An Amazing Story: Finding the Reincarnation of Tengan Rinpoche - Part 1
by Michele Martin, Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, March 21, 2017.
Ever since he passed away on March 30, 2012, finding Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche’s reincarnation (yangsi) has been awaited with great hope and deep devotion, especially in the Karma Kamtsang lineage. Before founding Benchen Monastery in Nepal, he was the ritual master for HH the Sixteenth Karmapa and famous for his detailed knowledge of vajrayana ceremonies.
When traveling in Germany, the Gyalwang Karmapa spoke about Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche on August 30, 2015: “While here in Germany, I had the opportunity to meet briefly with many students of Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche and share some remarks with them. It has been a while now since he passed away but during all this time, his students and I myself have been continually remembering Rinpoche. This recollection has caused our faith, devotion, and love for him to continue flourishing.
“Before Rinpoche passed away, he spoke a few words to me about his future reincarnation. Therefore, I have a great hope and prayer that we will soon meet with his yangsi. So my main words of encouragement for the disciples of Tenga Rinpoche and those connected to Akong Rinpoche as well is to let your minds be at ease and relax. Continue sustaining the enlightened activities of your teachers and I think this will be enough.”
Half a year later, on February 22, 2016, during the closing ceremony for the Kagyu Monlam, His Holiness the Karmapa made a thrilling announcement: during the Tseringma puja conducted at the Arya Kshema Winter Dharma Gathering, he felt great devotion for Tenga Rinpoche and had a “thought or minor vision of where he might be.” He said he would keep these details quiet until he was able to share them with HE Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche but that he hoped Tenga Rinpoche would be able to return soon.
... on the 24th February 2016, His Holiness presented the first prediction letter about Tenga Rinpoche to Drubwang Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. In this special document, His Holiness gave the names of the parents and a clear description of the landscape in which they lived. Also on February 24, His Holiness and Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche together selected the members of the all-important search team, which included the General Secretary Tempa Yarphel, the Junior General Secretary Tashi Öser, Khenpo Wusung and the Dorje Lopön Tsultrim Rabten.
Afterward His Holiness said that the four members should come in the evening and that he would send a qualified person with them for the search. When they all had gathered, the Karmapa said that Khenpo Garwang would be helping them, so there were now five people on the team. Khenpo joined as a representative of HH the Karmapa and the Tsurphu Labrang. His Holiness said that Khenpo Garwang is brilliant and has the awareness of nine people. Throughout the search, the team could always seek his counsel. Khenpo Garwang then requested the Karmapa directly, “I do need a map of the yangsi’s birthplace. Without one it will be difficult.” His Holiness said playfully, “OK. I’ll pretend that I know something,” and asked for paper. He talked as he drew: “There’s a mountain here, it looks a bit like this. And there are houses. Then there’s a river going along something like that. It’s not too big.” In the end he drew a picture that turned out to be clear as a photograph, showing the layout of the land with a river flowing through it and the design of the houses, some with flat roofs and others with peaked ones, and one house was set directly beneath the mountain.
In further conversation His Holiness said there were 32 to 40 households in the area. (It turned out later that an NGO had tallied the households in this spread out village and there were exactly forty.) He also stated there would be four and a half people in the family. Responding to a query, the Karmapa replied that the “half” could refer to a child in the mother’s womb. When General Secretary asked how old the yangsi would be, the Karmapa answered, “It seems that he is three or four.”
The prediction letter had said the yangsi’s home was near a blessed mountain called Gangpung Gyen (Gangs phung rgyan, Manaslu in Nepali, the eighth highest mountain in the world). Khenpo Wusung wondered which village it might be, as there were so many in that area. The Karmapa replied that it was the first village down from the Tibetan border, which turned out to be Samdo. His Holiness then encouraged them, “It is good to search for the yangsi right away,” so the following day they all went back to Nepal and left for Nubri, a high mountain valley in northern Nepal on the border with Tibet.
Since Nubri is a six-day trek from Kathmandu, they took a helicopter to fly through the deep valleys and high mountains up to the northern border. As they approached their final destination with Manaslu looming in the sky before them, the search team was astonished to see that the details of His Holiness’ drawing matched the landscape they had entered.
Once they had landed and settled in, for six days the search team looked everywhere in the Samdo area of Nubri. They went from house to house and Khenpo Garwang said to each of the families they met, “We are looking for a very bright child. If it could study, this child would bring a great benefit to everyone. There are four children like this and we have found one each on India, Bhutan, and Sikkim. Now we have come here looking for the fourth one, born in the Year of the Horse. Do you know of a child like this from Samdo?” But the search team could not find a child of three or four years, who had parents with names matching those in the letter of prediction. The team reported back to His Holiness that they did not find a child matching the description in his prediction letter.
The next day the Karmapa requested the team to come back to India, so sadly they had to return empty-handed to Tergar Monastery in Bodh Gaya.Here they had an audience with His Holiness. After noting that they had been unsuccessful, he paused for a moment and then said that it would be best if the Benchen Monastery could host the forthcoming three days of Tseringma puja. They would take place at Thrangu Rinpoche’s Vajra Vidya Institute in Sarnath and should be celebrated as elaborately as possible. His Holiness asked, “ Can you arrange this?” And Tempa Yarphel replied, “Yes, of course, Your Holiness. No problem whatsoever.” His Holiness then clarified that the senior Benchen monks should be present and that he would invite the senior monks form Rumtek Monastery, including the dorje lopön (the ritual master), the umdze (chant master), the chötrimpa (discipline master), and so forth. The practice would be led by umdze from Rumtek and the dorje lopön from Benchen.
An Amazing Story: Finding the Reincarnation of Tenga Rinpoche Part 2
by Michele Martin, Tergar Monastery, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, March 21, 2017.
The second time that His Holiness gave them information about the yangsi was during these ceremonies at Vajra Vidya Institute. The Karmapa arrived here on March 20, 2016 from Bodh Gaya, and on March 21, 2016, he began the three days of pujas in the radiant shrine hall of the Institute.
Two special altars had been beautifully arranged by the Karmapa himself: one for the Guru Yoga of Karma Pakshi in the morning and another for the practice of the Five Tseringma sisters in the afternoon. Said to reside in the Himalayas, the five sisters are protectors of the Kagyu lineage, and the central Tseringma is also a lineage holder of Milarepa’s Dharma teachings. In particular, Tseringma is considered the special spirit that has dominion over the area of Nubri.
These two practices of Karma Pakshi and Tseringma are the same ones that the Karmapa led in Bodh Gaya during the annual nuns’ gathering. In Sarnath, the rituals were augmented with copious offerings and continued for three days, finishing on the auspicious full moon of the second Tibetan month. The Karmapa had remarked about these special pujas, “At this time perhaps I will see the yangsi more clearly. ” On third day of the practices, March 23, 2016, as he left the shrine hall, His Holiness gave Tempa Yarphel a folded paper. When he opened it, he discovered the drawing of a house with a large boulder and an indication of the direction in which the door faced. Written at the top was “Year of the Horse.”
During an audience on the evening of that day, the search team requested further advice and clarification from His Holiness. The Karmapa told them that they did not know how to search in Samdo: “It could be that the mother went as a bride to another village or that the father went as a groom elsewhere. They will probably have a child. Look for them.”
So the search team returned to Samdo in Nubri, and this time Khenpo Garwang asked the head of the village and the resident lama, Lama Urgyen, to call a big meeting with the local villagers. Under a clear mountain sky, they all gathered and Khenpo Garwang asked about family members who had moved to other places and who had children. The villagers were very cooperative and even called abroad to relatives in Europe, America, and Australia to see if they had such a child but they only found a young girl born in the Year of the Horse, not a young boy.
Three days passed by, and then late in the day around 5:30, the General Secretary felt like having something to drink, so he walked over to a small shop where a woman was selling tea, coffee, and some snacks. He bought a cup of coffee and while he was drinking it, as is the custom in remote mountain areas, the owner struck up a conversation. (He later discovered that she was a sister of Lama Urgyen and named Sithar.)
“Well, did you find the child?”
“No,” the General Secretary sighed, “We’ve looked everywhere and could not find him.”
