Dorje Shugden: My side of the story (多杰雄登:我这方面的说法) Pt 1 H E Tsem Rinpoche

Hello everyone.

Today I’ve assembled here to give you – my good friends around the world, my supporters and many monks, my teachers and neutral people out there who’d like to understand things more… today, I would like to talk about the World Peace Buddha and Dharma Protector Gyalchen Dorje Shugden. I would like to explain to everyone my relationship with this Dharma Protector. And my intention of giving everyone an explanation of this Dharma Protector is not to convert you or not to get you on my side or not to make you think good or bad in any other way. Over the last ten, fifteen, twenty years, I’ve received many, many, many hundreds, hundreds of enquiries into this Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden. I’ve received many questions from people who practice Dorje Shugden and I’ve received questions from people who don’t practice Dorje Shugden or some who don’t even like Dorje Shugden. And these questions have been piling up more and more and more. So I thought that I will give some explanation to some of the questions. I can’t cover everything tonight but I’ll do my best to cover some of the more important points.

Kechara House – I’m the spiritual advisor of Kechara House, and also the founder along with some very close, beloved and hardworking students… students of the dharma, students of the inner journey. We’ve created Kechara House and today it has grown to be quite big and successful, if I may say so humbly, due to the hard work of everybody in Kechara – the coherence, the harmony and basically our goal together to make our inner world and if possible the outer world a better place to live in.

My mother in her younger days

What I want to talk about first is my relationship with Dorje Shugden, how it came about, and what’s my connection with him. Now, I’m going to give a little bit about my background. I think most of you already know but for those of you who are new, then I’ll explain a little bit. My father was an ex-Drepung Loseling monastic monk or monastery monk in Tibet, and my mother is a descendent of a royal house in Xinjiang. She’s the royal house of Torghut which is the predominant Mongolian group there – tribe – and her mother (my grandmother) and her father (my grandfather) were the ruling family for many generations in that area. And due to the Cultural Revolution, which affected all of China and Xinjiang and Tibet, my father left Tibet and immigrated to Taiwan. My mother left Xinjiang then journeyed to Tibet and then eventually to Taiwan. When my father first went to Taiwan, he didn’t bring his wife and his three children there. And while he was there he had met up with my mom and she was a young girl that time, impressionable and under a lot of scrutiny for being the royal princess at that time because her clansmen are around her. So she was under a lot of scrutiny to act, walk, talk, dress in a certain way necessary of her station in life. And so she had met my father in Taiwan and I guess they had fallen romantically involved and she became pregnant. And when she became pregnant, she was told by my dad that he actually has a wife and family in Tibet. And so this brought a lot of distress and problems and difficulties in their community there because there is a large Mongolian-Tibetan community in Taipei. And so, it was decided by my grandmother and my mother’s side of the family to keep everything hush-hush, and keep everything quiet. And so therefore my mother gave birth to me in Taipei General Hospital quietly and after she gave birth to me, I was never taken in by her or acknowledged by her, or never became a part of her family. And what had happened was that she had contracted some local Taiwanese people there and paid them every single month to watch me, to take care of me. She didn’t actually abandon me but she couldn’t keep me with her because it was not something that you did in those days where a single lady became pregnant, not married, had a child; it’s just not the thing to do back in the sixties. I was born in 1965. This is not to say my mother is right or wrong, or my father is right or wrong. I’m not passing judgement on anyone. This is just telling you the situation of what happened at that time.

And so I was being watched by a family there and I would remember, once in a while, my grandmother used to come and visit me. Now I know it’s my grandmother but of course at that time I did not. And I was told by my mother later on – much, much later on – that at seven months old – I was seven months old, not one year yet – that a group of lamas and monks and teachers came to her house and told her that I was officially recognized as a reincarnation of one of Tibet’s Lamas. Now when I asked my mother what reincarnation, what they said, who was the name of the search party, she says it’s been so long she can’t remember. But I was told by her that they had actually come to recognize me and to, I guess, take me to the monastery to be enthroned at seven months. My mother didn’t allow that to happen. The reason is because when you’re enthroned in a monastery you have to say who your mother’s name is, who your father’s name is, and at that time it would not have been a pleasant experience for the family to say who this child’s family was. So therefore she kept me there and the recognition didn’t take place.

And eventually at around six years old, going on to seven years old, I was taken over to [the] United States from Taiwan. And I remember my grandmother taking me on Pan Am Airlines – it doesn’t exist anymore but it did before – and I arrived in New York and I was taken to my mother’s house with my grandmother and I stayed there overnight. The next day, a Mongolian couple which belongs to their clan, the Torghut clan, drove up from New Jersey and picked me up in a big white Ford car. And I remember my mother telling me… she never ever told me she’s my mum but she told me that, “That’s your parents and you’re gonna go with them.” So I was like, you know at six years old, you’re like, “Okay…” because I thought I had parents in Taiwan, and then I meet these people, I just went along with them. So I was adopted over to the United States by a Kalmyk-Mongolian couple and I lived in Howell, New Jersey, so I arrived at six, seven years old.

My step parents, Burcha and Dana Bugayeff

Now the Kalmyk community there are very interesting. The Kalmyk people are people who originally came from Xinjiang and then conquered Europe, conquered Russia and all of that – as you know, the Mongols conquered everyone. And part of the people went back to Xinjiang, Mongolia, part of the people stayed in Kalmykia. So part of my family is from Kalmykia which is either [the] Western part of Russia in the state called Kalmykia – it’s now there, it’s a Republic now – and then part of my family is in Xinjiang. In fact I have blood family relations now in both places. The Kalmyks during World War 2, there was a Russian Revolution and so the country was turning topsy-turvy and a lot of problems and difficulties, so people emigrated out of the country. And so the Kalmyk people immigrated from Kalmykia and they arrived in the United States. And these hardworking beautiful Kalmyk people are Mongolian in origin. Kalmyk is just like… it’s like in Chinese, you have Canton, you have Fujian, you know, you have different provinces. So Kalmyk is just one of the peoples of Mongolia. There are seventy five nationalities of Mongolians. So they are one of the nationalities. And so they went to the United States and they worked very hard, they brought their culture, they brought their religion which is Tibetan Buddhism, and they brought their food, their customs and their homeland back to the United States and they settled in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, which is Philadelphia City, and New York and New Jersey. So, my Kalmyk people that I was adopted over [to] belonged to New Jersey. And in New Jersey you have three Buddhist Kalmyk temples. Three. You have Nitsan, Rashi Gempil Ling and Tashi Lhunpo. So all three Kalmyk temples have their Kalmyk-Mongolian priests, monks, geshes. Some were educated in the great monastery in Tibet of Drepung Monastery. Then in north of New Jersey there was one more very beautiful Mongolian-Kalmyk monastery run by Geshe Wangyal.

So, I lived in Howell, New Jersey which is a little non-descript small town, nice, and until I was around fifteen, sixteen. And I lived in the Kalmyk community there. You have to remember, half of my heritage is Mongolian, Kalmyk to be specific. Half of my heritage is Tibetan. My father is Tibetan, my mother is Mongolian. So, both cultures practice Tibetan Buddhism, both. So there was no conflict of religion where I lived. So I lived on West 3rd Street, that’s where my step-parents lived, and their name was Burcha and Dana Bugayeff. And they did the best they can for me and they loved me the way they can, and they gave me what they can. In essence, they were kind people, and they wanted me to be who they wanted me to be, like most parents.

Growing up in Howell, New Jersey

Now, I arrived in the United States in 1972. Nearby in Rashi Gempil Ling Temple which is the temple that my parents go to, to worship and pray and you know it’s packed with Kalmyks there… in 1971, one of the greatest Tibetan masters and teachers, and a heart student of Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang arrived. You see, because the Mongolian community there wanted a great teacher, they wanted a great monk so they wrote in and they had this great master come. This great master later became the Abbot of Sera Mey Monastery, an erudite scholar, writer and teacher who lived peacefully and passed peacefully away in Howell, New Jersey. Very much liked by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

So anyway, this great teacher, his name was Kensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche. So for convenience’s sake because the Tibetan names are very long, I will say Kensur Lobsang Tharchin, alright? He was a scholar of the highest class. He was a master of Sutra and Tantra. Not only was he a scholar and master of Sutra and Tantra, he was one of those rare ones that actually practiced and put into practice what he had learned in the great monastery of Sera in Tibet.

Rashi Gempil Ling Buddhist temple, where I met my first teacher, Kensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche

So the Kalmyk community had invited and requested and confirmed this teacher to come to be their resident teacher in our monastery, Rashi Gempil Ling, there in Howell, New Jersey. So can you imagine he came in 1971, I came in 1972. I was six, going on seven years old and guess what? I lived on West 3rd Street; the temple was on something like East 6th Street, isn’t it? East 6th Street, just two, three streets away. And for me to ride my bicycle to the temple, literally took me seven, eight minutes, I rode very fast and also it was very nearby. So just ten minutes away by bike if you go slowly – or by walking fifteen, twenty minutes – just ten minutes by bicycle away, was living one of the greatest dharma teachers of our century, Kensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche. He gave classes, he taught, he conducted meditation retreats, he gave initiations, oral transmissions. You have to understand, he is a scholar that can create many other scholars, one of the highest. And he is a direct student of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang – Pabongka Rinpoche. He is someone in Tibet that served these Lamas, received teachings and lineages from them, and he was the purest monk – very kind, very helpful and used his whole life to serve others by teaching them Dharma tirelessly. I lived ten minutes away from this master, talk about good luck. More than good luck.

