This article was part of a series published in Mandala
Magazine (July-August 2000) about Ven. Choden Rinpoche.
To learn more about Rinpoche's visit to Kurukulla Center,
or to read more articles from this series, please go
Rinpoche lived in his cousin’s house in Lhasa
from 1965 to 1985, without coming out. He acted like
an invalid. His room had no window, only a small space
for ventilation above the door. Rinpoche stayed in one
room for eight years, then he went to another room for
the remaining eleven years. I saw the second room and
it was dark, really dark. When you walk in you can’t
see anything, but slowly as your eyes adjust you can
make some things out. Even now at Sera when I come to
open the shades in Rinpoche’s room he says no,
no. I think only for my benefit he lets me open the shades.
He didn’t take even one step out of those rooms
for nineteen years.
To do retreat, normally, you need texts, a tangka,
drum, bell, vajra, all these things, but Rinpoche
only had a rosary. There was no altar, no text, nothing.
He had already finished all the memorization of all the texts and prayers during
his years of study at Sera, so he didn’t need these things. The Chinese
were always checking what he was doing; they would come to the house several
times a day, and if they found any religious object they would have taken him
away. So Rinpoche did all the retreats using just his mind; everything was in
his mind. But he would never say this himself; he just says he was sleeping,
thinking a little about the Dharma.
He spent all his time on that bed, meditating. They
had to change the bedding once a month because it
got smelly from sweat, so he’d get off while they
changed it. He would sit all of the day and lie down at night for sleep. He used
a bedpan for a toilet, as he was pretending to be an invalid. Until 1980 he didn’t
talk to anybody, only the person who brought food into his room. No one else
even came to his room – if people brought food they’d give it to
his family and they’d bring it in. My father and grandfather were his
disciples and would bring him what he needed. They said Rinpoche had long
hair and a very
long beard. They said he is a very special person.
This article first appeared