The village of Tsari and the surrounding areas are among the most sacred places in Tibet. It was there that the most Venerable Khenchen Rinpoche Konchog Gyaltsen was born in the spring of 1946, and it was there that he spent his early years. In 1959, because of the political situation in Tibet, Khenpo Rinpoche fled to India with his family. The family then settled in Darjeeling , where Rinpoche began his education. Even at a young age, he was an excellent and dedicated student, and was able to complete his middle school studies in less than the average time.
At about this same time, a new university, the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, opened in Varanasi, India. Determined to be among its first students, Khenchen Rinpoche traveled to Varanasi , in October 1967 to seek admission. He then began a nine-year course of study that included Madhyamika, Abhidharma, Vinaya, the Abhisamayalankara, and the Uttaratantra, as well as history, logic, and Tibetan grammar. In early 1968, he had the good fortune to take full monastic ordination from the great Kalu Rinpoche and, shortly after graduating from the Institute, he received teachings from the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa on The Eight Treasures of Mahamudra Songs, by the Indian mahasiddhas.
Even after completing this long and arduous course of study, Khenchen Rinpoche wanted only to deepen his knowledge and practice of the Dharma. With the same intensity that he brought to his earlier studies, Rinpoche sought out and received teachings and instructions from great Buddhist masters. One was the Venerable Khunu Lama Rinpoche, with whom Khenchen Rinpoche studied two works of Gampopa The Jewel Ornament of Liberation and The Precious Garland of the Excellent Path. Rinpoche's studies with the Venerable Khunu Lama also included Mahamudra and many of the songs of Milarepa.
In all his studies, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation is one of the texts that Khenpo found to be most inspiring. Lord Gampopa lays out the teachings in a clear and systematic way that is understandable to beginners. At the same time, the work is of such profound depth that scholars and practitioners can study it over and over and still not fully grasp its meaning. He has said on several occasions, "Anyone who knows the Jewel Ornament well can say that they really understand Buddhism."
Maintaining a balance between theoretical understanding and the practice of meditation, Khenpo Rinpoche began a three-year retreat in 1978 under the guidance of the enlightened master Khyunga Rinpoche. During this time, he was able to deepen and enhance his understanding of The Five-fold Path of Mahamudra and the profound Gong Chik text of Lord Jigten Sumgon. He also received many other transmissions.
In 1985, Khenchen Rinpoche traveled to the main seat of the Drikung Kagyu lineage, Drikung Thel, in Tibet. There, he was able to receive personal blessings, as well as instructions and transmissions of Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa, from the enlightened master Venerable Pachung Rinpoche.
In 1982, the force of karma and the requests of many practitioners combined to bring Khenchen Rinpoche to the United States. By late 1983, the Tibetan Meditation Center was well established in Washington, DC. Their original location was the site of innumerable teachings, practices, retreats and ceremonies. In September 1984, and again in 1987, the young Center was blessed with personal visits and teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Through Khenchen Rinpoche's and the Center's efforts, Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche visited later in 1987, and people in several states were able to receive benefit from his teachings and presence.
Wanting the teachings of Dharma to reach as many people as possible, Khenchen Rinpoche has quickly adapted himself to Western forms of communication. He has made appearances on television, been a guest on many radio programs, lectured extensively at colleges and universities, and spoken to the public through countless newspaper articles. Between 1983 and 1990, Khenchen Rinpoche singlehandedly translated critical Drikung Kagyu practices, prayers and histories into English. The originals of the texts were all written out by his hand: Achi Chokyi Drolma, Amitabha, Bodhicitta, Chakrasamvara, Chod, the complete Ngondro, Five-fold Mahamudra, Four-Session Guru Yoga, Green Tara, Lama Chopa and tsok, Mahakala, Mandala offering, Manjushri, Medicine Buddha, Milarepa Guru Yoga, Nyung Ne, Peaceful Guru Padmasambhava, Phowa, Refuge, Chenrezig, Vajrapani, Vajrasattva, Vajrayogini, and White Tara. The Illusory Body teachings, Supplication to Tara, Treasury of Benefit and Happiness, Meaningful to Behold, many other prayers and three of his four books were all translated and published during this time. This priceless work formed the essential base from which the holy Dharma could be taught and practiced.
For different reasons, Khenchen Rinpoche and the Tibetan Meditation Center moved to Frederick, Maryland in November 1991. Nestled inside a state park, the Center is now situated on four wooded acres. A small temple has been built there, and was consecrated by His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche in 1994. With this larger facility and in surroundings more conducive to contemplation, Rinpoche has been able to benefit even more people with his teachings. Now that Western students are becoming interested in long term retreat practice, plans are being made to establish a residential retreat center nearby.
In more recent years, Khenchen Rinpoche spends a great deal of his time traveling in order to give teachings and lead retreats. He has established centers throughout the US and in Chile, and he frequently visits in Europe, especially Germany and Austria, as well as Southeast Asia. Last year, he taught the Gong Chik to the monks and nuns at the Drikung Kagyu Institute in Dehra Dun, India . With the financial assistance of the Tibetan Meditation Center's Text Project, Rinpoche arranged for 1,200 copies of the text to be printed, and then distributed them to monks, nuns and monasteries in India, Nepal and Tibet.