|The following article is from the Spring, 2002 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.
BY ANDREW SMALL
Kyabje Pema Norbu (Penor) Rinpoche, one of the strongest beacons of the dharma alive in our world today, will bestow the Nam Chb transmissions and empowerments in Austin, Texas. The Nam Cho treasures are specifically linked to the Nyingma school's Palytil lineage (of which His Holiness Penor Rinpoche is the current throne holder), and are considered the heart transmission of that lineage.
At the request of the Venerable Gyaltrul Rinpoche, H.H. Penor Rinpoche agreed to give this cycle of initiations. The Nam Chb treasures were revealed to the 17 century terton Migyur Dorje, and transcribed by his root teacher, the treasure owner, mahasiddha Karma Chagme Rinpoche (the great Kagyu master). They have been passed down in an unbroken to the current H.H. Penor Rinpoche.
Nam Cho means sky or space dharma. It encompasses virtually every wisdom sambhogakaya deity imaginable, while the main deities are Avalokiteshvara, Amitabha and Vajrasattva. A vast cycle, it comprises 13 volumes in the original Tibetan. Each transmission is concise and pithy, truly applicable to the present time. Terton Migyur Dorje revealed these treasures when he was a mere thirteen years of age so this may be one reason why the material is so fresh and easy to understand. Unique among all teachings in general, and among the Nyingma sect in particular, the Nam Chti merges all three lineages of kama (the oral tradition), terma (revealed teachings) and dag nang (pure vision). The cycle includes literally thousands of deities, sadhanas, and practices that correspond to the Great Perfection Ati Yoga. While conferring the abhisheka, Kyabje Penor Rinpoche will include perhaps as many as twenty deities in the course of a single day. Moreover, the Nam Chb is well known, among other things, for its transmission of phowa (transference of consciousness at the time of death). Nam Chb phowa is famous for swift results, so H.H. Penor Rinpoche continues to confer it upon hundreds and even thousands at a time on a regular basis.
Above: The Third Drvbwang Pedma Norbu Rinpoche (Photo by Mannie Garcia)
Origin of the Nam Cho
Of all the different aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, empowerments (wang or abisheka) are no doubt the most, celebrated and renowned, but at the same time the most baffling. Indeed, tlus elaborate ceremony sometimes several hours long can be completely mystifying to the novice. Yet, they are unrivaled for the harmony and beauty which they evoke. A wang is more than just ;ui empowerment to do a particular practice. It is also a kind of ngond.ru or introduction to the nature of mind, which, for the purposes of that ceremony or practice, takes the shape of a deity. Hence the ceremony is an introduction to our own true nature, and the elaborate mandalas of deities symbolize the qualities of the precious buddha naturethe mind's very nature.
The great Kagyu mahasiddha Karma Chagme Rinpoche > who lived at the time of the 10th Karmapa Choying Dorje) had as a primary disciple the great Terton and vidyadhara Migyur Dorje. When the latter was still just a boy, he had visions of wisdom deities and past masters, who appeared to him just as plainly as we see one another. Then ber veen the ages of . i and 13 he received the ierma or revealed teachings which, together, comprise the Nam Cho transmissions: his root teacher. Karma Chagme, acted as scribe and faithfully passed these on to heart disciples. Hence he was the first owner or keeper of these teaclungs. meaning he w as authorized to do whatever needs to be done with that spiritual material.
...the elaborate mandalas of deities symbolize the qualities of the preciousbuddha naturethe mind's very nature.
Karme t'mtgme Rinpoche knew through hi> omniscience that the great vidyadhara Kunzang Sherab was destined to be the next major keeper of tin-Nam Cho tradition, and he bestowed the entire series of transmissions or him As the sunder and first thru of the Paiyul tradition, Kunzang Sherab whose current incarnation is the Venerable Gyaltrul Rinpoche) preserved these
Nam Chb teachings as the heart essence of what was to become the Paiyul tradition. Since then, the Nam Cho transmissions have passed in an unbroken succession, from master to disciple, down to the current throne holder, the third Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche. An account of His Holiness' life can be found m.4 Garland of Immortal Wish-fulfilling Trees (Snow Lion. 1988).
