DO SAKYAS RELY UPON DORJE SHUGDEN?
By Jeff Watt
It has been correctly pointed out many times that Sakya, specifically the Khon family, played a role in the early development of the Shugden cult. The worldly spirit (in Tibetan 'gyalpo' meaning king, a type of ghost) having one face and two hands mounted on a black horse was grouped with the senior worldly protectors of the town of Sakya namely Tsi'u Marpo and Dorje Setrap (these two are Nyingma in origin and not exclusive to Sakya). This trio is called the 'Gyalpo Sum' - the Three King Spirits. In the town of Sakya there is a small temple called the Mug chung Gong khang where the offering service of Shugden was carried out by a monk appointee. This small structure was just north of the Zhi tog Pho drang (Sakya Government Building).
Sakya Trizin Sachen Ngawang Kunga Lodro (1729-1790?) composed an new offering service for Shugden based on the 'torma throwing' ritual of the 'Three Kings.' Later, Sakya Trizin Trakshu Thinley Rinchen (1871-1936) in his personal diaries written on scraps of paper starting from the age of 8 years records all his thoughts, dreams and miscellaneous experiences. After his passing these were collected and added to his biography. In these diaries, amongst many other topics, he muses over the nature of Shugden and the relationship between Shugden, his father (S.T. Kunga Nyingpo) and his grand-father (S.T. Tashi Rinchen) of whom Trakshu Thinley Rinchen was the incarnation. These are regarded as an interesting curiosity within the Drolma Podrang of the Khon family as well as being their personal family business.
It has of course been pointed out by others as well as myself that H.H. Sakya Trizin (of the Drolma Podrang) does not himself practice Shugden - this based on the instructions of his root guru, nor does his sister follow the worldly protector practice. I personally have also spent a great deal of time with the two Gongma Lamas of the Phuntsok Podrang and although Mahakala, Magzorma (the Podrang's family protector), Tsi'u Mara and even the Sakya Barmo witches were discussed many times, I cannot recall one conversation about Shugden. All of this however was prior to 1984 before the Dalai Lama began to speak out about the worldly protector. At the Sakya Monastery in Seattle, Wash., Dagchen Rinpoche has not included any worldy protectors in the regular Mahakala & Protector Pujas, subsequently the 'Three Kings' are absent.
The personal anecdote offered to ARBT relating to Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche and Shugden was very nice and is definitely worth following up, but it is just an anecdote. An anecdote is like one half of a wheel. It just doesn't get you very far.
As for the notion of a 'secret line' of Shugden practice/practitioners within Sakya, this is absurd. Tibetan culture, Buddhist and otherwise, has many secrets and many that should have been kept secret but this half-baked idea enters the realm of fantasy and science fiction.
Now to the matter of Gorampa. To this day, the refutations against Tsongkhapa's madhyamika view by Gorampa Sonam Senge have not even been replied to by the great Gelugpa scholars of the past few hundred years. Instead, the defenders of Tsongkhapa have attacked the intellectual juniors of Gorampa such as Taktsang Lotsawa, Shakya Chogden and others (see Jeffrey Hopkins, Meditation on Emptiness). Also, Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (the founder of Ngor), a contemporary, critisized Tsongkhapa's understanding of Tantra. Please understand that these are not ramblings or sectarian explitives but are commonly known to all who have studied Madhyamika within the greater family of the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition. For the Sakya School Sakya Pandita is the definitive scholar and teacher. Gorampa Sonam Senge is the definitive scholar in explaining the difficult meanings of Sakya Pandita's works. Many Gelugpa monasteries banned outright Gorampa's works from entering their premises. The works of some other Sakya lamas which critisized Tsongkhapa or seemed at odds with those views were banned from publication entirely within Tibet and were only preserved secretly and re-published openly from Bhutan after 1959.
Just to clarify an item that has been mentioned more than once. Mahakala is not the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. There is an emanation of Avalokiteshvara which arose in the form of Mahakala and this is the Shangpa Kagyu Mahakala with one face and six arms, in a standing posture. This form was later adopted by Tsongkhapa and followers as the main protector of the Gelugpa School. Mahakalas can arise from various sources namely Vajradhara and the Anuttarayoga Tantras but are not generically Avalokiteshvara.