Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

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Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (Tib. དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་, Wyl. dil mgo mkhyen brtse rin po che) (1910-1991) — born in the Dergé region of Kham, Eastern Tibet, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was recognized as the mind emanation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), and was one of the closest disciples of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s activity emanation, Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö (1893-1959). Regarded by many as one of the greatest Dzogchen masters of the twentieth century, and the very embodiment of Padmasambhava, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was the teacher of many of the important lamas of today.


His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was born in 1910 in Denkhok Valley, eastern Tibet, to a family descended from the royal lineage of the ninth century King Trisong Detsen. While still in his mother’s womb, he was recognized by the great master Mipham Rinpoche as an extraordinary incarnation.

He was one of the last great masters to have completed his entire training in Tibet. He entered Shechen Monastery in Kham, east Tibet, at the age of eleven and there his principal master, Shechen Gyaltsap Gyurme Pema Namgyal, formally enthroned him as an incarnation of the wisdom mind of the first Khyentse Rinpoche, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892). ‘Khyentse’ combines two Tibetan words: མཁྱེན་པ་, khyen, meaning wisdom, and བརྩེ་བ་, tsé, meaning compassion.

In Shechen, Khyentse Rinpoche spent many years studying and meditating in a hermitage above the monastery. He received teachings and transmissions from over fifty teachers from all four lineage traditions. From the ages of fifteen to twenty-eight, he lived in silent retreat, in remote hermitages and caves, actualizing all the teachings he had previously received. Later, he spent many years with his second root teacher Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, also an incarnation of the first Khyentse, who named him his Dharma heir.

When he left Tibet and went into exile, he travelled all over the Himalayas, India, southeast Asia, Europe and North America, transmitting and explaining the teachings to his many disciples. He was not only a principal holder of the Longchen Nyingtik lineage of Dzogchen, but a lineage holder of teachings from all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. This, together with his exemplary activity within the non-sectarian Rimé movement, meant that there was hardly a practitioner in the Himalayas who did not receive teachings from him. He was the master of masters — His Holiness the Dalai Lama considers him as his main teacher of Dzogchen — and also became spiritual advisor to the royal family of Bhutan. He passed away in Bhutan in 1991.

In addition to his tireless teaching activity, Khyentse Rinpoche supervised an exceptional publishing programme, making available over 300 volumes of teachings. The destruction of so many texts during the early sixties in Tibet meant that by taking such pains to publish them, Khyentse Rinpoche ensured their survival for future generations.

Shechen Monastery in Baudhanath, Kathmandu

Khyentse Rinpoche also initiated a vast building programme. He established his main seat near the great stupa in Boudhanath, Nepal — Shechen Tennyi Dargye Ling, a magnificent monastery with over one hundred monks, now directed by Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, his grandson and Dharma heir. All the great communal practices and sacred dances of Shechen Monastery in Tibet have been revived, and are regularly performed by the monks who pay particular attention to every detail to make sure the tradition is kept completely pure and authentic.

In India, he built a stupa in Bodhgaya, at the site where Buddha attained enlightenment. In Bhutan, he built several temples and large stupas. And in Tibet itself, he re-consecrated the monastery of Samye, inaugurated the rebuilding of Shechen monastery, and contributed to the restoration of over two hundred other monasteries and temples throughout the country.

In addition to all these achievements, he composed numerous poems, meditation texts and commentaries. He was a tertön, a discoverer of the teaching ‘treasures’ preserved by Padmasambhava. Throughout his life, he showed himself to be a true embodiment of enlightened activity; he would regularly give his attention to several tasks at the same time, and whatever he was doing seemed to flow effortlessly from his view, meditation and action. His teaching and his life were one.

His reincarnation, Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, was born in Nepal in 1993.

Alternative Names

  • Gyurme Tekchok Tenpé Gyaltsen (Tib. འགྱུར་མེད་ཐེག་མཆོག་བསྟན་པའི་རྒྱལ་མཚན་, Wyl. 'gyur med theg mchog bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan), a name given by Shechen Gyaltsab Gyurme Pema Namgyal
  • Ösel Trulpé Dorje (Tib. འོད་གསལ་སྤྲུལ་པའི་རྡོ་རྗེ་, Wyl. 'od gsal sprul pa'i rdo rje), (tertön name)
  • Pema Do-ngak Lingpa (Tib. པདྨ་མདོ་སྔགས་གླིང་པ་, Wyl. pad+ma mdo sngags gling pa), (tertön name)
  • Rabsal Dawa (Tib. རབ་གསལ་ཟླ་བ་, Wyl. rab gsal zla ba), 'Brilliant Moon', a name he was given by Khenpo Shenga
  • Tashi Paljor (Tib. བཀྲ་ཤིས་དཔལ་འབྱོར་, Wyl. bkra shis dpal 'byor), given by Mipham Rinpoche
  • Jikme Khyentsé Özer (འཇིགས་མེད་མཁྱེན་བརྩེའི་འོད་ཟེར་)

Termas Revealed

  • Jampal Nyingtik, the 'Heart Essence of Manjushri'
  • The 'Fortress Ravine of Nectar Medicine'
  • Green Tara (outer, inner and secret sadhanas)
  • Guru Drakpo (sadhana, empowerment, activity, and feast offering of Guru Drakpo with the lower part of his body in the shape of a dagger)
  • Lhatsun Lhadrup
  • Pema Tseyi Nyingtik
  • Rangjung Pemé Nyingtik

Teachings Given to the Rigpa Sangha

  • Friends House, London, 12 May 1982
  • St Paul’s Crescent, London, 14-15 May 1982. One teaching was on shamatha and vipashyana
  • St Paul’s Crescent, 20 May 1987: empowerments of Guru Rinpoche and Rigdzin Düpa.
  • St Paul’s Crescent, end of June 1987: teaches on two occasions, commenting on Tsik Sum Ne Dek, Shyi Trö, Vima Nyingtik, Khandro Nyingtik and Vajrakilaya.
  • Friends House, London, teaching on the nature of mind.
  • Prapoutel 1990, France

Publications in English

  • Dilgo Khyentse, Jamgon Mipham, Lion of Speech: The Life of Mipham Rinpoche (Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, 2020)
  • Dilgo Khyentse, The Collected Works of Dilgo Khyentse Volumes 1-3 (Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, 2010)
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Zurchungpa’s Testament (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2006)
  • Dilgo Khyentse, Heart of Compassion—The Thirty-Seven Verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2007)
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Padampa Sangye, The Hundred Verses of Advice—Tibetan Buddhist Teachings on What Matters Most (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2006)
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Enlightened Courage—An Explanation of the Seven-Point Mind Training (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, republished 2006)
  • His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Pure Appearance—Development and Completion Stages in the Vajrayana Practice (Halifax: Vajravairochana Translation Committee, 2002). Republished (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2016)
  • His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Primordial Purity—Oral Instructions on the Three Words That Strike the Vital Point (Halifax: Vajravairochana Translation Committee, 1999). Republished (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2016)
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Guru Yoga: According to the Preliminary Practice of Longchen Nyingtik (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1999) (This is a new commentary and not a re-edit of teachings in the book The Wish-fulfilling Jewel)
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, The Excellent Path to Enlightenment (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1996)
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel—The Practice of Guru Yoga According to the Longchen Nyingthig Tradition (Boston: Shambhala, 1999)
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Patrul Rinpoche, The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones (Boston: Shambhala, 1993)

Oral Teachings Given on Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's Life

Further Reading

  • Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche—Centennial Celebration booklet, Shechen Publications, 2010
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Brilliant Moon: An Autobiography of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2008)
  • Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche, 'His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche: A Brief Biography' in Khyentse Özer vol.1, Rigpa Fellowship, August 1990, pp.12-23
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, A Personal Homage by Sogyal Rinpoche, the introduction published in the title above and published separately. Available from Zam
  • Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles (Boston: Shambhala, 1996), pp.292-295
  • Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Blazing Splendor: The Memoirs of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (Boudhanath, Hong Kong, Esby: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2005), Ch. 31, 'Brilliant Moon'.
  • Matthieu Ricard, Journey to Enlightenment: The Life and World of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, (illustrated) Aperture, 1996. Also published under the title The Spirit of Tibet. There is also a documentary directed by Matthieu Ricard with amazing footage of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, which shares the same title.
  • View: The Rigpa Journal, July 2010

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