Our lineage and teachers and how Tantric Sorcerous Underground came to be.
In 2018, Lama Dorje Sherab (Johnathan Justinn), disillusioned by how various high lamas defended another high lama Sogyal when the latter was exposed for abusing students and also heartbroken over the parinirvana of his root guru Norbu Rinpoche, decided to distance himself from the institutional world of Vajrayana. Not long after, he met Lama Fede Andino in an online group and recognized an unmistakable rapport which would lead to a remarkable triple relationship of vajra brother, student and guru. Lama Fede had also left the institution he trained in to seek new ways of bringing Dharma to more people in the world.
Just as 84000 sutras arose from the Buddha to suit the different needs of numerous beings, Lama Sherab and Lama Fede founded Tantric Sorcerous Underground in 2020, later registered as the non-profit organization Tantric Revolutionary Center, aspiring to teach the transformative power of Dharma at a non-discriminitive and down to earth level that many traditional institutions are unable to offer. They like to joke about being samaya plumbers, treading in muddy puddles right alongside students in the true spirit of interdependency.
Traditionally, empowerments always had to be taken live in person. Norbu Rinpoche pioneered and validated the method for people to take empowerments from videos which led to the later development of online empowerments which Lama Sherab and Lama Fede perfected for the TRC kula, making Vajrayana accessible on a global scale to anyone who is willing to commit to this path.
Since its inception, the TRC has adhered to the commitment of being a Rime sangha that keeps samaya as its lifeblood and protects Vajrayana teachings from people without authorization. Its mission is to bring Buddhadharma to all beings with no exceptions. This kula is proud to serve future bodhisattvas of all ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identifications.
In Lama Sherab's own words
What is the meaning of our name in this group, and what is the goal?
We were both trained as Nyingma and Sakya Lamas respectively, given the blessing to teach within the parameters of the tradition, and saw many aspects of the tradition that do not help beings achieve liberation, and sometimes get quite in the way.
Though we all need money to survive and build things, we all too often see money used as a real bar of entry toward empowerments and teachings. Dharma centers that need to put down tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to invite a famous teacher often have hurt their ability to sustain themselves in order to do this. Money will not, for us, present an obstacle. Though donations in the future for upkeep will be accepted, it will never be required. Please
note, this is not a condemnation of other teachers that reasonably teach for money. This is just our aim.
Secondly, the emphasis is usually on long form retreat and monasticism. While doing a three year retreat or becoming a monk may be a great path for some individuals, most modern peoples cannot leave their lives for that amount of time, or just check-out altogether. Vajrayana began as a way for those with daily lives to achieve liberation and sorcerous power, and we believe it should return to the audience for which it was intended.
Thirdly, Vajrayana is known as the path of skillful means. This means that anything can be seen as a teaching or method to free ourselves. Technology in the last decade has driven us further apart. As Tantric practitioners, it is not only a curiosity, but a duty to find out how technology can be used as a skillful means to help others. This is why we have begun to give empowerments and transmissions online. Not everyone can travel, and we know there are
some phenomenal practitioners out there who will take these teachings and achieve liberation.
Vajrayana is relational. Through taking a teacher, and Samaya, or sacred commitments, we are bound together as a Vajrakula, or Vajra tribe/family. The question shouldn’t be ‘Does online empowerment work?’ It most certainly works, because the deities pervade the space of the five elements and are not hampered by distance, but arise through Bodhicitta.
The question should be, “How can we make this method as efficacious and meaningful as possible?”
Though the experience of going to a Gompa, being there in person with all the sights and smells will by nature be different, it doesn’t have to be worse. In fact, through keeping gatherings small and knowing our students well, it can even be in some regards better.
As we have said to each other in the early days of forming the group, our goal is simply to create Buddhas. Beings who radiate loving-kindness and compassion, and are day by day becoming less confused about their own real nature.
We are called Tantric Sorcerous Underground because we emphasize the path of the Tantras, for transforming realizing our nature through this secret oral tradition. We are Sorcerous because we emphasize not only the higher Siddhi of liberation, but the four lower Siddhi of complete sorcerous mastery. We are underground because we are with you. We live lives like yours. We are not representing vast lauded institutions. We are not sprinkling blessings from on high. We are growing the garden from soil of the Tathatagharba- each of our own primordially liberated nature.
Thanks for joining us on the journey.
Lama Dorje Sherab
In Lama Fede's own words
How did this wonderful Kula come to be?
It came to be for several reasons because both Lama Sherab and myself (Lama Fede) have been blessed with great teachers. It came to be because Lama Sherab and myself met and we started to work together. But it also came to be because we both left the institutions that we were a part of.
In Lama Sherab’s case, after the passing of his Root Guru, Namkhai Norbu Rimpoche, he continued the work that his Guru had charged him with: to teach and to give empowerments.
In my own case, after years of teaching in Argentina, I came to realize that my understanding of Bodhicitta didn’t align with that of the institution that I was in. After obtaining the blessing of my Guru, I resigned from the position.
We have always treasured all the institutions of Tibetan Buddhism and always will. But to not be entirely dependent on them, we’ve also retrained and redone the teacher’s retreats and empowerments. Our intention was not to break with tradition, but rather to preserve tradition while addressing the issues that we both see today with Dharmic practice.
This is something that happens all the time. Where do you think so many styles of Buddhism came from? Like the 84,000 teachings, they flower because Samsara is endless. Therefore, the ways to unfuck it are also endless.
Lama Fede Andino
Lama Federico Andino has been a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism with over 20 years of experiences and is the founder of the Buddhist Conferences in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has trained with several teachers across all the traditions.
He completed a Three Roots retreat under Lama Dorje Sherab, as well as the ritual Homa and Vajracharya empowerment.
Lama Fede is also a Buddhologist and the tenured professor of Tibetan Buddhism at the Universidad del Salvador, Escuela de Estudios Orientales in Buenos Aires.
Lama Dorje Sherab
Lama Dorje Sherab has had the Vajracharya empowerment in the context of many traditions, most especially the Guhyagharbha and eight Kagye and other systems of Sarma and Nyingma from Trulshik, Namdrol, Garchen, Goshir Gyaltsen Rinpoche and many others.
His root Guru was Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche who advised him in many conversations regarding which empowerments to take, who to take them from when he himself was not available to give them and how to train in them properly. He also trained in Shedra under Khenpo Drimed, studying for many years. He learned Tibetan at this time and received the five treasuries of the Rime tradition gathered by Jamgon Kongtrul.
Under Norbu Rinpoche, he completed a retreat of the three roots, and after approach and accomplishment, as well as the homa ritual, was given blessings by him to teach and give empowerments. From him Lama Sherab also had extensive training and empowerments in Anuyoga, and in the three series of Atiyoga.