Remembering Dhardo Rimpoche

Rimpoche first spotted a yellow-robed Sangharakshita from a distance in 1949, exclaiming to his attendant ‘Look! The Dharma has gone as far as the West!’  On the façade of a school in northern India, two deer are depicted holding the Buddha’s Wheel of Truth. The motto of the school is ‘Cherish the Doctrine – Live United – Radiate Love’. This was the message of the school’s founder – Dhardo Rimpoche – who was born in Tibet in 1918 and recognised as the thirteenth incarnation of the Dhardo Tulku. He would later move to India and form a strong friendship with Sangharakshita. As the latter emphasised in 1991 during a talk to mark the first anniversary of Dhardo Rimpoche’s death, ‘Cherish the Doctrine – Live United – Radiate Love’ was not just something he said, it was something he lived by. The present month marks the twenty-third anniversary of Dhardo Rimpoche’s passing, time then to look back at the life of a unique individual and reflect on the ways he embodied his message. Cherishing the Doctrine From an early age, Dhardo Rimpoche devoted himself to studying and practising the Dharma. As a four-year old living at the Nam Chod Gompa monastery in Tibet, he would rise at four o’clock in the morning to memorise and recite lines of verse. Over the course of the next two decades, he acquired a detailed knowledge of the sutras, commentaries and classical texts of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and was awarded a geshe degree (with distinction) in 1944. Further studies were cut short by illness in 1947 and Dhardo Rimpoche travelled to northern India seeking medical assistance. He... Read more

The Dharma Revolution in India

Uddyotani writes: We have many legacies that come from Sangharakshita’s years in India. This is where he practised, beginning as a young Englishman in the Signals Corps whose wartime placement took him to the land of the Buddha, staying there as a Buddhist monk until his return to England in 1964. This is where he met his many teachers, one of whom – Dhardo Rimpoche – we remember this month. This is also where Sangharakshita taught the Dharma, and his students are now the people who make up the Triratna Buddhist Order and the movement in India. It’s a rich heritage, and one which challenges our euro-centric approach – my sense that I know how the Dharma is practised, without awareness that I practice in a very British way with all my cultural assumptions and habits intact. It is amazing to look out from our own small Centre and see the Triratna Buddhist Community thriving around the world, taking different shapes in different countries and interacting in different ways with the society around it. It is estimated that there may be as many as 25-40 million Buddhists in India today – people who take this identity following the mass conversions from Hinduism to Buddhism, following the example of their hero and leader Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. Many people chose this path to free themselves from the injustice of the Indian caste system that keeps the so-called ‘Untouchables’ in a state of poverty and deprivation. Ambedkar, himself from the untouchable castes, was the Law Minister following Indian Independence; he worked with Gandhi but parted company with him over the issue of... Read more

The Last Days of the Buddha

Jenny Roberts writes about the story of the Buddha’s passing as told in the Maha Parinibbana Sutta of the Pali Canon. The fifteenth of February was Parinirvana Day, an important festival when Buddhists everywhere celebrate the death of the Buddha. And to mark the occasion there were special pujas all over the Triratna worldwide sangha – including at Leeds (and at Tiratanaloka where I happened to be at the time.) This isn’t, as some might assume, a time for sadness. On the contrary it is a day of great celebration, for it marks the occasion when the Buddha’s Enlightenment found its full fruition. According to Vishvapani, who wrote Gautama Buddha, Parinirvana means complete or final Enlightenment  or, perhaps better, Final Nirvana. Yet grief was present at the time, particularly among his Sangha, for whom it was the greatest experience in their history. And in some ways, to hear the story of the Buddha’s last days, is also to remember Ananda, his faithful attendant who memorised all of his teachings. The two men had shared their lives for twenty-five years and would have understood each other instinctively. And here, in this sutta, without intending it, Ananda with his constant queries, worries, and amazements, becomes a central figure beside the Buddha himself. According to the Maha Parinibbana Sutta, Sakyamuni was eighty years old when he became ill and announced that his Parinibbana would occur in just three months. It was a time of political unrest, with the very real prospect of war, when the Buddha set off on a final journey across Northern India. “Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged,... Read more