“The mind of sentient beings, or the mind of self-grasping is like frozen snow, whereas love and compassion are like rain water. As long as there is self-grasping, it is like being stuck in snow and ice, and that kills sentient beings. In the end, snow is actually water by nature, so if one understands the ultimate truth, then everything becomes transformed into bodhichitta and self-grasping diminishes, one realizes emptiness and thus one becomes flowing just like clear water.” –8th Garchen Rinpoche (Guru Stories  – Part 4)


Here is transcript of part 4 of HE 8th Garchen Rinpoche’s Guru Stories teachings (for video, see here).

In this teaching, Rinpoche first speaks about how he was able to take some leave from prison to meet his mother, whom no-one knew was his mother etc. and yet was considered to be a very kind and friendly person by everyone. When he returned back to Tibet, everyone had left the prison and he was sent home.

Rinpoche showed his clear non-sectarianism when seeking out teachers after leaving prison. He always asked for the ‘precious lama’, not for their name, lineage and so on. He spoke about a Gelugpa Geshe Ngawang Phuntsog revered for his extraordinary practice in prison and yet kept under house arrest in Lhasa.

Then, he met a Sakya Khenpo, Rating Khenpo who gave him a brain relic of a master from the past, called Dodrul Rigchen said to be one of sixteen masters from the Chod tradition of Machig Labdron, and some other precious objects like Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyel’s robes and so on.

Rinpoche then spoke of how afterwards they constructed a Guru Rinpoche statue at Gar Monastery with some of these precious relics in it. Then, Rinpoche explained about the search for his root lama from prison, Khenpo Munsel, only to be scolded by Munsel when his secret meditation hide-out in the mountains was discovered by Rinpoche. Khenpo Munsel eventually started to teach Dzogchen in Tibet, and gathered many disciples. Rinpoche also described how a siddha called bestowed Gelong monastic vows to Gar Monastery monks at that time but that refuge and monastic vows had to be given in secret, often in the middle of the night.

The teaching ended with Rinpoche describing how important it is to meet authentic lamas again and again and get their mind blessings. Describing it as like rain pouring down and melting icy, frozen snow away, we need to melt the frosty, deadly state of self-clinging and afflictions to become like clear flowing water.

Music? Here Comes The Rain Again by the Eurythmics…’want to dive into your ocean, is it raining with you?…’ and Frozen by Madonna…..’You’re frozen, when your heart’s not open. If I could melt your heart, we’d never be apart…’

May our hearts melt with the warmth of the guru’s endless stream of love, compassion and wisdom!

Transcribed and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 2nd November 2011.



“So I am going to tell some stories about my gurus. They are not really Dharma teachings, but since they are stories of the Gurus they are also Dharma because we are expressing the Guru’s qualities. A supplication to Guru Rinpoche said, ‘when you hear their story, then inspired faith arises, when you see the qualities then, trusting faith arises, when trusting faith arises then the blessing will enter your mind. When you become free of doubts, all intentions will be accomplished.” So even though they are not strictly Dharma teachings, they are Dharma because they are my own personal stories about their qualities.”

Taking leave from prison to see mother – meeting Geshe Ngawang Phuntshog

8th Garchen Rinpoche’s mother – called ‘name-less’ and ‘wealth-less’, no-one knew she was Garchen Rinpoche’s mother when he met her on leaving prison. Image source: Garchen Institute

“In 1979, at that time I was in a lighter, less strict prison and was granted leave from the prison for some time. I was not sure if my mother was still alive, but I heard from some Tibetan border guards that there was some talk that she might still be there. So the prison officials externally would always speak much about our faults, but inside they had great love and trust in me. And they said you are so truthful and you are a good person, you work hard and learn well, and trustworthy. The only problem is you don’t believe in the communist regime, and that is why we cannot lessen the prison sentence. In order to get one’s prison sentence reduced, one has to speak about the faults of others and I have never done that or spoken about their faults. I was always honest and truthful. There was a higher official who had great love for me, he asked if I had a mother and I told him I think she is still alive. So he then arranged for me have some temporary leave to meet my mother. Apparently the place where she lived was near the border region and it was difficult to get a pass to go there. At that time, I had a friend, Jingjam, he was Tibetan but he also knew Chinese well and was well-educated. He had some connections to the prison officials, so he arranged for me to go and visit my mother and I got the permission to leave.

So I got permission letter to leave and to cross the border. The status I had in prison, they would not allow me to cross the border, so they had to create a different ID and a permit that would say I was a worker, as they were considered to be very good, even though I was not a laborer at that time.  However, they issued that document saying that and were travelling with my friend. The prison official kept the documents and they said if you have any problems then you should call us. So we left and arrived in Lhasa, and then it went fine.

When I got there, I asked which precious lama is here, and they said there is a Drepung Geshe, an accomplished Mahasiddha called called Ngawang Phuntshog[i] and have never met him before. At that time I had a lot of faith, I wanted to meet any lama, regardless of their lineage, because we all are followers of the Buddha. I really wanted to meet him, but it was difficult to meet as he was locked up in his residence with two different locks that were guarded by two guard attendants. Unless he gave his personal permission they would not let anyone in. So we arrived there and the attendants had probably heard we were coming from prison and they told the Geshe and he asked them to let us come in. The attendants did not expect that and were amazed he requested that. So we were let in. 

In terms of Geshe Ngawang Phuntshog, he was arrested during the Cultural Revolution and was only in prison for one month. It was said every day, he would only eat only no more than one bun/dumpling per, and day and night he would just sit upright and practice. In prison, the prison the people would say you are really a Dharma practitioner and you have not done anything wrong. So they let him out after one month, but kept him under surveillance and that is why he was locked up so it was a secret residence/house arrest. So we had a secret audience with him. 

When I was in front of him, I told him that for several years, I had fought in the army and was a soldier and I have committed so much wrong, such as the five heinous deeds and probably all of the ten non-virtues. That I have great fault and have lost my vows. So, I requested his blessing and he said he would give me the Mahayana Sojong vows, which are very important. I will give you the transmission, text and the teachings. If you ever get the chance in the future, it would be very good if you passed that on to others. 

He also gave me some precious pills and this very precious text which is of the Mahayana Sojong vows. In any case, this lama had a lot of blessings. So he gave me the vows and the texts that explain how to confer these vows. So that is what I have received from him. 

Regarding his outer life story, he spent one month in prison, day and night sitting and practicing and never taking off his robes. He would only change the robes, no more than once per week and would sit there day and night. He was imprisoned but he never opposed the communist regime and that is why he was given a lighter prison sentence. So when I met him he gave me precious pills and also gave me texts on Chakrasamvara . My friend was educated and knew how to write questions and so he was really asking him questions and so on.

On the secret level, it is just as it said in the Prayer for Excellent Conduct that the Buddha’s teachings cannot even be destroyed by demons and tirthikas. He showed that in his conduct, he was like a lamp in the darkness. He was in Lhasa and he really showed that. He had many disciples and many spiritual masters of the  Gelugpa tradition will know about him. I will keep the story short, but that was his outer story. The secret story is that he was this lamp in the darkness, in these difficult times. He was able to live the way he lived because of his incredible enlightened qualities within his mind. That was my encounter with this Geshe.”

Meeting Sakya lama – Rating Khenpo

“The next lama I met was a Sakya Khenpo, Rating Khenpo, who was also very precious who was at the same place in Lhasa, he was a sick person and he did not meet many people or allow  people to visit him, so he didn’t have a big following of people. I tried to get an audience, and as it was not allowed, they said I would have to meet in middle of the night.

So I connected to another lama called Jong Rinpoche, and tried to get an audience with the Khenpo. I could only meet in the middle of the night, around 1 or 2am. When I visited this lama,  in Yalung Shel gi Draphug, a cave, he gave me some very precious items and blessings, for example, a brain relic of a master from the past, called Dodrul Rigchen and when I asked him who that was,  he explained to me that he came from the Chod tradition of Machig Labdron.  There were sixteen masters to whom the Chod lineage was conferred and he was one of them. He was also referred to in different texts, such as Thob Rinchen Zhonu (?).He also gave me some other precious objects like Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyel’s robes and so on.

Later, when I met Khenpo Rating, but not just him many lamas at that time, he spoke about karma and said that  all difficulties in the world come from karma, and how to accept our difficulties and to transform suffering into happiness. That no matter how many difficulties we encounter, it is all from our past life karma. The Buddha himself had said, even a headache for a human being purifies the negative karma that would lead to birth in the lower realms. So he spoke about how all suffering comes from our own karma, negativities and obscurations. That was the main thing I learnt from him. 

At that time, he was very close to where my mother’s stayed in Pema Go, so then I set out to meet her. I was still on the road with my friend Jinjam. As I mentioned before, the real document that would confirm our status as laborers was left in the prison. We were stopped by officials and they asked for the letter, and we told them we left it at home so we lied a bit. They then told us to call them. However, to call them it was a telegram call, and so we had to wait for about a week for an answer to come back from Xining. So then after one week, they informed them we were actual laborers, and good people, and sent a nice letter for us. So then,  they let us travel to my mother’s place and helped us along the way. That was how I got there and how I got these blessings, the brain relic and Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyel’s robes as well. This was a place where they had practiced. 

I took these precious blessing and relics later back to Gar monastery and then we set up a large Guru Rinpoche statue there. We used those blessings to fill the statue. It was Lama Bu Nyima who was filling the statue and that is how he became such an expert in filling statues.”

HH Drikung Kyabgon Chuntsang, Chokyi Nangwa

“At that time, I also briefly met HH Kyabon Drikung Chokyi Nangwa, it was not easy to meet him and we had to be very careful. Also, I met Nubpa Rinpoche, it was easier to meet him because at that time he was working for the government. I also briefly met Rating Trichen Rinpoche, who was also a great Gelugpa lama. However, the meeting with HH Kyabgon had to be kept more secret at that time. So these are the other lamas and blessing I received.”

Meeting his mother in secret

“Then I met my mother, and actually she’s really the first person I had great faith and devotion, since I was very young back home when I was very young she was known for never having been angry at anyone in the village everywhere knew she was famous for that. Nobody ever saw her being angry, everyone liked her and they called her like mother Dega and so on. She was friendly to everyone, everyone was her friend, and  she would treat everyone with great kindness.  When I met her, nobody actually knew she was my mother when she stayed in Pema Go and for the entire 20 years until I met her no one ever actually spoke about it. When she first got there, she was basically called name-less, and then she was called like wealth less. So that’s kind of the  name they gave her, because they didn’t really know who she was and where she was from. Anyway then when I arrived, also that time people did not know that she was my mother and so, she was told that that I would come there with my companion, Zhingjam, and also an official who accompanied us. She was known for treating everyone really well. 

When we arrived there, they arranged a very nice visit for us, the government officials would ask for the best food like oil and grain and so on, to be bought for this visit and then brought to my mother’s house. So they treated us really very well. At that time nobody knew that this is actually my mother and they just said that there are some laborers coming to visit and she was hosting us, and so this is how I met my mother again. Everyone called her Ama Deka. There are many more stories about her but that is the story in brief of how I met her again.  She stayed there really hidden secretly and she really must have endured many hardships and still she would not get angry and would treat anyone with great respect and kindness. That was in Pema Go and this is also how I had received many blessings in that area.”

Leaving prison and returning to Gar Monastery
Gar Monastery, Tibet. Photo by Ina Bieler (2015).

Then after that I returned back to Tibet, before going back to Gar Monastery,  I had to return back to prison. However, when I got there  all the  lamas were gone and had all been sent home. There were just some bundles of their clothes but all the rooms were empty.  They said to me that I also have to go home now. I said I don’t want to go home, I want to stay here. They told me that I had no choice and must go home, as everyone had gone home. They sent me home to my homeland, and that’s how I arrived back to Gar Monastery in 1979.

When I arrived back in Gar Monastery, Bu Nyima Lama [I think this is Thubten Nyima lama mentioned here] was also there, and it was the last day of the year, the 30th day of the month: the full moon. I arrived right on time for Losar, the next day would be Losar: the first day of the new year. I was in prison from 1960 until end of ’79. I arrived back to Gar monastery.  in 1980 Losar, which would be around February 1980.”

The construction of the Guru Rinpoche statue
Image of 8th Garchen Rinpoche said to be with Garchen Rinpoche statue constructed in 1980 at Gar Monastery.
Gar Monastery, Tibet. Photo Ina Bieler (2015).

“The Guru Rinpoche statue was the first statue that was set up was that year, 1980. It was actually very difficult to establish this statue. However, finally we were able to accomplish it without any obstacles. Many of the great lamas were really pleased about that because it was the first one that has been erected since we came out of prison. Then, during that time, the restrictions on religion had relaxed somewhat and we had a little more freedom to practice the religion, and some of the monasteries had re-opened. At that time, there was a master called Pema Gyurme, who held empowerments and transmissions who conferred the Kagyu Ngag Dzo empowerments and transmissions in 1981. He’s also a very precious master and great  scholar too.

He was from the Tana monastery and belonged to one of the eight smaller Kagyu lineages the Yelpa Kagyu (yel pa bka’ rgyud) . [which was established by Druptop Yéshé Tsekpa (drub thob ye shes brtsegs pa, b.1134).”

[The Yelpa Kagyu tradition was established by Yelpa Yeshe Tsek, a disciple of Pakmodrupa. It thus counts as on of the “minor branches” in that it stems from the students of Pakmodrupa rather than Gampopa. Yeshe Tsek established multiple monasteries, chief among them being Shar Yelpuk in 1171, which served as the seat of the tradition)].

Tana Monastery, Tibet. Image

“So this monastery was the main seat of  that lineage and it was also the place where Pagmo Drupa’s bone relics had been kept at that time this monastery was rebuilt. For the opening, he conferred the empowerments and transmissions of the Kagyu Ngag Dzo and I had the opportunity to be there and meet him. At that time, the situation for practicing dharma had improved somewhat in Tibet, so there were a lot of people and many lamas at that event.

As I  mentioned before, it was not his monastery but it was the monastery where he gave these empowerments. During that time, the law was that no more than 30 monks were allowed to stay in a monastery. Then, we had the precious Gyanagma prayer wheel and our monks would turn that wheel 24 hours around the clock. “

[For more on the miraculous blessings of the Gyanagma Prayer Wheel and Gar Monastery, see article here.]

Gayanagma Prayer Wheel, Gar Monastery, Tibet. Photo Ina Bieler (2015).
Meeting Siddha, Karma Norbu and getting the ordination vows
Karma Norbu Rinpoche.

“We only had around 30 monks but and maybe a few more. At that time, there was a great mahasiddha, Karma Norbu. There was no one  really who would confer the fully ordained monk vows, or who would perform the full ordination vows. So Karma Norbu was really like Milarepa, his stories are like Milarepa’s  story. He spent his time meditating in a cave during summer and winter alike only wearing a cotton cloth. During that time, we had these 30 young monks among them also Bu Nyima Lama was there. They were yet to receive the full ordination vows, so they received the vows from the siddha Karma Norbu.  He said that because it was just him giving it and there was nobody else there that, strictly speaking according to the Vinaya [prescribed rules for monastics], in order to become a fully ordained monk, one must have at least four other sangha members present. However, at that time, it was to confer the vow and it was just him, so he gave them the vows but he also said that in the future you should receive those vows again in a proper way, in the presence of four sangha members and so on. This is how the first fully ordained monks were established at Gar Monastery.”

[It is said that “Karma Norbu was a great Mahasiddha, meaning “great accomplished one” or Drupchen (sgrub chen) in Tibetan) who was traditionally trained in and accomplished the Karma Kagyu path – including the 6 Yogas of Naropa. He accomplished this full path before the Cultural Revolution. After the Chinese occupation, those who knew him could not find Karma Norbu, as he had established himself in a cave at a nearby mountain.

In 1980 the Chinese government started allowing people to engage in a little bit of Dharma practice and the government also began to release many Rinpoches from prison. Many monasteries started a rebuilding process. Every Rinpoche in Tibet also began looking for great Masters that had survived the revolution. Sure enough, someone found Karma that time Karma Norbu was living in a cave surrounded by a rock edifice — this is where many disciples came to receive teachings, instructions directly from him. The journey to Karma Norbu’s cave (from Gar Monastery) took about 6 days and had to be done on horseback. Many practitioners, monks went there to receive ordination and teachings from him. ” See here.]

Finding Khenpo Munsel in the mountains

“When we were released from prison, Khenpo Munsel was also released from prison. However, after he was released nobody knew where he was.  I really wanted to find him. I was asking around, ‘where is  Khenpo Munsel Rinpoche?’ and nobody knew where he was. So he was probably hiding out somewhere in secret. However, I really wanted to find him because I knew he was such a precious lama.

So I assigned Bu Nyima Lama to find him, that was his responsibility. First, I sent him to go and travel to Xining and find out more about where he might be and if he might be hiding somewhere. So I sent Bu Nyima. However, the way he left though was more like a secret escape, he left secretly it was not an official mission. Basically Bu Nyima suddenly disappeared. One day, his brother and mother came to my place and they said ‘we lost Bu Nyima, he is such a good boy, we do not know where he is, can you do a Mo?”  I did a Mo and said  ‘don’t worry he’s fine he’s probably somewhere very close by’  as I knew that he had gone to Xining to find Khenpo Munsel, he already left.  

Then Bu Nyima lama met Reting Namhka Jigme Lama  who knew the whereabouts of Khenpo Munsel and told him he is hiding on top of a mountain somewhere, in secret, in the Golok region. So then Bu Nyima  traveled all the way from Xining  to Golok and he wrote a letter for another Lama and was told to ask a lama from Tharling monastery who was in prison together with Khenpo Munsel. So I was referred to him to find Khenpo Munsel and finally he was located.  However,  when Khenpo Munsel met with me, he scolded me a bit and said ‘I was actually trying to hide and you sent Bu Nyima to spy on me!’. This is how we located Khenpo Munsel.”

Venerable Lama Bu Nyima (1963-) For more info, see:
Bestowing and receiving refuge and monastic vows and Khenpo Munsel’s teaching Dharma
Tsechu Monastery, Nangchen, Tibet.

“Later, when Bu Nyima  returned  back to the monastery, not just our monks but several monks from various monasteries needed to receive monastic vows. I felt that they should meet Khenpo Munsel Rinpoche. Also many other monasteries would send their monks to receive the monastic vows from Khenpo Munsel. So, for example, there were the monks from Tsechu monastery which was Adeu Rinpoche’s monastery, and there was Dana monastery and Loba monastery (which is also a Drikung monastery) and Gar Monastery.

Bu Nyima Lama continued to stay together with Khenpo Munsel for a few months. Then,  later he returned to the monastery. After that, he was sent back to Khenpo Munsel together with all these monks to get the monastic vows.  Bu Nyima Lama brought about 70 monks from different monasteries, from Tsechu monastery, Tana monastery and Loba monastery (about one or two monks). Then from Gar Monastery there were four monks,  including Bu Nyima. In total, there were about 70 monks.  They all went together up to the mountain to receive the vows from Khenpo Munsel Rinpoche.”

Tana Monastery, Nangchen Tibet.

At that time, we had a little more religious freedom, but it was still very difficult to give the refuge vows to people. It was forbidden to give the refuge vow to anyone under 18 years of age, they had to be at least 18. However, in  our area it is customary that the mothers would come with their little babies to receive the refuge vow but it was forbidden. So whenever I had to give refuge vows, or any transmissions and empowerments and so on, it had to be done in secret, in the middle of the night, somewhere in the hills. People would then line up to receive the refuge vow in the middle of the night. The first time it was given properly was when there was a lama  meeting in Yushu I was attending.  I was invited by the people of that area to give refuge vows to their children, which was of course not allowed.  So on a Saturday evening, I went on a lorry because there were no cars at that time, like a tractor, into the empty hills in the middle of the night, to give the refuge vow and then returned in the early morning for the meeting in Yushu. At that time, when I gave the refuge vow it was close to Zopa Tulku Rinpoche’s monastery. It was actually a nunnery, and they had arranged a throne but in the middle of nowhere. There was no building or temple or anything, so they constructed a throne there and so many people received the refuge vow in secret then.”

So I met Khenpo Munsel Rinpoche again and he turned the wheel of dharma extensively and gave teachings on the Dzogchen Yeshe Lama  to many of his disciples. He had gathered many disciples and even some of them were officials who were good hearted. At  that time it was a bit more relaxed and we had some freedom to receive some teachings. Many lamas and disciples from various monasteries came to receive his teachings on Dzogchen.  I also went there sometimes. For me, that was how Khenpo Munsel turned the wheel of dharma the second time, this time outside of prison.”

Conclusion – Getting genuine Guru’s blessings like rain melting snow

“These are the short stories of the various masters I have met after leaving prison, about Khenpo Munsel and Lama Pema Gyurme, Khenpo Rating and Geshe Ngawang Phuntsog and HH Chetsang Rinpoche and Nubba Rinpoche and so on. I have told you a few short stories about how I have met some precious lamas and that is enough for today.

I have met many llamas from that time until now and no matter how many lamas I have met, there is always an obvious, special feeling that arises. It is just like rain falling down, the more it rains the better, and so it has to rain all the time. It is just just like that when we meet these real masters,  over and over again because through their blessings they confer from their mind every time we meet them, it slowly opens up the Buddha nature. It awakens the Buddha nature  that all beings possess. 

That is why it is so important to meet such masters again and again, and to receive their teachings again and again. It is just like we need to have rain again and again, because every time you meet an authentic lama and every time you receive the teachings,  a special feeling arises, and renunciation and so forth arises in the mind. Whatever they speak of is not something new, it it not that you hear something new at all. What they speak of is the two-fold truth: the relative and the ultimate truths. When they teach on the relative truth, they speak of the infallibility of karma, cause and effect. Everything depends on causes. The ultimate truth is the truth of emptiness, or the union of clarity and emptiness. When one sees the truth of emptiness, and everything becomes empty, but if one does not see the truth of emptiness, then the relative becomes more important. What is the relative?  It is bodhichitta, which is really the four immeasurable, and of the four immeasurables, immeasurable love is most important. I am just speaking from my own experience, all dharma teachings are included within love and compassion, and that is included within love. Or it is the compassion that is imbued with love. So all the teachings are the same, they are not separate, but every time you receive them, or you meet a guru, a special feeling can arise, over and over again just like it is raining again and again.

This is what I wanted to share with the stories of my gurus. I thank you for listening and the next time I am going to continue to speak about another Drikung master. In general, when we really think carefully about the qualities of these gurus, their qualities are immeasurable. When you really see the qualities of a guru, then really from the bottom of my heart whenever I see each and every of one of them, I felt that there is no one higher, there is no other Buddha than that. These gurus really are the Buddha and this  is what I really made my mind up about, I really decided upon that. There is really no greater, no other Buddha than that. Even if the Buddha actually be present, the Buddha would not actually say anything else, the Buddha would not say anything beyond, or higher than what these lamas say. This is the kind of certainty that should arise in the mind.

With that certainty, one becomes like them, like a Buddha. A Buddha is someone who has cleared away afflictions and ignorance. Buddha means sangye and sang means to have cleared away self-grasping. How is it cleared away? It is through the altruistic mind. Without love and compassion, self grasping will not disappear. So self-grasping has to melt away. The mind of sentient beings and the mind of self-grasping is like frozen snow, and love and compassion are like rain water. As long as there is self-grasping it is like being stuck in snow and ice, and that will kill sentient beings. In the end, snow is actually water by nature so if one understands the ultimate truth, then everything becomes transformed into bodhichitta and self-grasping diminishes, one realizes emptiness and thus one becomes just like clear rain water. 

So that’s the essence of the dharma, it is love and compassion. It is the essence of the 84 000 teachings of Buddha, bodhichitta. So that really is the essence of all teachings of these stories. It is the essence of all practice – it is all for the sake of destroying and subduing self-grasping. Now please keep this in mind. Tashi Deleg my Dharma friends, I saw your faces today and am so happy to have seen you today!”

[i] Geshe Ngawang Phuntsok seems to have been one of the few Tibetan teachers who was able to give teachings in Lhasa, Tibet during those times. For more on his published works, see here:

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