Sri Sri Vajrasattva Stotram
Tomorrow is पञ्जा त्रयोदशी । Panja-trayodashi. It is a day when the sacred of the Vajrayana tradition are put on public display. Representations of तथागत दिपाङ्कर । Tathagata Dipankar, भगवान अक्षोभ्य । Bhagwan Akshyobhya and देवी तारा । Devi Tara in gold, silver, bronze, wood, stone and cloth. Scrolls and manuscripts: of rolled palm leaf, flipped stacks of rendered bamboo and hand-made paper. Artifacts. All items of reverence. Invitations and props and pointers for the journey within. All beautiful, our grandparents told us.
We never saw them. Only a solitary Tara and a mudcast शाक्यमुणि । Sakyamuni met our eyes at the local वहा । baha during the panja of our youth fifty years ago. The rest of the treasury was in safekeeping, we were told.
Our baha is one of the oldest in the Valley. Its treasury would have been substantial, its proprietorial collection rich and deep. Hence, we believed the safekeepers. They were the guardians of the treasury, the stalwarts of the tradition, the gurus, those who would not be questioned.
After a gap of thirty five years and as an introductory visit for our children, we made our way to the baha during last year’s panja. We met silence. There was nothing on display. The priests had turned landowners and cash rich and withdrawn from a practice in which they would otherwise have to receive alms from their now-much-poorer neighbors. Only a blazing sun was a witness to a tradition that was.
With panja a non-event at our baha, our parental duty is now an open question: how do we point our children to the journey of the soul? The roadmap of our forebears, the accoutrements they built as guideposts, their informed rules of travel–manuscripts, artifacts and process manuals–have all left Nepal with irrevocable immigrant visas. Should the Rubin Museum or the Cambridge Manuscripts Library be the replacement baha where we communicate the building blocks of our identity to our children?
We celebrate tomorrow’s panja by harkening to the spirit of the tradition. That spirit, which cannot be contained by physical possession or the rules of copyright, is invoking the Guru in the words of the stotra recited in the video below. We ask Sri Vajrasattwa to please hang around for our children’s sake.
Picture credit: Prakat Shrestha [CC By-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]