The Venerable Nyichang Khentrul Rinpoche

Biographical Summary

Nyichang Khentrul Rinpoche was born in 1932 in southwestern Tibet near the Nepal border. From the age of 6 he studied at Drepung monastery in Lhasa and at age 8 was placed under the tutelage of the great female teacher Shuksep Jetsun Lochen Rinpoche, who recognized the young boy as a tulku (reincarnation) of Buddha Vajra. Rinpoche fled Tibet, relocating to India, in 1959 due to the destruction of the Tibetan monasteries and occupation of his homeland by the Communist Chinese. He was appointed Religious Headmaster at the High Secondary School for Tibetan Refugees in Mussorie, and later taught at Sanskrit University in Varanasi (now known as Sarnath Buddhist University) as Professor of Indian Buddhist Shastras. In 1974 HH the Dalai Lama appointed Rinpoche to Koyasan University in Japan. Since then, he has also taught at universities in Kyoto, Tohoku, Iwate and Gandai. Nyichang Rinpoche is a highly respected scholar-monk, serving as a consultant to other scholars studying rare texts. Currently Rinpoche has dharma students in Japan, Austria, Russia, Estonia, the Netherlands and Italy, and is now becoming better known in the United States.

Look Upon All with a Mother's Eyes
An Interview with Venerable Nyichang Rinpoche by Stephen Comee

Nyichang Khentul Rinpoche was born on the eighth day of the second month of the Wood Boar year (by the Western calendar, April 10, 1935) in the Kyidong valley of southwestern Tibet. He was born in a small village of fewer than 30 dwellings that lay amid the mountains near the border with Nepal. The villagers were mostly devotees of esoteric (Tantric) Buddhism, and his family maintained the post of head priest of the village temple. At the age of seven he was sent to Drepung, one of the three great Gelug colleges, but shortly thereafter his father removed him from Drepung and placed him under the tutelage of the great yogini Shugsep Jetsun Lochen Chonyi Zangmo Rinpoche of Shugsep Temple. His recognition by this realized teacher-practitioner as a tulku (reincarnated lama) was later acknowledged by Drukpa Thukse Rinpoche, who pronounced him to be the reincarnation of Drukpa Sangye Dorje--a great poet and the main disciple of Padma Karpo, sixteenth-century head of the Drukpa Kagyu sect.

He also studied at the Nyingma head temple of Mindrolling as well as the small but excellent Nyima Changra Monastic College (from which his name, Nyichang, derives), and was able to receive instruction under Chodrak Rinpoche, Poba Tulku Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsenden Sangpo Rinpoche, and, after fleeing occupied Tibet, Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (who were both former heads-in-exile of the Nyingma School), His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV, and others. For more than a quarter of a century, he has lived in Japan, to which he came at the request of the Dalai Lama, and where he transmits the Dharma to all who are sincerely interested, regardless of nationality, with absolute fidelity to tradition, while he remains one of the greatest living scholar-monks of the Nyingma tradition.

On behalf of Dharma World, Ven. Nyichang Rinpoche was interviewed by Stephen Comee, our copy editor and his student, at Rinpoche's residence in the suburbs of Tokyo in May and June.