Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche IXDirector of E-Vam Buddhist Institute
Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche IX was born in the wood sheep year of 1955, in the independent pastoral kingdom of Kham Nangchen. Rinpoche was recognised by His Holiness XVI Gyalwang Karmapa as the ninth incarnation of the Traleg lineage and enthroned at the age of two as Supreme Abbot of Thrangu Monastery.
At Thrangu Monastery he began the intensive education that prepares a child reincarnate to resume the work of the lineage, under the tutelage of great lamas. However, the times were changing, monasteries in Kham suffered aerial bombardment, and Rinpoche fled across Tibet to the safety of the monastery of His Holiness XVI Gyalwang Karmapa, near Lhasa. This too became exposed to the violence of the times, leaving no choice but to flee south, through the Himalayan mountains, to seek refuge in another country. Although Traleg Rinpoche was under four years old, the group of almost 100 people fleeing had faith in his ability to protect them. Rinpoche sensed when the guns were closing in on them, saying, “The wolves are coming.” In unfamiliar mountains far from home, sometimes they were unsure where to go, but the three-year old discerned the direction, and they had learned to trust him. Finally, they were able to enter the kingdom of Bhutan. In the lowlands at the foot of the Himalayas an old army camp at Buxaduar was made available to the refugees.
His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa soon made Rumtek monastery, in Sikkim, his new seat. The young Traleg Rinpoche went there, as did other young lamas including His Eminence Sharma Rinpoche, His Eminence Kenting Tai Situpa Rinpoche, His Eminence Goshir Gyaltsap Rinpoche, and His Eminence Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. All were educated by His Holiness.
At nine Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche went to Sang-ngak Choling monastery near Darjeeling and studied under the guidance of His Eminence Kyabje Thuksey Rinpoche. While there, he was taught by Khenpo Noryang and Khenpo Sodar who devoted themselves to his education for many years. In order for Rinpoche to receive training in Karma Kagyu tantric ritual practice, His Holiness Karmapa sent Lama Ganga. Thus Rinpoche received both Drukpa Kagyu and Karma Kagyu training at Thugsey Rinpoche's monastery.
At sixteen, His Holiness Karmapa sent Traleg Rinpoche to study at the Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies at Varanasi, where he studied with khenpos and geshes of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism until he was nineteen.
During this time Rinpoche was under personal care of Khenpo Chodar, of Sang-ngak Choling monastery. He was subsequently put in charge of the hidden land copper-coloured mountain Zangdog Palri Monastery in remote eastern Bhutan with monks from his own Thrangu Monastery, including the Venerable Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. After Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s departure, Rinpoche was placed under the private tutelage of Dregung Khenpo by His Holiness Karmapa in order to continue his study of sutra and tantra.
When Rinpoche was 22 he returned to Rumtek to be with His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa, and as translator for international visitors. His intention that Buddhist practice should take root in the West manifested at an early age, by learning English in remote Himalayan mountains where, in the 1960s, there were almost no English speakers. He learned through textbooks, and also received some assistance from a Canadian Jesuit missionary in Bhutan.
Having had the full education of a high lama Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche arrived in Melbourne, Australia in 1980 equipped to plant the Buddha dharma in new soil.
Having already mastered Tibetan, Hindi, Sanskrit and English, Rinpoche plunged into the great texts of early Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, discovering in them depths, subtleties and philosophical challenges not emphasised in the classical education of a young tulku. In addition Rinpoche studied in depth Western history, psychology and philosophy. He developed a strong interest in the Western understandings of mind, and how to help alleviate mental distress.
Making Buddhism accessible, meaningful and effectively transformative, for a culture new to the dharma, was Rinpoche’s vocation, as it was for the original hearers of the Buddha, among them Ananda, to whom the Traleg lineage of incarnate lamas traces its lineage roots.
To those inclined to see Buddhism only as a philosophy, Traleg Rinpoche emphasised the importance of practice, and the power of faith to effect transformation. To those of devotional inclination, Rinpoche emphasised the value of cultivating right view and knowledge of the path. To those inclined to see Buddhism as purely mental training, he emphasised physicality, embodiment, with practical yoga exercises, especially pranayama.
In 1982 Traleg Rinpoche established E-Vam Institute in Melbourne, which continues to this day to offer programs from all traditions of Buddhism, including Theravada and Zen Buddhism, and in addition E-Vam Institute became a regular venue for visiting Western philosophers, historians, and contemporary thinkers.
