Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, renowned scholar, yogi, and prominent Karma Kagyu teacher, dies

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, a renowned scholar and one of the foremost teachers in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, died on June 22.

Rod Meade Sperry
26 June 2024
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. Photo via

From Tekchokling Nunnery in Boudhanath, Nepal, comes word today that Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, one of the foremost teachers in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, died on June 22. According to an email about Khenpo Rinpoche’s passing from the Marpa Network, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, head of the 900 year old Karma Kagyu Lineage, “recommended that, as Rinpoche needed to be in a peaceful environment, the news should not be announced for a few days.”

A short biography of Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche from his website (not yet updated to reflect his death) reads, in part:

A renowned scholar, he excels in philosophical debate and always aims to turn the minds of his opponents and students towards their own inner experience rather than getting lost in intellectual fabrications.

After the communist invasion of Tibet, Khenpo Rinpoche fled to India in 1960. He spent many years in Bhutan as a wandering yogin, meditating in caves and hermitages. In 1975 he was asked by the sixteenth Karmapa, head of the Kagyu tradition, to be abbot of the main Kagyu centre in France. However he asked instead to be allowed to travel and help people everywhere.

He has done that ever since, leading a truly simple, homeless life; he is a master of non-attachment. He has many times refused to accept property to build Buddhist centres and he regularly gives away all of his money. Khenpo Rinpoche demonstrates the carefree life of a yogin, singing spontaneous songs of realisation wherever he goes, devoted only to the welfare of others.

A fuller biography of Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche, authored by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, can also be found on Khenpo Rinpoche’s website.

As mentioned in the above biography, he was known for teaching through songs, sung by his students in English to modern melodies. You can view the lyrics and listen to the audio of these songs here.

Here is a selection of teachings by Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche that Lion’s Roar and Buddhadharma have published, plus an interview with him by Lion’s Roar editor-in-chief Melvin McLeod: 

Rod Meade Sperry. Photo by Megumi Yoshida, 2024

Rod Meade Sperry

Rod Meade Sperry is the editor of Buddhadharma, Lion’s Roar’s online source for committed Buddhists, and the book A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his partner and their tiny pup, Sid.