Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 16, 2020

Binding Buddhas and Demons to Text: The Mongol Invention of the Dorjé Shukden and Trülku Drakpa Gyeltsen Literary Corpus (1913–1919)

Matthew William King EMAIL logo


This article examines previously unstudied historical sources from seventeenth–twentieth century Khalkha, Mongolia concerning the controversial Dorjé Shukden tradition (Tib. Rdo rje shugs ldan; Kh. Mong. Dorjshüg). In the last quarter-century, the current Dalai Lama has imposed a controversial global ban on the practice that has cleaved Tibetan and Mongolian communities from one another, led to much bloodshed, and the splitting of the institutional base of the transnational Géluk (Tib. Dge lugs) tradition. Anti-Shukden polemicists and the small body of contemporary secondary scholarship on the schism attribute the rise of Shukden traditions to a hyper-conservative faction of monks based in Lhasa during the early twentieth century. They are credited with elevating Shukden, a violent regional spirit, to the high position of an enlightened protector of the Dharma. This article troubles that historical position, showing how developed Shukden traditions existed in Khalkha a century before the Lhasa movement. It then advances a new working hypothesis on the origins and enduring appeal of the Shukden tradition, which is that it is a long-running expression of the trans-Asian (and now, transnational) expansion of Géluk scholasticism far beyond the political dominions of the Dalai Lamas over the course of the Qing and Tsarist empires, the rise of nationalist and socialist government in Inner Asia, the exercise of profound socialist state violence, and the experience of global diaspora.

Appendix: List of Texts Compiled in Zava Damdin’s Dorjé Shukden Bé-bum

[400] -Kha che paṇ chen sha kya srī bha dra’i rnam thar gsol bdebs.

[401]-Tshigs bcad sum cu rtsa bdun pa khro phu lo tsā pa (sic) byams pa’i dpal gyis mdzad pa ‘grel pa rnam thar gsal pa’i me long dang bcas pa.

-‘Jam dbyangs bla ma smra ba’i se ng+ge paṇ chen bsod nams grags pa’i dpal rnam dpyod mchog gi sde’i rnam thar ngo mtshar rmad byung dad pa’i rol rtsed bya bral lha dbang rgya mtshos mdzad pa.

-Mkhas shing grub pa’i dbang phyug chen po paṇ chen bsod nams grags pa’i rnam thar gsol ‘debs dad pa’i rol mtsho rgyas byed ngag gi char sprin tā khu ral gyi mkhan chen ngag dbang mkhas grub kyis mdzad pa.

-Paṇ chen bsod nams grags pa la bstod pa’i rab tu byed pa mkhas pa’i mgrin rgyan mdo smad kīrti sprul sku blo bzang ‘phrin las kyis mdzad pa.

-Mchog gi sprul sku grags pa rgyal mtshan la skyes pa’i rabs kyi sgo nas gsol ba ‘debs pa’i rim pa paṇ chen kun zigs blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan gyis mdzad pa.

-Sprul sku grags pa rgyal mtshan gyi sku bstod dang ‘brel ba’i zhabs brtan gsol ‘debs paṇ chen thams cad mkhyen pa blo bzang ye shes kyis mdzad pa.

-Sprul sku grags pa rgyal mtshan gyi ‘khrungs rab gsol ‘debs blo bzang rgyal kun ma rgyal bstan bsrung byed ba+dzra shugs ldan rtsal gyis gnas mchog chos gling du bka’ rtsom gnang ba.

-Bstan ‘gro’i dpal mgon mnga’ ris mchog sprul rin po che’i ‘khrungs rabs zhabs brtan gsol ‘debs skyor lung mkhan po bskal bzang sprul skus mdzad pa.

-Sprul sku grags pa rgyal mtshan sngon byung ‘khrungs rabs dang bcas pa’i rnam thar dza ya paṇḍita blo bzang ‘phrin las kyi gsan yig nag nas du bkod.

-Sprul sku grags pa rgyal mtshan gyi thun mong ma yin pa’i rtogs brjod [402] rin chen za ma tog rje rang nyid kyis chos rje snying stobs rgya mtsho sogs la gnang ba.

-Sprul sku grags pa rgyal mtshan gyi ma ‘ongs lung bstan gyi rim pa gsang mdzod zur bkod nang gses le tshan bcu yod pa.

-Rgyal ba’i bstan bsrung chen po rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi byung tshul mdo tsam mrjod pa pad dkar chun po mchog sprul ma ti’i mtshan can gyis dpal ldan ‘bras spungs su mdzad pa.

-Rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal rta nag can gyi bskang ‘phrin log ‘dren tshang gcod sa skya bdag chen ngag dbang kun dga’ blo gros kyis mdzad pa.

-Rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi gsol kha ‘phrin las ‘dod ‘jo mngon rtogs spyan ‘dren bskang bshags bstod pa tshogs ‘khor gser skyems mnga’ gsol cha tshang stod cha rnams dre’u ltas pa dang smad cha rnams rmor chen gyis mdzad pa.

-Rgyal pa’i (sic) bstan bsrung chen po rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal la mchod gtor ‘bul tshul dam can dgyes pa’i mchod sprin rgyal sras rdo rje ‘chang bskal bzang thub bstan ‘jig med bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan gyis mdzad pa.

-Bstan bsrung rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gtso bor byas pa’i spyi’i bsangs mchod ‘dod dgur ‘khyil ba’i dga’ ston rgyal sras rdo rje ‘chang gis mdzad pa.

-Rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan gyi gtor ‘bul skyabs mgon rje btsun dam pa blo bzang thub bstan dbang phyug ‘jig med rgya mtshos mdzad pa.

-Rgyal ba’i bstan bsrung chen po rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi gtor chog rgyas pa mchod bstod bskang bskul mnga’ gsol sogs cha tshang ba las bzhi’i dbang mdzod brag ri rdo rje ‘chang rgya mtsho mtha’ yas kyis mdzad pa.

-Bstan bsrung rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi gtor chog bsdus pa dam can dgyes pa’i mchod sprin las bzhi lhun grub/ de’i cha lag tshogs mchod [403] ‘bul tshul rgyal chen dgyes pa’i ‘dzum zhal/ gser skyems ‘bul tshul/ gtang rag ‘bul tshul/ gshegs gtor ‘bul tshul/ gtor ‘bul ka dag bde chen ma dang bcas pa mkhas dbang rab ‘byams smra ba ngag dbang thub bstan gyis mdzad pa.

-‘Jam mgon rgyal ba’i bstan srung mthu ldan dgra lha’i rgyal chen yongs kyi gtso bo srid gsum skye ‘gro kun gyi srog bdag sprul pa’i chos skyong rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rab ‘jigs drag po rtsal sku lnga’i skor bskang rgyas pa dga’ ldan bstan srung sdang dgra tshar gcod ma rnal ‘byor dbang phyug bzhi sde smyung gnas bla ma ye shes bzang pos mdzad pa.

-De’i gsung gras chos skyong chen rdo rje shugs ldan la ‘phrin las bcol ba mthu stobs drag rtsal gnas lcags thog ‘bebs/ rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan gyi rten mdos kyi cho ga/ rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal gyi ‘phrin bcol bstan srung dgyes byed tri bo skyab smgon blo bzang tshul khrims bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan gyis mdzad pa.

-Bstan srung chen po rdo rje shugs ldan ‘bar ba rtsal gyi bskang ‘phrin mdor bsdus bya tshul las bzhi’i ‘phrin las ‘gugs pa’i myur mgyogs ‘phrul gyi pho nya ser sngags mkhan chen ram mkha’ bstan skyong gis mdzad pa.

-Sprul pa’i chos skyong rgyal chen rdo rje shugs ldan rtsal chen po’i bskang ‘phrin sbyor dngos cha tshang dge ldan bstan pa’i dbu ‘phangs stod byed khams gsum zil gyis gnon pa’i dbyangs rnga lha sdings rgyal sras bskal bzang bstan ‘dzin mkhas grub kyis mdzad pa.

-Bstan srung rdo rje shugs ldan gyi rjes gnang bya tshul ‘phrin las lhun grub mdo smad kī+rti mchog sprul blo bzang ‘phrin las kyis mdzad pa


Ahmad, Zahiruddin (1970): Sino-Tibetan Relations in the Seventeenth Century. Roma: Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente.Search in Google Scholar

Amar, A. (1986): “Mongġol-Un Tobci Teüke [A Brief History of Mongolia], Vol. 9. The Mongolia Society Papers. Bloomington, Indiana: The Mongolia Society.Search in Google Scholar

Atwood, Christopher Pratt (2002): Young Mongols and Vigilantes in Inner Mongolia’s Interregnum decades, 1911–1931. Leiden: Brill.10.1163/9789004492509Search in Google Scholar

Bareja-Starzyńska, Agata (2015): The Biography of the First Khalkha Jetsundampa Zanabazar by Zaya Pandita Luvsanprinlei: studies, Annotated translation, Transliteration and Facsimile. Warsaw: Dom Wydawniczy ELIPSA.Search in Google Scholar

Batsaikhan, Emget Ookhnoi (2009): Bogd Jebtsundamba khutuktu, the Last King of Mongolia. Ulaanbaatar: Admon.Search in Google Scholar

Bawden, Charles Roskelly (1970): A Contemporary Mongolian Account of the Period of Autonomy, vol. 4, 1st ed. Bloomington, Indiana: The Mongolia Society.Search in Google Scholar

Bell, Charles Alfred (1987): Portrait of a Dalai Lama : the Life and Times of the Great Thirteenth. London: Wisdom.Search in Google Scholar

Blo bzang rta mgrin (1975a): “’Jam Mgon Rgyal Ba Gnyis Pa’i Bstan Srung Thun Mong Ma Yin Pa Rgyal Chen Rdo Rje Shugs Ldan Rtsal Gyi Chos Skor Be Bum Du Bsgrigs Pa’i Dkar Chag Gnam Lcags ’Khor Lo’i Mu Khyud ’Phrin Las ’Od ’Bar”. In: Rje Btsun Blo Bzang Rta Dbyangs Kyi Gsung ’bum, vol. 11. New Delhi: Mongolian Lama Guru Deva, 391–408.Search in Google Scholar

Blo bzang rta mgrin (1975b): “Rang Gi Byed Spyod Rags Bsdoms ’Di Snang Za Zi’i Rjes Gco”. In: Rje Btsun Blo Bzang Rta Dbyangs Kyi Gsung ’bum, vol. 11. New Delhi: Mongolian Lama Guru Deva, 169–204.Search in Google Scholar

Blo bzang rta mgrin (1975c): “Sprul Sku Grags Pa Rgyal Mtshan Gyi Bka’ ’bum Dza Ya’i Dpe Mdzod Kyi Phugs Nas Rnyed De Gsar Bzhengs Pa’i Zhal Bayang Snyan Gong Me Tog Bzhugs”. In: Rje Btsun Blo Bzang Rta Dbyangs Kyi Gsung ’bum, vol. 14. New Delhi: Mongolian Lama Guru Deva, 429–432.Search in Google Scholar

Blo bzang rta mgrin (1975d): Rje btsun blo bzang rta dbyangs kyi gsung ’bum. 17 vols. New Delhi: Mongolian Lama Guru Deva.Search in Google Scholar

Bulag, Uradyn Erden (1998): Nationalism and Hybridity in Mongolia. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Charleux, Isabelle (2015): Nomads on Pilgrimage: Mongols on Wutaishan (China), 1800–1940. Leiden: Brill.10.1163/9789004297784Search in Google Scholar

Chuluun, Sampildondov / Bulag, Uradyn E. (2013): The Thirteenth Dalai Lama on the Run (1904–1906): Archival Documents from Mongolia. Leiden: Brill.10.1163/9789004254558Search in Google Scholar

“Concerning Dolgyal or Shugden With Reference to the Views of Past Masters and Other Related Matters (A Talk on Shugden by H.H. the Dalai Lama during the Course of Religious Teachings in Dharamsala, during October 1997)” (1997). Gong Sa Skyabs Mgon Sku Phreng Bcu Bzhi Pa Chen Po Mchog/His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. in Google Scholar

Davidson, Ronald M. (2005): Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. New York: Columbia University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Debreczeny, Karl / Tuttle, Gary (2016): The Tenth Karmapa & Tibet’s Turbulent Seventeenth Century. Chicago: Serindia Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Dindub, L. / Hangin, John G (1977): A Brief History of Mongolia in the Autonomous Period. Bloomington, Ind.: Mongolia Society.Search in Google Scholar

Dorje Shugden: the Protector of Our Time (2011). in Google Scholar

Dreyfus, Georges (2005): “Are We Prisoners of Shangri-La?”. JIATS 1: 21.Search in Google Scholar

Elverskog, Johan (2005): “Mongol Time Enters a Qing World”. In: time, temporality, and Imperial Transition : East Asia from Ming to Qing. Edited by Lynn A. Struve. Honolulu: Association for Asian Studies and University of Hawai’i Press.Search in Google Scholar

Elverskog, Johan (2006): Our Great Qing : the mongols, Buddhism and the State in Late Imperial China. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.Search in Google Scholar

Elverskog, Johan (2010): Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.10.9783/9780812205312Search in Google Scholar

Elverskog, Johan (2011): “Wutai shan, Qing cosmopolitanism, and the Mongols”. Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 6: 243–274.Search in Google Scholar

Ewing, Thomas E. (1980): Between the Hammer and the Anvil? : Chinese and Russian Policies in Outer mongolia, 1911–1921. Bloomington: Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies, Indiana University.Search in Google Scholar

Humphrey, Caroline (1994): “Remembering an Enemy: the Bogd Khaan in Twentieth Century Mongolia”. In: memory, history, and Opposition under State Socialism. Edited by Rubie S. Watson. Sante Fe, New Mexico: School of American Research Press; distributed by University of Washington Press, 21–44.Search in Google Scholar

International Association for Tibetan Studies (2006): “power, politics, and the Reinvention of Tradition: Tibet in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries : PIATS 2003 : Tibetan Studies”. In: Proceedings of the Tenth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan studies, oxford, 2003. Edited by Bryan J Cuevas, Kurtis R Schaeffer. Leiden/Boston: Brill.Search in Google Scholar

Kaplonski, Christopher (2014): The Lama Question: violence, sovereignty, and Exception in Early Socialist Mongolia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.10.21313/hawaii/9780824838560.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Kilty, Gavin / Rgyal-spyiʼi Dge-ldan Lhan-tshogs (2019): Understanding the Case against Shukden: the History of a Contested Tibetan Practice. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.Search in Google Scholar

King, Matt (2016b): “Knowing King Gésar between Buddhist Monastery and Socialist academy, or the Practices of Secularism in Inner Asia”. Himalaya : the Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies 36.10: 44–55.10.1353/bcs.2016.0007Search in Google Scholar

King, Matthew W. (2016a): “Giving Milk to Snakes: A Socialist ‘dharma Minister’ and A ‘stubborn’ Monk on How to Reject the Dharma in Revolutionary Buryatia and Khalkha”. Journal of Religion and Violence 4.2: 205–227.10.5840/jrv201692329Search in Google Scholar

King, Matthew W (2019): Ocean of milk, Ocean of Blood. A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire. New York: Columbia University Press.10.7312/king19106Search in Google Scholar

King, Matthew W. (forthcoming): “A 1931 Survey of Mongolian Monastic Colleges from the Golden Book (Altan Devter)”. In: Sources of Mongolian Buddhism. Edited by Vesna Wallace. New York: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

King, Matthew W. / Klassen, Pamela E. (2015): “Suppressing the Mad Elephant: missionaries, lamas, and the Mediation of Sacred Historiographies in the Tibetan Borderlands”. History and Anthropology 26.5: 529–552.10.1080/02757206.2015.1037300Search in Google Scholar

Kotkin, Stephen / Elleman, Bruce A. (1999): Mongolia in the Twentieth Century : Landlocked Cosmopolitan. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.Search in Google Scholar

Lopez, Donald S. (1998): Prisoners of Shangri-La : Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226190488.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Majer, Zsuzsa / Teleki, Krisztina (2013): History of Zaya Gegeenii khuree, the Monastery of the Khalkha Zaya Pandita. Ulaanbaatar: ADMON.Search in Google Scholar

McCune, Lindsay G. (2007): “Tales of Intrigue from Tibet’s Holy City: the Historical Underpinnings of a Modern Buddhist Crisis”. Master’s Thesis, Tallahassee, Florida: Florida State University.Search in Google Scholar

Mills, Martin A. (2009): “Charting the Shugden Interdiction in the Western Himalaya”. In: Mountains, Monasteries and Mosques: Recent Research on Ladakh and the Western Himalaya. Supplemento No. 2, Alla Rivista Degli Studi Orientali, vol. LXXX. Edited by John Bray, Elena de Rossi Filibeck. Dipartimento di Studi Orientali, 288. Pisa & Rome: Sapienza, Università di Roma, 251–269.Search in Google Scholar

Nebesky-Wojkowitz, René de (1996): Oracles and Demons of Tibet; the Cult and Iconography of the Tibetan Protective Deities. Kathmandu, Nepal: Book Faith India.Search in Google Scholar

Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho (2009): “Za Hor Gyi Bande Ngag Dbang Blo Bzang Rgya Mtsho’i ’di Snang ’khrul Pa’i Rol Rtsed Rtogs Brjod Kyi Tshul Du Bkod Pa Du Kū La’i Gos Bzang Las Glegs Bam Dang Po”. In: Rgyal Dbang Lnga Pa Ngag Dbang Blo Bzang Rgya Mtsho’i Gsung ’bum, vol. 5. Pe cin (Beijing): Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, 1–532.Search in Google Scholar

Oidtmann, Max (2018): Forging the Golden Urn: the Qing Empire and the Politics and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press.10.7312/oidt18406Search in Google Scholar

Onon, Urgunge, Pritchatt, Derrick (1989): Asia’s First Modern Revolution: Mongolia Proclaims Its Independence in 1911. Leiden/New York: E.J. Brill.Search in Google Scholar

Purevzhav, S. (1965): BNMAU-D Sum khiid, Lam Naryn Asuudlyg Shiidverlesen Ní : 1921-1940 On. Ulaanbaatar: Ulsyn khevleliin khereg erkhlekh khoroo.Search in Google Scholar

Repo, Joona (2015): “Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo: His Collected Works and the Guru-Deity-Protector Triad”. Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines 33: 5–72.Search in Google Scholar

Rinpoche, Tsem, Pastor, David, Pastor, Niral (2019): “‘Comparison between the Jews and Dorje Shugden Practitioners’ (Subsection of ‘shall We Hate the Jews and Those Different than Us?’)”. TsemRinpoche.Com. June 17, 2019. in Google Scholar

Sardar, Hamid (2007): “Danzan Ravjaa: the Fierce Drunen Lord of the Gobi”. In: The Mongolia-Tibet Interface: Opening New Research Terrains in Inner Asia. Edited by Uradyn E. Bulag, Hildegard G. M. Diemberger. Proceedings of the Tenth Seminar of the IATS, 2003. Leiden: Brill, 257–294.Search in Google Scholar

Sárközi, Alice (1992): Political Prophecies in Mongolia in the seventeenth-twentieth Centuries. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.Search in Google Scholar

Schwieger, Peter (2015): The Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China: A Political History of the Tibetan Institution of Reincarnation. New York: Columbia University Press.10.7312/schw16852Search in Google Scholar

Sheehy, Michael (2010): “The Jonangpa after Tāranātha: Auto/Biographical Accounts of the Transmission of Esoteric Buddhist Knowledge in Seventeenth Century Tibet”. The Bulletin of Tibetology 45.1: 9–24.Search in Google Scholar

Sheehy, Michael (forthcoming): Descended from Shambhala: A History of the Jonang Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston, Mass.: Wisdom Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Sheehy, Michael / Dieter-Mathes, Klaus (eds.). (2019): The Other Emptiness: Rethinking the Zhentong Buddhist Discourse in India and Tibet. New York: State University of New York Press.Search in Google Scholar

Staff, Newsweek (1997): “Murder In A Monastery”. Newsweek. May 4, 1997. in Google Scholar

Teleki, Krisztina (2009): “Bogdiin Khüree: Monasteries and Temples of the Mongolian Capital (1651-1938)”. Études mongoles, sibériennes, Centralasiatiques Et Tibétaines 40.Search in Google Scholar

Teleki, Krisztina (2011): Monasteries and Temples of Bogdiin Khuree. Ulaanbaatar: Institute of History, Mongolian Academy of Sciences.Search in Google Scholar

Tüshikhbayar, B. (2014): Negen Sakhiusni Gaikhamshigt Tüükh. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: Dorjshügden Hiigemleg.Search in Google Scholar

Ujeed, Sangseraima (2017): “The Thob Yig Gsal Ba’i Me Long by Dza-Ya Paṇḍita Blo-Bzang ’phin-las (1642-1715): an Enquiry into Biographies as Lineage History”. Phd. Thesis, Faculty of Oriental Studies: University of Oxford.Search in Google Scholar

Van Vleet, Stacey (2016): “Medicine as Impartial Knowledge: the Fifth Dalai lama, the Tsarong school, and Debates of Tibetan Medical Orthodoxy”. In: Tibet’s Turbulent Seventeenth Century. Edited by Karl Debreczeny, Gray Tuttle. Chicago: Serindia, 263–291.Search in Google Scholar

Yumiko, Ishihama (2004): “The Notion of ‘buddhist Government’ (Chos Srid) Shared by tibet, mongol, and Manchu in the Early seventeenth Century”. In: The Relationship between Religion and State (Chos Srid Zung ’brel) in Traditional Tibet: Proceedings of a Seminar Held in lumbini, nepal, March 2000. Edited by Christoph Cüppers. Lumbini: Lumbini International Research Institute, 15–31.Search in Google Scholar

Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Published Online: 2020-04-16
Published in Print: 2020-04-26

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 30.1.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow