A Facebook picture of the fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche
Aug. 11: A Facebook post has suggested that one of the most revered monks from the largest Buddhist sect in Darjeeling and Sikkim has renounced monastic life.
"I am not a monk any more. I just want to study and fulfil my wish. Even though it's hard, I will try and do it," said a post attributed to the fourth Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. "With a difficult heart, I have chosen a different lifestyle and will study and pursue my dreams of becoming a doctor," added the post, dated August 1.
The Rinpoche is a 20-year-old monk in charge of two monasteries of the Karma Kagyu sect in Kalimpong and Kathmandu. Among the four sects in the region, the Karma Kagyu has the largest following, a Buddhist scholar in Sikkim said.
The Rinpoche, which means "precious teacher", is one of the four regents of the sect, which is headquartered in the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim and is led by the Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje. In the hierarchy, immediately after the Karmapa are the four Rinpoches, who function as his regents.
The monk was identified as the incarnation of the third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche on August 25, 1996, when he was a nine-month-old baby.
K.B. Yogi, a retired WBCS officer and Buddhist based in Darjeeling, said: "This development is very rare and personally I have not heard of any Rinpoche renouncing monkhood."
A Buddhist scholar who did not want to be named said: "There probably is no other instance of such a high-ranking monk renouncing monastic life.... The institution of the Jamgon Kongtrul will now remain headless till the death of the Rinpoche and the identification of his reincarnation."
The Facebook post attributed to the Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche spoke of unexplained "struggles and problems".
"I left my role on April 14th 2016 because of all the struggles and problems that have built up till now since the past 4-5 years. Now I have reached a state where it's unbearable, I have been restricted to fulfil my dreams and have not been allowed to take responsibility and stay in peace and I feel I am a burden to all."
The monk was incommunicado. The Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang, which runs the two monasteries and charitable organisations under the Rinpoche, said in a statement that it knew about his decision but did not go public with it in the hope that he would change his mind and return.
"We are, of course, open to the possibility that the Rinpoche may return one day. Until then, Jamgon Kongtrul Labrang will continue to uphold and continue the legacy, vision and aspiration of the third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche," the Labrang said.
The Facebook post suggested the monk was not considering an immediate rethink. "I don't and can't be a monk any more and I wanna be left alone and if you really do care and love me, then please leave me alone and don't come looking for me for this time. It will be a different outcome if you do!"
Additional reporting by Vivek Chhetri