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.
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)
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.
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.
January 29thA friend stepped into our room this morning to alert us to the fact that the Kangyur was being moved from the old Ripa Monastery to the new one. A long train of monks was carrying the thick, cloth-bound individual volumes respectfully on their shoulders to the new library. The Kangyur is one of the two most important collections of the texts one finds housed in Tibetan monasteries. There is one in the main shrine room of the Boulder Shambhala Center too. The Kangyur consists of the Tibetan translations of the Buddha’s spoken teachings on sutra and tantra. There are many editions of the Kangyur originating from Tibet. They are 104 or 108 volumes depending on the edition. This edition was one of the few carried out of Tibet in the late 1950’s and is the last remaining copy of its type. The other major collection, a companion to the Kangyur, is the Tengyur, the translations of mainly Indian commentaries. The Tangyur is 218 volumes.
Today His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche began to bestow the empowerments of the fifth logos, Vajrakilaya. This practice already well known in the west. Sometimes lineage traditions will present students with ‘a training sadhana’, a first liturgical practice with visualizations, mantra recitations and so on. These sadhanas are not beginner’s practices because a lot of preliminary practices are done before starting them, and because the sadhanas have already been used by great meditators of the past to gain realization. Vajrakilaya practices, famed for clearing away obstacles to awakening, are commonly used as a first sadhana in the Nyingma tradition.
The Vajrakilaya practice best known in Shambhala is the Netik Phurba, the Heart Essence Kilaya terma discovered by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo in the 19th century. It was first bestowed on the community by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in 1987. In more recent years, the empowerment was given by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche who taught in Halifax this past November. This year, the Sakyong will bestow the Netik Phurba empowerment for the first time. I am very happy to think of him receiving a great many Vajrakilaya abhishekas in the coming days, including the Netik Phurba which appears as number 12 in our list of 15.
Vajrakilaya has many forms. Some are elaborate like the Netik Phurba that has three faces, six arms and four legs. Others are simpler, with just one face and two arms. In all of them the deity is holding the handle of a three-sided dagger called a kila (Tib. phurba, pronounced ‘pur-ba’) between his palms. Its point is faces downwards. The symbolism of the phurba is that the dagger of awareness cuts through passion, aggression and ignorance simultaneously. These three emotions are called the three poisons. They are the source of our suffering and all the problems of the world. The phurba is a symbol of Vajrakilaya, and is also one of many implements held that may be held by wrathful deities.
Today I was again impressed by His Eminence as I watched him on the throne. A lot times I get slightly weepy looking at him because he is totally dedicated to making this transmission possible for the Sakyong and the rest of us. He is joyful, and clear. He never seems to be phased by the ritual and he is gentle, kind and quick to help the chopons if they miss a beat during the ever-changing procession of traditions in the termas. The points during the empowerments when he is giving meditation instruction are pretty much the highlight of my time here in India. I don’t know if I will be able to realize any of what he’s presenting, but I do feel the value of it again and again. This makes me yearn for more.
I must direct all of you to the website for the Rinchen Terdzo being bestowed by Kyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche at Mindrolling Monastery in Dehradun, North India. In fulfillment of the wishes of her father and root guru, the late Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen, Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche is sponsoring the event. The website is beautifully done, with a wealth on information on the empowerments and many, many photos. As a blogger, I am humbled by their organization and efforts. The event itself looks to be about eight times the size of what’s happening here in Orissa and everything there seems to be going incredibly well. May all beings realize the purpose and meaning of the Rinchen Terdzo.
Here’s the site as it has evolved so far; there’s more to come too:
January 28th 2009
Here are some remarks Trungpa Rinpoche made about Amrita, the fifth logos, also known as Chemchok Heruka [Supreme Among The Herukas] during his seminary teachings in 1973 – 1975:
“In the fifth Logos, the basic idea is to intoxicate hesitations by providing greater. The phenomenal world and its container, which is mind, can be intoxicated completely. Neurosis can be intoxicated into wisdom; rightness and wrongness can be intoxicated into nothingness; and all six realms can be intoxicated into the mandala of the five buddha families.”*
When speaking of ‘rightness and wrongness’ being intoxicated into nothingness, Trungpa Rinpoche is talking about our ideas of being right or wrong about something being intoxicated, or transformed, by going beyond our habitual patterns. He most definitely is not talking about abandoning our fundamental sanity or abandoning benefiting others. One is getting drunk through wisdom.
I had the chance to meet again with Jigme Rinpoche this evening, and I am starting to buckle under the wealth of insight and information he drops on me during each conversation. During one part of the interview I learned a bit more about the preceding logos, Yangdak enlightened mind (very similar to Chakrasamvara practice in the Kagyu tradition) and what lies ahead, Vajrakilaya, enlightened action, one of the most popular practices in the Nyingma. Jigme Rinpoche told me the story of Padmasambhava’s retreat at Parpeng, Nepal prior to his arrival in Tibet. I will condense my notes of this part of the conversation into what follows, although after the transcript is reviewed I will post that too.
Parpeng is now home to a great many retreat centers including the new Ripa monastery. I visited the Asura Cave, Padmasambhava’s practice place, many years ago. It has a nunnery enclosing it on the hillside. The cave is small and has a powerful, weighty feeling inside of it. One feels impervious. Outside the entrance is the impression of Padmasambhava’s hand print in solid rock.
While at Parpeng, Padmasambhava became accomplished in Yangdak while practicing in the cave, however he felt that the Vajrakilaya practice was also necessary. First the foundation of peace and happiness were laid by the Yangdak practice, but obstacles to foundation had to be overcome in order to establish that peace. At that time there was a huge epidemic in nearby Kathmandu. When Padmasambhava did the Vajrakilaya practice the epidemic ended. From that experience Padmasambhava saw that Vajrakilaya and Yangdak could be brought together and so he wrote a practice called Yangphur Dragma, The Combined Yangdak-Kilaya. The terma for this combination practice was discovered by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Jamgon Kongtrul’s guru and friend. It is part of the Yangdak section of the Rinchen Terdzo.
On a contemplatively practical note, the western chopons here are making lists of ritual objects to acquire for whatever empowerments or practices that might come our way in the future. Given the variety of implements I have seen, and the contents of the choppon’s room here at Padmasambhava Vihar (the new name for the monastery), this is probably a big list. The main list makers seem to be Kristine McCutcheon from the laity, and Jinpa from Gampo Abbey. They exchanged a knowing glance yesterday at the appearance of appearance of new kind of vase during one of the empowerments.
I thought it might be good to say something about how little of this blog is me, my mind, or inspiration. I’ve been receiving some very sweet complements from people and it’s best to restate that writing this blog was the inspiration of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. It’s not something I ever would have thought of doing.
That being said I have to add that the good ideas in the blog aren’t really mine because the Sakyong and Jigme Rinpoche have met with me often, answered a lot of questions, and sketched out what might be best to cover. The details of what is being written have come from various books I’ve read, teachings I have heard, and conversations with knowledgeable people I’ve met over the years. About all I can take credit for are descriptions of food I didn’t cook, and the weather which arises from a process I don’t really understand. And mistakes. I can claim responsibility for the mistakes in the blog.
* This material has been compiled and excerpted by Judy Lief from the Root Text Project Volume III: Vajrayana. It is intended for a one-time limited use only, by the Walker Blaine blog on the Rinchen Terdzö Abhisheka. Sources: 1973/1975 Vajradhatu Seminary Transcripts.
© 2008 Diana J. Mukpo
As you can see there is a small wire running across the fresco. The shrine room alternates between regular power and stored 12 volt electricity amidst the frequent short outages here in Orissa. We have several a day, but usually they are no longer than ten or fifteen minutes.
January 27th 2009
Guru Chokyi Wangchuk (1212-1271) was the second of the Five Kingly Tertons, the tertons who were direct reincarnations of King Trisong Detsen, the ruler who had invited Padmasambhava to Tibet in the 8th century. Guru Chokyi Wangchuk, also known as Guru Chowang (a compression of the first and third syllables of his name), comes up often in the Rinchen Terdzo, maybe because he was a speech manifestation of King Trisong Detsen. He was very prolific. The last time we encountered him was three days ago as the discoverer of wrathful Vajrapani practice call The Lion’s Roar.
Guru Chowang received his name at birth, which is sort of unusual because Tibetans are given many names in life, and often it is a later one that sticks. At the time of Guru Chowang’s birth, his father, a highly accomplished practitioner named Pangtong Drubpay Nyingpa, was writing a golden lettered copy of the famous tantra, the Manjushri-nama-samgiti (often called Chanting the Names of Manjushri). He had just copied the words ‘…you are the lord of the dharma and the king of the dharma’, when the birth began. Accordingly the child was named Lord of Dharma, Chokyi Wangchuk. Guru Chowang learned to read and write by the age of four.
