If Dharma is indestructible, why does it need to be defended?
It’s true, Dharma is indestructible. Truth is truth. Nothing can change that. However, that does not mean that Dharma will always be available to us. In fact, the Buddha foretold that the Dharma would disappear from the world in these degenerate times. Therefore, when someone attacks the Dharma or a pure teacher or a Buddhist temple and sangha,that is cause for concern. When people attack a pure teacher on Twitter out of meanness or for fun, that too is a cause for concern.
A tulku chooses to take rebirth out of compassion for all sentient beings. He or she returns to samsara (ordinary existence) to assist those who have karma with him or her on their path to liberation. From an ordinary point of view, that may sound like silly superstition. Most people have a hard time with the idea of rebirth, but conscious rebirth? That’s pushing it! Yet this is exactly what the tulku system is about. We can’t know for sure as we are still ordinary sentient beings with no special powers. We basically have to believe what we’re told or not. But there are indications thattulkus give that can inspire devotion in the student and help them make up
their mind whether to believe or not.
One example is relics.
Relics are physical signs of great attainment. They are found in the cremated remains ofvery high lamas, for example. Sometimes they take the form of ringsel, small, pearly beads that are found in the ashes of the body. Ringsel also sometimes form on the outside of stupas that hold precious relics. Some are white or pearl colored, others are of different colors, red, pink, etc. They are considered very precious and inspire devotion in the students.
Another type of relic is bone relics. These include bones that are found after cremation with the shape of various Buddhist deities appearing naturally in them. Another type of bone relic is kept at KPC. It is a small piece of the kapala of Genyenma Ahkön Lhamo, apparently the only piece of the kapala to survive after the Chinese destroyed Palyul Monastery. The Tibetan letter “AH” is formed in one of the skull’s sutures (the place where the individual bones of the skull knit together). It is said that the original kapala had other syllables as well in the bone. This sort of relic is said to indicate that the practice of the person was so strong that they came to embody the very essence of the seed syllables, which then appear in the body. There may also be teeth and blood relics.
The purpose of these relics is to demonstrate that enlightenment is within the grasp of all. The relics come from masters who have bodies just like we do. They are not some sort of deity or master race. They’re just like us except that they have defeated suffering by following the teachings of the Buddha.
Miracles are also sometimes performed by enlightened tulkus in order to inspire devotion. The Buddha described three types of miracles: the power to appear as many persons, to pass through walls, to fly through the air and to walk on water; the powerto read others’ minds; the power to guide people on the path to enlightenment using skillful means. He said that thelatter was the only fit type of miracle to practice as the aim was to end the suffering of others. He expressly forbid his monks from performing miracles to impress others or to gain converts as they do not lead to enlightenment. The true miracle of a tulku then is the ability to lead his or her students to enlightenment.
That is why it is important to defend Dharma from those who would attack it because Dharma is the most valuable possession anyone can possibly have. Without Dharma, wecontinue to revolve in cyclic existence, moving from one life of suffering to another with no hope of escape. Only Dharma offers us the ability to do this. Someone who would attack Dharma and seek to destroy it – and there are many who do – are trying to steal our own happiness. That is worth defending.
Blog investigators have been busy with research and apologize to our large readership base for a delay in reporting the latest news in the case of USA v. William Lawerence Cassidy (8:11-cr-00091).
It’s our understanding that Mr. Cassidy filed for several motions in July of this year, essentially claiming his First and Fourth Amendments had been violated, and a motion to dismiss the case. The Government filed arguments in response to these motions in September it would seem, and a hearing took place on October 4th addressing the motions and arguments specifically. We are told that EFF members were seen leaving the court house. Additionally, our investigators discovered an Amicus Brief has been filed by the National Center for Victims of Crime and Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center with the purpose of informing the court of the acute public interest considerations implicated by Mr. Cassidy’s motions. We are told that the Court is in possession of all documents pertaining to the motions, arguments, EFF Brief and the recent Amicus brief by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
A ruling is expected by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Mr. Cassidy remains in custody at the Supermax in Baltimore, MD.
For those who have been following the case, we welcome your thoughts on the issues at hand.
Lastly, investigators report that His Holiness Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, Throneholder of Palyul (http://www.palyul.org/eng_biotulku_karmakuchen.htm), and His Eminence Mugsang Tulku (http://www.palyul.org/eng_biotulku_mugsang.htm) have visited Jetsunma (http://www.tara.org/jetsunma-ahkon-lhamo/biography/) and KPC recently, with firm support. Further, Jetsunma and KPC are expecting a visit from Jetsunma’s good friend His Holiness Ngwang Tenzin (http://sacredesignpdx.com/rinpoche_bio.htm) this month. Jetsunma, having also been recognized as the incarnation of Mandarava, the Princess Consort of Guru Rinpoche, many Lineages pay homage and praise for her. While Jetsunma is exclusively Palyul, she has many friends outside of the Palyul Lineage, and His Holiness Ngwang Tenzin is one such friend possessing much devotion to her.
It would seem that Jetsunma and KPC are moving forward with their mission in being a legitimate and supported Vajrayana Buddhist Center.
Buddhism is sometimes given a bad rap by women for being male dominated and misogynistic. For instance, there are some Buddhists who say that the only way to attain enlightenment is to be reborn as a male, and in the Vinaya, the monastic code of conduct, women have more vows than men. Buddhist leaders in Asian countries are almost always men. Is it true then that Buddhism is anti-women?
In Vajrayana Buddhism, women have always played key roles. Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), the Indian tantric master who introduced Vajrayana into Tibet, had many consorts. Among these were two who played pivotal roles in his teachings. One was the Princess Mandarava of Zahor in India who chose the Dharma over wealth and power that was hers for the taking if she had so chosen. Padmasambhava came to Zahor specifically to teach her and make her his consort. After some initial problems with her family (her father attempted to burn him at the stake when he found him in her quarters), Mandarava was allowed to become his consort. Padmasambhava took her to Maratika Cave in Nepal where they accomplished the unified vajra body of life mastery as master and consort. She is considered to be a wisdom dakini who has manifested numerous times, including the yogini Mirukyi Gyenchen, Risulkyi Naljorma, Drubpey Gyalmo, Niguma, and Chusingi Nyemachen, the consort of Maitripa. Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo has been recognized as an emanation of Mandarava.
The other principal consort of Padmasambhava was Yeshe Tsogyal, a highly realized Tibetan yogini. Originally one of King Trisong Deutsen’s queens, she later became Padmasambhava’s spiritual consort. She was responsible for compiling the inconceivable teachings of Guru Rinpoche and assisted him in hiding termas (hidden treasures) throughout Tibet and surrounding countries to be revealed in later times when they would be of supreme benefit. According to Jamgon Kongtrul, she was “a direct incarnation of Vajra Varahi.” Padmasambhava considered the accomplishment of both Mandarava and Yeshe Tsogyal to be the equivalent of his own. Thus two of the foundational figures of Vajrayana Buddhism were highly accomplished women.
The history of Vajrayana in Tibet and other countries where it flourished, such as Mongolia, Nepal and Bhutan, is replete with stories of highly accomplished female practitioners or yoginis. Among these, the great yogini Machik Labdron is particularly significant. Said to be a reincarnation of Yeshe Tsogyal, she studied under Phadampa Sangye, a great master believed to be the reincarnation of Padmasambhava. She originated and propagated the Chöd practice, the only Vajrayana practice to originate in Tibet and spread to India rather than vice versa. Tsultrim Allione, a Western female lama, has been recognized as an emanation of Machig Labdron.
These are but a few of many highly realized female practitioners in the history of Vajrayana. They make up an important and vital segment of the fabric of Vajrayana. But beyond the historical figures, there are also a number of female Buddhas and dakinis (female wisdom beings) that are included in Vajrayana deity practice, Buddhas such as Tara, the female Buddha known as Mother of all Buddhas as she represents enlightened wisdom. She is said to have sprung from the tears of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig in Tibetan), the bodhisattva of compassion, as he looked out upon the suffering in the world. In other stories she is said to be a fully enlightened Buddha who, when she was an ordinary sentient being striving for enlightenment, was told that she could only attain enlightenment as a male. Therefore she made a vow to attain enlightenment and always return in a female form for the benefit of sentient beings – the ultimate feminist!
Protectors of the Dharma in Vajrayana at times appear in female form, such as Palden Lhamo. She is the consort of Mahakala and is the tutelary deity of Tibet. She is closely identified with the Dalai Lamas.
For the ordinary practitioner, the role of women in Vajrayana Buddhism is equivalent to that of men. While it is true that in Tibet monastic institutions were nearly always headed by men, female practitioners were greatly respected and revered. For example, Genyenma Ahkön Lhamo, the sister of Kunzang Sherab, first throneholder of the Palyul lineage of the Nyingma School, was widely considered to be a living saint during her lifetime. So many nuns came to hear her teachings and practice with her that the hills around the cave in which she lived in retreat became known as the “Red Hills”, a name which persists even today.
Women are considered to be superior practitioners to men as they are said to have a greater capacity for wisdom. In the Vajrayana view, the female is symbolic of wisdom, while the male is symbolic of compassion, which is somewhat opposite of the way the sexes are viewed in the West. The union of the male and female principles, compassion and wisdom, is known as bodhicitta and is enlightenment itself.
Dakinis – enlightened female wisdom beings – are said to reveal the teachings to practitioners who are ready to receive them. Dakinis also represent the Three Roots as they may manifest as a guru, a yidam or a protector.
It is clear that women play a vital role in the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism and are essential to the attainment of the ultimate goal, enlightenment. Without them, there would be no Diamond Vehicle.
Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava, revealed by Samten Lingpa, translated by Lama Chonam and Sangye Khandro, Wisdom Publications, 1998
The Lotus-Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, recorded by Yeshe Tsogyal, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang, Shambhala, 1993
Lady of the Lotus-Born: The Life and Enlightenment of Yeshe Tsogyal, by Gyalwa Changchub and Namkhai Nyingpo, Padmakara Translation Group, Shambhala, 1999
The Biography of Machik Labdron (1055-1145), in Women of Wisdom, by Tsultrim Allione, Snow Lion Publications, 2000
In Praise of Tara: Songs to the Saviouress, by Martin Wilson, Wisdom Publications, 1992
The Religions of Tibet, by Giuseppe Tucci, University of California Press, 1970
Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism, by Judith Simmer-Brown, Shambhala, 2002