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Revered Nyingma Scholar and Teacher Nyichang Khentrül Rinpoche Has Died

Nyichang Khentrül Rinpoche (1932–2024). From Buddha Pada Facebook

The esteemed senior Tibetan lama Nyichang Khentrül Rinpoche, regarded as one of the greatest living scholar-monks of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, passed into parinirvana on 14 February in Kyushu, Japan. He was 91 years old.

Rinpoche was the most senior Tibetan lama living in Japan, where he had resided for more than 25 years, at the request of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Amid growing interest in Tibetan Buddhism, Rinpoche willingly transmitted the teachings of the Buddhadharma to all who expressed a sincere interest in learning. He emphasized that all serious students should study and practice ngöndro, the preliminary practices of Dzogchen, the ultimate teachings of Tibetan tantric Buddhism.

Among his many Dharma activities, Nyichang Rinpoche also founded the Buddha Pāda Institute, a non-profit center for the study and practice of Buddhism and Indian philosophical systems, on the outskirts of Kalimpong, India, under the auspices of the revered Bhutanese lama, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. The center includes a temple, prayer and teaching halls, workshop spaces, accommodation facilities, dining halls, a Japanese tea room, and a library.

“We are deeply saddened to announce that our founder, Venerable Nyichang Rinpoche, has gone into parinirvana,” the Buddha Pāda Institute stated in a notice on their website. “Rinpoche’s devotion to the Dharma, to his teachers, and to his students will always be an inspiration. May we have the merit to look after Buddha Pāda and preserve his legacy with the same love and dedication with which he built it.” (Buddha Pāda)

In his own message that was also posted on social media, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche shared:

It is with profound sadness that I have learned of the passing of Venerable Nyichang Rinpoche.

It was some time in the 1980s that I first encountered Nyichang Rinpoche in a karaoke bar in Tokyo. I had never really given much thought to this man, but then kept hearing more and more about his scholastic prowess and  accomplishments in the dharma. Even more importantly, as time went by, I saw how absolutely dedicated he was to preserving and propagating the Buddhadharma.

I subsequently had the good fortune to meet Nyichang Rinpoche several times more, and came to realize how particularly committed he was to preserving the teachings of the three Great Illuminators – Drimed Ozer Longchen Rabjam, Trengpo Sherab Ozer, and Khyentse Ozer (Jigme Lingpa).

Among so many of his other activities, Nyichang Rinpoche above all saved every penny to make what we now call Buddha Pada in Kalimpong materialize into the seat of these three great Ozers in order re-ignite their immaculate tradition. We must never forget that noble aspiration, and I am deeply grateful for Rinpoche’s compassion and pure perception in entrusting me with the care of Buddha Pada.

Earlier this month, shortly before Nyichang Rinpoche passed into nirvana, I was very fortunate to meet him again. There, we again discussed the crucial importance of these three Ozers and, as a great admirer and devotee of all three, I pledged myself in Rinpoche’s presence to do my utmost to fulfil his aspirations. May Nyichang Rinpoche’s wishes be swiftly realized and, in this volatile time and age, may Buddha Pada bring wisdom, love, compassion and kindness into this world.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Nyichang Khentrül Rinpoche. From

Nyichang Rinpoche was born in 1932 in a small village in southwestern Tibet. At the age of 8, Rinpoche was placed under the tutelage of the great yogini Shukseb Jetsün Chöying Zangmo of Shuksep Nunnery. One of the most important teachings Rinpoche received from Jetsün Rinpoche was a rare Chöd transmission—a practice aimed at cutting off attachment to the self—in the Dharseng lineage. Nyichang Rinpoche also studied and practiced under Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche VI at Mindrolling Monastery and Rahor Chödrak at Nyima Changra Monastic College. Rinpoche also received many teachings from Bötrül Dongak Tenpai Nyima, rising to the position of gegen (teacher) at the early age of 18.

In 1959, Rinpoche escaped to India, where he served as head teacher and religious advisor for the Tibetan High School in Mussoorie, in the state of Uttarakhand. He later served as professor of Indian shastras at the Tibeto-Indian Research Institute of Varanasi Sanskrit University (now Sarnath Buddhist University). While in India, Rinpoche received teachings from revered masters including: Khunu Lama Tenzin Gyaltsen; Polu Khenpo Dorje; Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche; and Düdjom Rinpoche.

At the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Nyichang Rinpoche traveled to Japan in 1974, at the age of 39, to teach at Koyasan Buddhist University. He subsequently served as a lecturer the Institute of Studies in the Humanities of Kyoto University, at the Indian Philosophy Department of Tohoku University, and at Iwate University.

Rinpoche participated in a research team studying Himalayan Buddhism in 1979, which visited India, Sikkim, and Bhutan, investigating ritual practices. Thereafter, Rinpoche was engaged as researcher at the UNESCO East Asian Research Center at the Toyo Bunko, and from 1981 acted as advisor to Hirakawa Shuppan, a publisher of books on Buddhism.

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Buddha Pāda
Buddha Pāda Institute (Facebook)

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