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Nepali Masters

Lila Vajra (Lilapa/Lalpai Dorje)

Lila Vajra lived in the early part of the eighth Century. He was a Siddha Vajracharya who was born in present day Sankhu (in Kathmandu Valley) and lived in Tarumul Mahavihar/monastery (Sikanmun Baha) in Maru, Basantapur, Kathmandu, at the time of the Lichavi King Jaya Deva II (713-733 AD). He is included amongst the now famous 84 Mahasiddhas as Lilapa, and was the disciple of the famous female Mahasiddha princess Laxmikara, the daughter of the famous Siddha King of Uddiyana, King Indrabhuti.

In those days, there used to be an annual ritual dance on a Dabu (raised platform/stage) in front of the temple of Nasadya, Sikali. Lila Vajra was watching the show and he spotted a tall person in the crowd who looked different from the rest of the crowd. Recognizing him to be non-human, Lila Vajra bound him with a binding mantra. After the dance, everybody went away but this person couldn’t move and remained where he was. When the man asked why he was being held, Lila Vajra asked him for his identity. The man said he was a Brikcha Devata (a Tree deity and asked to be released, and added that Lila Vajra could ask for a boon in return. Lila said he wished to make a resting place (Satal) at the very spot and needed plenty of wood. The god said that a tree will sprout at that spot and he could use all the wood he needed from that tree.

A tree sprouted soon after and it grew at an astounding speed. Lila Vajra made the temple called the Kasthamandap (the wooden temple), which still stands today, from that one single tree. To consecrate Kasthamandap, Lila invited all the gods but the tree god did not arrive. Then Lila Vajra announced that, the day the price of salt and oil becomes the same, the resting place will be consecrated and so it remains unconsecrated to this day. The name Kathmandu is derived from the name of this temple, Kasthamandap.

After Bhavyakirti, Lila Vajra became the head abbot (Khenpo/Upadhyaya) of the famed Vikramashila Mahavihara in India. When the Turuskas attacked Vikramashila, he used his Yamari Siddhi to petrify the attacking Turuska hordes. They could not talk or move forward for many days until they gave up and returned. (Note: Although the word Turuska usually means Islamic invaders, the date is too early for the Muslims to have come that deep into India then. However, it was the tradition to call all non-Indian invaders as Turuska, so even the Kushanas and those from Tajik etc. were called Turuskas).


Surata Vajra (possible Tibetan name: Garab Dorje)

Surata Vajra lived in the late 16th century, in Tachhe Baha (monastery) in Asan (central Kathmandu) and was a friend of King Shivasimha Malla (1583-1620), the son of King Sadashiva Malla (1574-1583). However, some records seem to imply that his son Jivachandra had established an Acharya Guthi (committee of masters) in Bhaktapur at the time of King Jayayakshya Malla (1428-1482), a century earlier.

His Baha (monastery) is also known as Suratashree Mahavihar. It is said, unhappy with his wife who was rather sharp-tongued, he left home and dedicated himself to the practice of Hevajra Nairatmya in the power place of Guhyeshwari (or Khaganana Upachandoha), the Pitha of Nairatmya, and attained Siddhi there. His fame spread and he was invited by the then Dalai Lama from Potala Palace in Lhasa.

His Tibet visit is an interesting story. The story goes that the lamas who invited him [to Tibet] created a seat made out of Dharma texts (Pechas) to check whether he truly is real Siddha. He was invited and asked to sit on the special platform. He went and sat on the seat made of the texts, disappointing everybody. He was offered tea and he took a sip of the tea and then started spitting it out. Wondering if he was crazy, they asked him if he didn’t like the tea. Surat replied his house was on fire in Kathmandu and so he was putting it out. They didn’t believe him and asked him if he realized he was sitting on Pechas. He replied, yes, he knew that but it was now no longer Pechas but a mound of paper only. The lamas checked it out and it indeed was true. Alarmed, they requested him to bring back the precious texts. He replied the texts have already been transformed into stone tablets at Swayambhunath Stupa in Kathmandu.

When Surata Vajra arrived at his monastery in Nepal, he found funeral rites being conducted by his son Jivachandra for him and nobody recognized him. It is said that he went straight up to the Agama room (main inner shrine room) in Takse Bahal (at present day Asan, Kathmandu) commanding that nobody enter it till he came out, and he never came out.

The legend says that he had said, “As long as there is a squint-eyed person in this Vihar (monastery/gompa), know that I have not left.” Till today, there always have been squint-eyed person/persons as members of the Vihar. He seems to have attained the Kecharaloka like so many of the 84 Mahasiddhas as he vanished in his Agama room.

Much later, a group of Lamas arrived in Kathmandu searching for him and also to check if his house was on fire on that particular day. The locals confirmed that indeed it had, but suddenly dark clouds appeared out of nowhere pouring heavy rains that quickly doused the fire.

