The Ninth Gangteng Tulku, Kunzang Rigdzin Pema Namgyal, was born in the region of Trongsa, Central Bhutan, in 1955 to noble parents: father Tshering Dorji, who was a descendent of the Tibetan King Trisong Deutsen, and mother Tshering Pelmo. The birth of the Tulku was preceded by numerous auspicious and miraculous signs such as the rainbow filled sky, untimely flowering of trees and plants. Before birth, when the Tulku was still in his mother’s womb, his mother saw a very auspicious dream in which boiling water turned to milk and many children were fetching water. She also dreamt that the sands and stones on the banks of nearby stream turned into white pearls and the water flowing from one of the two openings on the shining cliff towards the north of the house turned to milk. When the Tulku was about a month old, while his mother was giving him the morning bath, to everyone’s surprise and amazement, a five-colored rainbow was seen striking from the eastern direction onto the bath tub.
As a child, the Tulku often talked of the Gönpa and imitated actions of conducting blessings and teaching ceremonies. When he was about seven years of age, the Tulku was admitted as a monk in Trongsa Dratshang.
Having learnt the basics of reading and writing, he also mastered the inner and outer ritual practices, playing of religious instruments etc. During this time, Kunzang Pema Namgyal was recognized as the ninth successive Body emanation of Pema Lingpa by the l6th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, H.H. Dilgo Khyentse, and other leaders of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Then the Tulku was enrolled in Tango Buddhist College, during which he received the secret Vajrayana teachings including the complete Sarma and Dzogchen teachings from Je Khenpo Tendzin Döndrup, Je Khenpo Geduen Rinchen and other noble teachers.
At age of 16, Kunzang Pema Namgyal was formally enthroned as the 9th Gangteng Tulku at Gangteng Gonpa, the traditional seat of the Gangteng Tulkus. The young abbot then took charge as spiritual head of his domains: nineteen private Nyingma monasteries and hermitages (this number has since expanded to over 35).
The site of Gangteng Gonpa had been chosen by Pema Lingpa himself. Construction of the monastery was begun in the early 1500s by Pema Lingpa’s grandson, the first Gangteng Tulku, and the present form of the monastery was completed later by the 2nd Gangteng Tulku. Gangteng Gonpa is presently the largest private Nyingma monastery in the entire Kingdom of Bhutan.
Soon the 9th Gangteng Tulku began three years of personal study with His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, the head of the Nyingma Lineage, during which period he received the complete set of initiations and teachings of the Pema Lingpa lineage from both H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche and H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Each of these masters had received the initiations in Tibet and had carried the texts with them when escaping from Tibet.
Following this period of study, he spent eight years in almost constant meditation retreat under the tutelage of the former Je Khenpo, Tenzin Dhöndup, widely acknowledged as one of the most highly realized Dzogchen masters of our time.
To the moment when the 9th Gangteng Tulku had chosen his birth, both the Pema Lingpa lineage and the physical structure of Gangteng Tulku’s monasteries had seriously deteriorated.
Further intensifying this situation was the complete eradication of the Pema Lingpa tradition in Tibet. The Gangteng Tulku now faced the task of propagating these precious practices and teachings of which he was now the primary holder.
At this time he began intense teaching activity within his spiritual household in Bhutan, and also engaged in further years of study in Nepal with the revered Dzogchen master Chatral Rinpoche Sangye Dorje.
Then, in the mid-1980s, thanks to the encouragement and urging of his teacher, ex Je Khenpo Tenzin Dhöndup, the ninth Gangteng Tulku resolved to visit the West and teach Dzogchen, the Ninth Yana of Great Perfection. On his first excursions he traveled alone, without even a single attendant. His aim was both to enliven the Pema Lingpa lineage by sharing it with Western students, as well as to gather financial support for the renovation of 400-year-old Gangteng Gonpa and for a host of other Dharma projects which he was initiating in Bhutan.
Since emerging from yet another three years of solitary meditation retreat in 1992, Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche has been working ceaselessly to assure the survival of both the teachings and practices of the Pema Lingpa Lineage. Two three-year-retreat centers; an isolated Dzogchen three-year retreat center; a new monastery (Ogyen Ling) near his birth region in Tongsa; a nunnery and shedra for women near the birthplace of Pema Lingpa in Bhumthang; and a highly-acclaimed university-level shedra adjacent to Gangteng Gonpa are but some of the fruits of this intense period of Buddha-activity of the Gangteng Tulku.
Moreover, Rinpoche has founded the Yeshe Khorlo Centres and has been teaching and conferring empowerments, transmissions and blessings to students in the USA, Canada, Europe, Taiwan, Singapore, India and other countries, continuing to teach and inspire beings based on their capacity and merit.