Rinchen Terdzo

Pema Lingpa, New Colors in the Shrine Room

January 6th, 2009 by Walker Blaine

January 5th 2009

The shrine room got even more color yesterday. Up till now I’d been wondering if they’d ever add a few hanging banners, or chöpen, to the decor. There is now, from ceiling to floor, a chöpen hanging on the outward facing side of each of the columns in the room. They are made from four rows of four-inch wide chevrons pointing downward in alternating colors of blue, white, yellow, red and green with matching tassels at the end of every chevron. At the back end of the space, hanging from the ceiling halfway to the floor near the doors to the shrine room, is a pair of long circular canopies in the same motif.

It’s all about color here, which is sort of funny because the shrine room is filled by monastics who wear the some colors every day out of tradition since the eighth century. That was when Tibet chose red as the main color for robes because it was warmer than the other possibilities presented in the monastic code from India. After the destruction of the monastic tradition by King Langdarma, full ordination was brought back to Tibet via a Chinese tradition which wears blue. And so you’ll see some monastics have a blue ribbing on the right shoulder of their formal shirts to represent the connection with the Chinese monastic lineage.

Today’s abhishekas continued into the section of the yidam sadhanas combining the eight logos. Kristine McCutcheon says that this section may have more complex abhishekas than the guru section. For example, the guru tormas are all sculpted on a set format, but the tormas for the yidams are all different. I was skeptical about the increased complexity when she told me this because a few of the empowerments in the guru section were very long. But today we had one empowerment last more than an hour; long enough to have most of us start asking each other, ‘Where are we?’

An empowerment lasting more than an hour is ‘long’ because His Eminence is reading at a fast pace with little explanation. The only people coming to the throne for the empowerments are the Sakyong and the other four principle recipients. The members of the Ripa family on the dais, the lamas and khenpos in the front rows, and the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama sitting at the wall near the lamas, all get the abhisheka items brought to them from one of the main recipients, but His Eminence doesn’t stop for that. He reads onwards. The rest of us receive everything at the end of the day when a line of rinpoches, lamas and khenpos walk through the crowd in a train brining the abhisheka items to every single one of us in a process that takes ten or fifteen minutes.

So, an abhisheka lasting more than an hour in this environment is a real attention grabber. That’s after a month when you’re really settled into things. By point of contrast I would say that reading through the longest, most complex English abhisheka text I know at a fast clip with no gaps would take no more than twenty minutes.

The last abhisheka of the day, The Extremely Secret Mirror of the Mind, came from a terma revealed by Pema Lingpa. Jigme Rinpoche, as many Ripa Sangha members will know, is a rebirth of a manifestation of Pema Lingpa, Gyeling Yonten Lhundrub Gyatso Rinpoche.

Pema Lingpa was born in Bhutan in 1450 and is the last of the five King Tertons. He found a great many termas in Bhutan showing how Padmasambhava had blessed that land alongside Tibet. He had an extraordinary childhood and would gather children to build stupas, and teach them the dharma. Sometimes he left impressions of his hands and feet in solid rock. He would listen to no one (a trait common to young reincarnate lamas notes Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche in his autobiography) and earned the nickname, ‘Lord of what he wants.’ He recognized the alphabet without any training.

When he was 26 Pema Lingpa had already become a monk as per the will of his grandfather. At that age he actually saw Padmasambhava who gave him a list of 108 termas. Tertons usually receive such a list cataloging the termas they can find should the right conditions prevail. When Pema Lingpa was 27 he revealed his first terma from Lake Mebar witnessed by several people. He did this by entering the lake holding a lit candle in his hand and returned from under the water with the candle still lit and with a treasure chest under his arm. From this he revealed the first of his termas, Cycles of the Great Expanse of Great Perfection.

The story of how this first terma was initially presented is instructive because it shows how extraordinary tertons really are. The prophecy that went with the terma said it had to be explained in detail to a layperson, but Pema Lingpa didn’t know what to do because he’d never heard the melodies or seen the dances that go with the text, nor did he know how to explain it in detail. One night while worrying about this he dreamed of Padmasambhava’s consort, Yeshe Tsogyal who told him not to worry and showed him the dances of the dakinis that went with the text. He practiced these and showed them to his disciples. Every night during the twenty-one days of the initiations Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal would come to him in his dreams and explain both how perform the next part of the initiation and give him the next part of the exposition.

The list of the written termas revealed by Pema Lingpa is quite voluminous. He found jewels and many other items from the royal court at the time of King Trisong Detsen. He also revealed a temple that had been obscured from view that can still be visited in Bhutan. I can’t help thinking a temple is a very large thing to reveal, but the Dzogchen are bigger.

By the time of his passing, Pema Lingpa had only found about half of the termas on his list of 108. His son Dawa asked if he might try to find them, and Pema Lingpa replied that if Dawa kept his spiritual commitments and prayed to him one pointedly he might find some of the hidden teachings. This happened which I find quite amazing and interesting. The terma lineages and instructions from Pema Lingpa continue quite strongly to the present day.

Entering the Eight Logos

January 4th, 2009 by Walker Blaine

January 3rd 2009

After starting the day with familiar sound of Lhuntrul Rinpoche’s reading transmission filling the valley at 6:40 AM the Rinchen Terdzo slipped back into its familiar, intense and now somewhat comforting rhythm. I found myself reassured by His Eminence’s voice and energy during the abhishekas in the afternoon and toyed with the word ‘addictive’ for this blog entry. But, ‘right place at the right time’ seems the best way to put it.

Today we concluded a large section of the Rinchen Terdzo, the part of the collection devoted to the guru. We ended with several empowerments of Guru Dragpo and Dorje Trollo, wrathful forms of Padmasambhava. To put things in context, we are now in the mahayoga section of the Rinchen Terdzo, the largest part of the collection. It is a presentation of many styles of liturgical visualization practices consisting of hundreds of empowerments. There are four main divisions here: guru, yidam, dakini and protector. We are starting the yidam section which is broken into two major parts: the root sadhanas or liturgical practices that are the means to attain realization, and the auxiliary rituals, things like practices related to retreats feasts, and so on, as well as rituals devoted benefiting beings and the environment through the activities of pacifying, enriching, and so forth.

All the sadhanas of the yidam, or the root of attainment, are contained within a classification of deities known as the ka gye or eight logos. The eight logos are the overall catagorization of deities with the Nyingma system. The phrase ‘eight logos’ was coined by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In his book The Lion’s Roar he explains logos is the closest thing in the English language to the meaning of the Tibetan word ka, he and adds that ka can also mean ‘command’ or ‘language.’ The yidam section starts with practices the present the eight logos as a unit and then moves to individual presentations of each logos.

The last abhisheka of the day was a preliminary abhisheka for a practice called The Hundred Families of the Vajradhatu; the peaceful deities of the Union of the Sugatas from the Eight Logos. This terma was discovered by Nyangral Nyima Oser in the 12th century. He was born in 1136 and is known as the first of the five Terton Kings. This title refers to the fact that these tertons were all rebirths of King Trisong Detsen who established Buddhism in Tibet with Padmasambhava. This is of great significance because of the close relationship between the king and Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). The other Terton Kings are Guru Chokyi Wangchug, Dorje Lingpa, Pema Lingpa and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

From his childhood onwards Nyangral (pronounced nyang-ral) Nyima Oser had many visions. During a month of such experiences when he was only eight years old, he had a pure vision of receiving abhisheka from Guru Rinpoche who was seated on a horse being carried by four dakinis. The experience produced such a strong change in his conduct that afterwards everyone thought Nyangral Nyima Oser had gone insane. Such changes are not uncommon for tertons. There’s a famous story of Chogyur Lingpa in his youth getting out during a large dance performance at his monastery. He was severely reprimanded for doing this. During the lama dances Chogyur Lingpa had entered into a pure vision of lama dances with Guru Rinpoche and had followed the group dancing for Guru Rinpoche rather than the people at his monastery.

Later in his youth, Nyangral Nyima Oser’s father gave him the empowerment of Hayagriva, the wrathful aspect of Avalokitesvara. This practice is associated with the horse; the main principle of the practice is called the horse’s neigh. The three neighs of the horse destroy the body, speech and mind of Rudra, the personification of our deepest ego clinging. When Nyangral Nyima Oser practiced Hayagriva in a cave retreat the kila or ritual dagger, on his shrine actually neighed. At that time he had a vision of the deity and he left his foot and hand prints in solid rock.

Nyangral Nyima Oser discovered a large number of terma texts and objects that remain in his family line. From these there are about forty practices presented in the Rinchen Terdzo. The very first terma in the entire collection is a 240 page life story of Guru Rinpoche called the Kathang Zanglingma. The termas he discovered include practices of the peaceful and wrathful aspects of the guru, Avalokiteshvara, Mahakala and the dakini.

The practice we received the preliminary empowerment for today was discovered after Nyangral Nyima Oser looked inside the broken finger of an statue that had been given to him by a merchant. Inside the finger he found a list of two terma inventories which brought him to discover two chests of termas behind an image of Vairocana the great translator, one of Padmasabhava’s main disciples, in a temple in Southern Tibet. It is said that the original terma for the practice we started receiving today was hand written by the great translator Vairocana, a highly realized principal disciple of Padmasambhava) and Denma Tsemang for King Trisong Detsen’s personal use.

In his life Nyangral Nyima Oser demonstrated a great variety of miraculous abilities and lived until the age of 69. At the time of his passing there were many wondrous signs, in particular a white HRIH syllable emerged from his heart and went off in the direction of Sukhavati. At the cremation, his student Chak Lotsawa was unable to light the fire which then spontaneously lit itself. Inside the fire everyone could see a small boy surrounded by dakinis all chanting the mantra HA RI NI SA. Many extraordinary relics were found in the ashes

Since you’re probably wondering what the eight logos are I thought it best to give short list at the end of the blog. The eight logos fall into three groups. The first five are the transcendent group. They are related to the aspects of body, speech, mind, quality and activity. These are the five buddha families and the herukas for these, at least in their peaceful aspects, will be familiar to many of you. The last two of the logos are worldly, not transcendent, and the sixth logos, can be either worldly or transcendent. Tai Situ Rinpoche said that it isn’t that the deities of the last two logos are only worldly, it is just they their concentration is on the enrichment of life and removal of obstacles. The Lion’s Roar gives a quick overview of the eight logos from an experiential viewpoint. I am simplifying things a bit below, and we’ll get into more detail as we proceed through the next 275 abhishekas.

The Eight Logos

1. Body – Manjushri/Yamantaka
2. Speech – Amitayus/Amitabha/Avalokitesvara/Hayagriva
3. Mind – Vajrasattva/Vajra Heruka (Yangdak)/Vajrapani
4. Quality – Amritaguna (Dutsi Yonten)
5. Activity – Vajrakilaya
6. Mamo – Mamo/Simhamukha
7. Worldly Offerings and Praises
8. Wrathful Mantras

Hidden Energy

December 31st, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 30th 2008

Jigme Rinpoche gave a bit of an introduction to his talk last night by saying the wrathful guru practices are about getting into the hidden corners of the mind, places we don’t always look at, and he said this energy is unpredictable. As he talked about this and I considered my experience of late, I had to admit that my mental gossip for the last three days had been a bit wilder and more shocking than usual, as have my dreams. Two days ago I dreamed of being on my death-bed with sangha members practicing in my room. I was sad to be leaving this world and the memory of this dream lingered throughout the day and provoked me to open up more.

Today’s abhishekas were for Guru Trakpo and Dorje Trollo, two very wrathful forms of Padmasambhava. Dorje Trollo is a central feature of the Vidyadhara’s terma, The Sadhana of Mahamudra, discovered in Bhutan at Taktsang, the cave retreat place Padmasambhava practiced at before entering Tibet. Fans of this sadhana (practiced every new and full moon at Shambhala Centers everywhere) will be delighted to know that we said the mantra HUM HUM HUM a great many times during the day. One of the Dorje Trollo empowerments was written by the Fifth Dalai Lama whose name I am now fond of seeing on the daily empowerment lists.

It’s very busy here, so this is a very short entry. We are look forward to the day after tomorrow which will be a day off. However, what a day off will actually mean here is still a mystery.

Truckload of Tibetans after the Empowerments

December 31st, 2008 by Walker Blaine

The Juncture of Boredom

December 31st, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 29th, 2008

Here in Orissa there is an evolving question of how to be at the Rinchen Terdzo, how to receive these abhishekas day after day knowing it’s unlikely we’ll do many of these practices. The answer to the question is simple on one hand, but it has an interesting layer beneath the answer. The simple answer is just that His Eminence is passing on what he received from the Vidyadhara to the Sakyong. All one has to do is have devotion during the empowerments and fulfill the requirement a recitation requirement of 100,000 mantras of Padmasambhava, the guru who embodies all the gurus, and 100,000 mantras of Vajrasattva, the yidam who is the embodiment of all the yidams. One has opens one’s heart in the abhishekas, does the mantras and that’s that.

