My Life with The Masters
When I was a small boy, living in an environment of great unease, I would go sit on my bed to pray for the happiness of all beings and do certain breathing practices. When I prayed the room would light up as if someone switched on the lights. It was as if I would enter a different realm, that of peace and subtle happiness. I would sit there for some time not thinking or doing anything being swept by the power of mere presence. Nobody had taught me this. Ever since I can remember I would do this about few times a week. This kept continuing for many years. At some point when I became a teenager I stopped doing these spontaneous sessions but nevertheless I would often be swept by the same feeling that made my mind utterly brilliant and peaceful. I would also often think of honesty and death. Also from my early teens I started to experience certain kind of blackouts* among ordinary actitivities, a few times a week. For many years I didn't know what they were.
*after several years of meditation I realised these blackouts were brief cessations (skt. nirodha).
At 28, after having started tantric guru yoga, I realised that those moments in childhood and youth were largely caused by visitations of mahasiddhas (masters) in their nonphysical form. This understanding struck me one day like a lightning bolt from a clear sky when I was repeating a mantra of a certain mahasiddha. Today I understand that all this happened because of my connection with the masters. They helped and guided me throughout those years of great distress.
I know some people who have experienced similar things in their lives. I also know people who have never experienced anything like that who for that reason have hard time understanding what all this means and whether it is even real. Personally to me such things are part of my everyday life. To me it is as common as having a breakfast every morning. Even though the apparent barrier of the physical world and non-physical world is transcended in this event, to me there is nothing strange, unusual or extra-ordinary in that. I have experienced it thousands of times in my life so to me it's normal.
In 2007, very soon after I realised the cause behind those events I started to receive yogic teachings and instructions from nonphysical mahasiddhas. Since then I have had a line open to them. The reason for this is in shared past lives with them. Sivakami, my teacher, also had such connections.
The Gift of Tantric Guru Yoga
”By Great Transference we mean that the material body is integrated with the substance of the elements and disappears into the light. Those who have the capacity can continue to see it, but for those who are limited to a common vision it is as if it disappears. In short, those who manifest the Great Transference continue to live in light, give teachings and work for the benefit of all beings who have the capacity to get in contact with them”
- Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
”Guru Rinpoche is a field of awakened energy
that took form in Tibet in the 8th century but
continues to be active in the universe”.
- Lama Tsultrim Allione
In Pemako buddhism the foundation of our practice is tantric guru yoga, being present with the gurus our hearts and minds open. This is just what the above quote speaks about. During the last decade when I have been teaching, I have seen hundreds of people who've had momentary (because of practice session) or life-changing (repeated practice) experiences because of the way guru yoga is taught in Open Heart. Our way is very simple and straightforward.
I have actually met people who before the session have told me that they don't believe anything important could happen through chanting the names of the masters, who an hour later have come to me in utter amazement telling me that they have never experienced anything like that, even during many years of meditation. I've seen masters do their thing on people numerous times.
I do not think one can become a living buddha without a tantric guru who is a mahasiddha him- or herself. One of the problems of the buddhist tradition is that it has mostly been passed down by teachers who are more or less samsaric beings. The Open Heart Bhumi Model is a way to find out whether some teacher is a living buddha or not. Many teachers have shifts and glimpses of their buddha nature but are not fully enlightened. Buddhas in the physical body are extremely rare even though they do exist. If one hasn't found such a master, in my opinion it is certain that one cannot attain buddhahood in this life. It is extremely rare that a piece of wood starts to burn alone by itself. It is much easier to get it burning by sticking a burning match to it. It is exactly like that with tantric guru yoga. That's the gift any of the mahasiddhas are willing to give to us, you included, at any time or place. You don't need initiations for that, only the name and/or picture of the master, and off you go.
The main benefit of tantric guru yoga, is that once you tune into his presence, your bodymind comes into contact with his. This means that the attainment of the guru meets with your present samsaric condition with the outcome that 1. your own buddhamind becomes evident while 2. your karmic body becomes flushed with his purifying blessings. No matter where you are you can be in living connection with Guru Rinpoche or any of the masters. Essentially there is no difference in meeting a master with a body or without a body because it is not the physical body that makes the master a living buddha.
Ahead I implied that in Open Heart we have a certain way of practicing guru yoga that is different from other ways of practicing it. The main differences to other forms of guru yoga are that
- there is no need for
- our techniques are
short, simple and direct, and
- after the technique
has been applied there is a thorough recognition of the experience
in one's own bodymind, that is, a period of meditation.
Like I always say, and what Sivakami always emphasized, the main value of guru yoga is not in discussing or receiving instructions from the gurus. For some people who have strong karmic connection with them and there is a specific reason for that, this can happen but the main point is in energetic transmission and revealing of one's own natural state. That's it. This point strikes at the core of buddhism itself.
Even though it took a long time for me to get information of what had been happening to me all my life, I feel I have been lucky to have met several people who have had similar experiences like I have. In that respect Sivakami helped me the most. She had amazing skills in this regard. I have also discussed this in private with tantric teachers, some of who are famous gurus with large followings, from both the hindu and buddhist camps. Several hindu saints and adepts with their own connections to masters beyond the physical have confirmed my connection. I have been called a terton (dharma treasure revealer) and a tulku (reincarnation) by teachers inside the Tibetan buddhist tradition but this has been among casual conversation between friends and nothing authoritative. For years I felt it was a big problem because I had no formal recognition. As a friend of mine who is a Tibetan buddhist lama says, ”Many people are like dogs. The first thing they do is to sniff your ass”.
While it is my responsibility to teach and spread the immensely valuable Pemako buddhist teachings, it hasn't been easy partly because some people are quick to draw their conclucions without any formal proofs. It is true that I don't have the kind of proofs people are used to seeing but if one starts to look into the materials that I have provided, there is plenty of proof.
In the case of those who have already made up their minds about me and my work, the two-way exchange is over. When the barriers go up, people simply don't want to hear anything I say. I have been called by nasty names because I do not fit the norm and didn't graduate through the usual channels. None of the sceptics out there have come to meet me in person, or invited me over. It would have saved a lot of my time and energy, and in some cases the karmic backflow caused by the ill words of others, if I had a formal recognition. A formal recognition as a tulku alone is not a quarantee of anything but it would have helped. But there are more important aspects to this than just assuring sceptics.
Being who I am, doing what I do
Everyone has had past lives. Some remember them, some don't. I clearly remember many of my past lives, though not all of them. I distinctly remember having lived as a yogi in many traditions, both in and out of buddhism. I remember lives when I have done same or similar work that I do now, bringing buddha dharma to new people and new areas of the world, shaping it according to the needs and abilities of the people, often with the help of the masters. I also remember lives with several mahasiddhas, living and studying with them closely. All these things are as common as my own hands to me. Saying this does not feel special in any way. That's just my history and my personal memories.
If I analyse my own life, I can admit that I am not a perfect tulku. Before I took this body in my mother's womb, I agreed to take this job and be born in a country that had no culture of dharma at all. On the other hand Finland is a wealthy and peaceful country which is a good thing. Before I took this body I knew that my memory was going to be cut off and that it was going to get samsaric, proper samsaric, like it did. Looking back to my childhood and youth I am absolutely certain that I couldn't have survived without the active help of my gurus. Because of the difficult conditions I had to learn to use my common sense.
The good side of all that suffering was that it lead me to seek my way back to dharma and motivated me to practice. This burning kept me on the cushion for 8 hours everyday for the first 8½ years of my practice. If I had had an easier life there is no way my motivation would have carried me but because I suffered, I had no other choice than to sit and try to figure out what the hell was wrong with everything.
Padmasambhava's Pure Land Buddhism
Today I have been practicing for about 15 years and teaching full time for almost a decade, with a unique expression of buddha dharma that bears the name of Pemako buddhism. I say it is unique because as far as I know no other system of buddhism has same or similar expression, even though every system is based on the same universal principles. I couldn't have done any of this without my masters, nor would I have wanted to. As a samsaric being I certainly couldn't have created a training method like Open Heart and guided the sangha the way Guru Padmasambhava and others throughout the years have. Words cannot describe my gratitude to them.
Our practitioners know what I am talking about because they have gained experiences. They have read my introductions, tried the practices, experienced the effects and chosen to follow Pemako buddhism as their path. The excellent news is that they didn't start to follow this path because of my title, name or reputation as a famous teacher. Had I been formally recognised as a child by some high lama as a reincarnation of someone I might have ended up like many tulkus, being viewed a someone very special, lecturing from books with no first hand knowledge whatsoever, touring the fancy dharma halls of the world, being completely spoiled. No, thank you.
Like I said in my recent post, Introducing Pemako Buddhism, after a careful consideration I started to use a name and title given to me by my guru, Padmasambhava. I know that my title or Pemako buddhism for that matter, will never be accepted by orthodox buddhists at large. I did express my concern about this to my guru but it didn't change his mind.
I won't try to change the opinions of the orthodox buddhist mass but I would like to ask the sceptics to consider if they themselves would accept a dharma name and an honorary title from their gurus. I am absolutely certain that no one who respects one's guru and upholds his teachings would refuse it.
The main reason that makes me and my work unorthodox is that my guru doesn't have a physical body. For this reason I do not have his written certificate of me being his dharma heir. I do not have a paper which says that,
”I, Padmasambhava am the founder of Pemako buddhism and have asked Orgyen Pema Rinpoche to do this work”.
Even though that is the case I don't have a document like that.
Meeting with doubt is not unusual in my position. In history, there has been many founders of new schools of buddhism who were critisized or even abused by the orthodox camp.
Whether a teacher is authentic or not, the only way to understand buddha dharma is through one's own experience. Because I have lived all my life, 38 years to date, with my masters I am confident that what they have taught me and what I pass to others is buddha dharma par excellence.
Thank you for reading.
- Orgyen Pema, 22.6.2017