Rinchen Terdzo

Ripa Family Cousins

February 3rd, 2009 by Walker Blaine

Ursula Von Vacano shared this wonderful photo of Jigme Rinpoche and Lhuntrul Rinpoche (standing at the right) with their cousins, Tulku Kunkyab Rinpoche and Sonam Palkyi. Sonam Palkyi was with us for the first weeks of the empowerments. She is married to one the main Sakya lineage heirs. He is currently attending the Rinchen Terdzo at Mindrolling Monastery in North India.

When’s the Next One?

February 3rd, 2009 by Walker Blaine

February 2nd 2009

At dinner tonight, Alexandra Kalinine described some sunset chaos that erupted in the monastery courtyard this evening. A cow had found its way past the outer gate and made it through the courtyard, as far as the steps up to the temple. A large number of young monks were trying to chase it out, but the cow had proved a worth adversary. It was dodging the boys and some monastery dogs quite successfully. Alexandra spotted the cow the terrace near the door to the second floor public bathroom. She was on the upper landing, contemplating coming down the steps when she saw the cow below trying to come up.

Today, we received the empowerments of the last two logos, Worldly Offerings and Praises, and Wrathful Mantras. Also we started the next section, the root of activity, Dakini. We had three empowerments of Vajrayogini. I will write about this tomorrow.

There were around ten empowerments of the last two logos altogether. They were all pretty brief. The practices of these two logos are only performed by practitioners who have attained accomplishment in one of first five logos, the transcendent group of practices. The aim of Buddhist practice is to attain realization first and foremost, so it makes sense that the transcendent practices are the focus of the eight logos. The last two are rarely done.

For the second day in a row we closed a bit early, before seven in the evening. Often we don’t start dinner until seven-thirty or even after eight. I’ve noticed that it makes me a bit sad when we stop the empowerments and there is still some sun outside. Even after five hours of empowerments in a row, if we stop early I have the feeling of sadness when His Eminence leaves. Yesterday, I had the strangest thought, I could do this again. I shared this with someone else who said they felt the same way, ‘When’s the next Rinchen Terdzo?’ I think a big part of what makes this environment so powerful is that everybody is practicing while all this is happening. It is actually a huge retreat happening around this special thing being passed from His Eminence to the Sakyong. All of us here are going through quite a lot. Conversations at meals have been lively, engaging and often quite very dharmic.

At the end of the afternoon His Eminence took the time to give a twenty-minute dharma talk. This hasn’t happened in a while. Afterwards Jigme Rinpoche asked his father’s permission to translate a synopsis of the talk for the Westerners. This will be posted soon.


February 3rd, 2009 by Walker Blaine

Here is one of several frescos of the Lion Headed Dakini in the shrine room at the monastery.

Shining New Dharma

February 3rd, 2009 by Walker Blaine

February 1st 2009

New flagpoles have been put up in the monastery courtyard, two pairs of three sky blue poles with shining golden tops. When the warm breezes kick up, we can see the Indian Flag, the Tibetan flag, the Shambhala flag, the Ripa flag, the international Buddhist flag and an unidentified flag we think may be the Orissa state flag. The overall atmosphere in the monastery is enlivening again because reading transmissions are back on track. The valley once again echoes throughout the entire day with the sound of dharma. During the empowerments a monk was spotted reading an English copy of Chogyam Trungpa’s book, Meditation in Action. There’s some kind of irony to this, but I haven’t quite been able to put a finger on it yet.

Today we entered a second day of abhishekas for related to the sixth logos, Mamo. The entire day was devoted to the empowerments of the deity Simhamukha, the lion headed dakini, a practice related to the sixth logos of Mamo. Some of the Simhamukha practices were earlier, for example, the Simhamukha practice from the Konchog Chidu.

The day started with Jigme Rinpoche giving the Westerners a seven a.m. talk in the lawn behind the Ripa Ladrang. Jigme Rinpoche announced this yesterday, and those of us who could make it briskly walked through the morning fog to the compound. Everything was already set up when we arrived—a few rows of plastic chairs for the westerners fanned out on the lawn before a teacher’s chair and table.

Jigme Rinpoche surprised us by immediately asking if we had questions. I took the opportunity to ask him to tell us about a bit about the last three logos. His answer appears in an edited form below.

In the talk Rinpoche speaks a bit about the five elements, earth, water, fire, wind and space. Tibetan cosmology and Tibetan medicine see these elements and their qualities of solidity, cohesion, warmth, movement and accommodation as being the primary building blocks of the phenomenal world. It helps me to see this as an experiential way to understand outer objects and the working of the body, rather than seeing earth, water, solidity, cohesion and so on as a naïve way to talk about atomic structures, bones and so forth.

Jigme Rinpoche: The eight maha herukas [the eight great herukas, the eight logos] have two sections. The first five belong to the wisdom deities’ section. This means that those first five deities are the means of accomplishment. They are the practices that enable us to accomplish the [five] wisdoms. That section of the empowerments has already happened, with the last one being Vajrakilaya. These five are the representation of the body, speech, mind, quality and activity of enlightened wisdom.

The remaining three herukas are more like a help, a removing of obstacles on the path to accomplishing the five wisdoms. Those three are called ‘worldly’ even though the first of the three, mamo bötong, is semi-worldly. Nevertheless, these three are called the worldly protectors, or worldly practices, because basically they enable the conditions and circumstances through which one can accomplish the practices of the five wisdoms.

Yesterday we began with mamo bötong. Mamo means ‘feminine world’ or ‘feminine aspect’. It’s a complete section devoted to the feminine deities. It is called ‘semi-worldly’ because the mandala has two parts, a beyond-worldly part and a worldy part. The first part, the original mamo, is called Mamo Mukhali. Mamo Mukhali is known as the Queen of Space.

When we talk about this, we should understand that there are the three aspects of the feminine quality of appearances. Appearances include both appearing phenomena and non-appearing [intangible] phenomena. The first aspect relates to outer phenomena. Outer phenomena are the solid physical world. This is made from substances and energies that are very tiny and not perceivable. Those non-perceivable energies are called the five elements. The five elements are the basic substances, or ingredients, you might say, the energies that contribute to the formation of the solid physical, tangible world. [The five elements are earth, water, fire, wind and space.]

Within these five elements, the basic foundation is the element of space. Space and [and the other] four elements are known as feminine energy, feminine in character. From among these five, the mother of all the feminine universe, feminine quality or energy, is the mother of space. That is Mukhali. Mukhali is not considered a worldly energy or a worldly deity. Rather it is seen as the dharmadhatu, [the space of phenomena], the source of all happenings, because it is space. Therefore, this aspect of Mamo Bötong can only be a wisdom entity. But her retinue is all worldly deities. That is why Mamo Bötong is called ’semi-worldly’, there’s the boss, which is wisdom, and retinue which are all worldly.

Due to the five elements coming together, the physical world is created. The emotional world arises due to linking with the physical world. The outer elements have a direct link to the inner elements in our body. The inner elements are the different elementary energies present in our body in a physical form—like heat, breathing (wind), flesh (earth), and so on. These are directly related to the five elements. The five outer elements have a function to maintain, to continue, and to eventually disintegrate the physical world. The inner elementary world is also responsible for giving birth to life, sustaining it, and disintegrating in the end. That is the physical world.

In addition to and depending upon the five outer elements of the physical world and the inner elements of the body, is the subtlest part of the inner entity. This is inner world that is based on the tsa, lung, and tigle. Tsa, lung and tigle (channels, winds, and essence) are the most subtle, highly refined state of the energy which interacts with the more gross physical, more solid entities. The more solid entities are our bodies, our sense fields or organs, which then interact with the outer physical world.

As long as there is unity and harmony, a good relationship, between these, there is health. There is happiness, bliss, emptiness, and so on. When there is disharmony, disintegration starts, and therefore pain, suffering, destruction, and all sorts of things like that begin. So Mamo Botong is a practice for restoring, for reconnecting, for stabilizing, for harmonizing the elementary energy of the feminine world. This is basically our outer physical world, the inner body world, and the innermost tsa lung tigle world.
That is the reason [for Mamo Bötong practice]. Any obstacles leading to that are hopefully reversed or overcome by the practice of Mamo Bötong. It’s actually, essentially a feminine world of outer, inner, innermost substance.

Then the last two sections are Jigten Chöto, or ‘worldy offerings and praises,’ and Mopa Dra-Ngak, or ‘wrathful mantras.’. These two are worldly. Jigten Chöto relates to the worldly deities that govern the physical realms, that dwell in the physical realms. They are like what you call the protectors. For example, there are numerous numbers of spirits and caretakers in the oceans, in the mountains, in all kinds of physical realms there are these kinds of spirits. There are kinds of energies that are attracted to those places. Jigten Chöto is mostly about those protectors. They are strictly worldly; they make our path smoother and bring all kinds of positiveness so that our path can proceed speedily, without many hindrances, and so on.

Mopa Dra-Ngak has to do with wrathful mantras. Wrathful mantras are mostly directed at overcoming wrathful obstacles, subjugating the wrathful obstacles through the use of tantric rituals. These are practiced by an accomplished yogi on the path. Any actual good tantric yogi see can make use of these practices in overcoming wrathful obstacles. Those are the three remaining of the eight herukas that will be given in the next few days.

Yeshe Tsogyal

February 1st, 2009 by Walker Blaine

This is a photograph of Yeshe Tsogyal, known as the Chief of the Dakinis of Great Bliss. She was the Tibetan consort of Padmasambhava, and the first Tibetan to attain complete enlightenment.


February 1st, 2009 by Walker Blaine

January 31st 2009

The first five of the eight logos are concerned with transcendent practices, practices aimed solely at achieving complete realization. The sixth logos, called Mamo Bötong, is a practice that can relate to achieving complete realization or to more worldly aims. The last two logos focus mostly on achieving worldly aims. The central deities in these last three practices embody transcendent wisdom just like the first five, however their action can be less concerned with realization and more with activities in this life. It is important to remember that ‘worldy’ in this context still falls within the framework of practice and benefiting others. Another way to understand this is to say that the central deity in each of the last three logos is transcendent, but their retinues are in the world rather than beyond it.

Mamo is a word that can mean grandmother or it can be a familiar way to refer to a dakini, a powerful enlightened or worldly feminine energy or being. Bötong literally means ‘sorcerer,’ and Trungpa Rinpoche translated it as curse. The sense of this could be understood iconographically. The mamos are depicted as wrathful feminine deities with great power over the phenomenal world, able to cause a lot of chaos or create a lot of benefit. In that way they are like sorcerers; upsetting the balance of that energy would be experienced like a curse.

The practices of the last three logos are less known in the West probably because the dharma’s focus is on attaining realization rather than on achieving worldly purposes. These practices aren’t so often done. A brief mamo-style practice, however, does turn up now and again in Shambhala. A chant is done during the last ten days of the year as a way of cleaning up house, so to speak, before starting fresh at the beginning of spring. The idea is that one is making a respectful request to the feminine enlightened and mundane energy in the world to forgive our mistakes. Feminine energy in this context can be seen in some sense as environmental, the atmosphere which surrounds and sustains our experience. In practices of this type, the meditator reflects on whatever transgressions have against genuine practice and decency have occurred, and then vows not to make those mistakes in the future. This practice is done intensively at the end of the year because it is a time of reckoning, like tax time. In this analogy, economic chaos would be an expression of the wrath of the mamos.

After bestowing the three final Vajrakilaya empowerments today, His Eminence gave the three Mamo Bötong empowerments in the Rinchen Terdzo. Following them are a long series of practices related to, Simhamukha, the Lion-Headed Dakini. These will be bestowed tomorrow along with the next of the logos, Worldly Offerings and Praises.

Some of the Family

January 31st, 2009 by Walker Blaine

Here are a couple of photos of lay humor in action. Marvin Robinson, the machen or head cook for the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, is adored by many in an image from Kristine McCutcheon. The second photo has captured several women in various sorts of rapture. The picture came from Ursula Von Vacano’s camera. However, since she is in the picture it is difficult to give a photo credit at this time.

The Pure Realms, Vajrakilaya and Good Chanting

January 31st, 2009 by Walker Blaine

January 30th 2009

In the descriptions of his visits of Padmasambhava’s pure realm, Chogyur Lingpa tells us of the many pujas, teachings, practices and empowerments performed there continuously. The stories leave one overwhelmed by a richness of miracle and devotion. Realized beings whose bodies are made of light emanate living forms like their own and then gather these back into themselves again. Dances from the great tantric traditions are performed, lead by the likes of Taksham Nudem Dorje and the other Nudem Dorjes. While visiting this celestial realm, Chogyur Lingpa met with not only Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal, but also many of the great masters of India and Tibet.

I came to think of these descriptions during the empowerments today in Orissa. We’ve been here nearly two months and the abhishekas have continued for eight weeks. It is like being in some kind of pure realm, though much simpler and more earth-bound. Sometimes the richness of color, form and imagery is a bit overwhelming, but at other times I find myself slipping into an soft moments of appreciation for what is being given, and quiet reflection on the good fortune of myself, those here, and this world where dharma remain available. I watch the devotion and the ups and downs of those around me and think how each of us is getting something quite special planted inside of us. That these teachings exist at all is quite a wonder, and that so many have assembled in this remote place gives me hope for the earth in all its present troubles.

This afternoon we continued with the Vajrakilaya empowerments. The very last abhisheka of the day was the Netik Phurba. During it, I had a brief, vivid memory of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche at Karme Choling in 1987 when he first bestowed the Netik Phurba and other empowerments. He was sitting on his throne at the end of the very white tent performing one of the last rituals. Everyone sat quietly watching him as he held up an icon. I never would have thought I would see the process of lineage and transmission demonstrated again, 23 years later, here in India.

The foremost deities practiced by the Nyingma masters of the past are Vajrakilaya along with Yangdak Heruka, the third logos. This is interesting to me because Yangdak Heruka is generally equivocated with Chakrasamvara, a practice popular within the Kagyu lineage and the other lineages that arose in Tibet after the Nyingma. It is said that many of the great accomplished practitioners of India attained realization through the practice of Chakrasamvara. Like Yangdak, Chakrasamvara is related to the mind aspect of all the buddhas.

As you may recall, the first five of the eight logos are categorized as the transcendent practices. They relate to enlightened body, speech, mind, quality and action. These five correspond with the five types of buddha families, five manifestations of complete awakening. They can be arranged geographically with one in the center, and the others in the four directions. Vajra is the name of for Yangdak’s buddha family. It falls in the east and relates with clarity, what’s called mirror-like wisdom. Vajrakilaya sits in the north and is in the karma family. Karma here means action, or all-accomplishing wisdom, rather than something special about one’s past lives. While the three-edged kila is the symbol of Vajrakilaya, Yandak’s symbol is a single pointed knife, more like a long pin with spearhead. In The Lion’s Roar, Trungpa Rinpoche compares the two icons and shows how their function reflects the style of the deity:

“In the north, number four, is Vajrakilaya. Kilaya means “dagger.” The kilaya has one point but three edges. It is like a three-sided pyramid with sharpened corners. This represents the karma buddha family. It has the sense of penetration. The traditional idea of the karma family is purely functionality, the fulfillment of ends, achieving things, but in this case the karma principle has to do purely with penetration. This should not be confused with the intellectual penetration of the vajra family. The karma of family of Vajrakilaya has to do with precision. Whereas vajra is intellectual, still surveying the area, karma is penetrating and accepts no nonsense.” [pp. 198]

I want to mention the remarkable fact that Padmasambhava studied the Vajrakilaya tantra 18 times after his retreat at Parpeng in Nepal. By the end of the retreat he’d already realized the practice and was able to quell an epidemic, but he still wanted to discover more.

Several practices in the Rinchen Terdzo are already found in Shambhala’s practice world. At this point our list has grown to include:

The Netik Phurba
Konchog Chidu, Guru Trakpo and Simhamukha (from the Konchog Chidu)
Rigdzin Dupa, Palchen Dupa and Dechen Gyalmo (from the Longchen Nyingtik)
Black Jambhala
What we know as ‘Sakyong Empowerment’
And a tiny section of the Padmasambhava feast

The list could be broadened here if we were to include the practice instructions of the various dzogchen empowerments related to the Vima, Vairo, Pema and Khandro Nyingtiks. These along with major works of Lonchenpa and The Light of Wisdom discovered by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye are found at the end of the collection along with several other texts either Jamgon Kongtrul or the 15th Karmapa thought important to preserve for the times ahead.

Last night I found myself sitting beside some monks in their teens who had memorized all the chants and their page numbers. This is a big help to westerners following along with the evening liturgies. Unlike the West, the chant leader can somewhat vary the closing chants. The supplications for the longevity of the teachers are always the same, as are the final dedications, but aside from that it is hard to predict what will come next. With a practice-ready monk beside you, it’s easier to find the place in the 220-page chant book—unless the chant leader breaks into a memorized shorter chant or moves to an elusive, fat second chant book, or begins one of the supplemental liturgies we’ve received since the start of the program. A monastic trio beside me last night broke into a perfectly harmonized countermelody to the umdze that I found inspiring in many ways. Often the chanting here more of a crowd approach with a variety of tones moving in a cluster around the amplified melody. People singing in harmony perked my ears and warmed my heart.

Reasons to Connect

January 30th, 2009 by Walker Blaine

I have been thinking about the importance of making a material offering to this event. The Sakyong created an interesting context for the Rinchen Terdzo when he chose to leave a portion of the sponsorship open so that as many people as possible could participate. It would have been easier to ask a few major donors to help with the amount he and the Sakyong Wangmo, along with Shambhala International, had pledged to sponsor the Rinchen Terdzo. The event could have been paid for, so to speak, before Rinpoche and Khandro Tseyang left for India. But he chose a different route.

I see several interwoven reasons for making a personal, material connection with the Rinchen Terdzo. In Asia, Hindus and Buddhists alike will go to a temple and make offerings without a second thought, in order to link themselves with whatever goodness is going on there. Often it is just a few rupies, hardly anything. It’s a generally accepted truth that a personal connection with virtue will produce something within us while simultaneously doing something of value in the world. Even a small offering can have a big effect.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche explained that the realization of Shambhala would be collective, not individual. We collectively realize enlightened society as a world for others to enter as we develop wisdom, love, generosity and other virtues in ourselves. This being the case, the Sakyong left the gates open for as many people as possible to enter and help raise Padmasambhava’s victory banner here in Orissa. The intention is that this banner will be unfurled in Shambhala, and raised again and again by present and future Sakyongs for the benefit of the earth, the teachings and all beings.

As should be clear by now, the Rinchen Terdzo is not a collection of every terma ever discovered. It is made up of vital termas that were on the verge of extinction in Jamgon Kongtrul’s day, and of the major termas that are well known and effective in bringing about realization. The major terma lineages that have survived to the present day are kept in their full forms by their respective lineages and lineage holders. The Rinchen Terdzo presents some of the essential practices from these lineages. Other lineages are not included in the collection. Several of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s surviving terma cycles are still maintained in Tibet, but none of them are found in the Rinchen Terdzo.

However, the Rinchen Terdzo, it seems to me, is a special collection because it is held and nurtured by many lineages in Tibetan Buddhism, particularly within the Kagyu and Nyingma. The brilliance of Jamgon Kongtrul and his teacher Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s foresight in preserving the heart termas of Tibetan Buddhism just prior to a period of decline and destruction is nothing short of miraculous. Everyone takes care of the ancient lineages because they are like the roots of a tree planted by Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsogyal and the other teachers who hid the terma teachings. The popular lineages, the Konchog Chidu, the Longchen Nyingtig and so on, are like sap running everywhere in the tree. From this tree extends the many branches, leaves and fruits of the individual traditions. By nurturing this tree we nurture the roots and blood of both our own family and the countless other families sustained by the terma teachings.

For students of the Sakyong and his father, the crowning jewel of the termas, the young fruit ripening in the sun, is the Shambhala terma. Honoring and strengthening the Rinchen Terdzo strengths both the ground out of which the Shambhala teachings have grown, and the ground of the vajrayana dharma. The vajrayana was preserved in Tibet after its disappearance in India due to the kindness and foresight of Padmasambhava. In the beginning Padmasambhava was called to Tibet because no one else had the strength to make sure the teachings would take hold in Tibet. For centuries, the terma teachings he planted have continued to revitalize the dharma. Without taking care of the roots, there is no way for a tree to grow. The terma teachings of Tibet have provided a context for the Shambhala terma to arise in this world. The terma tradition is the inheritance and support for Shambhala.

Trungpa Rinpoche once said that the dharma in the West would not be firmly established for three generations. I used to think this had to do something with the sangha at large, and would occasionally try to figure out which older students had grandchildren. But seeing the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo together and hearing the occasional murmurs of, “When will they have children?” has made the meaning of the Vidyadhara’s words clear. Tertons often have a family lineage to carry forward what they’ve done. The Sakyong is working to gather everything he can from his father into himself so that whatever made Trungpa Rinpoche the source of Shambhala will be carried into the next generation with all possible strength and blessings. At the same time, the Sakyong is receiving a lineage that the Tibetan world sees is essential for him to possess.

By leaving an open gateway for participation, the Sakyong has given everyone a way to connect themselves to a major transmission important to Trungpa Rinpoche, the lineage of the Sakyongs of Shambhala, and the Tibetan Buddhist world at large. It doesn’t matter how much is offered. What matters is making a personal connection along with an aspiration for the dharma and all its teachers. In giving a gift, we help support His Emimnence, his monastery and these empowerments. In the bigger picture, we are nurturing the vajrayana, particularly the terma tradition. By sponsoring the Rinchen Terdzo we strengthen the tree that helped ripen Shambhala and the lineage of Sakyongs, the tree that supports the New Treasures of His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche, the tree that is a support for the all the terma traditions in the Tibetan tradition. Whatever we give and whatever part of the tree is closest to us, it’s best to link it with vast aspirations for peace and harmony in the world.

While I have written this for readers in Shambhala, I am aware that students of His Eminence and Jigme Rinpoche along with people outside any of these sanghas are reading this blog. I want to apologize to those of you from ‘away’ that this entry is mostly written to one group. At the same time, I want to encourage everyone outside Shambhala to make a connection if you feel an interest in furthering what is happening here.

If I had my wish, it would be that as many people as possible could give something, even it were just a cup of tea, to support this event. I feel like we are on a dock pulling a huge ship towards the West, a ship that holds all kinds of amazing teachers, teachings, and traditions. Every one of them provides some kind of support for the teachings of the Buddha to arise now in this world, in this time that so desperately cries for a bigger vision. Please lend a hand and an aspiration to mix our lives with the Rinchen Terdzo, a key part of the journey of the Shambhala and Tibetan Buddhism into the modern world.

Click to Visit Shambhala’s Sponsorship Site

Namkha Drimed Rinpoche

January 30th, 2009 by Walker Blaine

His Eminence stopped so Ursala Von Vacano to take this photograph as he arrived for the shadow play of the life of the Buddha last week.