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Home Interviews Reminiscing Late Ven. Khenchen Appey Rinpoche

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Reminiscing Late Ven. Khenchen Appey Rinpoche

An interview with Dr. Khenpo Ngawang Jorden 12


Dr. Khenpo Ngawang Jorden is the Director and Principal of the International Buddhist Academy, in Tinchuli, Boudha. His wide range of educational experiences include the comprehensive study of monastic ritual arts, (Ngor Monastery, Sikkim) post-graduate monastic college philosophical studies, (Sakya College) as well as an M.T.S. and a Ph.D (Harvard). Dr. Khenpo Jorden has taught at universities around the world, and received his current post from His Holiness the Sakya Trizin and the late Most Venerable Khenchen Appey Rinpoche, Khenpo Jorden’s revered teacher.

















Q. What is the significance of Khenchen Appey Rinpoche’s work in Nepal?
A. Among so many things, the establishing of IBA was very important, because this academy will remain for a long time, as a place where people can study the Buddhadharma. For this reason, I think it is very significant. Even more significant, I believe, is that Rinpoche generously gave so many teachings to many devotees, including a number of great masters. Since these masters will teach others, the Buddhadharma will continue. This was the most significant of his activities in Nepal, because even though there might be great infrastructure, and many shelves full of books, if there are no teachers, it would be the same as having just an empty building, decorated with books. To uphold the Buddhadharma and to continue the Buddhadharma, you need teachers and you need scholars, which Khenchen Appey Rinpoche produced, here in Nepal many of them! I think this was the most significant of Khen Rinpoche’s activities in Nepal, not to mention what he did on his own his own private practices. I think that the results of Rinpoche’s intensive meditational practices were shown clearly to us when he passed away, through all the great signs of his being a realized Bodhisattva. This is yet another activity of significance, but you know, a great many people cannot relate to that.

Q. Many devoted practitioners did not have an opportunity to meet Khenchen Appey Rinpoche during his lifetime. Can you comment on how they can become inspired by his activities?
A.Those who have not met Khenchen Appey Rinopoche in person and want to have some connection with his legacy may join with IBA to help fulfill his vision. Not only that, he has left a great legacy in the form of the many teachings he gave, over the years. We are in the process of making his teachings available in Tibetan and also in various other languages, in the form of CDs and books. If people follow his teachings, it can be similar to actually studying with him in person. Also, as I mentioned earlier, even though he himself is not here, his lineage is still here, and his lineage continues. Therefore, receiving the Buddhadharma from those great teachers who were his own students, is the same as receiving the teachings directly from him.

ibaQ. What do you think are Khenchen Appey Rinpoche greatest lifetime contributions, including his activities in Tibet, India and Nepal?
A.There is a saying that, if you really want to put into words what are the greatest activities and contributions of a great Bodhisattva, it is immeasurable, and unfathomable for ordinary people like myself to comprehend. However, I can just mention a few things that I remember and that I have heard from other people. When he was young, it was known to people generally, and not just because of a bias towards him on the part of those close to him, that this exceptionally bright young monk was really a brilliant, great master and that Rinpoche would become a scholar of great renown in the future. By the time he had begun to mature,Rinpoche had already assumed many positions of responsibility, in Tibet. First, he became the Abbot of the monastic college of Serjong monastery, his home monastery in Kham.

From there he went to Central Tibet, where he became the Abbot of Ngor monastic college, at the main seat of the Ngorpa subsect of Sakya. Even though the conditions there were very minimal and poor, he endured all these hardships, while only thinking about the Dharma and how to safeguard the continuation of the Buddhadharma. He realized that the best thing he could do to accomplish that purpose was to transmit teachings to many monks of the next generation so that the Dharma could continue. Then, because of the changes in Tibet, he traveled to Sikkim. One reason why he went to Sikkim, in particular, was that one of his Root Gurus was in Sikkim at that time, the 2nd Dzongsar Khyentse, Chokyi Lodroe. Khenchen Appey Rinpoche was stationed there for some time, during which he also worked for what is now known as, the Sikkim Research Institute. While he was working there, His Holiness the Sakya Trizin, who was in Darjeeling, requested Khenchen Appey Rinpoche to be his tutor.

Accordingly, Rinpoche moved to Darjeeling and from then onwards, he followed His Holiness, the Sakya Trizin to Mussoorie becoming his main tutor. So at all these different points of time and in these different places, as you can see, he was doing mainly one thing and that is, teaching the Buddhadharma whether it was to ordinary interested young monks and laypeople or great masters like His Holiness, the Sakya Trizin. From there he went to Bir, to look after a Sakya monastery, improving it by establishing a college and retreat centre. This institute eventually developed into the 3rd Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s monastery, which is now known as Deer Park Institute. Khenchen Appey Rinpoche was then requested to be Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s main tutor. Because of his strong link with the former Dzongsar Khyentse, Khen Rinpoche accepted this request. He also decided to accomplish this responsibility in the most productive and beneficial way, not limiting himself to tutoring Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, alone. In consultation with His Holiness Sakya Trizin and the Dsongsar Khyentse labrang (estate guardians) Khenchen Appey Rinpoche decided to establish Sakya College as the institution where Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche would come to study, together some other young monks. That’s how Sakya College was founded. At Sakya College, Rinpoche’s roles were all - encompassing: teacher, administrator, fund-raiser and caregiver. He was everything for us, like the father of a family, and he did all of it with very limited resources. At first, Sakya College’s activities were conducted in a dilapidated house, beginning with just six or seven students. It gradually grew, and eventually Rinpoche had to look for an appropriate location to build Sakya College.

Rinpoche finally purchased four or five acres in Upper Rajpur on the road to Mussoorie, at a place called called Kutal Gate, and built Sakya College there. Khenchen Appey Rinpoche was in Sakya College, taking care of everything, for an entire ten years. 7By then, he had produced a good many students who could shoulder the responsibility for Sakya College’s future. At this point he was able to undertake some private retreats there while some of the senior students took care of Sakya College. Rinpoche relocated to Nepal to be able to do more private retreats, at first in Pharping, for a couple of years. Not many people knew where he was. After a while, people came to know that he was in Nepal, and many of them invited Rinpoche to teach in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. As a result of these Asian teaching tours, Khenchen Appey Rinpoche accumulated the “seed money” to finally establish the IBA, which had been an important project in his mind for years, because so many people had requested that Rinpoche provide them with the precious opportunity to study a monastic college level Dharma program, in English. When IBA opened, in 2001, conditions were not ideal, because there was a great deal of political unrest in Nepal, such that IBA could only function for three months every summer. Besides hosting the summer program, IBA’ s big infrastructure was not being utilized much. During the rest of the year, Khenchen Appey Rinpoche arranged for the input of many very rare Buddhist texts that he had acquired, which had not been availabe up to that time. Many of these were entered into computers, digitized and published in book form. Besides this publishing work, occasionally there were groups of people coming from Asia or the West, to whom Khenchen Appey Rinpoche would give teachings for a week or ten days.

The year-round program IBA has now was nonexistent, then. Rinpoche considered this and had discussions with His Holiness Sakya Trizin about his concern that the IBA’s infrastructure would be wasted if it were not used appropriately. Khenchen Appey Rinpoche then summoned me from the United States to look after the IBA and its future programs. One of our shared ideas was to begin a new program for monks the Monastic Leaders’ Program and side-by-side with that, we also decided to provide basic translator training the SOTIP program, for non - Tibetan speaking people. These are Khenchen Appey Rinpoche’s major contributions from the beginning of his days in Tibet until coming to Nepal. His disciples and students were not just limited to those of the Sakya lineage, but included Kagyupas, Nyingmapas and Gelugpas. 21Since the time when Rinpoche had become a mature young monk, until the time when he passed away, a year and a half ago, he had one thing and only one thing in his mind, which was the Buddhadharma. His practice of the Dharma and his teaching of the Dharma made an enormous contribution to society not just a mundane contribution, but a contribution that will have a long-lasting effect on his students’ attainment of Buddhahood in the future. That’s what he did, and that’s how he spent his life. And as a great Bodhisattva, he will continue to do this again, in the future. Although I have mentioned many things already, I want to say that the highlight of the Most Venerable Khenchen Appey Rinpoche’s contributions is still, (and I want to emphasize this) producing great scholars and great masters: His Holiness the Sakya Trizin, and His Eminence Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche. If you now look at many Sakya institutes and monasteries, most of their khenpos of the recent past as well as their khenpos, directors and administrators of the present are Khenchen Appey Rinpoche’s students. The profound impact of Khenchen Appey Rinpoche’s example on these Sakya leaders has become Rinpoche’s most significant contribution.

An interview with Ven. Jhampa Losal 18

Born to Tibetan parents, and having completed his higher secondary education from Uttarganga Madhyamic Viddhyalay in Burtibang VDC of the Baglung District, Ven. Jhampa Losal la went to Benares in 1975 to join the Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies, affiliated with Sampurna Ananda University, Varanasi. Following completion of the Shastri (equivalent to BA) degree, on subjects including Hindi, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Buddhist Philosophy and Asian History there, he went to Sakya College in Dehra Dun, for further studies in Buddhist Philosophy. Ven. Jhampa Losal la presently serves the International Buddhist Academy as Vice Director and is a member of the Nepal Buddhist Federation, since its inception in 2007.








 

 

 

 

 

 

Q. As a close student of Khenchen Appey Rinpoche, what was your personal experience with Rinpoche like, when you first came under his guidance?
A.In order to give an answer for this question, I have to start at the very beginning, from when I saw Khenchen Appey Rinpoche for the first time. That was in 1978, when I went to join Sakya College, through the help of a student of Sakya College whom I knew from Varanasi. We had studied together at the Central University for Higher Tibetan Studies before he had gone to join Sakya College, two years previously. Khenchen Appey Rinpoche was in Mussoorie, where Sakya College was at that time, in a rented bungalow. This friend of mine brought me to see Khenchen Appey Rinpoche in his simple room.

I was very nervous. As we entered his room, I saw him as a majestic figure with an imposing stature. I had the same impressive feeling as if I was before the Buddha image in Bodhgaya temple, and I was so inspired and happy to be there in his presence. The first words that I heard from him, in his booming voice, were words of concern for my journey there, “Didn’t you have any trouble on the way”? Then Rinpoche instructed the student who went with me to guide me to my room and to make sure that everything was OK. I clearly remember that Khenchen Rinpoche also instructed the monk that I should be equipped with all the necessities, including the books and commentary texts, which I was to study from the next day, onwards. In my experience as student of Khenchen Appey Rinpoche, I found that he not only had qualities that any perfect teacher should have, but in addition, he was a kind caregiver, an able administrator, a proficient guardian and a benevolent parent for me and for all his students at Sakya College. One unique quality that we rarely find in other masters is that, if he were to come near or pass by our rooms, he would let us know that he was coming. This he would do by coughing, even if he didn’t have to cough. He would never embarass anyone or make them feel shy. He wouldn’t step into anyone’s room but instead he would have them come out, to listen to his guidance. If he really had important things for which his stepping into someone’s room was a must, he would let them know this, one or two days in advance. 6It is not that he didn’t want to step into a shaggy or untidy room, but he didn’t want anyone to feel shy and uncomfortable because of his finding their room messy.

Just a few hours before his entering into Nirvana, he was displaying how vigilant and considerate a Buddhist teacher can be for the convenience of others. Some of his close disciples, like Lama Lekshed, Lama Logya, Gedun, Thupten Choedhar, Gin and myself were in his room where he was preparing for the pre-death practice. He was concerned about our sleep and guided us in very detail way: ‘you should sit here in rotation, first two in early part of night, then other two in the middle part of the night and third two in the last part of the night. In this way, he was guiding us on each and every step: we ought to take on that night as if he knew what was in offing and that everything was under his own control. Sometimes, he would even ask about the well being of our families back at home. He showed all these qualities, to the extent that we, including some of his western students, consider him as a man of perfection, common sense and understanding. He didn’t have to make a stern face or scold to persuade his students. Merely his presence, a physical gesture or symbolic remarks were sufficient to change our minds or put us into a mood of self-discipline. For instance, during the normal times when classes were held throughout the year, his students would comply with the rules and regulations out of their own free will. Feelings of fear and respect towards him were spontaneously forthcoming. As soon as he declared the beginning of the much talked about seven - day picnic, our attitude towards him would suddenly relax without apparent reason. During these seven days, we would have the feeling that he was one of us, or that he was nothing more than a playmate for us. But the moment that the seven - day picnic was over, our attitude towards him would change again. We started having fearful respect towards him when we came into contact with him. It was as though he transmitted rays which triggered our spontaneous change of attitude towards him. This also illustrated to us that he was a Bodhisattva in human form.

