By registering, you may receive account related information, our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. By subscribing, you will receive our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. And he’s sort of I guess one of these classic Tibetan teachers, one of the folks that actually made the trek over the Himalayas, went with other people, sought refuge in India; so you mean, this is a classically trained Tibetan teacher.
Ari Goldfield: I was introduced to Buddhism in my last year in law school which was in 1993. And in those days, you could go to a bookstore and just sit down in front of the Buddhist section.
And then I went back to Silicon Valley and my job that I had accepted as a corporate finance attorney.
I went to Dharamsala, started studying Tibetan and six months after that, I met Khenpo Rinpoche. I ended up traveling with him eight times around the world over the next decade or so as his secretary and translator.
And Khenpo Rinpoche really embodies that and love to make up songs, is also a great scholar and just really marches to the beat of his own drummer. So, I think that combination of scholarship and richness of meditation and this kind of Yogic tradition altogether I really found I could – as far as I could get into, there was more to do and it brought out different aspects of myself, allowed me to train in singing and dancing and all these things I never would have done before, never would have imagined were part of my Buddhist path but which I really enjoyed. Rose Taylor: So, my mother lived in Thailand after she graduated from Oxford University and she studied and practiced in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. But I definitely did my own shopping around when I was about six, then my friends were going to Sunday school, so I decided to go to Sunday school as well.
And – and you know, there was some kind of bodhisattva ideal that I saw in his activity that drew me. And I feel like very strongly, particularly within the Kagyu lineage, that’s my practice lineage, but I also feel, you know, in the world of globalization that it’s – you know, we’re really at a stage of international dharma and I found, you know I’m also very attracted to the Zen tradition. Rose Taylor: Well, I did the Kagyu training through Shambhala International and I went thru all of that path. And he stood there and began talking and he remained standing throughout the whole morning session. And it immediately brought to mind reading some of Milarepa’s Songs of Realization while I was studying at Naropa. Ari Goldfield: So the tradition of singing in Buddhism actually goes all the way back to the Buddha himself.
So, in the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism which starts in the Indian lineage with Telopa, he sang many songs and his student Naropa sang many songs. Ari Goldfield: One interesting story about that is that when the monks started chanting, the sutras originally, they were cacophonous and nobody among the public liked to go and listen to them. And our teacher Khenpo Rinpoche emphasized that when he would say that when modern people sing, just like in the old days, the tradition is to sing in popular melodic form that you and others in your society, in your day and age can really connect with. Rose Taylor: So, well, one of the things that Ari was talking about with this song is that it essentializes. But because of this essential quality, sometimes they need more elucidating than you actually find in the songs.
Vincent Horn: And as you’re describing this practice which is so interesting, I was just thinking about what connection there might be. Ari Goldfield: There’s a strong connection because singing connect with what the mantra tradition calls the subtle body. The difference is that mantra is usually recited in one particular style, whereas when you sing, you can sing in a variety of melodies and you can also sing in your own language about a variety of topics, of aspects of Dharma.
Rose Taylor: And another very interesting point that’s from you know, the modern scientific world is they’re doing research on song and they find it actually works with the different part of the brain than just speaking than that kind of language.
And some people who have had strokes or are suffering from dementia can communicate in song.
And you keep bringing Dharma in, so we use song, we use meditation, we do a lot of body work, meditation is on the body and then also Tibetan Yogi Exercise and dancing and it’s approaching one thing from all of these different angles. And you know, for many women I’ve met, the idea of just sitting quietly, not talking to anyone also seems just strange in some ways.
Is there some sense of ego clinging here, not wanting to be embarrassed, “I’m not good at this.
And as Rose is saying, it’s not the only thing and it’s one method out of many and all of which are in service of how do we access the true nature of what we are. Ari Goldfield: We thought we’d sing a song by Milarepa who is the most famous singing Tibetan Yogi. Ari Goldfield is a Buddhist translator and teacher who has studied and practiced under the close guidance of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche since 1995. Buddhist experts and scientists are saying that the 200 year old monk (below) who was found last week meditating in Mongolia is not dead. Mongolian newspapers are reporting the scientific discovery of a mummified monk found in the province of Songino Khairkhan. Tukdam state refers to a specific meditation practice in which monks continue to meditate after death. Fortunately, a single month into a disciplined practice, I can legitimately say I’ve accomplished nothing at all. I feel compassion for this grasping, needy mind of mine, but I’m ever-so-gradually loosening my identification with it.
Naturally, my habitual thought patterns rush back in moments after I’ve put them aside, but no matter. But no, Tornado Hannah will enjoy herself much more with a moment of quiet and a sugar-filled goody.
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You’re already in the perfect moment for inhabiting this liberating awareness, which is always available, teaches Jon Kabat-Zinn. And I think how I heard about you, I think over a year ago I got an email from Lama Surya Das. And I was definitely searching for some more meaning in life than I had encountered up until that point. There were like 20 books total of Buddhism that were around so I just started reading whatever I could. And then I asked him if I could be his student a couple of months after that, and he accepted me as his student and then had me start studying Sanskrit and Tibetan. And a little bit of the craziness, like when you said Khenpo Rinpoche is classic, I just kind of had to laugh a little bit because he’s classically undefinable, classically inscrutable which most Buddhist Masters are from any traditions, but the Tibetan tradition has this particular crazy Yogi tradition.
And then after she’d moved back to England, she met Trungpa Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1968 and became a student of his. And I really enjoyed learning about Jesus and that he died for my sins, not that I was sure what that was, but I thought that was very nice of him, he didn’t know me. And you know, different traditions is good to meet teachers from all of the different traditions even – you know, being firmly rooted in one tradition but also it’s a wonderful world that we’re currently in where you get to dialogue with lots of different Buddhist traditions.
And then also the Shambhala path, the Warrior path, and Khenpo Rinpoche was teaching in London at the time I was studying at Naropa University but I was home for the summer holiday. And people had said, “Oh, you should really meet this teacher.” So I went in the first session he gave. And then when that foot’s tired, stand on the other foot.” So he’s on the throne and he’s hopping from one foot to the other foot. And I gathered from those poems or those songs that they were sort of poetic expressions of realization.
And from there, when it came to Tibet, many of the Tibetan masters who were students of those Indian teachers were the ones who started singing and then it just became part of Tibetan Buddhist practice.
And so they – when they told that to the Buddha, he said, “Well, just sing in a popular melody that people will like.” And so they started singing in the Brahman melodies and then the people were happy. So this is something that would be really fun to explore in more depth and I saw you wrote about this as singing meditation. So you’re looking at something that’s very pithy and if you look at the sutras and the tantras you have what are called root verses. So, Khenpo Rinpoche used to give long explanations of what the song means because the more meaning, the fuller your understanding around the complete meaning of the song, then you just – when you sing the song, you will have all of that meaning held for you. Then you get a flavor of what they’re referring to even though you might not have the full conceptual understanding, you also get a feeling.
When we sing it opens the chakras, the channels in our heart and that allows us to be relaxed. That’s a really interesting point and you know, Ari, you were mentioning in the beginning that you never imagined doing song and dance as part of your spiritual practice. So I find it interesting that Rose, what you’re describing is this kind of full spectrum of different practices that it sounds like at least some of them would make most people uncomfortable in some way.
And one of the ways that we can understand the Buddhist path is to really expand to our full potential, expand our being to a complete wholeness. And when you’re training with Khenpo Rinpoche, how much of your training overall, not like a specific percentage, but how much was spent doing things like singing and dancing meditation?
And Mahamudra refers to the true nature of mind, the luminous awareness that is the true nature of mind. He has translated books, articles, and numerous songs of realization and texts on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, including Khenpo Rinpoche’s Song of the Eight Flashing Lances teaching, which appeared in The Best Buddhist Writing 2007, Khenpo Rinpoche’s book The Sun of Wisdom, and The Moon of Wisdom. She teaches Buddhist meditation, philosophy, yogic exercise and dance, and classical Tibetan language to Westerners, as well as to the nuns at Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche’s nunneries in Bhutan and Nepal. Despite being over 200 years old, and sitting in meditation position on the floor, the monk’s body has miraculously remained in excellent preservation. As Dr Kerzin says, “If the meditator can stay in Tukdam meditation state, he can become a Buddha.
When I’m not pondering dessert, the emails I have to send, or the mysteries of my job search, my mind clutches about for affirmation. This is what meditation grants: a burgeoning awareness that our thoughts have no lasting substance. A week ago I found myself anxious and hurried, striving to tick two dozen tasks off my to-do list before leaving for yoga training. Now she lives in Rowley, Massachusetts with her exquisitely kind husband David and their charming three-legged cat, Thomas.
With Mindfulness for Beginners, he invites you to cultivate mindfulness as if your life depended on it, which it surely does, and experience the magnitude and beauty of who you already are. And your recent book is called Stars of Wisdom: Analytical Meditation, Songs of Yogic Joy and Prayers of Aspiration.
And a friend of mine, a classmate from Taiwan started teaching me to meditate and I just loved it right away.
I had a brief but unillustrious career and because what I really wanted to do was go and study Buddhism, and so I did.
So before I was born I had a good ground to come in to and I grew in the Shambhala tradition. I was going to the Shambhala study group and meditating and I was also going to the Hare Krishna group on Sundays. And they asked me to be head of household for his visit when Ari and Khenpo Rinpoche were visiting. And the attendants were a bit nervous at this point thinking, you know, they might have to catch him if he falls.
And then, you know, you both alluded to this, Ari mentioning that – that singing ended up being part of your path and Rose, you mentioned that even early on, the singing in the Christian tradition was captivating to you. But what I didn’t realize until I picked up your book was that they were not just that, they were also practices.


