A village ngakpa

A village ngakpa

Dza Paltrül Rinpoche was once wandering in the mountainous area of Dér-gé, near Kathog gompa, when he came across Gyarong Lama, an old monk who was pious and devoted. Gyarong Lama noticed that, although quite ragged, Paltrül’s chuba was maroon in colour, and suspected that he might have some vague religious connections. They struck up a conversation as they walked together, and Gyarong Lama asked: “You seem like a man who might be interested in religion – am I right?” Paltrül smiled and said “Yes – I am a Nyingmapa.” Gyarong Lama, very pleased by this response, questioned further: “What have you learnt about religion?” Paltrül hung his head a little, and replied: “Oh... this and that... the essence of this matter is immeasurably vast and subtle, and... I’m just a village ngakpa y’know.”

Gyarong Lama smiled in a paternal sort of way, and said: “Well my friend – that’s no reason to stop you learning a little more. If you’d like to come and stay with me for a while I’ll give you some coaching in these things. I’m not a great scholar, but I know a thing or two about the teachings. There’s an excellent text by Dza Paltrül Rinpoche called ‘The Direct Speech of Kuntuzangpo’, and if you like I’ll go through it with you. Maybe you’ve heard of this great master?” Paltrül’s eyes opened wide, and he replied: “Yes... I’ve heard that name. But I thought he was just a ngakpa like me...”

Gyarong Lama shook his head, “Oh dear no, my dear friend, you are very wrong there... Let me put you right about that. Dza Paltrül Rinpoche is nothing at all like you – oh no. He’s a very great master who presides over a one of the largest Nyingma monasteries. Where ever did you get the idea that he was a just a ngakpa?” Paltrül looked a little sheepish, “Well... ” he replied “S’pose must’ve heard that somewhere or other – I guess there’s no accounting for what folks do say. But I’d be grateful to come and study this text with y’all – if’n the offer still stands?”

It did. So Paltrül went to stay with the kindly old Lama, and as soon as they arrived at his home the instruction began – and very good it was too. Gyarong Lama really seemed to have a very good understanding, and Paltrül listened with great interest to the precise explanations of his own book. After they had spend a few days together in this way, it came to Gyarong Lama’s attention that the very amazing and wonderful Dza Paltrül Rinpoche himself, was due to arrive at Kathog gompa to give teachings on this very text the two Lamas had been studying! “This is the most incredible opportunity my friend! Now we have an opportunity to hear these teaching from the enlightened master himself!” Paltrül looked astonished: “Would they let a village ngakpa in to such a teaching?” he asked with a sigh. “Sure,” said Gyarong Lama “don’t worry about that! If you come with me, there’ll be no problem – I’ll vouch for you. I’ll make sure that you get a good place to sit – not with me you understand, but a place where you’ll be able to see and hear well enough.” Then Paltrül looked a little apologetic, and said: “You are very kind to help an old ngakpa in this way, but there’s just one problem...” Gyarong asked what that was, in case he could be of help. “Well,” said Paltrül, “I’ve got a few chores to attend to before I go to Kathog. But you can be sure that I’ll be there on the day. I will arrive early and look out for you. It would not do for me to miss this occasion.” Gyarong Lama smiled “Good, let us meet there then. But...” he added “maybe try to tidy yourself up a bit – it would be good to look presentable at the gompa.” Paltrül agreed: “There’s not much I can do about my hair, but I’ll make sure that I look as smart as I can so I don’t embarrass you.”

Paltrül took his leave from his gracious host and made his way to Kathog. The day of the teaching arrived, and Gyarong Lama looked around for his new acquaintance the village ngakpa. The time was getting on. Not seeing him anywhere, he finally decided to go inside and await him there. His friend had obviously been detained. He most likely would show up later.

Sitting in the audience of monks, Gyarong Lama stood up and offered prostrations as Dza Paltrül Rinpoche was escorted to the high throne. But when he came to resume his seat, Gyarong Lama was stunned. He had never seen Dza Paltrül before, and the sight that presented itself completely disoriented the old monk. This was the simple village ngakpa to whom he had explained the teachings of the great Dza Paltrül Rinpoche. He was horrified and bewildered, but Paltrül put him at his ease. “Ah! There you are, my friend Gyarong Lama, I’ve been a-waiting for you as I promised. Lucky for me that you helped me with this text!” Paltrül turned to one of his attendants and said, “Prepare a special seat for my friend the Gyarong Lama, he has a very good understanding of this text – you people should really study with him.”

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