vidyadhara chögyam trungpa rinpoche vajra regent ösel tendzin patrick sweeney lady lila rich

about chögyam trungpa rinpoche

Vidyadhara the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was born in Tibet in 1940, and at an early age was recognized as a major tülku, or enlightened teacher, of the Kagyü lineage. After being enthroned as supreme abbot of Surmang Monastery and governor of Surmang District, he began eighteen years of intensive training. His primary teachers were Jamgön Kongtrül of Sechen and Khenpo Gangshar, leading teachers in the Nyingma and Kagyü lineages. In 1958, at the age of eighteen, Trungpa Rinpoche completed his studies and received the degrees of kyorpön (doctor of divinity) and khenpo (master of studies), as well as full monastic ordination.

Soon after that Trungpa Rinpoche fled Tibet during the Communist invasion, finally arriving in India in 1959. There he was appointed spiritual adviser to the Young Lamas Home School in Delhi, and served there until 1963. While in India he received a Spaulding scholarship to Oxford University, where he studied comparative religion, philosophy, history, and fine arts. He also studied Japanese flower arranging, receiving a degree from the Sogetsu School.

While in England, Trungpa Rinpoche began to instruct Western students in the dharma, and in 1967 he founded Samye Ling Meditation Centre in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. During this period, he also published his first two books: Born in Tibet (1966) and Meditation in Action (1969).

In 1968 Trungpa Rinpoche traveled to Bhutan to meditate in solitary retreat. There he composed The Sadhana of Mahamudra, a text that became central to all of his teaching in the West. Soon after returning to England, he put aside his monastic robes and became a layperson. In 1970 he married a young Englishwoman, Diana Pybus, and together they moved to North America.

During Trungpa Rinpoche’s seventeen years of teaching in North America, he traveled extensively, giving thousands of lectures and hundreds of seminars. In 1973, he established Vajradhatu (now a division of Shambhala International), an international association of practice and study centers, including residential facilities in Vermont and Colorado, and later, Nova Scotia. A year later, he founded the Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) which became the first and only accredited Buddhist-inspired university in North America.

In 1976 Trungpa Rinpoche appointed Ösel Tendzin (Thomas Rich) as his Vajra Regent, or dharma heir. The Vajra Regent worked closely with Trungpa Rinpoche, and taught extensively from 1976 until his death in 1990.

Trungpa Rinpoche was known for his interest in the arts and in the relationship between contemplative discipline and the artistic process. His own work included calligraphy, painting, flower arranging, poetry, playwriting, and environmental installations.

In addition to his extensive teachings in the Buddhist tradition, Trungpa Rinpoche introduced the Shambhala teachings, presented in the Shambhala Training program that he co-founded with his Vajra Regent. Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings on the Shambhala principles have been compiled in several books.

Trungpa Rinpoche passed into parinirvana in 1987 at the age of forty-seven. After his body rested in samadhi in his home in Nova Scotia, the cremation took place at Karmê Chöling in Vermont, during which many traditional signs of realization appeared. He is survived by his wife, Diana Mukpo, and five sons. His presidency of Vajradhatu was inherited by the Vajra Regent until his own passing in 1990. At that point Patrick Sweeney, Trimé Lhawang, became the current holder of the lineage passed to Ösel Tendzin, and the leadership of Vajradhatu, since renamed Shambhala International, passed to Trungpa Rinpoche’s eldest son, Ösel Mukpo, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.