Culture, Enlightened Leadership and the Rinchen Terdzo

An ongoing contemplation during and after the events in Orissa has been the relationship between the Rinchen Terdzo, enlightened sovereignty and community.



While the Rinchen Terdzo can be seen simply as a treasury of practices for meditators in monasteries, in retreat, and so forth, looking at the collection in the context of buddhist history is illuminating. There is a theme that runs through how the vajrayana teachings manifested in India and Tibet and how the vajrayana is transmitted both in the tantric tradition in general and in Shambhala. For the most part, although there was occasional royal patronage of the dharma in India, a stable vajrayana buddhist kingdom never arose in India the way one did in Tibet. Once a genuine vajrayana culture was established through support of a royal lineage in Tibet, it paved the way for an unparalleled development of buddhist lineage, practice, and scholarship. Padmasambhava’s activities in Tibet, and the eleven centuries of Tibetan termas highlighted by the Rinchen Terdzo, would not have arisen without the vision and example of King Trisong Detsen. 

King Trisong Detsen

King Trisong Detsen

From another perspective, the Rinchen Terdzo is a record of what can flourish, and likewise, what is needed, in a dharmic culture. The collection preserves the very best of the revitalizing practices that arose in the mindstreams of tertons who were the rebirths of realized teachers who helped create the foundations of Tibetan culture. In some ways the collection is like a photographic image of everything needed in a dharmic kingdom. Within the large mahayoga section of the Rinchen Terdzo, the practices of the guru provide the means for everyone to discover the principle of awakened leadership within themselves. The practices of the eight logos provide a comprehensive means develop all possible attainments. The practices of the dakinis and protectors provide the basis for various beneficial activities to spread throughout a dharmic realm. All of these qualities of practice manifested in Tibet. The vajrayana can flourish only in a dharmic community. It needs a culture to appreciate it. 


The Drala Manifestation of Gesar of Ling

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s brilliance in his vision of transplanting the dharma in the style of both Padmasambhava and a warrior-king like was to create a culture, not just a sangha, for the dharma to exist within. He deliberately created a dharmic society with a family lineage at its center as a container to receive the buddhist world in a new context. We often say that Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche brought the dharma to the west, but we can also he say he created a world, a culture and a context for the dharma to arrive from the East.

This wisdom is mirrored in the history of the vajrayana coming to our world. Generally speaking, the vajrayana came to us first through a royal lineage. The vajrayana was initially presented by the Buddha to king Indrabhuti, the ruler of Shambhala who had requested a way to practice the dharma without becoming a monastic and renouncing his kingdom. The histories of the arrival of the mahayoga, anuyoga and atiyoga teachings in this world are similar. Often, a divine being presented the teachings to a ruler requesting the dharma.

Empowerment rituals in the vajrayana tradition generally emphasize the practitioner holding the view of an enlightened monarch. In most empowerments, the disciple is symbolically made a king or queen in order to emphasize the creative display and power of awakened mind. The mind and its world, its mandala, form the experience or kingdom of a realized practitioner, someone who has confidently realized basic goodness, buddha nature. This view forms the basis of enlightened society. It all revolves around the idea of the student being awakened into their own inherent wisdom and thus becoming a king or queen of their experience. Enlightened society is about sharing that experience with others.

Royal patronage leading to the flourishing of the dharma in Tibet was not a normal coincidence. The Buddhist explanation of causality is that things happen because of beings’ karma and aspirations. A Buddhist culture or kingdom arises because of the collective aspirations of everyone involved. It comes from aspirations coming together with the right causes and conditions rather than good luck or a ruler’s ambition. King Trisong Detsen was, in a sense, waiting to foster the dharma, and the right conditions were there for such good fortune to happen.


Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche During the Concluding Ceremonies

It was poignant to see the Sakyong enthroned at the end of the Rinchen Terdzo in the same way that both he and his father were made sovereigns of Shambhala. While the Blazing Jewel of Sovereignty is a general text for the enthronement of a dharmaraja, a dharma ruler, it holds a special place in Shambhala because of the Vidyadhara’s use of the text. In a way, the empowerment marks the beginning of a cycle of dharmic culture because of the intimate relationship between the vision of community and culture, and having a leader for such a situation. This is similar to the recognition of one’s own inherent goodness. Confidence in that knowledge makes one a ruler of one’s own world, and from there one can go forward into improving one’s own life and the lives of others.

In the Blazing Jewel of Sovereignty ceremony, the emphasis is on the enthronement of a dharma-protecting king. All temporal signs of rulership are bestowed upon the disciple. As all of this comes at the end of the Rinchen Terdzo, or in the case of Shambhala, at the end of the training of a Sawang, a future Sakyong. The future dharmaraja has already been filled with the riches of the teachings when the Blazing Jewel of Sovereignty is bestowed. It seems especially fitting that the Sakyong was again crowned a dharma king after receiving another wave of spiritual riches belonging to his father. May Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s wish for the new golden age, the dawn of enlightened society, come to quick fruition in our lifetime.

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