Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Recently I came across this tiny photo on the Internet of Drukchen Rinpoche’s monastery in Tibet, too late to be included in Blazing Splendor but in fine time for this weblog. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was born near Samye while his father was on a pilgrimage to Central Tibet. To continue in his own words:
My father was very close to the eminent master Drukchen (this was the tenth incarnation in the Drukchen lineage, Mipham Chökyi Wangpo (1884-1930) whose monastery was Druk Sang-Ngak Chöling), so we went to his main seat by way of the Yarlung valley. In the upper part of the valley was the practice center known as Joyful Cave where the accomplished master Shakya Shri resided, having been invited from Kham by the Drukchen.
My parents told me that the eminent Drukchen was very kind to us. He also asked my father to perform rituals to support his health and long life. We stayed there for four or five months. So it was that I spent the first part of my life at the encampment of Shakya Shri. The Drukchen had special brocade garments made for me and my siblings; some of this brocade was made into a jacket that I wore until I left for Kham.
(Click on “comments” if you can send me a larger version of the picture).
Thursday, August 25, 2005
--from Blazing Splendor.
Read the full excerpt online at The Buddhist review TRICYCLE's website: http://www.tricycle.com/issues/web_exclusive/923-1.html
You can download a large format of the color picture you see here. You might want it for your wall or bookstore. This is a test, and if it works out well, I have one twice the size. Remember, only click on the picture if you have a fast dial-up -- it was uploaded as 4.5 mb.
I wrote a few word about the photo on http://blazing-splendor.blogspot.com/2005/08/fortress-peak-cover-picture.html
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche rode along these trails many times, from childhood until he left for Tibet, never to return to Nangchen again.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Friday, August 19, 2005
Thursday, August 18, 2005
My root guru, Samten Gyatso, had incredible faith in Padmasambhava and would tell me how he marveled at the words of the Lotus-Born. Although Samten Gyatso was extremely erudite and had studied vast volumes of literature, he continued to find many fresh levels of meaning in Padmasambhava’s teachings.
“There is no one greater than Padmasambhava,” he would often say. “Of course, Buddha Shakyamuni is the root, but the Lotus-Born made the Vajrayana teachings spread and flourish throughout India—and especially in Tibet. If you look closely, you can see just how amazing his terma teachings are! And if you compare his terma revelations with any other treatise, you can see their unique quality. The reason is that they were from Padmasambhava himself.
“The beauty of their prose is astounding! It is very difficult for anyone to write with such beauty and depth as you find in terma practices. Unlike treatises by people who are merely learned, in a terma each word can be understood on increasingly deeper levels. That special quality of Padmasambhava’s vajra speech means that whenever you read his teachings, you inevitably feel faith and devotion, trust and complete confidence!"
During the time of Khyentse, Kongtrul, and Chokgyur Lingpa, those twenty-five foremost disciples of the Lotus-Born who had gathered around him at Samye almost a thousand years earlier all returned in simultaneous incarnations. As one of my teachers, Dzongsar Khyentse, put it, “The twenty-five disciples of the Lotus-Born came back together like a throng of sheep and goats running out of a barn. These disciples reappeared as masters with incredible experience and realization, learning, and accomplishment. Their personal disciples and their disciples’ disciples were equally amazing.”
In fact, throughout Kham and the rest of Tibet, tulkus of all twenty-five were identified and recognized.
--Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Blazing Splendor
As a long-time favorite project of mine, and also to foster even further mutual respect among all the various Dharma groups, I am making a webpage listing the current whereabouts of incarnations -- or multiple incarnations -- of the 25 disciples. Please post there details, short biographical date, small pictures for the web, who recognized them etc. to me, or under "post a comment" at the bottom of http://blazing-splendor.blogspot.com/2005/08/padmasambhava-lotus-born-master-and.html
The list of the 25 disciples is at www.rangjung.com/gl/25_disciples-incarnations.htm
Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Warm wishes, Erik Pema Kunsang
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Monday, August 15, 2005
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Most of the masters in Blazing Splendor are dead and gone. The Buddhist magazine Shambhala Sun recently ran an article with a reminder of our mortality.
Friday, August 12, 2005
The Buddhist review decided to give Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's memoirs a special highlight by featuring one of the moretone-setting stories in the book: the old yogi-master Jamdrak who lived out his days in a hollow tree. The excerpt is accompanied by a full page photo of Tulku Urgyen and statements from some of the leading Buddhist teachers in the US who also received teachings from him. http://www.tricycle.com
Thursday, August 11, 2005
From the geographical point of view I am simply at a loss to find enough superlatives to describe the layout of this place--it is simply outrageously and fabulously amazing; nothing less. It would have been a perfect site for the Lord of the Rings. A majestic rock formation surrounded on three sides by a raging river, towering three quarters of a mile almost straight up into the sky. You had the feeling of being on the tip of a needle. On the peak are two meadows, like two terraces, and on the lower is nested a peaceful retreat center in front of which wild mountain goats take refuge in the evenings and leave the next morning. Only a narrow passage from the western side allows access. The place has been used by Buddhists for more than thousand years and before them, in prehistoric times, by Bonpo practitioners.
This mountain is regarded as the most sacred in the whole of the Nangchen kingdom--it is both the mandala of the peaceful and wrathful deities as well as that of Chakrasamvara. In recent times, it was the hermitage where Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche spent most of his former life in solitary retreat, and the location for the heart-rendering story of how his personal teacher passed away.
Because Fortress Peak had such an important position in my imagination due to all the stories I had heard from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and since it came up again and again Blazing Splendor, I just had to take a picture. And that was no easy task indeed!
During the week my wife and I spent there, my constant high anxiety attack lessened and with the help of two monks I ventured up on one of the smaller peaks right on the edge. Up there, half a mile down behind me, the monk holding me from right and left, I took this one photo for you.
Monday, August 08, 2005
Here is my announcement to the Riwoche Sangha in Toronto of the September 24 reading that we will be hosting. It also has a fuller review of my own impressions of this wonderful book:
Although Chokling Rinpoche is not able to come to Toronto this year,we are fortunate to host an exciting event as part of the launch tour for the memoirs of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche: "Blazing Splendor:The Memoirs of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche."
The book's editor, Michael Tweed will be at the temple to read excerpts from the book and show video of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche teaching. The event takes place at the Riwoche Temple, Saturday September 24 at 7:30 PM. There is no charge for admission. Donations, as always, will be accepted.
Having recently finished the book, I can tell you that it is a great read on several levels:
It gives a wonderful account of the three great tertons, Chokgyur Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul. The way these three worked together to reveal and transmit dharma teachings that are now being practiced all over the world is one of the truly great spiritual renaisances to have ever taken place in history. The book gives a vivid sense of how the confluence of these three great rivers produced a mighty torrent of benefit for all those of us who have stood "downstream" ever since.
For anyone practicing the Chokling Tersar lineage, it is an excellent primer on the lineage holders, their lives, miracles and all their human idiosyncracies. Although it is very respectful, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche presents these men and women as fully human, so the stories of their lives are as likely to set you laughing on one page as crying on the next. It really deepens the experience of saying the lineage prayer at the start of the Trinley Nyingpo practice, to have a fuller picture of who these people were.
For anyone with a connection to the Longchen Nyingthig, there are wonderful accounts of Patrul Rinpoche, HH Dudjom Rinpoche, HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Chatral Rinpoche and Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche - all very important teachers and root gurus of our own teacher, Khenpo Sonam Rinpoche.
The book opens with an account of the length to which Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's grandmother went to be sure that the Chokling Tersar would continue to be transmitted. It continues all the way through with accounts of her activities and those of other esteemed women in the lineage. Something that is often rare in spiritual biographies of this kind.
It is also an excellent account of the last days of a free Tibet and the struggles that various lamas went through in escaping to freedom to the West.
The real beauty of the book, however, is that within these very engaging "stories" lies a treasure trove of rich dharma teachings in easy to understand language, that are immediately applicable to our practice.
The best way to learn is when we don't even realize that we are being taught. In an effortless way, Tulku Urgyen tells one fascinating story after an other. Once we reach the end, we realize that we have learned valuable truths about how to apply the richness of the Dzogchen tradition itself.
There is an excellent glossary (also online) with helpful definitions and explanations of various Dzogchen practices, termas, lineage holders, etc.
Best of all, Erik Pema Kunsang, Marcia Binder Schmidt and Michael Tweed (to whom these stories were told by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche) have managed to effectively capture Tulku Urgyen's "voice." Although I never met him personally, the style of writing conveys a true human (if extraordinary) individual. I came away from reading the book with a sense that I had been there too, sitting at his feet hearing these wonderful teachings myself.
Many thanks are owed to all those who put so much effort in sharing their personal blessing with the rest of us.
The book can be ordered through the following link, and Michael will bring copies for purchase on the night of the reading.
I hope to see you there.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
The way up to the new monastery site was arduous, so it was best to attempt it in the early morning. We climbed the hill as the mist was clearing from the valley. As we rose higher, the busyness and distraction of Katmandu City lessened. We would catch our breath every several hundred meters but today we seemed to glide up effortlessly. We anticipated that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche would grant our request and that he would tell his many memoirs in an orderly fashion.
Graham Sunstein and I arrived at the building site that would one day be the Ngedon Osel Ling monastery. The mud, bustle and movement of workers amidst heaps of building supplies lined the landscape. We climbed the stairs and waited outside Rinpoche’s room. Although it was early, we knew that he had been awake and active for hours. The shoes outside his door attested to this. As we peeked through the curtain, we had our first glimpse that day of Rinpoche. He motioned us in.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche always established a very cozy environment, no matter where he was. It was as if sunlight and warmth permeated every place he stayed. An almost transparent atmosphere of light showered down. It made the contrast to the very real and solid work going on forgotten. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was not a large man, yet he was all embracing and present. Merely coming before him transformed your ordinary perceptions, even though he was so humble and self-effacing. It was as if he was trying to hide all his qualities, yet even he was unable to do so.
He was blazing splendor, the look, the compassion, and the realization. When he spoke we were enraptured, captivated by the combination of brilliance, humor and sheer raw awareness. A few others were present within the room. Our attention moved to Rinpoche’s youngest son, also an incarnate Lama. He smiled warmly, his open friendliness held our gaze. He had just completed a three-year retreat and at seventeen was developing into a very good copy of his father. He was accompanyed by his attendant, an Eastern Tibetan lama. Lastly inside, there was Rinpoche’s sister, Sagala, so simple, so sweet.
After we prostrated we once more made our request: Rinpoche, please tell us your life story and what it was like in Eastern Tibet and Lhasa. The others in the room waited, it was definitely a captive audience. There was an air of excitement as we waited to see if he would comply. The tape recorder was on, the mike set as we stared at his radiant dignity.
I was born in Tibet, taken to Kham, then went back and forth between the two several times. I fled the communists to Sikkim and finally moved to Nepal, where I am now living as an old man. That’s my life in a nutshell. I haven’t accomplished any great deeds. Mostly it’s just one sad event after another.
I belive this was in 1994, and this interview became the first of many, perhaps to fill forty tapes. Earlier on, in 1983, Andreas Kretschmar and I had recorded maybe ten tapes based on the traditional chant to the masters through whom Tulku Urgyen had received his teachings (http://www.rangjung.com/gl/tersar-supplication.htm) while Rinpoche was recovering in the hospital in Cologne.
My wife and I traveled through Nangchen in the autumn 2003 and visited many of the locations in Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's memoirs -- one of the best trips in my life. I have put a lot of the photos of Chokgyur Lingpa terma revelation places up on the net and other photos are in Blazing Splendor itself (which I am happy to shamelessly promote).
Some of the pictures are slideshows on http://www.rangjung.com/nangchen/index.html
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
The warehouse in Indiana has just begun shipping out orders to your local fine bookstore. Upto now we had given Dharma centers a "two months pre-release privelege" to cover summer programs. Now it is same for everyone.