Dechen Rangdrol, known to us as the Venerable Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, is often called an emanation of Milarepa. Like the famous Tibetan yogi-poet, he is renowned for his dohas, songs of realization.
:: For Aug. 28/09 update about the health status of Rinpoche, please visit www.ktgrinpoche.org
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso's best known work in print is Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness (trans. Shenpen Zangmo Hookham. Oxford: Longchen Foundation, 1986.)
Khenpo Tsultrim is one of the foremost proponents of the sometimes controversial shentong [other-empty] doctrine -- the view that all beings possess a fundamental Buddha-nature. He resolves the Shentong/Rangtong question in
A review entitled "Scaling the Heights of Buddha Nature" by Victoria Huckenpahler appears in the Snow Lion Publications Newsletter:
". . . the Buddha's Second and Third Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma differ, yet do not contradict each other. [Khenpo] expanded on the text's principal points: the three reasons why all sentient beings possess the Buddha Nature, the ten aspects of the Buddha Nature's existence, and the nine examples of how Buddha Nature can be present within us, yet obscured from us.
"In the Second Turning of the Wheel," Khenpo Tsultrim explained, "the Buddha proclaimed that all phenomena from the grossest form on up to the mind of the Buddha are empty because they are not one or many, both or neither. So nothing has any essence and nothing exists. All appearances merely come about dependently through causes and conditions. Later, Nagarjuna clarified this point in his Fundamental Treatise on the Wisdom of the Middle Way in 25 chapters. People kept coming up with new reasons why things exist, so he had to keep writing new chapters refuting their belief in existence! But in the Third Turning the Buddha stated that the Buddha Nature is the essence of all beings; however, because we don't know that this nature pervades all equally, like butter existing in milk, we engage in faults, such as thinking we don't have the ability to attain enlightenment, or that some beings are superior to others.
Do the Buddha's two positions contradict each other? No. The Third Turning
was presented to counteract our tendency to these faults. Nor did the Buddha
posit the existence of Buddha Nature just to make us feel good. He wasn't
teaching that something that doesn't exist exists. In reality, only because the
Buddha Nature exists do faults represent problems. The fact that we all long for
peace is the sign that we have enlightened mind, otherwise we would have no wish
for peace and no aversion to suffering."
When asked how a practitioner could avoid the fault of seeing him/herself as superior to the non-practitioner, Khenpo Tsultrim replied, "Recognize that all the beings' flaws are unreal -- mere confused and impermanent appearances, because actually the Buddha Nature is originally perfect. It is empty of the separable, which are the fleeting stains, but not empty of the inseparable, which are the unsurpassable qualities.
How is this possible? Because the stains of confusion are not intrinsic to
the essence of mind, so they can be removed, whereas the qualities of
enlightenment are the nature of mind, so they cannot be removed. The Heart of
Wisdom Sutra said there are no stains and no freedom from stains. This can be
seen through the example of dreams: if you dream that you are dirty and then
take a bath, you later realize that because it was a dream, there never were any
stains; therefore there was no true removal of stains."
"Transcendent purity," he stated, "goes beyond pure and
impure; likewise, the transcendence of happiness and suffering is genuine bliss.
That which is beyond self and selflessness is the genuine self, which is not to
be confused with the Hindu notion of a permanent self, or atman. And the
transcendence of a notion of permanence and impermanence is genuine permanence.
It's like that."
Again using the dream analogy, Khenpo Tsultrim stated: "If someone
dreams and doesn't realize he is dreaming, he is relating to his dream
mistakenly; if he dreams and knows he is dreaming, he relates to his dream
unmistakenly; and if he realizes the ultimate nature of his dream, he rests in
the reality beyond conceptual fabrication. The Buddha is inconceivable like the
sky. We assign the sky a center and boundary according to our range of vision,
but in reality it is limitless. In fact, all things are inconceivable; you
really can't describe them. For example, there is no agreement globally on what
time it is. Different perceptions of time are accurate according to where one
is. And the fact that we can see TV images broadcast miles away shows that near
and far are also relative. So everything is inconceivable, but the Buddha is
Khenpo Tsultrim places considerable store in these songs. "The tradition
of singing is important in Vajrayana ritual," he remarked. "We sing
these profound words because they give us a chance to meditate on their meaning.
Some Westerners don't like to sing. It reminds them of church." But in
Tibet there is a saying, 'The Buddha and ordinary beings both walk on two legs,'
meaning: everything is a bit alike. So if they sing beautiful songs in church,
why can't we here? Milarepa himself said, 'Singing is the
extraordinary tradition of this lineage.' "