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The Great Drikung Phowa and Vajrasattva Retreat by Choeze Kuchen Rinpoche

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THE BIOGRAPHY OF CHOEZE KUCHEN RINPOCHE

Kunchok Thrinley Lhundup Namgyal was born in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1984 as the eldest son of Lama Jorjel, brother of H.E. Ayang Rinpoche. At the age of two, HH. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche and H.H. Drikung Kyabgon Chungtsang Rinpoche recognized him as the 11th incarnation of Choeze Kuchen Rinpoche.

Choeze Kuchen Rinpoche is one of the high lamas of Choeze Thupten Dhargyeling monastery in Kham, Tibet. He is regarded as the manifestation of Yamantaka (a wrathful aspect of Manjushri).

In one of his previous lives, he was born as a bright Brahmin named Salwa (Prabha) during the times of Buddha Dipankara. In the 7th century, during the time of Dharma King Songtsen Gampo, he took rebirth as Thonmi Sambhota who went to India and studied under the great scholar Lekchin Kara and introduced Tibetan script and Buddhism into Tibet. He has also reincarnated before as Nged-Phupa, a great master of Mahamudra during the time of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon.

The present incarnation of Choeze Kuchen Rinpoche has achieved immense knowledge and wisdom at a very young age. He has undergone seven years of study of Buddhist philosophy and Drikung Kagyudpa teachings at the Thupten Shedup Jangchupling in south India. He has also received many precepts, oral transmissions and initiations from H.H. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche and Phowa Teachings from H.E. Ayang Rinpoche.

Rinpoche has spent two years in retreat and meditation, especially on Yamantaka, Padmasambhawa, White Tara and Aachi, at Pharping, one of the holy pilgrim place of Guru Padma Sambhawa.

At a very young age of 20, Rinpoche has established a retreat center at Pharping, Nepal. It is called "Aa Chi Namkha Thinksang" and he has built another retreat center in Kham, Tibet in recent years.


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DRIKUNG KAGYU PHOWA PRACTICE

The practice of Phowa, or Conscious Dying, is one of the profound teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. The Phowa teachings refer to the transference of consciousness at the time of death.

Phowa is a practice in dying well and consciously. Instead of being driven without choice or control through the intermediate after-death state (Bardo) and into a new rebirth in the cycle of existence, with successful Phowa practice the consciousness transfers directly into the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha (Dewachen).

One does not return to the samsaric realms after having entered Dewachen, and one can quickly achieve Enlightenment. In the Vajrayana, the Phowa practice is the most direct and the quickest path for one to achieve Enlightenment.

When taking the initiation of Phowa, it is important to receive the initiation from a Tulku (i.e. Incarnate Lama). Faith in the Lama Tulku is of primary importance. Strong faith coupled with devotion will yield powerful and immediate results.

Over and above the nine ordinary apertures of the body, there is a "crest aperture" where the skull bones meet. The virtue of doing Phowa practice is to be able to think of this crest aperture at the time of death and to direct the consciousness through this gate into the Pure Land of the Buddha. In the profound Path of Phowa, the Dharma is rapidly realized spontaneously without meditation effort.

Because of the overwhelming power of laziness in the postponement of our practice, one's life ends without one even realizing it, because life is so short and death is so quick. When death comes we have no escape, we have to accept it and go on to the next life. Nothing can help except the precious teachings.

The Phowa is particularly relevant in these times when we do not have the time nor circumstances to walk the spiritual path of the Dharma as did our predecessors.

The Phowa is a spiritual path that is simple, relevant, and direct, enabling us to transform the stresses and pace of modern life into a vital force that cuts through materialism and attachment to worldly phenomena, and awakens in us the realization of our Buddha-natures. We have the same opportunity as did thousands of people in Tibet to master the Phowa practice, enabling us to transform the experience of death, which is a certainty, into a passage to the realization of Dewachen.

During Phowa practice one learns to direct one's mind towards Buddha Amitabha and to transfer one's consciousness into the Pure Land of Great Bliss. It is even possible to realize the pure nature of one's mind, which means to manifest the pure land here and now. One can develop, in this lifetime, a huge capacity to benefit others and to liberate them from all sufferings. This is the actual meaning of the Phowa practice. It is a great gift, and the most powerful of all the different forms of Amitabha practice.

Marpa Lotsawa said, "From now, if you study Phowa, purify, purify time and time again. Then, at that time, when death is approaching, you will know no despair. If, beforehand, you have become accustomed to this Path of Phowa, then at the time of death you will be full of cheerful confidence."

The Drikung Phowa lineage, whose Tibetan name "Jaktshukma" means "the standing grass blade," is one of the most powerful and precious Phowa practices still taught today.

In the eighth century, an important minister of King Trisong Detsen named Nyima was in the process of moving. While packing some belongings by the light of a lantern, a small spark caused a fire that instantly burned down the whole palace, killing thirteen people including his parents. Many animals also perished in the fire.

The king wanted to ease the suffering of his minister and went to request the help of Padmasambhava. Padamasambhava, accepting the king's request, then journeyed to Dewachen to see Amitabha. He asked Amitabha to give a special teaching to free the victims of the fire, as well as all other beings, from suffering. Buddha Amitabha gave this particular Phowa teaching to Padmasambhava, who then gave it to his minister. Nyima subsequently gave up all worldly activities and devoted himself to the practice of Phowa. After some time, the minister reached the accomplishment of this practice, and at the time of his death, many miraculous signs appeared. These teachings were then hidden as terma, rediscovered, and propagated a few hundred years later, and are presently upheld in an unbroken lineage through the Drikung masters.


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