Category Archives: My precious teachers

Milarepa 1052-1135

Who Is Milarepa?

Milarepa, the famous Tibetan yogi, lives on through his joyous, instructional songs and poetry. Both the new translation of The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, from Christopher Stagg, and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s exploration of his life in Milarepa: Lessons from the Life & Songs of Tibet’s Great Yogi bring new light to the resonance Milarepa’s story still carries centuries later.

Milarepa is remembered for his remarkable determination and personal growth. His inspiring story traces the very familiar, human progression from confusion to clarity. Early in his life, Milarepa came to understand tenants of both privilege and oppression. Though born to a wealthy family, the death of Milarepas father left him and his mother at the mercy of his aunt and uncle, who put them to work as servants for their own family. At his mothers request, Milarepa studied the craft of black magic to be better able to retaliate against their cruelty. Not only was he successful in mastering these magical abilities, he promptly used his skills to take the lives of his aunt and uncles entire family. In this way, Milarepa had invited an immense amount of negative karma into his life as a young adult. Soon after committing these crimesMilarepas joy at having aided his mother began to fade, making way for inescapable remorse. This transformation led Milarepa to seek out a master teacher. 

“Milarepa’s life story shows how one can progress from being caught in the cycle of confusion, known as samsara, to becoming a student entering and practicing the path of dharma, to eventually becoming a teacher oneself and taking on the responsibility of training others.” 

It was not long before Milarepa found Marpa the translator, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. Marpa was able to see Milarepa’s potential, but knew that the young man would have to process his remorse and uncertainty before beginning his time as a student of the dharma. In order to guide him to a place of preparedness, Marpa set Milarepa to his legendary task of building, destroying, and rebuilding stone towers. This process was intended “to purify the negativity of his past actions, so that Milarepa could begin his studies with fewer obstacles.”

Marpa’s challenge pushed Milarepa “almost to the point of suicide before he agreed to take him on as a student.” Thus began Milarepa’s journey to becoming the yogi and poet that he is remembered as today. He began his simple, solitary lifestyle, living in caves. He often wore little clothing, even in the winter months, and became known as “the cotton-clad one.” Though he did not seek students, word of his practice traveled, and he was sought out by many. It is said that Milarepa “engaged with whoever approached him,” and it is through his teaching that his spontaneous songs and poetry were shared.

“Milarepa sang hundreds of such songs. The standard collection, The One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa (Tib. Mila Grubum) is said to have been compiled by Tsang Nyön Heruka, the “Mad Yogi of Tsang,“ based on transcriptions of the songs that up to then had been only transmitted orally. In this collection, every song comes with a story about how it came about. The collection also includes many descriptions of how Milarepa worked with people, not only through song but in nonverbal ways. We can see how he interacted with his students and how he created situations that challenged them and woke them up. That is, Milarepa did not just sing [songs about] the dharma but he fully embodied the dharma. Because of that, he was able to teach freshly, spontaneously, and with great humor using a variety of skillful means.”

Milarepa’s poetic teachings have touched the hearts his of students and admirers for nearly a thousand years. His life represents that of an ideal Bodhisattva, as his deep compassion created the wish of Bodhicitta and motivated him to obtain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.

The Song of the Snow

On this auspicious, glorious day,
You male and female benefactors who welcome me with
prostrations,
Along with myself, the yogi Milarepa:
We didn’t perish, and have met. Oh how joyful!
I’m an old man with a treasury of songs,
So I’ll answer your query of my health with this tune;
Listen carefully with focused, attentive minds.

At the very end of the tiger year
And at the beginning of the year of the hare,
On the full moon of the Wagyal month,
Disillusioned with the things of samsara,
I went seeking a secluded retreat
In the remote pastures of the Lachi snowy range.
The land and sky conferred together
And sent down a messenger, a strong wind.
With the elements of water and wind astir,
Black southern clouds gathered in front.
The sun and moon were put into prison.
The twenty-eight constellations were strung on a wire.
The eight planets were put into shackles by edict.
The great Milky Way was tethered down.
The morning star was completely wrapped in mist.
Wind with sleet blew, and finally,
Snow fell for nine days and nine nights;
With the days and nights together totaling eighteen.
The big flakes were big; they fell like thick layers of wool,
Like birds in flight that plummet down.
The small flakes were small; they fell like tiny wheels,
Like bees flying around, then dropping down.
Other small flakes the size of mustard seeds and beans,
Lumped together and fell like balls of sleet.
Snow fell in more sizes than one could count.

High above, the snowy white peaks touched the sky.
Below, the plants and trees were matted and pressed.
The mountains of black donned a blanket of white,
An ocean with waves that were frozen over.
The blue rivers’ waters were put in a shell.
The contour of the land was evened to a plain.
Because this snowfall was so great,
The black-haired people became socked in.
The four-legged creatures were stricken with famine:
Especially the old, weak ones’ sustenance was cut.
Above, the birds’ food source was depleted.
Below, the pikas and mice hid in their stores.
The meat-eating animals were unable to eat.

As for the fate of such sleet and strong wind
And particularly the fate of me, Milarepa:
That blizzard that came down from above,
The strong winter wind of the new year,
And I, the yogi Milarepa’s cloth, these three,
All fought on the side of the high snow mountain.
But I was victorious over the snowfall, and it melted to water.
Though the wind roared powerfully, it naturally subsided,
And my cloth, like fire, was blazing strong!
Two wrestlers contended there in a life-or-death match.
I gave it the edge of my kingly sword.
I was victorious in that fight where the valiant ones were
overthrown;
Thus, all dharma practitioners earned some clout
Especially meditators, twice as much;
In particular, my single chandali cloth showed its greatness.
The four gatherings of illness were put on the scale.

Then, inner disturbances were completely vanquished.
Both cold and hot pranas were fully cast out.
Later, the [elements] listened and heeded what was said.
The demon of snow and sleet was suppressed.
Then, all was resolved and completely still.
Though samsara’s brigade tried, it didn’t succeed.
Thus, this yogi won the fight.

I’m my grandfather’s descendant, with the coat of a tiger;
I’ve never fled wearing the coat of a fox.
To my father was born a son of the class of champions;
I’ve never lost in the face of a foe.
I’m of the family of lions, the king of beasts;
I’ve never lived in a snowless land.

Fate has once again played its joke.
If you trust that what this old man says has any power,
The practice lineage teachings will spread in the future,
A few siddhas will also come,
And I, the yogi Milarepa,
Will be renowned throughout the lands.
You disciples will have faith
And fame of you will later spread.

I, a yogi, am very well.
You benefactors, how are you?

RELATED BOOKS

Milarepa

By Chogyam Trungpa
Edited by Judith L. Lief

The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa

By Tsangnyon Heruka and Milarepa
Translated by Christopher Stagg

The Life of Marpa the Translator

By Tsangnyon Heruka
Translated by Chogyam Trungpa and Nalanda Translation Committee

Quotes from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Text excerpt from Tsangnyon Heruka, translated by Christopher Stagg.

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Jim Scott

Jim Scott (Denmark)

Jim Scott’s life has, from its earliest years, been dedicated to the pursuit of the contemplative life, originally as a Christian monk at a Trappist monastery, then as a student of philosophy at St. John’s College, and finally as a student and practitioner of the Kagyu lineage following Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche around the globe of this earth for some thirty years.

When Khenpo Rinpoche first came to the West in 1977, at the request and in the company of His Holiness Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, Jim was fortunate to be in the original group of students to receive and follow Rinpoche.

At H.H. the Karmapa’s bidding, Rinpoche started and taught the first Kagyu Shedra for westerners with the intention, as expressed by H.H., to provide westerners with the same basic formal education in the classical Indian and Tibetan texts of Buddhadharma as in Tibet, and to train translators who could then be instrumental in communicating these teachings at the Dharma centers then springing up around Western Europe, North America and around the world.

In 1986, though continuing to teach around the planet, Rinpoche moved the main locus of his activities to Nepal and, in the early 1990’s, at the request of His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, he began to teach the Winter Philosophy Program and the Spring Meditation Retreat at Pullahari, Jamgon Rinpoche’s main seat.

It was primarily from here that Rinpoche encouraged representatives of Dharma centers worldwide to invite senior students to share with others what he had so carefully taught them.

Following Rinpoche’s example, the programs Jim pilots have the characteristic feature of being closely linked with the texts of the tradition, though at the same time seen through the eyes of an ordinary person from a western background.

All who have had the great good fortune of meeting Khenpo Tsultrim know that a special feature of his blessing transmission is his expression of the teachings in song. Jim Scott has played a central role in helping to make this possible in English. His dearest wish is to do whatever he can to help fulfill Rinpoche’s vision of song as a path of awakening heart.


Jim Scott, who has been a student and translator for Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche for over 25 years, is well known for both his translation work and hismusical compositions of the songs of Milarepa. He lives in Denmark, where he founded a Buddhist society inspired by both the 16th Karmapa and Kalu Rinpoche, and he teaches annually at Pullahari Monastery in Nepal,and in Europe and the USA. He recently published a translation of Maitreya’s Distinguishing Phenomena and Pure Being, (Snow Lion, 2004).

Maitreya's Distinguishing Phenomena and Pure Being

Maitreya’s Distinguishing Phenomena and Pure Being

By Jamgon Mipham
Translated by Jim Scott


Jim Scott learned “songs of realization” from Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche in the Tibetan tradition of enlightened masters such as Milarepa, Guru Rinpoche, and Götsangpa. At Rinpoche’s request, Jim translated these songs into English and gave them melodies. In this weekend teaching Jim teaches the meaning of the songs and then leads the group in singing them. He teaches that singing these songs is shamatha and vipashyana combined. Singing calms the mind and the words provide the opportunity to contemplate the meaning. Understanding that a realized mind is an awakened heart, he calls these Songs to Waken the Heart.

Jim also teaches from his soon-to-be-released translation of Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes, specifically a chapter of that text called The Unsurpassable Vehicle. This text was composed by Maitreya, the coming Buddha, as taught to him by the Buddha Shakyamuni. In this text the Mahayana is taught as the Unsurpassable Vehicle with the Vajrayana being a component. The first verse of the text describes the content of the weekend teaching: “The practice is characterized by six traits [t]o be brought to bear in performing the paramitas.” These six traits are (1) its genuineness, (2) the mental cultivation it entails, (3) its harmonious trait, (4) its avoidance of extremes in the form of sets of opposites, (5) how the practice is specialized, and (6) how the practice is not specialized.

In the late 1970s, the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, directed Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche to found a shedra (institute for Buddhist studies) in Europe. There Khenpo Rinpoche educated Westerners in the classic Indian Buddhist and Tibetan Karma Kagyu Buddhist traditions. At the same time he taught these students to be translators of the Tibetan language. This activity was not only to preserve these traditions but also to make them available to Westerners for practice. Jim Scott was among the first group of translators at the shedra and he continues to be a senior heart student of Khenpo Rinpoche. At Rinpoche’s request, Jim Scott translated and put to melody many songs of realization. In addition, he has translated numerous Buddhist texts and teaches widely.

Patrul Rinpoche 1808–87

Simple Man, Extraordinary Yogi: The Life of Patrul Rinpoche

Image result for Patrul RinpochePatrul Rinpoche, Orgyen Jigme Chökyi Wangpo (1808–1887), a wandering practitioner in the ancient tradition of vagabond renunciants, became one of the most revered spiritual teachers in Tibetan history, widely renowned as a scholar and author while at the same time living a life of utmost simplicity. A strong advocate of the joys of solitude, he always stressed the futility of worldly pursuits and ambitions. The memory of his life’s example is still very much alive today, offering an ever-fresh source of inspiration for practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism.

An exemplary upholder of the purest Buddhist ideals of renunciation, wisdom, and compassion, Patrul Rinpoche spent most of his life roaming the mountains and living in caves, forests, and remote hermitages. When he left one place, he left with no particular destination; when he stayed somewhere, he had no fixed plans. In the wilderness, his favored meditation was the practice of cultivating bodhicitta—the wish to relieve all sentient beings from suffering and bring them to the ultimate freedom of enlightenment.

In his youth, Patrul studied with the foremost teachers of the time. With his remarkable memory, he learned most of the oral teachings he heard by heart, thus becoming able to elucidate the most complex aspects of Buddhist philosophy without referring to a single page of text, not even when he taught for months at a time.

Utterly uninterested in ordinary affairs, Patrul naturally abandoned the eight worldly concerns, which consist of everyone’s ordinary hopes and fears—hoping for gain and fearing loss; hoping for pleasure and fearing pain; hoping for praise and fearing blame; hoping for fame and fearing disgrace.

Patrul Rinpoche’s few personal belongings. Photo by Matthieu Ricard.

Patrul Rinpoche is remembered as a contemplative and scholar who, through his practice, achieved the highest realization of ultimate reality.

Patrul generally refused to accept the offerings that are often made to a teacher or a respected religious figure according to tradition. Presented with valuable gifts such as gold and silver, he would leave them on the ground, abandoning them as easily as one abandons spit in the dust. In old age, however, he began to accept some offerings that he gave to beggars or used for making statues, building mani walls (amazing walls of sometimes hundreds of thousands of stones carved with the mani mantra, Om mani padme hum), making butter-lamp offerings, and engaging in other meritorious activities.

Image result for Patrul Rinpoche

At the time of his death in his late seventies, Patrul Rinpoche’s few personal possessions were much the same as they had been when he first set out as a renunciant: two texts (The Way of the Bodhisattva and TheRoot Verses on the Middle Way), a begging bowl, a red wool pouch holding his yellow monk’s shawl, a prayer wheel, his walking stick, and a little metal pot for boiling tea.

Patrul Rinpoche is remembered today by illustrious contemporary masters as a contemplative and scholar who, through his practice, achieved the highest realization of ultimate reality. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche affirmed that Patrul was unsurpassed in his realization of the view, meditation, and conduct of Dzogchen. His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama often praises Patrul Rinpoche’s teachings on bodhicittawhich he himself practices and transmits.

While in retreat at remote places, Patrul wrote profound original treatises, most of which have survived. He spontaneously composed many poems and pieces of spiritual advice; many of these vanished into the hands of the individuals for whom they were written.

His best-known work, composed in a cave above Dzogchen Monastery, is TheWords of My Perfect Teacher. Composed in a blend of classical and colorful colloquial Tibetan, it is one of the most widely read teaching instructions on the preliminary practices of the Nyingma school. Revered by all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, it has been translated into many languages.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to collect, over more than thirty years, a large number of oral stories about Patrul Rinpoche that were recounted with great love and enthusiasm by the spiritual heirs of his lineage, some of whom actually met Patrul Rinpoche’s direct disciples. In a culture in which oral transmission still plays an important role, Tibetans are known for their ability to retain and retell stories in great detail. When hearing them, one often has the feeling of witnessing the events as they took place. They provide vivid glimpses into the ways of a highly realized being as he interacts with people, conveys the Buddhist teachings both formally and informally, and lives his everyday life, which is both astonishing and humble, often quite humorous, and the perfect illustration of inner freedom.

Patrul and the Widow

While Patrul was traveling on foot across the vast plateaus of Golok, north of Dzachukha, he encountered a woman, mother of three, whose husband had just been killed by a changthang dremong, the huge bear of the Tibetan steppes, a beast much more dangerous than the dremong of the forests. Patrul asked the woman where she was going, and she told him she was headed to Dzachukha with her three children to beg for food, as the loss of her husband had left them destitute.

Then she began weeping.

Ka-ho! Don’t worry!” said Patrul. “I’ll help you. I’m going to Dzachukha, too. Let’s travel together.”

She agreed, and so they walked together for many days. At night, they slept outside beneath the sky. Patrul would nestle one or two of the children into the folds of his sheepskin coat, and the woman would similarly hold the rest. During the day, Patrul would carry one child on his back, the woman would carry the second, and the third would walk along behind.

When the woman begged in villages and nomad camps they passed, Patrul would beg right alongside her, asking for tsampa, butter, and cheese. Travelers they met assumed they were a family of beggars. No one—least of all the newly widowed woman—guessed the identity of her shabby companion.

Eventually, they reached Dzachukha. That day the woman went off on her own to beg for food, and so did Patrul. In the evening, when they returned, the widow noticed that Patrul had a dark look on his face.

The woman asked, “What’s wrong? You seem annoyed.”

Patrul brushed it off, saying, “It’s nothing. I had a task to accomplish, but the people here won’t let me finish it. They’re just making a big fuss about nothing.”

Surprised, the woman asked, “What work could you have around here?”

Patrul replied, “Never mind, let’s just go.”

They came to a monastery on the side of a hill, where Patrul stopped.

He turned to the widow and said, “I have to go inside. You may come, too, but not right now. Come after a few days.”

The woman said, “No, let’s not separate; let’s go in together. Until now, you have been so kind to me. We could get married. If not, let me at least stay at your side. I’d benefit from your kindness.”

“No, that won’t do,” replied Patrul, adamant. “Up to now, I’ve done my best to help you, but the people here are troublemakers. We mustn’t go in together. Come back in a few days; you’ll find me inside.”

So Patrul went up the hill to the monastery while the widow and her children stayed at the bottom of the hill, begging for their food.

As soon as he was inside the monastery, contrary to his usual habit of refusing offerings, Patrul ordered that any provisions offered to him should be kept and put aside for a very special guest he was expecting who would be needing provisions.

The next day, everyone in the valley had heard the news of the great lama’s return.

“Patrul Rinpoche has come!” people said. “He’ll be giving teachings on The Way of the Bodhisattva!”

Men and women, young and old, monks and nuns, male and female lay practitioners, everyone went hurrying to hear the great Patrul Rinpoche. People began to gather into a huge crowd, bringing along horses and yaks that carried their tents and provisions.

When the widow heard the news, she was thrilled, thinking, “A great lama has come! This will be my chance to make offerings and request prayers on behalf of my late husband!”

Along with everyone else, she climbed up to the monastery, bringing along her three fatherless children.

The poor widow and her family had to sit at the far edge of the large crowd to hear Patrul’s teachings. She was so far away that she could not see his features clearly. At the end of the teachings, like everyone else, she stood in a long line, waiting to receive the great lama’s blessing.

Eventually, she moved up in the long line till at last she came close enough to see that the great lama, Patrul Rinpoche, was none other than her shabby, kind, faithful traveling companion.

Moved by both devotion and amazement, she approached Patrul, saying, “Forgive me for not knowing who you were! You are like the Buddha in person! Forgive me for making you carry my children! Forgive me for asking you to marry me! Forgive me for everything!”

Patrul brushed off her apology lightly, saying, “Don’t give it a second thought!”

Turning to the monastery attendants, he told them, “This is the very special guest I’ve been expecting! Please bring all the butter, cheese, and provisions that we have been setting aside especially for her!”

Patrul Is Upset and Disappears

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo had occasional differences of opinion with Patrul—even calling him “that lunatic” on one occasion. Nonetheless, he admired Patrul very deeply.

As an expression of his esteem, he composed a long devotional prayer in Patrul’s praise, recounting his life story. This lengthy prayer served as basis for the later biography Elixir of Faith, written by Khenpo Kunpel.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo sent his composition in a letter to Patrul along with some mendrup, a special edible substance made of medicinal plants mixed with many relics and consecrated during a weeklong ritual.

Patrul was in the midst of giving teachings when he received Khyentse’s letter. People in the audience witnessed him taking some of the mendrup and reading the letter. Having read it, Patrul immediately became upset and shouted, “That Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo is such a horrible lama!” Patrul suddenly stopped teaching, which was completely unlike him. He disappeared for several days. When he at last returned and was about to continue teachings, people learned what in the letter had so upset Patrul—it was Khyentse’s words of praise for Patrul.

As Khyentse’s mendrup was distributed to all those present, Patrul praised Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s boundless good qualities. Patrul then pointed out that praise and fame posed real obstacles to those who teach dharma. He explained that, after he’d read Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s verses praising him, he needed time in order to reflect and make sure such lavish praise did not go to his head.

One of the verses from this long poem of praise is widely used to this day:

Outwardly, you are Shantideva, Bodhisattva;
Inwardly, you are Shavaripa, Lord of Siddhas;
Secretly, you are Avalokiteshvara himself, supreme self-liberation of suffering;
Jigme Chökyi Wangpo, I supplicate you.

Patrul and the Learned Geshe

Once, a learned geshe, an erudite scholar from the Geluk tradition, decided to debate the renowned scholar Mipham Rinpoche. Mipham at that time was staying in Dzachukha at Juniong Monastery, so the Geshe headed off in that direction. Along the way, it occurred to him that he ought to test out his debate skills first by debating and defeating a few lesser Nyingmapa scholars.

One night, when he stopped, he asked the local people if they knew of any Nyingmapas around who knew enough philosophy to be able to debate. One man said, “Well, in a hut up in the forest there’s Patrul. He knows a bit about books.”

The Geshe was disappointed not to have found a well-known scholar to practice on. Nevertheless, he made his way through the forest and climbed up to Patrul’s retreat hut. Patrul’s retreat helper had warned Patrul of the Geshe’s intention to visit and practice debating.

As soon as his helper told him the Geshe had arrived, Patrul picked up his worn-out sheepskin coat, turned it inside out, and put it on so that all the fur was on the outside. He lay down on his bed, putting his head at the foot of the bed and his feet at the head of the bed on his pillow.

The Geshe knocked at the door, but Patrul did not answer. After knocking several times, the Geshe slowly opened the door. He saw Patrul lying in bed, with his feet on his pillow and his head at the foot of the bed, wearing a sheepskin coat with its fur turned inside out.

The Geshe said, “Why are you lying that way? Can’t you tell the head of a bed from the foot of a bed?”

“Dear lama, you’re not very good at logic,” Patrul replied brightly. “The head of my bed is where my head is. The foot of the bed is where I place my feet.”

Rattled, the Geshe remarked, “Odd of you to wear your sheepskin coat inside out, with the fur on the outside and not on the inside.”

Patrul shrugged and pointed out, “I’m wearing the fur on the outside and the skin on the inside—just the very same way the sheep do!”

After this spicy start, the Geshe questioned Patrul on the Nyingma views. Patrul responded with amazing ease and broad knowledge.

As he left and walked back down from Patrul’s retreat hut, the Geshe thought to himself, “People told me this Patrul knew ‘a little bit about books,’ but if I couldn’t debate and defeat him, how would I ever be able to debate and defeat the great Mipham? I’ll just go down in disgrace!”

So the Geshe gave up and went home.

Patrul’s Encampment

At first, there was just one tent, Patrul’s little black yak-hair tent.

Over time, people came and set up tents of their own. Gradually, the tent encampment grew, from very few tents to very many. At its peak, there were hundreds of black yak-hair tents and white cotton tents gathered together in the style of nomads, sheltering thousands of devoted dharma practitioners who had come to hear Patrul teach. This encampment of practitioners was known as Patrul Gar.

Patrul taught everyone staying there what he called the Three Opportunities, a practice to refine one’s intentions.

The first opportunity occurs upon waking; don’t get up in a rush, the way a cow or a sheep in a pen does, but take a moment while still in bed to relax your mind. Look within, and check your intention.

The second opportunity at Patrul Gar occurs on the way to the teachings. People must squeeze through a narrow passage to get past a stupa on the way to the teaching tent. The moment of squeezing past should be used as a reminder to cultivate bodhicitta and a wish to benefit others by avoiding evil actions and performing beneficial actions.

The third opportunity occurs during the teachings, another chance to know one’s goal and set one’s intention:

Each instant, put your heart into it again.
Each moment, remind yourself again.
Each second, check yourself again.
Night and day, make your resolve again.
In the morning, commit yourself again.
Each meditation session, examine mind minutely.
Never be apart from dharma, not even accidentally.
Continually, do not forget.

When people staying at Patrul Gar just weren’t getting the point, Patrul would actually send them away.

“You are fooling me and I am fooling you; it’s pointless!” Patrul would say. “Get out, go away, do something useful with your life! Go away, get married, do business, have children! What’s the point of not being a practitioner and not being a worldly person? Go be a worldly person, just remember to have a good heart!”

Last Days and Hours

Patrul began experiencing problems with his health. From the thirteenth day of the fourth lunar month of the Male Fire Pig Year (1887), he reported feeling a bit unwell. To whatever people would ask him, he would reply, in a rather unusual fashion, “Do what you like. You know better.”

His physician, Jampel, who was also the chieftain of Ling La (a nomadic community), was summoned. Long-life ceremonies were performed on Patrul’s behalf.

While treating Patrul, Jampel asked him, “Abu, I gather from what you’ve said on various occasions that we should pray to be reborn in Amitabha’s Western Buddhafield of Great Bliss. Is this so?”

Patrul paused a bit, then replied, “Well, for you, West. For me, East”—perhaps referring to Vajrasattva’s Eastern Buddhafield of Manifest Joy.

Later, Patrul asked his attendant Sönam Tsering, “Who asked that the Offering to the Arhats be recited last night?”

Sönam Tsering replied that the disciples had decided among themselves to do so. Patrul said, “When you performed that ceremony, I fell asleep for a bit. When they got to the verse of the arhat Yanlagjung, I woke up and heard a voice say, ‘You will benefit beings in the East!’ Could someone like me be of real benefit to beings?”

Sönam Tsering did not ask what he meant.

According to his attendant, on the seventeenth day of the fourth lunar month of the Male Fire Pig Year (1887), Patrul took a little food, recited the Tantra of Immaculate Confession, and did a few prostrations. He performed the fivefold yogic exercises. He also did an exercise to increase the free flow of wisdom prana through the channels at the heart chakra.

On the eighteenth, in early morning he ate some curd and drank a little tea. At sunrise, he took off his clothes, sat upright in a meditative pose, crossed his legs in the vajra posture, and rested his two hands upon his knees.

When Khenpo Kunpel dressed him again, Patrul said nothing.

In addition to his attendant Sönam Tsering, three people stayed by Patrul’s side that night: Khenpo Kunpel, a person named Kungyam, and Patrul’s doctor, Jampel.

At one point, Sönam Tsering recounted, Patrul gazed straight into space and snapped the fingers of both hands.  He rested his hands under his robe in the mudra of equanimity. Then Patrul entered in the infinite, luminous space beyond birth and death, pure from the very beginning.

As is said:

A fully realized yogi may look like an ordinary person, but his mind remains in pure awareness without effort . . . when he leaves his physical body, his consciousness becomes one with the dharmakaya, just as the air in a vase merges with the surrounding space when the vase is broken.

From Enlightened Vagabond: The Life and Teachings of Patrul Rinpoche, by Matthieu Ricard (Shambhala 2017)

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who had a promising career in cellular genetics before leaving France thirty-five years ago to study Buddhism in the Himalayas. He is an author, translator, and has been a participant in scientific research on the effects that meditation has on the brain. Ricard’s work is held high regard in intellectual circles in Europe, and two books he co-authored, The Monk and the Philosopher and The Quantum and the Lotus, are best-sellers in France. He lives in Tibet and Nepal.

Yogini Shugsep Jetsun Rinpoche 1852–1953

Shugsep Jetsun, the Story of a Tibetan Yogini

The great female master Shugsep Jetsun Rinpoche (1852–1953) was revered as one of the last century’s best known woman teachers. She was the Abbess of Shugsep Nunnery in Tibet and passed away in 1953 at the age of 101.Tibetan yogini Shugsep Jetsun

Jetsun means “reverend” or “venerable”. She was also known as Lochen Chönyi Sangmo, as Ani Lochen (Ani means “nun”), and as Jetsun Rigdzin Chönyi Sangmo. Many consider her one of the most influential women in Tibetan spiritual history.

This great yogini was a recognized incarnation of Machig Labdrön, a renowned Tibetan Tantric yogini born in 1055. She was also an exemplary practitioner of Chöd, also known as “The Beggars Offering” or “Cutting Through the Ego.”

Many extraordinary stories are told of her remarkable abilities, such as the time on retreat when she left her body and “died” for a period of three weeks and visited the Copper Coloured Mountain Paradise of Guru Padmasambhava.

The late Tibetan scholar, Lobsang Lhalungpa, visited Shugsep Jetsun in the early 1940s at Shugsep Nunnery in Tibet and he wrote of her great spiritual beauty, even into old age. He said, “During my first two-week visit, I met with Jetsun Lochen for several hours a day, sometimes in the company of her main disciples. She was an extraordinary woman, small in stature, with a serene face radiating compassion and sensitivity. Only her white hair betrayed her age… In her presence we felt an awesome power that permeated our whole stream of being… Her teachings and blessings have given me inner strength and inspiration ever since. To me she was the personification of the great woman teachers of Tibet.”Shugsep Jetsun Tibetan yogini

THE LIFE OF SHUGSEP JETSUN

Shugsep Jetsun (Lochen Chönyi Sangmo) was born in Tso Pema, a village on a lake sacred to Padmasambhava in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, India. Her mother, Pema Dolma and her father Dundup Namgyal were pilgrims who had settled in Tso Pema for some time.

During her pregnancy, her mother experienced many wonderful dreams. In one she was standing by a crowd of women washing their hair in the stream. She suddenly looked up and saw, staring down at her, someone attired like the deity Heruka. She was convinced that her dreams were a sign that she was carrying a very special child. On the 15th day of the first month of the Wood Ox year (1852), Pemba Dorje gave birth to a female child whom she named Lochen. The delivery was painless accompanied by a slight earth tremor and a rain of flowers. Voices were heard reciting mantras and it is said that the child was born cross legged, her arms crossed across her chest in the gesture of holding a vajra and bell. Those who witnessed these events were filled with respect and awe. However, her father was very unimpressed and disappointed that the child was a girl. He treated her and her mother badly, eventually leaving them for another woman in Nepal.

When she was six years old, Lochen began to show her remarkable facility for understanding the Dharma and giving teachings. A patron encouraged her to travel from town to town explaining the meaning of stories concerning the Avalokiteshvara thangka that she would put up in the market place and stand on tiptoe to reach as she gave her discourse. People were so moved that tears would stream down their faces.

Lochen was very fond of saving animals from slaughter and would spend the money people gave her for her teachings on buying and rescuing sheep and goats. She traveled throughout the Western region of Tibet riding a large goat that was so tame that it would get down on its knees so that she could mount it easily. It is said that wherever she and her mother traveled they were helped by the protectors. In one dangerous place full of wild animals where they could find no water, she spotted a raven, the embodiment of Palden Lhamo, flying above them, which directed them to a spring where they could quench their thirst.

When Lochen first heard the name of Pema Gyatso, the lama who was to become her teacher or root Guru, she was filled with great emotion and determined to find him. She traveled for several months from Tso Pema to Kyirong (West Tibet) in search of him. Eventually she met a nun called Ani Tsultrim who was drawing water from a stream. Through this auspicious meeting she reached the lama’s cave where she made him an offering of a vessel of milk. It is said that the result of this was that many years later she was offered a cow for her nunnery at Shugsep Nunnery. Though it bore no calf for eight years it produced milk continuously. Pema Gyatso said that if she would be prepared to accept the aesthetic precepts known as the Ten Innermost Jewels of the Kadam then he would be prepared to accept her as his disciple. She accepted and he explained the Six Cause and One Result method of achieving the altruistic mind of enlightenment.

She stayed with Ani Tsultrim for a few days until she was joined by her mother and built a hermitage in a cave screened with bamboo. From Pema Gyatso she received the transmission of Kunsang Lama along with all the transmissions and empowerments of Longchenpa, the Heart Essence Instruction of the Dzogchen or The Great Completion as well as the 100 Initiations of Chö. People showed great respect and generosity to Lochen which caused one monk who lived nearby to feel jealous of her popularity. He went to Pema Gyatso and turned him against her by telling him that Lochen was boasting that she was an emanation of Dorje Pagmo (or Vajravarahi, a form of Vajrayogini). When she next visited her Guru with an offering he was angry and grabbed it, climbed up onto the roof of the nunnery and flung it down along with his boots. Though Lochen was hurt she crouched down to pick up the boots and placed them on her head as a mark of respect. After this incident she continued to attend her master’s teachings even though he ignored her.

Her difficulties in that community continued until the lama ordered her to leave and go to Nepal. While there an attendant of the local king heard her singing about her lama. He misinterpreted her song as a criticism of his master who sent out an emissary to punish her. Instead of her they found one of her two friends, Tsering Gyalmo and locked her in prison. After fruitless attempts to get her released, Lochen and her other friend, Kandro went out begging for tsampa. On their way they were crossing a rope bridge across a river when one of cables snapped and Kandro fell straight into the torrent below. Lochen prayed to her Lama and meditated on the vase like wind and wishing that all sentient beings be free from cyclic existence, jumped into the water. She landed near Kandro who was struggling for breath and managed to pull her onto a large rock. The local people who had been watching from the riverbank concluded that she must be a Dakini and reported what happened to the king. He was impressed and, regretting his action, released Tsering Gyalmo. He asked Lochen for religious instruction and offered her many gifts.

Soon after this Lochen and her friends decided to return to the Nunnery hoping that Pema Gyatso’s anger would have abated. Lochen knew that despite the ill treatment she had received from him her faith in her Lama had remained intact and she was more willing to face his anger than to stay away. When she arrived she prostrated to him and he was pleased to accept her back. Following this, Lochen accompanied Pema Gyatso and other disciples on pilgrimage in Western Tibet. Later they again went to Nepal and visited many other holy sites in Tibet. While they were in Lhasa they met Lama Kyabdon Dharma Sengye who lived in retreat. Together with him they had an audience with the 13th Dalai Lama. They offered him a mandala and he gave them transmission of the Hundred Deities of the Land of Joy (Ganden Lha Gya Ma) and the teaching on the prayer to Je Tsong Kha Pa. Following this she performed Chö fire offering in the cremation ground and slept there.

One day Pema Gyatso became ill after eating pork in a patron’s house. Despite all her efforts he never recovered. When he passed away she saw rainbows over his head. After her lama’s death Lochen ceased wandering and settled down spending the winter in a cave at Sangyey Dak and the summer at Shugsep which became her nunnery. According to Samnye Rinpoche she had more than 500 disciples, most of whom were nuns but at least 40 or 50 were monks. She taught the Bodhisattvas Way of Life 100 times to her disciples and spent the rest of her time in retreat meditating on her personal deity. One day, while she was meditating she heard the yelp of an animal. A dog trembling with fear rushed into her cave and took refuge on her lap swiftly followed by a leopard which thrust in it’s head into her cell and was about to pounce on the dog. Lochen firmly meditated for a few moments on great compassion, then she gestured to the leopard to sit, knowing there was no need for fear because all phenomena are illusions.

It is said that while in 6-month retreat in the Sangyey cave, Lochen passed away for three weeks. The shock of returning to life made her suddenly remember her lama and renewed her faith in him. On another occasion she reached such a state of meditation that she visited the pure lands and other realms before returning to her body. During her retreats she had many extraordinary experiences that caused her mother to feel that she needed the constant direction of a lama, so, just before she died, she left her in the care of Samney Thopden Rinpoche at Shugsep. A little later Lochen again fell ill for one night during which time she experienced the appearance of 100 peaceful and wrathful deities.

Once, while she was in retreat, a disciple named Tenzin Yeshe came to her to perform self-initiation after completing a retreat meditation on Avalokiteshvara, Although the cave had walls, he could only feel empty space and walked through them. While performing the self-initiation he saw Shugsep Jetsunma in the form of Avalokiteshvara with 1000 arms. One of her disciples always saw a white man accompanying her wherever she went. She finally told Shugsep Jetsunma who had no idea who it was. Suddenly the white man appeared to her. She was surprised and asked who he was. He replied, “Don’t you know me? I have been with you all these years like a servant helping you accomplish your good deeds.” Shugsep Jetsunma realized she was speaking to Tamchen, one of her protectors.

Painting of Shugsep JetsunmaIn the latter part of her life Shugsep Jetsun attracted a number of special disciples. In 1938 Reting Rinpoche expressed a desire to meet her. Because she was old and frail she would have to be carried on someone’s back but as they were preparing he himself came to her cave to meet her.

The official manager of the Great Prayer Festival, Dorje Dandul and his wife also visited her. They left their jobs and took teachings from her, gradually achieving high realizations. The 16th Karmapa visited her and requested her to give her the long life initiation since she a real Chö practitioner. She replied, “If you want to realise immortality you must realise the deathless nature of your mind.” She gave him the White Tara Initiation and asked him to perform the Black Hat ceremony three times. She was also visited by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s father and Sera Kelda Tulku and they offered tsok together.

Lochen Chönyi Sangmo spent many years of her life on pilgrimage throughout the Himalayas and spent time at the holy sites in Lhasa. According to her biographers, “When she arrived at Ganden monastery wearing her thin cotton robe, many of the monks, having heard that a yogini had come, crowded round to see her, staring and whispering to each other. She sang the following verses to them:

Father, revered guru Pema Gyatso
Acharya in Sanskrit and Naljorpa (yogi) in Tibetan
I prostrate to you, who have realized the true nature of the mind
When I arrived at Ganden monastery,
Hearing that there was a yogini,
Many gathered in crowds to stare at me.
I examined myself (to see) whether I was a yogini or not
And it seems you are right (in implying I am not).
The white yogi is Padmasambhava
Who taught the entire doctrine of sutra and tantra,
The white yogi is Tsogyal (Padmasambhava’s consort)
I am just a beggar who is only their follower.
Atisha was the multicoloured yogi
Who has spread the Dharma wide in India and Tibet
And from whom emerged the new and old traditions of Kadam.
The mother Tara is the many coloured yogini,
I am just a beggar who has received her blessing.
The black yogi is the father Dampa,
Who taught the doctrines of peace and of Chöd.
I cut off the self-grasping consciousness and realized emptiness.
The black yogini is mother Labdron
Ugly though I am, I preserve her doctrine
All that I hear, see and feel
Are the blessings of three yogis.
May I be the liberator of all mother sentient beings
And may the Dharma shine like the sun.

People who visited her at Shugsep remember a very small woman, they say she became smaller and smaller as she grew older, who could no longer walk at the end of her life. Whoever attended prayers at her nunnery say everyone was welcome whether they be laymen, women, children; all were entitled to a share of the offerings.

 inauguration of Shugsep Nunnery

The inauguration of Shugsep Nunnery re-established in India. Photo courtesy of Susan and Carl Shrader.

Shugsep Nunnery has been re-established in India by the Tibetan Nuns Project. If you would like to sponsor a nun at Shugsep or support the nunnery, please visit their website.

A full story of Shugsep Jetsun’s life is available as “The Story of a Tibetan Yogini: Shungsep Jetsun 1852-1953” prepared by Kim Yeshi and Acharya Tashi Tsering with the assistance of Sally Davenport and Dorjey Tseten, pp. 130-143, Chö Yang, 1991. The above story is an abbreviated version. One final note: there is a bit of  inconsistency about her age at death; some reports say that she was 103 but the years of her life given in the Chö Yang article are 1852-1953 which would make her 101 when she passed.

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche 1934-

Khenpo Rinpoche is an accomplished Buddhist meditation master and scholar from Eastern Tibet. Known for his highly engaging teaching style, he teaches the Buddhist view and meditation throughout the world. This website is dedicated to sharing his teachings and supporting his Dharma communities worldwide.

When I was born, I was born alone.
When I die, I will leave alone for certain.
Knowing this, I take delight, between these two stages,
In places of solitude, where I wander, alone.
Seeking out the path of liberation.
-KHENPO TSÜLTRIM GYAMTSO RINPOCHE

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche is one of the foremost living teachers of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, a great scholar and master of meditation who traveled the world teaching in Buddhism centres everywhere.

In his late teens and early twenties he trained as a yogin in Tibet with a local yogin known as Zopa Tharchin. He spent his early youth in retreat in the mountains until his teacher told him to study for the benefit of others. A renowned scholar, he excels in philosophical debate and always aims to turn the minds of his opponents and students towards their own inner experience rather than getting lost in intellectual fabrications.

After the communist invasion of Tibet, Khenpo Rinpoche fled to India in 1960. He spent many years in Bhutan as a wandering yogin, meditating in caves and hermitages. In 1975 he was asked by the sixteenth Karmapa, head of the Kagyu tradition, to be abbot of the main Kagyu centre in France. However he asked instead to be allowed to travel and help people everywhere.

He has done that ever since, leading a truly simple, homeless life; he is a master of non-attachment. He has many times refused to accept property to build Buddhist centers and he regularly gives away all of his money. Khenpo Rinpoche demonstrates the carefree life of a yogin, singing spontaneous songs of realization wherever he goes, devoted only to the welfare of others.

Look at appearance-emptiness forms,

Listen to sound and emptiness sounds,
Rest in mind’s nature, clarity-emptiness,
And when your thoughts free themselves,
Laugh, oh laugh “Ha ha! Hee hee!”
– KHENPO TSÜLTRIM GYAMTSO RINPOCHE

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Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rimpoche

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

May the teachings of study (she) and practice (drup)
Fill the entire world.
May emptiness with compassion for a heart
Arise in all sentient beings.
May Ani Karma Chötso’s activity for the benefit others
Become immeasurable,
And may all beings realize
The equality of samsara and nirvana.
SARVA MANGALAM !

— by The Very Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rimpoche Written on his first visit to Kagyu Shedrup Chöling in 1999

The Twenty Wonderful Miracles That Tell of Appearance and Reality

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso RinpocheNamo guru hasa vajra

Samsara and nirvana are undifferentiable
And even though you realize this
To purify your thoughts of their attributes
You gained Buddhahood in just one life
Mighty hero, Shepa Dorje [Milarepa]
At your feet, I bow with great respect. [Homage]

Genuine reality transcends birth and death
False appearances, birth and death are like watermoons
Knowing this will make it easy to
Cut through clinging to birth and death as true
Such an explanation of birth and death—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [1]

Since no actor exists, neither does activity
But in terms of appearance, they arise dependently
Just like dream happiness and suffering
And in this way, good and bad deeds result in joy and pain
Such an explanation of cause, result, and karma—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [2]

Samsara’s suffering has never existed
Its appearances are like agony in a dream
Of the very nature of dependent arising
You can’t separate appearance from emptiness
Such an explanation of suffering—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [3]

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

The human body that has faith, diligence, and prajna
Is so difficult to find, we’re told in many ways
But it, too, is just a watermoon
Dependently arisen, this you should know
This way of thinking about something that is so hard to get—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [4]

All phenomena outside and inside
Decay each moment, they have no power to remain
But this source of sadness, when examined closely
Reveals that impermanence doesn’t exist either!
This way of meditating on impermanence—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [5]

Your friends depend on your enemies
And your enemies depend on your friends
All friends and enemies exist dependently
Just like the ones that you meet in dreams
This way of understanding friends and enemies—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [6]

Without joy, pain is impossible
Without pain, joy is impossible
They are the very essence of dependent existence
They are without the slightest substance
This way of understanding joy and pain—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [7]

When there is clean it is because of unclean
And unclean itself depends on clean
They are of the nature of equality
As they are when they appear in dreams
This way of eliminating thoughts of clean and filth—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [8]

Gain and pleasure, praise and sweet sounds—these four
They rely on their opposites for their very existence
Watermoons and dreams, they have no substance
The eight worldly dharmas are such wonderful miracles! [9]

Being learned depends on being stupid
And being stupid depends on being learned
Both are just dreams and watermoons
Scholar and fool not different—what a wonderful miracle! [10]

From the unborn mind, beyond conceptuality
Appearances self-arise, and by themselves are free
Just like waves dissolving into the ocean vast
The basic way of being—what a wonderful miracle! [11]

No one to progress, no path to progress upon
No progressing whatsoever going on
But the way of progressing that we see
From cause and condition, arises dependently
Like the moon dancing on the waves
This way of traversing the path—what a wonderful miracle! [12]

Nothing to realize, no one to realize it
No realization can be seen, not even a little bit
But our words can describe so carefully
The way of realization that occurs dependently
It is like seeing the moon in a dream
This way of realizing the fruition—what a wonderful miracle! [13]

Since fundamentally there are no conceptual elaborations,
The basic state transcends all reference points and assertions
Yet from this expanse that concepts cannot experience
Conceptuality arises in great abundance!
This way of explaining genuine reality—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [14]

The completely false appearances that you see
Transcend both true and false in reality
But to stop you from thinking that they are true
You are taught that they are false
To halt this clinging to falsity, it is not explained that they have any reality
Liberation from true and false—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [15]

Genuine reality’s dharmakaya
Cannot be experienced by conceptual mind
But there is the way the sambhogakaya
Appears to the noble bodhisattvas
And to the various beings, the nirmanakaya
Appears in a watermoon’s style
This way of explaining the three kayas—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [16]

We have so many thoughts that we are suffering
But this suffering is just like a dream!
And if you can recognize these thoughts’ true nature
Suffering will be self-liberated as soon as it appears!
The ice so easily melting into water
Transformation explained like that—what a wonderful miracle! [17]

Though the wisdoms five and the kayas three
Are all explained individually
Like a sound’s impermanence and composite nature
Kayas and wisdoms are really undifferentiable
This explanation of ultimate union—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [18]

Through great compassion, the Buddha’s activity
Accomplishes the benefit of sentient beings
But the benefitted ones really don’t exist at all
Completely falsely, the benefit performed is as in a dream
This explanation of Buddha’s activity—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [19]

Pure and impure are just imaginary
They do not exist in the expanse of equality
Equality’s expanse encompasses absolutely everything
And nothing can ever move from it at all
This explanation of equality—
E ma! What a wonderful miracle! [20]

Why are all these so incredibly miraculous?
Genuine reality, true being, free of conceptuality
Appearances transcending truth and falsity—
E ma! All phenomena are wonderful miracles!

When you realize all of this
You realize Mahayana’s profound meaning
When you grasp all of this
You are a worthy vessel for the Great Secret
When you grasp all of this
You help everyone in a natural way

So may all you fortunate ones
Realize this meaning well!

So was the casual talk of Dechen Rangdrol [Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso] in the Garden of Translation near the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, Nepal, on Dec. 17th and 18th, 1997. Translated by Ari Goldfield. Translation revised Jan. 2, 2002.

Things That Tend to Be Misleading

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso RinpocheIf you understand that all the misleading appearances of worldly existence are not intrinsically real, they will not tend to mislead you.

If you have attachment to friends and enemies as being real, they will mislead you. But if you have equanimity towards both, they will not mislead or deceive you.

If you see a lot of change or transition, that will tend to mislead you. But if you understand the intrinsic nature beyond change, it will not be misleading.

If you cling to the reality of birth and death, there is much deception. But if you realize there is no birth and death, there’s no deception.

If you believe in the existence of suffering, there’s much deception. But if you realize there’s no suffering, there’s no deception.

If you believe that self and other are separate, there’s much deception. But if you recognize that they are not two separate things, there’s no deception.

If you understand this true nature of deception, discursive thoughts will be liberated in their own place.

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Creation & Completion, Vajravairochana Translation Committee, October 1995 & June 1996, p. 9-10. Translated by Sarah Harding

Milarepa’s Three Nails of Meditation

Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche flying
Venerable Khempo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche flying

All thoughts, being dharmakaya, are free.
The nature of thoughts is luminous clarity, which is the true nature of mind-beyond fabrication, transcending all conceptual descriptions. Luminous clarity is the dharmakaya of natural purity. What is this dharmakaya like?

Awareness is luminous, in its depths is bliss.
The experience of dharmakaya has three characteristics: awareness, luminosity, and bliss. How do you meditate on that?

And resting without contrivance is equipoise.
Without trying to create or to stop anything, just let go and relax. That is meditation. There is no clearer explanation.

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, The Union of Sutra and Tantra, Karme Choling, 2001, p. 70. Translated by Ari Goldfield.

Padmasambhava 750-850?

Guru Padmasambhava is renowned as founder of Buddhism in Tibet and the principal guru-deity of the Nyingma school.

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Guru Padmasambhava himself is emanations of Buddhas, the mind emanation of Buddha Amitabha, the body emanation of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and speech emanation of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Padmasambhava was incarnated as an 8 year old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Uddiyana. The king of the Odiyana, Indrabodhi, brought him back to his palace and crowned him as the prince of the kingdom.

Padmasambhava perceived that since politics is contradictory to his pursuing of enlightenment, he abdicated thereafter. He then went to Bodhgaya and many places receiving teachings from many great scholars, masters and Dakinis.

Image result for padmasambhava

He accomplished the common and uncommon siddhis, comprehended and accomplished the whole canon of the three baskets of Vinaya, Sutra and Abhidharma, as well as the teachings of the outer and inner secret mantra, oral transmissions, and the pith instructions of the highest and innermost tantra of Atiyoga. The mandalas and Buddhas displayed their forms in front of him spontaneously. Thus he showed the signs of perfect level of complete awareness.

Padmasambhava visited and stayed in many places in India, Nepal and Tibet. These places were blessed by Padmasambhava and became sacred till now. For example, he practised the Vishuda deity at the cave of Yanglashod in Nepal. And, He took his wife, Mandarava, to the mountain cave of Maratika, known as Halesha in present day in Nepal, where they performed the accomplishment rituals of longevity for three months and actualised the immortal Vajra body.

Tso Pema (Lotus Lake), Guru Rinpoche ever showed miracles here, nearby Paslpung Sherabling about 3 hours trip by car.

Padmasambhava’s activities of taming people and performing enlightened activities for the sake of sentient beings are renowned as Eight Manifestations. These activities were recorded in detail in his biography and many books.

Spread the Dharma in Tibet

Trisong Deutsen, the 38th king of Tibet (742-797), invited Padmasambhava to Tibet. Along the way, he used his tantric powers to subdue all the harmful gods and demons he encountered, and made them faithful guardians of the Dharma. In Tibet he and the king founded the first monastery in the country Samye monastery and fully furnished it with statues. In addition, they gave monk’s vows to Tibet’s first seven monks, standardized translation methods, supervised translation of most of the sutras and tantras from Sanskrit to Tibetan, and for the first time in Tibet, firmly established the tradition of study, contemplation, and meditation, thereby radiating the Buddha Dharma in Tibet like rays of the sun.

Among Padmasambhava’s disciples, there were twenty-five of them attained liberation and eighty of them attained rainbow body.

A sacred place of Guru Rinpoche at Tsandra Rinchen Drak. Near Niguma retreat center of Palpung Monastery.

Padmasambhava stayed in Tibet for 55 years. In this period, he inspired people’s faith to the Dharma, brought Buddha Dharma from India to Tibet, and transformed Tibet to be a Buddhist land. Without Padmasambhava’s activities in Tibet, there might be no Tibetan Buddha Dharma today.

For the sake of future aspirants in the future, Guru Padmasambhava concealed eighteen varieties of treasure which include treasure texts, material wealth, holy images and so forth. He gave explicit prophesies regarding the future manifestation of these treasures, including the revealer and protector of the treasure, as well as time of revelation.

Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum

Padmasambhava was a historical teacher who converted Tibet to Buddhism. He was a renowned scholar, meditator, and magician, and his mantra suggests his rich and diverse nature.

Om Ah Hum, as we have seen, have no conceptual meaning. Often they are associated with body, speech, and mind respectively (i.e. the whole of ones being. So theres a suggestion that we are saluting the qualities that Padmasambhava represents with all of our hearts (and minds, and bodies).

Vajra means thunderbolt, and represents the energy of the enlightened mind. It can also mean diamond. The implication is that the diamond/thunderbolt can cut through anything. The diamond is the indestructible object, while the thunderbolt is the unstoppable force. The vajra also stands for compassion. While it may seem odd to have such a masculine object representing compassion, this makes sense in esoteric Buddhism because compassion is active, and therefore aligned with this masculine symbol. (The term masculine does not of course imply that compassion is limited to males!)

Guru, of course, means a wise teacher. It comes from a root word,garu, which means weighty. So you can think of the guru as one who is a weighty teacher. Padmasambhava is so highly regarded in Tibetan Buddhism that he is often referred to as the second Buddha.

Padma means lotus, calling to mind the purity of the enlightened mind, because the lotus flower, although growing in muddy water, is completely stainless. In the same way the enlightened mind is surrounded by the greed, hatred, and delusion that is found in the world, and yet remains untouched by it. The lotus therefore represents wisdom. Again, while westerners would tend to assume that the flower represents compassion, the receptive nature of the flower gives it a feminine status in esoteric Buddhism, and to the lotus is aligned with the feminine quality of wisdom. And once again, there is no implication that wisdom is in any way limited to those who are female. The words masculine and feminine here are used in a technical sense thats completely unrelated to biology.

And Siddhi means accomplishment or supernatural powers, suggesting the way in which those who are enlightened can act wisely, but in ways that we cant necessarily understand. Padmasambhava is a magical figure, and in his biography there are many miracles and tussles with supernatural beings.

12th Tai Situpa 1954

March 2006,by DhonnamThe present twelfth Kenting Tai Situpa, Pema Donyo Nyingche Wangpo, was born in the male wood-horse year (1954) in the Palyul District of Derge to a family of farmers. He was found and recognized by H.H the sixteenth Karmapa Rigpe Dorje.

The present twelfth Kenting Tai Situpa is a renowned Buddhist master. He is the main Guru of H.H. the 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinlay Dorje in Mahamudra and training in turn the next generation of Buddhist masters. On a more personal level the present twelfth Kenting Tai Situpa is a scholar, poet, calligrapher, artist, author, architect and geomancer.

As a Buddhist teacher, he regularly tours the world giving teachings and empowerments at the request of the Dharma centers. These teachings are collected and published to nine books till now.

Kenting Tai Situpa’s paintings are collected and published to four books till now. They are: Matition Art, Creativity: Magnification Images Will Be Born, Awakening: Meditation Art of the 12th Tai Situpa, Relative World, Ultimate Mind: The Art of the 12th Tai Situpa.
And, a collective book of Kenting Tai Situpa’s photographs, Eye of the Eye, was published in 2000 in Taiwan.

Most of these art works and Kenting Tai Situpa’s calligraphies were assembled to the book “Collection of the Creative Art Works of Xii Tai Situpa” in 2004 in Taiwan. Most of the paintings, photographs and calligraphies in this web site are scanned from this book.

9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje 1556–1603

The 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje

Shugsep Jetsun 1852–1953

Shugsep Jetsun, the Story of a Tibetan Yogini

Tibetan yogini Shugsep Jetsun

Jetsun means “reverend” or “venerable”. She was also known as Lochen Chönyi Sangmo, as Ani Lochen (Ani means “nun”), and as Jetsun Rigdzin Chönyi Sangmo. Many consider her one of the most influential women in Tibetan spiritual history.

This great yogini was a recognized incarnation of Machig Labdrön, a renowned Tibetan Tantric yogini born in 1055. She was also an exemplary practitioner of Chöd, also known as “The Beggars Offering” or “Cutting Through the Ego.”

Many extraordinary stories are told of her remarkable abilities, such as the time on retreat when she left her body and “died” for a period of three weeks and visited the Copper Coloured Mountain Paradise of Guru Padmasambhava.

The late Tibetan scholar, Lobsang Lhalungpa, visited Shugsep Jetsun in the early 1940s at Shugsep Nunnery in Tibet and he wrote of her great spiritual beauty, even into old age. He said, “During my first two-week visit, I met with Jetsun Lochen for several hours a day, sometimes in the company of her main disciples. She was an extraordinary woman, small in stature, with a serene face radiating compassion and sensitivity. Only her white hair betrayed her age… In her presence we felt an awesome power that permeated our whole stream of being… Her teachings and blessings have given me inner strength and inspiration ever since. To me she was the personification of the great woman teachers of Tibet.”Shugsep Jetsun Tibetan yogini

THE LIFE OF SHUGSEP JETSUN

Shugsep Jetsun (Lochen Chönyi Sangmo) was born in Tso Pema, a village on a lake sacred to Padmasambhava in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, India. Her mother, Pema Dolma and her father Dundup Namgyal were pilgrims who had settled in Tso Pema for some time.

During her pregnancy, her mother experienced many wonderful dreams. In one she was standing by a crowd of women washing their hair in the stream. She suddenly looked up and saw, staring down at her, someone attired like the deity Heruka. She was convinced that her dreams were a sign that she was carrying a very special child. On the 15th day of the first month of the Wood Ox year (1852), Pemba Dorje gave birth to a female child whom she named Lochen. The delivery was painless accompanied by a slight earth tremor and a rain of flowers. Voices were heard reciting mantras and it is said that the child was born cross legged, her arms crossed across her chest in the gesture of holding a vajra and bell. Those who witnessed these events were filled with respect and awe. However, her father was very unimpressed and disappointed that the child was a girl. He treated her and her mother badly, eventually leaving them for another women in Nepal.

When she was six years old, Lochen began to show her remarkable facility for understanding the Dharma and giving teachings. A patron encouraged her to travel from town to town explaining the meaning of stories concerning the Avalokiteshvara thangka that she would put up in the market place and stand on tiptoe to reach as she gave her discourse. People were so moved that tears would stream down their faces.

Lochen was very fond of saving animals from slaughter and would spend the money people gave her for her teachings on buying and rescuing sheep and goats. She traveled throughout the Western region of Tibet riding a large goat that was so tame that it would get down on its knees so that she could mount it easily. It is said that wherever she and her mother traveled they were helped by the protectors. In one dangerous place full of wild animals where they could find no water, she spotted a raven, the embodiment of Palden Lhamo, flying above them, which directed them to a spring where they could quench their thirst.

When Lochen first heard the name of Pema Gyatso, the lama who was to become her teacher or root Guru, she was filled with great emotion and determined to find him. She traveled for several months from Tso Pema to Kyirong (West Tibet) in search of him. Eventually she met a nun called Ani Tsultrim who was drawing water from a stream. Through this auspicious meeting she reached the lama’s cave where she made him an offering of a vessel of milk. It is said that the result of this was that many years later she was offered a cow for her nunnery at Shugsep Nunnery. Though it bore no calf for eight years it produced milk continuously. Pema Gyatso said that if she would be prepared to accept the aesthetic precepts known as the Ten Innermost Jewels of the Kadam then he would be prepared to accept her as his disciple. She accepted and he explained the Six Cause and One Result method of achieving the altruistic mind of enlightenment.

She stayed with Ani Tsultrim for a few days until she was joined by her mother and built a hermitage in a cave screened with bamboo. From Pema Gyatso she received the transmission of Kunsang Lama along with all the transmissions and empowerments of Longchenpa, the Heart Essence Instruction of the Dzogchen or The Great Completion as well as the 100 Initiations of Chö. People showed great respect and generosity to Lochen which caused one monk who lived nearby to feel jealous of her popularity. He went to Pema Gyatso and turned him against her by telling him that Lochen was boasting that she was an emanation of Dorje Pagmo (or Vajravarahi, a form of Vajrayogini). When she next visited her Guru with an offering he was angry and grabbed it, climbed up onto the roof of the nunnery and flung it down along with his boots. Though Lochen was hurt she crouched down to pick up the boots and placed them on her head as a mark of respect. After this incident she continued to attend her master’s teachings even though he ignored her.

Her difficulties in that community continued until the lama ordered her to leave and go to Nepal. While there an attendant of the local king heard her singing about her lama. He misinterpreted her song as a criticism of his master who sent out an emissary to punish her. Instead of her they found one of her two friends, Tsering Gyalmo and locked her in prison. After fruitless attempts to get her released, Lochen and her other friend, Kandro went out begging for tsampa. On their way they were crossing a rope bridge across a river when one of cables snapped and Kandro fell straight into the torrent below. Lochen prayed to her Lama and meditated on the vase like wind and wishing that all sentient beings be free from cyclic existence, jumped into the water. She landed near Kandro who was struggling for breath and managed to pull her onto a large rock. The local people who had been watching from the riverbank concluded that she must be a Dakini and reported what happened to the king. He was impressed and, regretting his action, released Tsering Gyalmo. He asked Lochen for religious instruction and offered her many gifts.

Soon after this Lochen and her friends decided to return to the Nunnery hoping that Pema Gyatso’s anger would have abated. Lochen knew that despite the ill treatment she had received from him her faith in her Lama had remained intact and she was more willing to face his anger than to stay away. When she arrived she prostrated to him and he was pleased to accept her back. Following this, Lochen accompanied Pema Gyatso and other disciples on pilgrimage in Western Tibet. Later they again went to Nepal and visited many other holy sites in Tibet. While they were in Lhasa they met Lama Kyabdon Dharma Sengye who lived in retreat. Together with him they had an audience with the 13th Dalai Lama. They offered him a mandala and he gave them transmission of the Hundred Deities of the Land of Joy (Ganden Lha Gya Ma) and the teaching on the prayer to Je Tsong Kha Pa. Following this she performed Chö fire offering in the cremation ground and slept there.

One day Pema Gyatso became ill after eating pork in a patron’s house. Despite all her efforts he never recovered. When he passed away she saw rainbows over his head. After her lama’s death Lochen ceased wandering and settled down spending the winter in a cave at Sangyey Dak and the summer at Shugsep which became her nunnery. According to Samnye Rinpoche she had more than 500 disciples, most of whom were nuns but at least 40 or 50 were monks. She taught the Bodhisattvas Way of Life 100 times to her disciples and spent the rest of her time in retreat meditating on her personal deity. One day, while she was meditating she heard the yelp of an animal. A dog trembling with fear rushed into her cave and took refuge on her lap swiftly followed by a leopard which thrust in it’s head into her cell and was about to pounce on the dog. Lochen firmly meditated for a few moments on great compassion, then she gestured to the leopard to sit, knowing there was no need for fear because all phenomena are illusions.

It is said that while in 6-month retreat in the Sangyey cave, Lochen passed away for three weeks. The shock of returning to life made her suddenly remember her lama and renewed her faith in him. On another occasion she reached such a state of meditation that she visited the pure lands and other realms before returning to her body. During her retreats she had many extraordinary experiences that caused her mother to feel that she needed the constant direction of a lama, so, just before she died, she left her in the care of Samney Thopden Rinpoche at Shugsep. A little later Lochen again fell ill for one night during which time she experienced the appearance of 100 peaceful and wrathful deities.

Once, while she was in retreat, a disciple named Tenzin Yeshe came to her to perform self-initiation after completing a retreat meditation on Avalokiteshvara, Although the cave had walls, he could only feel empty space and walked through them. While performing the self-initiation he saw Shugsep Jetsunma in the form of Avalokiteshvara with 1000 arms. One of her disciples always saw a white man accompanying her wherever she went. She finally told Shugsep Jetsunma who had no idea who it was. Suddenly the white man appeared to her. She was surprised and asked who he was. He replied, “Don’t you know me? I have been with you all these years like a servant helping you accomplish your good deeds.” Shugsep Jetsunma realized she was speaking to Tamchen, one of her protectors.

Painting of Shugsep JetsunmaIn the latter part of her life Shugsep Jetsun attracted a number of special disciples. In 1938 Reting Rinpoche expressed a desire to meet her. Because she was old and frail she would have to be carried on someone’s back but as they were preparing he himself came to her cave to meet her.

The official manager of the Great Prayer Festival, Dorje Dandul and his wife also visited her. They left their jobs and took teachings from her, gradually achieving high realizations. The 16th Karmapa visited her and requested her to give her the long life initiation since she a real Chö practitioner. She replied, “If you want to realise immortality you must realise the deathless nature of your mind.” She gave him the White Tara Initiation and asked him to perform the Black Hat ceremony three times. She was also visited by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s father and Sera Kelda Tulku and they offered tsok together.

Lochen Chönyi Sangmo spent many years of her life on pilgrimage throughout the Himalayas and spent time at the holy sites in Lhasa. According to her biographers, “When she arrived at Ganden monastery wearing her thin cotton robe, many of the monks, having heard that a yogini had come, crowded round to see her, staring and whispering to each other. She sang the following verses to them:

Father, revered guru Pema Gyatso
Acharya in Sanskrit and Naljorpa (yogi) in Tibetan
I prostrate to you, who have realized the true nature of the mind
When I arrived at Ganden monastery,
Hearing that there was a yogini,
Many gathered in crowds to stare at me.
I examined myself (to see) whether I was a yogini or not
And it seems you are right (in implying I am not).
The white yogi is Padmasambhava
Who taught the entire doctrine of sutra and tantra,
The white yogi is Tsogyal (Padmasambhava’s consort)
I am just a beggar who is only their follower.
Atisha was the multicoloured yogi
Who has spread the Dharma wide in India and Tibet
And from whom emerged the new and old traditions of Kadam.
The mother Tara is the many coloured yogini,
I am just a beggar who has received her blessing.
The black yogi is the father Dampa,
Who taught the doctrines of peace and of Chöd.
I cut off the self-grasping consciousness and realized emptiness.
The black yogini is mother Labdron
Ugly though I am, I preserve her doctrine
All that I hear, see and feel
Are the blessings of three yogis.
May I be the liberator of all mother sentient beings
And may the Dharma shine like the sun.

People who visited her at Shugsep remember a very small woman, they say she became smaller and smaller as she grew older, who could no longer walk at the end of her life. Whoever attended prayers at her nunnery say everyone was welcome whether they be laymen, women, children; all were entitled to a share of the offerings.

 inauguration of Shugsep Nunnery

The inauguration of Shugsep Nunnery re-established in India. Photo courtesy of Susan and Carl Shrader.

Shugsep Nunnery has been re-established in India by the Tibetan Nuns Project. If you would like to sponsor a nun at Shugsep or support the nunnery, please visit our website.

A full story of Shugsep Jetsun’s life is available as “The Story of a Tibetan Yogini: Shungsep [sic] Jetsun 1852-1953” prepared by Kim Yeshi and Acharya Tashi Tsering with the assistance of Sally Davenport and Dorjey Tseten, pp. 130-143, Chö Yang, 1991. The above story is an abbreviated version. One final note: there is a bit of  inconsistency about her age at death; some reports say that she was 103 but the years of her life given in the Chö Yang article are 1852-1953 which would make her 101 when she passed.

Atisha 982-1054

The great Indian Buddhist Master Atisha (982-1054 AD) was responsible for reintroducing pure Buddhism into Tibet.

Although Buddhism had been introduced into Tibet some two hundred years earlier by Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita, Buddhist practice in the country had largely been destroyed during the anti-Buddhist purges of the Tibetan king, Lang Darma (circa 836 AD), a follower of Bön, the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet.

Invited by Jangchub Ö, a ruler of Ngari in western Tibet, Atisha was asked to present a Dharma that everybody could follow and that would show how all the paths of Sutra and Tantra could be practiced together.

Read Advice from Atisha’s Heart

How wonderful!

Friends, since you already have great knowledge and clear understanding, whereas I am of no importance and have little wisdom, it is not suitable for you to request advice from me. However because you dear friends, whom I cherish from my heart, have requested me, I shall give you this essential advice from my inferior and childish mind.

Friends, until you attain enlightenment the Spiritual Teacher is indispensable, therefore rely upon the holy Spiritual Guide.

Until you realize ultimate truth, listening is indispensable, therefore listen to the instructions of the Spiritual Guide.

Since you cannot become a Buddha merely by understanding Dharma, practise earnestly with understanding.

Avoid places that disturb your mind, and always remain where your virtues increase.

Until you attain stable realizations, worldly amusements are harmful, therefore abide in a place where there are no such distractions.

Avoid friends who cause you to increase delusions, and rely upon those who increase your virtue. This you should take to heart.

Since there is never a time when worldly activities come to an end, limit your activities.

Dedicate your virtues throughout the day and the night, and always watch your mind.

Because you have received advice, whenever you are not meditating always practise in accordance with what your Spiritual Guide says.

If you practise with great devotion, results will arise immediately, without your having to wait for a long time.

If from your heart you practise in accordance with Dharma, both food and resources will come naturally to hand.

Friends, the things you desire give no more satisfaction than drinking sea water, therefore practise contentment.

Avoid all haughty, conceited, proud, and arrogant minds, and remain peaceful and subdued.

Avoid activities that are said to be meritorious, but which in fact are obstacles to Dharma.

Profit and respect are nooses of the maras, so brush them aside like stones on the path.

Words of praise and fame serve only to beguile us, therefore blow them away as you would blow your nose.

Since the happiness, pleasure, and friends you gather in this life last only for a moment, put them all behind you.

Since future lives last for a very long time, gather up riches to provide for the future.

You will have to depart leaving everything behind, so do not be attached to anything.

Generate compassion for lowly beings, and especially avoid despising or humiliating them.

Have no hatred for enemies, and no attachment for friends.

Do not be jealous of others’ good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself.

Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in yourself, and purge them like bad blood.

Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others, and respect everyone as a servant would.

See all living beings as your father or mother, and love them as if you were their child.

Always keep a smiling face and a loving mind, and speak truthfully without malice.

If you talk too much with little meaning you will make mistakes, therefore speak in moderation, only when necessary.

If you engage in many meaningless activities your virtuous activities will degenerate, therefore stop activities that are not spiritual.

It is completely meaningless to put effort into activities that have no essence.

If the things you desire do not come it is due to karma created long ago, therefore keep a happy and relaxed mind.

Beware, offending a holy being is worse than dying, therefore be honest and straightforward.

Since all the happiness and suffering of this life arise from previous actions, do not blame others.

All happiness comes from the blessings of your Spiritual Guide, therefore always repay his kindness.

Since you cannot tame the minds of others until you have tamed your own, begin by taming your own mind.

Since you will definitely have to depart without the wealth you have accumulated, do not accumulate negativity for the sake of wealth.

Distracting enjoyments have no essence, therefore sincerely practise giving.

Always keep pure moral discipline for it leads to beauty in this life and happiness hereafter.

Since hatred is rife in these impure times, don the armour of patience, free from anger.

You remain in samsara through the power of laziness, therefore ignite the fire of the effort of application.

Since this human life is wasted by indulging in distractions, now is the time to practise concentration.

Being under the influence of wrong views you do not realize the ultimate nature of things, therefore investigate correct meanings.

Friends, there is no happiness in this swamp of samsara, so move to the firm ground of liberation.

Meditate according to the advice of your Spiritual Guide and dry up the river of samsaric suffering.

You should consider this well because it is not just words from the mouth, but sincere advice from the heart.

If you practise like this you will delight me, and you will bring happiness to yourself and others.

I who am ignorant request you to take this advice to heart.

This is the advice that the holy being Venerable Atisha gave to Venerable Jang Chub Ö.

Translation © Geshe Kelsang Gyatso & New Kadampa Tradition

In response, Atisha wrote Lamp for the Path, the original Lamrim text that served as the basis for all subsequent Lamrim instructions. The revival of pure Buddhist practice in Tibet at this time was largely due to Atisha.

To learn more about Atisha, see Joyful Path of Good Fortune by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.