This is respectfully addressed to all spiritual aspirants,
Whether our teacher is famous or high profile or not should not matter in our trust, belief and loyalty towards our teacher. Whatever our teacher disseminates to us should have a lineage and since it has brought benefit to others in the past for hundreds of years, why doubt?
Teachings must have a lineage and if our teacher has explained the lineage to us and we have accepted it, then go all the way with it without further doubts. In this case, more people or less people following a teacher does not make the teacher more or less genuine. Many great masters are obscure and choose that on purpose. What makes the teachings alive and potent is our trust, devotion and loyalty in our teacher coupled with transforming our minds. When we lose faith or criticize our teacher, we criticize his lineage, his teacher, his students and his sincerity because everyone is intertwined. When we criticize and leave our teacher, no matter how many new teachers we meet and take teachings from, there will be no results according to Vajradhara. This advice is very important. We must face that truth and overcome our anger, egos and wrong views. If we genuinely have a problem with our teacher that cannot be overcome, speak to the teacher, share and explain and if it doesn’t work, ask permission to go to another teacher. Even when we have gone to another teacher, we should never criticize or attempt to damage the teacher we had left. Why? Because that teacher did impart Dharma to us. We should speak respectfully of our past teachers and remember their kindness. He did spend time, show love and shower us with gifts and perhaps our karmas are different. We cannot scorn everyone who doesn’t match our projections. Don’t forget this ever. Being grateful is a necessary component of higher attainments, hence we recall our teachers and lineage lamas in all higher practices (sadhanas) of any tantric deities daily. We recite the liturgies of invoking on our teacher’s and lineage teachers’ blessings daily in our meditations and sadhanas. The reason is to develop a sense of being grateful and taking nothing for granted. Therefore we should not criticize even our lineage lamas or listen to the criticism of them by others. To have doubts in our lineage lamas or criticize them or agree with criticism in any way also impairs the ability to gain attainments in any of the higher tantric practices. The practices such as Yamantaka, Kalachakra, Gyalwa Gyatso, Cittimani Tara, Vajrayogini, Heruka, Guhyasamaja and Hevajra all have daily invocational liturgies to our root and lineage lamas. These are recited daily and their blessings are invoked upon daily.
Trijang Rinpoche with his close disciples and students Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa. It’s a very warm and loving picture which I’ve always enjoyed seeing and wanted to share.
For example, within the Gelugpa lineage lamas, we have Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, etc. Every single day, within our major meditational practices, we recite their names daily and invoke upon them to bless us to have success in our practices. It seems it has become something of a political correctness for some ignorant people to criticize these great lamas and say they have mistaken views, wrong practices and have led their students wrongly. We see this more and more. So for a Gelugpa practitioner where we have to do Yamantaka, Guhyasamaja and Heruka practices daily, in each of these we have to invoke upon these three lineage gurus. So how is it that in our meditations everyday we view them as enlightened beings and invoke upon their blessings, and then we turn around and hear certain people criticizing and belittling them? How do we come to terms with this? By ignoring what other people say because they speak from ignorance, lack of understanding and lack of respect for whom we have chosen as our teachers? No one should disrespect our choice and our teachers because it is religious freedom. It is also religious freedom to criticize but what benefit does it bring us and them to criticize our lineage lamas? I have personally heard with my own ears people criticizing His Holiness the previous Panchen Rinpoche and destroying his pictures, and calling him a traitor 20 years ago. I have heard people criticize the 16th Karmapa as headstrong, not a scholar and basically just gave a lot of initiations, an opinion which I did not agree with. I have also come across people who heavily criticize Dudjom Rinpoche, Penor Rinpoche and some of the Sakya patriarchs of the past. They have many disciples and students who see them as attained beings and/or living Buddhas. For their students, these lamas are attained beings and living Buddhas, and they derive beneficial blessings to gain benefits from their practice.
They invoke upon their blessings daily as part of their tantric meditations. So, shall I believe the detractors against these lamas or the ones who see them as highly realized beings? Of course it would benefit me and them to see them as highly realized beings. In samsara, the pleasure of one can be the scorn of another. What is precious to another can be poison to others. We can compliment or criticize and it is our freedom of speech and religion to do so, but let’s not carry this freedom too far by hurting the sentiments of the followers of these great masters. To me, Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche, Penor Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, 16th Karmapa, etc. are all highly realized beings and are lineage holders and have brought the holy Dharma to millions of people. I have even heard many people criticize even the Dalai Lama. That is their prerogative but I choose not to because I do not wish to hurt the sentiments of many millions of his followers. I choose to see the Dalai Lama as doing the best he can, with lots of pressure, problems and heavy responsibilities. So my world view of things is to just let these lamas be and let their disciples be, and let everyone practice what their lama teaches with full freedom and no criticisms. That has always been my view. I am both liked and loathed for my views, but those are my views.
His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, who dedicated his life to the spread of Buddhadharma and the pure lineage of Guru Rinpoche, has seared a very deep impression in my mind as he has always been equal and kind to every being who has come to seek his assistance.
In Tibetan Buddhism, we are not allowed to criticize the teachers from whom we have received teachings, and their personal practices. By doing so we create a infraction of our spiritual bond with our teachers which creates obstacles to gaining higher insight. We may have a few teachers who have opposing views to an issue, and that puts us in a difficult situation. There is a Tibetan saying that goes, “If I stand up, I hit my head. If I sit down, I hit my backside. I can neither stand nor sit.” That is likened to having a few teachers and all of them having differing views about a certain practice, lineage or deity. So what is a student to do? Everybody has their own methods. If I agree with one of my teachers and disagree with another, I commit a spiritual infraction. If I disagree with another teacher who has an opposing view to one of my other teachers, again I have committed a spiritual infraction. This puts me in a difficult situation because either way, I have committed an infraction. For example, if one of my teachers tells me to practice Tsongkhapa and says that this is the best and most supreme practice, yet another one of my teachers tells me that actually it is Guru Rinpoche whom I should focus on…Teacher A says Tsongkhapa’s blessings are quicker and more efficacious for beings of this time while the other teacher says the exact same thing about Guru Rinpoche. I go to one teacher and all he talks about is Tsongkhapa, and my other equally important teacher says the same about Guru Rinpoche? So if I practice one over the other, I have committed an infraction with one of my teachers. What is a student to do?
Guru-guru besar seperti Geshe Kelsang Gyatso dan Geshe Konshok, di foto ini bersama Yang Mulia Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. Mereka menerima ajaran dan transmisi dari Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. Aku sangat menyukai foto ini.
Jadi banyak jutaan orang diluar sana yang mengatakan Guru Rinpoche adalah yang terbaik, dan itu semua melalui media sosial (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) lalu ada jutaan murid yang mengatakan hal yang sama tentang Tsongkhapa dan disebarkan melalui media sosial. Mana yang lebih baik ? Sebaliknya, aku terperangkap pada keadaan yang sulit. Mana guru yang benar ? Mana yang salah ? Sebaliknya aku melakukan pelanggaran. Ada jutaan pendukung untuk kedua praktek. Haruskah aku mendengarkan guru yang lebih terkenal, duduk di tahta yang lebih tinggi, memiliki lebih banyak murid, lebih makmur ? Apakah faktor-faktor diatas membuat seorang guru lebih berkualitas dibanding guru lainnya yang tidak memenuhi salah satu atau semua faktor diatas ? Apakah dengan memiliki banyak pengikut berarti lebih dapat diandalkan ? Apa kriteria untuk mengetahui guru yang mana yang dapat saya dengarkan ? Banyak pengikut dan murid berada pada situasi yang sulit, penuh politis dan kebingungan. Sangat mudah bila anda memiliki hubungan spiritual hanya dengan satu guru dan tidak ada yang lainnya namun tetap tidak berhak untuk mengkritik praktek, bakti dan hubungan spiritual guru dan murid yang lain. Tidak baik untuk mengatakan semua itu karena tidak akan pernah berakhir, dan tidak berujung. Aku tak peduli bagimana seorang Rimey atau non-sekte berpendapat mengenai ini karena sampai kita menghapus ketamakan yang halus dari ‘aku’ sebelum berada pada tingkatan antara bodhisattva tingkat 10 hingga pencerahan penuh, kita akan selalu masih memiliki sikap berat sebelah. Dengan kata lain, hingga kita menjadi seorang Buddha yang tercerahkan penuh, kita akan selalu memiliki sikap berat sebelah, baik kita menyadarinya atau tidak. Dari pilihan sarapan kitam pakaian yang kita pakai, gaya rambut yang dipilih, pasangan, biara yang kita pilih, mobil, ranjang, semua orang dapat memperdebatkan mana ranjang terbaik, sarapan atau pakaian dan tidak ada akhirnya. Dan setiap argumen akan terdengar lebih baik seiring waktu namun pada akhirnya, aku memilih guruku, guru-guru silsilah, praktek, Buddha dan takdirku. Jadi tidak satupun dari anda dapat mengkritik atau ‘menasehati’ aku. Aku akan tidur dengan keputusan yang kuambil. Oleh karena itu nasehat baikmu, yang mungkin dimotivasi oleh welas asih dan cinta, tidak diperlukan, diterima atau diinginkan.
Aku sangat beruntung Zong Rinpoche sangat dekat denganku. Setiap ada kesempatan, beliau selalu memegang tanganku dan kita akan berjalan bersama. Anak lelaki langsing yang anda lihat adalah aku bersama dengan Zong Rinpoche.
Berikut beberapa pilihan solusi dari kesimpulan yang aku temukan setelah berbicara dengan banyak guru, untuk mengatasi dilema ini :
1. Di sisi guru sendiri harus melakukan praktek, menceminkan dan bertingkah laku dari rasa welah asih yang besar, kebijaksanaan, dan cara yang unggul tanpa pernah mengkritik guru, praktek, Buddha, silsilah dan tradisi yang lainnnya. Guru itu sendiri harus menghindari membuat kebingungan pada yang lain karena apapun yang telah orang praktekkan selama ratusan tahun pasti memiliki silsilah. Jadi guru sendiri harus menghindari membuat perbandingan tentang mana yang baik atau buruk, dan membandingkan ajaran. Dengan guru lainnya harus menghindari cekcok, debat, menjelekkan praktek apapun dari guru apapun. Tentunya, kita membutuhkan pemimpin Buddhis, Paus, sebuah kewibawaan tetapi kewibawaan seharusnya jangan pernah melukai sentimen jutaan orang untuk motivasiu baik ataupun buruk, karena bisa merusak dan menciptakan perpecahan luar biasa yang tidak perlu. Aku berpikir murid-murid tidak bersalah dan terperdaya oleh guru-guru yang mereka jumpai dan mereka telah didoktrin tentang suatu kepercayaan. Kita boleh berpikir setiap guru di luar sana memiliki kesalahan dan karenanya berbuat salah, atau setiap guru di luar sana adalah sempurna dan tanpa kesalahan. Atau, murid-murid berada dalam masalah. Atau, murid-murid akan mengalami kebingungan. Atau, murid-murid akan mengalami nasib buruk. Semua gurtu harus menunjukkan welas asih yang luas, menghormarti dan sedikit rencana untuk murid-murid mereka sehingga mereka tidak dimanfaatkan untuk kepentingan politis dan dipaksa untuk membuat pilihan atau label, dan menunjuk baik dan buruk pada guru dan silsilah lain. Murid-murid datang kepada guru berharap menyembuhkan diri mereka dari penderitaan yang mereka ciptakan sendiri, bukan menambah masalah dan kesulitan dan kebingungan dimana samsara mereka bertambah bukannya berkurang. Semua guru harus menghormati murid-murid dengan tidak membuat kebingungan melalui sikap tidak mengkritik guru lain, praktek, silsilah dan pelindung lain. Ini sangat penting untuk saat ini. Aku berpikir daripada mengatakan murid-murid harus memiliki welas asih, mengembangkan dan melatihnya, ini saatnya para guru bertindak welas asih. Dan aku mengatakan ini untuk semua guru dengan hormat dan rendah hati karena aku hanya orang biasa yang berenang di dalam lautan samsara yang dalam dan gelap.
Sepanjang waktu dan sejarah, selalu ada banyak makhluk-makhluk agung yang bertindak welas asih demi seluruh makhluk, bahkan memberikan hidup mereka untuk sebuah sebab yang lebih besar dan manfaat untuk kemanusiaan.
2. Solusi kedua dariku yang muncul dari pikiranku adalah ketika anda memiliki dua guru yang mengajarkanmu pandangan dan praktek yang ‘bertentangan’, patuhi nasehat guru pertama dan ikuti tanpa berpikir negative tentang guru kedua, jika itu dapat anda lakukan. Beberapa penjelasan diperlukan. Sebagai contoh, jika guru pertama anda menyuruhmu untuk melakukan praktek Tsongkhapa dan beliau meninggal, dan guru kedua menganjurkan anda untuk melakukan Guru Rinpoche sebagai praktek utama anda, sejak guru pertama anda telah meninggal dan anda tidak dapat meninggalkan prakteknya, maka anda harus mengatakannya pada guru kedua bila anda tidak mendapat izin untuk menghentikan praktek dan anda harus berada dalam status quo. Guru kedua harusnya tidak boleh mengesampingkan instruksi dari guru pertama untuk murid ini, karena akan membuat kebingungan. Dalam kasus yang aku temui, ratusan orang datang padaku selama bertahun-tahun dan mereka mengatakan guru mereka menginstruksikan mereka untuk melakukan praktek Nechung, Vajrakilaya, Tara, ekajati, Manjushri, Guru Rinpoche, Tsongkhapa, dan lainnya. Apakah aku boleh memberitahu mereka jika ini praktek terbaik untuk mereka atau tidak ? Pengecualian dalam kondisi sulit, aku selalu mengatakan bahwa praktek apapun yang mereka lakukan adalah lebih dari cukup, dan aku tidak ingin mengubah atau menambahkannya karena pada akhirnya itulah kebenarannya. Aku tidak ingin membuat mereka bingung, ataupun tidak hormat terharap kepercayaan pada guru mereka, dan aku tidak ingin untuk menunjukkan sikap tidak hormat pada guru mereka. Jadi apabila seseorang ingin menghentikan praktek yang diberikan untuk mereka oleh guru, mereka harus menerima izin dari guru yang memberikan mereka instruksi karena tak ada guru yang mempunyai kuasa untuk mengesampingkan guru pertama, jika anda sungguh-sungguh ingin mentaati aturan. Memilih seorang Guru Dharma bagaikan memesan menu a la carte, bukan buffet. Apapun menu yang telah anda pilih, makan dan bersukacitalah dengan pilihanmu dan berhenti melihat buffet yang memiliki banyak pilihan. Sebagai contoh, bagiku, guru akarku adalah Yang Mulia Kyabje Zong Rinpoche dan beliau memberikan sekumpulan praktek untukku, hidupku dan pencerahanku. Aku sudah melakukannya dengan rajin selama 25 tahun terakhir. Tiba-tiba, ada orang-orang dan Lama dan murid-murid yang mengatakan Zong Rinpoche salah. Baiklah, Zong Rinpoche sudah wafat sehingga aku tidak dapat pergi dan meminta izin padanya dan berkata, “Bolehkah aku berhenti mempraktekkan ini dan itu ?” Lama baru tidak bisa mengesampingkan Zong Rinpoche. Jika aku menghentikan praktek apapun yang diberikan padaku oleh Zong Rinpoche, Aku membutuhkan izin Zong Rinpoche dan tidak ada Lama baru atau lainnya yang dapat menggantikan kata-katanya. Ini berlaku untuk semuanya dalam semua praktek, dengan Lama apapun dalam situasi apapun. Bahkan inkarnasi saat ini dari Zong Rinpoche tidak dapat menggantikan instruksi-instruksi dari kelahiran masa lalunya untuk murid terdahulunya. Jika kita memulai aturan dimana seorang guru dapat mengesampingkan guru lainnya, maka memungkinkan bagi guru yang melakukan itu, dikesampingkan pula oleh guru yang lainnya di masa yang akan datang, dan tak akan berakhir. Itu hanya akan memicu kebingungan parah, keraguan dan bahkan kekecewaan. Pada dasarnya, praktek apapun yang diberikan oleh gurumu dengan sepenuh hatinya, lakukan dan bersukacitalah dalam ajaran Guru. Apakah aku harus mengamuk semasa hidupku, mengatakan semua praktisi sihir adalah buruk dan mereka harus menyerah, dan merekan masuk nberaka ? Tidak, aku tidak akan melakukannya. Gurumu bukanlah musuhmu, gurumu mengajarkanmu Dharma dan karmamu tak mampu menopangnya. Karma, ego, dan kemarahanmu adalah musuh utamamu, bukan gurumu. Kita tidak boleh menghindar saat tanda-tanda awal masalah atau keraguan muncul. Dalam hidup, kita bisa menghadapi masalah dengan orangtua, pasangan, partner, saudara, bawahan dan anak-anak, jadi mengapa tidak dengan guru kita ? Guru kita bukan ‘satu-satunya’ orang yang bermasalah dengan kita. Mengapa kita meninggalkan guru kita dan mengatasi masalah dengan yang lainnya ? Mungkin karena kita tidak menghargai kontribusi penting yang guru berikan kepada kita ? Atau kita ingin menyalahkan guru kita karena menunjukkan kebenaran dalam diri kita yang tidak ingin kita hadapi, namun menyalahkan guru kita karena telah mengekspos ? Bersikaplah adil pada setiap orang dalam hidup dan pekerjaan melalui perbedaan dan jangan selektif. Bagaimana anda ‘membuang’ orang lain menggambarkan bagaimana anda berpikir mengenai mereka dan ini akan kembali ‘menghantui’ anda dalam aspek lain hidup anda di kemudian hari. Sikap buruk akan muncul lagi dan lagi jika tidak diobati dan disembuhkan. Siapapun yang melindungi kita saat ini, tidak akan selalu ada dan kita harus menghadapinya sendiri suatu hari nanti. Tidak bisa dihindari. Bagaimanapun juga, kita bisa lari dari orang lain, namun kita tidak bisa lari dari penyebab masalah yang kita buat, yang ada dalam diri kita. Ini adalah kasus yang ekstrim, namun pada umumnya kita harus mengatasi keraguan dan masalah dengan guru kita dan tetap setia. Ini baik untuk batin kita, untuk latihan kita dan baik untuk hasil kita. Konsistensi adalah komposisi utama yang penting untuk kesuksesan spiritual kita
One of my teachers, the great Kagyupa master Drigung Rinpoche.
If the new teacher we go to has criticism for our previous teacher, practice or lineage, then there is something wrong or there are political motivations. No teacher need criticize another teacher no matter who they are. In this day and age, no teacher no matter how famous or just, he may be should ever criticize another person’s practice, teacher, lineage or faith. Democratic governments throughout the civilized world even allow the practices of once despised forms of spirituality such as witchcraft, voodoo, et al. Therefore no teacher or spiritual leader has the right to denigrate another’s path ever because once you start, where do you draw the line? No forms of ostracism, prejudice, bias or segregation should arise from differing religious practices either. Because this will be the seed to dissent, disharmony and hatred.
That our teacher teaches us something useful and we are devoted and diligent, and then suddenly another teacher of fame and name preaches otherwise and we have doubts in our teacher, is not good. It shows who we really are, and not our teacher, because we are swayed easily. No matter how famous another teacher may be, your teacher still imparted the holy Dharma to you and you should be grateful always. Higher thrones does not mean better than a humble teacher on a low cushion. Spirituality and the level of knowledge of a teacher is not reflected by rank, thrones, fame or how many students he has. I know of a few very qualified teachers who did not have many students at all and some students even left them and scorned them, to my shock! If we had issues with our teacher, we should be humble, swallow the ego and apologize. Remaining or moving on is up to us, but don’t damage or attempt to damage a teacher as the karmic consequences are heavy, not to mention you hurt the other students as well and that does not make you a better person at all.
Numbers do not determine the effectiveness or so-called purity of a certain path or faith, as many of the world’s religions today started with humble numbers which in time increased numerically. Therefore a minority or majority should not be the deciding factor that a particular path or faith should be allowed. In the past, just to name lightly some examples how one faith had attempted to decimate the other:
1. The settlers of Australia did their utmost best for hundreds of years to eliminate and convert the masses of Aborigines, and destroy their rich cultural heritage and indigenous religion. Their religion was deemed barbaric, backwards and evil. As a result, many of the Aborigines now have to slowly and painfully reconnect with what was destroyed in the process of being forced into a true ‘God’.
2. In 15th, 16th and 17th century Europe, the witch hunts condoned and authorized by the papacy or so-called ‘true Church’ condemned, hunted, segregated and punished those would-be adherents to the pre-Christian religions of Europe. The Church systematically outlawed, penalized, punished and confiscated all properties of those who would not adhere to their so-called ‘true Church’. Those who still resisted, denied or refused were severely tortured to death, drowned, crushed or simply burnt alive. This was done in the name of God, purity and what was deemed as the authentic method to heaven. Who would allow this type of atrocity today? But 500 years ago, it was considered holy and God’s work.
3. When settlers from Europe came to North America, what happened in Aboriginal Australia occurred here again. The Native Americans were belittled, humiliated and forced to convert from their native religions. Their native religions were considered primitive, barbaric and the work of the Devil so the missionaries had a field day waving Bibles as the ultimate authority, whilst conveniently robbing the Natives of North America of their culture, way of life and desecrating their religion. In a show of total disrespect to people who believed otherwise to the religion of the settlers, the US still prints on their currency ‘In God We Trust’.
A sign in Jackson, Mississippi, taken on 25th May 1961. Thankfully signs like these and the attitude behind them no longer exist or are existing less and less. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
4. When the invaders from Spain landed in Central and South America, they had no intention to respect the religions, culture and peoples of these great lands. The ‘true Church’ forcibly destroyed edifices, priests, writings and rituals of their religions, took their wealth and insulted their culture (calling them ‘inferior barbarians’). To add final insult to the injury, they decimated the native population with unheard-of European diseases. The religions of the beautiful and advanced Central and South American peoples were systematically berated, outlawed and destroyed. Sacred temples were flattened and Christian churches built in its place. Fortunately, many of the Central and South American countries now have allowed religious freedom within their Constitutions which protect and allow the pre-Christian religions to be practiced. Hence these days there is a resurgence, with pride and dignity, of the once ancient religions. No one is going to say again that their religions are barbaric or devil’s practice unless they themselves are uneducated barbarians.
The witch hunts were carried out in the name of God and purity. Ironically, the people who persecuted those who did not fit with the majority had themselves escaped persecution in Europe for their religious practices.
5. The Puritans and Quakers had a most difficult time fitting within the parameters of the English Church. They were considered extreme, false and those who strayed from the true doctrine. Their religion in England had to go underground and when it became impossible for them to practice, they were forced to immigrate to the then-New World (America). In America, for some time after they arrived, they were free to practice their religions. However as 13 new colonies started to gain wealth, lands and a unified regional government, then although they had left Europe for freedom of religion, they in turn initiated witch hunts themselves. Those who were not in agreement with their doctrine or did not attend Church, or practiced the old arts such as divination, herbology and healing were considered witches. Massive fear, prejudice, confiscation of property and segregation, leading to punishment by death (through methods such as burning, crushing and drowning) reemerged. Because the Church was practiced by the majority and those who were not active in the Church were a minority, naturally the majority instituted witch hunts against the minority in order to restore the ‘purity’ of the Church. Those who strayed from the Church were said to have been meeting, cooperating and signing deals with the Devil. Therefore the majority did not allow freedom of any religions that strayed from what they believed in as the ‘true Church’. Ironically, they persecuted within their own communities what they were persecuted of when they left Europe. These are dangerous trends we must learn from in history so that it does not repeat itself in modern times.
Countless number of women, especially older women, lost their lives during the witch hunts. Falsely accused and persecuted for their beliefs, they were drowned, crushed and even burnt at the stake.
6. For thousands of years, the rich culture heritage and profound religion of the Jews have been repeatedly persecuted and serious attempts at annihilation were allowed. The Jewish people in their long history in many countries were minorities. Their religion was seen as deviant, false and not a path that led to God. As a consequence, their synagogues, and places and symbols of worship have been blatantly destroyed and those who refused to convert or assimilate were gassed, beaten, tortured and even killed. The perseverance and resilience of the Jewish people have allowed for their religion to survive and benefit their communities throughout the world. However, there was a time even as recently as half a century ago when their religion was persecuted and considered false. This should never happen again.
Throughout history, minority religious practices have suffered persecution at the hands of the majority who felt these views and practices did not fit in with their doctrines. Instead of practicing acceptance to encourage harmony, they sought to assimilate or annihilate the native populations.
7. The British invaders who controlled India from 1858 to 1947 humiliated the populous and tried to force their European ways upon India. They made it blasphemous and sacrilegious for the inhabitants of the subcontinent to have any dignity in their race, religion and vastly rich culture. The British used India and exploited her and her people. In the process, they unsuccessfully did their best to convert the Hindu population, calling them heathens, barbarians and idol worshippers. What right did the English have to call another people or nation barbaric, and demote their form of worship to simply idol worshipping? They did not respect (although there were exceptions) the religions and practices of something that lasted over 5000 years. Without studying, practicing and understanding the profound path of peace, tolerance and compassion that are hallmarks of Hinduism, the British openly and unabashedly discouraged the practice of Hinduism. Luckily, the resilience and the profound faith that the people of India had in their religion helped them to overcome the active prejudices of their colonizers. Today, no one in their right mind will call Hinduism ‘barbaric’ or a path that leads to hell. Hinduism is one of the major religions practiced by 1.1 billion adherents who consider it a valid path to divinity.
Thanks to slavery and the systematic decimation of African religion and culture, most African Americans today have lost touch with their African roots and heritage.
8. The vast, diverse and rich continent of Africa holds tens of thousands of various tribes of people. Individually and collectively, they have their own way of life, language, culture and religion. When these innocent people were tricked and forcibly ferried across the Atlantic to become slaves in America, any trace that linked them to their ancient heritage of Africa was systematically obliterated. As a result, African Americans today do not have their ancestral religion, their cultural identity, their names, their language and for many, they don’t even know where in Africa their ancestors originated from. They were forcibly removed of their rich identities and forcibly made to adapt to European cultures and religion. There were however pockets of resistance and underground continuation of their faiths which in modern day is labelled as voodoo. When we say voodoo, there are many methods, branches and forms of worship. It is rich and diverse and to the ignorant beholder, it may seem evil or even perhaps harmful. As in every and any religion, there are ones who practice with good motivations and with ulterior motivations. Who are we to judge? Yet voodooism is constitutionally protected in North America, the Caribbeans, Central and South America, and Africa. No one, no body of government or no religious hate groups may deconstitutionalize the rights of the adherents of this religion. They have the full freedom to practice and live their lives according to their religion.
Throughout history, many suppressed people have given up their lives standing up for the right and their freedom to practice and express themselves.
These are but just a few examples of how, in history, a group of people, through ignorance, fear, hatred and/or greed coupled with prejudice can bring tremendous harm to another group of people in the name of religion. In today’s free world, whether your religious practice is 1% or 90% of the population, you should have full freedom to practice as and when and where and how you like. No religious leaders or adherents should ever criticize another religion lest it snowballs into something big and damaging as we have seen in history. Whether a person chooses a religion or remains atheist is their inalienable birthright. They should not be coerced, forced or denigrated into a religion or another religion. Any religious leader, secular leader or teacher should never criticize another’s religion, faith or practice as inferior. No one should belittle another person’s faith or religion and call it ‘spirit worship’. When we call another person’s religion ‘spirit worship’, inferior or wrong, we possibly hurt the sentiments of a long history and the pride and place of a people. This will not create the causes for peace, democracy, freedom nor harmony. RELIGIONS AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS SHOULD ALWAYS CREATE HARMONY WITHIN THEIR OWN COMMUNITIES AND OF EVERYONE THEY MEET. Once we start on the road of ‘this religion is good’ and ‘that religion is bad’, then it will fester and grow into something bigger that ultimately becomes harmful to the peace and the ever-growing, over-populated little planet we all must share. Religious leaders have tremendous power and influence as they are considered the moral and ethical conscience of a culture. So therefore their powers should not be abused or used wrongly. Whether a person chooses their path to awakenness using voodoo, Native American religions, witchcraft or Buddhism, is their choice. We may respectfully debate and share but not degrade and convert. We all need peace, happiness and cohesiveness in order to survive with each other on our small planet. Our survival depends on peace, and religion can play a large part in this, and that lies in the hands of religious teachers.
Unity and harmony are the keys to our survival on the small planet we share.
Do you not enjoy freedom of religion? Would you like to be banned from schools, segregated from your people, disallowed to enter businesses and separated from family because what you practice is considered bad by another group? We can argue until Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu destroy, recreate and preserve the universe one hundred times over and we will never win the argument of who is right and wrong. The fact of the matter is this – we all should be treated equally and there should never be rules and regulations against us as people or citizens based on our religious beliefs. Whether our religious beliefs are accepted or considered accurate interpretations, we are still people underneath. We all need food, love, compassion and deserve inalienable birthrights such as freedom of choice. No leader, whether secular or religious, should ever be allowed to take that away from us.
The Civil Rights Movement put an end to signs like these. Prevailing prejudices must be changed because at the end of the day, all of us are humans who want the same things – love, respect and harmony.
In conclusion, I most humbly and respectfully request all spiritual teachers of all traditions, leaders and their subordinates to never demonize another person’s faith, belief system or deity. Each individual has a God and that God can be a Creator or the God Within. But leave it to the individual to decide. I will see who I want and associate with any group I wish, any time I like and no one has the right to tell me otherwise. And if they have the right to tell me otherwise, I have the right to tell them back, they are wrong. For ecumenical debates, there will never be a beginning, an end or a middle. It is a convoluted alpha and omega, and I don’t want to get into these debates or be condemned based on them. Let’s make it simple – I have a guru, a lineage, a practice and a goal and I am going to stick with it until the end of my time. No one in the east, the west, the north or the south, on a big throne or standing next to the throne, with or without power, will influence me otherwise. And if you continue to speak and write on and on about how I am going to hell, I am on the wrong path, I am not listening to the correct authorities, you will end up creating your own little hells in your own little minds because I am happy with what I have, I am a pretty good person with my faults, and ultimately I am fortunate enough to be reincarnated into a country and civilization that agrees with my thoughts. So no one’s criticisms, doubts and anyone living in the free world can say otherwise unless your body is in the free world and your mind is not, or your mind is stuck in 16th century Europe.
A great Mongolian lama, Sokpu Guru Deva Rinpoche, who is the teacher of my mother and father, and who helped me very much in my early years in Gaden. He has been a great patron and sponsor of Gaden, Sera, Drepung and Tashilhunpo Monasteries, as well as a very devoted disciple of Trijang Rinpoche. I will never forget his kindness to me, and all the help he has bestowed upon me which is too numerous to mention here.
One of my benefactors, Sokpu Guru Deva (on the left) was very close to His Holiness Panchen Rinpoche (right).
One of my favourite pictures with their Holinesses the Panchen Lama (left) and Dalai Lama (right).
Another very beautiful photo I thought I’d share. This was taken when the incomparable Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche purposely went to have audience with His Holiness the Panchen Lama. Two enlightened beings in one picture.
His Holiness the great Panchen Lama who really held the Tibetan people together within Tibet, with his infinite wisdom, compassion, skilful means and bodhisattva actions of taking on so much harm on behalf of the dharma growing.
His Holiness the great 13th Dalai Lama who offered help and assistance to my mother’s family when they left their home country to Lhasa during the Cultural Revolution. I have great respect and appreciation for His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama who helped my family.
Another favourite picture of mine of His Holiness the Great All-Knowing 13th Dalai Lama with whom my family had a close connection.
His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, another great being whom I have admired and heard many criticisms about. But it has never affected my deep respect for him.
A very touching picture of Kyabje Zong Rinpoche doing last rites for the ailing Lama Yeshe who was a devoted disciple.
Lama Yeshe showing deep reverence to his root guru His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. Guru devotion of this level will result in high attainments.
I really wanted to share this incredible picture of the Tibetologist Alexandra David-Neel outside of her retreat cave in Tibet. She’s one of the first non-Tibetans who penetrated Tibet to engage in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism.
One of my revered teachers, His Holiness Kyabje Dagom Dorjechang who was a devoted disciple of both Trijang and Ling Rinpoche, inclusive of Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. This master was a gentle and pure monk, who had mastered the sutras and tantras, and used his life to impart Buddha’s teachings to all those who came to him. Being in his presence used to bring tears to my eyes as I knew I was in the presence of someone highly attained.
This is the grand oracle of Gaden Monastery when I first arrived in 1988. I was fortunate enough to watch this man who was trained by Trijang Rinpoche, take full trance of the Dharma Protector Setrap and various other protectors. He was a friend of mine but at the same time, I respected him very much for his oracular ability. For while in trance, he was able to give prophetic advice about our futures that later proved totally accurate.
I like this picture as it is Nechung in trance, of the Dalai Lama’s personal oracle in Dharamsala.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to and in close communion with the Nechung protector in full trance. I’ve had this picture on my altar for many years in Gaden.
My close and good friend the grand oracle of Gaden Shartse Monastery, in whom many great protectors entered his body to speak. Besides that, he was a warm, down-to-earth and direct person and in my early years when I did not have a lot of financial assistance, he would often send food to me when I was hungry. I will forever remember his kindness to me.
I like this picture very much as Lhakpa Dondrub was the personal oracular medium of Domo Geshe Rinpoche. I was fortunate enough to stay in his house and get to know him better before he passed away many years ago. I liked him very much because he was extremely devoted to his teacher, his practice and his lineage.
I love this photo of His Eminence Kyabje Domo Geshe Rinpoche. He was considered an emanation of Tsongkhapa by the 13th Dalai Lama. He had displayed miraculous powers and skilfully benefited many beings with his immaculate clairvoyance. His healing pills were sought after throughout Tibet and he was reputed to have the yetis of Tibet be his messengers and guard his cave entrance.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1951 in Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s Monastery in Tibet. The Dalai Lama at that time enjoyed his stay in Domo Geshe Monastery, and also consulted the oracle while he was there.
The current incarnation of Domo Geshe together with His Holiness Kyabje Yongyal Dorjechang.
This is one of my personal thangkas which I thought I would share here. It is a picture of Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen who was one of the eight main disciples of Lama Tsongkhapa. Upper left is his root guru Tsongkhapa. Upper right is his main meditational deity Yamantaka. Lower left is his personal Dharma Protector 4-Faced Mahakala. Lower right is one of his main disciples, which is the earlier incarnation of Panchen Lama, aka Khedrup Rinpoche.
Another one of my favourite holy photos of His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and his two disciples Geshe Lhundrub Sopa of Wisconsin and Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen of Los Angeles.
Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen who was one of my teachers, with myself in Dharamsala. We were attending the teachings of the Dalai Lama.
The incomparable Geshe Tendar who was an incumbent of Gaden Shartse Monastery where I belonged. I have never received teachings from him but I know he was a great master of sutra and tantra, and geshes of his calibre are hard to make these days.
Another great master of Gaden Jangtse Monastery, His Eminence Geshe Tsultrim who is a very humble monk of the highest calibre. Another master of both sutra and tantra who has hundreds of students in Gaden Monastery and now in Switzerland. Someone whose purity of vows is renowned in the Gelugpa world. He generously taught students six days a week for morning to evening, tirelessly pointing out the philosophical tenets of Buddha. Due to this master’s kindness, many in the monastery were able to complete their studies and achieve the Geshe Lharampa degree. Yet this master never sought any fame or gain from all this dedication.
Geshe Rabten, the teacher who created scholars. He was meditating in a simple hut in the north Indian mountains of Dharamsala, when the Dalai Lama summoned him to go and teach in the West. Because of his brilliance and mastery of the Buddhist teachings, he was able to bring Buddhism to many Westerners. His disciples include Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa, Gonsar Rinpoche and many others.
Geshe Rabten (right) together with His Holiness the Dalai Lama (centre) at his centre in Switzerland. They were very close during the life of Geshe Rabten. I do like this picture very much.
Geshe Rabten with his root teacher His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. Here he is respectfully assisting his teacher. I find this picture warm, poignant, powerful and incredibly moving. A great master serving his own great master. Geshe Rabten was devoted to Trijang Rinpoche until the end of his life.
Geshe Rabten receiving advice and teachings from his root guru Trijang Rinpoche.
In 1987, myself requesting His Holiness the Dalai Lama to become ordained as a monk. I have always liked this picture and His Holiness the Dalai Lama showed me great warmth and immediately agreed to ordain me.
The Dalai Lama in Gaden Shartse Monastery consecrating the new shrine dedicated to the Protector Setrap.
This is my favourite picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama where I see a light aura surrounding his body and head.
On the roof of one of the buildings of Gaden Shartse Monastery, the tulkus of Phukhang Khamtsen House in Gaden. Left to right, Gyampa Rinpoche, Tsem Rinpoche, Gyal Khangtse Rinpoche, Kensur Rinpoche Jetsun Jampa Yeshe, Kensur Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Kari Khentrul Rinpoche and Trinley Rinpoche.
I had the great honour to have His Holiness the Supreme Spiritual Head of the Mongolian Buddhists in Mongolia, Khutughtu Khalkha Jetsun Dampa (seated), visit my house. Left is my cousin the Spiritual Head of the Kalymk Republic in Russia, Telo Rinpoche and me. This was on the occasion that Khalka Jetsun Dampa visited my house.
I am seated next to His Holiness Kensur Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, the great master, teacher and secret yogi of Gaden Shartse Monastery. He was the one who instructed me to go to Malaysia and bring the Dharma there.
My mentor and teacher, His Eminence Kensur Rinpoche of Gaden Shartse Monastery, and myself.
My favourite photo of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. The first time I had the fortune to lay eyes on Trijang Rinpoche in this lifetime was this photo many moons ago in Howell, New Jersey.
Another one of my thangkas I thought I’d share here. Centre is the great master Panchen Sonam Drakpa who is also the author of the books we use to become a geshe in Gaden Shartse and Drepung Loseling monasteries. Upper left is Panchen Sonam Drakpa’s root guru the 1st Dalai Lama. His main practice, indicated on the upper right, is the tantric deity Guhyasamaja. Lower left is his main protector 4-Faced Mahakala and on the lower right is his close disciple, the 3rd Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso.
This picture is rare and exceptionally beautiful. His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche wearing the special hat of Panchen Sonam Drakpa.
One of my favourite photos. His Holiness the Dalai Lama with his root teachers of 30 years, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche.
Myself in the 1980s having audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
This is my personal statue of His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche. Pabongka Rinpoche’s household themselves gave me this statue, for which I was so overwhelmed and honoured.
His Holiness the current Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche who spends his time in long-term deep retreats in Tibet and Nepal.
This is my personal statue of His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche which I have in my room.
One of my favourite pictures of two Buddhas having lunch together. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche (right) was not only a devoted disciple but also a close friend to the incomparable Heruka Trijang Rinpoche (left).
Here they are again, returned in full perfect form, having lunch together.
Left to right, the current incarnation of His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, His Holiness the head of the Gelugpa school of Buddhism Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal and Kensur Rinpoche Jetsun Jampa Yeshe.
In Gaden Shartse Prayer Hall. Left to right, His Holiness the head of the Gelug seat of Buddhism the 101st Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal, the current Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Tsem Rinpoche.
Myself paying homage to the current incarnation of Zong Rinpoche.
This is my first teacher His Eminence Kensur Rinpoche Jetsun Lobsang Tharchin in Howell, New Jersey. I received my refuge vows, teachings on logic and my first higher tantric empowerments from this great master. He lived only 10 minutes away from me in Howell, New Jersey and he himself was a close and devoted disciple of both Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche.
Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche with heartson disciples Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche. Highly qualified masters produce highly qualified disciples.
Another ordinary being aka myself attending an event.
This song by Cher really moves me and encapsulate my feelings:
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