|The following article is from the Summer, 1993 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.|
An interview with Lodu Rinpoche
Lama Lodu Rinpoche, a close disciple of the previous Kalu Rinpoche, is an accomplished yogi, Vajrayana master, scholar and teacher of all aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the author of Quintessence of the Animate and the Inanimate, Bardo Teachings, Attaining Enlightenment, and numerous translations of puja texts. His Center, Kagyu Droden Kunchab, is located in San Francisco, California.
Question: Would you explain the significance of the enthronement of a tulku as young as Kalu Rinpoche?
Lama Lodu Rinpoche: By significance, do you mean, the benefit?
LLR: Our tradition in Tibetan Buddhism is that great teachers like Kalu Rinpoche take rebirth to benefit not only their students, but all sentient beings. The enthronement of Kalu Rinpoche brought the lineage holders, great yogis, lamas, heart disciples, monks and devoted students around the world together with one mind, one intention: to affirm that this is the true Kalu Rinpoche, who will assume the activity of Kalu Rinpoche for the benefit of all. With the enthronement comes the dignity of the position. For example, when a prince is crowned king, he is symbolically given the power to govern his subjects and to rule his country. Until then, the authority lies with his father.
From the outer point of view, if Kalu Rinpoche is not enthroned, fewer people would receive the blessings of his body, speech and mind, fewer people would receive initiations and teachings from him, fewer people would come into contact with him. For the lineage to continue, enthronement is necessary. The enthronement removes the doubts of ordinary people because when people see, they believe. When they hear, they believe. When they touch, they believe. So when all of those assembled came together on the enthronement day to pay respect to Kalu Rinpoche, to pray for his long life, to pray that his activity will equal that of the previous Kalu Rinpoche, we now trust that this is Kalu Rinpoche. The enthronement allows his activity to expand and further the vision of his predecessor.
Q: What is the inner point of view regarding Kalu Rinpoche's enthronement?
LLR: From an inner point of view, whether you recognize or don't recognize him, whether you enthrone or don't enthrone him, he is still Kalu Rinpoche because he is a manifestation of enlightened mind. Even if he were not enthroned, wherever Kalu Rinpoche is, whatever he does will benefit beings because of his absolute compassion. But ordinary people may not recognize him due to their conventional views and regard him as an ordinary being. This lack of recognition may affect the immediate benefit of sentient beings. The enthronement creates a powerful and vivid opportunity for ordinary beings to connect with the enlightened mind of Kalu Rinpoche.
Q: How should the students of the previous Kalu Rinpoche regard the new Kalu Rinpoche? Do we simply transfer our devotion from one to the other?
LLR: Always follow the instructions of your root guruespecially the vows you have taken from the previous Kalu Rinpoche; specifically the Hinayana vows, the Mahayana vows, and the Vajrayana vows. Although you have not had initiations, teachings or samaya from the new Kalu Rinpoche, you cannot deny him because of your connection with his predecessor Who has the same mind. You cannot be indifferent to him.
Q: The previous Kalu Rinpoche spent many years in retreat. Will the new Kalu Rinpoche have an opportunity for years of study and practice in solitary retreat before he has to leave the monastery and tour his centers around the world?
LLR: Kalu Rinpoche was born into his own family, the Ratak family of Eastern Tibet. His parents know and understand Dharma. His father, Lama Gyaltsen, is the General Secretary of Sonada Monastery, and served the previous Kalu Rinpoche until Rinpoche's parinirvana in 1989. He was inseparable from Rinpoche and his devotion is the example for our time. The decision about Rinpoche's upbringing lies with his parents. If Kalu Rinpoche is given sixteen or eighteen years of study with a teacher who possesses the three trainings of morality, concentration, and wisdom, he will be equal to the previous Kalu Rinpoche who was the most important lama of the twentieth century. If his parents want him to really express the activity of Kalu Rinpoche they need to give him time to be completely isolated with a perfect, great teacher who possesses the three trainings. With a great teacherto influence him, teach him the Buddhist arts and sciences and philosophy, train him in the Way of the Bodhisattva, introduce him to great yogis, meditation masters, and scholars, have him take the traditional empowerments of the Four Schools, particularly the Karma Kagyu and Shangpa Kagyu, and the traditional retreatshe will be equal to the previous Kalu Rinpoche. This is my feeling. I have talked to his parents about this. They have the power to lead him in the right direction, which will be good for the parents, good for him, good for all his disciples, good for the world. Then he will become a great teacher, an accomplished yogi. It is his parents' responsibility to make him the best for the world. It is up to them.
Q: Why is it important for the teacher of Kalu Rinpoche to have three trainings?
LLR: Without a teacher who possesses the three trainings, Kalu Rinpoche may be unable to manifest that purity and beauty which attracts and liberates sentient beings. By his example, his teacher brings out that inner beauty and purity. How he speaks and behaves shows his inner stability. From an ultimate point of view, Kalu Rinpoche is an emanation of enlightenment. But ordinary people cannot recognize this inner radiance without a corresponding outer reflection. So his attendants should have the three trainings which attract ordinary beings. We need Kalu Rinpoche to have the seven noble wealthsdevotion, morality, generosity, meditation, hearing the teaching, shame, and consideration. By manifesting these qualities he draws sentient beings to him who need his instruction, his blessings, and his power to liberate them.
A good attendant who is truthful, honest, devoted and compassionate will provide Rinpoche with the opportunity to become the equal of his predecessor in benefiting beings. An example is, if you give Rinpoche candy, he likes candy; he doesn't care about the headache the next day. He needs someone to speak to him from the heart, who may not please him at the moment, but will benefit him greatly in the long run.
Q: Does Kalu Rinpoche resemble his predecessor?
LLR: There are similar personality traits. Right now he has lots of habits of Dharma: meditation, from time to time he joins the pujas; he likes to chant, to read the texts; he likes to play the ritual instruments, which is unusual in other children.
I receive a very strong feeling of the old Kalu Rinpoche. The second time I saw him he gave me a picture of the Medicine Buddha on one side and Amitayus, the Buddha of long life, on the other side. He secretly showed it to me. I was very touched because I had been terribly ill, and he was indicating that I needed medicine to protect my life. He put the picture in my pocket. During the same visit he asked his attendant for a book, a big volume. He began seriously reading it, pretending to practice for over twenty minutes. Then he got really excited,wrapped up the book and gave it to me. You see, from 1968 to 1974 Rinpoche appointed me puja master at Sonada Monastery. It was my job to teach and discipline the monks. I was not learned, and had no skills to teach, but Rinpoche gave me the job and I did my best. Rinpoche, in his compassion, expressed that he was pleased with the way I taught and mentioned this to other people as well. So by giving me the book I felt he was showing me that he remembered me. He was Kalu Rinpoche.
Last time I saw him at the enthronement ceremony, hundreds of people came from all over the world to receive his blessings. He was Kalu Rinpoche for five minutes, then he was a little boy for five minutes, back and forth. He was tired and bored and even refused to give blessings at one point. All the attention was too much. So many peoplea little boy cannot handle it.
Q: Should Kalu Rinpoche's students ask that he leave his monastery and visit his centers around the world, or should we give him an opportunity to study and practice?
LLR: If people need him and long to see him, then a visit is good. Yet, maybe it is better to pray for his health and long life, and wait until he is sixteen or eighteen and receive empowerments then. If you rush his visit there will certainly be benefits but the benefits may be temporary. It is better to wait until he is full grown because he may not be able to get back to Sonada. When traveling in the West it may take as long as a year to get back, which creates obstacles to his study and practice. The influences of Western culture, like TV, are not beneficial to so young a Rinpoche.
At the same time, I understand the need for people to see him. They have jobs and don't have the money to travel to Sonada. But sixteen years is not long. He will become a great teacher then. Now he is so cute.
Rinpoche has many students of all religions, not just Buddhistssome with no religion at all, who were drawn to his pure energy. These people long to see him soon. But if he is given time with good discipline and good teachers he will create unparalleled benefit for all beings. Waiting is more fruitful than if we rush.
Q: Will Rinpoche keep the same traditional teaching techniques of his predecessor?
LLR: That is a very difficult question for me to answer. He is too youngwhat kind of skillful teacher he may be when he is older I do not know.
Q: What is your opinion?
LLR: All I can say is that Rinpoche's blessings have fertilized my activity so I follow his style of teaching and keep the traditions precisely. That is what he taught: keep the traditions exactly or the blessings of the lineage will disappear. Vajrayana teachings rely on the guru's blessings. So I am firm in what Rinpoche instructed. I am speaking from my heart.
Q: Could you tell us about the enthronement ceremony?
LLR: The enthronement was scheduled for February 25, 1993. His Holiness The Dalai Lama was going to attend but was unable to come due to his busy schedule. So, the enthronement actually took place on February 28, 1993. His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche, His Eminence Gyaltsap Rinpoche, His Eminence Bero Khyentse Rinpoche, Venerable Bokar Rinpoche, as well as numerous high yogis and lineage holders were present. There were representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness Karmapa, His Holiness Dujom Rinpoche, His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and His Holiness Drug-Chen Rinpoche. The Bhutanese royal family as well as officials from Nepal, Sikkim and Tibet were there. A few thousand people gathered from all over the world including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Europe, the U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Argentina to pay their respects.
The enthronement ceremony started at 9:00 a.m. Tai Situ Rinpoche gave a talk about the Kagyu lineage, and the story of Kalu Rinpoche's life. This talk was given in English and translated into French. We heard how the new Kalu Rinpoche was recognized by the clear, pervasive wisdom of Tai Situ Rinpoche and by the omniscience of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Even though so young, the new Kalu Rinpoche expresses the signs and manners of a holy being.
Gyaltsap Rinpoche presided over the mandala offering, explaining the significance of the ceremony, which was translated into English and French for the crowd. As representatives from Kalu Rinpoche's centers throughout the world as well as other important guests came forward with offerings, their names were announced over the microphone.
One of the most moving moments for me was Tai Situ's statement that Kalu Rinpoche was very unusual in that he was able to choose and manifest his emanation so swiftly, which showed that he is free from the Wheel of Karma. Tai Situ also said that when he and Gyaltsap Rinpoche get old, Kalu Rinpoche will be their helper.
The ceremony ended auspiciously with lama dances, Tibetan folk dances, Nepali dances, and lots of entertainment. The celebrations lasted for ten days.
Q: What would Rinpoche want us to do now? What advice would he give us?
LLR: Right now his advice is bring more candy and toys! (Laughter) I think Rinpoche is insidehe is absolute mind. He knows the different levels of students; some can simply give up negative speech, mind, and body and do the best they can. That is good for people, good for the environment, and good for the worldthose are his wishes. Do positivegive up negative. This is the first level student. The second level of students should practice devotion to the lineage, to the Buddha and Bodhisattvas and have compassion for all sentient beings. With this true intention, give up negative and do positive. For advanced level students: they can do ordinary foundation practice, extraordinary foundation practice, training the mind in the two Bodhichittas. After this comes threeyear retreat. Then practice of the different yidams, Vajrayana deities practice, and the method to swiftly realize Mahamudra and Maha-Ati: the Six Yoga practice of Naropa and Niguma. Those were his daily wishes for his students, and I am sure they are still his wishes.
This little one has the same mind and the same benefit on the ultimate level. But on the relative level he likes chocolate and toys.
The other advice to his students that Rinpoche was very serious about was the need to maintain his Dharma Centers around the world. The Centers bring great benefit to all sentient beings. Whether he is here or he is gone to India, the Centers should continue just the same. However you can help the Centers will create great benefit for yourself and others. Old students should be an example for new students. And old students should bring new students to the Center. By introducing the Dharma to new students their benefit is your benefit, their merit is your merit, until enlightenment.
Q: Didn't the previous Kalu Rinpoche like toys as well?
LLR: Yes, many people gave him toys, and when he was here (KDK, San Francisco) he gave some of those toys to my little son, Yonten. One time Rinpoche lined the toy figures up and said to Yonten who was very little, These will be your disciples. My son has been very interested in the new Kalu Rinpoche. He asked me, You mean this old man is now a little boy? How could this happen? My son knew Rinpoche very well, they ate together and spent lots of time together. Rinpoche gave Yonten the toys to keep for him. Yonten said that as soon as he sees Rinpoche again he's going to give them back.