Rinchen Terdzo

The Ripas and the Trungpas

December 21st, 2008 by Walker Blaine

Last week the Sakyong invited me to his sitting room for a short meeting. He was eager for me to speak with Jigme Rinpoche about a conversation the two of them had with His Eminence the day before. Namkha Drimed Rinpoche had spoken of how the Rinchen Terdzo was going, connections with the Trungpa Lineage, and how things had come to Orissa.

The next day, I met with Jigme Rinpoche during the morning reading transmissions. I sat beside him on the stage while his brother, Lhuntrul Rinpoche, also known as Lhunpo Rinpoche, gave the reading transmissions to assembly.

Interview with Jigme Rinpoche

Walker Blaine (WB): Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to asked me to ask you about what His Eminence said about how the events were proceeding. Rinpoche mentioned that His Eminence was very happy, that he talked about the local deities being happy, and the special circumstances we are in. The Sakyong wanted me to see about what you could say about that.

Jigme Rinpoche (JR): What His Eminence feels is that this Rinchen Terdzo is happening at a very particular time of his life. That makes him extremely happy and satisfied because with his advanced age and very busy schedule he feels it is better done now than to wait. At the same time he feels that things have to develop in a very natural, spontaneous way. He sees that without any particular effort, things just seem to have happened. He He is extremely happy to see that lots of positive things came together in order for this Rinchen Terdzo to happen at this monestary. The For example, the site of the initiations was completed just in time so it could host everybody who is here.

That His Eminence is also very happy that the Sakyong is now receiving the RT Rinchen Terdzo, the lineage transmissions that he so deserves to receive. So itHis Eminence is like giving him backhim what he has actually received from the Sakyong’s father., that Hhe has’s been a kind of custodian of this precious lineage transmission. And so he is very happy to give it back to the rightful heir.

Also that there is the lung, the oral transmission. It wasn’t actually really planned somehow wasn’t actually reallyreally planned. Somehow it happened at the last minute. Because my brother Lhunpo Rinpoche could also comeWe . Before we were not so sure my brother Lhunpo Rinpoche could come because of his travel documents and all those things whether he could make it this time. But it just happened that at the last minute that everything just worked out very well. So he His Eminence is also very pleased to see that both the wang and the lung are happening at this place.

And thenThen, we have the monastic communityies from Nepal gathered here awith the community from s well as from Orissa who are all gathered here. And these areIt is important for them to actually receive these transmissions. As Our main practices in here and the monasteries as well in the monasteries in Nepal , here, as well as in Tibet that our main practices are very much linked to the terma teachings as elsewhere actually. So it is so important that the practitioners receive proper transmissions of wang and lung. And soSo they are also benefitting from this, as are the . And that the students from the students from the east and west are benefiting from this.

Another reason Rinpoche says he is happy is related to And also because Orissa , Rinpoche says, isbeing a very important tantric place. So that theThe teachings happening here has have a special significance in relation to the local deities, in relation to the energy, the natural elements. – it’s just uh—all of those things just become very conducive; , and the whole atmosphere is renewed, once again renewed, restored, recharged. This is because as it used to be in the pastis a place where so many of the siddhas actually obtained accomplishment. Siddhas have attained accomplishment by practicing meditating in these powerful places like Orissa. So he is just very happy that how the whole thing is progressing.

WB: The Sakyong also mentioned something about the 10th Trungpa and having a connection with your grandfather.

JR: Yes. The other day my father was telling me that in a way, that what is happening now has to happen. It has to happen because he feels that there was a seed was planted, some kind of seed was planted way as far back as in at the time of the tenth Trungpa. The tenth Trungpa requested the Rinchen Terdzo from my father from when he made a visit to Tsawa Gon. Tsawa Gon is not so far away from the center of the Ripa monasteries. This is also , actually as a the region where my father received the Rinchen Terdzo from the Eeleventh Trungpa.

WB: Is that near Yak Gompa, where the Vidyadhara bestowed the Rinchen Terdzo?

JR: Yes, Tsawa Gon is near Yak Gompa.

So, the Tenth Trungpa [Chokyi Nyinche] sent a message to my grandfather, Jigme Tsewang Chogdrub, saying that he would like to receive the Rinchen Terdzo from him. Unfortunately, my grandfather was not well at that time, he was already into his last years. So this could not be completed as wished by the Tenth Trungpa.

My father feels that that event sowed a seed where a time of teacher-student relationship would take place between the Ripas and the Trungpas in the future. And this is exactly how it has happened. When the Eleventh Trungpa was going to give the Rinchen Terdzo at Yak Gompa my father immediately went because he had heard about the Tenth Trungpa’s wish from my grandfather. There was always something. Trungpa was already in his mind, and so my father went to receive the Rinchen Terdzo from the Eleventh Trungpa. He was the main tulku recipient in the sangha at that event.* And now he is giving it back to the Sakyong, the son of the Eleventh Trungpa. It’s as though things had been planned this way for many years.

WB: The Sakyong said there might be more to be known about the Vajrayana connections with this area. You talked about Odibisha to the Western students and also in your letter, but the Sakyong was saying something about the proximity to Bihar and Bodhgaya. Is this another theme that your father considers significant?

JR: Well, when my father was escaping from Tibet with all the great lamas, including the previous Dzongsar Khyentse and Dudjom Rinpoche, many of the lamas had a prophecy and a vision to go to Pema Ko. Pema Ko is a bay-nay, a hidden sacred place blessed by Guru Rinpoche. It was foretold in prophecies contained in several of Guru Rinpoche’s texts that in the degenerate time when the whole country would be taken over by the barbarians, one should proceed towards this bay-nay, Pema Ko.

So, when the Chinese actually invaded Tibet, every lama had one mind to go to Pema Ko. Pema Ko is on the border to India. My father went to Pema Ko and many other lamas met there. That place actually provided a temporary relief to the people on the run. Even though the rest of the country had been already taken over by the Chinese, somehow Pema Ko remained untouched for some years. And this is how many of the lamas could actually breath. They could regain their health, regain their practices. It provided a temporary home.

While staying in Pema Ko, it was very clear that it would not remain safe forever. At that time, my father began to have visions of Odivisha [the tantric name for Orissa] as the next place to go. For a terton, for him, it is important that wherever he travels, wherever he lives, be a tantric power place like Pema Ko, Odibisha, or Bhutan. His Eminence spent several months in practice at Taktsang, Bhutan and there he revealed many terma teachings.

Odibisha is mentioned in many of the tantric texts as a power place. But additionally, my father has a particular link to Odibisha because he had a prophecy to go to Odibisha. That’s how he came to Orissa with the rest of his people. After arriving here, he began to see many signs, many visions of past siddhas, as well as the local deities. And then he also he saw that Orissa has many hidden places still. Still many hidden practitioners, who are not visible to common people. He feels that the actual practice lineage of tantra continues in Orissa uninterruptedly from the time of the Buddha.

Actually, Orissa’s local historians claim that Orissa is Uddiyana. There is a lot of material to support that, which claim that this is the actual place that was Uddiyana, and there are now towns and cities here named Uddhiyana. Also, there’s a history of Indra Bodhi’s kingdom being in this region. The Indian historians believe that Padmasambhava was actually born in Orissa. There’s a book being written on that.

The archeological excavations in Orissa almost all support this; all the artifacts are from the tantra yana. These are vajrayana deities that are not common in the rest of India. For example, we have the 64 Yoginis Temple where you can go and you see all the footprints of dakinis all over the rocks. This is where they were supposed to have danced during a tsok, a ganachakra. You can see the footprints of the dakinis, the 64 tantric yoginis’ footprints really are imprinted on the rocks. And there you can see a really beautiful, powerful stone statue of Vajravarahi dating from the tenth century.

WB: I wanted to confirm that the two lineages of the Rinchen Terdzo that HE holds are from Trungpa Rinpoche and from Kalu Rinpoche.

JR: And there is a third, from his father, Jigme Tsewang Chogdrub. He was actually very young when he received it from his father, he must have been around five years old. That’s the first time he received the Rinchen Terdzo, from his own father.

WB: Thank you.

* His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche was the highest ranking tulku at the Rinchen Terdzo sponsored by Yak Tulku Rinpoche. As the main recipient he was seated according to tradition on the right-hand side of the Vidyadhara when the empowerments were bestowed.

Turning a Corner

December 19th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 18th Part Two

Today was a major milestone. We received the empowerments of the Konchog Chidu, a set of abhishekas for practices of the guru, yidam and dakini discovered by the terton Jatson Nyingpo. This terma cycle is one of the most widely practiced in the Karma school while the Longchen Nyingtik is the terma cycle most widely practiced in the Nyingma.

When the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche passed into parinirvana in 1987, his cremation was lead by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. It took many weeks to prepare for the ceremonies that were held at Karme Choling in Vermont. At that time there were about five hundred people living mostly in tents around the center and another 2500 came for the cremation itself. After the event Khyentse Rinpoche stayed at Karme Choling another ten days and started to teach on Dzogchen, the highest teachings in the Nyingma school of Buddhism, as well as give the abhishekas for the Konchog Chidu, the Longchen Nyingtik and Vajrakila, the most widely practiced yidam in the Nyingma.

These events seemed to be the start of a fulfillment of one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s remarks that Dzogchen would be taught at Karme Choling in the future. Today I felt like I experienced things, at least from the perspective of my life, coming into a new cycle. The events at Karme Choling that spring were pivotal. I was one of a handful of new students who were permitted to go to the empowerments at that time. I was so inspired by Khyentse Rinpoche’s presence and the importance of what he was giving that I abandoned my vacation to travel to Halifax and receive the empowerments from him again later in the summer. And here I am now in Orissa receiving the Konchog Chidu again.

Thinking ahead, in 1987 I kept all the empowerment descriptions from those weeks in my life, filing them away for future use. After a great deal of digging last September I found the papers again and brought them here. And so, this afternoon four of us were able to follow exactly what was happening in the empowerments (not included ten minutes of added stuff we determined was an extended empowerment to hold the lineage). Seeing things live and in print helped us make sense of a lot that had been happening earlier that we couldn’t keep up with. Also I was reminded of some bits of symbolism that I’d totally forgotten about, for example that a text symbolizes both the teaching and the empowerment to teach. This was a strong reminder of the importance of translation work for the future of Buddhism in the West.

Somehow the whole day was filled with unexpected understandings. In the earlier part of the afternoon we figured out the progression of the three section abhishekas—long, middling and short versions one after another—which happen in some of the terma cycles. These three-parters weren’t specifically mentioned in some of the empowerment lists produced by the monastery, so we were getting lost over and over again. This also made sense of why some Rinchen Terdzo descriptions say there are well over a thousand empowerments given, while the actual empowerment lists sometimes number around six hundred and forty.

In the end of the day we by a monk who had memorized the chants in the Ripa Monastery chant book and was able to get us to all the right pages at the right times. Up till today Patricia and I had been going bananas trying to navigate the sink-or-swim realities of practicing beside a sea of high-speed chanting adolescent and pre-adolescent monks who generally doesn’t speak English and are not always aware of what page we’re on. We left the shrine room with a fist full of post-its stuffed in our chant book—although beside knowing the Sakyong’s is number five of twenty we still have a bit of work to do.

Reflections, General Outline

December 10th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 9 2008

Sometimes I have been thinking one reason why the Rinchen Terdzo was so important to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was that he was able to immerse himself in all the practices and instructions of termas and pure visions deeply, for months at a time. It seems like some huge family tree that one enters and then lives in the essence of the life of every single person one is related to.  During an interview last week the Sakyong pointed out that the Vidyadhara was giving or receiving the Rinchen Terdzo for a large portion of his teenage life. There are times I have been looking at Namkha Drimed Rinpoche and seeing this event as a window into the life of the Vidyadhara and many, many teachers before him.

To give an overview again, there are three major sections to the Rinchen Terdzo. These are the history section, the instructions on how to set up and perform the Rinchen Terdzo, and then all the actual instructions. This latter part is the bulk of the text. By the way, you can find a complete outline in the back of Richard Baron’s translation of Jamgon Kongtrul’s Autobiography, and in the back of Tulku Thondup Rinpoche’s Hidden Teachings of Tibet.

Within the instruction section are three major groups, the Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga, also known as the three inner tantras. These three yogas are progressive presentations of mind and meditation with each one being more subtle and direct than the prior one. The biggest section of the Rinchen Terdzo is the Mahayoga section and within this are many major sadhanas, or liturgical practices which may be familiar to those who study the Nyingma school of Buddhism. 

Although each of the three inner tantras have aspects of the other two, Mahayoga concentrates the most on visualization practice, rituals and so forth. The Mahayoga section of the Rinchen Terdzo has two major parts with the tantra class coming first, followed by the instruction class which is very, very large. Yesterday I mistakenly said the tantra and sadhana classes were a part of the instruction section.

We will finish the empowerments connected with the tantra section this afternoon. These empowerments have mainly been connected with the practice of Vajrasattva and the hundred peaceful and wrathful deities, though there are other practices that were given, probably branch practices related to Vajrasattva and the hundred peaceful and wrathful deities.

The sadhana section is divided into two parts—the main sadhanas and the secondary rituals. Sadhana is sometimes translated as ‘means of attainment’. A sadhana is a liturgy combined with instructions that when practiced help one to confidently experience and stabilize a recognition of one’s true nature, basic goodness, things as they are. The sadhana section begins with practices related to the three roots. I’ll write more about them in the coming days.

The reading transmissions happening in the mornings are finishing the first overall section of the text, the live stories of Padmasambhava and the tertons. Today Tulku Lhungtrul Rinpoche begins the life stories of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye who compiled the Rinchen Terdzod, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo who travelled Tibet receiving many nearly-extinct terma lineages that came to be included in the collection, and Chogyur Dechen Lingpa, an amazing and extraordinary terton who discovered and revived many terma lineages and was a good friend as well as both student and teacher to Khyentse and Kongtrul.

Rinchen Terdzo and the Vidyadhara

December 7th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

By Acharya Larry Mermelstein

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of the Vidyadhara’s close teachers from Tibet, republished the entire Rinchen Terdzo anthology sometime in the 1970s, adding to it somewhat, I believe. He kindly gave a copy of this to the Vidyadhara. Proper cloth wrappings and text labels were sewn for each volume, and Lama Ugyen Shenpen carefully reordered the 111 volumes into the more traditional 63-volume arrangement in order to facilitate the use of its index. Lama Ugyen was very familiar with these texts, as it had been his job to prepare the texts needed each day for his guru, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, during the six-month-long empowerment ceremonies he conferred in Asia, which he did on several occasions.

Sometime after all the texts had been wrapped and shelved nicely in a specially constructed lacquer cabinet in A-Suite, in the sitting room next to his personal office, I remember Rinpoche commenting about how excited he was to have these books so close to him. He exuded what seemed to be a very visceral feeling of gratitude and deep devotion to these particular teachings. Whenever the Vidyadhara left his home in Boulder to teach the three-month Seminary program, he always wanted us to bring the entire Rinchen Terdzo, along with 30-40 other volumes of his Tibetan library, to the Seminary. These filled several large trunks. Simply put, he wanted this collection near to him at all times possible.