Undoubtedly, one of the greatest Buddhist masters in the world was His Holiness Jigme Phuntsok Jungé. His name has been uttered by millions of Buddhists in Asia with much reverence. I met His Holiness personally and was able to receive the Manjushri empowerment. Although I only met him once, my encounter was the most meaningful event of my entire spiritual journey. It is hard for me to describe the nature of it; in his presence, I felt that he showered me with a rain of love and compassion. While saying farewell to him, I felt that everything was going to be fine in my life, whatever that means. Remembering that meeting often brings tears to my eyes. I am unable to fathom the depth of my feeling behind those tears. It is more than devotion. It is more than grief. It is more than joy. There is just so much within that feeling.
As a Buddhist, I used to have the desire, the wish that I had been alive during the Buddha’s time, or the time of Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal, and received teachings directly from them. I thought that would have been such a golden opportunity. Since meeting H.H. Jigme Phuntsok, such a desire hasn’t been strong in my being because it has been quenched. To me, he was the same as the Buddha and Padmasambhava. He was one of the very few spiritual teachers I never doubted and never lost trust in, not even for single moment. Knowing that there is a human being I can hold with unconditional trust makes my heart warm. It’s like nectar to my heart, allowing me to feel that there is goodness in this world.
Who was he? My words are not sufficient to describe him. H.H. Jigme Phuntsok was one of the two or three most revered masters in the entire world of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetans address him as yizhin norbu, the wishful-filling jewel. It is the most esteemed title that can be given to someone. H.H. Jigme Phuntsok became who he was through his own merit, not through being pumped up or elevated by a system, such as an existing religious institution. He was a brilliant scholar, a mahasiddha, an impeccable monk, an embodiment of compassion and wisdom. His teachings and activities gave a new force to Tibetan Buddhism so that it could thrive with its original potency, which awakened many. Larung Gar, the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery, was organically created around him by his disciples and is now a community where many go to study and practice. Many feel that their consciousness is completely transformed by being part of that community. I personally know some lamas who have studied there under his guidance and, in my opinion, they are the most evolved beings I have ever come across.
In 2004, news of His Holiness’ death came to me, and I remember that a grief struck my heart and I felt a huge sense of loss—not only for myself, but for the world. At such a moment, I wished that I had had the good fortune to study with him for a long period of time. Although such regret lingers in my mind when I think of him, especially during my spiritual practice, his image often brings peace to my mind and strength to my heart. H.H. Jigme Phuntsok is the perfect sacred model for me. We human beings need sacred models who can inspire us and invoke the goodness that lies at core of each of us. Alas, the world is not going to see a master like him for long time. He will be remembered by many for decades, perhaps centuries, to come as an extraordinary master.
Although H.H. Jigme Phuntsok is gone from this world, his legacy continues as strong as ever. Among the thousands of nuns and monks he trained, some have become the most respected Dharma teachers in Asia. Countless people revere them and seek spiritual guidance from them with much trust. Personally, whenever I need to consult someone regarding the Dharma, I often reach out to one of his students, partly because I trust them as true Dharma teachers. Ven. Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro is a perfect example. He is constantly teachings millions the true meaning of the Dharma through his words and actions. This is why many in Tibet regard him as the Dharma regent of H.H. Jigme Puntsok. Tibetans today look up to Ven. Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro as a guide who shows them the right path.
Very recently, when I needed a Dharma transmission known as trid lung on some important texts, I asked one of H.H Jigme Puntsok’s disciples in Tibet to give that to me. The lama gave me the transmission over two evenings by smartphone. Even though the whole trid lung took place through my phone, I felt so much joy knowing that I was being held in the blessing of a sacred lineage. Before and after the trid lung, he and I had a cordial conversation in a spirit of ease and noble friendship. The lama was humble, kind, and nonjudgmental. There was not even the slightest hint of arrogance, aloofness, or self-importance in his being. It was such an inspiration to see someone like him at this time in history. It also made me happy to realize that there are many bodhisattvas in this world. This lama helped me believe more and more in the concept of nurture versus nature. His guru helped him to become this wise and kind being. Every human being has Buddha-nature, but if one has the good fortune to find a good spiritual teacher, she or he can help us to actualize our true potential. A true spiritual teacher is one who has an expansive mind, is compassionate and kind, and is not lost in the trap of ego’s deception.