Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje

Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje


Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje (1904-87) was appointed by His Holiness Dalai Lama XIV as the first supreme head of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He was an enlightened yogi and meditation master, a discoverer of concealed treasure teachings inseparable from Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). He was one the greatest Tibetan scholars, and an incarnate lama who intentionally emanated for the sake of sentient beings through seventeen successive lives.

In ancient India, these emanations included: Buddha Shakyamuni’s foremost disciple Shariputra; the mahasiddha, Saraha; Krishnadhara, the religious minister of King Indrabhuti; and Rishi Humkara. In Tibet, they included: Khyeuchung Lotsawa, one of Padmasambhava’s twenty-five disciples; Smritijnanakirti, whose lifetime demarcated the transition from the ancient to the new system of translation; Rongzom Pandita, who was among the first to compose major treatises within the Nyingma tradition; Katok Tampa Deshek (1122-92), who founded the monastery of Katok in East Tibet; Chogyal Phagpa (1235-80), who established a Sakya administration in Central Tibet; Rigdzin Dudul Dorje (1615-72), who is famous for his discovery of concealed treasure teachings (terma) in the Puwo region of southeastern Tibet; Gyelse Sonam Detsen, who was responsible for revitalizing Katok; and the treasure-finder Dudjom Lingpa (1835-1904) who discovered the New Treasures (Tersar).

Like many of his predecessors, Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche was also renowned as a great discoverer of concealed treasure teachings, which are now widely practiced and propagated. These are primarily the direct treasures of intention or mind treasures of the awareness-holders concerning the inner tantras of the Secret Mantra Vehicle, which can bring about the unsurpassed enlightenment of the rainbow body in one lifetime.

He took birth in the Pemakö region on the frontier of Tibet, on the twenty-third day of the fourth Tibetan month of the Wood Dragon year, 1904. Amazingly, this birth occurred while his predecessor, Dudjom Lingpa, was still alive. Dudjom Lingpa himself gave the specific instructions of how to find his authentic emanation. He told them that his father was Tulku Jampel Norbu, who was a Prince of Kanam and a direct descendant of King Trisong Deutsen, and his mother was Namgyel Drölma.

In his youth, Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche received the transmissions and direct blessings of Guru Rinpoche, Yeshe Tsogyal and Manjushri in person. He received his first terma instructions at the age of 6 when Guru Rinpoche appeared to him. At the age of 13 Guru Rinpoche appeared to him again and gave him the teachings on the Great Perfection, which he kept secret until he reached the age of 21. When he was 16 years old, various Mahasiddha’s appeared to him. Notably, Longchen Rabjam, and debated on his treatise. He mastered every tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Astonishingly, at the age of 14 he gave the full empowerment and oral transmission of the Rinchen Terdzö (Store of Precious Treasures), which are the collected treasure texts of the Nyingma lineage. Later, he also had the vision of many deities and received oral and mind to mind transmission from them. He received all the lineages of the Nyingma school from his lamas: Phungong Tulku Gyurme Ngedön Wangpo, Jedrung Trinle Champa Jungne, Gyurme Phendei Özer, Namdrol Gyamtso of Mindroling, Gendün Gyamtso and Khenpo Aten, amongst others. From that time on, he gave major empowerments relating to different treasure cycles, and at the same time composed many means for attainment, or sadhanas, that elucidated the profound teachings of the buddhadharma. He wrote commentaries both on his predecessors teachings and on his own revealed treasures. When he was 17 years old, he composed his first celebrated treatise on the Great Perfection (dzogchen). He became widely renowned as a scholar and meditation master and was followed by many students. Among his students in Tibet and throughout the Himalayan regions, and most recently even in the West, many have shown signs of full enlightenment.

He maintained the lineage of the Mindroling tradition in Central Tibet, and above all at Pema Choling (Lamaling) and at his other seats in the Kongpo and Puwo areas of southeast Tibet. Subsequently, forseeing the incipient Chinese invasion, Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche and family left Tibet for India in 1958, following the prediction of Dudjom Lingpa that the lineage of his New Treasures would spread to all the continents of the world, and especially to the West.

After his arrival in India, Nepal, and Sikkim, he established many vital communities of Buddhist practitioners. These include Zangdok Pelri and Jhangsa Gompa in Kalimpong, Dudul Rapten Ling in Orissa, Orgyen Herukai Podrang in Tsopema (Rewalsar), and Urgyen Dongag Choling in Boudha, Nepal. In addition, he actively encouraged the study of the Nyingma tradition at the Tibetan Institute for Higher Studies in Sarnath. In all these locations he continued to grant the empowerments and literary transmissions for the Nyingma Kama and Nyingma Gyudbum (The Collected Transmitted Precepts and Tantras of the Nyingmapa), and the Rinchen Terdzö, not to mention the entirety of the Dudjom Tersar, among others. His prolific scholarship is attested by the publications of his Collected Works and his edition of the Nyingma Kama, a fifty-five volume work, which he began at the age of seventy-four. At the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he also wrote a Political History of Tibet.

In the final phase of his teaching activity, Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche traveled widely throughout Asia, Europe, and North America, where he brought many students to the Dharma. He continued the buddha-activity of formal teaching, empowerment and personal supervision of meditation practice and retreat, which is the essence of the transmission of Vajrayana Buddhism. He established these meditation and retreat centers: Vajrayana Esoteric Society of Hong Kong and Taiwan, Dorje Nyingpo and Urgyen Samye Choling in France, and Yeshe Nyingpo and Orgyen Chö Dzong in the United States.

Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche passed into Parinirvana, dissolving his emanation body into the pure space of the dharmakaya (buddha-body of reality) on the 17th of January, 1987, the eighteenth day of the eleventh month of the fire tiger year, shortly before the advent of a new sixty-year cycle. He was at his residence overlooking the Vezere valley in Dordogne, France. His passing was accompanied by miraculous signs of his enlightened realization and buddha-attributes. Passing away in France is of great significance because it enacts the unification of East and West into a single mandala of enlightened mind. His embalmed body was placed in a stupa in his monastery in Boudha, Nepal on the 5th of February, 1989, in order to continue his bodhisattva activity of benefitting sentient beings.

He was a Vajra guru whose accomplishment is to be seen not so much in the outward form of elaborate monastic establishments, but in the direct, clear awareness of the mind, free from elaboration. This enlightened mind is displayed by many of his monastic and lay disciples. On this basis, the purity of his lineage is established and maintained to this day in an unbroken succession.

Foreword by Kyabjé Dungse Shenphen Dawa Norbu Rinpoche from The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism by Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche Jigdrel Yeshe Dorje, Wisdom Publications, 1991.

Excerpted from with authorization from His Eminence Dungse Namgay Dawa Rinpoche.

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