Eleventh Trungpa Rinpoche


CHOGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE was the first great lama sent by His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa to the West. Trungpa Rinpoche was fluent in English and authored many Dharma texts that caught the attention and devotion of Western students. Trungpa Rinpoche was instrumental in paving the way for His Holiness Karmapa's first visit to the United States, and himself visited and taught at the Karmapa's seat-to-be at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in the late 1970's. Trungpa Rinpoche's devoted students provided this brief biography. May it inspire all who see or hear it.

Trungpa Rinpoche was born in 1940 in the province of Kham in Eastern Tibet. He was recognized as the eleventh incarnate teacher in the teaching lineage known as the Trungpa Tulkus. Trungpa Rinpoche was enthroned as Supreme Abbot of Surmang Monasteries and Governor of Surmang District.

When he was eight years old, Rinpoche received ordination as a novice monk. In 1958, when he was 18 years old, he completed his studies, receiving the degrees of Kyorpon (doctor of divinity) and Khenpo (master of studies). As a Kagyu tulku, training was in meditation and philosophy, and the practice of traditional monastic disciplines, as well as the arts of calligraphy, thanka painting, and monastic dance. Trungpa Rinpoche received full monastic ordination. His primary teachers during his eighteen years of training in Tibet were Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen and Khenpo Kangoshar, teachers from the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages.

Due to the Communist invasion of Tibet, Rinpoche fled to India in 1959. In 1959 the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, appointed Rinpoche to serve as spiritual advisor at the Young Lamas Home School in Dalhousie, India.

In 1964 Rinpoche received a Spaulding Scholarship at Oxford University, where he studied comparative religion, philosophy, and fine arts. He took great interest in Japanese flower arranging, and received a degree from the Sogetsu School. In 1967, he founded Samye Ling Meditation Center in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. In 1969, Trungpa Rinpoche went to Bhutan to do a solitary retreat. This retreat was a turning point in his life, because soon after the retreat, he put aside his monastic robes, became a lay person, married a young Englishwoman, and moved to North America.

Trungpa Rinpoche taught in North America and Europe 17 years, and was one of the first lamas to become fluent in the English language. He taught and travelled extensively, had many students, and established many meditation and study centers. In 1973, Vajradhatu was formed as the central administrative body of Rinpoche's centers. Rinpoche founded in 1974 the Naropa Institute, the only accredited Buddhist-inspired university in North America. Later he formed the Nalanda Translation Committee to translate texts and liturgies.

In 1976, he established the Shambhala Training program, which provides instruction in meditation practice within a secular setting. The Shambhala Teachings are a complete path to Enlightenment, and stress mind-training, community involvement and the creation of an enlightened society. In 1976, Trungpa Rinpoche appointed his American disciple, Osel Tendzin (Thomas F. Rich), as his Vajra Regent (Dharma heir). Osel Tendzin assisted Rinpoche in the administration of Vajradhatu and Shambhala Training, and taught from 1976 until his death in 1990. In 1978, Rinpoche empowered his son Osel Rangdrol Mukpo as his successor in the Shambhala lineage and gave him the title of Sawang (earth lord).

Trungpa Rinpoche was a great meditation master, scholar, and artist. He wrote many books and articles, and his art work included poetry, calligraphy, painting, play writing, flower arranging, and environmental installations. He had particularly profound insights into the relationship between the contemplative discipline and the artistic process.

Trungpa Rinpoche died in 1987, at the age of forty-seven. He is survived by his wife Diana, and five sons. His eldest son, Osel Rangdrol Mukpo, succeeds him as president of Vajradhatu. Trungpa Rinpoche was able to present the Dharma to his Western students in the English language. He joined together the Eastern and Western minds, and fearlessly proclaimed the Dharma in the Occidental world.

 For more information, visit:

Shambhala International
Naropa Institute

Also Available: