Thukjé Deshek Kundü

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Thukjé Deshek Kundü wall painting

Thukjé Deshek Kundü (Tib. ཐུགས་རྗེ་བདེ་གཤེགས་ཀུན་འདུས་, Wyl. thugs rje bde gshegs kun 'dus) is a Lord of the Dance terma revealed by Terdak Lingpa in 1680, which is the basis of the Mani Rimdu drupchen practised in the Mount Everest area. It was a main yidam practice of Ngawang Tendzin Norbu (the 10th Dzatrul Rinpoche) and of Trulshik Rinpoche.

Name

The full name of Mani Rimdu’s chief deity (gtso bo) is Union of the Blissful / Lord of the Dance / Great Compassion (bDe gshegs kun ‘dus Gar dwang thugs rje chen po). Both the written and oral tradition usually refer to him by only part of this unwieldy name, either Union of Blissful (bDe gshegs kun ‘dus), abbreviated bDe kun, or Lord of the Dance Great Compassion (Gar dwang thugs rje chen po).[1] Different deities are associated with different levels of tantric practices. Trulshik Rinpoche identifies Lord of the Dance as a Anuttarayoga form of Avalokiteshvara. The Lord of the Dance practices are particular to Mindroling Monastery in Central Tibet.

Purpose

The epithet indicates Lord of the Dance ‘s connection with Anuttarayoga Tantra and is unrelated to its use in the names of yogis. In an interview, Trulshik Rinpoche explains that “Lord of the Dance indicates Avalokiteshvara’s power to incarnate in each of the sixth realms of living beings".

The main deity, Lord of the Dance, sits at the center of the mandala. In his heart, dwells the fierce deity Hayagriva, and in his heart, Vajrasattva. Lord of the dance is red in colour and has four hands. Hi first two hands clasp a vajra before his chest in folded palms. He holds a rosary of miniature red lotuses between the thumb and forefinger of his second right hand as if he were counting them. His second left hand holds a full-sized red utpala lotus.

Revelation of the Terma

Mandala of the Thukjé Deshek Kundü, copyright Chorten Gompa, Sikkim

On Friday, August 23, 1680, Terdak Lingpa publicly removed thirteen scrolls of yellow paper (ཤོག་སེར་) from a cave at Sha ‘ug stag sgo in the Mon county of Tibet. These scrolls contain the terma of the Thukjé Deshek Kundü, the Lord of the Dance[2].

Terdak Lingpa, the last of the forty-eight Tertön prophesied in the Padma thang yig, was a younger contemporary of the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682). It is said that when Terdak Lingpa was a young man, the Fifth Dalai Lama was his teacher, and that when Terdak Lingpa became older, the roles were reversed. This relationship between the founder of Mindroling and the most prominent representative of the Gelugpa order is less surprising as the Fifth Dalai Lama was born in a Nyingma family. In 1676, just four years before the discovery of the Lord of the Dance terma, the relatively small institution of Mindroling was established as an important monastic teaching center. Basking in the prestige of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Mindroling became the most influential Nyingma monastery in Central Tibet. It is said that through this relationship with Terdak Lingpa, the Fifth Dalai Lama was inspired to bring monastic dance to the Gelugpa tradition, which had shunned it up until then. The Fifth Dalai Lama became on of the main exponents of the Mindroling Dance traditions.[3]

Content

The main text of the Thukjé Deshek Kundü is the following one:

  • The Practice of Union of the Blissful Great Compassion Arranged in Ritual Form (Wyl. thugs rje chen po bde gshegs kun ‘dus kyi sgrub thabs chog khrigs zab lam gsal ba’i nyin byed ces bya ba). Short Title: Union of the Blissful Manual (Wyl. bde gshegs kun ‘dus las byang), written by Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, who gave the following clarification, “This new edition follows along the lines of the way it is done at Mindroling but was revised in order to conform to what appears in the Rinchen Terdzö.”

There are four commentaries to the Thukjé Deshek Kundü:

  • Accompanying Methods (Wyl. thugs rje chen po bde gshegs kun ‘dus kyi cho ga’I lhan thabs snying po’I mdzas rgyan zhes bya ba), by Terdak Lingpa.
  • The Light which Illuminates Suchness (Wyl. thugs rje chen po bde gshegs kun ‘dus kyi sgrub thabs rnam de kho nan yid snang ba’I’od ces by aba), by Lochen Dharmashri.
  • Notes on Doing the Complete Ritual Practice of Great Compassion (Wyl. thugs rje chen po’i sgrub mchod dkyus ma tsam gyi phyag len zin dris), by Lochen Dharmashri.
  • Precious Lamp (Wyl. rin chen sgron me) , by Lochen Dharmashri.

Other texts related include:

  • Burn Offering (Wyl. zam lam bde gshegs kun ‘dus kyi sbyin sreg gi cho ga ‘dod don myur ‘grub ces by aba).
  • Daily Practice (Wyl. thugs rje chen po’I rgyun khyer zab lam snying po’I drilba).
  • Guardians of the Word (Wyl. thugs rje chen po bde gshegs kun ‘dus kyi cho ga dang ‘brel bar srung ma spyi dang bye brag gi mchod gtor ‘bul ba’i ngag ‘don gyi rim pa).
  • Quickly Bestowing Blessings (Wyl. dir snang zin med kyi bya ba dang sgrib lus skye bar zlos pa’i rabs mdor bsdus tshigs su bcad pa byin rlabs myur ‘jug ces bya ba bzhugs so).
  • Site/Preparation ritual (Wyl. thugs rje chen po bde gshegs kun ‘dus kyi sac hog dang/stag gon gyi ngag ‘don dkyus gcig tu bkod pa).
  • Torma Empowerment (Wyl. thugs rje chen po bde gshegs kun ‘dus kyi gotr dbang gi mtshams sbyor ngag ‘don bdud rtsi’I nying khu zhes bya ba).

