When the Precious One turned thirteen, it was Lama Gar Chime
Dorje who first introduced the young tulku to the treasure teachings of the Thirty-Seven
Practices of Bodhisattvas.
Everyone in the monastery, the monks and the yogis, was asked to memorize by heart
the thirty-seven stanzas compiled by Ngulchu Thogme Zangpo, a Sakya master known
throughout the land as a Bodhisattva, with qualities equal to those of Asanga, the
great Buddhist pandita from the famed Nalanda University in the 4th century.
Having complete faith in these teachings and seeing them as the perfect, uncompromising,
golden advice for all to follow, Lama Gar Chime Dorje took time to carefully write
down each of the thirty-seven stanzas on paper scrolls and pasted them on the walls
of the monastery for everyone to see. He encouraged everyone to study all those stanzas
There was one young monk by the name of Damring Wangyal who had been accepted into
the monastery ever since he was a child. This monk was illiterate, and no matter
how hard he tried, he still could not read or write. Due to his low mental dispositions
and the dark imprints from his past lives, he used to commit many negative deeds.
He would steal, lie, hunt, and repeatedly break many other rules.
However, Lama Gar Chime Dorje never lost faith in this poor monk who ended up being
called “Tolei” by some people in the monastery. “Tolei” literally means “cow.” It
is a name given to people who are stupid or fools. Out of his great kindness and
compassionate mind, the lama never failed to lure Damring Wangyal into examining
his own heart and would find ways to skillfully help him to come home to his primordial
Every day, Lama Gar Chime Dorje would ask Damring Wangyal to come into his room,
and then, he would sit down and patiently recite the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas
loudly for this boy to hear.
Then, every few days or so, the lama would tell Damring Wangyal to try to memorize
at least one stanza. And in turn, because he could not read, Damring Wangyal would
go around the monastery looking for people to orally recite that one stanza for him
to hear, again and again, so that he could memorize.
After a seemingly long, long time and much endurance, Damring Wangyal was finally
able to recite by heart each of the verses of the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas.
Lama Gar Chime Dorje was very happy with such an outcome. He continued to give to
the poor monk bits of teachings, and slowly, ever so slowly, the illiterate one began
to give up harmful habitual tendencies and overcome heaps of karmic obscurations.
He began to sincerely generate the thoughts of engaging in practices that would bring
benefits rather than harm to other beings. Through that, he trekked the path of
fulfilling simultaneously the purposes of self as well as others...
During the time he spent memorizing and reciting this sacred text, the Precious One
himself was not able to develop much confidence in his abilities to follow in the
footsteps of the Bodhisattvas. The profundity and vastness of the heart-essence teachings
expressed in those thirty-seven golden stanzas were too much for him to absorb.
ThePrecious One was taught that cyclic existence was like a small thorn. Gradually,
this thorn would pierce through every one’s body, and poisons and pain would pervade.
Everyone wished for comfort and happiness, and no one wished to suffer. Yet, to combat
these poisons and pain of suffering, the Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas seemed
to thrust out bold strokes and offer timeless flowers that were larger than life.
These flowers blossomed in poison, just as peacocks ate poison and became even more
ravishing. But then, could it be possible for anyone to put his trust in, much less
to resort to, these most delicate, fragrant flowers as antidotes to eliminate the
The Precious One remembered making a confession to his lama one day.
“Lama Chime Dorje!”
Calling out to his teacher – the mahasiddha of Gar, the Precious One could not help
but express his unsettled opinion and doubts; his mind overfilled with strong, disturbing
“I really don’t believe in many of the verses that you wanted us to memorize. I really
“Garchen Rinpoche...” The lama gently raised his brows.
Then, with a tint of hesitation, the lama posed the question.
“Why is that so, Rinpoche? Please tell me.”
The young tulku cautiously recited one of the most difficult verses:
“Even if others cut off [my] head when [I am] utterly blameless, taking upon [myself]
all these negative deeds by the power of compassion is the bodhisattvas’ practice.”
Then looking into his teacher’s eyes, he exclaimed:
“It is too much for anyone to follow. It is impossible. If you ask me to do tonglen
for people who are sick and people who are suffering, then that is a different story.
But if they were to cut my head off then… how am I to take upon myself their negative
deeds by the power of compassion? ”
“Please tell me then,” the lama insisted, “of all of those verses, which are the
ones that you do believe in?”
The Precious One contemplated this question for a short while, and with an ascending,
self-assuring tone of voice, he responded:
“The Subduer said all the unbearable sufferings of the lower realms is the fruition
of wrongdoing. Therefore, never committing negative deeds, even at the peril of
one’s life, is the bodhisattvas’ practice.” (*)
“Karma.” The Precious One exclaimed.
“That’s all I can believe in. The workings of cause and effect. Karma.”
The powerful master of extraordinary abilities started to gaze deeply at the young
tulku – the guru of his past. He became completely silent for what seemed like a
long time. Perhaps, at that moment, if one could capture the tenderheartedness reflected
in Gar Chime Dorje’s soulful eyes, one could then understand and catch a true glimpse
of the all-pervasive, inexpressible, exalted love of the Buddha.
“That is good, then.” The lama concurred softly.
“If you have that kind of belief, then you should continue to nurture unfailing confidence
and trust in the law of karma. And based on your understanding of karma, investigate
your faults and tame your mind.”
“Then slowly, one day,” the lama affirmed, “you will be able to develop great trust
in the rest of the teachings, even in those that are most difficult, most impossible…”
The wise, generous energy that Gar Chime Dorje carried in his deep voice and serene
brought a sense of calmness to the young tulku’s mind. Thus, he decided to say no
The Precious One truly believed that he had met a perfect Buddha, his teacher.
This unmistakable devotion toward Lama Gar Chime Dorje, master of this lifetime and
disciple of his past, was something inexplicable that liberated the heart. He made
the promise to his lama to continue to develop indestructible faith in the infallible
workings of karma. He yielded to the thought that perhaps, one day, he too, could
follow his teacher’s seemingly impassable instructions to defeat the hordes of potentially
dangerous obstructers, inner and outer, in the manner of the Bodhisattvas…
But never did he realize that less than half a life away, the thirty-seven stanzas
that he was asked to memorize during his youth became the preeminent teachings that
he fervently aspired to offer to his own students across the continents. By then,
the Precious One’s trust and confidence in each of the faultless Thirty-Seven Practices
of the Bodhisattvas, in its entirety, reached a paramount level that spread far beyond
any realm of existence.
And by then, the monk of many faults in his youth – Damring Wangyal, too, had reached
a level of realization beyond expectation.
It was said that Damring Wangyal grew old to be an accomplished, masterful meditator.
He was imprisoned by the Chinese for many years following their occupation of Tibet
and secretly practiced his meditation only at nighttime. For about a week, he continuously
gave away all his food to fellow cell mates while quietly making preparations for
his departure from this world. On the day he was about to leave his worldly body,
Damring Wangyal went around to say goodbye to his friends and told them that the
time for him to face death was now approaching. That night, he sat down in the full
lotus posture and went into a deep state of meditative absorption. He passed away
sitting upright, like an unshakable mountain. When Chinese guards found the body
of Damring Wangyal the next morning, they found a highly realized practitioner who
encountered death in the manner of a fearless snow lion.
Thereafter, many people continued to talk about how Damring Wangyal drew his last
breath sitting up in meditation, reaching a peaceful and blissful state of consciousness
beyond suffering. Just as the masters have always said, only at the moment of death
can the authentic practitioner’s true level of realization be revealed.
The Precious One, many decades later, told his own students that “Damring Wangyal
died like a Buddha.”
Without a genuine, spiritual master to guide Damring Wangyal through the various
stages of practices to purify his body, speech and mind, then, who knows which of
the horrific lower realms the old monk would end up in at the end of his life due
to his heavy propensities and the whirlwind of karma? Yet, through his lama’s unfailing
and un-repayable kindness, he was able to abandon his faults and completely tame
his mind. He merged into the great expanse of wisdom awareness.
He became victorious.
And in that way, the Precious One by the name of Garchen Rinpoche, Konchog Gyaltsen,
and the extraordinary monk Damring Wangyal, once a fool, now fulfilled the aspiration
of their noble-minded lama, Chime Dorje, the perfect teacher, the most skillful,
most patient and conscientious mahasiddha of Gar.
(*) English translation of 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas by Ari Kiev