Explanation of A Prayer for the Swift Rebirth of Sogyal Rinpoche


Bodhgaya, India, 21 October 2019

Explanation of A Prayer for the Swift Rebirth of Sogyal Rinpoche

Bodhgaya, India, 21 October 2019

After Sogyal Rinpoche’s passing, the Rigpa sangha gathered with Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche and his monks at Bodhgaya, the most important and powerful Buddhist sacred place, and brought the kudung of Sogyal Rinpoche. Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche felt it would be a good idea for people to gather and practise together Vajrasattva through a Minling Dorsem drupchen to purify our link with Sogyal Rinpoche. Some of Rigpa’s main people asked then Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche to compose a prayer for the swift rebirth of Sogyal Rinpoche. Once it had been translated, Eszter went to see Rinpoche twice to ask for the reading transmission of the prayer. Rinpoche responded that it would be better if he’d give it to everyone in the main temple the next day, together with an explanation of the meaning of the prayer he wrote.

To compose a shastra, lamas need to have ten qualities, which I do not have. However, a prayer for the swift rebirth is simply a type of prayer. There need to be a connection between the one who is making the prayer and the object of that prayer, and I have a big connection with Sogyal Rinpoche, based on which I wrote that prayer. There is nothing obscure in this.

I began with the exclamation,

Ky’é ho!

The two syllables ky’é and ho brought together communicate a sense of joy. It is an exclamation of joy, but also an expression of suffering. Ky’é is an expression of suffering, a little like “alas” in English. Ho is not mere suffering: it also gives the sense of something extraordinary.

You embody the enlightened actions of buddhas and bodhisattvas,
You are the wisdom emanation of the Lotus-born Guru Padmakara,

The buddhas are victorious over the four maras, so victorious onesThe Tibetan uses the world rgyal ba victorious ones, which the translation rendered by buddha. is a synonym for buddha. The Tibetan word for buddha is sangyé: sang means someone who has purified all the obscurations that cover realization, and gyé means to flourish or blossom and refers to the complete blossoming of the wisdom that is able to know everything.

The victorious ones are beyond count. The Sutra of the Great Liberation uses the example of the number of grains of sand in the Ganges, which the sutra adds, you have to multiply one billion times to have an idea of the number of buddhas.

In short, ‘buddhas’ in the prayer refers to all the buddhas of the three times – past, present and future. In our kalpa alone one thousand buddhas have and will come.

So far, I have been referring only to the nirmanakaya buddhas. The nirmanakaya buddhas arise from the sambhogakaya buddhas, which we also need to add. They can all be gathered into one family, whose lord is the Buddha Vajrasattva, the lord of all the buddha families. Sambhogakaya buddhas can also be divided into hundred buddha families. The Secret Essence Tantra, for example, says that the sambhogakaya buddhas who are emanations of the great equality of the dharmata are inconceivable.

The basis from which the sambhogakaya buddhas manifest is the dharmakaya buddha, the all-pervasive dharmadhatu. In the dharmadhatu, there is no mention of past, present and future but only the fourth time of great equality.

So when you read ‘buddhas’ in the prayer you need to understand that it refers to the buddhas of the three kayas: dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya.

Then the text mentions the Buddha’s children, here translated as bodhisattvas.

The son born from the Buddha’s body is Rahula who is the head of the assembly of arhats.

The sons born from his speech are all the arhats. All those who have reached liberation based on the words that Buddha spoke. They are born from his speech, right? So that’s why they are the children of his speech.

The children born from his mind are those who have given rise to the precious mind of enlightenment: the bodhisattvas. Just like the buddhas, there is also an infinite number of bodhisattvas, chief of whom are the eight close sons.

The activities of all the buddhas and his children, are for the benefit of sentient beings.

The bodhisattvas are only concerned with the activities that benefit sentient beings. The main bodhisattvas are Avalokiteshvara who is the embodiment of the compassion of all the buddhas, Manjushri who is the embodiment of their wisdom, and Vajrapani who is the embodiment of their power. Wisdom, compassion and power come together in the buddhas’ activities.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo wrote about Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani, the protectors of the three families. He explained that they are part of the buddhas’ enlightened activities; the enlightened activities are embodied in Padmakara, the Lotus-Born Guru Rinpoche, who was not stained by womb birth but who was born miraculously – but this is a very vast topic. Actually, it is said that in ten million worlds of endurance – worlds like ours –, there are ten millions of Guru Rinpoche manifestations.

Buddha Shakyamuni came in our world of endurance, and after him a second buddha too, who embodied all his enlightened activities: the Lotus-Born Guru.

So, the word ‘emanation’ in the prayer refers to Sogyal Rinpoche, the wisdom emanation who embodies all the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Who said so? Not me – this is not something I could find out by myself. When Guru Rinpoche came to Tibet, he had some important students who were known as “the lord, the subject and the companion” – the lord King Trisong Deutsen, the subject Vairotsana, and the friend or companion, Yeshe Tsogyal. These three great students of Guru Rinpoche and the other twenty-five close disciples were actually emanations of Guru Rinpoche, according to Guru Rinpoche himself.

When Guru Rinpoche said that, King Trisong Deutsen didn’t believe him. He told him, “I am Trisong Deutsen. You are Guru Rinpoche. You are a great accomplished master. How can we be the same? I can’t see that – I don’t understand.”

“Well”, Guru Rinpoche replied, “if you can’t trust what I say, I’ll have to show you.”

Guru Rinpoche gave Trisong Deutsen his golden vajra, and told him, “Tonight, when you sleep, place the vajra under your pillow.” The king did as instructed and that night he had a dream in which he saw all the worlds of endurance, and in each he could see a Guru Rinpoche, and the lord, the subject and the friend, as well as the other twenty-five close disciples who were assembled in front of Guru Rinpoche. He also saw that they were one in wisdom mind. The next day he brought the vajra back to Guru Rinpoche and told him that now he understood.

Then Guru Rinpoche said, “What you see of me now, the physical body that appears to you, looks to you like a body when actually it is a wisdom kaya, which is just rainbow lights.” Again the king had doubts. So Guru Rinpoche said to the king, who still had his vajra in his hand, “Hit me on the head with the vajra.” The king was hesitant, so Guru Rinpoche insisted: “I tell you to do it, so do it!” The king tried to hit Guru Rinpoche three times, but each time, as he moved the vajra down to strike Guru Rinpoche, his hand went all the way down to the seat, and he only could touch the seat.

In any case his wisdom mind was the same as Guru Rinpoche’s. In Secret Mantra Vajrayana we talk about the great equality of the dharmakaya, who is Guru Rinpoche. One of his twenty-five close disciples was called Nanam Dorje Dudjom, who is the basic emanation of many incarnations, one of whom was Sogyal Rinpoche. Dorje Dudjom was one of the three messengers the king sent to invite Guru Rinpoche. He met Padmasambhava at the border between Nepal and Tibet, a place nowadays in Nepal. We still know where it is – it is in a region called Kyirong. The three messengers are the first Tibetans who saw Guru Rinpoche, and that is why Dorje Dudjom is known as one of the first Tibetans to have met Guru Rinpoche.

Nanam Dorje Dudjom received many empowerments from Guru Rinpoche, such as Kagye and so on, and by doing the practices, he reached accomplishment, so he was able to move as fast as the wind.

There are about ten or fifteen tertöns who were emanations of Nanam Dorje Dudjom. Amongst them, the most famous is Rigdzin Gödem who revealed the Northern Treasures. Guru Rinpoche placed three vulture feathers made of light on his head. You can see the three feathers on his depictions.

The incarnation of these two great masters was Tertön Lerab Lingpa. There had been several other incarnations in-between, some who were tertöns, some who were mahasiddhas. There are many incarnations of Dorje Dudjom in the Nyingma, Sakya and Kagyu schools.

Among the incarnations of Lerab Lingpa, there are three main incarnations, Sogyal Rinpoche was recognized as one of those three by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö. Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was, basically, Guru Rinpoche appearing in the form of a human being we could relate and talk to. He was never separate from the dakini Yeshé Tsogyal, who knows all the prophecies. Personally, I have no idea about all this, but if you look at Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö’s secret biographySee Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk, ‘The Secret Biography’ in Dilgo Khyentse, and Orgyen Tobgyal. The Life and Times of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö: The Great Biography by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Other Stories. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala, 2017, pages 523-539., then you’ll understand what I’m saying.

It is because of that that I called him here “a wisdom kaya”.

Supreme refuge, precious lord of the mandala,

Amongst all the refuge, the ultimate refuge or protection is the lama, right? All the teachings of sutras and tantras say just that. That is what the Tibetan term ‘Rinpoche’ – ‘most precious’ – expresses, because the lama is the most important, the most precious, and that is why I called him “precious lord of the mandala” in the prayer.

I added Rinpoche’s name to that line:

Sönam Gyaltsen,

His name, that means ‘victory banner of merit’, has been given to him for many reasons.

...with all your kindness...

There is no greater kindness than giving teachings. As the Buddha said, the gift of four lines of Dharma has much greater value than the whole wealth of the universe. This is especially true in the case of Sogyal Rinpoche who brought the teachings to places where even the name ‘Dharma’ had never been heard before, and gave such a vast amount of teachings there, particularly the teachings of the Great Perfection.

Once teachings have been given, it’s our own failing if we are unable to practise them, it is not the lama’s fault – he did his part and gave the teachings. Indeed, the Buddha came and taught the Dharma, but we are still in samsara.

...think of us right now!

When we pray, we ask the great master we are praying to to think of us. When should he think of us? At this time, right now.

Even though primordially enlightened,

Since he is indivisible from Guru Rinpoche, who is himself Samantabhadra, he is primordially enlightened.

Guru Rinpoche appears in some universes as an ordinary person, someone following the stages of the path, which is the way we see him; in other universes he appears directly as a buddha, and in many different other ways in other places.

However here, it is Guru Rinpoche appearing in the form of a human being, the son of the Lakar family.

Why did he manifest in this way? He appeared in this way so that we can see him and relate to him in our sentient beings’ perception. That is why I wrote “You appeared to beings.”

To be able to guide and help sentient beings, the buddhas need to appear in a form they can relate to. For human beings, they need to appear as a human being. To benefit animals, the buddhas need to manifest in animal forms. The stories of the past lives of the Buddha, the Jatakas, tell how Buddha manifested as a golden worm to benefit insects, for example. The buddhas can also manifest as water, or bridges, or roads to benefit beings, basically appearing in every way that is useful to tame beings.

It is not something that easily fits in our minds, because we don’t know about Buddha. We think of him as another human being, meaning someone a little bit like us. But the capacity to manifest like this is the great strength of the buddhas who are endowed with inconceivable wisdom and qualities. That is why I wrote:

You appeared to beings like us in a human guise,

That human form appeared to us to help us and benefit sentient beings. This is not an appearance in the perception of the buddhas but one that manifests in the perception of sentient beings.

The traditional example given to illustrate this point is of the moon reflecting in all the bodies of water on the surface of the earth, producing as many moons as there are bodies of water. When it appears, the moon doesn’t think, “I need to reflect in the water here and not in the water there”. Without any thought the moon reflections appear naturally wherever there is water. Likewise, buddhas appear to sentient beings when beings are ready to perceive them. But if no one has the karma for a buddha to appear, then no buddha appears. In the moon example, it corresponds to when the water is murky and so on – the moon won’t reflect in it.

The prayer says that he is “primordially enlightened”, which I have just explained. The natural manifestation of primordial enlightenment in the perception of sentient beings is the compassion of the buddhas.

You need to realize that this is something quite special. These manifestations are different from those that appear as a result of karmic maturation, in other words after having eliminated negativities and accumulated positive karma.

The primordially manifesting compassion can appear purely but also appear in impure manifestations. They can appear just to one sentient being for his benefit. Pure manifestations don’t get sad, or depressed or have similar kinds of emotions. When they can manifest in pure forms, they are also not agitated by all sorts of ordinary thoughts – there is no such thought on the ultimate level. But when they manifest on the relative level, then the buddhas can also appear having those kinds of thoughts.

It is like in a dream, to give you an idea of how that works. You can have all sorts of emotions in a dream, but the moment you wake up, you realize they never existed.

Once I asked this kind of question to Tulku Urgyen:

“Do the great beings who are the primordial manifestation of compassion know that they are the primordial manifestation of the buddhas’ compassion?”, I asked him.

“No, they don’t know that themselves.”, Tulku Urgyen replied.

“When do they learn about it?”

“When they die and their consciousness naturally dissolves back within the expanse of the dharmadhatu.”

At that time, the emanation and the ground from which they emanate merge back together. Actually, they are indivisible, and the manifestations was just a mere appearance from within the expanse of basic space.

And during your life poured down a great rain of Dharma.

This manifestation taught the Dharma. Generally speaking, the twelve deeds of the Buddha are all Dharma teachings. Even a simple movement of the hand of the Buddha is a Dharma teaching, for people with pure perception. It may not benefit all sentient beings but it benefits beings. When the Buddha was present in this world, even he didn’t liberate all beings in Magadha.

All Sogyal Rinpoche did, from the moment he was born until he passed away at the age of seventy-three, was activities to support the Dharma and turn the wheel of the Dharma – he taught on so many occasions. This is something that everyone was able to witness; everyone knows about this anyway, people with pure perceptions and those without.

During the eighty years of the Buddha’s life too, everyone could see him and what he was doing, whether people had pure perception or not.

Sadness struck us when suddenly you left, for the palace on the Copper Coloured Mountain of Glory in Chamara,
To preside there over a vast throng of dakinis.

I don’t know if it is because the merit of beings have exhausted or some other reason, but he left suddenly and passed away in Bangkok. Now we only have the kudung, so that physically he is here while his mind has dissolved within the expanse of the dharmadhatu.

In terms of his enlightened activities what we can do is remember a little bit what he has done. And that is why I said, “Sadness struck us”. Why being sad? Because he was here acting for the benefit of sentient beings; that is why his passing is such a great loss.

So even though his body is still here, I said in the prayer that his mind has left for the Copper Coloured Mountain of Glory in Chamara.

How do I know that he went to the Glorious Copper Coloured Mountain of Glory in Chamara? Because all tertöns come from there and go back there after they have died. That is what all the tertöns say – there are thousands of accounts telling that.

What is happening in Chamara, on the Glorious Copper Coloured Mountain? The dakinis of the three planes of existence are performing the ganachakra feast. The dakinis of the three planes of existence are the dakinis who live in the air, on the ground and under the ground. All the different kinds of dakinis gather there and practise together – not just one or two dakinis who happen to be there. They are as numerous as the atoms in the universe.

Sogyal Rinpoche is the lord who presides over the ganachakra feast. The lord who presides over the tsok feast is Guru Rinpoche, right? Rinpoche has dissolved back within the basis of his emanation: Guru Rinpoche.

However, since the play of Guru Rinpoche’s actions
Unfolds endlessly as an inexhaustible wheel of adornment,

The wheel of inexhaustible adornment of Guru Rinpoche’s enlightened activities will revolve until samsara is empty. In other words, Guru Rinpoche will continue to act for the benefit of sentient beings until the end of the kalpa.

Prayers to Guru Rinpoche sometimes say: “hundreds of thousands of kalpas of your activities”. The enlightened activities of buddhas have no end. Because the wheel of inexhaustible adornment of enlightened body, the wheel of inexhaustible adornment of enlightened speech, the wheel of inexhaustible adornment of enlightened mind always turn. That is why I then said:

So be reborn once again, we pray, and swiftly!
And then, following the vidyadharas of the past,

The vidyadharas of the past is a reference to all the great vidyadharas who came, starting with Nanam Dorje Dudjom down to Rinpoche – all the great vidyadharas of the past.

With your wealth of learning, discipline and good heart,

All the great vidyadharas of the past were endowed with great learning, great discipline and good heart. “With your wealth of...” is a reference to their reincarnations, as the later reincarnations are also endowed with the wealth of those three qualities – learning, discipline and goodness.

At the end is the actual prayer – what we pray for:

Lead all sentient beings to be trained – me and all the others –
To the perfect purity of great enlightenment!

This is because leading all sentient beings to perfect enlightenment is the only thing that reincarnations do. Incarnations can manifest just for the sake of one single person, one sentient being. It is therefore extremely unlikely that Rinpoche won’t be born again: if there was no incarnation, this would mean that the activities of the buddhas have ended, which is impossible.

When Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö came to Bodhgaya he made aspirations: he prayed to manifest in the form of many learned and accomplished beings to benefit sentient beings. So, there will be an incarnation for the sake of the teachings.

Whether beings will see the activities of the incarnation depends entirely on their pure or impure perception. The incarnation will come and act for the benefit of sentient beings.

Before Khenpo Özer passed away, one student asked him, “How will you die?” Khenpo Özer laughed a little. At the same time, someone came in with a meat dish.

“I will eat this and then I’ll die.”

“Will you have an incarnation?”

“Yes, I will definitely be born again, because my main aspiration has been to continuously be reborn and come back until there are sentient beings.”

“Where will you be born?”

“In a big city.”

He has now three incarnations.

Translated by Gyurmé Avertin

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