Obituary: The Passing of a Noble Lama
Bakula Rinpoche, recognized by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of Bakula Arhat (one of the sixteen arhats who were direct disciples of the Shakyamuni Buddha), passed away in Delhi on 4 November 2003. He was 86 years old.
His wisdom and compassion put him in the front rank of influential Tibetan Buddhist masters, yet he was always modest.
He was born in the royal family of Ladakh, but as a Buddhist leader, he guided his followers through his personal example of a humble life as a celibate monk. He dedicated his life to the core principles of the Buddhist teachings by caring for others, especially for those who were less fortunate and in great need …
“Rinpoche’s passing was sudden, as he was doing fairly well after he was discharged from hospital in Delhi where he was treated for pneumonia,” said Bakula Rinpoche’s secretary, Sonam Wangchuk, who attended Bakula for the last twenty-five years. “Rizong Rinpoche was present during those difficult days and was a great support. He led the funeral ceremony, which was also attended by Chamba Rinpoche from Drepung Losaling.
“There were some amazing signs during and after the funeral. The sky was clear and sunny on the day we were collecting the ashes. A small cloud appeared just over the place, which is a mountaintop, and we saw a thick snowfall. It was a brief spell only in that one spot, but it covered everyone there in white. It was as if the heavens were showering flowers! The same evening a neula (a mongoose, the symbol of Arhat Bakula) was seen below Rinpoche’s seat in the courtyard of Pethub Monastery. It is the same animal that Arhat Bakula carries in his hands and that you see in thangkhas. It was strange as the monks had never before seen the animal anywhere around. Rizong Rinpoche also saw the animal and was very pleased.
Sonam later took Rinpoche’s ashes to Mongolia where the people and the Government received the ashes “with the utmost respect. A large number of people came to the airport including the city Governor. The ashes were escorted to the monastery with all the honors, including police escorts. Police had lined up the entire stretch of road from the airport to the monastery and traffic was not allowed. People flocked to the monastery to pay their respects. It was a moving experience”.