In this post, I will explain the nature and function of Dorje Shugden. In the subsequent posts I will explain how to rely upon him outside of formal meditation and then I will explain how to rely upon him during the formal meditation session.
What is the nature and function of Dorje Shugden? In short, his nature is the same as our Spiritual Guide, but in particular he is by nature the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri. Manjushri assumes two forms, Je Tsongkhapa to lead us along the path and Dorje Shugden to arrange the conditions for our practice of the path. His function is to arrange all the outer, inner and secret conditions necessary for our swiftest possible enlightenment.
To understand this in more detail, we can consider the meaning of the invitation prayer to Dorje Shugden that we recite every day in the context of our Heart Jewel practice. The Sadhana begins by saying, “HUM, I have the clarity of the Yidam.” With HUM we dissolve everything into the clear light Dharmakaya and recall that the definitive nature of Dorje Shugden is the Truth Body of our Spiritual Guide. ‘I have the clarity of the Yidam’ means we engage in our Dorje Shugden practice self-generated as our personal deity. We do this for two reasons. First, it is more effective. Heruka is much closer to Dorje Shugden than we are, so by requesting Dorje Shugden as Heruka we tap into their close karmic connection. It is not that different than knowing somebody who knows somebody very powerful. We may not know the powerful person ourselves, but if we know somebody who does know them, if they ask the powerful person to fulfill our wishes it is far more likely we will get the response we want. The second reason why we do this is the practice of Dorje Shugden can be engaged in for the sake of ourself or for the sake of others. When we eventually become Buddha Heruka our work is not finished – we will still need to lead all other beings to enlightenment. At that time, we will need powerful allies such as Dorje Shugden who can help us help living beings. Training in the practice of Dorje Shugden while maintaining divine pride of being the deity is a very powerful method for having Dorje Shugden accomplish his function for all those that we love.
Next the sadhana says, “Before me in the center of red and black fire and wind.” Here, we imagine that encircling all the living beings we are visualizing around us is a large protection circle of Dorje Shugden made out of five-colored wisdom fires. It is like a giant sphere which completely envelopes all of these beings and the entire universe. I like to imagine that all living beings are now inside of the protection circle and everything that happens to them is perfect for their swiftest possible enlightenment.
The Sadhana then says, ‘on a lotus and sun trampeling demons and obstructors is a terrifying lion powerful and alert.’ The function of Dorje Shugden’s lion is to dispel all fear. It is a bit like in the movie Narnia, when people were in the presence of Aslan, they knew they were safe and they had nothing to fear. If ever we are in a situation where we are afraid, we can remember the protection circle of Dorje Shugden and we can remember his lion and strongly believe that we are protected and that we receive his blessings which pacify all of our fears.
The sadhana then says, “upon this sits the Great King Dorje Shugden, the supreme heart jewel of Dharma protectors.” Dorje Shugden is the principal deity of the visualization. There are a couple of different analogies we can consider to get a feeling for who he is. He is our karma manager. Rich people give their money to money managers to manage their money in an optimal way. In the same way, Dorje Shugden is the supreme karma manager. He will manage our karma in an optimal way for our swiftest possible enlightenment. He is our personal spiritual trainer. When people want to get their bodies in shape, they go to a personal physical trainer who gives them the specific exercises they need to get in the peak of physical health. In the same way, Dorje Shugden is our personal spiritual trainer who gives us the specific exercises we need to put ourselves in the peak of spiritual health, full enlightenment. He is our spiritual father. Our father protects us from danger and provides us with everything we need. In the same way, Dorje Shugden is our spiritual father who will protect us from all danger and provide for us everything we need to accomplish our spiritual goals. He is the director of our spiritual life. When people make movies or plays, there is a director who organises and puts together all the appearances. In the same way, Dorje Shugden is the director of our spiritual life, who will create a play of appearances around us for the rest of our life that are perfect for our spiritual path. In a future post, I will explain how he has the power to help us not just in this life and right now, but in all our past and future lives as well. Yes, we can go back within our past and transform what happened into a cause of our enlightenment!
The sadhana then says, “his body is clothed in the garments of a monk.” This symbolizes his power to assist us with our practice of moral discipline. We all have bad habits we are trying to abandon, such as smoking, getting angry at people and so forth; and vows we are trying to keep, such as our refuge, pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantric vows, but we are not very successful in doing so. Dorje Shugden can give us the strength and wisdom we need to abandon these bad habits. Whenever we feel tempted to break our moral discipline, we can recall Dorje Shugden in front of us dressed in the garments of a monk and request his special blessings to give us the strength to keep our moral discipline.
Next, the sadhana says, “on his head he wears a round and yellow hat.” This symbolizes his ability to help us gain the correct view of emptiness, the ultimate nature of reality. He helps us understand how all things are like a dream, and how if we change our actions, we can change our karma and that will change the dream that appears to our mind. In this way, we can become the architect of our own destiny, and cause this world of suffering to cease and the pure world of the Buddhas to arise. If ever we have difficulty understanding emptiness, we can recall his hat and request that he bless our mind to be able to gain a correct understanding of emptiness. We then imagine we receive his blessings and return to our Dharma book (or the teaching we are receiving) and try again. If we still don’t understand, we once again request blessings and repeat the cycle. We can continue like this for as long as it takes. Eventually, through the power of his blessings, we will understand.
The sadhana then says, “his hands hold a sword and a heart of compassion.” This symbolizes his ability to help us engage in lamrim meditation, in particular the union of the vast and profound path. The vast path is all of the lamrim meditations for developing a good heart, leading up to bodhichitta, the wish to lead all beings to enlightenment. The profound path refers to the wisdom realizing emptiness, that everything is like a dream. Just as we did with trying to understand emptiness, when we are having difficulty with our lamrim practice, we can recall this function of Dorje Shugden, request his blessings, receive his blessings and then try again. Practicing in this way dramatically increases the power of our lamrim meditation.
After this, the sadhana says, “to his followers he shows an expression of delight, but to demons and obstructors he displays a wrathful manner.” This symbolizes Dorje Shugden’s ability to love and care for us while destroying our delusions. We need to make a distinction between ourselves and our delusions. Just as a cancer patient is not his cancer, we are not the cancer of our delusions. Many people fear Dorje Shugden because they know he can be quite wrathful, but this fear only arises because they identify with their delusions. So when their delusions are challenged, they feel like they are being challenged. Whenever we have a delusion arise strongly in our mind, we can immediately remember Dorje Shugden and request his blessings to be able to happily accept our difficult circumstances understanding that what is bad for our delusions is good for us.