Chatral Sangye Dorje

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Chatral Sangye Dorje
Other namesChatral Rinpoche
Throgyal Dorje

18 June 1913
Died30 December 2015 (aged 102)
ReligionTibetan Buddhism
ChildrenTara Devi and Saraswati
Other namesChatral Rinpoche
Senior posting
TeacherDudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, Khenpo Ngawang Palzang, Kunzang Dekyong Wangmo

Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche (Tibetan: བྱ་བྲལ་སངས་རྒྱས་རྡོ་རྗེ་, Wylie: bya-bral sangs-rgyas rdo-rje, "Enlightened Indestructible Freedom From Activity"; June 18, 1913 – December 30, 2015)[1][2] was a Dzogchen master and a reclusive yogi known for his great realization and strict discipline.[3] Rinpoche was one of the few living disciples of Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang and was widely regarded as one of the most highly realized Dzogchen yogis.[3] In addition to his relationship with Khenpo Ngagchung, Chatral Sangye Dorje also studied with some of the last century's most renowned masters, including Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, and the famed Kunzang Dekyong Wangmo. Rinpoche was one of the primary lineage holders of the Longchen Nyingthig, and in particular the lineage that descends through Jigme Lingpa's heart son Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu and then on to Patrul Rinpoche.[3]

Prior to his death in 2015, Chatral Sangye Dorje divided his time between Salbari, India, and Kathmandu, Nepal. He was survived by two daughters, Tara Devi and Saraswati, and his wife Kamala.

Early life[edit]

Rinpoche was born in the Nyarong Valley of Eastern Kham in 1913, in the year of the Female Water Ox, on the morning of 10th day of the lunar Tibetan calendar, which coincides with June 18 of the solar Gregorian calendar. The day is celebrated each year as the day Guru Padmasambhava manifested as Dorje Drollo. His father was Pema Dondrub whose family line was Mukpo Dong and his mother, Sonam Tso, was a member of the Wakyung family.[4]

Several predictions is said to have foretold the birth of Chatral Rinpoche.[5] Among the future predictions of Yonru Chimey Dorje, a disciple of Chagdud Pema Dudul, the following text is found:[5]

“A supreme mind-emanation of Padma,

A boy who is blessed by Vimalamitra, With the name Vajra, from the year the Ox,

Will promote the teachings of the practice lineage.”

The day after Rinpoche was born, Asay Bigo Trulku Nyima Gyelthsen, who was an incarnation of Lopen Chandra Gomi, visited Pema and Sonam to tell them about the vision he had about Rinpoche's emergence.[6][7] In accordance to his vision, he bestowed the name Throgyal Dorjee to Rinpoche.[5][7]

Life as a hermit[edit]

Education in Dharma[edit]

At age 15, Rinpoche left his home to study and practice Buddhism with Buddhist masters. This act of renunciation began his life-long journey as a carefree yogi seeking enlightenment at any cost in order to effectively help other beings with compassion. During this time, he received transmissions of the Dudjom Tersar cycle of terton Dudjom Lingpa from the terton's son Dorje Dradül. He further received teachings from Sera Khandro Kunzang Dekyong Wangmo, who was a daughter-in-law of Terton Dudjom Lingpa.[citation needed] She passed on to Rinpoche the terma cycle teachings of Sera Khandro and he became the principal lineage holder of this tradition as well.[8]

Following the instructions of Sera Khandro, Rinpoche visited Kathok Monastery where he met his root guru Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang. Khenpo Ngawang gave Chatral Rinpoche many teachings and transmissions—particularly of the Longchen Nyinthig tradition. Rinpoche studied with other masters at Kathok Monastery as well, in addition to the great Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö from Dzongsar Monastery, which like Kathok lies in the Derge region of Kham.[7] Realizing his greatness, Khenpo Ngawang crowned the then Throgyal Dorjee as Chatral Sangye Dorje.[5][7]

Chatral Rinpoche studied under 40 of the most accomplished and highly renowned teachers of Buddhism.[9] Other teachers under whom Rinpoche studied were Shechen Kongtrul Pema Drimé Lekpé Lodrö, Gyurme Tenpa Namgyal, Jigdral Chogkyi Langpo, Jigmey Dechen Dorje, Pema Trinley Gyatso, Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso, Thupten Chökyi Dorje, Adzom Gyalse Gyurme Dorje and Apang Tertön.[citation needed]

Chatral Rinpoche met Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje while in Central Tibet. Dudjom Rinpoche had a great influence in Chatral Rinpoche's life. Dudjom Rinpoche transmitted to Chatral Rinpoche the complete cycle of the Dudjom Tersar teachings, naming him the Vajra Regent of the tradition.[7][10][11]

Dharma Activities in Tibet[edit]

As a ngagpa, Chatral Rinpoche spent most of his time wandering ceaselessly and meditating in deep mountain caves.[10] In 1937, the fifth Reting Rinpoche and the regent of 14th Dalai Lama, Jamphel Yeshe Gyaltsen requested Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang to come to Lhasa to give Dzogchen transmissions. Owing to his old age, Khenpo Ngawang instead recommended Reting Rinpoche to look for Chatral Rinpoche.[7]

Reting Rinpoche sent messengers with a letter from Khenpo Ngawang to find Chatral Rinpoche. They found him meditating in a dense forest of Southern Tibet.[7] Though reluctant at first, Rinpoche agreed to go to Lhasa on seeing a letter from his root guru. Rinpoche stayed with Reting Rinpoche for two years, giving him many transmissions and instructions - the ear-whispered and profound heart essence of the Dzogchen teachings.[12]

Dharma Activities outside Tibet[edit]

In 1958, Chatral Rinpoche left Tibet for Bhutan where he travelled to Paro Taktsang and other places associated with Guru Rinpoche.[7] He then moved to India, where he restored a small temple in Jorebungalow near Darjeeling.[13] He turned the temple into a three-year meditation retreat center for Longchen Nyinthig practice. This was the first such center built by a Tibetan outside of Tibet.[7][11][13] Rinpoche further established retreat centers in Sikkim, Godawari, Yolmo and Pharping.

In 1960, Rinpoche visited some of the Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India.[7][14] While visiting the Mahabodhi Temple, Rinpoche made a firm commitment to give up meat and alcohol, saying:

If you take meat, it goes against the vows one takes in seeking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Because when you take meat you have to take a being’s life. So I gave it up.

— Chatral Sangye Dorje, "Compassionate Actions"

In 1968, Rinpoche met American Trappist monk Father Thomas Merton.[10][13] Rinpoche and Merton exchanged conversations on philosophical and spiritual aspects of Christianity and Buddhism.[15] As they split, Merton remarked, “That’s the greatest man I ever met. That’s my teacher”.[7][10][11][15]

On request of Lungten Tulku, Rinpoche visited Bhutan in 1988. He petitioned His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuk for construction of retreat center in Beyul Langdra. The retreat center is now headed by Lungten Tulku.[16]

A close disciple of Dudjom Rinpoche, Rinpoche was empowered as the Vajra Regent of Dudjom Rinpoche. He recognized Sangye Pema Zhepa, the grandson of Dudjom Rinpoche, as the reincarnation or yangsi of Dudjom Rinpoche in 1990. He presided over the enthronement of Dudjom Yangsi in 1994, and passed on the teachings of the Dudjom Tersar cycle to his master's reincarnation.[17] Rinpoche himself looked over the education of Dudjom Yangsi. Dudjom Rinpoche considers Chatral Rinpoche to be his root guru.[citation needed]

Rinpoche was very selective when it came to his students, and as such had only a handful of students, despite being famed for his Dharma activities all around the world.[7] This allowed Rinpoche to spend more time in retreats. Every 15th and 30th day of the lunar month, Rinpoche would release thousands of fishes rescued from fisheries into Trishuli River near Pharphing or into Teesta River near Siliguri. He also rescued animals from slaughterhouses, paying money to the owners for the rescued animals.[18]


In 1962, Rinpoche married Sangyum Kamala. Sangyum was only 20, while Rinpoche was already 49. They were married for 53 years at the time of Rinpoche's death in 2015.[citation needed]

Rinpoche and Sangyum have two daughters, Semo Tara Devi and Semo Saraswati. Semo Saraswati is unmarried and has been recognized as the reincarnation of Sera Khandro.[8]


Chatral Rinpoche died of natural causes on the 30th of December, 2015, coinciding with the 20th day of the female wood sheep year lunar Tibetan calendar at around 5 pm (NPT) in Pharping, Nepal. His body remained in thukdam for three days after his passing away. His mahaparinirvana ceremony was led by his two heart sons Katok Situ Rinpoche and Dudjom Yangsi Rinpoche. His kudung was visited by several important lineage masters, including Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.[19]


Rinpoche has shunned institutional and political involvement his whole life, choosing instead to live the life of a wandering yogi. Even in old age he continued to move about, rarely remaining in one place for more than a few months. A lay yogi, he was also greatly concerned with maintaining strict discipline in the context of the Dzogchen view. He has advocated vegetarianism[3][20] and had a yearly practice of ransoming the lives of thousands of animals in India.[3] In addition to his emphasis on the union of view and conduct, Rinpoche also stressed the practice of retreat. He has established numerous retreat centers throughout the Himalayas, including in Pharping, Yolmo, and Darjeeling.

Primary teachers[edit]

Primary lineages[edit]

Though his main lineage was the Longchen Nyingthig, Chatral Sangye Dorje was also closely associated with the Dudjom Tersar lineage. He was empowered as the regent of Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje and was passing on this lineage to this master's reincarnation, who lives primarily in Central Tibet.

Notable students[edit]

Rinpoche was the root guru of Dudjom Yangsi Rinpoche. Other notable students of Chatral Rinpoche include Tharchin Rinpoche, and Chogyal Wangchuk Namgyal.[citation needed]


  • Chatral Rinpoche (2007). Zach Larson (ed.). Compassionate Action. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 9781559392716. Archived from the original on 2013-02-27. Retrieved 2012-06-24.

Online texts[edit]

  • Chatral Rinpoche Series by Lotsawa House[22]


  1. ^ "The great yogi Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche turns today 100years!". News. Ngagyur Shedrub Sungdrelling. 2013-06-18. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e His Holiness Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche
  4. ^ "Chatral Rinpoche | PADMASAMBHAVA STUPA". Retrieved 2019-04-20.
  5. ^ a b c d "Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche". Orgyen Namdrol Choling. Retrieved 2019-04-20.
  6. ^ XXIV Annual Nyingma Monlam Chenmo. Nyingma Monlam Chenmo International Foundation. 2013. pp. 96–97.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l dva-voice (2014-06-04). "Chatral Rinpoche, Dzogchen Master and vegetarian advocate". Dharma Voices for Animals. Archived from the original on 2019-04-20. Retrieved 2019-04-20.
  8. ^ a b "Sera Khandro: A Reader\'s Guide". Shambhala. 2019-01-21. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  9. ^ "Obituary: Tibetan Parliament Condoles Demise of Chatral Rinpoche | Central Tibetan Administration". Archived from the original on 2019-02-03. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  10. ^ a b c d "Kyabje Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche (Chadral Rinpoche)| Vegetarianism, Buddhism & Saving Lives (Tsethar)". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  11. ^ a b c "H.H. Kyabje Chadral Rinpoche – Dudjom Buddhist International". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  12. ^ "Reting Rinpoche - 5th incarnation Thubden Jampal Yeshe Tenpa Gyaltsen". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  13. ^ a b c Thondup, Tulku (2014). Masters of Meditation and Miracles. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambala Publications, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8348-2482-9.
  14. ^ "On Flesh Eating by Chatral Rinpoche". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  15. ^ a b Gindin, Matthew (2017-04-16). "Chatral Rinpoche, Thomas Merton, Easter and Nuclear Weapons". Medium. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  16. ^ "Beyul Langdrak | Neykor | A Journey of Spiritual Immersion in Bhutan". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  17. ^ "The Yangsis of HH Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  18. ^ "Jadrel Sangay Dorji Rinpoche | Tsem Rinpoche". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  19. ^ "The Mahaparinirvana Ceremony of His Holiness Chatral Sangay Dorje Rinpoche | Buddhistdoor". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  20. ^ Chatral Rinpoche and Abstaining From Eating Meat
  21. ^ Consorts and revelation in eastern Tibet : the auto/biographical writings of the Treasure revealer Sera Khandro (1892--1940)
  22. ^ Chatral Rinpoche Series

External links[edit]