Friday, March 27, 2009


Kyabje Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche (1932-2009)

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche has entered thugdam at 8:20 P.M. 27 March 2009 in India, not 3:30 P.M. as previously reported by the Phayul Tibetan news services. He left Columbia Asia Hospital in Bangalore at 3:30 P.M., returning to Namdroling Monastery when his medical condition deteriorated. He was the Third Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche, the Eleventh Throneholder of the Palyul Lineage, and a former Supreme Head of the Nyingma School.

Penor Rinpoche was a special being, of whom it was said, by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, that "he is a saint who has transcended the boundary of samaya."

Penor Rinpoche himself once explained:

"It is not uncommon for there to be a lengthy span of time between the death of a master and the appearance of his or her subsequent reincarnation. My own tulku lineage is an example of this. There was a 130 years hiatus between the death of the First Pema Norbu in 1757 and the birth of the Second Pema Norbu in 1887. This is common in all the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. As for how these gaps come about, while tulkus are understood to have vowed to be continually reborn to help beings, it is not necessary for them to take rebirth in a continuous sequence of lives in this world. It is believed that they can be reborn in other world systems where they continue their compassionate activities, returning only later to this world system. This is how such lapses in tulku lineages are understood in Tibet."

Apart from the deep sense of sorrow this brings to thousands of his faithful followers the world over, Penor Rinpoche's death is widely expected to spark an immediate power struggle within the already shaken Palyul Lineage. In a rare public acknowledgment of behind-the-scenes discord, issued Wednesday, Namdroling Monastery secretary Lobsang Chophel begged for dissident Nyingma factions "to put aside past disagreements and not to engender any new ones."

His Holiness the Fifth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche

It is expected that overall leadership as the 12th throneholder within the Palyul Lineage will now be taken by His Holiness the Fifth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche (b. 1970), who heads the main Palyul monastery in Tibet. He is said by his close advisors to be "particularly apalled" by the conduct of foreign organizations claiming affiliation with the lineage, and is promising reform.

Other leaders with powerful support within the sangha are H.E. Gyang Khang Rinpoche, and H.E. Mugsang Kuchen Rinpoche, both of whom echo His Holiness Karma Kuchen Rinpoche's calls for reform.

These events will have wide effect, as the Palyul Lineage maintains one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastic infrastructures of the present time. In recent years, the organization has been plagued by financial instability, and criticism over the conduct of its overseas operations. This criticism was never directed to His Holiness Penor Rinpoche; rather, it was directed toward his administrative staff.

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Keywords: His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, death, passing, passed away, died

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