Before his teens, Guru Chowang was already extremely well practiced and had become learned the usual Buddhist sutric and tantric studies along with a range of other topics including Sanskrit, medicine, Bon, and divination. When he practiced Vajrapani at the age of ten the water in one of the ritual vases began to boil. At the age of 14, he was given an inventory of termas discovered the second major terton in Tibetan history, Trapa Ngonshe. Trapa Ngonshe is a revered because among other treasures he found was Tibetan medicine’s four root tantras. These texts had been translated by his previous incarnation, Vairocana, and hidden in the first monastery of Tibet, Samye, where Trapa Ngonshe studied. He lived about two hundred years before Guru Chowang’s time.
I have to digress a bit more here because I meant to be writing this entry about Guru Chowang, but encountered the name of Yutok Yonten Gonpo who comes up a lot in the fourth Logos, the embodiment of enlightened qualities, which we started today. This logos has a lot to do with medicine. Most empowerments involve receiving medicine in one form or another because, from the broadest perspective, the dharma is seen as the medicine that cures all ills. But the empowerments in the fourth logos, Amrita, (Tib. dutsi, sometimes translated by Trungpa Rinpoche as anti-death potion) are over the top in the medical arena. The abhishekas in this section involve receiving and eating a wide variety of herbal medicines. The practice instructions have some emphasis on making medicine along with giving instructions for practices that involve eating medicinal pills and nothing else. Yutok Yonten Gonpo, also called the second king of physicians of Tibet, was a chief propagator of the Tibetan medical tantras found by Trapa Ngonshe.
Trapa Ngonshe’s terma inventory was written on a yellow scroll, a common medium for termas to appear on. Since as least some of the termas on it hadn’t been discovered, various charletons over the years had attempted to recover the termas and either died or experienced some kind of huge misfortune. Guru Chowang’s father stole and hid the scroll to protect his son from such a fate. But about nine years later, when at the age of 22, Guru Chowang recovered the scroll and found a related terma inventory of Tragpa Ngonshe’s in a valley in Southern Tibet.
At that point he began recovering a huge number of termas, 19 major collections in all. Termas have protective deities guarding them and this is probably one reason why even the terma scroll had such a powerful history. When recovering termas, Guru Chowang sometimes commanded the deities to give the termas to his people other than himself. He would send his representatives the locations of the termas, and they’d bring the termas back to him. At other times he’d recover termas himself and miraculous things would be witnessed. All of this made his discoveries indisputable.
Guru Chowang could manifest his body in six forms simultaneously, leave his hand and footprints in rock and even fly through the sky. He was able to recall thirteen successive previous lifetimes, from King Trisong Detsen up to his life as Ngadag Nyangral Nyima Oser, the first of the Five Kingly Tertons. [See January 3rd.] He passed away at the age of 59 amidst wondrous signs. In his day, practitioners would pass each other on the road and ask if each other if they practice Guru Chowang’s earlier or later terma collections. His closest disciple was not Tibetan, but a Nepalese yogi named Bharo Tsukdzin.
Today, we entered the first of two days of empowerments of the fourth logos, enlightened qualities, Amrita. These practices were transmitted to Padmasambhava by Vimalamitra. Amrita, or in Tibetan dutsi yonten (amrita qualities) is sometimes associated with the deity Chemchog who stands at the center of the mandala as the chief of eight logos. There is fresco of Chemchog in the main shrine room who appears quite wrathful, in union with a consort, holding a vajra in each of his three right hands and a skull cup of amrita in each of his three left hands. I asked Lama Tendzin, the head chopon, if this is the one, and he said this was the Chemchog from the peaceful and wrathful deities. He added the one in this section has 21 heads and 42 arms.
Also happening today was the Shambhala luncheon at the Ripa Ladrang, the family compound near the monastery. This was the main event of the day other than the empowerments. About twelve of us assembled at the compound shortly before noon and found the kusung setting up plastic tables in the shade behind the house. Included in our number were European sangha members Mattias and Elke Heidel from Germany. They’ve been here about ten days and depart tomorrow after a touch of terma.
The meal featured a combination of tasty Indian dishes, momos and bottled water. The Tibetans present at the luncheon included the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, Jigme Rinpoche, Khandro Chime and the other three daughters in the Ripa family, Semo Palmo, Semo Pade, and Semo Sonam. Conversation at the luncheon was very light, the sun was very, very hot and the eggplant in yogurt sauce was especially good.