[continued from Gelug Conference...]
Despite the fact that Phabongkha, Trijang Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche promoted Dolgyal, I am of the opinion that there has not been a single substantial benefit whatsoever for the Gelug tradition that can be attributed to this whole practice. Quite the contrary is true. As a result, those who are ready to criticise and slander the Gelug tradition have increased. In the context of the education within the monasteries, their attempts to promote the teachings and preserve the Buddhist doctrine, there is not a single benefit that can be pointed to as having derived from it. If there were anything truly beneficial to be gained from the worship, would it not be fair to expect that those religious figures that were renowned for their most pure maintenance of the doctrine of Je Rinpoche and his chief spiritual sons would have something positive to say about it?
But do we find any such statements by individuals like the former Denma Locho Rinpoche in Drepung, Tongpön Rinpoche or those of a similar stature? No, we do not. So no one can use the argument that those who steered clear of the worship have been those who were the less learned or whose practice of moral discipline was inferior, whereas those who were involved have been the more scholarly and those who have kept their discipline more strictly. Anyway, I am of the opinion that Phabongkha and Trijang Rinpoche’s promotion of the worship of Dolgyal was a mistake. But their worship represents merely a fraction of what they did in their lives. Their contributions in the areas of ‘Stages of the Path’, ‘Mind Training’ and Tantra teachings were considerable. Their contribution in these areas is unquestionable and in no way invalidated by involvement with Dolgyal.
I am not someone who tries to claim that I should be counted amongst the ranks of the scholarly or accomplished beings. I do feel however that my approach to this issue (i.e. differing on one point, whilst retaining respect for the person in question) is completely in line with how such great beings from the past have acted. I often reflect upon these words:
“Vasubhandu, who had the welfare of beings at heart,
Due to his personal leaning,
Explained (the Prajñaparamita /Abhisamayalankara),
In terms of the internal (mental) existence of all things.”
“He who was counted amongst the ranks of the aryas,
And was known as ‘freedom’.
Seeing that what (Vasubhandu) had done was not how it should be,
He scrutinised with a ‘middle way’ judgement.”
[These verses are from the ‘Clear Meaning' commentary (Tib. Drel Wa Dön Sel) by the Indian scholar Haribhadra. This is the most commonly used of the Indian commentaries on the Prajñaparamita/ Abhisamayalankara. In the opening section Haribhadra refers to various teachers who have been instrumental in passing on of the tradition. He acknowledges the debt owed to Vasubhandu in the first verse here, but also states clearly that, in his own opinion, Vasabhandu erred when he explained the final view expressed in the Prajñaparamita Sutras and Abhisamayalankara as being the ‘Mind Only' view. In the second verse he refers to Arya Vimuktisena,a later scholar who, because he explained things in accordance with the ‘Middle Way' view, got them right and thereby corrected Vasubhandu's mistake.]
Therefore, Arya Vimuktisena, whose teacher was Vasubhandu, saw that Vasubhandu’s manner of explanation of the ‘Ornament for Clear Realizations’ had been more affected by his own personal bias towards a particular position than being a true reflection of the author’s ultimate intent. He therefore composed a commentary refuting that view, displacing it with a Madhyamaka interpretation. Now was this a case of a corruption of the spiritual guide-disciple relationship on Arya Vimuktisena's part or of him showing disrespect for Vasubhandu? It was neither of these things.
Then we could look at accounts of the relationship between Jowo Je Atisha and his teacher Serlingpa. Serlingpa was the teacher who Atisha himself accredited as the one who helped him most in his quest to generate bodhichitta. In this area, he was like his root Lama. Despite this, on the philosophical level they were at variance. Serlingpa held the Mind Only or Chittamatra view. Accounts have it that Serlingpa congratulated Atisha on his practise of bodhichitta, whilst informing him that as far as his philosophical view was concerned he was incorrect. Atisha said, however, that Serlingpa’s instructions only served to boost his confidence of the correctness of the Middle Way view.
Likewise, we have the case of Dharmakirti. Vasubhandu had many students, one of whom was Dignaga. He was said to have been the one who surpassed even his own master in terms of his understanding of epistemology or pramana. Dignaga then had a disciple called Ishvarasena; Dharmakirti was his student. Dharmakirti heard an explanation of Dignaga’s text Pramanasamuccaya from Ishvarasena, but rejected Ishvarasena's interpretation. He then incorporated Ishvarasena’s views as the objects of attack in sections of his ‘Commentary on Valid Cognition’ or ‘Pramanavarttika’. Thus, when it comes to helping to clarify the doctrine, creating, and rectifying mistakes, even your own teacher may come under criticism. You can see it in terms of your teacher having given certain instructions to a few specific individuals (when there is a need to give a different interpretation).
This might work in general, but it would be difficult to square with the case of Vasubhandu mentioned above. At least in the way that Haribhadra has put it, it sounds as though it was Vasubhandu’s own bias (as opposed to consideration of any particular disciple) that led him to interpret things in the way that he did. Anyway, whether the original reasons for certain interpretations were due to individual students, other considerations or plain misunderstanding, it may prove necessary for later individuals to clarify things. Rectifying, clarifying and the like are generally accepted approaches for the learned and are completely in step with the correct general approach to the teachings. This is the way to proceed and guard against decline.
Anyway, going back to the quotation from Gungtang Rinpoche, after the above-mentioned words we find;
"Alas, when I reflect on how,
The burgeoning wealth of the Gelug tradition,
Has been accompanied by a meagre amount of teaching and practice,
I am lead to despair."
Rather melancholy, isn’t it?
Next though we have these words of consolation:
“Though it may be hard to find
Explanations of this profound and vast meaning exactly as it is,
The un-erring works that you (Je Rinpoche) composed
Provide relief and solace.”
Je Rinpoche went through great hardship to achieve what he did. He engaged in a great deal of study and contemplation in equal measure and without prejudice. Finally, he realised the full import of the Buddha's words. Then he set all these forth in his own works. Now, if we from our side are not up to understanding them, that is a different matter. However, everything is there, laid out for us in those works, ready for us to see, to contemplate or to meditate upon. Just like the last line of the above quotation.
Kangsar Dorje Chang for instance used to go regularly in the winter to a place called Chagsam Chor. While staying there, for the period of a month he would go through all of the works of Je Rinpoche, reading and reciting them with great care. That is what we should be doing. That was really something praiseworthy. What we tend to do these days is go through bits at different times. Going through all of the works is something that I would do if I had more time. As it is, I have probably only read through them completely once. This relates to what I mean when I talk about sticking close to and preserving what we find in the eighteen volumes of Je Rinpoche’s works.
This is why I believe that Gen Tongpön’s criticism was valid. It may be true that Chöpa Dönden was a great practitioner, who was giving instruction in accordance with his disciples’ predispositions. Ling Rinpoche for example took Chöd teachings from him (although the text that was used at the time remains unidentified). It seems to be the case that with monks getting involved in the practice though, doing all sorts of things, making lots of noise with their chanting etc. that this was having an adverse affect upon the study and education at Drepung in general. This seems to be why Tongpön Rinpoche finally came out against it. I believe that there was good reason for what he did. If someone is following the Gelug tradition, what on earth is the point of discarding what is in those eighteen volumes of Je Rinpoche’s works and getting involved in some unrelated ‘personal instruction’? That is what I think.
The same is true of Vajrayogini practice. In general, it is important, but for example, this is a criticism directed at the Tantric colleges. What is the point of setting aside the practices of the main three deities that have been so meticulously set forth and spending your time just doing the melodic Vajrayogini recitation? It is what is contained in Je Rinpoche’s works that those following the Gelug tradition should cherish above all. It should be what we actually find in those works that we should be emphasising and focusing upon. Meditation and contemplation should be upon those.
