Dharma Demystified: Invocation of Dorje Shugden

by Steve Lee

The invocation prayer of Dorje Shugden is performed at the beginning of the puja to request the deity to descend from his celestial abode at the invitation of the practitioner. The invocation liturgy is recited slowly and with it, the practitioner does the mudra of invocation by holding the vajra up and ringing the bell in staccato.

Upon completion of the invocation prayer, the bell and damaru (ritual drum) are played to welcome the deity into the presence of the practitioner. In a Dorje Shugden oracular trance session, the invocation prayer forms the central part of a special puja to invite Dorje Shugden to descend into the body of a qualified oracle. After a slow and extended recitation of the invocation prayer, the oracle would then take full trance towards the end of the recitation.

Below is a commentary of a short invocation liturgy and the accompanying visualization:

I have the clarity of the Yidam.
Before me in the centre of red and black fire and wind,
On a lotus and sun, trampling demons and obstructors,
Is a terrifying lion, which is powerful and alert.

The first stanza of the prayer refers to the traditional manner in which Dharma Protectors are invoked according to Tantric practices.

When the line, “I have the clarity of the Yidam” is recited, the practitioner actively visualizes himself as the Yidam. It could be any of the Yidams provided one has already received the full initiation of that particular Yidam and has kept the sadhana commitments. In the monastery, Yamantaka is the preferred Yidam to make this request.

If one has not received any initiation, one could visualize Lama Tsongkhapa gently resting on the crown of one’s head. If the invocation is recited after the Guru Yoga of Tsongkapa, complete with the dissolution of Tsongkapa into oneself, the practitioner can also visualize himself/herself as being one with Tsongkapa, then request Dorje Shugden to come to his/her presence.

The next few lines of the first stanza is a visualization of Dorje Shugden beginning with the lotus (symbolizing compassion), sun disc (representing his realization of emptiness), and a man – the embodiment of our obstacles – being trampled by a huge snow lion, Dorje Shugden’s mount.

Upon this sits the great king Dorje Shugden,
The supreme Heart Jewel of Dharma Protectors.
His body is clothed in the garments of a monk,
And on his head he wears a round, yellow hat.

The second stanza continues the visualization with Dorje Shugden sitting on the snow lion while wearing monk robes and the round yellow hat. This iconography is very meaningful – the robes symbolize the importance of holding our vows and commitments while the round yellow hat represents Nagarjuna’s view of emptiness as propagated in Lama Tsongkapa’s lineage and this is what Dorje Shugden has sworn to protect.

His hands hold a sword and a heart of compassion.
To his followers he shows an expression of delight,
But to subdue demons and obstructers he displays a wrathful manner.
He is surrounded by a vast, assembled retinue
Such as his attendant Kache Marpo and so forth.

In the third stanza, one continues the visualization focusing on the meandering sword and the heart of compassion that Dorje Shugden holds. The sword is similar to Manjushri’s wisdom sword which cuts asunder our delusions and negative obstacles. The heart of compassion represents Dorje Shugden’s skillful means to uproot the cause of all our problems – ignorance, hatred and desire. These are known as the three root delusions, which form the heart of samsara and without them, our samsara ‘dies’ like a human body that cannot function without a heart.

The invocation liturgy calls upon the 32-deities of Dorje Shugden’s mandala

The subsequent lines reveal Dorje Shugden’s compassion and highlights that nothing pleases him more than practitioners who engage in Dharma practice. Therefore, as an expression of his compassion, he would even engage in wrathful activity to remove obstacles and delusions that obstruct the Dharma practice of the practitioner. The obstacles could be internal demons like ignorance, hatred and desire or external negative entities that threaten the practitioner.

The visualization then expands to include Dorje Shugden’s vast retinue that surrounds him. Surrounding the central deity are the four other emanations that embody Dorje Shugden’s four types of enlightened activities, Shize – the peaceful emanation, Gyenze – the increase emanation, Wangze – the control emanation and Trakze – the wrathful emanation. Surrounding the five emanations are the eight guiding monks, the nine mothers and the ten youthful and wrathful attendants.

Dorje Shugden’s retinue consists of 32 deities and they are all emanations of Dorje Shugden’s mind. In addition to the above, the main ministers in his retinue are Kache Marpo (a wrathful emanation of Hayagriva) and Namkar Barzin (an oathbound dharma protector subdued by Domo Geshe Rinpoche). Kache Marpo is the main assistant of Dorje Shugden, as seen especially in trances. Usually, Dorje Shugden takes trance of the oracle, blesses the audience and leaves the oracle, then Kache Marpo enters to answer questions and provide pronouncements.

Light rays from my heart
Instantly invite the wisdom beings from the sphere of nature
And from all the palaces where they abide.
They become inseparable from the commitment beings.

So far, we have been visualizing Dorje Shugden and his entourage and these visualized deities are called the commitment beings. Now in the final stanza, we make the actual request for the deities to descend from their abodes.

Dorje Shugden resides in five main celestial abodes. The first one is under the throne of Lama Tsongkapa in the pure realm of Tushita or Ganden Heaven. The second abode is in Kechara, the pure realm of the Tantric Buddha Vajrayogini. The third abode is in the mystical land of Shambala, believed by those who practice the Kalachakra Tantra to be hidden within the grand Himalayan mountain range. The fourth abode is in the Wu Tai Shan Mountains of China and is traditionally associated with the Bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjushri. The fifth abode is in Sakya, in the temple of Mug Chung, believed to be where Dorje Shugden was first enthroned to be a Dharma Protector.

Dorje Shugden resides in the mystical land of Shambala

Due to our impure perception and negative karma, we are unable to invite Dorje Shugden directly. Hence, if we have the initiation of a Yidam, we visualize ourselves as the Yidam and at our heart where the seed syllable of the deity rests, lights go out to the main abodes of Dorje Shugden. If we don’t have the initiation of a Yidam, we visualize lights going out from Lama Tsongkapa resting at the crown of our heads instead.

In our visualization, lights go out to Dorje Shugden’s five main abodes and invite Dorje Shugden and his entourage to come before us. These real deities are called Wisdom beings and at the last line of the invocation liturgy, we invite them to inhabit our visualization or commitment beings. Hence, “they become inseparable with the commitment beings.”

The invocation is now complete and we welcome Dorje Shugden and his entourage with the ringing of our bell and damaru. The invocation is never done on its own and is always performed with the praise, kawang, mantra recitation, serkyem and the other components of Dorje Shugden’s kangso.

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thank you so much for this explanation. I will hold it at my heart.

  2. really BEAUTIFUL,
    thank you

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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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