Friday, December 31, 2010

Khenpo Appey (1927-2010)

It is again, within two weeks, with a very sad heart that I announce that Khenpo Appey has passed away, December the 28th, 2010. I first met Khenpo Appey in 1975 in Rajpur India during the Lamdre Tsogshe given by Sakya Trizin. It was there that I had an opportunity to spend time with Rinpoche, ask questions and learn that he was truly one of the great living Sakya masters - a Dzongsar Khenpo in the true spirit of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Chokyi Lodro.

It is also fair to say that of all the great Tibetan teachers to come out of Tibet it was him that I found most intimidating - it was in front of him that I felt I always had to be on my best behaviour.

Gorampa himself would be proud of the accomplishments of Khenpo Appey. He was the foundational rock for Sakya scholarship for the last 50 years and has tirelessly prepared the way for innumerable scholar practitioners of the future. Bravo to a life well lived in the service of others.

(See Khenpo Appey at International Buddhist Academy)

(See Khenpo Appey at Rigpawiki)

(See Khenpo Appey at Tsadra)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gene Smith - Icon & Legend

It is with a very sad heart that I announce that Gene Smith has passed away, Thursday, December the 16th, 2010. I have known of Gene through his writings and publications since 1973, visited his home in New Delhi, India, in 1980 and worked closely with him since 2001 to the present in New York City.

What always struck me most about Gene was his drive to not have students undergo the difficulties that he went through in learning and studying Tibetan literature and associated subjects. This is what was close between us and came up most often in conversation, the next generation - the future - making the literature and tools accessible. Gene and I shared a very important teacher, Dezhung Rinpoche Lungrig Tenpai Nyima. Dezhung Rinpoche was maybe the most important influence for what was to become the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, the second crowning jewel of Gene's career. The first great accomplishment, the first great crowning jewel, was of course the publication of thousands upon thousands of rare Tibetan texts and manuscripts while he worked in the New Delhi office of the U.S. Library of Congress.

As just one individual, Gene has been the most important single figure in the last half century working for the preservation of Tibetan literature. Gene has been the singular figure to galvanize the most important Tibetan scholars in the last 45 years in the preservation of Tibetan literature. In a half century, again, Gene has been the most important single figure to tirelessly work for the literary culture of Tibet and the Himalayan regions - to publish, to modernize, to digitize and to electronically archive for the present and future generations. Gene was truly a man suited for his time, an individual that accomplished what he set out to accomplish, responding to the needs of others. His passing is not a time for sadness but a time to celebrate the truly enormous accomplishment of his life that has benefited so many of us and in so many ways.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sakya Paintings: The Field Museum, Chicago

The Field Museum of Chicago has a large collection of paintings and sculpture collected between 1908 and 1909. Displayed here are the few Sakya paintings and subjects found within the collection.

Three Ngorpa Lamas

A recent upload to the HAR website of three Ngorpa Lamas. Two of them are Great Abbots of Ngor Monastery and the third was a famous retreat practitioner from Kham.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bhutadamara Vajrapani

I know I have posted this image of Bhutadamara in the past but this image today is a different scan and possibly better than the previous images. As we all know it is very hard to find good iconographic representations for Bhutadamara. I believe this image is probably the best painted example currently known to exist. The physical painting itself belongs to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (see full painting).

A new Bhutadamara painting from the Field Museum in Chicago has been added to the HAR webpage - HAR #54374.

Bhutadamara Vajrapani:

In Vajrayana Buddhism there are the three famous bodhisattvas, elevated to ishtadevata - Buddha status - which represent the essential characteristics of all the buddhas of the ten directions and three times. Manjushri represents wisdom, Avalokiteshvara compassion and Vajrapani power. All three of these deities have many Tantric forms and practices associated with them.

According to Vajrayana, Vajrapani is the caretaker and guardian of all the Tantra teachings and texts taught either by Shakyamuni or in the form of Vajradhara. Vajrapani is also the special deity for removing the various types of obstacles that arise during intensive Tantric practice.

The practice of the specific form of Vajrapani known as Bhutadamara is found in the Kriya, Charya and Anuttarayoga Tantras. Within Anuttarayoga it arises from the exclusive explanatory tantra to the Hevajra called the Vajrapanjara Tantra (chapter two).

Within the Sakya School in general and the Lamdre Tradition in particular Vajrapani in the form of Bhutadamara is the foremost practice for removing obstructions on the path of a practitioner. The basic meditation and explanatory teachings of Bhutadamara used in the Sakya Tradition are based on the ritual text (sadhana) of the Indian Pandit Trailokyavajra and the teachings coming down through Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the sons Sonam Tsemo and Dragpa Gyaltsen, and Ngorchen. The standard meditation text is written by Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub, (1497-1557). The Tibetan commentary most commonly used was written by the great Zhuchen Tsultrim Rinchen and called the Shining Sun. A shorter commentary was written by the Tsarpa teacher Zimwog Lhagsam Zangpo.

Historical Background from the Shining Sun Commentary

"...generally it is said, in the precious Tantras of the great secret Vajrayana there are immeasurable deities of great accomplishment and deities for accomplishing the increase of activities; this is the main [method] of the deity accomplishing the increase of activities, making firm the common attainments. Practicing this is also the method for the arising of the supreme attainment. This is special for pacifying obstacles, daemons, hindrances, bhutas, rakshas, and the like - commonly, and the four maras which are obstructions to enlightenment - [specifically]. All the great superior teachers [of Sakya] say; 'before entering any retreat it is foremost to do the Achala or Vajrapani retreat first.' To elaborate, of the six great [Vajrapani practices]: the Powerful [1] Great Wheel [Mahachakra], [2] Fierce Garuda, [3] Dharma Protector for the Benefit of Beings, [4] Tantra of the Great Stick, [5] Mantra of the Wrathful Acharya and the [6] Subduer of Daemons, the latter one, the Subduer of Daemons Bhutadamara is the most well known and found in many Tantras. The [long] Bhutadamara Tantra of 160,000 verses has remained in Oddiyana." [(See Kriya Tantra Toh.747, for the short Bhutadamara Tantra)].

"...of the many mahasiddhas to come to Tibet, Acharya Tathagata Rakshita made famous the teachings of the short Charya Tantra of Bhutadamara. In the Vajravali of Acharya Abhayakaragupta there are three mandalas of Bhutadamara, these, extracted from the Tantras contain the essence letters, the long mantra is not taught. Both Trailokyavajra and the Omniscient Buton Rinchen Drup wrote from this Charya Tantra..."

", for the Non-dual Anuttara uncommon explanatory Tantra to the Hevajra, called the Vajrapanjara, it is said; Trailokyavajra's greater and lesser Bhutadamara meditations are based on this - which is found in the Sadhanasamgraha [Sadhanamala]. For the lineage of Atisha the text is found in the Narthang Gyatsa, a very famous collection of teachings. Also, there are the texts of Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub and Panchen Drangti who wrote the abridged Sadhanasamgraha. Again, Lhachen Shakya Palwai who actually saw the face of Bhutadamara wrote a meditation and initiation text. From the various meditation texts, that of Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub is used as the basis for the explanation of the practice." [from the commentary of Zhuchen Tsultrim Rinchen].

Jeff Watt, 12-1998 [slightly updated 11-2010]

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Biography of Nasa Dragpugpa

A biography of Nasa Dragpugpa (1277-1346/50) an early Lamdre Lineage Holder.

Biography of Buddhashri

A Biography of Buddhshri (1339-1419) a teacher of Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo.

Biography of Sanggye Sengge

A biography of Sanggye Sengge ((b.1504, d.1569) the 11th throne holder of Ngor Ewam Monastery.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gorampa Sonam Sengge Biography

Gorampa is one of the most important figures in Sakya history and especially important for understanding the philosophical teachings of Sakya Pandita. See the new biography of Gorampa on the Himalayan Art Resources website.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vira Vajradharma - Unique Sakya Iconography

This painting is iconographically unique because it is the only known composition depicting Vira Vajradharma as a central figure and the only painting known that depicts the two figures of Vajradhara and Vajradharma paired together in a single composition. Vajradharma originates with the Chakrasamvara cycle of Anuttaryoga Tantras and is another form of the Tantric Buddhist primordial Buddha. Vajradharma is red in colour and has two different iconographic forms. The first form, shown in this painting is considered common, Vira Vajradharma, and the second form is regarded as more profound, or uncommon. The second form does not use the initial term 'vira' meaning 'hero' (referring to the appearance of Vira Vajradharma with hand drum and skullcup) and simply goes by the name Vajradharma. The profound form of the primordial Buddha Vajradharma has the same identical appearance as Vajradhara except Vajradharma is red in colour rather than blue. (The primordial Buddha Vajradharma should not be confused with the red form of Avalokiteshvara also with the name Vajradharma [see image])

Unique Iconographic Features:

1. Vira Vajradharma (red) as a central figure.

2. The group of three Vajrayogini figures: Naro, Indra & Maitri.

3. The group of three power deities: Kurukulla, Takkiraja & Ganapati.

4. The inscriptions written on the cloth hangings in front of the two thrones - specifically the Kalachakra monogram.

5. The two Pamting brothers seated on the same lotus.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Village & Temples of Tsarang (Charang), Nepal

The village of Tsarang is just south of the walled town of Lo Monthang, the capital of the Kingdom of Mustang in North Western Nepal. The village of Tsarang (Charang) has numerous stupa structures, a monastery with a main temple (gompa) and a fortress (dzong). The monastery is made up of several buildings and structures. Some are in the process of being renovated and others are in a state of serious disrepair. The inner walls of the main temple are painted with murals depicting the deities of the Medicine Buddha mandala. They have recently been cleaned and restored. It has been suggested by some local informants that depictions and rituals of Medicine Buddha are a special object of devotion in the Kingdom of Mustang and can be found in the temples of almost every Mustang village.

By far one of the most interesting buildings in the small walled monastic complex is located at the back of the property, looking like nothing but a ruin, almost falling over a cliff. The structure is referred to locally as the Ani Gompa, or Ani Lhakang (nunnery). Navigating the only entrance, a set of small wooden double doors, flanked by a Wheel of Life and murals of the Four Guardian Kings, arriving inside, it is imediately noticable that the roof has large gaping holes, numerous rafters with blue sky behind. The floor is an uneven surface of mud and dirt and the entire place seems like it could collapse at any momenent. Yet despite all of that, the inner walls are completely decorated with brightly coloured murals, some of which appear to have been cleaned and restored in very recent years. It is like an oasis of colour and palacial grandeur, unexpected, awesome and immediately comforting and strangely well grounded, stable and solid.

The inner layout of the room, clearly a temple or shrine room of some sort, is not completely typical. The main inner wall at the front of the room (across from the door) has a large depiction of the Buddha Vajradhara, the primordial Buddha, surrounded by the lineage teachers of the Sakya Lamdre - based on the Hevjra Tantra and teachings of the Indian mahasiddha Virupa (depicted with six different forms in the murals of the main temple). On the viewer's left hand side is a very large painting of Padmasambhava surrounded by a Nyingma lineage. On the right side of the room is a large painting of a Drugpa Kagyu teacher surrounded by a Drugpa Kagyu lineage. The side walls of the room appear to depict the Five Symbolic Buddhas accompanied by smaller buddhas representing the One Thousand Buddhas of the Age. To the immediate right and left of the entrance are protector deities of the Sakya Tradition on one side and protectors of the Drugpa Kagyu Tradition of the other side.

Despite being called an Ani Gompa, the structure is more likely to be a Lamdre Lhakang or a building created for use during the Monastic Summer Retreat - and later painted. As a backdrop to the monastery, on the steep cliff sides of the valley surrounding the village are evidence of extensive cave dwellings both for religious as well as secular use. Only some of these caves are accessible, most are not. Only a small percentage of the caves have been explored by trained climbers and cultural specialists.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Manjushri: Principal Tantric Forms & Emanations

Manjushri - forms, manifestations and function - an outline page on the HAR website.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Outline Page

A new outline page and biography of Jamyang Khysentse Wangpo has been added to the HAR website.

Brahmarupa Mahakala Outline Page on HAR

Brahmarupa Mahakala is a unique Sakya image that is actually a place card holder for a Mahakala that most people are not allowed to see. Learn more...

The Earliest Sakya Refuge Field Painting

See the HAR website for a discussion of the earliest Sakya Refuge Field painting which isn't really that early.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Shangpa & Jonangpa

It could be said that the Shangpa and Jonang are sister traditions to the Sakya Tradition. For an interesting insight into the Shangpa and Jonang Traditions see the article by Michael Sheehy on the TBRC blog.

The Little Red Volume

The Little Red Book is a Lamdre text compiled by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo. See the TBRC blog entry for more information about this important text.

Friday, January 1, 2010

What to do at India's Buddhist Holy Sites

Preview of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's New Book: What to do at India's Buddhist Holy Sites

January 1, 2010

Siddhartha's Intent and Khyentse Foundation jointly announce that a preview of
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's advice, What to do at India's Buddhist Holy Sites, is
available as a free PDF download upon formal request.

"The aim of all Buddhist practice is to catch a glimpse of the awakened state. Going
on pilgrimage, soaking up the sacred atmosphere of holy places and mingling with
other pilgrims are simply different ways of trying to achieve that glimpse."

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche