Thondup Dorje, Ringu Tulku’s uncle and head of the family, has died age 90 at their home in Gangtok. He was the eldest brother of Rinpoche’s father, and their father (Rinpoche’s grandfather) was Urgyen Gönpo, one of the regents for the King of Lingstang in Eatern Tibet. According to Rinpoche, Thondup Dorjee, (known fondly as ‘Uncle’ to us), had been a monk, but had disrobed when he felt that he could be more useful as a defender of his people once the Chinese began to invade Tibet during the 1950‘s. It is said he fought ‘like a warrior’ to defend his family, his villagers and Rigul monastery, which was unfortunately razed to the ground.
'Uncle' Thondup Dorje with Ringu Tulku at the gates of Dublin Samye Dzong in 1993. Rinpoche
blessed the new centre with a teaching on the Four Noble Truths.
When it became clear that they would have to leave, Sechen Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Uncle and Rinpoche’s father led the people of Lingstang out of Eastern Tibet across the Himalayas to safety, firstly to Pema Ko and then to Sikkim. According to Rinpoche about 500 people began the journey, and only 150 or thereabouts completed it. Sechen Gyaltsap Rinpche was one of those who did not, he sacrificed himself as a captive to the encroaching Chinese, acting as a decoy to allow the rest of the party to escape.
The Chogyal (king) of Sikkim was a distant relative of the King of Lingstang and was able to respond favourably to the refugees and provide some help allowing the party to settle in the kingdom, where Rinpoche and his family remain to this day.
While Uncle never again took robes, he remained the humblest and most gentle of beings, an inspiration to the many who met him. At the great age of 70, in 1992 he began to accompany Rinpoche as his attendant, quietly protecting and attending to his needs throughout some very hectic teaching schedules, travelling throughout Europe, America, and Australia. He always took an active part in helping Rinpoche decide his travel schedule and firmly held the role of mentor in the household, especially after the death of Rinpoche’s father.
Rinpoche asks that we join with him in saying prayers for the safe passage of his Uncle, Thondup Dorjee. Please see his personal message on the Bodhicharya website.