Rinchen Terdzo

Who’s Here?

January 6th, 2009 by Walker Blaine

Photos from the Dzogchen Retreat taken by Christoph Schoenherr. Everybody is squinting in the incredibly bright, hot sunlight.

Another Rinchen Terdzo

December 22nd, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 21st

We are still, in case you were wondering, receiving abhishekas for practices related to the guru, specifically the inner peaceful practices of the nirmanakaya, the form of the guru that most emphasizes the display of compassion.

Yesterday I received news about another Rinchen Terdzo that is happening in North India right now. It is amazing that two events of this size and duration are happening concurrently. The other Rinchen Terdzo is being performed at Mindrolling Monastery in Dehradun, North India.

Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, the daughter of Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche is the sponsor for this event. The abhishekas are being bestowed by Khyabje Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche and the reading transmissions are being bestowed by His Eminence Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche. The principle recipients of this transmission of the Rinchen Terdzo are the rebirths of Their Holinesses Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Dudjom Rinpoche, Khamtrul Rinpoche, and a host of other young reincarnate teachers, along with a great many lamas, khenpos, monastics and lay sanghas.

Three Days in One

December 16th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 12 – 14th

[Sorry to have been gone for a bit. There have been technical difficulties in the West and and the East.]

Over the past few days have passed through more of the empowerments in the Rinchen Terdzo related to practices of the guru. As I explained earlier, the first of the three roots, the root of blessings, is the guru. There are three types of practices here—outer practices which are generally supplications to the historical figure of Padmasambhava. We had one abhisheka only relating to this section, one from Chogyur Lingpa. The other two of the three groups are inner forms of the guru which are peaceful, and secret practices which are the wrathful form of compassion.

One of the abhishekas from this section was related to The Seven Chapters. Last night I noticed it is in the Ripa Monastery Chant book. The monastery found several new copies for the Tibetan reading westerners to share and we got them yesterday. There are about seventy or eighty chants in the book, and what’s chanted changes every day, so we have to set about the task of getting pointers from young monks. Generally at the end of the day there are supplications for the long life of the teachers. These include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Jigme Rinpoche and so on. Prayers for the longevity of His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche happen throughout the day.

The other type of chant we do at the end of the day is an aspiration . Chants like these express wishes for the well being of everyone both in life and at the time of death, for the strength and spread of the teachings, for health and harmony for all communities, good weather, healthy crops, etc. In short, this kind of chant is for everything possible to go well. One chant we do often is The King Of Aspirations, The Aspiration For Noble Excellent Conduct, the first ten verses of which are included in the Vajrayogini Sadhana.

The chanting speed here is really, really fast. Only one or two of the Tibetan speakers in our group can keep up with the monks verbally. Most everything is in meter and with someone clicking the side of a muffled hand bell to keep up the pace. The Tibetan language is quite terse as well, so even if you can keep up, keeping up with the meaning is another matter. It’s kind of challenge and my goal is to shoot for the first two to four syllables of a line and then move on. The best approach in my experience is memorization. I am not sure many of the English speaking Tibetans would fare much better in the West chanting with us racing through our own liturgies.

After the empowerment related to the outer guru practices, we moved to the inner practices, those more related to the guru from the inner point of view. Traditionally ‘inner’ is said to be what we can feel physically or internally as opposed to an experience everyone shares. For example, I feel my indigestion; nobody else does because it is an inner experience. With respect to these type of practices, we are not talking about a vague emotionalism like ‘I feel very good about so and so,’ but instead we are talking about meditations that help develop confidence that the wisdom and sanity of the teacher is also at the core of one’s own being. These particular practices get divided into three areas of emphasis—the three kayas. This is a big topic, but suffice it to say that some of the empowerments bring out the essence, the ultimate aspect of emptiness as the inner teacher; others bring out the aspect of the luminous nature of this essence, and the third group emphasizes the compassionate display of the guru. Empowerments for this latter group will continue for some days.

On the 13th, in middle of the afternoon there was a sudden commotion on the veranda. No inside one knew what it was and the whole room hushed a bit. Usually the only cause for a wave of quiet is Namkha Drimed Rinpoche coming to a moment of meditation in the text. But this time even His Eminence was quiet and everyone was slowly shifting around to look. For a moment I wondered if someone had died or had a seizure. After about 10 seconds of staring to adjust to the bright light outside the building I could see that there was growing wave of movement outside. People were getting up. There was a swarm of bees sweeping through the crowd on the porch and very quickly everyone began running in the shrine room with doors were being slammed everywhere. Total pandemonium! Namkha Drimed Rinpoche started to laugh quite heartily. The adventure with the bees continued through the afternoon until a sensible Tibetan layman filled a censer with lots of broken incense and made a big smoky offering to wave around the porch.

