A Lumbini-Boudhanath Connection
-Dominic Chau, MA BS student from Singapore
Chogye Trichen Rinpoche discussing construction plans with his helpers for his monastery at Lumbini, in 1973. Picture credit: David Jackson, from Fortunate to Behold.
As friends and schoolmates occasionally ask me about things to look out for in Lumbini, I wanted to share with you the story behind one of my favourite temple-monasteries at Lumbini – the Dharmaswami Maharaja Buddhavihara (DMB). Founded by the late Chogye Trichen Rinpoche (Ngawang Khyenrab Lekshay Gyatso, 1919-2007) in 1975, the DSMB holds the distinction of being the second monastery built at Lumbini in modern times (the first being the Rajkiya Buddhavihara), and (possibly) the first ever Tibetan Buddhist monastery built there.
Chogye Rinpoche was a Sakya master who headed the Tsharpa sub-lineage and was regarded as a ‘master of masters’ as many Tibetan Buddhist lineage holders were his disciples, including His Holiness the Sakya Trizin.
According to his student, the historian David Jackson, Chogye Rinpoche wrote that he had decided to find the temple out of a deep devotion toward and faith in Shakyamuni Buddha and his birthplace, Lumbini. He thus dreamt of building a temple in Lumbini as it would become a holy shrine for the accumulation of merit by both Nepalese as well as people from many parts of the world.
Fortunately, Chogye Rinpoche was also the maternal uncle of the Raja of Mustang; in 1968, in response to a series of official petitions made by his nephew Mustang Raja Jigme Palbar to Kng Mahendra, Chogye Rinpoche received a grant of ten kata of land within the holy site of Lumbini. He thus became only lama to be deeded by royal grant a building plot at Lumbini.
After the consecration of the monastery in 1975, Chogye Rinpoche devoted himself in later years to help Lumbini flourish again as a beautiful garden. He had always loved flowers and flowering plants and taught his students that flowers were a special kind of offering. Not only were they beautiful objects of sight and scent, but also exemplified impermanence.
From the 1990s, Chogye Rinpoche’s monastery hosted a large mother nursery that supplied many monastic gardens in Lumbini with flowering plants. Since then, these gardens, great and small, have been offering millions of flowers annually in honor of Buddha Śākyamuni’s birthplace.
After the completion of the DMB, Chogye Trichen went on to find the Jamchen Lhakhang (the Trikal Maitreya Buddha Vihara) at Boudhanath ten years later, in 1985, particularly distinctive for the magnificent 12-metre statue of Maitreya that welcomes you as you step into the main shrine hall.
Chogye Trichen Rinpoche’s choice of Maitreya is not arbitrary but deeply rooted in the prophetic and spiritual lineage of his tradition. Machig Labdron, the 11th-century Tibetan yogini and founder of the Chöd lineage, had foretold the emergence of three future emanations of Maitreya who would appear in Rongton’s lineage and bear the term ‘khyen’ or ‘knowledgeable’ in their names.
These incarnations, like Rinchen Khyentse Wangpo, held the title of Chogye Trichen, thereby setting a precedent within the lineage. By consecrating the statue of Maitreya, Chogye Trichen Rinpoche both honors and continues this spiritually significant legacy, reinforcing the deep-seated connections within his lineage that can be traced back to Machig Labdron’s prophecy.
The main shrine of the Jamchen Lhakhang at Boudhanath, with its 12-metre-tall statue of Maitreya Bodhisattva. Picture credit: Jamchen Lhakhang Monastery
In summary, both the Dharmaswami Maharaja Buddhavihara in Lumbini and the Jamchen Lhakhang in Boudhanath bear the indelible imprint of Chogye Trichen Rinpoche’s devotion and spiritual vision. These are both sanctuaries of tranquility. Whether you’re stepping into the lush gardens of the DMB or gazing up at the towering Maitreya statue at Jamchen Lhakhang, you’ll find an extraordinary sense of peace that reflects the deep spiritual lineage to which both belong. It’s as if the Rinpoche’s profound respect for Shakyamuni Buddha and the prophetic lineage of Maitreya converge in these sacred spaces to offer an atmosphere of serenity that is nothing short of transformative.
This post draws heavily from and is indebted to Lama of Lamas, David Jackson’s biography of Chogye Rinpoche.