The real reason the Sakya Trizin resigned

Never before has any Sakya Trizin made such an effort to cultivate a close relationship with the Tibetan leadership

By: Shashi Kei

Origins of The Illustrious Sakyapa

The glorious Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism traces its origins back to the victorious Buddha Shakyamuni. The history of this ancient lineage is punctuated with a long list of illustrious masters including the Mahasiddha Birwapa who was unmatched in his miraculous attainments. The history of the Sakya began 10 generations before the arrival of Guru Rinpoche in Tibet, with a race of heavenly beings from the Clear Light Heavens in the Rupadhatu (Form) realm descending to reside in Tibet to benefit all living beings. These gods were the three brothers, Chiring, Yurig and Yuse, all of whom were said to have emerged from Manjushri. Accordingly, all males born of the Khön line have been regarded as emanations of the Bodhisattva Manjushri. Khön lineage holders are known to manifest signs that indicate them to be holy beings, such as having the dharmacakra symbol on the palms of their hands.

At that time, these three brothers were known as the Lha-Rig or gods of luminous clarity. Eight generations after the three brothers descended to Tibet, a conflict arose between the Lha-Rig and a race of demons called the Yakshas. Amidst the conflict, Yapang Kye, one of the clear light gods and the great great grandson of Yuring became involved in a love affair with Yatuk Silima, the daughter of a Yaksha. From their union she bore Yapang Kye a son whom they named Khön Bar Kye, meaning ‘one who is born between love and strife’, and from there the family name Khön emerged.

The Khön family was devoted to the Buddha’s teachings and in 750 CE the Khön family became disciples of Guru Rinpoche. In fact, one of the first seven Tibetans to become ordained as Sangha was Nagendra Rakshita, a Khön, who received his bhikshu vows from Shantarakshita. From 750 CE to 1073 CE, a period that covered 13 Khön generations, the family arose as a central pillar of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism in Tsang.

However, by the 11th century, Dharma practice in Tsang had waned considerably, and the head of the Khön family then, Sherab Tsultrim decided that it was time to seek out new teachings from India. According to a prophecy by Guru Rinpoche, Khön Konchog Gyalpo, the younger brother of Sherab Tsultrim, went in search of Drogmi Lotsawa who was regarded as the emanation of the Mahasiddha Birwapa.

Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen, the 6th Sakya throne holder

Khön Konchog Gyalpo’s attainments grew as did his renown and in 1073 CE, on a blessed location below a white patch of earth (sakya), Khön Konchog Gyalpo established the first Sakya monastery, Gorum Zimci Karpo as had been prophesied by both Guru Rinpoche and Lord Atisha. He became the very first Sakya Trizin. With this, the Sakya lineage was formed and the illustrious Khön family who were known by their supreme names, Lha-Rig and Khön, became known as the first Sakyapas.

Khön Konchog Gyalpo had a son by the name of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo who displayed extraordinary spiritual attainments, and held all the lineages of Sutra and Tantra. Sachen Kunga Nyinpo in turn had four sons – Kunga Bar, Sonam Tsemo, Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen and Palchen Rinpoche. Kunga Bar became a scholar but passed away at age 22 whilst studying at Nalanda Monastery; Sonam Tsemo became a great adept and ascended bodily to Kechara, Vajrayogini’s pure land. Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen became famed for his spiritual attainments and had many students, one of the brightest of whom was his nephew, the son of Palchen Rinpoche, by the name of Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen. Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen’s deeds and works would shine luminously throughout the world of Tibetan Buddhism for generations into the future. According to Sakya tradition, Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen attained full enlightenment in the realm of Akshobhya Buddha and now resides as the Buddha Vimalasri in the eastern direction. According to Gelugpa tradition the Panchen Lamas are the lineal incarnations of Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen.

The Sakya history continued with the founding of the four Phodrangs (palaces) by the eldest of 15 grandsons of Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen’s brother. The four Phodrangs were Zithog, Rinchen Gang, Lhakhang and Ducho but over time, only the Ducho survived. In the 18th century, during the time of the 29th Sakya Trizin Wangdu Nyingpo, the Ducho Phodrang split into two, with Sakya Trizin Wangdu Nyingpo’s two sons heading one Phodrang each – Padma Dudul Wangchug became head of the Drolma Phodang and Kunga Rinchen the head of the Phuntsok Phodrang.

Sakya Trinzin Wangdu Nyingpo. At the top centre is Buddha Vajradhara. To the sides of Vajradhara is Padma Dududl Wangchug and Kunga Rinchen, the heads of the Drolma and Phuntsok Phodrangs.

Since that time, generations of the Khön family have continued in an unbroken lineage to ascend the Sakya throne with many being recognized as emanations of the Bodhisattvas Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani.

The present head of this great Tibetan Buddhist lineage is His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin Ngawang Kunga Tegchen Palbar Trinley Samphel Wangyi Gyalpo, from the Drolma Phodrang, who was designated to be the Sakya throne holder in 1951 and formally ascended the throne in 1959.

 

The Turning Point

The entire Sakya lineage history reads like a narrative of divine activities of the trans-mundane Khön family, and it would seem like nothing in samsara could ever contaminate this holy lineage. And yet in December 2014, the present Sakya Trizin made an announcement during the Sakya Monlam (Great Prayer Festival) to indicate that perhaps all is not well within the Sakya lineage.

On that occasion the Sakya Trizin announced changes to the Sakya succession system; traditionally the tenure of the Sakya Trizin or ‘Sakya Throne-Holder’ had lasted till the end of each Sakya Trizin’s life, having passed alternately between candidates from Drolma Phodrang and Phuntsok Phodrang. That would now change according to the Sakya Trizin’s announcement that day. The position of the head of the Sakya lineage would henceforth last only three years, with qualified descendants from each Phodrang taking turns leading the lineage.

The Sakya Trizin’s announcement was a shock to many observers. Three years is a hard turn away from Sakya tradition, and many people wondered what might have prompted this decision. The Sakya Trizin’s explanation did not do much to allay concerns and is in itself very odd. In essence the Sakya Trizin had acknowledged that the decision to curb the tenure of succeeding throne holders was due to a recommendation by the Nyingma lama, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö. In the announcement, the Sakya Trizin confirmed that, “This recommended duration of the term of the Sakya Trizin is based on an opinion of Vajradhara Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö…

The Sakya statement regarding the change in the tenure of Sakya throne holders

The Sakya statement regarding the change in the tenure of Sakya throne holders

Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was no doubt a renowned Nyingma lama and one of the present Sakya Trizin’s teachers. But he was not the Sakya Trizin’s only teacher. Some of the current Sakya throne holder’s strongest spiritual influences include his own father who was also his teacher, Vajradhara Ngawang Kunga Rinchen; his main root teacher Vajradhara Ngawang Lödron Shenpen Nyingpo; Vajradhara Ngawang Tenzin Nyingpoi and Vajradhara Khenchen Jampai Sangpo who were all great Sakya patriarchs.

With such a host of eminent and erudite lamas in his life, it is strange that the Sakya Trizin would take the recommendation of a Nyingma lama made over half a century ago, instead of adhering to the norm of his own tradition that has not only lasted for almost 1000 years but also produced a long line of enlightened masters. Many questions have arisen such as why would a Sakya throne holder allow an outsider to interfere in the affairs of the Sakya tradition, and worst, implement drastic changes in the management of his own lineage?

And equally as mysterious is this – if the present Sakya Trizin had found Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö’s recommendation to be so compelling, then why did he wait for over 60 years to implement it? What was it about a 60-year old counsel that suddenly made sense to the Sakya Trizin?

Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö lived from 1893 to 1959 and the present Sakya Trizin came to power as the head of the Sakya lineage in 1951 and was formally enthroned in 1959. Why didn’t the Sakya Trizin implement the three-year tenure immediately when he was first enthroned or indeed any time during his long reign as the Sakya throne holder? It seems suspicious that the Sakya Trizin would seek to curb the power and influence of future Sakya Trizins after he had personally enjoyed unbridled power for over half a century.

The question here is not about the qualifications and attainments of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö. Jamyang Khyentse was undoubtedly amongst the most respected lamas of his time but the Sakya lineage has survived for almost 1000 years based on a system that is not only time-honored but also proven to be effective in preserving the tradition. And now, the Sakya lineage is about to undergo a change that may very well weaken its standing as one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

The 41st Sakya Trizin Ngawang Kunga Wangyal

 

Weakening the Throne – Offence or Defence?

The new three-year term is a surprisingly short tenure and is in stark contrast to the traditional term where past Sakya Trizins were throne holders till the end of their lives. In fact the position of throne holder in all the Tibetan Buddhist sects are regarded as divine installations made for the benefit of sentient beings, not to be subjected to worldly considerations such as the Eight Worldly Concerns. Even elected positions such as the Gelugpa’s Gaden Tripa is for a term of seven years. So why would the head of the Sakya make a move to curb the tenure of future Sakya throne holders, a move that will most certainly curtail the activities of succeeding Sakya leaders?

Logically, it can be attributed to three possible reasons:

 

(i) To mitigate potential discord between the two Phodrangs:

While we have not heard of any public disputes between the Drolma Phodrang and the Phuntsok Phodrang, we have to bear in mind that the Khön family divided into these two separate factions during the 18th century and that itself hints at some internal conflict that may still be simmering.

It does not help that the present Sakya Trizin is said to be more interested in currying favor with the Dalai Lama establishment and the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) than to attend to matters that advance the teachings, practice and esteem of the Sakya lineage. The Sakya Trizin’s statement itself suggests that he has come under criticism for his comportment during his tenure as throne holder – “…it may be possible that at times I, as Sakya Trinzin, have been seen to have benefitted from privileges” and it is just as curious that a supposedly mature, supposedly highly attained, and supposedly divine throne holder of sacred Buddhist school would use an official and serious occasion to gripe about how he has been misunderstood and seek to explain himself on matters that are so overtly materialistic and worldly in nature.

Nevertheless, if the present Sakya Trizin had become a liability in the eyes of Sakya power brokers, then a short three-year tenure for all Sakya Trizins would make good sense to either abate potential infighting as a result of personal resentment, or to avoid the risk of a life-term Sakya throne holder, such as the present one, being insulated from the consequences of his own mistakes and behavior as the head of the lineage. The present Sakya Trizin is controversial in the way he dragged the Sakya lineage unnecessarily into political commotion instigated by the Tibetan establishment, and in the process undermined the legitimacy of the Sakyapas, as we will see in (ii) below.

As we saw earlier, the Sakya power base rests with two separate Phodrangs. The present Sakya Trizin is from Drolma Phodrang, with the other being Phuntsok Phodrang that was headed by His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche who entered clear light in April 2016. Still, before his passing, Dagchen Rinpoche of Phuntsok Phodrang managed to co-sign the Resolution jointly made by the two Khön houses. While this is only speculation, it may well be that an agreement was forged between the two houses, if it was not otherwise forced out of the Sakya Trizin so that the benefitting of privileges mentioned by the Sakya Trizin is circumvented. It is interesting to note that the new three-year arrangement is to commence in the year 2017 when the present Sakya Trizin’s time as throne holder would end. Contrasted against the established tradition in which throne holders would remain in power till their death, one wonders if this should not be seen as a forced abdication for the current throne holder.

 
(ii) To sacrifice tradition for political correctness:

Another possible reason for the drastic cut in future Sakya throne holder’s time in power may sound sinister initially, but when examined in light of prevailing power dynamics in Tibetan Buddhism, may hold merits after all.

And this is the submission that the Sakya Trizin based his decision on the recommendation of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö because it is a maneuver that supports the 14th Dalai Lama’s subtle push for what the Dalai Lama claims to be ‘Non-Sectarianism’, but many suspect to be a move to consolidate power. Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was a strong advocate of Rimé, a new and supposedly eclectic approach to Tibetan Buddhism that breaks away from traditional boundaries of practice, methods, philosophies and approach. Meanwhile the Dalai Lama’s designs for Tibetan Buddhism appears to involve less a respect for all Buddhists traditions and more a concentration of power in his hands that transcends lineage and traditions, and to that end, a weaker Sakya throne fits into his plan perfectly.

The Sakya Trizin presiding over a Sakya ceremony. Beside him, the throne of the late Dagchen Jigdal Rinpoche, head of Phuntsok Phodrang.

A short three-year term for future Sakya throne holders would make it difficult for any one Sakya ruler henceforth to undertake any major tasks with continuity. In that way, it makes it impossible for any one Sakya strongman in the future to establish a legacy and set a strong foothold in the governance of Sakya issues. In this weakness, there are ample opportunities for the Dalai Lama and the CTA to stamp their authority on the Sakya clan as they have on the Karma Kagyus and Gelugs.

But why would the Sakya Trizin undermine his own lineage? It may be because the Sakya Trizin himself believes in Rimé, or it may be because the present Sakya Trizin intends to be on the right side of the Dalai Lama’s politics and prosper from it. Many in the Sakya have lamented how the present throne holder has unabashedly coveted the Dalai Lama’s approval, more so than anyone else. For certain one does not hear of past Sakya Trizins or indeed any head of the 2 Phodrangs ever chasing after the Dalai Lama’s political endorsement. Nor have any Sakya apart from the present throne holder ever been linked to whispers of any covetousness and avarice on their part. The present Sakya throne holder seems to be the exception.

At first, this may seem like an overly harsh and unfair criticism of the Sakya Trizin. Any such thoughts however, pale into insignificance when we examine how the Sakya Trizin gratuitously waded into a Gelug controversy and denounced the practice of Dorje Shugden and in the process, debilitate the foundations of the Sakya lineage.

In 1996, when the Dalai Lama’s assault on Dorje Shugden practitioners first began, it was reported that the Sakya Trizin saw it as an opportune time to gain the Dalai Lama’s favor. He quickly dispatched a letter to the Dalai Lama’s government stating “Today, there is not a single Sakya monastery or center which follows Shugden practice” and that the Sakya establishment had gotten rid of the deity in all Sakya shrines (Source: Dolgyal Shugden: A History, by The Dolgyal Shugden Research Society).

Here, it is vital to draw attention to a number of points. Firstly, the Dalai Lama’s attack on the Dorje Shugden practice was concentrated on Gelugpa monasteries, monks and practitioners, not Sakya practitioners. Secondly, the sacrosanctity of the deity Dorje Shugden has its roots deep in the Sakya lineage long before it became a Gelugpa practice. Even today, prayers used by the Gelugs to invoke the blessings of Dorje Shugden were either written by, or are based on liturgies written by the Sakya Trizin’s forefathers in veneration of the deity. There can be no doubts about that and there is voluminous evidence to affirm this.

There were a number of things the Sakya Trizin could have done in response to the Dalai Lama’s hostilities towards Gelugpa-Shugden practitioners. He could have remained neutral and left it to the Gelugpas to settle their own affairs, seeing that both the Dalai Lama and the targets of his attacks were Gelugpas. Or the Sakya Trizin could have been the first to defend the Dorje Shugden practice against the vicious slanders and lies. An attack on Dorje Shugden is after all an attack on the Sakya seeing that it was the Sakya lineage that first worshipped the deity, and it was Sakya lineage’s high lamas who first codified the rituals and prayers and propagated the worship of Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being. In the rich Sakya history, Dorje Shugden was even regarded a patriarch in the Sakya ancestral line.

But instead, the Sakya Trizin was one of the first to denunciate his own traditions and beliefs which, as a throne holder he was meant to defend. In that decision, it was clear that the Sakya Trizin had made himself available to support the Dalai Lama in the most unholy of hostilities against innocent Buddhists. In so doing the Sakya Trizin demonstrated that he was willing to destroy the tenability and integrity of a long list of illustrious Sakya patriarchs and the legitimacy of the Sakya lineage so long as there was political advantage.

In an interview given to support the Dalai Lama’s efforts to wipe out the Protector practice and emasculate all Shugden worshippers, lamas and masters, the Sakya Trizin referred to Dorje Shugden as a ‘worldly spirit’, saying:

“At the beginning Sakya Throne holder Sonam Rinchen bound Shugden to the oath of protecting Dharma. However, neither Shugden nor other worldly spirits were depended on during prayer meetings at Sakya. The statue of Shugden was in some shrine rooms but in the lowest category in the pantheon. No Sakya followers have ever taken life-pledging empowerment through the medium of Shugden. In fact, no Sakya Lama seems to believe that Shugden holds the life-pledging empowerment.”


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In those few lines, the Sakya Trizin declared seven great Sakya throne holders – the 30th Sakya Trizin Sonam Rinchen, the 31st Sakya Trizin Kunga Lodro, the 32nd Sakya Trizin Wangdu Nyingpo, the 33rd Sakya Trizin Pema Dudul Wangchuk, the 35th Sakya Trizin Tashi Rinchen, the 37th Sakya Trizin Kunga Nyingpo and the 39th Sakya Trizin Dragshul Trinle Rinchen to be in error and incompetent to the point of not being able to differentiate between a worldly spirit and a Buddha and therefore void of any knowledge, omniscience and realizations.

A mural of Dorje Shugden in Sakya form i.e. Dorje Shugden Tanag (Dorje Shugden on a black horse). This mural is on a wall in the main Sakya temple known as Pel Sakya or Sakya Monastery, founded by Konchog Gyalpo in 1073. Why would anyone paint a Dorje Shugden mural in the main Sakya seat if the practice was not a prominent and main-stream Sakya practice?

But the implication of the Sakya Trizin forsaking Dorje Shugden was far more damaging than that. The great Sakya patrons, Kunga Lodro and Kunga Nyingpo (the 31st and 37th Sakya throne holders) were recognized to be direct emanations of Dorje Shugden. In fact the Sakyas believe that the Protector Dorje Shugden returned as the 37th Sakya Trizin to help the family line continue. However, by the present Sakya Trizin’s definition of Dorje Shugden, the Sakya lineage has been reduced to a line of incarnations of worldly spirits instead of emanations of Manjushri. One wonders whether the Sakya Trizin realized that by the same definition he had made himself nothing more than the chief wizard or head warlock of a spirit-worshipping sect.

What is incomprehensible is why the Sakya Trinzin would discredit his own lineage when the Dorje Shugden conflict was not even a Sakya issue. There was absolutely no necessity for him to have exposed the lineage to the sway of politics to the point of invalidating the Sakya heritage by denying its history. Like many who have been observing the Dorje Shugden debacle, the Sakya Trizin would have seen how the Shugden conflict triggered by the Dalai Lama wreaked havoc in the Gelugpa sect and divided followers of Tsongkhapa’s lineage all over the world. And yet, it would seem that the Sakya Trizin did not hesitate to imperil his own lineage just to win the Dalai Lama’s approval.

The 41st Sakya Trizin with the 14th Dalai Lama. A cozy relationship but at what costs to the Sakya lineage?

In the 20 years since the first assault on the religious freedom of Shugden worshippers in 1996, none of the other heads of the major Tibetan Buddhist schools – Nyingma, Kagyu or even the leaders of the smaller traditions – had deemed it appropriate to partake in the Dorje Shugden dispute. The Sakya Trizin alone declared his willingness to sacrifice the legitimacy of a 1000-year old lineage to bend to the Dalai Lama’s wish.

Given the Sakya Trizin’s acts of betrayal towards his own clan, there is substance in the proposition that the Sakya Trizin’s act of shortening the tenure of future Sakya throne holders was in fact, an act of aggression to weaken the sect for control.

There is a third explanation for the Sakya Trizin’s move to reduce the span of the lineage’s throne holder’s time in power which is premised on the second proposition above, albeit from another perspective.

 
(iii) As a buffer from external influence and efforts to control the lineage:

To the casual observer, Tibetan Buddhism is synonymous with the image of Shangri-la, a paradise where men have long abandoned all worldly pursuits. But that is far from reality. The institution of the Dalai Lama itself is a raw creation of politics and the Tibetan Buddhist religion could not be more political than it is now under the 14th Dalai Lama. The conflict with China and the subsequent Tibetan exodus in 1959 imposed upon the 14th Dalai Lama both a necessity and an opportunity to consolidate power. For that to happen, it has to be at the expense of the respective heads of the various Tibetan Buddhist traditions having dominion over their lineages.

Seemingly benign moves like resurrecting the Jonang lineage, formally recognizing the Bön as an official Buddhist tradition, imposing the Dorje Shugden religious ban, creating a split in the Karma Kagyu school, turning a blind eye to the forced conversions of Drukpa monasteries, appointing young and malleable candidates to the abbotship of strategic monastic universities such as Gaden Shartse Monastery (over older and more qualified ones), and even dividing the populace in their dream and method of achieving territorial freedom, may all in fact be the extremely dexterous and Machiavellian moves of a wily old statesman whom the world sees as a ‘simple Buddhist monk’. But within the Tibetan community, many who have dealt with the Dalai Lama know better.

Having seen how the Dalai Lama dispensed of any opposition to his ambitions in the Gelug lineage, and how he exerted control over the Karma Kagyu by acting outside established customs that are centuries old, perhaps the Sakya saw that the seat of the Sakya Trizin was merely another prize the Dalai Lama must acquire in his quest for totalitarian control. And so, the preemptive diminution of the term of any one future Sakya Trizin is a strategy to mitigate the risk of the Dalai Lama enforcing control over the Sakya via a proxy throne holder.

 

Conclusion

It is difficult to say conclusively which of the three explanations above is most accurate in explaining the Sakya Trizin’s actions. For certain, the Dalai Lama and his favorable view of the Sakya Trizin is a key factor to consider.

The Sakya succession letter presents myriad issues to be concerned and paints a very clear picture of the 41st Sakya Trizin and indeed the Sakya lineage. It is clear that during the past 60 years when the present Sakya Trizin sat on the lineage throne, he had allowed much decadence to creep into the lineage. The Sakya letter doubles as marching orders for the present Sakya Trizin and signals the last stop for his gravy train, and that it is time for the next Sakya Trizin to enjoy the spoils of the dynasty. At least that is what the letter’s language and content seem to convey. It was all very secular and had all the elements of a B-grade telenovela about greed, conspiracy and betrayal – a sensational announcement of a change of CEO, established governance give way to new conveniences that sells out the old dynasty, the most intoxicated of reason dressed up and sold as a sublime epistle, a lame whining at accusations made against the Sakya Trizin and the most infirmed of attempts to justify his actions (the Sakya Trizin spoke as if he was the only Tibetan who went into exile in 1959 and single-handedly rebuilt the lineage), and finally a subservient bow to the overlord of all Tibetan religious fiefdoms, the Dalai Lama. It was a dramatic production filled with histrionic conjuring and ends like a MacBethan orbituary, all performed by the Sakya Trizin, all signifying nothing, and all co-produced by the head of the Phuntsok Phodrang.

How did a divine family of celestial beings who have been upholding the precious Dharma become this way? Who can say but over half a century in the wilderness under a corrupt and incompetent ‘government’, with hopes after hopes of returning home being dashed and living each day upholding a leader’s untruths could not have helped. We have seen the devastating division of the Gelug, the decimation of a pure lineage and the birth of latent rivalry between two Karmapas that threatens to tear the Karma Kagyu apart. So, why should anyone be surprised at the willing ‘corporatization’ of the once glorious Sakya lineage?

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  1. There are presently two 17th Karmapa’s.
    There will be two future 15th Dalai Lama’. One from Tibet who is pro Dorje Shugen and one from Indian who will be anti Dorje Shugden.
    There will be two future 42nd Sakya Trizin’s. One from the “Dolma” Phodrang (Palace) and one from the “Phuntsok” Phodrang (Palace).
    In the past the title of Sakya Trizin was passed back and forth between the Dolma and Phuntsok Palaces. When one receives the title of Sakya Trizin in the OLD TRADITION it was a LIFE TIME POSITION. The OLD TRADITION would have seen the title pass upon death from the present Dolma 41st Sakya Trizin to the 42nd Phuntsok Sakya Trizin.
    That would mean that if the 42nd Phuntsok Sakya Trizin lived for 90 years the Phuntsok Palace would be in charge and for 90 years the Dolma Palace would be on the outside looking in just wait to return to power. That 90 years would be a very long time to wait your families return to power.
    That was what the new 3 year deal was all about. Less time to wait for your palace to return to power.
    The only problem is what if the 42nd Phuntsok Sakya Trizin or the 42nd Dolma Sakya Trizin after 3 years decides to remain in power? What if he declares the new 3 year deal void and states we are returning to the OLD TRADITION of the Sakya Trizin title is for life.
    Do you think that either Palace would just sit there and allow this to happen? No they will enthrone their very own 42nd Sakya Trizin for life. Then the 42nd Sakya Trizin WARS WILL START.
    The present Dolma Sakya Trizin did not want his palace to lose all its power upon his death. A power that would not return to them until the death of the new 42nd Phuntsok Sakya Trizin. Something that could take 80 or 90 years to happen.
    Maybe this will all be the revenge of King Dorje Shugden for the sin of the 41st Sakya Trizin backing the Dalai Lama’s BAN. Maybe we will be seeing the destruction of the Sakya Sect split in two with the Dolma with their 42nd and the Phuntzok with their 42nd Sakya Trizin.
    Is this so strange to believe in two 42nd Sakya Trizin’s? Or does it just make sense with two present day 17th Karmapa’s and two future 15th Dalai Lama’s.

  2. Harold Musetescu’s suggestion of a polarization of the Sakya sect is scary. So, where will that lead to? A destruction of Tibetan Buddhism as we know it?

    The article raised the question of the 41st Sakya Trizin implying that seven great Sakya throne holders – the 30th Sakya Trizin Sonam Rinchen, the 31st Sakya Trizin Kunga Lodro, the 32nd Sakya Trizin Wangdu Nyingpo, the 33rd Sakya Trizin Pema Dudul Wangchuk, the 35th Sakya Trizin Tashi Rinchen, the 37th Sakya Trizin Kunga Nyingpo and the 39th Sakya Trizin Dragshul Trinle Rinchen to be in error and incompetent to the point of not being able to differentiate between a worldly spirit and a Buddha and therefore void of any knowledge, omniscience and realizations.

    So, “by the same definition he had made himself nothing more than the chief wizard or head warlock of a spirit-worshiping sect.” He should not be trusted to be an effective leader and to continue to head a pure lineage.

    As suggested by the article, the Sakya sect is totally weakened and will be ineffectual in the future. The rot of Tibetan Buddhism has taken deep roots and will be gone unless someone rises to the occasion to keep the pure lineage.

  3. Seriously, I cannot agree more with this conclusion “It (referring to the letter by the Sakya Trizin) was all very secular and had all the elements of a B-grade telenovela about greed, conspiracy and betrayal – a sensational announcement of a change of CEO, established governance give way to new conveniences that sells out the old dynasty, the most intoxicated of reason dressed up and sold as a sublime epistle, a lame whining at accusations made…” . The degeneration of lineage throne holder is very prevalent especially after the announcement of the Dorje Shugden ban since 1996. Coupled with the power struggle between the 2 Karmapas and the constant turmoil within Gelugpa lineage; the lines of celestial incarnation are seen to succumb to worldly bewilderment. If this is not degeneration of Dharma, then what is?

  4. What Harold wrote does make quite a bit of sense but that would mean that the Sakya leaders today regard the affairs of the Sakya lineage as no more than a business-making opportunities.

    Shocking and unfortunate as it may be, the way the Sakya Trizin has behaved, coupled with the new succession system, would indicate that preservation of the lineage for a strictly spiritual reason is not a priority. If the Sakya Trizin had the integrity of the lineage at heart, he would have defended the Sakya practice of Dorje Shugden, as the practice is synonymous with the credibility of a number of key Sakya masters. But if the Sakya Trizin is more interested in holding on to power for the prestige and commercial gain, then it is efficacious to toe the Dalai Lama line and have strong support. Clearly the Sakya Trizin made his choice.

    If that is the case, then I can see how the present and 41st Sakya Trizin would be eager to return to power in three years or have his son sit on the throne soon, and I can see how members of the Phuntsok Phodrang would have to either agree or wait till the present throne holder passes away, which may be a while yet. So there is merits to what Harold stated.

    The saddest part is how so many Tibetans and Tibetan institutions have given up after half a century of aimlessness and broken hopes under the CTA and the Dalai Lama.

    At this rate, Tibetan Buddhism will splinter into many different factions and lineage will be compromised. This will be the legacy of the 14th Dalai Lama.

  5. When the 41st Sakya Trizin publicly insulted and degraded Dorje Shugden on behalf of the Dalai Lama he attacked all three ” Gyalpo Sum”. The three “Gyalpo Sum” also known as the “Three King Spirits” of the Sakya Sect are Dorje Shugden, Setrap and Tsiu (Kache) Marpo.
    We all know that Tsiu (Kache) Marpo is the “First Minister” to King Dorje Shugden.
    We also know that Setrap saved Dorje Shugden from death at the hands of Mindrolling Tulku and his “Fire Puja”. It was also Setrap who lead Dorje Shugden to his new home with the Sakya. It was the 30th Sakya Trizin who enthroned Dorje Shugden as a dharmapala and made him the third member of the “Gyalpo Sum”.
    You may not now that Setrap’s peaceful emanation is the “Tsangpa Karpo” the “White Brahmin”. The Tsangpa deity takes trance in the “Lamo Tsangpa Oracle”.
    The Lamo Tsangpa is the third highest State Oracle behind the Nechung and the Gadong Oracles. Please read on this website the article titled “Good Commentary by TK”. It is about the Lamo Tsangpa condemning twice in 1995, Dorje Shugden.
    How could the peaceful emanation condemn Dorje Shugden when his wrathful emanation SETRAP saved Dorje Shugden.
    The 41st Sakya Trizin has now insulted and degraded publicly not just Dorje Shugden but also Setrap and Tsiu (Kache) Marpo. I believe that this has created massive “BLACK KARMA” for Sakya Trizin. He has insulted all the previous Sakya Trizin’s who believed in not only Dorje Shugden but also Setrap and Tsiu (Kache) Marpo.
    Will the three “King Spirits” now act as true “Dharmapalas” against the 41st Sakya Trizin? Did the head of the Phuntzog Palace, the now deceased Sakya H.H. Dagchen Tulku Rinpoche also not defend Dorje Shugden publicly?
    I stand by my statement that there will be TWO 42nd Sakya Trizin’s and the three “Gyalpo Sum’s” will have their revenge.

  6. The idea of having a cap in the term of service makes perfect sense in secular settings. It is logical and justifiable to have a mechanism in place to prevent the “perpetuity in office” so to avoid abuse of power by those in control. Power can corrupt and thus the need for such governance in any secular organisation is understandable considering the uncertainty of the characters who will hold office.

    However, in this case we are talking about a role which is selected from unbroken lineage with many being recognized as emanations of the Bodhisattvas Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani. And even recognised as object of refuge. So, by right there should not be any such risk to warrant putting in such prevention governance. And if the formula works why change it without any proper rhyme or reason? Especially when such change does not bring any significant benefit?

    Having said that, the above view does sound a bit too idealistic considering recent questionable actions from the present Sakya Trizin. Take the Dorje Shugden issue for example, there was no necessity to get involved and yet the present Sakya Trizin swiftly jumped into the bandwagon of denouncing Dorje Shugden (which was part of Sakya tradition instead of defending it). From this perspective, it does give credence to the theory where such mechanism is being put in place to curb future reoccurrence of unfettered continuity of power. Regardless of whether this truly is the case, the imposition of such change in the tenure is akin to the admission that something is wrong within the Sakyas and serve as a tarnish point.

    The attempts to justify cutting short the tenure as stated in the letter also rings hollow.

    Firstly, since when is the title such as big factor that it now warrants such a drastic change in order to afford a chance for more candidates? Perhaps one fails to realise that by saying so it seems to bring to question the Dharmic motivation of those within Sakyas.

    Then, the long gap for the adoption of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro’s opinion is not only suspicious but comes across more like an afterthought or a handy justification.

    Further, interestingly with the citing a Nyingma lama as authority to justify this internal change and the seeking of the “approval” of the Dalai Lama for it, the Sakyas appear to be oblivious to the dangerous precedent of looking outside for solution on internal matters that has been set in motion. Isn’t it just logical that subject matter experts be relied upon to deliberate on specific subject matters and in this case, who best to deliberate, interpret and clarify on the internal affairs and issues of Sakyas than those experts within Sakyas themselves? And we are not even deliberating on complex issues like interpretation of Buddha’s teachings to warrant exchanges with others as a check and balance mechanism. Here, it is essentially dealing with the Sakyas’ house rules and internal governance.

    Bottom line is the limitations of 3 years effectively curtails the ability of future Sakya Trizins to follow through on long term projects or works and also weakens as well as jeopardises the independence of Sakya in the governance of their own affairs. Is that really the intention (exchange for other benefits) or is it a case of obliviousness?

  7. Tibetan Buddhism had always been a mystery to the world outside of Tibet, full of amazing historical attained lineage Masters, its mysterious line of incarnate Tulkus and its people being more religious inclined. But since the exodus of Tibetans-In-Exile seeking refuge away from Tibet that is under the control of China, the values of the people and their practices now operates on different levels, not necessarily good in dharmic terms. Being exposed to a new environment where more importance are placed on secular activities and religion playing a second fiddle, Tibetan Buddhism may be starting to degenerate. As upholder of all Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama will need to implement drastic measures to ensure the purity of Buddha’s teachings and the lineages continues.

    Lord Dorje Shugden had helped the Dalai Lama in his major times of need and it will not be surprising if Dorje Shugden again stepped up to the plate. It may be a collusion of both Dorje Shugden and the Dalai Lama that the best way to saving the purity of the Buddhadharma from its degeneration, is by imposing the ban on Dorje Shugden’s practise. It had been Lord Dorje Shugden’s vow to arise as the Protector of Lama Tsongkapa’s precious teachings. Since the ban, as the seemly cause of divide, we have seen how fast the dharma had spread worldwide, as well as the beneficial Protector Dorje Shugden’s practise.

    No doubt that the ban had created segregation, persecution and tremendous sufferings for the Shugden practitioners but somehow it had helped in the ways that we may not see clearly now. I see a segregation of sincere Shugden practitioners holding fast to their Guru’s lineage teachings and practises as opposed to those who willing gave up on their Guru to be on the side of the “right”. These Shugden practitioners will be the ones keeping the purity of the lineage teachings intact due to their integrity, faith and true love for their Guru….keeping their samaya with the Guru strong and clean.

    Going through such sufferings, the Shugdenpas’ steadfast faiths are strong to overcome the adversities they faced. It also shows that they are able to rise above the ignorance of misinformation, comfort of following the crowd, attachment to worldly gain, fame, praise and pleasure, etc. To them their Gurus and the Buddhadharma are more precious than short termed pleasure. Sufferings eliminate bad karma and as such, the collective sufferings of Shugdenpas must have created the merits for the spread of Lama Tsongkapa’s teachings to the world. Even in China nowadays, Shugden practitioners have the freedom to practise and the Buddhadharma is flourishing there now.

    If the article is anything to go by, then as suggested by Harold, having two heads for each school may not seem such a bad prospect. One with the purity of the lineage holders, teachings and practises while the other with degenerated practitioners who have no loyalty, integrity and only seeking the short term benefits for this lifetime (most probably without their own awareness). However I do sympathise with those who are new to to Tibetan Buddhism as it will be daunting to select a real dharma centre with authentic Guru. As Buddha had advised, check out the Guru and check out his activities, his students and his centre before committing to the Guru/student relationship. All I can bide them is be diligent in your search, be logical without emotional ego playing tricks on the clarity of your mind and good luck.

  8. How sad. Never before in the history of the Sakya Trizins has any one leader ever acquired the reputation of being such a sycophant. The things he wouldn’t do to get on the Dalai Lama’s good side…and for what? He will never become leader of all the Tibetans. Thanks to him and his actions, the Sakyas are more divide than ever, and the leadership’s been so totally ineffectual that the Sakya leaders now only get three-year terms. What else could it be for, except to prevent an abuse of power?

  9. This is a masterpiece of logic and exposes the intrigue of the Sakya hierarchs. It’s just too bad that he spoke unnecessarily against Dorje Shugden. How can he do that? Doesn’t he realize that he is speaking against his very own ancestors? Dorje Shugden is deeply connected with the Sakya School and saying anything against him is like countering many of the great Sakya Trizins who enthroned him, who practiced him and proliferated his practice. No wonder, they are going through this succession problem now.

  10. its not worth to loose your own identity, giving up your root, traditions and practice in order to gain power, face, supports and fame from others. We all know that before the ban came from HH the 14th DL and CTA, Shakya was practising Dorje Shugden as one of their main protectors. It’s a pity that with the long history and unbroken traditions, the current leaders are taking a huge steps backward. What would their students and followers think of their leaders? The whole fundamental of practicing Buddhism is to gain attainments. We should never deviate our practices from gaining attainments to any other worldly concern and engagements.

  11. Dharma is not about to create a specific tradition and lineage that has someone sitting on a throne and so on.

    Because dharma is rooted in space- and conciousnesscontonuum and space- and conciousnesscontinuum is always there, dharma is always there everywhere in anyone all the time anyway.

    Some beings with less karmic delusions not only perceive and experience the basic freedom of lastingness and non-existence more intense than others but they are also more curious about it and do their own research on this basic fact and thereby they discover and reveal more and more non-duality as well as the wisdom and compassion within themself.

    These beings then teach about what they have discovered and is called dharma.

    So dharma is about devotion regarding non-duality and ones own wisdom and compassion to transform ones own state of conciousness into the view of shunyata or non-duality (wisdom view) that includes compassion to be able to perform healing activities according to the basic freedom of lastingness and non-existence (non-duality) to prevent and heal ignorance, duality, harmful eternalistic and nihilistic views, harmful motivation and harmfull actions of mind, speech and body and all the god and bad karma, problems, suffering and frustration (samsara) that are created by this ignorance and so on.

    So anyone who receives, studies and practices dharma, based on analytical and resting mindfulness that leads to clear seeing and meditation, to discover the basic freedom of lastingness and non-existence to effect the wisdom view and the compassioned motivation to prevent ignorance and so on and to heal ignorance and so on, is a dharma holder and should continue to study, practice and also spread dharma by mind, speech and body.

    Tantric view is non-dualistic view, a wise view that includes compassion or compassions comes with this wise view or being aware of this basic freedom of lastingness and non-existence, interdependece, law of cause and effect, essence, nature and healing power of mind, due to dharma study and practice that is based on analytical and resting mindfulness and so on.

    That also explains why Dorje Shugden actually can’t be missperceived by HHDL and others because Dorje Shugden is basicly free of lastingness and non-existence, free of good and bad, free of god and devil, like all beings that are basicly pure, healing and so called buddhas.

    You are a free of lastingness and non-existence, you are free of good and bad, you are free of god and devil and therefore you are full with wisdom and compasion, you are a buddha/you only can be wisdom and compasionn, you only can be a buddha and nothing else.

    Therefore HHDL is wrong if he assumes that dorje dhugden or anyone else is bad, evel or whatever. All beings are buddhas, that’s pure view and true/reality because there is only non-duality and duality is just an illusion. That is a fact ;-) !

    Also you can’t ban a whole dorje shugden community or any other community because of there might be a few beings within the dorje shugden community or any other community that have done mistakes. Also then these people should study and practice dharma because that is what dharma is there for. So if you made/make mistakes then dharma is the best for you and you are welcome to dharma anyway. Dharma is not a ban it is healing transformation due to power of non.duality that is healing/transforming.

    However, all linages of dharma are important to preserve and spread, to teach the precious dharma al beings, more linages are better than just one or none. And dharma is not about to sit on a throne, or a specific a tradition, dharma is about dharma, it’s just that simple.

    Just watch out for eternalism and nihilism (harmful views, because reality is free of lastingness and non-existence, is non-duality but not duality that is just an illusion) and ignorance (being distracted from non-duality and creating the illusion of ignorance, duality, eternalism and nihilism and so on).

    May the wisdom and compasion of non-duality protect you, protect your samaya with non-duallity, increase your wise view of non-duality and compassion and liberate you from all good and bad karma, luck and pain, so that you can rest in the natural non-dual state of conciousness that is great bliss/enlightment.

    Love you all, keep up your dharma activities, no matter what happend, happens and will happen, i practice for all of you anytime as well.

    Take care!

  12. Dear Sashi Kei

    Thank you for this insightful article about Sakya Trizin. It has certainly i opened my eyes about the potential problems that are currently happening between the two podrangs. Honestly, all this politics and power struggle is discouraging the growth of Dharma. Many sincere people resort to religion because they want peace and spiritual development and not to be further exposed to politics (which is something that they can get elsewhere).

    From a lifetime to three year tenure is such a dramatic change and left people wondering as to why such a change need to be implemented and why 3 years because 3 years is a relatively short time to do anything and let alone implement anything

    I hope the best for the Sakya school.

    Michaela

  13. Thank you Sashi for such an insightful information about the Sakya heads. It’s sad to see such an old and prominent tradition being brought down to this stage. Like what Michaela said, from a lifetime to 3 years tenure is a huge change in the Sakya Trizin system.

    I have read about some ugly things about the current Sakya Trizin but of course I do not know how true the content is. I really wish the best for the Sakya school.

  14. Thank you very much Sascha for your enlightening comments.

    In the same vein, this article which is full of speculation, cannot and will not add one iota towards one’s liberation unless one takes the same view of non-duality.

    That the actions of these Bodhisattvas are neither evil nor good, that they are just a means toward the ends.

    As the immediate ends are not just yet in sight, I would refrain from criticizing their actions unless of course “cleared” by your Bodhisattva Guru who is omniscient.

    I can only say this: Yes, the historical facts show that Dorje Shugden is/was a core protector practice in the Sakya and it is extremely odd that the 41st Sakya Trizin spoke against it.

  15. 1000 years of legacy ended brutally in the hand of the 41st Sakya Trizin. His action is conveying these 2 messages: the previous Sakya Trizins are not an emanation of Manjushri, neither is the current one. Perhaps there are spiritual reasons for the 41st Sakya Trizin’s action but it is too difficult for one to ignore the political interest and agenda of the 41st Sakya Trizin. Amazing how mundane “benefits” can make a person destroy a prestige lineage overnight.

    The action is similar to the CTA – ban Dorje Shugden and destroys the precious lineage of the Gelug. The CTA and the 41st Sakya Trizin are interested in only short sighted selfish gain without taking into considerations the importance of preserving the sacred lineages that benefit many. Unbelievable!

  16. This is sickening to see how greed and power can pollute even the purest form of traditions. So basically what the 41st Sakya Trizin is saying is his lineage is wrong, because when he condemns Dorje Shugden, he condemn the entire line of lineage masters before him who relied and enthroned Dorje Shugden, indirect he actually condemns himself because he comes from that same lineage. And since the Sakya Throne Holders are believed to be “Manjushri’, hence he is also saying that Manjushri is wrong.

    What an amazing Sakya Throne Holder he is that he can say Manjushri made a mistake. How easily this 41st Sakya Throne Holder could be swayed to be politically “correct” and would sell out his entire lineage just to gain favouritism from HHDL makes me question the authenticity of the Sakya lineage from here on in. How could you trust another Sakya and by the time you think you know who is the throne holder that you can trust, it’s probably time for a change. Seriously religion and politics should never mis. This Sakya’s greed for power makes a joke of the entire Sakya, if he is truly an emanation of Manjushri, then I suppose only he himself would be the only one able to reverse this humiliation on his lineage. Such a shame and such a waste indeed, because after once this new change in the term of succession start taking place, I foresee more bad news, more conflict, more degeneration in this lineage which could lead to the destruction of the entire Sakya lineage. The problem does not seize just because they change the duration of Sakya Throne Holder’s term in office. I wonder is this what Buddha meant by saying “Buddhism will destroy itself”? Because this is what I feel we are experiencing with how HHDL is destroying Dorje Shugden’s lineage and what is happening with the Sakyas now. It’s quite sad to bare witness to the fall of such a holy line of incarnations. This could make one even question the authenticity of the Vajrayana teachings as a whole. Dangerous!

  17. From reading this article, I sense that the Sakya lineage will from now on degenerate further. How is it possible for any succession from here on it to fully carry out their duties and implement whatever they feel necessary to improve the lineage in general when the moment they implement is, the next they are no longer in power, and another new throne holder steps in and could very well change the rules again. The Sakya disciple and people will get so confuse, and imagine they need to change the picture of their linage master on their altars every 3 years! Isn’t this just so ridiculous?

    Also if the Sakya Throne Holders were really emanations of Manjushri than why would position, power, money and glory be of such an important issue, until it is actually being complained about and even brought up in such an important official letter is really unbecoming of a leader…

    The Sakya Trizin’s statement itself suggests that he has come under criticism for his comportment during his tenure as throne holder – “…it may be possible that at times I, as Sakya Trinzin, have been seen to have benefitted from privileges” and it is just as curious that a supposedly mature, supposedly highly attained, and supposedly divine throne holder of sacred Buddhist school would use an official and serious occasion to gripe about how he has been misunderstood and seek to explain himself on matters that are so overtly materialistic and worldly in nature.

    Could all this be another divine play or could it be the heavy negative karma of the Sakya Trinzin who basically decided to discredit his own lineage when the Dorje Shugden conflict was not even a Sakya issue. There was absolutely no necessity for him to have done so Indeed this is very sad to come to know… I wonder what else will be next?

  18. I meditated this quickly. It has nothing to do with Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö. Not unlike the mysterious karmapa letter I believe it has the same stench. Shame on you tibetan administation and false Dalai lama!
    There is a long history of Shugden practice in Sakya and I for one will continue my practice unabaited. It does saden me to see such a great family and lineage degenerate.

  19. It is very disappointing of the Sakyas to abandon the Dorje Shudgen practice the moment there is signs of trouble.

    As the article mentions,when the Sakyas invalidating the Dorje Shugden practice, it only shows that the Sakyas, do not take their lineage lamas seriously, some of whom were Sakya Trinzins and some were even emanations of Dorje Shugden.

    Invalidating the Dorje Shugden is not just invalidating Dorje Shudgen, the Sakya Lineage and Gelug lineage, they are also putting Setrap that is one with Amithabha at the level of a worldly spirit.

  20. I do not know if anyone has noticed this but although the 41st and current Sakya Trizin will be stepping down in March 2017, the Drolma Podrang will be holding on to the throne.

    Source:
    http://sakyatrizinenthronement.org/

  21. I have a lifetime of experience and a close connection with the 41st sakya trizin and also with his son the 42nd– I recently attended the enthronement in puruwala.
    these are sublime enlightened beings.
    i say this from personal experience.

    I am deeply concerned about your website– discrediting of enlightened lamas based on pure speculation.
    if he is not your teacher you should refrain from criticism as it may harm the path of other sincere students.
    Sakya Trizin has benefited and protected the Dharma more than any being on this planet.
    He endured intense personal hardship crossing over from tibet, and worked tirelessly to protect the teachings when they were at risk of annihilation by chinese authorities.
    he has tirelessly travelled the world establishing projects in india and the west to benefit countless beings.
    if u have not met him personally it is very negative to generate speculative criticism.
    i must urge you to stop.

    you criticize him out of a negative mind.
    again I urge you to stop.

    you are possessed by a most worlldly and unenlightened deity

    and it is the shugden deity (gyalpo spirit) which colours your world and makes you view enlightened beings as negative.

    for this you will suffer intensely, simply due to cause and effect

    I have experienced terrible obstacles in this life due to being a shugden practitioner in a previous life.

    shugden is an unenlightened deity– a corrupt gyalpo spirit- and although you may experience short term benefits from his protection
    … you will suffer terribly in death, or lifetimes to come.

    shugden is a protector and not an enlightened yidam

    you should pay respect as with any protector
    but he is NOT an enlightened refuge like shakyamuni buddha

    be very careful….

    If u hold shugden in higher regard than shakyamuni Buddha then there is a major problem
    …..and a terrible experience coming your way

    I feel sorry for you and all the misled people in your organisation.
    i pray for u all

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Contemplate This

.…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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