Thinking today about one of my beloved elder teachers, His Holiness Yangthang Rinpoche.
He is scheduled to complete an individual twelve day solitary silent retreat tonight at his ashram residence in Yuksom, Sikkim in the Himalayas.
You may wish to enlarge the photos as much as possible to better see Rinpoche’s kindly face. A face of true love and joy, the face of someone imprisoned and tortured for 22 years by those who murdered his family, teachers & friends, yet who holds no resentment toward his captors and abusers.
He is now 87 or 94 years old (born either in 1929 or, as some say, in 1923).
He is an amazing Sikkimese Tibetan lama revered as an enlightened living saint, a living buddha. A most loving yet strict old sage with a sharp sense of humor and tremendous force of selfless personality, oceanic wisdom, and kindly character.
In his early years, Rinpoche trained under some of the most advanced lamas in Tibet and Sikkim and completed over 20 years of solitary retreat practice before assuming duties as abbot of a training monastery within his lineage, becoming a teacher and spiritual guide to thousands of students, monastics and householders alike.
While fleeing the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, his closest teacher-&-adopted father, together with his closest fellow student-&-adopted brother, were both killed. Rinpoche was able to escape the attack but was soon captured and imprisoned by the Chinese. For 22 years he was held and periodically tortured — from the 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet, until 1981. He was released following the death of Chairman Mao. He holds no resentment toward his captors and torturers, towards the murderers of his family, and destroyers of his country. While in prison some of the guards become his personal students.
After his release from prison, Rinpoche returned to his monastery to find it long since had been completely ransacked and demolished in the invasion, its hundreds of former monks and their families either murdered, imprisoned like himself, or escaped over the Himalayas to freedom & safety as displaced refugees in India.
Rinpoche was eventually allowed to rebuild his monastery, and to relocate to Sikkim.
Since then, he has been able to travel freely between Sikkim, Nepal, and Tibet. He has also traveled several times on teaching tours in the West during the 1980s-to-2010s, giving many meditation initiations, instructions, and retreats. He continues to reside in the beautiful forested area of Yuksom, Sikkim.
He is sometimes referred to, respectfully, as His Holiness, sometimes as His Eminence. Being a monastic lama (teacher), he is referred to as Venerable. In his case the title Rinpoche (“Precious Jewel”) indicates his status as a tulku (re-incarnation or emanation of an earlier revered lama), also as abbot (head of a monastery), and as an accomplished spiritual guide. He is known as Domang Yangthang Rinpoche because he was hereditary abbot of Domang monastery, and was born into the Yangthang clan. His personal name is Kunzang Jikme Dechen Ösal Dorje.
His Holiness Ven. Domang Yangthang Rinpoche
Rinpoche is on facebook (courtesy of some students)
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