Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche
Khordong Terchen Tulku Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche (Zilnon Lingpa) was born on a full moon of the fifth month of the year of water dog (25.12.1922).
When Rinpoche was four years old, he was recognized as an incarnation of Nudan Dorje Dropan Lingpa. This was later confirmed by Sichen Ugyen Chemchok, Terton Sogyal, Terton Avam, Do Khyentse, Sakya Trichen, Dzogchen Pema Rigdzin, Minling Trichen, Panchen Ertini and the 18th Dalai Lama. The authenticity of the tulku was also confirmed by three divinations, that were performed in front of Jowo statue in Lhasa and they were accompanied by powerful Dharma Protector rituals that were performed by lamas from Khordong. One divination was performed
by placing nine balls of cake in a bowl of water, those balls contained notes
with names of the potential incarnations. Only one ball was meant to float to the top of the water and that is the ball with the name of the real tulku. The local aristocracy placed in these balls names of hairs to the important families. Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche was born to a poor family; hence his name was not included inside any of the nine balls, but his name was found in the floating ball none the less.
Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche was a tulku of Nudan Dorje's incarnation lineage. He was a tulku of the branch of the lineage that comes from Nudan Dorje Dropan Lingpa. Another branch of the lineage originates from Dudjom Lingpa from Chakyong and the present incarnations of that branch are two young tulkus of Dudjom Rinpoche. Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche was also considered as a tulku of Rigdzin Godem's son, Namgyal Gonpo, and an emanation of the body of Khyechung Lotsawa, the speech of Nanam Dorje Dudjom, and the mind of Padmasambhava.
Adhering with instructions from Padmasambhava and prophesy from the Fifth Dalai Lama and Rigdzin Pema Thrinley, Nudan Dorje has built many monasteries. Whereas his students built twelve gompas in Eastern Tibet. Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche has become the head of all those monasteries and gompas after he has been enthroned.
Rinpoche has shown many special qualities from a young age. When he was six years old, he wanted to eat fruits that grew on the other side of a river but he could not get through. He stomped his foot in anger, which has left behind his foot print engraved deeply in a stone. When he was nine years old, he would knead stones in his hands like dough. It is also said that Rinpoche was a defiant child for which his teacher would lock him in a room as a punishment, but Rinpoche would get out of the room without breaking the lock.
When he was nine years old, Rinpoche also found a chest containing many termas. Soon after that event Rinpoche took his first pilgrimage to Lhasa. In two years of his pilgrimage, Rinpoche received many initiations and teachings from the Ninth Rigdzin Chenpo, Nyamnyi Dorje and many other lamas.
After his accomplishing of all those teachings, Rinpoche returned to the monastery to finish his studies with Tulku Tsurlo. Over this period, he also received teachings from Tulku Ugyen Tenzin from Bane Monastery, Khenpo Lodro, Khenpo Sangthar, Tulku Chokyi Gyaltsen, Khenpo Jigme Loto from Khordong Monastery and many others. He was guided through studies of tantra, philosophy, logic, grammar, astrology and painting of mandalas. His great knowledge earned him the title of maha vajra-acharia. Soon before ending his studies, Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche received from Tulku Tsurlo seven predictions and guidelines that were meant to guide him through his life. Here they are:
When you turn eighteen years old, you should leave Khordong and practice while traveling through Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. Then you should take part in a retreat in Tso Pema. It should last for three years and six months. When you turn twenty-eight years old, you will be attacked by a thief. Do not defend yourself from him. When you turn thirty-seven years old, you will be flying over the sky. When you turn sixty years old you should look after your eye sight or you will become blind on one eye if you neglect this. You should return to Khordong to transmit all your initiations. You will live for eighty-four years. You do have a chance to live up to one hundred and twenty-five years, but this depends on many conditions.
All those prophecies have taken place. The third augury referring to flying referred to Rinpoche’s flight to Italy when Rinpoche was invited by a Tibetologist, professor Tucci. Rinpoche tried his best to follow all his advices.
When he was eighteen years old, on a night of the first full moon of the year of earth rabbit (1939) Rinpoche left the monastery. After crossing the river of Nyich, he looked back at the gompa for the last time and he remembered all the good memories from his childhood, years of studies and practice, he also remembered all his friends, teachers and students. He followed the guidance of his lama, but it was not easy.
Throught his travels from Tibet to India, Rinpoche had the company of a black raven. This was an emanation of Mahakala. Thanks to him Rinpoche could reach his destination. Rinpoche once said that Mahakala never leaves his side.
After leaving Tibet, Rinpoche spent many years meditating in retreat in sacred places of Himalayas, including three year retreat in Tso Pema.
He then settled in Western Bengal and took the job of the Head of Tibetology Department at the Univesity of Visva Bharati in Shantiniketan. During this time, he helped refugees from Tiber and he participated in social causes and met with many leaders like president Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
By the end of the fifties, Rinpoche accepted the invitation to Europe from
a remarkable Italian Tibetologist, professor Giuseppe Tucci. This was Rinpoche’s first visit to Europe where he’s met the Pope Paul VI. He also kept in touch with the famous Tibetologist Herbert V. Guenther.
In 1987, Rinpoche retired from the university and he started regularly visiting Europe. He visited most European countries, United States, Australia
and Taiwan. He also visited Tibet. Thus he followed the guidelines of Tulku Tsurlo, who told Rinpoche that he should return teachings to Khordong Monastery. Here is how he remembered his first journey to Tibet:
In the year of 1984 Tulku Thondup, who just returned from a trip to Dodrupchen Monastery in Tibet, gave me an important letter from Rayab Ontrul Rigdzin Paljor, the abbot of my gompa Shukchung. I received a few other similar letters, all of which asked me to return to Tibet and guide those who practice but had been for so long without a lama.
Dodrupchen Rinpoche also gave me letters from Khenpo Thubten Lodro – my devoted student from Shukchung, geko Jigdral from Khordong gompa
and my brother Sherab Dorje. It seemed to me that those heartfelt requests showed that it was the time for me to fulfil the fifth prophecy of my lama. I was the only person who had the complete transmission of the Khordong Lineage. I decided to come to my gompa. We received Chinese visas without a problem and I travelled without a problem with my son, lama Urgien Chiemcziok. We checked in on a flight from Kalkuta to Pekin and from there we flied to Chengdu. Wherever we stopped we were warmly welcomed by the Chinese authorities.
In Pekin and Chengdu, we were welcomed with a dinner and they let up visit
the local temples. In Pekin, I have met twice with Panchen Lama who told me about the current situation of Buddhism in Tibet. I was glad to hear that the political disputes have calmed. Panchen Lama ensured me that he would do everything he can to get the support of the Chinese government to rebuilding my gompa.
We were meant to pass through Kanze, Tangi, Tarchinlo and Karnya Chu
by traveling with a jeep, but we had to leave the jeep behind in Karnya Chu, because the bridge we had to cross was wooden and too fragile to withstand the weight of a car. On the other side of the bridge, a group of local people gathered with emissaries sent from Khordong to accompany me as an honourable escort. I had lost the habit of riding a horse and a six-hour long ride was very difficult for me. Many people had offered their food and tea to me. We stopped in Devanang – birthplace of Nudan Dorje, and we could see my gompa from there. I saw it for the first time after 42 years. Memories had returned, I could not speak a word and tears came down my face. All that was left over of my gompa were ruins and stupas. I realised that I would not see the old altar. I realised the meaning of the instructions of my lama. He had foreseen the downfall of Buddhism in Tibet and he wished to save the tradition of the teachings. The destruction of the building did not mean the destruction of the transmission Lineage. I have left Tibet when
I was eighteen years old and I was returning to it now. Thanks to this the teachings of my lineage will not perish, but they will be practiced again. When I reached the gompa rituals had been conducted for ten days and then I conducted initiations for twenty days. Then I went to Serta, where for another twenty-two days I gave initiations. I also visited Shukchung and Bane. I found out that the monasteries have been severely ruined.
Finally, on the 15th of December, with a heavy heart I had to return to India. That is when I felt a strong determination to return and help my monasteries,
as instructed by my lama. Today my main goal is to prepare my return to Tibet and transmission of the teachings, so they do not disappear. This is the greatest gift that I can offer.
There are many amazing stories that are told about Chhime Rigdzin Rinpoche’s stay in Tibet. The witnesses of incredible events were not only Tibetans, but also Chinese officials. Rinpoche made an impression on them that was enough to change their attitude to Buddhism and they agreed to Rinpoche’s second visit. Before Rinpoche came to Tibet, the Chinese did not accept the idea of reincarnation and they did not allow vows to be taken by the underaged. However, during his stay in Tibet, Rinpoche recognised nine incarnations and he enthroned sixteen with the endorsement from the Chinese official authorities. Also the law forbidding adolescents to join monastic communities was abolished.
On the nineteenth day of the seventh month of a year of wooden ox (6th august, 1985), Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche consecrated the great stupa in Serta. Twenty thousand monks and nakpas, one hundred tulkus and khenpos, and five thousand people have gathered for this event in the Thang Kham Serta Gorong valley.
In the morning Rinpoche started the ceremonies from evocation of lineage blessings, including Guru Padmasambhava and Khandro Yeshe Tsogjal, Khyechung Lotsawa, Nudan Dorje, Tulku Tsurlo, Apang Tertona, and Dudjom Rinpoche.
After this prayer, a huge rainbow covered Serta Monastery and the whole Gorgon Thang valley, and it remained in the sky until the noon. When Rinpoche conducted the ritual of consecration, he and the stupa were surrounded by white light and three colourful thigles. The onlookers saw many images in those thigles. Some saw also five white vultures, which were forms of five dakinis of wisdom. When Rinpoche threw a katak in the air, it was floating in the air for a whole day. Rinpoche was always known for his supernatural powers, particularly his power over the weather. In Tibet, he had stopped the hail destroying of the farms on multiple occasions. The same kinds of events have happened in India and Europe. His power always served to protect Dharma and happiness of others. His oldest son mentions that during one of their pilgrimages to Pato Thaktsang in Bhutan Rinpoche’s wife asked him to calm a violent rainfall. Rinpoche denied this, but then when he realised that Dharma texts are getting wet on the back of a donkey, he stopped the rainfall with one hand movement. However, Rinpoche never paid much attention to those events, claiming that they were only possible with the power of Guru Padmasambhava and the great devotion of the people who are witnesses to those events.
In 1993, Rinpoche stated the tradition of yearly offering of 100 000 butter lamps in intention of world peace and happiness of all sentient beings. His students have carried this tradition ever since by conducting the ceremony in his monastery in India and the Dropan Ling centre in Poland.
By the end of the nineties, Rinpoche started his project of establishing Khordong Monastery in Siliguri in India and a gompa in Darnków, in southern Poland. Both places have become main sites of Khordong and Jangter practice.
Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche, just like his previous incarnations, was a terton.
The termas he transmitted to his students include the Butter Lamp Offering Prayer and sadhana Roar of a Dragon. In his teachings Rinpoche focused primarily on transmitting termas of Rigdzin Godem, Nudan Dorje, Zangpo Dragpa and Gonpo Wangyal.
Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche reached parinirvana on the 14th of June in 2002 (4th day of the fifth month of water horse year), at the age of eighty. Due to hot weather, his body was put in a chest filled with ice, but the area of his heart remained warm for many days. During the cremation of his body, there were many phenomena, like rainbows, thunder, and pulses of earthquakes. Before his departure, Rinpoche instructed his son, Tulku Ugyen Chemchok, to find his incarnation.
This biography is based on the text published on