In Memory of Dundul Namgyal Tsarong
By Gelek Rimpoche
I am very sorry to convey the great loss of a very dear friend of mine who also happened to be the brother of my late wife, Daisy-la. I just found out that Tsarong Jo-la passed away. Not only was he Daisy-la’s brother, but he was also the father of H. H. Drikung Kyabgon Rinpoche and Nam-la, who was married to H. H. Dalai Lama’s late brother. Both have visited Jewel Heart: Nam-la during the visit of H. H. Dalai Lama in 2008 and H. H. Drikung Rinpoche at Camp Copneconic.
Tsarong Jo-la was one of our great Tibetan leaders. He was one of the earliest Tibetans who went to a Western-style school to learn in India. His family was the only family who kept a relationship with British India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Japan, thereby they also kept relationships with England and indirectly with the United States. When the American government decided to send expeditions to Tibet during World War II, their family was the major connection in Tibet besides the then-government of Tibet. He was also one of the earlier photographers in Tibet, like my father. The family house was also the import-export house from India, China and neighboring states. Back in Tibet during World War II and the Korean War, he was the only Tibetan who experimented with new equipment (new to Tibet) that allowed communications from the deep Himalayas.
His passing away was a great loss because he was one of the pillars of our Tibetan religious-democratic society. He was also one of the key persons that established the formal Tibetan exile government. He was responsible for the finances of the exile Tibetan society. In particular, he converted the late H. H. 13th Dalai Lama’s precious metal collections that were transported from Tibet into India and established the Dalai Lama Trust, which invested money to improve the refugee society. It also provided the basis for the current H. H. Dalai Lama to be able to function at that critical time and later.
His aunt, Rinchen Drolma Taring, may be familiar to many Westerners as the author of The Daughter of Tibet, which chronicles her family’s history (as well as that of Tibet) in the past century. He also recently published a book called In the Service of His Country: The Biography of Dasang Damdul Tsarong, Commander General of Tibet about his father. It is available through Snow Lion Publications. For me, personally, he was one of the kindest, gentlest and most reliable people that I have known. That is a great loss, not only for me, but for his family and all of Tibet.