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7/1/08 – Today was a good day. Of course you could say that about everyday that you are on pilgrimage. However, we met with Chosje (Dharma Lord) Togden Rinpoche and Bakula Rangdrol Nyima Rinpoche gave refuge to several group members on this day. At the time, I did not know who I was meeting when we went up to the tippy top floor of Lama Yuru to attend Togden Rinpoche. All I knew is that he was a Dharma Lord. Luckily I have learned a bit more since then and I will fill in my own blanks (if that is possible).
Togden Rinpoche was seated when we entered, and he was chatting with three people who looked to be local Ladakhis. I believe his English was decent because I do not recall a translator (of course, please correct me if I am mistaken!). He reminded me of Yoda (from Star Wars) or a gnome – he was seated but you could tell he was shorter – even for a Ladakhi. However, he radiated confidence and a humble power – very difficult to describe, but he was present and grounded for certain. Oh – and he has long ears like a Chinese Buddha image / statue.
It turns out he is one of the Dharma Lords of the Drikung Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism – each major region has one (Ladakh, Mt. Kailash, Tsari, Lapchi) and he is the Dharma Lord of Ladakh. That also means that he is a regent if something were to happen to the Holinesses. Later, when I went back to read his bio on http://www.drikung-kagyu.org site (click on eminent teachers), I was amazed – he has done an incredible amount for Ladakh – improving its infrastructure and benefiting the Dharma in big ways. Plus he is one of the primary lineage holders of the Rinchen Terdzo – having been given the succession from H. H. Dudjom Rinpoche.
Chos is Dharma and Jai (Je) is Lord or Master. Togden Rinpoche is the reincarnation of an Indian Mahasiddha, having left a footprint in a boulder when he was two years old (among other miraculous happenings). And judging from his presence and unassuming spiritual power, I believe it! He talked to us about the history of Lama Yuru and then our group leader asked him to give us some brief transmissions – Amitabha’s Prayer to be reborn in the Pure Land of Dewachen, Chenrezig’s mantra and Guru Rinpoche’s mantra.
The name Lama Yuru comes from the Tibetan word for swastika – which was a sacred symbol in Tibet long before it was tarnished by the Nazis’ use. An arhat came to the valley where the monastery is located during the Buddha’s time. At that point, the valley was filled with water as a lake. The arhat (or some people believe it was actually Naropa) made offerings to the nagas (snake like demigods who live in water) and asked them to leave. Supposedly they listened and a crack appeared in the dam, allowing the water to drain out. He made the aspiration that there should be a monastery in that place.
Rinchen Zangpo – the famous builder / practitioner / translator from Tibet came around the same time as Naropa – 1016-1100 – and built five buildings in the shape of a mandala – one in the center and four in each direction. Then he built 108 buildings around these central ones. Naropa meditated in two caves / huts in the monastery for several years. Apparently the monastery was beautiful – there were statues of each root lama (of each lineage), lineage holders, many Taras and Arhats. However, in 1842, the Seikh king destroyed nearly all of the old monastery (luckily a couple buildings survived the destruction, allowing Lama Yuru to be one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh).
Bakula Randrol Nyima Rinpoche’s first incarnation began rebuilding the monastery in the mid to late 1800’s (and now his 4th incarnation is there). Presently, Lama Yuru is thriving, with more than 400 monks including its branch monasteries.
This is most of what Togden Rinpoche said about the history of Lama Yuru. Any mistakes are my own doing, as there was some time before I was able to record what I heard (in my journal).