Dolgyal Confession

Dolgyal Confession

Date of Advice:
January 2018
Date Posted:
June 2019

A student of Lama Zopa Rinpoche wrote to confess that as there was no other center nearby they had started attending a New Kadampa Tradition center and were practicing Dolgyal (Skt: Dorje Shugden). The student confessed not following the guru’s advice and asked what to do.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in the garden at Osel Labrang, Sera Je Monastery, India, December 2015.  Photo: Ven. Roger Kunsang.

My dear one,
First, I am very sorry it took so long to reply to your email.

Thank you very much for your kind letter expressing your confession. You did it before it’s too late, so that’s very good, very fortunate, because you did not take too long to confess.

I’ll tell you this, what the Buddha said:

Bhikshus and learned ones, examine well my teachings, just as a goldsmith examines refined gold by cutting, rubbing and burning it. Then take my teachings. Do not have blind faith alone.

This is not only for you and for beginners like me; this is also for even the learned lamas and geshes who have many disciples, who are learned in Buddhist philosophy and who are very famous in the large monasteries. This quotation by the Buddha is also for them. Among all the other religions in the world I think the Buddha is the only one who said to check his teachings and not follow them with blind faith.

Of course there are many other lamas who have great devotion to Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, and think these gurus are very strongly following [Dolgyal.] Also they may believe that their lives have been extremely beneficial for sentient beings by practicing Dolgyal, so they totally left out the Buddha’s advice.

I tell you, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche showed the aspect of following Dolgyal, but Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, who was the heart disciple of Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, didn’t practice it at all. There are many great lamas who didn’t want to follow Dolgyal, who didn’t want to take the initiation of this Dolgyal. There are many other high lamas and geshes, for example, in the USA, Geshe Sopa, who was Lama Yeshe’s teacher and my teacher.

When Kyabje Zong Rinpoche gave the initiation in his past life—of course I had taken the initiation before —he was giving it to Alan Wallace, who was a monk at that time. Alan Wallace was Geshe Rabten’s disciple, and he had much intelligence and studied debate and Tibetan language. The initiation was mainly for him, also there was Ama Lobsang, a Tibetan lady doctor who was a disciple of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and myself. So there were three of us. His Holiness Zong Rinpoche gave sog tä [life initiation]1 at three a.m. and before that he told many stories. Geshe Sopa was Zong Rinpoche’s disciple but he did not take the initiation; instead he was going around outside the room. So you can see the difference here. Geshe Sopa was very learned, even though Rinpoche did the initiation in his room. I don’t have to tell you, there are many stories, so this is enough.

I think what happened with you is that because you wanted very much to practice and rely on friends and practice together, so then because they practice Dolgyal and just because you are influenced by those friends—the wrong friends, the wrong guides—this is what happened. Then you just let it happen, even though you knew that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had advised to not practice Dolgyal, to abandon it.

Just in my case, yes, I did receive the sog tä initiation from my root guru Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche with two other students, but afterward I gave it up, in Dharamsala. When I was giving it up, the oracle that I used to consult regarding which lamas to invite from other sects—who to invite and who not to invite to FPMT centers, so I mainly consulted about that—that oracle appeared in my dream and gave me, not a new, but a little bit of old scarf, rolled it up and told me “Thanks” and then disappeared. So there wasn’t any kind of harm or the oracle didn’t show me that at that time.

The harm is not only in this life; the harm destroys all your next lives, to not meet the guru. You did not follow the advice of the guru, what His Holiness the Dalai Lama advised, which was to not practice Dolgyal, but you did [this practice] so you didn’t follow the advice. So that is the cause of not having the right guru, Dharma, the guru, in the next life. It could be for many hundreds or thousands of lives, on and on, you will never find, you will never hear, you will never receive teachings. You may even get reborn in the realm where you don’t hear even the voice, like that, it can be a possibility.

So it destroys, on and on, not just hundreds but thousand and millions of your future lives. This is the worst enemy and is most harmful, in particular to Gelugpa. It destroys the root of the path to enlightenment, which is correctly following the virtuous friend. That means you destroy your ability to free numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering. Not only that, you are not able to bring all sentient beings to the peerless happiness, buddhahood. So it destroys your [ability] to help the sentient beings, to bring them to enlightenment.

Many learned lamas and geshes, who have many disciples, so they practice Dolgyal and then the disciples find out that it’s wrong, then they destroy the root of the path to enlightenment, which is correctly devoting to the virtuous friend. Guru devotion means looking at [the guru] and seeing Buddha; by looking at [the guru as] Buddha and seeing Buddha and following that advice.

This practice is unbelievable harmful for Gelugpa teachings and so harmful to the world, harmful to Buddhism in general and in particular, Tibet and Gelugpa. This is besides the individual harm, the unbelievable, unbelievable harm to your life, in this life and future lives.

We in the 21st century have this particular karma of following Dolgyal without checking, so our mistakes appear in the actions of the guru. So, for example, for myself, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, who was my guru, and Lama Yeshe, appeared like that, as practicing. They are Buddha, they have no mistakes, they have no true obscurations at all. They are one with all the buddhas. Each guru is one with all the buddhas. Each guru’s actions are all the actions of numberless buddhas’ holy actions, and their advice is numberless buddhas’ advice.

I’ll tell you this quotation from the Fifth Dalai Lama. It is a very rich quotation and you should learn this by heart, then you will know how to follow the guru, to not lose faith, to protect your faith, the root of the path to enlightenment.

The Fifth Dalai Lama, the omniscient one said:

In the view of your own mind—that which is totally hallucinated, opposite to reality—your own mistakes appeared in the guru’s actions. All this definitely shows is that your heart is totally rotten. Recognizing them as your own mistakes, abandon them as poison.

[Holding] the pure appearance [see] whatever is done by the guru as good. With devotion do exactly what the guru says. Then whatever you do, everything becomes Dharma. That profound importance should be realized as the root of happiness and benefits the completion of all the wishes.

Kadampa Geshe Potawa said:

If you don’t have faith in and respect for the guru, even if you rely on the Buddha it won’t benefit.

Like the monk Lekpai Karma. He served the Buddha for twenty-two years but he never saw the Buddha as Buddha, he always looked at the Buddha as a liar, so that’s why he saw only a liar, even though the Buddha was enlightened eons ago.

Please read my advice on Dolgyal, which can be found here:

Please read the advice, so you can understand and also so you can help others. Not only will you understand but also you can help others.

What the Fifth Dalai Lama taught, this is how you can protect your devotion to the guru who showed the aspect of practicing Dolgyal and to those who do not show the aspect of practicing Dolgyal, so both.

The other way to think is that the guru purposely shows the mistakes, as you have the karma, so this is to benefit you. So think in these two ways. Think that the guru has no mistakes and from your side [see the guru as] the omniscient one. Then you can think that whatever the guru does is all the Buddha’s actions. Even when the guru coughs, it is all the Buddha’s action, there is benefit for us sentient beings; even when the guru has diarrhea, it is all the Buddha’s action, there is a purpose for that. We have to think that. So there is always that mindfulness and realization.

Every day you can do Vajrasattva, whatever you can, one mala, half a mala or twenty-one times, whatever you can, to purify the particular negative karma collected with the guru. Then make tsog offerings. You must know by now about tsog offering to the guru. Think you generate infinite skies of bliss non-dual with emptiness; beams are emitted from the guru and purify you, like the Lama Chöpa merit field. This purifies you totally, purifying the negative karmas collected from beginningless rebirth and the delusions.

But the main thing is to abandon Dolgyal practice now, one hundred percent. Think you are offering this to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and request His Holiness the Dalai Lama to guide you until enlightenment is achieved; to never be reborn in the lower realms and to be guided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama until enlightenment is achieved, in every life, every hour, every minute, every second.

It’s very foolish that you stopped doing the other commitments (Six-session Guru Yoga etc.) That is like someone giving you ice cream but you don’t eat it. That is so foolish. If someone gives you ice cream and you get angry back, how [foolish] that is! Here, if someone gives you a billion dollars and you get angry and don’t accept it, how ridiculous.

Now if someone gives you a wish-granting jewel, which means whatever you pray for—all the needs in this life, however many helicopters you want, however many airplanes you want, whatever you want, however many girls you want, however many swimming pools you want—so if someone wants to give you a million wish-granting jewels and you get angry back and don’t accept them, that’s foolish. Of course, a wish-granting jewel doesn’t purify the negative karma to be born in the lower realms, it cannot stop you from being born in the lower realms, that wish-granting jewel cannot free you from samsara, it cannot free you from lower nirvana, that alone cannot help you to achieve great nirvana, buddhahood. With that alone you can’t liberate numberless sentient beings from samsara and bring them to buddhahood.

That alone can’t help, can’t help, but by you practicing Vajrayogini, Heruka and so forth, this does free you from the lower realms, this frees you from samsara quickly, and it not only frees you quickly, but it brings you to enlightenment quickly and frees numberless sentient beings from samsara quickly and helps you to bring them to enlightenment quickly.

You don’t stop continuously regarding that guru as guru, as they are your guru, but you can keep away, so you don’t have to follow Dolgyal. Keep the devotion to them as guru, as Buddha, but you can keep away, so you don’t have to do Dolgyal. This is what I advised a long time ago to other students who followed Geshe Kelsang. You can read the letters in the links above.

Another thing is, the Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion2 says that if the guru tells you to do non-Dharma things, then you can stop that. I think in Vinaya also, it is mentioned, if you are monk you do tangske, that is holding your upper robe3 in your hand and stroking it slowly three times, like prostration.

Then as the Fifth Dalai Lama says, continuously keep your mind in devotion, thinking that the guru is a buddha and whatever mistakes appear, what the guru says, what actions are shown, by thinking your own mistakes are appearing in the guru’s actions. Think that the guru doesn’t have mistakes at all [and has] omniscient mind, then respectfully confess and try to get permission so that you don’t have to do that [practice]. Without losing your faith, your devotion. So that’s explained.

Thank you very much. Please enjoy your life with correct Dharma practice, so doing Vajrayogini tsog, that would help, like one thousand times or a few hundred times. Also do the body mandala tsog to Heruka, that will purify. During the tsog think beams are emitted that purify your degenerated samaya, negative karma and all the obscurations, such as not doing the commitments and so forth, collected from beginningless rebirths. Think these are purified totally. So do like that.

With much love and prayers ...


1 A life entrustment empowerment (Tib: sog tä; Wyl: srog gtad). [Return to text]

2 (Disciples) having great sense should obey the words of their guru joyfully and with enthusiasm.
If you lack the knowledge or ability (to do what he says), explain in (polite) words why you cannot (comply).
          - Verse 24, Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion [Return to text]

3 In Vinaya literature, the term is lagö (Tib); bla gos (Wyl). The contemporary Tibetan term for the upper robe is chögö; chos gos (Wyl). This upper robe is yellow and is worn by Sangha at certain events. The chögö is worn over the zen, a maroon upper robe worn every day by Sangha ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. [Return to text]