What I Think of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama?
Some years back I gave a talk on my feelings about His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. This sharing was recorded and transcribed. The transcript of the video “What I Think of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama?” is here and I share with you. My gratitude towards His Holiness is beyond words as always.
(Transcribed by Daniel Kraepel)
Tibetans are old and ancient culture, and it is rich in language, dance, song, writing, arts and crafts. And it is a unique civilization, idolized and talked about and has always been very mysterious for people for many centuries. Today, in the general population of the world, if people associate Tibet, they automatically associate it with the Lamas, the Tibetan Masters, the Teachers and Saints and Ascetics, the Mahasiddhas, the great Monasteries such as Gaden and Drepung, Sera, Tashi Lhunpo, Gyuto, Gyume and they indelibly associate Tibet with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Tibet and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama are inseparable and very much connected. Due to the Tibetans moving to many parts of the world, to many countries and to different cultures, it is still known for its religion; it is still known for its ancient science of the mind, because Tibetans living in isolation for over a thousand years has its advantage and disadvantage. And I’d like to mention that the advantage was, because of its geographical isolation it was very much able to perfect all the teachings of the Lord Buddha from all forms, from Sutrayana and Tantrayana, completely; and Tibet has developed past and present and will develop many great erudite Masters and teachers. And Tibetan Buddhism is well known all over the world being embraced by thousands and thousands and thousands of people, yearly. And I heard it’s the fastest growing religion in the United States.
So therefore, there’s a reason for this. There are many reasons, but I’d like to mention some of the top reasons. The first time I met His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was in Howell, New Jersey, which is a couple of hours away from Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, and that’s where I grew up. And he came to the Mongolian, Kalmyck temple there called Rashi Gempil Ling. And the Abbot there was His Eminence, the great Sera Mey Abbot Emeritus Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin-la, who was an erudite Master, a great Abbot of Sera Mey Monastic University – a scholar, a practitioner, a living Yogi, whom when we stayed around him and observed him can find no faults whatsoever. I received my first teachings and my first practices all from this great Master… whose name I find very difficult to mention, whose kindness to me I can never forget. He was a Tibetan Master living among the Mongolians there, the Mongolians are known as Kalmycks and the adopted family that I lived with were Kalmycks, Kalmyck Mongolian people.
And so, they had a few temples there and one of the temples there was called Rashi Gempil Ling where they had a lot of images and statues and thangkas and very beautiful items that they had brought over from their homeland, which is a Russian Republic called Kalmykia. And these Kalmyck Mongolian people traveled over to the United States in World War 2 as refugees and reestablished their culture.
Rashi Gempil Ling, Nitsan and Tashi Lhunpo, there were 3 temples in that vicinity all belonging to the Kalmyck Mongols. And in North Jersey, in Washington, New Jersey there was Geshe Wangyal, a Mongolian scholar, Master-Geshe from Drepung. His meditational retreat center in Washington, New Jersey, who coincided together with our Master and invited His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit in Howell, New Jersey and Washington, New Jersey. Needless to say, it was one of the most incredible moments in my life. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. It was one of the most looked-for moments of my life; because I remember, although, I was eleven-years old, I was very, very excited and even when I think about it now, I’m very excited! His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a dream for all Mongolians to see his golden face just once. There’s a saying in Mongolian: To see the golden face of the Dalai Lama once before one passes away will ensure that one will not take rebirth in the three lower-realms. That is how much faith the Mongolian people have in him.
My mother’s heritage is Mongolian of the Torghut tribe. My father’s heritage is Tibetan from Golok, Tibet. And my father was a monk before, and he gave back his robes and he had a family and he resided in Taiwan. This is where I was born, I was born in Taiwan and then adopted over to the United States.
So, when we heard the announcement that His Holiness was coming it was incredible, it was just incredible! And lots of preparations. The Mongolians from the tri-state area which is Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey… all gathered to wait for the arrival of His Holiness. And I remember being tremendously excited! So, already a few weeks before we were set to meet His Holiness, I painted a picture of the Four-Armed-Avalokiteshvara. I painted it myself, I drew it, I painted it and on the back of this picture I wrote a prayer beseeching His Holiness to live long, that his activities would grow. And I composed a prayer with my own little child-like mind that I can never be separated from His Holiness in this life and in future lives. And what was incredible was when I prepared that, I prepared that gift because I was a kid, I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have anything else to prepare or to offer to His Holiness and I wanted to make a connection.
So, when His Holiness came we were so blessed, he came to Rashi Gempil Ling Temple and we all went to receive his blessings; it was so crowded, there were so many people, there were reporters, there were TV stations, it was just incredible! This was back in 1976, his first visit. After that His Holiness went to the north, to Washington, New Jersey where Geshe Wangyal the great Mongolian Master has a large retreat center and a large piece of land on a hill, because Washington, New Jersey is set at the tail-end of the Appalachian Mountains, which is the eastern chain of mountains of the United States. So, North Jersey was quite hilly, had waterfalls and very pleasant and very green and mountainous. So, his center was on a mountain with an artificial lake and Geshe Wangyal had a beautiful place set up for him and beautiful altar and a fabulous wonderful outdoor throne, dias and sitting area to receive His Holiness’s teachings. So, the Mongolians chartered three large buses and we all took a journey to Washington, New Jersey. I can’t remember, it was a few hours’ ride, 2-3 hours, because I was quite young around eleven, and we went up to Washington, New Jersey.
Just before His Holiness came out to sit on the throne, a very beautiful light rain appeared. And then a rainbow appeared, I was there. It was very bright and a rainbow appeared and then out came His Holiness walking past throngs of people… and wow, and we sat down, His Holiness sat down, and we prostrated and His Holiness proceeded to give us teachings on The Eight Verses Of Thought Transformation by Geshe Langri Tangpa. And it was the first time I ever heard of those teachings, but it made a tremendous impact on me. I revere His Holiness tremendously, and I’ve revered him and have great faith in His Holiness, my whole life even up to now.
So to receive The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, in my mind I thought he is Avalokiteshvara. Of course I can’t explain that to other people, or to the scientist or to the educated people, but that’s what I believe and I still believe that, that His Holiness is Avalokiteshvara. And I thought to receive teachings that are on mind transformation and changing of the mind, from Avalokiteshvara himself, how auspicious that is, I thought to myself.
And so, the teachings were about 3 to 3.5 hours. It was incredible, because we received all the teachings on The Eight Verses and the oral transmission from His Holiness; and he also gave us the oral transmission of the mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum! And he encouraged us to recite The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation along with the mantra. And believe me, I did it, I recited that every day as His Holiness has taught us to. And after the teachings with His Holiness, we were so blessed; because, although there were thousands of people there, thousands, His Holiness stood up, by where his residence was up there, in the retreat center, together with Geshe Wangyal, and he greeted each one of us… and it took hours and hours and hours to meet every single person, but we did, we actually got up there, we were able to touch His Holiness’s hand.
We were able to receive a red blessing string that he had blessed and I tied around my neck, I never took it off. And I personally I got to offer the Four-Armed Avalokiteshvara painting that I had made to His Holiness. And His Holiness was so kind, when he turned it around and he saw that there was some writing, and he started to read it… and then when he read it half-way through I folded my hands and I said, ‘Please don’t read it now, please read it later because there are so many people waiting behind, but thank you so much!’ And I remember during the teaching, and also during that time when I offered the Avalokiteshvara painting I could not stop crying, it was very difficult for me to control my emotions. I can’t explain why. All I know was during the whole teaching for 3.5 hours I felt tears streaming down my face, non-stop. I felt I was in front of a person who was not ordinary. This was what I felt in my little child’s mind. So, after offering the picture to His Holiness, it was very emotional, I was so moved and I was so incredibly overwhelmed by His Holiness’ presence, and I prayed that I may never be separated from His Holiness, never be separated from his presence, never.
Consecutively, His Holiness visited the United States, there are other many great Masters in the United States, such as the great Domo Geshe Rinpoche in New York; the great Khyongla Rato in New York; the great Khensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche in New Jersey; the great Geshe Sopa… in Wisconsin; the great master and Mahasiddha Geshe Tsultim Gyaltsan-la in Thubten Dhargye Ling in Los Angeles, which is still there. And very often the great Mahasiddha Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa would be in Vajrapani Institute in Northern California. There are many great Masters. And then I heard there was also the great Zasep Rinpoche in Canada. And all these Lamas work very very hard and tirelessly to teach Dharma and explain Dharma with no ulterior motive to be in the United States. And so from different places and great Lamas in Europe, great visiting Lamas like His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche who had visited the United States a few times at the invitation of Geshe Tsultrim Gyaltsen and Lama Yeshe.
There are great masters in Europe and great masters in America. So, you can see that Tibetan Buddhism was starting to take a foot-hold, but it was still seen as foreign, and strange, and it was still seen as… odd. For European or American at that time to take on Tibetan Buddhism was quite odd because they have their own culture, they have their own faith. But these great Lamas and many that I had not mentioned, tirelessly worked and spread the Dharma.
But each time His Holiness came, there was something special. There are many high Lamas in Tibetan tradition, many high Lamas, not just high in rank, or hierarchy, but high in attainments, but none as special as His Holiness, who can transcend borders, cultures, religions, people, who can meet scientists, doctors, teachers, lawyers, ministers, presidents, prime ministers, the Pope, Mother Theresa, and ordinary people like me. And that it was perfectly natural for His Holiness to meet them and talk to them and have dialogue, have interfaith services, scientific dialogue. He’d be perfect in every situation. His Holiness is extremely learned, very advanced in his meditation, very, very monkly, holding his vows perfectly; a perfect Hinayana Monk on the outside; a perfect Mahayana practitioner on the inside; and secretly, an attained Tantric Mahasiddha, a perfectly attained Mahasiddha with great siddhis. And for incarnations after incarnations, come back in perfect form to teach and share the Dharma. And in this day and age to transcend all borders, cultures, people, races, thoughts and education, to be able to relate to everyone personally, was a great boost to Tibetan Buddhism’s growth in the world.
People respect His Holiness for his knowledge and his down-to-earth approach, his directness and his incredible hard work and his incredible dedication to peace, culminating in His Holiness winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He touched millions of people’s lives in the world today. Personally I feel that, Tibetan Buddhism is well respected, not seen as a cult, it is a valid religion, it is growing very fast and it is especially accepted among the intellectuals and the educated, I think its acceptance is due solely to the kindness of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. I think it is His Holiness’s hard work, down-to-earth approach, and his non-stop touring, his non-stop teaching and his non-stop effort into meeting, talking, speaking, dialoguing interfaith with so many people in so many countries; that Tibetan Buddhism has a very good logical, clear, sound and authentic, genuine basis, genuine respect from the world, due to His Holiness.
My given name is Tenzin Zopa, Tenzin Zopa was the name given to me by His Holiness when I took ordination from him in December 1987. My reincarnated name is Tsem Tulku (Rinpoche) of Gaden Shartse Monastery, but we Tibetan Lamas, myself included, have a place to go in the world and are in demand and people request us to give teachings, and people respect us and people sponsor us and take care of us, and people in fact assist us in so many ways, yes I think that so many high Lamas and Geshes and teachers and masters all have worked very hard, but I think that we couldn’t have grown as big or be as well known or be as well accepted if it wasn’t for His Holiness’s work. And I feel, very much, that we Tibetan Lamas, someone like myself, can go to different countries and be recognized in my robes, they accept it. And whether they are actually Buddhist or not, but they know about Tibetan Buddhism and they respect and that Tibetan Lamas have a place to go is solely due to his kindness of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
So my point is, we have so many things to thank His Holiness and to be appreciative to His Holiness for, we have so many things. Many things! That if I was to mention could go on for days, but the one thing I would like to mention is that Tibetan Buddhism is growing in the world; it has prestige, it is respected, it is accepted by the elite, accepted by the stars, it’s accepted by the ordinary people, it’s accepted by the professionals, and it’s growing, becoming stronger and it’s benefiting millions of people around the world. I think it’s due largely in part by His Holiness’s prestige, by His Holiness’s logic and his acceptance in the world. And I think His Holiness is accepted and loved and respected by the world because His Holiness relates to everybody as a human being with a kind heart, with depth, in-depth knowledge of Buddhism. I think he’s one of the greatest scholars alive today on Tibetan Buddhism or Buddhism in general. To me, when I see his Holiness the Dalai Lama, I think that if Buddha Shakyamuni was alive it would be that kind of impact. I think seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama today is the equivalent to seeing Buddha Shakyamuni 2500 years ago. So, I’m fine, I’m teaching Tibetan Buddhism, I’m not a scholar, I don’t know much, but I am teaching Tibetan Buddhism, and I have friends and students and supporters and help. And, when I say Tibetan Buddhism, there is no doubt about that, because that comes from the kindness of His Holiness and his prestige.
We all owe quite a lot to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We owe quite a lot. What we owe him is beyond words, beyond comprehension. Everything stems from His Holiness and the Tibetan faith growing, its prestige growing comes strictly from His Holiness. And what I like about His Holiness very much is, although, he is a fully attained master, he is humble, he doesn’t play on that, he doesn’t show off, he’s simple, he always manifests as a wonderful monk. He helps, he gives, and his whole life has been totally devoted to the growth of Tibetan Buddhism.
Among many other works that he does, I am overwhelmed by His Holiness… overwhelmed. I have received many teachings and initiations from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and if His Holiness ever come to your city, your area, or you have a chance to attend, you must attend His Holiness’s teachings. It is the same… if I say so in my humbleness, in my humble thoughts, it is the same as attending Shakyamuni’s teachings. No one in the world has more knowledge than the Dalai Lama, and not only is His Holiness a repository of all the ancient holy teachings of Lord Buddha, that has been preserved in Tibet, but he is also a master of Sutra and Tantra and also a master lineage holder of all the four valid traditions of Tibetan Buddhism; which is, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug. He is a master lineage holder of all four.
We have everything, we are alright… Tibetan Buddhism is growing, due to solely His Holiness’s kindness. I pray every day as in our center, everyday, ‘His Holiness may live very, very long, and His Holiness’s actions may grow and that what he wishes for and what he dedicates for will be fulfilled without any obstacles’. I’m indebted to His Holiness and if I may say so with humility and with some shame that I am a lowly student of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, but I will serve His Holiness by holding my vows, by practicing Guru Devotion, by doing my commitments and prayers and Sadhanas and by teaching Dharma to the best I can and to transform my mind as much as possible. So, I dedicate the activities of my center to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and I also dedicate my website to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. May His Holiness live very long, may his wishes come true, and may we never be separated from His Holiness in this life and all future lives:
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s Long-Life Prayer
GANG RI RAWE KORWAI SHING KHAM DIR
PEN DANG DEWA MALU GYUNG WAI NE
CHENREZIG WANG TENZIN GYATSO YI
SHA PEI SITHAI BARDU DEN GYUR CHIG
In this land walled around by snowy mountains
You are the source of all happiness and goodness
Lord Chenrezig, Tenzin Gyatso, your Holiness the Dalai Lama
Fix your lotus feet firmly until samsara ends.
Watch “What I Think of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama?”
Watch “I’m Requesting Ordination in 1987”
I was fortunate some kind person took this video of myself requesting directly for ordination from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Washington, New Jersey over 27 year back. I was so excited and elated to be able to see His Holiness and touch his holy hand in this video. His Holiness immediately accepted by request to be ordained as a monk.
Please support us so that we can continue to bring you more Dharma:
If you are in the United States, please note that your offerings and contributions are tax deductible. ~ the tsemrinpoche.com blog team