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Buddhist Worldly Protector: Dorje Setrab Main Page

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Dorje Setrab: said to be a worldly deity brought from India to Tibet by Ngog Legpai Sherab. It is also possible that Setrab is an indigenous daemon, spirit, local god of Tibet, subjugated by Padmasambhava and appointed as a guardian of the Buddhist religion. Again, Setrab is believed by some to be an emanation of Amitabha Buddha and the wrathful form of Shangpa Karpo (the white Brahma).

Dorje Setrab is claimed as the special protector of Sangpu Neutog Monastery of the early Kadam Tradition founded by Dromton. Sangpu Neutog Monastery (gsang phu ne'u thog) was founded by Ngog Legpai Sherab in 1071/72. The Fifth Dalai Lama had some interesting thoughts on the identity, literature and cult of Setrab with regard to Sangphu (see below).

At the Dragyab monastery of East Tibet Dorje Setrab is regarded as a special protector ranked among the wisdom protectors of Tantric Buddhism. Most other traditions of Tibet rank Setrab as a worldly protector.

Fearsome in appearance, red in colour, he holds upraised in the right hand a red stick topped with a skull. The left hand holds a lasso at the waist above a quiver of arrows and a bow in a leopard skin pouch. Seated atop a brown horse, he is completely surrounded by the burning flames of wisdom fire.

Jeff Watt 10-2000 [updated 5-2014, 1-2017, 4-2017]


Thoughts of the Fifth Dalai Lama on the subject of Dorje Setrab:
"Tendzin Gyatso, the Lingme Choje, Trayag Trulku and Dripa Khapa from Minyag said that one needed an authentic source in the form of an old manuscript for a propitiatory text of Setrabpa, the religious guardian of Sangphu. Nothing could be found except a text said to have been discovered in Yerpa, which was completely untrustworthy and had no beginning pages. So I just wrote one by guessing at what roughly conformed to the iconography depicted in well-known thangkas.

It is not certain that this guardian deity is not one of the seven brothers called Tsengo Barwa Pundun. If that is the case, we can claim that the propitiation of the deity has its source related to the sadhana of the religious guardians found in the Dgongs 'dus. In my opinion, if this is true, there would be no contradiction.

In another respect, the deity has the same form as that of Trashi Wobar, whose cult was brought from India by the great lotsawa and later became the guardian of the Bodong tradition, which followed Panglo. There were therefore no kinds of treasure texts. I think this is similar (to the following idea): the master of Sangphu regarded himself as having 'the same mind stream' as that of Namse Dungmar in the same way that Dagchen Ngagchang said that he had the 'same mind stream' as that of Yeshe Gonpo Gur and Gyalpo Pehar."

(The passage was written in 1664. The Illusive Play, the Autobiography of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Chapter 39, page 507. Translated by Samten G. Karmay. Serindia Publications, 2014).