Today, on Guru Rinpoche Day (10th of the lunar month), HH 14th Dalai lama bestowed the main empowerment of Luipa’s Chakrasamvara at the Namgyal temple, Dharamsala, India. The first day preliminary empowerment video is here. I did not attend in person or online, as there were specific practice text commitments for taking the empowerment and I already have more than enough, one of which is the Drilbupa two-arm five deity form of Chakrasamavara! Also, as many accomplished masters have said practicing one deity is practising them all.
However, for the purpose of providing a little original research on the Chakrasamvara tradition of Luipa not only for the benefit of those who are interested in Luipa and the lineage history and texts from that tradition, but also or for those who attended the empowerment, am offering the following
- A brief overview of the three main lineages of Chakrasamvara
- The liberation-story of Indian mahasiddha, Luipa and the Chakrasamvara lineage
- Information about the empowerment text that HH 14th Dalai Lama gave, composed by the 1st Panchen Lama, Khedrub Je.
- Then a brief catalogue of Tibetan texts available online in the Luipa tradition by Je Tsongkhapa and Khedrub Je, the lineage held and bestowed by the 14th Dalai Lama.
Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 9th July 2022.
The three main Chakrasamvara lineages and Luipa’s tradition
In the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition the three traditions/lineages of Chakrasamvara that have become the most well known are called the ‘lu nag dril sum’, Lu mean Luipa (literally the one who eats ‘fish-guts), Nag means Nagpopa (the black one) and Dril refers to Drilbupa/Ghantapa (literally the one with the bell) meaning the ‘Three [Chakrasamvara] of the Three [Indian Mahasiddhas]. You can read more about these three masters here.
The Kagyu lineages mainly practice the lineage that comes down from Drilbupa/Ghantapa, although they do also practice, and have texts, on the Luipa tradition. For example, in 2017, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa bestowed the empowerment in Bodh Gaya from the Luipa tradition, see here (Kagyu Monlam – The Main Chakrasamvara Empowerment). Whereas in Drigung Kagyu they mainly practice the lineage that comes down from Ghantapa (Drilbupa), see more on that here. Will write more on the Karmapas, Kagyu and Chakrasamvara in another post!
The Luipa lineage is the main Chakrasamvara practice within the Gelug , as handed down by Je Tsongkhapa and his student, the 1st Panchen Lama, Khedrub Je. It is that tradition am discussing here.
The ‘fish-gut eater’ Luipa : from royal prince to mahasidda of unconventional conduct to lineage holder of Chakrasamvara Tantra
Luipa was another Indian Mahasiddha who encountered challenging women who became their teachers. Another example is Saraha, whom I wrote about here before in Unsung Heroines of Mahamudra. As Dowman says:
“Luipa was a master of the mother-tantra, and his Gurus were Dakini Gurus, mundane Dakinis, embodiments of the female principle of awareness.’ The Dakinis who indicated his sadhana was a publican and whore-mistress, for liquor shops doubled as brothels. “
Prior to that, Luipa was a prince who, despite his contempt for wealth and power, was compelled to ascend the throne of his father. Just like Shakyamuni before him, he made his escape from the royal life. He traveled to another land. He exchanged his golden throne for a simple deerskin and his couch of silks and satin for a bed of ashes. Thus, he adopted the manner of a fully renounced yogi and took to begging for his daily food. Luipa traveled to Bodh Gaya, the site of Shakyamuni’s enlightenment and went to Pataliputra, the capital of the local kingdom.
In the biography of Luipa from Masters of Mahamudra (tr. Keith Dowman, SUNY 1991) it says:
“Begging in the bazaar one market day, he paused at a house of pleasure, and his karma effected this fateful encounter with a courtesan, who was an incarnate, worldly Dakini. Gazing through him at the nature of his mind, the Dakini said,
“Your four psychic centers and their energies are quite pure, but there is a pea-sized obscuration of royal pride in your heart.”
And with that she poured some putrid food into his clay bowl and told him to be on his way. He threw the inedible slop into the gutter, whereupon the Dakinis, who had been watching him go, shouted after him angrily, “How can you attain nirvana if you’re still concerned about the purity of your food?”
The yogin was mortified. He realized that his critical and judgmental mind was still subtly active; he still perceived some things as intrinsically more desirable than others. He also understood that this propensity was the chief obstacle in his progress to Buddhahood. With this realization he went down to the River Ganges and began a twelve year sadhana to destroy his discursive thought-patterns and his prejudices and preconceptions. His practice was to eat the entrails of the fish that the fishermen disemboweled, to transform the fish-guts into the nectar of pure awareness by insight into the nature of things as emptiness.
The fisherwomen gave him his name, Luipa, which means Eater of Fish-guts. The practice which gave him his name also brought him power and realization. Luipa became a renowned Guru, and in the legends of Darikapa and Dengipa there is further mention of him.”
Ayyappapanicker & Akademi (1997: p. 599) amplify the view of prior scholarship in that the nomenclature “Luipa” is related to the Brahmaputra River and is reminiscent of his earlier days spent on the bank of the Luit, i.e. the Brahmaputra. His vocabulary and diction are clearly old Assamese. As Dowman observes this practice was not an easy one:
“More light is shed on Luipa’s practice by considering what fish meant in his society. First, fish is the flesh of a sentient being and therefore anathema to the orthodox brahmin; but left-over fish-guts is fit only for dogs, the lowest life-form on the totem pole. Such a practice, if indeed Luipa performed a literal interpretation, would have made him unclean in the eyes of his former peers, untouchable and unapproachable.
Self-abasement and humiliation is the corollary of “dung eating;” destroy every vestige of those associations with former birth, privilege and wealth, and in an existential pit discover what there is in human being that can inspire real pride, divine pride, that is inherent in all sentient beings. Second, fish is a symbol of spirituality and sense control, and Luipa’s Samvara sadhana, which is not described here, involves transformation of his universe into that of a god in his paradise, and attainment of control of his energies (prana) and thus of his senses.”
It is said that Luipa was initiated into the tantra of Chakrasamvara by Shavaripa, a disciple of the great master Saraha. By the assiduous practice of Chakrasamvara’s sadhana, Luipa achieved insight into the innately pure nature of his mind. This is the profound Mahamudra (literally, “great seal”) experience. Through this, Luipa attained enlightenment.
According to Dowman (1991), Luipa received the Samvara Tantra lineage directly from Vajravarahi:
“Both Saraha and Luipa were originators of Samvara-tantra lineages, but it was Luipa who received the title of Guhyapati, Master of Secrets, to add to his status of adi-guru in the lineage that practiced the Samvara-tantra according to the method of Luipa; he received direct transmission from the Dakini Vajra Varahi. If Luipa obtained his original Samvara revelation in Oddiyana, the home of several of the mother-tantras, he would have been one of the siddhas responsible for propagating this tantra in Eastern India. But whatever the tantra’s provenance, Luipa became the great exemplar of what Saraha preached, as confirmed in his own few doha songs, and his sadhana became the inspiration and example for some of the greatest names amongst the mahasiddhas: Kambala, Ghantapa, Indrabhuti, Jalandhara, Krishnacarya, Tilopa and Naropa were all initiates into the Samvara-tantra according to the method of Luipa. Marpa Dopa transmitted the tantra to Tibet, where it has remained the principal yidam practice of the Kagyu school until today.”
According to Alexander Berzin, the Luipa tradition of Chakrasamvara:
“The Luipa tradition is mainly noted for its explanation of the activities that are based on the practice. And on the generation stage it’s the most complete form, the most extensive form. So there are sixty-two deities in the mandala, and we have both the sixty-two deities in the external mandala (which is a palace, a building) plus the sixty-two deities arranged in different parts of the body as the body mandala of the main figure. So this is the most complex of these generation-stage practices, and it’s what is primarily practiced in the Gelugpa monasteries.”
Luipa was also a poet and a writer. In the Tengyur he has been mentioned as the author of the texts, the Shribhagavad-Abhisamaya, the Vajrasattva Sadhana, the Tattvasvabhava-Dohakosha-Gitikia-Drishti-Nama, the Luhipada-Gitika, the Shrichakrasamvara-Abhisamaya-Tika and the Buddhodaya. He was also mentioned as the co-author of the Abhisamaya-Vibhanga along with the great scholar Atisha. The Padas 1 and 29 of the Charyagītikosha (or the Charyapada) are also ascribed to him.
One of the greatest practitioners of Luipa’s Chakrasamvara lineage was Ghantapa. He had been a monk at the famous Nalanda Monastery and gained a great reputation for his learning. Once, he met Luipa’s disciple Darikapa who initiated him into the Chakrasamvara mandala and its practices. He told Luipa to go into the jungles to meditate. There he was initiated again, this time by a female swineherd. For more on his life, see here.
According to Himalayan Art Resources:
“For both painting and sculpture the Chakrasamvara of the Luipa Tradition is most commonly represented. There are three major indicators for a correct identification of a Luipa form. First, the faces are coloured, from left to right, yellow, blue, green and red. Secondly, the consort, Vajrayogini, red in colour with one face and two hands, is in a posture with both legs wrapped about the torso of Chakrasamvara. Thirdly, in many paintings the Luipa form will also be accompanied by sixty-two retinue mandala deities.
TEXTS AND LINEAGE – JE TSONGKHAPA AND KHEDRUP JE
For the empowerment, the Dalai Lama used a text by, Khedrup Gelek Pelzang mkhas grub rje dge legs dpal bzang), 1st Panchen Lama (1385–1438 CE) – better known as Khedrup Je, called The Ocean of Great Playful Bliss of the Ritual for the Mandala of the Bhagavan Glorious Chakrasamvara of the Luipa Tradition (bcom ldan ‘das dpal ‘khor lo bde mchog lU i pa’i lugs kyi dkyil ‘khor gyi cho ga bde chen rol mtsho mkhas grub dge legs dpal bzang pos mdzad pa) .
Khedrub Je was one of the main disciples of Je Tsongkhapa (c. 1357–1419), whose reforms to Atiśa’s Kadam tradition are considered the beginnings of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. When Tsonkhapa passed away in 1411, the abbotship of the Ganden monastery passed to him and another student, Gyaltsab Je. These students held the post that came to be known as the Ganden Tripa – a position earned through merit, and is the title given to the leader of the Gelugpa sect. Thus, the Ganden Tripa transmission system was established. See Treasury of Lives bio here: Khedrubje Gelek Pelzang – The Treasury of Lives: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia and the Himalayan Region
For a detailed explanation on the Gelugpa Luipa Chakrasamvara tradition, see Alexander Berzin’s article, What Is Chakrasamvara Practice? — Study Buddhism on a discourse by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Tsongkhapa’s commentary to the abbreviated tantra of Chakrasamvara called The Complete Elucidation of the Hidden Meanings (sBas-don kun-gsal) and also a discourse on the text, by one of His HH’s teachers, Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche, on the generation stage of the Luipa lineage of Chakrasamvara (Grub-chen Lu-i pa’i lugs-kyi dpal ‘khor-lo sdom pa’i bskyed-rim he-ru-ka’i zhal-lung) written by a great Tibetan master called Akhu Sherab-gyatso (A-khu Shes-rab rgya-mtsho).
BRIEF CATALOGUE OF SOME CHAKRASAMVARA TEXTS BY JE TSONGKHAPA AND KHEDRUB JE
Here is a brief catalogue I compiled of relevant Chakrasamvara texts by Je Tsongkhpa (Tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa.) and Khedrub Je on the Luipa tradition of Chakrasamvara.
- Clarifying the Hidden Meaning: Extensive Explanation of the Concise Chakrasamvara (bDe mchog bsdus paʼi rgyud kyi rgya cher bshad pa sbas paʼi don kun gsal ba.) gSung ʼbum tsong kha pa(bkras lhun par rnying dha sar bskyar par brgyab pa), vol. 8, Sherig Parkhang, 1997, pp. 417–918. bdr MW29193_FC3243.
- Ritual for the Direct Realisation of Luipa’s Chakrasamvara (bde mchog lU i pa’i mngon rtogs ngag ‘don gyi cho ga’i rim pa tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa. Practice next for recitation of the visualization of Cakrasamvara according to the system as taught by the mahasiddha luipada. Has 7 Versions. bdr:WA0XL9C9C5677BB5F.
- Clear Great Bliss: Chakrasamvara Sadhana ‘khor lo sdom pa’i sgrub thabs bde chen gsal ba. Other Title: rnal ‘byor gyi dbang phyug lU i pa’i lugs kyi bcom ldan ‘das ‘khor lo sdom pa’i sgrub thabs bde chen gsal ba. Sadhana for the propitiation of cakrasamvara according to the system of luyipapada. Has 7 Versions. bdr:WA0XLEA354CEC2773.
- The Concise Completion Stage Instruction Manual on the Great Yogi, Luipa’s Tradition of Chakrasamvara (bde mchog lU i pa’i lugs kyi rdzogs rim rnal ‘byor chen po’i khrid kyi rim pa mdor bsdus rnal ‘byor gyi dbang phyug lU i pa’i lugs kyi bde mchog rdzogs rim rnal ‘byor chen po’i khrid kyi rim pa mdor bsdus). Concise manual of instructions for the practice of the sampannakrama of the cakrasamvara tantra according to the system taught by the mahasiddha luipada; written at dga’ ldan. Has 4 Versions. bdr:WA0XLDA78640261D5.
- Explanation on the Siddhis of Approach of Luipa’s Chakrasamvara (bde mchog lU i pa’i lugs kyi rdzogs rim gyi rnam bshad dngos grub kyi nye ma). On the completion stage (sampannakrama) practice of the Cakrasamvara tantra according to the method of the mahasiddha luipada; written at dga’ ldan with Kazhipa RInchen Pel (dka’ bzhi pa rin chen dpal) as scribe. Has 3 Versions. bdr:WA0XL5D74FD2BE158.
Texts by Khedrub Je
- The Ocean of Great Playful Bliss: The Mandala of the Glorious Chakrasamvara of the Luipa Tradition (bde mchog lU i pa’i lugs kyi dkyil ‘khor gyi cho ga bde chen rol mtsho. Elucidation of the Cakrasamvara mandala vidhi according to the system of the mahasiddha luipa; written at ri bo mdangs can dgon pa in nyang stod. Has 4 Versions. bdr:WA0XLE91386162367.
- The Ocean of Great Playful Bliss of the Ritual for the Mandala of the Bhagavan Glorious Chakrasamvara of the Luipa Tradition (bcom ldan ‘das dpal ‘khor lo bde mchog lU i pa’i lugs kyi dkyil ‘khor gyi cho ga bde chen rol mtsho mkhas grub dge legs dpal bzang pos mdzad pa sogs). Elucidation of the Cakrasamvara mandala vidhi according to the system of the mahasiddha Luipa and other texts. Has 1 Version. bdr:WA1NLM1441.
- The Ocean of Great Playful Bliss of the Ritual for the Mandala of the Bhagavan Glorious Chakrasamvara of the Luipa Tradition (bde mchog lU i pa’i lugs kyi dkyil ‘khor gyi cho ga bde chen rol mtsho zhes bya ba mkhas grub dge legs dpal bzang pos mdzad pa). Elucidation of the Cakrasamvara mandala vidhi according to the system of the mahasiddha luipa; written at ri bo mdangs can dgon pa in nyang stod. Has 1 Version. bdr:WA0XL08D2E16E080F.