Dorje Shugden Chapel Trode Khangsar – Built By The Dalai Lama

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Situated behind the main chapel of Jowo Buddha or the Jokhang Temple, south of the Barkhor area in Lhasa is Trode Khangsar, one of the most famous Dorje Shugden chapels in Tibet and in the world today. Built by the Great 5th Dalai Lama at the end of the 17th Century, this holy chapel was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and was left abandoned until some time in the 1980s. As a registered national heritage memorial, Trode Khangsar is now under the care of the Chinese government and in 2008, the Chinese government initiated renovation works to restore this chapel to its former glory.

Currently managed by Riwo Choling Monastery, this sacred chapel is open to tourists and pilgrims. The tradition of daily pujas by the resident monks still continues to this day. This iconic chapel also serves as a monument to the Great 5th Dalai Lama’s reverence of the protector, although this historic fact has been twisted by the present Dalai Lama’s government in support of an unreasoned ban on Dorje Shugden’s practice.

Trode Khangsar

Trode Khangsar is an eight-minute walk from the Jokhang Temple. Click to enlarge.

 

Chapel Interior

Trode Khangsar was originally a three-storey building with an entrance leading to the main hall. The interior of the hall has eight 10-meter wide pillars with paintings of Dorje Shugden’s previous lives, auspicious symbols and deities such as Indra and Brahma.

A mural of Buddha Shakyamuni in Trode Khangsar

Below are some of the notable murals in Trode Khangsar featuring Dorje Shugden’s previous incarnations which bear witness to the true nature of the deity which is that of a Dharma king:

This is the original mural that depicts the incarnation lineage of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen

  • Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen, one of Lama Tsongkhapa’s main disciples, telling Nechung to stop interrupting his master’s teachings.
  • Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen promising Nechung to protect Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings in the future.
  • A pleased Lama Tsongkhapa offering Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen a skullcup full of nectar.
  • Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen.
  • Nechung urging Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen to fulfill his promise to arise as a Dharma Protector.

Another mural in Trode Khangsar

Several Dorje Shugden statues and paintings in Trode Khangsar are uniquely different from the usual iconography as he is depicted holding a club in his right hand instead of a sword. This matches the 5th Dalai Lama’s vision of this Dharma Protector, which is mentioned in the prayer he composed praising Dorje Shugden’s enlightened qualities:

Robes of a monk, crown adorned with rhinoceros leather hat,
Right hand holds ornate club, left holds a human heart,
Riding various mounts such as nagas and garudas,
Who subdues the mamos of the charnel grounds, praise to you!

~ His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama

Another notable precious item found in Trode Khangsar is the wood printing blocks for Dorje Shugden Fulfillment Ritual text (chos skyong shugs ldan gyi bskang chog rgyas pa) by Gaden Jangtse Serkong Dorje Chang.

At the north is the room where rituals are performed while in the east and west are rooms for monks. The ritual room has a skylight, black walls and paintings of various Dharma Protectors. At the north portion of the room is a Lama Tsongkhapa statue with his two heart sons, Gyaltsab Je and Khedrub Je.

The third floor, which used to house Dorje Shugden oracles, was removed during the Cultural Revolution.

 

The Great 5th Dalai Lama (1617 -1682)

Born amidst auspicious signs in 1617 to a Nyingma family, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso was enthroned at Ganden Podrang, Drepung Monastery at the age of six. This accomplished master studied at the feet of many leading Lamas of that era such as Lingme Shapdrung Konchok Chopel, His Holiness the 4th Panchen Lama Lobsang Chokyi Gyeltsen and Mondro Pandita. His accomplishments were legendary and he continued to be an important lineage holder for the Nyingma School.

His Holiness the Great Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso

In 1638, Lobsang Gyatso received his full ordination vows from the 4th Panchen Lama and Lingme Shapdrung Konchok Chopel. He became the first Dalai Lama to have temporal and spiritual power all over Tibet and was instrumental in unifying Tibet after the Mongol intervention. The Great 5th Dalai Lama had a close relationship with Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen as they shared the same teacher, and both studied and debated together. Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen also received many teachings from the Great 5th himself.

Both these great masters were contemporaries with many great accomplishments. But when Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen’s fame and popularity threatened to eclipse the Dalai Lama’s, Depa Norbu, one of the Dalai Lama’s men, decided to assassinate Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen. The Dalai Lama later discovered the truth behind Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen’s murder by his own men and was deeply disturbed. He immediately composed an apology that was read out at Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen’s cremation. Later, when rumors arose that Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen had been reincarnated as Dorje Shugden, a perfidious spirit, the Dalai Lama and many other high lamas tried to bind him with various powerful rituals but none of them worked.

Many sacred statues can be seen in Trode Khangsar, and one of them is a form of Dorje Shugden that holds a club.

Eventually, the 5th Dalai Lama concluded that Dorje Shugden is enlightened and therefore indestructible, as only enlightened beings possess this nature. Realising this, he composed a praise to Dorje Shugden and even made a statue of him with his own hands. The 5th Dalai Lama also built Trode Khangsar as the very first chapel dedicated to Dorje Shugden.

In modern times, as part of the Dorje Shugden conflict instigated by the present Dalai Lama, the 5th Dalai Lama’s initial mistaken view of Dorje Shugden as a dark and malicious force is often quoted to validate the Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA) ban on the worship of this protector. Conveniently omitted is the 5th Dalai Lama’s final realization that Dorje Shugden is in fact enlightened.

 

Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen (1619 – 1656)

Recognised by His Holiness the 4th Panchen Lama Lobsang Chokyi Gyeltsen, Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen displayed the many signs of an extraordinary being. As a young child, he had clear visions of the enlightened beings and was able to recall his past lives and teachers, play ritual instruments and recite prayers from memory. As a matter of fact, the Panchen Lama regarded Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen to be an emanation of Manjushri.

Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen

At the age of just seven, he took his novice vows from the 4th Panchen Lama, who also conferred him the empowerments, long life initiations and initiations of Dharma Protectors as Mahakala and Kalarupa. By the time he was nine, he was already giving teachings and writing insightful commentaries. He received his full ordination vows when he was 20 and just like his previous lives, he held his vinaya (monastic) vows purely and he continued to request for many teachings, transmissions and initiations. Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen, who was known for his unlimited thirst for the Dharma, was one of the two main disciples of the 4th Panchen Lama, the other being the Great 5th Dalai Lama.

A contemporary of the Great 5th, Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen became highly respected and sought after for his extraordinary skills in disseminating the Dharma, debate and composition. His teachings were perfect and soon his reputation began to overshadow the 5th Dalai Lama’s. As mentioned above, His Holiness’ attendant, Depa Norbu, fearing the loss of power and position, hatched a plot to assassinate this erudite great master. After several unsuccessful attempts, Depa Norbu finally managed to kill Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen by strangling him with a khata (Tibetan ceremonial scarf). Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen then arose as the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden, fulfilling the promise he made lifetimes ago as Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen to safeguard Lama Tsongkhapa’s Middle Way teachings.

 

Recognition from the Chinese Emperor

This mural of Manjushri on a lion is in the main prayer hall of Trode Khangsar

During the reign of His Holiness the 11th Dalai Lama Khedrup Gyatso, a Chinese Amban (high official) named Che Trungtang wanted to test the authenticity of Dorje Shugden. On behalf of the then Chinese Emperor Daoguang, he wrote a list of important questions to ask Dorje Shugden. He then burnt the paper with the questions in front of a Dorje Shugden image and asked for clear answers and prophecies. The next day during the trance, the oracle of Dorje Shugden not only gave advice that was very clear but his answers also matched the sequence of questions that the Chinese Amban had written earlier. This clearly illustrates the enlightened nature of Dorje Shugden, as fully enlightened beings are known to have perfect clairvoyance.

Impressed by Dorje Shugden’s accurate and clear advice, the Qing Emperor Daoguang made an offering of a pandit’s hat and officially recognized Dorje Shugden as a great Dharma protector for Buddhism. The pandit’s hat was then placed over the door of Trode Khangsar in a grand ceremony attended by many important officials and dignitaries including the 11th Dalai Lama, the Chinese Amban, Reting Rinpoche, the Dorje Shugden oracle and many others.

 

The Significance of Trode Khangsar

Given the controversy and untruths that surround the Dorje Shugden practice after the 14th Dalai Lama banned this protector practice in 1996, Trode Khangsar’s very existence is pivotal as a solid testament of the Great 5th’s reverence towards this Dharma Protector and an acknowledgement of Dorje Shugden’s true enlightened nature. The fact that the 5th Dalai Lama built a sacred chapel dedicated to Dorje Shugden completely dismantles the foundation of an illogical and undemocratic ban. This is because the basis of the 14th Dalai Lama’s ban is that the 5th Dalai Lama regarded Dorje Shugden as an “Oath breaking spirit born from perverse prayers…” However as we will see, this is far from the truth.

Holy Dorje Shugden statue in Trode Khangsar.

 

Salient points to note:

[1] During Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen’s cremation, there were strong gusts of wind, earthquakes and hail. Thick dark smoke in the shape of a hand enveloped all of Lhasa, and famine struck the population as crops failed and cattle died. Many thought that these natural calamities were due to Dorje Shugden taking revenge as an evil spirit. But these were actually the signs of the collective heavy negative karma returning to the people for killing a holy being – Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen.

As we have seen, the Great 5th initially did think that Dorje Shugden was a harmful spirit, and tried without success to subdue him with many different powerful rituals. Even Mindrolling Lama, who was renowned for his ability to subdue or destroy the most harmful spirits failed. Each time Mindrolling Lama tried to bind Dorje Shugden in a fire puja, he would see Yamantaka arising in the flames. This was a clear sign that Dorje Shugden could not be destroyed, and the visions of Yamantaka further indicated Dorje Shugden’s true nature, which is in essence, Manjushri.

This statue of Dorje Shugden was commissioned by The Great Fifth Dalai Lama.

The 5th Dalai Lama soon realized that he had made a mistake as only awakened beings are beyond any karmas and therefore cannot be destroyed. The Great 5th then quickly rectified his error by composing a praise to Dorje Shugden, and by making statues and chapels in his honor. By these acts, the 5th Dalai Lama made it clear that Dorje Shugden is worthy as an object of refuge and veneration.

[2] Many have claimed that Dorje Shugden is just a minor practice. However, this false allegation is refuted by the fact that Trode Khangsar is located right in the heart of Lhasa, at a prime location just behind the world famous Jokhang Temple. If Dorje Shugden was indeed a minor practice, why would the 5th Dalai Lama build his chapel in such a prime area of Lhasa? In fact, Trode Khangsar’s very location indicates that His Holiness wanted to encourage the people to engage in Dorje Shugden’s practice by making his temple easily accessible.

[3] The Great 5th not only built Trode Khangsar and commissioned its main Dorje Shugden statue but also composed a prayer praising his qualities. It logically follows that His Holiness had full faith in Dorje Shugden and, given his stature in the Tibetan community both spiritual and temporal, influenced the spread of Dorje Shugden’s practice for hundreds of years making it one of the most popular protector practices before the unjust ban.

[4] The 5th Dalai Lama’s building of Trode Khangsar effectively marked the start of Dorje Shugden worship in Tibet. The chapel served and continues to serve as a place of worship for many and was a means for the people to get connected to the practice of Dorje Shugden. If Dorje Shugden is indeed a harmful spirit as the CTA claims, then it was none other than the Great 5th who began this “demonic” practice! Clearly, the CTA’s lies are absurd as the Dalai Lamas are emanations of Chenrezig and therefore have perfect wisdom and clairvoyance. It would be ridiculous to believe that Chenrezig would make such an error and cause such harm to sentient beings.

A mural of Mahakala located at Trode Khangsar

[5] Another false charge against Dorje Shugden is that he seeks to harm the life of the 14th Dalai Lama and that his practice sends his devotees to the lower realms. However, it is also illogical to conclude that the Great 5th Dalai Lama, the emanation of Chenrezig the Omniscient, would build a chapel dedicated to a malicious being that would harm his future incarnation’s life. Why would the Dalai Lama, whose sole purpose is to spread the Dharma, build a temple to venerate an evil spirit that would destroy the Dharma? What’s more, the Dalai Lamas have returned in perfect human form lifetime after lifetime to continue their previous life’s work. The fact that there is a 14th Dalai Lama today is solid proof that people who practice Dorje Shugden do not go to the lower realms and that Dorje Shugden is certainly not a demon.

[6] The walls of Trode Khangsar are painted with murals of Dorje Shugden’s previous lives and with scenes depicting the historical account of Dorje Shugden’s origin story from the time he made a promise as Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen to protect the precious teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa. If we were to study the murals of Dorje Shugden’s previous incarnations in Trode Khangsar, we would also notice that one of Dorje Shugden’s previous lives is none other than Manjushri, the Wisdom Buddha.

Once the mind becomes enlightened, it cannot degenerate and revert to an unenlightened state. By virtue of this fact, Dorje Shugden is definitely not a perfidious spirit but a fully awakened being, whose essence is Manjushri.

Housed at Trode Khangsar, this is an extremely rare depiction of Dorje Shugden sitting on a throne.

[7] The murals of Dorje Shugden’s past lives show that his previous incarnations encompass lamas from different traditions. For example, Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen was one of the Five Founding Fathers of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. Another of Dorje Shugden’s previous incarnations is the Shangpa Kagyu founder Khyungpo Neljor. The CTA falsely claims that Dorje Shugden’s practice is sectarian, but why would Dorje Shugden want to destroy schools of Tibetan Buddhism that he had established in his previous lives? Furthermore, Dorje Shugden is not propitiated by the Gelugpas alone but also by the Sakyas and Kagyus. There are also thangkas depicting Dorje Shugden with Sakya lamas and key Nyingma deities, further dismissing claims that Dorje Shugden is sectarian.

Based on the above and the fact that Trode Khangsar is still in existence and flourishing today, it is clear that Tibetans recognize the awakened nature of Dorje Shugden and continue to have faith in him. The citizens of the world are not fooled by the CTA’s lies and their attempts at making Dorje Shugden the scapegoat for their own failures to regain Tibet. As they say, there are three things that we cannot hide – the sun, the moon and the truth.

 

Book: The Temples of Lhasa

More information on Trode Khangsar can be found in this book, page 195-199.

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Serindia Publications; illustrated edition (November 15, 2005)
  • Language: English

(From the front flap of the book)
The Temples of Lhasa is a comprehensive survey of historic Buddhist sites in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The study is based on the Tibet Heritage Fund’s official five-year architectural conservation project in Tibet during which the author and his team had unlimited access to the buildings studied. The documented sites span the entire known history of Tibetan Buddhist art and architecture from the 7th to the 21st centuries.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters, covering all the major and minor temples in historic Lhasa. These include some of Tibet’s oldest and most revered sites, such as the Lhasa Tsuklakhang and Ramoche, as well as lesser-known but highly important sites such as the Jebumgang Lhakhang, Meru Dratsang, and Meru Nyingpa. It is illustrated with numerous color plates taken over a period of roughly fifteen years from the mid-1980s to today and is augmented with rare photographs and reproductions of Tibetan paintings.

This book also provides detailed architectural drawings and maps made by the project. Each site has been completely surveyed, documented and analyzed. The history of each site has been written — often for the first time — based on source texts and survey results, as well as up-to-date technology such as carbon dating, dendrochronology, and satellite data.

Tibetan source texts and oral accounts have also been used to reconstruct the original design of the sites. Matthew Akester has contributed translations of Tibetan source texts, including excerpts from the writings of the 5th and Thirteenth Dalai Lamas.

This documentation of Tibetan Buddhist temple buildings is the most detailed of its kind, and is the first professional study of some of Tibet’s most significant religious buildings. The comparative analysis of Tibetan Buddhist architecture covers thirteen centuries of architectural history in Tibet.

The contents page of The Temples of Lhasa. Trode Khangsar is featured from page 195 to 199. Click to enlarge.

Map from The Temples of Lhasa showing the location of Trode Khangsar (number 10). Click to enlarge.

The Temples of Lhasa, page 195. Click to enlarge.

The Temples of Lhasa, page 196. Click to enlarge.

The Temples of Lhasa, page 197. Click to enlarge.

The Temples of Lhasa, page 198. Click to enlarge.

The Temples of Lhasa, page 199. Click to enlarge.

 

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  1. Trode Khangsar is considered as a significant building special dedicated to Dorje Shugden built by HH 5th Dalai Lama since 400 years ago. Today, Trode Khangsar is open to the public. The tourists or pilgrims and monks can perform daily Dorje Shugden puja. It is very blessed and auspicious to do Dorje Shugden prayers especially in front of this beautiful image of Dorje Shugden in Trode Khangsar.

    Trode-Khangsar-DS

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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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