But telling oneself to have faith and do the mantras can seem a little naïve, especially when one is here for weeks on end. I suppose this is a combination of healthy western skepticism and being thrust deeper than usual into a Tibetan cultural context. The background to this is an instruction many of us in Shambhala have heard, “Don’t run after empowerments for practices you’ll never do.” Although this is a historic event and everyone attending has that reason to be there, we are still faced with how to place our minds without feeling somehow blind.

I don’t exactly know how to explain this, but it’s like I have been burning through the consequences of avoiding receiving lots of abhishekas. There is certainly a neurosis to going to lots of them, to hunting out teachers in a search for blessings. But at the same time, in sitting in the shrine room for more than three weeks and participating in well over 200 empowerments I have relaxed and opened my mind to the idea that there may be contexts when receiving a lot of abhishekas has more to offer than just a credential. Prior to coming here I had a frozen understanding of what this situation is about. There is more going on than just receiving a lot more practices.

The crux of this has to do with repetition and boredom. Whether sitting on a cushion, reciting a mantra, or struggling to memorize a text, the aim of repetition is to soften the mind and work it towards more openness along with better habits like patience and generosity. Abhishekas in the west are infrequent at least for me and I have not had the chance to relax into the experience for very long. At the Rinchen Terdzo abhishekas have become the norm and as a group we are hitting what the Vidyadhara called cool boredom. There is a phase of being bored where one gets past mental fidgeting and starts to genuinely sit and look at one’s world. Buddhist practice emphasizes repetition in order to provoke insight. I never would have thought this could apply to the process of abhisheka until coming here.

At this juncture I am making a connection with what it is during a dathun or when in retreat doing a daily liturgical practice with visualizations and mantras. Walking into monastery every day seems to be about thinking of the teacher, contemplating virtue and relaxing the mind much in the same way that I’ve experienced things in regular daily practice. Only here the practice session is very organic and participatory in terms of relating with a teacher. There is time to actively explore with what it means to be humble and open. It’s really wonderful to see the Sakyong doing this in the front of the room. Maybe all this description of slowing down doesn’t read like a big deal on paper, but personally speaking, this is a big deal.

The schedule of late has been quite tight with evening talks that sometimes take us close to 10 o’clock. Consequently it has been hard to write as much as usual. Last night’s talk was Jigme Rinpoche’s first about vajrayana topics and it turned out to be a real tour-de-force of useful information on view and practice. We have one final talk tomorrow night and the next night there will be a new year’s party at the Ripa family compound. We are wondering what a new year’s party at a monastery looks like. For the guests it will be a celebration with the Ripas and Mukpos along with a farewell party for the western students who’ve come for the Dzogchen Retreat.

We are still receiving the empowerments of wrathful forms of the guru, and the focus continues to be on the form of Padmasambhava known as Guru Trakpo. Soon we’ll shift to Dorje Trollo. In a day or so we’ll move to an entirely new section of the Rinchen Terdzo, the empowerments of the yidams and the famous grouping of them, the Eight Logos.

Manifestations of the Guru

December 29th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

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.

32 Empowerments in Brief

December 26th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 25th Part Two

A belated Merry Christmas to you. Here’s how the fifty abhishekas related to the Seven Line Supplication have stacked up so far:

• 3 abhishekas of the three kayas
• 4 abhishekas of the four kayas
• 5 abhishekas of the five wisdoms
• 6 abhishekas of the six realms
• 7 abhishekas of the seven successive buddhas
• 9 abhishekas of the nine stages of the path (8 manifestations of the Padmasambhava and one more)

Kayas or bodies are a way of looking at the mind and manifestations of an awakened being, and the empowerments presented each of these separately. They kayas can be presented as three, four or more. The manifestations of Padmasambhava in relationship to the five wisdoms could be explained as the transformation of our five basic emotional energies or as the transformation the five elements (earth and so on plus space.)

The famous teaching diagram, the Wheel Of Life that is painted outside every monastery depicts our experiences as a cycle through six realms or manifestations of being. These are both outer and inner; heaven and hell really depend on us, not something external. These realms each contain a buddha, an opportunity to wake up in the midst of our various sufferings. These six realms also have a corresponding manifestation of Padmasambhava.

