IN THIS LIFE AND IN ALL LIVES: An excerpt from MEDITATION SAVED MY LIFE by Phakyab Rinpoche with Sofia Stril-Rever
In 2003, Tibetan lama Phakyab Rinpoche was admitted to the emergency clinic of the Program for Survivors of Torture at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital. After a dramatic escape from imprisonment in China, at the hands of authorities bent on uprooting Tibet’s traditional religion and culture, his ordeal had left him with life-threatening injuries, including gangrene of the right ankle. American doctors gave Rinpoche a shocking choice: accept leg amputation or risk a slow, painful death. An inner voice, however, prompted him to try an unconventional cure: meditation. He began an intensive spiritual routine that included thousands of hours of meditation over three years in a small Brooklyn studio. Against all scientific logic, his injuries gradually healed. In this vivid, passionate account, Sofia Stril-Rever relates the extraordinary experiences of Phakyab Rinpoche, who reveals the secret of the great healing powers that lie dormant within each of us.
We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book, in which Rinpoche shares his three great missions in life, as related by Sofia Stril-Rever.
At dawn on the second day in Dharamsala, which rises in an exultation of golden and crimson shades, I recall Rinpoche’s words, twice repeated. The first time was when he asked me to write the story of his healing, and then again in New York six months ago: “I will be completely healed when you finish writing this book.”
Completely healed? What exactly does he mean? The answer comes at the end of our stay in Dharamsala.
We sit on a bench along the Lingkor, the ritual circumambulation path winding around Kundun’s residence, and we overlook the Kangra Valley as far as the eye can see. The path is bordered with devotion flags hanging from the treetops and prayer wheels that turn and ring a bronze bell. Tibetans of all ages walk up and down this road to receive the blessings of their charismatic leader, while the deep voices of the monastic college of Namgyal resonate, with cymbals, drums, horns, and bone flutes. It is the sixth lunar month, and the monks are performing the great Chakrasamvara ritual. They are creating its sand-colored mandala, which is the basis of the tsa-lung practice that allowed Rinpoche to heal. Finishing the book here makes sense. We are back where it all started.
For a new start.
“I have three great missions in this life,” Rinpoche tells me, looking introspective. “First, as a human being. Second, as a teacher of Dharma. Third, as a lama, holder of a lineage. As a human being, at the age of thirteen, I offered my life to the service of all beings. In my experience of the world, I have therefore adopted an open-minded, trustful, and spontaneously welcoming attitude toward all those who cross my path through maturation of karma. Nobody I meet is foreign to me. In each one, I find my brothers and sisters in humanity. As human beings, we all have within us the jewel of awakened mind, which is our extraordinary potential for kindness and inner transformation.
“At the basis of my teachings, there is the opening of the heart, and I endeavor to introduce my students into the mind’s spacious states, which encompass the universes and all beings. Meditating on the opening of the heart concerns everyone, Buddhists as well as non-Buddhists, for it nurtures the fundamental human values of love, benevolence, compassion, forgiveness, human rights, and reconciliation. Without an opening of the heart, our ethics remain unembodied and can very well veer toward intolerance. Taking the path of the heart always helps us recognize the potential for kindness and transformation that is a feature of our humanity. If we have developed unconditional love, we will recognize this loving basis even in the cruelest among us, who act inhumanly because they ignore their true nature. Opening the heart makes us love beings so much that every day we renew our ever-keener longing to help them, so that they may find happiness and be delivered from suffering. . . .”
Rinpoche continues, “As a master of Dharma, I have a second mission. It is also in the realm of suffering, not suffering on a relative level this time, but on an ultimate level, the very causes of suffering. The root cause of all our pains is fundamental ignorance. Our erroneous understanding of reality maintains destructive states of mind, such as hatred, attachment, desire, jealousy, and anger. These emotions carry on the cycle of suffering and make us turn our backs on happiness. My mission is therefore to unceasingly provide the teachings that deliver us from ignorance by conquering our inner enemies. Believing in adversity is a terrible illusion. The enemies that appear outside of us are the projections of our uncontrolled mind. When we have overcome all our inner demons, nothing can affect us anymore. . . .”
“And at last,” Rinpoche says, “I have a third mission, as the holder of a lineage. Acknowledged as the eighth Phakyab Rinpoche, I must preserve a spiritual filiation and carry on the memory of my lineage, of these extraordinary teachers who made the offerings of all their lives to all beings before me. For I am the holder of the throne of Ashi Monastery, blessed by the heart relics of Je Tsongkhapa, which some Tibetans saved from destruction by the Red Guards at the peril of their lives. In the past few years, thanks to the generosity of my students, I have been able to rebuild Je Tsongkhapa’s chapel, and soon I hope to be able to set up a patronage program to ensure a sufficient amount of daily food for the monks of Ashi.”
It is unthinkable for Rinpoche to fail his duty as safeguard of the sacred heritage of his lineage, no less precious than his own life. I am moved as he mentions his spiritual inheritance in front of the residence of the Dalai Lama, who, in the inextricable nebula of karmic causes and effects, acknowledged him twenty years earlier as the eighth reincarnation of a great lineage.
We lift up our heads to the rustle of wings. A hawk flies in circles over us. Is it here to seal Rinpoche’s words with the stamp of promise, the promise that he will unfailingly achieve the three great missions of his life?
“Thank you, Sofia, for having written my story,” Phakyab Rinpoche says. “I am thus totally healed because everything, everything has been put into action. With this book, and in accordance with Kundun’s message, which I received eleven years ago on my hospital bed, the time has come for me to teach the world how to heal.”
Phakyab Rinpoche, abbot of Ashi Monastery in Tibet, was recognized as a Reincarnate Lama by the Dalai Lama in 1994. A member of the Gelugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism, Rinpoche teaches spiritual healing throughout the United States, France, and the world.
Sofia Stril-Rever is a spiritual teacher and writer based in Paris, France, dedicated to the promotion of inner healing, peace, and universal responsibility. She has coauthored three books with the Dalai Lama, including his memoir My Spiritual Journey, and released Dakini, a CD of healing mantras.
Excerpted from the book Meditation Saved My Life. Copyright © 2014 by Le Cherche Midi Éditeur. English-language copyright © 2017 by New World Library.