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 'I felt the whole stupa was alive'

Maria Cristina

The first sighting of Borobudur was astonishing. I felt that the whole stupa was alive, seeing the molecules vibrating. I had actually experienced the same kind of vision when I first met Lama Gangchen. The image of his form was not sharp, but appeared naturally a little out of focus, like a mirage. That’s how I saw Him and that’s how I perceived Borobudur on first approach. At the very beginning I even found it a bit scary, because I could feel his inner power, impressive, magnificent and mysterious.

(This is a fragment of the story of Maria Cristina Quintili)

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Developing faith in the Buddhadharma Inner Science

Maria Cristina Quintili, a disciple of Lama Gangchen since the beginning, describes her experiences with Lama Gangchen and Borobudur. This story is not publiced in the Boroburur Book.

By Maria Cristina Quintili - Italy

Maria CristinaIt was one of the first of Lama Gangchen’s pilgrimages to Candi Borobudur in the early 90’s and there were few people attending. As soon as I arrived the environment appeared to my senses as a Pure Land, peaceful and blooming, the air filled with flower scent and delicious fruits to taste, another dimension of time. The Manohara hotel, where we all stayed, had just been completed and it looked to me like the vajra palace of the deities with its gardens and pavilions. The entire archaeological site area including the Museum, Mendut and Pawon Temples, seemed to me a huge mandala and so all that took place inside was spiritually meaningful. The first sighting of Borobudur was astonishing. I felt that the whole stupa was alive, seeing the molecules vibrating. I had actually experienced the same kind of vision when I first met Lama Gangchen. The image of his form was not sharp, but appeared naturally a little out of focus, like a mirage. That’s how I saw Him and that’s how I perceived Borobudur on first approach. At the very beginning I even found it a bit scary, because I could feel his inner power, impressive, magnificent and mysterious. From that time on I joined the pilgrimage for several years in that first decade and more recently after 2010.

Hidden meaning
In those those early days, even to find a single publication about Borobudur was quite rare and so precious for us that, inspired by Lama Gangchen, we felt like pioneers researching together with the Lamas, such as Ven. Geshe Yeshe Wangchuk, Prof. Yonten Gyatso, Tsem Rinpoche and many others, the hidden meaning of Borobudur stupa-mandala, finding out its features and its numerological proportions compared with the Tibetan mandalas and stupas (chorten), and their similarities. Being there was a very special opportunity that influenced my whole life from that moment on. We used to go to worship at a hidden temple, the inclined base of which was only partially rising out of the rice fields and we would pray that it might be possible to bring it back to the surface for its re-discovery and restoration for the benefit of believers, researchers and ultimately all humanity.   Lama Gangchen skillfully stimulated our imaginations, igniting interest in our young minds and firing up our expectations.

Little by little he disclosed the complex structure of the “Buddhist Encyclopaedia” carved in volcanic stone.  He spoke of the three vehicles  (Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana), the different levels of the square galleries, the circular terraces, the three realms, the main central stupa symbolising Buddhahood; he showed us the various Vajrayana symbols, the Bodhisattvas and scenes described on the Borobudur reliefs. In the evening he talked about the origins of Borobudur, telling us many stories of “immortal” yogis living in that area, of King Sailendra and the architect Gunadharma.   For me the most fascinating aspect of his teachings about Borobudur, was that he spoke like one who already knew almost everything about the matter whilst pretending to know little. He was like Buddha Shakyamuni who, though already enlightened, offered his life as a metaphor, taking a human rebirth and reaching enlightenment in order to teach humanity by means of his example, as is described and carved in the “Lalitavistara Mahayana Sutra”.

Since 1993, Lama Gangchen taught the NgalSo Tantric Self-Healing II and progressively developed “The NgalSo Tantric Self-Healing Practice of Borobudur Stupa- Mandala - a Method to transform this world into Shambala”, later combined with the “Shing Kam Jong So” the five Great Mothers method of “Making Peace with the Environment”. Gradually the whole picture became clearer. From the very beginning he underlined the following elements: the presence of female Buddhinis, some Sutras, the different levels of Buddhist practice, the Five Paths and the four classes of Tantra all of which can be applied to Borobudur, together with the mandalas and practices of the main deities' (mainly Kalachakra, but also Tara Chittamani, Guyasamaya, Heruka-Vajrayogini and Yamantaka practices are applicable).

Kalachakra sand mandala
Over the years, he invited many lamas and scholars to give us teachings, to share their feelings and insights on the more enigmatic aspects of  Borobudur, its identity, true nature and its messages for humanity for all time. During the new millennium celebrations 1999- 2000 the group offered one hundred thousand lighted candles and freed many doves.  Zawa Tulku Rinpoche made, in record time, a Kalachakra sand mandala, which was carried to the stupa as a further offering. One of the first hypotheses of the Lamas was that the stupa was related to the Kalachakra Tantra. Year after year Lama Gangchen Tulku Rinpoche demonstrated to us that almost every teaching and every Mantrayana method can be applied to “The Ocean of Mandalas”.  Eventually scriptures and pictorial sources were found revealing that Borobudur was indeed built as the Maha Vairochana Mandala, as represented in the early Yogatantra tradition. The  carved Sutras were revealed and identified as the: Mahakamavibhanga *, Jataka Tales **, Lalitavistara *** and Gandhavyuha ****.

At that point all the pieces of the puzzle were found and matched. Those days, following Lama Gangchen’s instructions, when we were circumambulating the Stupa, we entered on to the Accumulation Path, in the Realm of Desire (Kamadhatu); while performing the stages of Self-Healing practices we accessed the paths of Preparation and Seeing. At the same time I was focusing on the inner and outer mandalas; in that way, sometimes holding Lama Gangchen’s hand, thanks only to his boundless loving kindness and his deep wisdom blessings, Borobudur became a crystal vajra palace to me, where I could see the different colored sides, the lotuses, the symbols of the five families and the Buddha fields. The bas-relief figures were silently expounding their teachings simply by showing their true nature, displaying their amazing, overwhelming, captivating beauty, while the five Dhyani Buddhas guided our steps on the paths, reminding us to behave in accordance with our Bodhisattva commitments. Leaving the Form Realm (Rupadhatu) we proceeded from the Path of Intense Contemplation (or Meditation) to the first terrace, the Formless Realm (Arupadhatu), where we reached the so-called "Peak of Samsara". In the three circular terraces we visualized the Vajrayana deities, abiding in the stupas, watching over us practicing the completion stage of the Tantra. Touching the great central stupa, which represents the Path of No More Learning, through the union of bliss and emptiness, we experienced a taste of the final attainment, the Great Enlightenment.  It was a deep experience that allowed me to temporarily reach some profound levels of meditation.

In those years I was ready to give up my mundane life and I expressed to Lama Gangchen my determination to reach enlightenment in this lifetime, even become a nun to more quickly achieve that aim. He was pleased by my firm intention and gave me some tough jobs to integrate spiritually, while following the Quick Path to Enlightenment in order to purify my negative actions accumulated over infinite lifetimes.

In 1998, I met my husband Jan in Bagni di Lucca, Italy- and we decided to spiritually marry in Borobudur, together with two other couples blessed by our Guru. At that time I found two tiny traditional Indonesian krisses in Mendut, where Atisha Dipankara Shri Gyana lived, to offer to Lama Gangchen for that occasion, which took place on Lama Tzong Khapa day. They were unique, not longer than three centimetres, one shorter than the other, symbolising for me the union of man and wife (note: you can see them on page 227 of Seeds for Peace IV). During the marriage celebration, while Lama Gangchen was blessing the two mini-krisses in a bowl with rice and flowers, together with the wedding rings, I felt inspired to mentally express a wish: “May men and women, instead of fighting each other, use their intelligence to transform anger into love, hatred into compassion and aversion into kindness”. Without sounding words I strongly wished for us and for all divided humanity to be ultimately reunited by Love.

A vivid dream
One night during my first or second stay at Borobudur I had a vivid dream: I was walking towards the temple and making prostrations at the Eastern door of the stupa, on the Buddha Akshobya side, which was where we enter into the mandala. There I saw, as if coming out of the stupa and approaching me, a kind of magic emanation, floating in the sky before me, an old Master coming closer in the meditation crossed-leg posture. He was talking to me but I could not understand his words. (Some years later, I thought that I could possibly recognise him as the previous incarnation of H. H. Kyabje Chotrul Trijang Rinpoche, Yonzing Trijang Dorje Chang, Lama Gangchen’s root guru, or Atisha himself).

In the dream, the Master gave me a traditional tibetan mala, made of white pearl, red coral and blue turquoise.  The following day, I decided to go down to Borobudur by myself to offer prayers and prostrations in order to pay homage to the stupa-mandala and the Holy Beings abiding there. I had my mala, which was made out of these same stones, around my neck. While performing one of my full prostrations, I found that something prevented me from getting completely back up; I had pressed the big turquoise stone which was attached to my mala  into the ground. I tugged up the mala but the  stone having been pressed down by my body, remained fixed in the ground. In that instant I had the insight that the Holy Pure Land of Borobudur and my Gurus had asked me for a kind of “material pledge” of my devotion. This was a good chance to make an offering!Nevertheless I found it a bit difficult to let go of that stone which had become, with my expectations, a talisman or relic for me in regard to the dream! However, a dream is just a dream. Why should I care about such a small thing? What is the value of a semiprecious stone, even if blessed by a great Master in a dream, compared to the value of the long path of the two accumulations of merits and wisdom that I chose to acquire in order to reach the ultimate state of mind, the Great Enlightenment? Then my mind was able to follow its first inclination,  this was my small offering to Borobudur and  the blessing already consisted in leaving the stone behind, as it naturally happened. Eventually from that action other blessings would come. And that was how it went. In the following years Lama Gangchen sent me to perform two individual retreats of mantra recitation and solitary study in Borobudur, thus bringing to pass the dream's main indication and prophecy. In my experience being initiated in this powerful stupa-mandala is a rare privilege and leaves a strong imprint truly conducive to Liberation, gradually bringing us closer to Enlightenment.  Each time I think on Borobudur my faith in the “Buddha Dharma Inner Science” increases.

* Observing the Laws of cause and effect, action and result, at the base of the stupa.

** The first gallery displays episodes of the Jataka Tales, an inspiring collection of stories of the previous lives of Buddha Shakyamuni.

*** The Unfolding of the Play of the Holy Life and Deeds of Buddha Shakyamuni descending from Tushita Heaven into this world.

**** Stories of the adept Sudhana meeting his Gurus.

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