His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

The following article is from the Autumn, 1990 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Teaching in France, Summer 1990

The northern ranges of the French Alps provided the setting for the Rigpa International Summer Retreat, held this year from August 1-26. Led by Sogyal Rinpoche, Rigpa's annual retreats, which take place every summer in France, welcome great masters and attract over six hundred members of the Rigpa Sangha and others. However, this year's retreat was quite unique, with the presence of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and a number of other masters, who gave teachings to a gathering of nearly fifteen hundred people.

The ski station of Prapoutel, at an altitude of 1,350 meters and one hour's drive from Grenoble, was little prepared for the influx of so many summer visitors. The focal point for retreatants, accommodated mostly in the in the apartments of the ski station, was a group of tents strung along a narrow road skirting the edge of a precipitous drop on the mountainside. The temple itself was housed in an enormous white tent, meticulously prepared by Sogyal Rinpoche, and filled with thangkas, small shrines and large photographs of masters. Within it lay the central shrine, a curtained inner tent made entirely of yellow silk, lined with thangkas, and containing some of the most precious and holy images and relics. Opposite the shrine, the whole wall of the tent could be opened, revealing a small garden, beyond which a vast panorama of space and mountain opened out over the lower slopes, tumbling like waves into the valley of the river Isere below. Directly across the valley lay the imposing presence of the Massif de la Chartreuse, a colossal rock face, itself the site of an enduring stronghold of the contemplative life, the famous Carthusian monastic order. In fact, when local officials visited His Holiness to pay their respects, the gifts they offered were a Chartreux cross and a large rock crystal.

Sogyal Rinpoche opened the retreat on the anniversary of the birth of Padmasambhava with a Feast Offering. Rinpoche gave a number of teachings, preparing retreatants for the presence of H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, a frequent visitor to Rigpa's retreats and one of the most eminent khenpos of the Nyingma tradition, offered a series of teachings, all delivered in his inimitable style, so redolent of the Dzogchen teachings of which he is an acknowledged master. After the first week, Chakdud Tulku Rinpoche arrived, to lead a drupcho (an intensive practice) of Rigdzin Dupa, The Embodiment of the Vidyadharas, the inner sadhana of the guru according to the Dzogchen Longchen Nyingtik revelation of Jikme Lingpa. Rinpoche is a great master of sadhana, well-known amongst the Rigpa Sangha on account of his superlative chanting. Every day the complete Rigdzin Dupa sadhana was accomplished along with a full protectors' practice. Rinpoche also took this opportunity to teach on the Rigdzin Dupa.

Towards the end of the second week of the retreat Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche came. The reincarnation of the great Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1896-1959), who was the root master of both His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche teaches widely around the world and is known for the challenging, humorous and fresh approach he brings to explaining the buddhadharma, qualities he manifested generously while teaching on a number of subjects, including Empowerment and Vajrakilaya. He also spent time with the children on the retreat, leading them in games such as volleyball and archery, and taking them for blessings from His Holiness.

On August 15th, His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche arrived, to be greeted by the sound of gyaling music and more than a thousand retreatants lining the approach road holding scarves. Born at Denkhok in Kham, eastern Tibet, in 1910, His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse was recognized as the mind incarnation of the great Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-92), one of the pioneers of the cultural and spiritual renaissance that swept Tibet, and particularly Kham, in the last century. Jamyang Khyentse was also the emanation of Jimke Lingpa (1730-98), the revealer of the Longchen Nyingtik cycle of Dzogchen teachings. His Holiness is universally revered as the greatest living exponent of Dzogchen and revealer of termas and he is the teacher of many of the important lamas today. For some years now, he has been giving teachings from the Nyingma and Dzogchen tradition to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and he is the spiritual advisor to the royal family of Bhutan.

Khyentse Rinpoche is a master who is larger than life, and in a category entirely of his own. It would be no exaggeration to say that within the Buddhist tradition of Tibet there is no other meditation master or scholar of his calibre. With more than twenty years in retreat, his poetic and inspired writings, his vast learning, his tremendous achievements in the fields of building and publishing, his inexhaustable energy and the unique and effortless manner in which he continuously teaches and passes on the transmission, he epitomizes the image of the greatest lamas of the past.

Each day His Holiness gave teachings and empowerments. The first of these was the empowerment of the elaborate Tertdrel Nyesel, the practice for eliminating inauspicious circumstances, revealed by the great Terton Sogyal (1856-1926), which includes mandalas of deities of Mahayoga and Anuyoga, from both karma and terma traditions. His Holiness gave a remarkable teaching based on the actual terma text of the great Terton. This was followed by the great empowerment of Vajrakilaya, the Phurba Yang Nying Pudri, again a terma of Terton Sogyal, the famous Vajrakilaya practice of which the Thirteenth Dalai Lama was the Dharma heir, and which is practiced to this day H.H. the Dalai Lama and the monks of the Namgyal Dratsang. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche concluded by teaching on Vakrakilaya and the four kinds of Phurba.

Over the next two days His Holiness granted a series of empowerments from the Longchen Nyingtik cycle: Rigdzin Dupa, Yumka Dechen Gyalmo the Queen of Great Blissthe Dakini practice of Yeshe Tsogyaland Takhyung Barwa, the wrathful practice of the Guru embodying Guru Drakpo, Hayagriva and Garuda, which is directed particularly against the kind of deeply-rooted illness so prevalent today.

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H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

Then His Holiness gave the empowerment of the Khandro Nyingtik, the Dzogchen teachings of Padmasambhava which passed into terma and were incorporated into the Nyingtik Yabshyi by Longchen Rabjam (1308-63). Subsequently, over the four days that followed, he gave the highest Dzogchen instructions from Longchen Nyingtik to a select group of students, conferring the empowerment of Tikle Gyachen, the innermost secret practice of the Guru according to Longchen Nyingtik. He also gave a number of teachings on semtriguidance of the mindto the whole assembly. At the request of Vajradhatu students in particular, he granted the empowerment of Konchok Chidu, the practices of Guru Rinpoche, Guru Drakpo and Senge Dongma, from the ter of Jetsun Nyingpo, after which he taught on shamatha and vipasayana.

When the late afternoon sunshine flooded the temple, fusing its copper pink hues with the golden glow of the shrine, and as the assembly of masters and students sat at the feet of this great master, his voice ringing out in its effortless, unending and majestic way, it was as if time stood still. It was only too easy for those who were there to sense that they were in a pure realm and in the presence of Guru Rinpoche himself.

The last two empowerments that His Holiness gave were also particularily auspicious: the empowerment of Netik Phurba, a Vajrakilaya practice which is a mind terma of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and finally his own mindterma, the Rangjung Peme NyingtikThe Naturally Arising Innermost Essence of Padmasambhava. Through this series of empowerments, transmissions and teachings, His Holiness created a foundation and sowed the seeds for the complete practice of the Nyingma path and Dzog-pachenpo.

The masters who accompanied His Holiness also gave a number of teachings. Khetsun Zangpo Rinpoche, acknowledged as one of the scholars within the Nyingma tradition, taught on examining the mind. Tulku Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, the son of Kangyur Rinpoche and one of the leading figures in the spread of the Nyingma teachings in Europe, gave a teaching on choosing a teacher and self-reliance, and Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche taught on the different kinds of laziness.

His Holiness thanked Sogyal Rinpoche and the Rigpa Sangha before he left, promising that, if he lived, he would return to the West to teach again. For Sogyal Rinpoche and the Rigpa Sangha, this retreat had been a fulfillment of all their prayers and aspirations, and a landmark in their work. Nearly 400 of those participating had offered their time in order to make the retreat a success: in sewing, gardening, administration, construction, serving, cooking, ushering and security. It was an event marked by its auspiciousness, a blessing made all the more powerful because of the intimate connection felt by the Rigpa Sangha with His Holiness. As Sogyal Rinpoche was to reflect later: The real signifigance of this we can hardly comprehend. Only in the future, over many years to come, will the realization of its meaning slowly dawn as its reverberations are felt


A biography of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, along with an article about H.H. the Dalai Lama and teachings by Kalu Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche, can be found in the first issue of Rigpa's International Journal, Khyentse Ozer, available from Snow Lion.

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