His Holiness Kyabje Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, Dudjom Rinpoche was born on 10th June 1904 (the water dragon year) in the Pemakö region of South Eastern Tibet, the hidden valley in the Tsangpo River valley largely inhabited by wild hill tribes. His family were of noble stock and descended from Nyatri Tsenpo and Puwo Kanam Dhepa, the king of Powo. It was Nyatri Tsenpo who started the heroic age of the Chogyals (Religious Kings) after the collapse of the Shangshung Empire in the second century CE. The official Tibetan Royal Year of the modern Tibetan calendar is dated from the coronation of King Nyatri Tsenpo in 127 BCE. This tenacious dynasty lasted until Lang Darma (King Tri Wudum Tsen), was assassinated in 842 CE.
|HH Dudjom Rinpoche|
All of the foregoing has deeper significance bearing in mind a prediction by Urgyen Dechen Lingpa, that “in the future in Tibet, on the east of the Nine Peaked Mountain, in the sacred Buddhafield of the self-originated Vajravarahi (Pemakö), there will be an emanation of Drogben, of royal lineage, named Jnana. His beneficial activities are in accord with the Vajrayana although he conducts himself differently, unexpectedly, as a little boy with astonishing intelligence. He will either discover new Terma (hidden treasures) or preserve the old Terma. Whoever has connections with him will be taken to Ngayab Ling (Zangdok Palri or the Copper-Coloured Mountain of Guru Rinpoche)."
His father, Kathok Tulku Norbu Tenzing, was also a well-known tulku from Kathok Monastery. His mother, Namgyal Drolma, who was of the local tribe, was descended from Ratna Lingpa. Nor was the connection with Khathok Monastery entirely accidental. He was recognised as being the reincarnation of a great practitioner, Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904 CE). Although Dudjom Lingpa had no particular association with the monastery, previous incarnations of Dudjom Rinpoche had been similarly connected. His ninth incarnation was Dampa Dayshek (1122-1192 CE) who founded the Monastery, and his fifteenth, Sonam Detsen was responsible for the revitalising the Kathok Monastery after a period of decline. Nor was it unexpected that he should be born in Pemakö. Dudjom Lingpa was a famous discoverer of many concealed teachings (Terma), particularly those related to the practice of Vajrakilaya (Dorje Phurba). Dudjom Lingpa had intended to visit southern Tibet to reveal the sacred land of Pemakö, but being unable to do so, he predicted that his successor would be born there and reveal it himself. His 14th incarnation, Duddul Dorje, had opened up places of pilgrimage in remote places of power. Foremost among these was Pemakö. Padmasambhava and the 25 disciples as well as Gampopa had previously practised there but it was inaccessible until Terton Traktung Dudul Dorje opened it up for the first time to ordinary pilgrims.
1. Yogi Nuden Dorje Chang: tutor of 1,000 princes who, countless ages ago during the aeon of the Buddha Pranidhanaraja, vowed to appear as Sugata Mopa Od Thaye the 1,000th and the last Buddha of this Light Aeon.
2. Shariputra: foremost disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha known for his wisdom. He performed the role of the speaker in many sutras, particularly the Prajnaparamita sutras.
3. Saraha: first of the of eighty-four great Siddhas of India, a poet and a tantric practitioner whose teachings were passed down and who was famous for his spiritual songs (dohas).
4. Krishnadhara: chief minister of Indrabhuti of Uddiyana
5. Humkara: one of the eight knowledge holders, the Vidhyadharas and holder of Yang dag thugs from Dakini
6. Kheu Chung Lotsawa: translator and one of Padmasambhava's Twenty-five Tibetan disciples.
7. Smritijnana: one of the Indian Panditas who established Buddhism in Tibet.
8. Rongdzom Pandita Chokyi Zangpo: the first to compose major written treatises within the Nyingma tradition. The Nyingma kama was systemetised, explained and received clear commentaries.
9. Dampa Deshek(1122-1192 CE): He was founder of Kathog Gompa in Kham, Eastern Tibet.
10. Palden Ling Je Repa: one of the founders of the Drukpa Kagyu school.
11. Sakya Trizin Chogyal Phakpa (1235-1280 CE): nephew of Sakya Pandita, ruler of much of Tibet during the Yuan dynasty, priest to Kubilai Khan.
12. Drum khar Nagpopa: Khampa yogi who meditated in dark retreat for 18 years.
13. Hewa Chojung: Khampa magician and subjugator of enemies of the dharma.
14. Trakthung Dudul Dorje(1615-1672 CE): the Terton who revived Kathok Monastery in Puwo (South-East Tibet).
15. Gyeltse Sonam Detsen: as head of Kathok Gompa he restored and preserved the tradition of the Monastery.
16. Dudul Rolpa Tsal: yogi, teacher of Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798 CE).
17. Dudjom Lingpa Garwang Dudjom Pawo (1835-1904 CE): born in Chagkong in Kham in Gili from a family of tantrikas. He was a Gili Terton, a Phurba terton well known for magical powers and wrathful countenence.
18. Dudjom Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje, (1904-87 CE).
His previous incarnation, Dudjom Lingpa, had sent his disciples ahead to where they would find his rebirth (yangsi) some time before his own death. They had to set off early because it was a long way and they would encounter many dangers and setbacks on their journey. He said: "Now in this degenerate age, go to the secret land of Pemakö. Whoever relies on me, go in that direction! Before you young ones get there, I the old one will already be there." All was precisely as predicted. He was already three years old when they arrived and recognized his reincarnation. It is said that he greeted them in their own dialect and in effect asked them what took them so long. Since His Holiness was a direct emanation of Dudjom Lingpa, he could remember his past lives clearly.
Za-Pokhung Tulku Gyurme Ngedon Wangpo, who held the teachings of Dudjom Lingpa, and Lama Thubten Chonjor of Ling travelled to Pemako and enthroned Dudjom Rinpoche, the 18th incarnation.
Dudjom Rinpoche was an extraordinary scholar almost from the moment of drawing his first breath and he quickly acquired and realised an exceptionally exhaustive repertoire of training, explanation and practices spanning all the Buddhist vehicles (yanas). From infancy, his first teacher was Khenpo Aten, with whom he studied rules of conduct and discipline, the Dom Sum which are the three vows respectively of pratimoksa, bodhisattva and tantra. These are the disciplines pertaining to Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Such was his inherent realisatition it is said he was already discovering hidden treasures (gTer) by the age of five. From the age of eight, he was instructed in the Mahayana teachings by Urgyen Chogyur Gyatso, a close disciple of Patrul Rinpoche. For sixteen years Za-Pokung Tulku Gyurme Ngeden Wangmo who was a holder of the teachings of Dudjom Lingpa and Jedrung Thinley Jampai Jungne of Riwoche taught him Dzogchen. Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro gave him teachings of the Sangwa Nyingthig (Secret Heart-Essence) and rediscovered teachings of the previous Dudjom.
Rinpoche studied at all the major monastic universities in Central Tibet. In particular he based his further studies at Mindroling where he developed his understanding of the Nyingma tradition with the Vajracarya, Dorzim Namdrol Gyatso. From him he learned the rituals and practices, dance and music of Ugyen Terdak Lingpa who had founded Ugyen Mindroling Monastery in 1676.
His Holiness received all the teachings and practices of the Nyingma School.
He received the lineage of Khenpo Nyoshul Lungtok Tenpai Nyima by transmission of the wang and lung of the Dzogchen Nyingthig Yabshi from Togden Tenpa.
He was given and completely realised all the teachings of Dzogchen together with the Kangyur lung, Dam Ngag Dzod, Sangchen Ngepai tantras, Nyingthig Yabshi etc together by Jedrung Rinpoche of Riwoche.
Tulku Kunzang Thekchog Tenpai Gyaltsan transmitted many important practices. He received the teachings of Pema Lingpa, the Seven Treasures of Longchenpa.
Jamde, Pande Odzer (disciple of Mipham Rinpoche, 1848 - 1912), gave Rinpoche the Nyingma Kama, Kagyed empowerments, Sangye Lingpa's Lama Gongdu and Sangwa Nyingpo according to the Zur tradition; as well as the cycle of the Osel Sangwa Nyingthig.
Such a brief summary does no justice to the scale, depth and breadth of teachings received by Rinpoche and must of necessity omit many important transmissions he received and teachers who contributed to his vast knowledge.
The he went into retreat at a secret place called Kenpa Jong (Punsuk Gatsel), and realised Dorje Phurba (Vajrakilaya). He immersed himself in the practice of the gradual path of Dudjom Namchag Putri.
At Buddha Tse Phuk he did Tse-Drub and his Tse-chang boiled. He received signs of accomplishment whilst practicing the gong-ter of Duddul Drollo (the Dudjom Ter practice of Dorje Drollo). When in Paro Taksang, he rediscovered the Phurba Pudri Regpung, the Tso-kye Thugthig and the Khandro Thugthig, for which he wrote down the main parts. Even though both at Samye and at Taksang, he discovered new Ter he did not record them because his priority was to preserve that which had already been revealed in his previous life. In all these important holy places whenever he practiced he consistently met with signs of accomplishment.
As his foretold. he gave the Rinchen Terdzöd (Empowerments and Transmissions) ten times, Pema Lingpa's Palden Chö Kor three times, the previous Dudjom Lingpa's work many times; the Jatsun Po Truk, the complete empowerment and transmission of Nyingma Kama and innumerable other teachings.
Rinpoche established new gompas in Pemakö, Bhutan and then India. Rinpoche had already left Tibet before the Chinese invasion, having been asked to go to Bhutan by the royal family.
When he left Bhutan to support efforts of exiles in India, following the Chinese invasion of Tibet he set up settlements for Tibetan refugees, and colleges, and restored others. Rinpoche lived in Kalimpong and then in Kathmandu. In Kompo region he reconstructed the Thadul Buchu Lhakhang and close to it he built anew the monastery of Zangdokpalri. He erected anew the tantric center of Lama Ling; at Tso Pema (Rewalsar) he established a retreat center; at Darjeeling, Tsechü Gompa; in Orissa, Dudul Rabten Ling; and in Kalimpong he founded the Zangdok-Palri Monastery. He later on travelled to the West to teach and spread the dharma. In the USA he established many Dharma centers, under the banner of Yeshe Nyingpo, as well as many retreat centers; in Europe he established Dorje Nyingpo in Paris and Urgyen Samye Chöling Meditation and Study Center in Dordogne, France. Many other Dharma centers around the world were under his guidance including Pema Osel Ling.
His Holiness Kyabje Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, Dudjom Rinpoche was a highly realized meditation master, Terton (revealer of hidden knowledge), a scholar, doctor of Tibetan medicine, astrologer and poet. He wrote at least twenty-five major volumes and is noted for the precision and accessibility of his explanations of Dzogchen. In particular he was regarded as being the best communicator of his age of the nature of mind and high lamas sent their own students to him for direct mind-to-mind transmission. At a time when the Nyingma tradition appeared on the point of extinction following the exile of so many practitioners and the cultural revolution in Tibet, he sponsored and organised the liberation to the West of a vast array of texts, particularly kama (as opposed to Terma) texts right from under the eyes of the Chinese authorities. He wrote the encyclopaedic History of the Nyingma School, to preserve the tradition for future generations. His books available in English include Fundamentals of the Teaching of Buddha and History of the Nyingma School. He became the titular head of the Nyingma School and was universally acknowledged as its leader by all practitioners during that dark time. An achievement no-one has repeated since - yet.
His Holiness married twice, first to Sangyum Kusho Tseten Yudron and had six children including HH Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, his firstborn, and the Sakya Tulku Jigme Nyima Rinpoche. His second wife was Sangyum Kusho Rikzin Wangme. They had three children including Shenphen Dawa Norbu Rinpoche. On January 17, 1987, His Holiness passed away in France.
Two boys have been identified as Rinpoche’s yangsi (rebirth).
See The History of the Dzogchen Secret Quintessence, Life Stories of the Vidyadharas of the Lineage composed by Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje.