Chokgyur Lingpa

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Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa

Chokgyur Lingpa (mchog gyur gling pa). (1829-1870). A treasure revealer and contemporary of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgön Kongtrül. Regarded as one of the major tertöns in Tibetan history, his termas are widely practiced by both the Kagyü and Nyingma schools. Chokgyur Lingpa means 'Sanctuary of Eminence.'


Account by Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye, from the Rinchen Terdzö Vol. KA page 643-658

Chokgyur Dechen Zhikpo Lingpa, the incomparable incarnated tertön who was an emanation of Prince Damdzin Murub Tseypo, also known as the glorious Yeshe Rölpa Tsal, was prophesied in Orgyen Drimey Kunga’s Tsemar revelation with the following words:

Between the mountain passes of upper Yor and Dra,$
There will appear a Dharma Lord, an emanation of Padma’s mind,$
Bearing the name Ratna and Orgyen,$
Who will have the benefit of supreme Dharma treasures.$

In similar words and meaning he was also mentioned in the scriptures of Rongtön Pema Dechen Lingpa, as well as in the general predictions of Ratna Lingpa, as one of 25 holders of the Dharma:

A bearer of the name Norbu will appear in the southern direction of Kham.$

In these ways he has been clearly mentioned. Accordingly, in the area of Gomdé Dranang which connects with upper Yor in the southern part of Dokham, his father was Pema Wangchuk, a holder of the tantric precepts, belonging to the Achakdru family who were ministers and Nangchen Chinghu. His mother was Tsering Yangtso. And it was to these parents that he took birth on the 10th day of the six month in the year of the Male Earth Ox, accompanied by rainbow lights and other auspicious signs.
From early age, he displayed the wonderful behavior of a noble being, and he learned both reading and writing with minor hardship. He was named Norbu Tendzin. Without being encouraged by anyone else, he undertook to do many practices.
The tuft of his hair was offered to Künzang Choktrül of Lho and here he received the name Könchok Tendzin. This is the name under which he was widely known until much later, and that fits with the meaning of the prediction above since Ratna is Sanskrit for Könchok.
While at the age of 13 he once went to a location known as Manika to play, Orgyen Rinpoche appeared in person and pretended to ask about the name of the place and other questions to which he offered the replies. [In response, Guru Rinpoche said]: “The place is called Manika, you are Norbu Tendzin, [645] and the valley is called Arya Nang. Therefore you will become exalted in this world.” Having given this prediction, he vanished like a rainbow.
At this time, he received the novice precepts from Taklung Ma Rinpoche. Tsuklag Chökyi Gyalpo, who was the eighth Pawo, bestowed upon him the thorough reading transmission and blessings for a portion of Lama Gongdü known as Tukdrub Tsawa Martag and the practice text by the name Metok Trengdzey. “It would be excellent for you to practice this,” he admonished and thus implicitly entrusted him with the terma lineage.
One after the other, from numerous teachers and mentors — including the Gyalwang Karmapa and the Drukchen, as well as their Dharma heirs, the Drigung Choktrül, and the khenpos and masters at Surmang — he received empowerments, reading transmissions and instructions of both Sutra and Tantra, belonging to the Sarma and Nyingma schools. He received both the explanatory and applied transmissions, as well as innumerable types of instructions in dance, proportions, chanting and the use of musical instruments. He appeared to become extremely learned in all of these topics with very little effort.
When he reached the age of 25, in accordance with the Guru’s prophecy, he went to the monastic seat of Palpung, and here, in the miracle month of the year of the Water Ox, he met with Situ Rinpoche Pema Nyinchey Wangpo and offered him the Kilaya known as Wangchen Shepa and others, which he gladly accepted. This created the auspicious circumstance for dispelling obstacles and stabilizing his life. [646] In private, he was bestowed advice on the necessity to perform the practices of the termas and to keep their secrecy for the complete length of time. The Secret Prediction (gsang lung) mentions this:

These are the Dharma holders who will appear at that time: $
At the summit of Glorious Mountain, on the left bank of the golden river,$
An emanation of my speech, by the name Pema Nyinchey,$
Will maintain the line of conquerors and plant the banner of practice.$
He will hold up a torch in the darkness of the final age,$
Perfect the practice of longevity, and reach the age of 85.$
If the right circumstances arranged, he will uphold the teachings for 90 years.$
Lhasey will meet him when he is 25.$
Without reservations he should entrust himself fully.$
If that link is not arranged, many other circumstances will become spontaneously present.$

Accordingly, these types of primary auspicious links were kept intact. After a while he received the bodhisattva vow and several other profound teachings from the great pandita and bodhisattva Dabzang Tulku. From myself (Jamgön Kongtrül) as well, headed by Tukchen Deshek Kündü, he received most of the Nyingma Kahma, primarily the empowerment and explanation for the Magical Net of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, as well as many terma teachings.
In particular, the Basic Framework of Auspicious Coincidence (rten 'brel mdo chings) mentions:

