Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche passed away on the 13th of February at his hermitage Nagi Gompa on the southern slope of the Shivapuri mountain. He was born in eastern Tibet on the tenth day of the fourth Tibetan month in 1920. Karmapa Khakyab DorjeHe was recognized by H.H. Khakyab Dorje, the 15th Gyalwang Karmapa, as the reincarnation of the Chowang Tulku, as well as the emanation of Nubchen Sangye Yeshe, one of the chief disciples of Padmasambhava. Guru Chowang the First (1212-70 AD) was one of the five Terton Kings, the major revealers of secret texts hidden by Guru Padmasambhava.

Nubchen Sangye YesheTulku Urgyen’s main monastery was Lachab Gompa in Nangchen, Eastern Tibet. He studied and practiced the teachings of both the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Among the four greater Kagyu Schools, his family line was the main holder of the Barom Kagyu Lineage.

In the Nyingma tradition, Tulku Urgyen held the complete teachings of the last century’s three great masters: Terchen Chokgyur Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. He had an especially close transmission for the New Treasures, a compilation of all the empowerments, reading transmissions and instructions of Padmasambhava’s teachings, which were rediscovered by Terchen Chokgyur Lingpa, his great-grandfather. Rinpoche passed on this tradition to the major regents of the Karma Kagyu lineage as well as to many other lamas and tulkus.

14th Karmapa Thegchog DorjeThe close relationship between the lineage of the Karmapas and Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche came about since the 14th Gyalwang Karmapa was one of the main recipients of Chokgyur Lingpa’s termas, receiving the empowerments from the terton himself. Tulku Samten Gyatso, the grandson of Chokgyur Lingpa and the root guru of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, offered the same transmission to the 15th Gyalwang Karmapa Khakyab Dorje. The Gyalwang 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpey Dorje, was offered the major transmissions of the Chokling Tersar by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. In addition, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche also felt fortunate to pass on the transmission for the important Dzogchen Desum, the Three Sections of the Great Perfection, to both His Holiness Karmapa and Dudjom Rinpoche, as well as numerous Tulkus and lamas of the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages.

Tulku Urgyen established six monasteries and retreat centers in the Kathmandu region. Asura Cave TempleThe most important of these are at Boudhanath, the site of the Great Stupa, and another at the Asura Cave, where Padmasambhava manifested the Mahamudra Vidyadhara level. He lived at Nagi Gompa Hermitage above the Kathmandu Valley. Under his guidance were more than 300 monks and nuns. He stayed in retreat for more than 20 years, including four three-year retreats.

In 1980 Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, accompanied by his oldest son Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, went on a world tour through Europe, the United States and South East Asia, giving teachings on Dzogchen and Mahamudra to many people. Every year since then a seminar on Buddhist study and practice has been held at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery in essential meditation practice, combining the view and meditation of Dzogchen, Mahamudra and the Middle Way. Less concerned with the systematic categories of topics of knowledge or with the logical steps of philosophy, Tulku Urgyen directly addressed the listener’s present state of mind. His published works in English include Repeating the Words of the Buddha, As It Is 1 & As It Is 2, Rainbow Painting and the recent Vajra Speech.

The over-all background of the teachings of Dzogchen and Mahamudra, which are tremendously vast and profound, can be condensed into simple statements of immediate relevance to our present state of mind. Tulku Urgyen was famed for his profound meditative realization and for the concise, lucid and humorous style with which he imparts the essence of the 84,000 sections of the Buddhist teachings. His method of teaching is ‘instruction through one’s own experience.’ Using few words, this way of teaching points out the nature of mind, revealing a natural simplicity of wakefulness that enables the student to actually touch the heart of the Buddha’s Wisdom Mind.

—written by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and Erik Pema Kunsang, New York, 1981.