Dalai Lamas and the Rinchen Terdzo

December 19th

The first time I visited the Potala Palace of Dalai Lamas in Lhasa I didn’t know much Buddhist history. I was surprised to see a long shrine hall in the Potala devoted to large statues of Padmasambhava and his eight main teachers—the space looked so Nyingma rather than Gelugpa (the school of the Dalai Lamas where there is not so much emphasis on Padmasambhava). That was when learned there were other Dalai Lamas besides the current Dalai Lama, His Holiness Tendzin Gyatso, who had had strong connection with the Nyingma School.

Today we had an empowerment for a pure vision revealed by the 5th Dalai Lama, Lozang Gyatso. He was born in 1617 and was said to be the enlightened activity of King Trisong Detsen as well as being the embodiment of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. At twenty-one he took full ordination and was already extremely learned having mastered the classical curriculum. He studied impartially with masters in many traditions including the Nyingma. The Fifth Dalai Lama had disciples from all four schools of Buddhism.

There had been prophecies that the fifth Dalai Lama would find both termas and pure visions. He visited Samye, the first monastery in Tibet and the auspicious circumstances were there for him to find termas, but the conditions didn’t mature so that he did not reveal any. However, later on he had visions and empowerments from the three roots, and he wrote these down with his own commentaries in a book called The Twenty-Five Sealed Pure Visions. Several of these practices are included in the Rinchen Terzo and today’s Bringing The Essential Power of Amitayus was the first. Amitayus is the buddha who confers long life.

The Fifth Dalai Lama is known for a great many political achievements. He built the Potala Palace, one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen. The Mongol Gushri Khan took over most of Tibet and then gave all the civil and religious property to the Fifth Dalai Lama. Later the Dalai Lama went to Beijiing where the emperor venerated him and began a patron-priest relationship. The Fifth Dalai Lama ruled both Tibet and the neighboring region of Kham according to civil and religious law.

In 1682, Dalai Lama Lozang Gyamtso passed away at the age of sixty-one, and his next incarnation took birth in a family descended from the terton Pema Lingpa. Though not included in the Rinchen Terdzo the Sixth Dalai Lama is very well known for his poetry. In fact, the manager of our guesthouse was reading some to us two nights ago. The Sixth Dalai Lama was only Dalai Lama who was not a monastic. He had many girlfriends in Lhasa and was fond of chang, Tibetan beer. His love poetry mixes devotion, dharma and longing much in the style of the poetry of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

The present Dalai Lama has, we learned at tea during the empowerments the other day, has accepted the invitation to come and formally open Ripa Monastery. It is difficult to say if this will actually happen because His Holiness saying he’d like to come is different from his actually being able to come. He has so many obligations and requests from all over the world. I think all the Tibetan community here is hoping mightily he will come as are we Westerners. The other day we added an especially lengthy prayer for the activity and longevity prayer of His Holiness.

By the way, last night I noticed many of the littlest monks here have already memorized the chant for the Sakyong’s longevity written by Namkha Drimed Rinpoche . This was something I found both inspiring and amusingly embarrassing as most of these monks are as tall standing as I am sitting.

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