Archive | DJKR Teachings

The Artists Role

Slip quietly into non duality

This issue of Gentle Voice is titled ‘Art Unlimited’ and there are a multitude of different forms of art: drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, computer generated art, digital graphics, pop art, minimal art, performance art, street art, indigenous art, architecture, music, dance, film, photography, the art of conversation, the art of seduction and so on…!  Types of art are as varied as media, subject matter and technology allow.


Maree: [M]  Emma Walker, one of Australia’s most respected young artists says, “The creative process is not a straight forward one.  There is no exact recipe that can be followed to produce a consistent result.  Each artist comes with unique inner workings and personal history that creates their own individual approach.  For this reason, the variety of outcomes is limitless”.…. In your view, what is integral to the work of the artist?

Rinpoche: [R] I really like that actually. I think she is very right. It is limitless and that’s so good. It is so good but also because of its limitlessness it’s also frustrating.


M: What genre of art do you most identify with and why?

R: I’m supposed to identify myself with the art of being able to become useless but the temptation to be useful is just so strong. The temptation to have some kind of purpose in life is so strong because of lack of renunciation and all that – it’s just not possible but that’s what I should be identifying. Other than that, I guess the most tangible and visible so far is the art of filmmaking that I have been exploring and recently I am actually picking up on drawing. I really like drawing.


M: From your perspective what is the purest form of art?

R: You know communication with people is so, so, so difficult. Even the notion that we actually did communicate with somebody is only in your own imagination and for that matter even miss communication. In my mind I think that I am talking to you and you are listening to me and I think you are listening to what I say and that’s about the only thing I have to settle with. In my mind I think that you can see the same fake flowers from Hong Kong as I see (Rinpoche points to a bowl of flowers on the table) but actually who knows, most probably you never see what I see and I never see what you see. So the purest art is actually the closest and the most successful way of being able to convey the message and portray or demonstrate what I see – to you. To me that is the purest art.


M: Do you think art in its purest form is spontaneous or premeditated?

R: I actually think both. I like premeditated art because after all we human beings are more capable of mimicking. Spontaneous is very difficult. Many times we just make believe that we are being spontaneous. Of course, I think the aspiration to be spontaneous is quite important other wise we become too corrupted. And I think, as I was saying earlier, the purest form of art is based on being able to communicate. I think children do that, they force adults to think like them even for a split moment, that’s quite a success and they do it kind of spontaneously.


M: Most artists seem to be suffering, searching; tortured souls and many of your students are artistic. Can you explain the link between spirituality and the artist?

R: I think it is connected to what I said earlier. My ideal art should be able to be useless. Art, music, romance, and poetry, all of this is the closest thing that we have that is spiritual in this materialist world. I mean, scientists, mathematicians they are all bound and limited by logic and measurement and all of that but suddenly a scientist can fall in love and when they fall in love logic doesn’t make any sense and nothing makes sense but at the same time also everything makes sense. Everything that logically doesn’t make sense makes sense. I think without many of the artists realising that as soon as you try to be a good artist the war between uselessness and usefulness begins. This is maybe bothering people and I think it is good.


M: What similarities do you think there are between a meditative state and creating a work of art?

R: It can be similar, because in meditation there is no meditation such as keeping a notebook next to you, write it down and record everything. Whatever comes, especially in Buddhism, you are supposed to shrug off, no hope, no fear, no jotting it down. I guess if an artist can do that I think they become much more creative because they don’t get stuck with one idea.

By Ani Lodro Palmo

M: Sand Mandalas, Kseniya Simonova’s Sand Animation, Ice Sculptures – for instance – are transient art. Do you think that ephemeral art is a higher form of artistic expression because in the end what is created is destroyed?

R: I think that’s a very good idea. The idea is good but nowadays everything has become so commercialised. It would be so good if somebody made a really amazing Sand Mandala or an Ice Castle without any audience and the manufacturing date or expiry date is never known. These days even the renunciation of a person is recorded and made a big who-ha about it. If somebody renounces the world then it will be publicised. Not the best thing to do is it?


M: In your view what role does the artist have in society today?

R: To create harmony. Definitely. Harmony is so important.


M: And how does an artist achieve that?

R: To really make people realise their own potential and their own weakness, both, through whatever medium they are using. Not just entertainment, not just through creating distractions but to really make you believe.


M: When you visit small galleries in London, Paris and New York and view the work of young emerging artists – what do you think of their art?

R: I am so bad with these because I am not really trained, I don’t know especially the modern arts. I am still trying and learning to appreciate it.


M: What about Impressionist artists? Are there any paintings or Old Masters that you admire?

R: Oh they are amazing, just mind-boggling. Amazing!


M: Any particular artist or artwork that you really admire?

R: Many, many Russian artists. The ones in Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Wow! The works there are just amazing.


M: Do you think artists can enhance their skills at art schools or do you think it is preferable for artistic skills to emerge without any formal training?

R: Both. I think artists  isolate themselves too much from the rest of the world.

I would like to say that I wish many artists should try to become politicians. That’s what is lacking.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche with Maree Tenzin at Khyentse Labrang in Bir, India. Dec. 2011


Expressing Truth

Dzigar Kontrol Rinpoche No. 47, oil on paper

Dzigar Kontrol Rinpoche

By Dzigar Kontrol Rinpoche

“For me, painting is a means to express the truth one discovers through meditation. The essential practice of meditation is to allow the mind to express itself freely without fear or judgment. In each moment of awareness we encounter impressions of the outer world through our sense perceptions as well as our inner world of thoughts, feelings and emotions. When we are able to let this incredible array of experience be, without trying to reject what we fear or pull in what we are attracted to—when we relax into experience without trying to manipulate it in any way—we have a complete experience of mind, naked and unaltered. Painting, when it is free of such notions as beauty and ugliness or should and shouldn’t, can be used to express this complete experience of mind. When art evolves from this understanding it provides the possibility for those who see it to also experience the unfabricated nature of their own mind.”

Dzigar Kontrol Rinpoche

Link to Dzigar Kontrol Rinpoche talk Integrating Art and Wisdom

No. 47, oil on paper By Dzigar Kontrol Rinpoche

by Dzigar Kontrol Rinpoche

Dissolving the External Display

Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

Thinley Norbu Rinpoche (1931-2011)

By Jakob Leschly

Sublime artists always give energy to others through their art. When they die, they do not leave ordinary inert substance art as a lifeless remainder, but their pure spiritual power lives in their art for the benefit of others.
Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

Thinley Norbu Rinpoche – a.k.a. Dungsey Rinpoche, “precious heart son” – passed away on Tuesday, December 27, 2011, in Palm Desert, California. He was 80 years old, and is survived by three daughters and four sons, the eldest of which is Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche.

Rinpoche was the eldest heart son of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987), and was regarded as the incarnation of Tertön Trimey (1881-1924), the life in which he was born as the son of the first Dudjom Rinpoche, Traktung Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904). Rinpoche was also regarded as the re-embodiment of Longchen Rabjam (1308-1363), “The Great Omniscient One’ the Nyingma master who gathered and transmitted the oral and rediscovered lineages of the Great Perfection teachings.

Thinley Norbu Rinpoche completed his training under his father, and continued to study extensively with several great masters at the Mindroling monastery in Central Tibet. In the wake of the Tibetan exodus, Rinpoche taught and spread Dudjom Rinpoche’s treasure teaching in Bhutan, and in the late 1970s he travelled to the West where he continued to live and teach until his passing.

It’s impossible to describe the infinite qualities of a sublime being. Conventionally one could say Thinley Norbu Rinpoche was an extraordinarily powerful, wise, and engaging presence. Elegant and sophisticated, he had an intensely personal way of relating to whomever he met. He possessed a great sense of humour, and a profound love of art and beauty. At all times he effortlessly displayed enlightenment and the qualities of the teaching, and for those students fortunate enough to spend time with him, he was fully committed in guiding them in every aspect of the path. In Rinpoche’s sangha, children were always included with Rinpoche being very attentive to even the minutest aspect of their education, empowering and guiding them in cultivating joy, peace, and values.

Dungsey Thinley Norbu Rinpoche leaves behind him a rich legacy of sublime Buddhist instruction. He wrote beautifully in both Tibetan and English, conveying the Buddhist teaching with a clear sense of his audience, and with a playful grasp of imagery and language. Rinpoche challenged both the religious bent of traditional Asian cultures, as well as the nihilist assumptions of modern culture. His numerous published works provide both a clear foundational understanding, as well as the more profound and subtle instructions of Buddhist view and practice.

Dungsey Thinley Norbu Rinpoche will be cremated in Bhutan on March 3rd. As Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche and other lamas have stated, with the passing of a sublime being, we no longer should externalise him or her, but mingle with their wisdom.

In the crystal mirror theatre of Awareness Mind the supreme artist performs his magical displays, but rare is the clear insight audience capable of viewing this wisdom.

From Magic Dance – Thinley Norbu Rinpoche


The Display of the Self-Nature of the Five Wisdom Dakinis

by Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche


Five Wisdom Sisters,
If we do not complement you,
you become five witches,
making us ill and bringing us suffering.
Because we cannot banish you,
always our fate depends on you.

Five Wisdom Sisters,
If we do complement you,
you become five angels,
making us healthy and bringing us happiness.
Because we cannot separate from you,
always our fate depends on you.

Five Wisdom Sisters,
Nothing can be done without depending on your mood.
Farmers cannot grow their crops,
Politicians cannot rule their countries,
Engineers cannot work their machines,
Doctors cannot heal their patients,
Scientists cannot do their research,
Philosophers cannot make their logic,
Artists cannot create their art,
without depending on your mood.

Five Wisdom Sisters,
Nothing can be known without depending on your grace.
Tibetan lamas cannot chant with cool highland habit,
Indian gurus cannot sing with warm lowland habit,
Japanese roshis cannot sit with dark cushion habit,
Muslim sheikhs cannot dance with bright robed habit,
Jewish rabbis cannot pray with soft-voiced habit
Without depending on your grace.

Five Wisdom Sisters,
Even the most mysterious miracles cannot occur without complementing your purity.
Buddha Shakyamuni cannot rest with tranquil gaze of his lotus eyes
underneath the Bodhi tree,
Guru Padmasambhava cannot play magically with countless sky-walking dakinis,
Lord Jesus cannot walk weightlessly across the water,
Prophet Moses cannot see the radiantly burning bush,
Brahmin Saraha-pa cannot straighten arrows,
singing wisdom hymns with his arrow-maker girl,
Crazy saint Tilopa cannot eat fish and torture Naropa,
Greatest yogi Milarepa cannot remain in his cave, singing and accepting hardships
Without complementing your purity.

You are so patient.
Whoever wants to stay,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot stay.
Whoever wants to go,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot go.
Whoever wants to taste or touch,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot taste or touch.
Whatever our actions,
You are always supporting
Patiently without complaining.
But we ignorant beings are always ungrateful,
Stepping on you,

Calling you Earth.
You are so constant.
Whoever wants to be purified,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot be purified.
Whoever wants to quench their thirst,
If you don’t exist,

Cannot quench their thirst.
Whoever wants to hear,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot hear
Whatever our actions,
You are always flowing
Ceaselessly without complaining.
But we desiring beings
Are always ungrateful,
Splashing you,

Calling you Water.
You are so clear.
Whoever wants to fight,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot fight.
Whoever wants to love,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot love.
Whoever wants to see,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot see.
Whatever our actions,
You are always glowing
Unobscuredly without complaining.
But we proud beings
Are always ungrateful
Smothering you,

Calling you Fire.
You are so light.
Whoever wants to rise,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot rise.
Whoever wants to move,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot move.
Whoever wants to smell,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot smell.
Whatever our actions,
You are always moving
Weightlessly without complaining.
But we envious beings
Are always ungrateful,
Fanning you,

Calling you Air.
You are so open.
Whoever wants to exist,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot exist.
Whoever doesn’t want to exist,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot cease to exist.
Whoever wants to know phenomena,
If you don’t exist,
Cannot know phenomena.
Whatever our actions,
You are always welcoming
Spaciously without complaining.
But we ignorant beings
Are always ungrateful,
Emptying you,

Calling you Space.
You are our undemanding slave,
Tirelessly serving us,
From ordinary beings to sublime beings to fulfill our worldly wishes.
You are our powerful queen,
Seductively conquering us,
From ordinary beings to sublime beings,
Into desirable qualities.
You are our Wisdom Dakini,
Effortlessly guiding us with your magic dance,
From ordinary beings to sublime beings,
Into desireless qualities.
And so,
I want to introduce you.

Cosmic Dance Mandala from Tharpaling Monastery Bumthang














Please read A Message from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche on Thinley Norbu Rinpoche’s paranivarna


The Ultimate Retreat

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche by Gosha Heldtz

by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

Ideally the ultimate retreat is to retreat from the past and the future, to always remain in the present. However our mind is so empowered and controlled by habit all the time. One characteristic of habit is not being able to sit still, not being able to remain in the present. This is because being in the present is so scary, so boring and unbearable for our deluded and spoiled mind. Little do we know that actually being in the present is so exciting and the most liberating from all kinds of pain, suffering and anxiety. We sentient beings like to be free from all these things, but we always end up diligently creating more and more causes and conditions to have this pain, suffering and anxiety.

Being in the present is so important in Buddhism. It is the core strategy of Buddhism to do whatever it takes to keep the mind present, to have ones mind from going astray. Every single method that exists in Buddhism is for that result. It could be from just a simple sitting meditation to the tantric methods of visualisation, ritual and mantra. Even elaborate practices including certain tantric dances, what is now popularly known as lama dancing.

With the myriad of methods, one is basically retreating oneself from mundane activities and hopefully from mundane thoughts for as long as possible. Traditionally in Tibet we try to retreat from the everyday for something like one week, three weeks, three months, six months, three years, nine years. Even today there are many people in Tibet who are actually in retreat for a lifetime. However retreat doesn’t have to be three months or three years. What we need is to have the discipline of retreat every day. Such discipline is to retreat from our mundane worldly activities and simply sit on a meditation cushion with oneself.

The idea is to avoid engaging oneself with things we usually end up engaging in, such as gossiping, chatting, internet browsing or newspaper reading. We have so many Buddhist methods to help us do this, from simply doing nothing which is actually the most difficult, to all the way up to two or three hours of rituals and practices. There is no reason why we can not refer to this as a retreat.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche by Gosha Heldtz

Gentle Joy

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Joshua Vishnu Pokora

Compiled by Arne Schelling

Retreat is important. When interviewing various masters for this article, they all say it. It becomes even clearer when Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche defines what retreat really is ; “Ideally what are you retreating from? You are supposed to be retreating from the past and future. That is the ultimate boundary of your retreat. Not your door. Not your geographical area. Ideally you are supposed to be in the hut, and this hut is the present moment. But of course this is not that easy, especially for those who are not used to it.”

Being in the present, this seems to be the underlying theme of all practices, of all retreats, of all meditations. Being here and now. There is no other time anyway; the future hasn’t come yet and the past is gone like a dream from which we have awoken. But how can we find this elusive present? First we need the inspiration to do retreat ourselves.

Chagdud Khandro Photo Arne Schelling

Chagdud Khandro : “For me, amidst my ordinary activities, retreat beckons me like a distant, celestial realm. I aspire to immerse myself in disciplined practice, to concentrate, to open new dimensions of wisdom. I enter, close the boundaries, and breathe a sigh of relief. Soon however comes the bumptious confrontation with my own bad habits, the day-to-day presentation of my mind’s chatter and unleashed emotions, and worst of all, doubt.”

When we are setting the boundaries, how long should the retreat be and what kind of rules or discipline should be applied?
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche : “So what do we do? We try to grab that situation as much as we can, so this is why the masters of the past have skilfully designed so called retreats, like a month retreat, a week retreat, a weekend retreat or even a whole life retreat and also prescribed out of skilful means different kind of situations which yourself can apply. For instance, if you have decided to do a retreat for a week, since it is really a short retreat, you can really make your own rule: ‘I’m not going to visit facebook. I’m not going to talk with the people. I’m not going to eat more than one meal a day. I will get up early in the morning and I will not talk’. All these kind of disciplines we can apply, but what I’m trying to tell you is: all this is a method, it’s a technique that works for a certain time, for certain people in a certain situation.”

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche Photo Arne Schelling

If we are planning to do a retreat ourselves, a life long retreat would be a very unusual choice. We still cling tightly to our usual ruts. Ringu Tulku Rinpoche explains how we can integrate shorter periods of retreat in our day to day life: “Short-term retreats, I think are very beneficial things for anybody, and therefore, I always recommended that western people start with short term retreats. I think it is very useful, and very beneficial to do short retreats, for even one day. I know about a Tibetan friend of mine, very old, now almost 100 years old, he used to do a one-day retreat every full moon and new moon, and used to say that it is really, really useful. I also recommended this to some people, and they did it sometimes, and they found it very nice. But because you are always working and you are always very busy and lots of things are happening, maybe you don’t have to necessarily do it on the full moon and new moon, but on the weekend or something like that, when you are a little bit more free. You don’t have to go somewhere, like to a retreat place, a forest or solitude, but even at home, you just go to your room and don’t speak for the whole day, and then just practice. Only one day and one night. That also rejuvenates the energy and is very useful. I prefer this kind of retreat, and I think they are very useful. Of course, when you can spend one or two weeks, or one or two months sometimes, I think it will also be very good.”

Rules or retreats don’t sound like a fun thing to do. But don’t take the rules or the retreat as a burden.
Mindrolling Khandro Rinpoche warns ; “Definitely don’t take retreat as an imprisonment. Some people view it as being very severe to yourself and its almost like now here is a time when your are distancing yourself from every sort of mundane like and dislike. That’s also bringing in too much exaggeration to what a retreat is.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche adds ; “Rules are necessary in one way, but rules can also become a bit of a burden. If you do the practice, thinking that it is something that you have to do, because you have promised to do it, or because it was your pledge, then you are not necessarily applying diligence in this case. The core message of Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara on the practice is to really have joy to practice and joy to listen to the teachings. Joy.”

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche Photo Arne Schelling

The importance of having joy has been emphasised again and again. In order to have joy, it is sometimes helpful not to be stuck with the label of ‘retreat’.
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche:
“Whatever we call it, retreat is actually just a good lifestyle. Really it is a good life, a good lifestyle with the chances and time to work with one’s mind and to appreciate working with one’s mind. You should not see it as some kind of burden, but should approach retreat with some kind of joy.”

This joy can also be nourished by realising the kindness of the master, who guides our retreat. In the case of the Dharma Gar retreat, guided by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche since 2008, the practitioners should really be aware of the preciousness of that unique opportunity to practice.
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche :
“Now to encourage people who are doing this sort of retreat with a greater sense of appreciation we should consider this. You know, we live our lives and time just goes, year by year, time just flies and so also our life just goes with the time. And when such an opportunity and situation such as the Dharma Gar arises, an opportunity that comes from one’s own merit and the blessing and kindness of the teacher coming together, we must realize how precious this is. You know, not having to leave one’s own environment and not having to leave one’s own home, one can actually get the satisfaction of the practice being done and guided by a great master, and the growth that comes with it. Its much more significant than if a lump of gold in the size of your own head dropping into your lap. It’s right to have that kind of appreciation. With that appreciation there should to be a not-do-it-too-tight and not-too-loose approach to the practice and retreat as a lifestyle.”

Mindrolling Khandro Rinpoche Photo Arne Schelling

With this underlying understanding we learn how to appreciate this rare and positive circumstance of ours, which is the quintessence of all the teachings on the precious human life: the ability to practice Dharma.
Mindrolling Khandro Rinpoche :
“Western students in particular look at retreat as a project. And before they go into retreat, they have pretty much a formulated idea what they want to achieve during that time of the retreat. I think that’s a wrong attitude to go into it, because it lacks a lot of devotion and the sense of how fortunate one is, that one is able to spend time with the practice. So not only in retreat, but in the context of our practice, we have to be able to really appreciate the preciousness of the teachings, the devotion aspect of how grateful we are for the blessings of the guru as well as the opportunity to practice the path of the dharma in our lives and a sense of really valuing the time that we have. We should have the perspective of humility to even try to attempt realizing the practices in our lifetime.
So to be like this is very gentle as well as generating an appreciative but simple attitude to retreat, and this is often lost when we go in it. For example, when people write to me about being in retreat, they ask: do I have the permission to go into retreat? This I find very odd, because you don’t really need permission to spend time with your practice and to value your practices. “

But how to practice?
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
emphasises on the importance of really knowing what we are practicing. “One of the main things in the retreat is that you need to really know what to practice, and how to practice. If you don’t know, you need to learn. It doesn’t need to be very complicated or too deep or too profound or very elaborate, you just have to know how to do meditation or any kind of practice you do; you just have to have a clear practical understanding on how to do it, then I think it’s useful.”

And on top of that, the blessing of the lineage is crucial.
Chagdud Khandro
puts it in a nutshell ;
“the blessing is in sitting still with all this instead of running. Relying on the lineage instructions instead of my ad hoc fabrications. Creating, dissolving, resting. Deepening compassion is the most valid measure, but how to measure compassion?” A very important key factor in retreat is our attitude. We should always tune our compassionate motivation, again and again, giving rise to Bodhicitta, the wish to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings. To make that wish firm and our practice meaningful, it is so important to let go of our expectations. Chagud Khadro remembers; “Chagdud Rinpoche said to me, ‘When you meditate, it is like rain on the mountainside. All kinds of plants bloom–medicinal and poisonous. Let go of your expectations.’ ”

What are our expectations?
Mindrolling Khandro Rinpoche :
“People seem to think that a retreat has to have a result. Of course we all hope for a result, but at the same time when a retreat becomes goal orientated, result orientated, then we allow self frustration or dejection to come after leaving the retreat and all the while that we are in retreat we are like a hungry ghost, looking for experience, looking for something to happen, looking for some extraordinary event or realization to take place. That makes it all very deliberate, full of tension and orientated very much with form and deliberate concepts, so that the pleasure, just the genuine happiness of being quiet in our own self, with our own practice and finally being able to bring some understanding to what we have only literally and intellectually interpreted gets lost. That kind of happiness is not often found. I wouldn’t say its not found at all, because some people of course practice very well, but its not so often found, which I find is very, very unfortunate.”

And Ringu Tulku Rinpoche adds ; “Regarding retreats, western people sometimes come with too much expectation, and without really knowing what the retreat is all about. Then it doesn’t help, but becomes a problem. Retreat is training to practice, and if you can take it like that and use that time to learn how to practice, and to not expect too much result, then it will be very useful. “

Even though we shouldn’t expect anything, retreats do bring about some benefits.

Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche : “Really to get some realisation it has to come through from the practice, whatever the practice that one is doing. For example if one is doing the ‘four thoughts that turn ones mind towards the Dharma’, there has to be some experience of having one’s mind turned away from the samsara and the causes that actually lead to suffering. And if we are taking refuge or are doing the Bodhicitta practice or Vajrasattva or Guru Yoga, out of each of those practices there is some accomplishment that one can have in one’s mind; one can have relative experiences. One should actually see if one has those or not. If one has such realisations and accomplishments, one should be very grateful and appreciative. And if one doesn’t have them, then one should understand how one can actually still have effects of the practice on the mind. I think it’s very important. The daily practice and also the Dzogrim practice, each has it’s own kind of relative accomplishment. We should also see if that accomplishment is there or not. If the accomplishment is lacking, we should pray for that and for the encouragement to practice. If not, through asking teachers or engaging with other older students, or through reading of how one can do better, we can make progress and have those accomplishments. That is important.

Ultimately there is a real sense of confidence coming from that. How the Dharma manifests in one’s own experiences, that’s very important. And then in the nature itself. If one has confidence in the nature itself, that’s everything, you know?
I think that confidence comes, slowly, slowly comes, but sometimes you really have to see how to generate it or how to just have that confidence, that it is not fake, or that it is not ungrounded in realization or only based on temporary experiences. I think that is very helpful. I would suggest people to get to that point through this ten years period of the practice. I really pray that people will do that. You know in my experience of guiding students, a lot of people make it to that grade. That’s very beautiful and that’s wonderful for a teacher to see. So I hope that this takes place in this Dharma Gar program. “

Mindrolling Khandro Rinpoche : “Intensive practice means that your body, speech and mind is now so ingrained with the practice that it has the power of cutting through. Otherwise, how can we practice in mundane life? In mundane life there are moments of switching on and switching off; now you are a practitioner and now you are a samsaric mundane person. This is very detrimental to the path of progress of understanding Dharma. Now in retreat, you don’t need to have a mundane interpretation and view, versus a much more Dharmic view. You can be completely installed in the essence of the Dharma with body, speech and mind. So, although there is a form and a structure to the practice, I would say, there is much more a uniformity and evenness of day and night, holding the view of the practice all the time, and that’s what retreat is about. So I think that attitude to retreat is definitely something people need to really understand better, and not see it so much as an ambitious project to complete.

Definitely what you realize is how much just touching the surface your practice actually is. The enormity of what it means to be a practitioner strikes you more impactfully when you are in retreat. And you begin to see that everything that you are trying to do in terms of Dharma is just scraping the surface. And you begin to say; “that is not how I should actually be practicing.” Dharma requires a tremendous degree of involvement so that you dive into it completely, immersing yourself completely into it. So I think it’s a very humbling experience, definitely.”

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche : “Any practice you do is much more strong, much more profound in retreat than otherwise, even if you are not doing it so well. People who do retreat that way find that maybe not immediately, but in the long run, retreat becomes something really valuable in their life. They find they can really get something. But sometimes they don’t know immediately what they accomplished.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Joshua Vishnu Pokora Photo Arne Schelling

As with all Dharma practices, the retreat is to as Drubgyud Tenzin Rinpoche says: “overcome the eight worldly dharmas and accomplish the two kayas”.

Drubgyud Tenzin Rinpoche recalls a conversation he had with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, while walking in a garden in Bhutan: Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche said; “Do you see the gate there at the end of the wall? With a lot of studies you can reach that gate. But with just one moment of practice, you will go far, far beyond that gate.”

Tashiding Drupchen


In January 2011 Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche lead a drupchen in Tashiding, Sikkim. The drupchen practice was from the Rigdzin Sokdrup, “The Practice of the Life of the Vidyadharas” a cycle of Terma revealed by Lhatsun Namkha Jigme. The video link is a teaching that Rinpoche gave during this time.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche explaining Lhatsun Namkai Jigme
from Noa Jones on Vimeo.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche explaining Lhatsun Namkai Jigme from Noa Jones on Vimeo

Thangthong Gyalpo Tulku and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche at Tashiding photo Gerard from Netherlands

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche making offerings photo Sarah Mist

The places you will go, The people you will see



“The aim of all Buddhist practice is to catch a glimpse of the awakened state. Going on pilgrimage, soaking up the sacred atmosphere of holy places and mingling with other pilgrims are simply different ways of trying to achieve that glimpse.” Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

Pilgrim at Sarnath photo Sarah Mist

Rinpoche wrote the book “ What to do at India’s Buddhist Holy Sites “ in response to the questions students frequently ask about going on pilgrimage to Buddhist holy sites. What to do at India’s Buddhist Holy Sites is not a guidebook for ordinary tourists, but for Buddhists who wish to purify their defilements and accumulate merit by going on pilgrimage. Focusing primarily on the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and the great Indian masters of the past, Rinpoche offers pilgrims advice on every aspect of pilgrimage: where to go, what to do, the meaning of pilgrimage  and generating the right motivation before leaving home. He explains what Buddhists mean when they describe a person, place or object as being ‘holy’. Included are suggestions for which prayers and practices one can do at the four main Buddhist holy sites in India and Nepal.

Click here to request a pdf file of Rinpoche’s book

Click here for a preview of Rinpoches Book

This story below is an excerpt from “What to do at India’s Buddhist Holy Sites” and was told to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche By Deshung Rinpoche.

There are many stories, about people whose devotion was such that their one-pointed longing actually created holy places, or even invoked the material presence of holy beings into their own perceptions.

Like Lodro, for example, who felt tremendous devotion for the bodhisattva Mañjushri. One evening, he came across an amazing passage in a book he was reading about how Mañjushri had vowed three times to show himself to anyone who travelled to Mount Panchashisha * . For Lodro this was the most wonderful and inspiring discovery, and he became so excited that, after a sleepless night and without eating breakfast, he ran to his master’s house to ask his permission and blessings to visit the mountain. At first Lodro’s master did his best to convince him that such a journey, fraught with danger and hardship, was entirely unnecessary, but Lodro would not be convinced. Again and again he begged his master to allow him to go, until eventually he gave in and agreed.

In those days travelling was difficult, but Lodro, undaunted by the dangers that lay ahead, packed enough food and medicine for several months onto the back of his donkey, waved goodbye to his master, family and all his friends, and set off across the Tibetan plateau.

The terrain was extremely tough. He had to cross several fast flowing rivers and survive the punishing heat of empty deserts where his only companions were venomous snakes and wild animals. Nevertheless, after several months, Lodro arrived safely at Mount Panchashisha and immediately started searching for Mañjushri. He looked everywhere, again and again, but couldn’t find anyone who even vaguely resembled the bodhisattva. Then, one evening as he rested his back against the cold iron steps of a monastery he fell fast asleep. The  next  thing  he  remembered  was  walking  into  a  lively  bar  where  a  boisterous  crowd  of  locals  were drinking, laughing and having fun. It was late and Lodro was tired. He asked for a room, and the enormously fat Madame who sat behind a small desk at one end of the main corridor told him they were full up, but he could sleep in a corner of the corridor if he wanted to. He accepted gratefully and pulled a book out of his luggage to read before he went to sleep. Before long a rowdy gang of Chinese boys burst out of the bar into the corridor and started making fun of the fat Madame. Lodro tried to ignore them, but the leader caught sight of him and swaggered over to examine him.

The path that leads to the Manjushri Cave at Wu Ti Shan in China

“What are you doing here?” he demanded.

Not  quite  knowing  what  to  say,  Lodro,  in  his  innocence,  found  himself  telling  the  Chinese  boy  about Mañjushri’s vow. The boy laughed and laughed.

“You Tibetans, you’re so superstitious! Why is that?” he cried. “And you actually believe what you read in books! I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve never heard of anyone called Mañjushri.”

Shaking his head in disbelief he turned back to his friends, saying, “Winter’s coming. You should go home before you freeze to death.”

The whole gang then staggered back into the bar for another drink as the Madame and Lodro exchanged a look of relief. A few days later, on his way back from another futile trek up the mountain, Lodro bumped into the same Chinese boy.

“You still here?” exclaimed the boy.

“Alright, I give up,” replied Lodro, with a wan smile. “You were right, I am too superstitious.”

“So, you’ve finally had enough, have you?” crowed the Chinese boy. “Will you go home now?”

“I thought I’d make a pilgrimage to Mongolia,” said Lodro. “I might as well, it’s on the way home. And it’ll mean this journey wasn’t a complete waste of time.”

Lodro looked sad and there was something about the way his shoulders slumped as he spoke that softened the Chinese boy’s heart.

“I tell you what,” he said, slightly less aggressively than before. “You don’t have much money and you’ve run out of supplies, so you’re going to need some help. I have a friend in Mongolia. I’ll write him a letter. If you deliver it to him I’m sure he’ll do what he can.”

Auspicious Clouds at Wu Ti Shan

The next day, Lodro once again packed everything he had onto his old donkey and, feeling depressed and disheartened, took one last look at Mañjushri’s mountain, hoping desperately that Mañjushri might appear at least long enough to wave him goodbye. But no. The crowds of people rushing to and fro before him gave up nothing but the Chinese boy with the letter he’d promised. Lodro thanked him, tucked the letter into his yak skin coat and left for Mongolia.

After several months Lodro reached the town where the Chinese boy’s friend was supposed to live. Waving the letter in his hand, he stopped everyone he met to ask where the recipient of the letter might be found. To his surprise, every single person he approached burst out laughing. Lodro was extremely puzzled. Eventually he met an old woman who managed to control herself long enough to ask if she could read the letter. Lodro gave it to her, without reading it himself. She studied it carefully, then asked,

“Who wrote this letter?”

And Lodro told her the whole story. She shook her head and sighed, “Those young men are always bullying helpless pilgrims like you. But there is one creature I know of who bears the name written in this letter. If you really want to deliver it, go to the rubbish tip at the edge of the village. There you’ll find a pig. He’s very fat so you can’t miss him.”

Lodro was a little baffled by this information, nevertheless he decided that, as he was already so close he would go to the tip and have a look at the pig.

Before long, he found a huge hill of rubbish on top of which sat an extremely large and rather hairy pig. Feeling a little self-conscious, Lodro unrolled the letter and held it in front of the pig’s small, bright eyes and was completely astounded when the pig appeared to read it. Once he’d finished, the pig started weeping uncontrollably and fell down dead. Suddenly curious about what could possibly have had such a strong effect on the animal, Lodro finally read the letter.

Dharma Arya Bodhisattva,

Your mission to benefit beings in Mongolia has been accomplished. Now hurry back to Mount Panchashisha.


Amazed and reinvigorated, Lodro rushed back to Mount Panchashisha with just one thought in his mind,

“This time, when I meet Mañjushri, I’m going to hold onto him extremely tightly and I’ll never let him go!”

His first stop back on the mountain was the bar where the Madame had given him shelter. Lodro asked her if she’d seen the Chinese boy.

“Those boys are always on the move. Who knows where they’ll be?” she said.

Lodro’s heart sank.

“But you’re tired,” continued the Madame, a little more gently. “Why don’t you sleep now. You can look for the boys tomorrow.”

And she offered him his old place in the corridor. He fell asleep quickly, only to wake with a start to find himself slumped against the steps of the monastery and freezing cold. There was no sign of the Madame, the bar or the town. Physically he was on Mount Panchashisha, the external realm where Mañjushri is said to live, yet his merit had been such that his experiences of Mañjushri had all taken place in a dream.

I’ve always hoped that Lodro finally realized that Mañjushri’s compassion is so immense and all pervasive that it’s possible to invoke his presence absolutely anywhere—even his hometown. And from that point of view, his journey to China had been unnecessary, but it definitely wasn’t a waste, because if Lodro had not made his pilgrimage he probably wouldn’t have experienced this inner journey, or realized anything at all.

Chotu, the chai wala at Bodhgayas Number 1 tea stall photo Pawo Choyning

After I heard this story from Deshung Rinpoche, I visited Mount Panchashisha * several times, but had even less success than Lodro. Not only did I completely fail to invoke Mañjushri’s presence, I didn’t have any dreams at all. The only thing that happened was I got annoyed by the ticketing system that’s been instituted at most of the temples and by the monks who sold the tickets. Most of all I was extremely disappointed to see holy shrines reduced to the status of national monuments. Later, though, my intellectual mind began to wonder if one of those arrogant, acquisitive monks who could only think about the amount of tickets they were selling, was in fact Mañjushri. Who knows?

*Also known as Mount Wu Tai Shan.

Rinpoche with Flowers in Nepal


In December 2010 Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche and Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche lead a Barche Kunsel Drupchen at the sacred Asura Caves in Pharping, Nepal. Here are a few photos from Pawo Choyning Dorji’s gallery of this time.

Dzongsar Khyentse, Jigme Khyentse and Tsikey Chokling photo Pawo Choyning Dorji

Dzongsar Khyentse, Jigme Khyentse and Tsikey Chokling photo Pawo Choyning Dorji

Flowers on the last day of the drupchen photo Pawo Choyning Dorji

And more blessings photo Pawo Choyning Dorji

Bodhanath Stupa photo Pawo Choyning Dorji

The Six Fondnesses

The Six Fondnesses

A Teaching from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in Australia.
As many of you will have experienced over the years Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has a particular style of teaching. Very generous and inclusive.

During the Uttaratantra Shastra teaching at Bangalow, in Australia this year, there was a particular section in these teachings that caught the mind of many of us as being a most delightful and relatable explanation of the six Paramitas. I have only lightly edited this passage so those of you who have not heard Rinpoche directly can appreciate the humour and deep affection as well as the profound wisdom that infuses Rinpoche’s style of Teaching.

The Six Fondnesses

“ For the path dweller to be virtuous and to accumulate virtuous deeds is so important. To think virtuously is very important. However good deeds have so many obstacles. These obstacles can be categorised into the six fondnesses.”
“What are they – it is quite interesting – they are the six different kinds of love.”
Rinpoche invites a definition.  “What is love by the way?” (Audience laughter)

Audience responds with some words.

“Tenderness, yes tenderness. That is good. Tenderness I think I like. A soft spot. A Fondness.”
1. “ There is a certain type of rat that is always collecting things – a pack rat. This kind of attitude, a tenderness towards, a fondness for collecting attacks generosity, the first paramita.”
2. “ The next is a tenderness, a fondness towards not staying out of trouble. A very good one, this, I thought. A fondness to trouble.”

Mischievous?  (Audience)

“Mischievous is something kind of good. No? Well according to us it is,” ( Rinpoche and audience laughter) “ This fondness of not staying out of trouble becomes the obstacle to discipline.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Bangalow 2010 Photo by Bridget Gebbie

3. “The fondness to making the point is the obstacle to patience”
4. “ Fondness to carelessness is the obstacle to diligence “ Sloppiness. Yes. Sloppiness is good. Messiness. A fondness to Australians. No, No, No I am just…”
5. “ A fondness to be dependent, to be co-dependent. We have a fondness for wanting space, for respecting human rights but that’s all talk. Behind our actions we have a fondness to be dictated to, to be controlled by others. Fondness to be dominated by an object “
“ A bit like having a girlfriend or a boyfriend. To have someone who can change their mood faster than lightning. That’s terrible,”
(Lots of laughter)
“Basically we love dependency even though we talk about independence. This is the obstacle to meditation – samadhi. “
6. “Now this is a really good one. Fantastic this one. You know how the French  – I hope there are no French people here  – love smelly cheese.  We love disgusting stuff like pig’s nose. There is tenderness, a fondness for liking bad stuff, or for liking cheap stuff, so that is why we need wisdom.”

“ These things, these six fondnesses are the mastermind, the planner, the mover, the fixer of non virtuous deeds. They lead to non-virtuous action. They sustain, they enhance, the non-virtuous action. The six paramitas are there because these fondnesses need to be analysed and attacked.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche.

Your own wisdom is your own best teacher


From the archives, Sydney, Australia 1984.

Quote from Rinpoche