The pillars of Vajrayana of the Kathmandu Valley

By: Acharya Mahayogi Sridhar Rana Rinpoche

Crazy Cloud Safu is sharing some of the history and legends of Nepal with the world, and some of the most famous stories are people who lived in the Kathmandu Valley. These ancient and famous stories, based both on fact and on legend, will be featured in the first four issues of Crazy Cloud Safu magazine and will be titled, “The four Pillars of the Kathmandu Valley.”

The stories are about four extraordinary personalities who lived centuries ago and were known as the four pillars of Vajrayana in the Kathmandu valley. They were four of many other Siddhas (The words Siddha or Mahasiddha are used to refer to an Enlightened Master and the title Varacarya is given only to a highly accomplished Vajrayana Buddhist Yogi) that were known to have lived and displayed their splendour in the valley from as early as 4th century to sometime around the 17th century. There are inscriptions that prove that Vajrayana existed in the valley as early as 389 A.D. during the time of King Brishava Deva also called Vishwa Deva. The inscription reads, ‘Raja Sri Brishava Deva barsha 100 tena krit sinagu Vihara Chaitya Bhatarika pratishthita sampurna kritam.’ Which translated means: King Sri Brishava Deva, years 100, he completed the consecration of a Chaitya/Stupa in the Swayambhu Vihara (Sinagu).

However, except for Lila Vajra/Lilapa, who is listed as one of the 84 Mahasiddhas, the stories of these great Buddhist leaders have never been printed in any other language except Newari, and therefore, the lives of these Siddhas are unknown to the world outside of Kathmandu. One of them, Humkara Vajra, is chronicled in the Tibetan records as the Guru of the most famous Guru Padmasambhava, yet nothing else is written about such a famous man. These Siddhas have remained famous and become legends in their home Kathmandu Valley, and their stories are told and retold, remoulded and elaborated, even amongst those of Hindu background, so much so, that they have come to occupy mythological status within the Valley. As a tribute to these ancient Masters, we plan to print the stories of these Mahasiddhas for the world to know.

The first episode is about a famous Siddha called Lila Vajra, or Lilapa or Rolpai Dorje, depending on who and what tradition is telling the story, and in which era it was related.

The Vajracarya master Lila Vajra (Lilapa/Rolpai Dorje)

Although there are many stories about the Mahasiddha Lila Vajra, the most important of which has become a part of the history and lore of Kathmandu Valley. This famous story will be told here.

Lila Vajra, who is pictured here, lived in the early part of the eighth century. He was a Siddha Vajracharya who was born in present day Sankhu, Nepal. He lived in Tarumul Mahavihar (monastery), Sikanmun Bahain Maru, Basantapur in Kathmandu during the reign of the Lichavi King Jaya Deva II (713-733AD). He is included amongst the now famous 84 Mahasiddhas as Lilapa, and was the disciple of the famous female Mahasiddha Princess Laxminkara, the sister of the famous Siddha King of Uddiyana, King Indrabhuti.

As the story goes, in those days, there was an annual ritual dance on a raised platform or stage (dabu) in front of the temple of Nasadya, Sikali in what is now Kathmandu. At one such dance, Lila Vajra was watching a show when he spotted a tall person who looked different from the rest of the crowd. Recognizing this being to be a non-human, Lila Vajra bound the person with a Binding Mantra, and after the dance everybody left except for this tall being who could not move and remained where he was. When the tall being asked why he was being held, Lila Vajra asked him to identify himself. The tall being said he was a Brikcha Devata (a Tree Deity) and begged to be freed, but Lila Vajra refused until the Tree Deity offered to grant Lila Vajra a wish in return for his release. Lila then wished for a resting place (satal) at that very spot but needed plenty of wood to construct the Satal. The Tree Diety granted his request and said that a tree would sprout in the exact same spot and he would have all the wood he needed from that one tree to build the resting place.

A tree sprouted soon after and it grew at an astounding speed to an incredible size, covering a huge area. Lila Vajra used the wood from that single tree to build the famous temple called the Kasthamandap (the wooden temple) which still stands today in the heart of Kathmandu. To consecrate Kasthamandap, Lila invited all the Gods but the Tree Diety did not come, fearing being captured again. Lila Vajra then announced that the resting place would be consecrated only on the day the price of salt and oil would become the same, and so the resting place, the current Temple, remains unconsecrated to this day. This is the story of how the city, got its name, Kathmandu, which is derived from the name of this wood temple, Kasthamandap.

After the building of the Temple Kasthamandap, Lila Vajra is said to have become the head abbot (Khenpo/Upadhyaya) of the famed Vikramashila Mahavihara in India. When the Turuskas attacked Vikramashila, Lila Vajra used his Yamari Siddhi to petrify the them and they could not talk or move forward for many days until they gave up and returned. Although the story uses the word Turuskas, which usually means Islamic invaders, the date was too early for the Muslims to have come that deep into India. However it was the tradition in the past to call all non Indian invaders Turuska, so even the Kushanas and those from Tajik, etc., were called Turuskas.

Yet another famous story about Lila Vajra tells of a black (evil) magician who needed meat from a special Pandit (scholar), with special qualities. He required it for a special practice and so he wanted Lila Vajra to become his victim. Using his weapons, he attacked Lila Vajra who turned himself into an elephant and when the magician attacked the elephant, Lila Vajra transformed into a horse and thus, he kept on changing himself into various forms until the magician was frustrated and completely exhausted and was forced to give up and leave.

It is said that Lila Vajra entered the north eastern agama, which is a room of worship located in the inner sanctuary of a monastery, one of the four agama rooms of the monastery of Sinkhomu Bahal, and that he never came out of that room. The door Lila Vajra used to enter that room has never been opened and all pujas (ritual practices) have been offered outside the door for all times after.

After the great earthquake in Kathmandu of 1933, the ruling Ranas decided to build a palace in the area of the ancient monastary. While digging, they found a person, all skin and bones sitting in Samadhi. Other Gubajus (priests) were called in to identify the body. As they guessed it must be Lila Vajra, they ordered the body to be covered up quickly and quietly and the palace construction plan was immediately cancelled. This story implies that Lila Vajra had attained the Maya Deha (illusory body), which seems reasonable as the story of his Yamari Siddhi indicates that he practiced the Father Tantra (Pitri Tantra).

Around 1951, a high level Lama from Kham told his followers that they should go and pay their respect to a great Siddha who was mentioned to be in Samadhi, i.e. Lila Vajra, according to the pechas (texts) around where Durbar Square stands today in the middle of Kathmandu. The lamas travelled to Kathmandu and requested the king to allow them to pay their respects. Many places were dug in order to locate the Siddha in Samadhi, but they could not find him and went back disappointed.

Lila Vajra was very famous for his Charya dances (spiritual dance). Two of his books that still extist are “Sahasunya Samaj Sadhana” and “Sri Sahaja Siddhi”, and also include two or three Charya Geetis (spiritual songs).

Source: crazy-cloud. org/ http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia. com