The international Buddhist community Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) has shared some important updates regarding the revered Gelug master and Tibetan Buddhist scholar Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, who died in Nepal last week at the age of 76.*
After Lama Zopa Rinpoche was reported to have entered a state of tukdam meditation on 13 April, FPMT has shared that he ended his meditation at 10 p.m. Nepal time on 14 April, which was indicated by blood coming from Rinpoche’s left nostril.
Subsequently, the chamber in Kopan Monastery where Rinpoche sat was made cold, and the following morning his body was packed in ice while preparations were made for the embalming process, which began on Sunday.
“Khandro Kunga Bhuma has advised that [15 April] is a dakini day, and that 7:30 p.m. Nepal time is the special time . . . for Rinpoche’s holy body to begin the embalming process. Khandro Kunga Bhuma will continue to take care—she is now in Nepal. Two lamas are there who will be in charge of the embalming process, which may take several months. They are: Geshe Wangdu; [the abbot of Segyu Dratsang, Khen Rinpoche Losang Wangdu]; and [Lama Ngawang Chokyung] (from whom Lama Zopa Rinpoche had taken transmissions) and who looked after the embalming of Trulshik Rinpoche,” FPMT explained. (FPMT)
“His Excellency Ling Rinpoche suggested that Rinpoche’s holy body be embalmed (rather than cremated) because Lama Zopa Rinpoche has so many students and is so widely known, as then people can come and pay their respects to Rinpoche’s holy body—it will become an object of pilgrimage at Kopan.” (FPMT)
“Pujas continue to go on constantly everywhere at Kopan: everyone in the monastery and nunnery is participating,” FPMT added. (FPMT)
FPMT also expressed gratitude for the outpouring in recent days of heartfelt tributes, condolences, and notice of prayers being offered from great lamas, friends, and monastery officials around the world. FPMT has created a page to collect honor these messages and activities.
“With great rejoicing we have received a prayer which His Holiness the Dalai Lama composed for the swift return of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. This is available in English and Tibetan . . . along with a small collection of additional prayers for Rinpoche’s swift return, composed and offered spontaneously by other distinguished lamas with whom Rinpoche had a connection in this lifetime.” FPMT shared.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche was born in the Everest region of Thangme, Nepal, in 1945, and was recognized as the reincarnation of the Sherpa Nyingma yogi Kunsang Yeshe, the Lawudo Lama, at the age of three. When he was 10 years old, Lama Zopa Rinpoche traveled to Tibet, where he studied and meditated at the monastery of Domo Geshe Rinpoche in southern Tibet. In 1959, Rinpoche was forced to seek safety in Bhutan.
He subsequently traveled as a refugee to West Bengal in India, where he first met Lama Thubten Yeshe, who would became his closest teacher. The two lamas relocated to Nepal in 1967, where they established Kopan and Lawudo Monasteries.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche founded the FPMT in Nepal in 1975 with Lama Yeshe, and began teaching Buddhism to Western students. In the years since, the FPMT has grown acorss the globe, with Dharma centers, projects, and activities in 37 countries. Lama Zopa Rinpoche had served as the FPMT’s spiritual director since the passing of Lama Yeshe in 1984.
Rinpoche showed the aspect of passing away in Nepal at 9:30 a.m. on 13 April. Close associates reported that Rinpoche had been traveling at high elevations in his native Nepal and had been affected by the altitude.
“Please continue trying to fulfill Rinpoche’s holy wishes, especially to practice impermanence and bodhicitta in the context of the lamrim. Fulfilling the gurus’ holy wishes is a very important part of inviting the guru to return,” FPMT noted. “May Rinpoche be reborn as quickly as possible in a place where he can be very quickly recognized and be of most benefit to sentient beings.”