Thursday, June 29, 2006

Introducing Jigme Trinley Ozer Rinpoche

Welcome to this blog. It will feature information, biography and photos of Jigme Trinley Ozer Rinpoche, a mind emanation of Paltrul Rinpoche, who lives in Kham.

The Story of how I met Jigme Trinley Ozer Rinpoche

In 1991, I was living in New York City and knew very little about Buddhism. But I had heard about a meditation the Dalai Lama was leading at 6 am in Central Park so I hopped in a taxi and went. Then, I became curious. For the next 6 months, I went to a small Karma Kagyu center in Manhattan to learn how to meditate but when it came to actually taking refuge, I said, “I’m Jewish; no way can I do this.” Then 5 years later I moved to Los Angeles and started studying Vipassana in Joshua Tree desert with Ruth Denison. She was such a good teacher for developing concentration and mindfulness to the body and emotions. In 1998, while doing my graduate work in fine arts, I received a travel grant to China, to seek out throat singing in the Xinjiang province, in a remote region of the Altai Mountains. On my way back to Beijing, I went to many different Buddhist pilgrimage sights and stopped in Xiahe. It was there that I met (separately) an American nun named Ani Lodro Palmo (who was ordained by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche) and a Rinpoche named Jigme Trinley Ozer. He was visiting some students there.

I was only planning to stay in Xiahe one night and instead stayed almost a week. The morning after I arrived, I left my hotel room to wander into the village. It was quiet and I had two distinct thoughts, 'I want breakfast' and 'wouldn't it be nice to meet a Tibetan family, see what it's like inside one of these village dwellings?'. Within a minute of hearing my own words rattling about my head, a lovely young Tibetan woman appeared on the balcony of one dwelling. I looked up at her and she smiled and waved back at me and then with her hand, motioned for me to come closer. Pretty soon, she was opening the front door and ushering me up the stairs. I was welcomed into this house and an old man came to greet me. He invited me to sit in a chair and offered me butter tea and bread (breakfast!!). Then he pulled out a very very small notebook with handwritten English words in it. He spoke no English but went through the book and came to the word, 'sage'.

I smiled at him and pointed "sage, you???". He shook his head at me, motiong, “no, no”. And then he got up from his chair and wanted me to follow him. He opened a door and
moved me inside this smaller room where sat on a modest throne a youngish quite robust
Lama. (Approximately 30 years old at the time) The room had thangkas, lots of photos and a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He apparently was a regular visitor to this household but normally lived with his monks and nuns out in the countryside, approximately 12 hours journey away by car.

We then sat in what was almost comedic display of trying to communicate - him with another small handwritten dictionary of English words and some hand signing. We somehow managed to figure out with each other enough another meeting a few days later where I was to be accompanied by a translator. And that was it.

Finally, really unsure if this lama would still be there or why he would be, I took a young Tibetan translator I had found to help me. Re-entering this house, this Lama was indeed there, waiting for me. Pointing to his wristwatch, his first words to me were “you're late” which I truly was and which is an unfortunate habit of mine. For the next 3 hours, we sat together, had tea and he gave me a teaching on the Four Noble truths as well as the Guru Rinpoche mantra. He also wanted to know more about the West; it felt very foreign and far away to him, notions of individuality, strife in the family, self-loathing (all things I'm very familiar with from my background).

It was an amazing heart opening experience and at that point, traveling back to Langzhou with Ani Lodro Palmo, I felt as if I had been hit on the head with a frying pan – so now, Julie, have you gotten the message? Time to wake up and practice!!! Ding!

I also carried a letter of introduction written by Jigme Trinley Ozer Rinpoche back to the West and it was suggested I present it to someone like Lama Tarchin Rinpoche but when I tried, Lama Tarchin was in retreat. Then I got some help to write back to this Lama but never heard from him again. And then life took over and in some ways I forgot about this 'lama from afar'.

But the inspiration of this trip propelled me to work for the World Festival of Sacred Music in 1999 in Los Angeles which was based on His Holiness’ initiative. And I was able to attend His Holiness’ teachings in Pasadena. From that point on, I have been to his teachings every year and in 2002, I went to India and visited Sera Mey and Drepung Gomang monasteries in the South; I attended the Kalachakra in Bodhgaya. Then in August 2004, I got a strong feeling that I should include Guru Rinpoche in my practices (which were at that time primarily Gelukpa). I found myself again wondering about this Lama and if I had lost touch permanently. I felt so grateful even to that brief interlude in time and our meeting so I found someone here to help me write a letter and I adjusted the address slightly and within weeks of my sending the letter back to China I received a response from this Rinpoche by email and that was back in Feb. 2005. He invited me to come visit him and so miraculously, I was able to stop in China on my way back from India last August (2005).

When I arrived in Chengdu, he met me there and then took me out to the countryside, incredibly beautiful and pristine, about 10 hours north (past Kang Ding) I spent about 5 days out there near Garze and tried to communicate. I did have the help of a young woman (Drontso) who wasn't bad with English but wasn't great either in terms of communicating the dharma back and forth. We basically entertained colloquial communiques – “no I don't eat meat, yes tea please, how about some vegetable momos?...etc.” This Lama did however get the message across that he would like financial help for his monasteries (he has 4 with approximately 200-300 monks/nuns per each) around Kham and Amdo. He also has an interest in visiting the West. As far as I know, I'm one of the only Westerner if not the only one he has encountered so far. He does have some dedicated Chinese students located in Guanzhou and in Beijing. I met a couple of them. And he seems to travel around China teaching. I told him that in order for me to think of helping him and how, I'd need to know more about him so others could as well. I tried to make him understand that in the West, people need 'resumes' of the lamas to legitimize them where as in places like China, faith and devotion in the 'Living Buddhas' is fluid, not questioned.

So that is how come I now have this 10 page biography sitting here waiting to be exposed. From what I did gather, there were signs at the birth of this Rinpoche but his parents, being not only uneducated but unprepared for such things, did not recognize the signs. When Rinpoche was around 8, he started reading voraciously and became self-educated, so to speak. Apparently when he was 13, he was recognized by both Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche and Andzin Drupchen Rinpoche as an incarnation of Patrul Rinpoche. And then he was taken into the monastery for his education.

And the rest unfolds in the biography above, so beautifully written by one of Rinpoche’s students and then translated wonderfully by the amazing Vanessa Turner, a young vibrant and devoted student of the dharma in Los Angeles. Should you feel as inspired as I am about this story and this Rinpoche, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am looking into ways to help Rinpoche and his monks and nuns in his monasteries. I would also like to go back to visit with a proper translator, to survey more extensively what the needs are over there for his community. And eventually, I’d like to make arrangements for Rinpoche to come over to the West to give teachings. May all beings benefit by the kindness of their teachers and may the precious dharma be preserved and continue to flourish in the West for the sake of all beings.

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