The Tashi Choling Center for Buddhist Studies in Ashland, Oregon, has announced plans to build a memorial stupa or chorten for the esteemed Nyingma lama Venerable Dhomang Gyatrul Rinpoche, who died earlier this year aged 98.
Gyatrul Rinpoche, one of the last great Nyingma masters of his generation, passed into parinirvana in the early hours of 8 April 2023 at his home in Half Moon Bay, California, in the presence of family members and close attendants.
The planned stupa is to be a changchub chorten (the Tibetan term changchub refers to the concept of enlightenment or awakening) will be 9.8 meters tall, and the Tashi Choling Center has stated that it hopes to begin the project in 2024. The center also announced that a US$100,000 matching grant has been pledged by a long-time student of Gyatrul Rinpoche for funds donated toward the effort.
In a message about the project shared with BDG, the American Buddhist practitioner, scholar, and translator Sangye Khandro, Gyatrul Rinpoche’s spiritual companion for nearly 30 years, stated:
We have all been deeply touched in many ways by Gyatrul Rinpoche’s precious presence during his life, living here among us on this planet—our temporary home. Rinpoche lived a very long life of ninety-eight years from 1925-2023, continuously blessing us with his nirmanakaya form as an authentic tulku (or intentional reincarnate). Rinpoche’s enlightened deeds remain accessible to us through many expressions and representations including videos and recordings of teachings and dharma activities as well as many reliquary monuments and sacred structures that Rinpoche bestowed upon us. Most important is the impression Rinpoche made on the minds of everyone he touched, always planting seeds of goodness that will continue to sprout and mature for centuries to come.
Now it is our responsibility to honor our precious master from Tibet who graced America and made this country his home by erecting a magnificent stupa in his memory and honor. We understand based on indications from our teachers who are alive, as well as from Rinpoche himself, that there is no time to waste in building this as an offering and expression of devotion and gratitude as well as giving everyone the chance to earn vast merit and purify karmic obscurations and shortcomings.
We have an opportunity now to connect with this level of great good fortune, and we sincerely hope that everyone will recognize the opportunity to generate merit and join together as one worldwide sangha community to help Tashi Choling accomplish the noble goal of building a stupa to last many, many generations.
Gyatrul Rinpoche was born in 1924 in modern-day Sichuan Province, China. He was recognized as a tulku at the age of seven by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and Tulku Natsok Rangrol, and trained at Payul Dhomang Monastery in eastern Tibet. He spent many years in solitary retreat before fleeing to India in 1959, where he lived for 12 years. Gyatrul Rinpoche then moved to the United States, where he was appointed as the spiritual representative of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche.
Rinpoche was instrumental in establishing many Nyingma centers throughout the US, including Tashi Choling in Oregon, Orgyen Dorje Den in the San Francisco Bay Area, Norbu Ling in Texas, Namdroling in Montana, and a center in Ensenada, Mexico. A prolific author, Gyatrul Rinpoche also shared a wealth of profound Vajrayana teachings in written form. His books include: Meditation, Transformation, and Dream Yoga (Shambhala Publications 2002); Generating the Deity (Snow Lion Publications 1992); and a commentary on Natural Liberation: Padmasambhava’s Teachings on the Six Bardos (Wisdom Publications 1998).
In his introduction to the 1999 translation of Jamgon Kongtrul’s landmark text The Teacher-Student Relationship, Gyatrul Rinpoche wrote:
All teachers must eventually leave this world, just as did the Buddha himself. Yet, the lineage that we still receive, the legacy of their enlightened awareness, is passed on from generation to generation through the teachings that remain. Since that is inevitable, what we have to call a lineage in their physical absence is the blessing of their unbroken lineage of teachings. This is what we, in turn, are expected to pass on to our and future generations. If we were to depend solely upon the physical presence of the teacher, then the lineages would have been lost long ago. The Buddha said, “I shall reveal the path that leads to liberation. You must practice the path in order to reach liberation.”
Jamgon Kongtrul the Great. The Teacher-Student Relationship. Translated by Ron Garry, 1999. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications