Thrangu Tulku reading to students with Vulture Peak behind
Candid photo courtesy of R. Graffis.
During a visit to
the Thrangu ("tango") region of Kham (east Tibet,) the 7th Gyalwa Karmapa,
Chodrak Gyatso (1454-1506,) established Thrangu Monastery, enthroning Sherab Gyaltsen as the first Thrangu Rinpoche. He was acknowledged as the
re-established emanation of Shuwu Palgyi Senge, one of the 25 great disciples of
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche
The current and 9th
incarnation of that 9th-century master bears the name,
Karma Lodrö Lungrik Maway Senge.
Here is (in translation, obviously)
Prayer to Pacify
May the blessings of the exalted sources of refuge,
The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the Three Jewels,
And the Lama, Yidam and Protectors, the Three Roots,
Pacify the terrors of illness, famine and war,
And chaos in the elements. The temperatures
Unbalanced, grand snow mountains, hard, firm glaciers,
Will melt and disappear. Rivers and lakes
Becoming scarce, the forests of the ancients
And trees of beauty, too, will near their deaths.
There is a frightful danger the world's reaches
Will become a great wasteland. May these coming
Dangers be fully pacified, and sublime
Good fortune and happiness spread all round.
May all beings nurture one another lovingly
And kindly, so their joy may fully blossom;
May all their aims be fulfilled, like the dharma.
Ven. Khenchen Thrangu
Rinpoche is a geshe rabjam and HH Karmapa's senior tutor. He
holds all Karma Kagyu
Vajra lineages and is a specialist in the shentong philosophical view.
An example of Rinpoche's teachings and
some great Q & A on various topics is in
2003 edition of Seven Points of Mind-training on your screen.
A Suggestion for Making an Offering of Practice on behalf of Rinpoche
It is always
good to offer our support to our teacher by means of the dedication of the practice of White Tara.
This deity, (Tib. Dolkar,) is one of the three main ones practiced for health
and longevity. In this instance, having the empowerment is not a
The mantra: OM TARE TUTTARE TURE MAMA AYU PUNYE JNANA PUSHTIM KURU SOHA.
The White Tara sadhana in use by Karma Kagyu is the one by Jamgon Kongtrul, and it is
available for purchase from Namse Bangdzo Bookstore at KTD, Woodstock, New
Email: email@example.com or order through their website.
Lesson in Generosity
Khenchen Thrangu is especially appreciated by Western
students for his skill in making complex concepts readily accessible. For
example, a spontaneous lesson on generosity:
". . . if you want to practice generosity, you
can start by giving your best friend some small thing that you are not attached
to, like a penny. (Clip, clip, clip, clip.)
When you have mastered that, give them something
you really like, perhaps your favorite shirt. Then, once you have mastered that,
try giving some small thing to someone you dislike. At last, when you can do all
this with ease, give your greatest enemy something which you cherish
Then he smiled, and passing the knife from one hand to the other and back again
said, "If you can't do any of that, you must practice like this:
Right hand giving to left hand, left hand giving to right hand, right hand
giving … ." At this point we both started laughing
uncontrollably at the sheer absurdity of it. Imagine someone being so
selfish that they would have to practice giving from one of their own hands to
the other! Yet perhaps that's not [as] preposterous as it may seem. Part of that
teaching has to do with our need to be generous with ourselves, if we are ever
to be generous or compassionate with others.
The second and perhaps
more obvious part of his 'survival knife' teaching is that the right
and left hands are part of the same body. "It's only natural for one to give to
the other, for them to work together in harmony. . . . ."
Um School of Zen is the source of this 1990 anecdote that conveys a
fine sense of Ven. Thrangu's presence. One-hand-to-the-other is a
traditional Mahayana technique.
A Brief Biography
- At the time of his birth in the winter of 1933,
the ice on the river suddenly thawed and the song of
the cuckoo was heard.
- Rinpoche was recognized at the age of 4 by the previous Situpa and the 16th Karmapa as the incarnation (tulku) of a master. From age 7 to 16, he studied
at Thrangu Monastery. Khenpo Lodro Rabsel was his retreat
master, and at 23 he was fully ordained. Following the incursion by Chinese forces,
at age 26, he went to India as did many others. He was called to the side of
HH Karmapa at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. Then he continued his
education and at Buxador, Bengal, was awarded the degree of geshe
- He returned to Rumtek where he became
abbot, and was also head of Nalanda Buddhist Institute. He has
taught all four Eminences of the Karma Kagyu.
- In 1984, he returned to Tibet
to visit several monasteries and ordain 100 monastics.
- He travels widely in Asia, Europe and
North America, giving teachings in over 25 countries. In Boudhanath,
Nepal, he established a monastery and a school, as well as a retreat centre in
Kathmandu. In 1999, he established a college, Vajravidya
Institute, at Sarnath, India, that also accepts
Khenchen Thrangu's main seat is:
Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery,
G. P. O. Box 1287, Boudha,
For information about Rinpoche's schedule contact:
Gloria Jones, Secretary to Thrangu Rinpoche
Thrangu Tashi Choling
P.O. Box 1287
Phone: 977-1-472024 Fax: 977-1-472529
Or email Clark Johnson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Postal Address: Thrangu House, 42 Magdalen Road, Oxford, OX41RB, UK.
About the Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado
As my parting aspiration prayer for you all, I pray that your practice of
ultimate bodhichitta will cut through your clinging to existence as being truly existent and that your practice of relative
bodhichitta, which is the root of
performing the benefit of others, will cut through clinging to samsara . I pray that these practices will be like the waxing moon and will increase and
increase and that, through this, you will be of great benefit to all of the limitless number of sentient beings.
A dharma center is a place where many dharma practitioners can gather and practice together and therefore it is very
important. Those who work at a dharma center and are doing dharma work will have difficulty. However much you have to
endure, that much more merit will you accumulate, and that much more can you practice patience. However much dharma
practitioners have to endure the difficulties of heat and cold, of hunger and thirst, or whatever might be, that much more
merit will they accumulate. Milarepa himself said, "If you do difficult things, you will achieve something rare."
Crestone is a place where you have at your back the Rocky Mountains and in front you have an incredibly expansive view.
Although the view is expansive there's a forest on the mountains so there can be many different places for seclusion. It's a
place where the earth is clean, the water is clean, and the air is clean. So it's a wonderfully beautiful and secluded place, an
ideal place to practice the dharma.
You're all incredibly fortunate to be able to live and practice here. And especially
because it's a place where many tulkus (emanations of realized masters) are now gathering and having retreats or building
retreat building. So I think this creates a very auspicious connection for the teachings of the Practice Lineage to flourish here
in Crestone and for many yogis and yoginis to be born out of their practice here.
Because we have so many different tulkus from so many different dharma traditions building retreats in the same place,
teaching in the same place, this activity really makes this place extraordinary. Since these emanations themselves are
building so many different retreat cabins, it is a sign that even more emanations of emanations will come in the future. Since
the people who are building the retreats, the lamas, the retreat masters themselves are
tulkus, that is a sign that among their
students there will be many yogis and yoginis.
Since people here help each other when building their retreats with groups helping each other, that is a sign that they are in
harmony in terms of their samaya and that is a conducive condition for their realization to increase and increase. Also, all
these different students of different teachers have one common place where they have come, which also has an
extraordinary stupa of Tashi Gomang, its a wonderful place for everybody to gather and make aspiration prayers for world
peace and happiness.
Tibet has many sacred places because these are places where realized masters like Milarepa and Guru Rinpoche came and
practiced. Because these masters stayed in these spots and practiced there, the places became sacred. These places
weren't sacred to begin with; they became sacred because of the practice that was done there. Similarly, because there are
so many different emanations of masters practicing here and building retreats here, this place, too, will become a sacred
place -- a place where the air is clean, the earth is clean, and the water is clean, a place of utter seclusion and beauty, a place
where so many tulkus have come to build retreats and practice the genuine dharma.
All of these are signs that here the
teachings of the Practice Lineage will flourish. So all of you who are the pioneers here should stick it out and endure the
difficult work of building this place. If you do this, all of the future emanations and the future students who come will have it
very easy and will have all the conducive conditions for a wonderful place for practice which will be based on your efforts
and endurance here at the beginning.
When the tulkus who are in Crestone pass away into nirvana, their blessing will grow even greater and the blessing of this
place will grow even greater. When a tulku is still alive some people will praise the tulku and some people will criticize the
tulku. But once the tulku passes away to nirvana then all there is, is pure vision. And this makes their blessing increase and
the blessing of the place where they live and practice increase. So when the tulkus pass away into nirvana, there will be no
reason to criticize them any more and everybody will have very pure vision of them and make aspiration prayers at the
places where they stayed and lived and practiced.
In this world there are many places where there are retreats going on and retreat houses being constructed and people are
practicing. But you have not just one, but many tulkus who have come and build retreats and practice here. So out of all of
the retreat settings in the whole world, this is the best! This is the most extraordinary! It is the retreat land of the emanations!
And that's why in the future this will become an extraordinary place.
The reason why Tibet is an extraordinary land is that
so many emanations of realized masters were born and lived there. Similarly, since Crestone is a place where so many
realized masters have come to live and practice, it will be just as extraordinary. And when the students of these emanations
practice what they have been taught by their teachers and they become noble bodhisattvas, then there will be that many
more emanations to go around.
As Milarepa sang,
"The yogi who has reached success in emptiness/compassion,
this is the guide for cutting through complexities conventions,
is there anyone here who is able to stick to this path and follow it through,
the one with realization, with a retinue is happy.
To gather emanations as a retinue is E MA HO."
So Milarepa sang about his students being emanations-- being tulkus
-- because they had realized the true nature of mind. So
Rinpoche asks that I sing this verse for you. [Translator Ari Goldfield
sings.] It's like that!
(Note: When Ari heard Khenpo Tsultrim say, "So out of all the retreat settings in the world, this is the best." he asked
Khenpo several times if he meant just good or meant the very best and each time Khenpo Tsultrim said "the very
From the Dharma
Diary, Sept. 30 & Oct. 1st, 2000:
Thrangu Rinpoche on Tilopa's Mahamudra instructions, and from the Kon
Chog Chin Du cycle of empowerments, Lion-face
Dakini (Guru Rinpoche.)
The leader of the Kagyu shedrup is His
Eminence Thrangu Rinpoche. He [was] on a world-wide teaching tour before
going to India to become the tutor of His Holiness.
Very Venerable Ninth Thrangu Rinpoche is a powerfully built man in his
sixties whose smile is like the noonday sun. The energy of his presence
seemed to illuminate and invigorate the the shrine room. For the 400 or so
people who had come especially to be with him, it was a powerful motivating
force for the practice of the dharma.
In the congregation were a number of men and women
about to enter the traditional three-year closed retreat, and Khenchen
Thrangu provided the charge that will go far to sustain
He had been at Karma Triyana for a week teaching
from a text edited by Jamgon Kongtrul the Great [19th century], of
Practical Instructions on the Practice of Mahamudra given to Marpa the
Translator. [The link is to Keith Dowman's translation on his
In Sunday's concluding session, Rinpoche was
kind enough to share with us that this text was more amenable to the learning
circumstances here in the West, unlike the Ocean of Definitive Meaning, which
takes much more time to complete.
Both manuals emphasis the necessity of maintaining mindfulness,
alertness, care and diligence in daily life whether on the cushion
[in "official" meditation"] or off.
He told us not to be discouraged if we
find it difficult to practice for whatever reason. He reminded us that the
Buddha had said that that there is great merit whenever one put two hands
together [in worship or reverence] but that there is merit, too, when one can
only raise one hand.
Even partial faith leads to immeasurable
"The seed will grow. There is
fruition -- no need to get depressed."
By that Sunday morning, he had reached
the last of 7 well-organized topics in Practical Instructions. It
covered the preliminaries, the main practice and the results.
We heard that Gampopa [from whom Kagyu
Buddhists reckon the lineage to have originated] had told his nephew that
Thoughts are the display of the
The Mahamudra technique teaches that
the mind can be likened to cloudy or sullied water, it will clarify if we allow
it to settle naturally.
Without exception, all appearances and
existents are liberated in Mahamudra. So, too, all habits, obscurations,
Mind is Clarity and Emptiness.
As for Emptiness, there is
nothing to abandon or to accomplish from the point of view of absolute
truth. But of course, from the relative point of view, we do need to
abandon certain things and accomplish others. Therefore, we do exercises
and practices like meditation.
When we 'sit' we can experience alaya,
the ground from which thoughts arise; it has no arising. We should be without
arrogance or calculation, and just rest in that unborn nature.
We should not judge [our own thoughts
and actions at that time] or get into the characteristics of our mind.
Some experienced teachers have said
that cognitive lucidity is more beneficial than the emphasis on the experiencing
of Emptiness. It depends on the nature of the practitioner [another good
reason for having and relying on a teacher].
This aspect of Tibetan Buddhism is
called in that language "Instruction on the Mind."
Khenchen Thrangu reminded us that
"appearances are not that important, and also thoughts can be
exhausted" so that finally we are left with the dharmakaya.
The result of the practice of
Mahamudra is without limit, completely impartial, without hope* and completely
*[In the widely
myth about Pandora, the All-giver, the container of noxious things has at its
very bottom, Hope. This is, contrary to the way it may have been explained
to most of us, one of the most destructive of all contaminants. It
prevents us from Being and sets us off in a kind of fantasy existence.]
The text describes
three kinds of practitioner. The first is like a turbulent river, the
second like one that flows through a narrow gorge or defile, the third like the
River Ganges flowing steadily and inexorably to the ocean where the waters will
1. Beginners often
believe that when they meditate, they are producing more thoughts than
usual. This is not so.
2. If we persist and
continue, the speed and turbulence will reduce.
3. If we are
relaxed, the mind will still of itself.
technique or the use of directed gaze is used to intensify the awareness in
those intermediate practitioners who have some grasp of the "resting
naturally" but are not able to sustain that state. It is also useful
for those who tend to become torpid.
Rinpoche suggests using
the breath to get hold of the mind. A vajra technique was mentioned in
which the breath is held in between inhaling and exhaling. The 3 syllables
that begin Guru Rinpoche's mantra may be used here.
The word in the text
that is translated "gaze" is to be understood to include, besides the
correct direction of the eyes, the six other aspects of
the "7 dharmas of Vairochana" such as holding the spine erect, etc.
He told us that Machig
Lapdron had said that the point of the traditional yoga posture is to "relax
the 4 limbs."
[I was reminded of the
mahasiddha Naropa's mandala offering of his own cut-off head and 4 limbs arranged in
the auspicious mudra of a swastika.]
We should remember that
since "speech is the melody of devotion" we can make use of melodic
The text addressed
methods suitable for those of higher and lesser faculties, too. Karma
yoga, doing daily activities with mindfulness and thoughts of bodhicitta is
effective. So is the samaya yoga in which one works with the
channels, winds and dots. The latter should only be done in retreat
with a guru's permission.
Tilopa's text ends with
the assurance that practicing in this way will lead to a long life with 'no
white hair' filled with 'vitality like the waxing moon' and the 'strength of a
holder of the highest academic degree. It is recognized by all
denominations of Buddhism.
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