Here is a new translation of a short praise and supplication to HH 16th Karmapa, composed by HE 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche in 2017, during his transmission of the Kangyur at Rumtek Monastery. Free download as .pdf here.
The 16th Karmapa was one of the root lamas of 10th Sangye Nyenpa (the other being HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche), who recognised him at the age of 3 and brought him to Rumtek where he lived and studied for many years. Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche spoke about his own life experience recently and his connection with the 16th Karmapa:
For that reason, once at the age of three, Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje gave me the name, saying I am the incarnation of Sangye Nyenpa, the supreme Vajradhara, Kyabje Khyentse Rinpoche said, “You must definitely go to Rumtek”. So I went to Karmapa’s residence in Gangtok, Sikkim. By the age of six, Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje taught me the alphabet. At first, the one who taught me the alphabet was Karmapa himself. I must have such a merit. I am so fortunate.
From the point of view of the world, Karmapa Rigpe Dorje didn’t give me at all the privileges of Sangye Nyenpa. When I think on the room, I lived in number 7. That’s it: a monk’s room; neither the room of a tulku nor the house of a tulku. Rather, the mediocre room of a monk. When we had to go to the toilet, it was a five minute walk away. Now, when the room was in need of repair, I moved down to room number ten and there I lived. Kitchen? That was it. Dining room? That was it. Bedroom? That was it. It was there I slept. That’s it.
The one who cared for me, who kept an eye on me was the one who is still with me, the old monk Tenam himself. Back then we also had another old monk with us. He passed away when I was about thirteen years old. He taught me the alphabet. Once he taught me spelling, I went through the Pema Kathang thirteen times. As for skills in spelling and reading, I went through Chagmed’s Mountain Retreat Manual for fourteen times; spelling the words. I went through quite a bit of hardship. It was tough.
As for livelihood, we had to manage by ourselves. The old monk himself would go all around begging. He would carry a big bag saying, ”Please, please, give me some rice”. Livelihood was a problem. My parents were poor. It was hard to survive. Then the old monk passed away when I was thirteen and Tenam himself, took over in undergoing those hardships.
Needless to mention the kindness with me of the great Vajradhara, Kyabje Khyentse Rinpoche. Whenever there was an empowerment, an oral transmission or pith instructions, he immediately would order me to go. He would send someone. That is how I had the chance of requesting many profound teachings and pith instructions.
But apart from that, Tenam would say, “Whether it be Nyingma, Sakya or Gelug lamas, we must request teachings from them”. And he would hold me by the hand and take me, saying, ”They have pith instructions”, ‘There will be an oral transmission”, “There will be an empowerment.”One must request for empowerment” ”One must ask for pith instructions”. At times he would be gentle, at times he would slap me. Hey, one has to do so, right? So, he would take me here and there using various means, gentle and tough. He was very kind. That is how things went thanks to his kindness.
Livelihood was hard in my childhood. Other than those like us, there were many wealthy lamas and tulkus at Rumtek. They were all among the wealthy class. Food too, would come down from Karmapa’s quarters to them. We got it from the labrang. As for my own sustenance, I had to look for myself.
So Tenam himself had to strive. He would buy goods from Gangtok; those fake ones. Put a number on them. Then, when Westerners came, he would sell the goods fooling them saying they were old. And he would use the money for our needs. We had to buy pechas to study, right? We had expenses going around, right? When requesting for empowerments and instructions, we had to travel, and far, right? That much he strived.
Then, one day, Karmapa Rigpe Dorje forbid anyone who stayed at the monastery in Rumtek to do business. Nevertheless, he gave permission to the old monk Tenam to continue. Now you all know this well. Not all who were at Rumtek have died. He didn’t say “Tenam”. He said, “akama” (translator´s note: akama – a reference to a person or thing that is useless or worthless). Gyalwang Karmapa was from Derge, right? From Denma Khog. So, he said, ”Let this akama do business. It is for the sake of that tulku. Let him do business, don’t stop him”.
So he kept on doing business. Whenever he heard a scooter coming up the hill he would hide something under his zen and hurry to meet them. “It’s a hundred.” It’s two hundreds”. Back then it was a hundred or two. Now we would be talking of a hundred thousand. It was powerful. So, that is how he went around doing business. And the profit from the sales was spent in my learning of the performance of the liturgies and obtaining the pith instructions from the Tantras.
By age seventeen, I had learnt by heart the Tantric studies that were meant to. When Karmapa Rigpe Dorje was still alive, there was the custom of being told at that point that the learning of the liturgy was over and one was appointed as the liturgy leader. The day came when I was appointed as such and Rigpe Dorje bestowed the robes. That day fell on the luck day of Karmapa Rigpe Dorje: Wednesday. It also coincided with the occasion of placing the golden badges over the temple. It was an auspicious coincidence and I was fortunate in that he was pleased with that.
Regarding livelihood, Rigpe Dorje gave nothing to me. He didn’t give me food. He didn’t give me a place to stay. From the point of view of the world I had my fair share of ups and downs. I would be considered poor, right? When I look back now, I see there is no better way of management than that. When I compare myself to others, those who lived in their own residences, those who received their food from above, there are already many of whom one doesn’t know where they have gone. On the other hand, we, the poor, remained in the bottom and at that time, we had the opportunity of getting teachings such as these, the chance of meeting many lamas, of requesting pith instructions.
I didn’t say I have clairvoyance nor that I have received a prediction nor that I am commissioned with a high duty nor that I had pure visions. Rather, I am saying I studied with my teachers starting from the alphabet and spelling, that I had nothing to eat, nothing to drink. I had to strive in my ignorance and that that strife brings about a result.
That is my whole point. If one does not put effort, remains content in one’s importance, wealth and power, one will likely have little learning. I can tell you it is an obstacle to one’s pursue of the trainings and to requesting teachings and pith instructions from all teachers. And that is a bad circumstance. On the other hand, there is an advantage in one remaining as any other monk while one is studying, just as an ordinary monk. I grew up living in rooms number seven and ten, side by side with the other monks and completed my studies together, too.
When I studied in the Shedra, I had to carry with me the cushion. One has to carry one’s cushion, right? And if one leaves it there then where will one sit when studying in the room? Once the class was over I myself carried my cushion. The support for the text, I too had to carry. I didn’t have an assistant. It was just Tenam. Sometimes he could not go. Sometimes he could. If he didn’t go, I had to carry the things by myself, so I would take some on my head.
He was very kind. He himself underwent hardships, too. He was tenacious. Doing as he did, he made me have similar experiences. So, what was the reason – sort of advantage – of doing so? I had the opportunity of meeting many lamas and spiritual friends and request teachings, request pith instructions and receive oral transmissions and empowerments from them. That is sort of the advantage, right? Even though I had a hard time in my childhood, even though I considered it a misfortune, the misfortune turned out to be an aid. I had the opportunity of requesting instructions.
If, instead, you keep on living in one of those called small residences, who keeps getting their food from above, who keeps on carrying a big name, someone like that is likely not to have much chance of requesting pith instructions. You have to keep telling yourself, ”There’s no one like me”, right?”
Excerpt from biographical account on https://www.benchen.org.pl/en/lamas/rinpoches-from-benchen-monastery/his-eminence-the-10th-sangye-nyenpa-rinpoche