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People : Lamas Last Updated: Mar 28th, 2008 - 16:56:23


Khamtrül Ngak’chang Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche (1926 - 1993)
By Translated from spoken tape-recorded Tibetan by Johannes Frischknect & Gélong Thubten Dadak
Mar 2, 2007, 15:38

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Vel Lama Yeshe Dorje
Khamtrül Ngak’chang Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche was a Nyingma Lama who practised mainly as a 'village ngakpa' - as a Tantric shaman specialising in shé-dür (exorcism) and weather control for the benefit of those amongst who he lived. He was a holder of the gö-kar-chang-lo, and was much loved by the Tibetan community in McLeod Ganj, in Northern India. In the later part of his life he became widely known as ‘the Dala’i Lama's weather-maker’, and traveled widely helping people with the vagaries of the climates they had to endure. In southern India the Tibetan communities suffered from drought, so he brought rain. In Manali he averted hail. Before his death in 1993 he had begun to travel frequently to the USA where he performed shé-dür in many places for the benefit of those with sickness and mental disturbances. He visited many of the centres established by HH Dudjom Rinpoche, gave instruction on Dudjom gTér-sar ngöndro. He also made two visits to the UK where he taught at Rigpa in London and elsewhere. Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche was a master of Mahayoga - especially the practices of the Dudjom gTér-sar Tröma Nakmo. His main practice was Tröma gCod and it's attendant rites, and his gCod drum and kangling were familiar implements to all those who visited him.

Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche was born on the fifteenth day, of the first month of the fire-tiger year - 1926, and died at the age of 67. His birth place was Mar-Kham, which means, southern Kham, in Western Tibet. His Mother was called Sonam Drölma and his father was called Ögyen Dorje and they belonged to the Drompa Tsang clan who came from Lharong in Mar-Kham. They were a ngak’phang couple of the Nyingma school, and had two other sons and a daughter. This yogi and yogini held a family lineage as was common in the Nyingma school, and the lineage passed from father to son. The eldest son of the family was recognised as a tulku and became the abbot of a Do-ngak-Ling gompa, whilst Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche became the family lineage holder. The Drompa Tsang clan was famous for the ngakpas of their family lineage who had powers over the weather. They had been relied upon for hundreds of years for the prevention of hail, especially by farmers. Hail in Tibet could be unusually violent and destroy crops completely, so this service was very valuable.

The lineage began at the time of the fifth Dala'i Lama with a ngak’phang Lama called Drüpthob Tashi. He was a ngak’phang togden who lived as a family man and his practice was mainly concerned with the integrating his realisation with the ordinary particulars of his existence. At that time, the central government was imposing inordinate taxes on his village, and the people were suffering a great deal as a result. The local governor used to extort the taxes by force when the people complained that they could not meet the unreasonable demands that were being made on them. Drüpthob Tashi was touched by the plight of the people and decided to help them in resist the demands. He made himself directly responsible to the governor in the rôle of local head-man, so that he would have to be called upon to make the payment rather than the people. In this rôle he offered the taxes the people could actually afford, and this caused the local governor considerable anger. He responded by sending armed soldiers to force Drüpthob Tashi to pay the entire sum demanded. Over fifty men arrived with guns and swords and surrounded his house, whilst a smaller group broke in and tied his sang-yum and children to pillars. Drüpthob Tashi was on the roof when the assault on his house began, and unable to protect his family. It was his custom to meditated on the roof where he could stare into the sky, and where he could integrate with air-element. Because he was unable to descend and help to his family, he simply waited for them to attack him. They shouted up to him to come down, but he refused to come unless the soldiers released his family. The armed men declined, and scaled the walls in order to apprehend him. Once on the roof, they proceeding to menace him, demanding that he pay the money the village ostensibly still owed - but Drüpthob Tashi's response dismayed them completely. He threw off his clothes and flew into the sky. The troops were terrified by this spectacle and threw themselves on the ground. Some began making fervent prostrations and beginning his forgiveness. Those below, in the house, untied his sang-yum and family immediately and apologised for the ignominy to which they had been subjected. When the local governor heard about this, he realised the Drüpthob Tashi was a realised being, and felt highly anxious about what he had done. He had no choice, in terms of his cultural background, but to conclude that Drüpthob Tashi must have had very good reasons for defying the demands for taxes. After this event the taxes were reviewed and thereafter, people were treated fairly.

Drüpthob Tashi was quite extraordinary in his abilities. He had the capacity to transform himself into a white vulture in order to appear to different beings and provide them with causes for liberation. He gave teaching in vulture from especially to the vultures who eat human corpses during sky burial, and it was said that the vultures who only eat human corpses after he had blessed them by tapping them three times with his beak. He would then return to human form and re-join his family. His lineage was transmitted to his son, and then from father to son, down through the generations until the birth of Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche. Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche's father had been the incarnation of Drüpthob Tashi, and Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche was incarnation of the son.

Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche was first recognised as an incarnation through a remarkable series of events that occurred when he was five years old. Until then his parents had no suspicion that he was anyone other than an ordinary child. Until then he had shown no unusual signs or prodigies. He had journeyed up into the mountains with his father and older brother for the day in search of medical herbs. He played whilst his father and bother collected herbs, but soon wandered off and got lost. When they realised he was nowhere to be found, his father consulted the Mo in order to find him. His father was both a doctor and an astrologer, and was highly accomplished in the art of divination. They set off immediately to find the hapless child and were astonished to discover him in a cave on the other side of the mountain. The cave seemed quite inaccessible, from where they stood and they decided that the only way they could reach him was for the elder son to be lowered down on a rope. When the brother appeared, dangling on the end of the rope, it quite startled the young, and he was just about to step off the edge of the cliff to escape when his brother caught him and they were both pulled up to safety. They realised that it would have been impossible for the young Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche to have reached the cave in so short a time, and realised at that point that he must have siddhis. After this event the family consulted with various important Lamas who concluded that Yeshé Dorje was indeed the re-birth of the Min'gyür Dorje. After he was recognised as the re-birth of Min’gyür Dorje, the son of Drüpthob Tashi, he was sent to study at Do-ngak-Ling where another of his brothers had been enthroned as the khenpo. There, he studied under a very good Lama called Pema Dorje. He thought that Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche was very stupid, because he seemed to have no ability to memorise anything, and had no interest in study at all. Lama Pema Dorje was very strict with his student but it seemed to make no difference - Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche liked nothing better than to tease the monks and play games. One day, however, he had a dream in which there was the appearance of khandromas. The consequence of this visionary dream was the knowledge that he could easily memorise texts. When he woke up, he went to find the text that he had previously had no interest in memorising, and found that memorisation had become very easy for him. He began immediately memorise the text, and had learned almost 200 pages within month in which he had started. Once he had learned enough, he asked his teacher to fix the date for an official examination, but Lama Pema Dorje found it hard to take his request seriously. He was also concerned about his reputation as a tutor; because, if his student failed in the examination, it would reflect very badly upon him. However Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche was insistent, and so Lama Pema had no choice but to organise the examination.

At the same time he also arranged horses and provisions for a speedy departure from the gompa - he didn't want to remain there after his charge had failed. The day arrived for the examination, and to the astonishment of his teacher, Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche proved that he could continue to recite the text from wherever his teacher left off without any hesitation! Lama Pema Dorje offered him prostrations immediately. Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche at first thought that the prostrations of his teacher portended another beating, but he was wrong - the old Lama was smiling through his tears, completely overcome by the prodigy he had witnessed in his apparently dim-witted student. Lama Pema then confided that he had been ready to quit the gompa, as he had been expecting to be disgraced by Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche's performance in the test. He then apologised for his stern and severe manner of teaching. He said that he now regretted the strict measures he had always employed and promised that in future he would be both gentle and kind to his student. From that time onward, the Lamas at the gompa showed affection and consideration for Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche, coming to visit him on special days.

People generally began to treat him in special ways and many presents arrived. As he grew older he was asked more and more to perform ph'owa and bardo rites for people, but he realised that he had no actual capacity to perform these practises. He sat on his throne and went through the motions, but it was the other Lamas who actually did the work. This made him feel rather ashamed, and he decided that it was not useful to spend his life in this way. One day three Drigung Kagyüd ngakpas passed through the area and stayed at the gompa. they were making an extended journey, practised gCod wherever they stopped. Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche was deeply impressed by them and talked with them about the essential meaning of practice. He revolved at that time that the only way that he could come to deserve the respect he had been shown, was to fully realise the powers with which he had been credited. He felt that he should learn to look after himself rather than rely on the support of the gompa. It occurred to him that he was not very free in the gompa, and that living off the contributions of the lay people when he had no real power to help them was rather shameful. He decided that, as prestigious as it was, he did not want to take to path of academic training. he would rather follow the example of the Drigung ngakpas and spend his life wandering and practising in the wilds. He had had enough of rules and monastic discipline, and wanted to regulate his own life according to his own decisions. It was not an easy thing to leave the gompa, because like most ecclesiastical dignitaries, he was a focus for lay donations and his departure would not have been welcomed by the bursar or the other monastic officials. So he decided to escape in secret on night, and never return. He left with five horses, provisions, personal texts and ritual implements. In order to put as much distance as possible between himself and the gompa he slept in caves during day-light hours and travelled at night. Eventually he reached the region of Kongpo where he was able to travel more openly, and speak with the people he met along the way. One ngakpa he met, invited him to journey with him to Lhasa in the hope of receiving an audience with HH Dala’i Lama. Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche thought that this was an excellent. They journeyed for several months practising as they travelled, but when they eventually arrived in Lhasa they were not able to gain an audience. Being frustrated in his wish to meet HH Dala’i Lama, Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche continued on his travels, and finally met his first important root teacher - Ko-gyong Rinpoche. He studied with Ko-gyong Rinpoche for three years, but then he died. In his last words he emphasised the need to go beyond ritual practice. He instructed Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche to concentrate on the inner meaning of the teaching rather than remaining stuck at the level of outer performance. He told Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche that, if he was successful in his practice, they would meet again; but in his later years there was no sign of his re-appearance. There was however an indication that the re-union could occur at some other level. This is the most likely possibility as Ko-gyong Rinpoche attained the rainbow body, and left nothing behind but hair, nails and nasal septum. Lamas who take rainbow body sometimes do not take incarnation for long periods of time.

Postscript

The work of Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche is continued at: The Zilnon Kagyeling Monastary, Above Bhagsu Road, McLeod Ganj, Upper Dharamsala - 176215, District Kangra, H.P India.

See also "The Rainmaker - The Story of Venerable Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje Rinpoche" by Marsha Woolf and Karen Blanc,  Sigo Press 1994 (ISBN 0-939434-28-7 or ISBN 0-938434-15-2).


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