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The Birth of Dorje Shugden
This gruesome incident was merely a condition necessary to allow Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen to fulfill a pledge from several lifetimes earlier. According to the law of interdependent origination—a rule Buddha posits as a definitive truth—Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen arose as the protector deity Dorje Shugden as a result of being killed.15 Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen made a promise lifetimes earlier to the official state protector, Nechung (gnas chung), in the presence of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug sect, to become a protector himself. The situation with Sonam Rabten, provided the catalyst or conditions (rkyen) for this to happen.
Although this story may sound peculiar to non-Tibetans,16 nearly all protectors in Tibetan Buddhism have an origination story in which a set of grisly events leads to their transformation into a protector deity. This account is relatively mild by comparison to other protectors such as Pehar, Four-faced and Four-armed Mahakala and Tsiu Marpo. 17 Not only that, Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen’s life and murder has been historically accepted by many as true, not a myth,18 with no official explanation why his reincarnation lineage was not sought out or continued after this.
15 Just as a reincarnate lama (sprul sku) depends on a father and mother to take birth as a human Buddha (skye ba sprul sku), all the conditions consistent with the phenomenal world must be met. Similarly, a state of anger, such as when one is murdered, is concomitant with taking birth as a spirit.
16 Whether one accepts protector deities as true or not, they have been officially involved in the Mongolian and Tibetan government’s affairs for at least the last 350 years. Moreover, whoever has witnessed an oracle under the influence of a recognized deity such as Dorje Shugden will mostly likely realize it is not an act.
17 For these accounts, see Ladang Kalsang’s The Guardian Deities of Tibet.
18 There are some accounts that claim he committed suicide, but these are most likely distorted oral accounts or were politically motivated to cover up the Fifth Dalai Lama’s administration.