Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche was born in Tibet in 1951. He emigrated with his family shortly before the Chinese invasion in 1959. He was brought up by his father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (1920-1995), considered one of the greatest Dzogchen masters of our time.
Tulku Urgyen sent his son to study at the seat of the Sixteenth Karmapa, where he served as the Karmapa’s private attendant. Later, his father arranged for him to receive teachings from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991), the highly regarded head of the Nyingma order; he received the Dzogchen pith instructions from Tulku Urgyen himself. His friendly, inquisitive, and frank personality allowed him to cultivate close relationships with some of Tibet’s greatest masters.
Since 1976, at the Karmapa’s suggestion, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche has turned his attention to Western students. He teaches throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, and the United States. In 1981 he established a school for international students in Nepal, the Rangjung Yeshe Institute, which is similar to a traditional shedra, or Buddhist college. This is one of the few places in the world where a Westerner has easy access to a traditional Buddhist education, taught in both Tibetan and English. A five-year program for translators, for instance, can cost as little as $75 a month. Rinpoche has also led Westerners through three-year retreats. As abbot of the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery in Nepal, he has welcomed visitors from around the world to his famous “Saturday talk” for over twenty years. As one travel guide notes, “If you want to know something about Buddhism, you can go and listen to Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche talk.”
Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche is the author of Indisputable Truth (1996), Bardo Guidebook (1991), and Union of Mahamudra & Dzogchen (1986), all published by the imprint he founded, Rangjung Yeshe Publications (www.rangjung.com). Tricycle editor-in-chief James Shaheen conducted this interview on September 10, 2001, in central Massachusetts.
Does teaching Westerners present any particular challenges?
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