January 5th 2009
The shrine room got even more color yesterday. Up till now I’d been wondering if they’d ever add a few hanging banners, or chöpen, to the decor. There is now, from ceiling to floor, a chöpen hanging on the outward facing side of each of the columns in the room. They are made from four rows of four-inch wide chevrons pointing downward in alternating colors of blue, white, yellow, red and green with matching tassels at the end of every chevron. At the back end of the space, hanging from the ceiling halfway to the floor near the doors to the shrine room, is a pair of long circular canopies in the same motif.
It’s all about color here, which is sort of funny because the shrine room is filled by monastics who wear the some colors every day out of tradition since the eighth century. That was when Tibet chose red as the main color for robes because it was warmer than the other possibilities presented in the monastic code from India. After the destruction of the monastic tradition by King Langdarma, full ordination was brought back to Tibet via a Chinese tradition which wears blue. And so you’ll see some monastics have a blue ribbing on the right shoulder of their formal shirts to represent the connection with the Chinese monastic lineage.
Today’s abhishekas continued into the section of the yidam sadhanas combining the eight logos. Kristine McCutcheon says that this section may have more complex abhishekas than the guru section. For example, the guru tormas are all sculpted on a set format, but the tormas for the yidams are all different. I was skeptical about the increased complexity when she told me this because a few of the empowerments in the guru section were very long. But today we had one empowerment last more than an hour; long enough to have most of us start asking each other, ‘Where are we?’
An empowerment lasting more than an hour is ‘long’ because His Eminence is reading at a fast pace with little explanation. The only people coming to the throne for the empowerments are the Sakyong and the other four principle recipients. The members of the Ripa family on the dais, the lamas and khenpos in the front rows, and the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama sitting at the wall near the lamas, all get the abhisheka items brought to them from one of the main recipients, but His Eminence doesn’t stop for that. He reads onwards. The rest of us receive everything at the end of the day when a line of rinpoches, lamas and khenpos walk through the crowd in a train brining the abhisheka items to every single one of us in a process that takes ten or fifteen minutes.
So, an abhisheka lasting more than an hour in this environment is a real attention grabber. That’s after a month when you’re really settled into things. By point of contrast I would say that reading through the longest, most complex English abhisheka text I know at a fast clip with no gaps would take no more than twenty minutes.
The last abhisheka of the day, The Extremely Secret Mirror of the Mind, came from a terma revealed by Pema Lingpa. Jigme Rinpoche, as many Ripa Sangha members will know, is a rebirth of a manifestation of Pema Lingpa, Gyeling Yonten Lhundrub Gyatso Rinpoche.
Pema Lingpa was born in Bhutan in 1450 and is the last of the five King Tertons. He found a great many termas in Bhutan showing how Padmasambhava had blessed that land alongside Tibet. He had an extraordinary childhood and would gather children to build stupas, and teach them the dharma. Sometimes he left impressions of his hands and feet in solid rock. He would listen to no one (a trait common to young reincarnate lamas notes Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in his autobiography) and earned the nickname, ‘Lord of what he wants.’ He recognized the alphabet without any training.
When he was 26 Pema Lingpa had already become a monk as per the will of his grandfather. At that age he actually saw Padmasambhava who gave him a list of 108 termas. Tertons usually receive such a list cataloging the termas they can find should the right conditions prevail. When Pema Lingpa was 27 he revealed his first terma from Lake Mebar witnessed by several people. He did this by entering the lake holding a lit candle in his hand and returned from under the water with the candle still lit and with a treasure chest under his arm. From this he revealed the first of his termas, Cycles of the Great Expanse of Great Perfection.
The story of how this first terma was initially presented is instructive because it shows how extraordinary tertons really are. The prophecy that went with the terma said it had to be explained in detail to a layperson, but Pema Lingpa didn’t know what to do because he’d never heard the melodies or seen the dances that go with the text, nor did he know how to explain it in detail. One night while worrying about this he dreamed of Padmasambhava’s consort, Yeshe Tsogyal who told him not to worry and showed him the dances of the dakinis that went with the text. He practiced these and showed them to his disciples. Every night during the twenty-one days of the initiations Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal would come to him in his dreams and explain both how perform the next part of the initiation and give him the next part of the exposition.
The list of the written termas revealed by Pema Lingpa is quite voluminous. He found jewels and many other items from the royal court at the time of King Trisong Detsen. He also revealed a temple that had been obscured from view that can still be visited in Bhutan. I can’t help thinking a temple is a very large thing to reveal, but the Dzogchen are bigger.
By the time of his passing, Pema Lingpa had only found about half of the termas on his list of 108. His son Dawa asked if he might try to find them, and Pema Lingpa replied that if Dawa kept his spiritual commitments and prayed to him one pointedly he might find some of the hidden teachings. This happened which I find quite amazing and interesting. The terma lineages and instructions from Pema Lingpa continue quite strongly to the present day.
January 4th 2009
The shrine room is a lonelier place with 30 guests gone after the Dzogchen Retreat. About the same number remains here with a few more scheduled to depart in the coming weeks. On the up side, there is a bit more space and it is easier to sit close to the front of the room. Today I sat in the front row of westerners for the first time, about eight feet from the huge empowerment shrine.
The shrine faces to the right as you look at it so that it is more oriented towards His Eminence’s seat on the throne. Usually one sees shrines directed outward, towards the assembly, but not so at the Rinchen Terdzo. We were asked not to get to close to the shrine until after the empowerments each day. I am not sure if this tradition has to do with more than making sure a crowd doesn’t jostle something, but today it was nice to be able to get a good look at things before all the implements and offerings had been distributed, and so forth.
As I mentioned before the shrine is about eight feet square. There’s a lower level at the perimeter for what we call the symbolic outer offerings. These are offerings of things in the perceivable outer world as opposed to an inwardly experienced offering like joy. And on the front of the shrine, that is to say the side closest to Eminence, there is a slightly lower table that is covered with offerings and implements, many for the daily token feast practice. Underneath that is are more offerings for things as needed. For example, at the end of the day the chopons take out a number of tea offerings in a long stemmed metal cups called a serkyem. So many of these are needed that the chopons refill the tea (perhaps it is saffron water) from a bucket below this table. Another item under the table is metal bowl with smoldering coals. The coals are occasionally to ignite pine resin which smells similar to frankincense.
In the middle of the outer offering level at the four sides of the shrine is a central group of five offerings that appear to be quite similar the five sense offerings on a Shambhala shrine right down to the mirror for sight and the fabric tied in a bow on a short stick as the offering of touch. Things change every day, so there is nothing definitive here. On the outside of those five, at the corners of the lowest level of the shrine, there is an ever-changing group of tormas and butter lamps. These seem to shift each day according to Jamgon Kongtrul’s instructions and they may also relate to the actual abhishekas given each day.
Above the shrine is an elaborate canopy mirroring the upper section of the palaces that the deities are said to reside in. This is pointing out, as does the abhisheka itself, the richness and power of our own mind. The elaboration of the symbolism is sometimes overwhelming. Tashi, the head chopon burst into laughter the other day when he explained that the following day’s abhisheka set up involved eighteen ritual vases, every single vase available at the monastery. It seems there are a great many subtleties going on with the Rinchen Terdzo. When the full tradition comes to the west there will be a great many interesting things to learn.
Eight of the nine of the abhishekas today were practices discovered by Nyangral Nyima Öser. Of those. three were for protector practices connected to the combined eight logos cycles he revealed. Sometimes the lay sangha is asked to leave the shrine room during protector practice empowerments. This is because some of the protector practices have a very strict commitment of daily practice. At a monastery daily practice is the norm and so it is easy to keep this commitment. The non-monastic sangha as a group is not able to keep such commitments and so people are asked to leave, though some people request to stay.
Today for some reason these empowerments opened up to those of us who have finished ngondro, a set of preliminary practices for a yidam. Ngondro usually requires 100,000 or more recitations of a mantra or short stanza as part of a series of meditations to help a student firmly establish a connection to the dharma and in particular to the vajrayana path. Even with long sessions of daily practice ngondro takes several months to complete. It was a treat to be in the shrine room for one of these sections of the Rinchen Terdzo. The doors to the veranda were closed. The room was markedly more attentive and almost completely silent.
January 3rd 2009
After starting the day with familiar sound of Lhuntrul Rinpoche’s reading transmission filling the valley at 6:40 AM the Rinchen Terdzo slipped back into its familiar, intense and now somewhat comforting rhythm. I found myself reassured by His Eminence’s voice and energy during the abhishekas in the afternoon and toyed with the word ‘addictive’ for this blog entry. But, ‘right place at the right time’ seems the best way to put it.
Today we concluded a large section of the Rinchen Terdzo, the part of the collection devoted to the guru. We ended with several empowerments of Guru Dragpo and Dorje Trollo, wrathful forms of Padmasambhava. To put things in context, we are now in the mahayoga section of the Rinchen Terdzo, the largest part of the collection. It is a presentation of many styles of liturgical visualization practices consisting of hundreds of empowerments. There are four main divisions here: guru, yidam, dakini and protector. We are starting the yidam section which is broken into two major parts: the root sadhanas or liturgical practices that are the means to attain realization, and the auxiliary rituals, things like practices related to retreats feasts, and so on, as well as rituals devoted benefiting beings and the environment through the activities of pacifying, enriching, and so forth.
All the sadhanas of the yidam, or the root of attainment, are contained within a classification of deities known as the ka gye or eight logos. The eight logos are the overall catagorization of deities with the Nyingma system. The phrase ‘eight logos’ was coined by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In his book The Lion’s Roar he explains logos is the closest thing in the English language to the meaning of the Tibetan word ka, he and adds that ka can also mean ‘command’ or ‘language.’ The yidam section starts with practices the present the eight logos as a unit and then moves to individual presentations of each logos.
The last abhisheka of the day was a preliminary abhisheka for a practice called The Hundred Families of the Vajradhatu; the peaceful deities of the Union of the Sugatas from the Eight Logos. This terma was discovered by Nyangral Nyima Oser in the 12th century. He was born in 1136 and is known as the first of the five Terton Kings. This title refers to the fact that these tertons were all rebirths of King Trisong Detsen who established Buddhism in Tibet with Padmasambhava. This is of great significance because of the close relationship between the king and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). The other Terton Kings are Guru Chokyi Wangchug, Dorje Lingpa, Pema Lingpa and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.
From his childhood onwards Nyangral (pronounced nyang-ral) Nyima Oser had many visions. During a month of such experiences when he was only eight years old, he had a pure vision of receiving abhisheka from Guru Rinpoche who was seated on a horse being carried by four dakinis. The experience produced such a strong change in his conduct that afterwards everyone thought Nyangral Nyima Oser had gone insane. Such changes are not uncommon for tertons. There’s a famous story of Chogyur Lingpa in his youth getting out during a large dance performance at his monastery. He was severely reprimanded for doing this. During the lama dances Chogyur Lingpa had entered into a pure vision of lama dances with Guru Rinpoche and had followed the group dancing for Guru Rinpoche rather than the people at his monastery.
Later in his youth, Nyangral Nyima Oser’s father gave him the empowerment of Hayagriva, the wrathful aspect of Avalokitesvara. This practice is associated with the horse; the main principle of the practice is called the horse’s neigh. The three neighs of the horse destroy the body, speech and mind of Rudra, the personification of our deepest ego clinging. When Nyangral Nyima Oser practiced Hayagriva in a cave retreat the kila or ritual dagger, on his shrine actually neighed. At that time he had a vision of the deity and he left his foot and hand prints in solid rock.
Nyangral Nyima Oser discovered a large number of terma texts and objects that remain in his family line. From these there are about forty practices presented in the Rinchen Terdzo. The very first terma in the entire collection is a 240 page life story of Guru Rinpoche called the Kathang Zanglingma. The termas he discovered include practices of the peaceful and wrathful aspects of the guru, Avalokiteshvara, Mahakala and the dakini.
The practice we received the preliminary empowerment for today was discovered after Nyangral Nyima Oser looked inside the broken finger of an statue that had been given to him by a merchant. Inside the finger he found a list of two terma inventories which brought him to discover two chests of termas behind an image of Vairocana the great translator, one of Padmasabhava’s main disciples, in a temple in Southern Tibet. It is said that the original terma for the practice we started receiving today was hand written by the great translator Vairocana, a highly realized principal disciple of Padmasambhava) and Denma Tsemang for King Trisong Detsen’s personal use.
In his life Nyangral Nyima Oser demonstrated a great variety of miraculous abilities and lived until the age of 69. At the time of his passing there were many wondrous signs, in particular a white HRIH syllable emerged from his heart and went off in the direction of Sukhavati. At the cremation, his student Chak Lotsawa was unable to light the fire which then spontaneously lit itself. Inside the fire everyone could see a small boy surrounded by dakinis all chanting the mantra HA RI NI SA. Many extraordinary relics were found in the ashes
Since you’re probably wondering what the eight logos are I thought it best to give short list at the end of the blog. The eight logos fall into three groups. The first five are the transcendent group. They are related to the aspects of body, speech, mind, quality and activity. These are the five buddha families and the herukas for these, at least in their peaceful aspects, will be familiar to many of you. The last two of the logos are worldly, not transcendent, and the sixth logos, can be either worldly or transcendent. Tai Situ Rinpoche said that it isn’t that the deities of the last two logos are only worldly, it is just they their concentration is on the enrichment of life and removal of obstacles. The Lion’s Roar gives a quick overview of the eight logos from an experiential viewpoint. I am simplifying things a bit below, and we’ll get into more detail as we proceed through the next 275 abhishekas.
The Eight Logos
1. Body – Manjushri/Yamantaka
2. Speech – Amitayus/Amitabha/Avalokitesvara/Hayagriva
3. Mind – Vajrasattva/Vajra Heruka (Yangdak)/Vajrapani
4. Quality – Amritaguna (Dutsi Yonten)
5. Activity – Vajrakilaya
6. Mamo – Mamo/Simhamukha
7. Worldly Offerings and Praises
8. Wrathful Mantras
January 2nd 2009
When I got up today I noted that tomorrow, the 3rd, was called the day of ten auspicious things happening together in my Tibetan datebook/practice log. Tibetan astrological days along with anniversaries of various important historical events like the birth of the Buddha create an elaborate calendar. The Tibetan New Year—this year the 25th of February—can fall weeks before or after the previous year, and different monasteries can even run on different calendars. Some calendars go so far as to specify bad days to cut your hair.
At breakfast we found out that today was the day of seven bad omens, or seven demon day, and therefore it was a bad day to resume the Rinchen Terdzo. So, we had another day off. Since no empowerments were happening several of us decided to visit the Gesar temple on the roof of the monastery. There seemed to be activity everywhere outside the guesthouse. A group of monks were starting brushfires in the overgrown grass and weeds just past the guesthouse lawn to make way for planting later. The chopons were busy making more tormas and the head chopon was studying the abhishekas for the upcoming days. Crews of monks were hauling large bamboo poles and rebar to the upper deck of the monastery in order to build scaffolding to place the sertok, the golden top ornament that attracts wealth and beautifies a building like a monastery. The sertok will be formally placed on the fourth, in two days.
The Gesar temple is actually one level down from the top floor of the monastery. It is still under construction. The walls are not yet painted but there are several remarkable statues on the shrine. Right now the shrine room is set up for a Vajrakilaya puja. Part of the format of a Rinchen Terdzo is to have a specific style of Vajrakilaya, the yidam best at dispelling obstacles, performed during different sections of the empowerment program. This temple looks like it could hold 100 or more people.
Gesar, the warrior king of the ancient buddhist kingdom of Ling, is both a historical and semi-mythic figure from Eastern Tibet. As a member of the Mukpa clan he is also an ancestor of the Sakyong. The central figure of the Gesar shrine is a form of Gesar known as Dorje Tsegyal. This manifestation comes from a famous Gesar practice text written by Mipham the Great that is currently being translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee. The main figure is surrounded by several other manifestations of Gesar and his retinue, all from His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s Gesar terma cycle. These include the drala form of Gesar, the wrathful form of Gesar, and key figures from Gesar’s life story such as his brothers Gyalsa and Drala, and the general Denma. These last three have been reborn as His Eminence, the Vidyadhara and the Sakyong respectively.
On the highest level of the monastery, above the Gesar temple, is another unfinished shrine room. This one is quite small with enough room for six or eight people to practice in front of a beautiful Shakyamuni statue with a small Samantabhadra with consort overhead, Vajrasattva with consort on one side and Amitayus on the other. These were all crafted by Bhutanese sculptors.
On the way out of the monastery Kristine McCutcheon, Patricia and I stopped by to visit Tashi, the head chopon in his room near the main shrine room. The long chamber is destined for some other purpose in the long run, but right now it is brimming with Tibetan texts, carefully wrapped packages of tsakali or pictures of deities (about 5,347 are needed to perform the Rinchen Terdzo) and all manner of boxes of offerings, medicines and so forth. Tashi spent three months preparing for the event. He was able to prepare extra offerings and has been sharing these with the Rinchen Terdzo happening concurrently at Mindrolling. We have been using their torma manual because it is the most complete.
Tashi showed us the notes he compiled for the event, two volumes to keep track of what is going on moment by moment. The Rinchen Terdzo has a section of the second volume devoted to how the shrines are set up, but this is written in an extreme form of short hand so each individual text in the collection needs to be checked against the compressed list. I noted that the tsakali were photographs and enquired if they were the collection put together by Dodrubchen Rinpoche. Tashi told us that although that set has the best colors we’re using photographs of Dudjom Rinpoche’s collection which includes woodblock prints of the tsakali made during Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye’s lifetime.
Later in the day we went for a walk through Settlement Four. Because we arrived in the dark of night and because it’s been very busy till now, Patricia and I had no idea what things looked like beyond the street leading to Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s house near the monastery. The town, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, is very poor by western standards. Many of the houses have adjacent stilted corn hutches. Underneath many of the hutches are one or two cows with a tethered calf here and there. These cows are much smaller than what we see in the west. Most are not much larger or heavier than a Great Dane or St. Bernard.
If you’ve travelled though India you know that it can be messy anywhere and everywhere. Messy and somehow beautiful. On the one hand, there are bits of trash here and there by the road and in the fields. The houses, roadside projects and paths all have a half-finished look with piles of wood or stone nearby. On the other hand, the valley is remarkable looking because there are short, dry but greening hills vaulting out of flat earth in all directions around the monastery. One can easily imagine how paradisiacal everything looks in the rainy season with the ground and grass hungrily soaking in every bit of moisture.
At the edge of the town is an enormous white stupa, 40 or 50 feet high, with a statue of Padmasambhava in the gau window at the front. Each side of the base is supported by a pair of anatomically correct, bas-relief male and female snow lions with jewels in their front paws. Surrounding this central stupa are eight more stupas, the traditional group of eight styles corresponding to the eight deeds of the Buddha’s life. Some of these had a buddha in the gau, and others had a wrathful deity. Afterwards we walked home amongst a loose confederation of about a hundred cows.
December 31st, 2008
Today was the final day of the Dzogchen retreat, and it was the end of the western calendar year. While working on the blog near the end of the morning there was a knock on our door. Pema, the solidly built secretary of Jigme Rinpoche, was visiting all the westerners, urging them to hurry up to the monastery steps for the group photo. We had a long session of picture taking in the sun with His Eminence, the Sakyong, Jigme Rinpoche, Lhuntrul Rinpoche and Kunkyab Rinpoche. First, all the monks surrounded the teachers on the steps, then the westerns scrunched in, then all the monks withdrew off camera, and finally some Ripa family photos were taken in the shade of the veranda.
The abhishekas in the afternoon were a bit shorter than usual, and tea was longer as there were offerings made on behalf of the western sanghas at the retreat. Everyone was well dressed, though our faces were smeared by some of the blessing substances. After a formal ceremony for the long life of His Eminence, the westerners had a chance to present a khata individually to Namkha Drimed Rinpoche on his throne. The day concluded with a few more abhishekas, the moving blessing line of His Eminence and the other teachers winding through row after row of us with various tormas and icons, and our usual closing chants.
The plan had been for westerners then to have a dinner at the Ripa Family compound followed by a party, but this changed to dinner at our respective dining areas, and everyone met at the compound later for the party. The Ripa Lhadrang is about a one minute walk from the monastery gate, best done at night with a flash light in case of cow dung. The compound itself is framed by a wall so one enters by a metal door next to a car gate. Inside are about four two-story houses built surrounding a central garden area with enough trees and shrubs to remind one of a tropical jungle in the dark.
Upon entering the party one was struck by two things—very appealing dance music pounding out of the middle of the garden and a very cheerful Tibetan woman offering cups of chang, home-made Tibetan beer. I must say that I like chang a lot after last night. It’s a bit sour, sort of like apple cider in some way. It feels like on could easily drink an enormous quantity of it and be very content. I’ve had a head cold, but it altogether vanished between the time I started drinking chang and when we left the party a few hours later.
One thing was for sure, it is pretty surreal to be dancing to house music in a jungle drinking beer with people from all over the world after 24 days of abhishekas in a monastic environment. Everyone seemed to have an incredibly good time and the party went well past midnight, five and a half hours altogether, though some of us bowed out after a couple hours of steady dancing. I hear that the four Ripa sisters—Khandro Tseyang, Semo Sonam, Semo Pede and Semo Palmo—danced a great deal as the evening wore on. I think the Rinpoches kept a low profile preferring to relax a bit as past few week’s intensity eased up for a bit.
December 28th 2008
Today we began receiving the abhishekas for the secret practices of the wrathful guru. Secret can sometimes mean not ordinarily noticeable as opposed to a secret one hides from someone else. Compassion can manifest wrathfully if we disregard the peaceful messages of wakefulness. When Padmasambhava came to Nalanda to stop the black magicians who were threatening the monastery, he manifested in a wrathful form called The Lion’s Roar, Senge Dradrog. In this manifestation he is depicted as fiery red holding a vajra as a scepter and an iron scorpion. This kind of compassion works very directly with the difficult emotions like jealousy and greed. The heart of this kind of compassion is love and realization, but outwardly it is terrifying.
One of the cycles we received today was the inner practice of Guru Dragpo Tsal. A fresco of this deity is on the wall beside the westerners’ seating block. This terma was part of a cycle of guru practices revealed by Rigdzin Gokyi Demtru Chan. This terton’s name means something like ‘The man with the plume of vulture feathers.’ Rigdzin means Vidyadhara and denotes the complete realization of Dzogchen. He was born in 1337 and lived to the age of 71. His name comes from the fact that three vulture feathers grew out of the top of his head when he was 12 years old. Two more grew when he was in his mid-twenties. This was amazing to everyone and marked him as a particularly special terton; Padmasambhava’s crown has vulture feathers on its peak. He was the rebirth of one of Padmasambhava’s closest disciples.
Rigdzin Demtruchan (as he is also known) was the main author of what are called as the Northern Terma. Some termas are placed by location. This group is well known and comes from Northern Tibet whereas the earliest termas came from the South. Dudjom Rinpochem in his History of the Nyingma Lineage notes that the Northern Terma are like a minister who beneficially serves all of Tibet and Kham because the Northern Terma contains a complete collection of practices and teachings to care for a kingdom. These include rituals to increase the teachings, terminate the spread of infectious disease, control epidemics, pacify civil wars and so forth. In contains many ways to promote the happiness of Tibet also points out many hidden areas in Tibet where dharma practice can be particularly strong. Later in life he opened up sacred sites in Sikkhim as well.
Many of Rigdzin Demtruchan’s termas are well known. He wrote a three volume set of texts on Dzogchen which is regarded as one of the three highest transmissions of Dzogchen teachings in Tibet, the other two being the Longchen Nyingtig and the Nyingtig Yabshi. It is interesting to know that the reading transmissions from his sons, consort and disciples have all continued to the present day. Many of the practitioners of his lineage have achieved the rainbow body a sign of which can be that at death a person leaves no physical remains behind.
In the evening the Sakyong gave a very lively and useful talk to the western sangha. He started by telling everyone how he came to request the Rinchen Terdzo from His Eminence, the history of the Rinchen Terdzo with the Vidyadhara, and how things were going in general. After that he went on to give people a sense of how to be in this situation, three months of teachings in a difficult environment. From there he went on to discuss the relationship between view and practice in this context.
One poignant moment came in the middle of the talk came when the Sakyong said that what he admired most about the Vidyadhara was his courage. He said that the older generation of Tibetans, like His Eminence, have incredible strength and bravery. He encouraged us to develop those qualities in ourselves.
The most exciting moment in the talk was when the Sakyong was answering a question about communicating through symbolism. As he explained that it was possible to communicate with symbolism the elect abruptly cut out leaving us in pitch darkness. The dark room was filled with laughter. Everyone quieted down to hear the Sakyong continue to speak without a microphone. As he was saying that the various manifestations of the deities and other symbols were meant to communicate one primordial nature the lights came back on and an animal outside released a bizarre yelp. The room filled with surprised laughter.