Remembering The Masters
Celebrating the life and accomplishments of the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism
Our aim is to share and connect people to the blessings and teachings of some of the eminent Tibetan teachers who have been teaching in Rigpa, at the invitation of Sogyal Rinpoche, since the 1970’s.
We start with a homage to Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorjé. August 2019 marks 20 years since this great master of Dzogpachenpo passed away in France.
Recollections of many other masters of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition are coming soon.
Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche
Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche
Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje: 1932-1999
Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche or Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorjé, was such a consummate master of Dzogpachenpo, and such an authority on the teachings of Longchenpa, that his disciples regarded him as Longchenpa in the flesh.
Often he would speak of the ultimate significance of this great master, and the power of his blessing:
“Longchenpa embodies all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the three times and ten directions, all gurus, devas, and dakinis. What we need to realize is the actual meaning of ‘Longchenpa’, which is the essence of what is meant by ‘Being At Ease in the Nature of Mind’, Semnyi Ngalso. It was in order to exemplify and demonstrate that absolute Longchenpa that the omniscient Longchenpa manifested in our world, nearly seven hundred years ago. So by seeing his representation in form, by hearing his speech, and by remembering him, we can receive the blessing to bring about the realization of the ultimate meaning of Dzogpachenpo. He embodies the intrinsic nature and essence of Dzogpachenpo, that pervades all beings in samsara and nirvana, and so he is never separate from us. All we need to do is to open our hearts in genuine devotion, and his blessing is immediate and utterly within our reach. By praying to Longchenpa, we can awaken the intrinsic, or absolute Longchenpa within us, the wisdom of our own rigpa, present within the nature of our mind.”
Khenpo would pray constantly to Longchenpa, and would always encourage practitioners to recite this verse:
“O Longchenpa, in the depth of your compassion, your learning, and realization,
You are the equal of the great sages of India, the six ornaments, and two supreme ones who beautify our world.
Yet you lived as a hidden yogi, practising in forest retreats,
And perfected both samsara and nirvana as dharmakaya.
Immaculate Radiance, Trimé Özer, at your feet I pray:
Fill me with your blessing, so that I realize the natural state, the essence of my mind!”
He was also the teacher of many of the younger generation of lamas, as well as a number of western Buddhist teachers.
Among Khenpo’s western students were a number of Buddhist teachers, who became very devoted to him, and included prominent members of the Insight Meditation community. Sharon Salzberg, for example, wrote movingly in her book Faith:
Khenpo was the most spacious person I’d ever met. It seemed as though the wind passed right through him and translucency was the major component in his makeup. Many times in his company I had the strange sense that we were standing in a wide open field, great empty expanses spreading out in all directions. Even if we were in a crowded little room, the walls closing us in seemed to evaporate.
Perhaps this effect was a reflection of Khenpo’s wide-open consciousness and huge unbounded heart. Being with Khenpo was the closest I’d come to experiencing transformation through just being in the presence of a realized person. Yet he was entirely unself-conscious, like a magician unattached to his own magic.
Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorjé was born in 1932 in the Dergé region of Kham. Khenpo counted twenty-five great masters as his principal teachers, of whom the most central in his life was Shedrup Tenpé Nyima, the reincarnation of Nyoshul Lungtok. From him, from the age of seventeen at Nyoshul monastery he began to receive the teachings of Longchen Nyingtik and particularly the Great Oral Lineage of Pith Instructions of Dzogpachenpo.
This became Khenpo’s special lineage, a lineage which passed back to the Primordial Buddha in an unbroken line, through such extraordinary masters as Khenpo Ngakchung, Nyoshul Lungtok, Patrul Rinpoche, Jikmé Lingpa, Longchenpa, Vimalamitra, and Padmasambhava. Khenpo passed these teachings on to a few close disciples, as well as to a number of the greatest masters and lineage holders of his time.
He wrote a definitive History of the Dzogchen Nyingtik, containing the biographies of the lineage masters, and a remarkable collection of poetic songs of realization.
A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage
Nyoshul Khenpo was a teacher of the Dharma, and not a master who was known for building many great temples or monasteries, gathering patrons or overseeing grand projects. Where he existed, and where he exists now, is in everyone’s minds and hearts, and the only material thing he left us in fact is this book, his history. He said that his temple would be this book. It is his great legacy. It took him many years to complete. He said that if anything were ever written about it, this is all it should say:
This old lama regarded the Dzogchen teachings as immensely precious, and he wrote a two-volume history, with biographies of the lineage masters, entitled A Marvellous Garland of Rare Gems, which will be of tremendous benefit to students in the future. It is neither too high, nor too low. In future, when these things are explained, you need to know the original history. It is neither exaggerated, nor self-promoting. It simply tells what happened.
Nyoshul Khenpo became one of Sogyal Rinpoche’s most beloved masters. Khen Rinpoche first taught Rigpa students in the Dordogne in the summer of 1984, after which he was present regularly and taught at many Rigpa retreats and gatherings over the next decade: in France, America, the United Kingdom and Germany, during His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings on Dzogchen in San Jose in 1989, Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's teachings at Prapoutel in 1990, and the Dalai Lama's inauguration of Dzogchen monastery in 1992. His last visit to Lerab Ling was in the summer of 1996.
Nyoshul Khenpo passed away in France in August 1999. No one who met him can ever forget his extraordinary presence or the spirit in which he taught, which embodied so perfectly the fathomless ease and vastness of Dzogpachenpo.
Writings translated into English
Natural Great Perfection, translated by Lama Surya Das, Snow Lion Publications, 1995
‘A Gift To The World’ by Nyoshul Khenpo printed as an appendix in Dzogchen: Heart Essence of the Great Perfection By H.H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Rigpa & Snow Lion Publications, 2000
A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, By Nyoshul Khenpo translated by Richard Barron, Padma Publishing, 2005
The Fearless Lion's Roar : Profound Instructions on Dzogchen, the Great Perfection By Nyoshul Khenpo Translated by David Christensen, Snow Lion Publications, 2015
For more of Nyoshul Khenpo’s writings visit:
Writings translated into French
Le Chant d'illusion et autres poèmes, translated by Stéphane Arguillère, Paris: Gallimard, 2000.