own choices, as he has mentioned before in a speech. We are optimistic that more and more windows of opportunity are opening up for the practice of Dorje Shugden to finally be freed. It is the very least that we could hope for, as a dedication to incredible lamas like Zemey Rinpoche who devoted their entire lives not just to teaching Dharma in general but also, in particular, to spreading Dorje Shugden’s blessed lineage.



Dear Thupten Jinpa, In addition to the above points, it has also been informed by senior students of Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche that you have actually received Dorje Shugden’s sogtae (life entrustment initiation/empowerment) from His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche in Gaden Shartse Monastery many years ago, it was during those time when Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was giving Dorje Shugden sogtae to many Western students, and you were the translator. Obviously, Thupten Jinpa you did not consider Dorje Shugden as a worldly protector at that time either.

You mentioned that Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche “was never an ardent practitioner of worldly protectors”, but it is a well-known fact that Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche had given Dorje Shugden sogtae in Gaden Shartse Monastery on many occasions, thus if He was not an “ardent practitioner” of such protector as you claimed, why would He follow and furthermore give the protector’s initiation many times in the monastery itself? Obviously Dorje Shugden is not a worldly protector, and Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche did not consider Dorje Shugden as a worldly protector.

Not only that, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche conducted Dorje Shugden puja and black tea (serkym) to the end, even when He could not speak anymore due to stroke, He still did silent black tea to Dorje Shugden on a daily basis, many close disciples of Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche can attest to this fact.


Further reading:

Biography of Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche
Zemey Rinpoche’s Incarnation Receives DS Initiation
Enthronement Ceremony of the Zemey Rinpoche’s Incarnation


The whole volume on Dorje Shugden within the collective works
(Sungbum) of Trijang Rinpoche

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  1. To the Editor and Publisher of

    Recently someone drew my attention to an article written by one Mar Nee and posted on your website, entitled “Thubten Jinpa Prostrates to his Guru’s Throne.” The aim of this article seems to be to exploit the meaning of my recent visit to pay respects my late teacher Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche’s stupa at Ganden monastery. I must voice strong objections to your article, especially its portrayal of my views concerning Shugden practice.

    Let me begin by first pointing out some of the factual errors in the said article. The piece begins by asserting that Thubten Jinpa “long suffered a grave separation from his root Guru, H.E. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche.” Further down, it continues, “Throughout all these years (meaning ever since I began serving as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s principal English translator) Thubten Jinpa never openly returned to Zemey Labrang, the home and official seat of his root Guru. It was as if Zemey Rinpoche was never part of Ganden Monastery.”

    These statements are completely false. I first began serving His Holiness the Dalai Lama as his principal translator in 1985, and left for England to study at Cambridge University in 1989. After completion of my undergraduate studies I returned to Ganden, which was then followed by my second sojourn at Cambridge when I did my PhD. Throughout all these years, I continued to visit Zemey Labrang, financially supported Rinpoche’s household, supervised the editing of Rinpoche’s collected works, and finally oversaw the cremation ceremony after Rinpoche’s passing in 1996. Whatever the author may have heard or imagined I served my late teacher Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche to the last.

    The article also attempts to portray an extremely negative image of relationship between Zemey Rinpoche and His Holiness. The author writes, “True to his word, the Dalai Lama never spoke to Zemey Rinpoche again; all of Zemey Rinpoche’s sincerest requests for audience were denied.”

    This, again, is blatantly untrue. Yes, as it is common knowledge, His Holiness was deeply displeased by the appearance of the now infamous Yellow Book, and spoke strongly about his disappointment. However, because of his genuine compassion, His Holiness later forgave Rinpoche and kindly granted numerous private audiences during his visits to Ganden and Drepung monasteries in southern India. I was myself present at some of these audiences. Rinpoche never wavered in his devotion to His Holiness, regardless of what others might suggest. On my part too, serving His Holiness the Dalai Lama as his principal translator has been the greatest honor in my life. Whilst my late teacher Zemey Rinpoche was definitely pleased to see me have the honor to serve His Holiness, it’s utterly untrue, as claimed by the article, that the only reason I continue to serve His Holiness is to honor the instruction of Rinpoche.

    The most disturbing aspect of the article, for me personally, is the suggestion that somehow I support the practice of Shugden, simply by virtue of the fact that I went to pay respect to the stupa of my late teacher Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche. This assertion clearly demonstrates how the author is completely ignorant of my thoughts on the Shugden issue. That I held critical views on Shugden practice, and for that matter propitiation of worldly protectors in general, even when I was a monk at Ganden is something everyone who knew me well were cognizant of. I have also shared with my late teacher how I felt it to be unfortunate that he happened to pen the controversial Yellow Book. The irony of the situation is that Zemey Rinpoche himself was never an ardent practitioner of worldly protectors in general, let alone Shugden. I lived with Rinpoche for eleven years, in the same house, so I should know.

    The suggestion that, because I continue to honor my teacher Zemey Rinpoche’s memory means that I uncritically embrace everything that Rinpoche did is most naïve. I have long been critical of Shugden practice and nothing has made me change this standpoint. Also, I reject the suggestion made by this article that my visit to pay respects to Rinpoche’s stupa somehow meant that I continue to support the current Zemey Labrang. When, despite all my efforts to the contrary, the current members of Zemey Labrang chose to leave Ganden Shartse monastery to join what is now called Shar Ganden – whose raison d’etre is to continue to propagate Shugden practice – I told them in no uncertain terms that I no longer wished to be associated with the current labrang. They are free to make their own choice, so too am I. My loyalty is to the memory of my late teacher, not to the current Zemey Labrang.

    In view of the above, I am asking you to remove this article from your website or at least correct the errors I have listed above. If you choose to leave the article as it is, you must then post my response so that your readers can have the opportunity to hear my side of the story as well. Thank you.

    Thupten Jinpa
    23 April, 2013

  2. Dear Thupten Jinpa,

    Firstly, I would like to thank you for your participation in this dialogue on Dorje Shugden, and in particular, the role of your esteemed guru, His Holiness Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, who no doubt was one of the greatest Buddhist masters to have ever lived. Zemey Rinpoche was clear to everyone to be a highly attained lama and scholar, not least of all, to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And therefore it is important that we are precise about Zemey Rinpoche’s stance on the Dorje Shugden as it would be a good reflection of who the Protector really is. A great master like your guru, Zemey Rinpoche, would never practice false Dharma as I am sure you would agree.

    Now, with reference to your response dated 23rd April 2013 to my article that appeared in, I would like to humbly refute a number of points you raised. Let me first establish the authenticity of the information I will be sharing herein. I have been a long-term sponsor of Ganden Shartse, Dokhang Khamtsen as well as Shar Ganden and have along the way established close relationships within all three monasteries, which I have kept till this day. Therefore, the sources of the information I am presenting here are direct and first-hand, and also originate from many monks who were personally involved in numerous events within the monasteries, some of which you too were present at.

    As I am a firm believer that everyone deserves to be heard and to have access to accurate and impartial information, I have requested the Administrator of to preserve your comments to my original article verbatim, as well as any subsequent dialogue following from this reply so that readers can form their own opinion.

    I would like to repudiate certain points you made in your comments and offer instead the facts of events as per direct witnesses’ accounts:

    1. It came as a shock to me at first when I read your comments which was clearly designed to distance yourself from Dorje Shugden when in fact even as a young man, you have had a close relationship with the Protector. It is quite well known that from your early age, Dorje Shugden recognized your special potential and duly requested Zemey Rinpoche to nurture and protect you. Dorje Shugden had predicted that you would grow to become famous in the future and proceed to perform many great Dharmic deeds, as you are doing now in collaboration with the Dalai Lama. As is known, you met Zemey Rinpoche in Bylakuppe where you requested to be his student after which you were enrolled in Ganden. It was not long after that when you met the Protector himself through Choyang Kuten whom Zemey Rinpoche consulted frequently on all important issues. That Zemey Rinpoche trusted Dorje Shugden and often consulted the Protector via the oracle of Gaden Shartse was common knowledge and it was Dorje Shugden himself who asked Zemey Rinpoche to look after you. My source and many other monks witnessed this personally and in addition you have in the past confirmed the story by recounting the same to a number of monks within the monastery;

    2. As to your claim that Zemey Rinpoche was never an ardent Shugden practitioner, may I serve to correct your recollection on this matter. It is well known within the Ganden community that Zemey Rinpoche himself performed monthly Dorje Shugden pujas at his ladrang, and many monks were involved over the years in the preparation as well as participation of the pujas. By your very words as left in your comments, all of Zemey ladrang continued to practice Shugden and accordingly have risked the ire of the establishment by moving to Shar Ganden. Now, why would Zemey Rinpoche’s entire ladrang do that had Zemey Rinpoche himself not been anything but an ardent practitioner of Dorje Shugden? In addition, and as you very well know, members of any ladrang would only undertake a practice that has been taught and upheld by the master of the ladrang himself. And again, as evidenced by the readiness of the entire Zemey ladrang, with the exception of yourself, to move to Shar Ganden, Dorje Shugden was clearly not a minor practice.

    3. That Zemey Rinpoche was indeed a loyal practitioner of Shugden and saw the Protector as nothing less than a Buddha is affirmed by many of his students, of which you were one, and some of whom are even recognized elite Dharma masters who held their Vinaya vows unbroken to the end. These include illustrious names such as Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche and Kundeling Rinpoche. Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche was of course an internationally well-known and highly learned scholar of the highest grade who is also a Shugden lama. Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche had on many occasions offered Tenshug to your guru Zemey Rinpoche in Zemey Ladrang at Gaden Shartse itself, indicating his supreme reverence of Zemey Rinpoche, also a well-known Shugden lama. Of great significance is that Zemey Rinpoche not only accepted the Tenshug but allowed Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche to enter Zemey Ladrang to prepare for and perform the long life ceremony from one great Shugden lama to another great Shugden lama.

    The reality of Zemey Rinpoche as a great Shugden lama, as verified by his other esteemed students and household members, is very much incongruous with your recollection. In fact, from my observation, you appear to be the only person who holds this point of view.

    4. Moreover, the practice of Dorje Shugden was not merely a Zemey ladrang affair. Again, many senior monks, especially those above 40 years of age today, have witnessed Zemey Rinpoche performing Dorje Shugden pujas alongside with Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. While Trijang Rinpoche was undoubtedly a great Shugden practitioner, and while the rest of Zemey ladrang were also devoted Shugden practitioners as you acknowledged, it would be illogical to suggest that your guru, the great master, Zemey Rinpoche would pass on an entire Protector practice to his own students, received directly from his own master, without Zemey Rinpoche personally being an ardent practitioner.

    5. I would also like to draw attention to a peculiar statement in your comment which inferred that Shugden was merely a worldly god. If indeed that is your stance, you would in fact be suggesting that one of the greatest Tibetan Buddhist scholars of all time Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche erred when he composed the volumes of his personal writings, ‘Sungbum’ of which one volume was dedicated to the Dorje Shugden practice, lineage, background and history. In this Sungbum, Trijang Rinpoche had explained about mundane and supra-mundane protectors and clearly stated that Dorje Shugden is a supra-mundane deity manifesting as a mundane protector. In particular, Trijang Rinpoche clearly said that there are two categories of Protectors; (i) mundane protectors and (ii) supra-mundane protectors. Within the supra-mundane protectors there are Palden Lhamo, Mahakala, Kalarupa and so on. Within the second category, there are two further divisions: (a) mundane protectors with mundane consciousness. These are those sworn to oath by superior lamas to help in certain tasks, for example, Nechung Dorje Drakden would fall into this category. As for the second category, (b) supra-mundane protectors are in fact emanations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for example Setrap, Dorje Shugden etc.

    Trijang Rinpoche clearly stated without a doubt that Dorje Shugden falls within the second category and the second division which is Dorje Shugden appearing as a mundane protector but is in fact an emanation of Manjushri.

    With due respect to you, I like many, would tend to believe Trijang Rinpoche, who was not only a scholar of divine caliber but also a tutor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. To say that Trijang Rinpoche was wrong is also to suggest that some of what the Dalai Lama learned was also flawed;

    6. There is no doubt that Zemey Rinpoche and all of his ladrang placed tremendous faith in Dorje Shugden. It has been told to me personally by the senior monks in Ganden Shartse that many people would sponsor the Tenkhang (Dorje Shugden Association of Ganden Shartse, formed by Zong Rinpoche) in order that Dorje Shugden pujas would be conducted for their safe travels. The same monks recall clearly that you personally would similarly offer sponsorship to the Association prior to your travels on the Dalai Lama’s international engagements and again sponsor thanksgiving Shugden pujas upon your safe return. What is of particular interest is the sequence of events based on your own accounts. You mentioned that you disagreed with Zemey Rinpoche’s writing of the Yellow Book, which was published in 1973, and yet the senior monks of Ganden recalled your sponsoring Shugden pujas for your travels from 1985 onwards when you are supposedly to have voiced your disagreement with the protector practice.

    There are in fact many other additional points to debunk your claim that Zemey Rinpoche was never a strong Dorje Shugden practitioner and I list here only some for our readers’ consideration:

    (a) Zemey Rinpoche was a close student of Trijang Rinpoche who clearly propitiated Dorje Shugden in the highest regard and therefore it is highly unlikely that a close and loyal student of Trijang Rinpoche would disagree with his guru and take Shugden to be merely a worldly god. Zemey Rinpoche’s sense of loyalty is legendary which he demonstrated by his continuing reverence of the Dalai Lama even after he was ostracized by His Holiness. Would a high lama with this standard of loyalty treat his own guru’s protector to be anything else but what Trijang Rinpoche knew Dorje Shugden to be?

    (b) Zemey Rinpoche’s writing of the controversial Yellow Book was in itself an act of faith in what Trijang Rinpoche told Zemey Rinpoche of Dorje Shugden. Why would Zemey Rinpoche write the book otherwise, and indeed why did Zemey Rinpoche not deny the contents of the Yellow Book even after it landed him on the wrong side of the Dalai Lama’s favour? And why after the Shugden monks were being persecuted did the entire Zemey ladrang continue with the practice, choosing instead to uproot themselves to join a condemned minority in Shar Ganden and risk provoking the ire of the Dalai Lama and anti-Shugden “witch hunters”? What was there to gain by such a drastic move if not to preserve their devotion to Zemey Rinpoche and their oaths to the Protector? In fact, that Zemey ladrang continued with the practice and in doing so, forego your kind sponsorship and the patronage of the Dalai Lama is very consistent with the fact the Zemey Rinpoche was a great Shugden lama.

    (c) You referred to Dorje Shugden as a worldly protector and yet it is not the culture of Ganden to focus on and propagate the practice of worldly gods. As you know, the protectors that Ganden propitiates are Kalarupa, Setrab, and Palden Lhamo; all of whom are enlightened. Therefore it would be unlikely for Zemey ladrang to undertake a practice in a major way, which was inconsistent with the culture of Ganden.

    (d) Till this day, Zemey Rinpoche’s own monastery, Yanding Monastery in Tibet, is a well-known Shugden monastery that has produced such great Shugden lamas such as the 101st Ganden Trisur, His Holiness Lundgrik Namgyal Rinpoche, a Dorje Shugden stalwart. Again, the name Zemey Rinpoche is closely associated with Dorje Shugden.

    Finally, if it is true that the Dalai Lama out of compassion forgave Zemey Rinpoche for what His Holiness perceived to be a transgression against His Holiness’s opinion on Dorje Shugden, as you claimed, then it is indeed welcome news. But that itself raises another question. Could not the same compassion of the Dalai Lama which one would correctly assume to be boundless, not have extended to the other great Shugden lamas who have given their entire lives in service of the Dharma, such as Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche, Gangchen Rinpoche, Gonsar Rinpoche, Dagom Rinpoche and many others, some of whom saw the end of their days in sorrow because of the ban on a deity they know to be Manjushri. Could not the same forgiveness be extended to the monks of Shar Ganden and Serpom Monastery, as well as the masses of lay practitioners around the world? Would that not have healed the fissures and remove the schism that has divided the holy monastic community under the Dalai Lama’s watch?

    While I may empathise that you would like to distance yourself from the Dorje Shugden issue because of politically correct reasons, I have to stand by what I know of the facts at hand – namely that H.E. Zemey Rinpoche was a tremendously renowned Shugden lama and that Dorje Shugden is an enlightened being, both of which I have substantiated as above. I am sure that you, as many Dorje Shugden practitioners and I do, wish for this illogical ban on Dorje Shugden to be lifted as soon as possible so that we may be true to ourselves, our gurus and our most sacred Dharma Protector.

    Mar Nee

  3. Dear Thupten Jinpa,

    I was very much taken aback by your reply to Mar Nee on the article “Thupten Jinpa prostrates to his Guru’s throne” on There are so many pointers of your refutation which are wrong to the fact that it has caused me, a supporter of the Gaden tradition so much shame and anger.

    I was very happy when I heard of news of you establishing close contacts with Zemey Ladrang and going back to the Ladrang to offer your respects, help and support. It was a proof to me that as a son of Gaden, you are still true to your practice and words. But when I read your justifications on this website, I totally lost all the respect I had in you.

    The Guru, from whom you learn what to adopt and abandon, stands as the pinnacle of everything in our spiritual life. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche is one of the heart sons of HH Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang who is also the junior tutor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There can be no doubt that Dorje Shugden’s practice remains as his main practice and upholding this practice will only be the thing that Zemey Rinpoche will do for the rest of his life. To abandon what the Lama has given him will be breaking his Samaya and connection with Trijang Rinpoche. No Rinpoche the caliber of Zemey Rinpoche will do that! I believe as a supporter of the Gandenpas that Zemey Rinpoche will not abandon his Lama’s teachings and advice.

    It was clear back then that His Holiness was not happy with the appearance of the Yellow Book which was penned by Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche. Granted that His Holiness gave numerous private audiences to Zemey Rinpoche and have forgiven him for the past, your Lama has not been cleared of his tainted name. If Zemey Rinpoche was really forgiven, why would he still be doing continuous prostrations outside the Gompa instead be allowed into the hall of His Holiness and receive teachings?

    *On many occasions when His Holiness the Dalai Lama was giving teachings in the great monasteries, His Eminence Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche was prostrating outside the teaching hall and many monks from all three great Gelug monasteries witnessed this!

    If Zemey Rinpoche was really forgiven, my next question to you, my fellow brethren Tibetan is why did you not clear your Lama’s name with your influence and devotion? May I remind you that it is through the kindness of your Lama, whom you met for the first time in Bylakuppe took you into his folds and nurtured you and given you all the education, care and sustenance in his own household during your growing years so that you can be equipped with the knowledge to serve as translator to the Dalai Lama. How can you now turn against your Lama by giving justifications as you have written and not clear his name accordingly?

    To make my point firm that Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche is a practitioner of Dorje Shugden, members of Zemey Ladrang in Gaden Shartse who are aged 40 and above have now joined Shar Gaden Monastery. They hold strong to their vows and commitments to their Guru and have never wavered. When Zemey Rinpoche was alive, it was known throughout Shartse that Rinpoche does his monthly Dorje Shugden pujas in his Ladrang and will have monks come make tormas and do the proper ritual setup.

    Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche has many senior students who are very well learned and who kept their monk vows very clean such as Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche and Kundeling Rinpoche are strong practitioners of Dorje Shugden. Very often we will hear Kyabje Dagom Rinpoche offering long life pujas to Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche in Zemey Ladrang. They are shining examples of how much they love their Lama even until this present day.

    On a personal note, I am citing these examples because I know for a fact that this is the truth. Guru devotion is very important within the Gaden system of Buddhism and as a translator for His Holiness who gives teachings, you should know better than all of us.

    The pointers of refutation in response to Mar Nee may look real in the eyes of the public but they are not from Gaden nor are they closely acquainted to the system of study and learning there. Hence it is not fair or right for you to write such baseless refutations.

    There is no doubt that Gaden has been propitiating enlightened protectors since the advent of tradition but there is also Shidak Genye who is a mountain god from the birthplace of our founder, Je Tsongkhapa. Your claim that both Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche and yourself are nowhere close in interest of worldly protector worship is false in nature. Apart from the 5 great protectors of Gaden; Kalarupa, Gonpo, Gonkar, Namtse and Palden Lhamo, the worship of Shidak Genye is also one of the main part of Gaden’s daily pujas.

    Hence, when you say that you are critical about propitiating worldly protectors when you were in Gaden, what about Shidak Genye who every Gaden monk needs to worship? Shidak Genye’s image is kept within the main prayer hall of Gaden Lachi and his worship, prayers and serkyem offerings are done every single day to him.

    Also, according to HH Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche who not only is the junior tutor of HH Dalai Lama but also the guru of Gaden, Drepung and Sera, enlightened protectors manifests themselves in worldly form such as Setrap Chen and Dorje Shugden. If Trijang Rinpoche is right with the other Dharmas which he has taught, why isn’t he right with the practice of Dorje Shugden?

