Founder: Tarthang Tulku
Tarthang Rinpoche was born in 1935 in the mountains of Golok in the far northeast of Tibet as the son of Sogpo Tulku, Pema Gawey Dorje, a highly respected physician and holder of the Nyingma Vidyadhara lineage. Rinpoche’s training began at a very early age, and his first teachers were his father and private tutors. After the age of nine, he resided at Tarthang Monastery where he was initiated into the teachings of the Palyul tradition by Tarthang Choktrul and given instruction in Mahayana view, meditation, and conduct by various expert khenpos. At the age of fifteen, Rinpoche departed from Tarthang Monastery to travel to the major monasteries of in Eastern Tibet. There he received blessings, teachings, and initiations from some of the greatest masters of the 20th century: Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, Zhechen Kongtrul, Adzom Gyelsey, Bodpa Tulku, and others, altogether thirty-one teachers.
Nine Years of Retreat, Research, and Publishing in India
In 1958 Tarthang Rinpoche departed from his homeland, traveling through Bhutan into Sikkim following in the footsteps of his root guru, Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. The next several years were devoted to pilgrimage and retreat at holy places in India. In 1962, Tarthang Rinpoche was asked by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, the head of the Nyingma School at that time, to take a position as a Fellow at Sanskrit University in Varanasi. The Nyingma School is known as the school of the Ancient Ones, the earliest school of Tibetan Buddhism established by Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. Nyingma follows the Vidyadhara lineage that uniquely holds two streams of lineage: the red-robed monastics and the white-robed Sangha of lay, yogic practitioners, the lineage of our Institute’s founder.
While teaching at Sanskrit University for six years, Rinpoche realized that the future of Tibet's endangered culture depended on the urgent preservation of its vast body of sacred literature. With the help of a few friends, he established Dharmamudranalaya Press at the Burmese Temple in Varanasi and began printing and freely distributing important and rare Tibetan texts that refugees were bringing out of Tibet.
From its auspicious beginnings in Sarnath, the place where the Dharma was first heard, Dharmamudranalaya, has grown to become the largest Tibetan text-preservation project in the world. In 1969, Rinpoche re-established Dharma Mudranalaya in America and began teaching his Western students the art of printing. Under Rinpoche’s guidance, Dharma Mudranalaya published major library collections such as the Nyingma Edition of the Kanjur and Tanjur and the Great Treasures of Ancient Teachings. These rare and vast collections are now housed at SINI's library.
Over Four Decades of Dharma Work in the West
Arriving in America in late 1968, Rinpoche chose California as his headquarters, and established the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center in early 1969. One of the first learned Tibetan exiles to take up residence in the West, he has lived continuously in America for over forty years. With the full support and blessings of Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Tarthang Tulku began in the 1970s to unfold a vision of wisdom in action that would eventually encompass over twenty different organizations and make a significant impact on the transmission of Dharma to the West and the restoration of Dharma in Asia. Some of the earliest organizations include, Dharma Publishing, the Tibetan Aid Project, the Nyingma Insititute, and Nyingma Centers.
In 1989, Tarthang Rinpoche, founded the Nyingma Monlam World Peace Ceremony, held annualy in Bodh Gaya, India, a ceremony that attracts more than 20,000 people annually. In the last decade, has also founded a number of other organizations, including, the Light of Buddha Dharma Foundation, Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages, and the Guna Foundation .
As the Founder of the Sarnath International Nyingma Institute, Rinpoche continues to guide, support, and inspire the unfolding vision of nourishing the roots of awakened lineages and the branches of positive growth in the world. In addition to these works that have spanned the course of his entire life, he is also the author of over twenty books in English, including, the Time, Space, and Knowledge Series, Kum Nye, Gesture of Balance, and Skillful Means. Inspired by his selfless, resilient, dynamic leadership, a small group of his students and volunteers have helped to lead some of the world's largest projects in cultural preservation, publishing, and gatherings of peace and prayer. Despite all of these activities, Rinpoche remains on retreat at his retreat center in California.
Filled with joy at the power of the holy traditions represented in places such as Sarnath, confident that there remain in the world a few precious, knowledgeable ones who can help keep the truths of the Buddha alive, we can rededicate our efforts, for we know that there is much to be done.
Director: Tsering Palmo Gellek
Tsering Palmo Gellek was born in Berkeley, California in 1973. Raised in a multicultural family and community, her early childhood was spent traveling between the East and the West and enjoying nature in Sonoma County. She completed her bachelors degree in International Relations at Lewis and Clark College in 1991and then in 1998 went on to pursue a Masters of Law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Following her graduate studies, Tsering, went on to help manage a private foundation's special project to harness livelihood research and economic support for refugees in Africa.
Since 2001, Tsering has been engaged in Buddhist cultural preservation work throughout Asia. Her first major projects include the installation of large peace bells at the most significant Buddhist holy sites throughout India and Nepal. Navigating the complex intricacies of culture, history, communities, and bureaucracy, Tsering developed a keen appreciation for the importance of Asia's sacred sites and the challenges in preservation.
For the last fifteen hundred years, every one hundred years, the Swayambhu Stupa, has been renovated. In 2008, Tsering was asked by her father, Tarthang Tulku, to direct the restoration of the Swayambhu Stupa of Nepal. This two-year major renovation effort was successfully completed and involved the participation of over 70 traditional artists, Nepal's Department of Archaeology, numerous Buddhist priests and their communities, UNESCO, and other consultants. This work was documented in a book published by Dharma Publishing and entitled Light of the Valley and a documentary bearing the same name produced by the Guna Foundation.
Tsering began work on the Sarnath International Nyingma Institute in 2007 and completed its construction in 2013. Her primary focus now is to strengthen the roots of the Institute, develop programs with universities and other centers of learning around the world, and to harness the power of sharing between the East and the West. She believes in the power of small, focused groups to do good, and enjoys when people are working towards their highest potential.