Dilgo Khyentser Rinpoche was born in 1910 in eastern Tibet to a family descended from the royal lineage of the ninth-century king Thisong detsen. When he was still in his mother’s womb, Rinpoche is recognized as a tulku or incarnation by the illustrious teacher Mipham Rimpoche. After his birth, many other lamas also recognized him as an important incarnate lama. Shechen Gyaltsap enthroned him as an emanation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, one of the most important tertons (treasure-finders) and writers of the 19th century. His name Khyen-tse means wisdom and loves.
Even as a little boy, Rinpoche had a strong desire to devote himself entirely to the spiritual life. Although his father wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a householder, he finally agreed to allow his son to pursue his own wishes and, at the age of eleven, Rinpoche entered Shechen Monastery in Kham, eastern Tibet, one of the six main monasteries of the Nyingma school.
Education and Teachers
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche studied with many great teachers, including his root guru, Shechen Gyaltsap, from whom he received all the essential empowerments and instructions of the Nyingma tradition. Then, from the age of fifteen until he was twenty-eight, he spent his time meditating in silent retreat, living is isolated hermitages and caves, or sometimes simply under the shelter of overhanging rocks in the mountainous countryside.
He later spent many years with Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1893-1959), receiving empowerments and teachings. When he told his teacher that he wanted to spend the rest of his life in solitary retreat, Chokyi Lodro answered, “The time has come for you to teach and transmit to others the precious teachings you have received.” From then on, Rinpoche worked for the benefit of others with the tireless energy that is the hallmark of the Khyentse lineage. He was a great teacher and terton, and was the most eminent modern-day proponent of the nonsectarian or Rime tradition. His terma (rediscovered treasure-text) fill five volumes.
Life in Exile
In the late 1950’s Khyentse Rinpoche and his family –his wife, Khandro Lhamo,and their two young daughters-fled Tibet. They were welcomed in Bhutan by the Bhutanese Royal family. Rinpoche began teaching in a large school near the country’s capital. Soon his inner qualities drew many students to him, and as the years passed he became the foremost Buddhist teacher in Bhutan, revered by all, from the king to the humblest farmer. In Bhutan, Rinpoche gave teachings perform ceremonies, wrote treatises and texts, and oversaw the preservation and construction of numerous stupas and statues