Gaton Ngawang Lekpa Rinpoche Biography (1864 - 1941)

Based on oral teachings of Dezhung Rinpoche and notes from the biography of Lekpa
Rinpoche by sDe-gzhung A-'jam sprul-sku Kun-dga' -bstan-pa'i-rgyal-msthan.

Ngawang Lekpa Rinpoche was born in Kham Provence, Tibet, in the Wood Mouse year of
1864, the son of Kunga Trakpa and Lhamo Dronma. While in the womb his mother dreamt
that her body was a monastery. Again, Lhamo Dronma had a vision of seeing the protector
Citipati dancing by the cave of Ngawang Shedrup Gyatso who in turn told her that Lekpa
Rinpoche was the incarnation of Ngor Ewam Ponlop. Lama Ngawang Shedrup, well versed
in the practices of Vajrayogini, taught Lekpa Rinpoche to read. Citipati appeared because it
is a great protector for Lekpa Rinpoche. During this period of his life although living near a
Drikung monastery Rinpoche was always running away from home trying to reach Tharlam
monastery some distance away. At age seven, from the Ngor Khenchen Dorje Chang Kunga
Tenpa'i Lodro, he received upasaka vows, the Cause and Path Hevajra initiations and White
Sarasvati. For the upasaka vows Rinpoche was given the name Tsultrim Gyaltsen. At this time
Ngor Khenchen stated that Tsultrim Gyaltsen's previous life was that of a tulku of Tharlam
monastery. His prior recognition as a Ngor Ewam Tulku is secondary. This Holy Lama passed
away soon after.

At the age of nine Rinpoche completed the retreats of White Tara and Bhutadamara
Vajrapani. In front of Ngawang Shedrup, at the age of ten, he completely received the
initiation and intsructions of Naro Khachodma. From the ages of twelve to sixteen he
was looked after by Oumsey Lodro Zangpo and it was a very difficult period of time
for him. At the age of sixteen in front of the Khenpo Thutop Wangchug Jamyang Tenzin
Thinley he received the entire Four Lineages of Mahakala in the two armed form, outer,
inner and secret. After completing a three month retreat accomplishing one-hundred-million
of the short mantra and six-million-four-hundred-thousand of the long, Rinpoche actually
saw Mahakala. During the retreat the offering torma grew thick black hair like those
of a yak, and in the sun they reflected many different colours like a rainbow. In the
Caturmukha Mahakala history text the growing of black hair from the torma is a sign of
attaining the siddhis. This is also found in the biographies of many great lamas. The Four
Lineages of Mahakala are from [1] Vajrasana, [2] Gayadhara, [3] Mal Lotsawa, and
[4] Kashmiri Pandita Shakyashri. From Khenpo Thutop Wangchug he also received the
very extensive initiation and instructions of Naro Kachodma, the scriptuarl reading for the
Collected Works of Morchen, Yogini, and the initiation of Citipati, etc.

At the age of eighteen, after seeing animals being slaughtered, he became vegetarian accompanied
by a life long fondness for rock candy. Travelling to Ngor Ewam Choden Monastery, he stayed
for two years, receiving from Khangsar Khenpo Chetsun Ngawang Lodro Nyingpo the three
preliminary entrance initiations of Bhutadamara, Ushnishavijaya and Parnashavari, afterwards
he received the Lamdre Tsogshe, the Pod Ser, Pod Mar, Thartse Panchen Cho Chod scriptural
readings, and the initiation and instructions for Shri Caturmukha. As is the custom at Ngor Ewam,
during this Lamdre, Rinpoche's recieved Bhikshu ordination and was given the name Ngawang
Lekpa.

After Ngor, Ngawang Lekpa Rinpoche travelled to Sakya where he received vinaya instruction
from Rabjam Sherab Chophel, and the "Three Vows" of Sakya Pandita in front of the abbot of
Lhakang Chenmo Champa Cho Tashi. He received blessings from Sakya Trizin Kunga Tashi.
During the summer he received the Vajramala teaching together with the scriptural reading.

Again, back at Ngor, in front of the great Kunu Lama of Ngor, Chogtrul Jamyang Sherab
Gyatso, he received Lamdre in extensive detail; the "Three Visions," and "Three Tantras"
of Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrup and "The Moon's Rays" of Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo,
and "The Sun's Rays" of Tsarchen Losal Gyatso, the Royal Accomplishment Lineage of
Hevajra together with the instructions on Generation and Completion Stages, along with
many other teachings; the Eight Deity Mahakala of the Ngor Tradition; the scriptural reading
of the Bodhicaryavatara. Lekpa Rinpoche was extremely popular at Ngor and when time
to return to Kham the Dharmapalas caused him a knee injury so that he might not go back,
also a family dzo was killed.

First visiting the Jowo in Lhasa, Rinpoche returned home to Tharlam monastery in Kham
(when Rinpoche travels long distances he doesn't wear his robes) and entered into an eight
month Hevajra retreat. Afterwards, at the age of twenty-one, went to meet Jamyang
Khyentse Wangpo. On his way he visited the Drolma Lhakang (the temple of the Tibetan
Kings daughters). There, he made extensive offerings of butter lamps, spending all his money,
he prayed for her help in his studies and for reaching enlightenment. Lekpa Rinpoche was
unable to arrange a meeting with Khyentse Rinpoche but attended five initiations given by
him and was promptly thrown out of all five. Subsequently he received many teachings from
the Dzongsar Khenpo Yontan Dondrup; from Minyak Khenpo Norbu Tenzin he received
madhyamika; from Tsering Tashi, the secretary to Khyentse Rinpoche, he received teachings
on grammar, and poetry etc. These Three Khenpos told Khyentse Rinpoche about Ngawang
Lekpa and after that when Jamgon Kongtrul arrived to request many teachings Lekpa Rinpoche
was permitted to attend. Khyentse Rinpoche remained in retreat in his home from the age
of forty until the age of seventy-three.

For the purpose of giving Lamdre Ngor Khenpo Rinchen Dorje visited Gigu Monastery with
173 monks. Lekpa Rinpoche taught the 'Mangtri' and received Lamdre again. At Tharlam
monastery Rinpoche entered into an Avalokiteshvara 'Yung Nas' retreat for two hundred
consecutive days without break. For a few years, due to the demands of many requests for
'shapten' and teachings, retreat was impossible. During this time his father along with many
root lamas passed away. After this he wished to do the retreat of Sakya Pandita Kunga
Gyaltsen Guruyoga and went to Khyentse Rinpoche and obtained instructions. Lekpa Rinpoche
had a dream of Lama Nyika Dorje Chang sitting in the middle of a mandala wearing black
robes, surrounded by ten more gurus in black robes. Hearing of this, Nyika Dorje Chang, in
reality, to protect from obstacles during the retreat immediately gave Rinpoche the initiation of
Panjarnatha Mahakala. Rinpoche also had a large painting of Sakya Pandita made.

Entering into a retreat which lasted from the age of thirty-seven to fifty-five years old,
Lekpa Rinoche's door was sealed up with only a hole for food to enter through. Sitting
in his meditation box he promised to never lay down. For twelve months he meditated
on impermanence. For Refuge he performed every prayer, long medium and short,
several times for a total of twenty-four sets of one-hundred-thousand; for prostrations,
the source of homage being Sakya Pandita, accompanied by Sakya Pandita's four-line
prayer, he accomplished forty-one sets of one-hundred-thousand.

"With wide eyes perceiving all things,
And compassionately achieving the good of all beings;
Having power performing acts beyond thought.
Guru Manjunatha, to your feet I bow my head."

For Vajrasattva, he completed eighteen sets of one-hundred-thousand and cured 'retreat'
digestive problems in the process. For the Guruyoga, again with Sakya Pandita as the source
of veneration he accomplished twenty-five sets of one-hundred-thousand guruyoga prayers;
for the mandala offering - ten sets of one-hundred-thousand 'Thirty-Seven Heaped Prayer.'
For Mahakala - one hundred sets of one-hundred-thousand of the short mantra and twenty-two
sets of one-hundred-thousand of the long mantra. For Green Tara - one-hundred sets of
one-hundred-thousand. For Avalokiteshvara - one-hundred-million; butter lamp offerings -
one-hundred-thousand; water offerings - seven-hundred-thousand. During retreat he never cut
his hair.

During retreat there were many auspicious dreams and signs. From Lama Nyika he dreamt he
was given a golden statue of Manjushri, symbolizing his understanding of Lamdre and all the
teachings of Sakya, and given Chinese ink so as to write many commentaries. From Ngawang
Shedrup Gyatso he was given the head bead from a mala and an eye symbolizing that he was
the foremost student. One day, taking seven Manjushri pills, he dreamt he was given a lotus
made of 'tsampa' yellow in colour written all over with the Manjushri mantra; after eating this his
entire body became written with and filled with the mantra. Another time, doing prostrations to
Sakya Pandita, from the mouth on the painting light came out to fill the entire room. After this he
prayed very hard and saw the fingers of the painting move. Later he could see not only the fingers
move but also the painting smile, enough that he could see Sakya Pandita's teeth. This happened
a total of three times. One night, Lekpa Rinpoche dreamt of Lama Namza Ritrupa. This great
lama was said to be Virupa himself and had recited the long mantra of Hevajra a total of sixty-five
sets of one-hundred-thousand four times. In the dream, Rinpoche went to his house and was met
at the door. Ritrupa invited him in and placed him on a high throne and all kinds of offerings were
made to him. In waking life, after this dream, Lekpa Rinpoche always had whatever he needed.
This dream occured during the mandala offerings. He also dreamt of making offerings to a certain
Virupa mural at Ngor Ewam; the Virupa became real and said to him, "my Dharma will not stay
long in Tibet." He also had many dreams of the Five Superior Masters and of Jamyang Khyentse
Wangpo. Also, Lekpa Rinpoche was able to clearly visualize all 157 deities of the Hevajra internal
body mandala, and all teachers will say that virtually nobody can do it perfectly clearly.

After fifteen years the retreat was concluded. At this time Dezhung Rinpoche was ten years
old. Lekpa Rinpoche gave the Drup Thab Kuntus and a year later the Lamdre Lobshe. After
that he travelled to Dezhung Monastery, gave Lamdre and spent several years. He later returned
to Tharlam very wealthy. He set about spending all the money he had recieved as offerings on
the re-construction Tharlam Monastery. He constructed a three story high gold Buddha flanked
on the right by Sakya Pandita and on the left by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo, both of gold and
two stories high. He gave Lamdre Lopshe nine times in all, four of them at Deshung Monastery
twenty days travel away. Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro received and held the Lamdre
lineage of Lekpa Rinpoche along with many other great Lamas such as Dezhung Ajam, Dezhung
Lungrig Nyima and H.E. Phende Shabdrung Rinpoche. Lekpa Rinpoche gave the initiation and
complete teachings of Naro Kachodma twenty-two times. The initiation and complete teachings
of Mahakala 'Drag Dzong' ten times. The initiations and complete teachings of the Five mandalas
of Mahakala three times. The Nine Deity Vajrabhairava of the Rwa Tradition and the 'Rwa Tse
Sems' teachings eight times. The Thirteen Deity Bhairava from the Tsar tradition three times.
The White Tara Cintacakra eight times and the 'Drup Thab Kuntus' once. Understand that these
teachings were given in their most detailed on these auspicious occasions. Lekpa Rinpoche taught
the entire breadth of Sutra and Tantra. Of his students five thousand made the promise to recite
one-hundred-million 'mani' mantras in their lives. To these he gave each a special 'mani' pill. Up
until the day of Dezhung Rinpoche's passing, he also having promised, continued to recite five-
thousand 'manis' a day. The five greatest historical Lamas that Lekpa Rinpoche took inspiration
from were Sakya Pandita, Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo, Rabjam Kunga Yeshe, Gyalse Thogmed
and Milarepa. His favourite sutra text was the Bodhicaryavatara.

In regards to his passing, Lekpa Rinpoche expressed the wish to be reborn as a lama of either
of the four Ngor Ladrangs and continue to help Sa-Ngor, but further stated that Sa-Ngor lamas
would not stay long in Tibet, so he will go to Sukhavati instead. To go to Sukhavati, four things
are required; to meditate on that place; to have a bodhisattva mind; to give everything away and
to actually pray to go there. Lekpa Rinpoche had many special pills from Khyentse Rinpoche,
Kongtrul, etc and of Guru Rinpoche, Manjushri etc. He mixed all of these into one bowl and
prayed to be reborn in the Buddha Realm of Sukhavati and pass away quickly. He gave the
appearance of becoming very sick and moved to Dezhung Rinpoche's room just outside of the
monastery. Dezhung Rinpoche was away at this time. Lekpa Rinpoche called for his brother and
divided up the pills between himself, his brother, the two abbots of the monastery and whoever
else was there. Many others sat outside. A painting of the Buddha Amitabha was placed in front
of him. With his left hand in meditative equipoise and the right in the mudra of generosity he recited
one round of 'manis' on the mala then recited 'Hik' and passed away at the age of 78. The body
was kept for three days, as is Buddhist custom, and then burnt. Fire rituals of many different deities
were performed and a stupa was made for his ashes. His remaining possessions were offered
to the monks of many different monasteries. Many of his personal religious articles were left to
Dezhung Rinpoche Lungrig Nyima who had lived at Lekpa Rinpoche's side from the age of ten.