Lama Norlha Rinpoche
in Memoriam 1938-2018

Our precious teacher, Lama Norlha Rinpoche, passed into parinirvana on February 19, 2018, the fourth day of Losar, after a long illness.

HH Karmapa blessing Lama Norlha Rinpoche on January 3, 2018

In the final weeks of his life, Lama Norlha Rinpoche was fortunate to receive visits from His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa and His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang. The day before he passed away, Rinpoche was blessed with a visit from His Holiness Karmapa, who bestowed the empowerment of Buddha Akshobya on Rinpoche in his room. Rinpoche had very much aspired to receive this empowerment from the Karmapa, and His Holiness fulfilled his wish with profound warmth and care. This was the second time His Holiness visited Rinpoche during his illness. Karmapa Khyenno!

HH Karmapa visiting Lama Norlha Rinpoche on January 3, 2018

His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang was also extraordinarily caring toward Lama Norlha Rinpoche during his illness, visiting him and bestowing the Akshobhya empowerment on January 3, 2018. During that visit, His Holiness spoke about his 40-year connection with Lama Norlha Rinpoche and his sadness at Rinpoche's illness, calling him one of the pioneers of establishing the Buddhadharma in America. He expressed joy in the accomplishments of Rinpoche and his longtime students, and his wish that we continue our Dharma practice and Dharma activities, reminding us that the only source of real happiness and peace is liberation through study, contemplation, and meditation on the Dharma.

HH Sakya Trichen giving Lama Norlha Rinpoche the Akshobya empowerment on January 3, 2018

Immediately after Lama Norlha Rinpoche left his body, Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa was informed and began prayers. Guru Vajradhara stayed in close touch over the next several days to give advice and oversee ritual preparations. Many other great masters, including His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang, Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche, and Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, made prayers as well. KTC Monastery sangha chanted special practices during the 49 days following Rinpoche's passing, including Akshobya, Red Chenrezig, Dorje Sempa and Amitabha. 

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche after praying before Lama Norlha Rinpoche's kudong

On the first day of Akshobya practice for Lama Norlha Rinpoche, we were blessed by a visit from Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. Khenpo Rinpoche, accompanied by Khenpo Urgyen, Lama Karma Drodul and Ani Karuna, came to perform The Guru Yoga in Four Sessions (Tun Shi Lama Naljor) before Lama Norlha Rinpoche's kudung. Khenpo Rinpoche said that he had no doubt that Lama Norlha Rinpoche was already in a pure land, but was performing the practice in order to fulfill a promise he had made to Lama Norlha Rinpoche before he passed away.

Afterwards, Khenpo Rinpoche spoke to the assembly about his pure connection with Lama Norlha Rinpoche over 40 years, and about Lama Norlha Rinpoche's life accomplishments and extraordinary qualities.

We rejoice in the great good fortune that Lama Norlha Rinpoche was able to privately receive the Akshobya empowerment, first from HH Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang, then from Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa, and finally on the day before his passing, from HH Gyalwang Karmapa. Khenpo Rinpoche mentioned that it was very auspicious that Lama Norlha Rinpoche received these empowerments from these great masters, and that it prepared him well for his passing.

Khenpo Rinpoche concluded by stating the importance of being kind to one another at this time, and that we take care of this monastery that Lama Norlha Rinpoche so lovingly established for our future.

A dragon-shaped cloud appeared above the Maitreya Center the day after Lama Norlha Rinpoche passed away, at about the same time he left his body.

Beginning at 5:00 am on Wednesday, the Tibetan 6th, we began chanting Akshobya and preparing the kudung for cremation. We were blessed to have special guests for the service, including Chamsing-La (HH Karmapa's sister), Tsewang Rinpoche from Danang Foundation, Lama Sangye, Lama Tratop, Lama Nyima, and representatives from the Karmapa Service Society.

Soon after Lama Norlha Rinpoche's cremation, there was a rainbow near the sun over the Maitreya Center.  The sun was unusually bright, and the winter day was as warm as summer. Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa, after viewing the photos, said that the rainbow was a very rare and auspicious sign. He said the rainbow was a proper "འཇའ" ("ja"), which is translated as rainbow but is distinguished from the common bow-shaped rainbow caused by rain. This rarer type near the sun is considered auspicious to see in these circumstances.  Situ Rinpoche said, "it is a real, genuine sign, and it is very, very good."

Prayers and Offerings in Tibet and India

Sherabling Monastery

Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa arranged for practices to be performed for Lama Norlha Rinpoche for 49 days at Sherabling Monastery in India.

Kala Rongo Nunnery

Lamas and nuns from Kala Rongo, Lama Norlha Rinpoche's nunnery in Eastern Tibet, chanted the Kagyu Gurtso, and performed 100 Nyungne fasting practices and 100 Shing Drup during the first week after he passed away. The nuns chanted the following practices for one week each for the rest of the 49 days:

  • Akshobhya
  • Vajrayogini
  • Jinasagara
  • Chakrasamvara
  • Mindroling Vajrasattva
  • Amitabha
Kala Rongo nuns chanting the mantra of 1,000-armed Chenrezig during the Nyungne fasting practice.

A large ceremony was held at Kala Rongo, attended by the lamas and nuns from Kala Rongo; the rinpoches, khenpos, lamas and monks of Korche Monastery; the staff and students of Yonten Gatsal Ling Children's School; and the local families of the region. Everyone made prayers together and lit lamps dedicated to Lama Norlha Rinpoche arranged in the shape of his name and auspicious symbols.

Korche Monastery

Monks at Korche Monastery in Nangchen, Tibet, where Lama Norlha Rinpoche completed two three-year retreats in a row between the ages of 14 and 20 years old, chanted the following practices for one week each over the 49 days:

  • Akshobhya
  • Ritual of the Sixteen Elders
  • Pema Benzra
  • Mindroling Vajrasattva
  • Vairochana
  • Amitabha
  • Jinasagara

Korche monks offering lamps arranged in the shape of Lama Norlha Rinpoche's name.

Other Offerings In Tibet

Teachers, staff and assisting monks of the chlidren's school founded by Lama Norlha Rinpoche, Yonten Gatsal Ling (Garden of Joyful Learning), held a memorial service for Rinpoche.

Thousands of mantras and aspiration prayers dedicated to Lama Norlha Rinpoche were carved into rocks in Eastern Tibet.

The first of dozens of stones carved with The King of Aspiration Prayers: Samantabhadra's Aspiration to Good Actions
Stones carved with Prostrations to the Thirty-five Confession Buddhas
Lama from Nangchen breaks rocks to be carved with mantras for Lama Norlha Rinpoche
Carrying the completed carved rocks

Visiting Lamas During the 49 Days of Services at KTC Monastery

Lamas from KTD Monastery and Karme Ling Retreat Center made offerings and joined us for Akshobya chanting.

Khenpo Tenkyong and Lama Karma Drodul made offerings to the chanters.
Lama Ani Lodru, retreat master from Karme Ling Retreat Center, and two Karme Ling anis join the KTC sangha for Akshobya chanting.
Lama Tsultrim, retreat master from Karme Ling Retreat Center, joins the KTC sangha for Akshobya chanting.
Lama Tenam, Executive Secretary to Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa, joined in the chanting of Akshobya.
Pora Rinpoche joined us for Amitabha practice during the 49 days 

His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang Performs Vajrayogini Ritual

In his great kindness, His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang performed a ceremony based on the Vajrayogini Sadhana for Lama Norlha Rinpoche's Parinirvana. Several lamas accompanied him from Tsechen Kunchab Ling in Walden, NY. 

Offering representations of enlightened body, speech and mind to His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang.
His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang performs the ritual of Vajrayogini for Lama Norlha Rinpoche
Shrine master from Tsechen Kunchab Ling performs the Jang Chok ritual.
Lamas from Tsechen Kunchab Ling, who accompanied His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang, chant the Vajrayogini ritual.
Khenpo Urgyen from KTD Monastery, Lama Tenam and Lama Tsering chant the Vajrayogini practice led by His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang.
Shrine for Lama Norlha Rinpoche during Vajrayogini ritual.
After the conclusion of the Vajrayogini ritual, His Holiness Sakya Trichen Dorje Chang blesses Mrs. Lukhang.

The Memorial Service

Friends and sangha members joined together for a memorial service on March 25 to remember the kindness of Lama Norlha Rinpoche. The service included a video message from Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa, a summary of Lama Norlha Rinpoche's life, a video showing highlights from his life, personal remembrances, Chenrezig chanting, and a devotional song offered by Yungchen Lhamo. It concluded with offerings and the lighting of butterlamps. It was wonderful to be together with so many old and new friends.

Lama Chodron speaks about Lama Norlha Rinpoche's early life in Tibet and India.
Mrs. Lukhang,
Listening to personal remembrances.
Chanting Chenrezig during Memorial Service.
Making prayers before Lama Norlha Rinpoche's shrine.
Waiting to offer katas to Lama Norlha Rinpoche's shrine.
Blessing offerings made to Lama Norlha Rinpoche
Blessing offerings made to Lama Norlha Rinpoche
Group shot at end of Memorial Service.

Full video of the Memorial Service, including video message from Guru Vajradhara Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa, and personal stories:

Remembering Lama Norlha Rinpoche, a video with highlights of his life that was shown during the Memorial Service:

The 49th Day

We were deeply honored that Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche from KTD Monastery joined us for Amitabha practice on Sunday, April 8, Lama Norlha Rinpoche's 49th day. 

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche chanting Amitabha
Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche blows mantras to bless sand used in Jang Chok ritual, along with Lama Tsering Dakpa, Lama Sangye, Tenpa Lekshe, Lama Lekshe Dorje, and Lama Karma Lodru
Lama Norlha Rinpoche's shrine during Amitabha

His Holiness Karmapa Performs the Concluding Purification

His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa arrived in the afternoon to perform the Jang Chok purification ritual from the Amitabha practice for Lama Norlha Rinpoche's 49th Day. This day coincided with the observance of Qing Ming, when the Jang Chok ritual is performed to liberate the deceased by burning their names.

His Holiness Karmapa offering torma to dispel obstacles for the deceased at the beginning of the Jang Chok ritual
Sangha chanting the Jang Chok ritual
Lama Sangye. Behind are representatives of the Karmapa Service Society.
Offering lamps during the Jang Chok ritual.
His Holiness Karmapa makes prayers during the Jang Chok purification ritual for the deceased.
HH Karmapa prepares the names of the deceased
His Holiness Karmapa ritually burns away any obstacles for the deceased during the Jang Chok purification practice.
After the chanting, His Holiness Karmapa visited both three-year retreats, during the practice of Vajrayogini.

Rainbows on the Final Day of Prayers

Rainbows began appearing in the sky on April 9 as we began the final morning fire puja ceremony for Lama Norlha Rinpoche's 49 days, and continued appearing throughout the day.

First rainbows appeared about 10:00am.
Around 11:00am, rainbow above the original monastery building
Rainbow above the stupa appeared around 1:30pm
At 4pm, rainbow above the Maitreya Center
Colored clouds above Maitreya Center around 4:20pm
Colored clouds above Maitreya Center around 4:20pm
Colored clouds above stupa around 4:30pm

Videos of Rainbows on April 9, 2018

Videos of first rainbows at 10am

Video of rainbow at 1:30pm

Video of rainbow at 4pm

Photos and Stories in Remembrance

We asked friends of KTC to submit their favorite memories of Lama Norlha Rinpoche, as well as their favorite photos.