The Life and Works of Tsulchen Rinpoche

The Sun of Teachings, His Eminence Tsulchen Thegchog Tempai Nyima Rinpoche (1)

H.E. Tsulchen Thegchog Tempai Nyima Rinpoche is a senior dharma master from the Bon Buddhist tradition at Tokden Monastery in Amdo, Tibet. Currently, Rinpoche is one of the most important lineage holders of the Kundrol Dragpa and Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen teachings. He is the closest dharma friend of Kundrol Mongyal Lhasey Rinpoche.

The detail of his life and teachings are shared on the occasion of Tsulchen Rinpoche’s upcoming visit to Thailand during December 13-23, 2017 to give teachings, and oral transmissions as well as chair the Phapa offering ceremony for the World Peace Great Stupa under construction at Kundrol Ling, Thailand.

This biography of Tsulchen Rinpoche is compiled from a collection of teachings by Tsulchen Rinpoche as well as an interview with Ajarn Meu Yonten, who spent 27 years at Tokden Monastery under guidances of Tsulchen Rinpoche and the late Triwa Rinpoche.

Tokden Monastery

Tsulchen Thegchog Tempai Nyima Rinpoche is a Tulku (reincarnated lama) of Maha Pundita Tsultrim Tempai Gyaltsen who was the 2nd Tsulchen Rinpoche, therefore he becomes the 3rd Tsulchen Rinpoche. However, from the main guru lineage (Larab) of Tokden Monastery he is the 13th guru.

Formerly, Tokden Monastery was a hermitage of tantric yogis and yoginis, and the name Tokden was not used. Its history can be dated back since the year 1385 (B.E. 1928).

In 1966, a learned monk called Tokden Yungdrung Tsultrim came to stay in a retreat in the hermitage and transformed the place into a monastery. He was hence the first guru of the monastery or the First Larab.

Also at that time Token Yungdrung Tsultrim invited three masters who were descendants of Buddha Tonpa Shenrab, namely Shenten Phuntsog Wangyal, Shen Jowo Leg, and Shen Sonam Temba, to Tokden monastery. They all traveled for many months from Tsang province in central Tibet to Ngawa (Aba) in Amdo.

The Shenrab clan (Shentshang) is therefore continued uninterruptedly at Tokden until today. All the three Shens were patrons of the main assembly hall which was constructed with 20 pillars. They also sponsored the casting and consecration of statues. Previously when the monastery was a hermitage there was no main assembly hall; therefore, the consecration and prayers were conducted at the master’s private residence.

Subsequently, the main disciple of Tokden Yungdrung Tsultrim named Sonam Phuntsog and Tsultrim Yeshe who were shepherds, were later ordained. They practiced according to the teachings of their root guru.

In particular, they practiced “Nyensa Trim” or the wandering practice of Chod (cutting through the ego), visiting numerous places such as a hundred of mountains, a hundred of cemeteries, a hundred of villages, a hundred of high plains, and a hundred of water sources. Both had undertaken pilgrimage to these places together with the two sheep that carried their food.

The two traveled all over central region, to spiritual places such as those related to the Shenrab lineage in Tsang, Mount Kongbo Bonri, Lhasa, Mount Kailash, as well as borders of northern Nepal. They received many empowerments and teachings from Shentshang’s seat including the practice of Sipa Gyalmo on her red mule ride, which enabled the practice of Shenrab lineage continue uninterruptedly at Tokden monastery until today.


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