A Wish Fulfilling Journey

In August 2007, one month after His Eminence the 8th Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche’s demise, His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, spiritual head of the Drukpa Lineage, who took rebirth in India and who is also revered as the reincarnation of the great Indian saint of early 12th century, Naropa, visited Nangchen for the first time in this present life as a pilgrim. Although the visit was intentionally private as His Holiness only wished to make a spiritual connection with the holy place traditionally a stronghold of the Drukpa Lineage, his visit created a huge impact for Nangchen and its people. Tens of thousands of people thronged to catch a glimpse of him. It was said that in many of his previous lives, he visited Nangchen and gave many profound teachings to the successive Kings of Nangchen and their subjects. His Holiness learned about the wish of Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche in restoring Ashoka Stupa and he told Satrul Rinpoche that he would assist because Ashoka Stupa is not only a monument of Buddhist history, but also a symbol of peace, harmony and prosperity.

18 years ago, His Holiness’s Singaporean sponsor, Mr. Felix Lim Ah Yeong (the son-in-law of founder of the famous “Tiger Balm” ointment, Haw Par Village and newspapers Sin Chew Daily - the legendary Mr. Aw Boon Haw), had offered His Holiness a gigantic 35m bronze Buddha statue, made in Nanjing. His Holiness felt it was timely to give this statue to Nangchen. Along with the restoration of Ashoka Stupa, the Buddha being a part of this colossal project would help to restore the yesterday’s good fortune where people enjoyed a mindful living of genuine happiness.

Almost immediately, His Eminence Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche’s students used their Chinese government recognized and registered tax exempted charitable trust, Fu Rui Charitable Foundation, to raise funds for the restoration project. Many devotees in Asia, including renowned industrialists, such as members of the Lim family from the Genting Group Malaysia, made considerable donation to this project.

In July 2012, His Holiness visited the project site which was 90% completed and today in 2015, the project is finally ready for the grand inauguration. The noble wish of His Eminence Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche, one of the most enlightened masters of the Drukpa Lineage, is now fulfilled.

Buddha Amitabha Statue

In 1997, His Holiness’s Singaporean sponsor, Mr. Felix Lim Ah Yeong (the son-in-law of the legendary Mr. Aw Boon Haw, founder of the famous “Tiger Balm” oilment, Haw Par Village and newspapers Sin Chew Daily), offered to sponsor for His Holiness a gigantic bronze Buddha statue of 35meter, made in Nanjing. His Holiness and his parents donated their life savings to purchase gold for mixing with the bronze material used for making the statue. They had also engaged the royal sculptor of Bhutan to ensure the statue would be made according to the Sutra, because these days most of the statues are not made according to the holy texts. This is ensure the statue of Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light, will grant enormous blessing at sight.

The statue was initially intended to be installed at Druk Amitabha Mountain in Kathmandu, Nepal. However, because of strong objection from the aviation authority, permission was not granted. The completed gigantic statue was stored in Nanjing since 2002, as if waiting for the perfect karmic conditions to ripen.

Ashoka The Great

Ashoka was the third Emperor of the Maurya dynasty of ancient India. His name Ashoka means “without sorrow” in Sanskrit. His grandfather, Chandragupta Maurya, was the founder of the dynasty.

In 273 BCE, when Ashoka’s father, Bindusara, passed away, the prince and princesses went into brutal civil wars in a fight for the throne, the most intense of which was the ones between Ashoka and his older brothers. In the process, Ashoka killed 99 of his own siblings before ascending the throne; four years after, he was officially enthroned as the Emperor of Maurya dynasty.

Ever since he took the throne, Ashoka had been aggressively expanding the boundaries of his dynasty and conquering many neighboring countries. After concluding the wars, Ashoka received many teachings from the respected Buddhist abbot, Upagupta, and he became a devout Buddhist not long after. The brutality of his conquest led him to adopt Buddhism. He later used his position to propagate the relatively new religion to new heights.

Under the reign of Ashoka, the law was based on the Buddhist ethics, emphasizing the practice of benevolent and pious thoughts. In his opinion, the importance of Buddhism lies in the ability to put the phiosophy into practice, he believed that: Whether a person is able to carry out good deeds does not depend on how many times he participates in the Buddhist rituals, but rather on whether his activities are performed in accordance with the Dharma.

He made Buddhism the state religion of India and ordered this royal decree be inscribed on rocks and pillars to be placed everywhere in the palaces and all over India. He also gathered a great number of revered Buddhist monks to restore and edit the Buddhist Canon, as well as building innumerable monasteries, temples and pagodas.

In the effort to spread the teachings of Buddha, Ashoka dispatched a number of missionaries, including qualified monks and his own children to different regions within India and the neighboring countries. When his daughter, Princess Sanghamitra, established Buddhism in Ceylon (or Sri Lanka), she brought with her not only many monks and scriptures, but also a branch of the holy Bodhi tree, which she personally planted there. Until today, this Bodhi tree remains to be an object of veneration. After a series of propangada and friendly exchanges within different regions of India and with the neighboring countries, Buddhism became a wide-spread belief not only at home, but also in Egypt, Syria, Myammar, China and many corners of the world.

During Ashoka’s 40 years reigning the Maurya Dynasty, he was highly respected in India and abroad. He is known as “Ashoka The Great” in the history of India and of many other countries. In this way, under the leadership of Ashoka, the Maurya Dynasty became the first unified empire in the history of India. Even in Ningbo, China, the fact that there was a temple named after Ashoka tells that he was also a very influential figure in historical China.

While Buddhism was founded by Buddha Shakyamuni, its wide spreading dissemination was attributed to Ashoka The Great.

Ashoka Stupa in Nangchen

According to the Buddhist scriptures, with the wish of spreading the teachings of the Buddha, King Ashoka of India divided the relics of Lord Buddha and constructed 84,000 stupas (reliquary pagoda) to enshrine these precious objects of devotion.

In China, 19 of such stupas were constructed. However, most of them have collapsed due to natural wear and tear as well as human negligence. Some have been moved to other locations. In the process of restoring some of these stupas, many relics of Lord Buddha and a huge amount of precious offering items were discovered. The stupa in Nangchen was one of these 19 archaic and precious structures of devotion.

In history, Nangchen was an important center of politics and trades in Eastern Tibet, and therefore it was also a very active center for missionary activities. This explains why Ashoka chose Nangchen as one of the locations to build the reliquary stupa.

In the later history, Nangchen too proved to be an extraordinary place for spreading Buddhism. With the support of the once-glorious Nangchen dynasty, this Buddhist kingdom had produced generations of Dharma kings, exemplary scholars and amazingly qualified monks, yogis and practitioners. Therefore Nangchen is also fondly known by great masters as Gomde or the “abode of meditators”.

In the next thousand of years, there was no proven record of how the stupa had been maintained or restored. However, according to popular legends, in the west of the stupa, where the present-day Chamdo Monastery is located, there was a monastery whose monks had at one time constructed a roofed building where devotees stayed and protected the stupa. Much later, the monastery was burned down and the holy stupa was destroyed overnight, only an earth mould was left in its place. Some of the older people in this area said that they had seen an earth mould looking like the shape of a house of about 4 to 5 meters in height. But during the Cultural Revolution, several locals removed the foundation rocks of the stupa to make their own homes, and over time, the stupa had become unrecognizable. During the process, apparently a stone pillar inscribed with the history of Ashoka’s building of the stupa was unearthed, but the pillar disappeared a year later. The place where the stupa used to be erected became a historical site of ruins.

In recent years, devotees and practitioners have developed a great wish to restore the stupa, however due to a lack of fundings, their wish could not be fulfilled, therefore they requested the late Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche of the Drukpa Lineage to fulfill his wish. Rinpoche personally checked the historical site of the ruins and even wrote a brief history of the stupa.

Unfortunately, due to befalling impermanence, Trulshik Adeu Rinpoche left this world before he could embark on this project. Before his passing, he left with his nephew, Trulshik Satrul Rinpoche, also from the Drukpa Lineage, his very own hand-written abridged history of the Ashoka stupa as well as a draft of the design plan.

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