SOFIA—One of the most senior lamas of the Drikung Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, traveled to Moscow from 31 July–9 August to lead a Vajrakilaya retreat. Garchen Rinpoche’s program during his Moscow visit began with a public talk and a refuge ceremony at the Central House of the Writer. More than 650 people attended the talk and around 300 took refuge.
Garchen Rinpoche has visited Moscow several times since 2003, and in 2009 founded the Drikung Kagyu Ratna Shri teaching center. The center organizes weekly meditation sessions, retreats, and lectures by different teachers, as well as translating and publishing Buddhist texts. The Dharma practices are open to all students regardless of experience. In October 2009, Garchen Rinpoche appointed Drupon Lama Tsering as his representative for all of his European centers.
The Vajrakilaya retreat began on 2 August at the Kunsangar North retreat center* and continued until 7 August. Vajrakilaya or Vajrakila (Tib: dorje phurba, diamond dagger) is a wrathful deity who embodies the enlightened activities of buddhas and removes obstacles, destroying hostile forces. Garchen Rinpoche started the retreat with a Vajrakilaya empowerment (Tib: wang), oral transmission (Tib: lung), and teachings, and continued with Vajrakilaya Sangdrup—a secret practice of accomplishment that is believed to bring tremendous merit.
Around 500 disciples joined the retreat and recited the powerful mantra of Vajrakilaya 24 hours a day, with practitioners taking shifts throughout the night. It is Garchen Rinpoche’s hope that his Russian disciples will continue the regular practice of Vajrakilaya Sangdrup as he believes this powerful ritual can be very beneficial for Russia and also because his students will help to preserve the Drikung Kagyu tradition.
At the end of the extraordinary retreat, the lama bestowed the White Tara empowerment (Tib: dolkar tsewang). This female aspect of the Buddha is invoked to impart a long life and healing.
The Vajrakilaya Sangdrup practice was performed in Tibetan, Russian, and English, with the teachings translated from Tibetan into Russian and English. The English translation was carried out by Garchen Rinpoche’s main interpreter, Ina Bieler. A native of Austria, and fluent in German, English, and Tibetan, she began her translator education in 2003 at the Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition in Dharamsala, India. Since 2006, she has been translating for Garchen Rinpoche and other Drinkung Kagyu lamas.
Garchen Rinpoche left Moscow on 9 July and traveled to Budapest. In August, he will continue his teaching program in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland, and Austria.
Garchen Rinpoche was born in Eastern Tibet in 1936 and studied the Dharma with some of the most esteemed lamas of the Drikung lineage. From his teacher Siddha Chime Dorje he received vast and profound instructions on the preliminary practices (ngondro), the fivefold practice of Mahamudra, and the six yogas of Naropa. At the age of 19 he undertook a three-year retreat, but was unable to complete it due to the Chinese Cultural Revolution in Tibet. He was subsequently imprisoned for 20 years after fighting to defend Tibet and preserve the Buddhadharma. While in prison, Garchen Rinpoche met his other guru, Khenpo Munsel, from whom he received many profound teachings. He was released in 1979 and dedicated his life to spreading the Buddhadharma across the world. Garchen Rinpoche now has centers in Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
* Kusangar North, located some 70 kilometers outside Moscow, is a center of the International Dzogchen Community guided by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu.