A Tribute to H.E. Zemey Rinpoche

The young incarnation of H.E. Zemey Rinpoche, with H.E. Yongyal Rinpoche

In the history of the Gelugpa lineage, no one doubts that Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche is one of the most attained and knowledgeable masters and yet Trijang Rinpoche himself stated that there is another who was his equal in all aspects of attainments. That person is none other than one of Trijang Rinpoche’s own student, the erudite Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche.

For more information about this great master, check out these links:

Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche – a biography

Zemey Rinpoche’s incarnation receives DS initiation

Zemey Rinpoche’s ladrang and stupa

All of us at DorjeShugden.com make this virtual offering of a butterlamp to the incomparable master, His Eminence Zemey Rinpoche, requesting him to remain for another 1,000 years to continue turning the wheel of Dharma and benefiting countless beings.

The Incomparable Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche

There is hardly anyone within the Tibetan Buddhist world who is not familiar with H.H. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche (1900–1981) – not only one of the most erudite scholars of the century but also the junior tutor and spiritual guide to H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. So accomplished was Trijang Rinpoche that his name is synonymous with the highest attainments in Vajrayana Buddhism and indeed, few masters can compare to him.

Yet Trijang Rinpoche himself has highlighted one particular lama who he considered as equal to him in knowledge and attainments, and who held all the same lineages, transmissions and practices as Trijang Rinpoche. That person is none other than one of Trijang Rinpoche’s two closest heart disciples, H.E. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche (the other being the illustrious H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche). Given how highly revered and attained Trijang Rinpoche is, this endorsement of Zemey Rinpoche carries especially tremendous weight.

Zemey Rinpoche is the incarnation of a very renowned and high-ranking line of tulkus from Yangding, Kham in Tibet. His accomplishments drew the devotion of many disciples throughout Ganden Monastery and also the attention from the top echelons of the spiritual and political hierarchy of Tibet, including H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. Zemey Rinpoche was one out of hundreds of tulkus and thousands of monks selected to accompany the Dalai Lama on his visit to China in the 1950s to meet with Mao Zedong and Zhou En Lai.

This visit to China by the Dalai Lama was an extremely important one. It was conducted at a perilous time when China’s subtle but definite incursion into Tibet meant that the Dalai Lama needed the highest caliber and most trusted of Tibetans to assist and provide advice to him. The other illustrious figures within the Dalai Lama’s entourage during this trip were his two tutors, Ling Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche, the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama’s mother. From this time onwards and throughout the 1950s, Zemey Rinpoche developed an increasingly close relationship with the Dalai Lama.

H.H. Ganden Trisur Rinpoche, Zemey Rinpoche and Geshe Tendar

The Dalai Lama’s trust in Zemey Rinpoche was again evidenced when he was asked to be a part of the group that accompanied the Dalai Lama in His Holiness’s escape from Tibet. Once out of danger, Zemey Rinpoche was quick to preserve the Ganden lineage and was a key figure in the re-establishment of the great institution of Ganden Shartse Monastery in South India. Zemey Rinpoche was also personally involved in the setting up of the teaching syllabus of the Buddhist monastic university and wrote extensively on various subject matters.

Being a highly respected lineage holder of the Gelugpas, Zemey Rinpoche was also a highly accomplished practitioner of Dorje Shugden. In fact, it was Zemey Rinpoche who wrote the now infamous Yellow Book, a manuscript of teachings from Trijang Rinpoche that tells of how Dorje Shugden preserves the purity of the Dharma according to the Gelug tradition. This book was in fact a compilation of notes that Zemey Rinpoche had made whilst receiving teachings from Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang.

The young incarnation of
Zemey Rinpoche

Taken out of context, the Yellow Book came to be seen as highly controversial and was viewed by some as promoting sectarianism within Tibetan Buddhism. Others, however, see the book as being complicit with the Dalai Lama’s secret and ultimate purpose of spreading Dorje Shugden’s practice to a world that badly needs it now. By creating a great controversy, Zemey Rinpoche (and the Dalai Lama) effectively brought Dorje Shugden to a much wider, bigger audience throughout the world. He is, after all, the most talked about Buddhist deity today.

However, because Zemey Rinpoche provoked the ire of the Dalai Lama with the Yellow Book, he was quickly accused of being sectarian and was soon ousted from the Dalai Lama’s close circle. Zemey Rinpoche was no longer allowed to participate in any of the Dalai Lama’s teachings and activities. Nevertheless, Zemey Rinpoche displayed his inherent nature as a true Dharma master by always being present at the periphery (not being allowed to pass through the Dalai Lama’s guards) whenever the Dalai Lama was in the monastery giving teachings. As many hours as the Dalai Lama was present, Zemey Rinpoche would perform prostrations outside the building to ask the Dalai Lama for forgiveness. Such was the humility and high realizations of Zemey Rinpoche, one of the greatest Gelugpa lamas to have lived.

The entourage that accompanied the Dalai Lama to Beijing. Zemey Rinpoche is standing in the third row from the front, in red

Though the last years of his life were spent ostracized by the Tibetan community and in isolated retreat, Zemey Rinpoche’s impact on the Ganden tradition cannot be forgotten. Many of the greatest, influential practitioners of the world today were his students, including high lamas like H.E. Dagom Rinpoche and even the Dalai Lama’s translator, Thubten Jinpa.

Continuing his legacy in the world today, Zemey Rinpoche has returned among us. His unmistaken incarnation has been recognised by high lamas across Tibet, Nepal and India. We wish that Zemey Rinpoche will always remain with us, live for thousands of years across countless lifetimes and never stop turning the wheel of Dharma.

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. I love to see that

  2. Another proof to quash the bad talk that those who practice Dorje Shugden will go to hell. May H.E. Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche live very long.

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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