Dagpo Rinpoche, also known as Bamchoe Rinpoche, was born in 1932 in the region of Kongpo, in southeastern Tibet. At the age of two, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama recognized him as the reincarnation of Dagpo Lama Rinpoche Jamphel Lhundrup, Pabonkha Rinpoche’s root guru. When he was six years old he entered Bamchoe Monastery in Dagpo Region where he learned to read and write and began to study the basics of Sutra and Tantra. At age 13 he entered Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery to study the Five Great Texts of Buddhist Philosophy.
Dagpo Shedrup Ling (or Dagpo Dratsang) is a monastic college founded by the sixth successor to Jey Tsongkhapa, Jey Lodroe Tenpa. Its standard of education was very high in all fields: the Five Great Philosophical Treatises (on Logic, Paramita, Madhyamika, Abhidharma, and Vinaya) and Tantra; special attention was given to lamrim.
In 1403, Jay Tsongkhapa had just completed The Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path (The Great Lamrim) at Rating Monastery when Jey Lodroe Tempa came to see him. Jey Tsongkhapa blessed him by placing the new text on his head. He gave him a copy and instructed him to go to Dagpo Region to build a monastery where one could study and practice lamrim as well as the Five Great Treatises. For this reason Dagpo Dratsang is also known as the Lamrim Dratsang. Every year in April a special session was devoted to the study and practice of Lamrim. Once every three years the abbot taught Jey Tsongkhapa’s entire Great Lamrim (500 folios), thanks to which lamrim teaching was very widespread in the Dagpo Region.
Many Ganden Tripas (successors of Jey Tsongkhapa at the head of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism) came from this monastery and a great number of its monks attained high spiritual realizations through their meditation on lamrim. After the communist invasion in 1959, the monks of Dagpo Dratsang who managed to escape from Tibet into India re-grouped themselves, first in Assam and later in Madhyapradesh where, despite all their material difficulties, they are presently trying to perpetuate the monastic traditions specific to their college.
Having studied eleven years at Dagpo Shedrup Ling, Dagpo Rinpoche left to attend the great monastic university of Drepung near Lhasa where he entered one of its four colleges, Gomang Dratsang. He wanted very much to deepen his understanding of Buddhist philosophy in particular on the basis of Jamyang Shepa’s commentaries, which are Gomang Dratsang’s textbooks. For the duration of his stay at Gomang Dratsang (and later in exile, in India and Europe) he studied under the great Mongolian master, Geshe Ngawang Nyima, who later became abbot of the college in exile. Being close to Lhasa, Rinpoche was also able to attend many teachings and receive a great number of oral transmissions from different masters. Today he is one of a few masters to hold such a large number of transmission lineages of Buddha’s teachings.
Dagpo Rinpoche has followed thirty-seven masters, in particular the two tutors of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Kyapje Trijang Rinpoche, as well as His Holiness himself. Under them he has studied the Five Great Treatises, Tantra (he has received many initiations and has done retreats), as well as astrology, grammar, poetry and history.
Dagpo Rinpoche remained at Gomang Dratsang until the communist invasion in 1959 when he followed his masters into exile in India. Less than a year after his arrival in India, he was invited to France to assist French tibetologists in their research. He taught Tibetan language and Buddhism at the school of oriental studies (INALCO) connected to the Sorbonne in Paris for almost thirty years. Now retired, he continues personal research and study. He has co-authored several books Tibet and on Buddhism and has participated in numerous television and radio programs.
In 1978 he founded a Dharma centre which later became the first Buddhist congregation of the Gelug Order to be recognized by the French government, Ganden Ling Institute. Rinpoche has taught extensively ever since and is often invited for that purpose to various cities in France, to Italy, Switzerland, and Holland, as well as to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Now he also has centres in Bordeaux, Holland, Malaysia and Indonesia. He travels yearly to India to maintain contact with his masters and monasteries.
In 1987 Rinpoche returned to Tibet and to Dagpo Region where he was given a great welcome and was solicited repeatedly for teachings and blessings. In Lhasa he was requested the oral transmission of certain texts whose lineages he is one of the few remaining masters to hold.
The lineage of Dagpo Rinpoche’s previous incarnations goes far back into the past. It includes masters such as the famous Bodhisattva Taktunu who at the time of the previous Buddha sold a piece of his own flesh to make an offering to his spiritual master. It also includes the Indian sage Atisha’s main spiritual guide, the great Indonesian master, Suvarnadvipa Guru Dharmakirti (Serlingpa).
Atisha travelled thirteen months by sea from India under very difficult conditions to meet Suvarnadvipa in what is now Indonesia, in order to receive instructions on generating bodhicitta from him. Suvarnadvipa Guru gave him the transmission of the lineage issuing from Maitreya: the Seven Point Instruction Causes and Effect. The two teachers, Suvarnadvipa and Atisha, found themselves together again in the same master-disciple relationship in more recent times when Atisha was born as Pabongkha Rinpoche and received teachings on bodhicitta from Dagpo Lama Rinpoche Jampel Lhundrup, Dagpo Rinpoche’s previous reincarnation.
In Tibet, other better known masters in the lineage of Dagpo Rinpoche’s previous incarnations include the great fifth century translator, Marpa Lotsawa, who founded the Kagyu Order and who is famous as the master who guided Jetsun Milarepa to enlightenment by very severe training.
One could also mention Longdrol Lama Rinpoche, an important 18th century meditation master and scholar, disciple of the 7th Dalai Lama and who, like Milarepa, had a difficult time in his youth. After much study and meditation, Longdrol Lama Rinpoche became one of the leading masters of the century, teacher of such scholars as Jigmey Wangpo. A great scholar himself, he wrote more than 23 volumes of treatises. In a more recent times we count several abbots of Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery among Dagpo Rinpoche’s previous incarnations.