In the aftermath of two major disasters, Nepal had cause for celebration again in the form of a sacred event.
On Nov 3, an eight-year-old boy, the only son of a renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher and spiritual leader, was offered the diamond crown and recognised as a manifestation of a living Buddha.
Ogyen Trinley Lhundup was born into the family of Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche and Khandro Tenzin Choeden. Following the traditional formal enthronement, he takes on the role as a high reincarnate master – the IXth Kyabgon Jedrungpa.
Six months’ planning went into the Golden Enthronement, described as “the most splendid and magnificent enthronement ceremony” in recent times.
Buddhist master Rigo Tulku Rinpoche led the ceremony of pageantry, which was steeped in sacred Tibetan Buddhist rituals, at Shyalpa Monastery in Kapan, Kathmandu.
Over 10,000 guests including numerous high lamas, monks, nuns and devotees from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism as well as distinguished guests came to make offerings and receive blessings from the young master. Hundreds of Bhutanese, Tibetan, Nepali and other Himalayan performers also celebrated with their songs and dances.
“The event was most successful and took place after Nepal experienced devastating earthquakes and fuel blockages from India. We did not know how many people would show up. No buses were running,” Shyalpa Rinpoche says in a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.
With supportive friends and committed devotees, the enthronement ceremony went “perfectly”.
“It was a sign of true greatness and good fortune of His Holiness the Kyabgon Jedrungpa,” he says.
According to tradition, it is most auspicious for a child recognised as a reincarnated high master to be enthroned at the age of eight. In the past, a child as young as four or five years of age had also been enthroned. By contrast, Shyalpa Rinpoche was 22 when he was enthroned, even though he became a monk when he was four. It was a simple affair at the Shyalpa retreat in Tibet.
A grand occasion
Throughout the enthronement, the boy was a picture of confidence, sitting for about nine hours in the lotus position.
“It was the first time he sat for that long; without any training. He was so calm and very natural because of his meditative past life. Everyone was amazed … by his gracious manners and complete transformation,” Rinpoche says.
His legs and body ached. Despite slouching several times from the strain of the lengthy event, he blessed every person who stood in line the whole day, more than 10,000 people!
Rinpoche did not talk to the Kyabgon Jedrungpa after the enthronement as he was very busy with an evening reception. The next morning, the young master told Rinpoche in his hotel suite: “I’ve completed the enthronement.”
Rinpoche replied, “Yes, you’re exemplary and I’m very proud of you!” before leaving to attend to his guests and pray in his monastery. When he returned in the afternoon, he saw Sonam, his assistant, and another monk counting money given by guests in red envelopes. Sonam explained to Rinpoche that the Kyabgon Jedrungpa invited them to count the money and asked them not to give it to anyone but keep it in his bank account.
The reason, the young master told them. was because “Now, I have the responsibility to take care of 200 monks.” Hearing that gave Rinpoche goosebumps, as it was a profound statement to be made by someone so young. “(But) he does not have a bank account,” Rinpoche laughs.
Best of both worlds
For now, the IXth Kyabgon Jedrungpa is receiving rigorous Buddhist training and traditional education at Shyalpa Monastery. But the young reincarnate master is not cut off from his family.
Rinpoche says: “He is still staying with his mother and older sisters. He goes to the monastery every day for lessons. He is fortunate to be able to have a real life. He has the best of both worlds.”
This is so that he will grow up with “a better understanding of what girls are like, as well as experience a mother’s love.”
His kindergarten teachers at Lincoln School remarked that the young master is “quite unlike any other child they had seen in their 25 years of teaching”, exhibiting compassion as well as camaraderie with his peers.
Rinpoche describes the young master as “a grandfatherly type, very serious, very sweet and the most peaceful person that you will meet”.
He adds that there would be no interview with the young master for now so as “not to give him any pressure”.
“Right now, we don’t let him give teachings because he is still a child. It’s very important for him to have his childlike qualities and be enriched in a childlike way.” That way, Rinpoche says, “He will be a very learned and sophisticated master. He can change the world.”
As I wonder if I will ever get to meet the young master, Rinpoche surprises me. “We suggested that he come and meet you. It’s a wonderful way to connect,” he says, much to my delight.
After my interview with Rinpoche, two assistants escort the IXth Kyabgon Jedrungpa to the hotel lobby. I ask him how he is feeling today and he warmly replies, “Good!”
I kneel and extend a kata (scarf) to seek his blessings, feeling honoured when he places the scarf around my neck. His little hand then touches my forehead.
I do not expect it, but we manage to have a photo session with him before he is quickly ushered away. I am bowled over by my good fortune – it must be karmic that we somehow connected!