Showing posts with label Shambhala. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shambhala. Show all posts

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Mongolia | Lama Gombo | Kalachakra | Shambhala | Roerich Expedition

At one point I got a call from Lama Gombo, who at the time was ninety-three years old. He said he had something he wanted to talk about and that I should met him at Lamrim Khiid, a temple complex just outside Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar. It turned out he had a CD full of photos of a Tibetan language scripture known as the Condensed Kalachakra Tantra, also known as the Kalachakra Laghutantra, or Shri Kalachakra, which according to tradition had been compiled by Manjushri Yashas, the first of the Twenty-Five Kalki Kings of Shambhala, probably some time in the second century b.c.
Lama Gombo (click on photos for enlargements)

As best I could make out, given the sometimes non-linear mode of Lama Gombo's mind, prior to 1938 the book had been kept in the Kalachakra Temple, which at that time was located in Zuun Khuree, part of the huge monastic complex that dominated what is now the city of Ulaanbaatar. In 1938 the Kalachakra Temple (Düinkhor Datsan in Mongolian) had been destroyed by the communists, but a monk at the temple rescued the book and gave it to a man in Nailakh, the coal-mining town just east of Ulaanbaatar, for safe keeping. Apparently the man in Nailakh died and the book was passed on to a relative. In 1996 the relative gave the book to a lama at Gandan Monastery. A lama at Erdene Khamba Monastery in Bulgan Aimag then asked to borrow for the book because his monastery did not have a copy. Apparently this was viewed by both parties as a loan, but the first lama at Gandan transmigrated, and now the lama at Erdene Khamba says that the book was actually given to him, and by extension to his monastery, and he refused to return it to Gandan. So the physical book remained in Bulgan, according to Lama Gombo. That’s why he sent someone to Bulgan to take photos of the entire book.

Sample pages from Lama Gombo’s Condensed Kalachakra Tantra

The book in Bulgan contains many illustrations of tantric deities and what look like kings of Shambhala.  According to Lama Gombo the illustrations first consisted of black and white line drawings and were later colored in by Luvsantüvdenvanchug, the Fourth Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia (1775–1813) himself. If this was true—I was never able to confirm it independently— it would certainly add to the bibliographical interest of the book. The Fourth Bogd Gegeen had traveled to Tibet in the late 1790s and attended a Kalachakra Initiation in Lhasa. He apparently brought back with him a copy of the Condensed Kalachakra Tantra when he returned to Mongolia. The book now in Bulgan Aimag is probably a copy of this book, or, just conceivable, the actual copy the Fourth Bogd Gegeen brought back to Mongolia from Tibet. In 1800 the Fourth Bogd Gegeen initiated the construction of the Kalachakra Temple and it was finally completed in 1806. Previous Bogd Gegeens seemed to have shown little interest in the Kalachakra, and thus it was the Fourth Bogd Gegeen who introduced, or at least popularized, these teachings in Mongolia. The original Kalachakra Temple burned down in 1892 and a new one was subsequently built. As mentioned, this new version was destroyed by the communists in 1938. In 1992 a new Kalachakra Temple was built within the confines of Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar. 
New Kalachakra Temple at Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar

At any case, Lama Gombo wanted to know if it was possible to make a facsimile edition of the book from the photos (402 of them, most showing two pages of the book). Given the low resolution and poor quality of the digital photos I had to tell him I did not think this was possible. While I had his attention, however, I asked him what he knew about the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s stay in Ulaanbaatar. He said that the Dalai Lama had stayed in the Didan Lavran Temple within the confines of Gandan Monastery, but other than that he did not know much about his activities. I doubted he would know anything about the Roeriches but I decided to ask him anyhow. I was in for a surprise. Lama Gombo was twenty years old when the Roerichs arrived in Ulaanbaatar and at the time living at Shankh Monastery, near the more famous Erdene Zuu Monastery in Övörkhangai Aimag, 190 miles east-southeast of Ulaanbaatar.

Main temple of Shankh Monastery

Lama Gombo at Shankh Monastery. The Kalachakra diety is shown on the thangka to the left. Shambhala is depicted on the thangka behind the Buddha.

Later he came to the city and heard much talk among other monks about the famous Russian and his family who was doing a khora around Shambhala. This was news to me. A khora is a clockwise circumnavigation of a sacred place or object done on foot, by horse, yak, camel, or some other means of locomotion. One of the most famous khoras is the thirty-two mile-long trek, usually done on foot, around 22,028-foot Mt. Kailash in Tibet. I had completed this khora a few years before, along with several thousand Tibetans and a smattering of pilgrims and adventure tourists from outside Tibet. It took me two and half days. I have been told that in the nineteenth-century there was a khora route around Bogd Khan Uul, the huge massif that dominates the skyline south of Ulaanbaatar, although admittedly I have never been able to ascertain it exact route. Before the communist era pilgrims would routinely do khoras when visiting Erdene Zuu, the monastery founded in 1585-86 by Avtai Khan (1554–1588), the great-grandfather of Zanabazar, the First Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia (now a museum located on the outskirts of Kharkhorin, in Övörkhangai Aimag.

Erden Zuu. A Khora path can still be seen around the monastery.

First they would circumambulate the wall surrounding the monastery, which measures roughly 1350 feet on each side.  Then they would circumambulate the three Zuu Temples at the southwest corner of the monastery complex. Entering the Central Zuu Temple, they would then circumambulate the famous Jowo statue, the centerpiece of the temple, passing behind it via a corridor along the back wall. Mini-khoras are also often done around ovoos, or stone cairns, that mark passes on highways and other auspicious places. Many drivers, passing such an ovoo, will stop and circumambulate it three times.

Mini-khora path around an ovoo

Just the year before I had done an 84.6-mile Khora by Horse around Burkhan Khaldun, the mountain worshipped by Chingis Khan and now the focus of ceremonies dedicated to his memory. 

Now Lama Gombo was suggesting that the entire Roerich Expedition, which took three years and had covered thousands of miles by horse, yak, camel, horse-drawn cart, boat, railroad, and motor car, was actually one long khora

Route of the Roeriches’ khora through Inner Asia

Apparently the Roerichs believed that some manifestation of the legendary kingdom of Shambhala was somewhere within the bounds of their khora. I knew the Roerichs were obsessed with Shambhala. The several books Nicholas had written about the expedition and the voluminous collection of letters and other writing by his wife Helena all return again and again to the theme of Shambhala. So what else do you know about Roerichs? I asked Lama Gombo. “Well, he replied, “some said Nicholas Roerich was an incarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama.” I must say I was amazed by this. As we shall see, Nicholas Roerich and his circle did claim he was a reincarnation of the Great Fifth, as Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso  (1617–1682), the Fifth Dalai Lama was called, but I had no idea this belief had permeated into Mongolia, perhaps as far  back in the late 1920s. Elsewhere Roerich wrote:

Every century the Arhats make an effort to enlighten the world. But until now not one of these efforts has been successful. Failure has followed failure. It is said that until the day when a lama will be born in a western body and appear as a spiritual conqueror for the destruction of the century-old ignorance, until then there will be little success in dissolving the snares of the West.

Eventually Roerich came to believe that he himself, the reincarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama, was the “spiritual conqueror” the world was waiting for. He soon came up with a quixotic scheme to create, with the connivance of the new Bolshevik regime in Moscow, a  New Shambhala, an earthly realm which he, the reincarnated Fifth Dalai, would play a leading role. 

Lama Gombo added it was only natural that the Roerichs turned up in Ulaanbaatar, since the city is intimately connected with Shambhala. How so? I wondered. “As you know the city used to be called Örgöö, or Ikh Khüree (Big Monastery), he explained. “After the communists took over they decided to change the name. They were still trying cooperate with the monasteries at the time so they went to some important lamas and asked for their advice in renaming the city. The lamas suggested the name Ulaanbaatar, Red Warrior. The Bolsheviks thought they were referring to Sükhebaatar, the hero of the Bolshevik (red) revolution and the lamas allowed them to believe this. Actually they were referring to the deity Jamsran, also known as the Red Warrior, or Red Protector (Ulaan Sakhuis). So the name Ulaanbaatar has both an exoteric meaning and an esoteric meaning.

