Rinpoche or Rimpoche (pronounced: rin-PO-shay) is a Tibetan Buddhist religious/theological honorific title. “Rinpoche” literally means “the precious one in human kind”. Presently the title is used to describe any esteemed lama or tulku who head a Buddhist temple. In Tibet and Bhutan, when used alone it refers to Padmasambhava, also called Guru Rinpoche, who first brought Tibetan Buddhism to the Himalayas.
A sampling of web definitions may render help in understanding the more specific usage and religious implications of the title:
- (Tib. = “Precious”). Honorific applied to reincarnate lamas and other highly respected persons .
- (Tibetan rin-po-che) – literally, precious. A term of respect added to a lama’s name .
- The title for an incarnate lama, meaning “Precious One” in Tibetan .
- ‘precious one’ – a term of endearment used respectfully for Teachers and Gurus. It does not have a technical meaning or imply a ranking or level of hierarchy amongst lineage teachers .
- Literally ‘precious one’. Rinpoche is used as a respectful form of address to ones teacher. It is a mistaken assumption that the term Rinpoche indicates an incarnate Lama; although all incarnate Lamas are called Rinpoche by their students .
- “Supremely precious,” a title of respect normally reserved for highly revered incarnate masters .
By historic measures the title “Rinpoche” may be considered over-used and indicates little other than a title of respect, especially in cases where the title is self-applied.