Thrangu Tulku reading to students with Vulture Peak behind him.
Candid photo courtesy of R. Graffis.
many audio files of teachings (via Malaysian site)
Upon Hearing of the Destruction [9/11/01]
How consciousness gets into the body and the relation of this process to the stage of tantric practice known as generating the deity.
Ven. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche is HH Karmapa's senior tutor. He is a holder of all Karma Kagyu Vajrayana lineages and a specialist in the shentong Buddhist philosophical view. He is especially appreciated by Western students for his skill in making complex concepts readily accessible. For example, a spontaneous lesson on generosity:
"... if you want to practice generosity, you can start by giving your best friend some small thing that you are not attached to, like a penny. (Clip, clip, clip, clip.)
When you have mastered that, give them something you really
like, perhaps your favorite shirt. Then, once you have mastered that, try
giving some small thing to someone you dislike. At last, when you can do
all this with ease, give your greatest enemy something which you cherish
Then he smiled, and passing the knife from one hand to the other and back again said, "If you can't do any of that, you must practice like this: Right hand giving to left hand, left hand giving to right hand, right hand giving … ." At this point we both started laughing uncontrollably at the sheer absurdity of it. Imagine someone being so selfish that they would have to practice giving from one of their own hands to the other! Yet perhaps that's not [as] preposterous as it may seem. Part of that teaching has to do with our need to be generous with ourselves, if we are ever to be generous or compassionate with others.
The second and perhaps more obvious part of his "survival knife" teaching is that the right and left hands are part of the same body. It's only natural for one to give to the other, for them to work together in harmony. ... ."
~ Kwan Um School of Zen is the source of this anecdote which conveys such a fine sense of Ven. Thrangu's presence. [One-hand-to-the-other is a traditional teaching technique.]
Khenchen Thrangu's main seat is at
Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery,
G. P. O. Box 1287, Boudha,
For information on Rinpoche's schedule contact:
Gloria Jones, Secretary to Thrangu Rinpoche
Thrangu Tashi Choling
P.O. Box 1287
Phone: 977-1-472024 Fax: 977-1-472529
Or email Clark Johnson: firstname.lastname@example.org (Colorado)
About the Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado (7/23/2002)
As my parting aspiration prayer for you all, I pray that your practice of ultimate bodhichitta will cut through your clinging to existence as being truly existent and that your practice of relative bodhichitta, which is the root of performing the benefit of others, will cut through clinging to samsara . I pray that these practices will be like the waxing moon and will increase and increase and that, through this, you will be of great benefit to all of the limitless number of sentient beings.
A dharma center is a place where many dharma practitioners can gather and practice together and therefore it is very important. Those who work at a dharma center and are doing dharma work will have difficulty. However much you have to endure, that much more merit will you accumulate, and that much more can you practice patience. However much dharma
practitioners have to endure the difficulties of heat and cold, of hunger and thirst, or whatever might be, that much more merit will they accumulate. Milarepa himself said, "If you do difficult things, you will achieve something rare."
Crestone is a place where you have at your back the Rocky Mountains and in front you have an incredibly expansive view. Although the view is expansive there's a forest on the mountains so there can be many different places for seclusion. It's a place where the earth is clean, the water is clean, and the air is clean. So it's a wonderfully beautiful and secluded place, an ideal place to practice the dharma. You're all incredibly fortunate to be able to live and practice here. And especially because it's a place where many tulkus (emanations of realized masters) are now gathering and having retreats or building retreat building. So I think this creates a very auspicious connection for the teachings of the Practice Lineage to flourish here in Crestone and for many yogis and yoginis to be born out of their practice here.
Because we have so many different tulkus from so many different dharma traditions building retreats in the same place, teaching in the same place, this activity really makes this place extraordinary. Since these emanations themselves are building so many different retreat cabins, it is a sign that even more emanations of emanations will come in the future. Since the people who are building the retreats, the lamas, the retreat masters themselves are tulkus, that is a sign that among their students there will be many yogis and yoginis.
