The spiritual director of Kamalashila Institute is Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Karma Sungrab Ngedön Tenpe Gyeltshen was born in Indian in Rumtek/Sikkim in 1965 and was soon recognized as the 7th reincarnation of Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche. He is therefore one of the most important teachers of the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Rinpoche grew up under the care of the 16th Karmapa. He received comprehensive training in the contemplative, intellectual, and artistic disciplines of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. He graduated from the Karma Shri Nalanda University in Rumtek/Sikkim and afterwards studied English literature and comparative religion at Columbia University in New York. He is a lineage holder of both the Indian mahamudra tradition and of the Tibetan dzogchen tradition. Today he lives in Seattle in the USA and teaches predominantly in Canada, the USA, Asia, and Europe.
Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche founded Nitartha International, a nonprofit organization for preserving endangered Tibetan texts through their digitized archiving. Rinpoche is also the founder and the director of Naladabodhi, a network of Tibetan Buddhist meditation centres that combine authentic Buddhism with modern teaching methods. Pönlop Rinpoche is the author of numerous modern books on Buddhism, which have been translated into many languages. He is well-known for his clear understanding, his charming humour, and his persuasive teaching style. His travels around the world include regular visits to Kamalashila Institute, the spiritual directorship of which was conferred on him by the 17th Karmapa.
Resident Lamas of Kamalashila Institute
Acharya Lama Sonam Rabgye
Acharya Lama Sonam Rabgye has been a resident lama in Kamalashila Institute since 1999. He grew up in Manang, a Nepalese province bordering on Tibet with a Tibetan population. He spent is childhood with his family and helped support them until he was 21 years old. He then left to study at the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, where he obtained a master’s degree in Buddhist philosophy and the academic title of an acharya. After graduating, he taught for three years at the Karma Lekshey Ling Institute in Kathmandu. He completed the traditional three-year retreat in Pullahari, the monastery of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in Kathmandu. The 3rd Jamgön Kongtrul, Karma Chökyi Lodrö Senge, was his most important teacher. Lama Sönam obtained refuge from him and was ordained by him. In addition to teaching courses, guiding retreats, and presiding over daily meditation sessions in Kamalashila Institute, Lama Sönam also teaches in other Kagyu centres throughout Germany and Europe. He is also very happy to meet with people personally to discuss their meditation practices. In order to better help the people in his home region, Lama Sönam founded the organization “Himalaya Karuna”. The organization provides support in the Manang region to old people and to people who are on their own. It also assists in the funding of the education of young monks and nuns and the building of new Buddhist temples.
Acharya Lama Kelzang Wangdi
Acharya Lama Kelzang Wangdi was born in Bhutan in 1970. He studied at the Karma Shri Nalanda Institute at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim from 1989 to 2001, where he obtained a master’s degree in Buddhist philosophy and the academic title of an acharya. He began teaching junior students at Karma Shri Nalanda Institute already in 1995 and continued teaching there after graduation until 2003. He received many teachings from H.E. Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, and Dzogchen Pönlop Rinpoche on the doctrine and the practice of the buddhadharma. In the early part of 2004 Lama Kelzang Wangdi went to the USA to teach at Nitartha Institute in Seattle, where he continues to teach once a year. Lama Kelzang came to Germany later in 2004 and has been one of the resident lamas at Kamalashila Institute since then. His main duties are teaching meditation courses and guiding retreats. Lama Kelzang also teaches at various other Buddhist centres throughout Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland. He too is very happy to meet with people personally to discuss their meditation practices or other spiritual matters.