The Dorje Shugden – Dalai Lama Conflict (PART 2: Origins of Dorje Shugden: arisal as a protector during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama)

(extracted from research of Ursula Bernis)


How did Tulku Dragpa Gyeltsen’s became a protector?

It is believed that Dorje Shugden arose in the form of a Dharma protector after his immediate predecessor, believed to have been the most renowned, learned Gelugpa master of his time, Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen (1619-1654), had been assassinated. See Dujom Rinpoche: Crystal Mirror: A Short and Lucid History of Tibet, the Land of Snows, (gangs.cen bod.chen.po’i rgyal.rabs bsdus gsal.du dvangs.shel ‘phrul.gyi me.long bzhugs), a text completed in 1961 but not published until 1978 for censorial reasons involving the exile government in Dharamsala. The place of publication of this text was withheld, page 373 or folio 508. Also, “Although it is not stated in the biography of the Fifth Dalai Lama, according to common tradition, it is believed that Dakpa Gyaltsen was killed by stuffing his mouth with scarves.” Fourteenth Dalai Lama in a talk, July 13th, 1978. Buddhist ontology distinguishes between different levels of existence, between gross and subtle material bodies. While human beings and most animals have gross material form, the majority of beings have subtle energy bodies invisible to common perception of the material senses. All Buddhist protectors and most other helpful beings in the Buddhist pantheon are believed to have such subtle mental energy bodies invisible to the physical eye. Dorje Shugden is one of those materially invisible forces believed by those who rely on him to be in the same continuity as Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, the accomplished master whose actions were considered beyond evil intent.

See for example the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s statement, “It is my view that Tulku Dakgpa Gyaltsen’s instinctive behaviour and ways of thinking were good. I have looked at his Collected Works which also contain his secret biography. He seems to have been good in his studies and to have a gentle subdued mind. In his biography there are a few Guru Yoga texts, one of which has Buddha Shakyamuni in the center and around him: Guru Rinpoche [Padmasambhava] (9th century) surrounded by the Guru lineage of the Nyingma Order, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158) surrounded by the Guru lineage of the Sakya order; Marpa (1012-1097), Mila (1052-1135) and Dwagpo (1079-1161) surrounded by the Guru Lineage of Kagyud order; Je-Rinpoche [Tsong Khapa] (1375-419) and his two spiritual sons surrounded by the Gurus of Gelug order;… teachings of past Sakya, Gelug, Kagyud and Nyingma masters are summarized and it is explained that one should pay homage and recite eulogies through recollecting their qualities. At the conclusion, he explains that a boundless crime based on contemporary sectarianism produces causes to be thrown into bad realms and that he had written this Guru Yoga deliberately to avoid such negative results. Having seen that, I thought it was good. Usually, Gyalchen [Dorje Shugden] is considered a biased deity, since there was this account in the Collected Works of Dakpa Gyaltsen, I thought it was good.” From the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s talk on July 13th, 1978.

Buddhists also believe that everything is caused. Thus, for an individual to be reborn as a wrathful being, like a protector, he must meet a violent death. Conversely, anyone dying a violent death is likely reborn as an angry spirit. Since Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen was a highly realised master, it is impossible for him to have been reborn as an angry spirit. Since his nature was goodness, the wrathful appearance is considered merely an external show to help those who are threatened or fearful. Hence, he was reborn as a Dharma protector, not as a harmful spirit, it is argued. This is considered one of the conditions. However, the main cause is a promise Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen had made in a previous existence when he was one of Je Tsong Khapa’s principal disciples. This was a pledge to take care of his master’s illustrious doctrine when the need arose. The religious history of Dorje Shugden, his incarnations and deeds, are explained in dge.lden bsrung.wa’i lha’i chos.rgyal chen.po rdo.rje shugs.lden.rtsel kyi ksang ksum rmat.du’i’i ktam.du dam.chen rgya.mtso’i shes.bya.wa, edited by Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche An exclusively religious explanation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen turning into a Dharma protector seems to see the violent death merely as a condition of a larger viewpoint where revenge has no place.

The incarnation lineage of great masters

Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen’s religious successor lineage is impressive. It included one of the most famous Indian secret mantra adepts (mahasiddha) of the 10th century, Virupa, About his feats see, Masters of Enchantment, The Lives and Legends of the Mahasiddhas, translated by Keith Dowman, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, Vermont, 1988, pp. 35-9 and the great Tibetan masters Sakya Pandita Kungo Gyaltsen (1182-1251), Buton Rinchendrup (1290-1364), For a short biographical sketch, see Dratshadpa Rinchen Namgyal: A Handful of Flowers, A Biography of Buton Rinchen Drub, translated by Hans van den Bogaert, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, 1996. and Panchen Sonam Dragpa (1478-1554). According to the following sources: lineage prayer of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen composed by the first Panchen Lama Losang Chokyi Gyaltsen, ‘jam.mgon bstan.sung rgyal.chen rdo.rje shugs.ldan rtsal kyi be.bum, Vol 1, Delhi, 1983, pp. 131-8, with Sakya Pandita not included; dge.lden bsrung.wa’i lha’i chos.rgyal chen.po rdo.rje shugs.lden.rtsel kyi ksang ksum rmat.du’i’i ktam.du dam.chen rgya.mtso’i shes.bya.wa, edited by Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche; dge.lden bsten.srung dkra.lha’i gyal.po srid ksum skye tgu’i srok bdag dam.lden bu.bshin skyeng.baí lha.mchok’i rgyal.chen rdo.rje shugs.ldan rigs lnga rtsal gyi sger.bskang phyoks las rnam.par’i rnga tbyangs…, by Pabongka Dechen Nyingbo; Heart Jewel, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Tharpa Publications, London, 1991, pp. 81-90; Introduction to TAOTFPL, p. 11. It must be pointed out that religious successor lineages of famous Tibetan Buddhist masters are complicated. Not everyone agrees to the same predecessors. In that sense not one lineage is indisputable. Even the Dalai Lama’s contains discrepancies when seen strictly from the point of view of historical succession and he usually makes a point to identify himself with the Fifth and the Thirteenth Dalai Lamas. To complicate matters, these lineages are often considered on the basis of any one continuity, body, speech, mind, or action, and there can be more than one incarnation of a famous master at the same time.

Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen and the 5th Dalai Lama

Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen was strictly a religious personage and not involved in politics. Until 1641, the Fifth Dalai Lama considered Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen next to him in rank. “From this time [1634] through the iron-serpent year (1641) the incarnated lama of the gZims-khang-gong, next to me in rank, continued to attend the smon.lam.” Yamaguchi quotes from the Fifth Dalai Lama’s autobiography, in “The Sovereign Power of the Fifth Dalai Lama,” p. 12. They were both from Drepung monastery and both were disciples of the First Panchen Lama Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen, It might be relevant to point out here that the first Panchen Lama (the forth in the Tibetan count) Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen (1567-1662) was the most important master of his times. He had been abbot of all three monastic universities, Sedegasum, and Tashi Lhunpo, a greatly accomplished vajrayana master, author of many texts, some still recited daily by all Gelugpas. He ordained the forth and Fifth Dalai Lamas as well as Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen and was Guru to both. It is said that he loved Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, who was not involved in politics, especially for his purely religious practice. The first Panchen Lama had a great deal of religious influence in Mongolia prior to the Fifth Dalai Lama’s political take over. He created good relations with both the Mongols and Manchus and caused the Gelugpa tradition to flourish peacefully. It is said that he helped Tibet both in the religious and political sphere. He influenced Kushu Tenzin Chokyi Gyalpo, a Mongolian renowned for spreading the Gelug tradition in Mongolia. This laid the groundwork for the later more political success of the Fifth Dalai Lama. who had given both their vows. Their personal histories had been intertwined in previous lives as well. A previous incarnation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, Panchen Sonam Dragpa, a great master, writer, abbot of all monastic universities in turn, vajrayana adept, whose textbooks are still today used at Drepung, had been the teacher of two Dalai Lamas, yet the Fifth Dalai Lama disliked him and criticized him openly. Yamaguchi, claims that the Fifth Dalai Lama plagiarized his “Chronicle of Tibet” from Panchen Sonam Dragpa. Ibid., p. 11. Thus, the Fifth Dalai Lama seems to have had difficulties with the lineage of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen through more than one life time.

One problem seems to have been that Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen was very popular also with Mongolians Ibid., p. 16 who played a large role in Tibetan political affairs at the time. Thus, he could easily have been perceived as a threat to those who had established political power with Mongolian backing. Although most Tibetans believe that Gusri Khan handed over Tibet to the Fifth Dalai Lama, not everyone agrees with how the sovereignty of the Dalai Lama’s power was established. See, for example, “Sovereign Power of the Fifth Dalai Lama,” and “The Dissemination of the Belief in the Dalai Lama as a Manifestation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara,”by Ishihama Yumiko, Acta Asiatica 64 (1993), pp. 38-56.

The Political Climate during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama

It was an important time for building the Tibetan national identity under the idea of a strong, unified central government “at Lhasa, which was enhanced by measures to demonstrate the continuity of the new regime with the religious rule of the great kings of the seventh to ninth centuries. Court ceremonial and pageantry, the building of the magnificent palace on the Potala hill underlined that theme; and the cult of the Dalai Lama as the embodiment of ‘Phags-pa Spyan-ras-gzigs (Avalokitesvara) was, perhaps, developed at this time.” High Peaks, Pure Earth, p. 390. Political power was being compressed into an institution of a single authority For a more detailed analysis of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s assumption of political power see, “The Sovereign Power of the Fifth Dalai Lama: sPrul sku gZims-khang-gong-ma and the Removal of Governor Nor-bu,” by Professor Zuiho Yamaguchi, in Memoirs of the Research Department of The Toyo Bunko (The Oriental Library) No. 53, Tokyo, 1995 that could not tolerate competition in any domain. “For the Dalai Lama to become the supreme religious authority in all Tibet, it was imperative that only a single incarnate lama in the person of the Dalai Lama preside over ‘Bras-spungs monastery from his headquarters at the dGa’-ldan Palace.” Ibid., p. 10 Ganden Potang (Palace), the name of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s residence at Drepung monastery, was later given to the Tibetan government, i.e. the Ganden Potang government. He did not take up residence in the newly enlarged Potala Palace still towering over Lhasa today until 1659. From oral accounts it is known that the steady stream of Mongolians passing the “Lower Residence” (i.e. that of the Dalai Lama) at Drepung monastery to make offerings to Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen at the “Upper Residence” was a constant annoyance to politically ambitious officials. “…it seems that there were two residence, (bla-brang), the so called lower residence of the Dalai Lama and the upper residence of those of the lineage of Tulku Dagpa Gyaltsen, both of whom seem to have been quite famous. As a result of this it seems certain there were petty conflicts between the staff of the two residence.” Fourteenth Dalai Lama, ibid., July 13th, 1978

Identifying with Avalokiteshvara and Tibetan Kings

At the same time the Fifth Dalai Lama stabilised and increased his power, especially during the years between 1642 and 1653, “…in the years between 1642 and 1653 the Dalai Lama took various actions presenting himself to the populace as a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara. Since Avalokiteshvara was believed already before the establishment of the dGe-lugs-pa school to be the bodhisattva charged with converting Tibet, it is beyond doubt that the faith engendered in the minds of both the nobility and the general populace as a result of the Dalai Lama’s actions served to gradually enhance the power of the Dalai Lama and reais him to a position on a different level from that of the regent and Gusri Khan and his descendants. Ever since then, right up until the present day, the Dalai Lama has continued to exert enormous influence over the people of Tibet as a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara.” “On the Dissemination of the Belief in the Dalai Lama as a Manifestation of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.” pp. 54-5; and “This consolidation of religious and secular power in a single figure was an important moment in Tibetan history, a consolidation that received strong ideological support through the promotion of the cult of Avalokitesvara.” Religions of Tibet in Practice, ed. by Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Princeton Universtiy Press, Princeton 1997, Introduction by Donald S. Lopez Jr., p. 31; see also the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, “…the lineage of the Dalai Lamas, which can be traced back to the Tibetan King, Choegyal Trisong Deutsan and even further to a relationship with Gyalpo Kunchog Bang.” In a talk on July 13, 1978 in explanation of why the protector Nechung is more important for to the Dalai Lama to cultivate than Dorje Shugden. when he popularised his identification with Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion special to Tibet, and the seminal king Songtsen Gampo credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet. It was not until the eleventh century that the earlier Buddhist kings were identified with bodhisattvas. “In Tibet’s religious development the eleventh century was a formative period for subsequent religious movements and especially for the legitimation of the territory of larger Tibet (three provinces) by the Gelugpas in the seventeenth century. For the first time, the myth of associating the early kings — still identified with “the Divine Rulers of the old beliefs,” i.e. Bön (Richardson, p. 198) — with important bodhisattvas was read back into history and carried forward from then on, “…Srong-btsan sgam-po, Khri-srong lde-btsan and Ral-pa-can, who were acclaimed as ‘manifestations’ of Avalokitesvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani respectively. Srong-btsan sgam-po, the most fearful warrior of all the kings, was not the ‘manifestation’ of the gentle benevolent Avalokiteshvara, the Lord of Compassion.” Secret Visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Samten Karmay, Introduction pp. 1-2. It stands to reason that the Avalokiteshvara myth, as the legitimation for power, was projected backwards into history, since the ancient myths of origin did not get absorbed into Buddhism until this period. According to the indigenous belief system, “the kings were descendants of the Phyva gods,” … who were “above all, warriors who lead the army in person and engaged in battle.” ibid., p. 1. In the myth of origin of the Tibetan people most widely told today, a rock demon (brag copulated with a monkey (spt’u) believed to have been a ‘manifestation’ of Avalokiteshvara. They engendered the Tibetan people which places Avalokiteshvara at their very inception. See, for example, Sakyapa Sonam Gyaltsen: The Clear Mirror, translated by McComas Taylor and Lama Choedak Yuthok, Snow Lion Pulications, Ithaca, 1996, Part I, in particular, chapter five. Later the myth (perpetuated in the’i me.long) gets transferred to King Songtsen Gampo as the (religious) father of Tibet. According to some scholars, it is highly unlikely that that Lord, or jo.wo, had at the time of his flourishing anything to do with Avalokiteshvara. Die Werke des Regenten Sans Rgyas Rgya Mcó (1653-1705), Eine philologisch-historische Studie zum tibetischsprachigen Schrifttum, Kristina Lange, Akademie-Verlag, Berlin, 1976, p. 149, FN 28, (my translation). See also, “The Royal Way of Supreme Compassion,” by Matthew Kapstein, ibid., p. 70, where the source for the nationalistic Avalokitesvara myth is given as the “treasure” text (, the Mani Bka’ ‘bum, from the twelfth and thirteenth century. The indigenous beliefs, now collected under the name Bön, have very different myths of origin. See for example, Philippe Cornu: Tibetan Astrology, Shambala, Boston, 1997, p. 20. This book contains a very readable introduction to the psychic-spiritual milieu of everyday Tibetan life lived until the Communist invasion. Today some of it continues but strangely fragmented and part of a new politicised overall setting. Also, Drung, Deu and Bön, by Namkhai Norbu, for an overview of the indigenhous believe system of pre-Buddhist Tibet which continued to evolve in close proximity to Buddhism.

Although in Tibetan religious history many Buddhist masters were celebrated as incarnations of Avalokiteshvara, From a translation of the “Annals of ‘Gos lo-tsa-ba” composed by the Tibetan scholar and translator “Gö Lotsawa Shönnu Pal between 1476 and 1478, “Just as the Bodhisattva Manjushri took over China, in the same manner the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Arya Avalokitesvara protected this country of Tibet.” The Blue Annals, George N. Roerich, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, Reprint of the Second Edition, 1996, p. 10006. Then the author lists many Tibetan adepts of Avalokitesvara (Book XIV). this deity was now cultivated to legitimate the Tibetan national identity and attached as such to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. To mark his accession as sovereign, the Fifth Dalai Lama also wrote a history of Tibet For a more detailed philological analysis of the role this text plays in rewriting history to justify Gelugpa power over larger Tibet (the three provinces) aided by establishing incarnation lineages to legitimate political power locally in various areas of Tibet, see Die Werke des Regenten Sans Rgyas Rgya Mcó, especially the section “Über die Schriften des Regenten,” pp. 124-144. The Fifth Dalai Lama’s writings also show his understanding of the political need to invoke the identity of the earlier Tibetan kings with ancient Bön practices that still form the basis for political institutions like the State Oracle, for example. In speaking of the Tibetan kings before Buddhist advent in the 7th century Songtsen Gampo is traditionally counted as the thirty-third Tibetan king the Fifth Dalai Lama writes, “…and for twenty-seven generations of kings politics was protected by the drung, [legendary narratives], deu [symbolic language of signs, like geomancy, divination, etc.] and Bön [shamanic rituals and knowledge].” Drung, Deu and Bön, Introduction, p. xix. The Fifth Dalai Lama had to unify politically all the different strands of religion. “He was born in a Rnying-ma-pa family and is widely believed in Tibet to have been for all his life a secret supporter of the unreformed sects,” says Richardson in High Peaks, Pure Earth , p. 354, and most Tibetans believe he did not only support but practised them. The Secret Visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama testify to that even though they seem much more to belong to the Bön tradition which forms the foundation for the uniquely Tibetan conception of “power relations.” In addition, to the Fifth Dalai Lama and his regent Sangye Gyatso were attributed Sanskrit names and their elaborate lineages indicating that “with these fictitious religious-mythological genealogies the origin of their ancestors was not only to be found in the Tibetan ancient history but also anchored in the Indian Buddhist tradition in order to let their ancestry appear as noble as possible.” Die Werke des Regenten Sang Rgyas Rgya Mc’o, pp. 121-2, (my translation). in 1643, a text he supposedly plagiarised from Panchen Sonam Dragpa, See above, Note 17. a predecessor of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen. It stands to reason that the perceived rivalry between the two incarnate Lamas at Drepung did not originate with Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, The current view of the Tibetan exile government as brought into a Western context by George Dreyfus in “The Shuk-den Affair: History and Nature of a Quarrel” of attributing the rivalry solely to Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, I believe serves a political agenda rather than representing any form of scholarship, neither the academic critical version nor the Tibetan one that takes into consideration the appropriate Buddhist distinctions, i.e. as between the two truths, literal and interpretive, etc. although, according to some sources, he had been a candidate for the Fifth Dalai Lama “The bKa’-brgyud-pa sect had already tried to make out the child as a reincarnation of one of their own lamas before he was recognised as that of the Fourth Dalai Lama, but this was not all. There was also another more serious candidate for the reincarnation of the Fourth Dalai Lama among the dGe-lugs-pas themselves. This was Grags-pa rgyal-mtshan (1619-54), who was presented as a possible reincarnation before being finally recongized as the reincarnation of Pan-chen bSod-nams grags-pa (1478-1554), the teacher of the Third Dalai Lama.” Samten Gyaltsen Karmay in the Introduction to Secret Visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama, p. 3 while others say the candidate had been a member of Dragpa Gyaltsen’s family. Yamaguchi in “The Sovereign Power of the Fifth Dalai Lama,” p. 12; Yamaguchi then says, “From the very outset the presence of this incarnate lama [Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen] weighed heavily on the Fifth Dalai Lama.”

Tempering facts and rewriting history

If Yamaguchi is correct in his analysis of the texts that the Fifth Dalai Lama later rewrote his autobiography Yamaguchi, ibid., p. 17; also see a detailed discussion of this problem in Die Werke des Regenten Sang Rgyas Rgya Mc’o. Even though the Tibetan word rnam.thar is often translated with autobiography, this is a misnomer. A nam.thar of a Tibetan Lama was written by one of the aides in his close proximity because Lamas usually did not praise themselves. Thus, it is likely that events were included or omitted from the Fifth Dalai Lama’s biography in accordance with how the writer of the times tried to portray events. There are discrepancies between different versions, according to Lange’s philological studies, and many texts, also those of the regent, are believed to have been co-authored. Interestingly, the Ganden Potang, house or residence of the Fifth Dalai Lama at Drepung monastery, became a printing house. to reflect history in a more favorable light, and if it is true that Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen was assassinated, it is not hard to imagine that official references to his popularity and deeds would be erased, minimal or negative. It is historical fact that no official search for an incarnation was undertaken. The main source of information for this time was the biography of the Fifth Dalai Lama. We know that texts were removed from libraries because of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s disapproval. On grounds, in part, that the author belonged to the Karmapa school, the principal opponents of the Fifth Dalai Lama in his defeat of the Tsang King with the help of Gusri Khan, claims Hugh Richardson, High Peaks, Pure Earth, p. 80; and, “…since there exist no records of events in Tibet around 1642 other than the Fifth Dalai Lama’s autobiography,” The Dissemination of the Belief in the Dalai Lama,” p. 39, which, moreover, Yamaguchi claims was revised after the Regent Sonam Choepel and Gusri Khan had passed away. Such attention to “official” versions of the historical events of the time could explain why Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen’s incarnation would immediately be called into question and continued to be so by the Ganden Potang government, Apparently changing texts to fit officially established views was not uncommon in Tibet. Even the one historical precedent the Dalai Lama cites again and again from Changya Rölpa’i Dorje to justify his Dorje Shugden policy appears to be based on one such case. The incident he refers to is narrated in Changya’s biography of Trichen Ngawang Chogden. [(+) needs exact textual reference] An evil monk spirit (rgyal.’gong) from Dragsob (brag.sob) who was invoked by some active Lama retired from his monastic office (bla.zur) and a Khamtsen at Ganden. They built a wayside shrine for this spirit in the circumambulation path of Ganden. Trichen Ngawang Chogden declared this unsuitable. He said that since the time of Je Tsong Khapa and his disciples no worldly spirits were worshiped at his [Ganden] monastery and that in future this would also not be permitted. When that spirit was invoked through an oracle, he said that since the Trichen Rinpoche had said this, he had no choice but to leave and he excused himself and left for Taktse-Shöl. The Lama retired from his monastic office who had relied on that evil spirit died soon after as punishment by Kalarupa [one of Je Tsong Khapa's protectors]. There is no reference to Dorje Shugden in this passage. The evil monk spirit (rgyal.’gong) was continued to be worshiped as a local deity at the place where he came from. The same incident is referred to by the master Tuken in his biography of Changya. (Tib.: thu’u-bkwan (1737-1802). See Collected Works of Thu’u-bkwan Blo-bzang-chos-kyi-nyi-ma, Vol. 1 (Ka), edited and reproduced by Ngawang Gelek Demo with Introduction by E. Gene Smith, Delhi, 1972). There the Lama retired from monastic office, bla.zur, is changed to retired throne holders, khri.zur, in the plural; the evil monk spirit, rgyal.’gong, to Dholgyal (Dorje Shugden); and Trichen Ngawang Chogden to Trichen Dorje Chang. “So in the past some Ganden Throneholders relied upon Dholgyal and inauspicious things occurred. Thus the great Throneholder Vajradhara destroyed the shrine [referring to the above incident about the local evil monk spirit] … and expelled him from the monastery … the account was told.” From the grammatical mistakes Tibetan experts believe the blocks of this text were manipulated even before it was printed. The Dalai Lama refers to Tuken’s version and not to the original by Changkya. The exile government’s special committee charged (after 1996) with the task of finding textual legitimation for the ban and informing the Dalai Lama either did not or did not want to find this discrepancy. although it is hard for Western people to understand why this old feud would be revived some three hundred fifty years later by the exile version of the Ganden Potang government and with similar intensity and vigor, especially when the Buddhist world view that government claims to preserve stresses the illusory nature of phenomenal reality. It would also be plausible that accounts of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen’s lineage, legacy, and religious accomplishments would be subject to distortions, different interpretations, some of which were adopted as “official” while others circulated more secretly, orally, and through less widely published sources kept carefully in the form of prayers and sacred texts.

A spirit or a Buddha?

After Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen’s passing away, the Fifth Dalai Lama and some of his officials were convinced that he had come back as an harmful spirit. As already mentioned, Buddhism teaches that someone with high realisations cannot fall back into the dark stages of evil spirits. Thus, the ripening karma of a realised person being murdered is in accordance with Buddhist explanation of karma as well as his bearing this suffering while generating only virtuous intentions to benefit others (i.e. to protect the Buddha’s doctrine) rather than reacting to harm others. Why would they, if Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen had not died a violent death? Some people claim Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen committed suicide, another most improbable act for a Buddhist master of that calibre, especially one accomplished in secret mantra where the body is seen as the deity. Suicide would amount to killing a Buddha for such a person. Many inauspicious signs and events occurred and one would expect Buddhists, who believe in cause and effect and that results are particularly swift if actions involve a realised being, to conclude that these ill omens had to do with killing a holy being. But the government believed them to be caused by an evil spirit instead and employed the highest Vajrayana practitioners of the time The Fourteenth Dalai Lama mentions in his talk on July 13, 1978 that according to common knowledge, Rigdzin Terdag Lingpa of Mindol Ling and Rigzin Pema Trinley of Dorje Drag performed two fire rituals simultaneously, one at E-WAM and the other at the Potala, which were deliberately aimed to annihilate Dhol Gyalchen . to perform exorcism rituals to destroy that spirit. They could not, it is told, and the Sakya Lamas involved in the exorcism rituals told the Fifth Dalai Lama that they were not dealing with an ordinary spirit.

Dalai Lama acknowledges his mistake about Dorje Shugden

The Fifth Dalai Lama, according to oral history, accepted this and composed several verses in praise to Dorje Shugden in which he acknowledged his mistake of having misjudged Dorje Shugden’s appearance. For those not familiar with Buddhist doctrine and at the risk of stating the obvious, the issue is religious power derived from the perspicacity to “see” the nature and appearance of subtle mental energy beings. If a Buddhist practitioner cannot distinguish between the subtle appearance of a Buddha and a demon, he or she could not possibly have the direct realisation of the nature of reality. There are many interesting stories in Buddhist history concerning the distinction between appearance and reality, for example, the famous one about Upagupta who prostrates to Mara, the Buddhist incarnation of evil, whom Upagupta asks to manifested the appearance of the Buddha, with Upagupta claiming he prostrated to the Buddha, not to Mara. See, John S. Strong: The Legend and Cult of Upagupta, Sanskrit Buddhism in North India and Southeast Asia, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1992, Chapter five. and the disturbances stopped.

A prayer written by the 5th Dalai Lama

PROPITIATION OF SHUGDEN BY THE GREAT FIFTH DALAI LAMA ‘Jam.mgön rgyal.wa’i bsten.srung rdo.rje shugs.lden kyi ‘phrin.bchol bhjoks.bsdus, published by Seramey, p. 14

Though unmoving from the spontaneous, primordial sphere,
Your ferocious power is swifter than lightning,
You’re fully endowed with confidence to judge right and wrong
Invited with faith, may you please come to this place!

Wearing monk’s robes, adorned with a golden domed hat,
Right hand holding a club and left, a human heart,
riding various mounts of dragon, Garuda and so forth
You, who subdue the various demonesses of the charnel grounds, I praise!

I arrange favorite animals and various offering substances.
I reveal and confess not reversing my image of you
As a mundane spirit
Because of being somewhat clouded by my own interest.

Now, as I respectfully praise you with body, speech, and mind,
Bring about the good and avert the faulty
For us, the masters, disciples, patrons and entourage,
And cause the spiritual and temporal to flourish like the waxing moon.

Furthermore, in accordance with our prayers to swiftly achieve
All our wishes, bestow effortlessly supreme accomplishments!
And, as all needs and wishes arise from the wish-fulfilling jewel,
May we always be nurtured by the Three Supreme Jewels!

This brief praise, propitiation and dispatching activity is a praise of the manner in which you revealed very strong miraculous signs of invulnerability to the power of indisputably great tantrikas The different vajrayana masters from the Kagyu, Sakya, Nyingma traditions performing the exorcism rituals. who tried to subdue you by burning you in the fire of a tantric ritual. The Tibetan exile government has publicized that these verses are not to be found in the collected works of the Fifth Dalai Lama or in his autobiography. In “A Reply to the Government,” the author queries, “By this you mean to say he did not compose this prayer or you did not see it? There are many other works composed by the Fifth Dalai Lama that are not in his collected works. (For example, rang.rnam pö.tang.por)” p. 85

Fulfilling his oath to Pehar

At Sakya, to the south of Lhasa, the great master Dagchen Sonam Rinchen is said to have given Dorje Shugden his name, which means “vajra force,” referring to an unadulterated, pristine spiritual force, and officially recognised him as a powerful religious protector. Shung.len drang song’i pel.tam, by Losang Chompel, A Reply to the Government, Dorje Shugden Society, 1997, second edition, p. 65 Those who believe Dorje Shugden to be a worldly spirit say that he was put under oath (under covenant) by this great master, an act believed to turn a spirit into a servant of the Buddha Dharma. However, those who rely on Dorje Shugden as a Dharmapala take the promise Duldzin Dragpa Gyaltsen had made to Pehar (to act as special guardian of Je Tsong Khapa’s doctrine in the future when the need arose) as the main component initiating the series of events that caused him to arise eventually, more than two hundred years later, in the form of Dorje Shugden. “Remembering the promise Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen had made [some two hundred years and several life times earlier when he was Je Tsong Khapa's disciple, Duldzin Dragpa Gyaltsen] he went to Pehar-chok (pe.har lcog) [the sacred residence of the protector Pehar] and said to Nechung Chögyal [emanation of Pehar] that he remembered his earlier promise (dam.bca’) or word of honor and asked what he should do to pursue it. [That protector had come to Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen and reminded him of his promise, saying "Now is the time" and "The time has come."] The protector answered that he would offer his blessings and active support (‘phrin.las) to that end. After that, because of Nechung’s blessings, people came to Lhasa from all directions and especially from the Kham region and made more offerings to Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen than to the Fifth Dalai Lama… The upper and lower residence were considered almost equal. Moreover, during the Great Prayer Festivals, Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen’s throne near the Fifth Dalai Lama’s in the front row was slightly higher. All these factors made Desi Sonam Chöphel and the attendants of the Fifth Dalai Lama envious of him and they were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Suddenly, at the age of thirty-eight, on the 25th day of the fourth month of the fire monkey year (1656), Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen fell sick. Taking advantage of the situation sDe-pa Nor-bu and Desi Sonam Chöphel on the 13th day of the fifth month tried to murder him unsuccessfully with weapons. It had no effect on him. Therefore, the murdered him by stuffing a cloth into his throat.” Bstod-’grel dam.can rgya.mtsho’i, Kathmandu, 1997, p. 137-38. In other words, he was not subdued like a worldly spirit would need to be but manifested the different Buddha activities (‘phrin.las), which include wrathful acts, out of his own determination and high spiritual accomplishments. Properly naming this force and marking that event with a ceremony called enthronement is giving it its proper recognition. This has been confused with the act of subduing a worldly spirit. The different beliefs about Dorje Shugden depend not so much on historical records but on the differing interpretations of the relationship between reality and appearance.

Important questions to ask

It is perhaps more fruitful to ask the question why it was at this particular time that Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen is believed to have fulfilled the promise he had made long ago in a previous life. Why was the Gelugpa tradition at that moment perceived by some Tibetans to be in danger as to require another guardian exclusive to its tradition? Why did the historical circumstances come together for this to occur when the Gelugpas supposedly celebrated their greatest victory? What was the tension between the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Gelugpa tradition that he felt such animosity towards its monks of whom he was one?

One possible interpretation is that the Fifth Dalai Lama represented less the purely religious Gelugpas, since he seems to have largely preferred to practice according to his own visions based on a Nyingma version of Tibetan Buddhism, and represented more the Gelug tradition as a political-administrative power base. This is not the example Je Tsong Khapa had shown his followers. He had resisted political involvement and rejected direct association with the Chinese emperor. See, for example, Tibetan Nation, p. 103. But a fair ruler of a country has to represent all religious traditions which reduced the Gelugpas to the role a majority political party plays in support of its leader. Dorje Shugden does not need to be looked at as a political rival to the institution of Dalai Lama, as he oddly was again recently, but simply as a guardian of one particular religious tradition whose concern is purely religious in the sense of protecting the Dharma from declining into mere political or worldly involvement. According to this interpretation, Dorje Shugden had to arise at the time when the Ganden Potang government was established since with it arose the greatest danger for Gelugpas: to lose their religious tradition to mere political and social involvement. Today that danger is even greater because since the advent of modernity religion is defined almost exclusively in sociological terms and whatever religious knowledge does not fit the social parameters of the moment becomes eclipsed. The loss of the inner core of meaning is what a Buddhist protector is believed to guard against since he or she is entrusted with the continuity of a wisdom tradition.

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.…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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