Rinchen Terdzo

32 Empowerments in Brief

December 26th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 25th Part Two

A belated Merry Christmas to you. Here’s how the fifty abhishekas related to the Seven Line Supplication have stacked up so far:

• 3 abhishekas of the three kayas
• 4 abhishekas of the four kayas
• 5 abhishekas of the five wisdoms
• 6 abhishekas of the six realms
• 7 abhishekas of the seven successive buddhas
• 9 abhishekas of the nine stages of the path (8 manifestations of the Padmasambhava and one more)

Kayas or bodies are a way of looking at the mind and manifestations of an awakened being, and the empowerments presented each of these separately. They kayas can be presented as three, four or more. The manifestations of Padmasambhava in relationship to the five wisdoms could be explained as the transformation of our five basic emotional energies or as the transformation the five elements (earth and so on plus space.)

The famous teaching diagram, the Wheel Of Life that is painted outside every monastery depicts our experiences as a cycle through six realms or manifestations of being. These are both outer and inner; heaven and hell really depend on us, not something external. These realms each contain a buddha, an opportunity to wake up in the midst of our various sufferings. These six realms also have a corresponding manifestation of Padmasambhava.

One very good thing to know about Padmasambhava is how he relates to Shakyamuni Buddha. In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha stated that eight years after his passing an enlightened teacher would come to teach the highest teachings and greatly benefit beings. The Buddha said Padmasambhava would be even more enlightened than he was, meaning that their realizations were equal but that Padmasambhava’s expression of enlightenment would be extraordinary. He called Padmasambhava ‘The Buddha Of Three Times.’ Another key point in the tradition is that while the Buddha primarily taught the hinayana and mahayana, Padmasambhava primarily taught the vajrayana or tantric teachings.

After those 18 abhishekas we moved to empowerments of the Padmasambhavas relating to the seven successive buddhas. Chogyur Lingpa had a vision that a buddha in this world would always be accompanied by a Padmasambhava. The seven buddhas are the three buddhas of the three previous world ages, the three prior buddhas of our own world age, or kalpa, plus Shakyamuni. His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche once explained a kalpa as the life cycle of a planet. I found this quite interesting and helpful.

Finally, we received nine abhishekas (putting us at 15 for the day, a new record) relating the famous eight manifestations of Padmasambhava plus himself as in the form of Yishin Norbu, The Wish Fulfilling Jewel, to the nine yanas. The eight manifestations connect with eight phases in Padmasambhava’s life and are chronicled quite experientially in Trungpa Rinpoche’s Crazy Wisdom.

Lhuntrul Rinpoche’s teachings this evening turned out to be on the nine yanas. The nine yanas are nine successive presentations of understanding and practice starting with achieving liberation for oneself alone and concluding with maha ati, the final path, the ultimate presentation the mind and how to realize things as they are, basic goodness.

Lhuntrul Rinpoche taught in Tibetan and was translated by a very knowledgeable Ripa sangha member from Minsk named Niccolas. He has a thick Russian accent. At times the layers of accents and languages filling the shrine room became pretty entertaining. Lhuntrul Rinpoche speaks with a soft and gentle voice beneath which lies a palpable eagerness to transmit the dharma. It was a treat to watch him starting to teach westerners. He was at once soft and peaceful backed by the power of a quick rising sun. The short talk covered the basic framework of the yanas and ended with some questions, mostly about the vajrayana vows or samayas, the commitments connected with receiving empowerments.

Padmasambhava is Everywhere

December 26th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 24th 2004

We resumed having morning fog after a few days of clear skies. The reading transmissions start to broadcast on the speakers outside the monastery each day at 6:40 and our little valley fills with the voice of Lhuntrul Rinpoche. The logic is that people can hear the lungs wherever they are working and therefore don’t need to be in the shrine room. There is a speaker in the old monastery building so the westerners practicing there from 9 to 11:30 can hear the lung too.

I have learned a bit more about Lhuntrul Rinpoche who will teach for two nights starting tomorrow. He will speak on the nine yanas or paths, the graded presentation of understanding and practice laid out in the Nyingma tradition. The Rinchen Terdzo is a systematic presentation of the last three yanas (mahayoga, anuyoga and atiyoga.) Rinpoche’s talks will put things in context.

Lhuntrul Rinpoche is about 32 years old, the second son of Namkha Drimed Rinpoche and his wife, Khandro Chime who arrived a few days ago. Lhuntrul Rinpoche, sometimes called Lhunpo Rinpoche, studied for nine years at His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s monastic college at Namdroling Monastery in Mysor, India. He has received the Rinchen Terdzo three times before. He is noticeably joyful during the ceremonies here, playful with the lamas as he brings them this or that icon during the empowerments, and he has the look of someone who practices a great deal. He divides his time between Toronto and Asia.

This afternoon we had a record 12 abhishekas in one day. They were divided into two groups plus the start of a third set, all part of the series of fifty terma practices related to Padmasambhava and the Seven Line Prayer. I’ve typed the prayer below, but it is missing a crucial bit of punctuation at the end of every line. I was unable to kern the font for a ‘tertsek,’ commonly called a terma mark. This mark shows a line break in a terma. The tersek usually appears as a pair of stacked circles with a horizontal line between them. His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse’s tertsek look like the Tibetan letter A missing the first stroke of the letter.]

In the Northwest of the land of Uddiyana,
On a blooming lotus flower,
You have attained supreme, wondrous siddhi.
You are renowned as Padmakara,
Surrounded by your retinue of many dakinis.
We practice following your example.
Please approach and grant your blessing.

Translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee.

This short chant is among the most well known supplications in Tibetan Buddhism. It was written by the dakinis, female wisdom deities, to call Padmasambhava when the early Buddhist university, Nalanda, was threatened 500 arrogant religious extremists who were also skilled in black magic. In that era, feuds were settled on the debating ground with the loser and his or her followers obligated to switch to the winner’s philosophical position. The extremists were not above using magic to achieve their aims. Padmasambhava was renowned for his learning along with the magical force of his meditative attainment. The scholars of Nalanda supplicated with this chant, and Padmasambhava saved the monastery.

Later, when Padmasambhava arrived in Tibet, he gave this chant to King Trisong Detsen and his subjects. The Seven Line Supplication is included with many termas, often at the start. I have heard it sung by His Eminence dozens of times during the past three weeks. Often it appears in the section of the empowerment where the deity is first invoked. It is everywhere because Padmasambhava is the main author of the termas.

The other day an exasperated friend said something like, “What is it with this tradition? Everything is all about Padmasambhava.” It’s really true. Padmasambhava’s presence is overwhelming, unstoppable and unavoidable. We sit in a shrine room modeled after Padmasambhava’s pure realm, Copper Colored Mountain. The 800 of us sing his mantras at the end of the day. We were asked at the start of the Rinchen Terdzo to commit to saying his manta 100,000 times. These last few weeks we’ve listened to and open to terma after terma written for dozens of manifestations of him. He’s everywhere.

In such a situation one is forced to contemplate why this man, an Indian, is so revered by the Tibetans. They cry out to the Buddha, but they cry out to him a lot louder. I think this is because Padmasambhava really, really cherished the Tibetans, and in turn they took on and protected the Buddhist tantric teachings which were soon to vanish from India. Padmasambhava first made sure the dharma was secure at the start in Tibet, and then did everything he could to make sure the Buddhist teachings would survive as long as possible through the terma teachings.

I confess that I too hadn’t really gotten the point that without Padmasambhava we would not have the tantric teachings, we wouldn’t have terma, we would not have the Shambhala Teachings, and we would not have our two Sakyongs. So supplicating Padmasambava begins to seem like watering the roots of a huge tree, nurturing that connection as much as possible, and asking it to grow, protect and nourish everyone in the midst of this chaotic and difficult life.

Leaving for Tea Break

December 24th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

Here is a photo of the temple steps as people take advantage of the short break after tea.

Winter Sangha Retreat Begins

December 24th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 23rd 2008

Tonight we began the annual Winter Sangha Retreat with Jigme Rinpoche. Usually this retreat happens in Europe, but because of the Rinchen Terdzo and the opening of the monastery, the retreat is happening here in Chandragiri. This year the Ripa Sangha will hear talks both from Jigme Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. This may be the first group retreat joining our sanghas on Ripa land just as last year’s Gesar festival was the first on Shambhala land.

Lhuntrul Rinpoche will be making his English-language teaching debut this week too. This came as a pleasant surprise to us when it was announced last night. I have been wondering what he is like. He has a broad smile and takes great care when he carries the abhisheka implements to the crowd at the end of each day. I don’t know much about him yet, but he is said to have a fluffy white puppy that once in a while turns up in the shrine room at the end of the morning lungs, snuggled in the folds of someone’s maroon outer robe.

The winter retreat teachings are being given after dinner at the old Ripa Monastery. It is about a minute’s walk from the new monastery complex. The building is quite small and stands in a shaded compound with some older monks’ quarters making a little square in front. The old monastery seems very peaceful and is a reminder of the humble beginnings for the Tibetans here in India.

The shrine room itself makes up most of the building, it is 30 by 30 feet. It has four columns in the middle, and has a small gallery in the center to let in extra light from above. In front, behind a wood framed glass panel is the same motif of statues as in the main temple—a statue of the Buddha in seated meditation flanked by Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara on the Buddha’s left, and Padmasambhava on his right. These statues are simply carved and painted. They fill the space with a gentle radiance. The walls are have no frescoes, everything looks slightly faded from decades of candle and incense smoke. The space has the atmosphere of the ancient shrine rooms I have visited in Tibet except that much of the structure has been done with stone or concrete, not wood. How difficult it must have been for people to leave home with such finality.

The Ripa sangha is an international group. The students are German, French, Spanish, Italian, Swiss, American, Canadian and Russian. The packed shrine room also includes English-speaking students from Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. Before Jigme Rinpoche arrived, preparatory remarks were made in French, Spanish and English. The sound system includes additional microphones for simultaneous French and Spanish translations. Several students eagerly awaited the talk with sparkling blue earphones in hand.

Jigme Rinpoche arrived a little after eight and gave a short talk after welcoming us to the retreat. He said that much of what he wanted to say was already included in the letter he sent out last week, and added some things I found of interest. A major point that struck me was that one of the main things that makes an empowerment possible is the fact that all of us have within us the pure being, the buddha nature. An abhisheka is not adding anything new, but is instead clearing away the stains around what is already there. Jigme Rinpoche explained that related to the symbolism of being washed in the start of all the empowerments. Having faith in own our buddha nature, our own pure being, is one of the requisites to receiving an empowerment. It’s the way to open up.

50 Slightly Unexpected Empowerments

December 24th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 23th 2008

Now the full number of westerners has arrived. We number around sixty and make up a formidable block in the shrine room. Many of us are from the Ripa sangha. The Shambhala group numbers about fourteen. Jinpa, a monk from the Abbey has joined us for the duration along with Theresa Laurie (here since the second abhisheka on the first day) and Alexandra Kalinine who arrived about three days ago. Frank and Katrin Stelzel arrived the night before last.

The abhishekas took a somewhat surprising turn toward the Seven-Line Supplication to Padmasambhava yesterday. Patricia and I have been sorting through various outlines and abhisheka lists in the background as we go. Usually we don’t know exactly what is happening each day until the last minute. A list gets posted at the gate to the monastery, and I photograph it on our way to the temple. Once in the shrine room Patricia compares the photo on the camera with the abhisheka list from the last Rinchen Terdzo bestowed by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche. The night and morning before we double check upcoming possibilities against the empowerment list from the last time His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche bestowed the abhishekas.

Generally it all works out, but sometimes one list condenses or omits something while another list might expand everything out. Such is the case right now as we are head into fifty abhishekas not mentioned on Penor Rinpoche’s list, but expanded on Tai Situ Rinpoche’s. All of these empowerments are from termas found by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. The Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, authored the empowerment rituals. I am not sure, but I think these termas were discovered when Jamgon Kongtrul was in his sixties, just after he first bestowed the Rinchen Terdzo. Maybe that is why they are not on one empowerment list. These fifty are probably the last of the empowerments of the peaceful nirmanakaya guru and will last several days.

Wanting You Here

December 21st, 2008 by Walker Blaine

Dec 20th

After a couple of weeks in Orissa, I find myself now and again wishing lots of western sangha were here. For new and old students this environment provides a tremendous vantage point on how the dharma is being transmitted to the West. For more senior practitioners in particular there is a lot to be learned about the practices we already do. I can’t tell you how fascinating it is to watch the transmission termas, pure visions and so on. The Sakyong likened this to a TV program presenting all the greatest hits. It really is starting to feel like that.

Even without understanding much of the Tibetan, the changes of symbolism in each empowerment have started to fall into some kind of flow. If there is a string of abhishekas from a particular terton one starts to get the flavor of that teacher’s style. Some termas go right into the main sections of the empowerments without much delay, while others will emphasize the preliminaries for quite a while. Some abhishekas will have extensive explanations of the main section’s meanings and visualizations, but the icons used will be quite spare. Some transmissions will have repeated emphasis on pointing out the fruitional formless meditative state, while others will have long presentations of pictures of visualized deities. During the last abhisheka today there were four choppons helping each other rapidly pass icons to His Eminence for nearly half an hour.

The background noises to today’s empowerments were much louder than usual, and for the third of four days we’d watched various toddlers wander unchaperoned to the front of the huge hall. After closing Namkha Drimed Rinpoche took some time to talk to people about being quiet during the transmissions and being more careful with their kids. His Eminence explained how the best way to attend teachings is to be like an empty upright pot being filled to the brim. He went on to describe the consequences of being inattentive, and so forth. He then went on to address the parents. He said that has travelled in the West and he observed that if a child can’t be handled in a teaching, the child is taken out of the room. I found this poignant as East and West seem to have a lot to teach one another. I was suprised Namkha Drimed Rinpoche brought this particular point up.

Turning a Corner

December 19th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 18th Part Two

Today was a major milestone. We received the empowerments of the Konchog Chidu, a set of abhishekas for practices of the guru, yidam and dakini discovered by the terton Jatson Nyingpo. This terma cycle is one of the most widely practiced in the Karma school while the Longchen Nyingtik is the terma cycle most widely practiced in the Nyingma.

When the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche passed into parinirvana in 1987, his cremation was lead by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. It took many weeks to prepare for the ceremonies that were held at Karme Choling in Vermont. At that time there were about five hundred people living mostly in tents around the center and another 2500 came for the cremation itself. After the event Khyentse Rinpoche stayed at Karme Choling another ten days and started to teach on Dzogchen, the highest teachings in the Nyingma school of Buddhism, as well as give the abhishekas for the Konchog Chidu, the Longchen Nyingtik and Vajrakila, the most widely practiced yidam in the Nyingma.

These events seemed to be the start of a fulfillment of one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s remarks that Dzogchen would be taught at Karme Choling in the future. Today I felt like I experienced things, at least from the perspective of my life, coming into a new cycle. The events at Karme Choling that spring were pivotal. I was one of a handful of new students who were permitted to go to the empowerments at that time. I was so inspired by Khyentse Rinpoche’s presence and the importance of what he was giving that I abandoned my vacation to travel to Halifax and receive the empowerments from him again later in the summer. And here I am now in Orissa receiving the Konchog Chidu again.

Thinking ahead, in 1987 I kept all the empowerment descriptions from those weeks in my life, filing them away for future use. After a great deal of digging last September I found the papers again and brought them here. And so, this afternoon four of us were able to follow exactly what was happening in the empowerments (not included ten minutes of added stuff we determined was an extended empowerment to hold the lineage). Seeing things live and in print helped us make sense of a lot that had been happening earlier that we couldn’t keep up with. Also I was reminded of some bits of symbolism that I’d totally forgotten about, for example that a text symbolizes both the teaching and the empowerment to teach. This was a strong reminder of the importance of translation work for the future of Buddhism in the West.

Somehow the whole day was filled with unexpected understandings. In the earlier part of the afternoon we figured out the progression of the three section abhishekas—long, middling and short versions one after another—which happen in some of the terma cycles. These three-parters weren’t specifically mentioned in some of the empowerment lists produced by the monastery, so we were getting lost over and over again. This also made sense of why some Rinchen Terdzo descriptions say there are well over a thousand empowerments given, while the actual empowerment lists sometimes number around six hundred and forty.

In the end of the day we by a monk who had memorized the chants in the Ripa Monastery chant book and was able to get us to all the right pages at the right times. Up till today Patricia and I had been going bananas trying to navigate the sink-or-swim realities of practicing beside a sea of high-speed chanting adolescent and pre-adolescent monks who generally doesn’t speak English and are not always aware of what page we’re on. We left the shrine room with a fist full of post-its stuffed in our chant book—although beside knowing the Sakyong’s is number five of twenty we still have a bit of work to do.

The Inner Guru, the Eastern and Western Guru

December 17th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 16th

Today we continued with the empowerments for practices related to the inner guru. Before I got to Orissa, I thought these practices would all be guru yogas—meditations where one visualizes the form of the teacher, such as Padmasambhava , and supplicates them for blessings. Such practices help increase the stability of the mind, along with opening one up to the qualities of the teacher, which in turn brings out one’s natural appreciation and devotion.

However, I have been surprised to see how many practices in the guru section of the Rinchen Terdzo are not guru yogas. There have been many yidam and protector practices bestowed on us within this section as well. Last night I learned that in these cases the yidam practices are written from the point of view of guru yoga; here the yidam is considered expressly as an aspect of Padmasambhava. Thus, the mantras for the yidams all have the mantras of Padmasambhava woven into them.

I’m starting to realize that the ordering of the Rinchen Terdzo isn’t simply a big list or a bunch of bins to pick things out from. The ordering of the entire treasury of empowerments, pointing out instructions, and reading transmissions is in itself a major teaching on the evolution of how to practice, moving from the most important thing, the teacher, and going out to the practices which rely more and more on confidence in one’s own buddha nature, or basic goodness, and finally into practices that recognize goodness as being immovably present in the world. I think this is another reason why giving and receiving the transmissions of the Rinchen Terdzo is such a big deal for lineage holders. It is a direct and subtle, deep and wide-ranging presentation of the path.

When I reflect on this and some conversations I have had with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche here in Orissa, I can better see why he is receiving the Rinchen Terdzo. While he is very much a part of our Western heritage, he is also a part of the East’s. Even without his recognition as the rebirth of Mipham, one of the most important lamas in the Nyingma lineage, he is the son and lineage heir of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. It was inevitable that the Sakyong return to Surmang Monastery, his father’s seat in Tibet and begin to offer whatever is necessary for the people there in his role as a traditional teacher; the hopes and expectations of him are very great. By receiving the Rinchen Terdzo, the Sakyong will be able to give whatever transmissions are requested of him when he is in Asia, and people will have confidence in him based on knowing that he upholds all the lineages of the Rinchen Terdzo.

For the West (and the East), the Sakyong is receiving a big part of what made his father who he was. In Born In Tibet Trungpa Rinpoche explains that the Rinchen Terdzo contains all the wisdom his guru received from the 10th Trungpa. Somehow the last living person able to pass that lineage on to the Sakyong is doing that here in Orissa today. For the Sakong this is a chance to absorb more of what made the Vidyadhara who he was in order to pass that on both to his students and to the next Sakyong.

Three Days in One

December 16th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 12 – 14th

[Sorry to have been gone for a bit. There have been technical difficulties in the West and and the East.]

Over the past few days have passed through more of the empowerments in the Rinchen Terdzo related to practices of the guru. As I explained earlier, the first of the three roots, the root of blessings, is the guru. There are three types of practices here—outer practices which are generally supplications to the historical figure of Padmasambhava. We had one abhisheka only relating to this section, one from Chogyur Lingpa. The other two of the three groups are inner forms of the guru which are peaceful, and secret practices which are the wrathful form of compassion.

One of the abhishekas from this section was related to The Seven Chapters. Last night I noticed it is in the Ripa Monastery Chant book. The monastery found several new copies for the Tibetan reading westerners to share and we got them yesterday. There are about seventy or eighty chants in the book, and what’s chanted changes every day, so we have to set about the task of getting pointers from young monks. Generally at the end of the day there are supplications for the long life of the teachers. These include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Jigme Rinpoche and so on. Prayers for the longevity of His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche happen throughout the day.

The other type of chant we do at the end of the day is an aspiration . Chants like these express wishes for the well being of everyone both in life and at the time of death, for the strength and spread of the teachings, for health and harmony for all communities, good weather, healthy crops, etc. In short, this kind of chant is for everything possible to go well. One chant we do often is The King Of Aspirations, The Aspiration For Noble Excellent Conduct, the first ten verses of which are included in the Vajrayogini Sadhana.

The chanting speed here is really, really fast. Only one or two of the Tibetan speakers in our group can keep up with the monks verbally. Most everything is in meter and with someone clicking the side of a muffled hand bell to keep up the pace. The Tibetan language is quite terse as well, so even if you can keep up, keeping up with the meaning is another matter. It’s kind of challenge and my goal is to shoot for the first two to four syllables of a line and then move on. The best approach in my experience is memorization. I am not sure many of the English speaking Tibetans would fare much better in the West chanting with us racing through our own liturgies.

After the empowerment related to the outer guru practices, we moved to the inner practices, those more related to the guru from the inner point of view. Traditionally ‘inner’ is said to be what we can feel physically or internally as opposed to an experience everyone shares. For example, I feel my indigestion; nobody else does because it is an inner experience. With respect to these type of practices, we are not talking about a vague emotionalism like ‘I feel very good about so and so,’ but instead we are talking about meditations that help develop confidence that the wisdom and sanity of the teacher is also at the core of one’s own being. These particular practices get divided into three areas of emphasis—the three kayas. This is a big topic, but suffice it to say that some of the empowerments bring out the essence, the ultimate aspect of emptiness as the inner teacher; others bring out the aspect of the luminous nature of this essence, and the third group emphasizes the compassionate display of the guru. Empowerments for this latter group will continue for some days.

On the 13th, in middle of the afternoon there was a sudden commotion on the veranda. No inside one knew what it was and the whole room hushed a bit. Usually the only cause for a wave of quiet is Namkha Drimed Rinpoche coming to a moment of meditation in the text. But this time even His Eminence was quiet and everyone was slowly shifting around to look. For a moment I wondered if someone had died or had a seizure. After about 10 seconds of staring to adjust to the bright light outside the building I could see that there was growing wave of movement outside. People were getting up. There was a swarm of bees sweeping through the crowd on the porch and very quickly everyone began running in the shrine room with doors were being slammed everywhere. Total pandemonium! Namkha Drimed Rinpoche started to laugh quite heartily. The adventure with the bees continued through the afternoon until a sensible Tibetan layman filled a censer with lots of broken incense and made a big smoky offering to wave around the porch.

During these days Jigme Rinpoche wrote a long letter to be sent out to the Ripa sangha and this will be posted on this blog shortly. Helping type this letter I was called to the shrine room a few times and brought up on stage to sit beside Jigme Rinpoche to review the text during the morning lungs. If you haven’t guessed by now, it is sometimes a bit boring in the shrine room and any unusual events in the empowerments—related or not—rapidly get the attention of everyone in the room. The close inspection by the Tibetans, particularly the lay Tibetans when I have to weave through there groups to get to a meeting, makes me realize they are trying to figure the westerners out just as we are trying to make sense of them. In many ways our cultures as well as approaches to practice are quite different.

The Schedule Then, the Schedule Now

December 13th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 12th

This event is a sort of massive group retreat. It has turned out many of the westerners are attending the lungs as opposed to doing their own practice in the mornings. People start the day in the shrine room at six-thirty in the morning and listen to the reading transmissions until eight o’clock breakfast. Ideally one is silent during the lungs letting the words pour inside. For the most part, attending a reading transmission is sitting meditation with an emphasis on resting the mind on sound. Although it is hard for the younger monks to stay silent I have notice that a large proportion of the older Tibetans in the back are quiet during the day.

At eight o’clock there is breakfast and the lungs continue on for another three hours. In a group retreat like dathun or on solitary retreat this would be the second session. There is another hour’s break for lunch at noon. These breaks are tightly timed and it is inspiring and entertaining to see hundreds of us running around to stay in sync.

His Eminence enters the main shrine room at one o’clock. Traditionally the appearance of a major teacher is heralded by gyalings, shrill Tibetan horns. These have become a last moment’s warning for the rest of us to get to the main temple. Namkha Drimed Rinpoche then gives the abhishekas until six or six-thirty, five and a half hours with a ten to fifteen minute break somewhere after four. There’s a tea just before the break, but His Eminence is usually continuing the initiations in some way during this time.

So, that works out to about ten hours a day in the shrine room for the general populace. A group of older monks performs a practice called chod after dinner while the Rinpoches continue with meetings and audiences and the rest of us sometimes collapse in bed.

Namkha Drimed Rinpoche has a different schedule that the all the rest of us. He starts his preliminary rituals at four in the morning and is in the shrine room until dinner, stopping only a short while for meals. Occasionally I am reflecting on the question of what I will be able to accomplish at the age of seventy. His Eminence’s devotion to the Rinchen Terdzo is palpable, as is the strength of his focus on Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche throughout the day.

Looking at Trungpa Rinpoche’s account of the first time he gave the Rinchen Terdzo, around 1954 in Tibet, I see that he had a different style of giving the transmission. Much to my surprise everyone started listening to the lungs at 2:30 AM. This is four hours earlier than we are doing it today.

Instead of giving the empowerments all in one batch (which I suspect saves a bit of time) Trungpa Rinpoche gave them at four different times during the day, twice in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening starting at six. In between those times I am guessing the Vidyadhara was doing the preliminary ritual practices necessary to offer the subsequent empowerments. He started his morning at 4:30, half an hour later than Namkha Drimed Rinpoche is. It is amazing to think that Trungpa Rinpoche was only 14 at this time in his life. In the West he’d have been a 9th or 10th grader.