10. The Rimay Tradition


A Dharma Teaching by His Holiness Rimay Gyalten Sogdzin Rinpoche


Section 10


The Rimay Tradition:  
An Introduction and Brief Explanation
by His Holiness Rimay Gyalten Sogdzin Rinpoche

What is “Rimay”?

Rimay” is a Tibetan word meaning “non-sectarian”, “non-exclusive”, or “without boundaries.” The Rimay Tradition is not itself a separate or new school, but rather a way of viewing and relating to all schools, lineages, and traditions. You might say that Rimay is the big view that includes all other views; Rimay does not take for itself any exclusive position, for it respects and is open to all expressions of Dharma. In its ultimate or absolute level, Rimay recognizes that there is nothing that is not Dharma, in much the same way as the Vajrayana view sees all things as the manifestation of Buddha-Nature. It is absolute openness, an openness that is beyond every sense of limitation or being separate. It is an openness that has unlimited compassion for all beings equally. Rimay is the view of every Enlightened-being.

Yet at the same time, on a relative level, there is a unique Rimay Lineage. There are individual masters who have taught and applied, and passed on, the Rimay View. The Rimay Tradition is something that we can talk about and point to, and that has great meaning in our lives. At certain times and in certain places, the Rimay Lineage has been critically important for the continued existence of the Dharma.

In 19th century Tibet, intense sectarian rivalry was limiting the practice and even threatening the continued existence of many genuine Buddhist and Bön lineages and traditions. Due to these conditions, a group of great Masters emerged who worked together to encourage respect and understanding between traditions, to protect and preserve all  lineages and traditions of Buddha-Dharma, and ultimately to re-inspire true Dharma Practice based on the essential principals taught by the Buddha, as preserved and transmitted within all genuine lineages. This movement became known as the Rimay Movement


The Essence of Rimay (“Pith Instructions”)

Keeping it short and simple, here is all you need to know about the Rimay Tradition. These are the major points that the Rimay Tradition is here to constantly remind us of, and bring us back to when we get blown off the Path by the wicked winds of samsara. All I really need to say is this:  

  • Consider all beings with love and affection, this is the Rimay Tradition of “Impartiality.”
  • Show all religious traditions respect, this is the Rimay Tradition of “Non-sectarianism.”
  • Have the faith that all the teachings of the Buddha lead to liberation. This is the Rimay Tradition of “Equally Perfect Result.”
  • Uphold peace and prosperity in an honest and thoughtful manner, this is the Rimay Tradition of “Impartial Government.” 


An Open Secret 


Now you know all you need to know. Just in case you’re interested, I will give you a little bit more information about Rimay.

As you may already have noticed, there is an open secret about the Rimay Tradition. The secret is this: the Rimay Tradition is nothing different from the genuine practice of Buddha-Dharma. Respect, even love and affection, for everyone – including those who are different or those who might seem to oppose us – is very much a part of Dharma practice, is it not?  Appreciating, preserving, and keeping alive all of the 84,000 different ‘Gates’ to the Dharma that the Buddha taught is surely good Dharma Practice. Not hindering or being prejudiced against any form of Dharma Practice, even one different from our own, was actually insisted upon by the Buddha himself.

I’d like to tell you something that summarizes the entire Buddhist Path. All 84,000 teachings of the Buddha amount to this:

Commit not a single non-virtuous action, cultivate a wealth of virtue, completely train this mind of ours. This is the essence of the entire teachings of the Lord Buddha, and of course, the heart of the Rimay tradition.

Quite simply, the Rimay Tradition comes down to the very basic Buddhist practice of respect for all lineages and traditions (no one lineage, practice or teaching is the only true one, or the best one for everybody), seeing all people as equal (no one has more or better Buddha-Nature than anyone else), and being completely impartial, without prejudice, in our thoughts, our words, and our actions. From a Buddhist perspective of Emptiness, there is unlimited room to accommodate everyone, no one needs to be an obstruction for anyone else, nor is there any need for competition between lineages. It is impossible to achieve peace and harmony with competition and hatred. So the practice of kindness, or bodhicitta, is extremely important and valuable in human society. 


Rimay Was Needed in the 19th Century, and Is Needed Even More in the 21st Century

To say that Rimay is only genuine Buddha-Dharma is not to say that the Rimay Tradition – all of the work done by its amazing founders in the 19th century and by those who carry on the tradition today – has not been, and does not continue to be, critically important and extremely beneficial. Rimay is not just any part of the Dharma (though of course all ‘parts’ of Dharma are precious). What I find so special about Rimay is that, it is the aspect of Buddha-Dharma that allows all traditions and people to get along, to live in harmony. And in a world where everyone is as close as the nearest telephone or lap-top computer, and rifles have transformed into bombs, getting along is even more important today than it ever has been.

One demonstration of the importance of the Rimay Tradition is the fact that, it is not exaggerating to say that the Rimay Tradition saved many rare and precious Lineages from going out of existence.

It would also be fair to say that Rimay has played an important role in preserving Tibetan Buddhism itself in modern times. As you know, much has been lost today in Tibet. But when some of Tibet’s greatest Teachers left the country, though they could carry very little with them, they did bring Jamgon Kongtrul the Great’s (one of the primary and most important founders of the RimayMovement) work, including his Five Great Treasures, an incredible encyclopedic collection of the practices and knowledge of Buddhism and Bön in Tibet in the 19th century. This massive work preserved, compiled and integrated all of the major, and many minor, traditions and lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. It has served as a foundation text for countless monks, nuns and lay practitioners in continuing these practices and teachings, and in bringing them to the West and the rest of the world. 



Certain Conditions Require a Rimay Response


Though the Rimay Movement is not a separate lineage, and is ultimately not different from genuine Buddhist Practice; it is a necessary way of focusing on and remembering some important elements of the Buddha-Dharma. Rimay emerged in the 19thcentury as the response of a number of great Masters to the conditions of that time and place. It was a way of countering certain non-Dharmic forces (sectarianism, prejudice, etc.) and focusing on the essential principals of Dharma Practice.

In 18th and 19th century Tibet, among the different lineages and traditions of Buddhism existing in that vast beautiful land, an ugly tendency, a “my way is better than yours” habit of thought, was gaining strength. Sectarian rivalry got so bad that in many instances texts were burned and whole libraries sealed closed, largely because of different schools having different interpretations of the teachings! Monasteries with hundreds of years of history in one tradition and lineage were forced to become monasteries of an entirely different tradition. Smaller traditions and lineages were threatened with extinction; even some larger traditions would have been threatened if these fires of sectarian antagonism been allowed to burn out of control.

Emerging from this dire situation, this group of great Masters began a movement to completely turn things around, to quench the fires of sectarian rivalry, to re-establish and awaken the essential principals of Buddha-Dharma in Tibet. It was, of course, the Rimay Movement.


Unfortunately, those same tendencies do still exist today. The world of Tibetan Buddhism today is a much bigger place than Tibet, but as they say, it is also a small world, like a global village. Everything is connected today, and prejudice and sectarianism has effects far beyond the monastery. In a way, it’s only natural that as human beings, we have a tendency to think that our own way is the best way. And logic would seem to dictate that if our way is the best, the right way, then other ways are wrong. They may even be threatening or dangerous to our own ‘right’ way. It’s a very human tendency, but as reasonable as it may seem, it is a narrow-minded way of viewing the world that has created more pain and suffering than even the worst plague or the most destructive tsunami.

I’m sure the Buddha saw what could come from a non-Rimay way. In the Abhidharma, you can see how he called “Dogmatic belief that this alone is truth” a wrong view and one of the major defilements to be overcome. It was grouped along with the “Four Ties”, the others being covetousness, ill will, and blind adherence to rites and ceremonies.

This kind of prejudice, thinking that our own way is right and others are wrong, which is really the fearing of our differences, rather than appreciating them and recognizing our deep commonalities as well, has led to vast and terrible suffering. It is the kind of thinking and wrong view that has led to people fighting wars over religious differences, one group of people enslaving another, and people being persecuted for the color of their skin or their ethnic and religious affiliations. I don’t need to tell you the terrible tragedies this world has seen, and that still happen today, as a result of an inability of people to respect and appreciate their differences. It’s really amazing, when you think about it, how many of our difficulties come from this attitude. I don’t just mean wars or big political struggles. I mean in our everyday lives. If we really had a Rimay attitude towards everyone we live and work with, really respecting the differences of others and finding the Buddha nature we have in common, then I’m sure 90% of our difficulties would disappear. 



A Truly Amazing Group of Masters Founded the Rimay Movement


Teachers who founded the Rimay Movement were an extraordinary group of Buddhist Masters. My own spiritual Root-Guru, His Holiness Drubgen Yizhin Norbu, told me many times that the founders of the Rimay Movement were some of the greatest minds that the whole of Tibetan Buddhist history has produced. These included Jamgon Kongtrul the Great, often considered the principal founder of the movement, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, Dza Patrul, Chok-gyur Lingpa and others. My precious Root-Guru himself received teachings and transmissions from Jamgon Kongtrul the Great and worked to spread the Rimay teachings during his previous incarnation, as the 7th Tsar Tsar Drubgen Yizhin Norbu. The truth is, His Holiness Drubgen Yizhin Norbu has been Rimay since his first incarnation, but it is only in the eighth that he began to speak frequently about the Rimay Tradition, and the need for it to be carried on even beyond his own lifetime.

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great (Lodro Thaye), was born into a Bönpo family, and grew up in the Palpung Situ’s Kagyu Monastery in Kham, in eastern Tibet. His accomplishments were more than that could be accomplished by a thousand ordinary men in one lifetime. In addition to his life’s masterpiece, the Five Great Treasures, he also gave numberless Empowerments and teachings throughout Tibet, received the transmission of numerous other lineages besides his own Kagyu tradition, and spent much time in retreat. Jamgon Kongtrul said that a wise person will have faith in the teachings of all orders, and will love the Dharma found in each, just as a mother cherishes all her children.

It may seem illogical, paradoxical even, that being open to other traditions can actually strengthen one’s own unique lineage or school. We might wonder how recognizing and respecting the validity of another’s way can actually strengthen my own, different way. But that is exactly what they did. The great Rimay Masters actually received teachings from many different lineages and traditions besides their own. They worked to preserve and protect the purity and completeness of all precious Buddha-Dharma, in all its forms. His Holiness the 7th Drubgen Yizhin Norbu, who was very close to Jamgon Kongtrul, studied under hundreds and hundreds of Masters from all Four Main Schools of Tibetan Buddhism! Yet he never watered down or weakened any one of them in any way, nor was his commitment to his own Karma Kagyu Lineage and practice diminished even a speck. He just held a vast view of Buddha-Dharma, one that accommodated all traditions, and strengthened each in its own unique purity. 


Rimay Stands on the Foundation of Great Masters Like Milarepa, Jigme Lingpa and Longchenpa, Going All the Way Back to the Buddha

The Rimay tradition actually starts with Tibet’s greatest Yogi Saint Milarepa who said:

The Rimay doctrine is never in opposition,

Clinging to one’s school and condemning others

Is a certain way to waste one’s learning.

Since all Dharma are equally good,

Those who cling to sectarianism

Degrade Buddhism and sever

Themselves from Liberation.

In response to Milarepa’s words, I spontaneously composed a verse:

All happiness one has

Is derived from others;

All help one gives to others

In return brings happiness.

Virtue is like the sun in the morning, it can only rise.

Non-virtue is like water-falls; I have never seen one flow up.

As I’ve said, it is clear that the Rimay Movement was not an effort to start a new tradition or lineage. All of the Rimay Masters were part of existing lineages. And Rimay was about preserving and respecting all of the genuine Lineages and Traditions of Buddha-Dharma. And all genuine lineages of Buddha-Dharma go all the way back, in an unbroken line of transmission, to the Buddha.


It is also clear that Rimay was not really something new at all. It was, and is, just the skilful application of something that is very old – fundamental Buddhist teachings, but ones that are very much alive and needed in this time and place. It has been taught and practiced since the time of Buddha Sakyamuni. It has been practiced by His Holiness Drubgen Yizhin Norbu for all eight of his incarnations. It is really essential to any practitioner of Buddha-Dharma.

As I said, the Buddha taught 84,000 different ways or doors to the Dharma. He did that because of the vastly different capacities, tendencies and conditions of individuals. The Buddha himself stated that it is essential that there be many different forms of expression and practice of the dharma. Just as one medicine does not cure all diseases, different people need different forms of the Buddha Dharma, the ultimate medicine. It has been said that someone who is against a different Buddhist tradition, is against the Buddha; he is getting in the way of the transmission of the Buddha’s Enlightenment and, therefore, is getting in the way of his own spiritual progress.

In the several centuries prior to the 19th century formulation of the Rimay Tradition, there were a number of great yogi-scholars whose writings and teachings began to lay the groundwork for the later flowering of the Rimay Movement. These included the great Masters Longchenpa, the third Karmapa Ranjung Dorje, and the eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje. Both the eighth and thirteenth Karmapa also presented His Holiness Tsar Tsar Drubgen Yizhin Norbu, my own precious Root-Guru, with a White Hat in recognition of his supreme level of accomplishment, Mikyo Dorje having seen in a vision that it would be of great benefit to beings if His Holiness displayed the White Hat. His Holiness Drubgen Yizhin Norbu did give many Empowerments while displaying the White Hat, while spreading the Buddha-Dharma and the Rimay Tradition right into our present time.

My previous incarnation, the first Gyalten Rinpoche was a peer of His Holiness 7th Drubgen Yizhin Norbu and together we worked to spread the Rimay teachings throughout Tibet.  

Rimay Is an Appreciation and Acknowledgement of Our Entire Heritage of Great Teachers and Teachings


Each school has its own luminaries that one could justifiably want to make one’s own, and hail as greater than all the rest. Yet how much greater it is to enjoy an allegiance to ALL of the great Teachers and traditions, to be devoted to the whole sky of magnificent, brightly shining stars. Being open to the incredible wealth of such great Teachers in our broader “Rimay” heritage, is a joyous celebration, the most wondrous cause for joy and gratitude.

And the Rimay Tradition itself is an incredible wealth of some of the greatest Masters ever to walk the earth, truly magnificent bright burning stars. The founders and lineage holders of the Rimay Movement include many incomparable Teachers. As my kind Root-Guru once said, “The greatest minds that Tibetan Buddhist history has produced.” In recent times, His Holiness Drubgen Yizhin Norbu carried on the Rimay Tradition in Tibet with great persistence, and benefit to hundreds of monks, nuns and laypeople in numerous monasteries and towns. And now, His Holiness Drubgen Yizhin Norbu has requested that I, Rimay Gyalten Rinpoche, hold the seat of the Rimay Tradition and carry the Rimay practice and understanding to the rest of the world.

The Rimay Tradition Works to Preserve and Restore All True Dharma, Bringing an Opportunity for Harmony in a Strife Torn World


Sectarianism and prejudice turns the pure Dharma into poison. It stops the transmission of the Dharma, as well as harming our own individual practice. It is, quite simply, a “wrong view” rooted in our own mind that is reflected in endless problems and suffering in all spheres of life.


The Rimay Tradition, the opposite or transcendence of sectarianism, is a most precious jewel. Its essential practice is the greatest gift we can give to another: the full recognition of the equality of all beings, the Buddha-Nature that is in all beings, and that is expressed in an endless and magnificent variety of ways.

This gift, if shared throughout the world, offers an opportunity for peace and harmony between all the different, and so often struggling, peoples inhabiting this one globe we all share, floating amongst the stars.

Ultimately it is a very simple matter. The whole point of the Rimay Tradition is  simply the realization of the four points enumerated earlier: considering all beings with love and affection (Impartiality), showing respect for all religious traditions (Non-Sectarianism), faith that all teachings of the Buddha lead to Liberation (Equally Perfect Result), and upholding peace and prosperity for all (Impartial Government). And all of these have a single purpose. Whatever your lineage or tradition, they are the Path that expresses and leads to the realization of Bodhicitta, the wisdom and compassion of all the Buddhas.

The Eleven Keys to Effective Rimay Practice

  1. The only Foundation of practice is renunciation.
  2. The only Gateway to practice is complete faith.
  3. Conscientious mindfulness is itself continual practice.
  4. The only Approach to practice is Compassion.
  5. The life-tree of practice is single-minded application.
  6. The removal of obstacles to practice is reliance on the Three Jewels.
  7. The greatest empowering of practice is devotion to the Guru.
  8. Unmistakable guidance for practice is the Guru’s instruction.
  9. The essential point of practice is that The Three Roots are joined as one.
  10. All of the Deities in the peaceful and wrathful mandalas are completely unified.
  11. The Precious Guru’s Display and Wisdom are absolute, this alone is sufficient.


Dedication of Merit

May all beings find peace and happiness in their hearts,

May all beings find peace and happiness with their families.

May all beings find peace and happiness within their communities.

May all beings find genuine and lasting peace and happiness throughout the world.