Thứ Sáu, tháng 2 13, 2015

Tưởng Niệm Thầy

Robin Hart - Ngày 150213

Tưởng nhớ Đại sư Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen

* Thầy Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen (1923 - 2009) bên Đức Đạt Lai Lạt Ma *

Bài viết của cô em nuôi Robin Hart, xưa kia là ni cô Phật giáo Tây Tạng Thartso, đệ tử của Thầy. Những ai ái mộ thì xin dịch cho.

For seven years, I shaved my head at least twice a month, kept my vows as purely as I could, and wore only the maroon robes of a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I went from being a fairly ordinary, middle-aged Californian, to someone people stare at in line at the local supermarket. In a sense, I lived on the edge of two worlds:  I was not like other nuns - Asian or Western - who live in large monastic communities around the world - at one point, I was the only Tibetan Buddhist nun within a fifty mile radius of our temple in Long Beach. Although I served in the trenches of the everyday - had a full time job and all the responsibility that went with it, I didn’t come home to a significant other or children. I didn’t go out for drinks to unwind after work, attend sporting events or concerts. I was in the world, but not of it.  I took sanctuary in having life’s melodramas NOT feature me as the main character -the star of the show- but rather as a bystander, a supporting player. I believed that the collective wish is often more important than personal wants and needs.  I devoted as much time as I could to daily prayer, study, meditation - and serving as part time attendant and videographer to a humble, yet remarkable Tibetan monk, my teacher, Geshe-la.


I saw him everyday for years at a time, traveled with him to many places in the world and felt he was the main reason I could manage to lead my double-life - he was my rock, my refuge. Like many others - including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe-la walked out of Tibet in the Diaspora of 1959, continued his studies despite the sorrowful, harrowing circumstances of exile in India. The day after I took ordination and was terrified to even leave the house with my freshly-shorn head and cumbersome robes that I’d only recently learned how wrap around me, Geshe-la beamed his brilliant smile my way and in his deep, resonant broken English said,  “You will learn to be courageous.”

It’s hard to recall what you feel about a major life incident once you have trained yourself to believe that your personal experience of it isn’t all that important. In Oct. 2008, two weeks before my sixth anniversary as a nun, my rock of Gibraltar was diagnosed with stage IV stomach cancer. I struggled to make sense of what happened next, especially how I felt about it.  I still do to this day.

After several unsuccessful courses of chemotherapy and a rapid physical decline, Geshe-la ceased breathing and heartbeat on Feb. 13, 2009.  I stood a few feet away from him as he lay on his deathbed, surrounded by a roomful of other monastics and lay students, all of us chanting prayers aloud - a sacred cacophony of voices. I found myself wavering between wanting to scream and cry over the loss of my Master, to marveling at the incredible scene that was unfolding before my eyes.  Geshe-la constantly reminded us that we would all experience this - the common miracle of death - after all, even Lord Buddha died. Yet something else was also occurring that utterly defied convention. Geshe-la had no heartbeat or respiration - both signs of conventional death. Yet his consciousness remained in his body - in an extremely subtle mental state, a sustained focus, known by the Tibetans as Clear Light meditation. His appearance? As if he were merely holding his breath. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to attempt to meditate in the  presence of someone in this state: sort of like slipping into a very deep, very still pool of water. You don’t want to get out of the water. As the din of traffic streamed by our temple in Long Beach, an old Tibetan monk was defying the laws of nature. How is it that as our mundane lives go on, at the same time, right under our noses, the miraculous occurs?

Three days later, Geshe-la finally “left” his body. This was determined by a physical transformation that usually occurs immediately after death: his veins turned from normal color to dark black and a discharge came from his nose and other orifices. He was gone. Within the hour, a gigantic double rainbow manifested in the sky over our temple. I stood outside with many other students: laughed, sobbed and hugged everyone within reach. “Uncle is showing us how powerful he is,” Geshe-la’s 6 year-old nephew told us, staring up in the sky and hugging his mother.

Some eight days later, I found myself in the back of a un-air conditioned ambulance, charged with escorting Geshe-la’s un-embalmed body back to his monastery in Mundgod, South India for the customary cremation ritual. As I rode in the ambulance, my knees almost touching the head of his casket, I intoned Vajrasattva mantras while praying not to have to face the inevitable horror of smelling his decomposing body in the intense, mid-day heat - in my mind, it would be the ultimate, earthly degradation of this holy being - but it never occurred. Geshe-la’s body showed no sign of decomposition. In fact it did something else - it shrunk - to the size of a small child - pliable, intact but in perfect miniature. Again, the mundane, everyday life - this time of South Indian villagers - streamed by me while the miraculous sped by them, unacknowledged, unknown.

As we finally neared the Monastery, 1,000 monks of all ages stood alongside the road way, holding flowers and paying silent tribute. Although I hadn’t slept in 20 hours, I began videotaping as we arrived, immersing myself in activity, lost in the moment - in the safety - of merely bearing witness. That same day, after the ritualized preparation of his body and many purification prayers, Geshe-la was offered to the fire in a specially prepared cremation stupa. As the intense, oily black smoke swirled around and engulfed us, it filled my lungs, permeated the pores of my skin and I thought that I was indeed finally one with my beloved Master. 

After five days, the stupa was opened up and the work of recovering relics began. I was shocked when the presiding monk motioned for me to come over and videotape the yet untouched contents of the cremation stupa - wasn’t this secret, sacred? Although the heat from the cremation pyre was hot enough to melt a metal ritual bell placed in Geshe-la’s hand, the remains of his eyes, heart and tongue were miraculously intact. These were said to be representative of his holy body, speech and mind.

It’s one thing to look at these events from a Tibetan’s point of view - they are part and parcel of a religious/cultural tradition that extends over several millennia. How are these experiences to be perceived from a Westerner’s perspective? Your mind wants to catalogue it neatly away into the “I’ve comprehended this” file… but have you? 

I believe Geshe-la wanted us to witness his death. He wanted to remind us of the terrible, yet magnificent impermanence of all of this - the temporary roles we assume: as someone’s wife or girlfriend, mother or Buddhist nun… are all fleeting, easy come, easy go. That he - my beloved teacher - is no longer in one room, smiling his dazzling smile, but now in many, many rooms, all at once. 

He considered supernatural demonstrations as mere "parlor tricks." What he considered truly miraculous was the ability to practice loving kindness and wisdom, 24/7. What difference does it make if you have amazing realizations on your meditation cushion, if you're an asshole toward others in your everyday life? This was a philosophy he touted on an everyday basis, and one I try to make my main spiritual practice. “The little realizations are the hardest ones to achieve-the ones we have to fight the hardest for,” he said.

I am no longer a nun. I’m sorry to say I don’t get much time on my meditation cushion anymore and I’m a bit more than just a bit player in my own life’s melodramas. I still have a full-time job and l’m one of my 90 year-old mother’s primary caregivers - something Geshe-la always praised my sister and I for doing. I still don’t know how to process the miracles I witnessedbut I think Geshe-la would have said: “Don’t worry about it for now- focus daily on being genuinely kind.” This is mundane and profound, sacred and supernatural, all at the same time.

We all sit now, in this room and inhale, exhale - but someday we too will cease this function, will take the last mundane breath that leads us to our next profound truth.


Thầy chúng tôi viên tịch đúng sáu năm rồi, đã hóa thân và trở về thành một cậu bé tại Ấn Độ. "Geshe" là học vị tương đương với Tiến sĩ về Thần học. Các đệ tử đều gọi thầy là Geshe, nhưng có tiếp vĩ ngữ "la" để chỉ sự yêu quý. Vì vậy mới gọi thầy là Geshe-la (NXN).

2 nhận xét:

  1. Xin Thầy Nghiã giảng thêm về truyền thống tái sinh cuả Phật Giáo Tây Tạng, được không ạ. Truyền thống này không mấy phổ biến trong Phật Giáo Nguyên Thủy hay Đại Thưà.

    Tuy Đức Đạt Lai Lạt Ma tuyên bố sẽ bãi bỏ truyền thống tái sinh Lạt Ma sau khi Ngài diệt, để ngăn ngưà sự giả mạo cuả TQ, nhưng em tin Ngài sẽ tái sinh, bởi vì trong kiếp này dù Ngài đã quá thánh thiện vẫn không làm tròn nghiệp Lạt Ma cuả mình. Trong kinh Phật có nói, tái sinh còn là do nghiệp lực, bên cạnh khái niệm Bồ Tát hiển sinh, nhập thế.

    Xin cảm ơn Thầy đã chia sẻ bài viết này. Cho em được "hồi âm" ni cô Robin Hart:
    Even though "someday we too will cease this function, will take the last mundane breath that leads us to our next profound truth", we all find it peaceful, meaningful and happy to sit now, in this room and inhale, exhale..."

    Có thể nói, chỉ với Thiền định và cầu nguyện một cách chân thành và trong chánh niệm, nhân loại có thể giải quyết được phần lớn những vấn đề cuả mình.

    Trả lờiXóa
    Trả lời
    1. Poorshope lại cứ hay bàn linh tinh làm nhiều độc giả khác phàn nàn!

      Chuyện tái sinh và đấu trí với Bắc Kinh thì xin xem Giờ Giải Ảo trên Người-Việt TV từ Tháng Chín năm ngoái.

      Lời bình răng Đức Đạt Lai Lạt Ma không làm "tròn nghiệp Lạt Ma của mình" là vô nghĩa. Theo Phật giáo Tây Tạng, ngài là ứng hóa thân của Quán Thế Âm Bồ Tát, và có thể tái sinh bất kỳ nơi nào, là nam hay nữ, để độ trì chúng sinh. Vì vấn đề Bắc Kinh, đức Đạt Lai Lạt Ma đời thứ 14 hiện nay mới có quyết định khác 1) về chuyện tái sinh của mình, và 2) về nhân vật sẽ thay mình lãnh đạo Phật giáo Tây Tạng, 3) trong khi cộng đồng Tây Tạng đã bầu lên một chính quyền lưu vong đại diện cho Tây Tạng về chính trị.

      Chuyện này đã đủ phức tạp, xin đừng làm rắc rối thêm với những lời bàn linh tinh!