The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
|Articles by alphabetic order|
Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche
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All of these teachings came from India to Tibet in the 8th century, when King Trisong Deutsen, Guru Padmasambhava, and Shantarakshita established them there. All of these teachings continue to be completely intact through the present day.
As for the tantra teachings, it was mostly Guru Rinpoche and Panchen Vimalamitra who brought them to Tibet, including some that are particularly important for the Nyingma school, such as the teachings of the Eight Great Indian Vidyadharas—
In brief, the Tantrayana includes lineages of the Outer Tantras of
the Inner Tantras of
Then particularly in Kham, or eastern Tibet, these lineages passed through Jigme Lingpa’s disciple Dza Trama Drupchen, and on to Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu, which then went to Patrul Rinpoche and others during that time, such as Shechen Gyaltsap, Pema Sang-ngak Tenzin, Gyalse Shenphen Thaye, and Dzogchen Khenpo Pema Benza.
Actually, Ri-me is like this (Rinpoche intertwines all of his fingers together] where you study and practice all these lineages, and receive their particular empowerments, transmissions, and instructions.
(1) Katok is ancient; it was founded in the 12th century. Katok had the Nyingma teachings of the kama, terma, and pure vision lineages, but it mostly held the kama lineage, and the terma a little less. Afterwards,
(2) Palyul Monastery was established in 1665, and around the same time,
This is just one lineage, but there are so many lineages through so many disciples, and they are all very much connected to one another. Afterwards, for example, there are the lineages of Patrul Rinpoche, the First Khyentse, and the First Kongtrul, which continued through their disciples, including Mipham Rinpoche.
Most of the khenpos I just mentioned after Khenpo Kunpal lived at Katok Monastery around the same time, and Tenzin Dragpa received teachings from all of them, so my Mipham lineage comes through Katok.
He is called Ashu only in the area of Nyarong.
So he wrote to Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro for a recommendation.
After Khyentse Chokyi Lodro corresponded with the head of Katok Monastery, Katok Ontrul, Dzongsar Khyentse replied that the best choice would be my teacher, Khenpo Tenzin Dragpa, or as we called him, Khenpo Ashe.
He took a lot of responsibility and was highly respected for what he did there.
He was not a philosopher, but he was very skilled in ritual music and chanting, and he knew a lot about performing the rituals. My father, Lama Chimed, also learned these chants. He was not as expert as grandfather, but he learned them very well.
So, I followed in my father’s footsteps. When I was young I learned the alphabet and how to read. Around Gochen I became quite famous for being able to read very fast. Everybody said I was a little crazy, but at the same time they were very nice to me.
We heard that the Riwoche shedra was looking for new students from a chief in the Doshul area named Yangchen Paldron, who was loved by everyone. She asked our father, who was an administrator of Gochen Monastery, if it would be okay to send me to train at Riwoche and return to Gochen and become the Khenpo there.
For generations, our family was known as being very well educated and was closely connected and important to Gochen monastery, and everyone thought that I was the right person to be sent to the shedra.
This is how I have a lineage connection through Katok. It is not so much a connection with that particular monastery as the scriptural lineage that came down to Khenpo Ashe from Mipham Rinpoche, as well as the scriptural lineage he had received from the great Katok Khenpo Ngakchung.
From my root lama, I also received all of Longchenpa’s Seven Treasuries (Tib. mdzod bdun), three volumes of Rongzompa’s teachings, and the teachings of Katokpa Dampa Deshek, the founder of Katok Monastery.
Some people say we can have only one root lama, but I think we can have many. Someone who gives empowerment, transmission, and pith instructions is a root lama. But Khenpo Ashe was particularly kind to me.
Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche Tells the Story of Khen Rinpoche Giving a Dharma Talk at Riwoche
In Riwoche Monastery, there are three departments: the
Gakye means to “open or lift the restrictions.”
The night just before the end of the summer retreat, it is traditional that all of the shedra students from all of the three departments gather and some of them give Dharma talks on what they’ve been studying.
Khen Rinpoche decided with his friends that he would talk, but he didn’t sign up or let the administrator know because he wanted it to be a surprise.
Behind the scenes, they secretly organized everything.
That night there was such a big audience—there were many tulkus and khenpos, and about one hundred monks and two hundred lay people who came to hear the final talks of the summer retreat, and to give offerings to the monks who had been studying.
After everyone completed the Gyunchag Sumpa ceremony of purification, prostrations, and recitation of certain Vinaya sutras, some monks asked if Khen Rinpoche had already given his name to the monitor, and he didn’t say anything—he just sat there.
According to the ceremony, right after everyone chants a long mandala offering and the head khenpo opens the event with a few auspicious words and prayers, the first person on the list has to get up and begin their talk.
During the long mandala offering, Khen Rinpoche noticed that the smart student from the Nyingma Dratsang began moving around as if he was about to stand up, but before he could, Khen Rinpoche immediately stood up, put his small monk’s robe on the floor, made three prostrations to the shrine, and then stood there.
The mandala offering wasn’t even finished yet!
Khen Rinpoche later told me that for a few moments he was a little nervous because he didn’t know what he was going to say, but then he began by praising the Buddha and all the great Indian and Tibetan lineage masters.
Khen Rinpoche discussed each of these topics in detail.
The final result of studying and practicing Buddhism can be summarized according to the three, four, or five kayas, and the five wisdoms, and can be understood in terms of two categories: the vast and the profound.
His teaching was mainly based his talk on
Longchenpa’s Treasury of Doctrine (sdrub mtha’ mdzod) and
Mipham Rinpoche’s Gateway to Knowledge (mkhas ’jug), as well as
Longchenpa’s Treasure of WishFulfillment (yid zhin mdzod),
a Vinaya sutra known as the Beautiful Lotus Garland,
Chandrakiriti’s Entrance to the Middle Way (Madhyamakavatara),
Nagarjuna’s Root Verses on Madhyamaka (Mula-madyamaka-prajna), and
teachings by Shantarakshita and Acharya Bhavya.
Khen Rinpoche talked for a long time. In fact, he talked for so long that the monitor had to ask him to pause so that everyone could go to the bathroom. After everyone returned, Khen Rinpoche continued his Dharma talk, and again he talked for so long that the monitor asked him to pause so that everyone could take another break!
This happened three or four times, so he really ended up talking all night long for about six or seven hours! Khen Rinpoche still had more to say, but dawn was about to come, so he stopped.
Everybody in the Sarma Dratsang was also very happy because Khen Rinpoche had represented their department so well. The Gochen villagers who went to the ceremony were talking so much about how Lama Chimed’s son, Palden Sherab did so well! Everyone was so proud.
Everybody in my class said I was very good. My classmates would come to me and ask me to teach them, to explain what the texts were saying, but I was not officially one of the teachers.
When we were out of Tibet in a refugee camp in Kalimpong, many people wanted to study the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (Prajnaparamita), someone else wanted to study Mipham Rinpoche’s commentary on Chandrakirti’s Entrance to the Middle Way (Madhyamakavatara), and some people wanted the Root Grammar in Thirty Verses (Sumtak). Before long I was teaching every day.
There I taught Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva (Bodhicharyavatara), the Sumtak grammar, Mipham Rinpoche’s Sherdrel Ketaka, which is his controversial commentary on the ninth chapter of the Way of the Bodhisattva, and Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty (nges shes sdron me).
I was also able to personally receive some other important teachings from Khunu Rinpoche at that time. H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, who was the head of Nyingma school, asked me to go to Mussoorie to represent the Nyingma school.
In 1967 he appointed me to go to Varanasi to help found and teach at the Nyingma studies department in the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. I served as the head of the Nyingma department for 17 years.
Before Gochen was built, Tsasum Lingpa went to Jowo Zegyal mountain and opened the secret door in the mountain—he identified many sacred spots there and encouraged people to circumambulate Jowo Zegyal.
Khenpo Tsewang was very young at the time; I think this was around 1954.
Gochen has had many fine lineage holders of Tsasum Lingpa.
I was with my grandfather on my mother’s side, who was named Maryon Kalzang Wangyal.
In Riwoche, I received both oral transmissions and commentaries on the Guhyagarbha Tantra from Khenpo Tenzin Dragpa in the form of Kunkhyen Longchenpa’s great commentary entitled Chokchu Munsel, and in India from H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche and H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
He transmitted many short teachings, including the [[Seven Chapter] Prayer]] (le’u bdun ma) and the Diamond Sutra (rdo rje gcod pa), as well as most of the Sky Teachings (gnam chos) of Migyur Dorje. I also received part of the Sky Teachings from His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.
From Dudjom Rinpoche I also received all the empowerments, reading transmissions, and oral instructions of the Dudjom Tersar, which includes terma from himself and his previous incarnation, Dudjom Lingpa.
I have also received many empowerments, transmissions, and instructions from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, including Kalachakra and many other Kadam teachings. I also received Mipham Rinpoche’s Kalachakra lineage from H.H. Penor Rinpoche in New York in 2007.
He also transmitted to me Mipham Rinpoche’s Tantric Peaceful Manjushri (rgyud lugs ’jam dpal). I received the Chetsun Nyingtik from His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok as well when he came to New York City in the 1990s.
In terms of other Nyingtik teachings, I also hold the transmission of Jigme Lingpa’s Nyingtik Tsapo from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Dodrupchen Rinpoche, and I received the Nyingtik Yabshi in Tibet from my khenpo, Tenzin Dragpa.
The Nyingma scholarly lineage had almost died out when Mipham Rinpoche revitalized it in the 19th century in Kham. In particular, the work of Khyentse Rinpoche, Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Mipham Rinpoche revived the Nyingma teachings so strongly.
Khyentse Rinpoche and Kongtrul Rinpoche were so kind to future generations in the way they collected and continued so many kama and terma lineages by giving their empowerments, transmissions, and pith instructions.
If they had not done this, all those teachings and practices would now be gone.
Now when we look back, we can see that just before Khyentse Rinpoche and Kongtrul Rinpoche came, all of the Tibetan Buddhist lineages were in danger of being lost; not only Nyingma or Kagyu, Sakya, Geluk, or Kadam, but all of Tibetan Buddhism—all of the Ten Great Pillars of the Study Lineage (bshad rgyud ‘degs pa’i ka chen bcu) and the Eight Practice Lineages (sgrub rgyud zin pa’i shing rta che brgyad), everything.
And not only did they collect these teachings, but they really practiced them and gained accomplishment.
For example, through his wisdom, the First Khyentse was able to rediscover the termas of even the lineages that had completely disappeared—and not only the texts, but all the empowerments, transmissions, and oral instructions!
And Kongtrul Rinpoche was able to put all of these teachings together perfectly.
It is said that just before a butterlamp completely goes out, it burns even more brightly. Similarly, Khyentse Rinpoche and Kongtrul Rinpoche came just before Tibetan Buddhism was almost finished in Tibet, and were able to collect and preserve so many of the teachings. Since then, many realized scholars have done so many wonderful things it has looked like springtime everywhere! Through their kindness and legacy, the teachings of the Buddha continue to glow.
Edited by Ann Helm and Pema Dragpa
Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche was interviewed at his home at Padma Samye Ling by Ann Helm and Pema Dragpa in January 2006. He spoke about some of the lineages that he holds and his primary teachers, and he shared many wonderful stories. This article is excerpted from those interviews.