Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What's the Story, Samye?

Overall shot of Samye, showing the famous red, black, green, and white stupas. For orientation purposes, the black stupa is the northwest stupa.

By now, we have all seen and heard of the reported destruction of a large image of Guru Rinpoche. Numerous photos and reports have been published, with some variance in detail, but the gist is that the image was "removed" in mid-May 2007 and taken who knows where by the military.

Above: This is how the story played.

However, recent reports seem to indicate that rather than being destroyed, the statue was actually being moved from one place to another.

Cranes hoist sections into place for welding. Sacred materials to be placed inside are seen at left.

To the right of the black stupa you see a curtained area where the large Guru Rinpoche image is being erected. Curtains are often used when gilding is in progress.

This is a photo with the curtains down, while the image nears completion. Conflicting reports state that the image was destroyed in "reprisal" for a political demonstration elsewhere. The latest party line is that the statue was "moved" for unspecified reasons. I admit to buying in on this one at the time (see here and here).

The image has clearly not been destroyed. This is a photo of a portion of the image stored in back of the monastery. Maybe somebody is getting their rumors mixed up?

This is reportedly now the innermost Guru Rinpoche image at Samye (there are several images of Guru Rinpoche there); some say it is intended as a replacement for the famous Guru Ngadrama ("Same As Me") image, destroyed during the Cult of Mao's so-called Cultural Revolution. What we need is a full, unbiased account of this destruction. What became of the fragments? Is there anyone left alive to tell the story?

Note subtle differences in the above photograph, reportedly taken rather recently. See that the khatvanga is now gilded. Note particularly the Chinese money tucked under the breastplate. In the photo below, you see that the image is behind glass, and the money is wedged into the surrounding frame.

To the right, you see the famous photo of the Guru Ngadrama image taken by the Queen Mother of Sikkim, the late Gyalyum Kunzang Dechen Tsomo Namgyal (1906-1987), and later colorized.

The photo, mounted on a scroll, is widely sold throughout Mainland China today, and is seen in many homes and offices. Sometimes, you don't know what you have until it is gone.

(You know, it strikes me as strange that this is the only photograph we ever see.)

I have a suggestion -- and it is just my suggestion -- but, instead of worrying about what the Mainland Chinese are doing, why don't we get together and build the largest image of Guru Rinpoche in the world, and put it in the United States? I mean to say, if some 王八蛋 destroyed that statue, we should cultivate compassion for them, instead of engaging in orgies of anger toward bubbles in pee.

"The identity of anger is empty. The very moment after anger has bloomed into a hell, there is nothing more for that anger to grow into, so nothing further is grown. The object of anger is empty, so nothing grows from that either. Anger is empty of an individual identity and so has neither shape nor color, matter nor substance, and therefore dissolves in itself without having to be rejected. Anger causes no harm when it arises, and there is no benefit from it not arising. Anger naturally dissolves within the expanse of dharmata."

Know who said that?

So, really... what does it matter what some 王八蛋 do or don't do? These things ripen into themselves. Tourists and their cameras are in and out of Samye by the busloads, every day. Shouldn't be all that difficult to prowl around and get the straight story.

王八蛋 who destroyed statue at Samye, as they appear today. Happy now?

Let us assume it took the Chinese one day to destroy the statue. How long will it take us to build another? Getting large bronze images cast and built isn't rocket science: it just takes will. Is Walmart China's vision of greed and destruction stronger than our vision of generosity and construction? Or, to put it another way -- how long will we argue about where to put it (I vote for California, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Maybe San Francisco Bay. New York has the Statue of Liberty. San Francisco should have Padmasambhava).

I think it is getting to be time for OENAB to put up or shut up... or are we all waiting for the Taiwanese to come along and put up the money? People often say to me, "You expect too much! This America isn't a Buddhist country!"

It can be, if we do our job.

Keywords: samye monastery, statue of padmasambhava, guru rinpoche statue, guru ngadrama, same as me statue, destroyed, moved, stored, 王八蛋 became obstacle to statue in tibet, boycott walmart

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4 reader comments:

Orgyen Chokyi Dorje said...

Dear Rinpoche,
I live in Berkeley (on Indian Rock Ave.) and I vote for Albany Hill as the perfect site for a huge Guru Rinpoche statue (gazing West through the Golden Gate) AND/or a huge Stupa supported in Rime fashion, and with an ecumenical spirit of religious cooperation and aspiration for healing and sanity among all us folks on the planet. I would bet there would be some enthusiastic supporters among our Eastern sangha, who perhaps have a clearer sense of the vast merit accrued in supporting such an endeavor. I can see it now, "The East is West Project"! Anyway, I've done some cursory research, schmoozing etc., and would love to talk about it with you (or anyone else) sometime.
Thanks a lot, Tenpa, for whatever it is you're doing... and please keep on doing it for many years to come.
Highest regards,
Orgyen Chokyi Dorje

Editor said...

Albany Hill would be good, you are quite correct. Years ago, Tarthang Rinpoche went there and began laughing and dancing. We used to have a picture of that somewhere, but after 40 years...

There are also islands in the Bay that are actually privately owned... that one off Angel Island, and another one farther up toward Richmond.

Things like this CAN be done!

Orgyen Chokyi Dorje said...

I'd love to see that picture of Tarthang Rinpoche... I think Lama Kunga in Kensington has had his eye on Albany Hill for awhile too. I'll be visiting with him later this month... I was out on the Bay last month with Tulku Hungkar Dorje Rinpoche and other students of his father, H.H. Orgyen Kusum Lingpa, doing a Tsa-tsa Ceremony, with small gilt stupas made with Lamasang's cremation ash etc. The ceremony took place out by the Golden Gate, and I was struck by just how visible Albany Hill is, from just about anywhere on the entire Bay. Right now the top of the hill is an Albany City Park, and basically a run-down, trash-strewn, eucalyptus forest/fire hazard (a disastrous condo-leveling fire was narrowly averted last year), and is apparently, based on my observation, a place to meet anonymous same-sex casual-encounter playmates. There was also a murder up there last month. So, it doesn't look like the City is putting much money, energy or attention into the place. For starters, the eucalyptus could be milled into lumber to turn a profit while eliminating the fire danger, and the City of Albany, like that little city in Spain with the big stupa, could benefit from pilgrims' and tourists' locally generated revenue. I wouldn't, however, think The City of Albany would be an optimal steward for such a project... A privately owned island in the Bay would likely eliminate a few miles of red tape... and present a different set of challenges. It would probably cut down the potential vandalism quotient... Of course, Alcatraz would be perfect - especially the location - but long odds. I was also thinking of the spacious north end of the Berkeley Marina... the City of Berkeley being particularly Tibet-friendly right now, as well as the University's new Khyentse Chair. What would be the protocol regarding building a statue and/or stupa on landfill? Do you know of any reliable geomancers (sp.?) in the Bay Area who might be consulted re: site choice and geomantic analysis? Any other suggestions about anything? Sorry about the rambling length of this post, but, as you say, "Things like this CAN be done!" and, I've got nothin' better to do.

Kaarmaa Tshyulthrim Tshayrang said...

nice updated history of samye... really feeling sorry for the destruction... what will they get after destruction...? it must no happen....