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An Introduction to Practitioners in Lifetime Retreat at Traling Monastery

by Tulku Karzang Dorje

This is something I wrote a few years ago. I recently asked it be translated in order to share the
almost overwhelming feelings of joy and inspiration I have at the dedication and courage of the
practitioners in lifetime retreat at Traling Monastery. My teacher Khenpo Panchen Dawa for
example, has spent most of his life practicing on the hill overlooking Traling and there are many
places where people practice like this.

It has been almost 1000 years since the Kathok Lineage – one of the three major lineages in the
Nyingmapa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism – was established in Kham and Amdo, Tibet.
Although in its history it has experienced times of flourishing and times of decline, Traling has
always been an important satellite monastery of the Kathok Lineage. During recent centuries in
particular, the distinct status of Traling Monastery is of paramount significance for the lineage.

Traling is a relatively large and famous monastic complex in the Golok area (Qinghai Province).
Many venerable monks and great masters from this monastery are famed throughout Tibet: Tulku
Tenpai Nyima Rinpoche, Khenchen Padma Lodro, Siddha Khenpo Tarding Rinpoche, Lingtrul
Rinpoche Chöying Dorje – the tulku of Ling Lama Chöje Dorje, Vajra Master Khenpo Panchen
Dawa, the learned Kunzang Gyaltsen – founder of the orphan school affiliated with the Lion &
Dragon Palace at Traling.

Khenpo Padma Lodro – highly valued and entrusted by Khenpo Münsel Rinpoche – was given
special recognition after the passing of Münsel Rinpoche when he was enthroned. He is a great
master and lineage holder of Dzogpa Chenpo and has become one of the authorities on Dzogchen
teachings in Golok. He has established many retreat centers all over Tibet. Regardless of his
old age and weakness, every year he travels tirelessly as far as Samye Monastery in Central Tibet,
as well as to Mainland China, in order to propagate the Dzogchen teachings and guide disciples in
retreat.

I am very fortunate that every time I return to Tibet, I have the opportunity to visit a group of
practitioners who are in lifetime retreat in the hills behind Traling Monastery, and to bring them
some modest offerings. Every time I do this it is a time of reconnection with my lineage and a
renewal of devotion. As is well known, living conditions are quite hard and material comforts
are insufficient in Golok. However, the infinite Dharma joy that radiates out from these
practitioners during our communication has affected me deeply. In today’s materialistic age, it is
really rare and precious that they practice the Dharma so diligently. Their perseverance is
worthy of rejoicing and praise. Each and every one of these practitioners is excellent and I
admire them greatly. However I would like to share with you, my dharma friends, some deeds of
two of these special practitioners.

The first one is called Gelok Lama. He is nearly 50 years old, with dark skin and a lanky build.
It is said that he has achieved the signs of realization of the rainbow body: knowing others’
thoughts, transcending time and space without hindrance, etc. Personally, when I first met him I
experienced a feeling of complete exposure – as if he were totally able to behold my entire being.
I then understood that he is not at all living as an ordinary person. He was prophesied by Kyabje
Kathok Moktsa Rinpoche to realize the rainbow body in this very life. His only possessions are
poverty and peace, as well as a group of vultures. Every day he shares his already very limited
food with this group of vultures and often chants scriptures to them. I once heard him say with
my own ears, that his way of calling the vultures over was to chant the Seven Line Prayer once.
If you have ever been to a sky burial ground in Tibet, you would be deeply impressed by the
ferocity and barbarity of the vultures. However at the feet of this realized being they seem so
gentle and obedient. One of my very dear teachers, Khenpo Kuncho, told a story about how he
witnessed Gelok Lama feeding vultures yoghurt from his hand. The wild creatures would turn
their heads sideways since their large beaks prevented them from holding their heads upright to
eat.

Once Gelok Lama was invited to Kathok monastery in Kham by Kathok Moktsa Rinpoche. This
is a distance of about 1000 miles. After he arrived the monks noticed a strange looking vulture
in the area, where there usually are none. When Gelok Lama came out of his dwelling he
recognized it as one of the vultures from Traling. Apparently it had followed him and when he
left Kathok monastery, the vulture did as well.

Gelok Lama is an unassuming, humble and kind person, but sometimes he shows the demeanor
and miraculous power of his realization. Once he was sitting in his retreat cave meditating,
locked in from the inside. Suddenly he manifested on top of the mountain. He completed a
session of deep meditation on the mountain top and then returned to his cave where he found he
was unable to re-enter due to the lock. He had to find a shepherd boy who was small enough to
climb in through the little window and unlock the door. This is a powerful sign of his
accomplishment, as he can pass through solid rock and emerge in his physical body. When he
wishes to connect with his root gurus, he is able to become one with them and communicate
completely through the power of his realized mind. I believe that these are special signs of outer
and inner accomplishment.

One of the biggest problems for a practitioner in a mountain retreat can be a lack of water.
People who have lived in this situation, like myself and my teacher Panchen Dawa, are so very
aware of the significance of water to retreat practitioners. One of our favorite stories is how
Gelok Lama has miraculously excavated clean and clear springs so that each and every one of the
practitioners in mountain retreat can enjoy a personal spring of water. This has become a
much-told story and miracle in Tibet.

The other practitioner I will tell of is Lama Tharpa, a young man from Guangzhou. He used to
study with Vajra Master Tsophu Toro Rinpoche (now passed away), then he studied with
Khenchen Padma Lodro. The first time I went to see him, he had already been in retreat for four
years and said that he would continue. Under his long hair – not trimmed for years – is a young
and dynamic face. The harsh external environment coupled with the language barrier did not
diminish his perseverance. When I met him in retreat, he was very happy and talkative. He
told me that his little sister’s family had immigrated to Vancouver, Canada many years ago and
had always wanted to help him immigrate abroad as well. However, he politely declined. I
tentatively asked whether he still had worldly concerns, whether he still cherished the hustle and
bustle of city life, and whether he still had difficulty in breaking away from the entanglement of
affections. He told me that if he had left this pure land of snow, his life would have withered.
His answer shocked me deeply. Without a deep understanding of Buddhadharma, he surely
would not be able to say anything like that. In consideration for the feelings of affection of his
sister’s family, I asked if I might take a picture of him and carry it to her in Canada. He agreed
with joy and took some time tidying up. In the resulting photo, he looked pure and solemn.

There are more than a dozen other practitioners who are in lifetime retreat on the hill behind
Traling Monastery and in the nearby sky burial ground. They are also filled with moving
Dharma joy and inspiration, which I hope to have the opportunity to share with you later.

I pray that one day I can be like these practitioners in mountain retreat who have abandoned all
worldly concerns, free from the hustle and bustle of cities and free from disputes and conflicts.
In the pure land of spirituality, I aspire to purify my humble heart and soul. Every moment of
every day there are practitioners in profound meditation whose concerns are not the worldly
attachments that so occupy our thoughts and activities and bind us to the energies of samsara. So
much of our lives are spent in endless, meaningless activity. However when I think of these
great practitioners, hope wells up in me and I am embraced by the beauty and truth of the
Buddhadharma. This is an unending source of inspiration to me and I share it with you to inspire
and encourage you as well. I close with this powerful aspiration prayer from the Excellent Path
of Omniscience of the Longchen Nying Thig:

Ho. Deluded by various appearances – like the reflection of the moon in water –
sentient beings are wandering through the samsaric chain of lives. In order for
them to be relaxed in the luminescent sphere of self-awareness, I shall develop the
Bodhicitta by the practice of the four Boundless States.

May All Sentient Beings Return to Their Original Purity!

Translated by Tuptan Palden and edited by Mary Pat Thompson and Steve Ayers
青海查朗寺後山終生閉關者事蹟點滴

查朗寺珠古嘎桑多傑

藏傳佛教後弘期甯瑪巴三大傳承之一的噶陀法脈在康區、安多的弘傳已接近千年歷史。雖

歷經興衰與演變,查朗寺一直以來都是噶陀傳承重要的分寺之一。特別是在該傳承的近代

史上,查朗寺的鮮明地位更是舉足輕重。

查朗寺是青海果洛地區規模較大、聞名遐邇的寺院。該寺的諸多高僧大德更是譽滿藏區,

其中包括尊貴的旦貝尼瑪活佛、大堪布白瑪洛周(堪布巴羅)、成就者堪布達頂仁波切、

朗喇嘛之轉世曲央多傑活佛、博學者更桑堅參(查朗寺獅龍宮殿附屬孤兒學校創辦者)以

及金剛上師堪布班欽達哇等。

受大圓滿掌門人門色仁波切的推崇與囑託,查朗寺老堪布白瑪洛周(堪布巴羅)近年來成

為雪域果洛大圓滿法門的權威之一。他發心建立的諸多閉關中心更是遍佈全藏。老人家甚

至不顧年邁體弱、不辭辛勞地每年定期遠赴西藏桑耶寺並到內地弘傳大圓滿法、指導閉關

弟子。

我個人非常有幸在每次回藏區時都有機會拜訪一群在查朗寺後山上閉生死關的修行者,並

帶給他們一點微薄的供養。眾所周知,果洛藏區環境艱辛、資糧匱乏,但在與他們交流時

從這些行者身上散發出來的無限法喜深深感染了我。在末法時代的今天還能如此地精進修

行實屬難能可貴,他們的恒心與毅力更值得隨喜讚歎。這些修行者個個都很優秀,每一位

都是我心目中的偶像。在此我摘取其中兩位特殊人物的點滴事蹟,與諸位善友分享。

第一位是年近五十、黝黑瘦高的格洛喇嘛。據說他已經示現出證得虹光身成就的諸多外相
(如他心通和時空無阻礙等),被一代高僧、當今噶陀法王莫紮活佛授記將今生成就虹光

身。他所擁有的除了清貧和幽靜之外就是一群通人性的禿鷲了。他每天都將自己本來已經

非常拮据的食物與這群禿鷲分享,並時常誦經給它們聽。我曾親耳聽他說,召喚這群禿鷲

的方式就是念一遍蓮師金剛七句祈請文。到過天葬場的人都會對禿鷲的兇猛與野性留下深

刻的印象,但在這位成就者座下它們竟是如此的溫和與調順。格洛喇嘛為人謙遜和藹,但

也時時展露出成就者的風範與神跡。大家知道在山上閉關最困擾人的問題之一是缺乏水源,

本人曾居住山上七年之久,深深領略過缺水的困苦。但格洛喇嘛奇跡般地為每一位閉關者

挖掘出一澈清泉讓他們享用,這在藏地傳為佳話和神跡。

再一位是來自內地廣州的年輕喇嘛塔巴。他曾參學于金剛上師措樸多洛仁波切(現已圓寂)

座下,後依止大堪布白瑪洛周。我第一次去看他時他已經閉關四年之久,並表示還將繼續

下去。多年未曾修剪的關發下是一張年輕而充滿活力的臉,外在環境的惡劣加上語言的隔

閡都沒有退轉他的恒心。當我去探關時,他顯得很高興並很健談。他告訴我他妹妹一家已

經移民加拿大溫哥華多年,並一直都想幫他辦理移民讓他出國,但被他婉言拒絕。我也曾

試探性地問過他是否動過凡心,是否還眷戀城市的喧囂,是否難以割捨親情的糾葛。他親

口告訴我如果離開了這塊雪域淨土他的生命就會枯萎。他的回答深深地震撼了我,倘若沒

有對佛法有著很深的體悟是說不出這席話語的。為了顧及親情的思念,我要求給他照張相

以便捎去給他遠在異國的妹妹一家,他高興地答應並為此費心整理了一番,照片中的他顯

得非常莊嚴清淨。

另外還有十數位正在用心精進修持的終生閉關者以及長期在寒林中修持的行者,他們也有

諸多令人感動的法喜和感悟,希望以後有機會再與大家分享。

最後我祈願自己有一天也能象這些舍世閉關者一樣遠離都市的憒鬧和人我的紛爭,在這塊
心靈的淨土中淨化自己卑微的靈魂。