By: René Muller
In 1984, at the age of 49, Lama Yeshe passed into clear light. His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche (1905-1984 CE) was the lama who performed his last rites and cremation. Zong Rinpoche was no ordinary lama but a highly realized Gelugpa lama and a disciple of His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, the junior tutor of the 14th Dalai Lama. He is renowned for being a sharp analyst and a powerful master of philosophical debate, as well as a great tantric practitioner. He was also the Abbot of Ganden Shartse monastery. Known as an emanation of Heruka, Zong Rinpoche was one of the most erudite mahasiddha masters of our time.
To have Zong Rinpoche journey to perform the entire cremation ceremony for Lama Yeshe is a big deal and great honour. It goes to show how close of a relationship Lama Yeshe had with Zong Rinpoche, and his clean samaya with his guru. In actuality someone like Lama Yeshe did not need pujas or prayers performed for his fortunate rebirth as he was highly attained and can control both his death and rebirth.
Instead the pujas were performed more so for the students, in order to collect tremendous amounts of merit, to ensure that they will be able to reconnect again with their Lama in his next incarnation. The illustrious Zong Rinpoche was called upon to do this to help ensure that FPMT’s students will be able to find and recognise their Lama’s new incarnation so that he can continue turning the wheel of dharma in FPMT.
As we all know Zong Rinpoche was a Dorje Shugden practitioner and we also know that Lama Yeshe was a devoted and loyal student of Zong Rinpoche. We are also aware of the fact that Lama Yeshe relied tremendously on Dorje Shugden till the very end. Therefore it is very unbecoming of Lama Zopa and FPMT to be so easily swayed to give up their guru and the Dorje Shugden practice he so compassionately bestowed in order to be seen as politically correct. It would seem that FPMT no longer has guru devotion towards their founding lama, nor gratitude for the kindness shown to them by Zong Rinpoche, during such a crucial time for their entire organisation. To disregard this on top of discriminating Dorje Shugden practitioners simply to be seen as politically correct, make FPMT look rather hypocritical.
Brief Bio on Lama Yeshe
In 1935 Lama Thubten Yeshe was born in the town of Tölung Dechen in Tibet. Even from a very young age Lama Yeshe was attracted to the Dharma and whenever a monk would visit his home, he would always beg to leave with the monk and join the monastery. At the age of six, Lama Yeshe joined Sera Je Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet and at the age of eight, Lama Yeshe was ordained as a novice monk by Venerable Purchog Jampa Rinpoche. Then at age 28, Lama Yeshe was fully ordained as a monk and received his ordination from Kyabje Ling Dorje Chang.
While in Sera Je Monastery, Lama Yeshe received the teachings of both sutra and tantra from a long line of erudite masters such as Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Drag-ri Dorje-chang Rinpoche, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Lhatzün Dorje-chang Rinpoche and many other highly attained Lamas. Lama Yeshe’s spiritual development was also guided by Geshe Thubten Wangchug Rinpoche, Geshe Lhundrub Sopa Rinpoche, Geshe Rabten and Geshe Ngawang Gedun.
It was when Lama Yeshe was in India that his teacher, Geshe Rabten entrusted him to care for a younger monk; Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche and this marked the beginning of a very strong relationship in which the two would work together to bring Buddhism to the west.
Lama Yeshe together with his close disciple Lama Zopa, left India in 1967 and made their way up to Nepal. Within a very short span of time, two years, Lama Yeshe established Kopan Monastery, in Kathmandu. This is how it all began and from where Lama Yeshe started spreading Buddhism among the westerners who visited Nepal. They first began with an annual ‘One-Month Meditation Course’ held in Kopan.
Seeing that there was a demand from their western students, both Lamas decided to open a sister centre to be used for retreats. In 1972, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa along with a few of their western students, bought an old colonial house on a hill in Himachal Pradesh, and started Tushita Retreat Centre. It was later renamed Tushita Meditation Centre.
By 1974, both Lamas started their annual teaching tours to the West. Due to Lama Yeshe’s unconventional style of teaching, he became very popular and relatable to westerners and as a result he attracted many new spiritual seekers. This created a worldwide network of Buddhist centres and from here grew the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). Today FPMT is one of the largest network of Tibetan Buddhist Dharma centres in the world.
It is a known fact that Lama Yeshe strongly relied on Dorje Shugden throughout his entire journey and especially for FPMT’s growth and success. Lama Zopa said that Lama Yeshe would never begin a Kopan course without a puja to propitiate the blessings of his Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden.
