“Yogi”: a modern-day mystic

By Gen Samten Kelsang.

(Para leer este artículo en español utilice este link.)

This article is celebrating the life and death of Gen Kelsang Tharpa. He is the oldest friend I have, and we shared many sweet, humorous, profound moments together, as well as many wild adventures. I feel honored to be able to share some affectionate thoughts about my dear friend.

I met Gen Tharpa when I first arrived at Manjushri Institute in 1983.  I had a burning desire to realize emptiness and become enlightened. At that time he was involved in teaching the Geshe studies program, and was teaching a course on Buddhist logic (Ta.Rig). I promptly joined the class.

In the early days at Manjushri, he was affectionally nicknamed “Yogi” because he loved meditation so much. Even then, all those decades ago, Yogi’s other-worldly and mystical side was showing its presence. Although he had a very gentle manner, his speech was powerful, and he soon became a leader in the community.

Shortly after arriving I became ordained. I found it a challenging time in my ordination, and Tharpa, with his laughter, lightheartedness, and kindness, was one of the people who kept me on track in the early days.

At heart, Gen Tharpa was a mystic. The flow of his energy was deep and powerful. He had a floating dreaminess that was attuned to understanding the mysteries of life and of death. He possessed the eternal patience of a single drop of water that wears away rock. Over the years, this patient and deep exploration of Dharma caused a profound and deep wisdom to begin to grow within him.

People would sometimes get exasperated with his inability to conform with their expectations. Little did they know that it was just because he was marching to the beat of a different drum …. a drum with a gentler, almost mirthful beat, that was not of this world. A drum that was very different from the manic cacophony a lot of us seem to march to.

Discussing emptiness with Gen Tharpa for any length of time would begin to re-shape reality. Another of his old friends told me: “One summer during ITTP (the International Teacher Training Program), while studying the Chittamatrins, Yogi and I were discussing every day how everything is the nature of mind. Life felt very spacey (in a good way) for weeks.”

Back in the early days, we travelled to India together to do pilgrimage. It was a profound and deeply bonding experience. We travelled with two other monks and went on a wild excursion to Massed Vultures Mountain, where Buddha taught the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras over 2500 years ago. We did Offering to the Spiritual Guide puja on top of the mountain.

Our conversations were mostly harmonious and friendly, but not always. Traveling back from Massed Vultures Mountain on the overnight train, I was slipping gratefully into an exhausted sleep, only to find myself suddenly pulled out of it by Gen Tharpa in the bunk above mine — doing his pujas and singing OM MANI PEME HUM really loudly. Indignant, I yelled, “Yogi! You just woke me up!” He smiled innocently: “I was just singing the mantra to lull you to sleep.” Yes, Gen Tharpa was marching to the beat of a different drum!

His natural courage, faith, and wisdom combined to summon the quiet strength and determination to deal with the challenges of life. A major challenge was his health …

Gen Tharpa had severe allergies to food, dust, and chemicals. For most of the 40 years I knew him, every day involved strict adherence to a very restrictive diet and strict vigilance towards external conditions. Often he would get ill from meeting even the smallest unfavorable conditions. Sometimes very ill.

He was very stoic with his illness. Illness was one of the main teachers in Tharpa’s life. Illness could not subdue him, so it taught him about the truth of Buddha’s words. When I reflect on this, I begin to think that if someone asked me to utter a word that summarized his life it would be this, VICTORY.

Maintaining his health involved strict discipline; however, rigidity was against his nature — he could never maintain strict discipline in a rigid manner. What I admired about him was his ability to adhere to strict discipline, but in an easy-going flexible way. He would naturally take a nap, rest a bit, eat some basic food, do some meditation, go for a walk, etc. The combination of his natural easy-going nature with a knowledge of his physical limitations and need for structure made him flow through the day, rather than stumble through it awkwardly. It was like watching a river flowing.

This quality of being flexible yet firm also appeared in his style of working with people. There was not an ounce of rigidity in him, yet he could be determined and tenacious. Combined with his skill with people and his inner courage, he was able to bring harmony to places of discord and strife.

He had the depth and vastness of mind to handle the intensity of another person’s strongest feelings, and hold the space for them to do deep inner work. With a rare combination of genuine compassion and pragmatism, he was able to help others navigate their spiritual lives and make genuine progress on the path to enlightenment.

Over the decades we have had many deep, enjoyable, and sometimes downright hilarious discussions about Dharma. Of all these conversations, one in particular changed me. We were talking about prayer and Tharpa shared an epiphany.

He described the suffering of this life as inevitable for most people. With his spaced-out and totally focused expression, he said that we often cannot protect the people we love the most. That we cannot stop their aging, their pain, their death.

There was a brief silence in the conversation. Tharpa slurped another spoon of his green spirulina soup, and I nodded wisely while contemplating the best way to fit a jumbo-sized veggie burger into my mouth. After a few moments of serious munching we resumed. He looked at me with that delightful other-worldly twinkle in his eye and said, “The way to help them is not to grieve, but to pray that we can meet them in future lives and teach them Dharma.” Maybe a basic point, but that is the moment it took root in my heart.

Gen Tharpa was one of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s first disciples. In Offering to the Spiritual Guide there is a verse:

O Protector, wherever you manifest as a Buddha,
May I be the very first in your retinue;
And may everything be auspicious for me to accomplish without effort,
All temporary and ultimate needs and wishes.

There is no doubt in my mind that in a previous life Tharpa sat making this prayer with deep sincerity and devotion. The life he has just lived and left is certain proof of that.

Being born among the Spiritual Guide’s first disciples is an experience of unusual good fortune. That does not mean it is easier. Often it is harder, and requires a disciple with strong faith and plenty of guts. The first disciples are entrusted with the responsibility of being the first emissaries of the Guru in what can be an uncomprehending society. Tharpa grew up in a time where there were no Dharma books, two or three Centers, not much by way of a Sangha support network, and many superstitions and myths about what Tibetan Buddhism actually was. Yet he triumphed, and shared what he learned with many others.

Recent photo at Madhyamaka Centre.

Three weeks ago, we video-chatted. He had just left hospital where he had been diagnosed with cancer and arrived back at Madhyamaka Centre where he was the resident teacher. Obviously he was happy to be back home, but something was different. His happiness was deep and almost other-worldly. It reminded me of a deep river, gentle, smooth, yet unstoppable. I think he gained a realization, and he was ready to go because he had gained that realization. Subsequent to his death, other people told me similar things…

“He was less in this world and more peaceful. He seemed happy that something was going to change. In retrospect, it was as if he was saying goodbye. As if he was getting ready to leave.”

Or…

“He had made peace with his illness and suffering. It was not his enemy any longer.”

After Gen Tharpa passed away, over many days and in many different places people practiced the Powa transference of consciousness puja. He was so well loved.

I have absolute conviction that he is in a Pure Land, that he was guided there by Geshe-la shortly after he left his physical body. Probably Keajra because he loved the practices of Heruka and Vajrayogini so deeply.

Gen Tharpa was wise, unorthodox, courageous, and profoundly philosophical. My dear friend, I am a better person for having known you.

_____

A short clip of Gen Tharpa talking about transforming death

 

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

49 thoughts on ““Yogi”: a modern-day mystic”

  1. How beautiful. Very inspiring. Out of the people I’ve known die – I think Tharpa was the one who felt he was almost trapped in his body for the benefit of communicating with others perhaps? But it felt as if his nature was almost air or water — so for Geshe-la to help him to Keajra seems like that would have been easy.

    Brings death so much closer. Us next dear Luna.

  2. How beautiful and poignant. Thank you for sharing. Gen Tharpa was indeed a special and inspiring example of following the Dharma Path, with his kind and gentle aspect. I rejoice to have had some small karma with him when he was RT at Thekchen Centre in Southampton a few years ago. 🙏❤️🌈 x

  3. I. Homage to my 1st Kadampa master.
    Dwelling in the 🌟clear light🌟
    You joined joyfully our continuums in our space in Catalonia.
    Opening windows to the space of light within, comfortably accompanying whoever opened (their) our hearts, …our connection will forever be,
    And in light and delight we will forever abide, dear friend and master. I love u. 🙏🌦🌈🤍🧡💚💙❤
    II. Observing your inspiratonal transformation of mind – Lojong – vividly, confirmation that a joyous celibacy was a realistic option arose in many. Beyond concepts and labels that which has no name manifests as the result of a meaningful way of life, and continuing from this last moment of ‘form-like teaching’, u now continue to abide, accompany and inspire heart to heart, beyond form, stronger than ever. Lovely brother and helper, Love will multiply with your inspiration. Gratefully, Lawrence.

  4. It is wonderful to read Gen Samten’s story, and the other memories being left here. 

    I first encountered Gen Tharpa in Spring 1999, when he was translating the Heruka and Vajrayogini empowerments being granted by Gen-la Losang Kelsang in Menorca. 

    He left an impression that made me immediately want to follow him, and when Venerable Geshe-la granted Amitayus empowerment and commentary to 8 Steps to Happiness in Menorca the following year, Tharpa was there, leading the meditations. Something about him triggered a huge emotional response in me, and I decided to ask him if I could go and live with him in Spain. What I think I actually ended up doing was bawling my eyes out and leaving an offering of cash on his table by his cabin, because I couldn’t find him to ask.

    The next day he found me in the campsite shower-block, brushing my teeth, and asked me if I was sure I wanted to come to Spain. I told him I was, and he said if I was really sure, it was OK. I was elated. He asked for my phone number and then when he phoned a few weeks later, my mum answered the phone. I was just 19 at the time, and he took the opportunity to ask my mum if she was OK with all this and to reassure her that he would look after me (more on THAT later!). Although my mum is Catholic, and deeply involved in the Christian hermit retreat tradition, she was profoundly moved by Tharpa and told me that she had been very impressed by this monk who phoned her.

    So I met up with Tharpa at Manchester airport after the summer festival, and had the honour of flying together with him to Madrid, Tharpa chuckling that all the bags had “MAD” stamped on them!
    When we arrived in Madrid, Tharpa drove us to the apartment that he shared together with a few other students of the centre. The spare room that had been available was now occupied (by Sean!- thank you, you were about to ripen an adventure for me!), so Tharpa said “When in doubt – meditate!“ and suggested that I could do a solitary retreat at their retreat centre – Bodhichitta centre, in Toledo.

    On the way, we stopped at a hidden stream in a forest for a picnic, and he primed me with some quite extraordinary stories about his retreats in the area. On one retreat in a mountain cave he had been disturbed by audible voices “the most foul-mouthed spirits I’ve ever heard“ he said. The tale, as told by Tharpa, was that he cleaned out the cave, and discovered a ouija board under an old carpet in the cave. Not one to be scared away by black magic, Tharpa performed Offering to the Spiritual Guide in the cave and was thereafter left in complete peace.

    I loved the fact that Tharpa was prepared to share these stories with me, filling my mind with all kinds of adventure.
    So Tharpa drove me out to Toledo and showed me around. He pointed out where the resident retreater Manfred lived, and he explained that I could live in a small empty cave nearby and do a 3 week lamrim retreat, coming to him for advice if and when I needed it.

    The first evening he took me out for a walk to some rock outcrops that rose above the surrounding trees, and suggested we could do some impromptu dusk meditation. We sat on the rocks and, as the sky turned an inky pink-blue above us, I felt both very peaceful  and loved, and a real sense of awe. He was so much further along the path that it was impossible not to be in awe, but the way he invited you to join him was like he treated you as his equal. He saw in you the potentials you yourself had yet to imagine.

    After settling in for a couple of days Tharpa suggested I begin my Lamrim retreat. While trying to meditate on death I came up short. Completely unfocused and totally distracted, I decided to go and ask Tharpa for advice on how to find the object of meditation. Tharpa looked at me and began to give me some quite unexpected advice. He gave me physical directions for a walk. He told me to “Follow the old Roman path to the rock outcrops and then turn left at the fork in the trail, going as far as the Dakini tree“. When I asked him what the Dakini tree was, he just laughed and said “maybe you’ll find out“. He told me to turn left at this mysterious pine tree, and to head up the trail to the crest of the hill.

    So I dutifully set out on the trail, the vast blue Spanish sky stretching into infinity in all directions. At what I thought was the Dakini tree, I didn’t see any Dakinis, but I figured I was going in the right direction, although I scratched my head a little bit as to why Tharpa had been so very specific about the route I should take. I continued walking towards the crest of the hill, but as I approached the ridge the wind picked up suddenly, and the blue sky turned a deep forbidding black. It was as if it came from nowhere. Rain began to pelt down, to the extent that I decided continuing would be impossible. I turned around, took about three steps, and then was blinded by a searing flash of light. Not only that but I was physically blown off my feet and hurled through the air, landing on the ground with serious momentum. Face down in the dirt I realised I could no longer feel my left arm or leg, but my right side still worked. I crawled through the mud and dirt, tears of fear streaming down my face, begging Geshe-la not to die. Gradually the sensation of pins and needles appeared in my arm and leg, and I was able to stand up and begin to run, lightning and thunder crashing all around me. I ran without stopping all the way back to the retreat centre. 

    Shell-shocked, I made it to Tharpa’s hut, and found him peacefully meditating. Becoming aware of my arrival he smiled innocently.

    I can never quite remember the next part of the story, whether I managed to tell Tharpa what had just happened before he spoke or not, but I will never forget his words. Looking me in the eye with a glint, an innocent smile on his face, he said;

    “So you found your object of meditation then?“

    There were many other happy memories in that retreat, extraordinary things I won’t forget, words of warmth, kindness, love and encouragement. When Tharpa wasn’t blowing me up with lightning (leaving just enough room for doubt, that I can’t accuse him of revealing miracle powers!) he was guiding in other ways, always with love, warmth, and a glint in his eyes!

    There must be so many other stories that I hope will be shared by others. I sometimes wonder what other extraordinary stories are out there. For many years I didn’t tell this story and there are very few that I have told it to, but I think perhaps we should share these things now. I hope people can add other threads to the rainbow tapestry of what he manifested in this life.

    I was honoured and deeply privileged to know him, and I mourn his passing, but I also believe he can still reach us from Keajra with his magical brand of warm, sincere, heartfelt guidance and his touch of exhilarating depth and stillness of mind. 

    Just watch out for any lightning.

    1. What a wonderful recounting of your relationshp with Tharpa! I remembering you tellling me that you had just been hit by lightning, and realizing that you had been profoundly affected by some event but that you didn’t look anything like a person who had been hit by lightning 🙂 So nice to hear your wonderful story, Robert.

  5. One of his students wrote this on June 4th 2021:

    On this special day,
    Turning the Wheel of Dharma Day,
    I would like to thank our prescious resident teacher of Madhyamaka Centre, Gen Tharpa for his kindness in teaching us.
    He is so gentle and wise,
    he never criticises us,
    he just patiently teaches us what we need to learn, over and over.
    He is not concerned about his reputation, of having large numbers of followers.
    We are extremely fortunate to have him as our teacher.
    Thank you so much, Gen Tharpa!

  6. Farewell my monk elder, you was happy in that. Farewell my Lojong elder, you was profound in that. Farewell my Tantric elder, you was blessed by the Gurus in that … Farewell noble Tharpa. .. there will be a song of your deeds in Keajra.

    1. Rainbow, this is the most beautiful eulogy I’ve read. My heart cried.

      It is also one of the most profound I’ve read.

      I’m looking forward to spending time with your words & pray that I have enough merit to understand them & to hear that song.

  7. You really were something else Gen Tharpa, other worldly as others have already articulated. Of course I know how we feel comes from within, but you had a way of affecting people and making them feel a certain way. I could never really pinpoint it, but it was there. You had a way and an intimacy with people that I have not come across before. It really felt like you were reading peoples’ minds, in fact I’m sure you were! So grateful to have been fortunate enough to have shared you as my kind teacher, even if only for a couple of years. Thank you Gen Tharpa.

  8. This wonderful commentary by Gen Samten inspired me to set up a Gen Tharpa FB group where people can share memories, photos, inspirations, teachings. I uploaded this short segment of a teaching he gave which I find very appropriate to revisit. He teaches about the rainbow-like aspects of our ‘selves’. Please feel free to post to this group any pictures or memories that you might want to share with others …. ‘Kelsang Tharpa – Remembrances’
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/4306266089467437/permalink/4307089079385138/

  9. Thank you Gen Samten. Thank you Luna Kadampa. Thanks especially for posting about Gen Tharpas Ocean of Nectar retreat earlier this year (and your own teachings this winter!). Tharpas teachings were like personal advise about emptiness and like nectar from his heart to ones own. He also just seems to convey some sense about what it is like to be liberated in his presence and being — even over video! How fortunate these unusual times are on one level. I wish he remained longer. So grateful to all of you.

  10. I was lucky enough to hang out with Gen Tharpa a little one summer festival. I was making tromas in a kitchen and he was preparing food. We realise we had both been rock climbers. He told me about taking massive falls in Gorge du Verdon with the rope catching his leg and flipping him upside down! You have to be good to climb in the Verdon as the routs are long and committing. Such a privilege to even be in the same kitchen as him.

  11. Dear Gen Samten-la, thank you for this generous brother-like sharing of Gen Tharpa & yourself & much more. Gen Tharpa through your stories now inspires me to let some of his yogi mind rub off. not sure how … but goodness me, Massed Vultures Mountain while engaged in Offering to the Spiritual Guide? o my. is beyond amazing for me. i will also dream of how to ‘possess the eternal patience of a single drop of water that wears away rock”, that he possessed. How? not sure. But am seeing how crucial to move forward and ‘beyond’. thank you, you’ve inspired me yet again. Take great care. xo

    1. Dear Gen Samten, this was so moving and inspiring. In tears. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this with all of us. I have not received teachings from Gen Tharpa formally but had the good fortune to bump into him a few times at the IKRC Fall Festival 2019. The first, I was looking around frantically for where to line up for the Grand Opening Ceremony and went up to a random monk standing close by to ask, “Excuse me, could you please tell me where the line starts?” Without hesitation the monk said, “Yes, just follow me. I’ll take you there so you know where it is.” I thought it was very kind of hik to go out of his way and proceeded to follow him, not yet realizing it was Gen Tharpa, and said (pretty ignorantly) “Thanks so much! That’s really nice of you. What center are you at? I just moved here from KMC Canada.” He smiled, “That’s wonderful. I’m at Mahdyamaka” with absolutely zero trace of pride, complete and utter humility and kindness, and continued to lead me to the end of the very long line.

      Later on, the same monk happened to walk by me again the moment I was stung by a bee while actually waiting in the line. He saw the cringe in my face as braced the pain and the bee remained stuck in my arm with it’s stinger. He looked at me with gentle yet powerful compassion and told me to remember my own compassion as the moment passed, waiting patiently for the bee to leave on its own. I then left the line to go to the First Aid office with my husband Alex, who eventually told me that this monk all along was Gen Tharpa.

      What a deeply kind, giving, and humble person. Though a brief encounter, I was extremely moved by his example. I hope others will continue to be inspired thinking about him.

  12. Dear Gen Samten, what a heart-felt homage from one yogi to another. After a week retreat with Gen Tharpa at KMC Spain on the “Uncommon Yoga of Inconceivability” post Fall Festival Retreat 2013, I was guided in deep meditations that felt like your uncommon ability. Secretly, I coined Gen Tharpa as the Gen Samten of Europe — you both are powerful yogis! And that continuum continues…

  13. Gen Samten, Thank you for this wonderful reflection on your friendship with Gen Tharpa. It’s interesting that I always feel that Gen Samten, that you are always in an ‘otherworldly’ state. It’s very moving to read your reflections over the years. We are blessed to have been taught by Geshla’s first emissaries. Thank you KL!

  14. What a stunning read. Thank you for this insight into such a remarkable being. You have truly honored him. And us.

  15. Dear Gen Samten

    This touched me on such a deep level in my heart and I feel fortunate and grateful that you shared this.

    This is so kind of you to share such meaningful memories

    Much love
    Kelsang Nyema

  16. There are so many amazing lines in this amazing blog!

    “Discussing emptiness with Gen Tharpa for any length of time would begin to re-shape reality.”

    Is just one of them.

    Oh Gen Samten, so many deep thanks to you for opening your heart about your friend, in such a powerful account. We all are that much more blessed from reading this.
    Luna Kadampa, thank you for creating a platform like this, where these precious stories can be told.
    Gen Tharpa, I hope to one day become like you. Please keep blessing us all.
    Dearest Geshe-la, your students are truly remarkable practitioners.
    xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  17. Having had a few nice chats with Gen Tharpa over the years (during Festivals, ITTPs at Manjushri KMC, in Calistoga and in Malaga) , I found him to be a wonderful sincere and kind person, a true Kadampa with a sense of humor and a rebellious streak. It would be wonderful if I we could meet again in Keajra. May we all meet there.

  18. Thank you Gen Samten for this heartfelt and beautiful tribute to your dear friend. Your relationship shows what real friendship is and how powerful our Sangha friends are. You are so fortunate to have had such a dear friend. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  19. Thanks Samten for bringing back so many fond memories of Gen Tharpa who before getting ordained, was the amazing Martin of a band called Boy Martin & the Vultures. Who could forget the pressure cooker that travelled the world with him?
    He was/will remain, a true inspiration to those of us with uncommon health issues. However they manifest, I find comfort in the knowledge Dorje Shugden will always provide me with the perfect conditions in which to practice.

  20. This was so beautifully written I was moved to tears. You could feel the love from Gen Samten. I envisioned doing OSG on Massed Vultures Mountain and wished I could have been there. Thank you for telling us this inspiring story of a truly amazing Kadampa practitioner.

  21. My meeting with Gen Kelsang Tharpa changed my life forever. We met at the USA Dorge Shugden demonstrations in 2008. He was truly a humble yogi and also a crazy wisdom yogi at times. Never once did he talked about something trivial or meaningless to me. When he was speaking I felt everything he said came from his own experience which I found was a very rare treasure. If he was saying ”salt” I was tasting salt kind of thing. His kindness was so pure and profound that it scared me because I felt he was literally giving his life essence to everybody he was meeting. I think it was scary because he was giving himself so much that I felt he was disappearing/dying in front of my eyes and it just profoundly went against everything usual in samsara. Now that he has passed away I can say that Gen Kelsang Tharpa had most likely developed clairvoyance. We kept bumping again and again into each other at those demonstrations and he would just laugh with a laugh that only someone who has realize emptiness can have. Sorry for the analogy but when he laughed it felt as if all forms would shatter like in a LSD trip. After meeting him I dreamt I was really scared on a bridge and it felt as if the bridge would break and I would fall to death then he appears with blue light emanating from his body and he was laughing like he laughed in ”real” life and I immediately remembered emptiness in my dream because of his laugh and he saved me this way from my fear and from my death. We later bumped into each other again at Manjushri and he looked at me and laughed again with his laugh and told me “Keep dreaming” and left…!!! Later we talked about GKG’s death in the temple at Manjushri, he told me GKG’s death would bring to him a wave of really intense feelings that would be really hard to deal with that in fact he would prefer to die before him. I was surprised by his answer and only then did I understood how close he felt with his Guru, that he would not want to appear in a world where his Guru did not physically appear. One of my last memories with him was at Manjushri, we were talking outside and he suddenly stood up like a soldier pulling his arm up in the air and said let’s go to the puja! This memory made me cried while attending his powa online, because there I was seeing people praying for him in the same space he so vividly went for praying, working on his own mind for the benefit of all living beings and now it was those living beings praying back for him. I will never forget him.

    1. It’s wonderful to have insight into the lives of early NKT disciples, and reflect with faith and practise what progress can I make, whilst being grateful and rejoicing in the example set by those who donned the NKT mantle early.

  22. I went to one of Gen Tharpa’s teachings at Madhyamaka Centre. He was definitely drumming to his own beat; not keeping to strict timescales, and saying what he wanted to say. It was refreshing. Tharpa came across as a very contemplative teacher, as if he was aoplying the teaching to himself, while he was teaching.

  23. Thank you for a wonderful remembrance of Gen Tharpa. I feel very fortunate to have received teachings from him, he was, and is, an inspiration.

  24. Thank u so very much Gen Samten. This brought tears but rejoicing at an incredible life
    Your friendship was a living jewel 💙💚

  25. A most sincere and beautiful tribute to your dear friend. Thank you for sharing with us how very special Gen Tharpa was…such inspiration. ❤

  26. Thank you Gen Samten for your comments about Gen Tharpa which seem to have encapsulated his accomplishments and seem to have explained the deep love felt by and expressed by those who have loved him and been loved by him in our tradition. I went to Spain in 2001 and I was most fortunate to have spent a few years as his assistant while he navigated all the cities of Spain and Portugal to spread Kadam dharma. When I flew to Spain in 2001 I met up with Tharpa in Murcia where he had just recovered from gall bladder removal surgery. He was very weak but delightful and blissful. We drove with two other students from Murcia to Madrid where we would share a flat. He asked the driver to pull off the road after 2 hours and directed us off the motorway down some small roads to the delightful bank of a river (of which there are very few in arid Spain). We rested, meditated for a while and continued our journey to Madrid. After another hour he directed the driver off the motorway, down a few roads which led to some ancient Roman ruins. It was 45 degrees celsius and we walked around the ruins through the areas where the lions were once caged before being released on unfortunate sentient beings. We again meditated in this very strange place for an hour and continued our journey to Madrid. I felt that he was introducing me to Tharpa’s Spain, a special initiation. For years I attended his courses throughout the country discovering hills, forests, rivers, mountainsides and nearly every weekend the courses/retreats involved an excursion where the whole group would be led on an excursion, at least once to a spectacular and memorable meditation/teaching experience which offered a very special connection with Tharpa and also with the nature that he respected and loved so much. Most of the teachers that I have known have needed to protect themselves to some extent from the intensity of this type of intimate contact with students. Tharpa however was always totally accessible and this is one of the reasons why he was loved so much by his students. I used to fondly refer to him as ‘Milarepa’s emanation’ though I never meant this literally; he seemed to me to be Milarepa-like in his style. When he would arrive in a city to give teachings the publicity would suggest themes of ‘Death, Impermanence, Karma, Compassion etc. etc. but I often pointed out that he ended up teaching Mahamudra regardless of and in spite of the publicity or planned themes of the centres. I loved Gen Tharpa, I loved his teachings, and I loved the way he lived Kadam dharma.

  27. I lived with Tharpa at Thekchen Centre before it became KMC Southampton. He taught me so much – mostly round the kitchen table! His stories and compassion were unwavering. He understood this hothead and changed me for the better. Love you GT, until we meet again. 🙏❤️

  28. That for sharing your heart with us. I was drawn to his teachings on youtube and wanted to attend his classes. His voice was touching and infectious smile with a twinkle in his eyes can be seen in his teachings on Youtube. I wish I had the opportunity to be in his retinue. See you in Keajra Gen Tharpa! 🌈🙏🌺🦋❤️

  29. Exceptional and beautiful article. Thank you for sharing. X May we all find this strength and peace in our mind 🙏 xx ❤

  30. Thank you Gen Tharpa, my friend and cosmic yogi! You blew my mind and will forever be in my heart. See you again in Keajra some day xxx

  31. Thank you so much for sharing this Gen Samten.
    Of the small encounters and as a discussion partner on ITTP in 2019 , Gen Tharpa really touched my heart with his very relaxed and wise words and love.

  32. Thank you Gen Samten for your heart felt memories. Gen Tharpa was my dear TTP teacher for just a few years but he touched my heart deeply. He will be missed ❤️🙏🏻😘

  33. Thank you Gen Samten for sharing those lovely memories. He was my TTP teacher for just a few years but touched my heart deeply. He will be greatly missed. 🙏🏻

  34. Thank you Gen Samten for sharing your years of friendship with Gen Tharpa. What an incredible and meaningful life he lived and he will be much missed in the form of this life by his parents, friends and disciples. However, if anyone is going to take rebirth in the Pureland it will be him and this thought counteracts my sadness. Thank you for writing this – so eloquent and captures him so well 💕

  35. Dear Gen Samten, Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I am very grateful for you. I did not know Gen Tharpa but felt very moved by his kind example to us. Much love to you during this time and to all who knew and loved him in this life. I know you are correct, Geshela lead him to the Pure Land where Gen Tharpa continues to benefit us each and every day with his warm heart. 🙏💙Mindy

  36. Deep gratitude and love to you, Gen Tharpa, aka “Yogi”. Thank you for 40 years of friendship and brilliant Dharma conversations. Thank you for always walking the walk, a person of utter integrity and zero worldly concerns. Thank you for loving your meditation and living within the understanding that nothing is outside the mind. Thank you for showing us how to die smiling.

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