Who is Dorje Shugden? Dorje Shugden and Je Tsongkhapa are actually the same Buddha, just two different aspects and two different functions. Je Tsongkhapa accomplishes the function of bestowing blessings and leading us on the path of Lamrim, Lojong, and Vajrayana Mahamudra. Dorje Shugden accomplishes the function of arranging all the outer, inner, and secret conditions we need for our attainment of enlightenment as swiftly as possible.
Outer conditions refer to all the external things we need to support our practice, such access to teachers, centers, Dharma books, adequate housing, food, and so forth. He arranges the external conditions we need to practice in. He is like our personal trainer. Like one big Truman Show. Inner conditions refer to the conditions within our mind. Dorje Shugden is actually 1,000 times more powerful at arranging inner conditions. Inner conditions are things like dispelling wrong views, having faith in Je Tsongkhapa’s Dharma, easily gaining the realizations of Lamrim and Lojong, etc. Secret conditions refer to the conditions within our subtle body. He is actually 1,000 times more powerful at arranging secret conditions than he is at inner conditions. Secret conditions are removing obstructions within our subtle body and arranging all the conditions we need to generate spontaneous great bliss.
Like with Je Tsongkhapa, we need to develop a personal relationship with Dorje Shugden, where he is our best friend. We feel his presence in our life at all times. He is a real person, and we need to bring him into our lives.
The practice of Dorje Shugden is actually quite simple, but it is very vast. Really there is only one part to Dorje Shugden practice, and that is faith. It was explained at a festival once that from Dorje Shugden’s side he has infinite power. He is the spiritual power of all the Buddhas. If all of samsara somehow got coordinated together to cause a certain outcome to come about, he could just blow on it and send everything tumbling the other way. He is not limited on his side, but we are limited on how much we can receive his help. Our first constraint in having him help us is our karma. He can’t cause us to experience things that we haven’t created the causes for. He is like a karma manager. He manages our karma in the optimal way for our swiftest possible enlightenment, but he can’t invent karma we don’t have. His second constraint in helping us is the amount of faith we have in him. If we have a little bit of faith in him, he will be a little bit helpful; if we have infinite faith in him, then he will be infinitely powerful for us.
So how do we develop faith in Dorje Shugden?
To understand this, we need to examine what are the types of faith? Blind faith is faith without a valid reason. We completely reject this is Buddhism. Blind faith is better than no faith only when we happen to get lucky and place our blind faith in something that is perfect. But with blind faith there is the risk that we could place our faith in something not worthy of faith. And even if we did put blind faith in a worthwhile object, we wouldn’t get very far because from a Buddhist perspective we need to realize all the stages of the path from our own side. We are not training to be followers, we are training to be leaders, those who lead others to perfect freedom. We can never do this if we don’t understand everything perfectly ourself in our heart.
The second type of faith is admiring faith. Here we appreciate the good qualities of enlightened beings, or their teachings, or our spiritual friends. Our mind naturally becomes very clear and free from disturbing conceptions. This creates the space within our mind to allow ourselves to come under the influence of what we admire. Normally we keep a distance between ourselves and other objects because we fear coming under their influence. But by contemplating and realizing their good qualities from our own side helps us to break down this fear, and thereby enables us to open our mind up.
How many people in this world can we honestly say are looking out exclusively for our own welfare, with no hidden agenda? Do we have any examples in our lives of really trusting someone? Probably not. This is difficult stuff for us, but it is only by investigating deeply for ourselves that we can gradually break down this resistance. When we trust somebody completely, there is a peace of mind that comes over us that is literally overwhelming. All tension and stress go away when we think about that person. We feel great confidence in knowing that their advice is completely reliable. Finally, we can drop our guard, and let ourself be taken care of. It is so beautiful. It is especially useful to develop admiring faith for the mind of faith. This is in fact the most important thing to develop admiring faith for, because with this admiring faith, all of the rest of the path comes quickly and easily.
The next type of faith is wishing faith. Here we wish to acquire for ourselves the good qualities that we admire with our admiring faith. This compels us to engage in practice.
The final type of faith is believing faith. This is the strongest type of faith, and it is a faith based on valid reasoning. Even though it does not fully understand the given subject, it engages the topic without doubt. Believing faith accomplishes a similar function as wisdom. Wisdom knows its object thoroughly from one’s own side, and it functions to dispel doubt. Believing faith accepts the truth of the subject even while uncertainty remains, and so therefore functions to dispel doubt. It enables the practitioner to practice fully even when they don’t yet fully understand.
How do we develop believing faith? We can use the logical reasoning contained within the Lamrim to convince ourselves by weight of argument. We can also be a good scientist by suspend our doubts about whether it works or not, put the instructions into practice purely, and then see if they in fact work. We can actually “choose to believe.” Faith is a choice to believe. What do we choose to believe? That which is most beneficial to believe. So we simply investigate whether it is beneficial to think in a particular way, and then we choose to do so. If we have previously gained conviction that our spiritual guide is a Buddha, and therefore completely reliable, then we can use the perfect logical syllogism which says, ‘the spiritual guide is omniscient and therefore completely reliable, he says X, therefore X is true.’ This is not blind faith because it is based on the valid reason that the spiritual guide is completely reliable. We then use our powers of reasoning to fully understand from our own side.