Roof of the World: Tibet in Context

Conversation with: His Eminence Zeekgyab Rinpoche la, the abbot of Tashi Lhunpo monastery based in South India.

by Team FNVA

Hosted by Kate Saunders, FNVA Senior Fellow


His Eminence Zeekgyab Rinpoche la was born in Kolhapur to Tibetan parents who were involved in Sweater selling business. At the age of 2, he was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the former Zeekgyab Rinpoche. Rinpoche was received at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, South India, on September 14, 1986 with a formal ceremony led by many Tehor Lamas and monks.  After his Enthronement Ceremony at Tashi Lhunpo – which is the monastic seat of the Panchen Lama, Rinpoche started learning Tibetan reading and writing and the memorization of prayers. On February 11, 2019, Rinpoche had the official enthronement ceremony as Abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. Rinpoche has been spear heading the movement for the release of the Panchen Lama, giving testimonies at various governments and sharing the truth with the world.

The session with Zeekgyab Rinpoche covered many vital themes including who is the Panchen Lama? What is its significance? including the unique relationship shared between the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, which is popularly referred to as the Sun and Moon respectively. Furthermore, he narrated how the late 10th Panchen Lama, played a pivotal role in preserving Tibetan culture, religion and heritage in Tibet under Chinese occupation. And how it is vital that the current Panchen Lama, namely Gedhun Choekyi Nyima should be receiving the proper teachings and transmissions that would enable him to carry forth the legacy of the 10th Panchen Lama and eventually pass it on to the next Panchen Lama thereby maintaining the lineage.

Rinpoche also engaged on the Chinese government appointed Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu and how there is nothing wrong with a Tibetan monk preserving Buddhism and Tibetan Culture. The only contention being here for Rinpoche that he is not the Panchen Lama, which is also backed by the monks of Tashi Lhunpo in Tibet. This reverence towards Gedhun Choekyi Nyima which directly implies support to His Holiness the Dalai Lama has seen them targeted by the Chinese authorities. 

The session concluded by Rinpoche stating that through the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his monastery along with the Central Tibetan Administration and several NGO’s would continue to advocate for the immediate release of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who continues to remain in incognito since 17th May, 1996 along with his family. Giving him the unwanted tag of the world’s youngest political prisoner.

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