I feel in my previous life, I must have made some good prayers to be born near such a great master, just down the street literally. So at a young age when I saw this master, I was entranced. Even at six, seven years old, eight years old, nine years old – I remember, I was in awe of him. No one told me how great he was, who’s gonna tell a little kid how great he is? No one told me what a great scholar he was, what a great master he was, what an incredible meditation teacher he was, no one said that, no one tells that to a seven, eight year old kid. When I saw him, I just said, “There’s something special about this person and I want to follow him.” My little child mind said that to me, “I want to follow him.” That’s what I did. So, I started going for his classes, I started going for his teachings, I started going for his retreats, I started going for the meditations and I became more and more involved, and stronger and that’s it.

What did Geshe-la teach us? Sorry, Kensur Rinpoche; at that time we called him Geshe-la because he wasn’t the Abbot yet. What did Kensur Rinpoche teach us at that time? He focused on Lojong – the transformation of the mind. He focused on us learning about Dharmakirti and debate. He focused on us on Lamrim. He focused on the practice of Heruka and Vajrayogini Tantras. He focused on holding the vows. He focused on doing the meditations and rituals correctly. There was no magic, no hocus-pocus, nothing; very straightforward, very clear Dharma teachings. And I went for this for years. When I was around twelve or thirteen years old, I had been studying with this great master for a few years already, to the consternation of my parents because they adopted me to be their only son, and to grow up to carry their name and get married and have, you know, a lot of sons. That’s what Mongolian parents expect of their children and I wanted to be a monk. I told them I want to be a monk. They were not happy, at all, but that’s another story.

So, when I was around twelve or thirteen, then Kensur Lobsang Tharchin invited his nephew over to help, to run the temple there. So Kensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche invited this nephew of his; as far as I remember, that time his name was Lothar. He invited him over from Sera Monastery, India, and he arrived and he stayed in our monastery and I just remember Lothar being there one day. And so, Lothar spoke no English, but he laughed a lot, he smiled a lot; very jovial, very happy. He was a monk and his job was to serve Kensur Rinpoche, his uncle, and this great master, and to take care of the temple.

So, Lothar was there for a few years. I used to go to the temple because you know, I don’t get to see Kensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche all the time, and you know Kensur Lobsang Tharchin is very strict, very firm, so I was kind of scared of him. But I used to go to the temple all the time to mow the lawn, put fertilizer on, wash the dishes, sweep up the place, clean up the temple, whatever I can do because you have to understand, I really liked the temple. I really liked Kensur Rinpoche. I really wanted to be near him, and serve him. I actually wanted to move to the temple, but I dared not tell that to my parents. That’s what I really wanted, was to move into the temple, wear robes and live there and serve Kensur Rinpoche and study. That’s what I really wanted to do. So in lieu of that I just went there as much as possible to serve. And let me tell you a little secret – I actually went there to the temple to serve in hopes I get a glimpse of Kensur Rinpoche and he’ll call me and give me special teachings. Usually he’ll tell me, “Eat the momos, go home.” So that was my secret wish, was to bump into Kensur Rinpoche and get special teachings. Not that I feel I’m special but I really, I loved him very much, I still do. Now, the special teachings never happened, one to one. I used to get stern stares from him. He used to look at me with stern stares. So I’d look back like this.

Anyway, I was a precocious, slightly naughty child. Maybe that was why the stern stares but anyway, Lothar and me became friends, that’s Kensur Rinpoche’s nephew. Lothar and me became very good friends so I used to go visit the temple almost every day, especially in the summer, and just hang out. I’d do my prayers there, help them clean up and laugh and joke and he… Lothar inscripted me to teach him English. So I taught him a little English, ABCs and all that stuff.

One day Lothar was downstairs cleaning the kitchen, and I’m very precocious, very nosy, very interested and very busybody. I’m the type if you tell me, “Don’t touch it”, I’ll make sure I’ll touch it and twice. So while Lothar was downstairs cleaning up, he told me, “Wait here.” Of course I didn’t listen. He said don’t go to his room or don’t go upstairs because that’s Kensur Rinpoche’s room and that’s his room next to it and all that stuff. Well I dared not go into Kensur Rinpoche’s room because you know, I just dare not. I snuck upstairs to his room, and I wanted to see what a monk’s room looks like. What does a monk have, what’s in his drawer, what’s in his closet, what’s on his bed, what’s under his bed, what kind of bed he uses because I really wanted to be a monk. I really am interested in what monks do.