During that same year Rinpoche established weekly classes for those practicing ngondro. His teachings included long courses on the traditional foundation texts of the Kagyu tradition.
Traleg Rinpoche’s ecumenical approach to Buddhism led him to the establishment of the Buddhist Summer School, held every year since 1984, at which a wide range of teachers and academics were offered a platform, enabling the curious a taste of various traditions.
The Bi-Annual Buddhism And Psychotherapy Conference was established soon after. This brought together Western psychologists, psychotherapists and others within the helping professions together with Buddhists to discuss the meeting point between the two traditions and to share their approaches to the alleviation mental and physical suffering.
By 1992 Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche had made E-Vam Institute his home and this remained his home for the remainder of his life, however he was soon to spend a substantial portion of each year traveling to his newly established centres around the world and also visiting various Kagyu centres in the United States and Europe.
In 1996 Rinpoche established Maitripa Centre on 55 acres of land surrounded by national forests in Healesville, Australia, where Rinpoche gave teachings at annual retreats and also provided a venue for retreats, conferences and workshops from all spiritual and mental health traditions.
In the United States Rinpoche established E-Vam Institute New York, which continues to offer a range of courses and retreats in Buddhist meditation and Philosophy. Nyima Tashi Kagyu Buddhist Centre, which Rinpoche named after the first Traleg tulku, hosted a number of venerated teachers within the Tibetan tradition, including His Holiness the Sakya Trizin, and the Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. In Sydney, Australia, Traleg Rinpoche established Yeshe Nyima Indo- Tibetan Yoga Centre in Sydney, where courses and retreats on yoga and pranayama are regularly held.
In 1999 seven of Traleg Rinpoche’s students undertook the traditional three-year retreat, in annual instalments of three months, an experiment in adapting intensive practice to a country with no tradition of community support or even appreciation of monasticism.
In 2008 Rinpoche established Shogam Publications, releasing three books over the following five years: Robert Miller’s Buddhist Existentialism, Padmasiri de Silva’s Buddhist and Freudian Psychology and Peter Oldmeadows’ Rime: Buddhism without Prejudice. These have been met with great acclaim and Buddhist Existentialism now heads into its second print.
In 2010 Traleg Rinpoche turned to a younger generation of practitioners. He instigated a more structured approach, and established Shogam Vidhalaya, a shedra for his younger students for the study of the great texts over an eight-year period. Rinpoche personally oversaw and instructed the shedra on a weekly basis. In addition Rinpoche established a program open for people under 35 years of age, with a focus on both study and practice.
In that same year Traleg Rinpoche instigated an ongoing multi-faith program involving representatives from all the worlds major faiths. Rinpoche was very passionate about interfaith dialogue.
Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche was a great scholar within the traditional Buddhist and Western traditions. He was well versed in Western philosophy, history and world religions and regularly drew on this wealth of knowledge to support his Western student’s understanding of Kagyu and Nyingma teachings.
Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche IX passed into parinirvana on 24 July 2012, the auspicious day of Chokhor Duchen, the observance of Lord Buddha's first teaching. He stayed in thugdam for one whole week.
On 31 August 2012 Traleg Rinpoche’s precious kudung was transported from his home at E-Vam Institute Melbourne to Maitripa Centre in Healesville. The cremation ceremony was held at Maitripa Centre on 2 September 2012. Overseen by the Venerable Zuri Rinpoche, the Venerable Lodro Nyima Rinpoche, Lamas representing Thrangu Rinpoche, and also by Lamas representing His Eminence Khenting Tai Situ Rinpoche, the ceremony was undertaken in the most traditional manner.
Enthroned at two, mastering the teachings and practices of the Karma Kagyu and Drukpa Kagyu under His Holiness 16th Gyalwang Karmapa and His Eminence Kyabje Thuksey Rinpoche respectively, establishing Dharma centres in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, the Buddhist Summer School, the Buddhism and Psychotherapy Conference, Shogam Vidhalaya (shedra), Shogam Publications, mastering Sanskrit, Hindi and English, and learned in Western religion, psychotherapy, history and philosophy, Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche IX, was truly one of the most significant of the Traleg lineage of tulkus.
Last Updated: June 29, 2013