The First Shangpa Rinpoche
|Fig 1. The First Shangpa Rinpoche|
The first Shangpa Rinpoche was well-known in Tibet and Nepal due to his selfless love and compassion to everyone. His name was Lobsang Chophel but people addressed him as Shangpa Rinpoche so it became his name. This name is derived from his birth place, “Shang”, which is in central Tibet. It was the birthplace of many great masters in the past, most notably, Khedrup Khyungpo Naljor, the Shangpa Kagyu lineage founder was born there and established his lineage there.
The first Shangpa Rinpoche was born in the year 1879. His parents' names are not known but their family name was Trungkhang. He was the second of three sons. His elder brother was Lhagyal and the nickname of his younger brother was Aku Chungchung. From childhood, he already showed great interest in visiting Buddhist temples and paying respect towards Buddhist statues. He was also very compassionate in nature. When people used sticks or stones to hit domestic animals, he cried as if it was he who was beaten. At a very tender age he wished to be a monk. His parents found it difficult to object as he was so insistent and they brought him to a nearby monastery called Dechen Monastery; which is a Gelugpa monastery under the Tashi Lhunpo administration. He thus began learning everything that a monk needed to learn, such as reading and writing; memorizing texts, rituals and eventually philosophy. His studies continued until he was 24 years old.
Due to his diligence, wisdom and his strict observance of Vinaya vows, everyone addressed him as Shangpa Gelong (Bhikshu) as a mark of deep respect. At a young age, Shangpa Gelong was recommended to further his studies at a bigger institute where he could obtain a Geshe degree. He contemplated on his true purpose and realised that he was not after the fame or prestige gained through the Geshe degree. Instead, what he truly yearned for was to find a good spiritual master who would guide him in the example of Milarepa so that he could accomplish inner realisation.
One night, he quietly left his monastery and went all the way to Tsurphu where His Holiness the 15th Karmapa, Khakhyab Dorje resided. His Holiness the 15th Karmapa became his root Guru and he received from him and other Gurus, empowerments and instructions of many Kagyu and Nyingma practices, such as Rinchen Terdzo empowerments and instructions in the methods of practices. He spent many years receiving teachings and practicing at Tsurphu. He then went on to western Tibet to visit Mount Kailash, and did a retreat there.
From Tibet, he moved to Dolpo in Nepal where he met a great meditator called Gomchen Trinle Chophel. He received many special instructions and empowerments from him and in return, he also offered many Kagyudpa teachings and empowerments to his master Gomchen Trinle Chophel. In the spirit of mutual respect and collaborative learning, they exchanged their knowledge and realisations with each other.
|Fig 2. Serphuk Cave where Shangpa Rinpoche embarked on a 12-year-retreat|
He then went in search of the right place for his long retreat and eventually began his long retreat at Serphuk cave in Dolpo near Tichu Rong. He spent 12 years in retreat in that cave and completed several advanced practices, including the completion of Konchog Chidu's Four Foundations twelve times in order to firmly establish the basis of practice.
During his retreat, he went through much hardship with minimal help from others as no one knew him at that time. The nearest village located at the foothills of the mountain was half a day’s walk from the cave. During winter, the whole mountain was covered with snow and the cave was completely inaccessible. The terrain was also very dangerous to travel in snowy conditions.
Initially, food was the main problem. Just to get enough food for one meal a day was difficult. Shangpa Rinpoche had to depend very much on whatever food he had brought along with him, and so he decided to do Nyungne Fasting during which he had only one meal every two days. Even so, he finally ran out of food and ended up just boiling hot water for drinking during meal times. He did not put too much effort in acquiring food and other necessities as he centered his efforts on practising diligently; valuing the fact that life is impermanent.
His way of practice emulated that of the great Kagyu masters, as described in the Kagyudpa text Easing the Mind of Worthy Disciples below:
"The Kagyupas point out the great highway by which the Buddhas have become enlightened. Their disciples cast to the wind the dust of the eight worldly dharmas, became children of mountains, wore clothes of mist, and reduced their food, clothes, and conversations to bare necessity. In great isolated retreats, they were completely cut off from the bustle of body, meaningless speech, and discursive mind. They sat on a single seat like an oak stake driven in the ground. They kept in their hearts the amrita of oral instructions taught by the gurus, and were free, not obstructed by the wall of samsaric existence so difficult to cross."
After a long time, he became so weak that he could not even muster up the strength to do simple work and effective practice. Deciding that he had to find food in order to practice well, he set out for the village. He could not get any alms because the people in that village had left to attend a funeral ceremony. He felt very disappointed and thought that he should not wait for the villagers to get back as it would be dark by then. He retraced his steps back towards the cave, when suddenly he saw some turnips left in the sun to dry. There he was faces with the dilemma: If he took them, it would be like stealing. Yet, if he didn’t take the turnips, he might die of hunger without completing his practice. After contemplation, he took ten pieces of the turnips and quickly returned to the cave. He rationed one piece a day and for ten days, he managed to survive and was able to practice well.
This attitude in the face of scarcity of food also mirrored what Mipham Rinpoche expressed in his commentary to Lord Nagarjuna's Stanzas for a Novice Monk:
"If one eats with the wish to become robust or handsome, non-virtue ensues; if one eats because one considers that, by not eating, one's body shall dissipate and consequently not be able to engage in spiritual practices, virtue ensues; and if neither of the two previous types of thought are present, what will be ensued is unpredictable. Thinking over these three possibilities before every meal is the excellent contemplation."
Continuously, he mindfully reflected on his motivation. He brought this motivation into his day-to-day practice, driving his conduct with discipline and perseverance. He was infused with the good qualities of acquiring only minimal daily necessities for the support of his practice and daily life, as taught by the Kagyu Serteng (also known as the Golden Garland of Kagyud) lineage masters.
Yet, the supply of food eventually dwindled and the root problem remained unresolved. He was faced with a new dilemma: was he to go back to the village to get food or to stay in the cave? Going to the village was a great effort. The struggle to get food as well as the journey could very well distract him from his motivation. He decided not to go and mentally prepared to accept whatever was to ensue. After several days, a dog arrived at the cave and was very friendly towards him. Shangpa Rinpoche was overjoyed and quickly wrote a letter stating that there was a hermit in a cave needing food and requiesting the reader of the letter to bring some alms to the cave. He tied the letter around the neck of the dog and bade it farewell.
The next day, some villagers came to the cave with tsampa, the Tibetan staple food made of barley flour, and other food. They noticed he was gaunt and weak, yet he greeted them very pleasantly and thanked them for the offerings. In return, he gave them blessings and also advised them to practice the Dharma diligently. These villagers became his first disciples and took time and care to send food to him. With the food he could practice without any obstacles for a long time.
At one time, there was heavy snowfall for many days and the cave was inaccessible. It took months for the snow to melt and people thought that the hermit must have surely died from starvation. In homage to him, they began to lit lamps in their own homes and dedicated merits to him.
|Fig 3. One of the places at Tichu Rong where the first Shangpa Rinpoche stepped on rock, and later his footprint appeared on the rock spontaneously.|
However, he was not dead. When the food supply ran out, he still managed to practice for one week by drinking boiled water. One fine morning, after finishing water torma offering and his regular morning session, he went out as usual to throw out the water. He heard some crows making a loud noises and ventured further to find out what happened. To his surprise, he discovered a dead deer lying on the ground. At first, he was happy and quickly got out his knife to cut the meat into pieces. Checking in his motivation in time, he realised he was very cruel and lacking compassion towards another sentient beings. He left the deer untouched and recited mantras and prayers before returning to the cave. At the end of his first session of practice, he went out again to see what had become of the dead deer. By that time, the deer was almost half eaten by crows. Shangpa Rinpoche collected whatever leftover meat there was. He ate a little bit each day and that sustained him for a month.
It was no ordinary hardship during the twelve years that he surmounted.
After his long retreat, he wanted to meet his master Gomchen Trinle Chophel again, but unfortunately the latter had already entered into nirvana. Later on, he was to meet another Yogi named Sertha Rinpoche and received many Nyingma practices from him. He spent a period of time meditating at Dolpo, in a cave called Trekyam Phuk. It was also in this very cave that his master Gomchen Trinle Chophel had meditated before. During this time of practice, he began to realise the ultimate essence of Dzogchen (Great Perfection) and Chagchen (Mahamudra). He had finally recognized the nature of mind completely.
He mentioned to his close disciple that when realisation takes place, the grasping of the dualistic conceptual mind becomes totally dismantled. He described that the dualistic conceptual mind melts into the state of total freedom like the way ice completely melts into water.
From the time after his realisation of the true nature of mind, Shangpa Rinpoche began to travel in order to benefit people in as many places as possible. He did not establish his own residence in any place during his lifetime, but always moved from place to place to fulfill the needs of others. He started to become known to people in many areas and they received teachings and initiations from him.
He started to rebuild old temples in Dolpo and Tichu Rong and also gave teachings and empowerments to the people there tirelessly. Whatever offerings he received, he used for the restoration of temples or to provide food for the poor. He did not try to save anything for his own use. Shangpa Rinpoche’s nature was so compassionate that whenever the poor people came to see him, he simply gave whatever he had.
One snowy day during the coldest month in that year, a poor man visited Shangpa Rinpoche. He did not have much clothing on and was shivering due to the cold. Shangpa Rinpoche blessed him and they had a conversation. Shangpa Rinpoche then asked him if he was feeling cold. The poor man answered, “Yes”. Immediately, Shangpa Rinpoche took off his upper jacket made of wool and offered it to the man to keep him warm. He also gave the man some coins to buy food with. Shangpa Rinpoche then continued to meet other visitors although he was not wearing warm clothes. Although he felt cold himself, he was very happy that he had relieved someone from feeling cold.
|Fig 4. Ruins of the stupa built by the 1st Shangpa Rinpoche at the slaughtering site in Mustang|
His attendants sometimes tried to save the money that people offered to him for future use. Shangpa Rinpoche tried to hide the money offered to him to give to the poor. There are so many people I have met who told me how often the first Shangpa Rinpoche had given them money and food without the knowledge of his attendants.
The devotion that people had towards him was very great. Everywhere he went, there were large groups of people who gathered, wanting to receive teachings and blessings. Many of the poor and beggars started to follow him wherever he went as he always distributed food to them and took care of their needs. His disciples told me that at one time, over a hundred beggars were following him and he was very happy about that. He even encouraged them to follow him as these people not only received food they needed but also received many teachings and empowerments which made their lives become meaningful.
Generosity in Protecting Animals from the Fear of Death
He also set free animals that were meant to be slaughtered. He bought many of them and gave them to his trusted disciples to be cared for. Often, when people gave live animals to him, he would have them well taken care of by his disciples or set free. One old disciple mentioned that at one time, almost ten thousand animals in western Tibet and Nepal were spared the fate of being killed. In Nepal, there are many places such as Thak Kohla (lower Jomson), Dolpo, Mustang and Tichu Rong, to name a few, where people practise annual animal sacrifices to local deities. Every year, hundreds of animals are slaughtered and their blood is offered at the shrines of local deities.
The first Shangpa Rinpoche guided the locals in the Buddhist tradition of compassion and reassured the people that there would not be any harmful effects if they stopped sacrificing animals. He taught them that if they prayed to Buddha, they could overcome every obstacle. Eventually more and more villagers of the region started to trust him and heeded his advice. To this day such sacrifices are no longer practised in these regions due to these teachings.
Befor the visit of the first Shangpa Rinpoche, many masters had attempted to discourage and stop these cruel activities. They did not succeed due to the misfortunes that continued to take place each time they attempted to do so. The villagers took the misfortunes as signs of punishment unleashed by the malcontent of the local spirits, due to their failure to make appropriate and timely sacrifices. They fell back to the practice of animal sacrifice even though they were aware that it was cruel and that it was not right to kill.
After Shangpa Rinpoche arrived, he asked the villagers to stop animal sacrifices, and guaranteed that no harm would befall them. He taught the natives other methods of offering, such as Torma offering, that would earn merit. True enough, the natives did not suffer any harm but enjoyed positive outcomes. Shangpa Rinpoche, by means of his supportive teachings, dissolved the fear and ignorance related to the practice of sacrificing animals. In doing so, he eradicated such cruelty in these places. Thereafter he built stupas at slaughtering sites to bless those places.
