Long-Time Battler Now at Rest
I just heard the sad news that my friend Thubten Jigme Norbu left this life a few hours ago. He was born in 1922 in the village of Taktser in Amdo eastern Tibet. His younger brother, born in 1935, was enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama and is now the Nobel Peace Prize laureate recognized around the world.
Taktser Rinpoche was a tireless fighter for Tibetan independence from China. He was abbot of Kumbum Monastery in the Amdo region of Tibet at the time the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army invaded and occupied Tibet in 1950. After Rinpoche left Tibet for exile, China tightened the occupation to absolute control following an uprising by the Tibetan people against the Chinese military presence in 1959.
A walk together at HH Dalai Lama’s 1999 Kalachakra initiation in Indiana
After escaping from China-dominated Tibet in 1951, Taktser Rinpoche lived for a while in Japan as a guest of the Honganji Temple in Tokyo. He eventually made his way to the USA, living in New York City and Seattle on the way to his long-term home of more than 40 years in Bloomington, Indiana. He left monastic life when he left his homeland, and married the youngest daughter of the 40th Sakya Trizin, in exile from occupied Tibet herself. He and his wife Kunyang raised 3 sons, and had 3 grandchildren. He was 86 at the time of his passing from our lives. In the photo above, we are celebrating Tibetan New Year with friends at his home in Indiana.
A loyal supporter of the Dalai Lama, Taktser Rinpoche did nonetheless take a stand for complete independence of Tibet, as opposed to the autonomy sought by his brother. Each year he participated in long walks and cycle rides to raise awareness of the plight of the Tibetan people. Rinpoche dedicated his life to serving the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, and served in the early 1990s as the Dalai Lama’s representative in Japan. He wrote academic papers and books on Tibet, including his autobiography Tibet Is My Country.
An-shu Stephen at 38, Prof. Norbu just retired at 65 years old
I first met Taktser Rinpoche in 1987. I had just returned from a journey to Tibet and my first meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India in late 1986. The Dalai Lama told me he had a brother who was a university professor a short drive from my house. Amazing! I later went on to serve as part of Rinpoche’s Tibetan Cultural Center board of directors in the 1990s, and I assisted him and his family with events, programs, and presentations at the TCC. HH Dalai Lama visited the TCC five times, and I was honored to aid Taktser Rinpoche and his wife Kunyang with hosting tasks during each of his famous brother’s visits.
What a wonderful friend he was. From the first day I met him, he was ever the perfect role model for how to be the epitome of graciousness, generosity, thoughtfulness, and the most amazing humility. That is not just complimentary fluff talk to salute a departed friend; I really mean that. I will so much miss him and his influence as a role model in my life .