In 1937, His Eminence the 2nd Kyabje Domo Geshe Rinpoche was born into the Enchey Kazi family, a prominent and well-respected family in Sikkim. It is said that when he was born, many miraculous signs were seen and flowers blossomed around his parents’ home. His father, Enchey Kazi Rabten Phuntsog was a deeply religious man from the Nyingma tradition. He was amongst the best educated men in Gangtok and used his wealth to help the countless poor people in his region.
During the search for the incarnation of the 1st Domo Geshe Rinpoche Ngawang Kalsang, His Holiness Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche and His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche drew a map for the search party even though they had never been to Sikkim. The house was also described in detail by the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden, including the special tree located at the northern region of the house and the ‘sangpur’ or outdoor incense hearth.
In 1940, the first search party for Kyabje Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s incarnation was led by Lama Ugyen and Gen Tenzin Gyatso. Before they set out, they met the oracle in trance and were given the Protector’s own breastplate. Before the party of two arrived at Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s house, the young Rinpoche informed his father that his monks were coming to take him to the monastery. He further astonished everyone when he called the monks by the names the previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche had used for them as they approached his house. He repeated the same incredible actions when a larger group came to invite him back to Dungkar Gonpa, and even recognised his rilbu and a mule that had belonged to the previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche.
One day, when Domo Geshe Rinpoche was around three years old, his father called out to him using his name ‘Phunchug’. The young boy then replied that he was now called ‘Jigme’. It was later discovered that on the same day, Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche had made offerings to Lama Tsongkhapa’s stupa at Gaden Monastery, and from this stupa Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s name self-manifested: Gyaltsen Jigme Chokyi Wangchuk. When he was ordained, the name ‘Ngawang’ was added to this name by the ordaining master, the Regent of Tibet, Taktra Rinpoche as per tradition.
Protocol demanded that the Regent of Tibet be consulted about the authenticity of the incarnation. The names of 12 potential candidates were submitted and he too confirmed that the accurate choice was the son of Enchey Kazi. Later, Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, through a telegram message from Lhasa advised Enchey Kazi to wait until the New Year to take the young Tulku to Tibet, thus Domo Geshe Rinpoche was taken to Dungkar Gonpa on the 10th day of the first Tibetan month in 1941.
Before going to Tibet, the young tulku met with the King of Sikkim. His previous incarnation, the 1st Domo Geshe Rinpoche who lived in Tibet had received an invitation from the King of Sikkim, His Royal Highness Sir Tashi Namgyal, to visit Sikkim together with offerings. The previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche had replied that he would do so but at a later date.
When he returned in his new incarnation, he visited the King in his palace. The King rose from his seat and greeted Domo Geshe Rinpoche happily. He expressed his heartfelt joy that Domo Geshe Rinpoche was born in his country and had kept his promise to visit him even though in a different incarnation.
During this meeting the King consoled the young Rinpoche’s father and advised him not to interfere with Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s future and allow the young tulku to leave Sikkim for Tibet. During this time, the King also performed rituals for his country’s wellbeing. As the incarnation of a great master was leaving the country for Tibet, it was believed to be a great loss for Sikkim. The rituals were to remedy any misfortune that the nation could face in wake of Domo Geshe Rinpoche leaving Sikkim.
When Domo Geshe Rinpoche finally arrived in Dungkar Gonpa, he quickly learned whatever was taught to him. In the fall of 1942, he was taken to study at Sera Monastery where he would complete his studies. A few years before Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s arrival in Sera Monastery, a simple but attained monk named Kalsang, who was famed for his accurate divinations, pointed out a marigold flower that had miraculously grown at a door where there was no sun and no earth. He said,
This is a sign that Lama Tsongkhapa has taken birth.
A monk from upstairs named Thubten Rabyang asked him what he meant to which he replied
Just watch! In two to three years he will come here from the south.
When Domo Geshe Rinpoche arrived in Sera amidst great ceremony, the monk Thubten Rabyang remembered this simple monk’s prediction.
During Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s stay in Sera, Geshe Jampa Chombe, the foremost scholar at Sera, was handpicked by Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche to tutor the young tulku. During debates, Domo Geshe Rinpoche was always gentle, calm and soft-spoken, contrary to the noisy debates that usually take place. Because Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s ways were different, some mistakenly thought the young tulku was not taking his studies seriously. However, they were proved wrong as Domo Geshe Rinpoche never failed to answer questions in profound ways.
Domo Geshe Rinpoche was exemplary for his unwavering Guru devotion. A picture of his ordination master His Eminence Taktra Rinpoche was placed on the altar at Domo Ladrang. Although there came a time when conflict arose between the regent and ex-regent, and many monks would make derogatory comments upon seeing Taktra Rinpoche’s picture on the altar, Domo Geshe Rinpoche who was only in his teens never wavered in his devotion. Instead, the young Rinpoche would laugh and never took sides although the conflict divided the Tibetans politically.
Geshe Jampa Chombe would sometimes manifest wrathfulness with Domo Geshe Rinpoche. Many times, he would not talk to Rinpoche for days, but that never discouraged Domo Geshe Rinpoche. Gently, Domo Geshe Rinpoche would bring in tea or delicacies to serve Geshe Jampa Chombe, and although his teacher was unusually strict with him, he never uttered a single complaint. His practice of guru devotion was an example for everyone in the monastery to emulate.
Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s behaviour was exemplary too as he observed every monastic code to perfection. Even as a child, his eyes would not wander during prayer sessions and when his Guru was away, he studied just as hard. His humble nature in not displaying his knowledge or any of his many accomplishments was truly praiseworthy, as if he was Lama Tsongkhapa in this modern era.
Domo Geshe Rinpoche was soon selected to enter Lharam class which pleased his teacher Geshe Jampa Chombe. He excelled throughout the course and after two years of attending class, he requested to graduate earlier in 1958. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama immediately approved. Thus on Lhabab Duchen in 1958, Domo Geshe Rinpoche graduated as a Lingsa Geshe just before the Chinese put an end to religious training in Tibet.
By that time, Domo Geshe Rinpoche had received countless teachings, transmissions and empowerments, some of which were extremely rare and precious, from various great masters such as Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, Kyabje Dagri Dorje Chang, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche. Soon, he became a lineage holder with more transmissions than any master within the Gelug tradition.
On the second day of the war in 1959, Domo Geshe Rinpoche was taken prisoner by the Red Army, along with many elderly people. It was expected that Rinpoche, being Sikkimese in nationality, would be let out of prison immediately. However, due to his popularity with the local people, he was held captive for two and a half years.
In prison, Domo Geshe Rinpoche was forced to carry out the lowest of jobs such as cleaning pig sties or the sewers, washing linen, and even carrying huge slabs of concrete. There was an incident during which a large chunk of concrete fell on Domo Geshe Rinpoche causing injury to his back, which continued to bother him for many years. Never once did he complain; instead, Rinpoche carried out the work very well.
Later, Domo Geshe Rinpoche was forced to enter “re-education” sessions, but the sessions never changed his mind. Frustrated by their failure to convert Domo Geshe Rinpoche to communism, the guards locked him in solitary confinement for months. Eventually, due to political pressure from the King of Sikkim and Prime Minister Nehru of India, they were forced to release Domo Geshe Rinpoche in 1961.
It was also during this time that the stupa of the previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche was destroyed due to the Cultural Revolution. The 1st Domo Geshe Rinpoche had been a highly respected Lama and permission was given by the government in Lhasa to preserve his body as a holy relic. This honour had only been reserved for the bodies of Lama Tsongkhapa, the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas, therefore it shows how highly the previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche was regarded.
When the destruction of the stupa took place, even the local members of the Red Guards paid their respects to the body of the previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche. They had the body cremated, instead of the usual procedure of simply discarding the body. Pieces of bone were saved after the cremation and later on, brought to India where they were enshrined inside a statue at Dun Goen Samten Choeling Monastery.
After his release from prison, Domo Geshe Rinpoche spent several months travelling by bicycle all over Lhasa to collect precious texts and holy objects to smuggle out of Tibet. Although he did so at the risk of danger to his life, Domo Geshe Rinpoche knew the importance of saving these precious objects. Many of the texts did not exist outside of Tibet, so he endured and continued collecting them in order that the traditions of the great monastic institutions could continue in exile.
In later years, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang himself mentioned how he received some very special and rare texts from Domo Geshe Rinpoche. On one occasion in 1963, he was able to pass the transmission of these precious teachings to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. This pleased Trijang Dorje Chang greatly as the very continuity of the lineage was dependent on the texts.
A few months later, during the summer of 1961, the Chinese authorities in Lhasa became aware of Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s activities and brought him into custody. They quietly escorted him out of Tibet to Sikkim to prevent an uprising among the locals of Tromo, where Domo Geshe Rinpoche was largely celebrated. As Domo Geshe Rinpoche left Tibet, at a place called Nathula, he turned to face Tibet to say a prayer. Just 20 years previously, the young tulku had been brought into Tibet with great jubilation, and at this juncture he left Tibet with nothing but his ragged robes and ill health due to years of imprisonment.
Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s arrival in the Tibetan exile community in India was a great relief to the destitute Tibetan people. Shortly after he came out of Tibet, Domo Geshe Rinpoche founded the U-Tsang Association in Kalimpong (now transferred to Dharamsala) with people from his immediate circle, to give aid to the exiled Tibetans. The association was instrumental in helping new escapees and took care of the poorest in Kalimpong.
In 1962, just a few months after Domo Geshe Rinpoche escaped Tibet and went to Bodhgaya, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama requested him to start Tibet House in New Delhi. Domo Geshe Rinpoche, who was a skilled craftsman and artist himself, was an expert when it came to Buddhist art. Through his connections with many aristocratic families, Domo Geshe Rinpoche collected many precious, holy and antique artworks that are exhibited in the Tibet House Museum today. Worried that these invaluable special pieces would end up in the market place, Domo Geshe Rinpoche specifically labelled these precious blessed items “On Loan by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
Besides Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s incredible deeds, impeccable behaviour, guru devotion, and great Dharma teachings, one of the things he gifted people in this generation are his famous “rilbus”. These are blessed pills containing priceless and holy ingredients, such as relics from various masters and even the Buddha, holy substances and even substances collected from other realms such as the milk of snow lions. Its capabilities to give protection, cure deadly and incurable diseases, and reverse the effects of poison are well known to many. This protection even works for non-Buddhists and those without faith in Domo Geshe Rinpoche or the Buddha. It is also believed that when this holy pill is taken at the right time during the death process, its blessings ensure the deceased gains a human rebirth for seven subsequent life times.
In 1959, when the war took place in Tibet, Domo Geshe Rinpoche made countless rilbus to hand out freely to anyone who wanted to travel to the south. These rilbus were incredibly famous amongst the resistance fighters and escapees as it is said to grant protection against injury from weapons, and even rumoured to make fighters bullet proof. Due to their efficacy, those who distributed these rilbus were considered part of the resistance and imprisoned by the Chinese. This was also a contributing factor to Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s extended period of imprisonment.
One day while Domo Geshe Rinpoche was returning from Kalimpong, the road below Tista bridge was blocked, so he decided to take the longer route to the train station. In Sepoydhura, Dome Geshe Rinpoche suddenly stopped at the home of Tsewang Norbu, who used to be a monk in one of Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s monasteries called Samten Choeling in Ghoom. It so happened that the new born child in this family was the incarnation of the current Pabongka Rinpoche. This was how Domo Geshe Rinpoche found the incarnation of Kyabje Pabongka Dorje Chang, and later also helped with Pabongka Rinpoche’s enthronement.
Throughout Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s life, he has helped countless people regardless of their social status, race or ethnicity. Through his extraordinary abilities, Domo Geshe Rinpoche constantly healed people who were ill and those who were mentally disturbed. He was a champion in caring for the most destitute. During his stay in Delhi, countless poor Tibetan people received Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s help; some even started businesses and became successful due to the help they received.
A strong supporter of education, Domo Geshe Rinpoche would encourage children to be sent to good schools and colleges. This can be best seen in Tharpa Choeling in Kalimpong, where a school for young children was built for the disadvantaged in this area of India. Children attending this school were given free lunch on a daily basis, a charitable act that is rarely given to the poorest in this region.
His charitable deeds did not stop at helping those with a hungry stomach. During the 1970s, when the larger monasteries were rebuilding in India, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery encountered great difficulties in obtaining land from the Tibetan Government-in-exile due to political reasons. Seeing how the dedicated monks of Tashi Lhunpo failed to receive a place to re-establish their monastery, Domo Geshe Rinpoche personally travelled to Dharamsala on behalf of Tashi Lhunpo upon their request. They eventually received the land to re-establish the monastery, thanks to Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s success in presenting their case very well.
Despite being a simple monk, Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s kindness has touched people from all walks of life, and gained him a large following worldwide. In 1976, Domo Geshe Rinpoche established the Dungkar Gonpa Society in New York, USA when he was offered a large piece of land in the Catskill Mountains, which he named Gangjong Namgyal. Almost single-handedly, Domo Geshe Rinpoche tended to the land, engaging in heavy physical labour, caring for the wildlife, plants and buildings, and blessing the entire area to be spiritually very powerful.
Although Domo Geshe Rinpoche never displayed any miracles, mainly focusing on his studies and preserving the Buddhadharma, holy objects in his surroundings would produce relics or multiply. There is also an incident in which an old statue of Guru Rinpoche turned to face Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s throne, despite being in an enclosed altar and not having been touched for decades.
Domo Geshe Rinpoche was incredibly consistent in remaining a simple monk until the end, yet his name spread far and wide. Many people still remember that “the sweet smell of morality” surrounded Domo Geshe Rinpoche wherever he went. His extraordinary knowledge, healing abilities, kindness and his genuine concern for all living beings are all traits associated with Buddha Shakyamuni and Lama Tsongkhapa. While many Tibetan Lamas aspire to attain these rare accomplishments, Domo Geshe Rinpoche actually personified them.
The holy incarnation of the 2nd Domo Geshe Rinpoche has been found and, in the spring of 2008, was enthroned in Samten Choling Monastery in Ghoom, in Tashi Choling Monastery in Kurseong, and in Enchey House, the ancestral home of the previous Domo Geshe Rinpoche, in Gangtok, Sikkim.
The hair-cutting and final enthronement ceremonies took place on 21 June 2008 at Gangjong Namgyal, presided over by Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche and Kyabje Yongyal Rinpoche. Also in attendance were Venerable Achok Rinpoche, His Eminence Gangchen Rinpoche, Venerable Zawa Rinpoche and Lama Michel Rinpoche.
As Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche said at the beginning of the ceremony, the young tulku has been recognised in order for him “to continue his activities for the flourishing of the teachings of the Buddha, particularly for the teachings of the great master Je Tsong Khapa.” Given the name Losang Jigme Nyak-gi Wangchuk by His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Chocktrul Rinpoche, the young tulku is now engaged in traditional monastic studies at Shar Gaden Monastery.
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