Tibetan Politics Threaten Mongolian Buddhist Heritage

The opinion piece below was sent to dorjeshugden.com for publication. We accept submissions from the public, please send in your articles to [email protected].


By: Shashi Kei

The Dorje Shugden conflict remains one of the most polarizing issues in Tibetan Buddhism today. The Tibetan leadership has claimed that Shugden practice is an instrument of the Communist government of China, that the Dorje Shugden lineage is devoid of spiritual legitimacy, and indeed nothing more than the work of extreme and exclusivist quarters within the Gelugpa sect.

Throughout the world, Tibetan Buddhist communities have been coerced to pick a side in the Shugden divide. But a fair and educated choice is rarely possible. To disagree with the 14th Dalai Lama is to be regarded instantly as being anti-Dalai Lama, anti-Buddhism, anti-democracy and therefore pro-Communist China.

As has become standard operating procedure, the Tibetan leadership relies on Dalai Lama sycophants who operate within targeted Buddhist communities to push the Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA) political agenda. These agendas are often disguised as examination of certain Buddhist beliefs and doctrines.

Within Mongolian communities today, there is again renewed agitations to support the Dalai Lama’s narrative on the Shugden issue. This time, the provocations come from a Mongolian man by the name of Tsend-Ayush Batmunkh who runs a Facebook account under the nickname ‘Hunnu Mongol’. There is in fact nothing fresh in Hunnu Mongol’s charges against Dorje Shugden except to regurgitate the Tibetan leadership’s vitriol, aimed at dislodging the people from their faith in Dorje Shugden, and incite hatred against Shugden followers and China.

The Hunnu Mongol Facebook account is run by a Mongolian man named Tsend-Ayush Batmunkh. Click to enlarge

For the Mongolian people, the stakes are high. To begin with, it is vital for the Mongolian nation to maintain good relations with a powerful China. The last time Mongolia fell into Dharamsala’s trap, it took some repairing to normalize ties with a powerful ally. But looking beyond political common sense, the Mongolian people also have established historic ties with the lineage of Dorje Shugden that if ruptured, would undermine Mongolia’s Buddhist heritage.

Simply put, Hunnu Mongol wants the Mongolian people to believe that there is no legitimacy to the Dorje Shugden lineage. In this, Hunnu Mongol is being mischievous because Mongolian archives brim with evidence of the close relationship between the Dorje Shugden lineage, the spread of Buddhism in Mongolia and the social development of the people.

One doesn’t have to be a Buddhist scholar to recognize this close relationship.


Letter from the International Tibetan Shugden Community (English)

The incendiary antics of Hunnu Mongol has caught the attention of Shugden Buddhists who continue to suffer this CTA-sponsored religious persecution. The irony is that the Tibetan exile government that claims to be fighting for democracy should be stifling religious freedom. Click to enlarge.

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Letter from the International Tibetan Shugden Community (Mongolian)

Click to enlarge

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The Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Khutuktus

The Jetsun Dhampa Khutuktus are the highest and most esteemed lamas in Mongolia. They are regarded as Bogd Gegeen or supreme spiritual authorities. There is no question of the Jetsun Dhampas’ enlightened nature which is no less than that of the Dalai Lamas.

The first Jetsun Dhampa Khutuktu, Zanabazar who was the spiritual mentor of Emperor Kangxi, a reincarnation of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, based on an old prophesy by Panchen Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen.

  1. The 1st Jetsun Dhampa, Öndör Gegeen Zanabazar, was recognized as the reincarnation of the great Jonang Jetsun Taranatha. Zanabazar advanced Gelug Buddhism within Mongolia for over 60 years and was well known to have sought close ties with the Qing Emperor Kangxi. So close was the relationship between the first Jetsun Dhampa with Emperor Kangxi that when he heard of the passing of Kangxi, he immediately travelled to Beijing to conduct the customary Buddhist rites for the great emperor.
    According to an old prophecy by Panchen Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen, Emperor Kangxi was the reincarnation of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen who arose as Dorje Shugden. This record is contained in the works of the Mongolian scholar, the most esteemed master, Lobsang Tamdin who gained the reputation of being extremely fastidious in tracing transmissions of Buddhist lineages in order to validate their authenticity.
    It was with Kangxi’s support that the first Jetsun Dhampa brought an end to vicious fighting between Dzungar-Qirat Mongols and Khalkha Mongols. The tension between the Dzungar-Qirat and the Khalkha Mongols started because the Qirat warlord Galdan Khan was offended that Zanabazar’s throne was placed at the same height as the throne of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s representative during a religious ceremony. (Mongolia and the Mongols, A M Pozdneev, 1971)
Even then, there were already attempts to reduce Mongolian spiritual authority and render it lesser than that of the Dalai Lamas.
  2. The 4th Jetsun Dhampa Luvsantüvdenvanchug’s era coincided with the spread of Dorje Shugden practice amongst Mongolian Gelugpas. He was recorded as being the first Mongolian to compose propitiation texts to Dorje Shugden. These include a torma offering prayer which supplicates the Dharma Protector to assist in the spread of the Dharma.

