Biographies: The Venerable Shiri Chusang Rinpoche
In 1780, the then abbot of the Selkar Choedhe Monastery, a renowned Gelugpa Geshe from Drepung Gomang, came to the Kagyu Chusang Retreat Centre that was known as Samten Yangtse Hermitage, and there he engaged himself in meditation for the whole of his remaining life. His name was Sangye Kunchok. After his death, one extraordinary child by the name of Sangye Tenpa Dhargye was recognized as his reincarnation. After thoroughly completing his Dharma studies he dedicated himself to a life of meditation, while not neglecting at the same time to do what ever he could to benefit his fellow human beings. He died at the age of 70 in meditation. Since his predecessor was the abbot of Selkar Choedhe Monastery, the latter provided maximum help towards the support of the Kagyu Chusang Retreat center and this cordial relationship continues up to the present.
The third reincarnation was born to a family called Yigshar Lanup Shang-ngo but unfortunately died at the age of eighteen.
The fourth reincarnation was born in 1892, to a family called Khata Dremed Nangpa. His name was Jetsun Lama Lobsang Sangye Tenpai Dronme. He became so famous within the entire Tibetan Buddhist world for his scriptural knowledge, profound wisdom, personal realization, and yogic accomplishments, that the honorific title of "Great Kagyurwa" was added to the beginning of his name. He passed away in 1956.
The fifth reincarnation Jetsun Ngawang Losang Thupten Dronme (the present Chusang Rinpoche) was born in 1959 at Ngam-ring Dzong in central Tibet. Innumerable miraculous and auspicious signs occurred at his birth. He was the son of Bardok Chusang Rinpoche.
In 1965, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, confirmed the 5th incarnation of the Venerable Chusang Rinpoche, Ngawang Lobsang Thubten Dronme. Rinpoche began his studies under the guidance of Pelbar Geshe Rinpoche at a small retreat centre in Helambu. Following this, he studied for a further seven years in Dharamsala under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Lati Rinpoche. He received teachings on Sutra and Tantra from late Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and late Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, too. Subsequently Rinpoche studied for 13 years at Sera Mey Monastic University in South India, where he obtained the traditional Geshe Lharampadegree (equivalent to a Ph.D.) in 1990.
Rinpoche is spiritual head and director of Chusang Monastery, based in Boudha, Nepal, and it is there that he spends most of his time. This monastery follows the yellow hat school or the Gelugpa tradition, to which His Holiness the Dalai Lama belongs. In 1991, Shiri Chusang Rinpoche accepted the leadership of another monastery, Zhekar Choedhe Monastery in Kalimpong, India, and has more recently agreed to take on a new role assisting the monks of Sertog Gaden Choekhor Ling Monastery in the state of Sikkim.
In the years that Rinpoche has been directing Chusang and Zhekar Choedhe Monasteries, both communities have seen great changes. Under Rinpoche's loving guidance, both the spiritual and material wellbeing of his monks have benefited considerably. Chusang Monastery is now a haven of peace amidst the noise and bustle of the Kathmandu Valley and a community of nearly 40 monks now lives there in comparative comfort.
Much of Zhekar Choedhe is now newly built, thanks to Rinpoche's efforts. But there is still work to do. Nothing stands still and both monasteries are growing fast as new monks are received from Tibet to begin their new lives under Chusang Rinpoche's careful guidance.
As well as taking care of his monks, Rinpoche has been an active ambassador for them and also for the Buddhist practice and the cause of the Tibetan people. He has travelled widely and is in great demand both locally and elsewhere throughout the world. Amongst many other duties, he is a member of the Human Rights Organisation of Nepal, advisor to the Himalayan Buddhist Culture Association in New Delhi and a spiritual leader to the World Buddhist Cultural Exchange Association of South Korea. Rinpoche was elected as Vice President of the International Gelug Society's Executive Committee at the first International Gelug Conference held in March 1999. At the third International Gelug Conference in Bodh Gaya, he was appointed President. In 1999, Rinpoche was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree from Trinity College in the USA. In 2002, Chusang Rinpoche was re-elected Vice-President of the International Gelug Society's Executive Committee. He edited the book "Tribute to the Dalai Lamas" (in Tibetan), and transcribed, edited and published the speech of His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso the XIVth Dalai Lama of Tibet given on the 6th of December 2000 during the 2nd International Gelug Conference in Dharamsala.
Although the primary role of a Tibetan monastery is to train and support monks in the practice of Buddhist spirituality, Rinpoche is keen to ensure that this does not neglect work in the local community. His monks are actively involved in helping others and doing work in the community. Chusang Monastery in Boudhanath operates a small clinic, connected with the Yuthok Tibetan Medical Centre in Kathmandu. The monastery clinic provides the services of a doctor qualified in Tibetan medicine, Dr. Tsultim, also one of the senior monks in the monastery who oversees the preparation of pharmaceutical medicines. Other monks are engaged in serving the community's spiritual needs.
Most monks have limited, if any, financial support from their own families, and it therefore falls to the Chusang Rinpoche to attract sponsorship in order to support their everyday needs. A sum of around US$300 per year needs to be raised in order to keep each monk fed, clothed and in good health.
In addition to the everyday needs of the monks, most of the institutions under Rinpoche's charge need further support to enable necessary expansion or improvement works to take place and allow them to embark on new spiritual and community projects.
Donations are urgently needed to cover the cost of this vital work.
Rinpoche places great importance on providing education for his monks and it is particularly important that they learn both Tibetan and English.
Potentially, a bigger problem is the health of the monks, many of whom suffer from tuberculosis. This is endemic in the region and the young and old monks are particularly susceptible. The disease can be treated successfully but a long course of treatment is needed which must be completed without a break. It is therefore vital that sufficient funds are available to ensure the necessary supply of medicine. Many hundreds of dollars are needed to cover the cost of each complete course of treatment.
Sera Mey Monastery Tsangpa Khangtsen, Mysore, South India
How Can You Help?
It's clear from all this that Chusang Rinpoche is actively involved in a number of ambitious projects which will serve to benefit both the spiritual and material wellbeing of his own monks and the wider community. It is also clear that this requires considerable funding. Rinpoche has to raise all the necessary funds from sponsorship and charitable donations. Any help that you feel able to give, no matter how small, will be gratefully received and you may be sure, it will be put to good use in one of the projects previously mentioned.
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Further information can be requested from:
Ven. S. Chusang Rinpoche
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