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BOOK REVIEWS - THE DALAI LAMA'S SECRET TEMPLE: Murials of Lukhang Very Few People Know About This Dalai Lama Secret by Adamas

Enlightenment is not that difficult.
Just as the master artist has no difficulty in taking clay and forming it into the image of a perfect Buddha, when we gain skill in the practices of enlightenment, we can shape the clay of our ordinary body, speech, and mind into the vajra body of a fully omniscient being.

- The 5th Dalai Lama
 

“This book introduces an extraordinary series of paintings on the walls of the Lukhang, the Dalai Lamas’ private meditation chamber in Tibet.  
The spiritual practices illustrated in the murals belong to the highest level of Buddhist Tantra and, in particular, to Dzogchen …
Even without commentary, the Lukhang murals convey a timeless vision of one of the worlds’ most profound systems of spiritual illumination.  
This book is thus offered as an object of contemplation which, through its resonant images, presents new modes of awareness and perception; a mirror of the vast potential of the human spirit.”

- Ian Baker (Foreword to The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple)

An exquisite hardback with full photographic and written commentary, the book takes a look at the Dalai Lamas’ secret Dzogchen temple in Lhasa.  It is a must buy for any serious Dzogchen enthusiast, as well as a great historical reference on the growth of the Dalai Lama tradition with all its turbulence and social disharmony.  

To add poetry to pictures there are many great quotes by several Dalai Lamas as well as other realized Buddhist masters, showing each ones unique expression of the Natural State.  The different expressions show the natures and the focus of the different masters while at the same time showing us the infinite range of focus that the lens of enlightenment can be viewed through.  

There are a few reasons why this book is in itself a rare and precious treasure, most notably the context, the art and the teachings contained within.

Context

The fact that the Dalai Lamas are Dzogchen practitioners is not well known at all and this alone should pique your interest if nothing else.  Over time many of the Dalai Lamas have faced some rigorous opposition from some of the more conservative orders who frowned upon the mystical practices of tantra.  Nevertheless most of them persisted in their quest for ultimate spiritual attainment, right there in the little temple hidden away from the eyes of the uninitiated.  

Some of the most devoted Buddhists are unaware of the existence of the temple or what it contains and few pilgrims even know where it is.  Even in the time when the Dalai Lamas were still resident in Tibet the images and teachings contained in the chamber were viewed only by the Dalai Lamas themselves and a handful of close attendants.  Due to the recent invasion of Tibet and the very real chance of its heritage being lost in obscurity the 14th Dalai Lama gave permission for it to be shown.

When there are no obstacles to one’s vision, one perceives and knows all things…
Ultimately the only obstacle to Buddhahood is ignorance of our own true nature. This lack of awareness forms habits and karmic predispositions.
The primary antidote to this ignorance is Rigpa. Through practicing Dzogchen the obstacles to full enlightenment can be completely removed. It’s not just about understanding emptiness intellectually but attaining ever subtler and more powerful levels of awareness”

- The 14th Dalai Lama

Art

Usually practices of a mystical nature are not depicted because they are orally translated from master to student and considered too secret to reveal.  Here the Lukhang temple is unique as each illustration depicts details of advanced tantric practices.

The art, although some similarities may be drawn, is very different from the formal stylized imagery of traditional Buddhist art.  Instead the illustrations seem to embody a sense of wild magic.  Even wrathful imagery in typical Tibetan Buddhist art, where severed heads and intestines can often be seen, is usually very stylized and clean.  On the walls of the Lukhang the images of decaying corpses, women in child-birth and couples locked in sexual embrace have an edginess that somehow empowers their tantric message that much more.

Enjoying the world of the senses, one remains unattached.  Plucking the lotus without touching the water, the yogin who has gone to the root of things is not enslaved by the senses, although he enjoys them fully.”
- Saraha

Teachings from the Twilight World

Your mind absorbed in bliss and void inseparable, the flow of life appears as a rainbow.  
One body endlessly sending forth clouds of emanations to set this world ablaze with joy”

- 7th Dalai Lama

Basically a DIY Body of Light instruction manual, this book grants us a clear view of just how systematic and defined the process of dissolution into light in fact is.  Most of the murals focus on the many varied preliminary, middle and final stages of total enlightenment, with ancillary practices.  There are depictions of various gazes and poses to cultivate, specific yoga positions to liberate memory locked in joints, sun and moon gazing, pictures of the vajra chains and the different visions that appear as one deepens into thogal practice.  It fills in many of the blanks that a lot of other books leave veiled in Twilight Language, which makes it almost impossibly valuable.

Enlightenment is not that difficult.   
Just as the master artist has no difficulty in taking clay and forming it into the image of a perfect Buddha, when we gain skill in the practices of enlightenment, we can shape the clay of our ordinary body, speech, and mind into the vajra body of a fully omniscient being.”

- The 5th Dalai Lama

P.S

Sadly HH the 14th Dalai Lama has never had the pleasure of visiting the temple in person.  As we thank him for the opportunity to experience this wonderful Buddhist gem we sincerely dedicate our thoughts in the hope that he may one day experience the beauty of it himself.

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Enjoy, and don’t forget to check out our Reading Tips to make the most of your Dzogchen reading experience.

From the ashes of the Atomic Fires,
Adamas

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