KHENCHEN THRANGU RINPOCHE
The Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche was born in Kham, Tibet, in 1933. At the age of five, he was formally recognized by His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa and Tai Situpa as the ninth incarnation of the great Thrangu tulku. He entered Thrangu monastery, where, from the ages of seven to sixteen, he studied reading, writing, grammar, poetry, and astrology, memorized ritual texts, and completed two preliminary retreats. At sixteen, under the direction of Khenpo Lodro Rabsel, he began the study of the three vehicles of Buddhism while in retreat. At twenty-three he received full ordination from the Karmapa.
Because of the Chinese military takeover of Tibet, Thrangu Rinpoche, then twenty-seven, was forced to flee to India in 1959. He was called to Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, where the Karmapa has his seat in exile. Because of his great scholarship and unending diligence, he was given the task of preserving the teachings of the Kagyu lineage; the lineage of Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa, so that one thousand years of profound Buddhist teachings would not be lost.
He continued his studies in exile, and at the age of thirty-five he took the geshe examination before 1500 monks at Buxador monastic refugee camp in Bengal and was awarded the degree of Geshe Lharampa. Upon his return to Rumtek, he was awarded the highest Khenchen degree. Because many of the Buddhist texts in Tibet were destroyed, Thrangu Rinpoche helped in beginning the recovery of these texts from Tibetan monasteries outside of Tibet. He was named Abbot of Rumtek monastery and the Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies at Rumtek. Thrangu Rinpoche, along with Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, was one of the principal teachers at the Institute, training all the younger tulkus of the lineage, including The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, who was in the first class. He was also the personal tutor of the four principal Karma Kagyu tulkus: Shamar Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Gyaltsab Rinpoche.
Thrangu Rinpoche established the fundamental curriculum of the Karma Kagyu lineage taught at Rumtek. In addition, he taught with Khenpo Karthar, who had been a teacher at Thrangu Rinpoche’s monastery in Tibet before 1959, and who is now head of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, New York, the seat of His Holiness Karmapa in North America.
Because of his vast knowledge of the Dharma and his skill as a teacher, he was appointed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be the personal tutor for His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa.
Rinpoche is especially known for making complex teachings accessible to Western students. Thrangu Rinpoche is a recognized master of Mahamudra meditation. Around 1976, Thrangu Rinpoche began giving authentic Buddhist teachings in the West. He has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. In 1984, he spent several months in Tibet where he ordained over one hundred monks and nuns and visited several monasteries. In the United States, Thrangu Rinpoche has centers in Maine and California, and the Vajra Vidya Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado. Highly qualified monks and nuns from Thrangu Rinpoche’s monastery will give retreatants instruction in various intensive practices. He often visits and gives teachings in centers in New York, Connecticut, and Seattle, Washington. In Canada, he gives teachings at his center in Vancouver and has a center in Edmonton. He is the Abbot of Gampo Abbey, a Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia. He conducts yearly Namo Buddha seminars in the United States, Canada, and Europe, which are also part of a meditation retreat.
Thrangu Rinpoche also constructed a large, beautiful monastery in Sarnath, India, overlooking the Deer Park where the Buddha gave his first teaching on the Four Noble Truths. This monastery is named Vajra Vidya after the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, and it is now the seat for the annual Kagyu conference led by His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa. His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to Sarnath to perform a ceremony in the Deer Park with the Karmapa, Thrangu Rinpoche, and other high lamas.
After twenty years at Rumtek, in 1976 Thrangu Rinpoche founded the small monastery of Thrangu Tashi Choling in Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal. Since then, he has founded a retreat center and college at Namo Buddha, east of the Kathmandu Valley, and has established a school in Boudhanath for the general education of Tibetan lay children and young monks in Western subjects as well as in Buddhist studies. In Kathmandu, he built Tara Abbey, which offers a full dharma education for Tibetan nuns, training them to become khenpos or teachers. He has also established a free medical clinic in an impoverished area of Nepal.
For more about Thrangu Rinpoche, please visit www.rinpoche.com. There you will find further information about Rinpoche’s activities as well as his teaching schedule.
VENERABLE KHENPO LOBZANG
Venerable Khenpo Lobzang Tenzin is highly regarded teacher under Thrangu Rinpoche and the Kagyu lineage. Acclaimed for his broad understanding and beloved for his cheerful manner and kindness, he unites a natural affinity for teaching with sound expertise in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and practice.
Khenpo Lobzang’s parents moved from Tibet to Bhutan in 1950 before exile of the Tibetan population was widespread. His father, a Lharampa Geshe from Ganden Monastery in Tibet had a strong influence on his only son born in 1969. He lived near a small monastery offered by the 3rd King of Bhutan to His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, who in turn offered it to Thrangu Rinpoche. Though sending an only son to a monastery is highly unusual in Himalayan cultures, his family could not ignore his powerful connection to the Dharma, and consented to his wish as a young boy to be a monk and enter the monastery at age nine.
In 1981 at thirteen years of age he moved to Thrangu Tashi Choling monastery and began his studies in earnest learning rituals and studying commentaries. He received full ordination (gelong) from Thrangu Rinpoche in 1985. Khenpo became eager to study all aspects of the Buddha Dharma and was given unusual access to instruction from not only in the Kagyu scriptures, but all four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism thriving in multiple branches of learning. This receptivity to the full range of the Buddha’s teachings, a hallmark of the Rime, or nonsectarian approach, characterizes Khenpo’s teaching style to this day. He studied under great masters such as Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche, Kyabje Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, as well as Sakya Khenchen Apey Rinpoche
At twenty-two he entered the shedra at Namo Buddha, Nepal. At shedra his learning was so advanced that he, together with Zuri Rinpoche, was appointed teaching assistant or “Khorpon.” He completed his five-year studies with high distinction, at which time he became a “Lopon.” After graduating from monastic college he completed the Kagyu Mahamudra Ngöndro retreat at Namo Buddha Retreat Center. Thereafter he served as Head Umze (Chant Leader) for one year at Thrangu Tashi Choling in Boudhanath, Nepal, where he became proficient in the main tantric sadhanas of the lineage. In 1996 he was awarded the prestigious title of “Khenpo.” The title “Khenpo” is a honorary and specific title indicating mastery over buddhist philosophy; or an equivalent or similar level to a PhD in Theology.
In 2004, Thrangu Rinpoche appointed Khenpo Lobzang Principal Professor and Director of the Vajra Vidya Institute monastic colleges in Nepal and India. He held the esteemed position for nearly ten years.
A teacher by nature, he delighted in instructing students in the monastic colleges, even alongside his considerable administrative duties. He taught shedra classes for the monks and seminar classes for foreign students. He also supervised the monks preparation for the annual Karma Guncho debate competition among Kagyu monasteries, headed by His Holiness the Karmapa. Alongside his duties at the shedra he served as guest lecturer at the Central University of Tibet Studies, in Sarnath, India from 2005-2006 teaching courses in Indian Buddhist philosophy.
As Thrangu Rinpoche sought to continue to establish access to more teachers in the West for his students and activities abroad, in 2009 he sent Khenpo Lobzang to augment his English studies at Oxford, England. His first trip to the USA was while abroad at Oxford and he first visited Khenpo Jigme at Vajra Vidya in Crestone in 2009.
In 2013, Khenpo Lobzang left India to join the vajra master (retreat master) Khenpo Jigme of the Vajra Vidya Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado. This is the North American seat of Dharmic actives for Thrangu Rinpoche. His timing coincided to support the undertaking of the the historic inaugural Kagyu tradition three-year retreat. He and vajra master Khenpo Jigme have known one another for over thirty years, went through shedra together and comprise a perfect team of excellences to guide the students of Thrangu Rinpoche in the west.
Currently, he serves as the director of the Vajra Vidya Retreat Center in Crestone and in addition to his duties as director he provides instructions to visiting retreatants in short and long term retreat. Khenpo also gives teachings in English for various study groups and Dharma centers throughout the United States.
Both Thrangu Rinpoche and His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa have frequently acclaimed Khenpo Lobzang’s gift for teaching. In a beautiful calligraphy personally executed by His Holiness, he plays on Khenpo Lobzang’s name, which means: “Doctrine Holder of Excellent Intelligence,” writing: “The sun of Excellent Intelligence dispels darkness.” Thrangu Rinpoche likewise praises Khenpo’s superior qualities, also weaving his name into a verse of aspiration written especially for him:
Through your intelligence free of all attachment
And meticulously excellent conduct,
May you hold the precious nonsectarian doctrine of the Buddha
Without decline, spreading and sustaining it with strength!
VENERABLE KHENPO JIGME
Venerable Khenpo Jigme is a teacher of deep magnitude and humble appearances that exemplifies the saying “still waters run deep.” Known for his extraordinary generous and kind nature he is always found wanting to be helpful in any way he can. He has devotedly served the North American Thrangu Rinpoche sangha with aspirations for both spreading and preserving the teachings of his teachers, and the Kagyu lineage.
Khenpo Jigme was born into the very special Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan in 1968. At twelve years of age he became the first Bhutanese monk of the Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery in Kanglung, Bhutan. For all young monks monastic education begins with learning Tibetan, studying scriptures and learning the details of Buddhist rituals.
In 1983 he came to study at Thrangu Rinpoche's ghompa in Nepal; the Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery and received full ordination (gelong) from Rinpoche. During his time in Kathmandu Jigme mastered both ritual practices and Tibetan grammar. Khenpo Jigme entered the Namo Buddha Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies at Namo Buddha, Nepal in 1989 at the age of twenty-one and completed the five-year Shedra (monastic college) program with distinction. In 1994 he undertook the traditional three year closed retreat at the retreat center at Namo Buddha under the guidance of a qualified retreat master trained since childhood under the great 16th Karmapa’s guidence.
Typically during a three year retreat all the rituals and meditations of the Karma Kagyu lineage are accomplished. Upon completion of his retreat Jigme was given the title of Lama, that of “teacher” in the Kagyu tradition.
As Khenpo Jigme was both known and appreciated for his vast skills in all aspects of Buddhist philosophy, rituals and meditation, Thrangu Rinpoche appointed him as a primary and honored teacher for both the Namo Buddha Institute in Nepal and the Vajra Vidya Institute in Sarnath, India. Rinpoche instilled him with the title of “Khenpo” in 1997. The title “Khenpo” is a honorary and specific title indicating mastery over Buddhist philosophy; or an equivalent or similar level to a PhD in Theology. Khenpo Jigme has since been one of the main teachers of the two monastic colleges, as well as extensively teaching Buddhist Dharma throughout Asia in Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Thrangu Rinpoche wanted to provide his western audiences with a skilled master of ritual and meditation. He felt Khenpo Jigme was immensity qualified to reside over the new North American retreat center in the USA; Vajra Vidya located in Crestone, Colorado and provide any teachings his students may need. Therefore in 2005 Thrangu Rinpoche sent Khenpo Jigme to guide his North American students and especially asked him to oversee the specific needs of those doing retreat in Crestone. It was his intention that he would occasionally travel to his various sangha’s and also to his Canadian monetary in Vancouver, BC. Since arrival in the USA Khenpo has preformed empowerments and given teachings in all of Rinpoche’s North American centers. Khenpo is especially gifted from his own accomplishments in his three year retreat to be the vajra master, or “retreat master” for any short or long term retreat. Therefore he was instructed to being the inaugural three year Mahamudra retreat at Vajra Vidya in Crestone.
Khenpo Jigme gives teachings to western students, both with translated Dharma talks, individual guidance and instructions in meditation practice with emend amounts of precision and deep understanding of the meaning behind the texts, rituals and visualizations. He has also helped to teach an intensive program in Tibetan language for westerners. As a vajra master he is gifted in his ability to make the higher tannic teachings both accessible and understood to non-native speakers with concise precision and examples in our western culture. Many students remark that Khenpo’s unassuming and direct and friendly style are quick to cut any doubts one may have about how to preform various practices or how to relate to our modern life in the western word within the viewpoint of Buddhadharma.
Following the conclusion of the three year retreat at Crestone in 2016 it has been the wish of Thrangu Rinpoche that Khenpo give more frequent and regular public teachings. Khenpo regularly teaches at the retreat center in Crestone, for the Colorado Springs sangha and in Thrangu’s sangha in Maine. He also traveled back to Asia teach for a variety of sangha’s throughout Asia and for the inauguration of Thrangu Rinpoche’s new monastery in Tibet which was rebuilt following the devastating earthquake in 2010.
Khenpo is well loved for his down to earth kindness, honesty and example of loving kindness. He has a gift for both simple and direct explanations and provides guidance with a deep understanding of Buddhist philosophy as it applies to those of us brought up and living in the western world.
NASHALLA G. NYINDA
Nashalla G. Nyinda Menpa TMD grew up in Colorado and formally began her study of Tibetan Medicine in 1999 at Naropa University. She received her BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Naropa University in 2002.
