Today (27 August 2009) is the anniversary of Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje (1931-1999), according to the Western calender.
Nyoshul Khenpo was such a consummate master of Dzogpachenpo, and such an authority on the teachings of Longchenpa, that his disciples regarded him as Longchenpa in person. 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 Khen Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche at the end of the 1980's
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, and Dharma-heir of Khenpo Ngakchung. Khenpo served as his attendant for three years, and at the age of seventeen, he began to receive from him the teachings of Longchen Nyingtik and particularly the Great Oral Lineage of Pith Instructions 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 16th Gyalwang 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, 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.
Sogyal Rinpoche said of his beloved master:
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. For in every way, he himself was the greatest statement of Dzogchen, in simply how he was, and how he incarnated that natural ease of the innermost nature of mind, Semnyi Ngalso, the ‘natural great peace’ he wrote of so beautifully:
Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind,
Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thoughts
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara.
Rest in natural great peace.