Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

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Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche or Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje (Tib. སྨྱོ་ཤུལ་མཁན་པོ་འཇམ་དབྱངས་རྡོ་རྗེ་, Wyl. smyo shul mkhan po 'jam dbyangs rdo rje) (1932-1999) was such a consummate master of Dzogpachenpo, and such an authority on the teachings of Longchenpa, that his disciples regarded him as Longchenpa in the flesh. He was the teacher of many of the younger generation of lamas, as well as a number of western Buddhist teachers. He became one of Sogyal Rinpoche's most beloved masters.


Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje was born in 1932 in the Dergé region of Kham. His mother and grandmother, a disciple of the master Nyoshul Lungtok, encouraged his interest in the Dharma, and at the age of five he joined a local Sakya monastery. He then studied with Rigdzin Jampal Dorje, receiving teachings on Mahamudra and beginning the twelve year training of a khenpo, which he concluded at the age of twenty-four. He was also to master the Six Yogas, Lamdré, Kalachakra and Chöd, and spent several years studying at Katok monastery, all the while combining his studies with meditation retreats and intensive practice. Khenpo counted twenty-five great masters as his principal teachers, of whom the most central in his life was Shedrup Tenpé Nyima, the reincarnation of Nyoshul Lungtok. From him, from the age of seventeen at Nyoshul monastery he began to receive the teachings of Longchen Nyingtik and particularly the Great Oral Lineage of Pith Instructions (Tib. མན་ངག་སྙན་བརྒྱུད་ཆེན་མོ་, Mengak Nyengyü Chenmo) of Dzogpachenpo. This became Khenpo’s special lineage, a lineage which passed back to the Primordial Buddha in an unbroken line, through such extraordinary masters as Khenpo Ngakchung, Nyoshul Lungtok, Patrul Rinpoche, Jikmé Lingpa, Longchenpa, Vimalamitra, and Padmasambhava. Khenpo passed these teachings on to a few close disciples, as well as to a number of the greatest masters and lineage holders of his time.

In 1959 he made a narrow escape from Tibet. In India, conditions were hard, and his life veered between extremes, at first begging on the streets of Calcutta and living among the sadhus, and then giving empowerments to huge assemblies and to incarnate lamas. He received teachings from Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and the Sixteenth Karmapa, and was requested by many eminent masters to serve as khenpo in their monasteries. In the early seventies, he spent several years at Penor Rinpoche's monastery in Mysore, South India, later teaching in the Kalimpong area, where he fell ill and was cared for by the family of Kangyur Rinpoche. On the advice of Lopön Sönam Zangpo, he married Damchö Zangmo. He travelled to Switzerland for medical treatment, and then spent eight years in the Dordogne area of France, sometimes teaching at the three year retreat there.

As his health improved, invitations came from many quarters. He travelled to teach in India, Nepal, Taiwan, France, Britain, Switzerland, Germany and the US, taking up residence in Thimpu in Bhutan, where he had many students. Twice he visited Tibet, with Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in 1990, and then with Penor Rinpoche in 1992. He wrote a definitive History of the Dzogchen Nyingtik, containing the biographies of the lineage masters, and a remarkable collection of poetic songs of realization.

Khen Rinpoche first taught Rigpa students in the Dordogne in the summer of 1984, after which he was present regularly and taught at many Rigpa retreats and gatherings over the next decade: in France, America, the United Kingdom and Germany, during His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings on Dzogchen in San Jose in 1989, Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's teachings at Prapoutel in 1990, and the Dalai Lama's inauguration of Dzogchen monastery in 1992. His last visit to Lerab Ling was in the summer of 1996.

Nyoshul Khenpo passed away in France in August 1999. No one who met him can ever forget his extraordinary presence or the spirit in which he taught, which embodied so perfectly the fathomless ease and vastness of Dzogpachenpo.

Writings & Translated Teachings

  • A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage (rang bzhin rdzogs pa chen po'i chos 'byung rig 'dzin brgyud pa'i rnam thar ngo mtshar nor bu bai DUrya'i phreng ba))
  • The Precious Lamp: A History of the 'Looks Like Me' statue of the Omniscient Longchenpa (ཀུན་མཁྱེན་ང་འདྲ་མ་ཞེས་པའི་སྐུའི་ལོ་རྒྱུས་རིན་ཆེན་སྒྲོན་མེ་, kun mkhyen nga 'dra ma zhes pa'i sku'i lo rgyus rin chen sgron me)
  • Words from the Lineage of Vidyadharas: Pith Instructions on the Key Points that Reveal the Profound Meaning (ཟབ་དོན་སྒོ་འབྱེད་གནད་ཀྱི་མན་ངག་རིག་འཛིན་བརྒྱུད་པའི་ཞལ་ལུང་, zab don sgo 'byed gnad kyi man ngag rig 'dzin brgyud pa'i zhal lung) (includes answers to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's questions on Dzogchen)


  • A Collection of Oral Instructions and Advice Given to Students (mkhan po 'jam dbyangs rdo rje'i gsung / zhal gdams slob springs kyi skor 'ga' shas), pages 579-661.
    • The Song of Illusion: Khenpo Jamyang Dorje's Letter of Instructions to his Disciples, Dordogne, France, 1981 (slob spring sgyu ma'i glu dbyangs) (580)
      • English translation: The Song of Illusion: Khenpo Jamyang Dorje's Letter of Instructions to his Disciples, translated by Padmakara Translation Group, in Natural Great Perfection, pages 128-133.
    • (slob springs kyi bsdus don) (590)
    • (mgon skyabs gnas rgya mtsho...)(593)
    • (rje rgyal ba klong chen rab 'byams dngos...) (597)
    • (rje rgyal ba klong chen rab 'byams mkhyen...) (601)
    • (mgon rgyal ba klong chen rab 'byams dang...) (605)
    • The Revealing Mirror - A Letter Urging Renunciation (nges 'byung bskul ma rang gsal me long) (607)
      • English translation: The Revealing Mirror - A Letter Urging Renunciation, translator unknown.
    • The Mirror of Essential Points: A Letter in Praise of Emptiness From Jamyang Dorje to his Mother(stong nyid la bsngags pa'i phrin yig gnad kyi me long) (615)
      • English translation: The Mirror of Essential Points: A Letter in Praise of Emptiness From Jamyang Dorje to his Mother, translated by Erik Hein Schmidt and edited by Ani Lodrö Palmo and Ward Brisick, in Natural Great Perfection, pages 93-101.
      • Colophon: This letter to my students was composed by one who goes by the name 'Khenpo', the Tibetan Jamyang Dorje, in the Dordogne Herbal Valley of Great Bliss, in the country of France beyond the great ocean in the western direction. May virtue and auspiciousness ensue!
    • Sacred Heart-Essence of the Pith-Instructions - Advice in the Form of a Song to My Wife Damchö (zla grogs dam chos la gdams pa man ngag dam pa'i snying bcud) (626)
      • English translation: A Spontaneous Song To My Wife: Sacred Heart Essence of Pith-Instructions Advice in the Form of a Song, to My Wife Damcho Zangmo , translated by Surya Das, David Christensen, and Corinna Chung, 1986, in Natural Great Perfection, pages 134-150.
    • Mindfulness: The Mirror of the Mind (dran pa sems kyi me long) (649)
      • English translation: The Vajra Mirror of Mindfulness, A Spontaneous Song, Dordogne, France 1982, translated by Padmakara Translation Group, in Natural Great Perfection, pages 123-124.
      • English translation: Mindfulness: The Mirror of the Mind, by Adam Pearcey, 2013.
      • Colophon: This request, a spur to remember mindfulness, was offered to friends who possess the eyes of Dharma by the terrible monk called Jamyang Dorje, who is really just a buck-toothed ox.
    • Natural Great Peace (rang bzhin zhi ba chen po) (650)
  • Other poems
    • Wonderful is the Dharma Arising from Within
      • English translation: Wonderful is the Dharma Arising from Within, translator unknown.
    • The Essential Meaning
      • English translation: The Essential Meaning, translator unknown.
    • The Essence of the Paths & Bhumis
      • English translation: The Essence of the Paths & Bhumis, translator unknown.
    • Coming, Staying and Going
      • English translation: Coming, Staying and Going, translator unknown.
    • The Mark of Realization
      • English translation: The Mark of Realization, translator unknown.
    • The Effortless Sky Yoga
      • English translation: The Effortless Sky Yoga, translator unknown.
  • Other small texts found in The Fearless Lion's Roar
    • Great Peace, Dakini Practice, Thigle Gyachen: the Guru Practice of the Sealed Essence, Merging Three as One, The Signs of Spiritual Practice.
  • Texts in Natural Great Perfection
    • Deer Park Retreat
      • English translation: Deer Park Retreat, Dai Bosatsu Zendo, Livingston Manor, New York, 1992, translated by David Christensen, in Natural Great Perfection, pages 125-127.
      • Colophon: This was written by the wandering khenpo of Nyoshul, Jamyang Dorje, a stray dog from the snow land of Tibet, at the two-month Dzogchen mountain retreat in the United States, led by the Dzogchen yogi Lama Surya Das, together with many Western Dharma teachers and spiritual friends. May it be virtuous!
    • The Essential Meaning
      • English translation: The Essential Meaning, Dordogne, France, 1983, pages 151-152.

Translated in French

  • Nyoshül Khen Rinpoché, Le Chant d'illusion et autres poèmes, translated by Stéphane Arguillère (Paris: Gallimard, 2000)

Further Reading

In Tibetan

  • Orgyen Trinlé Palbar (aka Yeshe Sangpo Rinpoche), རྒྱལ་ཀུན་སྤྱི་གཟུགས་ཀུན་མཁྱེན་བླ་མ་འཇམ་དབྱངས་རྡོ་རྗེ་དཔལ་བཟང་པོ་མཆོག་གི་རྣམ་ཐར་ཆ་ཤས་ཙམ་བརྗོད་པ་དད་བརྒྱའི་སྙེ་མ་, rgyal kun spyi gzugs kun mkhyen bla ma 'jam dbyangs rdo rje dpal bzang po mchog gi rnam thar cha shas tsam brjod pa dad brgya'i snye ma, Samye Memorial Institute, Nepal (date unknown)

In English

  • Nyoshul Khenpo, Natural Great Perfection, translated by Lama Surya Das (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1995)
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, A Personal Homage by Sogyal Rinpoche, the introduction by Sogyal Rinpoche in the title mentioned above and published separately. Available through Zam.
  • Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje, The Fearless Lion's Roar: Profound Instructions on Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, translated by David Christensen (Boston & London: Snow Lion, 2015)

External Links