Venerable Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama Venerable Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama
In 1917, a boy who would eventually grow up to become the Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama was born in Khele, Tibet. He was given... Venerable Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama

In 1917, a boy who would eventually grow up to become the Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama was born in Khele, Tibet. As he was born on a Tuesday (gza’ mig dmar) he was given the name Migmar Tsering. In his native region of Toepa, U-Tsang province, there were three main monasteries that were affiliated and belonged to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. At the age of seven, he joined one of them, Ngamring Monastery.

When Kuten Lama was 13, he joined his nomadic farmer parents on a merchant journey to Phagri during his vacation. In Phagri, there was a branch of Gaden Shartse Monastery established by Geshe Palden Tendar, a great scholar from the Upper Tantric (Gyutö) College. Although he was initially sent to Phagri for a term of three years, Geshe Tendar never left. Held in high esteem, Geshe Tendar was frequently consulted by the monks and lay people of Phagri, and engaged in many Yamantaka retreats in the mountains.

Kuten Lama joined this monastery in Phagri and received instructions from Geshe Tendar to look after his body and health carefully. Geshe Tendar also left instructions for the elder monks to care for Kuten Lama because he could prove to be of benefit to sentient beings in the future. Kuten Lama stayed in the monastery from age 13 to 17, although he would also occasionally stay in Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s monastery due to climatic reasons.

When he was 17, Kuten Lama went on a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya in India with two friends. As he made offerings at the main stupa in Bodhgaya, he lost consciousness. When he awoke, he saw blood on the ground and asked what happened. Nobody knew but they suggested that he had an epileptic fit or was possessed as his violent movements had caused him to hit his nose on the ground.

Kuten Lama continued to experience fits of unconsciousness when he returned to Tibet. Back in Phagri, everyone suspected the cause to be Dharmapala Dorje Shugden, mainly because the Dharmapala announced himself many times. Despite having many traditions of Tibetan Buddhism in the region, it was well accepted that Dharmapala Dorje Shugden was the Protector of all the families in the area.

The Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama in trance of Duldzin Dorje Shugden.

The Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama in trance of Duldzin Dorje Shugden.

The monastery wrote to His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang to determine whether the cause was the Dharmapala, a harmful spirit or an illness. The matter was to be decided at Gaden Shartse Monastery, so Kuten Lama left Phagri with two monks and a horse to Lhasa.

Under the care of His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche in Gaden Shartse Monastery, Kuten Lama engaged in many purification practices, including 100,000 recitations of Lama Tsongkhapa’s name mantra. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche had advised that if all these preparations were done, then some signs would appear.

Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Purbuchok Rinpoche and Kyabje Ling Rinpoche made observations in order to determine whether Dharmapala Dorje Shugden was present. Observations were also made with the most famous oracle of Dorje Shugden in Tibet at that time, Puti Khangsar Kuten. When Kuten Lama was brought before the oracle at Puti Khangsar, a small throne was set up for him. When the Dharmapala manifested, he offered Kuten Lama a khata (silk scarf) and his own tea. The Dharmapala pronounced that Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama was an oracle for a manifestation of Dorje Shugden and that if he fulfilled all the requirements, he would be very beneficial to beings in the future.

Further observations were made in Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s house in Lhasa. Kuten Lama had to go into trance and was questioned by Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. He also took trance of the Dharmapala Setrap, the wrathful form of Buddha Amitabha, who is also the Protector of Gaden Shartse Monastery.

The two high lamas agreed with what the Dharmapala had said, that Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama could be of great benefit to beings in the future if he kept well. Both Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche decided that a final observation should be done by the high lamas to determine his authenticity.

In 1939, the final examination was done. Kuten Lama underwent seven days of intensive purification practices prior to the ceremony, which was conducted in the presence of over 2000 monks of Gaden Shartse Monastery. The High Lamas for the observation included the Regent of Tibet Reting Rinpoche, Phuchog Jamgon Rinpoche, Kyabje Taktra Rinpoche, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche and Trukhang Puti Khangsar Dharmapala.

Two sets of pills were prepared with slips of paper rolled into the pills. The first set of two pills contained one that said the possessing being was Dorje Shugden, and the other one said that it was a being who could not gain rebirth from the bardo (intermediate) state. The second set of three pills contained one that referred to Dharmapala Setrap.

When Kuten Lama went into trance and was offered the first set of pills, he immediately took and ate the one referring to Dharmapala Dorje Shugden. For the second set, Kuten Lama threw the other two pills away and pointed to the one left – the one referring to Dharmapala Setrap. Thus, Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama was finally approved as an oracle of two Dharma Protectors, Dorje Shugden and Setrap after rigorous testing to ensure his authenticity.

Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama with H.E. Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche.

Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama with H.E. Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche.

After his authenticity was proven, next came the recognition ceremonies. Officials of the monastery made offerings to Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama, including tea and khatas (silk scarves). He was given seven people to attend to his needs, including a secretary and an assistant, as he was to hold a high position in Tibetan society as an oracle. He was to be called ‘Kuten Lama’, the traditional Tibetan name given to the oracles of the Dharmapalas. Kuten Lama then returned to Phagri Monastery with his attendants, horses and provisions. He was received by the high officials of the monastery as well as the lay administrators and there was such a celebration that people could not see him for weeks.

Kuten Lama became a well-known oracle of Phagri for both the monastery as well as the laity who sought his assistance. He also travelled to Lhasa at the invitation of High Lamas and Tibetan aristocratic families. As Kuten Lama started to have contact with other Tibetans living outside Tibet, such as in Kalimpong and so on, these people now had a connection with the Dharmapala Dorje Shugden.

It was in the 1950s when Kuten Lama went to meet the famous Geshe Samdrup Rinpoche near Lhasa. Chamdo was lost to the Chinese and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama had left Lhasa for southern Tibet at that time. Due to the uncertainty of the times, instructions from the Dharmapala and High Lamas were very much needed, hence the Tibetan officials requested Kuten Lama to remain in Lhasa. He was given the choice of two monasteries to reside in; one was very isolated while the other, named Chokor-Yangse, was more accessible.

Kuten Lama decided to stay in Chokor-Yangse and so he became known as the Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama. The name “Choyang” is the short form of Chokor-Yangse and Duldzin is the peaceful form of Dharmapala Dorje Shugden. As petitioners sought clearer answers to their questions especially during those difficult times, they requested more invocations of the peaceful form, Duldzin. From that time onwards, he was known as the ‘peaceful’ (Duldzin) Kuten Lama wherein Kuten means ‘the body that holds the Dharmapala’.

There were many restrictions on oracles at that time, but Kuten Lama continued his duty as an oracle in order to be of benefit, especially to Tibetans seeking assistance. He remained in Lhasa although the situation was tense, and was able to help many people escape safely to India.

Choyang Kuten with his assistant (center) and relative, Dekila (right).

Choyang Duldzin Kuten lama with his assistant (centre) and relative, Dekyi-la (right).

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama left for India in 1959 as the situation worsened in Tibet. Many Tibetans then followed His Holiness into exile. Kuten Lama escaped with His Eminence Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, who had a special relationship with Dorje Shugden. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche was a guide and teacher to many Tibetan officials and, as he also worked in the government-administered education programmes, he was wanted by the Chinese.

There was a family, Chushur Samkhar, who had great wealth in Tibet in terms of land and livestock. They too had a close relationship with Dorje Shugden and had received instructions from the Dharmapala to leave everything behind. This 12-member family joined Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Rinpoche’s three attendants and Kuten Lama in their escape. The escape to exile was thought to be difficult due to the size of the party, with children and elders. However, the journey turned out to be very smooth. The party constantly consulted Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche for advice and when they sensed danger, they would invoke Dharmapala Dorje Shugden to ask for directions.

