01.05.2015 Spirituality

Guru of Ladakh

Lama Thuksey Rinpoche is Ladakh's spiritual leader known as the Dalai Lama of Ladakh. Jeremy Ball traces his story.

In the high Himalayan chain to the north of India, at the far west of that glorious skeleton of mountains separating the high plateau of Tibet from the verdant lowlands that is the Indian subcontinent, lies a circle of mountains forming an enchanted inner mandala in this sacred landscape. This is Ladakh.

Protected from the outside world for many centuries due to its inaccessibility, Ladakh's culture is so similar to Tibet that it is known as "Little Tibet". Due to its cloistered location and close political affiliations with India, the Chinese, when they invaded Tibet, dared not enter Ladakh. To maintain safety, the Kingdom of Ladakh gave up its sovereign status to become a part of India, joining the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

More than any other country in the Tibetan diaspora, Ladakh has been able to maintain the unique Tibetan culture of living close to the land. It is a culture that honours the source of life and of home and comfort and all that is the Divine Mother with a celebration of the transcendent mystical energies and all that is the Divine Father, moving into ever-closer union with these subtle energies.

In this idyllic setting high in the Himalayan mountains you will find neatly stacked houses, with rocks hewn from the earth amidst verdant valley pastures, slotted in the creases between the great granite mountains. It's as if the spirit of the earth is generating new, more complex, cells of life from herself, like salts crystallising into a new, more sophisticated, form.

Culturally, Ladakh remained like Tibet, with each community having its own temples and monasteries and lamas. The lay community excitedly initiated and supported these expressions of love for the divine, so that these heartfelt, community-serving institutions have become deeply integrated into the fabric of Ladakh.

So as the populace worked the fields by day in love and reverence with nature, they entered the temples at night and on weekends for prayer and for ritual. They also absorbed advanced teachings on the nature of their own minds so that heaven and earth could meet and perform their divine nuptials within the bodies of these humans. Body and soul - neither was reviled, neither was made superior, both were allowed to intersect and connect and perform their roles in the lives of the people and come together as the union of the Divine Mother and Father.

As the Chinese invaded Tibet and set out to destroy all the beauty that had been created there, all those exquisite vehicles for blessings, some Tibetans and lamas, packed up their most prized possessions and made the treacherous journey across and over the Himalayas into Ladakh.

In the main, the Ladakhis welcomed their Tibetan brothers and sisters with open arms, for there have been bonds of friendship cemented over the centuries though trade and sharing of teachings and teachers, the highest fruits of human experience.

One great Lama Thuksey Rinpoche came from the Kham area of Tibet (Khampas, people from Kham province in the South East of Tibet, are mostly nomads, living off the land and travelling with their herds of yaks and goats). They are known to be the fiercest of warriors, both in protecting their clan and community and also in the spiritual realm, with the vigour and unflinching strength to undergo the practices required to face the ego and realise liberation from the mind. The Khampa are a tribe of warrior yogis.

Thuksey Rinpoche was one of the most revered lamas of Tibet, from the Kagyu tradition, the dharma kings of the Khampa. Thuksey Rinpoche is said to be the reincarnation of Naropa, one of the major teachers at Nalanda monastery in India during the 11th century. Nalanda is an institution that was set up in the wake of the Buddha's passing with the monastery cum university reaching the highest heights of academia and spiritual practice.

So Naropa, this great lion of a being, reincarnated within the Kagyu sect known for their focus on practice; doing the spiritual work of meditation and yoga and tantric rituals to open and cleanse and purify and strengthen the subtle energy bodies so that the full glory of the divine human could manifest and radiate this potential to all humanity.

When Thuksey Rinpoche came to Ladakh he was already an older man and his presence was incredibly powerful and calm; at once fierce in its all "seeingness" and incredibly loving and playful in its childlike innocence. Thuksey Rinpoche was the essence of awakening. The people of Ladakh very soon recognised his qualities and grew to love him. In the people's hearts, he became the "Dalai Lama" of Ladakh, a spiritual guide, loved and respected in equal measure by all.

Of course, everywhere is special with itsown potency and poignancy. Yet Ladakh with its topographical placement is unique within the Himalayas, the heart within the heart. Enclosed and laid out like a sand mandala, and in the centre of the mandala that Ladakh formed, sat as required, the deity, the aperture, the opening through which the divine could flood forth - Thuksey Rinpoche.

Thuksey Rinpoche lived his life enjoying the beauty and the enormity of the presence that shone through him, a presence that he knew, once developed, could shine through everyone. He lived in utmost selfless service to all who came to him, so that they may come to know the beauty of presence and live the awareness of the divine joke that had been revealed to him - you are what is seeking you! To hear it is one thing, to understand it is another.

To live it in every moment, impregnated in each cell, is a rare phenomenon open to one such as Thuksey Rinpoche, through his years of practice and karmic fruits.

His life was sharing these teachings and the grace that he had accumulated. When I speak of selfless service, I am not talking about selfless service conjured up from the ego, desiring to be egoless. But rather of one who has gone beyond, has realised the true self beyond human nature, the spirit of the universe, emptiness. It can then effortlessly guide each embodiment that comes before it to make the next step, the next breakthrough into the light of awareness, loosening the knots of their own self binding.

In a deeply fortuitous meeting, one guided to take the next step from this great master was the young Andrew Harvey. Fresh out of Oxford University where he had been appointed its youngest-ever professor, but bored and discontented, Andrew had returned to India, the land of his birth, looking for the real answers to life that bookwork alone had failed to reveal. After several years of searching inside and out, devouring texts, meeting teachers, meditating, writing, navel gazing, receiving blessings from countless sacred places, at the age of 28, as Saturn the great teacher realigned itself to where it had been at his birth, he found himself at the feet of this great master, His Eminence Thuksey Rinpoche.

When I say at the feet, Andrew did not expect to be awed by another man of flesh; after his experiences in academia, he wondered whether humanity could embody something we might call divine.

Yet immediately on meeting Thuksey Rinpoche it was clear to him that this was such a man; a man you could trust completely, whom you could listen to without filter, who made you believe in a higher reality because he was living it and his sole purpose was to open that up within others.

There was a great synchronicity to their meeting and an obvious chemistry between them. Andrew recognised in Thuksey Rinpoche a great being and Thuksey Rinpoche recognised in Andrew a bud ready to bloom. Thuksey Rinpoche had several private meetings in the coming weeks with this intriguing young Western man and from these meetings Andrew's life path opened. He already knew "book Buddhism" as well as anyone in the West, but now he had met a living book, one who had digested and embodied the teachings, a tantric deity come off the page and into flesh. This was not some dry superior philosophical Buddhism in some dusty English library; this was in the heart of Ladakh, in a real person, very lived, very ordinary and completely magnificent.

After this meeting Andrew went out in the world a changed man and for 30 years, the seed that had been planted in Ladakh, grew.

Next month read how Andrew meets the reincarnated Thuksey Rinpoche born in 1986.

Jeremy Ball

At 26, following a “shamanic intervention”, Jeremy closed his business and left London to visit sacred sites and elders, later creating Transformational Tours and SacredFire.

When not roaming mother earth, you will find Jeremy at home in Byron Bay's hinterland, playing with his children and planning the next adventure. jeremy@transformationaltours.com.au