The profound termas concealed at Sky Treasury$
Will not stay idle, but be revealed by man with aspirations. [647]$
Lhasey, it will be your last incarnation.$
At that time most of the lotsawas and panditas, King and disciples, will assemble.$

In particular, the ruler and his sons will meet,$
And, assisting each other, their karmic traits will gradually awaken.$
They will connect with all the ultimate of my instructions$
And they will meet me in person in their pure visions.$

There will teach the direct application of the Secret Mantra instructions,$
Applying these in their own experience they will effortlessly attain accomplishment,$
And there will be numerous disciples who achieve siddhi.$

The outer, inner and innermost prediction manuals mention this with extreme clarity, and accordingly, in the ninth month, he went for the specific purpose of meeting with the lord guru Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, who is the crown jewel of the ocean of learned and accomplished masters in the Snowy Land, and a master of the entirety of Shakyamuni’s teachings. This master, as well, considering the link they shared from any previous lifetimes, bestowed, as the very first, the grand empowerments of Kilaya Yangsang Pudri and after that the empowerment for Kilaya of the Khön tradition. Through this he dispelled outer, inner and innermost obstacles.
During the empowerment for the Wishfulfilling Jewel of Yangtig (yang tig yi bzhin nor bu), he (Chokgyur Lingpa) had extraordinary pure visions such as seeing the master as the great pandita Vimalamitra in person and he recognized awareness in its naked state. When he was given the entrustment to the life-force of Ngaksungma (Ekajati), the magnificent occurrence took place that felt as if the earth was shaking and he beheld Ekajati in person. “After three years I will give both master and disciple a great siddhi!” she said. That was the omen for revealing the Three Sections of the Great Perfection (rdzogs chen sde gsum) in the future.
With Chokgyur Lingpa was the age of 27, during the ninth month of the year of the Wood Rabbit, this master bestowed upon him the grand empowerments of the Nine Deities of Vishuddha. During this empowerment he saw in a vision that the Guru Heruka dissolved down through the crown of his head and the knots at his heart center were untied. Beginning from this time, vajra songs poured from him unobstructedly.
In the past, he had not decoded to the full extent the symbolic writing of Tukdrub Barchey Künsel but now he understood them without any difficulty. The lord guru (Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo) had the profound terma by the name Tukdrub Deshek Düpa and not only were they of identical meaning but for the most part the words also corresponded. Therefore, together they established without any hindrance [these termas] in the manner of combining them as mother and child. When they performed the terma practice together, as well, they had boundless pure visions including being accepted by the Guru and consort in actuality. Many auspicious circumstances were arranged such as the appearance of several address lists of termas.
With trust in each other, the lord guru (Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo) as well received the ripening and liberating nectar of these new treasures, [649] and he enthroned (Chokgyur Lingpa). In this way they became great treasure revealers, undisputed and renowned like the sun and moon.
To quote the Lord’s (Chokgyur Lingpa’s) own words: “first, the four mentors of the greatest kindness.” This means that he accepted these teachers: Taklungpa Ngawang Tenpey Nyima who was his preceptor for the outer vows of individual liberation, Datrül Karma Ngedön Tenpa Rabgye who was his spiritual guide for the inner bodhisattva trainings, Pema Garwang Lodrö Thaye who was his vajra master for the innermost tantric precepts, and Pema Ösel Do-Ngak Lingpa who was his road guru of the ultimate, definitive meaning. [* so so la gtan tshig yod par snang].
Beginning from remaining in the recitation retreat of the most profound Könchok Chidü, at the secluded place of Yarkhyil, he followed the command of the guru and practiced, primarily by staying in strict retreat for three years at Ogmin Karma. Persevering in the various levels of practice, he reached perfection in the experience of development stage, competition stage and the great perfection. Through this he manifested boundless signs of accomplishment. By the power facts he proved to have become a great master who had gained mastery over the four kinds of activity. In particular, the Prophecy for the Three Sections of the Great Perfection mentions: [650]

Transmitted from one to the other unbrokenly, $
Profound termas in actuality and in mind,$
Rediscovered termas and termas of recollection,$
Pure vision, and hearing lineage;$
These are the seven kinds of transmission$
Received as the heritage of the father king and his son.$
They will be augmenters for the teachings in the dark age,$
And exceedingly unfold the sunlight and of the profound and the extensive teachings.$

According to this and many other predictions, these two great treasure revealers, emanations of the father and son, were each endowed with seven transmissions of profound teachings that can be specified from the three aspects of Kahma, Terma and Pure Vision.
The first of these is the long transmission of Kahma. He [Chokgyur Lingpa] received for the most part of what is currently in existence, and not only did he explain and propagate many times the three aspects of Do, Gyü and Sem, but as well, the profound termas of this lord, including Do and Gyutrül and so forth, were wonderful and unprecedented, capable of bringing forth texts with a wording exactly like the root texts of Kahma. In that sense, they as well belong to the Kahma transmission.
The second is the earth termas, sater, belonging to his personal fortune. When he was 13 years old he revealed, from Dragkar Dzongchung, the 24 sadhanas that were the personal practice of Damdzin, as well as the vajra, skullcup and mirror that were the insignia for Gongdü. From that time onwards and until at the age 39 years [651] — when in accordance with the prediction lists and encouragement of the lord guru, he revealed from the Norbu Pünsum at Tsikey, the sacred teaching known as the Seven Jewel Cycles, the statue representative of Guru Rinpoche, and the ornaments of Sengdrok — it is renowned that he had 37 eminent termas. Nevertheless, including the Seven Cycles of Pacifying revealed at Drak Yangdzong, he revealed numerous and minor termas of material articles as well as the various types of prediction lists known as khajang, yangjang, nejang and nyingjang.

The primary ones were:


As indicated by these, from each terma place he revealed an exceedingly great number of teachings, sacred substances, bodily representations and hand emblems. For the most part, these were revealed as public termas and, being witnessed by everyone, they were indisputable.
In short, he had 100 terma places of body, speech, mind, qualities and activities; 100 termas of Heart Essence (snying thig); as well as receiving the mandate for numerous substances that bring liberation through taste, as is clearly mentioned in the prediction scriptures. He also opened up for many sacred places, both the principal and subsidiary types of the 25 major sites of Dokham according to the list which he revealed from Pawo Wangchen Cliff.
As termas, he also revealed three types of materials for image representations of Guru Rinpoche and so produced numerous copies of these images. These and other deeds were an amazing wonder.

The third transmission are the rediscovered treasures, yangter, that are a subsidiary part of the earth treasures. This lord received a transmission through the power blessings for Gurdrak Hungmar Nyingtig from his previous lifetime as the great treasure revealer Sangye Lingpa. [653] He also received the transmission for the short lineage of the Secret Practices of Mother Tantra (ma rgyud gsang ba'i lam khyer) of the dakini Kunga Bumpa, the ripening and liberation for which he bestowed upon me.

The forth is the profound mind treasure, gongter. Based on Jetsün Tara three times bestowing of upon him confirmation by uttering three times “Lekso!” he established in writing the Profound Essence of Tara.

The fifth transmission was recollection, jedren, which stems from the mind treasure. When the master remembered his past life when born as Nub Khulungpa Yönten Gyatso, he was given the instruction of Lung Dorje Köpa as the final testament when Nubchen was passing on. He also wrote down a brief version of the Khapo of Nub. There were also the way of reciting the Rulu mantra as well as numerous types dances.
By remembering his past life as Sangye Lingpa, he established in writing detailed instructions for the nine yoga exercises for training in Gongdü and these are still in existence.

The six transmission is that of pure perception, dagnang. While he was opening up the terma place of Riwo Wangzhu, he had addition of the Great Pandita in the practice gave of Vimalamitra. He and he was given the Profound Essence of Vimalamitra and this instruction is still existing.

The seventh transmission, corresponding to the above, is that of hearing lineage, Nyengyü. In a pure vision Chokgyur Lingpa went to the Glorious Copper-Colored Mountain, where he received from Orgyen Rinpoche the instructions of Ati Zabdön Nyingtig which was then committed to writing.
Thus I have here briefly written down his life story endowed with the seven transmissions.

The various visions and prediction he received successively, the practices to invoke the guardians of the Dharma treasures to carry out their activities, and the various versions of different lengths of his pure visions in which he went to the Glorious Mountain of Chamara, are many, but here I feel that this much detail will be sufficient.

