Posts Tagged ‘Drikung Kagyu lamas’

I just recently got back from a trip to Pittsburgh, PA.  It is closer to Charlottesville than I was thinking, so I will try to head up there once a year if it is easy.

On Saturday there was an empowerment by H.E. Tritsab Rinpoche (Chenrezig).  That day was a lot of driving, so I kind of collapsed after that session.  I filled in as make-shift attendant.  My friend who I went up there with is from India – he does months of meditation retreats at a time (he is a bit of a dedicated yogi).  So I was the low man on the totem pole and I was happy to fill in as cook.

Saturday was at a beautiful church about 20 minutes away from the Dharma center.  At least 40 people attended – quite a nice crowd, an interesting blend of new-comers and experienced practitioners, and older and younger attendees.

Sunday was a bit more of a special practice.  His Eminence, Tritsab Rinpoche, is actually a highly regarded Lama.  Way back (like 600 years or so), an earlier incarnation of his was one of the lineage Lamas of the Drikung Kagyu.  And at that time, Rinpoche had a literal face-to-face with the Dharma protectress Achi Chokyi Drolma.  Tritsab Rinpoche was given a small scroll that had Dakini script on it (meaning he received a terma or a treasure text).  The current Rinpoche said that that lineage holder could not actually decipher the scroll – but that when he meditated, the words to the practice came to him.  Therefore it was more of a mind terma (I think).  Also, it is a little complicated in that this is a pure Drikung Kagyu practice – most termas are from the Nyingma tradition, having been hidden by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal.

Anyway, on Sunday we got the Terma Achi empowerment.  This was held in the Dharma center (see below) and about 25 people showed up for this.  Great group, a little tight, and warm (because Rinpoche speaks quietly, we had to turn off the air conditioner!).  I did not have a seat 😦   until Khenpo said, you sit up here with me.  So I was literally front and center for this empowerment.  I appreciated how Khenpo had Rinpoche do all the technical details for the empowerment – he actually poured water from the sacred vase onto our heads, just a few drops.  There was a delicious pot luck lunch which most of the attendees stayed for.

Then in the afternoon, we did the Terma Achi practice.  I had heard of this before, but had never done the practice.  It is most fascinating because we can take Achi Chokyi Drolma as Lama (Guru), Yidam (deity) and Dharma protector (Dharmapala) and these are all included in the practice.  This is a short practice, so we finished early.

Then members of the center took the four of us to Mount Washington.  By the way, Pittsburgh is a very interesting city geographically – with the rivers and valleys and hills and tunnels, it would be a nightmare for a city planner (just saying!).  Also, I heard a quote I liked: “Pittsburgh is the city where you can’t get there from here.”

And it turns out that evening, that quote could not have been more accurate!  There was a gay pride parade downtown, and the Penguins were about to win the Stanley Cup (hockey tournament) and there was a big concert downtown as well.  On top of that, many of the roads were under construction.  So after driving around in circles for about half an hour, we finally found a way across the bridge to get to Mount Washington.  [side note: being stuck in a car with a serious retreatant and 2 authentic Tibetan lamas, even when lost and driving around frivolously, is still remarkably enjoyable!]

Mount Washington is a large hill (and I guess neighborhood name as well) that overlooks Downtown Pittsburgh.  It was quite beautiful – seeing the 3 rivers coming together, looking down on the concert and the parade and the sky scrapers.  It was well worth the journey!  Plus we had dinner up there as well, so we got to see the city as the sun was setting.

Monday, we went to the Pittsburgh Zoo.  This was actually a great experience.  As we were walking in, Khenpo Choephel, being a tougher Khenpo (which means Abbot) told us to chant mantras for the animals’ liberation and freedom from suffering.  He suggested we do Chenrezig or Vajrasattva mantras.  Therefore, at least for the first 30 – 60 minutes, I was mindful about how the animals’ might be suffering (although for the most part, the animals looked to be well taken care of).

There is an aquarium in the zoo as well, so we stayed for close to four hours total (including a long relaxing lunch).

I’m not quite sure, but I think we had some curious karma going on as a group (the four of us – Kirby, Ryan, Khenpo C and His Eminence) because on Monday we got stuck on a tight road that road construction forced us to detour onto.  I was literally pinned in (as a car) as I waited for several large trucks and garbage truck to creep by, praying they would not scrape the side of my fenders!  So Sunday we had driving obstacles, along with Monday.  It took us about 30 minutes extra to get to the zoo.  Which was fine!  I had great company around me in the car  🙂

Khenpo Choephel reminds me of a solid, modest, serious practitioner and teacher.  I suspect he has great levels of realization (and as a Dharma practitioner, I do my best to see him as Vajradhara or primordial Buddha).

The center is quite interesting though.  It is in a poorer neighborhood, but the neighbors are awesome, friendly, diverse and a few are curious about the Buddhadharma.  The house itself is very narrow – so there are only 3 rooms per level.  Ryan and I stayed on the 3rd floor, which was a little unfinished, which was completely fine!  I was just happy to have a bed and a roof over my head!  The nice thing about the location though is that the members were able to buy the house right out, meaning no debt to worry about.  They did have to put in about 1000 hours of labor over 3 months though as it was a serious fixer-upper.  But it gets the job done.  It has a beautiful shrine room with dozens of thangkas (Tibetan scroll paintings of deities and lineage lamas and Dharma guardians, etc).

I am very satisfied with my trip to Pittsburgh and I would go back in a heartbeat.  I received several impromptu Tibetan language instruction sessions as my Tibetan is okay (I probably speak at a 1st grade level, whereas I comprehend at a 6th grade level).  They were very happy to assist me and point out words that I was getting mistaken.  Plus, Khenpo even gave me a transmission of a specific practice at 11:11 pm on the night before we were about to leave – I had asked him for it a day earlier, but we hadn’t had time.

Oh – and the funny thing was, Khenpo is big into watching the local sports.  Apparently Pittsburgh is a huge sports city (which makes sense), and they have even gotten a Tibetan lama hooked on hockey and basketball!

Thank you for reading!



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This material is copyrighted by M. Kirby Moore.  Reproduction without permission is prohibited.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we spent several days at Lama Yuru Gompa.  This is the largest Drikung Kagyu monastery in Ladakh, and I believe I heard someone mention that there were about 400 monks and 80 nuns at the monastery while we were there, to watch and participate in the Cham Dances and Ceremonies.  Some of these monks and nuns have more experience and realization under their belts, and that is what this post is about.

Here is a list of who we attended while at the monastery, and a little about what they said or what teachings / transmissions they gave us.

Drupon Sonam Jorphel Rinpoche – or “Lama Jorphel” as he likes to be called, is one of the most productive lamas I think I have yet to come across.  Lama Jorphel is the present retreat master for Lama Yuru Monastery.  In fact, when His Holiness the Gyalwa Drikungpa Chetsang Rinpoche was doing his three year retreat there, the previous retreat master who was highly venerated and respected, Kyunga Rinpoche, passed away (dissolved back into the mandala).  At this point, Drupon Jorphel, his successor, took over the retreat duties.

Lama Jorphel is getting older now, so I don’t think he travels quite like he used to, but our tour guide met him in Malaysia and said that he used to teach extensively outside of Ladakh.  Lama Jorphel also is primarily responsible for much of Lama Yuru’s renaissance – much of the present-day monastery had to be rebuilt or created new.  There is now a “hotel” which has many modern facilities which over looks the main courtyard of Lama Yuru.  This allows tourists and pilgrims to stay in comfortable lodging while observing the Cham Dances.

Lama Jorphel is also responsible for much of the building of retreat facilities around Lama Yuru.  There is even a building to house one or two Western retreatants – due to the harsh winters in Ladakh (or Srinagar to be more precise) – the Westerners generally come for one, two or three of the warmer months do their retreats.  When we met Lama Jorphel, it was at the top of the monastery complex, where most of the retreat huts are located, and he spoke to us about the monastery and about Tibetan Buddhism.

He also talked about impermanence and how, in general, Westerners do not put enough thought into death and the resultant need to practice Dharma.  He talked a little about the importance of finding an authentic spiritual teacher, and once you choose, stick with that person to develop Tamzig – devotion and commitment.  He said that it is better to practice refuge and get the basics out of the way before jumping from one empowerment to the next, which is the tendency of many Westerners.

Rinpoche mentioned that technology had done so much to change Ladakh – he said it was only in the past couple decades that many cars, planes and buses had arrived.  He told a story about when he was young – he said he walked from Lama Yuru (in Srinagar) to Leh Ladakh – a journey of 400 km, then he took a bus to Dharamsala, then a plane to Delhi, then he took a bus to Sikkim and finally, he had to walk from Sikkim to Lhasa (Tibet) in the winter snows…  Whoa!  He said that first it was telegrams, then lights and electricity, radio and finally email.  He mentioned that when the first plane landed in Ladakh it was prostrated to – a seeming miraculous.

In my opinion, he seemed like a very valid, humble and potent monk.  I think his accomplishments and Dharma activities speak volumes for his dedication and realization.  Along the lines of Tibetan Lamas being named appropriately – apparently Jhorphel comes from “Jhor wa” which means material resources and “phel” means to increase – under Lama Jorphel’s watch, Lama Yuru monastery has grown significantly in buildings and in financial resources.

Bakula Rangdrol Nyima Rinpoche – a young Tulku, or recognized, reincarnate lama, is the 4th incarnation in this line.  One of our Ladakhi guides mentioned that when he is alive and associated with the monastery, it flourishes.  He is known as one of the best Cham dancers in the Drikung Kagyu, and sure enough, he had the main dancing responsibility in the Black Hat Dance (see future post).

Rinpoche gave us refuge, as several members of the pilgrimage had not taken refuge and desired to do so.  His english was pretty good, so he did not use a translator.  He spoke about what is required when we take refuge – 1) not causing further harm to anyone, 2) not worshiping or paying homage to non-enlightened deities / local spirits, 3) treating fellow Sangha members with kindness – as brothers and sisters.  This is in addition to taking one of the five precept vows.  See the history of Lama Yuru post (future post) for more on Bakula Rangdrol Nyima Rinpoche.

Drupon Sonam Kunga – as I mentioned in a previous post, Drupon is Bakula Rangdrol Nyima Rinpoche’s tutor.  So we first met him in Leh, at Rinpoche’s house.  At Lama Yuru however, he gave us a little tour of the main meditation and teaching hall.  He spoke a bit about work around the monastery and all the new construction that had occurred over the past twenty years (quite a bit).  He added to the history of the monastery which Togden Rinpoche had started.  Drupon was also a member of the 3-year retreat which included His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, Khenchen Rinpoche – Konchog Gyaltsen, Drupon Samten, and seven other highly respected teachers.

I will post a piece about Togden Rinpoche separately at this is getting long.  We were very blessed to have access to these sublime masters, to receive brief teachings and to learn about the fascinating history of Lama Yuru.  You can visit and click on the eminent teachers link to see more about these amazing lamas.

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