Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The final nirvana of a Buddhist monk: Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche

On March 2012 a well known Buddhist monk, venerable Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche, attained the parinirvana state (a Buddhist term that indicates that a realized being has left his physical body and achieve final nirvana) at Benchen monastery in Swayambhu, Nepal. This is the story of how I came to know about this great Buddhist master and my visit to the monastery where he attained parinirvana.

A brief meeting with a Buddhist monk

A couple of weeks ago I met a very friendly Buddhist monk at a guest house in Boudhanath, Nepal. We had a very nice conversation. Actually, as soon as we started our conversation he went on sharing his Buddhist wisdom with me, talking about common Buddhist subjects like death, impermanence, reincarnation and emptiness. He said "the highest realization that you can have is emptiness, if you realize this then all suffering is eliminated". Later on he said ''if we can remember impermanence we won't become attached and identified with the external objects of the world''. It was like if every single word that would come out of his mouth was only related to dharma, the teachings of Buddha. He didn't waste any time in idle talk. Well, our conversation was not that long anyway.

His name is Yogi Choekyi Wangpo, he lives in Canada, travels around the world and he performs something called Mo Divinations which is something like a Tarot reading but without cards. I didn't know anything about him but he gave me his card and now that I'm writing this article I googled his name and I found a YouTube video of an interview where he talks about his Buddhist divination practice. He also has a website divinationhealing.com but at the moment of writing this post it's not working

Remembering death

During our meeting I noticed that he was wearing on his left hand two huge rings with skulls on them. I asked why he was wearing those rings and he replied ''to help me remember that death can happen at any time, that everything is impermanent. It's a way to be present and enjoy every moment''. He then showed me his necklace, a key ring and more rings on his right hand, all having skulls in them.

Yogi Wangpo told me that after a couple of days in Boudhanath he was going to visit his guru (master) Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche at Benchen Monastery in Swayambhu and later on he would go to Pharping to focus on his spiritual practice. His guru had actually left his physical body fifteen days earlier (the 30th of March 2012) and he wanted to visit him to join the guru puja (homage to the guru).

The photo of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche after attaining parinirvana (final nirvana)

Tenga Rimpoche sitting in meditation after parinirvana
Tenga Rimpoche. Image courtesy: benchen.org
Yogi Wangpo took his iPad to show me a picture of his Guru. [A Buddhist monk with an iPad? And before we started our conversation he was having a skype call on his iPhone. He told me that Buddhists are very flexible and therefore they can easily adapt to change and new technologies. I was not so surprised, during my stay in Boudhanath I have seen many Buddhist monks using iPhones, iPads and Macs. I just wonder how they can afford them]. In the picture Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche is sitting in meditation. Yogi Choekyi Wangpo told me that after Tenga Rinpoche attained parinirvana (final nirvana or liberation) his body remained in this meditation posture for three and half days.

He then told me a story of his master. A year ago, while Tenga Rinpoche was celebrating his 80th birthday in company of his disciples, the master said that he was very grateful because in all his lifetime he had never encounter any obstacle or suffering. What is remarkable about his comment is that because of diabetes he had lost one eye, one leg, some fingers and he was about to loose another leg. Isn't that inspiring? What a master!

Visiting Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche at Benchen Monastery

Yogi Wangpo told me that it is very auspicious to visit a realized being like his master just after his parinirvana so he suggested me to go to Swayambhu and look for the monastery. At the end of our conversation he said "perhaps the reason why we've met was so that I could tell you about my guru so you could go and visit him to receive his blessings". Needless to say I decided to follow his advise and together with my dear friend Amrita we visited this great master at Benchen Monastery.

Benchen monastery gompa
Gompa at Benchen monastery
Benchen it's a beautiful monastery and because of the parinirvana of Tenga Rinpoche they are currently following a special schedule that includes the chanting of a prayer asking for the quick rebirth of the great master.

We sat down on the hall and did a short meditation while the monks were chanting this prayer and perhaps some other Buddhist scriptures. I always love to sit inside a Buddhist gompa (temple) and meditate while the monks perform their chanting or recitations. The vibrations can be so powerful that sometimes I feel like going into a trance.

Prayer for the quick rebirth of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche


Supreme emanation Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche,
Although you have merged your intention into one with dharmadathu,
For the sake of the doctrine and beings,
in general as well as in particular,
May the moon-like face of your emanation rise again soon!

Tenga Rimpoche altar
Tenga Rimpoche kudung at the altar
Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's kudung (body of an enlightened being) is kept inside some kind of wooden box with a small window sitting on top of an altar in one of the main gompas at Benchen monastery. The altar is just in front of the golden Buddha statue. All monks and western disciples gather at this hall to recite the prayer for the quick rebirth of their master.

While I was sitting at the gompa with my friend, enjoying the vibrations of the Buddhist chantings, a nice western lady disciple of Tenga Rimpoche approached us to explain us what was going on at that moment. She encouraged us to go and walk around the altar where Tenga Rinpoche's body was placed and to do the prostrations, a sign of humbleness and respect to receive the blessings of the guru, while the monks where still doing the recitations. I was very happy to hear this because I didn't know if that was allowed or not.

The cremation of the guru's body

Another important event will be the cremation of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's body. It is considered a very auspicious event and the ceremony will start at the Swayambhu stupa. The cremation is going to take place the 23th of May 2012 so if you are in Kathmandu or anywhere around Nepal it would be a great opportunity to pay a visit to this monastery. The cremation date was originally the 18th of May but it was changed to the 23 so I suggest you check the Latest News section on their website to stay updated: benchen.org

Accommodation at Benchen monastery

If you wish to visit Benchen monastery to join the puja for the paranirvana of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche or during the cremation of his body then it might be a good idea to stay at the monastery guesthouse, Benchen Vihar, which is just within the monastery premises. The price of the rooms varies between 500 and 800 Nepalese rupees and the restaurant offer meals below 100 rupees. For more information refer to Benchen Vihar. It is not necessary to stay at the monastery but I think it would be wonderful opportunity. If you are staying in Thamel you can easily reach Swayambhu and Benchen monastery by foot. It's a 30 minutes walk from Thamel.

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