A talk on Shugden by H.H. the Dalai Lama during the course of religious teachings in Dharamsala, during October 1997
There may be many among you who have never been involved in the practice of Dolgyal at all. In many other cases you may have practised it in the past, but have later given it up. With the hope of strengthening your sense of conviction about this, I have brought with me some statements made by lamas in the past. I am going to read them out to you.
In the letters and statements that they have recently distributed, proponents of Dolgyal (also known as Shugden) assert that this issue should be understood on two levels - on an interpretable level and on a definitive level. They say, for instance, that even the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) composed a prayer for assistance (‘phrin ‘chol) addressed to Dolgyal. Of course, it is difficult for us to prove convincingly whether it belongs to the Fifth Dalai Lama or not.
The Collected Works of the Fifth Dalai Lama are classified into three sections: the five outer volumes, the twenty-five inner volumes, the secret or Kagyama volumes, which consist of the Extensive Secret Visions or Sangwa Gyachen. Previously, this last volume existed only in handwritten form, not in a printed edition. However, eventually it has been published in print.
There are outer, inner and secret sections to the Fifth Dalai Lama's works, but among them you will not find a single ‘prayer for assistance’ addressed to Dolgyal written by the Fifth Dalai Lama. However, let us allow for the possibility that there are some texts by the Fifth Dalai Lama which escaped the notice of the compilers.
Regarding the Fifth Dalai Lama’s open statement about Dolgyal, folio 157 (front and back) of the autobiography of the Fifth Dalai Lama called the Heavenly Garment (Dukulai Gosang), Volume Kha, Lhasa edition, says:
It is well known that at Dol Chumig Karmo (Dol Chumig Karmo is Shugden’s place of origin, where a shrine was constructed to him. He is also referred to as Dolgyal because he is a Gyalpo from Dol Chumig Karmo. Gyalpo is a class of interfering spirit. Since Shugden belongs to this group, he is also called Gyalchen, the great Gyalpo) a very powerful perfidious spirit (dam sri, the spirit of one who has deliberately breached his oath or commitment to his lama out of resentment and dissension), born due to distorted prayers, has been harming the teaching of the Buddha and sentient beings in general and in particular. The harmful activity has intensified since the Fire-bird (year), 1657, and (the spirit) has been successful in many of his missions. But, as if this did not concern them, hardly anyone has taken any action. At the end of the Earth-bird (year), 1669, a new house was constructed at Dol Chumig Karmo and articles were placed there in the hope that it would become a place for the Gyalpo to settle.
[ H.H. - So, it appears that attempts were made in the beginning to appease it by peaceful means.]
However, his harmful activities only intensified and recently many lay and ordained people have been afflicted with diseases and several monks have died. Therefore, all the monks unanimously decided that a fire ritual should be performed.
Consequently, two groups of practitioners were organised. One was led by Nagrampa Dhondup Gyatsho, who acted as the Vajra Acharya of (a performance of) the Dorje Drolo ritual and the other was led by Nangjung Ngagchang Losang Khyentse, who acted as the Vajra Acharya of (a performance of the) Yangsang Karma Dragpo ritual. Likewise Rigzin Pema Thinley of Dorje Drag, Dharma King Terdag Lingpa, Vugja Lungpa, Drigung Tulku Rinpoche, Katshal Zurpa Ngari Konchok Lhundup and Palri Tulku performed the Wrathful Lama, Yama, Phurba, Loktri practice for seven days, at the conclusion of which a fire ritual was performed, during which the 'perfidious spirit’ and his entourage were burnt. Everybody was convinced (of its success because of) the wonderful signs that appeared and the smell of burning flesh that they all witnessed. Thus, many sentient beings were explicitly granted the gift of fearlessness, because their lives were saved. And indirectly these creatures (‘byung po means creature or evil spirit) were delivered to the peaceful state of being, released from having to experience the intolerable suffering of bad states of rebirth due to their increasingly negative actions.
At that time a declaration (zur dpang, refers to the testimony or deposition of a witness) was issued to indicate that these creatures or evil spirits were without protection and refuge. (Consequently), the Dardhingpas of Dorje Drag Monastery compiled mantras. As a religious practice for the deceased, Sera and Drepung Monasteries performed the Prayer of the White Umbrella Deity 44,000 times and recited the Heart Sutra 118,000 times during eleven sessions during which tea was offered in each monastery. As an offering for the recitations, gold coins equal to the value of two khals (about 27 kgs) of wheat were given to each monk. At sixty-seven other well-disciplined monasteries in the neighbourhood, tea and gold coins to the value of one khal (about 13.5 kgs) of wheat were offered to each monk with a request that they perform the White Umbrella Prayer as many times as possible for the deceased. At Yerpa, the Gyuto monks performed the prayer of appeasement of Gonpo (Mahakala) and Choegyal (Dharmaraja) 693 times, Tenma 1,121,800 times, and the Sixty Section Ritual Cake Offering to Overcome Evil (Drug chu pa’i gTor dog). At Choekhor Gyal they performed rituals to (Palden Lhamo) Magzorma, to Gonpo Gur (Panjaranath Mahakala; Mahakala, Lord of the Tent) and Gonpo Shel (Chatramukha Mahakala; Four Faced Mahakala, and to Begtse and at Gatshal they performed the prayer for appeasing the Dharma protectors in general, 10,000 times and the prayers of the Six Armed (Mahakala), Karmayama (Le-shin) and Vaishravana (rNam sre) 1000 times. At 11 district capitals they performed the Prayer for Invoking the Spirit of the Deity to Vanquish the Enemy (dgra-lha-dpangs-bstod) and other practices to appease local deities and spirits.
So, the number and types of prayers that were performed are listed. It is also mentioned that when the exorcism was performed the Fifth Dalai Lama himself issued a declaration (zur dpang) calling on the assembly of Dharma protectors to be just witnesses to the exorcism of this forsaken spirit. This is what appears in the Heavenly Garment.
Regarding the declaration which was written at that time, below is a translation of the testimony that the Fifth Dalai Lama mentions in his autobiography. The original Tibetan can be found on page 148 front and back (English pages 423 and 424) of the volume Da of his Collected Works published in Gangtok, Sikkim.
