Thursday, April 22, 2010

Burning for You

Today is a White Day. The emanation celebrated during the third month (snake) of the Tibetan lunar calendar is Padma Jungnay. Jungnay is a Tibetan word equivalent to Sanskrit sambhava, meaning becoming, born or springing forth. Padma Jungnay represents Padmasambhava's entry as a teacher into the world of men.


Princess Mandarava of Zahor was a beautiful girl. Soon after her birth, a Brahman is summoned to read the omens. She is not of human lineage; she is a dakini of knowledge who has appeared in the abodes of men. Approaching maturity, the princess attracts suitors from many lands, but this extraordinary girl had no desire to marry and only wanted to follow the Dharma. Her father King Arsadhara, was very concerned about this and tried repeatedly to change her mind.

One night at the dinner table, he felt very unusual. Feeling blissful and fiery, very agile and energized, he suspected he'd been dosed. Calling for his queen, he threatened to kill her if she did not tell him what he had eaten. The queen mother has no idea what he is talking about. Mandarava had brought home the groceries. The princess is summoned and threatened at knife-point before she explains that she had gone to market to buy meat but it was closed. On the way home, she passed the corpse of a child on the side of the road and realizing it was the appropriate time, decided to separate the muscles from the limbs. These were taken back to the palace kitchen and prepared with spices before being served to the king. The princess explains all this and then innocently asks, "Was it poisoned flesh? What is wrong?" The king realizes his altered state is an effect of having eaten the flesh of one born seven times a Brahman, a fate endowing a body with magical properties and powers. He orders Mandarava to retrieve the boy's remains which are then diligently processed into sacred pellets and stored in a special cask to be watched over by dakinis. While Arsadhara is distracted with this project, Mandarava escapes from the palace, cuts off her hair and takes up ascetic practices. Learning of her departure and reluctantly yielding to her determination, the king asks Abbot Santaraksita to ordain the princess. He then builds a palace where Mandarava and her attendants can live as nuns and practice the Dharma.

While meditating on the summit of Vulture's Peak, Padmasambhava looked out over the rounded green valley of Rajgriha, at the five peaks surrounding the town, and into the sky beyond the dark mass of defensive walls that snake along the ridgetops. He was ready to begin his work in the world.
Versed in the Tantras of the wisdom born of contemplation,
I do not fear to test the limits of the spiritual faculties.
Spontaneously transported to Lake Danakosha where he had originally emanated, four dakinis of the sea islands assembled. Padma then gives teachings to them as well as to the nagas of the seas, the gods of the planets and stars who all promise to serve him. Realizing he must go to Zahor to instruct Mandarava and her retinue, he suddenly appears in a rainbow of glory, seated in the sky above them before settling in their midst. Padma is a real hit with the ladies but his presence leads to scandalous rumors in the surrounding countryside. Eventually word gets to Arsadhara and the king sends his men to arrest the Guru. Mandarava protests that Padma is her spiritual master but is ignored and by the king's command, confined alone in a dark pit. The henchmen then carry Padma to a desolate valley where he is to be burned at the stake. The materials are gathered, the mass is ignited and smoke rises for a week. Curious about the outcome and intrigued by the persistent column of smoke, Arsadhara mounts his chariot to visit the desolate valley, where he encounters an incredible visionary display. He cannot believe his eyes.

Expressing the Dharmakaya in a form of the Youthful Vase Body, the Guru appears as an eight year old boy whose skin was as though dyed in the purple of seashells, and whose face was covered with a dew-like perspiration seated upon a large lotus in the center of a lake surrounded by ditches filled with fire whose flames were burning upside down. The Child berates the bewildered king, who falls to the ground and rolls around with great emotion. Confessing his sins and moved to express the depth of his devotion by offering his silken robes, five-sided hat and entire royal domain, the Guru accepts for the time being. The king retires to a park with a retinue of friends to practice the teachings and the entire kingdom is soon transformed. Monarchs in surrounding lands hear of incredible changes happening in Zahor. Assuming the country is caught up in spiritual fantasy and collective delusion, they decide to attack. Padma demonstrates his martial prowess and the enemy withdraws without a battle.

The old king becomes highly accomplished before he dies and is succeeded by a son. Guru Padma and Mandarava go off to practice in the Maratika Cave where they have visions of Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Life. They become Knowledge Holders with the Power Over Life, the second of the vidyadhara stages associated with the path of seeing. Arsadhara and his fellow monarchs symbolize the self-possessed ego, solely concerned with exercising power, controlling territory and perpetuating legacy. Princess Mandarava is our own dakini nature, at home in the expanse of primordial awareness with no interest in samsaric pursuits. The king's attempt to have it his way, isolating the dakini and burning the teacher, yield to sincere regret and deep devotion. True to their vows, the dakinis transform the executioners funeral pyre into a Buddha mandala reminiscent of the cosmic refuge tree. Handing the kingdom and a celestial daughter over to the Guru inevitably incites the ambitions of worldly challengers but with the teacher's protection, they are easily overcome. The land prospers under the influence of Padma's Siddhi. Hung!

Having become the world, the indestructible absolute awakens to the heart of life, now clear and unobscured. The alchemy of mystical passion coupled with profound insight into the nature of experience, liberated these lovers to attain the immortal Rainbow Body.
A kalpa had arisen in which the world would not be empty...
Padma obtained life within a cycle that was not empty.


-all quotes from Padma bKa'i thang, The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava,
by Yeshe Tsogyal,
discovered by Terton Orgyen Lingpa, Dharma Publishing, 2 vols, 1978

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