The lineage of the Thrangu Rinpoche incarnations began in the 15th century when the 7th Karmapa, Chodrak Gyatso visited the region of Thrangu in Tibet. At that time the Karmapa established Thrangu Monastery and enthroned Sherap Gyaltsen as the first Thrangu Rinpoche, recognizing him as the re-established emanation of Shuwu Palgyi Sengey, one of the twenty-five great siddha disciples of Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche is the ninth incarnation of this lineage and was born in Kham, Tibet in 1933. When he was four years old, His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa and Palpung Situ Rinpoche recognized him as the incarnation of Thrangu Tulku by prophesying the names of his parents and the place of his birth.
Entering Thrangu Monastery, from the ages of seven to sixteen he studied reading, writing, grammar, poetry and astrology, memorized ritual texts, and completed two preliminary retreats. At sixteen, under the direction of Khenpo Lodro Rabsel, he began the study of the three vehicles of Buddhism while staying in retreat. At twenty-three, he received full ordination from H.H. Karmapa. Thrangu Rinpoche was also, along with Chogyam Trungpa, a student of the famous Khenpo Gangshar.
When he was twenty-seven, Rinpoche left for India at the time of the Communist invasion of Tibet. He was called to Rumtek, Sikkim, where the Karmapa had his seat in exile. At thirty-five, he took the geshe examination before 1500 monks at Buxador monastic refugee camp in Bengal and was awarded the degree of Geshe Lharampa. On his return to Rumtek, he was named Abbot of Rumtek Monastery and the Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies at Rumtek. He was the personal teacher of the four principal Kagyu tulkus: Tai Situ Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gyaltsab Rinpoche and Shamar Rinpoche.
In Nepal, Thrangu Rinpoche founded Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery in Boudhanath, a retreat center and monastic college at Namo Buddha, Tara Abbey, a nunnery in Swayambunath and a school in Boudhanath for the general education of lay children and young monks and nuns. In October 1999 Rinpoche consecrated the Vajra Vidya Institute in Sarnath, India which is a school for Buddhist Studies for both lay and monastic students and a center for translation and publishing. Thrangu Monastery in Tibet has been mostly rebuilt and is flourishing with many monks.
Thrangu Rinpoche has centers in Asia, Europe and North America and he has traveled extensively throughout the world to teach. Rinpoche is also Abbot of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s monastery, Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada and spiritual director of the Karma Kagyu Association of Germany’s Mahamudra Retreat Center in Halscheid, Germany.
Known widely as a recognized master of Mahamudra as well as a great scholar with a vast knowledge of Dharma, Thrangu Rinpoche is also especially known for his ability to make complex teachings accessible and understandable for students.
After the escape from Tibet to India of the 17th Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness the Dalai Lama appointed Thrangu Rinpoche as the Karmapa’s personal tutor.