Sunday, Nov 22, 2020 13:30 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Nov 22, 2020 07:52 [IST]

Infant Avatar Lama

    As I begin writing this on October 30, exactly 37 years ago on this very date in 1983 I was fortunate to have a fleeting glance of an infant Tulku (‘Tulku’ in Tibetan is ‘Reincarnation’, an Avatar Lama).  The Royal Monastery (Tsuklakhang) in Sikkim’s capital, Gangtok, the venue for his installation ceremony, was buzzing with activity.  Everything came to a standstill at around 10 AM when a motor car gently drove in and the front door opened. Seated on the lap of an elder Lama, there was an infant wrapped in Lama draping holding the dashboard and with quizzical innocent look. The 3½-year-old kid has been identified as the ninth incarnate of Lama Sal-Tong-Shvo-Gom, popularly known as Gyalton Tulku Rinpoche. The infant boy’s name is Karma Palden Lungtok Thrinley Rabgyas Palzangpo (oh, let me take some breath)!

(The infant Gyalton Tulku Rinpoche. Picture by the author)

    I was lucky in that I was working in a media office. So, a few days prior to this event we had received a background note and the itinerary of the ceremony. Sikkim Herald, the government daily, had also carried a detailed item in its 21st Oct. issue. Armed with this information, I was eagerly waiting at the venue to watch this rare ceremony, though not my first such event. Just 16 days ago on 14th Oct., I was fortunate to witness the installation ceremony of Kunzong Tenpoi Gyaltsen (6 years old) as the Tulku of Jyang-Chub Dorjee, revered as Lachung Rinpoche or Rong-Nye-Rinpoche. The consecration took place at Chorten Monastery in the Deorali area of Gangtok. I was immensely happy to receive blessings from the small hands of the Little Tulku.
    But I was not lucky this time as the event was a closed-door ceremony in the royal Tsuklakhang. So I had to return without the infant Tulku’s blessings. Though I hurriedly clicked some five snaps, only one shot – that of his arrival - has survived the time.  Two other negatives - He being accorded a warm welcome by the Lamas and lay devotees who were not allowed inside, peeping through the glass windows - were damaged. Another two, of the Tulku blessing the crowd along with his mother, were not clicked in proper mode, hence unusable. So I am left only with this sole negative which was also slightly damaged, but now scanned and digitally saved for eternity.  Denied entry inside Tsuklakhang on that Sunday morning, I returned to my abode dejected, empty hearted and empty stomach, as no one invited me to stay back for the lunch arranged there!

(Ven Gyalton Rinpoche)
    Born on 6th April 1980 to the blessed parents – Mr. Kunzang Topden and Mrs. Yangzom of Martam family in Gangtok – Karma Palden was discovered in 1983 by  His Eminence the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa Rinpoche as the ninth Khyungpo of Gyalton Tulku Rinpoche, an incarnation of the religious head of Chungpo Monastery in Kham, Tibet. The lineage begins with the celebrated Yogi Khyungpo Paljor (probably early 1000 A.D.). The first Tulku was Sal Tong Shva Gom of Kham (Eastern Tibet). The eighth incarnate, Ven. Gyalton Tulku Rinpoche, Ugyen Jigme Choekyi Singee, (Born in Chungpo Gyalton Valley, Tibet, 1908) came to Sikkim in 1956 (the year of 2500th Buddha Jayanthi) along with HH the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. The Karmapa appointed him as the spiritual Guru of the Chogyal (King) of Sikkim, Sir Tashi Namgyal. So he settled in Sikkim and made Tsuklakhang, his place of residence and spent the rest of his life devoting to dharmic activities. He passed away peacefully in meditation in 1970, Sunday, a full moon day. As per his wish, his mortal remains were cremated at Tashiding (West Sikkim) and relics enshrined in a Chorten (Stupa).
The initial ceremonies of the enthronement, namely bestowing the name and first recognition ceremonies, took place at Rumtek Monastery, the main seat of the Kagyupa in India. The 12th Kenting Tai Situpa led the proceedings, after which the new Tulku was immediately brought to Gangtok Palace Monastery where he was given a traditional welcome by lamas and received by the Royal Family, including Prince Wangchuk and the Royal Grandmother, government officials, noble families of Sikkim and a large number of devotees, including self. The closed-door enthronement ceremony was conducted by the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa during which time the young Tulku consistently beat on a drum from the beginning to the end of the ceremony. After the young Gyalton Rinpoche was formally enthroned, the devotees paid their respect and received his blessings.
I was curious to know the where & what of the infant Tulku now, 37 years later, and the website of Palpung Monastery came in handy. Ven. Gyalton Rinpoche remained in the Royal Palace Monastery learning Tibetan reading and calligraphy. In 1989, he came to Palpung Sherabling (Himachal Pradesh), the main seat of Kenting Tai Situpa in India. Here he remained under the guidance of his supreme guru the 12th Kenting Tai Situpa and other gurus for two years. Later he attended a regular English medium school and university for about ten years, taking up science as his main stream. In February 2002, he returned to Palpung Sherab Ling to undergo higher Buddhist studies, besides mastering different rituals, Buddhist philosophy, ‘chham’ lama dance, different musical instruments used in rituals, etc. He has been appointed the Vajra Master of Palpung Sherab Ling for the past around four years. It would be interesting to note that Gyalton Rinpoche has been the main dancer of lama dance in Palpung Sherabling in recent years. What I missed then, I hope to get the missed blessings at least now from the Infant Avatar Lama. / 9840917608 Whatsapp

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi