Rizgin, Sonoma Coast CA
At 19 I was finishing my second year of college. I was studying fine art photography. One of my professors was very scholarly and her class was very challenging. I was always looking to be challenged. Her subject was East Indian Art. My boyfriend at the time was graduating. He was/is Japanese American and had grown up always being a minority, and wanted to experience being in a place where he was in the majority. We couldn’t afford to travel in Japan, so he chose India. It was about 1980… I took the year off from school. We were serious budget travelers, 3rd class all the way….
I carried a traveling dark room in my backpack. I brought film in 100 foot rolls that I hand rolled and shot. There were limits on how many rolls of film you could bring… so i went for 100 ft rolls!!!!! I brought all the chemistry and a dark bag to developed the film at night. We wandered around India stopping to see the ancient temples, the art I had studied. We wound up in Bodhgaya where the Buddha attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. We were supposed to stay there three days, but I ended up staying a month. I did my first 10 day vipassana retreat there with Christopher Titmus. After the retreat I stayed and contuined to meditate, I couldn’t leave. Then one day someone took me to see a Tibetan Lama, Tara Tulku, who was appointed by the H.H. the Dalai Lama to teach in Bodhgaya. It was a holy day and he gave a teaching about the Bodhisattva Vows and offered the ceremony to formally receive the vows. From the moment that he spoke about Bodhicitta, the idea that until all beings are free, no one is free. I knew that was why I had been born, to serve all beings, to relieve their suffering and progress on the path to attain awakening. I took my Refuge and Bodhisattva vows that day, in the Holy Place where the Buddha attained Enlightenment. And from then on…I have devoted myself to the path.
When I came home I was 20. It took me a few years, and at 23 I found my Root Teacher H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche. I received teachings from other Lamas in the West, but I didn’t feel a powerful connection. When i met RInpoche it was unquestionable for both of us. Right away I went into a month retreat to receive the Ngondro (Preliminary) Practices. The first time he ever spoke to me he said, “You when three year retreat doing.” He moved me to his center in Oregon, where I worked on my Ngondro and we began making plans for my long retreat. Then a great Lama H.H. Dilgo Khentyse Rinpoche came to the west. He did a “mo” or a prophecy practice and said that I should marry Rinpoche’s son, that we had important karma together. We were married in a courthouse in Delhi, India. I became pregnant almost immediately. My son is a recognized reincarnation of H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche. So I married into the Lineage and became the mother of a Tulku. So my daily experience, yes, my whole life has been the Dharma. So the “karma” was very deep.
Yeah, my my connection to Buddhism, I think, wasn’t really as most people would. It wasn’t like a conscious decision, and I didn’t look around and decide, pick kind of it was. It was so clear for me. And when I the minute I heard the teachings, then I knew that that’s what I wanted to devote my life to . So it was very clear right from the start, so I didn’t really look around and. Investigate facts. So I was studying art in college, and I took a course in East Indian art and I was really interested in that, and the professor was really tough and made us really study and I liked that. So then I ended up going to India and I was going and seeing all of the art that I’d studied in person. And during that time, I went to both Gaya where the Buddha attained enlightenment, and that’s where I fell deeply into Buddhism. I was kind of right up to ground zero. And I did my first retreat there. I took refuge there, took the liberty. Sort this out all of that, and it was just very, very deep right from the beginning. So I didn’t really I didn’t look around. It was it just kind of happened to me, and when it happened, I was it just made my life all make sense. The first when I when I first got to book, I did a ten day vipassana retreat there, and that was amazing. And then someone took me to see a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. And so that’s where I took the vows and all that. But I still hadn’t found my personal teacher because the teacher in India was in India, so it wasn’t like I could maintain connection with him. And so then I did search for a while seeing some different lamas, and I took my mom to see Lamas, and then she ended up taking refuge and following in the path. Also, it was amazing. So it did take a while, couple of years before I found my teacher, my teacher, and we really kind of try to stay away from, like all these like mystical things like, of course, mystical things happen. Like Vijay would say, if there’s fire, there’s smoke. But then there are practitioners who there is no smoke. They they don’t have any mystical signs and all of that. And so it doesn’t it’s not a it’s not a judge of your level of how mystical it is. So that’s why I like a little hesitant to talk about it because we don’t want to, like make that like that. That’s something that’s necessary because it’s so not. And in the other side, my teacher. And it wasn’t like he discouraged us, but he didn’t encourage that because people can get really caught up in like having these experiences. And I remember in my long retreat he would come to visit. I know him diverging off a little bit. He would come to visit and he would, you know, ask, What’s you know, what’s happening? And I would tell him all these things that I thought he was going to be really happy about. And he would just kind of go like, yeah, like, you know? And one time he came to our retreat and I told him about this experience I had that really deepened my compassion and he cried. And so really like, that’s what we really are looking for. It’s we’re not really looking for all the mystical experiences because we can get sidetracked by that and thinking, you know, pride and that I’m so special or something like that. And then that is you’re going to run into trouble that way. But my original, when I met my teacher, it was very mystical connection that we had together. Very unusual. And I received a great transmission upon meeting him. And we he recognized that and all of those kinds of things. But I hesitate to kind of talk about it, you know, but that’s how I knew when I met him. It was. It was. Something very unusual. I was very fortunate that I found him in this lifetime and that we had such a powerful connection. But it’s not that’s not that common, but it doesn’t make it any better or worse. It’s sometimes if you have those kinds of mystical experiences, if you don’t have a good teacher to kind of like pound you down a little bit, you can go wrong terribly that way. Yeah. And I was lucky because he really, really was tough on me. It was a really, really tough on me. It was really hard. Yeah.
And it’s another one that people it’s hard, you know, it’s a daily practice, it’s a daily practice room, she would say. If you practice one hour a day, that’s great, but then there’s 23 other hours in the day. So if you had one person on one side of a tug of war and 23 on the other, who’s going to win? So, you know, I study traditionally like as much as I’m unconventional and all of those things in my practice was very traditional and still is. And so daily practice, every day I have to and that’s the way it was done forever. And I follow the lineage. I didn’t figure this all out. I didn’t make this up. I’m not some kind of like special person that just knew everything I studied. I looked to those who came before me and I saw their qualities and I wanted to follow in their way. And so I studied and I practiced in the same way that they did that their teachers did and did, and it ended forever. So it’s a lineage and from my, you know, small experience, then my diving into the world, the worldly people, they really my my people, my, you know, worldly people, they feel the lineage. It’s so different. So to have a practice that comes from a lineage and not the other practices aren’t good, like there’s so people are awakening there. Who knows? I don’t know. I don’t know. But I think people are awakening and there’s amazing, amazing people out there who are like, brilliant and seem very advanced. But that wasn’t me. I studied and I practiced in the lineage the same way they did, and the way it was done was to practice every day. And as much as you could, and that’s hard for people because we want the pill, we want the quick pill. But the the but in the same way then following in a lineage practice, we know the results. We see His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and all of the great beings that did. We’re given the exact same opportunity. And in a way, their struggles were harder. They had hardly any food. They had to the, um, the sufferings or hardships that they had to undergo to receive the teachings and to be able to stay in retreat and practice. Nothing like what we we’re sitting here, you know, with the fridge full of food. Yeah, yeah. We’re we’re so fortunate and we have every teaching available. You go, Look on YouTube, you can go. I can receive teachings from the Dalai Lama on YouTube. It’s rare it’s it’s very rare to find people who are willing to really put effort into a spiritual practice, it’s just the fact it’s true, you know, and it’s not like, you know, some are better than others. It’s not like that. We’re all in this together. And so if we have any interest or effort, you know, we’re doing that for those who can’t because there’s so many who can’t because of a lot of reasons like they live in places where there’s poor or all kinds of things. And then there’s a lot who are just, you know, distracted by TV or yeah. So we do it for for them. So then that gives us this great like power, right, to really like be strong and like, it’s not just for me, it’s for all beings. My teacher used to say, all beings are depending on you. And that really that always really, you know, that was something I really carried because it really like I felt that like, don’t you can’t drop like you can’t drop your attention because then you’re dropping all beings and they need you like you have to you have to hold that because so many can’t. So it really inspired me when, you know, he said that he said so many things, right? But yeah.
Yes, three or three treat. I mean, it’s just a it’s just a number. People do long retreats, I’d like to go back into very long retreat if I could. I still want to at some point if I if I can. Um, I was really young and naive when I did my three retreat. And I thought it was all going to be, you know, like this. And it was really, really hard, was really hard. And I think that when you do retreat, you are, you’re closing. You’re like shutting off all of the access. You’re creating this very closed kind of space. So all you really have is your mind and then you have to work with that. And that’s what we that’s what we’re doing, that’s where it that’s how it is. We can’t there’s no getting around that. That’s what it is. You have to work with your own experience, your own mind and and the benefits are. I mean, you can’t even really you can’t even it’s you can’t even really say it’s it’s what we have to do. Ultimately, it’s within us. It’s not an external thing. And I think, you know, doing long retreat, it doesn’t matter if your experience or this blissful or hard, it’s the same. It’s it’s part, it’s whatever it is that you need to. To attain awakening, to clear out the cobwebs, then clear your mind. For me, this is a this will be a good answer. Yeah, I did. three Treat. I also had cancer and having cancer, really. I think that was the I think that was the greatest thing for my spiritual development. And you couldn’t you wouldn’t wish that upon anybody, but because that is what happened to me and I had the teachings and they had a great teacher and I utilized that and it. I died, everything was gone, so it was, yeah, that being sick like that really after that, I wasn’t the same. So did you have cancer during your treat or like just to put in an entire year after and after that, you feel like because you had you got cancer after a treat that made such a huge difference? You know, in terms of having that foundation? Well, definitely. I was definitely able to, you know, squeeze the juice or how would you say that in a good way? But I was really able to like squeeze the the wisdom out of it, the blessing. There we go, because that was the way I was seeing things. So it wasn’t when I was sick. I wasn’t experiencing it in an ordinary way. And it was really hard. It was really hard, didn’t they say? I don’t know. I heard this. Maybe, you know, maybe other people would go, That sounds weird. But what I’ve heard, as the saying of they say that the difference between a Buddha and a sense of being is not that the Buddha doesn’t suffer, but that the way the Buddha experiences the suffering is different and not saying that I’m a Buddha. But I think that I experience the suffering in a different way than an ordinary person who had no spiritual practice. So I was in it. It was a very right timing for me to be sick like that. But I guess what I’m saying is, yes, retreat. You cannot go wrong when you make that kind of commitment to stay within. The Tibetan word for retreat is means boundary. So basically, you’re committing to stay within a boundary and you’re you keep your body within that boundary and you’re really trying to keep your mind within that boundary. True, but even just keeping your body within that boundary, you’re going to grow and you don’t know what’s there into. You go there and there’s all kinds of things there sadness, loneliness, grief, you know, it’s all there. So when you clear everything else away and all that’s left is your mind, your you have to figure some stuff out. But it’s not like, you know, some kind of fairy tale thing. I was like, Oh, I need to crane. You know, maybe that happens, I’m sure it does. You know, in a more advanced but in the beginning, it’s hard. So, yeah, it’s like it really depends, you know what it looks like, you know, the ego is such a tricky thing to it’s like, Oh, I’m going to do three retreat or something, you know, ultimately, retreat is practice for life. We we are trying to integrate the practice all the time. Retreat is a in a way, a crutch so that we can become so that we can integrate this. But that’s a tall order, you know? So I’m trying to like, but I guess I’ll just ramble and it’ll kind of answer it somewhat, I guess. Uh, yes, so if you don’t have time. OK, so let’s see, where was I? Yeah, so I I’m traditional. I’m I. I didn’t think this of myself. I followed. I followed the path that I was taught. So the path I was taught was, you know, do it like this. So I tried to do it like that. So now times are different and people are, you know, doing things in different ways. I’m still traditional and my, you know, Buddhist. Sangha or people still they laugh at me, you know, because like, I’m the most unconventional. But on another level, I’m very traditional, more than a lot of other people are. So in terms of, I’m not sure I’m going to totally get the right like, but I guess it doesn’t matter back to just. Practice. It’s the the two wings of the bird, the wisdom and compassion. So to to create the conditions for the wisdom to arise. You have to have this wealth of positive accumulation. So if you can’t meditate all the time. Be good. Try to really work on refining your intention here. Reducing the ego, reducing the unnecessary thoughts in the mind. All of those kinds of things and the way that you can do that is by replacing all of that with with good. And so meditating on love and compassion and just trying to be a nice, kind person. And so then that will create the positive conditions for wisdom to arise and for the conditions that you can excel to come. And then we, you know, part of the practice of the piano as we always are concerned with all beings without exception. So when you use this capacity of our mind on this great scale of it’s not about. This is not this isn’t like a singular. It’s every one. It’s every thing. So when you keep your mind in that way, so maybe, you know, to receive teachings or to read or something that keeps reminding you of all of those positive spiritual thoughts and concepts qualities. And then even if you can’t meditate all the time, it’s going to, you know, push you in that direction.
I’ve designed my whole life around my practice, and still my challenges are trying to hold a worldly life and a spiritual life. It’s really hard to make it in the world and to be able to to do both is very difficult and I struggle with that constantly, and I’m still trying to make more time in my in my life to be able to practice more because at this point, I need more time to practice. The I’m not done yet, and I I just need more time. And I feel my life is getting closer to the ending part, and so I really need time. So yeah, that’s my challenge. And I, I could just disappear and go into retreat. But I still feel that there’s worldly work to be done. But the way things are going now, I’m kind of not really sure. I think Wolf, for me, my story was a little different because I was married into the lineage and it was my whole life. And then after I left that part of my life, then I had to do a more worldly life and a spiritual life. But what’s really different, I think, is that in the beginning, you need five minutes. You know, you’re looking for like, I just need like five or ten minutes, and you can’t seem to be able to find that. And that’s the that’s the ego we say, that’s the demon. That’s the demon that we’re fighting. There is no external demon. The demon is all. It’s all within. And that’s the ego that’s going like, No, it just, you know, hang out or, you know, go call your friend or, you know, waste your time because we do have the five or ten minutes. But the difference at this point is I need longer than five or ten minutes now after all the years of practice. It doesn’t get less. It’s for me, it’s more. All right. So there’s something to look for, right? Yeah. So in a way, it’s kind of the same because in the beginning, like trying to find that five minutes is so hard and then now it’s like trying to find four hours this hour. I think everybody wants the, you know, we all want the quick pill. That’s the Western. We’re trained to want this like quick pill. And the truth is, as far as I understand it, it’s not a quick pill. It’s a it’s it’s hard work. And I know that that isn’t what a lot of people want to hear. You know, they want. They want you to say, Oh, yeah, no problem. You can, you know, do that in five minutes and you know, your lunch break, you know, retreat or something. And yes, of course, anything is good. And I understand we don’t have time. We don’t. It’s very difficult to find that time in our world is not supportive of it. And it’s like everything in the world pulls you. It’s that it’s like the world of distraction is what we have created. So it’s like the opposite of meditation. And a lot of people, even you ask them just to just sit and, you know, relax and be still. And all of a sudden, they’re like uncomfortable and can’t even sit. So we want to hear that, you know? Oh, yeah, no problem. Easy, you know, and it is on some level. And if you have a good guide and all of that, then it is easy. It’s the it’s the best thing, but it’s it’s work. It’s it’s and it’s something to accomplish and you have to put a lot of effort. And yes, of course, there’s a level where it’s effortless, effortless and all of that, but not for ordinary people. It takes a lot of work, but it’s so worth it. Yeah, yeah. The benefits are because we can spend our life, you know, chasing whatever it is we’re chasing. That’s impermanence. But spiritual development, and that is that stays. It’s imbued into your being. And whatever we can attain on that level, then whether we’re with other people or not, we’re affecting all beings and those around us, for sure. So, you know, not everybody has that. Um. Not everybody has that, you know, view, I guess you could say. But to me, it’s the only thing that matters. Yeah, I got lucky that I feel that way.
