Khandro Trinlay Chodon Rinpoche – Dakini from Lahoul
Lama Khandro Thrinlay Chodon Rinpoche was born in Lahoul, which is known in the dharma texts as the ‘Land of the Dakinis’. She was born into a family of great Tibetan yogis who were renowned for their extensive and pure practice. She has therefore been trained since childhood in the practices of Vajrayana Buddhism, and grew up in an environment where spirituality was an integral part of everyday life.
Due to a generous sponsorship from an Australian man named Laurie Seaman, and also to the visionary encouragement of her parents, Khandro-la was able to attend a catholic boarding school in Kullu. The school was only two hours from her family home so she could keep regular contact with her family and ancient culture. At the school she learnt English and received the beginnings of her excellent western academic education. Khandro-la went on to earn her B.A. in Psychology from Punjab University in Chandigarh, India, in 1986 and then in 1998, she graduated with an M.A. in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, USA.
Togden Shakya Shri
Khandro-la’s family holds the lineage of the Drukpa tradition. Her great grandfather, Togden Shakya Shri, was a realized master in both Dzogchen and Mahamudra, and was widely renowned for skillfully combining these two views. Her father Apho Rinpoche, a widely respected master, was responsible for strongly reviving the Drukpa lineage in Lahoul, Ladakh, Manali, Zanskar and Pangey, where he established several retreat centers in these Himalayan regions. He was also one of the first Dharma teachers to teach western students. Khandro-la’s mother Sangyum Urgyen Chodon, was her constant guide and source of inspiration both in her spiritual and worldly life. It was Khandro-la’s mother who first sowed the seed for Khandro-la’s enduring passion for the Buddhist teachings and practice in daily life. She was an accomplished yogini, a loving mother and a friend to all.
Gegen Khyentse Rinpoche
Khandro-la trained as a child with the late Gegen Khyentse Rinpoche, a master of the Six Yogas of Naropa and Mahamudra. She received from him all the empowerments, transmissions and teachings of her Drukpa Kargyud lineage. Khandro-la also studied with the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the greatest Tibetan Buddhist master of the modern era. She has practiced in solitary retreat in the mountains of Nepal, at Tato Pani Bhakang under the guidance of Sengdrak Rinpoche – a master known for his humbleness and ascetic practices.
Shabdrung Ngawang Jigme
In 1998, Khandro-la married His Holiness the 9th Shabdrung Ngawang Jigme. It was a marriage of pure love and devotion. Khandro-la tirelessly assisted Shabdrung Rinpoche with the many duties of his role as head of the Drukpa lineage of Bhutan. In so doing she was an inspiration to many. As consort of this great master Khandro-la cared for and assisted not only Rinpoche but also his projects and all those connected to them and him. Khandro-la intimately assisted in the establishment of Shabdrung Rinpoche‘s monasteries in Bodhgaya, Kalimpong and Manali. Very sadly His Holiness passed away on 4th April 2003. Khandro-la derives her current title through her marriage to Shabdrung Rinpoche. “Khandro” (also known as dakini in Sanskrit) refers to the wisdom quality within the feminine essence. It is literally translated as “skygoer”.
Since the unfortunate death of her late husband, Khandro-la has fully devoted herself to bringing to life her long time vision of Khachodling. She sees this as an outer and inner spiritual practice where peoples of the east and west share knowledge and experience to build community, provide needed services and engage in deepening awareness and a life that cares for all including the planet on which we live.
Named by her spiritual master when she was younger, for her vision and activities in this lifetime, Khachodling is manifesting in the form of many humanitarian and dharma projects, especially in, but not limited to, the Indian Himalayas – hermitages for women, eye restoration project for nomads and an east west hospital. Khandro-la’s family has for generations supported people in this region and she is in a unique position in this life to cherish and preserve a culture that is heading toward extinction.
In order to bring Khachodling to life Khandro-la has begun traveling and teaching outside India, at the moment focusing on Australia and New Zealand. In her travels she has inspired many people by the depth of her devotion and the wisdom of her lineage. Many now see her as their teacher and guide. Many simply see her as an inspiring visionary for a better world and so join together to participate in Khachodling’s humanitarian projects.
Women of Wisdom
Khandro-la’s western education, together with her profound knowledge of the Buddhist practices and culture has meant that she has always been able to provide a bridge for westerners seeking spiritual understanding of the Buddhist teaching. Both Gegen Khyentse and His Holiness Shabdrung Rinpoche always entrusted Khandro-la as their translator for western students. Khandro-la provided invaluable input to Tsultrim Allione’s book “Women of Wisdom”, which is a unique chronicle of the lives and teachings of some of Tibet’s great women yoginis.
Being a lay and female teacher Khandro-la brings a fresh and relevant perspective to her talks and teachings. She focuses on bringing the truths of her ancient wisdom to life in this modern world and grounding these in every intention and action.
During exposure to the west she has found that children and young people especially need a kind of spiritual grounding, which she herself received as a child. Her early years gave her a basic ground from which her spirituality grew and she is sad that children today often lack holding and guidance. She connects well with children and youth and has a magical touch with them.
One of the many aims of Khandro-la is to support the training of women in spiritual practice. Seeing the quiet and pure practice of her own mother has inspired Khandro-la since she was a child. Then under the supervision of her master Gegen Khyentse, Khandro-la guided nuns and laywomen in their practice. Her late husband also encouraged her to offer similar support to nuns and laywomen of his lineage. Khandro-la continues this important work and has vowed to help both nuns and laywomen wherever possible to deepen their practice in retreat and daily life.
Khandro-la leads pilgrimages to sacred sites and ceremonies as an invaluable introduction and training for her students and friends. These have all previously been to share her knowledge of the Himalayas and its peoples, however in 2009 she journeyed to the heart of Australia with other pilgrims and an aboriginal guide. The power of these places has deeply inspired her to visit and respect other world pilgrimage places. Respecting the sacredness of land and its custodians brings a depth to our habitation.
Khandro-la’s journey has taken her to this time and place when another chapter of her life has been opening. She has articulated that her joy in and love for her family, teachers and husband, and the grief she has suffered as they have passed away have caused her to fully realise the impermanence and transience of this life experience and has reinforced to her the preciousness of the Buddha Dharma as the only source of happiness in this world.
Her focus in this chapter of life is to manifest the potential of her vision for Khachodling, to reach out to students and friends across the world, sharing her experience and deep connection with her precious lineage, in order to inspire them and support their own spiritual awakening to further benefit beings in this age.