Tarthang Tulku, referred to by his students as Rinpoche, a traditional title of respect, was born in Golok, East Tibet in 1935. His first teachers were his parents and private tutors. At the age of nine, he went to live at Tarthang Monastery, where he received instruction in Mahayana view, meditation, and conduct. At the age of sixteen, he left Tarthang monastery to study with many of the greatest masters of the 20th century, including Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, Zhechen Kongtrul, Zhechen Rabjam, Adzom Gyelsrey, and Bodpa Tulkuthirty-one teachers in all. Until the age of twenty-four, Rinpoche received intensive training in the shastra tradition and the three Inner Yogas of the Nyingma tradition.
In 1958, Rinpoche followed his root teacher, Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, to Sikkim and India. Unable to return to Tibet due to the political turmoil there, he found himself in exile. The next several years were devoted to pilgrimage and retreat at holy places in India. In 1962, he was appointed to represent the Nyingma tradition at Sanskrit University in Varanasi. That same year, he set up one of the first Tibetan printing presses in exile and began his life’s work of preserving sacred texts and art. In 1968, he resolved to pursue his vision in the West and left for America.
Rinpoche chose Berkeley, California as his headquarters and established the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center there in 1969. One of the first learned Tibetan lamas to take up residence in the West, he quickly developed a vision of wisdom in action that would eventually lead to the founding of over twenty different organizations, making a significant impact on the transmission of Dharma to the West and the restoration of Dharma in Asia. After his first decade in America, he withdrew from public teaching to devote himself to his life’s work.
Today Rinpoche lives in retreat at Odiyan Country Center in northern California. He continues to guide the work of selecting, editing and printing sacred texts and creating offerings of sacred art and symbols to the Dharma. He provides ongoing spiritual direction to the Nyingma community and its member organizations.
Rinpoche came to the United States because he saw it as a land of opportunity, where he could preserve and transmit the teachings that his highly accomplished teachers had passed on to him. He has focused on preserving sacred texts, writing works for a Western audience, and creating communities built around Buddhist principles. His family and students have taken on the awesome responsibility of sharing his vision with others and creating a vibrant and enduring home for the Dharma in the West.