Friday, September 10, 2010

Personal Account of Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche

The kids are napping and I finally have a few minutes to myself. Having to write something like that shows how different life is right now than it was 10 1/2 years ago when my I was knocking back Tong-ba with my friend Barche at the Double Dorje in Boudha. We got to talking about Ngakpas and he invited me back to Pharping (Yang-le-shod) with him to a little compound called Tsogyal Ge Phel Jong in order to meet Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche.

Though Kunzang Dorje was not famous in the west like other Lamas have become, he was a true Ngakpa and one of the greatest living Yogis of our age. A master of Tummo and Tsa-Lung as well as Phurba and Charnel Ground practice.

What I didn't know is that the day I arrived for a visit, was the day before a three-day Kilaya Puja. He took my arrival there as a sign that I should stay on for the ritual. I was loaned a Ngakpa Zen and with Barche, joined in on the first really complete Kilaya puja that contained the full medlei section. Barche left the country soon after but was kind enough to give me his Ngakpa Zen which Rinpoche gave me the blessing to wear when I did Puja. I stayed on and moved into Barche's room right next to Rinpoches.

The next several weeks were a blur of practice and strangeness and I have trouble placing it all in order.

I remember being very sick for two days, and one morning at the height of my fever, I saw Rinpoche come into my room and  take  my phurba off my desk and tie a piece of blue cloth to it. He than did a little dance while rolling the phurba in his hands and moving it around his torso. He had me do the same. Since I was so ill at certain points I couldn't remember where I was, I honestly had thought I hallucinated the whole thing, but no. Gyur-me told me that actually happened. Later Rinpoche made sure I remebered how to do it as that is the proper way to empower the phurba.

For various reasons, I knew that it was not my karma to stay there for years and be his student the way he would expect - a process that he said would take two years just to decide firmly that he wanted me as a student and I wanted him as a teacher - so I did not try to get him to talk about Tummo or Tsa-lung, things that I was sure he would only reveal to someone who was there for the long haul.

Since he was famous for visiting most of the important Tantric Charnel grounds throughout Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and India I did get up the nerve to ask him about charnel Ground practice. He described the process in detail and asked if I was planning on doing a retreat. I told him that I wanted to go do one in Pashupatinath as soon as possible. He got very concerned and told me in no uncertain terms that I must NOT do this. I left thinking that for some reason I was not ready for such a retreat, but there must have been something lost in translation because two days later he asked why I was still there and not in Pashupatinath. I told him that he told me not to go and he laughed. He meant that I must not go yesterday because it was a missing day on the Lunar Calendar. It was fine to go now, which is what I did.

After my retreat, things started to get weird around the center: Rinpoche would ask me to get whiskey and his wife would ask me not to, Pema, a Thanka painter that was also staying there was starting to drink and get violent. One day I was asked to help his brother tackle him and hold him down, which I did. Since John Reynolds was coming into Kathmandu soon, and since I had plans for him to introduce me to Lopon Tenzin Namdak, I felt like it was a good time to leave Pharping and move to Boudha which I did.

I visited Rinpiche several times over the next several months and spent Losar with him. The last time I saw him was when he showed up at the Kathok Gompa for a couple days of the Kama Empowerments. Not one for large crowds he left after only a couple days, but made a very large offering, not only to the Lamas and Monks that were attending - as most other Lamas did - but to EVERYONE attending. Such was his faith in the power of everyone to achieve Buddhahood.

There are very few people that I would refer to as a Wizard, someone capable of bending the laws of physics, but he was one of them. I will leave the examples that I saw of this out of this post - stories like that only cheapen the event when told second hand. Honestly I would not believe them if I had not witnessed them myself so there really is no point.

Though I don't have any plans to go back to Nepal in the near future, I am a little sad today knowing now for sure that I will never get to meet him again in this life. I wish I had made more of the opportunity that I had when I was in his presence. I will always hold him in my mind as being inseparable from Guru Rinpoche himself.


Anonymous said...

I was not previously aware of Kunzang Dorje Rinpoche (having newly entered the garden of Dharma)..."Cool" for choices doesn't quite explain, but thank you for sharing ... by remembering him, his radiance may never be subdued.

Kim @redhandferi

Lenley said...

I am happy to read your musings about Kunzang dorje Rinpoche. I met him in Pharping in 2000, but only for an afternoon. He blessed us and gave advice for our trip to Tibet, most of which I could not follow. I had the sense of meeting a kind of wizard, but didn't know why. He gave us long life pills--the biggest I have ever seen--that tasted like hashish and maybe were. The next year on retreat at Shambhala Mt Ctr in Colorado I read about him in a book and learned how well known he was as a crazy wisdom guru. I liked your comment about the strength of his belief in the ability of everyone to become a buddha. Best to you and yours.