Mr. William Cassidy (who likes to refer to himself by his alias, “Tulku Tenpa”) has made what he hopes will be seen as a scholarly, reasoned, “teacherly” exposition of the Dharmapalas, or Dharma Protectors, on his often scurrilous blog, Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar. He seems to feel himself under attack, and wishes to take to the high ground.
Unfortunately, his high ground is so often a space to which only he can go, as in this case. He quotes from teachings by His Eminence Shenpen Dawa Rinpoche that were “obviously intended to be confidential.” (And, yes, there is such a Lama, and, yes, he did give such a teaching. It is archived by Gyatrul Rinpoche’s Yeshe Nyingpo organization.) Why he would break samaya with the Lama and publish his remarks, then, is a question we will not address directly, other than to point out the fact of his doing so.
What is more important is the technique for receiving and offering the teaching. Long-standing Buddhist tradition has reference to the mind of the student as similar to a bowl: if the bowl is turned upside down, the nectar of the teaching will run off untasted. If the bowl is cracked, the teaching will run out before it can be used. Or, IF THERE IS POISON ALREADY IN THE BOWL, IT WILL TAINT THE PURE NECTAR OF DHARMA WITH POISON FOR ANY WHO WOULD DRINK FROM THAT BOWL.
That is the case with Mr. Cassidy’s “teaching” about the Dharmapalas, or Dharma Protectors, of which he displays an entirely primitive understanding. Protectors work to protect lineages, and were sworn by Guru Rinpoche to do so. That is the outer level on which the Protectors are to be understood. They don’t give a fig about individuals unless they are vow breakers, and have therefore stolen merit from the lineage.
Mr. Cassidy, who holds no lineage, spends his life attacking the pure unbroken lineages that are struggling to pour this nectar into our own pitiful vessels, before the nectar is lost and our opportunity is gone. What nectar he has had the privilege of receiving is mixed with his own poison, and the unwary should take heed before drinking at all.
On an inner level, Protectors are the active aspect, as are Dakinis, of our own Buddha nature. And there is a reason that the Protectors are visualized in wrathful form. It’s the same reason that the Dakinis are visualized with drigugs, or flaying knives. They are the embodiment of tough love. They are the embodiment of the ruthless discipline by which the student roots out and destroys one’s own poisons. They are the embodiment of one’s own indefatigable pursuit of the enlightened mind, of the resolve to destroy the delusion of ego.
Mr. Cassidy does right to quote Shenpen Dawa Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and we encourage all readers of this blog to go to the original sources. Mr. Cassidy has not understood, or has chosen to misunderstand, their teachings. His bogus story about his “mother’s” advice shows it all: he understands the Dharma Protectors as external entities, given to punishment. (We really take issue with this humorous little story. Born in Kentucky, raised in Florida, he had a father who was a carnival worker, and a mother who was a seamstress. He is reported to have beaten her mercilessly, once he was old enough. Whatever qualities she may have had, we doubt that she had received instruction in the Dharma.)
Nobody would “sic ’em” on anyone if they knew Dharma. One simply embodies the awakened mind and makes offerings. The Protectors know EXACTLY what to do–and who is the liar and the samaya breaker.
Pure and consistent with Protectors: that’s the way.