Yangleshö, Nepal, 18 May 2018
Late one night, Rinpoche paused as he walked past the upper cave at Yangleshö, sat down at the entrance of the cave to say some prayers and then, to inspire modern pilgrims, spontaneously began to recount, in his inimitable manner, the history of ‘the Asura cave’.
For Nyingmapas, Yangleshö is the most important sacred place in the world. For us, Guru Rinpoche is the embodiment of all sources of refuge. He is the emanation of all the buddhas of the past, regent of all the buddhas of the present, and the basis from which all the buddhas of the future will manifest.
Buddha Shakyamuni prophesied that a being even greater than himself would appear in this world; that being was Guru Rinpoche.
Buddha Shakyamuni was born from the womb, whereas Guru Rinpoche had a miraculous birth. Buddha Shakyamuni was an ordinary nirmanakaya, whereas Guru Rinpoche was a supreme nirmanakaya – a vajra master who emanates all the mandalas and regathers them within himself. Buddha Shakyamuni passed into parinirvana at the age of eighty, whereas Guru Rinpoche is still present in this world and has yet to pass into parinirvana.
In this world, the Buddha Shakyamuni displayed twelve deeds and Guru Rinpoche eleven. The Teacher demonstrated passing into parinirvana – the twelfth deed – but Guru Rinpoche did not and will remain until the universe is destroyed at the end of the kalpa. This is why Guru Rinpoche is, for Nyingmapas, the most precious of all masters.
Of the teachings Guru Rinpoche gave while performing the eleven activities, the most important was that of attaining enlightenment. Although he has always been enlightened, he attained enlightenment in the eyes of the world when he accomplished the supreme siddhi, which is the Mahamudra level of a vidyadhara. The tantras talk of four levels of a vidyadhara, and the Mahamudra level is enlightenment. To accomplish that level, Guru Rinpoche came here to Yangleshö, “at the border of Nepal and Tibet” and “the border of India and Nepal.”
Chokgyur Lingpa’s revelations contain a ‘Kathang’ or ‘Chronicle of Guru Rinpoche’s life’ that is part of the terma called Seven Profound CyclesTranslation in Guru Padmasambhava. The Legend of the Great Stupa. Translated by Keith Dowman and 5th Printing edition. Dharma Pub, 2004, 61-95, and on Lotsawahouse: The Wish-Fulfilling Tree.. Guru Rinpoche himself narrated the story and Yeshe Tsogyal wrote it down, then hid it as a terma that was later revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa. What does it say?
In the upper cave of Yangleshö
By saying the upper cave of Yangleshö, the implication is that a lower cave also exists – we only talk about the second floor of a house if there is a first floor. So,
In the upper cave of Yangleshö
I practised the great glorious Yangdak Heruka.
In order to attain the Mahamudra level, Guru Rinpoche had to practise Yangdak. In the same way that the maras attacked Buddha Shakyamuni with their magic just as he was about to awaken fully, they also displayed their magical powers just as Guru Rinpoche was about to attain enlightenment.
The Seven Profound Cycles Chronicle says,
In the upper cave of Yangleshö
I practised the great glorious Yangdak Heruka.
At that time, obstacles tormented India and Nepal with great suffering,
To create obstacles for Guru Rinpoche, the maras inflicted drought on the lands of India and Nepal. All the fields turned to dust, and pestilence and disease of all kinds created great suffering for the people. The main culprit behind these obstacles was a naga called Nöchen Gomaka, who lived in the pond, here at Yangleshö.
The practice of Vajrakilaya is for repelling obstacles; no practice is more powerful. So Guru Rinpoche sent a messenger to India to ask the five hundred panditas gathered at the Vajra Seat to send him the text of Vajrakilaya practice, which they did. Our Seven Profound Cycles Chronicle reads,
I asked the masters for a Dharma method through which I could repel them.
The “Dharma method with which to repel them” that the Indian masters sent was the Vidyottama Vajrakilaya Tantra.
They sent someone carrying the Vidyottama teaching on Vajrakilaya.
As soon as he set foot in Nepal the obstacles were pacified.
The mere arrival of the messenger who carried the sadhana to Nepal was enough to pacify the obstacles.
Then I attained the supreme accomplishment of Mahamudra.
Guru Rinpoche says that he attained the supreme accomplishment of Mahamudra vidyadhara in Nepal. That means this very cave – the upper cave – is where Guru Rinpoche reached the vidyadhara level of Mahamudra, the supreme accomplishment of enlightenment. So, as Guru Rinpoche said, he reached enlightenment through the practice of Yangdak Heruka and the obstacles that arose at that time were repelled with Vajrakilaya.
So, having eliminated the obstacles through Vajrakilaya and accomplished realization through Yangdak, Guru Rinpoche produced, for the sake of future generations, sadhanas that combine Yangdak Heruka and Vajrakilaya. In the Nyingma tradition we talk about ‘Yangphur practices’ which combine Yangdak Heruka and Vajrakilaya. Yangdak is for accomplishing siddhis, and Vajrakilaya is for eliminating obstacles. The peaceful form of both is Vajrasattva, the lord of all families.
This is where Guru Rinpoche bound the Vajrakilaya protectors to their oath; it is said that Dakshinkali – one of the four kalis of the Kathmandu valley – became one of the protectors of the Vajrakilaya teachings (one of the four shronamas). The terma teachings mention “the Asura cave‘Asura cave’ is the name of the upper cave of Yangleshö....” when describing how the twelve Tenma sisters were bound by their oath. The name asura in Sanskrit means ‘secret cave’.
A student of Situ Chökyi Jungné called Khamtrul Chökyi Nyima thoroughly researched all the facts about these events, which took place a millennia ago, then wrote a pilgrimage guide. Master and student both visited Nepal and stayed for a long time. They were both students of Kathok Rigdzin Chenpo, a very important lama in Tibet, and a mahasiddha, who had originally visited Nepal at the invitation of the king, whose Hindu priests had failed to cure him of a very a serious illness. Kathok Rigdzin Chenpo gave the king some medicine and recited some mantras, and was able to cure him. So the king became a Buddhist. A few years later, though, the king offered a Hindu sacrifice. Kathok Rigdzin Chenpo was so upset that he beat the king savagely. By the time he had finished, the king was little more than a corpse, unable even to move a limb, let alone stand up – but incandescent with rage. Rigdzin Chenpo had gone way too far. Not only had he physically assaulted the king, he had sat on the king’s own throne!
One thousand soldiers were therefore sent to kill Rigdzin Chenpo. For three days, the soldiers mounted a fearsome attack on Rigdzin Chenpo, but not one of their spears or swords left so much as a scratch on his body. So once again, the king became a Buddhist – he had no choice.
I have told you this story to give you an idea of the kind of master Kathok Rigdzin Chenpo Rinpoche was. Situ Chökyi Jungné and Khamtrul Chökyi Nyima were both students of his and their stories have been engraved on brass in the Swayambhunath Stupa. The inscriptions were discovered a couple of years ago when the cover of the stupa was removed – Tarthang Tulku wanted to have it gilded – exposing the stupa’s inner layer.
It was this lama, Khamtrul Chökyi Nyima, who wrote a pilgrimage guide for all the sacred places of Nepal. And it was he who stated that, for Nyingmapas, who are the followers of Guru Rinpoche, Yangleshö is exactly the same as the Vajra Seat – there is not the slightest difference between them. Buddha Shakyamuni reached enlightenment at the Vajra Seat and Guru Rinpoche reached enlightenment at the Asura cave in Yangleshö. And this is why Yangleshö is so sacred.
Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö also came here and wrote a description of this pilgrimage site in the form of a prophecy, which Sogyal Tulku asked me to explain when we made a pilgrimage here togetherOn 9 May 2014.. In it, Rinpoche Chökyi Lodrö even foretells precisely which years his next incarnation will visit this place. Back then, the text had been printed out and stuck to the wall, but it’s not here anymore.
Is that clear? It’s shameful for Vajrayana students not to know these things. As I’ve told you before, if you come to a place like this without knowing anything of its spiritual history, you are like a dog that dumbly follows its master.
This is the place where Guru Rinpoche reached the Mahamudra level of vidyadhara. What does that mean? The supreme accomplishment of the Mahamudra level of a vidyadhara is reached through meditation. A buddha perceives no impurity whatsoever, everything is pure. Actually, it’s not even pure because the buddha dharmakaya is space-like wisdom. When a place has been blessed with that space-like wisdom, it becomes sacred.
You and I are unable to bless anything at all, whereas it is said that after Guru Rinpoche invoked the blessings during an empowerment he gave at Samye Chimphu, the ground, rocks and everything shook for hours. That’s what happens when things arise as the display of emptiness. And such blessings are inexhaustible – emptiness cannot be exhausted, right?
So now, we just have to make a connection with this place. Any kind of connection will do, a good connection, a bad connection, merely walking here... All connections are beneficial. But if mind is aware of the sacredness of the place, the blessings we receive will be even more potent.
I’ll give you an example: if you light a massive bonfire, just by being near it everyone will feel its warmth, whether they like the heat or not. To like the warmth is ‘pure perception’, and not liking it is ‘impure perception’; but at the level of the Buddha’s wisdom there is no difference because the buddhas’ compassion is said to be ‘all-pervasive’, right? What is that warmth? It is the quality of the Buddha. And that quality is available constantly, not here one minute and gone the next.
This is why we should visit this kind of place – a place where the blessings are inexhaustible. Just by visiting Yangleshö, its blessings will automatically enter into us. So if we can get here, the place will bless us. We are used to the idea that lamas bless people or statues by throwing rice or barley at them. It’s a method that works well, but is nothing in comparison with the blessings Guru Rinpoche can give us! There is no one who can give blessings more powerfully than the Buddha and Guru Rinpoche.
Basically, buddhas’ qualities are inconceivable – we can’t even imagine them, let alone describe them. You and I emulate the Buddha by practising kyerim and meditating on the infinite purity of the universe and all beings. We meditate on the world and the entire external universe, and think of it as being primordially pure, right? So, when we practice in this cave, we meditate on turning the cave into the immeasurable palace of the deities. But our meditation is not stable, whereas Guru Rinpoche’s meditation was stable. And not only was Guru Rinpoche’s meditation stable, it remains unchanging. No-one can affect it. If even a billion mara armies tried to alter it, they wouldn’t make the slightest impact. And not only was Guru Rinpoche’s meditation stable, it continues to remain stable and unchanging to this very day. No-one can affect it! Even a billion mara armies would be unable to alter it in any way or make the slightest impact. This is the calibre of meditation that Guru Rinpoche mastered, and it is known as the ‘vajra-like samadhi’. You and I cannot perceive it because we don’t have pure perception, but if we did, we would be able to see the entire universe in its infinite purity.
Is that clear? Other people don’t seem to be aware of these things. Earlier, I spoke a little bit about this with Dzongsar Khyentse. He then asked me about it several times on WeChat.
Today, Chokyi Nyima told me that Khenpo Jigphun, who spent twenty days here, said that the rock surrounding the cave is filled with termas.
Translated by Gyurmé Avertin
Edited by Janine Schulz