The Passing of Lama Tharchin Rinpoche

Photo from BuddhistChannelTV.comWe are deeply saddened to announce that Lama Tharchin Rinpoche passed away last night, Monday, July 22, 2013.

Lama Tharchin was born in Tibet and was a dzogchen master who received his training at Dudjom Rinpoche’s monastery. He fled Tibet in 1959 to live in India and Nepal, before arriving in the United States in 1984. He was the tenth lineage holder of the Repkong Ngakpas, a family lin­eage of yogis. Rinpoche founded the Vajrayana Foundation and established a monastic college and three-year retreat center. He taught throughout the United States, and his gentle presence endeared him to thousands.

The following interview was conducted in Boulder, Colorado, and is excerpted from Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition by Andrew Holecek.


What is the best thing for a practitioner to do before death?

We are now in the bardo of this life, which is from the moment of birth until the moment of a sickness that leads to our death. This is the time that is the best time to prepare. Dharma is how we can come to die professionally. That includes prostrations, circumambulation [around sacred sites and the gathering of merit], mandala offerings, Vajrasattva, taking refuge and generating bodhichitta, ngöndro, and then guru yoga. It is especially helpful to prepare with phowa practice. This is really powerful. We can practice phowa now, then when the time comes to actually do it, our chances for success are much greater. Reading Karma Lingpa’s six bardo teachings is also helpful, along with the creation stage practices (of mahayoga). These deity and visualization practices are really wonderful. Then there are the completion stage practices and the Six Yogas of Naropa. This is all really important to do.

The main point is the recognition of your own enlightened buddha nature. When that wakes up in the bardo there is a chance you can be liberated at the level of the dharmakaya. The deity practices prepare you for the sambhogakaya. Any kind of practice is multiplied in the bardo, because consciousness is nine times smarter in the bardo. Therefore if we can practice in the bardo it’s easier to attain liberation at that time.

What’s the best thing one can do during death?

It is good if someone can read or remind the dying person to practice the teachings on the six bardos. In addition, try to remember these six things: remember the view, remember the deity, remember mantra, remember your samaya, remember your faith and devotion, remember love and compassion. It is also helpful to remember the Nyingma forms of liberation: liberation through taste (and the blessing substances, the relics), liberation through touching, through hearing, through seeing, through remembering, and through wearing. One can also read the Aspiration Prayer of Samantabhadra, or the Coppered-colored Mountain prayers—that can all be really helpful.

It is also very helpful to give teachings that will help the dying person recognize the bardo of dharmata, and to help them remember phowa. Practitioner or not, remind them to focus at the top of their head. You can also touch up there, or pull a little hair. Remember not to touch any lower parts of their body. Feeling directs consciousness, and it can make the consciousness exit from a lower door and take rebirth in a lower realm. You want consciousness to exit from the crown and merge with luminous emptiness awareness, so that your consciousness becomes vast like the sky. Reminding them of this is very helpful. There’s also the recitation of all the Buddha’s names, and the Chöying Dzö [Treasury of Dharmadhatu], by Longchenpa (which is what I usually recite). The root text is good to read.

What’s the best thing to do after someone dies?

Each week, on the day that they died, they repeat the death experience, so this is a very special time for them and a time we can really help. You can do tsog (feast) offering on those days. Butter lamp offering is also special for those times, because the lamps represent clear mind—and help them find their way. If a practitioner is available, until the forty-ninth day, every day they could do the né dren ceremony, which is when you bring their consciousness into the support and then give empowerments and teachings and introduce the path that leads them to the pure land. You can also offer food and drink, and perform the sur offering. If you can do this every day until the forty-ninth day that is best (because seven weeks is the longest they can stay in the bardo), but especially in the first week, and then again for the third week. There is a phowa component in the né dren as well, so phowa is being practiced for them with this practice.

You can read also The Tibetan Book of the Dead, because bardo beings come back to hover around their loved ones during the bardo of becoming. This is the time when your prayers can penetrate and reach them directly, helping them. They can truly receive this help.

(from Preparing to Die by Andrew Holecek)

28 thoughts on “The Passing of Lama Tharchin Rinpoche

  1. I saw this wonderful smile last weekend at Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s program in Pasadena CA. I had never met Lama Tharchin, but was very touched by his presence and the devotion of many as they approached him with katas and greetings. As I was waiting to cross the street after the event, I noticed him in the distance with a friend and contemplated approaching and offering my greetings and introducing myself. The light turned green and I crossed, and missed the opportunity. Swift return Lama Tharchin.

