His Holiness Penor Rinpoche's announcement of his retirement
from the position of Head of the Nyingma Order


Historically in Tibet, there were no official positions established for the heads of three of the main orders of Tibetan Buddhism. Instead, leadership responsibilities were distributed among the various lineage masters and other highly respected lamas within each order. The Riwo Gadenpa were an exception: the lama holding the position of Gaden Tripa was in fact the highest spiritual authority for the Gelugpa Order.

The present positions of heads of the orders of Tibetan Buddhism were created after the Tibetan government went into exile. Since Buddhism is such an integral part of Tibetan culture and identity, it was considered vitally important that each of the four major orders of Tibetan Buddhism be officially represented in the newly reorganized government. It is the responsibility of each of these heads to represent their own spiritual community during government functions where religious matters are discussed. Additionally, they participate in official government rituals performed as needed to benefit the Tibetan people and help overcome obstacles that arise in their lives. The heads of the orders also help oversee the activities of the monasteries in their respective orders as well as the education and spiritual development of their communities.

His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche was the first to serve as head of the Nyingma order. He was succeeded by His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Both of these great masters served in their position until they passed away in 1987 and 1991, respectively. In 1993 the Nyingma community selected me to assume the position. At first I refused. My primary concern was that I would be unable to continue to perform all of the religious duties required of me as head of the Palyul lineage together with the new responsibilities that would be required of me as Head of Nyingma. At the insistence of the Nyingma community, however, I reluctantly agreed to accept the appointment as the head of our order.

I have done my best to represent the entire Nyingma community and to discharge the duties required by the position. I am happy that over the past years the Nyingma community has continued to become stronger and more unified. Today we are like one large happy family. Much of my effort has been aimed at improving the organization of the annual Nyingma Monlam Chenmo ceremony held in Bodhgaya. This grand prayer festival gathers together the entire Nyingma community to join in prayers for world peace and happiness. It also provides us with a forum for frank and open discussion of the issues and challenges that affect our community. As such, it has become an important focus for improving communication and unity within Nyingma.

My primary responsibilities in this life are to discharge the religious duties and responsibilities I hold as head of the Palyul lineage. As such, I have many monasteries, monks and nuns for which I must care. The thousands of monks and nuns at our monasteries must be housed, clothed and fed. They must be trained in accordance with the spiritual traditions of our lineage. These responsibilities are extremely demanding and require much of my time and attention. Now, as I had originally expected, it has become increasingly difficult for me to perform fully as both head of the Palyul lineage and as Head of Nyingma. The result has been that I have been unable to attend all of the meetings, functions and ceremonies required of me as Head of Nyingma.

From the very beginning, it was never my intention to hold this appointment for life. There are many Nyingma lamas today who have the abilities and qualities required to effectively discharge the duties of this position. It is my view that other qualified and willing Nyingma lamas should have the opportunity to serve in this position. By giving those lamas the chance to serve the Nyingma community as its leader, I believe our tradition will be strengthened and Tibetan Buddhism in general will benefit.

It is for these reasons that I decided to transfer my responsibilities as Head of Nyingma to a suitable successor. At the Monlam Chenmo gathering earlier this year, I proposed to the assembly that His Holiness Mindroling Trichen Rinpoche be appointed to succeed me. The Nyingma community fully supported my recommendation. The transfer of title has become official and His Holiness the Dalai Lama has sent a letter of congratulations to His Holiness Mindroling Trichen Rinpoche on his accession to the position of Head of Nyingma.

I and my staff at Namdroling Monastery will continue to be responsible for organizing the annual Monlam Chenmo ceremony in Bodhgaya. Over the years we have developed a large and effective organization that manages and executes the many tasks required to make the ceremony a success each year. It would be disruptive to transfer those responsibilities to a new administration in the short term. Additionally, we have several major construction projects currently underway in Bodhgaya which will make significant improvements in the living conditions for those participating in the ceremony each year. I fully intend to see this work through to its completion.

Regardless of who holds the title of Head of Nyingma, I will continue in my efforts to benefit the Nyingma community. I request that all the high lamas and monks of the Nyingma community join with me to assist His Holiness Mindroling Trichen Rinpoche in all his efforts as the Head of Nyingma. I have no doubt that the Nyingma community will continue to strengthen and flourish under his leadership.


Penor Rinpoche
August, 2001