Cock’s Foot Peak (Kukkuṭapāda)

 


29 December 2019

Pilgrimage

Cock’s Foot Peak (Kukkuṭapāda)

29 December 2019

Over the new year of 2020, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche led a large group of his monks and followers on pilgrimage to some of the most sacred Buddhist sites of India. At each stop along the way, Rinpoche gave a teaching explaining the significance of that particular place as well as advice on how to practice on pilgrimage. Those teachings were not translated at the time but over the coming weeks we now plan to make them available on this website.

The sacred sites visited on the pilgrimage were:

  1. Cock’s Foot Peak (present day Gurpa, Bihar)
  2. Mahakala Cave at the Cool Grove Charnel Ground
  3. Bodhgaya
  4. Nalanda
  5. Rajgir
  6. Vaishali
  7. Kushinagar
  8. Shravasti
  9. Sarnath

If you don’t know anything about the sacred place you are visiting, you’re no different from a dog that just blindly follows someone. It’s helpful to know the history of each place because it inspires us with faith, pure perception, devotion, respect, and so on. When these feelings arise within us, so the teachings tell us, we can then receive the blessing of that sacred place.

Cock’s Foot Peak in the Sutras

The place we are visiting today is sacred in relation to both our Teacher, the Bhagavan Buddha, and to Guru Rinpoche. I don’t need to tell you the life-story of the perfectly awakened buddha Shakyamuni. This is where his supreme disciple, the great shravaka Kashyapa, is waiting to pass on the Buddha’s robe to the future buddha Maitreya. When our Teacher, the perfectly enlightened buddha passed into parinirvana he chose the great shravaka Kashyapa as regent and presented him his sanghati[1]Sanghati (namjar in Tibetan) is one of the three robes of a monk. This robe is a large, patchwork shawl and is worn only by fully ordained monastics.. He also told him to later entrust the charge of his teachings to the shravaka Ananda.

The great shravaka Kashyapa looked after the Buddha’s teachings for many years and convened the first Buddhist council. He later transmitted this responsibility to the shravaka Ananda who then became the Second Patriarch. There have been seven patriarchs, beginning with Kashyapa and Ananda. 

When the time came for Mahakashyapa to pass into parinirvana, he asked to be taken to Cock’s Foot Peak near Bodhgaya. This peak is named after its shape—three aiguilles crowned by a single peak, resembling a cock’s foot.

Mahakashyapa was a great arhat who had mastered the twelve ascetic practices; this is why he was able to take care of the robe of the fourth buddha of the Good Kalpa, Shakyamuni Buddha. At Cock’s Foot Peak, he asked the yakshas and all the other spirits to protect the dharma robe. The Buddha prophesied the future enlightenment of the Regent, Protector Maitreya, who would turn the wheel of the dharma for his disciples. The bhikshu disciples of Maitreya will have great merit and as a result their lives will be long, their body tall, and so on. Yet it will still be difficult for them to master the twelve ascetic practices, hence Mahakashyapa was entrusted with Shakyamuni’s sanghati and asked to hand it over to Maitreya when he appears.

The Buddha said that Maitreya would come to Cock’s Foot Peak thanks to his miraculous powers. He would then open the three-aiguille peak in the centre of which the kudung of the great shravaka Khashyapa had been placed. He would declare, “In the past, when the life expectancy of humans was one hundred years, when the fourth guide of this Good Kalpa appeared in the world and turned the wheel of the dharma, the great shravaka Kashyapa who mastered the ascetic practices of a Buddha entered cessation and since then has been remaining here in his kudung. The sanghati that the kudung wears belongs to Shakyamuni Buddha.” The great shravaka Kashyapa would then show the sanghati to all those around him, who would marvel at the small size of the robe. “The sanghati is so small”, they’ll say. “The Buddha must have been really small. The body of the great shravaka Kashyapa too is small. If small people like them could develop the qualities of the training, actualize endless samadhis and reach arhathood, then there is no reason why people like us with our long life, magnificence and great height should also be unable to attain it.” So inspired, they will cultivate the qualities of the ascetic training and reach arhathood.

Therefore, just as the Buddha instructed, the great shravaka Kashyapa rested his kudung here in the Cock’s Foot Peak—three aiguilles rising to a single peak—awaiting for it to be opened. There’s no debate about this point–everyone agrees. Protector Maitreya will show Mahakashyapa’s kudung in the palm of his hand and all the great shravakas will look at it closely. At that time, Mahakashyapa will rise from cessation, the upper part of his body will turn into water, the lower into fire, a rain of ringsels will fall, and he will reach parinirvana. This is the location of Mahakashyapa’s kudung, as mentioned in all the sutras, a fact accepted by all Buddhists worldwide. There’s a Cock’s Foot Peak in China also, but it’s probably related to other great beings and is unlikely to be one that contains a kudung of Kashyapa. 

Cock’s Foot Peak in the Tantras

Guru Rinpoche is for us Nyingmapas the perfectly enlightened buddha and teacher of the tantras. He was born on Lake Dhanakosha in Pakistan and the king Indrabodhi of Afghanistan took him as his heir. Guru Rinpoche then abandoned the rule of his kingdom and went to practise ascetism in the eight great charnel grounds of India. He received transmissions from the eight great vidyadharas of India when they turned the wheel of the dharma. He went to Akanishtha and the buddha fields of the buddhas of the five families where he met all the buddhas and developed a perfect understanding of the dharma. He was then called the ‘second buddha’. 

Later, he returned to the Vajra Seat in the central land of Magadha in India. Since he was displaying the way to follow the path in stages, he took ordination. According to some sources he took his vows in front of the great shravaka Ananda. Other sources, however, say that he received ordination from Prabhahasti. As Nyingmapas we follow the Katangs, the chronicles of Guru Rinpoche’s life. They all say that while Prabhahasti was residing in a cave near Cock’s Foot Peak (or ‘the mountain shaped like the foot of a garuda’), Guru Rinpoche went to see him, took ordination from him, and received the name Shakya Senge, ‘Lion of the Shakya’. Once ordained, he needed to shave his head, however the dakinis stole his razor and prevented him from doing it. He received numerous dharma teachings on the three yogas (generation-mahayoga, completion-anuyoga and great completion-atiyoga) from the vajra master Prabhahasti and many other siddhas, thereby clearing away all misunderstanding. He stayed for a long time in the Red Rock Garuda Cave[2]Another name for the Cock’s Foot Peak where he practised. Then he went to the Vajra Seat. Enthroned as the regent of the Buddha by the five hundred panditas, he remained there for two hundred years. This is the ‘second buddha’ Shakya Senge that we revere.

Where we are today is the place where Guru Rinpoche, the second buddha, took ordination and stayed on retreat. It is called Garuda Bird Rock, Garuda Foot Peak, or Red Rock Garuda. Everyone agrees that this is the right place. The locals have a name for it, which corresponds to the Sanskrit which, when translated, means exactly Garuda Bird Rock. Numerous experts in Sanskrit as well as many historians have all agreed that this is the right place—there’s no doubt about this. 

Guru Rinpoche’s biographies must be relatable to human beings. Why? Guru Rinpoche appeared in the guise of a human being in order to guide human beings, as the way he manifests must be such that human beings can relate to his appearance and actions. It wouldn’t work if this was beyond them and they thought Guru Rinpoche was only a legend, for example. Therefore, this place is very important.


Until today, I’ve never been able to come here. Worried that it might just get more difficult in the future as I get older and my health declines, I gathered my strength and managed to reach this sacred mountain thanks to our young monks, and we’ve been practising the Sampa Lhundrupma sadhana here. This place is very sacred and endowed with powerful blessings. Since Guru Rinpoche is someone who has gained a wisdom body, by resting his wisdom mind undistractedly and directing his blessings he consecrates the outer environment in its entirety which becomes a pure field, while the great purity which is primordially the very nature of all sentient beings – they are dakas and dakinis – appears clearly just as it is, transforming this area into an exceptionally sacred place. 

When we go to sacred places, if we make prayers, give rise to devotion and receive blessings in the context of our practice, we will definitely receive great blessings. For example, when you arrive near a great lake, you have access to all the water you need to drink, cook or do whatever else you may need it for. It is the same when you arrive at a sacred place. The place is primordially pure and blessed, and since on top of that great beings such as Guru Rinpoche who have realized primordial wisdom have blessed it, its blessings and siddhis never diminish or disappear.

So when virtuous people come and pray, recognising the actual purity of a place, and request blessings, they receive them. “How do we receive the blessings?” you may ask. You don’t receive euros, dollars or Singaporean dollars for example, but the supreme and ordinary siddhis. The supreme siddhi is that if you meditate, your mind will become one with the buddha’s wisdom-mind free of concept, and you’ll reach the supreme accomplishment of the Great Seal, or Mahamudra. You will also receive the ordinary siddhis according to your prayers and practice. Furthermore, in this life, all problems and obstacles, enemies and obstructing forces will be pacified. In the next, you will meet a virtuous friend, a spiritual teacher who will take you progressively along the path to perfect buddhahood. If you think like this, it will happen exactly according to your wish. Especially since the Lotus-born Guru’s compassion and blessings are extraordinarily swift and potent:

“In the future, when the five degenerations are rampant, the power and strength of my compassion will be incomparable. Its strength will be as powerful as the apocalyptic fire at the end of a kalpa; it will permeate everywhere with its immense sun- and moon-like radiance.”

This is the extraordinary pledge that Guru Rinpoche made. Since the power of this pledge is completely reliable, without toil and effort “all our wishes will be quickly fulfilled”, just as the Sampa Nyurdrupma says.

Also, during the upcoming tsok, you should all meditate on body as deity and speech as the expression of the tsok, while you actualize the meaning with your mind and recite properly without missing words or syllables. Since we have made the effort to come here today, let’s not waste it. I tell you all this because I think it’s my responsibility, because of the position that I have—most of you here are all monks in my monastery and rely on me. For the others, there’s nothing special in what I just said, it’s simply the truth. I think it’s okay to talk, if you speak the truth.

Translated by Gyurme Avertin
Edited by David Rand and Philip Philippou.

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29 April, 2024: The Nyingtik Yabshi, A concise presentation, new Vajrayana teaching

31 December: How to Practise Vajrayana, in a Nutshell, new Vajrayana teaching

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3 March, 2023: Longchen Nyingtik Powa, a new book available in the Vajrayana section

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