Source of the illustration : http://www.wandel-verlag.de/wp-content/uploads/PHOTO-back-web.jpg
One day, Rinpoche told me that one of his disciples had heavily insisted that he recognize him as a tülku (“reincarnation” of a master of the past). Playing on the name of this master, he had (according to what he told me) finally said:
“Yes, yes! You tülku! You Asshole Tülku!”
He had a rather curious relationship with Tibetan magical beliefs. Sometimes he made fun of them, sometimes he spoke of them as realities, but quite technical and natural.
On the first side, we can cite his mockery of “magic bombs” and other spells of offensive magic:
“They make me laugh, the Tibetans, with their magic bombs! When the Chinese arrived, they did try to cast some – but it didn’t harm them at all!”
But, on the other hand, the day I asked him about the trouble I had heard he had with the famous Khenpo Jigme Phüntsok in his area (Golok) in Tibet, he replied:
“They sent me a hailstorm; I sent them back and then it was all finished.”
Whatever the hailstorm was, I later found out what the substance of their dispute was. Khenpo Jigme Phüntsok, who in the absence of the high Nyingmapa prelates of this region (all killed or in exile) had assumed a dominant position, imposed a kind of proscription on “samaya breakers,” i.e., Tibetans who had destroyed religious buildings or Buddhist texts, or perhaps participated in barbaric acts during the Cultural Revolution.
It is a little-known and, above all, little-recognized feature of recent Tibetan history that much of the damage now attributed to the Chinese was done by Tibetans seduced by the rhetorics of the Communist Revolution; so much so that several of the monasteries that were not ransacked, especially in Central Tibet, seem to have been due to... the protection of the Chinese army. I say this not to diminish China’s share of responsibility for the enormous destruction of Tibetan cultural heritage - but only to call things by their name and especially to make one understand what the situation of those who had lent themselves to what, for a normally constituted Tibetan, belongs to the category of extreme sacrilege (let us think, for example, that they had destroyed the funerary stūpas of ancient and venerated masters and had thrown the bones to the dogs!). One can understand the excoriation such people might have received afterwards; one can also imagine their deep dismay, once the “revolutionary” wave had subsided.
Unlike Khenpo Jigme Phüntsok, Chhimed Rigdzin, when he returned to the Golok country in the 1980s, decided to teach the “repentants of the Cultural Revolution,” which earned him the Khenpo’s censure. This is a story that would deserve both a historical and ethnographic investigation, since all sorts of fascinating themes are intertwined in it, including that of the authority of the Buddhist prelates returning from exile versus that of those who had filled the void caused by their absence.
I got this aspect of the story from a Nyingmapa tülku from the Golok country, whose name I have forgotten, whom I knew during my 1992-93 stay in Nepal, where he was then living with a young Scottish woman, who was as sympathetic as he was (maybe they will read that one day and renew the links that got untied over the years). He told me another, eminently curious, story about his own father and Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche, at the same time that the latter returned to Khordong after having been away for so long.
The father of this tülku was himself a tertön (“treasures discoverer”) and, according to what his son told me (in the beautiful rocky language of the Golok region), he had discovered a terma box that he was unable to open (as if it were all of one piece of metal without a joint) but which he carried on him like an amulet, in his chuba. Meeting Chhimed Rigdzin, he asked him to give him a prophecy, as Rinpoche’s clairvoyance was famous. The latter replied:
“You have something for me in your cloak.”
It was the famous treasure-casket. The person who told me the story, who had inherited it from his own father, told me that the next morning Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche had somehow returned the opened box to his father and the secrets it contained were finally accessible.
Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche liked to frighten people by claiming to practice black magic himself, or at least by emphasizing his competence in offensive magic.
When we learned of Guy Serre’s death in Nepal, in obscure circumstances that were certainly the result of regrettable acts that he had committed in countries where one does not joke with certain things, Chhimed Rigdzin, who nevertheless often asked me if I had any news about him, said:
“This is what happens to those who try to do me wrong.”
In the same teaching (given at Mr. Jean-Louis Massoubre’s apartment in Paris), he spoke of me as of a friend of the deceased (with whom I had, in fact, been quite angry for a long time, since after having taken me to Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche, His paranoia about black magic, initially centered on Sogyal Rinpoche (!), had spread to Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche, who was admittedly much more disturbing in this respect than the good Sogyal Lakar, who no reasonable person, in the framework of Tibetan beliefs, could have imagined to be able to produce any results through rituals). He says of me, for which I leave him full responsibility:
“At first he had little big ego, but I destroyed it and now he doesn’t have one at all.”
God or Samantabhadra willing…!
But he went on, about Guy Serre, on the subject of black magic:
“There are so many people who imagine that the lamas are doing black magic against them! If you listen to them, everybody would do it, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Nyoshül Khenpo, Sogyal Rinpoche and me too... But Khyentse Rinpoche has no enemies; Nyoshül Khenpo is too sick, he would not have the strength; Sogyal Rinpoche is too young, he knows nothing about it...”.
Significantly, he forgot himself in the list of lamas who one would be wrong to suspect of doing magic. A few years earlier, on the occasion of one of the first initiations he gave in Paris, so around 1989, he had publicly expressed his astonishment about the superstition of the Parisians (I am only giving the substance of his words, I do not remember them to the letter):
“There are many of you who believe you are bewitched. Here, there are for sure people who try to do black magic, but they have no power: it’s all in your head. In Africa, yes, there are some who would be competent about it, I know about it – but here [in France], let me laugh. "
In any case, in 1995, Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche finally decided to give the transmissions of the Gongpa Zangthal: this will be the subject of the next episode.