Chime Rinpoche

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Lama Chime Tulku Rinpoche
near Jyekundo, Kham, Tibet
ReligionTibetan Buddhism
LineageKarma Kagyü
Senior posting
ReincarnationLama Chime Rata Rinpoche

Lama Chime Tulku Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist, Tulku and Dharma teacher. Chime Rinpoche was born in 1941 in Kham, Tibet.[1] In 1959, due to the occupation of Tibet, he was forced to flee to India via Bhutan into exile. Gaining British citizenship in 1965. He taught extensively throughout Europe and established Marpa House, the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in England. His students include American author and Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön and musicians Mary Hopkin, David Bowie and Tony Visconti.

Early life in Tibet[edit]

Chime Rinpoche was born in Jyekundo, Kham, East Tibet, Tibet, into a family that were direct descendants of the chieftain Rardha Pontsong, who was inspired to give his land to the 4th Sangye Nyenpa so that Benchen Monastery could be built (in the 14th Century).[2] He was not the only Tulku in his family, as both Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and the 9th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche were his maternal uncles.[3] He was educated at Benchen Monastery,[4] where he gained the Khenpo (Master of Studies) degree, Kyorpon (Shrine Ritual Master) degree and Dorje Lobpon (Vajra Master) degree. Chime Rinpoche studied and combined the practices of Mahamudra and Dzogchen (Atiyoga) through receiving instructions in Mahamudra from Kabje Sangye Nyenpa and Dzogchen from Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche.[5]

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Chime Rinpoche's uncle

Escape from Tibet[edit]

Due to the invasion of Tibet and subsequent occupation by the Chinese army, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa indicated that Chime Rinpoche should flee Tibet.[6] In 1959, Chime Rinpoche reached India via Bhutan alongside his Root Gurus and maternal uncles, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and 9th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche.[7]

Life in Britain[edit]

In 1965, Lama Chime was invited to live in the UK. He shared a small apartment with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche in Oxford.[8][9] He later gained British citizenship and has lived in Britain ever since.[7] As Akong Rinpoche was the first one to find paid employment, becoming a hospital orderly, Akong supported both Chime Rinpoche and Trungpa Rinpoche.[10]

Marpa House[edit]

In 1973, Chime Rinpoche founded Kham House in Ashdon, Essex, UK the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in England.[11][12] The building was purchased with the help of sponsors. Previously an orphanage for homeless children called All Saints' Home, it was built by the rector of Ashdon Henry Barclay Swete.[13][14] In 1975, just two years after Kham House was established, the 16th Karmapa visited this centre after visiting the Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre earlier in the year.[15] Kham House was later renamed Marpa House and is run by the charity The Dharma Trust.[16] Although presently in poor health, Chime Rinpoche still teaches at Marpa House on occasion.

Status as a Tulku[edit]

During his 1975 visit, the 16th Karmapa identified Chime Rinpoche as Radha Tulku, the incarnation of Radha Phuntsok, one of the four Tulkus (incarnate Lamas) of Benchen Monastery.[15][17]

The Four Benchen Tulkus are:

In 2011, Chime Rinpoche travelled from London for a surprise reunion with two of the other Benchen Tulkus, Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche and Tenga Rinpoche, to the 2011 Summer Camp at Benchen Phuntsok Ling, Benchen's European headquarters.[18]

Personal life[edit]

In England, Chime Rinpoche chose to stop being a monk and married.[15][19] He and his English wife had three daughters, all of whom are now adults.[20]

In Britain, Chime Rinpoche is the President of the Tibetan Terrier Association, a club that is dedicated to preserve and promote the Tibetan Terrier breed of dog. The club was established in 1967.[21]

Rinpoche still teaches occasionally at Marpa House when his health permits and annually leads a ten-day Summer School retreat in Baerenthal in northeastern France.[22]

In a video message to his students on the passing of Tenga Rinpoche, Chime Rinpoche stated that he is preparing for his own visit to the 'Pure Lands' by praying and meditating more but assures his students that it is 'a very nice place, very nice'.[23]

Work at the British Library[edit]

Rinpoche was employed by the British Library as Curator for Ancient Tibetan Manuscripts for 16 years.[12]

Notable students[edit]

Pema Chödrön
  • Pema Chödrön - Before becoming a novice nun, Pema Chödrön studied Dharma in London with Chime Rinpoche for several years. After taking her novice vows in 1974, Chime Rinpoche advised Chödrön to seek training with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who later became Chödrön's root guru.[24][25][26]
David Bowie
  • David Bowie - Chime Rinpoche also tutored David Bowie for a number of months at Tibet House in London. During an interview in 2001, Bowie relates the time of his first meeting with Chime Rinpoche,

"One day, I walked into the office and it was empty," Bowie said, calling from his New York office.

"I went down the stairs and saw a man in saffron robes. He said, in very broken English, 'You are looking for me.' I realized years later that it was a question, but as a 16-year-old, I took it as a statement: 'You are looking for me.'"

The man in the saffron robes, Chime Yong Dong Rinpoche, became Jones' guru for several months.

"After a few months of study, he told me, 'You don't want to be Buddhist [...] You should follow music."[27]

Later, on his first album David Bowie, Bowie wrote and recorded the song "Silly Boy Blue" about a young Tibetan Monk who broke the rules as a tribute to his teacher.


  • Chime Radha Rinpoche (1981) 'Tibet', in M. Loewe and C. Blacker (eds) Divination and Oracles, London: George Allen & Unwin, pp. 3–37.


  1. ^ "Tradition & Lineage - Marpa House - Marpa House – Tibetan Buddhist retreat and meditation centre". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  3. ^ Chime Rinpoche's - 'A Spiritual Journey in a Turbulent Life' on YouTube
  4. ^ "FAQ". 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  5. ^ "Buddhist Summer School 2012 Registration Form" (PDF). 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ a b "Biographien, Kagyu Benchen Ling". Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Kagyu Samye Ling - Course Leader Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Gelong Thubten". 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012. Chime
  9. ^ "Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche: biography". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  10. ^ "Dr. Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche » Kagyu Samye Dzong London". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  11. ^ "Karma Triyana Dharmachakra - Kagyu Lineage". 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  12. ^ a b "Marpa House". 2012. Archived from the original on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  13. ^ "History". 2012. Archived from the original on April 17, 2009. Retrieved 6 September 2012. Henry Swete
  14. ^ "TIBETAN AND ZEN BUDDHISM IN BRITAIN" (PDF). Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  15. ^ a b c Snelling, John (31 August 2011). "The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Teaching and Practice". Ebury Publishing. Retrieved 1 October 2017 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ "Register Home Page". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  17. ^ "Benchen Monastery's European website - Short Profile of Radha Chime Rinpoche (archived at FreezePage 10/10/2012)". 2012. Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Kamtsang, Bencien Karma. "What is the Kagyu Monlam". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  20. ^ "Karma Thegchen Chö Ling Bremen". 11 February 2013. Archived from the original on 11 February 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  21. ^ "TTA Officers & Committee". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  22. ^ "Google Translate". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  23. ^ Message on the passing of Tenga Rinpoche from Lama Chime Rinpoche on YouTube
  24. ^ Fabrice Midal (2005). Recalling Chögyam Trungpa. Shambhala Publications. p. 476. ISBN 1-59030-207-9.
  25. ^ "Lion's Roar - Buddhist Wisdom for Our Time". Lion's Roar. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  26. ^ [2][dead link]
  27. ^ "Stardust Memories / Without Tibet House, David Bowie never may have gotten Ziggy with it. Now the pop star returns the favor by performing at the annual benefit concert". Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  28. ^ "tony visconti v3.0". 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  29. ^ Strange Fascination: David Bowie: The Definitive Story, 2005, p.47 (Virgin)
  30. ^ "You Look Familiar". Retrieved 1 October 2017.

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