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Last year I went on pilgrimage with my wife to the sacred land of Darjeeling and Sikkim (I wrote about Darjeeling here). The great guru Padmasambhava visited this Himalayan sanctuary in the 8th century. Many saints and accomplished masters have meditated in the mountains, temples and grottos of Sikkim in past centuries.
In the 16th century the Tibetan yogi, Lhatsün Namkha Jikmé, crossed the Himalayas and came to Tashi Ding upon the encouragement of his gurus. When he reached one of the sacred caves north of Tashi Ding, he had a profound visionary experience. This spiritual vision spurred him to write a volume worth of esoteric Vajrayana teachings entitled Rigdzin Sokdrup, Accomplishing the Life-Force of the Vidyadharas. The pith instructions of this volume of teachings was a short liturgy known as Riwo Sangchö, or Mountain Smoke Offering. While it may seem as though Riwo Sangchö is a common ritual for purification and offering incense, the liturgy contained the unsurpassed instructions of the pinnacle of the Buddhist teachings known as Dzogchen Atiyoga.
We had journeyed the windy roads and hiked the last few miles to Tashi Ding to spend a week practicing Riwo Sangchö at the very cave where Lhatsün Namkha Jikmé had revealed it. We were blessed to find the contemporary Dzogchen master, Chokling Rinpoche, who was in a six-month retreat. He and his wife Choyang were exceptionally kind and arranged a small retreat room for us.
On the second evening, Chokling Rinpoche and I were speaking about the substances that are offered into the fire during Riwo Sangchö practice. He told me how many kinds of plants such as juniper and sandalwood are combined with consecrated medicinal herbs and flowers; five metals including gold, silver and copper; precious minerals including pearl, lapis lazuli and coral; five-colored cloth representing the pure essence of earth, water, fire, air and space; and the three whites (butter, milk, curd) and the three sweets (honey, sugar, molasses); and other substances that are prescribed in ancient texts.
All of this is burned to make aromatic smoke, which is used as both a physical offering and as the bases of an esoteric visualization practice. It is possible to burn all of these together en masse during the ritual, or else, having ground the substances into a powder and then formed into joss sticks, simply light the thin incense.
Before our conversation concluded, I asked Chokling Rinpoche if he and his monks could make two kinds of incense for friends of Nekorpa—one Pilgrimage incense for purifying and offering, and another for Riwo Sangchö practice.
He agreed and soon his monks were collecting the needed substances from lamas and monasteries around Tibet, India and Nepal—and this is the incense we just received.
For a donation of $12 to Nekorpa, we will send you a package of either the Pilgrimage or Riwo Sangchö incense. You may order more than one package and kindly adjust your donation accordingly. Your donation includes shipping and handling and you can make the donation here. Please be sure to include the address where you want the incense to be shipped. If you would like to order the incense in bulk, kindly email me at [email protected].
Description of the two kinds of incense:
Nekorpa’s Pilgrimage Incense is handcrafted in northern India and prepared with the highest quality fruits, grains, medicinal herbs, gold and other metals, and milk products that are prescribed in ancient scriptures. Burning this incense is traditionally used as an offering, as well as for cleansing the external landscape of pollutants and purifying one’s inner channels for yoga and meditation. The lamas and monks of Chokling Gar have made this incense for Nekorpa.
Nekorpa’s Riwo Sangchö incense is a hand-crafted mixture of consecrated medicinal herbs and flowers; five metals including gold, silver and copper; precious minerals including pearl, lapis lazuli and coral; five-colored cloth representing the pure essence of earth, water, fire, air and space; and the three whites (butter, milk, curd) and the three sweets (honey, sugar, molasses); and other substances that are prescribed in the ancient text for mountain smoke offering of Riwo Sangchö. The various substances have been gathered from lamas and hermits in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India and China, and made by monks of Chokling Gar for Nekorpa. This incense can be used for offering, purifying and meditation.
And a final note, Lotsawa House has translated various texts and commentaries associated with Riwo Sangchö and you can find them here. And Dzongsar Khyentsé Rinpoche is considered to be an incarnation of Lhatsün Namkha Jikmé, and here you can see a video of him talking about Lhatsün Namkha Jikmé and Riwo Sangchö at Tashi Ding.