So I snuck up to his room, Lothar was downstairs, humming away, washing dishes you know, and then I could hear him and guess what? I opened everything up, I looked at everything. There was his robes, his prayer beads, his… you know, his monk items, his bed and all that. I opened up the closet. When I opened up the closet… America has an open closet, when you slide it open, guess what I saw? The closet was totally empty and there was a shelf on top. And there was a black and white picture. Black and white picture with a cup of tea in front of it. And the black and white picture had a figure that… something like that. That’s all I can remember.

So by the time I reached up and I grabbed the picture so I can get a better look, and memorize it because that’s what I like to do, when I grabbed the picture in, Lothar walked in, grabbed the picture from my hand and said, “No, no, no, no! That’s not for you!” I said, “Why not? What’s that picture?” He said, “Not for you.” I said, “Can you tell me his name?” “Not for you!” “Who is it?” “Not for you!” “Why is he in there alone in the closet with a cup of tea?” “Not for you.” That was the answer, because he… I think that’s all he can say, he didn’t speak English much. “Not for you!” So he put the picture back, he put the cup back – I spilled it a little bit – and then he closed the closet door. I opened it, he closed it again, and I said, “I want to see.” He said “Nope.” Years later, I realized it’s Dorje Shugden. So, that was my first encounter with Dorje Shugden, ever. My first encounter.

Then things at home went topsy-turvy. My parents were extremely unhappy with me wanting to be a monk, going to the temple, staying at the temple, getting more and more involved. They were very, very unhappy. So, they started creating a lot of problems for my teacher and they were in fact trying to get him deported. I know, how did it become like that, but it became like that. They were unsuccessful, thank goodness, because nobody else believed what they were saying. And their real purpose was that, to get him out of my life. So, this happened over and over again, you know, I was going through a lot, a lot of problems with my parents who would not let me study. They would ground me, sometimes I would be beaten, sometimes I’d be punished, sometimes I’d be yelled at. Sometimes I’d be in teachings at the temple and my father would walk in, to my embarrassment.

So this went on for a few years until I couldn’t take it anymore and I left home. I left home; I hitchhiked from Howell, New Jersey to New York City; from New York City I hitchhiked across the country to Los Angeles. My intention was Hawaii but I didn’t have boat fare, forget about airplane. So I ended up staying in Los Angeles. Now when I arrived in Los Angeles, I lived at a cousin’s house for a few months and I was looking for a Dharma center. I went to the University of Oriental Studies and there was a very kind professor there called Dr. Leo Pruden. And I walked in and I met Dr. Leo Pruden. You have to understand, I was walking around Los Angeles and in the Yellow Pages – there’s no Internet and Google that time – in the Yellow Pages I found the University of Oriental Studies. And I thought, “Well Oriental, Buddha, Tibet, must be related.” So my little mind told me, “Go there.” I was fifteen, going on sixteen. So I don’t know how I found it; I found the address, I asked directions. I walked to the University of Oriental Studies – it took me hours – and I arrived. When I arrived there I looked for Dr. Leo Pruden and I told him, “I’m a Tibetan… I’m a Mongolian boy and…” – that time I told him – “I’m a Mongolian boy and I’m looking for an altar, a shrine where there’s a Buddha and I’d like to sit in front and do my practice, my meditation and my mantras.”

