Militant Dharmapalas (Dharma-protectors)?

“A Dharma Protector (Dharmapala) is an emanation of a Buddha or a Bodhisattva whose main functions are to avert the inner and outer obstacles that prevent practitioners from gaining spiritual realizations, and to arrange all the necessary contitions for their practice. In Tibet every monastery had its own Dharma Protector, but the tradition did not begin in Tibet; the Mahayanists of ancient India also relied upon Dharma Protectors to eliminate hindrances and to fulfil their spiritual wishes.”

Lama Geshe Kelsang Gyatso of the New Kadampa Tradition, explaining the Dharmapalas to students. When one thinks of Dharmapala, they think of wrathful deities; deities turned by Padmasambhava, the Guru Rinpoche, into protectors of the Dharma. It is said that Padmasambhava, who taught Buddhism in Tibet, came to Tibet after demons terrorised and pillaged the Buddhist monks who were in Tibet. Padmasambhava came and had those deities and demons swear to him that they would protect and defend the Dharma.

However, it seems the classic definition of Dharmapalas has turned militant, chaotic and furious. The Exilarchy of Ashoka, named after the great Indian emperor who embraced Buddhism, has recently created a military order – the Imperial Knights of Dharmapala. The name, given, is one I would not have chosen – Buddhists do not embrace war or chaos, we embrace compassion and peace. I must say that I am in support of the writing and preserving of Buddhist texts – many which I have never read or studied, but it returns further back to the spectrum of war. Defending the empire; this is perhaps the most un-Buddhist action of any military or of any Buddhist nation. As a Buddhist nation, one should know that Buddhists nor the Dharma promote war or aggression; to wage war or create aggression is to create suffering – to ourselves and beings. As Protectors of the Dharma, the usurpers of obstacles in our spiritual practice, one should defend peace and promote the welfare of people; not defend aggression and promote war. Let us face it, there is no material need for our micronations having a military: that is why Kremlum Sandus does not have a military. Our military is the Dharma and our People, our war is compassion and, as the Buddha said (and is the opening quote on our website), “I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.”

Despite this order’s final prerogative and duty, “Restoring the Dharma”, I agree all else. I am merely worried about the voicing of war and defense in relation to the name of the Dharmapalas, the Dharma-Protectors: Yama, Mahakala, Yamantaka, Kubera, Hayagriva, Palden Lhamo, Tshangs Pa and Begtse. I am, I admit, a bit taken back by the use of these Dharmapalas’ names to be used in co-relation of a “restorated Dharma” when the Dharma, here and now, provides for these Dharmapalas. However, Kremlum Sandus is, of course, always open to the work of co-relation and bi-lateral communication with fellow Buddhist nations and their governments and we welcome the High Elder Knight and the exilarch of Ashoka to contact me, as a Monk, at Kremlum Sandus’ website, where one can contact myself.