His Eminence the Venerable Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche was born in 1905 in the Kham province of Eastern Tibet. His father, the thirteenth incarnation of Ratak Palsang Tulku was an accomplished Yogi and well-known Doctor. His mother Drolkar devoted to Dharma from an early age, completed one hundred million recitations of the Vajra Guru mantra, two hundred million Mani’s, and one hundred million Vajrasattva mantras. Both of Kalu Rinpoche’s parents were direct disciples of the initiators of the non-sectarian (Rime) movement, which emphasized the common ground of the Tibetan Buddhist Lineages; Jamgon Kontrol Lodro Thaye, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Mipham Rinpoche.
When Rinpoche was born, above his house brilliant rainbows formed and snow fell gently like a rain of flowers. His mother and relatives described how, as soon as he was born, he looked around and smiled radiantly, showing no fear or shyness, and he spoke the Six-Syllable Mantra. His parents and everyone in the region were full of joy, and his birth was heralded as the birth of a very wonderful incarnation. As a child, noble virtuous tendencies stirred within him and noble innate propensities for compassion and devotion arouse naturally. His compassion for sentient beings would often move him to tears, particularly for those afflicted and oppressed by suffering.
Kalu Rinpoche was recognized as the activity emanation of Jamgon Kontrul but his Father refused to give him up to the monastery and instead trained his son in Buddhist Studies and Medicine. Because his father worked enthusiastically at his own practice of daily recitations, meditations, and retreats, Kalu Rinpoche endowed with a good intellect, also had to rise early and retire late, his days filled with meditation, practice and training. At the age of thirteen, the eleventh Tai-Situ, Padma Wangchuk, gave him ordination and the name Karma Rangjung Kunchab – Self-Arisen and All-Pervading. In later years, everyone said that it was an appropriate name. When Kalu Rinpoche was fifteen he went to Palpung Monastery where he mastered the vast body of Buddhist Teachings and completed two traditional three-year retreats.
Kalu Rinpoche had great faith and devotion to the lamas with whom he formed a connection receiving Empowerments from them , which mature one spiritually, and teachings, which enable one to attain liberation. Before entering his first three-year retreat he spoke on the three ordinations before an assembly of hundreds of monks, nuns, and lay people. Because he spoke with no fear, with confidence and a sound understanding, his exposition captured the hearts of everyone. People commented on his clear intellect, good delivery, and accurate presentation.
Kalu Rinpoche took White Tara and Chenrezi as his Yidams and by the age of fifteen undertook a summer retreat. At the age of sixteen, he entered the three-year, three-month retreat course of practice in the great retreat center at Tsa-dra Rinchen Drak. This retreat had been the main seat of Jamgon Kontrul whose coming had been foretold by the Buddha in many sutras and tantras. At this time, his faith in his lamas and the Dharma and his enthusiasm for practice knew no limit. As for his faith, Rinpoche felt such devotion for his teacher, Lama Norbu, that during his life, he offered everything he owned to him on three separate occasions.
Some idea of Rinpoche’s enthusiasm for Dharma may be gained from his determination to avoid any waste of time during the three-year retreat. To ensure that he would wake up in the morning, he would go to sleep leaning against the door to his room. When the monk kicked open the doors to the rooms to wake up the monks, Rinpoche was sent flying across his room. If he felt sleepy during the day, he sat on his window ledge. In this position he would fall onto the floor as soon as he dozed off.
Kalu Rinpoche became the Main Lineage holder for the Shangpa Kagyu Tradition and was known as a Meditation Master of the Karma Kagyu Lineage. The Venerable Kalu Rinpoche studied with many learned and attained Masters from all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism:; the 16th Karmapa, the Eleventh Tai-Situ Rinpoche, Padma Wangchuk, Palpung Khyentse Shenpen Ozer, Khyentse Chokyi Lodru, Dudjom Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Dingo Khyentse Rinpoche, Kangyur Rinpoche, Chatral Rinpoche, Sakya Trichen, Dezhung Rinpoche and others. Rinpoche continually worked diligently at studying, contemplating, meditation, and practicing innumerable collections of instructions from both the Sutras and Tantras of the Old and New Traditions and became like a spiritual son to all of them.
At the age of 25 he renounced all worldly activity and began approximately 15 years of intensive solitary retreat in the remote mountainous areas in the manor of the great Tibetan Yogi Milirepa. Upon the request of the Karmapa He returned to become a retreat master, training many students. In 1962 Kalu Rinpoche went to Darjeeling West Bengal India where he established his own Monastery and Retreat Center, Samdrup Darjay Choling Monastery where students from any tradition may do retreat practices in the Rime Tradition.
Upon the request of his Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Kalu Rinpoche made his first of many trips to the West in 1971, stopping to visit Holy sites in Jerusalem then visiting Pope Paul VI at the Vatican. Kalu Rinpoche respected all of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions. During his life he made numerous trips around the world, establishing a large number of Meditation and Retreat Centers. Through his unceasing love and compassion he turned the great wheel of the Precious Buddha Dharma worldwide benefiting countless being.
The Venerable Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche passed into Paranivana at his monastery in Sonada, Darjeeling India on May 10 1989. The Holy Lama’s body showed no signs of corruption and has been preserved as a Kardung, which can be seen to this day at his Monastery Samdrup Darjay Choling in Sonada. His devoted disciple and heart son, Bokar Rinpoche wrote about Kalu Rinpoche “The gentleness of his being, the pervasiveness of his kindness, the brilliance of his wisdom and the irresistibly of his since of humor has touched hearts in every part of the world”.
From his humble beginnings in a remote location in Eastern Tibet, to a citizen of the world The Venerable Kalu Rinpoche sought only to benefit others. Through his enlightened activity countless beings have been set firmly on the path to ultimate freedom. The Venerable Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche is one of the greatest Buddhist Masters of our age and is highly respected and loved by countless beings that had the great fortunate to meet and receive blessings and teachings from this Extraordinary Saint.