Dorje Shugden in Sikkim


  • GS: Waddell, Laurence A. (1894). Lamaism in Sikhim in the Gazetteer of Sikhim. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press.

A survey of Dorje Shugden rituals has found Dorje Shugden propitiation in many diverse Himalayan regions such as Bhutan, rural Nepal, and of course U-Tsang. Hitherto unknown to this author was if Dorje Shugden was known or propitiated in Sikkim, a unique Tibetan Buddhist kingdom now part of India. However, some important details regarding this matter can be found in Laurence Waddell's (1854-1938) book Lamaism in Sikkim. Waddell was one of the earliest British experts on Tibet and travelled extensively in Sikkim in the 1890's. Lamaism in Sikkim was first published in the Gazetteer of Sikhim in 1894.

Tibetan Buddhism is relatively new to Sikkim with primary credit given to Lhatsun Chenpo, a Nyingma lama (GS, 248). Waddell lists three types of Nyingma schools in Sikkim with the Lhatsunpa as the main one with its head monastery being Pemayangtse (Pemiongchi) (GS, 250). Pemayangtse was founded in 1705 by one of the reincarnations of Lhatsun Chenpo called Jigme Pawo (P672). Waddell also states that Pemayangtse's parent monastery was the Nyingma monastery Mindroling in Tibet (GS, 252), and Pemayangtse was regarded as the standard on which the other monasteries tried to live up to (GS, 294). It was one of only two monasteries in Sikkim that had the complete Kagyur and Tengyur (GS, 291), and was one of the few institutions in which strict celibacy was observed in Sikkim(GS, 302). Also, the lamas of Pemayangtse have the sole rights to consecrate the Chogyal (king) of Sikkim, making it the most important monastery in Sikkim.

In an examination of Sikkim temples, Waddell states that one of the vestibule guardians of Pemayangtse was Gyalpo Shugden. Waddell adds that he was formerly the learned lama Panchen Sonam Dragpa, falsely charged with licentious living and was deposed, and took the form of Gyalpo Shugden afterwards (GS, 261).

Although this reference is brief and leaves one begging for more details, it is quite significant for several reasons:

  • Given that Pemayangtse was essentially under Mindroling Monastery in Tibet shows there was no Nyingma campaign against Shugden.
  • This was published in 1894 and shows in this earlier era that Dorje Shugden was regarded as in the continuum of Panchen Sonam Dragpa. This is significant because Dreyfus in The Shuk-den Affair has tried decoupling this lama from Dorje Shugden historically, claiming that it was Pabongkha Rinpoche who later made this association. However, Pabongkha Rinpoche would only have been a teenager at the time of this publication; thus, this is yet another source that challenges Dreyfus’ claim.