Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Was Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche the first lama in Malaysia and Singapore?

So far, the claim has been uncontested. In the early 1960’s, the Karmapa sent Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche to Ipoh as his personal representative. The photo here, I believe, is from that first visit. If some some of you know the story behind it or have other pictures from Rinpoche’s long stay at the Ipoh Cave, please post them here or send them to rangjung@gmail.com.
The visit to Malaysia happened like this, in Tulku Urgyen’s own words:

Now I will tell you about my first trip to Malaysia. The English monk Lodrö Thaye had been to Malaysia and while in Ipoh three Chinese fellows – the monk Reverend Tong, Wahai and Asan – discussed with Lodrö Thaye, “We have heard about these Tibetan lamas and we would like to get an important one to come here to Ipoh. Who would be best?”
Lodrö Thaye replied, “The biggest is the Dalai Lama, below him they say it is the Karmapa.”
They then agreed that Lodrö Thaye should ask the Karmapa to send a lama to Ipoh.
In those days, Lodrö Thaye was friends with a lama at Tengpoche and asked him to go visit Malaysia. Being a Nepalese citizen, travel documents were no problem. It was all settled, they both agreed, the passport was ready but then Lodrö Thaye thought, “I was actually supposed to ask the Karmapa to send someone, so I better ask him.” I didn’t have much contact with Lodrö Thaye at this time, but before he went to see the Karmapa he come up to Nagi Gompa, to ask my advice.
First Lodrö Thaye told me, “I have three suggestions to put for to His Holiness: Sabchu Rinpoche from Swayambhu, Tengpoche Tulku and you. Would you be willing to go?”
“If the Karmapa says I have to go then I will. I’m not going to go against his word,” I said. “Otherwise, I have never been abroad and have no particular desire to do so.”
“Well then, I’ll relate that to the Karmapa,” said Lodrö Thaye.
He left for Rumtek, where he had lived before. But being talkative and moving around too much the local authorities began to suspect that he was a British spy and would not let him back in to Sikkim. In his place, George MacDonald, whom we simply called Sahib, went on ahead to ask which of the three lamas the Karmapa would recommend sending to Malaysia.
Karmapa said, “Sabchu is too old, he won’t work out. Tengpoche Tulku I don’t know personally, but I do know Tulku Urgyen – he should go.” That’s what Sahib and Lodrö Thaye came back and told me.
Sahib said, “Will you do it or not?”
“I am not going against the Karmapa’s word, so I’ll go,” I replied.
Our little gang of four robed people, were the first of our type to visit Malaysia. We got donations from the faithful Chinese Buddhists. They would hand over one envelope to the four of us to share among ourselves, except when I gave an empowerment and the donation would belong to me. The trip lasted three months and I was able to accumulate a decent amount of funds to bring back with me.
During the trip Lodrö Thaye asked, “How big of a monastery are you going to build?”
“Let’s wait and see,” I said, “I’ll build in accordance with whatever I get.”
At that time we didn’t have any plan to build Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, I was only intending to improve Nagi Gompa. Things were going well until after two and a half months, Lodrö Thaye had a plan, he had obviously carved in stone, of going to England and he insisted on seeing me on a plane back to Nepal before he would leave. In short, he cut my trip to Malaysia short. The Malaysians wanted me to stay, but to no avail. Lodrö Thaye is a willful gentleman and he got his way.
Back in Nepal, while I was conferring with Ram Lal about what to do with the funds, a letter arrived from my two sons, Chokyi Nyima and Chokling, that the 16th Karmapa had commanded them that we build a large monastery in Boudha.

-- Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, (not included in Blazing Splendor)


Anonymous said...

hi Erik,
ok.i will try to contact the person in charge of the Ipoh cave now and ask him whether he still have those old photo with Tulku Urgyen...also his memory about the time when Tulku Urgyen was there. in this year, when Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche was here, they invited Rinpoche for the ceremony of reconstruct the stupa by Tulku Urgyen and an article had reported in press , i try to put in on net.

Anonymous said...

hi Erik-la

i do not have the merits to meet Rinpoche when he travelled to South East Asia. i was just a small child at that time. my parents aren't (Tibetan) Buddhists. the only merit i have, is able to get hold a small fragment of Rinpoche's finger bone relic. it is now housed in a gau together with many other valuable relics, and is blessed by many Tibetan masters, His Holiness 41st Sakya Trizin, Her Eminence Jetsun Kushok, His Eminence Kyabje Dorje Chang Luding Khenchen Rinpoche, His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche and etc.

i will help you to spread the word regarding this blog... :-)

with metta,

Erik Pema Kunsang said...

A small piece of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's bone is no small merit, Henry !!! And in addition you are meeting all these great Sakya masters -- a very fortunate man you are.

Warm wishes, Erik

asle said...

hi Erik,
I'm into gathering some more pics on this historical event from the disciples of TUR and some of the correspondence as well.By the way ray I was with CNR during his recent visit to Ipoh and since then there had been interests on this historical site some 30 yrs back when TUR made his 1st visit.There were subsequent visits by other lamas as well and that place was a hive of Dhammic activities.So far it remains uncontested that TUR was indeed the 1st lama to have visited M'sia.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Tulku Urgyen was the first Tibetian Rimpoche to visit Malaysia and Singapore in the mid seventies, first to Ipoh (to a Theravada Cave Temple behind the famous Sampoh Cave next to the main Kampar/Ipoh road).

He was then invited by a Mr. Tan (a rich Tin Miner in Ipoh then) who is a staunch devotee to Guru Rimpoche, after visiting Kathmandu for a pilgrimage.

And Tarig Tulku was the 2nd, followed by HH Sakya Trizin (Damo Khuzu/Dungsey Rimpoche) and then HH 16th Karmapa, along with the entourage of all the regents and then Khenpo Trangku etc.

At the Kagyu Centre in Kuala Lumpur in the mid and late seventies, when HH 16th Karmapa was just visitng the USA via Malaysia and also to diagnose his stomach cancer.

There were then much devotees bringing cages of birds for HH blessings and then released, having heard that ishinobu has very good affinity with birds.

As in each cage, there were cramp with many birds, and when released, there's always 1 or 2 birds that could not fly, among the many cages of birds.

Hence, these birds, Ishinobu would tell his monks to look after till he is more free.

When audience time is over, back in upstairs room, we (committe members) have the previlege to stay with ishinobu till he rest.

Then he would ask for these sick birds, and with each he will chant and blow air from his mouth. Within minutes, these birds (one after another) one by one will sleep. Deep sleep....indeed. dead meditating.

He will then tell us to bring a small bowl of raw (uncook) rice and then place the bird on top and place it next to the 8 offering bowls on the shrine, for each and every one of these birds.

Then, next morning we observed that each bird has tiny red ants all over the body and HH Ishinobu tell his attendant monk (who intern tell us) to bury them.

Now, the strange part (miraculous phenomenon) is here: When an animal die, they will die out-stretched their legs, lying sideway uglily or when you see birds or chicken when slaughtered or boiled, their legs will be stretched.

There's a Chinese saying that "a dead chicken will stretch open a rice pot" meaning that one likes to argue much. See even similies used stretch legs of chicken.

Hence, when a chicken/bird dies, it will stretched out its legs.

But here, each and every one of those birds, almost on daily basis, died sleeping peacefully (not lying sideway but crouching like laying an egg with only droop head) in HH Karmapa's hand and eventually in a rice bowl till when buried.

This is first hand eye witness of the miracle chanting/blessing to dying birds from HH 16th Karmapa.

Metta Karuna

Anonymous said...

Humble apology. I have to make a correction to my above post on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. visit to Malaysia, of Tibetian Rimpoches.

The first and Second remained unchanged (1st : Tulku Urgyen and 2nd : Tarig Tulku)

But HH 16th Karmapa was the Third, visiting in 1976 before the Kuala Lumpur Karma Kagyu Centre was formed in late 1977.

HH Sakya Trizin visit was in 1978 ( the 4th) after Karma Kagyu Kuala Lumpur was formed and he was then sponsored and as guest of the Centre before HH 16th Karmapa visiting his own MALAYSIAN Center at a later part where he was then first diagnosed with stomach cancer in the USA.

Sincere apology for the rash typing.

May all sin be cleansed and may all wishes fullfilled.

Metta Karuna.

Anonymous said...


The person who sponsor Tulku Urgyen and Tarig Tulku to the Ipoh Cave is Mr. Frank Tan (Ah Tsang). He should be still in Ipoh, now in his mid sixties, if he is still alive. Yes, he took a lot of photos then.

The Thai monk that speak Hokkien, (I could not recall his name but someting like Lama..) that occupy the Cave is a tall and big body build, but still wear the Theravada Robes and bare footed.

I was there when both Tulkus arrived in Ipoh, several times.

From Ipoh, both Tulku Urgyen and Tarig Tulku will stay for a month or more at the Kagyu Centre in Kuala Lumpur after it was formed in 1977.

Tulku Urgyen visited Malaysia in the mid seventies several times, and Chochie Yingma Rimpoche came along in the later part only.

Metta Karuna.

Erik Pema Kunsang said...

Thank you very much for your contribution, Jetavana. I hope some photos from those days will turn up when we at some point. For instance, I have seen a photo of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche wearing a garland of live snakes while meditating at en early visit to Malaysia.

pensum said...

incredible eyewitness account of the Karmapa blessing the birds and their apparent subsequent entering of tukdam. almost identical to Tulku Urgyen's own account in the memoirs. even makes a sceptic like me wonder...

i too would like to see that photo of Tulku Urgyen with a garland of snakes, or any others from that or other trips. if anyone has any please send them on to Erik!

sherabray said...

i have 2 stories would like to share with everybody which i heard from a dharma friend regarding Tulku Urgyen...

First, when the time comes for Tulku Urgyen leaving Ipoh, some of the devotees there love Rinpoche very much and wish not he to leave, so they request Rinpoche to stay more longer and all of them kneel down to begging Rinpoche. So at last,Rinpoche agreed to give something for them as a memories. Suddenly he just take the "relic" from the empty space and give to them!All of them were very happy even though each of them only got one...

