To our dear friends,
It is becoming rarer and rarer today for us to come across stories of highly accomplished Dharma masters like those of the historical Buddhist legends.
However, highly attained practitioners are still very much in our midst. Attached for your reading pleasure, contemplation and interest is an article of a particularly special Dharma practitioner and the fascinating story of how he had tried to save another deeply respected and well-loved figure of the Buddhist world.
We hope this story will be of much inspiration to you, your Dharma community and the growth of Dharma in the 10 directions.
With many prayers for continued success and happiness in all your endeavours,
How Gen Nyima tried to save His Holiness the 98th Gaden Tripa
This is the story of two great lamas, one with the highest recognition in the land and one without any ranks, titles or positions. It is also a story about Guru devotion, humility, bodhicitta, and the power of our Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden, combined with the very samsaric elements of selfishness and betrayal. It is a story known only to very few people and has never been made public before.
In the late 1980s, His Holiness the 98th Ganden Tripa Jampel Shenpen Rinpoche of Gaden Jangtse Monastery was very ill. High lamas and senior geshes were constantly doing pujas for him, praying for his swift recovery and good health, but to no avail. No rituals, medicines or treatment seemed to have any effect. His Holiness continued to be in pain and suffer respiratory problems.
Before he was incapacitated by his illness, His Holiness was often seen circumambulating the whole monastery. Even in his old age, he would make the nearly-daily effort to complete the 45-minute lingkor path that circled both Ganden Jangtse and Shartse – accompanied by two attendants, one of whom was carrying a chair, His Holiness would take a few steps and then sit to catch his breath. In this way and many others, His Holiness inspired countless Sangha and laypeople to continue with their practices, no matter the obstacles.
A soft-spoken man who was noted for his dedication to the Dharma, His Holiness’s illness worried the entire monastic community. This episode took place before the ban on Dorje Shugden so there were no distinctions between practitioners of any sort – the whole of Ganden, as well as Drepung and Sera, were united in their worry for His Holiness’ declining health.
This is the first part of our story. The second part takes places in nearby Bhutan, a Buddhist country of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage (There’s nothing wrong with the Drukpa Kagyu School of Buddhism or Bhutan, but there are some people who claim to be Buddhists but in fact delve in negative practices from their uncontrolled jealousy). It concerns the actions of one seemingly unremarkable monk called Gen Nyima. “Gen” is Tibetan for teacher, and it is a term of respect accorded to monks who are without rank or title.
Gen Nyima was studying in Ganden Shartse Monastery when he ran away just before his Geshe examinations. When asked why he left the monastery, Gen Nyima replied saying he was not interested in titles, recognition or degrees. He had joined the monastery to study and learn the Dharma, and now all he wanted to do was practice. Once he learned up he retreated to the mountains to practice.
After leaving the monastery, Gen Nyima made his way to the capital city of Bhutan where he began his meditative practices. Soon, word spread that a lama with incredible powers was in town, and he could give blessings and heal people.
As increasing numbers of people came to visit Gen Nyima, he began to feel he had lost the solitude and quiet he wanted for his practices. Thus disinterested in fame, Gen Nyima decided to leave and seek a more remote location to concentrate on his practice. He packed up his very few belongings and set out for the Bhutanese countryside, a pristine landscape of forest rendered uninhabitable by wild animals and the sheer density of the trees. When Gen Nyima could go no further, he stopped and set up camp by a river.
Gen Nyima proceeded to build himself a house. Measuring little more than 6ft by 3ft, the house was furnished by one bed, a small table, a large butterlamp, a small thangka of Tsongkhapa and a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As for the rest of his possessions, Gen-la kept them in a plastic bag, tied up and hooked onto a nail hammered in the wall.
In this simple setting, Gen Nyima would rise at 3am to recite Ganden Lhagyama and Migtsema, and then begin his meditation on Yamanataka until sunrise. He would break to have his breakfast, then resume his meditation until noon when he would break for lunch. After lunch, Gen Nyima would meditate on Yamantaka until sunset, when he had his dinner and after dinner, he would meditate on Yamantaka again until bedtime. Gen Nyima spent 15 years like this in his little house, meditating on just one yidam.
Slowly but surely, news of a holy monk living in the forest filtered out and eventually, Gen Nyima found his peace and quiet disturbed once again. Stories about Gen-la performing miraculous healings and giving extremely accurate divinations began to spread. There were also stories about Gen Nyima demonstrating his attainments to spread the Dharma.
Once there were some hunters in the forest looking for deer. They came across a large, nearly-white deer and gave chase. After chasing for some time, they saw the deer run into Gen Nyima’s small house. They ran up to the house and inside, they found Gen Nyima sitting on his bed, panting heavily and sweating. Realizing what they had just witnessed, they immediately prostrated. Gen Nyima then proceeded to teach them about the virtues of not killing.
Stories like these that led droves of people to visit Gen Nyima. It was around this time that the Queen Mother of Bhutan was ill and needed medical assistance. Hearing about a holy monk in the forest who might be able to help, she sought him out. Through the enlightened power of Yamantaka, Gen-la healed her and she was so enthralled by his abilities, that her family built roads leading right up to his house! Gen Nyima didn’t want the roads, but the Queen Mother built it so many more may access Gen Nyima easily!
Gen Nyima remained in Bhutan for a few more years until Ganden Jangtse Monastery and His Holiness the Dalai Lama sent word requesting for his return to India so that he might inspire others through his Dharmic example.
Thus Gen Nyima returned to Ganden. Back in India, Gen-la continued to heal people and provide them with accurate divination results. When asked how he did it, Gen Nyima only had one answer – when the monks asked Gen-la how he healed people, he replied, “Yamantaka.” When they asked him who he propitiated for divinations, he replied, “Hlamo.” Then the monks understood that Gen Nyima had attained Yamantaka.
In fact, sometimes Gen Nyima was asked why he didn’t go for any of the pujas that the monastery conducted daily, which was compulsory to everyone. Gen-la said he didn’t know how to do the pujas as he never took the time to learn. Of course some were incredulous – how on earth could this old monk NOT know how to do the pujas, which were some of the easiest on the monastic curriculum? Gen Nyima told them he didn’t need anyone else; he only needed Yamantaka and would proceed to give them an explanation of Yamantaka’s accoutrements to show how Yamantaka fulfilled different purposes equivalent to different pujas.
In this way, Gen Nyima lived in Ganden until a few years later, when His Holiness the 98th Ganden Tripa Jampel Shenpen became sick. Hundreds of monks, lay people and local Indian people would come to Gen Nyima for healing and obtain great results. Villagers whose livelihood depended on crops would be at the mercy of the weather. If too much rain crops would die and if no rain, the crops would dry up. Such was their lot. As a result many of the villagers at times would request Gen Nyima to stop the rain or cause rain to fall.
Gen Nyima would blow Yamantaka’s mantra into the sky from his small veranda in Gaden and in front of many witnesses cause rainfall or stop it within minutes of blowing. This spectacle was spoken about by many who knew Gen Nyima already gained very high attainments. Many young tulku candidates were brought to Gen Nyima and he would successfully find the unmistaken incarnation of many lamas of Gaden, Sera and Drepung. Gen Nyima himself did not practice Dorje Shugden. He said he didn’t need to, but he clearly said, Dorje Shugden is a Buddha and there is no two ways about it. No debates. Those who practice Shugden are fine.
At this point, our two stories merge. After many pujas and treatments for His Holiness, he was not getting any better. Worried for his well-being and not knowing what else to do, some monks approached Gen Nyima for a divination. They wanted to know what was going on and why His Holiness was manifesting a sickness that could not heal.
Without hesitation, Gen Nyima did a divination. He told them that because they were unsettled by the popularity of the Tibetan Gelugpa monks, some Bhutanese lamas had performed a powerful ritual using His Holiness the 98th Ganden Tripa’s image. Gen Nyima said that the image was placed in the centre, surrounded by four phurbas (ritual daggers) pointing away into the four cardinal directions. The image of Gaden Tripa was buried under the ground ritually.
Gen Nyima said this was why His Holiness was so ill, and why he could not be healed using conventional medicines. There were only two ways to heal him: (1) to find the image, dig it up and have it ritually destroyed or (2) to perform a Dorje Shugden massive three day torgya puja.
