In Praise of Longchenpa
Photo by David Christensen
The Greatness of the Omniscient Longchen Rabjam
Due to the kindness of Guru Padmasambhava, there have been many great holders of the teachings here in Tibet, the Land of Snows. There have appeared highly accomplished saints who were no different from the vidyādharas of India, the Land of the Āryas. Yet although there have been countless eminent scholars, none of them might be compared with the Six Ornaments and Two Supreme Ones of India in terms of wisdom and enlightened activity.
In later times there was the Omniscient One from Samyé, Longchenpa, who was the equal of the Jowo Kadampa geshes in terms of his ethical discipline and practice of training the mind (lojong), and who was like Jetsün Milarepa in how he first served his teacher and then spent his life meditating in solitude on the guru’s instructions. On account of his total mastery of study and contemplation, his fearless eloquence and his achievements in explanation, debate and composition we might compare him to the likes of Sakya Paṇḍita, the Lord of Dharma, or the precious Je Tsongkhapa. How he reached the final accomplishment and arrived at the exhaustion of reality within the primordial state was just like the great Chetsün Senge Wangchuk, Melong Dorje and others. In terms of his ability to manipulate phenomenal existence and call upon the assistance of the oath-bound guardians he was comparable to the great awareness-holders of Nub. In keeping to the tenets of the pinnacle of all yānas and surpassing all the views and philosophies fabricated by the ordinary mind, he was like the great Rongzom. If we consider the vast array of instructions he passed on in an aural lineage and the way he cared for the disciples who maintained his tradition, we might compare him to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo or Marpa Lotsawa. His mastery over the conventional sciences and the way in which Sarasvatī, the goddess of learning, lent power to his speech, made him the equal of the lotsawas of the past. The way great clouds of blessings are amassed within his written instructions makes them identical to the profound dharma treasures of the great tertöns. His perfect training in bodhichitta and his ability to benefit all those with whom he came into contact was reminiscent of Dromtönpa or the peerless Dakpo Lharje [Gampopa].
Other Tibetan scholars took as their basis the excellent Indian treatises but then added explanations based on their own clever ideas, with the result that on occasion their statements no longer accord with scripture or valid reasoning. In particular, the works of Nāgārjuna and his successors have been fervently debated among Tibetans, with the assertions of earlier Tibetan scholars subjected to a great deal of presumptuous refutation and affirmation by later scholars. Yet the explanations of the Omniscient One remain true to the tradition of the Six Ornaments and Two Supreme Ones in their beginning, middle and end.
Other Tibetan siddhas possessed only a few instructions from the aural lineage and then taught the holders of their tradition to meditate on selected instructions. Gyalwa Longchenpa, by contrast, was the master of countless teachings from profound transmissions. He possessed all manner of instructions, which had been passed down from vidyādharas and accomplished siddhas, from ḍākas and ḍākinīs, or received directly from Guru Padmasambhava and so on. This meant he could lead the holders of his tradition to attainment by encouraging them to practise diligently those instructions for which they felt the greatest affinity.
Other learned and accomplished masters may have given complete teachings on particular instructions, but they did not have practices for all the teachings in their entirety. The Omniscient Guru explained all the teachings completely. He revealed the instructions for gaining supreme and common accomplishments in general, from the kriyā and caryā tantras onwards, and all the tantras and pith instructions of Dzogpachenpo in particular, and so he is the true charioteer of the essence of clear light teachings.
In addition, his wisdom body has appeared in visions before those with great good fortune, granting them realization and so on.
In short, I believe Gyalwa Longchenpa to be the unique embodiment of the enlightened qualities of all the learned and accomplished masters of the Land of Snows. If you consider this honestly, you will find this to be just how it is, neither an exaggeration nor an understatement.
Gaining experience and realization through meditation—
That is common to all forms of pith instruction.
But gaining experience and realization through non-meditation—
How could anyone fail to seize upon something so amazing?
| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2006. Revised 2012.
A version of this translation was published in Stewart Jampa Mackenzie (ed.). The Life of Longchenpa: The Omniscient Dharma King of the Vast Expanse. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2014, pp. 133–135.