This particular Wang took place recently in Punakha from the 27th December 2012 – 10th January 2013 and was bestowed by the Je Khenpo (the Chief Abbott of the Central Monk Body of Bhutan).
Close to 200,000 devotees (over a ¼ of the population of Bhutan) congregated to receive the blessing including the Royal family, Government dignitaries and disciples from as far away as Taiwan, Sikkim, Nepal, Ladakh and many other nations. Over 7000 monks and nuns were in attendance.
Given that the population of the Punakha valley is normally 20,000 this was a phenomenal influx of people, which was a boon for the local economy but also placed enormous pressure on the local infrastructure such as the sewerage systems and water. According to Lama Namgay, however, everyone managed to cope extremely well given the conditions and was grateful for such a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
All the monks from Phajoding attended. Lama Namgay arranged a bus to ferry them to Punakha and organised their accommodation at a traditional farmhouse, offered free of charge by a local monk. He also brought all the rice and vegetables from Thimphu to feed them for the entire duration of the teachings. This was lucky, since the price of food, accommodation and transport had tripled as a result of the captive audience! The normal taxi fare from Thimphu to Punakha is 200ng ($4 USD) however during the Wang it escalated to 700ng ($14 USD).
What is a Wang?
Wang (pronounced wong) is the Tibetan word for empowerment or initiation, which in essence means ‘power’.The Wang takes the form of a ceremony in which the Buddhist master places a disciple in touch with a particular tantric Deity and empowers him to recite the Deity’s mantra, visualize him/herself as the Deity and meditate on the enlightened qualities of the Deity’s mind for the purpose of achieving the mind of enlightenment. Only a qualified Buddhist master can transmit the Wang.
The benefits of receiving the Wang are manifold. By merely hearing and having the motivation to attend an empowerment creates the causes and conditions to purify defilements and accumulate merit. It also increases one’s chances of achieving enlightenment or Buddhahood, in one lifetime.
In Buddhism there are three main paths (or Yanas) – Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Buddha taught these different paths, as he did not want followers to adhere dogmatically to one particular doctrine. Rather, he encouraged people to question what he taught and decide on which path to follow, depending on their level of development and individual interpretation.
In order to practice the Vajrayana tradition, one has to receive the Wang (empowerment), Lung (oral transmissions) and Tri (Instructions on how to practice). This Vajra tradition involves the process of realizing our inherent Buddha nature through the visualization of ourselves as the Deity and practicing sacred meditations. Disciples may choose to take on different levels of commitment. For example, a person who maintains the commitment to conscientiously practice the meditations and visualizations will achieve greater results than a person who receives the Wang simply as a blessing.
Given the Pel Dechhog Khorlo Dompa is a major Wang, numerous initiations and instructions were given by the Je Khenpo but since these instructions are considered very sacred and secret, Lama Namgay will not be offering a detailed explanation here.
What he did say was that the minds of most people were unable to grasp the totality of the Wang since “the vessel (the mind) must be made of silver in order to receive the milk of the White Mountain lion or else it will break”. So I guess most of us don’t have a silver vessel for the mind…. but those who were motivated to attend the empowerment (or even listen to it on BBS) can look forward to accrued benefits having planted the seed which (given the right conditions in the future) could quite possibly transform our minds into that silver vessel of Buddhahood.
What is the significance of this particular Wang?
Pel Dechhog Khorlo Dompa is the main deity (yidam) in the Drukpa Kagyu tradition and the empowerment is thus known as the mother tantra. Within the context of emptiness it is the embodiment of the ultimate truth represented by Vajradhara (Cheku Dorji Chang).
Merely hearing such a powerful empowerment has the potential to purify ones defilements and be a cause for the accumulation of great merit.
All the rituals in the empowerment serve to temporarily transform our normal way of perceiving reality. For instance, when incense is burned, it transforms our normal perception of smell. When music is performed, it transforms our normal perception of sound etc. The various instructions on meditation serve to cultivate an aspect of the enlightened mind.
Monks and nuns who go on to further tantric practice and instructions develop a clear light mind and this is when this Wang is very powerful.
An unconditional act of wisdom and compassion
On the last day of the gathering, the Je Khenpo explained the existence of the 6 realms of Samsara (realms which experience the uncontrollable forces of recurring death and rebirth; bringing many problems and sufferings). These realms comprise the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, the animal realm, the human realm, the asura realm and the sura realm.
The Je Khenpo mentioned that our prayers and visualizations can only marginally affect the lower two realms and our physical assistance and prayers towards animals can help in liberating them from Samsara by only 1%. Escaping the lower realms largely depends on the expiration or ‘burning off’ of the mind’s negative karma. So in this context he urged everyone to pray and visualize and do everything possible to help fellow human beings who were suffering from physical, emotional or spiritual hardships. Doing so will generate great benefit and positive karma for the giver and the receiver. Compassion and altruism being the key drivers that contribute to ones spiritual development.
The Je Khenpo then shared his worldly riches offering $200,000 USD to buy a heart machine (echocardiogram) for the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, $70,000 USD to buy a kidney dialysis machine, and $10,000 USD to the Mongar regional referral hospital in the remote east of Bhutan for bus fares for the patients and their next of kin who are unable to come to Thimphu for treatment due to income poverty.
To Lama Namgay, the Je Khenpo is “a very precious and rare jewel”
“He renounced everything. Offered empowerments and teachings to us and gave all of his riches to others but he is very happy”.
“Some people are billionaires however are unable to offer a cup of tea to others. But one day it will go to others naturally – whether we like it or not.” Lama Namgay added.
JANG CHUB SEM CHOG RINPOCHE
(The Bodhicittas the precious Lamas)
MA KYE PA NAM KYE GYUR CHIG
( May the ones not yet born be born)
KYE PA NYAM PA MEY PAR YANG
(May the ones who are born not degenerate)
GONG NE GONG DU PEL BAR SHOG
( But arise and grow forever)