So now we come to the part where you all wonder why the monastery had not yet performed the fire puja for His Holiness, and this is where betrayal is introduced into the story.
The divination had been requested by His Holiness’ main attendant who is now in US, a monk we will only identify as Tashi. Aside from our source who found out by chance, Tashi had not told anyone else of the divination results. And because it is not the general Tibetan custom to enquire into other people’s affairs, no one had thought twice to question Tashi about what else he was doing for the sake of His Holiness the Ganden Tripa’s health.
Thus the subject of the divination and its results was never brought up. Tashi chose to look politically correct instead of saving his lama Gaden Tripa. Gen Nyima clearly said he told Tashi that a Shugden 3-day Torgya must be done. Very urgent. If not done, no other pujas can help His Holiness Gaden Tripa to recover and he will not recover. Gen Nyima related this story himself. Tashi had many other pujas done, but Gaden Tripa passed away within a few months.
Therefore Tashi knew how to save the Ganden Tripa but decided against following the divination results because some years ago, during the start of the ban, Tashi had decided he wanted to be on the ‘correct’ side. He advised people to dispose of all their Dorje Shugden images and repeatedly told people to follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s instructions not to worship the Protector. His motivation was not devotion towards the Dalai Lama, but to look politically correct.
Therefore to follow Gen Nyima’s divination was a matter of embarrassment for Tashi, because people would have asked why he kept telling everyone not to practice Dorje Shugden but then suddenly arranged for a Dorje Shugden fire puja to save his lama. Tashi was not willing to risk this embarrassment, and felt it was more important to remain ‘clean’ in the eyes of the Tibetan government and save himself. Tashi himself did not like Shugden even before the ban and would often criticize hundreds of monks in Gaden who worshipped Dorje Shugden. Tashi would criticize Dorje Shugden and created much hard feelings with his divisive speech among the sangha adding to his lack of popularity. In general many did not like Tashi and also wondered why H.H. Gaden Tripa would keep him as an attendant. But would not dare question Gaden Tripa as per Tibetan etiquette.
And when His Holiness the Ganden Tripa finally passed away after his protracted illness, Tashi was in America. It wasn’t until two to three weeks later, and after much effort to communicate with him, did Tashi reluctantly return to Ganden to oversee His Holiness’ funeral rites by the Monastery. The Ganden Tripa’s funeral was a big deal too. As the former head of the Gelugpa lineage, His Holiness’ funeral would see the highest lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist schools attending his funeral ceremony. In fact, the Dalai Lama was going to send envoys to represent him at the funeral, such was the Ganden Tripa’s high standing in the monastic community. Such a grand (and therefore complex) occasion would require a lot of planning and hard work. It would require Tashi to be present every step of the way to ensure his Lama received the proper funerary customs that he deserved. This was something Tashi was apparently reluctant to oversee. In fact, immediately after His Holiness’ funeral, Tashi returned back to the United States and has not been heard from since.
This incident happened in the late 1980s, when the Dorje Shugden ban was coming into place. On reading this story, we wish to make a few points clear:
- Gen Nyima’s example shows that humility is the basis of all attainments, and not rank or title
- There are good attendants and bad attendants, just like there are good lay practitioners and bad ones. What matters in the face of our lama’s well-being and the growth of his work, is the devotion that students pay to him, no matter the obstacles
- Despite the power of the ritual performed against His Holiness the Ganden Tripa, in Gen Nyima’s divination, the only deity who could save the Ganden Tripa was Dorje Shugden.
- Since the start of the ban, the Tibetan government has been creating schism within the Sangha, and indirectly and directly harming their lives
In raising awareness of this incident, may any merits thus amassed be dedicated to the lifting of the ban on Dorje Shugden. May all lamas live long, with students and attendants who prolong their life and truly assist in the propitiation of Lama Tsongkhapa’s holy tradition. And may all Dorje Shugden practitioners live long, develop bodhicitta and pure faith in the Dharma so that they may gain attainments, and free themselves and all sentient beings from samsara.
~ by dorjeshugden.com ~