HE Chatral Rinpoche was born in the Nyag Adzi Valley, Nyarong, Kham in 1913, in the year of the Female Water Ox, on the morning of the auspicious 10th day of the fifth month, celebrated each year as the day Guru Rinpoche manifested the form of Dorje Drollo and concealed countless terma treasures, teachings and samaya substance across the length and breadth of Tibet and beyond. He soon migrated to Amdo with his family.
His father was Pema Dondrub whose family line was Mukpo Dong and his mother, Sonam Tso, was a member of the Wakyung family.
He left home at fifteen, travelling extensively on foot to receive teachings and to practice. He studied with some of the most respected lamas of the last century: Khenchen Ngawang Palzang, HE Dudjom Rinpoche, Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, and the dakini Sera Khandro.
He is one of the primary lineage holders of the Longchen Nyingthig, and in particular the lineage that descends through Jigme Lingpa’s heart son Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu and then on to Patrul Rinpoche. HE Chatral Rinpoche is closely associated with the Dudjom Tersar lineage. HH Dorje Dragdul, one of Terton Dudjom Lingpa’s sons, gave him these transmissions. He was empowered as the regent of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche and is now passing on this lineage back to this master’s tulku, who lives primarily in central Tibet. He also holds the Sera Khandro Terma.
From Kathok Khenpo Ngawang Palzang (Khenpo Ngakchung) (1879-1941), the abbot of Kathok monastery, and the disciple of the great Khenpo Nyoshul Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, he received the transmissions and teachings of Longchen Nyingthig and many other teachings, and Khenpo became his most important Root Teacher. For six years and five months he served this master perfectly by the three ways of pleasing the teacher. Rinpoche also received many transmissions from Kyabje Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and other masters of Derge.
“Beginning with the preliminary practices and continuing through the progressive stages of the path up to and including Trekcho and Togal belonging to the Innermost Luminosity, he was bestowed an ocean like amount of Dharma teachings from the sutras, tantras and oral instructions, like a vase filled to the brim. Bringing them into the sphere of practice, the realization of Dzogchen’s great equanimity dawned in his mind. He realized the four levels of vision and reached a high stage among the learned and accomplished beings in this world. In this way, he is significantly replete with the qualities of experience and realization.” Khenpo Tendzin Özer trs by Erik Pema Kunsang.
He was crowned with the name Chatral Sangye Dorje by the mahapandita Ngagah Rinpoche and entrusted with the teachings and his spiritual aspirations.
Fulfilling prophesies from the past, he became the personal guru of Tibet’s regent king, the honorable Jampal Yeshe Tenpey Gyaltsen of Reting. By this time His Holiness was attracting a great deal of public attention with people of all backgrounds making offerings to him and requesting teachings. He decided to make a dignified exit from the distraction this represented and set off to practice alone as a hermit in secluded caves for some decades. This is how he acquired the name “Chatral” meaning “hermit”.
Gyaltsap Retring, who was then the regent of Tibet, invited Rinpoche to Lhasa and received many transmissions and instructions on Dzogpachenpo meditation from him. As a result, many people from all of life flocked to Rinpoche for teachings with offerings.
He saw this as a distraction from the path and left suddenly to the caves in the mountains blessed by Guru Rinpoche and other masters of the past. He then lived as a hermit for decades and became known as “Chadral” (a hermit), one who has abandoned mundane activities.
At the end of the 1950s, Rinpoche moved to Bhutan and then to India. He restored a simple temple of “Bhuntsok Ngayab Cholingî near Darjeeling in 1962, and later started a drupdra, where meditators were trained in Longchen Nyingthig practice. He continued to build other drupdras, temples and stupas in Nepal and India including Pharping in the Yolmo are of Nepal where he is now primarily based.
He is a ngakpa who has consistently shunned institutional and political involvement, choosing instead whenever possible to live the life of a wandering yogi ceaselessly working to overturn samsara for all sentient beings. For many years in Tibet, Chatral Rinpoche meditated alone in caves and was renowned as a realized yogi. From the outset Rinpoche chose whenever possible always to walk on foot, declining the use a horse. He preferred always to stay in caves, hermitages or in a small tent, never wishing to accept the invitation of wealthy patrons to stay in the their house. Even today he stays in his own small place in Parphing Nepal near a sacred site of Guru Padmasambhava who founded Buddhism in Tibet.
Despite his great age he still seems never to stay long in one place. As a ngakpa he is he maintains strict discipline in the context of the Dzogchen view. Untypically, for a ngakpa, however, he is especially well known for promoting vegetarianism. His yearly practice of ransoming the lives of thousands of animals in India is legendary.
In addition to his emphasis on the union of view and conduct, Rinpoche also stresses the practice of retreat.
Rinpoche divided his time between Salbhari, India, and Nepal. He passed away on Dec. 31, 2015 at Pharping, Nepal at the age of 102. Rinpoche is survived by his wife, Kamala and two daughters, Tara Devi and Saraswati.