Drubwang Drukpa Kunley of the 17th Century (Dreuley lineage)

June 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Enlightened Lamas Series

The Himalayan region is known for its deep spirituality and, aside from Tibet, is one of the most renowned Buddhist nations in the region is Bhutan. Bhutanese monks are predominantly of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage as the result of their founding lama Ngawang Namgyal acting on the advice of Mahakala, and fleeing Tibet following an unresolved dispute about the true candidate of his incarnation.

Ngawang Namgyal, also known as Shabdrung Rinpoche, settled in Western Bhutan and unified Bhutan as a nation state, fending off three attacks by the Tsang Empire in the process. Once the Tsang Empire had been defeated by the Mongols, and the Fifth Dalai Lama was installed to the throne in Tibet, Shabdrung Rinpoche continued to successfully defend Bhutan from the invading forces of Tibetans and Mongols.

Aside from his prowess as a secular leader, Shabdrung Rinpoche was also deeply devoted to the Dharma and under his patronage, many monasteries were established, such as Cheri Monastery. He also promoted non-sectarianism in his land, allowing monks of the ancient Nyingma sect to remain – to this day, Nyingmas comprise of 30% of Bhutanese monks.

During Shabdrun Rinpoche’s time, the Tibetan influence continued to expand over the Himalayan region and Bhutan was not spared. The Tibetan government established a list of approved incarnation lineages; one of those established for the Drukpa subsect of the Kagyu lineage was the Dreuley line of incarnations, present in both Tibet and Bhutan.

Drubwang Drukpa Kunley

The Dreuley line of incarnations began with Drubwang Drukpa Kunley, a mahasiddha and an accomplished poet from Dreuley Monastery. Known as The Divine Madman of the Dragon Lineage, Drubwang Drukpa Kunley was renowned for his crazy methods of enlightening other beings. With mostly female disciples, he thus also earned the name The Saint of 5000 Women. He was known, for example for walking into prayer halls and emitting a beautiful smell as he walked by younger monks; then, as he walked towards the older monks, he would fart and emit a very bad smell of faeces. When the monks confronted him about this, he would tell them that the smell is a reflection of how well or badly the monks were holding their vows and morality.

He was also very famous for his teachings in desire, often using very unconventional ways to point out people’s attachments and desires to them. For example, he would lay down on a public street with his private parts exposed and his penis erect. Nuns would walk past him, showing at first how shocked they were. Then, they would walk closer to him to look at his private parts, point and talk. When they asked him why he was doing this and causing so much trouble, he would merely tell them that he was not doing anything – it was them who were making it a big spectacle out of it. He would then give them profound teachings about desire.

Both of Drukpa Kunley’s succeeding reincarnations did not live particularly long lives. Whilst Drukpa Kunley entered clear light at the age of 74, his succeeding incarnation Drukpa Dragpa Gyeltsen was just 25 years old when he passed into clear light. The third incarnation of the Dreuley lineage lived for just 58 years.

Despite his short life however, it was this incarnation of the Dreuley lineage who began the lineage’s close connection with Dorje Shugden. Serkong Dorje Chang writes that one of the earliest and most significant Dorje Shugden rituals, Petition to Dorje Shugden Tsel: Granting all Desired Activities, is most likely co-composed by the third Dreuley incarnation, Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo and Morchen Kunga Lhundrub. So significant it was that Serkong Dorje Chang would also later incorporate this ritual into his own writings and it was included in the extensive catalogue of Shugden texts and lineages compiled by Lobsang Tamdin.

Significant to note is the prayers within this text allude to the enlightened nature of Dorje Shugden. He is described for example, as Lord of Death, an epiteth for Dorje Shugden – this is not to be read literally, but as a reference to a kind of omniscience that is able to distinguish right from wrong, a characteristic that is specific only to fully enlightened beings. He is also alluded to as Avalokiteshvara or as a “Dharma king”, and praised in connection with Tulku Dragpa Gyeltsen, known to be a most superior lama.

It is interesting to note how many of these Lamas of the past wrote so reverentially of Dorje Shugden, with clear allusions to his enlightened nature. This does not at all collude with the more recent claims that he is only a worldly and malevolent spirit, and that his practice was only made up by Pabongka Rinpoche later in the 19th century.

Such was the power and blessings of this text, that it was used in Trode Khangsar in Lhasa and Riwo Choling in Lhoka. Its practice also spread as far as Mongolia, via the Sangphu oracle who travelled there and, when invoked to take trance, gave this ritual to a monk.

Future incarnations of the Dreuley lineage would come to find themselves fostering diplomatic relations. After many years of separation between Bhutan and Tibet, it was not until the fourth incarnation of the Dreuley lineage that reconciliation took place. During the time of the first Phola prince Miwang Pholhane Sonam Tobgye, Drukpa Kagyu Sangha in Tibet and Bhutan were encouraged to foster relations with one another in the hopes that the effects of positive dialogue would soon filter into the political realm.


Morchen Kunga Lhundrub (1654-1728)

June 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Enlightened Lamas Series

Morchen Kunga Lhundrub is the epitome of non-sectarianism, known to have upheld and respected many lineages equally and without any problems. As a highly influential master of the Sakya tradition, he was also revered by the Gelugpas as a lineage master of Naropa’s Vajrayogini. Within his own sect, Morchen was revered as a lineage holder of the Sakya Path and Result.

His early life was typical of great masters, having being recognised at a young age and ordained by the 28th Sakya Throne Holder Jamgon Amyeshab who later would confer upon Morchen may initiations and transmissions. These included a long life initiation, rong tsong’s six transmissions of the Perfect Wisdom and an initiation into Mahakala’s practice.

As a young monk, Morchen would travel to Sakya where he met with Padma Trinley. It was then that Morchen took his full ordination vows from this master who, coincidentally, had conducted a fire puja to burn Dorje Shugden at the request of the Fifth Dalai Lama.

Although Padma Trinley was to be Morchen’s ordination master, Morchen was unable to receive Lamdre teachings from him – after receiving his ordination, Morchen fell seriously ill and was unable to recover in time. Thus, Morchen received these teachings from Kenrab Jampa and went on to become his heart disciple.

Until his passing in 1728, Morchen worked tirelessly to spread the Dharma throughout Tibet. He was a model of non-sectarianism through his work. For example, to passed to his Gelug disciple Jamyang Dewa Dorje, the transmission of Marpo Korsum, a Sakya practice which is part of the 13 Golden Dharmas. He was also abbot of many monasteries, including Mor, Rawa Mey and Tashi Chodey.

Morchen bore a close relationship with Dorje Shugden, entrusting activities to the Dharmapala who was happy to accept. He also gave initiations into this Protector’s practice at Trode Khangsar in Lhasa, which were received by the Gyalchen oracle. Also at Gaden Ling, Morchen performed a consecration of the Gyalchen Tenkhang.

Not all of Morchen’s works are not openly available. From what is available however, we know that Morchen wrote a ritual for gyabshi, an obstacle-clearance puja composed by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. He also co-authored the lower volume of Petition to Dorje Shugden Tsel: Granting all Desired Activities, the upper volume having been composed by Drukpa Kunley of the Drukpa Kagyu sect. This text would become very central to the practice, used in prominent Dorje Shugden temples such as Trode Khangsar and Riwo Choeling, and also incorporated into rituals written by Serkong Dorje Chang centuries later.

Morchen’s contribution to this seminal text was an expansion of the foundation laid by Drukpa Kunley, and included the ritual origins of Dorje Shugden, as well as what is probably the earliest iconographic description of Dorje Shugden and his four cardinal emanations. Morchen gave detailed descriptions of the activities of the four cardinal emanations – peaceful, increasing, control and wrathful – as well as wrote praises to them.

His writings were so influential that up to this day, practitioners continue to rely on his descriptions when painting Gelug thangkas and performing rituals to Dorje Shugden. Prior to Morchen’s writings, Dorje Shugden was described as riding a horse and the Sakyas had relied on that description when propitiating him. Morchen however, described Dorje Shugden as being on a lion throne – this has since been the only description of the principle emanation in such a form.

According to Trijang Rinpoche, Morchen also wrote A Presentation of the King’s Three Activities. Copies of it however, have not been found and thus the works only continue to exist in name. Given the calibre of his works which we have access to, it is unfortunate that more of Morchen’s compositions are not available to us.