Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

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Foreword by Sogyal Rinpoche

IT IS OFTEN said in the Buddhist tradition of Tibet that
there is no greater source of merit and blessings than to
speak about the master and to recollect his noble qualities.
Hearing or reading about the great masters can so often
bring us an experience of them that can be just as powerful
as meeting them face to face. What I hope to do in this
introduction to this wonderful study of Kyabje Dilgo
Khyentse Rinpoche’s life is to convey something of his
essence, and of the feeling and atmosphere of his incredible

For I sometimes think that his greatest contribution,
beside all his tremendous achievements, was the` simple fact
that he came and lived and taught in our time. An
enlightened being actually manifested here and displayed his
activity, and we were fortunate enough to witness it. As we
will see in the pages that follow, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
was a miracle in himself, and his accomplishments, every bit
as extraordinary as those of his predecessor Jamyang
Khyentse Wangpo or his master Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro,
were clearly the activities of an enlightened being. The
honor of writing this brief introduction is mixed with an
inevitable feeling of helplessness, faced with the
impossible task of capturing in words Dilgo Khyentse
Rinpoche’s qualities and, above all, his being. I can only
put down here some of my memories and personal feelings
about how he stays within me and many others who knew
him-impressions which I will try to share, with all my
limitations, and yet with a mind, and heart, of

Who that has seen Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche could ever
forget him? Both in his spiritual realization and in his
physical appearance and build, he was larger than life. In
every sense there was something universal, even superhuman,
about him, so much so that at one stage the young incarnate
lamas he looked after with such infinite and tender care
would playfully call him “Mr. Universe.” There is an
occasion I will always remember from the midi96os, when
Khyentse Rinpoche asked me to accompany him from the
Darfeeling area in India to Nepal. Lama Urgyen Shenphen was
attending him at the time. There were just the three of us,
with about forty pieces of luggage packed with ritual
implements and texts. We arrived at one particular railway
station in India where we had a train to catch. At that
point we decided to split up, in keeping with our
responsibilities. Lama Urgyen had the task of finding
porters to carry our baggage, while I was to go and try to
reserve ,good seats on the train. We managed to pile all the
luggage together on the platform, and then we asked Khyentse
Rinpoche if he wouldn’t mind sitting on it until we got
back. He nodded in agreement and just sat down on this

mound of luggage, with his long fingernails and his mala,
just as if it was his own living room. He could not have
been more serene or at ease. There we were in the midst of a
busy Indian railway station, with the heat, the flies, and
the utter chaos, and Khyentse Rinpoche was totally
unperturbed, at peace, happy, and smiling. He looked like an
oasis of tranquility; an almost hypnotic atmosphere of calm
seemed to surround him and to still the clamor and the
turmoil. A group of children started-to gather around him,
fascinated by his appearance and unable to fathom who or
what he could be. Overcome with ,awe, they whispered to one
other, “Who is-tl`iis man? Where on earth is he ;from?”
Finally, one child piped up, `Actually he’s one of those
Russian circus men. He must be the giant in the circus.”
When Khyen,_tse Rinpoche got up +:to board the train,
everyone scattered because he was so huge and his presence
so impressive.

It’s true that Khyentse Rinpoche’s majesty would have
been overwhelm4ing had there not always emanated from him
the most profound calm and ‘gentleness, a rich, natural
humor, and the peace and bliss that are the signs of
ultimate realization. When he was very young, he was blessed
by the great Mipham Rinpoche who gave him the name Tashi
Paljor, the meaning of which combines auspiciousness,
goodness, magnificence, abundance, and perfection. Chogyam
Trungpa Rinpoche said, “Whatever he did was perfection of
its kind. Even the way he walked into the hall showed this
quality; all he said was expressed to perfection. In fact,
he surpassed anyone I had ever met.” Khyentse Rinpoche
possessed that perfect discipline and conduct that
distinguishes the greatest masters. I am sure that in his
whole life he never did a single thing that was incorrect.
Nor would he be swayed from taking the course of action that
he knew was right; he would never, for example, reveala
teaching that was inappropriate. And everything he did bore
the signature of his elegance and simplicity.

All of us will remember his generosity, his kindness, and
his grandfatherly tenderness and warmth. In fact, Khyentse
Rinpoche had a gift for making you feel special, as if you
were the most important person he had met all day. He was
effusive with his affection; he would just take your head
gently in his huge hand and draw you next to his cheek. The
great Dzogchen Khenpo Shenga gave Khyentse Rinpoche the name
Rabsel Dawa, “brilliant moon,” as if to single out, among
his remarkable qualities, his compassion, and to depict its
cooling moonbeams dispelling the searing heat of suffering.
For compassion and kindness marked Khyentse Rinpoche’s every
action toward anyone he met.

Another of his qualities was humility. Never would he put
on airs, exhibit his knowledge, or betray his realization in
any overt way. When he spoke of the different stages and
signs of spiritual attainment, he would simply say, “It Js
said that this is what you will experience when you attain
such realization,” not even hinting that he was speaking, as
we knew he was, from personal experience. In this day and
age, when lesser teachers boast freely of their realization
and powers, he was an exenWlary model of modesty and

For example, Khyentse Rinpoche would never breathe a word
about his visions. According to the tradition of Heart
Essence of the Great Expanse, to be considered a holder of
the lineage you-must have received a vision of Longchenpa or
Jigmey Lingpa. Now it so happened that Khyentse Rinpoche
always had a special place in his heart for Orgyen Topgyal
Rinpoche, whom he’had known since Orgyen Topgyal was a
child, and who, with his disarming forthrightness, had a way
of eliciting answers from Khyentse Rinpoche that other
people could never manage to obtain. Khyentse Rinpoche
mentioned to him that while he was in retreat at Paro
Taktsang, “the tiger’s nest” (one of the most sacred caves
of Guru Rinpoche), in Bhutan, he had received a vision of
Jigmey Lingpa, who had transmitted to Khyentse Rinpoche the
blessing of his wisdom mind, authorizing him as a holder of
the lineage. At the time, Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje was
writing his great history of the Dzogchen lineage, A
Marvellous Garland of Rare Gems, and when Orgyen Topgyal
told him about this vision of Jigmey Lingpa, he was eager to
include it in the chapter on Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s life.
He approached Khyentse Rinpoche and asked him whether he
had, in fact, had such a vision.; Khyentse Rinpoche flatly
denied it and told him that Orgyen Topgyal must have just
let his imagination run away with him. But Orgyen Topgyal
insisted’ that Khyentse Rinpoche had told him, and so
Nyoshul Khenpo composed the following sentence in his draft
manuscript: “In particular, at Paro Takt sang in Bhutan,
Khyentse Rinpoche was graced with a vision of Rigzin Jigmey
Lingpa, who entrusted him as a master of the Heart Essence
teachings..”‘ He then returned to Khyentse Rinpoche and
explained why he had written it despite the earlier denial.
He asked him to check whether it was accurate or not,
promising to remove it should it prove incorrect. At first
Khyentse Rinpoche seemed disinclined to look at the
manuscript and did not say anything when Khenpo raised the
question again. After a while though, he casually asked him
to show him the page. He inspected it and then quietly told
Nyoshul Khenpo there was no need to change it.

On one hand, Khyentse Rinpoche’s enlightened qualities
were so self evident that no one could miss them, and on the
other, he was forever humble, because he had tamed his mind
and his whole being. He was always the same, stable and
unchanging, his equanimity as steadfast as a mountain, his
wisdom as endless as the sky, and his enlightened qualities
as vast as an ocean. Whenever he taught, the teachings would
pour out of him like poetry, perfect just as they were, and
without ever a single superfluous phrase or interjection.
They had the quality of revelation-and could be written out
exactly as he spoke them, without any need for editing. As
he would begin to teach, particularly on dzogchen, he would
lean back slightly and seem to become even more spacious,
and then the words would just flow out of him like a
mountain stream. There was no stopping him. I remember so
often we would just look on in amazement. The neurobiologist
Francisco Varela once told me that he simply could not
fathom how Khyentse Rinpoche’s mind or brain worked. He
would speak for at least twenty minutes, and when the
translation took place, he would rest, or, when he got
older, take a nap. Then without any prompting, he would
resume exactly where he had left off half an hour earlier
and continue teaching without the slightest fluctuation or

Khyentse Rinpoche’s astounding achievements have been
celebrated elsewhere, but they include his twenty-five
volumes of collected works; his twenty-two years in retreat;
the vast number of teachings and transmissions he both
received and passed on; the colossal amount of practice he
accomplished; the monasteries, temples, stupas, and works of
art he created; the collections of teachings he had printed;
the care with which he brought up and’; trained a whole
generation of incarnate lamas; the terma treasures he
revealed; his reestablishment of the tradition of drupchens
(intensive Vajrayana group practices); and so much more. He
accomplished a vast amount, and yet did so with such
consummate ease that he made it look absolutely effortless.
Not a moment passed from morning till late at night when he
was not teaching, practicing, or helping others, and yet he
seemed to have all the time in the world. He was expert at
not wasting a single second, while remaining completely at
ease and, what is more, deriving the greatest joy and
delight from everything. What was mystifying was how he
managed something everyone finds so difficult: blending the
everyday goal of getting an enormous quantity of things done
with the spiritual ideal of staying utterly relaxed and free
from the slightest stress or effort.

You will read much in this book, and elsewhere, about
Khyentse Rinpoche’s tremendous work, but what I came to
realize was that perhaps his greatest achievement was that,
more and more, he became an embodiment of the teachings.
Even more than his words and his teachings, it was his very
presence and his very being that communicated the truth of
the Dharma. In short, just to think of him said it all.
Great masters there may be who possess extraordinary
teachings, but with Khyentse Rinpoche it was sufficient
merely to look at him, or think of jiim, fo;; the entire
blessing of the lineage to be evoked. I often think-of the
life story of Guru Padmasambhava, which describes how all
the buddhas convened and directed their blessing into Buddha
Amitabha, who in turn emanated his blessing directly to the
land of Uddiyana and Lake Dhanakhosha, where it “took the
form of this extraordinary manifestation of Guru Rinpoche.
In the same way, I feel that the blessing of all the buddhas
converged in Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

I also believe that Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s great
master Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro had a very special
vision of his destiny. As you will read here in this
autobiography, in the early days at Dzongsar Monastery in
Kham in eastern Tibet, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was often
present, receiving teachings from Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. I
remember that he was very tall and thin, and in those days
he was known simply as “Tulku Salga” or “Tulku Rabsel Dawa,”
In any case, Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro was held in such
high regard that hardly anyone else was referred to by the
title of Rinpoche. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche had been formally
recognized at the age of eleven by Shechen Gyaltsap as the
mind emanation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and this was
subsequently confirmed by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. At
the time, Khyentse Chokyi Lodro was regarded as the great
Khyentse, the throne holder of the seat of Jamyang Khyentse
Wangpo, and the emanation of his enlightened activity. By
confirming Dilgo Khyentse as the incarnation of Jamyang
Khyentse Wangpo, Khyentse Chokyi Lodro was stating in fact
that he and Dilgo Khyentse were no different. Though they
were both emanations of the same master, at that time Dilgo
Khyentse became the student and Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi
Lodro the teacher. Even so, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche gave
many transmissions to Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. So they
became teacher and student to one another. It was Jamyang
Khyentse Chokyi Lodro who urged Dilgo Khyentse to reveal his
termas, and authorized him as a great treasure revealer. The
affection they shared for one another was extraordinarily
deep and warm, so much so that Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro
used to weep when they had to part. Dilgo Khyentse wrote in
his autobiography, “Whenever I went to see Lama Rinpoche
[Jamyang Khyentse] at Dzongsar, he took care of me
with such great affection that I felt like I was . coming

Once, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche told me a particularly
moving story about how he had been invited to a picnic with
Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. In Tibet, everyone used to
carry their own bowl with them, and it was never the custom
to share somebody else’s. On this occasion, Dilgo Khyentse
had forgotten to bring his bowl, and so Jamyang-Khyentse
offered him his own. This was an almost unthinkable honor,
as he was held in such high esteem that nobody would dare to
eat from his bowl. Out of respect, Dilgo Khyentse declined.
Jamyang Khyentse offered it to him a second time, and again
he refused. Finally, Jamyang Khyentse, appearing exasperated
and somewhat stern, said, “Take it! It’s not dirty!” When
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche told this story and he came to those
words, “It’s not dirty,” his eyes would fill with .tears.
Such was the depth of his love and devotion.

Over the years there were some who wondered why, when
there were so many other great disciples, Jamyang Khyentse
would treat Dilgo Khyentse so specially and keep him always
so close during the teachings and transmissions. Not long
after, that same generation of people came to witness Dilgo
Khyentse transform and become not only like Jamyang Khyentse
Chokyi l,odro, even in his personality, but also like
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo the Great. His presence seemed to
become even more enormous. I remember so well the occasion
at Enchey Monastery in Sikkim in the 196os when Dilgo
Xhyentse Rinpoche gave the Treasury of Precious Termas
empowerments to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, the
reincarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, and many
other incarnate lamas. I wrote about this in The Tibetan
Book of Living and Dying: –

Many masters were there in a monastery in the hills
behind Gangtok, the capital, and I was sitting with Khandro
Tsering Chodron, Jamyang Khyentse’s spiritual wife, and Lama
Chokden, his spiritual assistant.

It was then that I experienced, in the most vivid way,
the truth of how a master can transmit the blessing of his
wisdom mind to a student. One day Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
gave a teaching about devotion and about our master Jamyang
Khyentse, which was extraordinarily moving; the words flowed
from him in a torrent of eloquence and the purest spiritual
poetry. Again and again, as I listened to Dilgo Khyentse
Rinpoche and watched him, I was reminded in the most
mysterious way of Jamyang Khyentse himself, and how he had
been able simply to speak and pour out, as if from a hidden
inexhaustible source, the most exalted teaching. Slowly I
realized, with wonder, what had happened: the blessing of
the wisdom mind of JamyaO f

ng Khyentse had been transmitted completely to his heart
-son-Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and was now, before us all,
speaking effortlessly through him.

At the end of the teaching, I turned to Khandro and
Chokden, and I saw that tears were streaming downtheir
faces. Chokden was usually a man of few words. “We knew that
Dilgo Khyentse was a great master,” he said, “and we know
how it is said that a master will transmit the entire
blessing of his wisdom mind to his heartson. But it is only
now, only today, only here, that we realize what this truly


I am certain that Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro knew he
would not live beyond 1959. He said there was a prediction
that one of the Khyentse incarnations would live a long
life, and I believe that he put all his blessings into Dilgo
Khyentse Rinpoche so that he would continue the vision and
work of the Khyentse lineage. It was almost as if they had
planned it out meticulously together, whereby Jamyang
Khyentse Chokyi Lodro’s work was to be in Tibet, and the
most crucial part of Dilgo Khyentse’s mission would be in
exile in India and the outside world. Of course, the
eventual fall of Tibet in 1959 was a devastating loss, but
with Khyentse Rinpoche alive we did not lose everything,
because in this one man all of Tibet’s Buddhist heritage was
embodied. He came to play a huge part in the survival of the
rich spiritual and cultural legacy of Tibet. In Tibet he had
been known as an outstanding teacher, and Jamyang Khyentse
used to speak of him to everyone, yet it was after going
into exile in India and the Himalayan regions that he really
manifested. It was his time. however many great enlightened
masters came in the past, no one quite like Dilgo Khyentse
Rinpoche, or of his caliber, has appeared in our time. What
was extraordinary was that he took on his glorious
manifestation at the, very point when the Tibetan teachings
were arriving in the West and spreading through the world.
Khyentse Rinpoche stood out, along with His Holiness the
Dalai Lama, Dudjom Rinpoche, and the other great masters,
like, a beacon for the teachings of Buddha, for all the
Tibetan traditions and especially the ancient Nyingma
school. He became the beloved teacher of His Holiness the
Dalai Lama and countless lamas who are now teaching all over
the world. How fortunate we were that a master such as he
should have been with us for more than thirty years after
the fall of Tibet, and that he should teach in India,
Bhutan, Nepal, and the Himalayan regions, as well as in
Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America.=

Khyentse Rinpoche was a living example of the great
masters, a testimony and a role model for us today. He
served as a reference point, because we have not met buddhas
like the Buddha Shakyamuni or Guru Rinpoche masters like
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, or deities like Vajrakilaya.
Because, Khyentse Rinpoche was an enlightened being, to see
him was to imagine finally how an enlightened being could
be. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said’, “If Buddha
Shakyamuni were alive, he would look like Dilgo Khyentse
Rinpoche.” When you marvel at what the legendary masters
accomplished in the past, you can perceive in Khyentse
Rinpoche exactly how they did it. All the stories of the
great siddhas and saints and of their attainments: here was
the living proof. To see him was to get a real, tangible
idea of what Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and the other great
masters of the past were like. In a way, you ;could say that
Khyentse Rinpoche validated the lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
and rendered it unquestionably authentic.

Among all the great masters in exile, the special merit
of Khyentse Rin poche was that countless people actually
came to know him and had the extraordinary experience of
just seeing him and of being touched by his kindness and the
enthralling aura of his presence. Once he arrived at the
airport in Hong Kong, where he was met from the plane with a
wheelchair. Hundreds of people were waiting at the airport
for their relatives and friends to arrive. They were all
milling around and talking to one another, so there was
quite a din. But the moment the automatic doors of the
customs area parted and Khyentse Rinpoche appeared in the
arrivals lounge, everyone instantly rose to their feet,
although they had no idea who he was. They all fell silent
and stood there, in awe. He possessed that enchanting
charisma and magnetism.

Not only did Khyentse Rinpoche inspire devotion in us,
but he possessed unwavering devotion for his masters and the
masters of all the different lineages, including His
Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa, and
the other great lamas of the time. He was an impeccable
example of a Ri-me master, who continued the nonpartisan
lineage and work ofJamyang Khyentse Wangpo andJamgon
Kongtrul. Thanks to his continuous transmission of the
teachings-the oral transmissions, the empowerments, and the
instructions-Khyentse Rinpoche was instrumental in
safeguarding all the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. The sheer
number of transmissions which he sought out and of which he
was the holder made him like a vessel brimming with
teachings. Not only did he uphold these transmission
lineages, but he revitalized them, composing liturgies, for
example, or empowerments, commentaries, and supplementary
texts for the terma.cycles that were not complete, just as
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul had done. It is
thanks to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche that such lineages
flourish today, alive and unbroken. And it is thanks to his
blessing that the younger generation of incarnate lamas have
matured into the brilliant teachers that they already

Whenever I speak or think of him, I am filled with
gratitude, amazement, and devotion-gratitude that someone
like him came and showed us what he did; amazement that we
were so fortunate to have known him; devotion because just
to think of him is guru yoga, just to gaze at a photo of him
is to reawaken the view of the nature of the mind. For me
there was no one who, by simply being the way he was,
expressed the view of dzogchen as vividly as did Khyentse
Rinpoche. Through his very presence, he communicated the
essence, the spirit, and the truth of the Great Perfection.
Later in life he did not have to teach so much, because as
time went by, he increasingly became himself an introduction
to the nature of mind and to the heart of the teachings. One
of my students, a middle-aged lady, told me about an
incident in 1987, when Khyentse Rinpoche was coming to teach
at my center in London. She had gone to say good-bye to him
at the busiest terminal at Heathrow Airport, and while he
was sitting there waiting in his wheelchair, she noticed
that his shoelace had come undone. Without any second
thoughts, she knelt down to tie it up. As she touched his
feet, all her ordinary thoughts and perceptions suddenly
came to a standstill. For her it was an introduction to the
innermost nature of her mind. Just as she discovered,
Khyentse Rinpoche’s whole being communicated the perfection
of dzogchen, without any need for words. Primordial purity,
natural simplicity, spontaneous presence: he personified it

At this point in mylife now, of all mymasters, it is
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche that comes to me most vividly when I
think of the view of dzogchen, or when I practice guru yoga.
He was actually “liberation upon seeing, upon hearing, and
upon remembering.” For in a single moment, in a flash, his
presence was such that it communicated the absolute directly
and yet with a totally human relevance. In fact, what was
striking about him was his humanity: in one person, it
seemed, a Buddha and a perfect human being coexisted.
Khyentse Rinpoche was Great Perfection, completely
natural,.unfabricated-authenticity itself. Yet at the same
time, he was never beyond our reach. To see the sheer
perfection he embodied, while remaining only too aware of
our own limitateons, could have been disheartening. But with
Khyenfse Rinpoche, even though we realized we had so much
farther to go, somehow his grace and his blessing infused us
with hope and inspiration, as if he was implanting a
lit’tle’bit of himself in us, prompting us to aspire with
even greater enthusiasm toward what we were striving to

In some ways, I feel that if you really understand the
Dharma, the Vajrayana teachings and dzogchen or mahamudra,
just thinking of Khyentse Rinpoche is complete on its own as
a practice. He was the Great Perfection, because everything
was complete and perfect in him. As Khyentse Rinpoche once
said, “Out of his great skillful means and compassion, the
Buddha taught different aspects of the view through
metaphors. He taught the emptiness aspect of the view
through the example of the sky, the luminosity aspect with
the examples of the sun and moon, and the aspect of
pervasivenesss throughout samsara and nirvana by the example
of the sun’s rays and bears of moonlight.” Just as the
Buddha could only describe the absolute by using metaphors,
so we too can only portray Khyentse Rinpoche’s profound
simplicity and wisdom by likening him to the sky, the sun,
the moon, or an ocean or a mountain. You could speak for a
century and still not measure his qualities or express them
adequately, because they cannot be described in ordinary

Simply to be in Khyentse Rinpoche’s presence transformed
your mind, so much so that your whole perception and
experience of the environment changed. Things and events
appeared differently;’even circumstances began to change.
Around him, everything became heavenly, almost a paradise.
Wherever Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was became like the palace
of lotus light in Guru Rinpoche’s pure realm, the
Copper-Colored Mountain of glory.

What happens when we think of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche,
his achievements, and his life, is that it brings into our
small minds, just for a moment perhaps, the vastness of what
an enlightened mind can be. Unfortunately, the trouble with
us is that we are not able to think about the lama all the
time. Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche recalled that his master used
to say, `An old man like me-with nothing to think about
except the lama, with nothing to say except praying to him,
with nothing to keep up except nonaction-it seems I’ve
always been in this state. And nowhere I am: aimless,
carefree, spacious, and relaxed.” However, we are not able
to-have devotion all the time, and that is a sign of our
delusion. But whenever we are inspired, it cracks open our
ordinary way of seeing and perceiving. When we think of
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the feeling he evokes in us cuts
through the ordinary mind and reveals the innermost nature
of our mind, the ultimate nature of everything. As it says
in the guru-yoga practice, “recognize that the nature of
your mind, your own rigpa awareness, is the absolute lama.”
Thinking of the master, you are ushered into a different
space-the essential nature of your mind, your buddha nature.
And because it is the master who has revealed it to you and
made that connection, you feel such enormous gratitude. That
is why whenever you even mentioned the name of Shechen
Gyaltsap or Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro to Dilgo Khyentse
Rinpoche, his eyes would cloud with tears of gratitude and

The heart of guru yoga is blending your mind with the
wisdom mind of themaster. But how exactly do you mix your
mind with the master’s wisdom mind? In his inimitable way,
Orgyen Topgyal Rinpoche asked many lamas this question and
found that they each had a different answer. One day he
asked Khyentse Rinpoche, “How do you merge your mind with
the wisdom minis of the master?” Khyentse Rinpoche replied,
“It’s like this. It is whenever) through some circumstance
or another-it might be through prayer or.d~votion-a thought
of your master arises that captivates your mind, so much so
that you feel you are not apart from him for even an
instant. The moment that thought arises, if you leave it
right there and rest directly in its true; nature (which is
the nature of mind), without letting any other thought
intetrupt or distract you, then your mind is already merged
with your mdster’swisdom mind. There’s no need to make a
special effort to improve it, as that would only be
fabricated. Just remain in that state, without contriving in
any way, but simply recognizing that the lama’s mind and
your mind are one.

That is `merging your mind with the wisdom mind of the

14 a guru-yoga practice he composed at my request Dilgo
Khyentse Rih, – poche wrote:

That which accomplishes the great purity of


Is devotion, which is the radiance of rigpa…


Recognizing and remembering that my own rigpa is the


Through Through this, may your:-itiind and mine merge as


When devotion is aroused, all your ordinary thoughts and
emotions cease, laying bare the innermost’ nature of your
mind. If you think of the lama, or even just hear his name,
that feeling fills your mind, your ordinary being dissolves,
and you enter into his being. So simply to think of him is
to become one with him, in other words, one with all the
buddhas. You are infused with his blessing and transformed,
so that you begin almost to feel him within you. Thai moment
is when pure perception has conquered your mind. And that is
where you build your faith and your trust.

I Feel that the only way for us to arrive at
transcendence is by being uplifted like this through
devotion, so that we receive the master’s blessing. In fact,
when the Vajrayana is called the direct or swift path, I
sometimes think that this His what it must really mean.
Khyentse Rinpoche said, “Devotion is the essence of the
path, and ifwe have in mind nothing but the guru and feel
nothing but fervent devotion, whatever occurs is perceived
as his blessing. When all thoughts are imbued with devotion
to the guru, there is a natural confidence that this
devotion will take care of whatever may happen. All forms
are the guru, all sounds are prayer, and all gross and
subtle thoughts arise as devotion. Everything is
spontaneously liberated in the absolute nature, like knots
tied in the sky.”

Khyentse Rinpoche’s cremation tookplace in Bhutan on
November 4,1992. It was an intensely moving occasion, as all
his disciples were there. When the funeral pyre was finally
set ablaze, I was, at that very instant, consumed with a
sudden sense of the magnitude of our loss. That he was gone.
My heart sank. And yet in the next moment, it dawned on me
that Khyentse Rinpoche is not, and never will be, separate
from us. Dudjom Rinpoche’s words came back to me: “Since
pure awareness of nowness is the real buddha, in openness
and contentment we find the lama in our heart. When we
realize that this unending natural mind is the nature of the
master, there is no need for attached and grasping prayers
or artificial complaints. By simply relaxing into
uncontrived awareness, the free and open and natural state,
we obtain the blessing of aimless self-liberation of
whatever arises:” I realized, with greater poignancy and
conviction than ever before, that our master is alive within
us, and whatever arises is his blessing. Even though his
outer manifestation has dissolved into the nature of reality
his wisdom being lives on in the teachings he has given us.
Therefore it is up to us. If we can remember Khyentse
Rinpoche, if we can recollect and practice his.teachingsrhe
is never separate or apart from us, not even for a single
instant. Arid as soon as this thought passed through my
mind, my sadness was suffused with a feeling. of blessing
and confidence.

In the past, it sometimes happened that when”a great
master passed away, there was a lack of continuity in
securing the future of his work. However, what was wonderful
with Khyentse Rinpoche was that, through his blessing and
his foresight, he established that very continuity. Here, I
feel I must pay tribute to Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Khyentse
Rinpoche’s grandson, who is the living link in the
continuous transmission of his vision and his enlightened
activity. Khyentse Rinpoche brought him up with the greatest
care and affection, and Rabjam Rinpoche, through his deep
devotion and unique closeness to this great master, grew to
hold his whole lineage and continue his work. Through him,
Dilgo Khyentse’s aspirations are now all being fulfilled.
How inspiring it is as well to see the love, devotion, and
respect with which he is bringing up Khyentse Rinpoche’s
incarnation, Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche. To all appearances,
it looks as though Rabjam Rinpoche never once had the
feeling that Khyentse Rinpoche ever left, and he shows the
same delight and exhilaration when he sees his reincarnation
as he did when he saw Khyentse Rinpoche himself. j Khyentse
Rinpoche’s close disciples feel and know that Yangsi
Rinpoche is their beloved master, and when they are beside
him and he is out of the public gaze, he allows his
qualities to show in a remarkable way. He also bears an
uncanny physical resemblance to Khyentse Rinpoche. Not all
reincarnations demonstrate such a clear and close
association with their previous life. I hope and I pray that
Yangsi Rinpoche continues his enlightened activity without
any hindrance, and so unfolds a new chapter in the life of
Khyentse Rinpoche aid of this lineage, serving the Dharma
and bringing present happiness and ultimate bliss. to living
beings everywhere.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was blessed with many exceptional
disciples, all of whom maintain the spirit of his wisdom
mind and carry his work forward with single-minded
dedication. I think, for example, of the unwavering devotion
of Her Majesty the Queen Mother of Bhutan, and of Matthieu
Ricard and his phenomenal achievements. Let me offer a
heartfelt prayer for all of Khyentse Rinpoche’s disciples,
that they may continue his lineage and his enlightened

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Bhikshuni Jinba Palmo,
a devoted disciple of Khyentse Rinpoche andd many great
masters, for compiling his life story. Many people met Dilgo
Khyentse Rinpoche, and so there are numerous wonderful
testimonies about him. Each of its disciples, for example
his heart son Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse
Rinpoche, Rabjam Rinpoche, and Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, would
have their own rich, personal story to tell about him, each
one an entire biography. There must be hundreds olives of
Khyentse Rinpoche, so many emanations of him in the minds of
those who knew him.

Everyone who met him had a powerful experience, and just
to have seen him once, even for a moment, I believe, is to
have had sown in you a seed of liberation that nothing will
ever destroy and that will one day flower completely. If you
had such great good fortune, be sure to remember that
experience, treasure it, and keep it in your mind, because
it is the Khyentse Rinpoche within you. The memory itself is
his blessing. As he said:


Do not forget the lama; pray to him at all times.

Do not let the mind be distracted; watch your mind’s
essence. Do not forget death; persist in the Dharma.

Do not forget sentient beings; with compassion dedicate
your merit to them.

Even in the case of those who have never met Khyentse
Rinpoche, I have noticed that when we talk about his life,
it brings them a sense of his presence, and they too are
able to feel a real blessing. Because when you speak of the
master and remember him, the power, the blessing, and the
compassion of the lineage all come through. So I suggest you
read this extraordinary account of Khyentse Rinpoche’s life,
Brilliant Moon, along with the words of His Holiness the
Dalai Lama, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, and Rabjam Rinpoche,
and even these few thoughts that I have shared here, and let
what you read bring Khyentse Rinpoche into your mind and
heart. Imagine that you were actually meeting him, because
asthe Buddha said, “For all who think of him with faith, the
Buddha is there in front of them and will give them empower
Fnent and blessing.” Fill your heart with his presence, and
let his blessings pervade your mind.

May 2007

Lerabling, France




Foreword by Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche


MY FIRST PERCEPTION of Khyentse Rinpoche was that of a
wonderfully loving grandfather. In fact he was like my true
father and mother in one person. As I grew up, my perception
gradually transformed into deep respect and confidence and
finally into unchanging faith. Khyentse Rinpoche thus became
my spiritual master. When I started studying the scriptures,
I found in him all the qualities they described for an
authentic and realized master. After his death – the
strength of his presence, far from vanishing, became
increasingly all-pervading. I now realize how fortunate I
was to have met someone like him and spent twenty fears of
my life in his presence, as I lived with him since I was
five years old, until his passing away, when I was

,During that time I was very lucky to be present whenever
he gave teachings and to go wherever he traveled. I think
Khyentse Rinpoche was one of the finest examples of a
perfect spiritual teacher. He was in fact a master of
masters, and most of the twentieth-century Tibetan teachers
received teachings from him.

,His life was dedicated solely to helping others. If you
saw the extensive list of books he had printed, you would
have the impression that he spent his entire life publishing
books. If you consider the twenty-five volumes of his
writings, one of the biggest collections by a Tibetan master
in the last century, it seems like he did nothing but write.
In terms of practice, as he did more than twenty years of
retreat, it seems that most of his time was dedicated to
spiritual practice and that he did nothing else. As for the
; teachings he received, he had more than fifty different
teachers and re-; ce ved teachings from all the different
traditions in Tibetan Buddhism. Arid the teachings he gave
consisted of all the different vast collections of

teachings within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, such as
the Treasury of Spiritual Instructions and the Treasury of
Precious Termas.

When Tibet was lost, the teachings of all the lineages
were about to disappear, so Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche did his
utmost to preserve them by giving teachings whenever
possible. According to the needs of his students, he was
sometimes engaged in giving six or seven different minor
teachings in the breaks during a major set of teachings.
Directly and indirectly he built many temples and stupas in
Bhutan, Nepal, and India, and his life was spent preserving
the Buddhist teachings. These days, most of the young lamas
are directly or indirectly connected to Khyentse Rinpoche
because of the teachings they received through him or
because of the books he printed. He was not only concerned
about the Nyingma lineage; he also worried about other
traditions such as the Kagyu, Sakya, Geluk, and Jonang; he
was like the life force of the Tibetan Buddhist

Khyentse Rinpoche himself never called his teachers by
name but called them kadrinchen, meaning “kind one.” When I
asked him why, he said it was because they were so kind that
he didn’t want to say their names as they were the real
Buddha in person. Only in teachings he would mention the
names of his teachers.

During the twenty years I’spentwith Khyentse Rinpoche, I
never witnessed him become either very depressed or
extremely excited; his mood was always even. The second time
we went to Tibet, in 988, Rijipoche wanted to go to Shechen
Gyaltsap’s retreat house, so we carried him up there. He
wanted to sleep in the ruins of the house, so we put a tent
up there. It was then that he started to speak a little bit
about Gyaltsap Rinpoche and shed tears; that was the first
time I saw him cry in twenty years. Another time when
Khyentse Rinpoche was giving the Kalachakra empowerment in
Nepal, while remembering his teacher Khyentse Chokyi Lodro,
he also cried. Seeing him cry these two times really
affected my mind deeply.

After Rinpoche’s fall shortly before he passed away,
there was a blood clot on his knee that had to be removed,
but the doctors couldn’t give him anesthetics due to his age
and heart condition. I went into the operating room with
Khyentse Rinpoche; he was holding my hand and said, “Go
ahead; cut it.” So they started doing the operation without
anesthetic and took out the blood clot, cutting the knee
about three or four inches wide. I was amazed that
Rinpoche’s face. didn’t show any pain; he was just smiling
all the time. Rinpoche was so courageous, not crying in such
pain but shedding tears when he talked about his teachers.
When it came to his teachers, Rinpoche couldn’t utter their
names as he saw them as the true Buddha, but under the knife
he didn’t cry. How can we understand his outer, inner, and
secret qualities With our ordinary minds? All we can say
about him is related to his outer appearance; we cannot get
to the depth of his realization and inner qualities, as We
cannot conceive of them.

Wherever Khyentse Rinpoche sat, his outer presence was so
huge. Once in Nepal he was sitting in his room while a
mother with her child came to see him. As the mother was
doing prostrations, the child was looking at Khyentse
Rinpoche and said, “Mommy, mommy, look, what a giant man!”
The mother

was Lso embarrassed and tried to keep him quiet, but the
child kept shouting, “What a huge man!” Whenever you would
sit near him, you would feel his blessings so strongly that
you just wanted to dissolve into him.

Whenever Khyentse Rinpoche taught, his words never
contained any extra additions or duplications; it was as if
he was reading from a book. One special quality I found was
that you didn’t need to be a Nyingma follower to be his
student, unlike with most other teachers, where to be their
student one has to adopt their particular school.

Once I was traveling in Scotland in a car with Khyentse
Rinpoche and Akong Tulku. Akong Tulku was asking a lot-of
questions, and when he asked, “Who is the best student among
your students nowadays?” Rinpoche _said, “Sengtrak Tulku.”
After Khyentse Rinpoche passed away, even many years later I
still meet people that all have their own story about
Khyentse Rinpoche; he made them feel that they were the most
special. It would be impossible to collect all these amazing
stories and fit them in this book.


Khyentse Rinpoche always placed great emphasis on the
importance of mingling our mind with the Dharma and unifying
the practice with daily life. He used td say, “It is not
when things go well that you can judge a true practitioner.
When adverse circumstances arise, then you can clearly see
the shortcomings of someone’s practice:” He stressed upon
the need to blend one’s mind with the Dharma in meditation
and to carry the quality of the meditation’ into all of
one’s actions. He encouraged us constantly to check whether
we were becoming better human beings or not. Were we slowly
getting free of the obscuring emotions? Were we enjoying the
fulfillment of inner freedom and freedom from obscuring

He stressed that after years of practice, the measure of
our progress should be to gain a sense of inner peace and
become less vulnerable to outer circumstances. Inner freedom
and profound happiness is meant to be a result of Dharma
practice. This can only happen when negative emotions and
mental confusions disappear. He stressed that we would have
missed the point of our practice if our mental poisons
remained all-powerful, tormenting us constantly and causing
us to remain preoccupied with ourselves.

This biography attempts to convey, without any
exaggeration, who Khyentse Rinpoche was,. how he spent his
life, and what his day-to-day activities were, so that his
life may inspire others. These days, authentic teachers are
few, so when people read about Khyentse Rinpoche’s life they
may discover what the qualities of a great master are, and
this may help them find a truly authentic teacher.

Although we can’t meet Khyentse Rinpoche anymore, when
one reads his teachings and writings, one can experience the
profundity of his wisdom and compassion. Even those who have
not yet achieved enlightenment can still achieve and radiate
a kind of inner well-being, which is the sign of a good
practitioner. A practitioner with a weak practice can be
tense and difficult to be with. Such a practitioner
experiences many disturbing thoughts and problems without
being able to handle m. In contrast, a practitioner whose
practice is strong naturally becomes more open and
experiences inner freedom. Through the inspiring example of
Khyentse Rinpoche we can seize the chance to tread the path
of the bodhisattvas with„4oy, diligence, and
compassion, confident and full of enthusiasm.

May 2007

Paro Satsam Chorten, Bhutan






Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

H oWEVER SIMPLY I try to tell the story of Dilgo Khyentse
Rinpoche’s life, however understated my presentation of his
vast legacy, I already know that the current generation of
students will find it very hard to believe that just one
person could accomplish so much in a single lifetime. Yet
fantastic tales are an intrinsic part of the Buddhist
tradition, and the Mahayana sutras and tantric texts are
full of astonishing accounts of the hardship and
difficulties that great bodhisattvas of the past had to
overcome in order to receive teachings and to practice, as
well as descriptions of the vast number of activities great
masters engaged in during their lifetimes. Some of the more
recent examples are the great Ri-me masters Jamyang Khyentse
Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, who transformed and
revitalized Tibetan Buddhism in the nineteenth century. We
can only marvel at the immensity of their output. The amount
of texts they wrote alone is so numerous that it’s hard to
believe that they did anything else in their lives but
write; similarly, the list of teachings they received is so
long, one wonders how they could have done anything else;
and yet they also gave an incredible number of
teachings-more, one would have thought, than it’s possible
to give in one lifetime.

For many of us today such accounts seem dubious at best.
However, for someone like me, who has had the opportunity of
meeting a great being like Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche whose
activity was just as varied and as vast, it’s almost
possible to accept the idea that such prolific, selfless
beings could have existed in this world. Of course, we read
about the remarkable qualities of great masters all the
time; there are many books that describe the qualities of
highly realized masters, setting out in detail the “right”
way for them to live and to behave. For me, though, it would
have been impossible to believe that anyone could truly
embody so many virtuous qualities and do so much for others
if I hadn’t met Khyentse Rinpoche. He was the living proof.
Without his example, the life stories of the great masters
of the past would seem far less credible and much more like
ancient legends, like that of Hercules accomplishing his
twelve great labors in Greek mythology. (Nevertheless, I do
feel sympathy for skeptics and those who didn’t have the
good fortune to have met and spent time with Khyentse
Rinpoche, because even though I witnessed his activities
with my own eyes, when I think back, I too find many things
hard to believe, so it’s no wonder that those who weren’t
present have their doubts!)

I have to confess that I didn’t realize just how
remarkable Rinpoche was while he was alive, but only much
later when some of his other students and I started trying
to emulate his activities. It was then that we began to
realize just how hardworking, tireless, and determined he
had been, always looking for ways to benefit others and
hardly ever doing anything for himself. It seems improbable,
I know, but frankly I don’t remember Rinpoche ever taking a
day off. Of course there were quieter days, but rather than
catch up on his sleep or watch a movie, he would gather some
of his older students or students of his own masters around
him, and they would spend the time talking about their
teachers, recounting the important events of their lives and
sharing personal memories of them. This was Rinpoche’s idea
of fun, and for those who were fortunate and wise enough to
participate, even this recreational activity of his was
tremendously beneficial.

In these degenerate times, when skepticism is valued far
more highly than pure perception, many people reading this
will probably imagine that, because I’m one of Rinpoche’s
students and want to promote him, I am exaggerating his
extraordinary qualities and accomplishments. My fear is
quite the opposite: I’m worried that I’m understating them,
as there are neither enough words, nor is there enough time
adequately to be able to describe the full scope of his
achievements. I hope that eventually some of the more
visible handprints of this great man will become known more
widely, so that the world will have an opportunity to
appreciate him more fully in the futureperhaps in the same
way it rediscovered Leonardo da Vinci centuries after he

When Bhikshuni Jinba Palmo asked me to write an
introduction to the autobiography of Khyentse Rinpoche, on
the one hand I was overjoyed to have been considered worthy
of the task, while on the other hand I began my narrow view
of him as the father figure I longed for. Even today, as I
replay what memories I have of him and of the little things
he did, it breaks my heart to realize that at the time I
considered most of his activities to be quite ordinary,
never even suspecting their true purpose. I feel sad and a
little ashamed about it now and try to console myself with
the knowledge that although it’s a bit late, these days I
have a much better idea of how to interpret his activities
and realize more fully the extent of his greatness.

I must confess that to this day I don’t know if the
feeling I have for Rinpoche is real devotion or some sort of
attachment, because genuine devotion, as explained in the
tantras, is said to go way beyond ordinary concepts. I think
the best I can do is aspire to true devotion, and even this
ability of mine to aspire I attribute wholly to Rinpoche’s
influence, whose admiration and devotion for his masters was
such an affecting example.

Whenever I look at Khyentse Rinpoche’s writings about one
of his masters, whether he’s describinghim in poetry or
prose, I feel that I’m not reading a description of a person
at all, but instead am receiving a full and complete
introduction to the Buddha and Dharma on every level. It’s
as if he’s sweeping us, his readers, away on an
extraordinary journey into an entirely new dimension or
sphere of existence. I remember so vividly that every time
Khyentse Rinpoche even casually mentioned the name of one of
his masters, regardless of the circumstances, it was a cause
for celebration-the memory of each one was so moving for

There was one occasion in particular, when Khyentse
Rinpoche traveled into Eastern Tibet with a whole group of
us. After quite an arduous journey we reached Derge Gonchen
Monastery where thousands of people flocked to catch a
glimpse of Khyentse Rinpoche. At one point, a rowdylooking
young man approached him, holding what looked like a bundle
of filthy rags. So much was happening at the time that I
wasn’t paying attention as the young man fumbled to remove
the rags and reveal a statue of Manjushri while mumbling
something I didn’t quite catch. Tulku Pema Wangyal heard
him, though, and bent down to whisper into Khyentse
Rinpoche’s ear. Almost immediately I found myself gazing
intently at Khyentse Rinpoche, who, to my astonishment was
sobbing uncontrollably like a baby, as if his heart would
break. We were all amazed-we’d only rarely seen him cry
before-and each one of us experienced the same sense that
time itself stood still. Later, I found out what it was that
had moved Khyentse Rinpoche so deeply: the statue the young
man offered and that had survived the ravages



of the Cultural Revolution, had once belonged to Mipham
Rinpoche, one of his most beloved teachers.’

Everything Khyentse Rinpoche did was always directed by
the wishes of his masters or dedicated to the complete
fulfillment of their aspirations. In this day and age when
everyone strives to be an innovator and to produce something
that’s completely original, never even thinking of
acknowledging those from whom they have plagiarized their
ideas, Khyentse Rinpoche was unique: if anyone could have
created something completely new in this world, it was
Khyentse Rinpoche, and yet his entire life was dedicated to
the service of his masters.


If we put the spiritual path aside for a moment and look
at Khyentse Rinpoche from a very ordinary point of view, it
is still impossible not to admire him, because he had the
most easygoing nature of anyone I have ever met. Many lamas,
particularly the high lamas, tend to be rather stern and
otherworldly; you can’t imagine talking to them as you would
a close friend, let alone cracking the mildest of jokes in
their presence. Khyentse Rinpoche wasn’t like that at all;
he was very much of this world and never hesitated to offer
the warmest and most intimate friendship to everyone he met,
never allowing any unnecessary distance to come between

He was also a great leader, and just like a majestic
American Indian chief or a distinguished samurai general,
Khyentse Rir poche was never affected by chaotic or
difficult circumstances, however tumultuous they might be.
Instead, he always remained quite still, like a mountain,
effortlessly exuding an all-pervasive confidence that itself
evoked confidence in those around him, and an absolute,
unshakeable equanimity. Not once did we see the slightest
indication of him ever getting irritated, even when he was
repeatedly confronted with irate tattletales who never tired
of complaining about the behavior of one or another of the
monks and tulkus in the monastery. No matter what the
provocation, instead of scolding, Khyentse Rinpoche would
soothe and appease the situation with humor and the gentle
power of his presence. So much so that, although he wouldn’t
budge an inch to act on the complaints made to him, the
complainer would nevertheless leave him feeling happy and

One of the greatest challenges for any leader is that of
finding a way ofmaking all his proteges feel that they are
his favorite. To this day I’ve only met one person who
managed to do this really successfully, without being


obvious about it. It’s a problem I face on a daily basis
because I, too, have this label of being a “teacher,” but in
my experience, however hard I try, most of my students
complain that I neglect them or ignore them and that
basically I’m not giving them enough attention, With
Khyentse Rinpoche it was quite different. From the highest
ranked tulkus, to government ministers, to the n an who
swept the road outside the monastery, each one truly
believed that they had a special place in his heart. I can’t
even begin to fathom how he did it! Perhaps this kind of
ability develops when a master truly is what the Tibetans
describe as a “wish-fulfilling jewel’

There’s a very big difference between living for the
Dharma and using the Dharma in order to make a living, and
although my judgment is somewhat biased, it looks to me as
though most of the so-called spiritual guides operating in
the world today are doing the latter. From his earliest
childhood until he passed away Khyentse Rinpoche really
lived for the Dharma and never once used it to support or
enrich his own life, although it would have been quite easy
for him to do** so, After all, he was a spiritual giant with
all the authentic qualities of a great master, and in the
course of his life he had built up relationships with all
kinds of powerful spiritual and worldly people over whom he
could, if he chose, exercise a great deal of influence. He
could easily have sold himself very successfully in the
spirftual marketplace, and yet I can’t remember noticing the
slightest trace of that kind of thought ever occurring to
him. On the contrary, when ambitious students like myself
would suggest that Khyentse Rinpoche should teach a
particular person because I felt, for example, that he could
be of great help to a monastery, Khyentse Rinpoche wouldn’t
be remotely interested. Instead, he would start teaching
someone completely unknown, like an old nun from somewhere
without a name who had turned up on the doorstep that
morning, putting all his time and energy into her.

Many people pressed Khyentse Rinpoche strongly to accept
the position of Head of the Nyingma Lineage after Dudjom
Rinpoche passed away, and eventually he agreed. Looking
back, I’ve come to realize that his style of leadership
mirrors almost exactly the descriptions of distinguished
generals that can be found in many ancient Asian writings
about strategy and war. He didn’t, for example, feel the
need to snoop around in every single little detail about
what was going on-in fact, there were times I wondered if he
cared at all! He wasn’t like a blade of grass growing on a
mountain’s peak, bending in whichever direction the wind was
blowing. When you are so easily swayed, it may be
temporarily satisfying for one person, but at the same time,
as we say in Tibetan, you’re burning someone else’s nose.
Neither was he like a block of wood, not taking on
responsibility when necessary or being unaware of all that
was happening. He was much more like a fine, long silk scarf
tied to an enormous rock that’s deeply embedded in the
mountainside: whenever it was necessary, he would always
act, while remaining firmly rooted at all times.


It is quite rare to find a person who can honestly be
said to have a complete overview of a situation, be it
political, economic, or martial; the same is true of the
spiritual world, where it is extremely unusual to find
someone who

is genuinely concerned with the authentic presentation of
Shakyamuni and the Buddhadharma. In Tibet there are four
major schools of Buddhism, and each school fiercely
preserves and promotes its own traditions. Within each
school there are many individual lineages and, particularly
in more recent times, these lineages have been far more
committed to their own interests than to the interests of
Buddhism as a whole. Of course, students who protect their
lineage do it with the very best of intentions, immediately
seizing upon any potential threat and doing their level best
to tackle it. But, in the meantime, they often forget about
the bigger;ptcture, so that gradually an interest in
Buddhadharma drifts out of their minds altogether.
Unfortunately, members of all lineages seem to fall into the
same trap, and this is how sectarian attitudes grow and
become strong. On top of that, an interest in worldly life
inevitably starts to creep in, and when this happens, the
welfare of each individual monastery or institution will
almost always take precedence over the good of the lineage.
As a result, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that
Tibetans have virtually forgotten about Shakyamuni and his

The great Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtriil
Lodro lhaye, who were the visionaries of nonsectarianism,
saw this weakness and realized how important and how
necessary it is to uphold all schools and lineages within
Buddhism-the evidence of this can be found in their
writings. I think it’s safe to say that these two
exceptional masters made a contribution, either directly or
indirectly, to every one of the lineages that have survived
to the present day. Khyentse Rinpoche was, in my opinion,
the sole authentic holder of the Ri-me tradition that was
Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrdl Lodro Thaye’s
great legacy, and so far in my life, I’ve- not seen or heard
of any other master who genuinely upholds the Ri-me spirit
as completely as he did.

Khyentse Rinpoche would never settle for a halfhearted
respect for the Rime tradition, like those lamas who merely
decorated their walls with pictures of Ri-me masters; nor
did he use it as a politically correct posture to take in
order to promote himself. He genuinely cared about and
cherished every single Buddhist lineage, and it was far from
uncommon for his attendants unwittingly to upset Khyentse
Rinpoche with unfortunate news that would have an impact on
the Ri-me movement, like the loss of masters of various
lineages or disputes within a lineage.

One way to experience the full flavor of the genius of
the Ri-me masters is to read their Collected Works. If you
then compare them with Khyentse Rinpoche’s collected works,
you will see that they are all imbued with exactly the same
sense of veneration for the teachings of all lineages. This
kind of reverence is extremely rare, perhaps even
nonexistent, amongst the works of the vast majority of lamas
of the past and of the present. Far more often such works
include statements by lamas declaring that their lineage and
their work are the.greatest of all.

If there are so many bogus Ri-me masters around these
days, how can we tell whether or not a master is trruly
nonsectarian? Is there solid proof that will confirm
categorically that someone is a genuine Ri-me master? Of
course, it’s very difficult to judge whether or not someone
has the inner quality of Ri-me. The best we can do is look
for outer signs, which is itself a rather limited approach.
However I believe that there is one thing that says quite a
lot about a person, and that is the number of masters from
different lineages he or she has received teachings from.
Living, as we do, in a time when lamas and students feel the
need to protect each other as if they were jealous spouses,
masters who have received teachings from more than a hundred
gurus, like Khyentse Rinpoche’s predecessorJamyang Khyentse
Wangpo had, are scarce.

There are so many students today who think that it’s a
virtue to have the same kind of loyalty for their guru as
ordinary people have for the leader of a political party.
This kind of loyalty is really stupid, and their version of

devotion is, in fact, one-pointed prejudice! Khyentse
Rinpoche himself had more than fifty gurus, all from
different lineages, with whom he studied for a considerable
time to receive the most important teachings, and he felt
this experience had been so beneficial that he would insist
on sending his own students to receive teachings from a
variety of other masters, whether, we wanted to go or

Looking back at the times I spent with Khyentse Rinpoche,
I can still vividly see in my mind’s eye something that I
doubt I’ll ever see again in this life: the steady stream of
people from many different lineages and of all ranks, from
the highest to the lowest, who daily-sled through his room.
Of course, I’ve known many masters who are often visited by
followers of their own lineage, but never a master who was
visited so consistently by representatives from all
lineages. And what else would they come to see him about
apart fromm the Dharma? This proves to me that followers of
different lineages completely trusted Khyentse Rinpoche, and
in fact many of the great masters that we revere today were
his disciples, for example, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and
the late Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro who was both his guru
and his disciple.

The way Tibetan Buddhism is manifesting at the moment,
one of my fears is that what these great masters have done
for all lineages will be forgotten, because the memory of
their achievements is being threatened by the sheer force of
sectarianism. It’s not just the more materialistic younger
generation that harbors sectarian attitudes, even the older,
apparently more “wholesome” generation is riddled with such
attitudes. Sectarianism is one of the faults that this world
has never been able to rectify; even Tibetan lamas don’t
seem to have the ability to do ariytiil’ng about it, It’s
not a new problem, either. The history of Tibetan Buddhism
is packed with stories about its glorious past, along. with
a great deal about the lack of interest each lineage has had
in its rival’s welfare.

These days sectarianism is so strong that it’s not
unusual to hear even the most accomplished masters making a
mockery of the concept of Ri-me, as if it were some kind of
mealymouthed goodwill gesture that’s not at all achievable.
It’s as if Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Jamgon Kongtriil Lodro

and their work had already slipped out of this world and
into the realm of legend-until, for me at least, this great
master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche came into existence, whom I
witnessed with my own eyes as being the very embodiment of
both these great masters.

Khyentse Rinpoche’s interest in and concern for all
lineages of Tibetan Buddhism could almost be described as
fanatical. It was very rare to see him letting time ebb away
in any kind of pointless chattering. Most days, from early
morning until past midnight, he would be giving teachings,
editing teachings, or clarifying teachings, and
commissioning sacred books, paintings, and sculptures. He
was such an accomplished master that it would During the
times when Khyentse Rinpoche stayed in one place for a
longer period, there would almost always be some kind of a
teaching going on, and if not a teaching, then an intensive
practice like a drupchen. Some of those attending,
especially the younger rinpoches who were not mature enough
to care much whether or not they missed instructions on a
page or two of a vast text, would, from time to time, arrive
late or leave early. Khyentse Rinpoche always noticed and
after the session would quietly call for the young
rinpoches, point out to each one of them the page numbers of
the texts they’d missed and make sure that someone who had
already received the transmission would pass it on to them.
In this way, Khyentse Rinpoche would make what should have
been the young rinpoches concern his own.

I feel a little anxious that one of Khyentse Rinpoche’s
most remarkable~contributions to the Dharma may not be
recognized or acknowledged. While tnany of us derive
tremendous inspiration from his visible and obvious
activities, such as the teachings he gave and practices he
engaged in, there’s an altogether different dimension of his
work that’s not visible, but is, in fact, one of the
greatest of all buddha activities: Khyentse Rinpoche was a
terton, a treasure revealer, and during his life he revealed
many new treasure teachings specifically for the benefit of
beings like us. I cannot even begin to express how important
these teachings are, and contrary to popular belief, they
are not easy texts to produce.

Another aspect of his activity as a terton was that he
reinterpreted and clarified many of the treasure teachings
that had already been revealed by tertons of the past, but
that were difficult to understand or work with in the form
they were in. Khyentse Rinpoche simplified and thoroughly
explained these revelations so that they would be accessible
to today’s students-it’s as if he has prepared a delicious
meal and the only effort we now have to make is to eat.


,Even though making any kind of comparison is extremely
unwise, and from the spiritual point of view bordering on
the criminal, after having met Khyentse Rinpoche, I couldn’t
help but compare other lamas I knew with him-such is my
deluded habit-and most of the time, unfortunately, I would
find many faults. Spiritual masters are said to have a great
many different qualities, but three are considered
indispensable: to be learned, disciplined, and kind. The
outer quality, being learned, is the first and most obvious
of the three. Not only was Khyentse Rinpoche adorned with an
overwhelming abundance of knowledge about the sutras and
tantras, philosophy, general medicine and astrology, and
poetry-all as a result of decades of hard and diligent
study-but as described in the Mahasandhi texts over and over
again, the majority of Khyentse Rinpoche’s knowledge-the
most significant part-wasn’t the product of study, but the
consequence of the bursting out of his wisdom mind. In this
he was just like the great master Rigzin Jigmey Lingpa.

The inner quality of a spiritual master is discipline,
and it is venerated by the sublime beings as being even more
important than being learned. One of the main purposes of
discipline in Buddhism is as a skillful means for assisting
the discovery of inner truth, rather than yet another code
of conduct to be imposed. One of the big problems with codes
of conduct is that they tend to breed all kinds of
hypocrisy, as well as an unhealthy interest in imposing
discipline on others rather than oneself. Khyentse Rinpoche
was never one to make people who are not disciplined feel
bad about it, unlike many of the so-called pure monks whose
version of being disciplined makes everyone else feel guilty
Khyentse Rinpoche wasn’t like that at all, and on
innumerable occasions I saw him pacify a potentially
explosive situation by telling one of his often outrageous

Although he was a great tanitric vidyadhara and extremely
disciplined about keeping all his Bodhisattvayana and
Vajrayana vows, not only would Khyentse Rinpoche never
disregard the pratimdksha discipline himself, he always
impressed upon his students just how crucial it is to
respect the vows of the Shravakayana vehicle. He had the
utmost respect for the pratimoksha tradition, and countless
times I saw him raise his hands in the prostration mudra
when he caught sight of saffron-robed Theravadin monks,
saying things like, “How fortunate we are to still have the
banner of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Lion of the Shakya, Shakya
Senge.” Again and again he would emphasize that the Vinaya
is the very root of the Buddhadharma.

Khyentse Rinpoche was extremely disciplined, and this
quality was perhaps most apparent during his private moments
when almost no one would be there to witness it. Whenever’
he would practice, be it his daily prayers, a puja, or
during one of his many retreats, he would always groom
himself immaculately and wear his finest clothes. During
drupchens he wouldn’t hesitate to adorn himself in the most
exquisite brocades and a large variety of sacred hats that
were appropriate to the practice. It was quite a different
story, though, when VIPs came to visit him; he appeared to
make no effort what soever with his personal appearance,
often receiving kings and queens barechested; wearing
nothing more than a lower robe that looked very much like a
Victorian petticoat! Dressing up for Khyentse Rinpoche had
nothing at all to do with putting on a show for others; it
was how he would create for himself the perfect atmosphere
in which to practice and receive blessings. To me, this is
one of many examples of Khyentse Rinpoche’s discipline
without hypocrisy, where the sole purpose of discipline was
not to impress people, but to create an atmosphere of

Even in stressful circumstances, like trying to organize
a particular ritual in an out-of-the-way part of Tibet where
certain offering substances weren’t available, or when ten
thousand people turned up out of the blue for blessirigs, he
would never take shortcuts to make life easier for.himself
but would insist on doing exactlywhat was required without
making a single concession to the situation he found himself
in. At the same time he was not obsessed by the rules and
regulations of ritual, and when it was necessary, I’ve even
seen him use an apple as a ritual substance with absolute

Understandably, the majority of students.. are impressed
by gurus who are disciplined and knowledgeable, and tend to
be rather less interested in seeking a master just because
he is kind. After all, ljifidness isn’t as readily
apparent-and anyway most people have their own definition of
what constitutes kindness. And yet this third, secret
quality of a spiritual master, kindness, although far less
available or sought after than the other-qualities, is both
supreme and absolutely indispensable. If a master is very
learned and disciplined but not kind, he’s a waste of space
on this earth. However even if he is not learned or
well-disciplined but is kind, he will make absolutely sure
that you get everything you need ultimately to attain
enlightenment and make your life spiritually fruitful;
therefore you can trust him completely. He may lack detailed
knowledge and may also be a little temperamental, but as he
has dedicated his life to Dharma and is sincerely concerned
for your well-being, you are in safe hands. In Khyentse
Rinpoche’s case, it would be impossible even to begin to
relate the apparently limitless examples of kindness that I
have both personally experienced and witnessed.

I must point out that the kindness we’re talking about
here is beyond our ordinary way of thinking, no doubt
because our concept of kindness is relative. Beings like us
consider someone to be kind when they fulfill our wishes and
cater to our whims, to the extent of not giving us what we
really need just to keep us happy. As much as Khyentse
Rinpoche would always encourage people, using all kinds of
skillful means to guide them onto a spiritual path and away
from a path that promotes wrong views, he would also be
absolutely uncompromising and firm with practitioners to
ensure they didn’t make any mistakes in their practice. In
essence, one way or another, directly or indirectly,
Khyentse Rinpoche would always steer everyone who came to
him toward the practice of the Dharma.

The great Rigzin Jikmey Lingpa wrote in his famous prayer
of aspiration, Entering the City of Omniscience:

Whatever my situation or circumstance, may I never feel
the slightest

wish to follow worldly ways which run contrary to the
Dharma! Even if, while under the sway of karma and habitual
patterns, a

mistaken thought occurs to me, may it never succeed!


For me, this prayer of aspiration describes exactly the
kind of courage Khyeritse Rinpoche-who was, after all, the
incarnation of Rigzin Jikmey Lingpa-showed by never doing
anything that involved giving in to conventional
expectations, however compassionate such actions might have
appeared by ordinary standards. F.Qr`a deluded being like
myself, this tenacious reverence of Khyentse Rinpoche’s for
the Dharma and his refusal to concede to conventional
expectations if it meant veering from this kind of
aspiration is an attitude I can personally identify with.
This very courage of not giving in to other people’s
expectations is, in itself, true kindness; giving in and
doing what is expected of you is not kind at all.

Never once in all the time I spent with Khyentse Rinpoche
did I see him turn away a single student without having
fulfilled their requests and wishes. As Khyentse Rinpoche
got older, many of those in his entourage, for the very best
reasons, would try to limit the number of visitors he saw
each day. It never really worked though because if Khyentse
Rinpoche found out that there were people waiting outside to
see him-and he always did-he’d simply go out to greet them.
Days before he passed away in Bhutan-I’ll never forget it-a
group of devotees from Hong Kong requested from Khyentse
Rinpoche an Arya Tara initiation. By then he appeared to be
very sick and could hardly talk, nevertheless he didn’t
refuse them. In fact he made all the preparations necessary
for the empowerment and in spite of everything had

every intention of giving it.

I think in Buddhism we face two kinds of challenge, one
easier to overcome than the other, First, there is the
challenge of understanding the vastness and depth of
Buddhist philosophy, which is very difficult but doable. By
studying hard, reading a lot, and hearing the philosophical
arguments again and again, it is possible to eventually gain
a good understanding. The second is a far bigger challenge:
to fully appreciate the simplicity aspect of Buddhism.
Unlike understanding, this is extremely difficult to achieve
because it’s too easy. To accomplish the first challenge,.
we can use our rational mind and logic, but when we approach
the second, we find that logic and rational thinking are
almost powerless to help us. We may know theoretically what
we should be doing, but because it’s so simple, try as we
might, we just can’t do it. On a gross level, it is like
knowing that smoking is bad for one’s health, but when it
comes to actually throwing away the cigarettes, which is the
logical, comm onsense thing to do, being unable to because
the habit of smoking is so deeply ingrained. ‘

The great Sakya Pandita said that in order to make a fire
you need a magnifying glass, the sun’s rays, and some
kindling, and if even one of these elements is missing, you
will not succeed. Like e, the only way really to tackle this
second challenge-and it’s also the easiestway- is by
receiving blessings from the guru. What better way
to–invoke the guru’s blessing than by remembering him. And
what better way to remember him than by reading h

February 2007

Bir, India