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Rinchen Dargye

Rinchen Dargye was a direct disciple of the great treasure revealer Chokgyur Lingpa and was a prolific writer on all aspects of tantric thought and practice.

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About the Author

Karma Rinchen Dargye, also known as Karmey Khenpo, was recognized at an early age as a reincarnated master of the Kagyu lineage whose seat was at the monastery of Karma Gon in the eastern Tibetan province of Kham. Rinchen Dargye was a close disciple of Chokgyur Lingpa himself, and he is regarded as one of the primary lineage holders of Chokgyur Lingpas treasures.

Rinchen Dargye was an intriguing figure, who appears to have been something of an eccentric. Much of what we know about his life comes from stories in the oral tradition, passed down through masters in Chokgyur Lingpa's lineage. One unique account is told by Tulku Urgyen, who heard the story from a direct disciple of Rinchen Dargye.

In Rinchen Dargye's day, each year in Lhasa all of the major monastic scholars, particularly those from the three major Gelukpa monasteries of Sera, Drepung, and Ganden, would gather to see who was the best debater. The Ganden throne holder was the judge. One year Rinchen Dargye was in Lhasa at that time and felt that he should go to join the debates. Although discouraged by his attendants, who were afraid he would lose and be embarrassed, the khenpo insisted upon participating. Having tied the wooden blocks typically used as book-covers to the front and back of his body--indicating that he himself embodied the dharma--he put his monk's shawl on over the wrong shoulder, held his rosary in the wrong hand, and put his hat flat on his head rather than standing up as it is generally worn. Thus attired, Rinchen Dargye visualized Chokgyur Lingpa at the crown of his head, visualized himself as Vadisimha, and set off for the debate.

Upon his turn to debate, he defeated every one of the other participants and was declared by the Ganden throne holder to be the winner. The tradition was for all participants to lay their hats on the ground and for the winner to walk over them, but Rinchen Dargye felt that to do this would be to break is vows--since part of the Buddhist refuge vows entail a commitment to respect even a shred of monastic robes--so he bowed, covered his face with his hand, and walked quietly out. Having returned to Kham, Rinche Dargye relayed this story to Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, who proceeded to hit Rinchen Dargye over the head with his vajra and shout at him for not walking over the opponents' hats, yellng that he could have made the Kagyu and Nyingma teachings renowned but that his attachment to his precepts had prevented that. As a practitioner of the vajra vehicle whose body is deity, voice is mantra, and mind is wisdom, he should have been able to overcome such low attachments. Rinchen Dargye is said to have quietly left his teacher's room and kept to himself for a while afterward.

Whatever the accuracy of this oral account, the story gives us a lively picture of Rinchen Dargye's great scholarship as well as his eccentric nature and his devotion to upholding his precepts. He is also said to have led a life of complete purity with respect to his monastic discipline.

He was a prolific writer who composed a number of commentaries included in the New Treasures, and his own collected works constitute four volumes. His collected works are nearly all commentaries related to practices from the New Treasures and span an impressive variety of tantric exegesis, including two shorter works on Guru Vadisimha. Rinchen Dargye's style of writing is in some ways quite direct, and in other regards a clear reflection of his scholarly training, with extensive lists and descriptions that a teacher of lesser learning would be sure to avoid.