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    Thursday, December 31, 2009

    Eight Supreme Ones of the Hinayana Sangha (Shrvakas and Pratyekabuddhas)

    In many Buddhist temples you will find on either side of the Buddha image, the statues of two monks. Their robes are draped over one shoulder and they stand in the attitude of reverence, with joined palms. Quite often there are a few flowers at their feet, laid there by some pious devotee.

    If you ask who they are, you will be told that they are the Enlightened One's two Chief Disciples, the Arahats Shariputra and Maha Moggallana. They stand in the positions they occupied in life. Shariputra on the Buddha's right, Maha Moggallana on his left. When the great stupa at Sanchi was opened up in the middle of the last century, the relic chamber was found to contain two stone receptacles; the one to the north held the body relics of Maha Moggallana, while that on the south enclosed those of Shariputra.

    1. Shariputra

    Sariputra (Sanskrit) or Sariputta (Pali) was one of two principal disciples of the Buddha. He became an Arhat renowned for his wisdom and is depicted in the Theravada tradition as one of the most important disciples of the Buddha. Sariputra came from a Brahmin family and had already embarked on life as a spiritual ascetic when he encountered the teachings of the Buddha. Shariputra had a close friend Mahamaudgalyayana (Pali: Mahāmoggallāna), another wandering ascetic. They both renounced the world on the same day and became disciples of the skeptic philosopher Sanjaya Belatthiputta before converting to Buddhism.

    While depictions of Shariputra in the Pali Canon are uniformly positive, showing Sariputra as a wise and powerful arhat, second only to the Buddha, his depiction in Mahayana sources has often been much less flattering. In the Vimalakirtinirdesa-sutra and the Lotus Sutra, Shariputra is depicted as the voice of the Hinayana or shravaka tradition, which is presented in Mahayana sutras as a 'less sophisticated' teaching. In these sutras, Shariputra is unable to readily grasp the Mahayana doctrines presented by Vimalakirti and others, and is rebuked or defeated in debate by a number of interlocutors, including a female deity who frustrates Shariputra’s 'Hinayana' assumptions regarding gender and form.


    2. Maudgalyayana

    Maudgalyayana (Pali: Moggallāna), also known as Mahamaudgalyayana or Mahamoggallāna, was one of the Buddha Shakyamuni's closest disciples. A contemporary of famous arhats such as Subhuti, Shariputra, and Mahakasyapa, he is considered the second of the two foremost disciples of the Buddha, together with Shariputra.

    Maudgalyayana was most accomplished of all the Buddha's disciples in various supernatural powers. These abilities included being able to use mind-reading for such things as detecting lies from truths, transporting himself from his body into the various realms of existence, speaking with ghosts and gods. He was also able to do things like walking through walls, walking on water, flying through the air, and moving with a speed comparable to the speed of light.


    3.  Ananda, Skt. “Bliss”

    Ananda was the first cousin of the Buddha, and was devoted to him. In the twentieth year of the Buddha's ministry, he became his personal attendant, accompanying him on most of his wanderings and taking the part of interlocutor in many of the recorded dialogue.

    Because he attended the Buddha personally and often traveled with him, Ananda overheard and memorized many of the discourses the Buddha delivered to various audiences. Therefore, he is often called the disciple of the Buddha who "heard much". At the First Buddhist Council, convened shortly after the Buddha died, Ananda was called upon to recite many of the discourses that later became the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon.

    eight close sons of the Mahayana Assembly, pt.3

    7. Samantabhadra.

    Samantabhadra is the Bodhisattva who symbolizes the practices of the Bodhisattva. His vows and practices exemplify the ideal course of conduct to the aspiring Buddhist and duplicated by each aspirant, (who really is Samantabhadra) are as follows:

    1. Honor all Buddhas.
    2. Praise the Tathagatas.
    3. Make offerings to all Buddhas.
    4. Confess all past transgressions of the Law.
    5. Rejoice in the virtues and happiness of others.
    6. Request the Buddha to teach the Dharma.
    7. Request the Buddha to dwell in the world.
    8. Follow the Dharma.
    9. Always to benefit other beings.
    10. Turn over one's own accumulated merit to others.

    Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is believed by many Chinese Buddhists to reside on Mt. Omei in western China.  He is also Closely associated with the "King of Prayers" which summarize his ten-fold asspiration.

    8.  Manjushri  (tib. 'jam dpal dbyangs).

    Manjushri is the personification of the perfection of transcendent knowledge.

    When the primordial Buddha Vairochana vowed to emanate throughout the universe as the princely and ever-youthful, bodhisattva of Wisdom, his purpose was to lead beings in an inquiry whereby they could discover the true nature of reality.  For that reason, he is usually depicted displaying the two tools essential to that investigation: in his right hand he wields the double-edged sword of logic or analytic discrimination and in his left, the Prajnaparamita Sutra, the text of the teaching on Emptiness.

    Manjushri’s sword of discriminating wisdom is tipped with flames to show that it severs all notions of duality.  It can cut away delusion, aversion and longing, to reveal understanding, equanimity and compassion.

    Manjushri is either seated on a lion throne or on an elephant. Both animals are associated with a fully enlightened Buddha.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Fake Buddha Quotes

    "In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves."
    -- Siddhartha Buddha

    "In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves."
    -- Abraham J Hershel

    "In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves."
    -- Thomas Carlyle

    On my computer desktop I have a “Buddha Quote of the Day” applet. The quote for today was: "In a controversy, the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.” I rather liked this quote as it reminded me of the recent after dinner discussion held at my parents’ house this last Thanksgiving. Mom is uncomfortable with gaps in conversation and so into the silence she threw this little question, “So what does everyone think about Obama?”

    I decided to look up the citation for this quote, by typing the the quote into Google. Google found the quote quite easily but the first three links attributed the it to three different sources. If Buddha did say this I suppose its somewhere in the Pali Cannon, but I have yet to find a good on line search-able index to the Cannon, so I don’t know if it’s in there or not.

    This got me thinking about all the different quotes I see attributed to Lord Buddha. I found one web site that included, “Top five Buddha quotes”, all without citation. In fact among the dozens of Buddha quotation sites I looked at (out of the tens of thousands that are out there) only one included citations.

    Another quote (supposedly in a terma?) that gets bandied about goes something like,
    “When the iron bird flies, and horses run on wheels, the dharma will spread to the land of the red man.”
    This is often taken (by Americans) as a prophecy regarding the Chinese take over of Tibet and the subsequent transmission of Buddhist teaching to the West, specifically the U.S. Isn’t it nice to know that Buddha or Guru Rinpoche or who ever made a prophesy specifically about us here in North America?

    Go ahead, type the quote into Google and see what you get, I’ll wait… Again, a lot of people repeating this alleged quote but no attribution.

    This quote has exerted such a powerful grip on the psyche of Westerners with our romanticized view of Tibet, that it has even generated another “prophesy”. This one is attributed to another highly romanticized group, the Hopi:
    "When the iron bird flies, the red-robed people of the East who have lost their land will appear, and the two brothers from across the great ocean will be reunited."
    Tonto couldn’t have said it better.

    A spin off from this pseudo-prophesy is the often repeated, and oh-so-spooky “fact” that if one were to draw a line from Lhasa through the center of the Earth one would find one’s self on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. Anyone with a globe can see this is not true, but since the majority of Americans couldn’t point to Tibet (or Arizona) on a globe it’s not surprising that this bit of hum-buggery has gained currency.

    As much as I disagree with Dad on Obama, I do have to say “thanks” for the globe that I got for Christmas back when I was 12. Thanks Dad for laying the foundation for being able to spot Dharma silliness.

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Eight Close Sons of the Mahayana Sangha - pt. 2

    Vajrapani  (phyag na rdo rje) http://www.wildmind.org/mantras/figures/vajrapani

    Vajrapani (Holder of the Thunderbolt) represents the energy of the enlightened mind, and energy that breaks through delusion. He dances wildly within a halo of flames, which represent the transformative power of Awakening. He holds a vajra (thunderbolt) in his right hand, which emphasizes the power to cut through the darkness of delusion.

    Enlightened beings do not, in reality, sit around all day on lotuses smiling serenely. The Buddha himself was fearlessly active in engaging with the other religious figures and philosophers of his day. His fearless approach to life is perhaps characterized mostly clearly by his encounter with Angulimala, who was an infamous bandit who killed his victims and added a finger from each to the garland he wore around his neck (his name means "Garland of Fingers"). Although warned to stay away from this dangerous figure, the Buddha insisted on going into the forest to confront Angulimala, who converted to Buddhism, became a monk, and eventually became Enlightened.

    Maitreya Skt. 'the loving one'

    Buddha Maitreya is the Buddha of the future, also known as the Laughing Buddha, and is the next enlightened one to follow after the historical Buddha Sakyamuni. He waits in the Tusita heaven for the moment he is to appear on earth as the Buddha of the fifth world cycle. At present he is considered as one of the dhyani-Bodhisattvas, the creators of the universe. In the future he will be, like Sakyamuni, a mortal Buddha who lives on earth for a while in order to teach mankind the doctrine. He is frequently, although not always, shown seated on a throne and sitting in a western manner.

    6.  Sarvanirvarana Vishkab  also known as Sarvanivarana-vish[va]kambin 

    Skt. Guide-to-Liberation-Obstacle-clearer (Tib. Dripa Namsal) is usually invoked to clear the way.  He attends Buddha Amoghasiddhi, the head of the Karma family considered to rule the northern direction.


    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Eight Close Sons of the Mahayana Sangha - pt. 1

    Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is often referred to, because of his vow to not achieve Buddhahood until "all the Hells are empty", as the Bodhisattva of the Hell beings.

    He is known as Ti Tsang (or Di Zang) Bodhisattva in China, Ksitigarbha in Sanskrit, and Jizo Bosatsu in Japan.

    The name of this Bodhisattva means "the one who encompasses the earth". Earth means stillness, hardness, stability, vastness and versatility. It represents our mind, which creates all dharma and accommodates all matters. It is the foundation on which everything grows, including the Buddhist Way. Store means deepness, profundity and suitableness. It represents the immeasurable treasures. He is particularly revered in China where his acts of filial piety in previous lifetimes is emphasized. In japan he is supplicated as a protector of travelers and women in childbirth.

    Askashagarbha (Skt., Tib. Namkai Nyingpo)

    Akashagarbha, Namkai Nyingpo or "Matrix of Space" is golden and may hold a jewel, though in many texts he is described as holding a lotus with a sword that radiates light. The Sadhanamala says that he is green as the dawn sky.

    Akashagarbha is the principal Bodhisattva of the Jewel (ratna) family. He is known for his generosity and meritorious acts. As Namkhai Nyingpo, he appears as a female deity.

    Avalokiteshvara (Skt. Hero with a thousand loving eyes, Tib. Chensirig, Ch. Guanyin.

    Avalokiteshvara, also known as 'Chenrezig' in Tibetan, means "the lord who looks upon the world with compassion". As Avalokiteshvara is the essence of Unsurpassable Great Compassion, he is revered as the Buddha of Compassion. The Dalai Lamas are said to be emanations of Chenrezig.

    Innumerable aeons ago, after the Lord of Great Compassion, the Noble Avalokiteshvara, attained the tenth Bodhisattva level, he received the empowerment of Great Light. Then as he was entering the final stage of enlightenment, the Buddhahood, he made this great vow:

    "I will benefit beings throughout the suffering samsara in the limitless space of the ten directions, and I must liberate all beings from samsara. Until all beings attain Buddhahood and not even being is left behind in samsara, I will not enter Buddhahood. Only when all beings without exception have attained Buddhahood then I myself will achieve it. Until then I will remain in samsara for the benefit of all beings. If I break this vow, may my body be shattered into a thousand pieces.”

    So, Avalokiteshvara resided on Potala Mountain, and liberated countless beings through his limitless emanations. In this way, he lived for many kalpas. After many aeons, Avalokiteshvara thought that he must have liberated all the beings from the suffering of samsara. But when he saw with his omniscient vision that the number of beings trapped in samsara had not diminished, and even those closest to him were going through the Dark Age of degeneration with even more defilements and imperfections, he became very disappointed. He was so demoralized that he decided to give up his earlier vow and to aim for self-liberation.

    With this selfish motivation, Avalokiteshvara broke his Bodhisattva vows, and his head and body shattered into one thousand pieces. An instant feeling of great regret made him cry out to his root guru Buddha Amitabha and all the enlightened ones for help, so that he might restore his vows to help and liberate beings. Guru Buddha Amitabha appeared collected the fragments of cracked skull, and transformed them into a stack of eleven heads and replaced them on the body of Avalokiteshvara. He blessed ten of the heads with peaceful appearances, but only one with a wrathful appearance - for those who cannot be trained by peaceful means.

    Guru Amitabha told Avalokiteshvara: "My son, it is not good that you have broken your vows. Now to restore broken vows, you must make an even greater resolution to benefit beings." So Avalokiteshvara also assumes the form of the wrathful Mahakala (see second to top most head, the top most head is that of Amitabha) to help subdue the negative influences in the Dark Age and to protect beings in the Bardo state. In this way, Avalokiteshvara became the representation of the Great Compassion of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. By praying to  Avalokiteshvara,  reciting his mantras and receiving initiations of Avalokiteshvara with great devotion and one-pointed mind, all negativities and defilements will be purified by his great compassion, boundless virtues will be accumulated and wishes will be fulfilled according to the Dharma.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Gurus of the Lineage - pt 11

    26.  Yukhok Chatral, aka, Chatral Rinpoche, Sangye Dorje (bya bral sangs rgyas rdo rje).  (1872-1952) http://rywiki.tsadra.org/index.php/Yukhok_Chatralwa

    A wandering and somewhat erratic but inspired yogi of the lineage.  He was known for his austere life style and often compared to the great Milarepa in this regards.  
    See also his wonderful Ngöndro commentary:  www.lotsawahouse.org/yukhok.html
    27.  Apang Terton

    A great Nyingmapa who lived in the 1900s.  He discovered the mind treasure called “The Condensed Essence of the Treasure of Supreme Enlightened Mind: The Mandala Ritual of the Noble Red Tara Called the Wish-Fulfilling Essence”.  This terma is "an extensive cycle that includes preliminary practices, dream yoga, healing practices, yoga of the subtle channels and energies (Tib. tza lung) and extensive teachings on the nature of mind.  He is said to have predicted his rebirth as a member of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism.  His Holiness 41st Sakya Trizin is the reincarnation of Apong Terton.

    28.  Patrul Rinpoche, Jigmé Chökyi Wangpo (Tib: dpal sprul 'jigs med chos kyi dbang po) 1808-1887

    Patrül Rinpoche was born in the Dzachuka valley of Eastern Tibet. Although he is generally considered to have been the speech incarnation of the great tertön Jigme Lingpa, Patrül Rinpoche was originally recognized as an incarnation of Palgé Tülku, a lama from Dzogchen Monastery. The first Dodrupchen Rinpoche, one of Jigme Lingpa's two main disciples, entrusted young Patrül with the Longchen Nyingthik lineage shortly after the recognition. He practiced, studied, and taught this lineage throughout his life.

    Patrül Rinpoche studied with many different masters. His two main teachers, however, were Jigmé Lingpa's second main disciple, Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu, and the great tantric yogi Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje, the mind incarnation of Jigmé Lingpa. Under these and other important lamas, he studied a vast array of topics, from the foundational teachings of the Hinayana up to the most profound and secret oral instructions of the Great Perfection.

    At the age of twenty, Patrül Rinpoche left the residence of his predecessor and took up the life of a wandering hermit. For the rest of his days, Patrül wandered from mountain retreats to large monasteries, practicing the teachings, instructing students, and composing commentaries on important texts and practices. Though he was master of the Great Perfection teachings, he had a passion for teaching the Mahayana as well. He taught Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva over a hundred times. Throughout his life, Patrül Rinpoche demonstrated the impeccable life of a true siddha/scholar; he kept few possessions, had no fixed abode, and was often mistaken for a beggar due to his humble appearance.

    In addition to the many stories of his life and exploits, which remain a much treasured part of Tibetan Buddhist lore, Patrül Rinpoche's writings have proven to be some of the most influential in recent history. His texts range from scholastic tomes on Mahayana philosophy to pithy poems on how to apply Buddhist principles in daily life. In particular, his text The Words of My Perfect Teacher (Tib: kun bzang bla ma'i zhal lung), a commentary on the Great Perfection preliminary practices, is studied in all of Tibetan Buddhism's four main lineages. He also composed a profound commentary on The Three Words that Strike the Vital Point, known in Tibetan as Tsigsum Nedek.

    Patrül Rinpoche's heart disciple was Lungtok Tenpé Nyima, who lived with him for twenty-eight years. His other disciples include some of the 19th century's most outstanding masters. Among them were Mipham Rinpoche, Khenpo Künpal, the 3rd Dodrupchen Rinpoche, the famed tertön and teacher of the 13th Dalai Lama, Lerab Lingpa and Adzom Drukpa.


    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Gurus of the Lineage - pt. 10

    22.  Dola Jigme Kalsang
    An important master in the Longchen Nyingthig lineage.

    23. Jigme Tenpey Nyima, the 3rd Dodrupchen Rinpoche
    An important master in the Longchen Nyingthig lineage. His father was Dudjom Lingpa.

    24.  Do Khyentse Yehe Dorje (1800-1866)
    A great master and tertön who was the mind emanation of Jigme Lingpa.

    25. Jigme Phuntsok Jungne  (1820-1892)

    Jigme Phuntsok Jungne was born in the region of Yaru Khyungchen Drak in Dilgo in Derge, East Tibet, on the fifth day of the sixth Tibetan month of the Iron Dragon year during the fourteenth sexagenary cycle.

    Also know as Jamyang Khyentse, he learnt to read at the age of four or five, and from an early age his intelligence grew so keen he was able to master reading, writing and other skills without any difficulty. At twelve, he was recognized by Thartse Khenchen Jampa Kunga Tendzin as the incarnation of the great khenpo of Evam Tharpatse, Jampa Namkha Chimé, and he was given the name Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Kunga Tenpé Gyaltsen Palzangpo. At twenty-one, he received full ordination from Minling Khenchen Rigdzin Zangpo. In all, he had more than one hundred and fifty teachers, who were great masters from all four major schools—Sakya, Gelug, Kagyü and Nyingma—from the regions of Ü and Tsang, as well as eastern Tibet, including Minling Trichen Gyurme Sangye Kunga, Shechen Gyurme Thutob Namgyal, Sakyapa Dorje Rinchen[2] and the great khenpo brothers of Thartse, as well as many other exponents of the scriptures learned in the five sciences.

     Through his studies in the ordinary sciences of craft, medicine, grammar and logic, and the various secondary disciplines, as well as the major treatises of the causal vehicle of characteristics on Madhyamika, Prajñaparamita, Vinaya and Abhidharma, and the profound instructions of the tantras such as Chakrasamvara, Hevajra and Guhyasamaja, as well as the Guhyagarbha and the Kalachakra and other tantras of the resultant vehicle of Secret Mantra, he dispelled any doubts and misconceptions.

    With the offerings he received from devoted disciples, he commissioned the crafting of around two thousand statues of the Buddha, made from gold and copper, as representations of the Buddha’s enlightened body. As representations of enlightened speech, he commissioned the carving of woodblocks for almost forty volumes of texts and was responsible for around two thousand volumes being copied out by hand. As representations of the Buddha’s enlightened mind, he commissioned the construction of more than a hundred stupas in gold and copper, the foremost of which was the great stupa at Lhundrup Teng.

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Gurus of the lineage - pt. 9

    20. Vimalmitra (tib.dri med bshes gnyen).
    A master in the Dzogchen lineage and the crown ornament of five hundred panditas, who had attained the indestructible form of the rainbow body. He received the transmission of Dzogchen from Shri Singha and Jnanasutra. Vimalamitra is regarded as one of the three main forefathers for establishing the Dzogchen teachings, especially the Instruction Section, in Tibet, which he chiefly transmitted to five people: King Trisong Deutsen, Prince Muney Tsenpo, Tingdzin Sangpo of Nyang, Kawa Paltsek and Chokro Lui Gyaltsen.

    Having translated these extremely profound instructions, he concealed the texts at Samye Chimphu for the sake of future generations. On his departure to the Five-peaked Mountain in China, Vimalamitra made the promise to return once every century in order to clarify and propagate the teachings of the secret, innermost essence, Sangwa Nyingthik. The oral lineage of his teachings on the Instruction Section was continued by Tingdzin Sangpo of Nyang who also concealed one set of the scriptures.
    One hundred and fifty five years after Vimalamitra departed from Tibet, an emanation of him named Dangma Lhüngyal took out the hidden texts. They are now included in the collection known as Vima Nyingtik, the Heart Essence of Vimalamitra.

    In his role as lineage holder of Nectar Quality among the Eight Sadhana Teachings, he is counted among the Eight Vidyadharas of India, the receiver of the Eightfold Volume of Nectar Quality. According to this lineage he was born in Elephant Grove, an area in the western part of India. He was learned in both the common and extraordinary topics of knowledge and received teachings on the tantras from Buddhaguhya and many other illustrious masters. Having practiced, he reached the accomplishment of the vidyadhara level of Mahamudra and wrote numerous treatises, mainly on the teachings connected to the Magical Net.

    21. King Trisong Detsun, (khri srong de'u btsan). (790-844 ce)

    Trisong Deutsen The second great Dharma king of Tibet who invited Guru Rinpoche, Shantarakshita, Vimalamitra, and many other Buddhist teachers including Jinamitra and Danashila.

    In The Precious Garland of Lapis Lazuli, Jamgon Kongtrul dates Trisong Deutsen as being born on the eighth day of the third month of spring in the year of the Male Water Horse (802). Other sources state that year as his enthronement upon the death of his father. Until the age of seventeen he was chiefly engaged in ruling the kingdom. He built Samye, the great monastery and teaching center modeled after Odantapuri, established Buddhism as the state religion of Tibet, and during his reign the first monks were ordained. He arranged for panditas and lotsawas to translate innumerable sacred texts, and he established a large number of centers for teaching and practice.

    Among his later incarnations are Nyang Ral Nyima Özer (1124-1192), Guru Chowang (1212-1270), Jigmey Lingpa (1729-1798), and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892).

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Gurus of the lineage - pt. 8

    17.  Longchenpa (klong chen pa)  1308-1364 (Tib. “great expanse”)

    Longchenpa was the reincarnation of Princess Pemasal, the daughter of King Trisong Deutsen and direct student of Guru Rinpoche. His birth in the Tra Valley of Southern Tibet was accompanied by miraculous events and auspicious omens. He began his Dharma training at the age of seven, when he received empowerments and teachings from his father, a tantric yogi. At twelve, he took novice monastic vows at Samye monastery.

    Longchenpa studied and practiced teachings from a variety of lineages and masters. He received and mastered so many teachings, in fact, that he became known as Samye Lungmangwa, the One of Samye with Many Transmissions. Though he is associated primarily with the Nyingma lineage, he also studied many teachings of the Sarma, or New Schools, including the Kalachakratantra, Chöd, and the Path and Result teachings of the Sakya lineage. He shared a particularly close relationship with the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, with whom he studied under the Dzogchen master Rigdzin Kumaraja.

    Rigdzin Kumaraja was Longchenpa’s most important master. He lived with him for two years, practicing the Dzogchen teachings of the Heart Essence of Vimalamitra under extremely harsh conditions. Rigdzin Kumaraja eventually empowered Longchenpa as the lineage holder for these teachings. Longchenpa also reawakened a connection with the Heart Essence of the Dakinis, the Dzogchen lineage of Guru Rinpoche, and practiced these teachings for years in isolated mountain retreats.

    Longchenpa’s influence upon the Nyingmapa lineage is unparalleled. He united and compiled teachings concerning the two main Dzogchen Heart Essence lineages in a work entitled Four Volumes of the Heart Essence, adding three commentaries of his own to the teachings of Guru Rinpoche and Vimalamitra. He also wrote the famed Seven Treasuries, texts that present various aspects of the view, meditation, and conduct of the Nyingma school’s nine vehicles.

    Longchenpa passed away at the age of fifty-six. He left over two hundred and fifty treatises behind, many of which are still regarded as the most comprehensive and authoritative works yet written concerning the view and practice of the Great Perfection. His most important students include the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorjé, with whom he exchanged teachings, Özer Kocha, and his son, Tülku Trakpa Özer.

    19.  Manjusrimitra/Jampal Shenyen (Tib. “Gentle Splendor Spiritual Friend”)

    A great Indian pandita of the Dzogchen lineage who was the chief disciple of Garab Dorje and later the guru of Shri Singha and Guru Padmasambhava. He was one of the eight Vidyadharas of India.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    A little tour around the shrine

    In a corner of my bedroom I keep my shrine. I'm slogging my way through
    100,000 repetitions of the 100 syllable mantra of Vajrasattva, so this
    tangkha is the current focal point. I got it on Ebay. There are a lot of crappy tangkas on Ebay that are made in "fake-tories" in southern China, but this one was painted by an artist living in upstate New York. In front are water offering bowls. In the center is a practice text.

    An aide to visualization

    Dorje and Bell

    Lotus seed beads with tigereye and amber spacer. My teacher said it was traditional in his lineage to have a white, red and blue bead as the focal. These symbolize:
    Buddha, Dharma, Sangha
    Guru, Yiddam, Dahkini
    Dharmakaya, Nirmanakaya, Sambogakaya

    I couldn't find a mala that fit his description so I strung this myself. Now I make malas as a hobby.

    Memento Mori -

    Death we know is certain, yet there is no telling when it will strike.
    Deceiving ourselves we cling to things as though they will last.
    And with this attitude we live our lives in idle carelessness.
    Oh Guru, embodiment of the Three Jewels! Please look upon us with compassion!
    Grant your blessings that we may remember the facts of impermanence and death!
                                       trans. by Cortland Dahl

    Another Ebay find! I don't think its traditional to have something like this on one's shrine, but I find it a good reminder to practice. Mr. Skeleton appears to be clutching a bag of coins and is now trying to figure out what he will spend them on while in the bardo.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Guru's of the Lineage, pt. 7

    14. Garab Dorje (Tib. ‘Indestructible joy’ or ‘Vajra of Supreme Delight’), (dga’ rab rdo rje), Skt. Surati Vajra, also known as Prahevajra, and Pramoda Vajra)
    The incarnation of Semlhag Chen, a god who earlier had been empowered by the Buddhas. Immaculately conceived, his mother was a nun, the daughter of King Uparaja (Dhahenatalo or Indrabhuti) of Uddiyana. Garab Dorje received all the tantras, statements and instructions of Dzogchen from Vajrasattva and Vajrapani in person and became the first human vidyadhara (‘knowledge holder”) in the Dzogchen lineage. Having reached the state of complete enlightenment through the effortless Great Perfection, Garab Dorje transmitted the teachings to his retinue of exceptional beings.

    Manjushrimitra is regarded as his chief disciple. Padmasambhava is also known to have received the transmission of the Dzogchen tantras directly from Garab Dorje’s wisdom form. In addition to Garab Dorje this master was given three other names names:

    * Joyful Zombie (ro langs bde ba)
    * Ash-colored Zombie (ro langs thalm dog)
    * Wisdom Nature (shes rab ‘byung gnas)

    15. Padmasambhdhava

    The Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism traces its origin to the Indian adept, Guru Padmasambhava, who came to Tibet in 817 C.E. at the invitation of King Trisong Deutsan (742-797) in order to subdue the evil forces then impeding the spread of Buddhism. Guru Rinpoche, as he is popularly known, bound all evil spirits by oath and transformed them into forces compatible with the spread of Buddhism. In collaboration with the great Bodhisattva Abbot Shantarakshita, Guru Rinpoche then built Samye monastery, which became a principal centre of learning and the site where many of the texts that would make up Tibet’s vast Buddhist literature were first translated into Tibetan.

    Guru Rinpoche also gave widespread teachings from the highest classes of tantra and in particular to his twenty-five principal disciples. Seeing the disciples unripe and the time inappropriate for many of the other teachings he had to reveal, Guru Padmasambhava hid hundreds of Treasures in the forms of scriptures, images and ritual articles, with instructions for their revelation for the benefit of future generations. Subsequently, more than one hundred masters have revealed these Treasures and taught them to their disciples.

    16. Yeshe Tsogyal (Tib. “Victorious Ocean of Wisdom”)

    The different versions of her biography give varying details about her place of birth, the names of her parents and so forth. In his Ocean of Wondrous Sayings to Delight the Learned Ones, Guru Tashi Tobgyal states that her father’s name was Namkha Yeshe of the Kharchen clan and that she was born in Drongmochey of Drak. At first she was one of King Trisong Deutsen’s queens but later was given to Padmasambhava to be his spiritual consort.
    During the empowerment of Assemblage of Sugatas, her initiation flower fell on the mandala of Kilaya. Through this practice she became able to tame evil spirits and revive the dead. She was the chief compiler of all the inconceivable teachings given by the great master Padmasambhava. Having remained in Tibet for two hundred years, she departed for the celestial realm of the Glorious Copper Colored Mountain, without leaving a corpse behind.
    In the “Precious Garland of Lapis Lazuli”, Jamgön Kongtrül says, “Yeshe Tsogyal was a direct incarnation of Dhatvishvari Vajra Yogini in the form of a woman. She served Padmasambhava perfectly in that life, engaged in sadhana practice with incredible perseverance and attained a level equal to Padmasambhava himself, the ‘continuity adorned with inexhaustible body, speech, mind, qualities, and activities.’ Her kindness to the land of Tibet surpasses the imagination and her compassionate activity is no different from Padmasambhava’s and continues unceasingly.”

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Gurus of the lineage, pt. 6

    12. Samatanabahdra (Tib. Dorje Chang)
    Samantabhadra and Consort, All Good One
    As the primordial Nyingthik, Samantabhadra embodies the essence of the enlightened mind of all the Buddhas. He skillfully and spontaneously emanates teachings throughout all of space in ways that are appropriate to the spiritual capacities of sentient beings. Seated in union with his consort, their ecstatic embrace represents the union of wisdom and compassion and the ultimate indivisibility of samsara and nirvana.
    Unlike other nirmanakaya buddhas, he and his consort are not pictured in princely garb, but are naked. This is due to the pure naked awareness associated with this deity.
    See also: The Aspiration of Samantabhadra (the ten vows of the bodhisattva)

    13. Vajrasattva (Tib. Dorje sempa, Lightening Mind)

    six syllable mantra of Vajrasattva OM-VAJRA-SA-TVA-HUNG

    Vajrasattva is the Nyingthik (“heart essence”) of purification and represents the purity and healing purification power of all the Buddhas as well as the purity of the true nature of our mind. The visualization practice and mantra recitation of Vajrasattva is used to purify negative karma and when used in conjunction with the “four opponent powers” (the power of faith - the belief that the practice can actually purify negative karma; the power of regret - sincerely regretting ones negative actions; the power of promise - the promise that one will henceforth act in accordance with the Dharma; the power of action - carrying out that promise in daily life) is an incredibly powerful means of purifying our minds and overcoming difficulties.
    Please see
    for an excellent description on how to do the visualization associated with Vajrasattva as well as a discussion on the difference between "sin" and "misdeeds".

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Gurus of the lineage, pt. 5

    10. Jnanasutra, Skt. ‘Wisdom of the Sutras’, Tib. ye shes mdro)

    An Indian master in the Dzogchen lineage who was a disciple of Shri Singha. A close Dharma friend and later teacher of Vimalamitra.

    11 Variochana/Vairotsana

    The great and unequalled translator during the reign of King Trisong Deutsen. Vairotsana, was recognized by Padmakara as a reincarnation of an Indian pandita. He was among the first seven monks sent to India to study with Shri Singha. Shri Singha in turn entrusted Vairotsana with the task of propagating the Mind Section and Space Section of Dzogchen in Tibet. He is one of the three main masters to bring the Dzogchen teachings to Tibet, the two others being Padmakara and Vimalamitra.

    Variotsana is sometimes referred to as Variochana, the white colored central Buddha of the five Dhyani Buddhas in honor of his vast wisdom.

    Lotsawa Variotsana

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Gurus of the lineage, pt.4

    9. Shri Sima/Shri Singha (Skt. Holy Lion).

    Shri Singha was the chief disciple and successor of Manjushrimitra in the lineage of the Dzogchen teachings. He was born in the Chinese city of Shokyam in Khotan and studied at first with the Chinese masters Hatibhala and Bhelakirti. In his Ocean of Wondrous Sayings, Guru Tashi Tobgyal adds that Shri Singha received a prophesy from Avalokiteshvara while traveling to Serling, telling him to go to the Sosaling charnel ground in order to be sure of the ultimate attainment.

    After many years Shri Singha met Manjushrimitra in the charnel ground of Sosaling, and remained with him for twenty-five years. Having transmitted all the oral instructions, the great master Manjushrimitra dissolved his bodily form into a mass of light. When Shri Singha cried out in despair and uttered songs of deep yearning, Manjushrimitra appeared again and bestowed him with a tiny casket of precious substance.

    The casket contained his master's final words, a vital instruction named Gomnyam Drugpa, “the Six Experiences of Meditation”.  Having received this transmission, Shri Singha reached ultimate confidence. In Bodhgaya he found the manuscripts of the tantras previously hidden by Manjushrimitra which he took to China where he classified the Instruction Section into four parts: the outer, inner, secret, and the innermost unexcelled sections.

