Drikung Abbot Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche Enthroned As Khenchen

The following article is from the Summer, 2001 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

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BY VICTORIA HUCKENPAHLER

Khenpo Konchog Gyaltshen, teacher and author, whose glowing smile and down-to-earth presence have endeared him to students worldwide, was elevated earlier this year to the status of Khenchen (Great Scholar) by HH Chetsang Rinpoche, head of the Drikung Kagyu. He is the only member of that lineage to bear the title.

On 14 May, the event was celebrated at the Tibetan Meditation

Center in Frederick, Maryland, which Rinpoche had founded (originally in Washington, DC) in 1982. The festivities included a Lama Chopa (Guru Puja and Tsok Offering), remarks by Khenchen Rinpoche, and a salutation by the Center's President.

While the traditional dresil (sweetened rice) and Tibetan tea were served, Rinpoche thanked the audience, some of whom had come from as far as Seattle, for joining him in celebrating the occasion which marks the culmination of his nearly two decades of service in this country and abroad. He then recounted the Dharma activities he has performed since the turn of the year, beginning in India where, besides being enthroned Khenchen, he taught the seminal Drikung work, Gong Chik. This historic teaching cycle formed part of the great Snake Year teachings, held only once every twelve years. This was followed by appearances in Taiwan, Los Angeles, Big Sur, and Tucson, among others. The time was well spent, Rinpoche remarked. I felt privileged, despite fatigue, the time changes, and the fact of having to change beds every week. And some, he noted with typical humor, wereharder than others! He then cautioned that though we sometimes approach the Dharma as just another hobby, it is in fact the most important part of our lives. Nor is the cultural aspect key, but rather, the implementation of the practice. He concluded by reciting his daunting schedule for the remainder of the year which, besides the annual Spring retreat in Frederick, includes an around-the-word tour, starting with a pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash, followed by appearances in Malaysia, Europe, and Hawaii.

TMC President Paul Palmer then graciously recoimted Rinpoche's multitudinous achievements from the time he was ordained bhikshu (full-monk) by Kalu Rinpoche, to his arrival in America nearly 20 years ago, until his present enthronement as Khenchen. Working in the early days in the US under conditions which Palmer termed spartan, Rinpoche not only taught tirelessly, but translated numerous sadhanas, authored seven books of lineage prayers, and histories (including The Jewel Ornament of Liberation and the forthcoming The Garland of Mahamudra Practicesavailable through Snow Lion), and twice hosted H.H. the Dalai Lama at the Center all between teaching engagements in North and South America, Europe and Asia. By popular demand he established additional Drikung centers around the world, thus making Dharma in general more available to the public, while establishing the Drikung lineage in particular as a solid, widespread presence. When the Tibetan Meditation Center moved from DC to its present, expanded quarters in Frederick, Rinpoche continued aback-breaking schedule of writing (the Center founded its own publishing company, Vajra Publications); hosting such eminent teachers as HH the Drikung Kyabgon, H.E. Garchen Rinpoche, and the yogi, Drubwang Konchog Norbu; ordaining Western monks and nuns; and establishing annual Spring Retreats. In addition, he has made smaller appearances at schools, colleges, and prisons, and has granted numerous interviews to the press. Because of his unflagging efforts, combined with the purchase, of 36 acres of mountainside property in Frederick, the Center looks forward to a future in which it will doubtless draw retreatants from all over America. Palmer also remarked on Rinpoche's unblemished

maintenance of ethical discipline, a cherished trait in this time of degeneration, and one which has inspired the respect of visiting teachers, as well as the confidence and veneration of his students. The Drikung Kyabgon himself has noted that Rinpoche protects his pure monk's vows as fiercely as his own eyes, and Center members know that he has always avoided even the hint of administrative divisiveness. In this way he has taught as much by example as through formal instruction.

Rinpoche's long-time followers are gratified that his back-breaking efforts, which for many years were seemingly valued below their full worth, are now being acknowledged both officially by his recent enthronement, and by students around the world who are manifesting a growing eagerness to avail themselves of his gems of wisdom. Rinpoche's Long Life Prayer reflects the sentiments and well-wishes of all his followers in the words: You...who shine with a hundred thousand light rays of the ethical discipline of the Buddhad- hanna, may you, Khenchen Ratna Dwaza, live long! ä_æ

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