This famous condensed seven-fold service is found in many places, including The King Of Aspiration Prayers, the long mahayana aspiration that we sing three or four times a week at the end of the day. It is a very popular liturgy and is read, among other times, when someone has passed away as a method to generate merit and positive intention. Today we also used a vajrayana confession liturgy well known in Shambhala, the “Confession Liturgy That Brings Reconciliation With The Jnanadevas,” and I realized we’ve been closing each day with a famous terma known in Shambhala as the Chogyur Lingpa Aspiration. Since it was the auspicious 10th day of the lunar calendar, the Shambhala and Padma Ling sanghas gathered in the old monastery after dinner to perform a feast practice together.
We decided we would do our different liturgies simultaneously. The Ripa sangha sat on one side of the room and sang the feast practice for one of His Eminence’s Padmasambhava termas in Tibetan while the Shambhala sangha sat on the other side of the room and chanted and sang Jamgön Mipham’s Padmasambhava feast liturgy in English. Somehow we managed to meet at both the mantra recitations and feast sections of the liturgies.
The chöpöns at the monastery were kind enough let us use a Padmasambhava shrine torma from the abhishekas, and they made us a feast torma too. The feast tormas in Orissa tasted about the same as they did in the West, although the roasted barley flour was more roughly milled and flavorful than back home. We later learned that some of the tormas were made with roasted cornmeal. Besides the two simultaneous practices in the shrine room, the sound of three other evening practice sessions elsewhere in the monastery drifted in and out the windows. And even though there was no meat at the feast, we were able to have some local arak. Other treats included commercial Indian orange soda, deep fried party mix that tasted slightly like peppered sulphur, Cadbury chocolate (a standard in Asia), and roasted chickpeas the size of lentils.
This morning the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo hosted a breakfast for the Shambhala sangha in a receiving room on the third floor of the monastery. This is the area of the monastery where the rinpoches lived during the empowerments. The walls of the receiving room were painted a cheerful shade of light yellow. It had beautiful white marble floors and big windows to the blue skies outside, and even though the chamber had yet to get carpets and artwork, it was a spacious and relaxing place to eat a meal. Their Majesties sat side-byside on comfortable Western armchairs, and the rest of us, about fifteen in all, sat on low Tibetan sofas and thick blue practice mats arranged in a circle around the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo. The menu was spinach timbale, chapattis, roti, and bananas with homemade yogurt.
Kaling had made a tasty roasted vegetable and chili sauce. Most of the breakfast was prepared in the dignitary kitchen by Marvin Robinson, chief cook for the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo. Marvin was a slightly mysterious presence at the Rinchen Terdzö. Because he cooked all day, he was only able to dart into the shrine room during his breaks. His odd schedule endeared him to several Tibetan lay people practicing on the veranda, with whom Marvin sat when he had the chance. At breakfast, the Sakyong joked that Marvin was doing the path backwards, starting with the last parts of each abhisheka. Marvin added that when things were over, he would go to Shambhala Training Level One.
During breakfast, the Sakyong said he was happy to arrive at the Manjushri abhishekas today, and he remarked how special it was to receive all Eight Logos in succession. (He has received many of the empowerments in the collection before.) The Sakyong went on to tell us details about other Rinchen Terdzös. On one occasion, when His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche gave the empowerments in Bhutan, His Holiness never left his seat in the shrine room. He slept sitting on his throne, and a jar or basin was brought to him when he wanted to go to the bathroom.
Everyone else left the shrine room at the end of each day; the discipline was too much for them. During the empowerments, His Holiness was always doing something. During the breaks between the abhishekas, he composed texts and practiced at every opportunity throughout the three or four months of the event. Dodrubchen Rinpoche gave the reading transmission at that Rinchen Terdzö. Dodrubchen Rinpoche is known for his incredibly fast reading speed.
He once bestowed the Rinchen Terdzö by giving both the abhishekas and the lungs. The Sakyong received the Rigdzin Düpa empowerment from Dodrubchen Rinpoche a few years ago and said that he’d never heard someone read so fast with such perfect diction. Every single syllable was precisely audible. At one point during the meal, we discussed our good weather and how it might become uncomfortably hot in March. This reminded the Sakyong Wangmo of when she received the abhishekas from her father ten years ago at Rigön Tashi Chöling Monastery in Tibet. At that time, the abhishekas took three months, which included a few days for breaks during the event.
The Rinchen Terdzö started in October and went into December. It was so cold that people were wrapped in blankets in the shrine room. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche asked how many empowerments there were to go. Patricia Kirigin explained that we had received 250 of roughly 740 abhishekas, and added that counting was tricky because the empowerment lists had different numbering systems. She said that His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s abhisheka list was abbreviated, and that while His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche’s list had more items on it, some of the entries, like those for oral instructions, could not be included in the final total. During this discussion, we learned more about the failed attempts to get His Eminence to abbreviate the empowerments.
His Eminence insisted on the importance of the Sakyong receiving the elaborate abhishekas as well as getting all the details right, for example making sure implements were pointed in the right direction when he received them from the chöpön or when he offered the implements to the Sakyong. At one point, conversation diverted uses of the room we were sitting in. The day before, the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo had used the room to receive the Dalai Lama’s representatives attending the Rinchen Terdzö, the heads of the five Tibetan camps here in Orissa, and the road crew. The meeting with the road crew had particular significance for the community because a major road-building project was to start in twenty days. The roads in the area mystified me until this morning. We traveled on dirt roads for the last 15 kilometers of hills and Indian villages on the way to the monastery. Pretty much out of nowhere, we suddenly hit a paved road through the part of Camp Four leading up to monastery gate. This became dirt again at the new monastery grounds.
The road made a Tshape in middle of Camp Four, and was only half a kilometer of pavement altogether, if that. It turned out that this road was built many years ago by the Indian government. The function of the road was for drainage during the rainy season, not for driving. Without a road like this in the middle of a village during the rainy season, any street becomes unwalkable mud. Mud is a breeding ground for malarial mosquitoes. Every year during the rainy season, the entire region is a malarial hot-zone. Roads with drainage immediately reduce malarial infections; it was a kindness that the Indian government built a road beside the compound of the leader of the community, Namkha Drimed Rinpoche. As many readers will remember, during the wedding ceremony for the Sakyong and the Sakyong Wangmo in Orissa in 2008, a large amount of money was pledged to build an addition to the local medical clinic. The Sakyong Foundation was to sponsor the new building as the first humanitarian effort by Shambhala.
After the wedding there was extensive discussion within the local community about how to best use the money so that the clinic was not just a band-aid, so to speak. The community elders decided it was better to use the money for roads in the camps and uproot a main condition for the spread of malaria. Curiously, during the discussions about this, the value of the dollar against the rupee rose more than 15% and so added substantially more support to the project than was originally expected. As an aside, I’d like to mention that a friend had a fever the other day. We were concerned about it being a malarial onset so we asked the clinic for help. A nurse came and immediately administered a malaria test that fortunately came out negative. It took about 15 minutes to find out if malarial parasites were present in the blood.
This time of year, it is rare to get malaria, but everyone wanted to make sure. While we waited for the test results, we asked about malaria in the region. Education, preventive methods like fly screens and clinical treatment have dramatically reduced the impact of the disease in the camps and surrounding Indian villages. There’s been only one death in several years, an elderly Tibetan who neglected to seek medical attention. Therefore, there is a lot of excitement about the new roads. Camp Two, the smallest, won a lottery and will get the first set of streets, then Camp Five, the largest.
The final camp of the five to get roads will be the monastery, Camp Four. The Sakyong Wangmo noted that since they already had some roads, they were better off than the other camps. May all go well and quickly for this new project. Breakfast ended with the sound of the monastery’s calling gong for the next session of the reading transmissions. The Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo departed, each saying we’d do it again. It was a good start to a day that included seven peaceful Manjushri abhishekas (white, red, yellow, and orange Manjushris among them) and the appearance of a pigeon in the shrine room, who spent hours shifting from perch to perch before finding its way back to the world outside.
Today we concluded the Manjushri empowerments. Manjushri is the peaceful manifestation of the first of the Eight Logos, the enlightened aspect of body. In his two-armed manifestation, Manjushri is usually seen holding a sword in his right hand and a text in his left. Sometimes these are floating above him, each on a lotus while he holds the stems of the flowers with his fingertips and displays the gesture of teaching with his hands. Jamgön Mipham, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s predecessor, is sometimes depicted in this same way to show that he was an emanation of Manjushri.
Two of the Manjushri abhishekas today were a little unusual. One was for a Manjushri in union with his consort Sarasvati on top of a snow lion. Consorts of the deities are seen as inseparable from their counterparts. They are inseparable in the same way that an eye consciousness, the experience of seeing, is inseparable from the object that it sees. Female deities are often symbolic of the wisdom or empty aspect of mind; male deities are often symbolic of the compassionate, skillful aspect of mind. The second peaceful abhisheka was for Sarasvati alone, as a single deity. Sarasvati is sometimes taught as a deity related to the arts, and sometimes as a deity related to learning while Manjushri is generally connected to intelligence. She is also a figure in the Hindu pantheon. The Tibetan for Sarasvati is Yangchen, which can mean ‘Melodious One.’ She is often depicted playing a lute. The Hindus show her riding on or sitting beside a swan.
After the conclusion of the Manjushri empowerments, His Eminence began the abhishekas for the wrathful aspect of the first Logos, the heruka Yamantaka. While there are at least two images of peaceful Manjushri in the shrine room, I was unable to find any depictions of Yamantaka. This was probably because the Taksham lineage, one of the main lineages held by His Eminence (and the basis for the motif of the frescos) places the most emphasis on Hayagriva, the second of the eight herukas. Frescos of Hayagriva are everywhere.
Yamantaka in Tibetan is Shinjeshay. This is sometimes shortened to Shinje, meaning ‘Slayer of the Lord of Death.’ Yamantaka is a very wrathful figure with a bull’s head, a human body and many arms carrying implements and weapons that symbolize qualities like cutting through ignorance and awakening others through the sound of the teachings. It is important to remember that the wrathful deities are embodiments of the transmutation of our own most destructive and negative habits and impulses. It’s our own ignorance that we cut. When we do that, our actions become naturally skillful and multifaceted. A key point in the tantric teachings is that every part of our lives is workable and can become an aspect of awakening. We are in no way justified in being aggressive, but anger has a pure aspect. That is what we train to recognize.
In his book, The Lion’s Roar: An Introduction to Tantra, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche explains that Yamantaka is connected with the southern part of the mandala and thus with the qualities of the ratna (jewel), the symbol of enrichment. A mandala can be a geographic presentation of mind’s qualities and potentials; the center and the various directions in a mandala are connected with different aspects of the mind. In the following quote, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche also connects enrichment with death, as the name of the deity implies. …Usually we don’t at all regard death as an enrichment. We regard death as a loss, a complete and tremendous loss. But here death is regarded as enrichment—in the sense that the final cessation of existence could be regarded as the ultimate creativity.
And the ultimate creativity or collecting process is also deathly at the same time. So there are those two polarities here. But by no means is relating with death, or Yamantaka, regarded as something safe or something that will save you. Instead there is the interplay of those two polarities. Page 197 I always find Trungpa Rinpoche’s writing amazing and a bit disconcerting. There’s no place to hide when reading it, particularly when he addresses vajrayana topics.
In the paragraph above, ‘death’, while referring to the big D death, is also pointing to something more subtle, an ongoing process of dying in our lives. Waking up is the death of sleep; going outside is the death of being indoors. Every moment in our experience is based on the death of the preceding moment, and out of that comes a tremendous amount energy and wealth—to the extent that we recognize the process. At the same time, with this recognition comes an ongoing death, the death of who we think we are. That is both unsettling and enriching.
The following interview with Jigme Rinpoche is about the Eight Logos, also known as the Eight Herukas. Jigme Rinpoche gave a short overview of the Eight Herukas and explained how the classification is used to categorize the yidam practices and how the first classification of the first five of the Eight Logos, the transcendent deities, can be applied to the practices of the guru. Jigme Rinpoche: The main deities that you find in both kama and terma are the eight herukas.
The eight herukas are the yidams of the Nyingma. They are the world of the yidam, the vehicle through which one attains the quickest siddhi (accomplishment) in this life. Each terma cycle is revealed on the basis of one of the eight herukas. Those eight are classified as body, speech, mind, quality, activity, mamo, worldly offerings and praises, and wrathful mantras. All of the empowerments of the Rinchen Terdzö are connected to the eight herukas. The eight herukas include all peaceful and wrathful, male and female, deities.
All possible deities can be found among these eight herukas. The Eight Logos are not just found in the world of the yidams, they are also in the world of the gurus. This is because the gurus are the nature of the five wisdoms— something that fits into the guru classification has an aspect of the five wisdoms. When you divide the eight herukas, five of them are the deities of the five wisdoms, one is a half-worldly/half-wisdom deity, and the last two are worldly deities. An abhisheka can either belong to the body part, the speech part, the mind part, the quality part, or action part from among the five wisdoms. A yidam can also be classified into one of the five wisdoms. There isn’t any deity that doesn’t fit into one of the five wisdoms.
And the five wisdoms are part of the eight herukas. The first of the Eight Logos is Jampal (Manjushri), or body (Skt. kaya, Tib. ku), which is Manjushri in the peaceful aspect and Yamantaka in the wrathful aspect. The second is Pema, or speech (Tib. sung), the lotus family. The peaceful aspect of the speech family includes deities like Guru Rinpoche, Amitabha, and so forth. The wrathful aspect is Hayagriva, and so on. The third is Yangdak, mind or heart, and it also has peaceful and wrathful aspects. The fourth is Dütsi (Amrita), or quality. And finally there is Vajrakilaya, or activity. So these are the categories that any peaceful or wrathful deity will belong to, from the point of view of the yidam’s world. You will be see it here at the Rinchen Terdzö as it unfolds over time. There are vast numbers of deities, but you will find that they all belong to one of the eight herukas.
Some readers who are new to Tibetan Buddhism might have been surprised by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s remarks about Yamantaka, and I thought it would be good to share some things the Sakyong said to me in a conversation about tantric imagery and symbolism today. The Sakyong pointed out that the language used by the Vidyadhara in the 1970’s was somewhat psychological and needed to be read in context in order to avoid creating confusion. Taking the Vidyadhara’s statements out of context could start to make things sound quite strange.
The Sakyong added that the main things to know were that the Vidyadhara was completely aware of the language he was using and that the Eight Logos sadhanas were among Vidyadhara’s main practices. This afternoon we received all but five of the remaining empowerments for Yamantaka. It was a typical day, although there was the occasional interesting torma, and once the chöpön waved a censer without wearing the dignified yellow hat. Somehow this was a real eye-opener after many weeks of seeing the yellow hat in action. Most of the Westerners commented on this during dinner. Yesterday, an unusually large group of Indian tourists came to visit the empowerments. At one point, there were about 50 people standing in the second floor gallery, intently watching the ceremonies for ten or fifteen minutes.
Occasionally they snapped flash pictures. Toward the end of their visit, His Eminence looked up from his throne and surveyed the entire group, and then the chant leader signaled it was time for the afternoon break. Two of the tourists turned out to be reporters from a local TV station who asked me for an interview, which I declined. Generally speaking, Padmasambhava hid the termas, although other realized beings like Vimalamitra concealed termas too. It is said that many mahayana teachings were also hidden in a manner like the termas. The teachings on emptiness called the Prajnaparamita sutras are a prime example of this. The Prajnaparamita sutras are said to have been taught by the Buddha, but then given to the nagas, non-human beings with great power of intellect, for safekeeping until they were recovered in the second century by the great teacher, Nagarjuna. The Prajnaparamita sutras focus on the presentation of emptiness, one of the two main teachings in mahayana Buddhism.
The main set of mahayana teachings focus on buddha nature. The teachings on emptiness were hidden because the context was not right for those teachings to be presented publically during the Buddha’s life. The situation was the same with the terma teachings, hidden during Padmasambhava’s time and discovered later, starting in the 11th century. All these teachings needed a specific context when they would be most needed and useful. Today we received the last five Yamantaka empowerments. The first two were restricted to the monastics, and the first of those was restricted to the fully ordained monastics; the ‘little monks’, as it was put in the announcement, had to leave the shrine room along with the householders. A fully ordained monastic takes a more elaborate series vows than a novice, and must be over 18 years of age. The Sakyong and the other lay lineage holders were allowed receive the empowerments along with the fully ordained sangha. I was happy to see that the monastics included Jinpa, one of the fully ordained sangha at Gampo Abbey. Amitayus
After being on both sides of closed doors to teachings over the years, it has become clear it’s worth the wait and the preparation to attend restricted events. I am not planning to take full ordination, so Yamantaka may be a long wait. Generally speaking, secrecy in the Buddhist context is about proper preparation. It’s like waiting until someone has grown physically and emotionally capable of handling a moving car before teaching him or her how to drive.
The Yamantaka empowerments concluded the first of the Eight Logos, the Logos related to the enlightened aspect of body. The Indian teacher Manjushrimitra, a figure in the transmission of both the mahayoga and dzogchen teachings, gave the Yamantaka teachings to Padmasambhava. Padmasambhava received the Eight Logos from eight teachers, collectively known as The Eight Vidyadharas. He also received all eight in a combined form from the dakini Mahakarmendrani. From Nagarjuna (a different Nagarjuna than the one that recovered the Prajnaparamita teachings) Padmasambhava received the second of the Eight Logos, the practices related to enlightened speech, often called Pema Sung, Lotus Speech. We started to receive these empowerments today. The speech family is the largest section of the Eight Logos and contains about 150 empowerments. Padmasambhava, the source of the termas, is from the lotus family too, so naturally there are a lot of empowerments in this category. Speech in general refers to any form of communication. Inwardly, speech refers to our energy and passion.
We live in the human realm, and the predominant emotion in the human world is passion. This is contrasted, for example, to the animal realm, which generally possesses a limited capacity for higher learning and is driven by a style that is more fearful and ignorant than passionate. Compassion is sometimes described as enlightened passion. Interestingly, the word compassion comes form the Latin meaning ‘to suffer with’. The peaceful section of the Speech family contains practices for three different types of deities: Amitayus, Amitabha and Avalokiteshvara. Today we received the first five of about thirty empowerments related to Amitayus, Tsepamay in Tibetan. Amitayus means ‘limitless life’. He is one of three deities associated with long-life or vitality in the Tibetan tradition. The other two are the goddesses White Tara, who is more connected to fertility, and Ushnishavijaya, who is mentioned as Jaya Devi in the Invocation For Raising Windhorse chant written by Jamgön Mipham. There are several Tara empowerments in the dakini section of the Rinchen Terdzö.
The Ushnishavijaya empowerments were bestowed during the pacifying and enriching divisions of the auxiliary sadhanas section that came later in the Rinchen Terdzö. Amitayus is red in color and is depicted holding a golden vase with his hands in his lap, seated with his legs crossed in vajra posture, feet on top of his knees rather than under them. Sometimes Amitayus is presented in union with consort; sometimes he is seated alone. The vase contains amrita (Tib. dutsi), the medicinal liquor of long-life. Padmasambhava, who achieved the siddhi of long-life, also holds this kind of vase. Amitayus wears the colorful silken garments of ancestral Indian royalty, a jeweled golden crown, and beautiful jewelry. All of the iconographical splendor is meant to lead us toward our own natural richness. This is where genuine vitality resides. The different deities in meditation are visualized as made of light, not like the solid figures of everyday life. Amitayus is often visualized over one’s head with the amrita of longevity streaming from the vase into one’s own body, which is also visualized as made of light. In the end of the meditation the deity dissolves into the practitioner who imagines she or he is of the same nature as Amitayus.
Today during first full day of long-life empowerments, some of us had an experience of time being slowed down. When I asked someone what time it was, I thought it was already time for tea, but it turned out we’d been in the shrine room barely more than an hour. After the abhishekas ended, a friend remarked that the afternoon had been like being on the beach in the warm sun; the environment was incredibly light, peaceful, and timeless. I was reciting the hundred-syllable Vajrasattva mantra during the empowerments and ended up doing four or four or five hundred more recitations than I expected. This was my subjective experience, but it was unusual. Amitayus, the buddha of long-life, is not like Buddha Shakyamuni who actually lived as a person. Amitayus is a sambhogakaya buddha, a transcendent expression of enlightenment that is the embodiment of the joyful, radiant aspect of fully awakened mind. The sambhogakaya is one of the three kayas of a buddha. Kaya means body, and sambhoga means complete enjoyment.
The other two bodies are the dharmakaya and the nirmanakaya. Dharmakaya refers to the aspect of mind that is beyond reference point—mind’s empty essence. The nirmanakaya refers to a body that we can encounter with the five senses, in this life right now. A nirmanakaya is a compassionate manifestation of the interplay of the first two kayas in the world. The mind beyond reference point, inseparable from its own dynamic play and radiance, can express itself in this world as an act of compassion for those who haven’t realized their buddha nature. Shakyamuni Buddha and Padmasambhava are often called nirmanakaya buddhas. The Tibetan word tülku, in colloquial Buddhist English, is often used to describe reincarnate teachers like His Eminence, the Sakyong, and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
Meditating on a sambhogakaya buddha brings one’s attention to the dynamic, energetic aspect of the mind of realization. Meditation on a dharmakaya or nirmanakaya buddha familiarizes the practitioner with other noble qualities of awakened mind. However, meditation on any one of the three kayas will include aspects of the other two. Such meditations support the practitioner in developing faith that the qualities of the three kayas are naturally part of one’s own being. When that faith is stable, one can have a direct experience of the kayas and go beyond faith. Technically speaking, the only ones who directly perceive sambhogakaya buddhas are realized practitioners. These are practitioners who have a genuine, stable recognition of emptiness, one of the most subtle and interesting topics presented in the Buddhist teachings.
Meditation on a sambhogakaya buddha, even at early stages in the path, combined with study and reflection on the meaning of the teachings, will hasten one’s understanding. This in turn can lead to further progress in meditation. If we have an image for what it is like to perceive the radiance of the ultimate nature of mind and we spend time working with that image, eventually we will see what the image is pointing to more clearly. This takes perseverance. If it were easy, we’d have world peace in a week. However, even a little meditation of this type is very beneficial. The vajrayana teachings come with a caution. Leaping into practices like visualization without the help of a genuine teacher is like driving blindfolded, to continue yesterday’s analogy. Guessing the answers to questions about the subtleties of mind can be psychologically dangerous and create unnecessary obstacles.
Moving forward with guidance and feedback from people who have walked the path is the best way to approach the dharma, and especially the esoteric teachings. The terma practices we received today came from variety of tertöns including Sangye Lingpa, Dorje Lingpa, Ratna Lingpa, and Pema Lingpa. These are four of the eight (or eleven) Lingpas, a group of extraordinary tertöns prophesized by Padmasambhava. Lingpa means ‘sanctuary’, and points to the fact that a tertön is a sanctuary of peace and happiness for beings. Today we also received an abhisheka for a long life terma practice discovered by Thangtong Gyalpo (1361-1485). The practice we received was the short, famous, and frequently given Bestowal Of The Splendor Of Immortality.
This long-life practice is revered in part because Thangtong Gyalpo lived to the age of 125. In my opinion, he was one of the coolest mahasiddhas or greatly accomplished ones in Tibet. He studied with teachers in all four schools, and furthered his understanding in Nepal and India for 18 years. He was a holder of the Northern Termas among many other lineages, and he travelled widely, visiting China, Bhutan, Kashmir, Lhadak, and Mongolia. Thangtong Gyalpo became a doctor later in his life and developed new medicines for a variety of diseases. Besides being a temple architect, grammarian, poet, and playwright, he is also known for building iron suspension bridges in Tibet, an amazing feat for someone in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some of Thangtong Gyalpo’s bridges may have been in use during the early 20th century. Pieces of iron from these bridges are kept as objects of devotion in the Tibetan community. His specific teaching lineage is appropriately known in the Nyingma as The Iron Bridge.
As we settled into the second full day of long-life
empowerments, the feeling at the monastery became even more mellow. This was the trend during most of the peaceful empowerment days. Even our dreams seemed to be part of the atmosphere. During breakfast Craig Mollins mentioned he dreamed of drinking wheatgrass, a classic peaceful brew. Everyone agreed wheatgrass was definitely symbolic of longlife in the West, although some debate ensued about the taste and true merits of the beverage.
The long-life vase Amitayus holds in his lap is not like a Western flower vase. It is more like a wide-bellied pot with no spout. It is similar to the vases used in empowerments, but those have long spouts. The long-life vase often appeared in the form of a torma to be used during the Amitayus empowerments. This form of a torma has appeared in every long-life empowerment and many of the empowerments for Padmasambhava practices during the guru section last month. Long-life tormas are usually shrine tormas, rather than tormas we might eat. Most torma forms are made with roasted barley flour, water, and sometimes a little butter.
These are then painted different colors. I have heard of a Tibetan monastery in the West using couscous instead of barley flower for shrine tormas because couscous is easy to prepare and shape. After being used in practice, shrine tormas are offered outside at a place where people won’t walk. One of the buildings at Surmang Dütsi Til Monastery houses a strict one-year retreat that requires the participants never leave the upper level of the building. The shrine tormas leave that retreat through a window on the second floor and a pack of wild dogs waits beneath the window for the arrival of treats throughout the day.
As you can see from the photo above, torma decorations are a colorful experience. The decorations on the long-life torma are flower petals, the sun, the moon, and jewels. Tormas can be decorated with everything imaginable; the most elaborate ones have detailed sculptures of different lineage teachers on them. There are torma competitions in Tibet from time to time, although I suspect such events have liturgical components that set them far apart from baking competitions in the West.
Some tormas can be six or eight feet high. All parts of a torma have symbolism, even the abstract shapes and proportions. Most of the time, the central torma on a shrine represents a deity. A torma can also be an offering to the deity, or a torma could be both the deity and the offering. In Tibet, the decorations on tormas are often made with butter, usually dri butter. (A dri is a female yak. Asking a Tibetan about yak butter can be embarrassing.) In Orissa, where butter was in short supply and melted easily, the monks used a formula of paraffin wax and non-hydrogenated vegetable oil that was shapeable, stable, and took dye well. The torma making room at the monastery was a busy place.
The chöpöns at the Rinchen Terdzö worked nearly round the clock because the empowerment tormas had to be ready the night before the next day’s empowerments were given. The finished tormas were placed on the shrine in preparation for His Eminence’s arrival at 6:30 the next morning. From experience I know a single empowerment shrine can sometimes take an hour or more to set up from scratch. A lot was prepared ahead of time for the Rinchen Terdzö, but the monks were faced with setting up an estimated average of 8 empowerments a day, a huge responsibility. The chöpöns helping His Eminence bestow the empowerments were top notch. In the midst of all their activity, every single one of them displayed remarkable equanimity. For example, during the empowerments they had to personally engage with hundreds of people in succession. Doing that, the chöpöns were exposed to 800 consecutive habits. If you’ve been to an empowerment, you know that people’s ways of receiving icons, vases water, and so forth can reflect various states of mind and spacing out.
A couple hundred of monks were boys, so it was a mixed bag of chaos and devotion every time the chöpöns moved through the crowd. During the three months of abhishekas, I never saw any of the chöpöns become frustrated, display aggression, or show any kind of jaded behavior that would indicate they experienced the empowerments with anything other than an open mind. Lama Tenzin, the head chöpön, was in his late 30s or early 40s at the oldest. The assistant chöpöns appeared to be in their early 20s. Lama Kunam, the text master who was very knowledgeable about many of the practices, was also in his mid 20s. Most of the chöpöns were fully ordained, which was a sign of general maturity and commitment.
Around the start of the Speech Logos, I lost my cloth flower. Because flowers are often held in the hands when taking or retaking vows, everyone had been given a cloth flower to use in place of a real flower during all the rituals of the Rinchen Terdzö. The cloth flowers were made from three pieces of colored brocade, each cut to resemble a full spread of flower petals, and then sew together in a stack. Afterwards, a thick red string ‘stem’ was attached to bottom of the flower, making a kind of permanent offering. Somehow my flower had vanished from my pocket earlier in the week. Remembering that cloth flowers had been distributed to latecomers, two days ago I asked Lama Tenzin if he had more. He immediately replied he’d make me one, which startled me because I knew the incredibly long hours he was working. I said the flower wasn’t necessary, but at the end of the next day he presented me with a fresh brocade flower anyway.
Yesterday at teatime, two groups of Tibetan men made presentations of khatas and money first at the main shrines, then to His Eminence and the Sakyong, and then to all the assembled lamas and khenpos. A clear-voiced monk read the aspirations made by each group. This reading included the amount of money to be offered to each of the recipients. After the principal teachers received their offerings, everyone else was given a small monetary gift, starting with the monastics and finishing with the Tibetan and Western lay practitioners. After the offerings, the entire assembly performed several short liturgical practices for the wishes of the benefactors to be filled. The Tibetan donors throughout the ceremony looked humble and happy. One of them, a brawny and fierce-looking man with ruddy cheeks who wore a tight cowboy shirt, offered seven prostrations at the start of the ceremony rather than the usual three. The practice of generosity in the Asian sangha sometimes has a different flow than it does in the West.
The general term for this is kor, the process of offerings, aspirations, and compassionate practice that exists as a cycle between the lama, practitioners, donors, and those who are being practiced for. At the Rinchen Terdzö we saw this cycle when people made offerings to the teachers and the assembly, who then responded to the donors’ wishes and aspirations with formal practices of compassion. I have pondered the differences between East and West with regard to the flow of wealth and requests. In the West, (leaving aside individual requests to teachers) most of the major retreats I’ve observed in and outside of Shambhala have begun with a formal offering of a mandala (in this case, a symbolic representation of the wealth of the whole universe) and a request for the teachings. At the end of the retreat a final mandala offering is made to the teacher in gratitude.
Usually the final offering is a more elaborate one than the one at the start of the program. We request the teacher to continue to teach and supplicate for the teacher’s longevity along with the fulfillment of the teacher’s vision and wishes. At that time, a monetary teaching gift is also given to the teacher. Short symbolic mandala offerings are made at the start of each teaching session throughout a program in the west, but except for the final mandala offering, there’s no money actually being given to the teacher until the end of the program. In the West, we usually do not make monetary offerings and request specific practices to be done publically at tea every other day, and we don’t spread a monetary offering out to every practitioner in the room, even if it is just 20 rupees a day. However, we do make personal offerings to the teachers and sometimes to some or all of the staff at the end the program. And the money we pay for a program will be used to support the hosting center in various ways. The Rinchen Terdzö, aside from our food and lodging, has been free, although all of us made personal offerings to His Eminence and the monastery during of the event.
Kor functions as a way to deliver requests from the students to the teacher, and as a way for the teacher to connect with the sangha. From another point of view, it is a way for people to connect with the teacher and generate merit, positive actions that result in happiness. However, as the Sakyong emphasized when he described kor to me the other day, it is the lama’s responsibility to actually do the aspirations prayers, the meditations, and whatever else is being asked. Additionally, if someone in the assembly receives an offering and a request, they are also being asked to practice.
This is part of how the sangha works in Asia. The meaning of kor continued to be provocative to me every time someone put money in my hands in the shrine room. Sixteen years ago, I met a Cherokee pipe holder at Shambhala Mountain Center. He was helping his teacher conduct a short program for the staff. To be a pipe holder means to carry the lineage of the Native American wisdom tradition. He explained that as a pipe holder, one of his obligations was to pray for people whenever he was asked. There was no choice about this because the consequences were pretty dark if he let people down when they were asking for help. The Sakyong Wangmo offering a mandala to Namkha Drimed Rinpoche
To illustrate the commitment he’d taken on, the pipe holder told me a story. Once he was completely exhausted after a day of driving and he stopped at midnight to stay at a roadside motel in the middle of nowhere. He was about to collapse in bed when a knock came on his door. It turned out to be a couple of complete strangers. They requested him to do a pipe ceremony for someone who was ill. He had no idea how they had figured out that he was a Native American, let alone a pipe holder. He said he has no choice in these situations; he just does whatever is the right thing to do.
When I first saw donors giving money to monks in crowded shrine rooms in Asia a few years ago, I watched with a combination of curiosity and positive skepticism trying to figure out what was going on. It is well known that the lay communities in Asia have a great deal of faith in the ordained sangha. I didn’t know whether this was blind faith or not, but suspected there was something I was missing. As I received the same offerings along with the monastics and lay sangha in Orissa, it all started to make sense.
Having learned more about the cycle of generosity, I was put in the position of being pushed toward compassion. “You felt it,” the Sakyong said to me, “Somebody’s hopes and aspirations and them giving you a little offering in the shrine hall. You feel badly disregarding it and spending the money somewhere, and you start to think, ‘I should do whatever I am supposed to do.’ ” Yesterday, as the Tibetans’ aspirations were read aloud, I noticed that His Eminence sat and listened with a clear gaze and undistracted attention. I was moved by this. And even though I didn’t understand what was being read, I knew that I could open my heart and make silent good wishes for everyone, for the people I knew and all those that I didn’t. Kor, the cycle of generosity, is a cycle of kindness, love, and practice.
Termas usually do not present themselves ready-made for an empowerment. The original terma is often rearranged and placed in liturgies in different ways to make it easier for people to enter the tradition and practice. This is also the case with the tantras, the root texts of Indian vajrayana. The tantras are hard to understand and have a generated a large commentarial tradition in both India and Tibet.
The essential practices of the tantras are presented in sadhanas just as they are with termas, which themselves are practices meant to revitalize the vajrayana tradition that originates from the tantras. In many cases, teachers other than the tertöns wrote many of the empowerment rituals found in the Rinchen Terdzö. I found this interesting because the Vidyadhara did not write the abhishekas for two of his most important terma practices, The Sadhana Of Mahamudra and the Werma Sadhana. The empowerment rituals were written by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, respectively.
Until seeing who wrote what in the Rinchen Terdzö, I had not realized this situation was so often the case. Many of the texts in the Rinchen Terdzö came from earth termas discovered by Chogyur Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, or Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye. An earth terma is a physical object that might be hidden in earth, rock, trees, buildings, lakes, and so on. It might be a text or a ritual item such as a crown. Sometimes this kind of terma is discovered in a ‘casket,’ which will have no discernable way to open it. I once saw a terma casket at a monastery while on pilgrimage in western Tibet. It was a completely spherical rock that looked like tiny bits of slightly pink granite had been pressed together into a completely solid ball about ten inches in diameter. A monk at the monastery said it was a terma that hadn’t opened yet, but it would open if the conditions were right. One of the most common types of earth terma is a terma scroll. When caskets are opened, they sometimes contain several of these.
Terma scrolls are short pieces of parchment or fabric with writing on them, often only a single syllable, or a piece of text written by Yeshe Tsogyal. When a tertön reads the scroll it will trigger a memory of the time when Padmasambhava or another realized being first taught the text. At that point, the tertön will remember and write down the entire terma. On some occasions an entire written terma has been found in the form of an earth terma. Because earth termas depend on external conditions, they are difficult to obtain. The conditions are not as simple as having the right key to open a lock.
The right tertön must come at the right time to the right place with the right retinue, and so on. Mind terma, termas concealed in the mind of a tertön, also need the right conditions to be discovered. My suspicion is that publicly discovered earth termas are easier for people to have faith in because there is a physical object to rely on. Today’s abhishekas were for the last eleven of the Amitayus group, the first of three deities in the peaceful section of the second Logos. So far, we have received an average of seven or eight empowerments per day with a high of fifteen and a low of two. About half of today’s empowerments were connected to termas discovered by Chogyur Lingpa, and nine of today’s empowerment rituals were written by Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye.
Picking up the middle of the life story of Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye, we’ll start with how the Rinchen Terdzö came to be. In 1855, when Jamgön Kongtrül was about 42 years old, he decided to assemble a collection of the major and minor termas he’d received over the years. He felt this was important to the continuity of the teachings and shared the idea with his teacher Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo who then gave Jamgön Kongtrül four additional volumes of termas and urged him forward. Besides looking for signs of whether the creating the Rinchen Terdzö was the correct thing to do, Jamgön Kongtrül also asked Chogyur Lingpa if the project was appropriate.
Asking a realized person a question like that was not like asking an ordinary friend for advice about what to do. Chogyur Lingpa only responded when he had a vision of Padmasambhava. In the vision, Padmasambhava said the project was a very good one. It came on New Year’s Day, an auspicious time for such a message to arrive. It took twelve more years to complete the task of assembling the first edition of the Rinchen Terdzö, which had grown substantially from its initial ten volumes. The collection was initially bestowed in 1868 when Jamgön Kongtrül was 55. This was when some of our great, great, great grandparents were alive. Jamgön Kongtrül continued work on the collection for an astonishing 21 more years, completing it in 1889. The Rinchen Terdzö reflects more than 33 years of work by Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye.
Jamgön Kongtrül bestowed the Rinchen Terdzö six times, each time taking up to five months to do so. What is more amazing is that this was only one of many similar achievements in his career. We’ll conclude his story in the coming weeks. The atmosphere of the Amitayus abhishekas was remarkable; I didn’t want to leave it. This was ironic given the nature of what were receiving. Each of the five transcendent Logos can express the transmutation of a particular emotion. In the case of enlightened speech, the emphasis of the practice is on the transmutation of grasping passion. Besides the magnetic quality of these empowerments, the other thing that caught my attention was the order of the components in the abhishekas. The central elements were always the same, but their sequence seemed to change from empowerment to empowerment.
The special features of the Amitayus empowerments seemed to be the bestowal of blessing by means of a long-life torma, long-life medicine, and a long-life arrow. The long-life arrow usually resided point-down in a stand on the front right corner the shrine, shrine southeast. It had ribbons in the colors of the five wisdoms (blue, white, yellow, red, and green) hanging from just below the tail feathers alongside a small mirror. Sometimes His Eminence waved the arrow while holding its point, circling the tail-feathers and ribbons in order to call and gather the elemental energies of long-life and prosperity.
The number of Western students remaining at the Rinchen Terdzö diminished rapidly this week. Eight more, including three children, were scheduled to depart in the coming days. The only positive side of this seemed to be better seating, but that didn’t do much for the sadness at seeing people go or their sadness at leaving. After the Amitayus empowerments came those for Amitabha, the next deity in the peaceful section of the second Logos. Like Amitayus, Amitabha is a transcendent buddha, rather than a historical person like Shakyamuni. Amitabha is connected with the dharmakaya aspect of enlightened mind, mind beyond reference point. You’ll recall that Amitayus was related to the sambhogakaya, the joyful dynamic display of enlightened mind. Both deities are red, the color of the speech family.
Their attire can illustrate their difference in emphasis. Amitayus, as the energetic aspect, wears regal jewels and silks, but Amitabha is depicted wearing monastic robes, which emphasize simplicity and renunciation. It is important to remember that although these deities are different expressions of awakened mind, they are essentially one. Amitabha, rather than being connected with the vitality and longevity, is connected with our well-being after we leave this life. The practices of Amitabha have to do with Sukhavati, in English, The Place Of Bliss or Dewachen in Tibetan. Sukhavati is the pure realm of Amitabha, a complete world that surrounds his mind and aspiration of pure awakening. Sukhavati is a realm where there are no obstacles to practice. Beings taking birth there have a straightforward path to attaining full realization. The practices of Amitabha are aimed at creating the conditions to be reborn in Sukhavati where it is said understanding the teachings is almost effortless, even for people without extraordinarily good karma. Practices of Sukhavati are done in preparation for one’s own death and to help others when they are in the time of transition to their next life.
In the Chinese and Japanese Buddhist traditions there are schools that focus almost exclusively on this approach to meditation. There were six empowerments for Amitabha. All of them had a very spacious quality. One lasted less than ten minutes. Speed or duration was not a measure of anything because every empowerment points to awakening from a different perspective. One title I especially liked was The Root-Empowerment for The Space Dharma Practice Of The Realm Of Sukhavati, combined with the support of the eight auspicious symbols and the seven possessions of a Chakravartin, in accordance with its arrangement as a text. The Space Dharma is a terma cycle revealed by Rigdzin Mingyur Dorje. A Chakravartin is a universal monarch, the highest secular rebirth possible. A chakravartin is the worldly equivalent of buddhahood; it is the best possible achievement in life from a worldly, rather than spiritual, perspective.
After the conclusion of the Amitabha
empowerments, we entered the last section
of the peaceful Speech Logos, the
empowerments of Avalokiteshvara (Tib.
Chenrezig). His name means, ‘The Lord Who
Sees All The World.’ Avalokiteshvara sees
the entire world with the eyes of
compassion; he is the embodiment of a
buddha’s compassionate love for all beings.
The most well known form of
Avalokiteshvara is white with four arms, seated on a lotus. Two of his hands hold a wishfulfilling jewel at his heart, and the other two hands are slightly raised near his shoulders, with the right hand holding a crystal mala and the left hand holding a lotus flower. His mantra is probably the most famous one in Buddhism: OM MANI PADME HUM. In the mahayana sutras, Avalokiteshvara is one of the foremost bodhisattva disciples of the Buddha. The most well known scripture where he is featured is the Sutra Of The Heart Of Transcendent Knowledge, commonly called The Heart Sutra. This text, chanted daily in many mahayana Buddhist lineages, is an account of a short dialogue between Avalokiteshvara and Shariputra, who was one of the two principal monastic disciples of the Buddha and exceedingly smart and penetrating. The dialogue begins when Shariputra is impelled by the force of the Buddha’s meditation to ask Avalokiteshvara how to practice in the most profound way, how to meditate on emptiness. Avalokiteshvara has a deep connection with Tibet. Many of the early Tibetan kings were emanations of Avalokiteshvara.
The legend of the origin of the Tibetan people is that they arose from the union of a monkey and a rock-demoness. The monkey was Avalokiteshvara and the demoness was the female bodhisattva, Tara. They had six children corresponding to the six realms of beings (humans, gods, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and pretas). Somehow these six children got along well and played together near the mountainside cave where they were born in Tsetang, nowadays a few hours drive from Lhasa. There were more than sixty empowerments of Avalokiteshvara in the Rinchen Terdzö. There are a variety of ways to explain this. One is way is to say that Padmasambhava and Avalokiteshvara are both part of the speech family of deities; since Padmasambhava is a source of the termas, there are a lot of speech family termas. Another way to explain the great number of Avalokiteshvara termas has to do with how a great tertön is recognized. All great tertöns reveal termas of Avalokiteshvara in addition to termas of Padmasambhava and dzogchen. Since all the great tertöns are represented in the Rinchen Terdzö, many Avalokiteshvara termas appear in the collection.
Today was a day off so that Lhunpo Rinpoche could take time to recover from an illness. In the morning, the monastery performed a Medicine Buddha practice for Lhunpo Rinpoche and Namkha Drimed Rinpoche, although His Eminence was in good health. The day off presented an opportunity to unwind a bit. People spent their time in conversations, visiting the tailor to get chubas made, sitting in the sun, or practicing at the monastery. The weather, hillsides, and landscape in Orissa have been likened to Tuscany, Italy. It was a superb day to relax into a gentle state of mind. In the afternoon, Patricia and I went to visit the head chöpön, Lama Tenzin.
The purpose of our visit was to get a better sense of the order of the empowerments in the Rinchen Terdzö. As we sat in the chöpön’s office—which was filled with texts, offerings, and vases (all cleaned and standing in a row for the day off)—Lama Tenzin explained that the empowerments were being presented according to the sequence laid out in a manual for the Rinchen Terdzö that was written by the 15th Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje. This manual was a four-volume, 2000 page text appended to the end of the Rinchen Terdzö in its 111-volume reprinting. While the Rinchen Terdzö took an amazing 33 years to complete, writing a guidebook to it took eight more.
The 15th Karmapa, like the 10th Trungpa, was a student of Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye. The Karmapa’s manual was invaluable for many reasons. Jamgön Kongtrül wrote his own manual of notes in a condensed form that was easy to misunderstand without great knowledge or additional help. The Karmapa expanded everything and filled in many details. For example, the empowerment rituals often require additional verses and instructions that are difficult to find in the original publication of the Rinchen Terdzö. Sometimes additional liturgies were not even included in the original collection.
The Karmapa very thoughtfully put everything together in a sequential package. His Eminence used the specific empowerment texts and Khakyab Dorje’s manual when he gave the abhishekas. Both sat before him on a twotiered stand that looked a little like a miniature hardwood armchair. The Karmapa also presented an alternate order for the empowerments of the Rinchen Terdzö. His sequence is often used when giving the Rinchen Terdzö because of the difficulties in giving the empowerments in the order laid out by Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye. Jamgön Kongtrül originally ordered the Rinchen Terdzö according to type of deity and practice, such as the main mahayoga divisions of guru, yidam, dakini, and dharmapala.
Dividing the practices up like this is helpful for seeing the big picture, but any inter-related practices get separated in Jamgön Kongtrül’s progression of empowerments. Separating the inter-related practices has a significant impact on the time it takes to bestow the abhishekas. The inter-related terma practices form something like family groups. The practices in these groups often use the same shrine. For example, the Könchok Chidu has a trio of practices, those of the guru, the yidam, and the dakini. If these empowerments are given all at once, the shrine only needs to be set up once and the teacher only needs to do the preliminary practice in the morning once. If these three empowerments are bestowed according to the order given by Jamgön Kongtrül, the shrine must be set up three different times, weeks apart, during three different sections of the Rinchen Terdzö.
When all is said and done, bestowing the Rinchen Terdzö according to Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye’s outline takes a lot longer, and there’s much more work for the chöpöns. Seeing this, the Karmapa reordered the termas so that each shrine only had to be set up only once. This still adds up to creating at least 254 shrines, but I shudder to think what the situation would be like otherwise. I suspect the Karmapa’s manual is why it the Rinchen Terdzö in Orissa was bestowed in three months, instead of five, which is the length of the longer Rinchen Terdzös I have read about. Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye’s great vision saved all these practices and instructions from the brink of extinction at the end of the 19th century. Without his work, it is unlikely many of these teachings would have survived the devastation of Tibet that was the backdrop to Trungpa Rinpoche’s empowerment of Namkha Drimed Rinpoche at Yak Gompa in the late 1950’s. The 15th Karmapa’s brilliance was to make everything easier for everyone when giving the empowerments. The Karmapa provided the fine-tuning needed to easily bring these teachings smoothly into the present day.
The abhishekas resumed this afternoon although the reading transmissions were postponed so that Lhunpo Rinpoche could rest more. The extra time in the morning allowed an interview with Jigme Rinpoche at his residence in the Ripa Ladrang. Jigme Rinpoche said that everyone was well and that Lhunpo Rinpoche was recovering from a mild strain of chicken pox. The abhishekas in the afternoon continued the series of empowerments related to Avalokiteshvara.
As I mentioned earlier, Patricia Kirigin has been working with two abhisheka lists from previous Rinchen Terdzös. The most complete list came from Peter Roberts’ work at His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche’s bestowal of the Rinchen Terdzö in 2006. After we met with Lama Tenzin, Patricia was able to start checking this list against the Rinchen Terdzö itself and the 15th Karmapa’s manual. Just before the abhishekas started this afternoon, we discovered the monastery’s empowerment list was missing two major ‘sub-empowerments’ from its schedule for the day.
We were confused by this and didn’t know which list was right. However, until today it had been like being a week behind in chemistry homework when the abhishekas started each afternoon. Today it turned out we had a better list than the one the monastery had printed. This was like being only two days behind in chemistry homework. Several rinpoches, khenpos, and lamas quickly signaled they wanted to read our list when we started the two unmentioned empowerments. At the end of the day, Patricia Kirigin had a chat about the missing sub-empowerments with Lama Tenzin, who laughed and told her in Tibetan, “That series was very, very difficult.”
This photograph is of a four-meter square of a mandala of Avalokiteshvara painted on the ceiling of the shrine room. It is also a diagram for one of the Avalokiteshvara practices contained in the Rinchen Terdzö. As you can see, the deity is pictured in the middle of a six-petal lotus flower. Each petal holds one syllable of the mantra of Avalokiteshvara, OM MA NI PAD ME HUM, which is spelled out in Tibetanized Sanskrit. The squarish frame for the round lotus is a diagram of the palace the deity lives in. The irregular white circles are hanging lamps viewed from below. This kind of mandala painting gives a rough approximation of a visualization practice.
Avalokiteshvara is sitting on a lotus in the middle of a palace. The painting is somewhat like an architectural drawing; the palace itself is square. However, as you can see, at the center of each of the four walls wall is a strange Tshaped middle section. At this point the diagram is showing how the four gates to the palace are seen from the outside. These gates are similar to the gates to The Great Stupa Of Dharmakaya at Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado.6 Just beyond the walls of the palace is the perimeter of a second lotus on which the palace of resides. In general, lotuses symbolize 6 For a photograph of the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, please turn to the first essay in the end of this book. purity because they grow in dirty water, but are unstained by the mud below.
On most days, Indian tourists visited the monastery during the afternoon empowerments. The busiest days brought fifty or more onlookers. Usually they arrived around four o’clock. Sundays and Indian national holidays were the busiest. The Indian men tended to dress in casual Western shirts and pants. The women often wore amazingly bright saris, usually in a solid color like a deep blue or an eye-popping vermillion fringed with intricately laced golden thread. Some of the tourists, whom I guessed were Bangladeshi, had very dark skin, wide eyes, and the women wore lots of bangles. The children often dressed in Western clothes.
The young boys tended to look at the monks and Westerners in the crowd, while the young women tended to focus on His Eminence and the shrine. In the midst of the oddity of practicing with 800 Tibetans while being lightly scrutinized by Indian tourists, I was impressed by the Indians’ general sense of decorum and sensitivity toward the sacredness of the space. Occasionally people snapped pictures, but for the most part they stood silently, somewhat awestruck by the splendor of the shrine room. Hindu culture has a strong tradition of pilgrimage and respect for gurus. A chöpön was always on hand to guide people through the shrine room, making sure they could cross the space via an aisle and therefore pass before Namkha Drimed Rinpoche. Sometimes a group of tourists, usually only men, would sit down in the shrine room before leaving. The ones who stayed would receive whatever empowerment icon, vase water, or implement the rinpoches, lamas, and chöpöns were bestowing blessings with at the time. His Eminence always seemed to make eye contact and give a happy smile to all the Indians passing through the room.
