Gelek Rimpoche, a lama in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, author of Good Life, Good Death, and founder and spiritual director of Jewel Heart International, died on Feb. 15.

Gelek Rimpoche was born in Lhasa, Tibet, in 1939. He was recognized as an incarnate lama when he was 4 years old and went on to study at Drepung Monastery. He left Tibet for India in 1959, and settled in the United States in 1980. He founded Jewel Heart International, an educational and cultural institute, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which has since grown to include numerous chapters across the United States and internationally.

In a 1994 interview with Tricycle founder Helen Tworkov, Gelek Rimpoche spoke about his decision to come to America:

For one thing, the transmission of the dharma is very important. Dharma does not belong to Tibet or Tibetans, dharma belongs to everybody. The West, in particular, is in need of dharma because of the lifestyle, the pressure, the difficulties. Many people had put in a lot of effort here—Trungpa Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe, and the late Karmapa and Kalu Rinpoche—but unless you stay here constantly, and become a part of people’s lives, and understand their culture and family relations, it’s difficult to contribute to rooting the dharma here.

Arrangements are forthcoming. Those wishing to leave a note of remembrance can do so on this page set up by Jewel Heart.

Jewel Heart Ann Arbor Center will be open for prayers starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18. 

Gelek Rimpoche’s cremation is set for 9 a.m. at Santeiu Vaults, 12700 Fairlane Street, Livonia, MI, 48150. Space and parking is limited.

Receiving of the relics is set for 3:30 p.m. at Jewel Heart Ann Arbor. Gelek Rimpoche’s relic blessing ceremony starts at 4 p.m., and will be broadcast online. 

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