Rinchen Terdzo

Offerings to Those Near and Far

December 28th, 2008 by Walker Blaine

December 27th 2008

Alan Goldstein and his wife Semo Palmo made an elaborate offering to the Buddha, Padmasambhava, Avalokiteshvara, His Eminence, the Sakyong and everyone else in the shrine room at tea today. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this is a regular feature of life in the Tibetan community. Usually people give money to the monastics, but once in a while the donor also offers a nominal amount of money (maybe 30 rupies, enough for an egg roll and candy at the store, less than 75 cents in the West) to the western students. This is an interesting moment. One is forced to deal with one’s ideas about generosity, the sangha at large, monasticism, and having wealth all in a moment. Some people immediately want to give the money back, some are happy to make an offering later and buy a treat.

Several years ago I was on pilgrimage in Bodhgaya, practicing under the Bodhi tree a few days before His Holiness Karmapa’s first visit to the place of the Buddha’s enlightenment. There is a steady stream of Buddhists from all forms of Buddhism along with Hindus and tourists rolling through there every day. At one point a large, poor Hindu family came by. It was clear they were Hindus because they devoutly walked counter-clockwise around the Bodhi tree. At the end of this procession was an older woman in a worn, faded yellow shawl. She saw me, placed a rupee in my lap and prostrated before me. I had two near simultaneous reactions. One was fear because I felt there was no way I could really help this person who would be in and out of my life in a moment. The other was non-verbal. The core of my heart involuntarily burst open with love. It was as though this moment itself was the real gift to me, and I have pondered it often.

It seems more common in Asia for practitioners to be supported through communal generosity. Many times I when have meditated a for a time at a holy place in Asia I have been given gifts by people I don’t know. I’d open my eyes after a visualization and find some fruit in front of me. At one site near Dharmasala people discovered I enjoyed bananas so I was given a bag of them every day before I started practicing. A very seasoned traveler once said to me that Asians understand karma far better than we do in the West. They know even a small gift or connection will nurture a link which will grow. In Tibet is very common to see pilgrims making aspirations and putting tiny amounts of money in front of every shrine possible in the larger monasteries. It’s a wonderful thing to make offerings to people and situations you may never see again because for both parties one is making a connection with goodness and kindness happening in the world.

Today the electricity was out for most of the morning, and this meant there was no printed list in Tibetan for the day’s upcoming abhishekas. Consequently one of the choppons asked us for the list of abhishekas. Patricia has started producing bi-lingual abhisheka lists for the Sakyong and the 60 or so westerners here. One or two copies circulate among our number throughout the afternoon while everyone keeps track of what’s going on.

We finished the main inner peaceful practices of the three kayas with an abhisheka combining them all into one and an abhisheka of Vajrayogini as the guru, and then moved to related auxiliary practices. These included several empowerments for sadhanas important teachers in various traditions, connecting them with Padmasambhava. These included practices of the second Karmapa, Virupa, Padampa Sangye, Maitriyogin and Dombipa. These five came from a terma cycle discovered by Rigdzin Mingyur Dorje, who was born at the end 16th century and passed away in 1607 at the age of 23. Yet in that short time he revealed 13 volumes of termas. 100’s of these were sky termas, objects and teachings found in space. A great many of his termas are in the Rinchen Terdzo. He was an amazing being and his own teacher wrote a biography of him.

In the evening we had a very detailed talk on the karma, the cause and result relationship of actions, from Tulku Kunchab Rinpoche, a nephew of His Eminence. Kunkyab Rinpoche is in his third year at Mindrolling Shedra in North India. He is one of the five main recipients of the Rinchen Terdzo, the others being Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Jigme Rinpoche, Lhuntrul Rinpoche and the Sakyong Wangmo Khandro Tseyang.

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.

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.