Introduction to Dilgo Khyentse Tashi Paljor

From Khyentse Lineage - A Tsadra Foundation Project

      Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was a towering figure, both figurative and literally, that had an immeasurable impact on the Tibetan Buddhist cultural milieu of the twentieth century. Recognized as the mind incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, he was the last of the major Khyentse tulkus to have been raised and educated in old Tibet and was highly instrumental in the continuation of numerous Tibetan Buddhist literary and ritual traditions among the Tibetan diaspora and Himalayan communities. Among his many accomplishments are included the establishment of a new branch of Shechen Monastery in Nepal as well as inaugurating and aiding in the the restoration of the original Shechen in eastern Tibet, the preservation and reproduction of hundred of volumes of Tibetan Buddhist literature, as well as his vast teaching activities involved with the transmission of the Tibetan lineages throughout the Himalayan region and the world. As one of the most universally respected Tibetan teachers in recent memory, his countless devoted disciples include some of the most eminent Tibetan teachers of the present day. The sheer wealth of the knowledge that he had so evidently mastered was such that his teacher, student, and frequent collaborator, Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, famously exclaimed that "the Dharma will be safe now" upon hearing that Dilgo Khyentse had managed to escape the deteriorating political situation that befell Tibet in the 1950's.

      Dilgo Khyentse was born in 1910 to a prominent family that had close ties to the royal house of Derge. According to his own accounts, the family also enjoyed a close relationship with the famed Mipham Rinpoche who took great interest in the child and performed several rituals on Dilgo Khyentse's behalf shortly after he was born. Though he was exposed to many other illustrious teachers in his early childhood, including Khenpo Shenga, Adzom Drukpa, and Loter Wangpo, it was Shechen Gyaltsab Pema Gyurme Dorje that would be become his first root teacher when he was sent to live and study at Shechen Monastery in his adolescent years. After completing his basic monastic education, Dilgo Khyentse spent more than two decades focusing on his personal practice in solitary retreat. Beginning around the age of eighteen he maintained the simple, yet dedicated, lifestyle of an itinerant yogi. He remained a monk until his mid-twenties when an illness forced him to take Khandro Lhamo as his wife and consort for the sake of his longevity. It was not long after this time that Dilgo Khyentse, like Khyentse Wangpo before him, began to reveal treasures. In his thirties, he spent time at Dzongsar Monastery and further developed what would become a close lifelong kinship with Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, another tulku of Khyentse Wangpo, who became an important teacher and mentor to Dilgo Khyentse.

      Like those lineage masters that came before him, Dilgo Khyentse thoroughly embodied the quintessential spirit of the Khyentse Lineage. Profoundly influential in his time, Dilgo Khyentse was a key figure in the establishment of the monastic institutions that continue to serve the Tibetan exile community, as well as one of the first teachers to guide western students in the advanced practices preserved in the Tibetan tradition. His compositions, which fill twenty-five volumes of his own collected works and appear sporadically throughout the collections of his peers included on this site, possess an eloquence rarely matched by others of his, or any, generation of Tibetan authors. At times his writing style is so reminiscent of his predecessor, Khyentse Wangpo, that it can be difficult to tell their compositions apart.

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Further Reading

  • Khyentse, Dilgo. Brilliant Moon: The Autobiography of Dilgo Khyentse. Translated by Ani Jinba Palmo. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2008.
  • Nyoshul Khenpo. A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage. Translated by Richard Barron. Junction City, CA: Padma Publishing, 2005: 306-316.
  • Ricard, Matthieu. The Spirit of Tibet: The Life and World of Khyentse, Spiritual Teacher. New York: Aperture, 2001.