The David R. Shlim Matching Fund
The first time I met Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche he was having a massive heart attack. He had been up all night at the remote nunnery of Nagi Gompa overlooking the Kathmandu Valley. I was a doctor working in Kathmandu, and I was asked by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche to go and see his father.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche was the first person I had ever met who could face the pain, uncertainty, and shortness of breath associated with a heart attack, and not have any fear at all. I was new to Buddhism, and I thought to myself, “Who is this guy?” I thought it would be impossible to come so close to death without fear.
A little over a year ago, twenty-eight years after Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s heart attack, I suffered a massive heart attack while skiing in the remote backcountry near Jackson Hole, Wyoming where I live. For nearly two hours I lay in the snow, in sub-zero temperatures, with chest pain and extreme shortness of breath, knowing that I could die any second, and felt…an extraordinary calm. When I realized that this could be the end of my life, I thought about my teachings and my teacher, and had a vision of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche that was extraordinarily reassuring.
Now that I have recovered from my heart attack, I would like to commemorate my recovery by helping to fulfill the dying wish of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. A few days before he died in 1996, he asked Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche to construct a large monastery at the Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini. Lumbini at that time had yet to have any modern development. It was just a tree, a pond, and a tiny temple. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche saw that more and more people would be coming to Nepal to visit this place, and that a beautiful temple would help them connect to the Dharma. In addition, he envisioned a place where a multi-denominational puja for world peace could be performed every year.
This spring I visited the temple, the outer walls and main rooms of which have already been constructed. It is far more massive than I had imagined—the main prayer hall is reminiscent of the multi-pillared great prayer halls in Tibet, and will seat 1000-1500 monks. The front wall of the prayer hall will display 1000 gilded Buddhas behind three large statues of the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. As I stood there, I was filled with a desire to help bring this vision to fruition.
That is why I am donating U.S. $100,000 as a matching fund this year to help move the project forward. Any money that is donated this year will be matched by a gift from myself up to $100,000. With the $200,000 that we can raise in this way, the construction can really move ahead and help bring Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s vision to reality.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that I met Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche while he was having a heart attack. When I finally reached the emergency room during my heart attack, the first thing I noticed is that my heart attack was identical to the one that Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche had—the EKG was exactly the same. My first meeting with him—as a doctor treating his heart attack—became my first teaching from him. His teachings transformed my life, but I didn’t really understand how much I had changed until I faced my own imminent death. Knowing how much sentient beings can be benefited by the Dharma, I wish to make this offering to future beings who will connect with the Dharma through this temple.
Will you join me as well?
David R Shlim MD