Sangha Updates

Sidok Raksha Tötreng Puja, Ka-Nying monastery, 2020

I had been waiting with anticipation and finally the day came for this amazing annual puja to dispel obstacles! This specific practice, in which Guru Rinpoche takes the wrathful form of Raksha Tötreng, king of the cannibals, is exclusive to the Chokling Tersar.  No other lineage has such a practice! 

What Does Sidok Mean?

The lamas in the monastery refer to this puja as the “Sidok” puja. In Tibetan, “si” are a specific type of obstacles that, according to Tibetans, can take the form of different kind of negative spirits. For example, one of these spirits originates from practitioners who break their samaya. “Dok” is a short form of the word “dokpa”, which is the practice of dispelling or averting harm and negativity…in this case, averting the “si” obstructors in a wrathful manner to make sure that the obstacles and negative influences leave for good or are reduced to dust! Thus, in this practice, Guru Rinpoche and his retinue take a wrathful form in order to command and scare away the obstructors. The shrine and the offerings are arranged specially for wrathful deities, and the music and way to recite the text and mantras is quite intense!

An Intense Experience

During the three-day practice, the obstructing forces are summoned and either commanded to leave or wrathfully dispelled. With the magnificent guide of Tulku Pasang Tshering, from morning to evening we recited wrathful mantras and dharanis of Raksha Tötreng, the monks played the drums and trumpets intensely, and we clapped in unison as a way to scare away all negativities! So, if you ever join a Tibetan puja, or even visit Tibet, and people are clapping, be aware that unwanted forces are being averted and not welcomed!

Over the last few years that I have been able to participate in this puja, I have noticed that not too many lay practitioners attend it, compared with other pujas. The first couple of days, other than the lamas and monks, there were only about 15 to 20 of us. I wonder if it has to do with the intensity of the practice… In any case, the benefit is for all sentient beings. Personally, I love this puja! Even though it is not easy to follow, and at times the body aches as if there were inner obstacles resisting to leave, it is an amazing practice of compassion that results in a more calm and joyful mind.  

Scattering the Obstructors

As part of the ritual there was an extra torma on the shrine. This torma has the form of a big wrathful red head that serves as an effigy into which the obstructers were summoned during the three-day practice. On the last day the lamas throw this torma into a fire they built in the courtyard of the temple. They burn it completely to ashes. As the fire burns, it scatters all the obstructors who were still remaining. When the fire had consumed the torma, we all shouted victory! Then all the monks in a line, from the youngest to the most senior, walked around the ashes and returned to the temple to conclude the practice by getting blessings from the mandala and dedicating the merit of the practice for the benefit of all. There was joy in the air!

On this last day of the puja, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche presided over the practice. With the force of his immeasurable compassion and enlightened presence, there’s no doubt that the practice succeeded in clearing obstacles for all sentient beings! Rejoice!

Marcela Lopez

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.