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by the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa on the first day of the Rinchen Terzod Transmissions in 2006

by the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa, August 2006, Palpung Sherabling
translated by Richard Barron (Chokyi Nyima)  

Today we begin the conferral of all the empowerments, oral transmissions, and instructions for the great Treasury of Hidden Treasure Teachings (Rinchen Terzod) cycle. These transmissions have been requested for some time now, by many lamas, tulkus, members of the ordained sangha, and other students, but because the necessary circumstances didn't come together, we haven't been able to begin these transmissions until now. Even as we now embark on this undertaking, due to considerations of place and time not all of those who previously requested these transmissions have been able to attend. Nevertheless, last year people close to me ~ primarily the lamas, tulkus, and entire monastic community here at my seat ~ have been insisting that these transmissions be given. So people have arranged to come for whatever duration they can.

Once you have received all of the empowerments, oral transmissions, and instructions for this great Rinchen Terzod collection, the benefit for you lies in your practice, while the benefit for others rests on the perpetuation of the lineage, if you are a lama or tulku; even if you are an ordained or lay person, I pray that some noble tendency toward the dharma will be planted in you, if only to a small degree.

The principal recipient in this gathering is Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, who is the actual custodian of these teachings. Given that I now can repay him by offering him these empowerments ~ returning them to their original owner, so to speak ~ I also offer my prayers that in the future Jamgon Rinpoche will be able to ensure great benefit for beings through all his five great Treasuries.

Today, then, at the very beginning, I thought I might speak briefly about an overview of the Rinchen Terzod collection. Many of you no doubt already know what the Rinchen Terzod is, but many of you may not. Once you have an idea of the overview, it's useful because you have some sense, now that you are here, of what it is you are receiving. It is for this reason that I would like to speak briefly. At this point, it won't do for those who don't understand Tibetan to be left behind, so I will also alternate by summarizing my remarks in English. If I don't switch between the two languages, but first make all my remarks in Tibetan and then repeat everything in English, it will waste a lot of time.

Let me make a few remarks at the very outset. You might wonder why we are starting these empowerments in the western month of August, because in this part of the world August is a month when the weather is bad ~ it's hot, it rains, it's humid, there's a lot of mud. October, on the other hand, would have been quite pleasant. But if we complete these transmissions during August, September, and October, it makes it easier for those who wish to attend the Karma Guncho debates and the Kagyu Monlam. The Karma Guncho debates were initiated in Nepal by Choje Lama Puntsok. The Kagyu Monlam Chenmo was begun many years ago by Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, following which Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche gave it great support; Bokar Rinpoche then directed it, and after that Lama Karma Chodrak took over the organization of the event and still renders that service. Beginning some six years ago, when the head of the Kagyu lineage, His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, first came to India, part of his activities has been to attend the Kagyu Monlam, and this has been a real stroke of good fortune. People have had, and continue to have, the wonderful opportunity to serve His Holiness, meet with him, and participate in such a great prayer festival with him. Therefore, if the time period for these transmissions here were to conflict with that of the Kagyu Monlam festival, people would of course wish to attend the prayer festival and many who wished to receive these empowerments and oral transmissions would be unable to do so, which would be an unsatisfactory arrangement. This, then, was the reason for selecting the present time period, so that people could receive the empowerments and oral transmissions, and attend the Kagyu Monlam festival and Karma Guncho debates.

Of course, it is slightly inconvenient, with the rain and the heat. People still might wonder, "Why on earth is Situ Rinpoche doing these things now? What an odd lama! When he goes to historic Tibet, he goes in the dead of winter, while when he gives empowerments in India he does so in the heat of summer!" But there is some purpose to this. Surely there is some discomfort due to the heat and humidity, but think of this as a way of purifying yourself of obscurations. Don't just think of it as hardship, alright? It's not all that hot. There's a saying: "Once you've seen a snake, a frog doesn't look too bad."Until you've seen a snake, you might think a frog is something bad, but once you've seen a snake you see that the frog wasn't so bad after all. Compared to places where it's really hot, I don't think it's so bad here. With respect to the weather and other circumstances, sure, the organizers, you all, and even I have some difficulty. I, for one, do not enjoy hot weather in the slightest. But what else is there to do? For now, think of this as a way to develop yourself spiritually and purify yourself of obscurations.

I thought to discuss this great Rinchen Terzod collection in several steps. In general, the great Rinchen Terzod collection is said to be made up of terma teachings, but it is not entirely terma. It also contains teachings from the kama tradition, and even some that are connected with the Bon tradition. These teachings were definitely included for a reason. The collection contains the teachings of many incomparable lamas. If I were to list them all by name, there would be too many, but let me at least tell you the names of a few of the more renowned masters. If you understand that this collection contains their termas and their works, that knowledge is almost sufficient in itself.

Among the five Treasuries, the one entitled The Treasury of Vast Teachings (Gyachen Kadzo) is the actual collected writings of Jamgon Kongtrul, works he himself composed. The Treasury of Knowledge (Sheja Dzo) is like a collection of his writings on all fields of knowledge, all the secular subjects included. The Treasury of Hidden Treasure Teachings (Rinchen Terzod), The Treasury of Kagyu Mantra Teachings (Kagyu Ngak-dzo), and The Treasury of Spiritual Instructions (Dam-ngak Dzo) are more like collections that he compiled.

But even these last three are not exclusively the works of others that he simply compiled. For example, let us consider the collection on which I am now basing my remarks ~ the Rinchen Terzod. It has many divisions of teachings. There are more than eight hundred individual empowerments, and among the sadhanas and activity rituals associated with each of these, there is in virtually each case something written by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye. So it is not simply a case of him taking texts that already existed and arranging them in a collection; there are a great many of his own writings among them, to supply missing elements or to provide supplementary material.

When Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye arranged a text for the performance of a ritual, it was, in fact, largely the case that three masters ~ Jamyang Khyentsei Wangpo, Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, and Kongtrul ~ arranged it, their minds coming together as one. Strictly speaking, Jamyang Khyentsei Wangpo was a Sakyapa, Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa a Nyingmapa, and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye a Kagyupa. But these masters were not concerned with issues of being Kagyu, or Nyingma, or Sakya; rather, their three minds were in perfect accord, as one intention, with mutual respect. That is the kind of thing that can happen when minds are in complete accord and there is mutual respect, just as bad things can happen when that accord and respect are missing. In fact, such complete accord and mutual respect are signs of truly authentic gurus and great spiritual beings, and Khyentsei Wangpo, Jamgon Kongtrul, and Chokgyur Lingpa demonstrated these in the case of this collection. Thus, the Rinchen Terzod also contains many writings of Jamyang Khyentsei Wangpo and Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa.

I thought I might speak briefly about the life of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye. If you have read the extensive autobiography he wrote, there is nothing more to be known about his life, but let me summarize it. There is a prayer to him that goes as follows:

O Vairocana, you are the universal monarch of the dharma.
May the life force of the vast range of teachings ~ kama and terma, sutra and tantra ~
the traditions preserved in your five great Treasuries, marvelous and complete, remain with us and flourish until the end of time!

What this indicates is that, of the buddhas of the five families, Jamgon Kongtrul was an emanation of the buddha Vairocana. Of the eight "great sons," or great bodhisattvas in the retinue of the Lord Buddha, he was an emanation of the exalted Manjushri; of the shravakas in the Buddha's retinue, he was an emanation of Ananda; and of the great Tibetan translators, he was an emanation of Bairotsana. In fact, their emanation was Kongpo Bamteng Tulku, whose rebirth was Jamgon Kongtrul. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye's birthplace was Derge Rong-gyap, an area under the jurisdiction of the king of Derge.

A series of events occurred when he was still quite young. His father was a man of strong character. Those holding government office were called "dun-kor" (retinue in the presence), a kind of second-level minister, or "hor-dra," a kind of third-level official. When one named Tralgyap, the hordra of Rong-gyap, came to their area, something happened to upset Jamgon Kongtrul's father, who beat the official. For this he was thrown into the prison of Rong-gyap Fortress. Even though Jamgon Kongtrul was still just a young boy when his father was in prison, he journeyed to the fortress to see his father. It was then, due to his former karma and aspirations, that Jamgon Kongtrul was taken under the care of the chieftain of Rong-gyap, who saw him as someone quite extraordinary. Jamgon Kongtrul studied secular subjects to some degree.

He then went to Shechen Monastery, where he studied Buddhist texts of the sutra and tantra traditions, including pith instructions from the tantras. Because of previous special tendencies awakening in him, he could understand these subjects just by hearing and reflecting on them. One day the Rong-gyap chieftain, being a Nyingmapa, set off on a pilgrimage to the monasteries of Katok, Palyul, and so forth. This seems to have been when Jamgon Kongtrul was an adolescent, and Jamgon Kongtrul accompanied the chieftain on this pilgrimage. When they reached the great monastery of Derge Gonchen, Jamgon Kongtrul first heard of the seat of Palpung and the name of the ninth Situ, Pema Nyinje Wangpo; he thereupon felt an irresistible urge to go to Palpung, due (it seems) to some latent tendency awakening in him. So he took his leave of the chieftain and went to Palpung.

When he first arrived in Palpung Monastery, Jamgon Kongtrul met Palpung Ongen, who then introduced him to Pema Nyinje Wangpo, from whom he received a name. It was actually at this point that he was first given the title of "Jamgon Kongtrul." When he received the monastic ordination from Situ Pema Nyinje Wangpo, Jamgon Kongtrul was given the name Yonten Gyatso; when he received the bodhisattva vow, his name was Lodro Taye. Later, when he received tantric empowerments, he was given the secret name of Pema Garwang. He also bore the title of Tennyi Yungdrung Lingpa in connection with termas he revealed. Thus, he had several names and titles.

Let me speak about his work compiling the five great Treasuries. And let me say that, in talking about the life of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, I am discussing what it actually the case. I am not just praising him because he was a lama of my monastery. At a time when the Buddhist teachings in the Land of Snows, were like a lamp running out of oil, he rekindled the lamp of the teachings. There was no one like Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye in revivifying the teachings; that is something I can state categorically, but in doing so I am not being sectarian, just stating what is the truth.

You might wonder why Jamgon Kongtrul produced these five great Treasuries. The Buddha's teachings constitute a lineage. It is not enough for there to be many people wearing maroon robes and shaving their heads: that alone does not ensure the flourishing of the teachings. There are any number of maroon garments for sale in shops, and having no hair might mean that you didn't sweat so much when the weather was hot. But if you think that the flourishing of the Buddha's teachings lies in such things as there being many monks, or large monasteries, or many texts, or many new books being written, this is not so. The Buddha's teachings flourish if the precepts of the pratimoksha vows are maintained on the outer level; when the training of the bodhisattva is maintained on the inner level; and when the tantric samaya of the masters of awareness is maintained on the secret level. Do you understand my point?

So, what was it that Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye foresaw? He could see that the eight great lineages of accomplishment in the Land of Snows, and even the indigenous Bon tradition, were facing a great catastrophe. In order to offset that catastrophe, he saw the necessity of receiving empowerments, oral transmissions, and instructions. It would be tragic for teachings to be given if there were no lineage of teachings, or pith instructions to be imparted if there were no lineage for these instructions. What would be the tragedy? Forget about the training of tantric practitioners and bodhisattvas; even the pratimoksha precepts for individual liberation would be lost. Once the pratimoksha precepts are lost, it is already the case that one is not an ordained person.

Concerned that the ongoing lineages of empowerment, oral transmission, and instruction would become impaired, Jamgon Kongtrul was willing to undertake incredible challenges. By comparison, if someone like me, of sound mind and body, were to exert himself and undertake such challenges even for thousands of years, it would not produce such results. Yet Jamgon Kongtrul, due to his karma and aspirations, did produce such results. If we examine his life, from one point of view it would seem that he spent his time entirely in conferring empowerments; from another point of view, in giving teachings of the dharma; from another point of view, in receiving empowerments and oral transmissions; and from yet another point of view, in compiling these teachings. In fact, it seems that he accomplished the work of many people, not just the work of a single lama; that was his unique quality. And so he compiled these five great Treasuries. Among these five Treasuries, The Treasury of Kagyu Mantra Teachings ~ the Kagyu Ngak-dzo ~ contains all of the tantric transmissions of the Kagyu school, emphasizing those of the newer, or Sarma, tradition.

The Treasury of Spiritual Instructions ~ the Dam-ngak Dzo ~ contains the lineages of the eight great lineages of accomplishment. These eight are the Nyingma, Kadampa, Lamdre, Marpa Kagyu, Shangpa Kagyu, Shije, Jordruk, and Dorjei Nyendrup traditions.

Of these, "Kadampa" is term that is used to refer to the tradition up to the time of lord Tsongkhapa. Once his great seat of Ganden was founded, the term "Gelukpa" was used; so the two terms, Gelukpa and Kadampa, refer to the same lineage.

"Lamdre" is the name of a spiritual teaching, just as the term "Sakyapa" is the name of a place being applied to a spiritual tradition, which takes its name from the main seat of Sakya in Tsang province.

"Marpa Kagyu" refers to the profound teachings that the master Marpa the Translator brought to Tibet from India; "Marpa Kagyu" denotes the lineage that derives from the students of the incomparable Dakpo Rinpoche. There were four major schools that came principally from the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, and eight minor schools that were founded by the students of Pakmo Druppa. Among the four main schools of the Kagyu tradition, there is the Kamtsang Kagyu and its many sub-schools, such as the Nedo, Zurmang, and Gyalton. When these schools had all differentiated, there ended up being four major and eight minor schools of the Kagyu tradition, which all descended from students of the incomparable Dakpo Rinpoche. These are collectively referred to as the Marpa Kagyu.

As for the Shangpa Kagyu tradition, there was a contemporary of Marpa called Khyungpo Naljor, who journeyed to India and received teachings from Niguma, Sukhasiddhi, and other masters. The lineage he founded was called the Shangpa Kagyu. Some people seem to consider the Shangpa Kagyu one of the four major or eight minor schools mentioned before, but while these people may be learned in the scriptures, secular fields of knowledge, pith instructions, practical methods, and so forth, they are a bit lacking in their knowledge of history!

The Shije (Pacification) tradition is the lineage of the Choyul teachings that were passed down from such gurus as Padampa Sanggye and Machik Lapchi Dronma.

The Jordruk (Six Techniques of Union) tradition is also called the Jonangpa.

The Dorjei Nyendrup (Vajra Approach and Accomplishment) tradition is also called the Orgyen Nyendrup, because it was passed down by the siddha Orgyenpa.

The Dam-ngak Dzo, then, is a collection of all the instructions for these eight great lineages of accomplishment; in addition, Jamgon Kongtrul included some cycles of teachings from the indigenous Tibetan tradition of Bon.

He would travel wherever it was necessary to receive empowerments that were becoming rare, to receive oral transmissions, to receive instructions, and then produced the Dam-ngak Dzo collection, just as he gathered all of cycles of Kagyu teachings to produce the Kagyu Ngak-dzo. He gathered all the cycles of terma teachings to produce the Rinchen Terzod. The Gyachen Kadzo contains works that Jamgon Kongtrul himself authored. And he collected his writings on the entire range of fields of secular knowledge into The Treasury of All-Encompassing Knowledge (Sheja Kunkhyap Dzo). Now, when we say "fields of secular knowledge", we are not just talking about spelling and grammar; the Sheja Kunkhyap Dzo contains discussions of all the ten traditional fields of knowledge, the five major ones foremost.

From time to time, Jamgon Kongtrul would discover a lineage of teachings that was becoming exceedingly rare. He would journey to some isolated rural place, where the lineage holder might be some old person who couldn't even read very well, and he would receive the lineage from that person. He would look to where the lineages were; he was not concerned with receiving teachings from great lamas and famous people, and did not disregard more humble lineage holders.

Jamgon Kongtrul was doing all of this for the benefit of the teachings in general, and so the term ri-me (non-sectarian) is appropriate to describe him. In fact, the three masters ~ Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, Jamyang Khyentsei Wangpo, and Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa ~ were all great non-sectarian masters, something to which the historical accounts of them attest. To give you an analogy, suppose there were a lake of fine water endowed with eight qualities; from whichever side of the lake you drank, east or west, north or south, the water would have those eight qualities. Similarly, if you have faith, samaya commitment, diligence, and devotion toward the eight great lineages of accomplishment, then regardless of which you practice you can attain buddhahood; it is not the case that one is better or worse than another. On the basis of that understanding, you feel respect for and honor all of them.

Now, there is a saying in the ordinary world ~ "killing one to save another." You shouldn't act in this way. Whatever your individual school of dharma is, whatever historical lineage you follow, you practice in that specific way. We do not have the kind of noble karma and aspirations that Khyentse, Kongtrul, and Chokgyur Lingpa did, and so if we tried to practice according to all these eight lineages of accomplishment, we would only feel confused and end up accomplishing nothing. Rather, each of us practices according to our own lineage of teachings, and serves the teachings and works for the welfare of beings on that basis. If you have faith and devotion, knowing all teachings to have identical value, although you cannot practice all the other lineages than your own, this is what the term ri-me means. Otherwise, to serve and honor your own teachings, whatever they are, while disparaging the teachings of others is an extremely bad thing to do; you are actually betraying your own teachings, not serving them! Whatever your own teachings are, you uphold them, and if you can serve other schools of teachings, you do so, but if you cannot, at least have faith in and a pure perception of them. We must be careful to ensure that we regard these lineages well, that there is no threat of them being impaired, that there is no discord between them, and that there is no threat of them becoming corrupted. We need to act as we would, for example, if we had to go into a thicket of thorn bushes; we would wear appropriate clothing and guard against the threat of being injured. Do you understand my point? We must be in harmony with all schools of teachings, honor them all, show respect for them all.

But still, if you don't look after your own teachings, no one else will look after them for you. And so the term ri-me also does not mean mixing everything up together. In the case of someone like Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, for example, while he was ri-me, non-sectarian, his seat was Palpung ~ he was Jamgon Kongtrul of Palpung. From among the eight great lineages of accomplishment, he considered the Kagyu the most important for him personally. When he founded his retreat center, he instituted a program of practice for the complete cycle of the incomparable Shangpa Kagyu teachings. In all cases, he made sure that everything was authentic. When we examine what has happened in the last two hundred or three hundred years, we see that if there had been no Khyentse, Kongtrul, and Chokgyur Lingpa ~ and especially if Jamgon Kongtrul had not produced his five great Treasuries ~ there would be nowhere one could receive certain teachings and no idea of who held certain lineages. To put it in a nutshell, we wouldn't be able even to find them.

