A Short Life Story of Ven. Lama
Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen (1914 – 1997)
By the Late Chinese Master’s Humble Disciples and Lineage Holders Yeshe Thaye & Pema Lhadren
Difficult Times and Conditions for the Spreading of “Tibetan Buddhism”
It had not been easy and smooth for the spreading of “Tibetan Buddhist” teachings in Greater China (particularly so in Hong Kong and Taiwan) during the period of the 50s to 70s of last century. Many Dharma practitioners would have hard times in just trying to receive some relevant information on “Tibetan Buddhism”, let alone its important teachings. One of the main factors for this difficulty was due to be a lack of trained personnel who could understand and/or can even translate the Tibetan Buddhist teachings for the Chinese general public, let alone Dharma practitioners. There was a general atmosphere and feeling, by then, of “nowhere to enter” into the door of “Tibetan Buddhism”.
In order to take up this important task and responsibility in linking up the precious lineages from the different Tibetan Masters of the past in order to nurture the younger generations of the future, there were only a very few handful of Chinese pioneers acting as the propagators of “Tibetan Buddhism” who had dedicated themselves by visiting those Holy Places and receiving the important teachings of “Tibetan Buddhism”, so that they could bring back and spread these Dharma teachings into the Chinese soil. Among them, one of the most important Chinese pioneers of “Tibetan Buddhism” in the Chinese soil was our Most Beloved Root Guru (“Tsawai Lama”) – the late Chinese Master Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen (alias Ven. Guru Lau Yui-che, or simply as Ven. Guru Lau which will be used interchangeably in this short life story), one of the chief disciples and also the Chinese Spiritual Representative of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche in the Far East.
Ven. Guru Lau’s Birth and His Karmic Connections with Buddhism in General, and Tibetan Buddhism in Particular
Born in the Village of Dongguan (near Guangzhou city) of Guangdong province, Southern China in January of 1914, Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen was to be first connected with Buddhism, at the age of 12, when both of his mothers were seriously ill. He was advised by family friends to practice Esoteric Buddhism, and so he took his vow and prayed in front of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for the recovery of his mothers.
He was later initiated as a disciple of the Japanese Shingon School at the age of 14 years old. In this way, he was well versed in the “Three Outer Tantras” of the “Kriya-, Carya-, and Yoga- Tantras”. However, he soon realized that the stages of the “Three Outer Tantras” are not the ultimate of the Buddhist teachings, and so he decided to continue on with the study and practice of “Annuttara-Yoga Tantra” from the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
While he was 15 years old, Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen received the “Bodhisattva Vows” from the great contemporary Ch’an (Zen) Master Hsu Yun (Empty Cloud, 1840-1959) in Guangzhou, and had also received his Dharma name with an evidence of a Vow Certificate from the Ch’an Master. In the same year, he also received empowerments and oral instructions from the Gelugpa Geshe Dorje Chöpa.
At the age of 16, Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen had further received maturing empowerments and liberating instructions of “Generation” (Kye-rim) and “Perfection” (Dzog-rim) Stages first from another Tibetan Lama Rinchen Khenpo, and then later on also from other Tibetan lamas, such as Thubten Nyima, and Panchen Lama, among others. In particular, Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen was able to further receive the “Great Perfection” (Skt. Atiyoga or Mahāsaṅdhi ; Tib. Dzogpa Chenpo) teachings from the renowned Nyingma Master Ven. Norlha (Norra Hutuketu) Rinpoche, Gara Lama Sonam Rabten (1865-1936) of Kham Riwoche.
Later on, when he was 37 years old, Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen had further received initiations and teachings of both the “Mahamudra” and the “Great Perfection” teachings from the renowned Kagyu Master Ven. Ganghar (Gonga Hutuketu) Rinpoche, Karma Chokyi Senge (1893-1957), who was the tutor of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, as well as the Root Guru of both Professor Garma C.C. Chang and Yogi C.M. Chen.
Throughout those years, since the late 20s to the mid-50s of last century, Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen had been diligently practicing the Vajrayana practices, while having his whole-hearted dedication in working relentlessly and tiredlessly to help spread the Holy Dharma to all Chinese people.
Turning Point of Ven. Guru Lau’s Whole Life – The Upholding of the Precious Lineages from His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche
Then at around the age of 45 years old, being encouraged by Professor Garma C.C. Chang, urged by Yogi C.M. Chen, together with the sponsorship from Mr. Lee Sai-wah, Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen went to India in 1958-59, and thus met his predestined Tsawai Lama (Root Guru) His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche in Kalimpong of India, due to their previous karmic connections and their prayers in the same mandala to benefit all motherly sentient beings.
It was through an auspicious omen that His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche realized it was the suitable time for Him to transmit important teachings and empowerments to some suitable and mature vessels who came to Him with their sincerity of hearts. In fact, it was the first time that His Holiness had transmitted such important teachings and empowerments to foreigners ever since His departure from Tibet. There were altogether five disciples, three Englishmen and two Chinese, who had received those important empowerments from His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche at that time, and so both the Guru and the five disciples took this most rare photo together after their empowerments in Kalimpong, India in 1959.
In this regard, His Holiness also saw to it that it would be most beneficial to both the Dharma and to all sentient beings by conferring upon Ven. Guru Lau the most rare and precious “Zhitro Narak Dong Truk” transmission [including all the four empowerments (wang), oral transmissions (lung), personal guidance and oral pith-instructions (tri)] of the Kama, Terma and Dagnang Lineages.
Furthermore, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had held Ven. Guru Lau as the one carrying His own line of teachings (that is, the Lineage Holder of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche), and that Ven. Guru Lau was also empowered by the blessings of the Lama, Yidam and Khandro to transmit these important and precious teachings and lineages to all suitable vessels. In this way, His Holiness authorized Ven. Guru Lau to teach all Vajrayana teachings to all people, especially to all Chinese people. (Please refer to the various documents that were written by His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche on His special relationship with Ven. Guru Lau, to be enclosed in this essay later).
His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche thus specially appointed Ven. Guru Lau to be His Holiness’ Chinese Spiritual Representative in the Far East, as well as the “Chinese Master of Vajrayana Buddhism in the Chinese soil”. ( 「漢地演密教者」). This was a very special Title that has been personally bestowed by His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche to Ven. Guru Lau, in order to denote the very fact that Ven. Guru Lau was the first and only Chinese Master, over the last five hundred years, who had transmitted the most important teachings of Anuttara-yoga Tantra of Vajrayana Buddhism in the Chinese soil. It was, indeed, a very rare case in point that Ven. Guru Lau was the only Chinese Master who had received such a high acclaim, with such great esteem and high honor, from His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche ever since.
Before his departure from Kalimpong of India, Ven. Guru Lau had vowed in front of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche that he would try to do his very best in spreading those most rare and precious teachings, traditions and lineages to the Chinese people, in order to repay the extreme kindness of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, as well as to fulfill the name of “Chokyi Gyaltsen” given to him by His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, that is, to uphold the Victory Banner in all directions across the world, and turn the Wheel of the Holy Dharma, for the benefits of all our motherly sentient beings! This was the solemn vow, as well as clean and pure samayas, that Ven. Guru Lau had kept and maintained throughout his life with His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche ever since.
In this regard, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had specifically given His own personal photo (with His own handwriting on it at the back), the photo of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s Line of Incarnations called the Garland of Crystal Pearls (sealed with His own signature, seal and thumb), together with a Buddhist statue of Vajradhara (which was a terma object consecrated, blessed and hid by Guru Rinpoche Himself, and was later rediscovered by His Holiness’ predecessor Dudjom Lingpa) as Dharma Treasures of important blessings to Ven. Guru Lau.
