His Holiness Rizong Rinpoche

Interesting People I Have Known

His Holiness the XIV th Dalai Lama with His Holiness Rizong RinpocheBorn in 1928 in Ladakh– an area of Northern India sandwiched between Pakistan and China– Rinpoche was recognized and enthroned as the reincarnation of a high lama at birth, and has dedicated his entire life to spiritual practice. He joined Drepung Loseling Monastery in Lhasa, in the mid-1940's, where he remained until the Chinese takeover of Tibet. He served as abbot of two monasteries before being elevated to one of the three highest seats in the Gelukpa School, from which His Holiness the Dalai Lama emanates.

In Tibetan spiritual circles Rizong Rinpoche is considered to be a living saint. By 1997 he had completed his third three-year retreat, this time in a cave in Ladakh so remote that it is virtually inaccessible for six months out of the year due to heavy snow. The purpose of this retreat was to commune with Yamantaka, The Destroyer of Death, the ferocious emanation symbolizing the wisdom of all the Buddhas, and in order to merge consciousness it was necessary for Rinpoche to chant the same one hundred syllable mantra of Yamantaka for twenty hours a day continuously for three years. In the process this monk had ventured to the limits of inner space beyond death and through the dreamlike realms of the states between; to do so without being firmly rooted in the teachings would sooner lead to madness than enlightenment.

I had the rare opportunity to study with Rizong Rinpoche and the veneration that I gained for him in the process cannot be adequately described, partly because I cannot imagine what it must be like to spend twenty hours a day for three solid years in perfecting a union with the Destroyer of Death. All I can tell you about practicing this yoga in Rinpoche's presence is this: the 70-year-old man, small in stature, gaunt and lean after having recently completed a three-year retreat in a remote cave in Ladakh, preceded the empowerment by entering the shrine alone and self-generating the buffalo-headed deity, and when we were admitted an hour later we found Yamantaka reincarnate and the elderly lama transformed into a bull of a being whose face had taken on the appearance of the Destroyer of Death. Of all the things I have ever witnessed, nothing else can begin to compare with this.

Pictured here: His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama on the left, with His Holiness Rizong Rinpoche in 1995.

For more stories about the Tibetan Buddhist monks– and others like it– please avail yourself of a copy of "When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama". If you do not absolutely love it, I will give you your money back.

You can go to my books page here.

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