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Posts Tagged "bakula rinpoche"
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Ven. Roger Kunsang
On another day Bakula Rinpoche invited Lama Zopa Rinpoche to the embassy, where he met Bakula Rinpoche’s secretary Sonam Wangchuk; Sonam has been with Bakula Rinpoche for more than 20 years. Bakula Rinpoche told Rinpoche about the history of Mongolia. He explained that Joseph Stalin, the former Soviet leader, forcibly took over Mongolia in 1937, and before that, one in every five males was a Buddhist monk. All together there were more than 100,000 monks.
Communism, however, said this was a weakness, that this one in every five males was a waste of a life and was causing society to degenerate. So Stalin began to destroy all the monasteries. He rounded up 1,000 high lamas and monks and beheaded them, leaving their heads in public for display. He destroyed thousands of monasteries. He killed all of the intelligent monks and left the not-so-smart ones alive.
Almost all the monks were killed or forced to marry, although a few were left alive to give the world the impression that everything was okay. From that time on under Communist rule you could only be a monk by government appointment. The monks would go to the monastery during the day and go home to their families at night. Being a monk was a nine-to-five job. If any of the monks did survive, they lived monks’ lives in secret and gave the appearance of having a family. Otherwise, all the monks were just monks by name.
One lady of about 22 grew up under Communist rule until she was 12. Her father was a veterinarian and her mother a doctor, and part of their responsibilities as doctors was to lecture subordinates and patients about certain things. One of them was to tell people that Buddhism was old, ancient, a superstitious poison – they lectured people about that during their workdays. On television they often showed monks, but always portrayed as the bad guy who was stupid and carried out sexual activities. They put Buddhism down in every way.
When she was 7 her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she privately told her daughter she thought she would die. She wanted to prepare her daughter to handle her death well enough so she could continue with her own life. She explained Buddhist teachings privately to her daughter, in complete confidence. At the same time her mother was lecturing others officially about how wrong it was. This was the first time she’d heard of Buddhism and it stuck in her mind.
When democracy took over many of her friends began to watch CNN, follow American culture and get a lot of input from Christians. She’s had to hide the fact that she’s Buddhist because of the propaganda. Many Christian Mongolians feel embarrassed to acknowledge that their father or relative was a monk or lama.
She also mentioned that under Communism everything was done by the state, so materially people were okay; mentally, however, it was difficult because of constant propaganda and forcing people to think in certain ways. Now, everyone feels more relaxed and happier, but, for example, there are young kids on the streets, usually orphans. In the winters it’s minus 30 or 50 and they still live on the street. They sleep under the ground on water pipes that the Soviets put there for heating — it’s quite a hard life. With capitalism, it is now physically very hard but easier mentally.
By Ven. Roger Kunsang
Lama Zopa Rinpoche first started getting invitations to Mongolia from Bakula Rinpoche five or six years ago. Bakula Rinpoche is the Indian Ambassador to Mongolia and is a very high lama. He is actually a born prince of Ladakh in north India. He is considered to be an incarnation of one of the Sixteen Arhats.
Now in his eighties, Rinpoche was a member of the Indian parliament for a number of years for Ladakh; he also has four monasteries in Ladakh. Bakula Rinpoche’s monasteries are renowned for their strictness in upholding the vinaya, Buddha’s rules of discipline. His nephew is Rigdzong Rinpoche, who is next in line for Ganden Tri Rinpoche, the throne holder of Lama Tsongkhapa’s lineage.
Another interesting member of his family is his brother, an Indian saddhu in his nineties. For the last 50 years he has been wandering in Ladakh and Kashmir and doesn’t own a thing. He’s Hindu and Buddhist – outwardly he roams and dresses like a Hindu and stays in Hindu and Sikh ashrams. Bakula Rinpoche said he doesn’t speak much, but when he does, it’s mostly about emptiness. He knows a lot about different religions and says they’re the same because they’re empty.
Bakula Rinpoche has been in Mongolia since 1989, which is when it became a democracy. Mongolia is 17 hours west of the United States by plane. Outer Mongolia is directly north of China, in between China and Russia; the part of Russia it borders is Siberia. It takes about five hours by plane to get from New Delhi to the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Recently Bakula Rinpoche sent Lama Zopa Rinpoche another invitation, this time for the opening of a new monastery and school he had built. However, the main inspiration for Rinpoche’s visit was an invitation from a small group of lay people. The main person in the group, a journalist named Batbold Baast, explained to Rinpoche in his letter that it’s very important for lamas like Rinpoche to come because many young Mongolians – literally thousands of them – have been converted to Christianity by missionaries, many of them American Mormons.
Batbold explained how sad it is that in this naturally Buddhist country these Christians are working so aggressively to write Buddhism off as an ancient, outdated and superstitious religion. At the same time the Christians are bringing a lot of money into the country and even sponsor the CNN news channel on the television; the commercials are all about Christianity.
The missionaries give a lot of material help – they even pay Mongolians to come to church! They pay them about $5 per person; the average Mongolian makes about $1 a day. And the church also has a television where people can come hang out and watch it. The Christians also teach English, and everything they teach is focused on making the young people learn about Christianity.
Rinpoche felt this was quite sad – not because there’s anything wrong with Christianity, but because Mongolia is a traditionally Buddhist country. He feels that young people don’t have the wisdom to analyze what they’re being taught. Rinpoche made up his mind that he would start an FPMT center in Mongolia before he even went there, and Batbold also asked Rinpoche that their group be part of the FPMT. Before leaving for Mongolia, Rinpoche met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness was very happy to hear Rinpoche was going to help and was keen for him to go. …
Bakula Rinpoche, recognized by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of Bakula Arhat (one of the sixteen arhats who were direct disciples of the Shakyamuni Buddha), passed away in Delhi on 4 November 2003. He was 86 years old.
His wisdom and compassion put him in the front rank of influential Tibetan Buddhist masters, yet he was always modest.
He was born in the royal family of Ladakh, but as a Buddhist leader, he guided his followers through his personal example of a humble life as a celibate monk. He dedicated his life to the core principles of the Buddhist teachings by caring for others, especially for those who were less fortunate and in great need …
“Rinpoche’s passing was sudden, as he was doing fairly well after he was discharged from hospital in Delhi where he was treated for pneumonia,” said Bakula Rinpoche’s secretary, Sonam Wangchuk, who attended Bakula for the last twenty-five years. “Rizong Rinpoche was present during those difficult days and was a great support. He led the funeral ceremony, which was also attended by Chamba Rinpoche from Drepung Losaling.
“There were some amazing signs during and after the funeral. The sky was clear and sunny on the day we were collecting the ashes. A small cloud appeared just over the place, which is a mountaintop, and we saw a thick snowfall. It was a brief spell only in that one spot, but it covered everyone there in white. It was as if the heavens were showering flowers! The same evening a neula (a mongoose, the symbol of Arhat Bakula) was seen below Rinpoche’s seat in the courtyard of Pethub Monastery. It is the same animal that Arhat Bakula carries in his hands and that you see in thangkhas. It was strange as the monks had never before seen the animal anywhere around. Rizong Rinpoche also saw the animal and was very pleased.
Sonam later took Rinpoche’s ashes to Mongolia where the people and the Government received the ashes “with the utmost respect. A large number of people came to the airport including the city Governor. The ashes were escorted to the monastery with all the honors, including police escorts. Police had lined up the entire stretch of road from the airport to the monastery and traffic was not allowed. People flocked to the monastery to pay their respects. It was a moving experience”.
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