By: Mar Nee
Many times in the past His Holiness the Dalai Lama cautioned practitioners of Buddhism, monks and laity alike, not to engage in the worship of worldly gods and deities or establish any spiritual connections with such beings. The Dharma is very clear that Buddhists are only to go for refuge to the Three Jewels (the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha) and one of the most important responsibility a practitioner owes to the Buddha’s teachings and to his or her own spiritual path is to maintain the purity of the practice and never to trespass on the sanctity of their refuge commitments by worshipping unenlightened gods for such an act is tantamount to damaging the basis of all spiritual attainments.
The prohibition to propitiate worldly deities is the very reason upon which attempts were made by the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual establishment in Dharamsala since 1996 to cast aside the ancient practice of the Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden, accusing the deity to be a malicious spirit and if not, then at best a worldly god. Any honest student of Tibetan Buddhism would realize that this is patently untrue of course but, that Dorje Shugden being merely a worldly deity, has been posited as the primary reason for the ban on its practice to be enforced. By this logic, none of the Tibetan monasteries should be engaging in the practice of worldly gods.
And yet in the following video clip, we see Sera Je Monastic University, part of the famous Sera Monastery, considered one of the great three Gelugpa universities, and the seat of many great Masters, Geshes and Sangha gathering to perform a tsok offering ceremony. What is “strange” is that during the Sera Je event, and in the midst of great elite masters who have taken refuge in the Three Jewels and who are apparently obeying the Dalai Lama’s instruction not to have any links with non-enlightened deities, a worldly god is in fact in trance as part of the religious proceedings and interacting with the esteemed lamas including Lama Zopa himself, and all the time assisted by the monks of Sera Je.
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The oracle was taking trance of Gyalchen Karma Trinley, a worldly deity who jumped, hopped and ran among the esteemed Sangha, and occassionally placed his sword on the senior sanghas’ back in the gesture of clearing obstacles or blessing. What is most shocking is how the senior lamas, including Lama Zopa (one of the most visible and senior of lamas supposedly to have abandoned the Dorje Shugden practice on the basis of the Dalai Lama’s reasons) consented to being part of the proceedings of worship of Gyalchen Karma Trinley. As the video shows, Lama Zopa and the other lamas received blessings from the wordly god, and sealed their communion with the deity by drinking from the same cup offered by the deity. To drink from the same cup is to acknowledge that the worldly deity and the lama is one, and that they are conjoined spiritually. Surely this is completely against the very essence of the Dalai Lams advice. So how can this happen? How can senior Sangha who have abandoned Dorje Shugden on unproven accusations that he is a worldly spirit have communion and receive blessings from a confirmed unenlightened and worldly deity? If they believe that Dorje Shugden is a worldly deity and by that reason discontinued their worship of him (even to the point of going against oaths made to their Gurus), then how do they explain their worship of and intimacy with Gyalchen Karma Trinley, a worldly god?
Clearly this deity is not enlightened and is merely a worldly god, shown by the fact he has no throne provided for him in the prayer halls and instead runs among the Sangha, back and forth, almost in pandemonium and even to the bemusement of some Sangha members. This is in stark contrast to the customary scene when Dorje Shugden takes trance with high lamas going up to a very regal Protector seated on his throne.
Dorje Shugden is considered to be a fully enlightened being by the greatest of the great Gelug and Sakya lamas of Tibet. When he takes trance, he will be seated on a high throne and the monks go up to him to make offerings, as seen in this video of a Dorje Shugden oracle who took trance in Serpom Monastery.
We all need to ask a simple and yet important question:
The Dalai Lama said to stop all worldly deity practice. Yet in Sera it is allowed and continues as the video shows. And to any casual observer, how the oracle dances and prances around the Sangha at random seems almost inappropriate and quite unnecessary and in parts, what is supposed to be an auspicious ceremony had more an air of casual entertainment. The Sangha was seen laughing which cannot happen if they took the trance to be a sacred affair. It is quite incredible that a Dharma Protector who for centuries was recognized as a wrathful emanation of Manjushri, and who for centuries helped many practitioners including the Dalai Lama himself has been denied, while a worldly deity, Gyalchen Karma Trinley is allowed in a monastery such as Sera. If the Dalai Lama wishes everyone to stop worldly practices, it should be across the board and not for the ban to just apply to Dorje Shugden. That Sera Je would “obey” the ban and yet continue to worship a worldly deity is itself substantial proof that the reason for the Shugden ban is bogus and hides a far more sinister motive, and no one really believes it but abides in it to be politically correct.
If the spiritual authorities of the Tibetans in exile expect their ban on Dorje Shugden to be believed then the same enforcement as applied to Dorje Shugden should also apply to all worldly deities but clearly that is not the case. And this is not the only time we see monasteries and lamas who reject Shugden having communion with worldly deities. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso makes a very valid point when in response to calls for the Geshe to cease his Dorje Shugden practice said, “When you stop worshipping your worldly gods, we will consider the stopping our worship of Dorje Shugden.” And so long as the monasteries continue in their veneration and even reliance of unenlightened deities, they have no footing whatsoever to call for the ban on Dorje Shugden, who is in fact a Buddha.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s sudden decision to stop his practice of Dorje Shugden was surprising. For Lama Zopa to cease his protector practice in such a precipitous way and on the back of the Dalai Lama’s reason, means that Lama Zopa’s attainments and clairvoyance failed him all those years when he worshiped Dorje Shugden as his own protector. What Lama Zopa essentially “admitted” to was that he was “fooled” by a demon or a worldly deity into thinking that it was a Buddha, until the Dalai Lama imposed the ban. It would also mean that Lama Zopa’s gurus and peers who had been devout Dorje Shugden practitioners too could not discern a Buddha from a worldly deity. Could they have been wrong then and not known they were wrong until recently, or are they knowingly wrong now for reasons of their own? In fact Lama Zopa of all lamas should know of the enlightened qualities of Dorje Shugden. Lama Zopa himself was discovered by Dorje Shugden, when the famous oracle of Dunkar Monastery recognized him as a tulku and enthroned him accordingly. And Lama Zopa is supposed to have renounced all worldly deities, but here he is receiving drinks and khatas from a worldly deity, as the other high lamas in the video did. The Dorje Shugden ban continues to be a comic puzzle when the proponents of the ban themselves are living proof of why the basis of the ban is false.