zenman wrote:Thank you for that. As I do not have much knowledge in the Tibetan tradition a few more questions:
So this weeklong seminar is about "transmissions of spiritual power" or empowerments?
Tibetan Buddhism is mostly Vajrayana Buddhism which means a ceremonial based, esoteric Buddhism in which spiritual blessings, power and teachings are transmitted to students from a master of the tradition. There can be several kinds or levels of masters of the tradition. Technically anyone can master a practice and then obtain permission to transmit it. In Tibetan Buddhism this is not usually done and lamas (monastic or lay) are requested to give teachings by their teacher (or in some cases ordered to do so).
HH (His Holiness) Tsetrul Rinpoche is a master of the highest level.
Empowerments are ceremonies (like masses in the Catholic Church) that are used to awaken the student to their own Buddha Nature. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche said that students are like people with amnesia and the empowerment is introducing the student to who they really are. All beings are really Buddhas! But this direct experience is hidden (obscured) from people due to defilements like negative emotions and the active creation of negative experiences (harming others for example). During the ceremony it looks like lots of religious stuff is happening (or at least lots of symbolic stuff is happening). Everything during the ceremony is designed to help the student accumulate merit and wisdom. The merit is needed to ripen people so that they can actually open to the wisdom that is being transmitted. Another way of looking at the ceremony is as a kind of guided meditation that points the student directly to enlightenment and the direct revelation of their Buddha nature. However, because empowerments do not usually result in student's attaining total enlightenment they are seen more on a practical level as a ceremony that plants the seed for future enlightenment. As such, empowerments are also ceremonies that are used to transmit permission to practice one particular practice. The seed of enlightenment planted is watered and nurtured through the practice transmitted. During the week in Belgium, there may be 40 or more empowerments given (I don't know off-hand how many empowerments constitute the full Longchen Nyingtig cycle because I have only had a few over several years). There may be as few as 10 -40 empowerments in a cycle or hundreds.
Are people attending going to learn some practices/techniques?
Unless Longchen Nyingtig has only a few empowerments total, there will not be time for detailed teachings or a detailed review of the sadhanas (the ritual practices) that a student would need to follow. In reality, after the empowerments each student would probably do something different if they followed these empowerments with practice focusing on these empowerments. Many students would do the Longchen Nyingtig ngondro (the semi-feared accumulation of "preliminary" practices). People how have finished that would normally do one of several sadhana practices. The most common one is called Rigdzin Dupa
but there are others as well.
Why does it take 7 days for only empowerments (if my understanding of what an empowerment is is correct)?
Fast empowerments can take 30 minutes at a time. Many empowerments can take 4 or more hours depending on the Vajra Master. One Vajra Master took over eight hours once for part 1 of a two day empowerment because he stopped to explain almost every part of the empowerment (this will not happen during these empowerments, probably). You may sit there all day doing one empowerment after another with only a brief explanation of the empowerment ceremony.