Stories of the Kongtruls from the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Conclusion

[This is the second and final installment of the post from Acharya Fenya Heupers, Stories of the Kongtruls from the Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. We pick up with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s description of the two rebirths of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. WB]

Jamgon Kongtrul had two incarnations: Jamgon Kongtrul of Palpung and Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen.

“Jamgon Kongtrul of Palpung was a son of the 15th Karmapa. The 15th Karmapa was also a student of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great. He decided to follow his discipline and tradition in the Kagyu order as a married man. This created an uproar. One Kagyu khenpo teacher had wept for seven days when he learned that the Karmapa had married and taken off the monastic robes. The Karmapa proclaimed that his marriage was in keeping with the Kagyu tradition. Then the Khenpo had a vision of the 15th Karmapa in Vajradhara costume with a black hat. The 15th Karmapa’s son turned out to be the first incarnation of Jamgon Kongtrul.”

”Jamgon Kongtrul of Palpung also found everyone very materialistic and felt that the monastic people wanted to use him to get gifts from benefactors and disciples of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great. So he also decided to escape as the tenth Trungpa had done earlier. He went to the tenth Trungpa and demanded ordination. The tenth Trungpa hesitated because he did not want to make enemies with Palpung, but finally he gave him ordination and Jamgon Kongtrul became his student.”

”The other incarnation, Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen, wanted to be a student of the tenth Trungpa as well as another Rinpoche from Sechen. He had hardships and he camped around monk’s houses until the abbot of Sechen monastery created headquarters for him with a tutor and attendant. As a teenager Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen was very stern and did not talk very much. Once he was warmed up he was very verbal. He was extraordinarily dedicated to learning. The Vidyadhara heard from an older disciple of the tenth Trungpa that when he visited the room of Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen there were books all over the place. He was sleeping on them, there were pages all over, but he could find the right page. He had extremely bad eyesight from straining too much to read. His guru sent him up to a cave to meditate for several years at a time.”

The Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche was ordained by Jamgon Kongtrul of Pepung, and received meditation instruction from Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen. In working with Sechen Kongtrul, Trungpa Rinpoche “felt paranoid because you cannot fool him with being well-behaved. His main approach is how you carry yourself as a sane person. He could have outbursts with sticks and fists on students to break their stubbornness and aggression. When you work with someone who is not really in the teachings, everything can be very smooth. But if you work with someone who is really connected with the teachings, then you find yourself in contact with reality, with more sharp edges and you become 100% more sensitive.”

“Jamgon Kongtrul and I had a small but neat world, so much power in the whole cosmos to conquer. They were the good old days. Don’t give up hope in the bad new days which will become then good old days. We appreciate Kennedy because he was killed; Martin Luther King was a great man. If you’d meet Naropa or Tilopa on the spot you’d be pissed off. History is very deceptive, reality is more important, there a piece of philosophy for you.”

“When you meet your guru, spiritual friend, there is uncertainty. It is like the nature of a mirror, reflection between you and guru, so intense that you think you make the whole thing up. The function of a guru is on different levels: acting very compassionate as an enlightened nanny; as a very efficient accommodating garbage bin; very learned wise in philosophy and wisdom. There is an atmosphere where things are percolating and established.”

Trungpa Rinpoche was nine years old when he first met Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen. The day before his head was shaved again with a blunt razor and sulphur instead of soap, an excruciating experience. After this ordeal there was a sense of relief and expectation.

“At the welcome ceremony Jamgon Kongtrul seemed a kind old monk, nothing extraordinary. He was spontaneous and somewhat sloppy. Trungpa Rinpoche was accused by his tutors of being sloppy, so he expected that they correct Jamgon Kongtrul’s sloppiness as well. When everything is valid, well trained, well disciplined there is room for craziness. Jamgon Kongtrul’s eyesight was very bad, but sometimes he would spot people from miles away. He did not behave according to what a guru should look like. He embarrassed people, he was spontaneous not impulsive. I [Trungpa Rinpoche] felt for the first time: ‘My hang-ups are okay.’ There was some human quality and all his attendants were very gentle and sane.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche recounted learning about meditation from Sechen Kongtrul at Surmang Monastery’s retreat center. “In retreat in Dorje Khyung Dzong there was the first meditation instruction. I expected an extraordinary experience. There were beams of sunlight and he would talk about mind.”
“Do you have a mind?” Sechen Kontrul asked.
“I can think so many things, I must have a mind.” Trungpa Rinpoche replied.
“That’s intelligent. Let’s sit together and do nothing.” Sechen Kongtrul responded.
The Vidyadhara went on to desribe the experience. “I expected something extraordinary. Nothing happened. He is pleased. I am confused. Why is he pleased with nothing that happened?

“At the second meeting nothing happened, but something happened. A feeling of the room very light, sun, old incense, sense perceptions. Then he instructed me in shamatha-vipassyana, that was a great help. Something happened, nothing happened. Your breath makes something and nothing together.”

“At the fourth meeting I was excited and asked, ‘What about enlightenment?’ Lot of silence which was slightly threatening. ‘There is no such thing as enlightenment, this is it.’
Jamgon Kongtrul is so solid there is no question of labeling, just tuning into atmosphere.”

“Later, the experience is that as soon as you are going to see him, there is a radiation. Things get more and more intense, a feeling of fear and uncertainty, also a feeling in the bottom of your heart that you are tickled. There is doubt and uncertainty for some time, is this sanity possible? It proves to be possible.”

Later the Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche studied with Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in Sechen monastery for several years. His guru confirmed him as lineage holder. When he wanted to meet him again, Jamgon Kongtrul was arrested by Chinese troops and put into prison. He died there. The Vidyadhara escaped and came to the West.

This all comes from notes of this seminar of Fenja Heupers. Any errors in this are mine. (Fenya) I hope it will inspire someone to transcribe the whole seminar and make it available.

May the Rinchen Terdzod transmission come to a glorious conclusion and may it benefit all beings.

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