|The following article is from the Winter, 1995 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.|
INTERVIEW WITH LAMA THARCHIN RINPOCHE
Rinpoche, can you tell us something about your activities here in the West?
The last time I saw my root teacher, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, his final instructions were for me to take care of the doctrine by teaching and establishing the Dharma. He told me that since I have been educated in Dharma and have gained experience in retreat, it was now time to share what I have learned with others. His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche's son, Dorje Chang Kyabje Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, advised me to stay and teach in America where the doctrine has not been previously established.
When I reflect on my teacher's request and what I want to do with the rest of my life, and I think about what I can give to America and the West, I feel the most profound gift I could possibly give would be the gift of inner peace. We are so wealthy materially, yet we lack the ability to find true and lasting happiness. Each of us has an inherent enlightened Buddhanature and the ability to find inner peace and contentment. The way to find and reveal the inconceivable qualities within each of us is through the path and techniques of Dharma.
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This is the way we can remove the mental suffering and delusion that exists within the samsaric cycling of existence.
The unbroken lineage of the Vajrayana teachings can only be held and continued for future generations through education and practice. Education requires the establishment of a college. Practice requires people to do retreat in all forms, including the traditional three-year retreat. Due to my teacher's encouragement, my life goal is to establish these two vehicles for rooting the essence of the Vajrayana teachings in the West.
Two and a half years ago we established the three-year retreat. There are currently eleven people in retreat. We are also in the process of translating a complete treasury of sutra and tantra, a thirteen-volume text called the Do Gyud Dzod. Only one copy of these volumes exists in Tibet, and we have now made a copy and brought it here. When this translation project is complete and if impermanence doesn't come too soon, I would like to establish a college under the direction of Lama Gyaltsen Rinpoche from Vajrayana East in Nepal and Tulku Thubten Rinpoche, who is a resident lama at Pema Osel Ling. Since 19861 have been living in the Santa Cruz area where I have been directing Vajrayana Foundation and Pema Osel Ling retreat and conference center. I feel very pleased that so much progress has been made since I came to the West.
In addition to establishing the three-year retreat and beginning a college, we have also created the Institute for the Preservation of Tibetan Sacred Art. Our plan is to create symbolic supports for bringing enlightened energy to the earth in the form of stupas, statues, libraries and temples, which increase the wisdom and compassion of all sentient beings. So far at Pema Osel Ling, we have finished sculpting a large statue of Guru Rinpoche, which is now being painted and gilded, and an elaborate and permanent sand mandala of Guru Rinpoche's pure ' land.
My overall goal is to continue to establish the pure and unbroken Ducljom Tersar lineage in the West. Wherever one can establish a pure lineage, then whoever has the desire to hold that lineage will be able to. This preserves that lineage for the benefit of all beings, now and in the future. Today Tibetan culture and doctrine is very fragile. Some of the lineages of Vajrayana Buddhism have become very thin and are in danger of being lost. My intention is to train Westerners to become lamas who are both educated and experienced practitioners. In this way, the Dudjom Tersar lineage will be strengthened. As Westerners begin to teach, the Dharma can become integrated into this culture without losing the purity of the lineage. Even though I cannot accomplish all of these goals in my lifetime, I hope that others will complete what I have begun.
Due to his great compassion and wisdom, and our extremely good fortune, Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche has granted our request and has agreed to give next summer the entire cycle of Dudjom Lingpa and His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche's empowerments, transmissions and teachings, which is the Dudjom Tersar lineage. Good fortune of this kind is almost impossible to find, especially for a humble Dharma center like ours. This will be a imyor event for the Nyingma lineage and Vajrayana tradition.
Please tell us about your experiences with Dudjom Rinpoche.
Actually, my father sent me to study and train with His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche in 1943 when I was eight years old. I moved to his monastery, Lama Ling, in Gongpo. My whole childhood was devoted to education, then later I went into retreat.
How long did you stay in retreat with His Holiness?
First, I spent five years by myself in retreat, then I did a three-year retreat with a group at His Holiness's place. I practiced and received teachings from Dudjom Rinpoche until I escaped to India in 1960. I then traveled with him until 1964 when he established a center in Orissa where I stayed until 1975. My whole life was devoted to serving him and his centers.
Can you tell us something about your relationship with his son Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche?
We grew up together in Tibet. Later, as I became educated and finished retreat, my understanding improved and I realized how truly amazing he is. I thought that no one in the world could write like Dudjom Rinpoche, and then I read Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche's books. I couldn't believe how sublime his work is, just like his father's. I feel that their qualities are inseparable, and that he is exactly the same as his father. I received Dzogchen teachings and empowerments from him and became his student. Along with His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, Lama Sherab Rinpoche and Chatral Rinpoche, I consider Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche to be my root guru. Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is an emanation of the great Mahasiddha Longchenpa, whose later emanation was Jigme Lingpa. In his previous lifetime, he was the son of Dudjom Lingpa. i Now I can see that Longchenpa, Guru Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche, and Dungse Rinpoche are exactly the same.
Do you think it is important for people to attend the Dudjom Tersar transmissions in July?
Yes, absolutely. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche never gives this type of advanced teaching and empowerments to the public. He is a totally hidden and secret Lama. Due to his incredible compassion and kindness he is willing to pass this lineage to us.
I was recently in Nepal, and when I told people of his intentions, they couldn't believe it. They said that they normally never even get a chance to see him. They were so shocked to hear that he would transmit the whole cycle of empowerments and teachings. This is our incredible good fortune. Since this is such a rare opportunity, I want to let everyone know about this extremely auspicious occasion. Since His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche passed away, this lineage has already grown weaker. Now we have a wonderful opportunity to make it strong again.
Many people here have very busy lives and will not be able to attend the entire four weeks. Would it be acceptable to attend part of the time?
Yes, of course, whatever you can do is wonderful. I hope that many of our Dharma friends will be able to come.
For further information on the Dudjom Tersar empowerments, write to Dudjom Empowerments, 2013 Eureka Canyon Road, Corralitos, CA 95076, or call 408-7242752.
The Venerable Lama Tharchin Rinpoche is a Dzogchen master of Vajrayana Buddhism. He is the tenth lineage holder of the Repkong Ngakpas or yogis, which was the largest community of non-monastic practitioners in Tibet. He is loved not only for his inspiring teachings of Buddhist philosophy and meditation, but also for his accomplishments as a master artist.