Searching for the Heart of Sacred Space

From Searching for the Heart of Sacred Space by Dennis Alan Winters

(Toronto: The Sumeru Press, 2014)


Conversations with Zasep Rinpoche


Differences exist between matter and mind, but in their essential nature they remain the same. Matter is no other than mind; mind is no other than matter. Without any obstruction, they are interrelated. The subject is the object; the object, the subject. The seeing is the seen, and the seen is the seeing. Nothing differentiates them. Although we speak of the creating and the created, there is in reality neither the creating nor the created. – Kobo Daishi

Hiking the middle kora of Pretapuri with Zasep Rinpoche in my thoughts, I asked, “Rinpoche, do the deities live in the stones?”


Zasep Rinpoche replied, “Depends on you.”

“What do you mean?”

He replied, “If you have faith. If you believe it, then the deities are there. If you don’t believe it, they aren’t there. So, in other words, deities are in the stones all the time. You have to know how to look.” “Why?”

He laughed, “Let me finish. Don’t ask me why until I finish. A typical western question – ‘Why? Why? Why?’ These deities are in these stones all the time. If you’re a believer, you can see it, you can feel it, and you can get the benefit. And, if you’re a non-believer, it doesn’t matter. For a non-believer there’s nothing there, just stone. Even though the deities are there it doesn’t have the meaning and benefit to a non-believer.”


I asked, “Rinpoche, do deities reside in stones in beautiful sacred landscapes just because I’m there?”


Zasep Rinpoche replied, “Deities don’t reside in a landscape just because it’s beautiful. It must have more subtle meaning, empowered like the landscapes designated as one of the twenty-four sacred sites. It must have the cosmic energy of the earth chakras, such as people talk about. Also, the landscape must be linked with the energy of the stars, and with their shifting and moving. The dakas and dakinis and Heruka-Chakrasamvara choose these landscapes because their power is linked with the rest of the universe. They’re like perfect landing spots that dakas and dakinis choose for meeting with sentient beings.”


I said, “Like Go-tsampa and his dakinis.”


“Because this planet is produced through the collective karma of its inhabitants, dakas and dakinis must find special landscapes where their land and waters carry the energy of collective positive karma and is not so defiled by negativity. That’s why we’re here at Pretapuri.”


I said, “In Buddhist traditions, designating a sacred landscape is a four-fold ordination process: production by natural forces, investment with power, modification by spiritual teacher, and reverence and maintenance by devoted pilgrims. I wondered about the second action, where Buddhas, Bodhisattva, deities and enlightened teachers invested a landscape with empowerment and design. Rinpoche, was this place created through the power of Heruka-Chakrasamvara? Did Heruka design and place the stones?”


“Physically?”

“Yes, physically.”

Zasep Rinpoche replied, “I don’t think you can say Heruka created the landscape and placed the

stones. It sounds a bit too flaky and contradictory to science. However, Heruka definitely produced the landscape’s energy. The stone images naturally appeared themselves through the combined power of Heruka-Chakrasamvara, dakas and dakinis and other deities, teachers, disciples and pilgrims. At a larger scale, the mountains of the four directions also appeared through that kind of profound power. Like a sand mandala, they began just as grains of sand. When monks dyed them to give them colour and placed them on a board and created a mandala, then it had the power.”

I asked, “Rinpoche, this landscape was created millions of years ago and you can see that the stones were produced by geological forces. Why would Heruka and the deities designate this landscape as a special place?”


Zasep Rinpoche replied, “They did this because of our own limited mind. People have an egotistical need to able to go to a place and say ‘If this is Heruka’s house, I want to go into his house and get blessings. I want to feel the energy of this place.’ People like us need something concrete, and need a particular place to go. If the power of Heruka were everywhere, how would we know what it was? If we couldn’t distinguish it from anything else, where would we receive it?”

I said, “Before I came here, I’d just wanted the magic.”