Rebuilding and Restoring Historical Temples
Throughout his life, Shangpa Rinpoche rebuilt many historical temples in the state of ruin or on the verge of collapse. He raised funds and contributed whatever he had to rebuild the temples. He not only paid for the cost of rebuilding, he was also actively involved in the building process. His hands-on ethic thus motivated the workers in their work. In addition to rebuilding the structure of each of the temples, he also provided everything that the temple needed, such as ritual instruments, textbooks and cooking utensils. Each time, he put in so much effort that people thought that he would use the temple as his own residence. At the end of each project however, he invariably handed over the temple and everything in it to the villagers and a resident Lama to take care of it. He would then travel to another place and, I was told, he never brought anything with him whenever he left. Even at times when his assistant would secretly keep something for the journey, he stopped them and reminded them that since they had arrived without anything, they would leave without anything, not even some food supply for the journey.
His mission to rebuild temples continued after he left Dolpo and moved on to western Tibet. While Shangpa Rinpoche was in western Tibet, he met my father who was a well-known artist. Shangpa Rinpoche requested him to paint drawings for the temples that he was rebuilding and my father served him for three years.
|Fig 5. Original handwritten teaching of the 1st Shangpa Rinpoche|
My mother still remembers when Shangpa Rinpoche came to her village that was called Phenchi, hundreds of people from all over western Tibet gathered to receive his teachings and empowerment. She still recalls that before or after the teachings, people flock towards him for his blessings. The crowd was so big that she could hardly get near him and only managed to receive his blessings once in a while. Shangpa Rinpoche stayed a month to give teachings and empowerments. She said that she was extremely happy at that time as she was just a little girl and managed to receive so many teachings and blessings in a short period. She told me this with tears in her eyes.
Many of the temples rebuilt by him can still be seen in Mustang and Dolpo, as well as nearby regions. Sadly, most of the rebuilt temples in Tibet were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. He also built stupas in many different places where people felt that there were negative forces. He blessed the land and built the stupas so that eventually the land became peaceful.
His Writings and Performance of Longevity Puja as Requested by His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa
Motivated by great compassion and the wish to benefit as many people has he could, the first Shangpa Rinpoche composed some short ritual texts like daily Sadhanas, supplication prayers, Vajra songs, and his heartfelt advice for his disciples and those fortunate affiliated ones.
There were no means of photocopying and printing was not easily accessible. Neither were there easy methods of voice and image recording. With time, many of the texts and teachings disappeared. Some of these may still be with the elder disciples in the mountainous regions of Nepal and Tibet. A piece of heart advice by the first Shangpa Rinpoche can be viewed here.
|Fig 6. HH 16th Karmapa|
In the later part of his life, he visited central Tibet in order to meet with His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. His Holiness the 16th Karmapa was very young at that time, he requested Shangpa Rinpoche to perform longevity pujas for him. Shangpa Rinpoche stayed a week in retreat and offered longevity prayers for the Karmapa. The Karmapa was happy to receive the blessed substances for his tasting from the longevity pujas performed by Shangpa Rinpoche. Some of the monks at Tsurphu gossiped over why the Karmapa should receive blessings from such a clumsy pilgrim. It was Lama Choying, one of the elder Lamas of Tsurphu, who recalled this anecdote during my visit to Rumtek in 1980.
Benefiting the Natives of his Hometown
From Tsurphu, he visited his hometown of Shang and met his relatives and the Lamas of the temple where he first entered into monkhood. The people of his hometown told of how he came with a big group of people; mainly monks and nuns but there were also many beggars. They were overjoyed that he had become a great practitioner. During this time, he started to give them many teachings and empowerments. He also shared with them about how he struggled for the Dharma and about the noble masters that he had met and insights from his own path.
|Fig 7. The 1st Shangpa Rinpoche provided ritual instruments, textbooks, and the necessary utensils for the temples|
He was invited to the temple where he was first ordained and he offered many things including food and money which were distributed to every monk. The people who were present still vividly remember that he offered a beautiful pair of Gyaling - trumpets, and a pair of cymbals. While he was at his family home for a few days, his niece Karma Tseyang insisted on becoming a nun and became his follower. Shangpa Rinpoche finally ordained her and she joined his entourage. Subsequently, another niece by the name of Tsoknyi was also ordained by him and also joined his entourage. I met Ani Tsoknyi at Dolpo when I was just three years old. The first time she met me, she was overwhelemed with emotion and cried a lot. She offered to me whatever she had. Later on, she was overly concerned for my well-being and constantly scolded my mum for spoiling me. She often disciplined me for every minor mistake I made. I was very playful as I was only 3 years old then. It was a rather hard time for both my mother and I when she was around. Eventually she left to practice somewhere else and I did not hear from her ever since.
In this way, the first Shangpa Rinpoche came to have a following of many monks and nuns wherever he travelled and he also constantly trained them to be good practitioners. To this day some of them are still living and practising in the remote areas of Tibet and Nepal.
Offering Kangyur to Temples in Remote Areas of Tibet
|Fig 8. The 1st Shangpa Rinpoche offered many sets of Kangyur texts to temples in remote areas of Tibet|
The first Shangpa Rinpoche ordered many sets of Kangyur text printed from wood blocks and offered them to temples he had restored. During those times, Kangyur text was very difficult to obtain in western Tibet. Texts printed from wood blocks were available only in central and eastern Tibet where there were workshops that specialised in the technique. Once printing was done, transportation for the text had to be arranged and was very costly and slow. It took almost a month for the texts to reach western Tibet. After the text had been distributed, the Goshar Gompa, one of the receiving temples, was requested by Gajor Gompa to lend them their set of new Kangyur texts. The monks of Gajor Gompa said that their texts were too old and they were not able to read the texts. So the monks of Goshar Gompa lent their Kangyur texts to Gajor Gompa. Tensions arose when the monks of Gajor Gompa refused to return the texts even after they had finished reading them. The relationship between both Temples turned sour. The village head and other people tried to resolve the issue but the monks from both temples quarrelled and did not listen to the mediators.
Finally, Shangpa Rinpoche called the monks from both temples before him. They each held up their own defence for the rights to own the Kangyur texts. Shangpa Rinpoche told them that as Sangha members, they should not argue over this matter as such behaviour is against the Buddha's teaching. He said that he would happily offer to Gajor Gompa an entirely new set of Kangyur texts from Lhasa using the best paper. They then agreed to return the Kangyur texts to Goshar Gompa. After several months, the new Kangyur texts arrived and Shangpa Rinpoche offered this set of texts to Gajor Gompa. The monks from Gajor Gompa were very happy and they requested Shangpa Rinpoche to give them initiations and teachings. They also invited Goshar Gompa's monks for meals together and they did a Lama Chodpa Tsog offering according to the Gelugpa tradition, headed by Shangpa Rinpoche.
The first Shangpa Rinpoche later returned to Nepal and after that, he travelled to Mustang and gave teachings to the King of Mustang who became a close disciple. The King of Mustang followed him to many places, while receiving the teachings and engaging in practice. He mastered the practice of Chod under Shangpa Rinpoche’s guidance.
Once when the first Shangpa Rinpoche was in Marang Village, Upper Mustang, the people came to ask for his help, as they felt the presence of negative forces in their village. Seeing the need to provide blessings and to restore peace and confidence in the people, Rinpoche built eight stupas in the village.
Wherever there was news of disaster, the villagers would seek to see Rinpoche and he would build stupas to bestow blessings. In this way, Rinpoche built many stupas in different parts of Mustang to bring benefit to the villagers and place. Due to his compassionate activities, the villagers of Mustang respected him greatly and consulted him for their problems. Gaining great confidence and love in the hearts of the people, Rinpoche also gave them many heart teachings which benefitted them greatly.
