Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
Essays and interviews by ten lamas surrounding the passing of a great master
Grant your blessings that my mind may follow the
Since I do not possess any qualities of learning or accomplishment, I will simply repeat the flawless words of the Buddha in order to benefit those who show sincere interest in the Dharma.
The incomparable and world-renowned great master Gampopa condensed all the teachings that have been given and will be given by the one thousand buddhas in this good aeon into four sentences called the Four Dharmas of Gampopa. These extremely profound sentences are a combination of Sutra and Tantra, and were expounded upon by the great master Longchen Rabjam. If a practitioner receives these instructions and is diligent, he or she will be able to attain complete enlightenment within a single lifetime. It is amazing how extraordinary the vital teachings of the buddhas and accomplished practitioners are.
The buddhas have totally perfected all the qualities of abandonment and realization; they have abandoned the obscurations and realized the wisdom qualities. Out of their great love and kindness for other beings, similar to the love a mother has for her only child, the awakened ones taught the Dharma. The source of Buddhism on this earth is Buddha Shakyamuni, the completely enlightened one. His teachings have been transmitted through a lineage of bodhisattvas abiding on the bhumis, the bodhisattva levels. Thus these teachings have been passed down through an unbroken lineage of accomplished practitioners up to my own root teacher.
The first of the Four Dharmas of Gampopa is "Turn your mind towards following the Dharma!" This is done by reflecting on the four mind-changings. The first of these describes the difficulty of obtaining a precious human body endowed with the eight freedoms and ten riches. Since we are already human beings it might seem that we effortlessly obtained a human body; however, that was not the case. It takes a tremendous amount of positive karma accumulated in former lifetimes for an individual to be born in a precious human body. There are as many human beings as there are stars in the sky at night. But among these humans, those who have interest in practicing the sacred Dharma, beings with a precious human body, are extremely few, like the stars in the morning sky. Among people with interest in Dharma, those who have sincere diligence are even less. Genuine Dharma practice means to give up all worldly ambitions and to pursue instead the attainment of complete enlightenment in this very lifetime.
Although we have obtained a precious human body, it is governed by impermanence. Impermanence means that nothing, neither the world nor the beings in it lasts. In particular, the life span of a human is extremely short, as unpredictable and insubstantial as a flash of lightning or a bubble in water. On this earth no one lives forever; one after the other, people pass away. After death, if we end up in the three lower realms we will undergo unbearable, indescribable misery and pain. Currently we strive for perfect conditions, pleasure and wealth. But no matter what incredible state of worldly luxury and happiness we might now attain, we lack the power to bring any of it - our friends, family members or wealth - into the afterlife.
Although we feel love and affection for our family and our friends, at the moment of death we journey alone to an unknown place. We have repeated the same experience in all our past lives, leaving behind all our acquaintances and abandoning our possessions. No matter what happiness and abundance we achieve in this lifetime, it is as insubstantial as the dream we dreamt last night. To understand that nothing lasts, that everything passes by like a dream, is to understand impermanence and death.
If it simply were the case that our life ended in nothingness, like water drying up or a flame being extinguished, that would be perfect. There wouldn't be anything to worry about. But I'm sorry to say it does not happen like that, because our consciousness is not something that can die. After death we are forced to experience the effect of our former karmic actions. Due to ignorance we have wandered endlessly in samsara, unable to be liberated, continually circling between the three lower and three higher realms, one after the other. In order to free ourselves from the six realms of samsaric existence, we need to practice the sacred Dharma now while we have the chance.
We continue in samsaric existence as long as we are covered by the obscuration of disturbing emotions and the cognitive obscuration. These two obscurations are precisely what hinder us from attaining the state of omniscient Buddhahood. In order to remove them we engage in the practices known as the preliminaries. These practices are included under the Second Dharma of Gampopa, "Make your Dharma practice become the path!" First we take refuge and do prostrations, thereby removing the karmic misdeeds and obscurations of our body gathered in countless lifetimes. In order to remove the negative actions and obscurations of speech which we have accumulated since beginningless time, we practice the meditation and recitation of Vajrasattva. To remove the obscurations and negative actions of our mind gathered during beginningless lifetimes, we make the outer, inner and secret mandala offerings. Finally, to remove the negative actions and obscurations which have been gathered through a combination of body, speech and mind from beginningless time, we practice the outer, inner and secret aspects of guru yoga. It is said that "realization occurs spontaneously when the obscurations are removed." Guru yoga is an extremely profound practice which is excellent for removing obscurations and developing realization. Though it is placed among the preliminary practices, it is said to be more profound than the main part of practice itself.
The Third Dharma of Gampopa is "Let the path clarify confusion!" 'Path' here should be understood within the context of ground, path, and fruition, a structure that encompasses all the teachings of Sutra and Tantra. The ground is the Buddha nature, sugatagarbha, the dharmakaya of all the buddhas that is present in all sentient beings. It is compared to pure, undefiled gold endowed with supreme qualities and free from any defects. How is the buddha nature present in everyone? The example given is that of oil in a mustard seed. When pressed, a mustard seed always yields oil. In the same way, in all sentient beings there is the essence of Buddhahood, the buddha nature. No one lacks it. All the buddhas and bodhisattvas have buddha nature, as well as all sentient beings down to the tiniest insect, without any difference whatsoever in size or quality.
The buddha nature, the sugatagarbha, encompasses all of samsara and nirvana. Space is beyond center and edge. Wherever space pervades there are sentient beings. Wherever there are sentient beings buddha nature is present. That is what is meant by the statement that buddha nature encompasses all of samsara and nirvana, all worlds, all beings.
Although buddha nature is present in everyone, we fail to recognize it. This ignorance is the main cause for wandering in samsara. Due to the ignorance of not knowing their own nature, sentient beings have strayed into confusion, like pure gold that has fallen into the mud and is temporarily defiled. Buddhas did not stray into confusion but retained their 'natural seat'. The difference between buddhas and sentient beings is the difference between knowing or not knowing our innate nature.
Although gold is gold, when it falls in the mud it gets covered by dirt and becomes unrecognizable. Gold temporarily covered by mud is the example for sentient beings who fail to recognize their own nature. All sentient beings are buddhas, but due to temporary obscurations they do not realize it. The ground is likened to pure gold, while the path is like gold which has fallen in the dirt and is covered by defilements. In this context, the path means the state of confusion.
Buddhahood, the realized state of all awakened beings, means not straying onto the path of confusion but recognizing the state of the ground as being pure gold. Due to the power of confusion we have now strayed onto the state of the path - the pure gold is temporarily covered by mud. We are temporarily under the power of confusion. Because of the sleep of ignorance, we go through the dreams of the three realms, taking rebirth among the six classes of sentient beings again and again, endlessly.
Intrinsic to our buddha nature are qualities called the three kayas or the innate body, speech and mind, also known as the three vajras. The vajra body is the unchanging quality of the buddha nature; the vajra speech is its inexpressible, unceasing quality; and the vajra mind is its unmistaken quality. In this way the vajra body, vajra speech, and vajra mind are inherently present as our buddha nature.
At this time the unchanging vajra body is obscured by our transient, perishable, physical body. The unceasing, continuous vajra speech, the voice of the nature of equality, is temporarily obscured by the repeated utterances of our normal talk. Likewise, the unmistaken vajra mind is obscured by our deluded thinking. Although the body, speech and mind of all the victorious ones are present in our buddha nature, they are obscured by our ordinary body, speech and mind.
Since we are under the power of confusion we are at the state of the path. Teachings are given in order to let the path clarify this confusion, thus purifying the obscurations of our body, speech and mind. The different practices taught are: development stage, to visualize our body as the form of the buddhas; recitation stage, to chant the mantras with our voice; and completion stage, to let our mind rest in the state of samadhi.
Development stage or visualization does not mean to imagine something which is not already present. The vajra body of all the victorious ones is within ourselves, intrinsic to our buddha nature. By practicing the development stage we remove the obscuration that covers this nature and prevents us from realizing it. The unceasing vajra speech of all the buddhas, the king of all melodious expressions, is also present in ourselves. Recitation of the three types of mantra - vidya, dharani, and guhya - enables us to remove the obscuration of our ordinary voice. The mind of all the buddhas, nonconceptual wakefulness, is also inherent to our nature, but it is covered by our momentary conceptual thinking. Simply resting in the evenness of the state of samadhi reveals our innate vajra mind.
Do not consider development stage to involve imagining something which is not real, like pretending that a piece of wood is pure gold. Development stage is not at all like that. It is simply acknowledging what already is, what already exists. Development stage means to mentally create or imagine the form of the buddhas. Even though visualization is at this point an artificial construct, a mentally fabricated act, still it is an imitation that resembles what is already present in ourselves. Until we are able to practice the ultimate development stage, we need to visualize or mentally create pure images in order to approach that absolute state.
The ultimate development stage involves simply resting in the essence of mind of all the buddhas, out of which the two form kayas - the sambhogakaya of rainbow light and the nirmanakaya of a physical body - spontaneously manifest. In fact, the buddha nature is the starting point for development stage, and this innate nature is actualized through practicing the samadhi of suchness. Development stage is created out of the samadhi of suchness, which is the dharmakaya of all the buddhas. Out of dharmakaya unfolds sambhogakaya, which is the samadhi of illumination, and from sambhogakaya the nirmanakaya appears by means of the samadhi of the seed syllable. That is how the development stage should take place.
The samadhi of suchness is the recognition of the buddha nature itself, the flawless and primordially pure state of dharmakaya. If we have not recognized this nature in our personal experience, we can approximate or fabricate it by imagining that all phenomena, all worlds and beings, dissolve into emptiness, by chanting, for instance, the mantra om maha shunyata jnana vajra svabhava atma koh hang. Out of the great emptiness, the clarity of cognizance unfolds like the sun rising in the sky and spreading light. That is called the samadhi of illumination, which is in essence the sambhogakaya. Out of space there is sunlight, and from the sunlight a rainbow appears. This is the analogy for nirmanakaya, the samadhi of the seed syllable from which the form of the deity manifests. Nirmanakaya is visible but not tangible; we cannot take hold of it with our hands and yet it appears. We should imagine the form of the deity as apparent but without self-nature. Just as a rainbow in the sky is not substantial or material in any way whatsoever, the deity is not composed of flesh and blood.
To reiterate, the development stage takes place within the framework of the three kayas. Dharmakaya is all-pervasive like space. Within this "space," the sambhogakaya is vividly present like the light of the sun. Nirmanakaya appears like a rainbow to accomplish the welfare of beings. Just as the sun cannot rise and shine without the openness of space, the unceasing sambhogakaya cannot manifest without the nonarising nature of dharmakaya. Without space the sun cannot shine; without sunshine a rainbow cannot appear. In this way the three kayas are indivisible.
Thus, the practice of the three samadhis provides the framework for visualizing the deity. Next, we invoke the ultimate deity from the realm of Akanishtha and dissolve it inseparably into ourselves. Then we make praises and offerings and so forth. All these seemingly conventional activities in the development stage resemble the activities of ordinary human beings, just like when we invite important people to visit, praise them, and give them good food and presents. The purpose of the development stage is to purify our habitual tendencies as human beings. It is not to appease some external gods by giving them offerings. Deities are not subject to pleasure when being worshipped or displeasure when not; it is we who benefit by purifying our obscurations and gathering the accumulations.
When practicing development stage, do it with a sense of vastness, immensity and openness. Don't visualize the deity in your own little house, in this little world. Everything is first dissolved totally into great emptiness, into vast space. Within the vastness of space, the mandala of the five elements is created. On top of it we imagine the immense Mount Sumeru. At the summit of Mount Sumeru is the celestial palace, and inside it is the throne with a seat of a sun and moon disk. It is on top of this throne that we appear in the form of the yidam deity, whichever it may be. This is how we should practice the development stage, not imagining we are sitting in our own little room.
The main purpose of development stage is to destroy our clinging to a solid reality. It is our fixation on concreteness that makes us continue in samsaric existence. The development stage dismantles that. How do we approach that? By imagining the world is a buddhafield, our dwelling place is the celestial palace, and the beings in it are the divine forms of deities, visible yet intangible like a rainbow in the sky.
Similarly, the recitation of mantra destroys our fixation on our normal discontinuous speech, which stops and starts. Mantra is called the king of verbal expression. It is the unceasing vajra speech. Finally, the unmistaken vajra mind destroys our normal conceptual thinking.
At the end of the period of recitation comes the completion stage, which in this context is the dissolution of the palace and the deity into emptiness and the reemerging from the state of emptiness in the form of the deity. The purpose of dissolving is to eliminate our habitual fixation on appearances as being real and permanent, as well as the tendency towards the view of eternalism. By re-emerging in the visible yet insubstantial form of the deity we also destroy the basis for nihilism, the view that nothing whatsoever exists. Thus, by training in eliminating the tendencies for both wrong views, this practice truly is the path that clarifies confusion.
In short, this was about how to let the path clarify confusion. At present we are under the power of confusion. Through these practices we will be able to eradicate this confusion and realize the vajra body, speech, and mind of all the buddhas. A good metaphor for this confusion is the hallucinations caused by the psychedelic drug datura. Normally we see ourselves and other people as having one face, two arms and two legs. But when intoxicated by datura, all of a sudden we see people not as they are but with ten heads, twenty arms, fifty legs, or the like. Currently we are under the influence of the drug of ignorance and continue deluded within the six realms of samsara. When the effect of datura wears off, we again perceive people as they are in their natural state. But right now the effect of the drug of ignorance has not yet worn off; we are still under the power of confusion. In order to clarify confusion on the path we need to practice the stages of development, recitation, and completion.
The fourth teaching of Gampopa, "Let confusion dawn as wisdom!" refers to the completion stage. The earlier mention of the completion stage is defined by and dependent upon a visualization that is either dissolved into emptiness or re-appears from emptiness; thus it is called 'completion stage with attributes.' The true completion stage, the topic of the Fourth Dharma of Gampopa, involves recognizing our buddha nature. When pure gold is covered by dirt it is not obvious that it is gold, even though this dirt is temporary. But once it is removed we realize that the gold is gold. In the same way, when our confusion is purified, the wisdom which is our basic wakefulness is made manifest.
At present the state of ordinary people is like pure gold covered with dirt. Our buddha nature is covered by temporary obscurations. One of the main obscurations that needs to be purified is our fixation on duality, on solid reality. Once it is purified then gold is just pure gold. As long as our mind is confused, bewildered, deluded, and mistaken, our buddha nature continues to be dragged through the realms of samsara. But when the mind is unconfused, unmistaken, and undeluded, it is the buddha nature itself. It is not that the buddha nature is one thing and our mind is another separate thing. They are not two different entities. The undeluded mind itself is the pure gold, the buddha nature. Sentient beings do not have two minds. When the mind is deluded it is given the name 'sentient being.' When the mind is undeluded, unmistaken, is called 'buddha.'
It is said 'there is no buddha apart from your own mind.' We do not have two minds. There is just one mind which is either deluded or undeluded. The buddha nature is exactly the originally unmistaken quality of our mind, also called the dharmakaya buddha Samantabhadra.
According to one system, the dharmakaya aspect of this primordially unmistaken quality is Samantabhadra. Its sambhogakaya aspect is Vajradhara and its nirmanakaya aspect is Vajrasattva. For example, space, sunlight, and the appearance of a rainbow are impossible to separate. Sunshine does not manifest anywhere else than within space, and a rainbow does not occur in any way other than as a combination of space and sunlight. Dharmakaya is likened to space, sambhogakaya to sun, and nirmanakaya to the rainbow. In the same way, the three buddhas, Samantabhadra, Vajradhara, and Vajrasattva, are not three different enlightened beings. They are indivisible, of the same nature, just as the three kayas are inherently present, indivisibly, in our buddha nature.
There is a difference between being deluded and undeluded, between recognizing and not recognizing our nature. The primordially unmistaken quality is called enlightenment, buddhahood, or the awakened state of dharmakaya. The primordially deluded aspect is called ignorance, or the deluded experience of sentient beings. Although we have the essence of buddhahood within us, it is temporarily obscured.
The essence of the Buddha's teachings is the method on how to let confusion dawn as wisdom. The most vital point here is the introduction to and recognition of the buddha nature, the innate wisdom of dharmakaya that is already present within oneself. The Fourth Dharma of Gampopa is a teaching on how to recognize, train in, and stabilize this recognition of the buddha nature. Understanding it is called the view, practicing it is called samadhi, and stabilizing it is called buddhahood. Buddhahood is not outside. It is not something else that all of a sudden is absorbed into ourselves and magically transforms us into a buddha.
We have one mind but we need to distinguish between its two aspects: essence and expression. Understand this example for the relationship between the two. The essence is like the sun shining in the sky. The expression is like its reflection upon the surface of water. The sun in the sky is the real sun. The reflection of the sun appearing on the surface of water looks like the sun but is not the real sun. Let's call the sun in the sky the buddha nature, the unmistaken, undeluded quality, the essence itself. The reflection of the sun upon the surface of water is an example for our normal deluded thinking, the expression. Without the sun in the sky it is impossible for a reflection of the sun to appear. Although there is actually only one sun, it looks like there are two. That is what is called one identity with two aspects. The essence, the buddha nature, is like the sun shining in the sky. The expression is our thinking, compared to the sun's reflection.
The state of being a buddha is unconfused and undeluded, just like the sun shining in the sky. The state of mind of sentient beings is like the reflection of the sun on water. Just as the reflection is dependent upon water, our thoughts are dependent upon objects. The object is what is thought of, the subject is the perceiving mind. Subject-object fixation is the cause for continuing in deluded samsaric existence, day and night, life after life. The fixation upon subject and object, the perceiving subject and the perceived object, is solidified again and again each moment and thus re-creates samsaric existence. Right now we have the five sense objects of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. In between, as the gates, we have the five senses, and there are also the various consciousnesses which continuously apprehend these different sense objects.
Can the reflection of the sun on the water illuminate the whole world? Can it even shine over the whole lake? Can it make things grow? No, because it does not have the qualities of the real sun. In the same way, the aspect of mind known as expression, our thinking, lacks the qualities of the real state of buddhahood. But the sun in the sky by itself is able to shine and spread its warmth throughout the whole world, illuminating all darkness. To put it simply, the mind of the buddhas is unobscured, while the mind of sentient beings is obscured. What is the obscuration? It is our own reoccurring fixation on subject and object.
Buddha nature is continuously present in ourselves as well as in everyone else, without any exception whatsoever. It is in essence forever unobscured. It doesn't increase or decrease. It is not sometimes covered or uncovered. It is totally beyond mental constructs. It does not change in size. It is not that someone has a big buddha nature and somebody else a small one. There is no difference in quality either. It is continuously present to the same extent in everyone.
To recognize the buddha nature present in oneself is called the view. To sustain the continuity of that correctly is called meditation or training. To mingle that with daily activities and act in accordance with the Dharma is called action or conduct. And to realize it as totally unobscured, like the sun shining with unchanging brilliance in the sky, is called fruition. We need to recognize the view; we need to recognize our buddha nature. Although it is something we already have, we need to acknowledge what we possess. The preliminary practices, the development stage, and so forth are all meant to enable us to recognize the buddha nature. They are like helpers, assistants.
To say "recognize your own nature, the buddha nature!" does not mean that we have to produce something which does not exist, like trying to squeeze gold out of a piece of wood, which is impossible. We must simply recognize what we already possess. But humans, who are the most clever and capable of all the different types of sentient beings, seem to be bent on totally throwing away this most precious wish-fulfilling jewel. The normal state of a human being is like someone who has found a precious wish-fulfilling jewel but ignores it, thinking that a fake piece of jewelry is more valuable. There is nothing sadder or of greater waste than this.
Think very well about this. Try to understand that the situation we are in now is like holding a wish-fulfilling jewel right in our hand. It is not easy to take rebirth as a human being, and it is definitely not easy to gain a precious human body with its opportunity to practice the Dharma. It is an extremely rare occasion that occurs so infrequently that it's like enjoying a good meal once in a hundred years. If we had a good meal only once every century, wouldn't we truly appreciate it and be overjoyed, saying "Finally I got a delicious meal!" We would be so happy. But this opportunity is even more precious. No amount of good meals is going to help us, ultimately. The body is still a corpse when it dies, whether or not it ate well. The precious human body is something extremely rare. If we do not use the opportunity we have right now, there is no guarantee whatsoever that we will be human in our next life. In fact, it is almost certain that we will not, because the habitual negative karmic patterns are so strong. This short opening right now will soon be covered up again for aeons and aeons before we have another chance to be a human. Please think sincerely about this: is there any greater waste than throwing away a wish-fulfilling jewel when you finally find one?
If we didn't already have this wish-fulfilling jewel it would be difficult to find. But, as a matter of fact, through all our beginningless lifetimes we have never been without it. If we were told, "You must possess a wish-fulfilling jewel!", then we would be in trouble because we would suddenly have to come up with something we don't possess. But the wish-fulfilling jewel of buddha nature is already present in ourselves. It is because of our ignorance and delusion that we do not recognize it, and continue life after life among the six classes of sentient beings. How sad that people throw away what is really valuable and instead chase after food, wealth, good reputation, and praise. But if we do not take hold of what is truly valuable in this lifetime we will just continue endlessly in samsaric existence. I'm not asking you to understand this, because of course you already do; I'm simply reminding you.
The buddha nature, the sugatagarbha, is already present as the nature of our own mind, just like the unchanging brilliance of the sun shining in the sky. But due to our ordinary dualistic thinking, this sun of the buddha nature is not evident; we don't see it. Not even a fraction of the innate qualities of buddhahood are manifest in the state of mind of a normal person. The conceptual thoughts we have day and night obscure our buddha nature, just like the sun in the sky is momentarily covered by clouds and seems to be obscured. Due to the passing clouds of ignorance we do not recognize the buddha nature.
The ever-present buddha nature is like the unhindered sun shining in the sky, but sunshine never reaches inside a cave facing north. This cave is an example for misunderstanding, wrong view, or partial understanding.
Buddha nature is primordially all-pervasive, present in everyone from Buddha Samantabhadra down to the tiniest insect. This enlightened essence can be given different names: dharmakaya, Samantabhadra, self-existing wakefulness, or supreme enlightenment. The ignorant state of sentient beings has also many names - it is called thinking, conceptual mind, dualistic consciousness or intellect.
Before this life we were born in another place and before that life somewhere else, and so on. We have had countless previous lifetimes. Our mind did not spontaneously appear out of nothing. It is beginningless. Our mind has taken birth again and again since beginningless time. We have had countless lifetimes - and now we have reached this life. It is like a dividing point in the road where we can take a path that leads either up or down.
Our mind creates virtue and evil, and our voice and body act as the mind's servants or employees. What is meant here by evil? It is basically attachment, anger and dullness. I have explained enlightened mind; now I will point out dualistic mind.
Take for example visual objects. When we see a beautiful piece of brocade, at first glance we think "How nice!" That is called attachment. If we see a used handkerchief we don't like it. That is called aversion or anger. If we see a clean plain handkerchief we don't care much either way. That is called indifference or dullness. We are all alike in this respect: when we see something beautiful, we like it, something ugly we dislike it, and something neutral we don't care about it. We like melodious sounds, not harsh, unpleasant ones. Our liking is attachment, our dislike is aversion, anger, and our indifference is dullness. Our reactions are the same with regard to what we eat, smell, or touch. Those three basic negative emotions manifest in relation to our five senses and the outer sense objects. The subject, our mind within, likes pleasure, dislikes pain, and can also remain indifferent. These six types of experience - visual form, sound, smell, taste, texture and mental objects - are called the six collections of consciousness.
From primordial time until this very moment, the main actions we have performed have been the activities of the three poisons - attachment, anger, and dullness. We have continuously engaged in liking, disliking and remaining indifferent, not just in one or two lives, but throughout countless lifetimes. This was the instruction pointing out dualistic mind.
'Mind beyond concepts' refers to the situation of being free of the three poisons. A normal person is totally engrossed in the three poisons through his whole lifetime. To attain liberation from samsara we need to leave behind the three poisons. How can we be free from them? We cannot bury them underground, flush them away, burn them, blow them up or even throw a nuclear bomb at them and expect the three poisons to disappear. Our continuous involvement with them is like an evil machine. The perfect Buddha described samsaric existence as an ocean of endless suffering, or like the continuous revolving of an evil machine, like a vicious circle. Buddha told us we need to apply a method in order to liberate ourselves and all other sentient beings from the ocean of samsara.
The primary cause of samsaric existence is our own dualistic mind, as I just pointed out. Some people might claim "I don't commit any evil! I don't kill, I don't steal and I don't lie. I don't do any negative actions!" While we might not perform such coarse negative actions, subtle negative actions are continuously created in our mind. As long as our liking, disliking and indifference are not purified, they block the path to liberation and complete enlightenment. So what can clear away and eradicate the three poisons in our own mind? The recognition of buddha nature, self-existing awareness.
This self-existing awareness is itself the path followed by all the buddhas of the three times. The buddhas of the past followed the path of self-existing wisdom, rangjung yeshe, and attained enlightenment. The buddhas of the present follow the path of self-existing wisdom, and in the future anyone who attains enlightenment will do so only by recognizing self-existing wisdom. There is not even an atom of any other path that leads to true enlightenment.
Let's take another example: imagine a room that had been completely sealed off and has remained in complete darkness for ten thousand years. The ignorant state of mind of a normal person who does not recognize the nature of mind, the buddha nature, is like the dense darkness inside that room. The moment of recognizing self-aware wisdom is like pressing the switch to turn on the light in the room that has been dark for ten thousand years. In that instant all the darkness is gone, right? Ten thousand years of darkness are dispelled in one moment. In the same way, the wisdom of recognizing one's nature dispels aeons of ignorance and negative actions. When you press the switch to turn on the light in a room that has been dark for ten thousand years, doesn't the darkness disappear at once? Understand that example.
If all the windows and the doors in the room were closed we would be unable to see anything, but when the light comes on we can see everything perfectly clearly. It is possible to purify countless aeons of negative karma and attain the state of complete enlightenment in this very lifetime because self-existing wisdom is so potent, so effective.
Now I will give a name to our buddha nature. It is called empty and cognizant self-existing wakefulness. The empty aspect, the essence, is like space that pervades everywhere. But inseparable from this empty quality is a natural capacity to cognize and perceive, which is basic wakefulness. Buddha nature is called self-existing because it is not made out of anything or created by anyone. Self-existing means not created by causes in the beginning and not destroyed by circumstances in the end. This self-existing wakefulness is present in all beings without a single exception. Our thinking and self-existing wakefulness are never apart. The thinking mind is called expression, while the basic wakefulness is called essence. Thus there are actually two names for the mind. In the case of an ignorant sentient being the mind is called empty cognizance suffused with ignorance (marigpa). The mind of all the buddhas is called empty cognizance suffused with awareness (rigpa).
In order to enable us to recognize or know our own essence, the teacher, the vajra master, gives what is called the pointing-out instruction. It is for that single purpose. And yet, what he points out is not something we don't already have. We already possess the buddha nature.
First, we must recognize our own nature, our essence. Next we must endeavor with great diligence to continuously sustain that recognition, which is called training. Finally, to reach the state where not even an iota of conceptual thinking remains, when conceptual thinking is totally purified, is called the attainment of stability. This stability is also known as the complete enlightenment of buddhahood.
The teachings of both Mahamudra and Dzogchen give a traditional example for this sequence. On the first day of the lunar calendar when we look in the sky we don't see anything; the moon is invisible. But on the evening of the third day we see a sliver of the moon. At that time it is possible for someone to point at the moon and say, "There is the moon!" We look and we see that the moon is the moon. That is called recognizing. Each following day the moon grows larger and larger, until on the night of the fifteenth day it is totally full and brilliant, shining in the sky. That is the example for the dharmakaya of self-existing awareness free from constructs. Again, pointing out the moon is called recognizing. That it grows further and further is training. When it is finally a full, complete moon, that is the attainment of stability, complete enlightenment.
Another example is the seed of a flower. Knowing it's a seed is the example for recognizing our buddha nature. After it has been planted and watered and starts to sprout leaves, stamen, and petals, that is called training. When the flower is finally fully grown, with beautiful, multicolored blossoms, that is the example for the attainment of stability. The seed of a flower does not look like a flower in full bloom. But a seed which is unmistaken the seed of a beautiful flower can be planted and it will grow into one.
Although when we see a flower it is amazingly beautiful, we wouldn't find the seed of that flower spectacular at all. In the same way, do not expect the recognition of mind essence to be something spectacular. But when the recognition has been stabilized, as in the case of a buddha, the state of complete enlightenment contains many great qualities like the fourfold fearlessness, the ten powers, the eighteen unique qualities, and so forth. The state of buddhahood also contains the capacity to transform an instant into an aeon and an aeon into an instant. The qualities of buddhahood are inconceivable, and all these qualities are inherently present in the buddha nature. They are not some new qualities that are achieved later on. There are not two different types of buddha nature - it is not that the buddhas have one type of buddha nature and we sentient beings have another type.
Humans are as numerous as stars at nighttime, but
those with precious human bodies are like stars in the morning. All of you
are like morning stars. Although I needn't ask you to treasure this
teaching, to regard it as really important, still it is necessary to
repeat that the practice of recognizing buddha nature should continue
throughout our lives. We must equalize life and practice. In other words,
we should not only practice for a short time and then abandon the Dharma.
We should train for as long as we live.
Extracted from Repeating the Words of the Buddha, Rangjung Yeshe Publications.
From the writings of Kyabje Khyentse
From the writings of Kyabje Dudjom
These modified blessed vajra words of longevity
supplication by the two great vidyadharas and lords of refuge were
respectfully written down - due to numerous reasons and needs - as
supplications for the swift return by Tulku Chökyi Nyima, the lowest
disciple of our sublime father, on the tenth day of the one
hundred-thousand-multiplication month of the year of the Fire Mouse, at
the occasion of the sacred day of the Second Buddha of Uddiyana. May this
be a contributing cause for soon meeting a precious reincarnation of our
guru, the glorious protector. May it be virtuous. May it be virtuous. May
it be virtuous.
Dengdir dagsok dungwey soldeb na
When encouraged by our protector's own Malaysian disciple, the female practitioner Bin Eng, and through the force of my own deep-felt longing, may this prayer from his lowest disciple, the Ever-Sick Khenpo Jamyang Dorje, be meaningful.
Though there is not much I can say, I would like to say these few words. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and I come from the same area in Eastern Tibet, but we still seemed to live quite far from each other. In those days we had no access to modern technology. Since there were no airplanes, no trains, and no cars everyone traveling had to either go by foot or on horseback, so a distance which today we consider easy to cover by modern transportation in those days seemed like a long, long distance. Although we had, of course, heard about each other, it was not until I first arrived in the Kathmandu Valley that we began to have a connection.
When I came to Nepal, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was already here. Knowing about him, I kept bothering him until he kindly accepted to give me the transmission for the One Hundred Empowerments of Chö. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was living in Kathmandu at the time and in those days I was quite poor and unable to make any significant offering for this transmission. Since he was extremely kind-hearted and we came from the same homeland, I was fortunate to receive all the empowerments. From then on we have maintained a very pure samaya connection, without any damage or breach, like the analogy of an unbroken egg-shell. Because Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was someone with great kindness and a strong sense of loyalty, he never changed his feelings for someone once he had gotten to know them well.
In terms of practice, among Sutra and Tantra, he was more learned in the tantric teachings, and among the Sarma and Nyingma traditions, he was more accomplished in the Nyingma practices. He was not someone you could freely ask about his personal realization. Nor have I ever heard him mention that he had either any special experiences or high levels of realization. But, without a doubt I feel that he was definitely an extraordinary practitioner. Anyone who met him could that he had no conceit, no ambitions of grandeur or fame, nor did he hold any resentment. He treated everyone kindly and cordially and never turned his back on a friend.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was also free of deceit and duplicity. If he said something you could always trust that his words and his heart were in harmony. It was quite unlike him to act in a hypocritical way, saying one thing and doing another. In his relations with people he was never dishonest or unreliable.
In terms of spiritual relationships, he was connected to the Karmapa, one of the most important lamas in the great practice lineages. The Karmapa is on the same level as the Dalai Lama, Panchen Rinpoche and Sakya Trichen. As one of the Karmapa's gurus, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche offered him many empowerments and teachings from the Chokling Tersar.
Even though he had the status of someone whom the Karmapa venerated at the crown of his own head, he didn't become full of self-importance or take advantage of this fame. When in a group of lamas or sitting in a large religious gathering he always refused to preside as the head, always insisting on taking a lower position. Taking the lower seat is a sign of having tamed one's own mind, and this is how he always acted. Otherwise, since he was the Karmapa's guru, it would have been perfectly fine to maintain some dignified presence, but because of being a ngakpa he would regard himself as lower than any other lama or even an ordinary, fully ordained monk.
True humility is the sign of having experience and realization. Without experience and realization we become involved in mundane attitudes - conceit toward people below, jealousy towards people above and competitiveness towards our equals. This is unavoidable because the five poisonous emotions of attachment, anger, dullness, pride and envy still remain alive within our stream of being. Even though someone may dress up as a renunciate or a yogi, these negative emotions still become evident from time to time. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, however, was not at all like that.
Our relationship was one of brothers; he treated me as an equal, just as if we had the same father and mother. When he shared his thoughts with me there was never any discrepancy between his words and what he really felt. This doesn't mean that other lamas are unreliable, but for me it was as if Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was the only one I really felt I could confide and place my trust in. This may be because I am old-fashioned, or that times have changed, but for me he was the main person I would rely on.
This person, outwardly humble while inwardly totally reliable, has now passed away. On the one hand you can say that he left after having completed all his tasks but, on the other hand, maybe it was because of our general lack of merit.
As for the future, all his lineage-holders and disciples, please remember this: when it comes to Vajrayana practice samaya is extremely important. Samaya is formed by receiving empowerment. There is much to say about this, but, in short, there are the samayas of Body, Speech, and Mind, which are included in the threefold practice of regarding sights, sounds, and awareness as enlightened Body, Speech and Mind. All samayas are included within this, even the 100,000 samayas and the 25 major samayas. So, please observe these very carefully while maintaining unwavering trust in your guru.
In all the Buddhist vehicles it is taught that you should not regard your spiritual guide as an ordinary person. In Vajrayana practice, especially, everything depends on your guru; he is the basis for all accomplishment. So supplicate him sincerely, visualize him in the sky before you, mingle your mind with his mind indivisibly, and receive the four empowerments. By doing so you will soon have experience in realization and it will become possible for you to glimpse innate suchness - the Buddha within - in a single instant. This still holds true even when the guru is no longer within his body; if you supplicate him you can still realize his nature. So all of you disciples, please be very careful about keeping your samaya link with the guru.
In addition, remind yourself again and again of the words you personally heard him say and apply your minds fully to realizing their meaning. In short, in terms of learning, reflection and meditation, you should combine the words you have heard, reflect upon their meaning and then put them into practice - doing so will fulfill your guru's wishes. This is called the offering of practice, which is never matched by lavish or vast offerings of material things, which, of course, is also good. Instead, you should apply yourself in both word and deed, with unwavering trust and supplicate him one-pointedly. There is nothing superior to this 'offering of practice.' Please remember that this is what we all need.
Now the time has come to cremate his precious body. The body could have also been kept as a mardung, an enshrined body, or in other ways which are also good. Such ways are important for preventing the general merit from decreasing. However, we are in times when changes come swiftly. Look at what happened to the many mardungs in Tibet which got thrown in the gutter during the Cultural Revolution. Tibetans, like myself, are both shifty and deceitful, and we aren't that clever. Tibetans helped to throw stones at the different mardungs, dragging them through the streets, and feeding them to the dogs. In these ways they have created immense negative karma. When I think of this I wonder what would be best for the future, since nothing lasts and times here may change as well. As you know, all things - from the aggregate of forms up to and including conditioned enlightenment, all composite things without a single exception - have the nature of emptiness. I feel that nothing in this world, nor a single sentient being, is beyond the grasp of impermanence. Every sentient being goes through birth, old age, sickness, and death; no one is exempt. In the end, even the world as a totality will be destroyed by fire and water. Therefore, I feel that it is better not to give anyone the extra chance to create negative karma when times change here as well. I also said this to Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's sons, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche and Chokling Rinpoche.
It has been decided that the remains will be cremated in a fire puja and after that I expect that a thorough ceremony for the relics will be performed, tsa-tsa images will be made, and, in various places stupas will be built in whichever way is appropriate.
Maybe I don't need to mention this, but still I feel that Tulku Urgyen's sons are remarkable people. They belong to the unique family line of Tsangsar, which is said to originate from divine beings. In this family line there have been a great number of accomplished masters, extraordinary, respectable and noble minded. I expect that Rinpoche's sons will live up to their heritage.
All of you, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche disciples, if you continue to keep your samaya connection with him throughout this life, the bardo and your next life, you will surely benefit. Follow the advice he gave you, serve him in any way you can. There is nothing greater than that. By pleasing the guru you can remove obstacles. Displeasing and upsetting him is equal to committing the five most severe misdeeds. In this lies the foundation for attaining accomplishment. The guru is considered more important than both the yidam deity and the Dharma protectors. Devotion to the guru is the universal panacea.
Many of you disciples have heard Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's words with your own ears. Please continue to follow his advice and keep your samaya connection. There is nothing better than this for both this life, the bardo and the future. Dedicate the merit you create and make pure aspirations that his wishes be fulfilled.
In order to show that everything is impermanent, even a noble sublime being like Buddha Shakyamuni, who was beyond birth and death, still acted as if he passed away in Kushinagar. But this was only on the level of superficial reality. Similarly, Tulku Urgyen remains in dharmadhatu and is all set to come back. But a return is totally dependent upon the interest and inclinations of sentient beings. So, don't think that a master who has left remains impassive, there are many other realms besides this one where beings can be benefited. To create a link for the future necessitates a vast amount of merit. So, do your best to create merit and fulfill his wishes. This is all I can say. Please, everyone, keep this in mind.
One of the greatest masters of recent times was Terchen Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa (1829-1870), considered an incarnation of the son of King Trisong Deutsen. The eminent lamas Jamgön Kongtrül and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo greatly respected his wisdom and attainments, and, through them, his teachings had a wide impact. He revealed more than 250 texts contained in the Rinchen Terdzö, and he is honored not only in the Nyingma tradition, but also in the Karma Kagyü Drukpa, Drigungpa, Taklung, and Sakya schools. Truly, in the times since Rigdzin Jigmey Lingpa, he is the greatest of Terma masters.
The lineage of Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa was passed on through his daughter, Semo Könchok Paldrön, and she in turn transmitted it to her four sons. One of her sons, Tsangsar Chimey Dorje, was the father of our beloved Tulku Urgyen, one of the outstanding lineage holders of our time
Fully learned in the special traditions of Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, Tulku Urgyen was also a great master of the Nyingma Kama and Terma one of the most comprehensive lineage holders of our time. Like his student, teacher, and Dharma brother, the Sixteenth Karmapa he received teachings from Karsey Kongtrül, the son of the Fifteenth Karmapa and an incarnation of Jamgön Kongtrül.
Tulku Urgyen demonstrated a devotion to Longchenpa, Chokgyur Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse, and Jamgön Kongtrül that inspired all who knew him. In the 1950s he received teachings from my own root guru, the Second Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, journeying to Lhasa and Gangtok for this purpose. In addition to receiving initiations he had many close personal discussions with this great master. Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, Dudjom Rinpoche, and Dilgo Khyentse all counted Urgyen Tulku among their advisers and spiritual friends.
Not only was Tulku Urgyen kind, wise, and compassionate, but he was humble and gentle as well. He was renowned as a yogin, and though he did not live the life of a mountain recluse such as Milarepa, his mind exhibited all the qualities of such accomplished masters. With great modesty, Tulku Urgyen served the Sixteenth Karmapa as his assistant and counselor in both spiritual and practical affairs, and also gave him teachings on Atiyoga. A trusted confidante, he rendered indispensable assistance in such matters as the lengthy dispute over Swayambhu Temple. In fulfilling these responsibilities, he never once failed to follow through on a commitment.
Tulku Urgyen was not well known as a scholar, yet the depth of his understanding was unsurpassed, and many Nyingma and Kagyü masters stood in awe of his comprehensive knowledge. He had thoroughly studied and practiced the Atiyoga, and his teachings on Dzogchen transformed the lives of those he touched with gentle, penetrating clarity.
As a meditation teacher and a master of initiations, he was without peer. We are especially blessed in having received from him the profound teachings of the Chokling lineage, through which Avalokiteshvara and Guru Padmasambhava manifest in our lives. Direct and clear, these sadhanas make the complex teachings of the Vajrayana freshly available.
Besides his stature as a lineage holder and his prowess as a teacher, Tulku Urgyen was skilled in all the arts and crafts. He excelled in calligraphy, painting, sculpture, the making of torma, and he had encyclopedic knowledge in many fields of human inquiry. He had a remarkable grasp of history, including Tibet's relations with China and Mongolia, the history of Kham, Nangchen, and Derge, and the biographies of great lineage holders.
Tulku Urgyen was very kind to me and my children. He and I traveled together extensively more than thirty years ago, and in later years I received from him several important teachings, including the hearing lineage of the Gyü Chubdün and the teachings of Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa. To have met and studied with this great lama, enjoyed his presence and received his compassionate guidance, is truly a great blessing. His loving gestures and marvelous heart brought us all boundless joy. Although others were much closer to him, I can say that his gentle nature, which became immediately apparent to all who met him, was truly unique.
Tulku Urgyen wore his knowledge and attainments lightly. Unlike some learned masters, who seem to lecture whenever they open their mouths, he spoke with such kindness and profound sensitivity that no one hesitated to question him. He used his knowledge to touch the heart of everyone he met, making conversation with him a delight. He had the gift of making each person feel that he alone was the lama's favorite - so well did he manifest the beauty of compassion. His students responded with deep personal devotion and an eagerness to learn more. They were serious in their studies, and they often sought out the opportunity for long retreats.
In these times of the kaliyuga, when great troubles have befallen Tibet, Tulku Urgyen rose to the challenge. Journeying to a new country, he established a foundation for the Dharma and made the special treasures of Dzogchen and the Chokling lineage widely available. He benefited the Sangha greatly, establishing centers, extending the teachings, and passing on his knowledge. Today there are more than thirty different monasteries in the Kathmandu valley, and I personally trace much of this activity to the light that radiated from Nagi Gompa, where the presence of Tulku Urgyen, the teachings of Chokling, and the blessings of' Guru Padmasambhava came together. Truly, whatever any lama could accomplish, Tulku Urgyen has brought to fruition.
Once while having the good fortune to stay at Nagi Gompa, I saw in a vision that through the blessings of Padmasambhava, the Dharma could one day spread out from this tiny valley, revitalized and newly powerful. Now that our beloved teacher is gone, I pray that his lasting influence will help this vision come to fruition.
We can best honor the memory of Tulku Urgyen by accepting him as our guru. His teachings are his heart manifestation, and his image in our minds conveys his blessings. Rinpoche is a great lion among Buddha masters, one of the circle of enlightened gurus, and we, as his spiritual sons and daughters should strive to follow in his footsteps. While he was alive, we did not know fully how to benefit from his presence. Now, through his passing, he reminds us that we have no time to lose. Let us abandon the eight worldly dharmas and devote ourselves to practice and study, for our time is short!
The Vajrayana emphasizes the importance of receiving teachings and initiations from qualified masters of the Vidyadhara lineage. Yet we cannot be content with the thought that we have received wondrous teachings from our beloved Tulku Urgyen. Only if we keep the samaya vows will our initiations have value. If we wish to meet our responsibilities to Rinpoche as our Vajra Guru, we must keep this understanding firmly in mind.
The texts on initiation set forth eight obstacles to receiving transmission from the Vajra Guru. Because this topic is so important, I list them here:
1. Resenting or actually breaking the directives of your teacher.
2. Being unsympathetic and divisive toward your Dharma friends.
3. Giving up on the mind of enlightenment and the tutelary deities.
4. Cutting the cord of compassion that connects you to beings who are suffering.
5. Giving teachings and initiations to those who are not suitable vessels for the teachings.
6. Being greedy and stingy in serving the Lama.
7. Using the teachings for your own purposes out of presumptuousness and arrogance.
8. Forsaking Dharma commitments due to desire for profit or overwhelming attachment.
Having had the great good fortune to receive initiations from a perfectly qualified master, we should remind ourselves repeatedly of these dangers. Though we may be sure in our own hearts that we are faultless, we can still reflect on our responsibility. In the end, whether we receive the most excellent results of Tantric initiation depends entirely on us.
The Vajra Guru lineage of accomplished masters strides unhindered through the reach of time, roaring like a mighty lion. To deepen our karmic connection to this lineage, let us practice Guru Yoga with devotion! Although the Sutras, Tantras, and Shastras are vast beyond comprehension, to practice Guru Yoga activates the essence of all the teachings. The Vajrayana reminds us again and again that the Guru is central to all our practice. It is the Guru who comes to us in our time of need, who transmits the inner meaning of the Buddha's realization. Without the Guru, how could the Dharma manifest in our lives? How could we ever find the way to escape our hopeless situation? Knowing that the Guru is the source of all hope, how can we best prepare ourselves to receive his empowerment? How can we embrace the teacher and embody his blessings, so that the teachings come alive in our own being? These are questions we need to ask with all our heart, for the clarity they bring will show us what to do.
Whenever we recall the features of our beloved Guru, we see the Dharmakaya taking shape and form. Following his instructions with faith, we too can pass into the Dharmakaya realm, for through him the lineage of perfect realization becomes available. Of this there can be no doubt.
Padmasambhava himself taught that sound is the echo of the Guru's teaching and thoughts are the blessings of the Guru's heart. Through the kindness of the Guru, the Paramita manifests: a silent realm beyond specifics, the accommodating space into which the senses can project meaning and significance.
In the fullness of the Guru's presence, appearance manifests as images of the Guru, and all forms are part of the enlightened mandala. Like the rainbow, whatever appears lacks all solidity. Thoughts are simply the habitually accepted-heart impressions of the essential. The senses and the kleshas themselves are transformed into the light of liberation. As Om and Ah and Hum, form and sound and thoughts express the three mandalas of kaya, vaka, and citta. In the comprehensive mandala that emerges as the unity of this threefold presence, we discover the truth of self-liberation
Having entered this magical mandala realm through the Guru's grace, we transcend karma and klesha. Free from grasping, we can live beautifully, practicing awakened awareness within our daily activities. Self-liberation becomes selfless liberation, and we realize the great wonder: Life and death are both bardos, and we are always in transition.
The more we practice Guru Yoga, the more readily we experience the perfect openness that lets us accept the Guru's blessings. In the light of the Guru's radiance, we see that we do not know from somewhere else, but from within the mind. We require no vehicle beyond the light of liberation, for there is nothing to recognize, misinterpret, or confuse-no ignorance and no not-understanding. This is the Paramita, the Dharmakaya, the source for the enlightenment of all Buddhas. It is the blessing of naked mind.
Before meeting the Guru we were lost in the desert, blinded by incessant sand-storms, living without meaning. Now we have found the way! Learning to operate the mind, we understand more; dwelling near the source, we encounter fewer obstacles. Free from conceptualization, we glimpse the real sky, the real space. Samsara becomes the friend of nirvana, and the teachings on ultimate reality, as expressed in the four shlokas of homage that open the Sutra of the Meeting of Father and Son, become our own reality. Ordinary, grasping mind, bound up with identity and ego, becomes inseparable from the mind of perfect omniscience. The treasures of the Buddha fields stand open.
With rare compassion, the Guru initiates us into the five mandalas of his body, speech, mind, action, and qualities. How many have had the opportunity to meet such a perfect embodiment? How many have received the teachings that lead to liberation from samsara? How many have access to the extraordinary treasures of Dzogchen, whose quality and character go beyond all ordinary teachings? Nothing could be more precious.
Knowing this to be so, the greatest Nyingma and Kagyü teachers have cherished above all else the opportunity to meet with the Guru and express their devotion. When we read the biographies of great masters such as Milarepa, Yeshe Tsogyal, or Jigmey Lingpa, this quality of devotion stands out above all else. Let us join them on this path, making Guru Yoga our food, our shelter, our home.
Fully accomplished yogins tell us that one who has reached the land of gold sees only gold. In the same way, one who practices Guru Yoga discovers this present realm to be another realm, this present world-another world, this present mind-another mind. And how does this come about? Through the grace of the Father Lama, who gives us the teachings and makes available the blessings. This we must never forget.
The gift that the Precious Guru bestows can never be lost, dismissed, or broken. Yet the seed has only been placed in our hand. We must choose to plant and nourish it, confident that if we do so, the fruit will come. Therefore, let us practice the five mandalas of Guru Yoga. In sleeping, in walking, in eating, in thinking, let us invite his presence. To practice in this way is the joy of joy, the bliss of bliss, the love of love. It is the laughter that comes from love; the seal that protects against all disruption. It is the greatest of blessings.
Now that our beloved teacher has gone from this relative plane of reality, the next generation must step in to fill the void. How fortunate we are that great lamas are ready to accept this responsibility: Chokling Rinpoche, Tulku Chökyi Nyima, Tsok-Nyi Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, Pakchok Rinpoche, and the son of Chokling Rinpoche the reincarnation of the great Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. We look also for guidance to Tulku Urgyen's close assistants, to the consorts of the masters who must now guide us, and to the many disciples of our beloved teachers, whether Tibetans, Nepalese, Asians, Europeans, Australians or Americans. May all who have experienced the inner glow of his beautiful heart grow in compassion and understanding from day to day. In this difficult time of the kaliyuga, may the golden ring of the Enlightened Lineage never tarnish.
How I wish that all of us, as Tulku Urgyen's students, could continue to live in the direct presence of his blessings! Yet now that he has left us, we have a way to preserve and strengthen what he gave us. The path is clear: Since his teachings are like a thread binding us together, we must be one Sangha of Dharma brothers and sisters, with no separation. May we open our hearts to one another, treating each other with kindness. May our devotion always deepen!
We can implement what our Vajra Guru has given us
by keeping our samaya vows, praying for his blessings, and practicing
daily. If we make it our aim to be selfless and compassionate and to
develop wisdom for the sake of others, we will quickly make progress.
Someone holding a single lighted candle in a dark cavern will give it up
reluctantly , but one who sees light everywhere will gladly share that
light with others. Once this is our situation, we can say what the Dharma
is, for we know beyond a doubt what counts as practice and
Tibetan spelling of names used:
I would like to briefly tell you about the fine qualities of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. In the past a great master, who was the emanation of Prince Murub Tsenpo, incarnated as a great tertön. His name was Orgyen Chokgyur Lingpa and he was accepted by everyone, without dispute. It is in the family line of this treasure revealer that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche consciously accepted to incarnate.
When young he studied both the general and esoteric topics of knowledge to perfection. As he grew up, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche sat at the feet of his sublime father as well as Rigpey Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, and received all the genuine instructions. Later at the retreat center of Tsurphu, known as Pema Khyung Dzong or Dechen Chöling, he practiced extensively, and through this practice he realized, in terms of the four visions of the Dzogchen teachings, the view known as 'exhaustion in dharmata.' Based on this realization, Rigpey Dorje, the 16th Karmapa who could see the three times of past, present and future in actuality, as well as directly seeing the death and rebirth of all beings, and who is acclaimed by everyone in the snowy land of Tibet as the authentic and perfect being, then requested Orgyen Chokgyur Lingpa's terma teachings from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and so accepted him as his root guru, the lord of the mandala.
Having accepted Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche as his root guru, the Karmapa received the ripening empowerments, the liberating instructions, and the supportive reading transmissions for the profound Dzogchen teachings and the terma teachings of Orgyen Chokgyur Lingpa, in their entirety, correctly and perfectly. It is for this reason that I feel that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche definitely was both an authentic Dzogchen yogi, who had reached the stage of exhaustion in dharmata, and an extraordinary and great master, fully qualified and perfect.
Moreover in recent years all the lineage-holders of the Karma Kamtsang - Shamar Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoche, Jamgön Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, as well as Dabzang Rinpoche and many others - accepted Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche as their root guru, supplicated him as the lord of the mandala, and received from him the complete terma teachings of Chokgyur Lingpa. From this perspective as well, I feel that he was without a doubt an accomplished Dzogchen master, at the stage of exhaustion in dharmata.
He spent his life in practice and retreat, the later years at the Nagi Gompa hermitage. Here, having reached the end of his practice, accomplished all his activities, and completed his life-span, he displayed the temporary dissolving of his physical presence in order to inspire to practice those of us disciples who cling to permanence and hold on with attachment. Just like other noble beings and bodhisattvas, who never forsake the Buddhadharma and sentient beings, I believe that before long we will again undoubtedly have the excellent fortune to behold the golden countenance of a sublime new tulku who will be enthroned, to enact his eminent deeds of boundlessly turning the profound and vast wheels of the Dharma, his health and life-span as indestructible as a diamond.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche bestowed immense kindness upon me, graciously extending his compassion by conferring the empowerments, instructions, and reading transmissions of the Dzogchen Desum, the Three Sections of the Great Perfection. Therefore, I consider him one of my special root gurus, one whose kindness is incomparable.
Due to my poor health these days, I am unable to attend the weekly ceremonies in the presence of the kudung, but still, through guru yoga, supplications, devotion, and the prayer for his swift return, I exert myself in supplicating him during the six periods of day and night.
All of you, his disciples, even though the guru has passed away and you obviously feel saddened by his passing, you shouldn't think that he has totally disappeared. Even though the guru resides in a pure buddhafield, he still continues to see our actions - what we do, say or think - correctly and unmistakenly, both day and night. Moreover, when a new sublime nirmanakaya appears, we will be able to meet with him again, hear his words, and receive teachings. This is our great good fortune. Therefore, all of you, disciples and followers, it is extremely important to practice his guru yoga, supplicate him and chant the prayer for his swift return to the utmost of your ability, while creating as much merit as you can through your thoughts, words, and deeds. Please keep this in your hearts!
Q: What does it mean when some lamas remain in tukdam?
R: Generally speaking, tukdam comes about when someone has rested evenly in luminous wakefulness during his life, usually called samadhi, and occurs to the same degree as his experience. When he then passes away, there is what we call 'the mingling of the mother and child luminosities,' which means that the ground luminosity and the luminosity of that person's practice mingle indivisibly.
At that moment, the experience of luminous wakefulness is very strong and one simply remains in its composure naturally, meaning that high lamas or someone with deep experience and realization will naturally dissolve into or expand into this state of samadhi. When the ground luminosity dawns by itself, they recognize it, and then remain in equanimity - that is what is called 'remaining in tukdam.'
No doubt an ordinary person also experiences the ground luminosity, but because of not having trained in it during their life, they don't recognize this ground luminosity, and failing to recognize, they are therefore unable to remain in tukdam. On the other hand, great masters naturally mingle the mother and child luminosities, - in the very moment the ground luminosity unfolds within their direct experience, they acknowledge this basic state and remain in samadhi this is called 'remaining in tukdam.'
It is due to the strength of the samadhi that the body heat doesn't disappear completely, that the skin color doesn't fade, and that the body is able to remain in an upright sitting posture. Due to such visible signs, we are able to conclude that the person is in tukdam.
Q: What do such signs as a 'clear sky and dust-free earth,' represent?
R: Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was someone who kept a concealed profile, meaning that he didn't make a great display of himself. He concealed his qualities and hid what he was, often saying, "I'm nothing special, I'm not learned." Since he kept such a low profile, it could mean that, when he passed away, then naturally, due to the power and strength of his extraordinary samadhi, the sign of a clear sky and dust-free earth manifested. He probably concealed any other sign such as rainbows, rays of light, and so forth.
Q: What are the reasons for making prayers and ceremonies during the first 49 days?
R: The duration of 49 days is the average length of time an ordinary person spends in the bardo, the intermediate state between dying and taking rebirth. It is taught that for some people it lasts longer, for some less, but for the most part it takes 49 days before the next rebirth. When speaking of a sublime being, we reckon approximately the same number of days.
When a master's body has died, we consider that his mind is still present, and so when we disciples make offerings, create merit in various ways, and try to train in samadhi, then since his compassionate wisdom mind is seeing us, we receive blessings. By receiving blessings, we generate a tremendous accumulation of merit during these 49 days.
If it happens that after the 49 days he again accepts to reincarnate, then our object of supplication becomes somewhat removed. On the other hand, right now, while in an intermediate state, he sees us directly, and does so with immense compassion and kindness. This is the reason why any sadhana, meditation practice, or any other spiritual actions to create merit, bring tremendous blessings.
Q: What is the purpose of having five groups of lamas unfolding five simultaneous mandalas during the cremation ceremony?
R: The five mandalas symbolize the five buddha-families. These five families are in fact the forms of the five wisdoms. In the context of 'kayas and wisdoms,' until the cremation the wisdoms are present together with body, the kaya. During the cremation ceremony, a separation takes place after which the wisdom quality is all by itself.
Since wisdom, the quality of original wakefulness, is by itself, while with its five aspects it is the identity of the five male buddhas, therefore mandalas are unfolded for each of these five buddha families, and offerings are made by means of fire-puja, the 'giving-and-burning' ritual. This is a way to generate enormous merit. These five wisdoms - dharmadhatu wisdom, mirror-like wisdom, wisdom of equality, discriminating wisdom, and all-accomplishing wisdom - which are the very identities of the five buddha families, are being emphasized by making five separate fire-pujas.
Q: What is the purpose of the cremation ceremony as a fire-puja?
R: Rather than simply cremating someone's body, to perform the cremation as a fire-puja is an act of offering as well. While making offerings we don't regard the body as an ordinary corpse, but instead it is visualized in the form of a wisdom deity which is invited to dissolve into the body. When offerings are made, the creation of merit is much greater and more far-reaching.
Generally speaking, when placing food, drink, and so forth in front of a statue or a tanka we don't have the feeling that the buddhas actually accept the offerings. But by placing the various offerings into the fire, we have the impression that not only have we offered something, but also that the offering is received by the buddhas. For instance, unlike when we make a feast offering, where we first offer the articles and then we later eat them ourselves, in the case of a fire-puja, we offer the things in actuality, having given up attachment to them. That is why it is taught that fire-puja offerings are unlike other ways of making offering and bring greater benefit.
Considering the cremation ceremony as a fire-puja is even more extraordinary since we imagine that the fire's identity is flames of original wakefulness that represent the Body, Speech and Mind of the glorious root guru. Keeping this attitude ensures a vast accumulation of merit.
Q: Would you please say something about Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche?
R: Generally speaking, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was someone with extraordinary experience and realization, a fact known throughout the world. This is not something I need to say. It is evident to everyone that he was unlike anyone else when it came to pointing out the nature of mind, and making sure that people both recognized it and had some actual experience. In this way he was extraordinary, and I feel it is all right if I don't talk too much about it. In a more general way, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was born into the family of Chokgyur Lingpa, a unique family line. In addition, he is the father of the present tulku of Chokgyur Lingpa which is also something quite extraordinary.
I would also like to add that a lot of people believe that if someone is a tertön then he must belong to the Nyingma school. It doesn't necessarily follow that every tertön has to be a Nyingmapa. There are tertöns among the Gelukpas, and Kagyüs, as well as Sakya and Nyingma tertöns. As for Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, he is extremely influential within the Kagyü school.
Among his root gurus he followed Khyentse Rinpoche and Kongtrül Rinpoche, and together - now famous as Khyen, Kong and Chok - they revealed the termas. One of the principal termas they brought forth was revealed at Tsandra Rinchen Drak. Among the termas revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa are the Sabdün Phurba, and the two main Tukdrub styles of guru sadhana. If the question is raised about who is primarily doing these practices, then the drubchen of Sabdün Phurba and the others are not being performed in the main seats of the Nyingma school - Mindröl Ling or Dorje Drak. These monasteries have their own set of practices and do not use the termas of Chokgyur Lingpa for their drubchen ceremonies. In Eastern Tibet are two other chief Nyingma monasteries, Shechen and Dzogchen, and there they also utilize specific individual traditions of practices, and so they, too, do not use the termas of Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, such as the Sabdün Phurba, for their ceremonies.
So, exactly who is performing the drubchens of Sabdün Phurba and the two types of guru sadhana of Tukdrub? They were mainly done at Chokgyur Lingpa's own seats, and, since one of his chief disciples was Karmey Khenpo Rinchen Dargye, it was he who began and maintained the tradition of holding the Sabdün Phurba at the monasteries Karmey Gön and Tsurphu Gön. Later, as we all know, the 16th incarnation in the line of the Gyalwang Karmapa also had this grand ceremony performed at his seat in Rumtek. Therefore, since the two Tukdrub ceremonies are also mainly held at Kagyü monasteries, not at the Nyingma ones, we Kagyüs also consider Chokgyur Lingpa to be a tertön for the Kagyü school.
All four schools of Tibetan Buddhism regard Guru Rinpoche as the second Buddha, and all four schools practice his concealed terma treasures. But, it is mainly the Kagyü followers who practice the profound teachings of Chokgyur Lingpa. I therefore feel that he chiefly belongs to us Kagyüs. [Rinpoche chuckles.]
Q: What was the relationship between the 16th Karmapa and Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche?
R: The 16th incarnation in the line of the Gyalwang Karmapa regarded Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's family line as very special and therefore received many of the empowerments for Chokgyur Lingpa's termas from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Moreover, they were very close since His Holiness trusted Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche as his personal advisor in both spiritual and secular affairs. As we know, many times the Karmapa showed how he held Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche in extremely high esteem.
Q: What is the purpose of erecting a stupa at the same site as that of the cremation?
R: The place where the kudung is cremated in the 'burning-and-purification' ceremony is often the same place where the stupa is built. The reason for this is that for some lamas, through the power of their blessings, we can see that many ringsel-relics appear at the cremation site. The appearance of these ringsel is not confined to the body of the lama, but also from the smoke, the ashes, and even any place around or near the funeral pyre; sometimes ringsel appear naturally. But whether there are visible ringsel or not, the ashes and the smoke pervade the environment. Therefore the site becomes the support for extraordinary blessings and is kept so that it can be regarded as such by people in future generations.
If the cremation site is simply abandoned, people will walk carelessly over it, since there is nothing to remind them. In the spiritual sense, there would be no lasting receptacle for the extraordinary blessings, no continued support for people's veneration and for receiving these blessings. Isn't this the reason for building a stupa? Another reason why a stupa is regarded as special and full of blessings is that it is said to be the primary 'activity of the awakened mind' of all buddhas. I therefore feel that in such a stupa, the blessings of the guru's mind will naturally enter and be present.
As the numerous stupas throughout the country of Nepal attest, in the past many great masters have come here over the millennia. Although in the last couple of centuries not very many masters have lived here, and so, the 'string of the Dharma' has become very thin, still, Buddhism in Nepal has remained without vanishing. I feel one of the reasons for the unbroken continuity of Buddhism is that, thanks to the three main stupas - those in Boudhanath, Swayambhu and Namo Buddha, people regard the teachings of the Buddha as something special: they have continued to circumambulate these stupas respectfully, and maintain the notion that the Three Jewels are special objects of veneration which you can supplicate.
Even though no living master may be present to teach the Dharma in actuality, generation after generation, people continue to see the stupa with their eyes, receive blessings, understand that there are the Three Jewels in which you can place your trust, and in this way, naturally, the Dharma continues. In the same way, when building a stupa for the remains of a great master, his power and blessings will remain. That is the reason to build a stupa.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was a Dzogchen yogi. Now, in the perception of others, he has simply displayed the manner of leaving a body behind. But in his own experience I believe that he is beyond staying or leaving.
Speaking personally, from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche I received the teachings on Dzogchen which you can call 'instructions through experience,' pithy and concise. These I found very helpful. This type of instruction, through personal experience, is short but all-inclusive and very amazing.
Now he appears to have passed away. So I feel that the most important thing for all of you, his sons and close disciples, is to focus on practice, to realize the level of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and, having gained this realization, to then benefit sentient beings in a vast and immense way. This is something you must do. In order to do this, you must practice thoroughly and by doing so you will definitely realize the level of your father Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and will then be able to carry out numerous activities to support the Dharma and benefit sentient beings. Therefore I feel that you, his sons and close disciples, should focus chiefly on practice.
Previously, when I went up to Nagi Gompa to pay respects to the kudung, I met with Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche and Tsok-Nyi Rinpoche and I told them, "Your father has simply displayed the manner of passing away. Since superficial reality is such that everything conditioned is impermanent, this cannot be avoided. So, it doesn't help to be sad about it. But it is very important to practice." This is what I told them and I am saying it again here. Besides this there is not much else I have to say. It is not for me to tell his biography, so I only have these few words to say.
I am happy to hear that the kudung is being cremated, because then Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's disciples can enshrine a portion of the relics in stupas all over the world. I believe this will be of great benefit to both the Buddhadharma and all beings. Therefore, I will add my prayers and good wishes that such stupas will be built to bring vast benefit to everyone.
It is impossible for one person to judge another,
so we can never really know how great a master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was.
Only a buddha like Shakyamuni can fully know another being. However,
during the twentieth century there have been a few masters who have been
unanimously accepted as being as if the Buddha had appeared in person.
Along with the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpey Dorje, and Kyabje
Dudjom Rinpoche, who was the emissary of Guru Padmasambhava, there has
also been Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Within the contemporary Kagyü
and Nyingma schools there has been no one more extraordinary and with so
immense an impact on the Buddhadharma than them. Yet, these three all
accepted Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche among their root gurus. If they respected
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche as their crown ornament, I, too, feel we should
regard him as someone special.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche upheld both the teaching and family lineages of Chokgyur Lingpa. He kept this lineage of empowerment, instructions, and reading transmission alive, not only by practicing it himself, but also insuring it will continue by passing it on to the Karmapa and Dudjom Rinpoche but also to countless others. His activity on behalf of this Dharma lineage is an immense kindness which I regard as very special.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's family lineage comes through the daughter of Chokgyur Lingpa, whose name was Könchok Palden, and her son, Chimey Dorje, who was Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's father. Thus, he was directly descended from the great tertön.
I would like to add that due to some dependent circumstance Könchok Palden decided to reincarnate as a female. Otherwise she, herself, would have been recognized as an unmistaken reincarnation of Longchen Rabjam and Vimalamitra and been able to act in immense ways to support the Buddhadharma. Later in her life she asked for advice from both Jamyang Khyentse and Jamgön Kongtrül as to whether it would be better to become a nun or get married. Both masters replied, "You should take a husband; in the future it is through your bloodline that someone will appear to benefit beings. This is very important."
Accordingly, she married a son of the Tsangsar family. The couple had many children, including Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's uncle, the great master Samten Gyatso, who brought great benefit to the continuation of the Tersar teachings and was able to carry out great deeds. This lineage continues through Tulku Urgyen's many sons, who are all still alive and well. Although, they have their individual titles and bear the responsibility to uphold these other lineages I hope that they will also personally practice and transmit the terma teachings of Chokgyur Lingpa, their father's own lineage.
A lot of people these days hold the opinion that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was just a Dzogchen yogi who only stayed up in his mountain hermitage Nagi Gompa and practiced one-pointedly - concluding that he was a good lama with high realization. Since he downplayed his talents, not many people seem to know the details of his qualities beyond these simple facts. But now, when I reflect on what I personally know, I feel that he was also a great scholar.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche is not someone who is famed for being learned. But if we begin to investigate in detail, then, starting from reading skills, we see he was a scholar, able to read many kinds of scripts, including even the rare lantsa and wardu variety. He was proficient in grammar, poetry, and the general sciences, so it is difficult to find anything about which he was ignorant. Concerning the inner knowledge of Buddhism, he had met many very educated and learned masters, and was especially well-versed in the Ngakso, the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, and the Guhyagarbha Tantra. He was a great calligrapher, very knowledgeable about many scripts which have been practically forgotten today. Not only was he proficient in lantsa and wardu, but in uchen and umey as well. Taking all this into consideration, I personally consider him very learned.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was also a skilled craftsman. Because he could make original statues - unlike professional sculptors who usually just repeat themselves - his sculptures of deities often had much finer proportions. Some of these can be seen in the shrine rooms for the Dharma protectors at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling. In the Nyingma gönkhang, protectors' shrine, there is an extraordinary mask for Mahakala; in the Kagyü temple a mask of Bernakchen, the Black-Cloaked One. When beholding these masks I feel that no ordinary artist could have created such works.
If anyone wants to see what an expert tailor he was I will be happy to show them the crown he made for the Chokling tulku. He re-created Chokgyur Lingpa's crown from memory, which was no small feat.
There is one strange thing which I would like to mention. The expressions of realization don't always appear so clearly. I often noticed that during Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche talks, or when he was writing, that everything he said would come out eloquently and unimpeded. But other times the words seem hindered. It was the same with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. At times Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche had a very hard time reading and his eyesight turned so bad that he had to have an operation on his eyes.
When it came to mundane discussions he was extremely skillful. Even if people put their heads together they are often still unable to decide what to do. But Rinpoche was always able to make a decision which was in harmony with both Dharma and social conventions; he always seemed to know what the best course of action would be, giving advice without hesitation. Often people would find that his solution was something they hadn't even thought of, and upon hearing it they felt, "well of course!". His decision would put their minds at ease and they would feel confident that this was the best solution. This is another way example of the power of his intelligence.
There is a famous Kagyü saying, "Devotion is the head of meditation." Devotion is based upon one's guru, so to have the trust and devotion that one's guru is the Buddha in actuality is a most eminent method. In addition to this, being able to fulfill one's guru's wish to the letter and serving him however possible is the proper way to apply the oral instructions. In this regard, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's sense of trust, loyalty and samaya with other masters was constant. He regarded his own teachers as the Buddha in person. Once he had connected with a teacher through receiving empowerment or oral instructions his trust was unwavering. If the opportunity came to carry out his guru's wish he was willing to give unstintingly of whatever wealth was in his possession, without any concern for personal hardship. If it came to it, I feel that he would even have been ready to sacrifice his own life without any hesitation or regret.
Once Rinpoche took responsibility for a legal dispute on behalf of the Gyalwang Karmapa and it dragged on for so many years that it felt like half a lifetime. Though Rinpoche was successful in the end, it was only to his teacher's benefit and not to Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was someone who could put action behind his words. In both spiritual or secular affairs he wouldn't just say what needed to be done - he would go ahead and do it. Nor did he get involved in a lot of doubt and hesitation about the tasks at hand, worrying about whether something would be successful or not. He wouldn't get caught up in a web of concepts; instead he would make a decision free of doubt and never waver. That's the kind of man he was.
When speaking of the Buddhist scriptures, the Middle Way, Prajnaparamita and so forth, we have the 'exposition lineage' which focuses on explaining the syntax. But you often hear that being learned is not just a matter of knowing the words and their meaning; there is also the transmission of the real meaning. Tulku Urgyen was a pandita in the real sense of the word.
At one time I went to see Tulku Urgyen to ask him
to clarify a verse from the ninth chapter of Shantideva's Bodhicharya
When concreteness or inconcreteness
Does not remain before the intellect,
At that moment there is no other mental form,
And so there is utter peace without
I had studied it many times and asked many khenpos about it but still felt that none of them had given me an adequate explanation. I also asked Tulku Urgyen about certain points in the Prajnaparamita teachings in which the fact of emptiness is established, such as the statement that emptiness has no form, no sound and so forth. Only Tulku Urgyen was able to prove the reality of these statements in a reasonable way. His logic established emptiness in actuality, while the other scholars merely established emptiness in words.
At some point the reincarnation of Neten Chokling, Tulku Pema Wangyal, and a few of us went up to Nagi Gompa and spent a few days asking questions. During this time Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche clearly laid out the logic of establishing emptiness. Everyone was amazed at his clarity. Explaining how all sentient beings have buddha nature includes the attempt to prove that buddha nature is an intrinsic quality. This is especially done in the higher Middle Way school known as Shentong. In the biographies of many great lamas you find that they would bow down and circumambulate even old dogs to show their respect for buddha nature, while saying, "I take refuge in the buddha nature."
Tulku Urgyen had confidence and totally pure trust based on personal, direct understanding that buddha nature really is present in every sentient being, just like oil is present in each and every sesame seed, that any sentient being can realize the awakened state and has the basis for enlightenment. Therefore, Tulku Urgyen showed respect for every sentient being and didn't turn against anyone. He felt it not as mere platitude, but from the core of his heart.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche also showed vast insight about the meaning of the Uttaratantra, Hevajra Tantra and the Profound Inner Meaning, which are favored in the Kagyü lineage. Within the Nyingma school he was incredibly well-versed in both the root text of the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo, as well as Jamgön Kongtrül's commentary on it. He knew most of the root text by heart, and in addition he had studied the commentary by Rinchen Namgyal and Khenpo Jokyab repeatedly. He was very knowledgeable in Vajrayana as well, having studied the Guhyagarbha Tantra, the Secret Essence of the Magical Net. Once in a discussion with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche it became apparent that Tulku Urgyen also had a complete grasp of the Guhyagarbha Tantra.
During first Ngakso drubchen held at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling I had the chance to ask Tulku Urgyen questions about the tenfold meaning of mantra. He gave very clear explanations that made me appreciate his learnedness in Guhyagarbha Tantra. He also had an in-depth knowledge of many other tantras. He was especially insightful when defining the kayas and wisdoms, 'the chakras of syllable clouds,' the sounds and meaning of mantra. In short, he fit exactly the title 'pandita of definitive meaning'.
Concerning tantric rituals Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was extremely competent in the mandalas for vast activities, knowing their proportions and the accompanying rituals of sacred dance and exorcism. He was a skilled torma maker as well as an expert umdzey, chant master. He had a remarkable grasp of architecture and all other necessary fields of knowledge connected to Tibetan Buddhist practice. While some umdzeys merely sing ceremonies from beginning to end, Tulku Urgyen's singing carried a certain blessing that could move the listener to devotion. When he gave empowerment, even though the ritual may not have involved more than placing a vase on somebody's head, people would feel it was something really special. Even the way he looked at people would give people some understanding which was totally unlike an ordinary person.
When giving empowerment to a gathering of thousands of people, sitting on a throne made of brocade cushions, he never looked out of place. His air and bearing, impressive and dignified, never looked contrived. He was definitely extraordinary.
Rinpoche would always touch heads with whoever came into his presence, even the poorest Nepali worker, and ask, "How are you?" And you could see a happiness on that person's face which far surpasses that from receiving thousands of rupees. There is no real reason why someone should become so happy just by being asked how they are and touching foreheads, but people were so delighted. Many foreigners changed their whole perspective on life from just one meeting and felt extraordinarily blessed. Practitioners felt that they received blessings and even ordinary people still felt that something unusual had happened. Whoever came into his presence never felt tired, even after several hours had passed; unlike being in the presence of some politicians, where you can't wait to get away. Speaking for myself I never tired of being with Tulku Urgyen - I only felt happy.
In all his conversations there was never any mention of bias or prejudice. Whether you talked about religious or secular affairs he always spoke honestly and clearly, never acting hollow or pretentious or ever lying. He also had an acute memory, and spoke of events long past as if they just happened yesterday. Nobody wanted to leave his presence; people always wanted to sit longer and longer - they just wouldn't get out. I've heard that he scolded a few people, but never met anyone who actually got scolded. I never heard him say a harsh word. At the same time, anyone who lived near him or knew him for a long time felt timid and a sense of awe.
Unlike passing just any ordinary person on the street, his very presence was very powerful. For instance, if you had to return to his room after having just left it, he would still pay you the same respect and you would still feel awestruck. Nor was he someone you felt you could talk nonsense in front of - you had to choose your words with sincerity.
The qualities of someone who has completely severed the ties of selfishness and pursues only the welfare of others may not necessarily be visible. But it is hard to find a more unselfish person than Tulku Urgyen. When focusing on benefiting others, our own aims automatically become fulfilled without having to try deliberately. Building a monastery is very difficult, and sometimes seems an insurmountable task. But most people are not aware how many temples Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche actually built. Nor does anybody know exactly how many years he stayed in retreat, which practices he did, nor the number of recitations he completed. People can vaguely say that he did it once or twice in Tibet and once in India but other than that no one knows. I figure he spent approximately half of his entire life doing intensive practice in retreat.
There are no accurate records of which empowerments, transmissions, and teachings he received. But he probably received most of the Nyingma Kama and terma, all the Kagyü teachings, and the Lamdrey from the Sakya school as well as many other lineages. Every time you brought up a certain teaching and asked him about it, it seemed he held the transmission for it. He received an ocean of teachings. Tulku Urgyen's unique heart practice was the Chetsün Nyingtig and Künzang Tuktig, belonging to the Great Perfection itself. He is unanimously accepted by everyone as a great Dzogchen yogi.
It is not really up to me to speak about his attainment of great accomplishment, but in 1985, after a discussion with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, His Holiness told me that Tulku Urgyen had reached the level of 'culmination of awareness.' When someone has arrived at the culmination of awareness there is nothing more to realize other than 'exhaustion in dharmata,' so he was someone who achieved the final realization of the Great Perfection. So it is perfectly fine to regard him as a master who was both learned and accomplished.
From a personal point of view I haven't met anyone superior to Tulku Urgyen. There has been no one who, in actuality, was better able to carry out the intent of Shantideva's Bodhicharya Avatara to the letter. Without any concern for personal hardship he always aimed at doing his utmost to benefit sentient beings. In addition, he was extremely humble and self-effacing - totally in tune with Shantideva's bodhisattva ideal. He treated everyone with the same affection, whether important or ordinary, and taught them equally. In order to bring the highest benefit he always did his best to communicate in the listener's own terms. And it was not only by teaching, but in all conversations, that you would find the bodhisattva ideal of ocean-like activity clearly reflected. Of course, he didn't actually give away his head, arms or legs but I feel absolutely certain that he was a great bodhisattva, able to do so.
In terms of Vajrayana, he had perfected the practices of both development and completion. I know he spent at least four three-year retreats doing sadhana and recitation. Later on he remained in what you could call life retreat at his hermitage, Nagi Gompa. Upon having perfected the practices of the development and completion stages the scriptures mention what is called the "threefold gathering and the threefold blazing forth." I feel he possessed these in completeness.
No matter whether giving empowerment, instructions or reading transmissions, he always gave his full attention, taking his utmost care to bring benefit to the recipients - particularly when giving the sublime Dzogchen teachings. He was unlike many teachers who, lacking real substance, supposedly give teachings on Dzogchen while actually only teaching the word 'Dzogchen'. When Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche imparted the pithy pointing out instructions he would point out the real thing, nakedly and directly.
Once I witnessed Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche give the pointing out instruction to a gathering of more than one thousand people in Taiwan. He still gave the real thing nakedly and directly, leaving nothing out. This must exemplify what they call the "expression of compassionate capacity," for he rose to the occasion out of the power of his realization. He said, "The oral instruction is like a candle: you can see while you hold it, and when you give it away you have no more light. But since all of you have taken the trouble to come here, expecting to hear me speak, I feel that I cannot refuse giving you the pointing-out instruction." Then he gave the instruction in coming face to face with your own nature. Even if the great Khyentse, Kongtrül or Longchenpa were doing so, it wouldn't surpass his instruction. Yet I later met only a few there who truly recognized their own nature
Even among Rinpoche's Western students there were some very close disciples who definitely should have recognized their buddha nature. They probably had some vague glimpse of recognition; yet they use empty word, and ignore the consequences of their actions. I have yet to meet one who has fully realized his teachings.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's way of giving a general outline of the ground, path and fruition of the Great Perfection was not extraordinary compared to that of other masters, but if you asked him about one single word, no matter how subtle or profound the connotation, his answer was just as subtle and profound. Both Dzongsar Khyentse and myself felt that compared to many months and years of studying books and going through analytical meditation, it was more beneficial to spend just a few hours asking questions of Tulku Urgyen and listening to his answers. I went to see him at Nagi Gompa many times and I received various empowerments, but I feel the real teachings were revealed in normal discussion.
These days you find people who say, "I know the teachings but I don't practice the sadhana in large gatherings. I don't feel like doing all that chanting." Honestly, there are people who have said this to me, and it surely proves their lack of realization. Anyone who really understands the teachings, especially the Vajrayana, will also know that these teachings are implemented in group sadhana, training in development and completion, and chanting. That is the application of Vajrayana, and if someone can talk but not practice then that person is definitely not learned.
Tulku Urgyen himself knew all about the encompassing activities of the Vajrayana practices and never belittled their application. He gave great attention to the performance of all the important ceremonies and rituals, including the drubchen ceremonies. In the first half of his life, in order to be of benefit to others, he learned these down to their minutest detail, never missing a single day. Nor did he ever belittle the consequence of any karmic action.
Without having to deliberately ask for donations he managed to raise funds effortlessly. Though he never went on begging tours, like some other lamas, Tulku Urgyen was still able to build all the temples and monasteries he intended. All these projects were completed totally on the side; you never saw them as his main aim or occupation.
In the latter part of his life he basically abandoned all involvement in conceptual activities and didn't put any real effort into building. Yet temples still seemed to rise up continuously and many tasks were accomplished. He always spent the money that came during the day and when the sun went down he had nothing. He didn't keep a project schedule nor have I ever seen or heard about him sending out any fund-raising letters, which are so plentiful these days. Even so, it seems he was able to build more temples than any other contemporary lama, no matter how much effort they put into it. So I feel confident that he accomplished his aims without difficulty or hardship.
He was of poor health his entire life, especially experiencing complications during the cold winters. But due to various treatments and his mastery over the key points of the channels and energies of his own body, as well as over the mandala of the vajra Body with its circulation of energy currents, I feel he did have quite a long life. It wasn't that he died an untimely death at a young age, leaving his work unfinished. On the other hand, I don't think you can say he had a really long life. It's my personal opinion that Rinpoche intended to live well up into his 80's, and this was something I had sincerely prayed for. But at some point bad times came. Externally there was a great obstacle and turmoil within the Kagyü lineage; while inwardly there was disharmony among his followers including among his foreign students.
There came a time when he went to Germany to have an operation. When I went to meet Rinpoche in Germany he spoke at length about lacking the wish to remain in his body for much longer. Later, I told Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, "The way Rinpoche speaks now is nothing like how he spoke in the past. It seems like he doesn't care to remain in his body any longer. So, I think that when he returns to Nepal we should hold an elaborate long life ceremony and supplicate him from the core of our hearts to remain. This is definitely necessary." But because all of us seemed so busy it was gradually neglected.
Recently, Dzongsar Khyentse, Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche and all the rest of us went up to Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche at Nagi Gompa to discuss the reincarnation of Dilgo Khyentse. We all got an odd impression: from the way he talked we felt that both his intentions and the way he expressed his wishes were not like in the past. In the car on the way down from Nagi I told the others, "I have often visited Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche but today I felt that he was really different. I have the feeling that it will be very difficult to see him again. It is not that he said anything special, it is just my feeling." Dzongsar Khyentse also felt that this meeting was different.
We agreed that it sounded like Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche had given up the will to stay in this body and that he might not live long. We continued our discussion and agreed that we should go back up very soon and sincerely ask him to remain, not only for the benefit of the teachings and beings but also for our personal sake. I simply don't believe that he was powerless in this respect. We agreed that if we appealed to him it would help. Unfortunately, due to many circumstances this was never done.
Such circumstances often happen all of a sudden. Nevertheless, I believe we should settle our minds with the thought that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche did, in fact, fulfill all his aims and activities and lived the complete length of his life. Because if we start to harbor thoughts that his death was untimely, and dwell on what should and what shouldn't have happened, we only constrict our hearts and make ourselves more close-minded and regretful. Therefore I am putting my mind at peace by thinking that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche did, indeed, fulfill all of his intentions and that he lived quite a long life. He also had numerous illnesses and was very old. So, taking all this into consideration, there is no blame - Rinpoche lived a full life. I think it best if we all try to console ourselves in this way.
The ceremonies being done as offerings, so that his intentions may be fulfilled, are very excellent, done in the best possible way. Although I did hear that the kudung might be kept for a long time, to do this would not have been in tune with Rinpoche's own wishes. His close disciples knew he never wanted his body enshrined, and I believe it is fine to tell this to everybody to avoid misunderstandings.
The great Dzogchen tantras mention the relics known as dung, ringsel and so forth depend upon the presence of blood in the bones. The appearance of ringsel are therefore more likely if the cremation is performed sooner. Since I have heard that he was an authentic Dzogchen yogi I feel that it is better not to delay the cremation. This is what I said to Rinpoche's sons, and they agreed; it was decided that the cremation would take place on the 16th of the Tibetan month.
I would also like to say the following: when the samayas are damaged on different levels, both externally and internally, there is no benefit from trying to deny it. If something happened it happened, and as long as such damages do not cause obscurations, I trust that, beyond a doubt the dung and ringsel relics will appear. But if we don't find any such relics due to damaged samayas, I will not lose faith or be depressed about it, not at all. We live in the dark age, the Kaliyuga, and being the dregs left behind in these times it would be only in our perception that there seem to be no relics.
I feel certain that there is not the slightest difference between the state of mind of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and Samantabhadra. For those who regard him as the Vajradhara in person, the perfect root guru and the support for their supplications, he is definitely extraordinary. I don't feel that anyone should regard him as just an ordinary lama. In any case, I feel that the cremation ceremony will turn out very well.
There is something that I would like to say concerning the future. We Tibetan lamas have a tradition of seeking out the reincarnation of a great lama who has passed away. This is something of great importance both now and in the future. But there is one specific thing that is on my mind right now: history. History when written down can be read again and again for many centuries to come and can therefore have far-reaching impact. In general, we have the history of the Nyingma lineage. But specifically about the Chokling Tersar, we have only some life stories about Chokgyur Lingpa written by Karmey Khenpo and some written by the second Chokling. Besides these we do not have a detailed autobiography spoken by the great tertön himself. Moreover, we really don't have any records of the following incarnations of Tsikey Chokling or Neten Chokling. If we leave things like this, it won't take more than a few generations before only their names are left.
Concerning Chokgyur Lingpa's family line, some people can still remember part of the stories, but since nobody has written anything down in real detail, if we neglect doing this, then in the future when people look back there will be nothing to see. While Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was alive he had many disciples, some special. Among his sons Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, in particular, is a capable writer. Therefore we should definitely write a biography of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche in both Tibetan and English, starting with his birth and early years when he was named Karma Urgyen Tsewang Chokdrub by the 15th Karmapa Khakyab Dorje and recognized as a tulku of Lachab Gompa, and continuing all the way to his passing. This biography I feel should be written without adding or subtracting a single thing. We cannot really write his inner life story because he never spoke of the visions or predictions he received, so there is nothing fabulous or amazing of that kind to write down. What we can write down is simply what he did without any distortion. Some people may think that a life story with no extraordinary mystic events is unimportant, but please don't think that. Even the Buddha appeared in an ordinary human body and was seen as a human by others, so for most people a simple straightforward biography is beneficial. I therefore feel that we should just write the story without exaggerating or downplaying anything. If we, like some other lamas may do, write fabulous stories most people will find such tales hard to believe.
Rather than having several accounts of Tulku Urgyen's life story that conflict I would like to see a biography with straight talk that can be agreed upon by everyone. That includes the good with the bad, in ordinary simple words. In this book I would like to see as many photos as possible, and later this book could be translated into foreign languages. But first the basic text should be done in Tibetan. These days we still have people connected to Tulku Urgyen who are old and they should be interviewed while they can be. Then, if this is done, in the future there will be something for people to read. I feel that such a project will be successful. So, let's try to accomplish this.
To summarize he was an incredible master, both learned and accomplished. I have always felt confident about this but until now I have never had the opportunity to go through his virtues explaining them one by one. So why didn't I tell about them before? Because of the nasty times we live in, when everyone seems to be praising their own school or lineage. Even within the Nyingma school with their 108 major tertöns there should be no real difference in prestige since all termas come from Padmasambhava. So when I hear someone proclaim, "our termas are better than theirs!" or "the present Dudjom's termas are better than the previous Dudjom's!" How can I start speaking of the greatness of Chokgyur Lingpa's termas? His miraculous powers and great deeds? Even though they are true and it is appropriate to do so, I don't really feel like doing it.
About Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche there has been no real reason for someone like me to extol his virtues: when the sun shines in the sky no one can deny its brilliant rays of light. But now it is like the sun has set behind the western mountains. Therefore since the great masters of this time - the Karmapa of incomparable kindness, Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche - since they all have venerated Tulku Urgyen as one of their root gurus and a jewel in their crown ornament, there was absolutely no need for me to justify it. Teachings should always be given upon request, so since I was specifically asked, I have said what I personally know and witnessed.
Spoken by Chökyi Nyima
Our Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was born in Nangchen, in the eastern Tibetan province of Kham. He was born into the Tsangsar family line known as Tsangsar Lhayi Dung-gyü. He was recognized as a reincarnate lama of Lachab Gompa and as someone whose 'emanation-basis' was Guru Chöwang.
At the early age of four he began meditation practice. The way this happened was that each day his father, Chimey Dorje of Tsangsar, would give guidance in meditation to his many followers. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche sat and listened with the others so that when he was only four years old he already had what we call a recognition of the nature of mind.
Later on Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche received additional instructions from his uncle Samten Gyatso whom he considered his root guru. Samten Gyatso was a highly realized being. Not only was he a pure monk, but he was also a practitioner with a high level of accomplishment. Khakyab Dorje, the 15th Karmapa, often praised him. For instance, one evening after Samten Gyatso had left his room the Karmapa joined palms and was heard saying, "In these times perhaps only Samten Gyatso has a totally perfect realization of the view of the Innermost Essence of Dzogchen." Several old monks from Tsurphu told this story.
Samten Gyatso had offered the 15th Karmapa many of the empowerments and transmissions from the Chokling Tersar, and it was from Samten Gyatso that our Rinpoche received most of his Dharma lineage, both empowerments and instructions. Of special importance is the fact that Samten Gyatso gave him semtri, guidance on the nature of mind, quite often and helped Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche to progress and enhance his realization. The view, which had been pointed out to him at the age of four, could not in essence be further enhanced, within the view there is no 'thing' to be further developed. At the same time, because of Samten Gyatso's high realization, and because of the vastness and depth of the view, we still talk about 'enhancing the view.' This enhancement, or deepening, necessitates a good deal of oral instructions from a competent master. In this way Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche´s principal root guru was his own uncle Samten Gyatso.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche received teachings from many other great masters of his time, including both Shechen Kongtrül and Karsey Kongtrül. In particular, at Tsurphu together with the 16th Karmapa and my mother, he received the entire Rinchen Terdzö from Karsey Kongtrül.
In our tradition of emphasizing mind essence, the Dzogchen teachings speak of Trekchö and Tögal, the view being the thorough cut to primordial purity while the meditation is the direct crossing to spontaneous presence. Therefore, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche took the Dzogchen view as the very core of his practice. Combined with this, he was also someone who was adept in the Mahamudra tradition. He was trained in both Mahamudra and the Six Doctrines, but he always pointed towards the recognition of nondual awareness as being the vital core, the ultimate practice.
If you add up the time he spent in retreat in Kham, Central Tibet, Sikkim and Nepal, you end up with more than twenty years. In his youth he did a lot of accumulation and purification practices: ngöndro, development stage, completion stage, tummo and so forth. Later in his life, he would describe his retreats by saying, "I'm just staying here chanting the mani," the mantra of Avalokiteshvara. This is a way great practitioners often refer to the practice of simply sustaining the natural face of awareness.
Many of the great masters of this time told me about Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche´s high level of realization. Not only did the Gyalwang Karmapa speak of this, but others including Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche also did so. That is why many of them are connected to him by receiving empowerments, reading transmissions and oral instructions.
When we spent time with him, he never showed off any air of being a great scholar. As Tarthang Rinpoche said the other day, "Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was a very hidden yogi. Not only was he learned in the various Buddhist practices, but he was a scholar in the ultimate nature. Still he hid all his qualities within."
When teaching how to practice Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche placed the greatest emphasis on how to remain in the composure of the true view. He taught all of us, repeatedly, the importance of undergoing the different levels of training, stressing the general and specific preliminary practices. He said that the teachings and practices should ultimately lead to a direct recognition of the nature of mind. He always taught this view as the indivisible nature of the three great traditions: the Dzogchen view of primordial purity, the Mahamudra view of mental non-doing, and the Middle Way view of holding no mental constructs.
The effect Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's direct oral instructions had on people who met him was one which inspired admiration, delight in practice, and deep trust and confidence in the teachings. His words always helped their minds, in the sense that applying even some of his advice would help reduce disturbing emotions, and naturally allow compassion, love and insight to blossom. This was proven by actual experience. This is why his disciples had sincere and whole-hearted love and affection for him and was the basis for their trust and devotion.
All of us who met and knew him saw that he had a deeply humble character, very gentle and soft, kind and loving to everyone. Spiritual practitioners, of course, had trust and devotion through their Dharma connection. However, the other day I met someone who said, "I don't know anything about Dharma, but I do know that he was a very nice man. His death made me so sad; I have lost a really good friend. He was the best friend one could have, easy-going, mild, and reliable, very open-minded. We have lost a very good man." Several people came and spoke of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche in this way. He was connected to people in many different ways, a few through deep friendship, though most had a spiritual link with him.
We have heard of the great masters of the past who left this world accompanied by many extraordinary signs. The Buddha also described certain signs which occur during the death of great practitioners. When Rinpoche passed away he was very relaxed. Twice he sat up from a reclining position. At one point he removed most of his garments. We thought that since he would get sick from being chilled, we should quickly cover him up with blankets. Then we gently straightened out his legs so that he could lean back and lie down again. However he soon sat up again while exclaiming 'ah.' Shortly after this his vital signs all stopped at the same time. Some people die slowly, with rasping, labored breathing. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche had nothing of that sort; he passed away very peacefully.
Having passed away; he remained in tukdam, in samadhi. The Dzogchen teachings describe the external signs that occur when someone who has reached a high level of realization of the view passes on. The best sign is "A cloudless, clear sky above, with dust-free air beneath." This sign definitely appeared. Relic pills in the ashes are also good, but not regarded as the foremost.
Now, what must we, his followers, do? The tantras explain that after the passing of one's guru, and while his kudung, his body, is still kept, his mind of original wakefulness has departed into a state of unbound vastness. Many texts describe how during the first 49 days the kudung has power and blessings. Therefore, it is taught that when in the presence of the kudung, if we disciples supplicate him and mingle our minds with his we receive blessings swifter than if he was still in his body. In particular, someone who is a practitioner of mind essence can have great enhancement by sitting near the kudung, supplicating one-pointedly, and resting in the state of indivisible mind. This is described as the king of enhancements. Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye mentioned this in his writings many times.
All of us who are here in Boudhanath can sit down near the kudung to practice the sadhanas and ceremonies. But especially we can chant the Calling the Guru From Afar, imagine that we receive the four empowerments and then mingle our minds with his. It is very fortunate and beneficial for people who have the opportunity to come. Those who live far away should make heart-felt supplications, mingle your mind with his and remain in the continuity of the view. This is very important right now.
Actually this is very important because what we really need and seek is enlightenment. Wasn't that the reason we connected to Rinpoche in the first place? Isn't it true that a master's job is to show the way to both liberation and enlightenment? Isn't the path to enlightenment imparted by giving the oral instructions? Isn't it true that when we correctly apply our master's oral instructions, then we too attain accomplishment, we too become enlightened?
In these sad circumstances, isn't it true that it doesn't help to just sit around being continually depressed? Aren't all conditioned things impermanent? Please try your best to mingle your minds with his. It is of vital importance to try to sustain the natural face of awareness in which your mind and the guru's are indivisible.
Jamgön Kongtrül said, "To kindle the torch of devotion, supplicate wholeheartedly; this brings you much closer to realizing the view." How is this possible? Since the 'encasement' of his body has disintegrated, the guru's mind, which is the realization of dharmakaya, has now been released and become all-encompassing. Jamgön Kongtrül mentions that for 49 days there is some connection between this all-encompassing state of original wakefulness and the location of his body. This is because all phenomena are a combination of emptiness and dependent origination. This connection is very precious and profound. It is said that one can even receive a reading transmission by chanting a text near the kudung. A pledge taken in front of the kudung is much stronger. A wish or aspiration made in its presence is more forceful and closer to becoming a reality. These are words from the tantras which are clearly mentioned in Jamgön Kongtrül's writings.
Through supplicating and filling their hearts with compassion, there have been many practitioners who realized the view if they had not already. If they had realized the view, then they expanded it vastly, simply by sitting near their master's kudung. So, we who are near can do all these practices in the kudung's presence. While for people who have devotion to Rinpoche but live far away it is important to fill your minds with devotion and deep-felt longing and then mingle your minds with his.
Spoken by Chokling
I would like to tell you about the outer, inner and innermost life story of my father and guru - Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. I will describe from his early years up until his advanced age of 76. I will depict what I have heard with my own ears and seen with my own eyes. Of course I didn't meet him when he was young, but I have heard many stories. It was the latter part of his life which I personally witnessed.
One of his unique qualities was his warmth; his heart was full of great love and compassion. In terms of ordinary social conventions, he had a really good character. He had no intentions other than to help beings. He was open-minded, possessing a vast, all-encompassing frame of mind. This was how any normal mundane person would describe him.
When Rinpoche was a young child he received the pointing-out instruction to the nature of mind from his father, Chimey Dorje. About this he said, "I realized the natural face of mind in actuality."
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche had an incredible respect for the Three Jewels. He said that among all Buddhist masters, the first to catch hold of his attention with faith and devotion was Buddha Shakyamuni. He was moved by the Dharma, the teachings he had been given and he had a high regard for the sangha who maintain the practice of these teachings.
Among the masters in the Kagyü lineage, he showed great affection for and immense faith in Milarepa. Among the Nyingma lineage gurus, it was Künkhyen Longchen Rabjam. By merely hearing the names of these two masters, out of uncontrived devotion tears came to his eyes and the hairs on his body would stand on end.
From his early years, I heard, he considered his root gurus to be Samten Gyatso, his father Chimey Dorje, and Kyungtrül Rinpoche, a master from Kham. He also connected with the son of Khakyab Dorje, the 15th Karmapa, who was known as Jamgön Karsey Kongtrül. From him Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche received the entire Rinchen Terdzö, the great treasury of precious termas.
I remember one day when I was young and Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and my mother were staying at Nagi Gompa. We had all participated in the Ngakso Drubchen and after its completion came the day for chanting the Rain of Wisdom, the Ocean of Songs of the Kagyü Masters. Rinpoche and my mother were reading along until we came to the chapter with the song by Jamgön Karsey Kongtrül. At this point first one, then the other, started to weep out of devotion remembering their guru. They were unable to continue, interrupting the whole chanting. This was the kind of deep-felt devotion Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche had for Karsey Kongtrül.
In addition, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche considered Rangjung Rigpey Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, his root guru. The kind of appreciation he had for the 16th Karmapa was nothing less than that of being in the presence of the Buddha in person. He never thought of the Karmapa as an ordinary human being in a material body of flesh and blood. Therefore, when the Karmapa asked him to do anything, be it either a spiritual or merely a secular task, in order to please Karmapa he wouldn't hesitate for a second to carry out his guru's wish. This was exactly how Naropa served the great Indian master Tilopa. When told, "Someone who is my disciple would jump off of this cliff!" Naropa simply jumped, without hesitation. His body was mutilated, but Tilopa restored it to its former state. Naropa underwent many such trials. In the same way, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was ready to sacrifice life and limb to carry out any wish the Karmapa had. This type of devotion is unique and people who knew him closely saw this.
As for Gyalwang Karmapa, he had the deepest trust in Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, since he saw him with pure perception as Chokgyur Lingpa or Guru Chöwang in person. Many times, while staying at Rumtek in my youth, I saw that whenever the Karmapa received a letter from my father, he immediately placed it on the top of his head before opening it. Being young, I wondered, "Why does he treat a letter from Daddy so special?" On the other hand, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche saw the Karmapa as the very embodiment of all the Kagyü masters - Vajradhara, Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa and Milarepa. In this way their relationship was as close as between spiritual father and son. This is what I know from spending time with the Karmapa at Rumtek.
When the 16th Karmapa needed a mantradhara (an accomplished Vajrayana practitioner) to perform certain ceremonies, he would demand that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche do it and no one else. For instance, when the Gyalwang Karmapa was severely ill in Delhi, a message was immediately sent to call Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche to come. In the biography of Chokgyur Lingpa, there is a prediction that "threatened by the subtle water-monster, perform the torma-expulsion based on Vidyadhara Dükyi Shechen." Accompanied by his eldest son, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche then went to Delhi to perform this profound ritual. My brother later told me that Rinpoche did the torma ritual very elaborately and with extreme attention to detail, for the sake of securing the Karmapa's well-being.
Among the masters of the Nyingma School, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was close to the late Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse, whose full name was Ngedön Tekchok Tenpey Gyaltsen, which means 'victory banner of the teachings of the supreme vehicle of definitive meaning.' I can best describe their relationship as one of indivisible minds - like father and son. This means that Dilgo Khyentse would ask my father to clarify any doubt or uncertainty. My father would use the opportunity to expand the expression of nondual awareness even further. The mutual respect and pure appreciation they had for each other was tremendous; Dilgo Khyentse regarded Tulku Urgyen as being Guru Chöwang and Tulku Urgyen regarded Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche as Manjushri.
Let me mention Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, the master who was like the life-pillar of the Nyingma School of Early Translation for our times. This learned and accomplished person received the empowerments and transmissions for Chokgyur Lingpa's terma Dzogchen Desum, the Three Sections of the Great Perfection, from our Rinpoche in Lhasa. Dudjom Rinpoche later said that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche "is the present heart-son of Chokgyur Lingpa, both in terms of Dharma and family lineage. He is someone whose power and strength of realization has fully bloomed. In terms of the Dzogchen levels, after having gone through the four visions he has arrived at the final stage known as 'the exhaustion of phenomena and concepts'. In other words, he is someone who has fully perfected the great strength of primordially pure awareness. Such a person is rare indeed." These are the kind of words a master who was both learned and accomplished used to describe our Rinpoche.
Likewise Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche had a deep appreciation for my father. He often expressed that in these times it is very rare to find someone with such a deep realization of Dzogchen. In this way many masters, some accomplished, some learned, offered lofty words of praise. But how did Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche behave? He always partook of simple food, wore simple clothing, and had a simple low seat.
The main monastery he built was Pal Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling and upon its completion he invited Rangjung Rigpey Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, to come and confer all the empowerments and transmissions of the Kagyü Ngakdzö, the Vajrayana Treasury of the Kagyü Lineage. His Holiness graciously did so. For the inauguration King Birendra of Nepal was invited in the position of a Dharmaraja to preside over the opening ceremony. The consecration was performed by the Gyalwang Karmapa himself in the company of numerous incarnate lamas.
Some years later Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche invited my root guru, the lord who encompasses all mandalas and buddha families, Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, to come here to the monastery to confer the empowerments, reading transmissions and instructions of Chokgyur Lingpa's termas in their entirety. In addition, His Holiness gave the Nyingtig Yabshi, the Four Branches of the Innermost Essence, which are regarded as the unique teachings of the Nyingma School. Not only that, Dilgo Khyentse also gave us the explanation of the Guhyagarbha Tantra and the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo. In short, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche invited His Holiness to give a tremendous amount of vast and profound teachings.
While living in this monastery, Pal Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling, our precious father transmitted the Dzogchen Desum several times, once to Depuk Rinpoche and once to Gomchen Khampa Rinpoche. Both Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche and I were fortunate to be present and receive it.
In the following years, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche gave instructions to hundreds and hundreds of foreigners. He transmitted the sacred Künzang Tuktig to many of them. Often these teachings took place in the form of the yearly seminar, at which time both he and Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche would teach. During the seminar, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche would introduce the participants to the Buddha's teachings. After that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche would give the pointing-out instruction to nondual awareness. There were many who experienced a taste of liberation, and many who recognized the nature of mind and gained a profound understanding.
As I personally wondered how this could be possible in such a large gathering, I have asked several great masters and this is what they told me. Once the strength of awareness is perfected through the path, automatically some signs occur, such as what are called the 'threefold blazing forth' and the 'threefold magnetizing.' These entail the blazing forth of experience, realization and samadhi. Due to the strength of his nondual awareness, the power of his experience and realization blazed forth and burned brightly. It then became possible that, as Mipham Rinpoche described, "Through the blessings of the realization of the ultimate lineage being transmitted to our hearts, may we obtain the great empowerment of awareness display."
Because of his realization of the ultimate lineage, the expression of awareness as blessings combined with the students' openness of faith. This coincidence enabled them, no matter their level or capacity, to recognize the nature of mind in a single instant. This evidently happened for hundreds and hundreds of students. This was Rinpoche's unique way of benefiting beings.
In addition to teachings, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche instigated the tradition of practicing the Ngakso Drubchen, as well as the Drubchen of White Amitayus once a year here at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery in the first month of every year. He also had khenpos come to teach at the monastic college.
The most treasured place for us Nyingma followers is the upper cave of Yangleshö, known as the Asura Cave. Here Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, together with my late mother, had a monastery constructed, along with a shrine hall and statues, and established a three-year retreat center. Once when he stayed there for a duration of three months, he gave all of us the transmissions for both Künzang Tuktig and Chetsün Nyingtig, as well as the instructions connected to them. He also generously gave the teachings on Chö and the preliminary practices, the ngöndro.
At his hermitage, Nagi Gompa, one of Rinpoche's last major deeds was to enlarge the shrine hall. He also built a new retreat center and an assembly hall for the nuns. Earlier on, in 1986, it was at Nagi Gompa that our precious father gave the Chokling Tersar to the main Kagyü tulkus headed by Kyabje Shamar Rinpoche, Kyabje Situ Rinpoche, Kyabje Jamgön Rinpoche, and Kyabje Gyaltsab Rinpoche. There was also a large gathering of tulkus and lamas, monks and nuns, as well as lay people from many countries, present. He bestowed the ripening empowerments, liberating instructions and supportive reading transmissions for the treasure teachings of Chokgyur Lingpa upon them all.
At Nagi Gompa he also gave the Dzogchen Desum several times. Once, when he invited my root guru, the vajra-holder Dilgo Khyentse, to come to Nagi Gompa to transmit the Dzogchen Desum, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, the Neten Chokling tulku, and many other lamas were also present. During this time Khyentse Rinpoche told him, "Only you hold the lineage for the Chöwang Gyatsa, the Hundred Chö Empowerments; you must give it to all these lamas." Rinpoche gave the transmission for all hundred empowerments. In this way, he gave the ripening empowerments to numerous masters of the present age. His last major transmission was to give the empowerments for the Nyingtig Tsapö, the Root Texts of the Innermost Essence, at the request of the retreat lamas and nuns at Nagi Gompa.
Throughout the years Rinpoche gave instructions in the ngöndro, the preliminary practice, and in semtri, guidance in understanding and training in the nature of mind, to both local people as well as foreigners. In short, he turned the wheel of the Dharma throughout his entire life. His life was filled with great deeds.
His other sons include Tsok-Nyi Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche, who have a different mother from Chökyi Nyima and I. For them he built a large monastery at the top of the hill above the Swayambhunath Stupa, including a beautiful shrine hall with representations of enlightened body, speech and mind.
In this way, under his guidance were Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, the Asura Cave Temple, Nagi Gompa, and Tsok-Nyi Rinpoche's Gompa. Everything at these temples was constructed and completed by Rinpoche personally.
Sometimes people wonder what Rinpoche's personal practice was, his main thing. About this we can only surmise from the way he guided us all. For instance, he would say, "No matter what you do, no matter what situation you are in - whether walking, sitting, eating or lying down - always suspend your attention within the nature of nondual awareness. That's it!" This was his main practice: to simply remain as naked dharmakaya awareness.
As a support for this, his primary sadhanas were Künzang Tuktig and Chetsün Nyingtig, practices he continued to apply until the end. In addition he treasured Longchenpa's Chö-ying Dzö, the Treasury of Dharmadhatu very highly. He was deeply fond of the masters of the Kagyü lineage, from Vajradhara, down through Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa and so forth. He regarded the Kagyü and Nyingma lineages as inseparable, and the practices of Mahamudra and Dzogchen as indivisible. This was how he practiced and this was also how he taught. To that I can bear witness.
One day, shortly before he passed away, I went in to see him and made this request, "We need to do some ceremonies to support your health. You have to remain for our sake, for the sake of the teachings and all beings." "You don't have to worry about me," he said smiling, "I won't die for a couple of years." Although his body was in quite bad shape and it must have been very uncomfortable, he could truly laugh and joke about the prospect of passing away, without any fear or worry. He was like a true yogi who is joyful and at peace even when on the verge of death - not a flicker of despair or attachment to anything. During his last months I spent a couple of weeks with him. Because of having perfected the view; he never showed any anxiety or fear whatsoever. This was the kind of sky-like yogi he was. I feel lucky to have met such a person.
Here are some of the essential points he taught us students before passing away. With each passing moment all of us approach death. Not a single person in this world lives forever. Once we are born it is sure that we must die. Nevertheless, if we practice in a genuine way, it is certain that there will be benefit in both this and following lives. This was one of his main teachings - inspiring his disciples to practice by making them face the fact of their mortality.
Once inspired by the reality of death, he would tell us, "Don't regard futile worldly aims as being meaningful!" In this way he would teach us the four mind-changings: the difficult to obtain freedoms and riches of a precious human rebirth, impermanence and death, causes and consequences of karmic actions, and the painful quality of samsaric existence.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's main structure for a teaching was the Four Dharmas of Gampopa which is identical with Longchen Rabjam's Four Teachings. These are turning one's mind to the Dharma, making one's Dharma practice the path, letting the path clarify confusion, and letting confusion dawn as wisdom. Connected with the fourth point, how to allow confusion to dawn as wisdom, he would then usually proceed with giving the pointing-out instruction.
The essence of all Buddhist teachings is the pith instructions of Dzogchen. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's style of giving these instructions was concise, simple, and comprehensible, with a gentle aptness warm with blessings. This was the way in which he could communicate the profound essence of the Dharma and to point out the nature of mind to an entire gathering of people simultaneously, ensuring that the stream of their being became temporarily liberated. This is the outcome of having reached perfection in the view and in this he was unmatched.
He would often tell his followers, "Everything is impermanent, and no fleeting thing is worthwhile to pursue. Therefore practice the Dharma in an authentic way and this will surely help you, both now and later." To practice the Dharma was his main teaching and testament!
Rather than filling up a billion universes with pure gold and giving them to Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, he would be more pleased if you would simply apply yourself wholeheartedly to spiritual practice. Because that is how each sentient being can reach enlightenment.
Once I asked him about the most important practice for myself and other followers. He replied, "Regard devotion and compassion as the most vital! Here, devotion means that if you follow the Kagyü teachings, then regard your root guru as Vajradhara, or as Marpa or Milarepa. If you follow the Nyingma lineage, then regard your teacher as Samantabhadra, Garab Dorje, Shri Singha, or Longchen Rabjam, in person."
He would often emphasize that devotion and compassion are indispensable to recognize the nature of mind when having it pointed out. Many times he quoted "emptiness suffused with compassion." There is a famous saying, "A closed-up person gives rise to no good qualities, just like a burned seed will never sprout." Once you have the openness of faith, seeing the guru who bestows the profound instructions as a buddha in person, then it is possible for the transmission of the ultimate lineage to take place by introducing the nature of realization, and so to recognize nondual awareness without a flicker of doubt. So regard devotion to be of vital importance.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche also said, "All sentient beings without a single exception have been, and therefore are, our own parents. Cultivate all-encompassing compassion! In our Vajrayana tradition, devotion and compassion are regarded as the most important." About samaya, he said, "Once you embark on Vajrayana practice, you become like a snake in a bamboo shaft: there are only two ways to go - up or down. This is an analogy for the great advantage or great risk. Please remember that devotion and compassion are like the safety-line to ensure that you reach realization and liberation through the Vajrayana teachings." I feel these are his last words of advice to me.
He also told me that future disciples who want to practice the Chokling Tersar, especially the teachings of Barchey Künsel and Künzang Tuktig, must go through the complete path of the preliminary practices(ngöndro), the main part, and the additional practices. Even if one never practiced anything other than the ngöndro, it would still be enough. And why? It is because the ngöndro is even more profound than the main part. The reason is that we need to purify our obscurations and gather the accumulations. The person who sincerely goes through the 'four times one hundred-thousand practices' will purify physical misdeeds by means of bowing down, verbal misdeeds by means of the Vajrasattva mantra, mental misdeeds by means of the mandala offerings, and their combination by means of Guru Yoga. We definitely need to purify the obscurations of our misdeeds. It might be possible to glimpse the nature of emptiness without any purification, but due to our past karma and temporary circumstances, this glimpse gets covered up again and forgotten. Don't delude yourselves; please apply yourselves wholeheartedly to the ngöndro practices. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche said this over and over again.
Once you allow these preliminary practices to take effect by purifying your obscurations, then automatically you can recognize the nature of mind and your realization of the view will unfold further and further.
Another important point he mentioned was this, "Tell all your disciples to keep their view as high as the sky but to be as careful in what they do as tsampa (barley flour)." Some may convince themselves that they have an incredibly high view. They might feel that it is to such an extent that they feel no great need to worry about the consequences of their actions. That is definitely not all right. Look at Rinpoche's example; he never drank alcohol and lived with completely pure discipline. In the same way, no matter how high your view is, to the same extent you should be more gentle and courteous; never be frivolous and crude. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche continued, "Tell your students to go through the ngöndro first and then carry on with the main part of practice."
That was one point. Another was, "Tell them that all vajra friends in the future will go towards enlightenment as one group, as a single mandala. Therefore keep harmony, be kind to each other and observe the precepts with purity. Then the incredibly profound teachings of Vajrayana will take effect."
These are some of the last points my precious father told me and besides this I don't have much to say. Let me just add these additional words of his advice: "Look really well into the nature of your minds. This is the essence of all the Dzogchen teachings. First recognize, resolve on that, and then gain confidence therein. It is not enough to only recognize the nature of mind; we need to develop the strength of this recognition. But only developing some strength is not enough either, we must attain stability. That's it! In short, practice well so that you become fully trained. Generate even more devotion and compassion than you already have, because this will allow your experience and realization to naturally expand. This is what all your students should be told."
Even though our precious father's mind has dissolved into and remains as the dharmakaya expanse of primordial purity, he can still continually be aware of whatever sentient beings are doing. So don't be deceitful! Don't discontinue the preliminary practices and recitations that you did while he was alive, just because you think you may not have to be accountable from now on. Continue your individual practices. Always mingle your minds with his, no matter what practices you are doing; be it the accumulation and purification practices of the ngöndro, meditation training or any other practice. Then they will deepen further and further.
I feel I should tell you, his followers, this as well: Whoever personally received the pointing out instruction from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche is extremely fortunate. This is like having the end of the golden garland of the lineage placed in your hand. If you also bring this instruction into experience through practice, then it is certain your guru will continue to behold you from the unmanifest dharmadhatu. The true guru will awaken from within your heart. It is said, "the guru is not outside but within." This means that you are face to face with the true guru the same moment you recognize the nature of mind. Please understand this!
To the rest of you who connected to Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche through his books, I would like to say the following. Don't concentrate only on the words on the pages! Turn your attention onto itself and look into the nature of your mind! In a moment of devotion or compassion, if you simply allow your mind to mingle indivisibly with the guru's, you can truly understand the Dzogchen teachings. That would be truly excellent!
My older brother, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche is now reaching maturity. He studied and trained well at Rumtek. He received numerous empowerments and transmissions of the Kagyü teachings from Rangjung Rigpey Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, and from Kalu Rinpoche. Later on, both of us received the great Treasury of Precious Termas, the entire Nyingtig Yabshi and Tsapö from Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. We received the terma teachings of Chokgyur Lingpa from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Every year Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche gives teachings during the seminars and retreats. He plants the seeds of the Dharma in innumerable people from many different countries. Accepting him as teacher, while keeping pure samaya without deceit, will help fulfill all Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche wishes.
Concerning myself, I am someone who definitely has no vast learning, high realization, or deep meditation. I only have the mere title of being an incarnation of Chokgyur Lingpa which was forced upon me by the Karmapa. That's really all. Still, I will certainly try my best to follow the last words of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche´s advice on developing further devotion and compassion, and training in recognizing the nature of mind.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's other sons, Tsok-Nyi Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche, will also follow their father's command to practice. By the means of Chokgyur Lingpa's terma teachings, I expect and wish that they will benefit a great number of people.
To summarize, since there is no need for me to go on and on, please practice well. Remember that impermanence will catch up with all of us one day. Make sure that when that day comes you have already attained complete fearlessness! It is best if you can get out of this life. Otherwise, when reborn as a dog, a snake, or some other life form among the six classes of beings, how much chance will you have to receive teachings? What kind of connection can you form with a true teacher? What opportunity will you have to practice a spiritual path? Think honestly about this. The feeling of dread will make you fully appreciate having met such a great master in this life. How incredibly fortunate to have received such eminent instructions, connected with the most excellent teaching, the Great Perfection. You are in the situation of holding the end of the pure golden garland of the lineage. Please don't disregard or cast away this precious connection! Don't occupy yourself only with the pursuit of food and clothing, wealth and luxuries! Don't chase only after power and fame!
Wholeheartedly, entrust your innermost aims to the pure, genuine practice of the Great Perfection. With the devotion of seeing your guru as a buddha in person, receive the four empowerments, mingle your minds and remain as the state of indivisible space and awareness. That is the most meaningful way to spend this or any future life. All of Rinpoche´s students, please fully apply yourself in this way.
On the one hand I feel incredibly depressed about Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche´s passing, because he has gone, his mind dissolved into the realm of dharmadhatu. On the other hand, when I think about what he did, it seems that he was able to fulfill all his aims and complete all his activities. He did impart all his oral instructions, empowerments and transmissions to his heart sons and followers. He also completed the construction of several monasteries, temples and retreat centers.
His last deed was to sit up in the vajra posture, placing his hands on his knees like Longchen Rabjam. Then from 2:15 am until the following night he remained in samadhi until his mind expanded into the all-pervasive realm of dharmadhatu. Thinking about this I cannot feel worried. And why? Because I know that the essence of what he taught was to practice the Great Perfection, that's it! I also know that sooner or later I must leave this body, just as he did. This makes me feel more inspired and brave.
Some people feel at an utter loss, thinking, "My guru is gone!" Don't make yourself depressed and downcast! Uplift your spirits! Appreciate that your master's passing away is a direct pointing out instruction revealing the impermanence of all things. Unlike merely speaking of mortality, instead this teaching is felt very acutely in our hearts. Understand that likewise with each moment, we are a step closer to death and use every available day to practice sincerely.
As if our precious father were still alive, continue practicing in exactly the same way then your experience and realization will blaze forth, your vitality and merit will increase, and you will gain good results. Don't despair, "Now I have no teacher; now there is no one from whom to receive teachings!" This is not true; you already have received teachings. It is our responsibility not to forget and cast away what we received. You personally must persevere in practice; nobody else can do it for you. There is really no benefit from receiving teachings if we don't practice them. Take the instructions to heart, assimilate them within your being, and use them to tame your rigid and unruly tendencies. Continuously deepen your strength of devotion and compassion, because then you will surely be face to face with the view of the Great Perfection. This is what all the great masters I have met agreed on - the Gyalwang Karmapa, Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, the vajra holder Kyabje Khyentse Rinpoche, Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, and my father as well.
All these masters from whom I received so many teachings and empowerments demonstrated the reality of impermanence by dissolving into the dharmakaya realm, showing that we too must one day die. Therefore personally apply what your teacher taught you, expand your devotion and compassion, and practice uninterruptedly, be it day or night. By truly applying ourselves to the teachings, we are on the path to buddhahood. However, it is up to us whether or not we follow it.
You received the teachings; now it's up to you to practice. Please do so, before it is too late. Please don't just remain heartbroken and depressed. Try your best to practice the instructions in a trusting and loving way; that will please the guru. Pleasing him will help dispel obstacles for the rest of our lives. We will be able to open up for deeper levels of insight. At death, surely it will enable us to proceed to the Glorious Copper Colored Mountain, where we can again be united within a single mandala. This, along with my best wishes, was what I wanted to say to all of you.
Finally, during the Grand Kagyü Prayer Meeting in Lumbhini, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche returned for a day to spend time with his father. While we were sitting together he told us that he had been offered a large acreage of land in Lumbhini. He asked if Rinpoche would please make a divination and a final decision concerning that piece of land.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche responded, "This project will be excellent! Lumbhini is the place where our teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni, took birth. I am very pleased you obtained the land. It would be excellent to erect a large temple hall, at least a hundred feet across, with a statue of the Buddha." Joining his palms, he continued, "I pray that it will contribute to peace for all beings in the world, and especially to the peace in the country of Nepal." This was the last concrete will he gave us.
To fulfill this last wish, we will try our best to quickly arrange for the construction of a large temple in Lumbhini, with a beautiful Buddha statue. We will raise the funds with the help of all our benefactors, and offer our services in fulfilling this aspiration.
On a more inner level, I will try my best to fulfill Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's wishes by staying some months in retreat at the sacred Asura Cave. While there I will practice the complete paths of Chokgyur Lingpa's termas Künzang Tuktig and Tukdrub Barchey Künsel. I will also practice the Chetsün Nyingtig. I will start with the ngöndro and continue through the main part, up to and including Trekchö and Tögal.
A while ago Tenga Rinpoche asked me to give the Chokling Tersar empowerments at his monastery. Recently I told my father who was sick at the time, "How can I possibly give those empowerments at Swayambhu when my thoughts are up here at Nagi Gompa? Would it be all right to postpone them for some time?" Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche replied, "No, you can't postpone them! You must give the empowerments! Uphold the lineage of Chokgyur Lingpa and spread his teachings. That is what I want you to do!" Therefore, when the 49 days of ceremonies are over, I will joyfully begin offering these empowerments. I feel extremely happy to do so, because I know it will please my guru who remains as the primordially pure state of dharmakaya.
This lineage of the Chokling Tersar that I have received from both Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, is like a garland of pure gold. It includes the great masters Karmapa Khakyab Dorje and Samten Gyatso. In front of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's kudung I have taken the vow to fulfill his wishes by upholding the ripening empowerments, liberating instructions, and supportive transmissions of this lineage to the best of my ability, wits, and understanding. This doesn't mean that I am some incredibly special person, advanced Dzogchen practitioner or the like, because I am not - it is just my aspiration.
May you all have good health and long lives, and be able to carry out your spiritual aspirations. May your experience and realization blaze forth, and may your minds be indivisible from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. This is the wish I have made in front of the kudung, Rinpoche.
Spoken by Tsoknyi
What I am going to tell here is the story of how Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche passed away, and I will do so in a simple and straightforward manner, which is in accordance with the Dharma - telling things as they are.
The first thing I would like to say is that in mundane terms, my three brothers and I, - Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Chokling Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche - are of course Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's sons, but that wasn't our main relationship with him. The predominant thought I had of him was that he was my spiritual teacher, my root guru, and I believe I am speaking for the others as well.
While alive and well Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche gave instructions on his main practice, Dzogchen and Mahamudra, to innumerable people,. We also received teachings from him; we regarded him as our guru. Honestly however, even though we knew that he would die one day, that everything comes to an end, I personally never pictured the day it would really happen. I was really struck when he actually passed away by one simple fact. Even such a great Dzogchen yogi dies - a realized practitioner, said by many other realized beings to have reached the 'culmination of awareness'. If even such a precious master, the guru for so many other great teachers, still departs having stopped breathing and leaving a material body behind - then what about ourselves?
When Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche expired both Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche and I were present. If I had been somewhere else and only heard about it, I may have felt differently. Yet being right there, present and witnessing it - the passing of such a great master - how can I help but think, "What about someone like myself? I haven't spent so many years in retreat; I haven't undergone so much intensive meditation training. Now I really have to practice! When even great masters pass away, I too really have to practice a lot! I must reach the level at which all delusion dissolves!" This kind of thought stayed acutely on my mind. Later Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche expressed that he also felt this way.
After Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche passed away, the Kagyü master Tenga Rinpoche came and offered the 'samadhi reminder.' After having expired, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche remained in tukdam, in samadhi, for about 15 hours. The end of tukdam is marked by the appearance of the white and red bodhichitta liquid. I don't have much experience with lamas remaining in tukdam. I haven't seen it much so I don't really know the difference between the presence and absence of tukdam. But this is what I saw: Rinpoche sat all the while as if he was just asleep, totally relaxed. Others also noticed this. During this time I presumed, and someone like me can only presume, that he must have been in the tukdam state.
The most remarkable thing for me personally, is what followed. Up until the white and red bodhichitta liquid began to gently flow out of his nostrils he had sat in exactly the same way - no change in skin color or position, no smell or the like, no stiffness, no swelling. I saw that within no more than 5 to 10 minutes after the liquids appeared, the body totally changed; both shape and color; the stiffening and signs of death appeared almost all of a sudden. This made me understand that there is indeed something called tukdam and that Rinpoche had remained in samadhi until that point. Otherwise there is no reason why his body wouldn't have undergone a gradual change, as is usually the case. What was obvious to all was that the body had remained unchanged for 15 hours and suddenly began to change.
What I wished to express above is that even a master as great as he still passes away and my experience of how he remained in tukdam. I will now explain something Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche had earlier told all of us several times. He said that the passing of great Dzogchen yogis shows itself in the weather outside. The sign of being liberated into the state of dharmakaya is a clear, cloudless sky.
Immediately prior to passing away Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche did not say or do anything spectacular - he simply relaxed into death. Besides sitting up several times within his last 15 minutes in a somewhat cross-legged posture, he didn't shout 'phat' or announce "Now I am dying," or anything of that sort. He departed in a very relaxed and gentle way.
In the early morning after he had passed away, I walked outside. There wasn't a cloud to be seen anywhere, not even a single, tiny cloud on the distant horizon. As I stood and looked out over the valley, which during a winter morning is often covered in fog, I saw no fog or mist. There was no pollution from dust particles; not even the slightest haze covered the sky over the valley. I saw only an utterly clear, brilliant sky. This sparkling pristine weather then lasted for several days.
On seeing this, I thought, "Our Rinpoche has passed away. Although his passing away only takes place on the relative plane, his state of realization is like this sky. Rinpoche's realization is like unobscured space, crystal clear. When all of us train in meditation, this is the state we should train in. This sky today is a perfect example to use as an illustration for Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's realization, for the state of primordial purity." On thinking this my admiration and appreciation for him and my trust and confidence grew even further.
The sign of realization that showed itself as an utterly clear sky, just like Rinpoche himself had said so often, gave me more appetite for meditation practice. I felt the confidence that we too can reach the result of realization that is unobscured like this sky.
I would like to remind everyone, and especially all those who received teachings from Rinpoche, that all of us sooner or later will have to leave this material body. We are not beyond that, no matter who we are, and there is a vast difference whether we have practiced or not. Let's assume that we are Buddhist practitioners, and that we wish to realize Rinpoche's awakened state of mind, the realization of primordial purity. When we supplicate Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and try to mingle our mind with his, indivisibly, we can then use the external sky as an example, thinking, "His realized mind is like pure space." It is this sky-like state of realization that we should bring into our practice.
I would like it if all his disciples in the future would take unobscured space as their reminder for mingling their minds with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. In this way a clear, cloudless sky becomes the symbol of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Please continue your practice so as to fulfill his wishes to the highest degree. Throughout all his teachings over the years, he has told us and all his other disciples, time and time again, that we should apply ourselves to the training. He repeatedly said that nothing lasts, least of all a human life.
One of the last topics we discussed with him was in connection with the yearly prayer meeting in Lumbhini. This year the Lumbhini Development Committee wanted to give us, meaning Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and his sons connected to Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, a large piece of land. So we asked him whether it would be wise to accept it, knowing about the obligation to build a temple. We were wondering whether a small temple would be enough. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's reply was, "Lumbhini was the first place at which our teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni appeared. It would be good to build a monastery with a shrine hall no less than 100 feet across, housing a large statue of the Buddha, the Tripitaka and the commentaries, and a substantial sangha." This was the last question of wider importance we raised before Rinpoche and this was his reply. Therefore, headed by Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, all four of us brothers with the assistance of the entire sangha will continue Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's activities, and fulfill his wishes, just as if he were still alive.
Concerning meditation practice, the teachings he gave us don't change whether or not he is among us. All of his disciples, please remember this: use the sky outside as a symbol for the primordially pure awakened state of mind, the realization of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Practice well. Motivate yourself with renunciation; for just like Rinpoche's, our material bodies must all die. It is not enough merely to chant words like 'primordial purity' - we still die.
One last thing, five days before he passed away I told him, "Rinpoche, you look so well these days! I think you will be fine for a while." He replied, "Really? Maybe that isn't such a great thing. My father and three uncles all looked very well their last few months, with radiant faces and a youthful complexion. In particular Samten Gyatso's white hair turned almost black before he died, and his teeth and nails had more luster and radiance. Maybe that was in their genes, or maybe it was a sign of good practice." Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche then continued to tell the story about how Samten Gyatso had instructed them to chant Jamgön Kongtrül's Calling The Guru from Afar when he passed away. He told how Samten Gyatso passed away with his eyes gazing into the sky. I asked, "Did Samten Gyatso also remain in tukdam?" "He did," Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche replied, "but just remaining in tukdam is in itself not that astonishing. In the case of someone who has trained in a contrived or intellectually constructed state of meditative concentration, it is also possible to remain in tukdam for quite a while. The true, genuine way is like this, without any need for deliberate meditation, ..." Rinpoche clapped his hands together and then opened the palms up wide ... "the very moment the white and red bodhichitta essences join together at the heart, there is an immediate instant of unconsciousness. But that doesn't necessarily last, it can open up again right away, without remaining as a closed-in state. That is what is meant by the famous quote, 'In one instant the difference is made; in one instant complete enlightenment is attained.' This is the moment a true yogi is liberated. This is the one moment he can really show off his capacity. Such awakening is not necessarily accompanied by rainbow lights, thunder or other spectacular things. Liberation into the state of dharmakaya is shown as a clear, cloudless sky."
Spoken by Mingyur
Our root guru Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche has passed away. When he left us, I was at Nagi Gompa. I felt that he wouldn't die right away. While in India, I received a message that he was seriously ill and so I rushed back to Nepal. During the following month Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's health had improved and he appeared so much better that I was comforted by the thought that he couldn't possibly leave us all of a sudden like this.
On the day he passed away, I went up to see him earlier in the day. However upon hearing that he was again ill and attended to by the physicians, I didn't go in to his room. Later, during the night of the 23rd of the Tibetan month, he suddenly died.
Now, when looking back, it seems to me that Rinpoche had somehow prepared to depart. He had hurried to arrange and complete various tasks. He had also told me a few things that, in hindsight, indicated that he would soon depart. Anyway, I felt that his death took place far too suddenly and I felt incredibly sad.
In mundane terms, he was my father, but from the spiritual perspective he was my root guru possessing the threefold kindness. Generally, you can distinguish between two types of teachings: Sutra, which includes both Hinayana and Mahayana, and Mantra. On the Hinayana level you regard the guru as a spiritual guide, as a Mahayana follower you perceive him as an emanation of the buddhas. As a Vajrayana practitioner you should see the guru as the embodiment of the very essence of all awakened ones. Based on this you receive the four empowerments through practicing guru yoga, following his command with trust and devotion, and observing the samayas of body, speech and mind. This is a very profound approach and the tantras teach that all the key points of Vajrayana can be condensed into guru devotion. Therefore, in terms of the Dharma, I feel that he was immensely precious and kind.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche passed away quite suddenly, but after he died he remained in tukdam for quite a while, longer than the sun was in the sky. There are many different levels of tukdam. Some practitioners can remain in tukdam due to their training in mundane shamatha and vipashyana; some due to proficiency in the visualization practices of the development stage. The length the tukdam lasts also varies; some may last for a month, some for a few weeks, and others a couple of days. Our Rinpoche remained for just over a day. The end of the tukdam was quite amazing; we saw the two types of bodhichitta liquid, both white and red, flow out of his nostrils, something that is said not to happen to just anyone. I felt it was quite extraordinary. Red drops, deep red like blood, appeared from the left nostril, and totally clear liquid, but unlike mucous, came out of the right one. The tantric root texts explain that the red and white bodhichitta will appear from the nostrils of great masters to mark the conclusion of the tukdam and this is what happened.
As for the length of tukdam, it is said that a person who hasn't 'perfected the strength of experience and realization' can sometimes remain for quite a while. On the other hand, someone who has already reached perfection in this doesn't necessarily remain for that long. Our Rinpoche's tukdam didn't last especially long.
It is my general impression that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was not only extremely adept in Vajrayana but also especially accomplished in the essential practice of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. The journey through the Dzogchen path is marked by stages of realization, each having a certain name, and I have the trust that Rinpoche had reached quite a high level.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche himself, though, never spoke of his realization; he lived very humbly, in the style of a hidden yogi. He always praised other masters while avoiding any mention of himself.
It is often said that one cannot really judge the depth of realization of an emanation of the buddhas and bodhisattvas solely from his or her behavior. If we don't reflect deeply in our hearts then even the Buddha can be seen as just another human being; looking like ourselves. In fact, there were even some people who perceived the Buddha as being ugly. Our impression and experience of someone are often colored by our mistaken ways of perceiving. On the other hand, someone with pure, unmistaken perception would see the Buddha as a pure divine being. Personally, I trust that Rinpoche was a deeply realized being. I have heard that both Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and also Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche said that our Rinpoche wasn't an ordinary person, but someone who had reached the level of realization called 'culmination of awareness.'
As Rinpoche's disciples and followers, especially now, we should try our best to be in harmony and avoid misunderstandings. The most essential thing is to focus on the instruction we received from him, and persevere in our practice. This is the best way to offer him our service and to fulfill his wishes.
In general all things are impermanent; you really cannot find any single thing that lasts and can be relied on. Any material thing that comes into being, no matter how fine and costly, will perish; it is only a matter of time. There is nothing of lasting substance in this world. The only thing in which we can find lasting value is the practice of the sacred Dharma, and your accomplishment in practice will surely help you find happiness in both this and in following lives.
After your teacher's passing, you cannot help but remember him. Please use this vivid memory to remind you of his instructions, of looking into the nature of your mind. We should try our best to mingle our mind with his and let be in equanimity. Honestly, the guru's awakened state is already inseparable from our basic nature. Seen from the perspective of ultimate truth, our minds are in essence indivisible. This is a reality we need to perceive; we need to "know this to be as it is." Unless this becomes part of our direct experience, the fact of our indivisible nature will not help us. The outcome of practice results from training in this, from making use of the actual experience of this fact.
Please see it like this: the guru's mind is empty; our minds are empty too. The guru's mind is cognizant; our minds are cognizant as well. In the guru's mind these two qualities are an indivisible unity; in our minds they are equally an indivisible unity. The very moment you acknowledge the reality of this, then your mind is said to have mingled with and be indivisible from the guru's mind.
It is said that all buddhas are identical in essence. When appearing in order to influence sentient beings, they are perceived in all possible ways, some peaceful, some wrathful. They may be seen by sentient beings in all these various ways, but in essence they are still identical.
The awakened state holds no notion of 'I and them." For instance, the principal yidam deities of the Nyingma school of Secret Mantra are known as Kabgye, Gongdü and Phurpa. It sometimes happens that while a practitioner is realizing them through sadhana practice, that he or she will have a vision of a yidam deity of the Sarma schools such as Gyalwa Gyamtso, Chakrasamvara or Vajra Varahi. It also happens that someone supplicating Padmasambhava will have a vision of and receive blessings from Buddha Shakyamuni. This is because all buddhas are identical in essence. One doesn't have to abandon one yidam in order to accomplish another. All the tantras agree on this.
In addition to mingling our minds with the guru, it is of vital importance to keep your samayas pure. We practitioners should make sure that our precious link to Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche does not get damaged or broken.
After Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche passed away, the sky was incredibly clear for a couple of days. There wasn't a single cloud. Among the various signs that accompany the death of a great master, the tantras mention that the most eminent is a cloudless sky. Vajrayana practices fall into two main categories, those with and those without attributes, development and completion stages. After the passing of a master who had focused on practice with attributes there may be visible signs such as rainbows, sounds and various relics known as dung and ringsel. But, the Dzogchen tantras say that, a master whose main practice was beyond attributes will show no other sign but a clear sky. The tantras of both the Sarma and Nyingma traditions agree on this. So I feel that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's death being accompanied by an unusually clear sky with brilliant sunshine is a most amazing sign.
Though at first, I was heart-broken and miserable, later, upon remembering his instructions and the advice he had given, I felt that all things are unavoidably impermanent and it won't help to hold on painfully. Rather, when letting be into the equanimity in which the guru's mind and one's own are indivisible, you can be totally inseparable from him. In this way, while supplicating him it makes no difference where you are, or whether or not the guru has passed away, you will still receive his blessings. It doesn't happen that his blessings are greater when he is alive and diminish after he passes away. Anyway, that's how I understand it.
Also, please remember that it is not only our Rinpoche who passed away; everyone does, even Buddha Shakyamuni didn't remain.
The main task ahead for us is nothing other than continuing to keep his instructions in mind, applying them, and training in the meditation he taught. Without undergoing the training, we leave this life alone, unaccompanied by any of our possessions, even if we are a worldly king with enormous wealth and luxuries. At that moment none of our possessions can help us in any way whatsoever. We cannot take them along, not even as much as a mote of dust. When the spirit leaves the body, nothing sticks, like pulling a hair out of butter. In that situation - alone, unprotected and defenseless - what can help us other than the Dharma practice we did?
From this perspective it is so important not to give in to our tendencies of being lazy or postponing practice until tomorrow, next month or next year. While thinking, "I'll practice tomorrow or the next day," life runs out and one day it's time to die. In death our only support is our personal practice, so remember this: shorten your plans and projects. It is much better to think, "I may die soon anyway, so what's the use of planning to do all these tasks. If I don't practice now, the day will come when I'll be sorry."
By not projecting plans and involvements very far into the future, we are able to practice full time, like Milarepa who said, "There is no end to worldly pursuits; they only end when you stop." As long as we are involved in all of kinds of actions and dealings, they never end. The only way is to make a clean break, discontinuing all these preoccupations. While caught up in our projects, doing this and that, one thing after the other, we may feel, "I better do this! Then I will do such and such! That is what will improve my whole situation!" Striving to score small successes in this way, we disguise the fact that we are just being lazy.
It would be much better to just make up our minds, sincerely and decisively, by acknowledging that our minds are fickle and appearances are seductive. It won't do to simply continue in our present fashion. These days we still have incredibly precious instructions at hand which, when applied, enable us to awaken to true and complete enlightenment within this same body and life. Nevertheless, since most of us spend our time in indolence and pointless activities, ignoring the importance of genuine practice, there are only a few truly accomplished masters.
On the other hand, someone who practices wholeheartedly can be enlightened in a single lifetime; there is definitely no doubt about that. If you can just apply yourself to the practice in an authentic way while in retreat for three years, it is taught that you can reach the level known as 'seeing the innate nature in actuality.' We still possess these extremely precious instructions. Keeping this in mind, I wish to spend the rest of my life focused on meditation practice. I feel that I must really 'equalize life and practice.' This is the deep wish that has sprung up in my heart. Doing so, I feel, is what will fulfill Rinpoche's wishes, and it is also what will be of greatest benefit for all sentient beings.
There is no end to sentient beings; they are infinite in number, like space is infinite. You will always have the chance to benefit beings, whenever you feel ready to do so, on a small or large scale.
I would like to say this to Rinpoche's disciples and followers around the world: Now that our guru has passed away, don't just sit around being depressed. Remember his instructions and try to fulfill his wishes. Make supplications, mingle your minds with his, and remain in equanimity. In accordance with your individual capacities, try your best to continue practicing what he taught you as much as you are able.
It is best if you can equalize life and practice That means cast away all worldly involvements out of deep-felt renunciation for all of samsara. Furthermore, trust in the Three Jewels, have sincere confidence in the consequences of karmic deeds, and the reality of past and future lives. If you can practice in this way your mind will be indivisible from the guru's and within this lifetime, you will be able to 'capture the royal throne of the primordially pure Great Perfection.'
The next best is to act in a truthful and honest way, to live in accordance with spiritual principles. From time to time, take the opportunity to practice more intensively in a retreat situation. You can alternate in this way.
At least, you should try to remember what your guru told you, as often as possible, be truthful and honest in whatever you do. Keep a good heart and regularly try to do things that are helpful to others. Cultivate the attitudes of love and compassion. Be gentle and kind. And make supplications to the guru.
Any of these modes of living will please your guru and, if you do not reach enlightenment in this very life, then you will either at the moment of death or in the bardo. At least you are assured the attainment of buddhahood in one of your future lives. In short, one way or another, you are not far away from the omniscient state of a buddha.
In essence an enlightened master remains unchanged. The aging, falling sick and passing away, exists mainly in our experience. It is mainly a drama played out for us, taking place in our minds, whereas these events have no tangible substance in his experience. Whether he is dead or alive, the natural face of his awareness remains unchanged. This is not evident to people like us. We look at him and see him as just a human being; he needs to eat, we also need to eat. He moves about, we also move about. He needs to go to the toilet, we also need to go. So aren't we the same?
No, we aren't. In Rinpoche's experience, his identity is not made out of a material body of flesh and blood. This is hard to understand for ordinary people like myself. But actually, that's how it is. If we train ourselves in devotion, while deeply trusting that this is his real nature, then there is no doubt that we will receive his blessings. From this angle, the vital point is to have trust in and devotion for your guru.
In addition, when you gain full confidence in the consequences of karmic actions, then you cannot possibly avoid wanting to practice with perseverance. Without this trust in karma and rebirth, it is easy to become doubtful about the value of spiritual practice. Then no matter how much practice you try to do it will only end up leading in the wrong direction. So please gain confidence in the law of karma.
How do we gain such trust? First of all, our truly and perfectly enlightened Buddha did teach about the consequences of karmic actions. He taught that events and phenomena take place in ways we can perceive directly or infer, and in ways that are obvious, hidden, or totally hidden. Direct perception is what ordinary people like ourselves experience through our five senses - seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching. Hidden phenomena are what take place out of the reach of our direct sense experience.
Still we can understand the experience of phenomena based on some sign through which we can infer or conclude a causal relationship. In philosophy this is how we reason that something is empty of a concrete identity, and how we can reason sufficiently to establish the fact that all things never really come into existence. Any normal person uses this same principle of inference; for instance, when seeing smoke we can infer with certainty that there must be fire below. The fire is not seen, heard, tasted, smelled or felt, but still we can be certain that there is fire. This is how we can establish certainty that all things are emptiness.
The Buddha taught that karma and rebirth are hidden phenomena. Therefore they are not evident nor something we can perceive directly. In addition to the five senses, we have a sixth, the capacity of mind. If you want to bring karma and rebirth within the reach of your mental capacity, you need to be clairvoyant. Clairvoyance is of two types: conditioned and unconditioned. Conditioned clairvoyance can be obstructed in various ways and therefore some things remain out of reach. Some people, whether Buddhists or non-Buddhists, have the ability to perceive where other beings take rebirth and can also read other people's thoughts, often to amazing degrees, even when it takes place far away. Due to some karmic reason there are also things they cannot perceive.
Noble bodhisattvas on the higher levels of realization, the bhumis, possess some level of unconditioned clairvoyance. True unconditioned clairvoyance is only present in the mind of a buddha, and that is the only way to have totally unimpeded perception of karma and rebirth. People like ourselves cannot perceive directly. But if something is out of our reach, does that necessarily mean that it doesn't exist? No it doesn't. Therefore, the Buddha gave us some tools of reasoning to enable us to establish certainty about the reality of past and future lives.
Everyone can agree that rice sprouts from planting rice seeds; this can be verified by everyone's direct experience. Also nothing other than barley can grow from a barley grain. This is simply the nature of things. Within this perspective, when you inquire into what this perceiving mind really is, you find that it is something entirely different. Mind has no physical form, nor is it like immaterial space. It has a different nature.
Apart from mind nothing can be the cause of mind or produce a moment of consciousness. When we try to find the primeval cause of mind, there is no 'first' cause to find. As you go back through each preceding moment, you can reasonably conclude that mind is beginningless. Once you convince yourself that consciousness has no beginning, then it is possible to feel confident about the existence of past lives and consequently of future lives as well.
When I was young I spent years learning and training. After my first year of studies I had gained a certain level of education, and if I continue until I have studied for 30 years I will be regarded as being quite learned. If we continue learning and training until the end of our life, then our knowledge will increase correspondingly. From this viewpoint, if we have trained in emptiness through many lives already, then this training does progress, and it continues to develop until the final perfection at the level of buddhahood.
Also it is impossible for mind, or a moment of consciousness, to be without a cause; just as it is impossible to have a crop without seed. Without a cause, mind would be either totally and forever nonexistent like space, or forever existent as a fixed entity. Reasoning in these ways we can gain some confidence about karma and rebirth. If positive, the karma we create leads towards the higher realms and enlightenment, and, if negative, towards the lower realms. This is an unfailing law of consequence.
Once we recognize the nature of mind and realize it in actuality, then from that perspective it becomes evident that this nature is not subject to karmic consequences, has no physical form, sound, smell, taste or texture, and doesn't arise, dwell or cease. In short, it has a quality of being perfectly and primordially pure. By simply relaxing into this state, you will gradually perfect its strength and attain stability, and finally, when reaching buddhahood, you are truly beyond karma, beyond benefit and harm. At that point all suffering is permanently depleted, and you have arrived at the citadel of immortality. This is the attainment of the mahasukhakaya, the body of great bliss. This bliss is unlike the ordinary sensation of pleasure, which is conditioned and fleeting; this great bliss is inconceivable and unending. At the same time, buddhahood has the quality of total omniscience, excluding not even a speck of dust.
Even though space is endless and the number of sentient beings is infinite, the omniscient knowledge of a buddha sees their life-spans, deeds and attitudes in completeness. It is like knowing every single leaf on all the trees in the world. While perceiving all these states of mind, a buddha holds no conceptual thoughts. That's the kind of attainment we can reach if we practice. It's called the inconceivable nature.
Please keep these points in mind. Continue your practice, at best by equalizing life and practice. Next best is to live in accordance with the Dharma. In the very least, give your assistance to spiritual endeavors, help in the teaching of the Dharma and in the maintenance of Rinpoche's monasteries. In this way, do what is meaningful in preserving the Buddhadharma and brings benefit to all beings.
Thank you very much.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche passed away on the 13th of February at his hermitage Nagi Gompa on the southern slope of the Shivapuri mountain. He was born in eastern Tibet on the tenth day of the fourth Tibetan month in 1920. He was recognized by H.H. Khakyab Dorje, the 15th Gyalwa Karmapa, as the reincarnation of the Guru Chöwang Tulku, as well as the emanation of Nubchen Sangye Yeshe, one of the chief disciples of Padmasambhava. Guru Chöwang the First (1212-70 AD) was one of the five Tertön Kings, the major revealers of secret texts hidden by Guru Padmasambhava.
Tulku Urgyen's main monastery was Lachab Gompa in Nangchen, Eastern Tibet. He studied and practiced the teachings of both the Kagyü and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Among the four greater Kagyü Schools, his family line was the main holder of the Barom Kagyü Lineage.
In the Nyingma tradition, Tulku Urgyen held the complete teachings of the last century's three great masters: Terchen Chokgyur Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye. He had an especially close transmission for the Chokling Tersar, a compilation of all the empowerments, reading transmissions and instructions of Padmasambhava's teachings, which were rediscovered by Terchen Chokgyur Lingpa, his great-grandfather. Rinpoche passed on this tradition to the major regents of the Karma Kagyü lineage as well as to many other lamas and tulkus.
The close relationship between the lineage of the Karmapas and Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche arose from the fact that the 14th Karmapa was one of the main recipients of Chokgyur Lingpa's termas, receiving many empowerments from the tertön himself. Tulku Samten Gyatso, the grandson of Chokgyur Lingpa and the root guru of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, offered the same transmission to the 15th Karmapa Khakyab Dorje. The 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpey Dorje, was offered the major transmissions of the Chokling Tersar by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. In addition, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche also felt fortunate to pass on the transmission for the important Dzogchen Desum, the Three Sections of the Great Perfection, to both His Holiness Karmapa and Dudjom Rinpoche, as well as numerous tulkus and lamas of the Kagyü and Nyingma lineages.
Tulku Urgyen established six monasteries and retreat centers in the Kathmandu region. The most important of these are at Boudhanath, the site of the Great Stupa, and another at the Asura Cave, where Padmasambhava manifested the Mahamudra Vidyadhara level. He lived at Nagi Gompa Hermitage above the Kathmandu Valley. Under his guidance were more than 300 monks and nuns. He stayed in retreat for more than 20 years, including four three-year retreats.
In 1980 Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, accompanied by his eldest son Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, went on a world tour through Europe, the United States and South East Asia, giving teachings on Dzogchen and Mahamudra to many people. Every year since then a seminar on Buddhist study and practice has been held at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery in essential meditation practice, combining the view and meditation of Dzogchen, Mahamudra and the Middle Way. Less concerned with the systematic categories of topics of knowledge or with the logical steps of philosophy, Tulku Urgyen directly addressed the listener's present state of mind. Among his published works in English are Repeating the Words of the Buddha and Rainbow Painting.
The over-all background of the teachings of
Dzogchen and Mahamudra, which are tremendously vast and profound, can be
condensed into simple statements of immediate relevance to our present
state of mind. Tulku Urgyen was famed for his profound meditative
realization and for the concise, lucid and humorous style with which he
imparted the essence of the 84,000 sections of the Buddhist teachings. His
method of teaching was 'instruction through one's own experience.' Using
few words, this way of teaching points out the nature of mind, revealing a
natural simplicity of wakefulness that enables the student to actually
touch the heart of the Buddha's wisdom mind.
|This collection of
heartfelt advice from lamas associated with Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
and his heart sons, given in response to numerous requests, was prepared
by his students with the hope that it will strengthen the link we all have
with him and hasten the swift rebirth of our precious teacher.
Compiled and translated by Erik Pema Kunsang. Edited by Michael tweed.
© Rangjung Yeshe Translations &
P.O. Box 1200