H.E. Dezhung Rinpoche

The following article is from the Autumn, 1988 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only.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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H.E. Dezhung Rinpoche

H.E. Dezhung Rinpoche not only preserved and expounded the vast teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha for our present time, but he directly emanated the heart of the Buddha's wisdom and compassion to all beings. While tirelessly working to ensure the continuation and flourishing of this profound heritage for future generations, he firmly established the roots of Tibetan Buddhism throughout Asia and North America.

Heralded by auspicious signs at birth, H.E. Dezhung Rinpoche was born into a family of renowned physicians and lamas in Kham, East Tibet in 1906. Displaying a deep religious inclination from early childhood, he studied in retreat with his uncle, Ngawang Nyima, from ages four to ten. He exhibited such extraordinary qualities after completing this retreat that Gaton Ngawang Legpa Rinpoche recognized him as the reincarnation of the former Abbot of Dezhung Monastery, Nyentrag Lhunrig Nyima.

After wide studies, Rinpoche became Abbot of Tharlam Monastery, where he taught and supervised the daily lives of over three hundred monks. He traveled widely throughout Tibet, making the Dharma accessible to all, and giving extensive teachings and empowerments. In particular, he conferred major initiations upon members of both palaces of the Sakya royal family. Although he was a fully-ordained monk of the Sakya tradition, Dezhung Rinpoche held and bestowed significnt lineages of teachings in all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism. As a strong perpetuator of this non-sectarian tradition, Dezhung Rinpoche is highly revered by practitioners of the Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug schools, as well as the Sakya.

During his twenty-five years in North America, Dezhung Rinpoche inspired countless students to practice Dharma through his living example of boundless compassion, selfless generosity, pure moral conduct, unwavering diligence, and unsurpassed wisdom. His continual recitation of over one hundred million mantras of Chenrezi, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, is a supreme example of Rinpoche's constant efforts to benefit beings.

Dezhung Rinpoche was one of the most learned lamas of this century, utterly encyclopedic in his knowledge of the Buddhist tradition. He composed extensive and illuminating texts on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, as well as inspiring biographies of many of the great lamas in the lineage. At the request of numerous Western students for a deeper opportunity to study and practice Dharma, H.E. Dezhung Rinpoche and H.H.Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche founded Sakya Monastery in 1974 in Seattle. Dezhung Rinpoche established several other Sakya centers in later years throughout the United States and Canada.

Dezhung Rinpoche passed into Nirvana on May 16, 1987 at Tharlam Monastery in Nepal, amid numerous auspicious signs. His body remained in an upright sitting posture for the next three days. Both at the time of his cremation and when his ashes were removed from the stupa at the cremation site, rainbows appeared in the clear sky overhead. Such signs confirmed the profound realization and accomplishment of this beloved teacher.

In gratitude and devotion to this incomparable teacher, a memorial stupa will be erected in his honor on the grounds of Sakya Monastery in Seatde, Washington. This Myang-day stupa symbolizes the enlightened mind of the Buddha, and is thus a fitting tribute to one who manifested as a living embodiment of the unfathomable nature of mind.

Those who wish to be connected with this most compassionate of beings are invited to contribute to the construction of Dezhung Rinpoche's Memorial at Sakya Monastery in Seattle. The total cost of materials for the stupa is estimated at $15,000. Any donation, large or small, will be deeply appreciated. Donations can be sent to Sakya Monastery, 108 N.W. 83rd St., Seattle, WA 98117.

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