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mandala To share and promote interest in Tibetan culture, people and land

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

by Ping-Ying Chang
November, 1996
Chinese(BIG5) version

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche1 was recognized as an important incarnation several times when he was little, even before his birth. However, because both of his elder brothers had gone for the monastic life, his father did not want the last son of this wealthy family to become another monk. Therefore, he remained in the family until the age of ten. In that year, a serious accident happened to him and there seemed to be no hope that the young boy could recover. In what seemed to be his final request, he asked his father to bring him the monastic robe and allow him to take the vows of a monk. His request was granted. Miraculously he regained his health and began his new Buddhist life.

In the next few years, he sought teachings from several great masters. At the age of fifteen, he started his silent retreat in caves or simple shelters. Khyentse Rinpoche recalls his practice in that period:

A cuckoo lived nearby, and he was my alarm clock. As soon as I heard him, around three o'clock in the morning, I would get up and start a session of meditation. At five o'clock I made myself some tea, which meant that I had no need to see anyone until lunch time.

For five or six year I ate no meat. For three years I did not speak a single word. At noon, after lunch, I used to relax a little and study some books; I never wasted time doing nothing at all.

After some years of retreat, Khyentse Rinpoche became seriously ill. At this time he followed his teachers' advice to take a consort; It is said this is also necessary for him to be a terton according to the Nyingma tradition. Rinpoche's wife, Khandro Lhamo, was from an ordinary farming family. In the book she describes in detail how Rinpoche continued his practice as before and mentioned several interesting miracles from Rinpoche. In the later years, Rinpoche's wife and his grandson, Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, often accompany him during the travels.

Rinpoche completed his retreat at the age of twenty-eight. He then spent several years with Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro before he started to teach Buddhism. Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro was, like him, one of the five reincarnations of an extraordinarily great lama, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

The Chinese takeover of Tibet did not stop Khyentse Rinpoche from teaching Buddhism. Rinpoche, his family, and the followers escaped from Tibet and went to live in Bhutan. He soon became an revered spiritual teacher to the Bhutanese people, including the royal family.

For teaching Buddhism, Rinpoche not only traveled in Bhutan, but also to Europe, and to the United States. From 1985, he traveled three times back to Tibet. In Tibet, as all other places around the world, lay people and monks came from long distances to receive his blessing and teaching.

No matter where he was, he would get up before dawn for some hours of meditation, then work uninterrupted until late at night. Rinpoche taught to everyone that came to him. Even in the last year of Rinpoche's life, he traveled to Dharamsala and spent a month there to give many important Nyingma empowerments and transmission to the Dalai Lama.

Khyentse Rinpoche passed away in 1991. A boy born on Guru Padmasambhava's birthday (1993) was recognized as his reincarnation. His spiritual heir and grandson, Shechen Rinpoche has taken over the heavy responsibility of continuing the teachings, and so far has had considerable success.


1 Dilgo is his family name, Khyentse means wisdom and love.


  1. Ricard, Matthieu. 1996, Journey To Enlightenment: The Life and World of Khyentse Rinpoche, Spiritual Teacher from Tibet , , : Aperture.