Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery in Nepal has announced that the revered tulku of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, Venerable Yongdzin Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, died on 4 June. He was 91 years old.
Thrangu Rinpoche, one of the most senior lamas in the Kagyu school and tutor to His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, had been hospitalized since early May due to ill-health.
In a public statement dated 8 June, the monastery shared:
. . . on June 4, the full moon day of the fourth Tibetan month, Saga Dawa—the sacred anniversary of the Buddha Shakyamuni, our incomparably kind teacher, passing into parinirvana—Rinpoche decided that he had completed his activity for this life. At 1:30 pm, he lay down in the same posture as the Buddha Shakyamuni had lain in when passing into parinirvana and then displayed the appearance of his mind dissolving into the undefiled, luminous dharma expanse and passing into peace. Immediately, Kyabje Lodrö Nyima Rinpoche offered Rinpoche a reminder of the tukdam meditation.(The Very Venerable Ninth Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche)
The Gyalwang Karmapa had advised that the news of Rinpoche’s passing should not be announced until four days after his death in order to provide a peaceful environment for his passing into the state of tukdam meditation.
In a social media post in response to the news, the celebrated Tibetan tulku in the Nyingma and Karma Kagyu lineages Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche shared:
It is with tremendous, poignant sadness that we acknowledge the passing into parinirvana of the great master, Kyabje Yongzin Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.
Thrangu Rinpoche was the principal abbott of the Karma Kagyu lineage. He was a very dear and important teacher to Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.
Rinpoche’s boundless enlightened activities by no means were restricted to the formal, monastic institution of the lineage. His many books which tackled complex Dharma topics in a remarkably gentle, digestible fashion, have benefitted countless Dharma students, from beginners all the way up through the most advanced practitioners. For years, Rinpoche toured the Earth, fully presenting the view of the Karma Kagyu in a complete, genuine, and always utterly kind way. Rinpoche’s compassion extended even beyond formal Dharma, including many formidable philanthropic efforts in many regions of the world. His activities were unparalleled.
While the presence of his teachings will remain strong, due to the force of his compassionate and enlightened aspiration prayers for the benefit of all sentient beings, still, the departure of his form kaya from this world is a difficult loss for those who follow the Buddha’s teachings in general, and the followers of the Karma Kagyu tradition in particular.
We sincerely pray for Thrangu Rinpoche’s swift rebirth, and for his enlightened intentions to be fulfilled without any obstruction. We offer our sincere condolences to Thrangu Rinpoche’s disciples and his network of spiritual communities, and all who are feeling affected by his passing.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche was born in a small village in the traditional region of Kham in eastern Tibet in 1933. At the age of five, he was formally recognized the ninth incarnation of the great Thrangu Tulku. by the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and the 11th Tai Situ Rinpoche Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo.
In 1953, Rinpoche took on the responsibility of responsible of overseeing Thrangu Monastery, shortly before receiving full monastic ordination from the Gyalwang Karmapa at Palpung Monastery in 1954. Rinpoche was forced to flee the monastery in 1958, eventually making his way to India via Bhutan in 1959. Soon afterward, the Gyalwang Karmapa arranged for Rinpoche to join him at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim. In 1967, Rinpoche traveled to Assam, where he undertook examinations for the geshe degree in front of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was awarded the highest degree, geshe lharampa.
In 1974, the 16th Karmapa suggested that Rinpoche build a monastery Nepal. Rinpoche traveled to Nepal in 1976, where he established three-year retreat center in Namo Buddha and a small monastery near the Great Stupa of Boudhanath.
When the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa arrived in India in 2000, the Dalai Lama appointed Rinpoche to be his tutor, thus playing a key role in the preservation of the Karma Kagyu lineage of teachings.
Rinpoche also founded a monastic college, a school for young monks, and a large new temple, Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery, at Namo Buddha. This was followed by Thrangu Tara Abbey for female monastics near Swayambhunath in Nepal, and other centers for Buddhist study and retreat in Nepal and India. Over the years, Rinpoche’s monastic sangha has expand to around 1,000 female and male monastics.
One of the most highly esteemed teachers and masters of Mahamudra meditation, Rinpoche has touched the lives of students all over the world, giving countless in-person teachings, and as a prolific author through numerous books and other writings.
The word Buddha simply means “to wake up.” For example, in the Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit word, Buddha, is the two syllable word sangje. The first syllable, sang, means to purify or remove. This is to transcend or let go of all of the problems that otherwise afflict our mind: sadness, regret, aggression, jealousy, arrogance, ignorance, apathy, and so on. The second syllable in Tibetan is je, which means to expand or flourish. So sangje means that when we can let go of all the problems that have afflicted our mind, then all of our innate qualities which have been bound or restricted can flourish freely. These innate qualities that have been suppressed are: wisdom, awareness, compassion, kindness, love, and so on.(Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche)
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. 2001. An Introduction to Mahamudra Meditation. Edmonton: Namo Buddha Publications.
To all those around the world who have a connection, direct or indirect, with the Lord of Refuge, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche: (The Very Venerable Ninth Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche)
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