"Because of the clever manipulations of Lak Ahgyal of Gekhasa , the false reincarnation of Tulku Sonam Geleg Palzang (Tulku Dakpa Gyaltsen) was successful (in being recognised as the reincarnation). But because of distorted prayers he became a perfidious spirit (dam sri) and brought serious harm to sentient beings.
[H.H.- Gekhasa was the location of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen's (1617-56) birthplace. Lak Ahgyal was the name of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen’s mother. She seems to have been a very capable women. To begin with there had even been a rumour that her son was the reincarnation of Gyalwa Yonten Gyatso (the Fourth Dalai Lama). Gekhasa is probably in Toelung. Therefore, the text says, "because Lak Ahgyal was so clever and skilful the false reincarnation of Tulku Sonam Geleg Palzang was successful".
Tulku Sonam Gelek Palsang was the reincarnation of Dho-Ngag Rabjam M’awa Panchen Sonam Drakpa (1478-1554). Then, because of Ahgyal's skilful manipulation Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen came to be known as the reincarnation of Gelek Palsang. However, this text states that he was indeed a mistaken and false reincarnation. When the text says "he was successful" it means that even though he was the false reincarnation, he succeeded in maintaining his position as the real incarnation. Then it says,]
But because of distorted prayers he became a perfidious spirit (dam sri) and brought serious harm to sentient beings. Therefore, a total of seven groups of practitioners led by (Pema Trinley) Rinpoche of Dorje Drag, Choegyal Terdag Lingpa, Choeje Vugja Lungpa, Ngari Ngagchang Konchok Lhundup, Palri Tulku and two groups of practitioners of Phende Legshe Ling (Namgyal Dratsang) performed a ritual fire offering and burnt the interfering spirit. This is the declaration I have written at that time:
To the deities, Legden, Chagdrug, Leshin and Magzor,
To the oathbound protectors Gongzhi, Gonpo, Chamsre and Begtse, etc.
Who have been propitiated and whose practice (has been done)
I offer this sublime libation.
The so-called Dragpa Gyaltsen pretends to be a sublime being, even though
he is not,
And since this interfering spirit and creature of distorted prayers
Is harming everything - both the dharma and sentient beings -
Do not support, protect or give him shelter, but grind him to dust.
To the female protectors like Nodjin Yangghaza, etc. and Gyalpo Ku-nga, Khyabjug, Dorje Leg and particularly Nechung and his entourage
I offer this sublime libation.
The so-called Dragpa Gyaltsen pretends to be a sublime being, even though he is not,
And since this interfering spirit and creature of distorted prayers
Is harming everything - both the dharma and sentient beings -
Do not support, protect or give him shelter, but grind him to dust.
To the seven Barwa brothers like Tse-marpa etc.
And likewise Setrab of Sangphu etc.- the wrathful gods and spirits among
whom this negative spirit seeks support -
I offer this sublime libation.
The so-called Dragpa Gyaltsen pretends to be a sublime being, even though he is not,
And since this interfering spirit and creature of distorted prayers
Is harming everything - both the dharma and sentient beings -
Do not support, protect or give him shelter, but grind him to dust.
Having agreed before the root and lineage lama Vajra Dharas
To increase what is good and beneficial to sentient beings and the dharma,
If you protect this perfidious spirit,
Will you not cause your own past pledges to degenerate?
There are groups of interfering spirits who display inopportune miracles
In the form of human sickness, cattle disease, hailstorms, famine and drought.
May their power and ability
Their body, speech and mind be smashed into tiny particles.
So, this is the declaration issued by the Fifth Dalai Lama. It is quite strongly worded.
Next, is the Sangwa Gyachen, which is also the secret autobiography of the Fifth Dalai Lama and is included in the Kagyama section of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s Collected Works. A printed edition of the Tsagoe was eventually published in Delhi in 1972 by the Ladakhi doctor Sonam Wangdu. In the Pure Visions section of the the Fifth Dalai Lama’s Sangwa Gyachen there are twenty-five sub-sections. Among them, in the Vase Gyachen, we find the following:
As I was listening to these words, the great Acharya, holding a Khatvanga in his right hand and with his left hand in a threatening gesture, flanked by two dakinis, spoke as follows:
There is no difference between me and Avalokiteshvara
Without involving in too much chatter
Put into practice what I showed you earlier
In order to dispel obstacles, perform the dispelling ritual of the White Umbrella deity and Charka and the previously described Lukdril.
(H.H.- From this point on it is written in cypher (Trukyig). It goes like this.) A fire ritual was performed at the site of the Upper Palace in Drepung.
H.H.- This indicates that there was some problem with the Upper Palace. This is what we find in the the Vase Gyachen.
Again, in another division of the Sangwa Gyachen called the Drithue Gyachen, we find the following:
On the first day of the female Earth- Bird year, at Drepung, a black woman the size of a mountain placed her right foot on the Upper Palace, and her left foot on the Choekorling at Drepung. There was a haze of dust.
This also shows that the Upper Palace was marked by controversy. Therefore, the claim by Dolgyal practitioners that there exists a prayer propitiating Shugden composed by the Fifth Dalai Lama is unlikely to be true. Even if it were considered to have been written by the Fifth Dalai Lama, it must have been written during the initial period (of this affair) when he has stated himself that he tried skilfully to employ peaceful methods. Nevertheless, while we may accept (the assertion that he did write such a prayer) as true, usually when we are confronted with a situation in which we have to decide which of two options is correct - for example, between a statement made by the Buddha earlier in his life and another that was made later- according to the Vinaya, the later statement is considered more reliable than the former. So, the later a statement was made the more importance is attributed to it. Therefore, even if we accept that the propitiation prayer does belong to the Fifth Dalai Lama, what he said distinctly, clearly and emphatically during the later stages of his life must be considered as of overriding importance. So, this is how the Fifth Dalai Lama was involved.
Next, the collected works of Thueken Lobsang Choekyi Nyima (1737-1802) contain a biography of Changkya Rolpai Dorje (1717-86). The biography describes how Changkya Rolpai Dorje travelled to Lhasa from Amdo. It reads as follows:
One day, he (Changkya Rolpai Dorje) went out to make a circumambulation of the monastery (H.H.- this is at Ganden) and as he reached the right corner of the mountain behind Ganden he became aware of the smell of a great (column) incense smoke rising from the village that lay down below on the floor of the valley. He asked,”What is the name of that village?” Someone familiar with the area told him, “It's called Thagye.” (“Tha” means edge and “Gye” means expand. So, together, it means “the edge expands.”) He responded, “That is an auspicious sign” and seemed to be very pleased. “This, I think is an extremely good sign that due to the grace and kindness of Je Lama himself the tradition of Gyalwa Tsongkhapa will spread and flourish in all places, at all times.”
Then, as he continued his circumambulation, a tantric Geshe accompanying him explained the stories associated with each and every one of the many naturally formed stone images of deities, mantras, and hand and foot imprints on stones that were lying above and below on the sides of the road. In particular, he was shown a stone on which there was a very clear image of Tsongkhapa, which was said to have formed during the time of the Seventh Dalai Lama.
[H.H.-I don't remember this. Do any of you know about this? An image of Tsongkhapa which was said to have appeared during the time of the Seventh Dalai Lama. Which direction is it in? The direction from which the Thirteenth Dalai Lama extracted Tsongkhapa's hat from its treasury is in the East.]
Then they sighted a footprint which was not attributed to anyone in particular. At that point, Je Lama (Changkya Rolpai Dorje) jokingkly said, “this foot print probably belongs to a Nyingmapa. So, those of you who are followers of Phurbuchog had better avoid it. At that point, Thueken Rinpoche said, if a Nyingmapa is able to leave his footprint at the seat of Je Tsongkhapa, then I should also be able to leave a foot print on the jewelled ground of Sukhavati. That made everybody burst into laughter.[He just boasted a little as a joke.]
Later, when they looked into it, they found that there was a saying that the footprint belonged to Khonton.
[H.H. - Do any of you know about this?]
Then he went to the place where Machen was propitiated. Since, Je Lama (Tsongkhapa) and his disciples didn't propitiate worldly spirits, even the spirit belonging to Je Lama's (Tsongkhapa’s) own birthplace was not given a place within the circumambulatory limits.
[H.H. - What I want to say starts from here.]
Previously, some Ganden Throneholders propitiated Dolgyal and inauspicious events took place. Consequently, Trichen Dorje Chang (Trichen Ngawang Chokden 1677-1751) [here it very clearly states that the spirit was Dolgyal] destroyed the images of him and so forth and banished him from the premises of the monastery. Then, he went to Lambar and Lhasa and repeatedly said, “This time I went to Ganden and was able to do something extraordinary”.
This is what appears in the biography of Changkya Rolpai Dorje, composed by Thueken Rinpoche.
Trichen Ngawang Chokden was the root guru of the 7th Dalai Lama and an extremely great being. He was from Amdo, so we are from the same region of Tibet, and he became the first Reting Rinpoche. He was really an incredibly great being. It was he who was responsible for making Gyalchog Kalsang Gyatso what he was. These two, both Lama and disciple, had great devotion for each other. I am moved to tears, particularly when I reach the point in Gyalchog Kalsang (Gyatso’s) biography where Trichen Rinpoche says he doesn't want anything except Reting. When the time came for him to leave for Reting, Gyalchog Kalsang requested him to stay a little longer. But, Trichen Rinpoche says, “Now, I will go”. Then Trichen Rinpoche mounts his horse and sets off. According to past accounts, there was a place in the Potala called the Wanglatang. That’s where Trichen Rinpoche left from and as he began his descent, Gyalchok Kalsang watched him from the window of Wanglatang. It is really moving, because they both wept.
Anyway, I have been wondering what we might find in Trichen Ngawang Chokden’s biography. There is one by Changkya Rolpai Dorje. At first I thought there must be a biography of Trichen Ngawang Chogden by Gyalchog Kalsang as Trichen was his root lama, but there isn’t. He probably didn’t have time to write one. However, he instructed Changkya Rolpai Dorje to write Trichen’s biography instead. So, this is what we find on page 67 of the biography of Trichen Ngawang Chokden composed by Changkya:
Previously, a very vicious and evil spirit (it is not specifically stated that the spirit is Dolgyal, but it is clear from Changkya’s biography that the spirit referred to is Dolgyal. It also refers to the time when Trichen Ngawang Chokden was the Ganden Throne-holder,) possessed a man at Draksep. Some unstable lamas, former abbots, and monastic hostels (khangtsens) did practice in relation to it simply by invoking and propitiating it. A cairn for invoking spirits had also been erected on top of the Jangtse mountain. Considering how inappropriate was this turn of events he issued an edict to the assembly of monks that as there had been no tradition of propitiating worldly spirits and protectors within the premises of this seat of learning since the time of Je Tsongkhapa, henceforth, nobody would be allowed to engage in such activities. The cairn was demolished (this is very clearly stated in the biography of Changkya) and the stones and earth were returned to the places from which they had been taken. The spirit was invoked through a medium in trance and was then ordered not to come through such trances henceforth. Dolgyal replied, “If this is the order of Tri Rinpoche, I have no choice but to leave.” Then, the ghostly spirit fled to Taktse Shol. Je (Trichen Ngawang Chokden) himself went into retreat. He made it a rule that the prayer to Dharmaraja composed by the Omniscient Gedun Gyatso (the second Dalai Lama), should be said in the Main Hall of Ganden. Due to Dharmaraja’s wrath the Lamas and former abbots who had been propitiating the spirit were killed and the monastic hostels also suffered many misfortunes. Consequently, such misdeeds entirely ceased and the action that had been taken became an excellent cause for maintaining the purity of the monastery.”
This account appears in the biography of Trichen (Ngawang Chokden) composed by Changkya Rolpai Dorje, which can be found among Changkya’s Collected Works. It is clearly stated below that this account refers to Dolgyal. However, here it just refers to the Gyengong (ghostly spirit). The text’s reference to the activities of some “unstable lamas, former abbots, and monastic hostels (khangtsens)” prior to Trichen Ngawang Chokden’s becoming the Ganden Throne-holder, is confirmed in the works of Phurchog Ngawang Jampa.
This is what we find in the Catalogue of the Three Monastic Seats composed by Phurchok Ngawang Jampa:
Thus, at the time when Je (Tsongkhapa) himself was alive, apart from those dharma protectors who are bound by oath and are mentioned in the tantras themselves, no objects for propitiating or seeking the slightest help of harmful negative worldly spirits who are ghosts, was ever installed within the premises of this monastic seat. As a result, all the members of the community, both Lamas and disciples lived in harmony and the tradition of study and practice flourished. Even (the cairn) to the spirit of Tsongkhapa's birth place was placed outside the monastery. However, nowadays, many people who consider themselves to be followers of Tsongkhapa, and who adopt the three robes of a fully ordained Buddhist monk, go for refuge in ghostly spirits. They will have to face the consequence of meeting with great misfortune.”
This account is a very clear. We can compare how things developed later with how they were in the beginning. When Phurchok Ngawang Jampa prepared his Catalogue of the Three Monastic Seats, he describes how things were previously. When Tsongkhapa was alive there was no occasion for the propitiation of worldly spirits whatsoever. However, he complains, for some time since then, even in this monastery (Ganden), some people, who claim to be followers of Tsongkhapa and who wear the three robes of a fully ordained Buddhist monk, go for refuge in ghosts. As a result, even though there was previously great harmony and purity at Ganden, later because of such activities, many inauspicious events have occurred. This is what Phurchok Ngawang Jampa clearly explained.
Subsequently, when Trichen Ngawang Chokden became the Ganden Throne-holder, because Phurchok Ngawang Jampa was not on the throne, he had no authority and was unable to do anything more that criticise. However, both he and Trichen Ngawang Chokden were from Sera Je, as you all know. Trichen Ngawang Chokden records that when he came to Lhasa from Amdo, Phurchok Ngawang Jampa was known as the Lhopa Khampa (because of where he came from), renowned as one of the top students in dialectics. This is recorded in Trichen Ngawang Chokden's biography. Later, they became guru and disciple, but from the point of view of age, they were contemporaries. That is why it is very likely that when they occasionally met Phurchok Ngawang Jampa would have raised this issue with Trichen Rinpoche.
As far as Phurchok Ngawang Jampa was concerned, as he was not the Ganden Throne-holder, there was nothing he could do except complain. Whereas, Trichen Ngawang Chokden, who was both the Ganden Throne-holder, and the tutor of the seventh Dalai Lama, used his authority to prohibit the practice of propitiating negative worldly spirits and ordered the destruction of the temples for propitiating such spirits.
Moreover, the words of the text quite clearly show that Tri-Rinpoche, by invoking Choegyal (Dharmaraja), virtually killed those who had misbehaved. That this all refers to Dolgyal can be established by the passages found in Changkya Rolpai Dorje’s text. This is why the statements in the letters of enquiry sent by the previous Dalai Lama to Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche, stating that “physically putting on the three robes and then taking refuge in ghostly spirits is not correct”, turns out to be absolutely accurate. These things were not written by me, nor do they only appear in new editions, they appear in editions that were produced in Tibet.
During the past sixty years the practice of Dolgyal became very widespread. Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche was really an incredibly great master. As I always say, he is virtually the supreme holder of the Stages of the Path (Lam rim) and Mind Training (Lo jong) traditions. But with regard to Dolgyal he seems to have made mistakes. Rinpoche himself was a highly realized being. He was capable of enthralling anything - human or non human - at will and so call on their assistance. That is quite possible, but it is a different matter (from seeking ordinary assistance). Trijang Rinpoche was also an exception. However, it is a great and dangerous mistake for those following them simply to imitate what these lamas did. Although Dragyab Tokden Rinpoche was an incalculably great master of the Stages of the Path, following Phabongkha's visit to different areas of Kham, he went too far with regard to the Dolgyal Practice. As a result, many difficulties connected with religious sectarianism arose in Kham. Likewise, many controversial incidents took place in parts of Utsang and Lhoka, which even today many older persons can clearly recount.
Evidence of this can be glimpsed in the writings of the Amdo scholar and lama, Tseten Shabdrug. There is one part where he tells the story of his root lama Alak Jigme Damchoe. The text was printed in book form in Tibet. Alak Jigme Damchoe's two volume commentary to Tsongkhapa’s Essence of Eloquent Explanation (Dra-nge Lek-she Nying-po), is probably the most extensive commentary on it to date. Therefore, he was an extremely great scholar. But his greatest contribution was probably his Great Commentary of Jigje Tokdun. He himself said that this text was his greatest achievement and it does indeed look remarkably good. So, this is what we find in the biography of this great master, composed by Tseten Shabdrung:
On this occasion, the excellent scholar known as Chokyi Lodroe, the illuminator of the Nyingma school and the reincarnated tulku of the incomparable Jamyang Khyentse,
[H.H.- Khyentse Choekyi Lodroe was actually a Sakyapa from Derge, but had trained in all four traditions)
even though I didn’t know him
[H.H.- They hadn't met each other until then]
sent me a gift and an accompanying letter from Derge Menchoe Dzongsar Gon. The letter reads:
“When I heard about you, I felt great joy. I thought that I probably have a connection with you from past lives. Much as I wish to meet you in person I am (unable to because I am) by the force of karma sick and am at a very distant place. So, there is nothing I can do, although I continue to offer prayers (that we might meet) in my mind. Some of the followers of Ven. Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo Rinpochey engaged in heated argument over the systems of philosophical tenets of the New and the Ancient traditions. They engaged in many mistaken activities such as destroying images of Padmasambhava and other peaceful and wrathful deities. They said that reciting the mantra of the Vajra Guru is of no value and would destroy the Padma Kathang (by burning it or throwing it into rivers.) Similarly, they asserted that turning Mani prayer wheels, observing weekly prayers for the deceased, and so forth are of no purpose and so placed many on the path of wrong view.
“They held Gyalpo Shugden as the supreme refuge and the embodiment of all the Three Jewels.
[This does not mean that he himself held Shugden as the embodiment of all Three Jewels. Rather, he is critically reporting what these people are doing. Generally in Sakya tradition Gyalpo Shugden is depicted as riding a horse. So, it is classed among the spirits (Tsen) and isn't regarded as if it is the embodiment of all three objects of refuge.]
“Many monks from minor monasteries in the Southern area, claiming to be possessed by Shugden, ran madly in all directions destroying the three symbols of enlightenment (images, scriptures and stupas) and so forth. Displaying many such faults they greatly harmed the teachings of the Second Conqueror, Je Tsongkhapa. Therefore, if you were to compose an advisory letter for everyone’s benefit and were to publish it and distribute it throughout the three (provinces) U, Tsang and Kham, it would greatly contribute to counteracting such disturbances to the teaching.”
