The Lineage of Tinley Gyamtso Lama,
the Bardok Chusang Rinpoche
In the late seventeenth and early part of the eighteenth century, the
active "Practice Tradition" of the yogis and yoginis of Tibet
seemed to be gradually dying out, due to a lack of disciples seriously
motivated by a vocation for real meditation.
Fortunately, in the
18th century, the living practice tradition was given a fresh impetus
by two exceptionally wise and holy Lamas, Tai Situ Chokyi Jung-ne of
the Karma-Kagyu school and Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu of Ka'thog monastery
belonging to the Nyingma school. The efforts of these spiritual leaders
to keep alive the contemplative instruction lineage of the yogins of
Tibet initiated a mystical renaissance.
An important aspect of the revival fostered by this union of Kagyu
and Nyingma masters was a wish to
go beyond the limited boundaries of isolated schools of practice. This
effort culminated in the nonsectarian (Tib: ris-med, pronounced
Ri-me) movement founded especially by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, who is
"the Great", and Paltrul Rinpoche, Mipham Namgyal Rinpoche,
Khontrul Lodroi Taye, Kunzang Palden Rinpoche, along with others, all
of whom looked to His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa as their precious
wish-bestowing jewel. The Rimé or "nonsectarian" movement
was largely a reform movement, and an attempt to get back to a contemplative
yoga practice as the basis for attaining self-realization. The movement
was chiefly centered in far eastern Tibet.
leading yogi who came out of the eastern revival was the now famous
Lama Shakyasri, a great Yogi and disciple of Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche.
Shakyasri's chief disciple was Tipun. And Tipun was the root master of
our beloved Lama, the Venerable Bardok Chusang Rinpoche, who resides
in Boudhanath, Nepal.
the title of Ngawang Pema Chögyal, who was born in 1877 at Chem-re,
Ladakh. At an early age Pema Chögyal was placed in Trakthog
Gompa, a Nyingmapa institution, where he completed his early education
by the time he was fifteen. This brilliant boy then set forth on a pilgrimage,
to travel to various sites throughout Tibet. His journeying eventually
brought him to the region of Tsari, where he settled down for a considerable
period of time.
It was while he was a serving a Lama in Tsari that Pema Chögyal
first began to hear about the venerable Ka'gyu-Nyingma master Shakyasri.
Consequently, when the old Lama for whom he was working passed away,
he decided that he must go in search of Shakyasri and beg the master
to accept him as a disciple. He knew that Shakyasri lived in Kham, towards
the east, where the Rimé
movement had its centre. So he set forth by foot on a long journey, which
was both hazardous and fraught with danger of every kind. Kham at this
time was both rugged and filled with marauding bandits. More over, there
was a local war going on. Nevertheless, Ngawang Pema Chögyal persisted
in his search. Such is the path of yoga. And as it is said, when the
disciple is ready then the master will appear. Pema Chögyal
eventually found Shakyasri. He also managed to convince Shakyasri to
return with him to Tsari.
In Tsari the wisdom-master Shakyasri acquired a great number of disciples.
His fame had preceded him. Soon people flocked to him, to receive his
blessing or to listen to his public teachings. Those seeking the Path
of Liberation also came to him, and in him they found an authentic Master
who could teach them the secret way of mystical yoga. There grew up around
Shakyasri a number of thriving communities of saints.
So large was the number of disciples, that Shakyasri couldn't
instruct all of them effectively. So he appointed teaching assistants.
The foremost of these was Ngawang Pema Chögyal, and it was by virtue
of his role as a teaching assistant that he acquired the title "Tipun" (Tib:
khrid-pon, instructor of the teachings) - a name by which he would
ever after be known.
Shakyasri passed away, Tipun became chief of his master's establishment.
This religious establishment was now an extensive organization, and
the demands upon Tipun's time and energy were enormous. Indeed, lesser
men would at this point have been resigned to a mere administrative
role for the rest of their lives. But Tipun quickly came to see that
organizational duties, and giving public talks, were only destroying
the whole purpose of Shakyasri's original aim, which was to revive and
promote "actual practice". In other words, the operation
of running the organization was quickly superseding the purpose for
which the organization had been founded. So Tipun decided to give the
Tipun left and went into retreat. He moved to Tsib-ri, in the county
of Dingri, and there found an isolated cave in the mountains, which he
made his own. He remained there, in that cave hermitage, for the next
three years, with neither attendant nor patronage. No one even knew where
he had disappeared to. He simply went away, and started to devote himself
to genuine meditation practice, living on the most meager supplies.
Some three years later he moved to La-chi, which is another
isolated spot. Milarepa had lived and meditated for many years in La-chi.
Now, Tipun lived there like a second Milarepa, imbibing the mystical
ambrosia of true Yoga.
Gradually word got out as to where Tipun was residing. It was apparent,
now, that he was indeed a great saint, and so individual disciples began
to appear, begging him to guide them on the spiritual Path. Although
pressed by many to teach—that is, to come out and give public
teachings and empowerments—Tipun refused to deviate from his set
course. If someone wanted to learn from him, they had to live the life
of practice with him. He had no interest in becoming a famous Lama,
nor was he tempted to give public Dharma-talks to large gatherings.
Tipun adamantly remained true to his commitment to the old Ka'gyu-Nyingma
tradition of practice.
Tipun resided far out in the wilderness. On the mountain slopes, in the
little valleys, all around where he lived, there sprouted up small encampments
of genuine yoginis and yogis. Most of these took vows, and became Buddhist
monks and nuns. Individuals financed their ability to live in these small
hermitages as best they could. It was certainly a hard life.
Over time many high Lamas of Tibet, many renowned great Tulkus, went
to Tipun to live the life under his example and guidance. These high
Lamas had to live just as the regular disciples did. However, thanks
to their presence, Tipun was able to inquire about and gradually gather
a vast library of practice texts. Down through the centuries, indeed
through the millennia, yogis have recorded their experiences. They have
compiled instruction booklets, describing the practical methods of meditation,
based on personal experience. The books they wrote were not philosophical
dissertations, nor theoretical or theological treatises. The "practice texts" of the yogis and yoginis
of the Himalayas were carefully recorded accounts of their experiments
and investigations into the nature of the human mind. These text have
become a priceless treasure, in which several thousand years of technical
yogic knowledge has been gathered. Most of this knowledge deals directly
with the nature of the mind, and the path to Enlightenment. Other aspects
of knowledge include the methods to awaken the psychic powers inherent
in the human being. Some describe "out of the body" experiences to distant
world-systems, or particular yogic visions and investigations. Tipun made
a concerted effort to have these "practice texts" gathered from all over
Tibet and India. This became the central library of the movement.
Tipun's movement was equal for women and men. A group of some twenty
women, in training as yoginis, occupied one hermitage. Eight women, taking
the vows of nuns, came together and quickly formed another hermitage.
These women built their own huts, using local stone and plaster, and organized
their food together, so that they could commit themselves to undistracted
Yoga practice for the rest of their lives. Another group of thirteen women
formed yet another hermitage on a neighboring mountain.
In all, well over a hundred men and women trained in the life of the
spirit under Tipun's leadership. And Tipun himself remained true to his
Tipun lived to the grand old age of 81. When he died, there was said
to be many signs that a fully accomplished yogi had passed from this world
into eternal Nirvana. When an assembly of mourning disciples gathered
to pray at his funeral, a miraculous rain of flowers fell out of the clear
sky upon them.
The Venerable Bardok Chusang Rinpoche
Palden Mipham Tsuthop Tinley Gyamtso Lama
Bardok Chusang Rinpoche was born in the county of Dingri (Tibet) to a
family of nomads. At an early age he was discovered by a select party
of Lamas who were searching for the reincarnation of their former Abbot.
Through meditation, they had had a number of visions and indications,
informing them to look for the rebirth of the Abbot of their monastery
in the region of Bardok, which is in the county of Dingri, not far from
Mt. Everest. When they found the child, they put him to the test. A number
of objects were placed in front of the boy and he was expected to pick
out just those items which had been his in a previous life: a rosary,
a particular cup, some clothing. Rinpoche knew at once which were "his"
possessions, and which were not. He also knew precisely what the Lamas
were doing, and told them in detail about his former monastery.
Bardok Chusang Rinpoche is recognized as the incarnation of an eleventh
century Indian yogi-saint named Pa
Dampa Sangye, the founder of a system of spiritual practice known
As a child at the monastery he was extensively educated and became a
learned scholar. He always had a yearning, however, for the Path of the
Yogin. Thus, once he was old enough to do so, he became the disciple of
Tipun and spent many years in meditative retreat in the mountains. Rinpoche
has performed the traditional three year retreat several times. He is
one of the most experienced Yogis of Tibet alive today.
In 1950 and through the cultural revolution of the 1960's, life
in Tibet and in the county of Dingri was devastated.
During the persecution, Chusang Rinpoche managed to escape into Nepal.
Dingri, fortunately, is not far from the border. Rinpoche, like other
refugees who succeeded in getting out, was lucky. He started a new life
in Kathmandu. And there he lives to the present day.
his root Guru, Tipun, Chusang Rinpoche refuses to teach. He gives no
public lectures. He speaks scathingly of Lamas who make a living from
selling the Dharma or empowerments in exchange for money and prestige
in the West. He lives a very quiet life, devoted to practice. And those
who do learn from him, do so by following his example.
Late in life Rinpoche married. One of his sons is the head Lama of a
Gelugpa monastery in the Kathmandu valley, highly honored by His Holiness
the Dalai Lama. Another son is a fully trained Tibetan medical doctor.
One daughter has chosen the way of the nun and when not spending her time
in prayer, gives aid to her aging father.
Rinpoche possesses a deep humility. He likes to honor others but prefers
to be unconsidered himself. He likes to greet others, before being greeted.
He takes no high role, but assumes the attitude of a modest person. He
has a genuine respect for people of spiritual rank or education, but
no feeling of the same towards himself. He is profoundly aware of the
transience of worldly position, wealth or even scholarship. He loves
all sentient beings, and his love for the Buddha, for all the cosmic
Buddhas and for humanity itself, has made him value and respect every
Rinpoche is our living example of the practice lived by a married yogi
in the world today.
Dharma Fellowship and the Chöd Lineage
Some twenty or more years ago the Venerable Bardok Chusang Rinpoche
placed into the hands of the western Tulku Kunzang Palden the woodblock
text of the Ka'dro Nyingtig tradition of Chöd. This initiated a
long odyssey not only to translate the text, but to discover a way to
complete the practice in English without deviating from the pure, rich
sounds of the Tibetan melody.
is an ancient shamanic ritual, during which the adept surrenders himself
out of compassion for all living beings. It involves a beautiful,
sonorous yogic dance, using hand drum and bell. Using the haunting tones
of a song that captures the sense of the great Himalayan range, high
above the tree line, the yogini and yogi transport themselves to
a transcendental state, beyond the limits of the body, where worship
takes on the form of unspeakable bliss.
Recently Rinpoche has expressed his approval of our English performance
of this ancient, beautiful musical rite. Previously we students
had practiced Chöd in Tibetan. "Before, you were as if blind,"
said Rinpoche. "but now that you can perform it in English, now
it is as if you can finally see!"
Our transmission (Tib: rlung) of Chöd practice comes down
Yeshe Tsogyal to Jigme
Lingpa, through Jamyang Khyentse
Rinpoche, through Shakyasri, through Tipun, through Bardok Chusang Rinpoche,
to the members of the Karmapa's Dharma Fellowship. The inner blessing
that passes with this blessed female lineage of Chöd is therefore very
special indeed. We are all blessed by it. And our Chöd practice
is therefore quite extraordinary.
Chusang Rinpoche is now elderly, therefore it is up to us to carry on
his transmission and keep these precious teachings alive. It is with this
very thought in mind that we reach out, looking eagerly towards those
few younger men and women who, aspiring towards the Spiritual Path, come
with the desire to learn and practice in this our ancient unique Yoga