First Sakya Lamas to visit Vietnam
By Kristine Honda and Kirsten Throneberry
In September of 2012, honoring a request made by Mr. Tho Luu, His Eminence Khӧndung Asanga Vajra Sakya Rinpoche and his paternal grandmother, Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho Sakya travelled from Seattle, Washington to Vietnam for nine days. Mr Tho Luu is a longtime dedicated student of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Rinpoche and founder of the Center for Buddhist Studies (in the Sakya Tradition) located in Ho Chi Minh City. The center was built in order to fulfill a commitment to expand Tibetan Buddhism, and especially the Sakya tradition, in Vietnam in honor of H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche. Mr Tho Luu requested the blessing and consecration of this center as well as blessings at the groundbreaking ceremony of a crematorium and temple complex. As representatives of His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche, H.E. Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche, and H.E. Dagmo Kusho Sakya travelled to Vietnam accompanied by Venerable Lama Tashi Rinpoche, head of the Sakya Tsechen Choling Center in Taiwan, Lama Migmar of Sakya Monastery, and Ms. Chen Shih Fang, President of Sakya Tsechen Choling Center.
On September 21st, Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche and Dagmo Kusho la performed the consecration and blessing of the Sakya Buddhist Study Centre in Vietnam. On September 22nd, Asanga Rinpoche also bestowed a Medicine Buddha initiation in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City with about 200 people attending. The teaching took place in the private setting of a conference room inside a 4-star hotel (Vietnam is a State controlled country, all public gathering even for religious activities must have clearance from the State in advance, and attendees are limited in numbers).
The next day, the entourage travelled to the Phu Hoa Dong Hamlet, a subdivision of Ho Chi Minh City–an area that saw much bloodshed during the Vietnam War (CuChi tunnel) in which many Vietnamese from both sides as well as American Soldiers lost their lives. According to Dagmo Kusho la, before they entered the area a heavy feeling permeated the air. She and Asanga Rinpoche, Ananda Rinpoche, Lama Tashi, Lama Migmar and their entourage participated in a groundbreaking ceremony of the Long Tho Crematorium. This future site of a cremation complex reflects a Buddhist theme in architectural designs (Long Tho is the Vietnamese name of the Bodhisattva Nagarjuna). Event organizers invited Buddhist representatives from many parts of the world. Buddhist monks and high ranking members of the Vietnamese Sangha and local congregations of all traditions, as well as delegations from Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States were in attendance. State and high ranking members of the central government and local officials joined this event as well. Altogether there were over 1000 attendees.
The program included the history of the area and the importance of the land. Some very kind and generous Vietnamese donors offered to sponsor the event, some of them being the financiers and shareholders for the project. In addition, the government benevolently granted the land use right for the project and approval for the event to carry on in such a high profile manner which was covered by the local media network (state controlled). During the ceremony, each of the Mahayana, Hinayana, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhist monastics performed prayers to help benefit the deceased and the land. Asanga Rinpoche and the Sakya lamas personally performed a blessing for the land and a fire puja during the groundbreaking ceremony. During the fire puja, there was a downpour of rain that lasted for close to thirty minutes and in spite of this, the ceremonial fire burned very bright and strong! This created a feeling among many of the attendants that a miracle was being witnessed. Some even shared that they were able to see figures in the fire during the puja.
The following day, September 24th, Dagmo Kusho la bestowed a Green Tara initiation and teaching. Approximately 150 people gathered to receive this blessing and several attendees stated that they felt at one with their local deity (Vietnam has a tradition of reverence and worship for “Heavenly Mothers” in the local temples of the natives. In fact, there is a “Green Royal Mother” figure in the legend who rules the mountain, forestry, and highland culture …she bestows blessing on followers for protection, wealth, and health).
The next day, the entourage travelled to the Suoi Tien Amusement Park NW of Ho Chi Minh City. It was a delightful and unique Buddhist themed amusement park that had rides, a zoo, many Buddhist statues, dragons, and a Buddhist shrine. There, Asanga Rinpoche performed a dedication for the temple and performed a large Vajrapani fire puja. The local sangha welcomed the group and participated in a joint session of praying and providing ceremonial offering to the Buddhas. Then the lamas performed the puja having Asanga Rinpoche preside as the Master in charge with Lama Tashi Rinpoche of Taiwan in assistance. Many attendees participated in the event and placed offerings of food ingredients in the fire along with names of their deceased loved ones. The event went well and saw a large crowd waiting late into the night for blessings.
On September 26th, the entourage visited the Pagoda and Retreat Center located near the Suoi Tien Amusement Park. Asanga Rinpoche and the lamas performed a blessing for the land as well as a consecration. Many villagers happily greeted them and Asanga Rinpoche also gave them his blessings. The site is planned to have a Maitreya complex, on a smaller scale of the Indian version, later development.
Dagmo Kusho la remarked, “It was a very successful trip for Buddha Dharma as well as the people in Vietnam. People were very receptive to the Buddhist teachings.” The Sakya Monastery is very grateful to Mr Tho Luu, Mrs. Hong Dang, students, and local donors who generously sponsored all the events, refreshments, and meals for all the attendees of the initiations.
During their stay, there were some private visits with high ranking Vietnamese dignitaries that went well with mutual respect, goodwill, and friendship.
Asanga Rinpoche, even though young, has earned people’s hearts, especially those of the Vietnamese who were able to come close to him. On his own merits as well as his spiritual performance on behalf of the Sakya tradition, Asanga Rinpoche left a good impression of Tibetan Buddhism as a whole (Vietnam is also rooted in the Mahayana as well Hinayana traditions of Buddhism for over a thousand years…). All those who have met and received Khöndung Asanga Rinpoche’s teachings and blessings have requested that he return soon to Vietnam to give more teachings and blessings and he hopes to fulfill their wishes. As the first Sakya Khön lineage holder lama to give Buddhist teachings in Vietnam, this connection will help to spread teachings of the Buddha Dharma and thus benefit all sentient beings, especially those in Vietnam.