Tibet has an ancient and popular tradition of oracles which involves invoking the deity (usually a Dharma Protector) to descend into a human oracle. The word ‘kuten’ (Wylie: sku rten) is used by Tibetans to refer to a human vessel who is able to temporarily receive the mind/consciousness of a deity or sometimes a spirit and act as a medium between the world of humans and the subtle spiritual realms of the deities.
They are called ‘kuten‘ because the human oracle is the physical basis for these deities to communicate with us. Dorje Shugden is one such example of this tradition. However, due to the transcendent nature of Dorje Shugden, his oracles are given the more respectful title of ‘Chojela‘.
One can become an oracle in a number of ways. Some people naturally have a strong predisposition towards becoming an oracle, others are chosen by the Lama and yet others are chosen by the deity or spirit. For instance, when Dorje Shugden chooses an individual to become an oracle, he may spontaneously enter the person once or twice to give a sign that they have been chosen.
Anyone can make the request to be trained as an oracle but not everyone who requests will be successful. Those who wish to become oracles must understand that it is a lifetime commitment which requires personal comfort and wishes to be set aside in service of others. All oracles require a strict regime of training which is necessary to prepare, open and stabilise the psychic channels. In addition, oracles must diligently keep up with the prescribed retreats and practices, and maintain good samaya with the Lama for the rest of their life. The more retreats an oracle engages in, the clearer the psychic channels and resulting trances will be, and the more accurate his prophecies and pronouncements.
In order to be a good oracle, the retreats of Lama Tsongkhapa are essential and in order for the retreats to be successful, one must have pure guru devotion. Yamantaka is another very powerful practice to clear interferences and open up the chakras, winds and drops of the psychic channels to make it easier for the deity to enter the oracle’s body thus causing less pain after he leaves. However, the main purpose of the retreats is to get close to the deity which is essential for the rest of the oracle’s life.
Ultimately, the main purpose of these retreats is not about becoming a good oracle but to reach the highest purpose in life, which is Enlightenment. Retreats should always be about achieving Enlightenment and becoming a good oracle is just the secondary purpose. However, as an oracle, one is in a position to collect a tremendous amount of merits which can be used to actualise the two stages of Tantra.
For instance, the Yamantaka Tantras can purify tremendous amounts of negative karma that we have accumulated from an innumerable line of previous lives. This negative karma obscures our understanding and perception of the truth and thus, we continue to be bound in this cycle of death and rebirth in samsara. Yamantaka helps us gain wisdom and insight into the nature of reality (empty of inherent existence) and to attain the everlasting great bliss of Enlightenment. Many who have relied on Yamantaka have gained great wisdom, control over their rebirth, Bodhicitta and full Enlightenment. Therefore, Yamantaka’s practice should never be done just to become a good oracle.
Regardless of the circumstances under which an oracle is chosen, they have to hold their samaya, engage in the retreats and be steadfast in their decision to benefit others as an oracle. All oracles have to do their part and not expect Dorje Shugden or their Lama to do everything for them. For instance, if those who received direct teachings on the Lamrim from Lama Tsongkhapa did not practise what they learned, they cannot put the blame on Lama Tsongkhapa for their lack of results. This is the same with the oracle.
Being an oracle is like any other Dharma practice; you have to do what is necessary. When we do our part, we collect merits and wisdom and will be resolute in our wish to benefit others. If we cannot be a reliable and honourable student, then we should not think of being an oracle just yet. It is much more difficult.
Therefore, if we carry out all assignments that are given by our Lama no matter how big or small without being selective, it will lead to bigger things. Finishing an assignment successfully is a good sign of devotion to the teacher and that we are ready for bigger assignments. If we do not perform or complete the assignments, work and duties given by the Lama, then it would be harder to become an oracle which will involve a great deal of physical pain during the initial training stages which can take up to five years.
The Panglung Oracle
Originally from Sera Monastery, the current Panglung Oracle was personally consecrated, trained and had his energy channels opened by His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. He is able to take trance of many enlightened Dharma Protectors including Dorje Shugden, Kache Marpo and Setrap, amongst others. For the last 30 years, he has been taking trance for various High Lamas, monasteries, ladrangs, monks and the faithful laity.
On the day the Panglung Oracle is to take trance, his assistants begin by chanting the invocation prayers of Dorje Shugden. At some point during the invocation, the mind of Dorje Shugden enters the oracle’s body and he may perform a vajra dance to clear obstacles before returning to his throne to accept offerings and greet the High Lamas and others who come forth for a blessing. Dorje Shugden usually does not stay very long as his energy is very wrathful and may tire out the oracle’s body. Thus, it is usually Kache Marpo, the main minister of Dorje Shugden, who makes all the oracular pronouncements on behalf of Dorje Shugden.
After Dorje Shugden has left, the oracle then usually takes trance of the peaceful form of Kache Marpo who will patiently answer all questions that are asked of him. He is known to be extremely accurate and makes no mistakes with his pronouncements. Kache Marpo also grants blessings and heals those who are in need.
This is a picture of the previous (6th) Panglung Oracle taken in 1923. Just like the current Panglung Oracle, he was able to take trance of Dorje Shugden, Setrap, Kache Marpo, and various other high level Protectors. The 6th Panglung Oracle was very famous in Tibet for giving extremely clear prophesies that were highly accurate and treasured by many. In fact, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche consulted Dorje Shugden through the 6th Panglung Oracle in 1959 on whether the Dalai Lama should flee Tibet or remain behind. Dorje Shugden rose from his throne and performed a vajra dance to clear the obstacles of the Dalai Lama. He then handed over his sword and instructed that the Dalai Lama should leave Tibet immediately and that the escape party should carry the sword at the head of the party for a safe and successful escape.
It was also the 6th Panglung Oracle in trance of Dorje Shugden who instructed a band of Khampa warriors to form the Chushi Gangdruk “army” and identified the exact location for their headquarters. This transpired a few years prior to the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet and was part of Dorje Shugden’s masterplan to have these ferocious warriors gathered and ready to escort the Dalai Lama safely out of Tibet. Furthermore, the Chushi Gangdruk’s headquarters was located along the Dalai Lama’s eventual escape route, the only safe route out of Tibet at the time. In other words, Dorje Shugden literally saved the life of the Dalai Lama via the 6th Panglung Oracle.
The 6th Panglung Oracle was the father of the current 7th Panglung Oracle, and this is one of the ways in which the Panglung line of oracles have continued for hundreds of years, with a new oracle appearing when the previous one leaves. Out of trance, the current oracle is a kind and gentle monk who holds his vows very well and asks for no reward or recognition for his service to the Buddhadharma.
The Panglung oracles are an established and highly respected line of oracles known for their authentic trances, and the 6th and 7th Panglung Oracles were personally trained by His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche and His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche respectively. Thus, we are very fortunate to have this ancient tradition of oracles alive and well today so that we are able to hear the sacred pronouncements of our holy Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden.
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