H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche biography
H.E Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche was a master of ritual, especially that associated with Red Tara and Vajrakilaya, as well as a Dzogchen meditator. He remains renowned for the quality of his voice, which has been preserved on CD recordings of Rinpoche chanting T’hröma Chöd and the Rigdzin Düpa. One of the first Nyingmapa lamas to settle in the United States, he later relocated to Brazil and built the first traditional Tibetan temple in South America. The emphasis in his teachings on pure motivation for spiritual practice and all activities has inspired thousands of practitioners.
Chagdud Rinpoche, Padma Gargyi Wangchuk, was born in the T’hromtar region of Kham, the son of Delog Dawa Drolma and Sera Kharto Rinpoche. He was recognized as the incarnation of Chagdud Tanpai Gyaltsan, a Nyingmapa siddha from Chagdud Gonpa in Nyarong, but received his early training in the Drukpa Kagyu tradition at Temp’hel Gonpa. After completing his first three-year retreat and receiving instructions from, among others, Sechen Khontrul, Sechen Rabjam, Bat’hur Khenpo T’hubga, and Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, he returned to T’hromtar. Several years later, following the advice of Arik Rinpoche, he entered his second three-year retreat under Tromge Trungpa Rinpoche, who told him that Tara practice would be a primary source of accomplishment in his life.
After this retreat, Chagdud Rinpoche journeyed to Chagdud Gonpa and then made a pilgrimage to Lhasa, where he met his root teacher, Polu Khenpo Dorje. In 1959, he led Khenpo Dorje to safety in India. During this arduous flight into exile, Chagdud Rinpoche expressed his aspiration to re-enter extended retreat. Khenpo Dorje, however, admonished him to support the Tibetan people through his teaching. Thus, for the rest of his life Chagdud Rinpoche served tirelessly as a teacher, first to Tibetans and later to Westerners.
In India and Nepal, Chagdud Rinpoche became deeply connected to Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, both of whom he had encountered only briefly in Tibet. As well, he received transmissions from Chökling Rinpoche in Bir. As a teacher, Chagdud Rinpoche became famous for training people in the Longsal Nyingpo lineage of p’howa. As a practitioner, he became known for the effectiveness of his Red Tara and Vajrakilaya rituals, as well as the resonant power of his songs of chöd.
In 1979, Chagdud Rinpoche fulfilled the aspirations of some Western students by traveling to the United States. After several years, at the request of his sangha there, he established the Chagdud Gonpa Foundation, now a dynamic network of centers and activities, including Padma Publishing, which has published translations of four of Longchen Rabjam’s Seven Treasuries, Dudjom Lingpa’s Buddhahood Without Meditation, and Nyoshul Khenpo’s A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems.
While in India Chagdud Rinpoche fathered two children, Jigme Tromge Rinpoche and Dawa Lhamo, with Karma Drolma, an accomplished practitioner with whom Rinpoche formed a beneficial, lifelong connection. In the United States he formally married an American, who is now known as Chagdud Khadro. These four family members, connected by blood and intention, continue to carry out Rinpoche’s activities in Asia and in the West.
Chagdud Rinpoche first taught in Brazil in 1991, where he was impressed by the Brazilians’ natural faith and interest in the dharma. He relocated there in 1995, and in the next seven years, until his Parinirvana in November 2002, he established more than twenty centers in Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile. He built the first traditional Tibetan temple at Khadro Ling, the seat of Chagdud Gonpa Brasil, in the southern state of Río Grande do Sul, supervised the work of translating sadhanas and books into Portuguese, and sculpted numerous statues, two large ones of Guru Rinpoche and a monumental statue of Akshobhya Buddha.
Three days before he died, Chagdud Rinpoche completed a life-sized statue of Amitabha Buddha that now sits on the top floor of a Zangdog Palri at Khadro Ling. Chagdud Rinpoche was planning the Zangdog Palri at the time of his Parinirvana, and since 2002 this project has been carried forward by his students with guidance from Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Jigme Tromge Rinpoche, and Lama Rigdzin Samdrup.
Chagdud Rinpoche’s Parinirvana occurred some hours after he taught p’howa to more than three hundred people at Khadro Ling; at the beginning of the teaching, he had made a subtle allusion to the fact that he would teach two days rather than the scheduled three. He remained in a state of meditation, with no deterioration of his physical form, for over five days after his last breath, then was taken from Brazil to Nepal. His cremation a year later has been recorded on DVD, Wisdom Fire.
Although Chagdud Rinpoche adapted easily to the West, he taught the traditional aspects of Vajrayana—the ritual arts, including torma making, music, mudra, architecture, and so forth—precisely, according to his lineages. He was revered for his Dzogchen retreats, which grew larger year by year, but he insisted that the foundational preliminary practices precede Dzogchen transmission.
As a result, he left a legacy of diligent practitioners, able to deal with retreat hardships and to undertake elaborate ceremonies such as drubchens with confidence.