Rinpoche was born in 1971 in Kham, Nangchen Chodrak in Eastern Tibet, close to a very sacred place of Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava.
At the tender age of six, the boy Sonam Butsa was recognised to be the fourth reincarnation of Rabzang Rinpoche. He was offered the title of Karma Jampal Sonam Tenzin Palzangpo Rinpoche by His Holiness the 9th Chodrak Saljey Rinpoche, lineage holder and head of the Barom Kagyu lineage.
At the age of eight, he was ordained as a novice monk at Chodrak Monastery, under His Holiness Chodrak Saljey Rinpoche, Ven. Lama Yeshe Rabje Rinpoche and Ven. Tonka Rinpoche, according to the Kagyu tradition.
At this very young age, Rinpoche had been entrusted by His Holiness Saljey Rinpoche with the responsibility of spreading the rare Barom Kagyu lineage to the world wide communities. For the next thirteen years in Tibet, Ven. Sonam Tenzin Rinpoche successfully undertook full foundation practice and monastic training. He studied philosophy, received many teachings and transmissions from Ven. Lama Yeshe Rabje Rinpoche. He also undertook a number of solitary retreats.
At the age of fourteen, Rinpoche received full monk’s ordination and took his vows in the Nyingma tradition from Kinchen Aarig Pense Rinpoche. Ven. Sonam Tenzin Rinpoche successfully undertook ten years of full foundation practice and monastic training, which included Tibetan Grammar and Lexicography, chanting, and torma making. He studied higher Buddhist philosophy for seven years. These include the Prajnaparamita Sutra, Abhidharma, Nagarjuna’s Entering the Middle Way, and Letter to a Friends, Shantideva’s Bodhisattva-charya-vatara,
Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation, and so forth. He also received many teachings, transmissions, and empowerment from Ven. Lama Yeshe Rabje Rinpoche. These include Patrul Rinpoche’s Words of my Perfect Teacher, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s Torch of Certainty, preliminary practices of Mahamudra, and many more.
In 1992, Ven. Sonam Tenzin Rinpoche went from East to West Tibet to attend His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa’s enthronement ceremony at Tsurphu Monastery. During this time, Rinpoche had the privilege of personally meeting the Karmapa in as many as seven audiences, receiving numerous teachings, initiations, and instructions.
In the same year, Rinpoche and several others took the opportunity to escape from Tibet to Nepal. In Nepal, Rinpoche joined Boudha Chodrak Tennying Monastery in Kathmandu. He resided there for seven years and continued his intensive studies and ceremonial duties. He was given very auspicious teachings by HE Sangye Nyengpa Rinpoche on the Seven Points of Mind Training and and Prajnaparamita Sutra during this time.
Rinpoche also received numerous teachings and initiations from HE Tai Situ Rinpoche when HE visited his main seat in Tibet, Palpung Monastery. These include the complete set of teachings of Damngag Zod (The Treasure of Pith Instructions). In 1995, Rinpoche had another opportunity to meet with HE in Taiwan, where he refreshed his Bodhisattva precepts and received many other precious teachings.
From 1999 to 2002, Rinpoche completed the three years, three months retreat at Palpin Penchin Drubdey Osel Choling Monastery under the close guidance of HE Khabje Sangye Nyengpa Rinpoche and Ven. Tenga Rinpoche. It encompassed the Method Path of the Six Yogas of Naropa, the Liberation Path of Mahamudra, and the Upper and Lower Tantric Practices, which include the mantra recitations, the two generation and completion stages. [See full list of practices below].
In October 2002, Venerable Sonam Tenzin Rinpoche was invited by Ven. Choje Lama Shedrup to come to the Tasmanian Karma Kagyu Centre in Launceston, Australia, where he resided for six years. Rinpoche gratefully acknowledges the kindness of Choje Lama.
In 2008, Rinpoche founded and established the Barom Kagyu Chodrak Centre for Charity and Peace – Barom Kagyu Chodrak Drupju Chuling, a thriving Dharma center and temple in Sefton, South Western Sydney. He also teaches regularly on the Lower North Shore of Sydney. People coming from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds have found a home in the Barom Kagyu lineage, attend weekly teachings, prayers, and practice; participate in the yearly retreats: Nyungne, Powa, Ngondro and meditation; receive initiations; celebrate Losar, Saka Dawa, and so forth, in the most joyful atmosphere.
Rinpoche often travels to different parts of the world, in particular to various countries in Asia. In Malaysia, two associated Dharma Centres has been set up, in Kuala Lumpur and Panang, with yearly activities including teachings, retreats, animal liberation and pujas for the death and living. Rinpoche visits regularly Hong Kong and Vietnam, giving teachings and retreats.
He also works tirelessly to raise funds to encourage the practice of the nuns at Chodrak Nunnery in Tibet. Thanks to the kind support of the students around the world, the extremely harsh living condition at the nunnery has greatly improved over the years. Rinpoche also takes care of an orphanage and a medical centre to help alleviate the very disadvantaged situation of the people in Eastern Tibet.
In his friendly and joyful manner, Rinpoche has always encouraged all his students to make time in their daily life to undertake Buddhist practices. He highlight the importance of fundamental practices, necessary for those aiming for highest results. Always available, never despondent, Rinpoche creates all favorable conditions for his students to have the courage to engage in true practice. Inspired by his insight, many students has successfully complete Ngondro, the preliminaries to the precious Mahamudra, integrate Buddhism practices as part of their daily routine, and create strong bond with the Buddha lineage. Rinpoche consistently repeated that “we just need to keep our genuine devotion to the Three Jewels and diligently practice, then miracles naturally come.”
I pray to the Three Jewels and the
root-lineage lamas to bestow me the intelligence!
The former adepts had predicted that Chodrak Choktul Jangchub Zangpo will be the reincarnation of the Vairotsana, the central figure in the early transmission of Buddhism. The heir to the Gyalwa Barompa of Dakpo Kagyu tradition, a great individual who had accomplished enormous feat of scholarship, realisation and benevolence in the teachings of Choje Chodrak, and was popularly known by the name of Rabzang Tulku. Here I will briefly outline biographies of series of his incarnated life-stories. I will begin with the first incarnation, which will set the stage for the succeeding ones.
Chodrak Chogtul Jangchub Zangpo
The first incarnation was born in the twelfth Rabyung (cycle consisting 60 years each) as the son of the father Tsering Dar-gay, a reputed scholar and political leader, hence his nickname Chodrak Ponpo, and the mother Drongzang Chozom. Tsering Darjey belonged to the family line of Won lineage holder Bari Rinchen Zangpo who was followed by many successive proph-esied bodhisattva manifestations. Bari Rinchen Zangpo was one of the six great Dharma Masters who represented the principal disciples of Chodrak Choji Sonam Zangpo, a great and accomplished yogi. Chodrak Choji Sonam Zangpo was preceded by many successive disciples of Drogon Ti Shri Repa who was the principal disciple and the lineage holder of Gyalwa Barompa.
The first incarnated boy was named Tsewang Dudal. He entered a religious life in his early years. Trained under experts and yogis like Kowo Dungkar Rechen, he quickly mastered the essence of the oceanic Sutras and Tantras, including – namely the Six Yoga Naropa (Naro Cho Drug) as the means and the Mahamudra as the path of liberation. His single pointed dedication to his yogic practice in generation and completion tantric stages culminated in him a complete accomplishment and realisation. Propitiations of Chakrasam-bara and the four handed Dharmapalas eventuated with a clear sign of the accomplishment.
Local devas also became visible to him and he gave them many teachings and blessings. Known by his esoteric name Wonpo Rabjor, having fulfilled a life of scholarship, dedication and benevolence, he entered into parinirvana in late the twelfth Rabgyung accompanied by many auspicious signs. Since I am currently in the process of compiling more detailed hagiography, suffice it here to provide you a brief account as the seed.
Chagzod Lama Rabzang Rinpoche
The second incarnation took his birth in the Lineage of Dagyu Chagzod. Recognised from the early age as the reincarnation of the former master, he was offered the title Chagzod Lama Rabzang Rinpoche. He nurtured lineage sons like the accomplished Wangchuk Yunying. He acquired his traditional lineage training under the tutelage of Chodrak Salten Dhungsum and Terchen Barway Dorje, dedicated his entire life for yogic practice, guided so many fortunate disciples to the spiritual maturity and liberation, and finally passed away.
Karma Shedrub Tenpai Gyaltsen Thrinley Kunkyab
The third incarnation was the son of father, Butsa Choying Gurme of the great valley of Tsobu of Chodrak. Tai Situ Padma Wangchok Gyalpo identified him as the reincarnation of the previous master. He was offered the title Karma Shedrub Ten-pai Gyaltsen Thrinley Kunkyab and enthroned on the Vajra seat. He mastered prayermemorisation of the monastery. The-reafter he went to the Great Domed Palpung monastery, accompanied by three wise monks from Chodrak Monastery – namely, Alo Yeshi Rabje, Desar Tobchu Rabje, Seryig Tsultrim Paldan. There he consulted Jamgon Tai Situ who compassionately introduced him to Gyalsey Khenchen Shenga Rinpoche who agreed to train him. With enormous dedication and perseverance in his studies, he became a learned expert in all thirteen great treatises, including among other great sutras and Tantras, and related topics of Buddhism. On his return to Chodrak Monastery, he gave extensive teachings on many great texts, and composed many excellent works such as The Sound of The Sea of Peace and Hymns of Wisdom of Kagyu and manuals for spiritual instructions. When he overhauled the yogic practices of the Chodrak Monastery, he gave extensive oral instructions to yogis and attempted to combine two forms of practices under the fold of one easy method.
In his later days, reflecting upon his services to the humanity in his previous life as the Great Translator Vairotsana, with the practice of
bodhicitta, he developed a sign of physical weakness with the severe naga disease as a result of practising the exchanging of self and others. Thereafter he went for a pilgrimage tour in U-tsang region, and accomplished all his remaining wishes related to yogic practice. Seeing that there was no purpose to be served any longer, I heard it is said, in the sacred location of Zangri Kharmar, the monastery of Ma Chig Labdron, accompanied by many marks of auspiciousness, he passed away.
Letter written by His Holiness 9th Chodrak Saljey Rinpoche, head of the Barom Kagyu Lineage (in Tibetan)
Letter from the His Eminence 12th Goshri Gyalshabpa (in Tibetan)
The official English translation letter of His Holiness 9th Chodrak Saljey Rinpoche
By the blessing of the three precious root refuges. By the power of profound and indeceptive inter-dependent phenomena. By the power of spiritual and genuine intention, please grant us the auspicious blessing to spread the Buddha’s teaching everywhere. Having carefully investigated, the boy named Soten, son of father Butsa Bulo and mother Neyza Yangmo is recognized as the undisputed reincarnation of Ven. Tulku Rabsang Rinpoche of Chodrak Monastery of the Barom Kagyu lineage. We have enthroned him conferring the name of Karma Jampal Sonam Tenzin Palzangpo Rinpoche. We fervently pray that he live for one hundred aeons and spread his spiritual activities in all the directions. I, His Holiness the 9th Chodrak Saljey Rinpoche
The official English translation letter of the His Eminence 12th Goshri Gyalshabpa
In accordance with His Eminence, the Barom Kagyu Linage holder Chodrak Saljey Rinpoche’s recognition, I also recognize this person as Rabsang Tulku as Lama Sonam Tenzin Rinpoche. I rejoice in the pure signs of virtue that have been present in him since he was a small boy. May be affectionately respect the three higher trainings. My auspicious prayer is that through the three aspects of his skillful means the essence of the Victorious Buddha’s teachings will ripen. I, the His Eminence 12th Goshri Gyaltshabpa, composed this letter on the eighth day, as the moon is waxing. In the second Tibetan month of the Wood Chicken year 2005.
- Background history relating to the dissemination of Buddhism;
- How to generate Bodhicita (altruistic mind);
- Facilitating an environment conducive to commitment to practice;
- How to rely on antidotes and dispel obstacles during the course of practice;
- How to perform rituals in order to develop one’s inspiration toward observing virtuous action;
- Mantra propitiation of the Secret Drop of Vajrakilaya;
- The four preliminary revulsion practices on Common Mahamudra;
- The four uncommon preliminary practices;
- The Guru propitiation practice on Lord Milarepa;
- The Guru propitiation practice on Karma Pakshi;
- The Seven Point Mind training Practice;
- Contemplation on the training of Tranquility and Mental Insight;
- Exterior propitiation of Vajrabharahi;
- Interior propitiation of Vajrabharari;
- Rules of Fire Puja;
- The Secret Propitiation of Vajrabharari;
- Practices on the Six Dharmas of Naropa;
- The exterior practice on the Mantra of Chakrasambara;
- Internal and external propitiation of Chakrasambara;
- Propitiation of Perfect Secret;
- Fire Puja of Hevajra;
- The exterior Mantra Propitiation of Gyalwa Gyatso;
- Mantra Propitiation of Vairochana (Kunrig);
- The Grand Puja on Kunrig;
- The Mantra Propitiation on Gonpo Mitrukpa (Achala);
- Fire Puja of Achala;
- The Mantra Propitiation of Amitaba;
- The mantra Propitiation of Dorje Drolo (Wrathful Form of Guru Padmasambhava);
- The propitiatory practice on the Two Armed Mahakala with consort (Yeshe Gonpo Berchen);
- The means of accumulating merit through Chod practice, known as the Sources of All Qualities;
- The Mantra Propitiation of White Tara which bestows all accom-plishments;
- The Grand Propitiatory Puja;
- The Fire Puja of White Tara;
- The Regala Propitiatory Pujas held frequently in the year;
- The trainings related to the things to be practised and things to be abandoned;
- How to conclude the Retreat.
The creative are illusory, magical minds of the Victors and the sons
of the Victors,
Wonder in the realm of samsara with the purpose of taming what
needs to be tamed.
Embrace, and embrace indeed all the teachers of the yore.
Seek them heartily, seek them even you got the essence.
Based on the fragmented manuscripts of early history,
Testimonies of stories passed down by the elders
I wrote this to plant a seed for the impartial mind.
I seek your forgiveness for any inconsistency and mistake.
A perfect path for liberation was shown by the Victor.
Only through the instructions and the yogic practice as conditions
the path is be known.
Those whose efforts lie in attaining the gain, the praise and the respect,
May their prayers and wishes be fulfilled.
Seeing the purpose and the importance, I have composed it.
Hope it will be of some use.
By Aten Tulku