Happy Protector Day: Helping the Pure Kadam Dharma Flourish

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is part 9 of a 12-part series aimed at helping us remember our Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden and increase our faith in him on these special days.

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 being 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 we 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 always 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.  Here we request that Dorje Shugden to 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 karmically created for them in our empty dream.  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.

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.

The biggest fear of a Dharma practitioner is the fear of losing the path.  If we do not 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.

Happy Protector Day: Fulfilling our Heart Commitment to Dorje Shugden

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is part 8 of a 12-part series aimed at helping us remember our Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden and increase our faith in him on these special days.

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 would not start towards one door, then change to another, then change to another still because that keeps us trapped in a room.  We would not head towards the average of two doors because that would bang us straight into a wall.  We also would not 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 do not follow one path, then another, then another because then we complete none of them and remain in samsara.  We do not mix together two different traditions because this amalgam of our own creation does not lead to an actual door out.  We do not 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 criticizes 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.

One of the core principles of the NKT is while respecting all other traditions, to follow one tradition purely without mixing.  This is an extremely vast subject.  Venerable Geshe-la (VGL) explains in Ocean of Nectar that we need to be careful when introducing the subject of emptiness to those who are not ready because doing so can lead to great confusion.  I would say even more so, we need to be careful when introducting the subject of following one tradition purely without mixing, as this is a special spiritual instruction that can easily give rise to much confusion and doubt, including thinking that such an approach is closed-minded, anti-intellectual and sectarian.  The attached document attempts to explain the rationale behind this instruction so that people can be happy with putting it into practice. 

To provide you with a snapshot, the attached document is organized as follows:

  1. References within VGL’s teachings on this advice
    1. On following one tradition purely without mixing
    2. On sectarianism
  1. The mind with which we examine this question
  2. How to understand this instruction
  3. Rationale for the spiritual advice to follow one tradition purely without mixing
    1. Considering valid reasons
    2. Contemplating useful analogies
  4. Refutation of objections to not mixing
a.      Objection 1.  We can gain a better understanding of a subject when explored from multiple perspectives
b.     Objection 2:  We can gain a higher and deeper understanding of universal truth through synthesizing multiple systems of thought.
c.      Objection 3 :  All religions say the same thing, just with different metaphors and means.  So what is the problem with me studying and reading other traditions.  Does that not also take me in the direction of enlightenment ?
d.     Objection 4:  OK, I agree we should not mix traditions.  I am 100% committed to VGL, I know what we are all about and I don’t want to mix.  So what is the problem with me reading other sources ?
e.      Objection 5:  But I do not have freedom because I cannot be an NKT teacher or officer of an NKT center if I still want to go to other things.  So I am not free to choose.
f.      Objection 6:  But it can be argued that just because one is in a relationship with somebody else does not mean that they cease to be friends with other people and other women.  In the same way, it is not mixing or violating my commitment to my spiritual path by reading other books, etc., as long as I am clear as to who is my Spiritual Guide.
g.     Objection 7: But we are Buddhist, so everything depends upon the mind.  Reading other sources is not from its own side mixing, it depends upon the mind with which we do it. 
h.     Objection 8:  Come on !  Certainly you are exaggerating to say it is a fault to even read or be exposed to teachings from other traditions.  Don’t be so paranoid !
i.       Objection 9:  It still seems very closed-minded to be so categorical in shunning anything that is non-NKT.
j.       Objection 10:  OK, even if I agree with all of the above, certainly it is more skilful to say nothing, since people will misunderstand and leave the Dharma as a result of this misunderstanding.
k.     Objection 11:  OK, I agree, something needs to be said.  But why do you have to do it in such a foreceful way. 
l.       Objection 12:  OK, point taken.  But what makes an action skilful is whether the action does not undermine the faith of the other person when you engage in it.
m.   Objection 13:  OK, fine !  Just tell me what I can and cannot do.
n.     Objection 14:  If that is the case, then why do different teachers have different policies and standards on this one ?
o.     Objection 15:  But how does your standard compare to that of the NKT as a whole ?  Are you more strict ?
p.     Objection 16:  Wait a minute !  I can understand why there would be an issue with Tibetan Buddhism in general, but certainly it is not a problem with Mt. Pellerin.  After all, their teacher was also a student of Trijang Rinpoche, he is friends with VGL, and they are Dorje Shugden practitioners.  Are they not basically a Tibetan version of us, and we are a Western version of them ?  So their teachings can help improve our understanding of VGL’s teachings.  We are all talking about the same thing, so there is no mixing going on.  So it should be OK.  It seems we should at least make an exception with them.
q.     Question 17:  OK, I understand all of this and it makes sense.  How practically then are we to implement all of this at the center given the sensitivities involved ?

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.

Happy Protector Day: Tapping into Dorje Shugden’s Power

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is part 7 of a 12-part series aimed at helping us remember our Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden and increase our faith in him on these special days.

The remainder of the sadhana is largely making requests to Dorje Shugden.  Before we get into the specifics, I want to now explain some general advice on how to increase the power of our making requests to him.  These apply equally to the meditation break as well as the meditation session. 

First, 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 few points 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.

Second, 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.

Third, 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 protector.

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 bodies.  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.  How Dorje Shugden protects us in our present and future lives is easy to understand.  But how can he provide us protection in our past lives when they have already passed?   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, it can be as if we effectively have practiced our whole life.  When we go to normal psychological therapists, they help us process our past so that it is no longer a drag on us.  In the same way, by requesting Dorje Shugden to transform our past experiences into a cause of our enlightenment, we receive special blessings to view these events differently.  We may even come to view our greatest past trauma as our greatest life blessing.  Such is the power of Dorje Shugden and the truth of emptiness.

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. 

Happy Protector Day: Protector of the Bodhisattva’s Path

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is part 6 of a 12-part series aimed at helping us remember our Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden and increase our faith in him on these special days.

And 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.  We can 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 do not 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. 

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. 

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 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. 

He is surrounded by a vast, assembled retinue,

Such as Kache Marpo and so forth.

Dorje Shugden is like the general of a vast army of Dharma protectors, each of whom accomplishes a different function.  These can be understood from the explanation of the nature and function of Dorje Shugden in the book Heart Jewel and the Praise to the five lineages of Dorje Shugden explained in the extensive Dorje Shugden sadhana Melodious Drum Victorious in All Directions.  It is customary for large Dharma Centers around the world to practice Melodious Drum on every Protector Day, or at least once a year.  We can do so on our own at any time, including every Protector Day.

The five lineages of Dorje Shugden refer to the five principal deities of his mandala.  Each one corresponds with one of the five Buddha families, the five completely purified aggregates of a Buddha, and the five omniscient wisdoms.  Each of the principal deities is like a specific protector for each one of the five Buddha families, and through relying upon them we will be led to attain the five purified aggregates and the corresponding five omniscient wisdoms.

The principal deity is Dorje Shugden himself, who is the protector of the Akshobhya family, will guide us to completely purify our aggregate of consciousness and attain the wisdom of the Dharmadhatu.  The wisdom of the Dharmadhatu is an aggregate of consciousness completely purified of all our past contaminated karmic potentialities (also known as the two obstructions) and that knows directly and simultaneously all phenomena as manifestations of bliss and emptiness.  Vairochana Shugden is the protector of the Vairochana family.  Through relying upon him, we will completely purify our aggregate of form and gain mirror-like wisdom, which sees directly all phenomena as manifestation of bliss and emptiness.  Pema Shugden is the protector of the Amitabha family.  Through relying upon her, we will purify completely our aggregate of discrimination and attain the wisdom of individual realization, which is able to discriminate all objects individually as manifestations of bliss and emptiness.  Ratna Shugden is the protector of the Ratnasambhava family.  Through relying upon Ratna Shugden, we will purify completely our aggregate of feeling and attain the wisdom of equality, which experiences all phenomena equally as bliss and emptiness.  Karma Shugden is the protector of the Amoghasiddhi family.  Through relying upon Karma Shugden, we will purify completely our aggregate of compositional factors and attain the wisdom of accomplishing activities, which enables us to use a Buddha’s completely purified and developed mental factors as if they were are own.  For a more in depth understanding of the five aggregates, see How to Understand the Mind.

Dorje Shugden is also surrounded by the nine Great Mothers, the eight fully ordained monks, and the ten wrathful deities.  The nine mothers arrange the secret conditions necessary for our Dharma practice.  They are comprised of Lochanna, Mamaki, Benzharahi, and Tara which arrange the earth, water, fire, and air elements respectively for our practice; and the five offering goddesses who transform all of the various forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile objects into conditions for our practice.  The eight fully ordained monks arrange the inner conditions necessary for our practice.  They are the eight main bodhisattvas, including Vajrapani, Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Maitreya.  They manifest whatever is needed to tame disciples and protect those with commitments like their only child.  The ten wrathful deities arrange all of the outer conditions for our Dharma practice.  They subjugate the malevolent and guard all directions with various guises.  Kache Marpo is like the commander of the Dharma protector special forces who directs all the oath-bound attendents (spirit kings, wealth gods, nagas, celestial spirits, and so forth) who perform a host of actions to help arrange the mundane conditions for our Dharma practice. 

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.

We visualize a vast array of mundane and supermundane Dharma protectors filling the whole of space, all working tirelessly under the direction of Dorje Shugden to arrange all the outer, inner, and secret conditions for our Dharma practice.  As Heruka, we then imagine that light rays radiate from our heart and invite the wisdom beings – the actual deities of Dorje Shugden’s mandala – to enter into the commitment beings (those we have visualized). We then strongly believe that all of these protector deities are actually in the space in front of us and filling the universe accomplishing their special function.

Happy Protector Day: The nature and function of Dorje Shugden

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is part 5 of a 12-part series aimed at helping us remember our Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden and increase our faith in him on these special days.

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 beings 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 similar to 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 on our behalf, 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 who can help living beings, such as Dorje Shugden.  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.

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 proection 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. 

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 fear. 

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 also 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 organizes 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!

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. 

How I Experience Dorje Shugden’s Mandala


We know in general that Dorje Shugden eliminates all obstacles and arranges all the conditions necessary for our practice. Geshe-la provides some explanation in Heart Jewel how all of the different elements of Dorje Shugden’s mandala help us, but mostly we are encouraged to rely upon him with faith and develop a personal relationship with him. In this way, we come to experience directly how Dorje Shugden enters into and helps with our life. Here, I would like to share how I experience Dorje Shugden’s mandala.

The way I think about it is our Dharma centers exist on the shores of refuge on the island of enlightement surrounded by the ocean of samsara. The Eight Guiding Monks are like our Dharma teachers inside our centers. The Ten Youthful and Wrathful Assistants are like an outer perimeter in the shallows of the ocean of samsara where they both gather living beings and bring them into our Dharma centers and they serve as guards against those in samsara who would obstruct the practice of Dharma within the centers.

The Nine Attractive Mothers are then deeper inside the island enticing practitioners into the forest to practice Tantra. There is a more profound way of understanding the nine attractive mothers as permeating all four elements and the five objects of desire of samsara and nirvana.

Within the charnel grounds there are countless guardians who assist practitioners with their practice, all of whom are, from a certain perspective, also part of Dorje Shugden’s mandala. They guide us through the charnel grounds and deliver us to the iron fence and wisdom fire protection circle which marks the entry into Keajra Pure Land proper. Technically, there is no place that is not Keajra, but conventionally the iron fence and wisdom fire protection circle are like the pure walls around the city of enlightement, within which are the four continents, Mount Meru, and Heruka’s Celestial Mansion.

Kache Marpo is like a spiritual Rambo of Dorje Shugden’s mandala who can go anywhere in samsara or nirvana and rescue, inspire, or protect anybody. In my mandala, a former student named Taro and Kache Marpo are the same being. There are many reasons why for me this is true. Those who knew Taro, who died in Summer 2021, would likely have the same view.

Surrounding the Ocean of Samsara is Dorje Shugden’s protection circle. Everything that happens inside the protection circle is exactly perfect for the swiftest possible enlightenment of all living beings. The beings of samsara do not understand what appears to them in this way, but due to our faith in Dorje Shugden, we receive special wisdom blessings that enable us to see things in this way. When others share their problems with us, we see and understand how whatever has ripened is perfect for their practice. We can then share our perspective with others, helping them see their life through a different lens. In this way, we are able to help them transform their samsaric experience into the quick path to enlightenment.

The Five Lineages of Dorje Shugden each specialize in ripening one of our five aggregates into the five omniscient wisdoms of a Buddha. They do this at the level of Sutra, Generation Stage, and Completion Stage. Dorje Shugden himself is one nature with Lama Tsongkhapa – like a hologram. From one perspective my spiritual guide appears as Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka, but from another he appears as the Great King Dorje Shugden depending on the angle from which I view him. From one perspective, the interpretative appearance of the five lineages is as described in Heart Jewel and as we see at the temple in Manjushri, but from another perspective they permeate the three thousand worlds wherever the respective aggregates they ripen appear. In my mandala, they circle in the space above the four continents around Mount Meru, serving in many ways the function of Chakravatin Kings and their retinues, so that all my guests in the pure land may quickly be ripened in the paths of Sutra and Tantra.

Dorje Shugden is my spiriutal father, caring for me in life after life, providing everything I need for my swiftest possible enlightenment. Like a hologram appearing differently depending on how you look at him, he is my guru, Yidam, and protector. Practically, he is my best friend and his mandala are my closest sangha.

Some may ask, as some always do, “where does Geshe-la explain all of this, where does this understanding come from?” The nature and function of Dorje Shugden are explained in Heart Jewel. Venerable Tharchin explained about his protection circle surrounding the ocean of samsara. The rest is the composite of my understanding after 25 years of daily reliance upon him. There are three types of wisdom – the wisdom arisen from listening and reading, the wisdom arisen from contemplation, and the wisdom arisen from meditation. These three, especially the wisdom arisen from meditation, are primarily experiential understandings – insights gained from our direct personal experience with the instructions and our direct personal relationships with the holy beings. They are living and evolving things. Just because some elements are not explained directly in Geshe-la’s books does not mean they are not part of the body of his teachings waiting for us to discover as we connect the dots he has given us though our personal practice. I do not claim any of this is objectively existent. But it is my honest subjective personal experience based upon my practice of and reliance upon Dorje Shugden. I pray all who read this directly come to experience Dorje Shugden and his mandala in their lives.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Not getting angry at those who attack our tradition and Dorje Shugden practice

(6.62) “At least you should retaliate when people speak ill of you
And cause others to lose their faith in you.”
In that case, why do I not get angry
When people speak ill of others?

(6.63) If, mind, you can forbear such loss of faith
When it is related to others,
Why are you not patient when others speak ill of you,
For that is related to the arising of delusions?

(6.64) Even if someone were to insult or destroy the Dharma,
The holy images, or the stupas,
It would still not be appropriate to get angry with them,
For how could the Three Jewels ever be harmed?

(6.65) We should also prevent anger arising towards anyone
Who might harm our Spiritual Guide, our friends, or our relatives
By seeing that such harm also occurs in dependence upon conditions
In the way that was just explained.

It is very easy to think it is justifiable to get angry against people who seek to harm the three jewels.  Even if we don’t think it is justifiable to get angry, it is easy to actually get angry when we feel others are attacking us, our tradition, Geshe-la, or our faith.  We receive a lot of criticism from a lot of different directions, and even the most secure in their faith can easily become discouraged or angry at those who keep falsely accusing us or unfairly criticizing us.  This is part of our karma, no doubt because we did this to others in the past.

I have actually spent a good amount of time “defending the tradition” against those who would attack it.  This started for me way back in the mid-1990s when the Dalai Lama started to aggressively attack Dorje Shugden practice and practitioners.  What was being said didn’t jive at all with my experience of Dorje Shugden practice, teachings, or our tradition, but I was still relatively new.  I wrote Geshe-la about what I had read/heard expressing concern, and he wrote back saying, “Dorje Shugden could never have anybody.  Investigate for yourself.”  So that’s what I did.  I read through everything that was written on the web at the time, including all of the speeches by the Dalai Lama, statements made by the Tibetan parliament, and others.  The more I looked, the more it made no sense.  Each of the arguments lodged fell apart upon investigation.  By investigating myself and comparing it with what I had learned, it became very clear to me that the Dalai Lama’s position was full of contradictions.  I helped Venerable Tharchin prepare a book to try answer some of the arguments lodged against us.  It never got published, but it did clarify my own thinking. 

It was very easy for me to get angry about all of the criticism against Dorje Shugden and the NKT because my in-laws, who were already skeptical about my involvement with Buddhism thinking I had joined some cult, found all of this stuff and it created all sorts of obstacles.  I had had obstacles with them before and also had written Geshe-la about how to deal with this.  He replied that “they might have a problem with external manifestations of Dharma practice, but everyone appreciates a good heart and a good example.  You will need to be skillful.” 

A second wave of this happened about 10 years later when the criticisms started up again, and so did our protests in response.  I spent the entire summer at TTP writing a website that answered every single argument made against us.  My goal was to enter into a debate against all those who opposed us.  I invited all of our main critics to engage in the debate, line by line, with the agreement of whoever loses the debate has the intellectual integrity to at least admit it.  Unfortunately, nobody took me up on my offer.  But the website still exists, and I believe it can be a useful resource for somebody new encountering these questions to help them work through the arguments made on both sides.  You can visit this site at:  https://dorjeshugdendebate.wordpress.com/  But I also remember discussing with these people on a variety of different on-line forums, and while I was strong in my faith, it really wore on me (and others), and I eventually had to step away because it was just so negative.

A third wave happened about 5 years ago.  The criticisms started up again, and so did our protests.  I was in China at the time, and found it so absurd how those accusing us used my presence in China as proof that we were working for the Chinese.  No, actually, I was working in the American embassy, but facts didn’t matter.  One of our chief critics then published a manifesto of why we are so bad and why Dorje Shugden is so bad, so I decided to try once again and debate with them – this time on their medium.  It turned into this absolutely massive discussion.  I tried to be fair and objective in my arguments, admitting it when we were wrong.  My hope was by being reasonable I could at least soften things up a bit.  I tried to move people – on both sides – towards agreeing the resolution to the conflict was for everybody to practice their bodhisattva vows.  In the end, my efforts failed.  But I can say that I tried.

These same folks, 20 years later after their original dispute with the NKT, are still at it.  My theory is they are unable to let go and get on with their lives because somewhere inside of them, they know they are wrong.  So they are battling within themselves and keep coming back.  Of course they would howl in protest at such a characterization, but the core question remains – why haven’t you moved on with your life yet?  If the NKT isn’t for you, fine, it doesn’t need to be.  You have your bread, we have ours.  Why decades of relentless attack?  Why are they so threatened by us thinking what we do?  I’m fine with them thinking whatever they want.  But it still functions to activate anger and defensiveness in me when I see their attacks.  I try accept this as purification.

Many people have their own story with all of this.  It’s not easy for people to work through.  But working through it is a fantastic way to become solid in our own Dharma understandings and confidence in our path. 

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.