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"Lion of Siddhas" excerpt

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"Miraculous Powers"
Lion of Siddhas - Book Excerpt

(Revered by all sects of Tibetan Buddhism as a teacher with an extraordinary array of siddhis (miraculous powers), Padampa deeply affected people from China to Nepal, India to Tibet. This excerpt is taken from "Lion of Siddhas.")

Dampa exhibited many signs of accomplishment such as pressing down the sun, and the emperor and all the ministers of China bowed to him with reverence. He set many fortunate Chinese people onto the perfect path. He built several temples called the Chichu Sara.

Finally, when he remained for a long time in samadhi of clear light in which the movement of his breath had ceased, they thought he had passed away. To honor him in the Chinese fashion as a realized master, they enshrined him in a jeweled vessel and sealed him into a tomb under the earth with a mountain of offerings. Rising from the samadhi after some time, he saw that his body had been sealed into the vessel. Thinking that this behavior of confused sentient beings was inauspicious, wearing his cloak and a single shoe, he passed out of the tomb and, unbeknownst to anyone, returned to India.

It is known that there are still some Chinese solitary meditators who live on alms without attachment, who are training following the lifestyle of Dampa's lineage. Dampa's image can be seen on Chinese tangkas as well as Dampa's meeting with Manjushri of the Five-Peaked Mountain. Present day pilgrims report seeing the cave hollow where Dampa meditated with a lock of stone on the door. According to some sources, Dampa was in China for twelve years. Some say that it was following the fourth of his five visits to Tibet; others that it was after his final visit.

In any case, in regard to his fifth visit, as Dampa was staying in India, benefiting the beings of India, he was urged by the gurus, yidams, and dakinis to go to Tibet. His going to Tibet and the place of Dingri Langkor was prophesied. Though there had been some in Tibet who had had realizations through the impact of Dampa's instructions, there had not been the courageous one who could practice precisely according to Dampa's intentions, so he was saddened.

He went and knelt before the great self-arisen stupa of Shri Dhanyakataka and prayed. At dusk Guru Arasiti came and gave him a few instructions. On the evening of the eighth day, the great Brahmin Saraha came and gave him the Mother Sign Instructions of Mahamudra. He said, "Now you go to Tibet! Strive to benefit beings!"

At dawn Dampa heard a sound from the sky. It sounded like "Partana Maghihi." Though Dampa thought about it, he didn't understand it, so he asked Manjushri. Manjushri replied, "It's the language of the Oddiyana dakinis. In Sanskrit it is PRETAPURI DIKI NAMA. In Tibetan, what it means is, there is a field-born dakini in a remote area in Tibet whom you should make a representation of, accomplish, and spread her practice to accomplish vast benefit for others!"

Then, in Nepal as well, traveling from lower Ley to Gungtang and from Tsang Yönru to central Yoru, he arrived at the Gyashörong confluence. Though he had not found the actual site he was looking for, in reliance on six signs that he saw and heard along the way, he realized their meaning and ceased all mental elaboration. He also knew that there was an auspicious reason he had come there. At the place called Yerüje lived Ensa Cham, one endowed with the lineage, who was the daughter of Dampa's disciple Tsültrim Lama, an ex-monk. This woman acted as a medium for the goddess Künturika, who said in trance when asked, "Ah re nyam re! Best is up there, up there! In Latö, glorious Dingri, many dakinis gather! All day and night it is especially pleasant! There are four wondrous things there that make you want to stay! Since it is the abode of the Venerable Lady Künturika, the people there have clearer faculties than others. It is a place of great wonders!" Dampa went there in accordance with the prophecy.

Dingri Langkor is at the border of Tibet with Mön, a land of nomads, a hidden homeland in an uneven landscape. In examining the area, the land of Tsama to the north is shaped like a mandala of turquoise set with a conch ornament but, having spent a day there, commenting that people from remote areas are in the center, he wouldn't stay there. However, staying above Tsa Nyangen Mepe Pel, he said that there was someone possessing the vows and commitments who had been born there.

Then he spent a day at Menchu in the east. The eastern mountain was like a light-colored meadow adorned with a white silk curtain. Again, he didn't remain there. However, he did say that there was an auspicious substance that dispels darkness there called Blue Light Endowed.

He then spent a day at Namar Gyi Tel in the south. It had a hue of red tinted yellow and the sentient beings were like raised conch mandalas. Again, he didn't remain there but did say that there was a bliss-giving kundha flower growing on the back of the mountain there that, when eaten, gives rise to clear concentrated awareness.

He went to the west behind Pungkar. Those in the west were like dark red-colored rakshasa's flayed skin. He didn't remain there, either, but making a jest with the people of Pungkar, Dampa said, "Let's make a bet to decide who should stay in this country, decided by who was here first!" Dampa told stories of what it was like when he first came there, and by telling successive stories of what it was like, convinced them that he had been there earlier, winning the bet as they all fell silent.

Having next gone to Chab, there, beside the Blue Light River, he found the blue-black round stone with the imprint of our Founder Buddha's hand's own ring finger that, when he was turning the wheel of Dharma in Varanasi long ago, he had thrown into the air with a prayer calling on the power of truth that, wherever the stone should fall to earth would become a place where the essence of the Teachings would flourish. It is a stone that dispels obstacles to spiritual accomplishment. Also, Venerable Manjushri gave him a round blue-black stone from the Five-Peaked Mountain of China that, if worn on the body, overwhelms all sentient beings. Thus, it was a place where there were many auspicious things, that celebrated palace of the dakinis with wings of the sun, moon, and wind called Dingri Langkor, great of wonders, a place of perfection! Fulfilling the prophecy, he stayed there.

At first, no one knew he was Padampa Sangye or offered him their services, and he fulfilled accomplishment of practices unknown to anyone, in a cave difficult for others to find, practicing austerities for three years. Then he proclaimed the secret teachings with a loud sound, making the hidden manifest. Gathering the life energies inward, through the condition of external awareness, people, regardless of region, gathered. All the fortunate of Tibet's four regions gathered to receive Dharma and blessings. Not yet giving many instructions, but revealing miracle powers, some said that he was a tirthika, a non-Buddhist.

At that time, the master merchant Dragpa Bar, in order to test Dampa's clairvoyance, erected a throne over a Perfection of Wisdom scripture with letters of gold. It is considered very negative to sit on top of scriptures. He covered it with velvet and silk and a cushion. Then he prepared an excellent meal and invited Dampa. As Dampa approached the throne he snapped his fingers, saying, "MAHA PRAJNA GAGANA MU," and ascended the throne. As they ate, thinking that he had no clairvoyance, everyone secretly mocked and ridiculed him. After he left, when they opened the scripture, except for the first page, every single printed letter on the pages had disappeared!

The merchant and everyone were terrified and, with strong regret, again invited Dampa and again he happily came. Telling him why they had invited him before, everyone prostrated and confessed. Then they offered him a lot of gold. Dampa said, "I have no need for gold! If I want it, this is all gold!" and scooping up a handful of dirt, giving it to them, all the earth and stones had transformed into gold.

Everyone developed faith in him and all were completely awed. Requesting that the scripture be restored, Dampa said, "It shall be so!" and looking up into space, snapping his fingers, intoned, "MAHA PRAJNA BHUMI NATZA TISHTRA VAJRA," scattering some flowers into the air. Everyone saw golden syllables descending from space, buzzing like a swarm of bees with the sound of their letters, and all the scriptures were restored to their previous state. Everyone gathered there was overjoyed and amazed. He became renowned as an undisputed great mahasiddha.

* * *
More about the book . . .

Best known as Machig Labdron's teacher, the Indian mahasiddha Padampa Sangye is counted as a lineage guru by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He brought the lineage of Chöd to Tibet, carried the Buddha's teachings to China, and is even asserted, in the Tibetan tradition, to have been the legendary Bodhidharma.

Padampa Sangye's teaching methods were unorthodox and sometimes extreme. This transcendent and irascible teacher encouraged his disciples to disregard social conventions, disdain social contacts, and go beyond their cultural conditioning. He inspired innumerable highly realized disciples, many of whom were women.

"Lion of Siddhas" presents two extraordinary texts: a biography of Padampa Sangye and a rare collection of his verbal and nonverbal teachings, called Mahamudra in Symbols, recorded by his chief Tibetan disciple almost a thousand years ago. Both are previously untranslated.
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  • Re: "Lion of Siddhas" excerpt

    Sun, August 3, 2008 - 4:24 AM
    This book is, I believe, hard to get in the UK. Someone kindly leant it to me. A good read - the question & answer sessions, which take up a large section of the book, are deep, zen-like & often quite poignant & funny.

    There isn't much mention of Machig Labdron in the book & it is open to debate whether what Padampa transmitted was Choed as we know it. I'm sure some members of this tribe might have opinions on the matter. I am happy to accept the text as a rare & revealing glimpse into Tibetan tradition & to take inspiration from the precious teachings it contains without worrying about that.

    Thanks for posting, Cliff - a coincidence as I just finished reading this book this week & thought of writing about it here.