Enlightened Vagabond/Little Monk

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As a youth, Patrul traveled through Golok, a wild nomad area north of Dzachukha, in the company of his teacher, Jigme Gyalwai Nyugu, and his teacher’s teacher, the 1st Dodrupchen, Jigme Trinley Özer. Ahead of them they saw a large nomad encampment and decided to approach.

A young man was standing at the entrance of a large black yak-hair tent. He asked the lamas, “Where have you just come from?” “We’ve come from Dokhok,” they answered. “Can you perform rituals for the dead? My mother died a few days ago. We’ve already sent for a lama, but it will be a long time before he arrives. The nearest lama lives three days’ journey away.” “Yes,” they replied, “we can do it.”

The three visitors were invited into the tent and were given seats on nice white wool felt carpets. A formal request was then made, with the presentation of ceremonial white silk scarves, that they perform rituals and prayers to benefit the recently deceased mother of the family. The two older lamas, Dodrup Jigme Trinley Özer and Jigme Gyalwai Nyugu, were offered tea. They both remained inside the tent doing preliminary prayers. Young Patrul went outside and busied himself making tormas and preparing offerings for the main ritual, phowa, the transference of consciousness to a buddha field, a pure land where enlightenment will ultimately be attained.

While Patrul was working, the daughter of the family kept interrupting his work, asking that he please give her a hand to start the fire, please keep a sharp watch over the boiling milk, and so on. Each time, she addressed Patrul in a casual way, calling him benchung, “little monk.” After a while, everything was ready. The three lamas performed the ritual for the dead known as Spontaneous Liberation from Suffering, an Avalokiteshvara practice, or sadhana, from Jigme Lingpa’s Longchen Nyingthig cycle.

The three lamas stayed on and spent the night. The next morning, as they were getting ready to leave, the father of the household begged them, “Please stay with us longer! At best, stay for three years. If not, stay for three months. At least, stay for three more days!” “No, we can’t stay. We must go on,” the lamas replied. “Well, at least, please let us know your names,” asked the father. “In all honesty,” replied the young Patrul, “these two are very great lamas. The one with white hair is Jigme Trinley Özer. The gray-haired one is Jigme Gyalwai Nyugu.” The man was astonished; he had indeed heard of these two famous lamas. “And who might you be?” the father asked Patrul. “Oh, I’m Abu Ullo,” Patrul answered, casually referring to himself by a family nickname. “Just a kid!”

The nomad family was overwhelmed with devotion and asked for the lamas’ blessings. As the three lamas were leaving, the son offered each of them a fine horse with full riding gear. Wealthy nomads often gave just such valuable offerings to lamas, in gratitude for their having performed rituals for the dead. “Please keep your horses,” the lamas said. “We have no need of lavish offerings. Even if you offered us pure gold, we would not accept it. Some tea leaves and tsampa would be welcome, though, since we have none.” This was done. When the three lamas set off , the whole nomad family came along with them as escorts and accompanied them for a day’s walk along the way, such was the respect they felt.