Our Direct Lineage
Surmang Kagyu Lineage
Jamgon Kongtrul of Shechen Padma Trime
Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin
The Vajra Regent Controversy and our Position
"You cannot have complete devotion without surrendering your heart. Otherwise, the whole thing becomes a business deal. As long as you have any understanding of wakefulness, any understanding of the sitting practice of meditation, you always carry your vajra master with you, wherever you go. You have the vajra master with you all along. That is why we talk about the mahamudra level of all-pervasive awareness. With such awareness, everything that goes on is the vajra master. So if your vajra master is far away, there is really no reason for sadness-- although some sadness can be useful, because it brings you back from arrogance.
As an example, I am far away from my master, Jamgon Kongtrul of Shechen, right now. He is not here. That situation seems to be very basic and ordinary. At the same time, that absence becomes presence all the time. I do not particularly miss my vajra master, but I long for him quite a lot. Actually, what I long for is to be able to introduce my students to him so that he could see how great they are doing. That is the only thing. I wish he were right here so that I could introduce my students to him, show him their faces, show him how their discipline is coming along, and let him know that everything is fine. I wish I could show him that. Apart from that, it seems to be very much the case that the presence of my teacher is right here, right now. Otherwise, I would not be teaching." Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
The late 1980's saw a number of scandals which shocked many of the newer Buddhist and Hindu communities which had become popular in the American spiritual scene of the time. Perhaps the most shocking happened in Trungpa Rinpoche's Sangha when his Dharma Heir and Vajra Regent developed AIDs and was implicated in the death of a young sangha member and his girlfriend through having had unprotected sex with this young man and not informing him that he had tested positive for HIV. The Regent was forced out of Vajradhatu by the Board of Directors at the time.
Both Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Kalu Rinpoche weighed in on the developing scandal at the time. Both of these great masters maintained the position that the Regent was the holder of Trungpa's lineage and that he should be treated as the Guru. Fundamentally, relative appearances are by nature deceptive and that the Vajra sangha needed to cleave to their samaya vows and maintain connection with the Guru -- They are the source of blessings (Adhistana, Chinlap) and manifest the Dharmakaya in the mindstream of their students. This is the essential meaning of Samaya for Vajrayana Students. No matter what the conventional appearance may seem the lineage holder is manifesting coemergent wisdom -- and one needs to see that directly through insight at best, or have faith in your practice and your Guru. That faith is not blind faith but is based on your experience.
So that is the position on the Vajra Regent that we follow here at DMC. Basically, my own experience as a direct student of Trungpa Rinpoche and the Vajra Regent showed me that they were essentially the same. The lineage energy, if you want to call it that, was clearly manifest in Vajra Regent's being in his presence. That is what a practitioner of Vajrayana Buddhism trusts-- that is what samaya is about.
There are several points that need to be mentioned.
1. The Regent did not believe he was the source of infection for the young man.
The Regent had talked with Trungpa Rinpoche about HIV positive and was given instructions from Rinpoche regarding the disease which he followed. We were a very promiscuous sangha this was the late 1980's. This was the beginning of the AIDs epidemic in the West. No other sexual partners of the Regent developed HIV or AIDs. We do not believe that the Regent was the source of infection for this young man.
2. Trungpa's use of the word Regent and his Transmission of the Lineage
Trungpa used the term Regent in several texts and translations. Most notably "The Son of Wisdom" Guru Yoga Sadhana for his Root Guru and the Songs of the Rain of Wisdom. In each case the term is used to denote a fully empowered lineage holder. There was never any interpretation of someone who was just holding the seat until the 12th Trungpa was found. Trungpa's discussion of the Blessed Tulku" from the 1973 Vajradhatu Transcripts spells this out. As such he was fully empowered to give the Vajrayogini Abhiseka in 1987 and he was fully empowered to choose his own lineage heir -- which he did when he transmitted the lineage to Trime Lhawang Patrick Sweeney. We believe that Dilgo Khyentse was misinformed about Trungpa's use of the word Regent when he stated that the Regent' authorization was limited.
3. Why after 30 years this is important
After the Vidyadhara and Regent passed into parinirvana many of the older students like myself tried to connect with our lineage. I know for myself that I went searching for that quality of awakened mind which I felt in the presence of my root gurus -- The Vajra Regent and Trungpa Rinpoche. I was on staff at the 1992 Seminary. I lived in Halifax. I visited Boulder, Etc. Etc. I did not find that quality of lineage blessings in the organization that purported to conitnue Trungpa Rinpoche;s lineage. At that point I realized that what needed to be done was to repair our samaya violations with Trungpa Rinpoche and the Vajra Regent and to practice and study according to their instructions and that is fundamentally our mission here. This has proven to me that it is completely possible through devotion to meet the Guru's mind in this way. "The proof is in the pudding," as Trungpa Rinpoche would say.
Finally I will reprint Kalu Rinpoche's instructions for the benefit of students of this lineage. They are clear and concise and should be followed by any student of Trungpa Rinpoche who is interested in continuing to have a connection to their Guru's mind -- beyond meeting and parting.
Kalu Rinpoche 12/22/88 L.A. Dharmadhatu on The Vajra Regent and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
From the point of view of the hinayana our practice is to give up in thought word and deed anything which is of harm to oneself or to others.
And from the point of view of the Mahayana the real essence of our practice is to realize that all beings in one life time or another have been our parents. And as practitioners of the Mahayana we try in whatever way we can to be as much benefit as possible to them.
The root of the essence of the Vajrayana begins with the understanding that all of the appearances that we experience in our lives as ordinary beings are mistaken apprehensions of reality. And all these mistaken apprehensions of reality are in fact impure experience of our body, speech and mind and so through the various techniques of the Vajrayana we try to transform our physical experience into the experience of the deity; we must transform our experience of deity as the union of appearance and emptiness; we must transform our speech into unity of sound and emptiness, and we must transform our minds into the experience of wisdom which is awareness and emptiness. And this particular practice might be said to be the essence of the Vajrayana.
The essence of the Vajrayana is samaya. All of you here have as your main lama Trungpa Rinpoche. And after him your lama is the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin. Now in the Vajrayana our main samaya is to our root lama and after this with our vajra brothers and sisters. Now, basically there are many ways of describing samaya to the root lama but in brief one would say that one must regard everything that they do with sacred vision – whatever they do as being excellent. And we must take as truth everything that they say. These two points briefly summarize the samaya that one has with the root lama.
So we must never turn away from your faith and your respect and devotion for the lama. Now once again your main root lama is Trungpa Rinpoche and the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin is also your lama. So all of you have a very strong connection as vajra brothers and sisters. It’s important for all of you because you have this very close samaya with your teacher and with one another that there be no anger, fighting, disharmony within the sangha. And if this is the case if you are able to maintain your samaya connection with your lamas and with one another. Then it is possible for any sickness, any disturbance to be pacified and to disappear and that all of you continue your practice in great happiness and in great harmony.
This is a very brief description of the basic practice of hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. And this is as much as I will teach this evening. We will finish with dedication. This is the root of Dharma practice.
Getting upset, getting angry at persons you feel are spreading AIDS or spreading disturbance within the sangha is only breaking samaya. There is absolutely no benefit whatsoever to doing this.
So what we have to do as to our practice is to put our trust in the three jewels to help persons who have AIDS or other sicknesses to do what we can to benefit others. If in the future the American government comes in and says these persons are spreading diseases – if they come to that particular conclusion. A person who is in that situation has to admit what has happened. We have no other means but to face up to the government authorities if they happen to investigate this particular situation, but this isn’t our role as Buddhists. .
Question: “How does one recognize the root lama?”
Kalu Rinpoche: “Ultimately your root lama is the Lama who has pointed... out to you the nature of mind. So for instance in the Kagyu lineage we have Vajradhara, Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa etc. This particular lineage is tracing this transmission of the pointing out of the nature of mind. However it is possible to have some confusion about this – for instance if you never recognized the pointing out you might think “well, I don’t have a root lama” But this is not the case. When you have received Vajrayana empowerments; when you have received instruction in meditation from a particular Lama then this individual can also be called your root lama. For example it is the case for all of you here tonight that Trungpa Rinpoche is your root Lama. Now you could say, “Well, I never had pointing out instructions, I never understood them.” You may think that you didn’t have a root Lama. But this is not the case. When you have received Vajrayana empowerment, when you have received reading transmission, when you received instructions from Trungpa Rinpoche he is your root Lama.
Student: Thank you Rinpoche. Is there anything we can do as a sangha to repair our samaya? There is still confusion for many people in regards to the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin and what can we do specifically to help each other and help the sangha – the practicing sangha?
Kalu Rinpoche: To answer your first question – How to repair broken samaya? Well, in relation to the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin. If you’ve developed wrong views and have been extremely unhappy with him in the past you simply mentally make confession to him of this. This confession is the first thing that you can do. Second, you make a mental promise to yourself and to him that you won’t develop this sort of attitude in the future. Then for the benefit of Osel Tendzin and for your own benefit accomplish as much virtue as possible. These skillful means will clear away any broken samaya completely.
You should do whatever you can to be helpful to The Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin to bring him joy. If it isn’t possible for you, if you are not in the position to be of immediate service or comfort to him then at least you should maintain a proper attitude toward him and not do anything at all which would bring him harm whatsoever.
As far as your relationship with other members of the sangha, you should think very strongly that the other sangha members are your dharma companions; they are your Vajra brothers and sisters. Not only in this life but also at the time of the attainment of Buddhahood all of you will be together. You should remember this and develop love and affection for one another. For example, within the mandala of various yidams you have quite a number of surrounding deities within the various mandalas – for example chakrasamvara, vajrayogini, etc. In the same way, the Lama and his students are always together and they attain enlightenment together.
The most important thing is to remain in harmony with one another—with the sangha.
Student: Rinpoche, you’ve said many things about the proper attitude for the students toward the teacher. I am wondering what is the proper attitude of the teacher toward his students at this time and also toward the students whom the teacher may have harmed in some way either physically or causing them to experience so much negative emotion?
Kalu Rinpoche: You must know the example of Marpa and Milarepa. Marpa was terrible to Milarepa and he forced him to under goe a tremendous number of hardships. His whole body back and front was one big scar. This is because Marpa had insisted and given him the command to build a nine story house all by himself. This was a tremendously difficult task that Marpa had Milarepa do. This is an example of a Lama being extremely hard on his student, making a lot of difficulty for his student. The Lama acts in various ways.
Also, for example, Naropa had a wife and he loved his wife very much. Tilopa asked Naropa to offer his wife to him and Naropa did so with “sacred vision” and with faith and respect to his Lama. Tilopa was very pleased by this particular offering and he was very happy to be with Naropa’s wife. However, on one particular occasion they were out in public and Naropa had a chance to see his wife again and he looked very longingly at her. Tilopa noticed this and got completely enraged at Naropa and said “How dare you look at this woman with desire?” and he beat him so badly that Naropa was unable to move for a few days.
Student: Rinpoche, when we study the stories of the lives of the teachers we understand that the teacher has done those things with full consciousness of knowing what he is doing. In this particular case the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin has said that he did what he did through ignorance. It doesa not seem the same.
Kalu Rinpoche: Whatever the case. When we take refuge we take refuge in the sangha. And we take refuge to two levels of the sangha – both the higher or enlightened sangha, those people who have both extraordinary mental powers and “complete consciousness” as you say, or they have miraculous powers. However we also take refuge in the sangha of people who teach the dharma and lead us to liberation. We take refuge in the sangha of ordinary beings. Regarding Osel Tendzin and his attainments, students are often unable to see the full enlightenment or the miraculous powers of their teachers.
For example, in the region where Marpa lived, except for very few people who lived in that region, nobody had any awareness of his complete enlightenment as well as his miraculous powers. People would just refer to him as “old man Marpa.”
Student: Rinpoche? There are some people who feel that the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin should step aside from his duties and teachings at this time. Would Rinpoche consider that a further breach of samaya for people to ask him to do such a thing?
Kalu Rinpoche: I don’t have any opinion one way or another whether the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin should step aside or not. However for you, as his students, he is the main person with whom you have samaya vows-- He and Trungpa Rinpoche. So if you were to go to him and say, “you are the Vajra Regent however you are very sick at this time. Don’t you think it would be better if you chose someone to stand in your place so you could put aside your work at this time?” If you made a request like that to him and he said “Yes, I think that is a very good idea.” And you are in harmony on that particular point then that would be fine. But if he says that it is not appropriate for him to step down at this point than you really have to follow his instruction. You have to rely upon the Lama. You have to rely upon the Vajra Regent.
You have to follow his word.
Student: There are many new students who have not received transmission from the Vidyadhara or the Vajra Regent and may be confused about how to react to the situation. How should we work with these new students?
Kalu Rinpoche: For people who are newcomers to the Dharmadhatu it really depends on them whether they are going to continue their course of study here or not. If they haven’t made a previous connection to Vajrayana through the Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche or the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin then they should examine the situation and determine whether continuing their studies at the Dharmadhatu would be of benefit to them or not. If they decide not then they are free to go and make a connection with any other Lama or tradition that they choose. Basically for people who are newcomers to the Dharmadhatu it is perhaps that the don’t understand the Dharma that they find a lot of confusion within this situation. This is why they are finding this situation so difficult to understand in their minds. But with some understanding of the Dharma it is possible for us to understand this situation and to continue to have faith in the Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin. Basically these sorts of problems which have come up, the source of all of them is a misunderstanding or lack of understanding of the Dharma. With a very clear understanding of the Dharma these events are not problems for us.