I'm back from Madison, Wisconsin.
I met Khachab Rinpoche and actually got to hang out with him a bit (we had a small dinner thing on Saturday night and he and I were next to each other in our little group). We spoke quite a bit about his family, his background, wushu, etc. It was kind of neat.
I figured that it was a good sign the first night when he was discussing Dream Yoga practices (via his translator) and he both made a fart joke and then mentioned a visualization that had a tigle at the tip of the penis (or clitoris) in the context of giving instructions medtation instructions for the practices. Nothing racy, just factual. The ability to tell off-color jokes and talk about things relating to sex are a good sign in a lama given that some lamas don't seem to be comfortable mentioning sexual aspects of things.
After spending the weekend with him, he seems pretty open and very knowledgeable. He also made it clear that the reason he isn't really part of the whole Kagyu scene is that he isn't into the political games that people have to play with the higher ups. He likes to just teach, practice and do his own thing. It's clear that he knows what he's doing though.
He gave the Younge family's Dorje Drollo empowerment. There was a Dorje Younge (I forget his given name), who was a famous Kagyu terton in the time of the 10th Karmapa. He discovered three main texts, two of which are still in regular use in a bunch of Kagyu circles. This was the third. Khachab Rinpoche is his patrilineal descendent though his tulku is some high Kagyu lama. Khachab's mother is from a Bonpo family with teaching connections and Khachab was trained in a Gelugpa monastery and did a Kagyu three year retreat before running off to study Dzogchen with a bunch of Nyingma and Bonpo teachers. He spoke quite fondly of Tenzin Namdak who, I gather, is a friend of Khachab's father. When he found out that I knew who he was, he gushed about him for a bit. From what my friend Bill told me, Khachab got a lot of shit from Kagyu or Gelugpa crowd for talking to Bonpo teachers and studying Dzogchen.
He gave the full set of empowerments for the Younge Dorje Drollo, including the Vajra Master one and the Atiyoga one (he mentioned that there are trekchod and togyal practices associated with it). He also gave the Protector practice. He made it clear that we're not supposed to go off and give wangs but that if, for example, we did a three year retreat and focused on Dorje Drollo, we would be able to make the connection to do so (but need permission to do so). It's rare that someone gives the full set of the empowerments in my experience since some of them aren't necessary for normal practice.
I got permission from him after talking to him a bit to come to his five day Dzogchen retreat in Madison in May, which I am looking forward to doing. I had to meet him for this to work because he's started a shedra recently and is forcing his most junior students, who have barely taken refuge, to work through a program that he's created. I'm told that this is because he has people who have just gotten involved asking for things like Vajrakilaya or Togyal. Near the end, he walked up to me and said "So, I'll see you in May, right?" to me.
I picked up the Dorje Drollo thangka that we used as part of the empowerment space. His attendent has mentioned for a few months that they had a few thangkas that they were selling relatively cheaply as a fundraiser and it turned out to be one of them. I'll post a picture of it later.
Overall, I had very positive impressions and he seems to be a very nice guy. He is also a geshe and a heavy practitioner so he knows his stuff very well. I'm very pleased that I've made the connection to him and I'm looking forward to working more with him in the future.
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