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The Great Play of Infinite Merit: The Compassionate Activity of His Holiness Padma Norbu Rinpoche
TAKING BIRTH ACCORDING TO THE INFALLIBLE PROPHECY
His Holiness Drubwang Padma Norbu Rinpoche Jigme Thubten Shedrub Chokyi Drayang Pal Zangpo was prophesied by the 5th Dzogchen Rinpoche Thubten Chokyi Dorje (1872-1935) in the following verses:
In the upper expanse of sacred Powo,
At the base of a splendid hill
Surrounded by beautiful trees and lakes,
And a cool river flowing in the south,
To a couple bearing the names Sonam and Kyid,
A venerable child will be born in the Water Monkey Year.
Possessing great qualities, he will benefit the doctrine and beings.
According to this, His Holiness Padma Norbu Rinpoche was born to mother Dzomkyid and father Sonam Gyurmed in 1932, the Male Water Monkey Year of the 16th Rabjung Cycle. Astounding signs appeared, such as the unseasonal blooming of flowers, rainbows encircling nearby hills, and so on. As a physical sign of being the reincarnation of Pandita Vimalamitra, he had a white mark of the syllable ‘Ah’ on the tip of his nose. Khenchen Ngagi Wangpo (1879 - 1941) recognised him as the unmistaken reincarnation of Drubwang Padma Norbu Rinpoche Rigzin Palchen Dupa (1887 - 1932), the ninth throneholder of the Palyul tradition.
LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF STUDY AND PRACTICE
In 1936, Rinpoche was invited to Namgyal Jangchub Chöling monastery, the main seat of the Palyul tradition. He had his hair-cutting ceremony in front of Khenchen Ngagi Wangpo. He studied calligraphy, spelling, grammar, poetry, astrology and other subjects with Mugsang Lama Jampal Zangpo, and he learned them thoroughly.
In 1943, Rinpoche received the upāsaka vows from Chogtrul Rinpoche Thubten Chökyi Dawa (1894-1959) and received the name Thubten Legshed Chokyi Drayang. Then, in a ceremony led by Chogtrul Rinpoche and Karma Thegchog Nyingpo (1908-1958), the fourth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, he was enthroned as the 11th throne holder of Palyul Monastery amidst thousands of devotees.
In 1944, at the hermitage of Dago, Rinpoche received the novice monk’s vow through an authentic ceremony from Chogtrul Rinpoche and was given the name Dongag Shedrub Tenzin Chogle Namgyal Pal Zangpo. In the same year, he received the most important transmissions and empowerments of the Nyingma School, including the great empowerments of the Kagye and the Rinchen Terzod from Chogtrul Rinpoche. He also received the terma revelations of Ratna Lingpa from Karma Thegchog Nyingpo.
In 1945, at Palyul Darthang Monastery, Rinpoche received rare transmissions of the Kama (the Oral Lineage of Nyingma School) and Terma (Treasure Teachings) from Chogtrul Rinpoche, which had been passed down by the previous Padma Norbu Rinpoche and others. He then stayed in strict four-year retreat with Chogtrul Rinpoche.
Gradually, Rinpoche studied the Tibetan literature of the tantras and sūtras. He also received and practised all the transmissions of the Nyingma Kama and Terma from high lamas like Horshul Khenpo Pema Jigme, Khenpo Nüden, Kathog Khenchen Legshe Jorden, Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, Khenpo Jigme, Karma Thegchog Nyingpo, Haja Khenpo Sonam Dondrub, Palyul Khenpo Gondrub, and other eminent masters. He then returned to Palyul Monastery and stayed in a mantra-recitation retreat for a year.
In 1952, Rinpoche received the full-ordination vow from the requisite assembly of ten monks presided over by Chogtrul Rinpoche at Darthang Monastery. He received the name Jigme Thubten Shedrub Chokyi Drayang.
At that time, Chogtrul Rinpoche removed his own namjar (a special kind of robe worn only by fully ordained monks), which had actually been worn and passed down by the great master Zitrul Rinpoche and many other previous incarnations of Chogtrul Rinpoche, and gave it to His Holiness. After that he never parted from that namjar even for a single night, not even during his escape from Tibet when it was inconvenient even to carry along one’s own cup. Due to that particular circumstance, he was able to raise high the banner of the monk's robes through his own observance of pure morality and conferring the vows on others. During his lifetime, he bestowed full ordination vows on more than 8,000 monks, extending the practice of the Vinaya (monastic discipline) far and wide. In the same year, he received numerous profound instructions on Dzogchen, the highest teaching of the Nyingma tradition, and clarified all his doubts and enhanced his understanding of the view and meditation of Dzogchen.
In 1955, in Samye Yarlung, Rinpoche stayed in a retreat and displayed the miracle of living seven days without food or drink during one continuous session of clear light meditation. Between 1955 and 1956, he undertook a pilgrimage to Samye Monastery and many other monasteries in central Tibet. There, he made extensive offerings to the sangha community wherever he went. Rinpoche paid his reverence to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at Lhaden Norling Phodrang and received a long-life empowerment.
In 1987, Rinpoche received the empowerments and oral transmissions of the Ngagyur Kama, Nyingthig Tsapod (the source text of the Nyingthig teaching), the oral transmissions and explanation of the Guhyagarbha and all the rare teachings of the Ngagyur Nyingma from His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910 - 1991).
In 1990, Rinpoche invited Khenchen Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche (1933 - 2004) to India. He then received the oral transmissions and explanation of the Lama Yangtig (the Innermost Essence of the Lama), Tsigdun Namshed Padma Karpo (the detailed commentary of the Seven Line Prayer to Guru Padmasambhava), and others.
In 1994, Rinpoche invited His Holiness Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche (1926-2015) to Namdroling Monastery. From him, he received the oral transmissions of the Rinchen Terzod and the empowerments of Avalokiteśvara. He also received the empowerments and oral transmissions of the Jangter from him in 1997.
In 2003, Rinpoche received the Kālacakra initiations from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Bodhgaya.
ESTABLISHING NAMDROLING MONASTERY AND ITS DEPARTMENTS
Due to the political instability in Tibet, His Holiness was urged by deities and Dharma protectors to go to India. It took an arduous month-long journey for His Holiness and his group to reach Balingpur, Tuting, Assam. There, for about four months, he conducted the Dugngal Randrol (Self-Liberator of Suffering) sādhanā with more than one hundred other monks.
In 1961, His Holiness moved to Bylakuppe in Mysore district, south India, along with 600 followers. He acted as the main abbot, initiating the tradition of the three practices of Vinaya and conducting the traditional summer retreat. In 1962, he established the Namdroling Junior High School and gave the school the name Yeshe Wodsal Sherab Raldri Ling in 2004.
In 1963, Rinpoche laid the foundation of the main temple, Thegchog Namdrol Shedrub Dargyeling, which was completed in 1979. During the time of its building, he himself handled rocks and mud, and worked like an ordinary labourer. He worked so hard that his hands cracked, bled and got blisters. He withstood all such hardships during this process.
From 1970, Rinpoche started to conduct the mahāparinirvāṇa anniversary of Omniscient Longchen Rabjam (1308-1364). From 1971, the great sādhanā of Tsogchen Düpa (the Maṇḍala of the Sūtra Practice of the Great Gathering) of the Ngagyur Kama was also started. In 1975, Rinpoche established an old-age home. In 1978, His Holiness founded the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute, a centre for higher Buddhist studies and research.
From 1981, Rinpoche started a ceremony to commemorate Omniscient Mipham Rinpoche (1846-1912) on his mahāparinirvāṇa day. In 1983, he also initiated the performance of the great ritual dance of the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava, which was revealed in a pure vision of Terton Guru Chowang (1212-1270), along with its great sādhanā, on the first month of the Tibetan calendar.
In 1985, Rinpoche founded Samten Odsal Ling Retreat Centre, where qualified candidates could engage in deep practice during the traditional cycle of three years, three months, and three days.
In 1989, Rinpoche enthroned the first group of khenpos: five of the eleven graduates from the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute.
In 1991, Rinpoche also established the Ngagyur Rigzod Editorial Committee. He also founded the Tsogyal Shedrub Dargyeling Nunnery in 1993 and the Nunnery Institute (the philosophical college for the nuns) in 1995.
In 1995, Rinpoche began the construction of the Padmasambhava Buddhist Vihara (more commonly known as the Golden Temple). It was inaugurated by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and other senior officials in 1999.
In 2002, His Holiness laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Zangdog Palri Temple, and the consecration ceremony was presided over by His Holiness himself, along with Tulku Thubzang Rinpoche, in 2004. In December of that year, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was invited for the inauguration ceremony.
Additionally, Padma Norbu Rinpoche built libraries, hospitals, roads and bridges, and initiated many other social welfare projects.
RETURNING TO TIBET
In 1983, Rinpoche was able to make a return journey to Palyul Monastery in Tibet. There, he conferred a few empowerments and oral transmissions. In addition to that, he ordained many monks with novice and fully ordained monks' vows.
In 1992, Rinpoche again visited Palyul Monastery in Tibet and ordained many monks. He then provided the objects of veneration of body, speech and mind (images, texts, and stūpas) to hundreds of branch monasteries of Palyul. He completely reconstructed Palyul Namgyal Jangchub Chöling and revived many of Palyul's other branch monasteries from their ashes. Rinpoche also established an institute for advanced Buddhist studies named Palyul Ngagyur Tholob Thoesam Dargye Ling at the main Palyul Monastery.
In 1997, Rinpoche revisited Palyul Monastery, provided financial support for many Palyul branch monasteries in remote areas, bestowed empowerments and oral transmissions, as well as commanded the authority of the main Palyul Monastery to build an assembly hall.
TURNING THE WHEEL OF THE DHARMA
From the age of twenty-one, Rinpoche undertook the main responsibility for Palyul Monastery. Gradually, he gave oral transmissions and empowerments of the Ngagyur Kama and Terma to the thousands of disciples of Kyigon Tenyi Dargyeling, Palyul Monastery and others.
Rinpoche conferred the Rinchen Terzod empowerments six times as follows:
1988 - Kunzang Palyul Choling, Ahkon Lhamo's dharma centre in the United States
1989 - Namdroling Monastery, India, for Minling Dungse Dralha Rinpoche, Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, Minling Khenchen Rinpoche and all the other khenpos, tulkus, lopons, lamas, monks and nuns of Namdroling Monastery, as well as nearby lay devotees
1992 - Palyul Monastery, Tibet
1994 - Darthang Monastery, Golog, Tibet
1994 - Shechen Monastery, Nepal
2001 - Namdroling Monastery, India
In 1984, Rinpoche gave the first empowerments of the Namchö and Ratna Lingpa revelations at Namdroling Monastery to His Holiness Karma Kuchen Rinpoche and others.
In 1985, Rinpoche travelled to the United States for the first time at the request of Gyatrul Rinpoche, where he gave the empowerments of the Namchö revelations at Yeshe Nyingpo (currently Tashi Chöling Retreat Centre, Ashland, Oregon) for the first time in the West.
In 1987, Rinpoche visited Dechen Ling and bestowed the Dzogchen empowerments of Zabmo Yangtig.
In 1988, Rinpoche gave the Kama teachings at Gyatrul Rinpoche’s Yeshe Nyingpo Centre in Ashland, Oregon, followed immediately thereafter by the Longchen Nyingthig at Orgyan Osal Cho Dzong, Ven. Peling Tulku Rinpoche's centre in Ontario,Canada. That same year he conferred the entire cycle of the Rinchen Terzod empowerments over a four-month period at KPC in Poolesville, Maryland, during which time he also performed the novice ordination ceremony for 25 Western monastic candidates.
In 1992, Rinpoche conferred the empowerments and oral transmissions of the profound treasure teachings of Tulku Migyur Dorje, i.e. the Namchö teachings, to tens of thousands of monks and nuns at Serta Larung Gar, Tibet.
In 1994, Rinpoche bestowed the empowerments and oral transmissions of the Kama teachings at Darthang Monastery, Golog, Tibet.
At Namdroling Monastery, Rinpoche gave empowerments and transmissions for the Namchö Ngondro, Tsalung and Dzogchen every year. He also bestowed a long-life empowerment during the one-week accomplishment ceremonies twice a year.
In 1995, Rinpoche performed the Kālacakra empowerment in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, to a gathering of over 3000, who had also come together for His Holiness’ enthronement of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's eldest son as Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, that included various political and official figures.
In 1997, Rinpoche gave the Kālacakra teachings and empowerments in Rochester, NY, at the request of Ven. Ayang Rinpoche. That same year, Rinpoche bestowed the empowerment and teaching for the Amitabha practice of the Namchö in Berkeley, California. Rinpoche also gave a public talk called "Peaceful Mind, Peaceful World," as well as bestowing the Longchen Nyingthig Three Roots Empowerment and the Vajrakīlaya Empowerment at Biederman Auditorium in Chicago.
In 1997 Rinpoche founded the Palyul Retreat Centre in the small rural community of McDonough, NY, and taught the traditional Dzogchen retreat course from the Namchö, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, from the first retreat in 1998 until 2008.
In 2000, Rinpoche bestowed the Kālacakra teachings in Singapore.
In 2001, Rinpoche gave the empowerments of Nyingthig Yazhi at Namdroling Monastery.
In 2002, Rinpoche bestowed the Namchö Cycle of teachings in Austin, Texas. This was the last occasion when the entire cycle of the Namchö empowerments and teachings took place.
In 2003, Rinpoche conferred the empowerment of the Nyingthig Yazhi in Bumthang, Bhutan, at the request of Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche and the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuk. In the same year, Rinpoche visited the hidden kingdoms of Pema Kod and the Mon area of Arunachal Pradesh, India, where he consecrated many temples as well as gave teachings and long-life empowerments.
In 2005, Rinpoche gave the Amitabha empowerment at Meditation Mount in Ojai, California. That same year, Rinpoche also conferred the Chime Sog Thig empowerment (the Soma of Deathlessness for accomplishing longevity) at KPC in Maryland, USA.
Rinpoche gave many empowerments to the Rigpa Saṅgha in London, and Pagode de Vincennes and Lerab Ling in France, on various occasions from1988 to 2003.
In 2006, Rinpoche performed the 1000-Arm Avalokiteśvara empowerment at Chuang Yen Monastery, Carmel, NY.
In 2007, Rinpoche bestowed the Kālacakra initiation at the Palyul Retreat Centre in upstate NY, to over 700 devotees. In the same year, the first European Palyul ordained saṅgha of monks and nuns was established when a group of students of Lama Dondrup Dorje's Pathgate Institute of Buddhist Studies in the UK received the novice monk’s vows from His Holiness at Namdroling Monastery.
In 2008, Rinpoche conferred spiritual empowerment and lineage blessings at the Delta Hotel, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
In the same year, a documentary entitled "The Compassionate World of His Holiness Padma Norbu Rinpoche", with a narration soundtrack of narration in twelve languages including Tibetan, Bhutanese, Nepalese, Mandarin, Cantonese, English, French, German, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, was released for free distribution throughout the world. The film was produced and directed by Lama Dondrup Dorje at the request of the Secretary of the Namdroling Monastery Office. It was first shown to His Holiness Padma Norbu Rinpoche, who was very pleased with the way it was presented, during the Monlam Chenmo Prayer Festival in Bodhgaya.
In short, His Holiness Padma Norbu Rinpoche travelled widely, granting major empowerments and transmissions all around the world, including in India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Germany, the UK, France, Canada, and the United States. These included the empowerments of the Rinchen Terzod, the Kālacakra Tantra, the Guhyagarbha Tantra, the Namchö revelations, the complete cycle of Ratna Lingpa's revelations, the Nyingma Kama and others. Year after year, with inexhaustible energy and determination, Rinpoche kept working, oblivious to the numerous obstacles and hardships that confronted him, solely for the intention of benefitting the Buddhadharma.
MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS AND SOCIAL RECOGNITION
In 1993, His Holiness was enthroned as the Third Supreme Head of the Ngagyur Nyingma tradition amidst other head lamas of the main Nyingma monasteries, by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamshala.
In 1996, Rinpoche was appointed as the president of the Nyingma Monlam Chenmo International Foundation (the annual Prayer Ceremony for World Peace in Bodh Gaya, India, site of the Buddha's enlightenment). He worked tirelessly for fourteen years to develop the Monlam Society until his attainment of mahāparinirvāṇa. He attended the Monlam Chenmo every year after it was established, regardless of any personal difficulties. In this way, he made a great contribution to bringing peace and happiness throughout the world.
In 2001, Rinpoche was felicitated during the Ganaradhana (Parinirvana) Mahotsav and 10th Year Celebration of S.C.V.D.S. Vidyapeeta in Periyapatna Taluk of Mysore District. In 2005, the Defending Community and Tradition of the Karnataka government honoured His Holiness with its fifth National Award in Bangalore.
ENTERING INTO MAHAPARINIRVANA
From 2005, Rinpoche's health started deteriorating. Despite his weakening health, he continued travelling around the world to grant teachings and empowerments to all faithful devotees who wished to receive them. In 2008, he attended the Nyingma Monlam Chenmo, oversaw the New Year’s celebration at Namdroling Monastery, and conducted visits to America, Hong Kong and Macau. He then travelled to Bodh Gaya to attend the 2009 Nyingma Monlam Chenmo. It was in Bodh Gaya that His Holiness’ health became noticeably more fragile, although, when asked, Rinpoche responded that he was fine. Seeing his condition, his attendants took him to a hospital in Vārāṇasī and then transferred him to Columbia Asia Hospital in Bangalore. After this, His Holiness' health appeared to be improving.
Various long-life prayers and rituals were conducted from 9th March till the 21st. His Holiness Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche was invited for the main ritual performance. He along with the monks and nuns of Namdroling Monastery, the disciples of His Holiness Padma Norbu Rinpoche from India and foreign countries, the Tibetan refugees in Bylakuppe, and the monks from other monasteries offered genuine prayers for his long life.
On March 24, 2009, His Holiness' condition worsened and he was rushed to the Columbia Asia Hospital in Bangalore. Meanwhile, a long-life ritual of Ratna Lingpa was conducted by all the Ngagyur Nyingma practitioners for two days at Namdroling Monastery which was presided over by Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche and Minling Khenchen Rinpoche, leading the whole saṅgha community.
On March 27, at around 3 a.m., extensive long-life prayers were made in front of the throne of His Holiness Padma Norbu Rinpoche by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Dzogchen Rinpoche, the head abbots of other monasteries, the Bhutanese ambassador from Delhi, the Minister of Religious Affairs of the Tibetan government, the Tibetan People's Deputy from Dharamshala, and the security of the Dalai Lama. In the afternoon, at around 3:30 p.m., Rinpoche left to return to Namdroling Monastery and arrived around 6:40 p.m. under Karnataka police escort. All the close khenpos, tulkus, lamas and other students sat with him, and offered prayers, However, Rinpoche looked at them, closed his eyes, and at that moment entered into parinirvāṇa.
Rinpoche stayed in thukdam (the meditative state of 'clear light’) for a week. The environment around his residence and the temple was filled with a fragrant scent and was encircled with rainbows. The butter in the butter lamps spontaneously took on the shape of lotus flowers. The face of the Guru Rinpoche statue inside the Zandog Palri Temple showed the signs of deep sorrow. There were many extraordinary phenomena that took place at the time of his passing.
EVENTS HELD AFTER THE MAHAPARINIRVANA
On April 3, His Holiness released his thukdam, on the auspicious day of the Medicine Buddha. On April 9, His Holiness Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, along with Khentrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche, Chogtrul Mugsang Kuchen Rinpoche, Khenchen Pema Sherab, Khenchen Namdrol Tsering, Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso, and various high officials transferred the holy body of His Holiness to the Zangdog Palri Temple. Extensive offering and aspirational prayers were made in front of the holy body and afterwards it was kept there, where the public could offer prayers.
From the day of the thukdam, for forty-nine days the monks and nuns of Namdroling Monastery made extensive offerings, performed rituals like Minling Dorsem (Vajrasattva's practice according to the Minling tradition), Karling Zhitro (ritual of 100 peaceful and wrathful deities by Karma Lingpa), and Lama Chöpa and made prayers for His Holiness' swift rebirth.
At the time of his mahvparinirvāṇa, monks from nearby Sera Je, Sera Mey, the Drikung Kagyu Monastery of Ayang Rinpoche, and other monasteries, as well as all the high Nyingma lamas who were able to travel there, made prayers and offerings.
On May 22, with the completion of the offerings, the holy body was brought from the Zangdog Palri Temple to his throne inside the GoldenTemple. There, the presidents of Namdroling Monastery along with high Nyingma lamas, representatives from various departments, and the saṅgha community performed the ritual of Minling Dorsem. They also performed Lama Chöpa rituals and other aspirational prayers. The public was allowed to visit the holy body in the afternoon. Then the body was returned to the first floor of the Zangdog Palri Temple, symbolising the nirmāṇakāya realm. It was kept there till 2013, and for those three years served as an object of veneration and making offerings. After three years, on his Mahāparinirvāṇa anniversary, the saṅgha community of Namdroling Monastery made material and non-material offerings through extensive rituals.
THE CREMATION OF THE HOLY BODY
On May 20, 2013, magnificent offerings were made through the ritual performance of Lama Rigzin Düpa in the main temple, led by Tulku Thubzang Rinpoche, along with the khenpos, tulkus, lopons and the monks and nuns of Namdroling Monastery. Over the next two days, the recitation and accumulations of Neten Chagchö and the Seven Chapters of Supplication were carried out as directed by His Holiness Jadral Rinpoche and His Holiness Dodrub Rinpoche.
On May 23, the actual cremation ceremony took place. His Holiness Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche, the 6th supreme head of Ngagyur Nyingma, Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, Tulku Thubzang Rinpoche and Domang Yangthang Rinpoche individually presided over rituals like the Jangter Thugje Chenpo Drowa Kundrol, Milling Dorsem, Rigzin Palchen Düpa and Zhitro Ngensong Jongwa.
Around the specially constructed stūpa where the holy body was to be cremated, about twenty thousand people consisting of high lamas like His Eminence Minling Khenchen Rinpoche, Khokhyim Rinpoche, Rigo Tulku Rinpoche, the two head khenpos of Sera Jey and Sera Mey, and others attended, along with the representatives of various rinpoches, high officials and the laypeople who had gathered. At around 8 a.m., the two eminent tulkus and three khenchens of Namdroling Monastery, along with some high officials, brought the holy body from the Zangdog Palri Temple to the stūpa. The cremation ceremony was led by His Holiness Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche and other high lamas. First, they performed the Lama Chöpa of the Namchö tradition. Then, starting with the preliminary rituals, they performed the main ritual of the cremation ceremony in the four directions.
PREPARATION OF THE BONE RELICS INTO CLAY MOULD STUPAS
From May 20 to 22, more than thirty sangha members continuously performed the liturgy of Lama Chödpa. On its second day, the whole saṅgha community of Namdroling, with Domang Yangthang Rinpoche presiding, made the Supplication of the Sixteen Elders, the Invocation of Guru Padmasambhava, and recited the Swift Rebirth Prayer with positive aspirations. On the third day, Khentrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche, Tulku Thubzang Rinpoche and Domang Yangthang Rinpoche led the shangha members of Namdroling in performing one hundred thousand feast offerings from the Konchog Chidü (Gatherings of All Jewels).
On May 27, the gathering had engaged in accumulating the Invocation of Guru Padmasambhava. His Holiness Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, the two Chogtruls, and the three seniormost Khenchens, accompanied by all the devotees, chanted the Prayer to the Eight Auspicious Ones. From the place where His Holiness’ holy body had been cremated, the sacred remains of his heart, tongue, eyes, and cranium, along with numerous bone relics, were collected and placed on the altar in the main temple. Starting from 8.30a.m., Khentrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche, Tulku Thubzang Rinpoche and Domang Yangthang Rinpoche led the whole saṅgha community in opening the mandala of Minling Dorsem as well as the chanting liturgy of the Dorsem Bone Relic Accomplishment, and they accumulated the Hundred Syllable Mantra of Vajrasattva. Later, all the bone relics were ritually invited to the Tara Temple and moulded into tsa-tsas (small clay mould stūpas). On May 30, Khentrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche and Tulku Thubzang Rinpoche initiated the task of preparing the tsa-tsas in accordance with the ritual of Minling Dorsem, as the means of support for veneration. Thus, this is an account of the activities that followed the cremation.
THE PROCESS OF BUILDING THE GREAT RELIQUARY STŪPAS
THE NARRATION OF HOW THE STŪPAS OF THE SUGATA ORIGINATED
Supra-mundane beings with clear vision see even the three realms of existence in the form of Spontaneously Accomplished Stūpas, the four continents in relation to the four immeasurables as the Unsurpassable Stūpa, the two reliquary stūpas in each of the four continents, which themselves make up the Eight Blessed Stūpas. In the past, when Hayagrīva, the glorious Heruka, subdued Rudra (the demon who personifies ego-clinging), stūpas at eight different places arose as the Stūpas of the Sources of Blessing of the eight mamos (wrathful dākinīs). The Stūpas of the different vehicles of the śravākas, bodhisattvas and the buddhus had emerged.
Similarly, there are eight Sugata Stūpas according to the common vehicles. When Buddha Śhakyamuni attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, King Bimbisara and others built the Stūpa of Subjugation or Enlightenment. The Lotus-Heap Stūpa was built by the King Śuddhodana at Lumbinl where the Buddha was born. The Stūpa of the Turning the Wheel of the Dharma or Many Doors was built by the five foremost disciples at Vārānasī during the time of the first teaching. At Jetsana Grove in Śrāvastī, the Stūpa of Miracles was built by the Licchavis when the Buddha defeated six non-Buddhist masters. The Stūpa of the Descent from Heaven was built by the people of Kosalā when by Buddha descended from the Trāyastrimśa (Heaven of the Thirty-Three). The Stūpa of Reconciliation was built by the people of Magadha, when the schism created by Devadatta among the saṅgha community of the Buddha was reconciled Śariputra and Maudgalyāyana. At Vaiśālī, Stūpa of Victory over Life was built either by the people of that place or celestial beings, at the time when the Buddha prolonged his life for three months at the request of the upāsaka Chunda. When the Buddha passed away at Kuśin agar, the people of that place built the Stūpa of Paranirvana. Those are now popularly known as the Eight Stūpas of the Sugata.
Regarding the history of Buddha Śhakyamuni’s sacred remains and relics, it is taught in the second chapter of the Suvarnaprabhāsa in this way:
The great Buddha's relics
Were of the size of mustard seeds and many in number.
If he didn't have bones and blood in his body,
How could it be possible to have relics?
In order to benefit sentient beings,
He skilfully left these relics.
This shows how the Buddha left relics for the purpose of future beings. In the seventh chapter of the Minor Precepts of Vinaya, it is said, "The brāhmin Drona divided the relics of the Buddha into eight equal parts and one part each was given to Ajātaśatru, the king of Magadha, the Licchavis of Vaiśālī, the Śakyas of Kapilavastu, the Bulis of Allakappa, the Koliyas of Ramagrama, the brāhmin of Vethadipa, and the Mallas of Pava and Kuśinagar. Individually, they built reliquary stūpas of the Buddha and paid due respect by erecting banners of victory; offering scents, garlands of flowers, powders, ritual music, and so forth; and celebrating in fervent gaiety." Furthermore, from King Ajātaśatru’s share of the relics, which had spontaneously increased in number, a portion was later acquired by King Aśoka, who built ten million reliquary stūpas of the Buddha across his vast empire due to his past aspirations and miracles. Again, the increased share of King Ajātaśatru’s relics, which were there in the Lotus Garland Stūpa, were invited to Tibet and put in the White Stūpa of Samye Monastery. Those instances of building reliquary stūpas of the Buddha show that there are unfathomable numbers of fortunate beings who can be tamed by the remains and relics of the Buddha. They also show that there are countless varieties of methods for taming beings. In the sūtra called The Display of Miracles, it is said, "Good, good, O son of a noble family! Dear sons of the victorious ones, the Buddha's skilful methods of ripening are boundless...Some will be tamed by the Buddha's passing away while others will be tamed by relics. Some will be tamed by letting them build stūpas, temples, dwelling places and gardens whereby they show interest in the causes of virtuous actions."
Similarly, the Buddha displayed variegated nirmānakāya activities in the forms of villages, beautiful houses, bridges, groves, and the sacred objects of his body, speech and mind, which spontaneously came forth as the supports for practice. Some of the three objects of refuge were manually fashioned by artisans and craftspeople through paintings, embroidery, and so forth, which generated the fundamental virtues of temporal worldly benefits and the ultimate benefit of attaining buddhahood. Likewise, the reliquary stūpas of the noble bodhisattvas on the higher grounds, and those of the śrāvakas and arhats, are limitless in this world. Even in the Himalayan country of Tibet, there were countless masters on the higher grounds of realization as taught in different sūtras and tantras, who left relics as the signs of their outer accomplishments. Therefore, by building reliquary stūpas for these masters, future devotees would sow the seeds of virtuous actions in their mindstreams by remembering the noble qualities of their body, speech and mind. The histories of the infinite reliquary stūpas built with the great purpose of accumulating merit are mentioned in many texts.
First published by the Penor Rinpoche Charity Foundation (PRCF) in The Great Play of Infinite Merit: The Contents of the Reliquary Stupas of His Holiness Padma Norbu Rinpoche.
Edited and compiled by Ngagyur Rigzod Editorial Committee (NREC) - 2017