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  Venerable Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche  

A brief explanation of the sacred qualities and activities
that have benefited all beings
in temporary matters and on the ultimate level
by the inconceivable emanation of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,


When Buddha Shakyamuni turned the wheel of Dharma in Jampudiva world, this being, known to us as Traleg Rinpoche, was born as Ananda. Perfecting Buddhahood, he worked to develop the Buddhadharma.

He next incarnated as Tulku Tsermed Oden, inseparable with glorious Sangwai Dagpo, lord of Tantrayana, and taught Tantrayana in the unsurpassable dakini realm. Having developed such teachings in all directions through endless times, his next rebirth was as the mahayogi Thognied Yontei, skilled in all miraculous powers. This mahayogi was the disciple of the yogi Saraha and Lord Nagarjuna. He benefited beings by developing Buddhism in general, and the Tantrayana in particular, in all the ten directions of the world.

His next rebirth was as mahasiddha Dapa Sherab, principle disciple of Mahasiddha Tilopa. Having firmly stabilized the very transmission and teaching of Mahasiddha Tilopa, his next rebirth was as Siddha Dogon Lotsawa, disciple of glorious Naropa. He translated many unavailable teachings of the lesser and higher vehicles, particularly the Vajrayana teachings.

His next incarnation was as a disciple of Lotsawa Marpa named Ngod Choku Dorje, who translated tantric teachings from Sanskrit into the Tibetan language. He was skilled at both learning and meditation, and carried out the sedgyerd (learning) transmission.

His next incarnation was as a disciple of the great yogi Milarepa, named Rechung Dorje Drakpa. He developed the teachings and became famous all over Tibet.

His next incarnation was as a disciple of Gampopa, Saltong Shogom, one of the five disciples closest to Gampopa. He was one of the famous Three Men of Kham, the other two being Dusum Khyenpa who became the first Karmapa, and Je Phagmo Gyare. These three, together with two other disciples, were the only ones to receive from Gampopa the complete transmission of both Vajrayana and Mahamudra. Saltong Shogam was a great master, who, after Gampopa’s paranirvana, remained in meditation and did not take any disciples.
His next incarnation, Pandita Wangchuck Dorje, was famous and skilled in both Sutrayana and Tantrayana. His next rebirth was during the time of the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, as Toden Tachug. He developed and taught Kagyu teachings. Later, for many generations, he incarnated as a bhiksu (a fully ordained monk) called Chokyi Wangchuk, who enriched and liberated limitless living beings.

Then Chokyi Dragpa incarnated in the second seat of the Kagyu order in Karmai Gon where he taught and developed Buddhadharma. Then, in order to develop and carry on the Buddhadharma he was requested to be the head of the Thrangu Monastery. His name was Nyima Tashi.

Eight successive incarnations bearing the name of Traleg, one of the most important Kagyu tulku lineages in Tibet, benefited beings and taught in all directions according to the prophecy of Guru Padmasambhava: “You will benefit living beings bearing the name Nyima for eight incarnations as a fully ordained Bhiksu." The Traleg line has always been closely associated with the Karmapas, the Tai Situpa tulkus and, since the nineteenth century, with the Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoches.
(also known as Khenpo Trudyi Nyima and as Tenpa Rabgay Khanib)

The immediate predecessor to the present Traleg Tulku (1955- ) is known by older lamas, who personally knew him, as a gentle but powerful, charismatic man who was always willing to help people.

Chokyi Nyima was a huge man, over six feet tall. His father was a minister at the court of the king of Derge, a semi autonomous principality in Kham, eastern Tibet. He was also closely related to Dingo Khyentse Rinpoche. Being born to a powerful family, Chokyi Nyima could have sought power too, after being recognized as the eighth incarnation of the Traleg lineage. However, he never took advantage of his exalted position.

As a child he was never angry and was one of the most handsome of lamas, his beauty was extraordinary. When he came of age he grew a perfect beard. He was described as very good-natured, loose, relaxed, soft and gentle, strong, straight, honest and skilful in his ways. He had no attachment to material things, using whatever he acquired for dharma purposes. His teacher was the second Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Nyima Osel, who gave the eighth Traleg initiations and more teachings than he gave to anyone else. He stayed a lot in retreat, in a solitary place near Thrangu monastery.

As an adult he preferred to teach, and to give initiations. As abbot of Thrangu Gompa, with over 500 monks, he used the substantial donations made to the monastery to greatly extend the monastery so that it became one of the major monasteries of eastern Tibet. Whatever he was given went to increase the dharma. He had thangkas made which depicted the Kagyu lineage in gold along with many new statues – perhaps a thousand – and a huge prayer wheel, which was filled with three hundred million slips of paper, each printed with the mantra of Dorje Sempa. He also erected a big stupa

The great works he undertook progressed slowly, so slowly that when he suddenly died at the age of 52 he had not fulfilled all the work he started. Whatever he did, he did well, very-carefully. He paid meticulous attention to detail, to do it with perfection. Yet he was naturally relaxed in manner, and always helpful, no matter how people sought his assistance. He kept his monastic precepts and disliked showing off, and so didn’t find it necessary to display clairvoyance and other extraordinary powers. He spent a lot of money on having rare texts copied, hiring skilled wood carvers to make woodblocks so that texts that had never been printed could be made available. In his library he had thousands of volumes of woodblock prints of texts. He started a monastic college, and had innumerable disciples.

At the time of the 1953 Losar (New Year) ceremonies, he suddenly fell ill, as the Mahakala practice was being done. He died quickly. He left a sealed letter, not to be opened until a year after his death, which predicted the next incarnation would be born in a sheep year. His monks made the two-month journey to Tsurphu to see the Karmapa, to seek his prediction. He gave them a letter, not to be opened for a year. When it was opened it said the next incarnation had already been born, and it named the parents and the place.


The ninth Venerable Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche is President and Spiritual Director of Kagyu E-Vam Buddhist Institute in Melbourne and E-Vam Institute in the Hudson Valley, New York. He was also the spiritual head of Kamalashila Institute, one of the main Kagyu centres in Europe, for five years. Traleg Rinpoche was recognized as the ninth incarnation of the Traleg line by His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, and along with other tulkus of the Kagyu tradition has the authority and responsibility to protect and transmit the Kagyu lineage of teachings. Traleg Rinpoche was accorded the title Kyabgon, a significant distinction retained by only a few lineage holders of the Tibetan tradition.

Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche was born on the first day of the auspicious Tibetan Year of the Wood Sheep (1955) in Nangchen, Eastern Tibet, in a village about three days journey by horseback from Thrangu Monastery. He was enthroned as the Supreme Abbott of Thrangu Monastery at age two by His Holiness Gyalwa Karmapa. Thrangu is a large monastery in Kham, in Eastern Tibet, not far from the Yangtze River (Tibetan: Drichu). The famous printing centre of Derge and Surmang, the seat of the Trungpa tulkus are also in that area. The surroundings of the monastery are very beautiful with broad well-watered pastures in the high valleys, rocks and mountains with snowy peaks. The monastery and a short biography of Traleg Rinpoche are described in an official book released by the Chinese government, The Tibetan Monasteries of Gansu and Qinghai Provinces (Gan-Qing Zangchuan fojiao siyuan), Pu Wencheng (ed.), Qinghai Peoples’ Publishing House, Xining, 1990, pp. 304-5.

As a result of the difficult political situation with the Chinese who had already occupied that part of Tibet for seven years, Rinpoche had to flee his native land at the age of four and escaped to northern India like so many other Tibetan refugees of this time with about 100 people from his area. According to those who fled Tibet with Rinpoche, during the critical moments when people had no idea where to go, the four-year old Traleg Rinpoche directed them and eventually they escaped safely to Tsurphu, the seat of His Holiness Karmapa, near Lhasa. They were only able to stay there a short time before having to flee Tibet to the safety of Bhutan. From there, Rinpoche was taken to Rumtek, His Holiness’ headquarters in Sikkim.

His Holiness Karmapa gathered all the young tulkus together at Rumtek where they were strictly brought up and educated under his guidance as the holders of the Kagyu tradition.
Rinpoche was educated by His Holiness with the other young tulkus in exile until he was nine, when he went to a centre near Darjeeling, where, in spite of being very young, he began an intensive study of the philosophical root texts and commentaries under the guidance of His Eminence Thugsey Rinpoche and other great scholars such as Khenpo Noryang and Khenpo Sodar. This Dharma education continued until he was sixteen when His Holiness Karmapa sent him to study at the Sanskrit University of Varanasi. He stayed there until he was nineteen, when he was put in charge of the Samdo Phare Monastery (the Palace of Padmasambhava) in East Bhutan. It was here that Rinpoche had the opportunity to begin studying English.
In 1977 Rinpoche returned to Rumtek to become secretary and interpreter for His Holiness, dealing with many English-speaking Western visitors. In 1980, he arrived in Australia, thereafter becoming an Australian citizen. Rinpoche established Kagyu E-Vam Buddhist Institute in 1982 in order to make the teachings and practices of the Kagyu tradition available in Australia.

Rinpoche has returned to Thrangu Monastery twice in the past five years, thus re-establishing his connection with the monastery and its monks, some of whom are very elderly and served Rinpoche’s predecessor. He also travels widely, teaching in the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and south-east Asia. He now returns annually to New York to give public teachings and continue in the establishment of his retreat centre in Hudson, in Upstate New York.

Rinpoche regularly gives lectures and seminars world-wide on Buddhism and related topics, and has become well-known for his erudition, fluency in English and background in Western philosophy, psychology and comparative religion. He is especially respected for his skill in working with people of diverse interests, ages and backgrounds. Rinpoche has both a strict traditional Buddhist education and a comprehensive Western education, holding a degree from La Trobe University and is currently engaged in academic research for a Doctoral dissertation.

Rinpoche inaugurated the annual Buddhist Summer School in 1984 and more recently the biannual Buddhism and Psychotherapy Conference. Both of these programs have developed into major national events and have hosted many well-known spiritual teachers, Western psychologists and thinkers. His first book The Essence of Buddhism is in its second printing and has been translated into Portuguese, French and is currently under translation in Dutch. An up coming book for Shambhala Publications is an overview of Buddhist Tantra tentatively entitled Rays of the Sun and a book on Lojong, Mind Training entitled The Benevolent Mind: A Manual in Mind Training for Zhyisil Chokyi Ghatsal Trust Publications. Rinpoche also publishes a non-sectarian, contemporary quarterly magazine Ordinary Mind: An Australian Buddhist Review, which is the only Buddhist magazine to be produced in Australia and is now being distributed throughout Australia. Ordinary Mind is a non-sectarian, contemporary Buddhist magazine which has articles about Buddhist philosophy, culture, literature as well as travelogues, reviews, interviews, news, a forum for discussions, features on other Australian Buddhist centres and many other things. To find out more about this innovative magazine, visit the website on www.ordinarymind.net.au.

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