Centrality of Protector Practice in the Different Lineages of Tibetan Buddhism

A Dharma Protector is an integral component of Vajrayana Buddhism, also known as Tantrayana. At its most basic, the role of a Dharma Protector is to create conditions that are conducive for a practitioner to progress smoothly on his spiritual path and in addition, to avert obstacles that prevent spiritual practitioners from attaining realizations that will eventually lead them out of the cycle of samsaric suffering.

At a higher level of practice, the role of the Dharma Protector becomes even more significant as the practitioner bases his training upon what is known as the Three Roots – the Guru or Lama who is the root of all blessings, the Yidam who is the root of all accomplishments and the Dharma Protector who is the root of all activities within the practice. Such is the importance of Dharma Protectors that in Tibet, it is common for virtually every monastery to have its own dedicated protector that monks and devotees of the monastery pray to according to its tradition.

Different lineages of Tibetan Buddhism each have their special protectors. For example, Kalarupa (Dharmaraja) and Palden Lhamo are protector-deities associated with the Gelugpas. The Karma Kagyus propitiate Mahakala as their special protector. But Mahakala also takes several forms (two-armed, four-armed, six-armed, female aspects) and so different forms of the deity are adopted by the different lineages – Sakyas, Gelugs, Kagyus and Nyingmas. In the Drikung-Kagyu (one of the major sects in the Kagyu school), Achi Chokyi Drolma is the protector who members of the lineage worship. Among the Nyingmapas, Ekazati, Rahula and Dorje Lekpa are regarded as protectors closely related to the core practices of the lineage. In the history of Tibetan Buddhism, each lineage has practiced its own pantheon of deities and dharma protectors without interference.

While some Dharma Protectors are regarded as emanations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, there are also Protectors who are very powerful beings and spirits bound by oath to serve and protect the Buddha’s teachings. For instance, the Dharma protector of Tibet who is also the personal protector of the present and 14th Dalai Lama is Pehar, a spirit who takes possession of the Nechung oracles. Pehar is widely known as a fierce and powerful spirit who was subdued by the legendary yogi, Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) and made to serve the Buddhadharma.

Dorje Shugden has for over three centuries been regarded as an enlightened Dharma Protector and emanation of the Buddha Manjushri who arose to protect a very important and core teaching of the Gelugpa lineage.

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  1. At this degenerate time, we are pretty much covered by our negative karma. We can easily see this in our daily life. What is the hardship we endure in samsara? What is the unfortunate incident happening to us? Why we are not happy or dissatisfy with? All these negative experience are majority from our negative karma and it prevents us to do good deeds and divert us to do and to think more negative things. The more we continue to do the wrong thing the more we collect negative karma.

    Hence we need a dharma protector to help us in our daily life to hold on to our negative karma and provide us the conducive condition to collect mo merits.

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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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