Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo


ACCORDING TO Nyingma tradition, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo is the body incarnation of Jigme Lingpa. He became one of the greatest masters, in whom the lineages of all of Tibetan Buddhism find their confluence. He became a prominent propagator of Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyü, and other teaching lineages. He was recognized as the rebirth of Jigme Lingpa (1730–1798) by the Nyingmapas and the Nesar Khyentse (1524–?) and Thartse Champa Namkha Chi-me by the Sakyapas. As Jigme Lingpa, he was also the manifestation of King Trisong Detsen, Vimalamitra, and many other masters. He was the master of thirteen lineal orders and was regarded as one of the five kings among the hundred major tertöns of the Nyingma tradition.

He was also known as Dorje Ziji, Pema Do-ngak Lingpa, Jigpa Mepe De, Tsokye Lama Gyepe Bang, Kunkhyen Lama Gyepe Bang, Jigme Khyentse Dökar, Mañjughoṣha, and Kün-ga Tenpe Gyaltsen.

He was born near Khyungchen Trak in a family of the Nyö clan from the village of Dilgo in the Terlung Valley of Dege amid wondrous signs on the fifth day of the sixth month of the Iron Dragon year of the fourteenth Rabjung (1820). His father was Rinchen Wangyal, an administrator of the Dege Palace, and his mother was Sönamtso, from a Mongol background.

Once his father asked the first Dodrupchen whether he should become a monk. Dodrupchen replied, “Do not become a monk. If you don’t become a monk and get married, a great tülku will be born among your offspring. He will become a great source of benefits for the Dharma and beings.”

From childhood he could recall his previous lives, and Ekajaṭī and Mahākāla were visible in forms and in energies around him to offer their protection.

At the age of eight he started to study Tibetan, astrology, medicine, and other disciplines with his father and Lamen Chötrak Gyatso. He was very intelligent, and he perfected his recitation and writing studies without the slightest difficulty. He also understood the meanings of the profound texts merely by reading them.

One day when he was seriously sick, in a vision he was given Vajrakīla empowerment by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal, and the obstructions of his life were pacified.

At about age eleven, he went to Kathok Monastery, and his uncle Moktön named him Jigme Khyentse Dökar, which indicated that he was the tülku of Jigme Lingpa.

At twelve, Thartse Khenpo Kün-ga Tenzin (1776–?) recognized him as the tülku of his teacher and uncle, Ngor Thartse Khenchen Champa Namkha Chi-me, who was a great Khenpo of Ngor Monastery in Central Tibet and who then taught and died at Lhundrup Teng in Dege. Kün-ga Tenzin named him Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo Kün-ga Tenpe Gyaltsen.

At fifteen, in a pure vision he went to Bodhgayā and was entrusted with the treasures of the Prajñāpāramitā and Anuttaratantra teachings by Mañjushrīmitra. In front of the Bodhgayā temple, he purified the defilements of gross body by burning it and transforming it into a pure body like that of Vimalamitra.

At sixteen, in a pure vision, he went to Zangdok Palri, and from Guru Rinpoche, with hosts of ḍākinīs, he received the introduction to the three Buddha bodies and the prophecy that he would become the “receiver of seven orders” (bKa’ Babs bDun). Then Guru Rinpoche and the ḍākinīs merged into Khyentse, saying:

Maintaining the emptiness intrinsic awareness nakedly, 

Unstained by the grasped objects or

Unpolluted by the grasper thoughts 

Is the vision of the Buddhas.

At eighteen he went to the hermitage of Zhechen Monastery and studied Sanskrit, poetry, and other subjects with Gyurme Thutop of Zhechen.

At nineteen, from Jigme Gyalwe Nyuku he received the transmissions of the Longchen Nyingthig cycle with miraculous signs. Then Lama Norbu, a disciple of the first Dodrupchen, gave him the introduction to the nature of the mind while transmitting the teachings of Amitābha discovered by Dodrupchen. Even in the latter part of his life, Khyentse Wangpo would say, “There is no more to progress [in the realization of the nature of the mind] than he realized then.”

At twenty, at the request of Thartse Khenpo, he went to Ngor Monastery in Central Tibet. There he discovered many teachings and objects as earth ter. They included Thugje Chenpo Semnyi Ngalso, discovered at Tragmar Drinzang; Lama Kuzhi Drupthap at Damshö Nyingtrung; Tsasum Gyutrül Trawa at Singu Yutso; and Tsasum Chidü at Yarlung Sheltrak.

At twenty-one, he took full monastic ordination from Khenpo Rigdzin Wangpo at Mindroling Monastery in Central Tibet. He received bodhichitta vows from Sangye Kün-ga, the seventh Throne- holder of Mindroling.

Before the Jowo image at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, the rice he threw as offering instantly turned into white flowers, and a hundred butter lamps burned without needing to be lit. While he was saying prayers for the benefit of others, someone requested him to make an aspiration for himself. He said:

Without having any leader here [in me] or any servant over there,

Without having enemies to subdue or friends to protect, 

In a solitary place, by taming my own mind,

May I accomplish the vast deeds of the bodhisattvas.

At twenty-four, at Oyuk, his memory of having been Chetsün Senge Wangchuk and his subsequent attainment of the light body of great transformation was awakened, and he discovered the profound Chetsün Nyingthig teachings. He made an extensive pilgrimage as an ascetic in Tsang, Ngari, and Central Tibet. At many places he perceived the images as the real Buddhas or the masters, and he beheld pure visions and had realizations. By the end of his twenty- fourth year, he returned to Kham and studied the teachings of the Ngor tradition at Dzongsar Tashi Lhatse.

At twenty-nine, he went to Central Tibet again for three years. At Gegye in Changdrok, as he was receiving the blessings from Guru Rinpoche in a pure vision, he discovered Sangdmp Tsokye Nyingthig as mind ter. At Samye, he saw the Tsokye Dorje image transform itself as the actual Guru Rinpoche and merge into him. As a result, he discovered Tsokye Nyingthig. At thirty-five, while he was meditating on white Tārā, he had the vision of the Tārā. As the result, he discovered Phagme Nyingthig.

At forty, as a result of pure vision, he received blessings from Guru Rinpoche, which enabled him to see all the tertöns and all the ter teachings that had appeared in the past, were appearing then, or would appear in the future in Tibet. Since that time he became the master of all of the ters.

From Khenpo Pema Doge he received many transmissions including Longchen Nyingthig, Gyutrül Zhitro, Düpa Do, and the seventeen tantras. Also, from the fourth Dzogchen Rinpoche he received the common and uncommon ngöndro teachings of Longchen Nyingthig. He also received Longchen Nyingthig transmissions from Jigme Gyalwe Nyuku and Jetsün Sönam Chokden.

Then he received the teachings of all the lineages that exist in Tibet from about one hundred and fifty lamas over a period of some thirteen years. He studied or received the transmissions of more than seven hundred volumes. They included the traditions of Nyingma, Kadam, Sakya, Drikung, Taklung, Kamtsang, Drukpa, and others.

His main teachers were Trichen Tashi Rinchen of Sakya, Thartse Kün-ga Tendzin (1776–?), Champa Naljor, and Ngawang Lektrup of Ngor in Tsang Province in the west, Trichen Gyurme Sangye and Jetsün Thrinle Chödron of Mindroling, and Lhatsun Rinpoche of Drepung Monastery in Ü Province, and Zhechen Gyurme Thutop, Jigme Gyalwe Nyuku, Migyur Namkhe Dorje, Khenpo Pema Dorje, and Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye of Kham Province in the east.

He accomplished everything that he studied. However, according to Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse, Khyentse Wangpo’s “main practice was the guru yoga of Longchen Nyingthig.”

He made Dzongsar Tashi Lhatse Monastery of the Sakya tradition in Dege his main seat and rebuilt it after the destruction caused by Nyakrong forces.

According to the Nyingma tradition, he received the transmissions or became the receiver of the seven orders (bKa’ Babs bDun) of teachings:

  1. He received the transmissions of both the Old Tantras and New Tantras.
  2. He discovered many earth treasures (Sa gTer).
  3. He rediscovered many earth treasures that had been discovered by earlier tertöns.
  4. He discovered many mind treasures (dGongs gTer).
  5. He rediscovered or reawakened many mind treasures that had been discovered by earlier tertöns.
  6. He discovered many Pure Vision teachings (Dag sNang).
  7. He received oral-transmission teachings (sNyan brGyud) in pure vision from many divinities.

The third Dodrupchen, who studied with him, describes his personal experiences of Khyentse Wangpo:

Wherever he lived, a very strong sweet scent always filled the surroundings, which was believed to be the sign of his strict monastic discipline. Even a movement of his fingers was inspiring and meaningful, and people became powerless not to appreciate every gesture he made. Wherever he lived, you would always feel a pleasant heat, as if from a fire in the cold. Numerous people saw him in different forms of Buddhas or early masters. Whatever the season, people in his presence always had the feeling of being in the joy and prosperity of summer. He was exceptionally caring of poor people and spoke to them very gently. Arrogant and cruel people who were known as brave men would run from him without looking back, like escapees, or would submit as if their heads were falling off. Before him, every great master or powerful person became insignificant and humble. He was humble, honest, and kind. He was skilled in both Dharmic and secular ethical values. Before him, no one dared to express flattering or deceptive words. He taught all kinds of assemblies with great confidence, like a lion among other animals. In the midst of hosts of disciples, he was simple, and harmonious with all, and he spoke at the right moment and for the right length of time. His reasoning mind was swift like a river coursing down a steep mountain. His voice would fill the atmosphere as if it were the waves of the ocean. Sometimes he taught without caring to eat his meal. Because of the rush of disciples and the load of teachings, visitors sometimes had to wait weeks or even months to see him, but everyone felt joy in waiting for him.

Khyentse Wangpo constructed many temples and libraries, and inspired thousands of people to undertake activities on behalf of Dharma. He commissioned the building of about two thousand statues, the copying of about two thousand volumes of scripture, the carving of wooden blocks for about forty volumes, the making of more than a hundred copper statues gilded with gold, and the repair of many historical temples and monasteries.

For many decades he gave teachings and transmissions to disciples of different traditions. For example, he gave the empowerments of Vajrasattva discovered by Minling Terchen about fifty times and the empowerment and instruction of Longchen Nyingthig about twenty times.

At seventy-three, at the beginning of the first month of the Water Dragon year (1892), he said that he kept seeing Amitābha Buddha in the midst of an ocean of disciples. After the completion of an elaborate ceremony on the twenty-fifth day of the first month, he said to his offering master (mCh’od dPon), “From now on you don’t have to do anything.” The next day he started to show ill health. His disciples asked, “What prayers should we do for your longevity?” He replied, “None. Around the twentieth of next month, I will have recovered.” When they insisted, he said, “It will be good if you say as many hundred-syl able mantras of Vajrasattva as you can.”

Then in the morning of the twenty-first of the second month, he washed his hands and said, “Now take everything away [from my table]. All my work is completed.” Then, uttering lots of prayers of auspiciousness, he threw grain flowers, which is a sign of completion. Later that day, he was withdrawn into the expanse of the enlightened mind of Vimalamitra. In the surrounding land there were gentle earthquakes. Even after death, his face looked radiant like the face of the moon. His body became as light as if it were made of cotton.

His main Nyingma disciples are listed in the lineage tree. Among Sakyapas, they are Sakya Dakchen, three Jetsünmas of Sakya, Kün- ga Tenzin of Ngor, Thartse Zhaptrung, Zhalu Losal Tenkyong, and Ngor Thartse Pönlop Loter Wangpo (1847–1914). Among Kagyüpas, they are the fourteenth and fifteenth Karmapas, Taklung Ma Rinpoche, Situ Pema Nyinche (1774–1853), Dazang Tülku, Dokhampa, Paṇḍita Karma Ngedön, Kongtrül Yönten Gyatso (1813–1899), and Samding Dorje Phagmo. Among Gelukpas, they are Könchok Tenpa Rabgye of Tashi Khyil, Lhatsün Töndrup Gyaltsen, Hor Khangsar Kyabgön, and Lithang Champa Phüntsok.

Khyentse Wangpo manifested many incarnations simultaneously. They include Chökyi Wangpo (1894–1909) of Dzongsar, Chökyi Lodrö (1893–1959) of Kathok, Karma Khyentse Özer (1896– 1945) of Palpung (Beri), Guru Tsewang (1897–?) of Dzogchen, Künzang Drodül Dechen Dorje (1897–1946) of Dza Palme, and Dilgo Khyentse Tashi Paljor (1910–1991) of Zhechen. Among them, Kathok Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö was the most outstanding teacher. After the death of Dzongsar Khyentse, Kathok Khyentse moved to Dzongsar Monastery, the seat of the previous Khyentse Wangpo, and since then Kathok Khyentse became known as the Dzongsar Khyentse. Since the early 1960s, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, single- handedly upholding the unique tradition of Khyentse incarnations, propagated Dharma tirelessly in India, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and the West.

Tulku Thondup

“Masters of Meditation and Miracles: Lives of the Great Buddhist Masters of India and Tibet”s