The Miraculous 16th Karmapa – Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

16th Karmapa 001                            

Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, was born in eastern Tibet in September 1923. His arrival followed the particulars laid out in A Dying Song — The Hidden Significance of a Bamboo Flower, An Ornament for the People by Khakhyab Dorje, the 15th Karmapa.

Miraculous 16th Karmapa 001THE MIRACULOUS 16TH KARMAPA, edited by Norma Levine is a compilation of first hand accounts of life changing encounters with Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. His first visit to the West in 1974 preceded the Dalai Lama by five years. The visit was initiated by an invitation from the Dharma Center of Canada at the behest of Lama Namgyal Rinpoche (shown below with the Karmapa, Kinmount, Ontario 1974). Namgyal had been the Canadian seeker George Leslie Dawson before starting to practice Theravada Buddhism in 1956. He traveled to Burma and studied under U Thila Wunta. First he became a monk then an Acharya (Dhamma teacher). He met the Karmapa at Rumtek in 1968. It was his inspired vision that prompted the Mahabodhi Society of the UK to offer Johnstone House, an old hunting lodge in Eskdalemuir, Scotland to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche. So began Samye Ling, Vajrayana Buddhism’s beachhead in the West.

Karmapa - Namgyal Rinpoche 001

Trungpa and Akong both played pivotal roles while implementing the Karmapa’s visionFreda Bedi for Western Vajrayana Buddhism, albeit while exercising their own totally different styles. In any case none of this would not have been possible without the foresight and wisdom of Gelongma Karma Kechog Palmo, the first Western woman to take ordination in Tibetan Buddhism. Freda Houlston was born in Derby, England, February 5, 1911  She married an Indian man, taking the name of Freda Bedi. She moved to India and took an active role in Gandhi’s freedom campaign. She was invited by Prime Minister Nehru to work for the Central Karmapa, Chogyam Trungpa,FredaBedi, Akong, C. Bedi 001Social Welfare Board. This took her to northern India where she established a school for Tibetan tulkus, Young Lama’s Home School. She took a particular interest in Trungpa and Akong, even inviting them to live in her home. (At left: Chögyam Trungpa, Freda Bedi, Karmapa, Baba Pyare Bedi (Freda’s husband) and Akong Rinpoche – Delhi 1961). It was her insistence that led Trungpa to Oxford to pursue his studies in classical Western philosophy. Freda Bedi 001Akong supported his friend by taking work as a janitor. In 1964 the Karmapa ordained her as a nun, she frequently served as his translator, including his first visit to the West in 1974. Gelongma Palmo was a central figure in Rangjung Rigpe Dorje’s mandala when she died in 1977. Vicki Mackenzie has written an excellent new (March 2017) biography, The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi: British Feminist, Indian Nationalist, Buddhist Nun. Let us give praise to this blue eyed, English accented woman who transformed Vajrayana Buddhism.

Lion's Roar - DVDThere is a Hopi legend that states the Hopi and Tibetan people were once one. During the Karmapa’s first visit to America he expressed a desire to visit the Hopi, a meeting with tribal elders was arranged at the reservation near the Grand Canyon.  When he exchanged his turquoise, silver and coral ring with one worn by Chief White Bear the rings were identical. During the meeting Sun Chief Dan told the Karmapa the land was enduring a long drought. “I will pray about it,” was Rangjung Rigpe Dorje’s reply. When the group began driving to Phoenix the sky was cloudless, upon arrival at the motel the skies darkened, thunder rumbled and a deluge of rain followed. The drought was over. The Lion’s Roar, narrated by James Coburn, is an excellent film account of Rangjung Rigpe Dorje’s life with a focus on his first visit to America.  DHARMA KING (shown below) is a stunning photo biography of the 16th Karmapa prepared under the guidance of the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

Dharma King 001

Dance of 17 Lives 001Karmapa - Mahakala 001Many excellent books have been written on the Karmapa. A superb view of the complex story surrounding the 17th Karmapa’s discovery and journey to India is found in Mick Brown’s The Dance of 17 Lives. Mick is of course the author who introduced us to the indomitable Mr. Creme in his fascinating overview of the world spiritual community in The Spiritual Tourist. Now out of print but available in limited supply is Karmapa The Black Hat Lama of Tibet. The authors, Nik Douglas and Meryl White offer an in depth look at the Karmapa lineage. The photos alone make it a must have. The author’s were privileged to receive a private tour of the treasure room at Rumtek monastery in Sikkhim. The photos and descriptions tell it all. The Situ Tulku lineage dates from Drogon Rechen who lived at the same time as Dusum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa. The 16th Karmapa’s greatest legacy lives on in the masterful presence  of the Situ, Gyalstap and Jamgon Kontrul tulkus.The photo below shows a young Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and Padma Wangchuk Gyalpo, the 11th Situ Rinpoche (1938).

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16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and 12th Situ Rinpoche, Pema Tönyö Nyinje -1958 (below)

16th Karmapa & 12th Situ Rinpoche - 1958 001

Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, New York is the Karmapa’s seat in the West, founded by the 16th Karmapa in 1976. KTD has been under the continuous guidance of Abbot Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche (left) ever since hisKhenpo Karthar - 1976 001Situ Rinpoche & Khenpo Karthar 001 arrival in America.(with Tai Situ Rinpoche above) [Taken by my friend Tsulzang/Steve on the occassion of his ordination at Karma Triyana in 1998] Khenpo Karthar’s loving care is a continuous tide of kindness and wisdom washing the minds of seekers who arrive in Woodstock, New York from around the world hoping to establish, re-discover or invigorate their connection with the Karmapa’s mind stream.

Chogyam Trungpa & Jamphel Drakpa 001.jpgJamphel Drakpa, (left with Chögyam Trungpa) Akong Rinpoche’s brother, served as trangu-tsedrup-khenpo-karthar-lama-yeshe-beard-2016private secretary for the Karmapa at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim and then as the secretary and treasurer of Karma Triyana in Woodstock. He became a monk, named Yeshe Losal by Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, and did a five year retreat in a tiny cottage behind the main shrine building in Woodstock. He then became abbot of Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland. Below, Khenpo Karthar tugs on Lama Yeshe’s beard at the first Thrangu Tsedrup-Long Life Puja held at Karma Triyana in 2016. On this occasion Khenpo Karthar said, “I want to say how happy I am and how fortunate I feel that Lama Yeshe Losal was able to join us for this event. Lama Yeshe Losal is someone who was very much loved and trusted by the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. And therefore when KTD was first established, the Karmapa placed him here as an assistant or deputy to Lama Tenzin Choyni. At that time he was instrumental in the very founding and proper functioning, creation and maintenance of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra.”

Karmapa, Tenzin Chonyi & Chojor Radha 001

Tenzin Chonyi (center above with Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the17th Karmapa) was eleven years old when his family fled Tibet and joined the Karmapa. In 1974 Rangjung Rigpe Dorje named Tenzin-La his personal representative to the West. He was the president of Karma Triyana for 38 years. Chojor Radha (right) translated for Rangjung Rigpe Dorje at Rumtek Monastery before studying in England at Cambridge. He joined KTD in 1981 and translated for many great teachers. His death in 2008, shortly after the 17th Karmapa’s first visit to Woodstock, deprived the Vajrayana community of a  precious gem of unparalleled sweet sincerity. I miss my friend.

Thinley Chojor was much loved and respected in the Vajrayana community for his knowledge of the Dharma and his meticulous skill in maintaining the traditional elements of Buddhist Temple art. He came from a long line of Tibetan artisans, his family helped build the Potala during the Fifth Dalai Lama’s reign. He was the shrine master at KTD until his death shortly before the Karmapa’s visit in 2008. We honor his many contributions and his graciousness.

Karmapa's Tara 2 001Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, is nudging the Kagyu lineage forward which is not easy with a monastic tradition thrust into a jet stream data driven world from a Tibet that had changed little in the 900 years since the death of the 1st Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa. His artistic talent is evidenced by the Tara painting at left. The attention and insight he brings to environmental awareness is inducing a paradigm shift in the relationship between mystical and earthly reality. Today the Karma Triyana community in America is addressing social issues with an openness heretofore unseen in Vajrayana Buddhism. I fully expect Ogyen Trinley Dorje to elevate female practitioners to their rightful place in the Kagyu mandala which arose spontaneously from Tilopa’s first encounter with Vajrayaogini, Mother of the Buddhas. Tilopa and Naropa both gained enlightenment under the tutelage of dakinis, now the Kagyu lineage will turn full cycle and restore the feminine wisdom foundation of this supreme tradition.

Karma Triyana 001 Bodyless Dakini 001Dorje Chang Thungma 001As the Kagyu has moved Westward from Tibet it has been strongly served by the deep reserve of profound transmitted teachings held by great masters and the dedicated faith, steeped in study, of Western students such as Tony Duff of the Padma Karpo Translation Committee.

Situ Rinpoche - Lineage Blessings 001Devotion is the head of meditation and non-distraction is the body of mediation.’  The Dorge Chang Thungma, written by Benkar Jampal Zangpo over five hundred years ago, is a profound aspiration prayer dedicated to the Kagyu lineage of Gampopa. It’s recitation is a fundamental practice forming a bedrock for understanding the nature of thought. Tai Situ Rinpoche has provided us with unparalleled commentary on the life and teachings of Tilopa as well as the Dorje Chang Thungma. This classic prayer can be experienced on the Power of Lineage Blessing CD/DVD recorded at Sherabling in October 2009. Enlightenment is a continious evolvement of our relationship with the Dharmakaya which is mind’s true nature. This state of mahamudra can never be attained without heeding the voice of the dakinis and the blessings of a teacher.

Stones to Shatter the Stainless Mirror 001Several commentaries on the life and teachings of Tilopa have been published in recent years. Situ Rinpoche’s classic TILOPA published by Samye Ling in 1988 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Tilopa’s birth best captures the essence of Tilopa’s timeless message: The Voice of the Dakini. Yet, Tilopa’s spirit has survived as a distinctive voice with a message that resonates with each new generation of students. Kiley Jon Clark’s STONES TO SHATTER THE STAINLESS MIRROR:: The Fearless Teachings of Tilopa to Naropa clearly articulates Tilopa’s voice. Kiley Jon Clark‘s work involves bringing Dharma teachings to homeless people.

What follows are excerpts from Situ Rinpoche’s teaching on Tilopa and the origin of the Kagyu  – ‘The unbroken lineage of profound and intimate guidance in the four forms of transmitted mastery’. It all began with Tilopa’s encounter with an aged dakini while he tended his families buffalo as a young boy. Throughout his life wisdom dakinis guided Tilopa’s path.

Tilopa was well advanced on the path when he ventured to Orgyen to receive the lineage transmission showing the way to authentic realization from the faultless wisdom dakini. That dakini issued three challenges to Tilopa before sharing her secrets. The value of re- obtaining these teachings directly from their source would be in the freshness and directness they would have and which Tilopa could pass on, via his own students, to future students of his lineage.

1- For the general wish-fulling gem one needs the key of experience and guidance. Without that guidance, it can never be disclosed.

2- For the wish-fulfilling gem of samaya one needs the profound key of transmitted mastery: without the remedies, it can never be disclosed.

3- For the wish-fulfilling gem of true nature one needs the key of deep supreme awareness: without realisation, it can never be disclosed. 

Tilopa responded to her challenge with his own three assertions. First, The discrete terms of the dakini, teachings revealing mind, The lamp of essence awareness dispelling ignorance’s darkness, Known of itself, occurring by itself and lucid in itself; This key of prophetic guidance and experience – I possess.

The teachings of the dakini, revealing the nature of mind, are couched in their secret speech: ‘secret’ in the sense of self-secret, naturally discrete, because it only makes sense to those sufficiently awakened to understand.Their discrete terms reveal jnana, the bright lamp of essence-awareness which automatically dispells the darkness of ignorance.Essence-awareness totally transcends duality. Knowing itself simultaneously with anything, it is auto-cognisant. Occurring all by itself, it is a spontaneous manifestation that was never produced by causality and conditioning. Naturally clear and therefore scintillatingly intelligent, it is lucid in itself. That is the key of prophetic guidance and experience which he possesses..

Tlopa’s second reply, concerning the wish-fulfilling gem of samaya: Without any production whatsoever, mind itself is the self-liberated (rangdrol) dharmakaya within which arises  self-liberated mahamudra: this key, of self-liberated samaya, I possess.

Tilopa - Rangdrol 001Mind itself is not a product. No process of causality or conditioning has produced it. Therefore mind itself needs no freeing. There is no process to undo or modify, nothing to be liberated and no need for a related causal liberator. The self-liberated character of mind is called dharmakaya. It is really like that and because that is precisely the way it is, the natural radiance and expression of its freedom – the advice of mahamudra pointing to the self-liberation that is already there – occurs in those who become aware of this, mind’s inherent condition.

Of the third key, concerning mind, Tilopa replied: By not making any mental objectification and not creating even an iota of recollection, mind’s essence, everything’s essence, is seen as dharmakaya; this key of realization, I possess.

Tilopa also possessed the third key, that of realization — insight within an undifferentiated dharmakaya, mind as it really is, the essence of everything. He had gained such a profound vision of things through devloping skill in non-speculation; neither making mental objectification (contrived conceptual activity) nor even one iota of recollection. The jnanadakini concluded her transmission to Tilopa with these final words of guidance:

One wishing to acheive a perfect body must strive in the visualization stages. One wishing to achieve ultimate speech must recite the essence mantras. One wishing to achieve nobility of mind must strive in mahamudra.Now go to Cudamani hermitage — there care for Naropa. You will nourish many disciples and bring benefit to many sentient beings.

Having said these verses, the dakini all melted into light and disappeared.

Situ Rinpoche - Samye Ling 001The above teaching on Tilopa were given by Tai Situ Rinpoche at Samye Ling in Scotland in 1988 to mark the 1000th anniversary of Tilopa’s birth. Unfortunately, Rinpoche’s book on these teachings is out of print. Perhaps Dzalendra Publishing and Samye Ling will once again make this masterpeice available.


Dzogchen and Kerouac — Alive with Words

Longchen Rabjam 001LONGCHENPA and JACK KEROUAC — a Tibetan yogi and a western author — reshaped our world through their writings.

Few authors stir our imagination in the West like Jack Kerouac. Kerouac rewrote the use of language in literature.

Longchenpa in Tibet wafts the same smoke and scent. He established the efficacy of words to express the inexpressible: The Dharmakaya. A state Vessantara described as “unconditioned consciousness, beyond space and time.”

On the Road 001Completed in the early fifties, ON THE ROAD was published in 1957. The true life adventures of Neal Cassady, left (portrayed as Dean Moriarty) and Kerouac, right (Sal Paradise) made icons of both men. Born Jean-Louis Kerouac on March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Kerouac’s native language was French. His early difficulties with English instilled in him an obsession with the use of words to set the stage for memory relived realities. Known as Memory Babe in high school for his astonishing ability to recall events and conversations word for word, Kerouac was also a gifted athlete who went to Columbia on a football scholarship. Already set in a lifetime pattern of refusal to conform to custom or discipline, Kerouac dropped out of football and resolved to spend his life writing. Allen Ginsberg became a lifetime friend of Jack’s at Columbia University.

Published a year after On the Road, THE DHARMA BUMS rewrote my life. Like all of Kerouac’s works, The Dharma Bums is autobiographical, based on adventures with the poet, Gary Snyder (Japhy). Now deeply immersed in Buddhism after a trip to Mexico, Jack (Ray) shares three week old cheese, wine and a boxcar with a “little bum sitting crosslegged at his end before a pitiful repast of one can of sardines.”

          “He ate the cheese and bread and drank the wine with gusto and gratitude. I was pleased. I reminded myself of the line in the Diamond Sutra that says, “Practice charity without holding in mind any conceptions about charity, for charity after all is just a word.” I was very devout in those days and was practicing my religious devotions almost to perfection…I believed I was an oldtime bhikku in modern clothes wandering the world (usually the immense triangular arc of New York to Mexico City to San Francisco) in order to turn the wheel of the True Meaning, or Dharma, and gain merit for myself as a future Buddha (Awakener) and as a future Hero in Paradise. I had not met Japhy Ryder yet, I was about to the next week, or heard anything about “Dharma Bums” although at this time I was a perfect Dharma bum myself and considered myself a religious wanderer. The little bum in the gondola solidified all my beliefs by warming up to the wine and talking and finally whipping out a tiny slip of paper which contained a prayer by Saint Teresa announcing that after her death she will return to the earth by showering it with roses from heaven, for all living creatures.”  — The Dharma Bums

I’m sure that passage had long gone from my mind many years later when my wife, Angelina, and I  began work on our novel PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation. Of course I knew who Teresa (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux) was when I took my lunch break from Technicolor movie lab, one block from Times Square. I did not know that the her reliquary was being displayed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Before I entered the Cathedral’s great vaulted wooden entrance, Angelina had already envisioned the rough outline of a story concerning a terrorist attack on Jerusalem that would frame our proposed plan for peace in the Middle East. What we lacked was a hook, a pivot upon which to focus our story, a hub around which to fashion a plot.Spear of Destiny 001 So when I realized Teresa’s relics were present, I entered a fervent plea for her intervention, “Give us a hook, please, dear Saint.”

I have spent much of my life either in, or on the way to or from, bookstores. So it was in character for me to swing by Barnes & Noble on my return to Technicolor. There, in the basement, among the New Age and Esoterica collection, was a book I had never seen before — that in itself was amazing. For this fascinating title should have drawn my gaze many times over. THE SPEAR OF DESTINY by Trevor Ravenscroft was first published in 1973, not long after I first read THE DHARMA BUMS, and had been in paperback since 1982. Subtitled The Occult Power Behind the Spear which pierced the side of Christ . . . and how Hitler inverted the Force in a bid to conquer the World, I knew I had the answer to my prayer, and within fifteen minutes! To this day, Teresa is the patron saint of PURE VISION.

When I showed Angelina THE SPEAR OF DESTINY that evening, she understood immediately. The spear shoved into Jesus’ side by the Centurion Longinus to ease his suffering would become the starting point of our narrative. E - Hung - E 001

LONGCHEN RABJAMPA, 1308-1364, and the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (seen here), were students of Rigdzin Kumaradza, a great master of Dzogchen (Clear Light Great Completion). Longchenpa performed the most extraordinary feat in Tibetan Rangjung Dorje 001Buddhism. He mastered the expression of the infinite through the finite expression of the written word. His father was a tantric yogi. At the moment of his conception, his mother dreamed of a sun placed on the head of a lion, illuminating the world. Kumaradza’s training was strenuous and involved continuous moving from encampment to encampment amidst the most rugged Tibetan terrain. This training instilled in Longchenpa a distaste for traditional scholars and monastics. The day of Longchenpa’s arrival, Kumaradza told his students, “Last night I dreamt that a wonderful bird, which announced itself to be a divine bird, came with a large flock in attendance and carried away my books in all directions. Therefore, someone will come to hold my lineage.” The terminology we associate with Dzogchen today dates to Longchenpa.

His works are available with commentary by numerous prominent teachers. Padma Publishing under the direction of Richard Barron (Lama Chokyi Nyima, shown here with Chokyi Nyima 001Kalu Rinpoche, from The Chariot For Travelling the Path to Freedom) has done a superlative job. The Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena and Longchnepa’s commentary on his own text, A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission, are amazing books.

Reading Tibetan is essential to serious Vajrayana pratice, and without that ability chanting is not possible. Dharma books which do not include the original text will not have lasting value. Tibetan is a surprisingly easy language to learn to read. The key is spelling. You can learn to spell  by first identifying the letters, and then recognizing the accent marks and how they affect the pronunciation. Translating scriptural texts is difficult. The language is cryptic and shadowed with vaguery. The translation team established  by Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche is to be commended. The The Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena has the Tibetan text on the left hand page and an English translation on the right. A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission is entirely in English with a glossary in the back.

      Just as all light is subsumed within the sun as its source, all phenomena are subsumed within awakened mind as their source —  Longchen Rabjam

The Nyingma (the Ancient Ones) school of Tibetan Buddhism dates to Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche. One of the greatest strengths of the Nyingma — a strong lay presence — has served it well in the West. Ngagpas, non-monastic tantric yogis, are an essential element to a strong Dharma community. Many Nyingma teachers have imparted their wisdom and dedication to learning Tibetan and essential Dharma practice through empowerments (wangs) and verbal authorization (lungs). Growing strong communities without the cultural and mental entrapment of monastic vows  has been effective in the West.

Vidyadharas 001Queen of Great Bliss 001

Faith is the great engine which drives spiritual progress. “Go,said Jesus, “Your faith has healed you.” The man recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road. (Gospel of Mark 10:52)

RIGDZIN JIGMA LINGPA (1730-1798), born over 400 years after Longchenpa, had faith. His faith transformed Buddhism in Tibet, and his faith continues to transform the world. Jigme Jigmed Lingpa 001Lingpa’s devotion to Padmasambhava was so strong that, one night in 1757 while engaged in a solitary retreat, he entered a deep meditative state after crying passionately because he was not in Guru Rinpoche’s presence. In a state of luminous clarity, he experienced himself flying a great distance on the back of a white lion. He arrived at the Bodhnath Stupa in Nepal and was met by a wisdom dakini who gave him a small, beautiful casket before vanishing. Inside were five rolls of yellow paper with dakini script as well as seven crystal beads. At the urging of another dakini, Jigme Lingpa swallowed the rolls of paper and the crystal beads. When he returned from his state of Ultimate Union (sungjuk), he understood that the Longchen (Great Expanse) Nyingthig (Heart Essence) teachings and realizations, entrusted to him many lifetimes earlier by Guru Rinpoche, had reawakened in his mindstream.

Om svabhava shudda sarva dharma svabhava shuddo ham.

Om So  Bawa 002

All Dharmas are pure in nature and I am pure in nature.

Several years later, Jigme Lingpa had three pure visions of Longchenpa. In the first vision, he received the transmission of both the words and meaning of Longchenpa’s teachings. In the second vision, he received the blessing of Longchenpa’s speech and was empowered to propagate his teachings. The final vision imparted to Jigme Lingpa the vast wisdom mind of Longchenpa and the vast power of his enlightened awareness: Longchen Nyingthig.

Seven years would pass before Jigme Lingpa passed the sadhanas to students. Rigdzin Dupa: The Assemblage of Vidyadharas (Eight Enlightened Masters), Yumka Dechen Gyalmo: The Queen of Great Bliss (Yeshe Tsogyal), and Senge Dongchen: The Lion Faced Dakini form the foundation practices of these powerful teachings. Padmasambhava/Guru Rinpoche lives in these practices — his mind, his power, his Pure Vision — available to all those who receive the empowerment and verbal transmission to practice from authorized teachers in the Longchen Nyingthig lineage.

Book cover for Blessing Power of the BuddhasHidden Teachings of Tibet 001

Many wonderful and learned books have been written about Guru Rinpoche/Padmasambhava. Tulku Thondup Rinpoche is an authority on the Longchen Nyingthig. In addition to Hidden Teachings of Tibet he translated the two Longchen Nyingthig texts pictured above, The Queen of Great Bliss and The  Assemblage of Vidyadharas.Dilgo Khyentse 001 Also, Blessing Power of the Buddhas: Sacred Objects, Secret Lands by Norma Levine provides a refreshing overview of Guru Rinpoche’s power within the context of real life adventures. Norma Levine knew nothing of Buddhism in the early 1970’s when she was traveling to Northern Scotland to visit a friend. She stopped over at Samye Ling, the first Dharma Center in the West founded by Akong Rinpoche and Chögyam Trungpa. Her “overnight” coincided with the first visit to the West by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a giant (literally) of the Nyingma lineage. She stayed for two months, never made it to Northern Scotland, and figuratively never left Samye Ling.

Khenchen Palden Sherab (1938-2010) and his brother Tulku Tsewang Dongyal (born 1950), from the Kham region of Tibet, have been tireless and ever-cheerful teachers. Their father, Chime Namgyal, was also a Lama. Therein lies the great strength of the Nyingma family. Together they founded Padmasambhava Buddhist Center in the Catskills of New York with centers worldwide. The many books they authored together form the greatest single body of properly assembled works available to Western students. The Dark Red Amulet on the Vajrakilaya practice exemplifies excellence in Dharma. The sadhana, its history and lineage is introduced. Then line by line, with the Tibetan text and transliteration, the practice is explained. The entire sadhana is then given at the end of the book.

Lions Gaze 001Garab Dorje is the first human teacher in the Dzogchen lineage. He brought the teachings from the pure lands and transmitted them to Manjushrimitra and Padmasambhava. Garab Dorje’s classic text Tsig Sum Nedek — The Three Words that Strike the Crucial Point is presented by Khenchen Palden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal in Lion’s Gaze. The brothers present teachings on both Garab Dorje’s text and Patrul Rinpoche’s commentary, The Special Teachings of the Wise and Glorious Sovereign. Patrul was a student of Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu, a direct disciple of Jigme Lingpa, and from him received original transmission of the Longchen Nyingthig.

The portal from the East opened Westward in San Francisco. Two East Coast writers literally blasted the door from its hinges. On Thursday, October 13, 1955, Allen Ginsberg read Howl at The Six Gallery in San Francisco. Words reshaped reality. America hasn’t been the same since. Kerouac portrayed the event in The Dharma Bums.

          Anyway, I followed the whole gang of howling poets to the reading at the Gallery Six that night, which was, among other important things, the night of the birth of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Everyone was there. It was a mad night. And I was theHowl - film 001 one who got things jumping by going around collecting dimes and quarters from the rather stiff audience standing around the gallery and coming back with three huge gallon jugs of California Burgundy and getting them all piffed so that by eleven o’clock when Alvah Goldbook was reading, wailing his poem “Wail” drunk with arms outspread everybody was yelling “Go! Go! Go!” (like a jam session) — The Dharma Bums

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of City Lights Books and himself an excellent poet — A Coney Island of the MInd — was in the San Francisco audience the night of Allen Ginsberg’s reading. Recognizing Allen’s brilliance and inspired by what he heard, Ferlinghetti decided to publish the poem. Over fifty years later, a feature film, Howl, was made about the event. It includes portions of Allen’s poem which are set to animation. The film is an excellent portrayal and highly recommended.

I was able to hear a reading of Howl myself when I attended the Last Happening of the Sixties at Miami Marine Stadium, December 22, 1969. Allen Ginsberg decided at the last minute to add his father, Louis, also a poet, to his scheduled reading. Miami city officials, still reeling from the effects of a Doors concert earlier in the year when Jim Morrison reportedly exposed himself, refused permission.

Allen was fuming when the reading started. I was among the chilly members of the audience, my own psyche reeling from the death of my mother a year earlier and the Woodstock Festival in August. Howl spoke to me that night, and Allen gave a memorable reading. When he launched into a poem about the Czechoslovakia police state, the stadium manager had heard enough and announced the reading was over. Not for Allen, though. When he didn’t stop, the manager cut the power to Allen’s microphone and turned the stadium lights on full. Jeremiah railed on, screaming. With the music piping in over the sound system finally drowning him out, Allen left the stage to a standing ovation.

A few months later, I was back in Lawrence, Kansas, and not attending my classes at KU. Vietnam was no longer an option. My birth date had received a high number in the first draft lottery. Lawrence Ferlinghetti was in town to do a reading. I went with my friend George Kimball, himself a writer and friend of Ginsberg’s. After the reading, Ferlinghetti agreed to come with us to The White House, the notorious hippie house a block from the campus where George and I lived with a crazy collection of smokers, yogis and dealers. A coterie of Ferlinghetti fans accompanied us. We sat in a circle in the largest room — on the floor, orange crates, rocking chairs and a double bed. The house’s ever present marijuana supply was passing freely. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare . . . I don’t know who started chanting . . . it was de rigueur for the times.

Suddenly, on my left George Kimball sailed a tin of Bugle Boy Tobacco, barely missing the blonde across the room seated on the floor next to Ferlinghetti. “What was that for?” The group demanded in unison. “She was off key,” George replied. The party ended on that sour note. Within minutes the crowd was gone. That same year George was defeated in his run for Douglas County sheriff. He later moved to Boston and became an award-winning sports journalist for the Boston Globe.

Decades later, Kerouac’s and Ginsber’s contributions, beyond the literary, have liberated our thought stream and opened our doors of perception. The Beat Explosion wasn’t about wine and sex, just as Woodstock wasn’t about drugs and music. Words made the difference. Writing for the moment, they wrote us all into a new time.

          Carried by the natural rhythms of thought and speech, and the mind’s capacity to mock the rhythm of what it thinks about–driven mostly, in this case, by the staccato beat of freight trains–some of Kerouac’s sentences roll on for a whole page. — Gerald Nicosia

Jack Kerouac gave us the holiness of the everyday moment. Myriad works have been naked-angels by john-tytellwritten on his life and writing. John Tytell, Professor of English at Queens College (CUNY) wrote a classic study of the works of Kerouac, Ginsberg and William Burroughs. It’s an excellent read for fans of these authors.

In The Dharma Bums, Kerouac dramatized a crucial shift in the Beat sensibility: instead of continuing to seek escape from boredom and the spiritually corrupting emphasis on materialism and careers through desperate activity, Kerouac began an inward search for new roots. The Dharma Bums replaces the hysteria of On The Road with a quietly contemplative retreat toward meditation. — from NAKED ANGELS: The Lives and Loves of the Beat Generation by John Tytell

Of the Kerouac biographies, I found The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson to be the most readable and informed source for Jack’s life and vision leading to On The Road. The author’s insights are authentic. She had a two year relationship with Kerouac and was with him the day the New York Times Book Review of On The Road legitimized his struggles. Memory Babe by Gerald Nicosia is amazing. Herein is contained not only every inning, but every pitch of Jack’s troubled life. Mr. Nicosia is to be commended for his efforts. On the Road: The Official Movie Companion is another must for Kerouac fans.

The Voice is All 001Thinking about his months away from home, he reminded himself in emotional language that sounds directly translated from his French thoughts, “I hope, little madam, that you realize that destination is not really a tape at the end of a straight-way racing course, but that it is a tape on an oval that you must break over and over again as you race madly around.” —  From The Voice is All.

Jack Kerouac died on October 21st, 1969 in St. Petersburg, Florida after a lifetime of alcohol abuse. He was 47 years old.

On the Road - movie companion 001

KAGYU IMAGES: The Lion’s Roar

Niguma                                                                                                               Sukhasiddi

Sukhasiddhi 001Niguma 001

Rangdrol 001The Kagyu (Lineage of Transmitted Mastery) began with the songs of Dakini’s calling to Tilopa one thousand years ago. Thus began a remarkable odyssey transmitted from Master to Disciple unto this present age. The teachings of the dakini, revealing the nature of mind, are couched in their secret speech: ‘secret’ in the sense of self-secret, naturally discreet, because it only makes sense to those sufficiently awakened to understand. Their discrete terms reveal jnana, the bright lamp of essence-awareness which automatically dispels the darkness of ignorance. — from TILOPA by Tai Situ Rinpoche, perhaps the ultimate Dakini Realm instruction manual, published by Kagyu Samye Ling, Eskdalemuir, Scotland, the first Tibetan Buddhist center in the West.

Kalu - Karmapa - Trungpa 001Three remarkable Kagyu Masters ushered the Dharma westward in the twentieth century. Kalu Rinpoche, the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and Chögyam Trungpa.

Jamgon Kontrul 001Situ Rinpoche 001Two Heart Sons followed close behind. Jamgon Kongtrul and Tai Situ Rinpoche have forged close bonds with Western students. Bringing traditional teachings along with a strong command of Enlish these teachers have assured the survival of Tilopa’s legacy.

Dusu, Khyempa - 17th Karmapa 001Today the Kagyu Lineage is identified with Karmapa, the Black Hat Lama. The First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa pictured above on the left was one of three wild yogis who studied under Gampopa, who instituted the monastic tradition that exists to this day. Dusum Khyenpa and his companions were expelled for consuming alcohol and dancing wildly in celebration of a Dakini festival. Gampopa realized his most talented students had been expelled by the master of discipline when he saw the birds flying away from his monastery and the dakas and dakinis departing. He left his retreat cave and chased after the three yogis imploring them to stay.

Dusum Khyenpa 001Dusum Khyenpa eventually became known as Karmapa, Knower of the Three Times, Man of Action. Many miraculous events are associated with Dusum Khyenpa but none more incredible than the letter he left detailing where he would be reborn. Thus Karma Pakshi became the first incarnate lama in Tibet. This sequence has repeated itself now seventeen times. Before Rangjung Rigpe Dorje died in 1981 he left an amulet with Tai Situ Rinpoche. The prediction letter within the amulet led to the discovery of Orgyen Trinley Dorje born in Tibet in 1985.

KarmapakshiThe Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, above, born in 1204, set the standard for intensive mystical mastery we expect of Karmapas. Caught between the demands of conflicting Chinese rulers, Karmapakshi was forced to drink poison, thrown off a cliff and into flames by Kublai Khan. Each time he emerged unharmed forcing the Emperor to recognize his ultimate nobility. While in China he arranged for a giant Buddha statue to be constructed at his monastery, Tsurphu near Lhasa. Upon his return to Tibet he discovered the statue was leaning to one side. He sat in meditation in front of it and, imitating the statue, he leaned to the side. As he slowly righted himself, the statue straightened along with him. (photo by Lawrence Birney)

BELOW – 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso w/ 16th Karmapa (left) & 17th Karmapa (right)

16th Karmapa & Dalai Lama 00117th Karmapa - Dalai Lama 001

Karmapa 16 & 17 001The 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and the 17th, Orgyen Trinley Dorje.

Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche, a great and wonderful teacher of the Dharma (below), of Kham, Tibet with the 17th Karmapa. Sangye Tenzin was a veritable wellspring of information and inspiration to all those who came in contact with him. He shone with a genuine desire that all of his students truly ‘get it’, that we appreciate the wish fulfilling gift which he was bestowing on us. His presence was a Rain of Blessing.


The most pronounced quality of the Kagyu is the relationship between students and master which is passed on from one lifetime to the next, each recognizing the other. Situ & Karmapa 001Tai Situ (far reaching, unshakeable) Rinpoche is the root lama of the Karmapa. He was the one given the letter by Rangjung Rikpe Dorje that led to the discovery of the 17th Karmapa. Here they are shortly after their reunion in a wonderful photo from Ken Holmes’ book Karmapa that details the entire chain of events. Ken is a long time student of the Karmapa and Situ Rinpoche and has lived and taught at Samye Ling in Scotland for many years. He has edited the classic books by Situ Rinpoche published there. He and his wife Katia have also translated Dharma texts.

Situ & Kalu 001Kalu Rinpoche, a meditation master who lived from 1905 to 1989, was instrumental in training many young incarnate lamas. After studying under the 11th Situ Rinpoche, Padma Wangchuk, he helped train the current Situ Rinpoche, Pema Donyo Nyingche Wangmo. They are shown here together shortly after the Tibetan diaspora in 1959. Kalu Rinpoche spent many years in solitary retreat in the Himalayas before the Karmapa asked him to visit the West and teach the Dharma. Homage to Kalu Rinpoche 001He first established a traditional three year retreat program in France. His life story is well told in The Chariot for Travelling the Path to Freedom by Ken McLeod. The drawings of Tilopa and the dakinis Sukhasiddhi and Niguma are from this book which is a must have for Kalu Rinpoche students. Homage to Khyab Je Kalu Rinpoche published by Lama Lodu and KDK Publications in San Francisco is another must. The wonderful photo of Kalu Rinpoche, the Karmapa and Chögyam Trungpa is from this book.

Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche was born September 17, 1990. He was recognized by Situ Rinpoche and made his first visit to the United States in 1995.Bokar & Kalu 001 I was part of the welcoming party when he arrived at Kennedy Airport with his former student, then teacher, Bokar Rinpoche. I had met the previous Kalu Rinpoche and received one empowerment from him. My faith in Situ Rinpoche was complete, but I was apprehensive meeting the new Kalu Rinpoche. After all, we were there to welcome a four year old boy. This was my first experience meeting a young tulku. When they walked through customs the hairs on my arm stood on end. I realized that THIS ACTUALLY WAS KALU RINPOCHE. Kalu & Bokar dancing 001

No experience to date can match that for confirming the authenticity of Vajrayana teachings. The next month was magical. Bokar Rinpoche gave many teachings and transmissions from the Shangpa Kagyu tradition, and we also shared Kalu Rinpoche’s joy at having a fresh young body. Since the previous Kalu Rinpoche had projected such a stern exterior, albeit with an inner radiance and glow, this new incarnation was a fresh bloom on the rose. (Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche photos by my friend and construction collaborator, Steve Petty from Salt Spring Island.)

Bokar & Kalu marmekan 001In 2011, Kalu Rinpoche visited the United States for the first time since completing his formal training. Unfortunately, he chose not to visit New York. Therefore many devoted students who were closely connected to the previous Kalu Rinpoche were unable to see him during that visit. Hopefully, he will return to the US soon and give teachings in New York at his monastery or anywhere else that he feels is appropriate. In fact, I extend an invitation to teach at my home anytime he would like.

Trungpa 001

Chögyam Trungpa was a phenomenon. Arriving at Cambridge University from India in the mid-sixties, he perfected his English, learned Western psychology and mastered the culture. After founding Samye Ling in Scotland with Akong Rinpoche he moved on to America, and we are so thankful that he did. Trungpa was a tireless teacher until his death in 1987. He authored close to thirty books which have had a wide impact in introducing Vajrayana to the West. His first book BORN IN TIBET was published in 1966. I read it in the early 70’s. It set me on (as of now) a forty year cascade through the most powerful mental training system on the planet.

The lion’s roar is fearlessness in the sense that every situation in life is workable. Nothing is rejected as bad or grasped as good. But everything we experience in our life-situations, any type of emotion, is workable. From THE MYTH OF FREEDOM.

DRAGON THUNDER: My Life With Chögyam Trungpa by Diana Mukpo, his wife of nearly twenty years, is one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in a long time. This is an entertaining view behind the roller coaster carnival of Trungpa’s life. DRAGON THUNDER IS A MUST READ! Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision by Fabrice Midal offers a thoughtful and complete review of Trungpa’s work.

Shambhala was an enlightened society that manifested nonagression. Its geographical location was in the middle of Asia, in the middle, or the heart, of the Orient. The Shambhala society was able to transmute aggression into love. Consequently, everybody in Shambhala attained enlightenment. So they no longer needed to domesticate their animals, and they no longer needed to fight wars. Finally, the whole society, the whole country — including all the buildings — ceased to exist on the earthly plane. This is the story of Shambhala. — Chögyam Trungpa from Midal’s book.

Above all, Trungpa championed the ideal of Shambhala and presented it to the West. fShambhala is a Pure Land, a beyul, the home of the sacred Kalachakra teachings, the Highest Tantra vehicle. In a novel written with my wife Angelina, the  Shambhala teachings are highlighted through a fictional journey which explores their current need in creating peace in the world. PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation encourages a closer look at the spiritual forces that infuse the world’s political battles.

Trungpa’s genius manifested itself in many ways, but none more impressive or lasting than the creation of Naropa University in 1974. Today it is a thriving liberal arts college boasting among other accomplishments, The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. The university was named after Naropa, who was the illustrious abbot of Nalanda in eleventh century India. After an encounter with a powerful Dakini, Naropa recognized his knowledge was useless without wisdom. The Dakini empowered Naropa to seek her brother Tilopa who straightens Naropa out, so to speak.

Our story began with Tilopa, or rather with the Dakini’s call to Tilopa. Feminine Wisdom is mother of the Buddhas. Without the discrete terms of the dakini, teachings revealing mind, the lamp of essence awareness dispelling ignorance’s darkness, known of itself, occurring by itself and lucid in itself cannot be recognized — From Situ Rinpoche’s TILOPA as is the calligraphy below.discrete terms of dakini 001Tilopa’s Kagyu oral transmission lineage sprang from the discrete terms of the Dakini, Mahamudra, The Great Seal, Wisdom Beyond Knowledge. The punishing apprenticeship he put Naropa through is the stuff of legend. Naropa passed his lineage on to Marpa who carried the teaching to Tibet, he himself undertook three arduous  journeys to India to obtain his treasures. Milarepa, the poet-yogi, earned his mantle through another epic apprenticeship. Gampopa, guru to Dusum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa, studied under Milarepa.

Tilopa’s teachings are summed up in The Ganges Mahamudra, which he emparted to Naropa on the banks of the great river. There are numerous commentaries and translations of this root text but my favorite is found in MOTHER OF THE BUDDHAS by Lex Hixon. Hixon was a great contributor to our modern spiritual dialogue. Born on Christmas Day 1941, he began his studies with Vine Deloria, a Lakota Sioux elder, at the age of nineteen. Six years later he began studying with Swami Nikhilananda, a disciple of Sarada Devi, Ramakrishna’s wife. Hixon’s epic work on Ramakrishna, GREAT SWAN, is brilliant. It is always worth recalling Ramakrishna, as his life in nineteenth century Bengal is an open mirror to Tilopa’s eleventh century India.

Mother of the Buddhas 001Great Swan 001The dedicated practitioner experiences the spiritual way as a turbulent mountain stream, tumbling dangerously among boulders. When maturity is reached the river flows smoothly and patiently with the powerful sweep of the Ganges.  Emptying into the ocean of Mahamudra, the water becomes ever-expanding light that pours into great Clear Light – without direction, destination, division, distinction or description.  Tilopa – Mother of the Buddhas.

The Kagyu lineage web has been spun by generations of students standing upon the shoulders of their teachers, who in turn became the students in their next life. A story line like this could only continue with the ability to identify these departed masters upon their return.

Jamgon Kontrul - 16 Karmapa 001The third Jamgon Kongtrul, pictured at left with the 16th Karmapa, was universally loved by all who met him. I had the great honor of taking the Kalachakra and Shitro empowerments from him. His death in 1992, at the height of the search for the 17th Karmapa, was a shock to the entire Vajrayana community.

There is no more serious task for any Karmapa than orchestrating the search mission for incarnate lamas. In 1996 the 17th Karmapa informed representatives of Pullahari Monastery that he had information concerning the rebirth of Jamgon Kongtrul. At the moment the Karmapa handed over the letter containing his instructions, there was a single clap of thunder. The Karmapa himself was only eleven years old at that time!

The Karmapa indicated that the 4th Jamgon Kongtrul would be found south of Tsurphu, the E MA HO 001Karmapa’s seat in Tibet. In his exercise book he drew some pictures of the mountains, a river and the house (two storeys with the door facing exactly east) where he would be found.  The Karmapa also mentioned by name several nearby villages and the number of persons in the family (eight). He even informed them of the most auspicious day to begin their search, several months hence. Even so, there were difficulties with the search and the party had to return to Tsurphu for clarification. Perhaps, their faith in an untested eleven year old Karmapa was shaky. The Karmapa seemed to toy with them and merely repeated his instructions. On their return to the area, the group found the fourth Jamgon Kongtrul. The entire story can be found online in E MA HO.

Karmapa & Jamgon 001

(left) The Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorje and the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul, Karma Lodro Chokyi Nyima in 1996. Jamgon Kongtrul today and Tai Situ Rinpoche (above).

As Tilopa promised, the Kagyu lineage will continue to bring a great deal of both temporal and ultimate benefit to the world.

Om Soti 001