In WISDOM TEACHERS by Erik Pema Kunsang24 Comments

The teacher whose place is in the center-most part of my heart and has been my dearest guide is Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. You may know his biography, Blazing Splendor. These days I’m writing a book about my life with stories of the many masters of realization I met. It’s not an easy task, with memories that bring tears to my eyes.

Here is a rare footage of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, my perfect teacher. He sits in the temple hall at Nagi Gompa hermitage, now a quiet large nunnery overlooking the emerald-green valley of Kathmandu from the southern slope of Shivapuri mountain. The occasion is the yearly retreat of Rangjung Yeshe Institute, held in the late autumn. The time is before the temple building was renovated as you can still see the frescoes painted by Oleshay, the Sherpa master painter.
I remember that day.

There is a strange mixture in the atmosphere of being home with one’s family, sitting in an old Tibetan temple in the Himalayas and a lecture during which the audience is instructed in how to experience the innermost being, the true nature of mind. Rinpoche lives upstairs and is in a very good mood, because he is not only about to do what he does best, but also he fulfills his life purpose, transmitting the ultimate linage of realization.

Upstairs Rinpoche has checked his bag of tricks, some extraordinary, some ordinary small things he uses as instructional tools during the teaching. A thick maroon handkerchief, heavily used. An Indian statue of the Buddha, inside which is a piece of Angulimala, the disciple of the Buddha, a converted murderer of 999 people. A roll of thick handmade paper, two pieces of cardboard. The huge amber rosary given to him by the Karmapa and, most importantly, a little brocade pouch with amrita, the nectar of immortality; the eating of a tiny piece ensures rebirth in the higher realms.

With a satisfied nod, he turns to me and says, “Dzogchen practice is mostly done without a roof. After the lecture, tell everyone to walk off alone on the mountainside, sit down and work with the questions I’m going to give them. Just hearing is no use. Buddha must be discovered from within.”
He allows me to carry his bag.

On the way into the hall, four young people have strewn golden-colored flowers. While turning the corner, we pause to gaze out over the Kathmandu Valley. On this late autumn morning, crisp and sunny, the sky is indescribably blue, the valley below covered with a blanket of white clouds. A vast lake of milk.

In this video, so typical of his direct teaching style, with no hesitation and complete confidence, Rinpoche explains that the basic nature of every living being is identical in essence with that of all buddhas, how to know this for sure, how to see the difference and how to progress from where we are at present.
He was a true master of meditation and realization.

About the Author
Erik Pema Kunsang

Erik Pema Kunsang

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Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and LEVEKUNST art of life. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author. Erik's website & retreats.

Video by Marcia Binder Schmidt and Lotus Treasure. Featured image: Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, asked to pose in Dzogchen meditation, by Erik Pema Kunsang.
Books by and about Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

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    Hi, I was wondering if Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche ever described the use of amber as a material for a mala. I’ve read it’s used for subjugating purposes but then elsewhere I’ve read it’s used for increasing mantras.

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    I have always wondered how Tulku Urgyen would teach his students tu look at our mind and train ourselves to maintain what has to be maintained…Now I know 🙂 Thank u so much Erik for sharing that amazing video and telling us about the ambiance and athmosphere and surroundings of Nagi Gompa. Thank you Erik. Waw 🙂

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    Sublime. I would love to see more.
    Thank you for all the incredible translations of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s teachings. They have been incredibly helpful and inspiring.

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    Dear Eric,
    Unfortunately, the link doesn’t seem to be working. Can it be fixed? Thanks so much for everything.
    (My name is) Marie

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    Such a great thing about sharing when it is appropiate, and using rightly the technology !

    For you to know that this video has been seen here in Santo Domingo , Dominican Republic .

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    Thanks for sharing . Ah San (if you remember ) told me that you are Tulku Urgen best disciple 🙏🏻🙏🏻

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    You’ve beautifully described the landscape and the aura of the Guru 🙂 Blessings be upon all of us. The essence of life lies in the simplicity of life and I believe it is found in abundance in such places. Best wishes for your book. I hope the stories will be a inspiration to the readers.

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    Theres some thing on this sutta(Bahiya Sutta) which sounds very similar to what Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche is saying..


    1. Erik Pema Kunsang Author

      You’re welcome, Erik.

      The interview appeared in Vajradhatu Sun in the ’80s. Here is the link to the full version.

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    Thank you! Precious video. Such an important teacher to me. How fortunate I got to meet him when he and Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche visited KTD.

    1. Erik Pema Kunsang Author

      Dear Toni. That must have been in the very early spring of ’81. The two Rinpoches spent a few days at the Gyalwang Karmapa’s seat in the US before visiting his centers in California.

      I’m still looking for a a photo from those days.

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    Its enough to work on for Liberation ! Thanks . I feel the teachings from the books ” As It Is ” coming more alive with this audio..
    wow wow wow !

  12. Frans Stiene

    Thank you Erik,
    Yes, if there is a transcript of the teaching that would be great 😉

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    I can only imagine what it must have been like to be in Rinpoche’s presence when even a recording is so charged with power.

  14. Pingback: Rare footage of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche teaching on nature of mind | Effortless Mindfulness Blog

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    Truly wonderful. I see my precious Rinpoche in your precious teacher. Thank you for showing the wondrous blessing.

  16. Heide

    How precious! Incredibly inspiring and more… Amazing and hard to believe it is just being shared with us here, thanks a million!

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    WONDERFUL teaching which cuts through a lot of ‘spiritual materialism. Is there a transcript or printed version?

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