“For myself, I request you please to send me a copy of the Tokdun Tantric commentary. Thank You.”
The manner in which this request was made is evidence that the many matchlessly renowned great masters of the central and bordering regions of Tibet, who assert themselves as upholding all four schools of Buddha Dharma without discrimination, through the ripples of the white wave of expertise, conduct and kindness, all feel humbled and subdued before one who wears the golden coloured crown and takes great responsibility (for the doctrine).
These are what some of the historical accounts have to say. However, it sometimes, seems that some of the Gelugpa Dharmaholders have been slightly excessive in their views. For instance, a couple of days ago we found Aku Sherab Gaytso saying, “The way Je Rinpoche presents the reality of the basis, the nature of the path, and the way the fruits are attained in his commentary to the Completion Stage, and his method of making divisions are so brilliantly wonderful that some Nyingmapas have stolen them.”
It doesn’t make any sense to criticise their having understood them. It is not that the Nyingmapas are not allowed to understand the wisdom of Tsongkhapa. This is wrong. Our attitude should accord with the statement, “those wishing to accomplish the benefit of sentient beings engage in understanding the paths of all three vehicles.” Otherwise, it is as if they are suggesting, “May the remarkable teachings of Tsongkhapa not be understood by the Nyingmapas, may they be hidden from them.” Therefore, sometimes it is possible to go too far.
However, sometimes political considerations may have a bearing on the situation. For example, accounts of Kunkhyen Lama (Jamyang Shepa, 1648-1721, of Labrang Tashi Kyil) explain that one day an Amdo lama came to see Kunkhyen Lama Jamshe Ngawang Tsondrue in the hope of receiving a commentary to some text from him. It says, “that day Gyalpo Lhasang (Lhasang Khan, leader of the Dzungar Mongols) was there also and so there was much activity and he was not able to get the teaching.” Kunkhyen Lama Jamshe Ngawang Tsondrue was a disciple of the Fifth Dalai Lama ,who was preceptor at Jamyang Shepa’s full ordination as a monk. There is hardly any text by Kunkhyen Lama in which he does not pay homage to the victorious father and son. In his text on the Middle View or in his Great Text on Tenets he says something like this:
“If you think over and over again of the way
in which the Lotus Holder upholds the Dharma,
it moves the very hairs on your heart.”
He expresses fulsome praise for the Fifth Dalai Lama, not out of flattery or to observe etiquette, but out of deep faith. (In his turn) the Fifth Dalai Lama had probably given predictions and instructions with regard to the setting up of Tashi Kyil monastery and the subsequent dissemination of the dharma in Amdo. Likewise, in his work on the Middle View, when he arrives at the difficult point of describing identification of the object of negation, (Jamyang Shepa) quotes statements from the Stages of the Path, Sacred Word of Manjushri (by the Fifth Dalai Lama) with strong praise for it as a text written purely from personal experience. Therefore, he placed the Fifth Dalai Lama upon his head, respecting him as an incredibly great master. However, it was different when it came to political matters. For example, he didn't accept Gyalchog Tsangyang Gyatso as the reincarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama.
This is clear from his incredibly good history of Yamantaka. When the lamas of the lineage are being chronicled, after the Fifth Dalai Lama, it says, “his reincarnation is the present incumbent Holder of the Lotus, Ngawang Yeshi Gyatso.” No other Tibetan recognised him. Gyalpo Lhasang appointed him and Kunkhyen Lama Jamyang Shepa recognised him. So, it is as if only Jamyang Shepa recognised him. All other Tibetan accounts of the time unanimously refer to Rigzin Tsangyang Gyatso as the reincarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama, despite His Holiness having apparently given back his monk’s vows and his consorting with women. The generally accepted view of Rigzin Tsangyang Gyatso as being the reincarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama went unchallenged, except by Kunkhyen Lama Jamshe Ngawang Tsondrue. That is why for some time the Shugden organisation have asserted in their letters that His Holiness the14th Dalai Lama is very critical of Jamyang Shepa. But this is all I have said, no more than this.
Now, as a Lama from Loseling college Ling Rinpoche was very partial to the scriptures written by Panchen Sonam Drakpa. Whereas Gen Nyima used to prefer the texts of Kunkhyen Lama. He would repeatedly say, “O, this text by Jamyang Shepa is so good.” Yongzin Rinpoche would never say such a thing. (Laughs) For example, (Jamyang Shepa) always says that the ‘truth of cessation’ is not emptiness, it is ultimate truth, but not emptiness. Yongzin Rinpoche would emphasise that this is not possible. Whatever the case, he would not give even a little on the views expressed by Panchen Sonam Dragpa. He considered them to be like ultimate truth.
However, at the same time, Yongzin Rinpoche had incredible faith and respect for Kunkhyen Lama Jamyang Shepa. Yongzin Rinpoche was from an U-Tsang background and belonged to Loseling college, so he had no particular connection to Amdo. However, he was always full of praise for Amdo Tashi Kyil, describing it as a treasury of transmissions and instructions, where every aspect of Je Tsongkhapa's tantra and sutra tradition was upheld.
Later, when the Fifth Kunkhyen Lama came to Lhasa, when I was small, Yongzin Rinpoche came into contact with him. On that occasion, the Kunkhyen Lama wanted to establish a branch of the Upper Tantric College at Tashikyil. At that time, Yongzin Rinpoche was probably the Lama Umze of Gyutoe (the Upper Tantric) College, so, he sent some Gyutoe monks to Tashikyil. Yongzin Rinpoche's intention was twofold. On the one hand he wanted to fulfil the wish of Kunkhyen Lama Jamyang Shepa and on the other hand he instructed the monks he despatched to bring back from Amdo copies of rare texts that could no longer be found in central Tibet. This was something Rinpoche took particular responsibility for.
In 1955, on my way back from Beijing, I stopped in various parts of Amdo and I clearly remember the visit I paid to the Tashi Kyil monastery. I had the good fortune of paying the monastery a visit. At that time Kunkhyen Lama's reincarnation was very small, and his tutor was really extraordinary, really incredible. The way he presented the formal threefold mandala offering was truly extraordinary, really good. Sadly, he was later killed by the Chinese during a ‘struggle session’ of ‘thought reform’ (thamzing). He was a truly great being. At that time, Gungthang Rinpoche was also there. He was about twenty-five years old. He too was an extraordinary person.
While I was there at Tashi Kyil, I gave an empowerment of Chenrezig. Yongzin (Ling) Rinpoche told me later that on that occasion, I don't remember it myself, they put on the blindfold this way or they used some initiation substance that way. Such was his respect for Tashi Kyil that he even paid attention to such minor traditions. Therefore, I too have unwavering respect for the lineage of Kunkhyen Lamas. So, what the Shugden organisation says about it is really slander. There is no need for me to convince you or them about this, but, it is important to know the truth, how things really stand. What Kunkhyen Lama has been right about is right and what he was wrong about is wrong. But, in matters such as this, I am very clear in my own mind and don't visualise every aspect of the Lama as correct. For example, as we saw Aku Sherab Gyatso said, “Oh, what a pity, what a pity. This was understood by the Nyingmapas ....”, and other such things. (Laughter) After some time, we might even say, “Oh, what a pity ....”, if a Nyingmapa attains enlightenment. (Laughter) But even then, if we say “Oh, what a shame ....”, when a Nyingmapa attains enlightenment, it will not help any Gelukpa attain enlightenment. Therefore, I tell people that there is no need for what is known as “seeing everything that the lama does as correct”.
If it were appropriate to see everything the Lama does as correct, then there would have been no need for the Buddha to explain the qualifications of a Lama in such great detail. The Buddha himself wouldn't have to have undergone austerities for six years. He could have continued to live as a prince surrounded by many queens and given teachings to his followers. The reason the Buddha renounced the world, was ordained as a monk and undertook austerities for six years was to give us an example. He wanted to show us that in order to purify our minds, which since beginningless time have been thoroughly defiled by the three poisonous disturbing emotions, we have to make effort and have to be able to withstand hardship. Therefore, the Buddha's teaching is something which can withstand investigation. It is not something incapable of withstanding analysis that depends only on faith.
However, if you become aware of mistakes your lama has made or he has done things you do not approve of, that does not mean that you should lose faith. For example, I myself have received considerable teachings from Reting Dorjechang, and many teachings from Taktra Rinpoche too. Both of them are my lamas. But (my faith does not extend to) all their deeds. I am referring to what actually happened. In a letter written in his own hand Reting Rinpoche approved a plot to take the life of Kyabje Taktra Rinpoche. I have seen it myself. This is how it happened. A number of documents were seized and among them were found letters Reting Rinpoche had written personally to people like Nyungne Lama in Lhasa. My late abbot himself showed them to me. It was apparent from these letters that when Nyungne Lama, Kharto Rinpoche and others had first sought Reting’s approval of their plans, he had repeatedly counselled and advised them to exercise restraint. But the letters seem to indicate that, by and by, as if to the perception of ordinary sentient beings dependent arising had gone wrong, Reting Rinpoche himself developed a desire to get rid of Taktra Rinpoche. This was clear from the documents and there is no problem in saying so.
For us Buddhists there is no contradiction here. I don't feel at all uncomfortable about saying this. Reting Rinpoche’s hand written letter says, “Take care that the old monk (referring to Taktra Rinpoche) does not escape” This is completely wrong. I don't even try to imagine that this was correct. Even so, I don't view these actions as a cause for my losing faith in him. I have unwavering faith in Reting Rinpoche. However, mistaken actions such as these I recognize as mistakes. I don't think of these as the Lama’s so called “inestimable deeds”.
Similarly, with regard to Trijang Rinpoche, I don't believe his behaviour in relation to Gyalchen was correct. I don't visualise it as divine activity. However, I don't use it as ground for losing faith in him either. He was really such an important Lama to me. I received immeasurable kindness from him even when I was very small. It may seem a little boastful if I give you this example of my strong faith in Trijang Rinpoche. I often dream of my lamas, and in one clear dream Kyabje Rinpoche was urinating and I was lapping it up. So, I do have single pointed faith in him. But the fact that I have faith in him doesn't mean that I should have faith in everything that he did. And when Kyabje Rinpoche was still alive, I was able to tell him so.
Now, I belong to the line coming from Kyabje Phabongkha, and I hold the lineage of my two tutors. At the same time, since I sit on the throne of the Dalai Lama, I have to carry the responsibility of this institution on my shoulders. From this point of view, I have said before that even Gyalchog Kalsang Gyatso, the Seventh Dalai Lama, was not fully qualified to sit on the throne of the Dalai Lama. I said this previously when I gave the Great Stages of Mantra teaching. I wonder if any of you here remember? This is how it seems to me.
Being a fairly forthright person I don't know how just to be courteous and discreet. However, sometimes I have been able to do it. For example, when dealing with the Chinese, you have no choice, but to be conciliatory. I worked with the Chinese for nine years in Tibet. On those occasions when I met Mao Tsetung I flattered him a little. Otherwise, my nature is basically frank and open. Therefore, at this time, it is important that you try to listen and understand the whole of what I have said. Only then will you get my point. If, on the other hand, you pick up only one of the many things I have said and black out the rest, saying, “Gyalwa Rinpoche has broken his guru-disciple relationship, he is this and that, and Gyalwa Rinpoche is critical of Jamyang Shepa”, you may not fool many people, but some people will probably be deceived.
I am just telling you how things stand. Do you understand? Whether we are talking about Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche or Trijang Rinpoche, both were inestimably great masters. However, some of their deeds came about as a result of the nature of their disciples and due to their karma and merit. Therefore, since we all have a fundamentally pure bond with each other, I have explained these things to you in order that you will be able to feel confident about them. It’s not that I have any personal wish to speak about them.
Now, in connection with these issues, I wanted to tell you some of the personal experiences I have had, even though there may not be much meaning in them. Of course, I have given a detailed account which you can find in books that have already been published. From time to time I do have strange dreams. However, I would like to recount several things that have not been published so far. I have already described elsewhere the dream I had when I arrived at Ganden, as a result of which the statue of Dolgyal in the Choegyal chapel had to be removed.
After that, when I was in France some years ago, I had a dream one night of a white person who was said to be Dolgyal. That white man seemed to enter into a hollow space under the earth, something like a house underneath the ground. After he had entered the hole, I closed it up by completely covering it with earth and then levelled the ground by stamping on it. Then to one side there was an image of four armed Mahakala. It's faces were quite big, probably life size. Even though it was a statue, this Mahakala and I started wrestling with each other. As we fought the four armed Mahakala turned into the two armed form and it seemed that I had won. So, it seems as if there is something in this. Even before that, on another occasion, which related to something to do with Kyabje Rinpoche, I had a dream that I suspected was probably due to Dolgyal. There was a thangka of Shel Dramsug in the background. This too indicated something. It is mentioned in the biography of Tulku Dakpa Gyaltsen that he had a particular relationship with Four Faced Mahakala and it does seem like there was some connection there. Its quite strange. So, this relates to my experiences with Four Faced Mahakala.
On another occasion, some years ago, I gave a talk about Dolgyal to the staff of the Tibetan administration in Thekchen Choeling. As I was coming back to my office at the end of the talk, I saw that about ten pictures of Gonpo Shelshi (all of them photographs of a thangka), something I have neither seen before nor since, had been brought for consecration. It was unprecedented then and has not been repeated. There is a place where all the religious items people bring for blessing are placed. On that occasion, after I had finished talking about Dolgyal, and as I was coming back to the office, I saw amongst the other items about ten conspicuous pictures of Gonpo Shel. I thought, “Well, what’s this. This is rather strange”. There was some rice nearby, so I threw some grains over them and all ten collapsed. I thought, “Oh, that’s good”. (Laughter)
I have received the full permission to practise all the Mahakalas, Gonpo Shel Namgyur Chudun. Even as a very small boy I had great faith in Gonpo Shel and was very fond of him. Since the time of the Omniscient Gendun Drup (the First Dalai Lama) there has been a special relation with him and he had become an exclusive protector (of the Dalai Lamas). I challenge any suggestion that he is somehow cross with me or opposed to me over the issue of Dolgyal. I have nothing to be afraid from Gonpo Shel, there is no reason for me to have to give in to him. (Laughter) So, this is how it is. But this is just a digression. It seems to me that there is some connection with Shel. But, now that I have said that, the Dolgyal advocates will probably start invoking him too. (Laughter) Let them do so. It won’t make any difference to me. (Laughter) Let me boast a little. Gonpo Shel is not a fool. He will support me and not them, because I am making a positive contribution to the Buddhadharma.
But I feel that if people say nasty things about me, I don’t need to bow my head, I need to hold it high. If the other person is humble, I also want to be humble. I think of myself as no more than a beggar, I don’t have any sense of myself as something special. even when I come across a beggar, I have a genuine sense of being equal to, if not lower than, him. I don't think, “I am something”. But when the other side acts big without reason, then it’s only right that I should act a bit tough in return. (Laughter)
That’s why, as I just mentioned, when it is said that (my opponents) have been doing lots of black magic, I just have to laugh. I don't do anything about it, I don’t even visualise the protection wheel. On my part, I really have true faith in the Buddhadharma and the most compassionate Buddha. I really have true faith. I told the government staff that I have a pure refuge in my continuum. When I generate faith in the precious Dharma, I generate real faith in the precious Buddha. And I also have genuine faith in the qualified followers of the Buddha. The statement that if you have pure refuge, you will not be harmed either by humans or non-humans, is definitive. There is no need to qualify it as definitive or subject to interpretation or to explain it through the method of six extremes and four systems, is there?
So, when I hear that people are provoking others to behave negatively or are behaving negatively themselves, my response is that they will make their mouths hurt and tire themselves out. I have heard, for example, that they are blowing the long horn very hard, but I can’t see much point in that.
So, I was talking about one of my dreams. Later, on another occasion, we were performing a ritual of Hayagriva. It was not particularly aimed at Dolgyal. The aim was to destroy anything, be it human, non-human, a lama, a deity or a ghost, that harms the Dharma and the just cause of Tibet. Whatever it is, it should be eliminated. It should not be supported. One night during the period when we were conducting this ritual, I dreamt that I was sitting on my bed. Beside my bed was a small boy, about seven or eight years old, who I took to be Dolgyal. This boy was holding my right hand. When I looked again, I saw that where he held my hand the boy’s fingernails were changing into claws and he was extending them. I was annoyed, grabbed the child by the neck and strangled him. My visualisation of myself as Hayagriva and my sense of divine pride were very clear. While still maintaining this clear vision and divine pride, I took the child in my hands, rubbed it between my palms and swallowed it. It was a very clear dream. Then I awoke. And as I awoke I was still in the process of swallowing. The thought went through my mind, “Strange, how something the size of a small boy could squeeze down my throat”. (Laughter) That was because my ordinary perception had begun to arise again. Previously I had been experiencing clear vision and divine pride, but immediately on awakening, ordinary preconceptions arose again. Consequently, I asked myself, “How could this happen?” So, this was another incident.
Then, last year, we went to Drepung and stayed there for two or three days. After that I stayed at Ganden for one or two days. Isn't that right? So, it was during that time, on the night of my arrival at Ganden, that I had a dream of somewhere like Dungkar monastery in Dromo. Generally, whenever I have dreams connected to Dolgyal, I dream of Dungkar monastery. I think that’s because I first encountered him at Dungkar monastery. It seemed like Dungkar monastery and I thought it was Dungkar monastery. But in appearance it wasn’t actually Dungkar monastery. There was a huge hall. I was on the middle floor. There was also a huge wall. And in order to go down to the hall from the middle floor you had climb down a ladder.
As I went down the ladder, there were people on either side whose flesh and blood had completely dried up, just like the lumps of dried meat (thukpai dhor) half infested by worms, which we put in the thukpa at the time of the Great Prayer Festival in the Tsuklagkhang in Lhasa. In the past, there used to be a meat shop at the Tsuklagkhang, behind what was known as the Simchung Labrang. I used to watch what was going on down there and I have seen the chunks of meat on display. It was all dried meat. There was no red meat, it was all completely dried out and yellow looking. So, it was as if these people had only their skin left, which looked very like the dried meat served during the Great Prayer Festival. They looked so miserable. They were cutting pieces of dry flesh off their bodies with a knife and eating them. Then, on the floor of the hall, there was a huge thangka of Gyalchen laid out.