    Among Shri Singha's disciples were four outstanding masters: Jnanasutra, Vimalamitra, Padmasambhava and the Tibetan translator Vairotsana.
    According to the Khandro Nyingtik tradition, it is also said that Shri Singha received teachings directly from Manjushrimitra's guru, the nirmanakaya Buddha Garab Dorje.

    Gurus of the Lineage - pt. 3

    Khenchen Pema Vajra  (1128 - 1188)
    A disciple of Phagmodrupa Dorje Gyalpo (1110-1170).

    5. The fifth Dzogchen Rinpoche.
    An important master in the Longchen Nyingthik lineage and that of Dzogchen Monastery

    6. Drodul Kargyi Dorje/Adzom Drukpa

    One of the great Dzogchen masters of the early part of the twentieth Century, a terton and a disciple both of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Paltrul Rinpoche. An important master in the Longchen Nyingthik lineage. Also known as rig 'dzin sna tshogs rang grol rtsal: the initiation name given to him by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. One of Lama Sangpo’s root guru’s was the reincarnation of this great teacher.

    7. Dzogchen Gyalse Shenpen Taye (b. 1800)

    An extraordinary teacher of the Nyingmapa tradition from Dzogchen Monastery in Kham.

    8.Kenpo Khunpel ?

    Savory Pie of Roasted Winter Vegetables

    OK, I know, this has nothing to do with Buddhism, but I've been working on this recipe for a while and I think its just about perfect now:

    For the crust:

    1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, very cold cut into cubes
    1/4 C. vegetable shortening
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 tsp. turmeric
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    4 oz. cream cheese, cold
    2 tablespoons ice water

    Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and process for a few seconds to combine.
    Cut the cream cheese into 3 or 4 pieces and add it to the flour. Using a pastry blade process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the butter cubes and shortening and pulse until none of the butter is larger than the size of a pea. Add the water and vinegar. Pulse until combined. Do not over work or the crust will be tough. At this point the mixture will not hold together well. Flatten into a 2” thick disc, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 45 minutes, preferably 2 hours to overnight.

    For the filling:
    Roast the vegetables while the dough is chilling
    4 small un-peeled red-skin potatoes, cut into 1/4” slices
    1 medium rutabaga or large turnip, peeled and cut into 1/4” thick slices
    2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½” thick slices
    1 medium sweet potato peeled and cut into 1” cubes
    4 branches fresh thyme
    20 fresh sage leaves
    20 fresh basil leaves
    2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
    4 tablespoons olive oil

    10 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed

    1 medium cabbage, shredded
    2 medium onions, sliced
    1/2 Tbs. rubbed sage
    1/4 Tbs. dry oregano
    3 Tbs. butter

    3 eggs, hard boiled and sliced

    4 oz. softened cream cheese

    To roast the vegetables:

    Set one oven rack high up and a second toward the bottom of the oven. Preheat oven to 400°.
    In a separate bowl, toss garlic cloves with a little oil, set aside.
    In a large bowl, toss together the vegetables (excluding the cabbage and onion), herbs, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil (enough to lightly coat them) with salt and pepper.
    Spread the vegetables (excluding the garlic) on two large, shallow roasting pans. Roast about 90 minutes, turning several times during cooking for even browning.
    Switch pans' positions and add garlic to pan after the first 45 minutes of cooking. Vegetables are done when they are browned and easily pierced with a knife. Allow to cool slightly.
    In a large pan, saute cabbage and onions with 3 Tbs. butter, rubbed sage and oregano until reduced in volume by half.
    Preheat the oven to 400° Chose a 9” wide deep pie dish. Roll out dough to form two crusts.
    Line bottom of pie pan with crust and trim.
    Spread softened cream cheese on the bottom of crust.
    Lay sliced hard boiled eggs on top of cream cheese.
    Spread roasted vegetables in pie pan.
    Top with sautéed cabbage and onions.
    Seal with top crust, make several large steam vents.
    Bake at 400° for 30 minutes then reduce to 350° for an additional 20 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Gurus of the Lineage -

    2. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (Jamyang, “gentle, melodiousness” = Skt. 'Manjushri’, Khyentse Wangpo, 'Lord of loving wisdom)

    Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo ('jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse'i dbang po). (1820-1892). A great master of the last century. He was the last of the Five Great Tertöns and was regarded as the combined reincarnation of Vimalamitra and King Trisong Deutsen. He became the master and teacher of all the Buddhist schools of Tibet and the founder of the Rime movement. There are ten volumes of his works in addition to his termas.

    3. Dodrupchen Kunsang Shenpen  ?

    4. Khenchen Pema Vajra  (1128-1188)
    A disciple of Phagmodrupa Dorje Gyalpo (1110-1170).

    Gurus of the Lineage

    1. Jigme Gyalwe Nyuku ('jigs med rgyal ba'i myu gu)
    Fearless Son of the Victorious Ones (Buddhas)-- Born 1765-?

    One of Jigme Lingpa's four primary students (known as "The Four Jigmes")
    Jigme Gyalwe Nyuku was a great meditator, bodhisattva and adept.
    Born in 1765 In the Dzachuka valley, he experienced unbearable urges as a child to go to a solitary place and devote himself to meditation. As a youth he made a pilgrimage to Samye and other holy places and received instructions on Dzogchen, but his family obliged him to join his elder brother on business trips.
    During these he was overcome with revulsion for the lying and cursing practiced by laypeople. When his brother died at age 18 this more than any other single event, turned his mind resolutely to Dharma, but relatives put great pressure on him to marry and take care of the family. He was forced to run away from home and traveled to Central Tibet with a like-minded friend. At Samye they met with the first Dodrupchen who advised them to see Jigme Lingpa.
    When they reached Tsering Jong and beheld Jigme Lingpa, Jigme Gyalwe Nyuku experienced incredible joy. They received empowerments, transmissions and detailed instructions on Dzogchen.
    In carrying out Jigme Lingpa’s instructions to visit the sacred mountain of Tsari and to meditate there, Gyalwe Nyuku suffered extreme hardships, but was sustained by the remembrance of his root teacher. During a six-month retreat he realized the ultimate nature of mind through the blessing of the lama and the accomplishment of the yidam.
    After several more retreats in east Tibet he returned to Tsering Jong and experienced once more the great joy of seeing the omniscient Jigme Lingpa, who invited him to stay for three years, but Gyalwe Nyuku explained, with regret, that he had to go back home because of obligations. He returned to Kham, had many extraordinary experiences and did many years retreat near Dzogchen Monastery and in Dzachuka. As advised by Jigme Lingpa, he devoted the entire latter part of his life to teaching whoever came to listen, giving empowerments or meditation instructions to all who were devout and sincere.
    During this period, he gave Patrul Rinpoche teachings on the Ngöndro of Longchen Nyingthik 25 times as well as the teachings on Tsalung and Dzogchen.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Refuge Tree


    Longchen Nyingtik Lineage

    8 Close Sons of the Mahayana Sangha (Bodhisattvas)

    1. Kshitigarbha
    2. Akashagarbha
    3. Avalokiteshvara
    4. Vajrapani
    5. Maitreya
    6. Sarvanirvarana Vishkambin
    7. Samantabhadra
    8. Manjushri

    8 Supreme Ones of the Hinayana Sangha (Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas)

    1. Shariputra (GDB: 1)
    2. Maudgalyayana (GDB: 67)
    3. Ananda
    4. Rahula
    5. Aniruddha (GDB: 183)
    6. Kashyapa (GDB: 107)
    7. Subhuti

    Buddhas of the past, present and future

    30. Kashyapa (previous buddha)
    31. Shakyamuni Buddha
    32. Maitreya (future buddha)

    Longchen Nyingtik Yidam Deities

    33. Mahakuruna/Avalokiteshvara
    34. Yamantaka
    35. Hayagriva
    36. Takyung Barwa
    37. Vajra Heruka
    38. Vishuddha Heruka
    39. Dechen Gyelmo (Queen of Great Bliss)
    40. Vajrakilaya
    41. Lion Faced Dakini

    Dzogchen Dharma Protectors

    42. Tseringma
    43. Gonpo Maning
    44. Rahula
    45. Ekajati
    46. Dorjé Lekpa
    47. Lhamo Ngen Nema
    48. Yodrönma

    Gurus of the Lineage

    1. Jigme Gyalwey Nyugu (MGRG: 215) (MMM: 211)
    2. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (MGRG: 270) (MMM: 215)
    3. Dodrupchen Kunsang Shenpen (MGRG: 428)
    4. Khenchen Pema Vajra (MGRG: 467) (MMM: 200)
    5. Thubten Chokyi Dorje/5th Dzogchen Rinpoche (MGRG: 428) (MMM: 256)
    6. Drodul Kargyi Dorje/Adzom Drukpa? (MGRG: 290) (MMM: 228)
    7. Gyalsé Shenpen Tayé (MGRG: 404) (MMM: 198)
    8. Khenpo Kunpel (MGRG: 223) (MMM: 258)
    9. Shri Simha (MGRG: 39) (MMM: 62) (TLB)
    10. Jnanasutra (MGRG: 40) (MMM: 65)
    11. Vairochana/Bairotsana (MGRG: 49) (TLB) (TGI)
    12. Samantabahdra (MGRG: 31)
    13. Vajrasattva (MGRG: 33)
    14. Garab Dorje/Prahevajra (MGRG: 37) (MMM: 55)
    15. Padmasambhava/Guru Rinpoche/Padmakara (MGRG: 41) (MMM: 74) (TLB)
    16. Yeshe Tsogyal (MGRG: 61) (MMM: 92) (TLB)
    17. Longchenpa (MGRG: 78) (MMM: 109)

    Reference Books for biographies

    1. MGRG: A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems by Nyoshul Khenpo, Padma
    publishing 2005.
    2. MMM: Masters of Meditation and Miracles by Tulku Thondup, Shambhala
    publishing 1999.
    3. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism by Dudjom Rinpoche, Wisdom
    Publications, 1991.
    4. GDB: The Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy by Nyanaponika Thera. Wisdom Publications, 2003.
    5. TLB: The Lotus-Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava by Yeshe Tosgyal,
    North Atlantic Books 2004.
    6. TGI: The Great Image: The Life Story of Vairochana the Translator , Shambhala

    Although there are many images of the Longchen Nyingtik refuge tree available on the internet, I have yet to find one that includes the names of all the figures in English.

    My teacher, Khenpo Sherrab Sangpo and Cortland Dahl along with help from Rob M. created the chart and list of names above. The tree itself pictures 65 distinct deity and guru images (counting yab-yum pairs as a single image) as well as a 66th representation of the Dharma in the form of pechas.

    What follows is my research into the various gurus, yidams and dakhinis.

    As you can see, almost all of the information about the various deities and gurus comes from the internet and so should be taken with a grain of salt. I have attempted to provide Sanskrit and Tibetan names with the English translation as much as possible. I have also provided the Wylie transliterations of the Tibetan whenever I was able to find them.

    Nonetheless, as I was researching the gurus who make up this lineage I was filled with a sense of awe and gratitude to all these great teachers who have passed down the teachings of the Buddha in a pure and uncorrupted form for the benefit of all sentient beings. As it is said, the Guru truly is kinder than the Buddha. And when I reflect that Lama Khenpo Sherab Sangpo is the heir to these enlightened masters I feel as though my heart will burst with gratitude that he has made his knowledge and wisdom available to us.