Tibet's greatest saint, Milarepa, had two great pupils; Gampopa who was compared to the sun and Rechungpa who was compared to the moon.
Rechungpa's spiritual biography is one of the most interesting because Rechungpa had a great deal of pride and often did not do what his guru, Milarepa, told him to do. Yet as one reads this story one sees how Rechungpa interacts with his guru and gradually begins to develop true realization.
There is no better person that Thrangu Rinpoche to tell this story. Thrangu Rinpoche is the ninth incarnation of the Thrangu Tulkus and also Khempo of Rumtek monastery which is the seat of the Kagyu lineage. He was the principle tutor of the four Regents of the Kagyu Lineage and has since then travelled extensively giving teachings to thousands of Western students. Besides offering extremely clear explanations of complex Buddhist doctrines, he has been giving these teachings on famous lineage holders to illustrate how one should practice on the Buddhist path.
This book is part of a series of books on The History of the Kagyu Lineage which includes texts on The Development of Buddhism in India, the Spiritual Biography of Tilopa, of Marpa, of Milarepa, of Gampopa, and this biography of Rechungpa.
Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. Because of the vast and profound teachings taught by the Buddha, this religion has persisted and expanded to the entire world. Buddhism has, however, not remained static, but has changed and, evolved through the ages and it has also adopted to the various cultures that it has encountered.
In the seventh century of our era Buddhism was introduced into Tibet and became the predominate religion in this highly isolated kingdom. From there courageous souls made the arduous journey through infested lands and dangerous bandits down to India to collect and take back these precious teachings.
Just before the destruction of Buddhism in India in the twelfth century, a daring Tibetan Marpa made not one, but three trips to India to get the Dharma. While in India Marpa found Naropa, a great pandita of the predominate Buddhist college in the world. Naropa had given up the highest position at Nalanda University to go to living in the forest as a penniless hermit practicing the vajrayana teachings. From Naropa, Marpa brought back the profound vajrayana teachings and transmitted them to Tibet’s greatest saint, Milarepa.
Milarepa then had two great pupils—Gampopa who went ‘n to found the monastic branch of the Kagyu lineage and Rechungpa. Gampopa went on to write the Jewel Ornament of liberation which is a classic textbook on how to follow the 3uddhist path. From Rechungpa we have the amity us practice and other practices and a spiritual biography which is fascinating because it includes many of the trials a practitioner roes through—doubt of one’s teacher, not following the guru’s instructions, sexual temptation, and pride of spiritual accomplishment. Despite all of Rechungpa’s failings, he was able to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime and this was evidenced by his being able to achieve what is known as “rainbow body.” This practice is a high meditative practice in which one dissolves almost all of one’s body after one is already dead.
Thrangu Rinpoche has suggested reading spiritual biographies when one becomes discouraged with practice. He gave these teachings at two different times. He first gave teachings on Rechungpa in February of 1989 to the Namo Buddha Winter Seminar in Nepal with Peter Roberts translating. He later gave these teachings to Karma Dzong in Boulder, USA with John Rockwell translating. Even thought Rinpoche used the same text, he emphasized many different points. We have combined these two series of teachings into one to give a much broader view of the life and practice of Rechungpa.
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