A short biography of Khenchen Appey Rinpoche

KAR_smallThe most Venerable Khenchen Appey Rinpoche was born in 1926 in Serjong near Derge in Eastern Tibet. Although he was recognized as the incarnation of a Kagyu Master, his father being a staunch Sakyapa placed him in the village’s Sakya monastery at the age of eight. When he was thirteen years old, he began studying Buddhist philosophy at Serjong Monastic College.

At the age of 22, after nine years of intensive study under the tutorship of Lama Lodro, Appey Rinpoche journeyed to Dzongsar Shedra to continue his philosophical studies. Founded by Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro in 1917, this shedra was the most renowned monastic university for the study of the Buddhist philosophy of all traditions. At Dzongsar Shedra he also received the esoteric teachings of the secret mantra vehicle from Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and was appointed as a senior revision teacher.

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Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro

Following his graduation from Dzongsar Shedra, he went to Lithang in Eastern Tibet to meet the great master Deshung Ajam Rinpoche and received many rare and valuable teachings on the tantras which he later transmitted to his disciples and many high lamas. At the age of 25, he was enthroned as the official abbot of Serjong Monastery. There, he conducted philosophical classes for a period of four years. In 1956, at the age of 30, he embarked on a very long journey to the great Ngor Evam Choden monastery in Central Tibet, and received full bikshu ordination as well as many special teachings of the Ngorpa lineage. The Ngor abbots immediately recognized Appey Rinpoche’s mastery of Dharma and assigned him to be the head khenpo of their philosophical institute.

He taught there for approximately two years before he fled to Sikkim in the year 1959.
The Queen Mother of Sikkim recognized Rinpoche’s scholastic achievements and asked him to work at the National Library in Gangtok, where he stayed for several years. Then, in 1963, His Holiness the Sakya Trizin traveled to the Dehradun area in Northern India and invited Appey
Rinpoche to join him as his principle tutor. Both HH the Sakya Trizin and Appey Rinpoche wanted to establish an academy where monks could study Buddhist philosophy. Sakya College was eventually founded in 1972 on the hills near Dehradun. From 1972 to 1985, Khenchen Appey Rinpoche was fully responsible for teachings the classes, supervising the administration and raising funds for the college.

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HH Sakya Trizin with Khenchen Appey Rinpoche

When many of his students had reached a high level of proficiency and Sakya College was fully established, he requested permission from His Holiness the Sakya Trizin to go to Nepal. He was also believed to have told His Holiness at that time, that he hoped to establish a Center in Nepal where foreigners could study Buddhism. At first, nobody knew exactly where he had gone. It was later discovered that he had traveled to Pharping, a renowned pilgrimage destination for mantrayana practitioners, to invest more time and energy in meditation. After he spent 5 years in secluded retreat practice, he began getting more and more requests to teach as people became aware of his presence and wisdom.

The Venerable Appey Rinpoche made several teaching trips to Singapore. In the course of traveling abroad and giving teachings, he felt the need for a school that would make Dharma accessible to foreigners. On one such trip, a strong supporter and disciple, Madam Doreen Goh, suggested the idea of developing a Buddhist Study Center for non-Tibetan speakers and offered
financial backing for the project.

Rinpoche was very happy knowing his aspirations could now become reality. Things moved quickly and in 2001, the International Buddhist Academy was officially inaugurated by His Holiness the Sakya Trizin. He launched the academy teaching the initial courses and established its
main goals.

Firstly, to teach Dharma: the academy should make Buddha Dharma accessible to international students in an authentic and profound way.

Secondly, to translate: the holy Teachings and their commentaries should be translated into English, Mandarin and other world languages.

Lastly, to publish texts: Khen Rinpoche thought that publishing books for free distribution was more important than building stupas, monasteries, or statues, because books are the speech of the Buddha and embody the Buddha’s teachings.

Rinpoche retired to a nearby private residence in the Boudha neighborhood of the great stupa. He always made himself available for people and continued to give private teachings, especially to lamas and khenpos. He was renowned for the precision, vastness, and inspirational power of his teachings. Khenchen Appey Rinpoche also visited Tibet and collected rare manuscripts
by Sakya scholars. He invested a great deal of time and money in finding these precious texts, transporting them into exile, publishing and distributing them for free to all monasteries. Another of Rinpoche’s significant contributions was to design a curriculum for the newly founded Vajrayana Institute by Luding Khen Rinpoche.

Khenchen Appey Rinpoche avoided the attention of admirers and was very humble. He did not want people to prostrate to him and preferred that people not call themselves students of his, but rather Dharma friends. For his personal letterhead, he simply used the letter “A” without any ornate crest to embellish his identity.

In 2009, Rinpoche manifested an illness in the form of cancer in his esophagus. He underwent treatment but never fully recovered from the strong side effects. In 2010, he hinted at his eminent death when he told some students, “This disease is not going to go away. I am creating lots of trouble for many people.” He passed away peacefully in control of the process in late December.

Venerable Khenchen Appey Rinpoche lived a most meaningful life, dedicated exclusively to the Dharma.

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Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, HH Sakya Trizin, Khenchen Appey Rinpoche

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