YUKHOG CHATRALWA, A GREAT DZOGPA CHENPO
Most people generally overestimate their own capacity, intelligence, and nature because they are enveloped in the ignorant darkness of their own egoistic shadows. Their ambitions and expectations exceed what their actual capacity could provide them.
It is important to realize the extent of one’s own ability and to pursue the goals accordingly.
The following is the account of our visit to a most famous Dzogpa Chenpo master, Yukhog Chatralwa, the Hermit or ascetic from Yu valley named Choying Rang-drol (d.1953?). My tutor Kyala Khenpo, Chochog (1893-1950) and I went to see Chatralwa accompanied by Khenpo’s brother, Kyali Loli, and a few others.
In 1951 we went to the hermitage called Yagegar, the Beautiful Camp, to see Chatralwa, the ascetic. He had about two hundred disciples, mostly monks. Almost all the disciples lived in small huts and caves outfitted with a small bed-cum-seat on which they could sleep, sit, and meditate.
Near their beds they had small stoves for making tea, and little altars with books. Many could hardly stand up in their cells. Many of his disciples were doing Dzogpa Chenpo meditation, but the majority of them were still doing common sütric and tantric studies and practices and the preliminaries of Dzogpa Chenpo, and they were being taught by the Chatralwa’s senior disciples.
For the most part Chatralwa only gave teachings and clarifications on the meditation and philosophy of Dzogpa Chenpo and only saw disciples individually, giving meditation instruction according to the experiences of the disciples.
He didn’t give public talks or teachings to groups since disciples have different meditative needs. The most impressive thing about that hermitage was that while almost all the disciples lived on life-sustaining means, yet their peace, cheerfulness, calmness, compassion, contentment, and energy, and the smiles on their faces told the whole story of their lives and achievements.
Generally, unless you were committed to staying for a long time, Chatralwa wouldn’t see you. But, he was fond of children, and they could go to his house at any time when he was free. He played with them and told stories.
He was very old, perhaps in his 80’s or around 90, but no one knew his actual age. Usually people had to help him stand up or walk because of his bad knees; but there were incidents such as his once running after pages of his books when they had been blown away in the wind, and no-one had shown up in response to his call.
People believe that he could read others’ minds and everyone was always fearful about their own thoughts When they were with him.
After the first day interview, which my tutor Kyala Khenpo and I had, Khenpo told his brother Kyali Loli some of the clarifications on Dzogpa Chenpo meditation he received from the Chatralwa. The next day, before we took our leave at the end Of the second interview, Chatralwa told out of the blue: ‘ ‘Don’t immediately try to find someone with whom you can sharpen your lips [chatter).” It enforced our belief and fear that he possessed clairvoyance
And of course Khenpo felt compelled to stop passing on the clarifications to his brother.
Chatralwa lived as a celibate yogi. He had thin gray hair; his hair was long and a little clotted. I remember his saying: “My teacher, Adzom Drugpa (1842-1924), told me that I should lead a tantric life, and he prophesied that I would become a Terton, a Dharma Treasure Discoverer. But neither do I want to be married, as it could lead to a life of struggle, nor to discover any new Terchos, Discovered Dharma Treasures, as there are authentic golden Terchos which are available. So, as a symbol of observance of my teacher’s words, I kept this long hair as a tantric costume.”
As it was very hard for anybody to see the Third Dodrup Chen Rinpoche and because Chatralwa, had never any chance to see him, he had received clarifications from Rinpoche through Terton Sogyal with whom Chatralwa stayed for a long of time.
Chatralwa told us: “Of course I never had the good fortune to see Rinpxhe, but I received so many wonderful clarifications from him. When I was staying at Terton Sogyal’s residence, whenever Terton returned from seeing Rinpoche, he would always call me and would pass on to me all the instructions on doctrinal and meditational points that he received from Rinpoche, or whatever they had discussed on crucial points.”
Raising his voice he would continue: ‘ ‘Abe (elder brother’s)! How could I forget those golden teachings? I am not mad!”
Chatralwa had rather a big comfortable house with lots Of books and religious objects and a few attendants. If you gave him any presents or offerings, sometimes he would accept them or send them for religious services, but sometimes he would show rage and throw them away. But if you brought him a nice meal, especially Zhemog, he would always take it with great pleasure and would say his famous line: “it is worthy of hundreds of horse and cows.”
There is a funny story about Chatralwa’s big house. One day a well-known lama named Rinchen Dargye, who was prophesied by the first Dodrup Chen as a great adept, had an interview with Chatralwa. This Lama entered Chatralwa’s room and kept looking around instead of sitting down and talking to the Chatralwa.
Chatralwa asked him sharply: “What did you lose?” The Lama answered: “I heard are a Chatralva, an ascetic. But you have enough to be called a rich man. How can one call you a Chatralwa?”
Chatralwa answered: “Chatralwa means someone who has cut off his emotional attachments to worldly materials or to life. It does not mean being poor and hankering for them as many do!” Chatralwa always enjoyed people who are direct and bold.
We spent eighteen days at Yagegar. Kyala Khenpo and I saw Chatralwa many times. Chatralwa gave the answers to Khenpo’s questions in very great detail, and after each answer he told an interesting story of the past before going on to the next question. I didn’t understand much of the main teachings but enjoyed the stories.
Looking at him gave one a feeling of his being so ancient, ageless, wise, natural, and vast. I kept thinking again and again: “Oh, Kunkhyen Jigme Lingpa must have been like this Lama. ” At that time I didn’t think much about its unusual significance, but later, and still now whenever I try to understand, I don’t find any answer to the question of why he let me in on those esoteric interviews.
Is it because I had been recognized as a Tulku of a great Lama for whom Chatralwa had great respect, or because I was just a child of twelve years old? I don’t think either of these is the reason.
Whenever I think him and his presence, it still brings a great peace within me. That must have been the true reason that this great Lama who had clairvoyance permitted me to be present.
A couple of days before we left, Khenpo arranged his brother, Kyali Loli, to have an interview with the Chatralwa.
Loli was neither a scholar nor an accomplished meditator. Anyhow, he had already received Dzogpa Chenpo teachings and had practiced them after completion of his common practices and preliminaries. But when he met Chatralwa it was disappointing to him. It is not because he wasn’t doing well with his Dzogpa Chenpo meditation, but that he wasn’t even ready to start it.
On that day, one of the most important days of his life, Kyali Loli went to Chatralwa. Loli was a very courageous and nothing would intimidate him. so Loli explained his practice, his Dzogpa Chenpo experiences, and he requested instructions and clarifications.
Chatralwa, without making any remarks about Loli’s presentation, said:
Then he wrote down a few lines, a quotation from a Sutra which reveals the merits and benefits of the recitation of the name of Amitäbha Buddha.
Kyali Loli was disappointed because he didn’t get any Dzogpa Chenpo teachings, and it broke his proud heart.
But, now thinking back, I can understand how these teachings were perfect for him, and how it will be beneficial if he or anybody uses those instructions.
It is important for the teacher to be fair, frank, certain, and clear, and for the disciple to be realistic, careful, tolerant, and open, as a line says: