KYABJE Thupten Thrinle Palzang, the fourth Dodrupchen Rinpoche is a great master of Dzogpa Chenpo and a principal lineage holder and propagator of the Longchen Nyingthig teachings.
Rinpoche was born in the Fire Hare year of the sixteenth Rabjung (1927) in Tsi village in the Ser (Serta) Valley of Golok in Eastern Tibet. Tsi is a small village surrounded by rich green fields of wheat, barley, and peas. The green grassy mountain behind is dotted with trees and rocks. The gentle Ser River flows by slowly from right to left. Rinpoche's father was Drala of the Jekar clan, and his mother was Kali Kyi of the Kazhi clan.
Between his conception and the age of six, Rinpoche displayed many miraculous signs. Lushul Khenpo and Lauthang Tulku made a record of these signs up to the age of four. In my childhood, with great curiosity, I read them many times, and the following are some of those that I still remember.
Around the time that he was conceived, his father had a dream in which he was brandishing a crystal sword, which was so long that the end was not visible in the sky. That year almost every day, rainbows appeared over Tsi village, and the monks of the monastery across the river used to joke, "This year all the people of Tsi village are going to attain rainbow body."
While Rinpoche was in the womb, there were many occasions on which his mother entered a dark place, but she could see because of the appearance of a light, which sometimes scared her. One day a snake holding a shining object in its mouth came into the house and then disappeared into the wall in front of a couple of people.
Almost every night a za kept appearing on the roof of the house. The raven without the upper part of its beak, which lives at Dodrupchen Monastery, was seen many times at this distant village. Without any seeds having been sown, a kind of flower unknown in that part of the country covered the roof of the house.
When he was born before dawn, although it was still dark, things became clearly visible because of a light. Many times the baby was found on the upper floor of the house, although he could not walk. His parents, thinking that he must be climbing the stairs, sealed them off. Still they found him on the upper floor a number of times.
Once a big mani stone, a stone on which prayers are carved, fell on Rinpoche. Many of his bones seemed to have been broken, but after a few hours all trace of damage had disappeared. Many people heard him reciting the siddhi mantra, the prayer mantra of Guru Rinpoche, many times.
One day, a disciple of the third Dodrupchen named Guru came to see him. When Rinpoche saw him, he instantly said, "Guru! Guru!" and blessed him by putting his hand on Guru's head and chanting, OM AH HUM, VAJRA GURU PADMA SIDDHI HUM.
The fifth Dzogchen Rinpoche Thupten Chokyi Dorje (1872-1935) gave the following prophecy for Dodrupchen Monastery to indicate where the Tulku of the third Dodrupchen would be found.
The main source of manifestation of the vajra master,
The lord of the Buddha lineages, is the Glorious Mountain of Ngayab Continent.
In the center, which is the great pure land of Sambhogakaya,
There are four emanations: of his body, speech, mind, and virtues.
The manifestation of his action
Has taken birth to the south of the monastery,
At a place among mountains with rocks and trees,
To a skillful means [father] and a wisdom [mother] named Ka and Da
As an auspicious child of the Earth Hare.
There are signs that he will benefit the Dharma and beings.
At the request of devotees,
I, the fifth Dzogchen Tulku Dharmavajra,
Wrote whatever was recalled to my deluded mind.
May the dawn of virtues and goodness fill the earth.
The great Dzogchen yogi Yukhok Chatralwa also said, "In a dream I saw two sacred vases on one mandala, so there will be two incarnations. If the offerings are made to the protectors, you shall find the tulkus very soon."
Then Dzogchen Rinpoche instructed them to conduct the search south of the monastery up to the valleys of Li and Tsang. When the search party from Dodrupchen Monastery visited Tsi village, before his parents knew of their arrival, Rinpoche told them, "Today guests are coming," and he sang happily. When the party who came to examine him presented him with books, rosaries, and other possessions of the previous Dodrupchen mixed with those belonging to other people, he picked up his predecessor's things without a single mistake, saying, "This is mine."
Then the list of names was presented to Dzogchen Rinpoche for his final determination. He picked the name of the present Dodrupchen Rinpoche and composed a long-life prayer for the child, and gave him the name Thupten Thrinle Palzangpo. Many other great lamas also confirmed the recognition, about which they were of one mind.
When the child was four years old, people arrived from Dodrupchen Monastery at Tsi village as the first reception party, headed by Tulku Pema Namgyal (d. 1957), a tulku of Dudjom Lingpa. On the way to the monastery the party camped for the night, and the next morning some of the horses were missing. People searched all around but were unable to find them. They asked Rinpoche where they would find those horses. He pointed his tiny finger toward a mountain, and there they found the horses.
The final reception party, led by Khenpo Konme (1859-1935), received him at Tsangchung plain, about two miles from the monastery. The old khenpo, who came riding a dzo, was accompanied by about one hundred of his monk students. The students in a line after the khenpo came on foot wearing orange-colored monks' robes and holding books in shokalis (cases) as a symbol of their being students of scriptures.
Also at this place Rinpoche met with Rigdzin Tenpe Gyaltsen (1927-1961), who had also been recognized as a fourth Dodrupchen and who was being taken to the monastery to be enthroned simultaneously with him.
Buddhists believe that if you are a highly enlightened person, you can manifest yourself in the form of many beings simultaneously as your incarnations for the service of others. So there are many Dodrupchen incarnations, who are originally emanated by the first Dodrupchen.
Both Rinpoches were brought to Dodrupchen Monastery and into the assembly hall of the main temple by a great company of monks and laypeople, many weeping tears of joy and faith. There they were both enthroned simultaneously, and the occasion was celebrated with great joy.
At Dodrupchen Monastery just after the enthronement ceremonies were completed, Rinpoche stood up on the throne and, laughing, recited The Seven-Line Prayer and some verses from Zheng Shik Pema, to everybody's astonishment.
Then he visited the temple of the Dharma protectors, and from the huge volume of prayers to them, he pulled out the brief one-folio prayer to the Dharma protectors written by the first Dodrupchen and gave it to his father. He could not recognize the letters but recited the prayer by heart, missing one line. Despite the missing line, the meaning was complete.
At the suggestion of Khenpo Konme, his attendants used to give him candy and ask questions, and in response he would tell them about his visions and recollections of past lives. For example:
Q: Where do you come from?
A: From Zangdok Palri.
Q: What is Zangdok Palri like?
A: [Folding his tiny hands in the shape of a heart/mounrain] It is like this.
Q: Who lives there?
A: Guru Rinpoche.
Q: Who else is there?
A: Chenrezik is there.
Q: Do you know Sin-gyal Raksha Thotreng?
Q: What does he look like?
A: Many mouths, many eyes, colorful. [He laughed.]
Another time the questions and answers went as follows: "Where is your residence?" He pointed toward the forest in which the hermitage of his previous life was situated and said, "There." Trying to fool him, they said, "Nothing is there but trees." He replied, "No! no! My house is there!"
Sometimes the Rinpoches made tormas from the tsampa in their bowls and, throwing them, they would say, "May obstacles be turned away." People could see sparks coming from the tormas.
One night he was going to bed but started to recite unknown verses beginning with: "I have never been separate from the enlightenment.'' His attendant tried to write down some of what he recalled. It was a seven-line verse with profound philosophical and meditational meaning. Later on, Kyala Khenpo wrote a commentary on those verses, interpreting them in three ways, according to Mahayoga, Anuyoga, and Atiyoga. Now we have lost both the verses and the commentary by Khenpo.
Khenpo Konme stated, "From the evidence of the signs displayed in childhood, Rinpoche could manifest as a powerful adept with miracles comparable to Do Khyentse." After he grew up, however, except for a few instances, he never displayed any signs of miraculous attainment. In addition, when other lamas, including the other fourth Dodrupchen Rinpoche, displayed miracles or gave prophecies, he repeatedly said to them, "In this age it is not appropriate to display any miracle. It may be harmful to one's life, activities, or the Buddha Dharma. It may cause the secrets of the tantra to be dispersed."
From the age of four, when they were enthroned together, until the age of twenty, the two incarnations of the third Dodrupchen lived and received training together. From the age of five, they started to read the texts with their tutors Puchung Rang-rik and Chokor Lotsul. Monks in general, and especially tulkus, are trained to recite texts very fast, until they can recite an unseen text at sight as fast as one that has already been memorized. The Rinpoches perfected their recitation trainings in less than one year, which was an excellent achievement.
From the age of seven (1933), they began to study the scriptural texts. Their first teacher was Lushul Khenpo, Konchok Dronme (Konme, 1859-1936). They studied the Manjushristotra, Nagarjuna’s Message to a Friend, Bodhicharyavatara, and then Yonten Dzo, a text of complete exposition of sutra and tantra by Jigme Lingpa. But when they got halfway through Yonten Dzo, Konme Khenpo died after a brief illness at the age of seventy-seven, displaying many signs of high spiritual attainment.
In their eleventh year (1937) both Rinpoches went to Gekong Monastery in Dzachukha, where they received the empowerment and the entrustment of Nyingthig Yabzhi and Longchen Nyingthig from Khenpo Kunzang Chotrak (Khenpo Kunpal, 1872-1943), a disciple of Paltrul Rinpoche and the third Dodrupchen. Entrusting them with the lineage, Khenpo told them, "My lineage is authentic, short, powerful, and blessed; it is more extraordinary than other lineages. Now I have handed over the property of the father into the hands of the son." And he was very happy and repeatedly asked the Rinpoches to propagate and uphold the pure golden lineage of Nyingthig, without mixing it with others. During that winter the Rinpoches returned to Dodrupchen Monastery.
At the age of fourteen (1940) Rinpoche became seriously ill. He went to see Apang Terton, Ogyen Thrinle Lingpa (d. 1945), who was staying at the sacred Mount Drong-ri. One day Apang Terton gave him a bowl of chang, fermented beer, to drink. But Rinpoche hesitated. For although he was not an ordained monk, he didn't have the habit of drinking, in order to uphold the discipline of his monastic tradition. But then he thought, "It must be a blessing of the lama," and he drank all of it without any further hesitation. As a result there arose a wonderful awareness, which cannot be explained by words or conceived by thoughts. He was able to answer spontaneously whatever questions the lama had for him, but he made no effort to say anything beyond the answers elicited by the questions. Later, when he went outside the house and felt the wind's touch, it brought an innate confidence that all appearances or existents are unreal like a dream, and a spontaneous revulsion from samsara arose in him. With the arising of these inexplicable feelings of peace and revulsion, a spontaneous realization of innate awareness was born in him.
The next day he went to the lama to present his meditative experiences. Years later Rinpoche said off the meeting, "I felt that I was talking to the lama like a baby.” The lama confirmed his realization and gave him a detailed prophecy of the events of his life till the age of twenty-five. And he also identified Dodrupchen Rinpoche as one of the doctrine holders of the ter teachings discovered by the lama himself. He advised Rinpoche to receive teachings from Yukhok Chatralwa, as Chatralwa was Rinpoche's karmic lama.
One day while Rinpoche was in retreat at So-thok Gyalwe Wenne, he suddenly told his attendant that he had to go to meet Yukhok Chatralwa. With one attendant and a mount, he went to the lama's hermitage, which is about two days' distance. On the way he met his sister, but she did not recognize him because she did not expect that he would be traveling so simply. When he reached the hermitage, the lama was seriously ill. He had not taken food for many days and could hardly move. Rinpoche had an ordinary conversation with the lama for a few hours, upon which the lama asked his attendant to bring him some food. To their surprise he ate some food and slowly recovered completely with no trace of illness. Because of old age, Chatralwa could not stand up. But saying, "I was said to be an old disciple of Dodrupchen, so I have to serve tea to Rinpoche myself;" he would pick up the teapot and pour the tea into Rinpoche's cup. People thought that this was an indication of his accepting the popular belief in his identification as a tulku of Dola Jigme Kalzang, a principal disciple of the first Dodrupchen.
In the spring of his fifteenth year (1941), Rinpoche conferred the complete empowerments and Lung of Longchen Nyingthig on about a thousand monks and nuns at Dodrupchen Monastery.
From ten to eighteen years of age Rinpoche did most of his intellectual studies at Dodrupchen Monastery. His teachers included Chokor Khenpo Kun-ga Lodro, Kyala Khenpo Chochok, Shorwak Khenpo Sherap Trakpa, Kephan Khenpo Thuksung, and Garwa Tulku Dorchok. His studies included sutric texts on the preliminary mind training (Blo sByong), Madhyamaka, Abhidharma, and Vinaya; and tantric texts such as the Guhyagarbha-tantra, theSadhanas of the Three Roots and Vajrakila of Longchen Nyingthig, some of The Seven Treasures by Longchen Rabjam, and Yeshe Lama.
He received training in chanting, music, and mystical gestures (mudra), preparation of mandalas and tormas, and so on——all the functions of a vajra acharya (grand master). In addition to the preliminary practice, he completed the retreat recitation trainings of Rigdzin Dupa, Yumka Dechen Gyalmo, Palchen Dupa, Vajrakila, and the Guhyagarbha-tantra.
In the spring of his nineteenth year (1945), in accordance with the prophecy of Apang Terton, both Dodrupchen Rinpoches went on pilgrimage to Central Tibet with a party of hundreds of people. Also following Apang Terton's instructions, thcy kept their identities secret, except at Mindroling Monastery and Tsering Jong Nunnery. Everywhere else, it was stated that the treasurer of Dodrupchen was traveling to the holy places to make offerings on behalf of the two Rinpoches. They visited many pilgrimage places and monasteries, including Radreng, Lhasa; the three great monasteries, Drepung, Sera, and Ganden; Kangri Thokar; Drak Yangdzong; Dorje Trak; Mindroling; Samye; Tsering Jong; and the holy places of Yarlung.
Rinpoche did a retreat practicing the sadhana of Yumka Dechen Gyalmo (The Queen of Great Bliss), in the room of Jigme Lingpa at Tsering Jong Nunnery. In that retreat he repeatedly experienced for long periods the cessation of all ordinary thoughts and the prevalence of a state of ultimate luminescence (Don Gyi Od gSal) free from conceptualization. At the Kodrzo Ling, the temple of Dharma protectors of Samye Monastery, the oracle spontaneously went into a trance and became possessed by the Dharmapala Tsiu Marpo. He ran to Rinpoche and, making obeisance, offered him the ritual instrument, the "hook," in his hand. Finally, in the autunm of his twentieth year, on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month of the Fire Dog year (1946), they returned to Dodrupchen.
Soon after their return from pilgrimage, Tulku Jigme Phuntsok, who was the head of the administration of Dodrupchen Monastery, supported by most of the monks and lay patrons, requested Rinpoche to take charge of the administration of the monastery with its branch monasteries and parishes (Lha sDe), although many people, such as my teacher Kyala Khenpo, had strong reservations, saying, "Rinpoche should never have the burden of administration responsibilities, as his predecessor never had, because it will distract him from focusing on learning and dealing with the spiritual needs of people." While the third Dodrupchen was present, Dodrupchen Monastery became one of the most flourishing learning institutions in Eastern Tibet, but after the death of Konme Khenpo, the monastery swiftly declined and had hit the rock bottom of its history when Rinpoche was urged to take it over. Rinpoche accepted the responsibility. From that time until the age of thirty (1956), when he was forced to flee, Rinpoche discharged both the functions of the spiritual and the administrative heads of the monastery.
At about twenty-two, Rinpoche visited Joro Monastery, in the Trokyab principality of Gyarong Province. The monks of that monastery made a lance from which was suspended a painting of the Dharmapala Tsiu Marpo. They requested Rinpoche to give blessings and to produce a sign before everybody that the flag was possessed by the dharmapala. Rinpoche refused their request. But the people of Gyarong are known for their persistence, and when the ceremony of the protector was taking place, one of the monks brought in the flag and stood in front of Rinpoche in the midst of about fifty monks, Rinpoche, visibly annoyed with their persistence, hit the flag with a handful of grain, whereupon the lance shook violently. Pulling the flag bearer away and circumambulating the temple once, it retired upstairs to the shrine room of the protectors.
At twenty-four (1950) he went to Yukhok Chatralwa, believed to be a manifestation of Vimalamitra, to receive teachings. The lama taught him the entire practice of Trekcho and Thogal of Dzogpa Chenpo, "like the filling of one vase from another." The lama was a great scholar, but he had stopped giving public teachings or textual explanations. He only gave instructions to students individually, according to each one's capacity, need, and experience. This teaching style is called Nyamtri or Nyongtri, instructions according to the progress of the meditator's experience. Yukhok Chatralwa had the power of knowing the minds of others. When people went to see him, they were apprehensive about the arising of their own bad thoughts.
Rinpoche built a shedra complex with a temple and a residence for the khenpo surrounded by rooms for the students. When I was studying in the shedra, there were twenty-five regular students and about the same number of auditing students. All the regular students were on scholarships granted by the monastic funds provided by Rinpoche. The main courses of study at the shedra were Pramana (logic), Prajnaparamita (transcendental wisdom), Madhyamaka (middle-way philosophy), Abhidharma (Buddhist psychology and metaphysics), and Vinaya (monastic and lay disciplines) of sutra and Yizhin Dzo, Yonten Dzo and Guhyagarbha-tantra of tantra. However, teachings on the three-root sadhanas, and so on, and of Dzogpa Chenpo were given not in this facility, but in a more secluded environment for selected advanced students.
In the spring of his twenty-fifth year (1951) Rinpoche left for Dege Province to receive various lineal transmissions. From Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1893-1959) of Dzongsar Monastery, Rinpoche received the empowerments (dBang) and textual transmissions (Lung) of Semde Adon Chogye, Longde Dorje Zampa, Me-ngagde, the thirteen divisions of Kama, Dupa Do, Gongpa Zangthal, Trolthik, Longchen Nyingthig, and the Sungbum of Khyentse Wangpo as well as the empowerments of Kalachakra, Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, and Vajrabhairava. From Kongtrul Pema Tri-me Lodro (190l-1959?) of Zhechen Monastery, Rinpoche received the empowerments and textual transmissions of the Changter cycle of Rigdzin Godem, the thirteen volumes of the Minling cycle, the three major traditions of Kagye, and the Kagyu Ngagdzo. From Namtrul Drodul Karkyi Dorje of Gyarong Monastery, Rinpoche received the empowerments and textual transmissions of Rinchen Terdzo, Kagye Deshek Dupa, Lama Gongdu, the six volumes of Jatson, Tercho of Namcho, Tercho of Nyima Trakpa, and the nine volumes of Jigme Lingpa. He also studied poetry and Guhyagarbha-tantra with Khenpo Thup-nyen of Dzogchen Monastery.
In return Rinpoche gave the empowerment of Khandro Nyingthig to Khyentse Chokyi Lodro and many other transmissions to his teachers.
Among the teachers from whom he received scholarly instructions were Khenpo Konchok Dronme, Khenpo Kang-nam, Khenpo Chochok, Tulku Dorchok, and Khenpo Thup-nyen. He received lineal transmission of various teachings from the fifth Dzogchen Rinpoche, Gekong Khenpo, Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, Zhechen Kongtul, and Gyarong Namtrul. He received the inner instructions and introduction to Dzogpa Chenpo realization from Apang Terton and Yukhok Chatralwa.
He conferred the empowerments and lung of the thirteen volumes of Lama Gongdu, and the thirteen texts of Kama on one to two thousand monks at Dodrupchen Monastery. One day, while he was distributing blessed water fiom the vase, the water ran out and no one was waiting to replenish it, as is normally done. Visibly irritated, he shook the vase a couple of times and then resumed the distribution of blessed water to the rest of the assembly, even though no one had refilled it.
With foreknowledge of the changing situation, he constructed a large and beautiful but solid temple out of bricks with a tile roof, which was then a new kind of structure in Golok, saying, "It might be useful if people have to abandon the monastery for a few years."
Rinpoche commissioned the carving of the wooden blocks of Dzodun in seven volumes by Longchen Rabjam. Soon most of Golok was filled with the copies of Dzodun. He built a large image of Guru Rinpoche and images of all the teachers of`the lineages of Vima Nyingthig, Khandro Nyingthig, and Longchen Nyingthig. The images were made of copper gilded with gold. He collected a large library, including new editions of Kanjur, Tenjur, Kama, and Rinchen Terdzo in addition to many other volumes of sutras and tantras. Rinpoche also provided a number of endowments for ceremonies and studies to Dodrupchen and other monasteries.
At the request of devotees he visited different parts of Golok, Serta, Amdo, Rekong, Mewa, Gyarong, and Minyak, where he gave initiations and instructions to tens of thousands of people.
In the summer of the Fire Monkey year (1956), he gave the empowerment of Rinchen Terdzo at the Dodrupchen Monastery. He also gave instructions on the meditation of Dzogpa Chenpo to many fortunate people individually, according to the Nyongtri tradition.
Soon Rinpoche decided to leave his beloved land because of the dangers of the changing political situation in Tibet. Many decades before, the third Dodrupchen had examined his dreams about the future political dangers. One night he dreamed that someone brought a message written on a slate, saying "Khyentse Wangpo sent it to you." On the slate he saw the following lines:
The great river will flow from power [i.e. west or red] to peace [i.e., east or white].
The two insects will move through both upper lands and lower lands.
Through the conforming rhythm [of the tunes] of the flute,
The Land of Coolness [Tibet] will be plunged into darkness.
At that time, when the top-knot [the lama]
Hears that he should go north for ten, ten,
Sixteen, and four,
He will become scared and will go to the Noble Land [India],
In a pleasant place, in the midst of a thick forest,
While dwelling in a peaceful samadhi, before him,
Many sky-dressed people will assemble
[And] will enter into the path of Mahayana.
The profound and vast excellent path shall shine as the daylight.
Rinpoche secretly arranged for a group of thirteen to leave, breaking them into three parties. Five of us- my tutor Kyala Khenpo. Rinpoche's mother, Rinpoche's nephews Thupten Jorgye and Rigdzin Phuntsok, and I myself -- left for Lhasa first, as he advised us, on the first day of the twelfth month of the Fire Monkey year (1957). Rinpoche’s uncle Lama Sangye and Sonam, his nephew, planned to stay behind and come as the last group. But Rinpoche himself, along with a young attendant of Rinpoche's named Jamyang, two nephews of Rinpoche named Dechen Dorje and Kunden, and the mother of the nephews, planned to leave in the second group.
While Rinpoche was on a visit to Panchen Monastery in Mar Valley, two days to the east of Dodrupchen Monastery, one night he and the people of his parry secretly fled, disguised as lay pilgrims.
Taking very little money and carrying some belongings on their backs, they walked for ten days until they reached Kardze town. This was the first experience for Rinpoche and his companions not only of traveling on foot but of carrying bags on their backs, which inflicted exhaustion and sores. During most of the journey they hid in caves, woods, or hills during the day and crossed the high mountains and steep valleys at night. At Kardze, they were lucky to be able to get crammed into a Chinese track going to Lhasa.
According to the original plan, our party was supposed to wait for Rinpoche in Drak Yangdzong, where Guru Rinpoche and many sages had meditated in the past, two days south of Lhasa. But Rinpoche took longer than we expected, and on the second day of the second month of the Fire Bird year (1957), Kyala Khenpo died, because of his age and the hardship of traveling. Worrying that Rinpoche and his party hadn't been able to escape, we set out to return to Lhasa, and just halfway, by luck, we ran into Rinpoche and his companions, and we all headed for Lhasa together.
In Lhasa, Rinpoche had many long-standing noble and ordinary devotees, but he chose not to get in touch with any of them. However, he did meet Zhechen Kongtru1 Rinpoche (1901-1959?), one of his teachers, and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991). Kongtrul Rinpoche advised him to go to Kongpo because it is a pleasant and more prosperous place than Lhasa. Rinpoche responded with silence.
It is Rinpoche's nature that he hardly discloses his plans in advance, unless it is necessary. So when we left Golok, we thought we were just going to Lhasa. But after making simple offerings to the holy places in Lhasa. he said, "We are going to Zhigatse," a town in Western Tibet. After spending a few days in Zhigatse, he said, "Now we are going to India." But at the border, as we didn’t have money to claim we were traders, we couldn’t get a passport from the authorities to go to India. Even if we could avoid the border guards, India wouldn’t let us in, as there was no recognition of refugee status for Tibetans at that time. After waiting for months, Rinpoche got a letter from Prince Palden Thondrup Namgyal (who later became the Chogyal) of Sikkim, instructing the border guards to let him enter Sikkim, a state on the border of India and Tibet, later absorbed into India.
At the age of thirty-one, on the nineteenth day of the eighth month of the Fire Bird year (October 12, 1957), Rinpoche arrived in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Once again he was adorned with the robes of a lama with recognition as the Dodrupchen. From then on he made Sikkim, the land blessed by Guru Rinpoche as one of the "hidden lands,'' as his permanent residence. His coming to Sikkim wasn't just an incident, but a mission that was to be fulfilled. Apang Terton Ogyen Thrinle Lingpa (d. 1945), one of Rinpoche's teachers, had prophesied it many decades earlier, saying:
A hidden yogi from the valley of Kongpo
Will come to the Valley of Rice [Sikkim] when the changes take place.
And an incarnation of [Prince] Murum Tsepo and Sangye Lingpa
Will demonstrate the esoteric activities of a tantric yogi.
People who see, hear, think of, or touch him will be liberated from the inferior realms.
In 1958, Rinpoche performed a number of ceremonies for his ailing teacher Khyentse Chokyi Lodro in Sikkim and Darjeeling. During a ceremony of "sending back the welcoming dakinis," Khyentse Rinpoche had a vision of lamas including Jigme Lingpa in a vast clear space. Among them there was also an unknown lama with a round face and short beard, who had wrapped his long hair around his head.
At the age of thirty-three, in the winter of 1959, Rinpoche made a pilgrimage to major Buddhist pilgrimage places in India and Nepal. The years 1959 and 1960 were most difficult, not just because of being a refugee in a country with a different culture and language, but also because first Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, one of Rinpoche's root teachers, passed away in Sikkim, in the spring of 1959, and then Trulzhik Pawo Dorje of Minyak, another great ascetic lama and a close friend of Rinpoche's passed away in Sikkim in 1960. The fate of the whole of Tibet and of the Tibetans trapped in their own burning home country became unknown. Rinpoche wrote:
The whole world is changing before us like a magic show.
The existents are unreliable like bubbles.
The monasteries, the loved ones in Dharma, and the kin--
All have become mere memories.
Although I cannot see them, their fate is apparent.
Thinking this, I am sad.
I will exert all my efforts in earning the essence of Dharma.
Holy teachers and kind friends
Were here just now but, like gatherings at a fair,
Have disappeared, and I find myself alone, left behind.
Thinking this. I feel sad……
Placing the concepts of happiness and sadness in the emptiness sphere, and
Tossing worldly chores like camphor to the air,
I embrace the unexcelled sacred swift path,
Which is the heart-essence of dakas and dakinis, and
The crucial heart-artery of Dharmakaya, which has no reference point or basis.
The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology (later renamed the Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology), an institute of Tibetan studies, was opened near Gangtok by the joint efforts of the governments of India and Sikkim. Since April of 1960, Rinpoche has held the position of a fellow representing the Nyingma school at this institute.
He took as his consort Khandro Pema Dechen of the Dekyi Khangsar family of Drukla of Kongpo Valley. Since the age of sixteen, Khandro had meditated for many years in caves and huts at many sacred mountains and hermitages, often with very little sustenance. In addition to many other practices, she accumulated thirteen sets of the fivefold hundred thousand ngondro practice.
As the activities of bodhisattvas are always open and giving for the benefit of others and the Dharma, without thinking of the limitations and hardships of his own life as a new refugee, Rinpoche kept spending all that he could manage to support Dharma projects. He commissioned zinc blocks to reprint the Longchen Dzodun, in seven volumes, by Longchen Rabjam. After amny years they were completed with the dedicated service of Lama Sangya, one of Rinpoche’s devout attendants, despite his ill health and summer heat of 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Varanasi. Rinpoche also commissioned wooden blocks carved for the printing of many liturgical texts of the Longchen Nyingthig. As a result, these texts, which had been very difficult to obtain in exile, became easily available, and it helped those teachings to be spread in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Since the middle of the 1960s it has been easy and even profitable to print Tibetan texts, but in the early 1960s the printing involved great difficulty and expenditure with no commercial values.
After the Dzodun was printed, he presented the blocks to the late king of Bhutan, since that country had been one of the seats of Longchen Rabjam, and to this day there are a considerable number of Bhutanese who follow the Nyingthig tradition. He hoped that more editions would be produced from the blocks under the patronage of the royal government of Bhutan.
Since the first publication of the Dzodun, he published many more texts, including a second edition of the Dzodun in seven volumes, Ngalso Korsum in three volumes, the Sungbum of Jigme Lingpa in nine volumes, the Sungbum of the Third Dodrupchen in five volumes, and many prayers and texts that are part of the course books of the Choten Gompa.
In 1972, Rinpoche recognized the seventh Dzogchen Rinpoche, Jigme Losal Wangpo (b. 1964) as the fifth Dzogchen Rinpoche—the lama who had recognized Rinpoche himself. The enthronement of the seventh Dzogchen Rinpoche was held in the royal temple at Gangtok on October 8, 1972, and Rinpoche officiated.
At the age of forty-seven, in the summer of 1973, Rinpoche visited the West and East coasts of the United States. He gave teachings and established a Dharma Center named Mahasiddha Nyingmapa Center in Massachusetts. Some years later the center built a temple with a stupa and a couple of meditation cabins on a small piece of land in South Hawley in western Massachusetts. This center has remained small and simple. Rinpoche always advised the members, "We should try our best to avoid using the Dharma or the Dharma center to gain petty powers, emotional ambitions, or worthless names. Our goal is not to make the center into a famous organization, but to make it a simple, peaceful, and natural abode. Only then can the center become a source of true benefits to the minds of people, whoever is associated with it."
Since 1973, once every two years, Rinpoche visits the Mahasiddha Center and Buddbayana in the United States to teach Dharma, and he has transmitted many teachings, including Nyingthig Yabzhi, Longchen Nyingthig, and the teachings of ngondro, Rigdzin Dupa, Yumka, and Dzogpa Chenpo. He has also visited a number of European and South Asian countries many times to teach and to bestow empowerments.
So far as I know, Rinpoche's major transmissions of empowerments, textual transmissions and teachings have included Longchen Nyingthig seventeen times, the empowerment and lung of Nyingthig Yabzhi twelve times, the empowerments and lung of Nyingma Kama three times, the empowerment of Lama Gongdu twice, the empowerment of the six volumes of Jatson three times, and the empowerment of Rinchen Terdzo three times. Also he gave the textual transmission of the Dzodun and the works of the third Dodrupchen Rinpoche many times.
Rinpoche is one of the great masters of Dzogpa Chenpo meditation, and he teaches it to many disciples in the tradition of Nyongtri, teaching according to the experiences of the individual meditators. His Nyongtri tradition mainly came to him from his teacher Yukhok Chatralwa, but it originally came from Longchen Rabjam and Jigme Lingpa through the lineage of the first Dodrupchen, Paltrul Rinpoche, and the third Dodrupchen.
Since 1960, Rinpoche has lived mainly at the Choten Gompa near Gangtok in Sikkim. On May 31, 1979, Rinpoche opened a drupdra, a meditation school, at the Choten Gompa and named it Drubde Pema Oling. Monks there are, by rotation, doing three-year and three-month meditation trainings in strict retreats. Soon he started to receive many resident students at the Choten Gompa. Today he has about five hundred resident monks and novices at the gompa. Most of them are teenage boys who are from Bhutan, Sikkim, and Nepal, or the sons of Tibetan refugees. Rinpoche single-handedly looks after their board, lodging, education, and health care. Many of the students have completed their education and have been sent back to where they came from to propagate the Dharma.
For years, Rinpoche has frequently visited Bhutan to serve the Dharma and its followers in many places, including Yongla Gon. The Nyingthig lineage has a long-standing connection with Bhutan, since Longchen Rabjam lived and propagated Dharma there for a long time. He built the Tharpa Ling Monastery in Eastern Bhutan. His son Tulku Trakpa Ozer was born to his Bhutanese consort, Kyipa. Also, one of the main disciples of Jigme Lingpa was Jigme Kuntrol of Bhutan, who built the Yongla Gon Monastery in Eastern Bhutan.
Beginning in 1984, Rinpoche has visited Golok, his home valley, many times and has given the empowerments of Longchen Nyingthig, Nyingthig Yabzhi, and many other transmissions and teachings at Dodrupchen Monastery, which is being rebuilt. He has also reopened the scripture college at Dodrupchen Monastery. In the summer of 1994, on his sixth return to Dodrupchen Monastery, Rinpoche gave the empowerments of Rinchen Terdzo. People had only a couple of weeks' notice of the Rinchen Terdzo transmission, but over seven thousand monks and nuns, including about three hundred Tulkus and khenpos, assembled for the transmission from Golok, Serta, Amdo, Gyarong, Minyak, and other areas.
Rinpoche hosting a ceremony at Dodrupchen Monastery with Long-yang Rinpoche and Theglo Rinpoche in the summer of 2009.
Rinpoche is always engaged in quiet activities that may be simple in nature or of great significance. He is constantly devoting his life to an unending cycle of service. The goal of all his efforts is to serve others, to make a difference, to make the Dharma accessible, without any personal expectation or interest in fame or glory. He repeats, "I am doing all that I can for the service of Dharma and beings. I am sorry if anybody is expecting me to be doing things for the sake of niceties or glamour, but I don't care enough for that." Yet he is always aware of the needs and concerns of others without regard to high or low, and he supports them with his kindness according to their needs and wishes, without concern for his own interests.
He is neither excited by good circumstances nor depressed by bad circumstances, as he accepts all with equanimity saying, "Life is too short and too precious to waste in worrying over silly things." He is careful to stay away from any source of disharmony, dispute, and secular or religious politics in order to protect the integrity and purity of the Dharma tradition. Despite the many opportunities to do so, he never acts to improve his own position but works only for the benefit of people and to serve Dharma. He maintains the integrity of not pandering to the expectations or wishes of others when these are not truly in their own best interests, but always gives to people what they really need, even if it is not what they think they want at the moment. He is most appalled by people who flatter. He says, "I feel myself burning with shame before people who come to me and say the nicest things while thinking the opposite." He is a most tolerant person who never blames others for their misdeeds or ungratefulness, saying, "All that happens is because of karma. What else can I or they do except try to improve the karma?" He is very careful at every step of his work but then is detached from the success or failure of his projects. The most impressive quality of Rinpoche is not necessarily how he looks, what he says, or even what he does, but what he is. He is a powerful and solid person of an utmost simple, most profound, and infinite presence. Yet he doesn't want anyone to become attached or be dependent on him. And he doesn't impose his authority on others, since he is so ordinary and unassuming -- a natural display of the true nature.
Of the two fourth Dodrupchen Rinpoches, Thupten Thrinle Palzang Rinpoche never talked about the dangers that were coming. But he knew, and suddenly left and escaped to India. He is dedicating his life not just to preserving the tradition but to spreading the most sublime tradition of Longchen Nyingthig in India and abroad. Rigdzin Tenpe Gyaltsen Rinpoche always warned us since about 1950, "A day will come when we will not have the right to have even a cup of tea to enjoy. If you can, dedicate your life to Dharma training, and spend your property for a worthy cause. At least enjoy your life and wealth while you have the freedom." He also used to tell us about the escape routes through the no-man's-land in the north, but he himself never wanted to leave. His destiny was to go to prison and die with those people who were in the greatest pain. The two Rinpoches both knew the situation and had the choice in their hands; their goals of preserving and helping others were the same, but the roles they had to play were different.
Many thanks to Tulku Thondup for his clarity and kindness in allowing this extraordinary biography to be placed on Dodrupchen Monastery website; and to Shambhala Publications for permission to excerpt this biography from Masters of Meditation and Miracles, by Tulku Thondup.