The Importance of Lineage

February 15th 2009

There are the three lineages of the Rinchen Terdzo that are coming to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche through His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rinpoche.

The most important Rinchen Terdzo lineage in terms of Shambhala’s history comes from Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye to Sechen Gyaltsap, then to Sechen Kongtrul, then to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and finally to His Eminence. This is the most important lineage for the Sakyong to receive for many reasons, particularly the practice connections it establishes between him and his father. An interesting note here is that Lady Konchok Paldron, the mother of the Sakyong, was also present at Yak Gompa when this lineage was given to Namkha Drimed Rinpoche.

The second lineage comes from Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye to the Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje, then to Jamgon Kongtrul of Palpung, then to Kalu Rinpoche who bestowed the Rinchen Terdzo on Namkha Drimed Rinpoche. (At that time His Eminence was not the principle recipient as he was at Yak Gompa.) The Fifteenth Karmapa wrote the massive four-volume commentary of the Rinchen Terdzo. He was also a true spiritual son of Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. He studied impartially with teachers of the four main lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, and he was also a terton. Karmapa Khakyab Dorje undertook a revised and expanded printing of the Rinchen Terdzo at his seat, Tsurphu monastery in Tibet in the early part of the twentieth century. I think only one complete copy of this edition managed to escape the destruction that the Cultural Revolution wreaked upon Tibet. It is a true miracle that these teachings made it into our modern world. The rarity and fragility of the dharma is important to keep in mind.

The final lineage of the Rinchen Terdzo came to His Eminence through his own father, Drubwang Jigme Tsewang Chogdrub Rinpoche. An interesting point here is that Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s predecessor, the tenth Trungpa, Chokyi Nyingje, wanted to receive the Rinchen Terdzo from Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s father. However, Chokyi Nyingje was unable to receive it because Drubwang Jigme Tsewang Chogdrub was very ill at the time the transmission could have been happened. I am presuming that Namkha Drimed Rinpoche’s grandfather, Drubwang Ngedon Rinpoche, received the transmission from Jamgong Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and the transmission has been been in the Ripa family since then.

Long lists of names like these are not like an ordinary genealogy or hierarchy because they mark a direct, living transmission of teachings, practice and realization rather than an ordinary ancestry or a list company presidents, political leaders or university deans. For students, knowing where the lineage comes from is important because it instills confidence and devotion, and without a lineage there is no way to receive blessings, in other words, the actual heart of the transmission. Every Buddhist teacher can trace a lineage all the way back to Shakyamuni Buddha. Vajrayana lineages are traced to Shakyamuni and in addition, they are often traced to transcendent buddhas who appeared to teachers later in the lineage. This is very much the case with the transmissions the Rinchen Terdzo.

Today we continued to receive more practices in the auxiliary empowerments section. Again the practices were in the category of pacification of various sorts of sufferings or obstacles. By the end of the day the atmosphere seemed ‘peaced out’, Yesterday and today we concluded earlier than usual, and today we had a 30 minute break in the middle the afternoon, three times longer than usual, so that His Eminence could open an additional set of practices. People took the time to sit in the courtyard in the warmth sun, relax on the grass in the shade, or to circumambulate the monastery reciting mantras.

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