Sunday, September 04, 2005
Some Recollections of Dr. Trogawa, Rinpoche (1931-2005)
Dr. Trogawa Rinpoche (1931- 2005)
A Personal Tribute to Ven. Dr. Trogawa Rinpoche (1931- 2005)
I first met Dr. Trogawa, Rinpoche in 1989 through the NY Shambhala Center which had invited him to teach for a week and see patients. Having recently moved to New York from Boulder, Colorado, I was asked to help coordinate his visit. On the eve of his arrival, the other coordinator unexpectedly had to travel to visit her dying father and I was left alone to coordinate his visit. I spent many weeks in his clinic helping out and cooking in a marathon of hard labor. Over the years, I saw him here or there often spending time in his household, which tended to be at John Giorno’s wonderful loft on the Bowery in New York City. Poet, Allen Ginsberg was on his Chakpori board of directors along with Sir James George and other interesting people like John, and Shakya Dorje. Once, I spent a week in Boulder at the invitation of one of his students, Dr. Phil Weber, to cook for the doctor there. In addition to being a great lama and physician, I found him an interesting man in his observations about Western life with a subtle but wicked sense of humor. He had his quirks which always endeared me to him. One never knew what kind of odd ingredient he would request for his medicine preparations. He was my first real introduction to undiluted Tibetan culture. I will always hold him in high esteem.
A rarefied and aristocratic lama, I was impressed by Dr. Trogawa's uncompromising dedication to his vocation as a physician and the contrast of his sensitive nature in relation to the grittiness of dealing with so much human illness and suffering, Over the years, I observed him with hundreds of patients, many terminal. There is no doubt in my mind that he brought a healing presence to so many people, including myself. Although he was an incarnate lama, his path was different than most because his primary vocation was that of a physician. From morning to night he would see patients. He forwent many things by maintaining his own personal practice life in the midst of this kind of busy schedule. He worked really hard on behalf of others. Given his somewhat frail constitution, this always seemed so telling of his dedication. In this respect, he was something of a “Hidden” yogin—working by day, and practicing all the time. Like any great lama he was able to transmit the essence of the teachings with the slightest gesture, word or nuance of feeling. I consider him among my principle teachers—someone who
delivered me from grossest ignorance so that I could continue on the path.
Ven. Dr. Trogawa, Rinpoche was born in 1931 into a noble family in Thro Thralung, near Gyangtse, in the province of Tsang, in west-central Tibet. His father was an important officer in the Tibetan government. As child he was identified as the tulku of a Buddhist master and physician. Later, at the age of sixteen, he was sent to Lhasa to study medicine under the great physician Nyerongsha Rigzin Lhundrub Paljor who was a successor to the lineage of the Chagpori monastic school of medicine and a widely famed physician. He had at that time his own clinic, medicine production facility and apprenticeship program. Ven.Dr.Trogawa, Rinpoche studied with him for nine years, and became accomplished in all aspects of Tibetan Medicine becoming one of his master's principle successors. As an incarnate lama, he also studied and practiced the Buddhist path in depth during this time,
In 1957 Dr. Trogawa moved to Sikkim (then an Indian protectorate) in the company of the great Buddhist Master, Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. After his master's passing in 1961 he moved to Darjeeling, in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, where he lived and practiced. After the fall of Tibet, he was one of the last masters free to teach and practice Tibetan Medicine. In 1963, he was appointed chief medical teacher at the Tibetan School of Medicine and Astrology, in Dharamsala, India, the institute directed by H.H.Dalai Lama. After some years at this school he left for health reasons, and then spent a number of years in retreat in the forests of Bhutan, periodically emerging to treat patients. He returned to Darjeeling in the 70's, where he lived and practiced until the present. Choegyal Namkhai Norbu invited him to the First International Conference on Tibetan Medicine at Merigar in 1983. Since that time, he taught at various conferences and dharma centers including the Dzogchen Community throughout the world. In 1994 he founded the Chagpori Institute of Tibetan Medicine to propagate his lineage of medicine. Dr.Trogawa. Rinpoche is considered one of the pre-eminent masters of Tibetan Medicine.*
Because of him, I believe in the efficacy of Tibetan medicine, its genius as an indigenous healing art infused with the noble view of Buddhism. He was a true manifestation of the medicine Buddha and the power of compassion as the basis for healing. With him there were no hopeless cases. With his passing, we have lost another link between old Tibet and the present. It was a great privilege to spend the time I did with him. So many memories flood my mind at this time—passing remarks, dreams, fragments of inner experiences in his midst, the simple elegance of his presence, and the subtly of his mind. I wish him well on his journey from this realm to another where no doubt he will continue his ministry to the suffering of beings
*biographical details were extracted from the website of Shakya Doirje at www.shakyadorje.org
published on my blog, Poetrymind and in the Mirror, International newspaper of the Dzogchen Community.
The following account was taken from Amchi, Nel de Jong' s website: http://www.chagpori.nl/englishdarjeeling.htm
Chagpori - Darjeeling
Dr. Trogawa Rinpoche is one of the few doctors now living who has been educated according to the old Chagpori lineage. He sees it as his goal in life to maintain this unique tradition of Tibetan medicine and regularly comes to the West to teach and to treat patients. He re-established the Chagpori tradition by founding the Chagpori Tibetan Medical Institute in Darjeeling in India in 1992. Under his guidence it was extended to include a pharmacy for herbal medicines and several clinics. Currrently (2004), thirty young doctors have graduated from the institute in Darjeeling while there are twenty students in training, mainly Buddhist nuns, who are able to receive an education only because the students are financially supported by Western sponsors.
With deep sadness we have to inform you that Ven. Dr. Trogawa Rinpoche passed away on the 11th May. Rinpoche went quietly into a deep meditation in which he remained untill the 15th. The cremation took place on the 25th May, at 8 a.m. local time, in Gangtok. The 49th day ceremony takes place on the 29th June, also in Gangtok. With his passing, not only has one of the last great teachers from the Chagpori lineage left us, but also a great Buddhist teacher who was an example of living compassion. Many dear memories and a gratefulness to have known him so closely will remain with us.
May his wisdom mind continue in us.
A documentary film made by the Buddhist broadcast about
Ven. dr. Trogawa Rinpoche you can find under: (click)
The following account is by Loek Jehee of the Netherlands.
Thank you for your lovely post! I too have fantastic memories of
Doctor Trogawa R. He was several times in Amsterdam. We organized a
Medicine Buddha initiation for him and public talks and he gave many
consultations. I especially remembered the warm and cosy, simple and
friendly natural atmosphere around him. There was a sense of special
spacious purity around him that I now vividly recall while
remembering him in my practice. It was a sense of presence of a
cloud-like medicinal herbal purity and in fact after leaving the
house where he stayed, that whole house was filled with that special
scent of medicine that tastes like those wonderful precious jewel
pills that you sometimes can get if you are lucky. I guess he was a
very high lama (yet manifesting very simply).
I noticed that also on another occasion. I visited him in Nepal in
Boddhanath where he stayed in a small house near the Great Stupa.
This was during the time that H.H. Dudjom R. just had died. He in
fact warned me to be around the special stupa that was built for
H.H.. So, I went there that afternoon, doing some meditation all on
my own sitting in a nearly empty temple. Then, all of a sudden, at
around 4 o'clock in the afternoon the temple suddenly filled around
me with monks and lamas and a large puja (leaded by Ven. Chadral R.)
started. Also Trongawa R. entered and took place at a high throne (!)
on the opposite site of the other lama's. That indicated somehow to
me how much respected Trogawa R. was by the other lama's (and which
high position he in fact had). Although he never would show this off
while being in his presence, he was always simplicity himself and had
also a lot of humor. Then the family of the late Dudjom R. entered
and an invocation and gathering of all enlightened forces to dedicate
the stupa occurred. A spiritual event of such power that I never
again have witnessed later. It was so strong that everybody in the
environment and city felt it and all fuses were blown (literally). Without
Trogawa R.'s warning I would never have had the good fortune to be
present at that special occasion.
So, there are many stories to be told about Trogawa R. He was for me
in fact the embodiment of Tibetan medicine. He took considerable
effort to safeguard its tradition and knowledge in the Chakpori
Institute of Tibetan Medicine. I pray strongly that Rinpoche's life
work will be continued successfully and that all his intentions for
sentient beings will be swiftly fulfilled.
The following account is by poet, Louise Landes Levi (the format has not been saved--my apology-JG)
The Death of a teacher is a strange event. I can’t do Xitro for you, you are enlightened. You used to tell me to visualize Medicine Buddha in my practice but I always saw you, instead. I asked you if Medicine Buddha mantra cld. be used in massage. You answered ‘yes’ ‘without touching’. Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche always loved that massage (of mantra) - he said it was better than touch. I cldn’t tell if he was pretending (I think so )when he kicked me across the floor on many an occasion, saying this (the unpredictable actions of his left foot) was due to the power of the mantra....to the power of the transmission I’d received fr. ‘Trogawa’.
I was a little girl that grew up w. doctors/ most of the time the doctors didn’t understand my complaints or didn’t want to look that far/ I cld never tell them what was REALLY the matter. Maybe they didn’t want to know. It was a great relief to meet Tibetan medicine in the form of Dr. Trogawa Rinpoche who needed no explanations. I wld. like to list below 10 anecdotes which I hope will serve as just memorial to this wonderful doctor, teacher, healer & friend.
l. There’s a Tibetan Medicine Conference, sponsored by the DC Community at Merigar. It’s 1983. The same people who organize things at Merigar in general, the Dell’Angelo brothers, in particular, are organizing this first of its kind seminar. We all go to Venice. I feel totally lost but am interested in the subject matter. At one point I see Doctor Trogawa crossing the Piazza St. Maria while I’m sitting under a fountain or next to one, playing sarangi, getting some money together...I see him across the piazza w. Tsultrim Allione & some other students. I want to get up & greet him but can’t abandon my post.
2. Later in Merigar, I have to choose between one of two doctors that are there for the conference. I chose Trogawa because I know the other doctor, a lady, will tell me I am crazy. Dr. Trogawa tells me I am in perfect health. This is a big surprise to me & the beginning of a trust that endured to the end of the doctor’s life. Later Rimpoche asks me which doctor I have seen. I say Trogawa.Rinpoche says ‘Good, because Dr. Trogawa is a Dzog Chen Master”. (I later understand that in the Doctor’s lineage there is a Dzog Chen transmission of the nyig tig).
3. I remember that when I first met Namkhai Norbu Rinpoiche, in Amsterdam, in 1982 - having received teachings fr. him in 1979-80 in London, & in 1981 in Paris, we bond - I have not recognize d him as my teacher, until a precise moment on the grachts of Amsterdam. As part of the ‘program’ in Amsterdam, we watch a film called AURA by Mario Maglietti - as far as I know it is the West’s first film on Tibetan medicine- There are scenes of our Master w.Dr. Trogawa in Darjeeling, where he has settled. I have an important insight while watching that film. Later Norbu Rinpoche confirms my self-diagnosis of what has been a very serious obstacle - nearly fatal - the last few years.
4. I become Dr. Trogawa’s ironess. Merigar is still a rather primitive place. I usually dress the part of ‘dharma bum’ (often not changing my clothes for weeks on end - but at least I am THERE). One retreat I decide on an ‘image change’. I bring a NICE bag of lace et.al clothes fr. Amsterdam & leave my bag at the hotel at the base of Merigar- my lace is to heavy to carry up the hill. Of course it rains & all the clothes are ruined or basically ruined. The practitioners shugg off my disaster w. a single word ‘karma’ but the Doctor, when he asks me why I am so distressed is very interested in my dilemma. He ask O what was the collar like? What kind of lace? O - O. Until now I have neglected to say that the doctor & I are speaking in Hindi - After describing the damage done to my little shirts he asks me would I like to take care of his shirts? His silk shirts. I become the doctor’s washer woman & ironess. This is the doctor’s first trip to the West. I am the only one who can freely converse w. him -
5. The doctor gives teachings at Merigar - we are sitting on a hill burning fires & taking pills. One morning we wake up at 5 AM, all the practitioners take a single pill. each The evening before we have taken medicine to clear our channels & chakras. We go into some sort of communal ‘samadhi’ - I finally understand the meaning of the word ‘drug’, in both its popular & pharmaceutical usage.
6. I decide I have to start reading poetry again. I bow at the door behind which the doctor is sleeping & leave for Amsterdam. It’s 1984. The doctor & the master have cured me to this point.
DR. Trogawa gives many initiations of Medicine Buddha. It’s impossible to know the effects of these blessings w. our limited minds
Later we meet in Amsterdam - at the airport I ask the doctor to kindly inscribe a book I am putting together w. a Tibetan A. - symbol of the state. He says he’s not sure he can write an ‘A’ - I say ‘O Dr. Trogawa - I am sure you can’ .He writes a very nice A which becomes the last page o f my first book - AMIATA. The idea fr. then until now was poetry as medicine.
7. Dr. Trogawa is in Amsterdam - a few years later - . It is 1986 & I am almost unable to walk. It’s high drama, really. I find a place for Dr. Trogawa to teach but get incredibly ill at the teachings. I try to conceal this. It’s the same old (psychic ) illness - a certain kind of secondary cause presents itself & I become desperately ill. . After the teaching (I have had to lie down in an adjoining room & can’t hear anything) I am trying to escape but Dr. Trogawa calls to me - He says ‘let’s go to the central station’. We all go to the Central Station & he starts handing out change to the street musicians gathered there. He says ‘Nice Music’. Then we go to the place where he is staying. I get violently ill, really violently ill - other guests - who don’t understand I have this problem - think I’m inventing these convulsions- Dr. Trogawa comes & starts blowing smoke over me & saying words that are mantras, after a while, I calm down. These episodes become fewer & fewer, finally they hardly exist.
I have been having trouble walking. I always knew this moment of not being able to walk was going to arrive in my life. So it’s not a total surprise but its inconvenient & painful. No one seems to know what is wrong - but I remember a protective mudra that the Karmapa once bestowed upon me (by touching my backbone at its weakest point) & through recitation of his mantra, I slowly recover. One night at the table (in Amsterdam)Dr. Trogawa announces that ‘the pain in your back is due to your nervous system’ (I don’t have money for a formal visit to him & once again am ironing his shirts)-Then he says -’ don’t lose any weight. The truck drivers won’t be able to see you’ (He knows that I am hitchhiking up & down the roads that Hitler built in order to get to Merigar). THEN he suggests that I take his bag w. me to Merigar - where he is going. This bag is the heaviest thing I have ever carried - I experience intense anger at the doctor (of course unexpressed) but of course agree to carry the bag of rocks w. me on the road. I can’t even carry this bag down the stairs ...but somehow transport it to my attic room . The neighbor carries it down the stairs the next day--hardly do I turn the corner when I get a ride well on the way to Italy. Laura Evangelisti - on her way to Merigar - picks me up somewhere in Italy. I arrive basically effortlessly - have a slight pain - & then miraculously, never again. This is a true story.
8. I visit Trogawa in Germany. It’s really hard to get there in the blizzard which is manifesting but I succeed. He is very kind & gentle but explains to me that he can’t diagnose the condition of a friend of mine - only that of family members -by feeling my pulse. He asks about Merigar - I have been having trouble learning the dance. I am shy & feel that my hair is an obstacle - that my kind of hair looks strange w. the dance positions. I of course e never say this to ANYONE. The doctor asks to see some of the dance . Then he says ‘your hair looks very good w. these postures’. I show him an article I have written about Shakya Dorje’s ‘teaching in John Giorno’s loft in NYC & he points lovingly at Jacqueline Gens (pictured in a group portrait taken by Allen Ginsberg) saying ‘O my secretary.’
9. Another disaster. My sarangi is stolen in a highway robbery. I am distraught, indescribably distraught & spend 4 days on the road looking for it. I get a ride fr. a doctor who tells me ‘we go to distressed areas’ . I tell him this time a distressed area has come to you). I get to Amsterdam & discover Dr. Trogawa is there---I am still unable to control my extreme shock. I am uncontrollably weeping. Dr. Trogawa’s disciples say ‘Why doesn’t she practice?.’ The doctor says, ‘practice? She can’t even READ’. He then gives me some medicine & says to take it at 5 pm w. some wine. I go to my favorite cafe. at 5 pm. I take the medicine. The forms dissolve into colored rays - I am relaxing completely. I keep taking this psychedelic for the next 3 days, then I’m relaxed. A museum in Holland gives me a new sarangi just a few days later. As a gift.
10. Dr. Trogawa is in again in Amsterdam. By this time there is a Stichting for Tibetan Geneeskunde (Healing) in the city. I explain to him that I am having some trouble separating fr. a friend - the same one mentioned above - for whom I have done much practice. Dr. Trogawa gives me Vajrapani pill. I take it & set off for Italy. By the strangest coincidence I end up in the environs of another ‘friend’ with whom there has been some attraction - he invites me into ;his trailer - of course a large thangka of Vajrapani hangs above his sleeping place.
I continue to write to Trogawa - just luckily I had written to him a few months before he was destined to leave this planet. Not about myself either - about my music teacher who can no longer walk
When I learn that Dr. Trogawa has left his body, Rinpoche says to do Guru Yoga of the White A -
I feel I owe my life to Namkhai Norubu Rinpoche & to Dr. Trogawa Rinpoche. I am still feeling the effects of that long ago cure-.
addenda: It wld. be unworthy of the doctor (& perhaps to those interested in Merigar’s ancient history)to not mention the following-less personal event. After the Medical conference in Venice, the DC community organized the first ever Medical conference to which doctors & medical practitioners from all over Europe had been invited. These dignitaries came in suits & ties & all of Merigar dressed up for the occasion. Dr. Trogawa - dressed in monk’s robes though he was not technically a monk - stood up to speak . I am sure the assembled doctors (& professors) expected an interpretation of Tibetan medicine for the West, an analysis of the pharmacology &/or diagnostic methods, etc. Instead, humble Trogawa stood up & in painful tones described his trauma at the collapse of the Tibetan civilization that he had known, his departure fr. Tibet, his work with his teacher & in painful detail his own mental breakdown. He made no effort to convince anyone of anything - instead he clearly spoke of his own state of mind & also of his teacher’s state & his eventual recovery.
Moments of such naked honesty are rare in one’s life, that they occur in an ambient which is waiting for an exact opposite narrative made Trogawa’s talk the more memorable - creating at least for me, a bond that endured until his death & onward
Another time the doctor asked me to play (sarangi) for him. He listened & said ‘you ought to make a recording to put people to sleep’. I said Doctor I thought this music was to wake up people. He said that people in hospitals often suffer fr. the sleeping medicine given to them & that I should make a music which wld. be more effective & w. fewer side effects than their medicine. I still haven’t done that. Another time - in NYC - he played this music on flute for me- he played the music that he thought people should hear in order to ...sleep. I wonder what he would have played
to awaken them.
We were extremely lucky to know the doctor who to us seemed to be a direct emanation of Medicine Buddha & to share
many initiations & teachings w. him- especially in the 80’s & early 90’s when his visits to
Europe & NYC were frequent enough
Recommended Reading: A Cure for Cancer in which Dr. Trogawa compares the Tibetan method of curing to that of Dr. Emanuelle Rivici, famed bio chemist & foudner of the Healing Institute in NYC.
Louise Landes Levi
Posted by Jacqueline Gens at 7:32 PM