A letter from His Holiness Dudjom Tulku Sangye Pema Zhepa Rinpoche
An Offering of Homage to The Guru, The Buddha Vajra
Lord of Refuge Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche
By Lama Rangbar Nyima Ozer
As deeply sad as it makes us, the passing of our own root teacher presents us with several very important injunctions as well. On the one hand, it is a reminder that the circumstances we have today, including the most important and positive ones, are without any doubt, fleeting and impermanent. On the other hand, we become more attuned with the urgent need to practice while we still have the fleeting chance in hand. The situation also gives us a chance to understand the process of an individual as they practice meditation all the way through to the stages of complete Realization and Enlightenment. We can reflect on what Rinpoche did in his life to bring himself to that level, and we can reflect on the vastness of his qualities and endeavor to emulate his life example. Furthermore, this entire process gives us a chance to better clarify and understand what our own organization is all about.
One of Bodhivastu Foundation's main purposes is to construct The Stupa of the Great Awakening as a method of bringing Enlightenment into our own confused world. A stupa is a representation of the Enlightened heart-mind of all the Buddhas and a physical support for our practice.
In this process it is important to bring this ancient spiritual technology of Body, Speech and Mind, into the framework of modern language so that a clear understanding can begin to develop in regards to our main undertaking. This relates to the recent passing of our own root teacher.
When Lord Buddha Shakyamuni was soon to pass into Nirvana, his disciples asked what should be done upon his passing. They asked with some measure of desperation that since he would no longer be physically present, how they should go on without the light of his wisdom. How should they worship? Lord Shakyamuni Buddha responded by saying that his disciples should take his relics and place them in a structure and he described a stupa in very simple terms (to be discussed elsewhere). He continued and said that to venerate the stupa by folding one's hands and by circumambulation and other gestures of respect with Body, Speech and Mind in front of the stupa, that this would be exactly the same in merit and function as if he was right there in front of them.
Now, at this time, when the Guru's form is no longer visible to us, when we are told "The Guru (our Guide) has passed away", we realize that although we have received his blessings and instructions, that in fact, we have only received a small fraction of the treasury of his wisdom and method storehouse. We quickly understand that we absolutely must double our practice. The time period following the passing of a great master such as Kyabje Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche is one during which we can drop our confused distractions and enter the path of meditation, dedicating some time each day or all day, to blending our minds with the all-pervasive mind of our teacher and his vast qualities. One can even go so far as to say that these great masters demonstrate impermanence so we do take the short period of our life more seriously. Without proper practice, a human life will not likely reach its full potential nor will the experience of any depth of well-being occur. Only by fulfilling the deepest purpose of wisdom realization can we be said to have had a truly precious human rebirth. This depends on us and our own actions. As much as we talk about practice and say that we will one day do it, unfortunately we tend to die before we actually manifest that lofty idea in reality. In short, we procrastinate thinking, "I'm ok, I'll get to it eventually." or "The Guru will save me", etc.
The Lord of Refuge, Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche was one of the last truly rare completely realized masters of our modern time. He spent most of his life in retreat. We should understand what that means. Many westerners will not have come face to face with the Adamantine rock of Buddha Awareness in person and all that implies.
Rinpoche was known to have thrown huge piles of money back in the face of would-be recipients of Dharma who tried to buy his teachings. Even a request for profound teachings from him could provoke an earthquake from him if not backed by adequate prerequisite practice. In my own way of seeing, Rinpoche was and is, an emanation of Guru Dorje Drollo, one of the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava who destroys all erroneous views and those who lead us astray. As someone who displayed the capacity to incinerate all deceit and wrong views with just a single glance, it is very difficult for me to separate these two beings in my mind.
I feel to let people know that the stupa of the Great Awakening project we are working on was in no small manner an injunction from Rinpoche. To disclose a bit more fully, I must shamefully admit that at one stage I tried to get out from under the responsibility of making this stupa and so I consulted with Rinpoche and he commanded me not to abandon the work but instead to bring the Stupa project to conclusion. I say this now so that people understand that the stupa project was not based simply on my own ambition or deluded idea. Some people may think that a stupa is a kind of lower activity and that high meditation is really the ultimate. That is perhaps true but I think we should pose some questions to ourselves.
1. Do we actually do such high practice or is that statement just one designed to relieve us from effort we should put into any and all forms of Dharma?
2. What is the example Rinpoche and other masters have set forth for us? Did they themselves not make stupas for the benefit of others?
3. Many people wish to become Buddhas. I would love to accomplish that too despite all my deluded actions which in fact lead elsewhere. I would truly be happy to simply become a good person. But when I examine my own actions and the actions of others I wonder. Whereas reaching the level of a human being would be quite a high accomplishment for these modern times, I sometimes wonder: Can we even come to the level of the animals which seem far less malevolent than humans overall?
In short, during his relatively long life, Rinpoche blessed us by his example. His life was not only relatively long, but made even longer by his not wasting any moment of it. Each thing he did had meaning, each moment he spent generated causes for benefits for others. Now, if we can only practice a fraction of what he accomplished, this would be wonderful. I pray that I and all beings can fulfill all of the aspirations that Rinpoche fervently held for us.
This is offered by someone who in all fairness can only state that he aspires to be a student of the unfathomable being known as the Buddha Vajra.