Sun of Devotion, Stream of Blessings

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Leeds and London, UK (Archive #1963)

Sun of Devotion, Stream of Blessings is the record of a remarkable series of powerful and clear Dharma teachings given by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche to students in Leeds and London, United Kingdom, in 2014. This book is now available in print and digital formats and forthcoming as a free audiobook on Google Play.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching during the Fifth Meditation Course, Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1973.
Chapter 7. A Talk about Dolgyal

Recently I wrote a foreword to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s book about Dolgyal, or Shugden,44 for the Mongolian translation of the book made by the monks from the monastery in Ulaanbaatar, Idgaa Choizinling.

Idgaa Choizinling, which is part of Sera Je, was in Mongolia before Russia took over. It was built by an old monk who studied at Sera Je, debating and studying philosophical texts composed by Jetsun Chökyi Gyaltsen.

I went there the first time I was in Mongolia but the door was closed and I didn’t see anybody. The second time I went to Mongolia, the monks from the monastery came to the center to call on me but they stayed outside and we never managed to meet even though they waited for five days. Then on my last day there I went to the monastery and was able to meet them. There were twenty young boys of between maybe four and seven, all with their heads shaved, dressed in chubas and holding malas. They were sitting in a long room looking very inspired, very enthusiastic to be monks. I did the five precepts with them and gave the lungs of the Guru Puja, the Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga (Tib: Ganden Lha Gyäma) and some other practices.

It was crowded because their parents and many other people were there as well. There were only two older monks, maybe eighty or ninety years old, left from before the Russians invaded Mongolia. They were fully ordained monks before but maybe because of the situation they had taken to wearing Mongolian robes, a sort of yellow chuba. It was like a robe for the monks. Maybe they had only taken the five precepts, I’m not sure. One of the old monks was holding the stick wrapped in a lot of Mongolian khatags that the disciplinarian holds in a puja, so he might have been the disciplinarian before the Russians came.

After the teaching he offered me a Mongolian carpet and asked me to rebuild the monastery. I accepted and it has worked very well. It seems they have quite good karma because a benefactor in Taiwan, whose father died, offered the money to rebuild it and it was finished a long time ago. Now it is probably an even better place. Usually monasteries in Tibet are not so comfortable and look kind of dark, with tiny windows, but this one has many windows. It’s spacious enough to seat thousands of people and is a good place to give teachings. The name, Idgaa Choizinling, means “Joyful Pure Land” or, in Sanskrit, “Tushita.” There are between thirty and sixty small monks who can study there, whereas before to study philosophy they had to go to Sera Je, very far away in India.

The monks there could have translated either of two books by His Holiness the Dalai Lama but they decided to translate the one about Dolgyal because although many people in Mongolia have heard His Holiness’s advice not to follow Dolgyal, it depends on whom they meet. If they meet somebody who follows His Holiness and doesn’t practice Dolgyal, they deny practicing Dolgyal. For instance, if they meet me, they tell me they don’t practice.

Some people know about the situation in Dharamsala and what His Holiness says but still think this is His Holiness’s advice alone and so they continue to practice. They mainly follow the attachment or anger of their group, their party or their guru, becoming angry at His Holiness without really checking well whether it is correct or incorrect, even though when Tibet was free many other important lamas had already advised the monasteries not to practice Dolgyal.

When His Holiness himself was in a young aspect he was in Domo, southern Tibet, where I became a monk. It was becoming very difficult in Tibet because of China, so there was the question of whether to go to India or remain in Tibet. At that time, my teacher’s teacher was the oracle, and he was the one who gave the answer. The governors invoked Dolgyal and asked him whether His Holiness should remain in Tibet or go to India because of the situation. The answer was to stay in Tibet. I heard it helped Tibet for one year.

After His Holiness himself repeatedly checked, using more and more logic, he found out that practicing Dolgyal was wrong and gave up the practice. That was what he also advised other people to do. At the beginning His Holiness was very quiet and didn’t tell people directly, but then later on he found more reasons and so he advised that if people were concerned with practicing the correct Dharma they should not follow Dolgyal.

These people who criticize His Holiness are unaware that when Tibet was free there were many other lamas who advised against practicing Dolgyal. In particular this was the advice of six or seven great lamas who were like one sun rising in this world, in this southern continent. These lamas did great benefit for sentient beings, for the teachings of the Buddha. They wrote many teachings on sutra and tantra. They advised what could and couldn’t be taught and practiced in the monasteries, and they advised particularly not to practice this one, Dolgyal, Shugden.

