This blog is in continuation to my last blog where I shared about a stupa at Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat which is dedicated to Veteran actor Kabir Bedi’s mom (Click here)
I visited this monastery last November in Kangra district, Himachal during the celebration of 10th Guru Padmasambhaba Puja and Vajra Nyitham which is known as Lama or Mask dance.
At Palpung, the ten day Sacred Guru Padmasambhava’s Puja and Vajra Nyitham is performed every year in the same month, under the esteem guidance of Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa
Needless to say that it was a prolific experience filled with fun excitement and divinity. But you must be wondering what is Guru Padmasambhaba puja and Vajra Nyitham all about?
Let me take you through this pristine custom which I learned at Palpung in steps.
It is believed that Lord Buddha manifests in countless forms in this world and Guru Padmasambhava is amongst one.
Guru Padmasambhava is depicted to be a Buddha of three times: Past, Present and the Future, which represents compassion and wisdom.
Guru Padmasambhava is known to be one of the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism where he spent nearly 54 years in 749 A.D. The other two founders were Guru Shanta Rakshita and then prevailing King- Thisong Deotsen.
Many legends and myths have been associated with the birth of Guru Padmasambhava in this world. One such text mentions that Buddha Amitabha perpetrated to take birth in the incarnated form of Padmasambhava, for the welfare of sentient beings in the Jambu Dwipa, the spiritual country of Buddha Shakya Muni. He chose Dhanakosa Lake as his birth place in the ancient country of Urgen, which was spiritually believed to be a sacrosanct place of Vidhya-dhara, cardinal cemetery of eight great cemeteries and also regarded a centre of Ten Abodes of Heruka Deities
What is Guru Padmasambhaba Puja & Vajra Nyitham?
In Tibetan & Buddhism, Vajra Nyitham is known as Cham dance. It is performed by the monks wearing masks.
If you know of any place which has Buddhist or Tibetan influence, performing Cham at the festivities would be a part of their tradition. It is more prevalent in the Himalayan region in India. I first learned about this dance form during my backpack in Zanskar Valley
But do you know that Cham is not any form of traditional dance but a form of meditation which is practiced by the monks to invoke blessings from the deities.
Usually Cham dance is performed before any prayer to offer ceremonial offerings to the almighty as per the tradition and custom of the lineage. Guru Padmasambhava prayer is amongst one which is celebrated to mark devotion of the Lineage towards its Guru (Spiritual Head)
Meaning of wearing Masks during Cham
Masks are symbolic of two kinds of deities: Peace and Evil. It represents the historical and mythological figures in Buddhism. While Cham is performed to transform and calm the evil forces into harmony of wisdom and compassion, it also gives a sense of peace and serenity to the practitioner who aims to seek enlightenment through this form of meditation
Cham symbolizes Tutelary Deities and Dharma Protectors in different appearances, the significance of which is inscribed in tantra texts like Gyu-gnamlog, Garpo-che and Layjang-lew-gyepa
How Vajra Nyitham started?
Vajra Nyitham or Cham was evolved in Tibet thousand years ago when the prevailing King of Tibet Trisong Detsen requested Guru Padmasambhava to establish the Samye Monastic Seat which was remarked as the first complete Buddhist Monastery
It was during that time Guru Padmasambhava decided to perform an adaptation of a powerful Vajrayana Buddhist dance called the VAJRAKILAYA, or the dance of the dagger to mark his offerings to the almighty. This is how Vajra Nyitham came into existence
Introduction of Guru Padmasambhava Puja and Vajra Nyitham in Palpung Sherabling Monastic Seat
The Sacred practice of Guru Padmasambhava’s Puja and Vajra Nyitham was introduced by the 8th Kenting Tai Situ Chokyi Jungney at Palpung and its branches.
It is said that Tai Situ Chokyi Jungney stayed at Nyingmapa monastic seat to observe its tradition called Nyedong Tse for few months and to get all the transmission of nyitham steps, music, vocal chanting from the Vajra masters, chanting masters and the lamas.
Tai Situ Chokyi Jungney also introduced the Puja, Practice and Vajra nyitham of Mahakala of the Kamtsang Lineage at the Palpung Monastic seat
So, would you be a part of this grand Puja this year ?
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