His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche was born in Eastern Tibet (Kham) in 1930. Recognized at the age of four as a tulku —the incarnation of a meditation master—, he received rigorous training, deepening his studies through extended retreats. He had a special affinity for the sacred arts, for Tibetan medicine, and he was renowned for his wonderful chanting voice.
In 1959, he escaped the Communist occupation of Tibet and lived in exile in refugee communities of India and Nepal until relocating to the United States in 1979. At the request of his Western students, he established the Chagdud Gonpa Foundation, a thriving network of centers in the Nyingma lineages of Vajrayana Buddhism. In 1994, Rinpoche relocated to Brazil, established Chagdud Gonpa Brasil, and began construction of his main center of Khadro Ling in the southernmost state of Río Grande do Sul. By the time he passed away in 2002, Rinpoche had established more than twenty centers in Brasil, Uruguay, and Chile.
Traveling and teaching constantly, radiating warmth and compassion, he became the heart lama of hundreds of students, and a profound inspiration for thousands of others. Asked why, at the age of 64, he re-settled in South America rather than remaining comfortably in the United States, he answered, “I saw the faith of the Brazilians and their interest in Buddhism, and I wanted to teach them.”
In the last week of his life, he concluded this retreat on Tuesday, November 12, worked with a student artist to complete a statue of Amitabha, talked with many of his students, and led a training in phowa (transference of consciousness at the moment of death) for more than two hundred people. He continued teaching with great vigor until about 9 pm on Saturday night November 16. Then on Sunday morning of the 17th, at about 4:15 a.m., Brazilian daylight time, he suffered massive heart failure while sitting up in bed.