Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, prominent Karma Kagyu teacher, dies at 91

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, one of the foremost teachers of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, died on June 4, 2023, at the age of 91.

Mariana Restrepo
8 June 2023
Thrangu Rinpoche smiles, wearing red robes and seated in a chair
Thrangu Rinpoche. Photo via

Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, one of the foremost teachers of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, has died at age 91.

According to a statement released by Thrangu Monastery in Namo Buddha, Nepal:

“…On June 4, the full moon day of the fourth Tibetan month, Saga Dawa—the sacred anniversary of the Buddha Shakyamuni, our incomparably kind teacher, passing into parinirvana—Rinpoche decided that he had completed his activity for this life… The Gyalwang Karmapa instructed that, as Rinpoche needed to be in a peaceful environment, this news should not be announced for four days. This is the reason why no announcement has been made until now.”

Thrangu Rinpoche was born in Kham, Tibet, in 1933 and was recognized at age five as a tulku by the Sixteenth Karmapa and the previous Tai Situpa. Thrangu Rinpoche was an accomplished scholar, earning the title of Geshe, the highest degree awarded in the Gelug tradition, and the Khenchen degree of the Kagyu tradition. Thrangu Rinpoche was a prolific writer, authoring over 60 books on Buddhist topics, explaining many of the most central texts of the Kagyu tradition.

Thrangu Rinpoche served as the abbot of Rumtek, the Karmapa’s monastery in exile, and was appointed as the 17th Karmapa’s tutor by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He played a vital role in the preservation of the Kagyu lineage in exile, recognizing and training the next generation of Kagyu lamas, including the principal disciples of the 16th Karmapa known as “The Four Heart-Sons,” namely Shamar Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Gyaltsab Rinpoche.

Thrangu Rinpoche founded numerous monasteries, schools, and dharma centers around the world, including Tara Abbey in Nepal, which offers a full education for Tibetan nuns, leading to a Khenmo degree.

Mariana Restrepo

Mariana Restrepo is deputy editor of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Guide (published by Lion’s Roar). She is Colombian with a Nyingma-Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist background, has an MA in Religious Studies, and currently lives in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina with her husband and two children.