H. E. Dza Kilung Rinpoche Jigme Tandzin Chödrak is the fifth reincarnation of Getse Lama Jigme Ngotsar Gyatso, the enlightened yogi who founded the Kilung Monastery in the 18th century. Jigme Ngotsar is important in the Nyingma Longchen-Nyingtik lineage. He was one of the renowned Jigme Namzhi, the “Four Jigmes” who were the principal disciples and “Heart Sons” of Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa, a most revered Nyingma teacher of the last 600 years.
Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa instructed Jigme Ngotsar to establish a monastery in his homeland of Dzachuka, East Tibet. With the patronage of the King of Derge, Jigme Ngotsar, as the royal family’s chief spiritual advisor and lama, raised a great monastery. This included a main temple (still standing), a thriving monastic college with several hundred monks, a separate center for long-term retreat, and a nearby nunnery.
The present Dza Kilung Rinpoche is the head of the Kilung Monastery and has been reestablishing it as a center of learning and practice of the Nyingma Longchen Nyingtik tradition since he was a teenager. Since 1998, this work has been supported by the Kilung Foundation, a US-based non-profit organization.
Rinpoche sees the reinvigoration of traditional Tibetan culture as integral to the continuation of Tibetan Buddhism, and vice versa. He has initiated humanitarian projects that benefit the community and its culture, as well as the monastic community and its Buddhist philosphy and traditions. In addition to the important task of rebuilding the monastery, projects have included building a bridge to safely transport nomads and their animals across the Dzachuka River, educational programs for nomadic children, a community health clinic, and disaster relief.
Born in 1967, Rinpoche was discovered as a tulku in his youth by many lamas and yogis. There were signs that he was a reincarnated lama before, during and after his birth, but because of tumultuous times, all such information was kept secret until the 1980s.
He was later recognized, and confirmed, by a series of lamas to be the reincarnation of the great yogi Getse Lama Jigme Ngotsar Gyatso. These lamas include H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche, H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, H.H. Mindroling Trichen Rinpoche, and H.E. Dzogchen Rinpoche.
As a young teenager, Kilung Rinpoche studied Sutra and Tantra with private teachers and lamas, completed the Longchen Nyingtik Ngondro, and in particular received transmissions and training in Tsalung and Dzogchen with Dzagyal Khenchen Bupa, Lama Lungtok, and more. He did a three-year retreat in unfixed secret places with his first master, Lama Kyab-lo, of Dzagya Monastery.
In his teens, Rinpoche was able, with the help of senior monks, his family, and close community members, to return to the Kilung Monastery after it had been abandoned during the Cultural Revolution. This joyful moment was the cause for the reunion of the wider community that had been dispersed and for young people to join the monastery. It was the beginning of reviving the monastery and, in a greater sense, the entire Kilung community. At the age of 17, Rinpoche took on the responsibility of running the monastery. He traveled the country to gather religious artifacts like statues, paintings, sacred texts, brocade thangkas, lama dance costumes and masks. He revived sacred dance at the monastery, restarted important Drubchen practices such as Vajrakilaya, and also helped a group of nuns rebuild the nearby Kilung Nunnery.
In 1993, Rinpoche left home on pilgrimage. This pilgrimage, intended to be less than a year, became a seven-year adventure. It was on this journey that he developed the vision of the Kilung Foundation. In 1998, he traveled to the United States where the Foundation was officially created in Seattle, WA. That year he also began to teach Buddhism to westerners.
Since 1999, Rinpoche has divided his time between Tibet and the West. While maintaining his presence at the Kilung Monastery in Dzachuka, he has also established a western dharma seat on Whidbey Island, Washington, the Yeshe Long Buddhist Center. In addition to teaching in the United States, Rinpoche also teaches in South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and China.
Dza Kilung Rinpoche is the author of The Relaxed Mind, a Seven-Step Method for Deepening Meditation Practice, published by Shambhala Publications in November 2015.