By Alyssa McFarland, July 2018
On Sunday, July 22, 2018, His Eminence Khöndung Avikrita Vajra Rinpoche bestowed Refuge for those who wished to participate in the Refuge Ceremony, and then bestowed the empowerments of Chagdongma and Shitro in the morning and afternoon respectively.
Chagdongma is a long life empowerment related to the Guru Rinpoche puja that Sakya Monastery in Tibet and the Phuntsok Phodrang in particular does every 10th day of the lunar month. In the year 1366, Ngoedrup Gyaltsen discovered this practice as part of the Northern Termas (Chang Ter), one of many treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche. His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang recognized the importance of this practice, which has been practiced continuously in Tibet for many centuries, and expressed his hopes that Avikrita Rinpoche would revive it.
Chagdongma is for longevity and stabilizing the energy of the psychic body. The practice centers on Amitabha Buddha.
Avikrita Rinpoche reminded us of the importance of arousing bodhicitta before doing any practice. The mind of compassion helps us to relax and boosts our immunity, and these benefits help increase our life span so we can practice Dharma for the benefit of all beings.
Shitro is the practice associated with the Bardo of Dharmata, which is the nature of reality. After death, we have the opportunity to rest in the recognition of natural appearances. At that time, the 42 peaceful and 58 wrathful deities (also known as the Shitro) will not frighten us because we recognize their true nature. Historically speaking, Yeshe Tsogyal opened the Shitro mandala in order to help many beings escape from Avici Hell. The practice was hidden as terma until the 14th century, when it was revealed by Karma Lingpa. The initiation was requested by Teresa Lamb, VEI Director, in order to support the weekly Sunday Shitro practice at Sakya Monastery.
We were very fortunate and greatly blessed to receive these precious empowerments from Avikrita Rinpoche, may he live long!