Sangye Khandro is a wonderful example of a truly dedicated Buddhist practitioner and translator. She studied Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan language under the guidance of Tibetan masters in India and Nepal. She has translated and mastered many important Tibetan Buddhist texts. She is a co-founder of Light of Berotsana, a nonprofit organization for translators of Tibetan texts.
In 1971 Sangye Khandro, intent upon meeting H.H. the Dalai Lama, traveled overland for five months, finally arriving in Dharamsala, India. At this same time, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala began to open its doors to Western students. Completing six months of study at the library, and recognizing her deep commitment to the Buddhist teachings, Sangye took the vows and lay precepts signifying the formal entrance to the Buddhist path. Throughout the next seven years, Sangye traveled to India and Nepal annually to continue her studies of the Buddhist teachings and Tibetan language.
Between 1973 and 1977 Sangye lived and taught at the Nechung Drayang Ling Buddhist Temple in Hawaii, which she helped to establish. Throughout this period, she joined others in bringing many renowned teachers to the Hawaiian Islands. These highly respected and learned lamas included H.H. Düdjom Rinpoche, the Venerable Kalu Rinpoche, and H.H. the 16th Karmapa. In 1977, Sangye met Ven. Gyatrül Rinpoche while he was visiting Hawaii. Their friendship began in the midst of an illness that nearly took his life. Sangye became Rinpoche’s companion and her relationship with him became central to her work and life.
Sangye became Gyatrül Rinpoche’s primary translator and together they proceeded to establish Buddhist centers in California and Oregon under the auspices of H.H Düdjom Rinpoche. On a yearly basis, Gyatrül Rinpoche and Sangye traveled to Taiwan, where they taught, translated, and raised funds for the creation of the Tashi Chöling Temple in southern Oregon. For the next two decades Sangye acted as translator for many great teachers, among them H.H Düdjom Rinpoche, H.H. Penor Rinpoche, H.H. Khenpo Jigme Phüntsok Rinpoche, Dungsei Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, Kusum Lingpa Rinpoche, Gyatrül Rinpoche, Lama Ganga, Gönpo Tseden Rinpoche, Chagdud Tülku Rinpoche, Ngapa Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche, Khenpo Palden Sherab Rinpoche, Khenpo Namdröl Rinpoche, Yangthang Tülku Rinpoche, and Gyala Padma Namgyal Rinpoche, accompanying them on numerous teaching tours throughout the world.
Sangye has helped to teach many programs and retreats while continuing her personal studies. In the mid-1980s Sangye traveled to the Namdröling Monastery, established by H.H. Penor Rinpoche near Mysore, India, and became the first Western woman to receive and practice the transmissions for the channels and winds in the monastery’s previously all-male training program.
Over the past few years, Sangye has studied and translated several commentaries based upon the Guhyagarbha Tantra. In 1996, she translated for Khenpo Namdröl Rinpoche at the Ngagyür Nyingma Institute in southern India, where he taught commentaries on the Guhyagarbha Tantra to a group that included Tibetan tülkus and young khenpos, as well as Western men and women. In 1999, Sangye again translated for Khenpo Namdröl’s teachings on the Essence of Clear Light/Odsel Nyingpo, this time at Yangleshö in Nepal. Also, in 1999 Sangye translated Essence of Clear Light for Khenpo Namdröl at Tashi Chöling in Oregon, marking the first occasion of this teaching and study in the West. With Lama Chönam’s assistance, she also served as oral translator for Khen Rinpoche at Lerab Ling in France where he taught Key to the Precious Treasury/Dzod Kyi De Mig to Sogyal Rinpoche’s students.
As a result of this intensive study, and translation, Light of Berotsana has published three beautiful hardcover books of the root texts and offeres written transcripts and audio CDs of the oral commentaries given by Khenpo Namdrol Rinpoche. (Please refer to these materials available for purchase).
Sangye has translated numerous texts and published several books, including A Garland of Immortal Wishfulfilling Trees, a history of the Payül tradition; Generating the Deity; Ancient Wisdom; Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows; Yeshe Lama; The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava, and various cycles of instruction taken from the writings of H.H. Düdjom Lingpa. Sangye was one of three translators who collaborated in the translation of the first three volumes of the life of Gesar of Ling. Additionally, she has translated several commentaries written by Dungsei Thinley Norbu Rinpoche.
In 1999, Sangye’s vision came to fruition when she was able to help found Light of Berotsana, a nonprofit organization for translators. Currently, Sangye dedicates her time to Light of Berotsana and the translation of essential texts drawn from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. About this work, Sangye says, “After many years of preparing the field, it is now time to cultivate the depth and breadth of Tibetan Buddhist studies. This cannot come about without good translations of the works most relevant to the scholarly and meditative traditions. We have established Light of Berotsana so that we may help with the task of translation from Tibetan into English while highly accomplished Tibetan lamas remain alive and available to teach in the West. Light of Berotsana hopes to keep the presses hot with work of good quality that comes about through scholarship, understanding, and dedication.”
Over the last 30 years, Sangye Khandro has translated many oral teachings given by the Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche on various dharma subjects—for example, how to practice ngöndro or the esoteric meaning of Vajrakilaya. Many of these profound teachings have been transcribed and formatted into booklets that are currently sold by Vimala Treasures. Go to Vimala Treasures to see a comprehensive listing of these transcribed teachings.
Sangye Khandro on her early years and becoming translator:
Sangye Khandro on women in Tibetan Buddhism:
Sangye Khandro about her role model, Sangyum Kusho Rigdzin Wangmo:
Photo by David Gordon.