His Eminence Choje Togdan Rinpoche
HIS EMINENCE CHOJE TOGDAN RINPOCHE is the spiritual leader of the Drikung Kagyu Tradition in Ladakh. The title Togdan means “endowed with realization”. The previous Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche Shiwai Lodro recognised the young boy as the incarnation of Togdan Tulku when he was only 18 months old.
The Togden tulku are believed to be the successive incarnations of the Indian Mahasiddha Hungchen Kara (Hungkara), one of the Eight Great Vidyadharas. The other Eight Vidyadharas include Nagarjuna, Manjushrimitra and Vimalamitra.
Rinpoche is also recognized as the manifestation of Nyang Tingdzin Zangpo, the Tibetan minister of religion in the 8th century, and a key figure in the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. He was one of the few masters in history said to have attained the rainbow body, the highest achievement of Tibetan Buddhism’s Dzogchen practice. He was the first abbot of Samye monastery and the heart disciple of the great guru Vimalamitra.
He was born into a poor family of Konchog Tsultrim and Kelsang Dolma in 1939 in Durbuk, a small village situated 110 km east from Leh in Changthang. Only a few months later the young boy lost his mother and was taken care of by his aunt. At the time of his mother’s death, the family goat gave birth to new offspring and Rinpoche could drink its milk.
In 1951, accompanied by his teacher Gegen Sonam, the young Rinpoche traveled through Sikkim over three weeks on horseback on his way to Drikung Thil Monastery in Tibet. There he started his training, receiving teachings from renown spiritual masters and completing many retreats.
In 1960s, he met his root guru H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche in Kalimpong and subsequently organised a great transmission of Rinchen Terdzod by Dudjom Rinpoche in Tso Pema in early 1967. Thereafter, he was appointed by Dudjom Rinpoche as his successor in transmitting this teaching.
Today at 75 years of age, Rinpoche’s live achievements make him a model example for the dharma practitioner of the modern times; attaining excellence in both worldly and spiritual life. Rinpoche has been referenced to in many popular books and have appeared in two documentary films about Tibetan Buddhism.
Rinpoche’s complete name is H.E. 9th Choje Togdan Rinpoche, Terton Rigched Dorje, Konchog Tenzin Thupthen Tenpei Gyaltsen and he is the Drikung Dharma Lord (Choje) of Ladakh. He and his lovely wife Lha-cham have raised a dharma family of two sons and three daughters.
In a long-life prayer to Rinpoche, H.H Dudjom Rinpoche wrote that:
“he is the northern heavenly king and the bestower of glory…the river of nectar of the Nyingmapa tradition…the Bodhisattva akin to the youthful moon leading countless star constellations…the Vidyadhara of Long Life.”
In the current 9th incarnation of Togdan Rinpoche, is also included the manifestation of Rigzin Jatson Nyingpo. A great terton master who spent 17 years in a sealed hermitage retreat and was the root guru of such renown masters as Kathog Dudul Dorje, Lhatsun Chenpo, 10th Karmapa, 1st Drikung Chungtsang, 5th Drugchen and many others during the 16th century.
Having been recognized by the 36th H.H. Kyabgon Chetsang as the 9th Togdan Rinpoche, Rinpoche was given the leadership of the unbroken Drikung tradition in Ladakh. This included the responsibility for over 50 monasteries and the cultivation of the Drikung tradition in the region.