I have reason to claim this, because it is also found in the Sutras that the mere presence and the symbolic remarks of a Bodhisattva can change the entire atmosphere and environment, affecting one’s own way of thinking and attitudes towards that Bodhisattva. In those days, when Sakya College was in a rented bungalow in Mussoorie, Khenchen Appey Rinpoche’s health condition wasn’t very good. He had a problem with asthma. We knew this because of a whistling sound in his breathing that we could hear even from a distance. Despite being in this condition, however, he never missed teaching the class for the morning sessions. As soon as the morning class was over, since he was also looking for land where he could build Sakya College, he would leave at once with one of the attendants (usually Thupten Choedhar) to try to find a proper place where he could establish Sakya College. In those days, even making a simple journey in a local bus was expensive let alone to hire a taxi, which was considered quite a luxury. He would walk all around Mussoorie, Rajpur and Dehradun and he would come back when it was already quite late. The walk down to Rajpur alone took almost two hours . Some students like me, who were not very serious about their studies would think, “Ah, how nice it is, there won’t be class tomorrow because Khenchen Rinpoche returned very late last night.” We thought he must be very tired and he wouldn’t be in a position to give classes. But no matter how late he returned, regardless of his health condition, he would make sure that there were classes the next day, before setting out again, looking for land. He repeated this for several months, if not the entire year, until he found some very appropriate land at Kothal Gate, near Rajpur, on the way to Mussoorie from Dehradun, where the present Sakya College now stands. No matter what, he would make sure that the syllabus that he was committed to teach was transmitted completely to his students, without fail, because he did not favor wasting the time and opportunity of his students. group-monks

Q. As someone who not only worked very closely with Rinpoche at IBA, but who also accompanied him many times to Asia, with his attendant Gendun la, what stands out in your mind about the teachings Khenchen Appey Rinpoche gave there as well as the advice he frequently gave to his devoted students?

A.Yes, Gedun la and myself had the honor to be very close to him for a long time. I had more free time than anyone else to follow Khenchen Rinpoche during his foreign Dharma tours, as his close students like Khenpo Jorden, Khenpo Jamyang Tenzin and others were already committed to their own respective fields of service. Since they were not available, I had the opportunity to follow Khenchen Appey Rinpoche to Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong several times in my capacity as his translator. Whenever Rinpoche went to those countries, his main objective was, of course, to spread the authentic teachings of the Buddha. Devotees in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan of Chinese origin are mostly interested in empowerments, oral transmissions and esoteric teachings on the higher tantra. This reflects their hope that they might gain more power to remove their obstacles, gain more wealth and lead happier lives in this mundane world, so they usually asked for these kind of teachings and initiations. However, Khenchen Appey Rinpoche always declined to give empowerments and higher Tantric teachings. He always said that such empowerments and higher tantric teachings can only be given to those who are ready for it. “Only when they are ripened, can they request empowerments and higher tantric teachings. Until and unless someone has built a strong foundation, they are not supposed to receive these empowerments.”

Rinpoche emphasized that sincere Buddhist practitioners should “start from scratch.” He would also advise his disciples to undertake the study and practice of Compassion, Bodhicitta, the Seven-Limb practice and the Six Perfections in that order. Before doing these practices, he said, one shouldn’t even think about receiving the higher teachings of the Mahayana and the Vajrayana. This is why Rinpoche always emphasized that one should first learn basic Buddhism from the Theravada school, like the techniques of Shamatha and Vipassana meditation. These tools are very important to train the student’s wild mind because, after all, Buddhist teachings are meant to bring the mind under control, to guide it to a better path. Through using these techniques, one will do better practices. In consequence, one will eventually be led to the state of enlightenment. Only then, will one be wise and powerful enough to be able to help all sentient beings. Therefore, Khenchen Appey Rinpoche always emphasized that one should first learn about Shamatha and Vipassana. Only after that, one should go to the Mahayana teachers to learn more about the mind training teachings, such as the 7 Point Mind Training teaching of Atisha, the Parting From the Four Attachments of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the Holy Words of the Noble Guru, Paltrul Rinpoche, the Ornament of Liberation of Gampopa and the 3 Principal Paths of Tsong Khapa. After having received all these teachings, putting those into practice and becoming familiarized with them, only then is one ready to receive empowerments. This is the kind of regular advice that came from Khenchen Appey Rinpoche, to his disciples and devotees.buddha-academy

Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
A.Yes, for those readers who have not met Khenchen Appey Rinpoche I will take this opportunity to reiterate. From His Holiness Sakya Trizin, the Sakya Khenpos, to Rinpoche’s students all spoke very highly of him. Many people knew how learned he was and how highly realized he was in his practice. So, these things already became universally recognized. One thing I would like to share is that, throughout his life, Rinpoche tried to present himself as a role model, as a very perfect example for the future Buddhist teachers who must uphold the responsibilities of teaching Buddha Dharma. Whatever Khenchen Appey Rinpoche did, he did it all so perfectly. For instance, if he was requested to give a teaching, he wouldn’t accept the request right away. He would think it over, whether he should give the teaching to that particular person or not. He might even ask them to wait for one or two days, so he would have more time to think on it. During the time, he would ask about the history of that person and whether he or she was really committed and sincere in receiving the teaching. If Rinpoche found that the student was very sincere and enthusiastic in practicing, then he would lose no time in giving the teaching requested. Otherwise, he would say, ‘OK, right now I am in a retreat, and it is good for you to go to some other Lama for the teaching that you are aspiring to receive.”

As another example, while in Malaysia, Singapore and South East Asian countries, sometimes people would come to him and offer him some help, and say, “Khenchen Appey Rinpoche, if you have this project or that project, I will give you this much money.” He wouldn’t display great happiness about this or become very excited. He would say, “OK, I will think it over.” Then, he would ask other people about the person who offered him help: what their family background was, if they had enough money to make the offering, or if they were sincere about their promises. In this way he would check the person’s motivation concerning their proposed offering. He did this because sometimes it is natural that when people see a great teacher like Khenchen Appey Rinpoche, they become very excited and tend to make promises that they might not be able to carry out. When Khenchen Appey Rinpoche made ready to give a teaching, even for a simple teaching, he would go through the commentaries and the Sutras before giving the teaching. This was definitely not because he had to make such preparations. Iom-mane-pemet was because he was giving us an example, through his careful behaviour, that we should pay great respect to the teachings and should be very careful not to make any mistakes in transmitting the sacred teachings of the Buddha.

One day in 1993, Rinpoche was sitting with Madame Doreen Goh, in Singapore. It was at this time that the idea of building IBA began to come to life. She was the one who started it, by saying, ‘Rinpoche, how wonderful it would be if I could start a Buddhist TV so that we can air teachings of the Buddhist Masters, for the benefit of many people. And how wonderful it would be if I could establish a hospital in some remote area where there are no hospitals!”. Those were the kinds of noble ideas she was sharing with Khenchen Appey Rinpoche. In his turn, Rinpoche said to her. “I appreciate your wonderful ideas. I also have some similar thing in my mind. That is, to establish an international school where people could study Buddhism in English and many other popularly spoken languages. That’s how they reached to a meeting point. And knowing that they had a common goal, Madame Goh said right away, “Oh, Khen Rinpoche, if you really have this in mind and if your obstacle is money, I have the money and I will take great pleasure in making available what you need!” In this way she offered to help Khenchen Appey Rinpoche to purchase the land for building IBA. But this time also, he didn’t give his answer right away it took him at least three or four months. During this long period of time he was contemplating upon whether he could make proper use of the money she was generously willing to contribute to the project.

In this way, whatever he did transmitting the teachings, constructing shrines or making any decision, he did it in a very perfect way. It is said that Bodhisattvas purposely take on their manifestations, some in the form of a teacher, some in the form of physician, and others in the form of inanimate objects like trees, rivers, bridges, flowers or mountains. So, looking at his way of performing things it would appear that he purposely took birth, in this degenerated time, in order to continue the authentic teachings of the Buddha. It also could be said that the congregation of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas decided to send him into this world to preserve and promote the teachings which originated with the Buddha, were collected by Bodhisattvas, translated by highly realized translators, taught by authentic scholars, and were kept alive by genuine adepts. In brief, Khenchen Appey Rinpoche was unequalled in authentically explaining the Buddha Dharma in general and the extraordinary tradition of Five Supreme Masters along with the leading Sakya luminaries who are the great owner of the entire teaching of the Buddha.

Vairochana

Vairochana

Hi! I am Pasang, your editor-in-chief and publisher of Vairochana. The Vairochana newsletter is created on a vision to galvanize a sense of community in the Boudha region of Kathmandu.

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