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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
65 winter 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Reviews Dudjom Rinpoche (1904–1987) and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–1991) were two of the most influential Tibetan lamas of the twenti- eth century. They both gained fame and veneration during their youth in Tibet as precocious masters of the teachings. Both became beacons of hope and courage for Tibetans-in-exile after the Chinese occu- pation of their homeland. And both were also pivotal in establishing Tibetan Bud- dhism in Europe, North America, and East Asia. The parallels between the two figures and their personal connections as friend, guru, and disciple to one another make the nearly simultaneous publica- tion of their biographies a most fortu- itous coincidence. Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom is the biography of Dudjom Rinpoche written by his student Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal. It begins with an account of seven of his most important previous incarnations, and then moves on to the story of his birth in the remote region of Pema Kö, a “hidden land” at the densely forested border of Tibet and India. The prophecies and miraculous signs that accompanied his birth led to his recognition as the reincarnation of the great treasure-revealer Dudjom Lingpa. The child confirmed this iden- tification by greeting the disciples of his previous incarnation by name when they arrived in Pema Kö to examine him. By the age of eight, he had already delivered his first public teaching (on the first four chapters of Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva). Over the next few decades, Dudjom Rinpoche studied with dozens of the most important lineage holders in Tibet, receiving transmissions for an astonishing variety of practice traditions and cultivat- ing them through meditation retreats and scholarly efforts to collect and edit scat- tered texts. After a few years in Lhasa, where he developed a lasting connection with the young Dalai Lama, Dudjom Rinpoche fled from the approaching Red Army in 1956. He established his new residence in the old Indian hill-station of Kalimpong and devoted himself to trans- mitting the teachings to the next genera- tion of lamas; in 1960 he was recognized as the Supreme Head of the Nyingma School. His globe-circling 1973 journey to Hong Kong, the United States, and Europe was truly historic and marked the beginning of his intimate connections with many of the first Western students of Tibetan Buddhism. Dudjom Rinpoche’s disciples remem- ber his elegance and the power of his presence. Descended from a family that traces its roots to the royal family of Tibet’s medieval golden age, Dudjom Rinpoche seemed to be a visitor from another world who was perfectly at ease in any surroundings. This refine- ment was coupled with a sense of cour- age and freedom rooted in the Buddhist ideal of cutting through attachments. In the mid-fifties, as Tibetans were fleeing the Communist occupation, Dudjom Rinpoche composed a poem predicting his own flight across the Himalayas that Benjamin Bogin is an assistant professor of indo-Tibetan Buddhism at georgetown University. He is the author of a forthcoming study on Yolmo Tendzin norbu, a seventeenth- century Tibetan Buddhist lama and painter. Brilliant Moon: the autobiography of Dilgo Khyentse translated by ani Jinba Palmo Shambhala, 2008 400 pages; $35 (hardcover) Portraits of Wisdom and Courage reviewed by Benjamin Bogin light of fearleSS inDeStructiBle wiSDoM: the life and legacy of hh Dudjom rinpoche By Khenpo tsewang Dongyal Snow lion, 2008 360 pages; $18.95 (paperback)