Autobiography of Chamtrul Rinpoche

Chamtrul Rinpoche

In the Fire Ox year I wrote a short story about myself at the request of Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche.

 

Since then I have amended and developed it and written this version as an introduction for my new friends, who expressed the wish to have the proper information.

 

I also hope that this briefly helps answer questions my foreign students might like to ask.

 

Moreover, I received a message from Terton Jigme Dorje Rinpoche asking me to write my own life story - a clear chronology - as part of the history of our monastery which he is undertaking.

 

However, since I have not kept a diary showing the dates, months and so on, I have been delayed in my effort to fulfill his request until now. Nevertheless, I hope this will serve its purpose in the historical account of our monastery.

Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche
Terton Jigme Dorje Rinpoche

I, Jigme Sonam Gyatso (also named Lobsang Gyatso), bearing the title of Kathok Chamtrul, have written this in the Wood Monkey year.

Concerning the predecessor of the Second Kathok Chamtrul, Pema Nangsel Dorje, the son of Terchen Deshek Lingpa - a reincarnation of Dampa Rinpoche of Kathok in Kham, East Tibet - it says in the chronology of the abbots of Kathok Monastery:

Situ Chokyi Gyatso, the reincarnation of Situ Chokyi Lodro

THE VARJADHARA CHAMTRUL, KUNZIG JIGME DORJE, WAS A PRINCIPAL DISCIPLE OF SITU CHOKYI LODRO.

 

HE WAS ERUDITE IN THE COMMON SUBJECTS, AND THE TEACHINGS OF SUTRA AND TANTRA, IN WHICH HE ATTAINED FULL CONFIDENCE WITH INSIGHT AND REALIZATION.

 

OWING TO ALL THIS, HE APPEARED AS THE SUN TO ILLUMINATE THE PRECIOUS TEACHINGS OF SCRIPTURE AND SPIRITUAL REALIZATION.

 

HE HELD THE THRONE OF KATHOK MONASTERY FOR SEVERAL YEARS, AND IN THE LATTER PART OF HIS LIFE HE SOLELY CONFINED HIMSELF TO MEDITATION RETREAT.

 

GETSE TSEWANG RIGZIN GYATSO, DZATUL KUNSANG NAMGYAL, MIPHAM CHOKLEY NAMGYAL, KHASAR TERTON, KHEN GEN RIGZIN GYATSO AND SO ON STUDIED AND TRAINED AT THE FEET OF THIS MASTER.

Kathok Monastery

The Second Kathok Chamtul, Pema Nangsel Dorje, was recognized by many holy masters as his unmistaken reincarnation. He dedicated all his life in the administration of his monastery and to the Dharma, and left a great legacy contributing to the well-being of the Dharma and sentient beings.

Dharma protector, Ekajati

I have heard from reliable sources that even in his tender age he accompanied dakas, dakinis and Dharma protectors, as if he was with human beings.

 

He came across treasure troves of caskets of dzi stones, and rosaries made of dzi stones.

 

He had direct vision of the Dharma protector, Ekajati, who gave him a blue knotted cord for his long life and disappeared. This protective blue cord was said to have been in his box of sacred artifacts even at later times.

 

It was well known that a single strand of his hair could protect against weaponry. The external signs of his high inner spiritual attainments were often witnessed by many.

 

But without going much into such accounts, I wish to recount this story to illustrate the point. One day, someone by the name of Neyog, tied a strand of the master’s hair around the neck of a goat and shot a gun at it several times, but the bullets did not even pierce it.
  
In the Earth Pig year when the Communist Chinese took Chamtrul Rinpoche to prison, he left a testament to his family, the members of the monastery and the lay people connected to him, in which he said, “After satisfying the Communist Chinese I will return to my family and monastery. So, we will be together again. I swear by the monastery of Dzamthang!” After saying this he went to prison.

In the Iron Rat year he passed away in a prison, and left an indelible mark of an accomplished master of the luminous Dzogchen practice, as each drop of his blood transformed into rainbow light. This could be witnessed by all people.

It is said that in the year of the Water Tiger, when I was in my mother’s womb, she had many miraculous signs. One such sign was that one night she dreamt of Chamtrul Rinpoche emerging from a rainbow circle and telling her that he had arrived at his own home. He presented her with a cup of curd and urged her to take it. As she dreamed of finishing the entire curd she felt physically and spiritually blissful, and this feeling continued for several days.

 

Finally, when I was born she noticed some whitish liquid covering my body and exclaimed to the midwives, “That is exactly the curd I had in my dream!” It was the year of the Water Rabbit.

Derge, East Tibet

Around the age of six I found a short rusted knife made in Derge, in Kham, East Tibet, in a thorn bush growing in a dry riverbed nearby the Hor River at Mar.

 

I was informed that this knife was the one used by the previous Chamtrul Rinpoche to exorcise a malevolent gyalgong spirit. And having done that he is said to have buried it deep underground, and proclaimed that whoever found this knife would be his reincarnation, and therefore would also be able to overcome gyalgong spirits.

 

When I was around eight years old my uncle Lhatop and some other people took me to a place at the bottom of the Techen Valley where we could barely see the outline of a monastery compound amongst the ruins.

There, in order to test me, they asked, “Which direction did the door of your previous incarnation’s residence (Labrang) face?”  I replied with whatever came to my mind at the time, but later they found it was correct. Perhaps, it was due to favorable conditions created through good karmic connections.

 

There were other tests as well, which I also passed. So, these were some of the external auspicious signs of my authenticity of being the reincarnation of the previous Chamtrul Rinpoche.

Beside this, I remember reading some prophetic lines in my childhood. In one of the "Songs of Instruction", the great treasure revealer Tulku Jigme Dorje says the following:

Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche)

LINKED BY KARMA FROM LIFE TO LIFE
THE MIRROR OF THE HEART OF PUNYA KIRTI SHOULD BE HELD LIKE THIS - THE PRIMORDIAL SELF-ARISEN GROUND.

 

(‘Punya Kirti’ is the Sanskrit for the Tibetan ‘Sonam Dakpa’, and this was my earliest childhood name.) Again, in one of the prophecies he writes:

 

A VIDYADHARA CLOSE TO THE PROTECTOR PADMASAMBHAVA
WILL FULFILL THE HOPES OF DISCIPLES THROUGH HIS TANTRIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

 

And with reference to the current reincarnation, the eleventh, it says at the end:

 

DUE TO IDEAL CONDITIONS CREATED THROUGH PURE KARMA AND PRAYERS IN THE PAST, AT PRESENT HE IS A GREAT JEWEL IN THE THREE TRAININGS. AS A MARK OF GURU PADMASAMBHAVA’S BLESSINGS UPON HIM, HE HAS A STRING OF BLACK MOLES IN LASSO SHAPE ON HIS UPPER BODY.

  

Again, it goes from:

 

HE DISCOVERS FEW PROFOUND HIDDEN TREASURES OF GURU PADMASAMBHAVA. HOWEVER, THERE WILL NOT BE MUCH OF THE PROFOUND TREASURES. HE REALIZES THE SELF-FACE OF THE TANTRIC GREAT PERFECTION, FULFILLING THE HOPES OF HIS PURE CIRCLE OF DISCIPLES.

 

And again it goes:

 

IN THE YEAR SIX ONE AND SIX THREE, AND AT SIX HIS AWARENESS WILL DISSOLVE INTO DHARMADHATU REALITY.

In the introductory text to another treasure of the great Terton Jigme Dorje (Vajrasattva Practice, the Precious Mirror), it is said:

 

A SPEECH EMANATION OF LORD BUDDHA IS NAMED PUNYA (SONAM),
VERSED IN ALL OBJECTS OF KNOWLEDGE, THE HEART ESSENCE OF THE DAKINIS TRANSMITTED TO HIM,
HE WILL ESPECIALLY BENEFIT BEINGS IN THE DIRECTION OF NGAM.

Since I don’t have any textual reference while writing this account and I quote these prophecies from memory, if I have committed mistakes, I sincerely ask for forgiveness from the great treasure revealer tulku himself and his Dharma protectors.

Katok Getse Rinpoche

In addition to those prophecies, Katok Getse Rinpoche has also insistently said:

 

EVEN IF THE GYALWA KATOK MONASTERY WERE TO SEARCH FOR THE REINCARNATION OF CHAMTRUL RINPOCHE BY COVERING EVERY LAND AND WATER, FROM TOP TO BOTTOM OF THE COUNTRY, WITH HORSESHOE ALL AROUND THE HOOFS OF THEIR HORSES, THEY WILL NOT FIND ANYONE SUPERIOR TO YOU.

 

OF COURSE, WE SHOULD SUFFICE WITH THE MANY PROPHECIES AND AUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING YOU.

 

HOWEVER, IN ACCORDANCE WITH CERTAIN IDEAL CIRCUMSTANCES PRESENTED BY TIME AND PLACE, AND BECAUSE I BEAR THE TITLE OF KATOK GETSE, IF YOU HAVE NO OBJECTIONS, I WISH TO OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCE YOUR TITLE OF CHAMTRUL RINPOCHE.

 

Several other great beings have also made such prophecies, but I will not go further than this for now, for fear of the details being too long, and also because it is not time for an elaborate account yet.

In brief, as the prophecies and visions of Terchen Pema Jigme Dorje Rinpoche, Kathok Getse Rinpoche, Gyurmey Tenpa Gyaltsen and other high Lamas converge at one point - the child born to the former wife of Chamtrul Pema Nangsel Dorje himself was recognized as his own reincarnation.

Chamtrul Rinpoche's monastery, Mardo Tashi Choling

Accordingly, I was formally installed upon the throne of my monastery, Tashi Gakyil Thupten Shedrup Choling at Mardo - Dharma Estate of Study and Practice of the Doctrine of the Sage, the Auspicious Coil of Joy at Mardo (Mardo Tashi Choling) at a ceremony held by the lamas, tulkus, monastics and the general public.

 

A formal recognition letter was presented and it reads:

 

THE SUPREME EMANATION LOBSANG GYATSO OR JIGME SONAM GYATSO RINPOCHE WAS BORN AT TASHI GAKYIL THUPTEN SHEDRUP CHOLING AT MARDO.

 

And again:

 

WE OFFER AUSPICIOUS PRAYERS FOR HIS NOBLE DEEDS TO MANIFEST FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE DHARMA AND MIGRATORY BEINGS AT OUR MONASTERY AND IN OTHER PLACES.


WE MAKE OUR REQUEST TO HIM, WITH CEREMONIAL SCARVES.
PEMA JIGME DORJE, SOMEONE WHO BEARS THE TITLE OF KATHOK TULKU, LAMAS, TULKUS, DIVINE BEINGS AND THE GENERAL SUBJECTS OF TASHI GAKYIL THUPTEN SHEDRUP CHOLING AT MARDO ON THIS AUSPICIOUS MONTH AND DAY.


By this letter bearing three different stamps, was given to me the reincarnation name of Chamtrul Jigme Sonam Gyatso.

Naljor Yeshe Wangchuk Rinpoche

Furthermore, in the year of the Fire Dragon, master Naljor Yeshe Wangchuk Rinpoche, a great Dzogchen practitioner, performed the ceremony of cutting my hair at which I received the Upasaka vows from him.

 

Since then I sincerely followed and pleased him in all three ways (through offerings, service and practice).

 

In the Fire Dog year, I received the vows of a rabjung from Getse Khenpo Wangchen, by that becoming a monk.

 

I began my pilgrimage from my native country of Chakri Woebar (Brilliant Fence) all the way to the great sacred pilgrimage site of Thukje Chenpo (the Great Compassionate One) in Gyamo Tshawa Rong; I prostrated the entire route for nearly five months.

Longchen Rabjam (Longchenpa)

After studying and training in the preliminary practices under my precious master for three years, and having completed the fivefold hundred thousand preliminary practices three times, he kindly took me under his guidance by giving me explanatory teachings on the Seven Treasuries of Longchen Ramjampa, miscellaneous teachings on the guidance on Dzogchen and especially, the quintessential instructions of the Hearing Lineage of Dzogchen that has been passed down from one master to a single disciple in the line of transmission started with the Kathok Khenpo Ngag Chung (Khenpo Ngawang Palzang).

Khenpo Ngawang Palzang

Besides that, I sincerely relied on more than twenty spiritual teachers from monastic institutions throughout Tibet and India that offer Buddhist studies programs. These include my own monastery (Mardo Tashi Choling), the great Kathok Monastery, and the institute of Larung Gar, all in Tibet, and Namdol Ling Nyingma Institute, in South India, and others.

 

From these teachers I received most of the complete set of Kama and Terma teachings comprising empowerments, transmissions and explanatory guidance; preliminary teachings; and instructions on the subtle energy winds, the subtle energy channels, and Dzogchen.

 

I studied Madhyamaka and Prajnaparamita, Vinaya, Abhidharma and so forth. I studied, reflected and meditated on the teachings of sutra and tantra, including the subjects of logic and epistemology and other sciences, and created imprints of them on my mindstream.

Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche

In particular, I pursued these studies for many years at the feet of the Dharma Lord, the great Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok Jungne Rinpoche, (also known as Yishin Norbu - Wish-fulfilling Gem) at Larung Gar Institute of Buddhist Studies and the Five Sciences, in Serthar, Tibet.

 

After completing my studies there, in the year of the Earth Snake, I was awarded the title of Khenpo (can be compared to a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy) and for some time I taught Madhyamaka, Pramana and other subjects at the institute in Serthar.

 

Further, I received for the second time the title of Khenpo, this time from the Kathok Gonchen Institute, at a ceremony presided over by the Head Lama of this great monastery, Moktul Rinpoche (Kyabje Kathok Moktsa Rinpoche), who presented me the pandita hat of the Khenpos.

Katok Moktsa Rinpoche

After that, in the year of the Iron Horse, at the express wish of my root guru the supreme Khenpo Khenchen Yishin Norbu (Jigme Phuntsok Jugne Rinpoche), I created a shedra with the usual study program at my own monastery, Tashi Gakyil Thupten Shedrup Choling at Mardo (Mardo Tashi Choling), and taught there the ordinary subjects, as well as sutra and tantra for several years.

 

While I was taking on these responsibilities and pursuing the triple activities of the Dharma, certain circumstances arose in the year of the Fire Rat and led me to resign from my abbotship.

Chamtrul Rinpoche meets with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Then I went on a pilgrimage to the central and Tsang regions of Tibet, from where I came to Nepal and India, where I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet with many great masters, such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and receive teachings from them.

 

In Nepal I received the entire empowerment and transmission of Kama and Terma of the Nyingma tradition from Kathok Moktsa Rinpoche at Bero Ling.

 

I also received most of the empowerments, transmissions and guidance instructions of the “Dudjom Rinpoche New Terma Texts” from Trulshik Rinpoche at Lu Genkyel in Nepal.

 

I spent a few years at the Nyingma Institute of Namdroling in South India. During that time I received empowerments and teachings from Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche (Penor Rinpoche) and held discussions on the Dharma with other scholars. I also taught the Dharma, Tibetan grammar, and poetry to a number of monks at Namdroling.

Trulshik Rinpoche
Penor Rinpoche

After that I moved to North India where I started giving Dharma teachings at Kyidrong Welfare Association’s hall at Thardoeling, Dharamsala, during a period of one year.

 

Since then I have taught thousands of people from India as well as the Americas, Europe, Japan and so forth at Zilnon Kagye Ling Nyingma Monastery, also in Dharamsala.

 

The subjects I teach range from the five preliminary practices for purification and collection of merits, to empowerments, transmissions and explanatory teachings, Madhyamaka and Pramana, depending on the student’s capacities. I have been able to implant the seed of liberation in them through my practice of giving the Dharma.

Chamtrul Rinpoche in Bodh Gaya, India

Drawn to me by our past karmic connections, without discriminating against any person based on their sex, race, creed and so forth, I wish them to enjoy excellent peace and harmony. I try to the best of my ability to promote the view, meditation and conduct of non-violence, which is the indispensable source for the spread and enhancement of the inner peace of mind.

 

Therefore, I request all the loving and compassionate people, who sincerely wish to bring peace to the world of beings, to support and assist me in fulfilling the purpose and aspiration of my life.

 

Accordingly, I pray to my spiritual masters and deities to bless me, to fulfill my wishes as desired.

This is a short introduction of myself. As for traditional etiquette, so to say, I also have the supporting letters from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Penor Rinpoche of the Palyul tradition, Kathok Moktsa Rinpoche, Kathok Getse Rinpoche, Khokyim Rinpoche on behalf of Minling Trichen Rinpoche, and the recognition letter offered at my installment ceremony by the great emanation body, Terchen Pema Jigme Dorje, who is the founding lama of my own monastery, Tashi Gakyil Thupten Shedrup Choling at Mardo (Mardo Tashi Choling), and the lamas, tulkus, monastics and the general public of that region.

Chamtrul Rinpoche's monastery, Mardo Tashi Choling

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