THE MONASTERY AND MONASTIC COMMUNITY IN ODISHA: CONNECTING WITH THE ORIGINS OF TANTRA AND GURU RINPOCHE
According to the Buddhist way of thinking, all the happiness and peace of sentient beings depends upon the teachings of the Buddha, which in turn depends principally upon the spiritual community, which is the Sangha, or practitioners, (including both ordained and laity), who are correctly abiding in the teachings. Whether or not the Sangha or practitioners remain long to uphold the Buddha Dharma depends in large part on the Monasteries, Temples, and Retreat Centers.
Therefore, many great holy masters built and established many great and small monasteries because they knew the benefits of building monasteries, temples, stupas and so on. In the Sutras, Lord Buddha said, “construction of monastic centers, preserving Buddha’s teachings, providing food, shelter and clothing to the Sangha are the greatest way to accumulate merit.” There are inconceivable benefits, as testified by the Buddha, so it is extremely worthwhile to build monasteries and other centers. Particularly, if the sites or places of the monastery are considered to be extraordinary and sacred, these sites then bring more happiness and peace to the community and a greater accumulation of merit.
In this way, the great masters of the Ripa Lineage began to establish monasteries and retreat centers in the sacred places of Odisha (Orissa), India and Yang-Le-Shod, Pharping, Nepal. Rigon Thupten Mindrolling is a center of attraction for pilgrimages and visitors from all over the world. It was first built in 1968 with a small wooden temple, under the vision and guidance of the late Drubwang Azin Rinpoche, or Ritrul Rigzin Choegyal Rinpoche, (elder brother of H.E. Kyabje Terton Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche), which is the main seat for study and contemplation of Vajrayana Buddhism. Later in 1982, Drubwang Azin Rinpoche and H.E. Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche began another initiative to construct an actual monastic learning center, which tool six long years, in order to erect a three-storied building. Then the monastery became a center for spiritual activities, including education in the philosophical foundations of Buddhist Sutras and Tantric techniques, traditional painting, astrology and the auxiliary Tibetan science of healing. After two decades the enlightened vision of H.E. Kyabje Terton Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche to build Padmasambhava-Mahavihar in Odisha, was fulfilled. For this, his son and spiritual heir, Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche, began transforming his father’s vision into form in 2004, which took six long years to build the five-storied, one hundred and twenty roomed monk’s hostels, thirteen class rooms and a large dining hall next to the kitchen.
The impact of Buddhism in the sacred land of Odisha (Orissa) and its society is manifold, and includes the benefits of, the ethical Hinayana Buddhism, the philosophical Mahayana Buddhism, and the Esoteric Vajrayana Buddhism in Odisha. In fact, Odisha is one of the few regions in India, where Buddhism is not yet a matter to be relegated to the pales of history. The dissemination of Buddhism in Odisha is very significant from the perspective of its culture, tradition and language. Ever since the advent of Tapasu and Bhalika, and later on, Buddhism, great religious faith exercised a tremendous impact on the society and culture of Odisha right from the 6th century B.C. up to the 13th century A.D., without any break. The impact of Tantric Buddhism in Priya or Odishan literature and society is also manifold. There are various distinct series of names given to Odisha as noted in the historical books of many Indian and Tibetan scholars. Oddiyana and Uddiyana, in Tibetan Ogyen or Urgyen, which is connected with the king Indrabhuti, and one of the famous works of Janasiddhi, the king Indrabhuti opens it with an invocation to Lord Jaganatha as Buddha, a deity intimately associated with Odisha (Orissa) and with no other area of India.
The King Indrabhuti’s son Guru Padmasambhava was closely connected with Odisha, especially with the place called Viraja (which is also a Goddess of Uddiyana). In the Sutra called Saddharmapundarika (Dam-Choe-Pad-Kar), which records a prophesy in which the Buddha assures Shariputra that he would be in a distant future time a Buddha under the name of Padmaprabha, and that his place of enlightenment would be Viraja. Padmasambhava and Tara, along with other deities, are invoked in an inscription of 25 lines incised in nail-headed characters of the late 8th and 9th centuries on the back of an image at Udayagiri, not far from Jajpur, which states that a stupa with a relic inside and dwelt in by the Tathagata was set up on that very spot. That stupa was believed to have contained the relics of Guru Padmasambhava. Since Mahayana and Tantrayana had a long career in Odisha, there are many deities, Dakinis and tantric sculptures throughout the state. The glory of Odisha in relation to the development of Buddhism and propagation of the religion is manifest from the fact that a number of Buddhist Mahasiddhas were born in Odisha, such as: Sarahapa, Savaripa, Luipa, Vajraghanta, Kumbhalapada, Padmavarja, Indrabhuti, Lakshminkara, Virupa, Kanhupa, Darikapada, Pitopada, Abhyakara Gupta, and great Siddhacharyas like Nagarjuna, Anaighavajra, Padmasambhava, Jandharipada, Jinamitra, and so on.