A Biography of Gongga Rinpoche
Since my previous translation got such a warm reception I thought I would push on and get some more added before too much time had passed.
For those unfamiliar with the importance of Gongga Rinpoche in my life and work I will put a little of the information here. My primary teacher of Tai Chi and Qigong was Dr Shen Hongxun who founded and taught a style of Qigong that he named Taijiwuxigong (Tai Chi Five Subtle-Breath Exercises). Taijiwuxigong is Dr Shen’s synthesis of the Tai Chi, Taoist and Buddhist energy work that he mastered during his lifetime. Amongst other important teachers, Dr Shen’s primary Buddhist teacher was a rather unusual monk known as Lama Fahai who had achieved awakening in the Chinese Chan (Zen) lineage of Venerable Xuyun (Empty Cloud) but had then gone on to study Tibetan Buddhism with Gongga Rinpoche in Eastern Tibet.
Two years passed without remark. Then, in the Autumn of 1895 (Tibetan year of the Wood-Goat), the people of Liuba Township were all immersed in the joys of a bumper harvest. That year there was a surplus of barley, the cattle and sheep were plump, and butter was abundant, but none of this brought a joyous atmosphere to Gongga Temple. There, the temple’s caretaker monks (Ch: 扎巴 zhaba; Tb: Trapa) were sat around a set of three small Tibetan-style tables eating zamba and drinking butter tea. With great concern they discussed how, “it has already been almost four years since the eighth Gonnga Tulku (Ch: 活佛 Huofo) attained perfect extinction, up to now there is still no trace of the Tulku’s reincarnate child, and we have no way to seek for him”. The caretaker monk Niuweng Pengcuo (Ngawang Phuntsok?), holding a half-finished bowl of cold butter tea in his hands as if lost in thought, turned toward Kesa Dengpi (Kelsang Dampa?) who was sitting in front of him and said, “I have heard that Juli Tulku the great Tulku of Juli Temple is very accomplished in divination. Why don’t we go and ask Juli Tulku to make a reading so that we can find out where our Tulku has actually transmigrated to. Then, when we go to make enquiries we will have something to base them on?” After Kesa Dengpi had heard Niuweng Pengcuo’s suggestion, he drained his bowl of butter tea, used his hand to wipe away the oil that had gathered above his lips, and placed the bowl on the table, then he said with great approval, “that’s a great suggestion, let’s do it.”
With that these two caretaker monks prepared khata, superior butter, and tea leaves. They brought two young monks to drive the pack yak and lead the horses, and after a few days crossing the mountains they passed over a ridge and came to Juli Temple.
Juli Temple is one of the largest Yellow Sect (Gelugpa) temples in the Kangding region. To the north it is near Xindu Bridge, to the East it overlooks the Niqiu River (Nyagqu?), and to the South it connects to the Ya River. There is a stream in front and a hill at the back. This landscape made it very suitable for habitation and so it was the historical residence of the Juli Tulku.
The two caretaker monks from Gongga Temple walked into the glorious golden walled shrine hall of Juli Temple, and after they had made prostrations to the great sage Tsongkhapa, they proceeded under the guidance of the monks of Juli Si to the rear hall for an audience with Juli Tulku. When the guests saw the Tulku they offered khata and other gifts, and then they explained their reason for coming to see Juli Tulku. Juli Tulku had a kind face, and was amiable and approachable. Once he had heard his visitors’ request, he was glad to consent. He instructed his attendants to bring out exquisite food and prepare butter tea for these guests from afar, and at the same time he spread out a mandala (Ch: 坛城 tancheng) so that he could perform the Palden Lhamo 吉祥天姆 divination for his guests. After the divination had been made, and Juli Tulku had conscientiously analysed the results, he told his guests, “there is no need for you to worry, you should immediately return to your temple and wait, before long you will receive news of the reincarnate child, and the news you receive will be accurate and reliable”. After the guests had heard what Juli Tulku had to say, they immediately expressed their thanks. They stayed overnight at Juli Temple. Then, not wanting to delay any longer, hastily started out on their return journey to Gongga Temple in Liuba.
In the afternoon of their second day after returning to Gongga Si a monk arrived with a letter from Chubu Temple (Tsurphu Monastery) in Tibet. Travel worn and weary, and leading a sweating horse with steam rising from over its whole body, he entered Gongga Si in Liuba. Without any time to rest, he requested an audience with the temples’s caretaker monks. Niuweng Pengcuo and Kesa Dengpi hurried to welcome this guest from Chubu Temple into the guest hall, respectfully offered him butter tea, brought out zamba and milk cakes, and encouraged him to eat.
Their guest carefully brought out from his chest pocket the fifteenth Great-Treasure-Dharma-King (Gyalwang Karmapa?) Khakhyap Dorjé’s (大宝法王喀羌多加) important letter for the managers of Gongga Temple and presented it to Niuweng Pengcuo. Niuweng Pengcuo received the letter with both hands and examined it carefully. He could see that the gist of the letter was to give instructions on how Gongga Temple could locate the reincarnate child of Gongga Rinpoche. However, as Niuweng Pengcuo was not a very cultured person, he was unable to clearly comprehend the enigmatic language in the Dharma King’s letter and so became very worried. The messenger from Chubu Temple suggested that they travel to Babang Si (Palpung Monastery) in Dege County, to request that the great sage of the white sect (Kagyupa) Qinzun Renboqie 亲尊仁波切 (Khyentse Rinpoche?) explain the mysteries contained in the letter. It so happened that the monk from Chubu Temple would pass through Dege on his way back to Tibet and so he would also accompany them. Early next morning within the temple Kesa Dengpi and Renzhi Luobu 仁智洛布 were delegated to set out with the monk from Chubu Temple towards Dege’s Babang Temple to pay homage to Qinzun Tulku.
Passing over the twenty days that these three people spent crossing the mountains, the wind in their face and sleeping in the open, they eventually arrived in Dege County. The monk from Chubu wanted to hurry back to his temple and report on his mission to the Great Treasure Dharma King, so upon arriving in Dege he parted ways with Kesa Dengpi and Renzhi Luobu, taking a boat along the Jinsha River 金沙江 and passing through Changdu 昌都 on his way back to Tibet.
To get from the county town of Dege to Babang Temple, they still needed to walk several dozen kilometres of mountain roads, and on the way, they passed several high mountains. It took two days on horseback to cover this distance. Kesa Dengpi and his companion rode their horses across these mountainous paths every step bringing them closer to Babang Temple.
To be continued...
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