And he said, “Oh, you’ve come to the wrong place, my boy. This is a university but we don’t have any shrines here but I can take you to a place that has a shrine.” I said, “Really?” So Dr. Leo Pruden, out of the goodness of his heart, packed me inside his car, drove me for about twenty minutes away and we arrived at 135 St. Andrews Place in Los Angeles. There was a non-descript bungalow house there. From the outside it just looks like any other bungalow house and I walked in with Dr. Leo Pruden and guess what I saw? The whole living room was transformed into a Dharma center. So you have thangkas hanging on all the walls. The carpet is kind of… if I remember, it’s got Tibetan carpets on, on top of the wood. There’s meditation cushions stacked everywhere neatly. There’s an altar there with a throne to the Dalai Lama. There’s an altar there with Lama Tsongkhapa and Buddha and Tara and all that stuff. And below the altar, on the floor, with the sunshine streaming in through yellow curtains, was Geshe-la – Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen of Gaden Shartse Monastery. Well, Gen is one of… a great scholar from Gaden Monastery, a great practitioner; again, a student of Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, again. So I walked in there, can you imagine? 15 years old, met Dr. Leo Pruden one hour ago, he drives me to 135 St. Andrews Place, I walk in and in the corner there’s this Tibetan Lama, meditating. There’s a statue above him of Lama Tsongkhapa and the light streaming in on him. And I walked in and Dr. Leo Pruden introduced me to Geshe-la, and I told Geshe-la my history. I told him what happened, I told him how I got to Los Angeles, why I’m here and Geshe-la said to me, “Wow! This is very good.” He said, “Today is Tsog Day, the Tibetan lunar tenth of the month, so we’re going to have Tsog tonight” and I’m like, “Wow!” “Why don’t you come tonight?” So I was like, “Okay.” I was so excited. I’m in Los Angeles, all by myself, 15 years old, going on 16. I had my freedom, I found a Buddhist master, there’s no more restrictions from my parents. I’m alone and I just walked in and I find this master. Again, how did that happen? And a student of Trijang Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche some more, okay?

This house used to be Thubten Dhargye Ling Dharma Centre. They have since moved to larger premises

So, I ran around the city, I went here and there – I didn’t have any money – I walked here, hung out at the bus stops – my favorite place was the bus stops because they’re free – and drank some drinks and stuff and I prepared myself for Tsog. Then I walked back to the center, I went for Tsog. And in New Jersey we learnt how to do the rituals already. You know, the vajra and bell, doing the mudras, doing the chanting. So I sat in the front; Geshe-la had made me sit in the front and the place was packed, maybe about 60 students, 70 students. We did Lama Chopa Tsog. So afterwards they were like, “Wow, you are 15 years old, where did you learn to do that? How did you learn how to chant? How did you learn how to do the pujas and the Tsog and all that stuff?” I didn’t think it was a big deal because everybody in New Jersey did it – well I did.

So anyway after that, Geshe-la introduced me to everybody and told everybody my situation and all that. And there were some nice committee members there. One of the committee members took pity on me and she talked to the committee and lowered the rent to the room downstairs to the bungalow, can you imagine, for US$160 a month? You see, in the Western Dharma centers, you pay the Dharma centers, you don’t get a salary, you don’t get a stipend, you don’t get free rooms, you don’t get gifts, you don’t get anything. Everybody’s very poor. You pay the center to be there. You pay the center to attend teachings. So and that’s the norm because people got to pay their bills. So she got the rental reduced down to US$160 and listen to this – there are four bedrooms upstairs, a library, a living room, a kitchen and one small maid’s room downstairs, near the entrance to the bathroom. And that small room downstairs was about… maybe 8ft by 10ft, something like that, which is fabulous and I got the room. They talked to the committee, they approved for me to live there. They allowed me to live there. I could not believe it! I moved in to the Dharma center; I took my two bags, I didn’t have much. I moved in to the Dharma center, I lived downstairs. Just behind the wall is our meditation hall, the meditation prayer hall, with Tsongkhapa, the thrones. And every Sunday, Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen gave teachings right there. You know, I’d get out of bed, fix my hair and walk in – I’m in Lamrim class! Can you believe that? I’m in Lamrim class!

Every… and every day, I got the pleasure, the honor and the meritorious opportunity to clean Geshe-la’s room, to serve him tea 10, 12 times a day – Geshe-la liked tea a lot – to do his laundry, to clean up the meditation hall, the gompa. I got the pleasure to cook for Geshe-la, to do his shopping and to maintain the whole house because upstairs there’s one or two students staying with Geshe-la but the students went to work. I went to work but I only worked part-time. So I lived in this Dharma center called Thubten Dhargye Ling on 135 St. Andrews Place, with another great living Buddha, Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen. Can you believe that?

But I had one small obstacle. You see, because in the “Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion” it says if you have a Guru you do not need to go to another Guru or study with another Guru or be with another Guru. One Guru, one… stick to one Guru.

So I wasn’t able to get teachings from him because I had my Guru in New Jersey which I loved and I treasured and there is nothing wrong. The only time you switch Gurus is when your Guru tells you to get this from another Guru or you learned enough and it’s time to move on, with your Guru’s permission. So, what happened was, I called up – and that time calling long-distance was very expensive – I called up Geshe-la… I called up Kensur Rinpoche in New Jersey and I told him why I had run away – he knew – and where I am now. And I told him, “I am in Los Angeles in the house of Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen. May I study with him?” Now, if Kensur Rinpoche in New Jersey said no, I would have just moved out. He’s my Guru and I have to follow him.

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