A Demon Worshipper’s Throne In Ganden?

Ganden Shartse Monastic College

By: Shashi Kei

Tsongkhapa’s Legacy

If there is anywhere in the world where the Buddhas, the Dharma and the Sangha are expected to converge, it would be in the sacred monasteries, for it is the monastery where we would retreat to in our renunciation of all things samsaric and pursue a life of Dharma, in accordance to the Buddha’s teachings. There are few places where moral discipline and the Buddhist teachings are held in such high esteem as in Ganden Monastery which was founded by the sage, Je Tsongkhapa, who is regarded as a Buddha himself.

In Ganden Monastery’s main prayer hall, there are thrones of the highest lamas of the lineage to represent their supreme attainments and virtues. So, would it not be the last place on earth where one would find the throne of a demon worshipper? Yet, if certain accusations that have plagued Tibetan Buddhism this century are correct, this is exactly what one would find at the illustrious Ganden monastery.

Ganden Monastery stands today as one of the leading Buddhist universities in the world which is not surprising seeing that it was the very institution that was established by Je Tsongkhapa himself. Je Tsongkhapa was born at a time when Tibetan Buddhism was degenerating yet by the time Tsongkhapa passed into clear light, he had managed to arrest that decline. As a means of preserving the restored purity of the Dharma, Tsongkhapa founded the Gelugpa lineage, which became known for its moral discipline and its extremely vigorous analysis of the Sutra and Tantra via extensive study and debate.

All that was held precious by Tsongkhapa is embodied in the Ganden tradition and the strict monastic code it upholds, which is to the keep the teachings of the Buddha alive and incorruptible. The Ganden system operated efficiently, so when the Tibetans in exile had to flee their conquered country, they managed to re-establish a new Ganden monastery in South India in 1966, which rose quickly into prominence and continued to perpetuate the Ganden lineage.

The old traditions were successfully preserved and continue to be practiced behind the walls of Ganden in India today. For example, in accordance to tradition, the thrones of certain high lamas are placed prominently in the monastery to signify the high importance of those lamas who are held in especially high esteem to the Ganden lineage.

Accordingly, in the prayer hall of Ganden Shartse and the combined prayer hall of the two colleges Shartse and Jangtse, known as the Ganden Lachi, one would find the thrones of His Holiness the Dalai Lama – regarded as the “god-king” of the Tibetan people; the throne of Trijang Rinpoche – the undisputed master of virtually all Gelugpa lamas this century; and the throne of the 101st Ganden Tripa – the supreme spiritual head of the Ganden lineage.


The Significance Of The Ganden Tripa

So crucial was it to preserve the correct understanding of the Dharma to Je Tsongkhapa that his key teachings would only be passed on to the most qualified and trusted of his students and along with it, the supreme duty to keep the Gelugpa lineage pure – a position of great responsibility upon which the title, The Holder Of The Gelugpa Throne, or Ganden Tripa, was conferred. It became the practice that the Ganden Tripa, the highest seat within the Gelugpa lineage would be passed on, unbroken from the time of Je Tsongkhapa, to the most respected, qualified and revered of the Gelugpa lamas who are entrusted to preserve the sanctity of the Dharma. Past Ganden Tripas were legendary Dharma masters such as Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen (who declined the honor); Gyaltsab Je and Khedrub Je – the heart sons of Tsongkhapa; and Panchen Sonam Drakpa whose works are still being used as textbooks by leading Buddhist universities today.

H.H. the 101st Ganden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche

In fact, the position of the Ganden Tripa is regarded as even higher than that of the Dalai Lama within the Gelugpa order, although this high distinction is often overshadowed by the general respect for the Dalai Lama as the spiritual head of Tibet. Outside of Tibet, the Dalai Lama’s position as the spiritual leader of the Tibetans enjoyed amplification due to the worldwide publicity he received, especially after 1959 when the framework of the old Tibetan society dramatically changed.


Something Strange In Ganden

While it is not surprising per se to find the throne of the Ganden Tripa in the prayer halls of Ganden monastery, there is one anomaly in this case that must not be allowed to escape examination, for it goes to the heart of one of the most absurd, if not severe, controversies to ever hit Tibetan Buddhism – the Dorje Shugden ban. Dorje Shugden, long recognized as the emanation of the Wisdom Buddha, is a Dharma protector of the Gelugpa and has been propitiated by the highest masters of the lineage such as H.H. Pabongka Rinpoche, H.H. Trijang Rinpoche and H.H. Zong Rinpoche. And yet, quite out of the blue, the Dalai Lama with the support of the Tibetan government in exile (the CTA) began to restrict the practice leading to a government decree in 2008 that literally outlawed the deity and the practice claiming that Dorje Shugden was a demon, the worship of whom harms the Tibetan cause for freedom and the life of the Dalai Lama.

Many Tibetan lives were devastated and without preparation the Tibetan community turned upon itself, as monks who refused to break their vows made to their teachers and swear against Dorje Shugden were expelled without ceremony. Overnight, an ancient Tibetan deity was an outlaw as was its practitioners.

And here is the incongruity – the Ganden Tripa’s throne that is still seen in the prayer halls of Ganden monastery today, set up in the same location as the throne of H.H. Trijang Rinpoche and H.H. the Dalai Lama, belong to H.H. Lungrik Namgyal, the 101st Ganden Tripa of the Gelugpa lineage, who is a known Dorje Shugden practitioner! As the Ganden Tripa at the time, H.H. Lungrik Namgyal did not sanction the Dorje Shugden ban, which means that it had no spiritual basis whatsoever to begin with. In addition, H.H. the 101st Ganden Tripa did not even participate in it nor did he return to the monastery to swear against Dorje Shugden as was required by all monks at the Gelugpa monasteries. That itself is a good indication of where the ban stood vis-à-vis religious legitimacy, spiritual correctness and accuracy of the reasons given for the ban to be enforced.

The throne of H.H. the 101st Ganden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal Rinpoche beside the throne of H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, in the Ganden Lachi

However, remaining true to his duty, he chose not to defy H.H. the Dalai Lama openly and continued to perform his duties and maintained office as the Ganden Tripa until his term was over in 2009.

After that, as the Ganden Trisur, H.H. Lungrik Namgyal made the daring decision to move to Shar Ganden in order to practice Dorje Shugden openly. The significance of this has to be stressed, which is that the supreme spiritual head of the Ganden lineage at the time when the ban was at its most intense, did not agree with it. And till this day H.H. the Ganden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal sees Dorje Shugden as nothing less than an enlightened emanation of Manjushri.

If anything, H.H. the 101st Ganden Trisur Lungrik Namgyal represents the highest objection to the Dorje Shugden ban. So, why does Ganden Monastery continue to venerate him by keeping his throne in the prayer halls together with the thrones of the Dalai Lama and Trijang Rinpoche? Why was H.H. the 101st Ganden Trisur never rebuked by the Dalai Lama and the CTA for his practice of Dorje Shugden, as they did all other practitioners? Why hasn’t H.H. the Ganden Trisur’s throne been removed from the holy prayer halls of Tsongkhapa’s own monastic university if indeed Dorje Shugden was a demon?


Cowardice Or Guile

There can only be two plausible answers to this question:

(I) The anti-Shugden establishment dares not remove H.H. the 101st Ganden Tripa’s throne. The Ganden Tripa seat is awarded based on meritocracy with the final endorsement by the Dalai Lama, after an extremely vigorous process of selection. This entails years of intensive training and proven success in other high ranking positions such as having been umzes (chant masters), disciplinarians and abbots of one of the tantric colleges. This system, which is based on a monk’s academic accomplishment, tenacity in Dharma learning, teaching and practice, and service to the monasteries, ensures that only the best of scholars and practitioners can ascend as the Ganden Tripa. Once enthroned, there is no doubt that the Ganden Tripa is the supreme spiritual authority of the Gelugpa lineage.

To remove the throne would be to say that the entire process of identifying the supreme spiritual head of the lineage, approved by the Dalai Lama, failed so miserably that it had in fact selected into its highest office, a demon worshipper. So, if they failed at this event, where else have they failed? What other “wrong” Ganden Tripas have been elected in the past, especially given the fact that some Dalai Lamas such as the Third Dalai Lama, had as his teacher, a Ganden Tripa and in the case of the Third Dalai Lama, the illustrious Panchen Sonam Drakpa, who incidentally was a past incarnation of Dorje Shugden! And if Panchen Sonam Drakpa too was the “wrong” Ganden Tripa, what does that say about the Third Dalai Lama who studied under him? And what is the effect of that on the line of subsequent Dalai Lamas? How about the fact that H.H. Trijang Rinpoche, the junior tutor to H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama was also recognized as the incarnation of three previous Ganden Tripas; the eighth, the sixty-ninth and the eighty-fifth Ganden Tripas. If H.H. Trijang Rinpoche was wrong to practice Dorje Shugden, what does that say about his tutorship to H.H. the Dalai Lama?


(II) The Dalai Lama knew from the beginning that H.H. Lungrik Namgyal was not wrong to propitiate Dorje Shugden as an enlightened Protector of the Dharma, and as the holy incarnation of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen, an emanation of Manjushri.

So while the Dalai Lama created a controversy for the name of the Protector to spread and a cause for the government of the rising giant, China to propagate the practice in defiance of the Dalai Lama himself, the Dalai Lama also made the decision to retain the throne in Ganden monastery’s prayer halls so as to stir the people into thinking deeper about the inconsistencies of the ban. After all, how could the supreme spiritual head of the lineage, the living representative of Je Tsongkhapa be wrong, especially given the fact that H.H. Lungrik Namgyal was enthroned by the Dalai Lama himself!

The Dalai Lama has on numerous occasions echoed the advice of the Buddha, which is not to simply listen and believe all that we hear, but to check everything against reason and logic. And have not the reasons offered for the ban been totally bizarre? The thrones of the 101st Ganden Tripa, a Dorje Shugden practitioner, remains in the prayer halls of Ganden Lachi and Ganden Shartse, as the ultimate invitation for all practitioners to look behind the veil of absurdity and find the truth about Dorje Shugden, the Protector whom the Dalai Lama himself propitiated and the same deity whom H.H. Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche is practicing today, with the blessings of the Dalai Lama.

H.H. the Dalai Lama and H.H. Ganden Trisur Rinpoche

Either way, the Dorje Shugden ban has been proven to be constructed not on any solid basis but on illusion. Today, H.H. Lungrik Namgyal lives a simple life in Paris when he is not busy travelling the world to transmit the Buddha’s teachings. H.H. the 101st Ganden Trisur is still regarded as one of the most qualified Buddhist teachers alive today who has committed his entire life to the propagation of the Buddhadharma, with the support of the Uncommon Protector of our time, Dorje Shugden. Therefore, the very presence of his throne in the exclusive Ganden monastery prayer halls gives a very clear message – that H.H. 101st Ganden Trisur is NOT a demon worshipper, simply because Dorje Shugden is NOT a demon.

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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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