Dru-gu Choegyal Rinpoche

StatementBiographyArticle, Video & Links


From earliest childhood on I was drawn to thankas, Tibetan Buddhist pictorial scrolls, and other spiritual art. At the age of three I began painting, which brought me much delight and was a source of inspiration. After coming to India, at 11 years of age, I was trained primarily by H. H. Khamtrul Rinpoche, one of the greatest artists from Tibet. During those first years in India I was very homesick and painted my fond memories of earlier times. I also devoted much effort to recreating, from memory, some of the great thankas, deity paintings, and other artistic treasures that were destroyed in the cultural revolution.

Later I began what might be called “spontaneous paintings.” These works come from the craziness of my flowing inner energy—they manifest as if by themselves. With brush and color I let everything flow and move without effort and without inserting myself. These paintings differ from the traditional works in that they do not originate with a plan or concept. In this process there is no judgment, and no modifications are made. Painting is not an attempt to capture or convey a predetermined experience, nor to create something to be known as an “art piece.” Each painting is a unique experience arising from visions, feelings, sensations, and from the immediate sparkling clarity of mind. As such, painting is a language I speak and a world I explore within myself in every possible spontaneous experience.

Some of my works are created by using a combination of traditional methods and the spontaneous process. For example, I may indeed plan to paint an iconographic image or scene or experience from memory, but then I slip off into essence and spontaneity. I like painting deities and other subjects used for visualization practice in a way that keeps them alive, as they appear in my own meditation. Here, then, I keep to the traditional, but with freedom from the restrictions of lines and rules. This is a way of combining the historical traditions with the immediate experience. I cannot say this is a “new” style, but I feel we are in a period where Tibetan artists can generate a new style that may be very useful.

So while my works differ in style and technique, more important is what they have in common. They share the Buddha’s vision expressed in the tantric teachings, that everything is living light energy, a living universe of all the fantastic wonders of the mind. One can develop this vast space of clarity, love, and awareness, full of the kind of energies that we experience in everyday moments—especially in the sourceless and unending plane of mental energy that manifests through movement and forms.

top | home


Venerable Dru-gu Choegyal Rinpoche is the 8th incarnation in the Dru-gu Choegyal lineage of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, all of whom have been renowned meditation masters as well as gifted artists.

The 8th Choegyal Rinpoche was born in Nangchen, Tibet, in 1946. He was recognized by H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa while still in his mother’s womb. Choegyal Rinpoche was enthroned at the age of four. He spent his early childhood in the Dru-gu region of Tibet, where, he says, “art, spiritual training, and meditation practice were inseparable.” He was a close disciple of H.E. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and H.E. the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche, a great artist himself.

In 1959, Choegyal Rinpoche joined his root guru H.E. Khamtrul Rinpoche who had fled to Kalimpong, India the previous year. There, a growing number of monks and lay followers from Eastern Tibet were forming a refugee community that would provide a base for Choegyal Rinpoche’s life in exile. In 1969, they settled in Tashi Jong in the Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh.
Despite scant financial resources, the people of this community constructed a lively monastery for the study and preservation of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. Choegyal Rinpoche continues to be very active in the art training and preservation programs of the Tashi Jong community, which produces carpets of traditional Tibetan design, woodcarvings, and intricate scroll paintings of the Vajrayana tradition.

Additionally, he established the Tara Bhir Dru-gu Retreat Center, a center for spiritual practice, at Shivapuri Mountain in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. In Tibet, he is rebuilding the Dru-gu Temple of his childhood, has commenced a reforestation project, and is planning a school and clinic for the villagers. These projects are largely supported by proceeds from the sale of his paintings.

Well aware of the potentially negative stresses and influences challenging Tibetan refugee artists today, Rinpoche encourages the exuberant diversity of expressive forms; at the same time he emphasizes the singular purity of motivation that must distinguish all dharma activity. His own work is remarkable both for its radiant clarity and for its range of style—from the ornate precision of traditional religious thankas to tender depictions of Tibetan scenes and impressionistic expressions of his spiritual experiences.

Choegyal Rinpoche’s work has been exhibited across Europe, North and South Americas, and Asia. His paintings, carpets, and carpet designs are included in museums and prominent private collections.

top | home


Website of Dru-gu Choegyal Rinpoche:

Article: Gold Leaf Optional / Living Dharma, Living Art, the Paintings of Dru-gu Choegyal Rinpoche by William Boorstein – Wild Heart Journal. (PDF format)

Video: Two minute excerpt of a video of Choegyal Rinpoche discussing arts of understanding, or Dharma art, in his life – by Barbara Green. Requires Windows Media Player or compatible wmv viewer. Download and play.

top | home


All content Copyright © 2007 Arts of Understanding and individual artiststs. All rights reserved.