Complementary and Alternative Medicines were already a part of her work when she began to incorporate Sowa Rigpa, The Healing Sciences of Tibet into her studies of Asian healing techniques. Certified as a teacher of the TARA Approach in 2004, she actively taught this Japanese acupressure system focusing on the release of trauma stored in the nervous system. Nashalla later translated this acupressure system into Tibetan, teaching it abroad in Asia to both Tibetan Drs and students.
Nashalla began to long for more authentic study of Tibetan Medicine. No schools were available for westerners, nor were there any serious or complete study materials available in the English language. At the insistence of her root lama, the Very Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche who told her to completely study the Tibetan medical system and with strong faith in his advise; she followed his directive and moved to Darjeeling, India in 2005. Nashalla had the heartfelt motivation to understand the system completely from the original texts. She felt time abroad with emersion into the culture, language and medicine was the only way to learn it. Nashalla studied for two years in Darjeeling, India under doctors from the Chagpori Clinic and studied formal Tibetan language at the Manjushree Center for Tibetan Culture.
Nashalla married a senior physician she met in India, Dr Tsundu S. Nyinda and returned to the USA to join the Shang Shung Institute of America when expecting their first child. Joining the Shang Shung’s first group of western individuals to receive full in-classroom training in a traditional manner taught in both Tibet and exile was a great fortune and ripening to end her formal studies in Sowa Rigpa.
Nashalla earned her Menpa degree (Doctor of Tibetan Medicine) from Qinghai Tibetan Medical College, Tibet and The Shang Shung Institute of Tibetan Medicine in 2009 after a decade of study. She is among a very small handful of Western persons to complete training as a fully qualified traditional Tibetan Medical Doctor; and to hold certification from a qualified Tibetan Medical College.
As she began to work as a Menpa she realized quickly that the four main principles of treatment; Diet, Behavior, Medicine and Accessory Therapy had a major ability to help stabilize meditation and that was a offering that had not yet been fully explored in the western population she was working with. Many long time Buddhist practitioners became her patients and she believed firmly that understanding how their Buddhist practice relates to “behavior” modification as a part of treatment became a vital aspect of helping stabilize overall wellbeing. Seeking again the advise of Thrangu Rinpoche, Nashalla asked him about various practices and the effects of Buddhist practices on the three root poisons. She asked many detailed questions about stabilizing the mind, the winds, channels and drops as she could in relationship to the viewpoint of the Tibetan medicine system from many high lamas, rinpoche’s and teachers who understand the relations ship of the three poisons on the development f disease and mental habitual patterns.
The three root poisons in the Tibetan medical system give rise to the three humors or translated roughly as “faults” which bring about a flowering or manifestation of all imbalances within the body, mind and emotional or spiritual realm. As the healing system of Tibet is a Buddhist system, it is well understood that all disease arises from the root cause of Ignorance, just as the Buddha taught. Learning to treat according to how one should be engaging in spiritual practices, regardless if they are Buddhist or otherwise and working with the Medicine Buddha practice as a healer physician became a cornerstone of her practice as a Menpa.
Nashalla began teaching meditation to patients while continuing to seek advise on how best to instruct patients in mediation as a physician. She also discussed the medicine Buddha practice as a physician working with others with her teacher the 5th Poru Tulku Rinpoche, Paltul Rinpoche, a superior Kagyu physician of Tibetan Medicine who gave her original Menla (Medicine Buddha) transmissions. She often asks for clarification and instructions from Thrangu Rinpoche as well as her local teachers and longtime friends Venerable Khenpo Jigme and Venerable Khenpo Lobzang Tenzin who knew her as a young student studying in India. Nashalla began teaching formal mediation and group practice in 2014. The Khenpo’s also told her to begin to teach the Medicine Buddha practice. Her primary teachings are on basic calm abiding meditation with how this relates to the three root poisons and working with placement of the mind. She and Khenpo Lobzang Tenzin teach Medicine Buddha together yearly in a weekend retreat at the Shambhala Mountain Center.
Nashalla currently practices in Boulder, Colorado and teaches at various Buddhist centers, Naropa University and for Sorig Khang International. Her main teachings are on Tibetan medicine, meditation and a western Anatomy course at Naropa University. Her deepest passion continues to be helping people integrate Traditional Tibetan Medicine, the spiritual practices it contains and the benefits of knowing ones own mind, basic habitual dominances into the three root poisons and how working with them can be transformative.