(c) Stephanie Colvey, courtesy of Densal.
(c) Stephanie Colvey, courtesy of Densal.

Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche
(1954-1992)

Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche died in a car accident in the Kalimpong District of Darjeeling, India, on April 26. He was thirty-seven years old. The accident took place near the site of Rinpoche’s monastery and the residential school that he founded for young monks and orphans. The driver of the vehicle as well as Lama Kunga, the head of the school, were also killed. Tenzin Dorje, Rinpoche’s closest assistant and the sole survivor of the crash, will be continuing his teacher’s vow to disseminate Buddhadharma.

Born in Lhasa, Tibet, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was recognized as an incarnation of the previous Jamgon Kongtrul by the late Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, the supreme head of the Kagyu lineage. At the age of six, the young tulku left Tibet to join the Karmapa at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim where he was raised by the Karmapa as one of his four “heart sons.”

Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche accompanied the Karmapa to the United States in 1976 and 1980 and in recent years carried out the Karmapa’s work, inspiring and teaching large numbers of students in Asia as well as in Europe and the United States. At the time of his death, he was engaged in building monasteries and initiating plans for a home for the elderly and a health clinic in Nepal. Yet for all his industrious projects to preserve and disseminate the Buddhist dharma, the real loss is Rinpoche himself, for he was one of the few younger Tibetan lamas considered to embody the true dharma wisdom of his elders. With the Tibetan holocaust continuing and the monastic traditions fractured, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s dharma mind was revered as a pure vessel for carrying the best of the great Kagyu tradition from the past into the future. And while the following excerpt from one of Rinpoche’s talks suggests that his own death may not have been problematic for him, that does not diminsh its tragic effect on the sangha or the lineage. He had been playing a vital role in the struggle to keep dharma alive in an age of darkness for his country and for the world. For this reason, his sudden death is a particularly sad event for Buddhists East and West.

 

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