Gelek Rimpoche On Feeling The Preciousness Of His Life (2016)

As we all know, our life is so important. Really, it is something very, very important. It is very easy to say that life is important, and very easy to agree, that by all means, it is. But you don’t really understand, unless there is a threat. When there is a threat, you begin to think, “Wow, what’s going to happen?” You begin to worry about it. Like in my case. Already in Holland, during the teaching, there was a little cut in my toe and I thought, “Well, it’s a little cut. Nothing to worry about.” Then it got worse, but even during the winter retreat, I thought, “It’s just a little piece of toe, so what’s the big deal.” And then after the retreat was over, I went to the doctor, and they sent me to the ER immediately. Meaning, the next morning. And they said, “Maybe we have to amputate your leg.” Then you think, “Wow, what’s happening,” and you begin to worry about it.

Just like that, when there is a threat in life, you appreciate, and cling to life. Otherwise, normally, we take it for granted and don’t bother much about it. It is there. You go to bed, you get up and the days are functioning as it is, and in the nights, you are going to be busy, I don’t know what you are doing. Plus, sleep, and dream, and all that, and then next morning, you wake up. So, you take that routine for granted. So really, we don’t appreciate the importance. How important and valuable it is! It is really the basis of all–that is, A-L-L our functioning. If there is no life, then that’s the end of everything as we know it. That’s what it really is. But we don’t think about it. We don’t appreciate that. I don’t think we understand that. We take it for granted. Ever since we were born, we went to bed, slept at night, and woke up in the morning. So we take that for granted. I don’t know how many times it happened. I am 76 years old, according to the Western counting. According to the Tibetan counting I am also 78. I think the Western counting is right, because they really count day to day. The Tibetans have some extra month, when you born, and count something, and sometimes when you are born, the next day you are one year old. So we don’t know exactly. But the western counting is really, from birthday to birthday. So it is, and that year, I have been sleeping, and getting up every morning without any problem.

The teachings tell us: think about it, and when you begin to think about it, then you may still think, Yes, yes, you are right, it is important; yes, yes, you are right it is difficult to get; yes, yes, it is very valuable. That’s just saying yes, yes, yes, because you don’t want to contradict. You almost say, Yeah, I know, I know, I know. But, we really do not appreciate our life. And then, although the traditional teachings will tell you about the importance of life, and life itself, and the difficulty to find, separately. That’s also true, but if you think together, it makes a hell of sense, and a lot of difference. It really adds up to the appreciation of the life. The opportunity that, particularly, this life gives to us. It really is something wonderful. When you begin to limit it, then you begin to appreciate it.

Like in my case, look at my eyes. I used to see everyone and everything, without any difficulty. Overnight, my blood pressure dropped, it somehow disconnected from my eye, and in the morning I saw nothing, nothing. This one was already damaged by diabetes, and I can sort of vaguely see. And when I don’t see, then I think of how I used to see, and how wonderful it was. I appreciate what has gone, by losing. It is a good thing. Because there are two eyes, one I lost. One sees nothing, and the other one still sees a little bit something. Yet, I am still intact, so I have the opportunity and chance to appreciate what I used to see. Though we complain that we need glasses, and this and that, and say all kinds of things, but really it is wonderful. There was no problem reading books. There was no problem to recognize anyone of you in those days. So I appreciate that now, but a little too late, right? Because this is not reversible. This is not cataracts or anything. It happened because the blood flow didn’t get in, and I can’t repair that. But, then you appreciate.

With life, it is also the same thing. By the time you really appreciate it, you are gone. I don’t know whether we can think back and appreciate. Perhaps you can, because I have always been very grateful to whatever my previous life was. Forget about the incarnate lama status, and that my previous incarnation was the abbot of Gyütö monastery, Tashi Namgyal, the greatest scholar. Forget about it. As a normal human being I appreciate my previous life tremendously, because this life, I had a wonderful life, really a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful life. Number one, I was born in the land of snow, Tibet. And I had the greatest opportunity of Buddhist studies under the greatest masters available then. There was Gen Yungdrung Rinpoche, and then, Gen Gyüme Rinpoche, and then Lochö Rinpoche, and then Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Trijang Dorje Chang, and all of those, Kyabje Lhatsün Dorje Chang. And of course, my father was one of the greatest Tibetan incarnate lamas. He is one of the very few incarnate lamas who substitute for the Dalai Lama during his young age, or time of disease, and all that. There are only two or three, and he happens to be one of them.

Briefly speaking, my father’s previous incarnation was so big, in the sense of becoming a very big lama. We had some kind of civil war, between the Tibetan government and my father’s labrang and monastery. It went on for 10 years in Lhasa. Lhasa was divided into north and south. He was that big. Finally, of course, we lost, and then Tengyeling was destroyed into ruins. The government of Tibet declared that my father’s reincarnation could not be recognized. They announced that everywhere, with big announcements. It is not like today. Today, if the United States government makes a statement, it is covered by TV, radio and everywhere, on twitter and everywhere else, that very minute. But in those days, the message had to be literally carried by people, from day to day, month to month, everywhere, throughout, they had to announce. They also hung big letters in public squares, and in public gatherings, they would read that, and explain. That’s how the news got out in those days. So, they made that rule that his reincarnation couldn’t be recognized.

Then, the funny thing is that my father, that is Wangchuk-la’s – my brother who is here today visiting from Tibet, my father was born as the 13th Dalai Lama’s nephew. And not only that, but without formal recognition, everybody somehow knew, this is Demo Rinpoche. Somehow everybody knew. It was the common public talk. Then, the Tibetan government reversed its decision of not recognizing the reincarnation, but they then permitted the recognition. But they gave a very limited estate, very small and very little accommodation. Everything had been confiscated, and divided, and distributed throughout Tibet. Today many of the old monasteries do have a lot of materials from our house. They have religious objects, decorations, ornaments, paintings, thangkas everywhere throughout Tibet. They would very proudly show that this or that item was part of Tengyeling. That was my family. It was due to my previous life’s deeds. So I appreciate.

Lochö Rinpoche wrote in my long life prayer:


By force of long accumulation of merit and wisdom
You were born in the clan of the Demo Tulku,
Peerless nephew of the Savior Great Thirteenth,
We pray to you, (O happy Lama)!

Even Lochö Rinpoche says that because of long accumulation of merit and wisdom merit, you were born as the son of the 13th Dalai Lama’s nephew, the equivalent-less Demo Tulku. So, this is the number one thing, why I appreciate my previous life.

Number two, because of this, I automatically became engaged in Buddhist activities and Dharma, and particularly Jamgön Lama Tsongkhapa’s followers. So, I appreciate that, number two.

Number three, my mother was known to be a living dakini; not only a living dakini, but also when she finally passed away under very difficult circumstances, during the Cultural Revolution, her body gesture shows that she is living Vajrayogini. I will not tell you the details. So somehow, I really appreciate my life tremendously. I credit it all to my previous life. As Lochö Rinpoche said, RING NE SÖ NAM YE SHE SAK WEY THU.

It is a long, long lives’ accumulation of merit, and wisdom merit. Today we talk about accumulation of merit and wisdom merit, and some of you think it has value and is important. Some of you think, “Well, it is part of this Buddhism; maybe it has importance, maybe not. Whatever it is, when I need it, I will have it.” You may think that way, but that’s not the case. I am a living proof of that. Yet, my life has had a lot of interruptions. I was talking to somebody yesterday. In Tibet we used to have a station wagon, a truck, and somewhere there was a Donna Fiat Ferrari, when I was a kid. And in Tibet there were only four or five cars in the whole country. I had that sort of interesting life. However, in 1959, I just had to run, without even a begging bowl in your pocket.

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