Jigme Norbu (1831-1861), the Fourth Zhabdrung Mind Incarnation

“I enthrone you as the Great King of Dharma Protectors.”

As mentioned earlier, the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was instrumental in forming Bhutan as a state independent of Tibet at the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama. The Zhabdrung also established a dual system of government split between the Desi, whose duty was civil administration, and the Je Khenpo, whose duty was to lead the Central Monk Body. The succession of the Desi was marked by bloody power struggles, and ultimately the role became obsolete with the rise of the monarchy in 1907. As for the succession of the Zhabdrung himself, after his death a single reincarnation was not recognized, but instead three: one each for his body, speech and mind. Generally, the mind reincarnation was recognized as the Zhabdrung.1

The Je Khenpo is still the head of the Drukpa Kagyu sect in Bhutan, and likewise the Zhabdrung has his roots as being the reincarnation lineage of the Drukpa master Pema Karpo (1527-1592). However, as the terton Pemalingpa (1450-1521) was born and based in Bhutan, his Nyingma legacy was eventually absorbed by the Drukpa sect, as is evidenced by the collected works of the Drukpa hierarchs. However, it would be an understatement to understand Pemalingpa’s influence in Bhutan as being merely spiritual; his familial descendents were highly sought after and married into lay and religious nobility in Bhutan.2

All of these aforementioned aspects of Bhutan are reflected in Jigme Norbu, the Fourth Mind Incarnation of the Zhabdrung (zhabs drung thugs sprul). He was born into a family descendent of Pemalingpa, and among his teachers were several important Je Khenpos: Sherab Gyaltsen (25th Je Khenpo), Padma Zangpo (27th/29th Je Khenpo), Jampel Gyatso (30th Je Khenpo), and Yonten Gyaltsen (31st Je Khenpo). In addition to being recognized as the Mind Reincarnation of the Zhabdrung, he was also briefly enthroned as Desi in 1851 at the recommendation of the Central Monk Body. However, this term was short lived as he became subject to a political coup, a sign of the times. He was forced to resign in 1852 and escaped to Tibet.3

Jigme Norbu’s collected works have been published as The Collected Works (gsung 'bum) of the Fourth Zhab-drung Thugs-sprul of Bhutan 'Jigs-med-nor-bu (1831-1861) in 1984 by the National Library of Bhutan. This consists of one volume, 1071 pages. Pages 735-785 consist of a ritual to various protectors called bka' gter srung ma rnams mchod cing 'phrin las bcol ba'i rim pa khrag 'thung khros pa'i gad rgyangs zhes bya ba bzhugs so. The introduction puts emphasis on Guru Rinpoche pad ma thod 'phreng, Powerful Lotus of the Garland of Skulls, the embodiment of all objects of refuge and his followers of his tradition, especially the terton Pemalingpa, and their protectors.

The ritual includes instructions on setting up tormas, and annotations of different sections, such as invocation and prostration (phyag 'tshal). Among the protectors enumerated in this ritual are Mahakala (dpal mgon), Palden Lhamo, Tsering Chenga, Rahula (gza' bdud chen po), zhing skyong ma, pha ma bu gsum, Tsiu Marpo, bya khrid btsan rgod, Dorje Shugden, and jag pa me len. On page 746, Dorje Shugden is invoked from Lanka (as in the ritual by Dre'u Lhas) and Lhasa (lang ka'i grong dang lha ldan rgyal khabs). A praise to all protectors is near the end of the ritual on pages 782-783:

Unborn nature pure dharmakaya,
Ceaseless, self-manifest, spontaneous sambhogakaya’s power,
Praise to the ocean of oath bound protectors showing various
Four activities in the inconceivable nirmanakaya’s dance.

Pages 910-929 contain a ritual devoted to Dorje Shugden alone, called rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi gsol kha 'phrin las myur 'grub zhes bya ba bzhugs so. The ritual starts with this devotional verse:

Until enlightenment I prostrate to the feet of the Maha Guru Padmasambhava, manifestation of all Buddhas of the three times.

The initial verses that describe Dorje Shugden match those in the ritual written by the previous Drukpa master, Dre'u Lhas. Throughout the ritual, there are verses that match verbatim, some that match with a few additions, and completely new verses interspersed as well. For example, in the verse before the invocation (spyan 'dren) from his vajra mansion, there is the addition of verses naming the various dwellings of Dorje Shugden: dpal sa skya'i gtsug lag khang (at Sakya Monastery), dol dum bu chos 'khor, and Lhasa Trode Khangsar. This ritual also includes the invocation verse found in the ritual of Dre'u Lhas with some minor changes. For example, the ritual of Dre'u Lhas contains:

'jigs rten dbang phyug thugs rje'i gdul bya'i zhing
'jigs rung gdong dmar lang+ka sring po'i yul
gnas dang chos 'khor gtsug lag skyong mdzad pa'i
sprul pa'i chos rgyal 'khor bcas gshegs su gsol

Yet, Jigme Norbu writes:

snying rje'i dbang phyug gang 'dul gdul bya'i zhing
'jigs rung gdong dmar lang+ka srin po'i grong
chos 'khor gtsug lag gnas yul skyong mdzad pa'i
sprul pa'i chos kyi rgyal po gshegs su sol

Thus, the verses are very close to the same meaning with some minor changes in the wording. The invocation verses end with a mantra not found in Dre'u Lhas’ ritual: dha rma pA la rA dza ba dzra be ga Na a rda sa pa ri wa ra sa ma ya dza dza. As in Dre'u Lhas’ ritual, next are sections for offering and dedicating a torma.

Next, in both rituals are verses of praise. The first line in Jigme Norbu’s praise was changed from Dre'u Lhas’ to state that Dorje Shugden is the great protector who is the collection of all Buddhas’ power (rgyal kun mthu stobs gcig bsdus bstan bsrung che). Dre'u Lhas’ ritual only describes the central figure with vague reference to other emanations, yet Jigme Norbu’s entrustment of activities explicates the four surrounding figures and consists of the verses credited to Morchen Dorje Chang with a few minor changes. This is followed by verses for fulfillment (bskang ba), then confession verses.

Ordered to protect the essential doctrine
By Padma Wang and Jamyang father and sons
Heruka and Vajrakapalamalin [Guru Rinpoche],
Dorje Shugden and retinue consider me.

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

Fully empowered and vajra-sealed
By deathless Vidyadhara Vajrakapalamalin [Garland of Skulls Guru Rinpoche],
To protect the general and specific doctrine,
I enthrone you as the Great King of Dharma Protectors.

Overall, this ritual is unique in that it contains special reference to Guru Rinpoche throughout. Yet, obviously based on an earlier ritual, it is still an open question if incorporation of Dorje Shugden as a protector was unique to this master alone in the Bhutanese Drukpa Kagyu sect, or if his masters (Je Khenpo) propitiated him as well. It is probably more than coincidence that it is based on the ritual by Dre'u Lhas, the only other Drukpa found so far to have propitiated Dorje Shugden.

1 Rose, Leo E. (1977). The Politics of Bhutan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 26-28.

2 Aris, Michael. (1988). Hidden Treasures and Secret Lives. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, pp. 105-106.

3 Dorji, C.T. (1994). History of Bhutan based on Buddhism. Thimphu, Bhutan : Sangay Xam in collaboration with Prominent Publishers, pp. 135-136.