“When you are still the demons are still; when you are pacified the demons are pacified; when you are liberated the demons are liberated; and when you are tamed the demons are also tamed. The demon is your own demon and cutting through it pacifies yourself. Therefore it is greater to confront a single frightening place than to do three years of meditation.” (Guru Rinpoche Terma Teaching)

In many ways, the legend of Padmasambhava took seed at Samye Gompa (Monastery). The monastery, built in the shape of a mandala, was first erected in the 8th Century. According to the legend, the King of Tibet had made multiple attempts to build the Gompa and introduce Buddhism to Tibet. After each day of construction, however, the local demons would unleash earthquakes and bad omens to knock down the building and frighten the local populace.

With his intentions frustrated, the King sent an invitation to the most renowned and powerful Tantric master of India: Padmasambhava. The Guru accepted, traveling up from Nepal and through the Himalaya, overcoming demons and malevolent spirits at every juncture. When he arrived at Samye, Padmasambhava performed the Vajrakilaya dance, moving across the site in a meditative equipoise. Through his ‘perfect dance,’ Padmasambhava trapped the local spirits in a ‘thread cross,’ binding their allegiance to the dharma and securing the ground for Samye Gompa.

Samye has been rebuilt several times since the 8th century, including in the 1980’s after the destruction of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Today, the monastery is a thriving scene, filled with a constant stream of pilgrims who wander past the temple’s many alters, leaving donations, lighting butter lamps, and reciting mantras. In the mornings, the temple’s monks gather for daily prayers, filling the hall with the hum of mantras.

The Triptych Journey team spent two days filming and photographing the dimly lit Gompa. We also visited some of the nearby power sites of the valley, including the caves of Chimpu and Yarmalung. In addition to it’s historic legacy as the first monastery, Samye also holds a central place in the terma tradition (spiritual treasures). Several termas have been discovered in Samye and the surrounding cave sites.

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