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Samdhong Rinpoche’s life and work
This site includes Samdhong Rinpoche’s biography, photos, online articles, and more.
Samdhong Rinpoche
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Biography of Samdhong Rinpoche

Samdhong Rinpoche was born as Lobsang Tenzin in 1939, in the Tibetan province of Kham. At age five, he was recognized and enthroned as the reincarnation of the fourth Samdhong Rinpoche. (The Tibetan term "Rinpoche" in an honorific title literally meaning "precious one," and is used for revered teachers and lamas.) He began his monastic studies at age 12 and eventually obtained a Doctorate in Buddhist sciences at the University of Drepung in Tibet in 1970. In 1959, Rinpoche fled to India to escape the repressive Chinese government in Tibet. There, he was commissioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to serve as a teacher to monks in exile. He was appointed director of the Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi in 1988 and remained there until 2001. On July 29, 2001, Rinpoche was named Kalon Tripa, or Prime Minister of the Tibetan Exile Government, the first political leader to be directly elected by the people in exile.

The 2006 World Wisdom book Samdhong Rinpoche’s Uncompromising Truth for a Compromised World is a series of interviews with Samdhong Rinpoche (along with passages giving historical and religious context) focusing on the struggle for a traditional Tibet and on Tibetan Buddhist perspectives on life, spirituality, and the modern world.


Books/DVDs containing the work of Samdhong Rinpoche

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Samdhong Rinpoche’s Writings Online
 TitleSourceAuthor 1Author 2SubjectWW HTMLWW PDFExternal Link
Extracts from "The Long Road to Now"Samdhong Rinpoche, Uncompromising Truth for a Compromised World: Tibetan Buddhism and Today's WorldRinpoche, SamdhongRoebert, DonovanBuddhism
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Articles on Samdhong Rinpoche
 TitleSourceAuthor 1Author 2SubjectWW HTMLWW PDFExternal Link
Foreword to Samdhong Rinpoche, Uncompromising Truth for a Compromised World by HH the 14th Dalai LamiSamdhong Rinpoche, Uncompromising Truth for a Compromised World: Tibetan Buddhism and Today's WorldDalai Lama, HH the Buddhism
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Excerpts from Samdhong Rinpoche’s writing

 

The following is an example of the dialogues between
editor Donovan Roebert and Samdhong Rinpoche
in the 2006 World Wisdom book
Samdhong Rinpoche Uncompromising Truth for a Compromised World: Tibetan Buddhism and Today's World


Donovan Roebert: Science insists that matter precedes mind and that mind is nothing more than the function of increasingly complex molecular interactions. How can we convincingly prevent meaning, purpose, destiny, and morality from being undermined by these increasingly commonly held scientific theories of chaos and randomness? For, if we are the result of random origins, we are entitled to justify the absurd in our thinking about ourselves and our universe and to express this absurdity in our speech and conduct.
Samdhong Rinpoche: This is a very big question. I don’t know how to answer it appropriately. One issue is the nature of mind and matter and their relationship, the other is a question of origins.

I always wonder and question myself: why do scientists insist that mind arises from matter? This is an unconvincing statement. If mind arises from matter, then there should be mind arising from all matter. Why does some matter give rise to mind and other matter not?

In India there was an ancient philosophical tradition which did not believe in rebirth. They believed that certain combinations of matter, combinations of elements—earth, water, air, fire—created conditions in which mind could arise; that is, created conditions through which a body could arise, and from this body mind could arise. Then this body would decay, and with this body the mind also would decay. This theory is quite similar to that of modern science.

But the question remains unanswered: how can matter be converted into mind? Matter can be a supplementary cause but it cannot be the main cause. For instance, gold is the main cause of various forms of gold jewelry, but many supplementary causes are needed to produce rings, bracelets, and so forth. The goldsmith, various tools, a furnace are some of these supplementary causes. Again, wood is the main cause of ashes. We may perceive the fire, the heat, as supplementary causes, but the main cause of ashes is wood. It is wood that is perceptibly converted into ashes.

But even non-perceptible things can be inferred by logic. You can infer that this or that entity works in such and such a sequence. In this case scientists must feel the need to prove that matter is the cause of mind, and they use conjecture in the attempt. But the scientific age is not an age where speculation suffices as proof: scientists are not convinced by theory but by experiment and observation—and since this is for them an age of experiment, scientists should be able to show by experiment how matter is converted into mind. Then we can all accept it as true; otherwise it remains an assumption.

In Buddhist doctrine mind has existed from beginningless time, whereas matter has a finite beginning. This also means that matter can come to an end but mind cannot; mind will always exist. It has its own nature of continuity—it is not a continuous and unchanging flux—it has its impermanent and discontinuous moments, but these will follow each other without ever ending.

Therefore Buddhists definitely believe in a form of continuity of mind, even while various universes are coming into and going out of existence. Some universes are in decay, others in a state of evolution due, in both cases, to the quality of the collective karmic force of the beings which inhabit these universes.

This is somewhat different from the majority of religions in our world, which believe in some form of Creator, either personal or impersonal, say, a creative force. Only the Buddhists believe in a collective karmic force rather than in some absolute Creator principle. But in my view these things only represent a difference in language, a different way of saying the same thing. All major religions believe in some form of Karma: consequences for good and bad actions, speech, and thought.

However, regarding the all-important question whether or not mind arises from matter, there is no absolute answer available which is beyond dispute.

The human mind is completely conditioned. We need to move beyond the limitations of our conditioning in discussing these matters. We must realize that our instruments are limited and in speaking of “Divine” issues, we must realize that our limited minds can only go so far, since these are matters of wisdom, which are discoverable only by wisdom and not by our limited intellect and language.

We might speak of God as “Unlimited Mind,” but this remains only a relative expression, related to our concept of limitedness. The real Absolute is not in that category. All we can do in this regard, both religion and science, is to establish a definition of mind (which would per se be limited) and then we could enter into discussion around that definition. But of course this would not bring us nearer to a true understanding of the Absolute.

Note from Donovan Roebert: With regard to Rinpoche’s question, “If mind arises from matter, then there should be mind arising from all matter. Why does some matter give rise to mind and other matter not?,” it is important to note that Rinpoche is here referring to mind which can understand, realize, and transcend itself—mind which can attain to Enlightenment. Teilhard de Chardin posited a “within-ness” of particles, by which he meant a form of unconscious life-mind. Theoretical physicists echo Teilhard in their theories of information, in terms of which matter bears an informational imprint which causes particles to exhibit their inherent qualities. Even if we consider these theories to postulate a rudimentary form of “mind,” they are not of the nature of mind to which Rinpoche is referring here. On the other hand, biologists would argue that mind can only arise in organisms which have nervous systems. But Rinpoche is also not referring to the mind which arises solely in dependence on neuronal activity.


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