Three Days in One
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.