Monday, October 31, 2005

Early picture of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche in the Ipoh Cave

Earlier in this weblog it was brought up that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche may have been the first Tibetan Lama to visit Southeast Asia. At that time I asked for some photos and Anne sent this and two other photos. The large Chinese monk to Rinpoche's right is Khoo Poh Kong, and to his left is the British monk Lodro Thaye.

Dear Erik,
I managed to get hold of some the pics taken during his visit to Ipoh. They were in possesion of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's students. Another man worth mentioning is Khoo Poh Kong who were instrumental in the organising the event of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's first visit to Ipoh.
Anne of Ipoh

Friday, October 28, 2005

New Dimensions Radio highlights Blazing Splendor

Michael Toms and his wife Justine recently invited us -- Daniel Goleman, Marcia Binder Schmidt and Erik Pema Kunsang -- to speak freely about a topic close to our hearts and it was a great pleasure to discuss Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's life and lineage, his teachings and the impact he has had on the western world. The one hour recording will be aired internationally.
For air times check radio listings on their website: An additional small interview will also be available on their website.
It was fascinating to see the library of people the Toms have interviewed over the last decades, including the 16th Karmapa, Kalu Rinpoche, Buckminster Fuller, and many many others. We wish the Toms a long life and thank them for their hospitality.

Friday, October 21, 2005

view from Lachab - Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's monastery in Nangchen

This picture was taken from the roof of Lachab monastery, the seat of the Ngaktrin tulkus and the young Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, before leaving his homeland and establishing Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling in Nepal. This far-away little Gompa is located in Nangchen, an ancient kingdom between Tibet and Derge. The present abbot Tsewang Dechen Rinpoche told me the following story:

It was founded by Ngawang Trinley, the oldest of three sons in the Tsangsar clan. He received monk ordination from the eleventh Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje (1676-1702), and as given the command to build the monastery Lachab Gompa. "It will bring great benefit to beings," the Karmapa said. Ngawang Trinley belonged mainly to the Barom Kagyu lineage, but he also practiced teachings from the Karma Kagyu and Nyingma. Barom Kagyu teachings he received from Tsangsar Rinchen Lhundrub and the Karma Kagyu teachings from the Karmapa Yeshe Dorje. Ngawang Trinley became a great lama who upheld and spread the Dharma. He was famed as being an incarnation of Gonpo Chakshipa, a wisdom protector. He died at an age above 60. The monastery he founded is named Lachab Jangchub Nordzin Choling and is situated in the Nangchen area of Kham. It lies in the nowadays Chinese province of Tso-ngon, Blue Lake, about 200 kilometers south of Nangchen Dzong.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Visiting the Vajra Throne, Bodhgaya

After I finished my retreat I was able to go on several pilgrimages. First, I visited Bodhgaya, one of the most sacred places in this world. As sutras tell us, the vajra throne in Bodhgaya is the site where the one thousand buddhas of this eon awaken to complete enlightenment. Samten Gyatso once told me that all who visit Bodhgaya just once in their lifetime have not wasted their life and can die without regret. With that in mind, and not wanting to die without having seen it, I headed off for Bodhgaya soon after arriving in Sikkim. I was looking forward to making prayers and pure wishes at that sacred place, though I didn’t get to stay long on that first visit.

There is a relative and an ultimate meaning of the term vajra throne. The ultimate is the awakened state of primordial purity, which is the real location for attaining enlightenment. The vajra throne in Bodhgaya is an external version of the inner throne of basic space. In Kham, everyone had heard that when the deceased’s spirit flounders through the bardo, there are only two places it cannot choose to go: the mother’s womb and the vajra throne. But Samten Gyatso once told me, “It’s not the throne in Bodhgaya, it’s the vajra throne of inner basic space, the awakened state of primordial purity. After conception, you can’t come and go from the mother’s womb. You can only go in once, then you stick like a fly in glue and the spirit begins to be enveloped in a body composed of the aggregates, elements, and sense bases, from which there is no escape until the death of that rebirth.”
--Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, from Blazing Splendor

photo: Graham Sunstein

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse and Khamtrul Rinpoche in Gangtok

This picture is on of the earliest photos taken after Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse left Tibet. He is seated with Khamtrul Tenpey Nyima, the head of the Drukpa Kagyu monastery that was to be built in Tashi Jong, Himachal Pradesh, on his left left. I was told that it was taken in Gangtok, after the passing of his Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, one of his two principal gurus.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Tulku Urgyen's Great-Grandfather

Tulku Urgyen's Great-Grandfather Chokgyur Lingpa was a major revealer of hidden treasures. His collected works comprise more than 40 volumes and is known as Chokling Tersar, the New Treasures of Chokgyur Lingpa. He was both teacher and disciple of Jamyang Khyentse and Jamgon Kongtrul, and these three masters are famed for having initiated the nonsectarian Rimey movement in the late 19th century.
Read about Chokgyur Lingpa and his termas, spoken by Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche:

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche - the youngest son

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's sixth son grew up under the tutelage of Situ Rinpoche in Bir and began a three retreat at age fourteen. Immediately after he became the drubpon, retreat master for the next retreat. He has since completed shedra, monastic college.
For more details of his life, see
His teaching schedule is posted on:

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tsoknyi Rinpoche, the fifth son

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's fifth son is also a reincarnation of a lama related to him from his homeland. In Blazing Splendor we find the moving story of the first Tsoknyi (who grew up in the same monastery --Tsechu -- as Chokyur Lingpa) and whose disciple later founder all the nunneries.
Here is a photo of Tsoknyi together with one of his teachers, Adeu Rinpoche, who is the abbot of Tsechu Gompa in Nangchen.
More details at:
You can find his teaching schedule on:

Tuesday, October 11, 2005 Fear and loathing in Tibet- Part One. Fear and loathing in Tibet- Part One.

You may enjoy reading about Gesar. Shechen Kongtrul was a close friend of Tulku Urgyen, as you can read in Blazing Splendor.

Tenpa La, the third son

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's third son was born to a close attendent of the Tsurphu Khandro, the great dakini of Tsurphu, and for many years he has worked as the general secretary of Tenga Rinpoche of Benchen monastery at Swayambhu, a great lama of the Kagyu lineage whose monastery in Tulku Urgyen's homeland . This monastery, Benchen, is also the seat of the illustrious Sangye Nyenpa, Traleg, and Chimey tulkus.
More about Tenga Rinpoche:

Tulku Urgyen's fourth son is Orgyen Jigmey. He was left behind in Tibet under the cultural revolution and has since decided to remain a layman.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Family Tree

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a really clear picture of how all the people in Tulku Urgyen's family were related? One that shows the three children of the great treasure revealer Chokgyur Lingpa, one of which was Tulku Urgyen's grandmother, the lady who told him so many of these amazing stories when he was a small child? And how the family branched out from her through her son Chimey Dorje, the Immortal Vajra, a rogue turned siddha, the grandfather of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche?
Luckily Ayshen Delemen has made one and you can download it right here:

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Enlightened Poet -- Chokgyur Lingpa

Within this natural knowing, a changeless sphere of ease,
Eternal, all-pervasive – to meet such radiant a master!
Face to face, each moment now is uncontrived,
So grant your blessings that I see the triple kayas, undivided.

Written by Chokgyur Lingpa, that it may be bring virtuous goodness.

Mingyur Dewey Dorje, the 4th Chokling of Tsikey

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's Second son is an incarnation of Chokgyur Lingpa and was born from Kunsang Dechen, the same mother as Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. Here he is seen on the balcony of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery in Boudha, in 1976, blessing a pilgrim from the mountains.

For some brief biographical details, see

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's oldest son

During the recent tour of reading loud from Blazing Splendor, some questions have been raised repeatedly: did Tulku Urgyen have children who teach? Who are they? Where do they live?
So this weblog can of course serve as a way to introduce them -- one after the other.
The first-born was Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and he is the abbot of the the "Big White" monastery in Boudha, five minutes behind the Great Stupa. Almost all the guidebooks to Nepal mention his famous Saturday Talks, and he is been teaching people from all over the world since the early 1970s. For more details of his activities, see and his brief biography at

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The road to Bodhgaya

The road to Bodhgaya is not level;
there are moun­tain passes, valleys, rivers, precipices and so forth.
No matter what your personal road is like,
do not lose courage,
but repeatedly relax loosely in nondual aware­ness.
If we practice like this then one day,
we will arrive in Bodhgaya,
which means we will attain enlightenment.
If we do not set out on the road, we will never arrive.
-- from the words of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The pervasiveness of the Dharma in Tibet

Before continuing with my tale, I want to emphasize that the Dharma was remarkably widespread throughout the snowy land of Tibet. It so permeated our society that even small children didn’t have to deliberately study prayers such as the supplication to the Lotus-Born master. They would learn how to chant it just by growing up in this Buddhist environment and hearing it over and over.
Children’s games reflected this atmosphere and we often played at building monasteries. Groups of us kids would pile up mud and stones, under my supervision, and we managed to make some small “temples” in which we would play “lama.” Sometimes these games went on from early morning until sunset.
Aside from the hermits and vast assemblage of monks and nuns living in the big monasteries, practitioners often stayed together in large encampments, such as the group surrounding Shakya Shri. For instance, the seventh Karmapa never stayed long in one place but moved from one camp to another throughout Tibet. Any offerings he received he would pass along on the spot to the local monasteries.
The seventh Karmapa’s close entourage consisted of at least one thousand monks, who followed along wherever the Karmapa went. The monks and attendants with their horses and yaks were so numerous that not everybody could fit in one place. So they staggered their movements in groups of one hundred, camping at seven or more different places a day’s travel apart, staying a day in each place.
People camped in tiny meditation tents with a single pole, just big enough to sit in. The whole monastic community would stay in such tents, though the master’s tent was typically larger. They were all required to keep the Kagyu tradition of four practice sessions a day, even while traveling. At a designated time, a bell would be rung and they would eat their meal together.
As soon as the meal was completed, according to the tradition, they would recite the Kangyur, the Buddhist canon in one hundred large volumes. As they traveled along, walking in a line across a vast plain, younger monks would distribute separate pages to each of the hundred monks, collecting the pages as they finished. All together they could easily complete all one hundred volumes by the time they reached the next mountain range, each monk reciting just two or three pages from each volume. The whole encampment was so large that, when everyone was together, the monks could recite the whole Kangyur in just an hour. The heap of their used tea leaves was often as tall as a man.
The Karmapa’s caravan was known as “the great encampment that adorns the world,” one of countless examples illustrating how deeply the Dharma was woven into our very existence.

From Blazing Splendor, the memoirs of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro

In Blazing Splendor we find so many times a mention of the great master Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro that we just have to know more about him. Luckily, the talented young translator Adam Pearcey has translated a rather lengthy biography by Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche and made it available online: There is also a shorter version:
The photo is from Kalimpong, possibly 1958.

Words from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

What is really valuable? Our precious human rebirth, this body, given to us by our father and mother. We have all our senses intact, we are intelligent and capable of understanding — it is an incredible advantage, like a wish-fulfilling jewel. Another analogy compares being endowed with a precious human rebirth to arriv­ing on an island where jewels abound. As this is the case, it’s extremely important not to stand around with our hands in our pockets or folded across our chest. This life should be put to use and be taken full advan­tage of, so that we don’t return empty-handed.
Don’t just take my word for it, but decide for your­selves what is really meaningful to pursue in this life. I am only trying to refresh your memory and clarify what you already know very well. Nonetheless, appearances, what we smell, hear, see, taste, and touch, are seductive. If we allow ourselves to be carried away by our fickle mind, even though we may really want to practice the Dharma, it is somehow postponed. We think, “Well, if not today, I can practice tomorrow or maybe next month, or next year.” Or never. Things don’t occur exactly in accordance with our plans. It is said, “When I was young, I was controlled by others and couldn’t prac­tice the Dharma. When I grew up, I played around and couldn’t practice the Dharma. Now, I’m old and too weak to practice the Dharma. Alas, alas! What shall I do?” Decide for yourselves: are you able to practice the Dharma?