The Tibetan Meditation Center was founded in 1982 by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoché based on the Buddhist understanding that everyone has the ground of goodness and thus the potential and desire for achieving complete freedom and happiness. To actualize this vision, the center offers regular study and practice retreats, public lectures and short-courses as well as celebrations and ceremonies. Aside from the weekly programs and special events offered at our Frederick location, our Spiritual Director, Khenpo Tsultrim Tenzin, also maintains an active travel schedule teaching at related centers and groups throughout the world.
As a growing community of monastic and lay practitioners, we are grounded in the Drikung Kagyü lineage – a lineage of Tibetan Buddhism that began when Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön (1143-1217) established Drikung Thil Monastery in Central Tibet in 1179. Our lineage is currently led by the two Kyabgön (“the Refuge and Protector”) Rinpochés, His Holiness Drikung Chetsang and His Holiness Drikung Chungtsang. We also have a special relationship with Drikung Thil Monastery as we are a formal branch of the head-monastery in Tibet.
TMC consists of a shrine hall, an adjoining house (with a small library, book/gift-store and residence of our spiritual director), a rock-garden replicating Milarepa’s cave and an impressive and beautiful stūpa. Visitors are welcome to join any of our events or just to come and enjoy the peace and serenity around our grounds.
More information about the lineage may be found at the Drikung Kagyu Institute
OUR SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR
Khenpo Tsultrim Tenzin Rinpoche took his monk’s vows at the age of 13 with the guidance of his respected uncle, Chime Gyatso, who was a yogi. Venerable Gyatso was a disciple of Thrulshi Pema Chogyal, who was a great Master in the Drukpa lineage. Khenpo went to live with his uncle in this local monastery. He studied earnestly, developing a strong foundation in his knowledge, skills and abilities. Khenpo Tsultrim was invigorated and highly motivated to have as much empirical evidence and experiential education as possible to support his spiritual aspirations of helping others through the Dharma. This education included study of Tibetan language, all aspects of ritual and chanting and memorization of texts.
He studied with many great teachers before Uncle Chime Gyatso sent him to Samye Monastery, the oldest monastery in Tibet. There, Khenpo studied Buddhist philosophy for 5 years. Some of his teachers and studies included the Thirteen Major Texts with Khenchen Nawang Gyalpo Rinpoché and other khenpos; the entire Lamdré-cycle of empowerments of the Ngor-Sakya lineage from Khangsar Khenchen Rinpoché; and Nyingma empowerments and teachings from Amdo Lama Togden Rinpoché and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoché. Khenpo Tsultrim then returned to Venerable Chime Gyatso, who bestowed the complete, profound instruction of Mahamudra.
Khenpo Rinpoché went on to join the Drikung Kagyu Institute at Jangchub Ling in Dehra Dun after meeting His Holiness Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoché. The spontaneous devotion he felt for His Holiness resulted in his request to His Holiness to join the monastery there and to continue his education under the close guidance of His Holiness. Khen Rinpoche Tokdrol was one of Khenpo Tsultrim’s most beloved teachers. He also had the aspicious opportunity to study with Khenchen Gyaltshen Rinpoche. At this time he received many Drikung Kagyu empowerments, transmissions and oral instructions from his root guru His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche, H.E. Garchen Rinpoche, H.E. Togden Rinpoche, Lamkhycn Gyalpo Rinpoche and the most Venerable Ontul Rinpoche.
The Drikung Kagyu Institute is a part of Jangchub Ling, the main monastery of the Kagyu lineage in India. Khenpo Tsultrim studied for several years then did a one year retreat. His Holiness instructed him to come out of retreat and to continue with his studies. His Holiness instructed Khenpo to go in and out of retreat for the next few years, which Khenpo did enthusiastically. When school was in session, Khenpo never missed a class. When not school, Khenpo went on various month long retreats, completing Ngondro, Chakrasamvara and other important Tantric experiential lessons.
In 1997, due to his arduous concentrated efforts, Khenpo finished the nine-year educational program in only five years. He did not skip steps but rather showed through academic and experiential testing that he was ready and worth of the highly respected title of khenpo. From his class of fifteen students, only he and one other student became khenpos. A khenpo is the academic equivalent of a PhD in Buddhist philosophy in the Western world. It includes both written and oral testing defending a thesis. The experiential component is comparable to a resident physician, who proves by means of hands-on surgery that he is now ready to operate on his own without need for supervision by seasoned surgeons. Khenpo Rinpoche taught for a total of five years in the Monastic College of the Drikung Kagyu Institute.
In 2001, at the invitation and under the guidance of the highly-revered Khenchen Gyaltshen Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim went to the Tibetan Meditation Center (TMC) in the United States. Khenpo had the auspicious fortune to travel with and to assist Khenchen Rinpoche at various Drikung Kagyu Dharma centers across the U.S. Since arriving in the U.S. Khenpo has continued his private retreats at TMC in Frederick, Maryland as well as in Wisconsin and at the Garchen Institute in Arizona.
Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche’s main goal is to help others through Dharma teachings. Khenpo is the Spiritual Director of the TMC, which was the very first- and is now the oldest- Drikung Kagyu center in the U.S., founded in 1982 by Khenchen Gyaltshen Rinpoche. Khenpo’s goal is to ensure that TMC remains stable for generations to come so that Dharma may flourish peacefully in the West. Khenpo Tsultrim’s long-term goal is to liberate every sentient being from suffering. This high level of clear motivation has informed his way of being in the work and serving others. He is happy and willing to meet people where they are, engaging with them fully on all levels. He currently spends time studying, translating, retreating and teaching in the U.S., Europe, South America and Asia.
OUR LINEAGE TEACHERS
All the enlightened energies, blessings and teachings have been handed down through the great Drikung Kagyu masters to the present 36th and 37th lineage holders, His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chungtsang and His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang. These are among the most precious spiritual masters in the Drikung Kagyu lineage and the direct lineage holder of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön. Among his disciples, Jigten Sumgön prophesied repeatedly, “In the future my teachings will flourish by the two Bodhisattvas, who are like the sun and the moon, through their compassion and wisdom.” His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang is like the sun. He is the emanation of Chenrezig, the deity of compassion. His Holiness the Drikung Kyabgön Chungtsang is like the moon. He is the emanation of Manjushri, the deity of wisdom.
The reincarnation lineages of the Chetsang and Chungtsang Rinpoches was initiated in the 17th century. The two youngest sons of the 21st throne holder, Chögyal Rinchen Phuntsog (1579-1602), Gyalwang Konchog Rinchen (1590-1654) and Kunkhyen Rigzin Chödrak (1595-1659) became the last heirs to the throne of Drikung; the Kyura familial lineage died out with them. Upon the death of Konchog Rinchen the Drikungpa began to seek the reincarnations of their throne holders. A system of two lineage holders was established, that of the elder (Chetsang) and the younger (Chungtsang) brother. In the Drikung chronology Konchog Rinchen is considered as the first Chetsang Rinpoche and Rigzin Chödrak as the first Chungtsang Rinpoche.
Khenchen Rinpoché was born in the village of Tsari in southwestern Tibet in 1946. Tsari is an important pilgrimage site in Tibet, being the sacred place of the enlightened-mind of Vajravarahi and Rinpoché lived there until 1959 when his family was forced to flee to India due to the political unrest of the time. While in India, Rinpoché attended school and eventually took the complete monk’s vows from Kyabjé Kalu Rinpoché in 1968. He was among the first batch of students to graduate from the then newly established Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi. Among the great teachers Rinpoché received extended teachings from were the 16th Karmapa and Khunu Lama Rinpoché. Subsequently, Rinpoché entered into the traditional 3-year retreat with a group of young Drikung Kagyu lamas (including His Holiness Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoché) under the guidance of Vajradhara Kyungka Rinpoché.
In the 1980s, Rinpoché arrived in the US and spent the next twenty years building and supporting the TMC and other centers and groups in the US. During these years, Khenchen Rinpoché translated critical Drikung Kagyu practices, prayers and histories into English and publishing several highly regarded books such as the translation of Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Garland of Mahamudra Practices and Jewel Treasury of Advice. This priceless work formed the essential base from which the holy Dharma could be taught and practiced.
In recent years, Khenchen Rinpoché spends a great deal of his time traveling in order teach the Dharma, dividing his time between teaching at traditional Tibetan monasteries in India, Nepal and Tibet and at centers in Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Europe and the US.
DRIKUNG THIL MONASTERY
Situated about 150 kilometers to the northeast of Lhasa, in the valley of Zhorong Tsangpo River (the principal northeast tributary of the Kyichu River) is Drikung Thil Okmin Jangchup Ling (‘bri gung mthil ‘og min byang chub gling) – the main seat of Drikung Kagyu Lineage. Drikung Thil was established as a monastic community in 1179 by Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön (1143-1217), thus fulfilling many prophecies of the benefit and glory that will radiate from the innumerable great beings who will appear at this sacred place.
Several different explanations are extant regarding the name “Drikung.” One legend has it that Kyobpa Rinpoché was led to this location by a dri (the female of a yak) and thus he named this place Drikung. Another explanation of the name Drikung (“back of a dri”) points to the distinctive contour of the cliff and ridge that resembles the back of a dri. On the other hand, the 14th century history, The Clear Mirror, compiled by Sakyapa Sonam Gyeltsen (1312-1375) asserts that Drikung was named after King Songtsen Gampo’s minister Dri Seru Gongton who was given this area by the king.
Prior to the destruction that began in 1959 and continued through the so-called Cultural Revolution, there were fifteen main shrine-halls and many other smaller hermitages scattered all over the mountain ridge. At the height of the development of Drikung Thil, the grandeur of the many temples and shrines at this monastic community is said to outshine all other monastic centers in Central Tibet. Thus, an old Tibetan saying advises pilgrims to Central Tibet to go to Drikung Thil last since seeing Drikung Thil first will render all the other monasteries rather plain and unimpressive. However, two major devastations brought upon Drikung Thil (the complete destruction in 1290 under the hands of Mongol troops following political intrigues involving Drikung, Phakmo Dru and Sakya secular powers and the Chinese Communist persecutions starting in 1959) have left their negative impact on the welfare of the monastery.
After the Chinese authorities relaxed their policies on religious practice in the early 1980s, the monastery began to rise up again from the ashes. Today, seven of the fifteen main shrine-halls have been rebuilt and altogether there are now over fifty buildings; most of them being hermitages for the use of retreatants. A new building that did not exist at Drikung Thil before but has been recently established is a modest monastic college (shedra) that now has a khenpo teaching the major philosophical treatises.
As the Tibetan Meditation Center is a formal branch of Drikung Thil Monastery and since 2008 has an official representative from Drikung Thil in residence at the center (in the person of Khenpo Konchog Choephel), this website will try to provide more information on Drikung Thil as they become available. We aspire to highlight the distinctive traditions of Drikung Thil on this website while promoting them in practice at the center.