Life Story and Activity of Lama Lodu Rinpoche

By Lama Sherab (Don Iocca)*

The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa once described Lama Lodu Rinpoche as “a lama who has highly developed his inner practice”. Rinpoche was appointed resident lama of Kagyu Droden Kunchab in 1976 by His Holiness the Karmapa and His Eminence Kalu Rinpoche.

Lama Lodu Rinpoche was born in Sikkim in 1942 into a Tibetan family. His grandfather, Lama Wongten, was held in very high esteem throughout the region as a yogi and general practitioner of the dharma. Rinpoche completed his preliminary training and education at the monasteries of His Holiness the Karmapa and His Eminence Kalu Rinpoche. He also studied and trained under the great yogi Drupon Tenzin Rinpoche and His Eminence Thrangu Rinpoche. Rinpoche completed the traditional three-year retreat in Bhutan under H. E. Kalu Rinpoche and later spent a period of time leading isolated retreats near Dharamsala.

Lama Lodu then went to Kalu Rinpoche’s monastery at Sonada, near Darjeeling, and served there for seven years as puja master. He taught for two years at various European dharma centers before coming to KDK in San Francisco. During one of his visits to San Francisco, His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa emphasized that those who are interested in the teachings of the Buddha are very fortunate to be involved with KDK and should take advantage of the precious opportunity to study and practice the dharma with Lama Lodu Rinpoche.

Rinpoche’s teachings are very clear, unique and profound. They touch the heart of everyone who listens. It is usual for him, during an initiation ceremony, to explain every detail, which makes a definite difference in his students’ understanding of the method and makes it easier to experience the simplicity of the nature of mind.

For every initiation, Rinpoche provides a translated sadhana, or daily practice text, many of which have not been previously available in English. These translated texts make it easier to understand the practice. Lama is very accommodating to anyone who wants to seriously practice meditation. Along with texts, he provides a full explanation of the specific meditation practice, the lineage of the practice, and answers to students’ questions to clarify their doubts and confusion. He will demonstrate a practice so that students can study at home and he has also taped many practices as an additional study aid.

Lama Lodu Rinpoche’s teachings benefit many people of all ages and levels of experience. His direct insight and simplicity, as well as his humor and kindness, make his teachings appear as transparent and brightly radiating five-colored light, powerfully illuminating the truth. He teaches us to cultivate virtue and avoid wrong actions, stressing the value of true compassion as the key to liberation and supreme knowledge.

In this era of disease, famine, war and untimely death, we the students of this excellent teacher pray for his good health and long life. We rejoice in his guidance and pray that all may learn loving-kindness for each other and share his limitless profound realization until we reach enlightenment. Under Rinpoche’s direction, nineteen of his students completed the traditional three-year Karma and Shangpa Kagyu retreat in 1989. Fulfilling Kalu Rinpoche’s wishes, Lama Lodu supervised the acquisition of land in Mendocino County for the conduct of traditional three-year retreats, shorter retreats and practices, and the building of a traditional stupa.

Lama Lodu Rinpoche also fulfilled Kalu Rinpoche’s wishes by rebuilding his teacher’s homeland monastery (Ridak) and stupa in Tibet. Lama Lodu has supervised the translation of numerous sadhanas and has written the books, Bardo Teachings, The Quintessence of the Animate and Inanimate, Attaining Enlightenment, Maintaining the Bodhisattva Vow, and Homage to Kalu Rinpoche.

*Lama Sherab (Don Iocca) was a devoted student of Lama Lodu Rinpoche for many years. A longtime resident of KDK, he served in many capacities, including house manager, treasurer, and omze for daily meditations. He completed the three-year retreat under Rinpoche’s guidance in 1999, and worked hard to prepare the next Three Year Retreat group for their group pujas. Lama Sherab passed away in San Francisco in 2005.