Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions about Dorje Shugden

We are currently preparing a section of Frequently Asked Questions on the subject of Dorje Shugden for our website, and here is a preview.

(If you have any questions you'd like us to answer on our upcoming FAQ, please include them in the comments section.)

Q: What exactly is the Dorje Shugden practice and what does it involve?
A. Dorje Shugden is an emanation of the wisdom of all Buddhas appearing as a Dharma Protector to protect and increase the Dharma realizations within our minds.

The practice of relying on Dharma Protectors was taught by Buddha Shakyamuni and practised by Indian and Tibetan Buddhists. There are many Dharma protectors such as Mahakala, Kalarupa, Palden Lhamo and Dorje Shugden. In order to protect the Dharma realizations in one's mind, Dharma Protectors must necessarily be emanations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and are therefore part of the Three Jewels of Buddhist refuge, specifically the Sangha Jewel.

Although Dorje Shugden helps everyone because he is a Buddha, his main job is to protect the Gelug tradition of Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), and especially the Ganden oral lineage instructions. The practice of Dorje Shugden involves making offerings and requests with faith to Dorje Shugden -- who is seen as one with Je Tsongkhapa and the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri -- to protect the teachings of Je Tsongkhapa's tradition, to pacify all obstacles to its growth throughout the world and to bestow favorable conditions for the Buddhadharma to flourish both in our minds and in the world in general.

You can read more about this subject here. If you would like to see the prayers to Dorje Shugden that are recited every day by faithful practitioners, you can do so here.

Q: What benefits do people derive from doing the practice of Dorje Shugden?
A: In the introduction to the practice of relying upon the Dharma Protector in the Heart Jewel sadhana published by Tharpa Publications it says:

“This sadhana includes two practices revealed by the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri. The first is a special Guru yoga in which we visualize our Spiritual Guide as Je Tsongkhapa, who himself is a manifestation of Manjushri. By relying upon this practice, we can purify negativity, accumulate merit, and receive blessings. In this way, we will naturally accomplish all the realizations of the stages of the path of Sutra and Tantra, and in particular we will attain a very special Dharma wisdom.

The second practice is a method for relying upon the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden. Through this, we can overcome obstacles to our practice and create favourable conditions so that we can nurture and increase our Dharma realizations. If we rely upon the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden sincerely, our faith in Je Tsongkhapa will naturally increase and we will easily gain experience of the pure Buddhadharma transmitted directly to Je Tsongkhapa by the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri.

If we practise these regularly and sincerely, we will reap a rich harvest of pure Dharma realizations, and eventually come to experience the supreme joy of full enlightenment.”

You can read more about the benefits of relying upon Dorje Shugden here. Here are a couple of extracts:

"Dorje Shugden always helps, guides, and protects pure and faithful practitioners by granting blessings, increasing their wisdom, fulfilling their wishes, and bestowing success on all their virtuous activities."

"If we rely sincerely upon Dorje Shugden, he will arrange the conditions that are most conducive for our Dharma practice but these will not necessarily be the ones that we ourself would have chosen! Dorje Shugden will bless our minds to help us transform difficult situations into the spiritual path, and he will open the wisdom eyes of his faithful followers, enabling them always to make the right decisions."

Q: Where did the practice of Dorje Shugden originate, and what is its significance today for practitioners?
Dorje Shugden is an emanation of the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri who arose as a Dharma Protector to fulfil a promise he had made in a previous life when as Duldzin Dragpa Gyaltsän, one of the principal disciples of Je Tsongkhapa, he promised to become a protector of Je Tsongkhapa's tradition. This is explained by the Dalai Lama's teacher and Gelugpa lineage holder, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, in his text called “Music Delighting the Ocean of Protectors” which can be downloaded here.

Ngatrul Dragpa Gyaltsen (1619-54), a revered teacher who lived at the same time as the fifth Dalai Lama, predicted that he would arise as Dorje Shugden. He was the last incarnation in a long line of enlightened Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Masters which includes Manjushri, Mahasiddha Biwawa, Sakya Pandita, Butön Rinchen Drub, Duldzin Dragpa Gyaltsän, Panchen Sönam Dragpa, and many others. See biographies of these previous incarnations of Dorje Shugden.

For its significance for today's practitioners, see the answer to the next question.

Q. How does the practice of Dorje Shugden fit in with Buddhist teachings and practices and help practitioners implement those into daily life?
A: The practice of Dorje Shugden supports and enhances our practice of Sutra and Tantra in daily life. By making requests to Dorje Shugden and relying upon him sincerely -- just as the great enlightened Masters of the Gelugpa tradition have done for centuries -- we will be cared for so that we can accomplish our final goal of full enlightenment as swiftly as possible.

Buddhas can and will appear as anything that will benefit living beings, including as Spiritual Guides and in a protecting aspect as a Dharma Protector. In this spiritually degenerate time it is very difficult for spiritual practitioners to make progress on the paths to liberation and enlightenment on their own; there are many obstacles and we have little merit or good karma. We need help to remove obstacles and to manifest good conditions for our practice and this is the unique function of a Dharma Protector. The Dharma Protector is seen as an aspect of our Spiritual Guide to help us to accomplish pacifying, increasing, controlling and wrathful actions that are necessary for making spiritual progress.

There are many different Dharma Protectors that we can rely upon, but it is said that at this time Dorje Shugden is the protector who is most able to help us. We have a special karmic connection with this Deity, which means that we can receive swift and powerful help by relying upon him as opposed to other protectors. Check here for more information about Dorje Shugden.

We will just like to give some relevant quotes to help at this point:

"There is no difference in the compassion, wisdom, or power of the various Dharma Protectors, but because of the karma of sentient beings, one particular Dharma Protector will have a greater opportunity to help Dharma practitioners at any one particular time.

Among all the Dharma Protectors, four-faced Mahakala, Kalarupa, and Dorje Shugden in particular have the same nature because they are all emanations of Manjushri.
However, the beings of this present time have a stronger karmic link with Dorje Shugden than with the other Dharma Protectors. It was for this reason that Morchen Dorjechang Kunga Lhundrup, a very highly realized Master of the Sakya tradition, told his disciples, 'Now is the time to rely upon Dorje Shugden.' He said this on many occasions to encourage his disciples to develop faith in the practice of Dorje Shugden."