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Revered Senior Lama Ato Rinpoche Has Died in England, Aged 91

Ato Rinpoche, 1933–2024. From

The revered senior lama Ato Rinpoche, the nephew of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and a master of both Mahamudra and Dzogchen practice traditions, died in Cambridge, England, at 7:45 a.m. on 18 May—Guru Rinpoche Day, according to the Tibetan lunar calendar. He was 91 years old.

Tributes and memorials to this learned yet humble master have been shared widely across social media platforms.

The Words of My Perfect Teacher. From

In a notice on his Bodhicharya website dated 20 May, the esteemed lama of the Kagyu school of Vajrayana Buddhism Ringu Tulku Rinpoche observed:

I am very sad to hear that Ato Rinpoche passed away in England on 18th May at 7.45am on Guru Rinpoche day.

He was one of the first batch of Kagyu Lamas who came to the West and settled in the UK. I knew him since I was 10 years old as he became the leader of the Young Lamas Home School after Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche left for England. He also served as the representative of the Kagyu School in the Tibetan Administration in India.

When he was working as a porter in Cambridge hospital he had an accident. He fell down the stairs with his patient, but Rinpoche made sure that the patient fell on top of his body so that he would not be harmed. In the process Rinpoche’s back was badly damaged and since then he lived a semi retired life.

Rinpoche was a very highly trained master and traveled and taught extensively, especially in Europe and America. He was a nephew of His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and inherited several qualities of his uncle. Rinpoche dedicated most of his life to rebuilding his monastery in Tibet and bringing it to its past glory.


Born in Tibet in 1933, Ato Rinpoche was recognized at a young age by the 11th Tai Situ as the eighth Tenzin Tulku of Nezang Monastery, a Kagyupa monastery in eastern Tibet (now part of China’s Qinghai Province). Rinpoche studied under teachers from the four major Tibetan Buddhist traditions, including the Second Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and his uncles Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and the Ninth Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. 

After leaving Tibet for India in 1959, Rinpoche was asked by His Holiness the 16th Karmapa to become the Kagyudpa Representative in the Religious Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharmsala. The Dalai Lama later placed Ato Rinpoche in charge of the Young Lamas Home School in Dalhousie, which provided an education for tulkus from all four major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.

Ato Rinpoche married and moved to Cambridge, England, in 1967, where he lived with his wife and daughter. He worked as a nurse at Fulbourn Psychiatric Hospital, Cambridge, until his retirement in 1981.

Following his retirement, Rinpoche divided his time between teaching Buddhism and meditation, and traveling to Tibet where he worked tirelessly to re-establish Nezang Monastery, including rebuilding the physical monastery and giving teachings and initiations to a new generation of monastics.

Ato Rinpoche at home in 2018. Video courtesy of Ann Shaftel

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Ato Rinpoche
Ato Rinpoche passed away (Bodhicharya)

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