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Lion of Siddhas - The Life and Teachings of Padampa Sangye

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IN THE CASE of our Tibetan Dharma, what are considered to be the most sacred teachings often come from TO, western Tibet. They are then taken to Kham, eastern Tibet, and flourish there. The people of Kham have great faith in Dharma, like the Chinese people. Many holy Gurus lived in To, like Padampa Sangye from To Dingri and Milarepa from Kyirong. Khampas would come to To, request teachings, and then take the initiations, commentaries, and transmissions with them back to Kham. They didn't flourish as widely in To. In Kham, they still have many scriptures, biographies of great lamas, initiations and commentarial texts, which were hidden away so that they would not be destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Now they are beginning to bring them out again. Students are being trained to use computers and they are publishing books such as the biography that has been translated here. I found this biography in a shop in Kathmandu. Many more books that we need, such as the texts named in the course of the biography, may yet be found to still exist in Kham.

Padampa Sangye is a principal source, a lineage Guru for all the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism in common. His teachings are important in the Nyingma tradition, for example. When Guru Rinpoche was at Samye, his ritual master, Kamalashila, is said to have been Padampa Sangye in an earlier visit to Tibet. Guru Rinpoche told Padampa Sangye that he must go to China in order to spread Buddha's actual teachings and refute a false teaching that had been propagated there by Hashang Mahayana that undermined the validity of karmic cause and effect. They say that Padampa stayed in China for eighty years and purified false views that were prevalent there, causing the pure view as explained by Buddha to flourish. Then Padampa Sangye felt that Dharma in China had been purified and he announced that he would return to Tibet. The Chinese urged him not to leave and told the ferryman not to pick him up if he tried to cross the river and leave.

Padampa Sangye, however, felt that his work in China was finished and, after urging the Chinese to practice, left for Tibet and India. Because of their protests, he left quickly, and one of his shoes got left behind. When he reached the river the ferryman told him that they had no boat. Padampa Sangye just placed a leaf on the water and rode it across! The protectors Agora Mahakala and Lhamo Tagshon Ma, the Tiger-Mounted Devi, came after him to bring him his shoe. She emanated as a red horse that took the shoe in its mouth and offered it to Padampa Sangye. The story is depicted in a Chinese thangka for long life and prosperity that was widely distributed in Tibet. The symbolism of the story is that Padampa Sangye was a mahasiddha, completely free of attachment. He did not have many possessions. He had a single bag, his "bag of dependent arising" as it was called, with several types of blessed objects for pacifying, increasing, subjugating, and wrathful activities, just a few things like a needle and a curved knife. It was as if he was predicting how people would carry small purses and briefcases in the present day! Dharma practitioners of those times often carried large amounts of possessions with them, huge trunks and so forth. But, as explained in non-degeneration of the six natural facets of yoga,' it is all right to eat food begged from others!

The Shije tradition of Padampa Sangye was incorporated most strongly into the teachings of Je Rinpoche, the Gelug. Panchen Losang Chökyi Gyeltsen felt that practice in the Gelug would benefit from Padampa Sangye's highly blessed pure lineage descending from Buddha Shakyamuni, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, and so forth. He therefore received the Twelve Tathagata Initiation of Nairatmya, which includes all of the major deities: Tara, Marichi, Vajea Varahj, Rabjung Gyelmo, Sarva Nivarana Vishkambini, Vajrapani, Manjushri, Yamantaka, Avalokjteshvara Eleven-faced Avalokiteshyara Kasarpani, Samantabhadra, and Achala. He brought this lineage into the Gelug. In his biography Panchen Losang Chäkyi Gyeltsen is quoted as saying that "There is no mahasiddha with greater blessings for the world than Padampa Sangye!" The Gelug long life and healing practice of nourishing the inner elements of the body with life force received from the external elements comes from the ALI Kali Scripture Initiation of Padampa Sangye (see Appendix i), which was also incorporated into the Gelug tradition. Je Tsongkhapa received all of the lineages of Buddhism in Tibet, the Kadam teachings of Atisha, the Sakya teachings from Sakyajetsun Rendawa, the Nyingma teachings from Abbot Dondrup Rinchen, and Kagyu teachings as well, in formulating his Ganden tradition, as it was previously called.

