January 13, 2009

Khenpo Gangshar (Chogyam Trungpa’s Teacher) Is Calling You Out. Get Off Your Butts And Help! Two Essential Teachings For Our Time.

I’m always on the lookout for men who inspire me. Yet, I look around and see very few men that call forth the best in me. These days, with the current political, cultural and social challenges we face, I can become cynical, discouraged, or just want to quit.

Sometimes I have to look to the past for inspiration.

According to my teacher, Dr. Reggie Ray, this is common on the path (of life). We try so hard to change things and make a difference but to no avail. So, we may shut down, check out, or just become comfortable bystanders.

Then, I remember stories I’ve heard of Khenpo Gangshar*, one of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s main teachers in Tibet. Both men were fierce warriors for spreading truth and change. They advocated that in order to change things we don’t like, we have to change ourselves. Rinpoche, as many of us know, was fearless about being himself.

Khenpo Gangshar along with Jamgon Kontrul of Sechen were great Vajrayana Tibetan meditation masters and are considered the main forces driving Trungpa Rinpoche’s unconventional style.

Trungpa Rinpoche often credits Khenpo Gangshar for inspiring him to go beyond the rules and to be himself. Khenpo advised Rinpoche, “study what you are, don’t lose yourself.”

Gangshar’s approach most of his monastic life was to follow the rules. He could recite anything on the spot from the scriptures. One day he fell ill and soon was given up for dead. They put his body in a cell and days later he suddenly sat up much to the astonishment of the monastery.

From that day forward others said he was a different man. Khenpo began to upset a lot of conservative monastic types and many in his community were afraid of him. Many feared him and he became quite the unconventional, revolutionary teacher.

Remember the time. Around 1957, the Chinese had been putting ever increasing pressure on the Tibetans. Monasteries began to be destroyed, many people killed and the country was slowly being taken over.

Since radical measures were needed, Khenpo took two actions that inspire me and that we as modern people can learn from:

1.    He reached out well beyond his known group
He opened up the teachings to laypeople. He invited anyone that wanted to come and hear the dharma to come and listen. He began to teach Tibetan Buddhism to anyone that wanted to hear his message. And, according to Trungpa Rinpoche, he even continued to open his heart and doors to the Chinese up until the end.

2.    He had a vision and took bold action
He went up to the high mountains of Tibet, where men had taken vows to meditate their whole life in a cave and he asked them to stop their solitary life long meditation retreat and get down to the villages and help the people. Many were understandably upset and interestingly most came.

The result? Many lives were saved and many, many people heard the teachings he delivered and were able to carry forward in a new way, despite the circumstances.

These two teachings are profound for our time.

When I think of Khenpo Gangshar now, and I look at his picture on my altar, I feel inspired and tearful. I draw courage from his example to complete my purpose and my mission.

In a nutshell, it’s time to get off our butts and reach out to others. It’s great if we have visionary leaders, but it’s not enough. We have to be leaders ourselves.

Elephant is asking you to be mindful, to be conscious of your choices, to do good in the world. Khenpo Gangshar is challenging us to take egage, take action and be ourselves.

So, my challenge to you is this:  How are you going to get out there and do something positive to make a big impact? How will you go beyond convention and make a difference?

*Note: (Sadly when you google Khenpo Gangshar, little is on the web. I couldn’t even find a photo of him online. Please link this up to other resources you know about).


Born In Tibet, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Chogyam Trungpa, His life and Vision, Fabrice Midal

Buddhist Saints in India, Reginald A. Ray

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