By Zuzana Čerňáková
Nowadays, if one speaks the truth, there is no one to listen. If one speaks falsely, everyone holds it to be true. Therefore, I have not disclosed this to anyone before: I am not an ordinary person. I am a bodhisattva who has taken birth by the power of his aspiration. In the present body, I ought to have greatly benefited the Dharma and the living creatures in general, and the teachings of the Nyingma in particular.
But because the merits of the Nyingmapas are feeble, as a rule, we are much afflicted by obstacles and I have been greatly ailing. … Now in this final age, the barbarians are close to undermining the Dharma. For this and other reasons, there is no point whatsoever in my actually taking rebirth. If this were a past age …, I might well benefit the Dharma and living beings in all sorts of ways. But now, by dint of time, such things are difficult.
So, after this, I have no reason to take birth in impure realms ever again. Remaining only in pure lands, it is the nature of reality that, by the power of aspirations, sublime ones eternally and incessantly give rise to the dramatic play of emanation, which trains each in accord with their need.
Jamgon Mipham was keenly aware of the degenerate times and he voiced his warning and frustration to one of his disciples, Lama Osel, on his deathbed in May 1912, who kindly wrote it down for us. Dudjom Rinpoche, in his wisdom, made the statement available in his Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism.
No reincarnation … out of love
Jamgon Mipham Jamyang Namghyal Gyatso lived between 1846 and 1912, the beginning of the 500 degenerate years, which will end in 2424, when Rudrakulika will invade our realm from Shambhala, where Mipham departed. As quoted in Dudjom’s compendium, Mipham was already experiencing the effects of the degenerate times as they were dawning, and things were going to get worse:
Although Mipham is a bodhisattva in total control of his reincarnation, he is unable to help the beings of the time and the future in corporeal form. It’s their bad collective karma that prevents him. It has already taken away his life-force in this life, leaving his body riddled with disease, unable to function optimally. And things were looking even worse for the future. He realizes he will no longer be able to achieve his purpose of benefiting beings in the human body as his future reincarnations are likely to be subject to further corruption. In order to avoid that hindrance, he decides not to come back in the human body, but to assume a non-physical form as the perfect way to benefit beings according to their needs.
Mipham Rinpoche also declared that anyone who chooses to follow him is his disciple.
What’s with the tulkus, then?
Mipham’s clear declaration not to be recognized as a tulku in the future has been codified, and it is a well-known fact amongst even mediocre Tibetan monastic students, so much so amongst the authorities, to whom Mipham was actually appealing. Despite that, several children have been identified as his reincarnation. Couldn’t this be considered a gross disregard of his instructions? Could his exasperated revelation about his physical body suffering due to collective karma worsening to the point of him not being able to withhold another incarnation, be a warning that should have been taken more seriously, one that extends beyond his own particular case? Could we have avoided the situation we have been witnessing, of the once great institution of the tulku system degenerating into a desperate costume play, with the masks dropping, one by one, revealing the true face of each disgraced tulku?
The collapse of the tulku system
The tulku system used to function effectively against corruption in Buddhist lineages in Tibet. But as Mipham warned before his death, the advent of the prophesied degenerate times means that the very system meant to safeguard Dharma has turned into one that now promotes its inevitable corruption.
We are likely seeing a trend when lineage masters are unable to reincarnate due to collective karma. They might be choosing a similar course as Mipham to remain in sublime form and their disciples are now continuing the relationship accordingly. With our eyes, though, we are now seeing “tulkus” who display very few qualities, little charisma, inability to display the signs of greatness. Some have even come out and gave up their status to live life in the way that’s honest – as an ordinary being with lust for individualistic, modern type of life.
With frustration and disappointment, we are seeing a generation of great Tibetan masters giving over to a very weak, badly educated and materialistic young brood.
Greatness is really hard to find in these degenerate times, yet unrecognized bodhisattvas may be all around.
If Tibetan Buddhism is to survive, the responsible ones will need to rethink their reincarnation policy. As for us, the few true ones we have are the result of our good karma, so hard to come by at this period. Let’s treasure and do good by them! Let’s remember it is our karma that will determine their fate.
I will not be born again. I have a reason to go to Shambhala in the North.Mipham the Great, as quoted by Dudjom Rinpoche in “Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History”, p. 879
This post was originally posted on the Drolma Review blog. Reposted with kind permission from the author and in order to instigate critical thinking and for sharing different voices on the Buddhism Controversy Blog.