Yangdak Unseen

January 25th, 2008

Monk antics continue. Throughout the empowerments we are making small symbolic offerings of the world at different stages in the ceremonies. We do this by putting a pinch rice in our hands before making mudra, or gesture, with our hands to show the world according to an early cosmology—a central mountain with four islands surrounding it. We chant four lines of verse describing offering the purity of this world so that all beings may enjoy such an experience.

Then, we gently toss the rice up in the air. Usually. Sometimes one allows such rice to fall on a friend, but this afternoon a row of westerners was hit, I daresay was pelted, with a weighty spray of about a cup of rice from behind. It was an almost comical amount. All three of us sat composed so as not to arouse a burst of giggles from the young monastic perpetrators. After about a minute I casually turned around and looked back. Amidst a group of eight or nine year old monks was one monk who ordinarily sits in the second row with some of the lamas. My suspicion is that this one is a reincarnate lama himself. His general good humor, maturity and energy for a four year old seems almost unnatural and the lamas seem to keep a special eye on him. He was staring straight at me, laughing and the older boys were patting him on the back. A moment later he was gone.

Today we moved a through nearly half of the Yangdak empowerments. Again we are faced with a deity not included in the frescos in the shrine room. Yangdak is the wrathful manifestation of enlightened mind. Since we don’t have a picture here, I thought it might be interesting to include Trungpa Rinpoche’s description of Yangdag from the upcoming publication for the general public, Root Text Project Volume III: Vajrayana. This book should be released in a couple years. It is a compilation of Trungpa Rinpoche’s seminary teachings, including the vajrayana teachings given between 1973 and 1986. Acharya Judy Leif, the editor for the Root Text Project, granted permission for me to share material from the 8 logos section of the volume with you.

As a compliment to this, for those to whom Trungpa Rinpoche’s vajrayana materials may be new, we’ll start with a short quote from Jigme Rinpoche. Jigme Rinpoche addresses the relationship between Trungpa Rinpoche’s style of teaching and the traditional presentation of the vajrayana dharma.

Jigme Rinpoche:

“I do believe that Trungpa Rinpoche’s particular use of language is geared to a small western audience, during a particular time, an audience that did not have a traditional path or a culture built around it with vivid physical details about all the yidams [meditation deities]. He made the western audience understand the mandalas more on psychological terms. It is unusual to present the development of the different yidams on a psychological level instead of placing more emphasis on a vivid presentation in the physical world. His presentation is more directed to the mind.”

“I think what we get here in the East is still very much based on tradition, based on what is outer. Of course, the highest practitioners eventually relate to the mind level of what’s being manifested. But to a very ordinary practitioner, a real, vivid living world is presented physically in terms of the colors and forms [in the mandalas, paintings and so on]. There is a certain connection being built to a physical world of the yidam. There are a lot of steps involved, a lot of descriptions of what the yidam looks like and all that, very vividly and colorfully done, like the physical manifestation of a solid world. Trungpa Rinpoche was painting more from psychological paint. It’s easier for a western audience to click that way.”

“I think there is a good way of combining the two. You know, it’s like saying, ‘Here is what is eventually your mind’s manifestation, what it looks like. But until then, the real world is like this.’”

And now, here is the excerpt from the Root Text Project. In it, Trungpa Rinpoche talks about the charnel ground, taking delight in that situation. The charnel ground is where people are brought to die. It is the meeting ground between life and death, between samsara and nirvana, order and chaos. This kind of environment of birth, death and chaos is happening around us all the time. Our experience is always manifesting these qualities in one way or another. The wrathful yidams are generally pictured as existing in this kind of situation.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche:

“The first Logos is called Yangdak, which means completely pure, and is connected with the eastern section of the mandala. Yangdak is blue in color and is connected with the vajra family. The philosophy behind this Logos is that of holding the Buddha in your hand. The idea is that Buddha, or any kind of notion of enlightenment, is not a big deal. Looking back from the enlightenment point of view you see that the notion of attaining enlightenment is very small thinking. You can actually see beyond that. Yangdak is connected with the idea of taking delight in the charnel ground as the most luxurious place of all. So with Yangdak we have the idea of holding the Buddha in your hand and the idea of taking delight in the charnel ground of phenomenal experience.”

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