THE ‘GREAT DAKINI OF TSURPU’, KHANDRO RINPOCHE, ON THE ‘FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS’: FIRST TURNING OF DHARMA WHEEL (CHOKOR DUCHEN)

“If being a woman is an inspiration, use it. If it is an obstacle, try not to be bothered by it.”

“For example, living with these great teachers, their one instruction to us was: the door of the house should never be closed, to anyone. My father his Holiness’s principle in life has been: never to say no. To anyone. And so: a sense of opening up to anyone, any moment, whatever way you can be helpful.”

“If we see it from the perspective of the Four Noble Truths we find that Buddhism doesn’t teach about following someone, or adopting a certain philosophy, but rather it talks about the very basic principle of human experience; beings’ experiences. That principle being that every one of us, have a core nature of basic goodness which aspires to happiness, which aspires to constructiveness, which aspires to beauty, which aspires to all things that are positive, yet constantly are faced with the challenge of not being able to actualize that aspiration. So, having that potential, and yet not being able to use that potential, is often referred to in the philosophical language of Buddhist teachings as the ‘noble truth of suffering.”

— HE Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche

Khandro Rinpoche

Today is one of the most sacred days in the Buddhist calendar, that of Chokhor Duchen (chos ‘khor dus chen) Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma), which commemorates the first teaching Shakayamuni Buddha gave after he attained enlightenment, the four Noble Truths [1]. As an offering on this auspicious day, here is a transcript of a brief teaching on the four Noble Truths given by female lineage holder and incarnation, HE Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche (1967- ).  

Image of Shakyamuni Buddha teaching four noble truths

Nyingma and Kagyu: Mindrolling lineage and Great Dakini of Tsurpu and 15th Karmapa

One of the few living female lineage holders tulkus alive today. Born in Kalimpong, India and the daughter of the late Mindrolling Trichen, Khandro Rinpoche was recognized by Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa at the age of two as the reincarnation of the Great Dakini of Tsurphu Monastery, Urgyen Tsomo(1897–1961).

Khandro Rinpoche with her father, Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche

Khandro Urgyen Tsomo was the consort of Khakyab Dorje, 15th Karmapa (1871–1922) and recognised in this Buddhist tradition as an incarnation of Yeshe Tsogyal. I have written about the 15th Karmapa and his consorts (of which there was more than one) here. Before her death, Urgyen Tsomo told her students that she would be reborn in the northeastern part of India.

Thus, Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche, as a Jetsunma within the Mindrolling lineage and a tulku within the Kagyu lineage holds both the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages.

Khandro Rinpoche can be heard speaking about her memories of the 16th Karmapa in this short clip, from 3 mins onwards:

Khandro la has established and heads the Samten Tse Retreat Center in Mussoorie, India, and is also resident teacher at Lotus Garden Retreat Center in Virginia, USA.  She is also actively involved with the administration of the Mindrolling Monastery in Dehradun, India. I was fortunate to visit this monastery a few years ago, but have not met her in person (yet). For more details about the Mindrolling lineage, see links belows.

Her name and title, Khandro is the Tibetan for dakini. Here is a brief teaching she gave on the meaning of dakini/Khandro, as she says, if you have ever met one, you will know that it is not always a compliment to be called one!

Teaching on the Four Noble Truths

The 8 minute teaching given in English in 2012 (see video below) is an excerpt from an interview she gave in 2012, at the Karma Shedrup Ling retreat center (part of Karma Tashi Ling) in Oslo, Norway.

May this be of benefit in helping all beings realise the four Noble Truths and coming ‘home’ to the ‘open door’ of our own innate, core basic goodness nature, free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Written and transcribed by Adele Tomlin, 14th July 2021.

TRANSCRIPT

“The Four Noble Truths are the very four pillars we could say, or the four foundations of the Buddhist teachings.  If anyone were to approach the Buddhist philosophy and a question would be asked is, what is Buddhist philosophy? Then one would have to answer it in the context of recognizing the realization of the Buddha, in terms of what are known now today as the four Noble Truths. The noble truth of suffering, the noble truth of the cause of suffering, the noble truth of the cessation, that a cessation is possible. Then, the noble truth of the path that leads to the cessation.

 As many people know, ‘Buddhism’ the word itself was coined much later on, so it’s not so much an ‘ism’ of some kind; or that one has to go through a radical external change of adopting a philosophy or a religion or a spiritual belief. When we say Buddhism, what we essentially mean by that is that it requires a person to cultivate an introspection within one’s own self. So, it is not so much an external adoption as much as it is an internal reflection. That is what Buddhism teaches.  

Therefore, Holiness the Dalai Lama, and many of the teachers, speak about how the essence and the meaning of the Buddhist path of reflection, of contemplation, may actually enhance their own existing spiritual beliefs. Or even without a spiritual belief, it may enhance our human potential.

Why is that so? Because if we see it from the perspective of the four Noble Truths we find that Buddhism doesn’t teach about following someone, or adopting a certain philosophy, rather it talks about the very basic principle of human experience; beings’ experiences. That principle being that every one of us, have a core nature of basic goodness which aspires to happiness, which aspires to constructiveness, which aspires to beauty, which aspires to all things that are positive, yet we are constantly faced with the challenge of not being able to actualize that aspiration. So, having that potential, and yet not being able to use that potential, is often referred to in the philosophical language of Buddhist teachings as the ‘noble truth of suffering.’

The general notion of what suffering is may be all the different kinds of apparent abject suffering that exists, such as anger, such as pain, such as violence, or such as the resultant states of experiences, which are generally referred to as unwanted suffering. Then there’s a deeper understanding of the suffering, which the noble truth of suffering points out, is that we have a potential that we are not able to really manifest, due to that what we want often is out of our reach. The happiness that we seek is often something that we are not able to cultivate. So, the Buddha’s own spiritual journey and analysis led him to then see that it isn’t going to solve a problem if we reflect on only the consequent stages; the states of experiences. Rather a person would have to go deeper into what causes them. That’s the second noble truth of the cause of suffering.

So the main approach, in the beginning stages of Buddhist meditation, is directed towards seeing this confusion that we unnecessarily create due to the inability to really reflect and address our own intrinsic nature, the basic good nature. Due to that inability constantly creating a momentum, a continuous momentum, of what we call impulses of moving away from your own actual potential, true potential, which is then referred to as the cause of suffering, ignorance.

That is not ignorance as just a sort of foolishness, or stupidity, that is also one aspect of it. More an ignorance of not knowing, ignorant of one’s own basic potential as a human being, of the kind of abilities you have that you do not really tap into. Due to that ignorance it sets off many other impulses, which may not always be able to manifest what you are actually capable of manifesting, such as loving kindness, such as genuine harmony, such as having a deep sense of contentment and joyfulness. Instead, not being able to really tap into that internal resource, you create a momentum of restlessness, or anxiousness, or apprehension, or aggression, or extreme insecurity, which leads to attachment. That then is seen as different aspects of the cause that leads to suffering.

 So, the latter two noble truths, which are called cessation, and the path that leads to cessation- the third and the fourth noble truths – reflect more on not only recognizing the problem but also finding it. Since it is something that is being generated within one’s own self, the causes of suffering are being created within one’s own self; the natural potential that could eliminate that ignorance is also within one’s own self.  Therefore, the recognition aspect of it is knowing that cessation is possible. Cessation of suffering is possible, but that possibility comes when you uproot the confusion, the ignorance, of not knowing one’s own true nature; the basic human nature.

That then leads to the fourth noble truth, which is the path. Today, what is called the Buddhist teachings, Buddhist meditation, contemplation, all the philosophy and the teachings that we have, this comprises the fourth noble truth. All the many different, very skillful, as well as very profound and helpful, paths that are there which enable one to be well equipped with the methods of reflection, of generating confidence, of generating  the perseverance, to go deeper within, to strengthen one’s own awakenedness, one’s own true nature as a human being. That would be able to withstand the forces of all those impulsive actions that we get into, which impede one’s own ability of generating genuine happiness, genuine harmony, our intrinsic nature, which would then be able to manifest externally into the environment. That focus, if we look at it in this way, addresses much more a sense of the need for every human being to be responsible for whatever good potential that they have. That is the main emphasis of the Buddhist teachings. If we look at it in that way, then we find that one could be of benefit by being a Buddhist and then implementing that and working on it, and realizing the four Noble Truths, the essence of one’s own true nature. On the other hand, I think it is also something that can be integrated with every other philosophy, every other way of thinking.”

Endnotes

[1] Chokhor Duchen, occurs on the fourth day of the sixth Tibetan lunar month. For seven weeks after his enlightenment, Buddha did not teach. Finally, encouraged by Indra and Brahma, he turned the Wheel of Dharma for the first time, at Sarnath, by teaching the ‘Four Noble Truths’. These are:

  1. the truth (or reality) of suffering (Skt. duḥkha-satya; Tib. སྡུག་བསྔལ་གྱི་བདེན་པ་) which is to be understood,
  2. the truth (or reality) of the origin of suffering (Skt. duḥkha-samudaya-satya; Tib. ཀུན་འབྱུང་བའི་བདེན་པ་), which is to be abandoned,
  3. the truth (or reality) of cessation (Skt. nirodha-satya; Tib. འགོག་པའི་བདེན་པ་), which is to be actualized, and
  4. the truth (or reality) of the path (Skt. mārga-satya; Tib. ལམ་གྱི་བདེན་པ་), which is to be relied upon.

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