Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, whose remarkable life came to an end in September 1991, was one of the foremost poets, scholars, philosophers and meditation masters of the Mahayana, Mahamudra and Great Perfection traditions of Vajrayana buddhism. He was highly respected by thousands of students in Tibet and throughout the world.
His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche completed his education and training in Tibet. He was the senior Lama of the ancient Nyingmapa Tradition and the guru of the royal family of Bhutan, an outstanding upholder of the Practice Lineage who has spent twenty-two years of his life meditating in retreat. He composed numerous poems, meditation texts and commentaries and was a Terton, (a discoverer of spiritual treasures), whose visionary revelations ring Padma Sambhava's profound oral pith-instructions directly to us. He was the exemplary ex-ponent of Tibet's Rime, (or nonsectarian), movement, renowned for his ability to transmit the teachings of each Buddhist lineage according to its own tradition; as such he was the venerated teacher of many lamas of the four major Tibetan schools. He was also one of the leading masters of the pith-instructions of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, and one of the principal holders of the Longchen Nyingtik tradition; His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that he regards Khyentse Rinpoche as his principal Dzogchen teacher.
Scholar, sage and poet, Rinpoche never ceased to inspire all who encountered him through his extraordinary presence, simplicity, dignity and humor. Khyentse Rinpoche was born in 1910 in Denkhok Valley, in Eastern Tibet, to a family descended from the royal lineage of the ninth century king Trisong Detsen. His father was a minister to the king of Derge. When still in his mother's womb he was recognized as an extraordinary incarnation by the illustrious Mipham Rinpoche, who later named the infant Tashi Paljor and bestowed a special blessing and Manjushri empowerment upon him. Even as a little boy, Rinpoche manifested a strong' desire to devote himself entirely to the religious life. His two elder brothers had already left home to pursue monastic careers; one had been recognized as an incarnate lama and the other wanted to become a doctor. Rinpoche's father hoped that his youngest son would follow in his own footsteps and could not accept that he might also be a tulku, or incarnate lama, as had been indicated by several learned masters.
At the age of ten, the boy was taken severely ill; he was bed-ridden for nearly a year. Knowledgeable lamas advised that unless he was allowed to embrace the spiritual life he would not live long. Yielding to everyone's entreaties, his father agreed that the child could follow his own wishes and aspirations in order to fulfil his destiny.
At the age of eleven, Rinpoche entered Shechen Monastery in Kham, East Tibet, one of the six principal monasteries of the Nyingmapa school. There, his root guru, Shechen Gyaltsap, Mipham Rinpoche's Dharma heir, formally recognized and enthroned him as an incarnation of the wisdom-mind of the first Khyentse Rinpoche, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-92), the peerless lama who-along with the first Jamgon Kongtrul-set in motion a Buddhist renaissance throughout Tibet. All contemporary Tibetan masters draw inspiration and blessings from this movement.
Khyen-tse means wisdom and love. The Khyentse tulkus are incarnations of several key figures in the development of Tibetan Buddhism. These include Longchenpa, the brilliant fourteenth century Dzogchen master whose prolific writings illuminate the entire range of Buddhist knowledge; Jigme Lingpa, who, in the eighteenth century, founded the Longchen Nyingtik tradition; and King Trisong Detsen and Vimalamitra who, along with Guru Rinpoche, brought tantric Buddhism to Tibet in the ninth century.
At Shechen, Rinpoche spent much of his time studying and meditating with his root guru in a hermitage above the monastery. It was during this time that Shechen Gyaltsap gave him all the essential empowerments and instructions of the Nyingma tradition. Rinpoche also studied with many other great masters, including the renowned Dzogchen Khenpo Shenga, who imparted to him his own major work, the Thirteen Great Commentaries. In all, he received extensive teachings and transmissions from more than fifty teachers.
Before Shechen Gyaltsap passed away, Khyentse Rinpoche promised his beloved master that he would unstintingly teach whoever asked him for Dharma. Then, from the age of fifteen until he was twenty-eight, he spent most of 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 near his birthplace in Denkhok Valley.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche later spent many years with Dzongsar Khyentse, Chokyi Lodro (1896-1959), who was also an incarnation of the first Khyentse. After receiving from Chokyi Lodro the many empowerments of the Rinchen Terdzo, the collection of Revealed Treasures (termas), Rinpoche told him he wished to spend the rest of his life in solitary meditation. But Khyentse Chokyi Lodro's answer was: "The time has come for you to teach and transmit to others the countless precious teachings you have received." After that Rinpoche worked constantly for the benefit of beings.
Khyentse Rinpoche traveled all over the Himalayas, India, Southeast Asia and the West, transmitting and explaining the teachings to his many disciples. He was often accompanied by his wife, Sangyum Lhamo, and his grandson and spiritual heir, Rabjam Rinpoche.
Wherever he was, he rose well before dawn, and prayed and meditated for several hours before embarking on an uninterrupted flow of activities. Rinpoche made two extended visits to Tibet in recent years, where he inaugurated the rebuilding of the original Shechen Monastery, destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
In Nepal, Khyentse Rinpoche transplanted the rich Shechen tradition to a new home-a magnificent monastery in front of the great stupa of Bodhnath. This is now his principal seat, and houses a large community of monks, led by their abbot Rabjam Rinpoche. It was Khyentse Rinpoche's particular wish that this should be a place where the Buddhist teachings are continued in their pristine purity, just as they were previously studied and practiced in Tibet, and he invested enormous care in the education of young lamas capable of continuing the tradition.
In India, he built a new stupa at Bodhgaya, the site of Shakyamuni Buddha's enlightenment beneath the Bodhi Tree, and planned to construct stupas in each of the seven other great pilgrimage places sacred to Lord Buddha in Northern India. Rinpoche stated that building stupas and monasteries in sacred places helps to avert conflict, disease and famine, promotes world peace, and furthers Buddhist values and practice.
After the systematic destruction of books and libraries in Tibet, many works existed in only one or two copies. Rinpoche was instrumental in saving Tibet's extraordinary heritage of Buddhist teachings by having published before they are lost to the world..
Through his extensive enlightened activity, Khyentse Rinpoche unsparingly devoted his entire life to the preservation and dissemination of the Buddha Dharma. What brought him the greatest satisfaction is to see the Dharma actually practiced.
He made a number of visits to the West, including two North American tours, and taught in many different countries, particularly at his European seat, Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling in Dordogne, France, where people from all over the world have been able to receive extensive teaching from him and several groups of students were able to undertake the traditional three-year retreat program under his guidance.
It was said that merely to see his face ensured eventual liberation. This was a rare and precious opportunity to enter the enlightened presence of an authentic living Buddha.
Dedicated to the impeccable perpetuation of the glorious Kagyu lineage and to the
success of its leaders and followers in accomplishing their commitment to
bring all sentient beings to the state of enlightened awareness.
FOUR LIMITLESS THOUGHTS