Actually, this brings me to a point that I have wanted to mention for a while. Of course, there is the perennial problem of our not having sufficient time. However when a teacher is going through a particular text, it is very important that they link it to the original (Indian) texts by means of Je Rinpoche’s work. For instance, when someone is teaching about the Middle Way, it would be most helpful if they would go through the ‘Auto-Commentary to Madhyamakavatara’. This should be done in conjunction with Je Rinpoche’s commentary to ‘Madhyamakavatara’, matching them line by line to gain a thorough comprehension of what the Auto-Commentary actually says.
Likewise, when studying Je Rinpoche’s commentary to ‘Clear Words’ you should go through the ‘Buddhapalita’ and ‘Clear Words’ commentaries themselves, linking them to the relevant sections in Je Rinpoche’s works. They should act as the basis for the study. Then Nagarjuna’s text ‘Fundamental Wisdom’ can be used as an aid. The thing is that you should use the original Indian texts as your foundation. Je Rinpoche’s works, in their excellent way of explaining things, bring all the essentials of these works together enabling us to understand them. You should work with the commentaries of Buddhapalita as well Chandrakirti and also Bhavaviveka when relevant. If we pursue things in this way, when we study the Middle Way view we come to appreciate exactly how the ‘Madhyamakavatara’ helps us to access Nagarjuna’s root text on the Middle Way on both profound and vast levels. It is at that point that we can genuinely get a sense of coming close to what Nagarjuna was getting at. Then it will be as though we have formed some emotional bond so that whenever we hear his name a special feeling is induced. I make no claims for myself; I have no experience, no realisations or anything. However, Je Rinpoche’s explanations of emptiness and interdependence do inspire faith in Nagarjuna. We will come to understand his sentiments when he announced,
“I prostrate to Gautama,
The one who, due to love and compassion,
Dispensed with all ‘views’,
And taught the holy Dharma.
We know that Nagarjuna was not mistaken. He was not naïve or foolish. We can eventually get some feeling for this and what occurs to us is the thought: ‘If such a celebrated master as Nagarjuna praises the Buddha for his teaching on dependent relations, there must be something in it’. I feel that it is essential, when we are engaging in study, to look at those works that are the fruits of Je Rinpoche’s endeavours. Exactly how what he taught can be traced back to what Nagarjuna said needs to be set forth in fine detail. Otherwise, what has tended to happen is that even though people have made use of his commentary to ‘Entering into the Middle Way’ or Madhyamakavatara, due to the question of time or whatever, ‘Clear Words’ or Prasannapada has not been utilised so much.
This was Gen Tonpön’s way of doing things. This is what he kindly bequeathed to us. It is something worth reflecting upon. Apart from that, I do not think that there is much else. The purpose of coming together and mentioning these things is to impress them upon and keep them fresh in the mind. We have to reflect on the important things that have occurred, what lessons there are to be learned. I have taken some time to go through things today. I know that many of you are aware of these things, but because a large number of representatives have come from the more far-flung places, it is worth reminding ourselves of them.
My reasons for placing restrictions on Dolgyal are related to what I have stated here. I do not want people just to treat it as a duty purely because it is something that I have said. It is not something that I am encouraging people to accept blindly. That would be completely against the spirit of democracy. It would also be going against the approach that is encouraged in the Buddhist tradition. I am talking about viewing the evidence intelligently here. However, if we cannot reach an impartial decision any other way, we could do this. On the one side, we put Phabongkha, Trijang and Zong Rinpoches. On the other, we put Purchog Ngawang Jampa, Trichen Ngawang Chogdhen, Chankya Rolpai Dorje, and Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen. Then we weigh them up against each other. Which group’s opinion is it that we believe carries the more weight and we place more credence in? It is clear.
If Trijang Rinpoche and Phabongkha Rinpoche were to look, in depth, into the words of Ngawang Purchog Jampa, there is no way that they would be able to ignore what they say, they would without doubt have to acquiesce. Similarly, we could take Phabongkha’s root Lama, Jampel Ngödrub Gyatso. He may have made the occasional libation offering, but basically, he was not someone who was involved in worship of Dolgyal. At some point, there were two monasteries under his administration, one in the south, one in the north of a particular area. One monastery was engaged in the worship of Dolgyal, whereas the other was not. The latter was where he stayed. When there was some opposition to the worship, Jampel Ngödrub Gyatso resolved the issue by instructing that the image of Dolgyal was to be placed outside the monastery; he did not let the worship continue inside.
We have to put all these bits of evidence together and add them all up. Once a year, I put questions to the Nechung oracle. Since many have suggested that the whole tradition of ‘life-entrustment’ in relation to Dolgyal practice sprang from a vision that Tagpu Dorje Chang had, I wanted to query this. I posed the question that, if this indeed were something that can be traced back to such a vision, wouldn’t it be something that could be relied upon? The response was that visions are of two types. There are reliable ones that come due to blessings of higher powers and those that are in the nature of hindrances. This, it was stated, was a case of the latter. It was made quite clear and events seem to have borne this out. We have to analyse all of these points.
What sort of relations have there been with the Ganden Phodrang [‘Ganden Phodrang’ was a name originally coined at the time of the Second Dalai Lama. This ‘Ganden Palace’ was from then on the residence of the Dalai Lamas. In 1642, at the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama and with the backing of Gushri Khan this became the seat of power for the Tibetan Administration.] for the last three or four hundred years? Actually, we could put relations with the government to one side. After all, there is one school of thought that suggests that the friction arose due to the Fifth Dalai Lama’s practising in a non-sectarian fashion. Let us look elsewhere.
Again returning for instance to Purchog Ngawang Jampa. He was the principal disciple of Drukang Geleg Gyatso (1641-1713). He was a spiritual heir to the ‘Stages of the Path’ teachings, an incredible master of learning and practice. He was also someone with an intense passion for the Gelug tradition. In light of this, we have to consider his opinions on the matter. Then we have to ask how much recent events related to this issue have benefited the Gelug tradition? It has increased the criticism of the Gelug. Now there is a prevalent view that fundamentalism is common in the Gelug. There is also the feeling that this hard-line attitude has come about due to a spirit having issued orders that people who follow the Gelug should have nothing to do with the Nyingma. This is all seen to have come about due to something akin to intimidation.
There is another related subject, that I had cause to mention to some of you a few days ago. That is the discussion of religious freedom, freedom of belief. Let me talk about my own experience. When I was younger, I developed a great deal of faith in the ‘Verses in Praise of Bodhichitta’ and took the transmission from Khunu Lama, Tenzin Gyaltsen. Then I received an explanation of ‘A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life’ (Bodhisattvacharyavatara) from him and after that, there were the Thirteen Great Texts. Apart from the transmissions that was given to me by my personal tutors, I took transmission of the Thirteen Great Texts from Tenzin Gyaltsen.
Then I thought of receiving the ‘Essence of Secrets - Guhyagarbha Tantra’ from him as well. I happened to mention this to Ling Rinpoche one day, but he discouraged me. He told me that it was rather controversial and that it would be better not to take it. Now what had actually happened was that Ling Rinpoche, being cautious, seems to have been under the impression that if I were to take the transmission, Dolgyal might have responded by inflicting some harm on me. I was the one who was pushing to take this. The ‘Essence of Secrets Tantra’ is, I believe, one of the texts that Butön Rinpoche decided to exclude from the collection of the Kangyur [He was one of the main figures responsible for the collating of the Kangyur and Tengyur (the Tibetan translations of the teachings of the Buddha and subsequent Indian commentaries). He decided that some texts which had been counted as authentic were of questionable origin and should not be included in the Kangyur.]. However, it is a text that the Nyingmas and Karma Kagyus treat as authentic. Anyway, Ling Rinpoche’s opposition to my receiving the transmission of that Tantra was based upon his wariness of Dolgyal. Therefore, what happened was that although I wanted to receive that Tantra, because of wariness of Dolgyal, I was unable to. My rights to freedom of religious choice were thus infringed.
