The Lama’s Talk on Buddhist Cosmology
Warm greetings, everyone!
While helping one of the scholars in the library research last week, I learned about the Lord of the Dance ritual. The ritual Mani Rimdu was done by Trulshik Rinpoche and his monks at Chiwong Monastery.
I learned that during the rituals, Trulshik Rinpoche burns a paper effigy, which represents the inner enemy, to liberate the world of the illusion of permanence. The role of material objects in in the Destroyer of Illusion represents the material objects that are harmful to us (that we must not get too attached upon) in our daily lives. For example, the mandala that the monks meticulously create from sand is erased at the end of Mani Rimdu, representing that nothing material is permanent. Material objects such as the Mani pills, the Pills of Life, the Elixir or Immortality that the monks give to the visitors represent their highest ideals. For the monks who distribute the pills, the pills help to focus the deity’s (The Lord of the Dance) power, so that they will be able to have greater sense of compassion. It is interesting to note that in Tibetan culture, magic and symbolism is used to destroy any illusions (and show that nothing is permanent), while in Western culture, magic is used to create illusions.
The lama came this last week and we all had a wonderful time listening to him speak. We finished the preparations and we arranged all the offerings we wanted to give to the lama when he came to our village. Not only were we graced with his presence and his advice, he also donated some resources to our village. He gave our ritualists some amulets to share between the village, especially to those that they deem to need them the most. These will be likely most important for the farmers and builders who need to regrow their crops and rebuild the homes in our village. While individuals such as my fellow scholars and myself were also affected by the storm and its impact, we have not lost as much of they have. We did, however, lose a portion of our library and some of the precious books we used in our research. The lama has generously donated some funds for us to build a printing press for our library in the nunnery! This will be the first printing press that we’ve ever had and all of us are very excited for the construction to begin. The printing press will allow us to make books much more easily so that we can share our resources and knowledge with those who’d like to learn more about our culture and religion. People from the community would be able to access this more easily since we can create more copies at much more efficient rate than before.
The lama who came to visit our village, Khenpo Sodargye, gave a very eye-opening speech. He spoke about cosmology in Buddhism. He did not speak the same language as us in the village, but fortunately, he had a translator. I was lucky enough to be able to understand what he was saying in both languages (Mandarin Chinese and English), which I thought was very interesting! I wasn’t able to comprehend some of what he was speaking about Tibetan Buddhist cosmology, but I know I still have very much to learn in Buddhist culture. I was very absorbed in what he was saying, however, from the parts that I understood. One of the most important points that Khenpo Sodargye was emphasizing is that while there are both similarities and differences in the understanding of the universe between modern science and Tibetan Buddhism, we should not become too focused on the origins or the religion of the discoveries and facts about the universe. We should be unbiased in our ability to take in information and do further investigation. He also discussed the differences between Buddhist explanations of the origins of universes, such as the four stages of a universe’s life cycle, each of which lasts for 20 million eons. There is also the difference between the modern scientific approach (which is to approach facts with objectivity and from an external view) and the Buddhist approach (which looks upon the intrinsic awareness that is within each of us, and without this, it would be very hard to use the external view correctly as well).
The lama also had a great sense of humour, because while the entire village was attentive and respectful in what he was saying, the question-and-answer period was a little silent. One of my fellow villagers (I believe it was Junhai who is also, coincidentally, known as Tashi!) asked him a question about his robes — on why he wore his robes over one shoulder and not the other — and he chuckled for quite a few moments. He explained that it was partly because he could move one arm easily. His laughter really helped to break the ice during the question period because the villagers felt a lot more comfortable with asking questions after that! All in all, his visit was great and educational. I really enjoyed listening to his lecture to our village and would love for him to come back some time!
Kah-leh Phe (Goodbye),