Thursday, 11 April 2013

Remembering Lati Rinpoche (1922 - 2010)

Tomorrow Friday 12 April 2013 marks the third anniversary of  dearest guru, Khensur Kyabje Lati Rinpoche's passing into Nirvana. Lati Rinpoche was an extremely well-known Buddhist scholar, and one of the highest lama in the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He established Gaden Shartse Dro-Phen Ling, Singapore, in 2002, of which he visited every year and was close to his students here.

Let's relive and pay tribute to a beloved teacher, a great practitioner who had achieved Enlightenment. I extracted excerpts and summarised what was related from Gaden Shartse Dro-Phen Ling's Facebook page a year ago. I also share some of my personal photos of Lati Rinpoche.

Venerable Ngawang Tsultrim, affectionately known as 'Sopon-la' (attendant), had been Rinpoche's personal attendant for more than 50 years and they were extremely close. Sopon-la related the days leading to Lati Rinpoche's passing on 12 April 2010. 

Before Rinpoche passed away, he was in great health and had no major illness. On the 12 March 2010, Lati Rinpoche and Sopon-la left Gaden Shartse Monastery in Mundgod and arrived in Dharamsala, Namgyal Monastery, on 15 March 2010. Namgyal Monastery is the personal monastery of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Lati Rinpoche was the Spiritual Advisor to His Holiness. 

Although Lati Rinpoche was 88 years old, he still circumambulated the Namgyal Monastery without fail every morning. Sometime in end March 2010, His Holiness the Dalai Lama had a dream of the long life deity Goddess Namgyalma. 
The next morning, the attendant of His Holiness said it was an appropriate and opportune time to conduct a Namgyalma Long Life Puja to pray for long life and good health of His Holiness. His Holiness specifically requested for Lati Rinpoche to offer this Namgyalma Long Life Puja.  Lati Rinpoche was of course very happy to do so.  This was a very auspicious sign.

The Namgyalma Long Life Puja was successfully conducted on the 30 March 2010 by about 20 old monks. On that day, His Holiness walked into the room and met Lati Rinpoche. His Holiness gently held up the chin of Rinpoche, looked at Rinpoche's eyebrows, and said "Wow, you are quite old, your brows have all gone white and old. I am getting some white coming up on mine too," and then His Holiness continued, "I will see you again very soon."  Those were to be the last words His Holiness said to Lati Rinpoche. 

On 10 April, Lati Rinpoche cut his hair. On 11 April, Rinpoche washed his body. Then in the early morning of 12 April, Lati Rinpoche told Sopon-la to leave the room and mentioned it was time for him to go. Rinpoche brushed his teeth, washed his face, and then sat on his bed and passed away in the deep peace of meditation at 5:25am. Hours later, Rinpoche's younger attendant, Tanzin-la, saw Rinpoche in meditation. He tried to wake Rinpoche and when Rinpoche did not respond, Tanzin-la realised Rinpoche had passed on. Tanzin-la immediately informed Sopon-la, who called for a doctor and informed His Holiness Dalai Lama's office as well.  This was the last photo taken of Lati Rinpoche in his room days before he passed away in Dharamsala. 

On 13 April 2010, Sopon-la had an audience with His Holiness. Rinpoche passed away in Dharamsala, so Sopon-la asked HH if the holy body of Lati Rinpoche should be brought back to Mundgod. His Holiness replied "Yes. Please bring him back to the monastery." 

Lati Rinpoche remained undisturbed in clear light meditation. Even though the human body had stopped functioning clinically, however for great accomplished masters like Lati Rinpoche, they could control their mind to go into the state of deep meditation called 'thukdam'.  The period of time that a Lama remains in thukdam varies and is dependent upon the Lama. It could be one or two days, or as long as months. The general rule of thumb is the shorter the Thukdam, the quicker the Lama will reincarnate in human form. 

The moment Rinpoche's news of passing away went around, all Gelug monks from various monasteries in Dharamsala organised themselves to recite prayers for Lati Rinpoche. Rinpoche remained in thukdam for about 2 and a half days before leaving the meditative state. This is a sign that Rinpoche will no doubt return swiftly once again!

At the same time, Sopon-la was deeply touched by the overwhelming support from Singaporean students from Dro-Phen Ling, who very quickly extended great support and financed the chartered flight from Dharamsala to Mundgod.
News of Rinpoche's passing away was a big blow to Gaden Shartse Monastery, as Rinpoche had always been perceived to be the Father of the Monastery. Rinpoche was the main figure in the monastery who cared for and took care of all the monks' food, education and well-being.  On the day the chartered flight arrived, 15 cars full of monks representatives from various departments and houses travelled from Mundgod to Hubli, anxious to receive Rinpoche at the Hubli airport. It was an emotional wait, and the monks also teared as they prepared and decorated the car which was going to carry Rinpoche's holy body back to the monastery....
Back at the monastery, as the 15 cars arrived back home together with Rinpoche's body, the streets were lined with nearly a thousand monks all deeply grieved and waiting to pay respect to Rinpoche. It was a very solemn and sad atmosphere in the monastery, unlike usual times. All the highest ranking Masters of Gaden Shartse Monastery were out to receive Rinpoche's holy body, including senior and elderly Kensur Rinpoche Jampa Yeshe, Kensur Rinpoche Kunchok Tsering, Kensur Rinpoche Dakpa Tenzin, Khen Rinpoche Jangchup Choeden, as well as high lama reincarnate, H.E. Zong Rinpoche. 
It was the most crowded situation in Lati Ladrang where all monks came forward wanting to pay respects to Rinpoche's holy body.... which was placed on the 1st floor prayer hall of Lati Ladrang. Pujas continued to be conducted round the clock. 19 members from Gaden Shartse Dro-Phen Ling were there to pay their last respects to Rinpoche and joined  the monks for the various pujas and prayers to pray for Rinpoche's swift return. Back in Singapore, many members and devotees also grieved and prayed and Guru Puja was conducted continuously over a period of 7 evenings.

It was really amazing that Rinpoche's body remained fresh and soft and there was no sign of any decay or bad smell. Rinpoche's holy body was laid in the coffin just covered by a layer of yellow silk cloth. There was no bad smell whatsoever, and sometimes there was even smell of incense. How very very auspicious. Rinpoche's holy body remained in perfect condition for the next 8 days, wherein the fire puja was scheduled to be conducted on 19 April. It was indeed a miracle, because there was no form of any air-conditioning in the room and April is one of the hottest months in India, yet his holy body (not embalmed) could remain in such wonderful condition.

Over the 8 days where Rinpoche's holy body laid in the ladrang's prayer hall, monks from various houses recited prayers 24 hours around the clock. There were monks in the morning, afternoon, evening sessions, and even in the wee hours of dawn. There were always monks reciting prayers in Lati Ladrang, and outside the hall. At other parts of the monastery, the main prayer hall, the school, various houses, prayer pujas were being held continously for Rinpoche's swift return too.

On 19 April 2010, Lati Rinpoche's holy was offered to the fire. 

He left behind a small foot print, indicating he would return very soon. 

Many holy relics were uncovered from the remains after the cremation. 
Lati Rinpoche left behind many relics and the rarest indescructible vajra relics of his eye, tongue and heart. They could not be burnt to ashes, and they turned into steel-like and conjoined into one. The eye, tongue and heart represented the pure holy body, speech and mind. It was truly amazing for us to witness these holy relics. This below photo was just published by Gaden Shartse Dro-Phen Ling for the first time. 
3 years on, Lati Rinpoche's holy stupa and statues are already ready, fully consecrated with Rinpoche's holy relics.  Below are some of my personal photos of Lati Rinpoche. 

Join in tomorrow evening's special puja to reinforce or plant the seed of affinity and to create the cause to be able to meet up with Lati Rinpoche's unmistaken reincarnation swiftly. May all be auspicious!  

Thank you, Lati Rinpoche, for all your kind blessings. May I be able to meet you soon in this very lifetime, and may we meet again and again in every future lifetime, and eventually in Tushita Pureland. 

Here is a link to my earlier posts on Lati Rinpoche.  


  1. Thank you for this this post on Lati Rinpoche ~ please can you tell me if he is returned yet?

    1. Hi Lati Rinpoche has not been found yet. I believe will be soon. Thanks for reading my blog ;)


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