  2. OM AH HUM Lama Tharchin Rinpoche was sublime Dzogchen master . I listened to his Dzogchen teachings in yogic style from 1995 onwards. His humour was remarkable and we will never forget his smile. May he be unseparable from Dharmakaya Samantabhadra Buddha . HA A HA SHA SA MA

    • Rinpoche la Tashi Deleg,
      Should I be fortunate enough to know about your lineage etc? This is because I`m being learner of Buddhist history,I may be blessed with further knowledge upon various facets of Buddhist teachings.Thank you so much.

  3. wishing comfort, ease and perserverance to all of Lama Tharchin’s students, all in the mindstream of his heartfelt, glowing, beaming presence may all of his teachings be lived, realized in flowing and glowing presence me ke aloha

  4. At a time when most other Lamas I met were really serious, sometimes even “wrathful”, he was willing to be friendly and playful – not trivial or lacking in seriousness, but wonderfully innocent and wide-eyed. He really loved the Dharma, and he really loved his students, and he really loved anyone who showed up and tried. Despite his friendly attitude, he really got the job done, building a country center, a stunning Padmasambhava statue, putting students through 3 year retreats on a regular basis, and offering the first “public” Dzogchen teachings (there were prerequisites, but they were clearly stated and obviously within reach of many students, given the large attendance at his summer retreats). It would be easy to say that his passing will leave a big empty spot, but I’d rather think of the center, of all the students he brought up, who will continue his work over the years ahead. I’m really grateful to the staff at his center for getting the word out quickly so that I and others who were not “close” students can still be mindful at this juncture. I have nothing but happy memories of Lama Tharchin, the pre-eminent humble and friendly lama of his generation.

  5. Llama Tharchin, thank you for your mindful presence, your kind smile, your thoughtful positive words, and all the work you and others have done in this area to spread positive wisdom teachings. thank you thank you thank you.

  6. I join all of you who are disciples of Lama Tharchin Rinpoche in practice, and with tremendous gratitude for all Rinpoche has given us. I was fortunate to finally receive teaching directly from Lama Tharchin this past year in Portland.

  7. Thank you for the blessings you have given us all. Thank you for your presence in this eternal creation. Love and peace be with you always…may you remember the truth.

  8. Buddhist teachings` one of the foremost teacher on Dzogchen having left for heavenly path,students are likely to dwell in vacuum for some period.As commonly believed, such great souls return amid faithfull after pre-calculated time.So, its our mindful hearts that should yearn for Rinpoche`s swift descends to our midsts from heaven.

  9. Very grateful to have heard Lama Tarchin’s teachings and to have met him walking at beautiful Pema Osel Ling.
    May his radiance continue to shine through his teachings and devoted students.
    Om ah hum vajra guru padma siddhi hum

    • Hi Lillian,
      Eleanor and I are into the 6th month of a 3 year retreat in Crestone, connected with Vajra Vidya (Thrangu R.). How and where are you?? Frances (Morris)
      Saddened to hear of lama Tharchin’s death. We took a seminar with him at Omega many years ago.

  10. a great master at the top of the list.i write this to sort out my sorrow.lama never talked about himself but praised the qualities of his teachers.his devotion and remarkable life is a story that may not be told because it was not about himself.a great master has passed lama of great kindness

  11. It was great lost. I have tried to contact to Rinpoche many times over the years but some how did not happened. I like to know why we could not have the contact who is making decision for him who should he could talk and couldn’t talk? I am sure if Rinpoche knew that I wanted to talk to him he will find a time. Rinpoche told me he have received two teachings of fifth Lelungs’ so I was after this. We lamas and students all have to know this kind of mistakes should not be made in the future.

    • FWIW I had a similar problem trying to book an interview. I blamed it on me not trying hard enough. Finally I made it through the front office and had a visit with him which was helpful, but the “process” of hooking up with him was just too much for me to do again. He was amazingly accessible, though, if you just hung around the center. Never brushed anyone off or rushed away, always friendly. I saw him last time, last year when I drove my kids down to see the big Padmasambhava statue and there he was and we just walked up to him and said hello.

  12. its been awhile since anyone commented. words can be empty but are useful tools when attempting a celestial palace. please more stories from everyone.let me start i was walkng uphill for many miles.when i arrived at monastary lama tharchin apppeared out of nowhere.i probaly staggered by him utterly exhausted. a few days later i was by their fountain with friend actualy looking at animals feeding on another in the peaceful waters suddenly lama appeared.he asked is everything ok to my friend.he said yes and then lama walked offjust as was eerie it l lama greeted me in a microsecond moment howhe knew of my friends ripening karma and probaly the condition of no doubt of all the people gathered. more stories please

  13. Lama Tharchin was the most reflective Being I had ever encountered. He embodied and shared his inner light and vibrations unconditionally. Long live our loved Rimpoche Tharchin

  14. Heart Friends~
    Be Joyfull and Happy.

    Rimpoche is and always will be with us he is always and everywhere with us like timeless time of eternal
    Kalpas of no time. He talked about that timeless felling that we have when we are lucky to have a Lama come into our life’s and heart forever.

    He was 4 years old when he was told he would meet again someone an old old women he knew in TIBET
    And would meet her again in a very far land.

    Yes he knew this because he was told so in TIBET when he was a little boy with lots of energy that loved
    horses and wanted to have knives and jump and jump play going around and around with a black hat.

    The day I saw Lama or as he called him self ” old dog ” it was a blissfully special time.
    I went to a teaching by the urging of a friend and never knowing that that day was the the day everthing would change my life.

    KARMASANG was full to the brim and they said quote: We do not do prostrations here…..what ????everyone had a question mark on there face …What no prostration ???

    In the shrine room the sun was radiant the light was so like crystal rainbows what a bubble felling that was and you could hear tiny bells of happiness and a pin drop, as Rimpoche enter the shrine everyone started
    to prostrate to him even me on my wheelchair !!! Then he was asked to sit up on the high chair,but to everyone’s surprise he let them know He wanted to sit low on the floor like everyone; so there he sat like a polish- jem with exuberant blissfull Energy

    When I first encounter Lama Tharchin once again in this time 21st. Century and our eyes meet and our heart as one he said: I been waiting for you, who me? I asked my self why is this being of light telling me that? why??? …… to my surprise he said that I would see him at the teaching the next few days …. I had no clue what he was talking about where or when and why had he told me he had been waiting for me.why??? ……..but I said Yes Lama.

    I had a few close meetings with Lama Tharchin and some time in between teachings I would clean his eye glasses and we share the meal and I would give him a foot rub he was slowing down and tired.

    In our second meeting told him that when I was a little girl that could not walk but could fly my favorite word was TATHAGAT and that I had no idea the meaning of the word or why I use to like to repeat TATHAGATHA over and over. His answer was that he knew my story.

    Heart Friends. Do not be sad, be happy and celebrate his life and the blessing that he gave each end everyone of us Lamas and student we have had a blessing and our job now is to past it on to all sentient beings big or small ( my dogs always went to the teachings that makes me happy)

    When I think of Lama Tharchin Rimpoche I think of warm sunshine and the wind touching my face, I thing
    the ocean at sunrise in a cool sunny day, a mountain mighty and powerful,hills covered with flowers of all colors and warm hugs, I think of sitting on the floor sharing a meal with him and knowing I was loved very very much because love was in his smile and the hand that would offer me food from his plate. I think Of beautiful things,because Lama was Beautiful thinking of this as I am writing I remember once on a 3 day teaching he gave and at the end of the first day the microphone was past around and I had it on my hand
    I could not say anything and when I did I told him ” you are BEAUTIFUL ”

    Lama Oh Lama thank you for your smile like sunshine, for your kind and loving heart, thank you for the hard lessons and the funny tales, thank you !!!
    May we meet again.
    TATHAGATHA Rimpoche
    One time Lama was coming up the hill from the shrine down the hill and I screamed at him:
    I Love you Lama Tharchin and he have me a big smile and said: ” See you later alligator ”
    So I say now to him: See you later alligator my Master,My Lama, My Teacher.

  15. “see you later alligator” that quote or any spoken word from rinpoche could shatter my concepts.shattering concepts he could certainly do that yet never saw rinpoche deviate from kindness, a quality very few possess

  16. Lama Tharchin Rinpoche was many things. A loving father to all students, a wise, impartial teacher, a being with immeasurable love and compassion in his heart… Many knew him as a sublime Dzogchen master, I knew him as a grandfather. May his profound blessings and teachings flourish through these degenerate times and until enlightenment is achieved.

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