Ven. Tenga Tulku Rinpoche
- Biographical Notes
A Short Official Biography  compiled by Michele Martin (1998)
Tenga Tulku 1980   Ven. TENGA TULKU RINPOCHE is recognized as one of the tulkus of the great Benchen monastery in eastern Tibet. Since the history of his lineage is closely interwoven with the incarnations of Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, it is helpful first to look at the history of that lineage. After living in the area of Dege for three lifetimes, the fourth tulku of Sangye Nyenpa, Gelek Jantsho, traveled to nearby Ga, a countryside he liked very much and considered suitable for building a monastery, provided that the right auspicious omens occurred. One day as Gelek Jantsho was standing near a huge boulder, a large black raven descended from the sky, alighted there and gave a cry. Gelek Jantsho went closer to look at the raven and saw it drop from its beak a small turquoise image of the protector Dorje Bernachen and then it danced around on top of the rock. He realized that the raven itself must be an emanation of the protector. As this was an especially good omen, he decided on that spot as the site for his monastery and kept the small image of Mahakala for his shrine.

   Gelek Jantsho then went to the local chief, Rarda Pontshong, and told him this story, requesting that land be made available for the construction of the monastery. Deeply impressed, Rarda Pontshong offered the very land on which stood his family home, a large black tent, and said he would help with the project in any way he could. During the building of the monastery, tremendous gales, hail storms, and strange manifestations upset the progress. Gelek Jantsho realized that they were probably caused by the displeasure of the Rarda family protector. He told Rarda Pontshong of the problems and having learned that the protector was Shing Kyong, Gelek Jantsho resolved that he would dedicate himself to meditation on this protector and that Shing Kyong would always be the protector of his teachings. He built a shrine for Shing Kyong, who is still the special protector of all those associated with Benchen monastery, and the building was completed without further obstacles.

   The story of the Tenga incarnations starts in the time of the eighth Sangye Nyenpa, Tenzin Drupchok, one of whose students was a highly accomplished lama named Gonkhen Samten. The title Gonkhen means "expert on the protectors" and was given to him for his proficiency in Shing Kyong meditation. Lama Samten spent most of his life in retreat, meditating on his yidam, Karma Pakshi, and Shing Kyong. Many people came to see him for his blessing, which cured all kinds of medical and other problems. Several years after Lama Samten died, Tenzin Drupchok travelled to Lhasa and on the way met a local chief named Drungpa Pontshong, who requested initiations. While Tenzin Drupchok was staying with the local chief, he met in this family a small boy, who asked if he wouldn't give back his thigh bone trumpet. Tenzin Drupchok immediately recalled that just before dying, Lama Samten had given him his thigh bone trumpet and asked him to look after it for a while. At last he had met the reincarnation of Lama Samten.

   A couple of years later, returning from Lhasa to Benchen monastery, Tenzin Drupchok stopped by the little boy's house and the family gave him the boy to take along. Soon after his arrival at the monastery, he began to study the theory and practice of the Karma Kagyu tradition, at which he excelled, memorizing in one year all the rituals and songs of Benchen. As a young man, he was given ordination by Tenzin Drupchok  and the name Karma Tenzin Chogyal. Then when he was about eighteen,  Tenzin Drupchok told him about Lama Samten, who had been such a distinguished lama that Tenzin Drupchok had high hopes for the future.To realize this promise, he suggested that Tenzin Chogyal go on retreat under the guidance of the great Jamgon Kongtrul.

   Tenzin Chogyal followed this advice and traveled to Pepung monastery to meet Kongtrul Rinpoche. With his instruction, the young monk completed a very successful three-year retreat and became Kongtrul Rinpoche's attendant for another three years. Kongtrul Rinpoche was very impressed with him, and when he had to go to Lhasa, he left Tenzin Chogyal in charge of his retreat center. After a few years, Kongtrul Rinpoche returned and told Tenzin Chogyal that since he was now equal to himself in realization, it was time to return home to Benchen. One of the parting gifts Kongtrul Rinpoche gave him was a painting of six-armed Mahakala, which is still with the present Tenga Rinpoche.

   By the time Tenzin Chogyal came home to Benchen, Tenzin Drupchok had died and so he had to take over the direction of the monastery and the education of the new Sangye Nyenpa, Gelek Drupe Nyima (who died about twenty years ago). In addition to this work, one of Tenzin Chogyal's greatest accomplishments was the construction of four retreat centers at Benchen: for Jinasagara (a high tantra form of Chenrezig), for Kunrik (a form of Vairocana and this retreat also included White Tara and Shing Kyong), for the six doctrines of Naropa, and for the six doctrines of Niguma.

