This spring we were very fortunate to have Changling Rinpoche come to Nova Scotia to visit, teach, and translate. Changling Rinpoche is in charge of teaching the ritual and ceremonial traditions to the monks at Shechen Monastery, the monastic seat Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche founded in Nepal, and he is a close associate of Rabjam Rinpoche, the head of the monastery. Rinpoche came to Dorje Denma Ling to teach one of Trungpa Rinpoche’s root teacher’s texts: Khenpo Gangshar’s Naturally Liberating Whatever You Meet. While Rinpoche was teaching at DDL, we met with him on the “Confession Liturgy That Brings Reconciliation with the Jnanadevas,” from The Undefiled Supreme Wisdom Tantra.
We had translated this long ago, at the request of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, for our sangha to practice as a means to repair our samaya (vajrayana commitment) with Trungpa Rinpoche. Since then, we have come to understand this to be a very profound text with a variety of commentaries, including one by Jigme Lingpa. And so we amassed quite a number of further questions on its meaning and expression.
It was a unique opportunity to work with Changling Rinpoche. Not only does he have a deep understanding of the tradition and its meaning, but he also truly enjoys delving into its expression in English. He is a consummate educator, so it was a delight to work with him. We look forward to his return to complete the teaching of Khenpo Gangshar’s text next year.
We would like to offer you the following brief “fly-on-the-wall” perspective of what it is like to be in a translation meeting with a learned, bilingual Tibetan lama. In the transcribed discussion below, in addition to Changling Rinpoche (CR), Scott Wellenbach (SW), Mark Nowakowski (MN), Patricia Kirigin (PK), and Walker Blaine (WB) are present. This portion of the meeting focuses on the first verse and primarily on the meaning of the words rangshin (rang bzhin, “self-existing”) and tröpa (spros pa, “elaboration”).
HUM The supreme wisdom body, the self-existing mandala,
Is like the full moon and has no elaboration.
Its compassion appears equally for all, like the light of the luminous sun.
Please approach here, consider us, and take your seat.
SW: We are on the first line, “The supreme wisdom body, the self-existing mandala.”
CR: I have one question. Are you translating rangshin as “self-existing”?
SW: Yes, that’s the way we’ve translated it.
CR: For me, rangshin means something more like “naturally” or “natural.” “Self-existing” sounds like someone is there doing something.
SW: Is it that “the supreme wisdom body” is “the natural mandala”?
CR: Yes. The reason I don’t like “self-existing” is because “existing” is used a lot in madhyamaka. In many traditions, that is the main point to be refuted. So “self-existing” sounds like that.
SW: So perhaps we could say, “The supreme wisdom body, the natural mandala”?
CR: When I see rangshin, I immediately understand “naturally,” without any causes or conditions, unobstructedly appearing from beginingless time.
MN: Is this the same as in rangjung (“self-born”) or rang-nang (“self-appearance”)?
CR: No. Actually, rangshin can be understood in many ways. Sometimes, it can be understood as “self-existing.” But in this case, I understand it as naturally, unobstructedly appearing, without any cause or condition.
PK: How about “appearing” instead of “existing”?
CR: From one point of view, “existing” and “appearing” are not so different. The reason I oppose “existing” is because it is used in madhyamaka as something to refute. But “appearing” is also used in madhyamaka. For example, they say, “It does not exist, but it does appear.”
MN: Recently, we have been saying “naturally appearing” for rang-nang. For a long time, we said “self-existing” or “self-arising” for rangjung. Personally, I think “naturally” works well. But there is now a problem in English, where “natural” is like saying “organic.”