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Gyalwang Drukpa

The present Gyalwang Drukpa is the twelfth incarnation of the founder of the Drukpa Lineage, Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje (1161-1211). The successive reincarnation of the Drogon Tsangpa Gyare are recognized as the Spiritual head of the Drukpa Lineage and responsible for the spiritual guidence of over 800 Drukpa Monasteries, in Tibet, Nepal, Ladakh, Garsha Kinnuar and other parts of Indian Himalyas. The Gyalwang Drukpa's father is the Nyingmapa master Zhichen Bairo Rinpoche, the incarnation of Buddha Vairochana and thirty-sixth incarnation of the pandit Vairochana. Pandit Vairochana was an illustrious disciple of Guru Padmasambhava, and a renowned translator. Bairo Rinpoche is the former abbot of Kathok Zhichen Monastery in Kham, eastern Tibet. The Gyalwang Drukpa's mother, Mayum-la, is the daughter of a yogi, and a disciple of Dzogchen Rinpoche, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche and many other great teachers.

The Gyalwang Drukpa was born in northern India, at Lake Rewalsar or 'Tso Pema' (the 'Lotus Lake') - a place sacred to Guru Padmasambhava. The birth took place during lama dances celebrating the auspicious 10th day of the first month. This day in the Tibetan calender is sacred to Guru Padmasambhava.

Several propitious omens occurred before and during the birth of the Gyalwang Drukpa. During his mother's pregnancy, Gyalwang Drukpa's parents often heard chanting of the Amitabha mantra coming from inside the womb. Also, thunderstorms, snow, a rainbow, and other signs were conspicuously present at his birth to celebrate the arrival of a great being. Apparently, the late Pawo Rinpoche, who was in Varanasi at the time, was aware of the birth of this unusual child and performed a Sur Chod to indicate his respect. On the same day, the supreme Nyingmapa leader, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, offered a khata to the newborn child.

Even before learning to read and write, the young Gyalwang Drukpa was already familiar with the sacred texts. Whenever the pages of these texts were not arranged in their proper order, he would immediately recognize and point out the error. Moreover, the delicate and unusual child repeatedly proclaimed to his parents that he was a high lama who had a monastery and a lama's residence. One day the three-year-old boy told his father, "A man with a white beard is coming to take me back to my monastery". Soon after, the search team made up of his predecessor's disciples came to their home in Dalhousie. The 'man with a white beard' (the First Thuksey Rinpoche) had finally arrived, looking for the young child who could be the reincarnation of his late guru, the Eleventh Gyalwang Drukpa.

The little child recognized some of the former servants and disciples of the Eleventh Gyalwang Drukpa, and to their astonishment called them by their true names. He also correctly identified some of his predecessor's belongings from a collection of various artifacts. The First Thuksey Rinpoche immediately knew that this child was indeed the genuine reincarnation of his deceased guru. Immediately after his discovery, the young tulku was first enthroned at the late Khamtrul Rinpoche's monastery in Dalhousie. A year later, the four-year-old Gyalwang Drukpa was enthroned at his own Dotsok Monastery in Darjeeling, West Bengal.

Without difficulty or hindrance, the young Gyalwang Drukpa understood both the theoretical and practical aspects of the profound View, Meditation and Action. At the age of nine, he began to meditate under the personal guidance of the First Thuksey Rinpoche. Even at that young age, he experienced in meditation a deep compassion and unconditional love, through an intuitive understanding of the Ultimate View of Emptiness. Sometimes, the little Gyalwang Drukpa wept and spontaneously spoke about genuine impartial love and compassion, to the amazement of those around him.

From an early age, the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa manifested the extraordinary characteristics of a sublime spiritual being. Even before his discovery and official recognition, he was spontaneously kind and thoughtful to insects, animals, and all neglected, downtrodden creatures. He later became a vegetarian, after discovering that the piece of beef he was eating actually came from a cow which had earlier walked passed him.

When only six years old, the Gyalwang Drukpa earnestly began his training as the incarnate spiritual head of the Drukpa Order. He was brought up and educated by his principal guru, the First Thuksey Rinpoche (who was the Drukpa regent). He also received precious teachings from the late Venerable Khenpo Noryang; the late Khenpo Ngawang (main abbot of the Drukpa school and incarnation of Shawaripa, one of the eighty-four Mahasiddhas of India); the late Khenpo Ngawang Choedrak (his official tutor) and Bairo Rinpoche (his father). The Gyalwang Drukpa also personally received the complete transmission of the Nyingmapa tradition from the great Dzogchen master, the late His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche.

In addition, the Gyalwang Drukpa studied and practiced under several other exalted spiritual masters including the late Lobpon Kangri Kunsang Dorje Rimpoche, uone of the foremost yogis of this century, who spent most of his life in the wilderness contemplating Mahamudra and who was venerated by lamas of all the Tibetan schools; the Nyingmapa abbot and Dzogchen lineage holder, Kyabje Trulshik Rimpoche, Zhichen Ontrul Rinpoche, the compassionate master of the Nyingma Kathok lineage and Pawo Rinpoche, the late great Sarma lineage holder who was a master of both Mahamudra and Maha Ati. In recent years, the Gyalwang Drukpa also received profound teachings and instructions from H.E. Do Drupchen Rinpoche, revered Dzogchen master residing in Sikkim.

Without difficulty or hindrance, the young Gyalwang Drukpa understood both the theoretical and practical aspects of the profound View, Meditation and Action. At the age of nine, he began to meditate under the personal guidance of the first Thuksey Rimpoche. Even at that young age, he experienced in meditation a deep compassion and unconditional love, through an intuitive understanding of the Ultimate View of Emptiness. Sometimes, the little Gyalwang Drukpa wept and spontaneously spoke about genuine impartial love and compassion, to the amazement of those around him.

The Gyalwang Drukpa carries out his functions and responsibilities with great zest and patience as the spiritual head of all Drukpa monastries and dharma centres around the world. His dharma activities have spread to France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Poland, Mexico, Peru, America, Australia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia and Hongkong.

At present His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa's principal monastic and administrative seats are Druk Amitabha,Kathmandu, Nepal, The famous 400 years old Druk Hemis Jangchub Choeling in Ladakh,Jammu & Kashmir, India, Druk Thupten Sangnag Choeling in Darjeeling, West Bengal India. This monastery, known as Druk Thubten Sangag Choling, was founded by the late First Thuksey Rinpoche and named after Druk Sangnag Choeling, the administrative seat of Fourth Gyalwang Drukpa Pema Karpo (1527-1592) in Tibet.

His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa is an active environmentalist, educator and the spiritual head of the Drukpa Lineage, one of the main Buddhist schools of the Himalayas founded by the great Indian saint Naropa (1016-1100 CE) with a 1000-year legacy in India. He has millions of followers worldwide.

His Holiness’s core philosophy is to convert compassion into action, and create concrete solutions for today’s problems.

One of His Holiness’s main focuses is on environmental preservation and education, which puts into action the core Buddhist tenet that all beings are interconnected and interdependent.

His mission is to promote universal harmony and inner peace by integrating the spiritual tenets of love and appreciation into daily life. His work includes promoting gender equality; establishing educational institutions, medical clinics and meditation centers; and rebuilding heritage sites in the Himalayas. He is the founder and spiritual director of the award-winning Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh, India, which provides its students with a modern education while preserving their local culture.

In 2007, His Holiness founded the not-for-profit international humanitarian organization Live To Love. In September 2010, the United Nations honoured His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Award for his effort in promoting environmental education and gender equality, as well as for his various humanitarian works through various chapters of Live To Love to “create compassion into action”. In December 2011, His Holiness received the Green Hero Award from the President of India Smt Pratibha Patil, at the NDTV-Toyota 1st Greenathon Awards Ceremony in New Delhi, India, in the presence of Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New and Renewable Energy, and NDTV Chairman, Dr. Prannoy Roy.

Utilizing a holistic approach to solving problems, His Holiness spearheaded numerous environmental projects and educational initiatives in India. He works diligently to “green” the world through tree planting. He had organized two green events that broke the Guinness World Records for most trees planted simultaneously. On 10th October 2010 at 10:10:10, 9,313 people came together on a site near the famed Hemis Monastery in Ladakh, north India, planting 50,033 trees in 33 minutes 25 seconds. Two years later, he led 9,814 people in planting 99,033 trees in less than one hour. He has plans to plant over 2 million trees throughout the Himalayan region and Pan India, which will improve air quality as well as stabilize soil and prevent mudslides.

His Holiness is also focused on environmental education. One of his main projects is the Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh, which has been awarded numerous international accolades for its green architecture. His Holiness is also building environmentally-sound monasteries and nunneries in India. These buildings provide exemplars for others to follow, and help to teach rural communities the importance of environmental protection.

His Holiness also worked to assist those impacted by natural disasters – the sad outcome of poor environmental choices. Recently, His Holiness’s Live to Love international and domestic chapters have provided immediate disaster relief to the thousands impacted by flash flooding in Ladakh and he has plans to qualify his monks and nuns to provide disaster relief services for future needs.

His Holiness visited more than 50 villages affected in the disaster to meet with all the affected families, and his Live to Love volunteers gave away the much needed relief materials to the villagers in the remote areas of Ladakh. In all his encouraging advices to the Ladakhis, he said that the disaster should not be wasted and should be used as a lesson to remind all of us the importance of taking care of our mother earth, our common and only home.

In addition to his work outlined above, His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa sits on the Earth Awards Selection Committee along with Jane Goodall, Richard Branson and Diane Von Furstenberg. Spearheaded by Prince Charles of the United Kingdom, the Earth Awards Selection Committee identifies and recognizes viable innovations that improve the quality of life.

His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa is an avid writer; he writes all the messages on his personal website.