KYABJE TRULSHIK RINPOCHE, a short biography -1 by Matthieu Ricard
Sunday 25 September 2011
Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche (1924-2011) was is one of the last great masters to have completed a truly extensive
study, training and practice of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in the extraordinary cultural environment of Tibet
prior to its invasion by the Chinese communist régime. Close disciple of some of the greatest Buddhist
practitioners of the century, including Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Dudjom Rinpoche, he is one of His Holiness
the Dalai Lama’s respected teachers, holder of an important monastic lineage, and inheritor of many precious
instructions and transmissions.
The family of his father, Tenzin Chödar, traced its ancestry to a member of the Licchavi clan of India. His mother,
Jamyang Wangmo, was the daughter of a family descended from Önré Dharma Senge, nephew of the great
Drukpa Kagyü founder, Tsangpa Gyarepa. The family still inhabited Önre’s house in the district of Nakartsé near
Yamdrok Taklung in lower Tsang, and Trulshik Rinpoche was born on the tenth day of the ninth month of the
Year of the Wood Rat, 1924, with many miraculous signs, in the cave where Önré had practised above the family
Trulshik Rinpoche, Ngawang Chökyi Lodrö, was considered to be an emanation of the bodhisattvas Vajrapani
and Mañjushri, and among many others, of the great Abbott Shantarakshita, the great translator Vairotsana, and
Milarepa’s close disciple Rechungpa.
At the age of four, Trulshik Rinpoche visited a place called Dzarong Phu, of Shelkar district in Latö, at the
request of Dzatrul Rinpoche, who had been a close disciple of his predecessor Trulshik Donga Lingpa, also
known as Zhadeu Kunzang Thongdröl Dorje. While there, memories of events in his previous life arose
spontaneously in his mind. He recounted them at length, to the astonishment of Dzatrul Rinpoche, who had
witnessed those events with his own eyes. Convinced that the young boy was indeed the incarnation of Trulshik
Donga Lingpa, Dzatrul Rinpoche recognized and enthroned him, and subsequently guided him as his root
teacher, transmitting to him the teachings of his predecessor.
Trulshik Rinpoche studied extensively at that great seat of learning of the Ancient Translation tradition, the
monastery of Mindröl Ling. There too, from the preceptors Trikhen Chung Rinpoche and Minling Khenchen
Khyentse Norbu Rinpoche, he took full monastic vows in the Vinaya ordination lineage descended from Lachen
Gongpa Rabsel, of which he is today considered one of the principal holders, renowned for his pure discipline.
He also received many wide-ranging teachings on the Sutras, the Tantras, and the various other branches of
knowledge, from more than thirty important teachers, including great masters of the Nyingma tradition such as
Minling Dodzin Rinpoche, the renowned female lama Shuksep Jetsun Rinpoche, and Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche;
Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpotché, and with masters of the Geluk tradition including the Ganden throne-holder
Ling Rinpoche and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso; from the Sakya Drolma Podrang Rinpoche,
Sakya Dakchen Rinpoche,, and particularly from the great non-sectarian teacher Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
All of these important teachings and transmissions he not only studied but put into practice. He completed a strict
three-year retreat, and subsequently spent all his available time in practice and study.
KYABJE TRULSHIK RINPOCHE, a short biography -2
Thursday 29 September 2011
KYABJE TRULSHIK RINPOCHE, a short biography -2
When Trulshik Rinpoche was 38 years old, he received from Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche the empowerments,
reading transmissions and explanations of the whole Nyingma Kahma. He was also the sponsor for that important
teaching. He also met Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche for the first time. The first teaching he received from this
great master, as a preliminary connection, was the commentary on Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend. Khyentse
Rinpoche then conferred on him his own profound rediscovered treasure cycle, the Nyakluk Phurba, and
thereafter became his close teacher. Trulshik Rinpoche considered him his unique teacher of the definitive
meaning, and as well as receiving teachings from him he transmitted to Khyentse Rinpoche some of the rare
teachings of which he is himself the holder. The mutual teacher-disciple relationship they developed was an
extraordinary one, the teachings passing from one to the other like the contents of one vase being poured into
another. Trulshik Rinpoche received from Khyentse Rinpoche a huge range of teachings, including the complete
Dam-ngak Dzö and other important collections. Indeed, Trulshik Rinpoche is now the holder of Khyentse
Rinpoche’s own collected teachings, and as one of his closest and most senior disciples was responsible for
identifying and enthroning his reincarnation.
Over a number of years before leaving this world, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche had been transmitting to His Holiness
the Dalai Lama a number of important teachings from the Nyingma tradition, including the principal texts of the
Maha, Anu and Ati sections of the inner tantras. The honour of transmitting whatever remained of these
teachings subsequently befell Trulshik Rinpoche, who has continued to offer empowerments and teachings to His
Holiness, including the Druptap Dojö Bumzang compiled by Minling Terchen Rinpoche (who had transmitted the
teachings of the Nyingma tradition to the Great Fifth Dalai Lama), and the major texts of Longchen Rabjampa
such as the Ngalso Khorsum and the Seven Treasures.
When Tibet was invaded in the 1950s, Trulshik Rinpoche left the country and established a monastery in the
isolated Shar Khumbu region of Nepal, near Mount Everest, where he now has his principal seat as head of a
large and flourishing community of monks, nuns and lay practitioners. He has continued to promote the
preservation and spreading of the Buddhist teachings and practice, travelling widely in recent years to many
countries all over the world, and is seen by many younger lamas of all traditions as a unique figure of reference,
his vast learning, his integrity and authenticity, his disarming simplicty, and above all his deep experience and
realisation, being unequalled in the present day. He was a flawless holder of the monastic lineage and ordained
nearly 10,000 monks and nuns throughout his life. He also spend over 40 years in contemplative retreat.
Trulshik Rinpoche’s enlightened activity continued undiminished well into his eighties. In the last few years of his
life, despite his gradually failing health, he was able to participate in Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s centenary
celebrations at Shechen and spend time at Thubten Chöling monastery to guide the large community of monks,
nuns and retreatants there. Finally, on 2 September, 2011, at the age of 87, he passed away peacefully at his
new monastery above Sitapaila outside Kathmandu.
Above HH Dilgo Khentse Rinboche and HH Trulshik Rinboche.
Below HH Trulshik Rinpoche's new monastery in Sitapaila, in
the Kathamandu Valley, Nepal. Photos: Matthieu Ricard
Photo: Matthieu Ricard