A Kingly Master and A Medical Connection

January 27th 2009

Guru Chokyi Wangchuk (1212-1271) was the second of the Five Kingly Tertons, the tertons who were direct reincarnations of King Trisong Detsen, the ruler who had invited Padmasambhava to Tibet in the 8th century. Guru Chokyi Wangchuk, also known as Guru Chowang (a compression of the first and third syllables of his name), comes up often in the Rinchen Terdzo, maybe because he was a speech manifestation of King Trisong Detsen. He was very prolific. The last time we encountered him was three days ago as the discoverer of wrathful Vajrapani practice call The Lion’s Roar.

Guru Chowang received his name at birth, which is sort of unusual because Tibetans are given many names in life, and often it is a later one that sticks. At the time of Guru Chowang’s birth, his father, a highly accomplished practitioner named Pangtong Drubpay Nyingpa, was writing a golden lettered copy of the famous tantra, the Manjushri-nama-samgiti (often called Chanting the Names of Manjushri). He had just copied the words ‘…you are the lord of the dharma and the king of the dharma’, when the birth began. Accordingly the child was named Lord of Dharma, Chokyi Wangchuk. Guru Chowang learned to read and write by the age of four.

Before his teens, Guru Chowang was already extremely well practiced and had become learned the usual Buddhist sutric and tantric studies along with a range of other topics including Sanskrit, medicine, Bon, and divination. When he practiced Vajrapani at the age of ten the water in one of the ritual vases began to boil. At the age of 14, he was given an inventory of termas discovered the second major terton in Tibetan history, Trapa Ngonshe. Trapa Ngonshe is a revered because among other treasures he found was Tibetan medicine’s four root tantras. These texts had been translated by his previous incarnation, Vairocana, and hidden in the first monastery of Tibet, Samye, where Trapa Ngonshe studied. He lived about two hundred years before Guru Chowang’s time.

I have to digress a bit more here because I meant to be writing this entry about Guru Chowang, but encountered the name of Yutok Yonten Gonpo who comes up a lot in the fourth Logos, the embodiment of enlightened qualities, which we started today. This logos has a lot to do with medicine. Most empowerments involve receiving medicine in one form or another because, from the broadest perspective, the dharma is seen as the medicine that cures all ills. But the empowerments in the fourth logos, Amrita, (Tib. dutsi, sometimes translated by Trungpa Rinpoche as anti-death potion) are over the top in the medical arena. The abhishekas in this section involve receiving and eating a wide variety of herbal medicines. The practice instructions have some emphasis on making medicine along with giving instructions for practices that involve eating medicinal pills and nothing else. Yutok Yonten Gonpo, also called the second king of physicians of Tibet, was a chief propagator of the Tibetan medical tantras found by Trapa Ngonshe.

Trapa Ngonshe’s terma inventory was written on a yellow scroll, a common medium for termas to appear on. Since as least some of the termas on it hadn’t been discovered, various charletons over the years had attempted to recover the termas and either died or experienced some kind of huge misfortune. Guru Chowang’s father stole and hid the scroll to protect his son from such a fate. But about nine years later, when at the age of 22, Guru Chowang recovered the scroll and found a related terma inventory of Tragpa Ngonshe’s in a valley in Southern Tibet.

At that point he began recovering a huge number of termas, 19 major collections in all. Termas have protective deities guarding them and this is probably one reason why even the terma scroll had such a powerful history. When recovering termas, Guru Chowang sometimes commanded the deities to give the termas to his people other than himself. He would send his representatives the locations of the termas, and they’d bring the termas back to him. At other times he’d recover termas himself and miraculous things would be witnessed. All of this made his discoveries indisputable.

Guru Chowang could manifest his body in six forms simultaneously, leave his hand and footprints in rock and even fly through the sky. He was able to recall thirteen successive previous lifetimes, from King Trisong Detsen up to his life as Ngadag Nyangral Nyima Oser, the first of the Five Kingly Tertons. [See January 3rd.] He passed away at the age of 59 amidst wondrous signs. In his day, practitioners would pass each other on the road and ask if each other if they practice Guru Chowang’s earlier or later terma collections. His closest disciple was not Tibetan, but a Nepalese yogi named Bharo Tsukdzin.

Today, we entered the first of two days of empowerments of the fourth logos, enlightened qualities, Amrita. These practices were transmitted to Padmasambhava by Vimalamitra. Amrita, or in Tibetan dutsi yonten (amrita qualities) is sometimes associated with the deity Chemchog who stands at the center of the mandala as the chief of eight logos. There is fresco of Chemchog in the main shrine room who appears quite wrathful, in union with a consort, holding a vajra in each of his three right hands and a skull cup of amrita in each of his three left hands. I asked Lama Tendzin, the head chopon, if this is the one, and he said this was the Chemchog from the peaceful and wrathful deities. He added the one in this section has 21 heads and 42 arms.

Also happening today was the Shambhala luncheon at the Ripa Ladrang, the family compound near the monastery. This was the main event of the day other than the empowerments. About twelve of us assembled at the compound shortly before noon and found the kusung setting up plastic tables in the shade behind the house. Included in our number were European sangha members Mattias and Elke Heidel from Germany. They’ve been here about ten days and depart tomorrow after a touch of terma.

The meal featured a combination of tasty Indian dishes, momos and bottled water. The Tibetans present at the luncheon included the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, Jigme Rinpoche, Khandro Chime and the other three daughters in the Ripa family, Semo Palmo, Semo Pade, and Semo Sonam. Conversation at the luncheon was very light, the sun was very, very hot and the eggplant in yogurt sauce was especially good.

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