Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Vajrakilaya Weekend

This last weekend was the Vajrakilaya retreat at a local Nyingma center. A friend of a friend who is on a private vajrayana e-mail list with me, John, came down from Vancouver, B.C. as well to attend. We’d never met before and only corresponded a couple of times by means of the list but I figured he shouldn’t have to pay to stay someplace for this. He crashed downstairs since we have a lot of room in the house.

Friday evening, the center did the empowerment for the Dudjom Tersar Vajrakilaya practices. I was surprised by a couple of things. One of them was the use of the phurba during the empowerment instead of the dorje. I hadn’t seen that before. The other was that the lama did an atiyoga empowerment (using a crystal) as well. The empowerment itself was in a packed space that was basically a very large living room in a converted house. We all went up near the end and then went home.

The next morning, we met at the center at 8:30 AM. The lama did a brief lecture for an hour or so but most of the day was going through the Vajrakilaya practice, which is relatively long, as a group. We did that all morning without a break. Around 12:30, we had about an hour and a half for lunch. John and I went up the street to a taco truck and came back to about an hour or hour and a half of mantra chanting. The lama was late in returning as he had gone somewhere across town so the resident teacher for the center had us do the mantra over and over again. Let me say that doing something like that, as tightly packed in as we were, right after lunch was not the best idea. Even the most dedicated practitioners were fighting nodding off.

After rinpoche returned, we worked through the practice for a while longer and then held a tsok (ritual feast) celebration as well. That went fairly well and we go out around 7:00 PM or so.

John and I went out for coffee and discussed things a bit. We were both feeling a bit disappointed in that we had expected a teaching retreat and had, instead, a very long day of mantra repetition and a tsok. In and of itself, this wouldn’t have been a problem but we both had phurbas with us and we had expected some instruction in the nuts and bolts aspects of the practice, using the phurba ritually, and other details that are hard to get.

We had also both prepaid for the whole weekend. I had my last paper still due for my independent study (it was due on Friday). I made the decision not to go back on Sunday because it looked like it would be more of the same. Instead, I stayed home to finish the paper (and did so). John confirmed later on that it was more of the same and no teachings were really done.

I’m glad I attended but I probably would have gotten as much out of it if I had only attended Friday night. Unlike the time I attended that group for Red Tara teachings, I just didn’t click with the group and setting.