This has, indeed, shown that it was His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s deliberate, yet secret, intention to have His own important and precious teachings and Lineages to be upheld, preserved and transmitted by a selfless and dedicated Chinese Master, at those times of difficulty, in order that these most rare and precious teachings, traditions and lineages will be able to continue on in the Chinese soil. Ever since, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had persistently, unyieldingly and continually gave His greatest encouragements, as well as in lending His greatest supports, to all of the Dharma activities of Ven. Guru Lau in the Chinese context.
Ven. Guru Lau’s Solemn Vow, as well as Clean and Pure Samayas with His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche
Even though Ven. Guru Lau was considered rather poor in his living at that time in Hong Kong, and had to teach Chinese Language and Literature in two middle schools (one in the morning, and another one in the afternoon) in order to earn his living for a family of four, he still continuously worked tirelessly for both this-worldly and other-worldly activities.
Thus, after his return to Hong Kong in 1959, Ven. Guru Lau had organized a Dudjom Ashram and had never felt tired and slacked off, but instead had worked unceasingly and relentlessly in all of his activities for the spreading of the Holy Dharma so as to benefit all people in the Chinese soil, in order to keep his clean and pure samayas with His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche.
Soon after his return to Hong Kong, Ven. Guru Lau had published his translated and edited volume on the “Guidebook on The Cycle of Narak Dong-Truk Lineage of Vajrasattva’s Net of Magical Illusions (Skt. Mayajala; Tib. Gyumtor Drawa)”, which had recorded most of the important teachings (with some exceptions which could not be disclosed publicly in accordance with the instructions of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche) that His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had given him during his stay in India, together with a preface that was specifically written by His Holiness which reads as follows:
His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s Preface to the Translated and Edited Volume on the “Guidebook on The Cycle of Narak Dong-Truk Lineage of Vajrasattva’s Net of Magical Illusions (Skt. Mayajala; Tib. Gyumtor Drawa)” by Ven. Guru Lau Yui-che
The “Chinese Master of Vajrayana Buddhism in the Chinese Soil”, Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen (alias Lau Yui-che), as the Secretary of the Hong Kong Society on the Study of Esoteric Buddhism, have requested me to transmit the “Oral Pith-Instructions” (Tib. man ngag; Skt. upadesha) on the “Three Inner Tantras” (namely: “Mahayoga, Anuyoga, Atiyoga”) of the “Old Translation School” for the most profound and uncommon tradition on the cycle of “Vajrasattva’s Net of Magical Illusions of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities”* in Overturning the Very Depths of the Vajra Hell, with their Maturing Empowerments and their Liberating Oral Instructions. His mind is most sincere in firmly requesting me for these important teachings.
Due to his past aspirations in his previous lifetimes, as well as the good karmic connections between us, when these favourable causes and conditions have ripened to arise this virtuous opportunity so that we could thus meet together. Indeed, I knew very well all those reasons.
Furthermore, with the favourable circumstance that the person (Bhikshu Wu Chien) who can help to communicate and translate in both the Tibetan and Chinese languages came to meet with us together. This is, indeed, a complete coincidence, and a perfect one, which just happens quite naturally for all these conditions to come by.
Thus, I have collected all those teachings from both the Distant “Kama” Lineage and the Close “Terma” Lineage, and have transmitted to him all the Four Maturing Empowerments and their Liberating Oral Pith-Instructions on the entire Mandala system of the “Peaceful and Wrathful Deities of Magical Net” (Skt. Shanti Krodha Mayajala; Tib. Gyutrul Zhitro; Wyl. sgyu ‘phrul zhi khro) in Overturning the Very Depths of the Vajra Hell.
As for the practices on the “Generation Stage” of the “Deities”, these will follow those practices of the Distant “Kama” Lineage; while the practices on the “Perfection Stage” will follow those practices on the “Profound Teaching of Self-Liberation in the Primordial State of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities” of the Close “Terma” Lineage.
This present translated and edited volume, in its Chinese edition, has been validated by me and is found to be error-free.
Before this volume has been published, teachings that are related to the “Peaceful and Wrathful Deities” have all been sporadically and unsystematically dispersed in various different Tantras. In collecting, unifying and integrating all these teachings, by bringing together both the “Generation Stage” and the “Perfection Stage”, into one volume is unprecedented. This volume is, indeed, the first of its kind.
Hence, everyone should cherish this volume as a most unusual real treasure, and that it should be highly regarded and esteemed as a rarity to be obtained. I sincerely wish that this most precious teaching will be widely transmitted and propagated across the world. Guru Rinpoche has already made a “prophecy” that in today’s life-world of five impurities, all the important teachings and Tantras on the Heart Essence of the Dharmakaya Buddha Samantabhadra should be spread and flourish in the whole world.
“Dudjom” (the name of His Holiness, which means the “Subduer of Mara”) has transmitted the complete oral pith-instructions and teachings, and have thus written this preface.
“Vajrasattva’s Net of Magical Illusions of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities” is a shortened name for the Root Tantra of the Eighteen Mahayoga Tantras (that is, the Glorious Secret Essence Tantra, Skt. Guhyagarbha Mayajala; Tib. Gyumtor Drawa), which serves as an abbreviation pointing to this entire cycle of Mahayoga tantras and teachings. The full name of this cycle of teachings is known as “Narak Dongtruk: The Narak Mending and Apology, the King of Apologies for all Obscurations of Breaches and Misdeeds which Overturns the Depth of the Deepest Hell” from the “Nyingma Kama”, in Tib. བཀའ་མ་ན་རག་དོང་སྤྲུགས . ]
Ven. Guru Lau’s Selfless Devotion and Dedication in Serving Tirelessly for the Benefits of Both the Holy Dharma and of All Sentient Beings
It was in 1963 that Ven. Guru Lau had started to spread the Tibetan Buddhist Meditation, in accordance with the “Seven-Point Posture of Buddha Vairocana” (Tib. nam nang chö dün), to the general public so that they can become more healthy, both physically and mentally, with diligent practice. For this important practice, Ven. Guru Lau had written more than four books on this subject, with one being translated into English.
This he had done so, not only in the Chinese communities of Hong Kong and Taiwan, but also in the different China Towns of United States, Canada, Australia, as well as in Southeast Asian countries. As a whole, more than thirty thousand people had learnt this practice from Ven. Guru Lau ever since.
In between those years, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had visited Ven. Guru Lau’s Dharma centre in Hong Kong three times. The first time of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s visit to Hong Kong was in 1972, which marked the first world-wide tour of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche in spreading the Holy Dharma across the world.
During this visit, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had further bestowed upon Ven. Guru Lau many precious relics and holy objects, including a whole set of nine precious and old thangkas on the “Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche with 25 Disciples”. For this very special occasion, Ven. Guru Lau had specifically written a book, entitled “The Visit of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, 1972” (which has also been translated into English as one volume), describing in details the activities that His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had engaged in during His visit in Hong Kong.
In this regard, Yeshe Thaye, as His Holiness’ second generation humble disciple, was also very fortunate, indeed, in receiving all the important teachings and empowerments from, as well as being granted the empowerment and title of “Dorje Lopon” by, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche. He was further given the Dharma name of “Yeshe Thaye” (meaning “Boundless Wisdom”) in His Holiness’ own handwriting, together with a signed personal photo (with His Holiness’ signature and seal on the back of it), by His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche during this visit.
After over a month-long stay in Hong Kong, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche saw to it that it was time for Him and His Family to move on to visit other places in spreading the Holy Dharma across the world. Then, Mr. Sonam Topgay Kazi (1925-2009) and his family had deliberately came to Hong Kong from Sikkim to escort His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche and His Family to the United States.
It was back in 1963 that His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had asked Ven. Guru Lau to translate His Holiness’ two recent important works on The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History (Wyl. bstan pa’i rnam gzhag and rnying ma’i chos ’byung) into Chinese, which was entitled as The Ancient History of Tibetan Buddhism. These were two of the many great encyclopedic masterpieces that His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had written after His departure from Tibet. As the two translators and editors of the English edition (published by Wisdom Publications, 1991), Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein, had rightly pointed out: “These treatises were composed [by Dudjom Rinpoche] during the years immediately following [his] arrival in India as a refugee. His intention in writing them….. was to preserve the precise structure of the Nyingma philosophical view within its own historical and cultural context, in a period of great uncertainty and instability.”
Hence, during the period from August of 1965 to April of 1966, Ven. Guru Lau, together with the help of Tulku Mingyur Ngawang Tenzin, had thus translated this important volume into Chinese for the Chinese people, so that they can come to know the origin and the history on the propagation and transmission of Buddhism from India into Tibet, to be further developed and later came to be known as “Tibetan Buddhism”.
All through those years, Ven. Guru Lau had taught his disciples all the main teachings of the Holy Dharma (those of Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana), as well as in leading them with various different Buddhist activities, including the ransoming of countless lives of sentient beings during the different “Release of Fishes” ceremonies.
As a retired middle school teacher, Ven. Guru Lau started to learnt the Tibetan language at the age of sixty-two (in 1976), and was able to translate quite a few important Tibetan Buddhist works into Chinese, including Guru Rinpoche’s Parasol of the Secret Mantrayana, and His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History, among many other important works of all four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
At the same time, Ven. Guru Lau himself wrote many books and articles in Chinese concerning the teachings of “Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana” Buddhism, and had also compiled and edited a voluminous series of books known as the “Collected Works of Vajrayana” (totaling 15 volumes) in Chinese, and had asked His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche to write a preface on this, in which His Holiness had commended Ven. Guru Lau’s dedication of his translated works. At the same time, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had further written a Letter of Introduction for Ven. Guru Lau asking other Dharma friends to help him with his translated works. It was also in 1976 that Ven. Guru Lau had compiled the Chinese “Handbook of the Three Vows (Silas)” (which we will report later in this essay).
Furthermore, Ven. Guru Lau further published a Chinese-English bilingual magazine called the “Vajrayana Quarterly” in 1979 to be distributed free of charge to peoples all over the world, and established the Secret Vehicle Publications in distributing various Buddhist publications so as to benefit the Chinese people.
Furthermore, Ven. Guru Lau had aspired for a huge project of translating the whole set of the “Nyingma Gyubum” from Tibetan into Chinese, a task which was too ambitious to be completed by just one person. (Please refer to the document written by His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche in praising this sincere wish of Ven. Guru Lau in His Holiness’ Introduction of Ven. Guru Lau). Thus, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had specifically sent a few hundred volumes of the “Kangyur”, “Tengyur” and the “Nyingma Gyubum” from India to Ven. Guru Lau in Hong Kong by seamail.
It was in the last of His three world-wide tours that His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981), visited Hong Kong in 1980, and so Ven. Guru Lau had specially invited His Holiness the 16th Karmapa to go to his own Dharma centre so as to transmit important empowerments and teachings to his disciples, including those of Guru Milarepa, Guru Karma Pakshi, Red Chenrezig, among others.
Then, in 1981, Ven. Guru Lau had visited His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s residence in Kathmandu, Nepal whereupon His Holiness had bestowed the Lotus Hat to Ven. Guru Lau, further empowering and indicating him to be one of the representatives of Guru Rinpoche. At the same time, His Holiness had also given His own “Collected Works” (Sungbum of 25 volumes) to Ven. Guru Lau.
At the same time, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had again visited Ven. Guru Lau’s Dharma centre in Hong Kong in 1981 for the second time, and had further given all the important empowerments, transmissions and oral instructions of the “Dudjom Tersar” Lineage to Ven. Guru Lau and his disciples. Both my wife (Pema Lhadren) and I, as the humble disciples of Ven. Guru Lau, were most fortunate to have received all the transmissions, empowerments and teachings of the “Dudjom Tersar” Lineage from His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche on this occasion. At the same time, my wife was also fortunate to have received her Dharma name of “Pema Lhadren” (meaning the “Lamp of Lotus”) from His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche.
A special episode had occurred during this trip in which His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had visited His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa while His Holiness Karmapa was being treated in the Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong. Ven. Guru Lau had accompanied with His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche for the visit.
Then, later on in 1984, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had again visited Ven. Guru Lau’s Dharma centres in Hong Kong (for the third time) and in Taiwan (for the first time). During those visits, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had further transmitted all the important empowerments, transmissions and oral instructions of the “Dudjom Tersar” Lineage to Ven. Guru Lau, and again held him responsible for upholding this precious lineage and all its important teachings, as well as in giving Ven. Guru Lau a written permission to authorize him to translate all the practice sadhanas of the “Dudjom Tersar” Lineage from Tibetan into Chinese.
In this way, Ven. Guru Lau had also established four other Dharma centers and a monastery in Taiwan. At the same time, Ven. Guru Lau had spread the Holy Dharma to other suitable vessels in the West, such as the United States (in such cities as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York), Canada (in Vancouver and Toronto), France, Australia, and in some Southeast Asian countries (Singapore and Malaysia) across the world, for the benefits of all our motherly sentient beings!
Due to the bad karmas of most people in general, we were most unfortunate to hear of the bad news that our Most Beloved Crowning Jewel and Wish-Fulfilling Gem His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had entered into Parinirvana on 17th January, 1987 at Dordogne, France. Ven. Guru Lau immediately flew over to Paris, and then to Dordogne in Southwestern France to visit His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s Kudung (Wyl. sku gdung), which was still in a state of deep meditation (known as “tukdam”, Wyl. thugs dam). Both His Holiness Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and H.E. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche were there doing pujas and praying for 49 days.
Due to His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s great realization on the Dzogchen practices, His Holiness’ Kudung shrunk in size, was then embalmed, put inside a small square casket, and was finally escorted back by His family from Dordogne, France to His Holiness’ Kudung Gompa (Urgyen Dongak Chöling), near Boudhanath, Nepal in January of 1989, so that all the disciples of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche from all over the world could come to pay their final respects to His Holiness’ Kudung, as well as for pilgrimage and blessings.
It was during the two years, from 1987-89, that His Holiness Kyabje Chadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche was the important person-in-charge to work hard in renovating the small gompa (Urgyen Dongak Chöling) of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche near Boudhanath, as well as in building the Kudung Stupa for His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s Kudung to be enshrined in it afterwards.
Hence, Ven. Guru Lau, after waiting for almost two years, had led most of his disciples from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia to go and pay their final respects to the Kudung of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche at the Kudung Gompa near Boudhanath, Nepal. There, Ven. Guru Lau was greeted by many prominent Rinpoches and Lamas of the Nyingmapa, among whom were His Holiness Kyabje Chadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, during the Enshrinement Ceremony of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche’s Kudung in 1989.
At the same time, Ven. Guru Lau had led all of his disciples in making offerings, doing pujas, reciting mantras, and practicing various sadhana practices of Guru Yoga, Vajrasattva, and so on. In particular, Ven. Guru Lau had led all of his disciples in doing the Sojong Practice at the Kudung Gompa, introspecting their own vows and making repentance and confession of their sins.
It was, indeed, a very auspicious enshrinement ceremony as signs of rainbow lights appeared almost everywhere during the 49 days of prayers and offerings, both with-in and with-out the Kudung Gompa.
Here, an anecdote needed to be recorded in history: His Holiness Kyabje Chadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche had paid a special visit to meet with Ven. Guru Lau in his hotel, bringing along special volumes of Dzogchen Tantras as gifts to Ven. Guru Lau. Hence, Ven. Guru Lau had also specially paid back a visit to His Holiness Kyabje Chadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche’s residence in Yangleshod (Pharping) with small presents so as to repay His Holiness’ extreme kindness to him. On that special occasion, Ven. Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche and myself (Yeshe Thaye) were doing the translations for both Gurus.
Ven. Guru Lau’s Painstaking Efforts in Trying to Right The Wrongs Concerning The Abuse, Slow Deterioration, Distortion and Perversion of Tibetan Buddhism in the Chinese Soil
Since the 80s of last century, other High Lamas and Rinpoches had also started to visit Hong Kong and/or Taiwan from India and Nepal, with such most prominent figures and dignitaries as H.H. Kyabje Dodrupchen Rinpoche (b.1927), H.H. Kyabje Penor Rinpoche (1932-2009), H.E. Kalu Rinpoche (1905-1989), H.E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche (1954-1992), H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche (b.1954), Ven. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (1920-1996), Ven. Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche (b. 1951), H.E. Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche (b. 1953), Ven. Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje (1932-1999), H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Rinpoche (b. 1929), H.E. Chogye Trichen Rinpoche (1919-2007), H.E. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche (b. 1961), Ven. Orgyen Topgyal Rinpoche (b. 1951), and many others. H.H. Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991) also went through Hong Kong to visit China in order to help restored and re-consecrated the Samye Monastery in Tibet in 1990.
As a result, the last two decades (that is, the 80s and 90s) of the last century saw the great influx of many more Tibetan lamas, tulkus, khenpos and rinpoches who, first came from India and Nepal, and later also came from Sikkim and Bhutan, flocked to both Hong Kong and Taiwan, in spreading and establishing Dharma centers of Tibetan Buddhism, resulting in having Tibetan Buddhism to become a fad and fashion during that time.
It was rather exhilarating at the beginning, and was considered to be a good thing to have happened, so that the general public would now be able to come into direct contacts, through their first-hand experiences, with Tibetan Buddhism coming from a new perspective (as compared to the traditional Chinese Buddhism) within a wider frame of reference, and with a broader horizon (additional Vajrayana teachings, on top of those traditional teachings of both Hinayana and Mahayana).
By then, the general public could have many ways and means to enter the “door” of Vajrayana, which is so full and rich in various arrays of outward fascinations that it often distracts the eyes and confuses the minds. Later on, they started to become rather puzzled, frustrated, or even at a loss as to what they really wanted to get out of it. Hence, the more they went deeper and entered into the more inner dimensions towards the core of Vajrayana teachings, the more questions and difficulties they encountered, so much so that distorted conceptions, and even perverted perceptions, of Dharma practices started to arise.
As time went by, Tibetan Buddhism had further developed to such an extent that only empowerments were given to the general public as a form of “blessings”, while the most important Three Learnings (bslab pa gsum) of “ethical disciplines, precepts, or Vows (Silas), meditative concentration (Samadhi), and penetrative insight and wisdom (Prajna)”, as well as all the intricacies of Buddhist teachings had become almost omitted and absent (with only a very few Tibetan Gurus who actually taught the Buddhist teachings).
In such a way, Tibetan Buddhism started to be devoid of its real substance (that is, the core and fundamentals of what Buddhism is supposed to be), while what only remains are its peripheral ceremonial rituals, empowerments and the so-called “blessings”. Furthermore, at these times of degenerations, due to the flames of “greed, hatred and ignorance” of the general population, people in general were just asking for blessings, in order that they can be rich, successful in life, be powerful, and in good health, etc.
By and large, there was a threat and danger that the pervasive superstitious atmospheres that were developing in the Chinese communities of both Hong Kong and Taiwan could jeopardize the true propagation and dissemination of the genuine Holy Dharma of Buddhism in general. Worst still is the fact that more and more fake gurus with fake teachings slowly appeared, in using Tibetan Buddhism in disguise in order to make their own livings out of it, while cheating on the general public (just like the “worms inside the lion’s belly” as depicted in some of the Buddhist sutras, which means that most of the harms that were being done to Buddhism itself came from within the Buddhist community, and not from without).
While the general public really care less about what genuine or fake Buddhism is all about, so long that they could get what they want out of those gurus in the name of Buddhism. In this way, even some kind of a “spiritual cult of sorcery” might slowly emerge. In which case, people will have a hard time to tell the differences between this kind of “spiritual cult” with the culture of genuine Tibetan Buddhism. Such is the kind of deterioration that Buddhism in general, and Tibetan Buddhism in particular, is now facing in this Age of Five Degenerations! (Once in a while, very often we heard or saw news from the media reporting that such and such a person disguising as a guru, who did some modern magico-spiritual-religious practices, was cheating on others for either money or sex, or for both, in the name of Buddhism.)
In view of the whole general trend that had pervaded at that time, Ven. Guru Lau saw that he could no longer evade his responsibility in playing an important role of trying to right the wrongs on those superstitious atmospheres of the Chinese Buddhist believers that had spread throughout the general populace in the Chinese communities of both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Thus, Ven. Guru Lau had been engaging himself in teaching all the basic fundamentals of the Holy Dharma [such as: the Four Dharma Seals, Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Paths, Basic Law of Cause and Effect, Twelve Links of Interdependent Origination (Skt. Pratityasamutpada), Thirty-seven Individual Qualities (Pali. Sattatiṃsa Bodhipakkhiyā Dhammā), Selflessness (Skt. Nairātmya or Anātman; Wyl. bdag med), Emptiness: Neither Existence Nor Voidness (Skt. Shunyata), Everything Comes From the Mind, Inconceivable Law of Karma, the Four Tenet Systems, the Three Learnings (bslab pa gsum), the Three Vows (Wyl. sdom gsum), Buddhist Meditation, Mind-Training (Lojong), Thirty-Seven Practices of the Bodhisattvas (Wyl. rgyal sras lag len so bdun ma), the Nine Yanas, and so on, all the way to the Common and Uncommon Preliminaries for the basic foundations on the study and practice of Vajrayana] throughout his life, with great emphasis on the study of sutras and tantras, hoping that this would be able to demystify the image of Tibetan Buddhism.
In this way, Ven. Guru Lau set himself as a role-model, and as an important example, for those serious Dharma practitioners who really cared for the true propagation and dissemination of the genuine Buddhist Holy Dharma! However, most unfortunately, these kind of superstitious atmospheres still continue to permeate in the Chinese communities of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China, even up to this very day, when Tibetan Buddhism has been sweeping across them! It is, indeed, very hard for one person, like Ven. Guru Lau himself, to try to revert back the direction of this “collective karma” of the general public from these kinds of distorted and perverted ways, let alone to change it for the better!
In fact, Buddhist education and teaching had always been the main thrust of Ven. Guru Lau’s main efforts in the spreading of the Holy Dharma. As a school teacher himself, Ven. Guru Lau knew very well that it was only through Buddhist education and teaching, and education alone, that ordinary man’s mind can be turned towards the Holy Dharma, and that “Mind-Training” (“Lojong”) should be the main focus of all Dharma training and practices for all Dharma practitioners alike. In this way, the positive beliefs and values of the genuine Holy Dharma can be instilled and imparted upon the ordinary person, in order to bring about changes in both thinking and behaviour. Indeed, education is the only way by which the genuine Holy Dharma can really start to grow, prosper and flourish in the hearts and minds for all sentient beings, resulting in their helping themselves to become liberated from the “cycle of karmic existence” (Samsara).
It was in this way that Ven. Guru Lau saw the way for the true propagation and dissemination of the Buddhist Holy Dharma must have to be mainly based upon the teachings on the Holy Dharma, rather than by just the holding of religious ritual techniques and ceremonies, and/or by just the using of various ritual implements and Dharma objects, as well as other kinds of paraphernalia of holy relics, in order to “bless” the Buddhist believers.
Furthermore, it is extremely irresponsible for those shameless “so-called gurus” to abuse their power and authority in using their so-called “blessings” through the kind of “casual empowerment in making karmic connections”, but without ever requesting all those attendants to receive and keep the necessary precepts, vows, and silas. This act of theirs is simply to attract a lot of disciples in order to receive offerings from them, while at the same time help to only further increase the “greed, hatred, and ignorance” of those attendants, as well as to give them very wrong, distorted, and even perverted impressions of what the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism is all about.
The Importance of Tantric Vows, Precepts and Samayas for Any Kind of Practice in Vajrayana, and Its Implications for A Sangha Community
In fact, Ven. Guru Lau had named such kind of shameless “so-called gurus” as “modern shamans / sorcerers”, whose wrongdoing acts of instilling superstitions into the minds of their followers will really need to be condemned by all those Gurus who really care to put the study and practice of the genuine and authentic Holy Dharma as their main cause and concern in the propagation and dissemination of the Buddhist Holy Dharma. Otherwise, those distorted, corrupted, and even perverted views and messages as had been depicted by such “so-called gurus” will not only do injustice to Buddhism in general, and to Tibetan Buddhism in particular, but will indeed bring about great harm, distortion and deterioration to the whole Buddhist Holy Dharma and its Sangha community.
To Ven. Guru Lau, it is only through in-depth teachings and analyses of the Buddhist Holy Dharma that will enable the Buddhist followers to have a clear, vivid and real understanding of the authentic and correct Buddhist teachings, in order that the Buddhist followers will be well-informed through the Three Wisdom Tools (Tib. tö sam gom sum) of “listening, contemplating and meditating”, and then slowly come to truly understand the key points in their study and practice of the genuine and authentic Holy Dharma, resulting in the success of their own “Mind-Training and Dharma Practice”, both in terms of theoretical knowledge and experiential realization.
The supremely learned Vasubandhu (fl. 4th to 5th century C.E.) had mentioned in the “Verses on the Treasury of the Abhidharma” (Abhidharmakośakārikā VIII, 39): “The teaching of the Buddha has two aspects: The elements of scripture and realization. These are maintained only through teaching and through practice.”
Indeed, it is the great responsibility of all those holders of the teachings, as well as the members of the Sangha community (be it monastic or lay) to ensure that the precious Buddhist teachings, with their two aspects of scripture and realization, do not degenerate but to remain for long in this mundane world.
In so doing, the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni had taught that all those true believers of Buddhism must bear in mind of the following important message:
“Not committing any evil deeds,
Fostering all that is virtuous, and
Taming one’s own mind,
Are the teachings of the Awaken One (Buddha).” (Dhammapada, Verse 183)
In line with this kind of thinking, Ven. Guru Lau had specifically designed the “Four Guiding Principles of Vajrayana Practitioners” as an important motto for all of his disciples, so that they could and should strictly adhere to them, to be well-informed and be trained according to the traditions of the past Saints. These four principles are, namely:
- The Generation of One’s “Awakening Mind” (Skt. Bodhicitta; Wyl. byang chub kyi sems);
- Having the Right View and Right Knowledge;
- With Strict Adherence to Precepts and Vows (Silas); and
- One’s Sincere Practice With Great Diligence.
Nowadays, there are different sets of codes of ethics and moral conducts that are required for those professionals who are practicing in the different professions of our mundane world. Similarly, there are also different codes of ethical behaviours and moral conducts in different religious systems. In this regard, these sets of moral codes in Buddhism in general, and in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism in particular, are the main guiding principles for all Dharma/Vajrayana practitioners to act upon one’s own conducts with regards to “what to adopt and what to abandon”.
Ven. Guru Lau saw to it that all Tibetan Buddhist and tantric practitioners should and must observe the importance of the “Three Vows” (Tib. dom sum), which should be an important and integral part of their Dharma practices in Vajrayana, in order that they can be able to finally achieve great accomplishments.
In this regard, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s writing “The Mirror In Clearly Showing What to Adopt and Abandon” had clearly stated the importance of the “Three Vows” respectively:
“To abandon entirely all negative intentions and actions of body, speech and mind that might cause harm to others is the essence of the pratimoksha, or vows of individual liberation.
To practise wholeheartedly all types of virtue that bring benefit to others is the essence of the bodhisattva’s vows.
At the root of these two is taming one’s own unruly mind by means of mindfulness, vigilance and conscientiousness, and training oneself to recognize the all-encompassing purity of appearance and existence. This is the essence of the vows of secret mantra.”
As Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam (1308-1363) had written:
“With the three unconflicted Three Vows of Sravaka, Bodhisattva and Vidyadhara,
Tame your mind stream, benefit others,
And transform every appearance into the Path of Pure Nature.”
Furthermore, Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyi Gyalpo (1487-1542) had also declared in his famous work “Perfect Conduct, Ascertaining the Three Vows” (with a Commentary by His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, has been translated by Khenpo Gyurme Samdrub and Sangye Khandro, Wisdom Publications, 1996) that:
“By receiving empowerment,
All three vows are born simultaneously.”
Thus, after one has received any kind of empowerments, one must need to observe their “Samayas” (Skt.; Tib. dam-tshig; meaning “Commitments”, or “Words of Honour”) properly and correctly. Indeed, all Vajrayana training is dependent upon the purity and cleanliness of one’s own “Samayas”. “Samaya” is often described as that which brings ultimate benefit through honorable maintenance of it, while it will bring ultimate destruction through deterioration of it. In this regard, the breaking of “Samayas” will be the heaviest of all downfalls in Vajrayana, as can be illustrated from the following different sources:
The Lord Buddha Shakyamuni has been quoted by saying:
“For those who have impaired the Samaya,
The Buddha never said that they could accomplish Tantra.”
The Mayajala-Tantra has mentioned:
“In the Vow of unexcelled Tantra,
All the disciplines of Vinaya and
The disciplines of the Bodhisattva
Are entirely embodied and are pure.”
The Heruka Samcaya-Tantra has also mentioned:
“If upheld, it is a cause of the greatest honour;
If allowed to deteriorate, it is a cause for one to burn in hell.”
It was said in the Samvarodaya (Source of the Vows):
“If the supreme attainment is truly desired,
It will be easy to forsake one’s life to achieve it.
If the samayas are pure,
The transition of death will be easy as well.”
It was also said in the Guhyagarbha-Tantra (Secret Essence Tantra):
“If the root or branch samayas deteriorate,
The results is that one falls to the lowest realm.”
In the Prakatitavicitra-Tantra, it has stated that:
“If a root samaya deteriorates and no effort is made to restore it,
One will fall to the Vajra Hell.
If all the suffering of the ordinary hells were to be combined,
That suffering would not equal one fraction of one hundred-thousandth of the suffering experienced in Vajra Hell.”
The Samanya-Sutra also mentioned that:
“Just as the planting of a seed is dependent upon the earth in order for the result to mature,
The life-essence of the Dharma remains within the samayas,
Which fully mature into the unsurpassed state of awakening as the precious life-essence of virtue.”
As has been mentioned to us personally by our Most Beloved Crowning Jewel His Holiness Kyabje Chadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche: “If someone has broken the “Samayas” of the Secret Mantrayana (Wyl. gsang sngags kyi theg pa), many unpleasant events will occur in one’s present lifetime, including: many illnesses will occur in one’s physical body, many obstacles will come by on the path of one’s practices, and that finally one will directly descend into the “Vajra Hell” after one has died.” His Holiness has further warned us of the situation concerning a Sangha community that: “If the waters upstream had already been contaminated and corrupted by someone, then people downstream who drank from these waters would also become contaminated and corrupted as a result.”
In other words, once someone has received the empowerments and their related “Samayas”, and if one does not subsequently keep and uphold those very “Samayas”, and if these broken “Samayas” are left unconfessed, this becomes a cause for one’s rebirth in what is called the “Vajra Hell” (Tib.: rdo rje’i myal ba) when one dies, where there is no other place of greater sufferings than this. As has been mentioned in the Guhyagarbha-Tantra: “If the root or branch “Samayas” deteriorate, the result is that one falls to the lowest realm.”
Not only will this kind of situation be harming oneself, but the fact remains that this kind of contamination and corruption will slowly spread across like infectious diseases within the whole Sangha community, such that as time passes by, many other Sangha members would also be slowly infected as a result. This is the kind of situation nowadays that all Dharma practitioners will really need to be keenly aware of and be vigilant about!
On the other hand, if we do uphold and keep those “Samayas” pure and clean, we will have much better chances to be able to attain Buddhahood. That is why Guru Rinpoche has warned us, time and again, that all Vajrayana practitioners should be mindful of this: “They are like a snake inside a bamboo shoot. One can only go either up, or down. There is not a third way out.” That is, there are no alternative destinations other than these two!
Hence, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche has compared this breaking of “Samayas” as one’s falling from an airplane all the way down to earth, rather than just falling from a horse. Indeed, there is no way to surrender, or the giving up of, one’s “Tantric Vows” once receiving them, except by the breaking of them, and then with one’s falling into the “Vajra Hell” after one’s death. On the other hand, if one can uphold and keep his/her “Samayas” clean and pure, one will surely achieve great benefits and accomplishments.
As for the Precepts and Silas to be observed in the “Tantric Vows”, there are numerous ones, with the main ones related to:
- The Fourteen Root Downfalls (Tib. Tsa-wai tung-wa chu-shi)
- The Eight Auxiliary Downfalls (Tib. Yen-lag bom-bo gye)
- The Samayas of the Five Buddha Families (Wyl. rigs lnga spyi’i dam tshig)
- The Samayas of the Twenty-Five Uncommon/Esoteric Activities
Furthermore, in Atiyoga (Skt.; Tib. Dzogchen), there are further ones, including the Samayas of the Twenty-Seven Root Downfalls (Wyl. yan lag gi dam tshig nyer lnga) of the Body, Speech and Mind (Wyl. ku-sung thuk-chi dam tshig), as well as the Samayas of the Twenty-Five Auxiliary Precepts (Wyl. yan lag gi dam tshig nyer lnga). Indeed, the “Samayas” of the Secret Mantrayana are very subtle, numerous, and very difficult to keep.
Nowadays, at a time of great decadence, there are those people who are supposedly to have been bound with Vajrayana “Samayas”, as they addressed themselves as Vajrayana practitioners. In fact, there are so many individuals who dress themselves up in Vajrayana costumes and ornaments, and carry with them the various Vajrayana ritual objects and implements. Yet, deep down inside, they have no real “Samayas” in their minds, and they just don’t feel the need for doing so. These include those kind of people who have called themselves as “so-called Gurus”.
Again, in reminding all Vajrayana practitioners to be extremely cautious, vigilant and mindful on the importance of uniting one’s “View with Conduct”, Guru Rinpoche, time and again, had mentioned that: “Although my View is higher than the sky, my Conduct in respect for the cause and effect of actions is even finer than barley flour.”
That is why, in order for any Sangha community (be it monastic or lay) to be in a pure and clean state, there are the two important levels of “Samayas” that need to be observed, uphold and maintained, namely:
- To keep the “Samayas” between the Guru and his/her disciples clean and pure;
- To keep the “Samayas” between Dharma brothers and sisters clean and pure.
Also, “Samayas” can further be divided into three types of general, specific, and extraordinary ones, depending on the spiritual levels of their respective recipients.
In other words, in order to have a clean and pure Mandala (that is, a “positive spiritual electromagnetic field” which is based upon the positive spiritual energies from the clean and pure Samayas of all its Dharma practitioners) for a Dharma center, there are two important spiritual forces that come into play: (1) both the Lama and his disciples will need to keep clean and pure “Samayas” among themselves; and (2) the Vajra brothers and sisters will also need to keep clean and pure “Samayas” among themselves. Such are the basic ingredients to help keep and uphold a Mandala to be pure and clean.
Thus, according to Ven. Guru Lau’s viewpoint, if a guru himself/herself did not observe and see clearly whether one’s disciple(s) is/are a suitable vessel(s) or not for receiving the appropriate level(s) of Vajrayana empowerment(s) and teaching(s), but then he/she has given it anyway, then this guru himself/herself has already transgressed and broken his/her own “Samayas”, simply because “an impure vessel is not to be considered pure” – meaning that one should not reveal the secret Dharma to immature recipients of any kind! In fact, the revelations on the teachings of Secret Mantrayana to spiritually immature individuals is already a “root downfall” in itself (that is, the Seventh Root Downfall)!
Indeed, it is considered to be of utmost importance for both the gurus and their disciples to concurrently uphold and maintain their own respective pure “Samayas” well, in order that they can work together in upholding and maintaining a pure and clean “Mandala” (Skt.; Tib. དཀྱིལ་འཁོར། dkyil ‘khor, meaning “center-periphery”), in the form of a pure and clean Sangha community (be it monastic or lay).
In fact, a “Mandala” is a symbolic, graphic representation of a tantric deity’s realm of existence, in which it is usually depicted with the main deity in the center along with its retinue, the palace and its surrounding environment. These are the representations of the spiritual embodiment of the Buddha-Field, which can be considered (in modern scientific terminology) as the “positive spiritual electromagnetic field” bonded together by the clean and pure Samayas (positive spiritual energies with electromagnetic forces in the forms of vows and words of honour), together with the Great Bodhicittas of all its inhabitants, who are the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Awareness-Holders (Skt. vidyādhara; Tib. rigdzin), and so on.
The powers of the clean “precepts” and pure “Samayas” (in the forms of vows and words of honour) are such positive spiritual energies in forming a “positive spiritual protective shield of electromagnetic forces”, thus binding all like-minded tantric practitioners together in a very closely-knitted spiritual relationship, thus forming a “positive spiritual protective shield of electromagnetic field” for the whole Sangha community, to be embodied as the positive spiritual “Mandala”, and so the Guru himself/herself is considered to be the “Lord of the Mandala”. All the disciples of the same Sangha community should and must keep and uphold their pure and clean “Samayas” with their Guru, as the “Lord of the Mandala”.
As mentioned in His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s Commentary on the “Three Vows” concerning the outcome of one’s disrespect of one’s own Vajra Master: “The vajra master should be cherished as the essential nature of all buddhas and should, therefore, be the principal object of one’s devotion, admiration, and respect. Moreover, in dependence upon one’s relationship with the vajra master, all noble qualities of the path, as well as the resultant qualities, are developed. If one allows the precious relationship between oneself, as the disciple, and the irreplaceable vajra master to deteriorate in the ways mentioned above, then whatever meditation one aspires to accomplish will only be the cause for rebirth as a ‘rudra’*. One must therefore be extremely careful.” (Ngari Panchen’s Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows, Wisdom Publications, 1996, p.116.)
(*Note: “The term ‘rudra’ refers to the type of rebirth taken by those who have entered the path of Dharma and accumulated considerable merit and potential and who then break their words of honor with the vajra master by developing wrong view towards the master or by developing an incorrect view of emptiness. In their very next lifetime, such individuals will be reborn in the desire realm as very powerful negative spirits with an uncertain appearance. From the ultimate point of view, the actual stage of ‘rudra’ arises from the intensity of grasping at a ‘self’.” — Ibid., 1996, p.198, Note 59.)
Hence, it is extremely important and most essential that all “Samayas” holders must have to observe and adhere strictly to the vows, precepts and “Samayas” of their respective levels, whether it be the outer, inner and secret levels, in order that the whole Sangha community can be upheld and kept in a pure and clean state.
As it is very hard for us nowadays to apply mindfulness in our everyday life experiences as to what to adopt and what to abandon, it is, indeed, very easy for us to have transgressed on our vows and precepts, as well as in having broken our Samayas. If those broken, impure and unclean precepts and Samayas (negative spiritual energies with electromagnetic forces in the forms of broken vows and words of honour) have not been totally repented and confessed but are still kept intact within a Dharma center, this kind of situation will then have detrimental effects upon the Guru (as the “Lord of the Mandala”) and all the other members of the same Sangha community, thus forming a “negative spiritual electromagnetic field” as the original positive energies and effects of a genuine holy Mandala are slowly dissipating, resulting in a final deteriorated, contaminated, compromised and decayed Sangha community of degeneration. This is, indeed, a very common phenomenon that we can often hear and see of many Dharma centers across the world nowadays in this Age of Five Degenerations!
Hence, one must need to be well aware of one’s own Dharma practices through the different aspects of one’s view, meditation, conduct, and fruition. As according to Prof. H. Guenther’s remark, it mentions that: “a mandala emphasizes structure, a dkyil ‘khor emphasizes process.” (The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 1999, Vol.18, No.20, 149-161) If such is the case, then all the members of any Sangha community (be it monastic or lay) will have to be extremely careful and vigilant in observing and keeping their vows and “Samayas” to be in a pure and clean state, as part of their conducts, in order to keep their dkyil ‘khor to be in a pure and clean state during the process, resulting in the formation of a mandala as a structure of extreme purity in its fruition. However, these are extremely hard to come by these days as we are now in an Age of Five Degenerations!
Of course, we should always try to make every effort in not breaking the vows, precepts and Samayas. However, if we keep those faults secretly hidden away, the seed of the negative actions will combine with the water and manure of deceit, and they will grow bigger and bigger day by day, which will finally result in one’s downfall into the deepest levels of hell! It is of paramount importance that all those broken and unclean precepts and Samayas should need to be mended and apologized, repented and confessed, as soon as possible by all means. Thus, if one can recognize them as faults without hiding them, while one confess and declare them openly to the whole Sangha community, then those faults will cease to grow, will become weaker, and will finally be restored. This is known as “sealing the action with the truth”.
There are many kinds of confession methods, among which include the making of elaborate feast offerings (Skt. Ganachakra; Tib. in Wyl. tshogs kyi ‘khor lo), the recitation of the “Hundred-Syllable Mantra” (Tib. yik gya) of Buddha Vajrasattva with the process of the “Four Remedial Forces” (that is, the force of regret and remorse, the force of remedial action with antidotes, the force of restoration and promise never to repeat those misdeeds again, and the force of the support and reliance), with further recitation on the Triskandhaka Sutra, as well as on other confession sutras and tantras with the four forces, along with other confession methods in accordance with the “Zhitro Narak Dong Truk” Root Tantra (also came to be known as the Narakakhadapravasaprasphotana, meaning “Stirring the Depths of Vajra Hell”), which is considered as the King of All Confessions.
Negative actions can be purified by intensely regretting and parting from them, and if one is diligent in this, one will have no difficulty in purifying one’s own negative actions and downfalls completely within a three-years’ time-frame. In cleansing oneself of the various dark forces (the three main poisons of “greed, hatred and ignorance”) within oneself slowly, bit by bit, through the repentance and confession of sins and broken precepts and “Samayas”, thus peeling off the various layers of veils that had covered up one’s pure nature since time immemorial, then the positive energies and qualities of the clear light of one’s own “intrinsic nature” will slowly to be re-emerged and recovered, resulting in the final revelation of one’s own primordial wisdom eventually. So, full of regrets for all of the negative actions and downfalls that one has accumulated, and firmly vowing not to repeat them again in future even if one’s own life is at risk, this will help one to continuously elevate oneself upwards towards the final attainment of “Buddhahood” while traversing through the Five Paths and Ten Grounds.
Thus, Ven. Guru Lau strongly saw to it that one’ “View” must need to be in congruency with one’s “Conduct” for one’s Dharma practice, otherwise a lot more of fake circumstances for both the teachers and the teachings would be very likely to occur in the future, simply because there will be those “so-called Gurus” who will teach and speak to others in one way, while they themselves will act in a totally different way. In other words, one’s own “view” will not be congruent with one’s own “conduct”!
In this way, Ven. Guru Lau decided that it is a must for him to re-institute the important mechanism for the Practice on the Confession of Sins (Skt. poṣadha; Pal. Uposatha; Tib. “Sojong”; meaning “Restoration and Purification”) every month in all of his own Dharma centers. In fact, this mechanism for the Practice on the Confession of Sins had been personally instituted by the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni himself more than two thousand and five hundred years ago, in order that his disciples and all Dharma practitioners can be able to confess, repent, and correct their mid-deeds, transgression of sins and broken “Samayas” during their Dharma practices and daily lives. To Ven. Guru Lau, this was particularly true and necessary in all of his own Dharma centers, in order to prevent this kind of pitfall on the broken “Samayas” that members of many modern Dharma centers have been facing these days.
Patrul Rinpoche’s How to Keep the Eight One-Day Vows of a Layperson (bsnyen gnas yan lag brgyad pa’i sdom pa srung thabs) has mentioned:
“The ‘Second Buddha’ of Oddiyana said:
It fully restores all positivity,
And clears away all negativity without exception,
In order to replenish (so) virtue and purify (jong) harmful deeds,
The Tathagata has taught the practice of Sojong.”
Even though Ven. Guru Lau knew very well that His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had already written and compiled a whole volume of Sojong Practice for all Dharma practitioners, he saw to it that this volume would be too extensive for the Sojong Practice in his Dharma centres nowadays. Thus, in order for Ven. Guru Lau to re-institute this important mechanism for the Practice on the Confession of Sins (Tib. “Sojong”) every month for all his Dharma centre members, he had decided to compile a “Handbook of the Three Vows” in Chinese.
Thus, this Chinese “Handbook of the Three Vows” is comprised of the “Three Types of Vows” (Skt. trisaṃvara; Tib. dom sum) of the Three Yanas, namely: the “Silas of Individual Liberation” (Pratimoksha Vows, Tib. sotar gyi dompa) of Hinayana, the “Silas of Bodhisattvas” (Bodhisattva Vows, Tib. changchub sempé dompa) of Mahayana, and the “Tantric Silas” (Tantric Vows, Tib. sang ngag kyi dompa) and “Samayas” (Skt.; Tib. dam-tshig; meaning “Commitments”, or “Words of Honour”) of Vajrayana, including the Fourteen Root Downfalls, Root and Branch Samayas, and so on.
In so doing, Ven. Guru Lau had sought for His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s kind permission for allowing him to do so, as well as in asking His Holiness to write an authoritative preface to this “Handbook of the Three Vows” (please refer to His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s Preface on this book), which has explained very clearly the whole spectrum of one’s observation of the respective Vows, Precepts and Samayas. At the end of the preface, His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche had specifically mentioned that he had authorized Ven. Guru Lau to compile this important work on the precepts and pledges of the Vajrayana for those people following the practice of the Dharma in the East, and had given Ven. Guru Lau the permission for this work to be made available according to the needs of those followers who have received the (different levels of) Vajrayana Secret Initiations.
Ven. Guru Lau’s Passing-On of His Precious Lineages Before Entering Into Parinirvana
Through his great painstaking efforts, persistence, courage, wisdom and compassion, and with his selfless dedication and hard works, Ven. Guru Lau had thus served tirelessly, painstakingly, and whole-heartedly in the spreading of the Holy Dharma of “Tibetan Buddhism” for more than forty years, and thus sowed the seeds of liberation and enlightenment to countless sentient beings in the Chinese soil, and beyond!
Besides the establishment of the hardwares of the Dharma, such as Dharma centres and monasteries, Ven. Guru Lau had particularly put his great emphasis on the softwares of the Holy Dharma, which are the main teachings and the “mind-training” practices for his disciples and for other Dharma practitioners alike.
All in all, Ven. Guru Lau had shown himself to be a great exemplar, as a great-hearted Bodhisattva with various compassionate activities for all of us by his own selfless dedication and hard works in spreading the Holy Dharma for the benefits of all our motherly sentient beings.
But, most unfortunately, due to the broken “Samayas” of some of his own disciples, as well as the unwholesome collective karmas of the Chinese environment and its people, Ven. Guru Lau started to fall ill physically in late 1995 and early 1996. In this regard, it was in March of 1996 that he had already specially arranged and passed on his lineages to be upheld by myself (Yeshe Thaye) as his chief disciple, one year before Ven. Guru Lau passed away in May of 1997. By late 1996, Ven. Guru Lau’s physical body had slowly deteriorated further bit by bit.
After serving endlessly and selflessly for the benefits of the Holy Dharma and of sentient beings throughout his life, it was very sad for us that Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen (Ven. Guru Lau, 1914-1997) had entered into parinirvana on Guru Rinpoche’s Day, the Tenth Day of the Fourth Month (Saga Dawa) of the Tibetan Fire Ox Year of the 17th Rabjung Cycle (that is, 17th May, 1997 of the western calendar), at the age of eighty-four [at the same age of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987) as when His Holiness entered into parinirvana].
Thus, it was back in the year of 1986, and then again in 1996 (one year before Ven. Guru Lau passed away), that the late Chinese Master Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen had twice asked myself (Yeshe Thaye, his chief disciple) to continue in upholding his lineages and traditions of both the “Narak Dong Truk” and the “Dudjom Tersar” Lineages in the Chinese soil, to raise the Victory Banner and turn the Wheel of the Holy Dharma for the sake of all our motherly sentient beings, so as to continue on in keeping the clean and pure “Samayas” with His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, and in repaying the extreme kindness of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche to the Chinese people in the Chinese soil. (Please refer to the article written by Yeshe Thaye on the “Unfathomable Ocean of Kindness – In Commemoration of Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen”, in Issue One of the “Light of Lotus”, published by the Dudjom Buddhist Association International on February, 1999).
As the humble disciple and lineage holder of the late Chinese Master, I (Yeshe Thaye) personally felt very strongly and in great debt to the late Chinese Master Ven. Guru Lau for his unceasing loving kindness and compassion in nurturing me since my youth, and with his great expectations and high hopes upon me so as to follow his footsteps. To this very end, I will continue to do my very best and utmost in order to fulfill, so as not to fall short of, the late Chinese Master’s high hopes and expectations, and not to let him down and disappoint him!
In this regard, after Ven. Guru Lau had passed away in May of 1997, both my wife (Pema Lhadren) and I (Yeshe Thaye) had established the Dudjom Buddhist Association (International) in 1998, in using the name of “Dudjom”, with the pure intention to continue on with Ven. Guru Lau’s sincere last wish in repaying the extreme kindness of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche to the Chinese people in the Chinese soil, as well as to continue on in keeping and maintaining the clean and pure “Samayas” with both Ven Guru Lau and with His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche.
The year 2014 marked the 100th Birthday Anniversary of the late Chinese Master Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen, and so we specially dedicated this article by presenting some of the most rare photos of Ven. Guru Lau, together with some of the Dharma Treasures that were bestowed upon the late Chinese Master by His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, in order to commemorate the extreme kindness and compassion of both His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche and of Ven. Guru Lau, and especially for the selfless dedication and hard works of Ven. Guru Lau for serving both the Holy Dharma and for all sentient beings! (Please click here to go to the Chinese article and video for this very special commemoration in our Chinese website!)
Furthermore, we are, indeed, most fortunate that our present Most Beloved Crowning Jewel (Root Guru) and Wish-Fulling Gem His Holiness Kyabje Chadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche has also persistently, unyieldingly and continually given His greatest encouragements, as well as in lending His greatest supports, to all of the Dharma activities for the both of us ever since the establishment of the Dudjom Buddhist Association (International) in 1998.
As the propagation of the Holy Dharma is an enormous task that need the concerted efforts of all those who care for it, and thus we earnestly pray, from the deepest of our hearts, that those of us who really care for the Holy Dharma can all work together hand in hand for the benefits of the Holy Dharma and of all sentient beings.
To this very end, we have been working very hard ever since to continue on in keeping and maintaining our clean and pure “Samayas” with our three Root Gurus, namely: His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen, and His Holiness Kyabje Chadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche, as well as to keep our vows, promises and Bodhicittas in the spreading of the Holy Dharma to all suitable vessels across the whole world, in order to be able to repay the extreme kindness of His Holiness Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche to the Chinese people in the Chinese soil!
We humbly pray, from the deepest of our hearts, that all of our sincere wishes and aspirations will be fulfilled and materialized, with the blessings of the Lama, Yidam, Khandro and Sungma, for the benefits of all our motherly sentient beings, as limitless as the sky! Here, we sincerely pray and specially dedicate all of the merits that we may have for the swift rebirth of the “Tulku” of Ven. Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen into this world in furthering his benefits for both the Holy Dharma and for all our motherly sentient beings!
TASHI DELEG !
A Prayer for the Swift Rebirth of the Tulku of Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen
Herein contained is the “Prayer for the Swift Rebirth of the Tulku of Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsen”, which was personally written by His Holiness Kyabje Chadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche, at the sincere and strong request from Ven. Guru Lau’s humble disciple and lineage-holder Yeshe Thaye:
By the ripening of his previous Bodhisattva vows, the Chinese Master Chokyi Gyaltsen (Guru Lau) had brought a lot of benefits and happiness to both the beings and the teachings. Even though he has passed away in order to show impermanence, still we pray for his Nirmanakaya form to come immediately for the protection of all beings.
May he be reborn here from a noble race, brilliant, purposeful and with wonderful nature. Because of that, he will fulfill the wishes of all beings through the practice of his previous life – the Vajrayana teachings of the Generation (Kye-rim) and Perfection (Dzog-rim) stages, and so on.
We pray that he will bring lots of benefits, happiness and peace to the world. By the power of the Three Jewels, the Three Roots, the Ocean of Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, and the Protectors of Vajrayana teachings, please help us to fulfill all our wishes immediately without obstacles. May auspiciousness and glory prevail!
(This was requested by the previous Master’s disciple Yeshe Thaye and written by the old yogi Sangye Dorje at my retreat place “Yudruk Gang” on an auspicious day of the third month of the Earth Tiger Year.)
SARWA MANGALAM !