Amongst White Clouds -Amazing! Tsem Tulku Rinpoche

Dear Friends,

I just completed watching a incredibly inspiring documentary on the hermit monks/nuns in Zhongnan Mountains of modern day China called “Amongst White Clouds” by *Edward A. Burger-a 2005 film. Buddhism has been very strong for thousands of years in China and I thought perhaps during the Cultural Revolution coupled with the onslaught of materialism overtaking China today, ascetic Buddhist practice may not be strong anymore. I was wrong. It was incredible to come across this moving and well made film.

 It is reported with great reverence within the deep Zhongnan Mountain valleys live more than 5,000 Buddhist hermit monks and nuns today. They live off the land, spend most of their time in meditation and do not intermingle with the secular world. They live simply in the mountains and all their energy is focused on gaining deeper insights according to the teachings of the Buddha. Related to this video is Mr. Bill Porter and his works. His book inspired Edward A. Burger to create this beautiful documentary. I really loved this documentary and will watch many times again in the future repeatedly. I have also ordered the video online to get a copy I can carry with me wherever. I have ordered Bill Porter’s (Red Pine or Chinese: 赤松) book “Road to Heaven” also and looking forward to reading very much.   I must thank Mr. Bill Porter and Mr. Edward A. Burger for their contributions to our understanding of the profound path of Zen, China’s spiritual culture and introducing us to the incredible  modern day masters of Zhongnang Mountain.

Well you please read on so you can understand, learn and be inspired.

Tsem Rinpoche




Eastern mystic

By Yang Guang (China Daily)

American writer and translator **Bill Porter says he could have been Chinese in his last life.”Perhaps I was an ancient Chinese,” the 69-year-old quips, because when he first learned Chinese in the late 1960s, he found vernacular Chinese quite difficult, while classical Chinese was easier.

He is recognized as an authority on Chinese religious culture not only among Westerners, but among Chinese as well.

Porter has published three cultural travelogues about China. He has also translated a dozen Chinese classics on Buddhism, Taoism and poetry as well, under the pseudonym Red Pine.

His most recent offering, Yellow River Odyssey, recounts his three-month expedition in 1991, from the mouth of the river, which is known as the “cradle of Chinese civilization”, in Dongying, Shandong province, to its source in Qinghai province. The book will be available in English in the latter half of this year.

“Two decades later, I still recall in my dreams how I listened to the roaring of the river and how I could hardly breathe at the river source,” he says.

Porter’s connection with China started when he was enrolled in the PhD program in anthropology at Columbia University.

He half-heartedly chose Chinese as his major to get a language fellowship.

He had always tried to understand life but he says it wasn’t until he read Alan Watts’ The Way of Zen that he finally made sense of it.

“When I encountered Buddhism, I didn’t have any problem understanding exactly what it was talking about,” he says. Porter then started meditating on weekends with a Chinese Buddhist monk.

His pursuit of Buddhism took him to Taiwan in 1972, where he stayed for a year at the Fo Guang Shan Monastery with master Hsing Yun.

Then he landed at the Chinese Culture University as a student in philosophy, and met his Chinese wife there.

He rented a stone farm shed on top of Yangming Mountain and started translating poems by hermit poet Cold Mountain (AD 691-793).

It was then that he adopted “Red Pine” as his Chinese name, only to discover later it was also the name of a famous ancient Taoist.

To support his family after he married, Porter worked for six years at a radio station in Taipei as a news editor.

He began to wonder if Buddhist hermits still survived in the Chinese mainland in 1989, but didn’t have the money to embark on the exploration.

By chance, he had an interview with Winston Wong, son of Wong Yung-ching, one of the richest men in Taiwan. Wong was fascinated by his idea and financed his trip.

Porter traveled to Zhongnan Mountain in Shaanxi province and discovered that the hermit tradition was still very much alive, as dozens of monks and nuns continued to lead solitary lives in quiet contemplation, deep in the mountains.

He recorded his visits and interviews in Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits. The book is considered a window on – and has helped revive interest in – the phenomenon of Chinese hermits.

Tang Xiaoming, Porter’s Chinese publisher, says the book has sold more than 100,000 copies since 2005.

Former literary editor Zhang Jianfeng decided to search for hermits in Zhongnan Mountain himself, after reading Porter’s book in 2008. The 35-year-old has visited more than 600 hermits to date and became chief editor of a magazine dedicated to promoting traditional Chinese culture.

Porter returned to the United States in 1993, settling in Port Townsend, a coastal town of about 8,000 residents.

Since 2001, he has organized biannual trips to China for American tourists, who find out about him through word of mouth.

He is planning a trip in October to search for the residences and tombs of 20 Chinese poets.

Source: (China Daily 06/15/2012 page30)



Very inspiring documentary movie here. You must be in a quiet place and focus so you miss nothing. Some of the subtitle texts disappear too fast, but there is enough to understand what is happening. Enjoy and be inspired:

Or view the video on the server at:












“I’ve lived on old mountains so many years, following the way of forests and springs, no one will visit, just clouds floating by, grass for a bed, blue sky for a quilt, happy with a rock for a pillow, let the world go about its changes.”~Hanshan, Tang Dynasty monk and poet


Hanshan (Chinese: 寒山; pinyin: Hánshān; literally: “Cold Mountain”, fl. 9th century) was a legendary figure associated with a collection of poems from the Chinese Tang Dynasty in the Taoist and Chan tradition. No one knows who he was, or when he lived and died. In the Buddhist tradition, Hanshan and his sidekick Shide are honored as emanations of the bodhisattvas Mañjuśrī and Samantabhadra, respectively. In Japanese and Chinese paintings, Hanshan is often depicted together with Shide or with Fenggan, another monk with legendary attributes.



*[American director Edward A. Burger takes us on his unforgettable journey into the hidden lives of China’s forgotten Zen Buddhist hermit tradition.

Amongst White Clouds is a look at the lives of zealot students, gaunt ascetics and wise masters living in isolated hermitages dotting the peaks and valleys of China’s Zhongnan Mountain range. The Zhongnan Mountains have been home to recluses since the time of the Yellow Emperor, some five thousand years ago.

Many of China’s most realized Buddhist masters attained enlightenment in this very range! And now? It is widely thought that this tradition was all but wiped out by the twists and turns of history. Amongst White Clouds shows us this is not the case.

One of only a few foreigners to have lived and studied with these hidden sages, Burger reveals to us their tradition, their wisdom, and the hardship and joy of their everyday lives.

With both humor and compassion, these inspiring and warm-hearted characters challenge us to join them in an exploration of our own suffering and enlightenment in this modern world. (Excerpt from]


Or view the video on the server at:



**Other works by Bill Porter from Wikipedia

  • P’u Ming’s Oxherding Pictures and Verses Empty Bowl, 1983. (translator)
  • Cold Mountain Poems Copper Canyon Press, 1983. (translator)
  • Mountain Poems of Stonehouse Empty Bowl, 1985. (translator)
  • The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma Empty Bowl, 1987; North Point Press, 1989. (translator)
  • Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits Mercury House, 1993. (author)
  • Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom by Sung Po-jen. Mercury House, 1995. (translator)
  • Lao-tzu’s Taoteching: with Selected Commentaries of the Past 2000 Years Mercury House, 1996. (translator and editor)
  • The Zen Works of Stonehouse: Poems and Talks of a Fourteenth-Century Chinese Hermit Mercury House, 1997. (translator)
  • The Clouds Should Know Me by Now: Buddhist Poet Monks of China Wisdom Publications, 1998. (editor, with Mike O’Connor; and contributing translator)
  • The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain Copper Canyon Press, 2000. (translator and editor)
  • Diamond Sutra Counterpoint, 2001 (translator and extensive commentary)
  • Poems of the Masters: China’s Classic Anthology of T’ang and Sung Dynasty Verse Copper Canyon Press, 2003. (translator)
  • The Heart Sutra: the Womb of Buddhas Washington: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2004. (translator with extensive commentary)
  • Zen Baggage: A Pilgrimage to China Counterpoint, 2008. (author)
  • In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu Copper Canyon Press, July 1, 2009. (translator). Awarded 2007 PEN Translation Fund Grant from PEN American Center. Winner of the American Literary Translators Association’s inaugural Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize in 2010.
  • Lao-tzu’s Taoteching: Translated by Red Pine with selected commentaries from the past 2000 years revised edition, Copper Canyon Press, 2009.
  • Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom by Sung Po-jen Copper Canyon Press, 2011 (translator)
  • The Lankavatara Sutra: Translation and Commentary Counterpoint, 2012, (translator)
  • The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse Copper Canyon Press, 2014, (translator)
  • Yellow River Odyssey Chin Music Press 2014 ISBN 0988769301


Spiritual ‘Food’ for thought – Dorje Shugden people


My dearest friends around the world,


What is your opinion:

Do you think we should segregate other people due to their economic class, color, gender, religious belief or lack of it, sexual orientation and culture? Should humans be judged on their preference as oppose to who they are inside? Do you think some are superior and others are inferior?


If someone practices Dorje Shugden and they are not harming anyone or wish to harm anyone and it’s their private practice, should we disassociate from them?

1. Should we stop eating with them?

2. Not meet them anymore?

3. Not speak to them?

4. Hurl abuses towards them?

5. Call them derogatory names and segregate them? Call them liars, cheats and demon worshippers?

6. Should they be removed from mainstream? Are they inferior to others? How should they be treated and why?

7. Should they be disallowed to attend our schools, hospitals, public gatherings, meetings, social events and so on? Become second class citizens like the black people who were enslaved prior to emancipation?

8. If they are our spouse, should we divorce them?

9. If they are our family members, should we stop talking with them or even disown them?

10. If they are our students, should we turn them away?

11. If they are our gurus/teachers, shall we forget all the kindness they have given us in help, teachings, advice, gifts, divinations, pujas and prayers and turn them out?

12. Shall we be forced to choose a non-Shugden teacher over a Shugden practicing teacher?

13. If a teacher practices Shugden, does all his decades of study, meditation, purity in vows, vinaya purity and compassion all do not count and he should be ex-communicated?

14. Shall we disparage temples and places of worship because they practice Shugden?

15. Shall we perhaps lock them up, spit on them and never speak to them again since they are such “sinners”? (I’m not advocating to lock them up, spit or abuse them-it’s hypothetical only)

16. Shall we unfriend them on all social media?

17. Shall we ignore who they are and what they are and what accomplishments they have just because of their belief in Shugden?

18. So we should not be friends or associated with anyone who does this practice because it makes us impure, unclean, unattained and imperfect?

19. When our individual teachers teach us to disassociate and cut off any ties from Shugden practicing people, does this make this teacher compassionate, tolerant and kind? Is this the work of a Buddhist master who alienates, segregates and creates prejudice against others due to their faith, religious belief or beliefs?


20. Around 50 years ago in the USA, it was illegal for a Caucasian to marry a person of color or outside his race. Everyone believed this and enforced this law. It was to keep racial ‘purity’. Meaning all other races besides Caucasians are inferior and should not mix with them? Do you agree with this? And that goes for their religion. Those in USA who were not perhaps Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran or Catholic are impure and going to hell. In other words, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Taoists, Shintoists, Hindus are all impure and going to hell. And they have to be converted? Those beliefs were very strong and practiced by the majority in USA and perhaps Europe. Do you agree with this?

21. People who practice Witchcraft, Voodoo, Nature spirits, Native American religions, Druid, Shamanistic faiths are not pure and should be burned at the stake? Do you believe these people should be ostracized, biased, segregated, converted and if they don’t agree burn them at the stake? Or do you think we should respect them and embrace their other qualities that a good human can have such as compassion, generosity, intelligence, kindness, etc? Do you think we should condemn them just because their faith is not the same as ours or our spiritual leaders condemn them? Because there was a time not far back in the USA and Europe these religions were not respected and even against the law. Those who practiced them should be segregated and burned at the stake. Thousands of people in Europe and America were tortured and burned because of their ‘deviant’ spiritual beliefs. Shall we do that to all the people who believe in Dorje Shugden or respect them, love them and treat them equally as human beings with many facets to them besides their religious beliefs? Should we cooperate with religious teachers who teach us hatred, segregation and intolerance? Does it matter what another person’s religious beliefs are in order to treat them equally and kindly?

22. If they need medical, psychological or physical assistance, should we deny to them because they practice Shugden?

23. If someone is of a different sexual orientation, should they be segregated, make laws against them and abuse them because they are sub-human? Many people and countries did that in the past and is that correct and they should be discriminated because they are different? Shall we do the same for Shugden people?

24. If they are elderly and need assistance, shall we abandon them because they practice Shugden?

25. Shall we hurl stones at them; kick them out of our towns, villages and neighborhoods because they practice Shugden?

26. Should they perhaps totally leave planet earth and find a way to Mars and stay there so they don’t contaminate earth, our waters, forest and environments? How far should we go in segregating Dorje Shugden people? Where does this segregation stop? Or should we segregate them at all?

27. If we are Buddhists, the core teachings especially Lojong by the great Kadampa masters, Shantideva, Shantarakshita, Atisha, Guru Rinpoche and Tsongkhapa taught us to practice Tong-Leng or taking upon ourselves the sufferings of others and that is our main practice. How does segregating others due to their color, gender, religious orientation, sexual preferences, culture and social-economic status help in our development of altruism, compassion and ultimately Buddhahood.

28. If a certain race, group of people are discriminated against, should they take the discrimination or peacefully protest? For example, if all people who practice voodoo, cannot enter restaurants, hospitals and schools because they are ‘evil’, is that ok? Or not? If  you are a beautiful person of color but not allowed in a all White Restaurant, is that ok? Since the prevailing belief at that time is White supremacy? Let the person who doesn’t believe in what we believe just die and not enter our hospitals?

29. If a powerful religious or secular leader does not agree with your religious beliefs or forms of worship, is it ok for them to ‘express’  their freedom of speech and at every public event by degrading your faith? In turn, creating others to turn against you just for your faith?  Your belief system or religion is ‘advised’ by these leaders and creates confusion and drama and pain, is that ok? Is it ok for the spiritual leaders, pope, bishops, monks, priests, sadhus, masters, gurus to publicly denounce someone’s faith, religious preference and spiritual practice when it’s different than theirs? Or they should show compassion and welcome all because they are human and deserve acceptance? Is that wise to do in today’s world or does that create bias, segregation and perhaps disharmony?

30. Who in leadership is allowed to label a religion pure and another spirit worship? Didn’t early America label witchcraft evil and practitioners should be burned? Should we allow this again today? That certain leaders have all the power to eradicate or condone a certain faith?

31. IMPORTANT-If a Dorje Shugden practitioner approached Lord Buddha, Guru Rinpoche or Lord Tsongkhapa would these great beings tell them to go away? Tell them they are ruining their samaya, or they are unfit and unclean? Can our samayas be so delicate and easily corrupted just because we associate with Dorje Shugden people? Would these great beings show them hostility, hatred and hurl abuses? Or would they show equal compassion to them as any other beings that approached them? Would Buddha tell a Dorje Shugden practitioner to go away?

Can anyone honestly answer these questions after some deep contemplation? How far should we segregate another person based on race, gender, social economic background, class, sexual preference and spiritual belief? Or should we NEVER segregate anyone based on these mentioned qualities. Shall we just love and accept all no matter who they are and what they believe? Shall abuse Dorje Shugden practitioners because a mystical lama said we should and abuse them daily on the internet? Is that compassion? Is that the religion we follow? Is this not the age of science and ‘enlightenment’ or dark ages?

How far shall we segregate Dorje Shugden practitioners? What is the limit? They won’t surrender their beliefs and the other half will not also? So what’s the solution? Get rid of all of them?  How much abuse shall we hurl at Shugden believers just because they believe in Shugden? Shall we hurl abuses at people different than our skin color, culture, economic class and preferences? How far shall we go with that?  How much more vulgarities is enough? How much more negative name calling to Shugden people would make us feel better about who we are? Does putting another person down make us better or closer to enlightenment? Shall we wake up daily for the rest of our lives hurling abuses against people who prefer to be different than us? Maybe just send them away to an island, Mars or out of our sight? Shugden people are not people? They should be abused?

I do not mean offense to anyone with these questions but have observed this happening in today’s environment and was thinking deeper to myself. What do you think? Shall we abuse or segregate anyone or be kind to all?

Tsem Rinpoche

Are You Secular Or Spiritual? HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche

Sometimes I read online people who criticize Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and other great beings and then on another breath they are all spiritual and talking about initiations and practices the Dalai Lama is giving… and the teachings and transmissions, and how holy, fortunate and lucky they are to get these teachings. Great, so if the teachings are so holy, practice and be holy. On the other breath, they are saying how negative, bad and harmful Geshe Kelsang Gyatso or another lama is, and I think we are getting secular and spiritual mixed up here. If we have joined Geshe Kelsang and we have felt that we have been wronged by him or his organization and there is something to be done about it, do something about it. And if we are psychologically damaged from it then go and get professional help, if that is really the case. But to go online constantly bickering and complaining and talk and bad-mouth Geshe Kelsang and his group will not change Geshe Kelsang or the group or change any of the situation and definitely won’t help yourself.  That is secular. Geshe Kelsang being the spiritual teacher of hundreds of centres and thousands of students around the world is bound to attract all types of ‘interesting’ characters with various motives and agendas. So I am not surprised when people criticize an erudite master like him or leave him. With the ratio of thousands of students, of course there will be a higher ratio of people who might find fault and criticize. All famous people experience this. In Gaden I have seen a few monks criticize their teachers to the shock of everyone. Most do not and dare not understand the tantric codes and refuge vows. Because Gaden is such a huge place and thousands of monks, you are bound to have unhappy people, some dropouts or people who will blame the lama or Gaden for their failings. Many people cannot look within and have to blame. Yes sometimes the blame is justified, but look, the bottom line is this, writing about it incessantly and talking to others who are not qualified to counsel you constantly gets you nowhere. Revenge tactics only increase your hatred and invite more and more negative energy to your doorstep. All actions have results in one way or another.

On a spiritual level, if Geshe Kelsang was your teacher and you see faults and negative things and you criticize him and you say negative things about him all the time and suddenly you find His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to be your new guru or somebody else to be your new guru, no matter how much you follow that new guru, the negative thoughts you have on your old guru will prevent realizations from arising in the teachings you receive from the new guru. Why? Because in Ashvagosha’s teachings on guru devotion, Fifty Verses Of Guru Devotion, it says very clearly  if we have negative thoughts, wrong thoughts and show disrespect or lost faith in our teacher, without purifying that karma and purifying that relationship, and we go to another teacher, no matter how much we practice, study and meditate we will gain no attainments. Whether the previous teacher was wrong or right is not the issue. The issue is to let go, the issue is to forgive the situation and make amends. Don’t speak ill.

Powerful attainments follow from (doing what) your guru (likes).” This has been said by (the Buddha) Vajradhara himself. Knowing this, try to please your guru fully with all the actions (of your body, speech and mind)
Ashvagosha, 50 Verses of Guru Devotion

Sometimes we really don’t have karma with a certain lama and we have to leave. But leaving doesn’t mean having to criticize them in order to justify our leaving or to make our leaving right. The West has a very strong culture of exposing the wrong, and talking about the wrong openly and helping other people to prevent the wrong by talking about it. That’s all good and well. But that’s secular again.  So are we following the secular side or are we following the spiritual side? The spiritual side of the coin is if we say negative things about our lama, and constantly talk negative things about the lama and his organization and what our lama is doing; then whatever new lama we go to and the teachings we get, we will gain no attainments according to the great pandit Ashvagosha.

In the tantric teachings, it says the same thing by Vajradhara. So no matter how erudite our new lama is and how great our new lama is, as long as we have negative views of our previous lama and keep speaking negative things about our previous lama that we have left or abandoned, we will gain no realizations from the new lama. That is according to tantra by Vajradhara. This is on the spiritual side.

On the secular side, if we talk about what a certain lama has done to us and certain organization has done to us… very simple, go get help if what you claim is true and so disturbing. Speaking about it and having a few people talk about it back and forth is not going to help us at all.  Who is interested? Why so obsessed? At the same time, if they have really done us some harm, talk with the law, talk with the authorities, get it straightened out and get compensation. But if you are not willing, unable, or cannot do that, then maybe there is something fundamentally wrong with what you are doing and your approach. So therefore I think it’s very important that we have to pick a secular side or we have to pick a spiritual side. We don’t flip back and forth at our convenience. To praise our new lama from here to high water and immediately in the same breath criticize our previous lamas will not serve us or anyone in anyway. It will only serve to make keep breaking our refuge precepts.

If we pick the secular side to explain why we dislike a certain lama and his organization and we ramble about it on and on; then go all the way with the secular side. If we are going with the spiritual side, then go all the way with the spiritual side.  We don’t use the secular side to justify our ramblings against a lama and then use the spiritual side to uplift our new lama, what you are doing with them, your faith, practice and new-found spirituality. Because then we are just using secular and spiritual back and forth, for our own convenience. I find that quite contradictory and quite damaging to one’s spiritual practice. So I thinks that’s very very important to understand and learn.

Are there lamas who abuse their positions… what they have done? Perhaps there are, but if that is really the case, then seek compensation through the law and stop talking about it incessantly over and over because it doesn’t make us a better person, it just makes us look obsessed, petty and… in fact, makes us look not all that well up there. That’s my thinking. I could be wrong. But my point is simple. Are you going to view your relationship with your teacher through a secular eye or spiritual eye. If secular, you are disqualified from practicing tantra. If spiritual you are disqualified from secular methods to disparage any lama.

Tsem Rinpoche


Milarepa’s story is a good example for all students to learn more about the importance of Guru- Disciple relationship

I will not be pulled into conflict – HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche


Some people think if they trust Trijang Rinpoche they are against H.H. Dalai Lama. Some people think if they have faith in H.H. Dalai Lama which they should, they cannot accept Trijang Rinpoche. That is wrong view. Certainly H.H. Dalai Lama is a high incarnation, highly attained and one of the greatest scholars of Buddhism in this world. He really practiced the sacred teachings and became attained…lifetimes ago and incarnate to benefit others. But His Holiness the Dalai Lama was not the only one. Many great beings male and female, high and ‘low’ practiced and became highly attained. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche was one of these. One highly attained being cannot be better than another one. It’s just how they manifest. Highly attained beings all should be respected and they can manifest as Kings, Queens, ministers, generals, homeless, monks, nuns, scholars, bridges, animals, animate and inanimate beings. Never limit the abilities of enlightened Ones. Therefore we can respect and have faith in both Trijang Rinpoche and H.H. the Dalai Lama. I do. I do not see conflict.

Sometimes enlightened beings can manifest ‘conflict’ for a higher purpose, the great senior monks of Gaden used to relay to me. I respect all lamas. These are my views. You may have your own and I respect it, but respect my views too. I’ve always for the last 30 years had natural spontaneous faith in H.H. the Dalai Lama. When I first saw a picture of Trijang Rinpoche in Howell, New Jersey, I spontaneously cried from deep natural faith. It still happens now. Whenever I read about His Holiness, I also gained greater faith. It’s from inside of me. Some people say my faith in these beings are ‘questionable’. But you know what, that is their own opinion. They don’t know me. Nor have ever met me.

I do not need to agree to everything these higher beings may share, but that is my level. But I respect all great beings and not say negatives. Just do our practice. Gain compassion. Gain wisdom. Gain tolerance. Bring peace to everyone and everywhere we go and don’t create conflict. This is important. We may speak up or ‘fight’ for our views and rights, but do it in a way that gives honor to our practice and what it stands for.

Tsem Rinpoche

P.S. For me I make no distinctions between any lamas and their views. Each lama has their way to guide their students to enlightenment. Hence 84,000 teachings by the Sage Shakyamuni the Conqueror. So we should never get into conflicts and criticize this or that lama. In Buddhism we are suppose to be kind to even ghosts, beggars, thieves, snakes and all sentient beings. All deserve compassion. So the least we can do is refrain from negativities. Our job in dharma is not to find who is right or wrong in others, but to find who is suitable for us and respect all other teachers, traditions and their methods. I will never go against any lama or be pulled into criticizing anyone. I have my practice from Kyabje Zong Rinpoche which some may like and some may not, but it suits me and I will continue. I will never give up any practice my guru gave me 31 years ago. No other guru or student will convince me otherwise. I have examined Zong Rinpoche and his teachings in terms of suitability for me and how they helped in my life to become a better person and that is good enough for me. I remain firm and loyal to my teacher/lineage and practice while respecting everyone else’s. I respect all and will continue to. My job in this life is to create peace, compassion and tolerance in my mind and hopefully affect the environment around me to be happy. I have a long way to go, but I will get there. Thank you very much.

I personally really feel warm to see this picture. It is His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche bestowing a set of initiations to His Holiness the young 14th Dalai Lama. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche had conferred teachings, oral transmissions, commentaries and vast corpus of Dharma to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for over thirty years. This teacher and disciple relationship is sacred and should be respected in Tibetan form of Buddhism. Especially in Tantra where attainments are fully dependent on our respect and trust in our teachers and to never blame, begrudge or abandon him or his teachings. We should never listen to the negative talks of others about our teachers and what he kindly bestowed upon us. If by karma we find it hard to be with a teacher, respectfully ask to be excused but never criticize or justify it publicly or privately. It will not help your mind, the minds of others and our spiritual development.

Sometimes we can have two teachers that manifest opposing views. We can choose the view we find suitable to us and not criticize the other ‘opposing’ view. Dharma is individual. This is especially important for students who have received teachings, practices and initiations from various teachers who have manifested ‘opposing’ views like I have. Which teacher to choose? Our job is not find right or wrong, but to practice the best we can to be a beneficial person in society. Our practice and behavior will show the wisdom of our teacher through us.  We choose the teachings that suit us and still respect the teachers who shows ‘opposing’ views. I have teachers who have opposing views of different spiritual practices, so my views have to suit those in the same situation. I am not allowed to choose or have that option so please understand. I have to respect all my teachers. All fifteen of them. You may not be in this situation, but I am. In Gaden, we had to go to various teachers for teachings. That is my humble opinion.

I often get criticized for picking one teacher’s views instead of another. Or coerced to choose. I have teachers who have manifested conflicting views and I have to find a way to come to terms with it peacefully and respectfully. But I know my Dharma enough and I choose the teacher that has impacted a great change in my life. I do not follow teachers because they are famous, well known, wealthy, have many followers or influential.  This does not affect my decision alone. Many great lamas had teachers who were simple hermits in caves and in reliance on their teachers, they gained liberation. Read the stories of the 84 Mahasiddhas. I follow the teacher who touches my heart and inspired me to change from a selfish, angry, intolerant and difficult person to be better. After all our actions create our karmas and their effects we dread. So if our actions change due to our mind, this is the kindness of the teacher and how he/she impacted our minds. Ultimately whatever the views of the teacher, he/she has changed my mind to look within and to change from within. To this teacher I owe everything especially my transformations. I don’t care what this teacher prayed to, practiced or not practiced, liked or disliked or still doing. I don’t care if my teacher prays to a tree believing it is Manjushri. I will not criticize any teacher and I will never abandon my teacher who showed me that being tolerant, compassionate and working for others is the true meaning of my life.  True spirituality is tolerance, forgiveness, kindness and compassion in action. I am far from it, but I am inspired enough to keep practicing until I achieve these qualities.  I thank and bow to my teachers eternally. All of them. I do not see or get involved with conflict. I respect all teachers who train their students with utmost compassion and in the best circumstances they can. I will not point fingers and say this teacher or that teacher is good, bad, wrong, right or whatever. I am not the judge, jury and executioner of any teacher or tradition or practice, but a humble, simple and afflicted denizen of samsara doing my best. We only can decide for ourselves which teacher is right for us and no one else can decide for us.

Good luck everyone!

Tsem Rinpoche



A Gift from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche to HE Tsem Tulku Rinpoche

In the 70′s, when I came across Buddhism, there were books and there were items that were translated and some of them were quite good. But there was not a lot. And, if you want to study what the monastic system study, it was very difficult to find translations. And if you did find translations, they were very technical and dry and if I may say quite boring.

Decades ago, I came across some books by His Eminence Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and I read through them. I found the books systematic, easy to understand, orderly, based on scriptures, translated in the highest caliber into the English language, yet understandable, and very accurate to the translation of the original scriptures that they came from. And I was totally amazed, overwhelmed and over taken by such beautifully packaged books with wonderful illustrations, good accurate information, excellent translation; that I can actually trust and believe, and know that they are accurate from the original source.

In Buddhism, it’s very important that we practice from an original source with a lineage. A lineage meaning it came from a qualified teacher, from another qualified teachers, that traces back to one of the great Indian pandits, Mahasiddhas, masters, Tsongkhapa or even the Buddha himself. So, within the Buddhist tradition, especially within the tradition of Lama Tsongkhapa; having visions and writing down the teachings is possible, finding ‘termas’ or hidden treasures in the landscape is possible… but it is not highly encouraged. Why is that? We do have visionaries, and psychic people and powerful people and attained people, who can receive teachings from supernatural beings such as Manjushri directly. We do have people who have visions of teachings, special practices buried under the earth or water, in rocks and trees and have appeared at the right time. We do have people who can find teachings that were stored away for a future time. Definitely there are people like that with exceptional powers, developed from single pointed meditation. Definitely.

But from an ordinary point of view, such as myself, being an ordinary person, I can’t tell if that person is highly attained or if that person is not highly attained. So if they both came to me and say, “ Well, I receive these teachings from the nagas, I received these teachings from Manjushri, I receive teachings from a vision”… I don’t know if what they saw or what they thought they saw was real or not. Therefore, I kind of have doubt whether their teachings are going to be accurate for lack of a better word.

Therefore, there are definitely highly attained masters who do have visions, who can see ethereal beings, and supernatural beings and receive teachings, receive lineages, receive practices; such as the great master from India, Guru Rinpoche or otherwise known as Padmasambhava, who had many visions, and who planted and discovered secret teachings… Who proliferated many, many different practices he has received from ethereal or supernatural beings. Similarly, you have the same in Atisha, you have the same in Lama Tsongkhapa, and you have the same in many great masters of the past and present day such as His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and so on.

But, if everyone was to rely on teachings that specifically came from a source that’s untraceable except to the author, then sometimes charlatans may arise. And when charlatans arise, that is when the degeneration of the teachings set in. When the teachings degenerate, they are not able to produce attained states of mind in our mind-stream. So therefore receiving a teaching, practice, transmission, initiation or permission from a living master, who has received it from source quoted to you (from another living master and so on), then the blessings and the teachings, and the potency of the teachings are alive in your mind-stream. Therefore when you practice, you can gain powerful transformation and attainments.

Therefore, lineage is very important in that sense as it must be genuine, and must be stated. Within the Lama Tsongkhapa tradition – the Gelugpa, when teachers give a teaching, they quote the source, where it comes from and when they got it. Because the teacher can’t simply say to you, “Well, I received this from Manjushri, and guess what? You’re just going to believe me.” Well, there are teachers of that caliber who can say, “I received it from Manjushri” and I think a lot of us will believe it. But there are people out there that if they say they received it from Manjushri, we will say, “Oh, okay. Good for you.” Because I’m an ordinary being, I can’t judge who is attained and who is not attained, and I presume not to judge. Therefore, I rather hear that they have a source, they have a lineage, they have a practice, where they got it from… Then it’s much more reliable.

For example, if you’re going to go to a doctor and he is going to give you a special diet. And he says it comes from this lab, research was done here, this is the amount of nutrition you need, this is the amount of vitamins you need, this is the amount of minerals you need, the studies have proven this and we’ve done it over this amount of years, and here’s the certified authenticated results. Then, you’ll have more confidence about what he is prescribing to you. But if the doctor says, “Well, my daughter kind of met this healing nature god and he gave it to her, and she gave it to me, and here it’s going to work for you.” Well I’m going to be a little doubtful. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. But I’m not sure.

So for me, I’m not into supernatural and I’m not really into magic and mystery and all that although it exists, because I don’t have powers. But, if the teacher says to me, the source is here, it came from here, I received it from here, I practiced this, and these are the results. I’ll go, “Oh, thank you.” It’s kind of like the doctor telling you, they got this nutritional path for us to be healthier from this lab, from these studies. So it’s just safer. Having said that, if my root teacher whom I’ve connected with introduces me to something I will trust.

Now having said that, when I came across Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s books, I was just totally amazed at their accuracy, clarity, incredible consistency and especially its progression, meaning from steps A to Z. When you read these books, nothing of Geshe’s personal interpretation is in there, it’s pretty much according to the scriptures if you can read Tibetan. There are some exceptions when he puts in examples here and there to help elucidate what’s there, but the actual body of the text and the meat and the bones, are very accurate. And I was amazed because I had problems learning Tibetan, reading Tibetan and I actually do not prefer to study in Tibetan. I prefer to study in English for whatever karmic reason there is in that. So when I read Geshela’s books and commentaries, they really illuminated my world, they really gave me a lot of knowledge, they really opened me up to so much more in Dharma.

And I remember 20 years back when I was giving teachings to people, I would actually use some of Geshela’s books as the basis of my teachings. People said that it was helpful and beneficial… In fact, it was helpful for me! So therefore I have always admired the knowledge this great master has and the knowledge that he passed to his students, to be able to translate these and make these teachings available to the world. I have always been in great admiration for Geshela’s scholarship, his knowledge, and erudite preciseness in training his students to produce these types of books and teachings that have been so beneficial for so many people around the world.

My admiration grew for Geshela from these books. In the past I have personally purchased hundreds of these book, hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, and passed it to people, offered it to people and giving it to people as guidelines of certain practices. They have been very beneficial. For example, Geshela’s tantric text on Heruka and Vajrayogini are absolutely priceless. One of my favourite books is ‘Understanding Your Mind‘ by Geshela… that’s really one of my favourites. And I think one book that really changed my mind to develop and gear myself more towards the development of compassion was Geshela’s translation of Shantideva’s text ‘The Bodhisattva-charya-avatara‘ or Meaningful to Behold. That really affected me quite a lot when I read it, and it moved me very very much.

I have never had the honor or the privilege to meet Geshela or to have a conversation with him. But, I know from his books that he is a great master. And I don’t really care nor does it bother me whether he has the title of Geshe or not. Some people like to get into this kind of mini debate on whether he is a real Geshe or not a real Geshe. But having come from Gaden Monastery, I’ve met many monks that are older, who don’t have a Geshe title, who ran away before they finished the Geshe title, or not interested in Geshe title… They study, they learn, they absorb, and guess what… They are very knowledgeable and have a lot to transmit. So, whether they have a Geshe title or not, has never ever affected me and my trust in their knowledge. Because when you observe their actions for example, Geshela is a pure monk and holds his Vinaya vows, you know that renunciation has sunk into Geshela’s mind because he holds his monks vows purely. You just know that Geshela has spent his life teaching the Dharma and it has manifested in his centres, in his books, in his students, and in hundreds of centres around the world, as a sign of his great compassion, or the 2nd of the 3 principles of the path, Boddhicitta.

Geshela works tirelessly for others… from what I have read, seen and observed; is to be a benefit to others, to be of help to others, to bring people onto the path, especially Lama Tsongkhapa’s path. He has spent his whole life doing that from a very young age of learning, contemplation study and then later, teaching and being the living embodiment of the teachings, a living example. So therefore, by seeing him living his life in Dharma and not attracted to the ” delights” of Samsara, you can see that Geshela has achieved some sort of Emptiness if I may respectfully say so. So for any practice especially a prelude to tantra or for tantra, we need to have actualized the Three Principal Paths, which is Renunciation, Boddhicitta and Emptiness. And therefore when you have observed Geshela’s life, his works, his focus and his results; you can see he has achieved the Three Principal Paths, which is a prelude or a prerequisite or necessity for tantric practice. So, to me, it doesn’t matter if this person has a Geshe’s name or not. I have met many many teachers in Gaden, Sera and Drepung Monasteries who do not have the Geshe name, title or certificate, yet many people went to them for teachings, many people went to them for advise, many people went to them for divination and many went to them for clarification of the scriptures because they have knowledge. Milarepa was never a Geshe, he was a layperson, with long hair, wearing white robes, committed a lot of negativities, received some dharma from his teacher, went to meditate and become an enlightened Buddha. The line of Karmapas are not Geshes. Then you have many types of masters, who are not Geshes but have great knowledge.

This is not to say Geshela is not a Geshe, this is to say titles do not bother me at all. So therefore, from Geshela’s works, and from Geshela’s results, and lifetime of dedicating himself to learning, study, contemplation, practice and therefore turning the wheel of Dharma and teaching… he has the results. His centres are flourishing, he has brought thousands onto the path of Dharma, he holds his vows clearly according to the Vinaya and his books are a resource for hundreds and thousands people around the world as it has been for me. So for many years I have been a long distance admirer of H.E Geshe Kelsang Gyatso because of all the qualities that I have mentioned. I do not know if in this life I will have the fortune to meet him and to receive his blessings or to speak with him, but I hope I do one day because he is an inspiration to me.

What Geshela’s personal views are on his practice, his Dharma protector, his lineage, and even perhaps some of his secular views, are not my concern. Geshela does many activities that I do not understand or fully fathom but I am not here to judge. So therefore there are people who criticize and say good things and bad things about Geshela, but it doesn’t affect me, because I have my own eyes and my own ears and my own comprehension to understand Geshela. I’m not presuming I do understand him, I’m just saying that from an outward view, he shows signs of a qualified spiritual master of the highest caliber. He has spent his whole life as a pure monk, he has followed his guru with great devotion as you can see his books he always mentions his Guru, H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has done nothing wrong because he is loyal to his teacher and the practices his teachers have entrusted to him. We all have to be loyal to our teachers. Being loyal to one teacher does not mean we need to damage another teacher. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso teaches the Dharma tirelessly, he and his students open many centres with so much efforts, they do retreats, they do practices, he has trained them up to give initiations, oral transmissions and commentaries. He spent his life in practicing, teaching the Dharma, and contemplating the Dharma. His only so called ” fault ” imputed by others is his view on his Dharma protector and his unwillingness to not release the practice of his Dharma protector because of his commitment to his root guru. I don’t see any fault in that, and I think that if Geshela does nine excellent things and one thing we don’t agree with, perhaps we don’t make an enemy of him, label him an enemy or label him something negative just because of that one facet that we don’t agree with. There are many other facets that we can look at. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso does not need to be degraded or shunned just because he chooses to be loyal to his teacher, lineage, practice and so on. If we make him out to be some sort of negative being, that is our problem.

Recently, I was very honoured to receive a letter from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and accompanied by a gift of Green Tara. I was very surprised, privileged, moved and touched. I wanted to blog about it and I didn’t have time till now. What I wanted to say to Geshela was to thank him, for his blessings to a junior monk, from a senior monk. I wanted to thank him for such a precious gift which I will treasure and I have already encased it and placed it on the altar in my centre so that everybody may get a blessing from this Tara image that Geshela has so kindly given to me.

In the Buddhist tradition, older monk with or without titles matter not. They can be called Rinpoche, Dorje Chang, Mahasiddha, Geshela or just Bikkshu (meaning old monk), it doesn’t matter what their title is. The fact that they are holding their Vinaya vows and they have held it for decades upon decades purely, the secret here is “purely”, that they are filled with blessings, they are the pure sangha, they are filled with inspiration, they are filled with the results of practicing a whole life time of Lord Buddha’s teachings. So therefore, such a being who holds the Vinaya well, practices the teachings and embodies what the Buddha has taught us by deed, action, and results… he is someone very blessed and very holy. If they were to touch an object and give it to you, it is a blessed object. If they were to blow on some water and give it to you, it’s a blessed water to drink that heals and if they were to give you a gift such as I received a Tara from Geshela, it’s considered extra blessings, extra special. I’m not attached to Tara as an object, I’m not attached to the object that we have labeled Tara… What I am in awe of, is a senior monk passing the blessings to a younger monk, myself, that I may aspire to be someone who practices the Three Principal Paths, mind training, master the sutras and tantras and be able to turn the wheel of Dharma for the many others. So here I enclosed a picture of the beautiful Tara that Geshela has granted me, and also a letter from himself, which I appreciate very much. I realised perhaps by blogging this about Geshela, and expressing my admiration, I may create some consternation in certain peoples’ minds, I do not wish to create any consternation or any unhappiness but I think I have the right to admire who I want, and I think on my personal blog which is my personal space, which is visited by people who are okay with my views, I have the right to blog and write about who I want.

A precious Green Tara from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso presented to myself. Thank you so much. This statue was produced by Geshe Kelsang’s Dharma Organisation, the New Kadampa Tradition. I am amazed by it’s beauty and perfect workmanship.