Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche was born in 1954 in
a village near Lhakhang Dzong in the southern region of Tibet bordering
Bhutan called Lhodrak. From his birth, his parents had a strong feeling
that they should place him in the nearby monastery of Nub Namkha'i Nyingpo.
The head lama, Namkha'i Nyingpo Rinpoche, was the tulku of one of the
twenty-five disciples of Guru Padmasambhava. Along the deep Himalayan
valley were many caves and holy places associated with Guru Padmasambhava
and several of the great tertons who, in later generations, rediscovered
his teachings. Among them were Guru Chowang, Terton Ratna Lingpa and
Terton Padma Lingpa.
The village was on the main trade route from Lhasa
to Bhutan and the people were relatively prosperous. In 1962 Khenpo and his family fled through the mountains
and made their way through Bhutan to India.
After arriving in India, he and his sisters were
sent to a government boarding school for Tibetans in Darjeeling, West
Bengal. There he began his formal education. The curriculum included
the usual primary school subjects as well as English, Hindi and basic
dharma teachings. At the age of ten he took the robes of a monk and
received the vows of a novice (ge-tsul). He continued his education
up to the eighth grade. Year after year, he was always at the head of
In 1969 he entered the Central Institute of Higher
Tibetan studies at Sarnath, near Varanasi. There he followed a nine-year
curriculum in Buddhist studies and general education under his principal
teacher, Khenpo Palden Sherab, and other masters. His class work included
Sanskrit, English and intensive studies in the textual traditions of
Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. He graduated with the degree of Acharya
in 1978, ranking first overall among the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism
represented at Sarnath. His Holiness the Dalai Lama honored his achievement
with the award of a silver medal. After graduation he was invited to
teach at Palyul Namdroling Monastery at the Tibetan settlement in Bylakuppe,
near Mysore in South India. For several years he was engaged in training
the young monks and teaching in the monastic college, theNgagyur Nyingma Institute (Shedra). In 1983 he was enthroned as a khenpo by His Holiness Pema
Norbu Rinpoche. In the Nyingmapa tradition, a khenpo is a professor
of Buddhist studies.
Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso has received all of the major
lineage empowerments and transmissions of the Nyingmapa school, including
the Dudjom Tersar from Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche; the Longchen Nyingthig
Yabshi, and Nyingma Kama from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche; and the Rinchen
Terdzod and Nam Chos from Pema Norbu Rinpoche. He has done intensive
dzogchen practice under the guidance of Penor Rinpoche and other eminent
masters including Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche.
Pema Norbu Rinpoche has authorized him to represent the monastery and
to teach, to confer empowerments and to give personal instruction in
Khen Rinpoche has traveled and taught extensively
in America, in Taiwan, and among the overseas Chinese communities in
Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. His open, direct and thorough
style of teaching has been very well received. He recently gave the
empowerment of the Gyud Sangwai Nyingpo (Guhyagarbha Tantra) followed
by extensive teachings on Mipham Rinpoche's commentary, Odsal Nyingpo.
This was the first time that this fundamental Nyingma tantra was explained
in such great detail in the USA.