Khyabje Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche’s talk on Calling the Lama from Afar
December 30, 2012
After making three prostrations in the direction of the Buddha, he walked up the stairs to the large hand prints of the First Jamgön Kongtrul, which were framed in burnished gold and edged by a garden of fresh white flowers. The Fourth incarnation now offered a long white kata, which he laid out over the blossoms, and then descended to take his seat on the throne. His head was encircled by the rim of a Dharma Wheel etched in the back of the throne. It was the perfect setting for his first large public teaching on a beloved text—Calling the Lama from Afar by his first incarnation Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye. During the mandala offering preceding the teaching, the Karmapa could be seen just outside the Pavilion, and later, he stayed in a small room just off the stage, quietly present at this important event for his heart son.
In a voice reminiscent of his previous incarnation, Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche began his talk by dividing it into the three traditional sections of a noble aspiration, the main practice, and dedication. He said that before we do anything, our motivation is key, and the best of all of them is bodhicitta, which he defined as:
The motivation to listen, reflect, and meditate on the stages of guru yoga so that all living beings in number as vast as space may be liberated from the ocean of samsara and swiftly attain the unsurpassable level of full awakening.
In discussing the title, Calling the Lama from Afar, he said that “Lama” referred to being equal in qualities to the Buddha and having the kindness of a good mother. We might think that “Calling from afar” meant that there is some distance between us and the lama, either in terms of time or space, but actually it is more subtle than that. On an ultimate level, our minds are the same as the Buddha’s; however, on a relative level, there is a difference because the Buddha has given rise to all the enlightened qualities and we have not. Therefore, we pray that our minds will blend with the lama’s enlightened mind. Jamgön Rinpoche gave three reasons why we call out to the lama: “We are suffering and have problems; we believe that our only refuge is the lama; and we trust that the supplication is meaningful and beneficial.”
He taught that the next section of the text invokes the perfect mind of the lama. It covers lamas from all the main lineages and illustrates their specific kind of realization. The subsequent section enumerates our faults and our requests to our lama for specific blessings. Since the verses speak so often of blessings, Jamgön Rinpoche gave an explanation:
Blessings come from compassion and we can understand them through four categories: the compassion that is naturally present; the compassion that is continuous; the compassion that is timely; and the compassion that invokes the lama’s three kayas.
The first two refer to the lama whose compassion is present by nature and also continuous. The last two refer to how we can receive the blessings: they come when the time is right without our having to ask and, like Calling the Lama from Afar, they can also be invoked through our supplications.
The main point, he said, is that “supplications are the path through which blessings enter into us.” They come through a devotion that sees the lama as a buddha. And it is not a blind faith, but one that is based on study and reasoning.
The last verse of the text is a supplication that the lama’s realized mind and our mind become inseparable:
We supplicate you, precious lama.
Kind one, Lord of Dharma, we call out to you with longing.
For us unworthy ones, you are the only hope.
Bless us that our minds blend with yours.
We pray to the lama and ask for the blessing that our minds become inseparable, and we do this because the lama is our only hope. We have not been fortunate enough to meet the Buddha, but the lama embodies all the buddhas, so we supplicate.
Finally, we make a dedication so that the merit we have accumulated in listening to the talk and reflecting on the Dharma will not be lost. Jamgön Rinpoche encouraged us to practice from the depths of their hearts so that the practice will bring about the transformation that we all seek. He brought his talk to a close with thanks to Ngodup Tsering for translation and gave a reading transmission for Calling the Lama from Afar. Finally, he gave thanks and his wishes that all be auspicious for everyone.
After the mandala offering and prayers for Jamgön Rinpoche’s long life, everyone chanted together Calling the Lama from Afar using the commemorative books that had been offered to everyone. During this time, resplendent offerings were made to him, beginning with representations of enlightened body, speech, and mind. High lamas, the administrations of great monasteries, and disciples of the present and past Jamgön Rinpoche filled the central aisle from the throne, down through the rows of thousands of monks and nuns, lay men and women, to the road outside where the stupa marking the Buddha’s full awakening could be seen in the distance. People came carrying gifts of statues, stupas, bells and dorjes, Tibetan texts and Western books, rugs, brocades, musical instruments and brightly colored sacks of grains. It was a magnificent pageant worthy of a Dharma king. As they made their offerings, Jamgön Rinpoche greeted each person with kindness, gently returning their scarf with a natural blessing.
Lama, think of us. Kind root lama, think of us.
Essence of the buddhas of the three times,
Source of the sublime Dharma of scripture and realization
Sovereign of the Sangha, assembly of the noble ones,
Root lama, think of us.