The previous chapter is here.
To get back to the first beginning of this series, click here.
During the winter of 1991-1992 (I don’t remember well, maybe during the Christmas vacations?), I served as an interpreter for a week or more to Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche in Paris. I would have a lot to say about that time, as far as I can remember, when I was able to spend quite some time of time with him. That being said, as much as I remember well all my exchanges with him, I could be wrong about the chronology.
Just two things, for today. First, Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche gave me a handwritten catalog of the revelations of Terchen Nüden Dorje of Khordong to transcribe, which I did as well as I could: it was one of my first experiences of deciphering a text in dbu med script, and moreover full of abbreviations. It seems to me that it was that year that Rinpoche emptied (if I understood correctly) an apartment he had in London; he had with him all the handwritten volumes of the Tertön and, surprisingly, he entrusted them to me (on the spot, I obviously did not take them away or even put them out of his sight). These handwritten volumes were maybe not in the hand of Terchen Nüden Dorje, but all bearing, on their first page, the thumbprint of the Tertön. I was thus able to compare the actual contents of the terchö volumes with the table compiled in Tibet that Rinpoche wanted me to transcribe. I still have a lot of notes, many of which are published on this blog (for a more serious publication, I am waiting to get a complete copy of the recent printed version of this whole set of revelations before, perhaps, doing a study of these texts).
I am not saying this at all to valorize myself for this mark of confidence from Rinpoche, but rather to underline his great generosity and his capacity to trust, quite the opposite of the sadistic aspect, “fist closed the teachings,” that one imagines around the idea of “crazy wisdom.” This facility to show sacred things, to let someone like me leaf through texts, the possession of which was the sign of his quality of depositary of the lineage, is very rare among Tibetans and I mention it rather to make people appreciate the way in which, far from always wanting to “destroy the ego” (i.e., to humiliate) of those who followed him, in a very punitive sense, he was also very capable of treating, if not as equals, then at least as sons and daughters, people who, in a way, had the feeling of being nothing at all compared to him.
It was also more or less in these times that he gave me the text of the Gongpa Zangthal Manual by Tülku Tshullo or Tsurlo, his master. This is how he did it. He said to me:
“I need a photocopy of this text. If you want, you can make one for yourself too.”
Rightly or wrongly, I think that in reality he hardly needed a photocopy at all, or at any rate, his purpose was indeed to make me read the text, to whet my appetite for the teachings of the Gongpa Zangthal. Perhaps he was even anticipating the time (in 1995) when he would urge me to translate it. For the time being, he was content to communicate to me this text which, without any doubt, was for him at the very heart of spirituality as he conceived it and lived it, and in any case as he proposed it to me.
[2021: I think now that for him the innermost essence of Dzogchen might as well be the Secret Treasure of the Ḍākiṇī from Terchen Nüden Dorje’s terma, but who knows?]
That time he also tested my ability to decipher the dbu med script; I wonder if he didn’t make me translate a few sentences on the fly; but it was still a bit difficult for me. I was to read it the following year, especially during my second trip to Nepal and India.
About this trip, a few words; the rest will be in the next issue, if I may say so.
I saw Chhimed Rigdzin again before I left, probably in the summer of 1992, after I had passed the agrégation; maybe in September 1992. Having finished my main course of studies and acquired enough Tibetan, I had the idea that now it was time to take the plunge and follow Nyoshül Khenpo, to whom I had given my heart and soul, as I believed, at the time, that the disciple should do towards his master. I was quite sure that he might put me through a lot of hardship, but at least, having accepted me as a disciple, he would train me. I could not imagine the opposite situation at all.
Now, Chhimed Rigdzin said to me, just before I left, in a conversational tone (I still see him on the couch, in the the late Jean-Louis Massoubre's apartment, rue Mesnil, in the light of the late summer, as if it were yesterday):
“In my opinion, you won’t go to Bhutan [where Nyoshül Khenpo lived]. I don't think you will see Nyoshül Khenpo this year. If you go to Nepal, you won’t find anybody to teach you. But if you want to go to Sarnath University, I’ll give you a letter of recommendation and you can study as much as you want.”
Needless to say, instead of seeing the kindness in him to warn me of what would disappoint me so deeply, I did not react very positively. Especially since in the same conversation, when I asked him if he could ever give the desired transmissions for the Gongpa zangthal, he said:
“I don’t think I will give it in this life anymore. People don’t make any effort.”
For me, having arrived exhausted from serving as a volunteer interpreter for Gosok Rinpoche (a Geluk lama: I was never sectarian regarding translating for Tibetan lamas), I found this formula cruel, especially added to those pessimistic forecasts for my stay in Asia. He was probably right on this side as well as on the other, even if in 1995 he was to give the transmissions for the Gongpa zangthal.
In the next episode, at the risk of sounding superstitious, I will tell how, against all odds, everything that Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche told me about my trip to Asia came true. I obviously have no opinion on how this was accomplished; I simply bear witness to the facts and let everyone judge for themselves.
Just one remark before I conclude this little chapter. Some of my readers may have been involved in the events I report and may feel frustrated that I do not mention them, as if I had been alone with Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche, or even as if I had been in the first circle of his disciples.
They should know that it is out of discretion that I do not mention their names, except for the deceased. I don’t want to appropriate the freedom of others; I don’t know what many of them have become or what their relationship is to their past with Rinpoche. I feel very, very distant from the people who post on the Internet all their judgments, sometimes very bitter, about those they once knew.
I was never part of the first circle of Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche's Western disciples. I never integrated very well into the group of his closest students. I think those closest to him felt that I was overly fixated on Dzogchen, or even that I was annoying him for teaching that rather than what he wanted to teach.
It is true that I had a central position, let's say, in the requests that were presented, several years in a row, to Rinpoche, for him to give the Gongpa Zangthal. It’s a teaching that has to be requested in order to be given, at least if one follows the traditional texts. But those who think that it was because I pestered Rinpoche that he gave it are quite mistaken: they don’t see how Chhimed Rigdzin somehow kept my curiosity and my attraction alive and made me feel that it was a possible thing. I don't think anyone could get such a man to do anything other than what he was planning to do.
To read more, click here.