Did Phabongkhapa use political power against Nyingmapas?

Je Phabongkhapa and other Lamas could not be involved in politics because in Tibetan society the only political power was held by the Dalai Lama and his office. People had no freedom of speech whatsoever. When I lived in Tibet I checked very carefully with local Geshes about the truth or falsity of these assertions. I understood that when Je Phabongkhapa visited eastern Tibet (Kham) and gave teachings there, many people came to his teachings. He was widely respected and received a lot of devotion from many people, but at the same time some local people jealous of his success spread rumours, saying that he caused the statue of Padmasambhava to be destroyed and so forth.

It is so sad that people are now using this rumour to destroy the reputation of this precious Lama. It is a clear indication that these are spiritually degenerate times. Je Phabongkhapa had great devotion for Je Tsongkhapa. Je Tsongkhapa praised Padmasambhava, so it is impossible for Je Phabongkhapa to show disrespect for Padmasambhava, impossible.

So, in conclusion I would like to say to the Dalai Lama and his supporters, could you please stop giving these same old reasons for stopping the worship of Dorje Shugden. You have already repeated these reasons thousands of times. If you have valid reasons to prove that he is an evil spirit, that he harms Tibetan independence, and that he harms the Dalai Lama’s life then I would be happy to debate with you. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, talk.religion.buddhism, 01 December 1997)

(Please note: The allegation of sectarianism on the part of Je Phabongkhapa is discussed further in the blog post Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand: Je Phabongkhapa and Sectarianism.)

I would also like to clarify some details. Perhaps you know that the Tibetan Lamas who are sincerely working to spread the holy Dharma by giving extensive teachings are very precious. But continually over the centuries, they have experienced many obstacles and problems in their spiritual activities because some high Lamas have used the Dharma to further their political aims. For instance, using his political power, the fifth Dalai Lama caused many difficulties and problems for the Lamas and monasteries of the Kagyupa tradition. Many Kagyu monasteries and Sakya monasteries degenerated and some even disappeared.

The thirteenth Dalai Lama also used political power to further his ends and caused many problems for the Panchen Lama, Chökyi Nyima. This Panchen Lama had to flee from Tibet because his life was in danger. He had no freedom to return to Tibet, but was exiled by the Dalai Lama’s government. Je Phabongkhapa also received similar treatment from the thirteenth Dalai Lama; likewise HH Trijang Rinpoche, (the root guru of the present Dalai Lama) and many other Lamas have done so at the hands of the fourteenth Dalai Lama.

So therefore from the time of the fifth Dalai Lama until the present day, many Tibetan Lamas who have been working very hard with pure motivation to benefit people, have continually experienced political pressure from the Dalai Lamas and their ministers. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, talk.religion.buddhism, 17 November 1997)

In my previous postings I already mentioned that the Dalai Lama has freedom to do as he chooses in his own practice. If he wants to stop Dorje Shugden practice and choose other practices through receiving certain indications such as dreams and so forth, then he is free to do so. I am not criticizing him for this reason, but because he is interfering in the freedom of others to worship as they choose.

In the same way if Je Phabongkhapa, through his dreams and other indications stopped certain practices, including some Nyingma practices, then this was his choice. It may be that in his dreams he felt Dorje Shugden was telling him to stop some of his Nyingma practices, but this does not imply that Dorje Shugden does not like the Nyingma tradition. It merely indicates that Je Phabongkhapa had no karmic connection with the Nyingma tradition. If there is no karmic connection with a particular practice, then you will not receive any good results. So please do not misunderstand. It is possible that Je Phabongkhapa encouraged some of his disciples to stop their Nyingma practice, but again it does not mean that Je Phabongkhapa was telling them that Nyingma practice is not pure, but to encourage them to concentrate on their own tradition. Teachers of all traditions and all religions encourage their people to concentrate on their own tradition. There is nothing wrong in this.

According to the information that I have received from authentic sources, when the Dalai Lama first began to engage in Nyingma practices, it was HH Ling Rinpoche who tried to discourage him, strongly advising him against these practices. This does not mean that HH Ling Rinpoche was saying that the Nyingma practices are not good, but he felt that it was an affront to the Gelugpas, indicating that their practice was not a complete path. Until that time the Dalai Lama had been pure Gelugpa, and now he was changing; this was not a good indication for the Gelug tradition. There is no criticism implied that Nyingma practice is not pure.

I know HH Trijang Rinpoche’s way of life very well, and he mainly emphasized the Gelug tradition, but he always had a good relationship with Lamas from the other traditions. I have never heard him say anything in any of his teachings implying that the Nyingma tradition is not pure. (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, talk.religion.buddhism, 19 December 1997)