Ven Khenpo Sonam Tenphel was born at Rekhe in Kham on 18th July 1974 and started primary school education there. He then joined the Nari Tashi Choeling monastery and studied preliminary Buddhist teachings, meditation and rituals. He fled to India in 1993 and received an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Later, he joined Ngagyur Nyingma Institute (Shedra) of Namdroling monastery, located in Bylakuppe, South India. He received a Higher Secondary Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, and Master of Buddhist philosophy in Buddhist sutras and tantras from the institute. Following that he served as a teacher after receiving the titles of Kyorpon and Lopon. After completing his intensive Buddhist studies in 2003, he was appointed as a disciplinarian at Namdroling monastery for three years. He was honored with the Khenpo title after completing his Doctorate in Buddhist Philosophy (equivalent to Ph. D) in 2011. He has received transmissions from numerous Lamas including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kyabje Dubwang Rinpoche, Kyabjey Taklung Rinpoche, Kyabjey Shichen Rabjam Rinpoche, and others.
He was elected to the 14th, 15th, and 16th TPiE from the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. He was the Deputy Speaker of the 15th TPiE and the Speaker of the 16th TPiE. Khenpo Sonam Tenphel is the Speaker of the 17th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.