    Many of the senior monks of Gaden Shartse, Shar Gaden and Zemey Ladrang know for a fact that whenever you were out to travel and translate for HH Dalai Lama, you will request for pujas to be done in Tenkhang, the Dorje Shugden protector house in Gaden. And whenever you return from a teaching trip, you would do the same in thanksgiving. How much more would you want to be critical in your worship of Dorje Shugden if it has not been critical enough?
    The very fact that Zemey Ladrang joined Shar Gaden monastery and whose raison d’etre as you mention is to do the practice of Dorje Shugden clearly indicates that the head of the Ladrang initiated this practice which members of the Ladrang have chosen to remember their teacher by continuing the practice.
    I hope that with the explanation I have presented in my reply would be more than enough to ensure that the pointers are factual truths which cannot be altered with time. It is my heartfelt wish that people who are reading this know the truth from the turn of these events.

    Thupten Lundrup

  4. Dear Thupten Jinpa, I was just wondering, how come there are no photographs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Zemey Rinpoche together (and with maybe even yourself) after the so-called forgiveness period?


  5. Thubten Jinpa wrote quite a long reply refuting a few crucial points stated in the article that referred to a recent incident of him prostrating and making offerings to his Guru’s throne. I was taken aback and was confused by his reply so I consulted a monk friend of mine. He just laughed when I asked him and this led me to ask his opinion on this matter. What he told me blew my mind away because I realized that what Thubten Jinpa said was not true at all!

    Contrary to what Thubten Jinpa wrote, he does practice Dorje Shugden. He may have gone underground with his practice but in the monastery, many senior monks know of Thubten Jinpa and that he sponsors Dorje Shugden pujas at Gaden Shartse Tenkhang as thanksgiving for a safe journey after every trip that he goes to translate for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. On top of that, Zemey Ladrang is in Shar Gaden and that means all the monks, students and patrons of the ladrang are practicing Dorje Shugden.

    Then, my monk friend paused and he told me that he recalls vividly that an old friend had told him of how Thubten Jinpa first entered the monastery. Apparently, Zemey Rinpoche first encountered Thubten Jinpa in Bylakuppe. It was during this time that Zemey Rinpoche consulted a Dorje Shugden oracle about the boy and Dorje Shugden in trance told Zemey Rinpoche to take care of this boy because he will one day become very famous. In fact, there were many people who had witnessed this.

    So, this got me to the point of Zemey Rinpoche and I asked if this High Lama had practiced Dorje Shugden or not. According to Thubten Jinpa, Zemey Rinpoche did not practice Dorje Shugden because he is a worldly protector. When I told him that, he just snorted. He said everybody in the monastery knew Zemey Rinpoche practices Dorje Shugden because the monks at Zemey ladrang would prepare tormas and rituals for a Dorje Shugden puja every month. It is obvious that if everyone in the ladrang is practicing Dorje Shugden, Zemey Rinpoche must have taught them to practice.

    In fact, he said he knew of a few older monks and Geshes in Gaden Shartse who would fold their hands with tears in their eyes and talk about witnessing Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche performing Dorje Shugden pujas together in the old days. He also said that he knew the attendant of the late Choyang Duldzin Kuten and that in the old days; he was told that it is quite normal for Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche to consult Dorje Shugden via the oracle because he trusted Dorje Shugden’s counsel very much especially on important matters. On many occasions, when the oracle took trance of Shugden, Zemey Rinpoche would pose questions and follow through the answers. On top of that, Zemey Rinpoche’s monastery called Yangting Dechen Ling Monastery in Kham, Tibet, continues to practice Dorje Shugden to this day.

    Then I asked the monk what he thought of Thubten Jinpa’s statement of Dorje Shugden as a worldly deity. The monk shook his head and said sadly that he doesn’t know why such a brilliant Geshe and student of Zemey Rinpoche would say such things. Zemey Rinpoche is a great student of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and everybody in the monastery knows that Trijang Rinpoche is one of the highest lamas of the land and the tutor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s Sumbum or collected works, especially on the volume of Dorje Shugden, Trijang Rinpoche clearly states that Dorje Shugden is a super-mundane protector or a protector that is enlightened. All of us know that Zemey Rinpoche was a fierce and loyal student of Trijang Rinpoche. So, he must have propagated the same belief in Dorje Shugden’s nature. In fact, if you ask any Geshe in the monastery to debate on the nature of Dorje Shugden, Thubten Jinpa’s views would easily be refuted.

    After telling me all that, the monk pondered and he said that he felt that the point of the Thubten Jinpa’s article on the website was actually about Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche being a Dorje Shugden practitioner and so is Thubten Jinpa. With that in mind, much of what Thubten Jinpa wrote in his reply about the Dalai Lama forgiving Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche and seeing him again seemed irrelevant to the original intent of the article. The monk thought that perhaps, it was just a distraction or a smokescreen to cover the fact that he too may have practiced Dorje Shugden.

    Having come to this point, I asked the monk what he thought was the reason behind Thunten Jinpa’s anti-Shugden views. He shrugged his shoulders and just said that Thubten Jinpa is well-known to be a hard-line supporter of the Dorje Shugden ban. He wouldn’t say more after that.

  6. the thupten jinpa was a good pesrson hasben tibetan cukture

  7. Dear Thupten Jinpa

    It would appear that your comments on my earlier post have attracted quite a bit if interest from many quarters, some of which I am obliged to share with readers.

    Earlier on I refuted a number of claims you made in your comments to which I welcome a response or a rebuttal from yourself. In the meantime I would like to add a number of points to support the fact that both you and Zemey Rinpoche were ardent practitioners of Dorje Shugden and strong advocates of the Protector.

    I have been informed by some senior students of Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche that you have actually received Dorje Shugden’s sogtae (life entrustment initiation/empowerment) from His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche in Gaden Shartse Monastery many years ago! That was during a time when Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was giving Dorje Shugden sogtae to many Western students, and you were the translator for much of the ceremonies and events. Obviously, Thupten Jinpa you did not consider Dorje Shugden as a worldly protector at that time for if you did, you would not have asked for and received Dorje Shugden’s sogtae. What changed? Did Dorje Shugden suddenly changed after 360 years or did you, for certain reasons, changed?

    You also mentioned that Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche “was never an ardent practitioner of worldly protectors”. On the contrary it has also been confirmed that your guru, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche gave Dorje Shugden sogtae in Gaden Shartse Monastery on many occasions during his life. If indeed He was not an “ardent practitioner” of such Shugden as you claimed, why would Zemey Rinpoche follow and furthermore give the protector’s initiation many times in Ganden itself, which according to you did not encourage the propitiation of worldly gods let alone taking life entrustment under one. Obviously Dorje Shugden is not a worldly protector, and neither Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche did not consider Dorje Shugden as a worldly protector.

    Not only that, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche conducted Dorje Shugden puja and black tea (serkym) to the end of his days, and even when he could not speak anymore due to his illness. Sick as Zemey Rinpoche was with stroke,the great master, your own guru, would still do black tea offerings to Dorje Shugden silently, on a daily basis. This is a fact many close disciples of Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche can and are prepared to attest to.

  8. Lama la cha tsalo,

    Thanks for your wisdom, teachings and blessings to all sentinent beings. May same spiritual path prevalent through out the life.

    the article is very informtive and further shining to our heart

    Lama la sawang toey

  9. i want to know more about the thupten jinpa

  10. Thupten Jinpa forsaking his own spiritual teacher to be seen close to someone as famous as HH Dalai Lama is truly despicable. Why serve another when you have your own teacher?

  11. It is said that before Thupten Jinpa disrobed, he told those Geshes with potentials according to his judgment to leave the monastery in India to overseas. He claimed that there is no future in the monastery. If Thupten Jinpa wants to leave the monastery, just leave. Why make such comment that might affect the mind of the monks? If they also decide to disrobe after hearing what Thupten Jinpa said, he will accumulate so much negative karma.

    What he has said about not having a future in the monastery shows he does not have faith in Dharma and Buddha’s teachings. Dharma and what he has learnt when he was in the monastery become a money earning for him. It is a pity that something so precious is used to satisfy one’s greed.

    It is sad to see some Buddhist practitioner has degenerated to this level. If we apply Dharma in our lives, our lives and our mind will get better. We will be able to deal with problems more skilfully. We will become happier.

  12. Thupten Jinpa was only following his guru’s (Zemey Rinpoche) instruction to serve the 14th Dalai Lama. This is similar to the case of Samdhong Rinpoche, it was said that Samdhong Rinpoche’s guru, Trijang Rinpoche told him to serve the 14th Dalai Lama.

    These people claimed they have given up Dorje Shugden practice. They cut ties with Dorje Shugden followers and sometimes they condemn Dorje Shugden practice openly. If it is their gurus’ instructions to serve the 14th Dalai Lama and the 14th Dalai Lama has told them to give up Dorje Shugden practice, do they have to follow?

    In the case of Thupten Jinpa and Samdhong Rinpoche, does serving another person means following all the instructions even though the instructions seem to go against what their gurus? Will they accumulate any negative karma?

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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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