Migyur Dorje Receives His Name


The following is an excerpt from a teaching offered by Tulku Dawa Gyalpo at Kunzang Palyul Choling in Maryland. Future posts will continue with the teaching on the Life of Migyur Dorje.

In that way, the years passed. He went to Karma Chagme’s cave one time when he was seven. He liked staying there, but he was very shy and scared of his grandpa. His grandpa and his father would not let him stay over in a cave with Karma Chagme. At that time they met and they separated. And from there for three years, nothing. I think his grandpa was now drinking alcohol. He was always drinking, not taking much care of his grandson. And there’s another reason too. However, when he turned ten, he was able to go to Karma Chagme. Then they allowed him teach. Now it was time to study. Fortunately, it seems like grandpa didn’t know how to teach. Otherwise, he would teach. Then they passed Tulku Migyur Dorje to Karma Chagme to teach. Karma Chagme started teaching basic needs and all that, and about the spiritual path, too. From refuge, Karma Chagme started with the Dzogchen tradition.

He started teachings, then gradually he gave empowerment to that ten year old boy. The first empowerment he gave was the Amitayus empowerment in accordance with Ratna Lingpa’s treasure, and he gave Peaceful Guru Rinpoche and Wrathful Guru Rinpoche empowerments. Before giving empowerment, he checked karmic relations, which kind of deity or buddha was more akin to him or which he had his karmic relationship with. Throwing the flower, checking which is more suitable for you, to determine during the empowerment what kind of deity you have to visualize yourself as. In all three of those empowerments, whenever Tulku Migyur Dorje threw the flower, it either fell in the middle or in the east, always these two. Then Karma Chagme thought, “Now I will give him a name. He is always throwing in these two, so I’m going to name him Orgyen Migyur, Orgyen Migyur. Actually Karma Chagme said, “The east is Vajra and the center is Migyur. Migyur Vajra, Migyur Dorje. But he thought, “No, maybe I’ll give Orgyen Migyur.” And he gave him Orgyen Migyur, and that boy did not accept that name. That boy said this is not my name.

Now this is amazing. He said, “This is not my name.” Karma Chagme went back to his first thought. He said, “Well, I will give you Migyur Dorje,” and the boy was happy. He loved that. “Yes, this is my name.” That’s what he said when he was ten. From there on, he was cared for by Karma Chagme. Karma Chagme provided all the teachings and whatever he needed. The first year, when Tulku Migyur Dorje was ten, Karma Chagme gave teaching, empowerment, everything. The second year when Tulku Migyur Dorje turned eleven, then Karma Chagme started his retreat. At the same time, he let Tulku Migyur Dorje stay in retreat with him. So Tulku Migyur Dorje started three year retreat when he was eleven. He was receiving teaching and practicing. All this. Just two of them in a cave, in retreat. Right after he turned twelve, within this three years actually, he began to reveal the Sky Treasures, for which we have the sadhanas and the teachings we do in summer retreat. He revealed all this teaching during those three years. Some of them were revealed in a dream, some of them were revealed in his experience, some of them were revealed in actuality. That’s why it’s called [Tibetan].

The Prophecy Of Migyur Dorje’s Birth

Karma Chagme

The following is an excerpt from a teaching offered by Tulku Dawa Gyalpo at Kunzang Palyul Choling in Maryland. Future posts will continue with the teaching on the Life of Migyur Dorje.

Maybe you have no idea what I am talking about here. If I talked about New York and Washington, D.C., then all the locations would pop up in your mind. In my mind, this location is also very blurry. Probably most of us know the Kham region, close to China, in eastern Tibet. That location we can imagine easily. Actually it’s in the praise or the invocation in Tulku Migyur Dorje’s stanza.

They’re describing about why it’s named Nhom. They describe so many different meanings. When they praise their own land, they say it’s named Nhom because there is very fertile land there. Actually, Nhom is show, you know? Show off. Yes, Nhom is show off. The meaning of the name is like that. When they describe why it’s named show off, then they will say, “Oh, there’s a fertile field there, and there’s a great person which we can show off to other regions; and we have very good land that we can show off to others.” They give so many reasons, but this is not necessary. This is not important. Just let it be. Maybe it is not appropriate for me to say that because my region is the U-Tsang, which is poorer. He was born in Nhom.

Guru Rinpoche prophesized, that Tulku Migyur Dorje’s previous lama, who’s named Wangchuk Jatso, was a monk in Kathog monastery. He spent most of his lifetime in retreat. When Wangchuk Jatso was about to pass away, then he himself prophesized his next life. Wangchuk  Jatso said that his reincarnation would be born into the land between Karma and Riwoche. The old tradition also mentions this in the writings. That shows that Tertön Migyur Dorje is the reincarnation of Wangchuk Jatso.

Karma Chagme also mentioned that it wass said that Wangchuk Jatso’s reincarnation would be born bordering Riwoche and Chamdo, exactly where Tulku Migyur was born. Karma Chagme checked, analyzed, whether this was the exact person he was looking for or not. He checked all these things. Normally this is one way that we recognize the tulku. This shows how we recognize a tulku. Also I think that this is Karma Chagme’s own master. That master, whose name is Rigdzin Dudul Dorje, is also very much related with Tertön Migyur Dorje. It seems like he’s from the center of Tibet, not from Kham. However, it seems that Karma Chagme, himself respects that person very much when we look to the history later. Rigdzin Dudul Dorje was also a tertӧn. Before Tulku Migyur Dorje was born, he prophesized is the Lama called Shupal Palgyi Senge… Who is Shupal Palgyi Senge? Shupal Palgyi Senge is the one great disciples of Guru Padmasambhava, one of the 25 great mahasiddhas. Shupal Palgyi Senge, Lochen Berotsana, Longdrol Konchok Chonyi, these three are related with Tulku Migyur Dorje, especially Shupal Palgyi Senge.

Lama [Lama’s mother?] had been [blessed?] by the mandala of the Precious Jewels, which means kind of like Tulku Migyur Dorje went in their womb. Tulku Migyur Dorje who is called the precious mandala of Dharma got into the womb of the mother and received the empowerment of the Rigpe Tsalwang. He also has been empowered through the yidam deities practice or experience or empowerment through this phak. He can experience or receive the teachings from the yidam deities either through actual experience or through dreams. He was actually named by Tertӧn Rigdzin Dudul Dorje. His secret name was Pema Totrentsal. The common name was Migyur Dorje in the future in the place close to Riwoche in the Dokham area. His name will be the name of Dorje. To represent the spontaneous achievement of the three kayas, his body was marked with a blue mole. In order to represent that he had achieved the three kayas, he had a mole on his body. In some texts, like Pema Khatang, it says that in order to be an authentic tertӧn, these moles will be in certain spots like at the forehead, the throat, the navel and heart, those special spots. That’s why at the beginning, Karma Chagme is saying I know how to check the treasure revealers. Whoever he teaches or sees his face will be free from birth in lower realms.

He prophesized that kind of person is coming in the future. Also Ratna Lingpa’s treasure, that Ratna Lingpa’s treasure is very clear that Chöying Dorje was also one person’s name and Migyur Dorje was his name. He said Chöying Dorje was another great master’s name during that time. Karma Chagme was saying that when Tulku Migyur Dorje was born, Chöying Dorje was 42 years, but Ratna Lingpa had already prophesized Tulku Migyur Dorje’s birth before that. Ratna Lingpa had already passed away long before. He prophesized the future and he prophesized that Tulku Migyur Dorje would come during the time when a great master named Chöying Dorje was on this earth. Karma Chagme put together all these prophesies from the different treasure revealers and masters. He did this to show that he analyzed all of this to see if it matched with Tulku Migyur Dorje exactly or not.

Actually, Migyur Dorje was not his name when he was born. Migyur Dorje was not born. Somebody had to name him that later. This was prophesized before Tulku Migyur Dorje was born in Nhom region. Migyur Dorje was conceived in the womb of his mother during the first month of the wood female rooster. Karma Chagme heard from his mother that when that baby was conceived in her womb, she had a dream.  She saw a very beautiful pond or a lake, full of blue water, very clear water. In that water, there was one golden turtle, shining. Everybody, all of us [in her dream] were just looking at it. How beautiful it was! Everybody lost themselves just looking at it and enjoying it. Suddenly, one strong man showed up and grabbed that gold turtle and gave it to her. That was the sign or dream that Karma Chagme heard from Tulku Migyur Dorje’s mother.

The Life Story of Migyur Dorje will continue in future posts.

Life of Terton Migyur Dorje: What is a Treasure Revealer

Migyur Dorje

The following is an excerpt from a teaching offered by Tulku Dawa Gyalpo at Kunzang Palyul Choling in Maryland. Future posts will continue with the teaching on the Life of Migyur Dorje.

It is very important to understand about the history because if you don’t know the history of these secret Vajrayana things then people might have doubt because they don’t know the original source of such things. Tulku Migyur Dorje’s whole life was spent practicing the secret Mantrayana path. Is this Vajrayana path in accordance with tantra or not? If the treasure revelation of Tulku Migyur Dorje is not in accord with the tantra then it is hard to believe that it is authentic treasure. Any kind of treasure has to be in accord with tantra. So if we look at the history, then we will know whether the treasure revealed by the Tertön is in accordance with tantra or not. If we don’t analyze the history of the Tertön and the treasure revealed, then we won’t know whether that treasure is in accordance with tantra or not. If we don’t know that, then we won’t have confidence in this treasure. In that way, it might be doubtful that we will be able to receive the blessing. For general purposes, this is the case. If there are certain people who have no doubt at all whatsoever and who believe in this treasure and then practice it accordingly, then for that kind of person, for sure, there are blessings. Normally we people have so much doubt. Therefore, in order to remove that doubt, studying the history is important.

Now let me begin the history of Tulku Migyur Dorje. Most of his history was written by Kyedup Karma Chagme. Kyedup Karma Chagme was actually his uncle. Kyedup Karma Chagme himself was a great practitioner before Tulku Migyur Dorje was born. He was always doing retreat. He spent most of the time in retreat. Before he started to write about Tulku Migyur Dorje’s life history, he said—this is very important—“I myself learned so many things, so I know how karma works. I learned what the virtuous and non-virtuous actions are. I learned what virtuous action does, and what non-virtuous action does. I myself practice the path of the Bodhisattva. I know and have confidence about looking at all sentient beings as the mother, and as such I look at every single person as the mother. I know how to practice the Bodhisattva’s path.” Another thing he said before he started to write [the history of Tulku Migyur Dorje] was, “I started to receive all the tantric teachings, and I have all this knowledge. I know how to check an authentic treasure-revealer. I also know that Guru Rinpoche prophesized that there will be fake treasure-revealers and deceiving persons. I know how to check that too. I am a fully ordained practitioner.”

There is one history, also related with that, in the Gonjo region. Maybe like me, you don’t know about the Gonjo region, but I know where it is located. I know there is Kham, and Dege. Our Palyul monastery is located in Dege. Khamdo, Riwoche, Ganze, Amdo. I belong to central Tibet, U-Tsang, which is close to the Nepal border. My father’s village, is called Nya-dham. It borders with Dham. I am from there. It is considered the worst place in Tibet, actually. That’s what I have heard. I have never been there. Some of my friends came from that way, and they told me, “I never saw any worse place than this—ever!” I have no idea, but maybe I will see for myself one day.

When one of the re-incarnations of the Karmapa, Karmapa-chi, came to the Gonjo region, he showed many miracles. He gathered together many disciples, many people, and led them onto the path of the Dharma. One person from Gonjo, who was very devoted and had faith in Karma Chagme, suggested to Karma Chagme, “In the past, Karma Chagme, you came here and showed so many miracles. Can you please show many miracles and teach many people?”
Karma Chagme said, “I have this very clean karsugo-re, morality. That is my great miracle. This is all the miracles I have.” That’s what he said. Because he is a fully-ordained monk, a Bhikshu, or in Tibetan, Gelong, if he told a lie about his realization, then his vows would be degenerated. So if a fully ordained monk, Gelong, tells that he saw a god, demon or devil, that becomes a lie about his realization, which makes a condition to lose his vow. He said all of this in detail. This is exactly what he said, “If it doesn’t have the main meaning, there’s no point of writing a whole lot of books.” He also wrote over 250 pages. So difficult to read, and how difficult for him to write. “So if there is not any meaning, I have no time to write these things.”

There is a great meaning behind this history. Before that, he started with his personal introduction. It said, “I know what to do, what not to do. I know what fully ordained are supposed to do or not, what bodhisattvas are supposed to do or not.” Whatever he wrote is based on what he saw and what he heard directly from Tulku Migyur Dorje. At the end, he used information from some others. He had no choice but to get information from them. Except for that, he wrote all this, exactly whatever he heard and whatever he saw.

He’s said all these things so that people can have confidence and faith in this writing of his. From here I will start the full life story of Tulku Migyur Dorje.

Tulku Migyur Dorje was prophesized by many different people, such as Guru Padmasambhava. Actually, Guru Padmasambhava prophesized about all the tertӧns.  In the future, any treasure-revealer who comes on this earth has to be related with Guru Rinpoche. There is no treasure-revealer who doesn’t relate to Guru Padmasambhava. We have to understand that. Before Guru Padmasambhava there were some, but they aren’t called treasure-revealers. The name of treasure-revealer is very related with Guru Padmasambhava. Guru Padmasambhava prophesized exactly Tulku Migyur Dorje’s name and the place where he was going to be born. Dorje Mingjen shows one part of his name, Dorje.  Mingjen means named, named as Dorje. A person named as Dorje will be born in Nhom. That’s the name of the place exactly where Tulku Migyur Dorje was born, Nhom. Nhom it seems is a little bit big. It’s not small, like a few, few houses. It is not like that. Nhom seems like a town. Within Nhom, in Tibet, they said there is an upper part of Nhom, a middle part of Nhom, and a lower part of Nhom. Thus, so far, what we’re getting from Guru Rinpoche’s prophesy is only Nhom, where Tulku Migyur Dorje was born. Actually he is born in the upper part of Nhom. He was born in the upper part of Nhom, which is exactly close to the border with Riwoche and Chamdo. Actually he was born the upper part of Nhom. I think that place is also named Karma, Karma and Riwoche. This is all in the Kham region.

The story will be continued in future posts. Please subscribe or check back in!


His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche: Revealed Treasures

The following is respectfully quoted from “Journey to Enlightenment” by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche:

Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö asked Khyentse Rinpoche to go to Amdo province and give the Treasury of Rediscovered Teachings. Here is Rinpoche’s wife’s account of the journey:

Rinpoche traveled to Rekong, in Amdo, near Lake Kokonor. One very cold day, some herdsmen invited Rinpoche to their tent and offered them and his party a large quantity of butter, dried meat, and sweet cheese for the journey. Rinpoche usually warned one of his attendants to look after the horses carefully. When the time came to leave, the attendant rushed in exclaiming that the horses had disappeared; he had left them for a while and they must have been stolen. Fortunately, the herdsmen had many yaks and gave some to Rinpoche, who reached Rekong after a month’s journey.

In Rekong, Rinpoche gave the empowerments of the Treasury of Rediscovered Teachings over four months to 1,900 yogis. When Rinpoche’s hosts heard from his monks about the theft of his horses, they were quite upset; but Rinpoche told them that he had arrived safely and so it was now of no concern. However, some of the Rekong yogis, known for their magic power, said they could not just leave the matter like that. Two weeks after Rinpoche started teaching, the robbers arrived with all the stolen horses and begged Rinpoche to take them back. Rinpoche replied that he no longer needed the horses and they could keep them, but the robbers refused to listen. After the theft of the horses, they said, everything had gone wrong for them. When they milked their cows, they got not milk but blood. One boy had been attacked by vultures–something quite unheard of–and many of the clan had fallen ill. Finally, they just left the horses near the monastery and rode away.

Rinpoche stayed at Rekong monastery for a year, and gave teachings at a beautiful hilltop site where the famous nineteenth-century yogi Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol had lived. There was a large rock, with a tree behind it, on which Shabkar use to sit and sing his famous spiritual songs. The local people offered this seat to Rinpoche, and when he improvised songs there, rainbows appeared and snowflakes fell gently, like flowers. Everyone said that he must be a reincarnation of Shabkar.

Rinpoche had an attendant, a ritual master called Achog, whom he often had to reprimand. One night Achog ran away, leaving a piece of cloth as an offering and a note saying that he felt unable to serve Rinpoche properly and had therefore decided to leave. After walking for a month, he reached a herdsmen’s camp in Golok, and in one of the black yak-hair tents a mother and daughter asked him to perform some ceremonies in exchange for food and lodging. It was freezing cold and he had nowhere else to go, so he agreed. By then he had fallen quite ill.

One day the mother called out to Achog that a stranger, a tall lama on a big horse, was approaching the tent. Achog looked through the door and saw Khyentse Rinpoche with an attendant riding straight up to the tent. Rinpoche dismounted, came in, and asked: “Achog, how are you?” Achog was so astounded that he began to cry. Rinpoche told him there was no need to cry and that he had better come back with them. The old mother offered Rinpoche tea, milk, and curd. In answer to Achog’s questions, Rinpoche’s attendant said that no one had told them where to find him; nor had they met anyone in the snow-covered landscape to give them directions to the camp. Rinpoche said it was time to go, and all three came back home together. In those days, people use to say Rinpoche had incredible clairvoyance.

On their travels they stopped at many pilgrimage sites and monasteries. Khyentse Rinpoche writes of one such occasion when he revealed one of his main spiritual treasures (terma), the  Pema’s Heart Essence of Longevity cycle, which encompasses the whole spiritual path:

Stopping at Ladrö Monastery along the way, we went to the Gyamgyal Crystal Lotus Mountain, a pacifying holy site of the vajra family and one of the twenty-five important sacred places in Dokham. There we went to the Infant Milk Lake in front of Dothi Gangkar, where I made offerings to the local deities and performed the feast offering of Dharmakaya Master Amitayus from The Heart Practice Dispelling All Obstacles for a few days and even wrote a guidebook to the sacred place. There were many pilgrims at the light blue lake, and as the waves were stirred by the wind, a vivid pattern of a peaceful mandala complete with doors appeared on the lake, along with other auspicious signs. I also saw the Black Lake at Gyam and performed a feast offering. That night in a dream, I saw a text of The Nine Deities of Infinite Life in Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s handwriting. This appeared to me as a mind treasure, Pema’s Heart Essence of Longevity, which I wrote down.

His spouse, Khandro Lhamo, added to this:

Once, at the monastery called Karma Monastery, the seat of the first eight Karmapas, there was a very precious dharmaphala temple, which contained an image of Palden Lhamo and the protector Bernakchen in union. When the door of the room was opened, Khyentse Rinpoche saw Mahakala as if in reality and was given a yellow scroll–many people saw the scroll emerging from Palden Lhamo’s sleeve. The scroll contained dakini script for the Kilaya cycle according to Nyak Jnana Kumara’s tradition, which is one of Khyentse Rinpoche’s main spiritual treasures. Another time, Rinpoche went to Crystal Lotus Mountain, where he had a vision of Guru Padmasambhava in the form of Amitayus, the Buddha of Eternal Life, and received the mind treasure of Pema’s Heart Essence of Longevity. He received many termas in similar ways.

When recognizing a tulku, generally more than one Lama recognizes the tulku. In the case of Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche confirmed her recognition with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who was, at that time the Supreme Head of the Nyingma Tradition, and Second Dzongnang Jampal Lodro Rinpoche. Jetsunma received teachings from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche when visiting Nepal in 1987.

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche Heart Teaching from Palyul Ling

HH Penor Rinpoche Bumpa

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche offered this teaching prior to doing a Ganachakra Puja for Jetsunma’s long life at New York Palyul Retreat Center in 2005.

Today is the 15th day of the sixth month of the lunar calendar.  Jetsunma has some sickness or obstacle, so we are doing this Rigdzin Dupa Ganachakra Puja for her.  Some of Jetsunma’s students here requested this puja.

I met Jetsunma a long time ago.  I examined her for a while, and then recognized her as the incarnation of Rigdzin Kunzang Sherab’s sister known as Ahkön Lhamo.  Ahkön Lhamo, the sister of Rigdzin Kunzang Sherab lived near the Palyul monastery in a nunnery, which is in front of the monastery, and then in a place called Trong Mar, which means Red Valley.  It is called Red Valley because there were lots of nuns.  Ahkön Lhamo used to give teachings there to the nuns who wore red robes, filling the small valley, so that is why the place is called Trong Mar, the Red Valley.  Since then there has always been a nunnery there.  Even these days there are still about 200 nuns there.

I recognized her and then at KPC a long time back we did an enthronement ceremony.  Before I met her, she was giving the teaching on generating bodhicitta. Just among her disciples, there are 2-3 at all hours of the day and night trying to meditate on bodhicitta.  And she carries on Dharma activity in accordance with the other activities.

Since I named her in that way, there are lots of people in America who are jealous and have all sorts of problems with it.  That kind of jealousy doesn’t harm her; it harms the person who is jealous.  Many people also try to complain and say things to me.  Although people ask me many questions about that, I don’t have to humiliate myself, because I am a Palyul Throneholder, and I have my own rights regarding what I need to recognize.  Of course I cannot tell lies, but what I need to do, I’ll do.

Most of the other Nyingma schools just believe whatever I say, and especially all the Palyul traditions or Palyul monasteries.   Of course they believe me 100%.  There isn’t just one Palyul Monastery.  There are hundreds and thousands, and in all those monasteries there are a hundred monks or a thousand monks, and all of them respect whatever I command.  There is nobody who says, “This is right or this is not.”  But in America because of jealousy, some people say certain things, but there is no meaning.  In general America is a strange country.  Sometimes it is said that, “In your tradition there are mostly male teachers, and there aren’t any female teachers.”  And then Jetsunma is appointed and then again they are jealous and say something else.

Since we are human beings of course it is possible to make mistakes.  There is no one who just sits there like an enlightened Buddha.  Just because one doesn’t understand or makes a little mistake or does something, then you start complaining.

Jetsunma is a good and perfect teacher.  I don’t think she is deceiving anybody.  And among Jetsunma’s students, there are a whole bunch of monks and nuns, and she disciplines them all.  There is nobody else among women in America who could do that.  She is good and special. It is good for everybody to know that she is also one of the Palyul tulkus.  These days she is getting older and she has all sorts of sickness.  So for her longevity of life, we are doing this Ganachakra Puja.

It’s not just Jetsunma.  In America there are many other females and males who are incarnated ones.  But the problem is that the nature of Americans is to have so much pride.  With the recognition, the pride and ego develop so much that in the end it is difficult to benefit. As a practitioner and as a bodhisattva family, then naturally one should be humble and peaceful and loyal to the practice.  Developing pride doesn’t really help anybody.  When it is said that you are good or something special, then their pride or ego develops.  If that happens, then it is more harmful than beneficial.  For those who are noble beings, receiving all these teachings and doing the Dharma practice can benefit other beings.  Otherwise thinking that, “Oh, I’m something very special,” is like having a horn on your head and walking around.  It doesn’t help anything.

Anyhow, today we are doing this Ganachakra Puja for the longevity of her life.  Thank you.


Spiritual Fidelity

HH Penor Rinpoche & Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo
HH Penor Rinpoche & Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

Buddha taught that one of the most heinous crimes one can commit from the spiritual point of view is to proclaim oneself to be more advanced or spiritually competent than is actually the case.  Why that is is a very involved subject, but to understand it is to better understand spiritual fidelity.

According to the Buddha’s teaching, cyclic existence is unbearable because it is pervaded with suffering.  Even the happiness that there is within cyclic existence is temporary.  And so we suffer from impermanence and cling to all manner of experiences.  This fixation on maintaining a permanent, continuing ego-self in order to feel safe causes all suffering.  According to the Buddha, self-nature is not inherently real.  Our true nature is the primordial wisdom state, which is free of all conceptualization, including the perception of self-nature.  It is clear, luminous and innately wakeful.  It is not empty and dark in the way we would think of nothingness, but it is simply aware with a non-specific awareness or wakefulness.  This is our nature — not the ego-self that we conceive ourselves to be.

According to this view, there is no being who is greater than another.  Even in the case of lamas who sit on thrones giving spiritual teachings, if they are truly realized, they do not consider themselves to be greater beings than anyone else.  In fact, their realization comes from realizing the sameness of all phenomena and the equality of all that lives.  Thus to think of oneself as being more advanced or greater than others is a falsehood.  Yet many people do have this idea.  And when they come here, they say, “You must know who I am and why I’m here.  I know I have a special mission.”  People have even written to me from across the country, asking me to recognize them as a tulku.  In the first place, I don’t have the authority to recognize anyone.  And even if I did, I would never recognize someone who asked for it.  Never.  In fact, I would pay the least attention to such a person.

Why?  According to the Buddha, the goal is not to become a greater or vaster ego.  The goal is to realize the primordial wisdom state, which is the same inherent nature in all sentient beings.  Anything that we build on top of that is false and actually takes us in exactly the opposite direction from the Buddha’s teaching.  True nature is innate.  It cannot be grown.  It will never be bigger or smaller than it is now.  It will never change, and therefore it cannot be manipulated.

So when people come here feeling that they have an honored place or a special mission, they are only contributing to the size and rigidity of their egos, and they must simply wait it out.  As a woman I know in Tennessee once said, “If it doesn’t come out in the wash, it will in the rinse.”  What you’re going to do, you’re going to do.  And if it is in accordance with the Buddha’s teaching, you will achieve realization.

The Mahayana path cultivates the desire to benefit beings and eventually leads out of the very self-absorption that causes the desire for special recognition.  Consider yourself merely a function of the Buddha’s kindness.  If you are transforming your life into being a vehicle by which sentient beings are benefitted, you really can’t be concentrating on the idea that “I’m helping you,” because then the “I” will become very inflated and the “you” will become dependent.  To prevent such obstacles, we must think about the inherent equality of all that lives — although our egos have various appearances, our nature is the same.  Thus we are completely equal, and anything but kindness is a waste of time.

According to the Buddha, we should apply the antidotes that purify our mindstream and perception and lead to enlightenment.  What are those things?  They are the things that we call meritorious activity: generosity, recitation, contemplation, meditation, prayer, offering, studying and teaching.  Over time, these activities will loosen the mind’s tight fixation on ego and one will spontaneously view the natural state.  Ultimately one will remain stable in that state, awake as the Buddha is awake.

The Buddha never said, “I am God.”  Nor did he say, “I am the Son of God.”  Or even, “I am here to help you.”  All he said was, “I am awake.”  Our job is to awaken to our true nature, and that is what we do.  Quickly?  Probably not, although with diligent practice, the Vajrayana vehicle can lead to enlightenment in one lifetime, or three, or seven.

Each of us walks through the door of liberation alone.  Each of us is absolutely responsible for our own awakening.  So to come to a teacher and say, “Please recognize me,” or “Please enlighten me,” is a little silly.  One should be humble.  One should study.  One should practice.  And however long it takes is however long it takes.

Students come to me and they ask to know the secret of the universe.  Here is the secret of the universe: work hard.  There is no other secret.  To attain the precious awakening one should purify the mindstream; one should make one’s life a vehicle for generosity.

Always think more of the welfare of others than your own.  Be honest.  Be courageous.  Look yourself square in the eye and get the big picture.  All sentient beings are the same.  They are equal.  There are no special cases.  All of us must cease this fixation on self-absorption in order to realize the natural state.

There is no excuse for not starting now.  If you think you’re not ready, get ready.  No one is ready.  If you think you’re not kind, get kind.  It’s a discipline to think of something greater than one’s own self-absorption.  Start small, with 10 seconds of pure generosity, caring only for the welfare of others.  When you get 10 seconds, move on to 12.  In a couple of weeks, try 30 seconds.  Then go for a minute; that’s a year’s worth of work.  Pretty soon you’ll be thinking an hour.  And after a while it will become a habitual tendency.

If you find yourself backsliding, don’t be surprised.  That’s the nature of samsaric existence.  Be patient with yourself; do the best you can, give yourself a break and don’t let yourself get away with murder.  Those are my three cardinal rules for following the Path.

In closing, let me connect this with spiritual fidelity.  One is true to oneself when one is honest, when one faces that one is a samsaric being involved in cyclic existence and is no longer shocked or ashamed or surprised at that.  So it is.  This is where we start.  But you should start with honesty, courage and responsibility.  You are responsible for the humility that you have within your mind, the honesty and devotion you have toward the Three Precious Jewels, which are the very display of enlightenment itself.  Apply discipline and work hard.  Be worthy and be true.  This is spiritual fidelity.

©Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo

Hidden Right in Front of You

In this excerpt from a teaching called Bodhicitta, Jetsunma speaks to her students about her recognition by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.

The person who is practicing needs to be able to distinguish between a diamond and a rhinestone. You have to know the miraculous really exists and you have to have faith in it.  Sentient beings are helpless if they’re lost in cyclic existence; they can’t make any breakthroughs.  They can’t really break out by themselves.  Somehow they have to receive a direct mind empowerment from someone that has made certain progress. One way that you can do that in the Vajrayana system is to take wangs and another way that you can do that is to have a kind of mind-to-mind relationship with your teacher.  There is a transmission that goes on, but you have to have faith for that to happen.

His Holiness said, “I could sit there and hit you with the bumpa all day long until you are flat on your head.  If you don’t have faith in the teacher, you don’t have faith in the wang, if you don’t know what’s happening, you can’t work with the wang. Your head could be flat, but nothing is going to happen.”  He said you have to have to faith.

Realizing that, he and I began to talk about that, and after a while it became necessary for the recognition [editor’s note:  Refers to Jetsunma’s recognition].  What does the recognition mean?  I don’t know.  It means nothing has changed.  What’s changed?  Michael, my husband, said he had an interesting kind of perception.  He’s married.  All of a sudden he’s married to a tulku. And I said, “All of a sudden you are married to a tulku?  What were you married to before, a bran muffin?  Dear friend, you were always married to a tulku.”  And he said, “I think about how we used to be together before,” and I said, “We’re still doing it.  I get better that now you know it?”  I don’t mean to be crass.  But you have to understand what is going on here.  In one way, nothing has changed.  The event, the real thing between us hasn’t changed.  If I was your friend before, I’m your friend now, you see?  If I was your teacher before, I’m your teacher now.  If I was the biggest pain in the neck in your life, I’m still that now.  That hasn’t changed. But now you have taken off the blinders.

What the recognition means is that you have a handle or a way to take off your blinders and to have real faith.  That’s what has got to happen.  This path doesn’t work without faith. It’s awful that I have to teach this to you. Somebody else should teach this to you, like a Khenpo.   But this is Kaliyuga and this is the West and we’re in it together so you are just going to have to put up with it.

You have to realize that all this time the miraculous has been right in front of you and it’s part of your life.  You weren’t able to realize before what an opportunity you had, but now you can realize that.  It doesn’t mean that now there is a big change in your life because your teacher has been recognized as a tulku.  You might think, “That means now I have to drop everything and do three prostrations first time I see her.”  Well, OK, that’s what they do.  That’s customary.  That’s good Guru Yoga.  But it’s not about what you do with your arms and legs.  It’s good that you practice that because it helps you to remember.  It’s not that, “Now I have to give her a cup that’s covered all the time.”  These are the stupid things that people are fearful about – forgetting to give me the right kind of cup. You think that’s what it is all about.  Or you think, “What if I walk into the room first and she walks behind me and I didn’t see her?”  Do you know how many times that’s happened me?  In India, I didn’t even know which ones were the tulkus and which ones weren’t, because I hadn’t learned them all yet.  You don’t always look where you are going. I didn’t care.   I was just right in there.

You make mistakes like that.  That’s not what it’s all about.  You shouldn’t be fearful like that.  You shouldn’t be.  The relationship hasn’t changed in that way.   The love is still there.  Everything is still the same.  Now you get to realize that the miraculous activity of Guru Rinpoche is happening in your life, that you have this precious opportunity and that this is a really good time to take advantage of it.

You have the opportunity. To paraphrase, Guru Rinpoche said, “Maybe you won’t see my body, but I will come as your teachers.” When Guru Rinpoche says something like that, I believe it out of hand.  When I see my teachers, I know that Guru Rinpoche is with me.  That same miraculous activity is right with you.  The stuff that saves is right there. What has changed is that now you have to realize and you have to practice Guru Yoga with such faith.  That’s what your job is.  All the great teachers have said it is so, therefore I believe it.  Not only that, but I’ve seen it.  That’s what it means.  I haven’t changed from a caterpillar to a butterfly.   I’m exactly the same as I was before.  Have you noticed that?

What has changed is that you have now a way to take some blinders off and you can realize for the first time that who you thought was your best friend, is still your best friend, but in a different way.  You thought you had to cling to some kind of humanity – a best friend, a sister, and comrade, somebody you could go drinking with.  That’s what you thought you had to have.  But that was only temporary.  It was a masquerade.  You still have your best friend.  But now you find out your best friend is the Three Precious Jewels and it’s always been that way, except that you didn’t know it before.  Now you know it.  So the only thing that has changed is you.  You get to take your blinders off.

You get to see that in your life right now is spontaneous, miraculous activity and that this is your time, this is your time and you can do it. Nothing’s changed except now you get to practice properly.  What’s there in front of you has always been there in front of you.  I didn’t become a tulku a month ago.  That’s the stupidest thing you ever heard of it, isn’t it?

Try to practice Guru Yoga properly.  Realize that right now, miraculous activity is in your life.  The reality of non-dual mind is in your life, and it’s your best friend.  It’s right in front of you.  The whole visualization of Kuntuzangpo and Kuntuzangmo and what it means, it’s not just a visualization.  It’s the truth.     It’s really there. You have this.  We have His Holiness and we have Gyatrul Rinpoche, and you have your root teacher.  That means it’s for real.   It’s the truth. It’s right there with you.

Sometimes I look at His Holiness and I think, “My gosh, what do I need with a visualization.  I’ve got you.”  It’s there, it’s right in front of me.  It’s nothing that I made up.  And it’s the same for you.   Now you know it.   That’s the only difference.  Don’t be scared.  You try to get it right; sure you should try to get it right.  I try to get it right.  But just try to realize that right now you have every reason and cause and expectation to deepen properly.  You have everything you need if you just do it.  What are you so distracted about?   Just do what you have to do and do it now before it’s too late.

They say a door can’t chase people around the room, but I swear, I remember chasing a lot of people around the room.  This may be the time you get that opportunity, so you better walk through the door really soon into deeper practice.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved

Fully Awakened Glorious Dharma Continent of Absolute Clear Light

The following is respectfully quoted from “Reborn in the West” by Vickie Mackenzie:

The journey to Poolesville, Maryland from New York had taken almost four hours. First one of those silver cigar-shaped trains from Penn Station in downtown Manhattan to Washington, D.C. Then a modern automatic train to Poolesville, green and lush, in the wealthy outskirts of the nation’s capital. I had had much time to ponder.

I recalled how, several years previously, I had read in a newspaper about a woman who had been recognized as a Tibetan tulku and who had run prayer vigils for world peace. That was the sum total of all I knew. Somehow, this small snippet of information had lodged in the outskirts of my brain, to be called up when the notion of this book appeared. Now, on the train rattling down the eastern seaboard of the United States, the idea of meeting a woman Western tulku beckoned alluringly. This, after all, was a rare commodity indeed: a female who had been granted the highest spiritual accolade and authority within the overly masculine world of Tibetan Buddhism. And a Westerner at that. Tracking her down, however, had not been easy. I had not been able to remember her name, and since her official enthronement in 1988 she had kept a very low profile. Through various Tibetan contacts in the USA I finally found her. Her name was Jetsunma Ahkön Norbu Lhamo, and she had a centre just outside Washington.

Over the seventeen years I had been visiting Tibetan Buddhist centres I can honestly say I had seen nothing like the one that was about to greet my eyes. It glistened in the sunlight, a grand, two-story white house fronted by six vast white pillars, looking for all the world like an exclusive country club. I reached this imposing edifice by means of a winding drive flanked with rows of tall flagpoles, immaculately manicured lawns and flower beds. Glancing up to the roof, I saw the first sign of the place’s true identity–two golden deer supporting a golden Dharma wheel, the national emblem of Tibet. And there, written large on a sign near the entrance, was the equally foreign name: Kunzang Odsal Palyul Changchub Chöling. Since its English translation was even more of a mouthful–the Fully Awakened Glorious Dharma Continent of Absolute Clear Light–it was called by its inmates simply ‘KPC’.

If the exterior was impressive, the inside was breathtaking. A large central staircase swept up from the central hall to the upstairs rooms, and the whole place was carpeted wall-to-wall in beige. But this paled into ordinariness when I entered the two gompas, without doubt the most beautiful shrine rooms I had ever seen. They were crystal palaces–around the walls was an extraordinary array of huge crystals, strategically placed on plinths and individually lit, like museum pieces. It was, I was told later, the biggest crystal collection outside the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

The first gompa, where the teachings and ceremonies take place, was hung with royal blue and gold curtains and furnished with fine chairs for those who could not sit cross-legged on the floor. The throne for the teacher stood under a canopy of red, gold and royal blue. In the middle of the room was a huge mandala, surrounded by golden stupas at the base. Against one wall was a statue of Padma Sambhava, the founder of Buddhism in Tibet, and in front of it was the biggest solid round crystal of all. The effect was extraordinary–a cross between sumptuously exotic Western drawing room and a magic Eastern temple. It occurred to me that no man in Tibetan Buddhism would ever have had the courage to produce such a place of worship, let alone envisage the concept. It managed to break all bounds of convention, and yet remain unmistakably a gompa of Tibetan Buddhism.

The second gompa was even more fabulous. This was the prayer room, lit by candles, where the twenty-four-hour vigil for world peace still goes on. In the semi-light I picked out yet more gigantic crystals, individually glowing, and the impressive sight of a wall lined with 1,002 small Buddha statues standing neatly row upon row, like sentinels watching over the holy activity taking place before them. I had seen such sights in Tibet, where entire walls are painted with thousands of Buddhas turning black with accumulated grease of millions of burning butter lamps–but nothing could match the pristine splendor that Jetsunma had created in here in the Poolesville countryside. Turning round to view another wall, I saw an equally amazing spectacle–a display of of twenty-one golden statues of Tara, the female aspect of the enlightened mind which represents fast, effective action; they stood in tiers, like some beautiful female spiritual court. It seemed an accolade particularly appropriate here. With a solitary monk sitting on his cushion sending out prayers for universal harmony and compassion, and the taped voice of Jetsunma herself crying out her haunting invocation for the Buddha to be present, the room vibrated with spiritual power.

Who was the woman who had created all this? Jetsunma Ahkön Norbu Lhamo walked into the upstairs sitting room emanating warmth, a discernible kindliness, a bubbling vivacity and, it has to be said, in appearance at least, a middle-of-the-road American ordinariness. She was dressed in a straight-cut beige skirt and top and was wearing make-up and fashionable dangly earrings. Her fingernails were long and painted, her dark brown curly hair was shoulder-length and wild. She was tall, rounded and in her early forties. Nothing gave away her unique status except for the mall–a string of prayer beads–which she played with constantly in her hands; that and the fact that, with her dark, slightly almond-shaped eyes, her slightly down-turned mouth and the general shape of her face, she had a distinctly Tibetan look about her.

I learned that she was, in fact, a walking example of curious contradictions. In the modern Western way she had been married and divorced, more than once. She was the mother of three children–two sons, now in their twenties, and an adopted girl aged five. She lived in a house behind the centre where she cooked, scoured mail order catalogues for clothes (one of her passions), and looked after her husband and family just like millions of American women all over the country.

And yet in the ancient Eastern way, she carried the name ‘Jetsunma’–a title more honorific even than ‘Rinpoche’, the recognition bestowed on male reincarnates. Here before me, in her make-up and high heels, was a woman who had been hailed as a ‘Sublime Incarnation’, no less. Here was a woman who, it was said, had achieved the spiritual mastery from which she could be reborn in any form she chose and teach directly from her own memory, without any formal training. It was a rare accomplishment indeed. Unlike the other tulkus I had met, Tibetan and Western alike, Jetsunma Ahkön Norbu Lhamo had not been discovered at an early age, nor taken into any Tibetan monastery to bring forth her potential. She had developed it entirely by herself, secretly and alone in the middle of America without help from anyone. The testimony of what she had achieved was there for all to see: the magnificent centre with its beautiful grounds, its exquisite meditation rooms, and the thriving community of followers she had gathered around her. This was clearly one very special lady indeed.



Statement of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, on the Issue of His Reincarnation

The following is a statement posted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, reprinted here with permission. To see the original statement click: http://dalailama.com/messages/tibet/reincarnation-statement
24  September 2011


My fellow Tibetans, both in and outside Tibet, all those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and everyone who has a connection to Tibet and Tibetans: due to the foresight of our ancient kings, ministers and scholar-adepts, the complete teaching of the Buddha, comprising the scriptural and experiential teachings of the Three Vehicles and the Four Sets of Tantra and their related subjects and disciplines flourished widely in the Land of Snow. Tibet has served as a source of Buddhist and related cultural traditions for the world. In particular, it has contributed significantly to the happiness of countless beings in Asia, including those in China, Tibet and Mongolia.

In the course of upholding the Buddhist tradition in Tibet, we evolved a unique Tibetan tradition of recognizing the reincarnations of scholar-adepts that has been of immense help to both the Dharma and sentient beings, particularly to the monastic community.

Since the omniscient Gedun Gyatso was recognized and confirmed as the reincarnation of Gedun Drub in the fifteenth century and the Gaden Phodrang Labrang (the Dalai Lama’s institution) was established, successive reincarnations have been recognized. The third in the line, Sonam Gyatso, was given the title of the Dalai Lama. The Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, established the Gaden Phodrang Government in 1642, becoming the spiritual and political head of Tibet. For more than 600 years since Gedun Drub, a series of unmistaken reincarnations has been recognised in the lineage of the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lamas have functioned as both the political and spiritual leaders of Tibet for 369 years since 1642. I have now voluntarily brought this to an end, proud and satisfied that we can pursue the kind of democratic system of government flourishing elsewhere in the world. In fact, as far back as 1969, I made clear that concerned people should decide whether the Dalai Lama’s reincarnations should continue in the future. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, should the concerned public express a strong wish for the Dalai Lamas to continue, there is an obvious risk of vested political interests misusing the reincarnation system to fulfil their own political agenda. Therefore, while I remain physically and mentally fit, it seems important to me that we draw up clear guidelines to recognise the next Dalai Lama, so that there is no room for doubt or deception. For these guidelines to be fully comprehensible, it is essential to understand the system of Tulku recognition and the basic concepts behind it. Therefore, I shall briefly explain them below.

Past and future lives

In order to accept reincarnation or the reality of Tulkus, we need to accept the existence of past and future lives. Sentient beings come to this present life from their previous lives and take rebirth again after death. This kind of continuous rebirth is accepted by all the ancient Indian spiritual traditions and schools of philosophy, except the Charvakas, who were a materialist movement. Some modern thinkers deny past and future lives on the premise that we cannot see them. Others do not draw such clear cut conclusions on this basis.

Although many religious traditions accept rebirth, they differ in their views of what it is that is reborn, how it is reborn, and how it passes through the transitional period between two lives. Some religious traditions accept the prospect of future life, but reject the idea of past lives.

Generally, Buddhists believe that there is no beginning to birth and that once we achieve liberation from the cycle of existence by overcoming our karma and destructive emotions, we will not be reborn under the sway of these conditions. Therefore, Buddhists believe that there is an end to being reborn as a result of karma and destructive emotions, but most Buddhist philosophical schools do not accept that the mind-stream comes to an end. To reject past and future rebirth would contradict the Buddhist concept of the ground, path and result, which must be explained on the basis of the disciplined or undisciplined mind. If we accept this argument, logically, we would also have to accept that the world and its inhabitants come about without causes and conditions. Therefore, as long as you are a Buddhist, it is necessary to accept past and future rebirth.

For those who remember their past lives, rebirth is a clear experience. However, most ordinary beings forget their past lives as they go through the process of death, intermediate state and rebirth. As past and future rebirths are slightly obscure to them, we need to use evidence-based logic to prove past and future rebirths to them.

There are many different logical arguments given in the words of the Buddha and subsequent commentaries to prove the existence of past and future lives. In brief, they come down to four points: the logic that things are preceded by things of a similar type, the logic that things are preceded by a substantial cause, the logic that the mind has gained familiarity with things in the past, and the logic of having gained experience of things in the past.

Ultimately all these arguments are based on the idea that the nature of the mind, its clarity and awareness, must have clarity and awareness as its substantial cause. It cannot have any other entity such as an inanimate object as its substantial cause. This is self-evident. Through logical analysis we infer that a new stream of clarity and awareness cannot come about without causes or from unrelated causes. While we observe that mind cannot be produced in a laboratory, we also infer that nothing can eliminate the continuity of subtle clarity and awareness.

As far as I know, no modern psychologist, physicist, or neuroscientist has been able to observe or predict the production of mind either from matter or without cause.

There are people who can remember their immediate past life or even many past lives, as well as being able to recognise places and relatives from those lives. This is not just something that happened in the past. Even today there are many people in the East and West, who can recall incidents and experiences from their past lives. Denying this is not an honest and impartial way of doing research, because it runs counter to this evidence. The Tibetan system of recognising reincarnations is an authentic mode of investigation based on people’s recollection of their past lives.

How rebirth takes place

There are two ways in which someone can take rebirth after death: rebirth under the sway of karma and destructive emotions and rebirth through the power of compassion and prayer. Regarding the first, due to ignorance negative and positive karma are created and their imprints remain on the consciousness. These are reactivated through craving and grasping, propelling us into the next life. We then take rebirth involuntarily in higher or lower realms. This is the way ordinary beings circle incessantly through existence like the turning of a wheel. Even under such circumstances ordinary beings can engage diligently with a positive aspiration in virtuous practices in their day-to-day lives. They familiarise themselves with virtue that at the time of death can be reactivated providing the means for them to take rebirth in a higher realm of existence. On the other hand, superior Bodhisattvas, who have attained the path of seeing, are not reborn through the force of their karma and destructive emotions, but due to the power of their compassion for sentient beings and based on their prayers to benefit others. They are able to choose their place and time of birth as well as their future parents. Such a rebirth, which is solely for the benefit of others, is rebirth through the force of compassion and prayer.

The meaning of Tulku

It seems the Tibetan custom of applying the epithet ‘Tulku’ (Buddha’s Emanation Body) to recognized reincarnations began when devotees used it as an honorary title, but it has since become a common expression. In general, the term Tulku refers to a particular aspect of the Buddha, one of the three or four described in the Sutra Vehicle. According to this explanation of these aspects of the Buddha, a person who is totally bound by destructive emotions and karma has the potential to achieve the Truth Body (Dharmakaya), comprising the Wisdom Truth Body and Nature Truth Body. The former refers to the enlightened mind of a Buddha, which sees everything directly and precisely, as it is, in an instant. It has been cleared of all destructive emotions, as well as their imprints, through the accumulation of merit and wisdom over a long period of time. The latter, the Nature Truth Body, refers to the empty nature of that all-knowing enlightened mind. These two together are aspects of the Buddhas for themselves. However, as they are not directly accessible to others, but only amongst the Buddhas themselves, it is imperative that the Buddhas manifest in physical forms that are accessible to sentient beings in order to help them. Hence, the ultimate physical aspect of a Buddha is the Body of Complete Enjoyment (Sambhogakaya), which is accessible to superior Bodhisattvas, and has five definite qualifications such as residing in the Akanishta Heaven. And from the Body of Complete Enjoyment are manifested the myriad Emanation Bodies or Tulkus (Nirmanakaya), of the Buddhas, which appear as gods or humans and are accessible even to ordinary beings. These two physical aspects of the Buddha are termed Form Bodies, which are meant for others.

The Emanation Body is three-fold: a) the Supreme Emanation Body like Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha, who manifested the twelve deeds of a Buddha such as being born in the place he chose and so forth; b) the Artistic Emanation Body which serves others by appearing as craftsmen, artists and so on; and c) the Incarnate Emanation Body, according to which Buddhas appear in various forms such as human beings, deities, rivers, bridges, medicinal plants, and trees to help sentient beings. Of these three types of Emanation Body, the reincarnations of spiritual masters recognized and known as ‘Tulkus’ in Tibet come under the third category. Among these Tulkus there may be many who are truly qualified Incarnate Emanation Bodies of the Buddhas, but this does not necessarily apply to all of them. Amongst the Tulkus of Tibet there may be those who are reincarnations of superior Bodhisattvas, Bodhisattvas on the paths of accumulation and preparation, as well as masters who are evidently yet to enter these Bodhisattva paths. Therefore, the title of Tulku is given to reincarnate Lamas either on the grounds of their resembling enlightened beings or through their connection to certain qualities of enlightened beings.

As Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo said:

“Reincarnation is what happens when someone takes rebirth after the predecessor’s passing away; emanation is when manifestations take place without the source’s passing away.”

Recognition of Reincarnations

The practice of recognizing who is who by identifying someone’s previous life occurred even when Shakyamuni Buddha himself was alive. Many accounts are found in the four Agama Sections of the Vinaya Pitaka, the Jataka Stories, the Sutra of the Wise and Foolish, the Sutra of One Hundred Karmas and so on, in which the Tathagata revealed the workings of karma, recounting innumerable stories about how the effects of certain karmas created in a past life are experienced by a person in his or her present life. Also, in the life stories of Indian masters, who lived after the Buddha, many reveal their previous places of birth. There are many such stories, but the system of recognizing and numbering their reincarnations did not occur in India.

The system of recognizing reincarnations in Tibet

Past and future lives were asserted in the indigenous Tibetan Bon tradition before the arrival of Buddhism. And since the spread of Buddhism in Tibet, virtually all Tibetans have believed in past and future lives. Investigating the reincarnations of many spiritual masters who upheld the Dharma, as well as the custom of praying devotedly to them, flourished everywhere in Tibet. Many authentic scriptures, indigenous Tibetan books such as the Mani Kabum and the Fivefold Kathang Teachings and others like the The Books of Kadam Disciples and the Jewel Garland: Responses to Queries, which were recounted by the glorious, incomparable Indian master Dipankara Atisha in the 11th century in Tibet, tell stories of the reincarnations of Arya Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. However, the present tradition of formally recognizing the reincarnations of masters first began in the early 13th century with the recognition of Karmapa Pagshi as the reincarnation of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa by his disciples in accordance with his prediction. Since then, there have been seventeen Karmapa incarnations over more than nine hundred years. Similarly, since the recognition of Kunga Sangmo as the reincarnation of Khandro Choekyi Dronme in the 15th century there have been more than ten incarnations of Samding Dorje Phagmo. So, among the Tulkus recognized in Tibet there are monastics and lay tantric practitioners, male and female. This system of recognizing the reincarnations gradually spread to other Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and Bon, in Tibet. Today, there are recognized Tulkus in all the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu and Nyingma, as well as Jonang and Bodong, who serve the Dharma. It is also evident that amongst these Tulkus some are a disgrace.

The omniscient Gedun Drub, who was a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, founded Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tsang and took care of his students. He passed away in 1474 at the age of 84. Although initially no efforts were made to identify his reincarnation, people were obliged to recognize a child named Sangye Chophel, who had been born in Tanak, Tsang (1476), because of what he had to say about his amazing and flawless recollections of his past life. Since then, a tradition began of searching for and recognizing the successive reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas by the Gaden Phodrang Labrang and later the Gaden Phodrang Government.

The ways of recognizing reincarnations

After the system of recognizing Tulkus came into being, various procedures for going about it began to develop and grow. Among these some of the most important involve the predecessor’s predictive letter and other instructions and indications that might occur; the reincarnation’s reliably recounting his previous life and speaking about it; identifying possessions belonging to the predecessor and recognizing people who had been close to him. Apart from these, additional methods include asking reliable spiritual masters for their divination as well as seeking the predictions of mundane oracles, who appear through mediums in trance, and observing the visions that manifest in sacred lakes of protectors like Lhamoi Latso, a sacred lake south of Lhasa.

When there happens to be more than one prospective candidate for recognition as a Tulku, and it becomes difficult to decide, there is a practice of making the final decision by divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak) before a sacred image while calling upon the power of truth.

Emanation before the passing away of the predecessor (ma-dhey tulku)

Usually a reincarnation has to be someone’s taking rebirth as a human being after previously passing away. Ordinary sentient beings generally cannot manifest an emanation before death (ma-dhey tulku), but superior Bodhisattvas, who can manifest themselves in hundreds or thousands of bodies simultaneously, can manifest an emanation before death. Within the Tibetan system of recognizing Tulkus there are emanations who belong to the same mind-stream as the predecessor, emanations who are connected to others through the power of karma and prayers, and emanations who come as a result of blessings and appointment.

The main purpose of the appearance of a reincarnation is to continue the predecessor’s unfinished work to serve Dharma and beings. In the case of a Lama who is an ordinary being, instead of having a reincarnation belonging to the same mind-stream, someone else with connections to that Lama through pure karma and prayers may be recognized as his or her emanation. Alternatively it is possible for the Lama to appoint a successor who is either his disciple or someone young who is to be recognized as his emanation. Since these options are possible in the case of an ordinary being, an emanation before death that is not of the same mind-stream is feasible. In some cases one high Lama may have several reincarnations simultaneously, such as incarnations of body, speech and mind and so on. In recent times, there have been well-known emanations before death such as Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje and Chogye Trichen Ngawang Khyenrab.

Using the Golden Urn

As the degenerate age gets worse, and as more reincarnations of high Lamas are being recognized, some of them for political motives, increasing numbers have been recognized through inappropriate and questionable means, as a result of which huge damage has been done to the Dharma.

During the conflict between Tibet and the Gurkhas (1791-93) the Tibetan Government had to call on Manchu military support. Consequently the Gurkha military was expelled from Tibet, but afterwards Manchu officials made a 29-point proposal on the pretext of making the Tibetan Government’s administration more efficient. This proposal included the suggestion of picking lots from a Golden Urn to decide on the recognition of the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas and Hutuktus, a Mongolian title given to high Lamas. Therefore, this procedure was followed in the case of recognizing some reincarnations of the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and other high Lamas. The ritual to be followed was written by the Eighth Dalai Lama Jampel Gyatso.  Even after such a system had been introduced, this procedure was dispensed with for the Ninth, Thirteenth and myself, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

Even in the case of the Tenth Dalai Lama, the authentic reincarnation had already been found and in reality this procedure was not followed, but in order to humour the Manchus it was merely announced that this procedure had been observed.

The Golden Urn system was actually used only in the cases of the Eleventh and Twelfth Dalai Lamas. However, the Twelfth Dalai Lama had already been recognized before the procedure was employed. Therefore, there has only been one occasion when a Dalai Lama was recognized by using this method. Likewise, among the reincarnations of the Panchen Lama, apart from the Eighth and the Ninth, there have been no instances of this method being employed. This system was imposed by the Manchus, but Tibetans had no faith in it because it lacked any spiritual quality. However, if it were to be used honestly, it seems that we could consider it as similar to the manner of divination employing the dough-ball method (zen tak).

In 1880, during the recognition of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Twelfth, traces of the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and the Manchus still existed. He was recognized as the unmistaken reincarnation by the Eighth Panchen Lama, the predictions of the Nechung and Samye oracles and by observing visions that appeared in Lhamoi Latso, therefore the Golden Urn procedure was not followed. This can be clearly understood from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s final testament of the Water-Monkey Year (1933) in which he states:

“As you all know, I was selected not in the customary way of picking lots from the golden urn, but my selection was foretold and divined. In accordance with these divinations and prophecies I was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and enthroned.”

When I was recognized as the Fourteenth incarnation of the Dalai Lama in 1939, the Priest-Patron relationship between Tibet and China had already come to an end. Therefore, there was no question of any need to confirm the reincarnation by employing the Golden Urn. It is well-known that the then Regent of Tibet and the Tibetan National Assembly had followed the procedure for recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation taking account of the predictions of high Lamas, oracles and the visions seen in Lhamoi Latso; the Chinese had no involvement in it whatever. Nevertheless, some concerned officials of the Guomintang later cunningly spread lies in the newspapers claiming that they had agreed to forego the use of the Golden Urn and that Wu Chung-tsin presided over my enthronement, and so on. This lie  was exposed by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, who the People’s Republic of China considered to be a most progressive person, at the Second Session of the Fifth People’s Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region (31st July 1989). This is clear, when, at the end of his speech, in which he gave a detailed explanation of events and presented documentary evidence, he demanded:

“What need is there for the Communist Party to follow suit and continue the lies of the Guomintang?”

Deceptive strategy and false hopes

In the recent past, there have been cases of irresponsible managers of wealthy Lama-estates who indulged in improper methods to recognize reincarnations, which have undermined the Dharma, the monastic community and our society. Moreover, since the Manchu era Chinese political authorities repeatedly engaged in various deceitful means using Buddhism, Buddhist masters and Tulkus as tools to fulfil their political ends as they involved themselves in Tibetan and Mongolian affairs. Today, the authoritarian rulers of the People’s Republic of China, who as communists reject religion, but still involve themselves in religious affairs, have imposed a so-called re-education campaign and declared the so-called Order No. Five, concerning the control and recognition of reincarnations, which came into force on 1st September 2007. This is outrageous and disgraceful. The enforcement of various inappropriate methods for recognizing reincarnations to eradicate our unique Tibetan cultural traditions is doing damage that will be difficult to repair.

Moreover, they say they are waiting for my death and will recognize a Fifteenth Dalai Lama of their choice. It is clear from their recent rules and regulations and subsequent declarations that they have a detailed strategy to deceive Tibetans, followers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the world community. Therefore, as I have a responsibility to protect the Dharma and sentient beings and counter such detrimental schemes, I make the following declaration.

The next incarnation of the Dalai Lama

As I mentioned earlier, reincarnation is a phenomenon which should take place either through the voluntary choice of the concerned person or at least on the strength of his or her karma, merit and prayers. Therefore, the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognized. It is a reality that no one else can force the person concerned, or manipulate him or her. It is particularly inappropriate for Chinese communists, who explicitly reject even the idea of past and future lives, let alone the concept of reincarnate Tulkus, to meddle in the system of reincarnation and especially the reincarnations of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas. Such brazen meddling contradicts their own political ideology and reveals their double standards. Should this situation continue in the future, it will be impossible for Tibetans and those who follow the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to acknowledge or accept it.

When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.

The Dalai Lama

(Translated from the Tibetan)

Extraordinary Blessings – What Is a “Tulku?”

From a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

I am frequently asked about my status as a tulku, and throneholder for the Palyul lineage. It means, for one thing, that I have been reborn into my lineage many times. Even to the point that my predecessor Ahkon Lhamo first helped found this lineage. This is one reason I defend my lineage, Palyul, as though it were my mother and my child. It is both. So many lifetimes I have practiced and prayed with Palyul, and been part of its growth.

Further back, my rebirths can be traced to Lhacham Mandarava, the spiritual consort of Guru Padmasambhava, and supported His life and strength as is the duty of a consort. Now in this life I am a tulku and throneholder for Palyul, which I will never abandon at the cost of my very life.

So the question I am asked is, “What is a tulku?” And “what is unique about them, and their blessing?” I’ve been taught that a tulku is accomplished for many lifetimes. But the bottom line is a tulku in considered a Nirmanakaya form of the Buddhas. They are awake and in a state of pure recognition of the primordial wisdom ground of being. There are other levels of the Buddhas such as Sambogakaya and Dharmakaya.

At the time of Kyabje His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s parinirvana there were so many signs of his accomplishment! It was undeniable. Buddhas appeared in the sky, rainbows. His body remained supple, luminous and scented. It was known that he clearly was then Dharmakaya Lama. Here in USA and other western countries this is not well understood. In fact, westerners disparage tulkus, not seeing that their very appearance depends on the student’s view and karma! Many want to do away with tulkus entirely, and would prefer the scholars lead. Not necessary, we have many scholarly intellectual types. What we need are the accomplished with the signs and legitimacy of Lineage and accomplishment. If westerners try to do away with their tulkus, (and some “out there” Buddhists even deny Buddha’s supremacy and method) then the Vajrayana from Padmasambhava and Tibet would be finished.

What was whole and afire with wisdom and compassion would then be an empty sack filled with air. Ordinary, just a bag. We would have students with some knowledge and no wisdom would be teaching those with neither. How sad! The lineage of puffed up egos would be what is passed forward. Lineage would be meaningless, and the last stage of kaliyuga would be here. Where the awakened Buddhas would no longer be found, and if they were, would not be seen or understood. That would be the dark time, waiting for the next Buddha, a mighty “Lion of Dharma” to appear. After so long wandering in a state of non-recognition, due to the blessing of this king of Buddhas would surely awaken; under his mighty tutelage the next turning of the wheel of Dharma will occur. EMAHO!

Yet we still must be mindful and cherish the treasure of Dharma, of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (with real Bodhicitta) that we have now. They are the spiritual treasure of the world. Our heritage! We should protect and treasure what we have. And respect what it took to bring this sacred gift to the world, to the “relative cosmos” we share. Learn to see what is your greatest jewel in this life. Never abandon the blessing and purity of Dharma! Homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas! Homage to Palyul!

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.  All rights reserved