Tag Archives: Pabongka

“My guru, kind-in-three-ways, who met face to face with Heruka, whose name I find difficult to utter…” The Great Lama Je Pabongka According to His Disciples and Others

Je Pabonka

Je Pabongka

Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche Dechen Nyingpo was an unbelievable lama who lived in the early part of the twentieth century (bio). His two main students, Trijang Rinpoche and Ling Rinpoche, were the most highly esteemed Gelugpa Lamas of their day, so respected that they were chosen to guide the education of the Dalai Lama when he was chosen and enthroned.

Pabongka Rinpoche, a recognized reincarnation of Chankya Rolpai Dorje, was the one who was responsible for widely propagating the practice of Dorje Shugden among the Gelugpa tradition.

As a result of the attempt in recent decades to convince the world that Dorje Shugden is a worldly Deity, Je Pabongka’s reputation and lineage has come under attack, so I thought it would be nice for students who practice in his lineage to see, once again, that things are not as cut and dried as his detractors would have you believe….Scholars and yogis, please check!

A Sakya Tale (Part Three)- Dorje Shugden, the Great Compassionate One

Sakya Lineage

(Continued fromabove…)

In 1871 Kunga Nyingpo had his own son, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen. Dragshul Trinley Rinchen grew up to become the 39th Holder of the Sakya Throne.

In his autobiography, this lama explained that his father Kunga Nyingpo was Avalokiteshvara. In order to prove this, he recounted the story about Mahasiddha Pema Dudul and Trinley Rinchen detailed above and then wrote

The Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden Tsel definitively is Avalokiteshvara. The Nyingma Tantra Rinchen Nadun says “The one known as Dolgyal is not mistaken on the path to liberation, he is by nature the Great Compassionate One,” which establishes this by scripture.

The Great Je Sakyapa Kunga Nyingpo is well-known as an incarnation of the Arya Lotus in Hand (Avalokiteshvara). The Arya Lotus in Hand definitively is none other than the Lord of Mandalas, but provisionally by assuming the manner of a tenth level bodhisattva he simultaneously sports billions of superior, middling and inferior emanations to accomplish immeasurable benefit for beings, such as setting them on paths to the higher realms and liberation. (2)

Thus in order to show that his father was Avalokiteshvara, he set out to show that his father was well-known to have been an emanation of Dorje Shugden, and then demonstrated with a quotation from Nyingma tantra that Dorje Shugden and Avalokiteshvara are the same person.

As further demonstrated in his Autobiography, Dragshul Trinley Rinchen was a practitioner of Dorje Shugden as well, and was considered to be “a very great Sakya master, one of the most outstanding masters in our recent time.” (1)

So when we consider the relationship of the Sakya Tradition to the Practice of Dorje Shugden we see that, contrary to the claims of some present-day Sakya Lamas, for more than three hundred years Dorje Shugden has been viewed in Sakya as an Enlightened protector. Not among the provincial practitioners or those without education, but by the Throneholders of the lineage, and the holders of the Sakya’s most precious Tantric transmissions, Lamdre Lineage holders like Morchen Dorjechang who wrote praises to Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being. 


When the leader of an entire Buddhist tradition says “Dorje Shugden is definitively Avolkiteshvara,” it seems to me to be difficult to make the claim, as some have tried to do in the debates over this issue, that the great Sakya masters never viewed Dorje Shugden as anything other than a spirit. In fact it seems that there has been an unbroken tradition of the practice of Dorje Shugden as an enlightened protector from the early 1700’s right through modern times.

It is easy to understand that most lamas don’t write about their Dharma protector practices, which have traditionally been in the nature of secrecy. It isn’t unreasonable, therefore, to assume that there were many masters other than the ones enumerated here that held Dorje Shugden as their protector and as a fully enlightened being. 


Since this material is so readily available, it seems odd that the Dalai Lama, who has attempted to ban this practice as “spirit worship,” doesn’t seem to be aware of it. He doesn’t list the views of these great masters when recounting the results of his research, at any rate.

What could the reason for this oversight possibly be?


A list of the supreme heads of the Sakya Lineage who can be shown to have viewed Dorje Shugden as an enlightened being:

  • 30th Sakya Throneholder Sonam Rinchen (1705-1741)
  • 31st Throneholder Sachen Kunga Lodro (1729-1783)
  • 33rd Throneholder Padma Dudul Wangchug (1792-1853)
  • 35th Throneholder Tashi Rinchen (1824-1865)
  • 37th Throneholder Kunga Nyingpo (1850-1899)
  • 39th Throneholder Dragshul Thinley Rinchen (1871-1936)

__________________________________________________________________

…..For more information on past masters who relied on Dorje Shugden as an enlightened protector, please consult Dorjeshugdenhistory.org

1. Gonsar Rinpoche, 1996, Public Talk

2. Khri chen Drag shul ‘Phrin las rin chen. Rdo rje ‘chang drag shul ‘phrin las rin chen gyi rtogs brjod (The Autobiography of Khri-chen Drag-shul-phrin-las-rin-chen of Sakya). Dehra Dun: Sakya Centre: 1974, pp. 29-31.

His Eminence Trijang Dorjechang Losang Yeshe

Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche

Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche

His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang was one of the foremost Tibetan Buddhist Masters of our time, taking birth at the turn of the twentieth century and passing away in 1981 at the age of eighty-one.

Not only had he followed in age exactly the example of the Enlightened Buddha, but also through his precious activities and in particular through his extraordinary method and capacity of teaching he fulfilled the purpose of countless beings and the teachings of the Buddha, particularly the tradition of Je Tsong Khapa. All the great Masters and the followers of this tradition were brought up by his compassionate spiritual guidance.

Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang served His Holiness the Dalai Lama first as philosophical assistant, then as personal tutor, together with Kyabje Ling Dorje Chang, for altogether fifty years.

Trijang Rinpoche (Right) with Ling Rinpoche (Left) and their disciple, the present Dalai Lama (center)

Trijang Rinpoche (Right) with Ling Rinpoche (Left) and their disciple, the present Dalai Lama (center)

Not only did he offer to His Holiness studies from the elementary level up to the highest tantric transmissions, he was also the backbone of the struggle against the Chinese occupation at the most difficult and confused time of Tibetan history. The escape of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959 was also thanks to the wisdom and efforts of Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang.

Up to the end of his life Trijang Rinpoche continuously turned the Wheel of Dharma for the sake of all sentient beings. The flourishing of Dharma in the West is also directly and indirectly connected with him, because of his own teachings as well as the precious activities of his disciples, such as Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, Ven. Geshe Rabten, Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Ven. Lama Yeshe and many more. Without him the situation of Tibetan Buddhism in the West would be completely different.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche said

The (present) incarnation of Kyabje Dorje Chang, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche, is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s guru and the lama of all the Tibetan people…. In his previous life (as Trijang Dorjechang Losang Yeshe) he performed incredibly holy actions; therefore, his present incarnation has the potential to spread Dharma in both the East and the West like the rising sun spreads light.

Trijang Rinpoche receives offerings at Monlam

Trijang Rinpoche receives offerings at Monlam

Geshe Kelsang Gyatso has likened Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche to

“a vast reservoir from which all Gelugpa practitioners of the present day received ‘waters’ of blessings and instructions.”

He held many important positions within the Gelug School including Ganden Tripa, the head of Gelugpa tradition. He was the Lama most responsible in his generation for spreading the Dorje Shugden practice, especially to the west. Trijang Rinpoche was also responsible for editing the classic Lam Rim text Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, by Kabje Pabongka Rinpoche, from which the following quotations are drawn.

“…Our childish minds were unfit vessels for so vast an ocean of teachings…”

(From Trijang Rinpoche’s introduction to Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand- A Concise Discourse on the Path to Enlightenment By Pabongka Rinpoche, Edited by Trijang Rinpoche Translated by Michael Richards Wisdom 1991. All emphasis and formatting mine)

Trijang Dorjechang

Trijang Dorjechang

Prasdrin pararia syaklutaki yanta,
Tray am guhyanatd tigolama eka,
Sudhi vajradharottarah muni aksha,
Prayachchha tashubham valdruga kota.

O Lama Lozang Dragpa, One with Shakyamuni and Vajradhara, O sum of every perfect refuge, O mandala-guise complete With three mysteries of enlightenment, rain upon us ten million goodnesses.

(About Pabongka Rinpoche) O my guru, my protector, who, through the Supreme Vehicle, vanquished the extreme of selfish peace, who, unattached to worldly comforts, upheld the three high trainings and the teachings of the Victor, whose noble good works remained untarnished by the eight worldly concerns.

Kyabje Pabongka

Kyabje Pabongka

You were the very fountain-head of goodness. Everything you said was medicine to drive out hundreds of diseases;

Our childish minds were unfit vessels for so vast an ocean of teachings,

So precious a source of qualities. How sad if these teachings were forgotten!

Here, I have recorded but a few. Immeasurable, countless numbers of Buddhas have come in the past. But unfortunate beings such as myself were not worthy enough to be direct disciples even of Shakyamuni, the best of protectors, who stands out like a white lotus among the thousand great Buddhas, the saviours of this fortunate aeon. First we had to be forced into developing even a moment’s wholesome thought; this took us to the optimum physical rebirth as a human.

We have been taught this most unmistaken path, which will lead us to the level of omniscience, at which time we shall gain our freedom. But, to be brief,

I was saved time and time again from infinite numbers of different evils, and was brought closer to an infinity of magnificent things.

My glorious and holy guru did this.

“…This feeling of renunciation was overwhelming…”

(FromTrijang Rinpoche- The introduction to Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand – A Concise Discourse on the Path to Enlightenment By Pabongka Rinpoche Edited by Trijang Rinpoche Translated by Michael Richards Wisdom 1991. All formatting and emphasis mine…)

Trijang Dorjechang

Trijang Dorjechang

His kindness is without equal.

He was — and now I shall give his name in view of my purpose — Jetsun Jampa Taenzin Trinlae Gyatso Paelzangpo. (Pabongka Rinpoche) Although people like me are immature, uncultured and unregenerate, there was a time when I feasted on his oral instructions into the Mahayana [the Supreme or Great Vehicle] at Chuzang Hermitage, a lonely place that was blessed by the presence of great meditators.

He started the following informal teaching on the thirtieth day of the seventh month of the Iron Bird Year [1921], and it lasted twenty-four days.

People braved great hardships to get there from the three major monasteries in Lhasa, from the Central Province, from Tsang, Amdo and Kham to taste the nectar of his oral teachings, as the thirsty yearn for water.

There were about thirty lamas and reincarnations of lamas, and many upholders of the three baskets of the teachings – in all a gathering of over seven hundred.

The informal teaching he gave combined various traditions on the Lam-rim – the stages of the path to enlightenment.

Je Pabongka

Je Pabongka

There were the two oral lineages related to the Lam-rim text Manjushn’s Own Words. One of these lineages was quite detailed and had developed in the Central Province; another lineage of a briefer teaching flourished in the south of Tibet. He also included the concise teaching, the Swift Path Lam-rim; and in the part of the Great Scope section that deals with the interchange of self and others, he taught the seven-point mind training.

Each part of the teaching was enriched by instructions taken from the confidential oral lineages. Each section was illustrated by analogies, conclusive formal logic, amazing stories, and trustworthy quotations. The teaching could easily be understood by beginners, and yet was tailored for all levels of intelligence. It was beneficial for the mind because it was so inspiring. <h2>Sometimes we were moved to laughter, becoming wide awake and alive. Sometimes we were reduced to tears and cried helplessly. At other times we became afraid or were moved to feel, ‘I would gladly give up this life and devote myself solely to my practice.’ </h2>This feeling of renunciation was overwhelming. These are some of the ways in which all of his discourses were so extraordinary.

Trijang Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche

Trijang Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche

How could I possibly convey all this on paper! Yet what a pity if all the key points contained in these inspiring instructions were lost. This thought gave me the courage to write this book. As my precious guru later advised me, ‘Some of the people present could not follow the teaching. I’m afraid I do not trust all the notes people took during the classes. I therefore ask you to publish a book. Put in it anything you feel sure of.’

In this book I have accurately recorded my lama’s teachings in the hope that this substitute for his speech will be beneficial to my friends who wish to succeed in their practice

“…It was in his private quarters at the Tashi Chuling hermitage that I first met Pabongka Rinpoche…”

(From the Forward to The Principal Teachings of Buddhism by Tsongkhapa, with a commentary by Pabongka Rinpoche, translated by Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 1998, all emphasis and formatting mine…)

Meeting Je Pabongka….

Je Pabongka It was in his private quarters at the Tashi Chuling hermitage that I first met Pabongka

Je Pabongka

Je Pabongka

Rinpoche. He had been away on an extended teaching tour in eastern Tibet, and just returned. I was still the wild teenager and had been stuck with the distasteful job of nyerpa for Gyalrong House—this means I was a kind of quartermaster and had to make sure there was enough firewood and food to keep the house kitchen going for several hundred monks. Since the Rinpoche was a member of Gyalrong, we were supposed to send a committee over to the hermitage to welcome him back and present him gifts. As nyerpa I was expected to arrange some supplies and help carry them along.

In private conversation Pabongka Rinpoche was in the habit of constantly attaching “Quite right! Quite right!” to everything he said. So I distinctly remember when I came into his presence, and he put his hand on my head, and he said “Quite right! Quite right! Now this one looks like a bright boy!”

From that day on I felt as though I had received his blessing, and some special power to pursue my studies.

On the Power of Je Pabongkha’s speech…..

….

The effects on his audience were striking and immediate.

I remember particularly the case of Dapon Tsago, a member of the nobility who held a powerful position equivalent to Minister of Defense. Public teachings in Tibet were as much social as religious affairs, and aristocrats would show up in their best finery, often it seemed not to hear the dharma but rather to put in an appearance. So one day this great general marches in to the hall, decked out in silk, his long hair flowing in carefully tailored locks (this was considered manly and high fashion in old Tibet).

A great ceremonial sword hung from his belt, clanging importantly as he swaggered in. By the end of the first section of the teaching he was seen leaving the hall quietly, deep in thought—he had wrapped his weapon of war in a cloth to hide it, and was taking it home. Later on we could see he had actually trimmed off his warrior’s locks, and finally one day he threw himself before the Rinpoche and asked to be granted the special lifetime religious vows for laymen. Thereafter he always followed Pabongka Rinpoche around, to every public teaching he gave.

On Je Pabongka’s meditation hermitage…..

Jetsun Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin

Jetsun Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin

The Rinpoche had never spent much time at the small monastery atop the Pabongka rock, and his fame Jetsun Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin Jetsun Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin soon reached such proportions that the Ngakpa College of Sera Monastery offered him a large retreat complex on the hillside above Pabongka. The name of this hermitage was Tashi Chuling, or “Auspicious Spiritual Isle.” There were some sixty Buddhist monks in residence there, and as I remember about sixteen personal attendants who helped the Lama with his pressing schedule: two monk-secretaries, a manager for finances, and so on.

The Rinpoche would divide his time between his quarters here and a small meditation cell built around the mouth of a cave, further up the side of the mountain. The cave was known as Takden, and it was here that Pabongka Rinpoche would escape for long periods to do his private practice and meditations. The central chamber had a high vaulted ceiling, so high that the light of a regular fire-torch could not even reach it, and the darkness seemed to go up forever.

In the center of the ceiling there was an odd natural triangle in the rock, which looked exactly like the outer shape of one of the mystic worlds described in our secret teachings. In the corner of this wonderful cave, an underground spring flowed froma rock—and above it was another natural drawing, this one just like the third eye that we see painted on the forehead of one of our female Buddhas.

Buddhist "Angel"

Buddhist "Angel"

By the way, this “third eye” you hear about is  largely metaphorical, and stands for the spiritual understanding in one’s heart. We believed the cave was home for a dakini—sort of a Buddhist angel—because people often said they saw a wondrous lady come from the cave, but no one had ever seen her enter.

“He displayed tremendous abilities as a public teacher…”

(From the Forward to The Principal Teachings of Buddhism by Tsongkhapa, with a commentary by Pabongka Rinpoche, translated by Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Press, 1998, all emphasis and formatting mine…)

Pabongka Rinpoche was actually the second Pabongka, for it was finally agreed to announce that he had been recognized  as the reincarnation of the Kenpo (or abbot) of the small monastery atop the rock.

Dakpo Gompa- Where Je Pabongka is said to have attained enlightentment

Dakpo Gompa- Where Je Pabongka is said to have attained enlightentment

For this reason he was sometimes referred to as “Pabongka Kentrul,” or the “reincarnation of the abbot of Pabongka.” Pabongka Rinpoche’s full name, by the way, was Kyabje Pabongkapa Jetsun Jampa Tenzin Trinley Gyatso Pel Sangpo, which translates as the “lord protector, the one from Pabongka, the venerable and glorious master whose name is the Loving One, Keeper of the Buddha’s Teachings, Ocean of the Mighty Deeds of the Buddha.” He is also popularly known as “Dechen Nyingpo,” which means “Essence of Great Bliss” and refers to his mastery of the secret teachings of Buddhism. We Tibetans feel that it is disrespectful to refer to a great religious leader with what we call his “bare” name—such as “Tsongkapa” or “Pabongka”—but we have tried here to simplify the Tibetan names to help our Western readers.

Pabongka Rinpoche’s career at Sera Mey College was not outstanding; he did finish his geshe degree, but reached only the “lingse” rank, which means that he was examined just at his own monastery and did not go on for one of the higher ranks such as “hlarampa.” …It was only after his graduation fromSera Mey, and the success of his teaching tours through the countryside outside the capital, that Pabongka Rinpoche’s fame started to spread.

Gradually he began to build up a huge following and displayed tremendous abilities as a public teacher.

Khen Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin

Khen Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin

He was not tall (as I remember about my height, and I am only 5’6″), but he was broadchested and seemed to fill the entire teaching throne when he climbed up on it to begin his discourse. His voice was incredibly powerful. On many occasions he would address gatherings of many thousands of people, yet everyone could hear him clearly (in those days in Tibet we had never heard of microphones or loudspeakers). Part of the trick of course was to pack the audience in Tibetan-style, crosslegged on the floor, with the lama on an elevated platform. Still the audience would flow out onto the porch of the hall, and sit perched above on the roof, watching through the steeple windows.

Pabongka Rinpoche had an uncanny ability to relate to his audience, and for this reason he became a teacher for the common man as well as for us monks.

The Rinpoche’s great accomplishment was that he found a way to attract and lead listeners of every level. His most famous weapon was his humor. Public discourses in Tibet could sometimes go on for ten hours or more without a break, and only a great saint could keep his attention up so long. Inevitably part of the audience would start to nod, or fall into some reverie. Then Pabongka Rinpoche would suddenly relate an amusing story or joke with a useful moral, and send his listeners into peals of laughter. This would startle the day-dreamers, who were always looking around and asking their neighbors to repeat the joke to them.