influences-dzigarDzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. I first met my husband and teacher when I was twenty-three at Tulku Urgyn’s Tibetan Buddhist nunnery in Nepal. When I met him he wore plain clothes and I didn’t know who he was but his presence and the way he spoke about the dharma touched me deeply. I felt that all the questions I had about my life resolved on the spot. As I was actively searching for a teacher at that time I thought to myself: “I wish to meet a teacher just like him.” It turns out that in fact, he was a lineage holder and became my teacher. Over the years Rinpoche has continued to guide me with patience, tenderness, urgency and a lot of fierceness too. It has been a challenging, rugged and gorgeous ride! I feel moved and speechless at the thought of it. Truly, I could not imagine a more perfect teacher.

influences-dilgoHH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Soon after I met Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, he took me for an audience with his teacher, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, which I remember vividly. He had a grand and elegant physical presence and although he was in his early seventies when I first met him, he didn’t seem confined by time, age or even gender. Before entering his room I had pictured him as a wise old man from who I would receive spiritual advice. But to my astonishment, as I entered his quarters, what struck me most – and how I remember him to this day – was how he embodied, more than anyone I had ever met, the spirit of awe. He did not live in some distant state of meditative absorption and the natural confidence he exuded didn’t come from clinging to truths. Rather, he seemed touched and delighted by everything and everyone around him and he responded to it all with curiosity, playfulness and gentleness. In that moment I thought: “This must be where the spiritual path leads.” (Watch video in which Elizabeth describes her first meeting Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.)

mayum tsewang palden holding a young dunse jampal norbuMayum Tsewang Palden was Kongtrul Rinpoche’s mother and the wife of the late Neten Chokling Rinpoche. She did sixteen years of retreat and went on to marry and have five children– Kongtrul Rinpoche being the youngest. I only ever remember seeing her practicing. Sometimes she would make me sing the seven-line supplication of Guru Rinpoche, her hero. She would tap a stick on the table to make sure I kept time. Once, when I was a new bride fumbling around trying to fit into my new Tibetan family, she gave me some advice that changed my view of spiritual practice: “You don’t have to be Tibetan and you don’t have to be a Westerner, just know your own mind.” These words of kindness pointed me in the direction of true practice. They took me beyond the foreign cultural forms I was wrestling with and helped me to overcome the complex and naïve ideas I had about spiritual practice. She remains a tremendous inspiration.


influences-anamAnam Thubten Rinpoche. I have had the privilege of not only knowing, but also teaching with, Anam Thubten Rinpoche. I feel deep gratitude that there is someone like him in our world. Aside from being a skillful teacher, in him I see someone who pays full allegiance to Mother Prajnaparamita: the nature of emptiness. He is traditional, free, and fearless all at once.

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