Close this search box.


Buddhistdoor View: Verifying Teachers’ Intentions and Origins is Critical to Building a Culture of Honesty

The late Kyabje Jigmed Thupten Thrinley Palzangpo. From

On 27 September, a letter was circulated by Deorali Chorten Gonpa, a monastery in Sikkim, India. While it did not name names, it had been written in response to burgeoning concerns in Malaysia about a teacher called Palden Nyima Rinpoche, who has claimed to have been requested to found a center there by the late Fourth Dodrupchen Rinpoche (Kyabje Jigmed Thupten Thrinley Palzangpo). His Holiness entered parinirvana on 25 January 2022.

The Nepalese-born teacher’s personal website and an interview he gave on The Buddhist Channel suggest that he was requested by Dodrupchen Rinpoche, whom he also claims to have transmitted his Dharma name of “Palden Nyima,” to found his center, Kunzang Chokhor Ling Buddhist Association, in 2015. The emphasis on exactly who convinced him—whether his students (Kunzang Chokhor Ling Buddhist Association) or His Holiness and his attendant (The Buddhist Channel)—varies, which is somewhat troubling. Taken together, it is implied that a confluence of factors led to Palden Nyima being persuaded to come to Malaysia out of the goodness of his heart to establish a center that would benefit Malaysian Buddhists.

But the letter, reproduced in full below, claims something quite divergent:  

To whom it may concern

It has been brought to our attention that a few apparent lamas have made the claims that His Holiness the 4th Dodrupchen Rinpoche, Kyabje Jigmed Thupten Thrinley Palzangpo has given them the instructions to start Dharma centres in South East Asia, such as in Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.

We iterate the fact that His Holiness has never advised any individual lama or organization to carry out such an act. [our emphasis]

Therefore, should any individual lama or organisation purport to suggest that His Holiness has given such an instruction, please be informed it is an absolute misrepresentation. [our emphasis] It is not the stand of His Holiness and the monastery to support such falsity.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Deorali Chorten Gonpa
Gantok, Sikkim.
Image courtesy of Deorali Chorten Gonpa

On his website and in his interview, Palden Nyima recounts that his Malaysian students requested him to open a center in the country, and that Dodrupchen Rinpoche even approved the shop lot for his center when he returned to Malaysia to supposedly teach at His Holiness’s request. When asked for further comment, the secretary of His Holiness and the author of this letter stressed again that Dodrupchen Rinpoche would never have requested others to start centers overseas. He revealed that when Palden Nyima was active in Sikkim before 2015 and trying to connect with His Holiness, he was always known as an ordinary lama rather than a qualified tulku (a reincarnated figure). When asked about Palden Nyima’s claim that His Holiness had directly approved his decisions in Malaysia, the secretary clarified that Palden Nyima had indeed told Rinpoche that his students had requested for him to start a center in Malaysia, and accordingly asked His Holiness to give him a name for said center. While it was common for His Holiness’s students to ask for divination about an auspicious location for founding a center, the core point was that Dodrupchen Rinpoche never requested him to start a center anywhere.

Prior to the release of this letter, Kunzang Chokhor Ling’s website had an initial statement about Palden Nyima starting his center under the encouragement of His Holiness. Once the 27 September statement was issued, Kunzang Chokhor Ling suddenly changed the relevant wording on their website. There are also subtle differences of language used in Palden Nyima’s interview with The Buddhist Channel, especially when read alongside the denial in Deorali Chorten Gonpa’s letter.

It is clear that His Holiness never “advised” or “instructed” individual teachers to open a center in Malaysia. It is well known among the Sikkim community that Rinpoche was emphatic about not encouraging lamas to start overseas centers. A couple of overarching questions arise: why has there been so much confusion and “muddiness” about the origin of this center and its founder’s early moves prior to 2015? Troublingly, in the Malaysian government’s portal showing his immigration status, Lama Shibok (Palden Nyima’s legal name) is shown as having used his position as a junior employee at a restaurant to apply for a rehiring program for foreign labor in the country, which would allow him to remain in Malaysia. This restaurant job is apparently a false one, and his application is based on a tourist visa that had expired some time ago.

Palden Nyima in Malaysia. From

Also, why was Malaysia chosen despite His Holiness never having recommended any country? Recently, the Malaysian Vajrayana community has been subject to a series of increasingly public scandals involving teachers who falsified or overstayed their visas. For teachers to violate the laws of any country is a grave enough offense against samaya. But the Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia (VBCM) has yet to investigate this bizarre state of affairs concerning Palden Nyima, which should theoretically be their urgent duty as he is one of their senior members.

There are other allegations about the pedagogical and fundraising methods of Palden Nyima which, while anecdotal, surround this teacher in a miasma of doubt and uncertainty that has sadly become a characteristic and a weapon of teachers who have dubious origins and intentions. There is an increasing awareness among Malaysian practitioners about the fact that their country has become a veritable playground for teachers of any and all origins. Due to lax enforcement of immigration laws, self-professed disseminators of the Dharma can build whatever center they want with essentially no oversight or supervision. They can also find in the Malaysian population, which is overwhelmingly made up of gentle, kind, and deferential people, potentially vulnerable targets who can become victims of fraudulent or even criminal acts.

The fact that Malaysian Chinese culture is not particularly discerning of legitimate or illegitimate teachers proclaiming to share Dharma, and that there is a cultural tendency to avoid discussing sensitive problems such as abuse, aids in any fraudster’s arsenal of gaslighting, lying, dissembling, and other acts that put them steps ahead of their victims.

It is not a violation of samaya to probe into a given teacher’s origins, or to discuss openly their intentions—especially when they make themselves public figures for donations and support. The power of Dharma teachers who abuse the good and trusting nature of Malaysians—and, for that matter, anyone else—is largely all in the mind, or psychological. Their hold over victims depends on a culture of silence in which the powerful cannot be bothered to help (or are too embarrassed to, as so many major institutions and Vajrayana leaders often seem to be) and the powerless see no outlet of empathy or action. Students deserve to hold their teachers to the highest standards—after all, these teachers claim to be emissaries of the Buddha.

The letter of Deorali Chorten Gonpa should be enough to start a serious conversation about the lamas it holds accountable for “misrepresentation” and “falsity.” These words are severe accusations against teachers who claim to preach truth but instead mire innocent people further in confusion and darkness. It is important that other great monasteries, especially those that are the seats of senior Vajrayana leaders, also find the drive and courage to publish and circulate letters that dispel confusion, offer clarity, and shatter the illusion of power that frauds need to maintain to the outside world. Conversely, if their illusion successfully instigates a culture of fear, self-censorship, and silence, then the dodgy characters posing as teachers of respected lineages will truly be free to destroy and discredit the Dharma on Malaysian soil and elsewhere with impunity.

See more

About Palden Nyima Rinpoche (Kunzang Chokhor Ling Buddhist Association)
Palden Nyima Rinpoche: My Spiritual Journey to Malaysia (The Buddhist Channel)

Related features from BDG

My Perfect Teachers – A View into Guru Yoga, Part One
Enlightenment and Abuse in Buddhist Sanghas

Related news reports from BDG

Tibetan Lama Dagri Rinpoche Permanently Removed as FPMT Teacher after Misconduct Probe
Popular American Buddhist Teacher Lama Surya Das Admits to Sexual Relationships with Students
Dalai Lama Speaks on Abuse by Dharma Teachers After Meeting Alleged Victims
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche Steps Down from Shambhala Leadership Amid Probe into Conduct

Related blog posts from BDG Tea House

Eye on Southeast Asia: Chagtrul Thupten Thinley Rinpoche Accused of Severe Sexual Misconduct
Eye on Southeast Asia: Gesar Teacher Accused of Sexual Misconduct to Appear in Court For Unrelated Allegations

Related features from Buddhistdoor Global

Related news from Buddhistdoor Global

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments