The trap of taking sides – only a Buddha can know
As Buddha Shakyamuni did with his “evil” cousin Devadatta, to subdue the dualistic minds of their students and to strengthen the Buddhadharma’s roots in this world, enlightened masters have always enacted dramas of “good versus evil”, acted as if insane, and appeared in any form they knew suitable for the various dispositions of people, from hedonistic priests to holy prostitutes, from winos to demons. As we can check with the scriptures, a Buddha can even manifest as a chair, and only a Buddha can know what’s what and who’s who.
We’d be very smart not to judge.
Let’s take the ongoing controversy about HH the 16 th Karmapa’s reincarnation as an example. If we need “final proof” about which of the two candidates is “the right one”, we may wait forever. If, on the other hand, we listen to either’s teachings and, since they accord with the Buddha’s teachings of compassion and wisdom, determine to practice them, we can start right now and will be busy for the rest of our lives. Why in the world would we, who have no means of perceiving what’s really going on, pass judgment, of which the only effect can be to destroy other people’s faith?
Gendun Rinpoche, called “equal to Dorje Chang” by the 16 th Karmapa, said, “The true Karmapa is in your heart”, pointing skillfully yet directly to what really matters – to check our own mind. Doesn’t that mean that as long we are attached to outer form, we are looking in the wrong direction, and are very far from fulfilling our Lamas’ wishes, which is to practice what they teach? Isn’t it the teachings that we should keep in our hearts, and not a physical form? And, do we have so little faith in our Lamas to think that they are limited to one, two or three (maybe a third Karmapa will appear one day and claim that he is the real one, to spread healthy confusion amongst us self-grasping “disciples”…) emanations?
By the same token, true protection comes from sincere refuge, checking our thoughts, words and actions against the law of cause and effect on a Hinayana level, practicing lojong mind training – bodhicitta – on a Mahayana level, and direct pure perception on the Vajrayana level. On neither level is there room for judgement, but only endless opportunities to take responsibility for ourselves and to practice compassion and non-attachment.
Looking good, being on “the right side”, seemingly following His Holiness’ advice, could come at the cost of our integrity, causing schism amongst practitioners, causing practitioners to lose faith in their Lamas and lineage, breaking our bodhisattva vows if we have them, losing faith in our own Lamas. Is it worth it? If we sincerely ask ourselves, what in this world can we trust except our Lamas’ words and examples? And if we have ever followed their instructions, hasn’t their wisdom been revealed to us beyond doubt, by the result of doing so?
Destroying faith in the lineage Lamas
So, the outer, incredibly sad purpose, or at least the result, of the “Dorje Shugden drama” seems to be to destruction of the Gelukpa lineage, and the destruction of faith in the Buddhadharma in general.
Some suggest the reason is a human and all-too-human struggle for power, some say it’s the Tibetan government diverting attention from their failure in freeing Tibet . What is certainly obvious is that the names of the most important, respected and revered Geluk lineage holders are being dragged through a mud of false righteousness that would send shivers up the spine of any unbiased observer. Saints for incarnations after incarnations, they are now, suddenly, the “Taliban of Buddhism”. The hundreds of thousands of people they have inspired to dedicate their lives to the Dharma, their total devotion to His Holiness and the Tibetan (and all) people have suddenly become non-existent.
(Even the Tibetan national anthem was composed by HH Trijang Rinpoche!
Tibet ‘s National Anthem- Gyalu
Words by: Trijang Rinpoche(His Holiness’s Senior Tutor)
Music by: traditional Tibetan. In use since: 1949
Let the radiant light shine of Buddha’s wish-fulfilling gem teachings,
the treasure mine of all hopes for happiness and benefit
in both worldly life and liberation.
O Protectors who hold the jewel of the teachings and all beings,
nourishing them greatly,
may the sum of your virtuous deeds grow full.
Firmly enduring in a diamond-hard state, guard all directions with
Compassion and love.
Above our heads may divinely appointed rule abide
endowed with a hundred benefits and let the power increase
of four fold auspiciousness,
May a new golden age of happiness and bliss spread
throughout the three provinces of Tibet
and the glory expand of religious-secular rule.
By the spread of Buddha’s teachings in the ten directions,
may everyone throughout the world
enjoy the glories of happiness and peace.
In the battle against dark negative forces
may the auspicious sunshine of the teachings and beings of
Tibet and the brilliance of a myriad radiant prosperities
be ever triumphant.)…
Destroying faith in His Holiness
On the other hand, many people are losing faith in HH the Dalai Lama. In Vajrayana Buddhism nothing could be worse than turning against one’s Gurus because nothing could cut one off the source of spiritual attainments more effectively. And yet it seems that this is precisely what is happening.
If the Dalai Lama’s Gurus can be wrong…
These people muse, “If the Dalai Lama’s Gurus can be wrong, everyone – including the Dalai Lama – can be wrong”.
Which would be, of course, the end of faith, and the end of spirituality. Unless…
… His Holiness is teaching us with skilful means to think for ourselves and to look deeper, which is what we choose to believe. His Holiness is a bodhisattva. He can’t be harmed. If there are errant beings, they invoke His compassion, not His wrath. If there were malevolent spirits that can’t be tamed, He would simply send them into Dharmadatu, “dissolving” them into the realm of ultimate reality.
It is true that His Holiness has to please many people. Having the thankless duty to be a spiritual and temporal leader, He is doing an absolutely amazing job where most others would have succumbed to corruption or depression. It is possible that in His aspect of a human being, He may be subject to influence by advisors or entourage who have less than noble intentions, but it is truly unimaginable that He would burn up the very foundation upon which Buddhism rests. Without Buddha, where is Buddhism? Without our teachers, where are the teachings, and where are we?
Blind faith, on the other hand, is the opposite of Guru devotion. It is what makes people, “in the name or for the sake of the Dalai Lama”, burn down houses, destroy statues, trample on pictures of HH Trijang Rinpoche in Dharamsala, and threaten him with murder.
Dharma is, again and again, taking responsibility for one’s own mind and karma. Our Gurus, not somebody else’s, is our true friend and trusted guide in this endeavor.
In his book “How real is real?”, Paul Watzlawik recounts many examples which show that people are much more interested in a scandalous lie than in a sober truth. The false rumor may have long been officially refuted; no one cares. It’s just more exciting to stick to the sleazy stuff. In politics, consistent bombardment with dirt (and Monica Levinskys) usually finishes off the opponent fairly quick.
So if some worldly people have a worldly plan here, it may look successful in the sense that a lot of people are getting their rocks off on their new-found enemy. What they may have overlooked is that the subject of their insults is not worldly. Speaking of which – if Dorje Shugden were all the things that are being said about him, wouldn’t he wreak havoc on all those who offend and abuse him??
It is yet one more proof of the Dharmapala’s enlightened mind that you will never hear him say one bad word about anyone or anything when he speaks through his oracles. His Holiness is always addressed as “The Holder of the White Lotus” – Avalokiteshvara. To people with faith, who realize him to be inseparable from their Lama and Yidam, he will give profound Dharma teachings that no unenlightened protector could possibly conceive of. He will not recommend people to do his practice, but the Gaden Lhagyema, Migtsema, lojong etc.
Quite recently, Dorje Shugden has adviced,
“Keep His Holiness in one hand, and me in the other.”
So, the solution may well come from an unexpected angle. What if, for example, His Holiness were to say next year that He and Dorje Shugden are friends again, and actually have always been?
Many years ago (he entered clear light in 1981, at the same age as Buddha Shakyamuni), HH Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche gave this advice:
“Don’t lose faith in His Holiness – don’t lose faith in Dorje Shugden.”
If we have any trust in Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, whose incarnation lineage reads like a picture book of enlightenment, this statement is very easy to understand.
On the outer level, it means that both, the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shugden will be around for a long time, and that both will be instrumental for the Buddhadharma to remain and grow in this world. It also means that both are very important for our own connection with the Dharma and the practice thereof.
On the inner level, it means this is a test of faith, to see if we can go deeper than superficial proclamations, to see if our Guru devotion is real. If we ignorantly choose one and neglect the other, we lose both. Positively speaking, if we keep faith in both, we may look like we lose now, but will “win” both in the long run.
On the secret secret level, it means that
His Holiness and Gyalchen Dorje Shugden work hand in hand to promote the Dharma.
Before the great controversy and anti-Shugden campaign started in 1997, Dorje Shugden practice, as Glenn Mullin writes (in his authorized book of biographies, “The Fourteen Dalai Lamas”, Clear Light Publishers, page 209), “…eventually became one of the most popular Protector Deity practices within the Gelukpa school”. This is in isolated Tibet , of course. But even after the Tibetan exodus, at a time where the whole world knew His Holiness, very few non-Tibetan knew Dorje Shugden. Glenn Mullin writes, two paragraphs further down:”In recent decades the present Dalai Lama has attempted to discourage the practice, but with little success. It is as strong today as ever, if not stronger; for with the Dalai Lama discouraging it in India , the Chinese are fully promoting it in Tibet .”
By now, who could deny it, everybody interested in Dharma knows Dorje Shugden. Ask anyone in the advertisement business: negative propaganda works as well as positive – the increase in sales is the same.
Dharma renaissance in China; spreading Dharma worldwide
On the outer secret level, of course His Holiness knows that if He says, “Don’t do this”, the first who will do and promote it are the Chinese, for the pure fun of opposition, and the second who will do and promote it are the westerners and generally all intelligent, independently-thinking people, whose curiosity is now aroused, who will research deeper, rather than believing some illogical slogans concocted by the Tibetan government, and who will eventually connect with Dorje Shugden out of deep, well-founded conviction.
China , the West and the world at large – this is the stage His Holiness and Gyalchen Dorje Shugden are preparing for the Dharma to enter, take root, and grow.
If one thinks purely from a Tibetan viewpoint, it is obvious that unless a spiritual renaissance happens in China , things will never get better for Tibet , not to mention autonomy or freedom. We can probably say the same about the world at large.
The thing about enlightened beings is that even if we practice for the wrong reasons, because of the “power of the object” it will lead eventually to the right reasons, or actual Dharma practice. “Even if viewed without faith and with an angry mind, just to see a Buddha image plants meritorious seeds in our mind-stream that will eventually lead to enlightenment.”
Take the extreme example of someone who believes that Dorje Shugden is a malevolent spirit, and who has fallen for the absurd idea that a spirit can harm a bodhisattva such as the Dalai Lama. If that person were to propitiate the Dharmapala to harm His Holiness, he would 1) not harm the Dalai Lama because that’s not possible, and 2) he would unknowingly plant positive imprints in his mind, which would eventually cause him to 1) stop hating His Holiness and recognize Him for what He is, and 2) lead him to the holy Dharma. Why? Because Dorje Shugden is Manjushri Yamantaka in the form of a Dharma Protector – because Dorje Shugden is a Buddha.
Therefore, on the inner secret level, both His Holiness and Dorje Shugden promote the Dharma within all of us. Dorje Shugden practice will deepen our faith in His Holiness’ teachings, and empower our practice of these in a very big way. That’s what friends are for…