April, 2001

THE NAMO BUDDHA PROGRAM AT VAJRA VIDYA (MARCH, 2001)

I arrived at Sarnath a few days early and after getting through tight Indian army security I was immediately ushered into the main shrine room in which His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa was doing a consecration ceremony. As I sat there in what was the most beautiful shrine room I have ever been in surrounded by large gold statues of the 35 buddhas and 500 smaller golden statues of the buddhas of this era, I felt I had died and been reborn in a pure realm. There was the Karmapa, Thrangu Rinpoche, dharma brothers and sisters who I have known or corresponded with over these last 15 years, and several hundred completely devoted monks and nuns all participating in a blessing ceremony.

Needless to say, it was difficult to get the program organized with the hundreds and hundreds of visitors of the Karmapa, but as always everything fell into place at the last minute.

There are only three recorded teachings by Saraha. Saraha might be said to be the first person to teach mahamudra meditation. Saraha wrote a very brief spiritual song on mahamudra for the King, a longer doha written for the Queen, and a lengthy one written for the People. Thrangu Rinpoche chose the People's Song which has never been translated into English or (as far as I know) been taught before. Geunther has attempted to translate the Royal Dohas. As the teaching progressed it became clear that this "first practitioner" of mahamudra who lived around the 9th century taught all the instructions on mahamudra found in much later and more detailed works. Saraha wrote this spiritual song on four different levels so it in many ways includes instructions which are not found in other mahamudra texts not previously covered.

Namo Buddha Publications now has 10 excellent quality tapes of these teachings entitled The People's Song of Saraha and these are available for $ 35.00 which includes shipping and handling in the US.

We were only about 10 minutes from the very spot where the Buddha gave his first teaching on Buddhism, and during the program we also visited the famous Ganges river and took a dawn boat ride along Varanasi.  Thrangu Rinpoche also treated us to a night of debate (in Tibetan). Two seated second year students of his shedra defended the Buddhist position that the Buddha was an authentic being and was omniscient and had perfect bodhichitta against six standing third year students who attacked this position. This lead to such heated discussions as whether the dharmakaya was permanent or not.

Rinpoche also took all his monks and the Namo Buddha participants on a holiday picnic to a beautiful waterfall and lake and stream in the surrounding mountains.

Finally, on the last day Rinpoche closed with a quite moving speech (unfortunately not recorded) in which he thanked us all for coming from so far away to hear the dharma and that years ago he came from Tibet with only the clothes on his back. Since that time the teachings of the Kagyu lineage have been "hanging by the slender thread" and this is why he has devoted his life to preserving these teachings. The beautiful monastery at Vajra Vidya and all his other projects and activities exist because others have devotedly given to them. Finally, he said that "Only by recognizing the original nature (of mind) we will go beyond samsaric existence."

I believed that VajraVidya was to be the crowning achievement of Thrangu Rinpoche's life, until I visited Namo Buddha which is Thrangu Rinpoche's new monastery in Nepal. Namo Buddha is high in the mountains and away from the busy distractions of Nepal's cities and Thrangu Rinpoche is engaged in building a monastery there in Tibetan style. By this I mean the monastery hangs on the side of the mountain, the main shrine room has no windows and many massive columns and the actual Buddha statue in the shrine room will be behind a wall. When I entered this shrine room which is still bare concrete and will not be completed for two more years I was overwhelmed because the main shrine room has space for 500 monks (verses the 200 at VajraVidya). The Buddha statue will be much larger than the 20 foot statue at VajraVidya and will be surrounded by 1,000 one foot high golden buddha statues. Here it is hoped the Buddha dharma will be studied, practiced and disseminated for a thousand years.

I enclose a picture of VajraVidya outside to show the artwork, a picture of Thrangu Rinpoche leading the Karmapa to a sacred place in Varanasi, a picture of the Karmapa on a throne in front of the 20 foot Buddha statue, and a picture of an offshoot of the very tree under which the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths under.

NEW BOOKS FROM NAMO BUDDHA PUBLICATIONS

First of all, we have 40 new Creation and Completion books and will be sending these out to you.

Secondly, I want to thank my lovely wife for taking over the complex job of running Namo Buddha Publications while I was out of the country.
 
 
 

Thirdly, WE HAVE A NEW BOOK:

Four Foundations of Buddhist Practice
by Thrangu Rinpoche
($ 12.95, paperback, 98 pages, ISBN 0-9628026-2-x)

The Four Foundations are sometimes called the "four reminders" because the student should remind him or herself of these each time before sitting down to meditate. In many ways, an understanding of precious human existence, impermanence, karma, and the faults of Samsara is the first step in entering the Buddhist path and engaging the essence foundation.

Also included in this book is Thrangu Rinpoche's commentary on Pema Karpo's Meditation Instructions.

"The Four Foundations of Buddhist Practice" have been crucial to my personal understanding of the Buddhist Teachings. Nowhere have I found them presented with more clarity and wisdom than in this book by our beloved teacher Thrangu Rinpoche. I know that all who read this book will benefit profoundly."  -- Pema Chodron

We are making a SPECIAL OFFER of 20% off for all who order this book in the next two months. Just send an email and we'll mail you the book with an invoice. Also if you buy 5 or more books (or are a bookstore) you get the usual 40% discount. The wonderful cover was designed by Jobe Benjamin.

Clark Johnson
1390 Kalmia Avenue
Boulder CO 80304-1813
Phone: (303) 449-6608
Email: cjohnson@ix.netcom.com

 

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