By Beth Johansen
On a beautiful summer day of September 11, 2011 at the Sakya Centre in Rajpur, India, His Eminence Khondung Asanga Vajra Sakya Rinpoche successfully took and passed the sacred VajraKilaya Puja examination before a packed monastery full of lamas, nuns, distinguished guests and hundreds outside the monastery courtyard.
Present on this auspicious occasion were also H.H. Sakya Trizin Rinpoche, H.E. Ratna Rinpoche, H.E. Gyana Rinpoche and H.E. Avikrita Rinpoche. Also present were Asanga Rinpoche’s grandmother, H.E. Dagmo Kusho, his father, H.E. Ani Rinpoche, mother, Dagmo Chimey la, first cousin, Jetsunma Soyang la, sisters, Jetsunma Aloki la & Jetsunma Mamaki la, along with relatives of Dagmo Chimey la’s family from Dharamsala.
Asanga Rinpoche is the youngest person to ever take and/or successfully pass this puja. Asanga Rinpoche was 12 years and 4 months old. Those in the past have taken this exam have ranged from 14 years to 29 years old. The actual exam and puja started at 6:00am and ended past 8:00pm with a lunch break. In the words of H.H. Sakya Trizin, Asanga Rinpoche scored “100 plus!” meaning he was perfect, no errors and the manner in which he performed the chanting and use of religious drum, bell, dorje and mudras (symbolic hand movements) were smooth, precise and elegant. In addition, since he memorized all the prayers instead of reading from the pechas (Tibetan loose leaf religious texts), that allowed him to score the maximum amount of points possible. Since he made no mistakes of any kind, he was able to score a perfect score and since he performed the puja using the drum, bell & dorje, along with the mudras in a smooth, graceful and elegant manner, all in attendance were blessed to witness not only a beautiful but an artistic performance of a remarkable nature for someone so young and poised.
Afterwards at Rajpur, then Dharamsala, Delhi and throughout Nepal, the news of how incredibly accurate, poised and graceful Asanga Rinpoche performed the VajraKilaya Puja exams and puja, and leading the entire congregation of lamas and monks in the prayer hall all day long, spread like wildfire. Basking in this magnificent performance was none other than Asanga Rinpoche’s meditation tutor, Ven. Gen Ngawang Rigdro la who afterwards was showered with much praise and appreciation for efforts and instructions. Gen Ngawang Rigdrol la said, however, although he was very nervous to have such a young and highly respected student, his job was made easy since Asanga Rinpoche was not only incredibly intelligent but a quick learner and joy to help prepare for the puja exam as he said later, it was as if he already knew it all or what was going to be taught. Throughout the months of training, he excelled in training and all that remained was actually performing it live and in public. On the actual exam day, this worry on his part was quickly dismissed once the day long exam and puja commenced and all in attendance were able to witness a performance of a truly extraordinary nature.
In the late afternoon, after Asanga Rinpoche completed the more intricate parts of the VajraKilaya Puja and in leading the congregation in the long and detailed prayer services, there was a congratulatory ceremony to conclude the event. Representatives of all the Sakya monasteries, nunneries, educational institutions, and Tibetan settlement social groups from Dehra Dun and beyond flocked to the Sakya Centre to offer katas and good wishes to Asanga Rinpoche. On behalf of the Dolma Phodrang, H.E. Gyana Rinpoche and H.E. Yumkusho la (wife of H.H. Sakya Trizin) make offerings. This was followed by H.E. Lunding Khen-chen Rinpoche, Venerable and learned Khenpo Gyatso la (abbot and principal of the Sakya College), the abbot of Ghoom Shedra from Darjeeling were some of the other notables present for this wonderful ceremony. Asanga Rinpoche was presented with many mandala offerings, katas and gifts of statues and other religious objects to commemorate his monumental accomplishment. Also, on behalf of the Sakya Phunstok Phodrang, H.E. Dagmo Kusho (our very own Dagmola who is also Asanga Rinpoche’s paternal grandmother) and Dagmo Chimey la made offerings to all the Sakya monasteries in the area and an elaborate luncheon and dinner were hosted for all the lamas, monks and guests to mark this joyous and momentous occasion. All in all, it was a very joyous and festive affair for all to celebrate, enjoy and remember.
In conclusion, Asanga Rinpoche’s accomplishment in successfully completing the sacred VajraKilaya Puja exams and in leading the congregation all day long in the prayers during the ceremonies with excellence, honor, poise and grace marks a turning point for him personally and sets him apart from others, especially since he accomplished this at such young age. In addition, he reveals to all that the blood and bone descendants of the royal Sakya Khon lineage are alive and well, continuing on with the noble traditions that have distinguished his line of Buddhist master in Tibet’s long history of religious adepts.
Long live the Buddha Dharma!
Long live the Sakya Khon lineage!
Long live H.E. Asanga Vajra Rinpoche!