Life Entrustment

One of the issues that critics of Dorje Shugden have is that in the system of Dorje Shugden that was practised in Tibet and transmitted by Je Pabongkhapa and Trijang Rinpoche there was a ritual called ‘life entrustment’ which was reserved for the most sincere and committed practitioners by which they would entrust their lives and refuge to Dorje Shugden in order to receive his care and protection. They argue that such life entrustment is not appropriate for a “worldly spirit” like Dorje Shugden.

Je Pabongkhapa himself composed the life entrustment ritual for Dorje Shugden:

I have written this at the request of Shugden, because in the past there was a tradition of Sogde (srog gtad) to Shugden but later neither the tradition nor the text could be found—they have become like flowers in the sky—so Shugden has asked me two times to write a new initiation text. I have passed on the practice of initiation (dbang) to some disciples in accordance with my own experience, and (a text) has been written as a seed for (a detailed text). But only that would be not reliable and something like an illegitimate son. Therefore, I explained it in detail to my master Tagphu Dorje Chang and presented this draft to him. … (501) He took that draft and wrote his text down, combining this seed text with his own vision. Tagphu commented about the five types of Shugden, the respective colors etc., the offerings to be arranged, thus at the time of initiation the large Lamrim text should be there on the altar, a cakra representing one’s life, damaru, dorje etc. The practitioner has to utter the life generating words of Vajrabhairava and to make torma21 offerings. … (502) The initiation can be given to somebody who has received initiation into Vajrabhairava and keeps the commitments connected with it. … (502-503) Though there are so many different traditions and philosophies in Tibet, only this tradition of Tsongkhapa is the supreme, the top of the victory banner, the most complete, the essence of the teaching. … (505) To bring Shugden into one’s own service is a very powerful blessing. In order to receive this initiation the disciples visualize themselves as the yidam (Vajrabhairava) and as such invoke and control Shugden. The dharmapala (Shugden) is presented to the disciples as the one who abides by their commands. [1]

It should be noted that this life entrustment is not an invention of Je Pabongkhapa because there was an earlier tradition alluded to by him that had been lost.  He mentions a text by Lama Rinchen Wangyal which had been lost and so he is writing a replacement.

Michael Von Bruck makes the following comments about Pabongkha’s explanation:

The text quoted does not say that master and disciple actually take refuge in Shugden. The yidam and Shugden are kept apart, and the dharmapala is to be controlled. The master transfers the power to control Shugden to the disciple, and this is common practice. However, in so far as the disciple merges with the Shugden energy an identification with Shugden takes place, and this is against the genuine Gelukpa tradition. There can be no life-entrustment initiation (srog gtad) concerning a dharmapala, for the dharmapala is a minor being and not a yidam. [2]

(my bolding)

Firstly,  Je Pabongkhapa’s ritual is not against the genuine Gelugpa tradition because Dorje Shugden is an emanation of Manjushri and seen to be an aspect of the Guru.  This is what is taught in the Gelugpa tradition.  Von Bruck makes the point that there can be no life-entrustment for a Dharmapala because they are a minor being.  Again, this is not so for Dharmapala Dorje Shugden because he is regarded as one with the Guru and the Yidam (personal Tantric Deity).

However, the situation is different with Nechung, the State Oracle of Tibet and a source of reliance for the Dalai Lama.  Nechung is a spirit, not a Deity:

When Padmasambhava consecrated Samye Monastery with the Vajrakilaya dance, he tamed the local spirit protector, Pehar Gyalp, and bound him by oath to become the head of the entire hierarchy of Buddhist protective spirits. Pehar, later known as Dorje Drakden, became the principal protector of the Dalai Lamas, manifesting through the Nechung Oracle.

According to the Dalai Lama, “Tibetans rely on oracles for various reasons. The purpose of the oracles is not just to foretell the future. They are called upon as protectors and sometimes used as healers. However, their primary function is to protect the Buddha Dharma and its practitioners.”  [3]

Given that Nechung is a spirit, why is there a life entrustment ritual for him?  The life entrustment of Nechung (Pehar, or the Five Great Kings, ‘King’ meaning ‘Gyalpo’, a particular class of spirit)  was given recently in Dharamasala by Kyabje Dema Locho Rinpoche.

This completely contradicts all the arguments of critics who claim that life entrustment is not appropriate for a minor worldly being like Dorje Shugden.  Dorje Shugden is a Buddha but Nechung is not, so they should either say that life entrustment is appropriate for any being (which would definitely contradict Buddhist refuge) or they should stop granting life entrustment of Nechung because it contradicts Buddhist refuge.

Welcome to the Dalai Lama’s  world of double standards and contradiction.  It’s not okay to rely on Dorje Shugden because he’s a spirit, but yet the Dalai Lama relies heavily on the spirit Nechung.  It’s not appropriate for there to be a life entrustment practice of Dorje Shugden, yet a life entrustment for a worldly spirit is given openly in Dharamasala.

I wonder if the Dalai Lama has taken that life entrustment?



[1] Canonicity and Divine Interference – The Tulkus and the Shugden Controversy by Michael Von Bruck published in Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent Edited by Vasudha Dalmia, Angelika Malinar, and Martin Christof. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001, ISBN-13: 978-0195666205

[2] same text



2 thoughts on “Life Entrustment

  1. Wonderful article, thank you. This kind of information is crucial. Of course, there is no saying the Dalai Lama or TGIE will read it or let the inconvenient truth get in the way of their politics, but at least the truth is increasingly out there for others.

    It seems the Dalai Lama is planning on spearheading an information drive to “educate foreigners” about “Dolgyal”. But there is nothing more for them to say other than the lies they have already tried their best to spread. You are pre-empting this rewriting of Gelugpa history, and so is Trinley Kalsang on his excellent website (which, by the way, you may want to link to somewhere on your blog?)

  2. Dear Jimmy,

    Thank you for your comments, it’s a good idea to link to Trinley Kalsang’s website, thanks for the tip!

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