Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub (19th century)

“Enthroned as guardian of the Yellow Hat Teachings by the Chinese emperor, the Dalai Lama, and his regent, you generated the intent to protect the Teachings from now until the Buddha, Aspiring One, praise to you!”

Dagpo (dwags po) is a region in southern Tibet in the larger Lhoka area, with a long history of Tibetan Buddhism mostly associated with the Kagyu order. Not a lot is known about Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub other than that he is listed in Pabongkha Rinpoche’s works as a lineage lama. In particular, he is listed in the Lam-Rim and Ghantapa Heruka body mandala lineage prayers in bla rgyud gsol 'debs sogs kyi skor phyogs gcig tu bsgrigs pa (v. 2, pp. 419-464 of Pabongkha Rinpoche’s collected works).

Trijang Rinpoche transcribed Pabongkha Rinpoche’s 1921 Lam-Rim teachings, later published as Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. In the discussion of the Southern Lineage of the Manjushri’s Own Words Lam-Rim, Pabongkha Rinpoche mentions that this particular tradition has a long history of great masters in the Dagpo region who achieved great results in conjunction with the Heruka body mandala. These masters were most likely hermits, dwelling in rural Dagpo, isolated from the Lhasa traditions. Thus, their works and lives are less well known, and it was Pabongkha Rinpoche through his connection with Dagpo Jampel Lhundrub (1845-1919)1 who brought them and their southern tradition of this Lam-Rim out of obscurity. Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub received this lineage from Kelsang Tenzin, and Kelsang Khedrup passed it on to Dagpo Jampel Lhundrub, who in turn passed it on to Pabongkha Rinpoche, as quoted from Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand:2

He gave the teaching to the powerful adept Kaelzang Kaedrub, who also achieved his clairvoyant powers through the Chakrasamvara practices. My own precious guru, my refuge and protector, heard the teachings from him.

Thus, Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub was two generations before Pabongkha Rinpoche, being a guru of Dagpo Jampel Lhundrub who was one of Pabongkha Rinpoche’s gurus. A further distinction needs to be made to clarify also that Tagphu Padmavajra is distinct from Dagpo Jampel Lhundrub. Tagphu Padmavajra was also a root guru of Pabongkha Rinpoche and is listed in his lineage prayer of the Ghantapa Heruka body mandala after Kelsang Khedrub. Tagphu Padmavajra and Kelsang Khedrup played critical roles in the development of the Dorje Shugden practice which culminated with Pabongkha Rinpoche.3

As for Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub’s works, in Tibetan Histories (p. 230) a collection of biographies of teachers of the Lam-Rim (Stages of the Path) called Lho Brgyud Lam-rim-gyi Bla-ma Brgyud-pa'i Rnam-thar is attributed to him. The title indicates that it is obviously for the Southern Lineage of the Lam-Rim. Other texts written by Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub have been inventoried at the bkra shis chos gling hermitage in Lhasa. This includes a text on sealed instructions on generating bodhicitta (dwags po skal bzang mkhas grub kyi gsung sems bskyed bka' rgya ma), a text on the generation stage of Heruka Body Mandala (dwags po skal bzang mkhas grub gsung bde mchog lus dkyil gyi bskyed rim la), a text on instructions for the practice of gcod (dwags po skal bzang mkhas grub gsung gcod khrid la).4 Furthermore, Lobsang Tamdin’s catalog5 to the Shugden be bum lists a work called sprul pa'i chos skyong rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal chen po'i bskang 'phrin sbyor dngos cha tshang dge ldan bstan pa'i dbu 'phangs stod byed khams gsum zil gyis gnon pa'i dbyangs rnga written by lha sdings rgyal sras bskal bzang bstan 'dzin mkhas grub. Thus, this text made its way to Mongolia by the time Lobsang Tamdin compiled the Dorje Shugden be bum, and this complete text has been published in the Shugden be bum as well.6

In addition to being an extensive Shugden fulfillment ritual, it also contains praises to Shugden that were later the basis of Trijang Rinpoche’s Music Delighting the Ocean of Protectors. In his introduction to this work, Trijang Rinpoche writes:7

There is a verse of praise of his three secrets by way of expressing his realization, known by its first words of ‘Pagme Kel Ngon’ [Infinite Aeons], composed by Dagpo Kelsang Khedrup with some slight amendments by him who is in essence, all-pervasive Heruka, Vajradhara Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo. The following is a commentary to make that praise easy to understand and to tell the story.

These praises, known as Infinite Aeons, are 19 verses in length in their original form and contain the key elements of Dorje Shugden’s “founding myth.”8 The original verses of Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub’s praises clearly indicate Dorje Shugden previously was Sakya Pandita, the Mahasiddha Birwawa, Panchen Sonam Dragpa and Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen. For Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, he gives various details of his life story and how through the power of bodhicitta he took the form of a dregs (thugs bskyed stobs kyis dregs pa'i yang rjes bzhengs).9 Also mentioned are how wrathful methods were attempted to destroy him, how he was enthroned by the Sakyas as a protector, how he protected the Gelug school, how he was enthroned as the guardian of the Gelug sect by the Chinese emperor, etc. This is even more proof that later masters such as Trijang Rinpoche and Pabongkha Rinpoche relied on earlier masters’ works to make their own historical cases.

