His Eminence Soktse Tulku Rinpoche is one of the greatest Dzogchen meditation masters living today. One of Chhoje Rinpoche’s main teachers, Soktse Rinpoche is the 6th in a line of incarnations that goes back to Rechungpa, the great disciple of Milarepa. Born in 1928, Rinpoche’s full name is Kunzang Tendzin Gyaltsen.
The previous incarnation left a letter indicating various signs about the next incarnation’s birth. Later the abbot of Mindroling Monastery Dordzin Gaje Rinpoche and H.E. Drukpa Yongdzin Rinpoche received clear signs about Soktse Rinpoche’s rebirth. Yongdzin Rinpoche discovered the child at age 5 and then confirmed the reincarnation with the 15th Karmapa Khakhyab Dorje.
Soktse Rinpoche entered monastic training at age six. After training extensively with Yongdzin Rinpoche, Sokste Rinpoche met Punda Khen Rinpoche and H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche who were to become his most important meditation teachers. Because Soktse Rinpoche’s principal teachers and personal practice are from the Nyingma tradition, in this lifetime he is known as a lineage holder of both the Nyingthig and Dudjom Tersar.
Soktse Rinpoche spent several years studying with Yongdzin Rinpoche at his monastery in Karak, receiving many Kagyu and Nyingma transmissions and completing the ngondro twice, before beginning a long series of development stage retreats. Although Karak Yongdzin Rinpoche was one of the principle lineage holders of the of the Drukpa Kagyud lineage, he and his disciples were primarily Nyingma practitioners. Yongdzin Rinpoche was a terton who had encountered Guru Padmasambhava’s wisdom body and had revealed a number of spiritual treasures. Yongdzin Rinpoche’s root teacher was Trulshik Rinpoche Kunzang Thongdrol, the previous incarnation of the Trulshik Rinpoche who passed away in 2011.
During his time studying with Yongzin Rinpoche at Karak, Soktse Rinpoche also met His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche in Lhasa, and later met Punda Khen Rinpoche at Yarlung Sheldrak. Yongzin Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche and Punda Khen Rinpoche became Soktse Rinpoche’s three root gurus. Punda Khen Rinpoche in particular gave Rinpoche detailed teachings on Dzogchen meditation over the course of seventeen years.
Punda Khen Rinpoche was a renowned scholar and teacher from eastern Tibet who became one of the primary disciples of the great Khenpo Ngaga. After receiving the empowerments, transmissions and pith instructions of the entire early and later Nyingthig lineages from Khenpo Ngaga, Punda Khen Rinpoche abandoned his monastery and his homeland and lived like a true yogi, giving up all worldly concerns in the mountains of central Tibet, spending 12 years on strict retreat exclusively practicing the Dzogchen teachings.
Soktse Rinpoche was tremendously inspired by Punda Khen Rinpoche’s commitment to practice, and throughout his life has done his best to emulate his master’s example. After finishing 12 years of retreat, Punda Khen Rinpoche moved to Thromo, a remote region on the border of Tibet and India. Soktse Rinpoche moved to Thromo and spent the next year and a half in strict retreat near his master, receiving detailed experiential instructions on the practice of Dzogchen. Even after leaving Tibet, Soktse Rinpoche spent many years living near Punda Khen Rinpoche in India, until Khen Rinpoche passed away.
As the situation changed in Tibet, Rinpoche saw the impermanence and futility of life. As Chhoje Rinpoche states “It was very inspiring to see Soktse Rinpoche’s example. Throughout his life whatever offerings Rinpoche received he used as offerings of charity for the poor or to support the Dharma.”
Since arriving in India in 1961, Rinpoche has completed three three-year retreats and numerous shorter retreats of one year, six months, three months and so forth. Essentially, he has spent most of his life in retreat.
In the 1980’s Soktse Rinpoche founded the Tashi Choling nunnery in Ladakh and later set up the Tashi Choling Nunnery in Sikkim, India.
Soktse Rinpoche has disciples throughout the Indian Himalayan region, Nepal and Tibet, including some of the leading lineage masters, as well as a number of students from the United States. As Chhoje Rinpoche states “Simply being in Soktse Rinpoche’s presence, experiencing his compassion and simplicity, reminds us of our basic goodness.”