Harold Rolls / Lama Tenzin Yongdu was a longtime student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and a gifted architect. After Trungpa Rinpoche’s passing, he became a close student of Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche. The announcement below is from Tenzin Dorjee, the General Secretary to H.E. Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche from Pullahari Monastery, established by Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche III high above the Kathmandu Valley. This is where Lama Tenzin spent many years of his life.
Friday, March 17, 2023: An announcement by Changdzo Tenzin Dorjee
Lama Tenzin Yongdu, an excellent monk and a beloved and respected member of our sangha, passed away peacefully in New York today. He was 90 years old. As many would know, he was the architect of the Stupa Temple of His Eminence the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche (1954 – 1992) and the Rigpe Dorje Institute in Pullahari Monastery, and the Rigpe Dorje Monastic Institute in Lava. Never demanding, Lama Tenzin dedicated more than 30 years of his life in India and Nepal to fulfil the vision and wishes of The Third Jamgon Rinpoche. A highly regarded member of our Labrang, Lama Tenzin will always remain in our hearts.
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My condolences to Harold's family and students. I knew Harold from my first job out of Cooper Union at Davis, Brody and Associates, where Harold was one of the associates. He was in charge of the high rise UDC Harlem River Park houses-built. I recall his pipe smoking and tough demeanor. I remember he was in charge of overseeing that employees got back from lunch on time. In fact, he was instrumental in getting me fired, although it all worked out ok in the end. I recall sensing that although successful, he was really uncomfortable with his role, so I was not 100% surprised by his transformation-although almost unprecedented for a successful architect to take such a course
Lama Tenzing was like a father figure to me. He was my guiding angel, my godfather and a person I respect the most. He has a very special place in the heart of my family. My wife and me with my two boys are blessed to have known such a humble person in our life. My boys were able to talk to him for few times through Skype. We have done so many projects together in Nepal and India. I have learned a lot from him. I am where I am today because of him. I am grateful everyday for everything he has done for me.
Though he is not physically in this world he is always in our good memories. I pray that his departed soul
Is resting peacefully in heaven. We miss him.
I met Tenzin at Seminary in 1994 and he was also at my 1996 Datun at Karme Choling where we became great friends and corresponded by mail and email until 2002 or 2003. I still have all of his letters. I had most of the red vajrayana books from Seminary and I sent him my set to Nepal and this magical thing happened. I brought the books to an outlet that boxed them and sent them to Nepal. I did this on a Friday night and two and a half days later they arrived in Kathmandu on Monday morning. What would normally take weeks or longer, happened on a weekend.
He can never be dead for me. He will always live in my heart.
Tenzin was a dear friend and beloved teacher, greeted me always with a delighted generous smile whenever I called him on Skype, oftentimes unannounced. And we would talk without any attention to time and it would be a teaching. He would close his eyes and reflect as l poured forth my dilemmas, my questions and then as he spoke and l interjected with my understanding of what he said or some thought that came to me, excitedly he would say “yes, that’s it ! “ and so we would continue on exploring together. He would journey with me as l fumbled and fell or soared - a true friend , a wonderful teacher. His greatest gift was his consistent message “be good to yourself”. So blessed to have known you Tenzin ! I know you are totally okay wherever you are.
Words can't quite express what I feel just now.
They can only point and gesture around my memories of Tenzin.
I don't even have go close my eyes to see your smile , and feel the enormous warmth and life and kindness of your hugs. My hug a monk .... Your words.
Feast practice with you was always a joy.
I can hear your voice sharing stories of your life and path .,
and your gentle advice and boundless kindness and support.
A Sukhavati will be held on Thursday, March 23, at 11am EDT, on Zoom by the Tonglen for Ukraine group. Tenzin (Harold) was a regular participant. So compassionate, intelligent, and kind; and we love him. The link is: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83817903514
In 2004 we have met and interviewed Lama Tenzin Yongdu at Pullahari, Nepal for documentary about Rigpe Dorje Institute.
With respect and condolences to His family and Pullahari Sangha.
Here's a link to documentary featuring his interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5yq105rU3Q&t=47s
Tenzin! I can almost hear your voice! I remember vividly preparing to enter a 3-month shamatha retreat at Karme Choling…full of reticence about such an undertaking, and learned—to my crooked relief—that my start date would be delayed. You, wonderful yogi, found your own 3-month Vajrayogini retreat too short! And in spite of prodding from the retreat master, you didn’t want to come down! Your example was a great inspiration to me! Thank you, dear vajra brother. Journey well. Journey fearlessly with your big heart.
It's so deeply moving to discover... to meet... such inspiring devotees/practitioners as Lama Tenzin Yongdu... they shine such a wonderful light. _/\_ _/\_ _/\_
your father's life and work and his leaving of it - are inspiring and a reminder that we are here so briefly and what we leave behind so intangible.
May he return swiftly to bring benefit to all beings
I credit Tenzin with bringing me to the dharma. When I was a college student intern at RMDC during the 1994 Seminary, there was no program in place to provide practice and study opportunities for us "outliers." Tenzin noted the omission and endeavored to create and lead a structured practice and study with us every day. I am immensely grateful for his generosity, as it led me to refuge by the end of the summer.
After that summer, I was fortunate to keep contact with Tenzin here and there, visiting him at Phullahari and seeing him twice when he visited KCL while I lived there. He always strengthened my path. He was a true dharma friend and his kindness, patience, insight, laughter and piercing eyes will be greatly missed.
Thank you so much for the wonderful experience of the dathun in KCL 1998 taught by you... I still remember you vividly... have a good transition! Sabine from Europe
Married November 22, 1952 at 20 years old.
First child when he was 21 years old (over a year later).
Moved from Levittown on Long Island, NY
to Nyack, New York on Oct. 2, 1963.
Took vows Oct. 6, 1986
- Eve Lynn
Tenzin Yongdu was born Harold Rolls. He was an architect by profession. He married his wife, Marilyn, and had four children. We grew up in Nyack, NY as he worked in NYC from 1963-1975.
He discovered Karma Choling, moved to Vermont, and eventually took monastic vows under his first Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa.
The farmhouse became a Buddhist retreat center. The design Harold made was heralded in a prominent Architectural magazine.
During this time he and a business partner developed three projects supplying housing to many in Vermont. He was given his current name, Tenzin Yongdu by Jamgon Rinpoche, upon taking Buddhist monastic vows, which he did during the cremation ceremonies for Trungpa Rinpoche at Karme Choling. He set aside attainment of enlightenment to be a Bodhisattva; he let go of all his possessions; and he was on his path.
Upon the death of Chogyam Trungpa, he connected with his Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul III.
Rinpoche asked Tenzin Yongdu to travel with him as the vision for the Rigpe Dorje Institute developed.
It was decided for Pullahari, near Kathmandu, Nepal - but before it came to be, Rinpoche Jamgon Kongtrul died in a car crash.
It all might have fallen apart, if not for the amazing diligence and compassion of Tenzin Dorje.
My father praised him as the central hub of the wheel, holding all the spokes together.
Their mutual love, honor, appreciation, and compassion for their former Rinpoche helped them to facilitate the incredible accomplishments that benefit so many at Pullahari and beyond.
Tenzin Yongdu came back to NY to generously and compassionately sit with his former wife, Marilyn, for about a year as she deteriorated in hospitals till her death.
He also was getting old and his lungs couldn’t handle the altitude of Nepal, so about eight years ago he moved to be with his daughter, Evelynn.
He taught students at a local library in Canajoharie as well as online, locally and internationally - even while on his hospital bed gasping for air.
Just before he died, Tenzin Dorje called. Sharon held the phone up to my father's ear. He was finally resting from the exhausting effort to get air. She said his complexion calmed and he murmured, seeming to acknowledge recognition of his friend. The phone call ended and five minutes later he stopped breathing. I imagine the call allowed the release from his suffering.
For the next few hours there were many tears as we realized the loss and value of Tenzin Yongdu.
2023 March 10th to 19th. Annual ( Bumchoe) hundred thousand Butter Lamps & Monlam Ceremony, Pullahari Monastery. Lamps and Monlam Ceremony dedicated to World Peace and Harmony, the pacify of the pandemic, famine, draught, adverse circumstances and the Awakening of All Sentient Beings.
The offering of lamps to the Three Jewels, like Samantabhadra's immense cloud of offering, is dedicated, with purest of motivation and sincerest of Aspiration, to all beings in the ten directions of the thousand universes. The Ceremony concludes with a Grand Amitabha Jangchok puja dedicated to all deceased and especially our senior Sangh Lama Tenzin Yongdu. May the blessings and vast gathering meritorious deed be dispel the darkness of ignorance in the midstream of all beings and may the inner light of their wisdom shine forth, illuminating all space.
I am writing having just found out that you are in the hospital, and looking at the last part of your life. I remember our times together, mostly over the years you came to teach at Karmê Chöling, with great appreciation and delight. You've led such a full, blessed, rich and creative life, and with such a huge heart of goodness and humor. You have given of yourself fully to so many teachers and students. I am fortunate to be one of those many students who have benefitted from your presence and gentleness. I am happy that you are surrounded by those you love - your family and friends. May this time be clear for you and may you have a good and auspicious journey. I will be thinking of you, and holding you in my heart and practice.
With much love and a kiss,
Your teacher, Lama Tenzin Yongdu,
has been a devoted father to me.
My father loved me.
I loved my father.
During the past eight years,
we have talked with each other
for a long time after supper.
In 2014, I visited my father
in Pullahari for three weeks.
My father moved from Nepal's
high elevation at the end of 2014
because his heart and lungs were
not able to tolerate the low oxygen.
He moved into my home in Jan. 2015.
He was active and teaching to the end.
My father was recognized
in our small town of Fort Plain
because he took long walks
on our neighborhood sidewalks.
Until shortly before his passing,
he drove to a swimming pool
three mornings each week--
a beautiful drive in the rural areas
of the Mohawk Valley in New York.
He did a zooming tonglen practice
with a Ukrainian group at lunch time.
My father taught evening classes
on meditation through our local libraries
from the beginning of his time with me.
He had started a new class for beginners
to be accommodating to their inexperience,
shortly before he took his final breaths.
He had planned to continue teaching
his students from his hospital bed.
My father passed a few minutes after
receiving a call from Tenzin Dorjee,
during a Pullahari ceremony
which was dedicated in part
to world peace and harmony.
Prayers were said for my father
on the last day of that ceremony.
His cellphone was held to his ear
by Sharon Tunney, a local student,
at 3:00 am local time. Before
my father's body was removed,
Nancy Drury, from Montreal, Canada,
read a poem by Emile, Tenzin, and
an email from Shambala's Suzann.
My father often visited with his family.
When my father turned 90 years old,
we had a family reunion for his birthday.
On Saturday, March 11, we traveled
a hundred miles to a restaurant
where we visited with my brother's
family, including his four grandsons.
A couple days before that visit,
he had visited my other brother
in his home, also a distance away.
He canceled airline tickets for
visiting my sister's family in Texas.
He did not feel up to the long trip.
He has three great-grandchildren
he was hoping to visit in Texas.
Good that he was not in Texas
when there was a sudden decline
in his ability to keep breathing.
In the early hours of the morning,
after his Sat. 3/11 visit with family,
My husband and I were awakened
in the night by his labored breathing.
An ambulance transported him with
the high levels of oxygen he needed
for the journey to a local hospital.
A couple days later, on Tuesday,
zooming with doctors and family,
it was decided my father would
not be able to return to his home.
We were expecting a short stay
in the hospital. His breathing
became increasing labored
at a rapidly declining rate
until he took his final breath
on Friday, March 17, 2023.
Nancy read a poem by Emile
and an email from Shambala's
Suzann in the presence of my
father's body and those gathered.
Because his vital daily living
was with our family household,
I feel keenly aware of his absence.
I miss him when I make supper,
when I must lock the door for
my home that is no longer filled
by his ever-present wakefulness.
There was never a dirty dish
because he kept the dishes clean
throughout the day every day.
Every night shortly after 11pm,
he called goodnight to me.
After a morning conversation
as he lay under his covers,
every morning we prayed
a short prayer at 7:30 am
before 7:40 zoom meditation
with an international group.
"Be good and kind and nurturing
to yourself and all sentient beings."
I put my hands together and bowed,
My husband and I have
swallowed a pill for a blessing,
offered by Nancy Drury,
who came to my home.
I am wearing the white scarf
placed by Nancy over my
father's breathless body.
I will wear it for 49 days.
Arrangements are being made
for a funeral service locally.
"Absence makes the heart
grow fonder." I experience it.
Eve Lynn Rolls Elliott
My father passed during a long-lasting ceremony
dedicated to World Peace and Harmony,
and was honored on the last day of it.
Harold Rolls/Tenzin Yongdu took his last breath
early in the morning on Friday, March 17, 2023.
I am one hour away at home.
I got a call from the hospital.
Sharon Tuney was with him.
Son David and Nancy Drury
(from Montreal, Canada)
are on the hospital property
in a facility for visitors.
I am sorry for your loss
To my friend I so venerate,
it will never be too late
to express my gratitude and respect
to you and all you represent,
to the depth of your commitment
to your friends along the path
You are a true buddha,
purveyor of the mammo's wrath
Your humor rings true,
your laugh in my ear,
your smile in my heart
will always be here
I wish you gentle passage,
a journey you deserve
for a life well served
Yet you remain by my side,
a constant in my life,
a memory and prayer,
a wonder in mid-air
I will always know your care
Your deep and mellow soul
I pass it on as best I can,
give up control on this morning
in mid-winter, snow piled high
in your land, in mine rain falling hard,
Water symphony my epiphany,
on land and on sea your soul flies free
Underneath the lineage tree
we sit and meditate,
no moment too late,
no aspiration too great,
share love, breath in hate
My elder special friend,
young one among sages,
your seat for the ages
awaits you no doubt
Thank you and hello
Tail of the rainbow,
sun through the clouds,
trumpet blare out loud
ringing in my ear
I sit here in prayer,
feel you in the air