LOTUS OCEAN

In WISDOM TEACHERS by Erik Pema Kunsang4 Comments

The Chokling Rinpoche of Tsikey is a truly unique person. He is not a man one can ignore: beautiful with a face like Padmasambhava, a fine little mustache and eyes rolling like a half-wrathful half-passionate god, look into endless inner skies. When he sits on the vajra throne most people feel as if a buddha is sitting in their presence. His serenity and authority are complete. He doesn’t smile a lot, but when he does, every heart melts in devotion. 

When he travels he carries a sorcerer’s kit and a suitcase of gifts, strings of protection, mandalas, tangkhas, malas and all kinds of sacred objects to people, who either need or deserve them. In Malaysia I saw him cure several people with incurable diseases. He never admits to what he does, but suddenly a guy who has been confined to a wheelchair for years gets up and walks. I have seen him cure people who were deaf, mute or imbecile. He would throw things at them, spit in their face, pour salt or oil on their head, shout or mumble something, and dance around them. Then suddenly they would wake up as if from a long dream and be able to speak, hear or walk.

I saw him as a genuine sorcerer and also a saint, but not in the pious Christian sense. After doing something incredibly profound, he sometimes turned his head, winked at a sweet girl, surely blowing everyone’s mind and expectations. That was exactly his way of showing the world the most unexpected thing imaginable. Some love him unconditionally, others get scared, but no one ever forgets him.  

Here is an extract from his book, Lotus Ocean, which he spoke to me freely and without hesitation for 90 minutes, many years back. He spoke until the last sentence, a few seconds before the tape ran out. Afterwards there was nothing to add or change. 

The main points of Dzogchen are to recognize the natural state, to train in developing its strength, and to attain stability. While emphasizing the mind essence, whether you sit or walk, eat or sleep, don’t ever separate from recognizing your essence. To able to practice in this way is itself the most vital point. This is how Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche taught.

Even though I received many such teachings, I have not been able to practice them for long stretches in strict retreat. Most of the time I have been carried away by sense pleasures. In between, I have conducted the yearly drubchen ceremonies in the winter, and for a couple of months here and there in the summer I have done some recitation retreats. The rest of the time, just like Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche taught, I have tried my best to practice while sitting, walking, eating and lying down.

My main practice has been devotion to Guru Padmasam­bhava. Next has been trust in my root gurus, a trust which I feel is unwavering. I trust wholeheartedly that the great vajra-hold­ers, the Sixteenth Karmapa, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and Kalu Rinpoche, were siddhas and true lords of the mandala, just as if Tilopa and Naropa had come in person. I feel that they were all indivisible from Guru Rin­poche. This is what I honestly believe, and this is also the qual­ity of the blessings I receive from them. It is through the kind­ness, teachings, and blessings of these masters that I have been able to practice just a little bit up to my present age of forty-seven, and I feel that it is with the blessings that I have given these brief clarifications.

Some of what I have said here can be helpful for a complete beginner. Some of what I have said can be helpful for the incredibly advanced practitioner who has already reached way up to the Dzogchen level. There is advice for the apprentice who has begun the ngöndro and there is also helpful advice for the middle level of practitioner who is in the middle of the recitation practices of the Three Roots. The type of person for whom nothing but Trekchö and Tögal will suffice, the mind-boggling type of Dzogchen practitioner who swears by primordial purity and spontaneous presence, will definitely find some valuable advice in my words; that is if he or she will bother to understand what I say.

I have not directly explained Dzogchen here, and yet you can still find its meaning. I will not, even now, claim to teach the Great Perfection. The reason is that, even though I have recognized the nature of mind, the awakened state, I have not yet perfected its strength. Even though I have a very slight degree of strength, I have not yet attained stability. On the other hand, if after a couple of years I happen to attain stability, then I will be happy to help you.

When practicing the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, which belongs to Mahayana, I would like to quote Mipham Rinpoche’s Dzogchen Aspiration mentioned above:

By devotion to the Primordial Lord, the glorious master,
Regarding him as the dharmakaya of equality,
May we obtain the great empowerment of awareness display,
Through the blessing of the realization of the ultimate lineage being transmitted to our hearts.

Once you have connected with a true, qualified master, and are able to relate to such a person as a root guru, you may receive the empowerment of awareness display. This is when you are immediately pointed out your nature as being dharmakaya. Once you recognize it, you can then develop the strength of this recognition and attain stability. This is the special characteristic of the Great Perfection! To prepare yourself for that, you must practice the four or five times 100,000 preliminary practices followed by the sadhanas of the Three Roots.

It appears to me that you foreigners of the present age have a growing interest in the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, especially in the teachings of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. You seem to be willing to study the philosophies of the Middle Way and Prajnaparamita and the other topics including logic, vinaya, abhidharma, sutra. This is extremely important in order to develop a thorough structure of Dharma terminology. We need to know words and names, as is said, “Without relying on conventional words, you don’t realize the ultimate meaning.”

When it comes to realizing the ultimate meaning, it is not enough to have sporadic glimpses; you must gain complete conviction; you must be totally free from doubt! Unquestionably, that would be best! Please do so!

But also understand this point: If you rely on nothing but words and names, you will have more and more doubt, you will be more and more suspicious. For such a skeptical frame of mind, it is possible to begin to distrust, first as a tiny form of disbelief which sneaks in. Please be on guard against that! That is the time when you should definitely shift to studying the guidance manual type of literature, the guidance manuals in practical meditation experience!

If at such a time you are in contact with a personal master, with a capacity in meditation, then he can clear up your doubt and hesitation. This is a stage at which you better have a teacher! Otherwise it is possible that your clever intellect may deceive you. For instance, once when Lady Yeshe Tsogyal requested Padmasambhava for the teachings of the Great Perfec­tion, she bowed down before him nine times, presented him with the outer, inner and innermost mandala offerings, after which he said: To enter into the teachings of the Great Perfection brings immense advantage but can also hold great danger. You will be like a snake that has entered into a bamboo shaft; there are only two ways to exit, either through the top end or the bottom.

This is what the Precious Master taught. Please understand that not everyone is of the Dzogchen type; some are oriented towards Hinayana; some simply can’t comprehend its depth; some are simply not suitable recipients. There are so many different types of people. Please consider this very carefully.

Even though it is said that the realization of the ultimate truth depends upon knowing words and names, still, remember to be careful about studies, because your learning should carry you beyond doubt and suspicion to complete clarity. Otherwise, as emptiness is both “hard to see and hard to grasp,” if you retain the skeptical attitude towards everything, this distrustful attitude may drag you further and further down. That would be a great shame!

Even though emptiness is hard to grasp, it is also “knowing one that frees all.” “Knowing one,” meaning once your wisdom-door is wide open, you are able to open hundreds of other doors, every single other door. Please pay special attention to this key point of knowing one that liberates everything!

At first gain a clear understanding through learning. Next, establish certainty through reflection. Finally train day and night in Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Do that and you will automatically discover the nectar of immortality that already exists within the expanse of primordial purity in your heart. That is when the blessings of the great empowerment of awareness display, the realization of the ultimate lineage, will have truly been transmitted to your heart! Continue the prac­tice and there is no doubt this will happen one day! That will be the day you discover that the wisdom-door is wide open! This, the natural outcome of the training, you and every other practitioner of the Vajra Vehicle of Secret Mantra should also make sure happens! Please do so!

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.

Featured image by Ilya Natanzon, Israel. Thankha picture from unknown source.

