Sacred Mount Kailash
I pay homage to Palkhorlo Dompa
The Residence of Tantric Deity Palkorlo
Mt Kailash is the residence
of the most wrathful deity Chakrasamvara (Palkhorlo Dompa in Tibetan).
The tantric tradition of Buddhism believes there are three principle
embodiments of an enlightened being, (Kayas in Sanskrit, Ku in Tibetan).
A Buddha or an enlightened being can have all three embodiments:
the body of reality, or spiritual existence, is Dharmakaya in Sanskrit
(Choe Ku in Tibetan); the Complete Enjoyment Body, or celestial
existence, is Sambhogakaya (Long Ku in Tibetan); and the Emanation
Body, or bodily existence, is Nirmanakaya (Trulku in Tibetan). Chakrasamvara
is believed to be celestial emanation of Buddha Shakyamuni.
In this universe, there are
three worlds: the gods' or celestial world (Lha Yul), the human
world (Me Yul) and the Naga's world (Klu Yul). Once upon a time,
there were eight space-goers - four "deities" (Lha) and
four "smell-eaters" (Dre Za); eight ground-walkers - four
"malevolent harmers" (Nod Jan) and four "cannibal
demons" (Sren Po); and eight underground dwellers - four "Nagas"
(Klu) and four "demi-gods" (Lhama Ye). All together, twenty-four
of them came to earth and occupied twenty-four different territories.
Their evil presence caused great suffering to all the inhabitants
of the earth. Therefore Buddha Shakyamuni, from the state of the
body of reality, manifested the Complete Enjoyment Body as the most
wrathful Palkhorlo Dompa with one face and twelve hands. He subdued
all the invaders with his underlying great compassion and converted
those twenty-four sites into the residences of Palkhorlo Dompa.
Mount Kailash, Trita Puri, Tsari, Lache, Shel-Re-Drugda are five
of the twenty-four territories.
Palkhorlo Dompa is one of four
aspects of Dechog and is known as "Chakrasamvara" in Sanskrit.
"Chakra" means wheel and "Samvara" means supreme
bliss. It is also translated as "spontaneous great bliss".
By practicing Chakrasamvara tantra, Buddhists try to gain a profound
realization of the emptiness of all phenomena and being. This is
described as the supreme bliss of mind. The sexual union of Chakrasamvara
and his consort Vajrayogini (Dorjee Pegmo in Tibetan) symbolizes
ultimate wisdom and compassion to achieve the state of enlightenment
for the benefit of all sentient beings. The practices associated
with Dechog are widely practiced by all the Tantric traditions of
The image of the tantric wrathful
deity, Dechog, is usually drawn locked in union with his consort,
Dorjee Phagmo, and has a normal human appearance with two arms and
one face. The two together symbolize the union of compassion and
wisdom, which are an essential combination for achieving ultimate
The Precious Snow Mountain
Gang Rinpoche is one of several
Tibetan names for Mount Kailash; it means the precious snow mountain.
Many Sutra books say that sacred Mount Kailash lies behind nine
black mountains, east of Buddhagaya, a place in India where the
historical Buddha Shakyamuni attained the state of enlightenment.
It is believed that in the 5th century, Buddha Shakyamuni and five
hundred Arhats miraculously appeared on Mount Kailash. They were
there to prevent a cannibal demon, Ravana (Gonpo Bang in Tibetan),
from magically removing Kailash. Today, there are four footprints,
one on each side of Kailash, which are believed to have been left
by Buddha Shakyamuni in order to nail Kailash down. The surrounding
mountains of Kailash are known as the residences of the five hundred
Arhats. Behind Kailash can clearly be seen the mark of a rope, believed
to have been left by Ravana.
The King of Mountains
Many authors refer to Mount
Kailash as Mount Meru. This name comes from beliefs about the formation
of the universe. Space came into existence as the result of innumerable
causes and conditions. Wind depends on air and water depends on
wind; earth depends on water and living beings depend on earth;
celestial bodies such as the sun, moon, stars and planets are also
dependent on the wind element. This is how the universe was formed.
At the centre, there is a mountain, known as Mt Meru in Sanskrit,
which is the earth's navel. In Tibetan Mt Meru is known as Re-Gyal,
which means the king of mountains. Living beings came into existence
through the five elements and common Karmas. Karma is a Buddhist
term that is defined as the sum of somebody’s good and bad
past actions, which is believed to decide their fate in the future.
Among living beings, there are those who have physical bodies (zug
kam) and those who don't (zug med kam); all live in this universe
at a wide range of levels, like a stupa reaching from the foot to
the peak of Mt Meru.
