22-23 April, 2018

Talks on Saints of Tibet ( Longchen Rabjam, Jigme Lingpa, Trengpo Sherab Ozer)

Venerable Nyichang Khentrül Rinpoche

Deer Park Institute is honored to host talks/teachings by Venerable Nyichang Khentrül Rinpoche, on

"Saints of Tibet ( Longchen Rabjam, Jigme Lingpa, Trengpo Sherab Ozer)


The Venerable Nyichang Khentrül Rinpoche

Nyichang Khentrül Rinpoche (nyi-lcang mkhan-sprul rin-po-che) is the only high Tibetan lama living in Japan. Rinpoche is a member of the last generation to have received the complete monastic education and perform all fundamental religious practices before the invasion of Tibet by China. He has received teachings mainly from the Nyingma lineage, which is the original Buddhist tradition of Tibet, and also from the other three sects, namely the Sakya, Kagyü, and Gelug. His great learning and strict attitude of faithful adherence to tradition are highly valued by the other lamas of his generation. From among the three Nyingma centers of learning in Kham, Eastern Tibet, i.e. Kathog Temple, Pälyül Temple, and Dzogchen Temple, Rinpoche’s lineage of transmissions centers on that of Dzogchen Temple, and among the terma traditions, Rinpoche emphasizes the Longchen Nyingthig.

Nyichang Rinpoche was born April 10, 1935 in Tibet’s southwestern region, near the border with Nepal, in a village of tantric practitioners located in the Kyidong Valley. His grandfather the Vajracarya Lama Tarpo taught him to read and write, and at age 6, he set out on a pilgrimage, entering Drepung, one of the 3 great Colleges of the Gelugpa, at age 7, but his teacher there proved to be more interested in running the monastery than in education, so Rinpoche’s father had him leave Drepung.

Early education:

At the age of 8, Rinpoche was placed under the tutelage of the great yogini of Shuksep Temple, Shuksep Jetsün Rinpoche, who gave him further instruction in reading, writing, and in the teachings of sutra and tantra. Jetsün Rinpoche was the reincarnation of Machig Labdrön, the originator of the Chöd lineage, and was also a great Dzogchen adept. The most important teaching Rinpoche received from Jetsün Rinpoche was the Chöd transmission. The practice of Chöd is intended to cut off attachment to the self, by offering one’s body through visualization to the four objects of refuge (Lama, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), as well as in the form of propitiation to all the malevolent spirits that manifest problems and obstructions. Shuksep Jetsün Rinpoche was a disciple of Chönyön Dharma Senge who was in turn a disciple of Pältrül Rinpoche,

and this particular lineage of Chöd is referred to as the Dharseng lineage in honor of Dharma Senge, and is considered one of the purest transmissions among all the lineages of the Chöd practice. This rare lineage is now held by Nyichang Rinpoche alone.

While receiving teachings at Shuksep Temple, Nyichang Rinpoche was recognized by Jetsün Rinpoche as a tülku (reincarnated lama), following which Drukpa Thukse Rinpoche acknowledged that he is indeed the reincarnation of Drukpa Sangye Dorje, who was known as a great poet and was the main disciple of Padma Karpo, 16th Century head of the Drukpa Kagyü sect and famed scholar-adept.

From the age of 13, he spent a year at the Nyingma head temple of Mindrolong receiving reading transmission and empowerments from Shechen Rabjam VI in the Rinchen Terdzöd, the collection of terma teachings discovered from the 11th through 19th Centuries and edited by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgön Kongtrül. Further, he also studied the Mindröling style of creating mandalas based on the tantric scriptures, as well as astrology. From the age of 15, he stayed at the Nyima Changra Monastic University, where he learned the 13 branches of sutra studies as well as Nyingma and Kagyü doctrine, poetry, and logic.

The 13 branches of sutra studies refer to the 13 commentaries written by Khenpo Shenga (1871-1927) on the vinaya and the Shastras. These were written as the textbooks of Dzogchen Shri Simha Monastic College, and are required study for those wishing to specialize in the Nyingma doctrine. These texts are additionally highly valued for students of both the Sakya and Kagyü schools. The 13 textbooks deal with the following topics: Bodhicaryavatara, Madhyamakavatara, Mulamadhyamakakarika, and Shatashastra, 4 fundamental works of the Madhyamika school; Abhisamayalankara, Mahayanasutralankara, Dharmadharmatavibhanga, Madhyantavibaga, and Ratnagotravibhaga (=Uttaratantra), 5 fundamental works attributed to Maitreya; Abhidharmakosha and Abhidharmasamuccaya, 2 fundamental abhidharma works; Vinayasutra and Pratimoksha, 2 fundamental sutras presenting the rules of discipline. After completing these sutra studies, the student proceeds to study the tantric text Sangwei Nyingpo (=Guhyagarbha Tantra).

Nyima Changra Monastic College:

A few words about Nyima Changra (nyi-ma lcang-ra) Monastic College are in order. Rinpoche’s name “Nyichang” actually is taken from the name of this college. His name means "the High Lama of Nyima Changra Monastic College". Nyima Changra Monastic College was located in the Drigung area of Central Tibet. The origin of the college is as follows.

A minister named Dapön Kyünrampa who represented the Dalai Lama of that time was given the responsibility of putting down a dispute in the Kham region. However, in doing this, many persons' lives were lost, so the minister, who was full of regret at the outcome, decided to consult a scholar-adept of great learning and virtue named Khenpo Shenga (mkhan-po gzhan-dga'). He addressed him saying, "Please promise that you will not let me fall into the hell realms. Otherwise, I intend to kill myself." Khenpo Shenga answered, "You should build a monastic college in Central Tibet; if you do so, I will promise to keep you out of the hell realms." After receiving this reply, the minister started work on the college.

Thereafter, the Drigung Kyabgön Shiwei Lodrö requested to the highly reputed Khenpo Shenga to assume leadership of the college, but he refused due to advanced age, instead sending his main disciple Lahop Chödrak Rinpoche. However, when this disciple arrived at the site, the college had not yet been completed. At that point, the disciple settled outside of Samye Temple, where he spent the next 3 years in contemplation, covered with filth to the extent that he could be hardly recognized as human. As he concentrated so much on contemplation and showed no interest in taking leadership of the college, the Drigung Kyabgön again requested of Khenpo Shenga that a suitable administrator be sent, and this time, he sent Nyarong Guru Tülku. Nyarong Guru Tülku spent 2 years teaching at Drigung Yänrigar, after which he remodeled the summer residence of the Drigung Kyabgön, establishing the Nyima Changra Monastic College.

Although the college was not large, accommodating only some 112 students, it was recognized as being one of the most excellent institutions of learning, and the Tibetan government passed special legislation to allow for payment of its operating expenses at government expense, affording generous support. To preserve the purity of its high level of scholarship, requests by the public for the performance of prayers were forbidden. Regarding rites as well, the students and faculty only

performed the rites connected with the Shi-tro terma (known in the West as the "Tibetan Book of the Dead") discovered by Karma Lingpa, from New Year’s Day for the first 15 days of the year–all the rest of their time was devoted to the study of philosophy and religion. This course of education and practice was so severe that, among the monks who could not stand the pace and ran away, some cursed the severity by exclaiming that "I’d rather work in the fields all day long, no matter how hard the work, than study at Nyima Changra!"

Activity as a teacher (gegen = dge-rgan):

In spite of the difficulty, Nyichang Rinpoche continued his studies at this strict institution for 3 years, even refusing to lie down to sleep so that he would be able to resume studying his text from where he left off the night before as soon as he opened his eyes in the morning. As a result, Rinpoche achieved the position of gegen (teacher) of this strict institution at the early age of 18.

Rinpoche continued his studies at the college even after becoming a teacher, not only in connection with his teaching position. To receive individual instruction, he would walk some 8 kilometers from the monastery to the rock located beside a waterfall upon Chödrak (chos- grags) Rinpoche spent every day in contemplation, regardless of rain or shine. In spite of the distance, Nyichang Rinpoche never missed a day of study, walking to his teacher to receive instruction in the 13 non-tantric and tantric texts.

Nyichang Rinpoche also received instruction from another great teacher, Pöba Tülku (bod-pa sprul-sku) Rinpoche. In response to the earnest request of the Drigung Kyabgön and the monastery administrators headed by Chödrak Rinpoche, Pöba Tülku Rinpoche served as head of Nyima Changra Monastic College for the 2 years of 1958 and 1959.

Pöba Tülku Rinpoche was the reincarnation of the great scholar-adept Pältrül Rinpoche, as well as the disciple of one Kathok Khenpo Künpel, who was of the most important disciples of Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche, the great scholar-adept of the 19th Century Ri-me (non-sectarian) movement. Tülku Rinpoche was such an outstanding teacher that by studying under him for 1 year it was possible to learn as much as by studying with other teachers for 5 years. He produced many writings,

with at least 6 volumes devoted to the teachings of sutra and tantra. His learning was even known among the other sects, with invitations coming from the Gelugpa sect’s Ganden Monastery and Tsetam and Kamtsen Colleges of the Sera Monastery. That such an uncommonly great scholar monk should be present at this small monastic college was quite unusual and remarkable.

After the Chinese invasion:

When the Chinese army invaded Tibet in 1959, Nyichang Rinpoche escaped to India. Rinpoche served as the head teacher and religious advisor of the Tibetan high school at Musooree in Uttar Pradesh, and then as assistant professor of the Tibeto-Indian Research Institute of Varanasi Sanskrit University (now the Sarnath Buddhist University). During this period as well, Rinpoche never missed the opportunity to receive teachings from great teachers.

From H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, former head of the Nyingma School, Nyichang Rinpoche received transmission of the Nyingma Kama (gsung bka' ma, Nyingma oral tradition) at Kalimpong, and then the Rinchen Terdzöd (for the second time; = rin-chen gter-mdzod chen-mo) at Tso Pema. Also, from Kunulama Tendzin Gyältsen Rinpoche, a disciple of Kathok Situ Chökyi Gyatso, he received the transmission of a commentary entitled Pema Karpo (=padma dkar-po) by Jamgön Mipham Rinpoche on the text Tsikdün Söldep (tshig-bdun gsol-'debs = Seven-line Supplication to Guru Padmasambhava). The prerequisite for receiving this teaching is to recite the text 100,000 times. (This prerequisite stems from the fact that Mipham Rinpoche agreed to write the commentary only if his disciple would first recite the prayer 100,000 times.) Nyichang Rinpoche, concerned that some accident or other ill condition might prevent his fulfilling this requirement, which would result in breaking a samaya commitment, decided to print 500 copies of the commentary for distribution among worthy students so as to lessen the ill result of such a potential breach. Fortunately, his fears proved groundless, as he completed this commitment without incident.

Nyichang Rinpoche also received transmission of the instructions of Domsum Rap-ye (sdom-gsum rab-dbye) concerning the vinaya from the scholar-monk Khenpo Rinpoche of Sakya Zönsäl Monastery. In 1971, Nyichang Rinpoche received the Lam-rim Chenmo and Ngag-rim Chenmo

of Tsongkhapa from H.H. Dalai Lama XIV. He has also received the Kalacakra empowerment from H.H. Dalai Lama on 4 occasions.

From the previous head of the Nyingmapa, H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, he received transmission for a third time of the Rinchen Terdzöd and the Nyingma Kama at Mindrölling Temple.

Transmitting the Dharma in Japan:

In 1974 (at age 39), at the request H.H. Dalai Lama XIV, Nyichang Rinpoche first traveled to Japan in the role of lecturer at Koyasan University. Thereafter, he has served as lecturer in Buddhism at the Institute of Studies in the Humanities of Kyoto University, at the Indian Philosophy Department of Tohoku University, and at Iwate University.

In 1979, Rinpoche participated in the Research Team Studying Himalayan Buddhism, which visited India, Sikkim, and Bhutan, investigating the practices of homa (fire offering) and mandala. Thereafter, Rinpoche has served as researcher at the UNESCO East Asian Research Center at the Toyo Bunko, and from 1981 has acted as advisor for the publisher of books on Buddhism, Hirakawa Shuppan.

As interest in the Buddhism of Tibet has been increasing, Rinpoche has transmitted the teachings of Dharma to all who are sincerely interested, regardless of nationality, with absolute fidelity to tradition, beginning with the true fundamentals. In addition, to those whose interest is in the actual practice, Rinpoche has been holding retreats at approximately every 3 months to impart teachings on the ngöndro (sngon-'gro) preliminary practices of Dzogchen, the ultimate teachings of Buddhist tantricism,following the Longchen Nyingtik terma tradition

discovered by Jigme Lingpa.