Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (1893 - 1959)
from Masters of Meditation and Miracles by Tulku Thondup
Kyabje Khyentse Chokyi Lodro of Dzongsar was the greatest master of many lineages of this century. He was born in the Water Snake year of the fifteenth Rabjung (1893) at Rekhe Ajam near Kathok Monastery. His father was a tantric master called Gyurme Tsewang Gyatso, the grandson of Terton Dudul Rolpatsal of Ser Valley of Amdo, and his mother was Tsultrim Tso of Ser Valley of Amdo. His father named him Jamyang Chokyi Lodro. At the age of six, Khyentse learned to read texts with his uncle with little effort. When he was seven, Kathok Situ Chokyi Gyatso, the nephew of Khyentse Wangpo, brought him to Kathok Monastery and recognized him as the action-manifestation of Khyentse Wangpo, as prophesied by Kongtrul Yonten Gyatso. Situ performed the hair-cutting ceremony and named him Jamyang Lodro Gyatso.
Situ assigned his own tutor, Khenpo Thupten Rigdzin, to Khyentse, and under his tutorship Khyentse studied prayers, grammar, astrology, Sanskrit, and many scriptures. From Kathok Situ he received the transmission of Nyingthig Yabzhi, Longsal cycles, and many other scriptures, and Situ became the most important person for his spiritual path and secular life.
From Adzom Drukpa in Trom Valley he received Longchen Nyingthig, Gongpa Zangthal, Lama Yangtig transmissions, and the introduction to Trekcho meditation.
When Khyentse was thirteen, his tutor, who took care of him like a parent, died after being seriously ill for three years. During those final years, Khyentse took care of him personally with his own hands, cooking, washing, fetching water for him, and so on. Khyentse believed that his service not only pleased his tutor but also purified qualities within himself. After his tutor's death, Khyentse studied Domsum, Yonten Dzo, Yizhin Dzo, Khenjuk, and the texts by Asanga with Kathok Situ, Khenpo Kunpal, and many others.
When he was fifteen, because of the death of the young Khyentse Tulku at Dzongsar Monastery, Chokyi Lodro moved his residence to Dzongsar, the seat of Khyentse Wangpo. At such a young age it was a difficult challenge to find himself in a new environment, facing a great deal of opposition to his taking over the main seat. But slowly he calmed everything down with the power of his skill, fearlessness, tolerance, and compassion. With Khenpo Champa Wangchuk he studied Abhidharma, Abhisamayalamkara, and Madhyamakavatara. Soon he himself started to teach many texts to selected students at Dzongsar.
At seventeen, from Thartse Ponlop Loter Wangpo he received the Sakya transmissions of Lamdre Lopshe, the tantra of Hevajra, and other scriptures. At eighteen, from his father he received the transmissions of Rinchen Terdzo and the ter teachings of Chogling. At nineteen, from Khenpo Samten Lodro he received Drupthap Kuntu and other transmissions. In that year his father, the master of tantras, passed away. At twenty, he received many transmissions from Thartse Zhaptrung Champa Kunzang Tenpe Nyima, but then the lama died.
At twenty-six, he went to Dzogchen Monastery and received ordination as a monk from Khenpo Jigme Pema Losal. Also, from Zhechen Gyaltsap he received transmissions of Changter, Minling ter, and many other teachings. That same year, he established a shedra called Khamche at Dzongsar Monastery. He invited Zhenphen Chokyi Nangwa (aka Zhen-ga, 1871-1927) of Dzogchen Monastery as the first khenpo to teach at the new shedra. Later it became a famous institution from which many great scholars emerged.
At twenty-eight, he went to Golok for many months' visit to see the third Dodrupchen, Jigme Tenpe Nyima. He received the empowerments of Rigdzin Dupa and Ladrup Thigle Gyachen. He also received teachings on Yeshe Lama, Longchen Nyingthig, and The Outline of Guhyagarbha-mayajala-tantra. From Konme Khenpo of Dodrupchen Monastery he received the transmissions of the Damcho Dechen Lamchok cycle discovered by the first Dodrupchen as a ter. From Terton Sogyal he received Vajrakila and Trolthik transmissions.
At thirty-two, at Zhechen Monastery, he again received many transmissions, including Dam-ngak Dzo and Changter from Zhechen Gyaltsap Pema Namgyal, who became one of his important teachers.
At thirty-three, he went on a pilgrimate to Central Tibet. At Mindroling Monastery he took the ordination of a monk from Khenpo Ngawang Thupten Norbu for the second time, as his predecessor had been ordained at this monastery in the lower Vinaya lineage.
Just before his return from Central Tibet, Kathok Situ died. After that, for about fifteen years Khyentse also looked after the administration of Kathok Monastery. He built many religious monuments, restrengthened the scriptural college, and enthroned the new talku of Kathok Situ, as recognized by the fifth Dzogchen Rinpoche.
He received many tantric transmissions of the Geluk school from Jampal Rolwe Lodro, popularly known as Amdo Geshe, who lived in Golok. He received the Lamdre Lopshe, Vajrabhairava, and Mahakala cycles from Gaton Ngawang Lekpa. From Kathok Khenpo Ngawang Palzang he received transmissions of the Khandro Yangtig, Longsal, and Dudul cycles. In total, he studied with about eighty masters from all the different traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.
He accomplished many meditations and recitation of numerous sadhanas of both Old and New traditions of tantra, including the fivefold hundred-thousand accumulation of ngondro (for prostrations he did only forty thousand accumulations) and the recitation of the sadhanas of Takhyung Barwa, Sengdongma, Ladrup Thigle Gyachen, Vajrakila, Tara and Palchen Dupa of Longchen Nyingthig, and the Ladrup of Khandro Yangtig.
He had many visions, accomplished many attainments, and manifested many spiritual powers, but because of his humility he only indicates a few of them in his autobiography:
If I had been trained myself in logic,
I could have acquired good knowledge of reasoning, But it would have brought little benefit.
As I was able to memorize
The Three-Root Sadhanas, the Magon, and other prayers of Longchen Nyingthig, and
Some assembly prayers of the Ngor tradition,
I had good habits [or memories] of the past lives.... I remembered the glorious Sakya Monastery,
Clearly in my mind again and again, and
Taking birth in the Khon family,
In my past lives.
I remembered being Ngan Panchen, great Lhatsun, Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso,
Tsang-yang Gyatso, Palkhyen, and others.... Thangtong Gyalpo introduced me
To the nature of intrinsic awareness with the support of a crystal. In dreams I saw Aryasthavira Angaja,
Vimalamitra, and Longchenpa.
I received long-life empowerment from Khyentse Wangpo. From the great bodhisattva Paltrul
I received instruction on the ngondro of Longchen Nyingthig. From Nupchen Sangye Yeshe
I received entrustments of many tantras.
I experienced or dreamed of the receiving of blessings From some lamas of Lamdre,
Milarepa, and Tsongkhapa. I was shown the tantric disciplines
By Lhatsun Namkha Jigme.
There were many incidents of his displaying powers. Once he blessed a new image, and it became hot to the touch. When he blessed the Mahakala image of the Dzang Mahakala temple, the image moved as if it were alive. When he prepared ambrosia, beams of light arched around the temple. At the time of an empowerment of Vaishravana, gold dust rained through the air. Many times the distribution of a small amount of blessing pills or nectar became an inexhaustible supply for a huge assembly of devotees.
At fifty-six, he married Khandro Tsering Chodron (b. 1925) of the Aduk Lakar family as his spiritual consort. According to his own prophecies and those of Khyentse Wangpo and Kongtrul Yonten Gyatso, this union was for dispelling the obstructions of his life and for promoting his enlightened activities.
He gave numerous transmissions of Nyingma, Sakya, and Kagyu teachings to disciples of various Buddhist traditions of Tibet, including the empowerments of Yabzhi three times and of Longchen Nyingthig many times and the teaching on Yonten Dzo three times.
At the age of sixty-three, traveling through Lhasa he reached India and survived the political turmoils of Tibet. He went on a pilgrimage to all the sacred places of Buddhism in India and Nepal. Then he made the Palace Chapel of the king of Sikkim his main temporary residence and continued to give endless teachings and transmissions to devotees from all walks of life.
At the age of sixty-seven, on the sixth day of the fifth month of the Earth Pig year of the sixteenth Rabjung (1959), he passed away amid signs of lights, earthquakes and sounds. Today most of his remains are preserved in a small golden stupa at the Royal Chapel of Sikkim, which Khandro Tsering Chodron takes care of while dedicating her life to meditation and prayers.
His tulku is Thupten Chokyi Gyatso (Khyentse Norbu, b. 1961?), the son of Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche and the late Jamyang La, and the grandson of Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche and Lopon Sonam Zangpo of Bhutan.