Saturday, March 06, 2010

Thinking About Haspori: Updated

That's Haspori in the above photo, to the east of Samye, if I have my directions correct. Guru Rinpoche sat up there while Samye was being built, and it was from there that he subdued the troublesome spirits who were obstructing Samye's construction.

So, a friend of mine with a historic connection to Samye visited with me just before the holidays. After a couple of days, he decided to name the place "Haspori," because he said it reminded him of Samye Haspori. This was the first time I ever gave the matter any thought, and I confess that I did not know what to think.

So, I decided to wait and see.

A month to the day later, Lhalung Sungtrul Rinpoche was in town, on his first -- and the way things are, probably his only -- visit to the United States. Sungtrul Rinpoche is the eleventh incarnation of the Bhutanese terton Pema Lingpa (1450-1521). His seats are Tamshing Monastery in Bhutan, and Lhalung Monastery in Tibet.

As it happens, Sungtrul Rinpoche decided to bestow the Guru Drakpo empowerment for the terma revealed by Pema Lingpa. This was an extraordinarily rare event. In preparation, he gave a rather interesting account of how this terma of Guru Drakpo came into being.

According to Rinpoche, the sadhana originates with Padmasambhava at Haspori. More than likely, it originates immediately proximate to the location of the protector chapel at the summit of Haspori, seen in the photograph below. Padmasambhava called this sadhana his "heart teaching," or the deepest expression of his heart.

Now, at the request of Yeshe Tsogyal, this was codified and hidden for  the future, and Padmasambhava himself described the manner of its discovery. If this sort of thing interests you, there is an account at Canto 90 in the Padma bKai'i Thang, wherein Padmasambhava describes the future lives of King Trisong Detsen's daughter. It is in her incarnation as a terton that the practice is recovered, which according to Sungtrul Rinpoche, took place in a Water Tiger year.

It is ironic to note, that proximate to this empowerment being bestowed, the temple in Bhutan that is perhaps most closely associated with the people and events involved with the terma -- the venerable Konchosum Lhakang -- burned to the ground. The empowerment was given on February 24th in the United States, and the temple was destroyed on February 24th in Bhutan. The caretaker left a butter lamp burning while he went away to Tamshing, and everybody learned -- yet again -- that butter lamps are more dangerous to Buddhist temples than a bus load of Red Guards. What a loss! This temple was built by Trisong Detsen on the orders of Padmasambhava himself, who performed the original consecration. In the 15th century, care of the temple fell to Pema Lingpa, and it is now one of the temples under Sungtrul Rinpoche's administration.

Sometimes, it is useful to pause and remember that very precious things have come to us from very miserable circumstances. These teachings did not come into being because days were sunny, birds were singing, and things were going right.
Six types of person are given authority to reveal treasures:
One who is harmed by enemies will have authority over concealed treasures;
One whose loved ones all die will have authority over concealed treasures;
One who is in danger of being afflicted by leprosy will have authority over concealed treasures;
One who lives a life of poverty will have authority over concealed treasures;
One who always falls into debt will have authority over concealed treasures;
One who lacks power will have authority over concealed treasures.
The above is from the Padma Kathang, as quoted by Karma Chagme, in his life of the terton Migyur Dorje, and is noted here by way of example. To take a more recent example, you can look at Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, who indeed suffered from money problems all of his life, and was once even physically beaten by a creditor. Actually, you can apply these statements to any terton who comes to mind, because all of them have, at one time or another, suffered from terrible slanders and obstacles arising from --
Female spirits born out of desire,
Spirits assuming the form of monks who have transgressed their vows and are born out of anger, and
Spirits assuming the form of ngagpas who are samaya violators and are born out of ignorance
--and that, also from the Padma Kathang, is to name but a few. Indeed, the entire history of Tibetan Buddhism is absolutely strewn with accounts of vile slanders. To take just a few examples, King Indrabodhi was slandered, Padmasambhava was slandered, Vairotsana was slandered, and King Trisong Detsen was slandered. In our own time, Tarthang Rinpoche was slandered, Trungpa Rinpoche was slandered, Kalu Rinpoche was slandered, Lamasang was slandered, Sogyal Rinpoche was slandered, Sakya Trizin was slandered, and the Dalai Lama is slandered on a daily basis.

Indeed, slander is serious business. There are several works on the subject, inclusive of Mi Kha Tojur, and the terma text Mi Kha Drajur. According to the latter, slander has the figurative power to dismember humans, cause landslides, and dry up lakes. In consequence, numerous rituals and protections have evolved. We gave a translation of one such ritual here at Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar, for Chotrul Duchen. As an example of protections, one may consider the phallus seen painted on houses or in wooden effigy, all over Bhutan, although the practice is reportedly in decline. The people who engage in such slanders are said to have a particularly bright and colorful future in store, emulating the King of Slander, Mi Kha Gyalpo Ja Chuma.

Getting back to Samye, just exactly what was going on? The old accounts tells us that Trisong Detsen decided to build a monastery, but the ministers "were aghast." It has been my experience, that as one travels through the dream of life, ministers are more often aghast than they are otherwise.  Right now, at any given moment in any given location around the world, there is some Buddhist temple or stupa project feeling the pain of planning commissions, neighborhood associations, zoning laws, or building inspectors. There is always a surplus of naysayers around, ready to tell you why something cannot be done or should not be done. Nevertheless, Trisong Detsen put the matter rather forcefully, telling his ministers to engage in various arcane labors -- inclusive of putting the Brahmaputra River in copper tubes, and building a crystal stupa on top of Haspori -- or start construction on the monastery and start it quick.

They chose the monastery.

Tibet's royal geonamcer, Birjie, was given the task of siting the monastery. He performed various calculations, and stated that Haspori was, "a pink snow lion bounding up to the sky." After further calculations, foundations were laid at Samye, in the Tamarisk Grove, on the Red Rock, whereupon, "...the evil genies of Tibet all together attacked them, destroying by night what had been built by day."

So, plainly, the situation was a mess, and nobody was getting any good news. Devas, ogres, mamos, and genies were on the loose. Even the king brought the saintly Santaraksita in from Zahor, matters were not going well. Nagas were fighting over rose bushes, and called in yakshas and three gaynyen to help them. Do you understand how bad it was? Forget your planning commission or your neighborhood association. Forget zoning variances and building inspectors. The whole Samye monastery construction project of four great temples and twelve smaller temples was thwarted while a supernatural battle was waged over a rose bush.

It is at this point that Santaraksita throws up his hands and tells Trisong Detsen to invite Padmasambhava, and as we now all know and thoroughly appreciate, this was not a bad thing.

Trisong Detsen did as suggested, dispatching Dorje Dudjom, Sakyaprabha, and Palgyi Senge to extend the invitation. According to Padmasambhava himself, he was already on his way to Tibet when he met the messengers sent to invite him. He relates this to having gone through his own issues with respect to his own guru, Shri Singha's, final instructions. These instructions were basically, get past hope and fear regarding the status or outcome of anything, and without seeing fault or virtue, just stick with nonduality.
This, his final instruction,
Liberated me, Padma.
Though not liberated by the Tripitaka or Secret Mantra,
I was liberated by this secret teaching.
That is a quote from Treasure of the Lotus Crystal Cave. You see that even Padmasambhava had a teacher, studied, practiced, and worked with whatever happened to arise. You might want to keep this in mind, next time you hear from somebody who believes themselves above effort because of some lofty title or abstract status. When an elephant gets drunk enough, she thinks herself a queen.

Be this as it may, the messengers sent to issue the invitation remembered what they remembered, and Padmasambhava understood what he understood. He understood that the eight classes of gods and demons were causing trouble in Tibet, and when he told them it was not good to make obstacles, they replied, "Oh yeah? Why don't you just come to Tibet and try stopping us?"

So Padmasambhava went to Tibet, overthrew and bound the evil genies, male and female, and arranged Trisong Detsen's perspective on things. Having accomplished all of this, on the first moon of autumn in the year of the Tiger, he went to Haspori, ascended to the peak, and called out his instructions to the spirits.

So, in five years the monastery was done, a bell was hung, and a consecration performed, attended by miraculous signs. That was all done under the best possible circumstances, with a king, sixty thousand men, all the gold that the nagas could muster, and Padmasambhava himself. In any other circumstances, it might take a bit more time.

Kyabje Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche, 
the direct manifestation of Padmasambhava,
on the throne at Samye, in Tibet

As an example, it took Tarthang Rinpoche forty years to do the same thing in the United States, under the worst possible circumstances, with no royal support, only about thirty men, and precious little gold. If you ask me who has the greater achievement, Trisong Detsen or Tarthang Rinpoche, I would have to say the latter. Trisong Detsen only had to wrestle with demons. Tarthang Rinpoche had to contend with Western dharma students.

Nevertheless, in a manner of speaking, we are all trying to build our own Samye, and we are all meeting with our own crew of demons. We are all tasking geomancers, consulting kindly abbots, and calling on Guru Rinpoche for reinforcement.

So, another friend of mine with a historic connection to Samye has now visited me, just after the holidays. He reminded me that all of the tools and materials to achieve great things are always with us, wherever we go. Every place we find ourselves is Haspori in one form or another.

As anyone who has ever been in politics will tell you, when you come to think this way, you actually take a certain grim satisfaction when drunken elephants and demons begin howling their slanders. Chaos can be good news. It lets you know that great things are struggling to take form.

However, you have to be cautious. I used to approach such things with a murderous attitude, thinking, "I don't care what obstacles arise. I'll do this anyway." I have since learned that while this might seem correct, and might even be superficially correct, serious matters demand a good deal more finesse. Not a crudely sly manipulation born of fear, mind you, but rather the delicate touch that comes from thinking things through.

We do what we can do about getting past hope and fear.  That is really all we have to do, while the rest proceeds as it will.

So then, what of the very tumultuous and seemingly troublesome --
Female spirits born out of desire,
Spirits assuming the form of monks who have transgressed their vows and are born out of anger, and
Spirits assuming the form of ngagpas who are samaya violators and are born out of ignorance
---mentioned earlier?

Stripping away the personifications, we immediately recognize desire, anger, and delusion. These are originally present, and sticky, and even if you try to throw them away, or overcome them, they will not be discarded or overcome. There are no solutions, external mechanisms, or stratagems. You cannot transform them, nor can you purify them. We are not Christians, and we do not sing psalms of retribution, begging God to smite the sinners with his terrible swift sword. We are Buddhists, and we simply do not have such political ideas of acceptance or rejection. Indeed, any attitude we might take would be incorrect. These three are as they are, and will liberate themselves.

Thus, when we think of foundations, be these the foundations of temples or the foundations of philosophy, we do not think in ordinary terms of solutions or protections, simply because there is nothing to solve and nothing to protect.

Since we are all Buddhas from the very beginning, the fundamentally meritorious virtue of spontaneous correct action dedicates itself into borderless space.

This, itself, is a foundation.


I neglected to mention that Sungtrul Rinpoche is traveling with a collection of twenty-seven sacred relics of Vajrayana Buddhism. That is Longchenpa's personal seal in the above photograph. The collection also includes relics from Vairotsana, Yeshe Tsogyal, and Guru Rinpoche himself. These relics have never been out of Tibet and Bhutan, so this is quite a rare thing.

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6 reader comments:

pema said...

Re Trungpa, Tarthang, Kalu, Sogyal etc: You call it slander -- the rest of the world calls it TRUTH.

Don said...

See Burial Stupa of Yeshe Tsogyal and Samye Monastery .

Don said...

Also see Samye from the Summit of Hepori.

TENPA said...

Don -- Thanks ever so much for those links. Great stuff.

Pema -- How is that hatred thing working out for you?

Anonymous said...

its been my personal experience that those who claim to know 'the truth' rarely do.
om mani padme hum

Anonymous said...

This is a beautifully written rumination on recognizing obstacles for what they truly are. I don't see anything wrong with this at all and actually it looks like evidence of high realization to me and I say this because I also read the rather stupid comments on this article put out by people who plainly know nothing about Vajrayana Buddhism. I wish you would keep writing like this. When you relate these things we always hear about to your personal experiences it helps us understand the right way to think about things. Thank you so much for writing this. I think you are probably an angel in disguise.