His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje (1904-1987) & Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904)
His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje was born in the Year of the Wood Dragon of the 15th Rabjung cycle (1904), early in the morning of the tenth day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar, amid many amazing signs. His father, Khengen Tulku Jambal Norbu Wangyal, was a descendant of the Tibetan King Kanam Depa’s son. Khengen Tulku Jambal Norbu Wangyal was also a reincarnation of Kathok Gyalse Sonam Deutsen’s son, who had been told by a dakini to go to Pemako, Tibet. Following her instruction, Tulku Jambal Wangyal left his kingdom in Kham and travelled to Pemako, thus establishing his family in that area of Tibet.
His Holiness’ mother, Namgyal Drolma, descended from the great terton Ratna Lingpa (1403-1479). Guru Rinpoche first appeared to Ratna Lingpa in a vision when he was twenty-seven years old. Disguised as a Khampai Chadral-pa (an Eastern Tibetan ascetic) wearing a yellow hat and robes, Guru Rinpoche provided Ratna Lingpa with the locations of treasure texts along with information about how to retrieve them. Ratna Lingpa revealed twenty-five volumes of treasure texts throughout his lifetime. He also made enormous efforts to preserve the ancient Nyingma tantras that were on the verge of extinction at that time.
His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje was also of royal lineage. On his father’s side, he descended from Nyatri Tsenpo, the first King of Tibet (who ruled beginning in the Year of the Wood Male Tiger, or 247 BC), and Puwoo Kanam Depa, the King of Puwoo. It was predicted by Orgyen 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, there will be an emanation of Drowen, of royal lineage, named (Jnnana) Yeshe. His activities will be vast and he will either discover new terma or will preserve many old terma. Whoever has connections with him will be taken to Zangdok Palri (The Copper-Colored Mountain).”
His Holiness’ immediate previous incarnation was the famous treasure revealer Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904), who was the body emanation of Drowen Khechung Lotsawa, one of the twenty-five (je-bang nyer-nga) chief disciples of Guru Padmasambhava. Dudjom Lingpa was also considered a mind manifestation of Padmasambhava, and a speech emanation of Yeshe Tsogyal. It was prophesied by many sublime beings (including Guru Padmasambhava), that during his lifetime, Dudjom Lingpa would reveal many new treasures and, indeed, he revealed the lineage known as the Dudjom Tersar, which fills twenty-two volumes and consists of hundreds of texts. The most famous are those related to the practices of Vajrakilaya, Troma Nakmo (Skt. Krodhikali), and Tamdrin Yangtro (Skt. Harya Grivaha).
Dudjom Lingpa had intended to visit southern Tibet to reveal the hidden sacred land of Pemako, but he was unable to do so; he predicted that his successor would be born there and would reveal it. Just before he passed away, Dudjom Lingpa told his disciples to go to the sacred land of Pemako, saying: “Before you young ones get there, I the old one will already be there.” At that time, there was a highly accomplished Dzogchen master named Lama Chojor Gyatso, who had been a student of Patrul Rinpoche during the early part of his life, and had become a disciple of Dudjom Lingpa in his later years. Several students led by Lama Chojor Gyatso began the journey towards Pemako. Given extensive preparations and slow travel, the entire trip probably took about three years. When Lama Chojor Gyatso and his disciples arrived in the northern part of Pemako, they heard that their teacher’s incarnation was already in a place called Terkong Nang. They were all very excited, and they headed off towards Terkong in high spirits. Along the way they found a few young children playing and trying to jump over a rock. Because the lama and disciples were so exhausted from the terribly long and arduous trip all the way from Kham, they laid down to rest, watching the young children play. All but one of the children were quite big and had no problem jumping over the rock, but the youngest one, about three years old, flipped over when he tried to jump over the rock. He called out for help, and addressed the amazed strangers by their individual names, and spoke to them in their Golok dialect, which no one else in that area spoke. The group was so happy to find their teacher’s incarnation that they made prostrations to him right then and there. The little boy then led them to his parent’s house. When they arrived at the house, they were amazed to see all the arrangements that had been made prior to their arrival. Rinpoche’s mother, Namgyal Drolma, said to them, “This morning my son asked me to prepare a fine meal and make nice arrangements. He said he had some important guests arriving today, so I did not ask him any further questions. Since this child is not an ordinary one, I did what he asked me to do.”
Thus, His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje was recognized as the unmistaken emanation of Dudjom Lingpa, and was enthroned in Pemako. His Holiness was taught reading, writing and the five common sciences. One of Lama Chojor Gyatso’s students named Lama Pema Samphel (who had also been a student of Dudjom Lingpa) began teaching His Holiness how to read and write. Lama Pema Samphel was very gentle, humble and calm, so no matter what His Holiness did, Lama Pema always took it well, since he had such great faith and devotion. He never used any angry words, and His Holiness would often ride on top of his shoulders, with his legs stretched down onto the lama’s chest. In short, Lama Pema always acted like a student of His Holiness, rather than his teacher. When Lama Chojor Gyatso saw this happening, he scolded Lama Pema and appointed another disciple of Dudjom Lingpa named Lama Khedrup in his place. Lama Khedrup was a great yogi, a Troma Nakmo practitioner, and was nothing like Lama Pema Samphel. He was extremely wrathful, very short tempered, and often scolded and yelled for even the smallest reason. He always sat next to His Holiness to supervise his reading and writing, holding a small stick with one thin end and one thick end. Depending upon the mistake, he would spank His Holiness with either the thin or thick end. One day Lama Khedrup told His Holiness he had some sewing work to do for the entire next day, and therefore gave him some homework in text recitations. Lama Khedrup said he would test His Holiness after his work was finished the following day. His Holiness had a great holiday, completely forgetting his homework, although he did make some noises like he was reading and studying. The following day Lama Khedrup arrived with the usual stick and announced: “If you haven’t done the homework that I asked you to do, I am going to spank you hard today.” Rinpoche started to recite, but with many difficulties, so Lama Khedrup knew he hadn’t done his homework properly. As was the custom in old Tibet, Lama Khedrup went to do a prostration to His Holiness before spanking him. His Holiness was terribly afraid, and thought he was going to get a very bad beating that day. In that state of fear, he began reading and then reciting very difficult mantras that he didn’t even know how to read. He recited all the mantras in their entirety even though the abbreviated text gave only the first four words of each. Lama Khedrup was so amazed that he dropped his stick and started to cry. Then he said, “You don’t have to read anymore today,” and gave young Rinpoche the day off. His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje always said that he was able to read very well by the age of five or so because of the kindness of Lama Khedrup.
Whatever His Holiness Jigdral Yeshe Dorje was taught, the power of his awareness blazed like fire, and he could understand anything and everything through the simplest indication. At the age of thirteen His Holiness met Guru Padmasambhava in person, thus witnessing a miraculous vision of a self-manifesting non-human teacher. A wisdom dakini gave him yellow paper filled with what was known as dakini script, and His Holiness began to write down treasure texts from that. In total, His Holiness gave the Rinchen Terzod ten times during his lifetime. He gave his first Rinchen Terzod Empowerment at the age of sixteen, at Mawon Kota, a sacred land of Pemako. At the age of twenty he gave it again at Kongpo Draksum, at the age of twenty-nine at Powo Meme Gompa, at the age of thirty at Tashigang in Bhutan, at the age of forty at a sacred land of Bye-Yul Dremo Jhong (Sikkim) at Benchen Gompa, at the age of forty-three at Kongpo Bhuchu Dechen Ding, at the age of forty-five at Powo Yurigang, at the age fifty-two at Samye Tsuklag Khang, at the age of fifty-eight in Kalimpong, India, and at the age of sixty-four at Tso Pema-Rewalsar, also in India.
His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje attended some of the great monastic universities in central Tibet, including Mindroling, Dorje Drak, and Tarje Tingpoling; in eastern Tibet, he attended Kathok and Dzogchen Monasteries. But it was to Mindroling that he returned to perfect his understanding of the Nyingma tradition–-he would maintain the Mindroling tradition at Pema Choling and his other seats in the Pemako and Kongpo regions of southern Tibet. He continued to maintain this tradition throughout his lifetime. He was renowned throughout Tibet for the depth of his realization and spiritual accomplishment as well as for his unsurpassed scholarship. He was an exceptionally brilliant scholar in the canonical sutras and tantras, in literature, poetry, history, painting, sculpture, medicine, astrology, philosophy, etc. A writer of inspirational poetry of compelling beauty, he had a special genius for expressing the meaning and realization of Dzogchen with crystalline clarity. In addition to receiving all the extant teachings and transmissions of the Nyingma tradition’s immense riches, His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje was also famous as a great terton (treasurer revealer). His termas are widely taught and practiced today as inspired examples of the Dzogchen tradition–-the ultimate teaching within Tibetan Buddhism. During his lifetime, His Holiness was regarded as the perfect embodiment of Guru Padmasambhava–-he was considered to be Guru Padmasambhava’s living representative.
In the Kongpo region he established many new monasteries for both gelong (ordained monks) and ngakpa (yogis). He rebuilt the Thadul Buchu Ser-Gyi Lhakhang, he built a new monastery called Zangdok Palri, and he created a tantric center called Lama Ling. After his arrival in India as an exile, His Holiness settled in Kalimpong. After giving the empowerment of Rinchen Terzod in the early 1960s, he set up a temporary center called Rikzin Gyatsal Ling in Kalimpong for both monks and yogis. His Holiness Minling Trichen Rinpoche came by weekly to teach the Minling tradition of rituals and discipline to both groups. Khenpo Dazer, Khenpo Thupchu, and Khenpo Rawo Thupten educated the younger monks (in addition to doing their daily ritual ceremonies and practices). Among the ngagpas, Chakdu Tulku, Dhocha Tulku, Lama Shirab Dorjee, Lama Dorje Namgyal, Lama Tharchin, and Lama Konchok Jungney and many other great yogis/yoginis continued their daily practices until most of the teachers and students were sent to the Nyingma Tibetan resettlement camp in Orissa. His Holiness established the Dudul Rabten Ling Monastery there, he founded Zangdokpalri Monastery in Kalimpong, Tso Pema Retreat Center in Rewalsar, Tsechu Lhakhang in Darjeeling, Orgyen Donak Choling Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, and the Vajrayana Esoteric Society in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In the West, His Holiness founded Yeshe Nyingpo, Inc. in New York; Yeshe Nyingpo in Oregon; Orgyen Cho-Dzong Retreat Center in Greenville, New York; Dorje Nyingpo in Paris, France; and both Orgyen Samye Choling Retreat Center and La Pechardie in Dordogne, France. Many more dharma centers around the world were under his guidance.
His Holiness compiled and edited hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist texts–-a multitude of precious Tibetan texts and empowerments exist today solely due to his immeasurable kindness. His Holiness wrote more than twenty-three volumes of gongters (mind treasures) and commentaries. When he was doing a retreat early in 1947 at Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) in Bhutan, he discovered and transcribed the Phurba Puti Rikpung (Vajrakilaya), Tsokye Thugthik (Lotus Born) and Khandro Thugthik (Heart Essence of the Dakinis) mind treasures. Because he was concerned with preserving the old termas, he did not put much effort into discovering new ones. Even though there were many more termas (at Samye and Paro Taktsang, for example), he did not try to retrieve them. He always experienced many signs of accomplishment in the important holy places where he practiced.
In addition to his mind treasures, His Holiness Jigdral Dudjom Yeshe Dorje wrote The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History soon after his arrival in India as an exile. This monumental treatise on the Nyingma School was written during an amazingly short period of time–-the summer of 1966. Another major part of His Holiness’ work was the revision, correction and editing of many ancient and modern texts, including the whole of the canonical teachings known as the Nyingma Kama. His Holiness edited the original twenty-five volumes, and added another thirty-three volumes, for a total of fifty-eight volumes consisting of 567 individual texts. At the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the mid 1960s, His Holiness Jigdral Dudjom Yeshe Dorje also wrote a history of Tibet, which scholars today consider to be the definitive history of Tibet. His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje was unanimously elected the first Supreme Head of the Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism in 1964, and remained in that position until his mahaparinirvana in 1987. His Holiness was the root teacher of many of today’s most prominent masters.