Foreseeing the irreversibility of the chinese communist occupation and the threat this occupation posed to the existence of the Buddhadharma, Penor Rinpoche and three hundred others fled to the North Eastern frontier of India. The journey was a long and dangerous one, with only thirty people reaching India while many others dying at the hands of the chinese communists. Bullets would fall by Penor Rinpoche’s feet sending up clouds of dust. Hand grenades would roll at his feet, exploding only after he had moved forward to a safe distance. To survive, people with him killed animals for food. Penor Rinpoche could not bear to see the butcher of innocent animals and would walk ahead to drive away the possible victims. He and his group reached Pema Koe in the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh. In 1961, Penor Rinpoche and approximately six hundred people moved south to Mysore.
The purpose of Rinpoche’s escape from Tibet was to keep the flame of the Buddhadharma burning brightly so that beings would not plunge into the darkness and gloom of ignorance. Keeping this in mind, Penor Rinpoche re-established the great Palyul Monastery Thegchog Namdrol Shedrub Dhargyeling at Bylakuppe, Mysore, South India. It was by no means an easy task. Rinpoche had at his disposal the paltry sum of only three hundred rupees to rebuild his entire life and that of his monastery. Rinpoche had, however, insurmountable hidden resources: his enormous courage and determination!
People around him did not see the vision that he had and insisted that he should reduce the size of the planned monastery, as there were only a handful of monks. Today, when monks by the hundreds cram into the monastery and find no place to sit, one can only wonder at the foresight that Penor Rinpoche had three decades ago. Few masters of Penor Rinpoche’s status would have undergone the hardships that he went through: carrying stones, bricks and sand and working with cement in the scorching sun, his hands bleeding and full of sores. Lack of water and paved roads made the construction even more difficult. Penor Rinpoche even had to fetch water from the river.
At times during the working day he and his monks even ate Tsampa mixed with the dirty river water that ran by the monastery. In the early days of settlement, he lived in a tent, making Tibetan tea with cheap cooking oil, as he had no butter, and drinking out of a tin mug. Rinpoche even cut his upper robe in half, to share it with another lama. An old woman found him one day digging all alone deep in a trench, making a toilet for one of his monks staying in retreat.
One day a man arrived at the site where Rinpoche was working with a group of monks under the burning sun. He briskly walked up to Penor Rinpoche and said, “I have come a long way to see Penor Rinpoche, and may I see him?” “Oh! Sure, why not?” Rinpoche answered. He then took his visitor to his humble room and asked, “Yes, what can I do for you?” The man was both surprised and embarrassed. He never expected Rinpoche to be so earthly and accessible. His idea of Penor Rinpoche was different: a well-dressed monk on a high luxurious throne. Rinpoche appeared a true gem lying on the common soil upon which he himself toiled.
Year after year Penor Rinpoche, with inexhaustible energy and commitment, trudged steadily along the path of progress undeterred by the numerous obstacles and hardships that confronted him. The energy that Penor Rinpoche expanded was not in vain and it has borne him abundant fruits. Today Namdrolling Monastery at Bylakuppe, with more than one thousand five hundred members, can boast of being the largest Nyingmapa Monastery in the world. Penor Rinpoche established the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute in 1978, unable to bear the sight of the priceless Nyingma doctrine being at risk. The NNI, which is now a renowned center for advanced Buddhist education and research studies, has become a special pride of Penor Rinpoche.
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