Friday, June 25, 2010
Advocating Buddhism from the wheel chair
His eminence Lama Ugyen Norbu, 33, popularly known as ‘Dechencholing Rinpoche’ is a well known Buddhist master to many Bhutanese and tourists alike. He advocates Buddha dharma from his wheel chair but the physical disability does not at all prevent him from advocating Buddha dharma.
He is profoundly well versed in both Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Vajrayana sect which is mainly practiced in Bhutan.
His eminence received empowerments and oral transmissions from great Buddhist masters like His Holiness Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, His Holiness Trulku Jigme Choeda, His Excellency Lopon Karma Jurmey the yogi who is the disciple of Lama Sonam Zangpo the great lineage holder of Tokden Shakya Sheri, His Excellency Khenpo Tshering Dendrup of Drigung Kagyue, His Holiness Kyabje Penor Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Drubwang Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Peling Thuksay Rinpoche, His Holiness Kyabje Namkhai Nyingpo Rinpoche, His Excellency Khenpo Karpo Rinpoche the disciple of late Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, His Excellency Kyabje Zhechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Late Dabab Trulku of Trongsa, crazy yogi Bazuguru Lama of Zhemgang, His Holiness Lama Rigzin.
And also from other great masters like Palden Rinpoche (Lobesa Rinpoche) the heart son of Azom Gyelsay Jurmey Dorje, His Excellency Lopon Ugyen Jurmey son of Lopon Choedrak of Lhalung Tibet, His Excellency Kyabgoen Lama Yeshey Choezin Rinpoche of Kurtoe Ugyenphu who is his godly Father, His Excellency Trulku Rigzin Pema, His Excellency Khenchen Katayana and Khenpo Thubten Dorji of Mysore.
His eminence was born to a simple family in central Bhutan in 1977 with few auspicious signs. His father, Yeshey Penjor, vividly remembers how few Tibetan Lamas (Like Lama Yongzin Rinpoche and Kathok Rinpoche who lived in Bumthang after they fled Tibet) prophesied that a bodhisattva will take birth within a year’s time to his wife Aum Kuenzangmo. Lama Yongzin Rinpoche than gave a coral necklace and a white scarf to Aum Kuenzangmo and Yeshey Penjor with a prophecy: “A boy who will be born to the two of you will benefit millions of beings.”
During the time of conception Rinpoche’s mother had an extraordinary dream where a pure white radiant conch flew from a nearby Temple and entered her body from the crown. Unfortunately, the mother expired when he was barely two years old.
Rinpoche learned monastic rituals, grammar, literature and astrology while at Babron Tharpaling Monastery the main seat of Kunkhen Gyelwa Longchen Rabjam in Bumthang for few years.
He spent years as cow herder and finally had the chance to go to school when he was 13 years old. He had to discontinue his Bachelor's degree course from Sherubtse College to pursue higher meditation in Vajrayana Buddhism in late 1990s. The period saw him spending full time in retreat and meditation practices. It was during which time His eminence had the good fortune to receive precious Kagyu and Longchen Nyingthig tradition of Ngagyur Nyingma from the above mentioned bodhisattvas.
After having spent many years in meditation his masters advised that the time had come for him to begin teaching and propagating Buddhism. From then on he started teaching his devotees. His devotees include youth, common lay people, office goers, job-seekers, monks, nuns, lamas and trulkus. He spends most of his time these days attending to his visitors that come to get his blessing, oral transmission, meditation instructions, spiritual courses, counseling, astrological reading and anything to do with Buddha dharma.
The free time that he sometimes happens to have for himself, he spends it in prayers and in meditation called ‘watching the mind.’ When asked what he in particular practices, Rinpoche humbly said, “Well my main practices are Guru Yoga (Lamai Nyeljor) of Longchen Nyingthig and Vajrakilaya.” On the advice of his masters he had already undergone Munjusheri Jetsun Jampelyang retreat divination for a year long, Vajrapani Pelchakna Dorjee, Vajrakilaya Pelchen Dorji Zhoennu, and had profoundly learnt Tibetan and Bhutanese astrology.
I managed to interview some of his devotees. Phuntsho Thinley, a Park Manager with the ministry of Agriculture said, “Rinpoche is a highly learned being. Besides his convincing teachings as a result of his profound knowledge, he also has a great sense of humour.”
“To me he is like a Buddha himself. Just by the sight of him I fell as though all my sufferings are vanquished. His prediction for me until this time had all come true. I visit him almost on a weekly basis. The more I interact with him the more I find myself leaning towards him faith wise. He is just like any other truly learned Buddhist Lama,” said Sonam Tobgay, the Deputy Managing Director of Bhutan Post.
Sonam Tshomo, a nurse working for Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral hospital prefers to receive the teachings in English language. She said that after the counseling her friends who were into smoking received from Rinpoche, “They have stopped it all together. For youth like us, someone like him is as precious as our parents, if not more.”
One of the ardent devotees of Rinpoche is Jangchuk Dorji (Buddhist name) a Christian born American who had turned Buddhist on his own choice had this to say about his root Guru: “Because I found him ridiculously humble, modest, a being with no pride, no arrogance It took me a very long time to garner my respects for him. From where I come from people with such extraordinary traits could be taken for a fool by most. I think that’s because we like to be more critical. Now I know I had been overtly arrogant then. I wish it had not taken me that long to feel for him the way I feel now.” And added that he feels for the Rinpoche just the way Christians would feel for Jesus if he had been alive now and the way Muslims would feel for Prophet Mohammad in person or for that matter a Jew would feel for an alive and kicking Moses.
Under the strict guidance of His eminance, all his devotees are into practicing Chakchen Ngondro and Dzogchen Longchen Nyingthig Ngondro (Preliminary Practices) every day at their respective residence. After every month the devotees go to see him for further instruction on the practices.
Each day multitude of sick people visits His eminance to get remedial blessing and to seek guidance. “I am available any day, any hour. I always, like any Buddha dharma practioneers consider it my good karma whenever I am of help to them. Humanity is just one big family. I suggest that Buddha dharma be practiced religiously by all beings for their own benefit and for the benefit of all sentient beings. Youth especially should come forward-It is my dream to preach the teaching to the young minds for they are the future torch bearers,” Rinpoche said.
“What makes you not a Buddhist” by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche is the recent book in English read by His eminance and says, “The contents in the book are thought provoking. I have enjoyed it thoroughly.”
His eminence resides in a rented house in Dechencholing, Thimphu with few monk attendants. He pays his rent and survives with the offerings his devotees offer him. “Health wise, Rinpoche is not doing well at all and yet he insists that he see all his visitors,” said one of Rinpoche’s attendants.