Sakyong Reincarnate: Mipham the Great
Reincarnations are not uncommon in many Indian religions. Famous monks, lineage holders, and most prominently known, Lamas are quickly recognized as reincarnations and treated as such. The Dalia Lama is the most obvious and prime example, one could almost equate him to the Catholic Pope in terms of religious standing (though there are several distinct differences and this is simply a means of cultural comparison of relevance to the mainstream world). Sakyong Mipham is not the Dalai Lama, but he is a prominent figure in terms of Buddhism both in the West and in its rebuilding in Tibet. It is Sakyong’s cross-cultural relevance that makes the figure he is an incarnation of all the more relevant and necessary to discuss. A figure that deserves attention slightly separate of Sakyong, though the two are not entirely divisible.
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Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso
Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso, known as Mipham the Great, lived from 1846 to 1912 in Tibet. The name Jamgon is equated to the boddhisatva Maitreya (the final Buddha that will come to the world) and Mipham tends to be translated as unconquered which is associated with Maitreya. Mipham was recognized for his greatness at a young age. He was ordained at the age of twelve entering monastic life. Said to have mastered one of the most difficult forms of chanting in a few days along with other profound accomplishments, Mipham quickly became recognized as a Buddhist leader. It became accepted that he could master any text, sutra, or tantra with no effort at all.
Revitalizing a Tradition
Mipham learned under some of the greatest teachers of his time. Being of the Nyingma, or Ngagyur, tradition (the oldest of the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions meaning ancient). Nyingma is the least politically involved of the four traditions and has the most commonalities with Tibet’s indigenous religion Bon. Bon is an earth based religion with a heavy emphasis on death, an emphasis passed on to most sects of Tibetan Buddhism that can be most commonly explained as a response to Tibet’s harsh climate and the constant closeness with death because of such.
A Great Scholar
Mipham, because of his profound comprehension of Buddhist teachings, was asked to create works that correctly expressed the lineage’s philosophical outlook. The lineage was the least expressed of the four and was thus attacked the most by scholars. Doing as requested, Mipham revitalized the lineage, bringing intellectuals of other traditions to study his works. He is recognized as one of three omniscient writers within the tradition; the other two being Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo and Longchenpa. Mipham pulled from their (Rongzom and Longchenpa) writings and came to create some of the greatest works on Indian philosophies. His commentaries on Buddhism are still reveled today and some are still a bit controversial.
Apart from his astounding proficiency and grasp of Buddhism, Mipham was a learned scholar of several other subjects, recognized even as a polymath, an academic with understandings of multiple subjects. Mipham mastered and wrote on topics such as soteriology, health science, languages, dramaturgy, astrology, and poetry.
Prophecies and Death
Before his death, Mipham made a series of proclamations and prophecies. Two contradicting statements included his statement that he had no need of rebirth on Earth as he was a bodhisattva whose negative karma had been completed. The other is more popular as it cites him as prophesizing China’s coming war on Tibet and the darkness it would bring. In this he claimed he would return and would be with the Shambhala teachings. After his death, several reincarnations were recognized. These include: Zhe chen MI pham, Tshe dbang bdud ‘dul, and Khyung po Mi pham. The most recent incarnation was born in 1962 as Osel Rangdrol Mukpo, the son of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
Sakyong the Great
Sakyong Mipham was recognized as Mipham’s incarnation in 1995. He is a high lama of the Nyingma lineage and holds the Shambhala line after his father Trungpa. Traveling to Tibet often, he is viewed as both Sakyong and his reincarnation. The Sakyong has made profound contributions to Tibetan Buddhism’s spread through the world. Similar to Mipham who helped reinvigorate the Nyingma lineage with his writings, Sakyong has furthered the growth and understanding of Buddhism through his combined Eastern and Western knowledge. Teaching in Europe and the United States, the Sakyong is able to walk the line of several cultures and traditions. His books and lectures speak the truth of the Dharma while also grasping the attention of those unfamiliar to it. The Sakyong is truly the reincarnate of Mipham the Great, keeping alive the legacy of wisdom and compassion.
- Kate Mattes
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