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Where is Guru Rinpoche's Bhutan? -- Part 5

August 9, 2010

Condensed from Dasho Karma Ura’s forthcoming booklet
Kuensel (Bhutan)
August 8, 2010 - Minjay and Ahja

Note: Previous parts of theis story appperaed in the WTTN on July 19, 2010.

Jomo (lady) Yeshey Tshogyal left Singye Dzong for
Paro Taktshang, accompanied by Acharya Saleh,
Dewamo, Saleh the Mon boy, and Monmo Tashi
Chidren. But her biography (KMT 2005: 113-115)
notes that Archarya Pelyang was present at Paro
Taktshang; he probably came directly to Paro from Tibet to join them.

Her biography does not give any account of the
places they visited on their way to Paro from
Singye dzong. My conjecture is that they moved
slowly practicing at many places along the way
such as Kurtoe Minjay, Ahja, and Bumthang, while
depositing ter texts. Like many old documents,
the written account of Tshogyal’s stay in Minjay,
said to have existed in Churtshal Lhakhang in
Minjay, had gone up in flames. Minjay is an old
settlement full of association with her in the local oral tradition.

There is no direct evidence that Yeshey Tshogyal
was at Ahja, though its terma neyik (sbay yul a’
brgya lung gi gnas yig mthog kun grol dang lung
bstan bcas) provides indirect evidence that
Tshogyal and Namkhai Nyingpo were in Ahja. The
neyik notes that Guru meditated for three years
and three months in Ahja Gang Rinchenpung after
he controlled the demoness of the area. On the
whole, it is challenging to make a coherent sense
of the neyik because it contains magical
allusions, reference to historical wars and
individuals. It seems to have redacted parts and
inconsistencies. For example, the neyik points to
the existence of footprints and bodyprints of
lamas who were yet to be born at the time of
Guru’s prophecy such as Milarepa, Rigzin Godem,
Karmapa Michod Dorji, Thangtong Gyelpo, and the ninth Karmapa Wangchuck Dorji.

The terma neyik is structured as a dialogue held
at Chimphu between Guru and King Trisong Detsen,
and between Guru and Tshogyal, and its colophon
says that the terma was hidden by Tshogyal, and
was revealed from a cliff resembling a spiraled
black snake at lower Bumthang by a certain Ugyen
Lingpa in the year of the water monkey.

In the terma neyik, Guru told Tshogyal about the
merits of Ahja, which has abundant land
formations that resemble deities, in response to
Tshogyal’s inquires about the special qualities
(gnas kyi yon ten) of Ahja. Guru compared certain
ominous lay of Ahja to a demoness (srinmo) lying
on her back. The neyik says that Guru controlled
the ferocious demon of Ahja and blessed the area
as a hidden valley. The Ahja holy site circuit,
it is noted in the terma neyik, would take 10
days. The neyik also mentions a curious point:
that the place has crystal and silver deposits.

The neyik describes Ahja as a safe place in times
of invasions of Tibet by Mongols (Hor, as opposed
to Sogpo in the neyik) and by Duruka. Long and
murderous campaigns of the Mongols and Duruka (a
people not known to me) in Tibet were foretold in
the Ahja neyik. Guru instructed his followers to
flee to various secluded bayuls before the
merciless enemies, led by nine generals in the
case of Duruka, arrived at their doorstep (sbay
yul bros la bran sa bzung), although Guru said
that only a handful would actually be able to
escape. The neyik foretold that Durukha campaign
would last 30 years whereas the barbarous Mongol
killings, like being subjected to the rains of
poisonous weapons (mtshon gyi char pa dug ltar
bab), would go on for 19 years. For those wishing
to flee, the neyik presented Ahja as the westerly
bayul in a scheme of hidden places occupying ten
cardinal directions. Khenpajong was the northerly
bayul, which was estimated to have the capacity
to accommodate 1,000 people. Pemakoed was the
central bayul having a far higher carrying
capacity of 10,000 people. Bachag Shingjong, the
north-easterly site; and Dromojong, the
south-easterly site, should fall, in my estimate,
within Bhutan though I have no knowledge where they are.

Paro Taktshang
In spite of the importance of the place, the
account of the Jomo Tshogyal’s stay in Paro
Taktshang is very brief: hardly three pages (KMT:
113-115). The biography was admittedly kept short
not to be bulky, and it says that elaborations
can be found in other sources. I should add that
Tshogyal’s visit to Paro Taktshang, after Singye
Dzong, was not her last. Together, Tshogyal and
Guru later returned to the three Taktshangs
including Paro Taktshang (KMT 2005: 172-173). The
other two are Onphu Taktshang and Kham Taktshang.
It is thus clear that Tshogyal meditated at Paro
Taktshang twice during different points in her
post centenarian life of 106 years. But the
reason for her and her companions’ first visit to
Paro Taktshang goes back to Guru’s personalized
directions given to his numerous disciples on
their philosophical careers at the hermitage of
Chimphu. At the gathering at Chimphu, Guru gave
detailed allocation of sadhanas to each of them.
Guru particularly instructed Yeshey Tshogyal to
practice the sadhana of Padma Wang in Paro
Takstang (KMT 2005: 78-82): I surmise that this
was the initial impetus for Tshogyal to come to Paro Taktshang.

At Paro Taktshang, Jomo Tshogyal and her friends
Acharya Saleh, Mon boy Saleh and Atsara Pelyang
faced hardship while practicing the union of
bliss and emptiness (dka ba tha ma bde stong zung
‘jug thig le’i dka’ ba spyad de). The adversity
of practicing the union of bliss and emptiness
was the last in the scheme of eight adversities
she took up in different places in accordance
with the pith instructions of Guru. Tshogyal and
her fellow practitioners recited mantras night
and day, without interruptions, and had training
on subtle energies (rtsa rlung) continuously for
seven months. They lived on the essence of
medicinal plants, nearly perishing from physical
exhaustion, mental disturbances and madness (yid
thom myos sogs byung nas). Blisters covered
Tshogyal’s entire body. Then, blisters turned
into thig le leading her body to experience
immense wellbeing (lus thams cad bde ba’i kyab).
The brief account of Tshogyal attainment of great
bliss (bde chen) at this point is difficult to
comprehend as they allude to tantric expertise
and associated language. It talks about bliss
that blends with afflictiveness (nyon mong pa
dang ‘dres pa’i bde ba), and bliss that is
expansive as wisdom (ye shes rgya che ba’i bde
ba). It mentions about the mixing of the white
and red thigle and the maturing of their two
fruits inside. Eventually, Tshogyal regains
vitality and health possessing the sixteen
attractiveness of a youth, and becomes like Heruka Pamo.

During this time at Paro Taktshang, Tshogyal
witnessed the mandala of Amitayus (Tshe dpa’
med), who prophesied (lung stan) that she would
live 225 years (half of that when calculated by
current method, but she actually passed away
approximately at the age of 106). Two deities,
Tandin and Dorji Phagmo, cleared obstacles (bgegs
bskrad) during her stay in Paro Taktshang. Five
dakinis and five dakas supported Tshogyal in an
inseparable way like the shadow of her body.
Bodhisattvas expressed their felicitations, and
she was offered the title of Tshedag Thingyod
Barma (tshe bdag mthing yod ‘bar ma) at Paro
Taktshang. Tshogyal and her companions then
proceeded to Onphu Taktshang to meet Guru, which
will be the last topic of my article, dwelling
also on the phenomena of Guru Dorji Droloed.
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