Surata Vajra established a Chaitya in Mul Shree Mahavihar near Asan area in Kathmandu. A book known to us as written by him is: Arya Manushree Sangeetparthalok Kar Nama, and 12 Charya Geetis (divine songs of realization). There are many other writings by him that are lost to us now.


Vak Vajra/Ngak Dorje

Vak Vajra was a contemporary of Surata Vajra. he lived in Maitripur Mahavihar (Kwabaha) in Thainti, Kathmandu. He was the acharya/master of the vihar. One day, during a pilgrimage to Kashi, India, some Jains were making a chaitya (stupa). They were looking for somebody who knew how to consecrate the chaitya. The Jains on meeting Vak Vajra thought him capable of it and asked if he could consecrate for them and he agreed. He began his work and after watching all the rituals, the Jains realized much later that it was consecrated according to Buddhist ritual. The Jains protested but Vak Vajra said it was already done according to the way he knew and negotiated to take back the Chaitya with him to Kathmandu. He brought the whole stupa from Kashi (Varanasi) to Kathmandu through his siddhi. He then established it at Nagal and now the stupa is known as Santigath Chaitya or Kashisimbhu or Siga. He also established the stupa on the main plaza of Thainti.

A saying goes that Vak Vajra entered the Agama Chhe (The Agama room) of his monastery around the same time when Surata Vajra came back from Tibet and entered his own monastery’s Agama Chhe. Vak Vajra is said to have vanished in the room; thus technically he attained Kecharaloka like many of the Mahasiddhas.

Four books are known to us written by him: Sri Chakrasambhara Tatvabhanga Sangraha, Sri Kalachakra Supratisthapayika Vidhi, Vajravarahi Sankchhipta Stotra, and Sambaradwaita Dhyanopadesh Yoga Chandali. He also authored four Charya Geetis.


Manju Vajra/Jampai Dorje

Mnaju Vajra, who lived around the mid 17th century was also commonly known as Jamana Gubhaju (gubhaju being the Newari shortening of guru and bhaju; bhaju being an honorific title similar to Sir). He literally became a legend within the Kathmandu valley so much so that even orthodox Hindu brahmins knew his story and considered him a great Siddha of Nepal, whom they were proud of. His vihar stands today in Musubaha, Brahmatol in Lagan, Kathmandu. He lived during the reign of King Laxmi Narsingh Malla (reigned 1620-1641), and was the guru of the king’s son, Pratap Malla (reigned 1641-1674).

Jamana was famous for his multi-faceted, talented personality. It is said that he used to go to Swayambhunath stupa everyday and would perform Ganachakra Puja (feast offering to the deities) behind the nearby Vijeshwari temple. All the objects of puja would manifest from the metal basket (kala), the only thing he would carry. His only meal of the day used to be the leftovers from the traditional Newari feast he manifested for his offering. Because of this, it is said he never ate rice (the mainstay of all Nepali meals) and thus he got his name Jamana, which means somebody who doesn’t eat rice.

Gubhaju was famous for his compassion and for teaching any skill that anybody would ask for. Other gubhajus often criticized him for this generosity. When he started teaching the skills of weaponry, he was accused of going against the regime. So he had to go into hiding during King Laxmi Narsingh Malla’s reign. Later, during his son Pratap Malla’s reign, the king called for a Dharma meet in which many pundits from India participated and there was a debate between the Nepali and Indian pundits. The Indian pundits won, which made the king very unhappy and he made his wish known to find somebody who could take on the Indian pundits.

Then Jamana Gubhaju came forward and agreed to take on the challenge. He debated in different Indian languages and defeated the Indian pundits. Pratap Malla was impressed and asked him who he was. Then the gubhaju revealed his identity. The king forgave all the accusations leveled against him during his father’s reign; and being inclined toward Dharma, asked for teachings from him. So the king became a disciple of the gubhaju.

One day, the gubhaju decided to go into a long retreat and told his wife to lock him in and leave him undisturbed till he emerged. After some time passed by, his wife got worried and looked in to find him looking lifeless. Taking him to be dead, she called other gubhajus to perform the last rites. His body was taken to the Teku cremation grounds, one of the ancient Buddhist cremation grounds in the valley. Those performing the last rites on their way back met other people who knew the master. On being told that the master has just been cremated, they replied in disbelief that they had just seen the master up in Swayambhu reading a text. The group went to Swayambhu and found him doing just that, proving that the gubhaju could manifest many bodies at the same time and had transcended life and death.

The master was very disappointed with his wife for disturbing his retreat. So he went inside the Agama room of Musu Bahal, and vanished inside. He was never seen after that; thus he too attained the Kechara Loka.

Three books are known to us today that were written by Jamana Gubhaju: Vajra Bhairava Sadhana Nama, Tara Devi Stotra Binshati Sadhana, and Mahamudrabhigiti. He also wrote a Charya Geeti.

 – Excerpts from The Four Pillars of the Vajrayana of the Kathmandu Valley by Acharya Mahayogi Sridhar Rana Rinpoche

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