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Renowned Buddhist Lama Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche Dead at 85

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Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche. From facebook.com
Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche. From facebook.com

The revered lama Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche, abbot of Tengboche Monastery and known as the “spiritual voice of the Khumbu” region of Nepal, has died at the age of 85 in his hometown of Namche Bazaar.

Rinpoche served as the abbot of Tengboche Monastery since 1956, where he became known to generations of Sherpas, as well as visiting trekkers and mountain climbers, who received blessings from him as they passed through Sagarmatha National Park on their travels. He was a recognized tulku, the reincarnation of Lama Gulu, founder of Tengboche Monastery. 

According to relatives, the widely respected monk had descended from Tengboche Monastery to Namche Bazar last week “because it was getting chilly up there.” He died quietly on the night of 9 October. (Nepali Times)

Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche, 1935–2020. From nepaltimes.com
Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche, 1935–2020. From nepaltimes.com

Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche is reported to share the same birthday as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, born on 6 July 1935 in Namche Bazaar. After being recognized as a tulku and receiving a monastic education in Tibet under the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Rinpoche returned to Khumbu in 1956 as the abbot of Tengboche Monastery. 

Local media reported that ceremonial rites were carried out from Monday, with Rinpoche’s body, wrapped in yellow cloth, borne by Buddhist monks, relatives, and lay Buddhists to Tengboche Monastery, where his body will lie for six weeks, in accordance with Sherpa tradition. Tthe monks at the monastery will then decide whether the body should be cremated or enshrined within a stupa.

“We are very saddened by his demise, the entire Khumbu valley is in mourning now,” said community leader Tashi Lhamu Sherpa. “It is a big loss for our Sherpa community and the entire region.” (Nepali Times)

“Let’s hope that his reincarnation will be found soon,” she added. (Nepali Times)

As the “spiritual voice of the Khumbu,” Rinpoche offered repeated warnings about the consequences of climate change for the people of the Himalaya and beyond. 

“The temperature of the Earth is rising. It is not natural. People are becoming materialistic and don’t care. . . .” the abbot was quoted as saying in a 2005 article for the World Wide Fund for Nature. (WWF)

“The glaciers are shrinking rapidly. This is because there is less snow. . . . The solution for the people in the Himalaya is not to move down to the cities. They will have more problems there. Kathmandu already has a water shortage problem. If we don’t save Khumbu today, our fresh water will dry up and the problem will be impossible to solve in the future.

“We cannot remain indifferent to each other’s problems.” (WWF)

Tengboche Monastery. From fulloutdoor.cl
Tengboche Monastery. From fulloutdoor.cl

Rinpoche was also a vocal critic of the commercialization of Mount Everest—known in Tibetan as Chomolungma, meaning “Mother Goddess of the World,” and in Nepali as Sagarmatha—as a travel and tourism destination:

“Climbing Everest has become a fashion. All people want to do is reach the top. And you can see for yourself that climbing Everest has become so easy today. I hear they can do it in eight hours!” he stated. “The Sherpas of Khumbu may not know everything, but they are suffering the consequences of the people’s greed. We mountain people should be careful and take precautions. It is high time that [the] Nepalese started to depend less on foreigners. Why do we need foreigners to come here and tell us that our glaciers are melting?” (WWF)

Situated at an elevation of 3,867 meters, Tengboche Monastery, also known as Dawa Choling Gompa, is the largest monastery in the Khumbu region of eastern Nepal. It was originally founded in 1916, with strong ties to Rongbuk Monastery in Tibet. It is positioned at the end the Sagarmatha National Park’s Sacred Sites Trail Project, which draws large numbers of tourists.

Everest climbers receive blessings from Ngawang Tenzing Jangpo. From left: Ginette Harrison, Sir David Hempleman-Adams, David Callaway, Scott McIvor, Lee Nobmann, Brian Blessed. From wikipedia.org
Everest climbers receive blessings from Ngawang Tenzing Jangpo. From left: Ginette Harrison, Sir David Hempleman-Adams, David Callaway, Scott McIvor, Lee Nobmann, Brian Blessed. From wikipedia.org

See more

Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche is dead (Adventure Mountain)
Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche, head of the Tengboche monastery, is dead at 85 (Khumbule.com)
Nepal’s Sherpas mourn Tengboche abbott (Nepali Times)
Climate Witness: Ngawang Tenzing Jangpo, Nepal (WWF)

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