Manifestations of the Guru

December 28th 2008

Today we began receiving the abhishekas for the secret practices of the wrathful guru. Secret can sometimes mean not ordinarily noticeable as opposed to a secret one hides from someone else. Compassion can manifest wrathfully if we disregard the peaceful messages of wakefulness. When Padmasambhava came to Nalanda to stop the black magicians who were threatening the monastery, he manifested in a wrathful form called The Lion’s Roar, Senge Dradrog. In this manifestation he is depicted as fiery red holding a vajra as a scepter and an iron scorpion. This kind of compassion works very directly with the difficult emotions like jealousy and greed. The heart of this kind of compassion is love and realization, but outwardly it is terrifying.

One of the cycles we received today was the inner practice of Guru Dragpo Tsal. A fresco of this deity is on the wall beside the westerners’ seating block. This terma was part of a cycle of guru practices revealed by Rigdzin Gokyi Demtru Chan. This terton’s name means something like ‘The man with the plume of vulture feathers.’ Rigdzin means Vidyadhara and denotes the complete realization of Dzogchen. He was born in 1337 and lived to the age of 71. His name comes from the fact that three vulture feathers grew out of the top of his head when he was 12 years old. Two more grew when he was in his mid-twenties. This was amazing to everyone and marked him as a particularly special terton; Padmasambhava’s crown has vulture feathers on its peak. He was the rebirth of one of Padmasambhava’s closest disciples.

Rigdzin Demtruchan (as he is also known) was the main author of what are called as the Northern Terma. Some termas are placed by location. This group is well known and comes from Northern Tibet whereas the earliest termas came from the South. Dudjom Rinpochem in his History of the Nyingma Lineage notes that the Northern Terma are like a minister who beneficially serves all of Tibet and Kham because the Northern Terma contains a complete collection of practices and teachings to care for a kingdom. These include rituals to increase the teachings, terminate the spread of infectious disease, control epidemics, pacify civil wars and so forth. In contains many ways to promote the happiness of Tibet also points out many hidden areas in Tibet where dharma practice can be particularly strong. Later in life he opened up sacred sites in Sikkhim as well.

Many of Rigdzin Demtruchan’s termas are well known. He wrote a three volume set of texts on Dzogchen which is regarded as one of the three highest transmissions of Dzogchen teachings in Tibet, the other two being the Longchen Nyingtig and the Nyingtig Yabshi. It is interesting to know that the reading transmissions from his sons, consort and disciples have all continued to the present day. Many of the practitioners of his lineage have achieved the rainbow body a sign of which can be that at death a person leaves no physical remains behind.

In the evening the Sakyong gave a very lively and useful talk to the western sangha. He started by telling everyone how he came to request the Rinchen Terdzo from His Eminence, the history of the Rinchen Terdzo with the Vidyadhara, and how things were going in general. After that he went on to give people a sense of how to be in this situation, three months of teachings in a difficult environment. From there he went on to discuss the relationship between view and practice in this context.

One poignant moment came in the middle of the talk came when the Sakyong said that what he admired most about the Vidyadhara was his courage. He said that the older generation of Tibetans, like His Eminence, have incredible strength and bravery. He encouraged us to develop those qualities in ourselves.

The most exciting moment in the talk was when the Sakyong was answering a question about communicating through symbolism. As he explained that it was possible to communicate with symbolism the elect abruptly cut out leaving us in pitch darkness. The dark room was filled with laughter. Everyone quieted down to hear the Sakyong continue to speak without a microphone. As he was saying that the various manifestations of the deities and other symbols were meant to communicate one primordial nature the lights came back on and an animal outside released a bizarre yelp. The room filled with surprised laughter.

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