Tulku

A tulku (Tibetan: སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་, Wylie: sprulsku, ZYPY: Zhügu, also tülku, trulku) is a reincarnate custodian of a specific lineage of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism who is given empowerments and trained from a young age by students of his or her predecessor.

High-profile examples of tulkus include the Dalai Lamas, the Panchen Lamas, the Samding Dorje Phagmos, the Karmapas, Khyentses, the Ngawang Namgyals, and the Kongtruls.

Nomenclature and etymology

The word སྤྲུལ or 'sprul' (Modern Lhasa Tibetan [ʈʉl]) was a verb in Old Tibetan literature and was used to describe the བཙན་པོ་ btsanpo ('emperor'/天子) taking a human form on earth. So the sprul idea of taking a corporeal form is a local religious idea alien to Indian Buddhism and other forms of Buddhism (e.g. Theravadin or Zen). Over time, indigenous religious ideas became assimilated by the new Buddhism; e.g. sprul became part of a compound noun, སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་'sprul.sku' ("incarnation body" or 'tülku', and 'btsan', the term for the imperial ruler of the Tibetan Empire, became a kind of mountain deity). The term tülku became associated with the translation of the Sanskrit philosophical term nirmanakaya. According to the philosophical system of trikaya or three bodies of Buddha, nirmanakaya is the Buddha's "body" in the sense of the bodymind (Sanskrit: nāmarūpa). Thus, the person of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, is an example of nirmanakaya. In the context of Tibetan Buddhism, tülku means the corporeal existence of enlightened Buddhist masters in general.

In addition to Tibetans and related peoples, Tibetan Buddhism is a traditional religion of the Mongols and their relatives. The Mongolian word for a tülku is qubilγan, though such persons may also be called by the honorific title qutuγtu (Tib: 'phags-pa and Skt: ārya or superior, not to be confused with the historic figure, 'Phags-pa Lama or the script attributed to him, (Phags-pa script), or hutagt in the standard Khalkha dialect. According to the Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom by Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal: the term tülku "designates one who is 'noble' (or 'selfless' according to Buddha's usage) and used in Buddhist texts to denote a highly achieved being who has attained the first bhumi, a level of attainment which is truly egoless, or higher."

The Chinese word for tülku is huófó (活佛), which literally means "living Buddha" and is sometimes used to mean tülku, although the Dalai Lama has said that this is a mistranslation, as a tülku isn't necessarily a realized being.

Meaning of "tulku"

Any Vajrayana practitioner can be reborn as a tülku, if they fail to reach Buddhahood or a Pure Land in the bardo of dying, bardo of dharmata or bardo of becoming.[1]

Valentine summarizes the shift in meaning of the word tülku: "This term that was originally used to describe the Buddha as a "magical emanation" of enlightenment, is best translated as "incarnation" or "steadfast incarnation" when used in the context of the tulku system to describe patriarchs that reliably return to human form."[2]

Finding a successor

Pamela Logan outlines a general approach for finding a successor:

When an old tulku dies, a committee of senior lamas convenes to find the young reincarnation. The group may employ a number of methods in their search. First, they will probably look for a letter left behind by the departed tulku indicating where he intends to be born again. They will ask the close friends of the departed to recall everything he said during his last days, in case he may have given hints. Often, an oracle is consulted. Sometimes a prominent lama has a dream that reveals details of the child's house, parents, or of geographical features near his home. Sometimes heaven presents a sign, perhaps a rainbow, leading the search party to the child.[3]

Sometimes the search process will include "testing" the candidate. [1].

Training

Logan describes the training a tulku undergoes from a young age:

He is brought up inside a monastery, under the direction of a head tutor and a number of other teachers or servants. He must study hard and adhere to a strict regimen. He has few if any toys or playmates, and is rarely allowed outside. Early on, he learns to receive important visitors, take part in complicated rituals, and give blessings to followers and pilgrims. Sometimes one or both parents are allowed to live near the young tulku. Older brothers are sometimes inducted into the monastery as monk-companions for the holy child. Yet his elderly tutors are the most influential people in his life, and they become his de facto parents.[4]

The academic atmosphere is balanced by unconditional love:

Countering the bleak academic regimen is an atmosphere of overwhelming, unconditional love. During the tulku's every waking moment, monks, family members, and awed, adoring visitors, shower the youth with love.

If you visit a child tulku, you will probably notice that his quarters are pervaded by a wonderful glow. Everyone beams at the tulku. The tulku beams back. If he asks for something, he is given it immediately, and if he errs, he is corrected just as immediately. Western visitors to the young 14th Dalai Lama commented on “the extraordinary steadiness of his gaze.” Even when quite young, the boys have remarkable poise; they sit calmly without fidgeting, even through ceremonies that may last all day.[5]

History

The tulku system of preserving Dharma lineages did not operate in India. The first tulku line of Tibet is the Karmapas. After the first Karmapa died in 1193, a lama had recurrent visions of a particular child as his rebirth. This child (born ca. 1205) was recognized as the second Karmapa, thus beginning the Tibetan tulku tradition.

Tulku lineages

Some examples:

  • Dodrupchen tulkus are the main custodians of Longchen Nyingthig.
  • Dudjom tulkus are the main custodians of Dudjom Tersar.
  • Chokling tulkus are the main custodians of Chokling Tersar.
  • Khyentse tulkus are the main custodians of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
  • Kongtrul tulkus are the main custodians of the Jamgon Kongtrul.
  • Samding Dorje Pagmo tulkus are the highest female incarnation lineage in Tibet.

Tibetologist Françoise Pommaret estimates there are presently approximately 500 tulku lineages found across Tibet, Bhutan, Northern India, Nepal, Mongolia, and the southwest provinces of China.[6]

Criticism

In the 2009 documentary film Tulku, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche states the tulku system may not work in present day:

And now, I personally think that to hold that culture, institutionalized Tulku. That culture is dying; it’s not going to work anymore. And even if it… And if it doesn’t work, I think it’s almost for the better because this tulku, it’s going to… If the Tibetans are not careful, this Tulku system is going to ruin Buddhism. At the end of the day Buddhism is more important [than] Tulku system, who cares about Tulku... [and] what happens to them.[7]

Documentaries

See also

References

  1. ^ Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang. A Guide to the Words of My Perfect Teacher. Boston: Shambhala. 2004. ISBN 978-1-59030-073-2. "This form of transference is practiced by beginners on the path of accumulating who have received empowerment and respected the samayas, have a good understanding of the view, and have practiced the generation phase as the path but have not mastered it. Although they lack the necessary confidence to be liberated in the clear light at the moment of death or in the intermediate state of absolute reality, by taking refuge and praying to their teacher in the intermediate state they can close the way to an unfavorable womb and choose a favorable rebirth. Propelled by compassion and bodhichitta, they depart to a pure buddhafield or, failing that, take birth as a tulku born to parents who practice the Dharma. In that next life they will be liberated."
  2. ^ Valentine, Jay (2013). "Lords of the Northern Treasures: The Development of the Tibetan Institution of Rule by Successive Incarnations". UVA Library | Virgo. Retrieved 2017-08-06.
  3. ^ Logan, Pamela (2004). "Tulkus in Tibet". Harvard Asia Quarterly 8 (1) 15-23.
  4. ^ Logan, Pamela (2004). "Tulkus in Tibet". Harvard Asia Quarterly 8 (1) 15-23.
  5. ^ Logan, Pamela (2004). "Tulkus in Tibet". Harvard Asia Quarterly 8 (1) 15-23.
  6. ^ Pommaret, Françoise. Bhutan. Passport Books (Odyssey), 1998 (ISBN 0-8442-9966-9)
  7. ^ Dzongsar Khyentse interviewed in the movie Khyentse Rinpoche, Dzongsar Jamyang. Tulku: Diving Birth, Ordinary Life part 4/4. 21 September 2010. Online Video Clip. Youtube. Accessed 16 May 2011.

Further reading

External links

Akong Rinpoche

Chöje Akong Tulku Rinpoche (25 December 1939 – 8 October 2013) was a tulku in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and a founder of the Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland.

Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

Chagdud Tulku (Tibetan: ལྕགས་མདུད་, Wylie: lcags mdud, 1930–2002) was a Tibetan teacher of the Nyingma school of Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism. He was known and respected in the West for his teachings, his melodic chanting voice, his artistry as a sculptor and painter, and his skill as a physician. He acted as a spiritual guide for thousands of students worldwide. He was the sixteenth tülku of the Chagdud line.

Chagdud Gonpa centers practice Tibetan Buddhism, primarily in the Nyingma tradition of Padmasambhava.

Chime Rinpoche

Lama Chime Tulku Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist, Tulku and Dharma teacher. Chime Rinpoche was born in 1941 in Kham, Tibet. In 1959, due to the occupation of Tibet, he was forced to flee to India via Bhutan into exile. Gaining British citizenship in 1965. He taught extensively throughout Europe and established Marpa House, the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in England. His students include American author and Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön and musicians Mary Hopkin, David Bowie and Tony Visconti.

Choseng Trungpa

Choseng Trungpa Rinpoche is the 12th and current Trungpa tülku. He was born on February 6, 1989 in Pawo village, in Derge, eastern Tibet, and recognized by Tai Situ Rinpoche in 1991. He was enthroned a year later at Surmang Monastery at a ceremony presided over by Domkhar Rinpoche, a high Kagyu lama and Choseng's uncle. The monastery's late abbot (and Choseng Trungpa's predecessor), was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

He has studied the traditions of Surmang under the tutelage of the late Lama Kenla, (1932–2003), and received his early monastic education at the shedra at Palpung Monastery. He studied at Surmang Namgyal-tse until 2008, and currently studies at Serthar Institute.The name Choseng is a contraction of Chokyi Sengay (Tibetan: ཆོས་ཀྱི་སེང་གེ་, Wylie: Chos-kyi Seng-ge), which means "Lion of Dharma."

In 2001, he met for the first time with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the son of his previous incarnation, Chögyam Trungpa.

Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche

Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche (Nepali: छोकी निमा रिम्पोचे, alternatively in English spelled: Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche) (b. 1951) is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher and meditation master. He is the abbot of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal. He is the author of several books, founder of meditation centers around the world, and acclaimed teacher teaching internationally.

Incarnation

Incarnation literally means embodied in flesh or taking on flesh. It refers to the conception and birth of a sentient being who is the material manifestation of an entity, god or force whose original nature is immaterial. In its religious context the word is used to mean the descent from Heaven of a god, deity, or divine being in human/animal form on Earth.

List of Tibetan writers

This is a chronological list of important Tibetan writers.

Longchenpa

Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer (Wylie: klong chen rab 'byams pa dri med 'od zer), commonly abbreviated to Longchenpa (1308–1364), was a major teacher in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Along with Sakya Pandita and Je Tsongkhapa, he is commonly recognized as one of the three main manifestations of Manjushri to have taught in Central Tibet. His major work is the Seven Treasuries, which encapsulates the previous 600 years of Buddhist thought in Tibet. Longchenpa was a critical link in the exoteric and esoteric transmission of the Dzogchen teachings. He was abbot of Samye, one of Tibet's most important monasteries and the first Buddhist monastery established in the Himalaya, but spent most of his life travelling or in retreat.

Namkhai Norbu

Namkhai Norbu (Tibetan: ཆོས་རྒྱལ་ནམ་མཁའི་ནོར་བུ་) was a Tibetan Dzogchen master. When he was two years old, Namkhai Norbu was recognized as the 'mindstream emanation', a tulku, of the Dzogchen teacher Adzom Drugpa (1842–1924). At five, he was also recognized as a mindstream emanation of an emanation of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594–1651). From an early age, Namkhai Norbu undertook an accelerated course of study, attending monastic college, taking retreats, and studying with renowned teachers, including some of the most important Tibetan masters of his time. Under the tutelage of these teachers, he completed the training required by the Buddhist tradition in both Sutrayana and Tantrayana. At the age of sixteen, he met master Rigdzin Changchub Dorje (1826–1961/1978), who became his principal Dzogchen teacher.In 1960, he came to Italy at the invitation of Professor Giuseppe Tucci, and served as Professor of Tibetan and Mongolian Language and Literature from 1964 to 1992 at the Naples Eastern University. Namkhai Norbu was widely recognized as a leading authority on Tibetan culture, particularly in the fields of history, literature, and Traditional Tibetan medicine and astrological sciences such as the Tibetan calendar. In 1983, he hosted the first International Convention on Tibetan Medicine, held in Venice, Italy.In 1976, Namkhai Norbu began to give Dzogchen instruction in the West, first in Italy, then in numerous other countries. He quickly became a respected spiritual authority among many practitioners, and has created centers for the study of Dzogchen worldwide. On 10 September 2018, the Italian government gave its highest award, Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, to him from President Sergio Mattarella. The Tibetan government in exile regarded him as having been “the foremost living Dzogchen” teacher at the time of his death in 2018.

Rimé movement

The Rimé movement is a movement involving the Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism, along with some Bon scholars.Having seen how the Gelug institutions pushed the other traditions into the corners of Tibet's cultural life, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892) and Jamgön Kongtrül (1813-1899) compiled together the teachings of the Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma, including many near-extinct teachings. Without Khyentse and Kongtrul's collecting and printing of rare works, the suppression of Buddhism by the Communists would have been much more final. The Rimé movement is responsible for a number of scriptural compilations, such as the Rinchen Terdzod and the Sheja Dzö.

Rinpoche

Rinpoche, also spelled Rimboche and Rinboku (Tibetan: རིན་པོ་ཆེ་, Wylie: rin po che, THL: Rinpoché, ZYPY: Rinboqê), is an honorific term used in the Tibetan language. It literally means "precious one", and may be used to refer to a person, place, or thing--like the words "gem" or "jewel" (Sanskrit Ratna).

The word consists of rin(value) and po(nominative suffix) and chen(big).

The word is used in the context of Tibetan Buddhism as a way of showing respect when addressing those recognized as reincarnated, older, respected, notable, learned and/or an accomplished Lamas or teachers of the Dharma. It is also used as an honorific for abbots of monasteries.

Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal

Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal (Sikkimese: སྲིད་སཀྱོང་སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་; Wylie: srid skyong sprul sku rnam rgyal) (1879–5 December 1914) was the ruling Maharaja and Chogyal of Sikkim for a brief period in 1914, from 10 February to 5 December.

Tarthang Tulku

Tarthang Tulku (Tibetan: དར་ཐང་སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ, Wylie: Dar-thang Sprul-sku Rin-po-che) (born 1934) is a Tibetan teacher (lama) who introduced the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism into the United States, where he works to preserve the art and culture of Tibet. He oversees various projects including Dharma Publishing, Yeshe-De, Tibetan Aid Project, and the construction of the Odiyan Copper Mountain Mandala. Tarthang Tulku also introduced Kum Nye into the West.

The Shadow (1994 film)

The Shadow is a 1994 American superhero film from Universal Pictures, produced by Martin Bregman, Willi Bear, and Michael Scott Bregman, directed by Russell Mulcahy, that stars Alec Baldwin. The film co-stars John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Ian McKellen, Jonathan Winters, Peter Boyle, and Tim Curry. It is based on the pulp fiction character of the same name created in 1931 by Walter B. Gibson.The film was released to theaters on July 1, 1994 and received generally mixed reviews. Critics found the villain, screenplay, and storyline lacking, but highly praised the film's direction, acting, special effects, visual style, action sequences, and its music score by Jerry Goldsmith.

Third Bardor Tulku Rinpoche

The Third Bardor Tulku Rinpoche' (Tibetan: འབར་རྡོར་སྤྲུལ་སྐུ།, Wylie: bar-rdor sprul-sku) is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, a holder of the religious lineage of Terchen Barway Dorje. Rinpoche is the founder of a Tibetan Buddhist center, Kunzang Palchen Ling, and the Raktrul Foundation, in Red Hook, New York.

Thrangu Rinpoche

Thrangu Rinpoche (Tibetan: ཁྲ་འགུ་, Wylie: Khra-'gu [ˈtʰran.ɡu ˈrinpotʃe]) was born in 1933 in Kham, Tibet. He is deemed to be a prominent tulku (reincarnate lama) in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, the ninth reincarnation in his particular line. His full name and title is the Very Venerable Ninth Khenchen Thrangu Tulku, Karma Lodrö Lungrik Maway Senge. "Khenchen" denotes great scholarly accomplishment, and the term "Rinpoche" is an honorific title commonly afforded to Tibetan lamas.

Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche

Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche (1955–2012) was the ninth incarnation of the Traleg tulku line, a line of high lamas in the Kagyu lineage of Vajrayana. He was a pioneer in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to Australia.

Trungpa tülkus

The Trungpa tulku are a line of incarnate Tibetan lamas who traditionally head Surmang monastery complex in Kham, now Surmang. The three heads of the Zurmang Kagyu are known as GharTengTrungSum (Gharwang, Tenga, Trungpa), and the lineage holder of the Zurmang Kagyu is Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche. There have been twelve such Trungpa tulkus. Mahasiddha Trungmase, 1st Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche, was the teacher of Künga Gyaltsen, 1st Trungpa Tulku.

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (1920 - February 13, 1996) (Tibetan: སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་ཨོ་རྒྱན་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་, Wylie: sprul-sku o-rgyan rin-po-che) (Nepali: टुल्कु उर्ग्येन् रिन्पोचे) was a Buddhist master of the Kagyü and Nyingma lineages who lived at Nagi Gompa hermitage in Nepal. Urgyen Rinpoche was considered one of the greatest Dzogchen masters of his time.

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