Today we received empowerments for several forms of red Avalokiteshvara, more commonly known as Gyalwa Gyamtso (Skt. Jinasagara, Ocean of the Victorious Ones). None of these were for the Gyalwa Gyamtso practiced during the Söpa Chöling retreat; that practice is not drawn from a terma. Many Western Tibetan Buddhist centers offer the four-armed, white Avalokiteshvara practice as a gateway meditation, much in the style of starting sitting meditation. This is traditional, but it gave me the wrong idea that Avalokiteshvara was somehow a short, introductory practice. The abhishekas this week showed me otherwise because they varied widely in their components, lengths, and what the recipients did during the empowerments. This was a striking contrast to the Amitayus abhishekas, which always had the same basic components although their order shifted during of the empowerments.
Recently, a few empowerments had a section for a fire offering, a practice where fire is used as a basis to make offerings and to demonstrate the ability of the deity (itself a symbol of one’s own awakened nature) to burn up obstacles. Today large bonfires were readied in the courtyard during the afternoon break. We thought these would be somehow part of the empowerments, but they were used after we had closed the shrine for the day. The fires were part of a sur offering, which is a monthly event here at the monastery and coincidentally a practice done in conjunction with Avalokiteshvara practice. During a sur offering, food, bits of clothing and so forth, are burned in a fire to assist beings in the bardo, the junction between this life and the next. It’s said that beings in the bardo can make use of this kind of offering. If the offerings are made in the context of meditation practice, the beings in the bardo can also get a bit of spiritual help in their journey forward. The sur offering was performed after dinner by some of the lamas at the monastery. The young monks sat behind them on the steps to the monastery. The boys chanted OM MANI PADME HUM as the sur offering was made at the small bonfires. Today also was an exorcism day.
In the West, Buddhist exorcism practice is done based on reciting the Sutra Of The Heart Of Transcendent Knowledge, reciting a mantra related to emptiness, and concluding with a short chant that declares the view of emptiness while exorcising the four maras. The four maras are four styles of losing genuine contact with our basic goodness. We exorcise our own solid view of reality rather than a ghost. The final chant is done three times with a clap of the hands here and there in the last lines. At the monastery, the same kind of practice was done, but with a lot more chants, a lot more vigor, and a lot—and I mean a lot—more clapping.
The monks blazed through The Heart Sutra at a pace almost unimaginable in the West. When we realized the chant we were racing through was The Heart Sutra, it was impossible not to laugh. The monks, especially the younger ones who’d already memorized the chants, got completely excited reading at such high speed. At times there was a near frenzy to the pace of the liturgy. I don’t know what actually got exorcised, but I am sure it had a hard time staying around during the chants. It was great to see the monks having so much fun in the shrine room.
A chödak (lit. dharma lord, sometimes called a terdak) is the person whom a tertön gives the responsibility of spreading a terma. In the Nyingma lineage, tertöns usually appoint a family member as the chödak. Jigme Rinpoche is the chödak for at least some of Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s termas, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the chödak for the Shambhala termas. At the start of the transcript below, I had asked Jigme Rinpoche why someone other than the original tertön had written some of the empowerment texts in the Rinchen Terdzö. Jigme Rinpoche: Well, I think there are a few reasons for this. First of all, there are differences in the termas when they are first found by a tertön. Some termas come complete with the instruction manuals and everything. Other termas come only with the root text. Sometimes a particular tertön is directly linked to the empowerment of whatever terma he has discovered. In this case, the tertön is in such a state of mind that he doesn’t require a manual to go along with the text.
The empowerment of the disciple is more about the tertön’s mind-transmission taking place directly. In this case the tertön is using the root text only, and that’s fine. Walker Blaine: I have heard stories like that with the Vidyadhara’s termas. [The Sadhana Of Mahamudra and the Shambhala termas.] JR: Yes. But in order for this to develop into a lineage, a tradition has to follow. The later teachers who may be transmitting the terma have to have a manual. This is because it is not the same mind as the tertön giving the empowerment; they are not the founder of the terma. Therefore they have to rely on a written manual to do the job of transmitting the empowerment properly, with the proper respect. So you often find that the later teachers write the manuals for the original root texts. That’s one reason. The second reason is that some of the termas are too old, the tertöns are too early, and so the manuals have been lost somewhere. Only the root text remains. In this case there is an urgent need to preserve the terma and a manual is needed.
Therefore an equally qualified master will write the manual. There are other situations when the text is just too complicated to be easily transmittable. In these cases the texts are simplified based on a more complex, complicated manual. This is so that there is a more regular way to give the empowerment. WB: Does that responsibility fall to the chödak? JR: It is usually falls to the chödak. Sometimes it falls to someone who comes along on the path later, who is totally devoted to that path, and has some signs indicating that he or she should be writing this. WB: Would you say a little more about what a chödak is? JR: I think that the role of a chödak is basically to continue the teaching properly as a proper recipient, a proper vessel in whose body, speech, or mind the entire lineage of the tertön’s teachings can be truly transferred. It goes to the proper person, into the right hands.
This channel is based on either having a blood link or on someone who has a really good relationship with the tertön in terms of samaya, in terms of devotion. That is who becomes the recipient. The chödak can be a physical son or a spiritual son. Sometimes it can be both in one person. The actual role of the chödak is to keep the teaching from disappearing, and to make good use of the teaching so that it is established properly and begins to be of proper benefit. That is one of the main reasons behind there being a chödak. The tertön and chödak have a relationship from previous lives.
Most often they have entered a particular mandala together during in an empowerment bestowed at the time of Guru Rinpoche. Somewhere the tertön and chödak have shared one common mandala. That’s where the relationship started. And then, after many, many lifetimes, they are born as father and son (spiritually and/or physically]. This is the time when they have a particular role to play with that particular text. WB: I have read that the tertön does not spread the terma too widely and that the chödak is the one to do that. JR: Exactly. That’s the point. Sometimes it depends on who the chödak is. For example, if the chödak happens to be a Karmapa or a Dalai Lama, the teaching is sure to spread like fire. It’s like that. And in other cases it could be that the chödak is very simple guy, but a great practitioner.
It doesn’t mean that is wrong person. He can be highly accomplished, a real spiritually accomplished person, but he’s maybe not very well known. Then the terma teachings begin to benefit on a smaller scale. There are different varieties. Some tertöns do seem to appoint a chödak who has a great popular influence. This is driven by circumstances. But this person is not always the real lineage heir. In this case the chödak would be someone who could take care of the teaching and spread it to many places. But it might not mean this is a spiritually proper person who has actually accomplished the practice. WB: Why would a tertön choose such a vehicle? JR:
I think it just depends on each tertön. They each have a different purpose in their mind. Sometimes they feel the terma teaching is going to be of more benefit if it reaches to more people at that particular time in history. If so, then they will do it like that. At other times they think it will be beneficial if only a few people receive the teaching. So, they sometimes they will pass on the lineage in that way. I think we can never actually question why a tertön does certain things. It’s beyond our imagination. Chödaks play a very important role for the spread and the upkeep of the actual terma teachings.
In 1958 Yak Tulku Rinpoche invited Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche to bestow the Rinchen Terdzö at Yak Gompa in Eastern Tibet. Gompa is the Tibetan word for monastery. This was the first of the two meetings between Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Namkha Drimed Rinpoche. The second happened during their escape from Tibet when they met at Pema Kö. Given the historical, visionary, and lineage connections between them, it is clear they would have liked to spend more time together. As I watched the relationship between His Eminence and the Sakyong during the last six and a half weeks, it became clear to me that the relationship between the teacher and the primary disciple at a lineage transmission is powerful and intimate. It must have been this way at Yak Gompa too.
The communication from Namkha Drimed Rinpoche to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has been very direct and filled with love and precision. Over the years I’ve received several abhishekas as part of a group, most of the time without someone being empowered as a lineage holder for a particular tradition. There was a special quality to the situation at the Rinchen Terdzö. Everything was presented to the Sakyong in a vivid, warm, and personal manner. Recent conversations with Jigme Rinpoche helped me piece together a better picture of the relationship between the Ripas and the Trungpas. His Eminence’s grandfather, Drubwang Ngedon Rinpoche (1844-1901), received the Rinchen Terdzö from Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye. Drubwang Ngedon Rinpoche passed the transmission of the Rinchen Terdzö on to Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s father, Drubwang Jigme Tsewang Chokdrup Rinpoche (1891-
1954). The young 10th Trungpa, Chökyi Nyinche (1875-1938), became a close student Jamgön Kongtrül toward the end of Jamgön Kongtrül’s life, and later he became a root guru to His Eminence’s father, Drubwang Jigme Tsewang Chokdrub. At some point the 10th Trungpa also requested the Rinchen Terdzö from Drubwang Jigme Tsewang Chokdrub, possibly to support and strengthen the lineages shared by the Ripas and Trungpas since they often taught in each other’s districts.
The Rinchen Terdzö was unable to be passed along at that time because Drubwang Jigme Tsewang Chokdrub was unwell when the Rinchen Terdzö could have happened. However, the 10th Trungpa’s request for Jigme Tsewang Chokdrub’s lineage set in motion the course of events that led to the Rinchen Terdzö being bestowed in Orissa. The 10th Trungpa’s wish to receive the Rinchen Terdzö from the Drubwang Jigme Tsewang Chokdrub made Namkha Drimed Rinpoche feel that receiving the Rinchen Terdzö from Chögyam Trungpa was very important, and so he made every effort to go to Yak Gompa. It was very brave of him to travel to the empowerments considering the fact that the chaos brought by the arrival of the Chinese in Tibet had destabilized everything. At the same time, it is amazing that a ritual as complex as the Rinchen Terdzö could have been completed at all during that troubled era. Reading through Trungpa Rinpoche’s description of the Rinchen Terdzö in Born In Tibet gives one a sense of the undercurrent of pain, fear, and tragedy that was in the background of everyone’s minds. His Eminence said that during the Rinchen Terdzö he continuously perceived Trungpa Rinpoche as a bodhisattva, meaning that he perceived him in a pure way and not as an ordinary person.
This is a general instruction given to anyone receiving an empowerment; one does one’s best to let go of everyday habits of seeing things, and tries to see the world as a sacred realm in which the teacher resides as a realized being. This outlook is also the outcome of realizing the meaning of the practices bestowed in an empowerment. A stable recognition of basic goodness, of our buddha nature, will result in purifying our perceptions and allow us to become much more effective in helping others. His Eminence, however, was being humble in his description of how he perceived Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I think he actually experienced pure perception and genuinely perceived Trungpa Rinpoche as a realized being; it was not something he had to manufacture. Namkha Drimed Rinpoche was not an ordinary student, struggling to remind himself to stay in a good frame of mind. At one point during the Rinchen Terdzö at Yak Gompa, Namkha Drimed Rinpoche became very ill, so ill that Yak Tulku Rinpoche, the host for the event, feared the empowerments would have to stop.
It would have been dangerous to delay anything given the political situation in Tibet at that time. Already the schedule had been pushed to the brink, starting an hour and a half earlier than we started, and going hours later into the night. Yak Tulku Rinpoche went to get Trungpa Rinpoche and brought him to Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s room. He asked Trungpa Rinpoche to use his phurba to bless Namkha Rinpoche. A phurba is a three-sided metal dagger, a symbol of the simultaneous penetration of the poisons of passion, aggression, and ignorance by the dagger of awareness. Trungpa Rinpoche’s phurba was not a normal dagger. It was a terma object very precious to him. Jigme Rinpoche explained, “The phurba that my father saw was bronze, which is usually what terma objects are made of. My father said it was very powerful, and it was very dark, very old. At the same time it had a lot of ziji [Tib. brilliance, confidence). It was about twelve inches long. It was probably one of the most important objects Trungpa Rinpoche had at that time.” After being blessed by the phurba, Namkha Rinpoche had a dream of the dharma protectors pulling demons away from him and he quickly became well again.
Here is a photograph of another form of Avalokiteshvara, a form of the deity that is union with a consort. The imagery of union is a very common motif in vajrayana Buddhism. It generally symbolizes the inseparability of compassion and the complete realization of emptiness, which is of state of buddhahood. Today we nearly concluded the Avalokiteshvara empowerments, the last of the peaceful yidams of the second logos. This evening the Sakyong invited some sangha members to watch Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration with him on CNN. It was an animate evening that included short visits from the Sakyong Wangmo, Jigme Rinpoche, and their mother Khandro Chime who served us treats from the kitchen. Marvin Robinson, who has worked in politics, filled us in on who was who and provided a surprisingly large number of answers to the Sakyong’s questions. All of us were very impressed by President Obama’s speech. May this world grow into a place of peace and happiness for the benefit for all beings.
Nyung Nay, the last practice presented in the Avalokiteshvara section, is not a terma. It was included in the Rinchen Terdzö because Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye felt it was essential for the complete transmission of the teachings. Although Nyung Nay is not currently practiced in Shambhala, it is practiced in all four lineages in the Tibetan Buddhist world. Nyung Nay is a fasting practice done in conjunction with meditation on the one thousand-armed form of Avalokiteshvara. It is performed in two-day cycles, with the participants taking precepts including the vows to not kill, steal, lie, drink alcohol, or engage in sexual activity during the entire course of the retreat. On the second day, the practitioner is completely silent and continues the practice while fasting. The sur offering is usually done during a Nyung Nay retreat. Although I’ve not done Nyung Nay, I’ve read that the hunger and discomfort in the context of this practice can be used to increase the meditator’s experience of compassion for others. The two-day cycle of Nyung Nay can be practiced many times in succession. It is sometimes done one hundred cycles in a row during group retreat.
A few years ago, there was a yogi at Kyere monastery near Surmang who was in his 15th continuous year of Nyung Nay. The nun who created the practice, Bhikshuni Palmo, healed herself of leprosy through the Nyung Nay and could speak to Avalokiteshvara as if in person. After the conclusion of the Avalokiteshvara abhishekas, we began the empowerments for Hayagriva, the wrathful practice of the second Logos. Hayagriva is one of the main practices at Rigön Thupten Mindroling because it is a specialty of the Taksham terma lineage, the main lineage carried in the Ripa family line. There are several different forms of Hayagriva painted in the shrine room, all of them quite fierce and fiery. The speech family altogether is connected with the western direction, and although it is the second Logos, it was presented third in Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s The Lion’s Roar: An Introduction to Tantra:
Then in the west, number three, there is the padma-family heruka, Hayagriva, who is related with passion. This is not passion in the sense of magnetizing alone, but also in the sense of proclaiming your passion. Hayagriva is associated with the horse, so Hayagriva’s principle is referred to as the horse’s neigh, the voice of the horse. The three neighs of a horse destroy the body, speech, and mind of Rudra. The symbol is a red lotus with flames as petals, a burning lotus, a burning heart, the proclamation of passion. But at the same time, this is a wrathful figure. pp. 197-198 The imagery of Hayagriva describes the transformation of neurotic passion into compassion, into love.
It is not talking about the kind of running-amok passion that Rudra is the embodiment of. However, in order for passion to be transformed there needs to be something that can communicate with that neurotic part of us. This seems to be the specialty of Hayagriva. How a horse’s head appeared on top of Hayagriva is explained in the myth of Rudra, the personification of the absolute worst expression of our own negativity. Rudra was tamed by Hayagriva who entered Rudra’s body and came out of the top of his head in the form of a horse. Several empowerments over the last few days were restricted to people who had completed ngöndro practice.
This included about half the Westerners who remained at the Rinchen Terdzö and about eighty of the four hundred people in the monastic community. It was still a question how the lay practitioners fit in because almost none of them were in the shrine room during these empowerments. Monkish antics continued, by the way. An unreported prize-winning moment was seeing an inspired young monk imitate a double drum, called a damaru, by holding a round yellow tea roll with a ritual blindfold on one side and a cloth flower on the other as ‘thwackers’. Yesterday, I watched a seated monk carefully edge his thigh into the path of a friend who was prostrating without paying attention. This resulted in a rather amusing chest-first landing during the final prostration.
His Eminence’s attention on the Sakyong during the empowerments can be illustrated by the manner in which he presented the tsakali. Tsakali are small painted cards, which are used to display the deities and symbols bestowed during an empowerment. They often get presented in groups, such as the five buddha families, the eight bodhisattvas, or the seven precious possessions of a universal monarch.
When His Eminence bestowed the tsakali on the Sakyong during an abhisheka, he always displayed them one-by-one as he recited the corresponding verses, visualizations, and so on. After displaying all the tsakali to the Sakyong individually, His Eminence would gather them into one bunch in his hand, and recite the final verses or mantra of the series as he briefly bestowed the tsakali on the other four main recipients in turn. I asked Jigme Rinpoche for a picture of how the abhishekas were bestowed upon the different people at the Rinchen Terdzö. He explained: A tülku is considered to be someone who is able to transmit the dharma to others. It doesn’t matter who the tülku is, every tülku is supposed to receive all the transmissions of the different lineages, particularly of their own lineage, through the abhishekas, tris [instructions], and lungs [reading transmissions). A tülku is supposed to be a treasure vase of all the transmissions.
Then, because of that, a tülku is able to transmit them to others. Now, whether the tülku will transmit them to others, or whether there will actually be others who request those transmissions, depends on each tülku’s situation. But generally, as a tülku they are seen as an object to whom all these precious transmissions should be given. That is one point. The second point is that out of all the tülkus at an empowerment like this, normally one or two are seen to be someone completely capable of passing on the transmission. At the time of an abhisheka like this one, someone will be officially appointed, so to speak, as someone of leading capacity from among all the people. This will be done at the end of the abhisheka.
I believe most probably it will be the Sakyong and my brother as well, Lhunpo Tulku Rinpoche. I have already been appointed in Tibet when my father bestowed the Rinchen Terdzö the first time. I was one of the main people appointed as a holder of the transmission at that particular time. Then there are all the khenpos, tülkus, the Sakyong Wangmo, and my sisters. From our community, all the sisters are regarded in the same way, because they are the daughters of His Eminence; they are part of the family. They usually receive such transmissions in case of the eventuality that they may be needed to transmit them if there is a necessity. Otherwise, somehow it is a male dominated lineage; the sons in the family continue to be the lineage holders. From another perspective, one of the purposes of giving such a transmission is so that everybody who wishes to follow the path of vajrayana properly can have a transmission that will enable them to practice and move forward. Without this it is impossible to begin any practice in the vajrayana. You must have an abhisheka or initiation from a proper teacher.
This is absolutely necessary for somebody to embark on a spiritual journey on the vajrayana level of practice. That’s why the empowerment is not only giving the transmission so that it continues in the future, but it also enables people to seriously practice all the different yidams, gurus, dakinis, whatever is applicable to them. Wherever they might go in the future, they will have the abhisheka inside them and so they can practice. So the abhisheka goes out in two ways: one for the purpose of holding that transmission, and the other for continuing the practice. While for many of us, reading the entire list of empowerments of the Rinchen Terdzö will not be enticing, a taste of the list may be interesting for one and all, and with this in mind, I included the draft translation of the today’s empowerments below.
The titles of the empowerments and the terma lineages are public knowledge even though some of the empowerments were restricted. It is the tradition to publish a list of the empowerments in a book that is distributed at the end of each Rinchen Terdzö. This is most likely a modern convention as paper was in short supply in Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye’s time. The empowerment book usually contains the history of the lineage, a brief explanation of the Rinchen Terdzö, the names of the
principal participants, and so on. A Tibetan edition of such a book was presented to the recipients of the
empowerments in Orissa at the conclusion of the Rinchen Terdzö.
Today’s list will give you a sense of the complexity of what is preserved in the collection. Every title seems to ask a dozen questions about the author, the meaning of the text, the source of the terma. When I started researching the Rinchen Terdzö I sent some questions to Matthieu Ricard, one of the close students of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He is extremely knowledgeable, genuine, and generous. He said that as far as he knew, in his 25 years of working with the Rinchen Terdzö, he’d heard of no analytical work done on it in English. On the following page is Patricia’s list, minus the Tibetan fonts. The shortened Tibetan for the titles are rendered in the Wylie lettering system created by Turrell Wylie in 1940’s to transliterate Tibetan into Roman letters. The Wylie system does not represent a phonetic way to read Tibetan. Since the titles in the list are for wrathful practices that overcome our negativity, the titles are more pointed than those of the peaceful abhishekas. You’ll notice that the names have a poetic ring along with some Sanskrit and Tibetan words mixed in. Photograph by Benny Fong
[Continuation of the Red Hayagriva, Padma Speech Section:] 1. dbang chen dregs pa kun ‘dul dbang
!The Accomplishment Of The Single Secret: the ripening empowerment for Maheshvara who tames all the arrogant spirits, from The Liberation Bindu’s Spontaneous Liberation Of View, in accordance with the manual adornment. Tertön: Sherab Özer !Empowerment author: Jamgön Lodrö Thaye! 2. bsnyen dbang !The recitation empowerment for Maheshvara who tames all the arrogant spirits from The Liberation Bindu’s Spontaneous Liberation Of View !Tertön: Sherab Öser! Empowerment author: The terma text 3. bka’ srung gshog rgod ma’i srog dbang! The life-force-empowerment for the protector of that practice, Shog Göma (“the one with wildly flapping wings”)!
Tertön: Sherab Öser
!Empowerment author:! [Not found in the empowerment list, probably Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye.]
4. rta phag yid bzhin nor bu’i dbang!
The wish-fulfilling empowerment for the profound Dharma of Varahi and Hayagriva according to Union With The Supreme Wisdom! Tertön: Rigdzin Jatsön Nyingpo !Empowerment author: Jamgön Lodrö Thaye! 5. gnam chos rta mgrin bar chad kun sel kyi dbang !The empowerment for the Hayagriva who eliminates all obstacles, from the profound oral lineage of The Space Dharma Mind Terma, according to The Space Dharma’s Dharaniempowerment Tertön: Rigdzin Mingyur Dorje (Karmapa Khakyab Dorje’s manual lists this entry with Jatsön Nyingpo, without mentioning Rigdzin Mingyur Dorje.] !
Empowerment author: Karma Chagme!
6. yi dam dgongs ‘dus rta mchog rol pa’i dbang ‘grel spyi sdom rtsa ba’i dbang chen mo/ padma r’a ga’i bum bzang ltar! The great root empowerment for the preparatory and main empowerments for the general summary of Hayagriva’s Display from The Union Of The Minds Of The Yidams, according to The Excellent Vase of! Rubies Tertön Taksham Samten Lingpa! Empowerment author: Jamgön Lodrö Thaye ! 7. rtsa gum spyi’i rje gnang/ rta mgrin yi ge drug mo’i rje gnag/ gcig shes kun grol ltar! The authorization of the blessing of the six syllables for the Hayagriva of Hayagriva’s Display from The Union Of The View Of The Yidams, a general authorization of the three roots according to The One Thing that Liberates All !Tertön: Taksham Samten Lingpa !Empowerment author: Jamgön Lodrö Thaye ! 8.snyen brgyud rta mchog rol pa’i snying thig dbang/ rta mchog dgyes pa’i bzhad sgra ltar !The root empowerment and life-empowerment for the Heart Drop Of Hayagriva’s Display from the oral lineage, combined with the profound instructions according to the terma text, according to The Laughter Of Pleased Hayagriva! Tertön: Jamyang Khyentse! Empowerment author: Jamgön Lodrö Thaye! Author of the instructions:
The terma text ! 9. zab bdun zangs byang ma’i rta mgrin dbang zab yang phyungs dmar po’i rtsa dbang! The root empowerment for The Red Expelling Profound Powerful Hayagriva, from The Seven Profundities’ Copper Mountain Manual in accordance with the terma text !Tertön: Chogyur Lingpa !Empowerment author: The terma text! 10. de’i gtor dbang! The torma empowerment for The Essential Meaning Of Hayagriva from the scriptural tradition of The Seven Profundities’ Copper Mountain Manual in accordance with The Dew Drop of the Lotus! Tertön: Chogyur Lingpa! Empowerment author: Jamgön Lodrö Thaye New Section: Wrathful Hayagriva, extremely wrathful Black Hayagriva 11. rta mgrin nag po’i sgrub thabs kyi rjes gnang/ bgegs ‘dul ral gri gnam lcags ltar! The authorization for the sadhana of black Hayagriva in accordance with The Sword Of Sky-Iron That Subdues Evil Spirits! Tertön: Bodhisattva Dawa Gyaltsen!
Empowerment author: Jamgön Lodrö Thaye!
The afternoon started with the appearance of an old Hindu yogi waiting to greet His Eminence near the door to the shrine room. I could only see him from a distance. He was a small man wearing a thick red shirt, yellow lungi, and carrying a tin beggar’s cup. His dark hair was bound into a thick round topknot on top of his head. One or two old rosaries hung from his neck. His eyes were both soft and sharp. His forehead was marked with a white and red tika, a mark of daily ritual practice. There are many serious spiritual practitioners like him wandering the cities, towns, and remote regions of India. Some of them are quite formidable, wear no clothes, and have dreadlocks that have grown from head to foot. Some wear the garments of one or another sect or austerity.
Many of them are men, but some are women. Some of these yogis and yoginis have great spiritual power. We quickly finished the Black Hayagriva empowerments in first part of the afternoon, and moved to the empowerments for the third Logos, those of enlightened mind. The siddha who transmitted these practices to Padmasambhava was named Humkara. The third Logos has a peaceful aspect, Vajrasattva, and a wrathful aspect, Vajra Heruka, also known as Yangdak, which Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche translated as ‘completely pure’. This Logos also includes practices for the wrathful aspect of bodhisattva Vajrapani. Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, and Vajrapani are known as the lords, or protectors, of the three families and represent the wisdom, compassion, and power of the Buddha respectively. The Vajrasattva empowerments were brief; there were just two of them. As far as we could tell, there were nine Vajrasattva empowerments in the Rinchen Terdzö. There were also
specific instructions for Vajrasattva practice given as part of the reading transmission of oral instructions that was given during the tantra section. After the two peaceful empowerments we moved to the wrathful section, the empowerments of Yangdak. During an interview earlier in the week I asked Jigme Rinpoche about Vajrasattva’s place in the scheme of things. I wondered about the relationship between Vajrasattva and the sadhanas of the hundred peaceful and wrathful deities presented in the tantra section.
Vajrasattva is sometimes referred to as the lord of all the families, meaning all the families of the buddhas. In the following section of the interview, Jigme Rinpoche describes how the practitioner sees the mandala, and how the practitioner sees the world informed by the experience of meditation. Walker Blaine: The mahayoga sadhana section starts with Vajrasattva and the peaceful and wrathful deities (Shitro), but the Eight Logos come later. I wonder if there is a relationship between Vajrasattva and the peaceful and wrathful deities, and why everything isn’t categorized within the Eight Logos. Jigme Rinpoche: The basic concept of the mandala is such that it depends on where you look.
It depends on how you look at it, depending on your understanding, your level of development and capacity of mind, your level of direct perception, your level of experiences in past lives. Each individual has a different way of seeing the mandala. One person looks at the mandala and sees the details: the complicated, intricate, enormous world of colors, magic, energies, forms, which are also completely filled with vast space. Someone else may look at the mandala and have the skill or technique to view it as just five different groups, the five buddha fields, or five buddha energies. The first one is seeing the multitude, hundreds or thousands, as vast as the sky, bright, energetic, beautiful, colorful.
And he may be completely absorbed into that, which is fine. But there comes a point when it needs to be brought together, because the point is not to get lost in infinite possibilities. So, someone else might see it as an expression of just five basic energies, and another might see it as an expression of just one central character. WB: Like Vajrasattva? JR: Yes, Vajrasattva. There is nothing more than the expression of the central figure, and if you miss that key point, you miss the whole point. That is the basic concept of tantric buddhas having less elaborate forms such as five buddha families, and then more elaborated forms that spread out into hundreds, thousands. And then when completely simplified as just one, it’s Vajrasattva. Rig chig means one buddha family where every buddha family is united. Dorje Sempa, Vajrasattva.
Here is a photo of a blessing in action last week. The recipient is Mike Schaeffer, a member of the North American sangha of His Eminence and Jigme Rinpoche. Mike was in the middle of making offerings to the teachers, monastics, and lay people during the afternoon tea when I took the photographs. Mike is a very dedicated student. During the three weeks following his initial stay at the monastery, Mike commuted between the empowerments
and a job in Hyderabad in order to attend the abhishekas during the weekends. The commute required a grueling 8 to12 hours of continuous travel each way.
Those of you who’ve travelled in India know the solid dedication that is required to do something like this. At breakfast Saturday morning, after arriving late in the night during one of his commutes, Mike asked a few of us what was new. Since Mike knew what it was like to be here firsthand (the same thing every day for the most part), and since the rest of us knew Mike, we all sat silently for some time. Finally, one of us piped up and said, “Well, there was that black butterfly that came in the shrine room when we started the black Hayagriva empowerments.” This created a burst of animated recollections before we all broke into laughter.
The young monk antics continue. Before every empowerment we all make a short mandala offering of the universe to the teacher. This kind of offering helps open the mind and heart to the blessings of the lineage. The mandala offering is made by placing a pinch of rice in our palms before making a stationary mudra, or gesture, by interlocking our fingers to represent the world according to an early Buddhist cosmology—a central mountain with four continents surrounding it. We chant four lines of verse describing offering the purity of this world so that all beings may enjoy such an experience. Then, we gently toss the rice up in the air. Usually. Sometimes it’s fun to let the rice to fall on a friend, but this afternoon my row of Westerners was pelted with a weighty spray of about a cup of rice from behind, particularly me. It was an almost comical amount.
It hit the back of my head with the weight of a small lemon. Our row sat motionless so as not to arouse a burst of giggles from whatever young monastic perpetrators sat behind us. After a long minute, I slowly and casually turned my head to look back. Amidst a group of eight or nine year old monks sat the ringer, a little monk who ordinarily sits in the second row with some of the lamas. My suspicion is that he is a reincarnate lama. His good humor, maturity, and energy seem almost unnatural for a five year old and the lamas keep a special eye on him. He was staring straight at me, laughing, and the older boys were patting his back in congratulations. A moment later I turned around again, but he was already gone, back in his place near the front of the shrine room. Today we received nearly half the Yangdak empowerments. Yangdak, the wrathful manifestation of the mind of enlightenment, is another deity whose image was not among the frescos in the shrine room. Since we have no picture, I thought it would be good to present Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s descriptions of Yangdak from two of his books.
The first quote is from the upcoming publication, Root Text Project Volume III: Vajrayana. The Root Text Project is a compilation of Trungpa Rinpoche’s seminary teachings given between 1973 and 1986. For those to whom Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s vajrayana materials may be new, we’ll start with a short quote from Jigme Rinpoche. He addresses the relationship between Trungpa Rinpoche’s style of teaching and the traditional presentation of the vajrayana dharma: I do believe that Trungpa Rinpoche’s particular use of language is geared to a small Western audience during a particular time, an audience that did not have a traditional path or a culture built around it with vivid physical details about all the yidams (meditation deities). He made the Western audience understand the mandalas more on psychological terms. It is unusual to present the development of the different yidams on a psychological level instead of placing more emphasis on a vivid presentation in the physical world. His presentation is more directed to the mind.
I think what we get here in the East is still very much based on tradition, based on what is outer. Of course, the highest practitioners eventually relate to the mind level of what’s being manifested. But to a very ordinary practitioner, a real, vivid, living world is presented physically in terms of the colors and forms [in the mandalas, paintings, and so on]. There is a certain connection being built to a physical world of the yidam. There are a lot of steps involved, a lot of descriptions of what the yidam looks like and all that, very vividly and colorfully done, like the physical manifestation of a solid world. Trungpa Rinpoche was painting more from psychological paint.
It’s easier for a Western audience to click that way. I think there is a good way of combining the two. It’s like saying, ‘Here is what is eventually your mind’s manifestation, what it looks like. But until then, the real world is like this.’ Here is the excerpt from the Root Text Project Volume III: Vajrayana. In it, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche talks about the charnel ground, taking delight in that situation. A charnel ground is the place where, in ancient times, people were brought to die. Some charnel grounds still exist in India and Tibet as cremation grounds. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said that the modern equivalent was a hospital.
More broadly speaking, the charnel ground is the meeting ground between life and death, between samsara and nirvana, order and chaos. It is where birth and death occur. From this perspective, the charnel ground is not a foreign place because the environment of birth and death, order and chaos is happening around us all the time. Our experience continually manifests these qualities in one way or another. The wrathful yidams are visualized as living in this kind of environment. Chögyam Trungpa explains: The first Logos is called Yangdak, which means completely pure, and is connected with the eastern section of the mandala.
Yangdak is blue in color and is connected with the vajra family. The philosophy behind this Logos is that of holding the Buddha in your hand. The idea is that Buddha, or any kind of notion of enlightenment, is not a big deal. Looking back from the enlightenment point of view you see that the notion of attaining enlightenment is very small thinking. You can actually see beyond that. Yangdak is connected with the idea of taking delight in the charnel ground as the most luxurious place of all. So with Yangdak we have the idea of holding the Buddha in your hand and the idea of taking delight in the charnel ground of phenomenal experience. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche also describes Yangdak in The Lion’s Roar: An Introduction to Tantra, a book drawn from his early public talks on the nine yanas, the nine stages of the path according to the dzogchen system. He writes: …The symbol of this heruka is a skull cup filled with oil with nine wicks in it.
This acknowledges the mirrorlike wisdom of the vajra family, which is also connected with 7 This material has been compiled and excerpted by Judy Lief from the Root Text Project [draft] Volume III: Vajrayana. It is intended for a one-time limited use only, by the Walker Blaine blog on the Rinchen Terdzö Abhisheka. Sources: 1973/1975 Vajradhatu Seminary Transcripts. © 2010 Diana J. Mukpo the east. In this case the purity and cleanness of vajra is not manifested as a peaceful deity, by no means. He is a wrathful one. This heruka’s scepter is a round dagger, like a big pin with a spearhead. An ordinary dagger is flat and has one edge, but this is like a big pin that pierces any conceptual beliefs. The Tibetan name for that heruka is Yangdak. Yang means “once more” or “again.” Dak means pure. Once more, having already been through the hang-ups of the previous yanas, you have now reached the first exit toward the real meaning of freedom, toward the open air, direct toward outer space. pp. 196-197
This evening we enjoyed a shadow play produced by European Ripa Sangha members Carlo Tomassi and Ursula Von Vacano. Preparations for this production have been underway for many weeks, with a troupe of monks in rehearsal during the morning reading transmissions. A shadow play, in case you have not seen one, is performed on a white screen with bright lights shining behind it. Thin sticks are used to move black paper cutouts of silhouetted figures across the screen.
The figures can be made bigger and smaller depending on their distance between the lights and the screen. A shadow play is accompanied by narration, music, and sound effects. Because it was Sunday, a large number of Tibetans from the different camps were able to attend the nighttime performance after the empowerments. Sundays always drew larger crowds to the empowerments in addition to the influx of tourists. During the afternoon break today, I was surrounded by a large group of Indians and asked to pose in five or six photographs. The screen for the shadow play was constructed on one end of the huge monastery courtyard, at the foot of the stairs to the main shrine room.
The ten foot wide and three foot high screen was raised six feet above the ground so everyone could easily see it. The frame for the screen was constructed with thick bamboo posts and beams that were hidden behind a colorful array of wool and polyester blankets. Ten small Tibetan prayer flags were strung across the top of the framing. The ground seating beneath the screen was quickly filled by young monks and lay children. Behind them were several rows of chairs set out for His Shadow Players Eminence, the Sakyong, the other teachers, the Ripa family, and the other dignitaries. Behind the chairs was ample space for row after row of onlookers. I would say that more than a thousand people were waiting under the dark new moon and bright stars when all was ready to begin. The evening’s feature was titled The Life of the Buddha, and told the story of his birth, youth, enlightenment, and first teachings. Carlo and Ursula produced a similar production of this story in France last year and received mainstream critical acclaim. T
he Orissa production was less elaborate than in Europe; every bit of the production was created in India from scratch. The blend of art, imagination, and delight in the project was truly uplifting. Local musicians provided the accompaniment and sound effects with voice, Tibetan and Western guitars, drums, and hauntingly beautiful Tibetan flute melodies. The story began with the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, the prince who was to become Shakyamuni Buddha. I thought the story would be in Tibetan, but to my surprise, the monknarrators read the description of each scene first in English, then in Tibetan before the curtain was parted and the action began. The Buddha’s birth was complete with the infant Gautama taking his first seven steps on miraculously blooming lotuses.
A bell chimed with each step, and after taking those first steps, Gautama walked back to his mother, Queen Maya, on the lotuses and leapt back into her arms. The Western entertainment industry spends millions of dollars on special effects to produce many things that can easily be portrayed with shadows and light. For example, the miracle of walking on water was featured during a scene of the Buddha’s early training before his enlightenment. The Buddha would sink into the water and then rise up again as he perfected his yogic powers. Gradually he became more accomplished and finally could walk on the water with ease.
Another spectacular effect came at the Buddha’s defeat of Mara, the personification of ego. The Buddha touched the earth to indicate that the earth was a witness to his awakening and we saw and heard a gentle earthquake trembling the scene before us. Humor and action were abundant. While still a prince, Siddhartha trained in the martial and courtly arts. After seeing him relaxing in the palace, we watched a stunning sword fight between Siddhartha and his jealous cousin, Devadata.
When the two contestants became fatigued, they would stop fighting for a moment and pant for breath. During the horse race (in Photograph by Ursula Von Vacano an obvious thematic nod to the Gesar epic, thought this reviewer) one horse fell behind, lost its rider, and finally had to be carried over the finish line. The fantastic, stupendous performance had the entire audience totally rapt. Indeed, some of youngest viewers were quieter than during the empowerments. After the Buddha gave his first teachings in Sarnath with the wheel of dharma actually turning in the sky, a monastery rose up on screen, Rigön Thupten Mindroling! The Tibetan name appeared in the sky above the monastery too. Above it all floated the crown of Padmasambhava. The dharma continues to this day, 2600 years of teachings for the benefit of beings.
Lhunpo Rinpoche returned to the empowerments today after being sick for two weeks with the chicken pox. I’d hoped that the initial estimates had been right about his recovery taking only a few days, and I am sorry for not letting you know sooner. The Sakyong Wangmo was also ill for a few days last week due to a food allergy. Everyone was happy to see them return to the stage during the empowerments. The space beside His Eminence’s throne quickly regained its usual shoulder-bumping bustle. The reading transmissions were scheduled to resume in a couple of days. The Life of the Buddha will be performed to the local Indian community in their own dialect in the near future.
The shadow play was one of the most wonderful, modern yet ancient presentations of dharma I’ve seen in a long time. It has already been presented in France and Cambodia, and I hope that it will be brought to many other places. The monastery plans to continue the tradition on its own in the future. We ended a little early today after concluding the empowerment section devoted to wrathful Vajrapani. Often we’ve set foot in a new section before closing for the day, but it seems that the Amrita section, the fourth Logos, has five interconnected empowerments making a lengthy start. Patricia just had a four-day streak of catching empowerments that the monastery had missed on the their list.
This may sound impressive, but one must note that His Eminence was the person who caught everything. Almost every day he seemed to discover sections of text that everyone, except maybe some of the chöpöns, have missed. Every day we saw the signs of the end of eastern India’s winter. Cold showers in the morning became less irritating, and the chilly stone floors in the guesthouse became soothing to walk on barefoot, even late at night. More people started wearing hats or draping shawls over their heads in the sun, even during the short walks to the monastery. I could not help but wonder how hot it would get in the coming month or more that remained.
Guru Chökyi Wangchuk (1212-1271) was the second of the Five Kingly Tertöns, the tertöns who were direct reincarnations of King Trisong Detsen. Guru Chökyi Wangchuk, also known as Guru Chowang (a compression of the first and third syllables of his name), has numerous termas in the Rinchen Terdzö. This may be related to him being a speech manifestation of King Trisong Detsen. He was very prolific.
His last appearance in the empowerments was three days ago as the discoverer of a wrathful Vajrapani practice called The Lion’s Roar. Guru Chowang received his name at birth, which is sort of unusual because Tibetans are given many names in life and it is often a later one that sticks. At the time of Guru Chowang’s birth, his father, a highly accomplished practitioner named Pangtong Drubpay Nyingpa, was writing out a golden lettered copy of the famous tantra, the Manjushri-nama-samgiti, which is known in English as Chanting The Names Of Manjushri. He had just copied the words, “You are the lord of the dharma and the king of the dharma,” when the birth began. Accordingly, the child was named Lord of Dharma, Chökyi Wangchuk.
Guru Chowang learned to read and write by the age of four. Before he reached his teens, Guru Chowang was extremely well practiced and had learned the usual Buddhist sutric and tantric studies along with a diverse range of other topics including Sanskrit, medicine, Bön, and divination. When he practiced Vajrapani at the age of ten, the water in one of the ritual vases spontaneously boiled. At the age of 14, he was given an inventory of the termas—and more importantly, the undiscovered termas—that belonged to the second major tertön in Tibet, Trapa Ngonshe. Trapa Ngonshe is very revered because he discovered four root tantras of Tibetan medicine. These texts continue to be the basis for Tibetan medical practice. They were translated from Sanskrit by Trapa Ngonshe’s previous incarnation, Vairocana, and then hidden in Samye monastery where Trapa Ngonshe studied. He lived about two hundred years before Guru Chowang.
The terma inventory that came to Guru Chowang was written on a yellow scroll, a common medium for termas. Because some of the termas on it had not been discovered, various charlatans had attempted to read the scroll. However, their attempts to recover the termas had lead only to unexpected death or some huge misfortune. This gave the terma scroll the reputation of being cursed. After Guru Chowang acquired the scroll, his yogi-father stole and hid it to protect his son from an untimely demise. But about nine years later, at the age of 22, Guru Chowang recovered the scroll and found another related terma inventory of Trapa Ngonshe’s in a valley in Southern Tibet. At that point Guru Chowang began recovering a huge number of termas, 19 major collections in all.
Termas have powerful protective deities guarding them and this is probably one reason why the terma scroll, a guide to a large number of different termas, was inaccessible to people not meant reveal Trapa Ngonshe’s termas. When retrieving the termas, Guru Chowang sometimes commanded the deities to give the termas to people other than himself. He would send his representatives the locations of the termas, and they’d bring the termas back to him. At other times he’d recover termas himself and miraculous things would be witnessed by those with him. All of this made Guru Chowang’s discoveries indisputable.
Guru Chowang could manifest his body in six forms simultaneously, leave his hand and footprints in rock, and even fly through the air. He was able to recall thirteen successive previous lifetimes, from King Trisong Detsen up to his life as Nyangral Nyima Öser, the first of the Five Kingly Tertöns. He passed away at the age of 59 amidst wondrous signs. In his day, practitioners would pass each other on the road and ask of each other if they practiced Guru Chowang’s earlier or later terma collections. His closest disciple was not Tibetan, but a Nepalese yogi named Bharo Tsukdzin.
Today we entered the first of two days of empowerments for the fourth Logos, Amrita. The Indian teacher Vimalamitra transmitted these practices to Padmasambhava. Amrita, is usually called Dütsi Yönten (amrita qualities) in Tibetan. ‘Qualities’ refers to the fact that the Logos is associated with the enlightened qualities of all the buddhas. This Logos is associated with the deity Chemchok who stands in the center of the mandala as the chief of Eight Logos. A form of Chemchok is also one of the central figures in the practice of the peaceful and wrathful deities of the bardo. The fourth Logos has a lot to do with medicine, although most empowerments involve receiving medicine in one form or another.
Basically speaking, any empowerment is medicine because the dharma is the medicine that cures all ills. However, the empowerments for Chemchok were over the top in the medical arena. They all involved receiving and eating a wide variety of herbal medicines. The practice instructions too had an emphasis on making medicine along with providing instructions for ascetic practices that involved eating medicinal pills and nothing else. In a fresco in the shrine room, Chemchok is very wrathful, in union with a consort, and holding a vajra in each of his three right hands and a skull cup of amrita in his three left hands. I asked Lama Tenzin, the head chöpön, if this was the right deity, and he said this was the Chemchok from the Shitro sadhanas.
He added that the one in the Amrita section of Eight Logos has 21 heads and 42 arms. Today there was a luncheon for Shambhala students at the Ripa Ladrang. It was the main event of the day besides the empowerments. About twelve of us arrived at the compound shortly before noon and found the kusung busily setting up plastic tables in the yard behind the house. The luncheon guests included Mathias and Elke Heidel from Germany. They arrived in Orissa about ten days ago and were set depart tomorrow after the abhishekas. The luncheon menu featured tasty Indian dishes, dhal, rice, and momos. The Tibetans attending the luncheon included the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, Jigme Rinpoche, Khandro Chime, and the other three daughters in the Ripa family, Semo Palmo, Semo Pede, and Semo Sonam. Conversation at the luncheon was light, the sun was hot, and the eggplant in yogurt sauce was especially good.
Here are some remarks that Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche made about the fourth Logos, Amrita in Root Text Project Volume III: Vajrayana. Amrita is also the name for consecrated liquor. In this sense, it is something poisonous that has been turned into medicine, although really this is something that must happen in the mind. Amrita came fifth is his presentation: In the fifth Logos, the basic idea is to intoxicate hesitations by providing greater medicine, greater amrita than hesitation.
The phenomenal world and its container, which is mind, can be intoxicated completely. Neurosis can be intoxicated into wisdom; rightness and wrongness can be intoxicated into nothingness; and all six realms can be intoxicated into the mandala of the five buddha families.8 When speaking of ‘rightness and wrongness’ being intoxicated into nothingness, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is talking about our ideas of being right or wrong about something being intoxicated or transformed by going beyond our habitual patterns.
He is not talking about abandoning our fundamental sanity or abandoning benefiting others. Instead, one is intoxicated by wisdom, which in turn brings greater sanity and greater benefit. 8 This material has been compiled and excerpted by Judy Lief from the Root Text Project [draft] Volume III: Vajrayana. It is intended for a one-time limited use only, by the Walker Blaine blog on the Rinchen Terdzö Abhisheka. Sources: During an interview this evening, Jigme Rinpoche spoke more about the third Logos, Yangdak, and the fifth one, Vajrakilaya, enlightened action, one of the most popular yidam practices in the Nyingma. Jigme Rinpoche recounted the story of Padmasambhava’s retreat at the Asura Cave in Parpeng, Nepal.
The hills around the Asura Cave are now home to many retreat centers including the new Ripa monastery, Ripa Tashi Chöling. I visited the Asura Cave many years ago. It has a nunnery adjacent it on the hillside.
The cave is small and has a powerful, weighty feeling inside of it. One feels impervious. Outside the cave, on the rock face at the entrance, is an imprint of Padmasambhava’s hand. When Padmasambhava was at Parpeng practicing in the cave, he became accomplished in Yangdak, but he recognized that the Vajrakilaya practice had to be done in conjunction with it. The practice of Yangdak lays the foundation of peace and happiness, but obstacles around that foundation must be overcome in order to give stability to that peace and happiness.
At the time of Padmasambhava’s retreat there was a huge epidemic in nearby Kathmandu. When Padmasambhava engaged in Vajrakilaya practice the epidemic quickly ended. This experience showed Padmasambhava that Vajrakilaya and Yangdak could be brought together. Therefore he wrote a practice called Yangphur Dragma, The Combined Yangdak-Kilaya. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Jamgön Kongtrül’s guru and friend, discovered the terma for this combination practice. It is included in the Yangdak section of the Rinchen Terdzö. A few weeks ago, Kristine McCutcheon and Jinpa from Gampo Abbey started a list of ritual objects to acquire for whatever empowerments or practices that might come to Shambhala in the future. Given the variety of implements we saw during the empowerments and in the chöpön’s room at the monastery, the list was going to be huge. This afternoon, Kristine and Jinpa exchanged a knowing glance at the appearance of a new, never-before-seen type of vase during one of the empowerments.
This morning a friend stopped by our room to tell us that a long train of monks was carrying the thick, cloth-covered volumes of the Kangyur from the library in the old monastery to the library in the new one. The Kangyur is one of the two most important collections of the texts housed in Tibetan monasteries. There is also a copy of the Kangyur in the main shrine room of the Boulder Shambhala Center. The Kangyur consists of the Tibetan translations of the Buddha’s spoken teachings on sutra and tantra. There are many editions of the Kangyur originating from Tibet. There are 104 or 108 volumes in the Kangyur depending on the edition. The edition in Orissa was one of the few carried out of Tibet in the late 1950’s and is the last remaining edition of its type. The other major collection housed in Tibetan monasteries is the companion to the Kangyur, called the Tengyur. The Tengyur is 218 or 224 volumes long and is devoted to works not spoken by the Buddha himself.
It mainly contains abhidharma literature and the early original commentaries and treatises on the sutras and tantras. Today His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche began the empowerments of Vajrakilaya, the fifth Logos, the embodiment of enlightened activity. This Logos was taught to Padmasambhava by the Indian siddha, Prabhahasti.
Unlike the four previous Logos, Vajrakilaya has no peaceful manifestation. Vajrasattva is sometimes presented as the peaceful manifestation of Vajrakilaya, but is more generally known to the peaceful manifestation of the mind aspect of enlightenment, which is part of the third Logos. In all forms of Vajrakilaya, the deity holds a three-sided dagger called a kila between his palms. The kila’s point faces downwards. The symbolism of the kila (Tib. phurba, pronounced ‘pur-ba’) is that the dagger of awareness cuts through passion, aggression, and ignorance simultaneously. These three emotions are called the three poisons.
They are the source of our suffering and of all the problems of the world. The phurba is a symbol of Vajrakilaya, and is also one of many implements that may be held by wrathful deities. The Vajrakilaya practice best known in Shambhala is the Netik Phurba, the Heart Essence Kilaya terma discovered by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo in the 19th century. His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche first bestowed this empowerment on the community in 1987.
In more recent years, Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche have bestowed the empowerment in Shambhala. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche bestowed the Netik Phurba empowerment for the first time about six months after returning to the West from the Rinchen Terdzö.
I suspect he had waited to receive the Vidyadhara’s lineage of the practice from Namkha Drimed Rinpoche before bestowing the empowerment himself. The Netik Phurba was 12th in the series of 15 Vajrakilaya empowerments in the Rinchen Terdzö. Sometimes it is hard to believe there are so many variations of the practices. However, each terma lineage represents the unique vision of its tertön. It’s interesting to note that Padmasambhava studied the Vajrakilaya tantra 18 times after the retreat at Parpeng in Nepal. Even though he had realized the practice during his retreat and was able to quell an epidemic, he still wanted to discover more.