Later on, I looked into the Dolgyal issue in detail and at the end of a process of investigation, I finally decided to end my involvement. Once I had dispensed with it, I was in a position to engage in a less sectarian approach and take teachings from different traditions. In particular, I was interested in receiving a Phurba empowerment. I decided to do a divination about this and it came out positively, so I went ahead with it. Many of you already know about this. Anyway, this was a very important issue at the time.
There is one special guardian deity of Tibet, whose name is Jowo Wati Sangpo – the Kyirong Jowo. It was in a series of visions that the Fifth Dalai Lama had of this deity that he is said to have received teachings and transmissions relating to the ‘Secret Visions’. The main statue of this deity is one from Kyirong (a place close to the Nepalese border in Tibet). Let me relate something of my experience with the statue. It was people from Dzongka Chö-de [A monastery in Tibet that was later re-established in India.] who, despite many difficulties, brought the statue out of Tibet wasn’t it? For some time the statue has been with me in Dharamsala. Then when many of you went down to the settlements in the South I thought it would not be fitting for me to keep it to myself.
Therefore, I decided to do a divination before the statue to ascertain whether it should go down with to Dzongka Chö-de or stay with me. The response was that whilst it was true that people had gone to a lot of trouble to bring the statue out safely, still the deity indicated it would be ‘happier’ if it stayed with the Dalai Lama for the time being. Thus the Jowo agreed to grace me with his presence (laughter), whereas the Dzongka Chö-de monks had to go down South empty-handed.
This Jowo was traditionally one of the main deities that the Dalai Lamas relied upon. Apart from that Palden Lhamo is very highly regarded and there is a thangka, which became a special and precious object at the time of the Second Dalai Lama, and has been so ever since. When the Fifth Dalai Lama seemed already to have breathed his last, the regent, Sangye Gyatso, fell into a state of desperation. The Red Potala had not yet been completed and there were many other important matters that had been left unresolved. Sangye Gyatso pleaded that he did not know how to continue. Only then did the Fifth Dalai Lama seem to revive, to give his parting advice. He told the regent that with regard to less important matters, there was nothing that Sangye Gyatso could not decide for himself. But when it came to important decisions, he was told to direct all his questions to Palden Lhamo by performing divinations before the thangka in question.
This thangka is therefore held in very high esteem. When I escaped from Tibet, I carried it with me personally. I carried it over one shoulder with a gun slung across the other. I was supposed to look like one of the guards in a detachment. One attendant was made to look like some sort of military leader and we were his escort. I had to take off my glasses. It would not have been good for light to reflect off them. At some point, I remember, we had to cross some water in faint moonlight and I came close to being unseated. Both the thangka and the gun seemed to be getting heavier and heavier as we went along (laughter). Anyway, the thangka, being an object of great spiritual significance, was brought with us.
For this important divination (about whether I should take the Phurba empowerment), we invited the Nechung oracle and my tutor Ling Rinpoche. Trijang Rinpoche was not in Dharamsala at the time. I think that he was in Varanasi, otherwise, he would also have been consulted. Anyway, Ling Rinpoche was here and so was invited to the divination ceremony. I brought them all together. Yongdzin Rinpoche in his capacity as my own main source of refuge was invited for the ceremony. Then there was the Jowo statue representing the special guardian deity for us in Tibet. The blessed Palden Lhamo thangka was brought (Palden Lhamo having been the main protector for the various Dalai Lamas since the time of Gendun Gyatso). The remaining ‘official’ protector, Nechung Dorje Dragden was also there. I made it clear what the consultation was about. Of course, in one way it may have looked as though I was hedging my bets; not putting my total confidence in my tutor, not being completely sure of Nechung or relying totally upon Palden Lhamo (laughter).
All of them were witnesses to the performance of this divination ceremony. Therefore, with them presiding over proceedings, I performed a divination about the taking of the Phurba initiation. It came out favourably, I took the empowerment and my ties with the Nyingma were forged from that time onward. I got involved with Nyingma ritual. In these circumstances then, from that time henceforth, I was allowed to fully exercise my right of conscience and religious freedom. If we restrict something that is inhibiting religious freedom, we are thereby safeguarding that religious freedom, aren’t we? For example, in Middle Way and Epistemological texts, there is a reference to ‘Reaching the true reality through a process of elimination’. Likewise, in this case, by acting against that which is inhibiting religious freedom, we are protecting religious freedom.
A second point is that any restriction of the worship of Dolgyal does not amount to any form of restriction of freedom to practise Buddha-Dharma. What we are talking about here is the propitiation of a spirit. It is a misuse of the term ‘Buddha-Dharma’ to refer to such a thing in this way. Even if we were to take a very liberal interpretation of the term ‘Dharma’, and include such things as propitiation of spirits and nagas, this still would not qualify. Even in those terms, this tradition is perverse….
This is not an authentic tradition, but a mistaken one. It is leading people astray. As Buddhists, who take ultimate refuge in the Three Jewels, we are not supposed to take refuge in worldly deities. If you were to decide to enlist the help of a worldly spirit - that is to say, to prevail on such a spirit to assist you on a temporal level, to succeed in short-term affairs - then the spirit that is called upon should be an approved one. It should be one that has been brought into service by a realised being, who has gone through the process of ordering and assigning. It should certainly not be one that is so controversial and has come to prominence through intimidation. This is not a defensible practice. If you reflect on all of these things, you will see that what we have here is not a question of freedom to practise the Buddha-Dharma.
However, when all is said and done, if you choose to fly in the face of all reasoning and still want to be involved in this form of worship, there is nothing that anyone can do about it. It is a matter of personal choice in which you can exercise your right. No one is going to say that you are not allowed to worship it. Whether you chooses to accept religion or not is a personal decision. Whatever form of spirit worship you want to do, it is up to you. Even if you choose to close your eyes to the evidence, without caring about the results of your actions, performing actions that are going to damn you, that is not up to me and I can do nothing about it. It is like the words, “I, Kachei Palu, have disclosed my secrets here, but whether you choose to listen or not is up to you”.
It is necessary to clarify these matters. Otherwise, some of you might retain your suspicions. Maybe there are still some of you who, in seeming deference to the Dalai Lama give the impression that you agree and follow me in this, but who privately harbour other thoughts. Others among you may be thinking, ‘Well I am not sure of the reasons, but as it is something that the Dalai Lama has instructed, I must abide by it’. I want to stress again that I do not support this attitude at all. This is a ridiculous approach. This is a matter about which you should reach conclusions by weighing the evidence and then applying your discernment about what it would be best to adopt and what best to avoid. When it comes to my own acting against the worship of Dolgyal; well I made an official announcement to government workers. I made an announcement and there was a video…
After that, was it about two years ago that the Shartse Geshe, Tsultrim Gyaltsen requested the empowerment of the Sixteen Drops of Kadam. As a result, I did the meditational retreat associated with the practice. There were indications that this was successful. During the night I had an incredibly clear dream of Trijang Rinpoche. In this, he was acting particularly affectionately toward me. There was a ‘Stages of the Path’ text, which included some of his own notes on some of the pages. He gave me those pages and said, ‘These will prove useful in the future’. That put me at ease. I feel that what I am doing is in accordance with what Trijang Rinpoche would have wanted. I feel that what I am doing is the correct course of action. He followed the system dictated to him by his root Lama, of whom he was the special disciple.
Now doing what I am doing, being open about all this is, I feel, in line with what he would really have wanted. I used to have some dreams when I was in Tibet that seemed to show signs that I had some link with the Fifth Dalai Lama. More recently, after the turmoil that ensued after taking action against the worship of Dolgyal I had another dream. In that, there was a thangka portrait of the Fifth Dalai Lama. As I was looking at it, after some time, the image turned into the real thing. He came towards me and handed me a ceremonial scarf. It was incredibly long. When I woke up what I felt was that I was completing something that had been left over from the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Again, convinced that I am acting in accordance with his wishes and that he would be happy with me, I feel at ease with my decisions. So, these days, when the Dolgyal Association state that they have no quarrel with anyone except the Ganden Phodrang - the Tibetan Government established by the Fifth Dalai Lama, that turns out to be absolutely true. It was the Ganden Phodrang who originally demolished the Upper Chamber (Simkang Gong) [This was the residence of Trulku Dragpa Gyaltsen (a figure seem as intimately connected with Dolgyal)]. Owing to a dispute with the authorities at the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama the residence of this individual was demolished. . Now almost four hundred years later, they are still agitating over that. They are directing their case against the responsible party. I am not quite sure in which court they intend to have their case heard though (laughter). The basis for the dispute is historic. That is about all I have to say.
Perhaps some of you are a little tired after I have gone on for such a long time, but we do not get a chance to come together very often. The Dolgyal issue is not so incredibly important, but because it gives rise to so much baseless rumour in various circles, I think that it is best to bring it into the open and discuss it when we get the chance. Now Tashi Wangdu (the Kalon or Minister for Religious & Cultural Affairs) you are always saying that we need to do things in accordance with the instructions of the Buddha. Of course, that is correct, but it should not be done in a stupid way. As I said, I do not want people just to use the fact that I have said something as the reason that it should be followed. This is not an issue of power and its misuse.
Now my reason for inviting the representatives of the other Tibetan traditions from the Assembly of Peoples’ Deputies is this. I think that whenever one tradition has a conference it would be advisable to have representatives from the other traditions present to observe the proceedings. As I have been saying this for a while, there has been some positive effect. At present this is a Gelug meeting, but it’s been convened in the presence of the other representatives. This is a forum for Gelug people to speak their mind, brag a little and say whatever they like. The point is that doing it this way everything is out in the open, not hidden from view. Otherwise, others may generate suspicions as to what was said. They may project that this was an occasion for scheming. The danger of setting up exaggerated rumours is thus diminished. There is no reason for scheming.
Let me say something else. I mentioned this to some of you, but the majority of you were not present. The very first Dharma conference we held was in the 1960s. I think that almost none of the other lamas and abbots who attended remain now. Dudjom Rinpoche was there, as was Drugpa Tugse Rinpoche. There was Khen Rinpoche and Karmapa Rinpoche. Of the abbots of the three seats, there were Gen Pema Gyaltsen, Gen Nyima Gyaltsen and the Mongolian Gen Lozang. I heard that in Buxa, if someone gave some offerings, rather than save it, Gen Losang immediately had momos made. Is that true? (laughter). Of course, if there was someone who gave some money as an offering to the monastery, maybe it should have been saved. Instead, he would spend it straight away on momos. There was that one from Sera Je (unidentified). The old fellow was not there. At the conference, he was telling everyone what was going on at Buxa. While he was doing that he mistakenly said, ‘... ten, twelve, thirteen o’clock’. Of course, there is the twenty-four hour calculation system. However, it was not that. He just got it mixed up…‘nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen o’clock’ (laughter). It sounded so funny.
Anyway, the conference was held at Dharamsala. It was meant to be non-sectarian, so we had representatives from all of the traditions. We also had representatives from the Bön tradition there. No one was really demanding equal status for the Bön tradition, but it was only fair that they be invited as well. There was the Bön abbot of Ral Ling. He wore a black lower robe. He was a very humble, fine man. He was very old. There was someone else representing them as well. He was a well-built man who said that he had spent a number of years at either Loseling or Gomang. We had this meeting and then we broke up.
Dudjom Rinpoche had come from Kalimpong. On his return, someone who was one of his students or benefactors turned up. He approached Rinpoche and as though he had some earth-shattering news announced, ‘Oh, it seems that they have been having a conference in Dharamsala. It must mean that they plan to convert everyone to the Gelug tradition’. Rinpoche responded: ‘What are you talking about? It was a non-sectarian meeting. All the traditions were there and participated and were granted equal respect. I have just come back from there. What do you mean by saying that there is a plan to convert everyone to the Gelug tradition?’ This is what he told me later. He was told that this was the rumour that was going around. So you see, you can have situations like that. A rumour for which there is absolutely no basis whatsoever, something being completely made up.
We are having a Gelug conference here. Gelug monks tend to do more debate in the course of their philosophical studies. They can therefore be a little garrulous sometimes. This might be misunderstood and others might think that there is some sort of contriving going on here. Therefore, I wanted it to be out in the open. There is nothing to be suspicious about. The motives for having a meeting of this nature are honourable. We are trying to see what improvements can be made and what changes there should be. Such events are meant to promote co-operation and understanding between people, whether they are from the Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya or Bön traditions, not creating problems between them.
When we first came to Dharamsala, Dzogna Rinpoche was working in the religious affairs office. The religious affairs minister was Zhesu. He was of the old school in the sense of being rather biased toward the government and particularly the Gelug Tradition. It seems he was also worshipping Dolgyal. So maybe that’s where the problem lay. Rinpoche was annoyed by this and is later said to have criticised the way things were done in Dharamsala. He was dismissive, saying that Dharamsala could not be counted upon, that there was ‘a golden parasol with a white tip, but that the white tip is crooked’. He was not to be blamed. This was just a natural reaction to the situation. Anyone, from animals upward, who finds themselves in a minority, is susceptible to the fear of persecution. Watch how dogs act. If one feels outnumbered, he becomes very timid, tucking his tail between his legs. Likewise, we, living in human society have the same concerns. The mere fact that we are in a minority is enough to make us suspicious of the larger group's intentions toward us.
The Bön people, for example, represent a minority amongst the Tibetans. Some people, when referring to followers of that tradition still call them, ‘the wrong-headed’ Böns. Now in such circumstances it is not surprising that they are apprehensive, is it? Such apprehension is not completely unfounded, is it? After all, since the time of the Dharma kings, measures have been brought in against them. Now we all find ourselves here together in a free country, with everyone one, irrespective of which of the three regions of Tibet they come from or which religious tradition they follow, being called upon to make an equal contribution. In such a situation, it becomes particularly important that we take especial care and show special consideration for those that, in the past, have been persecuted or who find themselves in a minority. Without such extra care, paranoid fears that others are plotting against them can easily arise in the minds of such people.
When we compare all of the traditions we will probably find that the Gelug represent the largest in terms of numbers. That being the case, some fear on the part of the others would not be unnatural. Similarly, when we first came here, the people from U-Tsang were better represented, particularly those from Tö. That fact alone was enough to make people from Kham and Amdo prickly. So, as I said, as the Gelug are larger in numbers and because their strength in study….
Therefore, as I was saying, what we need is transparency. That is why I called the other representatives here. So over the next few days please listen well. There should be no threat of baseless rumours spreading. If subsequently you should hear of people making up things about what was discussed here, please feel it is your responsibility to set the record straight. Some people say things just out of ignorance. However, these days we also have to contend with those who spread untruths and misinformation in a quite calculated fashion. The Chinese Communists give them money to create problems and then their grosser delusions of conceit, jealousy and so forth run riot and do the rest. So please act as impartial witnesses. That would be good.
This translation by Rabjam Sherab Gyatso ( December 2000)