Parinirvana, Holy Cremation, First Memorial

By Adrienne Chan

On April 29, 2016, H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche entered Thukdam, a “Clear Light Stage” of meditation or an exalted state of meditation where realized practitioners go to when they pass. Upon receiving information that Dagchen Rinpoche had passed, H.H. Sakya Trizin Rinpoche immediately paused his teachings on the east coast and came to Seattle to lead the profound Thukdam vigil prayers. Dagchen Rinpoche’s grandsons, Khondung Avikrita Rinpoche, Khondung Abhaya Rinpoche and Khondung Asanga Rinpoche quickly left India to come to Seattle and join the Thukdam prayers. The vigil prayers began on April 30th and continued until the Parinirvana of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Dorje Chang on May 5, 2016. That evening, Seattle experienced a most rare and awesome celestial event; a glorious display of Northern lights surrounded Seattle. How unusual, everyone thought, as the Northern lights typically manifest in Alaska or even further north. Then, it came to our attention that Dagchen Rinpoche once responded when asked by his devoted student Carolyn Massey, “What’s going to happen when you die?” He nonchalantly replied, “I will show fireworks.” The sighting of the Northern lights was incredible and prophetic. It was so like Rinpoche—unassuming but powerful. Tibetans called such realized masters “druthop,” a person of great spiritual power and strength.

H.H. Trizin Rinpoche appointed Khenpo Kunga Dondrup from Sakya Pema Ts’al Monastery, Nepal, to lead in the preparation of the Holy Body “ku dhung” so that on May 6, 2016, the ritually prepared Holy Body was placed into a beautifully decorated palanquin built by John Vichoreck. The Holy Body was then transferred from the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang to the Monastery for the traditional 49 days of prayers. The Holy Body remained in its palanquin at the Monastery in front of H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang’s throne for 3 days. During that time, the royal family, lamas, tulkus, members and friends were able to view and pay their respects. After 3 days the Holy Body was carefully placed into a decorated cooler near the altar. Before H.H. Trizin Rinpoche returned to the east coast to resume his May 8th teachings, he appointed Khondungs Avikrita Rinpoche, Abhaya Rinpoche and Asanga Rinpoche to assume leadership of the remaining 47 days of ritual services. Khenpo Drakpa from France was appointed Dorje Lopon or Vajra Master and Ven. Punlop Tashi Rinpoche from Taiwan assumed the role of omze.

The glorious 49 days of prayers and services included: Hevajra, Vajrakila, Guru, Kunrik, and Vajrayogini pujas. On the 49th day, June 23, 2016, traditional prayers concluded with a Grand Tsok and in the evening, a majestic candlelight vigil. Many of these devotional prayer services were highlighted by amazing celestial sightings and miraculous personal stories. H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Sakya Dorje Chang was truly a Buddha. In life and in death he taught us the power of compassion, prayer, faith, and humility.


Supplication for Quick Return: Drumbeat of Compassionate Exhortation

Composed by H.H. Sakya Trizin


Discriminating insight of the Lord of Speech—the waxing moon,

Totally sating disciples—friend of joy,

Come as the glory of merit—divine lineage:

I pray to the honorable Dagchen Jigdal.


On November 5, 2016, the Holy Body, the entire royal Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang family, Ven. Khenpo Jampa Tenphel, and Monastery members journeyed to India for the sacred cremation. It was our beloved guru’s wish to be cremated in India, the holy site of Lord Buddha’s teachings and parinirvana. At New Delhi airport, the Holy Body was placed into a holy palanquin and escorted in a truck surrounded by hanging garlands of gorgeous marigold flowers and topped with a royal golden umbrella of a Sakya Gongma. A procession was formed-- in front, was a flatbed truck carrying H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang’s granddaughters (Jetsun Soyang, Jetsun Dechen, Jetsun Mamaki) and his daughter in law Dagmo Chimey. From their truck, they tossed colorful flower petals, which paved the way for the Holy Body to travel from the airport to the Sakya Phodrang, site of the cremation. The Khondungs of both the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang and Drolma Phodrang were in the truck with the holy palanquin. Another 7 cars joined the 20-mile procession.

On that day, hundreds of Sakya monks also arrived at the Sakya Phodrang. They greeted the procession at the last half mile before reaching the Phodrang. A beautiful stream of maroon robed monks with katags lined both sides of the alley as we approached our destination. Finally, the entourage stopped and amidst the sounds of welcoming cymbals, drums and gyalings (horns) and the six Khondungs carried the Holy Palanquin to the Phodrang Temple.

Three days later, H.H. Ratna Vajra Rinpoche (now newly enthroned Sakya Trizin) led tulkus, khenpos, and monks in a 3-day practice of Vajrasattva Guru Yoga. On November 11th, H.H. Sakya Trichen (formerly H.H. Sakya Trizin) led the holy cremation rituals. He and about 100 lamas and monks performed the Hevajra puja. Simultaneously, in the other 3 directions, H.E. Luding Khenchen Rinpoche led 100 lamas and monks in the Vajaryogini prayer. On the opposite end of the huge field, H.E. Luding Khen Rinpoche led another set of 100 lamas and monks in the Kunrik puja. Lastly, H.H. Ratna Vajra Rinpoche led 100 lamas and monks in the Vajrasattva puja.

In the center of the large field, was the elaborately painted Cremation Stupa, which held the Holy Body of H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang. Hence, the Holy Stupa was surrounded in the 4 directions by esteemed head lamas, and their retinue of ritual lamas and monks. The atmosphere was indeed grand and sublime. It was a majestic farewell to a Living Buddha, our beloved Guru, H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang. Over two thousand lamas, monks, nuns, devotees, distinguished dignitaries and friends attended the Sacred Cremation Ceremony. High Lamas from each sect of Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan officials from the Tibetan government, and devotees worldwide came to pay their deepest respect to a greatly beloved holy teacher, H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang.

According to H.E. Avikrita Sakya Rinpoche, grandson of H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang, on one occasion, he overheard a conversation between his Holy grandfather and H.H. Sakya Trichen. His Holy grandfather revealed that he felt most happy that he brought from Tibet and thus, was able to share with the West, the rich and profound Chenrezi meditational practice of loving kindness and compassion. At Sakya Monastery, H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang led the practice of Chenrezi at Sakya Monastery continually for over 30 years. Thus, in celebration of the First Anniversary of H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang’s Holy Parinirvana (passing), HE Avikrita Rinpoche decided it would be appropriate for lamas, devoted students and friends to gather and recite the Chenrezi Drub Choe prayers to honor H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang.

A near week long ceremony of prayers and offerings commemorated the first memorial. The sacred rituals and prayers began on April 24, 2017 at Sakya Monastery. For 6 consecutive days from 9am-4pm, Chenrezi Drub Choe (“drup choe” implies extensive or elaborate) prayers were led by Dorje Lopon Khenpo Jampa Tenpel.

The Monastery shrine room was sublimely graced with a stunning realistic Holy statue of our beloved Guru, H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang. The statue was dressed in His Holiness’ traditional robes and cloaked with his gold-treaded brocade shawl. It also wore the traditional hat of a Sakya Khon lineage holder. The Holy statue was made in Tibet and was generously sponsored by the Dekyi Palmo family. Dagchen Rinpoche once told me that when a lama passes, it is tradition in Tibet to have a statue of its founder in his Monastery.

The Shrine room and Holy statue were embellished by daily offerings of colorful spring flowers, candles, cups of saffron water, and food or tsok. John Vichoreck made two special offering tables so that we could make these magnificent offerings to our Guru and the Triple Gem.

On April 27th, the fourth day of the Chenrezi Drub Choe prayers, a most amazing thing happened. HE Avikritakrita Rinpoche entered the Monastery and joined our prayers! He astonished everyone, including his father Zaya Rinpoche and his grandmother Dagmo Kusho. Only his mother Dagmo Lhanze knew of his plans to take a 1 week study leave from Dzongsar Institute, India to participate in the First Parinirvana memorial for his Holy grandfather, H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang. We were ecstatic have HE Avikrita Rinpoche come and lead the auspicious prayers for the remainder of our program.

The Chenrezi Drub Choe prayer services were highlighted by eloquent tributes to His Holiness Dagchen Dorje Chang by his grandsons. On April 24th, a booklet entitled “Ocean of Compassionate Activity”was distributed. It is a teaching on the Chenrezi meditation by H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang, which was retranslated and compiled by H.E. Asanga Rinpoche (

On April 29th, the final day of our commemoration program, each grandson wrote beautiful pieces honoring their Holy grandfather and Holy Guru. H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche wrote, “A Few Words of Praise of the Great Compassionate One” (, H.E. Abhaya Rinpoche composed “A Tribute to the Holy Guru” (, and H.E. Asanga Rinpoche compiled “Crystal Dewdrops from the Lotus Petal” a biography of his Holy Grandfather (

The final day of the first anniversary of the Parinirvana of H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang, the Chenrezi Drub Choe prayer and rituals was joined by honored guest H.E. Jestun Kusho, resident spiritual director of Sakya Tsechen Thubten Ling, Vancouver B.C. and older sister to H.H. Sakya Trichen. About an hour into the prayer service, the lights in the Holy Shrine room went out; however, we all persevered without a hitch. Some thought “ Dagchen Rinpoche might be here sending us a greeting”; others thought “it’s raining, lights often go out” no matter. We called the light company and we were told that they didn’t know what happened, but in about 4 hours, lights should return, fortunately the lights returned within the hour. The Chenrezi Dub Choe prayers concluded in the afternoon with a Grand Tsok. And blessed sacred salt charms and lapel pins of H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang were distributed by H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche to everyone.

In the evening, over 100 people returned to participate in the candlelight vigil honoring H.H. Dagchen Dorje Chang. (link to article on candlelight vigil). As stated in An Ocean Of Blessings, our Guru Puja text, “May we have the good fortune of the unequaled supreme Gurus, grantors of the supreme accomplishments upon the practitioner, crown adornment of the personal deities, just as the jewel “king of kings” is the summit of the victory banner…may we have good fortune of the glorious root and lineal Gurus who never deceive the faithful!”


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