By: Harry Nephew
H.E. Denma Gongsar Rinpoche was widely recognized as an erudite master and a fearlessly loyal practitioner of Dorje Shugden. Denma Gongsar Rinpoche’s fame did not come solely from the fact that he was a high incarnate lama but also because of his devotion to his root Guru, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, and the attainments he gained from diligent practice.
His strong faith was borne out of having studied under two of the greatest Gelugpa masters who were also Shugden practitioners – Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche – and his Guru devotion proved to be immovable when the ban on Dorje Shugden came about.
As a passionate practitioner of Dorje Shugden, Denma Gongsar Rinpoche’s wish was to bring benefit to those who came into close contact with him. To them, Rinpoche gave the essence of Lama Tsongkapa’s teachings and also protection from obstacles for their Dharma journey through the practice of Dorje Shugden. Through Denma Gongsar Rinpoche’s work of promoting the teachings of Lama Tsongkapa, the practice of Dorje Shugden has become prevalent today and is widely practiced in many places in Tibet and abroad.
When the ban on Dorje Shugden came about, there was no way that Denma Gongsar Rinpoche would follow suit because of the reasons mentioned above. However, that did not stop attempts to dislodge Rinpoche from the Protector practice.
Realizing Denma Gongsar Rinpoche’s strong influence in the spread of Dorje Shugden, His Holiness the Dalai Lama personally made a telephone call to Rinpoche, asking him to stop this practice. Denma Gongsar Rinpoche – still reeling at the allegation that Dorje Shugden was anything but a fully enlightened Buddha and outraged at the suggestion that he should break his oath to his Guru and abandon his Protector – raised his voice, and courageously stood up to the Dalai Lama, saying that they both were disciples of the same root Guru, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and all the teachings the Dalai Lama has received come from him.
How could the Guru be wrong about Dorje Shugden? Going against Dorje Shugden is the same as going against our Gurus!
Unaccustomed to be opposed, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was quiet for some time and eventually hung up the phone. This story spread across the Tibetan Buddhist world and became well-known to many senior lamas of Sera Monastery who sought to verify if it was true and personally called up Denma Gongsar Rinpoche to validate the account they had heard. Denma Gongsar Rinpoche himself answered their questions and affirmed the account. Rinpoche felt it was important to stand up for what one believes to be correct regardless of the threat of the consequences.
Such is the degeneration of the time we live in that even spiritual matters are dragged down and entangled with seemingly non-Dharmic agendas that are anti-thesis of spiritual purpose. And yet, we see the Dalai Lama still working very hard for the cause of humanity. It must baffle the casual observer as to what the Dalai Lama’s purpose is, with such outwardly conflicting events taking place.
However if we are to keep an open mind and realize that enlightened beings may engage in divine plays that boggle the logical mind, at the end of the day the result is to draw attention to and bring people within Dorje Shugden’s care, protection and blessings.
For certain, the advice of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche is to keep the faith and watch this play unfold. Those who have strong minds and can see through the controversy will be able to receive his help in their spiritual growth, for the games of politics do not affect the spiritually inclined.