Picture of Traleg Rinpoche, a Diaspora Tibetan recently repatriated to occupied Tibet, back to the very same Thrangu monastery he fled as a child
“Embrace the suck, mate.”
So says Jigme.
“You are in our thoughts.”
Filed under Buddhism
Tagged as Chicago, Karma Kagyu, Karmapa, Tibetan Buddhism
I’m not convinced the new Tulku is a reincarnation of Traleg. I’m not Tibetan, so hopefully, his students practice what Traleg taught them and forget about the Tulku system.
Great teachers arrive on their own merit. Great beings or tulkus are not always great teachers.
I guess best case scenario for students of a teacher who has passed and whose tulku has been recognized is to wait about 30 years until the teacher has been educated again and has trained in meditation and sadhana a bit. But still, how many teachers of Tibetan Buddhism are great at 30?
As I see it in the 21st century, we students of recently passed old masters face three situations:
1.) Our teacher is born in the West or in China as a Westerner or a Chinese person. See Gesar Mukpo’s movie “Tulku” to see how that turns out.
2.) Our teacher is born as a Tibetan (or ethnically Tibetan Nepali, Sikkimese, etc.) born in India or Nepal. If you’ve spent any time in a Tibetan monastery in India or Nepal, you know that the situation is getting worse and worse. Tibetans aren’t leaving Tibet for India or Nepal anymore, and the number of trained Tibetans living in monasteries in India and Nepal is also dwindling as the monks there get old and die or disrobe. Their monasteries are now faced with filling empty beds and they are filling them for the most part with Himalayan orphans who are there for the room and board more than the dharma. It is hard to hear pure Tibetan in any of these monasteries, so it is equally hard for the students their to understand the texts they are studying. Of trained monks still in the monasteries of India and Nepal, many are more dedicated to their iPhones than the dharma.
3.) Our teacher is born is born in Tibet. The cultural stigma of a Tibetan monk disrobing and quitting monkshood in Tibet is still significant, the distractions are few—iPhones haven’t penetrated the monasteries yet and the cultural is still respectful toward monks, so there aren’t many temptations to disrobe. Eastern Kham and Amdo aren’t even considered by the Chinese to have ever been part of Tibet, so Tibetans there seem to have more religious freedom. Just take a look at Serta Monastery, perhaps the largest monastery in the history of Tibet: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/10145659/The-hillside-homes-of-Tibetan-Buddhists-in-Larung-Gar.html This is where the Trungpa Tulku, among many young well-trained tulkus and khenpos trained. It was founded by Khenpo Jigme Puntsok. Now it is run by Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro Rinpoche, whom Tibetans in Tibet are said to respect almost as much as the Dalai Lama, except that Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro isn’t a tulku and became a rinpoche through his qualities (much like Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche). Many smaller monasteries in Eastern Tibetan are now flourishing as well, and many monks in Indian monasteries such as Sherab Ling and Dzongsar, wish they were studying at the refurbished Palpung and Dzongsar Monasteries in Tibet where the victory banner of the dharma has been raised high again.
So of the three options, the third choice may seem like the worst to the casual observer, but times have changed in Tibet. The opportunities for education and retreat are better than they’ve been in a long time and there are far fewer distractions in Tibet than in the West or China. So I see the Traleg tulku (a true reincarnation or not) like an investment in a bank account. Let him practice and study in Tibet for 30 years and when he comes back he’ll be well trained and will will teach his students well. At that point he can learn about Western culture and disrobe if he wants, but he’ll have a strong basis in the dharma and well-prepared to teach the students of his predecessor. It’s always sad when great teacher dies, but I think that having him returned to Thrangu Monastery in Tibet is the best possible situation for Traleg Rinpoche to preserve and propagate the dharma in the future. When a teacher dies, it’s always going to be a long wait until his successor has been trained, so why not do our practice and wait for the Traleg tulku to be trained? It may take him awhile to understand Western culture as well as Traleg Rinpoche did, but if the tulku is the real reincarnation of Traleg Rinpoche, he should learn it even faster than Traleg Rinpoche did. And a teacher being born in Tibet doesn’t mean that that teacher will only benefit Tibetans, but it does mean that he’ll get the best education and practice retreat opportunities available.
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