Soktse Rinpoche (Tib. སོག་རྩེ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་, Wyl. sog rtse rin po che) aka Kunzang Tendzin Gyaltsen (ཀུན་བཟང་བསྟན་འཛིན་རྒྱལ་མཚན་, kun bzang bstan 'dzin rgyal mtshan) (1928 - 2023) was one of the oldest living disciples of Dudjom Rinpoche and a major Drukpa Kagyü and Dudjom Tersar lineage holder. Based in Ladakh, in the northern part of India, he literally spent half of his life in strict meditation retreats. He passed into parinirvana on 30th October 2023 in Delhi, India.
Birth, Family and Recognition
Soktse Rinpoche was born in 1928 and is the sixth in a line of incarnations that goes back to Rechungpa, the great disciple of Milarepa. The fifth Soktse Rinpoche left a letter indicating various signs about this incarnation’s birth. The abbot of Mindroling Monastery at the time, Dordzin Gaje Rinpoche, had also predicted a couple of years before where the reincarnation would be born and the eighth Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche, Tokden Paksam Gyatso, received clear signs about Soktse Rinpoche’s rebirth. Yongdzin Rinpoche discovered the child at age five and then confirmed the reincarnation with the fifteenth Karmapa, Khakhyap Dorje.
Although the previous incarnation was Drukpa Kagyü, Soktse Rinpoche’s parents insisted on putting him in a Gelugpa monastery. Soktse Rinpoche stayed in this monastery from the age of six to the age of eighteen.
Soktse Rinpoche spent several years studying with Yongzin Rinpoche, receiving many Kagyü and Nyingma transmissions, and completing the ngöndro twice, before beginning a long series of kyerim retreats.
During his time studying with Karak Yongzin Rinpoche, Soktse Rinpoche also met Dudjom Rinpoche, and later Bomta Khenpo, aka Polu Khenpo Dorje, who gave him Dzogchen teachings over the course of seventeen years.
Soktse Rinpoche’s three root gurus are therefore:
- Karak Yongzin Rinpoche
- Dudjom Rinpoche
- Polu Khenpo Dorje
Soktse Rinpoche's main monastic seat is in the high border region of Ladakh in northern India, where he also established a nunnery called Tashi Chöling, in Hanley, Ladakh. He has also established a nunnery and retreat center at Kechuperi in the mountains of western Sikkim.
Due to his tremendous realization, Soktse Rinpoche's presence in Ladakh has brought great peace and harmony to the area. When Rinpoche came to Ladakh, there were many signs. Local people noticed that this arid region was blessed with a great deal of rain, making the harvests extremely plentiful. Fewer people became sick. Even attacks by wild dogs were less frequent.
Soktse Rinpoche has literally spent half of his life in strict meditation retreats, having completed several three-year retreats, and many shorter ones. Numerous lamas have received meditation teachings from Soktse Rinpoche.
Over the years, Soktse Rinpoche has refused many offers to travel abroad and teach in Asia, North America and Europe, preferring to stay on retreat and spend time with his teachers, Dudjom Rinpoche and Punda Khen Rinpoche.
However, in 1991 and 1999, he made two visits to the U.S. at the request of Chhoje Rinpoche, where he gave extensive teachings, including guiding a group of students on a year long retreat. He also gave Dzogchen teachings and empowerments from the Dudjom Tersar lineage and the terma lineage of His Eminence Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche in the USA in the Autumn of 2017.
One of Soktse Rinpoche's main students is Chhoje Rinpoche.