It began in 1985 at Nagi Gompa, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s (Phakchok Rinpoche’s Grandfather) monastery. Dr. Shlim was camping in a tent on the mountain overlooking Kathmandu Valley where the Gompa resides in order to receive some teachings from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Phakchok Rinpoche, who had just recently been recognized as a reincarnate lama, came over to the tent and crawled in. Although he didn’t speak any English, and Dr. Shlim didn’t speak Tibetan, they hung out for a while, long enough to take this photo:
The connection they shared then was brief, but nonetheless served as the starting point for a long and cherished friendship.
Phakchok Rinpoche is part of an incredible family of reincarnate lamas. His father, Chokling Rinpoche, is a reincarnation of a great treasure-revealer from Tibet. His uncle is Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche (co-author of Medicine and Compassion), and as said above, his grandfather was Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Dr. Shlim is particularly close to Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, and learned how to meditate from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.
Phakchok Rinpoche did his training in India. After he received his Khenpo degree (equivalent to a PhD in Buddhist philosophy), he set out to start teaching in the West. One of the first places he taught was Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Dr. Shlim had moved from Nepal a few years earlier. Rinpoche came to Jackson nearly every year after that, teaching retreats to Dr. Shlim’s Tibetan Buddhist students, and giving a series of popular public talks in Jackson. It was after one of these visits that Dr. Shlim approached him to help teach a proposed Medicine and Compassion Retreat at a beautiful ranch near Jackson. He agreed and taught the retreats in 2017 and 2018. His schedule precluded his teaching the retreat in 2019, so the retreat was taught by Lama Oser, a highly knowledgeable monk from Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche’s monastery.
Phakchok Rinpoche remains deeply interested in the Medicine and Compassion Project, and we are hopeful he will teach more retreats in the future. In the meantime, the Medicine and Compassion Teaching Videos we have made from his teachings in the 2017 and 2018 retreats serve as inspiration for people to focus on compassion and how one’s compassion can be trained. Currently, Phakchok Rinpoche has stepped back from teaching in order to focus on some personal retreats, so the videos are of particular value given that he is not available to teach in person.