Autobiography of Venerable Choyang Kuten Lama



The incident at Bodh Gaya and its consequences

At the age of seventeen I went on a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya in India with my two friends. There were about three hundred monks in Bodh Gaya at this time because it was winter in Tibet yet warm in India. We all made an elaborate offering in front of the main stupa in Bodh Gaya. During this offering I lost consciousness and when I regained consciousness I found that it was deserted around me. There was a commotion and I saw some blood on the ground. I asked someone what had happened. They did not know, and suggested that it had been an epileptic fit or possession. There had been a violent movement of the body which had caused me to hit my nose on the ground.

After that experience I returned to Tibet but whenever I had some leisure time spontaneusly I had this terrible experience of a fit of unconsciousness - at Kalimpong for example. When I returned to Phagri everyone expected the cause to be the Dharmapala Dorje Shugden. I was afraid that it was a harmful spirit, even the Dharmapala announced himself many times. Another reason why it was thought to be the Dharmapala is that this region has two major divisions - the upper part is Gelugpa, the lower part is Kagyupa. But Phagri itself has many traditions and Dharmapala Dorje Shugden is protector to all families there, irrespective of their traditions.

Because this experience was so disturbing to myself and others, it made me feel alienated from the monastic community. It was really a difficult situation. So in order to determine whether it was the Dharmapala or a harmful spirit or an illness, the monastery wrote to Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang. He advised me to go to Lhasa. So I left Phagri to walk to Lhasa with two monks and one horse for the matter to be decided at Ganden Shartse.

Since Phagri Monastery belonged to Shartse College, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang did observations and requested other lamas such as Purbuchok Rinpoche and Kyabje Ling Rinpoche (1905-1983), who later became the tutor to the present Dalai Lama, to do such observations also, in order to determine whether it was the presence of the Dharmapala. I was placed in the care of Kyabje Song Rinpoche at Ganden. I had to engage in many purification practices including recitation of 100 000 name mantras of Lama Tsongkapa. Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang said if all these preparations were done then some signs could show. There were many other oracles of the Dharmapala in Tibet at that time. Observations were also made with the most famous of these at that time, Puti Khangsar Kuten.

The requests for the observations were made by Shartse College headed by Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang. At one time I was taken to the oracle at Phuti Khangsar. A small trone was set up there for me. When the Dharmapala manifested he offered me a silk scarf and his own tea. He stated that I was an oracle for a manifestation of the Dharmapala and said that if I fullfilled all the requirements then I ccould prove very beneficial to beings in the future. However there was some doubt expressed as to the suitability of the place. At that time I thought that this referred to Phagri but now I belive it referred to Tibet itself.

Afterwards further observations were made privately by Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang and Kyabje Song Rinpoche at Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang's house in Lhasa. I was made to go into a trance and the questions were answered in a way that impressed these high lamas. They felt that if I kept well I could be of great benefit to beings in the future.

I was also taken posession of by the dharmapala of Shartse Monastery, called Setrap (the wrathful form of Buddha Amitayus). Both Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang and Kyabje Song Rinpoche decided that a final observation should be done by the high lamas to determine my autenticity. The high lamas included the Radeng Regent, Phuchog Jamgong Rinpoche, Kyabje Tadak Rinpoche, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Trukhang Puti Khangsar Dharmapala. The final examination was made in front of all the monks of Shartse College (the year was 1939). The total number of monks at Shartse College at this time was over two thousand. Prior to this ceremony there were seven days of intensive purification practice. As part of the ceremony slips of paper were rolled into pills, one saying that the possessing being was Gyalchen Dorje Shugden, another saying that it was a being who could not gain rebirth from bardo (intermediate) state. There were another three slips of paper rolled into pills for the Dharmapala Setrap. When I went into trance I was offered the first set of pills. I immediately took and ate the one referring to the Dharmapala Dorje Shugden. The same test was made of the Dharmapala Setrap. At that time I threw the other two pills away and pointed to the one left - the one referring to Dharmapala Setrap. Up to that point I had still not been convinced, but this was the final and conclusive test. I was then approved of as an oracle of the two dharmapalas, Gyalchen Dorje Shugden and Setrap.

So, the authenticity of the oracle was tested by rigorous means. I had had to suffer many uncertain years from the age of seventeen to twenty-one, from my first moment of spontaneus possession in front of the stupa at Bodh Gaya. I passed through all my tests, being cared for by Trijang Dorje Chang. I had to perform many purification practices, some in front of the stupa of Je Tsongkhapa. Finally my autenticity was proved in front of thousands of monks and scholars. Such rigorous testing had never happened before to any other oracle of Tibet. Amongst the most important incarnate lamas involved in these investigations were Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyjabje Song Rinpoche. Of the many high lamas and scholars who were involved only Lati Rinpoche and Kyabje Zimey Rinpoche remain although of course, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche has since reincarnated and been reccognized again.

I felt the final test to be a turning point in my life. When first entering the hall I had doubts about the autenticity, and so did many other monks, because once in trance whatever happens is without any cotrol on my part. I have no knowledge of the possessing spirit. I was afraid of what would be my fate if I was disproved. Also there was the presence of so many scholars from that great university that worried me.

Kuten Lama, The New Oracle

When the autenticity was proved there were the recognition ceremonies to be done. Offerings were made to me, including tea and scarves by the officials of the monastery. I was offered a secretary and an assistant - altogether seven people to attend my needs. From now on I was to hold the status of oracle, a high position in Tibetan society.

I then returned to Phagri monastery. When I left Phagri it was with two others and one horse. Returning to Phagri I had many attendants, horses and provisions. In Phagri I was received by high officials of the monastery and the lay administration. There was such a celebration, people could not see me for weeks.

Up to the point of my final approval as the Oracle of the Dharmapala I was called by my earlier name Yonden Phunsog. I was then called Kuten Lama, the Tibetan name of the medium of the Dharmapala.

Up to 1950 I remained in Phagri as the well-known oracle of the monastery there. I also served as the oracle of the Dharmapala for laity who sought assistance. In addition, I travelled to Lhasa on the invitation of high lamas and Tibetan aristocratic families. I also had contact with other Tibetans living outside Tibet, in Kalimpong and so on. So that is how I had contact with more and more people who then had a connection with the Dharmapala Dorje Shugden.

Venerable Choyang Kuten Lama
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