Oral teachings of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
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Venerable Khunu Rinpoche
 

a brief biography

Khunu Rinpoche is said to have been an extraordinary, realized saint, a living master of Dzogchen meditation, who even the Dalai Lama went to for instruction. Khunu Tenzin Gyaltsen was born the second of three sons to Ka lan pur and Norki in 1894 or early 1895 in the village of Shunam in the Rupa region of Kinnaur, or Khu nu (as the local people call it), on the Indo-Tibetan border. His village lay in a relatively prosperous farming region, 2,000 to 2,500 meters above sea level, surrounded by mountains as high as 6,500 meters and drained by the upper reaches of the Sutlej River. The valleys in this region are extremely beautiful, covered with thick forests of mountain pine giving way at lower levels to orchards of apple and apricot trees fringing fields of mountain barley. Though not a rich area in the modern sense, its economy easily supported a traditional way of life that was based on the Tibetan Buddhism of south central Asia and strongly influenced by the accommodating syncretism of the north Indian plains people to the south.

Amongst his own people, Tenzin Gyaltsen is better known by the honorific names Khunu Rinpoche (“precious one from Kinnaur”) and Negi Lama. Negi is a clan or caste name used by almost all the people of Kinnaur except metal workers and weavers, and is said to derive from a term of respect given in earlier times to officials at the court at Rampur, an important town on the Sutlej River. In the case of Negi Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen, Negi refers as well to his personal family name (Ne gi pang), which means the guru from the Negi family, or the guru from the people of the Negi caste. As a sign of respect, and following the customs of his own people, I refer to him as Khunu Rinpoche, or Rinpoche for short. …

Khunu Rinpoche Tendzin GyaltsenKhunu Rinpoche had a spontaneous kindness that extended to all equally, regardless of their sect, religion, or nationality. He saw the great hardship of Tibetan refugees arriving in north India in 1959. He saw that these Tibetans, who had admitted him to schools, taught him, and given him work, were now dazed by the loss of their country and their way of life, often nearly destitute, with little but the clothes on their backs. Khunu Rinpoche felt for these refugees deeply. He taught many of them, among them the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. These students would, in later years, refer back to that time and recall the kindness that Khunu Rinpoche embodied. In addition to teaching the refugees through personal kindness and example, Khunu Rinpoche went to Mussoorie at the Dalai Lama’s request to instruct the Tibetan refugees in grammar and poetry, remaining there for nearly a year. It was through this work in particular that Khunu Rinpoche became well known to the Tibetan refugees in India.

Among the countless stories that illustrate Khunu Rinpoche’s disinterested yet active meditative kindness is one of an American woman, Tubten Pemo, who met Khunu Rinpoche some years before his death in the mid-1970s in Kathmandu, Nepal. She and a number of other foreigners who had gone to Nepal to study Buddhism asked Rinpoche if there was anything he needed that they could supply. He said, “No. I have all I need because I have bodhicitta,” and the next day, he sent an offering of one rupee (the equivalent of three or four cents) to each of the foreign students. …

-taken from the introduction to Vast as the Heavens, Deep as the Sea, translated by Gareth Sparham

 

from www.kagyu-medialab.org/wogmin
 

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