And then so I wanted to I wanted to talk about the preparation for death in connection with my performance art work. So I did spend a lot of time in retreat and it did get to a part to a place where it was really easy for me and I was really happy and it was blissful and easy and healthy. And, you know, all the good stuff like, I got there. And that’s when my guidance said, remember, she had already passed away. You have to go. You cannot stay anymore. You’re not. This is not what you’re supposed to do anymore. And in our tradition, then it was always a retreat, retreat, retreat, retreat. And so I was like, really, really? Because that’s not how I was taught. And but times were changing, and now I’m not quite sure if they’re changing back or not. But at that point, which was like, I don’t know, 20 years ago, I it was very clear to me that I needed to leave, retreat and to merge my practice into the world, and I had no idea about any of that or how that would all happen. And then do you want me to tell the whole story of the how that all happened or that’s all in there somewhere already with it, maybe just quickly or we don’t need to go over that again. I’m not sure you mean like how I ended up doing performance and stuff. Yeah, no, not this. Yeah, if you can get into that a little bit or yeah, because I think to with the video, it might help. Yeah, because OK, yeah, I think you yeah. Yeah. So so I I was I came out of that part of my life and I didn’t know what the next part was going to look like at all. But I just stayed very open. And then I got involved with these artists because I’m originally an artist, so I was attracted to that. And that was they were attracted to me and it developed into me singing in these big shows. And I so when I was in retreat, when things got very easy for me, it’s not much of a test anymore. And so for me to stand on a stage because I’m in an innately very shy person, I don’t really do well to even speak with a small group of people like I used to. I’m good now. I can do it now, but I used to like, you know, it would I lose my breath like I couldn’t talk. I was supposed to stand up and talk. I couldn’t do that. And so it was like it felt like my challenge. And the way I looked at it was when you die, you have no idea what’s going to be going on. And it could be a very chaotic experience. And it is a lot of times, let’s say there’s a terrible accident or dying can be very chaotic. So yeah, you we have this like mis, you know, conception that we’re just going, it’s going to be all perfect and peaceful. We’re gonna, you know, have the proper. Maybe that would be great, but that’s no guarantee for sure. So I stepped into that with the intention of like, can I hold my practice when things are crazy? And so I put myself in this situation where it was doing big shows like that, especially at music festivals, where it’s just insane. It was always so crazy. And when I when I perform and what I’m doing is I’m just I’m doing my practice, I’m connecting to the lineage and all of the, you know, all holding all of that space and then holding my meditation to the best of my capacity. And then I just sing and I just allow that to to emanate through the lineage and the practice and everything that I have. I just so it’s very different than what’s going on on a stage at a giant music festival. So, um, yeah, something about utilizing the practice to prepare for death. It’s all about that because, I mean, maybe I should take that back. It’s not all about that, but in the end it is. We’re going to die and it’s like, what you what you have really imbued into your consciousness, what’s really there when it’s all going to be taken away in an instant, what’s there? What have you relied upon? So for me, being a traditional practitioner, the Photoshop of Vow, you know, and all of the different, it’s all there. Like, That’s it again, again, again, again and again, imbuing that into your consciousness so that then when things get crazy, when you reach back to like, what’s there, that’s going to support me. If you’ve if you’ve imbued in beauty and beauty over or over practice, practice, practice, then it’s there.
That is a very controversial topic, actually. And again, I’m not really sure that I’m the one to speak up on that, but. And there’s been great debate over the time of how Tibetan Buddhism has come to the west of how to do that is very controversial and complicated. But in the traditional way, then the teacher, everything comes from the teacher. It’s like, if you’re going to learn anything, then if you study with a really great, you name what it is, carpenter, then you have the potential to be a great carpenter. So it’s similar like that with your teacher. So if you have a great teacher, then you have greater potential to excel. And so then traditionally then it’s a we say, mind to mind, heart to heart connection, it has to go beyond word and and like ordinary concepts. But it’s tricky because there does have to be kind of this unwavering faith in devotion. And that can be abused. And it has been. So it’s tough. You know, it’s a tough question because ultimately then that connection is so precious and so significant to your spiritual development. But it also has a lot of murkiness to it, especially in the West. And probably it was murky and that too. But we don’t really know about those things. Let’s see. But in in the best case scenario, though, then you would have this, this very pure connection that you could you would see the teacher as a living Buddha. And then on some level, if you are recognizing that way, then that’s what you can receive. So you see this worry once upon a time, he used to say once upon a time, Monk went to see his teacher and the monk said, Teacher, whenever I see you, I see a pig. And the teacher said, That’s funny. Whenever I see you, I see a Buddha. And then he said, pig’s eye sees pig room. She would say, I don’t know how to say it properly. I can only say it the way he said it. Pig’s eye sees pig Buddha’s eyes, sees Buddha. So in that way, then if you are recognizing your teacher as a Buddha, then you can receive the blessings of a Buddha. So the connection with the teacher is really important. And so then there is lots of guidelines on how to really look and examine the qualities of the teacher, and it’s something to not be taken lightly at all. But in the West than it does seem to be that, you know, people can just fall into things. And on the other side, too, then the teacher examines the students and is also very careful about who they will accept as their student because the that relationship is a very. Pure like it has to be so clear for it to really work, huh? So we’re talking about Guru devotion, and so I always give the example of His Holiness the Dalai Lama because he is such a flawless figure who has devoted his everything to others and to developing his wisdom and compassion. And it’s you don’t you don’t get a certificate, you don’t get a degree, but you look at someone like His Holiness. And in terms of like guru devotion, we can see the the the oh and losing the word, you know, the man of the menace. Yeah, the embodiment of his compassion of a level he has become. He has become a world known figure who holds compassion in a way that few others have ever held. And you look at his story of how Tibet was lost in the brutal oppression and all of that. So it’s not like he just had some kind of, you know, palace kingly lies. He suffered so much, so harsh his life has been. And still, he’s like this the most loving, happy, joyful, kind. And we all we all can experience that. So like what we were talking about before of how if you have a great teacher, then that’s as much as you can embody. And then if you the more you have that connection, that heart connection, where you can just receive directly. That’s the that’s the the ancient methods. So let’s see, where did we all go around there? Yes. So looking at somebody like His Holiness, that’s we’re looking at lifetimes of devotion. And if you don’t believe that, that’s OK. Look at this lifetime. He’s tireless. My teacher was tireless. He would be up, you know, well before we used to say dark and early, you know, well before the Sun came up, he would be practicing and all day long and all into the night and his holiness, the same and ceaseless, tireless love and working for others. So.
That’s interesting, yeah, I I do see that connection to Tibetan Buddhism with artists and intellectuals. I think the intellectual part, it is a very scholarly tradition. There’s there’s whole schools of just scholars and then there’s whole, you know, schools or sections of, you know, just yogis. And there’s always been kind of like this, like a little bit of a, you know, battle between. And so ultimately, then yoga is better now. But the combination like, you don’t have to be a scholar to be a great practitioner. You don’t. You definitely don’t. But um, but being a great scholar is not necessarily going to make you a great practitioner and can be a hindrance. But that’s not an excuse not to study, because if you have both, that’s your really that’s great. Like, if you really have the scholarly knowledge, which I don’t and you have, you know, you are a great practitioner. But that’s the ultimate for me personally and again, my story is a little not like common, I would think. I’m a very extreme personality, and I think that that comes from previous life training because to me, spiritual training, it’s like athletics, it’s like training for the Olympics, like you have to be. People who have extreme personalities can be well suited for spiritual practice because it kind of takes that if you really want to go there, you kind of have to be a little extremist. And I am. And so, yeah, I was, you know, a crazy athlete all my life. You know, when I was younger before I found Buddhism, and then I did continue that afterwards, too. But as a child, because I didn’t have the spiritual teaching. So, yeah, something like that of how it attracts kind of fringy people who didn’t really fit into the average mold. It’s like people who are kind of extreme on one side or another wealthy. They were really smart. You know, I don’t know, different, different like kind of fringy people, I think are attracted to Tibetan Buddhism, which I kind of liked in in the Sangha experience, because most of our social beings, we tend to socialize with people who are like us. But with the Sangha, it drew in like a very diverse group of people, which was really, really great. Just so many different people across all different scales of life was really nice. I really liked that.
So from my from my perspective, as a spiritual practitioner looking into the conditions that we find ourselves now in the world, I. There’s many people doing many things that are helping and trying to help and with good intention and so many people doing so many things and all of that is so important and so needed. And but from my perspective of a spiritual practitioner, because that’s what I am. So that’s how I see things. I see that this is what we created. It’s all self created. All of our reality is self created. And so if you’re if you’re mad, you’re going to create an angry reflection. If you’re happy, you’re going to create a happy reflection just basically right. So, so on the on the collective, we are responsible for this. We all we all nobody can honestly say they had nothing to do with it. I did. I drove a car. I have, you know, I mean, we all have participated in this problem. So so I believe that it’s inner work. I’m not saying that it’s exclusively inner work. It’s that from my perspective, as a spiritual practitioner, it’s an aspect that I feel is significant, that we have to change our own, our own inner qualities, and that when we meditate, clearing our mind of all of the extraneous repetitive thoughts and all of that stuff, clearing our mind of our thoughts that obscure our true nature, increasing all of the thoughts that are of qualities of love and kindness, generosity, all of this of the spiritual precepts that we are shifting the the balance and that we are all connected. There’s no there’s no one who can logically say that we’re not all connected. It’s obvious we’re all connected. So if we work toward clearing our own mind and viewing our own consciousness with compassion and developing that side of our being and the wisdom aspect, then I believe that this is very important in shifting the planet. And you can say, Oh, that’s so, you know, woo-woo hippie stuff or whatever. But like, it’s very logical that this is is a factor, and I believe that we can we can change things that way. And I’m not saying to not clean up the garbage and all of that other stuff, but it’s an aspect that I feel needs to be recognized as important. And so again, you know, doing spiritual practice, you don’t see anything. If you go and clean up the beach, then you have like these big bags of garbage and you can go, see, I cleaned up the beach and it’s like, Yay, and everybody’s happy. And that’s such a good thing. And as a spiritual practitioner, you don’t get to show anything for it, but it still really matters. And so we need to devote some of our energy toward spiritual practice. It’s important, and especially now in these times when we’re really facing great peril, potentially here, we need to really make time for that and and actually engage in it and do it and not just pretend or, you know, put that off till tomorrow or something. No.
My teacher (and father-in-law) H.E.Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche was a great Dzog Chen master. He was a meditator and scholar, a yogi. He believed that we Westerners could attain realization, where as other Tibetan Lamas were less convinced. He therefore was extremely generous and trusting and gave us all the teachings from Ngondro (the preliminaries) to the most advanced practices, the whole entire path with nothing left out. It was extremely fortunate conditions. In Tibet only the highest of Tulkus were ever even given the teachings that we received. I was extremely blessed. And we worked very very hard, we were very very serious. We got up at 4 am everyday. I did a 3 year retreat. We did 6 week retreats in the winter every year, plus other smaller retreats. And every summer a big Drup Chen ceremnonies, and of course intense daily practices always!!!! We hosted many great Lamas from Tibet. Then we went on major pilgrimages, to holy sites all over in India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and China. All together I spent approximately 7-8 years in Asia. I was extremely fortunate to personally know and receive teaching from most of the Great Nyimgma Masters of the last generation from Tibet;, H.H.Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, Kyabjé Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche,, H.H Khentyse Rinpoche, H.H. Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche, H.H. Katog Moksa Rinpoche, H.E. Tulku Orgyen Rinpoche, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, Kyabjé Dungse Thrinley Norbu Rinpoche. H.E. Kalu Rinpoche, H.H. Sakya Trizin Rinpoche and H.H. the Dalai Lama.
Rinpoche passed away in 2002. The Sangha is a little scattered now. I still have my teachers, but mostly I am on my own.
My life took a strange turn after Rinpoche passed. He was famous in Tibet for his voice. At one point he was asked to open a concert for the Beastie Boys. Their main singer is Buddhist. Rinpoche was amazed by the vast crowd, that so many people would come to see a rock band. He famously said “next life rock star.” After his passing, my surviving cancer, and then divorcing, I was led back to my roots as an artist. I became a part of an avant-guard artist collective in 2000. The main director and her husband would come stay with me on the isolated retreat land where i live. She was captivated by the songs of my prayers. This is when the doors opened for me to become a singer. I never even thought I had a good voice, and I am very shy to even speak in public. I am certain it is all Rinpoche’s blessing. The artist collective dissolved some 10 years later. I am the only member who is still performing. I am soon to release my third album, PROTECTION. The first was “UNION”, and the second was, “TRANSITION” ~ A Ceremony of Prayers for the Dead and Dying.*** It is extraodinary how in these modern times, through the internet one can connect to masses of people. The songs, prayers and mantras are played all over the world, and continue to just reach farther and farther as time passes. I have perform at music festivals primarily at Symbiosis and Lightening in a Bottle which both made the Rolling Stones top 10 festivals list. And Burning Man, singing for the Temple Burn in 2008. I believe this is not “me”. This is an expression of the Bodhisattva Vow. That says, “Until all beings are free of suffering, then no one is free. So until all beings without exception are free of suffering, I will devote my life to serve them.”
My particular Lineage is Nyingma or the “Old School” Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, the original Buddhist Lineage in Tibet. Most of the Lineages are monastic, but Nyimgma’s strong side that is what is called the “Yogic”. The Yogic Lineage is not monastic, not monks and nuns. We are “householders” regular people who have families and live ordinary lives. I think the Yogic Lineage is well suited to the lifestyles of typical Western practitioners.
I do not claim to be a good practioner, but I have been extremely blessed by this Lineage, and my story is quite out of the ordinary. What I am doing, the way the Dharma has manifested through me is wholly unconventional. Yet all of my Tibetan teachers and my Dharma community have been so very supportive of what I am doing. They say it is my unique “activity”, and that I am reaching people that a traditional teacher might not have the “karma” to connect to. I feel this. It was never a goal or desire, or even a thought on my part to be “performing” on huge stages, transmitting these teachings, the blessings of these practices, to the best of my ability. So I just continue to walk through these doors as they continue to open. I think it really says something for Tibetan Buddhists that we/they are open to change. It is after all, a pillar of the practice, the teachings of impermanence. But sometimes it is difficult to really put the philosophy into practice. Of all of my time in Asia, no one ever was prejudice against me because I was not Tibetan. They saw that I was devoted and sincere and accepted me as a fellow practitioner. In those days many of the younger Tibetans were not interested in pursuing a spiritual path, so the elders were welcoming of me as a younger person who was serious about practicing the Dharma.
© 2021 Jack Huynh | Orange Photography
Annual update on progress of project.