For the first time ever, Khenpo Rinpoche’s nuns, students and friends from all over the world gathered as one large group at Tek Chok Ling, Rinpoche’s nunnery in Boudhanath, Nepal. The occasion was the celebration of Rinpoche’s 80th birthday. The gathering included nuns from Karma Drubdey Nunnery in Bhutan, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and his students from Nalandabodhi, groups of students and friends from Asia, Europe, and North America, and many lamas, khenpos, and monks.
Altogether, more than 600 people gathered to offer their good wishes, prayers, songs and dances, and all kinds of other offerings during the birthday celebration. The event was unique and extraordinary!
The gathering lasted two weeks and offered a great range of activities for all participants. Starting in the morning with the lujong practice and mahamudra meditation, every day brought new opportunities to think of and please our Guru. For example, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche kindly invited everyone to participate in long life prayers for Khenpo Rinpoche at the great stupas of Boudha and Swayambhu. On another afternoon, some 250 students went to Pullahari to practice and experience the deep relationship between Khenpo Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. As Drupon Khenpo expressed it to the audience, ‟In his experience Khenpo Rinpoche and Jamgon Kongtrul were like one mind expressing itself through two bodies”.
On one remarkable evening, the entire sangha gathered at the Boudha Stupa for a light offering to Khenpo Rinpoche. Holding a candle light in one hand, everyone circumambulated on the upper level of the stupa, singing Rinpoche’s Candle light offering song. Every afternoon offered the chance to visit the beautifully designed Marpa Foundation booths to receive information about Guru Seva (“serving the Guru”), and have the chance to practice generosity.
Every morning and afternoon leading up to the two days of birthday celebrations, students rehearsed songs and dances in the nunnery’s courtyard, often watched by Rinpoche from his balcony. In the mandala of Dechen Rangdrol, under his continuous care and boundless compassion, everyone felt great joy, love, and appreciation.
One of the high points of the gathering was the Losar celebration (Tibetan New Year) on March 2. It started long before dawn with prayers and songs in the four shrine rooms and later on, after sunrise, all the guests were able to offer khataks to both Khenpo Rinpoche and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, and receive their blessings with a protection cord. Rinpoche had composed the following verse on the occasion:
May this illusion-like New Year be experienced as dream-like. May this deity-body— your body, appearance-emptiness— be liberated, free from birth and cessation.
The Birthday Celebration, 5-6 March
On March 5, the guests arrived and were directed to their place under the friendly, but efficient, guidance of the kasung. In a procession lead by Ani Jampa, Rinpoche came down, dressed in a white robe. Five nuns, dressed in white as well, walked in front of him, singing and strewing petals of white roses on the red carpet. Everyone was touched by this beautiful scene, and many shed tears.
The ceremony started in the main shrine room. Rinpoche was offered long life prayers, good wishes, and speeches, Tibetan style. Nineteen organisations performed the traditional offerings of body, speech, mind, quality and activity for the longevity of the Guru. Afterwards, a group representing of the main sanghas performed a dance to Milarepa’s Song of Meaningful Connections, choreographed by the nuns from Bhutan. After the dance ended, all the guests were able to offer khataks to Rinpoche and received gifts of books, postcards, and a CD.
During the two days of the birthday celebration, there were song and dance performances all afternoon, and a great light offering in the nunnery’s courtyard ended the first evening’s celebration.
The following morning, the guests were surprised to be offered more presents from Rinpoche himself. Everyone lined up and received body, speech, and mind blessings and gifts in the form of a 6’’ statue of Tara, a Song Book, and a crystal ball.
In the afternoon, Rinpoche came down to watch the finale of the performances offered by his students and enjoy his birthday cake. On that auspicious day, the nuns who are studying in the monastic shedra in Bhutan received their yearly report cards from Rinpoche. To witness the fruition of the combination of the nuns’ diligence and the sponsors’ support was a marvellous and cheerful experience.
Such a great party could not have taken place without the dedication and engagement of many, nor without the harmonious cooperation between the many parties responsible, before and during the event. Thanks to all for this magnificent work, and in particular to the Taiwanese sangha who literally carried a heavy load—700 kg extra weight of books and items for the event! Rinpoche’s blessing made it possible to work in a relaxed and effortless manner while attending to everyone’s needs. Every aspect of the two weeks was delightful, the food was delicious, and the atmosphere was permeated with love and generosity.
During their last audience with Rinpoche, Marpa Network representatives told him that the students will come every year, from now on, and offer him songs and dances on his birthday. This seemed to please him and he smiled. This promise will be kept and more information about next year’s gathering will come in a timely way.
~ Claudine Mona, Marpa Network Europe representative