Ngodup Paljor was a monk, writer, poet, translator, scholar, gardener, and longshoreman who lived and worked in Tibet, India, Thailand, Hawai'i, and Alaska.
Ngodup Paljor was born in 1948 in the village of Dzonga, fourteen thousand feet high in the mountains of western Tibet. His family were farmers and yak herders.
He became a monk when he was a small boy at Dzongkar Chode Monastery.
In 1959 the communist Chinese invaded his country. Paljor's parents fearing for their children, fled over the rough back trails into Mustang and then to Kathmandu, Nepal. Along the way Paljor suffered many hardships, including watching helplessly as his grandmother was swept away in a wild river.
Once in India, Paljor attended the newly-organized Tibetan schools and graduated from the Central School for Tibetans in Mussoorie in 1970. During his last year in high school he joked to his friends that he was going to Alaska to start a meditation center. He wanted to see the world.
He applied to a Buddhist university in Bangkok, and was awarded a full scholarship by the Buddhist Association of Thailand. During his university years in Bangkok he studied Sanskrit, Pali, Thai, and English. He had learned Hindi in India. He served as translator for His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama at the 11th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Bangkok, Thailand in 1976. He earned a degree in Abidharma. Besides his studies and monastic duties he worked on the translations of three books with John Blofeld and Thubten Kalsang Rinpoche.
In 1976 he was invited to be the translator for Nechung Rinpoche and later Lama Karma Rinchen in Hawaii, and became interested in Zen Buddhism when he met Aiken Roshi at Diamond Sangha in Honolulu.
He was an assistant professor of Tibetan studies at the University of Hawaii.ref Although he gave up his monk’s robes he remained a serious student of the dharma all his life.
In 1977 Paljor first visited Alaska with Nechung Rinpoche, and returned there in 1978.
In 1979 he founded Khawachen Dharma Center in Anchorage, and over the next nine years brought Buddhist teachers to Alaska and sowed the multi-colored seeds of the dharma which are still flowering there.
Paljor's poetry is influenced by the Zen poets that he read and loved. The power of his poetry comes from a directness in the way he used English, which often implies a deeper meaning than the words themselves. As he told me, when writing in Tibetan he felt he should conform to the traditional poetic forms, while English allowed him a freedom from form.
Among his works is Songs of a Wild Yak, a book of Buddhist-inspired poetry with a short story "A Memory of My Childhood in Tibet".
Paljor died in an accident in Anchorage, Alaska, on 25 October 1988.
Copyright © 2016 Denise Lassaw Paljor