Kushok Bakula Rinpoche was aged only six years when he was recognised as the 19th incarnation of the Bakula Arhat, one of the 16 chief disciples of the Buddha. He was sent to Tibet for studying at the age of 10 in 1926 and was set to lead a religious life.
When Rinpoche returned to Ladakh after 14 years he found that his brother had mysteriously disappeared.
His brother Tashi Namgyal was married twice and lost his first wife during the birth of his first child. When his father and second wife lost their lives under tragic circumstances, he lost all interest in worldly affairs. He left his home leaving behind a son and daughter in the care of the extended family.
Nobody had any clue about his whereabouts and it deeply shocked the family. Kushok was inspired by his divination that his brother was alive and living as a Hindu ascetic. But there was no concrete evidence for his theory.
But Rinpoche had a belief on his theories and spent nearly five decades looking for his brother. He searched for his brother in many holy places and pilgrimage sites like the ghats on the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi and Haridwar. He inquired about his brother from many people and hoped that his brother might know through these people that he is being searched for.
In 1985, Rinpoche heard about a person who matched his elder brother’s physical description. He heard that an elderly hermit was living in the mountain hut near Manali, Himachal Pradesh, and was well versed with Ladakhi. Rinpoche sent his manager, Thupstan Targyes to find out about the actual location of that monk.
The ‘Baba’ maintained distance with everyone and would never reveal his identity to visitors. But Baba once admitted that he was from Ladakh and knew about Ladakh’s history like a native. However, news of his reached other members of the family and they visited the white-bearded chain-smoking sadhu and were convinced that the man was indeed Raja Tashi Namgyal.
Rinpoche himself decided to visit the Baba. When the sadhu was told of Rinpoche waiting outside, he expressed joy. For more than 60 years, Raja Tashi Phunstog Namgyal never disclosed his family and personal relationships. But when he saw his younger brother entering his room, he lost his emotional control. He left his seat and tightly embraced Rinpoche.
Both the brothers gave up on the life of royalty they were born with. One of them decided to serve the people while the other rejected material pleasures to live a saintly life.