   When Tenzin Chogyal was an old man, he told his monks that since he was getting old and things were becoming difficult for him, he would leave Benchen and go to live in "some pleasant garden." They all sympathized with him and thought that this was a very good idea. He told Sangye Nyenpa the same and gave him some of his possessions, including the painting of six-armed Mahakala, to look after while he was away. A few days later, he died.

   Some years later, Situ Pema Wongchuk visited Benchen and Sangye Nyenpa asked him how he might find the incarnation of his lama, Tenzin Chogyal. Situ Rinpoche predicted the name of the father and mother of the child, the year of his birth (1932), and said that Sangye Nyenpa would not have to look far, but would find the child within the vicinity of Benchen. After a search, they found the child (the present Tenga Rinpoche), who was seven years old. He then began his studies at Benchen and received refuge and the name Karma Tenzin Thinle Namgyal from Situ Rinpoche. At sixteen, he was instated as a Tulku and in the next years took the opportunity to learn medicine from an uncle, who was both a lama and a doctor. At nineteen, he received ordination from Situ Rinpoche and when his studies were completed, he entered a three-year retreat. During this time, he became particularly adept at White Tara meditation (his yidam) and tummo. It is said that in the retreat, his water bowls were the only ones which did not freeze over in the winter.

   When the Chinese invaded in 1959, Tenga Rinpoche left Benchen for Lhasa and then northern India. Following his arrival in India, he went to Rumtek, the seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, where Rinpoche served as dorje loppon (vajra master) for more than nine years. In 1974, he traveled with the Karmapa to the West. Since then, he has traveled extensively in the West, giving teachings on Buddhism. Every two years, he teaches a three-week seminar in Germany, where many of his students reside.

   In 1986, Tenga Rinpoche established the new Benchen Monastery in Kathmandu, at the foothills of Swayambhu. At present, this monastery is the center for traditional ritual practice of the Karma Kamtsang lineage.The monks, under the guidance of both Tenga Rinpoche and Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, are trained in meditation and Dharma studies in general, and particularly the traditional tantric rituals such as sandmandalas and lama dances. Twice a year, they perform the Mahakala and Padmasambhava lama dances.

   Fulfilling the wishes of Tenga Rinpoche and Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, a health clinic was started in 1994. This clinic provides free medical care not only for the monastery, but also for local people who cannot afford such care.

   A retreat center has recently been built in the area of Parping, twenty kilometers from Kathmandu, as part of Benchen monastery. This will provide the traditional three-year retreat for the monks, as well as accommodations for shorter and longer retreats for lay people.

- This biography was compiled in part by Michele Martin from Karma Kagyu Cho Khor Ling's Winter-Spring 1982 brochure -- Kham House, Rectory Lane, Ashdon, Saffron Walden, Essex CB10 2HM, UK; from the Kagyu Samye-Ling 1982 course program -- Eskdalemuir, nr. Langholm, Dumfriesshire, DG13 QL, Scotland; and from a 1981 brochure of Karma Shedrup Gyamtso Ling--33 rue Cappouillet, 1060 Brussels, Belgium.

Some Personal Remarks by Hans Taeger  (Champa Legshe)
Tenga Tulku 1992/Click to Enlarge   If I remember correctly I met Tenga Tulku (born 8th of July 1932, 6:30 LMT, Nanchen/Tibet) first when he was touring Europe (1976/77) accompanying H.H. the 16th Karmapa, who gave various teachings and his famous Black Hat initiations in Denmark, Holland, Germany and other countries. In 1978 it happened that I became one of Tenga's personal students and was with him everytime he was in Europe for his lecture tours and (-being his driver on many occasions) we spent a lot of time together, travelling Germany, France and England. I arranged and managed some courses for him at my Manjushri-Mandala centre in Muenster/Germany, where he gave various teachings on Sutra and Tantra as well as initiations into the Mandala of White Tara, the Mandala of peaceful and wrathful Green Tara, Amoghasiddhi-Mandala, the Mandala of Vajrakila, Nagaradja, Mahakala, Vajrasattva, Manjushri, Sarasvati and other Buddhist deities. A wonderful friendship and mutual trust had developed and he gave me many private and secret teachings, meditation hints and personal advice. Even though he had hundreds of students worldwide, he always found some time to answer my many questions. He did like my combination of Western Astrology and Buddhism (- esp. after I impressed him with the detailed analysis of his horoscope) and had also an open and interested ear for the experiences of my psychedelic past.

Vajrakila / Click for Enlargement(Click Image for Enlargement)  - So beside my other main teachers like Lama Yeshe, Geshe Rabten and Kalu Rinpoche which by than were hard to get on a private level, being occupied with continous world tours, Tenga Tulku not just became a patron of Manjushri-Mandala & the Institute for Astroenergetic Studies, but motivated me to start a traditional 2-year meditation retreat (preliminary practices, White Tara, Vajrakila, Dorje Chang, 8-armed Green Tara). He adviced me to choose the form of a so-called 'open retreat', which allowed me to stay in my appartment instead of moving to a monastery and having the additional option to use a few hours a day for fulfilling some obligations concerning my centre and my students. - Asking him at 2 occasions and very seriously if I should become a monk he always bursted into laugh and told me that I could serve the world much better as a lay Buddhist. Same happened with my other Buddhist teachers.It was a bit hurting at the time but now I think the advice was good.

   So I spent 8-10 one-hour-sessions a day meditating and added an extra half year to fulfill my vow to speak 21 Million White Tara mantras. This was a very intensive, most enjoyable, enlightened, crazy and magical time and I thank Tenga Tulku that he accompanied this retreat in a most kind and patient way, be it by personal visits, by letter or simply by his magic presence.The retreat took place between 1979-1981. But at the end it never really finished. Once you are used to work with all those different visualizations, sound and mantras the wheel of inner meditations don't come 'really' to a stillstand. And that's why such a retreat is so useful for all the rest of your life and has such a long tradition. 'High'ly recommended! You even can get addicted to it and I look forward for a second retreat at a later stage.

   In 1983 Tenga Tulku gave a last big initiation at my German centre as a kind of goodbye to many of my former students and graduates, who just passed their astrological examinations, before Thomas and I left towards Ireland and also as a goodbye to Manjushri-Mandala as an open centre. In the Mid-Eighties Thomas and I visited him two times during his stay in Scotland. We hope that once he will find some time to give us a visit here in Ireland. His popularity increased during the last decade and he has a lot of obligations to fulfill. Whoever visits Kathmandu should try to visit him in his beautiful monastery and ask him for a White Tara blessing.

click yellow Nagaradja thangka, painted by Tenga Tulku  For me Tenga Tulku stands for patience, wisdom and intuition, openess, comprehensive tantric knowledge, great sense of  humor, honesty, helpfulness, generousity, reliability and most of all: loving kindness. In Buddhist terms an embodiment of all the high virtues of a White Tara Buddha. In addition he is a profound Tantra Master, scholar and a talented artist and thangka painter. As an outstanding and kind gesture he painted for me a thangka of the Golden Nagaradja, my so-called protector deity. If you take in account his busy time schedule this was a big honor for me. - Beside all his hidden inner refinements and his huge knowledge he is a modest, human and adorable man, who influenced my life in a most positive way. Thank you and Tashi Delek, Champa Legshe.-  (March 1999)  - Click Nagaradja for Enlargement

Click here to visit his highly informative website 'Benchen Phuntsok Dargyeling Monastery'
Click here for Initiation Photo of Hans
Click here for separate Tenga Page
Click here for retreat confirmation
Other Pages on Tibetan Buddhism on This Site
Kalu Rinpoche: Mahamudra
Biographical Notes on Ven. Kalu Rinpoche
Kalu Rinpoche: The 6 Bardos and the Nature of Mind
Lama Yeshe: Buddhist Way of Thought
Lama Yeshe, A Milestone in My Life
Geshe Rabten: Remarks on Buddhist Philosophy
Gangchen Tulku, The Healing Lama
Tibetan Art (Thangka Gallery 1)
Shine Meditation
Taeger's Buddhist Teachers
Mentor (White Manjushri Thangka)
Book Recommendations (Tibetan Buddhism)
Alex Grey: Nature of Mind
Some Minor Buddhist Subpages
Geshe Rabten, Kalu Rinpoche, Zong Rinpoche,
Gangchen Tulku & Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche, Gangchen Tulku (Photo Impressions),
Tenga Tulku *,(small page) Lama Yeshe & Lama Zopa (Photo),
Vajrapani Painting, Golden Nagaradja, Nagaradja/Detail, Psychedelic Buddha,
Green Tara Painting (by Andy Weber), 8-Armed Green Tara Painting,
Vajrakila Painting, Heruka-Chakrasamvara,
Initiation Photo (H. Taeger), Retreat Confirmation (H. Taeger),
Geshe Ngawang Gyatso, Panchen Ötrul Rinpoche
For a more detailed listing & new added pages click:
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Tenga and Tenzin, France 1979 (click enlargement)
Tenga, Thomas and Hans 1986
Greetings from Tenga 1992
Tenga Tulku 1986
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Photos Hans Taeger (1978-92)
Tenga Tulku 1982
Tenga Tulku 1979
Tenga, Hans and Michael 1981
Tenga Tulku 1979
Tenga Tulku 1980
Tenga Tulku 1982
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updated August  99/Sept. 00

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