Grand Opening Ceremony of Palyul Dharma Center New York as witnessed by Thubten Loday Gonpo
The Nyingma Palyul Dharma Center in the Flushing district of New York was established in 2005 by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche and Khenpo Tenzin Norgay Rinpoche. Due to its relatively small size, it was deemed necessary to find bigger premises that is better suited to serve the need of the New York sangha. A suitable property was eventually located in the Queens district close to the LaGuardia Airport. This was followed by over a decade of fundraising activities to secure the necessary finances to procure the property. With still quite a short fall in the funds needed to meet the purchasing price and the cost of renovation, Khenpo Tenzin Norgay Rinpoche, the resident Khenpo of the Palyul Retreat Center in Upstate New York, made an appeal to Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche in August 2017 to seek his support for this project. In response to this request, Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche agreed he would offer all the finances needed to make good the purchasing and the renovation of the building to fulfil His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s wishes to establish a bigger Palyul Dharma Center in the city of New York.
On 6th December 2019, the Grand Opening Ceremony of the new Nyingma Palyul Dharma Center was conducted by Chogtrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche. Together with another student, I was very fortunate to accompany Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche to attend the event.
When we arrived in New York, Lama Pasang, who served as the Chant Leader during the late His Holiness Penor Rinpoche overseas travel, was assigned to look after Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche during his stay in New York.
When we arrived at the new Palyul Center for the ceremony Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche was greeted with great affection by Khenpo Tenzin Norgay and other former attendants of the late His Holiness Penor Rinpoche. Khenpo Pema Tsering, who was part of a small group of monks who were sent by Chogtrul Mugsang Kuchen Rinpoche to Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche for Kung Fu instruction at the Namdroling Monastery in 2001 and now the resident Khenpo of Kunzang Palyul Choling (KPC), relayed a message of greeting to Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche from H.E. Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo, the Spiritual Director of KPC, to invite him to visit KPC in Maryland. He also expressed his own gratitude for the support both him and Kunzang Palyul Choling have received in the past.
When Chogtrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche arrived, he was very happy to see Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche who was one of the first to offer him a khata. After the conclusion of the two hours long Grand Opening Ceremony, Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche was invited to attend a private lunch given in honour of Chogtrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche. As one of Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche’s monks I was fortunate to be allowed to attend.
On the way to the restaurant I was in a car with Lama Nurbu Samdup who was one of His Holiness’s former attendants. He expressed to me that he was so happy to see Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche here in New York and told me that I was very fortunate to have him as my Teacher. He also said that Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche had been extremely kind in supporting him when he was on a three year retreat at the monastery. We don’t often hear from Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche of the support he gives to others, but it was a recurring theme that many people I have met on this trip approached him to express their gratitude for his kindness and support.
Seeing Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche with the other senior Palyul figures, and the other former attendants of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche is like seeing an intimate family gathering, they are all very comfortable around each other, yet at the same time everyone is aware of their place. All of them doing what they can within what they are supposed to do, with one goal in mind, to propagate the compassionate activities of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche.
In the afternoon the following day, we were taken to a large venue where the Rigdzin Dupa Empowerment was being held. Khenpo Tenzin Norgay Rinpoche and Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche received the empowerment directly from Chogtrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche and then assisted to give the empowerment to all of the hundreds of devotees at the event.
That evening, a Grand Opening Dinner was held with traditional dancing, singing and cultural performances from different local Tibetan, Bhutanese and Nepalese groups. During the evening proceedings Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche was invited onto the stage to receive the gift of a One Hundred Deity Torma by Chogtrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche.
When a performer offered the rendering of the song “My Guru Drubwang Pema Norbu”, it touched the hearts of everyone present in such a way that throughout the performance many people went on stage and offered him a khata. Towards the end of the song Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche also went up on stage and offered the singer a khata on behalf of all the senior members of the sangha. When this happened Chogtrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche, Khenpo Tenzin Norgay and the other lamas became visibly joyful and animated.
I was reflecting what an amazing support this new Palyul Center in New York is for this community. By Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche’s generous support it has benefited many people. We often don’t hear about the support that Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche gives to others. When asked, he simply replied that to do what is appropriate at the right time is enough. There is no need to talk about it.
The next morning Lama Pasang arranged a trip for us to the Upstate New York Palyul Retreat Center which was founded by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche in 1998 on land located near the town of McDonough, north of the Catskill mountains of New York State. The retreat center spans an area of approximately 500 acres and is the seat of the annual Palyul Summer Retreats.
We visited the temple and were given the opportunity to pay our respect to His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s house, inside which is a Stupa which has been consecrated with His Holiness’s Relic.
I felt a strong sense of His Holiness’s blessing as soon as we entered the ground of the Palyul Retreat Center. There was a clear sense of clarity, calm and openness. Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche explained that if we keep His Holiness in our hearts then you get that blessing wherever we are.
There is a large collection of photo albums of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche at the Lama house. Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche guided us through a wonderful collection of old photographs and explained to us how he had looked after the temple at the Retreat Center for 7 years during the Summer Retreats.
Travelling with Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche, I noticed the skilful means he used in supporting others. Whenever people compliment or thank Lama Dondrup Dorje for his support he does not take credit and makes light of what has been done. Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche continually demonstrates how committed he is to upholding and supporting His Holiness’s wishes. Reflecting on the opening of the new Dharma Center, I was very inspired by the collective efforts of the New York sangha in making His Holiness Penor Rinpoche’s vision of establishing a permanent Palyul Center in New York City a reality.