Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche
Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987) was born in Pemakö, southeast Tibet in the year of the wood dragon (1940).
He was recognized as the incarnation of Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904), the renowned tertön from Golok in the east of Tibet. Dudjom Lingpa was an enlightened yogi of great power. Foreseeing the Chinese invasion of Tibet, he said to his disciples:
“Evil times are coming to the land of Dharma. Now is the time for you to go to Pemakö. I the old man will be there before you arrive.”
Shortly afterwards, Dudjom Lingpa passed away and so it was that Dudjom Rinpoche was born in Pemakö and as a little boy was old enough to recognize and receive his former disciples as they arrived in search of him.
It is recorded that Dudjom Rinpoche had extremely clear memories of his previous life and from an early age manifested a learning and intelligence far beyond his years. He gave his first public teaching, an exposition of the Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva, at the age of seven! Such was his wisdom and realization that in later life, he came to be regarded as the embodiment of Guru Rinpoche himself. He was himself a tertön and a scholar of immense erudition leaving behind more than twenty volumes of his collected works.
When, after the fall of Tibet, it was thought necessary to nominate a single leader around whom the exiled Nyingmapas could rally, the unanimous choice fell on Dudjom Rinpoche. He was the object of spontaneous and universal veneration. It was prophesised in his early childhood that Dudjom Rinpoche’s teaching activities would prosper greatly in the “south and west”. So it was that, in the later part of his life, he travelled widely in India and southeast Asia, and especially to Europe and the USA, finally establishing himself in France. And it was in his house at La Pechardie on the Côte de Jor in Dordogne that he passed away in the year of the fire rabbit (1987) amid many amazing signs.
For us Westerners, Dudjom Rinpoche was indeed a loving father. And although, as occasion required, he did not mince his words, and could speak sternly and to the point in appropriately colourful and graphic language, he was the personfication of gentle kindness. His presence was a source of endless inspiration, his writings the pattern of clarity and elegance. His oral teachings had the simple, uncluttered directness of true mastery. He was nevertheless a person of great modesty. Matter-of-fact about his training and work, he concealed his personal attainments beneath a veil of playful humour.
Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche left several reminiscences of his early life. In one of them, found in Counsels from my Heart (Padmakara, 2001), he speaks as follows :
I, Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, was born in the year of the wooden dragon of the 15th rabjung cycle (1904). My birthplace was the hidden land of Pemakö and my father was Jampel Norbu Wangyal of the royal line of Kanam. When I was only three years old, I was recognised by the disciples of the great tertön Dudjom Lingpa as the emanation of their master. They took me for their own, and thus I entered the door of Dharma.
“Reading and writing, are the roots of knowledge,” my teacher said and he made me study hard. At the same time, I had to memorise the rituals, prayers and so forth. I received instructions on the proper conduct of body, speech and mind. I also studied history, spiritual tales and the preliminary practices and, thanks to this, my intelligence developed a little. As the years went by, I was compassionately guided according to my ability by learned and accomplished lamas. I studied all the basic sciences such as grammar, spelling and poetry, astrology and medicine, as well as the Dharma texts and commentaries of Madhyamaka, Prajñaparamita, the Five Doctrines of Maitreya, the Bodhicharyavatara, the Three Vows and so forth. In particular, I revered the maturing and liberating tantras, their commentaries and the profound instructions of the oral and treasure teachings of the Nyingma tradition. These ranged from the thirteen great activities of a vajra master to the rituals of the various practice traditions, making and decorating of tormas, dancing, drawing mandalas, chanting and music. Without overlooking anything, I trained most diligently in all the practical details of the vidyadhara lineage. Beginning with the accumulations and trainings of the preliminaries and up to the main practice, namely the approach and accomplishment sections of the generation stage, followed by the perfection stage practices, I persevered as much as I could, making up all the necessary numbers in the recitation.
However, I was led astray owing to the fact that I have the unfortunate title of lama. I became a slave to the distracting activities that are said to be for the benefit of the Doctrine and beings, and for that reason, I got about as much sign of accomplishment as feathers on a tortoise!
Whatever nectar of Dharma I received, most of it I explained and propagated as much as I could to others, according to their nature. And though not deserving to be numbered among the learned, yet so as not to be a disappointment to those who requested me, and also in the hope that I might be of some service to the Teachings, I wrote and compiled more than twenty volumes. These contain for example: The History of the Nyingma School, A General Survey of Nyingma Teachings, a History of Tibet, a word for word commentary on the Three Vows, and instructions and guidelines for many cycles of practice. It is said that the result of receiving teaching is the ability to compose—so I wrote all these works without expectation and trepidation.
Thanks to the kindness of my great and holy teachers, the eyes of my pure perception were not blinded and I never accumulated the evil karma of abandoning the Dharma, of having wrong views and denigrating the teachings of others, or of criticizing anyone at all. And I am continually training myself in the wholesome attitude of avoiding all duplicity. But as I do not have the slightest doubt that I belong among the followers of the compassionate Buddha, albeit in the lowest ranks, I do occasionally have a slight feeling of pride. Which all goes to show that I can’t even tell the difference between right and wrong! This is a short life-story of myself, an old tantrika.