Chatral Rinpoche. Compassionate Action. Edited, introduced and annotated by Zach Larson. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2007. Paperback, xx + 124 pp.
Chatral (“Hermit”) Rinpoche (1913–) is a revered Nyingma master who is considered to be the incarnation of the “Second Buddha” Guru Padmasambhava’s mind—a fully realized bodhisattva embodying, as the book’s title suggests, compassionate action. A heart disciple of the former Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987), he serves today as the tutor of the reincarnation (tulku) of that great master, which makes clear Chatral Rinpoche’s extraordinary spiritual stature. He received precious teachings from some one hundred lamas.
Chatral Rinpoche is best known for his uncompromising advocacy of vegetarianism. While visiting the pilgrimage center of Bodhgaya in 1960, he vowed to abstain from meat and alcohol henceforth.
A few years later, in his early fifties, he abandoned his life as a solitary yogi and married Kusho Kamala (daughter of Terton Tulzhok Lingpa) with whom he has two daughters. In a conversation with the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton in 1968, Chatral Rinpoche explained that he had meditated in solitude for thirty years but had not yet attained perfect emptiness. Subsequently, his intensive spiritual practice brought him flawless realization.
Annually, Chatral Rinpoche purchases 70 truckloads of live fish in Calcutta and releases them back into the ocean. He also releases birds, insects, reptiles, and mammals in large numbers.
In the interview on meat eating included in this volume (conducted by Larson in 2000), Chatral Rinpoche stated: “I am a human being formed with flesh and blood like anyone else and am proof that giving up meat does not make one ill like many Tibetans seem to think. I’m telling you from my own experience; only good things have happened to me from giving up meat” (p. 27). In his essay “On Meat Eating,” Chatral Rinpoche affirms unequivocally: “Since meating is not approved for anyone—not for monks, nuns, or lay people—those who are committed Buddhist practitioners should never eat meat” (p. 34).
It is reassuring to know of the existence of such a great being, and Zach Larson deserves credit for making some of Chatral Rinpoche’s teachings and prayers available for the first time in an English-language book.
Copyright ©2007 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.