Happy Protector Day: May the Doctrine of Losang Dragpa Flourish Forevermore

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is the last part 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 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.  When I later 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 missions 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). 

To summarize, 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 that we 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!

Happy Protector Day: All the Attainments I Desire Arise From Merely Remembering You

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is part 11 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 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.  The second line refers to wherever we imagine a Buddha, a Buddha actually goes, and where ever they go, they accomplish their function.  If we remember Dorje Shugden, he will infuse himself into the situation and transform it into something we see as 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 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 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 exactly why things are perfect for our practice is obviously best, but sometimes simply understanding that things are perfect is good enough to set our mind at peace.

If we do not 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 said 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.

After reciting the “all the attainments I desire…” verse, it is customary to pause and make personal requests for ourself and the people we care about.  The following are some example requests we can make.  General requests can include, “May I gain all the realizations necessary to lead all those I love 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 those I love 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.

Some specific requests we can make are:  When we do not 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/his experience of _____ become a powerful cause of my/his 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 do not 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.  First, we can think, 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.

Second, 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.

Third, 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 that we can practice patience.  If strong jealousy arises, we can think 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.

Happy Protector Day: Requesting the accomplishment of our wishes

The 29th of every month is Protector Day.  This is part 10 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 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 our mind.  If we believe our delusions to be true, we are following an inferior path.  If we believe our wisdom to be true, we 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.

Venerable Tharchin explains the way to grow a center is for the practitioners of that center to gain authentic spiritual realizations and then form karmic bonds between them.  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 who have these problems 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.  The feeling is that he gradually shepherds 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.

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, do not 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 our 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.

Remembering Why We Don’t Mix Traditions and that We Are Not the Same as Tibetan Traditions

Now that VGL has passed, we need to be very clear about who we are as a tradition and who we are not. We are not a Tibetan tradition. We are not the same as those Tibetan traditions that still practice Dorje Shugden. We are not the same as those Tibetan traditions that take Lamrim as their main practice. We are our own thing. We may share some past with these spiritual cousins, but we have our own trajectory.

When I was in Geneva, there was a center there with the supposed reincarnation of Trijang Rinpoche. They were Dorje Shugden practitioners and they took Lamrim as their main practice. There were many people, including the former Resident Teacher, who thought we were the same. This is ultimately how I came to be Resident Teacher.

Geshe-la said we need to be very clear that we are not the same. He said after he died, there could be confusion among many students about this question – with them going to other traditions thinking it was the same. He said there would also be attempts to poach our students away and even to try inherit the tradition entirely, bringing it into Tibetan hands.

We are our own tradition with our uncommon characteristics. The internal rules of the NKT deliniate many of these. We can absolutely respect these other traditions and rejoice in their practices, but we need clear blue water in our mind between them and us. We do not mix traditions. This is our heart commitment.

Students of course have choice and can go wherever they want, but we need to be clear these other traditions are not the same. It can be misunderstood that not mixing traditions is being sectarian, but the truth is the exact opposite. Here is a blog article I’ve written on the topic in the past.

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.