I recently re-watched Lama Tharchin Rinpoche’s talk given to our Pema Ösel Ling sangha after Rinpoche and many of us had returned from our root lama Kyabje Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche’s cremation in Bhutan in 2012. I was struck again by the direct, authentic, heartfelt way that Rinpoche shared his personal experience, revealing his deep sadness over Dungse Rinpoche’s passing, which we were all feeling. I still very much appreciate the guidance Rinpoche gave that day on the importance of using this time to focus on practicing the extraordinary teachings to nurture the blessings we had received from Dungse Rinpoche. I transcribed the talk and wanted to share an excerpt that I’ve found especially helpful during this Lama Tharchin Rinpoche dechö anniversary time. The transcript is only lightly edited in order to maintain Rinpoche’s unique voice, so familiar to his students. But, please, I urge you to watch the video, as well, for the direct experience of Rinpoche’s transmission. It’s a powerful model for recognizing our sadness and loss while taking every opportunity to honor our lama with our practice, to keep our lama’s blessings alive, and to never be separated from our lama’s wisdom mind. - Pema Dechen
“This kind of sadness and feeling of loss will encourage us to recognize how valuable Rinpoche’s teachings are that we received and to realize that if we don’t practice, then how great a loss that is. We received what nobody in this land, under this blue sky, has received. But we need to recognize this, keep it alive, keep Rinpoche’s blessings warm within our heart, without it fading or getting lost or letting it cool down without practicing. Truly, you can see how unbelievably lucky we are. I’m encouraging you not to let it cool down.” – Lama Tharchin Rinpoche
Watch “Lama Tharchin Rinpoche on Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche’s Cremation 2012” here.
From Lama Tharchin Rinpoche:
“…This kind of situation is like when a family’s father passes, how all the children feel like they are lost. This is our daddy for all of samsara and in particular all Nyingmapa. It’s truly an incredibly sad and lost feeling. This world is totally different than it used to be. You know, momentarily, when Rinpoche passed away, it felt like a big shock, kind of my mind got numb. Normally when people pass away, at first sadness is heavy, then every day it gets less and less. But this experience is the opposite. First, there is shock and numbness. But then time goes by, and we think of every single thing that Rinpoche did for us. We think how his wisdom is the brightest in the universe, a light shining like the sun. Without that sun, we are in the dark. He’s like our universal daddy and without that, we’re all orphans. And as time goes by, we have more memories, more experience, more sadness, more missing Rinpoche. Usually, when we go to Palm Desert or Delhi (NY), we have so much excitement because that’s the place where Rinpoche lives. We’re so excited we can see him. But after his passing, places feel totally different, empty. Then more time goes by and our hearts are totally empty. It’s very, very difficult, more than anything else that can happen in this world. When I was little, in Tibet we had this song that goes, “If you don’t have your mom, you can’t live. Without the sun in the sky, you can’t live.” When I was little, I didn’t like that song. I thought, “It’s okay without the sun, I can stay with my mom in the dark!” But that kind of circumstance and feeling changes [with time]. With Kyabje Dungse Rinpoche’s passing, though, the feeling gets worse and worse. You feel more sad. And when you have some questions about your practice, you think, who to ask? Who will instruct your spiritual path? This experience is totally different. You know, in my life, my father, my mother, and even my own child passed. It is sad. But nothing can compare with this totally empty heart. At the same time, Lama Sonam-la and we had the opportunity to take care of Rinpoche’s ku-dung (holy body), with Garab Rinpoche’s wisdom, compassion, and skill…
…It’s unbelievable, Garab Rinpoche’s activity, so organized, so amazing, everything went so beautifully. At the same time that we have this feeling of loss, everywhere there is so much dharma activity. You can think carefully, at the ultimate level, under this blue sky, no one and nothing can compare to our Rinpoche. You know, his teachings are not focused on the external, on actions. His teachings are totally pointing directly to our own buddha nature. They show how to recognize our buddha nature and how to maintain that wisdom. They are direct teachings. There is no comparison to them. If you have a desire to receive these kinds of essential teachings, there is no other place and no other lama who can possibly teach like our teacher.
This kind of vast activity like Rinpoche’s, which is synthesized into the essence level, is totally incomparable. I cannot believe how lucky we are, what kind of teacher we had, what kind of teaching we received. But this kind of sadness and feeling of loss will encourage us to recognize how valuable Rinpoche’s teachings are that we received and to realize that if we don’t practice, then how great a loss that is. We received what nobody in this land, under this blue sky, has received. But we need to recognize this, keep it alive, keep Rinpoche’s blessings warm within our heart, without it fading or getting lost or letting it cool down without practicing. Truly, you can see how unbelievably lucky we are. I’m encouraging you not to let it cool down. With his passing, Rinpoche taught us. We have so much attachment to his physical body. But of course, Rinpoche’s body is a changeable phenomenon. Rinpoche’s body emanations manifest just for us. But when he passed away, that’s the best profound wake-up call – impermanence. Due to our laziness, we think, “Oh, I want to practice later – next week, next month, next year. When I retire, then I will do practice.” That kind of thinking is our biggest obstacle. By demonstrating that impermanence, Rinpoche will wake us up – It’s time! Even though a sublime being like Rinpoche demonstrates this impermanence to us. If we don’t take that seriously, then what is the point of having a teacher like Rinpoche and teachings like we received from him? How big of a loss is that? We don’t want to be that foolish, that stupid. What I’m saying is that if we only rely on Rinpoche’s physical body as it appears to us, in front of our water bubble eyes, then when we can’t see it, we don’t have anything. We lost it. But what Rinpoche taught us, his essence of mind, our own essence of mind, is truly Buddha. Rinpoche’s essence of mind is past buddha. Our essence of mind is future buddha – it has potential or ability. It is connected with Rinpoche’s essence of mind. Through this connection, Rinpoche gave us a way to truly never ever be separated from him. What I want to tell you is how important that is. How big a loss Rinpoche’s physical form is in this world, yes, but how important it is in this world that we can keep Rinpoche’s mind with us.
Lama Sonam-la and we all had this experience all over Bhutan, how many people are connected with Rinpoche. In Bhutan, they are keeping Rinpoche in their heart and we’re all keeping Rinpoche in our heart. We realized among that many people, all over the world, we all have the same heart. What is very important is how to maintain Rinpoche’s blessings and continue to keep them alive. How much we miss Rinpoche, we should put that much effort into this. We have to be responsible for our own enlightenment. We are responsible to be kind to ourselves and not continue getting lost in samsara. This is our only chance, having this precious human life, this precious teacher, this precious teaching like Dzogchen Great Perfection.
Remember, like His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche describes in his Richö Mountain Retreat teaching, “Having received profound oral instructions on the swift path, if you don’t practice them, it’s like stuffing a wish-fulfilling jewel in a corpse’s mouth. What a waste. Don’t let your heart rot! Practice!” This is the time. Continue to do practice. Keep pure samaya. Then we will never, ever be separated from Rinpoche throughout our whole lifetime. And not only this one lifetime, there will be no separation in the next life. However many lifetimes it takes us to attain full enlightenment, Rinpoche will be with us. Then still, Rinpoche’s presence will not be done. Even when we attain fully enlightened buddhahood, our emanations will come back unobstructedly. That display of compassion will emanate inconceivably until samsara becomes totally empty. Until then, we are never, ever separated from Rinpoche. How wonderful is that? We have to be truly aware of that.”
Thank you, heart sangha for your loving support and dedication to honoring and preserving Lama Tharchin Rinpoche’s dharma heritage.
Please join us in practicing together on this special day for all of us connected with Lama Tharchin Rinpoche. Vajrayana Foundation & Jnanasukha Foundation are hosting daylong online events. You’ll find information for group practice online or for practicing on one’s own on their websites, as well as how to connect through making offerings.
Photo of Lama Tharchin Rinpoche in Paro, Bhutan, 2012, by Libby Luning.