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

Lama Dorje Shugden

January 2, 2020 0

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Tsem Rinpoche offering prayers to Lama Dorje Shugden.

Rinpoche had a different kind of relationship with Dorje Shugden. It was a special kind of relationship, like Dorje Shugden was a father, brother, friend, guardian, guru all rolled into one. In private moments, Rinpoche would converse with Dorje Shugden, speaking as he would to a friend; when we had the privilege of being there, we witnessed Rinpoche speaking with genuine affection, love, respect, care, awe and humility. There were times when Rinpoche expressed joy to Dorje Shugden, when Rinpoche thanked Dorje Shugden, when Rinpoche cried to Dorje Shugden, when Rinpoche confided in his Protector in the same way we would confide in our best friends.

Rinpoche always spoke to Dorje Shugden as though he was there (which, of course, he is), and always treated Dorje Shugden as though he was real (which, of course, he is). For example, after some contemplation, Rinpoche at one time concluded what foods Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen would have been served during his lifetime. After that, Rinpoche instructed the Ladrang (a lama’s household) for daily offerings to be made to Dorje Shugden with foods that he would have enjoyed as Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen.

Taken in December 2014. Upon arriving back in Tsem Ladrang, Rinpoche stopped at the main Ladrang altar to offer prayers and speak with Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen, the previous incarnation of Dorje Shugden.

Taken in December 2014. Upon arriving back in Tsem Ladrang, Rinpoche stopped at the main Ladrang altar to offer prayers and speak with Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen, the previous incarnation of Dorje Shugden.

Then there was the use of “Lama Dorje Shugden”. I have never heard anyone else refer to Dorje Shugden in that way but that is how Rinpoche would often refer to Dorje Shugden in prayer and conversation.

I used to wonder what Rinpoche meant by that. Rinpoche must have known what I was thinking because one day, Rinpoche suddenly explained it to me. If memory serves, Rinpoche had just finished reciting a prayer to dedicate the merits of publishing a blog post. I was, as usual, sat on the floor next to Rinpoche’s feet, observing Rinpoche in prayer, readying myself to take the incense out of Rinpoche’s hand and place it inside the burner.

It was Rinpoche’s habit to remain perfectly still at the end of any dedication prayer. With his eyes closed, Rinpoche would silently engage in deeper meditations, recite further liturgies or verbalise his aspirations. After completing these, Rinpoche would open his eyes, hand the incense to whoever was attending at the time, and then resume whatever Rinpoche had previously been doing.

On that particular day however, Rinpoche broke the silence. Out of the blue, with his eyes closed, Rinpoche explained his many reasons for referring to Dorje Shugden as “Lama Dorje Shugden”.

  1. Before arising as a Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden was a lama many times over, including rebirths as Dulzin Drakpa Gyaltsen, Panchen Sonam Drakpa and Tulku Drakpa Gyaltsen. Calling Dorje Shugden “Lama Dorje Shugden” was Rinpoche’s way of referring to his previous lifetimes as these luminary teachers and scholars.
  2. Now that he is a Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden still takes on the role of teacher, especially when he enters the Oracle in his peaceful form known as Dulzin. During those times, Dorje Shugden can remain in the Oracle for hours, giving Dharma discourses and clarifying very complex, subtle points of the teachings. No other Dharma Protector can do that; the fact Dorje Shugden can give Dharma teachings reflects his uncommon, enlightened nature that sets him apart from other Protectors. These Dharma teachings offer us the highest protection of all because they guide us to achieve bodhicitta, which protects us from everything that might possibly harm us. When we have achieved bodhicitta, we need no external Dharma Protector. Calling Dorje Shugden “Lama Dorje Shugden” was Rinpoche’s way of referring to Dorje Shugden’s continued role as a lama and teacher.
  3. Finally, in the absence of His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Rinpoche said he trusted only Dorje Shugden to answer all of his questions. It was Dorje Shugden whom Rinpoche sought advice from. Rinpoche, in effect, relied on Dorje Shugden as he would a lama. Calling Dorje Shugden “Lama Dorje Shugden” was Rinpoche’s way of referring to Dorje Shugden in this role.

For these reasons, Rinpoche said it was entirely appropriate for him to refer to Dorje Shugden as “Lama Dorje Shugden”.

During Rinpoche’s lifetime, I did not pick up any of Rinpoche’s enlightened qualities nor the majority of Rinpoche’s habits. The way Rinpoche referred to Dorje Shugden however, is one habit I am happy to do a very poor imitation of because I loved, loved, loved the way Rinpoche referred to Dorje Shugden. For someone like me who has absolutely no extra-sensory perceptions whatsoever (as sensitive as a brick wall!), referring to Dorje Shugden as “Lama Dorje Shugden” made someone I cannot directly perceive become even more real and tangible for me.

It is not until now that I can appreciate how Rinpoche harnessed the power of language to strengthen my relationship with my Dharma Protector. It was such a subtle thing – Lama Dorje Shugden versus Dorje Shugden – but it made a difference. It taught me that Dorje Shugden is not some ethereal, pie in the sky, inaccessible deity; he is real, he is present, he is here, he is now.

It also taught me that there is more than one way to rely on a Buddha. There are the prayers, rituals and liturgies, and then there are the myriad ways to reinforce your connection with them for the 23 hours you are off your meditation cushion. Do you treat them as someone very distant or as someone very close to you? Do you make a conscious effort to keep introducing their presence in your life, or do you forget about them once your prayers are over? What do you do, or what can you do, to bring them closer to you?

The impact of Rinpoche’s language on my relationship with my Protector also showed me the interconnectedness of speech and mind, and how our speech can have such tangible effects on our view of the Buddhas (and indeed, all other phenomena around us). Such are the skilful means of my teacher to bring his students closer to the Buddhas.

To my Lama, who is one with Heruka, we look forward to welcoming you home soon.

Taken in June 2015. Before going to Wisdom Hall to attend a trance of Dorje Shugden, Rinpoche stopped at his personal altar to privately speak with Dorje Shugden and make his personal requests.

Taken in June 2015. Before going to Wisdom Hall to attend a trance of Dorje Shugden, Rinpoche stopped at his personal altar to privately speak with Dorje Shugden and make his personal requests.

Taken in January 2017. Rinpoche had gone to Wisdom Hall to check the dimensions of the space, before designing the lama thrones that were being ordered for visiting monks and teachers. Whilst waiting for us to prepare the space, Rinpoche had a conversation with Dorje Shugden.

Taken in January 2017. Rinpoche had gone to Wisdom Hall to check the dimensions of the space, before designing the lama thrones that were being ordered for visiting monks and teachers. Whilst waiting for us to prepare the space, Rinpoche had a conversation with Dorje Shugden.

Tsem Ladrang, Tsem Rinpoche, Behind The Scenes

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