- His Holiness The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa
- His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
- Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
- The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
- The Venerable Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche
- Lama Rabten Tshering
His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Drudul Trinley Dorje, is the head of the Kagyü school of Tibetan Buddhism. A spiritual leader and luminary figure to millions of Buddhists around the world, the Karmapa is particularly renowned as a highly accomplished meditation master whose radiant presence profoundly changes those who come into contact with him.
Born on June 26, 1985, to a nomad family in eastern Tibet, he was recognized by traditional methods, at the age of seven, as the reincarnation of the 16th Karmapa. His Holiness the Dalai Lama officially confirmed this recognition on June 30, 1992, and in a historic first, the Chinese government issued an official certificate accepting the recognition of the Karmapa as a reincarnate lama and head of the Kagyü tradition.
From 1992 to 1999, the Karmapa received a traditional Buddhist education at Tsurphu Monastery. During these years, he oversaw the rebuilding and restoration of Tsurphu Monastery, which had been severely damaged during the 1960s. In this way he was able to fulfill one of the traditional imperatives of the Karmapas, who had maintained their main seat in Tsurphu since its founding in 1189 C.E. by the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa.
Though he received favorable treatment from the government, despite its promises, the government refused to allow Kagyu lineage teachers to travel to Tibet to transmit essentials teachings to the Karmapa. The Karmapa realized that in order to fulfill his role in the world and his duties to the lineage, he would need to leave Tibet.
On December 28, 1999, the then 14-year-old Karmapa pretended to enter into solitary retreat, and instead donned civilian garb and slipped out a window. Leaving Tsurphu Monastery in the middle of the night with a few attendants, he began a daring escape by car, foot, horseback, helicopter, train and taxi—a heroic journey that was to become the stuff of newspaper headlines throughout the world.
On January 5, 2000, he arrived, to great surprise, in Dharamsala, India, where he was met by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Millions of Buddhists around the world were galvanized by the Karmapa’s arrival, and the name “Karmapa” in our times again became widely known through the international media. The Karmapa has become a beacon of hope for the Tibetan community and, indeed, for all those who seek religious freedom amidst the challenges and complexities of our modern times. Time Magazine, for example, in 2002 declared him an “Asian Hero.”
His Holiness has been granted refugee status by the government of India and continues to live at the Gyuto Monastery near Dharamsala, teaching and receiving visitors and students from all around the world. Thousands of Tibetans, Indian, Nepalese, Bhutanese, other Asians, and Westerners visit the Karmapa there, year round. The Karmapa has also become a highly celebrated figure in India, where thousands of people attend his public appearances and teachings.
On June 26 of last year, he turned 21 years old. His birthday celebration was attended by thousands of people from all over the world. Fulfilling the heart wish of the 16th Karmapa, who had passed away in Zion, Illinois, in 1981, the Karmapa has decided to travel and teach in America.
In addition to his role as a world spiritual leader, His Holiness the Karmapa is also a visual artist, poet, and songwriter, and a technology and computer enthusiast.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was the archetype of the spiritual teacher; someone whose inner journey led him to an extraordinary depth of knowledge and enabled him to be, for all who met him, a fountain of loving kindness, wisdom and compassion.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was one of the last of the generation of accomplished lamas who completed their education and training in Tibet. He was born in 1910 in Eastern Tibet to a family descended from the royal lineage of the ninth century king Trisong Detsen. When he was still in his mother’s womb, he was recognized as a tulku or incarnation by the illustrious teacher, Mipham Rinpoche, and later was enthroned as an emanation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, one of the most important tertons (treasure-finders) and writers of the 19th century and the main inspiration for the non-sectarian movement. Khyen-tse means wisdom and love. The Khyentse tulkus are incarnations of several key figures in the development of Tibetan Buddhism including KunKyen Longchenpa, Jigme Lingpa and Vimilamitra.
Even as a little boy, Rinpoche manifested a strong desire to devote himself entirely to the spiritual life. Although his father wanted him to follow in his footsteps, he finally agreed to allow his son to pursue his own wishes and, at the age of eleven, Rinpoche entered Shechen Monastery in Kham, one of the six main monasteries of the Nyingma School.
He had many great teachers including his root guru, Shechen Gyaltsap from whom he received all the essential empowerments and instructions of the Nyingma tradition. Before Shechen Gyaltsap passed away, Khyentse Rinpoche promised him that he would unstintingly teach whoever asked him for teachings. Then, from the age of fifteen until he was twenty-eight, he spent his time meditating in silent retreat, living in isolated hermitages and caves, or sometimes simply under the shelter of overhanging rocks in the mountainous countryside.
He later spent many years with Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1893-1959) receiving empowerments and teachings. When he told his teacher that he wanted to spend the rest of his life in solitary retreats, Chokyi Lodro answered, “The time has come for you to teach and transmit to others the precious teachings you have received.” Since then, Rinpoche worked for the benefit of beings with the tireless energy that is the hallmark of the Khyentse lineage.
In the late 1950’s the Chinese invasion of Tibet began to rage in Kham, and Khyentse Rinpoche and his family made a narrow escape to Central Tibet, leaving everything behind, including Rinpoche’s precious books and most of his own writings. Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans including Rinpoche, his wife, Khandro Lhamo, and their two young daughters were forced to flee their homeland. They sought exile in Bhutan where the Bhutanese Royal Family graciously received them. Rinpoche taught in a large school near the country’s capital, and soon his inner qualities drew many students to him. As the years passed he became the foremost Buddhist teacher in Bhutan, revered by all from the King to the humblest farmer. In Bhutan, Rinpoche gave many teachings, performed ceremonies, wrote treaties and texts, made retreats, and oversaw the preservation and construction of numerous stupas and statues.
Rinpoche devoted considerable efforts to founding and sustaining temples, colleges, and monasteries where study and practice of the Buddhist tradition would be undertaken. One of his last great tasks was the founding of a new Shechen Monastery in Nepal. There he transplanted the rich Shechen tradition to a new home - a magnificent monastery in front of the great stupa of Bodhanath. It was his wish that the teachings be continued in their authentic purity, just as they were studied and practiced in Tibet. He appointed his grandson, Rabjam Rinpoche, as abbot of the Monastery and invested enormous care in the education of the promising young lamas capable of continuing the tradition. The monastery now has over 300 monks studying and practicing under its auspices.
In India, he built a stupa at Bodhgaya, and planned to construct seven stupas in pilgrimage places to avert conflict, disease and famine and promote world peace.
Khyentse Rinpoche was widely regarded as one of the greatest Dzogchen masters of his time and was the teacher of many important lamas including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and More Teachers from the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Even in his later years, Rinpoche traveled throughout the Himalayas and the West, transmitting and explaining the teachings to his countless students. His books have been translated into several Western languages, and his inspiration is still strongly felt today. He was a terton and his Terma or rediscovered texts fill five volumes.
Once he was finally allowed to return to Tibet, Rinpoche made three extended visits to Tibet. He inaugurated the rebuilding of the original Shechen Monastery which had been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. While in Central Tibet, he petitioned the Chinese government for permission to restore Samye Monastery stressing its importance for the world’s cultural heritage. Samye, founded in the eighth century, was the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet and by 1990 its main temple had been restored. Wherever he went in Tibet, he was greeted with great joy and emotion by people who had waited for years to see him again.
Scholar, sage and poet, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche never ceased to inspire all who encountered him through his extraordinary presence, simplicity, dignity and humor. Wherever he was, he would always pray and meditate for several hours before dawn and then embark on an uninterrupted flow of activities and teachings - in gatherings ranging from a few dozen to several thousand people - until late into the night. His immense knowledge, the warmth of his blessings, and the depth of his inner realization gave his teachings a quality quite different from others.
His achievements in different fields each seem more than enough to have filled a whole lifetime. He spent 20 years in retreat, wrote over 25 volumes on Buddhist philosophy and practice, published and saved countless texts, and initiated numerous projects to preserve and disseminate Buddhist thought, tradition and culture. But above all, what he considered most important was that the teachings he had realized and transmitted were put into practice by others.
He profoundly touched the minds and hearts of students and teachers in the west and east, and left a living legacy of teachings and humanitarian action that is continuing through the work of his students and the Dilgo Khyentse Fellowship. At the age of 81, after a brief illness, he passed away in Bhutan. His cremation was attended by over fifty thousand people, including teachers and disciples from around the world.
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche is Nalandabodhi’s spiritual adviser. He is renowned for embodying the superior insight and joyful temperament of a true yogi, which he often displays through the spontaneous composition of songs of realization, or dohas. Also an impeccable scholar, Khenpo Rinpoche established Marpa Institute for Translation to translate Tibetan texts into English and a variety of other languages.
Khenpo Rinpoche spent many years as a yogi ascetic in the charnel grounds and mountain caves of Tibet before leaving his home country in 1959. While at a Tibetan refugee school of Buddhist philosophy in India, he became celebrated for his skill in logic and debate, and received a Khenpo degree from His Holiness the16th Gyalwang Karmapa and the equivalent Geshe Lharampa degree from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
At the request of HH the 16th Karmapa, he has trained many of the younger generation of Kagyu teachers. He has taught extensively all over the world, lighting the spark of realization in his students through prose, song, and dance.
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche has authored many commentaries and overseen many translations of the classic texts of Tibetan Buddhism. These publications include: The Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness, Buddha Nature, The Sun of Wisdom, Distinguishing Phenomena and Pure Being, and The Moon of Wisdom.
The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is Nalandabodhi’s spiritual leader and president. A leading scholar in the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Rinpoche is also an accomplished meditation master, calligrapher, visual artist, and poet. He travels and teaches widely and is well-versed in Western culture and technology. He is known for his warmth, humour, and lucid presentation of Buddhist teachings in a manner relevant to contemporary life.
Born in Sikkim, India, Rinpoche was recognized by His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as the seventh in the line of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoches. In 1979, HH the 16th Karmapa formally empowered Ponlop Rinpoche as one of the lineage holders of the Karma Kagyu school and proclaimed him his heart son.
Rinpoche founded and directs a number of institutions. In 1994, he established Nitartha International, a nonprofit education corporation, to assist in the integration of computer technology with traditional Tibetan scholarship. In 1995, he established Nitartha Institute, a systematic course of Buddhist studies for Western students. Rinpoche has been a visiting professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, since 1996. Nalanda West, in Seattle, Washington, is the primary seat of The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s educational and spiritual activities. His publications include Wild Awakening: The Heart of Mahamudra and Dzogchen, Penetrating Wisdom: The Aspiration of Samantabhadra, and most recently, Mind Beyond Death.
Drupon Rinpoche was born in 1965 and recognized as a tulku by His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. He was officially enthroned as The Second Dilyak Drupon Rinpoche at the age of six, in Rumtek. In 1974 he received novice vows from the 16th Karmapa, and later bodhisattva vows. He was trained as a youth by His Holiness and other great lamas of Rumtek, and served as attendant to His Holiness the 16th Karmapa during his trip to the West in 1981. Drupon Rinpoche is a graduate of Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies, from which he received a degree of Acharya.
Drupon Rinpoche currently serves as the Abbot of Dilyak Dabzang Monastery, which is the oldest original Karma Kagyu monastery in Boudhanath, Nepal. He also serves as advisor to Nalandabodhi.
In 2006, Drupon Rinpoche was appointed as His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje's General Secretary. (For more information, see the website for His Holiness Karmapa's Office of Administration.
In Drupon Rinpoche's previous lifetime, from Eastern Tibet at Dilyak monastery, he was revered as a highly accomplished and realized yogi. His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa acknowledged that he was a master of the Mahamudra Lineage. At the request of the 16th Karmapa, Drupon Rinpoche became the retreat master for Tsurphu Monastery's three year retreatants. Over time, both the monastic community and the village's lay practitioners became his disciples and devotees. The more His Holiness saw Drupon Rinpoche, the more he acknowledged that he was a highly realized Mahasiddha.
When His Holiness was invited to China, he requested Drupon Rinpoche to come along with him. Since then, the 16th Karmapa and Drupon Rinpoche were quite close. Later during the Chinese invasion, His Holiness and Drupon Rinpoche left Tibet together. Rumtek became the Seat of the Karma Kagyu Lineage, where His Holiness requested Drupon Rinpoche to teach and give transmissions. Drupon Rinpoche taught not only sutra but also tantra practice, and transmitted the Six Yogas of Naropa as well as Mahamudra. Drupon Rinpoche taught to all of the monks, and especially the Tulkus. Many eminent masters received transmissions from him, including His Eminence Thrangu Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.
Lama Rabten Tshering is the resident Lama and Spiritual Director of Nalandabodhi Vancouver.
Under his father's guidance, Lama Rabten's Dharma education started at an early age and was comprised of learning music and memorizing the Karma Kagyud Tantras. At the age of 16 he attained full ordination as a monk and between his monastic training and his father's consistent support, Lama Rabten soon completed his traditional studies in Vajrayana ritual (i.e. music, torma, memorizing tantras, and dance.)
In 1990 Lama Rabten arrived at Rumtek Monastery, India, and for two ensuing years he expanded his study and practice of ritual in the Tsurpu Tradition. In 1992 Lama Rabten was appointed Disciplinary Master of Rumtek Monastery by His Eminence Tai Situpa and Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche. With dedication, he carried out this responsibility for five years.
By 1997 Lama Rabten had resigned his appointment of Disciplinary Master and left Rumtek for Pullahari, Nepal, to commence his Three Year Retreat under the guidance of Drupon Khenpo Lodro Namgyal (currently the personal tutor of His Eminence The IV Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche), Bokar Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtsho Rinpoche.
Upon the completion of his three year retreat, in 2001, Lama Rabten returned to Rumtek Monastery where he engaged in a short retreat and then traveled in pilgrimage with His Holiness The XVII Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Drudul Trinley Dorje.
In 2002, Lama Rabten arrived in Vancouver, Canada under the invitation of The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. In 2005, The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche appointed Lama Rabten as Executive Director for Nalandabodhi Vancouver. Combined with his regular activities, Lama Rabten strives toward the consistent growth, stability, and success of Nalandabodhi; thus, enabling the dissemination of the pure and genuine Dharma in the West.