The Venerable Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche
The Venerable Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche is a holder of the Tibetan lineage of Rigdzin Pema Lingpa, one of the Five Great Kingly Tertons (Treasure Revealers) of the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma tradition. He is also the incarnation of the great Terton Dorje Lingpa, and an emanation of the eighth century scholar, translator, and meditation master Vairotsana, one of the first seven monks ordained in Tibet and a close heart disciple of Padmasambhava. Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche was recognized as such by both H.H. the 16th Karmapa and H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche (Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje), former Supreme Head of the Nyingma Lineage.
The present Bhakha Tulku is the 10th incarnation of the Bhakha Tulku line. The Bhakha monastery is in the Powo region of southeastern Tibet, but the line has many ties with Bhutan as well, as Pema Lingpa is one of the most revered figures in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in Bhutan. The 8th Bhakha Tulku served as Royal Priest and was a close friend of the first King of Bhutan. Rinpoche’s seat in Bhutan is the Tamshing Gonpa in Bumthang Valley.
Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche holds many lineages, including the Pema Lingpa lineage, the Dzogchen lineage of the Namchoe tradition, the Longchen Nyingthig, and the Chetsun Nyingthig.
He received the Rinchen Terzod and many other teachings from H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, whom he served for 7 years as an attendant and secretary. Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche studied at Mindroling Monastery, the great Nyingma center of learning in central Tibet, but fled to Bhutan in 1959 during the Chinese occupation. He then studied at the school for young Tulkus in Dalhousie, India and received many teachings from great masters such as H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, H.H. DoDrupchen Rinpoche, H.H. Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche, H.H. Penor Rinpoche, and others. Bhakha Rinpoche has served both H.H. Penor Rinpoche and the great Dzogchen master H.H. Chatral Rinpoche. Over the past 20 years, Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche’s Dharma activity has taken him to India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Taiwan, Mexico and the United States. Rinpoche’s teachings and translations in the West have been of great benefit to many people. Rinpoche agreed to come to the United States at the request of many, with the sole intention of helping spread the teachings of the Buddha-Dharma here, for the benefit of all beings. He established Vairotsana Foundation to serve this purpose.
Tulku Orgyen Phuntsok
At a young age Tulku Orgyen P’huntsok was recognized by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche as the reincarnation of Togden Kunzang Longdrol, or Togden Sithar, a great Dzogchen yogi from the Powo region who had been a main disciple of his, and who had been influential in spreading the Dharma, both in Tibet and in Padmasambhava’s sacred Hidden Land of upper and lower Pemaköd.
Tulku Orgyen spent his early years in retreat in Pemaköd, his birthplace in northeastern India, at his own monastery under the blessings of his first root teacher, the great master Tulku Dawa Rinpoche. Tulku underwent vigorous training in multiple fields of study, including various ritual sadhana performances from different treasure lineages, with an emphasis on the Dudjom Tersar lineage, all under excellent care of his previous incarnation’s disciples, including his father Lama Rigzin P’huntsok.
At the age of 15, Tulku Orgyen commenced advanced studies in southern India at Namdroling monastery, the largest Nyingma monastery in India, established by H.H. Penor Rinpoche, the previous Supreme Head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Here Tulku Orgyen completed a nine-year-long program of study, obtaining the degree of Khenpo with excellent marks. While studying for his Khenpo degree, he was appointed to a teaching position for the duration of his final three years at the monastery. During this time, he taught various Buddhist philosophies to monks. Over the course of his nine years of study, he also received empowerments and transmissions from a number of lineage holders and great masters of the Nyingma lineage, including H.H. Penor Rinpoche. Upon completion of advanced studies at Namdroling monastery, Tulku Orgyen returned to his retreat land in Pemaköd, where he engaged in solitary retreat and completed the requisite practices to become a qualified Vajra Master in this lineage.
Since late 1999, Tulku Orgyen P’huntsok has assisted his uncle and teacher, Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche, by giving teachings, leading practices and retreats, and undertaking various other Dharma activities at Vairotsana Foundation Centers in California and New Mexico and in various cities in North America and Asia. In order to gain a western education and perspective, Tulku Orgyen studied and guest lectured at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Currently, Tulku Orgyen P’huntsok splits his time between North America and Asia, spending winters in Pemaköd, where he oversees reconstruction of the temple, engages in solitary retreat and guides and gives empowerment to long-time retreatants on his land, as well as to lay people from the surrounding villages. For the last several years, in particular, he has been immersed in the supervision of construction of the Zangdokpalri temple and its surrounding facilities’ for the sake of present and future Dharma practitioners in Pemaköd. When in India, Tulku Orgyen travels widely, giving teachings and empowerments in various Tibetan communities in north east India under the guidance and auspices of H.H. Dalai Lama. When in the United States, Tulku Orgyen is the resident teacher and director of Vairotsana Foundation Santa Barbara and head of the Pemaköd Project, through which he fulfills his aspirations for renewal projects in the Hidden Land, Pemaköd, for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Lama Urgyen Tenzin
Venerable Gyalsey Lama Urgyen Tenzin is a Tibetan monk who was born in Nepal. He studied Buddhist philosophy at Bhakha Sangak Choling Monastery, graduating with honors in May 1993. Under Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche’s guidance, he attended the Palyul Monastery at Palyul Gon, where for four years he studied Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, literature, ritual and sacred art, and then completed a three-year retreat under Ven. Tulku Thubten Palzang. After his seven years of training at Palyul Gon, Lama Urgyen returned to Bhakha Sangak Choling Monastery, where he served as the administrator for five years, overseeing and training all of the junior monks. Lama Urgyen has received empowerments, transmissions and teachings from H.H. Penor Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kyabje Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, Bhakha Rinpoche, and others, and he is highly skilled in all aspects of Tibetan Buddhist religion and ritual. In September 2010, Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche enthroned Lama Urgyen Tenzin as Dorje Lhopon - an honor granted to monks with special qualities.
Lama Sonam Dradul
Lama Sonam Dradul was born in Padmasambhava’s sacred Hidden Land of Pemaköd. At the age of 9, Lama Sonam traveled to the Mysore region of southern India to attend the Nyingma Buddhist monastery and Buddhist studies center of Namdroling under the direction of His Holiness Penor Rinpoche. At Namdroling, Lama Sonam studied traditional forms of Tibetan calligraphy, grammar, poetry, traditional Buddhist temple music, as well as sacred ritual and dance. He then studied at the Nyingma Institute of Higher Buddhist Studies at Namdroling Monastery with an emphasis on Buddhist Madhyamika sutras. After graduation, Lama Sonam was appointed by H.H. Penor Rinpoche as Master of Monastic Discipline in the main Namdroling Monastery. In 1997, H.H. Penor Rinpoche sent Lama Sonam to Taiwan to serve at the Palyul Nyingma Center in Taipei. Lama Sonam came to the United States in 2000 to serve as Attendant to Ven. Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche, and since then has assisted Rinpoche at the Vairotsana Foundation centers in California and New Mexico.