Sunday, March 01, 2015

On translating the Words of the Buddha - Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche’s message

A translation of the Tibetan part of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche’s message to the Khyentse Foundation Translation Conference - Translating the Words of the Buddha, March, 2009.

Tashi delek to all of you present here.

Incomparable protectors of the Buddhadharma and sentient beings, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, Jigmey Khyentse Rinpoche, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Doobum Rinpoche, and other incarnated lamas here;
Precious khenpos whose nature is abundant in the wealth of the three trainings, masters of explaining the statements and insights;
Translators, who have arrived from every direction out of deep trust in and appreciation for the Buddha’s teachings – formerly known as “bilinguals” but these days there are many who are well versed in even four or up to eights languages;
Especially I send my warmest greetings to all of you for regarding this conference as important and making the effort to participate.

I regard this conference, motivated out of the wish to benefit the Buddhadharma and sentient beings as of extreme importance. Already I offered you a brief letter translated into English. But since Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche phoned me and asked that I give speech, there are a few more words to add.
First, as I reflected on the letter I sent, perhaps I was too presumptuous and bold. Nevertheless, we are at a time when the Buddhadharma hangs by a thin thread.
It was the outcome of the combined and noble efforts of the Tibetan kings, ministers and great lamas, and also the common people, that in the this world as a whole, but in the snowy ranges of Tibet in particular, that the great Kangyur containing our gracious Buddha’s words, was translated from Sanskrit and other languages into Tibetan, and consists of more than one hundred large volumes. The authentic treatises explaining their intent and meaning fill more than two hundred volumes. These translated collections still exist.
Not only are they available, but they were translated from Sanskrit and other Indian scriptures without distortion, with precise attention to detail, so as to ensure the highest possible degree of quality.
The existence of the Buddha’s Words in this world is thanks to the former Dharma kings, the panditas, translators and people. I feel deep gratitude for their kindness.

At the occasion of this conference, I reflect on what our most important wealth is—for Buddhists in general and especially for Tibetan Buddhist. It comes down the Dharma spoken by our gracious Buddha. I believe we all share this understanding. There is no need for me to elaborate on this, no more than raising a lamp while the sun has risen, as a Tibetan saying goes.
We see these days a growing interest in the Buddhadharma in all parts of the world. And the source of the Buddhist teachings, everywhere, is the words personally spoken by the Buddha.
These spoken words were recorded and preserved in various languages—Pali and Sanskrit, Chinese, and many others. But for the most part, the largest amount is in Tibetan. We have the general vehicles, the paramita vehicle, and especially the vajra vehicle of Secret Mantra consisting of the four sections of tantra. The Dharma preserved in the Tibetan language is the most complete and of a consistent high quality.
Not only were this great body of scriptures translated, but the lineages of empowerment, of reading transmission, and of explanation, together with the pith instructions, are still alive and being given.
In the past there have been an untold number of accomplished and learned masters, and many live this very day.

I mentioned that we live in a time when the Buddhadharma hangs by a thin thread. Many of these masters also fled when I left Tibet and most of them are no longer. Imagine how it would be if Khunu Lama was still alive! Or Deshung Rinpoche, Bomta Khen Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro! Likewise, how would it be if our lord of refuge Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche were still among us! Or Kyabje Tri Rinpoche who recently passed on. These and many other masters, both learned and realized, are no longer alive. When thinking of this I feel a deep loss and sadness.
It is for these reasons I feel strongly that we must commence the task of translating the great Kangyur as soon as possible. First of all into English and then into the other languages. This is of utmost importance. I believe that all of you at this conference share this wish.

To our great fortune, the Dalai Lama is still alive and well. Below him we have the throne holding masters of the four major schools. We have authentic masters well versed in all the importance topics, both sutra and tantra. They can resolve our questions. They can advice. It is therefore important to translate as soon as possible.
For the translation tasks, first make a solid plan and agree on it. There is a need for patrons to provide the means living and the equipment—the paper and ink of today. And also the page layout and book design.

Please understand that this task is to translate the wealth we share in common. There is no need for “them” and “us”. We should therefore all make effort. Since we all work to assist the Buddhadharma and sentient beings—and there is no greater way to serve than this translation work. We should all fill our hearts with courage and appreciation for this task.
Foremost are you, the Rinpoches, the translators from around the globe., and the benefactors who assist you. Many of you have arrived for this conference.
I believe that you have already shared ideas, discussion and advice, and probably have a certain level of success. This fills me with tremendous joy and I rejoice from the core of my heart.
Now, don’t procrastinate for months and years. As soon as you begin, the carry through so you complete the task of planning and agreement as soon as you can. Then bring news of the outcome to the Dalai Lama and the main throne holders of the four schools, and request them to give further advice.

Here in Nepal, we have a translation committee with just a few translators, and even though I am an unimportant person, we will contribute out of pure motivation. We will sincerely cooperate in translating the Words of the Buddha, giving this work high priority.
I know that we are all involved in our various projects. Here we are in the middle of translating the 13 Major Treatises, and many others. While continuing with these on the side, we now shift our focus to the Kangyur, the Great Translated Words of the Conqueror.

We must also consider how to divide up the various parts of the Kangyur. It may be easier to translate some, while the tantras may be more complex. We should especially work together on the most difficult and consult the various masters who are still available. This will make the translations firm and dependable for future generations. I know this may sound a little too audacious, but I have a great wish to have some of the tantras translated. Our translators presently go through the same curriculum as the monks in our shedra and try their best to be well educated.
I would also suggest that we receive advice from all the masters of the various traditions. When it comes to accomplish an important goal, we must, as the Tibetan saying goes, agree on a common plan. This is no small task, and to ensure success, everyone should be consulted, be allowed to reflect, so that we all agree on one goal and a single strategy.

Let’s give our innermost to the Three Jewels, completely, so that we have an auspicious beginning, middle and end. To ensure that, the main foundation is harmony, mutual cooperation and the understanding that we share the same goal.

We Tibetans regard all the thousands of volumes of scriptures written by the learned and realized masters of Tibet, as the heart in our chests, the eyes in our heads, as wishfulfilling jewels. Why? They are the Buddhadharma.
Trijang Rinpoche once told me that he was involved in the work of making a catalogue of the books in the Potala Library, as ordered by the 13th Dalai Lama. I was in Lhasa at the time, as was the Ta Lama. “There are thousands upon thousands of books,” he exclaimed, “there is surely no end to this job.” It took many months to complete it. I believe these books are still there. These were books only written by Tibetan masters.
There were many others written by the Indian masters, and they form the basis for the Tengyur. But the foundation for them all is the Kangyur, the Translated Words.
We regard these Words as the most important validator. A valid text has to accord with the Buddha’s words, the statements of the noble masters, evident facts, and our guru’s instructions. We all know these three or four ways of validating. So the first, the Buddha’s Word, is extremely important.

Please discuss which parts of the Kangyur are most important and how to translate them, and among them, how to translate the tantras. When translating, discuss the need to receive empowerment, reading transmission and oral instructions.
Discuss how to translate the Vinaya. Would it be better to have ordained sangha members make the translations?
In other words, I feel all of this requires a lot of advice, reflection and discussion.
I am neither personally capable or daring enough to outline the best strategy. Yesterday I received the phone call from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and also had some words with Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. And they asked me to add some spoken words to the bold letter I previously sent. They expressed their delight at my pretentiousness. I know I am an unimportant person, honestly. But still, I feel strongly that unless we begin this most vital undertaking, it will be extremely difficult to accomplish in the future. That’s for sure.
So please don’t delay for months and years! Agree on a plan as soon as you can. That’s what I wanted to say.

Headed by you Rinpoches, I offer tashi delek to you. May your lives be firm and may your activities expand, so that the Buddhadharma may shine like broad daylight.
I pray that the Kangyur may be translated as the primary goal and in the future also the Tengyur will follow. And then the major works of the Tibetan masters, like for instance the writings of the early Kadampa spiritual teachers. Khenchen Apey Rinpoche recently told me, “The Kadampa writings are completely connected with the major scriptures.” That is one reason to give them a high priority.
Among the Nyingma masters, Longchen Rabjam was an outstanding siddha and his works and incredible. Khunu Rinpoche told me, “there are people who question whether his writings are connected with the major scriptures, such as Madhyamika, Pramana or Abhidharma.” These days, we receive some of his writings on these topics.
Let’s pay attention not only to the teachings from the Tibetan masters of all lineages, without partisanism, but also to the writings existent in Pali, Sanskrit and Chinese. We should translate original scriptures if they which do not exist in Tibetan, for instance the bye drag shes mdzod chen mo, which seems to have been omitted. The great 13th and also the 14th Dalai Lama gave it special attention.

You all know that the Kangyur is presently the Buddha’s primary representative, in both body, speech and mind. Foremost, one must listen and learn, reflect and practice. It is said that before these, ethical conduct is important, so at least one needs to be a Buddhist layperson who has accepted the Three Jewels. Second is to hear the Dharma. Third to gain certainty through reflection, and finally to assimilate the meaning through training. That is vital.

Now this insignificant person was forced to and succeeded in speaking many presumptuous words. Please be tolerant.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Calling the Guru from Afar fra Jamgon Kongtrul.

Once in 1981 when Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and his oldest son, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, were staying in the cave at Ipoh in Malaysia, they handed me this text, saying "translate this." Now we have a chantable version: Calling the Guru from Afar:

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Dharma Friends & Pure Perception

One day Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was asked on advice on how to get along with "difficult friends" in the sangha. Here is his reply:
Dharma Friends & Pure Perception

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Great Perfection revealed at Lotus Crystal Cave

Surrounded by white mountain cliffs, the valley of Meshö is like an open lotus flower and the foothills covered with meadows and forests. Flowers grow abundantly in summertime and water flows here and there. In the middle, the heart of the lotus, is a huge white rock with a cave in the center called Padma Shelpuk, the Lotus Crystal Cave. The rock, cave and surrounding area are all white in color. The cave contains many naturally appearing images and letters. Yeshe Tsogyal practiced in a small cave to the left, which has windows which also appeared naturally, though they look man-made. The practice caves of Vairotsana and Shri Singha with their naturally-appeared thrones are at the top of the rock.
Terma statue said to have been revealed
with the Dzogchen Desum
The Padma Shelpuk, which people called the Ghost Cave, was a cave no one dared visit. Whoever went there was eaten right away. People sometimes saw a one-eyed woman they said was the ghost. A bald-headed man riding on a goat was also seen. Chokgyur Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse and Jamgön Kongtrül went there knowing that they would receive the Dzogchen Desum terma. People said (about Chokgyur Lingpa), “Today Kyater is going to take out a terma. The ghost will eat him.” Someone else said, “Since Khyentse and Kongtrül are here maybe he will indeed take out a terma.” Then a large crowd followed the three masters.
Many rainbows appeared in the sky. On arriving, they made a big burnt offering. Kongtrül offered the serkyem, the offering to the Dharma protectors, and Khyentse, holding a vajra, sang the Lhasum Damdrak song of command to the local deities. People said (about Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo), “Something special must be happening today because Tulku Rinpoche is doing something.” Everyone was then told to recite the Vajra Guru mantra and to supplicate Guru Rinpoche. The three masters and some others went inside the cave while those who could not fit stayed outside by the opening.

As everyone chanted the Vajra Guru mantra and the Seven Line Prayer, Chokgyur Lingpa’s experience blazed. Normally you can’t reach it, but he flew up and reached the ceiling. . From the ceiling he extracted the terma box containing Dzogchen Desum. As the terma object, he took sacred medicine and nectar blessed by Shri Singha, as well as some hairs of Yeshe Tsogyal and Vairotsana. The terma box was wrapped in one of Guru Rinpoche’s garments. Chokling blessed Khyentse, Kongtrül and everyone nearby with the terma box. People now knew he was a true tertön. Chokling told them, “All who came here are most fortunate. If things work out, I have many things left to do. The kindness of Guru Rinpoche and his consort is inconceivable..” Jamyang Khyentse continued, “Chokling is a great tertön, a very precious one. His terma teaching is extremely precious, as is this place. Everyone should make offerings and circumambulations. The three of us have now opened the gate to this sacred place. When you die, you will all go to the Copper Colored Mountain -- I promise.”

pp 8-9, in The Life of Chokgyur Lingpa (PDF file)

Tsewang Norbu was quite humble; he once told Samten Gyatso, "I'm nothing special, not at all. I don't have any great qualities, not a single one, except for one thing: even though I was just six months old at the time, I clearly remember receiving the Three Sections (Dzogchen Desum) from the two great treasure masters." [Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Chokgyur Lingpa] As a matter of fact, the Three Sections had just then been revealed [at Pema Shelpuk, see this post]. 

Twenty-five people were present at this event, including Khyentse and Karmey Khenpo. The moment the terma was revealed Chokgyur Lingpa called out to the child's mother, "Bring the kid here!" She brought the baby over, wrapped in blankets, and sitting on a tray of woven reeds covered with a layer of dried sheep droppings and then with a couple of layers of cloth, This was all in typical Khampa style for an infant, leaving the child free to pee whenever need be. 

Tsewang Norbu sat right between Khyentse and Chokling while he received the empowerment. Chokgyur Lingpa first conferred the empowerment on the baby and only then upon Khyentse. But because of the command that this empowerment only be given one on one, no one else received it--not even Kongtrul. That is also why the many lineages for the Three Sections all went through Tsewang Norbu. 

from Blazing Splendor, pg. 71

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Ipoh Cave in Malaysia and Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

Vajarayana Buddhism in Perak caves

By Revathi Murugappan, The Star, April 24, 2010

Excitement has been brewing over a new discovery in a limestone cave in Ipoh
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche consecrating
the Vajrayana stupa in 1972
Ipoh, Perak (Malaysia) --For centuries, caves or the underground have been used as people’s living quarters and hideouts, especially during wars. But in Asia, caves are often the sanctuary of choice for Buddhist monks, Hindu priests and yogis who want to worship and meditate.

Perak is a veritable treasure trove of caves and probably houses the largest number of cave temples in the country, some of which are still inhabited by monks.

Unknown to many, and hidden amidst the overgrown swordgrass that surrounds the limestones of Gunung Rapat in Ipoh, is a stupa that was built and consecrated by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche in 1972. Its history is hazy but the stupa, adjacent to a cave, is believed to be the first one built in Malaysia in the Vajrayana tradition.

Vajrayana Buddhism is considered the oldest surviving school of Tibetan Buddhism and has thousands of followers locally. The cave, popularly known as Ipoh Cave or the Ipoh Kong Ngee Ngiam Cave Temple, was not accessible to the public until recently when one eager devotee decided to dig deeper to discover how the Vajrayana tradition arrived in Malaysia.

Music teacher Anne Saw, 45, along with other devotees, were cleaning up the place when they stumbled upon a rusty old gate. It was the original entrance to the cave temple. Saw then researched the place, hunted down old disciples and made notes.

Yes, three caretaker monks have lived there for the past 30 years, leaving the premises only to buy groceries or go on retreats. I was privileged to be taken on a tour a fortnight ago by the enthusiastic Saw and was awestruck by the interior.

One of the caretakers, only known as Fong, let us in. It was huge and cool inside, with many bookshelves, figurines of the Buddha and lighted oil lamps. It was a calming space. Some of the walls had been painted white, and young students had done impressive colour paintings on the roof. Go deeper in and you’ll find bat droppings, damp limestone and even lower temperatures.

According to one of Tulku Urgyen’s old disciples, Yeow Yow Kit, 68, the lama used to come here frequently to meditate. He loved the place for some reason and felt a strong connection, staying a few months at a time.

“The cave temple was founded by a Chinese Mahayana monk, Rev Seng Chun from Foo Chow, China before World War II. In those years, it was a retreat for serious Buddhist practitioners, especially nuns. During the communist insurgency, the monks and nuns were told to leave,” recalled Yeow, 68.

Then in the early 1960s, Yeow said, a local monk named Rev Yuen Thong took up residence. He improved the living conditions and was instrumental in propagating Buddhist activities in Ipoh. Then, in 1971, he invited Tulku Urgyen to Ipoh. Tulku accepted and came with an attendant who spoke a bit of Malay. They took a train from Kathmandu to Bangkok, and then on to Ipoh and found their way to the cave.

“Despite the language and cultural disadvantages, the Buddhist seeds were planted through the activities in the cave, and subsequently this brought about more visitations from other lamas,” Yeow said.

“Apparently, whenever Tulku Urgyen met Malaysians, he would ask: Have you been to Ipoh Cave?”

He was so inspired that he also wrote a lot of preliminary text in this cave and took them back to be translated into English. Western disciples then expanded on it.”

In 1981, Tulku Urgyen and his eldest son, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, embarked on their first world tour to spread Buddhist teachings. Along the way, they stopped at Ipoh Cave, where like his father, Choyki Nyima felt an immediate connection.

“The cave has good feng shui because many holy teachers meditated and gave initiation there. I can feel the power, blessings and positive energy emanating from the place,” said Chokyi Nyima, now abbot of the Ka-Nying Shedrub Monastery in Nepal. Chokyi Nyima, 59, is in town for a series of lectures.

The cave was unfortunately neglected when Tulku Urgyen passed away in 1996. However, restoration works are now being planned by devotees. To invoke the blessings of the stupa, Choyki Nyima will conduct a one-day meditation at the cave. Until restoration is carried out, Saw says the public may only visit the cave during special events

“Strangely, after Tulku Urgyen died, the monastery people couldn’t find his reincarnation although they searched everywhere. He left no clues. Usually, the reincarnation is found in three or four years. Then one lama suggested visiting all the caves he had gone to, and right after the group visited Ipoh Cave in 2005, they got word that the reincarnation was found somewhere in Nepal. He was nine years old.”

Since then, Chokyi Nyima has been coming here regularly, albeit quietly, to meditate and conduct prayer sessions. He was born in Tibet and at 18 months was identified as the seventh reincarnation of the Drikung Kagyu Lama.

The eight-year-old and his family fled to Nepal when the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959. Since then, he has studied in monasteries and schools in India and Nepal.

“I just know my path is the right one and don’t think too much about it. I go on teaching and preaching in universities all over the world but I have no degree!” joked ChokyiNyima who founded the Rangjung Yeshe Institute for Buddhist Studies in Nepal.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kala Rango

This is Kala Rango, the site where Chokgyur Lingpa revealed the precious terma Tukdrub Barchey Kunsel. Many thanks to Matteo Pistono for sharing the photos.

The terma root text, however, tells that this treasure was revealed "beneath the feet of Chemchok Heruka" and that site was pointed out by Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche and others as being right by the river where the road goes. The Chemchok mountain is on the right when driving south.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Question: I was wondering if Rinpoche could explain exactly what ‘blessings’ are?

Rinpoche: What people usually consider blessings are what I would call ‘superficial blessings.’ It’s like when you have something you want to get rid of you ask, “Please bless me to be free from what I don’t like,” whether this is being sick or in pain, evil spirits are attacking you, your business isn’t going that well, etc.. So, people ask for something to wear around their necks, something to eat, maybe some charm to be made and so on. Then when they are feeling better, the evil spirits are repelled, business is going well or whatever, they say, “I got the blessings.” These are known as ‘superficial blessings.’

On the other hand, the real blessings are the oral instructions on how to become enlightened in a single lifetime, which you can receive from a qualified master. 

March 5, 1994
Nagi Gompa 

Friday, September 23, 2011

16th Gyalwang Karmapa

Slideshow of the 16th Karmapa. You may recognize Tulku Urgyen and his son Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche in the opening image (at the far right), which is repeated at 7:02. Tulku Urgyen appears again at 8:57 when they appear to have an audience with the late King of Nepal. Lots of other important lamas throughout as well, shame they didn't provide subtitles so we could identify them all. Enjoy!
(and thanks to Ani Jinba for the tip)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Freedom in Bondage

Adeu Rinpoche's autobiography is available now. 
Take a look inside at Amazon, and then buy it elsewhere. 
Highly recommended!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

last days

One of the last photos of Tulku Urgyen
waving from the window of his room at Nagi Gompa in 1996.
With him is his attendant Dondrub Tara.
photo: David Warren

Monday, September 05, 2011

Trulshik Rinpoche (1923-2011)

Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche Ngawang Chokyi Lodro (1923-2011)

Sadly I wanted to let everyone know that the marvelous Trulshik Rinpoche passed away
on Friday September 2nd at his monastery Sitapaila outside Kathmandu.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Home Movies

film footage by Lama Ugyen Shenpen
clip of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche begins at 4:20
clip of Tulku Urgyen up at Nagi Gompa in July 1991, at 12:30 to end

(thanks to Ilya Urgyen for the tip!)