The enthronement of a tulku is the formal recognition of a particular child or adult as the unmistaken incarnation of a particular Dharma master. Traditionally, candidates are found by search parties consisting of the previous master’s close students, some of whom serve in the Ladrang or private office of the Lama.
The selection process is an arduous one as the rightful lineage holder has the potential to benefit many in the future. Some general indications to guide the selection process include prophesies, dreams and divinations from masters reputed for their clairvoyance such as His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche and His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche.
Respected oracles, especially the Dorje Shugden oracle in the case of the Gelugpa lineage, as well as very close disciples of the particular Lama who have clean samaya or a stainless Guru-disciple relationship are also given the honour and responsibility of confirming a reincarnation.
Potential candidates are shortlisted, interviewed, tested and observed. One famous test, often featured in documentaries, is the correct identification of personal objects that belonged to the previous incarnation.
The unmistaken incarnation of His Eminence Denma Gonsa Rinpoche was recognised by four sources which includes the greatest Gelugpa masters of our time:
- H.H. the Panchen Lama
- H.H. Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche
- H.H. Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche
- The Dorje Shugden oracle
The previous 19th Denma Gonsa Rinpoche had played a pivotal role in upholding the Dharma as Tibet underwent astounding upheaval and great turmoil. While the young 14th Dalai Lama entered exile in India with several key leaders of the spiritual community, it was equally essential that others remained in Tibet to protect the populace. One such figure who remained in Tibet to uphold the practice of the Buddhadharma was Denma Gonsa Rinpoche.
In order to fulfil his secular and spiritual responsibilities, Denma Gonsa Rinpoche worked tirelessly to establish a constructive relationship with the Chinese authorities, eventually gaining the trust and respect of both the Tibetans and Chinese. This was affirmed by his nomination for various honoured and esteemed positions in the region of Kham, Tibet. One of the most notable positions that Denma Gonsa Rinpoche held was as the representative of the people of Qinghai, a title he held for four consecutive terms. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche was also the representative of the Chinese Congress in the 8th term.
During his life as a Dharma master, Denma Gonsa Rinpoche accomplished many great deeds that continue to benefit sentient beings even today. Amongst some of his many contributions to the growth of pure Dharma is the rebuilding of Kelsang Monastery, a spiritual haven that houses one of the world’s largest Dorje Shugden statues (18ft tall). Denma Gonsa Rinpoche was also the representative of the three great seats of the Gelugpa lineage – Gaden, Sera and Drepung.
When Denma Gonsa Rinpoche entered clear light in 2005, his passing left a large void for many followers and practitioners. However, he had given clear instructions for the search for his incarnation, who would be able to recite the root Tantra of Guhyasamaja from memory.
With the confirmation of the return of this great master, teacher and leader, and the announcement of the upcoming enthronement ceremony, anticipation quickly built up. By 31 July 2014, the day of Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s enthronement, 200,000 devoted practitioners had gathered around Gonsa Monastery in Tibet to celebrate this auspicious event.
The large turnout of practitioners from all over the world indicates the unwavering faith and reverence many still have for Denma Gonsa Rinpoche. Their love for Denma Gonsa Rinpoche was also reflected in their efforts to put together a grand, spectacular and traditional ceremony despite the fact that most Tibetans are not materially wealthy.
Thousands of people travelled great distances to make their way to the monastery grounds a few days ahead of the actual day of enthronement. To accommodate the hundreds of thousands of students who wished to pay homage and receive blessings from their Guru once again, the monastery arranged for the enthronement ceremony to be held outdoors. It was a grand event befitting the auspicious occasion of welcoming the new incarnation of a lineage lama who has served and benefitted many in Tibet and China.
The elaborate celebration and recognition of Denma Gonsa Rinpoche’s reincarnation also carries great significance because it reveals the benefits of taking refuge in and devoting oneself to the Three Jewels. Denma Gonsa Rinpoche was known to have relied strongly on Dorje Shugden until the day he passed into clear light. Knowing that Dorje Shugden is the perfect Dharma Protector for this day and age based on the collective karma of today’s practitioners, Denma Gonsa Rinpoche also gave this practice to all his students who held this Protector close to their hearts. Thus, the pure and unbroken Guru-disciple relationship between Denma Gonsa Rinpoche and his students has allowed his incarnation to return once again to continue his work to grow the Buddhadharma, blessing and protecting millions of practitioners worldwide.
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