Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse on the Passing of his Father, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

The passing of this great being can be a timely reminder of all the teachings, from the simple truth of impermanence, all the way up to the realization of unobstructed compassion.


Thank you for your sympathy and best wishes at this time.

We live in a world of our own making, a world built by our own unique perceptions which we believe in fully, every year, every day, every hour and every moment of our lives.

Even though in reality this life is fleeting and lasts no longer than the time it takes for a spark of fire to shoot out, it is experienced by some as dragging on interminably for aeons and aeons. Yet for others, although in reality the span of this world’s existence is infinite, their experience of it lasts no longer than the blink of an eye.

For some, this world is no bigger than a worm hole, yet they feel insignificant and isolated, lost in a vast and infinite void. Others perceive the world to be small–as small as an entire universe–and to them it feels uncomfortably confined and claustrophobic.

Most of us, myself included, have been conditioned to live and die in a world created by our own perceptions, and continue to create conditions that will ensure we repeat this same game over and over again.

Amongst myriad possible perceptions, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche is seen variously as an ordinary person, a father, a teacher and a perfect being–a diversity of perception that is the result of each perceiver’s individual merit, or lack of it.

For people like me, whose limitations lead me to see him merely as my father, your condolences will be accepted as emotional support.

For those of you with ‘superior qualities’–or who aspire to develop such qualities–and are able to see Thinley Norbu as a perfect being, this is yet another opportunity to shrug off impure perception and generate pure perception, so that eventually you will go beyond perception altogether.

‘Awareness’ is the quintessential teaching of the Buddha–from the awareness of cool air as you breath in and then out, to the profound awareness of natural perfection. And with boundless compassion and courage, the sole purpose and activity of all the buddhas it is to ring the alarm bell that brings us to this awareness.

With enough merit, the passing of this great being can be interpreted as the ringing of that alarm bell, and a timely reminder of all the teachings, from the simple truth of impermanence, all the way up to the realization of unobstructed compassion. In this way, as much as this deluded mind of ours appreciated and valued his appearance in this world, it should also appreciate and value his disappearance.

Touching as it is to hear from those who are offering various prayers, recitations, butter lamps and many other wholesome activities at this time, allow me to remind myself and all those who are interested, that none of the practices we are currently engaging in are for him, but for ourselves.

However brilliantly the moon appears in the sky, if the pond is muddy, the moon will not be reflected in its waters. In the same way, it is through the purification of defilements and accumulation of merit within our own minds that will enable us, in time, to perceive a reflection of the Buddha, fully intact and never to depart.

So, rather than congratulating ourselves with the thought that we have accomplished all these practices during this special time, bear in mind that we should already have been doing them–and for that matter, we should continue doing them throughout this and all our future lives. But to imagine that our practise is something like providing this great being with the ‘last rites’ is definitely not the best way to go.

I have also been asked which specific practices should be done. Again, I will repeat that mindfulness, in other words ‘awareness’, is our practice. We are ignorant beings, and as such require constant reminders about the importance of making the effort to land in this awareness. Therefore all our guru’s activities–from when he yawns or coughs, to when he appears or disappears–are his way of reminding us to come back, again and again, to mindfulness.

And as long as we are mindful and aware, no one practice is better than another.

Written and dedicated to the enlightenment of all sentient beings in the presence of the rupakaya of Thinley Norbu.

New York City