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Tribute to the Venerable Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

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Venerable Kushok Bakula Rinpoche
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Bakula Rinpoche, who has passed away aged 86, was a unique Lama of great talent and exceptional gifts. He was highly revered for his erudition, his dedication to the education of a new generation of young monks and nuns and his gentle humility. His wisdom and compassion put him in the front rank of influential Tibetan Buddhist masters, yet he was always modest.

Born into a noble family of Ladakh, India, he was recognized by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of Bakula Arhat - one of the Sixteen Arhats (direct disciples of the Shakyamuni Buddha).

As a Buddhist leader, he guided his followers through his personal example of a humble life as a celibate monk. He dedicated his life to the core principles of Buddhist teaching by caring for others, especially for those who were less fortunate and in great need.

He was deeply engaged with a number of welfare and minorities' right issues from remote places like Ladakh to the vast areas of Scheduled Casts and Tribes in India. His support, enthusiasm and determination played an important role in helping the Ladakhi people sustain their ancient Buddhist religion in the controversial political environment of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. As a man with a great sense of practical reality, he was a guiding spirit for Ladakhi people to develop their way of life through a combination of traditional and modern education. This won him the title of "The Architect of Modern Ladakh".

Though he made no claim to being a Tibetan leader, many of his works, dedicated to mobilising support for the Tibetan refugees when they first arrived in India seemed to make him one in practice. He was highly revered as a Lama and greatly respected as a human rights campaigner by the Tibetan people. To His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Rinpoche was a close friend and a dedicated fellow advocate of Buddha Dharma.

As a skilled administrator and Member of Parliament, he held some of the highest ministerial posts in the Government of India, including being head of the Minorities Commission. As a diplomat, he served as Ambassador of India to Mongolia for over 10 years from 1990. In 1986, in recognition of his distinguished service of high order to the nation, the President of India awarded him the second highest honour, "Padma Bhushan".

The Prime Minister of India Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Jammu & Kashmir House and placed a wreath and paid his condolences saying: "In the death of noble Lama Kushok Bakula, we have lost a great saint, guide and inspiring personality of the Buddhist world. It is difficult to imagine Ladakh without him."

Being a man of vision, his focus was always on promoting and reviving Buddhist tradition in the countries where political systems had denied it to the people.

I first met Rinpoche in 1973 when he gave me his full support in organising the first ever meeting of His Holiness the Dalai Lama with two Buddhist leaders of Russia (then Soviet Union) and Mongolia. Whatever one may think of the details, Rinpoche was convinced that Buddhist tradition would once again prevail in these countries. He was a rare combination of scholar and monk, who knew the value of getting people to talk and who had the political insight to really bring change to the communities he lived in.

Today, the teachings of the Buddha have once again come back to Russia and Mongolia and Bakula Rinpoche has played an important mentoring role in the process.

Over a period of ten years, he helped re-open ancient monasteries and organize Buddhist peace conferences. Under his guidance, Pethub Monastery and Dechen Ling Nunnery in Ulaanbaatar developed into important centres of learning for the Mongolian Buddhists. In 2001 the President of Mongolia awarded Rinpoche one of the highest honor of the country, "The Polar Star".

He traveled internationally promoting the importance of inter-faith understanding, inter-communal harmony and peaceful reconciliation of conflicts in the world. His last visit to London was in November 2002 when he was a guest of Her Majesty the Queen. During that visit Tibet Foundation had the privilege to host a reception in his honour and receive his blessing. Tireless in his work, he traveled on to the 3rd World Buddhist Conference hosted by His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

His passing is a great loss to the world Buddhist community and especially to the people of India, Tibet and Mongolia. For 30 years I have known Rinpoche as a source of great inspiration. His contribution to the welfare of the Tibetan refugees and to the success of our work at Tibet Foundation was invaluable. We shall miss Rinpoche.

Together with his followers and Buddhists at large, we earnestly pray for the swift return of his reincarnation.

Most Venerable Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, born 21st May 1917 in Ladakh was educated in the great monastery of Drepung in Lhasa. He passed away in Delhi 4th November 2003.


    2nd Incarnation of Kushok Bakula RinpocheTilopa

Main article: Tilopa

    The second incarnation of Bakula was an Indian Mahasiddha Tilopa (Tibetan: ཏི་ལོ་པ, Wylie: Ti lo pa), or Sherab Zangpo (Tibetan: ཤེས་རབ་བཟང་པོ, Wylie: Shes rab bzang po) (Prajnabhadra).In order to spread the Buddha dharma. The king of Visnunagar offered Tilopa, a learned guru, 500 gold coins a day, if he would live at his court. Tilopa, however, wanted rather to live as a yogi and he quietly departed from the court and retreated near a cemetery to meditate. During that time, Naropa came to serve him. And through the practice of the six famous yoga lams (paths) he attained the mahamudra siddhi. After preaching extensively, he entered the heavenly abode of Amitābha during his lifetime.

    3rd Incarnation of Kushok Bakula RinpocheLuipa

Main article: Luipa

    The third incarnation of Bakula manifested as the Indian Mahasiddha Luipa (Wylie: Laa wa pa). He abandoned his kingdom in Sri Lanka and journeyed to Ramesvaram, where he became a Bhikkhu. A Dakini at Dorje Dan (Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ་གདན, Wylie: rDo rje gdan) (Bodh Gaya) revealed to him an upaya for realising Buddhahood -- and in this way he continued practising for many years in a cemetery. Dakinis at Pataliputra further instructed him to remove his royal pride about the purity of foods, after which he sat in meditation for twelve years near river Ganges, where he lived on the minute guts of fish rejected by the fishermen.

    4th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    The fourth incarnation was a king. He appears in the religious book 'Kadam Buchos'.

    5th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    The fifth incarnation was Aryasura (Lopon Pawo, Wylie: sLob dpon dpa' bo), the disciple of Nagarjuna (Gonbo Ludup, Wylie: mGon po klu grub).

    6th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    The sixth incarnation was Gyalwa Chogyangs, (Wylie: rGyal ba mchog dbyangs), one of Lopon Padma's twenty-five disciples.

    7th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    The seventh incarnation was Ratna Udam (Nyamet Rinchen Chondus, Wylie: mNyam med rin chen brtson 'grus), the disciple of Kasdup Kyungpo, (Wylie: mKhas grub 'khyung po).

    8th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    The eighth incarnation, was Yeshe Dzin, dharmaguru of King Gedun Bang.

    9th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    Lotsawa Rinchen Sangpo, 954 - 1055.

    10th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    The tenth incarnation, was Geshe Chagpa Thrichog of the Kadmapa tradition.

    11th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula RinpocheRechung Dorje Drakpa, 1083/4 – 1161

    12th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    Sthavira Lodros Choskyong[2] was Khedrup Rinpoche's main disciple.

    13th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    Drupchen Choskyi Dorje (Mahasiddha Dharmavajra) was the pupil of Basco Chokyi Gyaltsen (Dharmadhvaja).

    14th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    Lobzang Jinpa (Sumatidana) was the main disciple of Lobsang Palden Yeshe, 6th Panchen Lama.

    15th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    Yongdzin Yeshe Gyaltsen was the tutor of Jamphel Gyatso, 8th Dalai Lama.

    16th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    Jetsun Ngawang Jampek Yeshe Gyatso, Khempo of Loseling.

    17th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    Kongchog Rangdrol Nyima was the first Incarnation to appear in Ladakh, he appeared in Lamayuru Monastery.

    18th Incarnation of Kushok Bakula Rinpoche

    19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, 21 May 1917 – 4 November 2003

    20th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, Thubstan Nawang, born 24 November 2005

Phuntsog Wangyal

Tibet Foundation, London