Drupon Dechen Rinpoche
Recognition and Enthronement of the Reincarnation of Drupon Dechen Rinpoche.
On October 1, 2001, during an interval of retreat, His Holiness the XVII Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjegranted the letter of recognition for the reincarnation of Drupon Dechen Rinpoche. The letter had been requested by the monk’s sangha of Tsurphu Monastery, the main seat of the Activity of the Karmapas in Tibet, and by his disciples, especially Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and Tai Situpa Rinpoche.
Under the supervision of Tai Situpa, Tersey Thutop Rinpoche took sole responsibility to search for and locate the reincarnation according to the granted prognostication letter from the Gyalwa Karmapa. After finding the boy who matched the letter’s prediction, His Holiness was informed by Tai Situpa Rinpoche and he gave his letter of recognition. Eventually, Thutop Rinpoche and the chief officials of Maha Thuptne Chokhor Ling Monastery were privileged to be able to offer new clothes to Drupon Dechen Rinpoche’s Tulku (reincarnation), and it was a very auspicious occasion.
In August 2003, Drupon Dechen Tulku and his parents arrived at Sherab Ling, and Tai Situpa Rinpocheperformed the ablution ceremony. On August 10, Drupon Dechen Rinpoche’s reincarnation was taken to the Gyalwa Karmapa’s residence at Gyuto Ramoche Tantric University, where the Refuge Ceremony (hair cutting ceremony) was performed by His Holiness. The Karmapa gave him the name Karma Dechen Tsewang Sejid Gyalpo, and offered him a gift of a precious statue of the Buddha, which had been a venerated object of the previous Drupon Dechen Rinpoche.
On November 17, 2003, the young Drupon Dechen Tulku returned to the land of Mangyul, Ladhak’s Maha Chokhor Ling Monastery, and an elaborate enthronement ceremony was held for him there. Attending the enthronement were Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche, representing His Holiness Karmapa, and a contingent from Sherab Ling including Tulku Thutop Rinpoche, Dronyer Tenam, Tsewang Drakpa, and the umdzes (the puja leaders) of Sherab Ling. Many Ladhaki dignitaries, such as Tritse Khen Rinpoche, were also there.
The previous Drupon Dechen Rinpoche had offered all his belongings to Tai Situpa Rinpoche. At this time, Tai Situpa offered these belongings back intact, along with some additions such as new residences, monks’ quarters, classrooms for 50 students, a guest house, roasting house and dining hall, hospital, library, shop, power house, treasure room, bathrooms, and livestock of horse and sheep. In short, whatever wealth and possessions there had been were presented to Drupon Dechen as a selfless service to the Dharma and tribute to his predecessor.
Tai Situpa Rinpoche also asked Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre and Tsurphu Labrang (administrative body) to look after Maha Monastery until the Tulku reaches the appropriate age to take responsibility himself. To this end, the Tsurphu Labrang appointed a lama who had completed a three year retreat, and a junior Khenpo (the highest Buddhist degree of the Kagyu Linage) from Karma Shri Nalanda Institute to look after Drupon Dechen Tulku Rinpoche and manage the administration of Maha Monastery. It is hoped that in the future, when Rinpoche reaches the appropriate age, he will be a great compassionate scholar and meditation master of excellence like his predecessor, benefiting the Dharma in general and all sentient beings.
Drupon Dechen Rinpoche at Rumtek
On January 19, 2005, the monks and sangha members of Dharma Chakra Centre welcomed Drupon Dechen Tulku Rinpoche to Rumtek with great ceremony and the offering of khatas (ritual scarf). Rinpoche is from Mahay Monastery in Ladhak and has come to Rumtek to begin his formal studies of Buddhadharma.
The young Tulku was recognized by the XVII Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje as the reincarnation of His tutor, the great Dharma master Drupon Dechen Rinpoche of Ladhak, who was responsible for the rebuilding of Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet after its destruction during the Cultural Revolution. The first Drupon Dechen Rinpoche passed away at Tsurphu on May 9, 1998.
Drupon Dechen Rinpoche Tulku was accompanied on his journey from Mahay Monastery to Sikkim by Khenpo Rabgay Chosang, Lama Karma Dondup, and Rinpoche’s attendant, Trinley. Khenpo Rabgay is a graduate of Karma Shri Nalanda Institute who was sent by the Tsurphu Labrang to serve as the resident Khenpo of Mahay Monastery. Lama Dondup completed the traditional three year retreat and was also sent by the Tsurphu Labrang to serve at Mahay Monastery. Khenpo Rabgay and Lama Dondup returned to Ladhak after helping Drupon Dechen Rinpoche Tulku to get established at Dharma Chakra Centre. Trinley will remain to look after Rinpoche.
Biography of the first Drupon Dechen Rinpoche
In Tibet, a boy was born in Nangchen Med Zhung, a place of scenic beauty, to a father named Aten Gyatso and a mother named Wangchuk Drolma, on the 13 of November, 1919.
In accordance with the young boy’s wishes, he became a monk at the age of 8 when he entered the Tana Monastery of Nangchen. Dilyak Monastery’s, Choje Dabsang Rinpoche, performed the Refuge Ceremony (hair cutting ceremony) and named him Gyaltsen Metok. From then on, he studied under Dabsang Rinpoche’s guidance and received all the empowerments to ripen one’s mind and the oral instructions to enlighten the mind, thus completing his religious studies.
At the age of 17, in 1935, he went on pilgrimage to the holy places of Tsari Tagtsha, Drakar Monastery, and Drakar Lhachen in Kongpo, Tibet, and further received oral instruction from Dilyak Choje Rinpoche and others. Listening to these teachings, he meditated in remote places.
At the age of 23, in 1940, he went on pilgrimage to a holy place known as Rongtsen Khawa Karpo, where the lamas, tutelary deities, and dakinis gather like clouds, and pleased them with offering prostrations and circumambulations. He also offered the gifts of Dharma to the people there, and satisfied all he met. He then returned to his place of birth.
Under the direction of Lama Menla at Tana Monastery, he studied chanting, liturgical music, the making of lines and sand mandalas, and other monastic arts. At the age of 26, in 1944, he went on pilgrimage to Tsari Rongkong and, along the way, charitably gave deep and vast Dharma teachings and offered worldly wealth to people according to their needs, satisfying them and caring for them with compassion, which was happily returned to him.
Unfortunately, his parents died within days of each other. He offered all his family’s wealth to the monasteries of all sects, and to holy beings. Realizing the ultimate nature of the samsaric world and making a firm pledge in his mind not to go astray from Dharma, he received more empowerments and oral instruction from Lama Menla and Lama Karma Gyatso.
He decided to go to the west of Lhasa, to Tsurphu Monastery, the main seat of the Activity of the Karmapas. In 1946, at the age of 27, he met His Holiness the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa, and received the full empowerments of Vajrayogini, Chakrasamvara, and Avalokiteshvara. After that, he took the XI Tai Situpa Rinpoche, Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo, as his teacher, and as his disciple received the novice and full ordination of a monk. Subsequently he entered into Yiwong Samten Ling Retreat Centre at Tsurphu for three years and three months, where he attained very high realization.
After the completion of his retreat, through the pure wisdom of His Holiness the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa, Pema Wangchuk and Jamgon Khyentse Woser, Drupon Dechen Rinpoche was appointed the Retreat Master of Tsurphu, where he would benefit the Dharma and all sentient beings. As part of his responsibilities, he offered empowerments and oral instructions to the retreat lamas. He placed emphasis on meditation practice.
In 1953 at the age of 35 he visited Kagyu monasteries as a representative of the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa, carrying a letter of proclamation from him stating that “Drupon Dechen Rinpoche is my alter ego.” During his tour, he gave Dharma advice to the public about the importance of observing the fruit of karma, and was well received by all who enjoyed and appreciated his simple nature and profound knowledge. He returned to Tsurphu Monasterysafely and in good health, and gave all the offerings he received during his tour to the Tsurphu Labrang, the administrative body of the Karmapa.
In 1954 at the age of 36 he was sent to Maha Tsunai in China and met with the Chairman Mao Tsetung. In 1955, he returned to Tsurphu and made extraordinary offerings to the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa, who was astonished and said laughingly, “Why are such precious, priceless gifts in the hands of a poor lama?”
In 1956, the high lamas and Tulkus presided over by the first Drupon Dechen Rinpoche performed a long puja to pacify the obstacles to Dharma during the Communist invasion of Tibet; but these were in vain. His Holiness the Karmapa left for the south of Tibet and India on pilgrimage, and asked Drupon Rinpoche to remain in Tibet for some time as a protector of the monastery and the people there. The Gyalwa Karmapa told him to leave Tibet when the time comes, and he would have no harm on the way.
In 1959, fulfilling the prophecy of the XVI Karmapa, Drupon Rinpoche left Tibet traveling through Nepal with the pretext of the ‘Managing Committee’ of Tsurphu. He reached Sikkim and met His Holiness at the old Rumtek Monastery. The Karmapa was very pleased to see him arrive safely. After a few days he called Drupon Dechen and sent him to Ladhak saying, “If you go there, you will benefit the Dharma in general and the Kagyu order of Buddhism in particular.” So, Rinpoche, with all his retinue, left for Ladhak and established the new Mahay Monastery with all its religious images and scriptures in 1966.
In 1972, at the age of 54, he built Tashi Choeling Nunnery and Karma Tashi Rabten Ling Monastery. These, along with Mahay Monastery, were run under Drupon Dechen Rinpoche’s auspices and he imparted full religious studies to the students there.
During that time, the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa sent a letter to Rinpoche thanking him for all his Dharma activities, and assigned Drupon Dechen Rinpoche the task of returning to Tibet to renovate Tsurphu Monastery. (Tsurphu had been completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. By the 1970s, it was crumbled to dust and in ruins.) Rinpoche replied, “Now I am an old monk. I am not sure if I can renovate it, but as an order of Buddha Karmapa, I can go.” At that moment, the Karmapa mentioned that nothing will happen there and, “you can go earlier and I will come later.” This was subsequently mentioned by Drupon Dechen Rinpoche as a prophecy of the reappearance of the new XVII Karmapa incarnation in Tibet.
In 1981, after fully handing over Mahay Monastery to Khentin Tai Situpa Rinpoche, Drupon Dechen left with his retinue for Tibet to begin rebuilding Tsurphu. In 1984, he had rebuilt the monastery’s main temple. Still, Drupon Dechen Rinpoche with held his tears and reconciled himself with the impermanent nature of the world, and said he must do whatever possible to completely rebuild Tsurphu and fulfill the wishes of the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa.
After that, he went to Nangchu Kha in the north of Tibet to collect offerings from his previous devotees. He again gave the nectar of Dharma and planted the seed of Buddhahood in the mind of the people he met. In 1987, he visited India and acquired many images and scriptures to be installed in the newly built Tsurphu Monastery. He revived the tradition of performing annual Vajrakilaya and protector Mahakala pujas and the performance of ritual lama dances of Vajrakilaya and Mahakala, respectively.
He renovated the Yiwong Samten Ling Retreat Centre, recruited thirteen new retreat lamas, started meditation practices after a gap of thirty years, and paid the food expenses of all the retreat lamas. After they completed the retreat, the lamas where sent to various monasteries in response to the wishes of his devotees. These lamas have flourished since then, and people from all walks of life, irrespective of sect, flock to Tsurphu like bees to a flower, a sign that the extraordinary practice of Mahamudra is spreading to the present day.
The Main Prayer Hall of Tsurphu was rebuilt, adorned with a main statue of the Buddha made out of bronze, an image of His Holiness the XVI Karmapa, statues of one thousand Buddhas, and many thangka paintings. There is a statue of the Buddha made out of copper and gold, life-sized statues of all the lamas of the Refuge Tree of the Kagyu Linage, made out of silver, and newly made woodblocks of the scriptures.
Drupon Dechen Rinpoche is a great man who took a lion’s share of the responsibility in Tibet to send a search party to find the genuine reincarnation of the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa, according to his last testament. He played an enormous role in the enthronement of His Holiness the XVII Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, and in the personal supervision of his studies, which left an immeasurable impact. He also helped greatly in finding the reincarnations of the III Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and the previous Pawo Rinpoche, thus helping His Holiness Karmapa and his heart sons meet together.
Drupon Dechen Rinpoche created a renaissance at Tsurphu, like the great Lama Gongpa Rabsel, who revived Buddhism from downfall in Tibet following its persecution by King Lang Dharma in the VIII century.
Even when Drupon Dechen Rinpoche was suffering from a long-term illness, he took a special interest in Dharma and did not stop working for the benefit of Dharma and all sentient beings. In the presence of His Holiness the XVII Gyalwa Karmapa in Tibet on May 9, 1998, he passed away and remained in meditation without any bodily change for one week. This aroused unwavering faith in the minds of all of his devotees who were present. They praised him as a highly realized man, and it consolidated their faith in Dharma.
(Extracted from the Web page: www.rumtek.org and reviewed by Trikaya)