White Conch monastery & Dharma Center

 

Interview with the ninth incarnation of
Venerable Domo Geshe Rinpoche

 

 Greetings and thank you Rinpoche for taking your time with me today. It must feel strange to you to be here in a new incarnation with the feelings and memories of your just previous. How are you doing?

Thank you. First I say that I am still assimilating English and getting better everyday. I am not an American, but a Tibetan monk named Domo Geshe who has arisen in American body. They would say a special kind of reincarnation that needs to return even more quick than arriving in a baby form to begin work in 30-40 years.

Rinpoche, I was reading the biography of Geshe Ngawang Kalsang, your previous incarnation, and I noticed that you were many famous people in previous lives. Your incarnations appear to go back as far as the lifetime of Buddha Shakyamuni or farther. How do you choose when and where to come?

As one of the oldest lineage Rinpoches in Tibetan Buddhism my lineage is very very long. Since the beginning, I have arrived when and where there is a crucial problem. The energy of the time and place together with my willpower to fix difficulties guide me into a choice. Usually it is necessity of the situation that has a strong influence.

Please would you tell me more about some of your earlier incarnations in your personal lineage?

I thinking about several of my previous lives, particular a Tibetan called Thonmi Sambhota. I do not have active memories but I know from that lifetime. He was appointed and took the responsibility of developing the written Tibetan language. We not have any written language in Tibet at that time. The Dharma teachings could not be written down or remembered or categorized and this was a big stumbling block, a big problem of that time. Those who went to India and studied Sanskrit brought back Sanskrit texts. They would carefully look at the Sanskrit and tell people whatever they could about what it meant in Tibetan.

It was (snaps fingers) gone because they could not even record their Tibetan words, and so the teachings became muddled very quickly. It depended only on oral sources. I had gone around long before I appeared as Thonmi Sambhota. However, in that lifetime there was a problem. I have taught about the worry cycle that says, "Oh my gosh, there's a problem. What am I going to do about it?" This cycle feeds on itself until one person decides that there must be a solution.

There must be a way of taking sounds of Tibetan language and based upon the Sanskrit language I in that lifetime was able to create the Tibetan alphabet. That is how the holy Dharma was recreated in Tibetan books. I came as Thonmi Sambhota in order to solve the difficulty then. Any people who do not have a written language remain in very infantile state. We had oral teachings but not a written language. It did not really become sophisticated until later.

At the time of Atisha his important Tibetan student was called Dromtoenpa. Je Dromtoenpa came because there came a need of a new transmission of Buddhism from the original country of India to Tibet. They call what Atisha did the second dissemination of Buddhism. It is important to me to personally participate in the seminal moments of history. In that way, I must love this because even at that time there was a problem. I am not saying this from the viewpoint of ego, truly. I am saying that the enlightened energies in the form of Je Dromtoenpa, whose life process was me in my previous life - I am him but I am not him right now- was there to solve a problem and to begin a new process. I have had many, many lives.

If you arise in an incarnation according to the problems and needs of the time, please explain what problems exist that would cause you to come in an American adult female incarnation?

This question requires a longer explanation. Even it is not easy for me to understand why I had arisen in this form, as an adult rather than going to a baby body, rather than going to a Tibetan body, rather than going to a male body.

I am not a baby.
I am not a Tibetan. 
And I am not a male.

I must acknowledge the energy of this world and the needs create different kinds of requests.

What is happening? I am here as an adult, which is part of the ancient system and far more difficult to do than coming as a baby. The bar has been lowered again and again and again to make it easier for the enlightened ones to arise. Tibet is not in good condition. In Tibet, before, before, the most intelligent went to the monasteries and the studies because of the educational system - the greatest minds always went to the monastic system. In that way, we had excellence upon excellence, like a spiritual think tank. From my American I say like a spiritual think tank. When we traditional gurus got together, we had conversations that would light up whole cities. It was marvelous.

What has happened since 1959? Tibetans now placing their children in Western-style educational organizations, and many of them are boarding schools. This not the difficulty, the Tibetan school system is really doing good work. The other schools that Tibetans sending their children usual not teach Buddhist or Tibetan culture for the young people. Parents are looking at their children and saying, "This one seems to be quite intelligent. Let's see how well they do in school." I am telling tales, but this comes as true. "If they do well in school then I'm going to send them on to university. If they do well there let's let them become a doctor or a lawyer or a businessman -- more businessmen now. When I am old they will be able to support me." Very clever.

Conversely, let's say that they do not do that well in school. "Let's send them to the monastery." It makes me want to vomit, but I have to say it is coming true. We always had high thinking that went on. Of course, we always had a mixture of intelligent and unintelligent people. However, the most intelligent are now going into business and not into the service of the community. In that way, these intelligent people who could be wonderful in the monastery are instead becoming… practitioners? Wouldn't that be marvelous? Is it happening? Not at all. They are not even becoming Tibetan Buddhist practitioners.

We've got a problem here. I trying to define problems so I can find out what is the solution. In my before life, when I was young I was considered to be very intelligent child. In that way, if I should instead be reborn now as a baby, would I be sent to the monastery? Perhaps. Would I remain at the monastery? Only perhaps. Would I be allowed to be the guru Domo Geshe that my traditional work calls me to be? Only perhaps -- and that was not good enough. I have a little bit controversial form here because I was not willing to take that chance. I was in a body that about to pass away, I had to go. That was the old model car broken, and although I did not trade it in for the latest model, I traded it in for a classic, shall I say.

There come a problem because young men are not coming to train through the process where they will become the gurus of the future. They are not sending the most intelligent young men to the monasteries. I in fact have gone to one of the great three monasteries and I have seen a young man with Down syndrome who was a monk, impossible for him to learn even ordinary Dharma concepts. This is an extreme example of someone who is not capable.

I am not saying that all of the present monks are not intelligent - there are some intelligent, but not enough of them. And the ones who are really intelligent are not even going into the monastery. Why? Not because they do not want to. Some of these young people want to go and their parents say, "Not you." Their hidden agenda: "You will be the one who will support me in my old age." At Ganden Jangtze Monastery in South India, fully 60% of the monks are escapees from Tibet with nowhere to go except into the monastery system to be educated (I receive this information from GJ monks). Most are above school age and not able to learn in public school. The youth from the exile community only coming few few.

I have said it in different ways, but I am going to say it like this. Part of me was born in the West in 1946. Lo and behold if that one and I, like a magnet, didn't come together and meet. I am here instead of that one because my educational system exceeded the educational system of the one in America. The educational system in the West is not the same as what I received. When I arose in this I did it as a transference of my consciousness. It is little done, little understood and rarely done because they do not know how to do it anymore.

Did you plan or know that you were coming to an American incarnation?

Yes and no. I left Kalimpong thirty years ago and I went to Delhi for a while and here and there, but I wound up in America. I spent most of the last thirty years of my life in America. I had students in America who insisted that I remain there and in that way, I established my residence and my work in the West a long long time ago. I gathered my students and they learned their lessons well. I accomplished the work that I needed to do then, and a lot of it was in preparation for the future. His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to visit me in America for several days and he said, "What are you doing here, exactly what kind of things?" I was very private and was not letting everyone know my whole business, so I said, "I taking care for the future."

I had His Holiness flown to my land in Upstate New York by helicopter and they landed in the field outside my house. They later tried to get me to go in the helicopter for a ride. "No way! Let His Holiness go in the helicopter, I am not going in the helicopter." No no no, I was not going. "Let them fly around like that, I am happy to keep my feet right here on the ground."

I was eighth Domo Geshe and sometimes jokingly I say I am the eighth-and-a-half. So that future I talking about must include the ninth incarnation. Most of my time was spent with my American students. Among my American students there were some who did extraordinarily well. In Tibet even before '59, there were those who knew that their work not include what was happening in Tibet, but in fact went to new work that was happening world-wide and my partner went to America.

Rinpoche, can you please give your reasons for incarnating as a woman?

Best question come what reason for coming back but I answer how you ask. I am not a feminist but I listen to the times. Women of this world are not bound up by traditional work anymore, isn't that so? Even forty years ago, Western women were expected to marry, expected to produce children and expected to stay at home. How was this person going to pursue a full time spiritual career? Their entire time and expectations were taken away. The expectations of society allowed them spirituality, but not a spiritual career. That has changed. The intelligent men and women of the West are being looked at very carefully as the guardians, the next wave.

My goodness, Tibet was a small place - we were like a petri dish where powerful medicine is grown. Like that, the petri dish was only Tibet and now let us make that medicine available worldwide. Why? There is a problem. There is something all living beings have forgotten. They have forgotten that they are not living at home. They are away from home and home is where they want to return. Some people are very serious right at the beginning, others learn how to be serious.

Women have been undervalued in the West. Have they been undervalued in the East? Regarding spiritual education and attention from the guru, women have been vastly undervalued. Who is upset about this? Women? Yes. Men? Absolutely. Men in the West are very offended that women are not receiving equal opportunities. Like that, for the benefit of both men and women, women need to be brought into the inner circle. Truly, they remain on the outer circle. Even though they may be a student of a famous guru, deep inner guru transmission has always been reserved for certain male participants.

We've got a problem. We have highly capable human beings who are actively being told that they are inferior birth. An intelligent woman who is told that she is an inferior birth and therefore not elligble for certain kinds of transmission and who is really serious says, "Well, what do you expect me to do about it? Do you want me to go have a sex change operation so I acceptable? What is it about me? How can I satisfy you so that you will give me what I want?"

This sounds like the controversy I have read regarding Dolma, also known as Tara.

This is the very question that was presented to the bodhisattva Tara. In the incarnation when she was about to attain final enlightenment, she was approached by the male authorities of her age. They said, "We perceive through our inner knowing that you are about to attain enlightenment. Since you can only achieve enlightenment through the male form, we want you to now transform yourself into a male." She gave her famous speech about no male, no female. The upshot of it was that she said, "Not only will I not agree with you, I will attain enlightenment in a woman's body. And I promise you, in the future I will always incarnate as a woman."

This is a very famous part of our lore and allows us to acknowledge the enlightened qualities of women. However, it has remained at that level where they are acknowledged and sent to practice and different things happen, but not like what men are able to get. My point is those women who are about to attain enlightenment in a woman's body must have certain kinds of very special transmissions in order for them to make that breakthrough. Male or female, someone must have a special kind of transmission in order to make a final breakthrough. I will work with all of those who are serious about practicing, and I will encourage newcomers and teach them as well.

I must acknowledge that my appearing as a woman allows me to create enough of a controversy so that we are all alerted. The process must be as strong for women as it is for men. There are those of you who will think that you have gotten the initiations, the practices, the blessings. I am telling you that there are processes exclusive to a handful of highest gurus that are not available. Those are the very very things I am talking about that have not been open to women. I don't care how long you have been practicing, you have not gotten this because only a handful have received this kind of transmission. In that way, I am asking that those who are highly capable also be permitted to receive the highest initiations. So here I am.

Rinpoche, what about being an American?

I have been born as (Rinpoche gasps) a foreigner! (Both laugh) This comes very interesting. There was a book written in America many years ago about a man who was white and who decided to perform an experiment. He made his face black, and this is when discrimination was very very strong in the South. He went to a place that was highly discriminatory. Book is called Black Like Me. He wrote this book of his experiences as a perceived black person in a white world. For the first time in his life he experienced discrimination, only because he said that he was black. Like that, I have appeared here. I am Tibetan and I appear here as an American. Wow! Is that a difference! I am not afraid and that is that.

From my original point of view, I was a Tibetan scholar on one of the highest levels and considered to be a scholar authority for the Tibetans. When I came to America, (Rinpoche lowers voice) I talked like this. "Hello, how are you? What come your name?" I really did not say much at all. I talked very very low. "Hello, good to see you. How are you?" This is mostly what I could do. I am still the same one inside but now outside is a much different process. (Rinpoche returns to normal volume) Now I sound like a megaphone compared to my before.

It is impossible for a Tibetan to be able to communicate within Western context with the kind of vocabulary that I have now. I was very proud of all the English words I knew before and that I knew them very clearly. And I was very careful to use them very precisely. My Tibetan was very precise, so the English that I learned was very precise. Now I think about the ramifications of a particular English word, all of the different meanings and the nuances.

When I select words now, I do it from the viewpoint of communication. I can talk to small children in English and teach them something about Dharma. I can teach old people. I have spoken with scientists and medical people about comparisons between their field of expertise and Buddhism, and how they could benefit from Buddhism through their understanding of their own field. These kinds of things were impossible before.

Rinpoche, as a Western adult female guru, have you changed your teaching style from the way you taught in your last incarnation?

I am a communicator now. The end result does not come without communicating how difficult your situation actually is. I do not teach about the nature of suffering the way same way we do in traditional teachings. Please do not misunderstand. So much of the teachings in Tibetan Buddhism revolve around suffering and I do not do it that way. It is not within the context of the Western mind that allows itself to appreciate one's own life and their own possibilities, and their own possibility of attaining enlightenment. I call this joyful path and teach in different method. When it is done correctly, benefit come.

Like mayflies, very small and beautiful flying insects that only live one day, your lives are so short. You seem to think that they go on and on and on forever. But in comparison to my many lives and the time since my release from that very thing that holds you, you are like mayflies. You will be here for a short time -- your entire life will pass like one day for a mayfly. You are in a burning building and I am standing outside saying, "Come out of the burning building." You do not even notice that it is burning around you. "Come out. I have something nice to tell you. Will you come here?"

I am trying to move you away from your fascination with samsara. Perhaps right now you are young and beautiful, but in future, your life as a mayfly, it will only be a few hours before you are bent over. I never pass away and I teach very gently what it is like to be long life and to live among those who are in danger and needing to come away from danger now. Each life that you go through, you will not necessarily have an opportunity to be brought out of danger. You may live many lives in the future where you do not have an opportunity to escape. This is your time to escape from the clutches of this difficulty.

Like that, I am here to communicate your own need. I am here to communicate the necessity of coming under protection. I am talking about refuge. I have an obligation to arise in the form that is needed. I was thinking very strongly this morning, "How is it that I am in dilemma?" I see these cowboys on television. They get into the gated area with a bucking horse. I've got my hat in my hand now and I say open the gate.

This transmission from our little nurturing cradle in Tibet to the world must be done correctly or it becomes just another fascination, just another pretend kind of a thing to do, and it not hit the mark. When I am talking about deep levels, the real transformation has to happen at this very deep level.

Please tell me, how does one enter the path to find these deep levels?

You must mentally, from your own side, request to begin. This is a subject that is not really covered very much, and it is the very subject that new people coming to Tibetan Buddhism that they want to hear about. So I am spending a long time in discussing this from the Western point of view and really looking at it from my interior in expressing what I know and seeing just how that is mixing with what you understand. That is the nature of communication. Not the fact that I have some Tibetan text to chant to you or because I can ring the bell very well - this is not what you need to hear. You need to hear what you do not understand.

If you have a spiritual nature and raised in Tibet, you would have begun at a very early age. However, you were not born in Tibet, you were born in other places. When that happens, you have gone around and you have gathered information and created interesting things and you have also created controversies. You come to me as what I used to call Swiss cheese. You know some things very well and so you keep doing the things you know because you are familiar with them. You do not realize that all around you are big deep holes of things that you have never heard about and do not know about and cannot figure out.

