by Rabjyi, Gekö of Dzamling Gar
I was born in Golok. My family was very nomadic and we moved every season, four or five times a year chasing the pasture for the animals. I had 4 brothers and 3 sisters. I am the second youngest and my family chose me to be a monk and I entered a small Nyingmapa monastery in my village when I was 7 years old. I did not really have any idea how the monastery would be, but my father and mother encouraged me very much because they thought the monk’s life is the best.
My mother’s family were very good practitioners. My mother’s brother died in a Chinese prison and when he died his body shrunk until it was very small and they took it away on some kind of plate. They thought I was connected somehow to him so my family and the monastery gave me some responsibility.
When I first went to the monastery, I didn’t know Tibetan very well, but then I learned many things. They gave me this conch shell, this is the first thing you learn as a monk. After that you learn the horn, tsatong, and then they gave me the job of making tormas. I can make very good tormas because I did three years of torma making. Then after a while my brother wanted me to change the monastery because I was just learning ritual things, so I went to Tarthang monastery in Golok, which was a college, and I started to learn philosophy and also how to do practice.
My father died when I was very young so my older brother became more responsible for my family. My brother is a very good practitioner and very dedicated to dharma, and he disciplined me very much.
So I have a kind of broken story. I was very, very naughty. My family thought I was too wild or disturbed or whatever; I was not a good monk. So they sent me to another Dzogchen master, who has now passed away. I followed him for 6 years. I would carry a small backpack and we traveled in the mountains. He had pretty much renounced everything. He was around 60 years old, and I lived with him, sleeping in the caves and we had a small tent. He was a very special kind of person, he never slept, he never lay down, he always had a prayer wheel and mala, chanting mantras. We only had tsampa to eat.
Being with him was a teaching, but I also received ngondro and tsalung practices from him. He was a tummo practitioner, and he was very good with kumbhaka. Because of this he never needed blankets, he was not cold, he did not need anything. At this time I was around 15 or 16 years old.
He was a very different kind of person than my teachers were in general. Sometimes he could be very rude. You could think, “Oh today I did something very good for my teacher, maybe he will be very happy”, but he was not happy, or sometimes I would make a big mistake and he would not be so upset. He was unpredictable. If he was upset and you talked with him, he would turn away and ignore you. He was not only that way with me, but with everybody. He was also a very good doctor, he did moxa and gave many medicines. In the summertime we would go with him and collect herbs from the mountains and dry them under the shed.
After being with him for so many years and also practicing, I calmed down. I became a very soft person. Slowly I developed a dedication to the practice and I liked him very much. Then his teacher, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsog, asked him to come back and teach at the nunnery at Larung Gar Buddhist Institute so we moved there and he had only a small very old wooden house. You could see the outside through the walls. I could not stay there because of the rule of the monastery. I was in my early 20’s at this point.
Then I went to college to study seriously. I was still a monk. I had taken vows when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Then I became a good monk. My teacher, this Dzogchen master, was a very good monk, not a yogi. Then I studied and one of my other teachers gave me the gekö’s job when I was 21. This was a big monastery where they collect the names of 15 or 20 monks, put them all in a vase, do naggon practice, and the names that come up, they are the gekö. My name came up but I really did not want to do it. So I ran away.
I went to central Tibet, to Lhasa. I went by bus and train. Then I went to Samye monastery, the first monastery Padmasambhava built, and I went to the Samye Chimpu, where Padmasambhava did lots of meditation. I stayed there and around in the caves and did a 3-month pilgrimage. When I went back home, they still had no gekö, and they were waiting for me. Then my brother and mother were all upset with me and said I had to go to the monastery and apologize to the head of the monastery and whatever he says you should do, and you should confess. So usually a gekö does 2 years but he punished me and I had to do 4 years. I was around 25 or 26 when I finished. Then my teacher told me I had to organize and build a temple. The temple was too small for the monastery and they wanted a bigger one. I was responsible together with another two monks and I did that for almost 3 years.
Then I ran away again. This time I went to India. I walked from Lhasa to Kathmandu, Nepal. It took 59 days to walk there and 58 people went. Nobody knew where I had gone, if I was dead or alive. When we left Tibet it was incredibly cold in the mountains. Also you cannot carry food for one month on your back. Those are the problems, food and cold. Mostly food. The oldest was a 68 year-old nun and the youngest was a 7 year-old girl. She was an orphan and some relatives sent the guides, some money to take her and put her in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s school. She could not walk so we carried her on our shoulders.
So when I got to India I received so many letters because I had not finished the temple and my teachers pressured my family so much and my family sent so many letters and then I thought maybe I should go back. Then when I was getting ready to go back, I met Rinpoche in 2000.He gave a retreat at the Vajra Hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal but I did not go. One of my friends, Narong, had met Rinpoche a long time ago and one day he came to my place. Narong said, “Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche is here, and we should visit him.” I said, “No it is too hot, I don’t want to go out”. Narong said, “Come on, I already bought a katak”, he had bought one for me and another friend. Then we went there, three of us: Narong, Lodoe and me. We were three monks and all Nyingmapa, from the same region of Golok.
When we entered his room we offered the kataks to Rinpoche. He was very kind and showed us the Santi Maha Sangha program. He had everything in his computer and he showed us all the Santi Maha Sangha teachers, and all the Yantra Yoga programs, Vajra Dance. Then he showed us pictures of all the Gars and how he gave the names, some related to history and most related to his dreams. We stayed with him for a couple of hours. Then we said this Santi Maha Sangha book is very interesting, maybe also for Tibetans because he had collected the essence of so many important Tantric and Sutric teachings together. At the end of the time he asked us individually what we were planning to do and asked if we were interested in Santi Maha Sangha. When we didn’t answer he told us to go home and think about it and come back and see him the following day.
We went back home and we discussed and discussed. I thought a lot but did not come to a conclusion. Then the next day we went back and we three said that we would do the Santi Maha Sangha study program. Then he said he would make a program with us somewhere in a Western country. He said he would check with some of his students and one of them was Mark Farrington. Rinpoche sent us his email address and said he would be responsible for us. Mark sponsored us for our studies and then contacted a woman called Vicky who worked for an embassy in Nepal and she helped us rent a house and found us a place to study English and we stayed in Nepal until 2003. We waited for more than 3 years. Then in 2003 we flew to Australia. Mark met us at the airport. I was so happy to see him. So then I took a bus directly from the airport to Namgyalgar. I went to Gawaling, Rinpoche’s house at Namgyalgar, and Rinpoche was there. Then we received the lung for the Santi Maha Sangha base level book and we promised to study for one year.
During our time there we had some problems with the Community – we were coming very fresh from Tibet so the cultures did not work together so my friends decided they did not want to stay. We had this dream that once we came to the West everything would be great, but it was not like that. So in that way my friends left. I did not want to go because, for one thing, we had made a promise to Rinpoche and, to be honest, I did not know where to go.
Then I stayed in Namgyalgar by myself for 6 months. Then the gekö left and I was the only one in Namgyalgar. It was quite enjoyable. Then Jean Mackintosh came back and acted like my mother, she was very kind to me. If not for Jean, I would not have gotten Australian citizenship.
The Santi Maha Sangha scholarship finished after one year. Then Jean found some sponsors and I got a job teaching to children in a primary school that taught about all religions. I needed a translator from English to English because my accent was so strong, my pronunciation was bad and also my grammar. After 2 or 3 years of living in Australia I received a permanent visa.
In 2004 I went back to Tibet, still a monk. In Australia I stayed a pure monk but then I thought it doesn’t work to be a monk in the Western world. When I was in Australia we had to work doing karma yoga and all the work was kind of the opposite of my vows, it was negative for me, cutting grass and then so many insects would die. I didn’t mind the work but it was the matter of my vows. People thought I was lazy. It was not working in the West. I decided I would go back and if I remained a monk I would stay in Tibet, and if I came back to Australia I no longer wanted to be a monk. These were my two choices.
So when I got to Tibet I went to see one of my teachers who was a very good practitioner and Dzogchen teacher. This teacher did Tra, a method of prophecy with a mirror or melong. He was very famous and many lamas came to him to ask many things. I told him I had met this teacher Namkhai Norbu and now I live in his center and he seems a very good and kind person, but I want to know who this person is for me. The other question is, should I go back to the West and give up my vows or stay here and be a monk.
I told my teacher that I wanted some clarity and whatever he said, I would do. I had no doubt. He used this melong and said, “Oh this is wonderful, the first question about Rinpoche the om ah hum came in the mirror.” Immediately all my confusions and doubts disappeared. He also told me I should go back to the West, that I could help my monastery and my family, and for my life it was better. If I stayed in Tibet I would always be here and there and there was not much concrete benefit for me.
I went back to Australia and finally Rinpoche came back in 2009. Before Rinpoche arrived Fabio called and said he could not come for a couple of days, so they asked me to stay in the house and care for Rinpoche and Rosa. I did not feel very confident to cook and care for Rinpoche. I was quite nervous and said I would try for one week.
Then Rosa asked me to go with them to Caloundra, Queensland. We stayed there with Rinpoche for one month. From that time I have stayed with Rinpoche. Rinpoche is really a very simple person and not the person I thought he would be. Anything you cook and put on the table he enjoys and says it is perfect. Also Rosa is very simple and I like very much to be with them. It is not so difficult.
In 2012 I came to Tenerife and we lived in La Caleta and that is when Khaita started. Adriana and I danced all night in front of Rinpoche. Then we bought Dzamling Gar and they signed the contract. Then one day Rinpoche said, “Oh, we need a gekö, maybe Rabjyi can be the gekö.” I did not think he was talking seriously. Then when Giovanni Boni came to the swimming pool for the key to the gate of Dzamling Gar, Rinpoche said, “Ok, now Rabjye is gekö, so you can give the key to him.”
I have been serving Rinpoche since 2009. I don’t need to receive a special teaching, because in every moment, he shows something. I tell people this really from my heart – Rinpoche is an example for us in human form, living in the world. In 2009 in Namgyalgar I offered Rinpoche my body, speech and mind and whatever he wants me to do, I will do.
I am not in Tenerife for the weather or the beaches or the gekö salary. I am here to serve Rinpoche and work in a simple way. I am human and sometimes my mood is off and I show that, but the bottom line is that I really care about the Community. That is why I am here and that is what I feel. Really, Rinpoche is beyond ordinary concepts, beyond this materialism, he is beyond everything. Everything is perfect for him.
So this is my story.
Ta Yang Guardians
For the little monks