Thursday, 21 January 2010

Conseil du cœur dans une coquille de noix

A new and improved version of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro's 'Heart Advice in a Nutshell' is now available in French at Le Jardin du Dzogchen. It was translated recently by no one less than the renowned French scholar and prolific writer on all things Tibetan Buddhism Philippe Cornu.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, student of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro

Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme
A good friend and accomplished film maker once told me: "Documentary production is mostly a series of missed opportunities". This becomes painfully obvious when most of the prospective interview subjects are quite elderly and spread all over the world.
When the Tibetan diaspora was scattered across the planet in the years following 1959, so were the students, family and acquaintances of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. One of them, Ngapoi, became an ally of the Chinese and moved to Beijing. Today he is mostly remembered for signing the Seventeen Point Agreement with the Chinese Communist government in 1951, accepting Chinese sovereignty in exchange for guarantees of autonomy and religious freedom.
Born into a Lhasa aristocratic family in 1910, part of his education took place in Britain. In 1936 he started a career as a politician and took up a post at Chamdo in Eastern Tibet where he eventually became governor.
Several sources confirm that he received teachings from Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro although it is not clear what he received and when. It was due to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's good connection with Jigme that another one of his students, Master Bisong, a Chinese traveling to Central Tibet in 1937 on a quest for knowledge and adventure, was able to obtain a rare transit visa from Chamdo to Lhasa.
Not always do a man's political actions reflect his spiritual journey or personal character. When the Hollywood movie Seven Years in Tibet was released in 1997, portraying him as a collaborator, Ngapoi felt deeply hurt and accused the film makers of 'sheer fabrication' and 'a vicious personal attack'.
Unfortunately all memories of the man behind the politician have been drowned out by the political debates surrounding the fate of Tibet. Somehow I had always harbored an unrealistic glimmer of hope that one day I might be able to interview him about his time spent with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, his impressions of the great Rime master and how his Buddhist training may have shaped his political journey. After all he always remained loyal to the Tibetan people although for many he seemed to be working in the wrong camp.

Ngapoi, father of no less than 12 children and presiding over a clan of more than 60 people, passed away on December 23, 2009, in Beijing at the age of 99

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Pema Yeshe Dorje

Thangka of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö in the form of Pema Yeshe Dorje, courtesy of Jeff Watt at For the zoom-able image go to Himalayan Art. Original photograph part of the Shechen Archives Photography Collection

In the 1920's Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö spent several months at the hermitage of the third Dodrupchen Rinpoche Jikme Tenpe Nyima receiving empowerments and teachings. During an extraordinary empowerment into the mandala of Rigdzin Düpa Dodrupchen gave him the secret name Pema Yeshe Dorje.

Many scholars have seen this as an indication that Dodrupchen considered Jamyang Khyentse to be also an incarnation of Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800-1866), a student of the first Dodrupchen Rinpoche Jikmé Trinlé Özer (1745-1821) and a teacher and friend to the second Dodrupchen Jikmé Puntsok Jungné (1824-1863)

Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje from Rigpa Wiki

Later Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö wrote of his visit to Dodrupchen:
I went to the encampment of Do in the North and
Met the omniscient Tenpe Nyima.
I received the empowerment of Rigdzin Dupa and Ladrup Tiklé Gyachen,
The teachings on Longchen Nyingthig, and
The Outline of Guhyagarbha.
He constantly gave me instructions and advice.
He gave me the permission to propagate
His writings, with no need of having the verbal transmission (lung).
With great kindness, he gave me all his care.
quoted from Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996

a rather romantic view of the main entrance gate to Dodrupchen Monastery in East Tibet / CC BY-NC 2.0

For more some translations of writings by the third Dodrupchen Tenpe Nyima visit his page on

Monday, 7 September 2009

A Japanese Agent in Tibet

During our research into the life and times of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, we have been gathering material from a great variety of sources to gain a better understanding into the world of Tibet before the Chinese invasion of 1950, leading to Jamyang Khyentse’s pilgrimage to Central Tibet, a journey that ended in exile in 1956. As we know, he died just a few months after the flight of the fourteenth Dalai Lama to India, which marked the final incorporation of Tibet within the Peoples Republic of China in 1959.
To take you with us on our journey into some of this diverse literature, we will share with you a few of the intriguing insights we have gained.

First in this series will be the book “Japanese Agent in Tibet”, as told by Hisao Kimura to Scott Berry and published by Serindia in 1990.

Hisao Kimura came from a world that until the middle of the 19th century had been a feudal society. Like Tibet, under the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan had tried to protect its way of life from the outside world, particularly the modernizing forces let loose by European colonialism that created the circumstances for revolutionary changes through Asia. Their resistance was swept aside with the Meiji Restoration following the forced opening of Japan to trade with the European powers when Commander Perry of the USA Navy, forced the Japanese to sign the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854. Similarly, in 1904 Francis Younghusband led a British expedition into Tibet in order to force the Tibetan government based in Lhasa to open up Tibet for trade with Britain, and in the process enable the British to pursue their political interests in containing Russian influence in Central Asia.
However, the outcomes were vastly different for these two societies steeped in their traditions and their sense of unique culture. The Japanese embraced modernity with a passion, deciding that the only way to preserve their culture was to match the Europeans in their military might and technology. By 1905, they shocked the Western world when they defeated the Russians, and in 1931 they invaded and colonised Manchuria. This was the beginning of their grand vision to become the dominant 'modernising' power in East Asia, which brought them into sharp conflict with both China and the West.
Through the interdependence of these great events, the young Kimura found himself in Manchuria learning the Mongolian language. And thus the stage for his great adventure as an undercover agent in Tibet was set.

During the 1940s, when Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö established himself as one of the most important Buddhist masters in East Tibet, other events unfolded across Tibet and its neighbouring countries that would soon plunge his world of spiritual pursuit into chaos, as Japan, Russia, China and Britain sought to secure their territorial interests in Central Asia.

From 1945 Hisao Kimura becomes caught up in these events, first as an undercover agent for the Japanese intelligence services in Mongolia, then on a mission for the British intelligence in Kham and finally providing information for US counter intelligence when he returns to Japan. Hisao Kimura gives an engrossing account of his many adventures that take him into Tibet via the northern border at Ningxia province, into the Qaidam, then to Kumbum Monastery and through Golok county across Qinghai to Ngakchuka and on to Lhasa. Later he travels to Kalimpong, Nepal and the Buddhist sites of the Ganges valley, before returning to the Tibetan border regions of Kham. He spends some time travelling back and forth between Kalimpong and Lhasa from where he is finally deported to India. He eventually makes his way to Calcutta where he surrenders to the Indian authorities. After a short time in jail, he is repatriated to Japan.
Kimura’s account is especially valuable for its acute observations on the trials and dangers in the daily life of pilgrims and other travellers between Mongolia, Tibet and India, his cunning takes on both the merits and the shortcomings of old Tibet, the rule of the Tibetan nobility in particular and finally his portrait of life in Kalimpong, the 'Casablanca of the East' in the last decade before the fall of Tibet.

In 1943, at the age of twenty-one, Kimura, assuming the identity of a Mongolian monk ‘Dawa Sangpo’, is dispatched to Xinjiang in order to collect intelligence on Chinese supply lines in central Asia. Kimura, with his two Mongolian companions, passes through a confusing maze of opposing armies, robbers, murderous tribes and forbidding deserts until they eventually reach Kumbum Monastery.

Kimura (center) with his two Mongolian companions Danzan and Tserentso in 1943 before setting off

Here they are witness as the six year old incarnation of the Panchen Lama receives his monastic vows. Their attempt to reach Xinjiang is foiled by Muslim warlord Babu Noyen who detains them for almost a year. Finally released in May 1945 they travel to Lhasa in a large caravan escorting Takster Rinpoche, the elder brother of the 14th Dalai Lama and one of the abbots of Kumbum. On the way they meet the regent Reting Rinpoche who invites Dawa Sangpo to become his disciple, but Kimura politely declines. Reting agrees to trade their camels for use of Reting’s own variant of the ‘ula’, the traditional government transport system by which horses and yaks could be requisitioned from the public by travelling officials.

While in Lhasa, cut off from all contact with his homeland, Dawa Sangpo hears reports that Japan has been defeated in the war. Unable to believe the news he persuades his two Mongolian companions to accompany him on a pilgrimage that takes them to India and finally to Kalimpong where the rumours are confirmed. In a local cinema he watches a newsreel showing images of the Japanese Emperor’s unconditional surrender and the devastation wrought on Japan by the atomic bombs dropped by the Americans. Hsiao becomes a ‘spy without a country’.
In Kalimpong, at the Himalayan Hotel, Kimura meets its Sikkimese-Scottish owner, David McDonald, who many years earlier had acted as an interpreter for the Younghusband expedition into Tibet and who is now a key figure for any new arrivals into Kalimpong. He connects with Tharchin Babu, publisher of the only Tibetan newspaper, the Tibet Mirror.
Tarchin is fluent in Tibetan, Urdu, Hindi, Nepali and English, and although a convert to Christianity, remains committed to the welfare and independence of Tibet. He proves to have extensive contacts with the secret world of British intelligence who are preoccupied with the ‘Great Game’, the struggle for power and influence in Central Asia.
“Since Tharchin made it a habit to be helpful by printing leaflets and guide maps to the sacred places, as well as clearing out a warehouse across from the printing press for the pilgrims to use, he was often the first person they called on. This was extremely valuable to his position in the intelligence network.”

In the late 1940s, Kalimpong, excised by the British from Bhutan to become part of India, could be rightly described as a nest of political intrigue, involving British, Indian and Chinese spies, refugees from Tibet, China, India and Burma, with a sprinkling of Buddhist scholars, monks and lamas.
“Like the tree-clad slopes of a dormant volcano, the calm everyday surface of Kalimpong life disguised feverish underground activity. This was mostly Chinese-inspired, with agents sent via Tibet to ferret out what they could about events in India; but there were also anti-government Tibetan exiles and reformers, anti-Chinese Tibetans, White and Red Russians, and a whole medley of other agents working for a variety of causes in this cozy little town”.

By 1956, when Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö and his party reach Gangtok and later Kalimpong, India had already gained its independence from the British Empire. Still the north-east frontier remained a hotly contested zone, this time between India and the Communist Chinese, and the fleeing Tibetans caught in the middle.

modern day Kalimpong

Up until the late 1950’s Kalimpong had been a great centre of trade, the terminus of the mule caravans that carried goods between India and Tibet and thence western China. As a British hill station, it was also a jumping off point for many of the better known Western explorers and scholars of Tibet—people such as Marco Pallis, John Blofeld and Alexandra David-Neel. It was through Kalimpong to Darjeeling that the Thirteenth Dalai Lama had fled the Chinese in 1910 – with some help by David McDonald, then British Trade Agent in Gyantse.

The Himalayan Hotel, Kalimpong 734301, Darjeeling District, west Bengal, India Book a room!

Here he had been educated in the ways of the modern world by the Tibetan speaking British Political Officer, Colonel Charles Bell, from here he made his triumphal return to Lhasa where he formally declared the independence of all of Tibet, including Kham, on February 13th 1913.
After working for some time at Tarchin Babu’s printing press, Kimura, with his much improved conversational Tibetan, and some rudimentary knowledge of English, is recruited by the north-eastern frontier’s head of British Intelligence Eric Lambert. The British never even suspect he is Japanese!

In 1946 he is asked to travel into the troubled border regions of Kham to report on the activities of the Chinese nationalist and communist forces. To fulfil this mission he joins a caravan of over 100 mules returning to Tibet, led by a Khampa warrior monk. On the way he learns how to behave like a true Khampa. For, as he observes,
“It is not language and physical features alone that enable one to pass into another identity, but more subtle things like the way one moves and the jokes one tells.”
His descriptions of his journey to Kham not only highlight its rugged terrain and the many challenges it poses to any traveler, but he also poignantly describes the mounting tensions between the Khampas and the administrators and soldiers of the Central Tibetan Government.
“I was disturbed by the way in which the soldier and officials of the central government treated the local inhabitants. Time and time again we had met refugees fleeing from misrule, and bullying by Tibetan soldiers was carried on openly in the town. The province of Kham was governed directly from Lhasa and one of the four shapes [cabinet ministers] was placed here and rotated every 3 years. Soldiers and minor officials were rotated as well, and they tended to think of Kham not as a place to be well governed but as a source of wealth to be squeezed dry. Over and over again the Khampas had risen in rebellion, just as they had risen against the Chinese.”

The Tibet Mirror Press published its last issue in 1962.
One can download the entire paper as a pdf from Columbia University!

After accomplishing his mission at Jyekundo, Kimura and his companion return on a grueling journey to Lhasa. They are captured and tortured by suspicious Khampas and robbed multiple times by locals who are so desperately poor that there isn’t anything they would not consider stealing. Finally they return to Lhasa starving and more dead than alive. Again he is a spy without an employer as British India has ceased to exist and all posts formerly held by the British are now occupied by Indians.
After he recovers he starts up a business of trading goods between Kalimpong and Lhasa. He meets wealthy merchants but also a few Tibetan revolutionary intellectuals, such as Gendün Chöphel and Phuntsok Wangyal, who were keen to modernize Tibetan society, and therefore at odds with the conservative Tibetan Government.
Together with Phuntsok Wangyel, a young Khampa nationalist in Lhasa, he drafts a new constitution for Tibet, drawing in part on the Japanese constitution that was the result of the Meiji Restoration in 1867.

A Tibetan Revolutionary - the Life and Times of Papa Phuntsok Wangye
by Goldstein, Sherap and Siebenschuh

Tarchin Babu entrusts him with a letter for Gendün Chöphel, the famous scholar and radical who has just been released from prison in Lhasa, saying
“Men of genius often have fragile minds. I’d like you to take a letter to him for me: and to let me know how you find him. Crucial times are ahead for Tibet. The entire face of Asia is changing all around us, and we can’t afford to lose men like him.”
Hsiao writes about Chöphel:
“He was known as one of the most learned and extraordinary contemporary Tibetans. [ ] In Kalimpong he had naturally gravitated to that group of dissidents which was ever-present, had issued revolutionary pamphlets calling for radical change in the Tibetan government and had been deported by the British in the last days of their rule as a result.”
“[ ] Though he had definite leanings toward Communism and Socialism, he was too much of an individual to have been a good party member and too much of a Tibetan to be pro-Chinese. Like all the best Tibetan reformers of the time he believed simply that Tibet must put its own house in order before it was too late.

Gendun Chöphel - the Angry Monk (click for movie website)

In 1950 Kimura is repatriated to Japan, where he is debriefed for almost a year by US counter-intelligence, eager to find out all they can about the Chinese and their newly acquired territories. He later takes up an academic position as professor of Central Asian Studies at Tokyo’s Asia University, and is able to provide support to Taktser Rinpoche, who arrives in Japan to attend the second World Buddhist Conference and remains stranded without a country when the Indian Embassy refuses to extend his travel papers.
In the epilogue Kimura shares his analysis of the events of the 1950’s and a few interesting pieces of trivia and among others describes how in 1965 Dr. Maruki, who ran a large hospital and nurse training school, started a program by which each year 5 Tibetan youths would receive scholarships to study in Japan. Among the first five was Pema Gyalpo who later became the representative of His Holiness’s government in exile for Japan and East Asia.
He concludes by decrying the shortcomings of modern affluent yet hedonistic Japanese society, calling for historic self reflection:
“The tragedy from the war was not that we lost, but that we learned so little from our defeat, and emerged with no real identity.”
The book is available from Serindia publications or you can preview it at Google Books

Friday, 21 August 2009

Rigpa View Magazine features Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö

The summer 2009 edition of the Rigpa Journal 'View Magazine' is now available for sale. It features a 14 page article on the life of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö , including many rarely seen photographs. It is available in English and French and can be ordered online here for the price of only 10 Euros.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Photos by Wonderlane and their stories

Here are some findings from Linda Lane's amazingly eclectic 'Wonderlane Photostream' on Flickr:

Relics of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö on display at the Guadalajara Expo, Mexico as part of the Maitreya Project Relic Tour

In 2005 Sogyal Rinpoche offered some precious relics of Jamyang Khyentse that he had inherited from his father Tsewang Paljor, to Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The Maitreya Project is an ambitious endeavor to erect a 500ft / 152m bronze statue of Buddha Maitreya at Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh in northern India, large enough to accomodated temples, exhibition halls, a museum and a library. A collection of more than 1,000 Buddhist relics will be permanently housed in a shrine near its heart. Next to some important relics of the Buddha and his disciples, it will also contain remains of many masters connected in various ways with the life story of Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse.

photos by Linda Lane

In good company (from top left): Dudjom Rinpoche, HH the 16th Karmapa, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche; (from bottom left) Gwang-Chin Master, relics that were discovered as a ter (hidden treasure), Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, RigdzinTrinley

If you would like to know more about the role of relics in Buddhist practice you may want to read David Germano's Embodying the Dharma: Buddhist Relic Veneration in Asia available here.


Also have a look at this great set of photos from 1976:

Dilgo Khyentse with Sakya Dagchen

In early 1954 a hundred lay people followed by a hundred monks left Dzongsar and went to receive Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche and his family; Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, Dilgo Khyentse, Dhongthog Rinpoche, and Pewar Rinpoche rode on horses, wearing golden hats. This was the first time that Dagmo Kusho, the wife of Sakya Dagchen and niece of Dezhung Rinpoche, saw Dilgo Khyentse. She still remembers how she was immediately impressed by how tall he was and how he would follow Jamyang Khyentse everywhere, assisting him with everything he did. In the following months the three lamas, Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, Dilgo Khyentse and Dezhung Rinpoche along with their families and attendants would spend many days at a mountain retreat discussing religious topics, having agreed not to engage in mundane talk.
Seventeen years after the passing of their teacher Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and HH Jigdral Dagchen Rinpoche met again when Khyentse Rinpoche visited Sakya Monastery in Seattle. The scholar Chris J. Wilkinson, an early student of Dezhung Rinpoche at the University of Washington, was there to take the photographs.

And finally you may come across this photo:

Stefan Eckel, Volker Dencks, H.E. Dagmo Kusho-la and Nina de Eichas after a two hour interview at Sakya Monastery in September 2007.

Although it was late in the evening after a few hours of practice in the monastery, Dagmo-la had kindly agreed to sit for a third interview with us. While the previous two sessions had focused on recollections from her time at Dzongsar in 1954 and particularly her memories of Khyentse Sangyum Khandro Tsering Chödrön, this time we were asking about her experiences when coming to the West and the challenges she faced when raising her five children in this new environment, working full time while simultaneously attending two great lamas. We can read a lot about her childhood and early years in Tibet in the wonderful autobiography Princess in the Land of Snows, and I do hope that one day Dagmo-la will also share the very moving and inspiring stories from her 'second life' in a book.

(Linda Lane took the pictures and kindly drove Dagmo-la home that night)

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Prince and I - The Story of Apa Pant

When the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan delegation crossed the Sikkim border in November 1956, they were welcomed by the Chogyal of Sikkim, Tashi Namgyal and the Indian representative in Sikkim, Apa Pant. For the following three months Apa Pant was in charge of organizing the Dalai Lama's journey through India, visiting pilgrimage places, but also enabling the Tibetan leader to solicit foreign support for his people under siege.

HH Dalai Lama together with Chogyal Tashi Namgyal
in Gangtok 1957

Some thirty years later my mother presented me with a little book entitled ‘Das Sonnengebet’ (Sun Prayer). I was just about to develop an interest for all things exotic, so I decided to give the seemingly simple yoga exercises a try. For several months I continued to practice the Surya Namaskars and then I must have moved on to something else that was equally exciting and new, but the flavors of discipline and sanity that came with performing a regular exercise stayed with me for much longer.

Just recently, when researching Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö’s students in Sikkim, I found that Apa Pant had not only been the highest Indian political officer in Sikkim at the time, but also that he was an ardent practitioner of the Surya Namaskar. This stirred my memory and I phoned my mother to send me the book. Unbelievably she still found it sitting on some dusty shelf.

Sure enough the same Apa Pant who had requested Jamyang Khyentse again and again for the ultimate instruction on how to meditate (as described in chapter 5 of Sogyal Rinpoche's Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) was the author whose instructions for yogic exercise I had followed with great curiosity many years before I even knew anything about Tibetan Buddhism.
Parshuram Rao Pant 'Apa Sahib', Padma Shri [1912-1991]

Apa Pant was born in 1912 as the eldest son of the Raja of Aundh. He took his M.A. at Oxford, and was called to the Bar before his return to India in 1937. For the next ten years he was involved in an unusual constitutional experiment by which his father Bala Sahib, aided by Mahatma Gandhi and Maurice Frydman, handed over power to the people of Aundh as an early test of village-level self government in British India. [see also Aundh Experiment]

HH Meherban Shrimant Raja BHAVAN RAO SHRINIVAS 'BALA SAHIB', Pant Pratinidhi of Aundh [1868-1951]

Many credit the Raja, Apa Pant's father, for popularizing Surya Namaskars as a simple physical exercise by introducing it to schools as a form of education for the all-round development of an individual. He was not only a benevolent ruler, but also an avid painter know for his beautiful illustrations of the Ramayana

Rishyashringa Lured into Ayodhya by Dancing Girls
Detail from 1911 painting by Bala Sahib

In 1948, Apa Pant was chosen by the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, to be India’s Commissioner in British East Africa. From 1951 to 1961 he was made political officer in Sikkim and Bhutan with control over Indian Missions in Tibet.

Apa Pant with Indira Gandhi (center) and the Queen of Bhutan (right) at Dzong in September 1958 [PDI]

In 1956 Apa Pant helped facilitate the Indian invitation to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to by way of the Sikkim Crown Prince Thondup Namgyal.
monks lining up in Gangtok in January 1957
for the return of the Dalai Lama from his tour of India

Jamyang Kyentse returned from his pilgrimage to India and Nepal around Losar 1957, just after HH Dalai Lama had returned to Lhasa via Gangtok. It was probably during this time that Apa Pant became a student of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö. As Sogyal Rinpoche recounts in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying:
“Apa Pant told me this story. One day our master Jamyang Khyentse was watching a "Lama Dance" in front of the Palace Temple in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, and he was chuckling at the antics of the atsara, the clown who provides light relief between dances. Apa Pant kept pestering him, asking him again and again how to meditate, so this time when my master replied, it was in such a way as to let him know that he was telling him once and for all: "Look, it's like this: When the past thought has ceased, and the future thought has not yet risen, isn't there a gap?"
"Yes," said Apa Pant.
"Well, prolong it: That is meditation."
In the colophon to his teaching "Opening the Dharma" Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö writes:
"This 'Opening the Dharma' was written at the request of the Governor of Sikkim, Apa Sahib, by a Tibetan holding the name of Jamyang Khyentse's emanation (from Dzongsar), stupid Chökyi Lodrö, who, with an extremely good heart, wrote uninterruptedly. May this virtue bring benefit to the Holy Dharma and to all those wandering in Samsara."
It was this very teaching that HH Sakya Trizin's sister Jetsün Kushok Chimey Luding happened to hear on radio while playing with her transistor in Sakya.

When, just after Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö had passed away, all of Gangtok was suddenly lit up by a strange, unearthly light, hours after dark, Apa Pant was the first to call and inquire what on earth it could be. (See also the recollections of HH Sakya Trizin in the film: A Tribute to Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö)

Later Apa Pant held diplomatic appointments in Indonesia, Norway, the UAR and as High Commissioner in London from 1969 to 72. As the Indian ambassador to Italy he welcomed His Holiness the Dalai Lama once again who, visiting Europe for the first time, had made it his priority to meet Pope John Paul VI.

