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6/26/08 – According to my journal, we took it easy today. That is, after the three day excursion to the Nubra Valley, where there are some of the most precarious roads on the planet. So I was very happy to do so. We had some time to explore the shops of Leh and then we reconvened to go visit Bakula Rangdrol Nyima Rinpoche, one of the Tulkus from Lama Yuru Gompa (a Drikung Kagyu monastery). There is another Bakula Rinpoche (tulku) of the Gelugpa sect, who we also received blessings from; he is a different person.
Bukula Rangdrol Nyima (Rinpoche) had a house on the outskirts of Leh. It seemed rather ordinary and of a moderate size (nothing too special from the outside). Inside there were more of the monastic decorations I was expecting – tangkas (religious paintings), banners, the beautiful Buddhist door hangings, and a little shrine or two. Rinpoche seems to be about my age – early 30’s; he is spy, direct and energetic. Watching him walk around Lama Yuru later, one could tell he moved with purpose and clarity. As he is younger, he tutor (or attendant) was there with him – Drupon Sonam Kunga. Drupon was a short Ladakhi man (monk) who just radiated peace and contentment. It was very pleasurable and an incredible blessing to meet both of them in such an intimate setting.
They received us and another attendant (a layperson) served us tea and cookies. Rinpoche spoke a little about Tibetan Buddhism and then answered a few questions. He also passed out CDs to each of us – he put together a beautiful CD of his singing traditional chants and Buddhist songs. Very precious.
Later I heard the story that Drupon Sonam Kunga (who did not look old enough for this to be the case, but nonetheless) was in the same 3 year retreat as His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgon (Chetsang Rinpoche). This was quite a star studded retreat as Khenchen Rinpoche, Konchog Gyaltsen, Drupon Somten and eight other highly respected lamas participated. It was at this retreat that His Holiness became very ill, so much so that it seemed like he would not be able to finish the prostrations section of the (5-fold path of Mahamudra?) practice. One of the other lamas found out about His Holiness’ illness and made a petition to the retreat master, who at the time was the highly venerated Kyunga Rinpoche. It was noted that Kyunga Rinpoche prostrated and said something like this: “Rinpoche (your Holiness), despite the fact that you are Avalokitesvara (or Manjushri) incarnated, you still must finish your prostrations for the benefit of all sentient beings.”
That was inspiring to say the least! Rinpoche (Bakula Rangdrol Nyima) is also known as one of the best Cham dancers (monastic ritual dances) in the Drikung Kagyu. Later on the Pilgrimage, when we visited Lama Yuru, we had the chance to see him and many others in action. The photo above is from those dances, I’m not certain it is Rinpoche however. You can visit <http://www.drikung-kagyu.org> for beautiful photos and for the bio of Rinpoche and many other high lamas.
Bakula Rangdrol Nyima Rinpoche is the 4th reincarnation. The guide said that while he is alive and residing at Lama Yuru, the main Drikung Kagyu monastery in Ladakh, it flourishes. However, when he is not around, it declines. Lama Yuru he said, supports 400 monks and nuns – some in smaller hermitages, monasteries and solitary retreats. I think most of them were there for the Cham dances (there were hundreds of ordained running / milling about). It was quite inspiring and it made me feel good that Tibetan Buddhism still has a lot of support and ordained membership despite what is occurring in China.
Later that day we did a little shopping – where I purchased my first tangka for 3300 rupees (~$80 US) – what a deal. It is a beautiful tangka of Green Tara.