‘HIDDEN’ TIBETAN HEROES: PURE VISIONS OF MIKYO DORJE AND THE HISTORY AND HEROIC SAVIOUR OF THE “SILVER SPACE STATUE” OF TSURPHU: 8th Karmapa’s conduct around his many bad followers, the origin of the silver statue of Sangye Nyenpa, miraculous pure visions during its consecration and the ‘hidden hero’ who saved it from destruction (17th Karmapa, Spring 2023 teachings, Day 11, part I)

“So as soon as the 8th Karmapa dreamt that and woke up, he remembered the melody of the woman’s flute and he remembered Sangye Nyenpa in particular, and had an unbearable feeling of devotion to him. So he immediately began practising guru yoga.  While 8th Karmapa was practising guru yoga, he had a pure vision. This was not a dream, while he was doing the guru yoga he saw the vision directly and Sangye Nyenpa came in person and said to him:

“Make a statue of me from precious metal and when you consecrate it, give your students who have the samaya the empowerment of the Guru Yoga and supplicate from the bottom of your heart. If you do so, I will come and display miracles.”

“Due to this vision, Mikyo Dorje seeing Sangye Nyenpa teaching all these billions of Bodhisattvas, he emanated millions of bodies and made offerings. Then, after that, the guru Sangye Nyenpa arose in the form of a Heruka and performed many miracles and wonders. Many people had pure visions but that was Mikyo Dorje’s own vision. In any case, during the time of that, each of the practitioners doing the guru yoga, the students of Mikyo Dorje had their own experiences and visions, uncountable visions. Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa listed all of the experiences they each had every day.” –17th Karmapa (Day 11, Spring 2023 teachings)

Introduction

Yesterday, on day 11, of the Spring 2023 teachings, HH the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa (after cancelling the teachings again at very short notice for one week), continued  by first explaining the reason he cancelled was partly due to the ill-health of Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche who was currently in hospital.

The Karmapa continued to explain Verse 32 of the Excellent Deeds, on the power of the 8th Karmapa’s pure vision and devotion to his gurus, and how this led his students to have pure visions of him as deities and previous Karmapas.  Sadly, the 17th Karmapa the 8th Karmapa had many bad, selfish, worldly students and people around him who couldn’t tell the taste of Dharma from the taste of a ‘dog’s dinner’ of poo. However, due to the power of karma they were able to get things materally from him, while others could not based on their past karma. The 17th Karmapa gave an interesting (and rather comical) anecdotal story of a monk who requested the 8th Karmapa that he be given all the offerings one day as there were so many offerings. The 8th Karmapa agreed, but on that day no-one came to offer anything except a slab of butter.

This was followed by a fascinating account (using original Tibetan source texts) of the origin and history of the ‘silver space’ statue of the 1st Sangye Nyenpa, Tashi Peljor (1467-1519), one of the 8th Karmapa’s main gurus whom he had huge devotion to. Using a secret autobiography in the 8th Karmapa’s Collected Works, the 17th Karmapa revealed how the statue was created after Sangye Nyenpa had passed away and consecrated by the 8th Karmapa and some of his exceptionally realised students practising guru yoga, after the 1st Sangye Nyenpa had appeared in a dream to 8th Karmapa. This account was different from the commonly told one at Tsurphu monastery, that the statue was created and consecrated by the 1st Sangye Nyenpa himself.

The Karmapa concluded the first part of the Day 11 teaching, on the location and use of the extremely precious statue at Tsurphu monastery both prior to, and after the Chinese invasion of 1959. He revealed how a simple shrine keeper, had rescued and hidden several objects during the time of the Chinese cultural revolution and risked his life by doing so, while others acted crazy and just ran away immediately. He explained that without such courage, reverence  and samaya for the teachings and the gurus, these objects would not have been saved. A hidden hero indeed! It was almost as if the 17th Karmapa by revealing his heroic act was pinning a worthy and deserved post-humous medal on Churing Lodro’s name.

The second half of day 11 teachings focused on the Four-Session Guru Yoga, more on that in the next post!

For more on the 17th Karmapa’s enthronement at Tsurphu see this film here, and for the re-building of Tsurphu Monastery in the 1980s, see here. See also this article: INDESTRUCTIBLE MIND MANDALA OF THE KARMAPAS, TSURPHU MONASTERY: Origin, history, rebuilding and ‘Praises to Tsurphu’ by 3rd and 16th Karmapas

Thus, it is to this hidden Tibetan hero and those were able to maintain pure vision and samaya with the 8th Karmapa and Karmapas in challenging circumstances and people, that I dedicate this latest transcript. 

Music? My Hero by Foo Fighters (the video seems very suitable for this story too),  Stand By Me by Ben E King,  The Courage to Change by SIA and You Got The Silver by the Rolling Stones.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 12th May 2023.

8th Karmapa’s Excellent Deeds and the origin and history of the ‘silver space Sangye Nyenpa statue’
Transcript, 17th Karmapa Spring 2023 Teaching, Day 11
17th Karmapa with one of his teachers, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

“We have had many changes in the teachings, so many changes that, so the plan is to try and finish in the next three sessions, but I thought I would speak about two topics.

The first is that Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche has a very serious illness and is in hospital. I don’t need to speak too much about that. The different monasteries, all the Karma Kamtsang monasteries, in particular all the monastic colleges are performing long-life rituals on his behalf.  I have already sent you a list of long-life prayers and rituals to be done. So I ask you to do these and hope that Rinpoche’s health can be regained and be like it was before. I have a great hope that this can happen and ask you also to make the same wish and do those prayers.

The second point is that since Thrangu Rinpoche has suddenly become ill, many of us when thinking about great lamas they are those who have control over their deaths and rebirth, a being who has control over his rebirth. So whether or not there are great beings alive in this world, depends greatly on the merit of disciples. Forget about anything else, in  order for us even to live with someone of the same status,  if we do not have the cause of being in that same status because once that cause is exhausted then the person dies and so for an ordinary person, in order to have the karma that causes the same status as an ordinary being and for great beings to come to this world to act as defenders, champions of the world, then the disciples also have to have the power to come into that situation. Otherwise, no matter how great the being might be, there may be situations where they cannot stay.

So in recent times, Rinpoche has been taken ill.  My way of thinking for example, there is Jamgon Vajradhara Tai Situ Rinpoche, the great Goshri Gyaltsab Rinpoche are both now 70 years old,  and each of their labrangs and monasteries are performing their own celebrations of that and making long life offerings. However, I think in Tibet and outside, we need to make long-life offerings to recognise their kindness and make a long-life offering to both of them. This was the thought that I had just last night. But I have not really had time to come up with how to do this. We have to think about when to do it.  We could do it on Lhabab Duchen, and whether to do it online. If not that, then at the Kagyu Monlam. We also need to think about how we make the offerings, and think about from the beginning. But I wanted to let you know I had this idea. There are some among you some tulkus and friends, who might have some thoughts about whether it is a good idea or not, please let me know directly what you think.”

Verse 32 8th Karmapa’s Excellent Deeds – The Power of Devotion (continued)

“Before we were speaking about the 32nd  Excellent Deed, according to Sangye Peldrup’s commentary on the meaning, now there are some points connected to this, that I want to speak about. Here is the slide to remind you all of the 32nd verse:

As I said before, within Mikyo Dorje’s lifetimes, he practised the devotion to his guru. So I want to speak about how he did that and benefited himself and others, and how it is related to others. Then after that, I would like to speak about the brief history of the ‘silver space’ (nguku pharma) statue of Sangye Nyenpa, Then, I will give a brief introduction to the four session guru yoga. The day after tomorrow, I will speak in brief about the Karmapa’s black pills and this will be mainly about the 32nd Excellent Deed. 

Yesterday, when I was speaking about it according to the commentary by Sangye Peldrup the main related point there are some people who say, that a lot of people spent a long time around Mikyo Dorje and many of them say they did meditation and studied. However, most of them, forget about thinking about future lifetimes, they didn’t have any conscience or propriety for this lifetime. There were also people who brought disgrace on the teachings, there is not one who actually served the teachings.

Not knowing the difference between a ‘dog’s dinner’ and the precious nectar taste of Dharma

“The situation is that there were not so many good students but a whole lot of people who were just a disgrace, and the main point about this is that the Karmapa himself as he is guiding his students, no matter what mistakes or faults the students had, Mikyo Dorje never criticised them and he never put a stop to it. Instead he gave them as much gain and respect and status as they liked. For this reason there were just all bad people around him, all the students just got bad habits and that is how it was. The main point is that they said:  “people who went to see the Karmapa were nothing but bad people. Other than totally bad students it is definite that he had no real Dharma students, 100 percent there were none.” There were people who spoke like this.

Sangye Peldrup himself, was an attendant of Mikyo Dorje, he was also someone who spoke very directly and straightforwardly. The way he thought about it was that there are so many bad people around Mikyo Dorje and in his entourage was not Mikyo Dorje’s fault. The reason for that is because it was not that Mikyo Dorje has not given the Dharma or the pith instructions, that he did not teach them what they should do and not do. On the other hand,  the Buddha Dharma has this incredible flavour, it is like the most delicious of foods. So the Buddha’s teachings have the nectar of the Dharma with the supreme flavour, he gave that to all of them. But they were unable to taste that supreme flavour. Because of that they didn’t really have any amazement by it, nor did they have any joy or delight at being able to taste the delicious taste and nectar of Dharma.

Instead they were all interested in worldly things, like dogs and pigs choose excrement and urine over divine nectar. Like pigs and dogs, if you give them divine nectar to taste, they won’t be able to taste or care for it. Instead in its place, they would rather eat their own excrement or urine. These days, it is a different matter because people can buy really expensive pet food for their dogs and cats. This is in the olden days. If you give someone without any real taste, then no matter how good the food you give them because they have no habituation to it, they won’t feel it is delicious. Mikyo Dorje gave his students so much Dharma that was divine nectar but they did not know how to taste it. 

In addition to that, they saw the suffering of samsara as pleasure and then sensory pleasures which are like poison or firepits and they saw it like nectar and divine palaces. We could say it is a misunderstanding of what to do and not do. Their wishes and expectations and their practice came into opposition with each other. for that reason there were a lot of students who had bad conduct.

If we think about it, it is because of these bad students in their previous lifetimes, had seen great beings such as Mikyo Dorje in wrong ways. Due to the ripening of this, they have experienced lifetimes of suffering in the hells and the lower realms. In this lifetime too they still experience the results of the karmic suffering. They still have that habituation to acting unvirtuously like that and that is what we call the compatible result.   

There were other people who had some doubts and thought, “if that is the case, there are people who act wrongly and do not do what they should do, and do what they should not, if there are these people who have so many faults and behave badly, why did Mikyo Dorje care for them so much and was so compassionate? No matter how much they did that, they get even more opportunities to act badly and do what they should not. They naturally have more opportunities and work.” So this kind of talk  if it is being said out of jealousy that’s a different matter. If you are wishing that in this lifetime you could have spent time around Mikyo Dorje and had the benefit of receiving all the food, clothing and Dharma from Mikyo Dorje and get jealous of that and you see other people getting that and you get burned by envy, then that’s a different matter, if you are talking out of envy.

Otherwise, for Mikyo Dorje himself, to his students who really liked material things, Mikyo Dorje would give them that. For those who liked status and position, he gave them those. All of this, the reason he gave them all of this, is that since the students were only interested in this lifetime, the only thing they sought out was this lifetime. they don’t need or want anything else. So for that reason, Mikyo Dorje can make that connection through that and bring them into his retinue, and then have the opportunities in the future, and they would be able to plant the seed of liberation in them. Even if there were people who were only interested in material things, if he could get them into his group and plant the seed of liberation, then they would turn out well in the future and that was his intention.

In any case, in this particular phase, if he did gather them and attract them with material things, there would be no other way to guide them to liberation. So there is nothing but that he could do for other people. Another way to look at it, is for those such students, when they spent time around the Karmapa, they had the ability to enjoy the material bliss and prosperity that’s a sign in the past they had the karma for that. So if Mikyo Dorje had said don’t come or stay here because of their karma there was no other way.  For example, in the there was the Sutrayana? 20.29 The Buddha knew that if he went to a particular place, his life would be in danger, he said. He did not prohibit from going to that place, in addition, what he said was great King take control of your Dharmas. It is like that, the students and retinue would consume the offerings and enjoy the prosperity of being around the Karmapa, they had accumulated the karma to be able to do that. So it was a situation where no one could prevent that from happening.”

The monk who asked for all 8th Karmapa’s offerings one day  and inevitable karmic results
Slab of yak butter sold at Lhasa market, Tibet

“There is a story to demonstrate this, you may have heard it. I will tell it simply. It is not clear which Karmapa it was, during one of the incarnations there was an attendant. Usually there were many people who came to see the Karmapa every day and gave various offerings, a lot of offerings. When they gave them, one time, the attendant came and said to the Karmapa, “one day  please give me the offerings you get on that day. So many people are coming to make offerings, so for one day please give me the offerings that would be great.” And the Karmapa said “OK one day I will give you everything I get.”  They probably decided when the teaching would be and so on. And on that day that he promised to give the offerings, the attendant was waiting for the people all morning to come, and he was thinking I will get lots of offerings. On that day, no one came to give offerings. Even when the sun was just about to set, there was a nomad who came, and he had some butter to offer, wrapped in a leather case, other than that no one else gave any offerings.

#So basically other than getting a couple of kilos of butter  there was nothing else. In any case, that is all they got. So the attendant had hoped there would be so many people coming and he thought the same would happen for him, but in the end, he got just one packet of butter. So the Karmapa told him you probably did not have the karma to accumulate to get more than a packet of butter, there is nothing I can do about it. It is similar right? You have accumulated the karma to spend time around the Karmapa and you have accumulated karma to gain offerings and donations. So Mikyo Dorje never said “don’t come here, don’t stay at my place” etc.  These things happen because of the karma.

So Sangye Peldrup says that if we speak directly, “these days most of our students did not even have a fraction of desire for Mikyo Dorje’s pure qualities”. The reason for this is that, we need and want to get Mikyo Dorje’s name, power, to have many monastic students, to do various activities that bring offerings of food and tame demons and pretend to be good people, but then act like charlatans and pretending to be good lamas. Likewise, if we are studying the texts, only studying them for this life, not actually applying them. In other words, they go to various places and ask for offerings, that is what we need. We don’t need the qualities of the liberation of great beings like Mikyo Dorje, are not something we need or want.”

As I said before, Mikyo Dorje’s students were bad and what they should have wanted were his qualities and his liberation., They did not want that, and thought if they could get some profit from him or power, and get a big important name or to gain money. That was the only thing they wanted. Actually, when meeting a great being like Mikyo Dorje, one should please him and practice in the three ways. if you do that, then like a wish-fulfilling jewel you will get everything you want. But it was the opposite, because people only wanted wrong livelihood and they only act improperly. Who would be more deserving of compassion and of pity than that? No one.

However, those people who behaved badly didn’t think they are acting badly or that they are leading a wrong livelihood. They didn’t accept they have faults or that it is their own problem. They don’t accept it or even think it is a fault. In addition, what they say is “I am really learned. I am good, I have given up on this life.  When I do meditation, I am the best meditator. I am even better when it comes to offerings, I have given such offerings as this. Among those with faith, devotion and pure motivation, I am one with great faith and devotion. none of them will say they don’t have faith or devotion.” They say they have given more offerings and are the greatest of students.  So they say this out of pride or excessive confidence. Because of that, they say it is appropriate for me to consume all Mikyo Dorje’s enjoyments and offerings. That it is correct to do that and appropriate and I have a right to use all the food that sponsors offer. This is what they do though. So they fooled and deceived themselves and they did not see the actual situation. They did not understand or they had deceived themselves. They did not want to acknowledge their own faults and looked for other people to blame and to think they were really something. So there is nothing else to do for such people as that. Until their karma is finished, they will continue acting in that way, and there is nothing much else that can be done for them.

The ways of karma are inconceivable, among the students around Mikyo Dorje, because of the degree of karma and merit. Different people would come and it is important to understand this. If you think that everyone who goes to see Mikyo Dorje, or that he pays attention to and treats well, and that none of the people ends up that good or in accordance with Dharma, just to say that  is not good either. People who are saying such things, perhaps  they themselves had some hope they would receive some generosity from Mikyo Dorje in terms of Dharma and material goods. In the end, they had not had any such profit or received any gift from him so they had a grudge with him about that. It is possible too.

In actuality, whether Mikyo Dorje cares about them or not, whether the person acts in accord with the Dharma or not, to find certainty about this, it will take a long time. In order to distinguish these differences, like about these people who are very envious, who do not understand the nature of Dharma and the world, such people among Mikyo Dorje’s students whom he cares for and who are in accord with Dharma or not, they cannot tell. That is how it it is.”

Pure vision of 8th Karmapa for his gurus led to many pure visions of him by his students

“As I said before, Mikyo Dorje himself had such great faith and devotion and pure view in his lama Sangye Nyenpa Drubthob. So when his students saw him, they also had various different pure visions of him. The reason for that was because he had pure visions of his own gurus. That is why they had it, it is not like he was some sacred special being. It is because of his good qualities and pure vision and devotion, because he trained in doing that, that his own students also had pure visions.

So for those who had pure faith and devotion when they saw Mikyo Dorje what kind of visions did they have? Many different visions arose. There is no time to say them all. To mention a few, some saw Mikyo Dorje himself as the Buddha Shakyamuni, Amitabha or Maitreya, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, Guhyasamāja, Vajrasattva, Vajrayogini, Saraswati, Hayagriva, Mahakala and Mahakali, and many other peaceful and wrathful deities. Many people had such visions. Likewise, there were people who saw him as in the form of 1st Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa or in the form of Karma Pakshi, in brief, they had visions of him in the form of previous Karmapas, there were also many who saw that.  Also, some saw him as Saraha, Virupa, Tilopa and Naropa  and other Indian siddhas. So many people had such visions too. Some people when they met him, saw the area around him as a mandala of the yidam deity. In the middle, was Mikyo Dorje was the principal deity of the mandala and saw him in that form. Or people saw that the entire space was filled with Mikyo Dorje, and he was wearing the black crown and he was filling the entire space. 

They also saw him emanating an infinite ocean of pure realms and performing the 12 deeds in them in every instant. Also during the time it took for Mikyo Dorje to blink his eyes, during that short time, they would see him go to Tushita heaven and teach the gods Dharma. Or they would see him riding a lion in the sky, or  wearing golden silk and levitating in the sky and shining infinite rays of light. Many such visions arose. These  visions arose for many students, not one or two, who in their shared perceptions would see his body as a mass of white light, just shining rays of light. Or see his hair as being really dark blue, or red light coming from between in his eyebrows and dissolving into their own and great bliss arising from it. They would see him with the deity form and emanating many forms from one.   Many people saw these visions.

In brief, what Sangye Peldrup says is that many people said they had such pure visions of Mikyo Dorje. Some are possibly true, and some the way they tell it is hard to decide if it is true or not. Even if it is true whether having that vision is going to become the path to enlightenment or not is difficult to say.  However, it is said that everyone who has connections with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas there is no karma that is without reason or point. Thus, we have to have conviction that it will lead us to the path of omniscience, whether the vision is really true or no) t. Some are true and some are telling lies or they are sick, it is possible. In brief, Mikyo Dorje’s students has many pure visions.”

The origin and consecration of the ‘silver space statue’ (Ngulku Barnangwa) of 1st Sangye Nyenpa

“Now, I will talk a bit about the statues of Sangye Nyenpa called ‘the silver space statue’ (in Tibetan: Ngulku Barnangwa). This has a connection to the Verse 32 in the Excellent Deeds.

“Here are two photos of the statue, one is dressed in robes and one is without robes, and dressed in just silver. When you see the one in only silver you can see that it is actually made of silver. During the time of Mikyo Dorje and the 9th Karmapa, Wangchug Dorje, in the Great Karma Encampment, there were not only some great artists and painters but also some great silversmiths and statue makers. T he most famous statue maker, said to be an emanation of Mikyo Dorje,  called Nangso Sidey.  During the Karmapa, Wangchug Dorje, the main master statue maker was called Karma Rinchen.

They made most of the statues out of silver, I think. I will speak about this later if there is time. In any case the ‘silver space statue’ is the main sacred statue in Tsurphu monastery.  When they were constructing the statue, they originally they planned its creation, and then after it had been made, during the consecration of it there were many amazing events. These are described in a secret autobiography text in Mikyo Dorje’s Collected Works.”

Secret Liberation-Story in 8th Karmapa’s Collected Works – woman appears in a dream
Sealed Secret Liberation Story the Miracles Displayed during the Master and Disciple during the Consecration of the statue of Lord Sangye Nyenpa

“The Sealed Secret Liberation Story the Miracles Displayed during the Master and Disciple during the Consecration of the statue of Lord Sangye Nyenpa (Tibetan short form: Kagyama), that is the title of the text. This describes how he initially developed the plan to make the statue and how it was built and the many wonders and miracles that occurred. This Sangye Nyenpa statue is also described to a certain degree in the Feast For Scholars by Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa. The clearest however, is this secret liberation story, Kagyama. within that, there are these verses. I will read them. 

The concise meaning is in the Bird year, the bird year here is probably 1537, the fire-bird year when Mikyo Dorje was 31 years old, and 18 years after Sangye Nyenpa had passed away, I think. So on the full moon day of the 8th month, Mikyo Dorje had a dream, in which a woman wore a robe of red silk and garland of flowers around her neck and was playing a flute, and through the sound of it she said: “you should go to Nepal and that there is a wisdom dakini wearing leaves who will care of you.”  That was the dream Mikyo Dorje had.

So as soon as he dreamt that and woke up, he remembered the melody of the flute and because of that he remembered Sangye Nyenpa in particular, and had an unbearable feeling of devotion to him. So he immediately began practising guru yoga.  While he was practising guru yoga, he had a pure vision. This was not a dream, while he was doing the guru yoga it was like he saw the vision directly and that Sangye Nyenpa came in person and said to him,

“Make a statue of me from precious metal and when you consecrate it, give your students who have the samaya the empowerment of the Guru Yoga and supplicate from the bottom of your heart. If you do so, I will come and display miracles.”

That is the promise, or commitment Sangye Nyenpa made. Thus, Mikyo Dorje made the statue out of the precious substance of silver. That is the reason why he thought to build such a statue. 

Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa also describes this quite clearly in his Feast For Scholars. What he says is that it was cast from silver and was one cubit in height and was an extremely fine statue. Very well polished and smooth. So he describes it like that. The person who created the eyes, was not the greatest artist. It is not the easiest, so they did not have a good person to do the eyes, it we talk about it frankly, it was kind of ruined or wasted. In any case, even though the eyes were not so great, it was such a beautiful statue, and in the past, there used to be a throne with a backdrop that was decorated by many gem stones. The statue sat on top of that throne. So, Mikyo Dorje’s own pure vision Sangye Nyenpa told him to make the statue and consecrate it through guru yoga and when you do this, I will come and display miracles.

Consecrating the statue with guru yoga practice and pure visions and miracles of 8th Karmapa, Sangye Nyenpa and the guru yoga practitioners
8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje with teacher 1st Sangye Nyenpa

So they consecrated it with a guru yoga. The consecration was at a place called Tashi Jang. The people involved in it were not just ordinary people, they picked people among Mikyo Dorje’s students they took Gelong KunZangwa, Drugpa Yum and Jangpo Gelong. These are people who were definitely irreversible Bodhisattvas, who had realisations and accomplishments, and there were about ten of them. They began to do the guru yoga and spent over a week doing the consecration. Every day they did about four sessions. In the evening session, Mikyo Dorje himself would also come. They spent over seven days practising the guru yoga.

After the seven days, Mikyo Dorje had pure perceptions and the others also had many different pure visions and perceptions. I cannot say each of them they had. In general, Mikyo Dorje had the idea that he had gone to a southern pure realm called Nyingpo Dawa, and there he saw Sangye Nyenpa Drubthob had awakened to Buddhahood, and was the Tathagata Brahmatavajra and he was teaching billions of Bodhisattvas the Dharma. Due to this vision, Mikyo Dorje seeing Sangye Nyenpa teaching all these billions of Bodhisattvas, he emanated millions of bodies and made offerings. Then, after that, the guru Sangye Nyenpa arose in the form of a Heruka and performed many miracles and wonders. Many people had pure visions but that was Mikyo Dorje’s own vision. In any case, during the time of that, each of the practitioners doing the guru yoga, the students of Mikyo Dorje had their own experiences and visions, uncountable visions.

Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa listed all of the experiences they each had every day, and that Mikyo Dorje himself wrote these down, that is also what Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa wrote. Generally, he 8th Karmapa’s visions were different from others, and he had pure perception different from others. He had really particular experiences related to the six yogas and taught most of the practitioners in the Yangriwa and the Zurriwa and he taught each of them individually. Generally, if there are hundred people, one would not teach each person a different visualisation. However, 8th Karmapa would teach various visualisations to each one of them. 

At that time, Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa was also like a teaching assistant for Mikyo Dorje. After 8th Karmapa had given the main teaching, Pawo would go and give individual instructions and review sessions. Because Pawo was the teacher and review leader, he wrote down the experiences that each participant had and showed them directly to Mikyo Dorje. So these instructions and the visions and things people had seen and experienced were written down. If anyone had seen them, people might think other lama’s liberation-Stories were like a  joke in comparison, as they had far more amazing, awesome appearances, experiences and realisations. There were many experiences like that.

However, if we look at this situation from one perspective, if you tell unreceptive people secrets there is an offence in that. The second point is that Mikyo Dorje’s students were primarily people who hid their own qualities, they were hidden yogis. They never told anyone they had such accomplishments or high realisations, they never showed that to anyone. Mikyo Dorje himself did everything he could to hide or conceal his qualities from other people. They thought that if other people saw and read what Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa had written down about all these miraculous events, then it might harm the meditation practice of Mikyo Dorje and his disciples. So they did not show them off to others. They used them as scrolls to fill the statues so they would not become widely known. Yet, if we looked at them, then actually people would be astounded and amazed at the visions and experiences compared to the liberation stories of past masters which might seem like a joke. They were nothing compared to these experiences. Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa said this directly.

In any case, in this secret liberation story it says that Mikyo Dorje and the practitioners doing the guru yoga sadhana had may different perceptions of the 1st Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, Pagmo Drupa  and other Kagyu gurus, the Bhagavan Buddha and likewise, Chakrasamvara with consort, father and mother, Mahakala and Mahakali and also Sangye Nyenpa. There is a fairly complete description are recorded in this. Not all but most of them. So I think also, the visualisations for the four-session guru yoga that we do these days, some of them may have come from the experiences that those practitioners had during the consecration, they were incorporated as visualisations.”

The use and rescue of the statue by real-life hero Churing Lodro at Tshurphu monastery

“What the old monks from Tsurphu relate is that the ‘silver space statue’ was consecrated by Sangye Nyenpa himself. When he did that, it levitated into space and stayed there for seven days, and that is why they called it the ‘silver space statue’. They say that. That is one account, however it is very clear from the authoritative histories, as I said before, that when the statue was created and consecrated it was after Sangye Nyenpa had passed away. He was not physically present when it was created. Nor have I seen anything in the sources about the statue levitating for seven days. In any case, during the consecration, Mikyo Dorje and the practitioners had many experiences and visions and this is recorded in the secret liberation-story, Kagyama. In any case, the ‘silver space statue’ is very important. 

When we talk about the four main sacred objects of the Karma great encampment, this is probably one of those four objects. In the past in Tibet, whenever anyone living or deceased was brought to see the statue and shown it, it was said that they would not go to the lower realms. So until 1959, the statue was kept in one of the many residences and this was called the Dharma Expanse Palace (Choying Podrang) Residence quarters.

Later, after the Cultural Revolution, those quarters were destroyed but it was kept in the Tsurphu main shrine room, in a silver case. The practice in the past at Tsurphu was that, if people came to visit the statue, the sponsors would request the monastery, then the chant master or assistant chant master, they would bring the statue on a cushion. So there would be two horses one for the statue and one for the person protecting the statue,  the person on the back horse would carry the case of the statue. So, they would go to the person, whether living or dead, and would bring the statue there and open the case and put offerings in front of it, and then they would recite the four-session guru yoga and so on. The sponsor would ask for whatever requests they had. Then they had to bring it back to the monastery the very same day.  It was not allowed to stay out of the monastery overnight or longer than a day.

Likewise, at Tsurphu there was also a charnel ground, people would bring the remains of the corpses and lamas who had finished the three year retreat and other monks would go there and they would also bring the silver statue and recite the four-session guru yoga. Then they would bring it back to the monastery. That was the practice before 1959.”

17th Karmapa at Tsurphu and meeting the heroic saviour of it from loss and destruction
17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje at Tsurphu Monastery

“After 1959, the most important object at Tsurphu is the silver statue, it was not destroyed during the Cultural revolution. There was a Mahakala shrine room, and there was a person who served and looked after it (gonyog), he was called Gonyog Lodro. He was probably from Gapa, I think. From a small age he would go to Tsurphu and he was like the assistant shrine keeper (Gonyog) in the Mahakala shrine room. During the cultural revolution, he was able to secrete out and hide many of the sacred objects. Then during the 80s, when the political situation became a little bit more relaxed, then he brought these sacred objects he had hidden back to Tsurphu and gave them to Drupon Dechen Rinpoche who was absolutely delighted when he saw them.

So later, he was given the position of the Churing, the big monastery administrator and so everyone called him Churing Lodro. When I was at Tsurphu monastery, I would often see him and he would tell me all sorts of stories about old times and about how he hid the objects during the cultural revolution. He had a lot to say and I really enjoyed listening to him. Generally, there were quite a few people who did not like Churing Lodro, but when I think about it now, regardless of how much education and knowledge he had, he definitely was someone with faith and samaya for the teachings and the gurus. How do we know this? Because during such a difficult time of the cultural revolution. he risked his life to hide the sacred objects. If he had been found out, he would have been in great danger, at such a dangerous time. So for him to think to do this, shows someone who has real ‘backbone’ and real courage. Most people at that time became basically crazy. Many people ran off with the people destroying the monasteries, not only that, they competed to see who could be first to get away. Many people behaved like that.

That is about the silver space statue. So in the future, if any of you are able to go to Tsurphu monastery to visit it, it is in the shrine room there, I am not sure exactly where it is now, but it was there in the past. If you ask the shrine master, please show me and give me the empowerment then he will take it out and put it on your head. But you have to know this and ask for the empowerment from the silver space statue. Otherwise, if you just go and circumambulate the shrine hall once you will not get to see it. Now I will speak about the four-session guru yoga.”

To be continued….

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