Dragshul Trinley Rinchen (1871-1935) – the 39th Sakya Trizin

Traditionally, the Sakya Throne Holders (Sakya Trizins) are considered to be incarnations of divine beings and succession is via a hereditary line, from father to son.

Over the past hundred years, the position of Sakya Trizin evolved to alternate between two “houses” or Phodrangs, called Drolma and Phuntsog. Throughout the Sakya tradition, there has been a lineage of Dorje Shugden emanations which can be traced as far back to Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen (1182-1251), who was one of the five founders of the Sakya tradition.

Kunga Lodro (1729-1783), the 31st Sakya Trizin, was also said to be an emanation of Dorje Shugden. Kunga Lodro was known to have written several significant rituals to Dorje Shugden. In his own biography, he included the quote from the Nyingma Tantra which highlighted that Rinchen Nadun recognised Dorje Shugden as having the same nature as Avalokiteshvara.

Subsequently, Kunga Lodro took rebirth as his own grandson, Kunga Nyingpo (1850-1899), the 37th Sakya Trizin. How that happened was that in 1849, Tashi Rinchen, the 35th Sakya Trizin, was without an heir. Desperate, he requested his father, the Mahasiddha Padma Dudul Wangchuk, who was also the 33rd Sakya Trizin, to perform prayers and rituals for him at Mugchung, a Shugden temple, so that he could have a son as soon as possible.

When there was a break in the rituals, Tashi Rinchen asked the Mahasiddha who would be taking rebirth as his son, the Mahasiddha replied, “nowadays because of the degenerate time, nobody else is coming, Grandpa Shugden is coming as your descendent.”

That made Tashi Rinchen very pleased and he began the tradition of offering many butter lamps, and making offerings of music, with the sounds of horns and trumpets echoing from the roof of the temple during the ninth Tibetan month. Barely a year later, the emanation of Dorje Shugden and Avalokiteshvara, Kunga Nyingpo, was born.

From this illustrious lineage, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen was born in 1871 from the Drolma Phodrang, as the son of Kunga Nyingpo. Dragshul Trinley Rinchen received the Lamdre precepts from Kunga Nyingpo and successfully finished tantric retreats at the tender age of 16.

His teachers included his father Kunga Nyingpo, Dorje Drag Rigdzin Thubten Chowang Nyamnyid Dorje, Ngor Khangsar Ngawang Lodro Shenpen Nyingpo and Jamyang Chokyi Lodro. Before he turned 40 years of age, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen met H.H. the 13th Dalai Lama and was already a respected Dharma teacher in Lhasa. In 1915, he followed his destiny when he became enthroned as the 39th Sakya Trizin.

As can be expected from such an attained incarnate Master, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen was able to recite certain prayers without even having to learn them. His preference was to spend time in retreat, and he regularly had visions of deities such as Vajrayogini and Tara.

In his own autobiography, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen sought to establish that his father, Kunga Nyingpo, was one with Avalokiteshvara. As Kunga Nyingpo was recognised as an emanation of Dorje Shugden, who was also one with Avalokiteshvara, therefore, by logic, he must also be of the same essence as Avalokiteshvara.

Dragshul Trinley Rinchen also used as a reference the Nyingma Tantra Rinchen Nadun, also referred to by Kunga Lodro in his biography, which had stated that, “The one known as Dolgyal is not mistaken on the path to liberation, he is by nature the Great Compassionate One.”

Dragshul Trinley Rinchen perceived Avalokiteshvara as the Lord of Mandalas, who is a fully enlightened Buddha, which implied that Dorje Shugden is also a fully enlightened Buddha. This shows that it is without doubt that these great Sakya masters – the supreme heads of the Sakya tradition – have consistently viewed Dorje Shugden as an enlightened Dharma Protector over many centuries.

Contrary to the view that Dorje Shugden practitioners are sectarian, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen had stated in his biography that many lamas from different Buddhist traditions had visited him on many different occasions.

Of particular note in the autobiography is the visit by H.H. Pabongkha Rinpoche around 1905, where it was recorded that Dragshul Trinley Rinchen gave Pabongkha Rinpoche several initiations, which included the Four-Face Mahakala empowerment. Pabongkha Rinpoche kept this Four Face Mahakala practice close to his heart, as can be seen in the many rituals of this deity which are referred to in Pabongkha Rinpoche’s collected works.

There was much mutual respect between these two high lamas as Dragshul Trinley Rinchen spoke highly of Pabongkha Rinpoche in his autobiography. Around 1930, Pabongkha Rinpoche, who is a Vajrayogini master himself, sent five monks from Sera Monastery to receive a transmission of a particular Vajrayogini practice from Dragshul Trinley Rinchen.

Dragshul Trinley Rinchen gave several transmissions and initiations around 1915. These included the oral transmission of Swirl of Perfect Sense Offerings, an important ritual of Dorje Shugden written by Kunga Lodro.

It is of particular note that Pabongkha Rinpoche had incorporated practically word for word, the extended fulfillment section of this ritual from the Swirl of Perfect Sense Offerings in his renowned ritual to Dorje Shugden, the Melodious Drum Victorious in All Directions.

To date, there have been no other Dorje Shugden rituals in the Gelug tradition which have been adopted directly from Swirl of Perfect Sense Offerings. Aside from a few unique descriptions of Dorje Shugden and references to other Gelug rituals to Dorje Shugden in Pabongkha Rinpoche’s Melodious Drum, the practice is almost identical to Kunga Lodro’s practice.

To show how important Dorje Shugden was in Dragshul Trinley Rinchen’s practice, his autobiography recorded periodic rituals performed for Dorje Shugden and references to rituals performed at Mug Chung, the Shugden protector house in Sakya. He also recorded the times when Dorje Shugden came into trance through an oracle.

As can be seen in the list below of Sakya Trizins who were Dorje Shugden practitioners, it is completely illogical that the current H.H. Sakya Trizin now says that Dorje Shugden is an unenlightened protector. The only reason must be political, in order to keep the peace with H.H. the Dalai Lama.

A list of the supreme heads of the Sakya Lineage who viewed Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being:

  • 30th Sakya Throneholder Sonam Rinchen (1705-1741)
  • 31st Throneholder Sachen Kunga Lodro (1729-1783)
  • 33rd Throneholder Padma Dudul Wangchug (1792-1853)
  • 35th Throneholder Tashi Rinchen (1824-1865)
  • 37th Throneholder Kunga Nyingpo (1850-1899)
  • 39th Throneholder Dragshul Thinley Rinchen (1871-1936)

Dragshul Trinley Rinchen (1871–1936), the 39th Sakya Trizin, was a strong practitioner of Dorje Shugden. Researching his family history, he even proved that his holy father, the 37th Sakya Trizin Kunga Nyingpo (1850–1899), was an emanation of Dorje Shugden.

The 39th Sakya Trizin Dragshul Trinley Rinchen (1871–1936), head of the Sakya lineage, was a strong practitioner of Dorje Shugden. He is known for spreading the practice of Dorje Shugden within the Sakya tradition.



Zasep Tulku Rinpoche’s autobiography ‘A Tulku’s Journey from Tibet to Canada’, published in 2016, provides historical evidence and irrefutable proof that the Central Tibetan Administration is falsifying the facts when it comes to the practice of the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden.

The autobiography of Zasep Tulku Rinpoche, a high lama of the Gelug lineage, provides accurate historical accounts of the Dorje Shugden practice. Click to enlarge.

The back cover of the book, click to enlarge.



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Historical accounts show that prior to the politicization of the Dorje Shugden practice by the Central Tibetan Administration, this popular deity was relied upon by Dharma practitioners to help in their spiritual practice. Contrary to detractors’ claims about Dorje Shugden being ‘anti-Dharma’, this Dharma Protector practice was traditionally deemed to be suitable to be practiced alongside the Highest Yoga Tantras.



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Zasep Rinpoche and his family were able to escape to safety prior to the events of 1959 through the clairvoyance and prophetic advice of Dorje Shugden through one of his oracles, Lama Gelong Chojor Gyamtso.



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Oracles of the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden were known for the accuracy of their prophecies due to Dorje Shugden being a fully enlightened deity with perfect clairvoyance. As stated clearly by Zasep Rinpoche in his autobiography ‘A Tulku’s Journey from Tibet to Canada’, Dorje Shugden warned the Tibetans of the impending loss of their homeland but his advice was mostly ignored by the Tibetan government.

The Tibetan government chose to consult the worldly state protector Nechung, and Nechung advised that the Dalai Lama should remain in Tibet where he would be safe. This was mistaken advice, as historical events would later show. Fortunately for Tibetan Buddhists all around the world, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang had great faith in Dorje Shugden and consulted the protector for advice on the Dalai Lama’s safety. Dorje Shugden via the Panglung Oracle urgently adviced the Dalai Lama to leave for India immediately and gave the exact escape route. In saving the Dalai Lama from certain harm, Dorje Shugden prevented the destruction of Tibetan Buddhism and preserved the future of the Tibetan culture and people.

Zasep Rinpoche’s account of events concur with monastic records that it was indeed Dorje Shugden who saved the Dalai Lama instead of Nechung, contrary to the claims of the Tibetan leadership.



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Dorje Shugden’s practice was first established within the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Sakya Throneholders regarded this Dharma Protector as an enlightened being and Dorje Shugden, together with Dorje Setrab and Tsiu Marpo formed the triune of Sakya Protectors known as Gyalpo Sum. Today, Sakya practitioners claim that Dorje Shugden was never widely practiced by their lineage but history proves otherwise. The undeniable fact is that before the CTA’s religious ban, Dorje Shugden was practiced first by the Sakyas and was later transmitted to the Gelug school where it was practiced by the majority of the Gelugpas.



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Contrary to the CTA’s claims that Dorje Shugden’s practice is sectarian, Zasep Rinpoche’s autobiography shows how practitioners of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism lived and practiced together in harmony, especially during the early years of exile in India. It was only when the CTA launched a virulent smear campaign against Dorje Shugden that the general public began to label Dorje Shugden a sectarian practice. In truth, Dorje Shugden’s practice is no more sectarian than the practices of other Dharma Protectors such as Mahakala Bernagchen, Achi Chokyi Drolma or Dorje Legpa, who protect the Karma Kagyu, Drikung Kagyu and Nyingma schools respectively.



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By the 1980s, the Tibetan government had failed to fulfil multiple promises to return the Tibetan people to their homeland. A scapegoat was needed and they made one out of an ancient Buddhist practice, pinning the loss of Tibet and the failure of the Tibetan cause on Dorje Shugden. In his autobiography, Zasep Rinpoche is of the same opinion, stating that “…the [Dorje Shugden] controversy was orchestrated by the Tibetan Central Administration…”

The Tibetan leadership effectively sanctioned witch-hunts on Dorje Shugden practitioners and persecuted them using government instruments, declaring that simply by being a Shugden worshipper, one was effectively an enemy of the Tibetan nation.

As a result of the hatred against Dorje Shugden practitioners instigated by the Tibetan leadership, virtually all Shugden Buddhists had to fear for their lives, or at least for their safety.



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Dorje Shugden’s beneficial practice has continued to thrive due to the courage and commitment of high lamas such as Zasep Tulku Rinpoche.



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For centuries, Dorje Shugden has been practiced alongside the highest practices of the Gelug and Sakya lineages. Zasep Tulku Rinpoche’s list of transmission is an indication that the highest scholars viewed the Protector as an enlightened being compatible with their yidam practices.

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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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