By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 12: One of Tibet’s most prominent monastery Tashi Lhunpo, the seat of the Panchen Lamas, which has been rebuilt in exile following the Chinese occupation of Tibet has a new abbot. The new abbot or the Khen Rinpoche was officially enthroned on Monday at the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Bylakyppe, South India where over 1400 people attended.
Appointed as the 5th Abbot of Tashi Lhunpo since its inception in South India by the foremost Buddhist leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Bodhgaya months ago, Jetsun Tenzin Thupten Rabgyal, the fifth incarnation of Sigkyab Tulku, is just 36-years old.
“It is a mixed feeling, in that I am constantly fraught with fear with what responsibility the position entails. I do not possess the necessary experience or the wisdom but I feel that the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and my teachers is a safety net that cushions me from the pressure of the position at the moment,” he told Phayul.
But the young lama is determined to deliver. He says that the role catapults him to a vantage point to do “larger good for both the monastery and the Buddha dharma”. When asked what does that mean practically, he replies, “To begin with, I intend to have more classes that gives introduction to Buddhism and advanced classes for anyone who wishes to listen.”
His first step as Abbot can best be described as symmetrical and honest in that his life’s work before the appointment had been of a teacher. He has been a teacher for 12 of his 36 years on earth. Prior to his appointment, he frequently holds Buddhism introduction classes for the masses in person as well as through Skype for his students in far-off Taiwan.
He has passed both the Geshe (equivalent to Ph.D in Buddhist philosophy) and Kachen, an equivalent title from the Tashi Lhunpo monastery and also undergone Tantric studies from Gyumed monastery in South India. His education under former Abbot of Ganden Jangtse Lobsang Choejor spans over 22 years and continues to this day.
The new Khenpo of Tashi Lhunpo was born in a government hospital in Kolahpur city in western India to a humble Tibetan family who were seasonal garment sellers like many of exile Tibetans in India. His father Passang Tsewang and mother Youdon are from the Tibetan settlement in Bylakuppe.