Dharma Demystified: Dorje Shugden Life Entrustment Initiation

H.H. Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche gave Dorje Shugden initiation during his recent visit to Mongolia in September, 2014

Sogtae literally means ‘life entrustment” in Tibetan, referring to the life entrustment initiation or permissory rites of a Dharma Protector. Apart from Dorje Shugden, there are many other Dharma Protectors with life entrustment initiation rituals, for instance Setrab and even Nechung, just to name a few.

During the main part of the life entrustment initiation, the lama seals the spiritual bond between the initiate and the Dharma Protector. In the case of a Dorje Shugden Sogtae, the protector is sworn to protect the initiate and the initiate swears to take Dorje Shugden as Protector, both until the achievement of Bodhichitta.

Dorje Shugden is compelled by his compassion and the commitments made during the sogtae to guide and protect the initiate until the realization of Bodhichitta, after which the initiate no longer needs such assistance and becomes a ‘protector’ for others instead. Regardless of whether the achievement of Bodhichitta takes place in this lifetime or future lifetimes, Dorje Shugden is sworn to guide and protect the initiate until it fruitions.

A Dorje Shugden lineage thangka of Tagphu Pemavajra and Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche

Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche wrote a number of rituals concerning Dorje Shugden but the fulfillment prayer entitled ‘Melodious Drum Victorious in All Directions‘ has become the most commonly used Dorje Shugden fulfillment ritual. The introduction to this text states that life entrustment is not a prerequisite to engage in Dorje Shugden’s practice. However, in order to receive sogtae, one is required to have received the Vajrabhairava initiation and kept up the general and specific commitments.

Before the advent of Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche’s composition, there seems to be an older life entrustment text composed by Rinchen Wangyal (1741-1812) of Sera Monastery, as mentioned in the introduction to a Dorje Shugden fulfillment text written by Serkong Dorje Chang. As a prerequisite, the text states that one must have obtained the initiation of a yidam. It also mentions that it would be excellent to have received the life entrustment initiation of Dorje Shugden according to the writings of Rinchen Wangyal, although it is not a prerequisite for one to perform the fulfillment ritual.

During Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche’s time, the life entrustment text of Rinchen Wangyal appears to have been lost. Therefore, Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche was requested by Dorje Shugden through an oracle to compose another text to replace it. The following is an account of what happened and how he validated it with Tagphu Dorje Chang (Tagphu Pemavajra)’s pure visions when he astral travelled to Tushita. This account is further elaborated in ‘Descended From Tushita’.

I have written this at the request of Shugden, because in the past there was a tradition of Sogtae (srog gtad) to Shugden but later neither the tradition nor the text could be found — they have become like flowers in the sky —so Shugden has asked me two times to write a new initiation text.

I have passed on the practice of initiation (dbang) to some disciples in accordance with my own experience, and (a text) has been written as a seed for (a detailed text). But only that would be not reliable and something like an illegitimate son. Therefore, I explained it in detail to my master Tagphu Dorje Chang and presented this draft to him…

He took that draft and wrote his text down, combining this seed text with his own vision. Tagphu commented about the five types of Shugden, the respective colors etc., the offerings to be arranged, thus at the time of initiation the large Lamrim text should be there on the altar, a cakra representing one’s life, ḍamaru, dorje etc. The practitioner has to utter the life generating words of Vajrabhairava and to make torma offerings…

The initiation can be given to somebody who has received initiation into Vajrabhairava and keeps the commitments connected with it…
~ Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche

Dorje Shugden ‘heart’ crystals (lado) like this are consecrated and given to those who have received initiation

By tradition, the life entrustment of Dorje Shugden can only be given to three people at a time, so public life entrustment initiations would entail a massive line of initiates in threes! Besides that, Dorje Shugden ‘heart’ crystals (lado) and cakras (stringed amulets) are consecrated during the life entrustment and given to initiates as a blessing and reminder of their commitment to Dorje Shugden.

The life entrustment initiation also requires one to perform a Dorje Shugden puja (typically, the fulfillment text of Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche) once a month thereafter. If, for whatever reason, one is unable to perform the puja, one can perform it ahead of time or request monks to perform it on one’s behalf.

On top of that, the initiate must make a commitment to the Gelug lineage, and put effort towards learning and practicing the teachings of the lineage. As Kyabje Zong Rinpoche says:

If you have to or if you wish to do some kind of Dharmic activities with other sects of Buddhism, that is okay to do some kind of activities but your main practice or the principle practice, you have to make the commitment with this lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa.

(A more extensive explanation by Kyabje Zong Rinpoche is available here).

These are the main commitments that one makes in the presence of Dorje Shugden and one’s lama during the life entrustment initiation, to be kept for the rest of one’s life. And, as Lama Tsongkapa has emphasized, the keeping of commitments is so important to our practice that they should be kept even at the cost of our lives.


  1. http://www.dorjeshugdenhistory.org/
  2. http://dorjeshugdentruth.wordpress.com/
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15 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thank you DS.com for explaining to us about this important initiation. I guess as a practitioner for this protector is good if we can pick up this initiation because the blessing is more and will keep us in track .

  2. “Lama Tsongkapa has emphasized, the keeping of commitments is so important to our practice that they should be kept even at the COST of our lives”
    Death is the next most certain thing after birth. Hence what better way to die then to keep to our commitments rather then breaking them. Commitments may seem to ignorant minds a trap or imprisonment. But the truth is keeping Dharma vows and commitments is the source to our freedom. I wish for many people to have the merits to receive the Sogtae of Dorje Shugden in order to assist them in their journey to Enlightment !

  3. Good information about Sogtae, this Life entrustment of the initiate with Dorje Shugden certainly creates a spiritual bond to not only Dorje Shugden, but also to the Guru who gave the Sogtae, to me it is a reminder of devotion to our Guru, as The Guru is the source of our attainments.

  4. Wonderful may we all have the good fortune to be bestowed sogtae.

  5. He is a dragon that rides the tiger he does not have a hat but a simple bandana.

    There is no such thing as swift rebirth.
    The golden flower is the middle path.
    Use dharma according to its principles use technology accordingly and it will bring you wealth beyond meassure but do not horde sharing is caring. Learn from ubuntu.
    This world of emtyness is to learn forgivness.
    Then you can seek the sky but without forgivness there will be no compassion.
    To know the heart sutra by the mind is not enough bocouse the mind must be emty in bardo.
    This is where the heart shows its keys.
    The memmories of your past and the key to reincarnation is not in your mind but your heart.
    Seek forgivness and heaven comes to you.

  6. Thank you DS.com for sharing such important information to all of us here on this website. It is indeed a very holy process. I really hope that one day I would have the merits to be receiving this initiation soon.

    It is just really weird that the text and recordings of the previous text for the Sogtae would go missing. It is just so mind-boggling that such important text would vanish into thin air.

    I thank both our holy protector and Trijang Rinpoche for the newly composed text so that students today will still be able to receive this initiation.

    I think it is just amazing that the heart crystal and chakra would be hand made by the lama. It is just so holy to be receiving something like this. Or even to have the merits to go through the initiation.

  7. Thank you DS.com to share this information to us. We must have general understanding about the Sogtae before we can qualify ourselves to have the initiation. Commitment is a must. I wish all the people have the fortunate to hear about the name of Dorje Shugden have the merits to practice and subsequent receive the Sogtae.

  8. The fact that there is a Dorje Shugden Sogtae speaks volumes for the enlightened compassion of Manjushri. How more compassion can there be than looking after someone like a father would for his child, all the way through life time after life time until we reach enlightenment ourselves. Think about the love and care we have received from our parents or other people in our lives, and then multiply this love and care until we reach complete enlightenment. Astounding.

    People often think that Dorje Shugden’s practice is restrictive due to the Sogtae requirements, but what some people often forget is that the Sogtae also exits with in the practice of other Dharma protectors as well such as Perhar Gyalpo.

  9. What I find incredible about the Dorje Shugden sogtae is the fact that it originally came from Tushita and from Lama Tsongkhapa who is currently residing there as Jampel Nyingpo. This lineage of Dorje Shugden seems to have a celestial origin with Takpu Pemavajra receiving it from Je Tsongkhapa by way of Dulzin Drakpa Gyetlsen. What’s interesting about Takpu’s experience was that Dorje Shugden arose from under the throne of Lama Tsongkhapa. Hence, this has influence the manner in which Dorje Shugden is invoked.

  10. I received a Dorje Shugden heart crystal from a friend many years ago. I never knew its significance. THank you so much for the clear explanation.

    I keep this crystal on my altar and hope that one day I will be blessed enough to receive the sogtae of Dorje Shugden.

  11. Thank you DS.com for the clear explanation of Sogtae, “life entrustment” of Protector Dorje Shugden. I noticed that in order to receive the Sogtae, one has to have a Yidam practise. It goes to show how exclusive and precious this practise is. Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche requested his Guru,Tagphu Dorje Chang to use his clairvoyance to ascend to Tushita heaven where he received the practise directly from Lord Dorje Shugden. This validates the enlightenment of this special Protector of Je Tsongkapa’s teachings and his lineage.
    May I one day receive this beautiful practise and the promise of Protector Dorje Shugden from my Guru. May the Dalai Lama swiftly lift the illogical and damaging ban on Dorje Shugden’s practise.

  12. To receive sogtae, one has to be “trained” to be consistent and practiced to be able to first receive a Yidam practice. This shows how important and precious this life entrustment is. Therefore, one must learn to keep all commitments given by the Guru regardless.

    That this life entrustment prayer text was given to Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche via Tagphu Pemavajra direct from Dorje Shugden in Tushita heaven shows the enlightened nature of Dorje Shugden and the preciousness of the practice.

    Thank you for this article explaining the meaning of the life entrustment or sogtae for Dorje Shugden.

  13. In this degenerate time, we need to rely on dharma protector especially Dorje Shugden helps to remove obstacles and to manifest good conditions for us to practice dharma. When we have the merits to receive this Sogtae from our spiritual guide, we shall continue the commitments given from our spiritual guide and perform a Dorje Shugden puja once a month. We should rely on Dorje Shugden and with this Sogtae, Dorje Shugden will helps and protect us until we achieve Bodhichitta.

  14. Dear Dalai Lama,

    Since you started the cruel ban against the 350 year Dorje Shugden practice, how has it benefit your Tibetan society and Buddhism in the world? Things have become worse and most educated Tibetans can see this. They don’t speak out not because they don’t see your ban as wrong, but you instill fear in them and not respect. It is like fear of a dictator. I am sorry to say so. Everyone is divided. There is no harmony. Before your ban there was more harmony and unity.

    By enacting the ban, you split the monasteries, split so many families, split regions in Tibet apart, split your disciples from you, split your own gurus from you, split Tibetan Buddhism apart. You have created so much disharmony.

    It is not democratic what you have done to ban a religion within your community. You always talk of tolerance and acceptance and democracy and yet you do not accept and tolerate something different from your beliefs. When people practice Dorje Shugden you ostracize them, ban them from seeing you, ban them from using Tibetan facilities. You know you have done that. There are videos that capture your speech and prove this point. You even had people expelled from monasteries just because they practice Dorje Shugden. Some of the monks you expelled have been in the monastery for over 40 years. Many older monks shed tears because of this.

    Many young educated Tibetans lost confidence in you as they saw the damage the Dorje Shugden ban created and they lose hope. Many have become free thinkers. They reject what you have done. So many people in the west left Buddhism because of the confusion you created with this ban against Dorje Shugden which is immoral.

    You could of had millions of people who practice Dorje Shugden to support, love and follow you, but you scared them away. They are hurt and very disappointed. They loved you and respected you deeply before the ban. It has been 60 years and you have failed to get Tibet back. Your biggest failure is not getting Tibet back after 57 years in exile. Now you are begging China to allow you to return to Tibet to the disappointment of thousands of people who fought for a free Tibet believing in you. So many self-immolated for a free Tibet and now you want Tibet to be a part of China with no referendum from Tibetans. Just like a dictator, you decide on your own. It was your government and you that lost Tibet in the first place. Your policies and style of doing things do not benefit Tibet and Buddhism. You have been the sole ruler of Tibet your whole life and you still have not gotten our country of Tibet back for us. Our families and us are separated. Yet you create more pain by creating a ban to further divide people. Please have compassion.

    No other Buddhist leader has banned or condemned any religion except for you. It looks very bad. You are a Nobel laureate and this is not fitting of a laureate. You should unite people and not separate them by religious differences.

    You said Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi did not do right to the Rohingya people in Myanmar due to religious differences, but you are doing the same thing to the Shugden Buddhists within your own society. There is a parallel in this. You separate the Shugden Buddhists from the others in Tibetan society.

    You have lost so many people who would have loved and supported you. You have lost so much support around the world. The Shugden Buddhists who love you number in the millions. When you are fast losing support from governments and private people, it will not do you well to lose more.

    After you are passed away in the future, the rift you created between the Dorje Shugden and non-Dorje Shugden people will remain for a while and that will be your legacy. Disharmony. You will be remembered for this. Not as a hero but a disharmony creator.

    Dorje Shugden will spread and further grow, but you will be no more as you are a human. No one wishes you bad and in fact we hope you have a long and healthy life, but we have lost so much hope and have so much despair because of you. All the hundreds of Dorje Shugden lamas, tulkus and geshes are maturing and there are hundreds of Dorje Shugden monasteries in Tibet who will not give up Dorje Shugden. You have made a mistake. These hundreds of teachers and teachers to be will spread Dorje Shugden further in the future.

    The gurus that gave us Dorje Shugden as a spiritual practice and you have called these holy gurus wrong and they are mistaken in giving us Dorje Shugden. How can you insult our gurus whom we respect so much? If they can be wrong, then you can be wrong. Then all gurus can be wrong. So no one needs to listen to any guru? You have created this trend. It is not healthy. Your own gurus practiced Dorje Shugden their whole lives. Your own gurus were exemplary and highly learned.

    Dalai Lama you have created so much pain with this ban against so many people due to religion. You are ageing fast. Are you going to do anything about it or stay stubborn, hard and un-moving. You show a smile and preach peace and harmony wherever you go. But will you do the same to your own people? Please rectify the wrong you have done. Please before it is too late. You can create harmony again or you can pass away in the future with this legacy of peace. May you live long and think carefully and admit what was a mistake in having this unethical ban against Dorje Shugden religion.

  15. “In the case of a Dorje Shugden Sogtae, the protector is sworn to protect the initiate and the initiate swears to take Dorje Shugden as Protector, both until the achievement of Bodhichitta.”

    The promise is not for just one life, but for many lives to come. What a commitment. No wonder real Dorje Shugden practitioners are so loyal to the lineage and have strong guru devotion. The Sogtae actually bound everyone together.👍

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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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