The Venerable Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche
1920 - 2009
With a sad heart it befalls us to tell you that after two weeks of serious illness, our most beloved teacher, The Venerable Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche declared his intent to enter final meditation on Saturday, December 5, 2009, at approximately 6:00pm Standard Nepal Time. Rinpoche stayed 24 hours in deep meditation, then left the world of samsara on December 6, 2009. According to the Tibetan calendar, he was 90 years old.
Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche was one of the last living, most senior lamas who trained in Tibet. A master of the Nyingma lineage, the Venerable Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche was trained in all four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism – Nyingma, Geluk, Sakya and Kagyu. Rinpoche was a Dzochen master and most eminent Nyingma historian and scholar. Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, Jetsun Shuksep Rinpoche, Kangyur Rinpoche, Drukpa Yangzin Rinpoche, Dzogchen Lama Gonpo Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche were Rinpoche’s root lamas. Rinpoche’s dharma heir is Kangyur Tulku Jigme Rinpoche.
Rinpoche was born in 1920 in Yak-de, the Yamdok area of Tibet between the central and western provinces. Rinpoche began his spiritual life as a Tibetan Buddhist monk and later, as his father before him and in line with the Nyingma tradition, he became a ngakpa -- a lay monk. An ardent practitioner, Rinpoche’s ability to stop hail from destroying crops was well documented in Tibet. In 1959, at the insistence of his lama Drukpa Yangzin Rinpoche, Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche fled communist rule leaving behind his family and carrying with him only one pecha as he crossed the high Himalayas. Rinpoche moved to India to be in the service of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In 1960, Rinpoche was asked by Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche and His Holiness to teach the holy Dharma in Japan. Rinpoche completed this work in 1970, returned to India, and at the behest of Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, Rinpoche founded Nyingmapa Wishfulfilling Center for Study and Practice (NWC) – the first Dudjom institute outside of Tibet. Later Rinpoche moved NWC to Nepal, where the modest monastery and shedra – monastic school and college -- is now located outside of Kathmandu in Sundarijal.
Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche wrote a magnum opus, thirteen-volume Biographical Dictionary of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism*. His Tantic Practice in Nyingma, translated into Japanese and English, has been used by thousands of students throughout the world to guide them in their foundational practices. Rinpoche expanded these teachings with The Nyingma View of the Great Completeness -- Fundamental Mind. Rinpoche gave an account of his own spiritual journey and attainments in Autobiography of Khetsun Sangpo: Memoirs of a Nyingmapa Lama from the Yamdok Area of Tibet*. In addition, Rinpoche recently published an authoritative history of The Three Great Stupas: Swayambunath, Boudhanath and Namo Buddha*. (*Not yet translated into English.)
Rinpoche will be most remembered for his gentle kindness, wisdom and compassion, his warm smile, his absolute knowing. He was a great teacher, a loving master. All who knew him are blessed.
Rinpoche’s last instructions to his students were thus: “Work hard for the sake of the Dharma. For other than that, work is needless, useless and meaningless.”
In keeping with this, to the very end Rinpoche continued to do his daily practices. He was an inspiration. As Rinpoche’s students we should be proud to have had such an outstanding teacher. In his loving memory we should strive always to be good students and keep our samaya.
Of his passing, Kangyur Tulku Jigme Rinpoche reminds Rinpoche’s students: “If you practice well, Rinpoche will always be in your heart and mind.”
Pujas will be held daily at NWC through the 49th day. We ask for your continued prayers and that all Rinpoche’s wishes be fulfilled.