The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan on Friday announced the death of His Holiness the 68th Je Khenpo, Chabje Thrizur Tenzin Doendrup—known affectionately as Je Thrizur—at the age of 95.
The Bhutanese newspaper Kuensel reported on 10 April that His Holiness Je Thrizur had died peacefully at his home in the capital Thimphu on the auspicious 15th day of the second month of the Male Iron Rat Year (8 April). At the time of the announcement, His Holiness was reported to be the meditative state of thukdam, and disciples were requested to offer their prayers from home, in light of ongoing social restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Je khenpo is title given to the chief abbot of the Zhung Dratshang (the Central Monastic Body), the most senior Buddhist monastic in Bhutan and the nation’s spiritual head. The Je Khenpo is the chairman of the Dratshang Lhentshog (Council for Religious Affairs), which oversees the Zhung Dratshang, assisted by five Lopen Lhengyes (minister-ranking masters). His Holiness Je Thrizur was je khenpo from 1986–90. The office is currently held by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra, who has occupied the position since 1996.
“With the news of the passing away of His Holiness the 68th Je Khenpo, Thrizur Ngawang Tenzin Doendrup, earlier today, I, together with people of Bhutan, put our palms together in prayers for the great Buddhist master we were blessed with during our times,” the prime minister of Bhutan Lotay Tshering said in a statement published on social media. “As you impart the teachings of impermanence with this manifestation, we pray for your swift return for the benefit of all sentient beings. We will always be guided by your wisdoms and blessings. His Holiness, who is in the state of thukdam, was 95 years old.
“Meanwhile, Dratshangs and religious institutions, including followers and disciples of Je Thrizur across the country are requested to conduct ritual ceremonies dedicated to the late Je Thrizur from respective institutions and refrain from visiting the place until the completion of thukdam is announced,” the statement said. (Instagram)
Born in 1925, His Holiness Je Thrizur began his Buddhist education at the age of seven. After completing basic monastic tutelage at Punakha Dratshang, he studied at Tharpaling Monastery in Bumthang before traveling to Tibet to pursue advanced studies, attaining the highest practices of the Drukpa Kayjud lineage. His Holiness returned to Bhutan at the age of 27 and in 1966 he was appointed as the abbot of Tango Monastery by the 64th Je Khenpo Yeshey Singye and Her Royal Grandmother Phuntsho Chhoden. In 1985, he was appointed Dorji Lopon of the Zhung Dratshang while continuing to advance his meditative and spiritual development.
A great master of the Rimé tradition, His Holiness Je Thrizur brought about major reforms in the Zhung Dratshang, strengthening and consolidating the institution, and instituted the first Buddhist shedra (higher learning college) at Tango and Cheri in Thimphu. He was a recipient of Bhutan’s highest honor, the Ngadag Pelgi Khorlo or Order of Druk Gyalpo.
Remote, landlocked, and perched in the rarified air of the eastern Himalaya, sandwiched between two political and economic heavy hitters India and China, Bhutan is the world’s last remaining Vajrayana Buddhist country. The ancient spiritual tradition is embedded in the very consciousness and culture of this remote land, where it has flourished with an unbroken history that dates back to its introduction from Tibet by Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, in the eighth century.
Almost 75 per cent of Bhutan’s population of some 770,000 people identify as Buddhists, according to the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center, with Hindus accounting for the majority of the remaining 25 per cent. Most of Bhutan’s Buddhists follow either the Drukpa Kagyu or the Nyingma schools of Vajrayana Buddhism. Bhutan held its first elections as a constitutional monarchy in 2008.
His Holiness Je Thrizur Tenzin Doendrup passes away (Kuensel)
Chorig dept mourns the passing of 68th Je Khenpo Kyabje Tenzin Doendrup Rinpoche (Central Tibetan Administration)