Phabongkha Rinpoche’s stark change of attitude

Button_Eng[Phabongkha Rinpoche practised the ecumenical form of Buddhism in his early life, but became a Geluk purist in the latter part of his life]

The second line at the front of page no. 466 of The Biography of the Only Refuge Kyabje Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpothe Pervasive Embodiment of All Essence and Oceans of Mandalas, the Heruka in the Form of a Maroon Dressed Monk Called Meaningful Melodies of Brahma:

“His initial instruction on the merit-field of ‘Guru Yoga’ was concise, with limited lineage masters and others; even the ‘Extremely Secret Haryagriva’ was not included in it. Placing the ‘Extremely Secret Haryagriva’ among the merit-field was definitely not his ultimate intent for the following reasons: Among the Tantric-deities of the merit-field that he had in his thangka-paintings, Haryagriva was not there since it is considered as one of the principal Tantric-deities of the teachings of Padmasambhava, and one of the eight Dupka Kagyed deities. It is also a well-known fact that many of the Gelukpa Lamas, Tulkus, monasteries and monks affiliated to Sera Jey monastery do not have a pure ideology; some even attribute this to Haryagriva. This fact is also clear from his own version of the merit-field and the instructions that he gave in this regard at Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery in the latter part of his life at the age of sixty four.

Qualm: How do you interpret the two instructions given later in which we find Haryagriva among the merit-field deities? Well, it is this that since most of the Lamas, reincarnated Tulkus, and monks of Sera Jey Monastery at that time were Je Lama’s [Phabongkha] students who all had immense favoritism towards Haryagriva, and since he had been consistently requested by his erstwhile secretary, Chamdo Thupten Sungrab of Sera Jey Lhopa, that the placement of Haryagriva among the merit-field deities would be helpful to others, in the middle, he had to instruct the artist to do as requested, and therefore, the Thankas painted in the middle have Haryangriva included in the merit field; thus, he merely gave in to the desires of others who had so wished it.”

Thus, although Kyabje Phabongkha was definitely a realised Lama, however, even realised Lamas have their own weaknesses. There are many stories of how sectarian attitudes of Kyabje Phabongkha Rinpoche’s followers created disruptions and schisms in different parts of Kham and U-Tsang. The following excerpt from Phabongkha Rinpoche’s own biography will bring some light on the cause of his radical change in attitude.