During these days Jigme Rinpoche wrote a long letter to be sent out to the Ripa sangha and this will be posted on this blog shortly. Helping type this letter I was called to the shrine room a few times and brought up on stage to sit beside Jigme Rinpoche to review the text during the morning lungs. If you haven’t guessed by now, it is sometimes a bit boring in the shrine room and any unusual events in the empowerments—related or not—rapidly get the attention of everyone in the room. The close inspection by the Tibetans, particularly the lay Tibetans when I have to weave through there groups to get to a meeting, makes me realize they are trying to figure the westerners out just as we are trying to make sense of them. In many ways our cultures as well as approaches to practice are quite different.

Chogyur Lingpa, One of the Great Tertons

December 16th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 11th

Today we finished the abhishekas for the sadhanas combing the three roots and moved to the empowerments for the sadhanas related to the guru, the source of blessings. This section is divided into many parts starting with the outer practices, supplications to Padmasambhava as an outer figure. There was one empowerment related to this section, drawn from the very famous terma cycle discovered by Chogyur Lingpa, the Barche Kunsel, Eliminating All Obstacles. Students of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, whose reincarnation was enthroned last month, will be familiar with this text. Receiving the Barche Kunsel was particularly significant for Jamgon Kongtrul the Great because at this time he recognized Chogyur Lingpa to be Guru Rinpoche in person. Around that time in his life, Jamgon Kongtrul was afflicted by a form of seemingly incurable leprosy affecting his eye. Chogyur Lingpa gave him a meditation practice to do for this and the disease disappeared with no medical explanation.

The lungs for this section of the Rinchen Terdzo contain a very famous terma, set of supplications known as The Seven Chapters. One section of this text is already well known to the Shambhala community as it is has been popularized by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche as the ‘Guru Rinpoche Song’. A prose translation of this can be found in the supplications for the long Vajrakilaya sadhana as well as in public translations. The Seven Chapters in their entirety are included Sogyal Rinpoche’s beautiful two-language publication of all the major Nyingma supplications titled (I think) A Great Rain Of Blessings. At the end of the day we moved to a preliminary abhisheka for the next series of empowerments related to the guru, the inner practices.

Chogyur Lingpa (1829-1870) is one of the most remarkable figures in the Rime movement of the 19th century. He was friend as well as both teacher and student to Jamgon Kongtrul the Great who put the Rinchen Terdzo together, and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo who traveled all over Tibet to gather the many nearly extinct termas and transmissions included in the collection. In Chogyur Lingpa early years he studied extensively with Drukpa and Kagyu masters as well as with teachers from Surmang.
Throughout his life Chogyur Lingpa experienced many visions, direct experiences deities, and performed many miracles. One amazing about thing about him was that he revealed many termas in full view, sometimes in front of hundreds of people. On one occasion he flew to the ceiling of a cave and publically removed objects from solid rock. On another he pulled a vajra, a ritual scepter, half-way out of solid rock leaving in part way in so people could see what was happening.

Chogyur Lingpa was very renowned during his lifetime and many of his termas are included in the Rinchen Terdzo. He upheld and transmitted most of the kama lineages, discovered many terma objects and medicines including more than one hundred statues of Guru Rinpoche and relics belonging to the Indian siddhas, spread a large number of rediscovered termas (yangters), revealed mind termas (termas that arise solely in the mind of the terton), had pure visions of the deities, recalled his former lives and transmitted teachings from those lives with great clarity, and could visit Padmasambhava in a pure realm and converse with him as though in person. In short, he was one of the most amazing people you could ever hope to meet. At the time of his passing in 1870 there were many signs, including earthquakes and rainbows.

Twelve Seconds of the Rinchen Terdzo

December 13th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

Here is a snippet of yesterday morning’s reading transmissions…


Photos of Rinchen Terdzo by Christoph Schoenherr

December 12th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche bestowing the Rinchen Terdzo on Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Khandro Tseyang and members of the Ripa Ladrang and Shambhala sangha over the course of three months from December 2008 to February 2009.

The Three Roots

December 12th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

Today we continued the series of empowerments that relate to sadhanas combining three roots combined into one deity. Later we will have empowerments related to each of the three roots individually. The three roots are the guru, the yidam or meditational deity, and the dakini or protector. In the Nyingma school the third root is the dakini. In the Kagyu school the third root is the protector or dharmapala. The Rinchen Terdzo has sections for each one later on in the text.

In the tantric approach of relating to a teacher, the guru is the root of blessings.  Wisdom in the Buddhist tradition is transmitted from person to person. The teacher is someone who has already walked the path and thus knows mind and the world from top to bottom. Having done that, the teacher possesses an enormous amount of understanding, ability and compassion for others. From that perspective the teacher is the root of blessings. Without a person-to-person connection there is no way to move forward. Connecting with a fully realized being is the best way to move toward complete realization.

A yidam is a visualized deity that is an expression of one’s fully realized nature. There are hundreds of yidams presented in the Rinchen Terdzo. Visualizing a yidam is one of the many methods in vajrayana or tantric Buddhism to help our purify our perceptions of ourselves and the world. Usually we see the world in a somewhat limited way based strongly and unconsciously on our habits. For example, if there is someone we don’t like walking in our room, the gap between simply seeing someone without bias and seeing someone with dislike is almost non-existent. It happens so fast that our feeling of dislike and the person walking in the room don’t appear to be separate. This binding of basic perceptions, emotions and ideas about others can drive us into a lot of difficult situations without any rational judgment.

Training in the yidam is a way of separating neurotic habits from unbiased perception. In contrast to sitting while meditating on the breath there is a lot of color and excitement to this style of meditation initially. But gradually one comes to see that the visualized deity is an expression of one’s own natural sanity or basic goodness. It is a training that brings one back to earth, rather than an imaginary world. That coming back to earth may carry its own richness because of how strangely one’s perceptions had been coloring the world in the first place. The yidam is called the source of accomplishment. It accomplishes the basic sanity, kindness, ability and love that one recognizes in the guru.

The third root is the dakini or protector. Dakini is the name for feminine environmental energy that is inseparably bound with to wisdom. Dakinis are depicted iconographically in feminine form. Protectors can be either masculine or feminine.  Dakinis and protectors are the energy that both nurtures us and protects us from straying from the path. Like yidams, and ultimately speaking, the guru they are nothing more than our own mind. They are not external to us.

For me, the best example of protector was given by Trungpa Rinpoche in his teachings on mind training, teachings on developing compassion in through the mahayana tradition of lojong. He said the protectors speaking to you are like when one is totally involved in anger at a friend, and then accidentally slams a door on one’s own hand. It’s like that. We have environmental energy reminding us of wisdom and keeping us out of trouble all the time if we are willing to train ourselves to be open to the messages. Training in these kinds of practices helps open us up to that more and more. The sole aim of protector or dakini energy is to support beneficial activity. Therefore the dakinis and protectors are known as the root of activity.

The topic of the three roots is very detailed and subtle. Just as a good novel can present a tremendous wealth of detail and richness about the lives of its characters, so the teachings on the three roots present an amazing amount of detail and richness about our experience and the mind. The difference is that the tantric teachings are a living experience rooted in devotion to the teacher as the source of blessings. The teacher can then present us with the methods to progressively enter a more natural and open connection with the world. 

As for the empowerments we received today, were revealed by a terton named Shikpo Lingpa. I haven’t found out much about him yet. Some of the empowerments were for main practices, and some for branch practices such as a torma empowerment. It was a bit hard to tell what was what, and we were happy to learn that Jigme Rinpoche would like to start briefing the western students every few days about what is coming up.

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.

The Actual Instructions

December 9th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 8th 2008

Just a brief entry today. The empowerments are getting more regular, at least more familiar in their sequence. We are in the first section of what’s called ‘the actual instructions ‘of the Rinchen Terdzo. It’s the third of three major sections of the collection. The two earlier parts are the history of the lineage and the instructions for how to perform every aspect of the rituals in the Rinchen Terdzo. The history section is the first of what is being read aloud during the reading transmissions.

This third section, the actual instructions, is divided into two major parts called the Tantra Class and Sadhana Class. The Tantra Class is a much shorter grouping of texts, only about three of the hundred and eleven volumes in total. The rest of the Rinchen Terdzod falls into the heading of the Sadhana Class. Though we are still trying to sort out what’s what, the difference in the two classes seems to be about the origin of the two groups of texts, and perhaps the style they are written in. More about this as we get further into details. It’s a sea of questions here.

Today we received four different empowerments after the concluding section of the final peaceful guru abhisheka from yesterday. First, was a wrathful guru practice, a meditation on the form of the teacher in a wrathful manifestation, probably the form of Padmasambhava called Guru Trakpo.

Second, we received an abhisheka of Mahakarunikaya, The Great Compassion One, a form of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Sometimes this name refers to the form of Avalokitesvara with a thousand arms and eleven heads. This form is one of the three main images in the temple, the other two being the central image of Shakyamuni Buddha, and the image of Padmasambhava who is at the Buddha’s right while Mahakarunikaya is at his left. These images are quite massive, over two stories tall.

The last two empowerments we received today were for Hayagriva, wrathful Avalokitesvara and Vajravarahi, a wrathful embodiment of wisdom in the female form. All the texts from today as well as the text we finished from yesterday are from a terma cycle discovered by Khyentse the Great called ‘The One Mind of the Siddhas.’