2012 Update: The article below addresses planned events in 2011. Unfortunately, this initiation was canceled -- literally at the last minute -- and the Yamantaka Initiation has now been re-scheduled to April 20 - 21, 2012. The operative links below should take you to the most current information.
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On the morning of May 1, 2011, in the Terrace Theater at the Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, California, the Dalai Lama will personally confer the Solitary Yamantaka Initiation. It is extremely rare for him to confer an initiation from the Highest Yoga Tantra class in the West, so this is to be regarded as a most unusual event.
The tickets for this initiation are free of cost, but the Dalai Lama is personally and directly asking for a particularly serious, lifetime practice commitment. If you are a mature, disciplined practitioner, and know yourself able to abide by this commitment, then the initiation is open to you. If, for any reason, there is a chance you cannot abide by this commitment, then it is best to give the initiation a pass. The Dalai Lama will also be giving a public talk later in the afternoon, and that will be open to anyone.
In the morning, the Dalai Lama will give the bodhisattva vows and the tantric vows, and all practitioners are expected to abide by those vows. In addition, he is personally requiring that each practitioner make three pledges:
- To perform, on daily basis -- for the rest of one's life -- the short sadhana associated with this deity.
- To recite, on a daily basis -- for the rest of one's life -- the one-page Six Session Guru Yoga, three times during the daytime and three times during the evening.
- To complete, at least once during one's lifetime, a week or ten day practice retreat under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
Although not explicitly stated, there is a belief among many practitioners that broken commitments can actually shorten the life of the lama who bestowed the initiation. I do not have the wisdom to say whether this is true or untrue in the Dalai Lama's case; however, on the mere chance it could be true, I would certainly not want to risk harming him in any way through my own inability to keep these commitments. As a personal matter, I would regard these commitments as a "do or die" proposition, and keep them at all costs, no matter what obstacles might seem to arise.
Apart from any putative harm to others, the failure to keep these commitments would certainly cause serious problems to arise in one's own life. This particular deity's practice is no trifling matter -- Yamantaka is the wrathful aspect of Manjushri, and promises made to this deity are of the most binding possible character -- thus, this practice is not for dilettantes, or "empowerment collectors."
Further details on this event, including the online registration form, may be visited by clicking here.
This event is being hosted by Gaden Shartse Thubten Dhargye Ling, and they have posted a helpful reading list on their website that you may wish to consult prior to taking the initiation.
May I please be excused for adding the following recommendations to that list?
The first recommendation would be to somehow acquire Sermey Khensur Lobsang Tharchin's Six-Session Guru Yoga: An Oral Commentary with a Detailed Explanation of the Bodhisattva and Tantric Vows. This was first published back in 1999, in a limited edition, and I do not know how easy it is to find.
The next recommendation would be to acquire two small books by Sharpa Tulku and Richard Guard: Self-Initiation of Vajrabhairava and Meditation on Vajrabhairava. These are translations of Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche's works. The latter will give you the flavor of what might be expected during retreat, while the former will give you the flavor of how broken vows and commitments might be restored should something go wrong. It also has the intermediate sadhana.
Finally, if you can find it, there is a two-volume set Yamantaka Cycle Texts, done in 1995 and 2002 by Sharpa Tulku, the Dalai Lama, and various others.
Gaden Shartse Thubten Dhargye Ling will, of course, have the appropriate practice texts available at the Long Beach Convention Center in May. There are also extensive online resources available at Yamantaka.Org