Dharma Assassin Kusum Lingpa
by Charles Carreon
If you could become divine, what would that be worth to you? Kusum Lingpa's whirlwind tours around the world have become famous. Moving with an infectious energy, clowning and mugging with tireless persistence, Kusum Lingpa wears down resistance. He has also had a tendency to leave newly-minted tulkus in his wake.
The laudatory bio on the Aro Ter website says Kusum Lingpa is the reincarnation of "Lhalung Pal-gyi Dorje who slew King Langdarma (persecutor of Buddhism) with an arrow in 842 AD." He is definitely your super-macho guru, for the tattoed tequila-drinker in all of us. Oliver Stone and Kusum Lingpa hooked up right after Stone unleashed "Natural Born Killers" on the world, and apparently the two got on famously.
Kusum Lingpa has dash and flair. He jumps out of cars, dances with other lamas or little children, apparently delighted with the whole damn human zoo. He wears a green silk sash to symbolize his connection with Milarepa, I was told. His homely, rustic features are large and coarse, and a protruding front tooth adds a touch of goofiness to his smile. His teachings are not intellectually penetrating or emotionally resonant. They're equal parts scary story, metaphysical rambling, and him talking a blue streak, laughing at his own jokes while the translator labors on, groaning under the strain.
But that's not all. We can't leave out the pleas for money, which can happen anytime without preface. Of course it's always a dead giveaway when people start complimenting you on your good fortune. But that's part of the charm. You can see him coming, but you can't get away because he's sitting on the throne and your friends are all around. So he starts by complimenting the audience, telling them they're rich, and reminding them how much they spend on pleasure and frivolity. Then, with a raffish smile he springs the joke -- they're going to have to give him their money! Raffish smile. When he hears the crowd laugh, he leans forward to rake in the winnings. He's got 'em.
No one had heard of Kusum Lingpa in this country until he showed up in Ashland, Oregon back in 1993, a guest of Gyatrul Rinpoche, whose temple/home in Colestine Valley served as the doorway to America for many lamas. Kusum Lingpa had a big footprint, though. Kind of a guy who helps himself to everything around him. Your favorite chair, the space in your living room, your food, your friends. It's all a big party. Sort of a rock star atmosphere. He has a son that he brings with him. Big, dark hair cut short, with a strong neck and upright bearing. He spends all his time staring into a space somewhere up by the roof beams of the temple. This, we are told, is how these guys practice. They realize the nature of space by staring into it like goldfish. I try it. Pretty spacey.
Kusum Lingpa, it turns out, is the King of the Tertons. A lot of people thought Dudjom Rinpoche revealed a lot of hidden Dharma treasures during his lifetime, but Kusum Lingpa didn't really think that much of Dudjom Rinpoche's most recent incarnation. He knew his predecessor, Dudjom Lingpa -- now there was a yogi! Of course the Dudjom family literally owned the very temple he was teaching in at the very moment he made these remarks. Kusum Lingpa's terma practices were nothing to compare with those written by Dudjom Rinpoche. Kusum Lingpa's practices lack the poetic phrasing and inspiring metaphors that enliven a text and make practice pleasant. But clunky though they were, Kusum Lingpa's practices came with a guarantee. You would get big results. Just practice. In the meantime, show your gratitude. Sort of "Buy now, pray later."
The Dalai Lama's office has declined to provide a positive reference for this reincarnation of Langdarma's killer. Some gratitude. In this lifetime, Kusum Lingpa is working for world peace by building stupas. Since Tibet was overbuilt with stupas and is now overrun by war, the logic here is hard to follow. It is also worth noting that the US is overbuilt with nuclear missiles, and that all Tibetans wish to settle here. Before we let them fill up the neighborhoods with stupas, we should ask how they are reasoning. In conclusion, and apropos of this topic, I close with this press release from earlier this year: