That feeling of being in the right place at the right time; of doing exactly the thing that you’re meant to do—isn’t this what so many of us crave but few of us are fortunate enough to claim? It’s that rare sense of feeling blessed by and in the life we’re living, and this is precisely how Monla Khedrup Rinpoche (also known as Khedrupchen Rinpoche) describes his own life and calling. Recognized at an early age as the fifth reincarnation of Kyabgon Khedrupchen Jigme Kundrol, a renowned Bhutanese scholar, practitioner, and one of the main students of Jigme Lingpa (a highly revered and realized 18th-century Buddhist teacher), he is tasked not only with teaching the dharma but also with ensuring the continuation of the Longchen Nyingthig tradition from the Nyingma lineage.

“I’ve always considered it an honor to serve sentient beings and the dharma,” Khedrupchen Rinpoche says. “And it’s not just about being a reincarnate teacher. What’s more important is that I can study, experience, and practice the teachings alongside all the other monks in order to help the dharma flourish.”

Born in 1990 in Bhutan, Khedrupchen Rinpoche is said to have begun recounting memories of his previous life when he was only 3. A few years later, he was formally recognized as a tulku (reincarnated lama), and at 13 began rigorous monastic training. At 16, he entered Ngagyur Nyingma College, a branch of the renowned Mindrolling Monastery in India, and completed a nine-year course on advanced Buddhist studies, graduating with an acharya degree, the equivalent of an M.A. He taught at the college for three years before returning to Bhutan, where he founded the Khedrup Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the dissemination of the buddhadharma and the continuation of the Longchen Nyingthig lineage. Each year, at his students’ request, Khedrupchen Rinpoche travels the world to teach at various centers, monasteries, and universities.

“When I was young, I thought being a rinpoche would be easy,” Khedrupchen Rinpoche tells me with a laugh. “But it’s actually very difficult. People have absolute trust in you as a teacher, and that’s a big responsibility. You have to be very careful with that trust so your students don’t lose it, because it’s actually not just trust in you but also trust in the dharma. And through trusting the dharma, they trust themselves.”

Just as your students trust you, you have to trust your students.”

This responsibility is one that Khedrupchen Rinpoche carries out wholeheartedly through his multifaceted teaching. In addition to guiding the many monks and students under his care, he’s also involved in a number of social-action projects. The Khedrup Foundation manages and finances two monasteries, a yogi retreat center, and a handful of charitable projects like the Monmo Tashi Khyidren Initiative, a program that provides basic amenities like warm clothes and health care to the monks ofSangchen Ogyen Tsuklag Monastery. In addition to being the founder and president of the Khedrup Foundation, Khedrupchen Rinpoche is the founder of Siddhartha’s Wisdom Club—a youth program centered on Buddhist values and teachings, with an emphasis on mindfulness—and of the Ami-Deva Association, a meditation program for the elderly. 

When I ask Khedrupchen Rinpoche how he can ensure the continuation of the lineage and, more practically, how he’ll know who will come after him, he speaks first about the present. “The dharma is flourishing everywhere,” he says. “There are so many amazing teachers and amazing technology—so many things are possible that weren’t possible before. Scientists are paying attention to the teachings, and people are becoming more interested in studying and practicing. So I’m confident that the dharma will continue in the future. The combined good merit of all sentient beings is important for this to happen.” 

Then he circles back to the key ingredient of the teacher-student relationship: trust. “Just as your students trust you, you have to trust your students,” he says, smiling broadly. “For example, if you wholeheartedly offer one hundred people all of your teachings, I’m confident that at least a handful will practice diligently and carry the lineage forward.”  

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