The vajra: cutting through to the truth

2 Sangharakshita

III Tibetan Buddhism

a | Tantric Initiations

In the tantric tradition, it is a universally recognised fact that successful practice depends on receipt of an initiation from a qualified and authorised donor. [ The FWBO Files 7 ]

Sangharakshita received numerous initiations from highly respected Lamas, as outlined below. It must be admitted that much of this is not provable in all of its details, although it is demonstrable in sufficient detail to be entirely believable. The FWBO Files does not discuss these details, and makes the unsubstantiated claim that Trungpa Rimpoche said Sangharakshita had definitely received no higher initiations, unless by false pretenses, [ The FWBO Files 7 ]29 ] and it argues that Sangharakshita could not have communicated with them in Tibetan (in fact he spoke in Hindi or Nepali, with translators as necessary).

In 1956 Chattrul Sangye Dorje Rimpoche gave Sangharakshita the initiation of Green Tara, the sadhana of which he says he faithfully performed every day for seven years. [ 30 ] In 1957 Kachu Rimpoche introduced Sangharakshita to his guru Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lhodro, one of the greatest figures of Tibetan Buddhism this century. Sangharakshita asked Jamyang Khyentse Rimpoche for the Manjughosa initiation. However Rimpoche decided to give him the initiations of Avalokitesvara, Vajrapani and Green Tara as well. Jamyang Khyentse commissioned for Sangharakshita a thangka depicting the four Bodhisattvas and nineteen great Buddhist teachers, [ 31 ] Sangharakshita himself was shown twice, once teaching the Dharma and again meditating in a cave. [ 32 ] Rimpoche explained that through this initiation he had transmitted to Sangharakshita the essence of all the teachings of all the gurus in the thangka. Sangharakshita was now, he said, their spiritual heir and successor. [ 33 ] Jamyang Khyentse Rimpoche insisted that Kachu Rimpoche give Sangharakshita the initiation of Padmasambhava; this occurred in 1962, and he was given the additional name “Urgyen”, [ 34 ] At the same time he received instruction in the Tharpe Delam and especially its mula yoga practices from Kachu Rimpoche and Dhardo Rimpoche. Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche and Dudjom Rimpoche also gave Sangharakshita initiation into various practices. [ 35 ] Thus his teachers included some of the leading Nyingmapa Lamas of the time, and this is the basis of his close personal connection with the Nyingmapa tradition.

Sangharakshita spent most time, and developed the deepest connection, with Dhardo Rimpoche, a Gelug lama and Lharampa Geshe, which continued from 1953 until Rimpoche’s death in 1991. [ 36 ] They became friends during a trip together as “Eminent Buddhists from the Border Areas” on a trip organised by the Indian Government to celebrate Buddha Jayanti in 1956. [ 37 ] He became closely involved with the Rimpoche’s teaching of Tibetan Buddhism through rewriting a contribution by one of the Rimpoche’s Tibetan disciples to a book eventually published 1956 as The Path of the Buddha. [ 38 ]

Eventually Sangharakshita took the Bodhisattva ordination from Dhardo Rimpoche and received from him a detailed explanation of the sixty-four precepts taken at the time of ordination. For Sangharakshita the spiritual significance of this occasion was immense. [ 39 ] In an interview many years later, Dhardo Rimpoche (speaking in Hindi, the language in which he and Sangharakshita usually conversed) had this to say:

If you are asking whether Bhikshu Sangharakshita is the reincarnation of a Rimpoche or not, that I cannot say straight out. But I am a hundred percent sure that he is a truly remarkable and outstanding, deep-minded person. I say this because when we used to talk about the profoundest aspects of Buddhism, Bhikshu Sangharakshita had no difficulty at all in understanding them with ease. That in itself is proof that he has a natural inborn ability to understand the higher things which ordinary people cannot understand easily... I did not have any other disciples like Sangharakshita. He was unique in the sense that he used to learn from me and at the same time practise it and then he used to teach it to other people. Only a few people can do this — learn and teach at the same time — because most students do not understand what they have learnt and so can’t teach it to others. [ 40 ]

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29 ]
The FWBO Files’ evidence is a letter from the late Maurice Walshe, referring to a statement Trungpa had allegedly made in the late 1960s, some twenty years previously. There is no external verification of this claim and Trungpa Rimpoche is sadly deceased. For him to have said this would have been a serious breach of etiquette, but even if he had, the question would remain of how he knew, and whether he might be mistaken. In any case, as quoted, Trungpa Rimpoche’s statement is self-contradictory.
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30 ]
Bringing Buddhism to the West p.70. Chattrul Sangye Dorje Rimpoche’s approval of Sangharakshita’s approach to Dharma practice found confirmation when, at his own instigation, Rimpoche named Sangharakshita’s Kalimpong Vihara the Triyana Vardhana Vihara (The Vihara where the three yanas flourish).
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31 ]
These include Atisa, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Padmasambhava, Dromtonpa, Tsongkapa, Buton Rimpoche, Milarepa, Jonang Taranatha, Kanchen Bodhisattva and Sakya Pandita.
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32 ]
Sangharakshita left this in the keeping of his friend Dr. Mehta. It can still be seen at the Society of Servants of God, Malabar Hill, Bombay.
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33 ]
Bringing Buddhism to the West p.82ff.
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34 ]
Ibid. p.83.
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35 ]
Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche gave Sangharakshita the initiation of Amitabha (with the po-wa or Consciousness Transference empowerment), Kurukulle and Jambala. Sangharakshita studied with Dilgo Khyentse and remained in contact with him for many years. Dudjom Rimpoche gave Sangharakshita the Vajrasattva practice.
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36 ]
A biography of Dhardo Rimpoche gives an account of this relationship inter alia: Suvajra, The Wheel and the Diamond: The Life of Dhardo Tulku (Windhorse Publications, 1991).
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37 ]
In the Sign of the Golden Wheel, op. cit., Ch.22.
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38 ]
What effect did the taking of the Bodhisattva Ordination have on me? At the time it gave me a definite sense of spiritual progression, for I still thought of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana as representing successive phases or stages of development and still, therefore, thought of the Bodhisattva ordinations as being ‘superior’ to the bhikkhu ordination, just as the bhikkhu ordination was ‘superior’ to the upasaka ordination. In the long run, however, the taking of the Bodhisattva ordination had the effect of making me think of myself not as a monk who happened to accept the Bodhisattva Ideal but rather as a (triyana) Buddhist who happened to be a monk. Since the arising of the Bodhicitta — and becoming a Bodhisattva — was in fact the altruistic dimension of going for Refuge, this in turn had the effect of making me think of myself simply as a monk who went for Refuge, or even as a human being who went for Refuge and who happened to live in a monastic or semi-monastic fashion. Commitment was primary, life-style secondary. The History of My Going for Refuge,op. cit., pp.71–2.
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40 ]
Interview with Dharmachari Suvajra, January 1988, WBO Tape Archive.
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