How 'The Cyclone' Came to the West
Written by Mardi Junkins
Published in The Snow Lion Newsletter
Republished on Mount Kailas BBS with permission of Lorraine O'Rourke,
Padmasambhava Buddhist Center, New York, NY.
Once there lived a family in the village of Joephu, in the Palrong
valley of the Dhoshul region in Eastern Tibet. There was a father,
mother, two sisters, and two brothers. Like many Tibetan families
they were very devout. The father taught his children and the children
of the village the Buddhism of Tibet, the Dharma. He taught them to
read and write and to chant the stories of the Buddha Shakyamuni and
of Padmasambhava the second Buddha who brought Buddhism to Tibet.
Teachings of the Dharma and practice were woven into their lives. If
one of the children happened to wake in the night, the father's
continuous chanting could be heard.
The valley was a magical place with
a high mountain no one had
yet climbed and a high lake with milky white water and yellow crystal
sand around its edges, sand that dissolved instantly on the tongue
without a taste. This mountain had extraordinary rocks with footprints
embedded in them. Tsa Sum Lingpa, the Crazy Wisdom Yogi, made these
footprints when he danced on the rocks in an explosion of radiant
energy. Not surprisingly, Tsa Sum Lingpa is especially revered in the
Dhoshul region of Tibet.
The oldest of the brothers was nicknamed
"The Cyclone" for his
enormous energy. He would run up a nearby mountain to explore and play
for hours. One day he found a baby goat on the mountainside and was so
taken with it that he hid it under his shirt and streaked home. An
upset mother goat wasn't far behind. His own mother advised him to
return the baby goat, which he did reluctantly. Other times he would
pick wild mushrooms and stuff them in his shirt, but they were so
plentiful that they kept falling out, a predicament for a five-year-
old. Many a summer day "The Cyclone" would lie down in a field of
wild flowers--all with names of Tibetan deities--and gaze up into the
vast blue Tibetan sky.
During his fifth year he went on
a journey with his mother to a
mountain miles away. They were going to visit a well-known monk named
Ahtsok to whom the mother had a special devotion and who lived in
lifelong retreat. Local people brought him offerings of cheese,
yogurt, tea or Tsampa and left them a distance away from the cave with
a friendly shout; other times they stayed to visit. The mother and son
were visiting on this day and climbed miles up the mountain to
Ahtsok's cave above the timber line. They found the monk wrapped in
ragged woolen clothes with a wool shawl around his head; he never wore
animal skins. The little boy was deeply struck by Ahtsok.
The children were eager scholars
at early ages. They went to the
village monastery for instruction. However, their prime instruction
continued to be with their father at home. The younger brother was
recognized as a tulku, but the family decided not to emphasize this
in his upbringing. When the younger brother was born the family chose
to move to another village. The baby became gravely ill, and when the
illness failed to respond to ordinary remedies his parents took him to
the monastery for a diagnosis. They were told to move back to the
village of Joephu because the baby was the incarnation of a highly
revered lama from the Dhoshul region. The family returned to their old
village and the baby regained his health.
When "The Cyclone" was
six years old he entered Gochen Monastery
for his secular and religious education--a five-year undertaking. The
family visited him at the monastery; the trip involved a days' ride on
horseback or yak. In 1953, at eleven years of age, he entered Riwoche
Monastery and trained to master Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and logic
and the teachings of the Three Yanas.
Throughout the 1950s the Chinese
were invading Tibet. The father,
knowing Padmasambhava's predictions, felt that the time had come as
Guru Rinpoche had said when Tibet would be destroyed and Tibetan lamas
would be scattered all over the world turning the wheel of the Dharma.
The father would relate these predictions to relatives and friends in
the village repeatedly. It was also foretold that the time to leave
was in the winter. The others said, "No, lets wait until the spring
thaw to go." Guru Rinpoche also predicted that if ever Tibetans were
fleeing Tibet, the safe haven was a land to the south called Pemako,
where the mountains dropped down into tropical jungle. In 1960 the
father gathered the family together, called the oldest son, now
eighteen, home from the monastery, and with only what belongings could
be carried or packed on the yaks' backs, set out in the depth of win-
ter. They headed for Pemako. The hardships of the journey were
extraordinary--the Himalayas, the snow and cold, the Chinese taking
their yaks, and having to hide from Chinese machine guns. Somehow,
they made it to the safe land. But in Pemako the altitude dropped
extremely, the water was not safe to drink, they were unaccustomed to
the heat and they all became ill. The mother, two sisters, and the
older brother were ill for months. The older brother recovered very
slowly. The mother and sisters died.
Father and sons went on to a refugee
camp for Tibetans in Northern
India. Refugee schools were begun and the work of translating sacred
texts went on. Many lamas had carried out of Tibet whatever sacred
manuscripts they could. When each one had contributed
what he had brought, the entire body of sacred teachings was intact.
At that time the Indian government made a proposal to the United
States that India print seventeen copies of each Tibetan text and the
United States buy them for the Library of Congress. It was agreed;
India received payment, and the U.S. Library of Congress became the
repository of the treasury of Tibetan manuscripts.
The Venerable Khenpo Palden Sherab
Rinpoche, the older brother,
became Abbot at the Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies
in Sarnath, India, in charge of the Nyingma Department. Khen Rinpoche
is one of the most highly qualified scholars and meditation masters of
the Nyingma tradition, fully versed in Hinayana, Mahayana, and
Vajrayana schools, and a master of Dzogchen, the most developed and
advanced tradition of spiritual practice in the Nyingma tradition.
The younger brother, the Venerable
Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche,
graduated from Sanskrit University in Sarnath. His Holiness Dudjom
Rinpoche enthroned him as Abbot in Charge at the Nyingmapa Institute
in Kathmandu where he taught Buddhist philosophy, writing, calligraphy
and poetry. He was later invested with the authority of Khenpo Abbot
by His Holiness and presided at Orgyen Chokholing Monastery. Khenpo
Tsewang is a published author, historian, and poet, as well as an
expert in the study of ancient Tantric literature. He holds the
transmission and all initiations of the Nyingma Kama and Terma
In accordance with another of Padmasambhava's
when the iron bird flies and the horse goes on wheels Buddhism will go
to the west, many Tibetan lamas were now teaching in the West. So in
1980, at the insistent invitation of Dr. Rhoda P. Lecocq, a professor
from California who had taken teachings from Khenpo Palden Sherab
Rinpoche in India, the Khenpos came to the United States for a
teaching visit to California. His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche later
enlisted them in assisting with His Holiness' considerable Dharma
activities in the United States. After about eight years of working in
this liaison the time came to launch their own teaching approach in
the West with His Holiness' blessing.
Since that time their teaching has
become more extensive each year.
Sanghas sprout up around them where ever they go. They teach together
with a simple and beautiful method: Khen Rinpoche teaches in
penetrating Tibetan and Khenpo Tsewang translates into English with
inspired precision and wit. Their sanghas are formally called
Padmasambhava Buddhist Centers, established to teach and preserve the
tradition of Nyingmapa Buddhism, especially the mediation technique of
the Higher Tantras. The practice of these profound techniques aims at
removing the habits of mind obscuring the true, primordial Buddha
Nature and revealing its boundless compassion. These teachings have
been transmitted in an unknown lineage from master to master from that
time to the present day.
The first center began in New York
City, the Khenpos' home base.
There are now Padmasambhava Buddhist Centers in West Palm Beach and
Orlando, Florida; Wilmington, Delaware; Albuquerque, New Mexico;
Cookesville, Tennessee; Santiago; Puerto Rico; Denver, Colorado; San
Francisco, California; and in Ellsworth Maine. Close connections and a
full teaching schedule are maintained with all these centers. The
Khenpos visit each center at least three times a year with one visit
usually being a week's retreat.
From 1980 on, the Khenpos have maintained
a strong connection to
the Native American practice through the Sunray Meditation Society and
its leader, the Venerable Dhyani Wahoo. The Khenpos travel to
Sunray's Vermont Peacekeeper Center to give teachings and empowerments
yearly. Sunray members come to New York for special initiations and
practice instructions which bears out the Native American prophecy
that Buddhism and Native American practice would join their amazing
forces when the Red Hat lamas came to the west.
The Khenpos Rinpoche keep translation
at the center of their attention
The entire cycle of the "Seven Treasures of the Great Longchenpa" is
in the process of being translated by Khenpo Palden Sherab Rinpoche
working in conjunction with Dr. Janet Gyatso of Amherst College and
Dr. Anne Klein of Rice University. The first edition of the
"Prajnaparamita" by Khenpo Palden Sherab Rinpoche, translated by
Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche with Dr. Joan Kaye, has been
republished with the collaboration of Phyllis and Michael Friedman.
The Khenpos regularly return to
Sarnath India, to oversee the
construction on the Nyingmapa College and Monastery which they
founded there. These visits occur on an average of about every other
year, allowing the Khenpos to teach and spend time with their father
who still lives and practices in retreat in India.