Tenpa Gyaltsen

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Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen was born in Trakar, Nepal, near the Tibetan border. He completed 10 years of traditional scholastic training at Karma Shri Nalanda Institute at Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim, India, graduating as acharya with honours.  This was followed by traditional yogic training in the first three-year retreat to be conducted at Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche's monastery in Pullahari, Nepal. 

Following the advice of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Lama Tenpa had been teaching at various Kagyu centres in Europe, at Nitartha, and centres in Canada. He was at Teksum Tashi Choling in Hamburg, Germany.  Currently (2017) he is associated with Nalandabodhi in Boulder, CO, USA.

July 9/04

Lama Tenpa began the weekend's teaching on Vajra Methods for Dealing With Emotion with an introduction to Buddhism, and then briefly defined the main concepts, Nirvana and Samsara.  He said that many people perceive the barrier between them as a high and thick wall that is difficult, if not almost impossible, to  breech.  However, he quoted Tilopa (in English,) who said that there is no barrier at all.  Rather that which prevents us from attaining Nirvana is more like the very thin nose rein by which a camel is controlled.  When the line is cut, the camel is set free!  In our case, the cord is merely an emotional structure.

Other barriers that we actually construct for ourselves have to do with the matter of time, and also our intellect.  And merely relying on the logic of those such as Nagarjuna, Asanga and Chandrakirti is not enough to help us cut the line.  Nor are the methods of Vajrayana or Mantrayana sufficient in themselves.  The Guru's blessing is also necessary.  "We do not know how or why that is so, but it is."

Meditation is a tool with which we can cut the cord. And there are two aspects to it:   physical posture and mental attitude.  On the cushion, the lower part of the body should be like a rock on/in the ground -- solid and stable, but the upper body must be light and "ready to fly" -- "very light, like an empty pot," or nowadays we might say, like a balloon.  In that way, you can sit for a very long time.  Otherwise, you are ready to move in response to any temporary discomfort such as heat, cold or a mosquito.

Yogis do exercise to keep the upper body light and empty.  And it is good to combine some movements with Kum.Nye, but merely a [occasional] swaying movement of the upper body can help keep the feeling of lightness.   When you have achieved the "balloon" feeling, remember to keep centred.  Then, imagine the central channel as filled with light.  (Lama Tenpa gestured, sliding the edge of his left hand through the air above his brow, then down to his waist.) 

As for the mental part:  Only keep your awareness, and whenever you are distracted, come back to "here." The mind behaves like someone in a supermarket; we think of a pizza, then we want one and we go to get it, etc.  Also, this kind of  meditation is not merely done "morning and evening;" a session is 24 hours long, [ie. all the time.]

And do not keep asking why you are having such and such a thought.  Do not conceptualize or ask why, or make judgements [about your thoughts] just keep coming back to the centre.  "That is meditation.  It's simple."

This kind of meditation (Mahamudra) is especially helpful for Westerners, who can be considered to be too educated. [We are taught to look for the reason behind everything.]  The analytical are always asking why, and after that, there is again another why.   There is no end to all those whys.

In the East, that is in India, Tibet and Nepal, maybe they need to ask why more often . . .  .

Analysing, investigating and looking for a cause is not the Buddha's way.  Buddha teaches us to look at the nature of the problem, not its cause.  If you keep looking for the answers to why, you would have to go back to previous lives, examine karma, and so on.

We have a lot of discursive thought, mostly connected with aggression or attachment. So whenever your mind goes off, say, "Enough!" and come back.  For example, if you like chocolate, you might have thoughts like, "Mmmm" and then, "When will this be over, so I can go and get some chocolate?"

Or, there is aggression:  Something disturbs me.  How can I avoid this disturbance? And so on.

Enough is a very powerful word.  Remember: "Enough is enough!"

So, 1. Keep it light, and 2. Replace distraction with happiness.  Contentment is a condition for Nirvana.  (The French-language translator elucidated, saying, "If the mind is content, it is less distracted.")

The second stage of meditation has to do with Transformation or Transcendence.

The lama then struck the bowl 3 times, followed by a quick series of 7, and then once more, and we sat in meditation for about 15 minutes as he had instructed. The signal to "come back" was the same.

Dedication and Long Life prayers were chanted, and the session came to an end.

June 27, 2002

From 26th - 29th June, Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen taught Buddhist meditation, both Shinay & Lhatong, at Centre des loisirs du Parc, 415 rue St-Roch, Montreal, Qc.

Gyaltsen means a royal standard or a "victory banner." Khenpo Tenpa  is the banner's unfurling. This Kagyupa has come into his own, and one day he will achieve renown comparable to that of the most eminent teachers.  He has a good command of English and German and is especially sensitive and hip to the situation of practitioners in our cultural milieu.

I did not attend Wed.'s session on the  preparation for meditation, but I was told by someone who was present, that Lama Tenpa stressed that sitting cross-legged on a cushion is not essential, nor is using the support of "following the breath," but that saying the mantra, OM AH HUNG, while taking a few deep breaths, flexing and contracting the hands are sufficient preparations.  (He also gave details related to the mantra.)

Thursday evening, he continued explaining the Macheu Rangpa method of meditation as taught by the 9th Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje (1555-1603) and outlined in The Ocean of Certainty.  This is the method taught within the renowned Mahamudra system of the Kagyu denomination.

Shinay or Resting Meditation:

"When the body sits, the mind gets more crazy.  So just sitting is not enough -- the mind has to sit along with it. 

The mind should just rest.  But how to rest?

(Already, if you have posed that question, you are aware that the mind is not the body. Any technique concerned with "sitting" cannot tell you how to rest the mind.  We learn how to do that -- to "Let it happen.") 

Therefore, if you have the question [how to] you are not yet ready, but if that does not bother you, then you ARE ready. 

(Westerners are always asking about method and technique!) It is true that wihtout method and technique there is nothing, but we do not ask about how to drink tea or Coca-cola -- we just open the can and drink it! 

So, sit and wait.  Resting will happen.  This is the Macheu Rangpa way-- part of the Mahamudra method.  It means, unfabricated or settled naturally [as turbulent water eventually does.]  Sit "as it is," leave it as it is and the resting will happen.

But we have to create the space for that opportunity to happen.  Do not worry about the time; in this, time is not important.

In the beginning, it is as if we are waiting for something: (Khenpo asks,) "What are we waiting for?" Someone says, "Enlightenment." Several shrug their shoulders.   

(There are only about 25 people there in a  comfortably air conditioned room in the bowels of a community center on St. Roch in Park Ex.  People at The Jazz Festival do not know what they are missing.)

"In the beginning we may feel as if we are waiting for something; we are not waiting, we are just here.  And we are not looking for anything because our begging bowl is already full!"

So then, why ask, "How do we rest ... ?"

I remember an example from The Ocean of Certainty:  A man is standing on the deck of a great ship way out in the middle of the ocean.  By his side is his pet eagle.

Suddenly, the great bird takes off into the air.  The man asks himself, "What should I do?"  Perhaps he is worried that the bird will get lost, but what's the sense in worrying? He just has to wait for it to return.   After all, there is no other place for it to land, is there?

Similarly, sometimes our mind does wander -- memories arise and so on -- and we may think it is destroying our meditation.  At that moment, is we who are destroying the meditation.  Let it rise to a peak; it will settle all by itself.

Let our thoughts arise.  But we should not identify with our thoughts.  Otherwise even a small sparkle of a thought we consider to be a disease.  That is the danger.

Therefore, it is very important for us to learn. So that when a thought arises .. -- we do not need to make a plan to stop any thought -- This is Macheu Rangpa.

There are reasons why we have some kinds of thoughts.  Some of our thoughts are heavy ones.  For those you need [the second kind of meditation ] analytical meditation.  Only to cut certain kinds of thoughts.

And a belief is a thought; we can't "just let it go." So, to cut through wrong thoughts, we use the analytical technique.

[Now,] many people say that [analytical] meditation does not help, or that they do not like it.  They say they do not want to use their mind.

But is the purpose of Buddhist meditation -- to achieve quiet?  Because if that is the goal, then why meditate?  You could just buy and drink 3 bottles of wine, or buy some pills and sleep.  But that would be as if you had a pain and to make it go away you hit your head against the wall to try and knock yourself out!

Buddhism is Awakening, but Quietness is Ignorance.  And we need to Awaken, not just once, but many times.  Otherwise, the [tendency to] Quietness can make us insensitive.

Also, Quietness us not conducive to tolerance. One of the biggest obstacles is that escapist mentality.  

[Wherever we go there is samsara, and there we are.] What would you do?  Sit in a cave? And after that?  Go to the beach?  At the end, we end up at the psychiatrist's ...  

Our goal should not be quietness.  We live in the city.  And Buddhahood is not Quiet. So therefore, we do analytical meditation which we call Lhatong.

Now, this is technical, and we have to be logical:  We want to break through confusion for it will not leave all by itself. (Otherwise, why are we here today?)

How do we introduce Wisdom into this confusion; what is our basic confusion?  We must identify it, experience it and then apply the method. For there is a lot of confusion; that is why we are here today.  But what is this confusion?

[You know,] there is a "picnic level" for practitioners.  Analysis is not a picnic.

This is how to proceed, according to Nagarjuna, who said:

  1. Identify the basic confusion.  It is a conditioned idea -- a belief: the idea that we are a separate unit.

  2. There is also the idea that that unit is everlasting.

  3. Also, we tend to have the belief that we are [each] special.

  4. And that there is such a thing as a Self.

These are the roots of our suffering  -- these 4 types of incorrect belief.  And they have been around for a very long time.  

Also, we [tend to] want to protect our confusion.  But we need t break through to let it go.  Therefore, we must ask:

  1. What is this single unity?  Our psychology is [set up] to lead us to believe that we are separate from everyone else.  Therefore, we feel loneliness. 

  2. Because of that, then fear starts.  We have a fear of losing (or of gaining) since the single "I" gets the idea of an "I" and "me" and so, "mine."  Are we going to follow a spiritual path in order to protect this unit, or to break through?  99% of all practices are designed to protect that [notion of singularity] unit.

  3. Many masters have said, "At the beginning, I have good motivation to follow, but I end up in samsara."  Therefore, the process requires courage ; you must be brave to follow analytical meditation.  We have to be ready to let "it" go.  

The only alternative to protecting the [unit/ego] is to analyze it.

So, what is this unit?

It is for this reason that Buddha taught about the 5 skandhas.  (And there are many other texts to help us with this.)

Working with the single unit, how to we proceed to meditate? Sit and imagine any image of a unit, like a house or a tree.  I {Lama Tenpa] like to use the tree.

  1. Visualize the tree and debate with the tree.  Ask questions: What is this tree? [Examine its parts] Is the branch "in or out" of the tree? [Is the branch "tree" or external to what is "tree"?] Does "tree" lie in the branch?  The trunk?  The roots?   You will see that there is no [locus] for it. 

After doing this with an external object, or try 3 different ones, do it with something you are attached to --  that you really like. Something you are sentimental about.

Do it with something you hate -- your neighbour's tree. (Laughter.)

Then, when you are convinced that the tree is merely a  collection [of attributes,] apply it to yourself.  For I, a person, is the singularity in me?  Where is it?  Then, how can it be in me if I am a singularity?

  1. So then, what am I [if not a singularity?] Here is where we get into "body, name and form" -- is it in my form? Outside it? Or is form a collection [of characteristics or elements]?

Now you will see if you read our texts, that there are many kinds and levels of form.  And there is no place for "I" to reside.  So is "I" outside the form?  Is it inside or outside our consciousness?

But our mind is not a singularity and there are also many layers of consciousness.  So where does the single unit dwell? It is not external, nor is it in the form nor in the mind ... 

Go as far as Hell to find it.  Go volountarily to search for it, but do not give up. 

