Tulku Sang Ngag
B. Alan Wallace
The Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche was born in 1925, and was recognized by Jamyang Khyentse Lodrö Thaye to be the incarnation of Sampa Künkyap, a Palyul lineage meditator who spent much of his life in retreat, and later gave empowerments and transmissions from his retreat cave to multitudes of disciples. After being brought to Palyul Dhomang Monastery, the young Gyatrul was educated by his tutor, Sangye Gön. (As a newborn, Sangye Gön was singled out by the great tertön Dudjom Lingpa, who named him and predicted his future.) Under Sangye Gön’s tutelage Gyatrul Rinpoche received most of his basic training. During the many years that he spent with him, Gyatrul Rinpoche remembers him having regular visitations from a white man whom he felt to be Avalokiteshvara, and he recalls that Sangye Gön’s own white hair turned black and new teeth appeared, replacing those that were missing.
As a young man, Gyatrul Rinpoche spent many years in solitary retreat with his root guru, the miraculous activity emanation of the Dudjom incarnations, Tulku Natsog Rangdröl, moving from one isolated location to another. Gyatrul Rinpoche later received oral transmissions from some of the greatest Nyingmapa mahasiddhas of the century, including the great Palyul Chogtrul Rinpoche, the primary spiritual mentor of H.H. Penor Rinpoche, Apkong Khenpo, and others. He carries with him all the blessings and the knowledge that he received directly from all his teachers.
At the onset of the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet, his principle teachers told Gyatrul Rinpoche it was time for him to flee his homeland, and foretold the details of his future work propagating the Dharma in foreign lands. Following an arduous, year-long journey on foot, Gyatrul Rinpoche arrived to safety in Nepal, then made his way on to India.
During the following twelve years, Gyatrul Rinpoche worked in the service of H.H. the Dalai Lama, and H.H. the Karmapa among the Tibetan refugee community in India. In 1972 he was chosen by H.H. the Dalai Lama and H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche to be the Nyingmapa representative to accompany the first group of Tibetans being sent to resettle in Canada. After arriving in the West he traveled extensively around the U.S. and Canada at the invitation of Tibetan and Western students alike.
In 1976 H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, during his second visit to the West, asked Gyatrul Rinpoche to be his spiritual representative. Rinpoche accepted this position, and has maintained his commitment since that time by establishing and nurturing a number of Pacific Region Yeshe Nyingpo Dharma centers on the West Coast of the U.S. Over the years Gyatrul Rinpoche and the centers he created have hosted many great lamas, accomplished scholars, and contemplatives of the various orders of the Tibetan Vajrayana, and Rinpoche has taught the Dharma to thousands of students in the West. His skillful ability to explain the Vajrayana in simple terms, and his humor and unfailing compassion, are among the noble qualities he is most loved for.