Palden Nyima Rinpoche: My Spiritual Journey to Malaysia

by Kooi F Lim, The Buddhist Channel, 24 October 2023

Petaling Jaya, Malaysia -- Tulku Palden Nyima Rinpoche (Palden Nyima literally translated: Glorious Sun), is a contemporary Buddhist monk from the Nyingma Vajrayana School of Buddhism. He is the founder of Kunzang Chokhor Ling Buddhist Association, located in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

The Buddhist Channel had an interview with Rinpoche about his life history recently. The following is a transcript of the meeting.


I am a Buddhist monk. When I was born, I felt a great sense of purpose. In Tibet, during those times, formal education and titles didn't matter much. What truly mattered was recognizing a person's spiritual master. In my case, despite being born into a wealthy family with seven brothers and five sisters, my father had a deep wish for me to become a monk.

Ju Mohor Mipham Monastery

My spiritual journey led me to the Ju Mohor Mipham Monastery, a small yet renowned center of Dharma learning  in Dzachuka, Eastern Tibet. At the tender age of seven, I was recognised as the reincarnation of Mahasiddha Drupchen Ngawang Tenzin, who used to be an abbot of Ju Mohor Mipham Monastery. Therefore, my late father introduced me to my root teacher, Khenpo Rig Tsel Dorje Rinpoche, also known as Khenpo Riglo and sent me to him under his guidance at the aforementioned monastery. He was a prominent teacher and a great Dzogchen (Great Perfection) master in the world of Tibetan Buddhism especially in eastern Tibet. His own teacher, Khenpo Thubga Yishyin Norbu, had passed down to him the profound wisdom of the Dzogchen teachings. My teacher was considered one of the holders of this esoteric practice, and he had spent over 40 years of his life retreat in a cave, dedicated to his spiritual journey.

I received teachings of Guhyagarbha Tantra (Gyu Sangwa Nyingpo) over 15 times from my root teacher. This was quite a privilege for me. I consider myself fortunate to have had such an exceptional teacher, even if I don't think I was an outstanding student. Nonetheless, my teacher's wisdom left a profound impact on me.

Ju Mohor Mipham Monastery attracted numerous spiritual seekers from different Buddhist traditions, including Sakya, Gelugpa, Nyingma, and Karma Kagyu. However, my teacher sometimes declined to provide teachings due to his reclusive lifestyle.


During my time with my teacher, I developed a deep appreciation for the impermanence of life. When I was young, I struggled with depression, but at that time, I couldn't pinpoint its cause. It wasn't about money or love. My depression was due to the impermanence of life. I had questions about my identity, my origins and my destination - who I am, where I come from, and where I'm going. It felt like a profound darkness.

Discovering my true self and purpose has been far from easy for me. When I talked to my father and mother about this, they often told me that I was overthinking it and should go to sleep. Their solution was always the same. However, when I met my teacher, he provided many beautiful solutions. He talked about the Six Bardo teachings, and one of the teachings I'm still learning about is the Bodhicharyavatara (The Way of the Bodhisattva).

I often felt lost and struggled with my identity and purpose. This led me to explore various Buddhist texts, including the Bodhicharyavatara and the teachings of the Words of My Perfect Teacher. I found these texts profoundly inspiring and made it my mission to share their wisdom with others.

For me, it's essential to be a better person, just like my teacher was. I have only one thing that I can't let go of, and that's my teacher. So, he holds a very special place in my heart. My father is important, and my mother, of course, plays a significant role in my life. However, they are just regular people, sometimes good, sometimes not, which is entirely normal. My teacher, I believe, was deeply rooted in Buddhist principles, and I think many people needed his guidance.

Journey to India and Nepal

After my teacher's passing, I journeyed to different countries to continue my studies in the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.

My initial visit took me to South India, specifically the Namdrolling Monastery, India, where I spent a few years studying. Eventually, I moved to the Dzogchen  Monastery for a few more years of study. Monasteries typically required someone to instruct young monks and lead prayer chants. I wasn't particularly keen on these roles, but I agreed to help at times.

I also travelled to Biri, India, where I encountered respected masters like Ringu Tulku Rinpcohe. I often travelled between Dzongsar Shedra and Ringu Tulku’s Monastery to pursue Dharma teachings as both are near to each other. There, we engaged in years of debates and learning. Following that, I ventured to Nepal and stayed near to the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, to learn more about the Bodhicharyavatara from various teachers.

Dharma Learning Paths

Subsequently, I explored different avenues for learning, including the Shechen Monastery, which was conveniently located near the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, where daily teachings were offered to Tibetan monks free of charge. I took this opportunity to further my knowledge. Also, I enrolled in thangka art painting in Tsering Art School in Shechen Monastery.

In Nepal, I continued my studies, gaining exposure to various teachers and philosophies. So, I stayed in Nepal for several years.

Offers to be Teacher

After that, I was invited to different countries because I'm a Tibetan artist and can also teach a bit of the Tibetan language and Buddhist teachings. That's how I became a teacher.
Some people were always looking for someone to teach them about Tibetan Thangka art, and I did teach some individuals. However, I felt that it was a bit of a waste of my time because creating Thangka art can take many days, and I believed that I could better use my time by learning more about Buddhism to help people better understand Buddhist teachings.

So, I began traveling to different countries where people welcomed me a lot and asked me to give them teachings. I could speak a little English and a little Chinese, which was helpful since many Tibetan monks didn't speak these languages.

Teachings in Malaysia and Singapore

Due to their language barrier, people often asked me to stay and teach. I travelled to many countries and one day, I went to China. When I returned, I needed to go to Malaysia for a few days. While in Malaysia, I met Mr. Kelvin Leow, who was associated with a center called the Tsongkhapa Centre, Selangor. The center had no resident monks and asked me to stay for a few days to provide teachings. I agreed, stayed for a few days, and then planned to go to Singapore.

However, when I arrived in Singapore, they urged me to come back to Malaysia soon. They were excited about a Sakyamuni Buddha’s birthday celebration we organized at the Tsongkhapa Center, which attracted almost 100 people. They were thrilled about the turnout and asked me to stay in Malaysia. I hesitated because I wasn't sure if I wanted to settle in Malaysia permanently.

I explained that opening a center in Malaysia was not something I could decide on my own; I needed to consult with senior figures in the Nyingma tradition. Therefore, I consulted my teacher, His Holiness Dodrupchen Rinpoche IV. His Holiness had become my spiritual guide since my teacher had passed away.

Meeting with His Holiness Dodrupchen Rinpoche IV

So, I brought Mr. Kelvin Leow with me to the Dodrupchen Monastery, Sikkim, India. I asked Dodrupchen Rinpoche whether it would be a good idea to open a center in Malaysia. At that time, I was considering going back to Tibet or staying in his monastery for further spiritual development and retreat.

His Holiness advised me against returning to Tibet, suggesting that I should go to places like Singapore and Malaysia to establish a center. I initially hesitated, having rejected the idea twice before. But His Holiness’s attendant emphasized the importance of His Holiness’s advice, saying that whatever His Holiness said should be followed without hesitation. So, I agreed and said I would return to visit his attendant the following day.

Beginnings of Kunzang Chokhor Ling

Together with Mr Kelvin Leow, I visited His Holiness’s attendant, Konchok Lama, on the next day and he gave me two envelopes – one with my new Dharma name and the new center name, which were written by His Holiness Dodrupchen Rinpoche himself. Hence, I got my Dharma name as ‘Palden Nyima’ and center name ‘Kunzang Chokhor Ling’. So, that's how we started the center here in Malaysia.

Even the shop lot we chose was recommended by His Holiness Dodrupchen Rinpoche, not my choice. Ani Chuni Lhamo who is a Malaysian, helped us find a shop lot, and we sought guidance on which one would be better for our future. Dodrupchen Rinpoche approved our choice.

When we chose this shop, the owner was in Australia. I called Dodrupchen Rinpoche to apologize and explained that someone else had already rented it. He told me not to worry and suggested we wait. After about 15 days, the owner returned and told me that we could open a center there, as she had declined another offer from a Chinese doctor.

So, for the past nine years, we have been here. When I first arrived, I had no support, and I set up everything from scratch. I didn't even have a table, but gradually, things improved day by day. I'm very happy with the people here, especially Ani Chuni Lhamo, who has been a great support. Last but not least, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to those who had supported me in benefitting the sentients beings in accordance to the Dharma way.


I am deeply grateful to all those who have supported me, especially individuals like Ani Chuni Lhamo and my dedicated disciples. I acknowledge the significance of becoming a part of Vajrayana Buddhist Council Malaysia, despite my initial reservations. I respect and appreciate the positive impact it has had on our community.

This journey has been a testament to the power of wisdom and guidance. I'm thankful for the teachings of my spiritual master and the opportunity to share these teachings with others around the world.

Note: This interview was conducted in response to "Shock waves Reverberate through Tibetan Buddhism in Malaysia" published on September 30, 2023. The aim is 'balanced reporting,' which has been the policy of the Buddhist Channel since its founding in 2001.
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