Holiness Penor Rinpoche
Director and Resident Teacher - Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche
Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche is the founder and spiritual director of Pema Karpo Meditation Center in Memphis, Tennessee. Having completed thirty years as a monk, fourteen years of teaching experience, and nine years of study at the Buddhist University of Namdroling Monastery in South India, he holds a Khenpo degree, the Buddhist equivalent of a PhD. Gawang Rinpoche came to the United States in 2004 at the invitation of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Shambhala International. He proudly became an American citizen in 2012. Rinpoche is the author of Your Mind Is Your Teacher (Shambhala Publications) and The Sadhana of Shakyamuni Buddha (Jeweled Lotus Publications). He co-translated with Gerry Wiener the text, The Excellent Path to Enlightenment by Longchenpa which is available through Amazon.
At an early
age Khenpo Gawang had a strong interest in becoming a monk
and studying the Buddhist dharma. When he was 10, Khenpo Gawang
entered the Dzogchen Monastery called Marig Munsel (Dispelling
the Darkness of Ignorance). At Marig Munsel, Khenpo Gawang
learned reading and writing and began his Buddhist studies.
He stayed at the monastery until he was 17 when he left to
study with Khenpo Karma Tsepten.
Khenpo Karma Tsepten was an true Dzogchen yogi. He lived in
retreat at the top of a snow-capped mountain. Khenpo Tsepten
never saw a car or modern things. He wore simple clothing and
would sit on a yak skin wearing a sheepskin coat. On the days
he wanted to give teachings, Khenpo Tsepten would begin at 10
AM teaching a particular text. He would continue the teachings
until he was finished even if it snowed. The students would follow
along reading their texts using their clothes to keep the snow
off their heads. Life on the high mountain was challenging. The
students stayed in very small houses with sometimes four or more
living in one small room. Khenpo Gawang studied the Dzogchen
Yeshe Lama and the Bodhisattvacaryavatara with Khenpo Tsepten.
After Khenpo Tsepten passed away, Khenpo Gawang stayed on retreat
for a few months practicing ngondro in a cave blessed by Padmasambhava.
After leaving retreat Khenpo Gawang and two other monks, who
had studied with Khenpo Tsepten, talked together and decided
they wanted to continue their Buddhist education. They gathered
a small amount of money from family members and journeyed to
India to the Namdroling shedra (Buddhist university) which was
started by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma lineage
of Tibetan Buddhism. The Namdroling shedra is one of the best
shedras in all of India, Nepal and Bhutan. At Namdrolling Khenpo Gawang continued his studies for nine
more years earning degrees in Madhayamaka, Prajnaparamita and
Khenpo Gawang studied the Mantrayana chiefly with
His Holiness Penor Rinpoche from whom he received many abhisekas
(empowerments), reading transmissions and oral instructions.
Khenpo Gawang also studied with Khenchen Pema Sherap Rinpoche,
Khenchen Namdrol Rinpoche and many other great Namdroling khenpos. The Mantrayana curriculum included studies in Ngondro, Tsalung
and Dzogchen. While Khenpo Gawang was studying Mantrayana, he
was also teaching classes on Madhyamaka, valid cognition and
grammar to shedra students.
During his time at Namdroling, Khenpo Gawang met Sakyong
Mipham Rinpoche and they became close friends. In 2003, Sakyong
Mipham Rinpoche invited Khenpo Gawang to come to the West to
teach in Shambhala centers. With the blessings of His Holiness
Penor Rinpoche he moved to America and began teaching western
In April 2006, Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche was formally enthroned as
a Khenpo by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche and assigned to teach in
the west. Since 2007he has made Memphis, TN his home and has established Pema Karpo Meditation Center where he teaches regularly.