Elements of Padampa Sangye's teachings are found throughout all of the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. For instance, the refuge and bodhichitta prayers of the Gelug Nyungne tradition, coming from Gelongma Pelmo, are those of Padampa Sangye:

Wishing to free wandering beings,I shall always go for refugeIn Buddha, Dharma and Sangha,Until attaining highest enlightenment.

O all Buddhas present here!By persevering with wisdom and compassion,I shall attain full enlightenmentFor the sake of all sentient beings.

The Powa Sky-door Opener initiation of Chod came from Padampa Sangye to his disciples, Bodhisattva Kunga, Dampa Charchung, Dampa Charchen, and Vajrakrodha. From there, the lineage eventually passed unbroken to Mindroling Lochen Rinpoche. All of the lamas in Kham received it from Mindroling Lochen Rinpoche. I first received it from my Guru Rigzin Pema Tsewang who was from Kham.

Padampa Sangye also brought the practice of Pelden Lhamo from India to Tibet. The Gelugpa Bodong Chogle Namgyel received it and gave it to Gendun Drup, the first Dalai Lama. That was how Pelden Lhamo became a protector of the Dalai Lamas.

When Buddha Vajradhara Samantabhadra first taught, the teachings were given without words, through direct mind-to-mind transmission. Teachings such as those translated in this book were later given through the language of symbols. Nowadays we have oral lineages that are passed on verbally; we listen to the Guru's speech. The mahamudra text translated here is one of four texts of the Pacification of Suffering lineage referred to as the Round ofMahamudra Teachings in Symbols. The original scriptures are presently in the care of Truishig Rinpoche, as are nine holy objects related to Dingri and Padampa Sangye, such as the stone that Buddha threw that landed in Dingri,~ three teeth of Padampa Sangye's bull, and a small piece of stone imprinted with Padampa Sangye's footprint when he was a baby.

The story of this last artifact is as follows: Padampa Sangye's mother conceived him at a time when his father had been away and could not have fathered him. That was shameful to her, so she tried to abort the fetus by jumping off a ledge and jumping into a river. Her efforts were unsuccessful and after eight months she heard recitations coming from her womb. Learned pandits said that it was the tantra Expressing the Names of Manjushri and told her that she was carrying a Buddha!

When the baby was born he immediately spoke four lines of praise to his mother:

Beyond speech, thought, expression, wisdom gone beyond,Unborn, unceasing, with a nature like space,Discerning transcendent wisdom's sphere of awareness,Homage to the Mother of the three times' Conquerors!

He then said, "Mother, you had such a difficult time carrying me in your womb, jumping off a cliff, jumping into the water, I must give you a blessing to return your kindness! Bring a flat stone!" His mother gave him a small light-yellowish flat piece of marble and he imprinted it with his foot!

The Tibetan government sent a disciple of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Trulshig Rinpoche to request copies of the four texts, including the one translated in the teachings portion of this book. One copy was made for His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, and one copy was made for the king of Bhutan. We obtained it from the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is happy for all beings to have the opportunity to learn about Dharma and he encourages distribution of the texts.

I received the explanatory tantras and instructions of Padampa Sangye's lineage from two Gurus in particular: Rigzin Pema Tsewang and Pawo Gyendrug. They told me that as I had been born in Dingri Langkor, if I were to emphasize practice of Padampa Sangye and Machig Labdron's teachings, it would be beneficial for all beings. My teachers told me that because this was a time of the five degenerations, it was vital for the teachings of Padampa Sangye to be preserved, because they could pacify immense suffering such as that created by wars waged out of jealousy and greed. Wherever these teachings spread and are practiced, suffering is automatically pacified.

They told me that as I had received all of the initiations, transmissions, and instructions of Padampa Sangye's lineage and Machig Labdron's teachings, I should complete the practice. After all, I was born in Dingri Langkor and had a strong connection with Padampa Sangye, so it would be auspicious. My Lamas told me this with great emphasis when they sent me to practice in Tibet and Nepal. From the age of twenty-two, I practiced at sites all over Nepal. Then I became known and was constantly called to people's homes to conduct transference of consciousness when people died, to perform fire pujas, to practice Chod for sick people, and so forth, because it was found to be beneficial.

I had been staying in Parping, Nepal, a sacred site of Guru Rinpoche and Vajra Yogini, for seven years when a person from America named Swami Chetanananda arrived. He was the Guru of Nityananda Institute, a spiritual community that practices Trika Yoga and studies the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism. He also had an interest in Buddhism, and particularly the Kusali Mahasiddha Lineage of India that I practice. He asked me a few questions about my practice and asked me to perform the Chod, which I did. He liked it a lot and said that it was a practice basically identical to his own. He said that Americans would be very interested in it. I told him that the Tibetans were not extremely interested in the solitary yogi type of practice, that they were more attracted to the large monastic gatherings. I said that if there were people in America who appreciated it, they must have associated with the mahasiddhas of India in previous lifetimes and that they may very well be incarnations of tantric yogis. Swamiji liked me and, for auspicious reasons, I gave him my damaru, bell, and thighbone trumpet.

I felt no regret in giving them to him because I was delighted that there was someone who felt deeply about the mahasiddha Dharma. I wondered if perhaps he was someone who had practiced among the previous mahasiddhas of India or if he was an incarnation of one of the mahasiddhas who later lived in Tibet such as Padampa Sangye, Virupa, Tangtong Gyelpo, Milarepa, or Shavari. Such mahasiddhas have freedom over the process of death and rebirth, and some may want to take birth in a nice country like America! We shouldn't think that only Tibetans are very holy, while those of other races and nationalities are somehow inferior. Holy beings could take birth in any country, we don't know! As Buddha said, don't judge living beings!

Swami spoke with his disciples back in America about me and they asked him to invite me to teach them Chod. When Swami returned to Nepal he requested teachings for his students and invited me to America. When I spoke to my lama friends about it they thought it would be very good. They told me that if people in America were requesting Buddhadharma, that I definitely must teach, and that it would be beneficial to spread knowledge of Buddhadharma wherever it was not yet understood.

So I came to America. I told the students at the institute that, in their case, their Western education would have to supplant the traditional extensive preliminaries and practices as preparation for Chod. I told them that it would not be the same for them as for me, because I had trained in Buddhism from a young age, but that with their education, they would be able to immediately understand the meaning of my words, learn the melodies, and so forth. I taught refuge and bodhichitta and the Chod ritual "Laughter of the Dakinis' which they learned very well. Then I taught them the visualizations that accompany the recitations and the Cham dance that is performed when Chod is practiced outside in charnel grounds. We counted eighty-eight Westerners present when I first taught Cham in America. When I learned Cham from my Lama at the age of twenty-one, there were eighty of us. That made an increase of eight. No such auspicious growth of that nature had occurred in my life thus far with my small group of Tibetan practitioners in Nepal. I had given teachings but no one had requested Cham and I had not taught it. That finally happened here at Nityananda Institute. I wondered at having the opportunity to teach Cham to so many, even eight more than my Lama, and I thought it was auspicious, and made prayers to my Guru inseparable from Padampa Sangye and Machig Labdron for the successful flourishing of the teachings. Since that time the students at Nityananda Institute have gained a great deal of experience through persevering in practice of Chod, Powa, healing, and other practices.

Then His Holiness the Dalai Lama was invited to Portland, Oregon, to teach during a time when I was staying there. His Holiness saw me sitting off to one side and expressed a wish to see me. When I met His Holiness he asked me what Dharma I practiced and I told him my story, who my Lamas were, and so forth. He told me that I must teach others what I knew. He reminded me that after some time, I would die and that my teachings would be lost unless I passed them on to others. He told me that when I returned home I must come to see him in Dharamsala. I thought, I am old and I don't know how I could give much more extensive teachings, but His Holiness is Arya Avalokiteshvara, and He must see something of benefit for the teachings and sentient beings. At his residence, His Holiness questioned me in depth about the teachings I had received. Finally he said that my teachings and lamas were of the highest order and he said that, while other Tibetan traditions of Buddhism and Bön had well-established centers for learning, there was no such center for Shijay, the Pacification of Suffering teachings of Padampa Sangye and Chod, apart from individual Lamas living here and there. He encouraged me to found a center and to teach everything I knew to small classes of young Tibetan disciples that he would send me. He gave me a statue of Buddha with many blessings, made extensive prayers, and said that he would help me. It was somewhat decided at that point.

When I returned to Nepal I first inquired as to where I might rent or buy a larger place than the space for eight or so practitioners that I had in Parping. At that time the monks of Shelkar Chode in Kathmandu had outgrown their monastery and they needed to build a larger monastery elsewhere. Their old one was for sale. They didn't want to sell it to someone who would open a factory or restaurant, but wanted it to go to someone who would use it as a space for Dharma. They offered it to me at a reduced price so I bought it. Once I bought it, we easily got sponsors for statues and other representations of enlightened body, speech, and mind, and within a year, we were perfectly established with everything we needed. I now have the first nine disciples in retreat on Nyingma practices and after that I will teach them about Padampa Sangye's tradition.

Swamiji suggested that since Padampa Sangye's teachings are so meaningful for our time, it would be wonderful if more people in the world could experience them. He had obtained a copy of one of the four Round of Mahamudra Teachings in Symbols texts of Padampa Sangye and wanted to have the text translated into English. He asked David Molk to do the translation work and we have now produced this book. I worked with David, answering his questions on many points of the ancient language of the teachings so that the translation should accurately reflect the tradition. This is the first time these texts have been made available in English. They have existed in Tibetan, of course, but few Tibetans have taken serious interest in them. The Chinese people, on the other hand, have great interest in these teachings. Padampa Sangye's actual father was Manjushri, and Manjushri is the deity of the Chinese people. The Five-Peaked Mountain of China is a sacred site of Manjushri and in the minds of the Chinese, the teachings and mandala ofManjushri is still there, unchanged. They have tremendous faith and admiration for these teachings.

At Swami's request, I gave the Chod initiation, the Sky-Opener Initiation, to Swami and his students. When I told His Holiness the Dalai Lama that Westerners were requesting initiations he said that I should give them. He said that we must teach anyone in the world who requests, without regret or possessiveness. I have taught Swami and his students everything I know about the "ripening initiation:' "perfecting transmission," and "liberating instructions" of Chod. I have also given many initiations of the Pacification of Suffering Lineage of Padampa Sangye: outer, inner and secret Padampa Sangye, Vajravarahi, Krudhakali, Nairatmya and the Twelve Tathagatas, the Ali Kali Scripture Initiation, Protectors and so forth and, so as not to spoil the auspiciousness, I have given everything. If someone has aspiration for any of these, they must be practiced and accomplished. For Dharma, it is good if everything is auspicious. If respect is not lost, all is well. If the close bond of samaya is not spoiled, all is well. With all auspiciousness, I have offered these to Swamiji without regret. As these practices are translated into English, they will spread and become available everywhere in the world. Now, if I die, I am happy because I know these teachings will flourish ever more widely. I feel like a farmer who has finished planting his seeds. Now I am happy to think about the harvest ripening in the future.

Machig Labdron predicted that in degenerate times there would be people who would try to put a seal of ownership upon the ownerless teachings, the teachings of selflessness. Buddha told us that no one owns the Dharma and anyone can practice it. One need not become a monk. Anyone, male or female, is welcome. Dharma is not something essential to only monks and nuns! Everyone has to eat, don't they? Everyone needs the practice of Dharma. Your hunger cannot be satiated by someone else eating your food! It is too bad if we think someone else can practice Dharma for us. We have to do it for ourselves. Machig Labdron also predicted that in degenerate times many would claim to be Chod practitioners, wearing robes, playing drums, and so forth. Cloaking oneself in red or yellow robes does not help to realize naked awareness! For that, awareness must be drawn inwards! Anyone, male or female, can do it! That is what Padampa Sangye told Machig Labdrön.

As these teachings of Padampa Sangye spread widely they will help bring about peace in our world because they will become a means for people to become free from hatred, greed, and ignorance, and to develop compassion, love, and altruism. It will start to happen automatically, just by seeing the books of these teachings! People will become motivated to practice! Black magic will be diminished! Fewer weapons will be manufactured! For these reasons I am glad that this work is being made available now. I pray that the teachings spread everywhere and that they be authentically practiced.

Lama Tsering WangduNityananda InstitutePortland, OregonJanuar