The multi-volume set, The Complete Nyingma Tradition From Sutra to Tantra includes a moving foreword from Alak Zenkar Rinpoche. Today we would like to share with our readers a special introduction from Lama Sonam Tsering in which he examines Lama Tharchin Rinpoche - instrumental in bringing this text to English - and his relationship with the dharma throughout his life and the structure of The Complete Nyingma Tradition. Although it does not appear in the book itself, this piece acts as a gateway to the completed work.
THE COMPLETE NYINGMA TRADITION FROM SUTRA TO TANTRA
by Lama Sonam Tsering
The great Dzogchen practitioner Lama Tsedrub Tharchin Rinpoche was born in the ngakpa community of Gökar Sermo Jong in the Repkong area of Amdo. His father was Lama Chime Dorje, a descendent of the supreme Palchen Namkha Jigme, one of the thousand phurbapractitioner ngakpas of Amdo. His mother was the yogini Tsewang Drolma. He was born in the fire-mouse year near the Buchu Golden Temple in Kongpo, Tibet.
He engaged with the Dharma from a very young age due to his faith, compassion, intelligence, and positive past-life habits. He learned from his father Lama Chime Dorje, his uncle Ngakchang Lama Sherab Dorje Rinpoche, Doring Tulku, Kushab Gyurme, and other sublime spiritual teachers. He started with learning to read and write, progressed through the preliminaries, and completely absorbed all the hands-on ritual skills that have been passed down by the awareness holders, such as song and dance and musical instruments.
Due to his pure past-life aspirations he met his root gurus, Guru Rinpoche’s regent Kyabje Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje Drodul Lingpa Tsal, Kyabje Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche, and the supreme Kyabje Jigme Tsewang Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. Under their guidance he did a three-year retreat where he trained in the yogas of the creation and completion stages and practiced mahayoga, anuyoga, and atiyoga.
In 1960 he went to India along with the exodus of Tibetan refugees and eventually settled in Orissa at the Phuntsok Ling camp where he served at Dudul Rabten Ling Nyingma Monastery for many years. Due to his good character he got along well with everyone there, but his loving care for the downtrodden was especially great. I was around twelve years old when I met him for the first time. He was very kind, teaching me hands-on ritual skills, torma making, mudras, and other things. In 1980 he went to Nepal and served the supreme Kyabje Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche by, among other things, helping to edit texts. According to the supreme Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s wishes, he also offered his service in editing the Kagye Gudü Drubchen Manual from Dudjom Rinpoche’s collected works.
Following the wishes of the Dudjom Father and Son, Lama Tharchin Rinpoche established Pema Ösel Ling in the Santa Cruz mountains of California, a place of study, practice, and retreat complete with the physical supports of statues, stupas, and canonical texts. He also established Orgyen Dechen Chödzong in Hawaii. He sponsored the supreme Kyabje Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche’s transmission of the empowerments, reading transmissions, and explanations of the entire Dudjom Tersar in the West. He was the one who requested many of the texts in Kyabje Thinley Norbu Rinpoche’s collected works, including A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar and A Ruby Necklace That Delights the Awareness-holder Dakinis, the commentary on The Pearl Necklace, Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s supplication to his history of incarnations. He served the Early Translation Nyingma School, and especially the Dudjom Tersar teachings, with incomparable kindness that was like waves upon waves of light-rays. On the fifteenth day of the sixth month of the water-snake year he performed the dissolution of his physical mandala into dharmata.
Gyalwa Longchenpa was the great scholar-practitioner from the Land of Snows who eld the space treasury of the mind, space, and pith instruction classes of Dzogchen teachings. Is magical wisdom body appeared to the second omniscient one, the awareness holder Jigme Lingpa. Chief among Jigme Lingpa’s heart sons was Jigme Thinley Özer. Jigme Thinley Özer’s direct disciple was the supreme Longchen Choying Tobden Dorje, a holder of one of the four vajra lineages and leader of the thousand phurba-practitioner ngakpas in Repkong, Amdo. He composed The Complete Nyingma Tradition from Sutra to Tantra. Its thirteen volumes are made up of sections on the general sutras, the special tantras, general knowledge, root verses, a summary, an outline, and a word-by-word commentary on the root verses including illustrations. It is the refined essence of the expansive Kangyur and Tengyur and the profound tantras. It contains the key points of sutra and tantra. It is the essence of the intention of the four great rivers of transmissions. It is well-written and the meaning is both clear and good. It contains pith instructions and is deeply profound, expansive, and easy to elaborate upon. It is the essence of all Dharma, a beautiful ornament of the scholars and a treasure for practitioners. It is a wealth of good fortune for the Buddhist doctrine. It is accessible to sublime beings who have confidence in the enlightened view and to scholars of the five fields of knowledge. Based on the previous aspirations and karmic connection of Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, the translators, and their sponsors, all the circumstances came together at the right time for them to altruistically accomplish this project. It is a treasure of merit for the whole world, and especially for Westerners who are interested in Buddhism. It is also an offering dedicated to Lama Tharchin Rinpoche’s own root teacher, Lama Sherab Dorje Rinpoche. I rejoice wholeheartedly in the publication of the original Tibetan and the English and Chinese translations. I lack knowledge of my own Tibetan traditions, not to mention English, but I wrote this according to the publisher’s wishes. I, Lama Sonam Tsering, offer this letter with faith, reverence, and joy.