Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

February 6th

Time is beginning to move quickly here in Orissa. Each day someone will make a speculation or calculation about how long the remaining empowerments will take. Some estimates suggest we’ll finish by Shambhala Day, or Losar as they call it around here, the New Year, February 25th. Others say it may take a bit longer. However, when the math is all over nobody really knows, nor do we care all that much. Aside from practical concerns like travel plans or excessive heat, it really doesn’t matter how long the Rinchen Terdzo takes. The important thing is that Namkha Drimed Rinpoche is bestowing the teachings, people are here, and the dharma is being heard and practiced.

Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye didn’t create the Rinchen Terdzo alone. His main inspiration and guide was his guru, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892). Jigme Rinpoche stressed how crucial Jamyang Khyentse was in an interview last week. He said:

“Jamgon Kongtrul’s source of authenticity and approval for the termas was Jamyang Khyentse, Pema Osel Do Ngag Lingpa [Jamyang Khyentse’s terton name]. He was also Jamgon Kongtrul’s teacher. For Jamgon Kongtrul the only person who could definitely authenticate was Khyentse. Jamgon Kongtrul did more work on the Rinchen Terdzo, but the actual source was Khyentse. This is because so many of the termas teachings included in the Terdzo were almost extinct, and some were actually extinct. Somehow, Do Ngak Lingpa, Khyentse, brought these back to life through his visions of the earlier tertons.”

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was born in Derge, eastern Tibet. He was another exceptional rebirth who as a child had a strong motivation to help others, and a strong desire to become a monastic. Even in his youth he could recall his previous lives, and the protectors, Mahakala and Ekajati, sometimes seemed present around him, sometimes they were even visible. He was like many other tertons described earlier in this journal, a brilliant scholar who was a voracious learner.

From an early age, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo had many visions of teachers and deities. He had clear recollections of previous lives, and the termas he discovered based on these and on pure visions are quite voluminous. We’ve received empowerments related to his discoveries at least every other day during the Rinchen Terdzo. One reason for this was that he was forty, after being supplicated repeatedly by Jamgon Kongtrul for help in recovering the ancient termas, Jamyang Khyense Wangpo was blessed by Padmasambhava during a pure vision. As a result, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was able to see all the tertons and terma teachings from the past, from his time and the ones would arise in the future in Tibet.

After this Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo studied with 150 different teachers in all lineages. He studied or received transmissions of over 700 volumes of teachings. This kind of manifestation is completely inconceivable from the normal standpoint of western ambition. It absolutely does not make sense. The only way to understand what someone like Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo did is to see it from the point of view of helping others by containing, preserving and spreading the teachings. Khyentse Wangpo said that he’d made no more progress on the realization of mind’s nature after receiving a particularly profound set of teachings at the age of nineteen. On one hand, this sounds very humble, on the other it shows that he was already completely realized at the start of a his brilliant and magnificent life. This is how he accomplished so much.

Besides preserving the dharma through teaching, explanations and practice, he built many libraries and constructed and restored a large number of monasteries too. Khyentse Wangpo commissioned large numbers of statues, as well as many woodblock and handwritten editions of scriptures (very important in a place with such relatively poor means). Although miracles are not the point, it’s both poetic and inspiring that the rice he threw in offering to the principle statue of the Buddha in all Tibet, the Jowo in Lhasa, spontaneously turned into white flowers. Rice tossed in offering represents flowers.

At the age of 72 Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo passed away. At the time of his passing there were gentle earthquakes and his face was said to be radiant like the face of the moon. His body became as light as cotton which must be taken as a sign of the attainment of rainbow body, the exhaustion of coarse and subtle defilements and fixations in a great meditator.

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