Kalu Rangjung Kunchab

The spiritual heirs to Kalu Rangjung Künchab and the Shangpa transmission places presented hereafter are based on his autobiography, The Chariot for Traveling the Path to Freedom: The Life Story of Kalu Rinpoche, as well as all the information we could gather. We apologize for our involuntary omissions or mistakes, if you could bring those to our attention, we could make the necessary corrections.

Kalu Rangjung Künchab had disciples in all the Tibetan schools and was the first Shangpa Kagyü master to teach all over the world : the Tibetan provinces of China, Bhutan, India and then Israel, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Hawaii, Myanmar, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

In the Tibetan provinces of China, in Taiwan and Hong Kong

Kalu Rangjung Künchab lived in the Tibetan provinces of China until 1955. He then taught in Kham (known today as Sichuan), especially at Tsadra Rinchen Drak, a retreat center affiliated with the Karma Kagyü monastery of Palpung.

As per the 2013 inventory by contemporary historian Dorjé Tsewang in his History of the Shangpa Teaching (dpal ldan shangs pa bka’ brgyud kyi chos ‘byung gser chos zhing gi sa bon), there are eleven Shangpa centers located in Kham and Amdo :

  1. Tsadra Rinchen Drak, run by Lama Yargyé.
  2. Palden Shangpé Serchö Ling, affiliated with Damkar monastery, run by Lama Yargyé.
  3. Samdrup Chödzong Ling, affiliated with Tsabtsa monastery, run by Lama Karma Könchok.
  4. Dzongshö, run by Lama Kunzang Yeshé.
  5. Chimé Gatsel, affiliated with Karma Lhateng monastery, run by Lama Phurpu Tsering.
  6. Künzang Gyepé Gatsel Ling, affiliated with Dzodzi monastery, run by Lama Tsültrim Lodrö.
  7. Jangchup Dechen Ösel Ling, affiliated with Tsokha monastery, run by Lama Thubten Geleg.
  8. Samten Chödzong Ling, affiliated with Bengen monastery and run by Tülku Wangchen and Lama Tandrin Wangyel.
  9. Kundé Ling affiliated with Benchen monastery and run by Lama Karma Drukdrak.
  10. Trashi Chödzong Ling, affiliated with Rabjor monastery.
  11. Dechen Chödzong Dargyé Ling, affiliated with Takpel monastery and run by Lama Phüntsok Namgyal.

Kalu Rangjung Künchab traveled in Central Tibet where he revived the Shangpa transmissions in many Shangpa historical places, such as Zhangzhong Dorjé Den and Nyethang Mokchok monasteries. In Zhangzhong Dorjé Den, Kalu Rangjung Künchab recognized a child from a dream as the tülku of Khyungpo Neljor. That child was named after Khyungpo Neljor, Khyung Tsültrim Gönpo. From the 1980’s, Khyung Tsültrim Gönpo worked towards the restoration of Zhangzhong as well as the Shangpa transmissions there; he left his body in 2004. His disciple Shangtön Kyabgön Sangyé Pel is now the main master of Zhangzhong.

Mokchok Jampa Yeshé, a Shangpa Gelugpa master of Nyethang Mokchok monastery, was one of the spiritual heirs to Kalu Rangjung Künchab. Mokchok Jampa Yeshé’s successor is the actual Mokchok Tülku who lives and teaches in Europe, mostly in France. He leads the resurgence of this transmission in China, working towards the perpetuation of the Shangpa Rimay transmission of the Nyethang Mokchok masters.

In Central Tibet, Kalu Rangjung Künchab taught in the Gelugpa monasteries of Drepung and Sera. His main disciples were then Mokchok Jampa Yeshé in Drepung and Kardojé Rinpoché, Lhatsün Rinpoché and Thokmé Rinpoché in Sera.

In the last part of his life, Kalu Rangjung Künchab taught in Taiwan and Hong Kong where three Dharma centers were later founded : Kagyu Ranjung Kunkyab and Kagyu Drodun Kunchab in Taïwan, respectively run by Ani Sönam and Lama Jangchup; and Pal shangpa Thekchen Ling in Hong Kong.

In Bhutan

Leaving Tibet at the age of 51, Kalu Rangjung Künchab went to Bhutan on Karmapa Rangjung Rigpé Dorjé’s advice. Religious counselor for the royal family, he could count on their support to found in Bhutan two retreat centers affiliated with Jangchub Chöling monastery.

The existing Shangpa teachings in Bhutan today are barely known even though the Shangpa instructions have been practiced from time immemorial by Drukpa Kagyü masters (the main teaching lineage in Bhutan) as well as by the spiritual heirs to Thangtong Gyalpo. The latter set up several monasteries in Bhutan, including Dewachen, a convent where Kalu Rangjung Künchab taught.

In India and in Nepal

In 1962, by the age of 58, Kalu Rangjung Künchab left Bhutan to India.

The Gelugpa master Lobsang Yeshé Tenzin Gyatso (Trijang Rinpoche) gave him a land in Sonada, Darjeeling district. Kalu Rangjung Künchab founded there Samdrub Darjay Chöling monastery (Sonada monastery) and its retreat center. This monastery became his main residence until his parinirvana.

In Sonada, Kalu Rangjung Künchab guided many retreatants such as Bokar Chökyi Lodrö, a Karma Kagyü master who, in Kalu Rangjung Künchab’s own words, became his major spiritual heir. Bokar Chökyi Lodrö founded Bokar Ngedon Chokhor Ling monastery in Mirik and the affiliated retreat centers.

The main retreat master in Sonada is Lama Lorang, a disciple of Kalu Rangjung Künchab.

Among several other masters trained in the retreat center in Sonada or associated with it are Lama Tenpa Gyamtso, who lives in France, along with Lama Norlha (1938-2018), Lama Lodu and Tülku Wangchen, the main masters behind the transmission of Kalu Rangjung Künchab’s teachings in North America. Lama Gyurmé, Lama Sönam Tsering, Lama Denys, Lama Orgyen (1933-1990) and Lama Karta (1968-2013) mostly teach in Europe.

In India, Kalu Rangjung Künchab founded the Droden Kunchab Chodey monastery and its stupa in Salugara, run by Khenpo Thrinlay Tharchin.

Kalu Rangjung Künchab also continued to share transmissions with masters of all buddhist traditions. He was disciple of the two main Gelugpa masters of the XIV Dalai-Lama Tenzin Gyamtso : Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (previously mentioned) and Thupten Lungtok Namgyal Thinley, the Ling Tülku VII (Kyabje Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche), one of the main contemporary holders of the Shangpa Gelugpa instructions. Kalu Rangjung Künchab was also a master for many people close to the Dalai-Lama, such as Lama Dagyab Hortok Thurto and Geshe Rabten.

On the Karmapa Rangjung Rigpé Dorjé’s demand, Kalu Rangjung Künchab has also been one of the main master of the following Karma Kagyü great tülkus : Tai Situpa XII, Shamarpa XIV, Jamgön Kongtrül Karma Lodrö Chökyi Senge and Goshir Gyaltsab XII. Lodrö Chökyi senge, the Karsé Kongtrül III, founded two Shangpa retreat centers, associated with Thekchen Chöling monastery in Lava, Darjeeling district, India, and with his Pullahari monastery in Kopan, Nepal. Dragpa Tenpa Yarpel, the Goshir Gyaltsab XII passed down the Shangpa initiations and instructions to the retreat centers in Sonada and Mirik. Pema Tönyö Nyinje, the Tai situpa XII handed down a great number of times the Shangpa instructions in his monastery, Sherab Ling, in India. For that matter, he taught them to the first Kalu Tülku, Karma Ngedön Tenpay Gyaltsen.

Another major Karma Kagyü disciple and friend with Kalu Rangjung Künchab was the Tenga Tülku III, Karma Tenzin Trinley Namgyal (Tenga Rinpoché), who continued the transmission of the Shangpa instructions in two retreat centers. One was associated with his monastery: Benchen Phuntsok Dargyeling, in Kathmandu, Nepal; the other was affiliated with Bengen monastery in Tibet. Karma Tenzin Trinley Namgyal’s main heir today is Sangyé Nyenpa.

Kalu Rangjung Künchab had other disciples : Ngawang Zangpo, the Deshung Tülku III; the Nyingma master Chatral Sangyé Dorjé; and many Sakya and Nyingma tülkus such as those of Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé and Jamgyang Khyentsé Wangpo, connected to Sakya monasteries of Dzongsar and Nyingma monasteries of Sechen, Dzogchen and Dzigar.

In Europe

From the 1970’s, Kalu Rangjung Künchab got invited worldwide.

Traveling in Europe, he created retreat centers for men and women in France : Dashang Kagyü Ling turned into Paldenshangpa La Boulaye, in Bourgogne; and Shangpa Karma Ling, in Savoie. In 1976, Dashang Kagyü Ling retreat centers were the first ones in the West. They got renovated under Yangsi Kalu’s supervision. He still teaches there the Shangpa instructions. The Shangpa Karma Ling retreat centers were founded in 1984 and eight three-years-retreats kept coming. Lama Denys is the head of those centers. He has been a disciple and direct heir to Kalu Rangjung Künchab.

Later on, a retreat center associated with Dag Shang Kagyü Centre was created in the province of Huesca, Spain. It is run by Lama Drubgyü Tenpa.

Besides those retreat centers, many transmission sites were created throughout Europe :

Many meditation centers and short time retreat centers were created in cities throughout Europe.

In addition to publishing companies associated with those centers, two publishing houses have been founded by disciples of Kalu Rangjung Künchab and Bokar Chökyi Lodrö : Editions Claire Lumière, created by Lama Cheuky Sèngué, and Editions Yogi Ling by Lama Shérab Namdreul; both had their retreat in Dashang Kagyü Ling.

In North America and in South America

Seven retreat centers were created during Kalu Rangjung Künchab’s visits in North America or by his heirs: two are located in Canada, five in the USA.

The Canadian retreat centers are Kagyu Kunkhyab Chuling and Kunzang Dechen Osel Ling, respectively in Burnaby and Saltspring Island in Greater Vancouver Area, both run by Lama Tsultrim.

In the USA, Kagyu Dzamling Kunchab is the first retreat center where retreats have kept coming for thirty-five years. Together with Kagyu Thubten Chöling in New York, they were run by Lama Norlha. In San Francisco, California, Kagyu Droden Kunchab is run by Lama Lodu and Kagyu Changchub Chuling in Portland, Oregon, by Lama Michael Conklin. Kagyu Thubten Choling located in Kauai, Hawaii, is run by Lama Tashi Dundrup.

Apart from those retreat centers, Kalu Rangjung Künchab and his disciples founded many centers dedicated to the transmission :

Lama Drupgyu, one the first western lamas and drupön of Kalu Rangjung Künchab, is involved in the creation of the Tsadra Foundation in the USA. It aims for the preservation, translation, publication and transmission of Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé’s work. The Tsadra Foundation supports particularly translators and retreatants, but also funds many publications.

Also, two retreat centers were founded in South America following Kalu Rangjung Künchab’s inspiration :

This text was written by Lama Wangchuk for the credit of the Shangpa Foundation. We would be grateful if you were to let us know any involuntary omissions, mistakes or any possible improvements.