Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Letter from the Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche

I received this yesterday from the Shambhala Foundation.
The Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche, has written a letter to the Shambhala community describing his recent retreat. In the letter he says that people often ask him what kind of practices he does. So he decided to share a day in the life of his five-week retreat which concluded last week with a seven-day practice, "The Accomplishment of Gesar."

The Sakyong's letter takes us through a complete day, beginning with prostrations before dawn, through to the evening aspirational and longevity chants which conclude with a beautiful aspiration for bliss and joy for all beings and peace for the entire earth.

The practices took place at Rigon Tashi Choeling monastery in the hills of Pharping outside Kathmandu, one of the most sacred sites in the Himalayas. It houses the only shrine hall in the region dedicated to the practice of Gesar.

Many Shambhalians made offerings and wrote aspirations that were read aloud at the practice by Khandro Tseyang. The Sakyong says he hopes that this sadhana can become part of our Shambhala lineage practices, and would be delighted if everyone took time to read his full letter.
You can read the letter here.

Even in a fairly modern version of Tibetan Buddhism, there is a clearly a lot of ritual and ceremony, much of it seemingly magical-mythic in its origin. I can see the benefit in doing these elaborate meditations, however. Here is a good example:
We return to the shrine hall and begin the recitation session for the various meditation deities. This is the fully elaborate Gesar mandala, the visualization and practice of Gesar in all four directions, the four karmas—pacifying, magnetizing enriching, and wrathful. The chanting meditation continues with various rituals.

It has been very moving to be with His Eminence Namkha Rinpoche as he does this practice because it is part of his being, who he is, his bones. It appears that he has memorized the entire complicated sadhana—the mudras (the various gestures) and the slight tonal variations in the chanting. He does it with complete perfection and power. He is known as a tantric master, and you can see why.

This sadhana, being a generation and completion stage sadhana, is a unique mixture of spiritual practice with worldly endeavors. This practice allows for the removing of obstacles from one’s spiritual practice and worldly aspirations. Since obstacles arise due to past and present karmic actions, this practice allows for the purification and dispelling of those karmic seeds, which are said to have come about from previous lifetimes and ripened in this life. These powerful sadhanas arrest those issues. At the root, one’s mind should never waver from the deep understanding of the second and third turnings of the wheel of dharma, that of unfabricated emptiness and clear-light wisdom knowledge. With this sadhana, one cannot really get distracted for long; one has to remain awake, mindful, and somewhat vigilant. I like to think of it as like being in an army on the march, traversing the terrain of the mind. All of us in that shrine hall are sitting still, but mentally we are marching through this sadhana and the deep wisdom it reveals. Just like on a march, if you step aside to tie your shoelaces or pick a flower, everyone is immediately off and ahead of you.

The second session is marked by the emphasis on Dorje Tsegyal—the Indestructible Lord of Life—one of the most well-known sadhanas on Gesar, a practice made famous by Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche. Dorje Tsegyal is considered to be the main peaceful aspect of Gesar. It is an especially important practice for good life-force energy and for fulfillment and success in one’s activities. His Eminence is considered by many to be the expert in accomplishment of this very powerful sadhana.
Read the whole letter -- it's quite interesting, and a great glimpse into the life of a Tibetan Buddhist teacher.

No comments: