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Jun 2018
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Tribute to Lama Lhundrup La

At 11:10 p.m. on September 7, 2011 (Nepal time) Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup passed away in Kopan Monastery. At the time all the monks and Lama Zopa Rinpoche were doing Heruka Lama Chopa puja for Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup. The Holy Cremation was held @ Kopan Monastery on Monday, September 12th  at 3:30 p.m

Lhundrup1Anyone who has had the good fortune to visit Kopan Monastery in Nepal over the last 40 years has most likely been met by the gentle smile of Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup Rigsel, who served Kopan Monastery in a variety of capacities for nearly four decades. He was officially bestowed the title of abbot by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2001, although he unofficially held the position since the time of Lama Yeshe’s death in 1984. In July, Lama Lhundrup stepped down from that role due to advancing cancer.

We wish  to highlight his incredible service to preserving and spreading the Dharma and to realizing the wishes of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Lama Lhundrup’s tireless work and limitless kindness, offered to thousands of students at Kopan as well as to his students in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, stand out as an inspiration to us all.

Khensur Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup Rigsel (known throughout the world as Lama Lhundrup) was born in Tibet in 1941 to a poor peasant family. He joined Sera Monastery while still a boy, and in 1959 fled from the Chinese invasion of Tibet to India. In Buxa Duar, the refugee camp in northeastern India where many of the monks were sent by the Indian government, he met Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and studied with great masters such as Geshe Rabten and others. In 1972, Lama Yeshe sent a letter fromKopanMonastery inNepal to Lama Lhundrup, who was then living in Mysore, India, helping to rebuild Sera Monastery.The letter said, “I have some monks, can you teach them? If so, then please come.” Lama Lhundrup wrote back to Lama Yeshe that he didn’t feel he had enough knowledge to teach, but that he would very much like to see him and could perhaps come for three months.

Sera Je told Lama Lhundrup at his departure, “You have permission for only three months, so when you arrive there you tell him [Lama Yeshe] that you cannot stay any longer, and then you immediately come back.” When Lama Lhundrup arrived at Kopan, Lama told him, “You must become a teacher for my boys.” By this time, Kopan Monastery, which had been established in 1971, was looking after about 30 young monks from Lama Zopa Rinpoche’sMount Everest Center in Lawudo and the need was growing for someone to oversee the young monks’ studies. Lama Lhundrup accepted Lama Yeshe’s request and remained faithfully at this post until July 2011, when the responsibility of abbot of Kopan was passed on to Geshe Thubten Chonyi.

Lama Lhundrup received his geshe degree from Sera Monastery in 1987. He traveled to Sera Je for the final debate, and it has been said that his debate was one of the most entertaining and brilliant debates in Sera’s recent history. Since 1972, nearly 800 monks have been educated at Kopan Monastery, including the 370 who are in residence today. Kopan House at Sera Monastery, part of Tsawa Kamsen, now houses around 80 Kopan monks on their way to becoming geshes. Kopan monks also study at Gyume Tantric College and at the Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath. Six resident geshes of FPMT centers are from Kopan. In 1986, the Kopan Nunnery, Khachoe Ghakyil, was established and since that time approximately 450 nuns have been educated there including the 350 currently in residence. Karuna Cayton, current FPMT board member who worked side by side with Lama Lhundrup at Kopan from 1975-1988, said, “The impact that Kopan, through its monks and its courses, has had on thousands of lives throughout the world is amazing. I believe it is accurate to say that without Kopan there would be no FPMT centers.

And without centers, countless students may never have met Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe or the Dharma path. And without Lama Lhundrup, perhaps there would be no Kopan.” In addition to the hundreds of monks and nuns Lama Lhundrup took care of over the past 40 years, he also has many students in Singapore,Malaysia andHong Kong where he would travel on regular occasions to give teachings. Several thousand students have attended  the annual meditation courses offered  at Kopan over the years and Lama Lhundrup’s impact on and benefit to those students, through giving Glossary Link refuge vows, teachings and advice, and in turn the impact those students ended up having on others, cannot be calculated. “Of course there were many other important figures in the early development of Kopan such as Lama Pasang, Gelek Gyatso, Tenpa Choden and a host of volunteers,” Karuna said, reflecting on Kopan’s development. “But it was Lama Lhundrup who was always there. He was the glue that held Lama Yeshe’s vision together, both before and after Lama passed away in 1984. Lama Lhundrup felt responsible for every wish Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche had for Kopan. When Lama Lhundrup felt he had let Lama Yeshe down he would have the same look on his face that a mother has when not being able to provide her child with safety and nurture. But, at the same time, after being reprimanded by Lama Yeshe – while I would be upset, often stunned and speechless – Lama Lhundrup would turn to me and softly giggle.He knew Lama Yeshe’s love. Lama Lhundrup knew  he was doing his best. He knew we would get better and we would fulfill all of Lama Yeshe’s wishes. Lama Lhundrup understood Lama Yeshe’s extraordinary qualities and was never fooled by the mere manifestations Lama Yeshe would use to guide living beings.”

One of Lama Lhundrup most significant accomplishments at Kopan was establishing the philosophy studies program that leads to a Geshe degree. The program was officially recognized in 2010 and has produced around 15 rabjampa geshes already with many more coming. Because of Lama Lhundrup’s years of dedicated effort, Kopan Monastery joins the three great Gelug monasteries (Sera, Gendun, and Drepung) and Tashi Lhunpo as institutions bestowing Geshe degrees to its monks. Lama Lhundrup also established philosophy studies for the nuns of Khachoe Ghakyil Nunnery. In a few years, there will be the first nuns obtaining the rank of geshema because of this work. Lama Lhundrup also took responsibility for oversight of Rachen Nunnery and Mu Monastery in Tsum and Shedup Ling Monastery in Solu Khumbu. Lama Lhundrup helped to establish the Nepal Gelug Great Monlam Prayer Festival which Kopan leads every year. He also helped to create the Nepal Gelug Education Forum with all of the Gelug monasteries in Nepal coming together every year to debate during Jayang Guncho, the annual inter-monastic debate. In 2010, the first Gelug Exams were held for these monasteries. The exams are an important step in continuing philosophy studies at Sera Je.

Lhundrup4“Lama Lhundrup showed patience and care for every student and visitor of Kopan,” GesheThubten Sherab, who served as headmaster of KopanMonastery’s school for four years, told Mandala. “He worked day and night, taking care of and listening to the grievances and problems of monks, nuns, students from around the world and all the visitors who come for advice and guidance. He responded with great concern, care and compassion but without any complaints or sense of pride. He was always trying to solve problems peacefully whenever they arose, without anyone getting hurt or sad.”

Lobsang Drolkar, a student from Amitabha Buddhist Center in Singapore, said in 2010, “Lama Lhundrup has made Kopan into a place where many students have had the experience of truly coming  home. Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to observe the way Lama Lhundrup works his magic on visitors and students alike – his all-embracing openness and kindness, the way he breaks out into peals of laughter, the paternal way he would grasp one’s hand as he listens so attentively to what one has to say (even when it’s gibberish!).” Geshe Chokley, a Kopan monk who was head teacher inTsum, related how from even 20 years previously, “Lama Lhundrup really looked after all the small monks as a mother would, wiping noses and dressing them. He dedicated his whole life for the monks and nuns, and that they become good makes him satisfied and happy.”

Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the Kopan community became very concerned about Lama Lhundrup’s health towards the end of 2010. After several requests, Lama Lhundrup accepted the invitation to seekWestern medical advice in Singapore and traveled there in early January, where he was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with metastatic stomach cancer in mid-January 2011. Jo Hathaway, a palliative care nurse from New Zealand and a student of Lama Lhundrup who has been staying at Kopan since January 2011 to help take care of him, told Mandala the following in July: “Right from the first day that Lama Lhundrup came home to Kopan from the hospital in Singapore, his approach to illness was different from any other ‘patient’ I have cared for. As we began discussing new routines for feeding, Lama Lhundrup sat swinging the end of his recently inserted stomach feeding tube around in the air, laughing as he exclaimed, ‘Look, my new mouth!’ “No matter what the situation, Dharma is always the first thing on Lama Lhundrup’s mind,” Jo said. “Physical needs just don’t rank as highly for Lama Lhundrup as they do for most ordinary beings and he doesn’t seem to pay much attention to any changes in his body. This can make our job of trying to keep a handle on what’s happening a little tricky because, unlike most seriously ill people, he never complains of anything. Ever.

In 1995, Lama Lhundrup reported to Mandala: My main job is to make sure that all the monks have a good education and develop a good attitude, then we are fulfilling Lama Yeshe’s wishes. So in the end, all these young boys, after they finish classes, after 15 years, they know at least Tibetan language, writing, reading, also general philosophy, so they can become translators, teachers, whatever. I want them to have  good quality, to have a good heart; yes, this is my aim. … This is Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa’s main monastery; they have no time, so I need to do this work for them.With that I am very happy.

Last modified on Monday, 03 June 2013 07:06


Hi! I am Pasang, your editor-in-chief and publisher of Vairochana. The Vairochana newsletter is created on a vision to galvanize a sense of community in the Boudha region of Kathmandu.


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