These people looked so appalling . I felt very distressed and disturbed, and wondered, “How can I help them?” but there was nothing much I could do. Then it occurred to me that it might help them if they heard the sound of ‘Manis’ in their ears, With strong compassion I recited “Om Mani Padme Hum” about three times, after which I woke up. At the same time, as I passed down between these emaciated people, I became aware of a strong, very strange smell. A long time ago I dreamt of Zemey Rinpochey and in that dream I smelled the same smell. That was twenty years ago. The two smells were just the same. Although I didn’t recognise this while I was actually dreaming, as soon as I woke up I realised that the two smells were the same. So, there was something strange going on there. These are just instances from my personal experience, so there’s nothing reliable about them. However, I sometimes wonder if some of them don’t have some significance. Anyway, I have simply told you about them.
Now, another thing that I have talked about before, and which you can read about in the books that we have put out, is how to approach practice in relation to worldly spirits. Regardless of what (the nature or status) of a particular deity is in definitive terms, if it manifests as a worldly spirit, it must be dealt with care. The way to relate to it and the meaning of a worldly spirit’s ‘life entrustment’ (srog-gtad) is that the worldly spirit puts its life at the yogi’s command and the yogi controls the worldly spirit. It is not that the yogi put his life at the command of the worldly spirit. Look at how Gyalchen practitioners behave these days. They say, “I have received the ‘life entrustment’ “and act like as if they have given their entire body, speech and mind over to a worldly spirit. They say with great fear, “If I break (my commitment to perform) the monthly propitiation ceremony to him, he will harm me.” They have got things totally out of perspective.
First of all you have to reach a confident state of realisation. I told Trijang Rinpoche this last year. There is no need (for him) to be hasty at the moment. First, Rinpoche should study the scriptures well and from time to time, he should do authentic retreats. Dolgyal is something with whom Rinpoche has a connection from past lives, and when the time comes, when Rinpoche's personal realization reaches maturity, I will decide through ‘dough-ball’ divination whether he should take up the practice. And if the divination indicates that Rinpoche should do the practice, then, if Rinpoche has acquired a degree of inner confidence and realisation, it will be perfectly alright. But there really is no hurry. So, this is how you should proceed. This is what qualified practitioners do. For example, it doesn't look as if the Sakya lamas have submitted themselves to Dolgyal.
By the way, Kalu Rinpoche once told me a story. He had gone on pilgrimage to Sakya. As he visited the Protector Chapels at Sakya, one by one, the caretaker who was showing him round, rather casually explained the stories of the chapels and the images they contained. However, when they reached the entrance of one chapel the caretaker removed his shoes, made three prostrations and with great reverence, explained the story associated with it. It turned out that the chapel belonged to Dolgyal. So, it seems that that Sakya caretaker also regarded Dolgyal as holier than the Buddha. What a caretaker? But he was only doing what we all do. Usually, when we see a statue of the Buddha, all we feel and say is “I go for refuge to you”, that’s all. We don't think, “the Buddha might disturb my dreams” or “the Buddha might harm me” or “do something to me”. On the other hand if we see a deity snarling with bared fangs, and if the chapel is dark, or there are paintings of an entire human skin with its four limbs and head spread out, we feel, “Oh, this might harm me.” We are afraid, thinking, “If I don't act respectfully it might harm me.”
We shouldn’t do this, it’s foolish. As Buddhists we should not do such things. Should we? Who should we be afraid of? We should be afraid of (offending) the Buddha. Who should we turn to for refuge? We should seek refuge in the Buddha. He is the one we weep before. (His Holiness weeps) The Buddha is really great. Incredible. Apart from him, who can we rely upon?
Je Rinpoche was someone who practised the sevenfold deities and dharmas of the Kadampa tradition. He added the three deities, Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara and Yamantaka to Atisha's ‘Stages of the Path’. It’s very good if we can do that too. It’s the right thing to do. Je Rinpoche saw that it was important and introduced the tradition. So, it must be right. Since, Tsongkhapa approved it, it must be right. Yes, of course. And with regard to protectors, he appointed Mahakala and Dharmaraja. If we keep increasing the number of protectors in addition to them, it’s wrong. There is no need for that. There is a danger of the dharma becoming distorted. That really would be a shame. Therefore, a real holder of Tsongkhapa’s tradition should supplement the “Stages of the Path of the Three Beings” with the practices of the three meditational deities Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara and Yamantaka. And if you really feel you need a dharma protector you can take the Six Arm Mahakala and Kalarupa. There is no need for any others besides these two.
Now, in my case, since the time of Gyalwang Gedun Drup, a special relationship developed with Palden Lhamo. And from the time of Gyalwa Gedun Gyatso and Sonam Gyatso a special relationship developed with Nechung due to his connection with Drepung. Even though Gyalwa Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama) was originally from Tashi Lhunpo, later, after he had become a Drepung lama he became connected to Nechung. So, it is due to my connection with the Tibetan Government and my responsibility within the Tibetan Government that I too maintain this relationship. Simply as a Buddhist monk and a practitioner of the Kadampa lineage, I wouldn't need to do the practice of any deity, not even Palden Lhamo. Would I? But, this is how things stand.
So, it is only the Buddha whom we should be afraid of offending and whom we should rely on from the heart. It is as if we think the Buddha has no power to perform any effective activity. When we recite the Ornament for Clear Realisation who do we point to when we recite the part on the ‘twenty-seven activities’? It is as if these have no effect at all. If you offer a “sur” or a ritual cake, you think you are seeking the protector's help. You think that whatever you are doing will be successful that your business will be successful. How sad. Look at the state of our sense of refuge. Isn't it important that we should think more carefully? Don’t you think so? As followers of the Buddha, and as followers of this extraordinarily pure new Kadampa tradition, introduced so remarkable by Je Rinpoche, we should be properly qualified and worthy of it. When we claim to be followers of the pure Kadampa tradition, but in practice we propitiate deities and ghosts it is totally wrong. This is one reason why I have stopped the practice of Shugden. Another reason is that it is clear that from the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama this deity was not on good terms with the Ganden Phodrang government (of Tibet). It has to be stopped for this reason too.