The Honourable Fourth Kunchen Yeshi Rinpoche
is an eminent monk of Tashi Jong, India, a famous place of Buddhism.
Kunchen Yeshi Rinpoche was born Tsering Topden in 1963, the Tibetan year of the Water Rabbi, in the town of Toyakra which sits in the shadow of the one of the most holy of mountains in Asia, Mount Kailash, sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, Bon and Jain faiths. Tsering Topden was born in a most difficult time in Tibet. His father died when he was very young and his mother looked to escape the troubles, taking Tsering and his older brother to Nepal when he was two. The conditions for travel were most difficult with the three of them having to travel in the intense summer heat. His brother did not survive. They stayed in Nepal for one year. Mother and child then eventually reached India where they joined her relatives in Tashi Jong, the settlement established by the Eighth Kamtrul Rinpoche as a refuge for the many Tibetans leaving Tibet.
Tsering always wanted to become a Buddhist monk. Living conditions were very difficult and, so sick from tuberculosis that his family thought that he might die, his uncle brought him before the Eighth Khamtrul Rinpoche to seek a blessing. Upon receiving the blessing, Tsering felt something very special. He eventually recovered and his relatives allowed him to become a monk when he was eight and he was admitted to the Khampagar monastery in Tashi Jong under his new name, Kunchen Yeshi.
Kunchen Yeshi attended seminary college at the monastery in Tashi Jong. Bodhisattvacaryavatara Madhyamakavatara Vinaya, logic and others with Khenpo Rinchen, a Sakya lama, for several years. He also received teachings from Tokden Ajam, one of the Tokdens who accompanied Khamtrul Rinpoche on his initial escape from Tibet in 1958. He also received teachings on Bodhisattvacaryavatara from Dorzang Rinpoche. On his thirteenth birthday, Zongnor Rinpoche, a prominent teacher of the Nyingma tradition was visiting Tashi Jong and, upon meeting Kunchen Yeshi, recognized the student monk as the reincarnation of his old tutor Akhu Trinley. With a simple ceremony, Kunchen Yeshe was enthroned as Kunchen Yeshe Rinpoche at Tashi Jong with a similar ceremony subsequently taking place at Mindroling in Dehradun.
For many years after his recognition, Kunchen Yeshi Rinpoche spent his time in retreat, initially under the guidance of his old teacher, Tokden Ajam. When he was twenty five, he was appointed as the disciplinarian of Khampagar monastery. After one year, he took leave from the monastery and went to Nepal where he received the teachings of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
Khyentse Yeshe, a Rinpoche at Tashi Jong, asked him to go to Taiwan to teach some of his followers there in 1989. He stayed in Taiwan for a couple of months for the first time and then his followers asked him to come back for further teaching. His visits laid the foundation to illuminate the path for his followers.
On 21 September, 1999 on the eve of the mid-Autumn Festival, Taiwan was struck by a massive 7.3 magnitude earthquake, one of the worst natural disasters to hit Taiwan in the Twentieth Century. Over 2000 people were killed. One of the areas most devastated was Nantou County. At that time, Rinpoche had just accomplished a one year solitary retreat in Tashi Jong. When he heard what had happened, Rinpoche felt great compassion for the people affected and made his way to Nantou County to give guidance to his followers. He also participated in the local union plan for relief efforts. Rinpoche conducted the Buddha of Compassion Puja to aid people and hasten the disaster relief efforts. The Ceremony went so smoothly and satisfactorily and the Taiwanese people were so impressed by his spontaneous spirit and selfless performance that they wished him to stay in Taiwan. Thus, in 2000, he started Karing Buddhist Center, a retreat center now based in Tainan. Another retreat center was opened in 2014 in Kaoshiung, Taiwan.
In 1989, he also visited Japan and started a Buddhist retreat center in Osaka in 2014. He started another Buddhist teaching center in Hong Kong, the Karing Buddhist Charitable Fund Association in 2015. Now, he mostly resides in Taiwan while giving general teachings based on Buddhist doctrines to his followers. He also brings learned Tibetan teachers to his centers to provide instructions to the followers. He has picked up enough Chinese and can give general Buddhist instructions in Chinese to his Chinese speaking followers.
In 2016, Kunchen Yeshi Rinpoche was appointed first minister of Tashi Jong with a mandate to continue the development of Tashi Jong.