When Rinpoche’s mother was about six months pregnant, she attended an important religious ceremony presided over by the 16th Karmapa at Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. During the traditional Tilopa dance, a jewel was offered to the Karmapa. Breaking with tradition, he declined and pointed to Rinpoche’s surprised mother, requesting instead that the offering be made to her. He then announced that she was carrying the 12th Gharwang Rinpoche.
When Rinpoche was about to be born in the early morning, his parents dispatched a messenger to inform H.H. the 16thKarmapa of the child’s imminent arrival. But before the messenger could leave the house, the Karmapa’s emissary Saljay Rinpoche, with a party of monks, was already at their door bearing an offering scarf from the Karmapa for the child at the time of his birth and a letter containing H.H.’s blessings for Rinpoche’s well-being.
The 12th Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche was officially installed on the Lion Throne shortly after his eleventh birthday. Thereafter he became known as “Karma Gharwang Chochung Tenpa Namgyal Thinley Kunkhyab Pal Zangpo” or “The Victorious Protector of Buddha Dharma with Excellent Qualities and All-Pervasive Auspicious Activities”, a name which was given to him by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa himself.
The present 12th Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche received many personal empowerments in the form of textual as well as oral transmissions from the 16th Karmapa. He also received various teachings from many other important Rinpoches including the late Kalu Rinpoche, the late Tulku Urgen Rinpoche, the late Khenpo Pema Pedtse, the late H.E Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Sharmarpa, Tai Situpa, Gyaltsapa and H.H. Sakya Trizin. In addition, he has studied under the guidance of renowned Buddhist scholars such as Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso and Khenchen Chodak Tenphel. Rinpoche was a top scholar at the Nalanda Buddhist Institute between 1982 and 1991. Since 1987, he has taught extensively in dharma centres all over the world in Europe, America and Asia. The first Kagyudpa Dharma Centre in Indonesia was founded by Gharwang Rinpoche in Jakarta in 1996. He is presently studying for a Master degree in Buddhist Studies in Boston, USA.
After completion of his formal Tibetan Buddhist studies and English language at 26, Rinpoche left Rumtek to begin the task of establishing his new seat in Sikkim as well as re-establishing its original seat in Tibet and also the setting up of several Zurmang Centres in Singapore, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya, Pakan Baru, Taipei and Kuala Lumpur.
Rinpoche’s great humility and unpretentiousness have endeared and awed many who have been fortunate to meet him. In 1990, the Governor of Los Angeles (California, USA) honoured him with the keys of the city, making him an honorary citizen of the country, with the aim of promoting a better understanding and practice of the Buddha Dharma. With an understanding of Western culture, and his fluency in English, Rinpoche is able to expound the Dharma clearly and directly, showing how an ancient philosophy is still surprisingly relevant in this modern world, perhaps even more so.