Chokgyur Lingpa performed approximately 33 drubchen ceremonies endowed with the four aspects of approach and accomplishment. These include the ceremonies performed at his own seats and when he was invited to function as vajra master for assemblage ceremonies in other places.
He performed the Kanen Rabji and Nechen Jinbeb in the most important places of Tibet and Dokham including Samye, Hepori, glorious Chuwori and many other places. By doing so he pacified invasions and other upheavals and was able to accomplish the vast predicted activities of ensuring happiness and well-being for the entire country.
He bestowed the profound teachings of ripening and liberation, both directly and indirectly, upon all the holders of the teachings without sectarian restrictions: the Kagyü hierarchies headed by primarily the Gyalwang Karmapa and the Drukchen, the Drigung and the Taklung, and the Nyingma masters headed by the throne holders of Mindroling, Katok, Palyül, Shechen and Dzogchen, as well as the glorious Sakyapa and so forth.
His giving of liberation through taste permeated everywhere throughout the central and surrounding regions of Tibet and Kham.
In particular, due to the auspicious circumstances being arranged, most of his ten primary holders of the teachings propagated immensely the activities of the terma teachings, primarily the Tukdrub Barchey Künsel. [655].
As exemplified by the medium length sacred dances of the Yangpur drubchen performed yearly at Ogmin Tsurphu, it is evident that the major and minor aspects of the teachings of these treasures flourished to increase the degree by holding drubchö ceremonies at numerous monasteries.
Among the Ten Teachings to Ensure the Welfare of Tibet and Kham, he established in writing the Dharma cycle on auspicious coincidence and in accordance with its meaning, the wonderful ritual performance was held at Palpung, Katok and Dzogchen. It was a drama performed to commemorate “The Abbot, the Master and the Dharma King” with a threefold aspects of teaching, practice and activities of the twofold doctrines of Sutra and Tantra.
His main seats were at Karmari Mountain, at the Neten Gang Ridge, and at the confluence of the Tsichu and Kechu rivers. In all these places he built temples with shrines and shrine objects. In the two latter places, he established a sangha congregation and the ongoing teaching and practice of Sutra and Tantra.
Having completed these deeds, considering a greater purpose elsewhere, he displayed the manner of falling sick and had the pure vision of journeying to the pure buddha realms. This happened at the age of 42, in the year of the Male Iron Horse. On the first day of the fifth month, he entered into the composure of the peaceful basic space, while displaying wondrous miracles such as earthquake and rainbow lights. [656].
His main lineage holder was Gyurmey Tsewang Drakpa, his heart disciple and son who was predicted as being the emanation of Namkhai Nyingpo of Nub. He and others performed the funeral ceremonies with lavish rituals of offerings and rituals for fulfilling the master’s wishes. As stupa receptacle made of gilded copper, the size of several stories, was constructed and here his entire body was placed. Gyurmey Tsewang Drakpa also completed the building of the seat at Tsikey Norbu Ling which had been only begun.

As indicated by what I mentioned above, there have been countless instances of spreading the activities, including the profound Dharma of liberation through taste, propagated by numerous great masters headed by the precious Lord Guru. Even someone as simple as myself, who has received the blessing of these profound teachings, has to the best of my ability tried to serve most of these profound teachings by means of doing the practices of approach and accomplishment, performing the drubchens, spreading the teachings, and writing arrangements for the empowerments.
When he (Chokgyur Lingpa) traveled to central Tibet, he offered for the first time the teachings of these new treasures to the Karmapa and Drukchen and their spiritual sons as well as many others.
At the Crystal Cave of Sheldrak, he performed the drubchen of sacred medicine based on the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities of the Magical Net. Headed by that, in each of the sacred practice places of Guru Rinpoche, he performed the auspicious link for practicing the Seven Cycles of Profundity as well as making thousands of feast offerings. In this way, throughout the provinces of Ngari, Central Tibet and Tsang, [657] he performed the service, in a small degree, of bringing to the light of day for the first time the renown of the tertön’s name and the terma teachings.
On the 15th day of the eleventh month of the same year in which the great treasure revealer had departed to the state of peace, Pema Ösel Do-Ngak Lingpa — the great monarch of all the tertöns and siddhas of the snowy ranges of Tibet — had a vision in which he saw that in the Lotus-Covered Buddhafield in the western direction, the great treasure revealer himself had manifested in the form of Bodhisattva Lotus-Sprout (Padmasattva). After meeting him, he received the nectar-like instructions of the sadhana and the empowerment. For one month he kept the samaya seal of secrecy.
Then, on the 10th day of the 12 month, he established these instructions in writing combined with a feast offering during which I received them. At this time the entire ground outside was suddenly warmed up, so that the ice and snow melted into a river. These auspicious signs were visible to everyone. In addition to these signs of blessings seen, considering the purpose of the followers of the cycle of these teachings, he bestowed a testament of oral instructions condensed to the quintessence. Consequently, it is a point of extreme importance that everyone belonging to the lineage of disciples of this great treasure revealer take this as their essential practice [658]. This was mentioned as an additional point.

this section is an extract from the Biographies of the Hundred Tertöns composed by the first Jamgön Kongtrül, and included in the first volume of the Rinchen Terdzö.
(Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang).

Literary Works

Main Teachers

Main Students

Main Lineages

Alternate Names & Spellings

Chogyur Lingpa, Chokyur Lingpa, Chojur Lingpa

Other Reference Sources

  • For more details see The Life and Teachings of Chokgyur Lingpa (Rangjung Yeshe Publications).

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