Review of Notable Events in 2021
Pathgate students from various study groups around the world have showed their fortitude in maintaining their Dharma practice during the global covid pandemic. Audio teachings that were streaming daily online in 2021 for the Pathgate sangha included commentary on The Heart Jewel of Sacred Practice of the View, Meditation and Action; The Thirty-Seven Practices of the Bodhisattvas; Heart Sutra; Fifty Stanzas on Following a Teacher; Eight Verses of Training the Mind; The Seven-Point Mind Training and the Six Paramitas.
Some Pathgate students have also been involved in providing translation in different languages for Dharma teachings streaming online from Namdroling Monastery by Khenchen Pema Sherab Rinpoche and from various Palyul Centres in the North America by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche.
Kyabje Thubten Palzang Rinpoche (Tulku Thubsang Rinpoche) who was born in the year of the Fire Rat (1936) in the Dege County of Kham, Eastern Tibet, passed into mahaparinirvana on the 10th of January, 2021 at his residence in Chengdu, China. He remained for three days in thugdam (samadhi meditative process of inner dissolution of the five elements and consciousness back into the Primordial Light). His kudung (holy body) was then moved to Palyul Namgyal Jangchub Choling Monastery where it was cremated on the 3rd of February 2021. Kyabje Thubten Palzang Rinpoche was instrumental in preserving the Palyul lineage in Tibet during the years when His Holiness Pema Norbu relocated his main seat to India.
The 32nd Nyingma Monlam Chenmo in Bodhgaya, India, which was scheduled to be held from 14th to 23rd January 2021, was modified due to the covid pandemic. All the Nyingma lineage holders were requested to offer prayers and practices at their own monasteries for the following dates of 21st, 22nd, 23rd of January 2021. Nonetheless, the Monlam Chenmo was able to continue in its traditional way with a Monlam attended by around 100 monks and offering was held in front of the Bodhi tree of the Mahabodhi Temple instead of devotees numbered in the tens of thousands.
Due to the Tibetan New Year happened to fall within the mourning period of Kyabje Thubten Palzang Rinpoche, no celebration took place at Namdroling Monastery or in any Palyul centres during the Losar 2021. However, Gutor - the traditional ritual for Pacifying Negativities and Obstacles - started as usual on the 24th of the twelfth Tibetan month with six different ceremonies performed over five days. These included Ratna Lingpa Vajrakilaya Practice, Kagyad (Eight Pronouncement), Sengdongma (Lion-faced Dakini), Guru Dragpo (Wrathful Guru Rinpoche), Mahakala of the Nyingthig tradition and Mahakala of the Namcho tradition. On the 29th, the Zor Pacifying Practice was carried out for the purpose to cleanse all obstacles, and on the 30th, the ritual of Long Life Practice was performed.
In the early morning of the Lunar New Year of the metal female ox, the monks and nuns of Namdroling Monastery welcome the new year by conducting the Ritual of the Bodhisattva Vow and Offering to Sixteen Arhats with prayers in order to usher in peace and prosperity with good health followed by the offering of the khata (scarf) to the throne of His Holliness Pema Norbu Rinpoche. The annual Chotrul Düchen (Festival of Miracles) started on the 8th day of the Losar with the thangka of Guru Rinpoche displayed on the 10th day. The main practice of the 2021’s Chotrul Düchen included the Mind-Sadhana Practice of Ratling Thugdrub, Vajrakilaya Practice of the Ratna Lingpa tradition, Long Life Practice of the Ratna Lingpa tradition, Mahakala of both the Nyingthig and the Namcho tradition, and Smoke Puja of the Namcho tradition.
Since the first month of the year, monks and nuns who could not return to the Namdroling Monastery for almost one year started to make the journey back to the monastery to take their entrance examination for the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute and the Ngagyur Tsogyal Shedrupling Nunnery. There were also many new monks started their first term in the Yeshi Wodsal Sherab Raldriling Junior High School. By late March, in response to requests, 374 teachers consisting of 341 monks and 33 nuns were sent to 212 monasteries.
While Namdroling Monastery remained closed to the public in 2021, new construction and renovation project continued at pace with the completion of the new butter lamp house to replace the first of two old butter lamp houses in front of the Zandog Palri Temple.
In March, health workers, frontline staffs and about 100 monks and nuns aged above 65 and 45 received their first dose of Covid-19 Vaccine at Namdroling Monastery. In April, the Covid Prevention Committee was established to take charge of the safety protocols of managing the covid pandemic. By the 1st of June, about 1400 monks and nuns, between age 18 and 44, plus more than 1700 residents from the two Tibetan settlements of Lugsam Samdrupling and Dickyi Larsoe in Bylakuppe, had received their first dose of the Covid-19 Vaccine. By October, all the monks and nuns over age 18 were completely vaccinated with two doses of Covishield.
Khenpo Tashi Tsering Rinpoche passed away into parinirvana on 17.06.2021 in Nepal. Khen Rinpoche was born in 1958 in one of the four sacred places concealed by the Guru Padmasambhava that is situated near Kimlung in Northern Nepal. Khenpo Tashi Tsering Rinpoche was an esteemed graduate from the first batch of khenpos enthroned by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche at Namdroling Monastery. The cremation of Khenpo Tashi Tsering Rinpoche‘s kudung (holy body) took place in Kathmandu on 26.11.2021, the auspicious day of Lhabab Duchen. His presence will be much missed by those who knew him.
For the second year running due to the global pandemic, the US Palyul one-month summer retreat (10.07.21 to 10.08.21) was held virtually online with teachings given by the Chief of Namdroling Monastery Chogtrul Gyangkhang Rinpoche and Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche. The retreat was conducted with provision of translation in multiple languages to cater for both European and Chinese students. It was an ideal opportunity of revision practice for many Pathgate students who had received the Namcho transmission from His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche at Namdroling Monastery.
In July, we received an update and photos from a nursery in Poland that has been the recipient of support from the Pathgate Partnership Programme. Turkusowe Przedszkole, which means Turquoise Nursery, is situated in the town of Niepołomice and is managed by Agnieszka. The nursery is now in full operation with nearly forty children subscribed to it’s service.
On 06.09.2021, the monks of the Dratsang and the Junior School at Namdroling Monastery completed successfully the one and half month annual summer retreat which involved a series of pujas for each of the six weeks in the sequence of Mahakala according to Nyingthik tradition in the first week; Mahakala according to Namcho tradition in the second week; Sangwa Duepa (Guhyasamaja) in the third week; Karling Zhethro (the 100 Peaceful and Wrathful Deities discovered by Karma Lingpa) in the fourth week; Ratling Tse-Chog (The Longevity Puja discovered by Ratna Lingpa) in the fifth week; Ratling Phurpa (Ratna Lingpa’s Vajrakilaya Practice) in the sixth week, with Longevity Puja and tsog-offering on the last day.
The six week summer retreat for the monks of Ngagyur Nyingma Institute and the nuns of Ngagyur Nyingma Nunnery Institute was concluded on the morning of 05.10.2021. During the retreat, the participants assembled three time a day in accordance to Vinaya tradition. In the morning, they performed Gyunchak Sumpa: Homage & praises to Buddha's Deeds. In the evening, they engaged in the study of the root texts and practice of dedication. The monks and nuns were given tests on debate, composition and explication of scriptures. Debates based on a point of the root subject were conducted on Tagrig (Dialectical Syllogism) for the 1st year students; Madhyamakalankara Karika (The Ornament of the Middle Way) for the 2nd year students; Madhyamakavatara (Entering the Middle Way) for the 3rd year students; and Abhidharma Kosa Karika (Treasury of Explicit Teachings) for the 4th year students. Explication on Paltrul Rinpoche’s Abhisamayalankara Karika (The Ornament of the Explicit Realisation) for the 6th year students; and Chidon Odsal Nyingpo (Essence of Clear Light - an exegesis on Guhyagarbha Tantra) for the 7th year students. For the 8th year students, they had to compose an essay based on a root text which involved a segment of question and answer.
To commemorate the Anniversary of the Mahaparinirvana of Omniscient Jigme Lingpa, a two day Seminar on the Distinct View and Philosophy of the Ngagyur Nyingma School was organized by Ngagyur Nyingma Institute commenced on the 07.11.2021. It was presided by Khen Rinpoche Jigme Kalzang.
An exhibition that showcases art, Tibetan and English handwritings by the students of the Namdroling Monastic Junior High School, Yeshi Yodsal Sherab Raldriling commenced on the day of 20.11.2021. A few days later, Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche received a portrait of His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche from a Pathgate student to commemorate the advent of Lhabab Duchen.
The 2021 Taiwan Nyingma Monlam was conducted on 05.12.2021. It was presided by the H.H. Gyang Khang Rinpoche and H.H. Minling Khenchen Rinpoche along with the Khenpos, Tulkus, Lamas, Lopons and sangha of the Nyingma sect who are residing in Taiwan.
31.12.2021, the last day of the year was the 10th birthday of the 4th Drubwang Pema Norbu, Mingyur Dechen Garwang Zilnon Dorje Rinpoche. Celebration took place at Namdroling Monastery and other Palyul centres around the world. To mark the significance of the day, members of the Pathgate ordained sangha in the UK and Greece jointly performed the Shower of Blessings successfully by zoom.
In spite of the challenging conditions of the ongoing covid pandemic, the Pathgate Partnership Programme continued to provide sponsorship for a range of activities that included covid vaccination and cost of pujas in India, education of children in Nepal, India and Mongolia, medical aid for Africa, construction of statue and prayer wheel in Nepal, and weekly support for soup kitchen and food bank in Newcastle. All this is made possible by the generous support of students and friends of Pathgate Institute worldwide. The effort of everyone who have been the stalwart support of the Pathgate Partnership Programme are greatly appreciated.