I was just trying to imagine the Buddha singing because when you know, when you read some of this stuff, it’s not like – it doesn’t – you can, it’s hard to imagine it being sung. You can give like a week’s worth of daily teachings on one song because they’re that pithy and rich.
So one of the things is to have an explanation about the song; and then, when you sing the song as a practice, then you can either be bringing that to mind and doing a kind of contemplative meditation on the meaning of the song as you sing. So as you sing, just listening to the sound and resting on the true nature of the sound, the indescribable, inexpressible quality of sound, it’s like a direct valid cognition meditation where you just – without concepts, you’re just giving the mind something to rest on. This is a practice I haven’t personally done but I know it’s a big part of the Tibetan tradition. And then the profundity of the teachings that are contained in the song connect that much more deeply with our own being because we are open to it. So, it’s a very interesting area at the moment, the whole area of singing and what is actually happening to us when we sing. So it’s not something that stays at the intellectual understanding level or the sort of pure mind training of meditation but it’s something that completely transforms our experience of the world. And when you said that, I just thought, “Oh, yeah, me either I couldn’t.” [Laughter] You know, for many – you know maybe it’s just American dudes, but for many dudes, you know, it’s like song and dance, oh my gosh, are you kidding? So, when we find ourselves in one of those uncomfortable places, it’s for what’s the discomfort. Or you know, there’s all sorts of reasons that can create discomfort, something is happening.
And singing and dancing, when you sing really profound songs and you’re not just singing in sort of a spaced-out way or superficial way which Khenpo Rinpoche would criticize me for sometimes he would say to me, “You’re not meditating.
So I’m thinking that might be a good place to end and then sharing whatever you think would be appropriate and then we can sort of end this session with that. He studied Buddhist texts in Tibetan and Sanskrit at Buddhist monasteries in Nepal and India, and at the Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies in India. How does a person teach, meditate, eat, sleep, practice guitar, exercise, cook, revel in her husband and cat, and write blog entries? Buddhist monks and nuns who meditate for hours a day (and exude that enviable combination of earthiness and luminescence) are notorious for saying they’ve accomplished nothing at all.
Generally this state of mind sweeps in like a tornado, and I spend hours spinning from one thing to another. She's worked with singers since 1998 and loves to help people of all ages free their voices. And as is traditional, everyone in the room stands up, and Rinpoche came in and he climbed up on to his throne which is about four feet high. One of the unique aspects I would say, looking at this book and looking at the teachings of Khenpo Rinpoche is the songs of Yogic joy.
And so I was wondering if you could share first a little bit about these songs of Yogic joy and where they come from. And from there, in India, in the Yogic tradition in particular really picked up singing as a way of teaching; as a way of teaching and also as a way of practicing the teachings because when you can sing something, it really essentializes it and also connects in with our experience very strongly.
And I think this is one of the qualities we did touch on about Khenpo Rinpoche and the style of practice and teaching that, that we’re involved with is utilizing, you know, all the parts of the brain and all the different ways of practicing. If we get too comfortable in our practice, maybe you know, we need to expand ourselves a little bit. He said it would make the plane trip go a lot faster if he would compose a song and then I would have to translate it and put it to melody and sing it. You’re just singing.” So when you really combine it with meditation, it’s one wonderful method. From 1998 to 2006 he served as Khenpo Rinpoche’s full-time secretary and translator on seven round-the-world teaching tours. Having studied and practiced extensively in the Shambhala lineage, in which her mother is also a longtime student and teacher, she began training under Khenpo Rinpoche’s close guidance in 2002. Even though I’ve given up refined sugar for Lent, the possibilities tickle my imagination. Shall I cut up an apple? And they’ve done this great translation.” And you know, any time Lama Surya Das emails you and starts telling you, you should talk to someone, you know you kind of have to listen.
How you guys first got on the Buddhist path and then how you found your teacher; how you got into the Tibetan Buddhist path.
And I think this can be a – the singing the dancing can be very interesting places for us to work those edges.
And everywhere we went, his students – he attracted students who liked that and a lot of them, it took them a while just like you’re describing, but once you get into it, it’s a tough habit to break because it feels so good to sing and to be able to move your body. But by the time I went to university then I definitely settled upon the Buddhist tradition being what was right for me and where I felt my true spiritual home was. On Mindfulness for Beginners, this internationally known scientist, best selling author, and teacher who brought mindfulness meditation into the mainstream of medicine and society gives you immediate access to a practice that can potentially add years to your life, and will certainly enhance the quality of your moments and your years.
And then also if we have time, it’d be great to actually hear some of it too and what it sounds like.
In 2006, Khenpo Rinpoche stayed in retreat and sent Ari on his own tour to teach philosophy, meditation, and yogic exercise in Europe, North America, and Asia.
In 2007, Khenpo Rinpoche appointed him president of the Marpa Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports nunneries in Bhutan and Nepal, Buddhist translation, and other Buddhist activities.
Sometimes I drop in longer and begin to sense spaciousness and surrender – I feel alive and aware, connected to God and the ineffability of all things!



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