Dearest Friends @ CAS,
We are so glad to have met CAS's precious Teacher of so many years in Singapore last week.
About Kalsang Rinpoche
Most Venerable Kalsang Yeshe Rinpoche is one of the seniormost disciples of the late Head of the Nyingma School, Kyabje Penor Rinpoche, having also accompanied Him on a daring and treacherous escape from Tibet to India during the Communist Chinese invasion in 1959.
In India, Kalsang Rinpoche assisted HH Penor Rinpoche in the establishment of the exiled mother monastery of the Nyingma Palyul lineage. At Penor Rinpoche's request, HH the Dalai Lama blessed and named the newly-established monastery, "Namdroling". Since then, the monastery has grown to become one of the largest and most successful Nyingma establishments-communities in the world with over 5,000 ordained sangha in Mysore, India. Kalsang Rinpoche has served, for 16 years, as Rector of the entire Sangha congregation of Namdroling.
Kalsang Rinpoche is also the sole 5 recipients of two of the most esoteric transmissions that the late Penor Rinpoche transmitted to in secret. Rinpoche is also a close disciple of some of the "legendary" Dzogchen adepts of the century such as the late Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche.
Rinpoche has taken on being the resident Teacher of Penor Rinpoche's centres in the Philippines, Singapore and now, teaching in some of the very robust and successful centres in Taiwan.
Out of His infinite compassion for CAS, CAS's education centre ( Camden Education Center ) and CAS's Dharma centre in Malacca, Phuntsok Cho Ling, this most noble of being visited and blessed Camden for the second time, since 7 years ago, when Camden first started.
When informed of our 1,111 Friends @ CASonline, Rinpoche spontaneously offered an one hour teaching cum interview encompassing Dzogchen, the practice of Dharma and so many others, in Camden, to some of the friends and students @ CAS who were so blessed to be in the presence of a holy and sublime being, a truest practitioner and teacher of the Dharma, a person who has completely given himself up for the benefit of others.
This, then, is a divine gift from Rinpoche to all of us.
bb @ CAS ( Phuntsok Cho Ling ) / Camden Edu Center
Most Ven Kalsang Rinpoche
bb: There are many students in the world who like to practise Dzogchen. Could Rinpoche tell us how a student should proceed in the practice of Dzogchen ??
Rinpoche: There are essentially practitioners of 3 different calibre. The practitioner of the best calibre will realise Dzogchen. The second and third calibre practitioners may all wish to accomplish Dzogchen but may not succeed.
bb: Why does Rinpoche say that practitioners of the second and third calibre cannot accomplish Dzogchen ??
R: The reason why I mentioned that the second and third calibre practitioners may not succeed in Dzogchen practice is because of this: these middle and lower calibre practitioners have not established a stable and strong foundation but directly rush into Dzogchen practice. This is like constructing a building on flimsy ground. So, these people are not able to accomplish Dzogchen.
bb: How does an aspiring practitioner of Dzogchen proceed in the practice of Dzogchen ?? How does the subsequent stages proceed ??
R: All practices in sutra and tantra begin with Refuge. For Buddhists, Refuge is the entry gateway. After Refuge, the conscientious practitioner should engage in the "Four Thoughts which Turn the Mind" ( Precious Human Rebirth / Death and Impermanence / Karma / Renunciation - sufferings of samsara ). After accomplishing Refuge and "Four Thoughts which Turn the Mind" the practitioner should receive the empowerment that initiates the practitioner into Dzogchen practice.
bb: So, after Refuge then engaging in or accomplishing "Four Thoughts which Turn the Mind", the aspiring practitioner of Dzogchen should receive empowerments that initiates him or her into Dzogchen practice. However, what are these empowerments ??
R: Empowerment means the empowerments of the Yidam practices and that of the special empowerments of Dzogchen. There are essentailly 3 types of empowerments: "Tro-chey" / "Tro-mey" / "Shi-de-tro-mey". Without having first received these empowerments, one will not be able to receive blessings of the tantra practice.
"Tro-chey" includes the usual-standard empowerments of the vase, torma and the like. Even after the empowerments, one should still continue to exert in the "Four Thoughts which Turn the Mind" in order to further reinforce stability in one's practice.
"Tro-mey" empower the practitioner into the practice of the Wind, Drops and Channels.
"Shin-de-tro-mey" introduces the ultimate aspect of Emptiness of all phenomena and constitutes the actual practice itself.
So, there are these 3 graduated, distinctive types of empowerments. Without having received the empowerments, one will not receive the blessings.
Only through receiving the empowerments from the accomplished Dzogchen Teacher who has mastered all the content and all the practices, will it then become meaningful for the aspiring Dzogchen practitioner. The Teacher who bestows the empowerments should be knowledgeable in all the tantric content and practice, in short, a teacher with perfect accomplishments. It does not matter whether the teacher is tall or short, famous or not, good-looking or not, studious or not. When the teacher teaches, there must not be any mistakes. The teacher must have proper practice and realisations.
The main point for receiving the empowerments of say the Yidam practice will be to receive the blessings of the Yidam's Body, Speech and Mind and to receive the authority to visualise and transform one's Body, Speech and Mind into that of the Yidam.
A lot of empowerments are bestowed publicly these days. These are not applicable to subsequent serious Dzogchen practice.
bb: In gist, what will Rinpoche say about Dzogchen ??
R: The Dzogchen practices are extremely profound; it is highly profound. With the required qualifications, practitioners of Dzochen will receive the blessings and accomplishments.
bb: What qualities should an aspiring Dzogchen student possess ??
R: The aspiring practitioner should have faith, pure motivation and strong sense of renunciation of samsara.
We always say, "The student who receives the empowerments should possess the greatest devotion for the Teacher and should possess the purest of hearts or motivation."
The Dzogchen practitioner should possess pure heart and maintain pure commitments. Students should also have firm faith and meditative stability. These days, disciples have faith only when they are in a good mood.
bb: What qualities should a teacher of the Dzogchen possess ??
R: Through compassion, the qualified teacher teaches the methods of liberation from samsara through the pure wish to want to benefit others. This is like the ignition of fire of a teacher's compassion on the inflammable suitable material of a qualified student. A mere spark shall trigger perfect combustion.
These days, some "teachers" have varying levels of compassion, sometimes weak, sometimes strong or sometimes disappeared altogether. Like this, these "teachers" cannot subdue the minds of the students. Their instability in compassion is due to their meditative instability. This is not to say that I have these qualities or abilities of a perfect teacher myself !
Without meditative stability, these "teachers" do not have clairvoyance and so cannot lead the disciple the best way possible through selective, differentiated teachings according to the specific dispositions of the students. A qualified teacher can reinforce the good qualities of the students and weaken the specific defilements of the students as he or she knows through clairvoyance the disposition of the student.
This is like how the Buddha taught, through compassion and clairvoyance, teaching according to the different calibre of the students via the different vehicles: Hinayana, Mahayana or Vajrayana. Or if time is not ripe, the Buddha will bless to ensure that the student meet with a qualified Teacher some time in the future even after His nirvana. The student may even then meet with the Dharma say in the heavenly realms in the future when his or her karmic link ripens due to the Buddha's blessings and aspirations.
bb: Could Rinpoche tell us more about the Vajrayana in general ??
R: The Buddha has taught in all the different realms all these 3 vehicles: Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
Through teaching the Hinayana, countless arahants achieved Liberation. Through Mahayana, the countless bodhisattvas. The Buddha Himself has also taught the Vajrayana to King Indrabhuti in the human realm.
The Buddha has prophesied that 12 years after His nirvana, the Vajrayana will spread widely through the coming of Guru Padmasambhava. In Vajrayana, there are 3 different levels: Maha, Anu and Ati Yoga. Tro-chey, Tro-mey, Shin-de-tro-mey empowerments corresponding to each of these respectively.
It is wrong to think that one does not need the foundation practices of the Hinayana and Mahayana of the Sutra Vehicle if one is engaged in the Vajrayana. The 6 Perfections as taught in the Mahayana and Dzogchen as taught in the Vajrayana are to be practised together.
On the other hand, Hinayana and Mahayana teachings are actually all also included within the Vajrayana practices.
There is no contradiction in sutra and tantra teachings or practices. These are simply different content-in-teaching to suit the different levels of students.
Ati Yoga or Dzogchen, Awareness or Primordial Wisdom as taught in the Vajrayana, Tathagata Garbha as taught in the Sutrayana: these are all different names pointing to the same goal. The difference lies in their elaboration and methods for achievement.
In gist, with Awareness, one is Buddha; with Non-Awareness, one is sentient being.
bb: Could Rinpoche teach us in brief the complete steps to adopt to practise the Dharma ??
R: The practitioner should start with (1) Refuge as the entry point. After Refuge, (2) internalise "Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind". ( Precious human rebirth / Death and Impermanence / Karma / Renunciation through understanding the sufferings of samsara ). After this, one generates (3) Bodhicitta. With Bodhicitta, the practitioner engages in (4) the 6 Perfections. The main point of Mahayana is to possess Bodhicitta with the 6 Perfections as the application aspect. Basing upon the 6 Perfections, and after the requisite empowerments from a qualified teacher, the practitioner practises his or her (5) Yidam, then engages in (6) practices of the Winds, Drops and Channels and finally, (7) Dzogchen to realise Primordial Wisdom. Throughout, the practitioner keeps the commitments.
These are the main points of practice in sutra and tantra. The details are in the 84,000 teachings given by the Buddha.
The teachers who taught me are realised masters and I have learnt the salient points but without extensive study.
bb: In what manner or how should one practise all the above ??
R: One should, as a preliminary, have proper conduct and motivation and then to learn the Dharma through "Listening, Contemplating and Practising".
Through "Listening, Contemplating and Practising" the Dharma, one should not have any doubts but should have perfect confidence in the Dharma which one has learnt. In society, these days, not everyone has firm or complete confidence in what one is learning.
After having fully mastered correctly what has been learnt, one should practically apply what one has learnt through meditation.
Then, one will no longer need to have doubts or worries about whether one has received blessings of the Dharma. It is definite that one will have then received blessings of the Dharma.
bb: Rinpoche, how do we benefit others ??
R: The first step is proper motivation and conduct; in general, a person's heart, a kind heart. The second step is to possess a compassionate heart. After firmly establishing a compassionate heart, the third step is that one then acts for the benefit of all sentient beings.
If one progresses in this manner, there will be stability and of benefit to others.
Through perfecting compassion, one benefits oneself. After firmly establishing compasson in one's mind, one can then be of benefit to students and sentient beings. In this way, there are dual benefit to oneself and others.
bb: What advice will Rinpoche want to offer to Students & Friends @ CAS ??
R: I have already mentioned in relative detail earlier on. The main point is that the teachers and students in CAS in Singapore, Phuntsok Cho Ling ( CAS ) in Malaysia and CAS's education centre - Camden Education Center, should have proper motivation and conduct. They should have the purest hearts possible and try to achieve the best standards in teaching and learning.
What is conduct? In a country, there are laws. In the Buddhist centres, there are the stipulated commitments defining skilful or unskilful behaviour.
When learning the Dharma, one should have devotion. When speaking, one should have courtesy and respect. All these are the basics in Dharma practice. In fact, I do not need to mention these even as Buddhists are simply expected to be like this. I am merely offering a reminder here !
In gist, we need to possess purity in Body, Speech and Mind. Body, Speech and Mind are reflections of our conduct and motivation. With these "basics", we teach the students well.
bb: What advice will Rinpoche want to give to the teachers in Camden Education Center ??
R: I am very happy to be back at CAS's education centre here in Singapore. ( CAS's education centre - Camden Education Center: www.camden.edu.sg ). The last time I came to Camden Education Center was 7 years ago. I am very happy to see that the centre is doing well.
The teachers here should possess the proper motivation and conduct. These factors are very important to the centre. Teachers need a compassionate heart and also to firmly abide within the compassionate heart. We should think of compassion to all sentient beings and students. Like this, we can be of benefit to them.
First of all, in education, there must be proper motivation and conduct, After these, the teacher should have compassion. Through compassion, to educate and teach. When the compassion has been firmly abided, one can then benefit or act for the benefit of the students and others through teaching, education and activities.
Paltrul Rinpoche especially teaches that, for the beginning teacher, he or she should first establish the proper motivation and conduct, then to teach students through compassion, then to enact activities through compassion for the good of all sentient beings. These 3 graduated steps are taught clearly by Paltrul Rinpoche.
bb: Is there anything else which Rinpoche will like to tell us ??
R: We are all students of the Buddha, so we should not judge and attribute our own perceptions upon different teachers, saying this teacher teaches well but that one does not.
bb: CAS hosts only some of the most qualified teachers such as the Loseling Khensur Rinpoche, HH the 100th Ganden Trisur Rinpoche, the Kathok Getse and other such eminent teachers and we pray to be able to organise a proper Dharma programme for Rinpoche in the future. We pray that Rinpoche's holy feet could touch CAS's first Dharma centre in Malaysia which the late Head of the Nyingma Tradition, Kyabje Trulshig Rinpoche, has named "Phuntsok Cho Ling".
R: This is good. If students have faith, they will receive the blessings. I also have the wish to offer Dharma teachings in CAS's Dharma centre, Phuntsok Cho Ling.
bb: Rinpoche, you are our closest teacher in the Palyul Nyingma tradition. HH Penor Rinpoche has told us that there is no difference between Himself and you.
( Rinpoche smiled and kept quiet. )
Tara Lama - the Head of Tantra ( "Dorje Lopon" ) of Namdroling Monastery; whose very being emanates such deep blessings and compassion, physically resembling so much the late Penor Rinpoche.
The great Palyul tulkus: Kalsang and Samten Rinpoches.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama flanked to His sides the respective heads of the Tibetan spiritual lineages: the 102nd Ganden Tripa ( Head of the Gelugpa School ) / the Gyalwa Karmapa ( Head of the Kamtshang Kagyu School ) / the Sakya Trizin ( Head of the Sakya School ) / the Menri Trizin ( Head of the Bon Tradition ) / Kyabje Penor Rinpoche ( Head of the Nyingma School ).
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