Why is His Holiness the Dalai Lama opposed to Dolgyal?

Button_Eng[Note: the following is a general analysis and not an excerpt from His Holiness’ speech]

His Holiness had encountered Dolgyal due to many factors, and had even propitiated him for some years. In 1975, Zemey Rinpoche’s book titled Nectars from the Mouth of My Heroic Fatherly Master came out in print and created chaos in the minds of many Tibetans. This being one factor, in addition to Nechung’s warnings about Dolgyal years before — one of which was Kali Devi’s displeasure with Dolgyal, as well as the story of how Dolgyal came into being after his strained relationship with His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama, and the controversial nature of Dolgyal throughout history since his coming into being as a wrathful spirit — prompted His Holiness the Dalai Lama to conduct many religious investigations into the matter thoroughly. Completely convinced with his successive investigations, he forsook Dolgyal’s propitiation, and initially started advising very few on the issue, but did not take it to the public.

However, generally, as Tibetans have become quite accustomed to the propitiation of mundane gods and aquatic spirits [nagas] and due to activities of some Tibetan Lamas who propagated the practice of Dolgyal quite strongly, the rampant outspread of its practice in the Tibetan community, specifically in many monastic communities resulted in some even claiming Dolgyal to be an emanation of Manjushree, while others declared it as one with Guhyasamaja [a Tantric deity]. This caused them to breach their commitments pertaining to their refuge in the Three Jewels, contradicting the tradition of Kadampa masters and Tsongkhapa’s own tradition of maintaining more allegiance to the three wisdom-eyed Dharma protectors. As if the three main Geluk protectors, Dharma Raja, Vaishravana, and Mahakala were insufficient, people started calling Dolgyal the ‘unique protector of Tsongkhapa’s doctrine’. Its practice got undeserved attention, instead of limiting the propitiation of a mundane spirit as a collateral practice and keeping it in a manner that befits Dolgyal’s real status as a mundane spirit. Thus, Buddhism that has a profound practice and philosophical correlation with the concept of the Four NobleTruths was transforming into a practice of spirit worship that relates more to the welfares of this life. Unable to bear this decadence and with intentions to bring back the Buddha Dharma to its original luster, His Holiness slowly started advising monastic communities to be discreet and less conspicuous in their propitiation of Dolgyal.

Thus, as it says in the Sutra called Descending to Langka:
“Just as a doctor would prescribe
While keeping in mind the patient’s conditions,
Likewise, the Buddhas would give sentient beings teachings
Only as much as they could take.”

As such, His Holiness’ skillful and systematic advice on the issue of Dolgyal over a period of almost forty years could only be appreciated by sequentially going through his talks from the beginning to the end. Although the majority of the Tibetans practising Dolgyal took his advice seriously and made the right decision of embracing the proper and abandoning the wrong, some Tibetans still revolt against the person who has bestowe much kindness on the people of the Land of Snow. They have been disseminating rumours, lies and indulging in activities such as killing, beating and threatening, all of which are aimed at bringing down the unity of our nation. The exigency that resulted from their despicable attitudes and movements against His Holiness’ advice, coupled with the following reasons as stated below compelled him to speak strongly on this issue.

The following are some of the reasons why His Holiness advises the Tibetans against Dolygal:

  1. Following the initial warning from Nechung and his successive reports on Dolgyal, His Holiness studied the matter thoroughly through his different religious modes of investigation. Convinced that propitiating Dolgyal incurs the rancor of Kali Devi, the ‘personal protector’ of the successive Dalai Lamas and the ‘main protector’ of Tibet, and that he is also despised by the ‘principle Geluk protector’ Dharma Raja, His Holiness started advising others against Dolgyal’s propitiation.
  2. As Dolgyal’s rebirth as a wrathful form due to his strained relationship with the Great 5th Dalai Lama is a truth known widely even among the proponents of Dolgyal, propitiating the spirit by someone who lives under the patronage of the Dalai Lamas is untenable due to the spirit’s antagonism towards institutions headed by the successive Dalai Lamas.
  3. As Dolgyal is a wrathful spirit despised by Kali Devi and the Five King Protectors of Tibet [Nechung is one of them] propitiating him by Tibetans creates a disharmonious relationship between the protectors of Tibet and its people, and it becomes an impediment for the Tibetans to amass untainted collective-merits; in addition to this, it also creates internal disunity that deflects the Tibetan struggle off its course.
  4. Dolgyal’s devious pretension of being a ‘unique protector of the Geluk tradition’ led many into believing in him, and as a result of that, they advise others on the benefits of propitiating Dolgyal. As stated in Nectars from the Mouth of My Heroic Fatherly Master, people are led into believing that a Geluk practitioner who embraces any Nyingma practice will incur the wrathful reprimand of Dolgyal that will destroy him: This creates strong sectarian rifts, and obstructs the development of genuine appreciation for other traditions and mutual respect between them. Such unhealthy bigotry on the part of Geluk practitioners adversely affects the appreciation people have for Tsongkhapa’s tradition. In order to maintain the well-deserved admiration for Tsongkhapa’s tradition and to promote sustainable respect and genuine appreciation between Tibet’s different Buddhist traditions so that they could all abide in perfect mutual harmony and friendship, His Holiness had to speak against Dolgyal.
  5. His Holiness’ research on Dolgyal led to the discovery of many historical documents recorded since the time of the Great 5th Dalai Lama. Since many realised Geluk masters of the past referred to Dolgyal as a ghost that wanders the sky, or as a perfidious spirit, the propitiation of Dolgyal by a Buddhist needs to be discouraged.
  6. There are innumerable stories of many Dolgyal practitioners who encountered tragedies in the end; the fact that Dolgyal inflicts harm on those who propitiate it is widely known both inside and outside Tibet. The emphasis on the propitiation of mundane spirits such as Dolgyal, with people depending their fate on such spirits, is more or less similar to the concept of an independent controller such as a creator that Buddhism rejects. Thus, the inevitable risk from the widespread of such a practice is that eventually it will lead to the degradation of the impeccable means of achieving Nirvana; if this trend of degradation continues, the inevitable risk is that Buddhism will be reduced to a very ordinary practice of propitiating gods and aquatic- gods.
  7. Advocates of Dolgyal’s practice refer to him as a WealthGod, the Medicine-Buddha, the protector of the 21st century, and the ‘unique Dharma protector of the Geluk tradition’ whose nature is indivisibly one with Guhyasamaja. With no origin in any Sutras or Tantras, they lure many innocent ones into such beliefs, ultimately leading them into much more misery. Therefore, in order to help others and to maintain the original luster of Tsongkhapa’s tradition, His Holiness started advising others on the issue.

   If this were a religious matter, any internal contentions could have been resolved with discussions based on Lord Buddha’s and Tsongkhapa’s doctrines. However, casting aside these sensible measures they have gone on seeking the Chinese support, thus bucking their own society and nation. Having become easily accessible tools for the Chinese, they have resorted to such brutal measures as beating, arsenal, threatening, and even killing people who voice their support for His Holiness’ advice on the issue. For this reason, His Holiness was compelled to speak strongly against the practice of Dolgyal.