Life Of Tokden Antim

Post sayings or stories from Buddhist traditions which you find interesting, inspiring or useful. (Your own stories are welcome on DW, but in the Creative Writing or Personal Experience forums rather than here.)
Post Reply
Posts: 1486
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:30 am

Life Of Tokden Antim

Post by phantom59 » Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:39 am

Tokden Amtrin, was born in 1922 although it is difficult to know the
exact date in Lhatok, Kham.He became a monk at a young age in the
Drukpa Kagyu School, and was given the name Thrinley Lodro by the 7th
Khamtrul Rinpoche of Khampagar Gompa, Kham.
Under the guidance of his Heart Lama, Tulku Sonam Tenzin, SoTen
Rinpoche, Tokden Amtrin went off to meditate alone in caves at the age
of 24. He was given the Yidam practice of Yamantaka Tro-chu to
practice in retreat, which is a Yidam unique to the Drukpa Kagyu
School, and not a common practice to be given out. Amtrin-la’s other
Root Guru, the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche, also practiced this form of
Yamantaka as his main practice, and both were given this by So-ten

Along with his Yamantaka practice, Tokden Amtrin was also a master of
TrulKhor aka TsaLung, physical yoga practice, the 6 Yoga’s of Naropa,
and the teachings on Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Amtrinla proclaimed
himself to be a KaNying practitioner, practicing both Kagyu and
Nyingma Lineage teachings. Tsoknyi Rinpoche described Tokden Amtrin as
being in the spiritual tradition of the Drukpa, but his practice being
Nyingma, Dzogchen.

His spiritual tradition is the Drukpa Kagyu, but his practice is
Nyingma, Dzogchen, like me. When he lived in Tibet, he practiced
meditation a lot and became very peaceful. He stayed in solitary
retreat for six years, and the retreat situation was very comfortable,
very nice. In those days, people would bring food to yogis on retreat,
or the yogi had his own ingredients, he could cook up a nice little
meal for himself. There was lots of firewood around; when the sun was
shining it could be quite warm; and one might even see a wide-open
vista of sky. There were trees all around and various animals could be
seen in the forest. The yogi might have some pride: “I am practicing
the Dharma. I am very happy; it is very comfortable for me here. There
are no negative emotions, no difficulties, no obstacles. I’m still
young.” After six years, Amtin felt that his practice was going very
well indeed. But then he thought, “Well, who knows, maybe this
practice has just turned me into a tranquil vegetable.” So he asked
his master, Khamtrul Rinpoche, “Wouldn’t it perhaps be better if I
went to a scary place, a rough, rugged, unpleasant place?” Khamtrul
Rinpoche said, “Yes, definitely, you should go to such a place,” and
he gave directions to a particular location. Arriving there, Amtin
found a huge cave where the sun never shone, with water trickling down
the entrance. In the evening, a large flock of pigeons flew around
inside, making a lot of noise while shitting down on him. The first
day he didn’t know what was going on. He put out various containers to
collect the water trickling down, but when he drank from it, he said,
“What is this? It has a strange taste.” Later he realized it was urine
from the pigeons.

The cave was cold and damp, noisy, and scary at night. As he practiced
there he found that his former peace of mind was tracelessly gone. He
thought, “My practice has gone to pieces. Now what should I do?” And
he felt that whatever he had done in the past didn’t amount to much,
so now he really had to practice. It was very difficult in the
beginning, with the restless pigeons flying around in the dark. It was
like being in the bardo, with all the turmoil and noise. Amtin tried
to cultivate this inner strength of rigpa by not surrendering himself
to the distraction, by not getting carried away with the noise. He
trained like that over and over again. He stayed in that place for
maybe another six years. And now, whatever happens, whether it is
pleasant or unpleasant, really doesn’t affect him. He doesn’t care
anymore. But that doesn’t mean that he ignores everything. I believe
that when Amtin dies, he probably won’t have that much trouble in the
bardo. For him, all emotions are, as they say, subsumed within the
expanse of rigpa. In other words, he’s free. Until we reach that
level, we need to practice. We must grow used to this freedom. Use as
a yardstick your ability to cope with whatever emotion arises. We must
transcend being hijacked by the current emotion, being on the
defensive against it, or trying to get rid of it. We reach this
gradually, as we become more and more stable and confident in empty
essence, cognizant nature, and unconfined capacity.Then we discover
that the emotion does not necessarily run us over, and we don’t need
to get caught up in it either. We don’t have to prevent or suppress
the emotion. Rather, we simply allow it, spontaneously and naturally,
to become an embellishment of rigpa.

At the age of 37, Amtrinla left Tibet because of the chinese invasion
and went down through northeast India, and over to Dalhousie, in
Himachal Pradesh, Northwest India. Amtrin-la remained in Dalhousie,
with some of the other Khampagar Tokden’s and monks, until the 8th
Khamtrul Rinpoche found land to settle at. Khamtrul Rinpoche
eventually found land in the Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh, and
named his new Khampagar settlement Tashijong, meaning Auspicious

Once the community moved down to Tashijong every Rinpoche, Tokden,
Monk, Nun and Lay person helped to build this new community with their
bare hands. Carrying rocks and water from the nearby river, and
constructing the new Gompa from scratch.
After this time Amtrin-la continued to spend periods in the caves
around Tashijong, living the life of an itinerant Yogi, as well as
living in the monastery retreat centre. Whilst living in and around
the retreat centre, he trained young monks and future Tokden’s, and
also gave empowerments and teachings to the community. Once Ani Tenzin
Palmo’s nunnery began to function, Tokden Amtrin taught and advised
her nuns on practice and retreat also.

As Amtrin-la got older, he settled down in a small hut in the forest
just outside the retreat centre in Tashijong, and in his late 70’s he
moved into Popa Rinpoche’s house. Tokden Amtrin rarely left his room
in his later years, even refusing a request by the Queen of Bhutan to
come to teach and give empowerments. Amtrin-la did however, on the
request of his Korean students, visit the holy cave of Maratika in
Nepal in his later years, to do Long-life practices. Amtrin-la,
without breaking his retreat, continued to receive anyone who wanted
his guidance or advice year round. Even when my great Lama was very
ill himself, he continued to see visitor’s everyday, always displaying
perfect Skilful Means, Equanimity and the power of his Wisdom.

Throughout his life he was a constant example of a true Dharma
practitioner and great Yogi, foregoing comfort and convenience in
order to practice continuously. His incredible attitude of doing
whatever had to be done to continue his practice was comparable to
that of Milarepa, whom Amtrin-la regularly quoted and told stories of.
Secretly, I believe that Tokden Amtrin was really the same as the
great saint, Milarepa.

There is a story from Ani Tenzin Palmo that illustrates Tokden
Amtrin’s amazing attitude: “Back in Tibet one old Tokden, Amtrin, had
meditated on the edge of a precipice to stop himself from falling
asleep. He had lived for years on just water and tsampa, and when that
ran out had salvaged what was left over from a leopards kill. One day
the leopard caught him picking up the bits of a deer and had chased
him. Amtrin, realising how attached he still was to food, had dropped
the meat and returned to his cave to continue meditating on an empty
stomach.”Whenever one of his students asked advice on what to do with
their lives, Amtrinla always said to just practice. “Should I learn
Tibetan Amtrinla?” “Well you could, but it would be better to just

My Lama also often gave quite loose advice, constantly trying to guide
his students towards developing self-confidence and spiritual
autonomy. He constantly displayed his profound Equanimity, and advised
people from all races, ages and genders. He was completely beyond
caring about form and categories, and gave you direct and simple
advice.Tokden At the age of 84 Togden Amtin passed away peacefully in
Tashi Jong, India on Friday July 1st, the 25th day of the fifth
Tibetan month, Dakini day. Dorzong Rinpoche, Choegyal Rinpoche, and
Tsoknyi Rinpoche were with him when he passed. Tsoknyi Rinpoche
arrived in Tashi Jong at about 2 pm that day and went straight to
Togden Amtin’s room. Choegyal Rinpoche was already there. Dorzong
Rinpoche arrived a few hours later. The three of them were beside
Amtin in his final hours. The atmosphere was very calm and the process
of dying happened very smoothly. Earlier on Togden Amtin experienced
some pain but this passed. In his final moments Togden Amtin was very
much at peace, just like a flame slowly fading.From time to time he
opened his eyes and his gaze was very direct and clear although he no
longer had enough power in his body to speak or move. Just before
Togden Amtin’s passing and at the moment of his death, Dorzong
Rinpoche whispered instructions in his ear: a reminder of the natural
luminosity of mind. At 7:15 pm Togden Amtin died. He remained in
tugdam for one and a half days; very subtle vital signs were evident.
Noone went inside his room and the outside was kept very quiet. That
night under the cover of darkness the young togdens came and sat
outside Amtin’s hut mingling their minds with their teacher’s as they
said their silent goodbye.When Togden Amtin’s tugdam was finished, all
the Rinpoches and monks at Tashi Jong came to pray and offer khatas.
The atmosphere was very calm. They prayed the Mahamudra prayer and
mingled their minds with their teacher’s. The lay community then
arrived to pay their final respects. Togden Amtin dedicated his life
to intensive yogic training at Tashi Jong. Though traditionally
togdens only pass their teachings on to the younger togdens of their
lineage, through his great kindness Togden Amtin taught and gave
instructions to students from all over the world. A comet was observed
in the vicinity of the earth at this time.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests