1998 – The Ngakso Drubchen
Erik Meier Carlsen
When I think of the final Marme Mönlam, the prayer of the butter lamp where we all joined hands and lifted the small lamps in an unending chain of disciples and masters, tears come to my eyes and shivering runs through my body. The wonderful sparkling mandala, endowed with beautiful brocade, unique Buddha-rupas and great, colourful tormas, spread blessing through the hall of our Lhakhang, and witnessed that without any doubt, here was an unmistakably presence of the Buddhas.
These strong and deeply touching experiences of open contact to the Pure Lands had manifested continuously during the five days of Drubchen – Great Achievement – in Gomdé, Jutland. In the Lhakhang from three majestic thrones, we were directed through the continual praxis of the Barchey Künsel guru-yoga and the detailed and fascinating development of the mandala of the Peaceful and Wrathful Buddhas of the Kama-Zhithro mandala.
I had never before participated in a full-scale drubchen and never before performed collective praxis with a full mandala of Zhithro Buddhas – though both experiences had been objects of my dreams for many years.
Though practicing Tibetan Buddhism for 30 years, I never visited Nepal – and not until two years ago, I visited Tibetan exile communities in India. The Lamas had come to me – to Denmark and Copenhagen – for the first decennium of my Buddhist life. Later I visited Tibetan masters in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Great Britain, USA and Austria.
Six years ago, I visited Bhutan, and four years ago, I went to Eastern Tibet, Kham, Derge and Dzogchen Monastery for two months. I selected the “authentic”, living Tibetan culture as objects of my pilgrimages. But the drubchen in Gomdé was without any doubt authentic, living Tibetan culture – although nearly all of the participants were westerners.
The Three glorious masters, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Chokling Rinpoche and Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, followed strictly the classical rules and patterns of the detailed and beautiful ritual.
We walked in ceremonial parade around the Lhakhang. Rinpoche burned and buried the “linga”, representing our demons of attachment and distraction – and danced on top of it.
A frightening Yamantaka with kilaya were protecting the doorway. I loved the black cloth with red stripes that all three Rinpoches graciously waved in the air to spread all evil. And I loved the rainbow coloured silk that distributed the blessings.
I will never forget the tight, intimate community in the mantra-reciting group in the corner of the Lhakhang, keeping the chanting up in many hours at each watch, and I remember the feeling of presence of the manifested holiness, when I – as temporary leader of the chanting group, received the vajra, connected by a rainbow-cord to the mandala.
Most beautiful of all was the chanting of the song of Yeshe Tsogyal from the famous northern terma-text “Leu Dünma”, when we jointly prayed for the byin-lab, or “falling down of blessings”, which obviously transformed the most carefully constructed mandala into Guru Rinpoche’s pure land, Zangdo Palri.
During the pauses in the praxis, I tried to write down an index to the carefully translated text to the drubchen. I have always tried my best to transcend the level, where the Tibetan chanting becomes “Tibetan mumbo-jumbo” as late Chögyam Tryngpa Rinpoche once put it. I have learned a little Tibetan and succeeded in constructing a primitive overview of the very complex text to the drubchen.
It delighted me immensely. My first contact with Tibetan Buddhism was – as for many in my generation – “The Tibetan Book of The Dead”. I have worshipped and dreamed of the wonderful mandala of the peaceful and the wrathful ones nearly all my life.
I have had the good fortune to receive the initiation of the Karling Zhithro from illustrious masters like Benchen Tulku Tenga Rinpoche, Palpung Tulku Situ Rinpoche and Dzogchen Tulku Kyabje Pema Kalzang Rinpoche. I have practiced alone the short sadhana, written by a famous Kathok Tulku.
From my root guru Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, I received the wang of his master, Nyagla Tulku Byangchub Dorje, for the Khordä Rangdrol Zhithro, and practiced Namchö Mingyur Dorje’s Zhithro. However, never had I been among a full mandala of fellow practitioners, unfolding the classical mandala of Gyutrul Zhithro before.
The complex team of practitioners in the Lhakhang was as colourful and as varied as the gods of the mandala. Here were old-time friends and many unknown mysterious strangers. Here were a dear, close colleague and friend – and the most irritating people with looks and attitudes, completely different from my taste and preferences. Here were in fact the whole scope of 100 gods and goddesses, angels and demons of the holy circles of peaceful and wrathful ones.
I believe these circles of gods are the most powerful religious symbols ever to arise in this world, and during these sparkling summer days in Gomdé they were present, among the tormas on the mandala and in the sunrays of the crisp early mornings and golden hours just before sundown.