Before Dorje Shugden was widely practised in the Gelugpa tradition, he was enthroned as a Protector of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. The...
Before Dorje Shugden was widely practised in the Gelugpa tradition, he was enthroned as a Protector of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. If one was to examine the Sakya practice of Dorje Shugden, one would quickly realise that for more than three centuries, Dorje Shugden has been viewed as an Enlightened Protector.
In the middle of a whirling palace of black wind… is the Great King with a body red-black in color, one face two hands, the right holds a club aloft to the sky and the left a skull cup filled with blood and a human heart. On the head, a lacquer hat is placed, riding a black horse surrounded by inconceivable emanations to the Dhamapala King Shugden Tsel, together with attendants… – Sakya Kangso, based on an earlier text from the 19th Century
The evidence comes from none other than the Sakya throne holders themselves, who are the holders of the Sakya tradition’s most precious Tantric transmission – the Lamdre lineage. As stated by His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche in his work “Music Delighting the Ocean of Protectors”, the Sakya reliance on Dorje Shugden began with the supreme Sakya throneholder, the 30th Sakya Trizin Sonam Rinchen (1705 – 1741), who enthroned and worshipped Dorje Shugden as a Dharma Protector, along with Setrap and Tsiu Marpo. These three principle protectors were collectively known as the “Three Kings” (Gyalpo Sum). Another fine example of the Sakya reliance on Dorje Shugden was Morchen Dorje Chang, who wrote praises to Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being.
The 30th Sakya Trizin Sonam Rinchen
In the Sakya tradition, there are two main houses (pho brang) from which a Sakya Trizin (Sakya Throneholder) may arise – Dolma Phodrang and Phuntsok Phodrang. Alternating between the two houses, when a Sakya Trizin enters clear light and his sons are still minors, a child of the previous Sakya Trizin will ascend the throne, thus allowing the young potential-throneholders to mature and receive training befitting a leader of the Sakya tradition.
The Sakya lineage holders are considered to be emanations of Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri, and their family lineage is regarded as divine. Practices within the Sakya lineage are transmitted from father to the eldest son, ensuring purity, accuracy and the continuity of the lineage across generations. Similarly, the practice of Dorje Shugden has been passed down within the Sakya lineage for generations.
For instance, the 30th Sakya Trizin Sonam Rinchen passed the practice of Dorje Shugden to his son, the 31st Sakya Trizin Kunga Lodro (1729 – 1783), who was believed to be an emanation of Dorje Shugden himself. During his lifetime, Kunga Lodro composed a Dorje Shugden kangso (fulfilment ritual) to invoke upon the blessings of Dorje Shugden. He also propitiated Dorje Shugden as a fully enlightened being and composed a praise to him. This prayer has since achieved prominence and is still widely used today. Thus, it is safe to conclude that modern-day practice of Dorje Shugden has its roots in the Sakya tradition.
The fact that Dorje Shugden is an enlightened being was also confirmed by the 39th Sakya Trizin Dragshul Trinley Rinchen (1871 – 1935) who wrote,
The Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden Tsel definitively is Avalokiteshvara.
He further quoted from the Nyingma Tantra Rinchen Nadun to definitively establish his point by scripture.
The one known as Dolgyal [Dorje Shugden] is not mistaken on the path to liberation, he is by nature the Great Compassionate One.
With this statement, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen confirms that Dorje Shugden’s nature is that of Avalokiteshvara, a fully enlightened being.
The 39th Sakya Trizin Dragshul Trinley Rinchen praised Dorje Shugden as an emanation of Avalokiteshvara
It is very significant that these three Sakya Trizins all relied on Dorje Shugden and referred to him as an enlightened being. The Sakya Trizin is a position equal in rank to the heads of the other major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the Gaden Tripa of the Gelug school or the Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu school.
Thus, their teachings and writings form the spiritual foundation of the Sakya tradition and serve as a guide that all Sakya practitioners can rely on, especially in terms of what they should study and what deities they can propitiate. This also applies to Dorje Shugden seeing that not one but THREE Sakya Trizins believed in him, relied on him and encouraged his practice for Sakya practitioners.
It follows that Dorje Shugden’s practice is not a minor practice, because the 31st Sakya Trizin felt strongly enough about the benefits of Shugden practice to compose an extensive kangso text to propitiate the deity. A Sakya Trizin would not spend the time, energy and effort to compose such an extensive supplicatory text if the practice had little benefit.
Considering the status of the author and the fact that the Sakya Dorje Shugden kangso is still widely used to this day, it further follows that the practice definitely bears results and is effective.
The Life and Times of the 31st Sakya Trizin Kunga Lodro
His Holiness the 31st Sakya Trizin Kunkhyen Ngawang Kunga Lodro was born in 1729 at Sakya Monastery. He was the descendent of the Khon family bloodline and his father was the reigning 30th Sakya Trizin Ngawang Sonam Rinchen (1705-1741), who had enthroned Dorje Shugden as a Dharma Protector of the Sakya school. His mother was known by the name Sonam Wangmo.
The Three Protectors of Sakya (Gyalpo Sum) can be seen on the bottom right of this thangka.
It is widely believed that Sakya Trizin Kunga Lodro was himself the emanation of Dorje Shugden. He is also believed to have been an incarnation of the great Sakya pandit, Buton Rinchen Drub and Shakya Shri, a Kashmiri pandit. Both of these great masters are included in the line of Sakya masters who are part of Dorje Shugden’s lineage. One of Shakya Shri’s predecessors, an Indian master named Jetari, was also Atisha Dipamkara’s guru.
As was customary for nobility, his own father bestowed upon the young Kunga Lodro several long life initiations, a Guhyasamaja initiation in the tradition of Arya Nagarjuna and transmissions of Manjushri’s mantras. He was then given the auspicious name Ngawang Kunga Sonam Drakpa Lodro.
He then received the traditional education of reading, writing and memorisation of various texts under the guidance of his father. He also received from his father various initiations and transmissions such as those of the Drubta Gyatsa collection of a hundred sadhanas and the Sakya Kabum, which is the collected works of the Sakya tradition. In addition, he received initiations and transmissions from the 33rd Ngor Khenchen Namkha Samdrub (1696-1754).
Upon the demise of his father, Kunga Lodro ascended the throne as the 31st Sakya Trizin in 1741. He continued with his studies with particular emphasis on the Lobshe transmission of Lamdre teachings with many great masters including the 30th Ngor Khenchen Jampa Sonam Pelzang (1689-1749) and the 34th Ngor Khenchen Pelden Chokyong (1702-1760).
A close-up of ‘Gyalpo Sum’. They are Setrap, Tsiu Marpo and Dorje Shugden.
When he turned 14, Namkha Samdrub bestowed upon him the lay vows and gave him the name Ngawang Kunga Lodro Tenpai Gyaltsen. He later received novice vows from a lama named Khenchen Wangchuk Puntsok, who also gave him the name “Sangye” which was to be added to his existing name. Along with these masters, he also studied at the feet of Nesar Kunga Lekpai Jungne (1704-1760), the 37th Ngor Khenchen Mingyur Gyeltsen (1717-1751) and Zhalupa Yeshe Drakpa Pelzang.
Kunga Lodro became famous for his erudite mastery of the Lobshe Lamdre and he taught this to numerous students. He was invited to teach at a number of monasteries, including Tsedong, Tubten Serdokchen and Ngor Ewam Choden. As a prolific author, his written works were collected in seven volumes. This veritable scholar also composed a 149-page Tibetan-style manuscript detailing the Sakya rituals of Dorje Shugden. In his biography, Kunga Lodro wrote that Nesar Dorje Chang had written several texts on Dorje Shugden. He was also aware of Morchen Kunga Lhundrub’s practice of Dorje Shugden. Based on his writings, it appears that Kunga Lodro had combined the five forms of Dorje Shugden with the main figure called Duldzin or Vinayadhara.
Kunga Lodro also composed a wrathful torma offering to Dorje Shugden called “Swirl of Perfect Sense Offerings”. This ritual was later used by His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche as part of his “Melodious Drum Victorious in All Directions”, possibly the most well-known Dorje Shugden kangso used today. Thus, the source of some modern-day Dorje Shugden practices can be traced to the Sakya lineage. The text written by Kunga Lodro can also be found in the latest edition of the Dorje Shugden bebum, published by His Eminence Lama Gangchen Rinpoche.
In the kangso, Dorje Shugden is invoked from the Protector temple at Mugchung, which is located in Sakya Monastery
According to his descendent, the 39th Sakya Trizin Dragshul Trinley Rinchen, it is stated that Kunga Lodro would once again take rebirth as the 37th Sakya Trizin Kunga Nyingpo (1850-1899).
Thus, the Sakya throneholders since the time of the 30th Sakya Trizin Sonam Rinchen were Dorje Shugden practitioners especially the 31st Sakya Trizin Kunga Lodro, the 32nd Sakya Trizin Wangdu Nyingpo, the 33rd Sakya Trizin Pema Dudul Wangchuk, the 35th Sakya Trizin Tashi Rinchen, the 37th Sakya Trizin Kunga Nyingpo and and the 39th Sakya Trizin Dragshul Trinley Rinchen.
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While trying to find a local buddhist meditation group in my area, I happened upon a website that is connected to Ligmincha Int'l. It is a Bon sect claiming to be the oldest form of Tibetan Buddhism. I searched for a connection with Dorje Shugden and came across a page that had terribly negative comments about him. It said that he was a demon spirit, vengeful and capricious with evil intent, the ghost spirit of an evil king not to be trusted. His practice was discouraged for he would not be helpful. Naturally, I was upset. They also intimated that he appealed to Westerners who didn't know any better. I do not think that the page I got this from was directly connected to the above-mentioned organization. However, it did make me pause because I am new to all of this and don't know how judge it all. Can you offer any
reassurance? Thank you
Answer from Pastors
It's nice to see you here again. Bon is actually the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet. The first and oldest Tibetan Buddhist sect is actually known as the Nyingma tradition, which basis a lot of its teachings on the life and works of Guru Rinpoche. There are four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug. As far as I am aware, the Bon tradition incorporated Buddhist elements over time as it came into contact with these four schools.
Fundamentally however, Bon philosophy is Tibetan in origin, whereas Buddhist philosophy and practice is Indian in origin as that is where Buddhism actually came from. Whereas Buddhist teachings trace back to Buddha Shakyamuni, Bon teachings trace back to a figure known as Tonpa Sherab. All Buddhist schools, as the name of the religion suggests trace their origins back to the historical Buddha. But Bon does not. That does not make Bon an negative tradition in any way. It is a religion in and of itself which should be respected, but from a logical angle is not Buddhist in origin.
Now, some people may say that Dorje Shugden is an evil being, or a spirit. In your comment, you mention that he is the ghost of an evil king. This is certainly not true, and this is clear from his previous life, in which he was a holy and practiced monk. As for being an evil being, I am sure you have read the various articles on the blog section of this website? In it there are many articles about high lamas of different Tibetan Buddhist traditions that all practiced Dorje Shugden. If one were to say that Dorje Shugden was an evil spirit, this would make all of these great masters wrong in their practice. If they were wrong in their practice then they were wrong in all their Buddhist practices. If that was the case, the entirety of Tibetan Buddhism would be invalidated, as these are the very same masters who have passed the teachings down over time.
But this cannot be the case, because we have seen how the high lamas have benefited so many people with their teachings, and how they themselves have shown many signs of being spiritually attained. You can read more about these masters and their works, on the blog section of this site, if you haven't done so already. I really hope this helps.
I noticed a picture of someone's altar on the blog and it seemed to have Lakshmi and Lord Shiva together with Dorge Shugden. Is it permissible to have Hindu gods on a Buddhist
altar? I have suffered all of my life with religious OCD i.e. Scrupulosity, which means that I worry about every little thing in my practice; that I may be doing, saying or thinking something wrong or not appropriate or even insincere. Eventually, what happens is that from worrying about doing something wrong, I wind up doing nothing. I have Hindu items which
are hindering me from my setting up of a new altar for Dorge Shugden, as I do not know what is the respectful way to dispose of them. I would appreciate any suggestions you have. I would also appreciate any help you might render in order to help me overcome this debilitating condition as it has wrecked my spiritual life. Thank you very much.
Answer from Pastors
Dear Philip Strumolo,
It is nice to see you here again. From a strict Buddhist perspective, we do not include other deities together with the Buddhas (enlightened beings) on out altar. However, there is nothing wrong with doing so if your aim is to create a sincere connection with Dorje Shugden and given your circumstance.
The main reason for this is that Dorje Shugden is an enlightened being, that means everything he does comes from unbiased compassion. Since everything he does is from compassion, he will not 'conflict' with other deities if placed on the same altar. So, there is nothing wrong with doing so. It will not create a problem whatsoever.
If you prayer to and create a connection with Dorje Shugden, you should concentrate on the recitation of his mantra. Not just reciting, but concentrating on the sound and energy of the mantra. This is very important.
For your specific circumstance, Dorje Shugden's mantra can help, as can the mantra of Lama Tsongkhapa, which is included in the Diamond Path, which is the daily prayer text. This is available here: http://www.dorjeshugden.org/practice/diamond-path-a-daily-sadhana-of-dorje-shugden. Lama Tsongkhapa's mantra has the benefit of calming one's mind and can help deal with OCD as well. Dorje Shugden's mantra can have the same effect, because in essence both Lama Tsongkhapa and Dorje Shugden are both Manjushri in nature, but manifested for specific purposes and with certain practices to help people in their spiritual path. I hope this helps.
I've always been been able to dark entities since I was a teen. I used to have a lot of night terrors and and a dark thing used to render me immobile during the night. Even my sister could see it at times.
And it always approached from the left side - there's a sensation of something* touching the left side of the body when it happens. It's just very disturbing.
I happen to come across D.S post and am wondering how the effects manifest. I need help as it's really affecting me.
Answer from Pastors
It's nice to see you here. And let me just say that I know what you are going through. I have also been similarly afflicted by entities such as these in the past.
From the sounds of it, it seems that you have a karmic connection with a particular entity from a previous life, alternatively in this life you have the karma to be sensitive to these types of entities so you have these types of experiences.
The article starts off with a quick explanation how we can be afflicted by spirits and black magic and then goes on to explain a very powerful practice that helps to stop things like this from happening. It is a very long article, so please take your time to read it. While this particular form of Dorje Shugden may appear very frightening, he is actually very compassionate. The article will explain more.
This practice is very powerful and I have personal experience with this practice, as well as know people who have overcome similar disturbances using this practice. I hope this helps. Thank you.
Is the above-mentioned center related to you in any way? I do not see Dorge Shugden mentioned on their website. I have noticed that they refer to themselves as The New Kadampa Buddhists. I, especially at this point, do not wish to get off to a wrong start if they do not promote Dorge Shugden practice. A social setting is not imperative for me. I need a practice that will help me improve my life and finally bring some worthwhile happiness and peace to me. I do not wish to get involved with contradictory opinions but to have my own solid practice. I hope this makes sense to you. I thank you for your kindness and for your answers.
Answer from Pastors
Dear Philip Strumolo,
Nice to see you hear again. The above centre is not associated with us. However, they do indeed practice Dorje Shugden very strongly. Their courses are known to be very good, as long as you yourself put in the effort in your learning and meditation, and the Dharma that they practice stems from our same Gelugpa lineage. Their teacher is very learned and has spiritual attainments, therefore his centres can be trusted. I hope this helps. Thank you.
I am a beginner in this practice and no
immediately ready to set up my altar. However, can you use the same space that was once used a an Hindu altar? Can one purify that space ? or must one use a different table? There is a space constraint .issue. Yet I do not wish to offend our holy teachers.
Answer from Pastors
Dear Philip Strumolo,
You can use any space you like that is available to you, as long as it is a respectable area. Actually, there is no way to offend the enlightened beings, as they are above all emotions and concepts. However, from our side we should be as respectful as possible when setting up an altar space for the representations of the enlightened beings.
If you are using a space that has been used for something else before, you should clean it well. And then you purify it with incense reciting the mantra "Om Ah Hung" are you do so. So, you light incense, and then wave it over the space while reciting the mantra. Then you can set up the altar there.
If you are making offerings on the altar, then you can use the same procedure to purify and bless the offerings once they are made. I hope this helps. Thank you.