August has been a fortunate month for me. Prior to that, I had just completed a 25,000 Migtsema retreat and midway, I was told that I would be part of an entourage who would be travelling to Italy to have audience with Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche. Wow! I have never had the chance to have met this great master before and this was indeed a rare honour for me. Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche is one of Rinpoche’s Gurus and one that upon sight had recognized Tsem Rinpoche to be tulku – a high reincarnation. Gangchen Rinpoche is well known to have such incredible clairvoyance. Nonetheless, I was thrilled and immediately thought that I should make some offerings to collect merit and to make a Dharma connection.
Albagnano Meditation Center is where Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche resides and that’s in Italy. This is my first time travelling to Europe and of all places, it would be to Italy. The flight to Italy was a long one but it is nice to be travelling for Dharma. I was with ‘Changzo-la’ Beng Kooi, Pastor Jean Ai and Karen on this trip. Although we flew to Milan, Albagnano wasn’t in Milan. It was at a little town called Bee (pronounced Bae).
When we finally arrived in Albagnano, we discovered that everybody was in their prayer hall, The Temple of Heaven on Earth. Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche was there along with Lama Michel and they were finishing their last session of a Guhyasamaja retreat that they were engaging in. We were wandering outside till we were called to greet Rinpoche in the prayer hall. As we got closer to the prayer hall, miraculously, rain drops drizzled from the sky and just as we were about to set foot through the main door, the rain stopped. It was so perfectly ‘choreographed’, it must have been an auspicious omen that the unseen beings are happy.
Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche was very happy to see us that day. In this picture above, Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche together with Lama Michel and the other students formed a circle just outside of the temple to offer long life prayers to Tsem Rinpoche along with aspirational prayers for Rinpoche’s works to flourish and his life to be very long. It was Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche who first composed Rinpoche’s long life prayer and mantra as well.
A very neat little photo of Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche with us and an artist standing just outside on the verandah outside of the audience room of Gangchen Rinpoche’s ladrang. The artist had just come over to have audience with Rinpoche. It is summer in Italy and so, its quite hot and green out there in the countryside.
During the official audience with Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche, Beng Kooi on behalf of Tsem Rinpoche made extensive offerings to Gangchen Rinpoche. We had audience with Rinpoche in his personal audience room in his ladrang. The room was lavishly adorn that had an air of sanctity and seemed to transport the audience into one of the great monasteries of Tibet. The room wasn’t big but was dominated by a teaching throne offered to the Panchen Lama. Naturally, Beng Kooi updated Rinpoche on all matter of things happening within Kechara especially with the recent audience we had with the Panglung oracle. He was very happy with the news he had heard.
Along with our time spent in Albagnano, Beng Kooi along with the rest of us met up with many of Gangchen Rinpoche’s senior students, many of whom are very familiar with Tsem Rinpoche. It’s nice to have met them and get connected with them. Many of Rinpoche’s students had been in the Dharma for 20-30 years and have remain steadfast with their lama through thick and thin. Such loyalty is powerful inspiration in today’s world where Dharma is like a supermarket. We pick and choose lamas, practices and lineages according to trend and unfounded popular beliefs.
In honour of Gangchen Rinpoche and his students, Beng Kooi had arranged a nice dinner for all of Rinpoche’s students present. It was a rejoicing of sorts for the good news that we brought from Malaysia. Naturally, we had a toast or as how Rinpoche had described it, ‘ching-ching’ – the clinking of glasses. The food was home cooked, Italian and was rather yummy.
These are what I had offered to Gangchen Rinpoche after Beng Kooi had made all the offerings and updated Rinpoche. The pendants were from various people that Paul had given me to offer to Rinpoche. I thought I offer a little Medicine Buddha (Menlha) as Rinpoche is well known to be an emanation of Medicine Buddha. I offered my own books because most of my writings was about Tsem Rinpoche. I figured that Rinpoche would be very happy about that. When an attained being like Gangchen Rinpoche rejoices, I am blessed with merits and be able to do more Dharma work.
In this picture, Gangchen Rinpoche is flipping through the Vajrayogini Coffee Table Book and was pleased. Naturally, I had to explain about what the books were about. I even told him that I even wrote about him in one of the stories told by Tsem Rinpoche in Tales My Lama Told Me. He immediately asked me, “What did (Tsem) Rinpoche say about me?” In one of the chapters, I wrote about how Gangchen Rinpoche had trained Tsem Rinpoche to teach by making him give an ‘Endless Dharma Talk’. He quickly moved on to the other books.
Smart Beng Kooi took the opportunity to request Gangchen Rinpoche to bless me as a pastor and to bless my writings and teachings that I would be giving in the future. Interestingly, he gestured me to shake his hand. He said that this may look like an ordinary handshake but its not. In saying this, he shook my hand. Pastor Jean Ai nifty with her camera took these neat shots of me and they were pretty good.
This is Lama Caroline (left) and Lama Michel (right) on the throne in front of Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche’s throne. Lama Michel is a tulku and I recall that he was recognized by Gangchen Rinpoche to be the reincarnation of one of his own teachers. However, during this trip, we didn’t get much chance to interact with him as he is extremely busy especially since he was conducting the retreat sessions. Lama Caroline on the other hand, we had plenty of opportunities as Rinpoche had insisted that she demonstrate and explain the various Ngalso practices that they did at the center. We had specifically asked her for an explanation and demonstration on the practice of Black Manjushri as it was recommended for Kechara House to do it.
Here’s our ‘ching-ching’ toast and dinner sponsored by Tsem Ladrang on the last night before we left Albagnano. The Brazilian monk sitting across from me is Lama Daniel and that’s Lama Michel’s own father. He is a monk and a teacher of his own center in Brazil. In the end, Gangchen Rinpoche was very happy with all the news and updates he has been getting. Earlier that evening, we had asked a number of Dharma questions and he left some unanswered. He explained that it would auspicious for our return to Albagnano.
Gangchen Rinpoche had given us several gifts to each of us along with those to Tsem Rinpoche as well. Amongst them, we were given this brilliantly painted Kurukulle tsa-tsa. Prior to our visit, Gangchen Rinpoche had a Kurukulle initiation and she is amongst one of their main practices. An emanation of Tara, Kurukulle magnetizes and attracts resources, people and all suitable attainments through her bow and arrow, noose and hook made completely of flowers. What a splendid parting gift and blessing from Rinpoche.
PS :- You can see more pictures and explanations on Tsem Rinpoche’s blog…
and Pastor Jean Ai’s blog as well…