The following is a commentary by His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche on the Praise to Dorje Shugden called duelzin choe ki gyalpo choepai choka phuentsog doe gu yong khil she jawa, composed by His Holiness the 31st Sakya Trizin Kunkhyen Ngawang Kunga Lodro. This Sakya praise to Dorje Shugden was originally published here.
At the early time, entering into the teaching of the Tathagata,
You rose in the form of Vinaya-holding Bhikshu,
Thus you protect all the teachings of the Sravaka-Pitaka
Without exception, I prostrate to you.
The first verse exhorts Dorje Shugden’s previous incarnation as a great monk who protected the teachings. This verse also refers to Dorje Shugden’s previous life as the Vinaya-holder (Duldzin) Drakpa Gyaltsen (1374-1434), a pure monk who had made the great aspiration to arise as a Protector of the teachings. The teachings are protected when a person learns the Dharma, practises the Dharma and then teaches it. Therefore when Dorje Shugden in his previous incarnations learned the teachings, he was able to protect them.
For example, if someone says something negative about the teachings, when you have internalised the teachings you can reply using logic. When logic is used to clear the doubt in the mind of someone else, you are protecting the teachings. The best method to protect the teachings is not to kill or oppress those opposed to it, but to have knowledge of the teachings and then expound that knowledge so that the ignorance in the other person’s mind is cleared.
Therefore, here we see that Dorje Shugden is praised as a monk who has mastered the teachings as he can protect them without exception.
In the middle, in front of many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
Having generated the aspiring and entering Bodhicitta,
You obtained the prophecy as a Protector of the teaching of the Dharma,
Thus you protect all the teachings of the Bodhisattvas
Without exception, to you I prostrate.
This verse states that Dorje Shugden has taken the vow of Bodhicitta for the welfare of all sentient beings. Not only that, but he has practised and attained Bodhicitta itself, which is the enlightened mind that aids all beings. This was done in front of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Some people may argue that even though he has taken the vows, one can regress in practice. However, as the verse explains, he attained a prophecy when he would be enlightened. That would mean that his generation of Bodhicitta was truly genuine.
In the great mandala of the ocean of Tantras,
Initiated by Vajradhara, and receiving the samayas,
Thus you protect all the teachings of the profound Tantra
Without exception, to you I prostrate.
Here, the praise mentions the many Tantric teachings that Dorje Shugden received in his previous lives. These are based on the Sutra teachings, which as we have seen earlier he mastered, and he was also a master of Tantra. Therefore as Tantra is part of the Buddhist path, he is able to protect them through his own mastery of them. Thus, the Nine Mothers in the entourage of Dorje Shugden assist Tantric practitioners to gain spiritual attainments. The Nine Mothers are all emanations of Dorje Shugden.
༈ ཀྱཻ། ཁྱད་པར་བྱང་ཕྱོགས་གངས་རིའི་ལྗོངས་འདིར་ནི།
In particular in this northern land, surrounded by a range of snow mountains,
Though not directly pervaded by the sun of the Buddha, yet sustained by his compassion,
You are the Protector of all those perfect schools of Dharma,
I prostrate to you.
This verse exhorts Dorje Shugden as a Protector of all schools. Here he is not described as a Protector of the Sakya but as a Protector of all perfect schools of Dharma. Therefore anyone who practises the Dharma, in any school, if they propitiate Dorje Shugden, he will assist them. This is testament to Dorje Shugden’s qualities and nature.
All the great holders of the teaching, who comment according to one’s own views,
The entire Tripitakas, the Tantras and their commentaries,
You are the very Protector of all the holders of the Dharma,
Acting as the fulfiller of the words of those leaders, I prostrate to you.
The great lamas who receive a pure lineage, contemplate the teachings, who practise sincerely and even commentate on the teachings to further elucidate them to their students in order to bring clarity of mind to others are protected by Dorje Shugden. These lamas are like the sun clearing the clouds in the sky and Dorje Shugden protects them.
Unlike an unenlightened being, Dorje Shugden is not swayed by material offerings or those who make the most elaborate offerings, but favours those who elucidate the Dharma teachings. Therefore Dorje Shugden is especially close to those lamas who teach the Dharma. This shows us he is not an ordinary Protector, as ordinary Protectors are not excited when someone teaches the Dharma. They are more excited when they are given abundant offerings and respect.
Thus, in this verse we learn that Dorje Shugden is very pleased with lamas who teach the Dharma, after they have received the teachings themselves, practised them, internalised them and then give commentaries. This doesn’t refer to anyone who simply teaches the Dharma, but those who have listened to the Dharma and teach from experience.
Since the teaching of the Dharma is the gateway to the ending of suffering for all sentient beings, Dorje Shugden finds it the most pleasing and he is closest to these lamas. He will listen to these lamas who teach and assist them. This shows you his nature, as Dorje Shugden is happy when other peoples’ sufferings are relieved. This is not a sign of a worldly protector.
The legacy of the pandits, translators, Dharma kings and ministers,
All the temples constructed by them,
You are the Protector of all those seats of the Sangha
Without exception, I prostrate to you.
Here it states that Dorje Shugden is the Protector of the legacy of those who have learnt, practised and taught the Dharma. By this, it means that he not only protects those great monastic institutions they built, but their teachings as well. This is because these teachings are of great importance for beings to be free of their suffering and gain Enlightenment.
For entire Tibet, included in upper region Ngari,
Central region Ue-tsang, and lower region Dokham,
You act as the very Protector, refuge, supporter,
And friend of all people without exception,
Thus you are the very god of the snow-land country, I prostrate to you.
In Tibet there are three provinces: Ngari, Ue-tsang and Dokham. Here, Kunga Lodro is stating that Dorje Shugden is the master of all three of these provinces. Therefore he is the Protector of the entire snow-land, or Tibet itself. This goes to show that even before the Gelugpa lineage arose (the lineage that Dorje Shugden is said to have arisen to protect) the Sakya masters had already stated that he is the main Protector of Tibet, and not any other Protector.
The great Protector of all the Buddhas of this fortunate aeon,
Who is the eliminator of all the forces of unsuitable Mara,
Some day through showing full Enlightenment as Samyaksambuddha,
You will fulfil the deed of a Tathagata, to you I prostrate.
This explains that Dorje Shugden is emanating as a Dharma Protector for all Buddhist lineages at this moment and that he will continuously emanate to assist sincere practitioners. However, in the future he will take on the form of a Samyaksambuddha. This is a Buddha who manifests when the Dharma is non-existent within samsara to turn the wheel of Dharma to benefit sentient beings. For example, Buddha Shakyamuni taught when the Dharma no longer existed, so therefore he is called a Samyaksambuddha.
Likewise, Dorje Shugden will appear in a form like Buddha Shakyamuni to teach the Dharma. Some people may interpret this to mean that he is not enlightened yet. On the contrary, here it states that he will ‘show’ full Enlightenment, or take on the form of a Samyaksambuddha, implying that he is already a fully enlightened being. It means he will simply take on the form of a Samyaksambuddha for the benefit of sentient beings.
Therefore, at present he has taken on the form of a Dharma Protector; later he will take on the form of a Samyaksambuddha. This clearly means that he is enlightened already but will take on the form of a fully enlightened being in the future.
In short, in all three times, uninterruptedly,
With your infinite secrets of body speech and mind,
All those beings who are wandering in the ocean of the cycle,
You give them the perfect state of liberation, to you I prostrate.
This verse clearly states that Dorje Shugden is an enlightened being as only enlightened beings can provide you with the means of achieving Enlightenment. This is not an ability held by any other type of being. Dorje Shugden brings resources, brings practitioners to their gurus who expound the path out of suffering, and blesses them so that they are able to receive and understand the teachings. In short, he creates the causes for a person to become a fully enlightened being if we have trust in him and his abilities.
Thus by the power of venerating you with this ocean of melodious praise,
Through generating delight, compassion, and benevolent force of your mind,
Please fulfil the activity for increasing of virtues,
Pacifying of disfavourable interferences,
And accomplishment of all the purposes in accordance to Dharma.
The last verse states that by praising Dorje Shugden, who is no other than a Buddha, the practitioner generates great waves of merit. From these merits generated by praising him, we supplicate Dorje Shugden to fulfil the various actions of a Protector, removing obstacles, granting protection and the granting of conducive conditions for the practice of the Dharma.
When we praise someone with an ego, their ego increases. Whereas if we praise someone without an ego, an enlightened being, our merits increase. Although this verse on the surface level is propitiating Dorje Shugden for various activities in his current role of a Dharma Protector, if we look deeper it once again reaffirms his status as an enlightened being as he does not have an ego.
This praise in its entirety is a clear sign that Dorje Shugden is not an ordinary being but a fully enlightened being. Similarly it was no ordinary lama who composed these words. This praise was written by His Holiness the 31st Sakya Trizin Kunkhyen Ngawang Kunga Lodro, a great patriarch of the Sakya school.
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