The escape party finally arrived in Buxa, northern India and met with Phala Dronyer Chenmo, a Tibetan official. He requested Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche to join the Tantric College that was being re-established in Dalhousie. The Chushur Samkhar family was also to leave for Dalhousie to a home for displaced people.

Kuten Lama remained in Buxa with about 1,500 monks from all traditions. He did not have many friends in Buxa. Luckily the provisions from the Indian Government were abundant and sufficient for livelihood. Later on, Kuten Lama received many invitations from his relatives in Mussoorie and Dharamsala to live with them. Rations were decreasing and the situation was deteriorating in Buxa. However, Kuten Lama remained in Buxa for ten years at the request of the officials of His Holiness, serving as an oracle. He was consulted whenever a major decision was to be made, regardless of the tradition or school of Tibetan Buddhism that was posing the questions. He also served as a representative at many conferences in New Delhi and Dharamsala at that time.

Kuten Lama then relocated with the Buxa community to South India, despite knowing that life there would include working in the fields in the heat. Apart from serving as an oracle, he also served as a secretary of the Monks’ Society, which had about 600 monks and represented monks from all four traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Kuten Lama believed that he was elected mainly because he was an oracle for Dharmapala Dorje Shugden, so people believed in his honesty and his good motivation to help others.

Kuten Lama was also appointed Secretary of the Co-operative Society. The Tibetan settlement in Mundgod was very poor at that time. As the Co-operative Society was dependant on assistance from the Indian government, every decision had to be made with the Indian administrator responsible. Kuten Lama prioritised this work instead of his oracle duties due to the importance and needs of the settlement.

Kuten Lama was later offered a site (which is now the Rest House for Shartse College), a house, a cow as well as a certificate by the Indian official Katarbe, who acted as the officer of the Indian government for eight years after establishing the community in the Mundgod area. These were presented in a special ceremony in front of the other monks of the community as an acknowledgement of Kuten Lama’s honesty and contribution to the community. The Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies also gave him a certificate for his work.

Choyang Kuten in Heruka Centre, London.

Choyang Kuten in Heruka Centre, London.

As the Secretary of the Monks’ Society, Kuten Lama raised funds for monks’ quarters in many monasteries including Gaden, Drepung as well as other Nyingma and Sakya monasteries. Due to his appeal to the Indian government for funding, about 16 quarters were built, housing 20 monks in each building. Two committee halls were also built and many cattle and two tractors were provided.

Kuten Lama resigned as the Secretary of the Co-operative Society in August 1973 and was appointed to head the regional subcommittee of the Tibetan Free Movement as the Vice President in the Mundgod area. He then took on the responsibility of announcing to the Tibetan public in Mundgod all the various speeches given by the Dalai Lama and other official announcements.

Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama engaged in public life not only as an oracle, but also contributing in various ways when the Tibetan community was trying to re-establish itself in India. His motivation for doing all this work? He thought that all responsibility had fallen on His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama alone, so it was very important for each individual to make as much contribution as they could.

Or view the videos on the server:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

The three videos above show Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama in trance of Dorje Shugden in his peaceful form, also known as Duldzin. In this form, Dorje Shugden is able to reside in the oracle’s body for longer period of time, giving lengthy advice and even Dharma teachings.

༡༽ གཟུགས་ལམ་དང་པོ། རྡོ་རྗེ་ཤུགས་ལྡན་ཞི་བའི་རྣམ་འགྱུར་འདུལ་འཛིན་ཆེན་པོ་རང་ཉིད་ཀྱི་སྐུ་བསྟེན་དུ་ཆོས་ཡངས་སྐུ་བསྟེན་ཐོག་མར་ཡེ་ཤེས་པ་ཤུགས་ལྡན་ཚད་མའི་ཁོག་རློམས་བྱེད་ཡུལ་ཚད་མར་ཡོངས་འཛིན་གླིང་སྤྲུལ་རྡོ་རྗེ་འཆང་དང་ཡོངས་འཛིན་ཁྲི་བྱང་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་དང་ རྡོ་རྗེ་འཆང་ཕུར་བུ་བཅོག་རྣམས་པ་གསུམ་གྱིས་རྒྱབ་རྟེན་གནང་བ་སོགས་ཀྱི་སྐོར་བཞུགས་སོ།།

༢༽ གཟུགས་ལམ་གཉིས་པ། ཕྱི་ལོ་༡༩༩༥ འཛམ་གླིང་སྤྱི་བཟང་ཉིན་སེར་སྐྱ་མི་མང་ལ་དཀའ་སློབ་བཀའ་དྲིན་སྐྱོང་བ་།། སྐུ་བསྟེན་ནི་ཆོས་ཡངས་སྐུ་བསྟེན་དང་ཁོག་ཏུ་རློམ་པའི་ཡེ་ཤས་པ་ནི་རྒྱལ་ཆེན་ཤུགས་ལྡན་ཞི་བའི་རྣམ་པ་འདུལ་འཛིན་ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱལ་པོའི་གསུང་དྲི་མ་མེད་པ་བཞུགས་སོ།། གསུང་འདི་ལེགས་པར་ཉོན་དང་ ཤུགས་ལྡན་བསྟེན་མཁན་རྣམས་ལ་ཆོས་དང་ཟང་ཟིང་གྱི་འབྲེལ་བ་གཅོད་པའི་བྱ་སྤྱོད་ཐབས་སྡུག་དེ་འདྲ་བྱེད་ཕོད་དམ།།

༣༽ གཟུགས་ལམ་གསུམ་པ། རྟེན་ཆོས་དབྱངས་སྐུ་བསྟེན་དང་ཁོག་ཏུ་བཞུགས་པའི་ཡེ་ཤེས་པ་ནི་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཤུགས་ལྡན་ཞི་བའི་རྣམ་འགྱུར་འདུལ་འཛིན་ཆེན་པོས་བསྙིགས་དུས་ཀྱི་སེམས་དཔའ་ཆེན་པོ་ཞིག་ལ་སྐུ་ཚེ་ཡུན་དུ་བསྟེན་དགོས་པའི་གསོལ་འདེབས་ཞུ་བཞིན་པ། གསུང་འདི་ནི་ཕྱི་ལོ་༡༩༨༠ ནང་ལ་བཙལ་བ་ཡིན་འདུག།

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  • Sierra

    Posted on August 1, 2016 #1 Author

    Thank you for this insight into the training and life of Venerable Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama. These lamas were very brave to leave behind a tense situation and start life anew in a new land.

    It’s is with great compassion an kindness that Venerable Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama help re-establish the monasteries by helping to raise funds for monks’ quarters in many monasteries including Gaden, Drepung as well as other Nyingma and Sakya monasteries.

    The many little ways that Venerable Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama help comes out of his wish to help others alleviate their suffering.

    May Venerable Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama works and sacrifice be remembered with kindness and gratitude.


  • Choong

    Posted on January 5, 2017 #2 Author

    Venerable Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama is also an uncle to Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.


  • Alice Tay

    Posted on March 30, 2018 #3 Author

    Through this inspiring article, I understand that to become an oracle, the determination, the arise of bodhicitta mind are very important for the benefits of all sentient beings. Ven. Choyang Duldzin Kuten Lama’s determination and focus to help others was so strong though he had to gone through and endure all the pain and uncomfortable of his body. Although Kuten Lama received the recognition as an oracle, he was still continued to do more. He prioritised the work to help the poor instead of his oracle duties due to the importance and needs of the settlement.

    We should take note for all the good qualities of Kuten Lama including humbleness, determination, focus, kindness and compassion, that are really help and enable us to do the right thing for the benefit of others.