The Wandering Rinpoche (One)Posted On: 15 May, 2017
I was recognised as a Rinpoche by H.E. the 14thShamarpa in 1986. From the age of fiveI received a monastic education for a decade. During this period, I learned a lot about Buddhism, Buddhist ritual instruments, vajra dance and a series of Tibetan Buddhist ritual etiquette. In 1999, after completing 10 years’ in the monastery I began studying Buddhist philosophy at a Dzongsar Buddhist Institute in Bir, India, and graduated from ShriDiwakar Buddhist Academy in Kalimpong with a Khenpo degree in 2009 at the age of 25 years old. During these 20 years of studying, I met a lot of Tibetan Buddhist masters and khenpos of great reputation and acknowledgement. These gurus bestowed me with empowerments and explanations. However, getting to know a real master and studying with them in depth was not easy, because these gurus with high achievement were always very busy.
Therefore, in my apprenticeship, I did not meet a root guru who I worshipped from the innermost of my heart, neither did I encountered a master for whom I’d be willing to give up my life. During the period of studying in Buddhist College, I also frequently visited masters from Nyingma, Sakya and Gelug lineages, but I didn’t meet the master who I truly resonate with.
I grew up in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, and I had studied in several Indian and Nepalese monasteries, but the failure to obtain inner peace, perhaps due to my amateurish practice, prevented me from understanding the environment correctly. The conflict of interests among different parties within the monastery on politics, hierarchy and power control made me feel that I cannot possibly gain liberation in such an environment. As a result, right after graduating from Buddhist College with a Khenpo degree, I was determined to go through a different route for my future practice. In February of 2010, at the end of commencement ceremony, I walked up to my parents and H.E. the 14th Shamarpa, telling them that I will leave for a long retreat and asking for their consent. On the second day I disappeared with a bag on my back.
There were lots of reasons that drove me to my pilgrimage. First of all I knew that if I kept on practicing in my old way, I would end up learning nothing real of Buddhism. In contrast, if I forgot about who I was and step out of my comfort zone, then I might obtain some real ideas of what true liberation is. Secondly, I was not in a good health condition. At the age of sixteen, I was informed by my doctor that I probably would not live long. At the time, all I wanted was to isolate myself in a cave and practice, instead of going to any Buddhist colleges; though I still ended up going anyway. During my ten years of study, although I was admitted to hospital several times, my health was actually not that bad. It had not gotten worse until I was about to graduate. The suddenly worsened situation reminded me of what the doctor said, which made me feel like I was waiting for death to be fall. Life is so impermanent. As a result, I wanted to reside into a cave and die alone, because just as Milarepasaid: “As a Buddhist, I wish I could die with no one crying by my side.” The one I would miss the most at that time was my Mum, and the last thing I wanted to do was to see her grieving.
The first place I visited was Varanasi in India, and then Haridwar, Rishikesh, Ganges River, as well as some other places in Northern India. I stayed there for more than 5 months to study different types of yogas, including Kundalini Yoga, and I also had some closed retreats to practice. Why I chose to go to these places? The most important reason was that when I was young, I read many biographies of high spiritual dignitaries, including many high-achieved Indian siddhas. When they were wandering, they got to meet a lot of achieved masters, and some of them looked very mysterious. So I was hoping to meet my root guru there and to be guided, too. When I got there, I did see a lot of ascetic with sloppy and strange appearance, so I went up talking to them as well as sitting, begging and eating together with them. I also wore shabby clothes, kept long beard and long hair, and lived several weeks without a bath. I sometimes sit quietly, thinking that although they looked like beggars, they probably had already achieved, and there must be masters among them. One day there would be a master revealing to me that “I’ve been here waiting for you for a long time, and finally here you come. I want to pass on all my knowledge and achievement to you, because you are the disciple I have been always expecting.”
At that time I can see Indian ascetics get up early every day to soak in the Ganges River, since they believed that in this way they could purify their karma. I heard that many Buddhist dignitaries also practiced by the Ganges River, so I got up very early every day and soaked in the very cold water together with the ascetics, too. Even though I knew by only soaking in the river it is impossible to purify one’s karma; however, since a lot masters were practicing here, I was also hoping to get some blessings.
In the evening, as soon as sunset, the river was immersed in red color. Every evening, the Hindu monks were chanting Puja on the bank. The sounds of mantras and instruments created a melodious harmony along with the voice of people shouting; the Ganges River was really lively then.
Sometimes I would sit cross-legged on the bank of Ganges River alone, seeing people cremated their loved ones, with the parents and the children crying out loudly and mourning deeply. I watched all these scenes and prayed for them silently, feeling unbearably painful as if I had lost my own relatives. Other times I could see, with deep grief, bodies of infants floating along the river.I guess it might be female infants because at that time they were discriminated in many parts of India. As a result, some families would throw away their baby girls to the river secretly. At the time, I could strongly resonate with beings who underwent constant suffering and confusion in the ocean of samsara, and felt impermanence as the essence of life itself.
After spending a long time with the ascetics, I found out that most of them would consume alcohol and marijuana. They warmly invited me to drink and smoke with them. I rejected at first, but later jumped onto the bandwagon as I was attracted to its magical effects. I followed them to smoke a little marijuana and drink a little wine. As a result, I became very excited; feeling very happy, urge to laugh and my body kept feeling very light for several days. When I regained my consciousness, I found out that everything was an illusion created by marijuana and it had nothing to do with my practice at all. I also slowly realized that many monks were not the practitioners or achievers who I was expecting to meet.
During this period of wandering, I lived incognito, and also tried to forget my identity and my past. Sometimes I really felt like I was not myself anymore: I had no name, no identity, and no one knew me; I was neither the Rinpoche nor the Khenpo. I felt very free, no longer needing to wear a mask of identity.
There was a time when I was meditating in a Hindu temple, I came across with an American friend who was also in the process of learning and practice. After chatting with him, I could feel his passion in Buddhism. At first, to him I may just be a wanderer without any education or knowledge, so he was a bit arrogant when he told me about his experience and feelings, especially the philosophy of Buddhism. I listened to him patiently and found out that he was holding the same expectation as I did to encounter a pre-destined guru during the wandering. He said: “I am recently studying Intermediate Perspective written by Nagarjuna. This is a very profound philosophy of Buddhism, the theory of Selflessness confused me the most.” So I naturally summed up and answered his confusion, and he was very surprised to hear my explanation. Probably from the very beginning, he had never thought that I was a Buddhist, not to mention my expertise in Buddhist philosophy. Suddenly he had a great change in the way he looked at me and talked to me, and he started to treat me like a teacher. He went on to ask me some other complex questions regarding Buddhist philosophy. After I briefly explained to him, he was very happy and also became very humble. After that, he dropped by almost every day. In fact, what I gave him was just the knowledge I was taught before, just like copy and paste, so I gave him my advice: learning theoretically is very important as it is the foundation, but at the same time, we must pay attention to practice. What we learn can’t only be put into the head, but also need to be integrated into the heart and action because this is the best practice. He got really moved and his eyes were shimmering with tears. On the following day I went to another place to continue my spiritual journey, and I never met this friend again.
I did not meet my root guru in India. At that time, I was deeply depressed by the fact that a lot of places in India had lost the original sanctity due to the influence of tourism, commerce and materialization. So I chose to continue the journey to the next destination- Tibet.