Lama Yeshe’s Passing
Everyone who knew Lama Yeshe knew that “he had a bad heart.” Yet it was only in November last year that they realized there was a serious danger to his life. A letter signed by three of his close students written on November 12th from Kopan Monastery in Nepal and addressed to all FPMT centre directors reported that the observations of both Lumbum Rinpoche of Swayambhu, Nepal, and Lama Zopa Rinpoche indicated that “Lama will pass away within a year unless he takes time to do a long serious retreat and unless disharmony and division cease.” And Lama had agreed to accept a full long-life puja at Kopan at New Year— the very day he eventually passed away.
Quote: “unless disharmony and division cease.” This goes to show that highly realised Lamas can control their body, however it is the lack of merits from the side of the students that causes them to ‘leave’ their bodies, manifesting sickness and death. It seems that the students of FPMT were not in harmony and within themselves created factions. This seems to be the very same culture FPMT members bring forth in discriminating Dorje Shugden practitioners. Now we have an understanding as to the kind of people that are behind FPMT.
In 1986 Ösel Hita Torres was recognised as Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche. He was the 5th son of one of Lama Yeshe’s students; María Torres and Francisco Hita. He was only a little over a year old when His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama confirmed Lama Zopa’s observations that Tenzin Ösel was indeed the unmistaken reincarnation of Lama Yeshe.
Lama Yeshe and Zong Rinpoche
The closeness and great devotion Lama Yeshe had for his root Guru Zong Rinpoche is remarkable and admirable. Lama Yeshe was the first lama to invite the great Zong Rinpoche to the West. Zong Rinpoche turned the wheel of Dharma for so many of Lama Yeshe’s students. Vast explanations, commentaries, oral transmissions, initiations, ritual instructions, and of course Dorje Shugden life-entrustments were conferred to many of Lama Yeshe’s students. Hence some of them would also be considered Zong Rinpoche’s students.
Zong Rinpoche is the lineage lama of so many great and current tulkus and geshes who are teaching around the world. The lineage that Lama Yeshe practiced is exactly that of Zong Rinpoche. Lama Yeshe kept his guru samaya to Zong Rinpoche fully intact till the day he passed into clear light. Lama Yeshe also kept all the practices passed on to him by Zong Rinpoche and this includes Dorje Shugden practice. Lama Yeshe was a Dorje Shugden practitioner till the very end. He is the perfect example of a humble and loyal student and also a sublime teacher to his own students.
It is indeed a great pity to witness such admirable guru devotion exemplified by Lama Yeshe towards his Guru, Zong Rinpoche, not being emulated by his students. On top of that Lama Zopa discarded the practice of Dorje Shugden, the very Protector that helped FPMT grow and the very Protector that his guru Lama Yeshe held close to his heart.
Below are extracted details of how Zong Rinpoche patiently and compassionately gave His time to advise FPMT on what they should do during the passing of their great teacher Lama Yeshe. From reading this, you’ll be able to grasp the amount of care and work Zong Rinpoche did for Lama Yeshe and FPMT.
- Throughout the entire period of Lama Yeshe’s illness, Lama Zopa was in communication via phone with Kyabje Zong Rinpoche in Switzerland as to when and how to act for Lama Yeshe’s benefit.
- As the days passed, Lama Yeshe’s paralysis seemed to improve. However, his overall condition was weakening. Zong Rinpoche was consulted about whether or not Lama Yeshe should return to hospital. He advised that, no, Lama Yeshe should stay at home for the time being, and that he himself would come to see Lama Yeshe soon.
- Zong Rinpoche arrived from Switzerland on February 20th and stayed with Lama Yeshe for three days. He performed many pujas and gave Lama Yeshe some initiations. By the 26th, however, three days after Zong Rinpoche had left, Lama Yeshe worsened.
- During the night, Rinpoche left the room to make phone calls. One was to request Zong Rinpoche again to come to California from Switzerland, this time to oversee the cremation of Lama’s body. Later, when he heard that he would come, he smiled and said, ‘It will be good for the students.’
- After the talk, an all-day Heruka puja and self-initiation started. John Jackson and others, with the supervision of Zong Rinpoche, began work on the stupa in which Lama Yeshe’s body would be burned. The site chosen was a clearing on a ridge, five minutes’ walk up from the gompa, which had a spectacular view of miles of forest and the smell of the unseen ocean beyond.
- They worked all day and into the night, mixing concrete, laying bricks, chopping wood. There were no precise measurements to go by, but Zong Rinpoche knew what he wanted and would say when things were not right.
- The Yamantaka fire puja commenced. The mountain of offerings slowly diminished as the ingredients were handed to Zong Rinpoche who in turn handed them to Chuck Thomas and others who offered them to the fire. The puja lasted three hours. Throughout, a deep stillness, a composure, a sense of the unexpressed grief, pervaded, and the only sound to be heard above the chanting was the blazing of the powerful fire.
- By Friday, many people had left. In the afternoon Zong Rinpoche gave a Heruka Vajrasattva initiation and talked briefly. He, like the other lamas, stressed harmony. ‘We are all very good relatives.’ he said. ‘Loving each other is the most important thing.’
- Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was bade farewell — for what would be the last time — at the airport on Saturday, when he returned to Switzerland. That night Lama Zopa invited people to Lama’s house for a Lama Chöpa puja. The room was packed. The ocean pounded just outside the windows. It was good to be there in that house that Lama Yeshe had loved. The puja, sung in English, was intense and heartfelt. It was seven days since Lama Yeshe’s death.
- Lama Yeshe’s relics, once consecrated by Zong Rinpoche in Switzerland, were divided up and sent to each of the centres, where they were received with great respect and ritual — ‘as if you were receiving Lama himself,’ Rinpoche had advised.
Here are a few questions we would like to ask FPMT based on the fact that they claim Dorje Shugden is a demon, and that anyone who practices Dorje Shugden is considered wrong, tainted and invalid. We have provided some answers based on logical analysis of the the situation based on their own logic that Dorje Shugden practice is indeed wrong.
Questions & Answers
1) Zong Rinpoche was a Dorje Shugden practitioner. Would a puja performed by Zong Rinpoche be effective since he was a Dorje Shugden practitioner?
Answer: Zong Rinpoche was well recognised to be a high lama with clear attainments. A famous story that has been told many times is how Zong Rinpoche performed a Dorje Shugden repelling puja to stop the bombardment of Gaden monastery by the Chinese army. As the story goes, the monasteries were being shelled by Chinese cannons and there were still quite a few old and sick monks inside who had not escaped and were in great peril under the Chinese attack. Zong Rinpoche was seen retreating into his chambers to perform the repelling puja during which many eye witnesses saw lights emitting form his chambers and hit the Chinese encampment causing a minor earthquake and damage to the cannons. This delayed the bombardment long enough for the remaining monks in the monastery to leave safely. This clearly illustrates the power and effectiveness of Zong Rinpoche’s pujas. Such power and omniscience as shown by Zong Rinpoche cannot be rendered void by the decree of any government. To suggest this is to say that the power of a secular government is more potent than the power of the Buddhas.
2) FPMT performed a traditional cremation for Lama Yeshe, even inviting the great Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, who oversaw every detail. The purpose of this was to generate great merit and create the causes for the Lama to return and continue the lineage and his works. Since this is the case, why did FPMT stop propitiating Dorje Shugden, who was Lama Yeshe’s Dharma protector and a practice he relied on? Why do they insist the practice is invalid? Is FPMT being selective in promoting lineages that are politically correct?
Answer: Lama Yeshe’s incarnation has returned as Lama Ösel, but FPMT forbids the Dorje Shugden practice. Perhaps the reason why Lama Ösel has not manifested as a great teacher that we know him to be, is due to the lack of merits on the side of FMPT, most obviously caused by their students breaking their commitments to Lama Yeshe. Lama Yeshe’s main protector whom Lama Yeshe and FPMT relied on, has now been banned in order to remain politically correct, as it is ‘very important to support His Holiness and to fulfil His Holiness’ wishes’. This is a blatant disregard of the guru by students who have received the empowerment or commitment to practice Dorje Shugden. A student cannot stop a practice given unless they have received the permission from the teacher who initially gave the practice and commitment. Failing to do so, the students break their commitments or samaya. As Lama Yeshe has entered clear light, none of the students who have received the practice of Dorje Shugden can stop doing this practice, without breaking their commitments. Once we have made a Dharma connection with a teacher, we cannot give up this relationship unless the teacher himself has consented. This would mean that FPMT is causing the students to break their commitments or samaya with Lama Yeshe by stopping the students from practising Dorje Shugden, in order for FPMT to be seen as an organisation that supports the Dalai Lama.
3) Since Zong Rinpoche is considered tainted due to his practice of Dorje Shugden, shouldn’t FPMT redo the entire funeral for Lama Yeshe, as it was performed by a Dorje Shugden practitioner?
Answer: If we believe that a high lama can be tainted due to his practice of Dorje Shugden, then we are undermining the wisdom of high lamas who can differentiate between a Buddha and a demon. If we believe that Zong Rinpoche and other lamas are tainted due to the practice of Dorje Shugden, then definitely FPMT should redo the entire funeral for Lama Yeshe. This is because it would mean that Zong Rinpoche’s prayers, pujas and rituals for Lama Yeshe would be tainted and invalid. It would mean it has no effect as Zong Rinpoche would have broken his refuge vows, seeing that he is considered a demon worshipper.
In light of this, there would be no validity in recognising the current incarnation of Lama Yeshe – Lama Ösel – as lest we forget, Lama Yeshe himself was a Shugden practitioner and his last rites were performed by a Shugden lama. However, as Zong Rinpoche and most of the esteemed lamas of the Gelugpa lineage are students of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, it would be difficult to find a lama who is not tainted. If we go along this line of reason and logic, it would mean 90% of Gelug Lamas today would all be tainted, therefore there is no reason to follow any Lama as all their practices and attainments become invalid.
4) The reincarnation of Lama Yeshe has returned in the form of Lama Ösel. Lama Ösel was recognised by Dorje Shugden in trance of an oracle and also the Dalai Lama. Why would the Dalai Lama recognise someone also confirmed by Dorje Shugden, if Dorje Shugden was not an enlightened being?
Answer: The fact that Lama Yeshe‘s reincarnation has returned is in itself proof that Dorje Shugden is not a demon as he is maligned to be. Lama Yeshe was a very well-known Dorje Shugden practitioner who propitiated the Protector till his last breath, and whose funeral rites were performed by Zong Rinpoche, another well-known Shugden lama. If the lies about Dorje Shugden are correct, then Lama Yeshe would not be able to take rebirth as a human and should instead have gone to the lower realms for worshipping a demon and corrupting the Dharma. It is as if we are saying that a demon worshipper can take rebirth as a tulku and be recognised by the Dalai Lama who is Avalokiteshvara. This is entirely illogical. To say that would be akin to saying that the laws of karma failed and an evil spirit somehow deceived the Dalai Lama into being recognised as a tulku.
However the Dalai Lama is an emanation of Avalokiteshvara and correctly identified Lama Ösel as the reincarnated mind of Lama Yeshe just as Dorje Shugden did. It is saying that an emanation of a Buddha and a supposed demon in trance of an oracle can reach the same conclusion concerning the recognition of a returning tulku.
5) Those against the practice of Dorje Shugden claim that those who propitiate him are demon worshippers and subsequently go to hell. In that case why even conduct rituals for Lama Yeshe, since he was a Dorje Shugden practitioner and therefore would automatically be going to hell?
Answer: If we believe that Dorje Shugden worshippers go to hell, then there is no need to conduct rituals, especially for the return of the incarnation as that particular incarnation would actually be born in a hell realm. However, His Holiness the Dalai Lama confirmed Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s observations that Lama Ösel was the unmistaken reincarnation of FPMT’s founder, Lama Yeshe, so do Dorje Shugden practitioners go to hell, or did the Dalai Lama make a mistake in recognising the wrong person as the incarnation? Logically speaking, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s attainments are unmistaken, it is clear that Dorje Shugden practitioners DO NOT go to hell.
6) Lama Ösel is the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe’s mindstream. But Lama Yeshe died as a Shugden practitioner. According to FPMT’s criticisms of Shugden practitioners, Lama Yeshe shouldn’t have been reborn in human form. He should have taken rebirth in the three lower realms. So who is Lama Ösel? Is he the real Lama Yeshe? If he is the real Lama Yeshe, then FPMT shouldn’t be supporting Lama Ösel because Lama Ösel is of the same mindstream as Lama Yeshe, who practiced Dorje Shugden.
Answer: If Dorje Shugden is evil then Lama Yeshe worshipped evil. Against all odds, if this practitioner of an demon managed to reincarnate as a tulku, then Lama Ösel is the reincarnation of a worshipper of a demon. If that is correct then FPMT is associating themselves with a demon worshipper who could destroy the works of the FPMT. If the FPMT truly believed that Dorje Shugden was a demon or malicious spirit, they would make all efforts to protect the students of FPMT from Lama Ösel instead of encouraging Lama Ösel to take a bigger role in the organization. FMPT’s actions show that they themselves do not believe the lies told about Dorje Shugden but have decided to behave like they do for reasons which are not spiritual.
7) Why does FMPT continue and propagate practices that were taught by Dorje Shugden practitioners (Lama Yeshe and the lineage gurus), when they are against Dorje Shugden and label it as wrong? If their lineage lamas were wrong about Dorje Shugden doesn’t this also call into question the validity of all their current practices too?
Answer: According to the teachings, especially when it comes to tantric Buddhist practices, the most important feature is a genuine, unbroken and pure lineage stemming back to the originating deity of the practice. In the Buddhist path all teachings are necessarily based on refuge in the Three Jewels, this includes not going for refuge to unenlightened beings. As those who oppose Dorje Shugden’s practice claim, he is not an enlightened being but an unenlightened demon. Therefore, those who engage in and propagate his practice have taken refuge in an unenlightened being, and are no longer classed as Buddhist. Any Buddhist practices these people have held are logically negated.
Lama Yeshe and the lineage gurus of the FPMT, are according to this logic not Buddhist and their practices are circumspect. These are the very same practices that FPMT preserves, promotes and engages in. By their own logic the very validity of these practices are negated since they trace the lineage through Dorje Shugden practitioners. Following a logical course, from their own standpoint, FPMT shouldn’t be practicing any practices received via Lama Yeshe as he was a staunch Dorje Shugden practitioner. Given this very logical conclusion, they continue their practice, despite stating Dorje Shugden is a demon and so undermining their entire organisation (since it was founded by Lama Yeshe, a Dorje Shugden practitioner) and its corpus of teachings.
8) Why keep hosting www.lamayeshe.com when it seeks to preserve and promote the collected works of Lama Yeshe, who was a tainted demon worshipping monk?
Answer: By right FPMT should shut down lamayeshe.com since Lama Yeshe was a Dorje Shugden practitioner, hence considered wrong and tainted. This means that all his teachings are wrong and therefore FPMT would be spreading tainted and mistaken teachings.
9) Why does Lama Zopa continue to teach what he received from Lama Yeshe, or teachings similar to what is presented on www.lamayeshe.com, since these teachings are tainted and therefore flawed?
Answer: Lama Zopa should not continue to teach what he received from Lama Yeshe since it is all considered tainted and flawed. When Lama Zopa continues to teach what was taught by Lama Yeshe, this goes to show he either has double standards and is a hypocrite or is pretending to support the ban on Dorje Shugden yet secretly still believes and practices Dorje Shugden.
10) Why does FPMT still have pictures of Kyabje Zong Rinpoche on their website when he is a Dorje Shugden practitioner? Shouldn’t they disassociate from all Shugden practitioners?
Answer: By right FPMT should take down the pictures of Zong Rinpoche who to them is considered wrong as he was a Dorje Shugden practitioner, teacher, master. They should disassociate with Zong Rinpoche entirely just like how they disassociate themselves with Shugden practitioners today. By right they should remove all pictures and information on Zong Rinpoche.
11) The entire FPMT was founded by Lama Yeshe. Therefore the organisation was founded by a Dorje Shugden practitioner. What are the implications of this for FPMT given the fact that they are currently against the practice of Dorje Shugden?
Answer: Since the FPMT was founded by a Dorje Shugden practitioner, using their own viewpoint which is against Dorje Shugden practitioners, they should actually close down their entire organisation and all of its centres as it is tainted. In fact its whole existence is due to a Dorje Shugden practitioner so according to their viewpoint should be completely wrong and bad. If you follow the logic that anything to do with Dorje Shugden is bad, then FPMT should close down, and those people currently involved should start a NEW organisation. This organisation with brand new centres, should be ‘clean’ and have nothing to do with Dorje Shugden’s practice or practitioners in any way, shape or form.
Please watch the video below for the full documented event of Lama Yeshe’s cremation ceremony conducted by the erudite master Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. See the amount of kindness, great compassion, care, and detail Kyabje Zong Rinpoche gave to FPMT.
or watch on our server:
Pictures from the Archive of Lama Yeshe’s Cremation Ceremony
Extracted from http://www.lamayeshe.com/gallery/1984-cremation-lama