Every part of Dorje Shugden's form has deep spiritual significance. Its entirety represents the complete path of the Lamrim, thus meditating upon it with...
Like the Buddha, Dorje Shugden’s body manifested from his great attainments. Hence, every part of his form has deep spiritual significance. Dorje Shugden’s entire body represents the complete path of the Lamrim or the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, and meditating upon it with correct understanding will generate great merits and spiritual attainments. This is a brief explanation of Dorje Shugden’s form:
The meandering wisdom sword of Dorje Shugden is similar in significance to the one that the Buddha of Wisdom, Manjushri wields. It is a strong indicator that Dorje Shugden’s mind is none other than the mind of Manjushri.
The wisdom sword cuts through the ignorance and delusions that have arisen from our negative karma and obscurations so that we may attain the Buddha’s wisdom. The wisdom sword also symbolises Dorje Shugden’s ability to cut through and purify our negative karma. The meandering blade of the sword is a feature of blades which are designed for inflicting maximum damage. Therefore, it shows just how efficacious Dorje Shugden’s practice is for the purposes of purification, removing obstacles and ultimately to gain merits and attainments.
Dorje Shugden’s golden domed hat is symbolic of the protection he grants to practitioners and upholders of the highest view of Madhyamika, Nagarjuna’s special view of Emptiness as embodied perfectly in Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings and lineage. The domed hat is traditionally a travelling Tibetan Lama’s hat; thus it symbolises Dorje Shugden’s mobility and swiftness in coming to the aid of sincere practitioners.
Dorje Shugden has three round bulging eyes that represent his clairvoyant ability to perceive past, present and future simultaneously. It is also an indicator of a being who has realised and is able to perceive the conventional and ultimate truths – a Buddha. Such a being is a worthy object of refuge thus one can place total trust in Dorje Shugden.
The heart jewel is a scriptural description of the bleeding ‘enemy’ heart that Dorje Shugden holds in his left hand. This heart is known as the heart of the ‘enemy’ as it represents the source of all our negativities – ignorance. It also symbolises how effective Dorje Shugden’s practice is at ripping out ignorance, which then gives us space to cultivate the wisdom mind which can overcome all obscurations, negativities and delusions.
In another interpretation, the heart jewel is a heart of great bliss symbolising Dorje Shugden’s pure Bodhicitta intent, which is to protect all beings and lead them to full Enlightenment.
The heart also symbolises our innate Buddha-nature which is that of great compassion. This shows that Dorje Shugden supports and protects those who dedicate their lives to others by striving towards supreme Enlightenment.
Resting on Dorje Shugden’s lower left arm is a jewel-spitting mongoose, an ancient symbol of great wealth. This signifies that by engaging in his practice, Dorje Shugden will provide sincere practitioners with all their material and spiritual needs. The most supreme form of wealth that can be bestowed by Dorje Shugden is, of course, the spiritual attainments of wisdom and compassion.
The taming vajra hook held in the crook of Dorje Shugden’s left arm is considered an implement of control, subduing all negativities and wild, harmful delusions that are obstacles for liberation. On the other hand, the taming hook also represents the hooking in of all favourable conditions for Dharma practice to flourish including material assistance, supportive spiritual friends and a spiritual guide of an authentic lineage.
In his previous lives as Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen, Panchen Sonam Drakpa and Tulku Draka Gyaltsen among others, Dorje Shugden was a pure fully ordained monk. Hence, he wears the three types of monk robes symbolising that he is a Protector of those who uphold their vows and that he will remove obstacles that lead towards the Dharma. The robes also reflect the importance of the Sangha and of holding one’s vows and commitments.
Tiger Skin Boots
Dorje Shugden wears tiger-skin boots which reveal his manifestation in a worldly form. Although he is a fully enlightened being, Dorje Shugden has taken rebirth as a deva to have a closer karmic affinity to all ordinary beings. Thus, it takes less effort and merits to ‘contact’ him and he is therefore ‘easier’ to propitiate. When compared to other enlightened Dharma Protectors such as Kalarupa, Mahakala, Palden Lhamo and so forth, the boons granted through Dorje Shugden’s practice arise much quicker, especially in times of dire need.
In the Gelug tradition, Dorje Shugden’s mount is a fierce and powerful mythical snow lion. The snow lion is in fact an emanation of Dorje Shugden’s mind and represents fearlessness. Fearlessness is attained when we are victorious in our practice over the three psychic poisons – ignorance, attachment and hatred.
The snow lion’s appearance is intended to be ferocious and frightening. This wrathful demeanour of both Dorje Shugden and his mount symbolise his ability to tame obstructing beings and overcome obstacles so that they do not become a hindrance to the practitioner.
Such wrath is a common attribute of many Dharma Protectors. In Buddhism, the energies of wrath denote swiftness and extreme compassion for the suffering practitioner who is besieged by inner and outer obstacles.
Dorje Shugden’s snow lion is usually depicted trampling on a naked human form – the ‘enemy’, which symbolises our three poisons as mentioned above. The trampling of the ‘enemy’ into the sun disc also symbolises the elimination of ignorance via the realisation of Emptiness.
The lotus is perhaps one of the most enduring images of Buddhism. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are usually depicted sitting on lotus thrones and the significance of the lotus has been elucidated in the Buddhist scriptures many times over.
The lotus growing out of the mud is a befitting epithet for an enlightened being who has developed great compassion. Astride his snow lion, Dorje Shugden is atop a thousand-petalled lotus symbolising that he has the great compassion of all the Buddhas, and that all his actions arise from great compassion.
Dorje Shugden’s lotus is crowned by a sun disc or sun cushion, which reveals his direct realisation of Emptiness. It is also a common attribute of wrathful deities’ iconography.
The wisdom fire that surrounds Dorje Shugden is a manifestation of his Bodhichitta, or great compassion. These wisdom flames are emitted from every pore of his body to form a great nimbus of fire surrounding him. Traditionally, the flames are said to burn up our obstacles and mental obscurations. Therefore, the closer we get to Dorje Shugden in our practice, the more Dorje Shugden’s wisdom flames are able to consume our obstacles that keep us away from the spiritual path.
Every detail of Dorje Shugden’s form has great spiritual significance
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I am travelling to Lhasa in 10 days' time and am planning a 5 day itinerary in and around Lhasa. Please can you indicate key places of pilgrimage outside of the usual ones. For example, I've been trying to locate Chusang Hermitage near Lhasa but without success. Also, do you know of any Dorje Shugden gompas in Lhasa? Thank you so much,