The Legacy of H. E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche

The following article is from the Autumn, 1992 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

images

By Jacqueline Nalli, Rigpa Dorje Foundation

His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche's pure view and one-pointed perseverance to benefit all beings gave rise to the attainment of his vast accomplishments. In his 39 years, the third Jamgon Kongtrul incarnation, Karma Lodro Chokyi Senge's expressive vision and knowledge expanded boundlessly in all directions.

Rinpoche's exquisite and flawless devotion to His Holiness The Sixteenth Karmapa, epitomizing a perfect guru-disciple relationship,convince us that he spent his entire life in the service of His Holiness. Rinpoche's vitality of teaching and disseminating empowerments, guidance, instructions, and transmissions of the Buddhadharma convince us that he spent his entire life in the practice and teaching of the Buddhadharma. Rinpoche's establishment of new monastic communities, the restoration and expansion of many existing monasteries, his commission of numerous new images of the Buddha's body, speech and mind, and the establishment of learning institutions, retreat centers and other such facilities convince us that he spent his entire life creating holy places for the study and practice of Dharma. Without seeking a single necessity, Rinpoche accomplished all through the power of his great merit.

During his lifetime, Rinpoche made two trips to Tibet, one in 1984 and one in 1991. During these trips he gave empowerments and teachings to hundreds of monks, tulkus, and lay people of Tibet; he obtained permission for the restoration of Tshurphu Monastery (the seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa) in Eastern Tibet; at Palpung Monastery he ordained about 500 monks; he visited Derge Gonchen where he inspired the reconstruction of the traditional Tibetan Derge Printing House; and he gave the precious Kalachakra empowerment at Damkar Monastery in Nangchen. Rinpoche has also given the Kalachakra empowerment in Europe, Canada and Asia and he gave the Kagyu Ngakdzo empowerment (considered the heart of the Kagyu yidam transmissions) in February 1992 to the monastic community and lay people at Rumtek Monastery, seat of the Karma Kagyu lineage in India. In the late 1980s, Rinpoche completed one of his most outstanding projects: Shri Nalanda Institute for higher Buddhist studies in Rumtek, India.

Considering the vast amount of activity Rinpoche foresaw for himself in the world, about 6 years ago, he created a network of organizations in North America, Europe and Asia that work towards the relief of suffering for the poor and underprivileged, provide basic education and higher Buddhist studies, and preserve the richness of Tibetan Buddhist traditions and culture. Thus, he initiated Rigpe Dorje Foundation in the name of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. Rinpoche's extraordinary wisdom and compassion are the source of inspiration for all the Foundation's work and activities. What follows is a brief description of a few of his many projects served through Rigpe Dorje Foundations.

Perhaps Rinpoche's most joyful vision is Pullihari Retreat Center, built on a hill in Nepal overlooking the great Stupa of Boddhanath which contains the precious relics of Kashyapa Buddha who preceded Shakyamuni Buddha. The completion of the monastery at Pullihari is the first stage of a large complex that will come to be known as Rigpe Dorje Institute. It will be devoted to the study and practice of Buddhism for both the monastic and lay community of Dharma students and include a traditional three-year retreat center. Pullihari was very dear to Rinpoche and he was especially happy whenever he visited the site. In a garden on the grounds of Pullihari, Rinpoche's kudung (relic body) will be enshrined in a Bodhisattva Stupa. In this final resting place, Rinpoche's blessings will continue to emanate out in all directions to inspire the hearts of all his disciples. Currently, the Foundation's primary focus is the accomplishment of this stupa.

In the Darjeeling District of India, in the outlying area of Lava, Rinpoche established a small monastery and retreat center. Lava is a remote mountain town with a view towards the Himalayan mountain range bordering India and Tibet. Its high altitude, cold climate and peaceful setting are the perfect atmosphere for both the monastery and the traditional three-year retreat. Today, there are about 108 monks in residence, ranging in age from 7 to 15. The monks are supported primarily by the help of sponsors. They receive a monastic education which includes the study and recitation of Tibetan Buddhist texts, instruction for musical instruments and sacred rituals under the guidance of senior monks and lamas. The monastery, originally built for only 70 monks, is now planning for its expansion, as well as more sponsors for the many new monks.

An extraordinary collection of 52 thangka paintings depicting the Karma Kagyu lineage is a treasure of Rumtek Monastery. Rinpoche often commented that each of the Karma Kagyu monasteries inside Tibet should have the benefit of these lineage thangkas. It would take a great painter years to recreate a similar set of paintings. In the interim, Rinpoche asked that a full-size photo reproduction of each painting be made. The photographs have been professionally executed and funds are now being raised to print complete sets for each monastery. Rinpoche greatly encouraged the Foundation to send the first set of photos to Tshurphu Monastery in Tibet. With the announcement that His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, Ugyen Tinley, is now in Tshurphu, it would be most auspicious for this to be accomplished as soon as possible.

Rumtek Monastery was desperately in need of new living quarters for the monks. Under Rinpoche's gentle care, the construction of the monk's new residence commenced early this year. The complex is beautifully designed in the traditional Tibetan architectural style and will surround the monastery to form an inner courtyard. For the monks who have been living in some of the most dreadful conditions, the new living quarters will provide a much healthier environment. Rigpe Dorje Foundation in the United States has funded a large portion of this construction work but still more funds are needed to complete it before the end of the year.

Rinpoche's unconditional concern for the poor created the establishment of sponsorship programs that care for young children, monks and elder Tibetans. By providing basic necessities of food, medical care and school fees, the program has lifted hundreds of individuals out of the painful existence of poverty and disadvantage. As a result, children learn skills to become self-reliant; elder Tibetans are rescued from their hardships and find restored dignity and purpose; and the monastic community is able to continue to practice and study Dharma.

In early March of this year, at Rumtek Monastery, Rinpoche met with Rigpe Dorje Foundation members from the United States, France and Denmark. Many issues were discussed, yet Rinpoche seemed most delighted when describing his childhood dream of establishing a primary school for children. When Rinpoche was about 4 or 5 years old, he played in front of a building in Kalimpong in the Darjeeling district of India. He told his mother of his vision in which this building would one day become a boarding school for destitute children. Because of his blessings, the Foundation has been able to acquire the land and its existing building where Rinpoche briefly played as a child. We are proceeding with his design for the school which will become a model educational facility for the Foundation's future projects.

In 1992 Rinpoche presided at the opening and consecration of Karma Kamgyang Khang, a school for monks in Rumtek to learn to read and write in Tibetan and English. He took an active part in the design of the school, its construction and the sponsorships of the monks.

The well-being of elder Tibetans was a concern Rinpoche often expressed. He frequently would say elder Tibetans need a purposeful life something to do so they can feel useful. As an effort to help them he inspired the creation of Rumtek Old People's Association to administer to the elder community. Additionally, he requested that an old people's home be established in Lava where elder Tibetans from all areas of India and Nepal could come to live together in support of each other ana their Tibetan traditions. The proposed home provides living quarters for 100 residents. They can meet together for spiritual prayers, Tibetan crafts, cooking, picnics, and other activities which will maintain their sense of dignity.

Medical needs were also one of Rinpoche's concerns, especially for poor communities and settlements that were without any means of health care. He directed us again to the town of Lava where he designated land for the construction of a health clinic. This clinic will provide desperately needed basic medical care for about 10,000 members of the mountain community, including the monks at the Lava Monastery and Lava's old people's home. Once the clinic has been completed, doctors from the United States and Europe have volunteered to train local health care workers to maintain the services of the clinic.

Rinpoche's continuous interest in sharing Buddhist thought with western cultures brought about the Buddhism and Psychotherapy Conference held annually in the United States, in which he shared his views and knowledge with Western psychotherapists. He also established Rigpe Dorje Centers in San Antonio, Texas and in Montreal for the study and practice of Dharma. Rinpoche was very enthusiastic about a week-long retreat based on the Treasury of Knowledge teachings to be held in San Antonio in August, 1992. Venerable Ponlop Rinpoche taught the first retreat this year marking it as an annual event at the Rigpe Dorje Center in Texas. Rinpoche traveled tirelessly throughout North America, Europe and Asia giving teachings, empowerments and strengthening Dharma centers. An extensive transcript project of some of Rinpoche's teachings is ongoing and currently 24 transcripts are available. They include subjects such as Calling the Guru from Afar, Death and Dying, and The Guru-Disciple Relationship.

Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche suddenly passed away on April 26, 1992 in a car accident in India. His passing is looked upon as a profound method for benefiting sentient beings by removing obstacles for Buddhism, people in general, and for the Karma Kagyu tradition. Nevertheless, for his many disciples who knew him well, it causes in us the deepest sorrow. Now we turn our hearts towards prayers for his perfect incarnation to swiftly return.

Rinpoche gave every moment of his life to benefit others. His advice to us in our work was to always have the right motivation and everything will come. His splendid example of profound compassion and wisdom instills in his students throughout the world the precious gift of the Buddhadharma. Carrying out Rinpoche's work as he envisioned it is a rare privilege for Rigpe Dorje Foundation and it is a commitment of the heart.

Rigpe Dorje Foundation would be most delighted if you would like to join us in our efforts. Please write or call for further information about any of the projects outlined above. If you would like a biography of Rinpoche, prayers for his swift rebirth, or a list of transcripts of his teachings, we will be happy to send them to you. Thank you and best wishes from all of us who are part of the family of Rigpe Dorje Foundations. Write: Rigpe Dorje Foundation, 328 North Sycamore Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90036, (213) 934-5002.

Back to all Snow Lion Articles