Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa
RIGDZIN Jigme Lingpa was the incarnation (tülku) of both King Trisong Detsen (790–858) and Vimalamitra. He is also known as Khyentse Özer, Rays of Wisdom and Compassion. He discovered the vast and profound Longchen Nyingthig cycle of teachings as mind ter.
In The Secret Prophecy of Lama Gongdü, discovered by Sangye Lingpa (1340–1396), Guru Rinpoche foretold Jigme Lingpa’s coming seven hundred years hence:
In the south [of Tibet] there will come a tülku named Özer.
He shall liberate beings through the profound teachings of Nyingthig.
Whoever is connected to him he will lead to the pure land of the vidhyādharas.
Jigme Lingpa was born in a village in the early morning of the eighteenth of the twelfth month of the Earth Bird year of the twelfth Rabjung (1730) in Chongye Valley in Southern Tibet, not very far from the royal tombs of the Chögyal dynasty, known as “red tombs.” Although his parents came from significant families in past history, they were of simple means, which Jigme Lingpa acknowledges as a blessing that allowed him to undertake his religious life without being forced into social obligations or aristocratic pomp.
From childhood he remembered his previous incarnations, such as being the great Tertön Sangye Lama (1000–1080?). One of his teeth was marked with the Buddha’s speech syllable ĀḤ, known as the sign of his being the reincarnation of Vimalamitra. Also, as indicated in a prophetic writing, he had thirty small reddish moles in the form of a vajra at his heart, about thirty small reddish moles at his navel in the form of a ritual bell, and lines in the form of a HYA or HRĪḤ letter, the seed letter of the deity Hayagrīva, on his right thumb. From childhood his mind was detached from worldly enjoyments, and he was extraordinarily compassionate, intelligent, and courageous.
He acknowledged being the thirteenth incarnation of Gyalse Lhaje, the receiver of the Kadü Chökyi Gyatso teachings from Duru Rinpoche, all of whom were tertöns. Also, in his life lineage prayer, which he wrote for his disciples, Jigme Lingpa mentions many of his past and one of his future lives as he saw them:
 Samantabhadra, al -pervading lord of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, the continuum of the basis, the very essence of Buddha nature,
 Then [the union of] compassion and emptiness arose as Avalokiteshvara, and
 Prahevajra, to you I pray.
 Then manifested as the son of King Kṛikrī in the presence of Buddha Kāshyapa,
 Nanda, the younger brother of the Buddha,
 Ākarma[ti], a manifestation of [King] Songtsen Gampo, and
 [King] Trison Detsen, to you I pray.
 [Mahāsiddha] Virvapa [of India],  Princess Pemasal,
 Gyalse Lhaje, the lord in person,
 Tri-me Künden [of India],  Yarje Ogyen Lingpa [1323–?],
 Daö Zhönu [1079–1153, of Kagyü] and  Trakpa Gyaltsen [1147–1216, of Sakya], to you I pray.
 Then Longchen Rabjam [1308–1363], the manifestation of the very Mahāpaṇḍita Vimalamitra,
 Ngari Penchen (1487–1542),  Chögyal Phüntsok [16th century, son of Drikung Rinchen Phüntsok],
 [Changdak] Tashi Tobgyal [1550–1602?],  Dzamling Dorje [of Kongpo] and
 Jigme Linga [1789–1798], to you I pray.
 After this, through manifestation of Yeshe Dorje [1800– 66].
At the age of six, as an ordinary novice he entered Palri (Shrīparvata) Monastery in Chongye Valley, the seat of Trangpo Terchen Sherap Özer (1517–1584). Tsogyal Tülku Ngawang Lobzang Pema gave him the name Pema Khyentse Özer.
From the ages of six to thirteen, he spent more time, as he says, “playing dust” with novices of his age than on his studies. He lived the life of a poor novice with little to facilitate learning, and faced very strict disciplinary tutors year after year. However, the intensity of his zeal for the Dharma, his spontaneous devotion to Guru Rinpoche, and his innate compassion for all living beings, especially toward animals, sustained him and made his childhood extremely joyful and meaningful. Although he seemed an insignificant novice, his inner life was full of richness. His days were filled with meditative attainments and inspiring pure visions. His nights merged into dreams of spiritual experiences and visions.
In such circumstances, he mastered grammar, logic, astrology, poetry, history, medicine, and many scriptures of sūtra and tantra. Apart from receiving the transmissions of esoteric empowerments, he felt no need to have a master or study any intellectual subject in detail, as other serious students were doing. He learned various subjects merely by overhearing bits of the classes of other students or glancing at the texts.
Many masters became learned by studying and then realized by meditating. Jigme Lingpa was born learned as the result of awakening the wisdom realization in himself. However, the outward manifestation was that his final and full bursting forth of boundless wisdom took place much later, when he had the visions of Longchen Rabjam, at the age of thirty-one. He writes:
By nature I felt very happy when I was able to study [any subject, such as] language, secular writings, canonical scriptures and their commentaries, or the Vajra[yāna] teachings on the ultimate nature. I would study them with great respect, both by daylight and lamplight. But I hardly had the opportunity to develop the knowledge by studying with a master, even for a single day. However, at the glorious Samye Chimphu, by beholding the wisdom body of Longchenpa three times, and by receiving the blessings through various signs, my karma [of the “learning-wisdom” was] awakened from [the depth of] the Great Perfection.
From Neten Künzang Özer he received his first major transmission, the transmission of Trölthik Gongpa Rangtröl teachings discovered by Trengpo Terchen Sherap Özer (aka Drodül Lingpa), the cycle of Lama Gongdü discovered by Sangye Lingpa (1340–1396), and the Seven Treasures and Three Chariots by Longchen Rabjam (1308–1363).
At thirteen, Jigme Lingpa met the great Tertön Rigdzin Thukchok Dorje and instantly experienced a strong devotion that awakened his wisdom mind. From the tertön he received transmissions and instructions on Mahāmudrā and other teachings. Thukchok Dorje became his root teacher, and he received blessings from him in visions even after the master’s death. Jigme Lingpa also received transmissions from many other masters, including Thekchen Lingpa Drotön Tharchin (aka Trime Lingpa, 1700–1776), his uncle Dharmakīrti, the seventh Chakzampa Tendzin Yeshe Lhündrup, Thangdrok Tülku Pema Rigdzin Wangpo of Kongpo, Trati Ngakchang Rigpe Dorje (aka Kong-nyön) of Kongpo, and Mön Dzakar Lama Dargye.
At the beginning of his twenty-eighth year, he started a three-year strict retreat at Palri Monastery, with seven vows to be observed for the whole of seven years. These vows show us the importance of perfecting oneself before going out to help others to fulfill the goal of life. His seven vows were as follows:
(1) He would neither enter any layperson’s house nor enjoy any entertainment. (2) Even if he were living in the midst of a community, he would abstain from receiving many people (in his cell) or leading any gathering that fostered hatred or attachment. (3) He would not correspond with anyone, neither would any word from outside come in nor any words from inside get out. (4) He would maintain a life of austerity and would refrain from exchanging Dharma teachings for any material gain. (5) He would refrain from any distracting activities, dedicating his efforts only to the ten activities that concern Dharma training. (6) He would live with simple sustenance and not carelessly enjoy any materials offered with faith. (7) He would not perform any of the four actions and would dedicate all activities to liberation from saṃsāra.
He concentrated his meditation on the development stage and the perfection stage, based on Trölthik Gongpa Rangtröl. His mindful awareness enabled him to secure his mind from distractions in meditation, even for the duration of the snap of a finger. When he read The Seven Treasures by Longchen Rabjam, they answered all the questions he had about his inner meditative experiences.
As he progressed through the stages of realization, he experienced numerous physical and mental signs of attainments. He experienced the visions of many lamas and divinities including Guru Rinpoche, Yeshe Tsogyal, Mañjushrīmitra, and Hüṃkara, which awakened various stages of his inner wisdom. Suddenly, he found that within himself the point of reference of all his mental experiences had been uprooted. He had gained dominion over the process of his karmic energies. All the caves of delusory appearances (i.e., the objects, on which conceptual mind relies to forge the dualistic saṃsāra) had totally collapsed. Through the strength of awakened realization, he could review many past lives clearly. But all those experiences and visions were in the nature of oneness in his realized mind.
Through yogic trainings he achieved control over the channels, energies, and essence of his vajra body. As a result, his throat opened as the “cycle of wealth” of teachings. His physical channels transformed into the “clouds of letters.” All the phenomenal appearances turned into the “signs/gestures of Dharma.” His speech became the songs of profound realization. His writings became treatises of great wisdom power and scholarship. An inexhaustible ocean of teaching phenomena continued to burst forth for him and from him.
Then he composed his first major writing, Khyentse Melong Özer Gyawa, an explanatory treatise on the Lama Gongdü cycle.
Guru Rinpoche, appearing in a vision, gave him the name Pema Wangchen. In a vision Mañjushrīmitra gave him blessings, which caused him to realize the meaning of symbolic wisdom (mTshon Byed dPe’i Ye Shes). Thereafter, he changed his maroon monastic robes to the natural garb of an ascetic, uncolored white robes and uncut long hair.
At twenty-eight, he discovered the extraordinary revelation of the Longchen Nyingthig cycle, the teachings of the Dharmakāya and Guru Rinpoche, as mind ter. In the evening of the twenty-fifth day of the tenth month of the Fire Ox year of the thirteenth Rabjung cycle (1757), he went to bed with an unbearable devotion to Guru Rinpoche in his heart; a stream of tears of sadness continuously wet his face because he was not in Guru Rinpoche’s presence, and unceasing words of prayers kept singing in his breath.
He remained in the depth of that meditative experience of clear luminosity (’Od gSal Gyi sNang Ba) for a long time. While being absorbed in that luminous clarity, he experienced flying a long distance through the sky while riding on a white lion. He finally reached a circular path, which he thought to be the circumambulation path of Charung Khashor, now known as Bodhnath Stūpa, an important Buddhist monument of giant structure in Nepal.
In the eastern courtyard of the stūpa, he saw the Dharmakāya appearing in the form of a wisdom ḍākinī. She entrusted him with a beautiful wooden casket, saying:
For the disciples with pure mind,
You are Trisong Detsen.
For the disciples with impure mind,
You are Senge Repa.
This is Samantabhadra’s mind treasure,
The symbolic scripts of Rigdzin Padma[sambhava], and
The great secret treasures of the ḍākinīs. Signs are over!
The ḍākinī vanished. With an experience of great joy, he opened the casket. In it he found five rolls of yellow scrolls with seven crystal beads. At first, the script was illegible, but then it turned into Tibetan script. One of the rolls was the Dug-ngal Rangtröl, the Sādhana of Avalokiteshvara, and another was Nechang Thukkyi Drombu, the prophetic guide of Longchen Nyingthig. Rāhula, one of the protectors of the teachings, appeared before him to pay respect. As he was encouraged by another ḍākinī, Jigme Lingpa swallowed all the yellow scrolls and the crystal beads. Instantly, he had the amazing experience that all the words of the Longchen Nyingthig cycle with their meanings had been awakened in his mind as if they were imprinted there. Even after coming out of that meditative experience, he remained in the realization of intrinsic awareness, the great union of bliss and emptiness.
Thus, the Longchen Nyingthig teachings and realization, which were entrusted and concealed in him by Guru Rinpoche many centuries earlier, were awakened, and he became a tertön, the discoverer of the Longchen Nyingthig cycle of teachings. He gradually transcribed the teachings of the Longchen Nyingthig cycle, starting with the Nechang Thukkyi Drombu.
He kept all his discovered teachings secret from everyone for seven years, as the time had not yet matured to teach them to others.
It was also essential for the tertön to practice the teachings himself first.
Although he was maintaining the life of a hidden yogī, respect for and faith in him grew spontaneously in the people around him, and he became a source of benefit for many people, as he had perfected the power of the four actions without needing to work to acquire them.
At thirty-one, he started to observe a second three-year retreat at Chimphu near Samye. First he started his retreat in a cave known as Upper Nyang cave. Then he discovered another cave and recognized it as the Sangchen Metok cave or the Lower Nyang cave, where King Trisong Detsen had received the Nyingthig teachings from Nyang and meditated on them. For the rest of his retreat he lived in the Sangchen cave.
During his retreat at Chimphu, the highest realization of Dzogpa Chenpo was awakened in Jigme Lingpa, and that awakening was caused by three pure visions of the wisdom body of Longchen Rabjam (1308–1363), the Dharmakāya in pure manifestation. In the Upper Nyang cave he had the first vision, in which he received the blessing of the vajra body of Longchen Rabjam. Jigme Lingpa obtained the transmission of both the words and the meaning of Longchen Rabjam’s teachings. After moving to Sangchen Phuk (the Great Sacred Cave), he had the second and third visions. In the second vision he received the blessing of the speech of Longchen Rabjam, which empowered him to uphold and propagate the profound teachings of Longchen Rabjam as his representative. In the third vision Jigme Lingpa received the blessing of the wisdom mind of Longchen Rabjam, which awakened or transferred the inexpressible power of enlightened intrinsic awareness of Longchen Rabjam to him. Now for Jigme Lingpa, because there was no objective reference point, all the external appearances had become boundless. There was no separate meditation or meditative state to pursue. As there was no subjective designator in his inner mind, all became naturally free and totally open in oneness. He composed Künkhyen Zhallung and some other writings as the true meaning of The Seven Treasures of Longchen Rabjam, which had awakened in his wisdom mind. He expressed his wisdom power in vajra songs to his devoted hermit companions, concerning various situations:
The nature of the mind is like openness space,
But it is superior, as it possesses the wisdom. Luminous clarity is like the sun and moon,
But it is superior, as there are no substances. Intrinsic awareness is like a crystal ball,
But it is superior, as there are no obstructions or coverings.
Son, mind watching mind is
Not the awareness of the innate nature.
So, in the present mind, without modifications and
Waverings, just remain naturally.
Son, apprehending [anything] with your recollections Lacks crucial skills of meditation.
So, in the natural and fresh state of the intrinsic awareness, Remain without any grasping.
Son, people think that [one-pointed] dwelling [of mind] is meditation,
But it lacks the union of tranquillity and insight.
So, without accepting and rejecting either dwellings or projections of the mind,
Let the intrinsic awareness dwell freely without any reference point.
Son, the rigid, clear and stable visualization
Is not [perfect] Mahāyoga.
Dissolving the [mind of] grasping at the faces and arms [of the deities], dwell in the vastness,
The Great Perfection of the evenness of intrinsic awareness and emptiness.
Son, clinging to the experiences of four joys
Is not [the perfect] Anuyoga.
Having admitted the mind and energy into the central channel,
Remain in [the union of] bliss and emptiness, the great freedom from thoughts. . . .
Son, mere understanding of the spontaneous accomplishment of the three kāyas,
Is not the ultimate Atiyoga.
In the nature of vajra-chain insight,
Let the falsehood of mental analysis collapse.
Sicknesses are the brooms sweeping your evil deeds.
Seeing the sicknesses as the teachers, pray to them. . . .
Sicknesses are coming to you by the kindness of the masters and the Three Jewels.
Sicknesses are your accomplishments, so worship them as the deities.
Sicknesses are the signs that your bad karmas are being exhausted.
Do not look at the face of your sickness, but at the one [the mind] who is sick.
Do not place the sicknesses on your mind, but place your naked intrinsic awareness upon your sickness.
This is the instruction on sickness arising as the Dharmakāya.
The body is inanimate and mind is emptiness.
What can cause pain to an inanimate thing or harm to the emptiness?
Search for where the sicknesses are coming from, where they go, and where they dwell.
Sicknesses are mere sudden projections of your thoughts. When those thoughts disappear, the sicknesses dissolve too. . . .
There is not better fuel [than sicknesses] to burn off the bad karmas.
Don’t get into entertaining a sad mind or negative views [over the sicknesses],
But see them as the signs of the waning of your bad karmas, and rejoice over them.
Then he received the transmissions of the Seventeen Nyingthig Tantras, Vima Nyingthig, Lama Yangtig, and some other Nyingma transmissions and teachings from Drubwang Ogyen Palgön (Shrīnatha) of Mindroling Monastery, who was also a distant relative of Jigme Lingpa’s. Earlier he had also received the transmissions of Nyingthig teachings and Longchen Rabjam’s writings from Thangdrokpa and Neten Künzang. However, the absolute and short line of transmission of the ultimate Nyingthig teachings came to him from Longchen Rabjam directly in the three pure visions.
When he came out of his retreat, he found that his body had totally exhausted its strength, because of scarcity of food and lack of proper clothing during years of cave living. He writes:
Because of having little food and being exposed to a harsh environment, all the residues of bad karmas and karmic debts of my previous successive lives had started to ripen upon my body. Because of the humors of air [rlung], my back hurt as if someone were hitting me with a rock. As a result of the stirring up of air and blood circulation, my chest was in pain, as if someone were driving nails into my body. Because of bam ailment [elephantiasis], my body was too heavy for my legs to hold up. Like a hundred-year-old man, I had worn out all my physical energies. I didn’t have much appetite for food. If I took three steps, my body would start shaking. [But I thought,] “If I die, I will be fulfilling the advice given by the early masters, which says: ‘Entrust your mind to Dharma. Entrust your Dharma practice to the life of a beggar.’” As I had attained confidence in the realization of Dzogpa Chenpo, no thought of worry was even a possibility in my mind, but it aroused in me a great compassion for those who are [suffering from] old age and sicknesses.
Then he had a pure vision of Thangtong Gyalpo, a sage of longevity, and for Jigme Lingpa all the happenings merged into the union of bliss and emptiness. Thereupon, he sang the power of his realization in the following words:
I bow to the lord, the Great Sage [Thangtong Gyalpo]!
I have realized the summit of the views, the Dzogpa Chenpo.
There is nothing on which to meditate, as all is liberated as the view.
I have unfurled the banner of meditation, the king of activities.
Now I, the beggar, have no repentance, even if I die. . . .
I, the beggar, who knows “how to turn sicknesses into the path,”
Visualizing the lama, the source of the virtues, At the blissful chakra of my head,
I meditate on the profound path of Guru Yoga.
Since sicknesses and pain are the brooms for sweeping the evil karmas,
By realizing sicknesses as the blessing of the master,
I meditate on the sicknesses as the lama and receive the fourfold empowerments from them.
Finally, by realizing the lama as my own mind,
I release [all] into the true nature of the mind, which is primordially pure and free from any reference points.
He realized the face of the ultimate Samantabhadra, the Dharmakāya, and all the sicknesses dissolved into the ultimate sphere. Quickly, his physical body also gained strength without any more pain or obstructions.
Then the time for revealing the Longchen Nyingthig teachings to the disciples arrived, after seven years of secrecy. Although no one had a clue of the discovery of Longchen Nyingthig, his teacher-disciple Kong-nyön Bepe Naljor, because of his clairvoyance, beseeched Jigme Lingpa to transmit his mind ter teachings. As an auspicious sign, he also received requests to reveal the teachings with offerings from three important tülkus from Southern Tibet.
On the tenth day of the sixth month of the Wood Monkey year (1765), for the first time Jigme Lingpa conferred the empowerments and explanations of the Longchen Nyingthig cycle on fifteen disciples. Gradually but swiftly, the Longchen Nyingthig teachings reached every comer of the Nyingma world, and they became the heart core of meditation instructions for many realized meditators and for ceremonial liturgies to this day.
At thirty-four, Jigma Lingpa moved from Chimphu to Tsering Jong, the Long Life Land in Tönkhar Valley of Chongye in Southern Tibet. There, with the patronage of the house of Depa Pushü, he built a hermitage with a meditation school and named it Tharpa Chenpö Trongkhyer Pema Ö Ling, the Garden of Lotus Light of the City of Great Liberation. He did not want to have a big institutional structure, and frequently quoted the verse from Thirty Pieces of Essential Advice by Longchen Rabjam, as his guide:
To assemble numerous associates by various means,
To have a monastery with comfortable accommodations—
If you try, it will come about for a while, but it distracts the mind.
So my advice from the heart is to remain alone.
Tsering Jong became the residence of Jigme Lingpa for the rest of his life. A stream of great disciples came to this very simple hermitage to receive the profound, nectarlike teachings and transmissions from the greatest master of Dzogpa Chenpo, Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa, but the disciples returned to their own places to share the teachings with others. So Tsering Jong remained a simple hermitage and Jigme Lingpa a simple hermit.
He took no interest in wealth or power and spent all that was offered to him for religious purposes. Also, throughout his life, he was active in ransoming the lives of animals from the hands of hunters and butchers. He said:
I care not for any activity of business or harvest.
I do not roam about performing ceremonies in towns [for donations].
I keep no more than ten khals of barley [as living subsistence] with me.
As long as I am alive, I vow to continue this ascetic life.
Sometime after Jigme Lingpa’s time, Tsering Jong hermitage became a nunnery, and it remained so til around 1959, when everything disappeared in the political turmoil. Since the beginning of the 1980s, once again Tsering Jong has been reestablished as a nunnery.
Jigme Lingpa’s character was profound, forceful, and direct, but he was also loving, simple, and easy to be with. He writes:
My perceptions have become like those of a baby. I even enjoy playing with children. When I encounter people with serious shortcomings, I throw their personal faults in their faces, even if they are respected spiritual leaders or generous Dharma patrons. . . . In every action of sitting, walking, sleeping, or eating, I secure my mind [in the state, that is] never dissociated from the brilliance of the ultimate nature. If it is the service of the Dharma, I dedicate myself to its completion, even if it is thought to be an impossible task.
At forty-three, he gathered together and commissioned the copying of the Nyingma tantras in twenty-five volumes, and he composed The History of Nyingma Tantras. Later, on the advice of Jigme
Lingpa and Dodrupchen, the king and queen-regent of Dege commissioned the wooden blocks of his Nyingma tantra collection, and those blocks are still in use for printing.
At fifty-seven, at the invitation of Ngawang Palden Chökyong, the Sakya Trichen, he went to Sakya and gave teachings and transmissions to the Trichen, his brother, and Ānanda Shrībhava, the sitting khenchen of Sakya, and many others.
On his return from Sakya, Lama Sönam Chöden, who later became known as Dodrupchen (1745–1821) came from Kham to receive teachings from Jigme Lingpa. Dodrupchen saw him as Thangtong Gyalpo, and Jigme Lingpa in turn recognized Dodrupchen as the tülku of Lhase Murum Tsepo and gave him the name Jigme Thrinle Özer. Through Dodrupchen, the third Dzogchen Rinpoche, and the king of Dege sent messengers to invite him to Kham, but he refused to go because of his age and health, as well as his concern for the hardship for the horses during the arduous trip.
Barchung Gomchen Rigdzin and Mange Pema Künzang from Kham came to receive teachings and transmissions. Pema Künzang later became Jigme Lingpa’s renowned diciple Jigme Gyalwe Nyuku (1765–1843). While Rigdzin and Pema Künzang were in Lhasa, before they reached Tsering Jong, someone stole a piece of silver, the only material they had for their living and traveling expenses. Jigme Lingpa wrote a poem to console them:
If you know how to take [sufferings] into the path of equal taste,
All unfortunate circumstances will arise as the support of virtues.
So refrain from entertaining reversed views.
If you practice as I teach you,
Your minds and my mind will unite as one.
There will arise the realization that transcends all the concepts, and
You will remain in the vast nature of Dharmakāya, in which there is no duality.
May all your wishes be fulfilled.
In 1788, when he was sixty, Jigme Lingpa gave teachings and transmissions to the king and queen of Dege at Samye. They became his devotees, and the queen became one of the main patrons.
At sixty-two, at the request of Göntse Tülku, he visited Göntse Gönpa of Tsona in Mön and gave teachings and transmissions.
At that time, Jigme Lingpa had an eye problem. Textual transmissions (lung) had to be given by Dodrupchen on his behalf to his disciples, who included Götsang Tülku Jigme Tenpe Gyaltsen. They sent Jigme Gyalwe Nyuku to get a doctor, who performed a successful operation.
When he was sixty-three, in 1791, military forces of Nepal attacked Western Tibet, and many people suffered. Jigme Lingpa performed a number of ceremonies and sent offerings to various temples for peace and protection.
When he was sixty-five, he and his consort, Gyalyum Drölkar from the house of Depa Pushü, had a son called Gyalse Nyinche Özer (1793–?).
Jigme Lingpa was unable to accept the numerous invitations offered to him. However, through Gyantse he went to Thekchok Chöling Monastery in Tsang and gave teachings and transmissions to many disciples headed by Khenpo Ogyen Palgön, and at many places on the way. This monastery became a follower of the Longchen Nyingthig lineage. At Dorje Trak Monastery, he gave a series of teachings and transmissions to Rigdzin Chenmo and others.
He received messages of prayers and offerings from the Mongolian king, Chögyal Ngawang Dargye (1759–1807), a disciple of Dodrupchen and the teacher of Zhapkar Tsoktruk Rangtröl (1781–1851).
Meanwhile, based on a communication between the last Dzogchen Rinpoche and Jigme Lingpa, the lamas of Dzogchen Monastery were strongly inquiring whether his son could be the tülku of the third Dzogchen Rinpoche, but Jigme Lingpa didn’t indicate any possibility. Gyalse himself remembered his past life and had kept saying, “I am going to Drikung,” since he was small. Then Sakya Trichen recognized him as the tülku of Chökyi Nyima (1755–1792), the fourth Chungtsang, one of the two heads of the Drikung Kagyü tradition.
At sixty-nine, with huge ceremonial pomp arranged by Drikung followers, Jigme Lingpa traveled with his son to Drikung for the son’s enthronement. It was an amazing opportunity for people at different places along the way to see and hear him, the great master. But it was physically exhausting for the old and frail master to travel for days and perform endless religious activities. Soon, because of the change of water and environment, he fell seriously ill, and for a while people even lost hope for his recovery. Then unexpectedly, a disciple of his brought a Tibetan medical pill called karpo chikthup from the sacred place of Yama Lung, and after taking it he miraculously recovered and even appeared younger, like a new person.
At seventy, he returned to Tsering Jong from Drikung, stopping at a great number of holy places on the way and performing ceremonies, making offerings, and giving teachings. His health appeared good, but cared little about eating or sleeping. Day and night, he remained sitting up in either the Vairochana posture or the sage posture. His eyes didn’t blink. He said that his body remained alive owing to his control over his life-force energy. Many times, he gave hints that he would die before long. But when his disciples became overwhelmed with grief, he would change the subject or sometimes would even say: “Oh, there will be no danger to my life.” He told a close disciple in private that he was dying and that he would reincarnate, but there was no need to search for his new incarnation. They should hold a simpler funeral ceremony, but he hinted that they should preserve the body by explaining the ways that it is done. When his disciples expressed their wish to bring a doctor, he would say, “Yes! If you wish, you can bring one; but as there is no sickness in me, what is there for a doctor to do? Anyway, don’t get one from a far distance; it will only cause hardship for people and animals.”
Still, in a quiet way, he kept seeing people and giving blessings and teachings as requested. For days there was a rain of flowers around his residence and mild earthquakes again and again. One day he moved to Namtröl Tse, the new upper hermitage, and expressed his great joy at being there. He entertained some visitors and gave teachings.
On the very next day, the third day of the ninth month of the Earth Horse year (1798), he gave a teaching on White Tārā meditation. From early morning a strong, sweet fragrance filled the whole hermitage. The sky was totally clear and there was no touch of wind, but a gentle rain sprinkled continuously from the blue sky. All were amazed but worried. Then, in the early part of the night, he asked for new offerings to be arranged on the altar. As he sat in the sage posture, all expressions of his manifestation merged into the primordial nature.
His disciples discovered two different testaments, hidden at different places. They included meditative teachings to his disciples and instructions about his funeral ceremony and reincarnation. One of them included the following lines:
I am always in the state of ultimate nature;
For me there is no staying or going.
The display of birth and death is mere relativity.
I am enlightened in the great primordial liberation!
After months of ceremonies at Tsering Jong and at many monasteries and temples in Central and Eastern Tibet and Bhutan, his body was placed in a small golden stūpa in Tsering Jong hermitage, and it was preserved there until Tsering Jong nunnery was destroyed a couple of decades ago.
After his death, his well-known incarnations included: Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800–1866), known as his body incarnation; Paltrül Rinpoche (1808–1887), the speech incarnation; and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892), the mind incarnation.
Jigme Lingpa produced nine volumes of written treatises and discovered ter texts. The prominent ones among them are Longchen Nyingthig, a collection of meditation instructions and ritual texts in two (or three) volumes, which were discovered as ter teachings; Phurba Gyüluk, one volume of liturgy on Vajrakīla, considered as both ter and canonical; Yönten Rinpoche Dzö with its two-volume autocommentary, his most famous scholarly work; and Yeshe Lama, which has become the most comprehensive manual of Dzogpa Chenpo meditation in the Nyingma tradition.
The Longchen Nyingthig remained as an important ter tradition, and with his scholarly writings, Jigme Lingpa’s lineage became one of the most popular subschools of the Nyingma school till the present. In the Longchen Nyingthig lineage, al the disciples and grand disciples were equally great adepts, as Jigme Lingpa himself prophesied:
In the lineage of my Nyingthig of Luminous Clarity, there will come children [disciples] who are greater than their fathers and grandchildren who are greater than their grandparents.
Among his many great disciples, the main ones are prophesied by Guru Rinpoche in Nechang Thukkyi Drombu, the prophetic guide of Longchen Nyingthig:
By the incarnations of Namkhe Nyingpo, Nyang, Chok-yang, And the Divine Prince, the door of the teachings will be opened.
The disciples are Nyangtön Trati Ngakchang Rikpe Dorje (aka Kong-nyön Bepe Naljor), the incarnation of Namkhe Nyingpo: Loppön Jigme Küntröl of Bhutan, the incarnation of Nyang Tingdzin Zangpo; Thekchen Lingpa Drotön Tharchin (Dri Med Gling Pa, 1700–1776), the incarnation of Ngenlam Gyalwa Chok-yang; and Dodrupchen Jigme Thrinle Özer, the incarnation of Prince Murum Tsepo. Thekchen Lingpa, Thangdrokpa, and Trati Ngakchang were both teachers and disciples of Jigme Lingpa.
Among his disciples, the masters who were most effective in propagating the Longchen Nyingthig teachings were the following. The first Dodrupchen, Jigme Thrinle Özer (1745–1821), was the principal Doctrine-holder (rTsa Ba’i Ch’os bDag) of Longchen Nyingthig. Dodrupchen built three monasteries: Drodön Künkhyap Ling at Shukchen Tago in Do Valley, Ogmin Rigdzin Phelgye Ling at Getse Tö in Dzachukha Valley, and Yarlung Pemakö in Ser Valley. Jigme Gyalwe Nyuku of Kham Dzachukha remained in Tramalung hermitage for many years and later moved to Dzagya monastic hermitage. Jigme Küntröl of Bhutan built the Dungsam Yonglha Tengye Riwo Palbar Ling Monastery in Eastern Bhutan. Today it is known as Yongla Gön under Pema Gatsal District in Eastern Bhutan. The names of other main disciples of Jigme Lingpa are listed in the lineage tree.
Among his main patrons, Depa Pushü sponsored the building of his hermitage at Tsering Jong, and the king and especially Queen Tsewang Lhamo of Dege, who was prophesied as the incarnation of Phokyongza Gyalmotsün, the queen of King Trisong Detsen, commissioned wooden printing blocks of Old Tantras (rNying Ma rGyud ’Bum), many volumes of Longchen Rabjam, and the nine volumes of Jigme Lingpa. Also, Tatsak Tenpe Gönpo (d. 1810), the regent of Tibet, and the thirteenth Karmapa Düdül Dorje (1733– 1797) with great respect consulted him through correspondence.
Although disciples who were prominent members of Tibetan society flocked to Jigme Lingpa, he was only concerned to find true lineage holders, who come mostly from people of simple background. Quoting past masters, he expresses his view:
It is better to have a single beggar who can hold the lineage than to have a thousand prominent people as your disciples.
Jigme Lingpa’s life was full of miracles, but he kept his mystical power hidden and his rich life simple. He was a born scholar who didn’t train in traditional disciplines, but all his expressions turned into teachings and all his activities were in the service of others. He remained hidden as an ascetic in an isolated place in Tsering Jong, but the light of his wisdom reached all corners of the Nyingma Buddhist world, and it still shines in many open hearts around the world. He was born with physical marks of auspicious signs, an ĀḤ letter on his tooth, a HYA letter on his thumb, a vajra design at his heart, and a ritual bel image at his navel. He had visions of the Buddhas, deities, and lineage masters, and received teachings and blessings as from person to person. From his tooth and his hair came ringsels as the sign of his high Dzogpa Chenpo attainments. The most important imprint that he left for us is the words of the Dharmakāya, the ultimate truth in the form of his writings and discovered ter teachings.
“Masters of Meditation and Miracles: Lives of the great buddhist masters of India and Tibet”, Tulku Thondup