Rinpoche’s abilities as an artist and scholar were evident early on. At the age of seven, he began to study Tibetan Feng-shui with Raya Lama, and at ten years old he studied with artist and scholar, Awo Karlo. Mahasiddha Orgyen Ridgzin chose Lama Lhanang -- who he prophesized would one day help many sentient beings -- to enter the monastery to continue formal studies.
At this time he also began his formal training with his uncle, Lama Jingyam, and studied reading, writing and chants. At age fourteen, Rinpoche entered Thubten Chokhor Ling Monastery where he studied for seven years with his root teachers, His Holiness Kusum Lingpa and Lama Choying Rinpoche. He also studied with Kyilong Chenchok Tulku, Khenpo Padma Chojor, and in Nepal with Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. He learned Ngondro, Mahayoga, Anuyoga and the Great Perfection Vehicle with these teachers and finished the necessary retreats to become a spiritual teacher of the Nyingma Longchen Nying-Thig Lineage.
Upon completion of his monastic studies, he went on pilgrimages to holy places in Tibet, China, Nepal and India. He received many teachings and transmissions from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama and other highly realized teachers. His travels then brought him to the United States where he currently resides.
The earliest school of Tibetan Buddhism is known as the Nyingma School. Nyingma lineage heads were responsible for bringing Buddhism from India to Tibet, the “Land of the Snows,” and for establishing Buddhism in Tibet. The Nyingma School traces its origin to the Indian Mahasiddha and saint, Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche), who came to Tibet in 817 C.E. at the invitation of the great Tibetan King Trison Deutsen. In the eighth century, while the great Buddhist traditions were flourishing in India, King Trisong Deutsen invited the great Abbot of Nalanda University in India, Shantarakshita, to establish Buddhism in Tibet. The King worked with Shantarakshita to establish Buddhism, but they soon faced serious obstacles and hindrances to their work. At Shantarakshita's suggestion, the King of Tibet invited Padmasambhava to Tibet, requesting him to pacify the negative and obstructing forces. Through his compassion and wisdom, Padmasambhava overcame these obstacles, and genuine Buddhism was successfully transplanted in Tibet.
Together with the great Bodhisattva Shantarakshita, and with the assistance and blessings of his teacher, Buddhist scholar Vimalamitra, Padmasambhava built the renowned Samye monastery (in Southern Tibet), which became a principal center of learning, where most of the Sanskrit texts and literature from India were first translated into Tibetan. Under the guidance of Padmasambhava, Shantarakshita, and the Dharma King Trisong Deutsen, the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, and commentaries of the Indian masters of Nalanda University and other places were fully translated into Tibetan at Samye.
Padmasambhava was a Vajrayana master, and he taught widely from the highest classes of tantra, the textual vehicles of the Vajrayana. In particular, he transmitted these Vajrayana teachings to his twenty-five principal disciples. These first Tibetan masters became renowned for their spiritual accomplishments. The continuous, unbroken transmission from Padmasambhava through these 25 principal disciples to their own disciples and so forth is called Kama, or the oral transmission lineage. Padmasambhava also hid hundreds of scriptures, images and ritual articles throughout Tibet. These items became known as "Treasures," and were concealed in many different ways. At the same time, Padmasambhava left precise instructions on how to discover and reveal these treasures for the benefit of future generations. Since that time, over a hundred masters have appeared who revealed these Treasures and taught them to their disciples, in this way continuing the lineage of Padmasambhava. The master who reveals such treasure is known as the terton, or "treasure revealer." This transmission from Guru Rinpoche through the tertons is called the Terma, the revealed treasure lineage. These lineages of revealed teachings include the Dzogchen, or Great Completion, teachings taught by Garab Dorje, Shri Simha, Padmasambhava, Jnanasutra, and Vimalamitra, and are known today in Tibet as the Nyingma lineage.
The Nyingma school has six extraordinary, unique qualities not found in the Buddhism of India or other countries:
(1) Extraordinary Masters, including Shantarakshita (Abbott of the Nalanda University in India), Vimalamitra (Padmasambhava’s teacher), and Padmasambhava, the precious Mahasiddha who brought Buddhism to Tibet and who is considered the second Buddha, born from a lotus flower and not of human birth; (2) an extraordinary Sponsor, King Trisong Deutsen, who was believed to be a reincarnation of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom, Learning and the Arts; (3) extraordinary Teachings, the precious Dharma, including both the Kama and the Terma, precious treasure teachings of Padmasambhava; (4) extraordinary Temple, the first Tibetan Buddhist temple of Samye, which was built by humans during the day and by spirits during the night; (5) extraordinary Offerings of Inner Wealth – Heart, Trust, Faith and Devotion of the King to support Buddhism in Tibet, including dedication of abundant and precious material wealth necessary to do so; and (6) extraordinary Translators, including the first two translators, Khawa Watsu and ChoroLi Gyaltsen, and the 360 translators that followed, to establish the Buddha Dharma in Tibet.
The Nyingma School also has six unique means of transmitting or preserving its lineage teachings, the totality of which are not found in other schools of Tibetan Buddhism: (1) mind to mind transmission; (2) blessing to blessing transmission; (3) yellow scroll to yellow scroll transmission (which usually involves Dakinis, Female Sky Goers or enlightened beings who assist in protecting and preserving the Dharma, and whose special Dakini script conceals highly secret and sacred teachings until such time as is necessary and appropriate for such teachings to be revealed); (4) empowerment to empowerment transmission; (5) ear to ear transmission (through oral teachings); and (6) treasure to treasure transmission.
All of the later schools of Tibetan Buddhism were born from and have their roots in the Nyingma lineage. Originally, under the sponsorship of King Trisong Deutsen, two communities of Nyingma practitioners were established: (1) the non-celibate yogic (“white robed,” or Ngakpa) community of householder practitioners; and (2) the celibate monastic (“red robed”) community. Padmasambhava gave initiation, empowerment and extraordinary Vajrayana teachings to his first 25 disciples, who became the foundation of both the non-celibate yogic community and the celibate monastic community. Shantarakshita gave ordination and vows to the first seven great followers. Only the Nyingma lineage preserved and continued the non-celibate community of “white robed” householder practitioners, maintaining its roots in the yogic disciplines and powers that characterized the initial twenty-five disciples of Padmasambhava. Later schools of Tibetan Buddhism grew from the foundation of the celibate monastic community, rooted in study and development of Buddhist doctrine. While extensive teachings on Tibetan Buddhist scripture and sutra practice have migrated to the West since Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, the West has had less exposure to the Nyingma legacy, despite the extraordinary effort and dedication of many highly accomplished Nyingma teachers and practitioners.