Sixty years ago, I met these teachers. Now they, and that world, are gone. It is up to us to keep their memory alive, to care for their legacy, our inheritance.
We all need the guts to stand up for what is right, on behalf of those who have experienced pain and humiliation. For the sake of our own love and respect, we have to show that they are remembered. Even if our actions can be only symbolic, we must do what we can. For the sake of those whose lives are intertwined with ours, but also for everyone who experiences conflict, suffering, and the everyday torments of samsara, let us work for peace, both inner and outer.
One way to learn compassion is to cultivate the wish to help others. This simple gesture automatically opens the heart. We broaden our perspectives and increase our sensitivity to the need of others, and this then leads to develop the ability to be of actual help. The feeling of selfless love stimulates an openess that allows compassion to rise naturally. We can then act with skill and compassion in all circumstances.
Seen in the light of my masters, I am no one special. Alone, I would not have accomplished much. It is the blessings of the lineage, embodied in my perfect teacher, that have made all of it possible.
– Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche
Twenty-Four Years of Traditional Training in Tibet
The founder of TNMC (Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center) is Tarthang Rinpoche, commonly known as Tarthang Tulku. Rinpoche was born in in the mountains of Golok in northeast Tibet as the son of Sogpo Tulku, Pema Gawey Dorje (b 1894), a highly respected physician and holder of the Nyingma Vidyadhara lineage. Before Rinpoche was two years old, he was recognized and given the name Kunga Gellek by the Sutrayana and Mantrayana master Tragyelung Tsultrim Dargye (b. 1866), who made predictions about Rinpoche’s future mission as a servant of the Dharma, and instructed his parents in the special treatment of young tulkus.
Rinpoche’s training began at a very early age, and his first teachers were his father and private tutors. After the age of nine, he resided at Tarthang Monastery where he was initiated into the teachings of the Palyul tradition by Tarthang Choktrul and given instruction in Mahayana view, meditation, and conduct by various expert khenpos. At the age of fifteen in the iron tiger year of 1950, Rinpoche departed from Tarthang Monastery to travel to the major monasteries of Kham in eastern Tibet. There he received blessings, teachings, and initiations from the greatest masters of the 20th century: Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, Zhechen Kongtrul, Adzom Gyelsey, Bodpa Tulku, and others, altogether thirty-one teachers. For the next ten years, until the age of 24, Rinpoche was given intensive training in the three Inner Yogas of Maha, Anu, and Ati.
Nine Years of Retreat, Research, & Publishing in India
In 1958 Rinpoche departed from his homeland, traveling through Bhutan into Sikkim following in the footsteps of his root guru, Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. The next several years were devoted to pilgrimage and retreat at holy places in India. In 1963 he was appointed by Dudjom Rinpoche as the representative of the Nyingma tradition and given the position of research fellow at Sanskrit University in Benares. In that same year, he set up one of the first Tibetan printing presses in exile and began his life’s work of preserving sacred art and texts. After six years at Sanskrit University and some twenty publications, Rinpoche decided that this was not enough, and departed for America to bring Dharma to the West.
Forty-three Years of Dharma Work in the West
Arriving in America in late 1968, Rinpoche chose California as his headquarters, and established the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center in early 1969. One of the first learned Tibetan exiles to take up residence in the West, he has lived continuously in America for over forty years. With the full support and blessings of Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Tarthang Tulku began in the 1970s to unfold a vision of wisdom in action that would eventually encompass over twenty different organizations and make a significant impact on the transmission of Dharma to the West and the restoration of Dharma in Asia.