Contradictions: Examining the legal, political and spiritual consistency of the Dalai Lama’s ban of Dorje Shugden practice

Executive Summary

This paper examines the legal, political and spiritual consistency of the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden practice.  The premise is very simple:  the Dalai Lama’s ban is in direct contradiction with everything he is known to stand for, legally, politically and spiritually.  The contradiction within his own thinking is giving rise to completely unnecessary conflict and tensions within the broader Buddhist community and leading to great suffering within his own people.  The solution to all of this lies in the Dalai Lama lifting his ban.  Doing so will heal the divisions within the global Sangha, relieve the suffering of his people, help advance the Tibetan cause and enable the Dalai Lama to be wholly consistent in defense of the values he so effectively espouses on the world stage.  In other words, lifting the ban helps everyone; keeping it harms everyone.  The choice is his.  In particular, this paper outlines what the Dalai Lama has said about Dorje Shugden practice, what the Tibetan Government in Exile and others are doing about what the Dalai Lama has said, examines the accusations made against Dorje Shugden practitioners, and finally explains why what the Dalai Lama has said in defense of this ban is inconsistent with his own ideals.  In particular, nearly half of this paper is an extensive explanation of how this ban violates the very international human rights legal instruments the Dalai Lama has principally relied upon in his case against the Chinese.  The purpose of this paper is simple:  by exposing the contradictions in the Dalai Lama’s position, it is hoped he will lift the ban, his supporters will stop defending it, and the victims of the ban will find strength in knowing the truth is on their side.  It is also hoped that this document will help those in the press following this story to examine this issue objectively and not pre-suppose the Dalai Lama is right about this ban simply due to his well-crafted international reputation.

Click on the link below to read the full article (MS Word version)

Contradictions – Examining the political, legal and spiritual consistency of the Dalai Lama’s ban on Dorje Shugden (2014)

Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: How to rely on Dorje Shugden

Understanding from the last post what faith is and how we cultivate it, we can now turn to the question of how do we actually practice Dorje Shugden?  There are three main parts:

  1. Make requests out of infinite faith that he provide us with the perfect conditions we need for our attainment of enlightenment in this lifetime.  We need to let go of all doubts that he can do this.  We need to let go of all doubts we have about our own ability to attain enlightenment in this lifetime.  It is possible.  We have the methods, we have the Dharma protector, we have the guru, the only thing we are missing is us going for it.  We do not make worldly requests related to the wishes of this life, rather we make spiritual requests for wisdom and compassion.  We can make requests either for ourself or for others.
  2. Accept with infinite faith whatever subsequently arises as the perfect conditions we asked for.  He won’t always give us what we want, but he will give us what we need.  The whole trick is changing what we want to be what we need.  We accomplish this through sincere Lamrim practice.  The guru will knock us on our butt, but never so much that we can’t pick ourselves back up again.  He is especially good at creating situations that reveal to us our delusions.  We should make requests that he do this in a way that we can overcome them.  An obstacle is only an obstacle to the mind that imputes obstacle.  A perfect condition is a perfect condition only to the mind that imputes perfect condition.  Reliance on Dorje Shugden enables us to impute perfect conditions on everything, and so everything becomes an opportunity for us to practice Dharma, train our mind, and gain the ability to lead all beings to perfect freedom.
  3. Then, in these perfect conditions, we practice to the best of our ability.  We see what delusions the situation gives rise to and we attack them.  Different situations will present different opportunities to practice.  If we don’t know what to practice in a given situation, we should make requests that it be revealed to us what we need to practice.  Need to be skillful and content to practice within our limits and our abilities.  Dorje Shugden knows our abilities and constraints and is working with them.  He is not expecting us to do more than we can.  Often situations will seem beyond our ability, but that is only because we are trying to work through the situation with our ordinary mind.  These situations are encouraging us to use our guru’s mind which has infinite power.

Within the context of the Sadhana, how do we practice?  Geshe-la provides precious little commentary.  The reason for this is he wants us to develop a personal relationship with Dorje Shugden and for us to engage in the practice with the request that he personally reveal himself to us.  This makes it much more personal.  So I will follow that example.  I will, however, explain some essentials.

HUM

HUM is the seed letter for the mind of all the Buddhas, which is the bliss and emptiness of all things.  It is from the Dharmakaya that Dorje Shugden arises.

I have the clarity of the Yidam

In my view, this is the most important line of the whole Dorje Shugden part.  What it says is that when we engage in Dorje Shugden practice, we are doing so as the Yidam.  If we haven’t received HYT empowerments, we can do this as the guru at our heart.  The guru-deity has infinitely more power and ability to invoke the protection of Dorje Shugden.  So we use the guru-deity to make the requests.

Light rays from my heart instantly invite the wisdom beings from the sphere of nature, and from all the different palaces where they abide. They become inseparable from the commitment beings.

When it says ‘my heart’ it is referring to our heart as the guru deity.  ‘Wisdom beings’ are actual Buddhas which we invite to enter into the Dorje Shugden imagined in front of us, recalling that wherever you imagine a Buddha, a real Buddha actually goes.  ‘Sphere of nature’ refers to the Dharmakaya.  We are in the Dharmakaya of our guru inseparable from our own mind.  ‘Different places where they abide’ in particular refers to Keajra and Tushita Pure Land.  ‘Become inseparable’ means we imagine that all the wisdom beings dissolve into the commitment beings, infusing them with the power of all the Buddhas.  The ‘commitment beings’ are the visualized deities.  We then recite the rest of the sadhana, which I explained in a previous series of posts.

At the end we make the prayer,

All the attainments I desire
Arise from merely remembering you.
O Wishfulfilling Jewel, Protector of the Dharma,
Please accomplish all my wishes.   (3x)

This is a very blessed prayer.  We can use it at anytime, especially when we need protection.  It more or less is the meaning of Dorje Shugden’s mantra (OM VAJRA WIKI WITRANA SOHA).  The reason why merely remembering him accomplishes all the attainments is because by remembering him he infuses himself into the situation and accomplishes his function.  At this point in the sadhana we pause and make personal requests to Dorje Shugden for the flourishing of the pure Kadam Dharma in the minds of living beings.

 

Reliance on the Guru’s mind alone: Who is Dorje Shugden and what is his function?

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.

 

 

Reliance on Dorje Shugden: The 9-line Migstema prayer

The purpose of Dorje Shugden is to arrange the outer and inner conditions for our practice of Je Tsongkhapa’s Kadam Dharma.  Every Kadampa sadhana ends with the recitation of the 9-line Migtsema prayer.  In many ways, we can say it is our most important prayer, and so therefore amongst all of the things Dorje Shugden protects, this is arguably the most precious object of protection.  This prayer is the inner core of what it means to be a Kadampa (the same can be said for the single-pointed request in Offering to the Spiritual Guide).  What follows is how I personally engage in the nine-line Migstema prayer.  This way of reciting the Migtstema prayer has emerged gradually over time over the 19 years I have been practicing it every day.  I have never been taught this by any of my teachers, but it has been what has been revealed to me internally as a possible way of reciting the prayer.  Ultimately, though, we need to make our practice of this prayer personal.  We want this prayer to be “our prayer.”  Christians have “The Lord’s Prayer,” we have the Migtsema prayer.  Its meaning, and the ways of practicing it, are infinite.  But through gaining deep personal experience of it over a long period of time, practicing it will eventually lead us to enlightenment.  In my view, praying in this way sets up perfectly the practice of Dorje Shugden during the meditation break.  The prayer is essentially a method for invoking Je Tsongkhapa to accomplish his function in this world.

We are directing the prayer to Je Tsongkhapa.  If we are engaging in our daily practice, we can imagine him in the space in front of us.  The Je Tsongkhapa of the field of merit.  We imagine he is in front of all the beings in the protection circle that we have been imagining are engaging in the practice.  If we are at a festival or receiving a Dharma teaching, we can direct the prayer to the Je Tsongkhapa inside the person giving the teaching.  We should imagine that we receive all our teachings from Je Tsongkhapa, not the ordinary person.  Reciting this prayer in this way strengthens our recognition of this.

Specifically, we can imagine as follows :

Tsongkhapa,

We recall the living Je Tsongkhapa in front of us (either in the space in front of us or at the heart of the spiritual teacher).  Je Tsongkhapa is the supreme Kadampa Spiritual Guide and by visualizing him with admiring faith it creates the causes for us to become just like him.

Crown ornament of the scholars of the land of the snows,

We imagine that from this Je Tsongkhapa countless emanations of Je Tsongkhapa go out to all of the beings inside of the protection circle, ourselves included, bestowing upon us the qualities of a fully qualified Kadampa Spiritual Guide in the aspect of the body and mind of Je Tsongkhapa.

You are Buddha Shakyamuni and Vajradhara,

We recall the living Buddha Shakyamuni and Vajradhara are in front of us at the heart of Je Tsongkhapa.  Buddha Shakyamuni is the supreme Spiritual Guide for teaching Sutra and Vajradhara is the supreme Spiritual Guide for teaching Tantra.  By visualizing them with admiring faith we create the causes to become just like them.

Source of all attainments,

We imagine that from Buddha Shakyamuni and Vajradhara countless emanations of themselves (Vajradhara in the heart of Buddha Shakyamuni) go out to all of the beings inside of the protection circle, ourselves included, bestowing upon them all the qualities of a fully qualified Sutra and Tantra Spiritual Guide in the aspect of Buddha Shakyamuni and Vajradhara respectively.

Avalokiteshvara,

We recall the living Avalokiteshvara in front of us at the throat of Je Tsongkhapa.  By visualizing Avalokitehsvara with admiring faith it creates the causes for us to generate within our mind his compassion.

The treasury of unobservable compassion,

We imagine that from Avalokitesyhvara countless emanations of Avalokiteshvara go out to all of the beings inside of the protection circle, ourselves included, bestowing upon them all the compassion of all the Buddhas and all the realizations of the vast path in the aspect of Avalokiteshvara.  Unobservable compassion is compassion mixed with an understanding of the emptiness of living beings.

Manjushri,

We recall the living Manjushri in front of us at the crown of Je Tsongkhapa.  By visualizing him with admiring faith we create the causes to gain his omniscient wisdom.

The supreme stainless wisdom,

We imagine that from Manjushri countless emanations of Manjushri go out to all of the beings inside of the protection circle, ourselves included, bestowing upon them all the wisdom of all the Buddhas and all the realizations of the profound path in the aspect of Manjushri.

and Vajrapani,

We recall the living Vajrapani in front of us at the heart of Je Tsongkhapa.  By visualizing Vajrapani with admiring faith we create the causes to develop within our own mind his spiritual power.

The destroyer of the hosts of maras,

We imagine that from Vajrapani countless emanations of Vajrapani go out to all of the beings inside of the protection circle, ourselves included, bestowing upon them all the spiritual power of all the Buddhas and all the realizations of the tantric path in the aspect of Vajrapani.

O Venerable Guru Buddha,

At this point, we are directing our request to all of the Je Tsongkhapa’s we have just generated inside all of the beings in the protection circle.  We likewise recall that all of these Je Tsongkhapa’s are by nature our Spiritual Guide.  This makes it a practice of guru yoga.

Synthesis of all three jewels,

We recognize the body, speech and mind of all these beings collectively to be all Sangha, Dharma and Buddha jewels respectively.

With my body, speech and mind,

If we don’t have Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments yet, we can think with every aspect of ourselves; if we do have Tantric empowerments, we can think that the deities of the body mandala make the request.  This is more powerful because the deities of the body mandala have a closer relationship with Je Tsongkhapa than we do.

Respectfully I make these requests:

Sometimes people get confused with the word invoke or making requests thinking that it is a command.  It is not this at all, it is a faithful request, but with confidence because we know our intention is pure and they have the power to fulfill the request, so it will definitely be answered.

Please grant your blessings to ripen and liberate myself and others,

I have been taught two different interpretations of ripen and liberate.  The first is to ripen means to place firmly on the path so that you never abandon it.  To liberate means to attain liberation, or nirvana.  As we recite this, we imagine that he accords these blessings and now all beings have been ripened and liberated.  The second is that ripened means enlightenment and liberate means liberation.  Either one works and ultimately is the same thing.  But I personally like the idea of being “ripened” onto the path.  If our path becomes irreversible and we never leave it, then even if we don’t actually attain any of these higher attainments in this lifetime, by being ripened we will enter into a karmic slipstream which inevitably leads to the same result.

And bestow the common and supreme attainments.

We can understand this as follows:  The common attainments refer to everything leading up to Buddhahood.  In this context, we can refer to interpretative Je Tsongkhapa and all of his abilities.  The supreme attainment refers to Buddhahood itself.  In this context, we can refer to definitive Je Tsongkhapa, the Dharmakaya from which interpretative Je Tsongkhapa arises.

 

To summarize this entire series of posts, the practice of Dorje Shugden can be reduced to the following:

  1. We renew our motivation as a spiritual being – we realize that the only thing that matters is the causes we create because they are the only things we can take with us.
  2. We request with infinite faith that Dorje Shugden provide us with perfect conditions for our swiftest possible enlightenment.
  3. We then accept with infinite faith that whatever subsequently arises is the perfect conditions for our practice that we requested.
  4. We then practice in these conditions to the best of our ability.  It doesn’t matter what appears, what matters is how we respond.  So we try to respond well.

If we do these four things, I guarrantee you that you will be gradually lead to enlightenment.  It will just be a question of time.

There is much much more to say about the practice of Heart Jewel, but I wanted to keep things simple.  I strongly encourage everyone to read again and again the book Heart Jewel, which Geshe-la has said is his most important book.  We should also take advantage of the opportunity to speak with some senior practitioners about how to establish a daily practice and we should request teachings and empowerments on this practice from our local teacher.

I dedicate any merit I accumulated from doing this series of posts so that every living being joyfully establishes a daily practice of Dorje Shugden.  I pray that everything that happens to every living being is perfect for their swiftest possible enlightenment.  I request the wisdom to be able to understand how whatever happens to anybody is perfect for their enlightenment and I request that all of the conditions be arranged for me to share this perspective with others in a way that they can accept it.  In this way, we can all happily accept everything that happens in our life and swiftly make progress to enlightenment.  OM VAJRA WIKI WITRANA SOHA!

Reliance on Dorje Shugden: How to increase the power of our reliance

I want to now explain some general advice on how to increase the power of our practice of Dorje Shugden.  These apply equally to the meditation break as well as the meditation session.

  1. The extent to which he can help us depends on the degree of faith we have in him.  If our faith is weak, his protection will be weak.  This is not because he is holding back it is because our mind remains closed so he has no point of entry for bestowing his blessings.  If our faith is indestructible and infinite, then his protection of us will be infinite.  If we understand this we will realize that our primary training in the practice of Dorje Shugden is increasing our faith in him.
  2. He can help us to the extent that our motivation is pure.  When our motivation is pure, it is like we align the crystals of our mind perfectly with the light of the deity.  To improve our motivation, we need to train sincerely in lamrim.  The main function of lamrim is to change our heart desires from worldly ones into spiritual ones.  Once we get our motivation right, everything else naturally falls into place.  It is the mental factor intention that determines the karma we create, so intention is the most important.
  3. He can help us to the extent that we realize that he, ourselves and everything else are empty.  The main point is this:  Dorje Shugden isn’t anything from his own side.  He is as powerful as we construct him to be.  We can construct him as an ordinary being or as an infinitely powerful wisdom protector.

The most effective way of increasing the power of our reliance is to engage in sincere dedication prayers.  When we dedicate the merit we have accumulated it is like putting our spiritual savings in the bank where they can never be destroyed and they can earn spiritual interest.  Each sadhana has a different dedication prayer which summarizes the main function of the spiritual practice.  In the case or Dorje Shugden, the dedication prayers are as follows:

By this virtue may I quickly
Attain the enlightened state of the Guru,
And then lead every living being
Without exception to that ground.

This is the first effect of this practice.  This is the explicit strategy of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition for emptying samsara.  Je Tsongkhapa is a spiritual guide who trains others to also become spiritual guides.  These new spiritual guides then train others still and so on.  In this way, generation after generation, the beneficial effects of Je Tsongkhapa’s deeds continue forever.  This is the “great wave of Je Tsongkhapa’s deeds.”  The person who got me into spirituality was a close friend in college.  He opened the door for me and encouraged me to step through.  After several years of practicing, I thought back to the fact that without the kindness and encouragement of this one friend I would not have a spiritual life at all.  So when I saw him I asked him, “how can I pay you back?”  His answer was a very powerful teaching:  he said, “do the same for others.  And when others ask you how they can pay you back, give them the same answer.  In this way, the kindness keeps going forever.”  Venerable Tharchin says that the highest spiritual goal to aspire to is to take our place in the lineage.  At some point we will be the lineage guru whose responsibility it is to carry forward the lineage.  We must prepare ourselves for that responsibility in much the same way people prepare themselves for big misions or assignments.

Through my virtues from practising with pure motivation,
May all living beings throughout all their lives
Never be parted from peaceful and wrathful Manjushri,
But always come under their care.

This is the second effect of this practice.  If beings are never separated from peaceful and wrathful Manjushri, in other words Je Tsongkhapa and Dorje Shugden, then their enlightenment is just a question of time.

The following two verses, known as the Prayers for the Virtuous Traditon, were actually written by a previous incarnation of Dorje Shugden, and we recite them after every practice.

So that the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa,
The King of the Dharma, may flourish,
May all obstacles be pacified
And may all favourable conditions abound.

This should be fairly self-explanatory by now.  It is the essential meaning of the entire Dorje Shugden part.

Through the two collections of myself and others
Gathered throughout the three times,
May the doctrine of Conqueror Losang Dragpa
Flourish for evermore.

The two collections are the collections of merit and wisdom, and the three times are the past, present and future.  In other words, we mentally invest all of the merit every accumulated into the flourishing of Je Tsongkhapa’s Dharma (Losang Dragpa is another name for Je Tsongkhapa).

 

Reliance on Dorje Shugden: All the attainments I desire…

In the last post I explained most of the things we request Dorje Shugden to do.  In this post I will explain the summary requests from the sadhana.

Please remain in this place always, surrounded by most excellent enjoyments.
As my guest, partake continuously of tormas and offerings;
And since you are entrusted with the protection of human wealth and enjoyments,
Never waver as my guardian throughout the day and the night.

All the attainments I desire
Arise from merely remembering you.
O Wishfulfilling Jewel, Protector of the Dharma,
Please accomplish all my wishes.   (3x)

This verse is the synthesis of the entire Dorje Shugden practice.  Everything is contained within this verse.  We can understand this verse as follows:  The first line refers to our pure wishes, not our mundane wishes.  A mundane wish is a wish that thinks only of this life, whereas a pure wish takes into consideration this and our countless future lives.  The second line refers to wherever you imagine a Buddha a Buddha actually goes, and where ever they go they accomplish their function.  So if we remember Dorje Shugden, he will infuse himself into the situation and transform it into something perfect for our practice.  The third and fourth lines explain how Dorje Shugden can become a wishfulfilling jewel.  Since he accomplishes all our spiritual wishes, if we make all of our wishes spiritual ones, he will accomplish all our wishes.

Whenever we are in a difficult situation, we can recite this verse like a mantra requesting him to provide us with immediate protection.  Then we should strongly believe that he has infused himself into the situation and everything is now perfect.  We may wonder why is it that all the attainments we desire arise from merely remembering Dorje Shugden.  The reason for this is Dorje Shugden is a wisdom Buddha, which means he primarily helps us by blessing our mind with the wisdom to be able to see how the conditions we have are perfect for our practice.  When we remember him, we recall that everything is emanated by him and thus perfect.  Just believing this to be the case with faith opens our mind to receiving his powerful blessings.  Sometimes we understand immediately how the situation is perfect for our spiritual training, other times it is not so clear.  But even when it is not clear why the conditions are perfect, our remembering him gives us the faith THAT things are perfect, so we can more easily accept them.  Understanding why is best, but even just understanding that things are perfect is good enough to set our mind at peace.

If we don’t have time to engage in the whole Dorje Shugden sadhana, we can just recite this verse three times and this will maintain our commitments.  One verse recited out of deep faith and a pure motivation is far more powerful than hundreds of hours of sadhana practice with a distracted, unfaithful mind.  If we offer our life completely into his care, it does not matter how much recitation we do.  But with that being said, reciting the full sadhana is obviously more effective than just reciting this last verse assuming our faith and motivation are equal in both situations.

At this point, it is customary to pause and make personal requests for ourself and the people we care about.  The following are some requests we can make :

  1. General requests:  “May I gain all the realizations necessary to lead all these beings to enlightenment.” This is the essence of our bodhchitta wish.  We can also make the request, “Please arrange all the outer, inner and secret conditions so that all these beings may enter, progress along and complete the path to enlightenment in this lifetime.”  This request fulfills our superior intention to lead all beings along the path to enlightenment.
  2. Specific requests:  When we don’t know what is best, we can request “Please arrange whatever is best with respect to _____.”  When we think something is best, but we have some attachment to getting it our way, we can make the request, “With respect to ____, if it is best, please arrange it; otherwise, please sabotage it.”  When we have some situation that needs transforming, we can request, “May my/her experience of _____ become a powerful cause of my/her enlightenment.”  Finally, we can request anything that has a pure motivation, but we shouldn’t become attached to getting things the way we think is best.  We don’t know what is best, which is why we need an omniscient Dharma protector managing these things for us.

After we have made our requests, we can maintain three special recognitions.  We can hold these recognitions in the meditation session and the meditation break, and indeed for the rest of our life:

  1. From now until we attain enlightenment, and especially in this lifetime, everything that appears to us physically is emanated by Dorje Shugden for our practice.  Certain appearances will be for us to overcome certain delusions.  Certain appearances will be for us to generate virtuous minds.  But we can be certain that from this point forward, there is not a single physical appearance that has not been emanated by him for us, so we can correctly see everything as an emanation of him for our practice.
  2. From now until we attain enlightenment, and especially in this lifetime, everything that we hear is emanated by Dorje Shugden to teach us the Dharma.  Obviously, this includes all the Dharma teachings we receive.  But it also includes conversations we overhear, songs we hear, even the wind blowing through the leaves.  But we can be certain that from this point forward, there is not a single sound that has not been emanated by him to teach us the Dharma.  We can correctly imagine that all sounds are mounted upon his mantra, and that when we hear the sounds they teach us the Dharma.
  3. From now until we attain enlightenment, and especially in this lifetime, everything that arises within our mind will be emanated by Dorje Shugden to provide us an opportunity to train our mind.  Obviously, this includes every time we generate virtuous minds with our Dharma practice.  He will also help us generate the virtuous minds of the stages of the path.  This additionally includes all the delusions that arise within our mind.  For example, if strong anger arises, we can believe it is emanated by him so we can practice patience.  If strong jealousy arises, it is emanated by him so we can practice rejoicing, etc.  This also applies to what others think, for example what they think about us, etc.  We can view everything that others are appearing to think to be emanated by Dorje Shugden for our practice.  We can be certain that from this point forward, there is not a single thought that will arise within our mind or the mind of others that has not been emanated by him to provide us an opportunity to train our mind, so we can fully accept everything that happens as perfect for our practice.

In the next post I will explain how we can increase the power of our practice of Dorje Shugden.

Reliance on Dorje Shugden: Requesting the accomplishment of our wishes

The reason why we make offerings and requests, which was explained in the previous two posts, is to accumulate a special merit which will ripen in the form of Dorje Shugden being able to respond to our requests.  In the next part of the Sadhana, we actually make specific requests and prayers to Dorje Shugden.  These prayers reveal what Dorje Shugden can accomplish for us through our faithful reliance.

HUM
Whenever your followers with commitments
Request any of the four actions,
Swiftly, incisively, and without delay, you show signs for all to see;
So please accomplish the actions that I now request of you.

The first line indicates how if we choose to keep the heart commitment of Dorje Shugden (which was explained in a previous post) we become uniquely qualified to be able to make requests to Dorje Shugden to accomplish the specific actions we request of him, not just that he arrange things in general.  This is like a special qualification that gives us special power.  By requesting that Dorje Shugden causes the Dharma to flourish, we create the karma for it to flourish within our own mind.  In the context of the sadhana, what we are requesting of him is what follows in the sadhana, but outside of the sadhana, we can request him anything.

The stainless sun of Je Tsongkhapa’s tradition
Shines throughout the sky of samsara and nirvana,
Eliminating the darkness of inferior and wrong paths;
Please cause its light to spread and bring good fortune to all living beings.

Path in a Dharma context refers to believing a thought in your mind.  If you believe your delusions to be true, you are following an inferior path.  If you believe your wisdom to be true, you are following a correct path.

May the glorious Gurus who uphold this tradition
Have indestructible lives, as stable as the supreme victory banner;
May they send down a rain of deeds fulfilling the wishes of disciples,
So that Je Tsongkhapa’s doctrine will flourish.

Through increasing the study, practice, pure discipline, and harmony
Of the communities who uphold the stainless doctrine of Buddha,
And who keep moral discipline with pure minds,
Please cause the Gedän tradition to increase like a waxing moon.

There are two methods for growing a Dharma center, external and internal. The external methods include doing good publicity making the center known, working for the center in the running of the center, improving the facilities, etc.  Internally, a Dharma center is actually the collection of spiritual realizations of its practitioners.  If the practitioners have no realizations, it is a small center, even if it has hundreds or thousands of members and many external temples.  If the practitioners have rich realizations, it is a large center, even if there are only a few practitioners and the external conditions are limited.

The way to grow a center is for the practitioners of that center to gain authentic spiritual realizations.  We are given the problems of the community we serve.  We then use the Dharma to solve these problems.  Then, Dorje Shugden arranges for people to come to the center.  He does not do it beforehand because he doesn’t want people to come to a center and not find the answers they are looking for.  So he waits until we gain experience and that we have something useful to share.  In particular, we can gain such realizations if people in Dharma centers study, practice and maintain pure discipline and harmony.

Through your actions please fulfil the essential wishes
Of all practitioners who uphold the victory banner
Of practising single-pointedly the stages of the paths of Sutra and Tantra,
The essence of all the teachings they have heard.

Here we make special requests that whenever any practitioner makes requests to Dorje Shugden that he respond.  In this way, we put our karma behind it, and we each help one another in our requests.

Beings throughout this great earth are engaged in different actions
Of Dharma, non-Dharma, happiness, suffering, cause and effect;
Through your skilful deeds of preventing and nurturing,
Please lead all beings into the good path to ultimate happiness.

This is an important verse.  Dorje Shugden has the ability to transform any action or any experience into a cause of enlightenment.  For example, if somebody falls ill with cancer, we can request that it become a powerful cause of his enlightenment.  Or if our child starts using drugs, etc., we can request that this become a cause of their enlightenment.  Through this Dorje Shugden will bless their minds where the condition will function as a cause of enlightenment.  It may not be immediately obvious how, but over the years with our sincere requests, it will definitely happen.  So the feeling is that he gradually sheppards all the beings within the protection circle onto and along the path to enlightenment.  It will take time, but through our persistent and faithful requests, eventually everyone without exception will be lead along the path to enlightenment.  Again, note that this doesn’t mean that they are all brought to the Kadampa path, though certainly some will.  We are happy for them to be brought to any authentic path.

In particular, please destroy the obstacles and unfavourable conditions
Of myself and other practitioners.
Increase our lives, our merit, and our resources,
And gather all things animate and inanimate to be freely enjoyed.

Again, we make specific requests for practitioners, understanding their importance.

Please be with me always like the shadow of my body,
And care for me always like a friend,
By accomplishing swiftly whatever I wish for,
And whatever I ask of you.

Here Dorje Shugden is likened to a true friend.  Kadam Olivier told a great story to illustrate this idea. The Christian said, ‘don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you.’ The Jewish person said, ‘do to others what you would want them to do to you.’ The Buddhist said, ‘do for others what they would want you to do for them.’ The Hindu said, ‘do for others what their pure potential would want you to do for them.’ The atheist said, ‘there is no you.  There are no others.’ This shows the stages of the path to enlightenment.  We should be like all of this.

If you want to receive the protection of Dorje Shugden like a true spiritual friend, the best way to do so is to become a true spiritual friend for others.  This creates the karma necessary for you to receive his protection in this way. The same is true for receiving his protection like a spiritual father.  Become a spiritual father (or mother) for others.  Take responsibility for others in your life, don’t just do the minimum.  We should take worldly responsibility and spiritual responsibility for others.

Please perform immediately, without delaying for a year, or even for a month,
Appropriate actions to eliminate all obstacles
Caused by misguided beings with harmful minds who try to destroy Je Tsongkhapa’s doctrine,
And especially by those who try to harm practitioners.

It is possible that some people may oppose your practice of Dharma.  Dorje Shugden can dispel all such obstacles through external and internal blessings. He can do this by blessing our mind to see the other person’s ‘interference’ as perfect for our practice.  Then it is no longer an obstacle. He can also do this by blessing the minds of others so that they no longer create obstacles for us.  We do not request this for selfish reasons, rather we do so to protect others from creating the bad karma of interfering with the pure spiritual practice of another.

 

Reliance on Dorje Shugden: Making offerings and requests continued

We continue with the explanation of making offerings and requests from the Dorje Shugden sadhana.

All my harmful thoughts and actions
That have offended your mind, O Great Protector,
I confess from the depths of my heart.
Please purify them swiftly, and care for me with love, like a mother for her child.

With this verse we can purify all the negative karma that obstructs our ability to receive the care and protection of Dorje Shugden.  Such negative karma is like interference preventing a reception of our mobile phones or junk clogging up the arteries of a person.  We can generate a regret for whatever we have done in the past which has created negative karma preventing us from receiving the care and protection of Dorje Shugden.  Then we strongly imagine from Dorje Shugden purifying light rays and nectars flow down and touch all the beings inside the protection circle, ourself included, purifying all of the negative karma obstructing us from receiving Dorje Shugden’s care and protection.  We then strongly believe that all of these beings are now without obstruction.

I beseech you from the depths of my heart, O Supreme Deity,
Please cause the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa to flourish,
Extend the life and activities of the glorious Gurus,
And increase the study and practice of Dharma within the Dharma communities.

We can understand this as follows:  The key point here is you realize how the Dharma of Je Tsongkhapa is the solution to all the problems of all beings.  The reason why beings suffer is because they too are trapped in a dream-like world of suffering created by their own self-centered minds.  They need to wake up from this dream into the pure world of the Buddhas.  The Dharma of Je Tsongkhapa provides a solution for destroying this self-centered mind, thereby enabling all beings to wake up from their worlds of suffering.  This is the solution to all of their problems.

Please be with me always like the shadow of my body,
And grant me your unwavering care and protection.
Destroy all obstacles and adverse conditions,
Bestow favourable conditions, and fulfil all my wishes.

Here we request Dorje Shugden to accomplish his main function, namely to arrange perfect conditions and to eliminate obstacles to our practice.  There are two types of condition:   When we are confronted with a situation which we think could be better, we request Dorje Shugden to arrange whatever is best and imagine that a protection circle radiates out accomplishing this function.  If the external situation changes, then we know the situation was beyond our capacity and we can use that to develop bodhichitta, wishing later to have a capacity that can transform anything and everything.  If the external situation remains the same (or gets worse) then we can know that we need to work on the delusions that this situation generates for us.  We can equally do this with internal conditions.  An important thing worth noting at this point is Dorje Shugden will arrange what is best for our practice, not what is necessarily best for our worldly concerns.  We might even say Mick Jagger is actually part of Dorje Shugden’s mandala when he sung ‘you don’t get what you want, but you get what you need.’

Now is the time to show clearly your versatile strength
Through your four actions, which are swift, incisive, and unobstructed,
To fulfil quickly my special heartfelt desires
In accordance with my wishes;

Here we request Dorje Shugden to arrange whatever is best in general, in his own mysterious ways and imagine that a protection circle radiates out accomplishing this function. Ask people their Dorje Shugden stories when you are at festivals, and you will be amazed.  If our motivation is pure, he can arrange anything.

Now is the time to distinguish the truth and falsity of actions and effects;

Here we request him to make clear the relationship between cause and effect for all the beings within the protection circle.  At present, we think negativity is entertainment and exciting and we think virtue is boring.  In reality, negativity creates the cause for enormous suffering and virtue is the cause of all happiness.  So we request that Dorje Shugden bestow special wisdom blessings on all beings within the protection circle so they naturally, from their own side, make good choices.

Now is the time to dispel false accusations against the innocent;

Here we request Dorje Shugden to enable all beings within the protection circle to stop making mistaken and false imputations on others, but to correctly impute onto everybody ‘emanation of my spiritual guide’ and imagine that a protection circle radiates out accomplishing this function.  At present, we impute onto others ‘object of attachment’ ‘object of aversion’ or ‘irrelevant.’  These are false accusations we impute on others, and we relate to them as if they were really these things from their own side.  This creates all our problems.  The only valid imputation of anybody is ‘emanation of my spiritual guide.’  The ultimate nature of all things is the Dharmakaya, so it is correct to say that everybody is an emanation of my spiritual guide.

