After I finished my retreat I was able to go on several pilgrimages. First, I visited Bodhgaya, one of the most sacred places in this world. As sutras tell us, the vajra throne in Bodhgaya is the site where the one thousand buddhas of this eon awaken to complete enlightenment. Samten Gyatso once told me that all who visit Bodhgaya just once in their lifetime have not wasted their life and can die without regret. With that in mind, and not wanting to die without having seen it, I headed off for Bodhgaya soon after arriving in Sikkim. I was looking forward to making prayers and pure wishes at that sacred place, though I didn’t get to stay long on that first visit.
There is a relative and an ultimate meaning of the term vajra throne. The ultimate is the awakened state of primordial purity, which is the real location for attaining enlightenment. The vajra throne in Bodhgaya is an external version of the inner throne of basic space. In Kham, everyone had heard that when the deceased’s spirit flounders through the bardo, there are only two places it cannot choose to go: the mother’s womb and the vajra throne. But Samten Gyatso once told me, “It’s not the throne in Bodhgaya, it’s the vajra throne of inner basic space, the awakened state of primordial purity. After conception, you can’t come and go from the mother’s womb. You can only go in once, then you stick like a fly in glue and the spirit begins to be enveloped in a body composed of the aggregates, elements, and sense bases, from which there is no escape until the death of that rebirth.”
--Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, from Blazing Splendor
photo: Graham Sunstein