January 6, 2009

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: a New Year’s Letter (sent from a Tibetan Buddhist monastery).

The Sakyong, Mipham Rinpochebest-selling Buddhist author, marathon runner, avid golfer, head of Shambhala Buddhism, son of Trungpa Rinpoche and my teacher—is presently studying and practicing meditation in Asia.

New Year’s Day is much like any other day. We rise early to the sound of the gyalings (Tibetan horns) as a light mist rolls off the hills of Orissa, surrounding the monastery while the various monastics and lay community gather to receive the next series of empowerments of the Rinchen Terdzö. The pujas [ritual meditation ‘feasts’] start early in the morning. This I know quite intimately, since my room is above the main shrine room and I can hear the monks playing their instruments from three in the morning until late at night.

Today we will receive empowerments of the eight aspects of Padmasambhava. I am amazed by how precisely and carefully His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche has been conducting the ceremony. We are all struck by his strength and stamina, especially for someone who is seventy years old. The other day he went for six hours straight, performing this complicated ritual until seven o’clock at night. Everyone was quite tired, but he seemed to pick up more energy and his voice was booming. It was quite something to think about. He had been going more or less all day, which he has been doing every day for weeks. At one point I asked him how he was doing, and he immediately recounted when he had been with the Vidyadhara in Tibet as if it were yesterday. It struck me that this ceremony was profoundly important to him. He mentioned to me several times how he has held this transmission for many years and it is now going back to its rightful owner. I feel very moved to be here and very grateful to His Eminence and to the Ripa family for providing such a hospitable environment.

The monastery itself is beautiful—the only one I can recall that has consistent running water. Orissa is surprisingly pleasant at this time of the year and the Tibetan settlement is completely and wholeheartedly committed to His Eminence and the Ripa family. They feel overwhelmed and blessed that the Rinchen Terdzö is happening here. Likewise, since we arrived, Khandro Tseyang [Rinpoche’s wife] has been completely in her element, very cheerful while introducing me to a myriad of friends and prominent individuals in the surrounding Tibetan community.

As time goes along, more of the local sangha returns from their annual sweater-selling business abroad, gathering for the culmination of the Rinchen Terdzö and the celebration of the new year. In this way, the winter months here are much like the summers in the West: a time for holidays and family reunions. The Rinchen Terdzö is clearly an important and timely undertaking for the community here as well as for our own Shambhala lineage, especially during this time of instability in the world. By receiving these transmissions, we safeguard the precious wisdom that they contain.

In many ways, the Rinchen Terdzö is like a marathon of abhishekas. I believe we are past the warm-up phase and are now hitting our stride. As in any long ordeal, it is better not to think about the end, but to remain present. As we go through volume upon volume of rich wisdom held within Tibetan Buddhism, it is inspiring to touch its depth and vastness. Day after day, as we hear the quintessential instructions and collected wisdom of yogis, scholars, and rulers, both lay and monastic practitioners, the insights and realizations pouring forth live up to the name “Treasure Trove of Precious Jewels” (Rinchen Terdzö).

I am proud and delighted that many Shambhalians are sponsoring this unique transmission, and I welcome people to make offerings as they did at last year’s Gesar pujas. Along with your offering, it is customary to make an aspirational prayer with the name of the person or project that the prayer is being done for, as well as your own name, which is then read aloud at various breaks throughout the day. This Buddhist custom karmically binds the patrons to the ceremonies, gaining the patrons merit. The monastic sangha performs the rites and dedicates them to the lineage, to those who are either sick or encountering difficulty, to the assembly, to the patrons, and to all sentient beings. Additionally, I encourage people who wish to participate at home to connect to the events here by engaging in Padmasambhava-related practices.

That’s it for now; my break is coming to an end. I send you my love and blessings. You are all in my heart.

The Sakyong, Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche
1 January 2009


With thanks to the brand spankin’ new Shambhala Times for the tip-off. Check ’em out!

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