Sakyong Confers Vajrakilaya Abhisheka
By Walker Blaine
On October 11th, 2009 Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche conferred the Vajrakilaya abhisheka at Karme Choling in Barnet, Vermont. This marks the Sakyong’s first full presentation of a Nyingma yidam (meditation deity) to our community. Vajrakilaya is the activity aspect of all the buddhas. It focuses on removing obstacles to realization and protecting the environment of truth and kindness that flourishes as a result of genuine practice. The abhisheka and activity of Vajrakilaya is timely because of the recent opening of the Scorpion Seal practice and our deeper exploration of the Shambhala terma. The timing of the empowerment is also significant because of the Sakyong’s upcoming retreat, which is a time for the Sakyong to strengthen and remove obstacles to his activity.
Acharya Eve Rosenthal led the training for those receiving the abhisheka and also for those about to begin the Vajrakilaya retreat practice. Lama Gyurme Dorje, the Sakyong’s half-brother from Marpa House in Boulder, acted as the main chopon (the principal shrine attendant) and assistant to the Sakyong during the empowerment. Lama Gyurme Dorje also made his teaching debut during the Vajrakilaya retreat training. Concurrent with the program, Walker Blaine lead a Vajrakilaya intensive for people already seasoned in the practice.
The empowerment was received by about 170 participants. As with the Scorpion Seal retreats this summer, the event was a delightful mixture of old and new friends. Some attended the empowerment as a blessing that will enable them to begin the complete retreat practice later. Others received the practice in order to begin the retreat in the near future. The Sakyong gave two talks, one during the empowerment and one during the retreat training period. The participants at the empowerment came from all over the world–from as close as Barnet, Vermont and as far away as Switzerland, Ireland, and Australia. The French Canadian sangha made a very strong showing at the gathering. At times the entire lower living room seemed to be speaking French.
Vajrakilaya was one of the main practices of Padmasambhava, the Indian tantric master who helped King Trisong Detsen firmly establish the dharma in Tibet. Padmasambhava is the central figure in the Nyingma lineage of Buddhism and is sometimes described as the vajrayana Buddha. The Vajrakilaya empowerment at Karme Choling was for the practice called the Netik Phurba, the Quintessential Activity Kilaya. A phurba (Sanskrit: kila) is a three-sided dagger that symbolizes the simultaneous penetration of the poisons of passion, aggression, and ignorance by the wisdom of awareness. The Netik Phurba was compiled from a Vajrakilaya terma (treasure teaching) discovered by Jamyang Khyentse Wangmo, one of the main figures in an ecumenical movement in 19th century Tibet. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was a teacher to Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye who compiled the Rinchen Terdzo collection of teachings and empowerments.
The Netik Phurba was first bestowed on the Shambhala community by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche at Karme Choling in the early summer of 1987, just after the cremation ceremony for the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. This was a significant time during the establishment of the vajrayana teachings in the West, as well as a profound time of change and sadness within Shambhala. Only a year before, Trungpa Rinpoche had bestowed the Chakrasamvara abhisheka for the first time. Chakrasamvara is the main yidam of the Kagyu lineage. It had been the Vidyadhara’s wish that we also receive and practice Vajrakilaya, which in many respects is the main yidam of the Nyingma lineage.
Vajrakilaya is important to our community for several reasons, most notably the connection between the Shambhala terma and the Vajrakilaya tantras. Tantras are the original and most profound oral lineages of vajrayana practice. The liturgical practices of the termas and oral traditions of vajrayana from India all trace their authenticity back to the tantras. Some lines of the Vajrakilaya tantras are quoted in the Shambhala terma and therefore the Shambhala teachings derive their authenticity in part through Vajrakilaya. Both the Shambhala terma and the Vajrakilaya tantras emphasize conquering aggression through limitless compassion. The teachings of Vajrakilaya are vital to our understanding of the practice of warriorship. Interestingly, Trungpa Rinpoche practiced Vajrakilaya at the start of every Magyal Pomra Encampment, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche has expressed the wish that all Dorje Kasung receive the Netik Phurba empowerment at some point.
Any practice lineage passes through a series of teachers over time. It is significant to note the Netik Phurba lineage received from His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in 1987 did not pass through Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. However, because the Netik Phurba is included in the Rinchen Terdzo, the Sakyong inherited his father’s transmission lineage of the Netik Phurba when he received the Rinchen Terdzo from His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche earlier this year. Knowing this greatly enhanced people’s appreciation for the empowerment at Karme Choling. It should be noted that through His Eminence the Sakyong has inherited nearly nine-hundred practice lineages that belonged to Trungpa Rinpoche.
The Sakyong was very pleased by how things went during the empowerment at Karme Choling. After the event he remarked how happy he was to give this abhisheka before his retreat. The ceremony was bestowed in both English and Tibetan in its most complete form. The event was moving for both the Sakyong and the assembly. The atmosphere was incredibly warm and loving, which the Sakyong remarked was a requisite for the practice. He said with great delight that because of the growing love within the Shambhala community we were ready to receive this abhisheka again.
Walker Blaine lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He authored the three-month Rinchen Terdzo blog (www.rinchenterdzo.org) and is a member of the Nalanda Translation Committee. His two CDs of dharma songs can be sampled at www.highlandeyes.com, on iTunes and on Rhapsody.