His Holiness the Gaden Trisur Rizong Sras Rinpoche, Thubten Nyima Lungtok Tenzin Norbu, the former 102nd Ganden Tripa throne-holder (spiritual head of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism), died late on Thursday evening at Drepung Monastery in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka. He was 94 years old.
The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), which reported that Kyabje Rizong Rinpoche passed at around 9:15 p.m. on Thursday, organized a prayer service yesterday for his parinirvana. The monks at Sera Thekchenling Monastery in Karnataka also held a special prayer service for the late master, while tributes from around the Buddhist world were shared on social media.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama also expressed his condolences and offered prayer for his former tutor, during the SEE Learning Conference which began yesterday in Dharamsala:
“Today, many old friends have gathered here,” His Holiness said on Friday. “It’s with sadness that I’ve heard this morning that Kyabje Rizong Rinpoche, the former Ganden throne-holder, passed away last night. Although his passing away is a natural part of life, I’m sad because he was one of my teachers.
“I once visited him in Ladakh at a time when he was completing a long meditation retreat. He received me sitting on the very seat where he had been meditating so long and gave me the transmission of Nagarjuna’s Six Collections of Reasoning. His death reminds me of the Four Seals:
All conditioned phenomena are transient.
All polluted phenomena are unsatisfactory or in the nature of suffering.
All phenomena are empty and selfless.
Nirvana is true peace.
“Unless we cut the chains of ignorance, we will be unable to stop the cycle of suffering. We have to understand that no matter how they appear, things have no independent or absolute existence.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
Born in Ladakh, in India’s far north, in the late 1920s, Kyabje Rizong Rinpoche was recognized as a tulku in the early 1930s by His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama, and enthroned as the reincarnation of the previous Sras Rinpoche, founder of the famed Rizong Hermitage in Ladakh.
Rinpoche began his monastic training at the age of four and become renowned for his intelligence—he could reportedly bestow a long-life empowerment of Amitayus on his own at the age of eight. Kyabje Rizong Rinpoche was ordained as a novice monk at the age of 12 by his uncle the 19th Bakula Rinpoche.
Rinpoche traveled to Drepung Loseling Monastery in Lhasa in the mid-1940s to pursue higher education. He remained there until 1959, before joining His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community in India.
The Dalai Lama appointed Kyabje Rizong Rinpoche as abbot of Gyumed Tantric Monastery and of Drepung Loseling, two of the greatest seats of Tibetan spiritual knowledge. Rinpoche also bore the title “Jangtse Choje” (Dharma Master of the Northern Peak), one of the three highest spiritual positions in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
In their report on Rinpoche’s attainments, the CTA shared: “Rinpoche made the practice of meditation his principal focus in life, and conducted numerous extensive retreats, including a three-year tantric retreat on the Yamantaka Mandala at a remote hermitage in Ladakh. Through his achievements in practice and scholarship, Rinpoche represented the pinnacle of the sutra and tantra traditions. Rinpoche was renowned for his tantric powers, and was frequently called upon by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to lead ceremonies for healing and other similar purposes.” (Central Tibetan Administration)
CTA Holds Prayer Service to Mourn Demise of Gaden Trisur Rizong Rinpoche (Central Tibetan Administration)
Inauguration of SEE Learning Conference (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
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