His Eminence Choden Rinpoche

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cjdevries
Posts: 408
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:06 pm

His Eminence Choden Rinpoche

Post by cjdevries »

HE Choden Rinpoche, 1933-2015, great meditation master.

HE Choden Rinpoche spent 19 years in retreat from 1965-1985, attaining many profound realizations in that time. Prior to 1965, he had briefly been imprisoned by the Chinese. While on retreat, he was pretending to be an invalid to avoid having to be involved with the Chinese, who were forcing holy people to do unvirtuous deeds. He lived in a small house in Lhasa, spending most if not all of his time meditating on his bed and never getting up to use the toilet or cut his hair. He used a bedpan so that it would match up with his claim of being an invalid. He spent all of his time in one dark room, without the light to read various texts he had brought with him. He did all his practices by memory. He devoted much of his life to teaching after that.
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"Please call me by my true names so I can wake up; so the door of my heart can be left open: the door of compassion." -Thich Nhat Hanh

"Ask: what's needed of you" -Akong Rinpoche
cjdevries
Posts: 408
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:06 pm

Re: His Eminence Choden Rinpoche

Post by cjdevries »

Here is an excerpt from an interview with HE Choden Rinpoche about the 1959 Uprising for Mandala Magazine:

"By the time of the uprising against the Chinese Communists, most of the monks had already escaped. So many soldiers had arrived and the monks were afraid the monasteries would be destroyed. There were thousands of monks before the occupation, but only two or three hundred remained at Sera. I remained at Sera.

One morning at daybreak, the Chinese soldiers surrounded the monastery and rounded up all the monks and put us in a courtyard. After this they ransacked the whole monastery. All the monks were circled by the soldiers with their weapons.

We heard that in eastern Tibet the soldiers had rounded up all the monks and shot them dead, so everyone was frightened that would happen. From dawn to sunset the monks were all standing in the courtyard. Then they put the monks in a line and took them away. Everyone said, “We’re being taken to be killed,” but it didn’t turn out like that; they just imprisoned everyone.

I was in prison for about a month. Since they didn’t have a prison set aside, they used one of the Sera Je main temples, and they wouldn’t let anyone out, even to pee! We had to use a huge container that was usually used to hold the water for making water bowl offerings – you couldn’t just go all over the floor.

Sometimes in the middle of the day they would give us lukewarm water to drink, and if people had tsampa of their own they would eat that with the water. We lived like this close to a month, two or three hundred monks.

They started to separate all the lamas, all the geshes, all those who had management positions of any kind. They categorized people, and the general monks were kept as one group. They used to say, “Ones without any titles are our friends, while ones who have titles are our enemies.”

They would use the groups of ordinary monks to investigate the groups of people who had titles. If any of the general monks could guarantee that any of the titled people hadn’t participated in the uprising and didn’t say anything about the Chinese, they would also be released.

When I was at the monastery I usually mixed with the general monks, so some of the monks guaranteed for me, saying that although a rinpoche, I don’t have anything that fits that title, so I was released.

They would hold political lessons in the monastery, teaching the monks to talk against religion, to talk against the monastery and any of the practices. One by one they would release the people with titles for a little while, and everyone – all the general monks – would have to beat up on this person. If they didn’t, they would be considered supporters of the titled person. Some were beaten so badly they couldn’t get up afterwards.

I had some sort of heart condition, so when I saw all of this happening I became terribly ill, so I got a pass to go to a hospital for a checkup. I went toLhasaand spent five or six months there.

In the second month of 1960 they rounded up all the monks living in Lhasa and told us we couldn’t stay but had to go back to whatever monastery we came from. I went back to Sera. I was still living as a monk and wearing robes.

Back at the monastery, there was all the criticizing and disparaging of His Holiness. When you’re forced to attend these meetings and participate in these meetings, you have no choice, you have to participate in some verbal abuse. I wasn’t well from before, so I managed to get by sleeping, and I didn’t have to participate. The Chinese would bring doctors to come check my pulse, and since my heart condition caused my pulse to throb quite strongly, I was excused from these meetings.

Meanwhile, the living conditions at the monastery were getting tighter and tighter all the time. The people inLhasaat that time were a little more free than the ones in the monastery, so when the lay people heard about the monks having such a hard time, they would say things like, “I hope I’m never reborn as a monk!’ It reached a point where people were even saying things like that! After that I left the monastery and came to Lhasa, where I lived with a relative.

It never occurred to me to try to escape. The Chinese used to say over and over again, “There’s absolutely no way you can escape,” and people also had so little information about how to do it, that in your mind it was not even an option to consider.

Retreat for nineteen years: I did chulen retreat for a while, but the Chinese stopped me. They said you could practice Dharma, but when it came down to it there were many restrictions, and they felt Dharma was bad and the practices are essenceless. So until about 1964 I lived in Lhasa, doing the main practices of Guhyasamaja, Yamantaka and Heruka, and giving some teachings where I could.

At the time of the Cultural Revolution in 1965, things became tighter than ever before. It was in August or September of 1966 that they started destroying the Jokhang temple, all the holy objects in the temples, and all the holy objects people kept in their private homes as well; it was massive destruction. Except for where the Buddha Shakyamuni statue was and one room of the religious kings, they completely emptied the entire temple.

The Potala wasn’t destroyed as much as the other places. At Sera, Drepung and Ganden, some of the main temples were left in somewhat okay condition, but the others were destroyed. In 1969, that was the year they completely razed Ganden to the ground.

With the Cultural Revolution, I stopped all outer practices completely. I lived with relatives inLhasa. I stayed inside without ever going out. During this time I was sleeping (see box). I stayed in a room in the house of my cousin’s wife, who was half Tibetan, half Nepali. The Chinese would come anytime of the day or night – sometimes very early, sometimes late – to check on what I was doing, whether I was sleeping, to see if I was really sick or not. When they were gone I would get up and do practices.

At that time you could have absolutely no holy objects, no statues or scriptures. If they saw any scriptural texts you would be in big trouble. Even if you moved your lips without making a sound you would get into trouble, because they would think you were saying prayers. I had some prayer beads but they had to be kept hidden. I had a small one and when people came to investigate me, I would hide it in one of the two hidden pockets in my clothes, just over my knees.

Because I stayed inside like this without ever going out, people said I was doing retreat. But it wasn’t proper retreat, with the offerings, ritual things, and so forth. During this time I would think about the various stages of the path to enlightenment, as well as Guhyasamaja, Heruka, Yamantaka, all the generation stage yogas. And when I had time, I would complete the mantra quotas of each deity.

In any case, you don’t need external things to do Dharma practice. It’s all in your heart, your mind. As for realizations: you do not experience the realizations of the three principal aspects of the path, but you do have a little renunciation, and because of that you are able to stay like that.

The advantages of living in isolation: One reason it was good to stay inside inLhasa was because if you went out, you had to do what the Chinese said, and then you’d accumulate so much negative karma. I didn’t want to do anything at all that was contradictory to Dharma; I wanted to practice Dharma, so for that reason I didn’t leave my house. The Chinese used many tactics to get me to work for them. First they tried to frighten me, and when it didn’t work they invited me and many high geshes and lamas to live under their care; they said they would provide a house, car, food, money. But I didn’t want to do this because then I would have to do whatever they said, which was all contradictory to the Dharma. The main thing I wanted to do was practice Dharma sincerely, no matter what external factors were arising. This was my motivation, to be completely against the eight worldly concerns."
"Please call me by my true names so I can wake up; so the door of my heart can be left open: the door of compassion." -Thich Nhat Hanh

"Ask: what's needed of you" -Akong Rinpoche
cjdevries
Posts: 408
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:06 pm

Re: His Eminence Choden Rinpoche

Post by cjdevries »

Some sources say he was born 1933, others say 1930. 1930 seems to be more accurate.
"Please call me by my true names so I can wake up; so the door of my heart can be left open: the door of compassion." -Thich Nhat Hanh

"Ask: what's needed of you" -Akong Rinpoche
avatamsaka3
Posts: 638
Joined: Mon Apr 08, 2019 6:11 am

Re: His Eminence Choden Rinpoche

Post by avatamsaka3 »

Great stories.
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