Bokar Rinpoche

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The Most Venerable Bokar Rinpoche, holder of both the Shangpa and Karma Kagyu, and tutor to His Eminence Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche, died on August 17th, 2004.  

However, the passing of V. Ven. Bokar Rinpoche is a great loss, not only to Kagyupas, but to Tibetans and Himalayan Buddhist practitioners everywhere. 

"He held his realisation with such humility and taught with such precision.  A Holder of the Lineage, he embodied the Dharma.  A Master of Mahamudra, a true servant of the Buddha has passed." ~ Yahoo! Kagyu group

Khenpo Lodro Donyo Rinpoche will act as head of the monastery.  Yangsi Kalu, who is still a boy, is the head of the Shangpa Kagyu, one of the two distinctive lineages held by Bokar Rinpoche. 

Biography 

Bokar Rinpoche was born in western Tíbet not far from Mount Kailash, in 1940 (Iron Dragon year) to a family of nomadic herders.  When Rinpoche was four years old, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa recognized him as the reincarnation of the previous Bokar Tulku, Karma Sherab Ösel.  He named the boy Karma Shedrup Yongdu Pel Zangpo.

Rinpoche was trained at the monastery founded by the previous Bokar incarnation. He  continued his studies at Tsurphu Monastery in central Tíbet, main seat of the Karmapas.  While still a teenager, he assumed full responsibilities for the Bokar monastic community.  Then, due to the Communist oppression in Tibet, Bokar Rinpoche fled into exile at the age of 20.  In India, he became a close disciple of Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche.

Under Kalu Rinpoche's guidance in Sonada, Bokar Rinpoche twice completed the traditional three-year retreat.  During the first one, he followed the practices of the Shangpa Kagyu; the second was based on the practices of the Karma Kagyu.

In Mirik, India, Bokar Rinpoche founded a retreat center that is an important centre for Kalachakra practice. 

Bokar Tulku was a main meditation teacher of the Kagyu.  In all, he had meditated in retreat for over 19 years.   He had been appointed by the Gyalwa Karmapa to be the retreat master of a new facility at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim.

In 1987, Kalu Rinpoche said: "Bokar Rinpoche is extraordinary, perfectly made. Naropa prophesized to Marpa, that in the lineage succession, each direct disciple of the lineage would be superior to the master.  In the same way, Bokar Rinpoche will be my successor and will be greater than me."  And Bokar Rinpoche did indeed succeed him.  Acting as supreme head of the Shangpa  Kagyu, he guided the monasteries around Darjeeling as well as the monastic college in Bylakuppe near Mysore, Karnataka (southern India.)

Bokar Ngedon Chokhor Ling is the name of Rinpoche's monastery founded in 1986 at Mirik, a village in the hills of Darjeeling, West Bengal.  In the 11th century, Mahasiddha Maitripa, one of Marpa's teachers, was in retreat near there.  An address for offerings is, Bokar Gompa  P.O. Mirik-734214 Dist. Darjeeling, (W.B.) India.

What Happened

Very Venerable Bokar Rinpoche (b. 1940) passed into Paranirvana at 8:50 am on Tuesday, 17th Aug. 2004.   He is thought to have died of a heart attack.  

Karma Yongdup's message (posted by Lekshe, Aug 18, 2004 at 05:53 pm)  said that Rinpoche had not been able to sneeze and on the 16th of August, he complained of pressure building on his chest that felt external and made it hard to breath.  Khenpo Rinpoche requested he go for a checkup at Siliguri, over two hours away by car.   Rinpoche had had a good sleep  though, and in the morning he was ready to go, although right before leaving there was some difficulty in breathing again but it eased up.

The party drove slowly towards Siliguri. After about  40 minutes, they reached Gayabari.  A little after the Tea Factory, Rinpoche asked the driver to stop the car and he got out.  He vomited some watery mucus, saying that under normal conditions it would have come out as a sneeze but must have got blocked somewhere.  He said he thought the situation would then improve.  

They continued on their way but after a few minutes, Rinpoche again asked the driver to stop.   At that moment his head fell back, so the monastery was called with the request that Khenpo Rinpoche come immediately. 

With strong hope and prayers, the party continued on its way towards Siliguri where at least there was a doctor, "as there was no option left to us in almost middle of the road." Khenpo Rinpoche was on his way to Siliguri, too. 

When the party reached Dr. Nayak's Nursing Home, all the medical staff were waiting at the gate.  The doctor tried to do something but "our hope of seeing Him back was completely shattered." 

On the advice (by cell phone) of Khenpo Rinpoche, they started back for Mirik, where he was waiting for them before the Dudia Bridge.  He performed most of a preliminary puja and the party continued home.  During the ride back, many Rinpoches were informed of the misfortune by telephone, and blessings and prayers were requested.

When a Great Lama Dies

Lama Jinpa (The Bodhisattva Institute) reminded devotees and students of the benefit of practice immediately after the teacher's death, saying, "When [the previous] Kalu Rinpoche passed on, Lama Lodu Rinpoche sent a note into retreat saying now is the time to practice, as the Guru is manifesting Dharmakaya."

He added, "We pray for the swift return of Very Venerable Bokar Rinpoche and for the removal of all obstacles to the Dharma activity of Yangtsi Kalu Rinpoche and of HH Karmapa, for the unhindered flourishing of the Shangpa and Karma Kagyu lineages, and for the spread of the Buddha Dharma and good fortune to all."

Tukdam

During the time immediately following death, the body is observed to see what, if any, signs are exhibited.

Lama Namgyal, in Mirik on Aug. 17th, wrote: 

Rinpoche's body is now in Tukdam in Mirik monastery: Tukdam refers to the meditation state in which great practitioners dwell at the time of their death. Right now, pujas are being performed, led by Khenpo Dönyeu Rinpoche. [H. E.] Gyaltsab Rinpoche is expected to arrive this afternoon.

When a great master, such as Bokar Rinpoche, passes away, it is a tremendous
loss for the Dharma, the lineage and all beings. When a great Lama leaves his body, it is very important to practise the Guru Yoga to receive his blessing.

The Enshrinement
On Friday, August 20, Bokar Rinpoche's kudung [preserved corpse] was moved from his residence to the new shrine hall called Sungchö Lhakhang, where it was carried around the monastery in kora (circumambulation). During the procession on that 3rd day, many sacred signs manifested.   Relics like coarse grains of salt or little pearls (Tibetan, ringsel) dropped from the kudung and were collected by the monks.  This was done right away, lest dakinis swiftly reclaim them, or so it is said.

HE Gyaltsab Rinpoche is reported to have said :

"In Buddhist history, only Buddha Sakyamuni and Buddha Kasyapa have been known to have had relics shower from the sky even before the cremation. Usually most of the great Masters will have relics when the Kudung is cremated but to have relics while the Kudung is still intact is very, very rare and wonderful.  Bokar Rinpoche was equal to the Buddha but very few people could recognize the fact ". ~ via Ani Sonam.

The next day, there was a huge rainbow around the sun and that night a halo appeared around the moon.

Present were: HE Gyaltsap Rinpoche and monks from his monastery, Ralang, as well as monks from HH Karmapa's seat at Rumtek, both in Sikkim; also HE Jamgon Kontrul Rinpoche and Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche, as well as Drupon Rinpoche, who accompanied Karmapa out of Tibet, and many other lamas.  Numerous students from all over the world made the journey.

On Oct. 5th, the final day of bardo (49th day after death,) HH Karmapa was present to conduct the ritual.  Reports said that 15,000 people were in attendance, many from Sikkim.

The Words of Bokar Rinpoche

A Short Song of the Six Similes to Satisfy the Heartfelt Yearning of Devoted Disciples 
 

Fortunate men and women, who have karmic affinity with the Teachings, 
You gained a free and fully endowed precious life,
Met an authentic noble spiritual master,
And received vast and deep teachings for spiritual maturity and liberation. 
Now exert yourselves in cultivating meditative experience, I beseech you.

Your spiritual master is like the sun in space ­-
When your doubts or wrong views do not cloud him, 
His compassionate light shines continuously:
In yearning faith and devotion, pray.

Your pure vision is like an eye ­-
When your pride or critical thoughts do not blind it, 
All beings are mines of noble qualities:
Train in universal pure vision, I beseech you.

Your development of the mind of awakening is like a potent seed --
When plans for your own good do not spoil it,
It grows into perfect awakening:
Always meditate on the two aspects of the mind of awakening.

Your self-clinging is like an unseen enemy ­-
When you lose hold of the antidote of mindfulness, 
You will never escape the den of suffering: 
Therefore, please subdue your own mind.

Your mind's nature is like an endless ocean ­-
When waves of clinging to appearances do not disturb it,
It has a single flavor, the essence of reality:
Dwell without acceptance or rejection, affirmation or denial, I beseech you.

Your mind is like a wish-fulfilling jewel --
When delusion's impurities do not taint it,
It produces all you need and desire:
Always meditate on Great Seal.

At all times -- in this life, the next, and in between -­
The spiritual master's enlightened mind and your mind
Are not separate in your intrinsic awareness.
In natural repose, without distraction or clinging,

Make manifest the primordial body of ultimate enlightenment.

I, Karma Ngedon Chokyi Lodro, who holds the title of Bokar Tulku, composed this Short Song of the Six Similes to Satisfy the Heartfelt Yearning of Devoted Disciples according to the wishes of the residents of France's Niga Ling Retreat Center.

Timeless Rapture: Inspired Verse of tbe Sbangpa Masters, compiled by Jamgon Kongtrul, transl. Ngawang Zangpo (Ithaca, N Y:  Snow Lion Publications, 2003).

49 Days

Following death, consciousness normally experiences an 7-week interval or bardo. During that time prayers are said.  At Rinpoche's monastery, this is usually between 5 am - 9 pm.  

Schedule for the main 2004 pujas (revised): 

Week 1 (Aug. 17-23) Minling Dorje Sempa (Vajrasattva) 
Week 2 (Aug. 24-30) Nine Deities Gyalwa Gyatso (Red Chenrezig)
Week 3 (Aug. 31-Sept. 6) Karling Shi Tro (Peaceful & Wrathful Deities) 
Week 4 (Sept. 7-13) elaborate Kalachakra 
Week 5 (Sept. 14-20) Dorje Pamo (Vajrayogini)  
Week 6 (Sept. 21-27) Demchog, five dieties Chakrasamvara
Week 7 (Sept. 28 - Oct. 3) Kagyu Gurtsok (songs of realization, as in Rain of Wisdom

"Every evening from 6:30-8:00 several prayers are chanted by the monks and lay people. These include: Thun Zhi Lamai Naljor, the Four Session Guru Yoga by the eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje; "Calling the Lama from Afar" by Jamgon Kongtul Lodro Thaye; a guru yoga of Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche by HH the 17th Karmapa; two vajra songs "The Queen of Spring's Song to Ease Troubled Minds: Advice for Us All" and "Wide Wings that Lift Us to Devotion: A Supplication" composed by Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche (in Timeless Rapture.  Snow Lion Publ.); the Zang Chod Monlam ("King of Aspiration Prayers"); Rangjung Dorje's Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra, and the set of prayers for Rinpoche's swift rebirth.

Additionally, we also have some twenty monks continuing to observe the tradition of the Yarney (Rain-Retreat) and reading the THARDO -- The 
Great Sutra of Liberation.

During the last week of the ceremonies, in addition to the reading of the Kagyu Gurtso, monks from the various traditions have been invited to perform certain special rituals:  Monks from the Drukpa Kagyu will perform the Shitro Pema Bendza ceremony; Nyingmapa monks will perform the Minling Dorje Sempa practice; Sakya representatives will engage in the Hevajra rituals; and Gelukpa monks will do the Chakrasambara mandala ceremonies. Also, a contingent of monks from Kalu Rinpoche's monastery in Sonada will engage in the ritual offering of the Gyud De Lha Nga. . . .  ."

Please join us in whatever way that you are able: if you are able to come, please come; if you can not physically be here, join us through your devoted practice. . . .  ."

~ Ngodup Burkhar

Both H. H. Karmapa and HE Gyaltsap Rinpoche say that we can expect Rinpoche's reincarnation soon.

We Should Not Mourn

When an ordinary individual dies, crying and other expressions of loss are considered harmful, as they might hinder the departing consciousness with reminders of personal  attachment.  In the case of one's guru (Tib. lama), Bokar Rinpoche emphasized the fact that the essence is not the body:   

When we pray to the lama, we imagine his body before us --  his face, his familiar expression -- and we think that that's him.  But in truth, neither body nor facial expression is the true lama.  The lama is his mind and the qualities that go to make it up.

When the lama dies, certain people experience great sadness. The thought of never again seeing him in physical form gives rise to painful feelings of separation.  In fact, when the lama takes leave of his body, it's because he is done conveying to us what was to be transmitted.  And if we have developed the understanding that our mind is indistinguishable from his, then there is no longer any separation.  So even though the lama is no longer present, it does not give rise to grief.  That's it -- that's what true devotion is.

"Lorsque nous prions le lama, nous imaginons face à nous son corps, son visage, son expression familière et nous pensons que c'est lui. Mais, en vérité, ni son corps ni l'expression de son visage ne sont tout à fait le
lama. Le lama, c'est son esprit et les qualités qui le caractérisent.

Lorsque le lama meurt, certaines personnes éprouvent une très grande tristesse. La pensée de ne plus le voir dans son corps crée dans leur esprit un sentiment de séparation douloureux. En fait, lorsque le lama quitte son aspect formel, c'est que celui-ci a fini de nous transmettre ce qu'il avait à nous transmettre. Si l'on a développé la compréhension que notre esprit est indifférencié du sien, dès lors il n'y a plus jamais de séparation. Quand bien même le lama n'est plus présent physiquement, cela n'entraîne pas de tristesse. Voilà, la dévotion c'est cela."


~ Bokar Rinpoche. Vie de Bokar Rinpoche, lama tibétain. Vernegues, France:  Editions Claire Lumière, 1992. (156).

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