Ra Lotsawa

Ra Lotsawa Dorje Drak

A Yamantaka Pioneer

One of the previous lives of Dorje Shugden is the renowned lama Ra Lotsawa Dorje Drak, who was most famous for introducing the powerful Yamantaka tantras to Tibet.

This great translator was born in the year 1016 in Nyenam, at a place called Nangyul, which runs through an important Nepali-Tibetan trade route. His father was known as Raton Konchok Dorje and his mother was Dorje Peldzom. He had a special connection with Palden Lhamo and was believed to be held in her robes for two months as she travelled across Tibet to celebrate his birth. Ra Lotsawa’s father was also a Nyingma lineage holder of Yangdak Heruka and Vajrakila, which he eventually passed down to his son.

At fourteen, Ra Lotsawa made his first trip to Kathmandu, arriving in the historic city of Patan during a tumultuous period. Scholars dispute many details of his earlier life at this point of his hagiography. However, he was believed to have attended the Fire Dragon Religious Conference that convened in 1076 under the patronage of King Tsede, the nephew of the famous Jangchub Ö of the old Guge Kingdom of Western Tibet. The conference was a meeting of many great Indian and Tibetan Lamas in order to spur new and more accurate translation works.

Shortly after attending the conference, Ra Lotsawa travelled to Kashmir with five other young companions including the famous Ngok Lotsawa Loden Sherab and Nyen Lotsawa Dharma Drak. According to the Blue Annals, he was to eventually come under the tutelage of Nepalese guru Bharo Chakdum, an adept of the Vajrayogini and Yamantaka Tantric systems. Ra Lotsawa would receive both initiations on his first visit.

Ra Lotsawa also prostrated himself before Mahakaruna, a master that was in the line of Naropa’s lineage of disciples and received a number of initiations from him including Cakrasamvara and Manjushri Namasamgiti. On the same visit, he refuted the doctrine of a Shaivite master and then defeated him in the magical battle that ensued.

Upon returning to Tibet, Ra Lotsawa began to propagate the Tantric systems that he had acquired from his gurus. At that time, the buffalo-headed yidam, Yamantaka, defied the Tibetans’ preconceived notions of what a yidam should look like. Therefore, Ra Lotsawa faced much opposition from ordinary practitioners as well as high lamas, who could not believe that Yamantaka was an authentic Buddhist practice. Many of these lamas engaged Ra Lotsawa in a showdown of arcane powers.

One such lama who opposed Ra Lotsawa was Khon Sakya Lodro, a lineage holder of Yangdak Heruka and Vajrakila who accused Ra Lotsawa of propagating a non-Buddhist teaching that would lead practitioners to hell. This culminated with Ra Lotsawa killing the Sakya lama with the Yamantaka killing rite. At the same time, eyewitnesses reported seeing a vision of Yamantaka in the sky wielding the 58-deity mandala of Yangdak Heruka. This was widely interpreted to denote Yamantaka’s superiority and power. The Sakya lama’s disciples and sponsors then turned to Ra Lotsawa to be their master.

Later, Ra Lotsawa engaged in a battle of arcane powers with Langlab Jangchub Dorje, another powerful and important lineage master of Vajrakila. Ra Lotsawa originally went to pay his respects to this master but was dismissed as a non-Buddhist practitioner of arcane magic. Ra Lotsawa was initially defeated in the ensuing battle and as a result, his disciples were slain by the lama’s divine power. Soon after, Tara appeared to Ra Lotsawa, urging him to return to Nepal to seek out his lama for further instructions. After receiving the necessary teachings from Bharo Chakdum and his other gurus, Ra Lotsawa made a second trip down south, travelling all the way to Nalanda Monastery in India to seek ordination. Upon his return to Tibet, Ra Lotsawa entered another battle and emerged victorious after slaying Langlab Jangchub Dorje.

Upon hearing about Ra Lotsawa’s deeds, the famous Go Lotsawa challenged the authenticity of Ra Lotsawa’s lamas and was said to have entered a battle of psychic powers. Go Lotsawa drew on arcane rites from the Guhyasamaja Tantras in his battle with Ra Lotsawa that involved many villagers. In a display of divine wrath, Go Lotsawa was slain in the ensuing battle along with the villagers that had made false accusations against Ra Lotsawa.

According to his hagiography, Ra Lotsawa dispatched a total of thirteen lamas that challenged his lineage. Among them were translator Gyu Monlam Drakpa, the translator of the Cakrasaṃvara Samvarodaya Tantras, Go Lotsāwa Khupa Letse, the translator of the Guhyasamāja Tantras, and Marpa Chokyi Lodro’s son, Darma Dode. To ordinary view, these may appear to be assassinations but in actuality, the lamas were playing out divine roles to highlight the superiority of the Yamantaka Tantras and to eliminate the opposition that Ra Lotsawa was facing in propagating them.

Amongst his great deeds, Ra Lotsawa was known to have renovated many temples in southern Tsang and Lhato, along with Samye, Tibet’s first monastery, which was damaged by a fire in the year 986. He also sponsored numerous new translation works, the copying and recitation of sacred scriptures, and the installation of Buddha statues.

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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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