Do Khyentse Takes Patrul by Surprise

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Patrul felt deep devotion toward the wild yogi Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje, a realized practitioner and great siddha known for his spontaneous and unpredictable behavior. Do Khyentse was recognized as the incarnation of Jigme Lingpa.[1]

Once, Do Khyentse decided to travel to Patrul’s home province of Dzachukha. He set out on foot and, miraculously, arrived in record time! Yet he insisted that he’d only left that same morning—on a journey that normally takes two weeks on horseback. Patrul had been staying in the area of caves and hermitages above Dzogchen Monastery. When Patrul heard the news of Do Khyentse’s arrival, he instantly set off to find him. He went into town and found his teacher sitting outside in Dzogchen village.

As Patrul came into view, Do Khyentse called out, “Hey, Patrul! If you’re so brave, why don’t you come over here?” As he drew closer, Patrul realized that Do Khyentse must have been drinking—his breath stank of chang, the potent Tibetan brew made from fermented barley. Remembering the Buddha’s teachings on the harmful effects of alcohol, Patrul began to wonder: “So, even a great master can get dead drunk and behave boorishly?” At that very moment, Do Khyentse grabbed Patrul, threw him violently to the ground, and started dragging him along by his hair. Then Do Khyentse loosened his grip and roughly flung Patrul away.

Do Khyentse glared at him fiercely. “Pah!” he cried, spitting in Patrul’s face. “You old dog—your head is still stuffed full of concepts!” In Tibetan culture, to call someone “Old Dog” is very serious insult. What’s more, Do Khyentse gave Patrul the little finger—a sign of utter contempt—and began pelting him with stones. After hitting him square in the back, Do Khyentse stalked off and disappeared. It took a moment for Patrul to understand what had just happened. Shaken, nearly in shock, he realized he’d completely missed the point!

It struck him that Do Khyentse had just given him a profound direct teaching on the true nature of mind. Filled with grateful devotion toward his teacher, Patrul sat down in a meditation posture and began to rest the mind in naked awareness—vast, spontaneously arising, clear as a cloudless sky, free of discursive thought. Later in life, he would say that Old Dog was the secret initiation name kindly bestowed upon him by his master, Do Khyentse. Indeed, Patrul later signed many of his texts “Old Dog.”


  1. Jigme Lingpa had three incarnations: Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, his body-incarnation; Patrul, his speech-incarnation; Do Khyentse, his mind-incarnation. Thus these three were of the same wisdom-mindstream.