Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pema Lingpa Vajrakilaya Empowerment: Updated

Lhalung Sungtrul Rinpoche, the 11th Pema Lingpa, finished off his first U.S. tour in Hollywood, California yesterday, bestowing the full and elaborate Vajrakilaya empowerment according to the tradition of Terton Pema Lingpa, founder of the Peling Tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism. This was an unprecedented opportunity -- I do not know how it could be duplicated, unless one travels to Bhutan -- and the capacity attendees at Hollywood's Golden Bridge (on De Longpre) were lucky indeed. Rinpoche gave an extensive teaching prior to the empowerment, and a full translation of the associated 105 page practice text was immediately available thereafter. This text was attended by the peerless John Pettit, and shows his careful hand throughout.

Lhalung Sungtrul Rinpoche leaves Los Angeles for Bhutan tomorrow (Monday), following a most successful tour of the Western United States. If you are in the vicinity of Hollywood today (Sunday) you have one last chance to meet Rinpoche and view the relics of Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsogyal, Longchenpa, and others he brought from Tibet and Bhutan. The venue is Golden Bridge Yoga, 6322 De Longpre Avenue (near Sunset and Vine).

UPDATED: Rinpoche's last minute decision to give the Vajrakilaya empowerment required the cooperation and efforts of several different Tibetan Buddhist organizations and sponsors in Southern California, including those from the Vietnamese and Chinese communities. It was truly gratifying to see everyone working together, to common purpose, in a genuine atmosphere of friendship -- the poly-cultural sixties vibe that is in many ways unique to the City of Angels.

All of the above notwithstanding....

Oh oh.... here it comes...

I have been planning to publish a diatribe concerning empowerments for some time now. This is a general, shotgun style, Sunday afternoon rant that has nothing specific to do with the aforementioned empowerment by Sungtrul Rinpoche. I want to make that clear.

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Is it just me, or have the rules relaxed?

Since when is it appropriate to continually take flash photographs of the Vajra Master at every single juncture, flash photographs of the attendees, and indeed, flash photographs of everything that strikes one's fancy? There have been recent moments when I did not know if it was an empowerment or a press conference!

Since when has it been appropriate to make a continual show of filling the Vajra Master's cup, and attending to small items on his throne? The lama takes a sip from his cup and up pops somebody to pour in more tea or water. The lama looks around for a moment and here comes jack-in-the-box, being overly solicitous, and calling attention to his or her person as someone "close."

Utterly ridiculous. I call this the "I'm with the band" syndrome. In the old days, this sort of thing earned a smack on the head.

Since when has it been appropriate to sit with one's feet outstretched, pointed toward the Vajra Master or the altar -- or to lounge around like you were on your living room floor playing with your train set on Christmas morning?

Since when has it been appropriate to wear hats during an empowerment, or to arrange one's hair "up?" How about excessive use of fragrances, or extreme forms of dress?

Since when has it been appropriate to engage in banter, particularly while in line to receive sacred substances? How about texting during an empowerment, or taking and sending cell phone pictures?

Finally, since when has it been appropriate to put texts or images on the floor, and to step over them?

I have seen all of this mischief and more at recent events. It seems that people are forgetting the fundamentals. I cannot believe that the lamas are not teaching the right way to conduct one's self at empowerments, but maybe it is time for a refresher course?

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O.K., that was a mercifully brief diatribe, and probably not up to our usual standards, but I have exhausted myself minding everybody else's business.

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10 reader comments:

Rulief said...

It appears that you are just mindful of the mindlessness around you. How can one help but notice, especially if you are paying attention. One wonders how anyone can possibly develop mindfullness with such casual and egotistic attitudes.

Dorje said...

Thank you for saying something that needed to be said. I also remember the old days and see a big difference.

Greg Johnson said...

My experience is that westerners don't know its impolite to point their feet at the altar. Extreme dress? Well unfortunately a lot of westerners who are attracted to Buddhism tend to be those who reject social norms (ie they're drawn to Buddhism because its not Christianity). Cell phones and texting? Don't get me started.

A two minute "dharma etiquette" lecture before a teaching would go a long ways.

TENPA said...

Well, I have seen it go all different ways. At the big, open empowerments in Asia, people are eating, babies are screaming, business is being conducted, etc., etc.

For other empowerments they never used to allow cameras, then they allowed cameras at certain points, and then they just let people do what they will.

I agree with you, though -- a reminder would definitely help, as in turn off the cell phones, stop using the camera, and pay attention.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I rejoice in the opportunity for sentient beings to be exposed to the precious teachings.

As much as I would like to judge others, I think it's best to first watch our own minds and behaviors..pre and post teachings...

All in all I must agree with Greg, .yes- a dharma etiquette" lecture before a teaching would go a long ways...and would make use of the time proceeding teachings...a reminder to us all.

Anonymous said...

You called it right with "I'm with the band." It is obnoxious. If people want to show devotion, they can understand that the lama is the deity and take it from there. An empowerment is not a garden variety lecture.

Yeshe Dorje said...

Time for a refresher course - yes.

Thank you!

MEGA2B said...

I don't get out much and only take empowerment in my linage with my teachers. I have never witnessed the silliness that you describe here.

Greg Johnson said...

Tulkus on Twitter?

http://twitter.com/tsemtulku

TENPA said...

At any given moment, there are tulkus in bars, whorehouses, casinos, prisons, hospitals, high schools, the 7-11, and Texaloosa, Oklabama, so I don't see why Twitter is any exception.