Guru Rinpoche: The Significance of Dorje Drolo

By Cortland Dahl • 2 1/2 min read

Joy of Living

Guru Rinpoche as Dorje Drolo

When we consider why the Dorje Drolo practice is so significant, we can look at this question from two angles. First of all, we can ask why it holds a special place as a practice generally speaking. Secondly, we can ask why this practice is so important to Mingyur Rinpoche and his teachings. 

To start, it’s essential to know that Dorje Drolo is a wrathful manifestation of Guru Rinpoche. Throughout the whole tradition, there’s no other figure in the entirety of Tibetan Buddhism quite like Guru Rinpoche. Simply put, more than any other single figure, he is the source for the entirety of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He was able to really land the teachings in Tibetan culture. Prior to that, transplanting Buddhism from India to Tibet had failed. The Buddhist teachings were taken from Indian culture and then transplanted into Tibet without adapting it to the local context. As a result, the teachings were rejected like the body rejecting an organ transplant.

Guru Rinpoche took a different approach. He made sure the teachings fit the context, and these instructions, like the Dzogchen teachings, are profound and still relevant to this day. Even in this modern world, the Dzogchen teachings are those that everybody wants. The Nyingma lineage is very centered around Guru Rinpoche teachings but mostKagyu teachers also practice and study the teachings of Guru Rinpoche. His teachings are the source for all that we practice and study. For all these reasons, we can say that the Dorje Drolo practices are very special. They are part of the heritage that Guru Rinpoche left for us.

Beyond this general perspective, Dorje Drolo is also important specifically for Mingyur Rinpoche and his lineage. The first Mingyur Rinpoche was considered a terton, or “treasure revealer.” Guru Rinpoche hid certain teachings with the idea that they would be relevant at a very different time and place and that prophesied treasure revealers would reveal them when needed. This plays out in almost a mythic domain with Guru Rinpoche and his students manifesting in different forms to meet the needs of different situations. For different times, we need different medicine.

When the first Mingyur Rinpoche revealed the Dorje Drolo practice it was during a time in Tibetan history when confusion and suffering were especially intense. This mirrors the present day and age where we are again seeing heightened levels of conflict and confusion. I can hardly think of a more beneficial time to bring forth the Dorje Drolo practices, which are said to have the power to help dispel the obstacles that are especially difficult to deal with through ordinary means.

About the Author

Cortland Dahl is a scientist, Buddhist scholar and translator, and meditation teacher living in Madison, Wisconsin. He cofounded Tergar, a network of meditation centers with activities on six continents, with Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. 

Dorje Drolo Practice:

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