He authored several books some of which contain several references to Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, to whom he refers as the 'Great Khentse Rimpoche':
• Surya Namaskars: An Ancient Indian Excercise
• An Unusual Raja: Mahatma Gandhi and the Aundh Experiment
• An Extended Family, or Fellow Pilgrims
• A Moment in Time (his autobiography)
• Undiplomatic Incidents
Apa Pant passed away in 1992

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Celebrating the anniversary in France

One week ago in Lerab Ling: Ancient wisdom and high tech

Saturday, 27 June 2009

A Tribute to Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö

To mark the 50th anniversary of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö's parinirvana, we have quickly assembled this short compilation from our ever-growing archive of film and photographs. (Make sure that you have the latest version of the Flash video player. You can get the Flash player for free from Adobe. You may need to restart your computer after installing)

Although little known in the West, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was of the greatest importance for the spread of the Tibetan Buddhist teachings over the Western hemisphere. At that time in Tibet there was no other master that received the respect from followers of all traditions. Since he himself, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, had gathered, studied, practiced and taught all the different lineages of Tibetan Buddhism everyone claimed him as a great teacher of their very own tradition.

As His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama pointed out, during the inauguration of the Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Institute of Dialectics in 2004, he never traveled without boxes to carry all the hats that are necessary to perform the rituals for each one of the major schools. Although he had mastered all of them, he took great care never to mix and dilute the different traditions, but performed every ritual with minute accuracy according to the scriptures. He was known to change even his dress, voice and language according to the background of the author of a text, thus ensuring the authenticity of its transmission.

The early 20th century was not an easy time in Eastern Tibet. Yet despite the turmoil that surrounded him he accomplished a vast number of tasks for the benefit of the teachings. Carried by his prophetic insight their effects were felt not only there and then, but have resonated far into the future and far beyond Tibet.

His incredible learning, his serenity and warmth, his love and respect for the Buddha's teachings and his tireless work to preserve them, combined with his galvanizing personality and charisma had made him a reference point for many of the important lamas that later taught and practiced in countries across the entire world. Many of these teachers have pursued their studies either at Dzongsar or in one of the over eighty other colleges that had been founded by Kham-je Shedra graduates.

When, in the late 1950's, the Tibetans were scattered like 'peas thrown on a drum', both the dharma of transmission and the dharma of realization miraculously managed to survive the destruction of monasteries, libraries, and centers of learning. This almost unprecedented preservation of a wisdom culture under the most difficult of circumstances can be largely attributed to the life and work of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö.

This short film portrays only a few of his many disciples: HH Sakya Trizin, H.E.Dagmo Kusho, Sogyal Rinpoche, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, Alak Zenkar Rinpoche, Ngari Tulku Rinpoche, Khenchen Kunga Wangchuk and Khenchen Appey.

For a longer list of his students, albeit still incomplete, please look here.

Friday, 12 June 2009

The Western Anniversary of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö

Ajanta Cave 26
The Buddha's parinirvana

According to the western calendar today marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of one the greatest masters of early 20th century Tibetan Buddhism, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö. He entered into his final meditation (thug dam) in the palace temple in Gangtok, which had been his home since coming into exile from Tibet in 1956. His death was kept a secret until his final passing into parinirvana three days later, when suddenly an incandescent light illuminated the sky over Gangtok, hours after nightfall.

Sogyal Rinpoche, using the examples of the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa and Kalu Rinpoche in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, describes the death of a master:
"A realized practitioner continues to abide by the recognition of the nature of mind at the moment of death, and awakens into the Ground Luminosity when it manifests. He or she may even remain in that state for a number of days. Some practitioners and masters die sitting upright in meditation posture, and others in the "posture of the sleeping lion." Besides their perfect poise, there will be other signs that show they are resting in the state of the Ground Luminosity: There is still a certain color and glow in their face, the nose does not sink inward, the skin remains soft and flexible, the body does not become stiff, the eyes are said to keep a soft and compassionate glow, and there is still a warmth at the heart. Great care is taken that the master's body is not touched, and silence is maintained until he or she has arisen from this state of meditation."