The Sakyong’s Role
I want to add more about how the Rinchen Terdzo is being bestowed upon the Sakyong and the others in the assembly. The Sakyong is the main focus during these empowerments. Frequently, His Eminence will start by empowering the Sakyong alone, and then empower the other four recipients who come to the throne: Jigme Rinpoche, Lhuntrul Rinpoche, Tulku Kunkyab Rinpoche and the Sakyong Wangmo, Khandro Tseyang. After that, the Sakyong and the three other rinpoches bring the icons to the tulkus, khenpos, lamas and dignitaries. At the very end of the day, the Sakyong, Jigme Rinpoche and a number of the lamas and khenpos, move through the assembly with the various icons, vases, tormas and so forth from all of the empowerments bestowed that day. His Eminence sometimes joins this procession. Usually, he remains on the throne performing the concluding liturgies while the rest of us sing mantras from the different empowerments while the Sakyong and others walk through the rows of monks, nuns and lay people.
An example of the way the Sakyong appears to be the main focus of the empowerments is how His Eminence performs the sections of an abhisheka that involves bestowing a series of tsakali [small painted icons]. Tsakali often come in groups, such as the eight bodhisattvas or the seven precious possessions of a universal monarch. In these cases, His Eminence will bestow the empowerments related to the tsakali by displaying them one by one to the Sakyong while reciting the corresponding verses, visualizations and so on. After going through all eight individually with the Sakyong, His Eminence then gathers all the tsakali into one bunch in his hand, and recites the final verse or mantra of the series as he turns briefly to each of the other four main recipients in turn.
I asked Jigme Rinpoche for a picture of how the abhishekas are bestowed upon the different people at the Rinchen Terdzo. His edited remarks are below:
“A tulku is considered to be someone who is able to transmit the dharma to others. It doesn’t matter who the tulku is, every tulku is supposed to receive all the transmissions of the different lineages, particularly of their own lineage, through the abhishekas, tris [instructions], and lungs [reading transmissions]. A tulku is supposed to be a treasure vase of all the transmissions. Then, because of that, a tulku is able to transmit them to others. Now, whether the tulku will transmit them to others, or whether there will actually be others who request those transmissions, depends on each tulku’s situation. But generally, as a tulku they are seen as an object to whom all these precious transmissions should be given. That is one point.
“The second point is that out of all the tulkus at an empowerment like this, normally one or two are seen to be someone completely capable of passing on the transmission. At the time of an abhisheka like this one, someone will be officially appointed, so to speak, as someone of leading capacity from among all the people. This will be done at the end of the abhisheka. I believe most probably it will be the Sakyong and my brother as well, Lhunpo Tulku Rinpoche. I have already been appointed in Tibet when my father bestowed the Rinchen Terdzo the first time. I was one of the main people appointed as a holder of the transmission at that particular time.
“Then there are all the khenpos, tulkus, the Sakyong Wangmo, and my sisters. From our community, all the sisters are regarded in just the same way because they are the daughters of His Eminence; they are part of family. They usually receive such transmissions in case of the eventuality that they may be needed to transmit them if there is a necessity. Otherwise, somehow it is a male dominated lineage; the sons in the family continue to be the lineage holders.
“From an another perspective, one of the purposes of giving such a transmission is so that everybody who wishes to follow the path of vajrayana properly can have a transmission that will enable them to practice and move forward. Without this it is impossible to begin any practice in the vajrayana. You must have an abhisheka or initiation from a proper teacher. This is absolutely necessary for somebody to embark on a spiritual journey on the vajrayana level of practice. That’s why the empowerment is not only giving the transmission so that it continues in the future, but it also enables people to seriously practice all the different yidams, gurus, dakinis, whatever is applicable to them. Wherever they might go in the future, they will have the abhisheka inside them and so they can practice.
“So the abhisheka goes out in two ways: one for the purpose of holding that transmission, and the other for continuing the practice.”