Drubwang Dre'u Lhas (17th century)

“Fast and powerful protector of the Buddhadharma... both wrathful and virtuous.”

The Dre'u Lhas incarnation lineage was based at the Dre'u Lhas monastery in the gNyal region of Southern Tibet. This particular region is in lhun rtse rdzong near the border of Bhutan, a contested area in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Dre'u Lhas incarnation lineage was based on that of the great Drukpa Kagyu master Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529) of Bhutan, who was one of the foremost authentic crazy yogins (myon pa), including other unconventional yet highly-regarded realized masters such as Gtsang smyon Heruka (1452-1507) and Dbus smyon Kun dga' bzang po (1458-1507).1

Like the Ganden Phodrang, the modern Bhutanese state was formed as a reaction to the expansion of the gTsang empire that began emerging in the 16th century. The founder of the Bhutanese nation, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651?), was recognized as the reincarnation of Padma Karpo (1527-1592), a forefather of the Drukpa Kagyu school.2 Yet the recognition of Ngawang Namgyal was challenged by another contender who was backed by the ruler of the gTsang empire.3 After an attempt to settle this dispute by diplomacy, Ngawang Namgyal faced injustice from the gTsang empire and fled to Bhutan. This decision was also inspired by visions and prophecies of his Dharma protector Mahakala in the form of a raven.

In Bhutan, there was already a strong supporting Drukpa Kagyu base, yet the region was divided. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal exceeded inconceivable odds by succeeding not only in uniting the region but also being directly involved in defending it from three invasions by the gTsang empire. After the Fifth Dalai Lama assumed power in the wake of the defeat of the gTsang empire by the Mongols, the Ganden Phodrang proceeded to invade Bhutan three more times.4 Yet Bhutan, under the direction of Ngawang Namgyal, defeated the armies of the Tibetans and the Mongols at every attempt.

Like Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen, Bhutan was the victim of the Ganden Phodrang’s expanding hegemony over the Himalayan region. According to the Fifth Dalai Lama’s autobiography, the regent bSod-nams-chos-'phel, who was the main instigator of rivalry against Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen and the alleged key figure in his murder, became ill due to his mishandling of Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen’s then haunted monastic estate (gzims khang gong).5 bSod-nams-chos-'phel died shortly thereafter in 1658. Yet according to a biography of the Zhabdrung, Bhutanese sorcery was allegedly responsible for his death as well as the death of his Mongol collaborator, Gushri Khan.6 In any case, this illustrates that bSod-nams-chos-'phel’s ruthless reputation was not confined only to Tibet.

During this era, in which the Ganden Phodrang subsumed aristocratic loyalty through instituting an array of incarnation lineages throughout Tibet,7 the Dre'u Lhas incarnation remained an important figure in the Drukpa Kagyu lineage, which was then existent in both Tibet and Bhutan. The recognition of the reincarnation lineage of Drukpa Kunley must have started roughly about a century after his demise as the incarnation records puts his second incarnation as being born around 1650, with the name Drukpa Dragpa Gyaltsen who lived only 25 years. This timeframe of the mid-17th century is the time of the birth of the Ganden Phodrang itself, yet the growing trend of instituting reincarnation lineages seems to have started about a century beforehand.

The third incarnation was Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo, who was born in Lhodrag and lived 58 years.8 The fourth incarnation, Kunga Migyur Dorje (1721-1769), is still particularly well known as a great Drukpa master, and he was also instrumental in the rapprochement of Tibetan and Bhutan in the 17th century. The famed master Lelung Zhepa Dorje fathered Kunga Migyur Dorje.9 Shortly after his birth, Bhutan was internally divided and had a civil war (1729-1735), in which Tibet took one side and finally invaded with success. Yet, the wake of this incident led to the establishment of cordial relations between Bhutan and Tibet. In particular, the Tibetan ruler Pho-lha-nas in an act of diplomacy promoted exchanges between the Drukpa Kagyu in Tibet and Bhutan, which was to their mutual advantage. A key figure in this process for the Tibetan side of the Drukpa was Kunga Migyur Dorje. Ardussi’s article dedicated to this rapprochement states the following about him:

An eclectic religious master and a favorite at the court of the 7th Dalai Lama, who had blessed him with a name as a child. Thus, because of his personal charisma and the legendary importance of 'Brug-pa Kun-legs in both Tibet and Bhutan, g.Yung-mgon-rdo-rje was particularly qualified to fill the role of ecclesiastic intermediary.10

Thus, he became an important and trusted representative for Tibet in warming relations with Bhutan in the 18th century. When he was invited to visit Bhutan in 1739, at first he was not warmly received by the public, not trusting Tibet’s motives; but by the time he left, he was greatly respected.11 The Bhutanese sent back a group of their brightest students with him, who ended up studying at Drepung in 1740-1748.12

Other than that, Kunga Migyur Dorje has a collected works of 12 volumes13 and is particularly known for writing a collection of biographies of tertons (treasure revealers) called gter ston brgya rtsa'i chos 'byung. He was a terton as well.14 Listed among his disciples are abbots of the Bhutanese side of the Drukpa Kagyu including kun dga' rgya mtsho (1722-1772) and shAkya rin chen (1710-1759).

The earliest and most important of Dorje Shugden rituals is called rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi gsol kha 'phrin las 'dod 'jo, or Petition to Dorje Shugden Tsel: Granting all Desired Activities. According to Serkong Dorje Chang (1856-1918), “the upper volume [was written by] the Lord of Siddhis Dre'u Lhas pa and the lower volume [was written by] the learned and accomplished Morchen.” He states that these masters are beyond dispute and that their works’ meanings have all the qualities, their words being especially blessed.15

In fact, both halves of these works are inseparable; Morchen’s part starts with confession which does not stand alone without the beginning invocation, etc. written by Dre'u Lhas pa. This was most likely written by the third incarnation of Dre'u Lhas, Drubwang Tenzin Zangpo, and not the fourth as the latter would have only been seven years old at the time of Morchen Dorje Chang’s passing in 1728. Moreover, it appears that Morchen Dorje Chang began propitiating Shugden as early as the late 1710s, when the third Dre'u Lhas incarnation was most likely still alive.

Like Serkong Dorje Chang’s work that reincorporated this ritual, it was used at the Shugden temple Trode Khangsar in Lhasa and at its parent monastery Riwo Choling in Lhoka. According to Lobsang Tamdin, this particular work was also brought to Mongolia as well, when an oracle of Sangphu Setrapchen was invited there by two Mongolian lamas. The oracle was invoked, at which time he gave took this ritual out of a box and gave it to a monk.16 It was later compiled into Lobsang Tamdin’s catalog.17

The part written by Dre'u Lhas comprises the first half of the ritual, describing and invoking the main figure. The related emanations are referred to but not specifically described as in Morchen Dorje Chang’s part of the ritual. In the description, Dorje Shugden is referred to as the Lord of Death, not just a symbol evoking primal fear but also descriptive of one with the power to unerringly see (mngon sum pa) right and wrong, or as referred to in the Fifth Dalai Lama’s short propitiation text as having the ability to judge right and wrong (legs nyes shan ‘bye). Yet in almost stark literary contrast, only verses later he is invoked with allusions to the Bodhisattva of Compassion Avalokiteshvara, and the manner he manifests in the world is as a Dharma King. The ritual begins with praise to Tulku Dragpa Gyaltsen:

Embodiment of all Conquerors’ wisdom and compassion power,
In degenerate times showing in the form of a spiritual guide,
Doctrine and beings’ sole refuge emanation body [sprul pa'i sku],
At Dragpa Gyaltsen’s feet I bow.

This ritual does some preliminaries through Hayagriva (not detailed here), then proceeds, including the following:

As such appears in the middle of open, wide space from the syllable tsa the King of Dharma, the lord of the powerful and magical, Dorje Shugden.

The description of the main figure includes the following:

Wearing clothes of a renunciate, donning the two upper garments, majestically posed with attentiveness showing various wrathful forms, with one face and two arms, baring teeth. His two eyes blaze like the fire at the end of an eon, his beard and eye brows scintillate crimson. He is wearing a leather hat, his right hand hoists a razor and the left holds a heart. The Lord of Death rides various mounts such as lions, horses, elephants, garudas and can traverse the four continents in the blink of an eye.


Pure, primordial nature, free from grasping,
Unceasing, spontaneous, timelessly unfabricated,
From the ocean of undifferentiable bliss,
As the single moon displays, please come here.

Avalokiteshvara’s field to tame,
Langka, Land of the red faced Rakshas,
Protecting the place, Dharma wheel and temples,
Emanated Dharma king and retinue please come here.

Conquering hordes of enemies with magical power,
For the sake of increasing the religious and worldly power,
Of upholders of the Buddhadharma and especially secret mantra,
And its followers, please come here.

The four great cardinal commander emanations,
Transforming into countless frightful reemanations,
Equal in number to the grains of sand of the earth,
Celestial beings and your retinues please come here.

This is followed by offering verses, including a torma, consisting of approximately four or five verses, which is then followed by verses of praise:

Fast and powerful protector of the Buddhadharma
Overwhelmingly frightful body mandala,
Like the sun illuminating a coral mountain,
Blazing glory clothed as a renunciate,
With one face both wrathful and virtuous.

This praise continues repeating many of the descriptive verses found before the invocation, including verses for entrustment of activities. The ritual concludes with verses of fulfillment (bskang ba), which is where Morchen Dorje Chang’s part of the ritual starts.

1 Smith (2001), p. 60.

2 Pema Karpo was the reincarnation of the founder of the Drukpa Kagyu school Tsangpa Gyarey Yeshe Dorje.

3 Ardussi (1999), p., 65.

4 1642, 1648, and 1656.

5 Yamaguchi (1995), p. 18.

6 Ardussi (1999), p. 66.

7 Smith (2001), p. 123.

8 A List of Recognized Reincarnations (made in about 1819 AD), input and adapted by Dan Martin.

9 TBRC Person RID: P533.

10 Ardussi (1999), pp. 72-73.

11 Ardussi (1999), p. 73.

12 Ardussi (1999), p. 73.

13 Martin (1997), p. 131.

14 TBRC: “described by the source as a recipient of dag snang visions and author of the gter ston brgya rtsa.”

15 Guru Deva Rinpoche (1984), p. 546.

16 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), vol. X, pp. 345-347.

17 Lobsang Tamdin (1975), vol. XIV, p. 402. The full ritual can be found in Guru Deva Rinpoche (1984), pp. 231-243.