His Holiness’ investigation that led to his forsaking the propitiation of Dolgyal

In Tibetan[An excerpt from His Holiness speech on 13th June, 1978] Zemey Rinpoche’s yellow book almost created a big crisis in our society. Around that time, it occurred to me that although I had stopped Nechung from speaking on the matter that concerns Gyalchen, it would be unjust on my part to continue on keeping him silent. So, when Nechung was invoked and invited for consultation, I told him in clear words:

‘Some eight or nine years back when you had raised your concern over the issue of Gyalchen, with sincere concern [for the well-being of all] I asked you to stop speaking on the matter. Until now, you have never spoken even a word about it and I am grateful to you for that. Now when people on the other side could stretch their legs and arms as they desire, here, if I were to stop you speaking from your concerns, it would be unjust. From a legal point of view, it would be an act of denial of justice if only one side could speak on the matter and the other was desisted from speaking. For this reason, I am asking you to share with me whatever you have in your mind: I will support the truth’.

Having said thus, Nechung, while taking full advantage of his time, spoke in great length about Gyalchen’s origin, his past and present stories. In short, what he said was this:

‘There are more risks than benefits in propitiating Gyalchen; this could be confirmed by examples of different kinds of disasters Gyalchen practitioners could be seen experiencing now, and how things usually come to a tragic end for them. Although it may be different for someone with attainment of high yogic realisations who may conduct the practice in complete secrecy, for ordinary beings, this overt nature of propitiation has more risks than benefits, and more negativities than positivities. Propitiating Gyalchen might also risk inviting the displeasure and the wrath of Kali Devi or Palden Lhamo.’

Thus, through these sequences of events, I came to have a better understanding of Gyalchen. Although I had heard before that Nechung and Gyalchen do not get along well, that Kali Devi or Palden Lhamo despises Gyalchen was something new to me at that time.

If Kali Devi is displeased with Gyalchen, then it is a matter of great concern and utmost importance, and as such it occurred to me that I had to be very cautious. This was around the sixth or the seventh month of the Rabbit Year Year [1975] of Tibetan lunar calendar; at the time I had not yet stopped my daily recitation of the InvocationRitual for Swift Action of Gyalchen.

Several months later, it got closer to the Tibetan New Year, the Dragon [1976] Year. Since for sometime as it had been a practice for me to perform the elaborate FulfillmentRevival Ritual of Gyalchen on the third day of the Tibetan New Year, I thought it was time to investigate whether to continue with it or not. At that time, I had just received the ‘Avolokiteshvara Jinasagara Empowerment’ from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, and was in a retreat of the same deity, reciting the individual mantra of Avalokiteshvara Jinasagara along with the six syllable mantra of Avalokiteshvara. The Namgyal monastic abbot had gone to Varanasi for his dental health care. On his return, I had planned to conduct an urn-rotation divination that would determine the future course of my practice [concerning the propitiation of Dolgyal]; I had decided to follow the result of the divination, to do the practice of embracement or abandonment as required. On either the 15th or the 16th day of the 12th month of the Rabbit Year [1975], few days away from the Tibetan New Year, our monastic abbot returned back to Dharamsala. On either the 18th or the 19th day of the same month, along with the abbot and fifteen monks from my monastery, I conducted a FulfillmentRevival Ritual of Kali Devi [Palden Lhamo]. The weather on that day was very gloomy, with rain and thunderstorms throughout the day. Before conducting the divination, we recited the ritual of Celebrating the Greatness of Kali Devi. When reciting the sentence, ‘I hail you as the supreme among all protectors’, the light suddenly went off. At that time, one of my thoughts was that since electricity in Dharmsala wasn’t stable at the time, it could have been a mere coincidence. Another thought was, if at all it was a sign, it definitely was justified: the reason was that although Kali Devi has been a long time and an omnipotent protector for the successive Dalai Lamas since the time of the 1st Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gedun Drupa, as if she was incompetent, I had propitiated Gyalchen. Hence, the sentence, ‘I hail you as the supreme among all protectors’, was just a dry one that carries little weight since I had behaved in ways that defied the meaning of this sentence. If this was a sign of her displeasure, I felt it was truly justified.

When I actually conducted the divination, I engaged three points to be examined through the divination:

  1. ‘It is good to continue propitiating Gyalchen’. If this point came out from rotating the urn, then I intended on continuing my daily recitation of Invocation-Ritual for Swift Action [or Trinchol] of Gyalchen as well as the yearly elaborate Fulfillment and Revival Ritual [or Kangso] on the third day of the Tibetan New Year.
  2. ‘It is good to propitiate Gyalchen only in absolute secrecy’. If this point came out, then I intended on conducting the Fulfillment-Revival Ritual on my own and not publicly with the monks of my monastery.
  3. ‘It is best to forsake propitiating Gyalchen’. If this point came out, then I intended on giving up the propitiation.

All of us recited the mantra ‘Bayo Ramo….’ of Kali Devi one thousand times before reciting the ritual Celebrating the Greatness of Kali Devi. After that, holding it with great importance, with fervent supplications, I rotated the urn with these three points [written on small pieces of papers and wrapped inside round barley pills that all weighted equal].

The pill that came out from the urn as I rotated it contained the third point, it is best to forsake the propitiation of Gyalchen’. This same process of divination was done for selecting the new abbot of my monastery and thus the present abbot got appointed. After performing the divination, my own personal decision concerning what to embrace or abandon became very clear, and as a result of that, I was happy. As this divination that I meticulously performed reaffirmed the advice of Nechung, I was deeply convinced and at the same time quite amazed.

The result of the divination was really something similar to an experience of removing cataracts from my eyes. Since I made my decision to forsake the propitiation of Gyalchen, the practice of conducting the yearly elaborate FulfillmentRevival Ritual of Gyalchen [on the third day of the Tibetan New Year] with the monks of my monastery had to be discontinued. However, when a change has to be made, the reason behind that also needs to be explained. For me, neither keeping my silence on the matter nor trying to explain it was easy and I wondered what would be the best thing to do. Although my own decision was affirmative, I wasn’t sure if I had to explain about it to others. So, I performed a divination by means of throwing dice to determine whether I should keep my silence and maintain secrecy, or to explain it to others whenever a suitable opportunity presents itself? The divination clearly pointed out that I should explain the matter. After that, I summoned our monastic abbot to my office and asked him this: ‘In your opinion, how precise could have the urn rotation divination that I had conducted yesterday been?’ He replied thus: ‘Basically, there is no question about the precision of your Holiness’s divination. Particularly, in the case of yesterday’s urn rotation divination, Your Holiness had been extremely tenacious, reciting the mantra of Kali Devi one thousand times and conducting the divination with very fervent supplications. Thus, there is no way that divination could have failed.’ I then replied, ‘if indeed it was infallible, then this is the result of the divination. Saying thus, I explained everything, from the beginning up until the end.

Speaking in terms of the communist language, the abbot and I were like trusted comrades. He was someone with an air of pride, sometimes a bit arrogant, stubborn and had a bit of ethnocentrism of preferring his Geluk tradition over others, although he had very strong faith in Vajra Kilaya [a Tantric deity in Nyingma tradition]. He was someone totally dedicated to my policies, without even the slightest sign of any hypocrisy. Therefore, after his death I have always missed him dearly, and would often wonder about him affectionately. When I explained to him about Gyalchen, right from the beginning up until the latest development, he was totally by my side, ready to leap and bound. Without any hesitation, he used to reply, ‘very well, Your Holiness’.

Having explained everything in detail to the abbot, I then told him that Gyalchen’s Fulfillment and Revival Ritual on the New Year should be discontinued. As for the InvocationRitual for Swift Action of Gyalchen, it was recited occasionally, but not always, with those of other protectors whose propitiation rituals are usually recited in my monastery on a daily basis. However, the same ritual of Gyalchen is recited every evening at the Protectors’ Chamber at my residence [by some monks]. So, until there was a good excuse to discontinue these two, it was difficult to suddenly change these usual practices; both of us agreed on this. As far as his own personal practice was concerned, as he was someone who had received the life-entrusting initiation in connection with Gyalchen, I assured him that there was no need to discontinue it and that he could continue with the practice in his own personal capacity. This, I told him, was some kind of unfathomable secret [for us ordinary beings]. Furthermore, I told him thus: ‘It is clear that propitiation of Gyalchen invites the displeasure of Kali Devi and the five great kings. However, there is no reason to praise one and depreciate the other; we could just maintain a neutral stance. For you as an individual, it would be alright to propitiate Gyalchen.’

After that, I told my ritual assistant [in charge of preparing ritual cakes and offerings, etc.] that abiding strictly by the tradition that was practised in Tibet on the third day of the Tibetan New Year, I would only conduct the FulfillmentRevival Ritual of Kali Devi on the same third day of the Tibetan New Year, and made no mention of Gyalchen or anything else. Occasionally, rituals of other protectors such as Mahakala, Dharma Raja, and Bedze [Chramsrel] were also added with the ritual of Kali Devi in the past. At that time, without any detailed explanation with reasons to support it, I just told them that we would only follow the tradition as it was in the past in Tibet. At that time, those of you from Namgyal Monastery might not have understood the reasons behind that. On the 10th day of the first month of the traditional Tibetan ‘Dragon Year’ that corresponded with 1976, Nechung propounded a warning:

“As the ‘Red’ and the ‘Black’ have been given the position of protector and entrusted with the responsibility of providing ‘swift assistance’ for the successive Dalai Lamas, it is important to ensure that [your] actions do not become similar to the Tibetan saying ‘delivering the ritual cake in the west even as the devil lies in the east’.