Second story, one night, Rinpoche was having dharma talk with some of his disciples in the center ,suddenly he just point to one of his diciple stomach and asking him whether he got gastric problem , and that disciple just wondering how could Rinpoche know about it as he never told to Rinpoche before. Then,they just continue the discussion.After that all of them went back home.And, that disciple finally realized he didn't take the gastric medicine for hold day and he not even feel the pain!Since that night, his illness had been cured...
i don't know about the credibity of both story, but for me i think Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was really amazing!!!
(i appologies for all the mistake i made...)

Anonymous said...

My name is Teng Siew Wei. I have been to the cave where Tulku Urgyen 1st visited, unfortunately the cave is not very well kept simply been care by a single old man.

The Cave is located near Gunung Rapat, and for now there is a Stupa build in front of the cave.

The cave is being care for by an old man (last visited him along with my Senior Dharma Brother who is a friend to this old man) about one an ahlf year ago. There are retreats rooms and old black and white photos (Karmapa, Skaya Trizin, and Tulku Urgyen and Tulku's Eldersest Son)
he caretaker did mentioned that Tulku Urgyen visit and spread dharma in IPOH first the to KL .....

For now I am staying in Kuala Lumpur which is 250KM away from the exact location, I frequent visit IPOH as it is my hometown.

BTW I am making another trip well I will personally visit this great humble "treasured" cave during this visit 1Oct 2005 - 2Oct 2005, any of the Kaying members can contact me at 016 227 9088.

A little story of my traning temple, view Photo and http://groups.msn.com/VajrayanaNgYunKong/shoebox.msnw. My great teacher is Guru Nora of SIKANG and MY ROOT Teacher is NG YUN Kong

Unknown said...

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I have a question to you.
Need your help very much. I live in Taiwan. My name is Jesse.
The book about Advice from the lotus-born

email and msn: fatalfeel@hotmail.com

wendychoying said...

Hi Erik Wendy Choying here..This is a True Authentic Miracle *not story* MahaMahaguruji Tulku Urgyen was the FIRST Mahamudra Master *instructed by HH 16th Karmapa to propagate the Buddha Dharma in Malaya..MahaMahaguruji came to IPOH with a foreign translator (*I'm from Ipoh but was busy flying around working in Marketing SIA). The caretaker, a Theravada practitioner was shocked when MahaMaghaguruji arrived at the cave temple entrance, as a group of buddhist devotees drove to Pulau Pinang (Penang) to meet MahaMahaguruji (miscommunications on arrival details).

The caretaker now caught up with age. He told us related miracle stories, in particular how the 2stupss (first in Malaya) were built. A very rich Ipoh chinese businessman was dying from Cancer. He heard of the Blessings of MahaMahaguruji. He met and seek Blessings from MahaMahaguruji. MahaMahaguruji smiled, told him to check again next day, after he had conferred with the Enlightened One...Lord Buddha. Upon meeting MahaMahaguruji, the next day-- he was advised to do more charities...he would live another 10yrs. So grateful and happy as he was diagnosed as a "goner". His specialist Doctor checked and double tested his body (cells)..NO Traces of Cancer or cancer cells.. The businesman obtained two other specialists opinions and tests..truely NO Cancer Cells..Such rejoiceful triumph of his Medical health being rejuvenated to normal!! He did numerous charities. Later, he also ordered special Italian mosaics and tiles to build a stupa (the one immediate adjacent within the fence). Before the stupa was completed, this businessman's contract expired, exactly ten years as what MahaMahaguruji promised!! There is another Stupa outside or just at the outer entrance built by another businesman but the mosaics/tiles were not of Italian special.

MahaMahaguruji meditated and practised like three or six months many times during his many visits to this Cave. There is a special inner cave where MahaMahaguruji practised. MahaMahaguruji also encouraged disciples to have long retreats and to practise in this Cave...for Enlightenment will comeforth with his Blessings and the disciple's diligence!! I met Mahaguruji Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche in December 1988 during one of my lst escapades to Nepal! Months later during my 2nd Visit, Mahaguruji was so compassionate - he arranged a trip (with a senior monk) to Nagi Gompa, for me to meet MahaMahaguruji. Nepal became my 2nd home... THANK YOU VERY MUCH TO MAHAMAHAGURUJI (he also gave me teachings) and also to MAHAMAHAGURUJI CHOKYI NYIMA RINPOCHE... lots of metta **ps there are lots of black/white photo prints of Mahamahaguruji within the exterior temple hall. Some are I think Tarig Tulku-la and other Rinpoches. Erik-la time to visit Ipoh Malaysia ..ya ??

Erik Pema Kunsang said...

Dear Wendy. Thanks for your comment about cancer.

I know that actor Yul Brunner stayed at Nagi Hermitage for about a week while he had incurable cancer. When he came to the USA, there was no trace left. When I asked Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche about him, he just said, "Yes, he was here. Didn't ask for teachings. Just wanted some quiet time. Then he left."