Following the infallible legacy of the past Dalai Lamas

Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche did practise Dolgyal quite strongly. However, it is very difficult for him to be a match against His Holiness the Great 5th Dalai Lama. Although several Lamas from Sakya also practised Shugden, they were no match against the Great 5th Dalai Lama, be it in terms of his spiritual attainments or political accomplishments. Speaking in terms of contribution towards the spiritual and political wellbeing of Tibet, for which we all should remain grateful, none of these masters would match His Holiness the Great 5th Dalai Lama in this respect. If His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama had taken a different stand since he was someone capable of interpreting the intent of the Great 5th Dalai Lama, it would be a different matter now. However, he followed a path that was in line with the decision of the Great 5th Dalai Lama.

Kyabje Phabongkha received much privilege and favoritism from His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama in the early part of his life, with His Holiness even allowing him to teach at Meru Chichoe in place of the Gaden Tripa [the hierarchal head of the Geluk tradition]. Although he was not among reincarnations with high stature, he received much attention and was someone of whom His Holiness had good expectation. However, in the later part of Kyabje Phabongkha’s life, he was reprimanded by His Holiness for his strong advocacy of Dolgyal. These facts are mentioned in the biography of Kyabje Phabongkha, written by his own secretary Lobsang Dorji. The voluminous text of his biography was published from Tibet. Kyabje Phabongkha’s strong propagation of Dolgyal was not only despised by the 13th Dalai Lama, but he further challenged Phabongkha’s advocacy of Dolgyal by writing to Phabongkha that the propitiation of Dolgyal was a breach of the commitments pertaining to ‘the refuge mind that seeks refuge in the Three Jewels’. A statue of Dolgyal at Drepung Tantric Monastery was ordered to be removed from the monastery by His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama.

In response to the letter that reprimanded him, Kyabje Phabongkha wrote to His Holiness that his propitiation of Dolgyal was due to Dolgyal’s association with his mother’s family as their local god and he vowed to stop propitiating Dolgyal. However, when His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama passed away, he did not keep his promise, and even went on further by strongly propagating Dolgyal. To the perception of ordinary beings [a Tibetan way of being polite by assuming that our ordinary perceptions might not be very reliable], Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche seemed to have treated the advice of His Holiness with contempt. If His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama had taken a new stance on Dolgyal, it would be a decision made by someone authorized to do so and I would have no objection. Otherwise, no other Lama can challenge the authority of His Holiness the Great 5th Dalai Lama’s words. Therefore, I will remain consistent with his position.