Retreat Centre of Kargyu
Pa Order of Tibetan Buddhism
Kailash has long been a retreat centre of the Kagyu Pa Order of
Tibetan Buddhism. Milarepa (1040-1123) was one of the foremost respected
Tibetan yogis. His great master, Marpa, told him that if he wasn't
able to meditate on the knowledge he possessed, living a long life
would only be cause for rebirth in hell. Marpa advised him to go
to the sacred Mount Kailash, which is mentioned in Sutras, and to
practice meditation. On completion of his studies, Milarepa reached
Mount Kailash in 1093. On arrival at Gur La, a pass where you first
see Mount Kailash as you approach from the west, Milarepa was received
by the local deities and spirits, the so-called land owners. They
offered him the sacred Mount Kailash and the holy lake of Manasarovar
as a retreat centre for himself and his followers. Then, at the
lakeside, Milarepa encountered the famous Bon Po (the pre-Buddhist
Tibetan religion) practitioner, Naro Bon Chung. He asked Milarepa,
"Who are you and where are you going?" Milarepa answered,
"My name is Milarepa. We are going to the sacred Mount Kailash
to meditate." Naro Bon Chong replied "Kailash and Manasarovar
belong to the Bon religion, so you can only meditate there if you
practice Bon." Milarepa replied, "Buddha Shakyamuni predicted
that Mount Kailash would be a sacred place for all Buddhists practitioners
in general. The great master Marpa especially advised me to go to
Mount Kailash to meditate. Therefore, Mount Kailash is a sacred
Buddhist mountain and Bon practitioners can only remain there if
they practice Buddhism." Milarepa and Naro Bon Chung had a
long argument. Finally, they used their spiritual powers to compete
with each other to see who should own Mount Kailash.
Naro Bon Chung stepped across
holy Manasarovar. He sang this song: "You, Milarepa, are like
Mount Kailash and Manasarovar with great fame from afar. Mount Kailash
is just a rocky mountain covered by snow, and Manasarovar is a lake
which stores all the dirt coming from the rivers. You, Milarepa,
are a skinny man, who is just skin and bone. There is nothing wonderful
about you at all." Then, Milarepa left Manasarovar on the tips
of his fingers, without causing any harm to the living beings in
the lake, and sang this song: " I, Milarepa, known by all people,
came to Mount Kailash in order to fulfil Lho Drang Marpa's advice
and to achieve my own goal and others' through meditation. Since
you, Naro Bon Chung, came with the wrong idea, I am going to compete
and do whatever it takes." Their final match was to see who
could be first to get to the top of Mount Kailash; this would decide
the ownership of Mount Kailash and Manasarovar. So, on the day,
Naro Bon Chung left early in the morning while Milarepa was still
in his bed. A follower of Milarepa woke him up and said, "Naro
has left early. Are you going to give away the sacred mountain?"
At sunrise, Milarepa flew to the top of Mount Kailash. Naro Bon
Chung lost his drum because he was unable to bear the rays shining
from the peak of the mountain. The great scar down the side of Mount
Kailash is believed to have been made by Naro Bon Chung's drum.
Since Naro Bon Chung was unable to defeat Milarepa, he said, "You
have won, but please give me a place from where I can see Mount
Kailash." So Milarepa threw a handful of snow from the mountain,
creating a small Kailash. Milarepa offered the small mountain to
Naro Bon Chung. Still today, the small mountain is known as Gang-Chung
(small Kailash) or Bon Re (the mountain of Bon).
Since the 11th century, the
Kagyu Pa sect of Tibetan Buddhism have been the owners of Mount
Kailash and Manasarovar. Milarepa told his students to practise
their meditation on Mount Kailash. Then Gampopa (1079-1153), one
of Milarepa's closest disciples, also told his disciple, Pugmodrupa
(1110-1170), to send graduate monks to meditate continuously at
Mount Kailash, Tsari and Lachi. However, things didn't turn out
as expected: Pugmodrupa, the founder of the Pagdru Kagyu Order,
sang this song to two of his disciples, Kyabpa Jigten Sumgon (1143-1217),
the founder the Drikung Kagyu Order, and Druptop Langje Repa, the
founder of the Drugpa Kagyu Order: "As Buddha predicted, the
Himalayas are known all over the world. The residence of Palkhorlo
Dompa (Chakrasamvara) is there. Today, it is there as an object
for worldly sentient beings to make offerings to. To go to Mount
Kailash would be a great joy and to meditate there would be a great
happiness." Two of the disciples asked their disciple, Je Tsangpa
Gyare Yeshi Dorjee, to go to Mount Kailash. He went and gathered
thousands of students, ensuring the practice of meditation flourished
in the region as the waxing of the moon. His disciple Gyalwa Gotsangpa
practised for a long time at Mount Kailash and established the path
round the mountain, introducing the tradition of walking around
sacred Mount Kailash, known as Kora in Tibetan.
Sumgon first sent 80 of his students from the Drikung Kagyu Order,
under the guidance of Geshe Nyepupa. A second time, 900 disciples
went with Geshe Nyochenpo and Garpa Jangdor. The third time, he
sent Dordzin Guya Gangpa as the retreat master to oversee 55,525
students. At that time there were no monasteries at Mount Kailash
and the meditators lived in caves and under boulders. Later, Lord
Jigten Sumgon also instructed Nyo Gyalwa Lhanangpa, Druptob Senge
Yeshe and others to practise at Mount Kailash.
Since that day, the abbot of
Gyangdrak Monastery has held the title “Dordzin.” “Dor”
refers to “dorje” in Tibetan or “vajra”
in Sanskrit—representing an indestructible substance such
as a thunderbolt or a diamond; “dzin” means “holder”;
and so together the title means, “Vajra Holder.” Since
the founding of Gyangdrak Monastery, there have been 33 Vajra Holders.
The first was Ghuya Gangpa and the current Dordzin is Wangtang Dorje.