Mask of Jamsran (Ulaan Sakhuis) now in the Choigin Lama Museum

Jamsran, said Lama Gombo,  is believed guard the portals to Shambhala. Is the city actually a portal to Shambhala? I asked. Lama Gombo shrugged. “It could be, there are many portals to Shambhala,” he said. But where is Shambhala? I wondered. “In the seventh dimension,” he replied. This was the first time I had heard about the Seventh Dimension business, but I would subsequently hear about it from several very well-informed lamas in Ulaanbaatar.  They seemed serious, but at times I could not help but wander if they were making up tales to feed my interest in the Shambhala mythologem, which I was was examining strictly from an historical point-of-view. In any case, none could or would elaborate on what exactly was meant by the Seventh Dimension, or how to enter it.

Nicholas Roerich did not believe Shambhala existed only in some other dimension. In his book Shambhala the Resplendent, written in 1928, Nicholas Roerich wrote, “Lama, tell me of Shambhala!”:

The Lama studies us with his piercing glance. Then he says: “Great Shambhala is far beyond the ocean. It is the mighty heavenly domain. It has nothing to do with our earth. How and why do you earthly people take interest in it? Only in some places, in the Far North, can you discern the resplendent rays of Shambhala . . .” 

Roerich was not satisfied with this explanation:

Lama, we know the greatness of Shambhala. We know the reality of this indescribable realm. But we also know about the reality of the earthly Shambhala. We know how some high lamas went to Shambhala, how along their way they saw the customary physical things. We know the stories of the Buryat lama, of how he was accompanied through a very narrow secret passage. We know how another visitor saw a caravan of hill-people with salt from the lakes, on the very borders of Shambhala. Moreover, we ourselves have seen a white frontier post of one of the three outposts of Shambhala. So, do not speak to me about the heavenly Shambhala only, but also about the one on earth; because you know as well as I, that on earth Shambhala is connected with the heavenly one. And in this link, the two worlds are unified.

From this it would appear that the Roeriches were indeed looking for a physical Shambhala here on earth. They would see signs of it in numerous places while doing their enormous khora through Inner Asia but apparently had not been able to locate and enter the legendary kingdom. But it was not for want of trying. 

Lama Gombo

Friday, June 24, 2022

Mongolia | Xinjiang | Khotan | Rawak Stupa

The Roerich Expedition arrived in Ulaanbaatar on September 12, 1926. 

House where the Roeriches stayed while in Ulaanbaatar, Nicholas Roerich on the right. (Click on photos for enlargements)

House where the Roeriches stayed while in Ulaanbaatar, before it was turned into a museum

While in Ulaanbaatar Nicholas Roerich heard tales about the celebrated Rawak Stupa near Khotan, a city on the southern edge of the Tarim Basin in what is now Xinjiang Province, China, which the expedition had visited earlier: “Many other similar wonders were related to us by educated Buriats and Mongols. They spoke about a mysterious light which shines above the Khotan stupa; about the coming re-appearance of the lost Chalice of Buddha . . . He adds, “ The celebrated Suburghan near Khotan must be the place of one of the manifestations of the New Era. Khotan is the path of Buddha,” and “Khotan remembers the Signs of Maitreya [the future Buddha] over the ancient Stupa.”

The Roerich Expedition had passed through Khotan earlier. It had left the city of Leh, in Ladakh, now administered by India, on September 9, 1925, and after crossing seven high-altitude passes through the Karakorum and Kun Lun Mountains—including18,379-foot Kardong Pass, 17,753-foot Sasser Pass, 18,176-foot Karakorum Pass, 17687-foot Suget Pass, and 17,598-foot Sanju Pass—finally reached the southern edge of the Tarim Basin and the Taklamakan Desert. Nicholas wrote:

Descending the mountains to the sands of Taklamakan, where you meet only Moslems, Sarts, and Chinese, and where you see the mosques and Chinese temples of Khotan, one would not expect to see anything about Shambhala. And yet, just there we again came upon valuable information. Not far from Khotan, are many ruins of old Buddhist temples and stupas. One of these stupas is identified with the legend, that in the time of Shambhala, a mysterious light will shine from it. It is said that this light has already been seen. 

They finally arrived in Khotan October 14. The  Chinese Taotai (senior official) of the city, a man named Ma Darin, and the Amban (representative of the Chinese government) Chang Fu were friendly at first and George was eager to begin explorations:

Having established our headquarters, we began to plan our scientific and artistic activities in Khotan and its vicinity. The ancient site of Khotan, where from time to time landslides revealed miscellaneous objects and remains of old structures had to be explored. We also planned for a brief expedition to . . . the site of the Rawak stupa where shifting sands had uncovered interesting new remains.

Relations between the expedition and local officials quickly soured. Suspicious of the paintings Nicholas was making and the photographs that members of the expedition were taking, the Taotai accused them all of being spies. Their firearms were seized and the expedition was put under what amounted to house arrest. Nicholas was allowed to continue painting, but only with the confines of the house where the expedition was being held. After interminable arguments with the Taotai and other officials, detailed at length in George’s Trails to Inmost Asia and Nicholas’s Altai-Himalaya, on 27 January 27, 1926. the expedition was allowed to leave Khotan and to proceed to Kashgar, at the western edge of the Tarim Basin. Although they been in Khotan over three months they apparently never got the chance to visit the Rawak Stupa as George had hoped. 

Naturally I wanted to see the celebrated Rawak Stupa for myself, so I flew from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing, caught a flight to Urumqi in Xinjiang, and from there took another flight 615 miles southwest to Khotan. It was a perfectly clear day and halfway across the Tarim Basin, at an altitude of 35,000 feet, I was treated to spectacular views of the Tian Shan, the mountain range to the north, with peaks of up to 24,406 feet, and the Kun Lun Mountains to the south, with peaks of up to 23,514 feet. The Kun Lun mountain range is one of the longest in Asia, stretching for almost 1,900 miles along the southern edge of the Tarim and areas to the east. Although the terrain extending from eastern end of the Tarim Basin is relatively low, from the perspective of 35,000 feet it looked like the two mountain ranges completely encircled the Tarim Basin. I could not help but think of Shambhala, which is said to be surrounded by a ring high snowy mountains. Indeed, the Tarim Basin has often been associated with Shambhala.

Shambhala in the Tarim Basin

Well into the twentieth century scholars were still trying to identify Shambhala with some  actual place now known by a different name. Notes one:

There is a very good chance that Shambhala lies hidden time rather than space—as an ancient kingdom that passed long ago into myth. A number of Western scholars agree with the Dalai Lama's opinion that the Kalacakra teachings must have had an actual place of origin: They think that the teachings probably did come to India in the tenth century from a country somewhere in Central Asia.

Writing the beginning of the twentieth, Sir Charles Eliot (1862–1931), author of Hinduism and Buddhism: An Historical Sketch, wrote:

Pending the publication of the Kâlacakra Tantra [it was not available in English at the time], it is not easy to make definite statements about this school which presumably marks the extreme point of development . . . in Buddhism, but a persistent tradition connects it with a country called Śambhala or Zhambhala, translated in Tibetan as bDe-ḥbyuṇ or source of happiness. This country is seen only through a haze of myth: it may have been in India or it may have been somewhere in Central Asia.

Helmet Hoffman, writing in the 1960s, refined this idea:

The land of Shambhala is undoubtedly somewhere outside India, and originally it was in all probability a real area, whereas as time went on it faded into the idea of a purely mythical kingdom . . . Some of the magically embellished descriptions of the way to this mysterious Shambhala rather suggest Tarim [Basin] in East Turkestan [Xinjiang Province, China] . . . Shambhala is described as being surrounded by snow-capped mountains . . . The connection of the Kâlacakra tradition with a strange Central-Asian land, from which . . . the teachings are said to have been introduced into India, is highly significant. There is also at least a probability that the Kâlacakra existed in areas outside India before it penetrated into the land of Buddha.

According to Ur-Shambhalist Edwin Bernbaum, writing in the early 1980s:

Of all the regions of Central Asia, the Tarim Basin . . . comes closest in size and shape to Tibetan descriptions of Shambhala. A huge oval-shaped area enclosed by the Kun Lun, Pamir, and Tian Shan ranges, it could be viewed as an enormous lotus blossom surrounded by a ring of snow mountains. The small kingdoms that have existed side by side in the numerous oases sprinkled around the fringes of the basin may well have provided the model for the ninety-six principalities of the outer region of Shambhala. These small kingdoms included Kashgar, Yarkand, Loulan, Karashahr, Kucha, the kingdom of Qocho, near Turpan, and Khotan. 

Bernbaum continues:

Until shortly before the Kalacakra reached India and Tibet, Buddhism had been flourishing in the Tarim Basin for nearly eight hundred years. During part of that time, caravans following the silk route to China had brought the outside influences of Manichaeism and Nestorian Christianity to bear on the development of Buddhist art and thought in the area. Shambhala may have corresponded historically to the Tarim Basin as a whole or to one of the major oases such as Yarkand, Kashgar, or Khotan. Some scholars have singled out Khotan, the largest and most fertile oasis on the southern rim of the basin. Watered by melting snows of the Kunlun Mountains, it supported a thriving center of Buddhist learning, a people who loved music and culture, and a school of painting that impressed the Chinese and influence Tibetan art. 

Among the productions of this flourishing Buddhist culture was the Rawak Stupa.

Guidebooks to Khotan suggested visiting the Khotan Museum and I thought that this might be a good place to inquire about the stupa. But I could not find the museum. People in the street from whom I tried to get directions were either indifferent or surly. One Uighur woman shouted at me in English: “Go back to England!” I could take the abuse, but being mistaken for an Englishman was downright insulting. Then I was approached by a tall, thin Uighur man in his mid-twenties with shoulder-length black hair, thick mustache, and aviator sunglasses who spoke good English. “How can I help you?” he asked. At first I thought he might be a pimp, but decided to ask about the Rawak Stupa anyhow. He  knew about it and said it was in the desert about twenty miles north of Khotan. I told him I wanted to visit it. “Ah,” he said, “that is a problem. The Rawak Stupa is a Class A Historical Monument and no one is allowed to go there without a guide from the local museum to make sure they don’t damage or steal anything.” And where is the museum I wondered, explaining that I had been unable to find it. The museum, it turns out, had just moved to a brand-new building in a different part of town from the old museum, the one mentioned in my guidebook.  Anyhow, could he arrange a visit to the stupa? He called the museum, talked to the curator, who as it turned out also served as the guide to restricted sites, and found out that he was free at the moment and would be able to accompany me to Rawak Stupa that day. I would, of course, have to pay a fee to the museum. He could also arrange for a four-wheel drive vehicle to drive to the site.  He added that we would have to walk the final two miles or so to the stupa.

The curator is a Uighur man in his mid-thirties. He had studied for several years in Canada and spoke almost perfect English. As we drive northward from Khotan I discovered that he had read in English the accounts of many of the great Occidental explorers of the region, including Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin. He had not, however, read anything by the Roeriches. About ten miles north of the city center the Khotan oasis, lush fields of corn, wheat, rice, cotton, and melons divided by rows of poplar trees, abruptly ends. After a couple of miles of gravelly flats the sand dunes of the Taklamakan Desert begin.

Sand dunes of the Taklamakan Desert

A mile or so into the desert is a checkpoint with a chain across the road to stop unauthorized access to the stupa site. The curator has a key to the lock. From here there is only a track in the sand.  After five or so more miles the track ends and we set off on foot around the sand dunes.

Proceeding to the Rawak Stupa on foot

Sand dunes of the Taklamakan Desert

Sand dunes of the Taklamakan Desert

Sand dunes of the Taklamakan Desert

After about two miles we come to the stupa. The curator says that it was built circa 150 A.D. (Aurel Stein dated the stupa to the late third to early fourth century). It was probably abandoned around the time of the the arrival of the Islamic Turks in the late tenth century. The Hungarian-born archeologist Aurel Stein rediscovered the stupa half buried in the drifting sands in 1901, as he describes in his Sand-Buried Ruins of Khotan.

The Rawak Stupa

The Rawak Stupa

The Rawak Stupa

I had brought a copy of Nicholas Roerich’s Shambhala with me and I read a passage to the curator:

In Khotan, the sands cover the remains of Buddhism and yet, in this place, is the great ancient Suburgan, the hope of all Buddhists; because on this spot the Age of Maitreya shall be acclaimed by a mysterious light over the ancient Stupa. 

The curator was unaware of any legends about lights appearing over the stupa or any other unusual phenomenon connected with the site. I asked him what he knew about Shambhala. “You mean the song by Three Dog Night back in the 1970s?” he replied. It turned out he was a big collector of Occidental pop music. In 1973 Shambala had reached Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The lyrics read in part:

Everyone is helpful, everyone is kind

On the road to Shambala

Everyone is lucky, everyone is so kind

On the road to Shambala . . . 

How does your light shine

In the halls of Shambala?

Were the Roerichs aware that Khotan had been singled out by historians as one of the possible sites of Shambhala? Probably. George was a world-class scholar and translator who had studied Asian history, religions, and languages, including Sanskrit and Tibetan, at London University, the Sorbonne in Paris, and Harvard in the USA and would have no doubt been cognizant of research done about the Kalachakra and Shambhala. Thus it was not surprising that Khotan turned up on the itinerary of the expedition. It was just one of the stops on their khora around Shambhala.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Tibet | Great Stupa of Jonang | Dölpopa

I recently added The Buddha from Dölpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dölpopa Sherab Gyaltsen to the Scriptorium and have just finished reading it. The book was of special interest to me because Dölpopa Sherab Gyaltsen was one of the most famous residents of Jonang Monastery in Tibet, which I had the pleasure of visiting when I was doing research on Zanabazar, the First Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia. Taranatha (1575–1634), the Previous Incarnation of Zanabazar, founded the monastery of Takten Damchö Ling not from Dölpopa’s Jonang Monastery and Zanabazar almost certainly visited both sites during his Visits to Tibet

Dölpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (དོལ་པོ་པ་ཤེས་རབ་རྒྱལ་མཚན་; Döl-po-pa Shes-rab Rgyal-mtshan) was born in 1292 in the Dölpo region of what is now Nepal. He is more commonly known simply as Dölpopa, the “Man from Dölpo”. He was the founder of the Jonang Sect, later suppressed by the more politically powerful Gelug Sect to which the Dalai Lamas have belonged. He was also the first major proponent of the so-called Shentong View, an important stream of Tibetan philosophical thought which continues to have staunch adherents down to the Present Day:
"Zhentong," (gzhan stong, "shentong") "extrinsic emptiness" or "other-emptiness" is a view of how the ultimate nature of reality is free from or empty of everything "other" than its absolute nature. In other words, a zhentong view understands how one's own enlightened essence is empty of everything false in superficial relative reality. Zhentong as a view for meditation practice regards relative reality as empty of its own intrinsic existence. This emptiness of inherent substance or "rangtong" is considered to be solely the nature of relative reality while ultimate reality is understood to be empty of everything other than itself. Accordingly, transient tangible experiences remain devoid of inherent substance as the boundless luminous nucleus of Buddhahood within all beings remains intangible and invariant.
The meditation caves in the cliffs above Jonang Monastery were reportedly used by Padmasambhava, the 8th century Nyingma master who introduced tantric Buddhism from India into Tibet. A monastery was flourishing on the site by the time Dölpopa arrived there for the first time in 1321. In 1326 he was officially installed as the head of the monastery, taking the place of Yönton Gyatso, who had also been Dölpopa’s teacher. A year later Yönton Gyatso transmigrated. In his honor Dölpopa decided to built an enormous stupa. The first attempt in 1329 failed when the entire structure collapsed during construction. Undaunted, he began construction of an even bigger stupa on a different site. As word of the project spread artisans and laborers from all parts of Tibet flocked to the site and soon donations of gold, silver, copper, tea, silk, and much else poured in from all over the Tibetan Buddhist world. More on the Great Stupa

The design of the stupa was based on descriptions of the Glorious Stupa of the Planets given in the Stainless Light, a commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra, which according to legend had first been expounded by the Buddha himself. (As you may know the current Dalai Lama is giving a Kalachakra Initiation in Washington, DC, July 6–16, 2011.) According to tradition, the Stainless Light had been written by Pundarika, the Second Kalkin King of Shambhala. Dölpopa apparently believed that he was a reincarnation of Pundarika and claimed to have visited Shambhala by visionary means.
The Jonang Stupa today
The fourth floor of the stupa reportedly once held statues of the 25 Kalkin Kings of Shambhala. I could find no trace of them when I was there. 
Another view of the Jonang Stupa
On the hillside above the stupa can be seen Dölpopa’s personal residence, known as Dewachen. Above Dewachen can be seen meditation huts and openings to caves, perhaps the meditation caves used by Padmasambhava.
Dewachen, red building, lower center
When Tsarchen Losel Gyatso, one of the great Sakya sect tantric masters of the sixteenth century and also a follower of various Jonang tenets, visited Jonang in 1539, he noted:
The next morning we visited the great Stupa That Liberates on Sight, the temple of the lineage of the Six-branch Yoga, and so forth. When I gazed from afar at the hermitages, my mind went out to them and I was enthralled. A distinctly vivid pure vision dawned in the center of my heart and I thought, “The early excellent masters established a continuous meditation center on a site such as this. Placing many people on the path of liberation, their way of life was so amazing and incredible. When will we also practice for enlightenment in an isolated site such as this?” 
Also see a transcript of a talk, The Legacy of the Jonangpa by Michael Sheehy at the Great Stupa of Jonang in Tibet on July 17, 2009.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hungary | Zsa Zsa Gabor | Csoma de Körös

Zsa Zsa Gabor, arguably the world’s most famous Hungarian, has transmigrated at the age of ninety-nine. Born Sari Gabor in Budapest in 1917, the former Miss Hungary (1936) was one of the first celebrities to become famous for being famous. “If there had been no Zsa Zsa, there probably would be no Kim Kardashian,” intones USA Today. But let’s not hold that against her. Gabor was famously married nine times, once to Conrad Hilton, Paris Hilton’s great-grandfather. Another of her husbands was Jack Ryan, who is credited with designing the Barbie doll for toy-maker Mattel. Draw your own conclusions. The tart-tongued temptress liked to brag that she was a great housekeeper; after each of her divorces she got to keep the house. After slapping a police officer, for which she got a 72 hour jail sentence, she explained,  “I admit I have a Hungarian temper. Why not? I am from Hungary. We are descendants of Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.” Another famous quote: “Personally, I know nothing about sex, because I have always been married.” She was also a pop culture icon immortalized in Dion’s 1963 hit “Donna The Prima Donna”:
She wears diamonds and pearls galore
She buys them at the five-and-ten cent store
She wants to be just like Zsa Zsa Gabor
Even though she’s just Donna next door.
Zsa Zsa (1917–2016): Descendant of Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun

The second most famous Hungarian, in my opinion at least, is Csoma de Körös (1784–1842). He was a full-blown eccentric who devoted his entire life to the pursuit of arcane knowledge. As the Russian theosophist and New Age Fairy God Mother Madame Helena Blavatsky noted, “a poor Hungarian, Csoma de Körös, not only without means, but a veritable beggar, set out on foot for Tibet, through unknown and dangerous countries, urged only by the love of learning and the eager wish to shed light on the historical origin of his nation. The result was that inexhaustible mines of literary treasures were discovered.” Among the written works unearthed were the first descriptions of the legendary Buddhist Realm of Shambhala to reach the Occident.
See Eccentric Hungarian Wanderer-Scholar Csoma de Körös and the Legend of Shambhala.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Iraq | Yezidis | Peacock Angel |Shambhala

Things can't get worse than this: Iraqi civilians are escaping into Syria to get off a northern mountain wheretthey've been trapped without food or water for weeks. Between 20,000 to 30,000 minority Yazidis have found a safe passage through Syria and back into Iraqi Kurdistan, assisted by Kurdish guerrilla forces. Meanwhile, American and British missions have been dropping emergency relief Mt. Sinjar and U.S. has launched air strikes on Islamic State militants nearby.

As anyone who pays even cursory attention to the news now knows the United States is airdropping humanitarian aide to the Yezidis in Iraq. See US Drops New Aid To Iraqis Fleeing Militant Surge if by some chance you are not up to speed on this. The fleeing Iraqis in this case are Yezidis, although of course Syriac Christians are also fleeing from the Jihadists in Iraq. I think I first became aware of the Yezidis when I read about them in the book Meetings With Remarkable Men by twentieth century magus George Gurdjieff back in the early 1970s. Then in  2009 I met a Yezidi in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, where he was working in a carpet store. I had my laptop with me and he asked to see a post I had made about his store—there is wi-fi in the Grand Bazaar—and after he had seen that post he began surfing through other of my blog entries. Suddenly he stopped and blurted out, “What is this!?!” It was a Short Post About Yezidis. “How do you know about Yezidis?” he demanded. He actually seem shocked that I should know about anything about this subject. I said that I read about them in books and had seen various material about them on the internet. After some hemming and hawing he finally admitted that he himself was a Yezidi. He said that for various reasons he usually did not tell tourists like myself who came into his store about this, but since I already knew about Yezidis he felt he could tell me. Admittedly he was not too eager to share his beliefs, but he did offer to take me to eastern Turkey to met his relatives if I was so inclined. 

According to One Source, “The religion is little known to outsiders but contains elements of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and also includes the veneration of the Peacock Angel.” What, you are wondering, is the Peacock AngelAccording To Yezidis:
Tawsi Melek, the “Peacock Angel” and “Peacock King,” is the most import deity of the Yezidis. But he is not just the possession of the Yezidis, he belongs to the entire world. The Yezidis believe that they possess the oldest religion on Earth, the primeval faith that features Tawsi Melek, and that all other traditions are related to them through the Peacock Angel. They contend that Tawsi Melek is the true creator and ruler of the universe, and therefore a part of all religious traditions. He does not, however, always manifest within these diverse traditions as a peacock. Tawsi Melek has taken on many other forms throughout time. The Yezidis do not believe that the Peacock Angel is the Supreme God. The Supreme God created him as an emanation at the beginning of time. He was brought into manifestation in order to give the invisible, transcendental Supreme God a vehicle with which to create and administer the universe. Tawsi Melek is thus a tangible, denser form of the infinite Supreme God. In order to assist Tawsi Melek in this important role, the Supreme Creator also created six other Great Angels, who were, like the Peacock Angel, emanations of the Supreme God and not separate from him. Tawsi Melek was, therefore, both the first form of the Supreme God and one of the Seven Great Angels, which is a cosmic heptad mentioned within many religious traditions. The Jews, Christians, Persian, Egyptians all have their seven angels and creators. In the Meshefê Re, the Yezidis “Black Book,” there is one passage that describes the Seven Great Angels and associates their creation with the seven days of Creation. The text first states that the Supreme God first created a pearl containing the substance or substratum of the soon-to-be physical universe, ostensibly referring to the molten mass preceding the “Big Bang” championed by modern physics.
 The Peacock Angel
One of the manifestations of the Peacock Angel in human form is believed to be Shaykh Adi ibn Musafir al-Umawi. He was born in 1070 in what now Lebanon. He studied in Baghdad but soon took up the life of a recluse in upper Mesopotamia. He eventually became a Sufi, but also adhered to the Zoroastrian beliefs still prevalent in the area. His syncretistic tendencies and saintliness soon attracted the attention of local Yezidis, who recognized him as a manifestation or incarnation of the Peacock Angel. He died in 1162 at the age of ninety and was entombed in a mausoleum in a village near Lalish, Iraq. His mausoleum and shrine exists to this day and has become one of the main Yezidi pilgrimage sites. 
The Mausoleum of  Shaykh Adi ibn Musafir al-Umawi near Lalash (not my photo)
The Jihadists in Upper Mesopotamia have destroyed many shrines in the region, perhaps most notably the Tomb of Jonah, Jonah being the belly-of-the-whale-guy who makes an appearance in both the Bible and the Quran. Christian churches, Shiite Mosques, and Sufi holy places have also been targeted. Jihadists May Have Already Captured The Mosul Dam above the city of Mosul. Lalash is just twenty-five miles northeast the breast of the Mosul Dam. If the Jihadists reach Lalash they will undoubtedly destroy the mausoleum and shrine of Shaykh Adi ibn Musafir al-Umawi. 

For photos of Lalish see Visit The Holy City Of The Iraqi Religious Minority That ISIS Is Threatening With Destruction (allow the ad to run for 15 seconds)

The Peacock Angel Manifests Itself In Many Religions, including Buddhism, and is believed to occasionally incarnate as the King of Shambhala:
In Tibet the Peacock Angel appears to be manifest as Amitibha, the peacock-riding dhyanibuddha who sits upon his Peacock Throne in the heaven of Sukhavati and occasionally takes a physical incarnation as the King of the World in legendary Shambhala, the land of immortals that flies the Peacock Flag. Shambhala, meaning the “Place of happiness,” is a place designed as eight territories or “petals” and recognized to be the heart chakra of planet Earth. In the center of the planetary heart chakra is the palace of the King of Shambhala, who thus functions as not only planetary monarch but soul of the world (just as the human soul resides within the human heart chakra). According to one legend, the Peacock Angel not only spread his colors around the globe but additionally merged his spirit with that of the Earth and became the world soul. Thus, his physical body is the Earth and his will is reflected in the actions of all creatures that live upon the face of the Earth.