Reflections, General Outline

December 9 2008

Sometimes I have been thinking one reason why the Rinchen Terdzo was so important to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was that he was able to immerse himself in all the practices and instructions of termas and pure visions deeply, for months at a time. It seems like some huge family tree that one enters and then lives in the essence of the life of every single person one is related to.  During an interview last week the Sakyong pointed out that the Vidyadhara was giving or receiving the Rinchen Terdzo for a large portion of his teenage life. There are times I have been looking at Namkha Drimed Rinpoche and seeing this event as a window into the life of the Vidyadhara and many, many teachers before him.

To give an overview again, there are three major sections to the Rinchen Terdzo. These are the history section, the instructions on how to set up and perform the Rinchen Terdzo, and then all the actual instructions. This latter part is the bulk of the text. By the way, you can find a complete outline in the back of Richard Baron’s translation of Jamgon Kongtrul’s Autobiography, and in the back of Tulku Thondup Rinpoche’s Hidden Teachings of Tibet.

Within the instruction section are three major groups, the Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga, also known as the three inner tantras. These three yogas are progressive presentations of mind and meditation with each one being more subtle and direct than the prior one. The biggest section of the Rinchen Terdzo is the Mahayoga section and within this are many major sadhanas, or liturgical practices which may be familiar to those who study the Nyingma school of Buddhism. 

Although each of the three inner tantras have aspects of the other two, Mahayoga concentrates the most on visualization practice, rituals and so forth. The Mahayoga section of the Rinchen Terdzo has two major parts with the tantra class coming first, followed by the instruction class which is very, very large. Yesterday I mistakenly said the tantra and sadhana classes were a part of the instruction section.

We will finish the empowerments connected with the tantra section this afternoon. These empowerments have mainly been connected with the practice of Vajrasattva and the hundred peaceful and wrathful deities, though there are other practices that were given, probably branch practices related to Vajrasattva and the hundred peaceful and wrathful deities.

The sadhana section is divided into two parts—the main sadhanas and the secondary rituals. Sadhana is sometimes translated as ‘means of attainment’. A sadhana is a liturgy combined with instructions that when practiced help one to confidently experience and stabilize a recognition of one’s true nature, basic goodness, things as they are. The sadhana section begins with practices related to the three roots. I’ll write more about them in the coming days.

The reading transmissions happening in the mornings are finishing the first overall section of the text, the live stories of Padmasambhava and the tertons. Today Tulku Lhungtrul Rinpoche begins the life stories of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye who compiled the Rinchen Terdzod, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo who travelled Tibet receiving many nearly-extinct terma lineages that came to be included in the collection, and Chogyur Dechen Lingpa, an amazing and extraordinary terton who discovered and revived many terma lineages and was a good friend as well as both student and teacher to Khyentse and Kongtrul.

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