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།ཀུན་མཁེན་གིང་བ་མ་སུ་ཕེང་ས་ཕིའི་རམ་ཐར ་མདོར་བསུས་བཞུགས། །
༈ སོས་བལ་ཀ་དག་ཆོས་སུའི་མཁའ་དབིངས་སུ། ལ་ལན་ལོངས་སུའི་ལུན་གུབ་ཚོམ་བུ་བཀ། གང་འདུལ་རོ་རེའི་རོལ་གར་བསམ་མཐའ་ཡས། རིགས་བརའི་སི་དཔལ་འགོ་བའི་མགོན་པོར་འདུད། །
Within the sky-womb of unelaborated, originally pure Dharmakaya, The spontaneously present Sambhogakaya – mandala of five certainties – appears vividly. In accordance with the needs of beings to be tamed, the playful vajra dance manifests in boundless, inconceivable ways. O Protector of Beings, crowning glory of all the hundred Buddha families and deities, to you I bow! Having begun with a traditional expression of homage, I shall herein relate the biography of the Omniscient Ling Lama – Rigzin Chökyi Dorje – incomparable in the three worlds and unanimously revered as the wisdom mind emanation of both the Lord of Dharma (Longchenpa) and the Great Pandita (Vimalamitra) by masters such as Drubje Kunzang Zhenphen, Adzom Drukter, Pema Duddul Wangchuk Lingpa and Rigzin Deshek Lingpa. In the Fire Ox Year (1877-1878) of the fifteenth Tibetan Rabjung, on the tenth lunar day (Guru Rinpoche Day) during the waxing moon of the Wo-month, the Lord Ling Lama took birth in the patriarchal line of the Ling family. As soon as he emerged from the womb he immediately opened his eyes, gazed straight ahead and sang the unborn syllable Ah to a melody.
From a young age he had many visions of deities and Dharma protectors and would receive prophecies from them. He was always held under their protection. He possessed innate kindness, compassion, faith, renunciation for samsara and so forth. He was able to read without having studied. At the age of six, he beheld a vision of the Supreme Teacher, the Lord of the Shakyas, Buddha Shakyamuni. The Buddha placed his hand on the Tulku’s crown, promising to act as his spiritual teacher and then passed down as his inheritance the entire ocean of Sutras and Tantras. From then on, day and night, all appearances that arose to the Tulku’s awareness were seen as one with the infinite expanse of luminosity – the mandala of Dharmakaya – so that he received tantric empowerments, transmissions and direct oral instructions from many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Even though he was still extremely young in terms of biological age, his awakened mind-stream had already become a treasury of Dharma. Beginning at the age of twelve, from Kathok Situ Jungnay, Lingter Pema Dechen Rolpa Tzal, Lingtrul Pema Lungtok Gyatso and others, the Tulku received all the empowerments, oral transmissions, naked instructions, practice instructions and ritual training for the cycles of the collected teachings of Rigzin Duddul Dorje, Terchen Longsal Nyingpo and the Pal Gyalwai Kathok lineage. In addition, he received the complete instructions for all the main teachings of Secret Mantra, including the entirety of the seventeen Maha Tantras of Yangzab Nyingpo (The Essence of the Extremely Profound), the Seven Treasures of Longchenpa, the Ngalso Korsum (Three Cycles of Resting) and the Nyingthig Yabzhi. He was exceptional in how he pleased the minds of all of his precious Gurus. The Tulku was recognized as a predestined holder of the ocean of sutras, tantras and oral instructions. In particular, he was formally instated as a dharma custodian of the teachings of the secret Longchen Nyingthig lineage. At the age of twenty-one, the Tulku took monk's ordination and received the entirety of the Upasaka vows from Situ Chökyi Jungnay, becoming the crowning ornament of many sanghas. Truly already a Buddha, awakened as the essence of the primordial Buddha Kuntuzangpo, he nonetheless thought of beings to be tamed and manifested the display of engaging in the numerous stages of the purification and accumulation practices (Ngondro). Staying in a number of different solitary retreat places, he struck the vital points of the Development and Completion stage practices. He brought to culmination the approach and accomplishment retreats on the Three Roots and the associated protector accomplishment practices – all unique to the Nyingma tradition. He gained the signs of having attained siddhis and engaged in boundless enlightened activities – both visibly apparent and invisible – such as employing the protectors as his attendants and so forth. In particular, he stayed many years in the Kharri retreat cave. There he became conversant with the vital points of Dzogpa Chenpo, increasing his
familiarity with the essential points. He attained mastery of the two visions of Thogal: “directly perceiving the true nature – Dharmata” and “the continual increase of meditative experiences and visions.” When staying in the mountain retreat hermitage of Sanag Rigen, he achieved the final two visions of Thogal: “awareness reaching culmination” and “the exhaustion of subject-object phenomena into Dharmata – the true nature itself” and manifested the attainment of Buddhahood in the translucent rainbow body. Afterward he founded his great seat – this monastery of Traling – where he spread the Buddha’s teachings on a vast scale through the three modes of study, practice and activity. Moreover, he turned the wheel of profound and vast Dharma for countless disciples of various backgrounds and traditions. In particular, waving aloft the victory banner of the teachings of the secret Longchen Nyingthig tradition, he took such close and extraordinary disciples as the Intrinsic Awareness Holder Gyatok Lama Gelo, the Mani Lama Pema Siddhi, the Amdo Geshe Jampal Rolpai Lodro, the Great Treasure Revealer of Khamtsang Terchen Garwang Drodul Lingpa, the Senior Khenpo Pema Lodro, Chogzig Tenpai Nyima and the Senior Khenpo Depa Ten. Nyingma and Sarma students alike revered him and his renown spread far and wide in all directions. Many monasteries and Dharma communities venerated him. The Omniscient Ling Lama lived to the age of seventy-eight. On the tenth day of the winter month Gundawara in the Male Wood Horse Year (19541955), without even the slightest sign of illness or pain, he sat up, looked out with the gaze of Dharmakaya, placed his hands on his knees in the mudra of “resting mind at ease in its true nature” and gazing penetratingly straight ahead, merged in non-dual absorption with the luminosity – the basic space of Dharmakaya. An elaborate cremation ceremony was conducted by Traling monastery and joined by the general community of students. The Lord Lama’s relics and remains were offered in a ritual fire and all prayed intensely and diligently for his swift return. Tongza Khenpo Tashi Gyatso, Lama Ewam, and Lama Ngawang Rabgye took their seats as surrogate throne-holders, overseeing the Lamas, monks, disciples and rest of the sangha. They asked Kathok Shaktrul Pema Trinley Gyatso if Ling Lama's reincarnation had taken birth yet, and if so, earnestly requested that he find the reincarnation and confirm him. Due to the profound interconnection between Shaktrul Rinpoche and his mother monastery, he took personal responsibility for finding Ling Lama’s Tulku and revealed a prophesy1 that indicated the Tulku’s birthplace: 1Tulku Karzang has overheard many times from Lamas who were there such as Khenpo Panchen Dawa
that Shaktrul Rinpoche received this prophecy poem directly from Ekajati.
༈ ཕེད་ཆ་རུཿ བཟའཿ
ཐབས་ཀི་ཆ་འཛིན་ནོར་བུའི་མིངཿ ཤེས་རབ་ཆ་འཛིན་སོགས་པོ་ ལགས་ཡུལ་ཨ་ཡི་སེ་བ་རུཿ ཁིའུ་ལུག་ལོ་
གསལ་བེད་གཉནཿ ཡ་མཚན་རད་བུང་ནིར་ཀཿ འབུངཿ
In the magnetizing power-region [i.e. the western direction] of Tashi Chöden Ling, Two and a half days’ distance by horseback, To the skilful means half named Norbu, And the wisdom half Sogpo Za, In the kingdom of Archung in Golok, In the Year of the Sheep, the child will come to the illuminating Nyen clan [here, illuminating is a code-word for the father, or male aspect]. This amazing, incredible Nirmanakaya Will emerge as the custodian of the Nyingthig Teachings. Just as the prophesy indicated, six months after the Lord Lama passed on to the pure land, during the holy month of Saka Dawa in the Year of the Wood Sheep (1955-1956), seeing the auspicious interdependence of the year and this union of skillful means and wisdom, the Lord Lama entered his mother’s womb as if entering an immeasurable deity-palace. Then, on the tenth day of the Year of the Fire Monkey (1956-1957 – the thirtieth anniversary of the sixteenth Tibetan Rabjung), in the holy month of Chötrul Dawa, amidst incredible signs he was born to his father Nyenchen Norbu and his mother Sogpo Za-drug, in the Archung region of Golok. In dependence on the prophecy, a group of Lamas that included Khenpo Panchen Dawa performed the investigation and the identity of the Tulku was confirmed. He was taken under the care of Traling monastery at the age of three. He was offered a name, clothes and other gifts in secret, but due to the circumstances of those times there was no opportunity for a formal enthronement. The Lamas gave instructions to the Tulku’s mother and said
that if and when there was more freedom they would come for him. This would have happened differently had it been another era.
As a young Tulku, Lingtrul Rinpoche was forced to work in labour camps and hide any sign of interest in Buddhism. Then, in the Male Iron Monkey Year (1980-1981) when the Buddha’s teachings were being revived and were flourishing again at Traling monastery, Rinpoche took monk's ordination and formally assumed his seat at the monastery as its master and keeper, the singular Lord of Refuge for all the Lamas, monks, sangha and lay community of disciples. The enthronement ceremony and grand re-opening of the monastery were elaborately performed. At that time the Lord Lama was twenty-five years old. He had in his previous life already brought the four visions of Thogal to their highest level of culmination, thus reaching the primordial citadel of Awakening. Yet, enacting the skillful means of taming beings and recognizing that he must go through the process of inheriting the lineage through initiations passed on from the Sugatas, he humbly studied at the feet of many great masters such as the two reincarnate Khenpos of his own monastery, Yongdzin Rinpoche and Kathok Mogtrul (Kathok Moktsa), as well as Khenpo Panchen Dawa, receiving an ocean-like wealth of teachings on the Sutras, Tantras, canonical teachings (Kama) and the Terma teachings such as the Rinchen Terdzö, the teachings of Longsal Nyingpo and Duddul Dorje, the Quintessential Heart Drop teachings of the Longchen Nyingthig, Pure Vision and so forth.2
In particular, the Lord Lama studied under his Root Lama, the yogin master of the profound and secret Dzogpa Chenpo, the Illustrious Vajradhara himself, Drubwang Khenchen Münsel Rinpoche – an emanation3 of Gyalwang Longchenpa. He served his Teacher impeccably through the three ways of pleasing the Lama, received instructions and transmissions of the Sutras and Tantras in general and in particular received the ripening empowerments, profound transmissions, liberating direct oral instructions, naked experiential instructions and practical essential instructions on the Kama and Terma Teachings of the secret Nyingthig tradition. All the wisdom and knowledge encompassed in the profound and expansive Dharma treasury of his Precious Lama’s awakened wisdom mind was bestowed onto him, like pouring the contents of one vase into another and filling it to the brim. The supreme Tulku became a treasury of the ocean of his Master’s instructions. His Holiness Khenchen Münsel Rinpoche praised the Tulku and held him closest to his heart, regarding him as first among all his closest disciples and heart sons. He bestowed on him the name Kadak Chöying Dorje, which means Vajra of the Primordially Pure Dharmadhattu. He entrusted to him the secret Nyingthig teachings and made profound and extensive aspiration 2Lingtrul Rinpoche said he felt that taking on the role of Ling Lama would be a big commitment and so
he undertook to study for many years.
3Translator’s note: The Tibetan word is zhal skyin—I am not certain of the denotation so have used emanation provisionally.
prayers for Lingtrul Rinpoche to bring unlimited benefit to beings without bias or partiality. Rinpoche spent many years at the feet of his supreme Lord of Refuge, gaining conversance and increasing his familiarity with the vital points of listening, contemplating, and meditating in general and in particular with the Development and Completion stage practices and the Great Perfection. He continued to progress along the stages and the paths and achieved amazing signs of accomplishment.4 In the Year of the Fire Rabbit (1987-1988) Lingtrul Rinpoche was requested to return to Traling to assume his responsibilities as head of the monastery and a formal enthronement was held. As Abbot he spread and increased the teachings and practices traditional to Traling and the Kathok system. However, he never felt comfortable in that role and the desire to practice in solitary retreat never left him. In the Female Earth Snake Year (1989-1990), discarding like spittle the trappings of high position, name, power and activities that puff up the eight worldly concerns, he left in secret for Utzang (Central Tibet). There he visited sacred retreat sites and sites of accomplishment of the great beings. These included accomplishment sites of the Lord of all the Jinas (Guru Padmasambhava) such as Samye, as well as sites of Jigmed Lingpa, the twenty-five disciples (the king and subjects), the eighty Mahasiddhas of Yerwa and the four-hundred hermits (the great meditation masters of Chowori). There he sealed the strict boundaries of retreat and although already a primordially-awakened Buddha, he manifested the re-awakening into Buddhahood, actualizing the Dharmakaya which fulfills one’s own purpose. Now the time had come for him to enact the enlightened deeds of the Rupakaya to fulfill the purposes of others. He traveled to India, land of the Illustrious Ones, and many other regions extending immense benefit to beings on a vast scale.5 That Rinpoche would establish a temple in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia was brought about through a connection with His Holiness Jigmed Phuntsok. In 1993 Jane and David Ayers attended a large event led by His Holiness where Lingtrul Rinpoche also gave teachings. His Holiness foretold of the enormous benefit Lingtrul Rinpoche would bring to beings and stated that supporting a Lama of his quality would be an 4Before he passed away Münsel Rinpoche gathered three gifts – a phurba (ritual knife), a Buddha
statue and a small dorje – one for each of his heart sons: Lingtrul Rinpoche, Shaktrul Rinpoche and the Abbot of another monastery. Münsel Rinpoche drew lots to determine who would get which item. Tulku Karzang was there at the time and said he had hoped Lingtrul Rinpoche would receive the phurba. It was made out of a special otherworldly material and had come from a terma. Rinpoche’s preference was the dorje, as that was the name Münsel Rinpoche had given him – and that is what he received. The phurba went to the Abbot and the statue to Shaktrul Tulku. Rinpoche didn’t know why Khenpo Münsel had been so kind to him, “Maybe he thought I needed his compassion more” he joked. Rinpoche said he lost the dorje one time in a public sauna. He went back three days in a row to look for it but in the end had to give up. He felt terrible because it wasn’t his, it was his teacher’s. One night not long after that, as he was getting ready to sleep, Rinpoche put his red jacket at his bedside. In the morning when he woke up the dorje was on top of the jacket.
extremely beneficial thing to do. Inspired by this and feeling a connection to Rinpoche, Jane and David offered their support. Following His Holiness’ vision, Rinpoche accepted their offer and the Kathok Lineage took root in North America.
At present, Rinpoche abides mainly in California and maintains a center in Oakland. He gives teachings and guidance at centers in many places including Oregon, Texas, Malaysia and British Columbia. He is well, embodying the glory of the Teachings for sentient beings as the essential nature of an Immortal Longevity Deity – beyond birth, death, aging, and decay. Rinpoche initially didn’t want to talk about himself or add anything to this beautiful biography composed by Khentrul Rinpoche. However he acquiesced after repeated requests from Tulku Karzang. Rinpoche wanted to very strongly emphasize the kindness of all the different Gurus he has studied with. Khenpo Münsel provided many pointing out instructions and Khenpo Panchen Dawa was like a father, keeping him safe and providing teachings. He said the sense of gratitude he has to these masters is overwhelming and inexpressible. Rinpoche said that even though he has studied under so many great masters he doesn’t feel qualified in any way himself, but the faith he feels for his Gurus is profound and he hopes that is sufficient. Finally, he noted that as his life is not finished yet, there is more to come.
Thus has been said
༈ བསན་པའི་དཔལ་གུར་བ་མའི་ཞབས་པད་བརན། བསན་འཛིན་སེས་བུས་ས་སེང་ཡོངས་ལ་ཁབ། བསན་པའི་སིན་བདག་མངའ་ཐང་འབོར་བ་ རས།
May the lotus feet of the Lama, the glory of the Teachings, remain firm! May the land be permeated by awakened beings, holders of the Teachings! May the sovereignty and affluence of the Teachings’ benefactors increase, 5Rinpoche said that Khenpo Münsel had remarked one time, “I heard you’re going to India.”
At that time Rinpoche had never had a desire to go to another country. He gave Rinpoche a dorje, and gesturing to a cabin on the opposite side of the river from his residence said, “Maybe you should just go there.” Tulku Karzang said that these stories show how Rinpoche and Khenpo Münsel had a connection like a stainless gold chain. He said Rinpoche will always be the founder and central figure for Traling – even if he is helping elsewhere for now – just as you can't erase a birthmark.
And may there be auspiciousness for the Teachings to remain a long time!
This biography has been written by Jigme Kunzang Gyaltsen (Khentrul Kunzang Rinpoche), who was born into the Dharma lineage of Traling, and who shares a deep connection with Lingtrul Rinpoche due to the interdependence of previous karma and aspiration prayers. Translated by his wife Vanessa. Edited with apologies by Steve Ayers.
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