Life of Guru Urgyen Tulku Rinpoche (1920-1996)

Punya Parajuli

Buddhist Himalaya: A Journal of Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods

Vol. VII No. I & II  (1996)


Copyright 1996 by Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods


He is Eminence Tulku Urgyen was a very famous Vajrayana Buddhist Master of this century. This extraordinarily compassionate Guru was born in the eastern part of Tibet on the tenth day of the fourth Tibetan month in 1920. He was recognized as and incarnate lama (Tulku) by the fifteenth Karmapa, Khakhyabv Dorje. He was the reincarna5tionof Nubchen Sangye yeshe, one of the chief disciple of Great Vajrayana Master Padmasambhavas as well as the emanation of famous treasure discoverer Guru Chowang (1212-70A.D). In his previous life he was known as Chownag Tulku who was a secret yogi, When Chowang Tulku who was a secret yogi. When Chowang Tulku passed away his body shrank to the size of one cubit without decomposing.



After recognizing as an incarnate lame Tulu Urgyen was placed on the monastery of Tsangshar Nargon. His family line was known a divine bloodline of Tsangsar (Tib: Tsangsar Lhai dhung gyu). This lineage is the holder of Baram Kagyu tradition. Baram Kagyu tradition was established by Baram Dharma Wangchuk,. One of the main disciples of Lord Gampopa. Their main monastery was Lachab Gompa Situated in Nangchen Provinc4e of Kham. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche's grand mother, Konchog Paldron was the daughter of the great treasure discoverer chogyur Lingpa. So his family line practised both Nyingma and Kagyu Buddhist teachings.



Rinpoche's first teacher was his father Tsangsar Chimey Dorje. This famous tantrik master taught Rinpoche from childhood the age of 21. He received 'Pointing out Instructions (Tib: Sem thri) at the age of 8. Rinpoche also received the transmission of Buddha's word (tib: Kanjur) and Chokling Tersar from his father. Then he studied with his father's old brother, Tulku Samten Guyatso for a long time. Rinpoche received a lot of precious teachings about Great Perfection (Tib: Dzong chen) like Kunsaqng Thuktik and Dzsognche Desumin the manner of guidance through personal experience (tib: nyam thri).


When young he studied both the general and esoteric topics of knowledge to perfection. As he grew up, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche sat at the feet of his sublime father as well as Rigpey Dorje, the 16th Karmapas, and received all the genuine instructions. Later at the retreat centre of Tsurphu, known as Pema Khyung Dzapnbg or Dedchen Choling he practice extensively, and through this practice he realized in forms of the four visions of the Dzogchen Teaching the view known as 'exhaustion in dharmata"


Rinpoche received entire teachings on Treasury of instructions (Tib: dam ngak dzo), hundred empowerment of Cutting Practice (Chowang Gyatsa) and Juyangter Gongpa Sangthal from the great master Khyungtrul Karja. This Master also gave him the reading transmission of Hundred thousand Nyingma Tantras (Tib: Nyingmsa Gyud bum) and detailed instructions on graded path of Wisdom Essence (Tib: Lam rim Yeshe Nyingpo). Jogyab Rinpoche also gave him detailed teachings on Lam rim yeshe nyingpo. Rinpoche knew most of the root text by heart and in addition he had studied the commentary by Rinchen Naqmgyal and Knepo Jogyab Tersey Rinpoche, a disciple of famous siddha Sakyasri.


Likewise Kase Kongtrulk, son of 15th Karmapa, bestowed him Precious Treasury (rinchen Terdzo). The sixteenth Karmpa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje gave Kagyu Manta Treasury (Tib: Daygu Ngak dzo). Rinpoche received Gyacher Kadzo from Sanbg Ngak Rinpoche and Shejya Kun Khyab from Tana Pemba Rinpoche. His Holiness Dilgo Khentse Rinpoiche gave him root empowerment of Jigme Lingpa many times. Thus Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche held the complete teachings of the last century's three great masters: Terchen Chogyure Lingpa. Jamyang Khyentse wangpo and Kongtrul Lodo Thaye.


After receiving oceanlike instruction rinpoche completed three year retreat (Tib: Lo sum da sum) four times. His first formal retreat was in the eastern Tibe; since one in Tsurphu, the main seat of Karemapas. Similarly he completed the third retreat in Sikkim and fourth in Nagi Gompa.


Relation with 16th Karmapa

Based on this realization Rigpey Dorje, the 16th Karmapa who could see the three times of past, present and future in actuality, as well as directly seeing the death and rebirth of all beings. And who is acclaimed by everyone in the Snowy land of Tibet as the authentic and perfect beings then requested Orgyen Chogyur Lingpa's term teaching from tulku Orgyen Rinpoche and so accepted him as his root guru the lords of the mandala.


Having accepted Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche as his root Guru the Karmapa received the ripening empowerment, the liberating instructions, and the supporting reading transmission for profound Dzogchen teaching and the term teachings of Orgyen Chogyur Lingpa, in their entirety,  correctly and perfectly.


As a Vajrayana master he gave teaching on Buddhism to his numerous disciples. Rinpoche bestowed entire Chokling tersar teaching to Karmapa and his regents like Shamar Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoicghem Gyaltshab Rinpoche and Kongtrul Rinpoche. Similarly he gave profound teachings of dzog Chen Desum to H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche at Lhasa. On the request of H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, The Tulku Urgyen conferred the Hundred empowerment of cutting Practice (tib: chownag gyatsa) to dZongsar Khyentse, dZongche Rimpoche, Sechen Rabjam and two Chokling Tulkus.  


Urgyen Rinpoche as a great Yogi and pandit:

A lot of people these days hold the opinion that Tulku urgyen Rinpoche was just a Dzogchen yogi who only stayed up in his mountain hermitage Nagi Gompa and Practiced one-Pointedly concluding that he was a good lame with high realization. Since he downplayed his talents not many people seem to known the details of this qualities beyond these simple facts. Rinpoche is not someone who is formed for being learned. But if we begin to investigate in detail, then starting from reading skills, we see he was a scholar, able to read many kinds of script, including even the rare Ranjana and Wardu variety.


He was proficient in grammer, poetry and the general sciences so it is difficult o find any thin about which he was ignorant. Concerning the inner knowledge of Buddhism, he had met many very educated an learned masters, and was especially well versed in the Hgakso, the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo and the Guhyagrbha Tantra. 


Tulku Urgyen Rinpioche was also a skilled craftman. Because he could make original statues unlike professional sculptors who usually just repeat themselves-his sculpture of deitails ofthen had much finer proportions. Some of these can be seen in the shrine rooms for the dharma protectors at Ka-ning Shedrupling. In the Nyingme Gonkhag, Protectors shrine, there is an extras ordinary mask for Mahakala, in the Kagyu temple a mask of Bernakchen, the Black Cloaked one. If seemed that no ordinary artist could have crated such works.


When speaking of the Buddhist scriptures, the middle way, the Prajnaparamita and so forth, we have the 'exposition lineage' which focuses on explaining the syntax. But you often hear the at being learned is not just a matter of knowing the words and their meaning, there is also the transmission of the real meaning. Tulku Urgyen was a pandita in the real sense of the word.


Urgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche relates one of his experience meeting with Urgyen Rinpoche.   


"At one time I went to see Tulku Urgyen to ask him to clarify a verse from the ninth Chapter of Shanti Deva's Bodhicaryavatara: When Concreteness or inconcreteness Does not remain before the intellect, At that moment these is no other mental form, And so there is utter peace without conceptions,"


I had studied it many times and asked many khenpos about it but still felt the none of them had given me an adequate explanation. I also asked Tulku Urgyen about certain point sin the Prajnaparamita teachings in which the fact of emptiness is established, such as the statement that emptiness has no form, no sound and so forth. Only Tulku Urgyen was able to prove the reality of there statements in a reasonable way. His logic established emptiness in actuality, while the other scholars merely established emptiness in words."


Tulku Urgyen had confidence an total trust on Buddha nature based on personal, direct understanding that Buddha quality really is present in every sentient being just like oil is present in each and every sesame seed, that any sentient being can realize the awakened state and has the basis for enlightenment. Therefore, tulku urgyen showed respect for every sentient beings and didn't turn against anyone, he felt it from the core of his heart.


Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche also showed vast insight about the meaning of the Uttaratantra, Hevajra tantra, and the Profound Inner Meaning which as favored in the Kagyu Lineage. He was very knowledge able in vajrayana as well havini studied the GHujhya Garbha Tantra, the Secret Essence of the Magical net. He also had an in-depth knowledge of many other Tantras. he was especially insightful when defining the Kayas and Wisdom, the chakras of syllable, cloud the sounds and meaning of mantra. In short, he fits exactly the title pandita of definitive meaning.


Tulku Urgyed Rinpoche has many disciples all over the world. As a Buddhist Master he traveled Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, United Kingdom, U.S.A, Singapore, Malaysia etc. He was the first Tibetan Buddhist Master who introduced Vajrayana Buddhism to Malaysia. His disciples have established numerous Dharma Centers all over the world. 


Master Builder of Monasteries:

Building a monastery is very difficult, and sometime seems and insurmountable task. But most people are not aware how many temples Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche actually built.


Without having to diliberately ask for donations, he managed to raise funds effortlessly. Though he never went on begging tours Tulku urgyen was still able to build all the temples and monasteries he intended. All these projects were completed totally on the side, you never saw them as his main aim or occupation, In his last days he had wished to build a magnificent monastery in Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha. But that could not get materialised in his life time.


Rinpoche's main monastery is pal Ka-nying she-drub ling at Bodhdanath, Kathmandu. This monastery was inaugurated by H.H. XVI gylwa Kamrpa in the presence of his Majesty the king Birendra Bir Bikrma Shah deva. After the death of famous Buddhist Master Garsya Rinpoche, Sonam Tendzin in Naitg Gompa his followers offered his monastery to H.H. Gyalwa Krmap. Gyalwa Karmapa offered this monastery in turn to Tulku Urgydn Rinpoche. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche spent most of his late life there until his Nirvana. More than 100 Buddhist nuns from Newar, Tamang, Manang ethnic group are residing there, Rinpoche also established a monastery at Asura Cave, Pharping where Guru Pamd Sambhava Manifested the realization of Mahamudra. More than ten monasteries and retreat centre a were established by him for the benefit of all sentient beings


His Nepalese Disciples

Unlike other Gurus of Tibetan tradition, Urgyen Tulku Rinpoche stands formost fo his extra ordinary compassion shown to Nepalese disciples expecially Newar in particular. On two occassions. On the request of his Nepalese disciples he performed Phgowa Transmission at Pharping (1993) and Nagi gompa (1;994) Until now about 400 Newar Buddhists here received phowa transmission from ven. Urgen Tulku Rinpoche alone.


Through utter devotion to venerable guru urgyen Tulku, Newar disciples from Hiranyavarna Mahavihar Gompa and Juyatha baha of Patah offered their monastic authorities to guru Urgyen tulku to administer on his behalf. That's why Urgyen Tulku sends his monks and nuns to perform all the rituals to be carried out in the monasteries of Patan. He gave several precious teachings and empowerment to Newar disciples in these monasteries of Patan. It is almost difficult to find a single practitioner among Newars who followed Tibetan Buddhism has not received any teaching or empowerment from


Rinpoche has many Nepalese disciples from Newar, Brahman, Kshetry, Sherpa, tamang, Msanang and other various ethnic groups. He has kindly given many empowerment, transmission and instructions especially 'Pointing out instruction' to thesse Nepalese people. With a view to propagate Budddhist teaching to Nepalese people he also appointed Me. Sridhar Rana as a Vajrayana Master. Rinpoche gave Phowa retreats for many faithful devotees from Kathemadu valley. Everyone could feet his compassion to behaviour. He always received all typed of visitors with sincerity. He was a capable dZogchen and Mahamudra master to give these secred teachings for a large group of disciples. He always emphasized to practice these precious teaching in everyday life.


Last Days:

In the latter part of his life he basically abandoned all involvement in conceptional activities and did not put any real effort into building. Yet temples still seemed to rise up continuously and many tasks were accomplished. He always spent the money that came during the day and when the sun went down he had nothing.


He was of poor health his entire life, expecially experiencing complications during the cold winters. /but due to various treatments and his mastery over the dye points of the Channels and energies of his won body as well as over the mandala of the Vajra Body with it s circulation of energyh currents, he did have quite a long life.


There came a time when he went to Germany to have an operation. When Ven. Urgyen Topgyal Rinpoche went to meet in Germany he spoke at length about lacking the swish to remain in his body for much longer. Then he told Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, "the way Rinpoche speaks now is nothing like how he spoke in the pas6t. It seems like he does not care to remain in his body any longer. So, Ven. Topgyal Rinpoche thinks that when he returns to Nepal they should hold an elaborate long life ceremony and supplicate him from the core of out hears to remain. This is definitely necessary.


Manifesting the law of impermanence he left his corporal body on 13th February 1996. He remained in "Thukdam" (skt: samadhi) for fifteen hours. During that period this face seemed more brilliance than before and was sitting in full meditation posture. The end of Thukdam Samadhi was marked by the appearance of the white and red Bodhicitta liquid from his nostrils. His precious body "Kudung" was place din Kanying Shedrupling monastery for 51 days. During his Thukdam period sky was extremely clear and there was not single sign of cloud in the sky.


 Rinpoche's faithful disciple from all over the world paid last visit to his 'Kudung', During that period monks and lay followers performed various worship rituals like burning butter lamps, chanting,. invocation verses etc. On the  4th April 19966, his 'Kudung' was cremated inside a stupa. The fire was lit by a famous DZogche Master Chhatral Rinpoche while many gera lamas performed for puja. After three days Rinpoche's remains were collected. His skill was untouched by fire and many sacred relics and the Tibetan letter 'A' were marked in his bones. The cremation ash was distributed to his followers.


This short biography is completed on Buddha's 2540th Jayanti celebration.