An Account of Dharma Received
WARNING: What Ivo talks about here will basically mean nothing to ‘ordinary folk’. If you are not familiar with Tibetan Buddhism you will find this interview mostly unreadable. It is full of technical stuff, long lists of Tibetan teachings and practices, and if you do not feel comfortable with this subject matter there is no need to torture yourself.
Question: You started practicing at a very young age, what teachings have you received and practiced? What happened in the beginning?
Ivo: I didn’t start practicing the Buddhadharma at a young age. I wished to, but it was not possible – the conditions were not there. When I really had the opportunity to start serious practice I was 19 years old. I didn’t exactly waste my time before that, but I see this late start as a sort of a disadvantage. It seemed to have been necessary, though.
Question: How did it all begin?
Ivo: Lama Jampa [i.e. Ngakpa Jampa Thaye] came to Bulgaria in 1994 and I jumped at the opportunity, although I knew even back then that he was not part of the tradition I had a real connection to. I was diligent though and started serious practice immediately.
Question: What did you practice, what teaching did you receive from him?
Ivo: Let’s see.. I received a lot from him over more than ten years, I am not sure I will be able to remember by name every teaching and initiation, as I was lazy back then and didn’t keep a record, as I was supposed to. I started doing that much later. The very first teaching he bestowed then, after I took the refuge and bodhichitta vows with him, was the part of the Bardo Thodrol which has been translated by Trungpa – the liberation through hearing. He gave a week long extensive commentary on it. I find that somewhat significant since this is a Nyingma teaching, a teaching from my tradition, and Lama Jampa is a Sakya teacher. It touched me very deeply, and I was hooked. He never gave a Nyingma transmission in Bulgaria after that.
Question: Did you start meditation practice based on that teaching afterwards?
Ivo: No. The Bardo practices are very advanced, I was a beginner. At first I was given specific shamatha instructions and started doing 4 hours of shamatha every day, often more. Lama Jampa wanted me to have a perfectly stable shamatha for at least two hours per session and I tried very hard. I succeeded eventually and moved on to Vajrayana practices according to the system of the Sakya tradition.
Question: What were these practices? Can you please elaborate on the teachings you received during this period, I think this information may be very helpful to your students.
Ivo: OK, I may miss a lot, but I’ll try… Lama Jampa was quite methodical with me. First I received the whole cycle of teachings and supportive prayers based on Sachen Kunga Nyingpo’s zhen pa bzhi bral [i.e. Parting from the four Attachments]. These are several commentaries written by eminent Sakya teachers from the early period. Some are short, but there are two long ones. This tradition has a practice lineage and I received it’s instructions also and did seriously the required meditations. After that, as background for the integration of the teachings in the normal life I received a number of Lojong teachings, like the 8 Verses [i.e. The 8 Verses of Mind Training], the 37 Practices of the Bodhisattva, Nagarjuna’s Suhṛllekha [i.e.Letter to a Friend] and more with the respected commentaries. I received a lot of prayers to support my practice, along with their commentaries, like the prayer of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra [i.e. The King of Aspirations], which was actually part of my daily practice, and also other prayers, like The 12 Deeds of the Buddha, The Door to Happiness, many lineage supplications, the Sakya Legshe [i.e. Treasury of Precious Sayings] by Sakya Pandita, a whole collection of Sakya prayers… Additionally I received and practiced some sutra pujas, like the puja to the 16 Shtaviras, etc. In addition to that I received privately some special things which were not connected to Sakya, like Mipam Rinpoche’s Shower of Blessings, some short works by Patrul Rinpoche, the 4 Dharmas of Gampopa, an oral tradition prayer to Milarepa, prayers to Guru Rinpoche and others. A very major transmission I also received during this period, which I practiced a lot afterwards in retreat, was the sutra part of the Lam Dre Tsog She [The Path and it’s Fruit, Tib. lam ‘bras tshogs bshad], Ngorchen’s Snang Gsum [The Beautiful Ornament of the Three Visions, Tib. sNang.gsum mdzes rgyan] with it’s oral instructions. This is a very extensive practice cycle comprising more than 30 different meditation practices, which I was fortunate enough to be able to complete in retreat eventually. So that’s how things happened to me back then, that was the very beginning. I am sure I am forgetting about a lot of things, and this is all apart from the Vajrayana stuff.
Question: What was the “Vajrayana stuff,” please tell.
Ivo: Why are we doing this, again?
Interviewer: I am trying to ask you to give a list of all the teachings you have received, like a namthar.
Ivo: A namthar is a story of liberation, it requires a liberated character, in the end, at least. I am not, so it is pointless.
Interviewer: Let’s pretend, please. Someone may find this list of teachings useful and actually attain liberation with them :)
Ivo: OK, I’ll try, but this will be a very long interview.
Interviewer: OK, please. What was the “Vajrayana stuff”?
Ivo: OK. In the beginning I received from Lama Jampa a series of Vajrayana wangs [i.e. initiations]. Most were Kriya and Charya, some were Anuttara. He bestowed on me the Manjushri Arapacana, Green Tara, White Tara, Shri Dzambhala, The Four Armed Chenresik-Mahamudra of Ngorchen, Vajrasattva and a couple of others. Many of these initiations I received a number of times, especially Chenresik, which he used to give often. From these I took the Chenrezik-Mahamudra sadhana of Ngorchen as my main practice and completed the required mantra accumulation many times over – I did more than 5 million during this period, doing numerous retreats. Then I practiced Manjushri, also accumulating several million, then Green Tara, then some Dzambhala, then Vajrasattva. The White Tara I didn’t practice that much. As support for this kind of practice I received some Vajrayana teachings, like the 50 Verses on the Guru with Tsarchen’s commentary and several others, the 14 Root Downfalls, also with commentaries, one by Sapan, the very special Khor ‘das dbyer med commentary of Gaton Ngawang Lekpa, the Nectar of Good Fortune, with the oral instructions. I also received the new Sakya ngondro of Deshung Rinpoche. I started doing protector practices daily connected to the Sakya Dharmapalas. During that time I made my first trip to India and Nepal and met briefly with H.H. The Dalai Lama, H.H. Sakya Trizin, H.E. Chogye Trichen Rinpoche and received some small things, together with a Manjushri wang from Karma Thinley Rinpoche. Later I received the Nyingma-Kagyu Konchok Chidu ngondro transmission, which I completed in full in retreat. Then I received in England the Konchok Chidu treasure cycle and empowerment itself and started practicing the Kyerim and Dzogrim stages of that system. At that time however my relationship with Lama Jampa got a little tense, since I wanted to engage fully with the Nyingma school terma tradition and he wanted me to stay a Sakyapa and take care of his group in Bulgaria. We eventually parted ways and I started studying with my Tibetan teachers.
Interviewer: Didn’t that create problems with your practice.
Ivo: Well, it was surely a very difficult situation, for me personally, as Lama Jampa was everything to me at that time. But there were no real samaya problems or anything like that. We both knew that it was inevitable and he finally gave me his blessing. I am sure some bitter taste lingers on, though, these things are never simple. Then I went to Rabjam Rinpoche and started receiving really big transmissions from him, from Gangten Rinpoche and from H.H. Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche. Later through their blessings I studied with many other teachers, who were all very kind to me.
Interviewer: What transmissions did you receive and practice?
Ivo: This is very difficult to recount, what I received from Lama Jampa is very little compared to what I received afterwards. You want me to make a list? I’ll have to use my records for that… I don’t have this kind of memory.
Interviewer: Yes, please.
Ivo: OK, let’s see… Firstly I received both the long and the short Longchen Nyingthik ngondros from Kyabje Rabjam Rinpoche and completed the long one. As a support for that, at the request of Rabjam Rinpoche I received in Shechen Monastery privately from several Rinpoches the reading transmissions of Patrul’s Kunzang Lama’I Shelung, Shantideva’s Bodhicharaavatara, Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakaavatara, the whole Bardo Thodrol of Karma Lingpa, the whole Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo terma of Khyentse Wangpo and Chogyur Lingpa. From Rabjam Rinpoche personally I received, on Trulshik Rinpoche’s request, the Tsik Sum Né Dek with Patrul Rinpoche’s commentary. From him I also received the trasmission of the 7 Point Mind Training, Patrul’s Heart Treasure, Shechen Gyaltsap’s Great Medicine, as well as many practices and prayers used in Shechen, like the Kunzang Monlam [i.e.The Dzogchen prayer of Samantabhadra], the Sampa Lhundrup [i.e. The Spontaneous Accomplishment of All Wishes], Sampa Nyurdrup [i.e. The Prayer Which Swiftly Fulfills All Wishes], Tashi guiepa [i.e. The Verses on the 8 Auspicious Ones], the Konchog Jerden sutra [i.e. The Sutra on Truly Remembering the Sublime Three Jewels], the Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra [i.e. The Heart Sutra], the 21 Taras prayer as well as some Tara Prayers of Trisong Deutsen, The Seven Line Prayer with the Guru Tenkye guru yoga of Khyentse Wangpo, the Dusum Sangye, the Barche Lamsel [i.e. Clearing the Obstacles of the Path], the Terma prayer of the Vajradhatu Mandala of Chogyur Lingpa, many confession and preliminary prayers, Praises to the life of the Buddha, prayers to Tara from Bhikshuni Lakshmi. I also received several sadhanas, like the Jamyang Thodrup Manjushri sadhana of Khyentse Wangpo with the Joyful Offering Cloud to Jamgon praise, also by Khyentse Wangpo, the Tubshog Chinlap Terdzo sadhana of the Buddha by Mipham. Also the Maha Guru prayer of Yeshe Tsogyal revealed by Pema Lingpa, the Dentsil Monlam prayer of the 14-th Dalai Lama and other miscellaneous prayers. At that time I also received from Rinpoche Jamgon Kongtrul’s Calling the Gurus From Afar.
From Rabjam Rinpoche I also received in private several major empowerments, like the Netik Phurba treasure cycle of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, the Rigdzin Dupa from the Longchen Nyingthik, the Sangtik Phurba of Chogyur Lingpa, the Rangjung Pema Nyingthik of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche with it’s ngondro, which I also practiced. At a later time I also received from Kyabje Rabjam Rinpoche the transmission of the complete works of Longchenpa – the Seven Treasures and their commentaries, the trilogies and all the other teachings of Longchen Rabjam. This is a monumental body of teachings, many volumes, took a very long time and was truly a blessing, as these transmissions are given very rarely.
Interviewer: What does this collection of teachings comprise of?
Ivo: Well… The Seven Treasures are the Mengag Dzo [i.e. The Treasury of Pith Instructions], the Drubta Dzo [The Treasury of Philosophical Systems], the Choying Dzo [i.e. The Treasury of Dharmadhatu] and it’s commentary, the Yishin Dzo [i.e. The Wish Fulfilling Treasury], the Tekchok Dzo [i.e. The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle], the Tsik Don Dzo [i.e. The Treasury of Words and Meanings] and the Neluk Dzo [i.e The Treasury of the Natural State] and it’s commentary. By the way, these teachings were not meant as a cycle, they have come to be regarded as somewhat connected at later times, although they are not really connected. There are also three famous trilogies – each comprising three volumes. The Ngalso Khorsum [i.e. Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease] comprises of Sem Nyi Ngalso [Finding Comfort and Ease in the Nature of Mind] and it’s meaning commentary, Samten Ngalso [Finding Comfort and Ease in Meditation] and it’s brief commentary, the Gyuma Ngalso [Finding Comfort and Ease in the Illusoriness of Things] and it’s commentary and the Ngalso Khorsum Chidon. The Munsel Khorsum trilogy [i.e. Trilogy of Dispelling Darkness] comprises of three commentaries of the Guhyagarbha Tantra – Chog Chu Munsel [i.e. Dispelling the Darkness in the Ten Directions], Yidkyi Munsel [i.e. Dispelling the Darkness of Mind] and Marig Munsel [Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance]. The Rangdrol Korsum trilogy [i.e. The Trilogy of Natural Freedom] comprises of the Semnyi Rangdrol [i.e. The Natural Freedom of the Nature of Mind] and it’s meaning commentary, the Chonyi Rangdrol [i.e. The Natural Freedom of Reality] with it’s meaning commentary also and the Nyamnyi Rangdrol [i.e. The Natural Freedom of Equanimity] with it’s meaning commentary. There is also a collection of another 14 writings of Longchenpa comprising several more volumes. But these lists are really getting way too long for an interview.
Interviewer: OK. What did you practice at that time?
Ivo: I have been practicing continuously, I don’t know. At that time I think I completed the Kyerim of the Rigdzin Dupa, and also practiced several ngondros.
Interviewer: Why several ngondros? How many?
Ivo: I had to make connections to various cycles, this was also a request of my teachers. I think that I practiced all in all six different ngondros, but I didn’t complete the full accumulations of all of them. The Sakya ngondro I didn’t practice much. Also I did only 10 000 of the Rangjung Pema Nyingthik one, since Rabjam Rinpoche allowed me.
Interviewer: What transmissions did you receive from H.H. Trulshik Rinpoche, your root teacher? How did you meet him?
Ivo: Rabjam Rinpoche took me to him. Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche is someone I will never be able to repay my debt to. Everything which happened to me, all the transmissions I received, all the blessings in my practice, all the kindness so many teachers showed me was due to him. If he hadn’t given his blessing, nothing would have happened. I was fortunate… or maybe he was just joking [laughs].
Interviewer: So what did you receive from him?
Ivo: Apart from things I would rather keep private, I received from him the complete Longchen Nyingthik treasure cycle together with Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche and Dudjom Yangsi Rinpoche.
Interviewer: What does this cycle comprise of?
Ivo: It comprises of 19 major empowerments, although Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche bestowed more than that, since he also gave some of the empowerments several times based on different lineages. In fact at one point he gave one thousand empowerments. And it also contains many teachings on the inner tantras and on Atiyoga.
Interviewer: Can you at least share the names of these transmissions?
Ivo: OK, if we must… The empowerments are the Shitro [i.e. Peaceful and Wrathful deities] – a two day major empowerment. The Rigdzin Dupa – also a two day empowerment, along with a branch longevity empowerment called Essence of the Vase of Nectar. Amitabha empowerment, Amitayus empowerment, a major two day Vajrasattva empowerment, Takchung Barwa, which Rinpoche actually gave three times according to the empowerment texts of Jigme Thinley Oser, Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul. A major two day Palchen Dupa empowerment. Then there are the Yamantaka, Hayagriva, Yandrak Heruka, Vajrakilaya, Chenrezik, Yumka Dechen Gyalmo along with it’s branch longevity empowerment, Simhamukha and the Thigle Gyachen along with the branch takdrol Rigzin Sokkor empowerment. Then there are the empowerments of the Dharmapalas. Rinpoche also bestowed a White Tara empowerment for auspiciousness at the end.
Interviewer: And the teachings?
Ivo: The Longchen Nyingthik has many texts. Apart from the ngondro and all the sadhana texts, including the Laughter of the Dakinis Chod practice, there are three commentaries on the ngondro, then there are the root tantra texts, of which there are four main ones, there are also two Kyerim commentaries – the Ladder to Akanishtha and the Advice of Palchen, there are two main Dzogrim texts – one on Tsa Lung and one on Tummo, there are many prayers, and of course there is the Yeshe Lama Dzogchen manual with it’s other texts. Apart from that, in addition to the three original volumes of the cycle there are two more added by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, which Rinpoche also bestowed. Nowadays the cycle comprises of five big volumes. Translated into English this would probably make about 20 very big books.
Interviewer: Are these the main transmissions you have received?
Ivo: These are very major ones, but I have received a lot of other transmissions from my other teachers which are no less important to me.
Interviewer: Who are your other main teachers.
Ivo: Gangten Rinpoche is an extremely important teacher for me. I received from him the whole Kunzang Gongdu treasure cycle of Pema Lingpa over the course of several years, with all the empowerments, reading transmissions and oral instructions. This cycle is in every way comparable to the Longchen Nyingthik, it is an extremely profound Dzogchen cycle and Gangten Rinpoche is an amazing Lama, a true son of Dudjom Rinpoche. This is my connection to the Dudjom lineage, which for me is something very special.
Interviewer: What is there in the Kunzang Gongdu cycle?
Ivo: Well, there are also a lot of empowerments, Shitro, Vajrasattva, Hayagriva, etc. etc. It is a full path through the inner tantras, Kyerim, Dzogrim, Tsa Lung, Rushen, Trekcho, Thogyal, but in essence it is really the Khandro Nyingthik Dzogchen lineage. I would not elaborate on the specifics, these things really have to be received in the context of a teacher-disciple relationship.
Interviewer: Did you also receive other transmissions from Gangten Tulku Rinpoche?
Ivo: Yes, a few. I received a Kurukulla wang and transmission, Dujom Lingpa’s Nang-jang, Dudjom Rinpoche’s Troma Nakmo, Chod, the Yeshe Kuchok [i.e. The Inexpressable Absolute Confession], some very profound prayers from Dudjom Rinpoche, the amazing Manjushri Dzogchen prayer, some extensive Dharmapala practices. I have also received some special things from him I would not name.
Interviewer: Who else did you receive transmissions from?
Ivo: Well, I have received several transmissions from H.H. Dalai Lama, the one I hold most precious is the Innermost Embodiment of Accomplishment Padmasambhava empowerment of the Great Fifth Dalai Lama. The Bodhichittavivarana of Nagarjuna I also received from him.
Interviewer: And what about Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche? They have come at your invitation to the center in Bulgaria, one of them twice, and they very rarely make such trips. How close are you to them.
Ivo: I wouldn’t say I am very close to these masters. Maybe in a very limited way. They probably came at the request of Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche and Rabjam Rinpoche, I think… maybe. Who knows really, each of them is very peculiar in his own way. During the several times we met I have not asked Dzongsar Khyentse for any transmissions on purpose and have not received anything from him, although I advised a lot of people to take refuge with him and to study with him and actually asked on behalf of others for some reading transmissions and for teachings, at which I was translating. From Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche, I have received some things.
Interviewer: Why didn’t you request teachings from Dzongsar Khyenste Rinpoche?
Ivo: Well, on the one hand when we finally met for real I had already received everything I needed, and then some. There was no need. On the other hand, I like Dzongsar Khyentse very much, and at the same time I do not agree with the way he is handling things as the head of the Khyentse Lineage. I think he can do much better and I think he is not brave enough. Or in fact he maybe is, but still does nothing, which is even more frustrating. So I didn’t want any possible samaya problems among us, that’s why I didn’t ask for anything. It is a love-hate relationship – he has a way of stimulating such things [laughs].
Interviewer: What about Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche?
Ivo: What about him?
Interviewer: You said that you received “things” from him. He came twice to Bulgaria, he generally never does such trips.
Ivo: Since he was a very close disciple of H.H Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche and since we had actually received together the Longchen Nyingthik cycle we had some connection. I had received from him a lot of additional explanations on the actual Longchen Nyingthik empowerments back in Nepal. Then in Bulgaria he bestowed a Buddha Shakyamuni, Maitreya and Chenrezik empowerment. Also Tangtong Gyalpo’s Chenrezik sadhana. I also requested from him a collection of teachings and practices he compiled.
Interviewer: What does it contain?
Ivo: It contains many things, like the Dorje namjom [i.e. the Vajra Subduer], some Tara sadhanas, Tsog, Sang, Sur, Dharmapala practices, some Vajrakilaya prayers, Lamp Offering practice, Chenrezik sadhanas and prayers, various terma prayers to Guru Rinpoche, The Secret Path of the Vidyadharas, confession prayers, including the one from The Stainless King, the Vajradhatu Mandala prayer, and other things of such nature.
Interviewer: OK, thanks. Can I ask, what is your connection to Namkhai Norbu Ripoche?
Ivo: I hold Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche in very high regard. I have been to several of his retreats and followed many others on webcast with the group at my center, I think he is an amazingly brave and without any doubt very realized Dzogchen teacher. I admire him very highly. He is doing what almost none of the other Tibetan teachers dare to do. I have of course received all the transmissions he gives – what everyone else has also received. I think his Longsal teachings have a great future and are one of the most beneficial things which have happened on the planet lately.
Interviewer: Have you received transmissions in private from him?
Ivo: No. The other teachings I have mentioned so far – I did receive most of these transmissions in private, this is the way I have usually received transmissions. But I never had this kind of relationship with Norbu, although we exchange e-mails from time to time and he is actually one of the very few lamas who knows what happens with us.
Interviewer: You mean about the new cycles?
Ivo: Yes, about that too.
Interviewer: Does he give support?
Ivo: Of course not. None has been asked for, nor needed, and he should not give any, anyway. This would complicate things enormously. These new cycles have really no connection to the Tibetan tradition.
Interviewer: But strictly speaking, neither has his Longsal.
Ivo: [laughing] That’s true. But he is a Tibetan Rinpoche, and he can not escape that. He is stuck.
Interviewer: OK… Are there other transmissions you have received?
Ivo: A lot, what I mentioned so far is a small part. But the rest is mostly things I can not talk about at this time. What I can talk about… I have received some of the things from the Adzom Drukpa lineage. Shabkar transmissions, things like Trungpa Rinpoche’s Sadhana of Mahamudra… I never had the attitude of collecting dharma as many people now have. Also I never wanted to receive any of the really big collections. What I requested from my teachers has been for the needs of my personal practice. Nevertheless I have never stopped receiving transmissions, nowadays it is in a way more intense than before, just the manner is different. Why this happens, I am not exactly sure. There is a part of this I do not particularly like. I think it is the responsibility part. So I generally just don’t discuss these things.
Interviewer: Can you tell more about this.
Ivo: Not now.
Interviewer: At least, are you going to pass on these Tibetan transmissions to others.
Ivo: No, I don’t think so. Maybe some very little bits and pieces, to save someone’s practice if the need arises. I do not really see myself as this kind of teacher. In fact, I have serious trouble seeing myself as a teacher at all.
Interviewer: What “kind” of teacher?
Ivo: Well, I have different views than most Tibetan lamas about the way the path should be followed and especially about the way Vajrayana teachings should be transmitted in the West. I have my own reasons for that. So even if I have to be a teacher, I don’t see myself as a Tibetan-style teacher at all.
Interviewer: What other way is there for you? As you have said yourself, you are a product of the Tibetan system, aren’t you?
Ivo: Yes and no. I am not Tibetan, which is actually a huge difference. I want to just leave the Tibetan tradition alone, I am nobody to try to reform things and besides I have too much past connections to it to do otherwise. I have to go in a different direction, and I am truly blessed to be born as a non-tibetan, so I can be easily dismissed as a wacko, which is quite convenient. That’s why I hope they [i.e. the Tibetans] may not lynch me… although their Western followers may do so [laughs]. Anyway, all this is also very much in harmony with my root guru’s vision and instructions and I have been given precise steps to follow. Wether I will have the strength to follow them I am still not sure, but I will try. It is a big subject and now is not the time to discuss it.
Interviewer: I hope we may be able to discuss it at some point.
Ivo: Hope then.
Interviewer: OK. You have received such a vast treasury of teachings, can you tell me something about your practice and retreats?
Ivo: Now this is actually the real question and the one which should have been asked in the beginning. Received Dharma is nothing important, and what I have received is only a drop from an ocean. But you should really ask about practiced Dharma. And in this regard, I am ashamed that I have very little to tell.
Interviewer: You sure did a lot of practice, and a lot of retreat.
Ivo: Well, it depends on how you look at it, it depends on who you are comparing to. For some it may be a lot, for others, it is nothing. I spent some time in retreat. At one time I spent four years in retreat. I tried to practice. In fact I may say that I was obsessed with practice for a very long time. I have had my share of curious incidents. I don’t think I have accomplished anything, really.
Interviewer: If you had not, you wouldn’t have been given such kind of access to the teachings.
Ivo: It may have been some past karma mix-up, who knows. And besides, my teachers have really great compassion. But it is definitely getting late. The interview is over.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.
Ivo: Thank you for your patience.
Although hundreds or thousands of explanations are given,
There is only one thing to be understood –
Know the one thing that liberates everything –
Awareness itself, your true nature.
– Dudjom Rinpoche