A new abbot was enthroned on Monday at Tashi Lhunpo, the seat of the Panchen Lama and thereby one of the most important monastery’s of the Gelug tradition and Tibetan Buddhism. More than 1,400 people were reported to be in attendance for the ceremony.
Jetsun Tenzin Thupten Rabgyal, recognized as the fifth incarnation of Sigkyab Tulku, becomes the fifth abbot, or khen rinpoche, of Tashi Lhunpo since it’s re-establishment in Bylakuppe in the southern state of Karnataka by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1972.
“It is a mixed feeling in that I am constantly fraught with fear with what responsibility the position entails,” said the new khen rinpoche. “I do not possess the necessary experience or the wisdom but I feel that the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and my teachers is a safety net that cushions me from the pressure of the position at the moment.” (Phayul.com)
Just 36 years old, Jetsun Tenzin Thupten Rabgyal’s father Passang Tsewang and mother Youdon were seasonal garment sellers from the Tibetan settlement in Bylakuppe. He has spent the past 12 years as a Dharma teacher, holding introductory classes for the masses in person as well as via Skype for students in Taiwan. He was appointed to head Tashi Lhunpo by the Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya some months ago.
Jetsun Tenzin Thupten Rabgyal has passed both the geshe (an academic degree for monastics equivalent to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy) and kachen, an equivalent title from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, and has also undertaken Tantric studies at Gyumed Monastery in Karnataka.
The young lama reportedly expressed determination to meet the expectations of his new role and to do “larger good for both the monastery and the Buddhadharma,” noting: “To begin with, I intend to have more classes that gives introduction to Buddhism and advanced classes for anyone who wishes to listen.” (Phayul.com)
The original Tashi Lhunpo was established in Tibet in 1447 by the First Dalai Lama (1391–1474) in the city of Shigatse in the historical province of U-Tsang. The monastery is the traditional seat of successive panchen lamas, the second-highest ranking tulku lineage in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. During the lifetime of the Fourth Panchen Lama (1570–1662), when Tashi Lhunpo became an integrated community housing monks from Tibet, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and China, there were more than 3,000 monks at the monastery. By 1959 the population had risen to around 5,000, with another 2,000 affiliated monks living outside of Tibet.
The present-day Tashi Lhunpo in Karnataka is managed as a non-profit charitable organization, performing a vital role in the preservation of the Buddhadharma, and maintaining a school of modern education. It is home to some 400 monks, including recognized tulkus, from Tibet and the Himalayan regions of Arunachal, Khunu, Ladakh, and Spithi.