Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Cremation of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche at Benchen Monastery, Nepal

Cremation of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche
Cremation of Tenga Rinpoche
A couple of days ago on March 23, 2012 I had the opportunity to be present during the cremation of the body of a special being, venerable Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche a highly regarded Buddhist Lama (guru) from Tibet. The cremation of Tenga Rinpoche's Kudung (precious body) took place at Benchen Monastery in Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Nepal.

I heard for the first time about Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche a few weeks ago when I met Yogi Choekyi Wangpo, a friendly Buddhist Lama that was visiting Boudhanath for a few days. He told me about his master Tenga Rinpoche who had recently attained the parinirvana state (when a realized being finally leaves his physical body and attains final nirvana or liberation) on the 30 of March 2012.

Following the advise of Yogi Wangpo I decided to visit Benchen monastery just to be in the presence of this great Buddhist lama, although he was no longer in his physical form. It is considered by buddhist practicioners a very auspicious event to be in the presence of a master like Tenga Rinpoche shortly after he has attained parinirvana.

His body stayed in a sitting meditative posture for about three days. Later on the monks from the monastery placed his body on top of an altar within a special wooden box inside on of the main gompas at Benchen monastery and for about two months people have paid their respect by visiting the monastery and joining the guru pujas and praying for the quick rebirth of this great master.

Another very auspicious event was the cremation of the Kudung, the precious body of Tenga Rinpoche. I read about the cremation date when I was writing my previous blog post The final nirvana of a Buddhist monk: Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche. The cremation was planed for the 23 of May, about two weeks later. I immediately decided that this was an event that I had to assist to no matter what so I invited my friend Amrita to join me for this experience. Actually we almost had to cancel our plans since for about a week there had been daily strikes in Nepal affecting the public transportation. Luckily the 23 of May the strike was over and public transport was available again.

Yogi Wangpo had come to Nepal specially to pay homage to his guru. He joined the prayers at Benchen monastery and he had planned to be present during the cremation. The initial date for the cremation was the 18 of May but due to astrological circumstances the date was changed to the 23. Unfortunately Yogi Wangpo had already bought his tickets and he was unable to join the cremation.

The circumambulation of the Swayambhunath Stupa with Tenga Rinpoche's Kudung

The ceremony was suppose to start at 7am with a cora or circumambulation (walking clockwise around a stupa, a buddhist temple) of the Swayambhunath stupa. After a 30 minutes taxi drive from Boudhanath we arrived at Swayambhunath exactly at 7 in the morning. We hurried to the top of the hill were the beautiful stupa is located but we didn't see anybody there. "Maybe we are too early" I said, but then Amrita suggested that probably they wouldn't come up all the way to the stupa and walk around the base of the hill instead. So we try to search for Benchen monastery from the top of the hill and we soon spoted all the monks walking in a street in a huge procession carrying Tenga Rinpoche's Kudung with them. Locals and foreigners where waiting ahead on the street to join the circumambulation.

We descended the hill as quick as we could to join the circumambulation. I wanted to be at the front, next to Tenga Rinpoche's Kudung but we were just a few seconds too late and ended probably two hundred meters behind. Not bad at all. I was surprised to see so many people joining the procession. There were hundreds or probably thousands of people. It made me think about how important and significant Tenga Rinpoche must has been for the people in Swayambhunath and worldwide since there were many westerners as well.

circumambulation of Swayambhunath Stupa circumambulation of Swayambhunath Stupa

The Cremation of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche at Benchen monastery

Benchen monastery main gate
Benchen monastery main gate
After the circumambulation at the base of Swayambhunath was completed we walked back towards Benchen monastery. We were already quite behind the procession so by the time that we got inside the monastery it was already quite packed with people. I wanted to have a good spot to see everything so we walk around and made our way up to a terrace of one of the buildings of the monastery.

The monks had already placed Tenga Rinpoche's Kudung inside a stupa in the middle of the courtyard of the monastery. They had recently build that stupa specially for this occasion. It was not there the first time that we visited the monastery just a couple of weeks ago.

Benchen monastery cremation stupa
Cremation stupa arrangement
There were four tents around the stupa were four groups of Buddhist monks were doing different rituals and chantings for the cremation of Tenga Rinpoche. At the front of each group there was a Buddhist lama or monk leading the group. People would come and circumambulate the stupa while at the same time offer a kata (traditional offering scarves) to each of the four Buddhist lamas asking for their blessing.

Once the fire was started the Buddhist monks continued to put different offerings into the fire like herbs and fruits. At the same time, inside the main Gompa (temple) hundreds of Buddhist monks were reciting some prayers, probably asking for the quick rebirth of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche.

Offerings for the cremationOfferings for the cremation

offering to the cremation stupaTenga Rinpoche cremation stupa
adding the offerings to the stupaTenga Rinpoche Cremation Stupa

You can find more pictures in my instacanvas gallery:

Video of the cremation of Tenga Rinpoche's Kudung

This is a short video of the circumambulation around the Swayambhunath Stupa, the cremation of Tenga Rinpoche's kudung at Benchen monastery and the Buddhist monks chanting some prayers inside the main Gompa

The cremation of Tenga Rinpoche Video

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I was very impressed by the whole event. So many people came to Swayambhunath and Benchen monastery from different places around Nepal and abroad to participate in the cremation of Tenga Rinpoche. I know very little about this Buddhist guru, but this experience helps me realize that he was a very special being and a highly respected lama within the Buddhist community in Nepal and around the world. I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this video. We took teachings from Tenga Rinpoche in the early 80's and on departing Kathmandu Rinpoche give us a statue of Goddess Green Tara which upon our return to Australia. My wife Madeleine handed the statute to me and an image of my soul force passed from Goddess Tara into my heart. It was with that transmission that I was able to enter into the center of my emotional volcano and restore my life balance. I look forward with Great anticipation to Rinpoche's next incarnation. Om Ah Hum Bendza Guru Padma Siddhi Hum
    Trinzin Gyaltsen.