Gyatrul Rinpoche from the cover of Meditation, Transformation, and Dream Yoga

The great Gyatrul Rinpoche passed away on April 8th, 2023.  Born in 1925 and recognized as a Tulku by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and Tulku Natsok Rangrol, was instrumental in establishing many Nyingma centers throughout the US.  Two of his many students include the outstanding lama and translator Sangye Khandro and B. Alan Wallace.

Rinpoche wrote in his introduction to Kongtrul's The Teacher-Student Relationship,

"All teachers must eventually leave this world, just as did the Buddha himself. Yet, the lineage that we still receive, the legacy of their enlightened awareness, is passed on from generation to generation through the teachings that remain. Since that is inevitable, what we have to call a lineage in their physical absence is the blessing of their unbroken lineage of teachings. This is what we, in turn, are expected to pass on to our and future generations. If we were to depend solely upon the physical presence of the teacher, then the lineages would have been lost long ago. The Buddha said, 'I shall reveal the path that leads to liberation. You must practice the path in order to reach liberation.'"

Photo from Spacious Path to Freedom, taken by Deborah Korman

A Brief Biography of Gyatrul Rinpoche

from The Generation Stage of Buddhist Tantra

The Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche was born in the year of the Wood Ox, 1925, in Szechuan Province, China. Born into a noble family, he spent a happy childhood with parents and family members for his first eight years. In his eighth year Rinpoche was formally discovered as the reincarnation of Gyatrul Rinpoche, taken to Dhomang Monastery (an important branch Payul Monastery), enthroned and placed under the strict care of his root guru Tulku Natsog Rangdrol and other tutors. Gyatrul Rinpoche was formally discovered by Dzongzar Khentsey Rinpoche who issued a statement detailing the young tulku's whereabouts, name of parents, place of birth and further particulars. This information was identical to the statement issued by Tulku Natsog Rangdrol.

Once enthroned at Dhomang Monastery, Rinpoche began many years of formal study and training. As a young man he maintained constant company with his root guru Tulku Natsog, spending many years with him in solitary retreat, moving from one isolated location to another. Rinpoche has studied under some of the greatest Nyingmapa mahasiddhas of this century and carries with him all the blessings and knowledge that he received directly from his teachers. Due to the onset of the Chinese invasion of Tibet, Rinpoche was told to flee his homeland, and his principal teachers even foretold the details of his future work propagating the Dharma in foreign lands.

Tulku Natsog Rangdrol, who was one of the five emanations of Dudjom Rinpoche ( that of "concerned activity"), stayed behind, explaining that it was his karma to remain. After one year of tremendous hardship on the road to freedom, Rinpoche, who originally departed with a crowd of 20,000, crossed over the Nepalese border to safety with only 200 survivors.

In the years that followed he worked in the service of H.H. the Dalai Lama as well as H.H. the Karmapa. Later, in 1972, H.H. the Dalai Lama and H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche chose Rinpoche as the Nyingmapa representative to accompany the first group of Tibetans to be sent to resettle in Canada. After arriving in the West, Rinpoche travelled extensively around the U.S.A. and Canada at the invitation of Tibetan and Western disciples alike. In 1976 Rinpoche was asked by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, during His Holiness' second visit to the West, to be his spiritual representative. Rinpoche accepted this position out of devotion and, since that time, has maintained his loyal devotion to H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche by establishing many Yeshe Nyingpo centers in the U.S., including a beautiful retreat center  [Tashi Choling] in the Siskiyou mountain range near the border of California and Oregon. The site was consecrated by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche and has hosted many great lamas as well as two wangchens (major lineage empowerments) given by H.H. Penor Rinpoche. The retreat center presently consists of 65 acres of isolated forest land and a four-story traditional temple. The temple is also the site of Rinpoche's residence when he is in the U.S.A. Since 1984 Rinpoche has been making regular visits to the Republic of China, Taiwan, where he has hundreds of devoted disciples. His skillful ability to explain the Vajrayana path in simple terms and his unfailing humor and compassion are the noble qualities for which he is most loved.

*Update: In addition to Tashi Choling Gyatrul Rinpoche founded Orgyen Dorje Den in Alameda, CA, near Oakland.

A Remembrance of Gyatrul Rinpoche by Dizgar Kongrtul Rinpoche on the Day of His Parinirvana, April 8th, 2023

Dzigar KongtrulToday a great master of the Dzogpa Chenpo Lineage passed into parinirvana. I want to take this opportunity to say how much Gyatrul Rinpoche has personally inspired me. I have known Gyatrul Rinpoche since my early twenties. He was a lama with such ease and a great sense of humor, always pulling people’s legs. In this, there were countless small teachings to reflect upon and come out with a great gift of diamonds, if one was willing. When I first moved to America with a young child, due to Elizabeth’s parents’ relationship with Gyatrul Rinpoche as their root teacher, he warmly embraced me with great kindness. From that time onward, he has been an immense inspiration.
He was always very low key and humble, never projecting an air of someone who possessed the great wisdom and knowledge that he did. He gave his life to the service of Dharma in the West 110%. With utmost devotion he served many great masters such as the 16th Karmapa, Dudjom Rinpoche, Penor Rinpoche, Yangtang Rinpoche, and Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche. With tremendous love for his Western students, he requested these great masters to turn the Wheel of Dharma, which they did.
Meanwhile, he himself taught Dharma to many students such as Sangye Khandro and Allan B. Wallace, who are, themselves, now greatly accomplished, prominent teachers. He also built temples like Tashi Choling and Orgyen Dorje Den, filling them with relics, treasures of Dharma, and volumes of precious texts. With anything and everything, Gyatrul Rinpoche engaged with great devotion and love of Dharma for the benefit of beings.
There are many teachers in my life who I have known to possess great wisdom and knowledge. One who could read others’ minds without obstruction, however, as transparently as looking at the palm of one’s hand — there are very few. Gyatrul Rinpoche was one of them. Some years ago, I went to see him at Half Moon Bay in order to discuss something that was on my mind and receive his advice. Before I could open my mouth and relay what I wanted to speak with him about, he already knew, and gave me an answer that was completely appropriate, helpful, and to the point.
He was in this world for almost a century, living into his late nineties according to the Tibetan calendar. In all his activities Gyatrul Rinpoche was exemplarily in carrying out the benefit of beings. Even in his passing he wanted his remains to be a gift of generosity to beings. This sums up who he was — not wasting a single drop of blood or an ounce of flesh in benefiting beings.
It was a great honor and privilege to be present during his last breaths in this world, and witness his parinirvana. I pray that his reincarnation blossom timely and appropriately in the lake of devotion of the students of this lineage.
I want to thank Mimi and his care team for all the love and care that they provided with great tenderness and devotion. I speak for myself and many other teachers in the gratitude felt for such service.
Thank you very much,
Kongtrul Rinpoche

Books by Gyatrul Rinpoche

The three traditional Nyingma texts and Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche's commentary included in this book were selected by him for their relevance to the modern-day spiritual aspirant who must combine and balance quality practice time, work time, and rest time in the course of a busy day. Each of the three texts are translated, followed by a commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche.

The three texts are:

  1. Transforming Felicity and Adversity into the Spiritual Path by the Third Dodrubchen Rinpoche, Jigme Tenpe Nyima
    This was selected as the contemporary classic for improving the quality of daily life experiences and teaching the precise methods through which extremes can be brought to the path. This new English translation is by B. Alan Wallace.
  2. Releasing Oneself from Essential Delusion by Lochen Dharma Shri
    This text is one of the most direct and useful dream yoga accomplishment manuals available.
  3. The Illumination of Primordial Wisdom by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche
    This work by His Holiness is one of the most simple, direct and useful manuals on ascertaining the view, meditation and conduct through the Great Perfection practices of quiescence and insight (samatha and vipassana). This teaching is meant to be
    accomplished in formal sitting sessions and carried into daily life experience.

Ven. Gyatrul Rinpoche's dynamic and practical commentaries on each section are specially tailored to the needs of Western students. The result is an indispensable handbook for practitioners at all levels of experience.

When the Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche arrived in the West many decades ago, he was already a receptacle for an abundance of transmissions received from many of the foremost and authentic masters of our times. Since then, his noble disposition and advanced level of meditation practice has assisted innumerable people, and he has established many Dharma centers.

This book offers an exceptionally clear and accessible presentation of the generation stage practices of deity yoga. Gyatrul Rinpoche explains the state of mind to be established at the beginning of the practice session, the details of the visualization sequences, the three types of offerings, and proper mantra recitation—as well as mudras, tormas, and malas. Practitioners from all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism will find that these teachings enhance their understanding of sadhana practice. Rinpoche's detailed explanations make it possible to practice these meditations as they were intended and as they were practiced in Tibet.

This is perhaps one of the clearest explanations of sadhana practice, and is indispensable for anyone, especially in the Nyingma tradition, who wished to understand the different parts of ritual.  It goes through the following and much more"

  • Preliminaries
  • Establishing the wheel of protection
  • Descent of Blessings
  • Blessing the Offering Substances
  • the Three Meditative Abosrptions
  • Invoking the Wisdom Deity and Requesting Stability
  • The details of offering, homage, and praise
  • Training in visualization
  • Mantras, the various types, and the various types of recitation
  • A detailed description of malas, their types, and qualities

This manual of Tibetan meditation simply and thoroughly presents the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra systems of practice. Karma Chagmé sets forth the stages of meditation practice, including the cultivation of meditative quiescence and insight, the experiential identification of awareness, and the highest steps of Mahamudra and Atiyoga, leading to perfect enlightenment in one lifetime. Drawing from his enormous textual erudition and mastery of Tibetan oral traditions, he shows how these two meditative systems can be unified into a single integrated approach to realizing the ultimate nature of consciousness.

He covers in detail:

  1. A Treasury of Oral Transmissions
  2. The Stage of Generation
  3. The Cultivation of Quiescence
  4. The Cultivation of Insight
  5. Identification
  6. Practice
  7. Mahamudra
  8. Atiyoga
  9. Sealing with the Dedication

A Spacious Path to Freedom

$27.95 - Paperback

By: Karma Chagme & B. Alan Wallace

Gyatrul Rinpoche wrote a length introduction to Jamgon Kongtrul's The Teacher-Student Relationship.

"Since the spiritual teacher is the one who bestows the gift of the dharma and the dharma is the path leading all beings from the three realms of cyclic existence to the state of permanent freedom, accomplishing the purposes of self and all other sentient beings, the importance of this relationship should be obvious. Since Western practitioners are educated, intelligent people, this point should be easily understood. lf, when first embarking upon the path, you are already thinking yourself to be someone very special, how can you expect to receive true benefit from your relationship with the teacher and the dharma? If you are feeling hungry and your mouth is hanging open, then at least you should take the food that you receive into your mouth, chew it, and digest it. In this way, you can avoid hunger, indigestion, and poor health. Otherwise, ingesting food into your mouth, failing to chew it properly, and digesting it poorly so that it contributes to ill health, is similar to the way that many Westerners approach the dharma. Taking too much food into the mouth is also going to produce similar results. Many Western students, although unprepared and under-qualified to receive spiritual transmissions on certain levels, force themselves into the teaching situation. Without a strong foundation, not only are they utterly unequipped to help others, they actually bring harm upon themselves. Children who eat like this will vomit their food, and adults who act like this will end up confused."

Books about Gyatrul Rinpoche

The Gyatrul incarnation Pema Do-ngak Tendzin Ngésang Chökyi Nangwa (1830-1892) was the second throne holder of the Nyingma monastery of Darthang in Golok Province, and became the seventh throne holder of Palyul Monastery. He appears throughout Jamgon Kongtrul's incredible account of his own life.  The young Gyatrul Rinpoche came from Palyul to study with Jamgon Kongtrul and their lives were very intertwined.

"During this time I had a dream in which Gyatrul from Palyul Monastery gave me what seemed like a golden balance, treating me with great respect. I gave the balance back, placing it around his neck, and entrusted both him and Moktsa Tulku to uphold these teachings, reciting prayers of benediction at length. In accordance with my dream, Gyatrul has gone on to bestow the transmission of The Treasury of Precious Hidden Teachings three times."

Lama and translator Sangye Khandro recounts much of her life with Gyatrul Rinpoche in her profile in Dakini Power.  

Dakini Power

$22.95 - Paperback

By: Michaela Haas

One of Gyatrul Rinpoche's students, Lama Bruce Newman, wrote A Beginner's Guide to Tibetan Buddhism.  He relates stories of Gyatrul Rinpoche throughout.

In one example,

"Gyatrul Rinpoche emphasizes cultivating the ability to offer without holding back. You offer your possessions, body, and merit without any hesitation. It is a practice that can truly open your heart and prepare you for the next stage of ngondro—guru

A Beginner's Guide to Tibetan Buddhism

$19.95 - Paperback

By: Bruce Newman