She asked him, “Did you know that my older sister’s daughter has a boy born in the Year of the Horse?”
“Where is she?” the General Secretary quickly questioned.
“My sister moved to Rö as a bride.“
“Where is this place?”
“Oh, you walk down the mountain about three or four hours and you’ll get there.”
The General Secretary was as surprised as he was elated. He paid for his coffee, leaving it half finished, and went as quickly as he could to find the search team in their guesthouse. Khenpo Garwang remarked, “That’s quite strange. We had so many meetings and no one mentioned this child. Let’s go tomorrow morning as early as possible. Since Lama Urgyen is a respected person and a relative of the boy, it would be good to invite him to come with us.”As Lama Urgyen was staying close by, the search team went right away to see him and Khenpo Garwang asked, “Did your sister’s daughter go as a bride to Rö?” “Yes, and my sister passed away quite some time ago,” he replied.
“Her daughter has a boy, isn’t it?”
“Could he have been born in the Year of the Horse?”
“Well, it’s possible. I’ll call her.”Lama Urgyen made a phone call to the yangsi’s mother and he found out that, indeed, the boy was born in the Horse Year. Lama Urgyen was also reminded that he was the one who had made an astrological chart for the infant after his birth. The lama happily agreed to join search team on their trip to Rö.With joy and anticipation, the search team traveled on the following day to meet his sister’s grandson. After their trek down the mountain valley, the search team at last came to the house, which was known as the New House in Rö of Nubri (Nub ri ros khang gsar). When the General Secretary saw the yangsi, he thought, “This child’s eyes have a special brilliance.” The parent’s names turned out to be just as the prediction letter had indicated: the father was named Tsering Wangdu, (though he was usually called Wangdu), and he was known as Urgyen Pasang Wangpo when he was a monk for four years at Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s Monastery in Swyambhunath, which is now under Mingyur Rinpoche’s guidance and called Tergar Ösel Ling. The yangsi’s mother was called Dawa Putri, and when she was a nun at Penor Rinpoche’s nunnery in southern India, she was known as Tsultrim Chödrön. She has two older sisters and three younger brothers. It also has turned out that the mother of both Tsoknyi Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche came from Rö.The parents named their boy Nyima Döndrup and he was born on the 23rd day of the tenth Tibetan month in the Year of the Horse (December 14, 2014) at 11:30pm. The previous Tenga Rinpoche had passed away in the early hours of March 30, 2012, so he did not wait long to take rebirth, just as the Karmapa had predicted. By Tibetan counting, the yangsi is four years old since he was born in the tenth month, and whenever Losar (the New Year) comes around, everyone is considered a year older no matter when they were born. So when the Yangsi was two months old, he was already considered to be a one-year old. Then two years passed, making him three, and this year Losar just happened on February 27th, so he turned four. However, in western terms he is only two years and some three months old.The search team took many photos, and while they were visiting, the young boy grabbed his mother’s chupa several times, saying something to her in the local Nubri dialect. When Tempa Yarphel asked Khenpo Ösung for a translation, it came out as a traditional gesture of welcome, “Pour them some tea.” Previously, when the team had asked about the prediction letter and the number of family members, the Karmapa had said that there could be four and a half, clarifying that “half” might mean that the mother was pregnant. When the team came to visit, however, the mother said her periods were regular, so she was not pregnant at that time. Yet there were four members in the family: the two parents, the yangsi, and his sister Kelsang Chökyi who was two years older. The General Secretary further asked the parents about the boulder that was in the Karmapa’s drawing. They replied that their old house had a boulder, but they had taken it down and broken up the boulder to use in building a new home with several extra rooms, thinking that they might open a guesthouse. While staying in Rö, Khenpo Garwang contacted His Holiness to give him a detailed report, including the fact that the “half” family member was missing. After three days, His Holiness responded and asked Khenpo Garwang to return to Bodh Gaya, India and the others to return to Kathmandu. Once back in India, Khenpo Garwang went over all the details with His Holiness and showed him the photographs of the family, their dwelling, and the stunning landscape, but at this point, the Karmapa stated that he did not have anything to say about Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche’s reincarnation.