Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche was born
in 1954 in a village near Lhakhang Dzong in the southern
region of Tibet bordering Bhutan called Lhodrak. From his
birth, his parents had a strong feeling that they should
place him in the nearby monastery of Nub Namkha'i Nyingpo.
The head lama, Namkha'i Nyingpo Rinpoche, was the tulku of
one of the twenty-five disciples of Guru Padmasambhava.
Along the deep Himalayan valley were many caves and holy
places associated with Guru Padmasambhava and several of the
great tertons who, in later generations, rediscovered his
teachings. Among them were Guru Chowang, Terton Ratna Lingpa
and Terton Padma Lingpa.
The village was on the main trade route
from Lhasa to Bhutan and the people were relatively
prosperous. By the late 1950's the communist oppression had
intensified and the social structure was turned upside down.
In 1962 Khenpo and his family fled through the mountains and
made their way through Bhutan to India.
After arriving in India, he and his
sisters were sent to a government boarding school for
Tibetans in Darjeeling, West Bengal. There he began
his formal education. The curriculum included the usual
primary school subjects as well as English, Hindi and basic
dharma teachings. At the age of ten he took the robes of a
monk and received the vows of a novice (ge-tsul). He
continued his education up to the eighth grade. Year after
year, he was always at the head of his class.
In 1969 he entered the Central Institute
of Higher Tibetan studies at Sarnath, near Varanasi. There
he followed a nine-year curriculum in Buddhist studies and
general education under his principal teacher, Khenpo Palden
Sherab, and other masters. His class work included Sanskrit,
English and intensive studies in the textual traditions of
Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. He graduated with the degree of
Acharya in 1978, ranking first overall among the four
schools of Tibetan Buddhism represented at Sarnath. His
Holiness the Dalai Lama honored his achievement with the
award of a silver medal. After graduation he was invited to
teach at Palyul Namdroling Monastery at the Tibetan
settlement in Bylakuppe, near Mysore in South India. For
several years he was engaged in training the young monks and
teaching in the monastic college, the Ngagyur Nyingma
University (Shedra). In 1983 he was enthroned as a khenpo by
His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche. In the Nyingmapa
tradition, a khenpo is a professor of Buddhist studies.
Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso has received all
of the major lineage empowerments and transmissions of the
Nyingmapa school, including the Dudjom Tersar from Kyabje
Dudjom Rinpoche; the Longchen Nyingthig Yabshi, and Nyingma
Kama from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche; and the Rinchen Terdzod
and Nam Chos from Pema Norbu Rinpoche. He has done intensive
dzogchen practice under the guidance of Penor Rinpoche and
other eminent masters including Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok
Rinpoche and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche. Pema Norbu Rinpoche has
authorized him to represent the monastery and to teach, to
confer empowerments and to give personal instruction in
Khen Rinpoche has traveled and taught
extensively in America, in Taiwan, and among the overseas
Chinese communities in Singapore, Hong Kong, and the
Philippines. His open, direct and thorough style of teaching
has been very well received. He recently gave the
empowerment of the Gyud Sangwai Nyingpo (Guhyagarbha Tantra)
followed by extensive teachings on Mipham Rinpoche's
commentary, Odsal Nyingpo. This was the first time that this
fundamental Nyingma tantra was explained in such great
detail in the USA.