Now is the time to protect the pitiful and protectorless;

The reason why people are pitiful and protectorless is because we have been neglecting them.  Their experience is what we have created for him.  So here we request that he provide protection for all the beings we have been neglecting and imagine that a protection circle radiates out accomplishing this function.

Now is the time to protect Dharma practitioners as your children.

We can understand this as follows:  It is particularly important to provide care and protection for Dharma practitioners because by helping them directly, indirectly it helps all living beings since they have vowed to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.  It is like opening up a second cash register at the supermarket.  Everybody gets through the line twice as fast.

In short, from now until I attain the essence of enlightenment,
I shall honour you as the embodiment of my Guru, Deity, and Protector.
Therefore please watch over me during the three periods of the day and the night
And never waver in your actions as my Protector.

This can be understood as follows:  The biggest fear of a Dharma practitioner is the fear of losing the path.  If we don’t lose the path, we have nothing to fear; but if we do lose the path, we have all of samsara to fear.  When we recite this verse we are creating the causes to be able to meet Dorje Shugden and rely upon him again in all our future lives.  In this way, we maintain the continuum of our practice and go from joy to joy until we attain enlightenment.

 

Reliance upon Dorje Shugden: Making offerings and requests

In the remainder of the posts in this series, I will explain how to rely upon Dorje Shugden during the meditation session by explaining my understanding of what each line in the sadhana means.  After the invitation to Dorje Shugden, which has already been explained, we then make offerings and requests as follows:

HUM
Respectfully I prostrate with body, speech and mind. 

Here we imagine that from ourself and from all the beings we previously put within the protection circle, we emanate all of our past and future lives.  Then with all of these past, present and future emanations of ourself, we prostrate.  This creates special merit with him so that he can provide us protection in all our past, present and future lives.  Present and future lives are easy to understand.  How can he provide us protection in our past lives?   He can bless our mind so that everything that happened to us in the past also becomes a cause of our enlightenment. We view our past differently in such a way that it teaches us lessons of Dharma.  In this way, no matter when we start our practice, even if it is when we are very old, we can effectively have practiced our whole life.

I offer a mass of inner and outer offerings, blissful tormas,
Alcohol, tea, cakes, milk, and curd,
Both actually set out and mentally imagined, filling the whole of space.

The basic idea is this:  whatever we offer to Dorje Shugden, he can then use for our swiftest possible enlightenment.  For example, if I offer my house to him, then everything that happens in my house will be emanated by him for my practice, etc.  So mentally, we offer everything because we want to use everything for our attainment of enlightenment.

Commitment, fulfilling, reliance, and appropriate substances,
Outer, inner, secret, attractive, and cleansing offerings, filling the whole of space,
I offer these to the entire assembly;
May I fulfil the heart commitment and restore my broken commitments.

This refers to an offering of our practice of the Heart Commitment of Dorje Shugden.  What does this mean?  It means to not be sectarian with our spiritual practice.  If we are sectarian in our practice, it will bring the Dharma into disrepute and it will create many problems for people being able to practice the path that leads to enlightenment, so it is very important for us to not be sectarian.  Gross sectarianism is when one tradition claims to have a monopoly on the truth and all the other traditions are wrong.  Many wars and much suffering have taken place due to this.  Subtle sectarianism is when we mix and match different traditions together.  Here, instead of saying one tradition is better than another in a general sense (as in gross sectarianism) we are saying that individual instructions from one instruction are better than individual instructions from another.

To avoid sectarianism, Geshe-la encourages us to ‘following one tradition purely without mixing, while respecting all other paths as valid for others.’  Buddhas emanate many Buddhist and non-Buddhist paths depending on the karmic disposition of beings.  Different people will respond to different instructions, and so we are happy for anybody to follow any authentic spiritual path.  This can be understood with an analogy of being trapped in a burning room.  If we were trapped in a giant burning room and there were many doors out, what would we do?  We would find the door closest to us and head straight out.  We wouldn’t start towards one door, then change to another, then change to another still because that keeps us trapped in a room.  We wouldn’t head towards the average of two doors because that would bang us straight into a wall.  We also wouldn’t judge other doors as being wrong for somebody else who is standing right next to it, instead we would encourage them to go out the door closest to them.  In the same way, if we are all trapped in the giant burning room of samsara and there are many different spiritual doors out, what do we do?  We find the one that is karmically closest to us and we head straight out.  We don’t follow one path, then another, then another because then we complete none of them and remain in samsara.  We don’t mix together two different traditions because this amalgam of our own creation does not lead to an actual door out.  We don’t tell people who are closest to the door of another spiritual tradition, such as a Christian, that they should abandon their Christian path and follow our Kadampa path, instead we encourage them to go out through the emergency exit closest to them.  If somebody criticises our practices and says that their practices are superior, we should not become defensive.  We can just say, ‘I am happy for you that you feel you have superior practices.  I hope you enjoy them.’ We then continue to do what seems best for us.  This avoids all problems.

So what is the Kadampa door?  It can be summarized in one sentence:  “relying upon guru, yidam and protector, I practice the path of lamrim, lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.”  If we are doing this, if we have chosen this as our path and we are following it purely without mixing while respecting all other paths as valid for others, then we are keeping our heart commitment to Dorje Shugden.  Taking such a commitment is our personal choice.  Nobody can force this on us, we do so voluntarily.   This is not a commitment of the empowerment, it has to be something from our own side we decide to do.

In the next post, I will continue to explain verse by verse my understanding of the meaning of the Dorje Shugden part of the sadhana.

 

Reliance on Dorje Shugden: Viewing our life as a training ground for becoming the Buddha we need to become

We are continuing with our discussion of how to rely upon Dorje Shugden during the meditation break.  In the last post we discussed how we can take personal responsibility for removing the faults we perceive in others.  In this post we will discuss how to view our life as a training ground for becoming the Buddha we need to become.

How can we understand this?  Dorje Shugden knows who we have karma with to be their Spiritual Guide.  We each have the karma to be the spiritual guide of certain beings.  Dorje Shugden knows this and he knows what karma we have with them.  If we ask him to do so, Dorje Shugden can manage our karma in such a way that he forges us into the Buddha you need to become.  Primarily Dorje Shugden provides us with favorable conditions and arranges everything to be perfect for our practice.

But he is so powerful, he is also able to ‘use’ our negative karma and ‘transform’ it into the spiritual path.  He gives us now the problems that our future students will have so that we can learn how to use the Dharma to overcome these problems.  We have the negative karma on our mind to experience anything and everything.  So Dorje Shugden is able to manage the flow of the ripening of our negative karma so that the negative karma which does ripen is that of our future students and it ripens in a context where we will be able to transform it into the path.

What are the benefits of relying upon Dorje Shugden in this way?  It will create indestructible karmic links between ourselves and our future students that will ripen in the form of us being their spiritual guide in the future.  We will gain the realizations we need to be able to help the beings with whom we have the closest spiritual karmic connections.  It will enable us to find great meaning in all of our inevitable difficulties in life.  Life will still be difficult, but these difficulties will be part of a larger project to forge us into the Buddha we need to become.

So practically speaking, how do we view our life in this way?  The key lies in viewing everyone as an emanation of Dorje Shugden for our practice.  The view we adopt of others determines the qualities we draw out.  This is so because view itself is a creative action, it is not a passive observation.  We do not view others in a particular way because they ‘are’ that way (they are not any way), rather we view others in a particular way because it is most beneficial to them for us to do so.

The view we adopt is to view others as emanations of the Spiritual Guide.  We can maintain pure view of others.  We consider them to be Buddhas appearing in the aspect of ordinary beings so we can act normally with them.  By acting normally with them, we gain the realizations we need to attain enlightenment.  We can maintain pure view of their actions.  We can consider all of their actions to be the supremely skillful actions of a Buddha.  For example, if they make some big mistake we can view it as they make mistakes to teach us things.  If we assent to the appearance of others as being ordinary, engaging in ordinary actions we will simply plant the karma which will give rise to the appearance of ordinary beings engaging in ordinary actions.   In this way, we re-imprison others into contaminated aggregates engaging in non-Dharma actions.

If instead we imagine that others are by nature emanations of Dorje Shugden engaging in supremely skillful actions to lead us to our swiftest possible enlightenment we plant karma which will give rise to the appearance of others as emanations engaging in the actions of a Buddha.  In this way, we free others from contaminated aggregates and we create the causes for them to engage in the actions necessary to lead themselves to enlightenment.  But how do we do this, especially when we see others acting in deluded and unskillful ways.  There are two 2 key questions we can ask ourselves to be able to maintain this view:  First, what do their actions teach me?  Second, we can ask ourselves what do their actions give me an opportunity to practice?  We can even do this same practice with our own body and mind.  If we assent to ourselves as being an ordinary being engaging in ordinary actions it will creates the karma for the recreation of that appearance.  But if we view our ordinary body and mind as emanated for us to practice overcoming in order to forge us into the Buddha we need to become, it will plant the karma for that appearance to arise in the future.  For example, if we get sick, it is for us to practice with.  If we have a delusion, it is for giving us an opportunity to practice the opponents.

This view is extremely beneficial for both ourselves and for others.  We are able to transform whatever happens to us into the path to enlightenment and we are able to receive the blessings of the spiritual guide through everyone.  It karmically reconstructs others and ourselves into pure being.  By imagining that they are Buddhas engaging in a Buddha’s actions, it karmically reconstructs them so that they will later actually engage in enlightened actions and become a Buddha.

In sum, the practice of Dorje Shugden can be reduced down into four simple ideas:

  1. Renew our spiritual motivation, that what matters to us is creating good causes for spiritual progress.
  2. Request with infinite faith that whatever happens to us (or others) is perfect for our swiftest possible enlightenment.
  3. Accept with infinite faith whatever subsequently arises as the perfect conditions we requested.
  4. In those perfect conditions, practice to the best of our ability.  To practice means to try to send our mind in the direction of enlightenment by striving to abandon our delusions and by cultivating virtuous minds.  It does not matter whether we succeed in actually doing so, what matters is that we try.  If we try, we create good causes which will ripen in the future in our ability to do it.

We can use your reliance on Dorje Shugden to overcome all of your delusions.  This practice was explained to me by the great Gen Togden.  He said we can overcome our anger through relying on Dorje Shugden by considering that anger wishes things to be other than they are.  When we rely on Dorje Shugden, we know they are perfect, so there is no basis for wishing they are otherwise, thus there is no basis for anger.  He also said we can overcome our attachment through relying on Dorje Shugden.  We think we need something for our happiness, but we do not know.  So we make requests to Dorje Shugden that if this is what is best for him to please arrange it; if not, then we request him to please sabotage it.  Finally, he explained we can overcome our ignorance through relying on Dorje Shugden.  Dorje Shugden is a wisdom Buddha, so we can request him to bestow his blessings so we will always know what to do in all situations.