UPDATE: Response to public statement by Benchen Library regarding translations of Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche texts and Facebook pages

RESPONSE TO PUBLIC STATEMENT BY BENCHEN LIBRARY REGARDING TRANSLATIONS AND FACEBOOK GROUPS

12th October 2019

Benchen Monastery Library have issued an official letter, on 11 October 2019, which is not signed personally by HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, regarding ‘unauthorised’ Facebook pages, and the permission and copyright for translations of texts composed by HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche.  Here is my response to this letter:

  1. The ‘dozens of unauthorised pages’ this letter refers to have been, and were created, prior to the ‘Followers of HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche’ FB group I created in May 2019, and in addition, were set up by members of the Benchen monastic community (or their friends) themselves. So they appear to be complaining about the activity of their own sangha and community.

  2. There was never any intention or suggestion by myself, or others, that my ‘followers’ group was an authorised FB page and in addition, many great masters have such fan groups in existence, which have not been demanded to be closed down by their respective monasteries. Also, as I have had a personal and close connection with Rinpoche himself, as a friend and translator (we have been in almost daily contact on wechat), and there was no such fan group for Rinpoche, I saw no major issues with creating one. When it was first created it was liked and shared by many members of the Benchen monastery community and members of his own family. This initially friendly and welcoming attitude suddenly changed to one of hostility and aggression towards me as a woman and translator, and the main motivation for that change needs to be clearly explained by Rinpoche and/or the monastery.

  3. The translation work I have done and published already of short texts or sadhanas by (or about) HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche have all had his express and personal transmission, instruction and support. Rinpoche also gave me the transmission and permission to translate the Shentong text (Music of the Ultimate Sphere) in October 2018 and gave instructions over wechat and in personal meetings at Benchen monastery in May 2019.  I have audio recordings of those meetings and the wechat messages relating to his instruction and advice on other translations I have done. He told me in several messages that he was very happy with the translations I had done and they were ‘excellent’ and ‘beautiful’. In March 2019, Rinpoche also offered me financial support for the translation work when we met in Bhutan. In September 2019, Rinpoche also told me personally over wechat and in calls, that he would meet me the first week of October 2019 at the Nepal monastery to continue helping with the text, his health permitting. Therefore, as significant amounts of my own time and money have been spent on the translation of the Shentong text, I do intend to complete the translation of it and will seek Rinpoche’s instruction on it in the future as well.

  4. It sets an extraodinary legal precedent, if applied, for a monastery publisher to say that they, and only they alone, can give permission to translate and publish texts.  Particularly if the author.composer (in this case Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche) has given express permission and transmission to a translator to translate their teaching/text.  At the very least, the author and publisher should have joint copyright.  I have not come across any such official letter before, forbidding translations without the permission of the publisher alone. In the academic world, for example, many scholars and translators, translate and publish texts even without the oral transmission and instruction of the lama or a lineage master, never mind getting the permission of the monastic publisher. Also, let us not forget that these are Dharma texts under discussion, not worldly texts written and published for a profit basis and so on. The wishes of Rinpoche and that of some members of the Benchen community seem to be in contradiction and opposition.

  5. As a published Dharma translator, with an academic background in the subject, I have already spent a significant amount of time (and my own expense) translating the Shentong text (I have finished half of it) and Rinpoche gave me the transmission, instruction and permission to translate it. Therefore, any suggestion by Benchen Monastery or anyone else that I do not have the authority to translate or publish such a text is a mistake and potentially libellous. I also took the translator’s commitment to complete the text regardless of the obstacles that may arise, based on Rinpoche’s own actions supporting me and the translation activity. Therefore, for Benchen Library to try and force me, or any translator to abandon that is not only unprecedented but also unethical. It should be for Rinpoche himself to decide who he gives permission to translate a text and who he wishes to support on that. In addition, why could Benchen Library not have issued this letter to me personally, months ago when I started translating the Shentong text with Rinpoche’s support? Why do they choose now to do it now and in such a public manner?

  6. When I first met Rinpoche last year, it was apparent then, that very few of Rinpoche’s teachings or Tibetan texts have been published, translated or transcribed into English. At first I found this very hard to understand, but now the reason is becoming clearer. If a few Benchen monks with little personal access to Rinpoche, are literally dictating to scholars, translators and Rinpoche himself, who can translate and publish his works then of course, very little will, and can, be done. They state in their letter that: ”We are therefore dedicated to input, edit and publish them in modern book format or release online as eBooks.” However, there have been many years to do this and so far there have been no e-books, or new translations and transcriptions of his works and teachings in English.

    7. The online threats, bullying and silencing of my voice on Facebook, the disabling and loss of my personal FB account ‘Adele Zangmo’ as well as the slanderous accusations and slurs against my character as a woman, translator, Dharma practitioner and so on (by a few Benchen monks and people using anonymous FB profiles) are clearly motivated by a wish to control everything Rinpoche says and does and to block any activity he is involved in that they do not have explicit control over.  For more on that please see my previous post. The comments targeted at me as a woman are aggressive, sexist and misogynist.  In addition, as there are clearly some serious allegations surfacing regarding Rinpoche’s conduct (possibly over decades) towards female followers and women he has met,  any such allegations should be investigated objectively and impartially nonetheless and Benchen Monastery has a legal and moral obligation to respond privately to any complaints or grievances by men or women against Rinpoche and/or members of the Benchen monastic community. For example, earlier this year, I was also messaged on Facebook by ‘Sunny Ng’ and ‘Gillian C Kin’ telling me about such allegations, and have met several women independently in person, who all tried to warn me about Rinpoche and his conduct towards women, giving clear and specific examples with names and places. These allegations upset me a great deal to read and hear about and still do.

I do hope that these matters can be resolved in a peaceful, compassionate and humane manner that is consistent with the purposes and spirit of the Buddha Dharma and any slanderous accusations, disrespectful, bullying and unethical activity towards myself (and other female followers (and their Dharma friends)) cease and desist as soon as possible. I am also now seeking legal advice, not only on the above matters, but also as I have lost all access to my FB account and personal data in it and need to recover it, as well as resolve the issue that I cannot create a new FB account without it being immediately disabled without explanation. The fact that this has all happened at the same time as these other matters is no coincidence as far as I am concerned.

None of my previous letters sent to Benchen monastery administration about these matters have been responded to.

Adele Tomlin, 12th October 2019

 

UPDATE: LOSS OF FACEBOOK ACCOUNT AND PAGES FOR SHENTONG MADHYAMAKA AND HE SANGYE NYENPA RINPOCHE

Since the beginning of September 2019, I have had my Facebook account, Adele Zangmo, hacked into and/or deliberately disabled, as well as my emails being hacked into and personal data illegally accessed. Despite much effort and time, I have not been able to recover it or regain access to my FB account, as I no longer use the email or phone number I originally registered the FB account with. This has not only meant I lost access to many of my friends and contacts on there, but also my personal data, and administration of the new FB group ‘Followers of HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche’ and the older FB page ‘Shentong Madhyamaka and Kalacakra Translations and Teachings’. I have not been able to make a new FB account either without it being immediately disabled or hacked into on the phone and laptop I normally use.  This has never happened to me before.  I am trying to set up a new FB page for the Shentong Kalacakra website but that is very difficult to do if I cannot create a new FB account.  For now, I will post updates of new translations and research on this website here.

Please also see below a public statement I requested to be posted yesterday in the FB fan group, that I created and ran few months ago, called ‘Followers of HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche’.  The group became popular quickly with over 3000 followers. This statement addresses the circumstances in which I have lost access to the administration of the group, the hacking into my FB account and my relation with Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and the translation work I have been doing with his support since we met in Nepal last year. Since my FB account was lost, I have seen and been brought to my attention many malicious and false posts (mainly from fake FB profiles) attacking me as a woman, my personal life, my work as a translator/scholar and as a Dharma practitioner. I strongly deny these anonymous and unsubstantiated accusations and defamations and hope the statement below clarifies it from my own side. The sources of these attacks is still not clear, some recent posts have come from members of the Benchen monastic community.  Others have come from Facebook profiles, using the names ‘Sunny Ng’ (said to be based in Hong Kong), and ‘Gillian C Kin’ (who has now changed the name to Palden T Stone) who sent me messages earlier this year with the main purpose being to smear and defame the name of my precious root and refuge lama, HH 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje (whom I took refuge with in 2005 in India) and that of Kagyu in general. Starting in January 2019, both these FB profiles have sought information via message requests about the nature of my relation with Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and also spread rumours and gossip about him and his conduct towards women and female followers. Some women i have met, who are long time Dharma pracitioners, also told me similar things. I have screenshots of some of their messages. It was very upsetting and painful to read about and hear such things from people using fake profiles and whose sole intent was to cause doubt in my own mind towards him and emotional distress. Despite this I continued to have faith in and trust Rinpoche and continued contact with him and the translation work.

Of course, much more can (and perhaps should) be said about what has been happening, but I sincerely hope that with a sense of common humanity and desire not to harm or cause uneccessary suffering, these matters can be eventually resolved in a peaceful, harmonious, compassionate and humane manner in person and away from irresponsible mud-slinging and personal attacks, via FB profiles and messages (many of which are using fake names/accounts).

PUBLIC STATEMENT REGARDING THIS FACEBOOK GROUP AND HE SANGYE NYENPA RINPOCHE

Dear group members and fellow devotees,

For the record, and to clear up any confusion and malicious gossip, I am now issuing this public statement about the FB group and my relation with HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche.

First, I want to make it clear that the sole reason I set up this group was to share and post new translations and transcribed quotes of HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. There are many such FB fan pages in existence for HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, HH 17th Karmapa, HE Tai Situ Rinpoche, HE Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche and more, which are not set up by or administered by their monasteries. This group for Sangye Nyenpa has been very popular and appreciated by many, as there was not such a group in existence before. There was a FB followers group for another Benchen lama, HE Tenga Rinpoche, which was unofficial and not administered by Benchen monks, which has been running for several years. So I did not see any reason why there could not be one for Rinpoche either.

I met Rinpoche in September last year, and offered to translate some of his texts and he agreed and gave his personal support, instruction and full backing. Since then, I have faced obstacles and hostility from some members of the Benchen community. Many translators would probably have walked away from it. However, as Rinpoche himself personally continued to support and help me, and told me he was happy to do so, I continued despite these obstacles. Rinpoche has also been proactively in almost daily contact with me over the last year on Wechat (including voice messages and calls) which developed into an intimate connection and friendship. Earlier this year, Rinpoche also kindly helped me attend his teachings in Trongsa, Bhutan (for which he helped me arrange a guest visa with one of his friends and also offered me some financial support for my translation activity). We also met several times for several hours in May 2019 at Benchen Monastery, Swayambu, where he continued to give me instruction on a Shentong text he composed and which he has given me the transmission and permission to translate. As a result of this kind and generous support and our close communication, I did not see any issue with setting up such a fan group, as the work I was doing had the direct blessing and input from Rinpoche himself. Since the beginning of September 2019, however, Rinpoche I suddenly lost all contact with Rinpoche, and do not know what has happened. The last time we spoke he had told me that, health permitting, he would meet me at the monastery in Nepal in the first week of October and continue to help with the Shentong text translation. As a result, I am also very worried and concerned about his health and well-being.

As you already know, for the last couple of weeks, I have been hacked out of my FB account, Adele Zangmo, and lost access to management of this Followers group as well as my other page ‘Shentong Madhyamaka Teachings and Translations’. Unfortunately, FB do not have any direct phone line or email to contact in such situations and so far I have been unable to recover it. When I have tried to create new FB accounts, they have been blocked and disabled. This has never happened to me before. It has been a stressful and time-consuming situation indeed. My email account has also been accessed by other devices and private data has been accessed. This is clearly part of a deliberate attempt to bully and silence my voice and activity off Facebook as a whole (not just in the group). I have also been messaged by fake FB profiles this year by people (whose first language is Chinese judging by their timeline posts) whose sole intent is to spread false and malicious rumours about my precious root and refuge lama, HH 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, whom I have been following since 2005. In addition, I have also seen various FB posts from one or two junior monks within the Benchen monastic community (as well as many fake FB profiles), defaming my character, relation with Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, translation work and motivation. Some Dharma friends who have helped me maintain the group after I was blocked, and support and appreciate the posts in it, have also been messaged by these people privately, even to the point of harassment.

When this group was first created, several members of the Benchen monastic community and Rinpoche’s family joined the group and shared the posts. However, for the last four weeks, this has changed and their motivation and reasons for doing so are not clear. They are now trying to insist that the group be closed and be replaced by an ‘official’ one (whom it is not clear actually have the official authority of Benchen administration or of Rinpoche to do so). The same anonymous people have also recently set up a new ‘followers’ page that seeks to ‘compete’ with and shut down this group. One of my main goals has been that Rinpoche’s teachings and texts are shared and made available in an accurately referenced and sourced manner, with good quality English translation/transcription. However, from what I have seen of the new followers page, the posts are mainly in Tibetan, not fully or accurately sourced or referenced and/or poor English/translation. In addition, there appears to be no direct transmission or blessing from Rinpoche himself for the page and the content in it. Nonetheless, as they clearly now want to have such a page, I congratulate that effort and wish them well with it. I hope it is of genuine benefit to people and promotes the genuine Dharma with words that have actually come from Rinpoche himself.

As a result of the above, and mainly because I have lost the ability to post and administer this group, I have decided for the time being to stop any postings to the group, unless and until I get full access to my original FB account. However, the group content that has already been posted will be left available for people to read and hopefully benefit from. This decision has not been taken because I have done something unethical but because sometimes ‘offering the victory to others’ (even if they are acting in a bullying and unethical way) is sometimes the wisest and kindest action of all. So, with that as the motivation, and also out of consideration for the mental and physical well-being of Rinpoche himself, I hope this is the most compassionate and wise action to take for all involved at this moment.

May truth, virtue and harmony prevail and may the genuine Dharma flourish.

Adele Tomlin, 5th October 2019.

 

 

 

Tenth Sangye Nyenpa’s verbal pith instructions on the 8th Karmapa’s Shentong Madhyamaka

I am currently in the process of translating an ‘Empty-of Other’ (gzhan stong) commentary on Mahāmudrā, written by the 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, called Music of the Ultimate Sphere (Nges don dbying kyi rol mo).  In this text, Rinpoche explains how the Mahāmudrā  Aspiration Prayer of the 3rd Karmapa is related to the ‘Empty-of-Other’ view.  In this contemporary commentary, the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (Mi bskyod rdo rje (1507–1554), who was a devoted student of the 1st Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, Tashi Paljor[i]) is cited as a proponent of the ‘Empty-of-Other’ view, which considering he composed one well-known text, The Lamp that Excellently Discerns the Proponents of Empty-of-Other Madhyamaka (dbu ma gzhan stong smra ba´i srol legs par phye ba´i sgron me)[ii] is undisputable.  However, some scholars have asserted that the 8th Karmapa refutes or criticises this view in his other works, in particular, an extensive commentary he wrote on Madhyamaka.  In this short note I will briefly consider this intellectual speculation, in the context of direct verbal comments recently given by the 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. For the full note click here.

Murder plots, omens, black magic and Kālacakra: Tantric hero Jamgon Kongtrul’s dangerous first trip to Jonang monastery

I have been dipping into Dr. Alexander Gardner’s wonderful new book The Life of Jamgon Kongtrul The Great, recently published by Shambhala, and came across the section (pp.124-128) about about Kongtrul’s first visit to the Jonang monastery in Dzamthang in 1848, where he got the full Jonang transmission of Kālacakra and the six Vajra yogas from Jonang master, and his teacher, Ngawang Chophel (sngags dbang chos ‘phel). Also, the place where he wrote his well-known philosophical and meditation instruction text on Shentong Madhyamaka: The Light Rays of the Stainless Vajra Moon (this has been translated into English by Karl Brunnholzl in When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sutra and Tantra (Shambhala, 2015).  For more detailed descriptions on Kongtrul and his Jonang teachers and connections see this post here.

I was stunned and inspired to read about events that happened during Kongtrul’s trip to get to the monastery. A tale of murder plots, black magic and more.  The story which I reproduce here in full from the book, takes one back to a time of extensive Dharma activity, where tantric masters travelled and practised extensively giving transmissions and empowerments and meeting people. Yet, also of the local politics and threats to their lives and the divnations, dreams and methods and rituals they used to repel and pacify them.  Kongtrul faced a threat to his life from a rogue Pelpung monastery lama called Kuntrul, who practised black magic. Gardner states it is not certain why Kuntrul had a grudge again Kongtrul and Pelpung but he appears to have been banished from the monastery by Situ.

During the trip, Kongtrul and his companions faced several threats to their life from Kuntrul and a Sertar chieftain which resulted in two men from Sertar being killed due to the conflict. As Gardener surmises, it does not just appear that Kongtrul protected his companions and himself with various rituals and so on, but that they positively ‘vanquished their enemies’ likethe victor in a ‘deadly black magic contest’. The story ends with Kongtrul returning to Pelpung monastery and requesting Tai Situ to give him the Kalacakra empowerment and transmisison of the six vajra yoyas ‘to place a Kagyu frame around the Jonang teachings he had received.’

It is worth reading the story in full:

Dzamthang Monastery, Tibet

Extracts from The Life of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great by Alexander Gardner (Shambhala Publications, 2019) – click on the photo below to expand and enlarge the text:

 

NECESSARY QUALITIES OF A VAJRAYANA MASTER by JETSUN TARANATHA in A HUNDRED BLAZING LIGHTS

Often students and followers of Vajrayana get confused about what qualities are seen as essential requirements in a Vajrayana guru. They falsely believe that they should not examine a teacher and that they should take the first teacher they meet and feel intense devotion for. Fortunately, a great Vajrayana master and guru, Jetsun Tāranātha, explains clearly about what qualifications are necessary for a guru.

Now published on this website are some first-published excerpts from Tāranātha’s famous text, ‘A Hundred Blazing Lights: A Supplementary Commentary on Meaningful to See’ together with a list of questions a prospective follower might want to ask before taking empowerments from a teacher. All the great Buddhist masters and texts state that one should only follow a QUALIFIED Buddhist teacher when doing any Tantric or Vajrayana practise.

Read more here: https://www.shentongkalacakra.com/kalacakra-2/necessary-qualities-of-a-vajrayana-master-by-jetsun-taranatha-in-a-hundred-blazing-lights/

 

Guru Yoga Practice for Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche

I was surprised to see that there is no specific guru yoga written for the Sangye Nyenpa lineage. However, the Four-Session Guru Yoga ( dpal karma pa chen po la brten pa’i thun bzhi’i bla ma’i rnal ‘byor dmigs khrid dang bcas pa/) written by the 8th Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, a devoted student of the 1st Sangye Nyenpa, contains three specific references to Sangye Nyenpa (of which a complete translation of the text, together with audio of HH 17th Karmapa reciting it, can be downloaded from Dharmaebooks here).

When I recently requested Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche to write a guru yoga for the Sangye Nyenpas, Rinpoche told me that according to his root lama Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a lama can only write a guru yoga prayer for themselves if they have completed the outer, inner and secret practices of the three roots (rtsa ba gsum).  I also requested the 12th Tai Situpa to write one for the Sangye Nyenpas when I was recently at Sherab Ling.

In any case, followers can practice the 8th Karmapa guru yoga, or any guru yoga they have instruction on, visualising their root lama in the form of Vajradhara.  I have extracted the specific passages from from the 8th Karmapa guru yoga that supplicate Sangye Nyenpa below. It has the additional blessing of being one of the guru yoga daily practises of the current 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche.

Dharma lord, may I be like you.

Guru, may I be like you.

Protector of beings, may I be like you.

Sole omniscient father,

Siddha Sangye Nyenpa,

Gyalwang Mikyö Dorje,

If I don’t supplicate you then who will supplicate?

If you don’t behold with compassion then who will?

I supplicate you; grant your blessings.

ཆོས་རྗེ་ཁྱེད་རང་ལྟ་བུར་ཤོག་ཅིག།་བླ་མ་ཁྱེད་རང་ལྟ་བུར་ཤོག་ཅིག། འགྲོ་མགོན་ཁྱེད་རང་ལྟ་བུར་ཤོཀ་ཅིག། ཕ་ཅིག་ཐམས་ཅད་མཁྱེན་པ།་སངས་རྒྱས་མཉན་པ།་སངས་རྒྱས་མཉན་པ་གྲུབ་ཐོབ། རྒྱལ་དབང་མི་བསྐྱོད་རྡོ་རྗེ། གསོལ་བ་ང་ཡིས་མི་འདེབས་ན་སུ་ཡིས་འདེབས། ཐུགས་རྗེས་ཁྱོད་ཀྱིས་མི་གཟིགས་ན་སུ་ཡིས་གཟིགས།། གསོལ་བ་འདེབས་སོ་བྱིན་གྱིས་རློབས་ཤིག།

Also:

The heart of the path, devotion mahamudra, and

The nature of disgust, the guru’s kaya,

In union, as the state of Vajradhara .

So that all beings can easily attain that level of

 Lord Buddha, yogi Siddha Denma  [this is a name for Sangye Nyenpa]

I dedicate all efforts to accumulate virtue

of myself and all sentient beings.

In all my lives, may I never be separated

From glorious Sangye Nyenpa and his heirs.

ལམ་གྱི་སྙིང་པོ་མོ་གུས་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེ།། ཞེན་ལོག་ངོ་བོ་དཔལ་ལྡན་བླ་མའི་སྐུ།། ཟུང་འཇུག་རྡོ་རྗེ་འཆང་གི་གོ་འཕང་ཉིད།། རྣལ་འབྱོར་འདན་མ་གྲུབ་ཐོབ་སངས་རྒྱས་རྗེ།། གོ་འཕང་བདེ་བླག་སེམས་ཅན་ཀྱིས།། འགྲུབ་ཕྱིར་བདག་སོགས་སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱིས།། དགེ་ཚོགས་འའད་པ་དེ་ཡི་ཕྱིར་དུ་བསྔོ།། དཔལ་ལྡན་སངས་རྒྱས་མཉན་པ་ཡབ་སྲས་དང་།། སྐྱེ་དང་ཚེ་རབས་ཀུན་ཏུ་མི་འབྲལ་ཤོག།

Excerpt translated by Adele Tomlin, August 2019.

 

 

 

The 8th Tai Situpa, Tāranātha, Shentong and the Golden Stupa at Sherab Ling

It was an inspiring and moving experience indeed to visit and pay homage to the golden relic stupa of the 8th Kenting Tai Situ Chokyi Jungne (chos kyi ‘byung gnas) (1700-1774) that is housed at Sherab Ling monastery in Himachal Pradesh, India.  The monastery itself was founded in 1975 by the current 12th Tai Situpa, Pema Donyo Nyinje Wangpo (pad ma don yod nyin byed dbang po) (b.1953).

12th Tai Situpa, Pema Donyo Nyinje

The  golden stupa (containing the relics and ‘sacred remains’ (kudung) of the 8th Tai Situpa)  was consecrated in year 2000 (see photos below). In this brief article, I will share a little information about the stupa and the 8th Tai Situ.

Statue of 8th Tai Situpa at Sherab Ling monastery

The Tai Situpas and Shentong

The Tai Situ incarnations began when the Sixth Karmapa recognized Tashi Namgyel as the reincarnation of his teacher Chokyi Gyeltsen, a lama of Karma Gon Monastery in Kham who had received the Chinese imperial title from a Ming envoy.  Not only the Jonang, but the Kagyu, Nyingma, and some Sakya lamas (such as Sakya Chokden)  were holders and propagators of the Shentong view as I have written about here before.

After the suppression of the Jonang school and its texts and the texts of Sakya Chokden by the Tibetan rulers in the seventeenth century, under the spiritual rule of the 5th Dalai Lama, various shentong views were propagated mainly by Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lamas. In particular, the eighth Tai Situpa (1700–1774) and Katok Tsewang Norbu (1698–1755)—Karma Kagyu and Nyingma lamas, respectively, and their close colleagues—were very instrumental in reviving shentong among their own lineages.

In 1727, the Eighth Tai Situ, established the great Palpung Monastery seat, near Derge, Tibet with the great support of the Dharma King of Derge Temba Tsering. It is the seat of four lines of incarnate lamas, the best-known being the Tai Situpa[6] as well as the Jamgon Kongtrul and the Second Beru Khyentse. The temple has historically been associated with the Karmapas: for instance, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa, was enthroned first at Palpung before traveling to his main seat at Tsurphu Monastery in Ü-Tsang. Palpung is also said to be known for its huge library with more than 324,000 texts and an art collection of more than 10,150 thangkas. It was also leading in the fields of spiritual painting and the Situ Rinpoche is the founder of Karma Gadri painting style.

The monastery was partially destroyed in the late 1950s during the Cultural Revolution. The construction efforts by the 12th Tai Situpa have been in progress.

As one online biography says about the 8th Tai Situpa:

….[he] not only possessed profound insight and wisdom but became known as the Situ Panchen or Mahasiddha Situ, due to his many other excellent qualities. He excelled as a scholar in Sanskrit, Nepali, Mongolian, and the Chinese languages. He mastered astrology and medicine and was also a creative thangka painter and sculptor. He was a poet and author of many texts. His famous Tibetan Grammar is still the foremost advanced text in practical use today. Chökyi Jungne founded Palpung Monastery in eastern Tibet, which became the monastic seat of the Tai Situpas as well as an important centre of learning and culture. With his disciple Tenpa Tsering, he established the Dege Printing Press that produced over half a million wood block prints. One of his major activities there was editing and seeing to the printing of the woodblock editions of the Kangyur and Tengyur. This is now known worldwide as the Dege edition and considered one of the best original prints of these most sacred texts of the Tibetan tradition. The activities of Situ Panchen flourished widely and he restored or established monasteries, retreats, and study centres all over Tibet and Jang. He recognised and enthroned the Thirteenth Karmapa and the next incarnation of Shamar Rinpoche. He gave the full transmission of the Kagyu lineage to the Thirteenth Karmapa, Dundul Dorje. He passed away in 1774 at the age of seventy-five.

He is said to have visited Nepal on two occasions and was praised there by the Indian scholar Jayamangala for the depths of his learning and understanding. On his second visit there, in 1748, he met again with Kathok Tsewang Norbu and received from him many transmissions of the Jonang tradition, especially on the view of Shentong. For an overview of his collected works, see the index for his Situ Chökyi Jungne Sungbum. For a more detailed biography of his life (including how at the age of nine, someone poisoned him out of jealousy!) see the Palpung monastery version here.

Except twelve incarnations crowned as Kenting Tai Situ until now, according to some historical records and especially thangkhas painted personally by the 8th Tai Situpa, which were recently uncovered during the renovation of Palpung Monastery, the lineage also contains incarnations such as Dombipa, Sri Singha, Darikapa, Marpa, Tāranātha and so on, a total of seventeen incarnations.  Statues of these great master incarnations are also present in the golden stupa temple, see photo of Tāranātha below.

Statue of Taranatha at Sherab Ling monastery, India.

The 8th Tai Situpa Golden Relic Stupa

Golden Stupa containing the relics of HE 8th Tai Situpa.

In 2000, the golden stupa containing the relics of the 8th Tai Situpa was consecrated by HE 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche at Sherab Ling monastery, India. The 12th Tai Situ’s current and long-time personal secretary, Lama Tenam explained to me in a conversation how the precious relics and ‘kudung’of the 8th Tai Situ were received from the Palpung monastery in Tibet.  When the Chinese soldiers destroyed much of the Palpung monastery and also the kudung stupa of the 8th Tai Situpa housed there, fortunately, the people at the monastery were able to hide and keep most of the treasures contained within it, including most of the precious relics and body remains of the 8th Tai Situpa.

When the 12th Tai Situpa later visited Palpung Monastery, Tibet, they offered back these treasures to Rinpoche, who decided to leave half these precious relics with the monastery in Tibet and brought the other half to the monastery in India.  These relics and kudung were then placed inside the golden stupa at Sherab Ling monastery where they remain to this day.

Circumambulating the stupa was a powerful and moving experience indeed.  I offered thanks and gratitude to the 8th Tai Situpa and prayed that the Shentong teachings and lineages flourish, and that all the obstacles and unharmonious conditions facing the Kagyu lamas and lineage be swiftly removed.

Statue of 8th Tai Situpa at Sherab Ling monastery, India, in the golden stupa temple.

 

 

NEW TRANSLATIONS: Supplication Prayers by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche

Happy to share for free download here two new translations of supplication prayers composed by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. The two supplications are about great Kagyu masters, but also holders of the Shentong, empty-of-other, view.  The Karmapas and Tai Situs (in particular the 8th Tai Situpa) were both propounders and teachers of Shentong, which I will write about more in due course.

The first was composed for HH 16th Karmapa, Rigpe Dorje, when Rinpoche was giving the Kangyur transmission at Rumtek Monastery, download pdf here..

The second was composed for HE 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche, at the request of Tai Situ’s personal attendant, Lama Tenam, download pdf here..

 

May it be of benefit and may we all develop devotion and inspiration for authentic lamas and Dharma.

Tāranātha and his Indian tantric master Buddhaguptanātha

Buddhaguptanātha (1514-1610), an Indian tantric master, (16th century) was a very important teacher for Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu master and lineage holder, Tāranātha.  His life was  recorded in extensive detail by Tāranātha who wrote his biography around the year 1601. In 1590, Buddhaguptanātha visited Tibet.   In fact,  Tāranātha’s well-known account of ‘The History of Buddhism in India’ is largely based on what this Indian master taught him.  According to various scholarly and primary sources, Tāranātha received over 500 different teachings on the Highest Yoga Tantra from Buddhagupta. In this brief note, I collect together some of the research and translation that has been done on their connection, including a particularly inspiring description of Buddhagupta by Tāranātha.

David Templeman, who has translated and written much about both the life of Buddhagupta and Tāranātha reports in Buddhaguptanatha and the Late Survival of the Siddha Tradition in India:

When Buddhaguptanātha was seventy-six years old, he met the young, nearly sixteen-year-old Tibetan monk Tāranātha, on one of his travels into Tibet. The story goes that Tāranātha had dreams preceding this event, on the second day of the eighth Hor month (1590). Already something of a prodigy, he dreamed while in meditation retreat at Mahabodhi near Narthang, that he was encouraged to eat a piece of human flesh and that he was suffused with bliss as a consequence. He also dreamed that he was able to fly in the sky and had become a vidyadhara. The following day, the south Indian Buddhaguptanatha arrived at Mahabodhi, semi-naked and with his hair bedecked with yellow flowers. Buddhaguptanātha described his journey into Tibet to Tāranātha, and the young acolyte was especially impressed with the account of all Tibet’s local spirits coming to meet the siddha and of the mountains along the way bowing their peaks towards him.

Buddhaguptanātha commenced, at Tāranātha’s request, to teach him all he knew. Thus began the transmission of the vast knowledge that Tāranātha was to use throughout the rest of his life. After forty-six years of peregrination around India, central Asia and south-east Asia, Buddhaguptanatha brought with him to Tibet a huge awareness of the geography and history of the places he had visited in person and those that he had heard about from fellow ascetics. It is precisely these aspects that stand out in Tāranātha’s writings as the cornerstones of the factual validity for which his writings are renowned. Tāranātha is hailed by Tibetan and Indian scholars as the most accurate of all those who recorded the history of Buddhism in India.

According to Tāranātha himself, he did not simply rely on his memory to recall the facts. He wrote notes and comments on all the data that he received orally, and it is presumably from these notes and jottings that he was able to so accurately compile his later works. Works that depended completely on that very sense of detail for much of their validity. He used lists as an aid to memory, most of them apparently based on alphabetical lists and mnemonic devices. As Tāranātha writes:

I wrote notes, I wrote addenda lists to my notes and I ensured that these were not fragmentary or careless. Whatever teachings he gave me I wrote them all down on paper.

Buddhaguptanātha did not stay long in Tibet though, according to Templeman:

After a few months in Tibet, Buddhaguptanatha would not promise to stay any longer, despite Taranatha’s entreaties. There is no clear reason given for the rift between them, but there are clues to be found in Tāranātha’s Secret Biography. In a dream Tāranātha had at Samding, he saw a complex mandala of pandits including Aryadeva, and siddhas including Matangi. Tāranātha felt that he had now ‘joined’ that lineage, at which thought a young maiden appeared from out of the mandala and told him that he still possessed a huge amount of dualistic thought and pride and thereby insulted the yogic tradition. In Tāranātha’s biography of Buddhaguptanatha, it is simply said that Tāranātha was told that he had too much dualistic thought and that no more teachings were to be made available to him. Even Buddhagupta’s students Nirvanasripada and Purnavajrapada, who visited some years later, refused to ‘complete’ Buddhaguptanatha’s teachings. When Tāranātha requested that they do so, they left hurriedly!

The Third Panchen Lama also wrote about Buddhaguptanatha’s sudden leaving and ‘incomplete transmission’ stating that this fault was pointed out because of Tāranātha’s partiality towards the teachings of Dolpopa and that he had expressed some displeasure and disatisfaction with the core teachings of Nāgārjuna and his followers (see TEMPLEMAN 2009, Chapter 5).

Whatever the truth maybe, Tāranātha’s description of his remarkable Indian teacher is inspiring to say the least and worth quoting in full:

The signs and marks of his accomplishment as a yogin were plainly visible to ordinary eyes. Half the day he remained [in a state] whereby he cut off the flow of his breath, and at practically all times he stayed naked. Not only did he not experience any harm from this, but his immediate entourage, within a two meter radius, could feel an intense heat, by means of which he was able to protect others from the cold. By cutting off the flow of his breath through mouth and nostrils, he was able to make appear to his eyes and ears whatever he wanted. Also, his feet did not sink on water. He was standing about two fingers above the ground and his bodily splendor would touch every object and remain there for a long time. He possessed the power of seeing others’ secret designs, in a supernatural way knowing others’ minds. His body was light: he would jump down from (a height of) two or three stories, and like a skin that had been flung down, he landed gently like a feather. He would climb up a steep mountain as if it were flat land. Poison, quicksilver and the like were unable to harm his body. As his mind was abiding in steady loving kindness, dogs and even ferocious carnivores would lick his body and in other ways show their affection. Ravens, little birds and so forth would alight on his lap or onto the tips of his fingers. They didn’t flee when he patted them, but remained where they were, obviously happy. At the time of bestowing an empowerment, he was able to make the wisdom actually descend. In the presence of worthy candidates he would show miraculous occurrences of various kinds, such as radiating light into the maṇḍala. He stood in no need for the food of humans. He lived on foods offered to him by non-human beings. When he was engaged in one-pointed deity yoga, the appearances of the present were really cut off and he was one endowed with the wisdom of at all times viewing everything outer and inner as devoid of any basis and as self-liberated. We with the scope similar to that of mayflies, how could we possibly evaluate the limit of his outstanding qualities of body, speech and mind? (Taken from his biography at Treasury of Lives).

Jonang Tāranātha (1575-1635). 2008. Grub chen buddha gupta’i rnam thar rje btsun nyid kyi zhal lung las gzhan du rang rtog gi dri mas ma sbags pa’i yi ge yang dag pa. In Gsung ‘bum/_tA ra nA tha, vol. 34, pp. 126-158. Beijing: Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang. TBRC W1PD45495. See also TBRC W22277.

TEMPLEMAN, DAVID (2002) Buddhaguptanatha and the Late Survival of the Siddha Tradition in India, see: https://web.archive.org/web/20090331115333/http://www.ordinarymind.net/may2003/feature2_03.htm

TEMPLEMAN, DAVID (2007) Becoming Indian : a study of the life of the 16-17th century Tibetan Lama, Tāranātha. PhD Monash University, 2009.

DRIME, SHERAB, “Buddhagupta-nātha,” Treasury of Lives, http://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Buddhagupta-natha/6412.

NEW TRANSLATION: Praise and Supplication to the 16th Karmapa, by HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche

Here is a new translation of a short praise and supplication to HH 16th Karmapa, composed by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche in 2017, during his transmission of the Kangyur at Rumtek Monastery. Free download as .pdf here.

The 16th Karmapa was one of the root lamas of 10th Sangye Nyenpa (the other being HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche), who recognised him at the age of 3 and brought him to Rumtek where he lived and studied for many years. Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche spoke about his own life experience recently and his connection with the 16th Karmapa:

For that reason, once at the age of three, Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje gave me the name, saying I am the incarnation of Sangye Nyenpa, the supreme Vajradhara, Kyabje Khyentse Rinpoche said, “You must definitely go to Rumtek”. So I went to Karmapa’s residence in Gangtok, Sikkim. By the age of six, Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje taught me the alphabet. At first, the one who taught me the alphabet was Karmapa himself. I must have such a merit. I am so fortunate.

From the point of view of the world, Karmapa Rigpe Dorje didn’t give me at all the privileges of Sangye Nyenpa. When I think on the room, I lived in number 7. That’s it: a monk’s room; neither the room of a tulku nor the house of a tulku. Rather, the mediocre room of a monk. When we had to go to the toilet, it was a five minute walk away. Now, when the room was in need of repair, I moved down to room number ten and there I lived. Kitchen? That was it. Dining room? That was it. Bedroom? That was it. It was there I slept. That’s it.

The one who cared for me, who kept an eye on me was the one who is still with me, the old monk Tenam himself. Back then we also had another old monk with us. He passed away when I was about thirteen years old. He taught me the alphabet. Once he taught me spelling, I went through the Pema Kathang thirteen times. As for skills in spelling and reading, I went through Chagmed’s Mountain Retreat Manual for fourteen times; spelling the words. I went through quite a bit of hardship. It was tough.

As for livelihood, we had to manage by ourselves. The old monk himself would go all around begging. He would carry a big bag saying, ”Please, please, give me some rice”. Livelihood was a problem. My parents were poor. It was hard to survive. Then the old monk passed away when I was thirteen and Tenam himself, took over in undergoing those hardships.

Needless to mention the kindness with me of the great Vajradhara, Kyabje Khyentse Rinpoche. Whenever there was an empowerment, an oral transmission or pith instructions, he immediately would order me to go. He would send someone. That is how I had the chance of requesting many profound teachings and pith instructions.

But apart from that, Tenam would say, “Whether it be Nyingma, Sakya or Gelug lamas, we must request teachings from them”. And he would hold me by the hand and take me, saying, ”They have pith instructions”, ‘There will be an oral transmission”, “There will be an empowerment.”One must request for empowerment” ”One must ask for pith instructions”. At times he would be gentle, at times he would slap me. Hey, one has to do so, right? So, he would take me here and there using various means, gentle and tough. He was very kind. That is how things went thanks to his kindness.

Livelihood was hard in my childhood. Other than those like us, there were many wealthy lamas and tulkus at Rumtek. They were all among the wealthy class. Food too, would come down from Karmapa’s quarters to them. We got it from the labrang. As for my own sustenance, I had to look for myself.

So Tenam himself had to strive. He would buy goods from Gangtok; those fake ones. Put a number on them. Then, when Westerners came, he would sell the goods fooling them saying they were old. And he would use the money for our needs. We had to buy pechas to study, right? We had expenses going around, right? When requesting for empowerments and instructions, we had to travel, and far, right? That much he strived.

Then, one day, Karmapa Rigpe Dorje forbid anyone who stayed at the monastery in Rumtek to do business. Nevertheless, he gave permission to the old monk Tenam to continue. Now you all know this well. Not all who were at Rumtek have died. He didn’t say “Tenam”. He said, “akama” (translator´s note: akama – a reference to a person or thing that is useless or worthless). Gyalwang Karmapa was from Derge, right? From Denma Khog. So, he said, ”Let this akama do business. It is for the sake of that tulku. Let him do business, don’t stop him”.

So he kept on doing business. Whenever he heard a scooter coming up the hill he would hide something under his zen and hurry to meet them. “It’s a hundred.” It’s two hundreds”. Back then it was a hundred or two. Now we would be talking of a hundred thousand. It was powerful. So, that is how he went around doing business. And the profit from the sales was spent in my learning of the performance of the liturgies and obtaining the pith instructions from the Tantras.

By age seventeen, I had learnt by heart the Tantric studies that were meant to. When Karmapa Rigpe Dorje was still alive, there was the custom of being told at that point that the learning of the liturgy was over and one was appointed as the liturgy leader. The day came when I was appointed as such and Rigpe Dorje bestowed the robes. That day fell on the luck day of Karmapa Rigpe Dorje: Wednesday. It also coincided with the occasion of placing the golden badges over the temple. It was an auspicious coincidence and I was fortunate in that he was pleased with that.

Regarding livelihood, Rigpe Dorje gave nothing to me. He didn’t give me food. He didn’t give me a place to stay. From the point of view of the world I had my fair share of ups and downs. I would be considered poor, right? When I look back now, I see there is no better way of management than that. When I compare myself to others, those who lived in their own residences, those who received their food from above, there are already many of whom one doesn’t know where they have gone. On the other hand, we, the poor, remained in the bottom and at that time, we had the opportunity of getting teachings such as these, the chance of meeting many lamas, of requesting pith instructions.

I didn’t say I have clairvoyance nor that I have received a prediction nor that I am commissioned with a high duty nor that I had pure visions. Rather, I am saying I studied with my teachers starting from the alphabet and spelling, that I had nothing to eat, nothing to drink. I had to strive in my ignorance and that that strife brings about a result.

That is my whole point. If one does not put effort, remains content in one’s importance, wealth and power, one will likely have little learning. I can tell you it is an obstacle to one’s pursue of the trainings and to requesting teachings and pith instructions from all teachers. And that is a bad circumstance. On the other hand, there is an advantage in one remaining as any other monk while one is studying, just as an ordinary monk. I grew up living in rooms number seven and ten, side by side with the other monks and completed my studies together, too.

When I studied in the Shedra, I had to carry with me the cushion. One has to carry one’s cushion, right? And if one leaves it there then where will one sit when studying in the room? Once the class was over I myself carried my cushion. The support for the text, I too had to carry. I didn’t have an assistant. It was just Tenam. Sometimes he could not go. Sometimes he could. If he didn’t go, I had to carry the things by myself, so I would take some on my head.

He was very kind. He himself underwent hardships, too. He was tenacious. Doing as he did, he made me have similar experiences. So, what was the reason – sort of advantage – of doing so? I had the opportunity of meeting many lamas and spiritual friends and request teachings, request pith instructions and receive oral transmissions and empowerments from them. That is sort of the advantage, right? Even though I had a hard time in my childhood, even though I considered it a misfortune, the misfortune turned out to be an aid. I had the opportunity of requesting instructions.

If, instead, you keep on living in one of those called small residences, who keeps getting their food from above, who keeps on carrying a big name, someone like that is likely not to have much chance of requesting pith instructions. You have to keep telling yourself, ”There’s no one like me”, right?”

Excerpt from biographical account on https://www.benchen.org.pl/en/lamas/rinpoches-from-benchen-monastery/his-eminence-the-10th-sangye-nyenpa-rinpoche