Author Topic: Background on 2 different methods of relying on Dharmapalas  (Read 3111 times)


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Dear Friends,

I want to share a couple things on the various ways of relying on Dharmapalas. There appears to be some confusion on this subject due to lack of background knowledge, and so some arguments have arisen such as in the Pictures thread on this site. By no means do I understand all that I'd like on this subject, but I am inspired to share some things I do know from reading and from oral transmissions I've received.

There are many different ways to rely on Protectors, and some of these ways are more intense, serious, have special commitments, or require deeper experience of the 3 principal aspects and the two tantric stages. However, for simplicity I would say there are 2 categories: 1) Asking for help, and 2) Controlling and Commanding the Dharmapala to fulfill their oaths and accomplish the 4 types of action we require.

The first way is the main method used by most people and it isn't even really explained as one of many ways to rely, it is simply a given - we are humbled in the presence of the Dharmapala and ask for their assistance as someone would ask a friend for help. This is beautiful, and probably the best approach in general until we develop deeper experience of the 3 principal aspects (renunciation, bodhichitta, wisdom experience of emptiness) and at least the generation stage of Highest Yoga Tantra.

The second way was mentioned and caused quite a stir in the Pictures section on this site. It is understandable people would respond defensively when you consider the delicate aspects of the controversy and arguments saying the Great King Dorje Shugden is a malevolent spirit. In the aforementioned thread, someone named Mitchell explains that he has a recording of Zong Rinpoche saying to 'control Dorje Shugden and not let him take you over', and people insisted this was garbage. However, please consider the following links and points carefully, because there actually is a more advanced way of relying on Dharmapalas that involves Controlling and Commanding them. Such an approach is not reserved for exclusively controlling and commanding worldly Protectors and spirits, but an advanced method for accomplishing the 4 actions more powerfully. I am not making things up, but sharing what I have received orally from Lamas and read by qualified translators.

So, first of all we have this supposed comment by H.E.Zong Rinpoche. Also, we can consider that these 2 ways of relying on Dharmapalas can be applied to other rituals where we are emphasizing the 4 actions. Examples of this are things such as Gektor rituals (obstacle-dispelling tormas) offered at the beginning of initiations and close retreats, fire pujas of the 4 actions, and the 4 actions emphasized through use of the wrathful Deities of the Command Wheel in Vajrabhairava practice. In general, there is an asking approach as a practitioner where we don't have divine pride, and a more commanding approach where we have divine pride and command or accomplish the 4 types of actions.

Secondly, we have this excerpt from a teaching by Je Pabongkhapa Dechen Nyingpo when explaining Life-entrustment:

Pabongkha Rinpoche wrote:
"I have written this at the request of Shugden, because in the past there was a tradition of Sogde (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, damaru, 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. …Though there are so many different traditions and philosophies in Tibet, only this tradition of Tsongkhapa is the supreme, the top of the victory banner, the most complete, the essence of the teaching. … To bring Shugden into one’s own service is a very powerful blessing. In order to receive this initiation the disciples visualize themselves as the yidam (Vajrabhairava) and as such invoke and control Shugden. The dharmapala (Shugden) is presented to the disciples as the one who abides by their commands."

In oral commentaries on practices related to Palden Lhamo and Kalarupa, the late Je Tsering Lotsawa (David Gonsalez of Dechen Ling Press) explained that traditionally speaking, it is important that the practitioner self-generate as a Yidam that is more wrathful than the Dharmapala being propitiated (such as Vajrabhairava, Hayagriva Sangdrup, Sumbaraja, Heruka or Vajrayogini) in order to powerfully command them to fulfill their oaths and any of the four actions that we require of them. Also, he says we as the Yidam should be larger than the Dharmapalas, and they are to be visualized lower than us on the North-Eastern petal of the lotus of our mandala or outside and lower than our celestial mansion. It is not that Vajrabhairava is Higher than Dorje Shugden for instance, especially since they are the same being, but it is simply showing an emphasis of the Controlling and Commanding approach. To take this approach, he explains that it is very important that we have a good intention free of worldly concern through gaining experience of the three principal aspects of the path, and that we also have particularly strong confidence that we are the actual Yidam, which is made possible through correct experience of emptiness. In such an instant, there is no such thought as 'I'm not really a Buddha, just a lowly practitioner with worldly concern'. The genuine experience of deity yoga does away with such conceptualizations, with the exception of purification rituals in which one maintains clear appearance of being the Yidam but reduces divine pride. Commanding Protectors to fulfill their oaths and the 4 actions we require is also a powerful ritual in the Vajrabhairava Command Wheel and many amazing results have been seen through such powerful methods of Command.

If you are not even comfortable with the mere idea of the approach I've explained, just forget about it and rely on the Dharmapalas as you usually do. But know that there is another advanced way to approach it when you have prepared internally for this. Please do not feel I am implying that the approach of humbly asking for help is not powerful and effective. Even in that instance using such a humble beautiful approach, we do so by starting out saying 'I have the clarity of the Yidam', but as may often be the case, the practitioner is conceiving themselves to be ordinary in the ordinary environment and they are asking for help, and that is also totally valid and fine. H.E.Tsem Tulku Rinpoche has even composed some ritual prayers for anybody to do Dorje Shugden prayers, even people with no experience of Dharma or who are from other religions. How beautiful and kind of him! But, know that it is not sufficient to remain ordinary forever, that we should try to improve, and that a time will come in the course of your spiritual journey when you are ready to use and understand the approach of Commanding the Dharmapalas.

For further reading to support this Command approach, please read the following article by Alex Berzin:

As for being controlled or taken over by the Dharmapala, that simply means that when you emphasize the command method, you should not allow yourself to lose the divine pride from which you are commanding actions. In general it is wonderful to allow ourselves to be controlled by the Dharmapalas because we are humble, and recognizing their Enlightened nature as one with the Guru, we are delighted for them to take control and lead us in the right direction. Our heart already belongs to them! But, in another sense, their heart also belongs to us because in the life-entrustment ritual they promise the Guru to take care of us our entire lives until enlightenment and so they have entrusted their heart to us. It is worth noting that in the more simple Dorje Shugden jenang given in the NKT, though it is not called a Life-entrustment empowerment and does not carry the heavier commitments of such, the Lama does request and essentially command the Protector to take special care of us until we attain enlightenment, so in this sense, even the NKT ritual is a type of life-entrustment. So beautiful!

Please understand there's nothing I've said here that has not been explained by the Lamas. I've shared it to help clarify some misunderstandings, and to share some wonderful things with fellow practitioners. I hope somebody has found it useful.

Homage to the Lama, source of the most precious opportunity we'll ever have, ever!