by David Reigle, June 2009

In the early Theosophical writings, H. P. Blavatsky used the term “dugpa” for the various non-Gelugpa orders of Tibetan Buddhism, namely, for the Kagyupa, Nyingmapa, and Sakyapa orders. In doing this, she followed the usage of Western writers of the time. These writers indiscriminately termed all of these orders as “Red Caps,” “Shammars,” and “Dugpas,” or “Dukpas.” Blavatsky additionally used the term “dugpa” for followers of the non-Buddhist Bon religion of Tibet. We know that Blavatsky used the books of these writers because she often quotes them. Indeed, she drew the term “Kiu-te,” a phonetic spelling of the Tibetan rgyud sde that long baffled researchers, from Narratives of the Mission of George Bogle to Tibet, and of the Journey of Thomas Manning to Lhasa, published in London in 1876 (2nd ed. 1879). The editor of this book, Clements R. Markham, writes about the dugpas or dukpas in his Introduction:

In the middle of the fourteenth century a great reforming Lama arose in Tibet, named Tsong-khapa, . . . His reforms led to a schism in the Tibetan church. The old sect, which resisted all change, adhered to their dress, and are called Shammars, or Dukpas, and Red Caps. Their chief monastery is at Sakia-jong, and they retain supremacy in Nepal and Bhutan. (p. xlvi)

As may be seen, Markham lumped together all those who did not follow Tsongkhapa’s new order, the Gelugpas, as the “old sect,” calling them “Shammars, or Dukpas, and Red Caps.” Moreover, in the then prevailing ignorance of things Tibetan, he stated that the headquarters of the Red Caps is at Sakia-jong.
. . . the great monastery of Sakia-jong (Sankia of D’Anville), the head-quarters of the Red Cap sect of Buddhists. (p. xxviii)

Who Are the Dugpas in Theosophical Writings?

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