Tlus is not the first time His Holiness has bestowed the Nam Chb in the west. He first conferred them in 1985, at the request of Venerable Gyaltrul Rinpoche. at Tashi Choling (near Ashland, Oregon). Then in 1994, he offered them agam at Run zang Paiyul Choling , m Poolesville Maryland), at the request of Jetsunma Ahkon Lamo. The evem will now occur for the third time in the west in Austin, Texas once again at the request of the Venerable Gyaltrul Rinpoche
H.H. Penor Rinpoche: An Accomplished Vajra Master
Sangye Khandro, who will be the oral translator tor .lie event, is a longtime student if His Holiness Penor Rinpoche has served as his translator uunerous occasions. She relates uit while studying with H.H. Penor fiinpoche in India in 1986, she was by Khenpo Namdro a bit longer to translate a book on history of the Paiyul. During that i vie several close students of H H nor Rinpoche shared many storie of the extraoi dinary events the> had witnessed. For instance, soon after His Holiness Penor Rinpoch- arrived in India and while they were building the monastery, some monks and lamas requested protection cords. Much to their surprise, H.H. Penor Rinpoche made the he cords with his ongue. This is particular siddlu for which ne well-known as a child, but it first time this had occurred while an adult
In addition Sangye shared that in 1987 she had the honor of accompanying H.H. Penor Rinpoche on lus return to Tibet and his own mother monastery of Paiyul. At that time he allowed Sangye and the two other women on the trip to live and stay right in the monastery close to his own room This was the first time had ever stayed at the mon recent trip to Tibet SuK.yotig Mipham Rinpoche, she was astounded to see that the has grown by ten times ind seems to be the strongest and the most thriving dharma center in all of eastern Kham. Sangye commented. It. is really true that the activities of the bodhisattvas are so miraculous that the activities and asprrations of just one manifestation in our world can make such a difference. Think what it will be like when we are all able to accomplish deeds such as this!
Ultimately of course, most of us are not fortunate enough to witness such spectacular events or changes, and we are often just as moved by more mundane accomplishments which relate directly to our own lives and experience. Again, Sangye Khandro:
For myself I have to say that the siddhis I have experienced in His Holiness Penor Rinpoche's presence are more in terms of qualities that
only a great bodhisattva like H.H. Penor Rinpoche can possess. I am speaking of immeasurable, unbiased compassion, selflessness and a view as vast as the sky itself. Twice while 1 was in India trying to learn the dharma at his monastery H.H. Penor Rinpoche unhesitatingly crossed over cultural boundaries to allow me the opportunity to participate and learn the dharma on an equal standing with the other monks and lamas. This was highly unusual and unprecedented at the time, but he did it without a moment's hesitation. I was allowed to attend the all- male lummo-tsalung retreat, receive teachings, practice and take examinations together with the monks. Several years later when Khenpo Nanulrol was teaching the Guya Garbha Tantra at the monastery,
H.H. Penor Rinpoche allowed western women to attend the classes held at the shedra college which had always been an all-male institution until that time. For the first, time in history, our class included tulkus, lamas, monks and western students, both male and female, studying together on an equal basis. Whereverand in whatever way the dharma needs to be propagated, he will see to it that that is exactly what occurs.
His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche once said, H.H. Penor Rinpoche is a saint who has transcended the boundary of samaya. By this, he meant that H.H. Penor Rinpoche had actualized the experience of inner wisdom, and so realized the state in which there is nothing to grasp and notliing to release.
For the rest of us, keeping the samaya for a series of empowerments such as these would mean maintaining a regular daily practice of at least one wisdom deity while understanding that the nature of all wisdom deities is the same. There is no need to fear that receiving so many empowerments will leave us overwhelmed with practices we cannot possibly accomplish. Picking just one - for instance, Avalokitesh- vara (Chenrezig) will suffice: for as the Tibetans say, if we try to practice all yidams, we will accomplish none of them; but if we practice one yidam and accomplish it, that is the same as accomplishing them all.
In addition to empowering disciples to practice all the teachings found in the Nam Cho cycle, this is an amazing opportunity to be in the presence of a great master for such a length of time. H.H. Penor Rinpoche is one of a very few teachers left from his generation who received all his training (in the traditional sense) in Tibet under the guidance of fully enlightened teachers. He is now completely dedicated to transmitting these blessings to disciples around the world. During the Nam Cho empowerments important teachings and visualizations may be translated and explained in English, and there will be spontaneous teachings given throughout - including a daily transmission of the Bodhisattva Vow. Hence the opportunity to learn, meditate and receive empowerments in the presence of such an accomplished master of this unsurpassed Tibetan tradition should be looked upon as being more rare than stars that are clearly visible in the full light of day.
For those interested in pursuing this tradition further, there are many centers around the country. In particular, the Paiyul Retreat Center in McDonough, New York offers The Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand retreat cycle, a gradual progression of practices, from Ngondro (the preliminary practices), to Tsa Lung and eventually to mahamudra & dzogchen practices, over the course of seven one-month summer retreats.
The schedule for the summer of 2002 includes the Nyunge fasting purification and compassion retreat on the July 4th weekend and H.H. Penor Rinpoche will conduct the annual summer retreat from July 10th to August 10th.
For more information on His Holiness Penor Rinpoche and His endless efforts to benefit all beings visit: http://www.palyul.org For information on Namcho Space Treasures see: www.bodhi.org May all beings benefit! ä_æ