How kosher is Younge Khachab Rinpoche?
August 2, 2004 6:22 PM   Subscribe

A friend and I are both longtime Tibetan Buddhists. We've encountered a new lama who's been touring to give teachings in North America: his name is Younge Khachab Rinpoche. He has detached himself from all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and is more or less freelancing, which has positive and negative implications. The question is: how kosher is he? If we take up with him, is it going to be a fruitful experience or a dead end? Does anyone have any experience or any friends in this subculture whose opinion they can ask, or avenues of inquiry to suggest?
posted by zadcat to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
zadcat: If we take up with him, is it going to be a fruitful experience or a dead end?

Apologies for any offence caused, but I'm always amused by such questions as well as those related to the 'organized' aspect of Buddhism. Why be dependent on anyone or be associated by any "school"?
posted by Gyan at 7:25 PM on August 2, 2004

Um... perhaps because buddhism is not just a matter of making it up as you go along?

Sorry, zadcat; I don't have any relevant information for you. But gyan's answer offended even this very-much-not-a-buddhist, and I tried but failed to just keep my mouth shut.
posted by ook at 7:38 PM on August 2, 2004

The always entertaining Sarlo's Guru Rating Service doesn't have anything on him. His forum might be another place to look for info.
posted by gimonca at 7:40 PM on August 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

ook: Nothing to do with making stuff up. Buddhism, roughly, is about complete detachment and self-exploration. The Buddha himself is quoted as suggesting to not accept anything as sacrosanct, including tradition. Some others implore to treat even experience as suspect. I'm just amused (and curious) that people invest so much weight in schools of Buddhism and guru lineages. The Buddha himself achieved enlightenment on his own, and the claim is that anyone can do so. Ultimately, the the path is yours alone to forge.

Again, I apologize for any offence caused.
posted by Gyan at 9:37 PM on August 2, 2004

If you want to follow him right now, follow him. If you find out later you made a mistake, follow someone else.

(answer from a Zen student's point of view)
posted by falconred at 10:10 PM on August 2, 2004

Oh the pain. You're going to get a lot of unqualified preachng here, and zero experienced advice. Sorry.
posted by scarabic at 11:27 PM on August 2, 2004

Response by poster: Oh the pain.

No worries - it was a long shot anyway. I was asking around, and thought - why not AskMeFi?

The Guru Rating page is interesting in its own right, although I don't see many actual ratings on it. Thanks all.
posted by zadcat at 5:30 AM on August 3, 2004

I don't think MeFi is the best place to ask this question, zadcat... ; )

I haven't read any of Rinpoche's teachings myself, but I do hear him quoted frequently by people I trust and respect and align with, so my impression is that his message is very good. I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're asking, though - isn't your faith/belief open enough for new ideas without having to abandon your core beliefs? And if you do find new ideas that conflict with what you've been taught, wouldn't Buddha himself suggest that you listen to your heart and find your path?

IMHO, it is always a good idea to learn more - so that you can define and redefine what works for you. Good luck.
posted by widdershins at 9:00 AM on August 3, 2004

"How does one find a new guru? In order to find a guru, one must keep on observing. When the speech, conduct and Dharma teaching of a teacher make you feel that his lineage is pure, you will develop the confidence to learn Dharma from him. If a Rinpoche says, "come, be my disciple", then something is not quite right with that Rinpoche." [emphasis mine]
The Dalai Lama, here. I've heard him saying pretty much the same thing elsewhere - constantly observe and evaluate, and don't be afraid to just up and pack your bags, if it things turn sour.
posted by Blue Stone at 9:21 AM on August 3, 2004

widdershins, don't forget that 'rinpoche' isn't a surname; rather (courtesy of Lama Zopa):
Rinpoche is a Tibetan term meaning "precious", and it is also an honorific reserved for recognized reincarnated Mahayana Buddhist high lamas. We call our lama "Rinpoche" as much as an expression of our reverence as well as to give voice to the gratitude we feel in our hearts at meeting Him.
The fact that the honorific is used as a suffix and without a truncated version leads to easy confusion (kind of like if every man who styled himself "lowlife Esquire" had that last name).
posted by lowlife at 9:34 AM on August 3, 2004

On the one hand:

It would take you years to learn the teachings of any Tibetan Buddhist lineage, and you'd need to speak classical Tibetan to do it. Most Tibetans are do not know any teachings as such; that's why they support specialists - monks - to do the studying for them. So, whichever school(s) Younge Khachab Rinpoche has detached himself from (and he says he's still Nyingma?) is not strictly a relevant question for you, as the teachings will be inaccessible anyway (unless you speak classical Tibetan).

On the other hand:

Many Tibetan teachers would say that it makes no difference if you understand them the teachings or not, the words and teachings have power in themselves, and it is enough to be present when they are read by a spiritually powerful teacher to receive their benefit. In other words, any Tibetan Buddhist teachings, if given in the right spirit by someone who is not a complete charalatan, are 'kosher'(!).

However, you might really want to consider the relationship between the tone/content of what Rinpoche will be teaching, and what your fellow Sangha members might be like. Rinpoche's web site seems to position him towards the more 'mystic' end of the Tibetan Buddhism as it appears in the west; he mentions Nyingma, Dzogchen, he's a Terton, etc. This would generally attract followers who are interested in 'secret,' 'esoteric,' 'tantric,' 'powerful,' etc., teachings. This would contrast with the the more orthodox crowd you might get following Gelugpa teachers.

One difference here is that more orthodox teachings of the Dalai Lama and others, while apparently 'tamer,' are also more engaged with the outside world, while more esoteric teachings of Dzogchen etc. can be more inward looking and aimed at developing personal 'power' (but this may be a gross generalization, IANATB, and I'm willing to stand corrected). That's not bad; there's a Buddhism for everyone; but you'd want a Sangha whose fellow members you'd feel comfortable with, and who share what you personally want to achieve with practice (e.g. inner growth vs. worldly engagement).

You might also want to consider that as Rinpoche (as a Terton) will be revealing the texts he will teach, these texts will probably be not taught by anyone else. So if you join this Sangha, it looks as if you might be committing to a small, specialised, and closely-knit community, based around this Rinpoche.


AFAIK, 'Rinpoche' ('precious jewel') can be used as an honorific title on its own, like for instance 'sensei' in Japanese, as long as the people speaking are all agreed on which Rinpoche they are talking about.
posted by carter at 10:39 AM on August 3, 2004

Oh my lord, I'm such a dunce. I had no idea that Rinpoche was an honorific. That'll teach me to open my big mouth...
posted by widdershins at 1:48 PM on August 3, 2004

I'm sorry, I don't have an answer either, but if I don't mention that the line "A friend and I are both longtime Tibetan Buddhists" absolutely made my day, I'll explode.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:28 PM on August 3, 2004

Response by poster: Happy to have amused somebody, I guess.

I should note here that, traditionally, it is considered that once one makes certain links with a lama, one is bound to him (or her) by vows which it is considered a serious matter to break - things like always treating them with respect, for example. Thus it's not a terrific idea to plan in terms of bailing on such a person - that would be like getting married while already considering an escape via divorce.

Of course many people do not practise in this old traditional manner, but in theory, that is how it goes, and why I'm treading a little cautiously at the moment.

Once again, thanks for thoughtful responses.
posted by zadcat at 7:41 PM on August 3, 2004

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