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My Eight Main Teachers

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by Sangharakshita

You searched for yogi chen

... Some people said that the current wife kept people away, I don't know about that. Anyway, I managed to approach him and I received quite a number of initiations from him. So you'll notice that I'd received by this initiations from several different lamas and three of these lamas were in particularly close connection with one another and formed a sort of group, that is Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, Chetul Samye Dorje and Dudjom Rinpoche - they had quite a lot of disciples in common, that is to say disciples who had received on or other initiation from all of them, different initiations from all three of them. So I was told, I think it was by Kachu Rinpoche, that one day a discussion arose among the disciples of all three of them as to which of the three was the greatest, the most enlightened, the spiritually most developped. So someone was deputed to go and ask Jamyang Khyentse who was the greatest of the three, or whether there was any one of them who was more spiritually developped and enlightened than the other two. So Jamyang Khyentse heard the question, he nodded 'yes, yes' ??? 'there is out of the three just one is definitely more enlightened than the other two. But,' he said 'you people will never know which one it is.' There's quite a lot in that if you think about it.

Dudjom Rinpoche died not so very long ago and he was still working on his great work The History and Teachings of the Nyingmapa school, which has been brought out in 2 fat volumes by Wisdom Publications - we hope to see it soon, it's been on the stocks now for a couple of years and many of us have paid our subscriptions in advance but we're still hoping to see it. When it does come out it will be a work of paramount value and worth, covering all aspects of the Nyingmapa school and tradition, everything.

Alright I'm rather hurrying because there's still quite a lot of ground to cover, we come lastly to Yogi Chen, C.N. Chen. He was born in China, and had spent quite a few years in eastern Tibet and when he was in eastern Tibet he was a disciple of Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, when Jamyang Khyentse was a comparatively young man. And Yogi Chen had practised both Vajrayana and Ch'an - I must say he didn't have much time for Zen, he was firmly convinced that in Japan Ch'an and been thoroughly corrupted and Zen wasn't worth bothering with, one had to concentrate on Ch'an. Ch'an was the real thing, the original Chinese thing, so to speak. Anyway, that's by the way.

He was told me that when he was in China, he read the entire Chinese pitika twice. That's a bigger feat than you might think. I believe, there's 1656 I think it is separate works in the Chinese tripitika, and he'd read them all, indeed he'd read the whole collection through twice. Quite a feat in itself.

I came in contact with him in the late'50s when he was living in Kalimpong. He hadn't been in Kalimpong all that long. He was living in a small bungalow on the outskirts of the bazaar area and he lived as a hermit, he never went out, he stayed confined to these 2 or 3 rooms, during the whole time that I was in Kalimpong he didn't go out even once. And generally he did not receive visitors.

He spent - this is what he told me himself - the greater part of the day meditating, engaged in different forms of meditation. And he also told me that he devoted half-an-hour a day for writing.

He produced quite a number of books in Chinese and in English. After getting to know him I was permitted to visit him once a week, I used to spend an evening with him every week and this went on for the whole year. He was very communicative, I learned quite a lot from him, mainly about the Vajrayana and about Ch'an and ??? and Chinese Buddhism in general. I must add that he absolutely refused to consider himself as a teacher, did not allow anybody to refer to him as their teacher and their guru - he absolutely did not accept this. He wouldn't accept disciples in the formal sense, certainly would not give initiations, if anyone would approach him for initiation he would send them along to the appropriate incarnate lama. This did not, however, prevent him from criticisizing the incarnate lamas very vigorously, and he was very critical of them indeed.

He knew English quite well, he could read almost any English book, but his spoken English was abominable. He had a very strong Chinese accent, very strange ideas about English grammer. If you hadn't known him for quite a while, you couldn't make out what he was saying, even when he spoke English he'd need an interpreter into English. He was also very eccentric in various ways.

For instance with regards to dress. Sometimes I'd go to see him and I'd find him wearing a sort of, well, cowboy costume. I don't know where he'd get these strange costumes from. He used to get these big parcels from Hong Kong, from Chinese Buddhists, so maybe they came from Hong Kong. But sometimes not a cowboy costume, but a very formal Chinese scholar's dress, sometimes a little black cap, long ???, things of that sort. Big smile. I must say he was very very exciteable. I was surprised at first, well he was meditating all day, but so exciteable, so explosive, so emotional.

In the end I came to the conclusion well perhaps lots of energy was generated in his meditation and it sort of spilled over. That was the only explanation I could think of. He became so excited when he spoke that he sometimes shed tears, and I remember once I gave him a book on Zen by Christmas Humpreys, he read it and after reading it he shed tears... 'to think that people in the West are being given this sort of stuff, is a real thing' oh he was genuinely upset, he actually shed tears to think of these poor people in the West being fed this sort of material. Anyway, I just tried to explain something to the effect, well little by little it's alright.

He also had all sorts of very strange visions and pyschic and occult experiences which he'd usually tell me about ??? I must say though that what perhaps impressed me the most about him????? (sound of microphone being moved). A rather ??? combination: a very good understanding of Buddhist doctrine, I think I was mainly interested in, I used to ask him all sorts of questions, and he gave me I think the clearest replies that I got from any of my teachers. In the midst of all this eccentricity, there was absolute clarity of understanding and he explained things as nobody else ???, to clarify things which noone else had been able to clarify. And you may be interested to know that he eventually left his hermitage when I was in England, he left it after so many years, and he came to the United States and he settled believe it or not in California. In California he died. We remained in contact. He used to send me photographs of himself performing various activities. He was in a way very camera-conscious. I'm sure it was very altruistic. But the photographs that I ??? packing up boxes, performing ??? ceremonies and ???, so all sorts of things. He used to drive in a little van, I think a sort of semi-hippy ??? not his disciples I'm sure but ???. People were just devoted to him ??? he used to spend his time, who helped him in his work.

So that was Yogi Chen of whom I also have very fond memories. And those were, those are, the 8, my principal Buddhist teachers. I hope I've been able to give you some glimpse of them. I hope I've been able to make them seem a bit real to you, they're still very real to me indeed. And of course a couple of them are still alive. But even those who are dead, who have passed on, and in some cases apparently reincarnated, they're very alive to me indeed and they form a ??? part of my life. You may be interested to know that some of our friends in England, have assembled photographs of all of these 8 teachers and mounted them together to as it were illustrate the sort of traditional lineage that in a very broad, general way lies behind the FWBO, especially behind the Western Buddhist Order. I'm very glad that ?????? ???? under the auspices of the FWBO, been able to share with you some of my experiences with the 8 main teachers and I hope that at least some of you will be inspired to carry on under the auspices of the FWBO.

????? (sound is very faint and muffled).

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