From the Compassionate Action website:
At the age of 15, Chatral Rinpoche decided to leave his family (circa 1928) in order to study and practice Buddhism with the masters of the area. This act of renunciation began his life-long journey as a carefree yogi seeking Enlightenment at any cost in order to effectively help other beings with compassion. From the onset, Rinpoche was highly principled, traveling exclusively on foot and refusing a horse when offered. He stayed only in hermitages, caves or his small tent to avoid involvement with householders and their worldly preoccupations.
Chatral Rinpoche met his root guru, Khenpo Ngawang Palzang (1879-1941) of Kathok Monastery. The great Khenpo had been the heart disciple of Patrul Rinpoche’s main student, Lungtok Tenpai Nyima (1829-1901), and was considered to be a manifestation of the 9th Century Dzogchen master Vimalamitra.
Khenpo Ngakchung gave Chatral Rinpoche many teachings and transmissions particularly of the Longchen Nyinthig tradition. For the next six years Rinpoche studied under him, completing his ngondro and practicing trekchod and togyal, which are some of the most advanced practices of Dzogchen.
Khenpo Ngawang Palzang knew Rinpoche was very special and acknowledged him to be his closest disciple, explaining that, his mind and my mind are no different. He bestowed upon Rinpoche the name Chatral Sangye Dorje, which means “Indestructible Buddha who has Abandoned all Mundane Activities.”
The first time Chatral Rinpoche’s greatness became revealed to others was at a large worship service at Kathok Monastery, attended by several high lamas sitting on lofty thrones. Rinpoche sat in the back on a simple meditation cushion with a few hundred other monks. Khenpo Ngawang Palzang remarked during the service: “Among all of you here today, there are less than ten people who have one-tenth of my realization. Then, there are less than five of you who have half of my realization.”
“Finally, there is only one person here whose realization is no different from mine, and he is Chatral Sangye Dorje. He can now represent me to transmit the teachings and his merits are the same as mine.” — Khenpo Ngawang Palzang
This proclamation caused quite a stir in the assembly hall and afterward people came to congratulate Rinpoche. Preparations began for a grand ceremony to honor Rinpoche in his new status. Rinpoche was not one for all this attention and praise and so snuck away in the middle of the night with his tent to continue his practice alone in the wilderness. The next day when they came to honor him, they found his room empty with no trace of where he went. Once again, he lived up to his name Chatral, which can be translated as hermit.
Chatral Rinpoche once explained, “We abide nowhere, we possess nothing.” In the ultimate sense, this is a profound statement on the impermanence of life and emptiness of all things. In the conventional sense, this is how a yogi like Chatral Rinpoche actually lived in Tibet. Having no household or possessions to weigh on one’s mind, one is completely free to practice the Dharma.
Chatral Rinpoche was renowned for being incorruptible and insistent on doing things the right way. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, when someone dies, it is standard to leave them for three days to allow ample time for the consciousness to leave the body and hopefully enter into a Pureland realm or at least a high rebirth.
From the AnimalPeopleForum Chatral Rinpoche exclaimed:
“I was the first to become vegetarian since we came to India. The first year of the Nyingma Monlam in Bodh Gaya was non-vegetarian. In the second year I came there and spoke at a meeting of all the high Nyingma Lamas.”
“I told them that Bodh Gaya is a very special place which is holy to all Buddhists, and if we say we are gathered here for the Nyingma Monlam and yet eat meat, this is a disgrace and the greatest insult to Buddhism. I said they should all give up meat from now on, during the Nyingma Monlam.” — Chatral Rinpoche
He went on to say, “Even the Tibetan lamas and monks eat meat! What a shame if even the lamas can’t give up meat! First the lamas should commit themselves to being life-long vegetarians. If the Lamas become vegetarian, then you can address the lay people. Then also you should urge the monks to become vegetarian. Otherwise if knowledgeable religious people eat meat, how can one expect the ignorant public, who follow along just like sheep, to become vegetarian?”
Chatral Rinpoche was very selective about those he actually gave teachings to. He was fully aware that most of the people who ask him for teachings are not a fraction as serious about their practice as he is, so doesn’t bother to waste the precious nectar of his teachings on an unsuitable vessel.
“There are three kinds of Dharma practitioners: firstly, there are those who look like practitioners outwardly, but inwardly they are not real practitioners; secondly, there are those who talk very high, but have no realization at all; thirdly there are those who do not look like practitioners outwardly, but who are in fact genuine practitioners inside.” — Chatral Rinpoche
Therefore as a strict rule, Rinpoche never transmitted any higher-level teachings to those who have studied with him for less than six years sufficient time for them to prove themselves as genuine practitioners.
Despite the adulation of countless thousands in the Himalayan region, Rinpoche remains as humble as ever. He once said, “I am just an ordinary sentient being and there is nothing special about me. I just follow the teachings of Lord Buddha. Without any cheating on my part, I stand firmly on the ground in practicing the Dharma and in helping all sentient beings.”
“I wish that all sentient beings could let go of the acts of self-deception and self-aggrandizement, so that they can really practice the Dharma in order to liberate themselves from cyclic existence and to help other sentient beings. Otherwise, it will be too late when they are feeling remorseful!” — Chatral Rinpoche
On December 30th, 2015, Kyabje Chatral Sangye Dorje begin the transition to Parinirvana. He remained in tukdam meditation until January 5th, 2016, when he attained Parinirvana. Chatral Rinpoche passed in the 10th month on the 20th day of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. This Friday, December 8th, will be a great time to make butterlamp offerings and ganachakra tsok feasts in honor of this great master.
- 2016 – December 18th
- 2017 – December 8th
Texts & Prayers:
Some writings of Chatral Rinpoche that include prayers, practices, pilgrimages, and words of advice: Lotsawa House