The passing of Tenga Rinpoche

A brief account of the passing of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche

The Precious Kudung[The Precious Kudung - Photo taken by Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's personal attendant Karma Sherab Wangchuk, Kathmandu, 2012]

As you know, Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche had been admitted to hospital on the evening of 26 March. On the 28th, at 5:30 p.m. Rinpoche expressly stated his wish to return to the monastery. The doctors advised him strongly not to do so, owing to the lack of facilities there, and telling Rinpoche quite frankly that they could not guarantee for anything should he choose to leave anyway. However, Rinpoche stood by his decision, which was also confirmed by H.H. the Karmapa's advice shortly thereafter. An ambulance was readied and Rinpoche arrived in the monastery at around 7:00 p.m.

Previously, while in the hospital, Rinpoche's situation was quite unbearable. He was in great discomfort and had to be turned every minute. Also, while in the clinic, he could not sleep for even one minute. This situation persisted for a while once he was back home in the monastery until, at 9:30 p.m., he asked Tashi Özer and Sherab Wangchuk to tell everyone to please leave. At around 10:00 p.m. Rinpoche asked specifically for eight persons to be asked to come. They were Tenpa Yarpel, Sherab Wangchuk, Jinpa Lodrö, Tashi Özer, Karma, Lama Geleg, Lama Tsöndrü and Söpa Chöpel. When they went in they found Rinpoche sleeping peacefully and they stayed quietly in his presence until midnight.

When Rinpoche awoke shortly after midnight, Sherab Wangchuk informed him that all those requested were present. Rinpoche was then helped to sit up and began to speak his last will. He requested several times that his words be recorded so that there may be no mistake later on. Among Rinpoche's wishes was that some gold objects that had recently been offered to him, be placed inside the large Maitreya statue in the main temple as well as in the golden finial on top of the temple rooves. This has already been done.

It was not immediately apparent, but after a while it was noticed that Rinpoche didn't require any moving anymore. He instead sat up very straight and still and did not seem like a sick person any longer. While Rinpoche had previously been feeling very nauseous, all of that was gone and he seemed to be in no more discomfort. Occasionally he would ask for a sip of water or juice.

After a little while Tenpa Yarpel was called again and Rinpoche made it very clear that he wished his body to be cremated. Being even more specific, Rinpoche directed that the four fire rituals for the cremation should be conducted by Their Eminences Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, Tsike Chokling Rinpoche, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche and Tulku Yönten Rinpoche and their respective monks of Benchen, Kanying Shedrub Ling and Thrangu monasteries.

Again, a little later Sherab Wangchuk was called and directed to extend Rinpoche's best wishes and aspirations to all of his students in Europe, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia, and especially to Mrs. How Yok Bee, Mr. and Mrs. Peter and Nora Rohde-Kvaede and to Mr. Tim Tashi Boldt and family.

Yet again a little later Tenpa Yarpel was called. Rinpoche expressly stated that it was his wish that Tenpa Yarpel will be given the rank of Senior Bursar of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's personal estate, while Tashi Özer will be Junior Bursar. This was put in writing and will be adhered to.

By now the night had worn on and it was the early hours of 29 March. At 3:00 a.m. Rinpoche called for his niece Karmo. After that Tenpa Yarpel was called again and asked by Rinpoche to ask Sangyum Dechen, the wife of Tsike Chokling Rinpoche, to be invited for the next morning. Rinpoche stressed again how he wanted his best wishes to be sent to everyone. At 6:00 a.m. H.E. Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche came and stayed with Tenga Rinpoche until shortly before 9:00 at which time Sangyum Dechen arrived. Rinpoche took note of her arrival but said nothing. At around 9:30 a.m. she asked Rinpoche's permission to leave and was excused.

After that Tashi Özer asked Rinpoche how and when one should begin to look for Rinpoche's next incarnation. Tenga Rinpoche was very explicit about it saying "Ask H.H. the Karmapa! His advice will be very clear."

For more than 28 hours Rinpoche had been sitting up very straight and still and for much of that time he seemed to be in deep meditation. At night Tenpa Yarpel was called again into Rinpoche's presence and asked to record his words. It was Tenga Rinpoche's request to Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche to continuously take care that all the traditional rituals of Benchen Monastery, the dances and pujas etc., will be continued uninterruptedly in the future. Tenpa Yarpel then requested Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche to please return very quickly, to which Rinpoche smiled and nodded his head.

Around 1:00 a.m. Tenga Rinpoche mentioned that he had clearly seen his teachers, the previous 11th Tai Situ Pema Wangchok Gyalpo, the previous Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, the previous Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and the 2nd Jamgön Kongtrul Palden Khentse Özer before himself. Then, in the early hours of 30 March, at 3:24 a.m. local time to be exact, he finally passed on. H.E. Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche had visited several more times before that.

This day, which is the eighth day of the second Tibetan month, is a day sacred to the Saviouress Tara. When the moment had finally come, Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche offered the words of the "Clarifying the Thugdam-state" and spoke them directly into Tenga Rinpoche's ear. Accordingly Tenga Rinpoche adjusted his posture slightly, placed his hands in the meditation gesture, and has since entered into the deep meditation that is known as "Thugdam", a meditative state that great realized masters can enter into after their bodies have expired. Right after that Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche led the recitation of prayers to the Three Jewels and especially the "Calling the Lama from Afar" by Jamgön Kongtrul.

Since then the precious advice of H.H. the Karmapa has been received to keep Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's surroundings very quiet and to allow no visits to the Kudung, the precious remains, for the duration of three days. We will proceed accordingly. Upon Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche's express wish to be cremated and the advice of H.E. Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, the date for the cremation has been set for May 18, 2012.

For the next few days, while Rinpoche is in the Thugdam state, H.H. the Karmapa has advised to practice the "Four Sessions Guru Yoga" and "Calling the Lama from Afar" by Jamgön Kongtrul.

With best wishes,

The Benchen Monastery Committee


As you all probably can imagine we are rather busy over here at the moment to arrange everything in such a way as to please and serve our beloved departed master best. In doing so, some details have escaped us for the moment but do come back to memory now, so allow us to share them with you before they will be forgotten. They just serve to show how Rinpoche thought of nothing but the benefit of others, even while being in the greatest discomfort and pain himself!

On 28 March, while still in hospital, Rinpoche expressed his wish that the oral transmission of the Prajnaparamita Sutras, requested from H.E. Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, and scheduled to begin on 2 April, should definitely go ahead without delay. Rinpoche considered them to be so precious and beneficial that nothing at all should get in their way, not even his own passing away. While being in great pain and discomfort, it seems that Rinpoche saw very clearly in his minds eye how the temple had been prepared for the event. He said for instance that, "Yes, all the thangkas have been put up, very good. But also tell the shrine master and his attendants to put the offering ornaments on top!" Rinpoche also insisted that the shrine master be told to prepare the tormas that will go on the main shrine for the event, in the most elaborate and perfect way. Such was his attention to even the tiniest detail, while being in the greatest imaginable discomfort himself!

On 29 March, in the very early morning hours, back home in his rooms, Rinpoche asked those present to repeat certain mantras. He said in a very low voice, "Tenpa, you repeat Guru Rinpoche mantras. Sherab, you do Tara mantras. Jinpa, you repeat the mantra of Namgyalma." And after a while he added, "All the others, you also do Namgyalma mantras." After about twenty minutes Rinpoche said, "Now it is good." And the repetition of mantras could be stopped.

Another point, concerning Rinpoche's state of health. Both before and while in the hospital, Rinpoche's blood pressure was extremely low. Even when given medication to raise the pressure, he did not respond to the treatment at all. However, sometime after lunch on the 29th, our monastery's doctor, Tsering Phüntsok, took Rinpoche's blood pressure and found it to be much improved. Seemingly all by itself...


A Brief Supplication for the Swift Rebirth of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche

Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche[Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche - Photo taken by Edward Henning, Darjeeling 1976]


Surpreme emanation Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche,
although you have merged your intention into one with dharmadathu,
for the sake of the doctrine and beings, in general and in particular,
may the moon-like face of your emanation rise again soon!

Composed by Sangye Nyenpa

This supplication was composed by H.E. Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche in the early hours of 30th March 2012, in the presence of the precious remains of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche. Immediatedly translated by Sherab Drime (Thomas Roth).

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