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Surprising Snippets From Rinpoche's Life

Nyung-Ne with Rinpoche

Ven. Gyatso writes from Mongolia that he would like to claim the FPMT record for a last session of Nyung Ne - from 5.00 am until 9.30 pm, with a two-hour lunch break and no other breaks!

Shopping with the Rinpoches

Yesterday, Rinpoche hosted a lunch at Kopan after doing 100,000 Maitreya Lama Chopa tsog…. 700 sangha attended as well as His Holiness Chobgyey Trichen Rinpoche (one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s gurus, he is also the highest lama of the Sakya tradition), Serkong Dorje Chang (the reincarnation of Marpa, Milarepa's guru) and Denma Locho Rinpoche. After lunch Lama Zopa Rinpoche took Serkong Dorje Chang (he is about 24 yrs old) shopping to buy a monastery …… they looked at a nearly finished one that was running into financial problems …. so it looks like Lama Zopa Rinpoche will buy that for Serkong Dorje Chang…….not the normal thing you have on your shopping list!

Chenrezig on the Roof

While driving at night in the mantra-van Venerables Roger and Holly noticed that thousands of insects were being smashed into the windscreen.After a while, however, they noticed that the bugs stopped hitting the windscreen - instead they were coming towards the car, but rather than hitting the windscreen the streams of insects were flying past either side of the car.When they arrived at their destination, as as (Lama Thubten Zopa ) Rinpoche got out of the car he said, 'When I noticed all the bugs being killed, I tried to visualize Chenrezig on the roof of the car, blowing wind to blow the bugs away from the car".

Long Life Puja with Rinpoche

Ven. Roger, Rinpoche’s attendant told us that they had just finished the long life puja. It went very well, one very old lady came up at the end who Rinpoche cured of a backache. She can hardly walk and had to be helped. Rinpoche gave her this Mickey Mouse that someone had just given Him, for a while Rinpoche had Mickey do a few tricks for the audience and everyone was laughing.

Roadside Attraction

While at Milarepa Center, Rinpoche led retreatants in walking meditation, leading them off the Milarepa property and onto the main highway, thus giving the meditators a real challenge for their concentration and all those driving past something unusual to look at!

Model Potatoes

For health reasons, Rinpoche cannot eat many potatoes, despite the fact that Sherpas traditionally love potatoes. So, when Rinpoche had a potato at a restaurant on the road during the East Coast tour, he was so looking forward to it that he asked Ven Roger to take a photo of it! Having created some more design on the table, of course....

Divine Photocopying

Thirty copies of the Diamond Cutter Sutra needed to be made for Maitreya Project, and in Rinpoche's observation it came out best if Rinpoche himself made the copies. So he went off to the local photocopying center, and made his very first photocopies. Rinpoche was so impressed by the technology, only having to press one button in order to make all these copies of the sutra, that he dramatically increased the number of copies from thirty to one hundred, while explaining to the staff all the benefits of this sutra!

A Bug's Life 1

At Milarepa Center Ven Annette was cooking for Rinpoche in a trailer, and there were always about fifty flies sharing the space. The only way to remove the flies was to catch them in a jar and take them outside. Rinpoche saw this being done, and said the flies should be taken out and circumambulated round the stupa - this became the retreat's nightly routine.

Rinpoche then wanted to make a video of his teaching about the benefits we gain from flies and mosquitoes - not only are we liberating them, but actually they are liberating us. They are so kind because they are giving us the opportunity to be kind and practice bodhicitta. Also seeing them buzzing when caught in a glass jar gives us an indication of how we should feel about getting out of samsara.

A Bug' Life 2

While Rinpoche was in Deer Park for Geshe Sopa's teachings, Rinpoche was circumambulating the car (which contained the stupas and texts Rinpoche travels with) at about 3am. As Rinpoche returned to the house, he noticed in the light of the front light that a spider had caught a moth, and was holding the moth in its legs. Rinpoche was very worried and stopped to say mantras to both insects. Rinpoche then remembered that there is a mantra that frees one from fear, and thought: if the Buddha's words are true, then this mantra must work.

So Rinpoche recited the mantra, and immediately the spider dropped the moth (which flew away) and ran off! Rinpoche said he was amazed, and then felt sad about having taken food away from the spider. Ven Holly asked Rinpoche which mantra he used, and Rinpoche responded with this translation of the Buddha's name (which is the basis of the mantra): 'I prostrate to the Tathagata who is the deva, who frees from all fears/dangers'.

Writing Scriptures in Gold...

For sometime now very late at night and in the early morning, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche has been writing the Prajnaparamita in gold. Rinpoche is also having it written in silver (with other crushed jewels), plus having different sizes and versions of the Prajnaparamita being written in gold and silver in Sera-Je, Kopan and Aptos. All these texts are to go in the heart of the Maitreya Statue. Rinpoche has said it is one of the main ways to create merit for the Statue to actually be built.

On the road with Rinpoche in Tibet

Rinpoche won everybody over. The authorities told Rinpoche that “he wasn’t allowed to do anything that would inspire the people”. But even though no-one knew who he was, and Rinpoche just looked like an ordinary monk as he walked around, Rinpoche can’t hide - people would come up to him. He was able to touch the heart and stir deep devotion and faith in the hearts of every-one he met. To him every-one was precious. He was there for every single being. Rinpoche was bringing back the hope to Tibet.

Rinpoche took every student, every project, every centre, to Tibet with him, and used every single opportunity to create the most extensive merit all the time with all the holy objects. Rinpoche wouldn’t pass a statue without making money offerings and prayers to it and dedicating the merit to the whole organisation and every student. He made use of every single opportunity in the holiest month in the holiest place to make the most extensive prayers and dedications for every single student and every single centre and project. He made each member of the group be there for everyone too, wouldn’t let us waste a second.

Teaching on Geshe Langri Tangpa

We went to the Kadampa lama Geshe Langri Tangpa’s gompa, and everyone was so happy to see Rinpoche, they opened the doors and showed the statue which Geshe Langri Tangpa made of himself, and then Rinpoche taught the entire Eight Verses of Thought Training with commentary in 20 minutes. At the end Rinpoche said it’s very unusual for him to give such a teaching in this way, it must have been the blessing of Geshe Langri Tangpa!

Arranging travel arrangements - or not!

Recently, Rinpoche was meant to be catching a 9.30pm flight. However at 4.30pm Rinpoche started a puja for Maitreya Project which lasted for half an hour. Then Rinpoche began an unexpected puja for a student who was sick, and did the puja incredibly slowly and thoroughly. Meanwhile many people had gone to the airport to see Rinpoche off, Ven Holly had Rinpoche's bag and the car keys in her hand for hours, and Ven Roger kept mentioning that they had to leave to catch the flight - but no response.Finally the puja finished, and Rinpoche said “Oh, is it time to go?” Ven Roger’s response was “we might need to do a puja for the airline!”- they had missed the flight.

The next morning Rinpoche ‘found out’ that one of his gurus was giving a major initiation the next day, which Rinpoche could now attend - Rinpoche's comment was “how convenient”.

Rinpoche writes to HH the Dalai Lama after returning from Tibet

“All the monasteries and nunneries that we visited were very happy, the Tibetans there did their very best to show the holy objects, especially in the Potala, where two monks took us into areas of the Potala not normally shown to the public and explained many things. They showed many of the rooms etc. that were not normally shown to the public. One of the monks was a senior Namgyal monk he gave a lot of detailed explanations. At one time he explained to us the story of the recognition of the 14th Dalai Lama when Ketsang Rinpoche disguised met the small child and the child said “I am the one working for all sentient beings” so at that moment I couldn't control my emotions when I heard the Bodhicitta, it is very rare for me to cry, my mind is normally like a rock, I don’t remember ever crying since I was a small child but this time hearing the Bodhicitta I couldn’t stop crying.

While Others Sleep...

Ven Roger and Rinpoche have been driving from California to Madison for Geshe Sopa’s long life puja. On the way, they drove till 4 am before they stopped at a motel. Ven Roger went to get the room set up for Rinpoche while Rinpoche continued turning the prayer wheel in the car (which is full of relics, and two suitcases filled with texts). After half an hour Rinpoche got out of the car and Roger rushed down to bring him to the room but then Rinpoche started circumambulating the car, and carried on for an hour, not just walking but almost jogging around, getting tired, stumbling a bit, but still circumambulating...till about 5.30 am when Rinpoche went into the room.

At a Restaurant in California

On this same trip, Rinpoche and Ven Roger stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. A young waitress came up to greet and welcome them, asking how their trip was going. Rinpoche was quite impressed with her kindness, and wanted to give her a gift, so he checked initially about giving her a small Tara card, but that didn’t come out in his observation and what did come out was to give her an extremely nice glass orchid necklace. So Rinpoche gave the waitress this present, and she was completely overwhelmed, then rushed back later to thank Rinpoche again, she was so totally blown away.

Then one of the other ladies working there came up to say how beautiful the necklace was, so Rinpoche reached around for his bag and came up with another necklace for her...and proceeded to give gifts to many others working in the restaurant. Everyone was so happy and so moved. This happens quite often - in another restaurant, the waitress was particularly kind and respectful to Rinpoche, so Rinpoche wanted to give her a mala, and Ven Holly had to write the benefits of reciting the mantra on a napkin for her.

A Divine Masthead...

While driving at night in the mantra-van a few days ago, Venerables Roger and Holly noticed that thousands of insects were being smashed into the windscreen. After a while, however, they noticed that the bugs stopped hitting the windscreen - instead they were coming towards the car, but rather than hitting the windscreen the streams of insects were flying past either side of the car. When they arrived at their destination, as Rinpoche got out of the car he said “When I noticed all the bugs being killed, I tried to visualise Chenrezig on the roof of the car, blowing wind to blow the bugs away from the car.”

Taking Dictation from Rinpoche

I was taking dictation from Rinpoche in Italy at about 3am in the morning. Rinpoche would talk while I made notes and then I would read back my notes for Rinpoche to check - and I was completely astonished at Rinpoche's word for word recall of what he had just said. You know how you think you have caught something correctly as you write it down, and then you miss one or two words and lose the exact meaning? Well, Rinpoche would repeat his sentence/paragraph almost exactly each time until I got it right. Amazing (Buddha-full!!) memory. And of course the advice was beautiful, practical and inspiring all at the same time. Claire Isitt From Jamyang website.

The Luckiest Bunny

I was travelling with Lama Zopa and a group of Westerners in Tibet. We had stopped briefly in the desert; there was absolutely nothing around us for miles. Just as the bus started again a rabbit leapt from the side of the road. The luckless rabbit ran straight into the one vehicle that passed each day and was badly injured. Lama Zopa immediately took the rabbit on board, placing it tenderly in a box on his lap, doing extensive prayers for it. He requested every student on the bus take the rabbit in turn and say their owns special prayers for it as well. On return to Rinpoche, the rabbit expired. Perhaps this ended up as the luckiest rabbit in Tibet! Robin Bath From Jamyang website.

A Bug's Life 3

Rinpoche was giving a teaching during a weekend retreat on a Hong Kong island when the room was suddenly invaded by flying ants. Soon there wasn't one square inch of surface free of them and they were dying all around us as they hit the overhead lights. Rinpoche asked us to switch off the lights and took off his zen (the upper robe of a monk). With the most delicate sweeping motion, he swept a path before him, saying mantras all the time. I can guarantee not one ant was killed, his movements were so precise. We all filed out in his wake along the insect-free path. The room was relinquished to the ants and our teaching over. Then again, the respect he showed for the lives of the flying ants was our teaching. Gordon McDougall & Kay Cooper From Jamyang website.

Attending Teachings with Rinpoche

Two or three o'clock in the morning, that time when the mind and the body have both collapsed. All about you heads are nodding, and Rinpoche is still teaching. Silently you are pleading for him to stop. Then, finally... "I think I'll stop here." A collective silent sigh. Notebooks rustle. Things are put away. "But what I really meant was..." Said with a sly grin at the crowd before him. And he's off on at least another hour's discourse. It's at moments like this that something often happens to me. Something snaps and I realise he can't bear to let us go. Here is something so vital for our happiness and we still haven't grasped it. I realise I am looking at the epitome of that phrase "like a loving mother for her only child." Gordon McDougall From Jamyang website.

Someone to Watch Over Me...

When Lama Zopa was teaching at Land of Medicine Buddha centre in California, the evening session would often finish very late at night. I would go back to my office to finish whatever was needful for the next day. Then at about 2am I would shuffle off up the hill to our cabin to 'sleep at last'. But there, in the quiet of the night, I would often find Rinpoche walking round and round the prayer wheel, reciting and practicing long after everyone else had fallen, exhausted, into bed. So quiet. The stars overhead and the prayer wheel draped in the magical fairy lights that Rinpoche loves. I felt like a child who rests easy knowing their parents are awake and watching over them. Linda Gatter From Jamyang website.

Taking the Time...

A taste of how, as Rinpoche’s students, our priorities might shift - Ven Roger says: “It doesn’t matter how busy things get, if a sentient being appears in front of Rinpoche, he always stops and has all the time in the world for that being - unlike me, who is always trying to rush things through, always concerned about the schedule. “For example, Rinpoche is currently attending Choden Rinpoche’s teachings at Land of Medicine Buddha. The gompa is 20 yards from the van - and it can take Rinpoche 2 hours to make that journey. The teachings finish at 9pm, but sometimes Rinpoche leaves after midnight, even though he wants to do a specific retreat - because Rinpoche only thinks of the person there in front of him. So now we take two cars - one for the workers who can leave Land of Medicine Buddha immediately, and one for Rinpoche!”

Rinpoche Brings TV into the Path

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11th Rinpoche has been giving more time than usual to watching the news on television. Recently, there was a program about a journalist who spent a year in Afghanistan to get the inside story on one tribe who were fighting against the Russians. Among many video interviews, the journalist interviewed the tribe's executioner, who smiled as he mentioned that he had beheaded 1,500 Afghani traitors, and that he had cut off many hands. Once the program finished, Rinpoche went to the next session of the Medicine Buddha retreat, sat on the throne, apologised for being late as he was watching TV, and used the story as the basis for a teaching on karma, especially the karma of killing.

How Rinpoche spends auspicious days…

On Chokhor Duchen, Rinpoche spent the morning and afternoon in prayers and practices. He was scheduled to give the transmission of the Diamond Cutter Sutra and to lead a Vajrayogini Self-Initiation at LMB at 7 pm. So, Rinpoche arrived at LMB at 7.20pm, and what actually happened is that Rinpoche began by giving a talk about compassion and cherishing others for about 3 hours; then led a light offering for an hour; then gave an introduction to the Diamond Cutter Sutra and emptiness until about 2 am. Rinpoche then left LMB to go back to his house, where he gave everyone there an offering of $100, then filled stupas till 4.30 am.

At this point Rinpoche exclaimed that he had nearly forgotten something - and rushed out to get Mani (the dog) and took her to circumambulate her stupa for an hour (till 5.30 am), then continued to paint the Prajnaparamita in gold (for the Maitreya statue) for the remains of the night. (Meanwhile, there were ordinary beings strewn about the house in varying stages of exhaustion and collapse).

Rinpoche in Retreat

Rinpoche started out attending every session of the February Chenrezig retreat in America - and was doing his own private retreat as well - but stopped going to every session as it was making the sessions too long for retreaters! Rinpoche decided to attend a session which was scheduled from 2 - 5 pm. Rinpoche joined at 4 pm, and so the session carried on until 3 in the morning! Rinpoche gave some amazing, down to earth, punch in the gut commentary. He also chanted very beautifully in the huge, high-ceiling gompa.

Rinpoche led everyone in a long dedication, which included “Please pray, while you're not asleep, to have lots of sleep!” and also “While you always pray to have the right conditions to practice the Dharma, you do have the right conditions but you don't practice” - and then laughed and laughed. When the session finished at 3 am (with the next session due to start at 4.30 am) the retreaters were so moved they got up to offer khatas to Rinpoche. And after a Heruka initiation which went from 8 in the evening until 9 the next morning, Rinpoche ended with the words - “For those who are still not dreaming, you can leave!”

Three Hour Offering to Rinpoche…

Ven. Roger tells us that when the group of Rinpoche's students from Chengdu, China, came to Hong Kong for teachings, it took 7 students over 3 hours to offer gifts to Rinpoche! This is because each present (such as honey, chocolate) was offered with a heartfelt prayer related to the symbolism of the object. Rinpoche was very moved.

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