Propagation

From 1680 onward, being kept secret In Mindroling, Tibet

According to Trulshik Rinpoche, among the many yidam of Mindroling and among the many termas that Terdak Lingpa discovered between his twenties and his death, the Thukjé Deshek Kundü (revealed in 1680) was not the most well-known, nor the most frequently practiced. The practice rather, occupied a special position at Mindroling. Considered the best of all of Terdak Lingpa ‘s many termas, like a precious possession, it was kept hidden: revealed but occasionally and to a select few. Trulshik likened this to not showing one’s treasury to others.[4].

Mindroling, the monastery that is the source of the Mani Rimdu rituals, was particularly secretive, even among guardian of tantric traditions According to at least one informant of Richard J. Kohn, this was not necessarily an advantage,

At Mindroling, they were very secretive. The Thukjé Deshek Kundü / Lord of the Dance rituals have three commentaries: Accompanying Methods, The Precious Lamp, and The Light which Illumines Suchness. None of them alone is sufficient to understand how to perform the ritual. On top of this, there are even other commentaries, like the single folio on how to complete the lingka.
Even these commentaries hide things. For example, when discussing drawing the lines of the mandala, Accompanying Methods call the directions, “fire, ghoul,” etc. They would also abbreviate things [so that they would not be understood], such as saying do the “suppression of the gnomes” or “cleanse.” So no one ritual text is complete. They made things so complicated that people would just give up after a few tries. I think this was stupid.
Mindroling did this with many of its practices. They never even told other monasteries everything. Now that Mindroing is gone, this seems like a mistake. Had they been more open, their traditions would be alive. Now, except for Thupten Chöling and what little there is in India—in Dehra Dun, with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche], and some others—they are none at all.[5]

In 1855/1889, being included in the Richen Terdzö

Later, the Thukjé Deshek Kundü was included in the Rinchen Terdzö (1855-1889) by Jamgön Kongtrul.

In 1907/1910, being brought to Rongpuk Monastery, Tibet

The Thukjé Deshek Kundü practices, including its Drupchen form which became known as the Mani Rimdu, was brought from Mindroling to Rongpuk Monastery, on the northern slopes of Mount Everest, Central Tibet, by its abbot Ngawang Tenzin Norbu (1867-1940/42). Trulshik Rinpoche was no longer in possession of the records which fix the exact date of the first Mani Rimbu at Rongpuk Monastery, Tibet. In his estimation, it began there between 1907 and 1910. [6] The Thukjé Deshek Kundü, Lord of the Dance, became his main yidam, and hence the yidam of his monastery and of his principal disciple, Trulshik Rinpoche. It was Ngawang Tenzin Norbu who, using the Thukjé Deshek Kundü rituals, founded the Mani Rimdu festival that is practiced in Solu Khumbu today. Although Mindroling practices form the basis of the liturgy, in creating the dances Ngawang Tenzin Norbu was more eclectic. According to Trulshik Rinpoche, his teacher Ngawang Tenzin Norbu took the basis of the ‘chams from bZhads Monastery (gTsang bzhads dgon pa byang) in Tsang province. To this, he added some dances from Mindroling such as the Cymbal Dance (rol’ chams) and his own changes and innovations.[7]

In 1938/1940, being first performed on the southern slopes of Mount Everest, in Nepal

Based on the Thukjé Deshek Kundü, the first Mani Rimbu was peformed in Solu Khombu about 1938 or 1940. Tengboche Monastery was the first monastery in Nepal to perform the festival. Two to three years later, Chiwong gaves its first performance. Only many years later did Mani Rimdu came to Thami (the first complete performance in 1950, and the festival without the dances since 1940 or 1042). .[8]

In the early 1960’s, being practice in Thupten Chöling, Nepal

Since the arrival of Trulshik Rinpoche in exile on the southern slopes of Mount Everest in 1959, the tradition of doing an annual Drupchen on Mani Rimdu has been strongly established in the 1960’s in his monastery of Thupten Chöling.

Notes

  1. Richard J. Kohn, Lord of the Dance The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal, State University of New York Press, 2001, p3.
  2. Richard J. Kohn, Lord of the Dance The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal, State University of New York Press, 2001, p49.
  3. Richard J. Kohn, Lord of the Dance The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal, State University of New York Press, 2001, p49.
  4. Richard J. Kohn, Lord of the Dance The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal, State University of New York Press, 2001, p51
  5. Richard J. Kohn, Lord of the Dance The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal, State University of New York Press, 2001, p. xxx
  6. Richard J. Kohn, Lord of the Dance The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal, State University of New York Press, 2001, p52
  7. Richard J. Kohn, Lord of the Dance The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal, State University of New York Press, 2001, p51
  8. Richard J. Kohn, Lord of the Dance The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal, State University of New York Press, 2001, p52-53

Further Reading

  • Richard J. Kohn, Lord of the Dance The Mani Rimdu Festival in Tibet and Nepal (State University of New York Press, 2001)

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