His Eminence Khejok Rinpoche was born in 1936 in the Gyalrong district of eastern Tibet. His father Tsering Phuntsok was a local leader and his young mother Tashi Lhamo was renowned for her great beauty. At the time of Rinpoche's birth, the sun, the moon and many stars were simultaneously visible in the sky, a celestial configuration which was regarded as most auspicious, signifying the birth of an important person. The location of the house where Rinpoche was born was immediately next to Zarthu Monastery of the village. This small monastery was headed by the successive incarnations of the Khejok Tulkus.
Over the centuries, the lineage of the Khejok Tulkus was influential in eastern Tibet and the Chinese imperial courts. The lineage of Tulkus who came after the 1st Khejok Rinpoche have all been great masters, held in high esteem by local Tibetan kings and Chinese emperors alike. One of the Khejok Tulkus lived around the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, and was invited to visit and subsequently to teach in the imperial courts of Chien Lung the Chinese emperor. The emperor bestowed many titles on this Khejok Tulku, offering precious gifts and granting his monastery, Dhe-Tsang, imperial status. The great master was also well known for his power in the powa practice - transferring the consciousness of the deceased to the pure lands. His influence became so great that the local kings feared his power. On his 2nd trip to meet the Chinese emperor, he was poisoned and passed away enroute for Beijing. The Khejok Tulkus and Jamkhang Tulkus have been the successive abbots of Dhe-Tsang Monastery, while the nearby Zarthu Monastery next to the house where the present Khejok Rinpoche was born has been directed by the successive Khejok Tulkus exclusively. In the text 'Political and Religious History of the Amdo regions', the Khejok Tulkus and their spiritual powers were praised more than a few times.
When Rinpoche was a child, he was known to be the most mischievous youngster in the village. As a little boy, he used to perform small miracles that were initially regarded as magic tricks the child may have learnt somewhere. One of his favorite tricks was to hold nails in the palm of his hand and turn them into small iron balls. He was also able to accurately predict the outcomes of battles between rival villages, days before the events occurred. Then, there was a relative of Rinpoche, a brave warrior and hunter, who owned a sword well known for its sharp, well-tempered blade. One day when the young Rinpoche was in the company of some relative children, playing, he picked up the sword, and commenting on the non-virtues of violence, tied the long blade into a knot as if it was a mere rope, rendering the powerful weapon impotent. When the children warned Rinpoche of his warrior relative's temper, he undid the knot in the blade. However, when the adults returned later and the story was told, they noticed slight damage to the blade and were convinced.
It was at the age of around 10, the present Khejok Rinpoche was officially recognized as the tulku of the Khejok line of incarnations. After the official recognition of the present Khejok Rinpoche, his father refused to turn his son over to the monasteries as he already had plans for the boy to take over the family heritage. Mahakala, the protector of Dhe-Tsang Monastery, appeared to Rinpoche's father many times and manifested so many obstacles for the family that eventually he gave up and allowed the young Rinpoche to enter Dhe-Tsang Monastery and carry on the work of the Khejok Tulkus. The young Rinpoche was ordained by Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jinpa at the Jamkhang House of Dhe-Tsang Monastery and enthroned in the Khejok House there. He studied under the famous master Dhe-Tsang Gonla Lobsang Dawa, who dreamt of a cub strolling towards him, the night before he was approached by those who requested him to be the young tulku's tutor. Rinpoche also studied Dharma and Tibetan Medicine under Lama Tashi Gangchen and other masters for about 7 years.
After that, Rinpoche left for Lhasa to further his studies, a trip that took 6 months on foot. He entered the Gyalrong House of Mey College at the prestigious Sera Monastery, one of the 3 largest monastic universities in the world where he studied under Sharpa Rinpoche II, a great teacher within the Gelugpa lineage.
In the early 1960's when the political atmosphere no longer permitted any study or practice of religion in Tibet, Rinpoche decided to leave for India. A wealthy lady from a noble family at Yartung agreed to help him.
The family of this kind lady sponsored many great masters such as His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, His Holiness the Sakya Trizin and Dromo Geshe Rinpoche and was very influential in Yartung, situated on the border between Tibet and India. Rinpoche stayed for a year in Yartung with this family before walking across the boarder into India. When he walked to India, Rinpoche carried only a pair of binoculars, a wooden statue of Buddha, 2 kilograms of food and a heavy text of Lama Tsong Khapa's major work, the Lam Rim Chenmo. On arriving at Buxa, a makeshift refugee camp set up in an abandoned prison in the Bengali jungle, many of the senior teachers praised the young Khejok Rinpoche for carrying this very heavy, but important text, when fleeing for his life. The volume that Rinpoche carried was the only copy of the Lam Rim Chenmo in the Buxa camp, now kept at his Hong Kong center.
The Buxa refugee camp was built by the British during their days in India. It was a massive structure of concrete with huge iron doors built intentionally in the middle of nowhere. Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru, the leaders of India's independence movement, had been among the distinguished inmates. Here, Rinpoche was reunited with his root guru, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, the foremost disciple of Pabongkha Rinpoche, and one of his close teachers, Khensur Rinpoche Ngawang Thekchok, and subsequently received many teachings from them.
Due to the previous perilous journey from Tibet and the hot weather of India, the majority of the monks fell ill with tuberculosis and many died. Rinpoche became so sick that the monks were starting to gather firewood in preparation for his cremation. However, at this point, Rinpoche decided to go to a free hospital run by Americans, near Bombay. The monks who traveled with him were reluctant to take Rinpoche on the 6-day train journey since he seemed so close to death. While on the train, his neck was so weak that the monks tied a sling, as support for his head, to the luggage rack above. When Rinpoche arrived at the hospital, he weighed only 22 kilograms. Rinpoche spent 3 years in the hospital, fighting for his survival. During those 3 years, his closest teacher Khensur Rinpoche daily took the 8 Mahayana precepts and ate only one meal, dedicating the merit to the restoration of Khejok Rinpoche's health. Many years later, Khejok Rinpoche has often commented to his own disciples, that it was only due to his teacher's great kindness and practice that he managed to escape death.
After the years in hospital, Rinpoche intended to spend the rest of his life as a hermit in the Himalayas. However, at this time, his teacher Khensur Rinpoche was appointed abbot of the newly reestablished Sera-Mey Monastery in South India. The 'Monastery' was no more than a piece of assigned land in the midst of dense jungle that was populated by tigers and wild elephants. Summoned by his teacher, Khejok Rinpoche gave up his plan and went to South India to help build the monastery. He finished his Geshe degree studies there and stayed on to look after the younger monks until 1986, when he was invited by Geshe Thupten Loden to teach in Australia. By this time the Sera-Mey Monastery has become a 1,500 strong and growing monastic university providing the full range of education in Buddhist teachings.
Rinpoche taught extensively in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin during his 3-year term as the guest teacher at the Loden Centers. He was also invited to give talks on Tibetan Medicine to medical students, on Dharma in Universities and on interfaith dialogue in Christian churches. Rinpoche returned to India at the completion of his term and received many requests from his disciples in Australia, many of them young university students from Southeast Asia, studying in Australia. After a brief stay in India, Rinpoche returned to Australia to found the head quarters of the Institute of Buddhist Learning & Practice in Sydney. Since then, many branches of the Institute have been established throughout Australia.
In 1993, Rinpoche made his first teaching tour to Asia giving teachings to thousands of people in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong and free medical consultations and Tibetan medicine to over 1,000 patients. In the same year, Rinpoche returned to his monasteries and birthplace in eastern Tibet, after almost 40 years of absence. He visited the grave of his mother and met with his younger sisters for the first time. The sister of the past Khejok Tulku also came to meet him. Tens of thousands of his people greeted him in tears everywhere he went. Rinpoche was shocked to see the total destruction of his monasteries and the absence of monastic education in his region. The restoration of his monasteries was started with permission granted by the local government officials in 1993 and with funds sponsored by Rinpoche's international disciples. Since then, Rinpoche has traveled extensively in Southeast Asia and Canada and more branches of IBLP have been established by disciples around the world.
In 1996, Rinpoche was invited to teach at the Minnan Buddhist Academy
and the Fuzhou Buddhist Academy, both being leading Buddhist educational
institutes in China. The response to those teachings was phenomenal, attracting
over 1,000 monks, nuns and lay Buddhists at each event. Many monks and
nuns, some abbots and masters of their own accord, became his devoted
disciples. Since Rinpoche's visit, many became interested in Tibetan Buddhism
and many Tibetan lamas have since been invited to teach in those cities.
|Witness the Historical Return of Khejok Rinpoche to his monastery, Dhe-Tsang, in 1993, the first time since his leaving in the 1950's||
In 1997, Rinpoche returned to Dhe-Tsang Monastery,
for the 4th time, to officiate at the reopening of its restored grand
prayer hall. 170 friends and disciples from 12 countries went with him
to attend the event. Rinpoche also took some of his disciples to Lhasa
for a brief pilgrimage.
|Witness the Grand Welcoming Ceremony of Khejok Rinpoche's Entrance to the Rebuilt Dhe-Tsang Monastery in 1997 And Other Video Files of the 1997 Celebrations||
In 1998, Rinpoche went on pilgrimage to Wutaisan, the sacred mountain of Manjushri in China. Again he was greeted with much respect by Tibetans and Mongolians and while there, was invited to teach to some 1,000 monks and nuns, mostly Chinese with a few Tibetans and Mongolians. In the same year, Rinpoche and his network of centers organized a Sera-Mey fund raising tour, headed by Rinpoche's teacher and retired abbot of Sera-Mey, Khensur Rinpoche Ngawang Thekchok. Traveling to Taiwan, Singapore and Australia, the group performed ritual dancing, prayer rites and constructed sand mandalas in many cities. These events were widely covered by the newspapers and TV. Rinpoche's Hong Kong disciples organized the first grand offering at the 4 holy places in India, offering 10,000 butter lamps and offering food to 1,000 monks in memory of the Buddha's birth. The event attracted over 5,000 sponsors from around the world and has since become an annual function.
In the summer of 1999, Rinpoche was requested to give oral transmission of the Lam Rim Chenmo to a group of monks and nuns. He did so and gave extensive teachings in Wutaisan for 3 weeks intensively. Monks and nuns arrived from Inner Mongolia, Amdo and many provinces of China to attend the teachings. Rinpoche was offered the positions of abbottship by many monasteries and nunneries but unfortunately the political situation in China made it impossible for him to fulfill these requests. During his 1999 tour of Taiwan, Rinpoche worked up to 19 hours daily for weeks, and offered free medical consultations and Tibetan medicine to over 500 people. Rinpoche's disciples in Hong Kong initiated a project to provide free western and Tibetan medical services to under-privileged Tibetans in the Gyalrong district. Free medical clinics were set up in villages as well as mobile medical units traveling to remote villages on a regular basis. The Dhe-Tsang Monastery Foundation which sponsors this project also provides financial aid and scholarship to Tibetan secondary students and students of traditional Tibetan medicine with financial difficulties.
In 2000, for the 5th time Rinpoche returned to Dhe-Tsang,
this time to officiate at the blessing ceremonies of the 40 feet Maitreya
statue, the 25 feet Tsong Khapa statue, the 15 feet 1000-armed Chenrezig
statue and the Mikyaba statue. Close to 100 disciples accompanied him
and again, as in 1997, Reverend Douglas Conlan of the Roman Catholic tradition,
a close friend of Rinpoche, was invited as the monastery's special guest.
Reverend Conlan was invited by Rinpoche to jointly bless the rebuilt hermitage
of Dhe-Tsang, a small hut which Reverend Conlan showed great interest
in during his 1997 visit, and was made an honorary member of the Dhe-Tsang
sangha. Sangha education has been re-initiated by Rinpoche at both the
Dhe-Tsang Monastery and Zarthu Monastery, after
a break of over 40 years. Significant contributions have also been made
to a number of monasteries and nunneries in Tibet to help re-establish
sangha education. A large number of young Tibetans took ordination to
become novice monks, moved by Rinpoche's contributions to Dharma and his
compassionate activities. During this year, Rinpoche and his disciples
initiated a charity project providing the over 1,500 refugee-monks at
Sera Monastery Mey College of India
with western basic health care.
|The consecration of the 25 feet Tsong Khapa statue at Dhe-Tsang||
(the story continuesˇ)
The above account has been written by Thomas Lim based on information given mostly by old monks at Sera-Mey Monastery and Dhe-Tsang Monastery and relatives of Khejok Rinpoche.