El·e·na [el-uh-nuh, uh-ley-nuh; It. e-le-nah] /ˈɛlənə, əˈleɪnə; It. ɛˈlɛnɑ/ –noun a female given name, form of Helen // A proud student of His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche // Personal assistant with a BSc (Hons) Psych from Uni of Warwick // These are snapshots of my life, in words and pictures

Clarity from Rinpoche

October 13, 2018 0

Rinpoche speaking on the Dorje Shugden ban to a small group of students back in 2015

Rinpoche speaking on the Dorje Shugden ban to a small group of students back in 2015

For the last week or so, I’ve been proofreading the transcript of a teaching Rinpoche gave on Dorje Shugden. I’ve just gotten to the part where Rinpoche explains the distress he felt when he first found out about the ban in 1986.

In short, Rinpoche said that news of the ban hit him very deeply because in effect, he was being told to choose between his guru His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche (who gave him Dorje Shugden sogtae in 1983) and his other guru His Holiness the Dalai Lama (who Rinpoche had also received teachings from, after receiving sogtae). If Rinpoche gave up his Dorje Shugden practice, it would mean transgressing the tantric commitments received from Kyabje Zong Rinpoche; if Rinpoche maintained his Dorje Shugden practice, it would mean disobeying the Dalai Lama’s ban on the practice.

And so upon hearing about the ban, Rinpoche stayed in his room for days, totally vexed thinking about how he would be able to maintain his commitments to both his teachers. For Rinpoche, the commitments we make to our teachers are not to be taken lightly. In that regard, Rinpoche is extremely traditional; when it comes to the vows, Rinpoche will keep them even at the cost of his life.

The Tibetan version of "Dorje Shugden: My Side of the Story". Click on the image to be taken to the blog post.

The Tibetan version of “Dorje Shugden: My Side of the Story”. Click on the image to be taken to the blog post.

In the end, a lama friend advised Rinpoche that he can maintain both sets of commitments without any infraction of his vows or samaya (guru-disciple relationship). It was like a cloud had lifted; the friend even advised Rinpoche on how he can do so. Rinpoche talks about this distress and dark period in much greater detail here: Dorje Shugden: My side of the story | 多杰雄登:我这方面的说法

It occurred to me that as Rinpoche’s students, we are immensely lucky we have never had to face that predicament. I read recently that Atisha had 157 gurus and he never let their minds be disturbed, let alone disappoint them. Rinpoche himself has 16 gurus, 14 of whom practise Dorje Shugden. Can you imagine? Most of us can barely carry out all of the instructions coming from just one teacher, never mind more than one whose instructions may appear to conflict one another.

Some people have criticised Rinpoche for his “one center, one lama, one lineage” approach but now, especially in light of the Dorje Shugden ban, I can definitely see the merits of such an instruction. Not running around to this and that centre, and receiving practices from this and that lama, has provided Rinpoche’s students with the mental clarity and ability to be decisive. If you are Rinpoche’s student, it’s very clear – we follow our lama’s advice to practise Dorje Shugden.

I find that Rinpoche’s approach to respect His Holiness the Dalai Lama and maintain our Dorje Shugden practice, while speaking up against the ban, has also given us the mental space to examine the issue objectively. Because we are not against His Holiness (but we are against the ban, which is a very different thing – more on that later!), our minds are not clouded with hate or anger. We get to say, “Well, I like Dorje Shugden for these scripturally-based reasons and I rely on him because he benefits sentient beings. And I also like the Dalai Lama because he benefits sentient beings too.” It’s not one or the other, but an accepting and open-minded middle way.

Rinpoche's relationship with Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Dorje Shugden is rock-solid

Rinpoche’s relationship with Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Dorje Shugden is rock-solid

I think what many people these days tend to do is conflate societal issues with personality traits but the fact is, just because you disagree with a person’s policies does not mean you have to dislike them, or that you have to dislike all of them. It just means you happen to disagree with one aspect or decision they have made. Just because a person votes in a certain way, has a certain view of a controversial topic, etc. it doesn’t mean they’re an evil monster who is entirely incapable of rational thought. (Just remember next time you get indignant over something you read online, okay? Hehe)

Anyway, in reading the transcript, it just struck me as how lucky we were (and still are!) to have had our lama prepare and protect our minds in that way. If you have a guru (or gurus!) who has protected you, guided you, taught you in the same way, I think it is a very good idea to remember this when you do your prayers every night. Meditate on how your teacher has been kind to you, and protected you not just physically but mentally and spiritually also. Without our lamas, we would be in much more confusion and ignorance than we already are!

Reflections and Teachings

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