Trode Khangsar – A 400 year old Dorje Shugden Chapel in Lhasa
The Trode Khangsar is an important chapel dedicated to Dorje Shugden in Lhasa, Tibet. It was built by His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama towards the end of the 17th Century. Dorje Shugden is an uncommon Dharma protector within Tibetan Buddhism, who is said to protect the Buddhist teachings in general and Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika (Middle Way) Philosophy as taught by Lama Tsongkhapa specifically. Lama Tsongkhapa was the founder of the great Gelug lineage. Dorje Shugden, in his previous incarnation as Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen, was a great scholar, meditator, teacher and contemporary of His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama. After being murdered, Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen arose as Dorje Shugden in order to benefit countless sentient beings.
Due to the heavy negative karma of killing such a great being, the country was unsettled by earthquakes and other disturbances agitated the land. Thinking that these disturbances were due to Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen arising as a malevolent spirit, various high lamas of the land such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other experienced masters such as Mindrolling Lama performed extensive rituals and fire pujas to solve the problem. Known for their powerful ability to subdue spirits, these rituals turned out ineffective as Dorje Shugden could not be destroyed. During the fire puja rituals, the Mindrolling Lama would call Dorje Shugden’s consciousness to the ladle and turn it over to tip him into the fire to be destroyed. Each time the Mindrolling Lama attempted to do this, he would see Yamantaka climb on top of the ladle. After many unsuccessful attempts at killing Dorje Shugden in this manner, the Mindrolling Lama realised he was trying to kill Manjushri and immediately stopped the rituals.
Upon learning of this, His Holiness the 5th Dalai manifested the realisation that Dorje Shugden had not in fact taken rebirth as a malevolent spirit, but had arisen as an enlightened Dharma protector.
As an apology to Dorje Shugden for the murder and the subsequent attempts to destroy him (having mistaken him for a spirit), His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama then composed a praise to Dorje Shugden and created a statue with his own hands to honour and recognize him as a Dharma protector. The 5th Dalai Lama also built this chapel in the heart of Lhasa at the exact same place where Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen’s body had been cremated. This was told to us by the current caretakers of Trode Khangsar, which continues to function to this day as an active chapel propitiating Dorje Shugden.
Trode Khangsar itself is registered as a national heritage memorial, putting it under the care of the Chinese government at a national level. As recently as 2008, the chapel was being renovated by the Chinese Government. Thus Trode Khangsar which is dedicated to Dorje Shugden continues to be another powerful testament to the high respect His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama came to develop for Dorje Shugden.
The Chapel Structure
The chapel is situated in the heart of Lhasa, behind the main Chapel of the Jowo Buddha, also known as the Jokhang Temple, just south of the Barkor area close to the circumambulation circuit. The chapel was originally a three-storied structure and has a front entrance leading directly to the main hall.
The main hall of Trode Khangsar has eight pillars and is adorned with historical paintings of Dorje Shugden’s previous life stories, as well as murals of auspicious symbols and deities such as Indra and Brahma. The paintings of Dorje Shugden’s previous lives include Manjushri, Birwapa, Shakya Shri Bhadra, Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen, Buton Rinchen Drub, Panchen Sonam Drakpa, Sonam Yeshe Wangpo and Ngawang Sonam Geleg. Paintings of special note included Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen (see below), the previous incarnation of Dorje Shugden and Nechung. Nechung is depicted urging Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen to fulfill his promise and arise as a Dharma protector.
Trode Khangsar also houses many precious objects, such as the wood printing blocks for an extensive Dorje Shugden Fulfillment Ritual text by Gaden Jangtse Serkong Dorje Chang, an important Gelug lama from the 19th century. The main hall itself leads to a room in which rituals are conducted and also to rooms for resident monks. The ritual room houses paintings of various Dharma protectors and a statue of Lama Tsongkhapa, together with his spiritual sons, Gyaltsab Je and Khedrub Je.
The third and top most floor was removed during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet and used to be the residence of Trode Khangsar’s oracle. The lowest floor, which is below ground level is not currently used for religious purposes.
Dorje Shugden’s recognition by the Qing Dynasty
Trode Khangsar is also linked to a story illustrating the enlightened power and clairvoyance of Dorje Shugden. During the time of His Holiness the 11th Dalai Lama Khedrub Gyatso, there was a Chinese Amban, or high official, from the Qing dynasty named Che Trungtang, who had a set of important questions to ask Dorje Shugden on behalf of the Chinese Emperor Daoguang. He burned the written questions in front of Dorje Shugden’s image and asked for clear answers and prophesies during a trance of the Dorje Shugden oracle. The following day during the trance of the oracle, he received very clear advice which even matched the order the questions had originally been written in.
The Qing Emperor Daoguang was very impressed by the precision and clarity of the advice given in regards to his important political questions. In return, he sent a pandit’s hat as an offering and recognised Dorje Shugden as a great Dharma protector for the whole of Buddhism. The hat was placed over the door of Trode Khangsar amidst a grand ceremony held in the front courtyard. Many high officials and dignitaries attended this ceremony including His Holiness the 11th Dalai Lama, the Qing Amban, Retreng Rinpoche, the Dorje Shugden oracle and various other monks and lay people.
As of today, Trode Khangsar is open to visit for tourists and pilgrims. The chapel is still in use and the tradition of making offerings and daily pujas conducted by monks continues.
Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen
Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen was a great master, meditator, teacher, logician, yogi, siddha and erudite scholar. During the search for the reincarnation of the 4th Dalai Lama, the young Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen demonstrated such attainments and special signs that he was considered one of the potential candidates for the 5th Dalai Lama.
Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen was an extremely popular teacher who had students from all over Tibet who would come to Drepung to receive teachings from him. His Ladrang grew in fame and influence, which resulted in jealousy among the people serving the 5th Dalai Lama. Afraid that Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen’s fame would eclipse that of their lama, they had him murdered. This took place more than 300 years ago and after his murder, the government banned the search for his reincarnation. His Ladrang (personal household) with his personal items were confiscated. In Tibet, all of his written works were destroyed. Today, the writings we have by Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen exist only because many had been taken to Mongolia for preservation.
Below is a reproduction of an original wall painting in Trode Khangsar depicting Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen’s extensive reincarnation lineage which includes great masters of Tibet and India. This illustration depicts clearly the glorious previous incarnations of Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen who became the world peace protector Dorje Shugden. Click on the images to enlarge them to their original sizes.
For more interesting information:
- Articles on Dorje Shugden
- World’s largest Dorje Shugden shrine
- 10 Holy Dorje Shugden Statues around the World
- Dorje Shugden Teaching Videos
- Who is Tulku Drakpa Gyeltsen?
- Dorje Shugden illustrated story & graphic novel
- The 14th Dalai Lama’s prayer to Dorje Shugden
- Music Delighting the Ocean of Protectors – A Definitive Guide to Dorje Shugden by Trijang Rinpoche
- Panchen Lama’s Dorje Shugden Puja text
- Dorje Shugden Retreat: A powerful practice to fulfill wishes
- Articles on Lama Tsongkhapa
- Tsongkhapa’s daily practice (video commentary)
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