Continuing the spiritual traditions of an august lineage
11 January, 2010 - In his effort to spread the noble teachings of the Buddha, a rinpoche in the east has followed in spirit the dharma with his meritorious endeavour.
Without any financial assistance, lam Kuenzang Tenpai Gyeltshen, popularly known as Gyeltshen trulku, has established nine retreat centres and six gomdeys(lay monk’s institutes).
He built them by saving whatever he managed to eke out from begging in villages in the five eastern dzongkhags.
Although the government provides a monthly stipend to five of his retreat centres and some gomdeys, Gyeltshen trulku continues to beg for his practitioners excluded from the scheme.
The rinpoche said that the journey has been long and arduous.
“When we started, we lived in a small hut, ate kharang (ground maize) and drank maize porridge,” said the rinpoche. “It was a difficult start for me to be involved from planning to designing, carpentry work to keeping accounts and, of course, teaching.”
So far, 200 practitioners, comprising monks, lay monks and nuns, have successfully completed three- and six-year meditation courses. A few completed their ninth year.
Gyeltshen trulku teaches the six yogas of Naropa (Naro Choe Druk), an advanced set of tantric Tibetan Buddhist meditations, compiled by the Indian Buddhist yogi, Naropa, between 1016 and 1100 CE. It was later conveyed to his student Marpa, the great translator in Drukpa Kagyud lineage.
The rinpoche said that the six yogas – the yoga of inner heat, illusory body, clear light, dream state, intermediate state and the yoga of the transference of consciousness to a pure Buddhahood – were intended to help accelerate the attainment of enlightenment.
“My motive is to guide and train those, who are interested, and they should commit to it for at least six years,” the rinpoche said. The six yogas of Naropa take six years to complete and nine years to master.
Gyeltshen Trulku received the teachings from his root guru, Lam Sonam Zangpo, the grandfather of their eminences Dzongsar Jamyang Khentse and Dungzin Garab trulku.
“A root teacher has the capacity to introduce one’s nature of mind to Buddhahood, because of which it’s very important to identify a root guru,” rinpoche said.
Born in 1953 to a humble family at Bimkhar Tokortse village in Trashiyangtse, Gyeltsen trulku, whose parents expired when he was five, spent his childhood herding cows and baby-sitting for neighbours.
Lam Sonam Zangpo, who recognised Gyeltshen trulku from the vision he saw of him while meditating at Phunying goenpa in Lhuentse, offered him the seat of his predecessor.
At 12, Lam Sonam Zangpo sent him to Druk Sanga Chholing monastery in Darjeeling, India, to study Buddhist philosophy, grammar, poetry, arts, science and other Buddhist texts.
After studying for 10 years in Darjeeling, he returned to Bhutan and received a complete set of Kagyu (Naro Choe Druk) and Nyingma (Tsa Lung Thiglye) teachings from his root guru and went into meditation for six years. No sooner had he completed his retreat then Lam Sonam Zangpo appointed him as the first tutor at the Phajoding retreat centre in Thimphu.
After Lam Sonam Zangpo expired in 1984, Gyeltshen trulku began teachings in the east, as his master believed he should, and on the request of the public there.
Rinpoche teaches Kagyu and Nyingma in Bhutan, Tibet, Ladakh and Darjeeling. So far, more than 25 people in Ladakh and a few Tibetans have come and received his teachings.
On people’s continual discrimination between the Kagyu and Nyingma sects of Buddhism, the rinpoche said it was done without understanding the inter-connection between the two. The rinpoche warned that, while killing was forgivable, discriminating against religions was not.
His Holiness the Je Khenpo conferred on him a khadar and a white scarf, with orange lining on the two edges, last month in recognition of his thirty-year service in propagating Buddha-dharma to monks, lay-monks and nuns. The scarf was the first of its kind to be presented to a Bhutanese lam in Bhutan.
Lam Sonam Zangpo and Gyeltshen trulku are among 12 Bhutanese disciples of the great 20th century Tibetan Yogi, Drubwang Shakya Shri (1853-1919), a widely celebrated spiritual luminary, who exemplified both the Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingma traditions.
By Tenzin Namgyel