I clearly gathered the meaning of his words: It meant that I was wrong in propitiating a new god rather than prioritising Kali Devi and the Five Great Kings who held the position of protectors [of Tibet and the Dalai Lamas]. When Nechung came into trance and propounded his warning, all of my cabinet ministers were present at the ceremony. Just as the ceremony came to an end, I requested all the ministers to sit with me for a meeting. At our gathering, I interpreted the meaning of Nechung’s words to them and explained in detail how I initially encountered Gyalchen; the successive invocation-rituals that followed; the initial warning from Nechung which I desisted him from repeating; the publication of Zemey Rinpoche’s yellow book; how then Nechung was summoned to speak his side of the story, which I thought was proper if I were to be unbiased since even in legal decision both sides are given equal chances to defend their positions; and Nechung’s version of the story which I put to further investigation through urn-rotation divination. I then instructed that none of the officials or Tibetan government servicemen [or servicewomen] should propitiate Gyalchen in connection with government affairs, although individually they were free to exercise their religious freedom in their personal lives. However, they should not conduct any practice of Gyalchen in connection with official affairs, and that these two must be separated. Thus, I made things very clear to them.

After that, through the monastic abbot, I asked my monastery that they should discontinue reciting the Invocation-Ritual for Swift Action of Gyalchen, and that the yearly elaborate Fulfillment-Revival Ritual of Gyalchen on the third day of the Tibetan New Year should also be discontinued. Thus, I restricted its practice in my own monastery. This happened on the 10th day of the 1st Tibetan month. On the 12th day of the same month, Yongzin Rinpoche [Ling Rinpoche] arrived from Bodhgaya and I reported everything to him. On the 13th, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche arrived from Mysore, and I very candidly reported everything from the beginning until the end. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche told me thus:

“If this is the result of the urn-rotation divination and Nechung’s direction, it is true. There is no deception in this. We all know that in critical circumstances, Nechung’s prophecies have always been infallible and the best. As far as the divination is concerned, you have performed it in front of the thangka image of Kali Devi, the thangka that talks. When the Great 5th Dalai Lama died and when his regent was unable to decide on how long the secret of his demise should be concealed, and in great dismay, as he wept in anguish in front of the 5th Dalai Lama who had just died, the Great 5th Dalai Lama came back to life again and said, ‘use your intelligence in deciding smaller matters. As for the important ones, perform divination in front of the thangka of Kali Devi, the thangka that was also the secret refuge-object of the 2nd Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gedun Gyatso. The result will always be infallible’. So, it is in front of the same thangka that you have performed your divination; so far, divinations in front of it have never failed. There is definitely no doubt about it. Undboubtedly, there must be a reason for the result of this present divination. However, that there is a rift between Kali Devi and Gyalchen must be something which comes in connection with the general political affairs of Tibet, otherwise, there is no reason why Kali Devi and Gyalchen could not get along well.”

Thus, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche did not believe that Kali Devi and Gyalchen have differences; he was of the opinion that only in connection with political matters that concern Tibet might there be problems between them. However, relating everything to him made me feel very good about it.

Trijang Rinpoche then asked me if it wouldn’t be better to give the Gyalchen thangka that I had with me to someone else. In that moment, the thought of the Gyalchen thangka never occurred to me. I had totally forgotten it. I then replied that it may not be necessary to give it away instantly; I could just keep it with the other thangkas in my possession. If situation became such that I must not keep it, I will offer it to you; I will decide on this either through the urn-rotation divination or by consulting Nechung.

So, on the 14th day of the Tibetan New Year, I told Nechung that his own words on Gyalchen totally coincided with the urn-rotation divination, which brought much comfort to me mentally. Explaining my thoughts on the future course of actions with respect to what to embrace or abandon, I also told him about the Gyalchen thangka that I had in my possession. I told him that if it was alright, I would keep the thangka and if not, then I would offer it to Trijang Rinpoche. Instantly with a sense of ferocity and urgency, he said:

‘It must be thrown away from the place of the ‘vajra master, meaningful to behold [His Holiness]’.

Acting promptly, right after the ceremony I sent my ritual assistant to offer the thangka to Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. In this way, I completely cleared myself of any association [with Gyalchen].