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Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Nalandabodhi and Nitartha International

United States

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, a scholar, artist, and meditation master, is acknowledged as one of his generation’s foremost teachers. A prolific tech savvy author, he is fluent in English and at home in Western culture. Ponlop Rinpoche is the founder and president of Nalandabodhi and Nitartha International.

Recognized as a reincarnate lama of the Nyingma tradition, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is also a Kagyu lineage holder. As a child he lived at Rumtek monastery in Sikkim under the guardianship of His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa and studied intensively as well with many of the great Nyingma lamas. As a teenager he studied with Khenchen Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche at Rumtek’s monastic college, Karma Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies. There he became Khenpo Rinpoche’s primary assistant, transcribing, editing, and compiling Rinpoche’s works. After graduation in 1991, Ponlop Rinpoche went to New York, studied English, and began to teach in North America.

Nalandabodhi, an international network of Buddhist Centers, is based in Seattle, Washington at Nalanda West. At Nalandabodhi centers and study groups worldwide, Khenpo Rinpoche’s texts, dohas, sadhanas and practice instructions are studied and practiced within Ponlop Rinpoche’s own vision of a genuine lineage of Western Buddhism. Nalandabodhi offers a comprehensive progressive path of study, meditation, and mindful activity based on profound Buddhist methods for awakening.

In 2004, with Khenpo Rinpoche’s blessings and encouragement, the Nalandabodhi sangha opened its headquarters at Nalanda West, “the Center for American Buddhism” in 2004. On the walls of Nalanda West’s Mahabodhi Shrine Room hangs a frame displaying the verses of a doha (song of realization) that Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche composed and sent to the Nalandabodhi Sangha in 2000. The title of the doha is "The Essential Points of Mahamudra, Dzogchen,and the Middle Way." When giving commentary on that song, Khenpo Rinpoche said, “The extensive explanation of this song is something Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche will give you gradually."

In 1997, under Ponlop Rinpoche’s direction, Nitartha International began its series of Tibetan language publications with bLo rig and rTags rigs by Khenpo Rinpoche, which is now studied, in English, at Nitartha Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies. Nitartha International is an educational nonprofit dedicated to protecting the living traditions of Asian cultures. It is the parent organization of Nitartha Institute.

Nitartha Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies provides rigorous training such as Ponlop Rinpoche received at Rumtek Monastery, adapted for Westerners and integrated with meditation practice. The program, developed with Thrangu Rinpoche’s inspiration and Khenpo Rinpoche’s guidance, is evidence of Ponlop Rinpoche’s vision and activity of transplanting Buddhism to the West. Through Nitartha Institute, an international group of lay students and monastics from a variety of Buddhist traditions study in an annual summer residential program and in regional semester programs or self-paced online courses year round.

The purpose of Nitartha Institute, as defined in its mission statement, is “to provide students with a systematic foundation in the central teachings of the Buddhist tradition, as presented by the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibet.” Although these lineages are the focus of the curriculum, Nitartha Institute is non-sectarian and appreciative of the many forms of Buddhism.

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