Morchen Kunga Lhundrub (1654-1728)

“Although having found the pure nature Dharmakaya, by the power of compassion emanating a form, I entrust you...”

Morchen Dorje Chang, properly known as Morchen Kunga Lhundrub (rmor chen kun dga' lhun grub),1 was a highly influential master in the Sakya tradition. As a lineage master of Vajrayogini (na ro mkha' chos), he is likewise venerated by Gelugpas following this tradition. In the Sakya, he also is well known as a lineage holder of the Sakya Path and Result, and he upheld many other lineages as well.

When he was five, he met the 28th Sakya Throne Holder Jamgon Amyeshab (1597-1659). From him he received ordination with the ceremonial cutting of his hair and was given the name Kunga Lhundrup. Jamgon Amyeshab also bestowed other transmission and initiations such as a long life initiation, rong stong’s six transmissions of the Perfection of Wisdom and initiation into Mahakala gur mgon khro bcu. Morchen studied in the Mor locality, receiving the gling bsre degree at age 19 and the bka' bcu degree at age 20, then later went to Sakya.2 He took ordination at age twenty-five from Padma Trinley (1641-1717), an important Nyingma master (incidentally, one of the masters requested by the Fifth Dalai Lama to participate in the fire puja to burn Shugden).

After receiving ordination from Padma Trinley,3 Morchen barely recovered from a serious illness and was unable to take Lamdre teachings from him. Upon his recovery, he received Lamdre teachings from Khyenrab Jampa (1633-1703), the ninth bco brgyad khri chen of Nalendra monastery. He ended up staying with Khyenrab Jampa for many years and became his heart disciple. He later served as the abbot of many major and minor monasteries, such as Mor monastery, Rawa Me, and Tashi Chode. In the year 1728, he passed away into the Vajrayogini pure land Khechara.4

Among his many disciples was the Gelug master Jamyang Dewa Dorje (1682-1751),5 a disciple of the first Jamyang Zhepa. From Morchen he received the transmission of the Sakya practice of Marpo Korsum (Kurukulle, Dakkiraja and Red Ganesha), which is part of the Thirteen Golden Dharmas. As can be gleaned from reading Morchen’s autobiography, he developed a close relationship with many in the Gelug sect, especially in the Lhokha region in Southern Tibet in his later years. Among those who received many initiations and transmissions of Abhayakara’s Vajramala and Naro Khacho are twenty monks of Riwo Choling monastery in Lhoka;6 and again when Morchen was 61, fifty monks of Riwo Choling were among those present.7 Also, at Ganden Khangsar he gave all of the monks an initiation into Secret Hayagriva.8

Among his written works, very few are openly available at this time. Although his collected works have apparently not been published, a few individual works have been published such as a ritual on brgyab bzhi,9 which originated as a remedy when Buddha recognized that Shakra, the Lord of Gods, was sick due to being possessed by demons and so recited this. Regarding Dorje Shugden, Morchen states in his autobiography that in 1718 he entrusted Dorje Shugden Tsel with activities, and Shugden happily accepted.10 Also in his autobiography is a reference to Trode Khangsar, where he gave Amitayus and Hayagriva long life initiation.11 Also, earlier he gave the Gyalchen oracle the Amitayus and Hayagriva long life initiation.12 At 'phreng po Ganden Ling, he was invited to do a consecration of the Gyalchen gtsang khang.13

As mentioned, Morchen’s writing consists of the second part of the ritual rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi gsol kha 'phrin las 'dod 'jo, or Petition to Dorje Shugden Tsel: Granting all Desired Activities. Morchen’s writing continues after the initial steps of the ritual written by Dre'u Lhas. Morchen adds more details that are not explicitly mentioned by Dre'u Lhas. This expands on the foundation laid by Dre'u Lhas, and the iconographic and ritual genetics of Dorje Shugden are born in this ritual with arguably the earliest description of Dorje Shugden that includes the four surrounding emanations. Nearly all later rituals in the Gelug are based on this ritual’s overall structure, terminology and descriptions. In particular, the descriptions of the four surrounding emanations match exactly what is seen in modern Gelug thangkas and rituals.

The first emanation is related to peaceful activities, who holds a silken arrow (mda' dar), which is a ritual object in Tibetan culture and Buddhism alike,14 where the arrow (pointing down) is related to subduing enemies, and the five-color silk attached to it is related to increasing prosperity (g.yang). The left hand holds a lasso (zhags 'dzin).15

Body gleaming like a snow mountain,
Riding a dignified elephant,
Attiring a scarf, cloak and hood,
Holding a silken arrow and lasso, accomplish activities.

Next, there is praise to the emanation related to the function of increasing. In tantric terms, this means increasing lifespan, wealth, etc.:

Golden deity aloft an ochre horse,
Bearing a royal jewel and vase in hand,
Jewel bedecked and yellow robed,
Praise to you, increaser of lifespan and merit.

The vajrankusa is an implement based on the elephant goad or iron hook (lcags kyu) which is used to control and steer elephants. It is a long rod with a curved knife at the end; yet, as a ritual implement, this is slightly transformed to include a vajra at the tip as well. It symbolizes “both the hooking of negativities of evil beings, and the pulling or driving off all beings out of samsara and towards liberation.”16 As this implement is related to the tantric activity of power (dbang), it is not a coincidence that the Tara manifestation of empowering activities, Kurukulle, holds this as a principal implement as well.17 Likewise, it is an implement of the Shugden emanation related to empowering activities.

With a ruby red smiling face,
Iron hook, lasso, dressed in knitted red garb
In minister attire riding a turquoise blue dragon,
Praise to the Great King conquering the three worlds.

The last emanation is related to wrathful activities, and is a function not solely limited to Dorje Shugden and his emanations:

Maroon in color in a wrathful manner,
With a razor in right and heart in left hand,
Traversing the galaxy on a meteoric garuda,
Praise to the destroyer of samaya breaker enemies.

All four activities are commonly referred to as 'phrin las rnam bzhi. After this, Morchen continues with more verses to fulfill his prayers:

By the power of praising you Lord of Protectors,
Perform boundless activities of peace, increase, power and wrath.
Spread and increase the general and specific doctrine.
Perform all activities as wished.

Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden Tsel,
Staying firmly, inseparable from my heart,
Making single pointed, intense requests,
Dispatch the powerful and magical forces.

This continues, making requests for the increase of the doctrine, the lamas’ lifespan, etc. Next are wrathful requests (bskul ba) to crush enemy obstacles to dust (dgra bgegs thal bar rlag mdzas). Hence, these wrathful expressions are quite clearly coined in the earliest rituals of this protector. This is followed by the offering of a golden drink (gser skyems):

Hum, Root and lineage Gurus, peaceful and wrathful Yidams, ocean of powerful oath-bound protectors, by offering of this pure serkyem, tame bad conditions, fulfill favorable conditions.

Particularly to the Dharma Protector endowed with strength and power Gyalchen Dorje Shugden and retinue, by offering of this pure serkyem, tame bad conditions, fulfill favorable conditions.

To the realized gods of the eight classes, oath-bound, humble spirits and retinues, by offering of this pure serkyem, tame bad conditions, fulfill favorable conditions.

This is followed by a number of verses of enthronement (mnga' gsol) including:

Although having found the pure nature Dharmakaya,
By the power of compassion emanating a form,
[I] entrust you for the sake of performing
All three times’ bodhisattvas’ countless activities.


Posed upon a fearless lion throne,
Boundlessly powerful Dorje Shugden Tsel,
Wearing the three maroon monks robes,
[I] request you to display indefinite manifestations.

In Morchen’s part of the ritual, this is the only description of the principal figure, which here is on a lion throne. There is no mention of him riding a horse. Hence, this is a separate, earlier tradition than that of the form of Shugden riding a horse (rta nag can) initially propitiated by the Sakya Throne Holders. According to Trijang Rinpoche’s work on Shugden, this is not the only work written by Morchen Dorje Chang, there is also A Presentation of the King’s Three Activities (las gsum rgyal po'i rnam gzhag). However, at this moment it appears as though only the name of this work remains.

1 TBRC Person RID: P797.

2 Stearns, Cyrus (2006). Taking the Result as the Path. Wisdom Publications, pp. 271, 272.

3 TBRC Person RID: P657.

4 Stearns, Cyrus (2006). Taking the Result as the Path. Wisdom Publications, p. 273.

5 TBRC Person RID: P345.

6 Morchen Kunga Lhundrup (1983), p. 538.

7 Morchen Kunga Lhundrup (1983), p. 561.

8 Morchen Kunga Lhundrup (1983), p. 602.

9 brgya bzhi'i cho ga legs mdzes 'phreng ba (1974). New Delhi: Ngawang Topgay.

10 Morchen Kunga Lhundrup (1983), p. 577.

11 Morchen Kunga Lhundrup (1983), p. 618.

12 Morchen Kunga Lhundrup (1983), p. 598.

13 Morchen Kunga Lhundrup (1983), p. 599.

14 Beer, Robert (2003). The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols. Serindia Publications, p. 119.

15 Guru Deva Rinpoche (1984), pp. 237-243. These pages contain Morchen’s part of the ritual.

16 Beer, Robert (2003). The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols. Serindia Publications, p. 302.

17 Beyer, Stephen (1978). The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet. University of California Press, p. 301.