Let’s stick to the facts – who are our teachers?

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“O monks and wise men, just as a goldsmith would test his gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, so must you examine my words and accept them, not merely out of reverence for me.”   ~ The Buddha

“I think this is a special characteristic of Buddhism. We must enjoy this right of critical analysis that the Buddha gives us.”  ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama


So much information has been flying around lately. People are being told not to listen to online rumors – fair enough. Let’s stick to the facts – who are our teachers?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s relationship with Bliss and Wisdom

In 2005, one year after Master Jih-Chang (日常老和尚) passed away, the secretary-general of Bliss and Wisdom, Mr Lu Ke-Jhou (盧克宙), declared,

Bliss and Wisdom shall continue Master Jih-Chang’s practice of relying on His Holiness the Dalai Lama as our guru. This direction will not change.

Bliss and Wisdom’s magazine, Voice of Bliss and Wisdom, carried an article summarizing Mr Lu’s statements. You can find it on the magazine’s website (now amended to read Rinpoche instead of the Dalai Lama), and the same statement on other websites, which show the original text as “the Dalai Lama” (here, here and many more).  Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt – maybe they’re under Chinese scrutiny?

Many photographs and records of Master Jih-Chang and the monks meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama are available. Here’s one:

shifu and dl

Voice of Bliss and Wisdom carried a message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in its Nov 2004 issue. This is the official online copy (now also amended to read Rinpoche), and from other websites. Here is an excerpt:

He (Master Jih-Chang) would always consult me whenever important decisions about the foundation had to be made. And he would take my advice. In future, as though he were still alive, I shall take the responsibility of taking care of both monks and lay followers of the organization, and keep praying for your efforts in upholding the pure teachings. If you have any problems, just as in the past, don’t be afraid to ask me directly. I will also express my thoughts to you.

There is completely no doubt at all that Master Jih-Chang saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama as his teacher, which His Holiness has acknowledged publicly. Much of that information is in the public domain – Bliss and Wisdom’s own records, photographs and videos from old archives in various hands.

Harwa Jamyang Lodro Rinpoche – the Lady Successor’s Guru

The Lady supposedly had over 50 gurus, but two of her most important ones are Harwa Jamyang Lodro Rinpoche, and Master Jih-Chang. After Master Jih-Chang passed away, The Lady has continued to receive guidance from Harwa Rinpoche.

The Lady first became acquainted with Harwa Rinpoche in Lhakang Serbo (西黄寺) in Beijing. You can read her story on the Voice magazine here.

There is no dearth of information online about him (on Baidu), even from the official websites of Bliss and Wisdom: here and here. There’s one in English here; let me reproduce an excerpt:

Harwa Ringpoche is head of Gomang monastery in Amdo Nagwa. He is one of the greatest Buddhist masters living in the world today. He was recognized as the fourth reincarnation of Harwa Rinpoche when he was three years old.   He moved to Gomang monastery to study Buddhism when he was four years old.  In 1958, when he was nine years old, the monks were expelled from the monastery.  He moved back with his family in Gomang Thawa village near the Monastery.  In 1960, he studied Chinese at Gomang elementary school. From 1964 he worked on the farm and when he was eighteen he was sent to the mountains as a shepherd. He spent twelve years on the mountains with the sheep.

From 1976 to 1979, in his free time he studied from private teachers such as the late scholar Ven. Merge Samten Ringpoche.  Since the 1980s, he began to actively rebuild the monastery, preserve cultural values and set up social activities.

In 1987, Ringpoche studied at the Beijing Buddhist Institution under the direction of the 10th Panchen Lama, and graduated in 1988. After his graduation, His Holiness the Panchen Rinpoche appointed him as the chief of the Buddhist Research Department at the Institute in Beijing.

In 1990, he took the final examination on the five major subjects of Buddhism: Prajinaparamita, Madhyamika, Vinaya, Abhisamyalamkara, and Pramanas at Gomang Monastery.  From 1992 to 1995 he served as Gomang monastery’s abbot.

Harwa Rinpoche and The Lady have produced a book together, The Four Interwoven Annotations.

Harwa Rinpoche is popular in China. Here’s a photograph of him with actress Cecilia Cheung giving blessings for the shooting of a movie:

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Construction of several new buildings was recently completed in Gomang Monastery, Aba (Ngawa) County, Sichuan Province (source), funded by Bliss and Wisdom. The sheer scale of the buildings is impressive:

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New buildings in the background; old buildings in the foreground

The South China Morning Post writes:

Beijing […] is ‘pushing the Shugden cult… to play on these divisions’ in Tibetan areas of China. ‘It’s obviously working.’

A tourist who recently visited the Sertri and Kirti monasteries reports that the former, a Shugden stronghold, has been ‘remarkably renovated, very clean, [with] fresh paint and certainly well-financed’ while the latter, which supports the Dalai Lama, remains untouched. Many of its monks were arrested and beaten after the protests in Tibetan areas in 2008.

Dreyfus says: ‘[The Chinese] didn’t instigate it but they are using it and putting oil on the fire. In Tibet they are helping pro-Shugden lamas, that’s very obvious. They give special privileges or support to certain monasteries.’

Kirti Monastery is located in Aba (Ngawa) County.

No evidence or information is available on whether Gomang Monastery propagates Shugden. But with a brand new 12-storey building on the Tibetan plateau, they are in no way flying under the radar as far as the Chinese Communist Party is concerned.

Of course, just because Harwa Rinpoche is well connected to the CCP does not necessarily mean that he does not possess the qualities of a guru. Whether someone possesses the qualities of the guru is something to be evaluated according to the scriptures.

The Two Ganden Tripas

Bliss and Wisdom’s relationship with the 102nd and 103rd Ganden Tripas, the throne holder of Lama Tsongkhapa and head of the Gelugpa sect, dates back to the time before Master passed away.

The system of succession to the Ganden Tripa is automatic, but each appointment is confirmed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The most senior former abbots of Gyume and Gyuto Tantric Colleges are appointed as the Jangtsey Chojey and Sharpa Chojey respectively; the Jangtsey Chojey and Sharpa Chojey are in turn appointed to the Ganden Tripa on an alternating basis. The Ganden Tripa’s term is 7 years.

Each year, either the 102nd Ganden Tripa or 103rd Ganden Tripa is invited to Taiwan to preside over the Monlam Festival, and give teachings for up to 2-3 months.

monlam
HH Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche was appointed as the 103rd Ganden Tripa Rinpoche in Oct 2016, and passed away on 21 Apr 2017.
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HH Sharpa Chojey Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche welcomed by Bliss and Wisdom monks in Taiwan, 2016
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HH Sharpa Chojey Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoche performing rituals in Fengshan Monastery, 2016
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HH 102nd Ganden Tripa Rizong Rinpoche giving teachings to Bliss & Wisdom in Taiwan, 2017

Throughout the years, the two Ganden Tripas have not commented in public about The Lady Successor. Nor have there been any records of them meeting The Lady. Furthermore, The Lady has only visited Taiwan thrice (Mar 2015, Dec 2015, and Apr 2016).

This post is entitled “Let’s stick to the facts”, so I will stop here. Since his departure from the organization, the first abbot of Fengshan Monastery Ven Fan Yin has provided much more information. Stay tuned.

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