Jomson - Ku-tsab Ter-nga Temple
|Fig 9. Kutsab Ternga Temple|
The first Shangpa Rinpoche also rebuilt the Kut-sab Ter-nga Temple in Jomson. This was a very old temple that housed five treasures representing Guru Rinpoche. It was said that one great Lama who wished to build a temple to enshrine the five treasures did a prayer to the dharma protectors. A crow came and took one plate of his Torma offering. He then followed the path of crow on its flight. The crow finally dropped the plate at that place in Jomson. The Lama then decided to build the temple there.
When the first Shangpa Rinpoche visited the temple, it was already in a state of ruin. Certain parts had already collapsed. Rinpoche decided to restore the temple. He stayed for almost three years in the region in order to complete its restoration. Of the little money that was given to him, he dedicated all to the restoration of the temple. Rinpoche installed a big Mani wheel and each day he would sit near the Mani wheel reciting mantra and turning the wheel. When the work was completed, he performed many grand pujas and made Mendrup pills as well. He handed over the newly restored temple to the village and ordained several monks.
Pilgrims today can contemplate the words of the first Shangpa Rinpoche inscribed on a tablet on the temple wall. I share them here with my explanation and translation.
|Fig 10. Words of the first Shangpa Rinpoche inscribed on a tablet|
"I pay homage to the Triple Gem in the auspicious month of the Water Dragon year;
In the land of Guru Rinpoche's prophecy called Ku-tsab Ter-nga as uncertainty loomed, Shangpa in yellow robes wandered everywhere on foot;
Lobsang Chophel by chance reached this holy land.
In early times, this place flourished with dharma, with time, it became mere ruins.
Thus sincere disciples and sponsors from Nepal and western Tibet, particularly the residents of the twelve villages surrounding Mustang contributed towards the rebuilding of this place.
Their devotion and contribution were for both the living and the dead.
In order not to waste illusion-like wealth, spending 20,000 Nepalese coins,
Everyone began the restoration of the dilapidated temple, led by the head of the Sangha of Sonpo village Prasad.
In the spring of the Fire Monkey year from 1st to 15th (full moon), for half a month, Shangpa Lama, monks and nuns, altogether sixty of us, conducted the nectar-pill making ceremony. This auspiciously coincided with the consecration of the temple.
By this merit may the Buddha Dharma sustain and flourish, and may all great masters live long.
May all sentient beings be endowed with happiness.
Ultimately, may masters and disciples within one Mandala all atain perfect enlightenment."
Today the elder monks from the Ku-tsab Ter-nga Temple, who knew the first Shangpa Rinpoche recall much of those times when he was present. With each visit, I learn from them the stories of how the temple was built as well as what the first Shangpa Rinpoche has said and other anecdotes.
|Fig 11. The 2nd Shangpa Rinpoche and Kut-sab Tern-nga Lama-elders|
There were also joyful tales told and retold by the monks like this one: During the stay of the first Shangpa Rinpoche in Jomson, the lives of people there were threatened by famined caused by drought. In order to bring benefits and blessings to the people, Rinpoche made and buried many treasure vases in the Dhumba Lake near the temple. These meritorious acts brought rain that relieved and gladdened the villagers.
So each time I visit the temple, I feel I am back to these moments of the past and a blissful feeling arises. In fact the monks and people there always consider me as their Lama. With my assistance, the temple can have good progress. I also offer my help by training their monks at Pokhara. One monk is already in the three-year-retreat and could potentially be beneficial to the temple. Each time I visit, I contribute a little bit of money for the monks' education. While the sum is not considerable, they are deeply appreciative of my gestures of thought and care.
Muktinath - A Holy Place with Sacred Spring Water
|Fig 12. Blessed spring source in Muktinath|
The first Shangpa Rinpoche continued to Mukinath. Muktinath is a sacred place of eighty-four Mahasiddhas who, through their pure vision, found this place to be a mandala of Chakrasamvara. It is also a holy place of Guru Rinpoche. As stated in an old scripture, Muktinath is home to blessed spring water sources, which will purify one's karma immensely.
Even the most negative karma that may remain would manifest less severely. The water can also cure many sicknesses, and even enhance the realisation of one's practice because of the aspirations and blessings of the eighty-four Mahasiddhas. It is renowned for the hundred bronze pipes, fixed by the previous Shangpa Rinpoche, from which spring water flows from spouts in the form of animal heads.
At Muktinath some people offered a small piece of land to him. He built a small temple where he stayed for a while. Later on, he asked a monk, who was also a Tibetan physician, to stay there and he himself left for Manang.
Manang - Milarepa's Cave
At Manang he visited Milarepa's cave. At the same time, he went to a few villages in Manang to give the people initiations and teachings. Manang is also the birthplace of Maniwa Lama Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche still remembers the time when when Shangpa Rinpoche visited Manang when he was a little boy. One day, Lama Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche found a Buddhist text flying in the sky and he managed to retrieve it. His parents, who witnessed the incident, quickly brought their son to see Shangpa Rinpoche for a blessing. They also asked him the significance of their son having found this text. Shangpa Rinpoche did not mention anything about the text but he kept it. He told the parents that their son must be ordained as monk, otherwise he will face a big obstacle. So his parents took him to Rumtek and the boy became a monk there under His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche shared his story with me. He also said that due to the guidance from the first Shangpa Rinpoche, that he became a monk and a practitioner without facing any obstacles.
| Fig 13. The second Shangpa Rinpoche with Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche
It was during this period that Professor David Snellgrove, an author on pilgrimage through the Himalayas, met the first Shangpa Rinpoche for the first time at Kagbeni, Mustang while travelling to upper Mustang. The first Shangpa Rinpoche told him that they would meet again soon. True enough, they met for the second time upon the first Shangpa Rinpoche's return to Manang. Professor Snellgrove was the only person to have taken a photograph of the first Shangpa Rinpoche, so that we have this precious impression of his likeness. In his book, Professor Snellgrove mentioned that when he went to see the Lama of Shang Pi Gompa, Shangpa Rinpoche gave him a few coins and asked him to have a drink of chang. He was very surprised that this Lama not only did not expect anything from him, but even gave him money.
I thanked him for having taken a wonderful photo of the first Shangpa Rinpoche, which he passed to me himself during his visit to Nepal eight years ago. At that time he still looked very fit and active. He told me that he had retired and was staying in an island in Indonesia. Since then, I have not met him again.
Shangpa Rinpoche then went on pilgrimage to some holy places. A Tibetan man who acted as his interpreter, mentioned that, when Shangpa Rinpoche was at Pokhara airport and saw an aeroplane landing for the first time, he was very scared and asked the interpreter, "There is such a loud noise coming from the plane, is it going to explode?" The interpreter explained that it was normal for an aeroplane to be noisy. So, Shangpa Rinpoche took the plane to Kathmandu and visited all the holy places there.
After that, with some of his disciples, he travelled to India. At that time, HH Dalai Lama and HH Karmapa, along with many high Lamas were specially invited by the Indian government for the 2500th anniversary of Buddha’s birth. He made lots of lamp and tsog offerings to all the holy places and then, due to the heat of India, he started to feel unwell. His entourage then went back to Nepal and, from there, back to west Tibet.
Pilgrimage to Holy Places
The first Shangpa Rinpoche then went on pilgrimage to some holy places. A Tibetan man who served as his interpreter mentioned that when the first Shangpa Rinpoche saw the landing of an aeroplane for the first time at the Pokhara airport, he asked the interpreter, "There is such a loud noise coming from the plane. Is it going to explode?" The interpreter explained that it was normal for an aeroplane to be noisy. Thus Shangpa Rinpoche took the plane to Kathmandu and visited all the holy places there.
After that, with some of his disciples, he travelled to India. At that time His Holiness Dalai Lama and His Holiness Karmapa, along with many high Lamas were specially invited by the Indian government for the 2500th anniversary of Buddha's birth. He made many lamp and Tsog offerings at all the holy places. In the sweltering heat of India of that season he started to feel unwell. Together with his entourage he then went back to Nepal and from there, back to western Tibet.
Signs of Spiritual Accomplishment while Entering Nirvana
After Shangpa Rinpoche returned to Goshar Gompa in western Tibet, he asked my father to draw a thangka of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche. He told my father this might be his kyetag - mark of rebirth. Traditionally when someone has died, Tibetan people would draw a kyetag or purchase a statue to dedicate to the deceased. When the thangka was finished and offered Shangpa Rinpoche, he wanted to give my father presents but my father declined. However, Shangpa Rinpoche insisted and so my father accepted one piece of gold from him. By that time, Shangpa Rinpoche was very ill and my father had been drawing the thangka without much rest. While my father was there, Shangpa Rinpoche gave many important teachings to him, as well as to the many monks and lay people individually. His main teaching was about developing loving kindness, cultivating compassion and the practice of Chenrezig with the recitation of the 6 syllables mantra.
When his condition continued deteriorated, all the monks and my father offered khatas and other offerings to request him not to pass away and to remain. He told them that this time he could not continue to stay. However, his mission was only partially completed so they did not have to worry as he would come back again to see them. Till then they must practice well and develop Bodhichitta constantly because this human life is very precious and they should not waste it but make full use of it to liberate oneself and others from Samsara.
|Fig 14. Yellow flowers bloomed beautifully on the passing away of the 1st Shangpa Rinpoche|
My father was very sad that Shangpa Rinpoche was certainly going to pass away. He came back home and told this sad news to my mother. Both my father and mother cried the whole night. Shangpa Rinpoche passed away on a full moon day, in the early morning in the year 1957. When he passed away, there was a little bit of snowfall especially at the place where he had entered Samadhi.
The Tibetans believe that this sign was actually a rain of flowers showered by the Dakinis, welcoming one to a pure realm. One old disciple called Gelong Nam-kha told us that when Shangpa Rinpoche passed away and entered into the Thug-dam (Samadhi), the sky was filled with rainbows and also clouds shaped like all the eight auspicious signs manifested. His body remained in Samadhi for a week. It was the 8th lunar Tibetan month and usually the coldest season of the year. During that week however, the weather turned unusually warm, and a special kind of yellow flower, which was rare in that region, bloomed nearby. After he passed away, his body was preserved at Goshar Gompa until 1960. His disciples brought the body to Dolpo. They sought guidance from His Holiness the 16th Karmapa whether to creamte or preserve the body.
Some disciples asked His Holiness whether Shangpa Rinpoche had taken rebirth and how they may find him. His Holiness asked them to do a grand puja for his reincarnation. He also said that Shangpa Rinpoche's body should be brought back to Nepal for a proper cremation, which would be beneficial for the reincarnation. Following the instructions of His Holiness, the disciples returned and carried out His Holiness' advice. In 1961, the body was cremated in Dolpo. Eventually His Holiness sent a letter containing my parents' names and my zodiac animal as a direction to the reincarnation of the first Shangpa Rinpoche.
|Fig 15a.||Fig 15b.||Fig 15c.||Fig 15d.|
These items belonged to the first Shangpa Rinpoche and currently are respectfully kept by the second Shangpa Rinpoche. The bell and vajra (Fig 15d.) were used by the first Shangpa Rinpoche for his whole life and later he gave them to his disciple lama Darpo. Before passing away at Manang, Lama Darpo passed them to Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche. Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche felt he should hand them over to the second Shangpa Rinpoche. The second Shangpa Rinpoche was so happy to receive these treasures and he enshrined them in Kirtipur. Some other treasures were received during 2nd Shangpa Rinpoche's pilgrimage to Tsopema. One of them is an ivory damaru (Fig 15a.). The damaru belonged to Sertha Rinpoche from the Eastern Tibet. Later, when the first Shangpa Rinpoche received Nyingthik instruction and Torma from Sertha Rinpoche, he received the damaru. Since then, the first Shangpa Rinpoche used the Damaru for his daily prayers throughout his life. After he passed away, the damaru was kept by his neice who was also his ani. In 1959, the ani disrobed and had a son. Her son was a good practitioner and completed all his retreat and education. He came to Tsopema and handed over the damaru to the second Shangpa Rinpoche. Together with the Damaru, the son also gave the water torma container (Fig. 15c., the torma plate can be seen in Fig. 15b.) that the first Shangpa Rinpoche used during his 12 years hardship in retreat at Tichurong until he passed away.