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Book Review: The Ruby Rosary: Joyfully Accepted by Vidyadharas and Dakinis as the Ornament of a Necklace by Thinley Norbu

Dudjom Rinpoche. From duddulraptenling.blogspot.com

Dudjom Rinpoche was an extraordinary master of Tibet’s precious wisdom traditions, a revealer of concealed spiritual treasures (terma), a brilliant and prolific scholar, and a man of immense warmth, humor, and humility. [He was] considered to be the regent and living embodiment of Guru Padmasambhava.

(From a conversation with the translator, Heidi Nevin)

The Ruby Rosary (Shambhala 2022), Thinley Norbu Rinpoche’s commentary on Dudjom Rinpoche’s text A Pearl Necklace, is extensive, detailed, and exquisite. It comments on the root text, a devotional prayer detailing the 18 most prominent previous lives of Dudjom Rinpoche. Thinley Norbu Rinpoche expounds on numerous tantra teachings to do so—more than one could ever expect or hope for. His wisdom speech in written form is incomparable in its poetic prose style, beauty, with each word carefully chosen and meaningful. One stanza or paragraph can supply Dharma nourishment for a whole meditation session. As a student of all the teachers writing in this book—the root text, the commentary, the forewords, and introduction—I certainly feel devotion toward its contents. And as a writer and editor myself, I genuinely find this book to be a fine piece of literature, in addition to being an object of devotion and source of teachings for Vajrayana practitioners in the Dudjom Tersar lineage.

This book is a wonderful way for practitioners new to the Dudjom teachings to gain an orientation into the lineage through the works of these great masters, father and son, expertly translated by Heidi Nevin, herself a longtime student and practitioner of this lineage. The Ruby Rosary gives extensive insight into the Vajrayana path of practice through tales of exacting recollection of not only specific tantra explanations, but also in detailed histories of Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s experiences, and receiving and recording termas (treasure teachings). It is truly wondrous to read these accounts!

Design by Gopa & Ted2. Image courtesy of Robert Beer

In the introduction, my own root teacher, Lama Tharchin Rinpoche, expounds on the biography of Dudjom Rinpoche, showing the countless ways that he was beyond compare. I spent many years receiving teachings from Lama Tharchin Rinpoche and Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. They, as well as countless other teachers and students, often described Dudjom Rinpoche as being like the sun: a person without apparent flaws, who never appeared angry or impatient, but had limitless time and energy for students and for the propagation of the Buddhadharma. Many of Dudjom Rinpoche’s close disciples—including his own children and grandchildren—also embody these qualities:

Completely without rival throughout the past, present, and future, Kyabje Rinpoche is like the newly dawning sun amidst the constellation of starlike Vidyadhara siddhas and scholars in the snowy land of Tibet.

(Lama Tharchin Rinpoche in his Introduction to this book, xiv)
Dudjom Jigdrel Yeshe Rinpoche. From buddhanature.tsadra.org

On Dudjom Rinpoche’s boundless activity, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche describes in the commentary many examples of the teachings shared extensively to benefit disciples and ensure the longevity of the lineage. Dudjom Rinpoche taught and wrote prolifically, and his liturgies and commentaries are very clear and illuminating, whether read in Tibetan or in translation. As Thinley Norbu writes:

Kyabje Rinpoche boundlessly turned the Wheel of Dharma . . .Kyabje Rinpoche conferred the empowerments and transmissions of the great Great Treasury of Precious Treasures on ten separate occasions. He conferred the thirteen teaching cycles of Pema Lingpa three times and the empowerments and transmissions of his predecessor Traktung Dudjom Lingpa’s treasure teachings numerous times.

(236)

Very few great masters had the time to be both teachers and preservers of the Buddhist doctrine. It is often said that Dudjom Rinpoche made miraculous use of his years, being able to do both in the ways that he did. From a very young age, he received mind treasures, which would later recur so he could disseminate and preserve them in writing.

Thinley Norbu Rinpoche and Lama Tharchin Rinpoche. Image courtesy of Vajrayana Foundation

In his concluding remarks, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche attributes the request for the commentary to my own dear root lama, referencing their life-long Dharma kinship:

This commentary . . . was written at the behest of the triply kind, sovereign master and great treasure Revealer Dharma King Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje’s own direct disciple, Ngagchang Tsedrup Tharchin [Lama Tharchin Rinpoche], with whom I have shared an extremely loving friendship, right from the time we became playmates and Dharma brothers as young children, through to old age and senility.

(264)
Author Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. From vajrayana.org

I wholeheartedly agree with the translator Heidi Nevin, who shared in conversation: “It is my fervent hope that this translation somehow fulfills the aspirations of both these Dudjom lineage holders and connects infinite sentient beings to the enlightened body, speech, and mind of Dudjom Rinpoche.” I have no doubt that it is a work of great merit and is already bringing blessings to all who read its pages.

Inspired by the drumstick of time and the six seasons,*
May living beings on the three planes of existence
Always hear the booming of the great Dharma drum of Mahāsandhi,
The melodious roar of the primordial liberation of all existence.

(Final Dedication, 265)

* Spring, spring rains, summer, autumn, winter, and late winter.

References

Norbu, Thinley. 2022 The Ruby Rosary: Joyfully Accepted by Vidyadharas and Dakinis as the Ornament of a Necklace. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Publications.

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Tracing the Legacy of Pandita Vimalamitra: A Joint Project of the Ngagyur Nyingma Research Centre and the Khyentse Center for Tibetan Buddhist Textual Scholarship
Gelongma Dompa (dgeslongma’i sdom pa): The Blessing of Bhikshuni Ordination in Bhutan
Precious Guru: Tracing the Wild and Sacred Legacy of Padmasambhava
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