Look among the ghosts -- and all 6 realms.  You will see: "It is only my own confusion."

It may sound childish, but it is very effective.  That is why this is the largest category of Buddhist texts.  Philosophy and all its classifications serves to break through this "single unit."  

That is how we [so much written on] the 5 skandhas, the 18 ... , etc.

It is simply a method.  Memorizing all the classifications is helpful, for the more we know of these, "the more keys we have to unlock the door."

Some say tha analysis does not work because it [just] serves to create more thoughts.  It may appear that there are many thoughts, but it is really just one.

And if we do not do the analytical meditation, we continue to have the one thought, which is a very heavy one! This cuts it into smaller pieces.

Do you want to live with one heavy thought, or with many light ones?  We choose the second because, sooner or later, we must transcend that thought.

That is why we speak of "Open-ness" -- that is the reason for analytical meditation.

~to be continued, one day.

From Dharma Diary, July 1999:

"Acharya Lama Tenpa visited from the 14th to the 20th, teaching at the height of a protracted heat wave.  Possibly due to that fact, the Lotus room at Centre Castelnau was only a quarter full.

Friendly and informal, he bears a slight physical resemblance to Eddie Murphy.
Lama Tenpa has a great sense of humour and has the ability, since his command of colloquial English is quite good, to explain concepts such as vipashyana (emptiness) meditation clearly with reference both to his own experiences as a student and to contemporary concepts such as relativity.  for example, he pointed out that not only are we captive of the erratic monkey-nature of our thoughts, but also that they (our thoughts) are captive of us!  He reminded us that according to the teaching of Mahamudra that is "naturalness", when a monkey is cornered, it may very well bite!

He also expounded (lightly) on the congruence of nirvana and samsara.
He evoked the Indian mythological creature which is said to carry a jewel embedded in its brow.  Through play and combat with others of its kind  (conditioning?) the jewel most often gets knocked right into the creature's head.  Then it spends the rest of its time running around in circles looking for the missing gem!   

He followed this, with the story of a drunken young man who passes out in front of his parents' home.  He demands of his friends to be taken home.  They try and tell him where he is but he just cannot see it!  Finally, they resort to taking him for a walk around the block so that when he again approaches his home this time on his feet, possibly a bit more sober, he will be able to recognize where he is.

This walk around the block par excellence is our esteemed method which enables us to recognize the true nature of our mind."


From the 11th through the13th of October 2000, Centre Rigpe Dorje in Montreal enjoyed the visit of Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen.  

Lama Tenpa discussed the practice of Guru Yoga referring to the Tibetan text by the 2nd Jamgon Kongtrul known in English as  Billowing Clouds of Blessing. 

Guru yoga is a vajrayana practice in which the root lama is visualized and his [or her] energy is called upon to empower and bless the practitioner.  Lama Tenpa explained that Guru Yoga prepares the nu or vessel that is the student thus protecting and enabling the successful accomplishment of meditation, other forms of spiritual exercise, and the relaxed and relative view or attitude called Mahamudra or Dzogchen.

Though the lama's English is very good, he regularly consulted his translator for confirmation.  He drew our attention to the fact that ordinary as in ordinary mind does not mean inferior or cheap and that the word "impermanence" seems to have acquired a distinctly negative connotation in our culture that it does not necessarily have in Tibetan -- transitory nature might be a better expression.  

With his usual good humour, he said that once the student has learned through shamata meditation to recognize his or her thoughts as they arise, shift and fade, the next step is to be able to manage not to be driven by them.

Using the feeling of anger as an example, he said that the Buddha taught that to resist or suppress this most harmful of emotions is  worse than acting out.  It aggravates or amplifies this klesha or obscuration. 

Of course, acting on one's anger can lead to violence which we know must be avoided.  The thing to do then, is to rest or relax in the acknowledgement of the anger - to take a breath, recognize it for what it is - a transitory emotion, and then let it go to return to "ordinary" consciousness.

~ Dharma Diary archive.


Calm Abiding & Analytical Meditation

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