Over the years I've heard numerous warnings and dire threats from Theosophists about dugpas. So, just for the heck of it I went on a search for some.

But there's a catch...it had to be outside of Theosophical literature.

There's no better place to start such a search than on that great arbiter of all knowledge.

The very first result takes us to the website of David Lynch. There are some, I guess, who considered Twin Peaks and The Elephant Man to be evil. But that doesn't seem to be what we're looking for.

Next it was off to some Tibetan online dictionaries. After all, HPB got her knowledge from the Tibetans and surely all Tibetans know about dugpas. So, lets take a look at what several Tibetan online dictionaries had to say about it.

First, the dictionary at The Tibetan and Himalayan Library. That seems like a good place to start.

So we put in our search term:

And we were aghast to find that none were to be found!


This site has multiple types of phonetic search, so another attempt was made...

With the same result.


Undeterred, it was time to head off to another Tibetan to English Dictionary, this site claiming to be the very first on the web.

Faithfully, we enter our term:

And the same result:

At this point, my faith is really starting to get shaken. One more try, and if I don't find a real dugpa, well...well, you know.

So, one last look. This time we're looking at the Niratha Online Tibetan English Dictionary.

We can't show you the results because their site says we can't, but you can go and get the answer on your own, and we all know what it is:

"We are sorry that we could not find your entry in the dictionary. You may want to check your entry again."

Which was done...with the same results. But wait!!!

A visit back to the dictionary yielded a hint: "Enter the Tibetan term in a Wylie format (i.e. karma would be kar ma). Upon doing so, we got results. Things are looking up once again.

Or are they?

Let's see:

dug pa

{zas kyis dug pa} poisoned by food [ry]

dug pa - old coat or garment patched up and mended, dress, garment [JV]

dug pa - 1) tattered clothing; 2) [arch] bad [IW]

So, there you go, we must constantly be on guard against old, tattered clothing.

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LOL hahaha...

I cant wait to see the response from this. thanks for sharing.
A faster way would be to check with one of our theosophical Tibet experts, you know, the ones that actually know Tibetan? Transliterating Tibetan is a rather hard business - I know enough about it to know Blavatsky didn't know the first thing about it, which makes sense as she lived before the transliteration systems were developed.

Now I don't know any Tibetan myself, but I do know that when any such question arises I should first check with Henk Spierenburg. Him being no longer alive, I went to 'The Buddhism of H.P.Blavatsky'. Those books by Henk were more than just compilations of Blavatsky, he added valuable notes as well. And his indexes are priceless. Even now with the internet.

Check the index and you will find 'dugpas, or red caps'. This latter remark gets us straight into known religious history: the red caps are simply all the non-gelugpa schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The term was used in early Western descriptions of Tibetan Buddhism according to http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O101-RedHats.html and by Chinese commentaries on Tibetan Buddhists according to http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O108-YellowHats.html.

Of course it's hard business to accuse all non-gelugpa schools of Buddhism of black magic, but that's indeed what Blavatsky seems to do. See for instance p. 132 - 134 of that book (C.W. 4, pp. 9,10, 12, 16,17, 18) for the Dugpas of Bhutan.

I don't know where the term Dugpa comes from, but generally it's safe to err on the side of caution before saying that Blavatsky invented a term. For instance: devachan sounds like sanskrit to lay ears (deva = a god), but David and Nancy Reigle have found a Tibetan foundation for that term which fits the theosophical meaning perfectly.

In Tibetan Buddhism spirits play an important role. They are seen as creations of the mind - but so is everything else - so they are in fact treated as real (curious inversion of the maya/sunnyata doctrine). Anyhow, there are good spirits, divine spirits and bad spirits. People who worship bad spirits are themselves bad - religiously. The history of Gelugpa Buddhism is a history of trying to purify the Buddhism of Tibet from Bon practices. Read for instance this explanation of the Shugden Dorje controversy: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2096/is_1_49/ai_54482231/?ta...

A belief in black magic was and is certainly part of Tibetan Buddhism - just not one often exported to the West, and Western commentary on the Shugden Dorje controversy usually stresses the political implications.

Of course blaming someone for practicing black magic is a way to denounce them, without a possibility of reconciliation. Blavatsky was a bit too prone to it, in my view. Her readers, unfortunately, have inherited that tendency sometimes with a vengeance. I suspect, but can't prove right now, that Blavatsky's treatment of non-gelugpa Buddhism in Tibet is partly the result of the lack of inter religious tolerance within Tibet at that time, though it also reflects Western sources of that period.
Can you elaborate a bit? What does she mean when she uses the phrase 'animal dugpa'?

I agree on the general principle though: she clearly believed in black magic and used the word dugpa often as a synonym of black magic. Her opinion of hypnosis should be seen in that context as well.
I know that this may be off subject, but how does one protect one's self from those prana vampires besides surrounding one's self w/ love?
Thank you kindly, Julie
No - I would not allow that :)

Right Joe - but you know, most people will do a google search BEFORE they do a dictionary search. So if we do come up with a scholarly answer (I did e-mail David Reigle, and he may answer my question), they are likely to find this discussion before they try the dictionaries :)

Perhaps we're getting into too many meta-discussions here?
Here is some interesting material on Dugpas.

In the following book, Raghavan Iyer inquired of Dalai Lama about Dugpas. The response will interest some.

My Talk with the Dalai Lama

Here is the quote:

"Then I turned to him and asked him whether he was referring to the Dugpas, to sorcerers and to ‘soulless men.’ When I said this, his interpreter could not translate it because the word ‘Dugpa’ has two senses. Literally, it refers to an inhabitant of Bhutan, and using that meaning his interpreter could not make sense of what I was saying. There is another meaning to the word, meaning an evil being, or even a sorcerer, and to my surprise this seemed to be unfamiliar to the interpreter. But the Dalai Lama showed that he understood exactly what I had in mind. The Dalai Lama hinted at an important point which was understood by Spinoza in Europe but which is often ignored. There is no real distinction in the long run between the true self-interest of a person and an unpleasant duty. There were unfortunately people who persisted in doing things which were going to harm them above all as well as others. He spoke with quiet compassion about these ignorant though cunning evil-doers. It would be most wrong for us, he implied, to condemn them or to dismiss them out of the horizon of our sympathy, as they did more harm to themselves than to other human beings, although they could not see it. Sometimes people were able to see the truth but through selfishness they could not apply it. There were also people who were utterly misguided in their view of what was in their own interest. If only they could know, if only they were not so short-sighted through their own desperation and through their own false concepts, they would see more clearly what was in their interest and that this could not be so very different for different peoples. In all conflicts the combatants ought to realize that their ultimate interests were the same, but this was exactly what was so difficult. Therefore, it was always the people who could stand outside a violent conflict in any part of the world to-day, who, by their awareness of this ultimate identity of interests between both sides in terms of their common survival and in relation to the whole of humanity, could be an active force for good. They could act as a check on the recurrent and ever-increasing nature of evil, generated by folly, selfishness and above all short-sightedness."

See full text at:


You can't blame us for that entirely :) Can't say I understand this quote though.

The Dalai Lama is much easier to understand, especially as this relates to what he's often repeated: the doing good to others is ultimately good for ourselves as well. And it combines well with Blavatsky: it's selfishness of motive that determines good or evil action - though we can think we do good, and really be doing evil if we're partial and prefer one portion of humanity to another.
I'm a little Dugpa, short and stout.

Here is my tummy, here is my snout.
I think what people are missing here is that you are trying to validate Blavatsky's use of the term OUTSIDE THE THEOSOPHICAL LITERATURE.
On the other hand, in defense of Blavatsky, I can only think of trying to exp;ain the sense of smell to someone who does not and has never had. That person would never understand what I was trying to explain, and in my frustration I might use terms I thought would be familiar to continue the attempt. I believe that Blavatsky may have been in that same situation, trying to explain what she knew in terms that her audience could possibly have as a reference. Also, when one is listening to clairaudience, it sometimes doesn't translate well, and that is another barrier that could look like "making things up."
If anyone outside of Theosophy is going to take a word of this seriously it has to be verified from sources outside of Theosophy. Otherwise we are in the same position of Christian Fundamentalists proving the "truth" of the Bible using Bible passages.

It is not a position that creates credibility.
Martin told me on the phone, the only dugpa's are the ones you create with your mind...Martin makes them all his friends..:)
Which is why a number of us over the years have appropriated the word to annoy the fundamentalists.


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