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Buddhadharma : Winter 2014
k henpo Rinpoche is renowned for pos- sessing the intellect and knowledge of a scholar and the realization, humor, and creativity of a yogi. A teacher of the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa and other high-ranking lamas of the Kagyu lineage, he also shares the most profound teachings of Buddhism with lamas and laypeople, women and men, and practitioners, old and new alike. Rinpoche was born in 1935 to a nomad family in eastern Tibet. When he was two years old, his father died suddenly. There- after, his mother devoted herself to dharma practice. As her youngest child, Rinpoche accompanied her on pilgrimages and to dharma teachings, even staying by her side when she undertook extended retreats. Drawn to spiritual practice, Rinpoche left home at an early age to train with yogis who lived and practiced in the remote monaster- ies and caves of eastern and central Tibet. After completing this early training, Rinpoche embraced the life of a yogi- ascetic. For years he wandered throughout Tibet, undertaking solitary retreats in caves and charnel grounds to realize directly the teachings he had received. While in such a retreat in 1959, a group of twenty-one nuns asked Rinpoche for pro- tection from the Communist Chinese invad- ers. When they told him that the Fourteenth Dalai lama and the Sixteenth gyalwang Karmapa had already left Tibet, Rinpoche replied, “Then we are going too!” Rinpoche led the nuns and other refugees over the Himalayas to safety in Bhutan. Rinpoche spent the next nine years at a scholastic monastery for Tibetan refugees on the grounds of an old prison yard in Buxa Duar, India. There he studied intensively, mastering the teachings of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He became renowned as a teacher of texts and meditation, and he received a geshe lharampa degree from the Fourteenth Dalai lama. He later returned to Bhutan, teaching there from 1968 until 1977. In 1977, at the request of the Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Rinpoche began teach- ing abroad. For thirty years, he traveled internationally and taught extensively. Rinpoche was a pioneer in giving careful, long-term training to Buddhist translators. During this time, he spent several months a year training a new generation of Kagyu teachers at the Karmapa’s Nalanda Institute in Sikkim, India. Rinpoche is committed to providing nuns with the same opportunities for study and practice that are traditionally reserved for monks. To that end, he established nun- neries in Nepal and Bhutan. The women at these nunneries study and practice the pro- found view and meditation; they sing and dance to the profound songs of realization. During the years Rinpoche spent teach- ing around the world, when he was asked, “Where do you live?” he usually replied, “On the planet Earth.” However, Rinpoche has since retired from traveling and teach- ing publicly and now lives in his nunnery in Nepal. In February, over six hundred of his students gathered there for his eightieth birthday, a two-week celebration of song, dance, meditation, and prayer. ARI GOlDFIElD served as Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso’s secretary and translator for eleven years. he is now the codirector of Wisdom Sun, a Buddhist community based in San Francisco. a yogi and scholar At age eighty, KhenPo tsultrim gyamtso rinPoche is one of the few remaining Vajrayana masters who trained in pre-Communist Tibet. longtime student ari goldfield recounts his life of devotion to the dharma. PHOTOandyKarr 36 buddhadharma: the Practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 1 4