Shakyamuni Buddha



HH Dalai Lama

His Holiness Penor Rinpoche

Ju Mipham

Khenpo Gawang Rinpoche

Spiritual 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 Mantrayana.

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 students.

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.