He was the spiritual voice of the Khumbu. Generations of mountaineers and trekking tourists have met him at Tengboche Monastery and have received his blessing for their adventures. Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche died at the age of 85 years. Since 1956, for 64 years, he had been abbot of the Buddhist monastery Tengboche in the Khumbu region, within sight of Mount Everest.
Reincarnation of Lama Guru
Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo was born in Namche Bazaar in 1935, reportedly on 6 July, the same day as the Dalai Lama. As a child he insisted that he owned a house in Tengboche. The monks of the monastery subjected him to a test. They presented him with a collection of objects. Ngawang seized those that had belonged to Lama Gulu, the builder of the monastery. Since then he was recognized as a “tulku”, the reincarnation of Lama Gulu.
Buddhist monks in Tibet educated the Rinpoche. In 1956, Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo returned to the Khumbu and from then on headed Tengboche Monastery. In January 1989 the building burned down to the foundation walls caused by flying sparks. The Sherpa community rebuilt the monastery – supported by aid organizations such as the Himalayan Trust of Everest first ascender Sir Edmund Hillary.
Admonisher and critic
Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche repeatedly warned of the consequences of climate change for the population in the Himalayas. “If we don’t save Khumbu today our fresh water will dry up and the problem will be impossible to solve in the future,” the abbot wrote in 2005 in an article for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The monk was critical of the commercialization of Mount Everest. “Climbing Everest has become a fashion. All people want to do is reach the top,” wrote Ngawang Tenzin Jangpo Rinpoche. “The Sherpas of Khumbu may not know everything, but they are suffering the consequences of the people’s greed. We mountain people should be careful and take precautions. It is high time that Nepalese started to depend less on foreigners. Why do we need foreigners to come here and tell us that our glaciers are melting?”