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Description of the Eight Herukas

Guru Padmasambhava conferred the empowerments and teachings of the Ocean of Dharma that Gathers all the Teachings (Kadü Chökyi Gyatso), which contains the Eight Herukas, to the Dharma-king Trisong Detsen and seven other disciples at Samye Chimphu. It was then concealed as a terma (treasure teaching) and was later discovered by Terchen Ngadak Nyang-ral Nyima Özer. Gyalwang Rinchen Phüntsok, the 17th Drikung successor, integrated the practice of the Eight Herukas into the Drikung Kagyü lineage. He arranged the eight sadhanas to suit traditional Drikung Kagyü practices and supplemented them with Cham-dances at the end. His grandson Rigdzin Chödrak added further supplements to the sadhana, and at Yangrigar Monastery he set in motion the month-long Eight Heruka retreat. The previous Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, Kyabgön Shiwé Lodrö, conferred the transmission of this lineage to H.E. Garchen Rinpoche’s previous incarnation, Gar Trinley Yongkhyab, and the Mahasiddha Chime Dorje. The present 8th Garchen Rinpoche in turn received the lineage from the Mahasiddha Chime Dorje, with an instruction to uphold it and pass it on to tulkus who would practice and uphold this lineage. At one occasion in Tibet, H.E. Garchen Rinpoche conferred all the empowerments and transmissions of the Eight Herukas to an assembly of tulkus, among them H.E. Söpa Rinpoche—a great master and practitioner who has engaged in the practice of the Six Dharmas of Naropa, and who is able to transmit this lineage in an authentic way.  

The tantric teachings brought to Tibet during the first spread of Dharma were upheld in what later became known as the Nyingma tradition. The highest yogatantra of the four classes of tantra—the anuttara-yogatantra—comprises the teachings of Mahāyoga, Anuyoga, and Atiyoga, or the Three Classes of Inner Tantra. Mahāyoga emphasizes the basis in its perspective, the generation stage in its meditative technique, and ritual activities in its conduct. Anuyoga emphasizes the path, the completion stage of meditative technique, and meditative stability. Atiyoga emphasizes the result, the Great Completion, or the nature of the mind. The Mahāyoga scriptures are divided into two sections: The tantra section consisting of eighteen great tantras, and the sadhana section centering on eight main deities, called the Eight Logos or Eight Herukas.

The Eight Logos are:

  1. Yamantaka, the wrathful Manjushri—the deity of body; 2. Hayagriva of the lotus family—the deity of speech; 3. Vishuddha, Yangdag Heruka—the deity of mind; 4. Chemchok, the wrathful Samantabhadra—the deity of qualities; 5. Vajrakilaya, the wrathful Vajrasattva—the deity of action; 6. Mamo Bötong—the deity of inciting and dispatching; 7. Jigten Chötö—the deity of worldly offering and praise; and 8. Möpa Dragnak, the wrathful Maitreya—the deity of wrathful mantras.

Of the two lineages of kama and terma, these particular practices belong to the terma tradition. While in the kama lineage there is the Kagye Dzong Thrang (the Fortress and Ravine of the Eight Logos), in the terma lineage of the Eight Logos there are several lineage-blessing rivers, of which three are most important:

  1. The Eight Herukas—Embodiment of All the Sugatas (Deshin Düpa), revealed by Terchen Ngadak Nyang-ral Nyima Özer, is esteemed as the heart practice of the Eight Herukas, and is the practice that was integrated into the Drikung Kagyü lineage.
  2. The Totally Complete Secret of the Eight Herukas (Kagye Sangwa Yongdzog), revealed by Terchen Guru Chökyi Wangchuk, is commended as the heart-blood practice.
  3. The Self-Born, Self-Arising Eight Herukas (Kagye Ranjung Rangshar), revealed by Terchen Rigdzin Gödem, is honored as the heart-essence practice.

Traditionally, the Eight Heruka Drupa is a month-long retreat consisting of several days of preliminary practices, approximately one day of practice for each deity, and several days of Cham dances at the end.

This practice brings incredible blessings and power: it pacifies outer, inner, and secret obstacles and hindrances due to demons and evil spirits, and it helps practitioners perfect the two accumulations and attain the two siddhis.

Guru Padmasambhava said in the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thödröl): “Those who have meditated on the formal description of these heruka-kāya ('bodies of Heruka'), and also made offerings and praise to them, or, at the very least, have simply seen their painted and sculpted images, may recognize the forms that arise here (in the bardo) and attain liberation."

 

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