December 25th 2008
Namkha Drimed Rinpoche is indefatigable. It’s really amazing to watch how much energy he has and how happy he is to be giving these abhishekas. At the same time everyone gets a bit worried because he is working so much work. Yesterday the Sakyong was saying that at one point they tried to get His Eminence to abbreviate things. There are ways to cut corners here and there when giving empowerments. However, His Eminence won’t do it. He wants to give the Rinchen Terdzo as close to the way he got it from the Vidyadhara. Every time I try to express this to someone I feel like crying.
Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Pema Thotrengtsal Vajra Samaya Jah Siddhi Phala Hum Ah.
This is a famous mantra or verbalized essence of Padmasambhava. We sing it at the end of the day when the procession of teachers brings the various vases, icons, tormas and so on through the many rows of us gathered for the abhishekas.
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.
GURU PADMA SIDDHI HUM
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.
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.
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.