Buddhist Views on Karma

Questions Which Tend Not to Edification

Accordingly, Malunkyaputta, bear always in mind what it is that I have not explained, and what it is that I have explained. And what, Malunkyaputta, have I not explained? I have not explained, Malunkyaputta, that the world is eternal; I have not explained that the world is not eternal; I have not explained that the world is finite; I have not explained that the world is infinite; I have not explained that the soul and body are identical; I have not explained that the soul is one thing and the body another; I have not explained that the saint exists after death; I have not explained that the saint does not exist after death; I have not explained that the saint both exists and does not exist after death; I have not explained that the saint neither exists nor does not exist after death. And why, Malunkyaputta, have I not explained this? Because, Malunkyaputta, this profits not, nor has to do with the fundamentals of religion, nor tends to aversion, absence of passion, cessation, quiescence, the supernatural faculties, supreme wisdom, and Nirvana; therefore have I not explained it?

And what, Malunkyaputta, have I explained? Misery, Malunkyaputta, have I explained; the origin of misery have I explained; the cessation of misery have I explained; and the path leading to the cessation of misery have I explained. And why, Malunkyaputta, have I explained this? Because, Malunkyaputta, this does profit, has to do with the fundamentals of religion, and tends to aversion, absence of passion, cessation, quiescence, knowledge, supreme wisdom, and Nirvana; therefore have I explained it. Accordingly, Malunkyaputta, bear always in mind what it is that I have not explained, and what it is that I have explained.
Majhima-Nikaya, in The Portable World Bible

Buddhist Cosmology

Metaphysical speculation is discouraged . . . but in practice Buddhists do share a set of common views about the universe — views derived from three sources. They are: (1) the cosmological and metaphysical beliefs of the Buddha's contemporaries; (2) relevant passages gleaned from the Buddha's own teaching and that of later generations of monks; (3) intuitions of the nature of reality which dawn on adepts during meditation. The following notions have almost the force of dogmas, though no Buddhist is compelled to subscribe to them.

It is held that the universe is not the work of a supreme god— indeed, not a creation at all. Rather it is a delusion, part and parcel of the delusion which makes each being suppose that he has a separate ego, a genuine self-contained entity. This conviction leads to self-love, which serves in turn to solidify the ego-consciousness and immure us in the virtually endless round of birth and death known as Samsara. Thus we are governed by Avidya—primordial ignorance or delusion. . .

Clinging to the false notion of its permanency, the wretched ego suffers successive rounds of death and rebirth, aeon upon aeon, during which it fashions its own rewards and retributions; every thought, word, and action produces karma, a force which brings results exactly consonant with their causes. Whatever tends to diminish the ego-illusion loosens the grip of karma; whatever strengthens it draws tight the bonds. None of the infinite number of states in Samsare is altogether satisfactory; progress lies not in trying by good works to achieve rebirth, say, among the gods; even the gods have dissatisfactions to put up with and, when their good karma is exhausted, they will have to descend to more painful states. The remedy lies in freeing oneself from Samsara forever by destroying the last shreds of egohood.
— John Blofeld, The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet

The Miseries of Rebirth

Looking for the maker of this tabernacle, I have run through the course of many births, not finding him; and painful is birth again and again. But now, maker of the tabernacle, thou hast been seen; thou shalt not make up this tabernacle again. All thy rafters are broken, thy ridge-pole is sundered; the mind, approaching the Eternal, has attained to the extinction of all desires.
Dhammapada, in The Portable World Bible

Now hear the dire results when one scorns my skillfulness and the Buddha-rules for ever fixed in the world. After having disappeared from amongst men, they shall dwell in the lowest hell during a whole kalpa, and thereafter they shall fall lower and lower, the fools, passing through repeated births for many intermediate kalpas. And when they have vanished from amongst the inhabitants of hell, they shall further descend to the condition of brutes, be even as dogs and jackals, and become a sport to others.

And whenever they assume a human shape, they are born crippled, maimed, crooked, one-eyed, blind, dull, and low, they having no faith in my Sutra.
The Lotus of the True Law, in The Portable World Bible

The Enlightened One

Gautama Buddha speaks: With his heart thus serene, made pure, translucent, cultured, devoid of evil, supple, ready to act, firm and imperturbable, he [the saint] directs and bends down his mind to the knowledge of the memory of his previous temporary states. He recalls to his mind . . . one birth, or two or three . . . or a thousand or a hundred thousand births, through many an aeon of dissolution, many an aeon of both dissolution and evolution.
Samannanphala Sutta, trans. T. W. Rhys Davids, in Reincarnation: An East-West Anthology

Him I call a Brahamana who knows the mystery of death and rebirth of all beings, who is free from attachment, who is happy within himself and enlightened. . . . Him I call a Brahamana who knows his former lives, who knows heaven and hell, who has reached the end of births, who is a sage of perfect knowledge and who has accomplished all that has to be accomplished.
The Dhammapada, in Reincarnation: An East-West Anthology

What Reincarnates?

The profane generally imagine that Buddhists believe in the reincarnation of the soul and even in metempsychosis. This is erroneous. Buddhism teaches that the energy produced by the mental and physical activities of a being brings about the apparition of new mental and physical phenomena, when once this being has been dissolved by death.

There exist a number of subtle theories upon this subject and the Tibetan mystics seem to have attained a deeper insight into the question than most other Buddhists.

However, in Tibet as elsewhere, the views of the philosophers are only understood by the elite. The masses, although they profess the orthodox creed: "all aggregates are impermanent; no 'ego' exists in the person, nor in anything," remain attached to the more simple belief in an undefined entity traveling from world to world, assuming various forms.
— Alexandra David-Neel, Magic and Mystery in Tibet

Though the notion of an eternal soul free from the laws of transience and absence of own-being is rejected, it is recognized that the bundle of characteristics which constitutes a man's personality does persist—though of course in changing form—from life to life and aeon to aeon. Just as the middle-aged man has gradually developed out of the boy he has ceased to be, so has each of us developed from the being we used to be in our previous existence, bringing with us into this life many of the relatively long-term characteristics which determine our present circumstances and personality. Thus the Buddhist equivalent of the Christian concept of the soul is a continuum that changes from moment to moment, life to life, until the ego is negated and Nirvana won.
— John Blofeld, The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet

It is a mistake to attempt a final estimate of the views of either Buddha, Plato, Jesus, or any other teacher of religious philosophy, by means of a literal analysis of the printed record of what they taught. In the case of Buddha, there is reason to think that, like Jesus, he taught an inner, higher doctrine to his immediate disciples. What may be called "popular" Buddhism has generally been conceded to be preserved by the Southern or Ceylonese School, and it is from the scriptures of Southern Buddhism that Western scholars have gained the impression that Buddha denied the possibility of immortality. Rhys Davids, the Orientalist whose interpretations are best known to the West, has written: "There is no passage of a soul or I in any sense from the one life to the other." . . . Davids also concludes that "death, utter death," is the sequel to Nirvana.

Edmund Holmes is convinced that this is a mutilation, a complete misreading, of Buddhist philosophy, and his chapter in The Creed of Buddha to correct the mistake seems a well-reasoned discussion of the central implication of Buddhist teachings. The Southern version, briefly, is that at death a man's tendencies and traits of character are resolved into psychic residues termed by the Buddhists Skandas, and that these are all that remain of the man who has died. The Skandhas (carriers of Karma) are then reborn in some other person or individual, but without any connecting link of continuing egoity.

Northern Buddhism [the Buddhism of Tibet, China, and Japan], on the other hand, while exuberantly metaphysical in form, is said to have preserved the teaching given by Buddha to his arhats, or initiated disciples, and here one finds unmistakably taught the doctrine of a permanent identity which unites all the incarnations of a single individual. This latter is the view adopted by Holmes: "The question we have to ask ourselves with regard to the Buddhist conception is a simple one: Is the identity between me and the inheritor of my Karma . . . as real as the identity between the me of today and the me of 20 years hence . . . ? If it is not as real, the doctrine of reincarnation is pure nonsense."
— From an "essay on Buddha's thought contained in a translation of the Dhammapada published by the Cunningham Press," quoted in Reincarnation: An East-West Anthology.

What actually transmigrates from one life to another is the mind conditioned by karma, which determines its happiness, its suffering, and its abilities. What we are today — the different realms we have gone through and will go through — results from karma that conditions the projections of the mind and thereby forms its illusions.
— Kalu Rinpoche, Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha

Karma and Causality

Fundamental consciousness can be compared to a ground that receive imprints or seeds left by our actions. Once planted, these seeds remain in the ground of fundamental consciousness until the conditions for their germination and ripening have come together. . . The linking of the different steps of this process, from the causes, the initial acts, up to their consequences, present and future experiences, is called karma, or causation of actions.
— Kalu Rinpoche, Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha

The impetus which impels a sentient being to pass from round to round of birth and death is provided by karmic force. Acts of body, speech and mind produce internal and external results which, in combination with the fruits of other acts, become the causes of further and yet further results many of which involve the doer. Thus karma (causatory energy) leads to chains of action and reaction extending from life to life and governing the circumstances of each. Belief in the action of karma must not be confused with a kismet-like fatalism. Though we are bound to reap all we sow, we are free to sow new seed that will bear good fruit. Moreover, with the gradual negation of the ego, karma's hold is loosened.

The karmic process is intricate. A criminal, for example, incurs more than legal punishment or terror of discovery; the results of his crime affect his personality either by coarsening it or by afflicting him with remorse; that coarsening or affliction will in turn produce results; and those results, yet others. Thus, whether or not legal punishment follows, the consequences of wrongdoing are severe. Whereas a Christian may hope that his piety and good works will be accepted as atonement, a Buddhist, knowing that his severest judge, gaoler and executioner are himself and that sentence by this judge is mandatory, understands that virtue and evil never cancel out each other, that he will harvest and consume the fruits of each. On the other hand, in the Buddhist view, evil is not sin but ignorance (for no one able to foresee all the karmic consequences of an evil deed could bring himself to err). Hence the remedy is the wisdom which tends to diminution of the ego and to a weakening of karmic force.
— John Blofeld, The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet

The Negative Acts and Positive Acts

According to Kalu Rinpoche, in Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha, the main negative acts are as follows:

The positive acts are the opposite of each of these types of negative acts; for example, protecting life rather than killing, and so on.

Factors Affecting the Strength of Karmas

So, the strength of a karma depends on the intention to do it, the action itself, its completion, and the feeling it causes afterward.

For example, the karmic power and the results of the action of killing would be strongest with several factors coming together: the spiritual quality of the victim, the intention of committing the action, the premeditation of the murder, the attempt to murder, the action killing, the resulting death, the satisfaction that it was accomplished, and the contentment of having killed. The presence of all of these elements gives the karma maximum power; when one, two, or three of these elements are missing, the karma's intensity and consequences are diminished correspondingly.

— Kalu Rinpoche, Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha

The Different Types of Results of Actions

The different negative or positive acts have four main types of results called dominant or maturation results, results corresponding to the initial act, results corresponding to the initial experience, and governing results.

The dominant or maturation result is the first and strongest result of an action; it consists of taking rebirth in a realm corresponding to the nature of that act. So, the maturation result of the act of killing is rebirth in a hell realm . . .

Results corresponding to the initial act consist in a predisposition to commit other similar acts . . .

Results corresponding to the initial experience consist of a tendency to experience situations in which we are subjected to what our own previous victim experienced. In other words, we ourselves may become the object of similar acts committed by others . . .

Environmental results condition the outer environment in which we take birth. Thus, for example, killing creates an outer world of dangerous precipices and abysses.

— Kalu Rinpoche, Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha

Karma and Freedom

It is very important to understand clearly that although karma conditions our experiences and actions, we still enjoy a certain measure of freedom — which could be called free will in the West — which is always present in us in various proportions. At every turn we find ourselves at a crossroads: one way leads to happiness and enlightenment, the other to unhappiness and suffering. We are continually confronted with a choice: the right choice generates karma favorable to positive development, which a bad choice produces negative karma, the cause for unhappiness in the future. The choice is ours, but the consequences are unavoidable.

This freedom or free will is possible because, in the midst of samsara, despite its conditioned nature, we always have a degree of direct awareness and authentic experience. Our mind and its experiences participate simultaneously in the conditionings of ignorance and in the freedom of direct awareness.

— Kalu Rinpoche, Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha 

Merit and Its Transfer

The fruits of good thoughts, words and deeds are collectively known as merit. Merit, like the fruits of bad karma, persists for a long time; stocks of it can be built up and expended by an act of will in two ways: (1) to ameliorate our present circumstances and/or to ensure rebirth into a relatively pleasant situation; (2) to loosen Samsara's bonds and advance us towards Liberation.

Since nothing is predestined and, despite karma, there is wide scope for the play of free will, it follows that we have some degree of choice as to whether the merit will be expended frivolously on a pleasant rebirth or wisely on securing a birth conducive to the pursuit of Liberation. (Some Buddhists, thinking of Liberation as something immeasurably far off, prefer agreeable mundane results that will be more immediate.)

The notion that an act of will can affect the fruits of merit is carried further. It is believed that stocks of merit can be transferred to other beings. In Theravadin countries, young men often take temporary monastic vows as a means of building up merit for their parents. Vajrayana followers daily renew an act of will transferring their merit to sentient beings in general. The hoarding of merit for oneself is acceptable conduct among the Theravadins, but Mahayanists consider it ignoble. Whether or not it is really possible to transfer merit, forming an intention to do so is salutary, for all unselfish thoughts naturally lead to a corresponding diminution of the ego. Unfortunately, this reflection makes it difficult to be sincerely generous; for, at the moment of offering merit (or anything else) to others, one may be conscious of doing oneself a good turn!
— John Blofeld, The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet

Bodhisattvas

The term "Bodhisattva" may also mean an Enlightened Being . . . For Mahayanists it has the special sense of Enlightened Beings who renounce Nirvana's bliss in order to remain in the universe and aid the liberation of their fellow beings. Pious Mahayanists often take a solemn vow to seek Bodhisattvahood, thus dedicating themselves long in advance of their Enlightenment to the service of others; Theravadins, however, deny that such a choice is possible, holding that once the karmic accretions have been burnt up with the false ego, nothing remains to be reborn as a Bodhisattva or in any other form.
— John Blofeld, The Tantric Mysticism of Tibet

The Bardo or After-Death Journey

The beliefs of the learned lamas and of contemporary mystics differ greatly from those held by the masses about the fate of the "spirit" in the next world.

To begin with, they consider all the incidents of the journey in the Bardo as purely subjective visions. The nature of these visions depends on the ideas the man has held when he was living. The various paradises, the hells and the Judge of the Dead appear to those who have believed in them.
— Alexandra David-Neel, Magic and Mystery in Tibet

I said that—according to the Tibetans—a mystic initiate is capable of keeping his mind lucid during the disintegration of his personality, and that it is possible to him to pass from this world to the next fully conscious of what is happening. It follows that such a man does not need the help of anyone in his last hours, nor any religious rites after his death.

But this is not the case for ordinary mortals . . .

Lamaism does not abandon these ignorants to themselves. While they are dying, and after they are dead, a lama teaches them that which they have not learned while they were alive. He explains to them the nature of the beings and things which appear on their way; he reassures them, and, above all, he never ceases guiding them in the right direction.

The lama who is assisting a dying man is careful to prevent him from falling asleep, or from fainting or falling into a coma. He points out the successive departure of the special "consciousness" attached to each sense . . . That is to say he calls attention to the gradual loss of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.

Then, the task of the lama is to make the "spirit" spring out of its envelope through the top of the head; for if it leaves by any other road, the future well-being of the man will be greatly jeopardized.

This extraction of the "spirit" is produced by the ritualistic cry of Hik! followed by Phat! Before uttering the cry, the lama must concentrate his thoughts and identify himself with the man who has just died. He must make the effort which the man himself ought to have made, to cause the "spirit" to ascend to the summit of the skull with sufficient force to produce the fissure through which it can escape.

Initiates who are capable of making the "spirit" rise for themselves, utter the liberating cry of Hik! and Phat! when they feel their end approaching, and so free themselves without help.

They are also able to commit suicide in this way and it is said that certain mystics have done so.

The disembodied "spirit" then begins a strange pilgrimage. The popular belief is that a journey really takes place through lands that really exist and are peopled with real beings. But the more learned Lamaists consider the journey as a series of subjective visions, a dream that the "spirit" himself weaves under the influence of his character and his past actions.

Certain Lamaists assert that, immediately after the "spirit" has been disincarnated, it has a intuition, fugitive as a streak of lightning, of the Supreme Reality. If it can seize this light, it is definitely set free from the "round" of successive births and deaths. It has reached the state of nirvana.

This is rarely the case. Generally the "spirit" is dazzled by this sudden light. He shrinks from it, pulled backward by his false conceptions, his attachment to individual existence and to the pleasure of the senses. Or else, the significance of what he has seen escapes him, just as a man, absorbed by his preoccupations, will fail to notice what is going on around him . . .

During the celebration of these various ceremonies, the "spirit" travels through the Bardo.

He beholds, in turn, radiant beautiful beings and hideous forms. He sees diversely coloured paths and a crowd of strange visions. These apparitions frighten him, he is bewildered and wanders at random among them.

If he is able to hear and follow the advices of the officiating lama, he can take a road that will lead him to be reborn among the gods, or in some other pleasant condition—just as the initiate may, who has entered consciously into the Bardo after a careful study of its "map."

But men who have not learned anything about the Bardo, and who enter it while absorbed in their regret at leaving the material world, can hardly profit by the counsels given to them.

So they miss the opportunity of escaping the mathematically rigid consequences of their actions. The roads to celestial happiness are behind them. The wombs of human and of animal beings are offered them and, deceived by these hallucinations, they fancy these to be pleasant grottoes or palaces. Thinking they will find an agreeable resting-place, they enter one or another of them and thus determine for themselves the conditions of their rebirth. This one will become a dog, while another will be the son of distinguished parents.

According to other beliefs, the great mass of people who have not obtained post-mortem spiritual illumination, by seizing the meaning of the vision which arose before them immediately after death, travel like a frightened flock of sheep through the phantasmagoria of Bardo, until they reach the court of Shinje, the Judge of the Dead.

Shinje examines their past actions in a mirror or weighs them under the form of black and white pebbles. According to the predominance of good or of evil deeds, he determines the species of beings among whom the "spirit" will be reborn and the particular circumstances that accompany this rebirth, such as physical beauty or ugliness, intellectual gifts, social standing of the parents, etc.
— Alexandra David-Neel, Magic and Mystery in Tibet

Propelling and Completing Karma

Among the various types of karma, we can further distinguish propelling karma and completing karma. Propelling karma, as its name suggests, propels one into a state of existence, whatever that may be. Completing karma determines the specific circumstances within that state of existence; it fills in the bqaasic outline produced by the propelling karma. These two types of karma can combine so that, for example, if the karma propelling a certain mode of existence were positive and the completing karma that fills in the particulars were negative, we may take birth in a higher state of consciousness, but we would experience unpleasant circumstances in that lifetime.
— Kalu Rinpoche, Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha

The Six Realms

Qualitatively, each of the six mental afflictions engenders a certain type of birth: hatred leads to a hell realm, greed to a hungry ghost realm, stupidity to an animal realm, desirous attachment to the human condition, jeaousy to the jealous god realm, and pride to the divine states . . . So, a lot of negative karma generates a hell realm; a little less negative karma, the hungry ghost realm; and less than that, an animal realm . . .

THE HELL REALM . . . In these infernal states, we are relentlessly tormented by inconceivable suffering: we are killed, and in some hell realms we experience being killed over and over; we are tortured by extreme heat or cold. And there is no freedom nor any possibility to dedicate ourselves to spiritual practice.

THE HUNGRY GHOST REALM . . . In this state, we can never get what we want, nor can we enjoy food or drink, which we desperately crave as hungry ghosts. We are always lacking and wanting, yet completely unable to fulfill our desires, and we suffer from hunger, thirst, and constant intense frustrations.

THE ANIMAL REALM . . . All of them experience different forms of suffering, such as being eaten alive, struggling against one another, or being subservient and abused . . . it is very difficult to awaken love and compassion and impossible to practice Dharma.

THE HUMAN REALM . . . Humans are practically the only beings endowed with the necessary conditions for spiritual progress, as well as the faculties that allow the practice and understanding of Dharma. However, being human does not guarantee spiritual progress . . . the human condition still has many types of suffering, the four main kinds being birth, illness, aging, and death.

THE JEALOUS GOD REALM . . .This is a happy state endowed with many powers and pleasures, but, because of the force of jealousy, there are constant struggles and conflicts. Jealous gods oppose gods who are their superiors and quarrel among themselves.

THE DIVINE REALM . . .There are different levels of divine existence. The first are the divine states of the desire realm, so called because mind in those realms is still subject to desires and attachment . . . Beyond the desire realm, there is the subtle-form realm, which includes a hierarchy of seventeen successive divine levels . . . Finally, beyond even these . . . there can be birth in the formless realm.

— Kalu Rinpoche, Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha

Tulkus or Divine Emanations

Tulkus occupy a prominent place in Lamaism, they constitute one of its most striking features which set it quite apart from all other Buddhist sects . . .

According to popular belief, a tulku is either the reincarnation of a saintly or peculiarly learned departed personality, or the incarnation of a non-human entity.

The number of the former greatly exceeds the latter. Tulkus of non-human entities are limited to a few avatars of mystic Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or deities, such as the Dalai Lama, the Grand Lama of Tashilunpo, the Lady Dorje Phagmo and, lower in rank, the tulkus of some autochthonous gods like Pekar . . .

Some lamas think that the subsisting subtile energy attracts elements of congenial essence and thus becomes the nucleus of a new being. Others say that the disembodied force joins an already existing being, whose material and mental dispositions, acquired in previous lives, provide a harmonious union . . .

More learned lamaists hold another view regarding the nature of the tulkus. That is, in fact, the only truly orthodox one, which fully agrees with the very meaning of the term tulku.

The word tulku means a form created by magic, and in accordance with that definition, we must consider the tulkus as phantom bodies, occult emanations, puppets constructed by a magician to serve his purpose . . .

The tulkus of mystic entities co-exist with their spiritual parent. For example, while the Dalai Lama, who is Chenrezigs' tulku, lives at Lhasa, Chenrezigs himself—so Tibetans believe—dwells in Nankai Potala, an island near the Chinese coast . . .

As a rule, it is about two years after the death of a lama tulku that the treasurer, head steward or other clerical officials or his household, begin to look for his reincarnation . . .

If the late lama left directions regarding his rebirth, his monks pursue their researches accordingly; if such directions are lacking, they resort to a lama tulku astrologer who points out generally in veiled and obscure sentences the country where investigations must be made and various signs by which the child may be known . . .

When a child is discovered who nearly answers the prescribed conditions, a lama clairvoyant is again consulted, and if he pronounces in favor of the child the following test is applied.

A number of articles such as rosaries, ritualistic implements, books, tea-cups, etc., are placed together, and the child must pick out those which belonged to the late tulku, thus showing that he recognizes the things that were his in a previous life.

It sometimes happens when several children are candidates to a vacant tulku seat, that equally convincing signs have been noticed concerning each of them, and they all correctly pick out the objects owned by the defunct lama. Or it sometimes occurs that two or three clairvoyants disagree among themselves as to which is the authentic tulku.

Such cases are rather frequent when it is a question of succeeding to one of these grand tulkus, lords of big monasteries and large estates. Then many families are eager to place one of their sons on the throne of the departed grandee, which brings with it consideration and material profit.
— Alexandra David-Neel, Magic and Mystery in Tibet

What continues in a tulku? Is the tulku exactly the same person as the figure he reincarnates? He both is and he isn't. His motivation and dedication to help all beings is the same, but he is not actually the same person. What continues from life to life is a blessing, what a Christian would call "grace." The transmission of a blessing and grace is exactly tuned and appropriate to each succeeding age, and the incarnation appears in a way potentially best suited to the karma of the people of his time, to be able most completely to help them.
— Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Tulku is a word with many levels of meaning in Tibetan, but usually it refers to a being of extraordinary spiritual attainment who has intentionally taken a specific rebirth in order to benefit others. Before birth the tulku directs his or her consciousness toward the union of specific parents so that the circumstances of birth and upbringing will be an auspicious beginning for spiritual activity.
— Chagdud Tulku, Lord of the Dance: Autobiography of a Tibetan Lama

Despite my being a tulku—or perhaps because of it—I was a terror as a child. Tibetans sometimes say that tulkus are wild and willful as children, but that this same energy propels them toward spiritual accomplishment if it is properly harnessed. To this high purpose, Tibetans spare no effort with the rod.
— Chagdud Tulku, Lord of the Dance: Autobiography of a Tibetan Lama

Some of the history of Chagdud Gonpa and the Chagdud incarnations I had heard before, some I learned from the monks who escorted me through Nyagrong, some were spontaneously revealed within my mind.
— Chagdud Tulku, Lord of the Dance: Autobiography of a Tibetan Lama



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