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  1. Just a nice memory:
    About 35 years ago I was searching for a tibetan girl. I had been told that she might be in the KaNying monastery. Not having been inside before, I was not familiar with the lay out, and just searched randomly, knocking on doors and asking for help. After opening one inconspicuous door to a very small room, I found Chokling Rinpoche and Beru Khyentse Rinpoche sitting on two beds facing each other. They practically filled the entire room. Somewhat flustered I told them of my search, and then also that my then wife was pregnant. To which Chokling Rinpoche replied: “Just what the world needs. Another Dane!” and they both roared with laughter.
    Continuing my search, I opened another door, which turned out to be to Chokyi Nyima’s quarters. He was in a meeting with some foreign group. Hastily I excused myself, and was about to close the door, but Rinpoche motioned me to come inside and sit down. So I did, of course. It turned out that this group of foreigners was a group of Swiss Theosofians having a kind of debate. Need I say who was the stronger in that debate? It was a classic display of mastery. “Ok, so you believe this?” – Yes, of course. “That means that you also believe this?” Yes. “That then necessarily implies that you also must believe that?” Ahmmmm, well …. No….
    Done with the debating, it turned in to small talk, and one of the very well groomed Swiss ladies said, that Kathmandu was so frightfully dirty. Upon which Rinpoche looked quite surprised, and said: “Kathmandu dirty????? No. Switzerland on the other hand: phew, very dirty”
    I didn’t find Wangmo, but I got an experience of a lifetime

  2. Additionally, is there any way that the book from which this is drawn can be made available again? These words are so precious and comforting.

  3. Absolutely wonderful and precious. Thank you for sharing so very, very much.

  4. Erik Pema Kunsang Author

    From Ho Chi Minh City:

    Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche thực sự là một bậc vô song. Người khiến người khác không thể nào làm ngơ – tôn nhan cao quý như Đấng Liên Hoa Sinh, một ít ria mép thật đẹp và đôi mắt có thần quang như một vị Hộ Phật nửa phẫn nộ nửa an bình, luôn nhìn vào khoảng không vô tận trong tâm hồn. Khi ngự trên tòa Kim Cương, hầu như ai cũng cảm nhận Người chính là một vị Phật. Oai đức và sự tĩnh lặng nơi Người vô cùng hoàn hảo. Người không cười nhiều lắm nhưng một khi đã cười, Người khiến mọi trái tim đều phải tan chảy cùng với lòng sùng mộ.
    Khi đi đây đó, Người đem theo bộ pháp khí và một va-li đầy quà, vòng bảo hộ, mạn đà la, tranh thờ, dây chuỗi cùng tất cả những bảo thật linh thiêng để ban cho mọi người, những ai đang cần hoặc xứng đáng có được. Khi ở Malaysia, tôi từng chứng kiến Người chữa trị một vài người bị bệnh nan y. Người không bao giờ thừa nhận đã làm như thế, dù bất chợt, một người ngồi xe lăn bao nhiêu năm bỗng có thể đứng dậy và đi lại. Tôi từng thấy Người chữa trị cho người bị điếc, câm hoặc ý thức có vấn đề. Người sẽ ném vài thứ gì đó vào họ, thổi vào mặt họ, rải muối hoặc dầu lên đầu họ, hét lên hoặc tụng thầm cũng như phô diễn vũ điệu quanh họ. Thế rồi bất chợt, họ bừng tỉnh như thể đã trải qua một giấc mộng dài, bắt đầu nói được, nghe được hoặc đi lại như thường.
    Người là một vị Thầy chân chính và cũng là một bậc Thánh. Tuy nhiên, ý niệm này không theo cách nhìn của Thiên Chúa Giáo. Sau khi đã làm được điều gì đó vô cùng thâm diệu, Người quay đầu, nháy mắt với một ai đó, khiến mọi người không còn có thể nghĩ được hay mong đợi thêm điều gì. Đó chính là cách Người cho thế giới này biết rằng điều không mong đợi nhất vẫn có thể tồn tại trong trí tưởng tượng. Một số người yêu kính Người vô điều kiện, số khác e sợ nhưng chẳng một ai từng quên được Người.”
    Source : http://levekunst.com/lotus-ocean/

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