About Longchen Nyingtik Ritual Tradition

Lerab Ling, 29 July 2015

During a Chime Phakme Nyingtik drupchen, Lerab Ling’s chant master, head chopon and few other enthusiastic practitioners took advantage of a pee-break to try to extract information from Rinpoche about the Longchen Nyingtik ritual tradition. Unusually, they made their request quite boldly, which may have been why, much to everyone’s surprise, the moment the break was over, Rinpoche launched into a detailed exposition of the history behind the tradition of practising the Longchen Nyingtik. And this is what he said.


Many people ask me questions. I try to answer accurately, but too often my answers aren’t understood, and that leads to complications. My experience is that people say: in ‘your teaching’ – that's what you say in English, isn’t it. Then they repeat what they think I've said, but get it completely wrong. I’ve been coming to Lerab Ling regularly for nearly twenty years now, and I’ve said a lot openly, to everyone here in the shrine room, and also privately. But people seem to want to throw everything I’ve ever said into one pot and make strange kind of soup of it. Then they come to me and say: “This is your teaching!” Something like this has just happened, so I feel I must clarify, otherwise I’ll worry about it.

Some Lerab Ling people, including the chant leader and the ritual master have just asked: “Where can we learn the chants and rituals for the Longchen Nyingtik?” That was the question, right?

My answer is, firstly, Jikmé Lingpa didn't establish any traditions concerning ritual. To be absolutely clear about this, no special traditions about making tormas or using particular chants or methods for playing the cymbals and drums have been passed down from Jikmé Lingpa. However, many other tertöns who travelled to the Copper-Coloured Mountain of Glory, were shown how to make tormas, chant and play instruments and they brought that knowledge back with them. So Jikmé Lingpa didn't need to transmit that kind of thing.

What I'm not saying is that there are no rituals for the practices of Jikmé Lingpa – make sure you fully understand what I’ve just said!

Jikmé Lingpa was a Dzogchen yogi, so for him, how kyerim and dzogrim were practised was the most important thing, not how tormas were made or how shawns and drums were played. To this day I've never heard of a single chant that was passed down by Jikmé Lingpa himself. Again, to be clear, I'm not saying that Jikmé Lingpa didn’t chant when he practised, but I am saying that he didn’t originate or insist on using a specific chant.

Dzogchen yogis don’t consider the shape of tormas to be that important. What they do think is important is to know the significance of the torma and all its different aspects. According to Dzogchen, once you have destroyed (tor means 'to destroy') all the dualistic phenomena of samsara and nirvana, you will arrive at its very essence, which is like a mother (ma).

There are four ways of relating to tormas, all of which focus on the torma’s significance, not what it looks like. In terms of its shape etc. you should, basically do whatever looks best. When you chant, the sound should be pleasant and inspiring. And as I’m always telling you, if the gyalings and shawns are badly played, they aren’t pleasant and inspiring, you won't accumulate merit. The deities might not distinguish between music that’s played well or not, but the people listening will. They’ll hear the difference. And to offer unpleasant music is a different kind of thinking then. For the Dzogchen practitioner, as you know, all sounds are the natural arising sound of dharmata, which means that to offer music as part of a ritual doesn’t pose any problems.

What I am saying is we have some leeway when it comes to how we perform rituals; what I am not saying that you can change or play around with the practice itself! You cannot change the order of the prayers, etc. You cannot think to yourselves, “Jikmé Lingpa said you can do what you want...” and decide to start the practice with the prayers of auspiciousness and finish with refuge! You cannot do that, because these practices have been arranged according to the wisdom and intention of the tantras and you absolutely cannot contradict the Tantras, right?

The first Dodrupchen Rinpoche came after Jikmé Lingpa – Jikmé Lingpa was the first Dodrupchen Rinpoche’s teacher. Dodrupchen Rinpoche didn’t inherit a monastery, but he did establish one. In a monastery, monks always perform rituals when they practice, but in group practices each monk can’t do as he pleases. So for Dodrupchen’s monks to be able to do the Longchen Nyingtik as their main practice, they needed a ritual tradition and the tradition he established was based on the way his teacher, Jikmé Lingpa had practised – Jikmé Lingpa must have been practising it in a certain way, following a specific order of prayers, etc., mustn’t he? The tradition established by the first Dodrupchen was then carried on by the second, third and fourth Dodrupchens – the fourth is the present Dodrupchen Rinpoche – and is practised today in both the Dodrupchen Monasteries, the one in Tibet and the one in Sikkim.

Also, there is another tradition that was passed down by Do Khyentse which includes specific ways of chanting and doing the practice.

So another important point is that in order to be able to practise together in a monastery, monks need a ritual tradition and therefore a tradition must be established, OK?

Secondly, Jikmé Lingpa had a Bhutanese student called Mön Jikmé Kündröl. His monastery is the present Yongla Gompa which established its own Bhutanese ritual tradition for performing the Longchen Nyingtik, which is still practised today and is similar to the Tibetan tradition I’ve just mentioned.

Actually in Bhutan there are no Sakyas or Gelugpas, and the Nyingma and Kagyü monasteries have their own Bhutanese way of doing the practices, including a tradition for practising the Longchen Nyingtik. So that’s my second point.

Jikmé Gyalwé Nyugu was Jikmé Lingpa’s main student, but he didn’t have a big monastery and spent most of his time in retreat in caves in the Trama valley in Dzachuka.

Barchung Jikmé Gocha was another student of Jikmé Lingpa, and he did have a monastery where the monks practised the Longchen Nyingtik according to the Mindroling ritual tradition. I don't know whether they had always followed that tradition, or adopted it later on, but it’s the tradition they currently follow.

Drubwang Penor Rinpoche, whose previous incarnation was Palchen Düpa, follows the Palyul Monastery tradition which is largely based on the practice of the kama teachings. For the terma teachings that his monks do practise, they mostly follow Ratna Lingpa’s tradition and the Namchö cycle. However during the time of Palchen Düpa, the Longchen Nyingtik became an important practice at Palyul, for which they also followed the Mindroling tradition, which continues to be practised perfectly at Namdroling Monastery to this very day.

So, now I’ve explained the ritual tradition.

Someone else asked, “Is there a ‘Jamyang Khyentse’ tradition of the Longchen Nyingtik?” At first, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo didn't have a monastery. But then he went to Dzongsar, which is a Sakya monastery – specifically Ngorpa – where they faithfully upheld their own Sakya traditions. And Ngorpas in particular, will never willingly do even a single Nyingma practice – except of course, they do the Sakyapa practice of Vajrakilaya and Yangdak which was originally a Nyingma practice. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo didn't change the tradition at Dzongsar one jot, but the second Jamyang Khyentse, Chökyi Lodrö, introduced and sponsored the drupchö of Sakya Vajrakilaya with the cham dance. Therefore, there is no ‘Khyentse’ tradition for doing the Longchen Nyingtik.

Having said that, the practice tradition of the Khyentses is the Longchen Nyingtik. The Jamyang Khyentses are generally known as Rimé masters, yet they always did Rigdzin Düpa on the tenth day of the Tibetan month and Yumka Dechen Gyalmo on the twenty-fifth, both of which are Nyingma practices. But they didn’t do them at Dzongsar monastery, they did them at Khyentse Labrang, the main residence and home of the Jamyang Khyentses. Therefore the Longchen Nyingtik and a few of Jamyang Khyentses’ termas were only practised by a few Khyentse Labrang people. The way that we practise here at Lerab Ling is based on that tradition, and if you did some thorough research, you’d discover that the main basis for this ritual tradition is the Mindroling tradition.

More specifically, the Nyingma teachings include the Northern and the Southern traditions. The Northern Treasures are, for example, those of Rigdzin Godem and the Great Fifth Dalai Lama; and the Southern tradition came from Tertön Ratna Lingpa, and so on. It is said that the Khyentse and Chokling traditions developed together and that they are slightly different from the Mindroling tradition. For example, when Nyingmapas practise the Descent of Blessings, they begin the invocation with the Seven-Line Prayer, whereas those who follow the Mindroling tradition go directly to the Descent of Blessing.

Khyentse, Kongtrul and Chokling performed hundreds of thousands of drupchens and the way they practised was always based on the Mindroling tradition, but was adjusted with elements from the Southern tradition. The rituals followed at Mindroling are mostly based on the Northern Treasures. The slight differences that exists between the traditions can be found in the way they each do ritual, self-empowerment, giving the empowerments, and so on. Personally, I think the adjustments made by the Nyingma tradition improve on the Mindroling tradition. For example, once you've recited the mantra in the Mindroling tradition, there’s no need to recite the vowel and consonant mantras, and so on, or the prayers of Offering and Praise; the session finishes straight after the mantra recitation (you just do a quick recitation of the four-line verse, Final Words of Minling Terchen, which is easy). At the same time, Mindroling is also a very sacred tradition.

So, we’ve been following the Khyentse approach, but technically there's no such thing as the ‘Khyentse’ tradition. Why? Because apart from the Maha Guru mantra chant in the Tukdrup Barché Kunsel, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo did not transmit any of the chants he heard in pure visions. His approach was to preserve all the teachings of the Eight Great Chariots of Transmission, including both the kama and terma Nyingma teachings, and to practise them exactly as he was taught. So preservation was his focus, not the creation of something new. These days at Dzongsar Monastery there are people who talk about the ‘Khyentse tradition’, but I don't trust what they say. People too often say anything that pops into their heads, but the problem is that no texts can be found to back up what they say.

I hope this is a bit clearer now.

For the Longchen Nyingtik, the teaching lineage should be considered the root lineage. One of the transmission lineages for the Longchen Nyingtik came from the Great Omniscient One, Longchenpa, and he passed it to Jikmé Lingpa. Jikmé Lingpa then transmitted what he received from Longchenpa through the lineage of the first Dodrupchen. Dodrup transmitted it to Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje and a lineage continued from him. Then it reached Patrul Rinpoche and a lineage has been passed down through him.

Jikmé Lingpa also transmitted these teachings to Jikmé Gyalwé Nyugu, who transmitted them to his student Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, then through Jamgön Kongtrül and other great masters to form another lineage of the Nyingtik teachings. The lineages of Dodrupchen Jikmé Trinlé Özer and Jikmé Gyalwé Nyugu are the two lineages of the students of Jikmé Lingpa who are known as ‘the two Jikmés: the sun and the moon’.

Then Dodrupchen transmitted the Longchen Nyingtik to the King of Mongolia, Chogyal Ngagi Wangpo who was also known as King Warn. The King’s student was Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol. Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol’s student was Kyabgon Pema Gyatso. Kyabgon Pema Gyatso’s student was Shuksep Jetsünma, who was a very famous woman teacher who lived at Kangri Tökar. She was a contemporary of my father’s and she could fly in the sky. This is another lineage of the Nyingtik teachings.

There is also the lineage of Mön Jikmé Kündröl of Bhutan, and so there are many teaching lineages of Longchen Nyingtik.

The transmission through Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo must be regarded as the main one. He wrote many texts about these teachings. So please, whatever you do, make sure that if you say something about all this, that you get it right. Don't make mistakes! Because it would be really terrible if you went around saying, “Oh, Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche says that Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo had no lineage,” when actually what I’ve said it that he didn’t pass down a ritual tradition.

Being heard properly is important because if people mishear, there are consequences. For example, I’ve just received a death threat over the Internet. People record everything you say these days, then take sentences out of context and put them on the Internet. So, instead of listening to the whole teaching, people just hear bits of it and could end up hearing incomplete and misleading statements like: 'Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo didn't have the lineage transmission of the Longchen Nyingtik' or ‘There's no lineage of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’. And that would really be shocking. Taking bits of teachings out of context is not how things should be done. What if you misheard so catastrophically that you thought you’d been told, “There's no tradition of Jikmé Lingpa, you can do whatever you want!” Now that’s a flabbergasting statement!

I’ve learnt the hard way, so now I make sure I clarify.

Translated by Gyurmé Avertin
Edited by Janine Schulz


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