H.E. Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche in Memoriam

Early on Monday, 30th of December 2019, the beloved Nyingma master, Kyabje Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche, IV passed away.  As of January 9th 2020, he was still resting in inner luminosity in the (post-death) thugdam meditative state.  Especially during that period devotees and members of the Chime Gatsaling Monastery communities were encouraged to pray for a swift rebirth and continuation of Rinpoche’s aspirations and enlightened activities and some meditated on Buddha Vajrasattva for purification and repairing of samaya vows.  Once thugdam ends people would have an opportunity to pay their respects to the kudung (body of the great master) before cremation or disposal.

Khamtrul Rinpoche (Jamyang Dhondrup) was a remarkable man who in the course of his long life made great contributions – both secular and spiritual – to benefit the Tibetan people and Buddhist communities.  Jamyang Dhondrup was born on December 29th 1928 in Lithang, Kham province of Tibet.  At the age of eight, he was recognized to be the reincarnation of Khamtrul III, Gyurme Trinle Namgyal.  Thereafter he spent many years studying and training in Tibetan medicine, astrology, Sutra and Tantra, Dzogchen, ritual arts, also in receiving initiations, making solitary retreats, pilgrimages and gaining experience from monastic administration work.  By age 27 Rinpoche was appointed khenpo (abbot) of the Derge Garjay Khamshung Gonpa, and he became lineage-holder of its traditions.

Following the tragic events in Tibet, Khamtrul Rinpoche in 1959 escaped into exile in India.  In 1962 H.H. the Dalai Lama summoned Rinpoche to northwest India and Dharamsala, site of the fledgling refugee Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).  Soon thereafter Khamtrul Rinpoche went on assignment to Assam in eastern India in order to help organize and administer Tibetan refugee settlements there.  Meanwhile in 1966 Rinpoche was appointed Under-Secretary of the Department of Religion and Culture in Dharamsala.  Together with fellow staff, he helped establish institutions to serve Tibetan refugee communities and preserve their culture.  In the 1970s Khamtrul Rinpoche was deputed to Kollegal in South India to assist in resettlement efforts.  His skills as a medical doctor also came in handy in treating hundreds of Tibetan refugees suffering from diseases or from change of climate to the tropics.  In 1980, Rinpoche was appointed Secretary of the Department of Religion and Culture, a post which he held till retirement in 1987 at the age of 60 years.

Lhundrub Chime Gatsal Ling Lamas & monks
Lhundrub Chime Gatsal Ling Lamas & monks

Around 1990 H.H. Dalai Lama requested Khamtrul Rinpoche to return from retirement in South India to Dharamsala in order to be His Holiness’s consultant on Nyingma affairs and to preside over ceremonies dedicated to the wellbeing of the Tibetan people and the CTA.  Khamtrul Rinpoche also proceeded to give a great many teachings, even from other Tibetan traditions and even to interested foreigners.  For instance, together with a group of young people, I was blessed to receive 16 Medicine Buddha empowerments from Rinpoche.  At the time he was also the sole person outside of Tibet holding the complete lineage of transmission of teachings from the famous Fifth Dalai Lama.

Being requested to pass on traditions of his erstwhile Khamshung Monastery, Khamtrul Rinpoche launched a knowledge transfer project to ensure their continuity:  In 1991, he founded the Lhundrup Chime Gatsaling monastery in Mcleod Ganj near His Holiness’ Namgyal Temple.  In 2005, Rinpoche established a second Chime Gatsaling as his residence in the valley below at Sidhpur.  Young Nyingma monks receive training at both monasteries and Khamshung rituals are followed there.  In his later years Khamtrul Rinpoche’s health became less stable, so his travels and Dharma teachings abroad to Southeast Asia, Europe and North America largely ended by the turn of the century.  Despite being confined to Dharamsala or for hospital care in Delhi, he continued to impart teachings, blessings and encouragement.  What a joy and inspiration it was for many people to come into contact with such a wise, powerful and compassionate human Being as Kyabje Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche!

Selected sources

“Lhundrub Chime Gatsal Ling Announces Passing of Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche”
Buddhist Door (HongKong), 9 January 2020, By Craig Lewis

“CTA holds prayer service for Kyabje Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche”
Central Tibetan Administration  (Dharamsala, India), 9 January 2020

“Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche”
Rigpa Wiki, 11 January 2020

“Khamtrul Rinpoche Visits United States”
Snow Lion Newsletter, Autumn 1992

Khamtrul Rinpoche
Memories Of Lost And Hidden Lands: The Life Story of Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche
by Jamyang Dhondrub (Khamtrul Rinpoche)

Translated from the Tibetan by  Lozang Zopa
Dharamsala:  Chime Gatsal Ling Monastery, 2009, 380 pages

His Holiness Khamtrul Rinpoche – Rigzin Dudpa Ganachakra Puja offering
[Guru Padmasambhava longevity empowerment, Ogyen Norlha in Tibetan and with Chinese translation] You Tube 11:58 minutes 5.3.2011

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Alpo Ratia

Guest contributor

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