A Brief Biography of the 1st Choeje Lama Chime Rinpoche
The 1st Choeje Lama Chime Rinpoche lived during the 20th century. He was born in the Dokham province of Tibet, in a place called Kharong which is near Nedo Monastery in the region of Nangchen. His father’s name was Dhondup Tashi and his mother’s name was Yunde Lhamo. His birth was accompanied by auspicious signs and even from an early age he was naturally virtuous and avoided harmful behaviour. At the age of 16, he expressed his desire to enter into the path of the Dharma. He received refuge and vows from His Holiness the 16th Karmapa who was then in the northwest of Tibet. He was extensively trained according to the Karma Kagyu tradition. At the age of 31, he became a disciplinary master. He was praised by all for being both strict and kind.
At the age of 35, he realized that the mere listening and teaching could not make his precious human birth meaningful. Thus, he decided to willingly go for a solitary retreat at Tsurphu Drubde Yiwong Samten Ling, where he spent three years in retreat with very little food and few possessions. He also received many teachings and instructions from many highly accomplished masters and practised alone. Thus, he became a truly enlightened master.
At the age of 39, he seriously took up a command-prophesy by H.H. Karmapa and went to the branch monastery of Tsurphu Monastery called Tashi Choeling located at Upper Gege as a representative lama of H.H. the Gyalwa Karmapa. After serving several years at said monastery with dedication and sincerity, H.H. Karmapa bestowed upon him the title ‘Choeje Lama’. One year later, he was sent to Jhang Karchung Monastery as a representative, as requested by H.H. Karmapa. Whenever he met H.H. Karmapa he gave him all the offerings that had been donated by the local people. He kept nothing for himself.
In the wake of the political unrest in Tibet in 1959, due to the negative karma of the people of Tibet, Rinpoche also had to leave Tibet and went into exile like many other Tibetans. He stayed in Lowa and Nyishang in Nepal for several months and later, he reached India. He went on a pilgrimage to the four sacred Buddhist places in India. In the meantime, he enquired about the whereabouts of the Karmapa and came to know that he was in New Delhi. And so, he had an opportunity to seek his blessings. H.H. Karmapa asked him to go to Ladakh as the culture and religion in Ladakh resemble that of Tibet. H.H. Karmapa further predicted that he would benefit the Buddha Dharma and sentient beings there.
In 1964, Chime Rinpoche set out on his journey towards Ladakh with a horse from Rewalsar Lake via Kullu and Manali. He headed towards his destination with some of his religious objects and some tsampa (roasted barley) and sought alms along the way to complete his journey to Ladakh. He reached Ladakh to fulfil the wish of H.H. Karmapa. On the invitation of some Tibetan patrons from Upper Gege and Dongpa, Rinpoche visited the Changthang region (a nomadic region) of Ladakh as the patrons had already reached there. He had a very pleasant stay there as it was very close to his native land. Similarly, Drupon Dechen Rinpoche and Choepa Tulku, widely known as Shangtse Rinpoche also came to Changthang. They lived together for several months and performed Drubchen Puja (Great Accomplishment) together. In 1967, H.H. the 16th Karmapa visited the Ladakh region as prayed by the people of Ladakh. He visited many places and blessed the land. During that time, Chime Rinpoche also had the opportunity to receive H.H. Karmapa’s blessings. H.H. Karmapa had given him a letter along with a mud sacred idol of Shakyamuni Buddha to Chime Rinpoche in 1972, which was consecrated by H.H. Karmapa himself during Chime Rinpoche’s visit to the main seat in Rumtek. H.H. Karmapa said that now he needed to set up a new Dharma centre in the Ladakh region. As it was the Karmapa’s wish, it could not be denied in any way. He considered his fund constraint and it was also a challenging task to build a monastery in Ladakh in those days compared to today. He then started collecting contributions from the devotees and well-wishers of upper, lower and middle parts of Ladakh. Besides that, the people of Sonamling Tibetan Settlement also contributed a lot towards the noble cause. As a result of the generosity of the people of Ladakh, in 1973, the then Deputy Commissioner of Leh-Ladakh allocated the present site for the construction of the monastery. The monastery was built in order to fulfil the great wishes of H.H. Karmapa and to cater to the needs of devotees of Ladakh in general and particularly, to restore the Buddha Dharma which was deteriorating in Tibet.
The Karma Dupgyud Choeling Monastery is located at the right side of the Indus River at Choglamsar, Leh-Ladakh. The monastery built by Chime Rinpoche consisted of a main shrine adorned with four traditional pillars and eight posts, private rooms for the monks and a private apartment for Rinpoche. A holy sangha was also established there. H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa had given the name ‘Karma Dupgyud Choeling’. The monastery follows the unbroken lineage of the Karma Kagyu tradition.
In the year 1986 and 1987, Chime Rinpoche during his two visits to Tibet, visited his previous monasteries which were destroyed including Gege Tashi Choeling and Jhang Karchung Monastery. He took the pains to renovate the monasteries and had again established the holy sangha respectively. He also extended his sincere support to the Drakya Monastery on the request of the local devotees and contributed 100 thousand Chinese Yuan along with a vehicle to Tsurphu Monastery for construction purposes. Likewise, he also contributed sets of carpets for the main shrine. In this way, he extended his selfless support to the monasteries in Tibet.
In 1990, he paid a visit to Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre, the main seat of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa in Sikkim, India. He made extensive offerings in the monastery including seven silver bowls and a large butter lamp vessel to the Kudung Rinpoche (stupa) and complete sets of carpet for puja in the main shrine. He also left some principal amount of money for regular Kunrig Puja (Buddha, the All-Knowing One) at the monastery.
In 1994, Chime Rinpoche met H.H. the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje for the first time at the Karmapa International Buddhist Institute, New Delhi, during the enthronement of H.H. 17th Karmapa. At that time, he offered a mandala offering of body, speech and mind, and made extensive offerings of ritual items to His Holiness.
In 1996, he built the fasting temple to cater to the needs of the devotees of Ladakh which is adorned with six traditional pillars. Then in 1998, he fully renovated the Shitvana Crematorium of Sonamling Tibetan Settlement, Choglamsar which was founded by him in 1978. In this way, he dedicated his life for the benefit of Buddha Dharma and beings. Eventually, on the 29th September 1999 at 11 p.m., his mind dissolved into the expanse of reality in order to lead his disciples to the right path of Dharma. His passing away was marked by many wondrous signs.