Address by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to the Second Gelug Conference (Dharamsala, 6 Dec 2000)
We meet here today with Ganden Tri Rinpoche, the representative of Jamgön Gyalwa (Je Tsongkhapa), chiefly gracing the event with his presence. The abbots representing the three seats of Sera, Drepung, Ganden, as well as those of Tashi Lhunpo, Gyutö and Gyumei Tantric Colleges have joined us; as have abbots and former abbots who are here on behalf of the various other Gelug monasteries. It seems though that the Manali representative has not been able to join us (laughter) [a monastery where the practice of Dolgyal then continued unabated]. Anyway, as well as all of these guests I also have been able to attend this Gelug conference. The organisation of these international Gelug conferences and the general concern for the maintenance and promotion of the teaching is admirable. I would like to thank all of you for your concern and for having put in such hard work. Given the significance of this event, I would like to encourage everyone, for the space of these few days, to dispense with ostentatious posing and the empty formalities of ceremony. Let us try to get to the heart of the matter. We have now gained quite a bit of experience. So let us utilise that to focus on the problems we face and give some thought to how we can improve things. Our consideration of these matters should be careful. I have high hopes that this will prove to be an open forum for the discussion of the important issues and will generally prove to be a success.
Now it is about six hundred years since Je Tsongkhapa lived in Tibet. About three hundred years earlier, Dipamkara Atisha founded the great Kadam tradition. Je Tsongkhapa used this school as his foundation. He started a tradition that emphasised tantric study that concentrated on practices of the three deities, Guhyasamaja, Heruka Chakrasamvara and Yamantaka.
“May this tradition of the Conqueror, Losang Dragpa,
That teaches the outward, calm and controlled demeanour of the hearer,
And the internal poise associated with the two stages of the yogic practitioner,
And adopts both Sutra and Tantra as mutually complementary paths flourish.”
And as to what is achieved through the adoption of such a practice, we have the words [From the prayer Lobsang Gyeltenma by Tsunpa Könchog Tenpai Drönmei]:
“May this tradition of the Conqueror, Lobsang Dragpa
That takes the emptiness explained in the Causal Vehicle (sutra),
And the great bliss that is achieved through the Resultant Means (tantra),
Conjoined with the essence of the collection of eighty-four thousand teachings, flourish.”
Having all of these features then, this doctrine is a consummate one. It incorporates study, contemplation and meditation in balanced, equal measure and this is what makes it so remarkable. When it comes to detailed study of the great texts, it is the Sakya and Gelug systems which are the most developed. Of course, it would be correct to say that the Gelug tradition is in reality derived from the Sakya. That being said, we could probably judge the Gelug commentarial elucidations to be the most profound and the best. All of the Tibetan traditions attempt to engage in a practice that has appreciation of emptiness, but also the interdependence of phenomena. However, when it comes down to a coherent exposition of how those two are inter-linked, it is the presentation of Je Tsongkhapa that stands out. In the Dzogchen tradition, we find a special treatment of the emptiness component within the unified view. The same can be said about the treatment in the Highest Yoga Tantra. However, explaining exactly how the interdependence of things – how they are on the level of appearances – can itself be used as a reason to establish their ultimate, empty nature is something peculiar to the works of Je Tsongkhapa. This was not a case of Je Rinpoche having been innovative and creating something new. Now it is possible that subsequent figures within the Gelug may be open to the charge of introducing new ideas. However, this is not so with Je Rinpoche. The way that he explains things is just as we find in Buddapalita, the ‘Auto-Commentary to Entering into the Middle Way (Madhyamakavatara)’ and ‘Clear Words’ (Prasannapada) (by Chandrakirti). His works represent a simplification and clarification of the philosophy set out in those works, but it is the same view, not something new. I feel that if the original teachers were here now, if Chandrakirti, Buddapalita and their master Nagarjuna were here now they would express their wholehearted agreement and satisfaction with the way that Je Rinpoche explained things. His works on the Middle Way are an encapsulation of the view of Nagarjuna, Aryadeva and particularly of Chandrakirti. The original texts, for example ‘Clear Words’, are very bulky. However, Je Rinpoche’s commentary is brief in comparison. This is only a contraction of the words though. Indeed when we read Buddapalita, we can sometimes actually get the feeling that it is one of Je Rinpoche’s works that we have. This is a special feature, something that really distinguishes these works from others. If we look at another of Je Rinpoche’s works, something like his ‘Golden Rosary of Eloquence’, we see his brilliance really shining through in his ability to survey and summarise the whole Indian Prajñaparamita commentarial tradition. The profundity of these works is such that they really are a delight for those well versed in the subjects. That is what lies at the heart of this tradition.
Then on the Tantric side there are the three main deities, Guhyasamaja, Heruka Chakrasamvara and Yamantaka as well as Kalachakra. Of those, it is Guhyasamaja, that is the chief. There is a saying in the Gelug, 'If you are on the move it is Guhyasamaja. If you are still, it is Guhyasamaja. If you are meditating, it should be upon Guhyasamaja’. Therefore, whether you are engaged in study or practice, Guhyasamaja should be your focus. It is very significant that if we look at the eighteen volumes that comprise Je Rinpoche’s Collected Works, we find that five volumes of them are devoted solely to Guhyasamaja. Therefore, this tradition of practice of Guhyasamaja has been passed down through Je Rinpoche and his main disciples, via Jetsun Sherab Senge [A direct disciple of Je Rinpoche, who was responsible for founding the Gyumei Tantric College near Lhasa] and occupies an exceedingly important position in the Gelug. Je Rinpoche used the earlier Kadam as his foundation and supplemented that with an emphasis upon the study and practice of Guhyasamaja and this is how the tradition has remained for the past six hundred years. That the insights of earlier spiritual figures have been handed down to us by means of this tradition and thus continue to the present day is something that is very laudable.
Now if we look at the institutions of study in the Gelug that have played a major role in the upholding of traditions; the most important ones in the central area of Tibet have been Sera, Drepung, Ganden and Tashi Lhunpo. In the Amdo (and Kham) areas, it was mainly Tashi Khyil. Now Kumbum was supposed to be one of the centres of study, and it did originally produce some scholars, but later on there was not so much of note there. Mongolia we find also has given rise to a multitude of scholars, upholders and promoters of the doctrine of Je Rinpoche. Now, later, at the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama [Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617-82)] – the Fifth became a ‘Drepung Geshe’ (the name applied to the throne-holder at Drepung). Anyway, as that ‘Drepung Geshe’ assumed the reins of power in the state it represented a huge gain for the Gelug tradition (laughs). Now the Fifth himself practised both Dzogchen and the Sakya ‘Non-Ascertainment within Appearance and Emptiness’. Indeed, it seems that in the latter part of his life his main emphasis was very much upon Dzogchen. Anyway, it was still the Gelug tradition that benefited most from him and particularly Drepung monastery. The Fifth Dalai Lama’s regent, Sangye Gyatso is said also to have wanted to improve things at Sera monastery, but did not get time. So Sera lost out, didn’t it? (laughs).
Anyway, the seats of learning have continued to produce scholars and upholders of the teachings. As to the monk populations of those monasteries – there were supposed to be 7,700 at Drepung. Actually, it was probably more like eight thousand. According to Loseling ex-abbot Pema Gyaltsen, there were some five thousand at Loseling alone. However, he would go on to say that of those only about a thousand were genuinely studying. So what about the other four thousand? Probably they just wandered around, wasting time, not studying. This also was during a period when Gen Pema Gyaltsen (as the abbot) had tightened things up and the education was going well. However, even by his estimates, there were no more than a thousand monks seriously engaged in study. Now, what was left of those monks by the time we came into exile and they gathered at Buxa? [A camp in Assam where monks from the main centres of study etc. congregated soon after coming into exile.] Well it was very sad: it was really just the last remnants of what there had been before.
At that time though, Gen Pema Gyaltsen was someone who really stood out as one who took things into his own hands. Just in terms of his approach to Dolgyal for instance. For some time he was the only one - a lone voice against the worship. Even I was involved in the propitiation at the time. Ling Rinpoche did go through the motions, but in reality, his involvement was reluctant. As far as Trijang Rinpoche was concerned, it was a special, personal practice and Zong Rinpoche was similarly involved. However, Pema Gyaltsen was resolutely against it. He did have one person who acted as his right-hand man at the time. That was, I believe, the Abbot of Shartse, who was called Gen Kharu. Anyway, the monks remained in a sorry state in Buxa for some time. There were many of them who were ill. After some time I suggested that we try organising things a little. Some decided to try to organise, others were just waiting around. The conditions really were abject. There were many that were ill; it was a remote place. The environment was harsh and the accommodation very poor. Despite all of the difficulties, people pulled together. The thing is, they had faith and confidence in the Dalai Lama. I myself did not make it to Buxa. You were there weren’t you Rinpoche? Moreover, the minister of religious affairs would visit there, the poor old man… Everyone worked so hard.
Anyway, eventually people moved to the South. The lay people worked very hard to set things up. Once the settlements were organised and the harder work was over the monks began to go down (laughs). Actually, the monks originally worked very hard in the fields doing the agricultural work. When I went once there was that one Amdo monk wasn’t there in Gomang? I remember that he debated on the subject of the mind-base consciousness. He put forward his argument very well and spoke in such pure Amdo tones. Later, he was sent to drive the tractor and some time after that disrobed. What a waste! He was probably the only Amdowa there at the time. I don’t know what happened to him after that, I did not see him again. So at that time those who had a degree of scriptural learning found themselves toiling at agricultural work. Anyway, things gradually improved. Things actually became good for everyone. Finally, there was a system for the newer monks to join up and a place for them to study seriously. Most of the new monks came from Tibet. It was the large number of newcomers who provided the boost in numbers and these new people contributed a lot in terms of work.
Meanwhile, the Buddhist teachings (in the form of the different traditions) and the Bön tradition were gradually starting to make inroads in other countries of the world. The Gelug, of course, is one of these traditions that started to have an impact abroad. Now, all of this has been good of course. Geshe Söpa was amongst the very first wave of teachers to go abroad. He has been there as a monk all of this time, wearing the robes of the Buddha. He has been steadfast, seemingly changing little. This is very admirable. He and others like him have been able to be of great service to the Buddhist teaching and to the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa in particular. As I mentioned earlier “Outwardly calm and controlled, with the demeanour of a Shravaka” he has kept pure moral discipline. As for how much internal development there has been in bodhichitta and the two stages of Mantra practice, well let us not go in to that too much (laughs). The point is that he (and others) have displayed this pure moral discipline, which is the very foundation and root of the Buddhist tradition. They have been of service in this very practical way and have done a lot for the protection and promotion of the teachings. I would like to thank them for their behaviour and contribution.
It has been forty-one years since we came into exile. Of the first generation to be born in exile, most have themselves become parents or are even approaching middle age. Such is the nature of the passing of time. Actually, that clock is not working is it? The batteries must have run out. I wondered what it was. It said six o’clock some time ago and that is still what it says. If only our lives were like that; no change at all. Anyway, the fact is that life continues. Things are changing moment by moment. We look at figures like Gen Pema Gyaltsen, Gen Nyima Rinpoche and great scholars and practitioners from all of the traditions. They are no longer with us. They exist only as memories for us. We may reflect upon them and their kindness, but that is as far as we go. Now when we think about how best to honour their memory, it is clear that we must take care to preserve their legacy. I would like to encourage everyone to continue to work hard. We have to learn from experience. We must see what faults there are, what needs rectifying and what there is that needs to either added or dispensed with.
Now let me address the subject of Dolgyal. There is a tradition amongst some of you saying; ‘Yes, we must follow the Dalai Lama’s orders’. Now if the suggestion is that it is a case of following someone just because they are a figure of authority, I do not agree. Even when dealing with the instructions of the Buddha, we are taught not to follow it blindly. If upon investigation it turns out to be a statement that is acceptable literally, then we should act upon it. If not, then we must interpret the meaning. Therefore, if someone, without giving any thought to the reasons behind what I say, wants to follow what I have said just because I have said it, I would tend to feel that that is not in the spirit of the Buddhist way of doing things. It is particularly at variance with the Mahayana approach. The issue here is not just whether people should be following my instruction or not. There are reasons to be considered here. I have drawn attention to things that have been overlooked. However, people must be aware of the reasons for my doing that.
I thought that it would be helpful for people if I were to extract relevant quotations and put them together. This whole issue is one that has dogged us for three hundred and sixty, perhaps close to four hundred years. It is not something new. I would like to add something to what I usually say here . There are some words that we find in a work by Gunthang Rinpoche [Könchog Tenpai Drönmei (1762 – 1823)] called, ‘Meaningful Praise’.
“Though the traditions of the father remain excellent,
At present, they are besmirched with the dark dust of pollution.
And many false spiritual guides
Lead beings to the abyss of disaster of grief.”
Now when did Gunthang Rinpoche live? He was a contemporary of Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen [Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen (1713-93), tutor of the Eighth Dalai Lama.] Anyway, he was a student of Könchog Jigmey Wangpo (1728-91). He in turn was a disciple of Changkya Rolpai Dorje (1717-86). If we look into the meaning of that quote, what do we find? “Though the traditions of the father (Je Rinpoche) remain excellent”. Now this is not a reference to anyone in the Kagyu, Sakya or Nyingma traditions. It is definitely referring to some situation relating to the Gelug tradition itself. Anyway, at this time it is the likes of Changkya Rolpai Dorje, Gunthang Rinpoche, and Gyalchok Kelsang Gyatso [The Seventh Dalai Lama (1708-57)] who were the real leading lights in the Gelug tradition.
Who is it that, in the era of the above great spiritual figures is being accused of leading people astray? This is what I wanted to look into. This was a time when the problem with Miwang had just about settled down. [The ‘problem’ referred to was a civil war in 1727-28. ‘Miwang’ was Po Lhawa Sönam Tobgyel 1689-1747. He was originally a minister, who, in this tumultuous period, took control of one of the factions. The support of many different groups was enlisted in the struggle, but it is commonly thought that it chiefly boiled down to rivalry between the U and Tsang areas. Po Lhawa was from Tsang and was the champion of that side. In their opposition to the Lhasa aristocrats, officials etc. Po Lhawa and his faction were also favoured by the Chinese. The Seventh Dalai Lama was exiled after the war for his alleged support of the Lhasa faction. Po Lhawa ruled and brought about relative peace.]
At that time there was a figure named Lelung Shaypai Dorje [Lelung Lozang Trinlei (1697 -?1747). Note that he became the court lama of Po Lhawa]. He was someone belonging to the Gelug tradition, a Drepung Lama. He reached a certain level of attainment in his tantric practices and, at some point, he began to teach unruly practices to his disciples in the monastery. This is where some of the rot set in. I think it was Purchog Ngawang Jampa (1682-1762) who criticised him. [ Purchog Ngawang Jampa, from Sera Je, was another teacher of the Eighth Dalai Lama.] He said that there were some during that time who, whether or not they actually had any degree of realisation, had become completely overbearing. He condemned Lelung for having sullied many of the monasteries, drawing them into things that did not concern them. This is something that appears in the biography (of Purchog Ngawang Jampa). It is quite possible that the above quotation is related to these events.
Alternatively, we could look at it as referring to a different situation. We must look at what Purchog Ngawang Jampa wrote and at the actions of Trichen Ngawang Chokden (1677-1751). [He was the fifty-fourth Ganden Throne-Holder, the first Reting Rinpoche and tutor of the Seventh Dalai Lama.] When we put these together with the fact that Changkya Rolpai Dorje mentions Dolgyal by name and Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen also talks of “this new spirit, this evil ghoul”, there must be a strong suspicion that this is a reference to the worship of Dolgyal having found its way into Tashi Lhunpo monastery. It is difficult with so few of the older generation left to consult. This matter is really worthy of more research. Panchen Palden Yeshe (1738-80) was a disciple of the Seventh Dalai Lama [There are three different systems for numbering the Panchen Rinpoches . According to the two most common today, he was either the third of the sixth Panchen Lama]. I do not know whether that Panchen Rinpoche had any real links with Trichen Ngawang Chokden, but the actions of the latter make it clear that the worship (of Dolgyal) was around at that time. [Trichen Ngawang Chogden acted against the worship of Dolgyal, having a propitiation house demolished, statues removed and banning the worship in Ganden monastery.]
Then there are accounts of a shrine (associated with Dolgyal) being demolished at the time when the young Panchen Tenpai Wangchuk (1855-82) was at Tashi Lhunpo [Panchen Tenpai Wangchuck was either the fifth or the eighth Panchen Lama.] Anyway, what is clear is that when he was young, the worship (of Dolgyal) had found its way into Tashi Lhunpo. I believe that it is highly unlikely that it was there at the time of Panchen Palden Yeshe. Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen's comments go back to the time when Panchen Tenpai Nyima (1782-1853) was young. [Panchen Tenpai Nyima was either the fourth or the seventh Panchen Lama.] He refers to the worship of a new spirit at Tashi Lhunpo that was leading people astray. These references could not have been to Begtse and certainly do not refer to Palden Lhamo. I also do not believe that they refer to the protector deity Brahma because Panchen Palden Yeshe devotes quite a lot of his writing to ritual practices relating to this protector. There has been a degree of disagreement as to whether Begtse was to be identified with Jowo Chinga or not. But whatever the case may be, practices relating to Begtse were already around at the time of the First Dalai Lama [Gyalwa Gendun Drub (1391-1474)]. Therefore, that really must lead us to the conclusion that Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen’s reference is to Dolgyal.
So when did it start? If we look at the quotation by Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen, it seems likely that the corruption began at Tashi Lhunpo. If we look at what Purchog Ngawang Jampa says though, the suggestion is of the tradition first occurring in Ganden. Initially however there was absolutely no such ritual related to propitiation of such a worldly spirit. If you look at Je Rinpoche’s birth-deity [a guardian deity assigned according to the time and place where an individual is born], Machen Pomra, even shrines and practices relating to this deity had to be outside and were not allowed within the confines of Ganden monastery. It was later on though that these things crept in. By the time of Purchog Ngawang Jampa, he is blaming the proliferation in some quarters of a wholehearted devotion to Dolgyal for various problems relating to education in Ganden. Likewise, if we put together what is said in the biographies of Trichen Ngawang Chokden and Changkya Rolpai Dorje, it is clear what they refer to. So maybe the words composed by Gungthang Rinpoche are directed to all of this. It is something that is worthy of some historical research. It seems that this is the more likely explanation.
Some suggest that it was Phabongkha Rinpoche who was responsible for popularising the propitiation in the main monasteries (and justify the practice accordingly). This also needs to be looked into. When exactly is it that he is supposed to have done this? Was it meant to be in the latter half of his life? If the suggestion is that it was in the earlier part of his life, we find for example in Trijang Rinpoche’s biography an account of something that occurred when he was very young. He spoke of a time when he was at Chusang (in Tibet). Phabongkha Rinpoche was also there at the time and he had just completed a Secret Hayagriva retreat. Trijang Rinpoche recalls him distributing many red pills after that retreat. So, in the earlier part of his life he was practising in a non-sectarian way.
He also took teachings on the ‘Secret Visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama’ or ‘Sangwa Gyachen’ and also gave the ‘Excellent Vase for the Fulfillment of Wishes’ (Dojoi Bumsang) empowerment, which is a thoroughly Nyingma collection of teachings. The ‘Secret Visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama’ on the other hand is not teaching that either the Nyingma or Gelug lay exclusive claim to. Whatever the case may be, the fact that Phabongkha Rinpoche was, during the earlier part of his life, practising in a non-sectarian fashion is quite clear. It was only after his involvement with Dolgyal began that his rejection of the Nyingma came about.
The question that we must ask ourselves is what effect his involvement with Dolgyal had upon his work and achievements. Was it something that did more harm or good? Think about it. During the earlier part of his life, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama [Gyalwa Thubten Gyatso (1876-1933)] really had a special fondness and high hopes for Phabongkha Rinpoche. Later on though, Phabongkha became the object of his criticism. Some might have us believe that it was jealousy that was responsible for this. However, in reality it is clear that it is the Dolgyal issue that was at the root of the problem. So, did Phabongkha’s involvement aid or hinder what he was trying to achieve? This is the crux of the matter. Now of all of Phabongkha Rinpoche’s disciples, Trijang Rinpoche can really be seen as the foremost and his real spiritual heir.
There are those who suggest that because these two Lamas clearly promoted the worship of Dolgyal, its importance is unquestioned and that it is fitting that others should also get involved in it - that the worship is validated by those two figures' association with it. To listen to these people you would get the impression that their worship of Dolgyal was the most important thing that these two did in their lives; their main contribution. That is ridiculous; it was not like that at all. You just have to look at the works that they composed, like the ‘Stages of the Path’ by Phabongkha and similar writings by Trijang Rinpoche. They were both real masters of and heirs to that tradition. I took many ‘Stages of the Path’ teachings from Trijang Rinpoche. It was quite evident that there was something quite distinct in his way of explaining, something very special about it.
In terms of Tantra, as well, he was a master, particularly of Heruka Chakrasamvara, and that he was a great yogi is a generally accepted fact. Therefore, the real contribution and achievement of both of these two figures was in terms of their mastery of the ‘Stages of the Path’, ‘Mind Training’ and Heruka practise. Dolgyal was only ever a secondary thing.
There is another question at issue here. Even if something is or was performed by great spiritual teachers of the past, if it goes against the general spirit of the teachings, it should be discarded. This is a point that Je Rinpoche made repeatedly, saying, “The purpose of having personal advice instructions is to have a digestible abridgement (of the teachings). We should never forsake the essential meaning of the great texts” [ This seems to be a paraphrase of advice given to Je Rinpoche when he had a vision of Mañjushri.]. What I have been saying comes back to this point. Some behave as though they have some secret personal instruction. Who was superior to Nagarjuna and Asanga or each of their spiritual sons when it came to composing abridged instructions of the teachings? If that is the case, when someone comes along and suggests that there was some other instruction, distinct and different from them, you really have to consider whether that isn’t something that you should be wary of.
Personal instruction traditions are there to help us gain understanding of the great texts. They should help us to comprehend what was the final intention behind what the Buddha taught. They should not go against that or cause harm. These are the kind of things that we have to reflect upon. Personal instruction traditions are meant to help us get to the heart of the matter, help us to easily understand the meaning of the teachings. For example, the ‘Ornament of Clear Realizations’ or ‘Abhisamayalankara’ [attributed to Maitreya] is counted as a personal instruction in the sense of it being something that is there to help us fathom the meaning of the Buddha’s teaching. It is not meant to be offering us some instruction distinct from that.
My position on Vajrayogini is also related to these matters. I cannot accept what some say. Namely, that Vajrayogini was the main, secret practice of Je Rinpoche. It is not as though I do not have any faith in Vajrayogini. I do Vajrayogini practice, I do the Heruka body mandala practice and they go well. I have done the full Vajrayogini retreat and I did get certain signs. There was nothing spectacular you understand, but something at least. They involve profound practices these, such as working with Inner Heat. Milarepa, who felt it to be the foundation of the path, particularly stressed this aspect. Meditation on the inner heat is something that comes up in all the practices of the Highest Yoga Tantra deities. A special section set aside for the visualisation and working with this inner heat at the end of the mantra recitation indicates its pride of place. It figures in the Vajrayogini, as in the other generation and completion stage practices. They are profound practices. I have faith in them and I do them myself.
Some people try to suggest that Vajrayogini is in fact not really a Sakya practice. However, they can point to no texts on the subject by Je Rinpoche or his main disciples. These people are therefore forced to resort to a line of reasoning in which they go through eliminating each of the other Tantric practices, and come up with the conclusion that it was this one that was Je Rinpoche’s chief practice, but that he performed it complete secrecy. In reality, this is a Sakya teaching.
There is also the question of the inclusion of these two verses in Lama Chöpa [verses which are to relate to Vajrayogini practice]:
“I offer even illusion-like consorts, youthfully vivacious,
Slender and skilled in the sixty-four arts of love.
A host of messenger Skyfarers ‒
Field-born, mantra-born and simultaneously born.
I offer you the great wisdom of simultaneous bliss, unobstructed,
The sphere of the true, unelaborated nature of phenomena...
Beyond thought and expression, spontaneous and
Indivisible, the supreme ultimate awakening mind.”
but we do not need to go into this any further than that. It would be interesting to find out just when and who was responsible for the later inclusion of those words. What we need is to do some sort of research into the matter: just as Tsultrim Kelsang has done in Japan. In a similar vein, it would be worthwhile looking into just who was responsible for first coining the epithet ‘Protector of the Teachings of the Conqueror Mañjushri (Je Rinpoche)’ for Dolgyal. What were the circumstances of its being given? Was this the culmination of an authoritative spiritual figure following the correct procedure of ordering (the protector into service) and assigning (to it certain duties)? That certainly cannot be said of Phabongkha. He did not go through this procedure. Rather, it is said that, intimidated by Dolgyal’s aggression towards him he halted his practise of the ‘Excellent Vase for the Fulfillment of Wishes’ (Dojoi Bumsang). That is hardly something to be proud of is it?
I also had cause to enter into a discussion of these matters with the chief attendant of the former Rikgya Rinpoche. Rinpoche had been heavily involved in the worship (of Dolgyal). Not so long ago the attendant told me that later Rinpoche had given up the ritual. He went on to say that anyway his whole involvement in it came about in rather questionable circumstances. According to the attendant, it had been due to Dolgyal inflicting some injury upon him that he had begun. Frightened that he might experience further harm, Rinpoche decided to take up the worship. That is repugnant isn’t it? It is a complete reversal of how things should be. It is meant to be that some realised being, without bowing down, without fear, with good reasons for what he is doing, draws the worldly deities to him and brings them under his control and influence. He is supposed to be the one who is in control. It is he who is supposed to give the orders and assign the spirit to certain duties.
So who was it that gave this name? None of the Ganden Throne-Holders was responsible for this. It was not Je Rinpoche or any of his main disciples. It was not the chief Lama of Tashi Kyil in Amdo or any of his main disciples. The practice was completely unheard of there. Now I do not suggest that Kumbum is generally to be taken as any sort of example, but still, the likes of Tongpön Rinpoche were not responsible for this. My brother Taktser Rinpoche, for instance was the abbot there for a number of years and said that he had never even heard of it whilst he was there. It is true that the former Kirti Rinpoche dabbled in the worship. However, that was just a case of following a tradition that others around him were engaged in. There was no sort of whole-hearted commitment. On inspection then, the origins of the whole thing are found to be very murky and there seems to be no reliable source for it.
Now I would like to say something about Trijang Rinpoche. He and Karmapa Rinpoche were very close. He himself related one incident that occurred after we had moved here. He said that on the previous day he had received a bit of a shock. Karmapa Rinpoche had turned up out of the blue just as he was doing Dolgyal propitiation. When he heard that Karmapa Rinpoche had arrived, he said that he had to hurriedly clear away all of the offerings in order to conceal them. The reason was that Karmapa Rinpoche was not at all keen on Dolgyal. Think about this. What sort of a tutelary protector of the Gelug is it that one has to conceal when a Kagyu Lama arrives?
The Gelug tradition has the Six-Armed Mahakala as a tutelary deity. It also has Damchen Chögyel (Kalarupa). If it had been Mahakala there in full view, Karmapa Rinpoche would have been quite happy. He would probably have offered a symbolic libation to him. I do not know whether the same is true for Damchen Chögyel (Kalarupa). In the Nyingma, they do use the name ‘the animal-headed protector’. For example, there is that account of Alak Jigmei Samten. During his life, in Rebgong in Amdo there was a history of some mantra practitioners casting spells against others. Alak Jigmey Samten had decided to do the Yamantaka protection-circle ritual. Now there was someone called Rongpo Rebgong Gyawu who was opposed to the Gelug and was casting spells. At the time that Alak was meditating on the mandala of Yamantaka, one of Rongpo Rebgong Gyawu's students had a dream. In it, there was a Lama riding a horse. He wore a hat. But as he went along a crow swooped down and took the hat off him. The student related this dream to his teacher. He responded, ‘Hmm, the Gelugs are casting spells. But they will not be able to subdue Gönpo Phulug [his personal protector]. Anyway, if it is that animal-headed protector that they have enlisted, it will be no match for me’. However maybe he miscalculated and the protector did harm him, because not so long afterwards it seems that he came to an untimely end.
Anyway, the point is; the real tutelary deities of the Gelug are those that have been appointed to the task after the ordering and assigning process approved by Je Rinpoche. They are the established guardians. One can engage in propitiation of them openly and with pride. There is no need to hide them from anyone, whether the person in question is a Kagyu, Dzogchen or Sakya practitioner. There should be no need to conceal representations of any protector in some dark corner. It makes me laugh to think about Trijang Rinpoche scurrying about collecting up his offerings, saying to his attendant, ‘put this one away…and this one…and this one’. Having to hide like that seems to be a sorry state of affairs.