Non-sectarian ecumenical approach


[On 8th April, 1983, His Holiness gave empowerments of Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara and Vajra Bairava at Gyuto Monastery in Tezin Gang of Bomdilla, Arunachal Pradesh. The following is an excerpt from his teaching at that time.]

I always tell people that we must be free of prejudice when dealing with different religious traditions in our community. I briefly explained my reasons for that yesterday. If seen by someone well learned, and when explained by someone who knew them properly, the view of Primordial PerfectSpontaneity of Zogchen; the NonCognition of Clarity and Emptiness, and the Inseparability of Samsara and Nirvana of Sakya; the Mahamudra of Kagyu; and the Inseparability of Bliss and Emptiness of Geluk all definitely converge on the same essence. When I explain that all views of different Tibetan religious traditions are the same, people might think that it is a mere act of modesty, however, this is not the case. I have reasons for this. For example, from the Geluk tradition, Panchen Lobsang Choegyal said that all these different views converge on the same pivotal point.

Panchen Lobsang Choegyal [Choeki Gyaltsen] stated:

“By relying on scriptural sources and valid reasoning,
If an experienced yogi examines them properly,
All of these converge on the same intent.”

The same idea is reflected in the works of the Great 5th Dalai Lama. All of these definitely come down to the same point. It makes no sense in being biased and prejudice, and such a stance is not good. Even if you do not have a strong prejudicial stance, it is still important to be aware of what I have told you.

Some people bluff others into believing that my opposition to Gyalchen has resulted from my interest in the Nyingma teachings. These are being spoken by those who know very little or nothing about the real facts. The true reasons for my opposing Gyalchen are those that I have just explained. It is definitely not because of my taking side with another tradition. It is also not because of any other reason aside from what I have explained.

Yesterday, I explained the meaning of the Tibetan term ‘Selhed’ [muddling up different teachings]. Khedrup Rinpoche [one of the two chief disciples of Tsongkhapa] spoke on the meaning of corruption in his work Dispelling the Darkness of Fallacious Views. In this text, he explains the Madhyamika view according to Tsongkhapa’s interpretation and the Sakya’s View of Inseparability, and then addresses the need to preserve their respective terms while explaining them without muddling them up. Thus, as he summarises in the end, he emphatically states:

“Terms from this tradition should neither be mingled with others, nor should terms from others be mingled with this”.

So, it is explicitly explained. It means that the unique terminologies such as the Union of Luminosity and Emptiness, the Indivisibility of Samsara and Nirvana, the Primordial Purity and Spontaneous Accomplishment etc. should not be used one mingling with another, and doing so amounts to corruption.

Therefore, the meaning of corruption is not interpreted in a way that forbids a Nyingma practitioner from studying Lamrim; neither is it referred to as contamination if a Kagyu practitioner reads a Lamrim text. It means that when a Nyingma practitioner explains the view of Tregchoe and Thodgel, he should not use technical terms from the New Translation Teachings. Likewise, a Sakya practitioner should not use the unique terminologies from the ‘Superior Insight Chapter’ of Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim when explaining the Inseparability of Samsara and Nirvana’ in accordance with the tradition of Lamdre [path and result]. So, this is what Khedrup Rinpoche means when he says ‘terms from this tradition should neither be mingled with others, nor shold terms from others be mingled with this’. One of the best examples of implementing this practice [of embracing different traditions while not causing any contamination] was set by His Holiness the Great 5th Dalai Lama. As his contribution to the Geluk tradition, the 5th Dalai Lama composed his lamrim text Words from the Mouth of the Gentle Manjugosha. In this text, you would never come across any term specific to other traditions such as Sakya and others. The 5th Dalai Lama maintains the same kind of linguistic style as presented by Tsongkhapa in his two Madhyamika commentaries, Explicitly Illuminating the Intents and the Great Commentary to the ‘Fundamental of Wisdom’ Known as the Ocean of Reasoning. His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama also wrote a commentary on Zogchen known as Oral Transmission from the Holders of Awareness [Rigzin Shelung], and another commentary in connection with the practice of Avalokiteshvara called Instructions for Liberation from the very Root of Samsara, that accords with the lineage of Jangter. In these works on Nyingma teachings, His Holiness had never used any terminology unique to the other traditions of Geluk, Sakya and Kagyu. So, this is what keeping traditions free of intermingling and contamination really means. However, just like His Holiness the Great 5th Dalai Lama, practising all these four Buddhist traditions together by an individual does not contaminate the purity of these traditions.

Some people tend to think that if a Geluk practitioner even touches a text of any Nyingma teaching, it amounts to polluting the Geluk tradition. As far as their treatment of Sakya teachings is concerned, it does not seem to be too sensitive, probably because Shugden is also propitiated by some from the Sakya tradition, and that Geluk’s origin of Vajrayogini’s practice came from Sakya. Such people treat Nyingma and Kagyu teachings as if they had an old and loathsome odour. One should not consider it a contamination of the purity of the Geluk tradition if any of its practitioners engage in teachings of other traditions. This is definitely not the case. While presenting a particular teaching, such as the Guhyasamaja Tantra, if you were to present it in terms of the four yogic practices, it would be improper. The same applies to presenting the Chakrasamvara teaching of to Luyipa’s tradition, for if you present this teaching by mingling it with the five graduated paths as presented in the completion stage of Guhyasamaja Tantra, then this equals to tainting the purity of the teaching. Such a misrepresentation is improper, and this is what contamination of the purity of teachings means. Khedrup Rinpoche said that if we do this kind of intermingling, we won’t be able to present or understand properly the unique features of the teachings of past masters. A person’s inclusion of all traditions in his/her practice is definitely not a distortion of their purities.

On the contrary, a person can embrace any of the teachings of different traditions, irrespective of whether such teachings belong to the Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya or Geluk. To support that, we can cite from the extensive, middling and condensed versions of Prajnaparimita Sutra. As for the Shastras [commentaries of Sutras], we can cite from Maitreya’s Ornament of Clear Realisation. We have also sources from Tsongkhapa’s Great Treatise of Lamrim. The assertion that a Gelukpa must not practise any Nyingma teaching has no valid justification. The source for such assertion may lie only in instructions of individual Lamas. However, Tsongkhapa himself said that if any particular instruction of a Lama is inconsistent with those of Sutra and Tantra, we should treat the latter as more authentic and profound. Tsongkhapa, who is known to have had continuous pure visions of Manjushree, received this instruction from Manjushree that if any particular instruction of a Lama is inconsistent with the mainstream of Buddha’s own teachings and their authoritative commentaries, the instruction should be rejected, but never the authoritative works.

In Maitreya’s Ornament of Clear Realisation, it states:

“Those aspiring to benefit wandering beings accomplish the welfare of universally vast number of beings by means of their realisations of [different] paths.”

These words carry a very strong meaning. On a personal level, I had an experience which I want to share here with you. Once, an elderly man from the Kinaur region of Himachal Pradesh of north India, who seemed to be a good practitioner, came to see me in Dharamsala. He told me that he had been living in solitary retreat, dedicating his whole for Dharma. He asked me to give him instructions on the practice of Thodgyel, but I told him that I did not know anything about this particular instruction. Since I did not study it, how could I explain it to him? But I really felt sad at that time. Although I always generate the mind of Bodhichitta for the sake of all sentient beings and accordingly I have to fulfill the welfare of any individual being, I was bereft of any means to help that elderly man who specifically came to me with such sincere faith and hope. This happened because I did not know the instruction. I was not able to put into my practice one of the essential points of Maitreya’s Ornament of Clear Realisation. Generally speaking, if we look at them from the perspective of Bodhisattva’s practice of Mahayana, the paths of ‘hearers’ and ‘solitary realisers’ are considered as having deflected from the Mahayanan path.

Thus, when speaking of the eight moderate-downfalls, the six session-practice of Guru-Yoga-ritual states thus:

“Taking an unqualified consort, and engaging in union without the three recognitions;
Showing the secret objects to unqualified recipients and quarrelling during feast offering ceremony;
Giving false answer to a question asked with faith, and staying seven days in the house of a hearer; and so forth.”

As a fully characterised ‘hearer’ [Sravaka] aspires to accomplish liberation for one’s own personal interest, for someone practising Bodhichitta that cherishes others more than oneself, staying a week in the house of a hearer without any greater purpose could be detrimental to his own practice of the ‘deeds’ and ‘views’ specific to Mahayana. As such, by staying in a hearer’s house for a week, one would acquire a ‘moderatedownfall’. However, in order to accomplish the welfares of others, one needs to know the unique paths of hearers as well.

[On 12th Nov. 1997, His Holiness gave a talk on Dolgyal to the Tibetans from Dhondup Ling Tibetan Settlement. The following is an excerpt from that]

I could see two reasons in this respect. One being something of which all of you are aware; if we could study all these Tibetan Buddhist traditions without discrimination, contemplate on and practise them, and thus actualise, preserve, and relay them [without sincere motivation], it would be extremely good. I also try to do the same, and have been repeatedly making request to others to follow suit. I try to convince the Lamas, Tulkus and scholars of the Nyingma tradition to study the teachings of the Geluk and Sakya. Likewise, I speak the same to practitioners of different traditions that they should conduct a comprehensive study of all traditions. While maintaining emphasis on your own tradition, if you are able to develop some understanding of other traditions and plant such imprints within you, it will really be helpful; doing so will be an actual implementation of ‘the pure perception that pervades all traditions’. For example, from the successive Dalai Lamas, the second Dalai Lama Gyalwa Gedun Gyatso, the third Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso and the fifth Gyalwa Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso [as well as the 13th Dalai Lama] had all practised an ecumenical form of Buddhism. Later, Jamyang Khyentse also became the custodian of the non-sectarian, ecumenical system of Buddhism. He was widely known by all over Tibet. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche also practised the same. In Tibet, we had many such examples from the past. Thus, at a time when I am promoting this ecumenical practice, one of the impediments hampering its success is Dolgyal. Dolgyal practitioners claim that the 8th Panchen Lama, Panchen Tenpai Wangchuk, was killed by Dolgyal for practising the Nyingma. They further claim that Reting Rinpoche, the Lama who recognised me as the Dalai Lama, was also killed by Dolgyal for practising the Nyingma.

I see great merit in practising all traditions without discrimination. I am totally convinced of the need to persevere in means to promote this practice of non-sectarianism [that would bring about harmony and dispel rifts among different traditions] that already had taken root in our society.

The second reason is as follows. Someone who knows Buddhism well will always consider love, compassion and Bodhichitta as the most pivotal of all practices in Buddhism and I am sure there are many such practitioners in our society. However, generally speaking, it seems that our society seems to have lost that tract which emphasises the practice of love, compassion and Bodhichitta, but appears to be putting more emphasis on the recitation of rituals associated with a tantric deity and the propitiation-rituals of protectors. For example, if you go to a temple, at the best you would see a butter lamp lit infront of a Buddha statue with dark smokes billowing in the air. But on a corner, there would be a dark room reserved as the protectors’ shrine, with wall paintings of ferocious faces, fangs stretching out and eyes bulging. It has become a tradition to go there early in the morning, and the shrine room would be filled with odours of black tea and wines [that people offer to the protectors]. People give money to the priest as a gesture of thanking him for offering libation to the protectors. Even when there are mandala offerings and monastic bowls placed in front of the statue of Buddha Shakyamuni that seem to suggest that you could also make offerings there, very few make offerings in front of the Buddha statue. People show more respect to the priests of the protectors’ shrine room than to the priests of the main temple. Some priests, if they are drinkers, would also drink [from the remains] after offering libation to the protectors.

Usually people seem to consider protectors as very precious. As far as protectors are concerned, they are of different kinds. There are many protectors such as the ‘Four-Armed Mahakala’, who are mentioned in the Buddha’s own Tantric treatises. Such protectors are there in the Nyingma as well as other traditions. It’s a different thing when it concerns the protectors mentioned in Tantric scriptures [Buddha’s own teachings]. We have reliable sources to validate their authenticity. Apart from them, if we considered spirits born from deceased people as if they were kings among protectors, it would be a grave mistake.

[On 27th Aug. 1998, His Holiness gave a speech to the participants of the 10th General Body-Meeting of the Tibetan Youth Congress in which he spoke on Dolgyal. The following is an excerpt from that speech.]

On top of not having anything to speak about Dolgyal’s contribution to Tsongkhapa’s tradition, conversely, we hear stories of upheavals brought about by practitioners of Dolgyal in Kham, Lhoka, Tsang and other parts of Tibet for around sixty years in the past. Due to being connected with Dolgyal, there has been a derogatory outlook on the Geluk tradition in our society, resulting in people’s dislike for the teachings of Tsongkhapa. Considering the uniqueness of Tsongkhapa’s interpretations and assertions of views, meditational techniques and deeds to engage in, you will not come across any genuine scholar who could ever rebuke them. Relying heavily on the works of indisputable Indian masters, he challenged fallacious interpretations with proper establishments of the true intentions, devoid of any fallacy. His tradition is credited with much praise from rational and unbiased scholars of other traditions. As you think of Tsongkhapa’s tradition, in terms of its scriptural and realisational teachings, apart from considering it as authoritative, there is no way anyone could challenge it. It is very clear that the assertion by proponents of Dolgyal that Dolgyal would bring his rancour against any Geluk practitioner who would dare to practise Nyingma teachings has created much rift and animosity between the religious traditions in our society. I have heard from sources that when people invited me to their [non-Geluk] monasteries, they took measures to prevent the entry of the spirit [Dolgyal] that might come along with me, although they knew and appreciated the ecumenical approach of the Dalai Lama.

If this profound practice of Buddhism becomes a tradition that emphasises propitiating of gods and nagas, it is very sad and disgraceful. Yesterday, I met with a BBC correspondent, who told me that the pivotal practice of Geluk is its propitiation of Dolgyal. Without proper understanding of the truth, such misinterpretations and misrepresentations seem to be accepted blindly.

My third reason is something all of you are familiar with. I consider mutual friendship and appreciation between different religious traditions in this world as very crucial. Among the different Buddhist traditions in this world, and particularly within our own Tibetan society, this harmonious co-existence is very important. All of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism are the same in holding the same philosophical view of Madhyamika [the highest of the four philosophical schools in Buddhism]. Many past masters from all these traditions had practised the non-sectarian, all inclusive approach that covers various traditions. Such practices had contributed a lot to the survival of all traditions and the Buddha Dharma on the whole. As His Holiness the 2nd Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gedun Gyatso, practised the all-inclusive form of Buddhism and was non-sectarian in his approach, people referred to him respectfully with the title ‘the NonSectarian Buddha with a Yellow Hat’. This is mentioned in his biography, written by Yangpa Choeje. Being recognised as the reincarnation of the 1st Dalai Lama Gyalwa, Gendun Drupa, he was a Lama of Drepung Monastery who served as the abbot of all the three seats, Sera, Drepung and Gaden. So, he used to put on the yellow Pandita’s [Indian scholar] hat. I feel this ecumenical practice is very crucial.

Khenpo Rinchen, a great scholar from the Sakya tradition was someone known to me, although he is now no longer with us. He was a student of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodroe, and fundamentally a Sakya practitioner. However, he received teachings of instructions, transmissions, and empowerments of Nyingthig from Jamyang Khyentse Choeki Lodroe, and became a Zogchen practitioner. When he was in the Kham province of Tibet before he came into exile, he also studied Tsongkhapa’s Excellent Instructions of Golden Rosary. Later, he had numerous exchanges with many Geshes from the great seats, and also studied with them. So, later, he also became well-versed in Tsongkhapa’s works on epistemology [Pramanavartika] and commentaries on Madhyamika. He was inconceivably a great example. He was a straight forward person, who never knew how to be hypocritical. Although I had not received teachings from him, he was a Dharma friend with whom I had discussions and sought clarifications. Nowadays, there are very few like him in our society. It is very rare to find someone like him, well-versed in all the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, who could give teachings on any of them. This is quite sad and shameful. It is not that we did not have precedence of non-sectarian practitioners in the past in Tibet. I have aspirations to revive, preserve and promote this non sectarian approach and have been making efforts in this regard.

[Excerpt from His Holiness’ speech given to the participants of a general body meeting of representatives from all the three provinces of Tibet on 10th Sept. 1998.]

Many past scholarly adepts of Tibet had embraced non-sectarianism. As I have personally experienced this approach as a very excellent one, I have been trying to practise it as much as I can. His Holiness the Great 5th Dalai Lama was undisputedly one among many who followed this approach. We also have Gyalwa Gedun Gyatso, Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso and the 13th Dalai Lama, all of whom practised the Geluk as well as the Nyingma tradition. There were many such good examples of throughout the three provinces of Tibet. Some great practitioners maintained their own traditions while others embraced a more inclusive approach. Looking at our present diaspora and the future of Tibet once we return back, by all means, I feel it is very crucial to have an ecumenical form of practice in our society. On an individual level, I have found it very useful. Speaking for the society on the whole, it would be extremely good to have an ecumenical system of practice.

Nowadays, Dolgyal’s practitioners maintain that a Gelukpa practising either the Kagyu or Nyingma will be severely dealt with by Dolgyal, thus creating fear among many. It would be a different case if a Geluk practitioner who has attained — through contemplation and experience — an absolute confidence in the uniqueness of Tsongkhapa’s instructions on the views, meditational techniques and deeds to practise, was totally satisfied with what he has, and therefore, saw no real need in embracing other practices such as those of the Nyingma and Kagyu. However, if someone, who wishes to receive the teachings of Nyingma, has to restrain himself for fear of inviting Dolgyal’s wrath, it actually limits his/her religious freedom; it is thus a deprivation of religious freedom. Anything that restrains a Geluk practitioner from practising the ecumenical system of Buddhism is an obstruction. It is only Dolgyal’s abhorrence [and not of inviting the displeasure of any genuine Dharma protector of any tradition] that people speak of if a Geluk practitioner received and practised teachings of another tradition, particularly the Nyingma tradition.

[On 7th Jan. 2004, His Holiness gave a speech to the people of the Tibetan settlement in Orissa in which he also talked about Dolgyal. The following is an excerpt from that speech.]

If you look at our society and observe closely what many people do when they say that they are practising Dharma, one gets a strong impression that they are talking about propitiating gods or nagas. When any tragedy befell someone, or if someone became sick, people would think that the harm came from a god or a naga and would perform the propitiation of gods or nagas. Sometimes, such mishaps could have a god’s or a naga’s role as a secondary factor [the primary being their own respective negative karma]. However, when sickness befalls someone, the best way to deal with it is through proper medical assistance and observing strict health conscious measures.

On the contrary, by speaking of the negative consequences of such practices and putting too much emphasis on the propitiation of gods and nagas would not only breach ‘the vows of refuge-mind’, but might also forsake your refuge mind completely. Generally speaking, propitiation of wrathful worldly-spirits, and particularly, this controversial spirit with strained commitments, amounts to putting your own present and future lives at stake. You would be engaging in practices that would only create your own downfall. It is my duty to show you the proper paths with respect on what to embrace and what to abandon. However, it is entirely up to you whether to listen to my advice or not.

Dolgyal’s practice brings disharmony and antagonism among the different traditions of Buddhism in our society. The compassionate Buddha had taught many different approaches to suit the interests of his disciples. All different schools of Buddhism in Tibet are the same in being followers of Buddha Shakyamuni. They all are of Mahayanan tradition, relying on the view of Madhdyamika and practising the union of Sutra and Tantra. Everybody knows that Dolgyal practitioners create antagonism with their radical and sectarian views. In the past, we had faced a problem posed by an organisation called ‘the group of thirteen’. They created rumours that Central Tibetan Administration cared only for the Geluk tradition and neglected the others. When the previous Karmapa Rinpoche passed away due to illness, they had again accused the Central Tibetan Adminstration of having had a hand in his death.

Earlier when a general body meeting of representatives of different schools convened here in Dharamsala, Dujom Rinpoche also attended it. After his return to Kalimpong, someone approached him and told him that a resolution was passed during that meeting which agreed to convert all other traditions into Geluk, and expressed his total opposition to it. Around that time, there was another rumour saying that the great banner of Dharamsala [CTA] was bent [biased against Geluk]. Such rumours were either results of [CTA] not sharing the same ideology with the proponents of Dolgyal, or expressions based on random circulation of false opinions. Some of them might have been deliberately concotted to bring about tragedy and instability in our society.

If you look at Zemey Rinpoche’s controversial yellow book, the fact that many such social disturbances based on religious segregation are rooted in Dolgyal’s practice is very clear, no matter from where you look at it, from outside or inside. The main point that was so explicitly and emphatically expressed in that yellow book is that if a Geluk practitioner embraced another tradition such as Nyingma and practised their teachings, there would be serious, destructive retributions from Dolgyal. To prove this point, it cites many examples of past masters who were reprimanded and destroyed by Dolgyal for practising other traditions. This book aims to instill fear among the Geluk practitioners and to stop them from embracing other traditions. There were instances of families in Dharamsala who removed their statues of Padmasambhava and the set of biographical volumes of Guru Padmasambhava known as Pema Kathang from their houses [for fear of Dolgyal’s hex]. Around that time, I visited some Nyingma monasteries in Kalimpong and Darjeeling at their request to conduct consecration rituals. Later, I heard from sources that after my visits, they conducted some purification rituals, saying that although it was auspicious for them to have been blessed by a visit from the Dalai Lama, but a spirit that follows him need to be expelled from their places. The Bhutanese also maintain that they have no complaint against the Geluk tradition on the whole, but that a serious inauspiciousness occurs every time someone [such as a Lama] from the Geluk tradition paid them a visit.

When a Nyingma Lama [Trulshik Rinpoche] enquired about some texts for his consultation on the Guhyasamaja Tantra as he was considering conducting a retreat after receiving its empowerment, a staff member from a local Geluk Monastery told him that they did not know much about Guhyasamaja, but that they were quite familiar with Vajrayogini. How does this recognition of the uniqueness of Tsongkhapa’s teachings appear to you? Tsongkhapa’s heavy emphasis on Guhyasamaja Tantra was further continued by Jetsun Sherab Senge who founded Gyumed Tantric College and established the Tantra of Guhyasamaja as the pivotal practice there. In this Tantric college there is a legacy of saying that either asleep, or while awake, they are always inseparable from Guhyasamaja. This being the case, is not it sad that a Geluk Monastery has no knowledge on the Tantra of Guhyasamaja?

Personally, I initially studied the tradition of the Geluk, but gradually received empowerments, transmissions, and instructions of other traditions. Thus, my practice involves teachings of all traditions. On a personal level and for the society in its entirety, this ecumenical approach is really useful. Basically both the 2nd and the 3rd Dalai Lama practised the ecumenical system of Buddhism, and particularly the 3rd Dalai Lama was a very strong practitioner of the ecumenical system of Buddhism. As far as the 5th Dalai Lama is concerned, although it is not clear if he received teachings of the Kagyu tradition, that he conducted a very strong practice of the Sakya and the old translation school of Nyingma is very clear. Usually, it is a well known belief among the practitioners of Dolgyal that if any Geluk practitioner embraces other traditions instead of remaining committed only to the Geluk tradition, this would be a breach that defiles the purity of their practice, and such a person is treated with discrimination, even acrimony and seclusion. That this practice of Dolgyal has been creating rifts and animosity among practitioners is something that history will reveal if you look into it more critically. Due to his antagonism against the 5th Dalai Lama, Dolgyal who is born from erroneous prayers, also bears the same attitude to Gaden Phodrang [Institution] founded by him. In my own lifetime, I have seen many cases of Lamas and Geshes practising Dolgyal who met with many tragedies at the end of their lives. If you look closely at all aspects connected with Dolgyal, you will come to terms with the truth without someone else to explain them to you.

[On 16th Aug. 2005, His Holiness gave a talk to a group of people from Tibet at Samyeling Tibetan settlement in Delhi. The following excerpt on Dolgyal is a section of that talk.] 

Personally, not only do I have respect and appreciation for all traditions, but I also include an ecumenical style of practice in my own life. With my study on Tsongkhapa’s impeccable corpuses as the foundation, I had also received instructions, transmissions and empowerments based on the works of Longchen Ramjampa, Kunkyen Jigme Lingpa and many other lamas of different traditions. This has greatly helped my own practice. I have neither endeavoured in this to appease others nor to maintain their appreciation. As far as ‘the suchness of dependent origination’ [a Madhyamika concept in connection with emptiness] as explicitly interpreted and propounded by Tsongkhapa is concerned, nobody else had ever taught like him. He is impeccable in explaining this.

In the Highest Yoga Tantra, the ‘primordial clear light’ referred to as the vajra of mind in the Mahamudra of the Kagyu tradition and the introduction of Rigpa [awareness] by critically categorising the different aspects of the luminous mind of cognition as presented in the Zogchen tradition [of Nyingma, the old translation tradition] really helped me tremendously in understanding the concept of the fourth experience of emptiness, the absolute emptiness of clear light, according to the completion stage practice of Guhyasamaja Tantra [of the new translation tradition]. For this reason, I see great benefit in practising the non-sectarian approach that embraces all, Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma and Geluk.

Secondly, we have many good examples of past Tibetans masters embracing all traditions. However, along with this, on the other hand there have been oppositions against one another’s tradition as well as debates refuting one another’s philosophical views. Such debates got ignited due to a lack of knowledge of others’ traditions and one’s confinement to just one tradition. However, just as the saying goes that scholars are more impressive when they are within their own kind, pursuing debates based on skillful logical assertions as per the tradition of genuine scholars is reasonable and beneficial. Due to their ignorance, some have biased attitudes based on attachment to one’s own tradition and aversion to others. These are very sad and shameful. At a time when the fate of Tibet as a nation is critical and unpredictable, I have been trying my best to bring about unity and harmony among all the traditions in our society. Mutual understanding and appreciation is crucial for our unity as a nation. Since arriving in India, I have worked hard in this respect. At such a time, Zemey Rinpoche wrote a yellow book widely known as Nectars from the Mouth of My Heroic FatherlyMaster. Generally speaking, he and I were on good terms and as a person he was a good Lama. However, in his book, he had cited examples of Tibetan government officials in erstwhile Tibet and many past Geluk Lamas who he claimed were eventually killed by Dolgyal. The reason was because they embraced the practice of Nyingma teachings. At the time when this book was published, several nuns in Dharamsala did not come to take part in an extensive feast-offering ritual of Padmasambhava that was held at Tsuklakhang temple. Later, I learnt that they did not come for fear of inviting Dolgyal’s rancor. That greatly disturbed me.

The assertion in his book that a Gelukpa embracing other traditions would invite Dolgyal’s displeasure that would result in severe reprimand led many into believing in it; this restricted them from keeping even a single scripture of the Nyingma tradition in their himes, let alone embracing its practice. For example, in the Orissa Tibetan settlement in India, when some families were advised that keeping Shugden’s wealth vase in their home would bring about financial success, fearing the consequences ensuing from keeping Guru Padmasambhava’s statue and Pema Kathang [a set of Nyingma scriptures], they had to give them away to other families. This is a serious threat to the harmony among different traditions in our society. In Tibet, many eminent masters were critical of Dolgyal. Although Dolgyal was propitiated by some Sakya practitioners, many eminent masters of Sakya severely opposed this practice. The Nyingma practitioners definitely are averse to Dolgyal, and so are the Kagyu practitioners.

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