The following is a transcript of a talk given by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche in December 2003 at Gompaland near Siliguri in India. The topic is Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche's connection with Tulku and his (C.R. Lama's) disciples and how to use that important connection as a spiritual lineage.
Historical picture of Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche and Tulku Thondup
Tulku Thondups Talk in India
First, I would like to say a few words about the Byangter and Khordong lineages. Of course the Byangter lineage is one of the major gter lineages of Nyingma. Yesterday we talked about the Life and Lineage of Guru Padmasambhava and the tradition of gter. So now it is easier for us to understand the gter, which Padmasambhava concealed and which were discovered centuries later by the rebirths of Guru Padmasambhava's disciples.
Rigdzin Godem, who lived in the 14th century, discovered the teachings of Guru Padmasambhava. Look at the image of Rigdzin Godem. (Pointing to the painting on the temple wall). He is holding a square box in his left hand. That particular gter box represents the gter drom that he discovered in Zazang Labtrag, Western Tibet. That particular gter casket had many partitions, and in the middle one, he found yellow scrolls (Shog Ser) of Gongpa Zangthal, the Boundless Vision of Dzogpa Chenpo. In the other compartments he found the yellow scrolls of different teachings. He transcribed and transmitted them to disciples, and that became the Byangter teachings, one of the most important gter traditions of Guru Padmasambhava.
Rigdzin Godem is regarded as one the three or five supreme gter discoverers of Nyingma. He and his disciples lived in Western Tibet. However, it was in the northern direction of Western Tibet. So his lineage become known as Byangter or Northern gTer. Later on, the third incarnation of Rigdzin Godem moved his seat to central Tibet and established the Dorjedrak monastery, which remains the Byangter lineages main seat to this day.
The Khordong gter tradition is a branch of Byangter. In common dialect we pronounce it Khangdong, although in written form it is Khordong ('Khor gDong). So if you go to Eastern Tibet and say Khordong people may not understand!
Khordong Terchen, as you all know, lived in the 18th-19th century. He was a contemporary and nephew of the first Dodrupchen Rinpoche. He discovered many gter teachings. Most of his discoveries took place in Tsoo valley. However, according to Khenpo Choeyak (a Khenpo from Shugchung monastery and one of the oldest living Khenpos who unfortunately died about five years ago), the teachings on the Sengdongma or Lionfaced Deity were discovered from Tsangchen Srinmo rock near Dodrupchen monastery. I have a videotape on which you can see it. Srinmo is quite an amazingly erected rock that stands near the monastery. According to Khenpo, Khordong Terchen was on the other side of the river when he flew through the sky, landed on the middle of the rock, and took out the gter box. Then he flew back to the other side of the river.
Nowadays they have built a road by the rock, so you can drive through. But in those days, there was hardly even a footpath. So Terchen had to fly over the river and back again to take the gter box out of that very steep rock.
Kordong Terchen -- Terchen means great gter discoverer, -- discovered many teachings and the lineage of his teachings became the Khordong lineage. But the Khordong lineage has become more or less a part of Byangter in that area, like mother and son.
Another important terton in the Khordong lineage was Gonpo Wangyal, who also discovered teachings as gter. And, as all of you know, there was also another amazing master in the Khordong lineage. He was Tulku Tshulthrim Zangpo (Tsullo), one of the greatest scholars and a monk, respected by all different schools of Buddhism in Tibet.
I myself am a follower of Longchen Nyingthig lineage, which is another branch of Nyingma lineage. My monastery is Dodrupchen monastery, separate from Khordong lineage. But the Dodrupchen lineage and Khordong lineage share many unique connections. Geographically one of the monasteries of the Khordong lineage, Shugchung monastery, is only 15 or 20 miles from Dodrupchen monastery. Both are in the Do valley. Also Khordong Terchen was a nephew and disciple of the first Dodrupchen. Tulku Tshultrim Zangpo himself was a disciple of the third Dodrupchen Rinpoche and he did his scholarly studies with Khenpo Damchoe (or Champa Ozer) of Dodrupchen monastery. My predecessor - I don't necessarily believe I was such a great lama in past life - not only had a connection with Khordong monastery, but he also had a house in the hermitage of Shugchung monastery and lived there for a long time. My predecessor also built a huge stupa (which has since been rebuilt) in Shugchung monastery. So they had a special kind of connection in the past.
Three monasteries follow the Khordong lineage. They are the Khordong and Bane Monasteries, both situated in Nyi valley. The third, Shugchung Monastery, is in Dho valley. These three main monasteries are like the pillars of lineage. Shugchung is the biggest. Many scholars including Tshultrim Zangpo belong to it. It still has a couple of hundred monks. In the past, it may have housed up to three or four hundred monks. They were well known for their tradition of performing liturgies as they were very disciplined in their performance of rites, ceremonies, and religious dances. I never visited Khordong or Bane, but I have been to Shugchung many times, which is an amazingly wonderful monastery. However, as it is situated by the bank of Dho river, it always faces the danger of flooding.
Next I would like to say something about our Rinpoche, Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche. The first Khordong Terchen was a great terton, discovered many teachings as gter, and was the incarnation of Kheuchung Lotsawa, one of the 25 main disciples of Guru Padmasambhava. H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche is the incarnation of Dudjom Lingpa and Dudjom Lingpa is also the incarnation of Kheuchung Lotsa. So, both Khordong Terchen and Dudjom Lingpa are incarnations of the same disciple of Guru Padmasambhava.
Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche is the third incarnation of Khordong Terchen. Of course, when I was young in Golok, we heard about Khordong Terchen. But I was so young, I did not know that Khordong Terchen's tulku had left the area and disappeared. We always heard about one of Khordong Terchens grandsons, Khordong Gyurmed Dorje, as he was a very famous master. So I just assumed that Khordong Terchen was still in Khordong monastery.
When I came to India in 1956/7 following Kyabje Dodrupchen Rinpoche, I first spent a number of years in the Sikkim, Darjeeling, and Kalimphong areas. One day in Kalimpong, there was a jeep driving along the main road. In that jeep was this amazing person. I felt so amazed at seeing him. I smiled at him and he smiled back. But that was all. I did not know who he was. Then after a few days, as I was walking in Kalimphong, in an Indian shop at the crossing of the road that leads to the ninth mile and the road that leads to the tenth mile - I saw the same person, sitting and talking with everyone who walked by. This was the biggest cross-street in Kalimpong. Rinpoche seemed always to enjoy sitting at the crossing of roads and talking to people who were coming and going. He waved to me to join him, which I did. We talked for a long time. He didn't tell me he was Khordong Terchen's Tulku or anything. He just said that he was from Kham and teaching at a place called Shantiniketan. At the end, he told me, "come to see me at Tirpai."
After a few days I went to visit him at his apartment in the Tirpai village, on the hill behind Kalimpong. We talked for a long time, mainly about me. Even then he never said a word about his being a tulku. He told me that he was teaching at a university and if I needed help he would try to help me. Of course, I was a refugee who had escaped just a couple of years earlier. Rinpoche was a well-established professor in a University in India. Yes, I was in need of his help. He gave me his address at Shantineketan and said, if you need anything, write me or come to my place and we will see whether I can help you to find a job.
Then some time in 1962 when the Chinese attacked India, many Tibetans rushed towards the planes of India. I left Darjeeling and moved to Bodhgaya. From Bodhgaya I wrote to Rinpoche saying I was at Bodhgaya and wished to come to see him. He wrote back immediately, inviting me to come.
So I went to Shantineketan. At that time Rinpoche's daughter Surja (Nise), whom many of you know, was only six months old. The very next day Rinpoche took me to see the Vice Chancellor, the head of University. With the recommendation of Rinpoche, who was the Head of Indo-Tibetan Studies Department and the Vice Chancellor, I immediately applied to the University Grants Commission, in New Delhi, for a research scholarship. Needless to say, I had to wait for months until an answer arrived from Delhi saying that I had been granted a research scholarship. So I stayed at Visva-Bharati University at Shantiniketan for more than three years - as part of Rinpoche's family or as a permanent guest of the family.
In 1976, there was a teaching position at the University of Lucknow. I was selected for the post and moved to Lucknow. Rinpoche was happy that I got the job, but he wasn't that happy that I was leaving as we all had became so close with Rinpoche, Amala, the children, and everybody. But of course it was important to have a permanent job. So we agreed that I should leave. So I left for Lucknow and taught there for nine years.
I think it took many years for Rinpoche to tell me and for me to learn that he was the tulku of Khordong Terchen. Of course we all knew that he was a very special lama, a very unique person, but we didn't know who he really was. Simply being with him you felt that he was not just a professor, teacher, or friend, but an amazing person.
I think all of you must have felt that Rinpoche possesses an amazing quality, incredible power and strength, and astonishing confidence. Yes, sometimes he was rough, tough, and showed his temper. But you would always feel his amazing love and kindness no matter what he said or did. The wonderful thing is that in one moment he could be scolding or angry at someone, but the next moment he would turn around and smile with the greatest kindness and love. For us, when we get angry or upset, it takes time to calm down and become peaceful before we can smile. But he could be wrathful and compassionate at the same time. From one side he would be manifesting his wrathful form; from the other side, his compassionate, loving, and peaceful form without a trace of real anger.
In those days, I didn't necessarily think about all this. But later I understood that it meant that for Rinpoche all things are just a display, like acting or a show. All are in equality, like a Buddha with wrathful and peaceful heads united in ultimate peace. He was not angry at heart or in mind but was acting at the surface for a purpose, displaying images like a wrathful Buddha.
What is the meaning of a wrathful Buddha? We see all these wrathful images of Buddhas (gesturing around the temple). But in truth wrathful Buddhas have nine qualities. Their bodies are wrathful, heroic, and frightening. Their voices are laughing, threatening, and fierce. But mentally they are loving, peaceful, and powerful. Like all enlightened beings, their minds are peaceful, compassionate, joyful, and wise. If a being is wrathful on the outside and also angry in its heart, then it is a real monster -- not a Buddha. Wrathful Buddhas look wrathful for a purpose: for pacifying, for taming negative forces. Such images are sometimes needed to pacify negative forces, etc. That is why Rinpoche now and then showed a wrathful side, though he is a peaceful, kind, and loving person. So that is what he was.
Rinpoche was also, as I was saying before, powerful. For example, his daughter Norzin (Laxmi) was once sick in the hospital for days. She used to say that simply having Rinpoche by her bedside was the best medication that she could ever have. All her anxieties would disappear. He had an astonishing power that would bring reassurance, confidence, strength, and wisdom. I think many of you know what I am talking about. He had amazing foresight, -- what to do, what not to do, -- not only regarding spiritual issues, but also ordinary, worldly, mundane matters. He enjoyed this amazing wisdom mind, which foresees what you should do, etc.
There is another important thing that I would like to share with you and hope you will try to remember. Different teachers have different ways of teaching, different ways of functioning and serving disciples. Some teach and serve in streets and markets. Others live in caves and hermitages, meditating and praying. Others teach scholarly texts, -- this text, that text, -- and emphasize the learning of intellectual and scholarly material in books. Of course this is all wonderful. Other teachers make students contemplate on the nature of the mind for years. Yet others instruct disciples to do lots of recitations. And yes, Rinpoche was a scholar and he taught scholarly texts, too. But his emphasis, his focus was on rituals, ceremonies. Through rituals, through ceremonies, through devotional prayers, he transmitted his own power into others, he shared his own blessings with others and his own wisdom mind with the minds of his students. And through ceremonies he helped his disciples experience spiritual experiences and helped to awaken whatever wisdom, compassion, confidence, or whatever they could awaken.
I eventually left for the States in 1980 and, after that, saw Rinpoche very rarely, so I don't know how he was teaching after that. But before that, when Rinpoche would perform ceremonies, -- in the early days he didn't have many disciples, -- but whoever was there, many would have amazing experiences. They would have some sort of awakening of spiritual realization, energy, power, wisdom, however you may call it, during the rituals, in the ceremonies, in the Tshog ceremonies, especially during the chanting of the Seven Line Prayer. So this was Rinpoches medium, his channel to reach and help others. And I think many of you, who are his disciples, must have witnessed this and been helped by Rinpoche in this way.
If you felt any level of spiritual experience, whether you felt more peaceful than normal, some sort of powerful energy, or maybe even some sort of glimpse into the nature of the mind, -- whatever you felt in the ceremonies, -- that is a transmission and it will help you. But it will only help you if you hang on to it, maintain it, and use it. How can you use it? By remembering. Memory is a very powerful tool. For example, in one of Rinpoches teachings, when he was giving blessings or when you were all performing ceremonies - if you felt any unusual peace, joy, or warmth, you should try to go back to that in your mind. You should try to recall: "How I felt." "How it was." And if you cannot feel that kind of experience now, try to visualize the whole environment -- what kind of people were there, what kind of prayers were going on, how Rinpoche was sitting, how he and you all were chanting, and then how the process went to the awakening of spiritual experience. So by visualizing and remembering, you might bring back that experience through the power of memory and mindfulness.
Once you bring back the experience, then you have to meditate on it, dwell in it, and stay with it. If you stay with the experience of that spiritual blessing, it becomes stronger and more vivid. Then one day it could become your life, day and night. And then, not only will that peaceful experience help you, but it will also lead you to even higher and deeper spiritual realizations. So it is very important not to loose the medium to which your teacher has introduced you. Because Rinpoche is a special teacher, -- not just a teacher. As we were talking yesterday, after Guru Padmasambhava transmitted teachings to his disciples, they became awakened Masters. They later returned as gter discoverers, not due to karmic compulsion, -- not because they had to pay karmic debts, -- but in order to serve Guru Padmasambhava's followers and serve the mother beings. So great teachers like Rinpoche are special, unique teachers and we should not let go of that wonderful experience and wonderful opportunity that we have. Sometimes you might feel, Oh, my teacher is gone. I have to find another way. Yes, that is good, too. But when we have received this kind of golden treasure we should not try to look for another piece of rock or stone to fill our emotional needs, but we should just stay with that golden treasure. So that is one of the points I would like to make.
I was telling these same things to a number of Rinpoche's disciples in Europe. Here we have few, but I would like to say I especially appreciate the people who came here, because you spent lots of money, spent lots of time to come here. And you came here because it is a very important place for Rinpoche and this place represents Rinpoche.
Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche und Tulku Thondup in New Jersey, 2001
When I met Rinpoche in America, in New Jersey, for the last time, I told him, I think you should stay in Europe somewhere because Europe might be healthy and you might have better facilities and better treatments. Siliguri is quite hot and has lots of mosquitoes. But he said, No. I have to go back because I need to finish the temple. So his focus, the aim of his life, maybe the final aim of his life, was concentrated on this place and finishing this temple. So in a way, this temple is his reincarnation, his tulku. This place is his creation mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and of course physically. So this is very important for all the disciples, students, friends, family - the members of Rinpoche's Sangha. This is not just a temple with nice paintings, nice statues. It has more meaning, essence, and qualities. This is Rinpoche, Rinpoche himself, in many ways. This is what he wanted to leave for his disciples. And Tulku Urgyen and Sashi work so hard on it and so many others have offered so much help to finish it.
Rinpoche spent all of his last few years thinking, dreaming, and envisioning this place, not for himself for he was leaving, so why should he need a temple? Not for his familys finances for they could have done better in this respect with other stable jobs than with spending all their time and energy building this temple. But for all his disciples and students of his spiritual life. So this is what Rinpoche is (motioning around the temple).
So it wonderful that many of you came here thinking of Rinpoche and his temple. I am sure that hundreds of Rinpoches students would have liked to come, but doing so it is not easy. I know there are so many dedicated, so many devout students of Rinpoche in Europe, and that they all want to be here. But everybody is under pressure, stress, and so on. That is why they couldn't come. So, even though we have only a few disciples here in number, you came here with total dedication and total love for Rinpoche, and I really appreciate for your being here. Also you represent the love of all your vajra-brothers, sisters, and friends.
Buddha himself said in a sutra that people who practice and dedicate their lives to Dharma in times when Buddhism is in decay, in the dark ages, will make many more merits than people who practice when Buddhism is in its golden era. So this is the same kind of thing here. To try to come here now, to try to serve Rinpoche's temple now, to try to meditate, try to practice, try to follow Rinpoche's advices now, when Rinpoche is not here and Rinpoche's lineage is in a weak time, -- its weakest time, -- this will make more merits, have more power, and please Rinpoche more than when you did practice when Rinpoche was here and everything was flourishing. So don't feel, Oh, now Rinpoche is not there, my practice will be less strong, etc. Instead you should think and feel, Oh, how wonderful! I am doing some practice and it will please Rinpoche more now than before when he was alive. And my practice will have more strength now than before because this is the time of great need for the tradition, for Rinpoches lineage.
So, please keep two points in your mind, if you could. One is to recognize Rinpoche's way of teaching through ceremonies, prayers, invocations, and devotion. This way you will reach the goal of attainment, whether it is high realization, the experience of peace, the feeling of compassion, realizing the nature of the mind, etc.. -- people are different and have different results. Using Rinpoche's path of ritual, prayers, the Seven Line Prayer, Guru Rinpoches Mantra, the image of Guru Rinpoche, is Rinpoche's teaching, Rinpoche's path.
Second, this is a weak time for Rinpoche's lineage and even if you do a little practice, it will have more power.
Please keep these two points in your mind, and when you go back, if you could share them with other friends, that could help some.
Then of course, when Rinpoche passed away, he didn't go anywhere. Rinpoche is the ultimate nature, the universal nature, and Rinpoche's presence is everywhere, in you, outside of you - like the space. Space is everywhere, inside and outside of us. In the same way the ultimate nature, enlightened nature, is universal. And when a master like Rinpoche passes away he merges with the universal nature. That means Rinpoche is present everywhere.
However for us, we need symbols, we need objects, we need a source of blessings, such as this image or that image, this place or that place, this teacher or that teacher. We need this because of our dualistic and materialistic habits. I haven't been here when Rinpoche was here, but people told me that Rinpoche would sit at the door waiting for people coming in and going out. So all these things are like symbols, like signs that Rinpoche is saying, "I am always waiting for you at the door. I welcome you at the door of the temple." Door of what? Of the Temple. Temple of what? Of spiritual attainments and positive qualities. If you could think about all these symbols, they are all teachings. And so this is an amazing place of love, of spiritual memories, of spiritual transmissions - the real presence of Rinpoche and the compassionate activities of Rinpoche. So we should keep these symbols and meanings alive.
Then of course we have the places Rinpoche blessed in Europe and different Sangha groups there, and I hope and pray that they are all doing practices together in groups, sharing with each other, helping each other, holding each others hand on the journey, on the spiritual path of Rinpoche. They are all practicing at different places, but this is the focal point in many ways.
Rinpoche was like a father or elder brother to me all these years, especially in the beginning when I came to India as a refugee, didn't speak the language, didn't eat the food, couldnt bear the temperature, and so on. All the time he was like a father figure helping me. And all of Rinpoche's children thought that I was their uncle. Later on, they realized that I wasn't their real uncle, but like an uncle. We lived together; we grew together. So Rinpoche is very important for me personally. But then Rinpoche became important to so many people. And then so many people helped Rinpoche spread his teachings and fulfill his dreams. It is so wonderful to know and remember that. That is why I feel so close not only with Rinpoche, but also with all his disciples, many of whom I met, and many of whom I haven't. But wherever they are, I always feel close and thankful to all for serving Rinpoche, helping Rinpoche, and now helping the family to maintain this temple and finish it. So I am very thankful to all of you. If you could tell people - please say that I am very thankful to all the disciples and helpers who help out financially, spiritually, medically. People served Rinpoche in so many ways. And then I am thankful to the family, of course. Amala, she is like a mother for me. She is with us and is more-or-less healthy. That's wonderful. And for all Rinpoche's children, especially Tulku Urgyen and Sashi, for finishing all these dreams of Rinpoche, they are all struggling to keep Rinpoches dreams alive.
Let me say something about Tulku Urgyen and also Tulku Migmed. Migmed, as you know, Rinpoche's elder son, lives in New Delhi. I have heard that when he was young some Lamas came to Kalimphong (in India) from Tibet and recognized Migmed as a Tulku. But Rinpoche refused to let him go to Tibet. If Migmed had gone to Tibet he might not be alive. So he was not enthroned as a Tulku, although he was recognized as one.
Then I think Rinpoche went back twice to Eastern Tibet and on the first time or second time, upon his return, he told me that Urgyen was recognized as the Tulku of a great Lama who had the same name, Urgyen Chemchog, known as Wonpo Urgyen Chemchog of Shichen Monastery. Shichen Monastery, which is in the Golok area, does not belong to the Khordong lineage, however. (People mix up Zhechen and Shichen. Zhechen is Khyentse Rinpoches monastery in Tibet and also in Nepal near Boudhanath Stupa). So Khordong Monastery and Shichen Monastery agreed that Tulku Urgyen would not have to go to Shichen monastery, that he could stay in Khordong Monastery if or when Tulku Ugyen went back to Tibet. So they had a simple ceremony, a robe and scarf offering ceremony.
Anyhow Tulku Urgyen and Sashi now are doing amazing work. But now - I think all of you might have understood - there are fewer disciples coming and fewer contributions. So what do we do with this monastery, with this temple? Having even a single temple with these images, paintings, library, and Rinpoche's blessings will be an amazing source of blessing for this land and the world. That is fine. But if we could use this place for future teachings, for meditation, for ceremonies - like a living monastery - that would be even more beneficial. All of us have this kind of wish or dream. So Tulku Urgyen is struggling and having nightmares over such a heavy burden. How did this happen? In the old days if there was a cave, mountain, forest, monastery, or temple, people would go there to practice even with very little food. They would be happy simply to be there to meditate.
But times are different today. If we invite someone to come here and meditate, say prayers, and teach or study, they will ask, how can I live here? How can I get food? How can I get support? Now that has become a big condition. That is why we need to make this into a functioning, living place. We need funds; we need support. Not only money, but people should come here and meditate here, participate in the practices. Of course if they can't afford to, that is absolutely understandable. But if people can afford it, they should come here at least once a year for one week, one month, -- whatever they can to do some prayers, meditation, practice, ceremonies. They could also sponsor some ceremonies or practices or school for other people who want to practice. So all these things, if you could keep in your mind, that would be wonderful.
So those few points I wanted to tell you and our other friends in Europe too, as I know that there are so many wonderful students of Rinpoche all over there.
(Edited by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche, Lydia Segal and Hilke Zimmermann)