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Khenchen Rinpoche - Short Biography 

Khenchen Rinpoche was born in 1930 in Nangshen of Kham. He began monastic training at the age of five after being sent to the Bakyod Monastery by his father. This monastery was a three-day horse ride from his childhood home. When he was seventeen his father died, leaving behind the wish for him to practice diligently and become a good Dharma practitioner.

Khenchen Rinpoche took the full monk's vows in 1948 at the age of nineteen. Shortly thereafter he started his first traditional three-year, three-month, three-day retreat and completed it in 1951. In 1952, he started his second such retreat. Due to excessive efforts in practice, he became physically weak and had to come out after one year. In order to regain stability of mind, he began to visit and pay homage to various holy places in Tibet. In 1954, at the age of twenty-five, he re-entered his second retreat. During that period all the senior teachers of the monastery recognized his superior qualities and appointed him to be an instructor for retreats. Thus he was given the title of Druponla, or retreat master in 1957, at the age of twenty-eight. Subsequently, in his third retreat he started to teach other retreatants.

At the end of 1959, when the massive destruction in Tibet began, the monks began to escape Tibet and the retreat program was ended prematurely. Druponla, together with four other lamas, made the dangerous one-year journey to Nepal. In the face of various life-threatening situations, hunger and physical exhaustion, they never stopped their practice. After finally arriving in Nepal, the language barriers and different climate, lifestyle and food conditions posed numerous problems. Nevertheless, grievances or hostility never arose in Druponla's mind during this entire process as he thought that all the difficulties he and his traveling companions had faced were a result of karma and that karma had also led them safely to Nepal. This experience enhanced his understandings of the dharma and deepened his faith. After a pilgrimage to the eight holy places of the Buddha in Nepal and India, Druponla's only wish was to see the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.

In 1960, Druponla met with the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa Rigpe Dorje in Sikhim. According to Karmapa's instruction, he stayed in Rumtek Monastery, which was still under construction. While the young monks joined in the construction work, Karmapa assigned Druponla to the practice group doing certain practices every day to clear obstacles. Several years later, Karmapa sent Druponla to take care of the Tashi Choeling Monastery in Bhutan, which had been offered to the Karmapa by the King of Bhutan.

During his three-year stay in Bhutan, Druponla received many Nyingmapa teachings from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, visited numerous holy places where Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava had stayed, including the famous cave of Taktsang (Tiger's Den). Here Padmasambhava had forcefully subdued hostile forces and here also Druponla did a month's retreat on Padmasambhava. Some extraordinary experiences from the practice arose in him.

In the beginning of 1972, Druponla received a letter from the 16th Karmapa asking him to return to Rumtek Monastery before the eighth day of the Tibetan new year to be Trungram Gyalwa Rinpoche's personal tutor (Gegenla). He hesitated and asked the Karmapa whether he was really qualified for the task. The Karmapa reassured him by saying, "If I'm not sure, why would I choose you? I chose you from many lamas." Then Gegenla said, "Because of my father's wishes, I hope to practice in closed retreats for the rest of my life." Karmapa then said, "If you follow my instructions, that's the best practice!"

Therefore, on an auspicious day, Gegenla began to teach Rinpoche the Tibetan language, then various rituals and practices.

When Rinpoche was eight years old, Gegenla received the complete Karma Kagyu teachings from the 16th Karmapa. Later, together with the ten-year-old Rinpoche, he received Sakyapa teachings from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in Nepal.

In 1992, Khenchen Rinpoche was requested by Rinpoche to reside in Taiwan in order to make his primary contribution to the UTBF there. In fulfilling this duty, Khenchen Rinpoche travels to the different Trungram Dharma centers in Taiwan, teaching disciples Buddhist precepts and leading Dharma activities.

Some years ago, in a meeting held at the Karma Kagyu Headquarters in Rumtek, Sikhim, the Red Crown Lama, Shamar Rinpoche, decided to confer the title of Rinpoche upon Gegenla, as Gegenla's practice and realization had proven him worthy of such a title.

November 21, 1999, Gegenla was officially granted the title of Khenchen Rinpoche - the Senior Abbot of Monastic Ordination - by the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dorje.

Click here to see the letter from 17th Karmapa.

In 2001, Khenchen Rinpoche was requested by Rinpoche to teach in other places outside of Taiwan, including Hong Kong and the United States. Recent activities of Khenchen Rinpoche include the giving of important transmissions to holders of the Karma Kagyu lineage, including the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa. From the end of May through mid-August 2002, Khenchen Rinpoche guided a retreat for the 17th Karmapa accompanied by Rinpoche, Nendo Tenam Rinpoche and Drupsing Rinpoche.

Khenchen Rinpoche will be giving extensive instructions in the retreat center in upstate New York.


Khenchen Rinpoche and young  Rinpoche Khenchen Rinpoche and young Rinpoche

Khenchen Rinpoche in a UTBF center
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Khenchen Rinpoche teaching in a UTBF center

Khenchen Rinpoche giving initiation
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Khenchen Rinpoche giving initiation

Khenchen Rinpoche and Disciples in Taiwan
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Khenchen Rinpoche and disciples in Taiwan

Khenchen Rinpoche conducting fire puja
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Khenchen Rinpoche conducting fire puja



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