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June 17, 2010

Bhue Rinpoche

by Repa Dorje Odzer

So, yesterday was the official launch date of http://www.changchub.com.  It was very touching to receive all of the lovely support and kind words from everyone who took a look at the site and also those who sponsored prayer.  Thank you all!

I’d like to bring another face to the ganachakra, and it’s the face of another great lama; Bhue Rinpoche.  I first met Bhue Rinpoche in Sikkim in 1998 when he was invited by the Chungyalpa family to lead prayers for the death of Ani Dechen Zangmo’s mother.  Not only had she been the matriarch of the Chungyalpa family, she also helped provide shelter, food, and care, to many of the Rinpoches, Khenpos, and monks who had escaped from Tibet to Sikkim during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  Her husband had been a well known thanka painter and had painted the original murals at Rumtek monastery, the seat in exile of the Karmapas.  She had come to act as the informal adoptive mother of H.E. Gyaltsab Rinpoche, and H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche, and when her husband passed away while painting murals for a center in Denmark, she became a nun- devoting the rest of her life to dharma practice.

Bhue Rinpoche was born in Tibet, and began his training in both the Karma Kagyu and Drikung Kagyu schools, but soon found himself in trouble with the Chinese authorities in Tibet (post-invasion) and was thrown into a labor camp.  He was lucky enough to find that he was imprisoned with other Drikung Rinpoches and was able to continue his training in secret-at night- while living in the harsh conditions of the Chinese labor camp.  During the many years he was imprisoned Rinpoche also came to learn acupuncture and traditional Tibetan medicine.  These skills became instrumental in his future activities in caring for other beings.  Upon his release from the camp, Rinpoche fled to Sikkim.

Bhue Rinpoche

In Sikkim, Bhue Rinpoche eventually came to engage in activities similar to Pathing Rinpoche; travelling from home to home to provide prayer service and pujas for those who are sick and dying.  Bhue Rinpoche’s specialty is Phowa- the ejection of consciousness at the point of death, or shortly after the occurrence of death.  I have never met anyone so tuned in to and aware of death.  One evening he and I were talking on the roof of a building in Gangtok, Sikkim, when he stopped in mid-sentence and said, “Do you see that house?  Someone just died in that house”.  At that point in time he seemed a little distant and not really focused on our conversation.  I was surprised the next day when a family member from that house came and asked for Rinpoche to come as his uncle had died the night before.  Rinpoche left later that day to perform ritual prayers for the man who had just passed away.

Perhaps it is not surprising that someone who spends so much time doing Phowa has refined his awareness of death as it occurs.  When I consider how easy it is to hide oneself from the recognition that death happens all the time (and in such obvious ways), it seems that such awareness rests on understanding what death is, what fears we may have regarding death, and coming to rest in a larger perspective.  Easier said than done, but certainly worth a try.

Along with Phowa, Bhue Rinpoche commonly performs Chod practice, and offers both acupuncture and traditional Tibetan medical treatments.  He balances both medical and spiritual care in a dynamic and exciting way.

Rinpoche’s personality is a combination of gruff and wrathful, mixed with gentle compassion.  It seems like a fitting blend.  In aspiring towards his realization we may indeed need to be a little wrathful in cutting through our fears, our insecurities, and our lack of comfort with death, all the while remaining gentle with ourselves and others as we discover that we are all unified in that we are all “in the same boat” so to speak.  Perhaps this type of existential inevitability is the only true democracy.

In any case, Bhue Rinpoche certainly cuts through whatever neurosis exists as an impediment to the care of others.  I feel particularly drawn to Bhue Rinpoche.  The way he lives his life shows that no matter how full of hardship and pain life can be, when we bring the experience of such pain and suffering to our own practice, a natural and pure motivation to serve others is possible.  This spontaneous motivation is truly inspiring!

Bhue Rinpoche reminds me of a line from Chakdrupa (six-armed Mahakala) practice:   With devotion I go for refuge to the lama, inseparable from the protector.  May I totally dispel the neurosis of all beings!

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