His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche


Chogye Trichen Rinpoche is the most senior Sakya Lama and the head of the Tsarpa sub-school. Born in 1920 in the Tsang province of Central Tibet into the Kushang family he was recognized as the 18th Chogye Rinpoche of Nalendra Monastery by the 13th Dalai Lama. At the age of eleven he recieved novice vows and was officially enthroned at Nalendra. In these early years he studied intensively all the basic liturgies and rituals of Nalendra Monastery. His two main root Gurus were the 4th Zimwog Tulku Ngawang Tenzin Thrinley Norbu Palzangpo, the other main incarnate lama of Nalendra Monastery, and Dampa Rinpoche Shenphen Nyingpo of Ngor Ewam. From these two great teachers Chogye Rinpoche recieved all the major and minor teachings of Sakya such as the two Lamdre Traditions, the Greater and Lesser Mahakalas, the Four Tantras, the Thirteen Golden Dharmas, Kalacakra, etc. (An old photo of Zimwog Rinpoche seated, along with Tsedong Tulku. This photo is said to "give you good blessings" by the current Zimwog Rinpoche (b. 1964 ?).

The name 'Chogye' means 'Eighteen' and comes from the time of Khyenrab Choje, the 8th abbot of Nalendra who also belonged to the aristocratic Kushang family. Khyenrab Choje, a great teacher possessing the direct lineage of Kalacakra recieved form Vajrayogini, was invited to be the abbot of Nalendra by Sakya Trizin Dagchen Lodro Gyaltsen (1444-1495). Khyenrab Choje visited the Emperor of China who was greatly impressed by the tantric scholar from Tibet and bestowed on him 'eighteen' precious gifts. From Khyenrab Choje the lineage of Chogye Rinpoches began. The present Chogye Rinpoche, Ngawang Khyenrab Thubten Lekshe Gyatso, is the eighteenth in the line.

After the Lhasa uprising in the face of the Chinese invasion in 1959, Rinpoche left Tibet for the safe haven of Lo Monthang. Although governed as a Tibetan principality, Lo Monthang (Mustang) is politically part of Nepal. Chogye Rinpoche, as the uncle of the current King, found safe refuge and stayed for some time, giving teachings and performing many ceremonies at the various monasteries. At this time Rinpoche wrote the short Hevajra - 'At the Time of the Path' meditation in a versified form. The majority of monasteries in the Lo Monthang area are of the Ngorpa School and the main monastery was founded in the 15th century by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo.

Later, Rinpoche journeyed to India and lived for several years in Dharamsala. It was here that Rinpoche met Thomas Merton in November of 1968 (Asian Journal p.119). In 1963, while on a pilgrimage, Rinpoche visited the birth place of the Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal. Feeling something very special for this holy place, he and the king of Lo Monthang vowed to build a monastery there. After 12 years the vow was fulfilled.

Inscribed on a marble plaque in front of the monastery are the words of Chogye Rinpoche. "Here in the Lumbini Grove is the blessed spot where the Prince Siddhartha was born. This is indisputably proven by the pillar erected by the Emperor Ashoka, on which are inscribed the words, 'Here Buddha Shakyamuni was born.' The banner of Lumbini's fame has been unfurled in all corners of the world, and it is a shrine worthy of the adoration of all beings. Here in 1963 I and the Mustang Raja resolved to erect a monastery. In 1967 we appealed to H.M. King Mahendra of Nepal, and in gracious response in 1969 we were granted ten kathas of land under the supervision of the Director and Staff of H.M.G. Department of Archeology. Work was begun then, and after six years of untiring labour the monastery was completed inside and outside, including the erection of the main image of Lord Buddha. Then on March 2nd, 1975, coinciding auspiciously with the celebration of H.M. King Birendra's coronation, the monastery was dedicated in a ceremony led by H.M. Government's representative, Prof. Surendra Bahadur Shrestha, Lumbini Zonal Commisioner. Then for the sake of imbuing the monastery with Transcendent Blessings until the end of the aeon, a special consecration ceremony was performed over a three-day period by H.H. Sakya Trizin, head of the Sakya Order, assisted by a group of high ecclesiasts and fifty monks. During the four-day celebration we were deluged by felicitations from many religious and government figures, and all the guests and visitors, exceeding one thousand in number, joyfully participated with ever-deepening reverence for the Lord Buddha and his having taken birth here. In that spirit the celebrations were warmly concluded. It is my fervent prayer that by the merit of these virtuous acts by patrons and clerics alike, may the Buddha's teachings flourish and amy all beings ultimately be established in Perfect Enlightenment."

