More Tales With My Lama

29 Feb

Bigfoot Dreams

To the scientific community, Bigfoot is nothing more than a myth, or more accurately described as a cryptozoological creature. This means that this creature does not exist to the scientific community due to a lack of substantial evidence that proves its existence, despite a growing number of eyewitness accounts, footprint castings and so forth.

However, Rinpoche like most Tibetan high lamas, ordinary monks and the general populace of the Himalayan region believe otherwise. In fact, Bigfoot is considered to be a real creature by people of many cultures. That is why Bigfoot has many names. He is known as Sasquatch to the American Indians, Yeti to the Nepalese, Migyur to the Tibetans and Yeren to the Chinese. Rinpoche believes that they do exist and owing to their enormous size, unusual stealth and strength, they are able to evade mankind to this day.

A still picture taken from the film footage shot in 1967 (known as the Patterson-Gimlin film) at Bluff Creek by Bob Gimlin and Roger Patterson. This film has since been subjected to many tests to authenticate and debunk it. However, the tests remain inconclusive to this day while some experts continue to believe that this is the most authentic footage of an actual Bigfoot. Click on image to enlarge.
A still picture taken from the film footage shot in 1967 (known as the Patterson-Gimlin film) at Bluff Creek by Bob Gimlin and Roger Patterson. This film has since been subjected to many tests to authenticate and debunk it. However, the tests remain inconclusive to this day while some experts continue to believe that this is the most authentic footage of an actual Bigfoot.

Like most American children, the young Rinpoche used to read about Bigfoot and other paranormal phenomena while growing up in New Jersey. However, the interest in Bigfoot never waned over the years, as the young Rinpoche devoured numerous books on this genre. Aside from books, Rinpoche also watched a number of films and documentaries that feature and portray this evasive creature. These days, Rinpoche continues to read about Bigfoot as a means of relaxation. Sometimes, Rinpoche has a Bigfoot documentary playing on his computer after completing his sadhana while he recites additional mantras as he unwinds for the day. Rinpoche watches many documentaries and films but prefers the older ones like the In Search of series hosted by Leonard Nimoy, Legend of Boggy Creek and many others.

In 2014, while travelling through America, Rinpoche passed through Willow Creek, one of the biggest hotspots for Bigfoot sightings in the world. It is located in Humboldt County, California where all the Bigfoot enthusiasts gather to visit the site where the famous Patterson-Gimlin footage was shot. This is one of the world’s most famous and authentic sightings of Bigfoot caught on camera. As such, it makes the place a ‘Bigfoot Mecca’ and that is why there is a Bigfoot museum, motel, gift shops, bookstore and even a Bigfoot burger place there. All these are very exciting for Rinpoche but the most exciting is the pristine forests. Rinpoche wrote about his experience at Willow Creek in a blog post, ‘I am in Willow Creek’.

Rinpoche said that he always had a deep fascination with this semi-mythical creature and is unable to explain where this comes from. Perhaps, Rinpoche was reluctant to reveal a connection from a previous lifetime due to his humility. However, the answer to this question came from an unexpected source, one of Rinpoche’s highly clairvoyant teachers, Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche who told us that he is not at all surprised by Tsem Rinpoche’s unusual interest in Bigfoot. He explained that the source of this deep interest was indeed from a previous life.

Rinpoche in his maroon monastic robes while visiting the famous Bluff Creek, not far from the site where the famous Patterson-Gimlin footage was taken.
Rinpoche in his maroon monastic robes while visiting the famous Bluff Creek, not far from the site where the famous Patterson-Gimlin footage was taken.

In this lifetime, Rinpoche has no access to the real Bigfoot in Malaysia. However, Bigfoot has come to represent the spread of Rinpoche’s message of the Dharma to the world. Thus, Rinpoche often posts articles about Bigfoot on his blog to introduce this creature to the world in order to encourage people to explore the paranormal and the unknown. After all, it is through the unknown that people start asking the right questions which lead them to spirituality and the Dharma. Thus, Bigfoot continues to be Rinpoche’s messenger spreading the word of spirituality and the Dharma to the world.

According to Kyabje Gangchen Rinpoche, Tsem Rinpoche’s previous lives engaged in many extended retreats in isolated and mountainous places in Tibet, which are the natural abode of Bigfoot creatures. These creatures were initially attracted by the spiritual aura of Rinpoche’s saintly presence. Thus, they made offerings of fruits and edible herbs foraged from the forested regions in which they live. Eventually, Rinpoche in his previous life discovered a means to engage Bigfoot as a messenger and often sent messages to other meditating lamas.

Daily Practice

For as long as I can remember, I have seen Rinpoche spend hours each day engaged in his formal meditational practice, which is called ‘sadhana’. A sadhana consists of recitations, meditations, prayers and mantras meant to acquaint the human mind with the mind of a particular Buddha or protector deity. In other words, the sadhana helps us achieve union with that particular Buddha-deity and that means we take on the enlightened qualities of that particular Buddha. It is usually a commitment given by a lama to his disciples either as a general instruction or as a commitment after receiving initiation of that deity.

Rinpoche’s sadhanas take a long time each day because he is responsible for several important lineages. He has to be able to uphold the sadhana commitments of all these practices so he is qualified to confer the initiation of that practice when the need arises. Rinpoche has explained that this is part and parcel of what a lama has to do in order to benefit others and proliferate the teachings and practices.

Rinpoche carries with him a thick tome with a line drawing of Manjushri on the cover. It contains all the sadhanas, prayers and mantras within it and more. These days, he has streamlined his sadhana to a thinner book that only contains the immediate sadhanas, recitations and mantras that he practices on a daily basis. This sadhana book is the most worn out book Rinpoche has, which is a testament to his commitment to his daily practice.

Rinpoche making offerings of traditional butter lamps to Vajra Yogini

Rinpoche making offerings of traditional butter lamps to Vajra Yogini. Rinpoche holds all forms of Dharma practice as extremely important, this is not only limited to daily recitations, mantras and meditations but includes making a lot of offerings and the transformation of the mind.

There never goes a day where Rinpoche does not complete his sadhanas. On days that he is very tired, he asks someone by his side to nudge him awake so he can complete the daily ritual. I have done this many times over the years when Rinpoche’s schedule is especially heavy. On some days, Rinpoche has become so exhausted that he is unable to even recall whether or not he has completed his sadhana. He makes up for it the following day. Thus, he has maintained his sadhana steadfastly, never wavering or giving up on his practice.

Like most lamas, Rinpoche carries a mala with him wherever he goes. A mala is a string of Buddhist prayer beads which helps practitioners keep track of the number of mantras that they recite. Rinpoche usually recites more mantras than required by his practice. He even recites mantras and blows them on stray animals, thus implanting a special blessing on these animals. He recites mantras whenever he can, while travelling, watching a movie and even when he goes for walks.

This is because Rinpoche does not take his daily sadhana as a daily chore or just a habit but a means towards gaining higher spiritual attainments. In actual fact, these sadhanas, mantras, prayers and practices were all bestowed to him by his great teachers. That is why Rinpoche sees doing his daily sadhana as an extension of his devotion to his teacher.

Laugh Away Your Ego

If you have listened to Tsem Rinpoche’s teachings or had the good fortune to meet him personally, you know that he has an irrepressible sense of humour. Rinpoche has a way of making people relax and have a really good laugh.

To do that, he uses his keen sense of observation and incredibly quick mind – nothing escapes his eyes. Some of the funniest moments are when Rinpoche mimics a student’s mannerisms or improvises scenarios that relate to the student’s expressions or reactions towards unpleasant situations or people. They are always spot on and pose a real danger of giving the audience belly-aching laughter.

My personal favourite is when Rinpoche starts a whole conversation in a foreign accent. Rinpoche is proficient in English, French and German as well as Southern American and African-American accents. Each accent comes complete with the appropriate slang, lingo and unique expressions to make it absolutely convincing. At times, Rinpoche makes up entire conversations between several characters, each with its own personality and accent. They are always brilliant, extremely funny and very entertaining.

Rinpoche’s teachings are often punctuated with bouts of laughter, which he sometimes uses deliberately to rouse the sleepy listener and to enrapture them to the message. This helps Rinpoche hold the attention of the audience for extended periods of time. In addition, laughter is a great way to release tension and stress over all manner of emotional issues and make everyone feel good about the teachings and the Dharma.

Naturally, humour is a way to open up the student, to relax them so they are not hung up with how our minds should be pliant and not hold on to conventions of what is appropriate or not appropriate. When Rinpoche teases someone, he encourages that person to laugh at themselves and not be self-conscious about being laughed at.

When we laugh at ourselves, we suffer less because we lower our undue expectations of people and situations. Rinpoche explains that when we are able to laugh at ourselves, we are able to let go of our ego a little. When the ego is reduced, we gain deep understanding and realizations of the Dharma.

This shows us that Rinpoche uses unconventional means to bring benefits to his students and friends. It is just another of the vast variety of methods that Rinpoche uses to develop his students and disciples to be great practitioners and ready for higher teachings and practices. Therefore, he or she is well on the way of practicing the teachings, benefiting others and living a meaningful life.

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