Guru Rinpoche Day Teachings

The Four Holy Places

Dear friends near and far

I hope you’ve all been well and happy. It’s almost midnight here in the foothills of the Himalayas and before the next day rolls in, I want to send you a little information about my whereabouts before this Guru Rinpoche Day ends.

As mentioned in my last message, today is the first day of the pilgrimage and in order to mark the auspiciousness of this day, we are in Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. A pilgrimage is an important act of devotion and faith as it enables us to accumulate merit and purify our defilements and obscurations of the body, speech and mind by the power of the blessings of the sacred sites.

The Buddha said:

Monks, after my passing away, if all the sons and daughters of good family and the faithful, so long as they live, go to the four holy places, they should go and remember: here at Lumbini the enlightened one was born; here at Bodhgaya he attained enlightenment; here at Sarnath he turned twelve wheels of Dharma, and here at Kushinagar he entered parinirvana. Monks, after my passing away there will be activities such as circumambulation of these places and prostration to them…. a pilgrimage to them [the four holy places] will help to purify their previously accumulated negative karmas, even the five heinous actions….

Along with the four holy places, we’ll be visiting other sacred sites as well and during the entire pilgrimage, I’ll think of you all and make multiple aspirations for your happiness and wellbeing.

Before I say my goodbye, I want to remind you all to constantly practice bodhicitta based on a pure motivation defined by the union of both compassion and wisdom. As mentioned by Dza Patrul Rinpoche in his Words of My Perfect Teacher, bodhicitta can be viewed as having different levels. He mentions that the highest level is that of the shepherd, who makes sure that all his sheep arrive safely ahead of him and places their welfare before him. Next is the path of the boatman, who ferries his passengers across the river and then ferries himself back. And finally the lowest is that of the way of the king who primarily thinks of his own benefit but who recognizes that his benefit depends crucially on that of his kingdom and his subjects.

Thinking of all you on this GRD and wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Sarva Mangalam,


Phakchok Rinpoche

Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.