Since people here help each other when building their retreats with groups helping each other, that is a sign that they are in harmony in terms of their samaya and that is a conducive condition for their realization to increase and increase. Also, all these different students of different teachers have one common place where they have come, which also has an extraordinary stupa of Tashi Gomang, its a wonderful place for everybody to gather and make aspiration prayers for world peace and happiness.
Tibet has many sacred places because these are places where realized masters like Milarepa and Guru Rinpoche came and practiced. Because these masters stayed in these spots and practiced there, the places became sacred. These places weren't sacred to begin with; they became sacred because of the practice that was done there. Similarly, because there are so many different emanations of masters practicing here and building retreats here, this place, too, will become a sacred place -- a place where the air is clean, the earth is clean, and the water is clean, a place of utter seclusion and beauty, a place
where so many tulkus have come to build retreats and practice the genuine dharma. All of these are signs that here the teachings of the Practice Lineage will flourish. So all of you who are the pioneers here should stick it out and endure the difficult work of building this place. If you do this, all of the future emanations and the future students who come will have it very easy and will have all the conducive conditions for a wonderful place for practice which will be based on your efforts and endurance here at the beginning.
When the tulkus who are in Crestone pass away into nirvana, their blessing will grow even greater and the blessing of this place will grow even greater. When a tulku is still alive some people will praise the tulku and some people will criticize the tulku. But once the tulku passes away to nirvana then all there is, is pure vision. And this makes their blessing increase and the blessing of the place where they live and practice increase. So when the tulkus pass away into nirvana, there will be no reason to criticize them any more and everybody will have very pure vision of them and make aspiration prayers at the places where they stayed and lived and practiced.
In this world there are many places where there are retreats going on and retreat houses being constructed and people are practicing. But you have not just one, but many tulkus who have come and build retreats and practice here. So out of all of the retreat settings in the whole world, this is the best! This is the most extraordinary! It is the retreat land of the emanations! And that's why in the future this will become an extraordinary place. The reason why Tibet is an extraordinary land is that so many emanations of realized masters were born and lived there. Similarly, since Crestone is a place where so many
realized masters have come to live and practice, it will be just as extraordinary. And when the students of these emanations practice what they have been taught by their teachers and they become noble bodhisattvas, then there will be that many more emanations to go around.
As Milarepa sang,
"The yogi who has reached success in emptiness/compassion,
this is the guide for cutting through complexities conventions,
is there anyone here who is able to stick to this path and follow it through,
the one with realization, with a retinue is happy.
To gather emanations as a retinue is E MA HO."
So Milarepa sang about his students being
emanations being tulkus because they had realized the true nature of mind.
So Rinpoche asks that I sing this verse for you. [Translator
Ari Goldfield sings.] It's like that!
(Note: When Ari heard Khenpo Tsultrim say, "So out of all the retreat settings in the world, this is the best." he asked Khenpo several times if he meant just good or meant the very best and each time Khenpo Tsultrim said "the very best.")
From the Dharma Diary, Sept. 30 & Oct. 1st, 2000:
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche on Tilopa's Mahamudra instructions, and from the Kon Chog Chin Du cycle of empowerments, Lion-face Dakini (Guru Rinpoche.)
"The leader of the Kagyu shedrup is His Eminence Thrangu Rinpoche. He [was] on a world-wide teaching tour before going to India to become the tutor of His Holiness.
The Very Venerable Ninth Thrangu Rinpoche is a powerfully built man in his sixties whose smile is like the noonday sun. The energy of his presence seemed to illuminate and invigorate the the shrine room. For the 400 or so people who had come especially to be with him, it was a powerful motivating force for the practice of the dharma.
In the congregation were a number of men and women about to enter the traditional three-year closed retreat, and Khenchen Thrangu provided the charge that will go far to sustain them.
He had been at Karma Triyana for a week teaching from a text edited by Jamgon Kongtrul the Great [19th century], of Tilopa's Practical Instructions on the Practice of Mahamudra given to Marpa the Translator. [The link is to Keith Dowman's translation on his site.]
In Sunday's concluding session, Rinpoche was kind enough to share with us that this text was more amenable to the learning circumstances here in the West, unlike the Ocean of Definitive Meaning which takes much more time to complete.
Both manuals emphasis the necessity of maintaining mindfulness, alertness, care and diligence in daily life whether on the cushion [in "official" meditation"] or off.
He told us not to be discouraged if we find it difficult to practice for whatever reason. He reminded us that the Buddha had said that that there is great merit whenever one put two hands together [in worship or reverence] but that there is merit, too, when one can only raise one hand.
Even partial faith leads to immeasurable merit.
"The seed will grow. There is fruition - no need to get depressed."
By that Sunday morning, he had reached the last of 7 well-organized topics in Practical Instructions. It covered the preliminaries, the main practice and the results.
We heard that Gampopa [from whom Kagyu Buddhists reckon the lineage to have originated] had told his nephew that
Thoughts are the display of the dharmakaya.
The Mahamudra technique teaches that the mind can be likened to cloudy or sullied water, it will clarify if we allow it to settle naturally.
Without exception, all appearances and existents are liberated in Mahamudra. So, too, all habits, obscurations, contaminants.
Mind is Clarity and Emptiness.
As for Emptiness, there is nothing to abandon or to accomplish from the point of view of absolute truth. But of course, from the relative point of view, we do need to abandon certain things and accomplish others. Therefore, we do exercises and practices like meditation.
When we 'sit' we can experience alaya, the ground from which thoughts arise; it has no arising. We should be without arrogance or calculation, and just rest in that unborn nature.
We should not judge [our own thoughts and actions at that time] or get into the characteristics of our mind.
Some experienced teachers have said that cognitive lucidity is more beneficial than the emphasis on the experiencing of Emptiness. It depends on the nature of the practitioner [another good reason for having and relying on a teacher].
This aspect of Tibetan Buddhism is called in that language "Instruction on the Mind."
Khenchen Thrangu reminded us that "appearances are not that important, and also thoughts can be exhausted" so that finally we are left with the dharmakaya.
The result of the practice of Mahamudra is without limit, completely impartial, without hope* and completely liberating.
*[In the Greek myth about Pandora, the All-giver, the container of noxious things has at its very bottom, Hope. This is, contrary to the way it may have been explained to most of us, one of the most destructive of all the contaminants. It prevents us from Being and sets us off into a kind of fantasy existence.]
The text describes three kinds of practitioner. The first is like a turbulent river, the second like one that flows through a narrow gorge or defile, the third like the River Ganges flowing steadily and inexorably to the ocean where the waters will co-mingle.
1. Beginners often believe that when they meditate, they are producing more thoughts than usual. This is not so.
2. If we persist and continue, the speed and turbulence will reduce.
3. If we are relaxed, the mind will still of itself.
The follow-the-breath technique or the use of directed gaze is used to intensify the awareness in those intermediate practitioners who have some grasp of the "resting naturally" but are not able to sustain that state. It is also useful for those who tend to become torpid.
Rinpoche suggests using the breath to get a hold of the mind. A vajra technique was mentioned in which the breath is held in between inhaling and exhaling. The 3 syllables that begin Guru Rinpoche's mantra may be used here.
The word in the text that is translated 'gaze' is to be understood to include, besides the correct direction of the eyes, the six other aspects of the "7 dharmas of Vairochana" such as holding the spine erect, etc.
He told us that Machig Lapdron had said that the point of the traditional yoga posture is to 'relax the 4 limbs'.
[I was reminded of the mahasiddha's mandala offering of his own cut-off head and 4 limbs arranged in the auspicious mudra of a swastika.]
We should remember that since 'speech is the melody of devotion' we can make use of melodic recitation.
The text addressed methods suitable for those of higher and lesser faculties, too. Karma yoga, doing daily activities with mindfulness and thoughts of bodhicitta is effective. So is the samaya yoga in which one works with the channels, winds and dots. The latter should only be done in retreat with a guru's permission.
Tilopa's text ends with the assurance that practicing in this way will lead to a long life with 'no white hair' filled with 'vitality like the waxing moon' and the 'strength of a lion.' "