The main shrine of the new monastery has an eight foot gold-gilded statue of Shakymuni Buddha, on his right in a glass case is a statue of Rongton, the original founder of Nalendra monastery in Tibet. There is also a statue of Lowo Khenchen, the most famous Lama to have come out of Lo Monthang and a major commentator on the works of Sakya Pandita and a central lineage holder in the Khon tradition Vajrakilaya. Many statues and religious objects also came from the palace of the King of Lo Monthang.

Currently Rinpoche has two other monastic facilities both in the Kathmandu Valley. The first is a monastery at the Baudhanath Stupa and the second is a retreat facility at Parping in the south-western part of the valley. Rinpoche has been a teacher to many of the high lamas of today such as his Holiness the Dalai Lama (especially giving teachings on Kalacakra), His Holiness Sakya Trizin, the late Dudjom Rinpoche, etc. Chogye Rinpoche is regarded as the definitive authority on Kalacakra. Aside from leading several Three Year retreats Rinpoche spends much of his time in meditation. Normally sleeping sitting up, it is said he only requires one hour each night.

Nalendra Monastery and Rongton Sheja Kunrig:

Nalendra Monastery was founded in 1435 by Rongton Sheja Kunrig (1367-1449) when he was in his sixties. Born in the Eastern area of Gyalmo Rong he became one of the 'Six Ornaments of Tibet.' He was regarded as an emanation of Maitreya based on prophecies and his actions. Yak Mipham Choje was his main teacher although he studied with many great Sakya teachers including Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo and had many famous students such as Gorampa Sonam Senge and Shakya Chogden. Rongton is most famous for his commentaries on the 'Prajnaparamita' and the works of Dharmakirti and Maitreya. In all Rongton wrote 300 works from eulogies to commentaries on Tantras. Acknowledged as having reached the '6th bodhisattva ground' he could emanate, resurrect and fly in the sky. As a contemporary of Tsongkhapa, he was the first to oppose the Gelugpa teachings and his student Gorampa composed penetrating refutations of Tsongkhapa's interpretation of Madhyamaka. Rongton was also a great tantrica and in the 'Blue Annals' it says; "Outwardly he seems to have concentrated on the preaching of the Doctrine only. Inwardly he practised yoga constantly, and was able to recognize the different shades of the panca-prana," (pp.1080-1082). Nalendra Monastery is located in the Phen-yul valley just North-east of Lhasa, the name being taken from the famous Nalanda Monastery of India. It housed approximately 700 resident monks and thousands of visiting monks studying at the various colleges. There were many branch monasteries in various parts of Tibet from Tsang to Amdo.

The Main monastery of the Tsar School of Sakya was Dar Drangmoche in Tsang Province. This was the seat and main residence of Tsarchen Losal Gyatso (1502-1555).

Works in English by Chogye Trichen

Gateway to the Temple, Thubten Legshay Gyatsho, the 18th Chogye Trichen, translated by David Paul Jackson. Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar, 1979.

The History of the Sakya Tradition, Chogay Trichen. Bristol: Ganesha Press, 1983.

Fortunate to Behold, by H.E. Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, translated into English by Cyrus Stearns. Printed at Sahayogi Press, 1986.




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