People nowadays and of recent times have no time, and lineages could become interrupted. If they are interrupted, the tradition of teachings will degenerate. When we speak of the Buddhist tradition degenerating, people think this just means there will be no more monasteries, no more texts, no more monks. But to say that the tradition has degenerated really means that lineages have become interrupted. There may still be monasteries, monks, texts, and so forth ~ there may even be more of these than there ever were ~ but if the lineages are interrupted, the tradition of teachings has degenerated. If the tradition has degenerated due to there being no lineages, rather than one trying to survive by using the teachings that are written on paper, better for a servant to run to where his basic needs are met, as the saying goes. If a servant runs there and makes enough effort to at least get enough to eat and to keep body and soul together, he should certainly do that. But for him to make such effort, selling the name of the dharma when no lineage whatsoever exists, is deplorable. If he lives off the misappropriated gains of such activity, his only destination is the vajra hell, nowhere else. If there were somewhere worse than the vajra hell to go to, he would go there! Of the eighteen states of hell described by the Lord Buddha, he spoke of the vajra hell as the worst; that is where this person would go, nowhere else. Milarepa stated that while he was not afraid of anything else, he was afraid of misappropriated spiritual gain. Such misappropriated gain is like lumps of red-hot iron or boiling molten metal. If you're going to consume these, you need a stomach made of diamond! If you had a diamond stomach, then you could drink boiling molten metal; otherwise, for those of us with flesh-and-blood stomachs, if we drink molten metal, it slides right through us! That's a way of describing the state of "vajra hell." Therefore, lineage is very important.

Having discussed the foregoing topic, let me now speak of those who were the authentic sources of these teachings in the Rinchen Terzod. They include: Guru Padmakara, the great master Vimalamitra, the exalted and sublime Nagarjuna, the bodhisattva Sadaprarudita, Dampa Gyagar, Dombi Heruka, the mahasiddha Jetari, Ahum of Nepal, and many learned and accomplished masters of the holy land of India.

If we consider the masters of historic Tibet, these include the great translator Bairotsana, Bari Lotsawa, Nyang-ral Nyima Ozer, Orgyen Terdak Lingpa, Karma Lingpa, Shikpo Lingpa, Sanggye Lingpa, Duddul Lingpa, Tsasum Lingpa, Jongchub Lingpa, Kunchong Lingpa, Ratna Lingpa, Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa, Yarje Orgyen Lingpa, Zurkar Drime Lingpa, Tau Rokje Lingpa, and other great tertons.

As well, there are teachings that derive from Jetsun Taranatha, Minling Terchen, Minling Lochen, Karma Chakme Raga Asya and several of the successive Chakme incarnations, Ju Mipam, Ngari Panchen, Namcho Mingyur Dorje, Yon-ge Mingyur Dorje, Katok Dampa Deshek, Katok Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu, Rigdzin Jatson Nyingpo, On-ton Kyergangpa, Rigdzin Longsal Nyingpo, Rigdzin Gokyi Demtruchen, Rigdzin Tak-gi Shamtapchen, Lhatsun Namkha Jigme, Guru Chowang, Yutok Yonten Gonpo, Zurkar Dawai Ozer, Gyalwa Longchen Rabjam, Latri Gyalwa Yungdrung, and other authentic masters. There are also teachings from Tsele Natsok Rangdrol, Jongling Palden Gyaltsen, the siddha Tamdrin Gonpo, Nupchen Sanggye Yeshe, Mila Shepa Dorje, Namkhai Nyingpo, Dudjom Rolpatsal, and a number of the Karmapa incarnations (such as Karma Pakshi and Rangjung Dorje). Similarly, there are teachings passed down from the great fifth Dalai Lama, Khon Lui Wangpo, the siddha Tangtong Gyalpo, Drigung Rinchen Puntsok, Drigung Chokyi Drakpa, Shamar Konchok Bong and several of the other Shamar incarnations, Situ Pema Nyinje and several of the other Situ incarnations, Karmai Khenpo Rinchen Dargye, Belo Tsewang Kunkhyap, Mi-nyak Tashi Tobgyal, Mingyur Paldron, Gya Lotsawa, Chogyal Dorje, Padrowa Tsering Dorje, and many other peerless great spiritual masters. The foregoing list is just a summary of some of their names. If we consider the historical succession of these masters, some of the names I mentioned are from the distant past, others are more recent, so strictly speaking the succession was a bit mixed up; but if we consider just the titles of the works, the foregoing list is more or less the case. In fact, I just listed the names in the most convenient manner, as they came to mind. There are also some tertons who are known by several different names.

If we discuss briefly the divisions of teachings contained in the Rinchen Terzod, making it straightforward and easy to understand, there could first be a discussion of the historical background, of the lineages from which these teachings derive; second, a discussion of the profound teachings that have such a history, of the table of contents, so to speak, and how these teachings are practiced; and third, a discussion of the instructions that derive from these lineages.

As for the instructions contained in the Rinchen Terzod, the first major division concerns Mahayoga and the stage of development; the second, Anuyoga and explanatory commentaries to the tantras; and the third, Atiyoga and the pith instructions. Jamgon Kongtrul subsumed his entire collection within these three major divisions.


In the first major division, that of Mahayoga, there are two further divisions into the tantra class and the sadhana class. If we consider the tantra class, this concerns Vajrasattva and the cycle of the peaceful and wrathful deities. The second subdivision, that of the sadhana class, is further divided into sections on the primary sadhanas and the secondary rituals associated with these.

The first section concerns the Three Roots ~ the guru as the root of blessing, the chosen deities as the root of spiritual attainment, and the dharmapalas as the root of enlightened activity. There is an entire group of sadhanas combining the Three Roots in a single practice. These are followed by specific sadhanas, which focus on the gurus of the lineages, as the root of blessing; on the chosen deities of the lineages, as the root of spiritual attainment; and on the dharmapalas of the lineage, as the root of enlightened activity. In the case of the gurus, there are sadhanas focusing on the guru as dharmakaya, the guru as sambhogakaya, and the guru as nirmanakaya.

Among the sadhana focusing on the chosen deities as the root of spiritual attainment, there are eight categories: (1) sadhanas of Manjushri, deity of enlightened form; (2) sadhanas of Padma, deity of enlightened speech; (3) sadhanas of Samyak, deity of enlightened mind; (4) sadhanas of Amrita, deity of enlightened qualities; (5) sadhanas of Vajrakila, deity of enlightened activity; (6) sadhanas of Mamo Botong; (7) sadhanas of Jikten Choto; and (8) sadhanas of Mopa Drak-ngak.

As for the sadhanas focusing on the dakinis and dharmapalas as the root of enlightened activity, first there are the dakini cycles, and following that the cycles of the dharmapalas and their attendants. The latter include cycles of protectors from the masculine lineages and the feminine lineages.

There is a special section included at this point, which contains certain cycles of teachings from the Bon tradition ~ for example, the biography of Guru Rinpoche according to the Bon interpretation ~ all of which are found here.

The second section, that of the secondary rituals, is arranged in two subsections ~ the general format of the phases of approach and accomplishment, and the rituals dealing with specific activities. In the first subsection, that of the general rituals for the phases of approach and accomplishment, includes teachings concerning empowerments, personal retreats on the phases of approach and accomplishment, practices done between formal meditation sessions, ganacakra feasts, fulfillment rituals, consecration rituals, and fire rituals ~ a very extensive collection of all such rituals.

Just to give you all a sense of what is found in all the sections and subsections of the Rinchen Terzod, let me briefly mention the teachings found in the subsection on the phases of approach and accomplishment, which constitute the essence of the path. The teachings are: Nyang's General Format for Activity Rituals; The Pith Instruction of the Golden Wand; the practice of Amritakundali according to the tradition of Longsal Nyingpo; the practice of Amritakundali according to the Namcho tradition; a text from the Lama Gongdu cycle of Sanggye Lingpa that deals with the general principles of the stage of development, the phases of approach and accomplishment, and retreat; the manual for the practice of Vajrapani, Tamer of the Arrogant Ones, from Rolpai Dorje's termas; texts for the preparation of sindhura and other samaya substances; pith instructions for preparing the "spirit stones" and protection chakras associated with guardian deities; complete discussions of the requisite substances for accomplishment, offering, and fulfillment associated with the phases of approach and accomplishment, empowerments, and mandalas; the ritual for suppressing the demon of broken samaya, from the Rigdzin Sokdrup cycle of Lhatsun Namkha Jigme; the ritual for suppressing the demon of broken samaya, from Rolpai Dorje's termas; the cycle of Mahabala from the Namcho tradition; the ritual for suppressing the hidden demons associated with the general gathering of wealth deities; the ritual to suppress the demons that cause warfare, social unrest, and catastrophes, from the kama tradition of the Nyingma school; the ritual for suppressing hidden demons, from the tradition of Chakme; the ritual for suppressing hidden demons, from the termas of Rolpai Dorje; the ritual for suppressing hidden demons, from the tradition of Rigdzin Tukkyi Dorje; from Ratna Lingpa's termas, the source terma and rituals for the minor activities of geomancy, preparation of a site for practice, and installing and honoring the naga king Mahoraga; Minling Lochen's manual for drawing out mandalas and its commentary; the compendium of pith instructions for the precious teachings on the crown, from Sanggye Lingpa's Lama Gongdu cycle; The Garland of Offerings to the Three Roots, the mind sadhana from Ratna Lingpa's termas; the practice of the Three Roots from the Namcho tradition; The General Format for Enlightened Activities, from Chokgyur Lingpa's Zapdun cycle; the general manual for the peaceful and wrathful forms of the Three Roots; the manuals for intensive group practice for the two mind sadhanas; the practice of Kuntup Gyalmo from the Namcho cycle; The Accomplishment of the Life Force of Masters of Awareness, from Ratna Lingpa's termas; rituals for summoning blessings from the "cliff terma" of Ratna Lingpa and other sources; Longchenpa's extensive manual of daily spiritual practices; the inner practices in six daily sessions; and so forth. There are many such practices when one considers this subsection in detail; the foregoing was a listing of the general texts concerning the rituals of the phases of approach and accomplishment.

Next, if we consider the second subsection, that of rituals dealing with specific activities, these are of two kinds ~ the most sublime activity, and more ordinary activities. It would seem that there are no more than a few teachings dealing with the most sublime activity, but as for the more ordinary activities, there are a number of categories, various kinds of enlightened activities. Among these are protective chakras, collections of mantras, divination methods, rituals for a variety of activities, rituals to bless holy sites, rituals to promote world peace, rituals to dispel counterproductive circumstances, rituals to ransom life, and so forth ~ there are many such teachings.

When we examine individually the teachings dealing with these specific activities, first there is the activity of protection. This category includes the following ten kinds of rituals: general protection against illnesses and demonic influence; protection from harm by the four elements; protection of one's country or region; protection against hail; protection against frost; protection against epidemics; protection against poisons; protection against enemies, bandits, and thieves; protection through issuing injunctions using words of truth; and protection using messages written in words of truth.

If we categorize activities in another way, considering that of pacification, there are rituals to pacify by removing obstacles in general, curing diseases, quelling demonic forces, purifying one of contamination, neutralizing sorcery, ensuring peace in the world, purifying one of obscurations and the effects of harmful actions, and so forth. As for enriching activities, there are practices to enrich by increasing longevity, intelligence, merit, and harvests; by ensuring the continuity of family lines, by ensuring that the teachings flourish, and so forth. As for activities of power, these are not treated very extensively in the Rinchen Terzod; there is just a brief treatment. Rituals of wrathful activity, involving techniques of direct intervention, are of both a general and a specific nature. In the first case, there are four kinds of rituals ~ for protection, averting negativity, slaying, and so forth.

In conclusion, there are rituals of entrustment to the four elements. Entrustment to earth involves protective rituals to suppress negativity and so forth. There are rituals of entrustment to water, to air, and to fire, making four kinds of rituals in this category.

This concludes my discussion of the first major division.


In the second major division, that of Anuyoga and explanatory commentaries to the tantras, there is not an extensive treatment at all, only a few methods that are included.


In the third major division, that of Atiyoga and the pith instructions (that is, Dzogchen), there are three categories ~ the outer Category of Mind, the inner Category of the Expanse of Being, and the secret Category of Direct Transmission. If we further analyze these Categories of Mind, Expanse, and Direct Transmission, there are separate treatments of three transmissions of the pith instructions of the Nyingtik, or Heart Drop, teachings of the Atiyoga approach: these three are the transmissions from Vimalamitra, the great master Padmakara, and Bairotsana.

There are also teachings that unite the intentions of these three masters as one and present this as pith instructions. These instructions include: the Chiti teachings, which are general presentations of these profound instructions, and the Yangti teachings, which are presentations of more secret, extraordinary oral lineages.

As the positive conclusion to the collection, there are pith instructions that combine the foregoing three yogas. This concludes my discussion of the Atiyoga division, which comprises all three Categories of Mind, Expanse, and Direct Transmission.

Now, in saying "Dzogchen, the pith instructions of Atiyoga," you might think that these teachings and rituals pertain solely to the Dzogchen, or Great Perfection, approach, but such is not the case. In this division there are many teachings that are primarily from the Mahamudra approach, as well as those that are primarily from the Dzogchen approach. There are also many teachings that integrate the Mahamudra and Dzogchen approaches. All of these are also part of the division of Dzogchen, the pith instructions of Atiyoga.

So the foregoing divisions ~ of Mahayoga and the stage of development, of Anuyoga and the explanatory commentaries to the tantras, and of Atiyoga and the pith instructions ~ are like the basic table of contents to the Rinchen Terzod, in which all of the teachings it contains are subsumed. There are three supplementary volumes, titled Om, Ah, and Hum. The Rinchen Terzod comprises thirty volumes (titled Ka to A in the Tibetan alphabet), plus another thirty (Ki to I), plus the three (Om, Ah, and Hum) making a total of sixty-three volumes. There are also several further volumes with supplementary teachings. So now I have briefly discussed the entire collection.

I will be conferring the empowerments for the Rinchen Terzod; the oral transmissions will be conferred by Yon-ge Mingyur Rinpoche. If we consider the lineages through which these empowerments have been transmitted, fundamentally they all derive from the Buddha as their source. Further to that, some are from the kama tradition; if we examine these kama teachings, they were passed down by such masters as the great master Vimalamitra and the exalted and sublime Nagarjuna. As for the terma teachings, they were passed down from Guru Rinpoche and the great tertons. Some of them have both more direct and more extensive lineages. All of this has been by way of a very general discussion.

For me, the true Vajradhara in actuality is the buddha Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpai Dorje, who was incomparably kind in conferring on me the pith instructions of the Mahamudra approach, like one vase filling another to the brim. But in the case of the Rinchen Terzod empowerments, the guru from whom I received these was that glorious and holy guru, the first Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, Karma Rangjung Kunkhyap. I received the oral transmissions from the glorious guru, Kyabje Sanggye Nyenpa Rinpoche, Karma Palden Rangjung Trinle Kunkhyap Tenpai Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo. Sanggye Nyenpa Rinpoche himself received these transmissions from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche received the empowerments for the Rinchen Terzod from Karse Kongtrul Jamgon Khyentsei Ozer. So the lineages are very direct and carry a store of blessings, and have not been undermined by any broken samaya or other disruptive circumstances.

When you receive these empowerments and oral transmissions, the most important thing is that you uphold your samaya. You might wonder, "What am I upholding in order to uphold my samaya?" You should uphold your samaya with respect to the Three Roots ~ guru, deity, and dharmapala. How do you uphold your samaya with respect to the guru? How does that guru become a guru for you? Someone does not become your guru by saying, "I am going to bestow a great empowerment. You must receive it; it is not permissible for you not to." No one can say, "I'll pay you, so take this empowerment from me and be my student!" Rather, someone becomes your guru when you request transmission of the dharma from them. Since someone becomes your guru due to your receiving the dharma from them, that guru must have the dharma to give. I received these empowerments from Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and these oral transmissions from Kyabje Sanggye Nyenpa Rinpoche. Between the first Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and the tenth Kyabje Sanggye Nyenpa Rinpoche and myself, there has never been the slightest trace of broken samaya; not the slightest crack in the eggshell, so to speak. Because their minds and mine are one and the same, there has never been an opportunity for our samaya to be broken or impaired. On that basis, once I have transmitted the dharma to you, your become my students.

To uphold samaya with the guru, the samaya is that of receiving the dharma ~ empowerments, oral transmissions, and instructions. To uphold samaya with the chosen deity means that you should practice the meditation and mantra repetition of the deity. And to uphold the samaya with the dharmapalas means that you should perform the torma offering to enjoin the activity of the dharmapalas on a continuous basis. But the samaya with these three ~ guru, deity, and dharmapala ~ is upheld in order for you to attain the state of perfect buddhahood. You only rely on the guru, deity, and dharmapalas because you are focusing ultimately on this state of perfect buddhahood, not out of any mundane concern. All of you, keep this point clear in your minds. Please think only of practicing the dharma in a completely pure way, not of mixing dharma and the world. Do you understand my point?

Here I sit, on a large wooden box carved by people who know how to carve a throne worthy of the Dalai Lama's summer palace, there you sit on the ground, and I am passing these transmissions down to you. The one sitting on the large wooden box is the guru, the one teaching the dharma; you who are sitting on the ground are therefore the ones receiving the dharma. You are sitting looking upward for the transmissions, not looking downward. This being the case, we become guru and students; that is the situation of the samaya between guru and student. If the guru has no samaya, then you do not actually receive the empowerment. If I have no samaya with my gurus, forget about the empowerment ~ I could recite the text of the empowerment, but it would be of no use to you all. But because I do have that samaya, I feel confident in thinking that the blessing will be transmitted to you. And all of you came here to see me because you trust in this, too; otherwise, making the time to come and going through the difficulties you have would have been to no purpose. When you have that trust, you receive the empowerments that are bestowed.

Take the case of the Rinchen Terzod collection. It contains more than eight hundred empowerments. If you were required to perform the daily practices for all of these, you couldn't do it, unless you are able to produce emanations! There are only twenty-four hours in the day, so you couldn't recite all those practices. But you should recite The Feast of the Masters of Awareness (Rigdzin Gaton) daily, and recite a single deity practice, for whichever is your chosen deity. Everything is included in that. We should perform our dharmapala practice daily, without fail. Whether you are a tulku, a member of the ordained sangha, or a layman or laywoman, all who are practitioners of the dharma should carry out these practices. Do you understand my point?

Now, don't start off trying to do extensive practices, or many practices. You'll do them for a day or two, or a month or two, but you won't be able to keep it up. Think very carefully about this! Recite a text such as The Feast of the Masters of Awareness daily, without fail. With that as your basis, you can progress further, but it is not right for you to regress. You might practice for three hours today, but after three months or so, you're down to one half-hour; and after two years or so, five minutes; and after three years, you're just sitting there in a stupor, and sleeping in until nine or ten o'clock. That just won't do. Even if you can't practice more than this basic commitment, at least do not let that degenerate. People who act like they are leaping right in from the start do not impress or convince me ~ that's just my nature. If you just begin by doing something consistent, then you can gradually build on that. "There is always time to say what hasn't been said, to do what hasn't been done," as the saying goes. But once you've undertaken something, you need to carry through on it; it won't do to begin something and not see it through to completion. If you don't have the confidence that you can see something through to completion, better not to undertake it in the first place, but just let it go. Having said all that, you should approach your practice at the very outset in a relaxed frame of mind, yet still practice well, so that you do not go against your samaya with the Three Roots.

All of you are already vajra siblings who have entered into the same mandala. You might wonder how you are to uphold the samaya you have as siblings. There is no special samaya with respect to your vajra siblings, such that you can uphold it even if you have undermined your samaya with respect to the Three Roots; at that point, there would no longer be any samaya to uphold. Let me give you an example. Suppose someone has died; if you continue to treat them as though they were still alive, the smell just gets worse day by day. If this goes on long enough, there could be a risk that the corpse will reanimate as a zombie! Once the person has died, something must be done. Their body must be cremated or buried; it won't do just to leave it lying there. Similarly, once you have undermined your samaya with respect to the Three Roots, you are no longer a vajra sibling; the intelligent thing to do is to practice well, and so ensure that things don't come to that.

Nevertheless, if you are someone who is upholding samaya with respect to the Three Roots, it is extremely important that you uphold your samaya toward your vajra siblings. Look at the example of the three masters Khyentse, Kongtrul, and Chokgyur Lingpa; consider what they achieved with their minds in perfect accord, with mutual respect. All of you should try to emulate them, and act so as not to go against your samaya with respect to the Three Roots. All of you are one another's vajra siblings, so don't be petty ~ "She's better than I, he's less than I, we're the greatest, I'm the best, we two are the best," and so forth. Since all of you are, in fact, one another's vajra siblings, treat each other as such, but there is no breaking or impairing of samaya if you regard someone who is not your vajra sibling as not being your vajra sibling. That's fine. Do you understand my point? We could pretend to like everybody to their faces, even though we dislike them in our minds. I'm speaking very frankly here. For example, if you spend your whole day smiling at everyone, by bedtime you might actually be scowling. All of us, even if we are lamas, even if we are tulkus, if we treat the Buddha's teachings as less important and treat other people's favorable opinion of us as more important, or if we treat lineage and samaya as less important ~ if we act is such ways, the duration the teachings will last in this world is shortened. Although the Buddha's teachings might otherwise endure for five thousand years, it is possible that they might not last more that two thousand, five hundred or six hundred years.

Suppose someone has done something for me, has helped me, and so I feel obliged to treat them more favorably than I would others. It's as though I started with the purest gold, to which I began by adding a single gram of lead. Then I add another gram of lead. At the end of a hundred years, one hundred grams of pure gold might be mixed with a thousand grams of base lead. There is no longer pure gold, is there? Now, generally speaking, there is nowadays a real need for cooperation and harmony, but in the depths of our minds we also need to see precisely what is for what is, and what is not for what is not.

Maybe I have enjoyed some great merit; I grew up surrounded by fine lamas, fine people, with real altruism. Their nature was one of patience as extensive as the flow of a mighty river, of altruism as pure as the driven snow of the glacier, of faith and samaya commitment as stable as the most majestic of mountains. These were the people who helped me grow. It is due to that, perhaps, that people nowadays regard me as being rather set in my ways. But I would rather be strong-minded and set in my ways than someone who is easily influenced. Do you see my point? Unless I naturally become someone more easily influenced, I will continue to be strong-minded. If we consider who my guru was, he was the buddha Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpai Dorje. For nine years I stayed with him, influenced by his enlightened form, speech, and mind. There was never any undermining of the samaya between us, and for that reason, out of all the students the Gyalwa Karmapa had, he chose to leave his last will and testament with me, very privately. I think I was very fortunate to be so chosen, but I don't think in the slightest that I am so special, or that I am better than everyone else. Rather, I think that he might have entrusted this to me because I am strong-minded and stubborn.

When times are difficult, when the teachings are becoming corrupted, when the five poisonous emotions are on the rise ~ if something of such great importance must be accomplished under such circumstances, it won't be an easy thing to do, but something very challenging. Suppose a certain family builds a fine house; all their neighbors will become envious. If you really think about it, what's in it for the family that built the house? They can enjoy it. But the envious neighbors, even though they might not have more than a single onyx pendant to wear around their necks, will sell that in order to build themselves an even better house. And how easy will that all have been, even if they manage to build such a house?

I have received these lineages, which were passed down by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye and still exist as unbroken transmissions, in the presence of both Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Sanggye Nyenpa Rinpoche. These are the transmissions I am now passing on to all of you.

In recent times and at presents, all the lamas have been and are working for the teachings. Given that we must work for the teachings in these degenerating times, occasionally one might feel discouraged, that one's efforts to help the teachings aren't effective, or that one isn't capable of helping. But we shouldn't pay any attention to such feelings. Think of Milarepa's complexion, of what color his body turned. When the hunters saw him, they weren't sure if he was a human being or a demon. They thought he must be a demon, and began to flee. When they realized he was a human being, they came to have faith in him, given how extraordinary he was compared to other people. And think of what kind of person the first Gyalwang Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, was. He had nothing to wear but an old sheepskin. But in the final analysis, he relied on his guru, undertook the challenges of practice, and achieved a state of spiritual attainment. Nowadays, the seventeenth incarnation of the Gyalwa Karmapa is still only twenty-one years of age. But given that he is the latest of the successive incarnations of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, in light of that just consider what his magnificent presence, personal merit, power and influence, erudition, and motivation are like. You might ask, "How could someone like this come into this world and be present among us?" This came about due to the influence of the enlightened form, speech, and mind of masters in the past. It is up to their descendants to carry this on.

If we think of more recent times, during our own generation, Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche did not have a high position from the outset. But he pursued his practice of the dharma, had faith in his root gurus, had altruistic motivation toward the teachings and beings, and great compassion toward his students and followers; that is why Kalu Rinpoche became a lama to the world. If you serve the teachings, if you act with real altruistic intent, then even if you think, "I myself don't need anything," everything will turn out well as a matter of course.

Nowadays, in these degenerating times, everyone carries a rope in their left hand and a hammer in their right. I don't mean this literally, that you see them with these things. But everyone, in a sense, is carrying them. And what do they use them for? Whenever someone progresses above them, they throw the rope around their legs and drag them down; and whenever someone below them seems to be moving upward, they feel that this makes this person their foe and they beat them down. If you wonder what we are to do in times such as these, there really isn't much we can do. During the time of the Buddha, his cousin Devadatta felt such jealousy toward the Buddha that he always strove to be just like the Buddha. For example, since the Buddha had naturally occurring designs of a wheel on his palms and soles, Devadatta burned scars of a similar design into his palms and soles with a branding iron. But whatever he did, he couldn't equal the Buddha. One doesn't become a buddha by disrespecting the Buddha, but by relying on the Buddha. Finally, the earth opened up under Devadatta and he fell into the fire beneath the earth. At that point he had to cry out, and from his lips came the words, "Gautama, I'm burning! I'm burning!" And in the final analysis, this was definitely of some benefit to him.

The Blessed One's father, King Shuddhodana, was bitterly disappointed that his son, the Lord Buddha, did not obey his wishes and succeed to the throne. In a sutra entitled The Reunion of Father and Son (Pita-putra-samagama-sutra), there is an account of an excellent way in which he came to engender faith in the Buddha. The arhat Udayin flew through the sky and came to meet with King Shuddhodana, the Buddha's father. The king asked his minister, "Who is this?" His minister replied, "This is one of Gautama's students." The king thought to himself, "If one of the students is like this, what must Gautama be like?" And his mind began to change a bit. He offered alms to Udayin and requested teaching from him, and this caused King Shuddhodana to go to meet with the Buddha. The king made a magnificent spectacle on his journey, mounted on an elephant, accompanied by an army, with many ministers and others in his retinue. When he reached the place where the Buddha was staying, he saw all the trees, as well as the flowers, as being made of precious jewels. He perceived the tree under which the Buddha was sitting as being far more impressive than his entire kingdom. His pride was broken and he came forward to meet with the Buddha. He saw the Buddha as being in a palace that was like the vastness of space, in which were contained as many universes as there are grains of sand in the river Ganges. In all directions, he saw bodhisattvas who had attained advanced levels of realization, seated on lotuses. Because the king was still an ordinary person, he was not able to see the bodhisattvas on these advanced levels that had come from other universes; he could only see spheres of light above the lotus seats. In the center of this palace sat the Buddha, with the rules of the gods, Brahma and Indra, and others honoring him. As he met the Buddha, the king was dumbfounded. He thought to himself, "My son Gautama has become greater than Brahma and Indra, the rulers of the gods!" He forgot all the hardship and worry of his being unable to rule as the king of even a small kingdom, and felt such a decisive sense of joy.

Those of you who serve the teachings and work to benefit beings, if you act out of an altruistic intent, disregarding any selfish impulses, the radiance of that will attract those around you who admire you. They will all feel faith in you automatically; you won't need to use all kinds of specific means. Just as the Buddha's father, the king, experienced his mind being guided, you will be able to guide all beings. Do you see my point? You who are ordained shouldn't just think of yourself as ordinary monks. Everyone has the buddha nature at the heart of their being. Even the Blessed One himself stated:

When I was once a beggar,
I offered a bowl of curd
in the presence of the buddha Mahashakyamuni;
it was then that I first gave rise to the aspiration to attain sublime enlightenment.

According to his own words, the Buddha was first a beggar who had nothing more than a single bowl of food. He met the buddha Mahashakyamuni, who was going around collecting alms, and felt faith in that buddha. He offered Mahashakyamuni his food and gave rise to the aspiration to attain sublime enlightenment, thinking, "May I become just like you!" Then, after three incalculably long eons, he awakened to perfect buddhahood. So there is no way that any of you who are ordained can think, "I'm just an ordinary monk. I'm couldn't even begin to serve the teachings." Even if you are "just a monk," if you really apply yourself to the practice of the dharma, you could definitely become just like the incomparable Dakpo Lhaje, Gampopa. But it won't be of any use to try hard because you feel proud or jealous. There's no point to such behavior. Spiritual practice is such that, if you practice purely, you progress as a matter of course. Do you understand what I'm saying?

There are many masters, such as Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye and Kalu Rinpoche, as well as masters still living, such as Chatral Sanje Dorje. These masters have served, and continue to serve, the teachings of the Buddha. It is my aspiration that you become just like them. So all of you, please take this to heart.

Well, then, as the saying goes, "If a teaching never come to a conclusion, it means the teacher is hopelessly lost." And if a teaching goes on too long, without any end in sight, one just ends up babbling. So we should stop at this point. We will take a short break, and when we return you will receive the empowerment and oral transmission for Vajrasattva.

In conclusion, please arouse bodhicitta well and make prayers of aspiration.


Mahamudra Ocean of Definitive Meaning~

Related Teachings

Vajrayana Buddhism and Kagyu Lineage

by the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa on the first day of the Rinchen Terzod Transmissions in 2006

About Mahamudra

Maha Mudra Practice

Tilopa's Doha

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