By Janine Schultz
In December 2012, during the Dam Ngak Dzö transmissions Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche gave at the Dzongsar Institute in Chauntra, India, Khyentse Foundation invited Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche to Deer Park, to explain the connection between Manjushri, the bodhisattva who is the embodiment of all the wisdom of all the buddhas of the ten directions and three times, and the Khyentse lineage.
So far, so good. Students gathered, OT Rinpoche turned up, and although the night was seasonably chilly, it was nothing hardy foreign students hungry for dharma teachings couldn’t deal with.
It all started innocently enough. Quite rightly, before spilling even the tiniest jewel of wisdom, OT Rinpoche said he wanted to be absolutely clear about what it was he was supposed to be talking about. So, Khyentse Foundation representative Jun Xie stood up and formally asked Rinpoche, very politely, about the connection between Manjushri and the Khyentse lineage.
“The Khyentse teachers, or the teachings themselves?” asked OT Rinpoche, perhaps a little sharply. “If you don’t know what you want me to talk about, how can I know?”
“Both,” replied Jun.
“But what’s the point?” inquired OT Rinpoche, clearly having fun.
“We always say that Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is Manjushri, but why is that so?” asked Jun, respectfully, but a little more firmly
“You mean, you don’t trust the teachings that tell you Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was an emanation of Manjushri?” replied Rinpoche, in the manner of a cat toying with a mouse destined to become its supper. And honestly, how would you parry that particularly clean, unflinching thrust to the jugular? Jun kept her cool, saying she believed it completely, but was interested to know more.
“The briefest and easiest way of putting it,” said OT Rinpoche, appearing to soften, but only slightly, “Is that Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo was an emanation of Manjushri; Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was the incarnation of Khyentse Wangpo, and now Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is the present incarnation of Chökyi Lodrö. That’s enough for those who ‘know.’ But if you don’t … My problem here is that I don’t understand the point of giving such an explanation? What’s the use of it? For Tibetans this point is extremely clear. It’s enough simply to state that Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo is an emanation of Manjushri. There’s never been any doubt about it! I don’t think this question has ever been asked by anyone in Tibet or even by Tibetans now living in the West… not until today. All the great masters, lamas, monks and laypeople know that Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo is Manjushri.”
So there you have it.
It follows quite naturally to say, therefore, that Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is Manjushri for our time; the living, breathing embodiment of the wisdom of all the buddhas of the ten directions and three times.
Of course, OT Rinpoche’s great compassion was such that he went on to explain, in traditional terms, where all the traditional proofs Tibetans needed could be found—in the great biographies that give details of the lives and liberation of Khyentse Wangpo and Chökyi Lodrö, for example, and Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk’s list of the 73 previous emanations of Manjushri who are all embodied in Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. But every word he spoke simply reiterated, but from different perspectives, the fact that the Khyentses are Manjushri.
Why am I labouring this point? Well, the thing is that Khyentse Foundation is launching a new initiative to which Rinpoche has affixed the name In Manjushri’s Service, and I must admit that when I first heard about it, I wondered if this might be a slightly over-the-top claim. But in the light of OT Rinpoche’s response to Jun’s question, it seems Rinpoche was, as always, simply telling the truth.
The idea behind In Manjushri’s Service is to give all Khyentse Rinpoche’s friends and students the opportunity to contribute towards providing a stable basis of support to facilitate the implementation of his vision for the future of Buddhadharma, not just in the west, but throughout the modern world. And by becoming involved, by serving Khyentse Rinpoche in this way, we are actually serving Manjushri. No need to use abstractions or similes or even your imagination for this one—so rare in the up-side-down world of Tibetan Buddhism.
Anyway, OT Rinpoche continued talking for about an hour (thank you Gyurmé, for translating, by the way), the evening was brought to a close and everyone went home to warm up. The next day, though, word spread like wildfire that OT Rinpoche hadn’t been satisfied with his previous night’s teaching and wanted to say something else. So, once again, students gathered at Deer Park, for what we hope will be the first of many talks about Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s life. But that, as they say, is another story…