Dreyfus claims that Trijang Rinpoche’s Music Delighting the Ocean of Protectors was a commentary on Pabongkha’s praises to Dorje Shugden.10 This is incorrect as Infinite Aeons originated with Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub and was amended by Pabongkha Rinpoche as stated by Trijang Rinpoche himself. The key elements subject to Dreyfus’ skepticism exist in Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub’s original praises. Dreyfus’ mistake may seem innocuous; however, it completely undermines one of his key arguments, namely Pabongkha Rinpoche as the sole manufacturer of the “Shugden myth,” including the association of Dorje Shugden with Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen. This has been shown in various places throughout this essay; however, this particular case is clearly the strongest because Dreyfus cites Trijang Rinpoche’s Music yet does not recognize the statement made by him in the introduction acknowledging Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub as the composer of these praises.11 It is quite clear that Dreyfus does not understand the material he calls into doubt (i.e., Music), evidenced by the issues above and the presence of his comment that “Tri-jang devotes several pages to explaining the many dreams of Shuk-den that he had from the age of seven.”12 For the record, in this text Trijang Rinpoche does not explain his own dreams, nor those of Pabongkha; the dreams “from the age of seven” refer to those of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen as they are found in the section containing part of his secret biography.

As with many other 19th century rituals, this one refers to Dorje Shugden as Protector of the Conqueror Manjunatha. However, Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub’s ritual also appears to be the first to acknowledge Shugden as an emanation or the actuality of Wrathful Manjushri.13 As noted elsewhere, earlier masters stated that he was an emanation of Vajrapani and Avalokiteshvara. The colophon of this ritual says it was written in the fire monkey (me sprel) year, most likely 1896.

In addition, within this ritual is a short serkyem offering which has been published by itself.14 Given the importance of the Heruka practice associated with this master, it is not surprising that the serkyem offering begins as follows:

To the crown jewel scholar Khedrup Je’s
Pure vision of Manjunatha Tsongkhapa
Appearing in five different aspects,
Eighty-four mahasiddha lineage lamas
I offer this serkyem transformed into nectar
From intoxicants by the Samvarodaya,
Partaking please spread the teachings to all beings,
And accomplish the wishes of the doctrine holders.

This structured verse repeats throughout the entire work to various deities. Next is offering to the three main yidams: Guhyasamaja, Heruka and Yamantaka. Then, a whole verse is reserved for each one of the five lineages of Dorje Shugden:

  1. The Dharma protector Dorje Shugden Tsel (chos skyong rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal)
  2. Vairochana Shugden Tsel (rnam snang shugs ldan rtsal)
  3. Rinchen Shugden Tsel (rin chen shugs ldan rtsal)
  4. Padma Shugden Tsel (padma shugs ldan rtsal)
  5. Karma Shugden Tsel (karma shugs ldan rtsal)

Next, the structured verses continue offering to the remaining retinues of Dorje Shugden:

  1. The nine goddesses (lha mo dgu po) are offered to for the sake of removing faults in the four elements ('byung bzhi'i nyes kun zhi ba'i 'phrin las)
  2. The eight monks (dge slong brgyad) are offered to for the sake of pacifying the eight fears ('jigs brgyad zhi ba'i 'phrin las)
  3. The ten youths (stag shar bcu) are offered to for the sake of increasing the results of the ten virtues (dge bcu'i 'bras bu rgyas pa'i 'phrin las)
  4. The attendant (las byed pho nya) Khache Marpo and the Seven Blazing Brothers and Tsiu Marpo ('bar ba spun bdun gnod sbyin tsi'u dmar po) for the sake of blazing good signs (dge mtshan 'bar ba'i 'phrin las)

Considering the above enumerations (discounting Khache Marpo), it appears that Dagpo Kelsang Khedrup’s text is the first to explicitly refer to thirty-two deities Dorje Shugden’s retinue. Whether or not he considered them equivalent to the deities of Guhyasamaja is not clear. However, this is the first ritual to enumerate emanations beyond the five main figures.

1 TBRC Person RID: P4659.

2 Pabongka Rinpoche (2006), p. 57.

3 Dreyfus (1998), p. 246: Pabongkha Rinpoche “received them from teachers such as Ta-bu Pe-ma Baz-ra and Dak-po Kel-zang Kay-drub.” Pabongkha Rinpoche definitely received teachings from the first master mentioned, Tagphu Padmavajra, yet he does not seem to have been a direct disciple of Dagpo Kelsang Khedrub.

4 Three Karchacks (Gedan sungrab minyam gyunphel series, v. 13) (1970), pp. 194-197, New Delhi: Gangs can gyi ljongs su bka' dang bstan bcos sogs kyi glegs bam spar gzhi ji ltar yod pa rnams nas dkar chag spar thor phyogs tsam du bkod pa phan bde'i pad tshad 'byed pa'i nyin byed.

5 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), v. X, p. 404.

6 Guru Deva Rinpoche (1984), pp. 385-415.

7 Music Delighting the Ocean of Protectors (Blo bzang ye shes bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho) (1967), p. 5.

8 Stated as such for the sake of argumentation.

9 Guru Deva Rinpoche (1984), pp. 404-405.

10 Dreyfus (1998), p. 255. Also on p. 256, Dreyfus claims that “The Yellow Book was intended to complement Tri-jang’s commentary on Pa-bongka’s praise of Shuk-den,” which of course is the same mistaken repeated again.

11 Music Delighting the Ocean of Protectors (Blo bzang ye shes bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho) (1967), p. 4.

12 Dreyfus (1998), p. 255.

13 Guru Deva Rinpoche (1984), p. 391: ngo bo 'jam dpal gshin rje'i gshed dang dbyer ma mchis pa rnam pa 'jam mgon bstan bsrung rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal and p. 395 'jam dpal sku gsung thugs yon 'phrin las dngos.

14 'Jam mgon rgyal ba'i bstan srung rdo rje shugs ldan gyi 'phrin bcol phyogs bsdus bzhugs so. Bylakuppe, India: Ser smad gsung rab 'phrul spar khang (1992), pp. 45-48. Also found in Guru Deva Rinpoche (1984), pp. 408-411.