One very good thing to know about Padmasambhava is how he relates to Shakyamuni Buddha. In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha stated that eight years after his passing an enlightened teacher would come to teach the highest teachings and greatly benefit beings. The Buddha said Padmasambhava would be even more enlightened than he was, meaning that their realizations were equal but that Padmasambhava’s expression of enlightenment would be extraordinary. He called Padmasambhava ‘The Buddha Of Three Times.’ Another key point in the tradition is that while the Buddha primarily taught the hinayana and mahayana, Padmasambhava primarily taught the vajrayana or tantric teachings.

After those 18 abhishekas we moved to empowerments of the Padmasambhavas relating to the seven successive buddhas. Chogyur Lingpa had a vision that a buddha in this world would always be accompanied by a Padmasambhava. The seven buddhas are the three buddhas of the three previous world ages, the three prior buddhas of our own world age, or kalpa, plus Shakyamuni. His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche once explained a kalpa as the life cycle of a planet. I found this quite interesting and helpful.

Finally, we received nine abhishekas (putting us at 15 for the day, a new record) relating the famous eight manifestations of Padmasambhava plus himself as in the form of Yishin Norbu, The Wish Fulfilling Jewel, to the nine yanas. The eight manifestations connect with eight phases in Padmasambhava’s life and are chronicled quite experientially in Trungpa Rinpoche’s Crazy Wisdom.

Lhuntrul Rinpoche’s teachings this evening turned out to be on the nine yanas. The nine yanas are nine successive presentations of understanding and practice starting with achieving liberation for oneself alone and concluding with maha ati, the final path, the ultimate presentation the mind and how to realize things as they are, basic goodness.

Lhuntrul Rinpoche taught in Tibetan and was translated by a very knowledgeable Ripa sangha member from Minsk named Niccolas. He has a thick Russian accent. At times the layers of accents and languages filling the shrine room became pretty entertaining. Lhuntrul Rinpoche speaks with a soft and gentle voice beneath which lies a palpable eagerness to transmit the dharma. It was a treat to watch him starting to teach westerners. He was at once soft and peaceful backed by the power of a quick rising sun. The short talk covered the basic framework of the yanas and ended with some questions, mostly about the vajrayana vows or samayas, the commitments connected with receiving empowerments.


December 26th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 25th 2008

Namkha Drimed Rinpoche is indefatigable. It’s really amazing to watch how much energy he has and how happy he is to be giving these abhishekas. At the same time everyone gets a bit worried because he is working so much work. Yesterday the Sakyong was saying that at one point they tried to get His Eminence to abbreviate things. There are ways to cut corners here and there when giving empowerments. However, His Eminence won’t do it. He wants to give the Rinchen Terdzo as close to the way he got it from the Vidyadhara. Every time I try to express this to someone I feel like crying.

Padmasambhava is Everywhere

December 26th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 24th 2004

We resumed having morning fog after a few days of clear skies. The reading transmissions start to broadcast on the speakers outside the monastery each day at 6:40 and our little valley fills with the voice of Lhuntrul Rinpoche. The logic is that people can hear the lungs wherever they are working and therefore don’t need to be in the shrine room. There is a speaker in the old monastery building so the westerners practicing there from 9 to 11:30 can hear the lung too.

I have learned a bit more about Lhuntrul Rinpoche who will teach for two nights starting tomorrow. He will speak on the nine yanas or paths, the graded presentation of understanding and practice laid out in the Nyingma tradition. The Rinchen Terdzo is a systematic presentation of the last three yanas (mahayoga, anuyoga and atiyoga.) Rinpoche’s talks will put things in context.

Lhuntrul Rinpoche is about 32 years old, the second son of Namkha Drimed Rinpoche and his wife, Khandro Chime who arrived a few days ago. Lhuntrul Rinpoche, sometimes called Lhunpo Rinpoche, studied for nine years at His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s monastic college at Namdroling Monastery in Mysor, India. He has received the Rinchen Terdzo three times before. He is noticeably joyful during the ceremonies here, playful with the lamas as he brings them this or that icon during the empowerments, and he has the look of someone who practices a great deal. He divides his time between Toronto and Asia.

This afternoon we had a record 12 abhishekas in one day. They were divided into two groups plus the start of a third set, all part of the series of fifty terma practices related to Padmasambhava and the Seven Line Prayer. I’ve typed the prayer below, but it is missing a crucial bit of punctuation at the end of every line. I was unable to kern the font for a ‘tertsek,’ commonly called a terma mark. This mark shows a line break in a terma. The tersek usually appears as a pair of stacked circles with a horizontal line between them. His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse’s tertsek look like the Tibetan letter A missing the first stroke of the letter.]

In the Northwest of the land of Uddiyana,
On a blooming lotus flower,
You have attained supreme, wondrous siddhi.
You are renowned as Padmakara,
Surrounded by your retinue of many dakinis.
We practice following your example.
Please approach and grant your blessing.

Translated by the Nalanda Translation Committee.

This short chant is among the most well known supplications in Tibetan Buddhism. It was written by the dakinis, female wisdom deities, to call Padmasambhava when the early Buddhist university, Nalanda, was threatened 500 arrogant religious extremists who were also skilled in black magic. In that era, feuds were settled on the debating ground with the loser and his or her followers obligated to switch to the winner’s philosophical position. The extremists were not above using magic to achieve their aims. Padmasambhava was renowned for his learning along with the magical force of his meditative attainment. The scholars of Nalanda supplicated with this chant, and Padmasambhava saved the monastery.

Later, when Padmasambhava arrived in Tibet, he gave this chant to King Trisong Detsen and his subjects. The Seven Line Supplication is included with many termas, often at the start. I have heard it sung by His Eminence dozens of times during the past three weeks. Often it appears in the section of the empowerment where the deity is first invoked. It is everywhere because Padmasambhava is the main author of the termas.

The other day an exasperated friend said something like, “What is it with this tradition? Everything is all about Padmasambhava.” It’s really true. Padmasambhava’s presence is overwhelming, unstoppable and unavoidable. We sit in a shrine room modeled after Padmasambhava’s pure realm, Copper Colored Mountain. The 800 of us sing his mantras at the end of the day. We were asked at the start of the Rinchen Terdzo to commit to saying his manta 100,000 times. These last few weeks we’ve listened to and open to terma after terma written for dozens of manifestations of him. He’s everywhere.

In such a situation one is forced to contemplate why this man, an Indian, is so revered by the Tibetans. They cry out to the Buddha, but they cry out to him a lot louder. I think this is because Padmasambhava really, really cherished the Tibetans, and in turn they took on and protected the Buddhist tantric teachings which were soon to vanish from India. Padmasambhava first made sure the dharma was secure at the start in Tibet, and then did everything he could to make sure the Buddhist teachings would survive as long as possible through the terma teachings.

I confess that I too hadn’t really gotten the point that without Padmasambhava we would not have the tantric teachings, we wouldn’t have terma, we would not have the Shambhala Teachings, and we would not have our two Sakyongs. So supplicating Padmasambava begins to seem like watering the roots of a huge tree, nurturing that connection as much as possible, and asking it to grow, protect and nourish everyone in the midst of this chaotic and difficult life.

50 Slightly Unexpected Empowerments

December 24th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 23th 2008

Now the full number of westerners has arrived. We number around sixty and make up a formidable block in the shrine room. Many of us are from the Ripa sangha. The Shambhala group numbers about fourteen. Jinpa, a monk from the Abbey has joined us for the duration along with Theresa Laurie (here since the second abhisheka on the first day) and Alexandra Kalinine who arrived about three days ago. Frank and Katrin Stelzel arrived the night before last.

The abhishekas took a somewhat surprising turn toward the Seven-Line Supplication to Padmasambhava yesterday. Patricia and I have been sorting through various outlines and abhisheka lists in the background as we go. Usually we don’t know exactly what is happening each day until the last minute. A list gets posted at the gate to the monastery, and I photograph it on our way to the temple. Once in the shrine room Patricia compares the photo on the camera with the abhisheka list from the last Rinchen Terdzo bestowed by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche. The night and morning before we double check upcoming possibilities against the empowerment list from the last time His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche bestowed the abhishekas.

Generally it all works out, but sometimes one list condenses or omits something while another list might expand everything out. Such is the case right now as we are head into fifty abhishekas not mentioned on Penor Rinpoche’s list, but expanded on Tai Situ Rinpoche’s. All of these empowerments are from termas found by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. The Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, authored the empowerment rituals. I am not sure, but I think these termas were discovered when Jamgon Kongtrul was in his sixties, just after he first bestowed the Rinchen Terdzo. Maybe that is why they are not on one empowerment list. These fifty are probably the last of the empowerments of the peaceful nirmanakaya guru and will last several days.