Author Topic: What is Dorje Shugden's Sogtae  (Read 9709 times)

Big Uncle

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What is Dorje Shugden's Sogtae
« on: July 04, 2012, 05:04:53 PM »
I posted this originally on the General Discussion forum and it helped a lot of people come to understand what is Dorje Shugden sogtae/empowerment/life entrustment. So, I am posting it here again for the other people to read and learn about it. If you are serious about Dorje Shugden and wish to receive his practice, please read on. Nonetheless, it is all very interesting...

Life Entrustment

A complete and historical understanding of life entrustment, or srog gtad (pronounced as 'Sogtae'), would be welcome in order to properly consider something so-often mentioned but rarely understood. In any case, many detractors of Shugden utter the words “life entrustment” as if it was a grave matter somehow distinguished from the rest of Vajrayana Buddhism. However, the term is overly mysterious when considered out of the context of having considerable knowledge of Vajrayana Buddhism. Upon examination, life entrustment can be found for many other protectors. And life entrustment is not unlike many other subsequent permission initiations (rje gnang) given for yidams, with a few exceptions noted.

The exact origin of life entrustment seems to be unknown, and it is also possible that the term came to be popular at a certain time and was used in place of initiation (rje gang). It would appear that “life entrustment” (srog gtad) and “life empowerment” (srog dbang) are used interchangeably. Although life entrustment is similar to a subsequent permission initiation (rje gnang), it would appear the term life entrustment is never used in relation to yidams. Life entrustment does not entail self-generation, and it appears there is a lack of recognition of this fact by Von Brück. This is possibly the root of confusion of Von Brück’s investigation of this matter:

The meditational practice regarding these yidams is identification with the deity, which is possible through complete surrender or the 'life-entrustment' of body, speech and mind by special initiation. (CDI, 335).
Describing identification with a yidam, self-generation or deity yoga, as life-entrustment is a misappropriation of the term life entrustment considered here. Self-generation and life entrustment cannot be assumed to be the same thing, the former term is used to describe this identification with the deity in practice while the latter term is used in the initiation process only. Usage of the term surrender is also non-technical within the context of Vajrayana, and it is not relevant within the context of initiation or subsequent deity yoga itself.

In any case, one can find life entrustment rituals in the 17th century by the Fifth Dalai Lama for the protector Dorje Barwa Tsel. Dreyfus claims that “It does not appear that these ceremonies are practiced in the case of protectors such as Ne-chung, but I have not been able to obtain clear information on this point.” (SA, 266). However, a life entrustment ritual for Nechung can be found in the collected works of Thuken Dharmavajra (1737-1802, bka' srung rgyal po sku lnga'i srog gtad bya tshul ches gsal ba). By the 19th century, life entrustments can be found in some Gelug masters’ collected works. In the collected works of Changlung Pandita (1770-1845), one finds a life entrustment to the Five Warriors connected with the Hayagriva Most Secret Form (rta mgrin yang gsang). The collected works of Gendun Dargye has a life entrustment ritual for Setrabchen per the instructions of his teacher Gomang Tenpa Choepel (1840-1907/1908). Life entrustment rituals for various protectors can be found in the collected works of Rongchen Kirti Lobsang Trinley (1849-1904), including Setrabchen and Dorje Shugden. In particular, as mentioned earlier, there existed a different life entrustment for Dorje Shugden written down by Rinchen Wangyal (1741-1812) of Sera Monastery.

Life entrustment rituals can be found in other traditions as well. This includes the works of Jamgon Kongtrul who has life entrustments connected to Tsiu Marpo (Gnod sbying ya ba rkya bdun), Four Face Mahakala (ye shes mgon po gdong bzhi pa'i srog gtad), and other protectors. Life entrustments can be found to other protectors such as Ekajati and Maning Mahakala.

Some may get the impression that life entrustment initiation is complete surrender to a protector; however, upon examining several initiation rituals, this is certainly not the case. Rather, what is found closely resembles permission initiations (rje gnang) related to yidams. This is case for the Fifth Dalai Lama’s life entrustment initiation for Dorje Barwa Tsel (lha chen rdo rje 'bar ba rtsal gyi srog gtad kyi rje gnang mu thi la'i 'phreng ba bzhugs so: 5DL, vol.22 pages 857-868). This particular initiation includes blessings of aspects of the protector through the medium of a torma. Also, in this initiation these five blessings are followed by a command (bka' bsgo) to the protector to protect the initiate from harm and demons, to perform activities on behalf of the initiate, and to increase the prosperity, merit, and Dharma activities of the initiate.
Initiations in general may entail the initiate abiding by certain commitments (dam tshig) after receiving the initiation. This is a common feature of Vajrayana Buddhism. In some cases, this means daily recitation of a sadhana. With protectors it may entail that monthly fulfillment or torma rituals be observed, which is less time consuming in comparison to a daily sadhana. For example, the life entrustment to the Five Warriors related to Hayagriva by Changlung Pandita states that one should offer tormas (mchod gtor) on a monthly basis.

Von Brück claims that a controversy with the Shugden life entrustment has to do with his ontological status, i.e. whether he is a worldly deity or not. He claims that life entrustment would be appropriate only if Shugden is transworldly and not worldly (CDI, 341). However, such a dispute would have been a long standing issue with the some of the other protectors listed above. In particular, in the conclusion of Thuken Dharmavajra’s life entrustment to the Five Kings we find the statement “Although you are beyond the world you assume a worldly form.” (LCN, vol. 7 page 790). This matches Pabongkha Rinpoche’s ontological view of Shugden, so there is nothing new that Pabongkha Rinpoche introduced that would cause a valid objection to having a life entrustment.

Von Brück also claims that Shugden is not mentioned in a particular Tagphu initiation manual, and because of this it means that Shugden is not from a high class of deities:

In his 'Initiation texts for the practice of the visionary teachings' which he had received from Losang Choekyi Wangchuk (blo bzang chos kyi dbang phyug), there are teachings on Amitayus, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, Tara and the Guru Yoga, and there is no mention of Shugden because the text deals with high Tantric initiations. That Shugden is not mentioned in this context suggests that he considers the deity not among this high class of deities. (CDI, 339).

However, this argument is a complete fallacy on the part of Von Brück because the initiation manual is for 13 visions of an earlier incarnation of Tagphu, Losang Choekyi Wangchuk (1765-1792), and it was a later incarnation of Tagphu, Jampel Tenpai Ngodrup (1876-1935), who was Pabongkha Rinpoche’s master. This initiation manual is specific only to Losang Choekyi Wangchuk’s visions. The later Tagphu incarnation received these initiations of his earlier incarnation and propagated these to Pabongkha Rinpoche. Pabongkha Rinpoche never claimed that the earlier Tagphu—Losang Choekyi Wangchuk—had had a vision of Shugden, rather it was the later Tagphu—Jampel Tenpai Ngodrup—who did so, at the request of Pabongkha Rinpoche. Therefore, the fact that Shugden is not mentioned in the initiation manual is not because of his ontological status, rather Shugden was simply not included in the set of visions of the earlier Tagphu incarnation.

In summary, life entrustment initiation to a protector resembles a subsequent permission initiation (rje gnang) to a yidam, with the exception of self-generation (as protectors are not yidams). It would appear that there is no reason or known historical case to raise the issue of a controversy in relation to life entrustment as von Brück does. We find life entrustments in the Gelug tradition for several centuries. In particular, Nechung is considered ultimately enlightened taking a worldly form, which is the same view of Dorje Shugden posited by Pabongkha Rinpoche, Serkong Dorje Chang and other masters. It is not clear if there was a controversy related to a Nechung life entrustment or not, but it would not be a fair exception to single Dorje Shugden out. Moreover, we find that an earlier eminent master preceding Pabongkha Rinpoche, Serkong Dorje Chang, did raise the subject of Dorje Shugden life entrustment and actually recommended it. It would appear that an issue with life entrustment was raised only due to bias against Pabongkha Rinpoche.
(Taken from )


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Re: What is Dorje Shugden's Sogtae
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2012, 07:35:42 PM »
I read these online. Perhaps one who's more familiar with the ritual can give more info?

The initiation ritual for engaging with the Deity Dorje Shugden has been critiqued on four points:

First.  The deity does not appear in the Canon and the practice is therefore not canonical and since Jenang initiations should be traceable back to canonical deities and practice it is invalid and unnecessary. 

Second.  The jenang does not make clear the status of the deity as either an personal meditation deity (skt: Istadevata, Tib: yi.dam) or a dharma protector (it cannot be both) nor, if it is a dharma protector does it make clear whether the deity is a supra mundane or mundane dharma protector. 
The jenang does not make clear which of the four tantra levels it relates to and unusually mixes elements of two highest yoga father tantra practices of Vajrabhairava and Guhyasamaja, which though complementary are distinct. 

Third.  Valid initiation into the deity can only be given in small groups of no more than three practitioners at a time.  The modern practice of mass initiation is a degeneration of this pure tradition coming from Tagphu Dorje Chang, through Phabongka Dechen Nyingpo to the junior tutor and beyond.  Those who level this critique, though Dorje Shugden practitioners, are generally uncomfortable with the innovations that have crept into its practice since 1990.

Fourth.  The deity is an out of control worldly deity and therefore a jenang initiation is completely unsuitable as is any form of propitiatory engagement with such a harmful deity. 


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Re: What is Dorje Shugden's Sogtae
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2014, 09:57:18 PM »
What does "an out of control worldly deity" mean? It seems a very vague term, insulting rather than informative.

Big Uncle

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Re: What is Dorje Shugden's Sogtae
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2014, 12:52:14 AM »
First of all, the ritual is called a sogtae and it is basically mean a life-entrustment initiation of a Dharma Protector. The ritual possesses some similarity with Jenangs but it is not a jenang as the deity is a Dharma Protector.

@Herukachoo - It's normal for followers of the Dalai Lama to make such claims about Dorje Shugden. A lot of it has to do with rumors and hearsay. Not much real and substantial information as to how Dorje Shugden harms. Even the 2 great consequences (Shugden harms the Dalai Lama's life and Tibetan Independence) mentioned by the Dalai Lama does not make sense because a spirit cannot harm a real monk and it can definitely be subdued with wrathful rituals like a Jinsek (fire puja). Since this has been done and has proven ineffective, actually reveals Dorje Shugden true nature. He cannot be subdued by enlightened beings because he is in actuality enlightened. Since that is the case, this invalidates all claims of him being an evil spirit.


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Re: What is Dorje Shugden's Sogtae
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2014, 05:12:57 AM »
Thank You Big Uncle this clear post of what a Dorje Shugden Sogtae is and more importantly that it does not contradict the lineages practice or Tibetan Buddhism. The fact that this have been raised as an "issue" is biased and is targeted only at the Protector "Dorje Shugden" Sogtae, seems to me an effort by Von Bruck to tarnish the practice of the Dorje Shugden itself.

It is interesting that every effort to prove the protector a spirit has actually proved the opposite, ie the protector is enlightened.

Kim Hyun Jae

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Re: What is Dorje Shugden's Sogtae
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2014, 06:56:50 AM »
Thanks to your article, Big Uncle that I am able to understand more on Sogtae but I do wish there are more historical records on its rituals or conferment on its ceremony.

You are correct that there are not much information on "sogtae" online and there arise alot of other questions without much recorded source. Is "sogtae" exclusive to Dorje Shugden then? If it is, why was it exclusive to the practice of DS?

Freyr Aesiragnorak

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Re: What is Dorje Shugden's Sogtae
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2014, 11:54:05 AM »
Thank you for this article. I just have one question that has been on my mind. As with most Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the gelugpa lineage has a lot of Dharma protectors. For example you have the three Lam Rim protectors, Kalarupa, Four Faced Mahakala, Pelden Lhamo, and the list goes on. If you receive Sogtae for Dorje Shugden, does that mean that you shouldn't or couldn't practice any other protectors if the need arose? Apologies if this question seems naive. Another question is what are the commitments for Sogtae in regards to Dorje Shugden? Are those who haven't received the Sogtae allowed to be made aware of what the commitments are?