They are compared to the sun because when the sun rises it dispels the darkness in the world, allowing crops to grow and people to enjoy themselves. Especially in England! Especially in London! I heard yesterday that when the sun comes out everybody goes to the park. One of the students advertised London weather to me like that.

My life in Phagri and Buxa Duar

I’ve known about the English weather from the time I lived in Buxa Duar, where I went after I escaped from Tibet.

I went to Tibet from Solu Khumbu in 1956 when I was very small, with my two uncles, who were fully ordained monks and one of whom was also my alphabet teacher, my guru. I went there because one of my other uncles, who became a soldier in the Indian army, had married a lady from the upper part of Tibet who lived in Phagri and had invited us to come.

On our walk from Solu Khumbu there was very little snow, just on some of the mountains. We walked all the time except for one day when two Tibetans on horseback gave me a ride on their donkey for two hours until we reached their house in Sangba in upper Tibet, where we had thugpa. My uncles came later with the luggage they were carrying and we spent the night there.

Generally, however, we walked all the way, every day, all day, along a car road, stopping to light a fire on the road to cook food. My teacher made tsampa for me by mixing it with black tea in a leather bag. When it was well mixed we ate it. This is a very simple way of traveling. Sometimes we begged. I was a very small child so, I don’t know, maybe I was cute. Families seemed to like us and we were able to beg food on the way. They gave us millet tsampa and chang made from grain and so forth.

Eventually we reached Shigatse and stayed at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the monastery of the Panchen Lamas, for about ten days. There was a Sherpa khangtsen there and we stayed in the house of a monk from Thangme. As you know, Sherpas are expert mountain climbers and assist in many Himalayan expeditions. One of the previous Panchen Lamas had a very learned Sherpa teacher called Ang something (many Sherpas have Ang as part of their name), that’s why there was a Sherpa khangtsen.

Khangtsens are places where monks stay depending on where they come from. A monk will belong to one particular khangtsen and stay in that house and be looked after by the teacher there. If the teacher doesn’t teach you Dharma he will guide you to somebody who can and you will learn from that person.

So the monk from Thangme insisted very much to my teacher that he wanted me to be his disciple but I really didn’t want to be. I don’t think he was a monk who had learned the Dharma. He was more into business or something. His shem-thab was very black and greasy from the butter used in Tibetan tea. And because it was so cold in Tibet, his shem-thab was stiff and made a swishing noise when he walked. He also had a long Tibetan key hanging from his belt. That was the dob-dob style.

Finally, the day before my teachers were going to walk the seven days from Tashi Lhunpo to Phagri, they advised me I was to stay behind to become this monk’s disciple. I really didn’t want to become the student of somebody who hadn’t studied Dharma.

I didn’t get any sleep that night, wondering how I could become free from him. But the next morning as we were having tea and my teachers were preparing to leave they said I could come with them. I was very happy.

One way to understand what happened here is that it’s karma, how what’s happening in this life is the result of our past actions.

It took seven days to walk from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery to Phagri and every day my uncles had to carry huge loads. I don’t remember having to carry anything myself.

After we arrived at the uncle’s house in Phagri, my uncles decided to go to Lhasa on pilgrimage to see Ganden, Drepung and Sera monasteries and the most famous Shakyamuni Buddha statue in Tibet, which was made during the Buddha’s time and blessed by the Buddha, the “Jowo.” But the elder of my teachers said I might have some difficulties if I went with them, like catching a cold or dying, so they didn’t take me. Later I saw the statue and the monasteries, but not at that time.

I think that their decision to not take me was actually very skillful. While they were in Lhasa, I was just hanging around, wearing a chuba that had lots of lice and lice eggs in its seams. But while I was hanging around I had the chance to go to the many branch monasteries of Ganden, Tashi Lhunpo, Gyüto and Gyüme Tantric Colleges and so forth. And, of course, the monastery of the great yogi Domo Geshe Rinpoche, where I later became a monk.

One morning while my uncles were in Lhasa, I was outside with my uncle’s wife and their son, a little monk belonging to a monastery that was part of the Tashi Lhunpo. A tall monk called Losang Gyatso came up to me and asked, “Do you want to be my disciple?” So I said, “Yes.” I think this was past life’s karma ripening. Then he went inside and told my aunt, “He wants to be my disciple.”

She was a very good cook, and the next day she made a thermos of tea, filled a Bhutanese container made of woven bamboo with round breads (she made very good Tibetan bread, served with a lot of butter) and took me to Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s monastery, where he lived, about fifteen minutes’ walk from our place. (I should keep this story brief. This doesn’t need to become an initiation into my story!)

Early the next morning I washed and then we had to go to somebody’s house for puja. We used to go to different people’s houses to do puja every day; this was kind of a fixed time to do puja. But sometimes we did extra pujas that went all night, like Praises to the Twenty-one Taras or the Four Mandala Offerings to Tara, and on those nights we got no sleep. But mostly we did protector practices, the major one being Dolgyal, Shugden, because in that area that had been the main practice of Kyabje Domo Geshe Rinpoche in the past. So this practice was well known in Domo and Phagri. They did others as well, such as Mahakala, but this was also very strong and often done for the families.

On that first day there was a puja at the house of the benefactor of Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s labrang. I was given some pages of the Yamantaka sadhana to memorize and told to stay outside where the family dogs were sleeping. I memorized the text and they brought food and tea out to me while the other monks were doing puja inside the prayer hall. That was the first day. I memorized the text for examination by Losang Gyatso, the tall monk who became my teacher.

Then, on the second day, I went to puja together with them because in Solu Khumbu, even though I was very small, I used to attend pujas with many people, like the pujas they did when people died, which extended for many days. However, in the morning, before going out to puja I had to do my memorization.

So, like that, I spent three years in Phagri.

Buxa Duar

Nine months after the Chinese took Tibet I escaped to India through Bhutan. Phagri is near Bhutan and at that time crossing the border was much easier than it became later on. We made our way to Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and from there to a camp called Buxa Duar, where Prime Minister Nehru and Gandhi had been imprisoned during the British time. That’s where the Sera Je and Sera Me monks’ puja hall and residences had been reestablished.

The monks had beds all the way along the walls of a very long, narrow building. There was a very small courtyard outside surrounded by barbed wire, thorns and a ditch where there were more monks’ beds. The house of my teacher Geshe Rabten was also there. The place was very crowded. That’s how we lived in Buxa. I was based there for eight years while moving to different places from time to time.

An Englishwoman called Freda Bedi, who was married to an Indian man she met at Oxford University, found me an English pen friend and benefactor. Mrs. Bedi had been a Christian before but became a Buddhist in Burma. Because her son and daughter were best friends with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s son and daughter at university, Nehru gave her the job of looking after the Tibetan refugee monks who had been sent to Missamari, in Assam. Everybody said she had strong karma to become a Buddhist. She became a disciple of His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa and one of the first Western Tibetan Buddhist nuns, Gelongma Karma Kechog Palmo.

In looking after the monks, Sister Palmo became close friends with them. She came to Buxa three times, looking for all the young incarnate lamas and the old ones as well. The pen friend she found for me, Rachel Levy, was a member of the Buddhist Society in London. I never met her.

During my time at Buxa, many monks died of tuberculosis. There was no cancer at that time, and TB was the main illness. TB became very famous! Looking out from my bed I often saw dead monks being carried to the cemetery by a group of monks from that khangtsen, who would pray for them there. It was like that every week. So many monks got sick and died.

We also heard that food sent by the United Nations was exchanged by the camp’s officials for poor quality food. Maybe they did that to give the monks the chance to practice the Dharma well!

The head of the lama camp was a Punjabi Sikh, a soldier from the Second World War. He was a very pompous, arrogant man. My pen friend sent me a book about London, about the weather and the story of London, but the head of the camp wanted to read it and I don’t think he gave it back. I don’t know what happened to it.

So, anyway, I learned about London weather at that time—how it is always drizzly and always cloudy. I remember that from Buxa all those many years ago. In the past, when I would come to the UK and travel to Cumbria,45 as we passed Manchester I would see from the train that it was foggy and rainy, just as the book had explained it always was.

About Dolgyal

When the Mongolian monks asked me to write the foreword for His Holiness’s book I told them it would take many pages. And it did! I have told His Holiness that I am also thinking of writing a book, not about me but about Khadro-la’s special experiences, what she sees from her side. It should be very interesting. There is evidently a young lama also working on something similar, so His Holiness said he wanted to see my book before I publish it.

