A closer look into empowerments

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A closer look into empowerments

Postby pensum » Sun May 04, 2014 5:22 pm

The discussion about the validity of receiving empowerments by webcast or recordings has been lively and so i was thinking it might be useful to start from scratch and look into empowerments a little more closely. I thought it would be good to start with a story about how empowerment manuals are written. So here is a condensed version of Tulku Urgyen's account of how there came to be four different empowerment manuals for the Dzogchen Desum (The Three Sections of the Great Perfection) found in the Chokling Tersar. Tulku Urgyen's complete account can be found on pp. 369-371 of Blazing Splendor.

In the beginning, there was no empowerment manual for the Desum. The first one was written by Kyungtrul Rp. at the request of Samten Gyatso. Kyungtrul wrote while Samten Gyatso gave the empowerments and they discussed many details. However, because of Kyungtrul's broad erudition the Mind Section alone filled an entire volume, so it was too long and involved for practical use.

Luckily a realized master could still transmit the Desum without an empowerment manual which is what the second Neten Chokling did when he gave it to Dzongsar Khyentse [the previous not the popular present incarnation] explaining, "I can give you the empowerments, but Kyungtrul Rp's written arrangement is beyond my abilities. You will have to compose the arrangement for how to pass these empowerments on in the future." So while Neten Chokling gave the empowerments during the day, Dzongsar Khyentse would write the empowerment manual at night. This was the version that Samten Gyatso used when he passed it on to Tulku Urgyen.

As Dzongsar Khyentse had to rush to get each part done by the next morning he abbreviated all the inserted section and so it turned out to be quite difficult to follow. As he wasn't satisfied with it, before he died he asked Dilgo Khyentse to write a new version, which is much easier to follow and so is the one that is now included in the Rinchen Terdzo.

Dudjom Rinpoche also wrote an empowerment manual for the Desum partly at the request of Tulku Urgyen. He agreed to write one saying, "An empowerment manual for transmitting the essence of Ati Yoga," Dudjom Rp once told Tulku Urgyen, "doesn't serve its purpose by giving intricate details from the Maha and Anu Yoga perspectives. It should be lucid unto itself. The quotations from the original terma inserted in the manual should be like studding pure gold with emeralds and diamonds." So Dudjom Rp's version is concise and is written from the Dzogchen perspective itself. This version is included in the Dudjom Tersar.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby heart » Sun May 04, 2014 6:16 pm

pensum wrote:Dudjom Rinpoche also wrote an empowerment manual for the Desum partly at the request of Tulku Urgyen. He agreed to write one saying, "An empowerment manual for transmitting the essence of Ati Yoga," Dudjom Rp once told Tulku Urgyen, "doesn't serve its purpose by giving intricate details from the Maha and Anu Yoga perspectives. It should be lucid unto itself. The quotations from the original terma inserted in the manual should be like studding pure gold with emeralds and diamonds." So Dudjom Rp's version is concise and is written from the Dzogchen perspective itself. This version is included in the Dudjom Tersar.


I completely forgot about this, pretty amazing that the Dzogchen Desum is in the Dudjom Tersar.

/magnus
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby pensum » Sun May 04, 2014 7:09 pm

heart wrote:I completely forgot about this, pretty amazing that the Dzogchen Desum is in the Dudjom Tersar. /magnus


Actually, i need to correct that, it isn't in the Dudjom Tersar but in his Collected Writings (gsung 'bum). And though TUR describes it as "concise" it is nearly 300 pages long—so imagine just how long Kyuntrul's original version must have been!
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby pensum » Sun May 04, 2014 7:28 pm

What i find interesting here is that the empowerment manuals were composed later, though the Desum had been passed on several times prior to Kyungtrul's first attempt at composing a manual based on how Samten Gyatso gave him the empowerments. Then not being able to figure out Kyungtrul's arrangement, the 2nd Neten Chokling gave the empowerments to Dzongsar Khyentse, Katok Situ and Shechen Rabjam without the use of any manual. All of which leads me to wonder in what manner were the empowerments given? Did Neten, Samten Gyatso and the earlier lineage masters just improvise as they went based on the basic traditional formula used for the four empowerments, providing their own explanations of the included teachings? From TUR's account we can surmise that the basic arrangement and procedures of these pre-text empowerments did conform to that found in the manuals as in both of the early cases the manuals were written based on how the empowerments were given to the author. And we know that they didn't just do anything simple as it took days or weeks to give them all, so what did it really entail in these cases and how did they actually go about giving the empowerments?

Of course, many, if not most, practices do not originally include an empowerment and so they are arranged at a later point in time. Many practices exist that don't have an associated empowerment and one only requires the reading transmission. So then the next question arises: what is the criteria for requiring an empowerment before doing a practice?

It is said that "blessings are the basis of empowerment." And Tulku Urgyen clearly defined blessings as "the oral instructions on how to attain enlightenment in this very life and body." Which, contrary to what many people appear to believe, would seem to imply that rather than some mystical transferance, empowerments, such as those above, are instead directly receiving, in a formal or ritual manner, the explanation of the main principles of a given practice directly from a holder of that lineage who had either originated the practice or had himself personally received these instructions from a previous lineage holder.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby heart » Sun May 04, 2014 8:29 pm

pensum wrote:
heart wrote:I completely forgot about this, pretty amazing that the Dzogchen Desum is in the Dudjom Tersar. /magnus


Actually, i need to correct that, it isn't in the Dudjom Tersar but in his Collected Writings (gsung 'bum). And though TUR describes it as "concise" it is nearly 300 pages long—so imagine just how long Kyuntrul's original version must have been!


Right! :smile:

/magnus
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby heart » Sun May 04, 2014 8:36 pm

pensum wrote:What i find interesting here is that the empowerment manuals were composed later, though the Desum had been passed on several times prior to Kyungtrul's first attempt at composing a manual based on how Samten Gyatso gave him the empowerments. Then not being able to figure out Kyungtrul's arrangement, the 2nd Neten Chokling gave the empowerments to Dzongsar Khyentse, Katok Situ and Shechen Rabjam without the use of any manual. All of which leads me to wonder in what manner were the empowerments given? Did Neten, Samten Gyatso and the earlier lineage masters just improvise as they went based on the basic traditional formula used for the four empowerments, providing their own explanations of the included teachings? From TUR's account we can surmise that the basic arrangement and procedures of these pre-text empowerments did conform to that found in the manuals as in both of the early cases the manuals were written based on how the empowerments were given to the author. And we know that they didn't just do anything simple as it took days or weeks to give them all, so what did it really entail in these cases and how did they actually go about giving the empowerments?


I don't know if you received the empowerment's of Semde, Longde and Mengakde from the Dam Ngakg Dzö? These empowerment's are really different from ordinary deity empowerment's and are more like a serious of direct introductions. With the exception the Longde empowerment that is a deity empowerment. I imagine the Desum empowerment could be done in this way to.

/magnus
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby pensum » Sun May 04, 2014 9:03 pm

heart wrote:I don't know if you received the empowerment's of Semde, Longde and Mengakde from the Dam Ngakg Dzö? These empowerment's are really different from ordinary deity empowerment's and are more like a serious of direct introductions. With the exception the Longde empowerment that is a deity empowerment. I imagine the Desum empowerment could be done in this way to.
/magnus


Though described as concise the Desum is primarily a lengthy collection of rituals, there is actually very little by way of instruction and what there is is very condensed. The only instructions with any elaboration at all are Karmey Khenpo's text summarizing the basic outline of the three sections. So i believe that most of the empowerments would be similar to those used for most yidam practices.

But that's an interesting point about the empowerments in the Dam Ngak Dzö, i should take a look at them.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby pensum » Mon May 05, 2014 1:29 am

Some people claim that empowerments given to a crowd of lay people are not the complete four empowerments of Secret Mantra, and that no fault exists since these are just permission-blessings or entrustments. But actually even an entrustment involves the samaya commitment to keep the deity in mind and to do the practices of approach and accomplishment etc. During such a ceremony one has to repeat the taking of the precepts of refuge, bodhichitta and the samayas of the five families, and since most ordinary people cannot possibly know the principles of what should be adopted and avoided, both myself and others are therefore indeed at fault for being involved in such affairs. (Tsele Natsok Rangdrol, Empowerment, pp 36-7)
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby Malcolm » Tue May 06, 2014 4:13 pm

So he said that no one can say for sure at anytime that another person has received the empowerment.


This amounts to a non-answer. This means that anyone, at any time can declare they have received x empowerment from x guru.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby Norwegian » Tue May 06, 2014 4:21 pm

The entire email as a whole is a non-answer I think, because nowhere was the question of a recorded empowerment answered. In fact, Mel at Gar Drolma prefaces the email by saying "Here is what Khenpo said in our conversation about Empowerment". Just "empowerment", not "recorded empowerment".

The example of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is very nice, but if you note what His Holiness the Dalai Lama instructed the woman to do, it was to do A.) Specific activities, at B.) a specific time. In other words live. A collaboration between master and student in an active mandala. A recorded empowerment is neither live nor an active mandala.

pensum had asked many interesting questions but I feel that none was answered here. This is a pity.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby smcj » Tue May 06, 2014 4:30 pm

pensum had asked many interesting questions but I feel that none was answered here. This is a pity.

What I got out of it was that the lama is like a Quarterback throwing a pass. Even if he throws it perfectly it is still up to the Receiver to actually catch it.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby heart » Tue May 06, 2014 4:49 pm

Malcolm wrote:
So he said that no one can say for sure at anytime that another person has received the empowerment.


This amounts to a non-answer. This means that anyone, at any time can declare they have received x empowerment from x guru.


I agree, sometimes it seems to be surprisingly difficult for Tibetans and Westerners to communicate. Language seems to be just a small piece of the problem. It is strange.

/magnus
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby dzogchungpa » Tue May 06, 2014 4:59 pm

Malcolm wrote:
So he said that no one can say for sure at anytime that another person has received the empowerment.

This amounts to a non-answer. This means that anyone, at any time can declare they have received x empowerment from x guru.

It might be a non-answer, but it seems to directly contradict what you said here:
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=16286&p=230684#p230647
Malcolm wrote:Were you awake during the activities of the disciple? Did you recite the prayers understanding what they meant and why? Did you try to follow the visualizations sincerely as best you could? If so, then you entered the mandala.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby pensum » Tue May 06, 2014 5:02 pm

smcj wrote:
pensum had asked many interesting questions but I feel that none was answered here. This is a pity.

What I got out of it was that the lama is like a Quarterback throwing a pass. Even if he throws it perfectly it is still up to the Receiver to actually catch it.


That is actually a very apt analogy SMCJ. For just like running a play in (American) football, the receiver is required to run a preset route so that he will be at the approximate place where the ball will be thrown in order to even have a chance to catch it. If you're not even on the field at the time you can't catch it, even if you are on the team but sitting on the bench you can't catch the ball. If you're watching live from the stands or at home watching the game on tv you're not going to score any touchdown. And of course you can only catch the ball during the game, once the clock has run out the game's over.
Last edited by pensum on Tue May 06, 2014 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby Malcolm » Tue May 06, 2014 5:22 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
So he said that no one can say for sure at anytime that another person has received the empowerment.

This amounts to a non-answer. This means that anyone, at any time can declare they have received x empowerment from x guru.

It might be a non-answer, but it seems to directly contradict what you said here:
http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=40&t=16286&p=230684#p230647
Malcolm wrote:Were you awake during the activities of the disciple? Did you recite the prayers understanding what they meant and why? Did you try to follow the visualizations sincerely as best you could? If so, then you entered the mandala.


It does not. It is a kind of dissimulation.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby Adamantine » Tue May 06, 2014 6:13 pm

There may have been a misunderstanding: when I
suggested people bring discussions here re: empowerments in general,
I did not mean that the discussion re: recorded empowerments
should continue here. That discussion should stay in the thread
with that topic title, which is currently locked. It may be reopened
pending a staff decision, so stay tuned. But this thread should try to refrain
from discussing recorded empowerments if possible, or there is no use for two separate threads.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby Norwegian » Tue May 06, 2014 6:28 pm

You said:

"If people would like to comment on the content of this reply [the reply of Mel / Khenpo Samdrub] concerning empowerments in general, or other issues concerning empowerment"

We are discussing issues concerning empowerments, such as what constitutes an empowerment, and what does not, and we are discussing the reply given by Mel and Khenpo Samdrub, to what supposedly was to the questions pensum gave to T.Chokyi. Part of the reasons for asking these questions, was to get an answer on the issue of recorded empowerments. The reply didn't touch upon this issue at all however, and in general just side-stepped it. So we haven't received any answer at all.

Just to make sure: Are you telling us that discussing whether recorded empowerments are valid or not is a banned subject on Dharma Wheel? Because you are telling us now that we cannot discuss it here, and the other thread is closed.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby pensum » Tue May 06, 2014 6:54 pm

Adamantine wrote:There may have been a misunderstanding: when I suggested people bring discussions here re: empowerments in general, I did not mean that the discussion re: recorded empowerments should continue here. That discussion should stay in the thread with that topic title, which is currently locked. It may be reopened pending a staff decision, so stay tuned. But this thread should try to refrain from discussing recorded empowerments if possible, or there is no use for two separate threads.


I would have preferred refraining from carrying on that aspect of the discussion here as well, as it only makes sense to continue it on the thread dedicated to that very topic, which mind you was already split off of another thread if you'll remember. But as the thread is locked and you directed everyone to carry on the discussion here we are all left with little choice. Especially as there are so many questions in regard to recorded empowerments which yet remain to be discussed (for example the issue of relevant samayas has barely been touched upon), so if the other thread remains locked there seems to be little choice but to shift the discussion here. Unless of course you intend to ban the topic entirely, though i can't think of any good reason why anyone would want to do that when this is such an important issue in regard to the dissemination and practice of Vajrayana in contemporary society, so the more sincere intelligent questions, information and dialogue there is on the matter the better it is for everyone. So please clarify the moderators' stance on the issue so that we can proceed accordingly or move the conversation to an uncensored platform.
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby Adamantine » Tue May 06, 2014 8:14 pm

Well the idea was mainly that most of the conceivable opinions
about recorded wangs have been expressed in the prior thread,
and it gets repetitive and almost like proselytizing for the same
people to keep expressing the same opinions over and over. If we can try to avoid that here, it would be ideal. The topic is certainly not banned though. Thanks!
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Re: A closer look into empowerments

Postby Malcolm » Tue May 06, 2014 8:21 pm

Adamantine wrote:Well the idea was mainly that most of the conceivable opinions
about recorded wangs have been expressed in the prior thread,
and it gets repetitive and almost like proselytizing for the same
people to keep expressing the same opinions over and over. If we can try to avoid that here, it would be ideal. The topic is certainly not banned though. Thanks!


What we are discussing now is the fact that "answer" (which was a non answer) basically confirms our opinion that there is no validity to the idea that one can receive an empowerment from a recording (but we already knew that...).
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http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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