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Apr 03
Dharma Teachings, Sakyong and Family
Lineage as the Direct Antidote for Now

This twentieth Parinirvana Day Message from the Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham, was read to all Shambhala centres in 2007.

Shambhala Archives. Photographer Unknown.

Shambhala Archives. Photographer Unknown.

One of my early memories is of a young man walking toward me down a village road in India. He was about twenty-eight years old, handsome, beaming, and dignified, wearing Tibetan robes and carrying a camera. This was my father, Chokyi Gyatso. It was 1968, a pivotal year in his life. He had just finished his Western studies in England and was headed to Bhutan, where he was to have a profound spiritual experience, coming face-to-face with Padmasambhava. He would later move to America and become one of the key figures in transplanting buddhadharma to the Western world, sowing the seeds for a multitude of activities and institutions. In this process, he ensured the continuity of his lineage, his family, and all that he held dear, touching the minds and opening the hearts of even the hardest and wildest of beings.

Now we are celebrating the twenty years since Chokyi Gyatso’s passing. Even though his physical body has long since left this world, for me, his spiritual presence is always here. I can occasionally feel his touch as if we’re holding hands, his gaze as if he’s looking into my eyes, his laughter as though we’ve just shared a joke, and even the warmth of his breath. On this particular occasion, I feel more than ever his embodiment in the three times. He is, in fact, here in the present, now more than ever. Even though many people who are listening now have never met him, he somehow has seeped into their inspiration. And yet my father lived some time ago. In the last twenty years, so much has happened—things that would have saddened him and things that would have made him proud. Most of his students were still fairly young at his passing. To see them mature, delight would definitely cross his face, for their growth represents the continuity and flourishing of his aspirations, which have brought us to the present. Twenty years on, his family and his lineage continue. The community that he inspired continues to practice the Buddha’s teachings on all levels: the ground of the dharma—revulsion of samsara; the heart of the mahayana—bodhichitta, love and compassion for all beings, and prajna in the form of emptiness of self and phenomena; as well as the continuity of tantra— purity and equality manifesting as sacred world.

It would bring a smile to my father’s face to see that we continue to discover the depths of the profound Shambhala teachings, a terma revealed to him by a vision of Shiwa Okar and the Rigden. Teachings are always a direct response to the suffering of beings and the degree to which they have strayed from their basic goodness, thus hiding their buddhanature. These magnificent and heroic warrior teachings received by my father manifest as the four karmas: pacifying, enriching, magnetizing, and destroying. They are split open by the sword of the Rigden, thus eradicating ignorance, doubt, fear, and denial. They reveal Ashe, the innermost magic of all beings, immune to time and concept.

This profound and vast array of teachings is the rainbow light that emanates in all directions from the heart of Chokyi Gyatso, my guru Sakyong. Since the time of my father’s passing, the world has continued on its collision course with materialism and rudra. Therefore, it is imperative that we see these teachings not as something presented long ago by the Buddha or Padmasambhava or even Chokyi Gyatso, but rather that we regard them as the direct antidote for everything that is occurring right now. For that is how my father lived his life and wanted us to live ours. If we follow the command of the guru, we walk the bodhisattva-warrior path, knowing it to be a direct way to enlightenment. We do not daydream and fantasize about a more expedient way; rather, we enjoy the long and intricate journey by folding dharma thoroughly into our days. We do not wish we were somewhere else at any time, because we are happy to be present for every interesting, confusing, painful, and inspiring moment of our lives. Missing these moments would be missing the point of the guru’s instruction, and thus missing the point of the entire dharma. It is in the present, where we live now, that we are nailed to this moment by the vision of the teacher, his message, and our mind. In this immovable and claustrophobic experience, freedom and liberation arise.

One of the biggest inspirations for myself is my father’s bodhisattvic generosity and exertion. In a world completely absorbed by “me”—my life, my career, my practice, my pleasures—he was truly iconoclastic. If someone were terrified to meet him, it was because he had totally obliterated that self absorption, dedicating his being to the dharma and to others. For the sake of the future, he totally forsook the momentary and illusory pleasures of this life. We all know that he thoroughly enjoyed life; from afar, his activity could even be misconstrued as indulging in a pedestrian level of pleasure. But as His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said, he was in fact a mahasiddha—a greatly accomplished being—meaning that he could take any ordinary activity and use it for its dharmic potential, like extracting oil from a sesame seed. No aspect of life was too small for him to squeeze. As students, we do not take his activity as our path; rather, we take his instruction as our path. For veering off the right path onto the wrong path can happen in a split second. If our decisions are fueled by ego, we are instantly on the wrong path without knowing it, and every action takes us further and further away from the genuine instruction.

The Vidyadhara, or awareness-holder—not a title that is conferred, but a level of practice that is attained—taught us everything, from how to be a hermit to how to take our seat as a universal monarch. Shambhala—the society and culture that he encouraged and expounded—is a community in which both monastics and monarchs are welcome, a country where people practice the vast array of dharma in every aspect of life. Such dedication to society is one element that separates the Vidyadhara from a great many other lineage teachers. He encouraged us to follow him in his vision and to build on it, instead of simplyidolizing him or his personality. He often said it wasn’t him we were following, but the lineage and its blessing, for the benefit of the vast array of beings. So the community we have now—monastics, yogis, and householders, both Westerners and Easterners, all practicing this message—would no doubt bring tremendous joy to my father’s heart and a smile to his sunlike face.

In some sense, it seems like we are still just beginning. In this pivotal generation of practitioners, we see lineage and continuity manifesting before our eyes. From the Surmang valleys, we have the Surmang Kagyu; from Guru Rinpoche, we have Dzogchen, the ancient lineage of Nyingma; from Gesar, we have the windhorse lineage of Shambhala. All these streams are blessed by the Buddha. This brings us to the future: I have taken it upon myself and have been commanded to ensure that these teachings, society, and blessings extend to the vast sea of unseen beings who await them. They are meant not for a few, but for the whole world, to which they can be of benefit in so many ways: their applicability, diversity, simplicity, and profundity.

It is said that the greatness of a teacher can be judged by the conduct of his or her students: by how they handle their emotions, their ability to be genuinely loving beings, the degree to which their minds have turned to the dharma, the importance of the spiritual path in their lives, and how far out of their way they go to avoid harming other beings. Do they suppress pride, foster gentleness, meditate daily, pay tribute to the three jewels, recollect the virtues of the Buddha, and remember the pitfalls of samsara? Are they able to extract themselves from passion and desire for fame, power, and money? Can they refrain from exaggerating their spiritual accomplishments, rely on patience instead of a quick fix, be brave, not succumb to fear, and never separate relative and absolute truth?

Needless to say, we can hardly call ourselves ideal students, but at the very least, we can strive not to embarrass our own teacher. And as we move forward in time, we could have childlike glee about what wonderful things are in store for us, for if we apply ourselves to true dharma, our potential is limitless. Now it is up to us to hike up our chubas, tighten our meditation belts, mount our windhorse, and ride forward into the future with wonderment, for it is full of possibilities.

As we celebrate, reminisce, and speculate about Chokyi Gyatso, we are not just remembering an ordinary being, but rather, reflecting on an individual who through courage and love has changed the world. Time and space is different for some of us because of him. Please join me, my wife Khandro Tseyang, my family, and my sangha as we celebrate and reflect on this very precious day. How fortunate we are to have received the blessings of Chokyi Gyatso.

Written while celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the parinirvana of Rigzen Chokyi Gyatso at the sacred place of Guru Rinpoche, Pharping, Nepal, where Guru Rinpoche manifested as the Vajrakilaya. 3 April 2007.

Copyright 2007 Mipham J. Mukpo. For information write [email protected]

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