The Third Dezhung Rinpoche Kunga Tenpai Nyima (sDe-gzhung Rin-po-che Kun-dga’ bstan-pa’i nyi-ma) was born as Kunchog Lhundrub (dKon-mchog lhun-grub) in 1906 to a family of renowned physicians residing in the Kham region of eastern Tibet.
From a young age, he felt strong devotion to the Buddhadharma, and at the age of five, requested his parents to send him to a monastery so that he could concentrate on the Buddhist path. His parents sent him to stay with his uncle, Ngawang Nyima (Ngag-dbang nyi-ma), a monk engaged in retreat at Tharlam Monastery (Thar-lam dGon). Over the next five years, the young boy demonstrated such extraordinary intelligence and qualities that Gaton Ngawang Legpa Rinpoche (sGa-ston Ngag-dbang legs-pa Rin-po-che), a renowned Sakya master, recognized him as the reincarnation of the previous Dezhung Rinpoche. In 1921, at the age of fifteen, he took the novice vows of a monk from Ngawang Legpa.
Dezhung Rinpoche continued his studies and eventually became the abbot of Tharlam Monastery, where he gave extensive teachings and empowerments. He was staunchly non-sectarian and came to be a revered and beloved master for practitioners from all four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. By 1960, following the Chinese invasion of Tibet, it became clear to Dezhung Rinpoche that he would need to escape his homeland if he wished to carry on teaching the Dharma. That very year, he would accompany some fellow Sakya masters in moving to the US, to engage in research at the University of Washington, in Seattle.
Dezhung Rinpoche would end up staying in the US for a quarter of a century, travelling widely across the world to give teachings and bestow initiations. He also founded Dharma centers in various cities in the US and re-established Tharlam Monastery in Kathmandu, after the original monastery in Tibet was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution that swept China and Tibet from 1966 to 1976. In 1986, Dezhung Rinpoche moved to live at Tharlam Monastery and passed away there in 1987 at the age of 81.