and his spiritual sons
Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, a tribute from Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche
Spoken by Tarthang Tulku
One of the greatest masters of recent times was Terchen Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa (1829-1870), considered an incarnation of the son of King Trisong Deutsen. The eminent lamas Jamgon Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo greatly respected his wisdom and attainments, and, through them, his teachings had a wide impact. He revealed more than 250 texts contained in the Rinchen Terdzo, and he is honored not only in the Nyingma tradition, but also in the Karma Kagyu Drukpa, Drigungpa, Taklung, and Sakya schools. Truly, in the times since Rigdzin Jigmey Lingpa, he is the greatest of Terma masters.
The lineage of Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa was passed on through his daughter, Semo Konchok Paldron, and she in turn transmitted it to her four sons. One of her sons, Tsangsar Chimey Dorje, was the father of our beloved Tulku Urgyen, one of the outstanding lineage holders of our time
Tulku Urgyen demonstrated a devotion to Longchenpa, Chokgyur Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse, and Jamgon Kongtrul that inspired all who knew him. In the 1950s he received teachings from my own root guru, the Second Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, journeying to Lhasa and Gangtok for this purpose. In addition to receiving initiations he had many close personal discussions with this great master. Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, Dudjom Rinpoche, and Dilgo Khyentse all counted Urgyen Tulku among their advisers and spiritual friends.
Not only was Tulku Urgyen kind, wise, and compassionate, but he was humble and gentle as well. He was renowned as a yogin, and though he did not live the life of a mountain recluse such as Milarepa, his mind exhibited all the qualities of such accomplished masters. With great modesty, Tulku Urgyen served the Sixteenth Karmapa as his assistant and counselor in both spiritual and practical affairs, and also gave him teachings on Atiyoga. A trusted confidante, he rendered indispensable assistance in such matters as the lengthy dispute over Swayambhu Temple. In fulfilling these responsibilities, he never once failed to follow through on a commitment.
Tulku Urgyen was not well known as a scholar, yet the depth of his understanding was unsurpassed, and many Nyingma and Kagyu masters stood in awe of his comprehensive knowledge. He had thoroughly studied and practiced the Atiyoga, and his teachings on Dzogchen transformed the lives of those he touched with gentle, penetrating clarity.
As a meditation teacher and a master of initiations, he was without peer. We are especially blessed in having received from him the profound teachings of the Chokling lineage, through which Avalokiteshvara and Guru Padmasambhava manifest in our lives. Direct and clear, these sadhanas make the complex teachings of the Vajrayana freshly available.
Besides his stature as a lineage holder and his prowess as a teacher, Tulku Urgyen was skilled in all the arts and crafts. He excelled in calligraphy, painting, sculpture, the making of torma, and he had encyclopedic knowledge in many fields of human inquiry. He had a remarkable grasp of history, including Tibet's relations with China and Mongolia, the history of Kham, Nangchen, and Derge, and the biographies of great lineage holders.
Tulku Urgyen was very kind to me and my children. He and I traveled together extensively more than thirty years ago, and in later years I received from him several important teachings, including the hearing lineage of the Gyu Chubdun and the teachings of Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa. To have met and studied with this great lama, enjoyed his presence and received his compassionate guidance, is truly a great blessing. His loving gestures and marvelous heart brought us all boundless joy. Although others were much closer to him, I can say that his gentle nature, which became immediately apparent to all who met him, was truly unique.
In these times of the kaliyuga, when great troubles have befallen Tibet, Tulku Urgyen rose to the challenge. Journeying to a new country, he established a foundation for the Dharma and made the special treasures of Dzogchen and the Chokling lineage widely available. He benefited the Sangha greatly, establishing centers, extending the teachings, and passing on his knowledge. Today there are more than thirty different monasteries in the Kathmandu valley, and I personally trace much of this activity to the light that radiated from Nagi Gompa, where the presence of Tulku Urgyen, the teachings of Chokling, and the blessings of' Guru Padmasambhava came together. Truly, whatever any lama could accomplish, Tulku Urgyen has brought to fruition.
Once while having the good fortune to stay at Nagi Gompa, I saw in a vision that through the blessings of Padmasambhava, the Dharma could one day spread out from this tiny valley, revitalized and newly powerful. Now that our beloved teacher is gone, I pray that his lasting influence will help this vision come to fruition.
The Vajrayana emphasizes the importance of receiving teachings and initiations from qualified masters of the Vidyadhara lineage. Yet we cannot be content with the thought that we have received wondrous teachings from our beloved Tulku Urgyen. Only if we keep the samaya vows will our initiations have value. If we wish to meet our responsibilities to Rinpoche as our Vajra Guru, we must keep this understanding firmly in mind.
The texts on initiation set forth eight obstacles to receiving transmission from the Vajra Guru. Because this topic is so important, I list them here:
1. Resenting or actually breaking the directives of your teacher.
2. Being unsympathetic and divisive toward your Dharma friends.
3. Giving up on the mind of enlightenment and the tutelary deities.
4. Cutting the cord of compassion that connects you to beings who are suffering.
5. Giving teachings and initiations to those who are not suitable vessels for the teachings.
6. Being greedy and stingy in serving the Lama.
7. Using the teachings for your own purposes out of presumptuousness and arrogance.
8. Forsaking Dharma commitments due to desire for profit or overwhelming attachment.
Having had the great good fortune to receive initiations from a perfectly qualified master, we should remind ourselves repeatedly of these dangers. Though we may be sure in our own hearts that we are faultless, we can still reflect on our responsibility. In the end, whether we receive the most excellent results of Tantric initiation depends entirely on us.
Whenever we recall the features of our beloved Guru, we see the Dharmakaya taking shape and form. Following his instructions with faith, we too can pass into the Dharmakaya realm, for through him the lineage of perfect realization becomes available. Of this there can be no doubt.
Padmasambhava himself taught that sound is the echo of the Guru's teaching and thoughts are the blessings of the Guru's heart. Through the kindness of the Guru, the Paramita manifests: a silent realm beyond specifics, the accommodating space into which the senses can project meaning and significance.
In the fullness of the Guru's presence, appearance manifests as images of the Guru, and all forms are part of the enlightened mandala. Like the rainbow, whatever appears lacks all solidity. Thoughts are simply the habitually accepted-heart impressions of the essential. The senses and the kleshas themselves are transformed into the light of liberation. As Om and Ah and Hum, form and sound and thoughts express the three mandalas of kaya, vaka, and citta. In the comprehensive mandala that emerges as the unity of this threefold presence, we discover the truth of self-liberation
Having entered this magical mandala realm through the Guru's grace, we transcend karma and klesha. Free from grasping, we can live beautifully, practicing awakened awareness within our daily activities. Self-liberation becomes selfless liberation, and we realize the great wonder: Life and death are both bardos, and we are always in transition.
The more we practice Guru Yoga, the more readily we experience the perfect openness that lets us accept the Guru's blessings. In the light of the Guru's radiance, we see that we do not know from somewhere else, but from within the mind. We require no vehicle beyond the light of liberation, for there is nothing to recognize, misinterpret, or confuse-no ignorance and no not-understanding. This is the Paramita, the Dharmakaya, the source for the enlightenment of all Buddhas. It is the blessing of naked mind.
Before meeting the Guru we were lost in the desert, blinded by incessant sand-storms, living without meaning. Now we have found the way! Learning to operate the mind, we understand more; dwelling near the source, we encounter fewer obstacles. Free from conceptualization, we glimpse the real sky, the real space. Samsara becomes the friend of nirvana, and the teachings on ultimate reality, as expressed in the four shlokas of homage that open the Sutra of the Meeting of Father and Son, become our own reality. Ordinary, grasping mind, bound up with identity and ego, becomes inseparable from the mind of perfect omniscience. The treasures of the Buddha fields stand open.
With rare compassion, the Guru initiates us into the five mandalas of his body, speech, mind, action, and qualities. How many have had the opportunity to meet such a perfect embodiment? How many have received the teachings that lead to liberation from samsara? How many have access to the extraordinary treasures of Dzogchen, whose quality and character go beyond all ordinary teachings? Nothing could be more precious.
Knowing this to be so, the greatest Nyingma and Kagyu teachers have cherished above all else the opportunity to meet with the Guru and express their devotion. When we read the biographies of great masters such as Milarepa, Yeshe Tsogyal, or Jigmey Lingpa, this quality of devotion stands out above all else. Let us join them on this path, making Guru Yoga our food, our shelter, our home.
Fully accomplished yogins tell us that one who has reached the land of gold sees only gold. In the same way, one who practices Guru Yoga discovers this present realm to be another realm, this present world-another world, this present mind-another mind. And how does this come about? Through the grace of the Father Lama, who gives us the teachings and makes available the blessings. This we must never forget.
The gift that the Precious Guru bestows can never be lost, dismissed, or broken. Yet the seed has only been placed in our hand. We must choose to plant and nourish it, confident that if we do so, the fruit will come. Therefore, let us practice the five mandalas of Guru Yoga. In sleeping, in walking, in eating, in thinking, let us invite his presence. To practice in this way is the joy of joy, the bliss of bliss, the love of love. It is the laughter that comes from love; the seal that protects against all disruption. It is the greatest of blessings.
How I wish that all of us, as Tulku Urgyen's students, could continue to live in the direct presence of his blessings! Yet now that he has left us, we have a way to preserve and strengthen what he gave us. The path is clear: Since his teachings are like a thread binding us together, we must be one Sangha of Dharma brothers and sisters, with no separation. May we open our hearts to one another, treating each other with kindness. May our devotion always deepen!
We can implement what our Vajra Guru has given us by keeping our samaya vows, praying for his blessings, and practicing daily. If we make it our aim to be selfless and compassionate and to develop wisdom for the sake of others, we will quickly make progress. Someone holding a single lighted candle in a dark cavern will give it up reluctantly , but one who sees light everywhere will gladly share that light with others. Once this is our situation, we can say what the Dharma is, for we know beyond a doubt what counts as practice and initiation.
Tibetan spelling of names used:
Trisong Deutsen - Khri-srong lDe'u-btsan
Jamgon Kongtrul - 'Jam mgon Kong-sprul
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo - 'Jams-dbyangs mKhyen-brtse'i dBang-po
Rinchen Terdzo - Rin-chen gTer-mdzod
Kagyu - bKa'-brgyud
Drukpa, Drigungpa, Taklung, and Sakya - 'Brug-pa, 'Bri-gung-pa, Stag-lung, and Sa-skya
Rigdzin Jigmey Lingpa - Rig-'dzin 'Jigs-med Gling-pa
Terma - gTer-ma
Semo Konchok Paldron - Sras-mo dKon-mchog dPal-sgron
Tsangsar Chimey Dorje - Tshangs-gsar 'Chi-med rDo-rje
Nyingma Kama and Terma - rNying-ma bKa'-ma and gTer-ma
Karsey Kongtrul - Kar-sras Kong-sprul
Longchenpa - Klong-chen-pa
Chokgyur Lingpa - mChog-gyur Gling-pa
Jamyang Khyentse - 'Jam-dbyangs mKhyen-brtse
Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro - 'Jam-dbyangs mKhyen-brtse Chos-kyi Blo-gros
Lhasa - lHa-sa
Chokling - mChog gling
torma - gtor-ma
Kham, Nangchen, and Derge - Khams, Nang-chen, and sDe-dge
Gyu Chubdun - rGyud bcu-bdun
Yeshe Tsogyal - Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal
This text later appeared in "In Honor of His Memory"
by Tarthang Tulku, May, 1996