As HH Penor Rinpoche remains in thukdam meditation, reports are beginning to come out of his Namdroling Monastery in India of remarkable phenomena. It’s said that His Holiness’ body has taken on a special radiance and a sweet fragrance pervades his room. More publicly, witnesses have said that the Guru Rinpoche statue in Namdroling’s Zangdok Palri (Copper-colored Mountain) Temple changed expressions and seemed to be weeping; the Vajrasattva statue’s torso also seemed to twist to the left. I’m sure there will be hours of video and thousands of digital images that we can evaluate later.
But are these the real miracle?
It’s said that what appears miraculous for us ordinary beings is normal for those who have realized the empty nature of phenomena. I recall being present at an interview with Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje where the reporter asked about his well-known ability to make it rain or not through his meditation. He replied, “When you recognize that the inner environment and the outer environment are no different, it’s not that difficult.”
In the amazing and thorough Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha’s final utterance to his disciples was: “All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!” In his teaching on the Four Reliances, Mipham Rinpoche urges us to “Rely on the message of the teacher, not on his personality.”
The reason should be fairly obvious. Even teachers who have control over the length of their lifespans demonstrate birth and death. They do this to impress upon us the truth that everything is impermanent and unreliable, not least of which our own bodies and ordinary minds. Guru Rinpoche, in his wonderfully blunt way, said:
“Having obtained a human body and perceived the pleasant or painful results of good or evil actions, people who do not try to attain enlightenment in this lifetime and who do not practice even one session of taking refuge, but instead chase the pursuits, ambitions, distractions, and enjoyments of this life and accumulate evil karmic deeds have no heart. Their hearts have rotted. The demon of Mara has crept into their hearts. They are deceived by demonic friends...In general, when practicing the Dharma you will have no success unless you keep death in mind.” – Dakini Teachings, p. 151 –
When the body of the teacher is gone, it’s the teaching, the Dharma, that persists. The teacher teaches (or has taught); we followers apply the teachings in our lives, and have the freedom to do so whether the teacher is present or not.
And so, is not the real miracle the effect that practicing such teaching has on the poisons of our minds? Experiencing anger and hatred transform into patience and loving-kindness; grasping desire transform into non-attachment and impartial generosity; pride transform into humility; jealousy and envy transform into equanimity and sympathetic joy; and, finally, ignorance transform into wisdom in all its aspects.
The essence and details of HH Penor Rinpoche’s teaching live on in so many, but none so much as his three heart sons: HH Karma Kuchen Rinpoche (the designated 12th Throneholder of the Palyul Lineage), Mugsang Kuchen Rinpoche, and Khentrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche. I just read with joy an announcement that the 30-day summer retreat at Palyul Retreat Center will be conducted as usual this year, and will be guided by all three of these extraordinary lamas. Keeping the inevitability and unpredictability of death in mind, I will be there, and I hope as many others as possibly can, will be too. It will be a tremendous blessing.
At last year's retreat, after the morning practice of Guru Yoga, Penor Rinpoche would offer pith teachings. Again and again, he enjoined us to stop following the conceptual thoughts that arose, but just let them appear and disappear in their natural state. In addition, he exhorted us to continually mingle our mindstreams with those of Guru Rinpoche and the pure lineage masters whose realization is condensed in the mind of our very own root lama of this lifetime.
Now I'm off to practice what my teachers taught me, the real miracle.