If it is easy to lose one’s way
in this one lifetime,
it is even much easier to lose one’s way
from lifetime to lifetime.
Who is a tulku? A tulku is anyone who is formally recognised by proficient Buddhist masters to be another Buddhist master reborn. Directed and hosted by Gesar Mukpo, a recognised tulku himself, the documentary ‘Tulku’ presents a thought-provoking probe into how four other modern and relatively young western tulkus grapple with the tension between living lives that seem sensible to them, versus meeting others’ expectations of their religious roles.
Unless they are accomplished masters with great non-retrogressible attainments (i.e. being no longer subject to spiritual backsliding), due to existential forgetfulness spurred by the interruption of death, young tulkus’ memories of their previous lives might quickly fade without adequate (re-)training. With less spiritual motivation than before, it can become very challenging trying to spiritually build upon the past life with the present life’s efforts.
Reborn far away from where they used to be, without comprehensive Dharma re-motivation and re-education support systems, some tulkus thus feel uneasy and disconnected between their previously executed and presently expected spiritual roles for the masses. Perhaps there were aspirations to be born beyond their comfort zones out of compassion, while lacking a steady plan powered by enough wisdom for spiritual progression? Ironically, while there are enough existential connections for some recognised tulkus to ‘return’ to the fold of the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), there might not be strong enough connections to regain or deepen the same connections due to changing karmic circumstances and attitudes.
While interviewed tulkus’ remembrance of their past lives speaks proof of the reality of rebirth, their later forgetfulness of their own lives speaks of the ‘terror’ of backsliding. In one shocking case, a tulku became so disillusioned by wayward ‘Buddhists’ encountered when younger, that he says he is no longer a Buddhist. Regretfully, some tulkus might have enough doubt in the Dharma and self-doubt to retreat from Dharma study and practice. However, this can be reversed with further study and practice of authentic teachings of the Buddha via authentic Buddhist teachers.
If even some recognised tulkus with some spiritual support to quickly re-nurture them might backslide, the rest of us, who are not even tulkus surely have much more potential to backslide! Since we are not tulkus, there would be no one keen to look out for us life after life. This means we are in a much more spiritually precarious state! In fact, backsliding can occur within this single lifetime if we do not diligently and continually learn and practise the Dharma.
To solve the dangerous problem of repetitive backsliding from life to life, all Buddhas, as stated in the Immeasurable Life Sutra and Amitabha Sutra, repeatedly urge beings of their worlds to seek birth in Amitabha Buddha’s (Amituofo) Pure Land, where we will all crystal clearly remember all our past lives, while being in the best Dharma school for swiftly training towards Buddhahood, with no more possibility of backsliding. This does not forsake other beings still in Samsara, as it is wise to train well on the Bodhisattva path by learning from a Buddha in person, so as to most efficiently guide everyone else!
[The full version of this with more quotes and comments can be seen at https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2015/05/full-review-what-if-you-are-a-tulku-recognised-reborn-master]
轮回路险，The path of rebirth is dangerous,
无常迅速。And impermanence is swift.
老实念佛，Earnestly recite Amituofo,
莫换题目。And do not change the subject.
Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yinguang
Understanding Amituofo Via The Amitabha Sutra
Beware Of Fake ‘Reborn Masters’ (False ‘Tulkus’)
An Open Letter To Buddhist Practitioners
Are You Recycling Yourself Every Three Lifetimes?
How Death Hinders Progress To Liberation
How To Sabotage Yourself In This & Future Lives?
About The Film ‘Tulku’