Several years ago, when a new monastery was built at Drepung, His Holiness consecrated it and gave teachings at Sera. At that time, four thousand monks gathered at Sera Je and each monk had to come in front of all the others and swear into the microphone that he would never practice Dolgyal or make any connection with people who were practicing, either with materials, which means money, or by teaching or taking teachings. They then swore, “May you, Most Secret Hayagriva, understand.”

They had to say that to make it clear to the Tibetan public, to Tibetan society. This didn’t come from Dharamsala; it didn’t come from His Holiness. This was from the public’s side; they wanted them to do that. Then, after that, those who still practiced Dolgyal were not to return.

I was not there at that time but Lama Lhundrup, the abbot of Kopan Monastery, was worried. I went there later. I swore in the front of the Hayagriva thangka at Sera Je, with the abbot, the um-dze—the puja leader—and the gekyö who came a little bit later. They were very happy that I made this promise, but I had stopped practicing a long, long time ago.

As I mentioned, I became a monk at Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s monastery in Phagri, where the Dolgyal practice was regarded as very important. They practiced it from the past great yogi and so that is why I didn’t know before. That is how it happened.

We followed Dolgyal for many years, even receiving a kind of life initiation, relying on Dolgyal, from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe’s and my root guru. I received my first lam-rim teaching, Liberation in the Palm of your Hand, from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche in Sarnath. We followed Dolgyal for many years but I had stopped long before I went to Sera Je that time.

After I stopped nothing negative happened. The night I stopped I dreamed of the oracle from Ganden Shartse giving me scarf. It was not new but a little bit old, rolled up, and he left it on my table. He said, “Thank you,” and then disappeared. That was a good sign. Nothing threatening happened; there were no bad dreams or strange events; the ending was good. Maybe it’s because I’m not really a lama who benefits the world but just an ordinary person that Dolgyal let me go!

I’d like to tell you a story so you can get the idea, so you can understand. There was a great lama in Tibet, Trehor Kyörpon Rinpoche, who went to Dalhousie, where he later passed away. He achieved many realizations: guru devotion, renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness, and also the two stages of tantra, the gross and subtle generation stages and the various stages of completion stage, the isolation of the body, the isolation of the speech, the isolation of the mind, which is clear light, and the union of clear light and illusory body. He achieved the completion stage union of clear light and illusory body a long time ago, so of course he would have achieved all the rest. He was a great lama.

He organized his Dalhousie group by checking whether those who came to him could follow an ascetic life or not. Those who could were allowed to stay to receive his guidance but those who were unable to renounce this life had to leave. He checked up like this. There were many geshes learned in philosophy there.

When Rinpoche was still in Tibet, Dolgyal entered into an oracle monk and came and asked Rinpoche to accept him. He was a high lama with many disciples, so if he accepted Dolgyal many people would trust Dolgyal and do the practice. Trehor Kyörpon Rinpoche asked Dolgyal a question about impermanence, which Dolgyal answered correctly. Then he asked him about the bum-pa, the vase. This is a very common object used in debating along with pillars, rabbits’ horns and things like that. He asked, “Is this vase truly existent or not?”

Dolgyal, Shugden, who had entered the monk, answered, “Oh yes, yes, yes.” Do you understand? Rinpoche asked if the vase was truly existent and Dolgyal replied that is was, so it seems he didn’t know about what makes a thing truly existent. He had never been taught. The vase appears to be real, but is that true? If Dolgyal had been an enlightened being, there is no way he would have replied like that. Not even an arya being would have done that, so that proves he was not.

Then Rinpoche did gek-tor with three tormas, and by dedicating was able to drive Dolgyal away. Dolgyal had come to ask Rinpoche to accept him but when Rinpoche heard the incorrect answer he was able to drive him away with a gek-tor practice. Dolgyal’s motivation was not to benefit sentient beings but for the self. It was an activity of the self-cherishing mind, like wanting to become famous or have great power. Wanting to have great influence, he tried to use a high lama many people trusted so they would accept him and willingly follow him.

In the West I think you call that sort of thing lobbying. At Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in Italy there had never been a vote in the past, but after Lama Yeshe passed away we needed to appoint a director so I called everybody together to ask them to vote for one. There was a student who went around telling everybody who to vote for; he was lobbying for his friend. In the West, people spend millions and millions of dollars trying to get people to vote for them. They do whatever they can to win the vote. This is kind of what Dolgyal was doing with the high lamas. If you look at it like that, you can understand it. He was trying to cheat the high lamas, the learned geshes, to control them so that many people would practice him.

Having no mistakes but showing mistakes

Many of us are disciples of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. He was our root guru and his root guru was Kyabje Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo. We are disciples in the twenty-first century, so this is our special karma, our particular karma, our obstacle. This obstacle has just arisen; it wasn’t there before but has now become a particular problem for us twenty-first century disciples. Now there is great danger from life-to-life for hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of lifetimes—the great danger of our being led the wrong way.

I gave you the example of Trehor Kyörpon Rinpoche. He saw Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche as buddhas, as being without mistakes. How could somebody be a buddha and yet at the same time have faults or make mistakes? It is not possible. If he has faults that means he is not an enlightened being. That doesn’t happen. If we look at somebody and see he has faults—not showing the aspect of having faults but actually having faults—then that means he is not an enlightened being but an ordinary being. If he were a buddha he would have no faults.

According to the Mahayana, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was enlightened numberless eons ago. He had no suffering but he showed us the twelve deeds; he showed us the suffering of rebirth, old age, sickness and death. He showed us those sufferings during his life and in the end he showed us the aspect of passing away. By taking the aspect of having suffering—by pretending in that way—he was showing us that which is true to higher beings, the truth of suffering, so that we can understand and practice Dharma.

And why is there suffering? Because there is the cause of suffering: karma and delusion. That means it is a dependent arising. Suffering is not independent but a dependent arising. If we eliminate the cause, karma and delusion, we are able to eliminate the result, suffering. Understanding the cause of suffering shows us we can achieve the cessation of suffering because there is a true path that leads to the actualization of that cessation. By showing us true suffering—the suffering of rebirth, old age, sickness and death—the Buddha showed us the four noble truths.

The Buddha had none of these sufferings. Even arhats, who are free from delusion and karma, do not have them, so how could a buddha, who is totally free from even subtle obscurations, have them? But he showed us suffering so that we would practice Dharma. Because we dislike suffering, he showed us this to guide us, using himself as an example by enacting the twelve deeds.

There are many stories that illustrate how the buddhas manifest as ordinary beings to guide us. They have no attachment but they show attachment; they have no anger but they show anger; they have no ignorance but they show ignorance.

Like that, because we have this impure karma, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and his root guru, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo, showed us the aspect of practicing Shugden. They did not have faults but due to our impure karma they appeared as if they had faults.

This is like the example I have just mentioned of a buddha pretending to be an ordinary being. Since we are unable to see buddhas in their enlightened aspect they have to appear to us as ordinary beings so that we can see them. Buddhas have no faults but they manifest in an ordinary aspect having faults according to our impure karma and in that way are able to communicate with us.

We are also unable to see enlightened beings’ deity aspect; we’re unable to receive teachings directly from the deity. We do not have the karma. Therefore the buddhas have no choice but to show themselves in an ordinary aspect, where “ordinary” means showing faults. Because of this we are able to receive the pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantric vows; we are able to receive initiations; we are able to receive commentaries on sutra and tantra and oral transmissions. It is easy for us to directly see and communicate with their ordinary aspect and to directly receive guidance.

Showing the aspect of having faults is unbelievably kind. Because our mind is so impure, so obscured, that is the only way we are able to see them and receive their guidance. This is the kindness of the guru, appearing to us in an ordinary aspect, showing mistakes, so that we can be easily guided by him, we can communicate with him, we can make offerings to him. His kindness is so important, more precious than the whole sky filled with wish-granting jewels. The value of a whole sky filled with wish-granting jewels is nothing compared to the value of the kindness of the guru.

A key element of guru devotion practice is the understanding that the guru shows the aspect of having faults while actually having none. The guru has no delusions, no obscurations, but he shows that aspect for us sentient beings. Ordinary bodhisattvas are able to see a buddha’s nirmanakaya aspect; higher bodhisattvas can see the sambhogakaya aspect, but for us ordinary sentient beings, whose minds are so unenlightened, so obscured, so thick skulled, a buddha must show the ordinary aspect, which has faults. It is unbelievably important that they show us this ordinary aspect.

We have to bring this understanding—being without mistakes but showing mistakes—into our guru devotion practice. We have to use that phrase, “showing mistakes,” while thinking that they have no mistakes. If we say they have mistakes then they are not buddhas, they are ordinary beings. Then the whole thing changes.

Seeing apparent mistakes in the guru need not become the cause for us to lose our devotion but instead it can become the cause to develop it, to make our devotion stronger. I would also suggest when problems arise that you use the nine thoughts on guru devotion called Practicing Guru Devotion with the Nine Attitudes by the great Nyingma lama, Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol.46 He was non-sectarian and taught lam-rim on the basis of Lama Atisha’s teaching, Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, which explains the graduated paths of the lower capable being, the middle capable being and the higher capable being. Lama Tsongkhapa explained the nine attitudes but Lama Shabkar made them into verses.

We have put it into the new FPMT prayer book in the Guru Puja lam-rim section. First there is the verse on guru devotion, correctly following the guru, then the prayer Practicing Guru Devotion with the Nine Attitudes. I have translated it so it can be recited during the Guru Puja.

When you have a negative thought in relation to the guru, one solution is to recite that prayer. If you do so, it cuts that negative thought off immediately, clearing it away just like a horrible black fog that fills whole sky suddenly dispersing.

The need to renounce Dolgyal practice

Kyabje Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo practiced Most Secret Hayagriva, the Circle of Dharma, from the pure appearance of the Fifth Dalai Lama and many other things. One day he made a prediction to his attendant that the next day a fat monk would come to see him. He told the attendant, “Don’t allow him into my room.”

But, as I mentioned, the karma of us present-day sentient beings is to deal with this problem, to get involved with the Dolgyal problem. So the next day, when the fat monk arrived, the attendant forgot Pabongka’s instruction and admitted him. I think he spent quite a long time in the room and when the attendant entered after the fat monk had left it seemed that Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo’s aspect was not well, like something had entered, had occupied him. Pabongka seemed changed and the thangkas of Most Secret Hayagriva, the deity he had practiced before, which were hanging behind him, had been taken down. So this is the start.

If we understand the beginning, this is what happened. Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo was a great bodhisattva and a great tantric practitioner, a great yogi, Heruka. Because of that, his holy actions were able to bring so much benefit to Tibet. Many people believed it was because he practiced Dolgyal that he became so famous and was able to extensively benefit Tibet. Because many high lamas and geshes have so much devotion to Pabongka, without analysis it is very easy to think this. 

There are many others who question this. For example, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s elder guru, was a heart disciple of Kyabje Pabongka but did not practice Dolgyal. There are many other high lamas as well who have questions about it and do not practice, feeling uneasy about it. They reject the practice and advise us not to practice it. There are also others who are very devoted to Pabongka and who do practice Dolgyal, the basic reason being that they have not checked the guru’s activities.

As I said before, the guru has no faults but he shows the aspect of having faults according to our karma.

When we check we can see that in reality all the gurus are one—His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Pabongka Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche—all the gurus are one. We can see they are all one, all Buddha Vajradhara. In the prayer Namo Gurubhya, Namo Buddhaya, Namo Dharmaya, Namo Sanghaya, the guru comes first before the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha because the guru is kinder than all the buddhas. That is why we take refuge in the guru first, then in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.

The main reason the guru comes first is not the kindness, however, but because in reality the guru is that guru, Buddha Vajradhara. We find no contradiction there. Otherwise, saying Pabongka Rinpoche is mistaken is saying the Guru Vajradhara is mistaken. That means he is not a buddha but an ordinary being. That changes everything.

I mentioned Trehor Kyörpon Rinpoche. Think about what he did and you will understand. This is similar to Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche. He had many followers, many learned lamas in Tibet who were his heart disciples and did not practice Dolgyal, but there were others who did not check but practiced it because they had so much devotion to him.

This is not just about practicing Dolgyal. There are many examples of the guru showing mistakes. He might lead an unhealthy lifestyle such as eating harmful food or not exercising and we, as his disciples, need to explain to him what might happen if he keeps doing that. He might get sick or have to go to the hospital and so forth. There are so many mundane things we need to explain to our guru. Although the guru does not have ignorance, he shows that aspect because of our impure karma.

Those great Indian pandits were enlightened. They had actualized the path; they knew everything the Buddha taught—the entire Kangyur and Tengyur—and were not only experts in the meaning, they had also actualized it. However, when they reincarnated, they showed an ordinary aspect, like any small child, crying, making pipi and kaka, playing and so forth. They needed to be looked after.

When His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is Chenrezig, was growing up he had to study in the monastery just as normal monks do. He had two main tutors, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, and seven tsenshabs, who were not gurus but expert, learned monks who helped with his education, his debating, and came from each of the main monasteries, Sera (Je and Me colleges), Ganden (Shartse and Jangtse colleges) and Drepung (Gomang and Loseling colleges).

His Holiness undertook much study and then sat examinations. So, even though he is Chenrezig, an enlightened being, to benefit us ordinary sentient beings he acted in an ordinary aspect. An enlightened being who manifests as a dog must then eat like a dog and bark like a dog. Manifesting as a dog, he would have a dog’s hairy body, a dog’s eyes, a dog’s nose and so forth and do everything a dog does, all to guide us sentient beings.

One of Lama Tsongkhapa’s closest disciples was a monk called Duldzin Dragpa Gyaltsen,47 who some say was reborn at the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama as Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen.48 He was said to have been murdered by a government official and to have reincarnated in the wrathful aspect of Dol Gyalchen, Dolgyal. In that aspect he went to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery as he was a disciple of the Panchen Lama but he was prevented from entering by the eight guardian Dharma protectors of the monastery.49 If Dolgyal, appearing as Dragpa Gyaltsen, had in actuality been a buddha, an enlightened being, or even an arya bodhisattva, there is no question that he would have been allowed in. So it’s a huge question why he was not. A huge question. According to one version, he then went off to offer a torma to the head of the Sakya order, but the lama put the torma on a very low shelf.

What happens is that practicing Dolgyal creates a problem in your relationship with His Holiness, who is Chenrezig. It stops you working for and offering service to His Holiness. That’s what has happened with many lamas who are very devoted to Dolgyal.

It interferes with your guru devotion. In particular it breaks your samaya with His Holiness and that harms not only this life but life after life for hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of lives and it causes you to be reborn in hell and suffer for eons and eons. Then, even if you are born human, you cannot find a guru for hundreds or thousands of years. It goes on like that.

It also causes problems at the end of your life. There are stories of people who strongly practiced Dolgyal but were harmed terribly at the end of their life. Dolgyal has common powers and can manifest in many forms but at the end of a practitioner’s life it shows its own form, its spirit form. When that happens the person sees clearly what he has done and how Dolgyal has cheated him his whole life and he becomes extremely repentant.

There was a man in Tibet, not a monk, who practiced Dolgyal intensely but even his wife didn’t know. When he was gravely ill and nearing death he asked his wife to have a puja done, a tea offering in the temple where they practiced Dolgyal. It was only then that she came to realize he had been a follower of Dolgyal.

He had practiced Dolgyal so much but then, at his last breath, the spirit manifested, not in its usual form but in its true form, the real spirit, so ugly, so terrifying. Seeing this with his last breath the man realized he had been completely deceived by this spirit his whole life. He had unbelievable regret and felt strong repentance. This story is in the foreword I wrote.

There are other stories, like a very learned geshe who died falling from a car that crashed. Nobody else in the car was thrown out but he was catapulted over a precipice and died, having great regret. And there are other such stories of catastrophes that happened to geshes at the time of death. So, it seems there is great harm at the very end.

When my master, Lama Yeshe, who was kinder than all the past, present and future buddhas, was passing away, he went to Los Angeles for an operation in a good hospital but they didn’t operate because the doctors said the heart was too old to do the operation. What they did, though, was put a hole in it and attach some tubes using a new technique. We were not allowed to go into the room while that was happening because there were machines there but when Lama came out he said it was quite difficult, almost like he had passed away.

We were in America but it was the Tibetan New Year, early in the morning, around two thirty or three o’clock.50 Whenever obstacles occurred I was used to reciting the request to Dolgyal for help, so I was reciting that. Lama’s belly seemed to be moving around and I was reciting the prayer requesting help when Lama’s eyes opened wide, like he was seeing some unpleasant aspect. It was like he was surprised, seeing some form there. It didn’t seem positive; it was like there was some negative aspect there. I’m not saying that Lama had made a mistake but the aspect was like that. So, as I recited the request for Dolgyal’s help it was like he was seeing something fearful. His eyes were big and had a kind of surprised, fearful look.

Dolgyal was the main protector he relied on. That is my view. He commonly used Dolgyal, for example, during the Kopan courses whenever somebody went crazy. Not everybody went crazy there, of course. Actually, I suppose it depends on your definition of craziness. On one level I’m crazy, you’re crazy, everybody is crazy. On one level it’s like that, but at the level we worldly people are on only a few people become crazy with lung or things like that. Lama would do the Dolgyal puja before each one-month Kopan course started and then whenever there was something important. However, at the end of a person’s life the aspect that Dolgyal shows is not good, as I said before. I mentioned Lama’s external aspect in the foreword I wrote.

Another danger of following Dolgyal is that the person criticizes His Holiness. When somebody who is not a bodhisattva gets angry with a bodhisattva for even one second it destroys all the merit he has collected over a thousand eons making charity, making offerings to the buddhas and so forth. So if somebody criticizes or gets angry with His Holiness, can you imagine? For however long the person is angry and criticizes His Holiness—however many weeks, months or years—countless eons of merit are destroyed.

Of the many bodhisattvas, the Buddha predicted that the bodhisattva Limitless Supreme Awareness, attaining the state of Chenrezig, would be in Tibet in the aspect of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to benefit the Tibetan people and spread the Dharma. There were four great prayers done for sentient beings in Tibet and people generated refuge in their heart in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, so it happened as the Buddha has predicted. Getting angry with a buddha like His Holiness destroys the merit created in the past over millions, probably hundreds of millions of eons. These very heavy things happen.

In short, practicing Dolgyal is harmful to Tibet, harmful to Buddhism, harmful to our own life and harmful to the world because it destroys this life. And it is not only harmful to this life; it affects the next life and the life after that for hundreds and thousands of lifetimes. The harm, the negative result, goes on and on, for many, many lifetimes. The essence is that we destroy ourselves.

His Holiness is the one to reveal the complete teachings

The last time I visited His Holiness in Dharamsala I thanked him on behalf of Tibet and the Tibetan people and also on behalf of practitioners of Buddhism and I think I thanked him on behalf of the world. I thanked His Holiness even though many learned lamas and geshes continuously criticize him so much. From His Holiness’s side, he bears all the difficulties with much compassion. And His Holiness continuously advises us to not practice Dolgyal, no matter how much those people are against him, how much they criticize him. I think it is so important to thank His Holiness, who is the one to correct our life, showing us the unmistaken Dharma we should practice and the mistaken Dharma we should avoid.

He is the one to do this, not just because of his Nobel Peace Prize but because in the world he reveals not only the Hinayana teachings but also Mahayana sutra and the Mahayana tantra teachings. In reality, he is the Buddha. In the past there have been buddhas and now there is Shakyamuni Buddha in the aspect of His Holiness. What was in the aspect of Shakyamuni when the Buddha was giving teachings in India is now in this aspect, as His Holiness.

He is the one who has complete Dharma understanding, so he is the one who can correct us, correct our life and explain what is right and wrong. He’s the one to show us logically what path to follow instead of just doing whatever we like and not doing what we don’t like.

I gave the example at the beginning of Dolgyal in the aspect of the oracle monk who went to see Trehor Kyörpon Rinpoche and asked to be accepted by him. This is what Dolgyal did with Pabongka and many other lamas. That is according to our impure karma. The gurus don’t have mistakes, but the aspect of practicing this is our projection that decorates the reality; it is our hallucination. It is decorated by ignorance, as I mentioned yesterday. Decorating is such a good term, like decorating with paint, putting white color on the wall so you don’t see the bricks.

Can I ask that you please read the foreword I wrote for the Mongolian book. Please read it well, not just like reading through a puja or something in order to finish it but thoroughly, thinking about what I have written. 


44 Shugden and Dolgyal are names for the same worldly protector. Rinpoche uses both but in this series of teachings seems to prefer Dolgyal. See the foreword Rinpoche refers to in the Dorje Shugden section of [Return to text]

45 There used to be an FPMT center, Manjushri Institute, in Cumbria in the north of England, founded in 1976. [Return to text]

46 Heart of the Path,  appendix 8, pp. 429–31. See also Lamrim Chenmo, vol. 1, pp. 78–81. Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol (1781–1851)  was a tantric practitioner and prolific writer and said to be an emanation of Milarepa. See The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin. [Return to text]

47 1374–1434. He actually resides in Maitreya’s Yiga Chödzin Palace in the pure land of Tushita. There are several versions of the Dolgyal origin story. [Return to text]

48 1619–56. The Dalai Lama says it is doubtful that Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen was the reincarnation of Duldzin Dragpa Gyaltsen. [Return to text]

49 Tib: nam-se ta-dag g yä, the keepers of the horses of Vaishravana, one of the four directional guardians. [Return to text]

50 This was the morning of 3 March 1984. [Return to text]

Next Chapter:

Chapter 8. Khadro-la »