    OM! Magnificent Buddha of Shambhala,
    Ruler of the three worlds with a brilliant red face,
    Protectors of the most scholarly beings of Loseling,
    Including Dorje Shugden, please come here!

    I offer to you pleasing samaya substances which create harmony,
    Huge palaces, red tormas and white tormas,
    A mountain of flesh and an ocean-wide pile of bones
    And all the objects of desires.

    As you pleasingly and happily partake in these offerings,
    May it cause the increase of study, listening, contemplation and all virtues of theory and practice.
    I request you: Please increase conducive conditions and remove hostile circumstances,
    Guide us as we walk this path of wisdom and compassion.
    Please grant auspiciousness for all Sangha who uphold the three trainings!

    The 4th Jetsun Dhampa was also a great master of the Kalachakra Tantra and it was he who first alluded to Shambhala being an abode of Dorje Shugden. Shambhala of course is central to the Kalachakra Tantra. It would be absurd to suggest that the Chakravartins or Enlightened Kings of Shambhala would share their abode with a minor demon. And yet that would be the only conclusion to arrive at if one were to believe the accounts served by anti-Dorje Shugden agitators such as Hunnu Mongol.

    Like the 1st Jetsun Dhampa Zanabazar, the 4th Jetsun Dhampa’s holy body was enshrined in an important Mongolian monastery, Amarbayasgalant, after his parinirvana. It is not surprising given Dorje Shugden’s historic stature that this deity is also one of the Dharma Protectors of this important Mongolian monastery.

  3. The relationship between the Jetsun Dhampa Khutuktus and Dorje Shugden continued with the 8th Jetsun Dhampa Agvaanluvsanchoyjindanzanvaanchigbalsambuu. He would frequently consult the State Oracle, Choijin Lama Luvsankhaidav, who was also his brother. For divine proclamations and guidance, Choijin Lama would take trance of either Nechung, Tsiu Marpo or Dorje Shugden. This itself is evidence that Dorje Shugden was worshipped and well trusted by Mongolian Buddhist authorities. Furthermore, the 9th Jetsun Dhampa Jambalnamdolchoyjijantsan was a devout student of H.H the 10th Panchen Lama, H.H. Trijang Dorje Chang and H.H. Ling Dorje Chang, all of whom were the greatest masters of their time who worshipped Dorje Shugden.

Amarbayasgalant, one of Mongolia’s most important temples. Dorje Shugden is the main Dharma Protectors of this temple together with Setew, and Lkham.


Zaya Pandita

Zaya (Jaya) Pandita, who is without question a foundation of Mongolian Buddhism. Zaya Pandita saw the importance of preserving the legacy of his teacher, Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen and his arisal as Dorje Shugden.

It is through the eyes of the renowned Mongolian scholar Zaya Pandita Luvsanprinlei that we see how the Mongolian people historically regarded Dorje Shugden before Dharamsala poisoned the well. Zaya Pandita was a descendant of the great Genghis Khan and commanded a well-respected position amongst Mongolians.

A contemporary of the 1st Jetsun Dhampa Khutuktu, Zaya Pandita was a disciple of the most prominent Tibetan Buddhist lamas of the time — the 4th Panchen lama, the 5th Dalai Lama and Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen. This accorded Zaya Pandita with first-hand opportunity to personally witness the events surrounding the murder of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen and the fierce efforts to strike his name from the annals of Tibetan Buddhist history.

Zaya Pandita recognized the great importance of preserving the life story and spiritual heritage of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen whom he regarded to be the holiest of beings. And towards that end, he composed Clear Mirror: A Records of Teachings Received (thob yig gsal ba’i me long).

Zaya Pandita’s writings are key to a recent dissertation by Dr Matthew W. King, Associate Professor of Transnational Buddhism and Chair of Asian Studies in the Department of Religious Studies, UCal. In his paper, Binding Buddhas and Demons to Text: The Mongol Invention of the Dorjé Shukden and Trülku Drakpa Gyeltsen Literary Corpus (1913 – 1919), Dr. King concludes that Mongolian spiritual history does not in fact support anti-Dorje Shugden narratives.

Excerpt from the paper “Binding Buddhas and Demons to Text: The Mongol Invention of the Dorjé Shukden and Trülku Drakpa Gyeltsen Literary Corpus (1913 – 1919)” by Dr Matthew W. King, Associate Professor of Transnational Buddhism and Chair of Asian Studies in the Department of Religious Studies, UCal. Click to enlarge or click here to download the complete PDF.

On the contrary, the Dorje Shugden practice was thriving in Mongolia about a hundred years before H.H. Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo was accused of roguishly sparking the propagation of the Shugden practice, which Dharamsala today views to be fundamentalist and violent.

Dr. King observed that Dorje Shugden was regarded as:
…the wellspring of abundances of [Mongolian] scholastic and political life.

And in addition, that Shugden was:
…very much included within [the] ranks of enlightened beings who helped fashion the Qing-Geluk world.


Other Great Mongolian Masters

Besides Zaya Pandita, the same paper by Dr King evinces historic Mongolian worship of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen as an enlightened monk and later in his form as the Protector Dorje Shugden. This worship was not of a casual kind by ordinary Mongolian Buddhists but by the spiritual heavyweights of the time.

Dr King cites the great Mongolian mahasiddha Zava Lam Damdin, who compiled Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen’s collected works and assembled the Dorje Shugden be-bum. Zava Lam Damdin was a master of such high caliber that he had very close ties with the 13th Dalai Lama, and his writings including the Ninj Chimbiin Dodv and Khorchoenjun are regarded by the 14th Dalai Lama to be important reference texts.

Zava Lam Damdin, a Mongolian Mahasiddha whose birthday is celebrated annually as an Mongolian Buddhist event, and was a key proponent of the Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen and Dorje Shugden lineage.

In the Collected Writings of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen, Discovered in the Innermost Recesses of Dzaya Pandita’s Library and Newly Complied Under the Title Flower Earrings, Zava Lam Damdin composed a praise to Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen beseeching him to act on behalf of the Buddha’s teachings and sentient beings in his current form as Dorje Shugden.

Zava Lam Damdin was not alone in his zest to preserve Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen’s legacy.

Another Lama, Darva Pandita Agwangchoijurdondubbalsang facilitated Zava Lam Damdin’s Dorje Shugden related works by financing it, urged on by Zava Lam Damdin’s lama, Minjüürdorj.

In the meantime, Zava Lam Damdin sought transmission of Dorje Shugden rituals from Nyongne Tulku as a Khalkha narrative of Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being evolved beyond Tibetan control.

Dharamsala has claimed that the Dorje Shugden practice is the invention of an extreme and fanatical faction of the Gelug lineage. However, based on historical facts, it is clear that if there had been any invention, then that invention lies with the Tibetan leadership who has usurped a holy and legitimate Mongolian practice and turned it into an ideological weapon to serve a political objective.


Will Mongolians deny their own spiritual heritage?

While incitements such as that by Hunnu Mongol are based on absurdities, they nevertheless have the potential to undermine the foundations of Mongolian Buddhism. To believe Hunnu Mongol, the Mongolian people would essentially have to disown their own rich history.

  1. The Mongolian people would have to denounce both the great saint Sakya Pandita and their own Godan Khan. Mongolian texts speak of how Godan Khan invited the founder of the Sakya lineage, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo to spread the Dharma in Mongolia but he was unable to fulfil that request.
    It was Sachen’s nephew, Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen who agreed to journey to Mongolia. There, he created the first Mongolian alphabet which allowed many precious Buddhist texts to be translated into Mongolian and paved the way for Buddhism to spread in the Mongolian steppes.
    Sakya Pandita was of course one of the past incarnations of the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden.
  2. The Mongolian people would have to denounce Panchen Sonam Drakpa, another past incarnation of Dorje Shugden. It was the great Panchen Sonam Drakpa who recognized the first Mongolian, the great grandson of Altan Khan, to be the rightful 4th Dalai Lama. That, without doubt bestowed tremendous prestige upon the institution of Mongolian Buddhism.
  3. The Mongolian people would have to denounce the Jetsun Dhampa Khutuktu line of incarnations because the first, fourth and eighth Jetsun Dhampas were so closely connected with Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen’s lineage.
  4. The Mongolian people would have to wipe out the legacy of Zaya Pandita, an undoubted fountainhead of Mongolian Buddhist scholasticism. It was Zaya Pandita after all who kept Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen’s legacy from disappearing from the face of the earth.
  5. The Mongolian people would have to turn their backs on the Zava Lam Damdin line, both the past incarnation and the present Zava Damdin Rinpoche who are pillars of Mongolian Buddhism in the past and today.

Sogphu Rinpoche who is also known as Guru Deva Rinpoche, was vital in the reconstruction of the institution Tibetan Buddhism in India and Mongolia. He was a devout practitioner of Dorje Shugden.

  1. The Mongolian people would have to deny Lama Lobsang Tamdin’s great works and his tremendous contribution to Mongolian Buddhism. Lobsang Tamdin authored key texts for the propitiation of Dorje Shugden and perpetuated the belief that Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen’s line of incarnations are emanations of Manjushri.
  2. Lastly, the Mongolian people would have to turn their backs on Guru Deva Rinpoche, also known as Sogpu Rinpoche. Sogpu Rinpoche was recognized as an incarnation of one of the 84 Mahasiddhas and was extremely significant in the rebuilding of the Dalai Lama’s palace in India, the reconstruction of the three great Gelugpa monasteries of Ganden, Sera and Drepung in India, and also the restoration of temples and monk quarters in Mongolia after Buddhism was revived in the early 1990s.

All these great saints, enlightened beings and living pillars of Buddhism are precisely what the Mongolian people will need to rely on as they rebuild their nation and place it on strong grounds. And yet these pillars are precisely what Hunnu Mongol is indirectly asking the people to disown. Hunnu Mongol has very little at stake. He lives in Chicago, a very safe distance from the hostilities and tensions he is inciting. Therefore the Mongolian people owe it to themselves and to future generations to look beyond rhetoric and propaganda, and see the truth with clear eyes.

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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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