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Khyungtrul Pema Trinle Gyatso,[1] commonly known as Khyungtrul Rinpoche, was born nearby the shaded side of the [Kyangtang Khampa] Mountain[2] in the Evaṃ Valley of Drongpa Meshung,[3] Nangchen, Kham in 1886, the Fire, Dog year of the fifteenth sexagenary cycle. His father was named Mipam Tsöndru of the Jo [clan] and his mother Adroza Deden Tso.[4] His father was a direct disciple of Drubchen Ngawang Tsoknyi[5] the mantra holder, who attained accomplishment through the practice of Palden Lhamo Dusölma.[6]

Shortly after his birth, Khyungtrul met the Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje,[7] who performed the hair-cutting ceremony. Furthermore, he accepted the Three Jewels, received the vows of a lay disciple,[8] and was given the name Karma Gyatso. The Karmapa described how the child was a reincarnation of a great being and made a prediction that the boy was undoubtedly going to be a person who would benefit sentient beings and teachings in the times yet to come. 

At the age of five, his parents took him on a pilgrimage to meet lamas in eastern Kham. In Degé he met and received teachings from Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo,[9] who was at that time performing his last religious activity at Dzongsar Monastery[10] before passing into peace. He also received many important teachings, such as empowerments, transmissions, and instructions, from Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche at Palpung Monastery[11] in Degé.

After a successful pilgrimage to all the monasteries and sacred sites in the Degé, Kham, Khyungtrul returned home with his parents. His father took responsibility for his own father’s monastery, Druk Heru Monastery,[12] [which comes under the management of Trulshik Monastery,[13] the main Drukpa Kagyu seat in Nangchen]. Later, due to his realization in the practice of Palden Lhamo Dusölma, his father was appointed as the lama of the protector’s temple at Trulshik Monastery. Khyungtrul spent the next couple of years at Trulshik Monastery with his parents.

During his time at Trulshik Monastery, even though he was very young, there were several marvelous signs that occurred, such as possessing a symbolically scripted inventory of treasures, indiscriminately extracting a variety of treasure-like substances, and receiving prophecies of the ḍākinīs. However, his father kept them secret and forbade revealing them [to the public], stating that they were insignificant. [Unfortunately], his father passed away when he was just seventeen years old, and he performed the funeral rites in a proper manner.

Until he was nineteen, Khyungtrul spent most of his time at his personal Heru Monastery in addition to Trülshik Monastery where he received empowerments and instructions from Satrul Rigzin Chögyal[14] and other Drukpa Kagyu masters. He diligently trained in the rituals of his tradition, the Drukpa Kagyu.

At the age of nineteen, Khyungtrul once again went back to Degé, Kham where he entered Dzogchen Monastery.[15] There he took full ordination from the Fifth Dzogtrul Tubten Chökyi Dorje[16] and received the name Tubten Chöpal Gyatso. From Gyalse Jampa Taye, Tubten Chökyi Nangwa,[17] and others, he received oral transmission of the Kangyur (Translated Words of the Buddha) and such teachings as the Bodhicaryāvatāra (A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life) and Kunsang Lame Shalung (The Words of My Perfect Teacher), achieving a great understanding of the Mahāyāna.

He later went to Palpung Monastery, where under the care and tutelage of Khenchen Tashi Öser[18] the lord of the extraordinary family, he received bodhisattva vows in accordance with the tradition of Śāntideva the heir of the victors and was named Jamyang Lodrö Gyatso. With Lord Khenchen Tashi Öser, he studied all the sūtra and tantra teachings and received empowerments and instructions. Khenchen identified him outwardly as an embodiment of Gyalwang Dechen Dorje, inwardly as an embodiment of Taksham Nuden Dorje, and secretly as an embodiment of Longchen Rabjam.[19]

Khyungrul also received and studied the sūtras and tantras along with the fields of knowledge from Katok Khen Tubten Gyaltsen, Jamgön Mipam Namgyal Gyatso, Khenpo Shenga, Nesar Karma Tashi Chöphel (one of the three chief disciples of Jamgön Kongtrul), Gyarong Tokden, Choktrul Pema Dechen Sangpo, Jamyang Tashi Rinchen, Katok Situ Chökyi Gyatso, Chokling Terse Tsewang Norbu,[20] and many other non-sectarian masters.

Though this Lord was not said to be an emanation of any particular lama, he was called Khyungtrul because there was nobody who could rival his innate wisdom when he was studying and contemplating. Since everyone was discussing that he was an emanation of an excellent, superior being, he was considered an emanation. In those days the political relationship between Degé and Nangchen was not so friendly. So, for the safety of Khyungtrül, when anyone asked Khenchen about where the emanation was from, he would answer, “The emanation’s place of origin is Khyungpo.”[21] As a result, being called Khyungtrul in addition to his real name, Pema Trinlé Gyatso, he became widely known as Khyungtrul Pema Trinlé Gyatso.

At the age of twenty-five, he began the traditional three-year retreat at the Samten Chöling retreat center of Palpung Tubten Chökhorling Monastery,[22] during which Karma Tashi Öser the extraordinary lord of the family[23] and Karma Tonglam[24] [shared the role of retreat master]. Khyungtrul completely mastered Mahāmudrā, the six yogas of Nāropa, and all other essential Kagyu practices during the retreat. His spiritual practices were so impressive that he was, for a short while, appointed master of the retreat center in accordance with the lama’s command.[25]

[When he turned thirty-three],[26] he led the life of a renunciant, abandoning everything and practicing meditation at various secluded places, such as Tashi Palri,[27] Pema Shelphuk,[28] and Karmo Taktsang[29] and eventually left for his homeland. On the way back home, he visited Netan Chokling Monastery Gyurme Ling, met the Second Cholking, Pema Gyurme Tekchok Tenpel,[30] and received many teachings, such as the Chokling treasure teachings, empowerments, transmissions, and instructions from him. He subsequently visited Kham Riwo Monastery, Dilyak Monastery, and Jang Tana Monastery[31] where he received a grand welcome and gave instructional teachings and maturing empowerments.

After returning to his homeland, Khyungtrul stayed at Druk Vaṃlung Monastery[32] for a while and turned the wheel of the teachings for his karmically fortunate followers. Since he was a treasure revealer and particularly an accomplished practitioner of the profound secret mantra, there were requisites for him, such as relying on the mudrā of another’s body, so he took Tanaza Rigzin Drölma[33] as a consort. However, some ordinary people [from his homeland] objected and disapproved of his taking a consort and criticized him explicitly and implicitly. As a result, Khyungtrul Rinpoché decided to leave his homeland for a period to embark on a pilgrimage to U-Tsang with his secret consort Tanaza Rigzin Drölma.

He remained in U-Tsang for many years, visiting various sacred sites, practicing meditation at sacred places of Guru [Rinpoche], such as Samye Chimpu,[34] and composing many treatises and songs of realization. He conducted many religious activities while in Lhasa, including giving the empowerment and transmission of the Rinchen Terdzö (The Treasury of Precious Revealed Scriptures).[35]

Then he returned to his homeland, and at his Druk Heru Monastery, he expanded the assembly hall and other areas and rebuilt temples and shrines. Thereafter, it received the name Heru Ngedön Sangngak Chökhorling. He also built his residence named Changlochen[36] and the Secret Mantra Palace meditation hall and stayed there regularly. 

There the teachings of scholars and adepts pervaded in all directions, and he constantly turned the wheel of the teachings to unfathomable assemblies of disciples and emanations—chiefly the lamas and emanations of the non-sectarian movement. Sometimes he traveled to other regions to give empowerments and teachings. He conferred the empowerment and transmission of the Rinchen Terdzö at Netan Monastery in Chimé and Shakchö Monastery in Khyungpo,[37] the empowerment and transmission of the Damngak Dzö (The Treasury of Precious Instructions) at Tsangsar Monastery,[38] and the empowerment of the Kagyu Ngakdzö (The Treasury of Kagyu Mantras) at Rago Tsokha Monastery.[39] There were many other empowerments, transmissions, instructions that he gave at Sertsa Tashi Ling Monastery [of the Bön tradition] and Tsangsar Lakhyab Monastery.[40] He also stayed at Jang Tana Monastery, the monastic seat of Drogön Yelpa for a long time, properly supporting the Yelpa teachings.

In short, he was a lama of the non-sectarian movement of the philosophies of the Sakya, Geluk, Kagyu, Nyingma, and Yungdrung Bön; all revered him as a boundless superior being. Accordingly, having accomplished the benefit of self and others, Khyungtrül Pema Trinlé Gyatso passed away at the age of sixty-three on the eighteenth day of the Month of Miracles (the first month) of Earth, Bird year, 1948, at Tana Monastery. It was exactly on that day when Drogön Sangyé Yelpa passed away.[41] When Khyungtrul passed away, there were many astonishing signs, which once again established the disciples into a place of faith.   

His main disciples were his son Pema Gyurme, Kongtrul Lodrö Rabpel, Tsangsar Lodrö Rinchen [of the Barom Kagyu], Tana Penpa Tulku, Tana Drubgyu Tulku, Suru Jokhyab, etc.[42] There were many other disciples with whom he had a spiritual connection, such as [the Eighth] Adeu Rinpoche Drubrik Khyuchok, the [Ninth] Benchen Sangye Nyenpa, Dilyak Dabsang, Japa Sangye Tenzin, the [Eleventh] Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo,[43] the Second Chokling, and many others. He had such a great assembly of students that there were almost none of the great lamas of his time who did not have a lama-disciple relationship with him.

Among the chief disciples: his son Pema Gyurme was the main lineage holder of both his family lineage and teachings. He was a sovereign of loving-kindness and compassion, a vegetarian, a realized yogin intent upon the profound meaning, a holder of the fields of knowledge, a holder of his father’s lineage of Karma Garsar calligraphy, a disseminator of his father’s empowerments, transmissions, and instructions, and a preserver of his father’s collected works. For this, I wish to express much gratitude to him.

Khyungtrul Pema Trinle Gyatso’s teachings, which are contained in about four volumes, are:

Secret Embodiment of the Three Kāyas: Accomplishing the Enlightened Mind of the Guru, The Ocean of the Dohās of the Early Translation Nyingma School, The Ocean of Drukpa Dohā, The Excellent Vase of Nectar from The Grand Ritual of Severance,[44] instructional manuals on the creation and completion stages, songs of spiritual experience, a large volume of mind treasure teachings, and many other texts.

[1] khyung sprul pad+ma phrin las rgya mtsho

[2] Khyungtrul’s memoir (rang rnam) mentions e waM lung pa'i d+hU ti'i sbubs/ ri bo me ltar 'bar ba'i zhol as his birthplace. Through personal communication, a resident of Meshung said the name of ri bo me ltar 'bar ba is Kyangtang Khampa (rkyang thang kham pa).

[3] Drongpa Meshung ('brong pa rme gzhung) was formally known as Sengshung (seng gzhung), the valley looking like a resting lion, located in Nangchen.

[4] 'byo mi pham brtson 'grus and a gro bza' bde ldan mtsho

[5] Drubchen Ngawang Tsoknyi (grub chen ngag dbang tshogs gnyis, 1828–1888) was a highly realized mantra holder and Drukpa Kagyu master born in Senge Dzong, Kham, in 1828. His father was Ugyen Gönpo and mother was Drongza Lhamo Dröl. He passed away in 1888.

[6] dpal ldan lha mo dus gsol ma

[7] kar ma pa 15 mkha' khyab rdo rje, 1870?–1921?, BDRC P563

[8] The vows of the lay disciple (dge bsnen gyi sdom pa, upāsakasaṃvara) consists of the five precepts (bslab pa lnga, pañcasīla): (1) Not to kill, (2) Not to steal, (3) Not to engage in sexual misconduct, (4) Not to lie, and (5) Not to use intoxicants.

[9] 'jam dbyangs mkhyen btse dbang po, 1820–1892, BDRC P258

[10] rdzong sar dgon, BDRC G213

[11] 'jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha' yas, 1813–1899, BDRC P264 and dpal spungs, BDRC G36, seat of Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo and Jamgön Kongtrul

[12] Druk Heru Monastery ('brug heru dgon) was initially founded by Gyalwang Dechen Dorje.

[13] Trulshik Monastery ('khrul zhig dgon) is the seat of Satrul Rigzin Chögyal located in Nangchen Sharda.

[14] Satrul Rigzin Chögyal (sa sprul rig 'dzin chos rgyas) was the sixth reincarnation of Satrul, born in the fifteenth sexagenary cycle. His father was a prince to Nangchen King, and his mother was a daughter to the Drongpa chieftain.

[15] rdzog chen dgon pa, BDRC G16      

[16] rdzogs chen grub dbang 05 thub bstan chos kyi rdo rje, 1872–1935, BDRC P701 

[17] rgyal sras byams pa mtha' yas and thub bstan chos kyi snang ba

[18] mkhan chen bkra shis 'od zer, 1836–1910, BDRC P1373 

[19] It is said that Gyalwang Dechen Dorje (rgyal dbang bde chen rdo rje) built a hundred and eight Guru temples, including Heru Monastery and Vamlung monastery. stag sham nus ldan rdo rje, b. 1655, BDRC P663 and klong chen rab 'byams, 1308–1364, BDRC P1583

[20] kaH thog mkhan thub bstan rgyal mtshan 'od zer, b. 1862, BDRC P6048; 'jam mgon mi pham rnam rgyal rgya mtsho, 1846–1921, BDRC P252; mkhan po gzhan dga', 1871–1927, BDRC P699; gnas sar bkar ma bkra shis chos 'phel, BDRC P6173 (one of the three chief disciples of Jamgön Kongtrul); rgya rong rtogs ldan; mu ra sprul sku 03 pad+ma bde chen bzang po, BDRC P8693; 'jam dbyang bkra shis rin chen; kaH thog si tu 03 chos kyi gya mtsho, 1880–1923/1925, BDRC P706; mchog gling gter sras tshe dbang nor bu, BDRC P2713, the second son of Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa

[21] khyung po, a place in Kham

[22] dpal spungs thub bstan chos 'khor gling gi sgrub sde bsams gtam chos gling

[23] karma bkra shis 'od zer

[24] karma mthong lam

[25] According to the oral account, he was appointed as a retreat master for the next three-year retreat program.

[26] According to the oral record, at the age of thirty-three, he left the Palpung Monastery for his homeland.

[27] bkra shis dpal ri, a sacred site in Kham

[28] pad+ma shel phug, BDRC G3624

[29] dkar mo stag tshang, BDRC G3625

[30] gnas brtan mchog gling 02 pad+ma 'gyur med theg mchog bstan 'phel, 1873/1874–1927, BDRC P1AG97

[31] byang rta rna dgon pa, BDRC G2628  

[32] Druk Vaṃlung Monastery ('brug vaM lung dgon) was initially founded by Gyalwang Dechen Dorje in the twelfth sexagenary cycle, located in Drongpa Meshung

[33] rta rna bza' rig 'dzin sgrol ma

[34] bsam yas mchim phu, BDRC G3528

[35] rin chen gter mdzod

[36] lcang lo can

[37] Netan Monastery (gnas brtan dgon, BDRC G1AG98), the seat of Chokgyur Lingpa, is located in Chimé, southwest of Nangchen. Shakchö Monastery (khyung po zhag gcod dgon), is a Karma Kagyu monastery, founded by Shagchö Tashi Palzang in 1533 in Khyungpo.

[38] gdam ngag mdzod; Tsangsar Monastery (tshangs sar dgon) is a Barom Kagyu Monastery and the seat of Tsangsar Lodrö Rinchen.

[39] bka' brgyud sngags mdzod and ra mgo mtsho kha dgon

[40] gser rtsa bkra shis gling (a Bön Monastery in Sertsa) and tsangs sar bla khyabs

[41] Drogön Sangye Yelpa ('gro mgon sangs rgyas yal pa) is the founder of Yalpa Kagyu School.

[42] pad+ma 'gyur med 1929–1999; kong sprul blo grus rab 'phel, 1901–1958, BDRC P1PD108567; tshangs sar blo gros rin chen; rta rna spen pa sprul ku; rta rna sgrub rgyud sprul sku; gzu ru jo skyabs

[43] a lde'u grub rigs khyu mchog, 1930–2007, BDRC P6757; ban chen sangs rgyas gnyen pa 09 karma bshad sgrub btsan pa'i nyi ma 1897–1962, BDRC P934; dil yag zla bzang; ja pa sangs rgyas bstan 'dzin 1919­–2001; ta'i si tu 11 pad+ma dbang mchog rgyal po, 1886–1952, BDRC P925  

[44] Some of his teachings include gu ru'i thugs sgrub sku gsum gsang ba 'dus pa, snga 'gyur snying ma'i mgur mtsho, 'brug pa'i mgur mtsho, and gcod kyi tshogs las bdud rtsi bum bzang.

Photo Credit: Heru Monastery contributed by the translator

Published: July 2021

Edited: February 2022

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Mkhan o rgyan rnam rgyal. 2021. Khyung sprul pad+ma phrin las rgya mtsho'i rnam thar. London: Tib Shelf W003

COLOPHON

Composed by Khen Orgyen Namgyal

The Biography of Khyungtrul Pema Trinle Gyatso 

Abstract

Khyungtrul Pema Trinle Gyatso, also known as Khyungtrul Kargyam, was not said to be a reincarnation of any particular Lama. Yet, he was a treasure revealer, a highly learned master, and undeniably an important figure in the Rimé movement of the nineteenth century in Kham. His writings comprise around four volumes which were collected and preserved by his son Pema Gyurme. Pema Gyurme’s disciple, Khen Orgyen Namgyal, composed this short biographical text, using Khyungtrul’s autobiography and the oral account. 

AUTHOR

Khen Orgyen Namgyal 

TRADITION

Drukpa Kagyu

INCARNATION LINE

None

HISTORICAL PERIOD

19th Century

20th Century

TEACHERS

The Fifteenth Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye

The Fifth Dzogtrul Tubten Chökyi Dorje

Khenchen Tashi Öser

Katok Khen Tubten Gyaltsen Öser

Jamgön Mipam Namgyal Gyatso

Khenpo Shenga

Nesar Karma Tashi Chöphel

Pema Dechen Sangpo

The Third Katok Situ, Chökyi Gyatso

Chokling Terse Jigme Tsewang Norbu

The Second Cholking,  Ngedön Drubpe Dorje

The BDRC Identifications have not been found for the following. Please contact us if you have any information:

Satrül Rigzin Chögyal

Gyalse Jampa Taye

Tubten Chökyi Nangwa

Gyarong Tokden

Jamyang Tashi Rinchen

Karma Tashi Öser

Karma Tonglam

INSTITUTIONS

Dzongsar Monastery

Palpung Monastery

Trulshik Monastery

Dzogchen Monastery

Pema Shelphuk

Karmo Taktsang

Netan Monastery

Jang Tana Monastery

Samye Chimpu

The BDRC Identifications have not been found for the following. Please contact us if you have any information:

Druk Heru Monastery

Tashi Palri

Kham Riwo Monastery

​Dilyak Monastery

Druk Vaṃlung Monastery

Shakchö Monastery

Tsangsar Monastery

Rago Tsokha Monastery

Sertsa Tashi Ling Monastery

Tsangsar Lakhyab Monastery

Changlochen Residence 

STUDENTS

Dzigar Kongtrul Lodrö Rabpel

The Eighth Adeu Rinpoche Drubrik Khyuchok

The Ninth Benchen Sangye Nyenpa, Karma Shedrub Tenpe Nyima

The Eleventh Situ Pema Wangchuk Gyalpo

The Second Cholking,  Ngedön Drubpe Dorje

The BDRC Identifications have not been found for the following. Please contact us if you have any information:

Pema Gyurme

Tsangsar Lodrö Rinchen

Tana Penpa Tulku

Tana Drubgyü Tulku

Suru Jokhyab

Dilyak Dabsang

Japa Sangye Tenzin

The Biography of Khyungtrul Pema Trinle Gyatso