Some people in the West look at compassion as a method of moving away from their own self-absorption. They look at being careful with others, and at skillful social interaction on many different levels. They look at it as caring for others, and a breakthrough in understanding of themselves. This is all good thinking but I assure you that this is not the wisdom compassion that is needed to arise in the deep levels. That is not the spiritual compassion energy - it is not, it is not, it is not.

In my before I could not tell people that. What happened is that they confused their practice of compassion with this kind of social compassion and emotional compassion. What happens is that they become a volunteer and they go to the rain forest and save the trees, and they do not do an authentic spiritual practice. In that lifetime they have all kinds of good deeds they did, but it is not spiritual development. I have wanted to say that for a long time. Thank you.

Is it OK to have that kind of compassion? Of course it is. If you do not have that kind of compassion nobody wants to be around you. Jails are filled with people who are like this.

So that is OK, but to begin there are the practices that I give, the main one of which is the Blue Healing of Wisdom Light sadhana. This is the thangka that is shown here on the wall. This is the abstract form of the anuttarayoga tantra practice that is given in the abstract form because you have a tendency to objectify what it is and what it is not and to figure it out so cleverly that you close off your ability to be able to practice carefully. You might close off and you have taken the very cure and created a controversy in your mind.

Does that mean that you don't give deity practice, Rinpoche?

I do give deity practice. However, I am very careful that practitioners do not project a fantasy practice on top of deity practice and not get the desired result. There is no easy way for the practitioner to know if they are doing a fantasy practice or if it is an authentic practice. I have no objection working with those who have gained some proficiency in deity practice. It is not a difficulty at all.

Going back to being an American female Guru, does this indicate you feel there is a different role for men in the future?

No, I think men should have every advantage they now have and in addition that women who are equal qualified receive same advantage. We gurus not have infinite amount of time so not possible to work with everyone in the deeper process. We have to have the system so that gender is not the criteria. Who enter into the deep transmission depend on preparation and qualities that only gurus can see.

All authentic beings have a male side and a female side. In my before I had a very strong female side. In the tantric process, the transformation occurs through a dichotomy of energy and I teach these things very clearly in the highest yoga tantra practices. In that way, I was a male on the outside and I was also female. Now I am again both male and female. I am not androgynous. I am very clearly female and clearly male.

What difference does it make? However, for the benefit of ordinary women and ordinary men, we must have a way for all people to be able to be comfortable and come to the Dharma and receive teachings.

How does this concept relate to Carl Jung's "Anima/Animus" theory that an integrated person has male/female characteristics in balance?

This concept agrees with his theory, but takes it to a much deeper level. I have students -- psychotherapists who are looking at their practice of psychotherapy as a method to understand the deeper dynamics of their own integration. They get to a certain level and then they come to a stopping point where they can't go any farther on their own.

This is the level that I begin the actual enlightened integration process: a deeper level in balancing the male and female energies, not male and female all mixed together where they take on the characteristics of the other sex. It is real energy work that has not even been touched. I begin at this level and that is why people in psychology looking for their own healing want to begin practicing with me.

This touches on the transformative effect of the transmissions that are so carefully preserved and treasured in the highest levels of practitioners. My teachings are complete in accordance with the Tibetan tradition.

Thank you. Are you implying then that the male and female have similar ability to solve the problems that occur?

Absolutely yes. I am here to work with really difficult problems that affect both male and female human beings who wish to become free -- and who wish that sincerely for others. I am doing my traditional way of taking students and helping them grow and giving them the enlightenment process. This is completely aside from many different works that we old guys do.

I laugh with my students and enjoy being with them. We not so serious, but we very serious about the pure transmission of Buddhism from pure Tibetan sources. Je Tsongkapa was the miracle of the pure teaching tradition that has been handed down to my trembling hand in the marvelous lineage that has included Je Phabonka Rinpoche, and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and the great Geshe Jampa Chombe, my guru. I salute them all.

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