Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Thirteenth Tsona Rinpoche is no more

The Gorsam Stupa near the Indo-Tibet Border
Sunday morning, I heard a very sad news: Tsona Gontse Rinpoche (alias TGR or TG Rinpoche during his 'political' life) had passed away.
The Times of India reported: “A 47-year-old Buddhist monk from Arunachal Pradesh allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan at his sister's house in Vasant Kunj in South Delhi.”
The body of Rinpoche was found hanging from the ceiling fan at about 1 am last Saturday by his sister.
Apparently a suicide note was found from a diary in the room. Rinpoche would have mentioned that he had committed too many sins and that even God would not forgive him.
The police suspected that he was depressed over the defeat of a cousin in the recent Arunachal Pradesh Assembly elections. Rinpoche had come to Delhi on May 2 and was staying at his sister's place.
I don’t know about the presumed sins of Rinpoche, but each time I met him, I found in Rinpoche one of the most dynamic young lamas of his generation.
He always wanted to give the Dharma a concrete shape. For him, Busshism was not a mere philosophy; the Buddha’s teachings had to materialize in the present world.
Whenever I encounter him, Rinpoche had always a new project in mind and what was admirable, he had a capacity to concretely realize his plans.
Some twenty years ago, he organized a kar seva for the Gorsam Stupa, near the Thagla ridge close to the Indo-Tibet border, north of Tawang. He probably thought that the renovated stupa would have the inner power to stop another attack on India. It is indeed impressive.
Then he built a large monastery in Bomdila (where his body will be kept for a week). He also started a Buddhist University, funded by the Ministry of Culture in a lovely environment near Tenga in Arunachal Pradesh.
He was building a huge statue of Tara in Lumla (also north of Tawang), near the Bhutanese border where he had a monastery.
The last time I met him in Delhi, Rinpoche planned to bring the ‘relics’ of the Buddha to Tawang. He had just met the Indian Minister of Culture who had promised to help him. I think that eventually succeeded.
He gave me a lecture on his new ‘baby’, the Sherab Sangpo Society and the concept of ‘Noble Wisdom’.
Amongst other things, his society was to:
  1. To render humanitarian services by establishing health care centers, old age home, educational centers etc.
  2. To work for the betterment of weaker sections viz. SC/ST, women, children, senior citizens and disabled etc with a vision of social justice.
  3. To inculcate mass awareness about the need for living in harmony with nature and prevent destruction to nature.
  4. To develop a spirit of voluntarism among the youth and to organize them into different task forces, strengthen their capacity and to ensure their participation in disaster management
Rinpoche had become a great defender of the environment after having been looking after the hydropower issues in the Government of Arunachal.
Personally, I can’t figure out is why he took the ultimate step.
Suicide does not figure anywhere in Buddhist culture; the concept of sin neither.
It is shocking and difficult to understand.
Tsona, Rinpoche's main monastery is located in Southern Tibet, north of the McMahon line. To my knowledge, he never visited Tsona in this life.
Rinpoche always remained a strong Indian nationalist. His demise is indeed a great loss for the Monpa people of Tawang and for the Buddhist world.
The Chinese would certainly be delighted to find his reincarnation first. For Beijing, it would be a formidable card to claim Tawang again.
Here is an article about his demise from The Echo of Arunachal:

Signboard at the entrance of TGR's monastry in Bomdila
T.G. Rinpoche passes away
The Echo of Arunachal
May 17
One of the greatest Dharma Gurus of the Gelugpa Sect of the Himalayan Buddhism, His Eminence the 13th Tsona Gontse Rinpoche, popularly known as TG Rinpoche has left for heavenly abode leaving his millions of devotees in India and abroad with deep sorrow and grief.
Rev Rinpoche, also the former Minister of the State, breathed his last in New Delhi on Friday at the age of 47. He was holding the post of Chairman, Department of Karmik & Adhyatmik (Chos-rig) Affairs (DoKA), govt of Arunachal Pradesh at the time of his death.
With his untimely demise, a pall of gloom has descended over the whole of Mon region. People still find it hard to believe. But they take satisfaction and recourse in the hope and belief that he would soon reincarnate to lead them on the righteous path and from darkness unto light & to carry on the good deeds for the welfare of the people.
His mortal remains would be flown from Delhi to Bomdila on Sunday, to be escorted by Pema Khandu and Phurpa Tsering – both MLAs of the Mon area. The mortal remains would be kept at Gontse Gaden Rabgyeling Monastery, Upper Gompa for a week or so in order to facilitate the hundreds and thousands of devotees to pay their homage.
Meanwhile, Governor Lt Gen (Retd) Nirbhay Sharma and Chief Minister Nabam Tuki expressed profound shock and grief over the sudden demise of former minister and spiritual leader TG Rinpoche.
In his condolence message, Tuki said, “The news of sudden and unfortunate demise of His Eminence Jetsun Tenzin Jampal Wangchuk, popularly known as Tsona Gontse Rinpoche on May 16, 2014 at Delhi has come as a shock to me. While the entire state of Arunachal Pradesh had just emerged from the month long hustle bustle of Assembly and Parliamentary elections, this news has descended with a pall of gloom in the entire state.”
“Rev T G Rinpoche will be remembered forever by the people of this state, the country and the world for his contributions as a spiritual guru, a social worker, an able minister,” added the CM while praying for eternal peace of the departed soul.
Stating that late Rinpoche made immense contribution towards the State and nation in various capacities, the Governor, in his condolence message, said the people of State and well-wishers all over the world will always remember Rev Rinpoche for his noble initiatives and works of compassion for orphans and persistent endeavour towards preservation and promotion of Buddhism.
Joining the people of Arunachal, the Governor extended solidarity with the Buddhist community of the State and entire Himalayan region and prayed for eternal peace of the departed soul.
Former CM Jarbom Gamlin also mourned the demise of TG Rinpoche, who was the 13th re-incarnation of the Tsonawa, Sherab Sangpo. “I am stunned by the news of the untimely death of His Eminence. It is not just a sad moment for the Buddhist community, but a severe loss for all of us in the State. In this hour of grief, my condolences are with all his bereaved followers and I pray to the Almighty to give them the strength to bear the irreparable pain,” Gamlin said.
Born on 19th August 1967 at Nesar Zhungpatse, Shyro village in Tawang district, Rinpoche, a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy from Drepung Loseling Monastery in south India, rose to become president of the Himalayan Buddhist Culture Association, New Delhi and worked towards the development of mutual relationships between various cultures and religions of India and endeavoured towards preservation of flora and fauna to maintain a peaceful environment of co-existence of all sentient beings.
Before taking the mantle of DoKA, he served the State as MoS for Industry, Textile & Handicrafts and Minister of Tourism, and chairman, Advisory Council for Tourism Development and Arunachal Pradesh Hydropower Development Corporation, GoAP during his different tenures.
He assumed the great responsibilities of developing the religious shrines and cultural practices and activities in the Mon region. Numerous monasteries, educational centers, stupas and cottage industries established by him are testimonies of his accomplishments.
His noble efforts in providing education to destitute, giving shelter and food to homeless and old age, providing free education and upbringing to orphans received global accolades. He got international recognition as an excellent social worker and fully accomplished spiritual master. He received several national and international awards for his tireless efforts and social works for the well being of people around the world. He became the first ever Buddhist representative from the entire Himalayan region to attend the Millennium UN World Peace Summit at the United Nations Assembly Hall.
Meanwhile, the Theravada Buddhist Society (TBS), Itanagar mourned the sudden and untimely demise of Ven T G Rinpoche.
Rimpoche was a man of great honour, and in his demise, the entire Buddhist community has lost a great leader and soul, said TBS chairman C M Moungmaw joining with rest of state in offering the condolence for the departed soul.
This is really sad and a great loss indeed to all of us who have had contact with him. Rimpoche was a very pleasant and accommodating personality. The Theravada Buddhist Society prays for the departed soul to rest in peace and may his soul find eternal bliss, he added.
The Society members later observed a two minutes silence and offered prayer and burnt incense sticks in remembrance for his great service to the Buddhist community.
The Indigenous Faith and Cultural Society of Arunachal Pradesh (IFCSAP) too expressed shock at the sad and sudden demise of Rev T G Rinphochee, Abode of Tsona Gontselling (Upper Gompa), Bomdila and Chairman, DoKA and said his demise is a great loss, not only for the Buddhist community of Arunachal Pradesh, but also to entire indigenous community of the State.
He was a great religious Guru and philanthropist as well as great politician. His religious activity was not only confined in Arunachal Pradesh but in the whole country as well as South-East Asian countries. The vacuum created by his death will never be filled, said IFCSAP president Y D Thongchi and its executive members and prayed for the eternal peace of departed soul of his holiness.


atsuko said...

yes, I feel same, perplexed over on the cause of death, which make more painful..
I know TG rinpoche since 2001, lastly met him 3 month ago..then he was as dynamic as usual..shared many future plans..still cant accept ended in this way..
there is so many doubts as you shared, and also so much sadness...found your posting in wandering around around in the net as I m in Japan, cant pay last darshana..thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

The blog here rumours about Rinpoche suicide. We the Monpa people and followers of Rinpoche will never ever agree with suicide point. We want these rumours to end soon. these people are narrow minded and never know the facts and wisdom of Rinpoche work for dharma and humanity till now.

Anonymous said...

What a tragedy. If Tsona Tulku did indeed hang himself then it is essential that we ask ourselves why he would do such a thing. His adult life was devoted to helping Monyul and it's people in many and varied ways. He supported run of the river hydro power because it could give Monyul income & electricity, but he was extremely disappointed that Monpas in power were allowing the building of Mega Hydro dams in Monyul. To name a few consequences of their decision: Gorsam Stupa and areas of traditional food cultivation will be submerged; thousands of trees and bushes will be cut down; species such as the Red Panda will lose their homes; heavy machinery use will devastate a landslide prone area; the fragile ecology of a World Heritage hot spot will be disturbed, possibly beyond repair. Is it any wonder that Rinpoche was depressed when he had given so much to Monyul? He was a truly great being but he was also human.

Claude Arpi said...

Press Trust of India
Itanagar, May 29, 2014
High-level committee to probe damage to cars of legislators
The Arunachal Pradesh government has constituted a high-level committee to inquire into an incident at Bomdila in West Kameng district on May 27 in which a mob damaged vehicles belonging to legislators Pema Khandu, Jambey Tashi and Tsering Tashi.
The incident took place on May 27 when the last rites of His Eminence T G Rinpoche, who died under mysterious circumstances in Delhi on May 16, were being performed near the Upper Gompa premises at Bomdila.
The Bomdila police has started its own investigation into the incident.
The inquiry committee will submit its report to the state government within 15 days and it has been decided that the postmortem report of the Rinpoche's body, along with other related documents, would be obtained from the Delhi police, official sources said here today.

Anonymous said...

Foot note to whole ghastly event. Rinpoche's former post of chairman of DoKa has been given to Jambey Wangdi, son of Rinpoche's rival in Lumlha, and also married to Pema Kandhu's family. Do you still have any doubts about all the circumstatntial evidence suggesting that there is much much more than meets the eye about Rinpoche's death. Godfather(Monpa style) strikes again!