Amending the Mantra Fire Offering
article by Dorothée Rosen and Sengan Baring-Gould
On the fourth of September 2014, Vajrayogini Sadhakas gathered at Dorje Denma Ling in Nova Scotia to conduct the first Amending the Mantra Fire Offering held in a number of years. A core group of 36 participants attended the entire program providing a strong continuity throughout. They were joined by 6 others who had previously completed this practice but wanted to dip back into it. At its height, the shrine room was filled with 42 of us. All three of Dorje Denma Ling’s Sadhakas participated. The core participants came from as far away as Moscow in the North and East, Vancouver in the West and Mexico in the South spanning a total of 11 timezones. While English was the dominant language of the retreat, German could often be heard as well.
Acharya Larry Mermelstein, assisted by Choppons Dewi Roberts and Sandra Selva lead the Fire Puja. Dorothee Rosen coordinated it, guiding the energy to do whatever needed to be done. The first full day was spent preparing the space and creating the required offerings as were most of the work periods thereafter. Dewi’s many lifetimes of Chopponning proved to be an invaluable asset as he invisibly ensured everything was correctly placed at each point of the ritual. He also taught us how to create the offering substances creating perfect models for us to copy. Larry was his usual inimitable self, showering his teaching of the practice with anecdotes and stories of our lineage. A highlight was the playing of the only video we have of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche teaching a Vajrayogini Tri.
The practice truly felt like a gathering of the Vajra Sangha. More than half the students had received Vajrayogini Abhisheka from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Many others from the Druk Sakyong. But students of other teachers such as Thrangu Rinpoche, Punlop Rinpoche also came, including at least one person who wasn’t a Karma Kagyu, but a Drukpa Kagyu. Some had been accumulating mantras for almost thirty years. Partly the feeling of Vajra Sangha stemmed from the fact people were arranged in a circle around the central fire, and thus could see each other’s faces. It also came from the stories people shared of their encounters with the guru and their sharing of experience. But I think a large component was simply people’s practice: if someone suddenly fell victim to klesha and turned on another, the other did not respond and both watched the klesha dissolving into space. This was particularly remarkable given that the weather did its very best to wear people down. The first day it was 28 degrees Celsius outside, over 40 inside near the fire. Then we had a torrential downpour which soaked various tent dwellers and their belongings at 3am. A few nights later the temperature dropped to 0. Despite all this, people remained cheerful and even rota went very smoothly.
Dorje Denma Ling also participated in the practice. Although the practice room was hot, with the right care the smoke did go up the specially designed wide chimney ensuring that the fortnight’s final product was not Smoked Sadhakas. The practice would probably best be done in the winter, but was timed to allow three year retreatants to complete the requirements for their second year. The staff were very generous helping us with rota so that we would have time to make all the required offerings. And the land dazzled us with its array of darting insects, coyote and bobcat calls at night, and the plants and trees growing in every nook and cranny.
Although the Amending the Mantra fire offering is not the end of Vajrayogini practice, people clearly yearned to extend their practice further. Thus, 15 participants wrote and signed a letter supplicating the Sakyong to confer the Chakrasamvara Abhisheka on them so that they might continue deepening their experience. Readers who share the same yearning are encouraged to also supplicate the Sakyong to confer the Chakrasamvara Abhisheka.
During the final feast we shared any insights we might have gained, toasts to the lineage and the Vajra Sangha; Mark Nowakowski provided an early copy of a Khenpo Gangshar song he is translating and Larry enthralled us with stories of Khenpo Gangshar. And then, after the anthem, as all good things do, the program came to an end, and with sadness, delight and deep appreciation we dismantled our camp and scattered from whence we came.
The next opportunity for Vajrayogini Sadhakas to gather at Dorje Denma Ling will be an Enriching the Fire Offering Weekend lead by Mark Nowakovski from November 7th to November 9th 2014.