Tsara Khenchen Chokyi Drakpa

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rtsa ra mkhan chen chos kyi grags pa


Short Biography

Tsara Khenchen Thubten Chokyi Drakpa Rinpoche, Tsara Dharmakirti was born in the fire drangon year of 1916 on the 10th day of the 6th month of the Tibetan calendar in Kham, Minyak, Tibet. He was born as the second son to his father Gelek and mother Tsara Dorje Zangmo. From the time that Rinpoche was just a little boy, he had an unusual capacity for arousing Bodhichitta. Even at the age of one or two, Rinpoche often assumed the posture and ritual gestures of a great Lama. When he was seven years old, he was recognized as a tulku and given the Tibetan name Chokyi Drakpa (or Dharmakirti in Sanskrit) by Minyak Khenpo Apal.

As soon as he began his formal studies, his unusually sharp intelligence was apparent. He easily mastered any course of study, and when he was just thirteen years old, he gave his mother the teachings on Patrul Rinpoche's Words of my Perfect Teacher that he had just been taught by Do Rinpoche.

At age eighteen, Khen Rinpoche traveled to both Dzogchen and Shechen monasteries, where he studied at two of the largest shedras (Buddhist universities) within the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. While there he received complete and comprehensive teachings on the five Major Treatises of Buddhist Philosophy, the Five Works of Maitreya, the Mahayana tradition, the sutra teachings from all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as the complete instructions on the Mahayoga Tantras from Khenpo Thupten Nyendrak, Khenpo Ngagwang Norbu, Khenchen Pema Tsawang, Khenpo Sonam Wanggyal, and Khenpo Yeshe Dargye. As a result of his studies, he received the degree of Khenchen (great scholar) and became the heart student of all of these teachers.

From the masters Dzogchen Rinpoche Thupten Chokyi Dorje, Dzogchen Rinpoche Jigdral Jangchup Dorje, Drukpa Kuchen Choyang Rangdrol, Dzogchen Kongtrul Rinpoche, Khenpo Kunpal, Khenpo Jigme Yonten Gonpo, and Rinpoche's three uncommon root Lamas, Khenpo Pema Thegchog Loden, Shechen Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Drime Lakpe Lodrup, Rinpoche he received the outer teachings on the Dzogchen Semde (Mind System) from the lineage of Shri Singha, the inner teachings called the Dzogchen Longde (Centrist teachings) from the lineage of Shri Singha and Variocana, and the inner-most secret teachings of the Instruction Lineage of Atiyoga. Through these transmissions, Rinpoche received the perfect oral instructions of the Dzogchen Longchen Nyingthig.

After sixteen years of intensive study, he became the head Khenpo at Dzogchen Shri Singha, the most prominent Nyingma college in all of Tibet. In 1950, Rinpoche began traveling throughout Tibet giving teachings to thousands of students. In 1958, before the "Red Army" arrived in Amdo Trokyap (northern Tibet), Rinpoche met with his students. To create the proper conditions for him to teach there again once the political situation became calm, Rinpoche wrote the seed syllable "hri" on the wall of a cave, causing the syllable naturally to arise out of the rock as a sign that the proper conditions had been made.

After Rinpoche was released from prison, he followed the outer conduct required by the new regime ruling Tibet. But secretly, Rinpoche gave teachings to special students that he met, while practicing meditation as he performed his daily activities and while he slept. Rinpoche also wrote many commentaries, including ones about Yeshe Tsogyal, Manjushri and Tara. During that time, he became Alak Zenkar Rinpoche's (tulku of Jigme Lingpa) teacher, and they spent hours discussing the Dharma and the state of their nation. Alak Zenkar Rinpoche, who is well-known for his scholarship in the West, is often quoted as saying that there is no contemporary Lama as skilled at the meaning of Sutra and Tantra as Tsara Dharmakirti Rinpoche.

Nearly 20 years later, in 1980 Rinpoche was able to begin teaching the Dharma to small groups of people without having to fear political consequences. In the early 1980's, he taught at several Tibetan universities until finally in 1987 he was able to build his own shedra and retreat center in Kham Minyak. From that time on, Rinpoche began to travel to monasteries and shedras throughout Tibet once again giving teachings and empowerments. As Rinpoche grew older, he was often visited in dreams and visions by the yidam deities Tara, Yeshe Tsogyal and Kharsapana. Notably, Rinpoche received the four empowerments from Yeshe Tsogyal directly in one of these visions.

Tsara Dharmakirti Rinpoche passed away at the age of 90, on the first day of Sakadawa, 2005. Rinpoche prophesied the month of his death 6 months prior, and passed away after giving teachings on the nature of birth and death. He spoke the seed syllable AH while seated in the vajra posture and then passed away.

ཀ་དག་ཆོས་ཟད་ཆོས་སྐུ་ཆེན་པོར་སྨིན། །

You ripened into the great, primordially pure Dharmakaya,

ལྷུན་གྲུབ་སྣང་བཞིའི་དགོངས་པ་མཐའ་རུ་སོན། །

manifested the four appearances of the excellent path

ཀུན་རྟོག་གཉིས་འཛིན་རི་མོ་དབྱིངས་སུ་ཡལ། །

And went to a state in which all phenomena and duality dissolve like a drawing on water;

དྷརྨ་ཀིརྟྟིའི་ཞབས་ལ་གསོལ་བ་འདེབས།། །།

I bow at the feet of [Tsara] Dharmakirti Rinpoche.

Literary Works

  • A Commentary on the Longchen Nyingtik Yumkha Dechen Gyalmo practice. རྫོགས་པ་ཆེན་པོ་རིག་འཛིན་ནང་སྒྲུབ་ཀྱི་ཆོ་ག་ཡུམ་ཀ་བདེ་ཆེན་རྒྱལ་མོའི་སྒྲུབ་གཞུང་གི་འབྲུ་འགྲེལ་པིཎྚ་རི་ཀའི་དོ་ཤལ་

Main Teachers

Main Students

Main Lineages

Alternate Names

Other Reference Sources

the fourth PDF file; pages 799-804, you can find a nice biography.

Internal Links

External Links

  • more complete bio on the web-site of Rinpoche's heart-student [2]
  • The TBRC bio-page link [3]