The Heart Of A Protector – Geshe Lobsang Phende

Venerable Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende, the Abbot Emeritus of Shar Ganden Monastery

Outwardly the Dharma Protector King, Dorje Shugden, displays a very wrathful disposition and yet, Geshe Rabten once remarked that,

…if one were sincere about the Dharma, then this emanation of Manjushri, and the most powerful of all Dharma Protectors would even give you his heart.

To give another your heart is a language of transcendent love and it is not the image one immediately associates with a wrathful and fierce looking protector. But at the very heart of Dorje Shugden’s being is a deep love for all sentient beings and a profound wish for all to be liberated from their sufferings through the study, understanding and application of the Dharma. In fact, this is why Dorje Shugden decided to emanate in a worldly form.

Dorje Shugden’s affection is unmistakably apparent towards those who hold true to their oath made to their gurus and whose lives epitomize the Dharma even under tremendously difficult circumstances. Honoring one’s word and the keeping of one’s promises, especially those made to the Guru – also known as Guru Devotion – is after all central to the practice and development of good qualities.

It is important to keep promises to one’s Guru because it is by adhering strictly to the Guru’s instructions that the pure teachings can bear fruit in the practitioner, and it is by the same that the precious teachings can be preserved and passed on. Ultimately, Guru devotion is the key to attaining the highest levels in practice.

As the Mahasiddha Tilopa said to his disciple, Naropa (who was one of the previous lives of Dorje Shugden) in the Twenty Eight Verses, the great results, blessings and inspiration a disciple gets from having fervent respect for his guru is due to the guru’s high attainments and qualities. And so, have great respect for the guru.

The great Jetsun Milarepa also voiced similar opinions about the importance of the Guru:

Your guru who produces merit, the embodiment of all the Buddhas, is the Dharmakaya in itself.

And in the Foundation Of All Good Qualities, Je Tsongkapa also taught in no uncertain terms, that the foundation of all good qualities is the kind and venerable Guru, and that the correct devotion to the Guru is the root of the path.

Keeping one’s promises to the Guru is synonymous with keeping one’s practice on the right track and in a degenerate age, uncompromising devotion to the Guru is crucial to ensure that the lineage teachings remain free of corruption as it is practiced and passed on. Therefore it should come as no surprise that Dorje Shugden should show deep affection towards all who regard the promises made to the Guru as sacred, never to be compromised. It is an indication that one holds the Guru, who is the embodiment of the Three Jewels, in higher regard than oneself.

One monk who exemplifies this perfectly is the Abbot Emeritus of Shar Ganden, the Ven. Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende. In the face of incredible hardships experienced by all Shugden monks and laity as a result of the ban on Dorje Shugden’s practice, Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende stands out as the quintessence of all that Dorje Shugden requires of a good practitioner. At a time when the pure Dharma that Dorje Shugden protects was coming under threat, the singularity of focus of Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende’s devotion to his Gurus translated into actions and sacrifices which ultimately provided a shield for the practice and practitioners alike to survive.

Therefore it was only to be expected that during the opening of Shar Ganden Monastery in 2008, the oracle of Dorje Shugden was seen holding Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende (then Khen Rinpoche) warmly. This was a remarkable gesture because the Protector does not show such affection readily, and usually only when he is very pleased with the practitioner for upholding the lineage tradition without compromise. In fact, Dorje Shugden has shown outright displeasure in cases where an individual has not followed the lineage practice loyally. One such situation was observed when a certain lama who had not followed Dorje Shugden’s advice sought an audience with the Protector via an oracle. Dorje Shugden even refused the offering of tea that is immediately presented to the Protector once the oracle takes trance of the deity, and left without saying anything.

The opening of Shar Ganden was not an isolated occasion of Dorje Shugden showing how happy he was with Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende. When Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende attended the opening of Serpom Monastery as a guest, the Protector was again seen holding Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende’s shoulders gently and shaking him heartily as a father who is proud and pleased with this child would.

Dorje Shugden rejoices with dance during the Shar Ganden Monastery opening, as he holds on to Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende whose head remains bowed in humility.

Dorje Shugden displays tremendous closeness with Kensur Lobsang Phende again during the opening of Serpom Monastery.

Watch the video above at 6 min 49 secs:

The relationship between Dorje Shugden and Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende began even before Shar Ganden Monastery existed, at a time when the founding monks were still residents of Dokhang Khangtsen, an integral part of Ganden Shartse Monastery. Prior to the Shugden ban, the oracle would frequently take trance of Dorje Shugden in Ganden Shartse’s Protector House (Tenkhang), and it was Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende who would take notes and interpret the message of the Protector who spoke in a language that only those initiatied would know. However, the Protector’s bond with Kensur Rinpoche became an open display of divine intimacy after the Dorje Shugden ban, when it became clear that Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende held his devotion to his Gurus as a gem more precious than his regard for his own well-being.

Before holding the seat as the Abbot of Shar Ganden Monastery, Geshe Lobsang Phende, as he was known then, was an ordinary monk albeit one recognized as an accomplished scholar who rose to the rank of Chant Master of the prestigious Ganden Shartse Monastery. Still, it was not the Geshe’s achievements nor his many skills that endeared him to Dorje Shugden, but his unshakeable piety towards his Gurus, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, and his immovable faith in the lineage of Lama Tsongkapa that earned him the love of the Protector.

Dorje Shugden has in the past shown significant respect for other high lamas as well, such as H.E. Gangchen Rinpoche, but in Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende’s case, he earned the love of the Protector as an ordinary monk without any high honorifics but as one who is totally committed to the untainted practice of Guru Yoga, Lamrim, Vedic philosophy, Moral Discipline, the Vinaya and the Pratimoksha, all of which are perfectly encapsulated when one practices pure Guru devotion.

When the Dorje Shugden ban was illegally imposed in 2008, Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende was holding a position of high regard in Ganden Shartse Monastery and yet he, together with most of Dokhang Khangtsen (except for 30 monks) agreed to split away from their mother monastery. This drastic move came about simply because they wished to keep their promise to their Gurus and continue in their commitments to Dorje Shugden above anything else.

Overnight, although Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende has always maintained his veneration of the Dalai Lama, he became seen as the embodiment of anti-Dalai Lama sentiments. And by holding the seat as the Abbot of Shar Ganden, many in the monastic and lay community viewed him with considerable hostility and took him to be an enemy. Like many monks and lay practitioners, it would have caused Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende much grief to be estranged from the Dalai Lama and it would have been a much easier path to renounce the Protector and keep favor with the Tibetan establishment. But it is not by taking the easier path that one realizes the practice of high Dharma. The chronicles of all the greatest of Mahasiddhas can testify to that.

This humble monk of considerable erudition was willing to give up everything except for his commitments and undertakings of honor made before his Gurus. This made it even more difficult for the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and the anti-Shugden camp to justify the ban. Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende became a target for persecutions and yet he would not allow anything to become an obstacle for him to preserve the true Gelugpa lineage as had been handed down to him by his Gurus, and that the future lineage holders would inherit.

Still, as a Shugden practitioner and doubly so as the Abbot of Shar Ganden, an institution that became the symbol of defiance to the Dalai Lama and CTA, Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende endured significant difficulties and hardships both physically and psychologically. Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende was shunned by many people who were previously friends and brothers in Dharma, and risked physical injury as many Shugden practitioners received death threats and faced condemnation from both the monastic community and the Tibetan people in general. And at the same time, he had to be a source of strength and motivation for his monks and other Dorje Shugden practitioners.

If the entire Tibetan community and the CTA were against Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende, then his honest devotion to his Gurus and Protector secured him the affection and support of the Buddha, Dorje Shugden. During the opening ceremony of Shar Ganden Monastery, Dorje Shugden via the oracle pledged his support with the following message that was read out to Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende and the entire community of Shar Ganden Monastery:

“Hri! The Iksvaku, Saviors Nagajurna and Asanga, Dvipamkara – Lobsang Drakpa, their emanation: to rekindle the essence of his teachings from the base, there is now Ganden of Shar. If this is proper and purposeful, from the Vinayadhara to new ones, the seniors’ guidance and the juniors’ compliance of Pratimoksha precepts – the basis for training: this foundation must be there. The five great systems, the two stages of generation and completion – salient instructions in this is a lamp flickering in the wind. Listen, contemplate and practice in these domains, with steadfastness, fully and without delaying. If that happens, I shall be pleased to extend help, as vowed to Manjunath and in accordance with it”.

And with the reading of that message, Dorje Shugden clasped his hands together twice (indicating that he was pleased that Shar Ganden, under the guidance of Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende, had arisen to continue the pure tradition of Manjunatha Je Tsongkhapa) and knocked on his breastplate, indicating that he, Dorje Shugden, will pledge his assistance.

Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende and Shar Ganden Monastery thus became a symbol of living hope – a flickering lamp that refused to be snuffed out by the winds of deceit and disloyalty, a sanctuary for those seeking to practice the pure lineage of Je Tsongkapa. At a time when the Protector practice was under siege, Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende and Shar Ganden became torch bearers, holding the fort until the young incarnations of the lineage Gurus such as Trijang Choktrul Rinpoche came of age.

The initial years of Shar Ganden were extremely tough although the situation is only slightly better today. When Dokhang Khangtsen split away from Ganden Shartse to become its own monastery, they had very little resources and assistance. It was difficult to raise sponsorship and secure support as the ban literally made Shugden practitioners the enemies of the Tibetan people. Even those who may not have believed in the accusations against the Protector were wary of being associated with the new monastery. To even be friendly to Shugden practitioners was (and still is) seen as a crime.

And yet, since its formation in 2008, Shar Ganden has grown and the number of monks within its walls today exceed 800, which is almost twice the number of monks when Shar Ganden started. Against the most difficult odds, social pressure and institutionalized persecutions, Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende successfully provided a viable alternative monastic university to the established ones that Shugden monks were no longer welcome in. This speaks volumes of the Abbot and further explains Dorje Shugden’s affection towards him.

Going by Dorje Shugden’s message during the opening of Shar Ganden, one can surmise that Shar Ganden has kept itself true to the monastic codes established by Je Tsongkapa himself, for Dorje Shugden’s promise to help was premised on the monastery doing what is “proper and purposeful” by the Dharma.

If Dorje Shugden was firm in his resolve to protect Tsongkapa’s teachings, then Shar Ganden arose because Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende too was steadfast in his promise to his Gurus to safeguard the lineage teachings from corruption. At a critical time, an ancient tradition long held by Manjushri’s line of incarnations found a stalwart in Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende, whose virtues made the difference in the survival of the lineage, for it was through his attainments that the powerful assistance of Dorje Shugden was unlocked.

For practitioners such as Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende, Dorje Shugden keeps a special place in his heart. As Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche wrote in his prayer to Dorje Shugden, the Nyirtoe, the relationship between the Protector and one who abides by his commitments to the Guru, who is in fact the Buddha Vajradhara, is beyond that of a Protector and a disciple. It is much closer:

…Affectionate when cultivated,
You treat the commitment-abiding like a son (or daughter)…

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12 total comments on this postSubmit yours

  2. petfect example of religious supremacy and indistructiible devotion to a worldly deity,let me think about the result!

  3. Dogyal propitiation is neither Buddhist tradition nor Lama Tsongkha pa’s.let me think of this,must be a cult!

  4. It is just great news that great monks like Khensur Lobsang Phende Rinpoche are recognised by Lord Dorje Shugden.

    It is true that Khensur Rinpoche is a great monk. Out of everything, He stood up from all the monks to lead them despite of all the danger that he may face from the decision.

    Khensur Rinpoche’s spirit is very admirable. It shows that when we fully trust our Gurus and work our life just for Dharma, we will in turn get good results. Reason being that we are showing and helping more people to the Buddhadharma.

  5. Rejoice for Kensur Rinpoche and everyone single monk in Shah Gaden, we as a DS practitioner we need Lama like Kensur Rinpoche to continue reserve Lama Tsongkhapa teaching.

  6. It is without doubt that Dorje Shugden practitioners of today have to bow down at the feet of devoted Lamas like Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Phende to thank him for all that he has done to keep the Dorje Shugden practice alive !!
    It must have been extremely difficult to take the stand of being “different” or “against” the majority . It must be tough to be criticized ; to be poor as sponsors shy away due to the ban; must be tough to have poor reputation !
    This reminds me of the teachings of the 8 wordly concerns !

    As in the 7 Limb Prayers of the Guru Yoga by Lama Tsongkhapa
    ” In this degenerate age you strove for much learning and accomplishment.
    Abandoning the eight worldly concerns, you made your leisure and endowment
    We rejoice in Lama Tsongkhapa’s achievements when reciting this phrase from the prayer . Similarly, Khensur Rinpoche has successfully emulated the qualities of Lama Tsongkhapa ! How wonderful is that !
    May Khensur Rinpoche continue to live long in great health to continue to turn the wheel of Dharma to benefit many beings !

  7. I love the article. It was very touching. I have met Kensur Rinpoche once, and could feel his compassion and kindness even he did not talk much.

    Thank you to all great masters like Geshe Lobsang Phende who hold their promise so well, and pass the lineage down purely & completely. Without all these masters, many practices including Dorje Shugden Protector practice would not be able to benefit so many people like me.

    May Khensur Rinpoche always healthy and lives long to continue turn the Dharma wheel.

  8. The ban and discrimination has made Dorje Shudgen people and lamas that much tougher, and looking at multi racial countries, some races can have a difficult time and some have an easier time. Ultimately the ones that have to struggle more comes out on top all the time, and the ones who are constantly coddled and helped have a more difficult time to make it.

  9. This is an incredibly inspirational read. First off, he stepped up to lead the monks during their most tumultuous time, when their future looked uncertain. He put himself as the head and face of a monastery that had the entire Tibetan Buddhist world’s collective hatred directed upon them. He opened himself up to scorn, insults, violence and made himself a target for all of this.

    And yet hes not flashy, not showy like some abbots of other monasteries. You dont see him running around the world taking pictures with this and that lama, trying to edge into the spotlight. Hes just a quiet practitioner holding his commitments to the monastery, doing his practice, serving the sangha and teaching. You dont see him trying to get recogniton for his service. And after his tenure, he goes back to what he was doing which like the article says is a total commitment to “the untainted practice of Guru Yoga, Lamrim, Vedic philosophy, Moral Discipline, the Vinaya and the Pratimoksha”

    There is so much to admire him for, most of all the fact hes just a pure monk.

  10. For many lamas to stand up and be counted, to stand out like a sore thumb to take on the scorn of the non-practitioners of Dorje Shugden take courage, devotion and commitment. Their only concern is for the dharmic path of their flock.

    Homage to lamas like Geshe Lobsang Phende.

  11. What will the all the people around the world and in Tibet do now? Dalai Lama says he is happy that Tibet is a part of China and should remain a part of China. So many Tibetans self-immolated for Tibet to be independent and now Dalai Lama did a 360 degree turn and says he wants to go back to Tibet and China and Tibet should be a part of China. So unbelievable. So many are angry and disappointed.

    Tibetans ready to be part of China: Dalai Lama
    Organised by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the event was a part of “Thank You India – 2018″ held by the Tibetan community across India to mark 60 years of its exile in the country.
    Indo-Asian News Service
    Tibetans are ready to be a part of China if guaranteed full rights to preserve their culture, the Dalai Lama said on Friday.
    “Tibetans are not asking for independence. We are okay with remaining with the People’s Republic of China, provided we have full rights to preserve our culture,” the 83-year-old spiritual leader said at “Thank You Karnataka” event here in the city.
    Organised by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the event was a part of “Thank You India – 2018″ held by the Tibetan community across India to mark 60 years of its exile in the country.
    “Several of Chinese citizens practicing Buddhism are keen on Tibetan Buddhism as it is considered scientific,” the Nobel laureate said.
    Born in Taktser hamlet in northeastern Tibet, the Dalai Lama was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. He fled to India from Tibet after a failed uprising against the Chinese rule in 1959.
    China annexed Tibet in 1950, forcing thousands of Tibetans, including monks, to flee the mountain country and settle in India as refugees.
    Since then, India has been home to over 100,000 Tibetans majorly settled in Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh among other states.


  12. 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.

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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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