Located behind the main chapel of Jowo Rinpoche or Central Cathedral of Lhasa, just off the main circumambulation circuit (Barkor) is the Dorje Shugden Chapel – Trode Khangsar. It was commissioned by His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th Century and serves as a testament to the official establishment of Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden’s practice in Tibet.
According to records, H.H. the 5th Dalai Lama founded Trode Khangsar as a “Protector House” (btsan khang) for Dorje Shugden, in which he also placed a statue of this enlightened Protector. He did so following his remorse after being misled in regards to the events relating to the death of Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen.
H.H. the 5th Dalai Lama manifested the mistaken thought that Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen, his Dharma brother, had become a malevolent spirit, but he had in fact arisen as the enlightened Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden.
H.H. the 5th Dalai Lama had even invited many masters to subdue Dorje Shugden through wrathful pujas but these were all unsuccessful. Manifesting the realisation that Dorje Shugden was in fact a great and powerful enlightened Dharma Protector, he thus founded Trode Khangsar Chapel.
Around the end of the 17th Century, the 5th Dalai Lama’s Regent Desi Sangye Gyatso entrusted Trode Khangsar to Riwo Choling, a Gelug monastery. Following such entrustment, Trode Khangsar welcomed its pioneering Sangha of 11 monks and an oracle.
Trode Khangsar bore witness to the recognition of Dorje Shugden by the Chinese Qing dynasty emperor at the time of His Holiness the 11th Dalai Lama, Khedrub Gyatso. At that juncture, an Amban, a Chinese official, was present in Lhasa.
The Amban burnt a set of questions in front of Trode Khangsar and asked for clear answers from Dorje Shugden. These were questions posed by the Qing Emperor Dakhong himself relating to certain political decisions that needed to be made. When the Trode Khangsar oracle took trance, Dorje Shugden gave clear advice and answers to the questions burned by the Amban.
When the answers were brought back to Emperor Dakhong, he was amazed at the precision and clarity of the advice given. The Emperor sent offerings of a pandit’s hat for Dorje Shugden, and recognised Dorje Shugden as a powerful Dharma Protector, not only for the Gelug lineage but for the entire Buddhadharma. Thereafter, His Holiness the 11th Dalai Lama, the Qing Amban, Reting Rinpoche, the Dorje Shugden oracle and various monks held a grand ceremony in the courtyard of Trode Khangsar, and the pandit’s hat was placed over its doors.
Originally a three-storey structure, Trode Khangsar’s topmost floor, which housed the Dorje Shugden oracle, was removed during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. The first floor which is slightly below ground level is not used for religious purposes. If one were to take the stairs leading to the front entrance from the south side of this floor, one would encounter an enclosed portico. On the walls of this portico are painted images of the Four Heavenly Protectors (rgyal chen sde bzhi) as is typical with most temples and monasteries.
The front entrance leads directly into the main hall of the building which is supported by eight pillars and is approximately ten meters wide. To the east and west sides of the main hall lie the residential rooms for monks. Behind the main hall, protruding from the north side of the building is a room used for rituals by the resident monks. This room has a skylight and black coloured walls with paintings of various Dharma Protectors. On the north side of the room are statues of Lama Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug sect, and his principal students Gyaltsab Je and Khedrup Je.
The murals on the walls of the main hall are of important historical significance and encompass the murals of Dorje Shugden’s previous lives’ stories (‘khrung rabs) including:
- Manjushri during the life of Buddha Shakyamuni
- Birwapa, one of the Mahasiddhas in medieval India
- Khache Panchen Shakya Shri, a Kashmiri scholar who travelled to Tibet and disseminated important lineages of practice
- Sakya Pandita and Buton Rinchen Drub, early Tibetan translators and scholars
- Panchen Sonam Drakpa, Sonam Yeshe Wangpo, Ngawang Sonam Gelek and Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen, masters of the Gelug tradition founded in the 14th Century.
Photographs of the murals of Manjushri as Jampel Mawa’i Senge and Avalokiteshvara as Yellow Amoghapasha are found in the book “The Temples of Lhasa”. Other murals feature important stories of how Dorje Shugden was urged to become a Protector in the presence of Lama Tsongkhapa as his student, Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen.
In particular, the mural depicts Lama Tsongkhapa surrounded by other monks and the Protector Nechung arriving on a snow lion, holding a bow and arrow. Nechung in the form of a boy interrupted the teachings three times. On the third occasion, Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen informed him it was not appropriate to interrupt the teachings and asked him to stop. Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen is then depicted standing up, at which point he promises Nechung to protect Lama Tsongkhapa’s tradition in the future. Next, Lama Tsongkhapa is depicted as being delighted and offers Duldzin Drakpa Gyaltsen a skull cup filled with nectar.
There are several known manifestations of Dorje Shugden, such as a form riding a black horse which is popular in the Sakya tradition. The form of Dorje Shugden riding a snow lion and holding a sword is the most popular in the Gelug tradition. One interesting difference in the iconography of several of the statues and paintings of Dorje Shugden in Trode Khangsar is that he is holding a club instead of a sword. The significance of this particular iconographic detail pertains to the manifestation His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama witnessed, as evident in the praise and confession written by him:
Robes of a monk, crown adorned with rhinoceros leather hat,
Right hand holds ornate club, left holds a human heart,
Riding various mounts such as nagas and garudas,
Who subdues the mamo’s of the charnel grounds, praise to you!
In a survey carried out by Taktra Rinpoche who was Regent of Tibet between 1941-1950, Trode Khangsar is recorded to be in possession of the wood block prints of an extensive Dorje Shugden Fulfilment Ritual (chos skyong shugs ldan gyi bskang chog rgyas pa) authored by Gaden Jangtse Serkong Dorje Chang, one of the most important Gelug Lamas at the turn of the 19th Century.
Trode Khangsar is currently in full use with pujas or ceremonies performed to Dorje Shugden daily. It is open to the public.
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