Rinchen Terdzo

New Year’s Letter from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

January 6th, 2009 by Walker Blaine

New Year’s Day is much like any other day. We rise early to the sound of the gyalings (Tibetan horns) as a light mist rolls off the hills of Orissa, surrounding the monastery while the various monastics and lay community gather to receive the next series of empowerments of the Rinchen Terdzö. The pujas start early in the morning. This I know quite intimately, since my room is above the main shrine room and I can hear the monks playing their instruments from three in the morning until late at night.

Today we will receive empowerments of the eight aspects of Padmasambhava. I am amazed by how precisely and carefully His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche has been conducting the ceremony. We are all struck by his strength and stamina, especially for someone who is seventy years old. The other day he went for six hours straight, performing this complicated ritual until seven o’clock at night. Everyone was quite tired, but he seemed to pick up more energy and his voice was booming. It was quite something to think about. He had been going more or less all day, which he has been doing every day for weeks. At one point I asked him how he was doing, and he immediately recounted when he had been with the Vidyadhara in Tibet as if it were yesterday. It struck me that this ceremony was profoundly important to him. He mentioned to me several times how he has held this transmission for many years and it is now going back to its rightful owner. I feel very moved to be here and very grateful to His Eminence and to the Ripa family for providing such a hospitable environment.

The monastery itself is beautiful—the only one I can recall that has consistent running water. Orissa is surprisingly pleasant at this time of the year and the Tibetan settlement is completely and wholeheartedly committed to His Eminence and the Ripa family. They feel overwhelmed and blessed that the Rinchen Terdzö is happening here. Likewise, since we arrived, Khandro Tseyang has been completely in her element, very cheerful while introducing me to a myriad of friends and prominent individuals in the surrounding Tibetan community.

As time goes along, more of the local sangha returns from their annual sweater-selling business abroad, gathering for the culmination of the Rinchen Terdzö and the celebration of the new year. In this way, the winter months here are much like the summers in the West: a time for holidays and family reunions. The Rinchen Terdzö is clearly an important and timely undertaking for the community here as well as for our own Shambhala lineage, especially during this time of instability in the world. By receiving these transmissions, we safeguard the precious wisdom that they contain.

In many ways, the Rinchen Terdzö is like a marathon of abhishekas. I believe we are past the warm-up phase and are now hitting our stride. As in any long ordeal, it is better not to think about the end, but to remain present. As we go through volume upon volume of rich wisdom held within Tibetan Buddhism, it is inspiring to touch its depth and vastness. Day after day, as we hear the quintessential instructions and collected wisdom of yogis, scholars, and rulers, both lay and monastic practitioners, the insights and realizations pouring forth live up to the name “Treasure Trove of Precious Jewels” (Rinchen Terdzö).

I am proud and delighted that many Shambhalians are sponsoring this unique transmission, and I welcome people to make offerings as they did at last year’s Gesar pujas. Along with your offering, it is customary to make an aspirational prayer with the name of the person or project that the prayer is being done for, as well as your own name, which is then read aloud at various breaks throughout the day. This Buddhist custom karmically binds the patrons to the ceremonies, gaining the patrons merit. The monastic sangha performs the rites and dedicates them to the lineage, to those who are either sick or encountering difficulty, to the assembly, to the patrons, and to all sentient beings. Additionally, I encourage people who wish to participate at home to connect to the events here by engaging in Padmasambhava-related practices.

That’s it for now; my break is coming to an end. I send you my love and blessings. You are all in my heart.

The Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche
1 January 2009

His Eminence Bestows Blessings

January 5th, 2009 by Walker Blaine

His Eminence during the end of the day blessings last week. To his left is the moving figure of Lhuntrul Rinpoche and above him the Sakyong Wangmo looks on.

His Eminence and Khandro Tseyang

December 31st, 2008 by Walker Blaine

This photo was taken Wednesday just before noon during the photo session at the end of the Dzogchen Retreat. The Ripas and Mukpos were having some family portraits taken after the monks and westerners were photographed with His Eminence, the Sakyong, Jigme Rinpoche and Lhuntrul Rinpoche. More photos to follow tomorrow…

Offerings to Those Near and Far

December 28th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 27th 2008

Alan Goldstein and his wife Semo Palmo made an elaborate offering to the Buddha, Padmasambhava, Avalokiteshvara, His Eminence, the Sakyong and everyone else in the shrine room at tea today. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this is a regular feature of life in the Tibetan community. Usually people give money to the monastics, but once in a while the donor also offers a nominal amount of money (maybe 30 rupies, enough for an egg roll and candy at the store, less than 75 cents in the West) to the western students. This is an interesting moment. One is forced to deal with one’s ideas about generosity, the sangha at large, monasticism, and having wealth all in a moment. Some people immediately want to give the money back, some are happy to make an offering later and buy a treat.

Several years ago I was on pilgrimage in Bodhgaya, practicing under the Bodhi tree a few days before His Holiness Karmapa’s first visit to the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment. There is a steady stream of Buddhists from all forms of Buddhism along with Hindus and tourists rolling through there every day. At one point a large, poor Hindu family came by. It was clear they were Hindus because they devoutly walked counter-clockwise around the Bodhi tree. At the end of this procession was an older woman in a worn, faded yellow shawl. She saw me, placed a rupee in my lap and prostrated before me. I had two near simultaneous reactions. One was fear because I felt there was no way I could really help this person who would be in and out of my life in a moment. The other was non-verbal. The core of my heart involuntarily burst open with love. It was as though this moment itself was the real gift to me, and I have pondered it often.

It seems more common in Asia for practitioners to be supported through communal generosity. Many times I when have meditated a for a time at a holy place in Asia I have been given gifts by people I don’t know. I’d open my eyes after a visualization and find some fruit in front of me. At one site near Dharmasala people discovered I enjoyed bananas so I was given a bag of them every day before I started practicing. A very seasoned traveler once said to me that Asians understand karma far better than we do in the West. They know even a small gift or connection will nurture a link which will grow. In Tibet is very common to see pilgrims making aspirations and putting tiny amounts of money in front of every shrine possible in the larger monasteries. It’s a wonderful thing to make offerings to people and situations you may never see again because for both parties one is making a connection with goodness and kindness happening in the world.

Today the electricity was out for most of the morning, and this meant there was no printed list in Tibetan for the day’s upcoming abhishekas. Consequently one of the choppons asked us for the list of abhishekas. Patricia has started producing bi-lingual abhisheka lists for the Sakyong and the 60 or so westerners here. One or two copies circulate among our number throughout the afternoon while everyone keeps track of what’s going on.

We finished the main inner peaceful practices of the three kayas with an abhisheka combining them all into one and an abhisheka of Vajrayogini as the guru, and then moved to related auxiliary practices. These included several empowerments for sadhanas important teachers in various traditions, connecting them with Padmasambhava. These included practices of the second Karmapa, Virupa, Padampa Sangye, Maitriyogin and Dombipa. These five came from a terma cycle discovered by Rigdzin Mingyur Dorje, who was born at the end 16th century and passed away in 1607 at the age of 23. Yet in that short time he revealed 13 volumes of termas. 100’s of these were sky termas, objects and teachings found in space. A great many of his termas are in the Rinchen Terdzo. He was an amazing being and his own teacher wrote a biography of him.

In the evening we had a very detailed talk on the karma, the cause and result relationship of actions, from Tulku Kunchab Rinpoche, a nephew of His Eminence. Kunkyab Rinpoche is in his third year at Mindrolling Shedra in North India. He is one of the five main recipients of the Rinchen Terdzo, the others being Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Jigme Rinpoche, Lhuntrul Rinpoche and the Sakyong Wangmo Khandro Tseyang.

Namkha Drimed Rinpoche Entering

December 26th, 2008 by Walker Blaine


December 26th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 25th 2008

Namkha Drimed Rinpoche is indefatigable. It’s really amazing to watch how much energy he has and how happy he is to be giving these abhishekas. At the same time everyone gets a bit worried because he is working so much work. Yesterday the Sakyong was saying that at one point they tried to get His Eminence to abbreviate things. There are ways to cut corners here and there when giving empowerments. However, His Eminence won’t do it. He wants to give the Rinchen Terdzo as close to the way he got it from the Vidyadhara. Every time I try to express this to someone I feel like crying.

Appreciating the Heart of Transmission

December 22nd, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 21st

Today I found myself on the upper floors of the monastery during the mid-afternoon break between the empowerments. It’s a pleasant place to visit and there is a spacious gallery that looks down on the shrine room below through big glass windows. I’d come looking to ask a question of Jigme Rinpoche, but suddenly a kusung appeared and said “the Sakyong can see you now”—they must have thought I was seeking an audience with the Sakyong. It’s a natural mistake since all the main dignitaries are staying on the same floor of the monastery.

Seizing my good fortune after a moment of surprise, I went into the Sakyong’s small audience chamber. He was seated on a small couch, relaxing during the brief break. Every time I’ve had a chance to speak with Rinpoche since the start of the Rinchen Terdzo, I’ve found him to be content, happy, and eager to chat a bit about one point or another. One meeting last week dwelled on his excitement about the Rigden Lineage tree. He must have talked about it for twenty minutes while he showed me photos of the artist, Noedup Rongae’s, sketches and photos of the Rigden statues he encountered in the Gesar palace he visited in Tibet (he mentioned the Tibetan statues were more nirmanakaya in manifestation than what will be in the thangka.)

On this occasion, the Sakyong chatted briefly with me about how the Rinchen Terdzo was progressing. Toward the end of our conversation, the Sakyong said, “He’s crying.” Not knowing what Rinpoche meant, I asked. The Sakyong told me that the last two days, His Eminence had been crying sometimes during the abhishekas. During one abhisheka yesterday, they paused to wait for two minutes while His Holiness wept. A moment after telling me this Sakyong had to return to the empowerments. I stood there speechless and contemplated what His Eminence has been through and how much he is giving of his heart to the Sakyong, his family and the Ripa and Shambhala communities at this time.

The other day the Sakyong remarked that His Eminence, given his age, is probably thinking about many things we are not aware of during the empowerments. This seems worthy of reflection, as we sit on the edge of a major point of transition from the last generation of great teachers who left Tibet in the 50s and 60s and the present generation who have entered a world very different from their predecessors’. As the importance of this transition becomes more and more vivid, I often find myself making the aspiration that the Sakyong absorb as much as possible during this retreat without obstruction.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche Waving from Shrine Room

December 21st, 2008 by Walker Blaine

This is a photo of the Sakyong as waved to to me and the camera after lunch, just before we started the first abhisheka of the day, the Ridzin Dupa from the Longchen Nyingtik.

The Ripas and the Trungpas

December 21st, 2008 by Walker Blaine

Last week the Sakyong invited me to his sitting room for a short meeting. He was eager for me to speak with Jigme Rinpoche about a conversation the two of them had with His Eminence the day before. Namkha Drimed Rinpoche had spoken of how the Rinchen Terdzo was going, connections with the Trungpa Lineage, and how things had come to Orissa.

The next day, I met with Jigme Rinpoche during the morning reading transmissions. I sat beside him on the stage while his brother, Lhuntrul Rinpoche, also known as Lhunpo Rinpoche, gave the reading transmissions to assembly.

Interview with Jigme Rinpoche

Walker Blaine (WB): Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to asked me to ask you about what His Eminence said about how the events were proceeding. Rinpoche mentioned that His Eminence was very happy, that he talked about the local deities being happy, and the special circumstances we are in. The Sakyong wanted me to see about what you could say about that.

Jigme Rinpoche (JR): What His Eminence feels is that this Rinchen Terdzo is happening at a very particular time of his life. That makes him extremely happy and satisfied because with his advanced age and very busy schedule he feels it is better done now than to wait. At the same time he feels that things have to develop in a very natural, spontaneous way. He sees that without any particular effort, things just seem to have happened. He He is extremely happy to see that lots of positive things came together in order for this Rinchen Terdzo to happen at this monestary. The For example, the site of the initiations was completed just in time so it could host everybody who is here.

That His Eminence is also very happy that the Sakyong is now receiving the RT Rinchen Terdzo, the lineage transmissions that he so deserves to receive. So itHis Eminence is like giving him backhim what he has actually received from the Sakyong’s father., that Hhe has’s been a kind of custodian of this precious lineage transmission. And so he is very happy to give it back to the rightful heir.

Also that there is the lung, the oral transmission. It wasn’t actually really planned somehow wasn’t actually reallyreally planned. Somehow it happened at the last minute. Because my brother Lhunpo Rinpoche could also comeWe . Before we were not so sure my brother Lhunpo Rinpoche could come because of his travel documents and all those things whether he could make it this time. But it just happened that at the last minute that everything just worked out very well. So he His Eminence is also very pleased to see that both the wang and the lung are happening at this place.

And thenThen, we have the monastic communityies from Nepal gathered here awith the community from s well as from Orissa who are all gathered here. And these areIt is important for them to actually receive these transmissions. As Our main practices in here and the monasteries as well in the monasteries in Nepal , here, as well as in Tibet that our main practices are very much linked to the terma teachings as elsewhere actually. So it is so important that the practitioners receive proper transmissions of wang and lung. And soSo they are also benefitting from this, as are the . And that the students from the students from the east and west are benefiting from this.

Another reason Rinpoche says he is happy is related to And also because Orissa , Rinpoche says, isbeing a very important tantric place. So that theThe teachings happening here has have a special significance in relation to the local deities, in relation to the energy, the natural elements. – it’s just uh—all of those things just become very conducive; , and the whole atmosphere is renewed, once again renewed, restored, recharged. This is because as it used to be in the pastis a place where so many of the siddhas actually obtained accomplishment. Siddhas have attained accomplishment by practicing meditating in these powerful places like Orissa. So he is just very happy that how the whole thing is progressing.

WB: The Sakyong also mentioned something about the 10th Trungpa and having a connection with your grandfather.

JR: Yes. The other day my father was telling me that in a way, that what is happening now has to happen. It has to happen because he feels that there was a seed was planted, some kind of seed was planted way as far back as in at the time of the tenth Trungpa. The tenth Trungpa requested the Rinchen Terdzo from my father from when he made a visit to Tsawa Gon. Tsawa Gon is not so far away from the center of the Ripa monasteries. This is also , actually as a the region where my father received the Rinchen Terdzo from the Eeleventh Trungpa.

WB: Is that near Yak Gompa, where the Vidyadhara bestowed the Rinchen Terdzo?

JR: Yes, Tsawa Gon is near Yak Gompa.

So, the Tenth Trungpa [Chokyi Nyinche] sent a message to my grandfather, Jigme Tsewang Chogdrub, saying that he would like to receive the Rinchen Terdzo from him. Unfortunately, my grandfather was not well at that time, he was already into his last years. So this could not be completed as wished by the Tenth Trungpa.

My father feels that that event sowed a seed where a time of teacher-student relationship would take place between the Ripas and the Trungpas in the future. And this is exactly how it has happened. When the Eleventh Trungpa was going to give the Rinchen Terdzo at Yak Gompa my father immediately went because he had heard about the Tenth Trungpa’s wish from my grandfather. There was always something. Trungpa was already in his mind, and so my father went to receive the Rinchen Terdzo from the Eleventh Trungpa. He was the main tulku recipient in the sangha at that event.* And now he is giving it back to the Sakyong, the son of the Eleventh Trungpa. It’s as though things had been planned this way for many years.

WB: The Sakyong said there might be more to be known about the Vajrayana connections with this area. You talked about Odibisha to the Western students and also in your letter, but the Sakyong was saying something about the proximity to Bihar and Bodhgaya. Is this another theme that your father considers significant?

JR: Well, when my father was escaping from Tibet with all the great lamas, including the previous Dzongsar Khyentse and Dudjom Rinpoche, many of the lamas had a prophecy and a vision to go to Pema Ko. Pema Ko is a bay-nay, a hidden sacred place blessed by Guru Rinpoche. It was foretold in prophecies contained in several of Guru Rinpoche’s texts that in the degenerate time when the whole country would be taken over by the barbarians, one should proceed towards this bay-nay, Pema Ko.

So, when the Chinese actually invaded Tibet, every lama had one mind to go to Pema Ko. Pema Ko is on the border to India. My father went to Pema Ko and many other lamas met there. That place actually provided a temporary relief to the people on the run. Even though the rest of the country had been already taken over by the Chinese, somehow Pema Ko remained untouched for some years. And this is how many of the lamas could actually breath. They could regain their health, regain their practices. It provided a temporary home.

While staying in Pema Ko, it was very clear that it would not remain safe forever. At that time, my father began to have visions of Odivisha [the tantric name for Orissa] as the next place to go. For a terton, for him, it is important that wherever he travels, wherever he lives, be a tantric power place like Pema Ko, Odibisha, or Bhutan. His Eminence spent several months in practice at Taktsang, Bhutan and there he revealed many terma teachings.

Odibisha is mentioned in many of the tantric texts as a power place. But additionally, my father has a particular link to Odibisha because he had a prophecy to go to Odibisha. That’s how he came to Orissa with the rest of his people. After arriving here, he began to see many signs, many visions of past siddhas, as well as the local deities. And then he also he saw that Orissa has many hidden places still. Still many hidden practitioners, who are not visible to common people. He feels that the actual practice lineage of tantra continues in Orissa uninterruptedly from the time of the Buddha.

Actually, Orissa’s local historians claim that Orissa is Uddiyana. There is a lot of material to support that, which claim that this is the actual place that was Uddiyana, and there are now towns and cities here named Uddhiyana. Also, there’s a history of Indra Bodhi’s kingdom being in this region. The Indian historians believe that Padmasambhava was actually born in Orissa. There’s a book being written on that.

The archeological excavations in Orissa almost all support this; all the artifacts are from the tantra yana. These are vajrayana deities that are not common in the rest of India. For example, we have the 64 Yoginis Temple where you can go and you see all the footprints of dakinis all over the rocks. This is where they were supposed to have danced during a tsok, a ganachakra. You can see the footprints of the dakinis, the 64 tantric yoginis’ footprints really are imprinted on the rocks. And there you can see a really beautiful, powerful stone statue of Vajravarahi dating from the tenth century.

WB: I wanted to confirm that the two lineages of the Rinchen Terdzo that HE holds are from Trungpa Rinpoche and from Kalu Rinpoche.

JR: And there is a third, from his father, Jigme Tsewang Chogdrub. He was actually very young when he received it from his father, he must have been around five years old. That’s the first time he received the Rinchen Terdzo, from his own father.

WB: Thank you.

* His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche was the highest ranking tulku at the Rinchen Terdzo sponsored by Yak Tulku Rinpoche. As the main recipient he was seated according to tradition on the right-hand side of the Vidyadhara when the empowerments were bestowed.

Big Changes, Seeing Another Side

December 19th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 18th Part One

Yesterday a big change happened in the shrine room. Another wave of the Ripa family arrived and the available space in the dignitary seating area on His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s side left overflowed. This made things more difficult for the choppons and so today we found the Sakyong, the Sakyong Wangmo and Lhuntrul Rinpoche to the right side of Namkha Rinpoche’s throne. Along with this it was decided that the main recipients should come to Namkha Rinpoche’s right rather than left side because it is easier for His Eminence. This means that westerners who are seated shrine right now have a clear view of the Sakyong, Jigme Rinpoche and so forth when they are receiving things from Namkha Rinpoche.

In elaborate abhishekas like the ones we are receiving one is doing one’s best to visualize many things in succession. Often it is hard to keep up because we don’t know the Tibetan, and Namkha Rinpoche will speak very quickly. But even without the hearing the words, knowing the structure of events allows one to keep up here and there. For example, early on in every abhisheka one retakes the refuge vows, the commitments to the Buddha as teacher and example, the dharma as the path and the sangha as the community on the path.

Usually I let the main recipients ‘go first’ mentally when Namkha Rinpoche is offering something that people must get in a line for. I wait for all the main recipients, the Sakyong and so forth, to receive an icon symbolizing whatever aspect of wisdom is being emphasized and I do the corresponding visualization. This has seemed a way to go about things.

But yesterday, as soon as I could see how the Sakyong was actually receiving things, my outlook changed. I don’t know exactly triggered the change, but I began to notice the Sakyong in the role of a student rather than a teacher. His body and actions were those of someone completely attentive and humble in the presence of Namkha Rinpoche. He really was soaking everything in, becoming an empty vessel to ready to receive. He was very soft and gentle while being alert and strong.

As I watched, I saw in his motions a lot about relaxation and devotion. It became clearer to me that while I am lucky enough to receive these empowerments, I also here to witness the Sakyong. Seeing him receive the teachings, how he receives them, I was shown a lot about myself—where in contrast I am held back, how I could open more. I feel a bit weepy writing this because I feel like watching the Sakyong enabled me to drop some of my ambition and my heart has relaxed.

In the evening a friend mentioned she thought a blog entry about the Sakyong as a student would be great. She described what she saw in earlier days when the Sakyong sat on the other side of the throne. It was impressive to her how the Sakyong conducted himself when he was seated. While on his cushion near the bottom of the throne, the Sakyong has been closely watching His Eminence, attentively listening and reading his texts in order to keep up. I feel really fortunate to this side of him.

By the way, there is a lot of humor on dais by the throne. Namkha Drimed Rinpoche will start chuckling at the occasional soft-shouldered collision in everyone’s efforts to quickly and smoothly get to his side for an icon to be placed on the head. The Sakyong regularly seems to be checking in on his students in the assembly and often sends one or another of us a smile or some raised eyebrows. Yesterday while standing beside his Eminence, the Sakyong noticed I was perking up my posture a bit and he playfully mimicked this by poking up his head and neck while briefly moving his eyes like he looking at the sky. We both laughed.