Yolmo Tulku Rigdzin Thondup Dorje

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Short biography

The fifth Gonjang Rinpoche or Rigzin Thondup Dorje was recognized as the reincarnation of Rigdzin Wangyal Dorje. He studied under many Nyingma masters like Rigdzin Tsewang Dorje, Kathog Rigzin Tsewang Norbu, Drubchen Tenzin Rangdrol and Rigzin Pema Lodro. He also received Transmission for the Nyingma's Kama and Terma from them. He was a great accomplished practitioner in Dzogchen teachings. He spent all his precious time and belongings, offered by his well wishers, for the restoration work of the great stupa Jarung Khashor and performed special aspiration Prayers in front of the stupa for the well being of all living beings.

At the age of 48, he called all his disciples including his spiritual son Yogi Rigzin Kunzang Dorje who was in a meditational retreat in a cave. Rinpoche gave his last teaching and declared that he was going to leave his worldly body. He appointed Rigzin Kunzang Dorje as his regent and suddenly remained in a meditative posture and rest perfectly in peace for about a week and passed away.


yol mo ba sprul sku V, aka kar ma bdud ’joms (1725-1789),

sngags 'chang nyi ma seng ge (1687-1738), from the area of skyid grong in Tibet, founded a temple at Tarkhyeghyang village in Yol-mo at some time around the year 1723 and, ever since then, his family lineage of bstan gnyis gling pa has been the chief father to son (hereditary) line producing the lamas of that temple. His son 'phrin las bdud ’joms accordingly became head lama of Tarkhyeghyang temple upon the death of sngags 'chang nyi ma seng ge in 1738/39.

’Phrin-las bdud-’joms was at first taught to read by his mother at the age of eight, she being of a tantric lineage from Brag-dkar rta-so in southern Tibet. He was also instructed by his father, Ngakchung Nyima Senge.

’Phrin-las bdud-’joms studied under four lamas of the rdo dmar pa spiritual lineage, referred to as ‘spiritual brothers’ (sku mchad): pad ma rdo rje (the head lama of the lineage), pad ma gsang sngags bstan 'dzin, 'gyur med o rgyan gsang sngags bstan 'dzin, and kah thog rig 'dzin tshe dbang nor bu (1698-1755). Of these, his main teacher was rdo dmar pa rig 'dzin chen po pad ma rdo rje. When a child, Trinle Dudjom took lay ordination (dge bsnyen) from this lama at byams sprin, northwest of skyid grong, and received the name rig 'dzin 'phrin las bdud 'joms.

Like his father, Trinle Dudjom traveled extensively between Yolmo, southern Tibet and the Kathmandu Valley. He wrote two commentaries on the practices of the byang gter phur pa, and arranged the order of their rituals. He was also the head lama of gnas shar le'u dgon, as well as of rdzong dkar at the northern end of the valley. He was actually in residence at this latter place when the Nepalese invaded the region in 1788. Tarkhyeghyang was quite clearly the poorest of the three monasteries. He was married to the daughter of the head lama of brag dkar rta so, from where his mother came, and later in his life also became the head lama of that monastery. Among his students was mi pham chos kyi dbang phyug (b.1775), the sprul sku of brag dkar rta so who composed a biography of Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu and wrote several texts associated with Northern Treasures practices, and also tshe dbang 'chi med mgon po (1755-1807), the scribe of Trinle Dudjom's (mainly auto-)biography. This biography was later augmented by one of his sons who took up residence in the monastery of brag dkar rta so. Another of Trinle Dudjom's sons was regarded locally as the reincarnation of his teacher Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu, referred to above. On his deathbed he sent two of his sons back to the monastery of brag dkar rta so, their mother’s home, and it was there that one of them later finished writing the biography.

From this biography we learn that Trinle Dudjom put a lot of effort into caring for his family temple, the monastery of Tarkhyeghyang. He restored the fabric of the building in 1770 and was obviously much concerned about the moral laxity of its inhabitants, commenting that it had become “the street for all beings” and referring to it as an “empty shell.” He states that the religious obligations and code of the temple were not being carried out, and that the senior religious notables were taking wives and so on. He also regrets that he did not know how to set matters aright, because the lifestyle of those around him was neither that of laymen nor that of religious men. On his deathbed, however, even while instructing his sons not to let the seat of the bstan gnyis gling pa lineage become a ruin, it is clear that he expected two of them to go to brag dkar rta so and gnas shar le'u dgon, in Tibet, rather than to stay on in Yolmo.

Spiritual succession at the family temple in Yolmo apparently continued through the son(s) of a second wife of Trinle Dudjom whom he had married at byams sprin. This second wife was of the rdo dmar pa lineage.

Trinle Dudjom regarded himself as Tibetan and refers to the Nepalese as mon pa. He was used to conducting relations with the Tibetan, the Newar and then the Gurkha kingdoms. His is the only biography so far recorded concerning a lama born in Yolmo. The succession of yol mo sprul sku ended with ’Phrin-las bdud-’joms and there is no local written account of the continuation of the spiritual lineage after his son.

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