The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

The Dalai Lama Reflects on Ling Rinpoche's Personality

by The Dalai Lama
August 28, 2017
Mon, 08/28/2017 - 16:51 -- The Dalai Lama

My precious tutor usually maintained a humble and modest demeanor. In times of crisis for the country and the Buddha’s teaching, however, he was not modest and revealed a powerful and decisive side. Here is one example. In 1951, when we were staying in Dromo, there were conflicting opinions in the Tibetan government on whether we should proceed to India or return to Lhasa. A divination was performed to see which course of action was better. The divination came out for returning to Lhasa. Nevertheless, some still voiced their opinion strongly that returning to Lhasa would be too dangerous. The precious tutor gave me the following advice, “The unfailing guru is the Three Jewels, and in a divination request made to the Three Jewels, the answer has come out for returning to Lhasa, and so that is what we should do. If His Holiness finds this difficult to do, then it is perfectly fine to ignore what I say.” This decisive advice was given without a trace of hesitation. Later, when I reflected on this, I marveled at how decisive and resolute the precious tutor was.

Normally, whenever I visited Rinpoché in the labrang or invited him to my rooms, it was to receive teachings on sutra and tantra and so on. Occasionally, however, I would ask for advice on other matters, and so over time we had much discussion. On all those occasions, I never heard the precious tutor find fault with others, make sarcastic remarks, or grumble about his personal situation. He was always content and reserved, a happy person.

Having the responsibility of the Tibetan people resting on my shoulders, I would sometimes share my troubles with Rinpoché. Whatever the problem, he would always discuss it with me. Sometimes he would make me laugh. He would make the problem seem smaller and was skillful in comforting and reassuring me. This greatly benefited my mind. Sometimes he told me in an easygoing manner and with great joy that in this day and age, I was like “specially ordered brocade,” in that I was perfectly suited for both the religious and secular world, and that there was no need to worry, whatever the situation. These words would reassure me greatly.

Not only when I had a problem, but whenever I visited the precious tutor, I would always feel happier afterward and retain a definite and special joy. This was his inconceivable kindness. Alongside that was the knowledge that one day the precious tutor might no longer be with us. How would I be able to face that situation? How would I be able to bear it? Such fears and torment began to arise in my mind a few years ago. Therefore, as this biography makes clear, I put a lot of effort into making repeated requests for him to live long, performing longevity rituals, and so on.

The precious tutor kept his qualities decidedly hidden, and as a result, his inconceivable qualities of body, speech, and mind are far beyond our comprehension and powers of description. Nevertheless, I have seen firsthand that he possessed a clairvoyance capable of clearly foreseeing future events. I will recount a couple of those occasions.

While the precious teacher was receiving the textual transmission of the combined Kālacakra Root Tantra, Kālacakra Condensed Tantra, and Butön Rinpoché’s Annotations on the Kālacakra Stainless Light Great Commentary from Kumbum Minyak Rinpoché, this lama did not remember exactly which other texts were needed to be brought together to complete this transmission. Therefore, in Tibet I had only received the transmission of Butön Rinpoché’s Annotations and had not been given the combined transmission that included the root tantra and the commentary. When we arrived in India, I remarked to the precious tutor that the transmission lineage of the Kālacakra root tantra and commentary has probably come to an end, and what a loss that would be. The precious tutor replied, “The lineage has definitely arrived in India. We must search for it.” He spoke with complete certainty that it was in India, but none of us knew who had this lineage. Later, after much investigation, it was found that the complete teaching lineage was with Kīrti Tsenshap Rinpoché. This news was reported to the precious tutor. Kīrti Tsenshap Rinpoché passed the lineage to Serkong Rinpoché, and I subsequently received it from Serkong Rinpoché. Therefore I was able to receive this transmission that had been close to dying out. Rinpoché had stated with total certainty that this lineage was in India before it had been discovered, and this is one extraordinary example of his clairvoyance.

Also, when I asked for advice on my practice and other matters, Rinpoché would usually approve of my line of thought, whether in the religious or secular domain, saying it was based on good reasoning. Sometimes, however, he would give me advice that ran counter to my ideas and wishes in that moment. Later, after some time had passed, I saw that the advice the precious tutor had given me turned out to be perfect for that situation and that my own ideas clearly would not have worked.

Owing to experiences like these, I came to suspect that the precious tutor had clairvoyance. Consequently, at a meeting with him, I once said, “It seems the precious tutor is clairvoyant. Is that true?”

He replied, “Sometimes I wonder if that is not the case.” If we look at these words of such a guru, one who would never commit the monastic downfall of “the lie of elevating oneself above the ordinary,” it was as if he were actually asserting that he had clairvoyance. I have something like pride in noting that it is of no inferior merit to be cared for by such a guru.

It was the precious tutor’s nature to be reserved, and he was not prone to sudden displays of either elation or sadness. However, whenever he was aware of a living being in distress, such as on hearing the cries of a dog being beaten, his eyes would well up and he would say, “Ah, poor thing!” This was a sign that he possessed the quality of great compassion.

As recounted in this biography, the precious tutor told Ratö Khyongla, “I only requested teachings that I thought I could practice.” That was certainly true. In Tibet a monk called Ngawang Nyendrak, who spent his time in retreat at Taklung Drak Hermitage, would inform Rinpoché whenever Takdrak Vajradhara was giving important teachings. Once Takdrak Rin- poché was giving the initiations of the Hundred Practices of Mitrayogi, and Ngawang Nyendrak informed the precious tutor and wondered aloud whether he would attend them. Rinpoché reflected that he would be unable to do the practices and so did not receive the initiations. This consideration of whether he would be able to do the practice, not just collecting teachings, is an example to us all and a wonderful teaching on the need for practice.


Excerpted from The Life of My TeacherHis Holiness the Dalai Lama's biography of Ling Rinpoche. Translated by Gavin Kilty.

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