Chogye Trichen Rinpoche

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Short Biography

His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, Ngawang Khyenrab Thupten Lekshe Gyatso, is the head of Tsharpa branch of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. As the most senior Sakya lama living today, His Eminence is a renowned tantric master, a dedicated practitioner, an outstanding scholar and an eloquent poet. His Eminence embodies the wisdom, spirit and activities of the holy Dharma.

His Eminence is a master of masters as most Tibetan Buddhist lineage holders are his disciples. Amongst these disciples are His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness Sakya Trizin. Perhaps one can begin to comprehend the greatness of His Eminence through the words of His Holiness Sakya Trizin, who describes the great accomplishments of His Eminence as thus:

"There are many who have attained the wisdom arising from the study of the Scriptures. There are some who have attained the wisdom arising from contemplation of the Dharma. There are few who have gained wisdom arising from meditation. His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche is one who has attained all three wisdoms. One should consider oneself fortunate just to meet him, which is in itself a great blessing."

In addition to His Eminence's stature among Tibetan lamas, King Birendra of Nepal awarded His Eminence "Gorkha Dakshin Babu", a tribute which has never been awarded to a Buddhist monk in Nepal before.

His Eminence was born in 1920 into the blessed Zhalu Kushang family of the Che clan, a lineage descended from the clear light gods. Many auspicious and marveleous signs accompanied His Eminence's birth. His Eminence is the 26th patriarch of Phenpo Nalendra Monastery, north of Lhasa. Founded by Rongton Sheja Kunrig (1367-1449), Nalendra is one of the most important Sakya monasteries in Tibet. Wondrously, each generation of the Kushang family has produced no less than four sons, most of who have served as throne holders of many important monasteries including Nalendra, Zhalu and Ngor. The name "Kushang" meaning 'royal maternal uncle' derived from the fact that many daughters from the family were married to numerous Sakya throne holders, one of whom, Drogon Chagna, was supreme ruler of Tibet, who succeeded Chogyal Phakpa. At the age of twelve His Eminence was officially enthroned at the Phenpo Nalendra Monastery.

From his enthronement until the age of 39, His Eminence remained in the Phenpo Nalendra Monastery where he mastered the monastic scriptural rituals, the rituals of mandala, and the musical accompaniment of the rituals. His Eminence has completed meditation retreats of all the major deities of all the four tantras. His Eminence's two root gurus are Zimog Rinpoche Kunga Tenzin, and Dampa Rinpoche Shenphen Nyingpo of Ngor monastery. From them, His Eminence received the Lamdre empowerments and instructions, as well as countless other empowerments, transmissions, pith instructions, and ritual traditions of all four classes of Tantra. His Eminence completed extensive studies in all major fields of study taught in Lord Buddha's teachings. His Eminence is a master in both Sutrayana and Mantrayana teachings. His Eminence is also a great scholar of literature, poetry, history and Buddhist metaphysics and a highly accomplished poet.

In 1959, given the change in circumstances in Tibet after the Chinese invasion, His Eminence left Tibet for Mustang, where his sister was married to the Mustang Raja, the King of Mustang. For several years from 1962, in accordance with the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Eminence acted as the Secretary General of the Council for Religious and Cultural Affairs of the Tibetan Government in Exile in Dharamsala, India. Also, His Eminence took a leading role in preparing the manuscript of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's book "My Land and My People" and was responsible for writing Tibetan text books for schools set up for central Tibetans.

In 1969, His Eminence took leave from the Tibetan government and returned to Nepal to rebuild the Nalendra monastery and the Seat of the Tsharpa school in exile. His Eminence has founded two monasteries in Nepal, the Tashi Rabten Ling Monastery in Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha and the Jamchen Lhakhang Monastery in Katmandu. In Lumbini, His Eminence established the first three and half year Lamdre Lobshey retreat centre, which has inspired the founding of other meditation retreat centres or 'Gomdra'. A smaller retreat facility has also been established by His Eminence in Bagdora, a sacred site attributed to Krakucchanda, one of the previous Buddhas of this age. His Eminence has also founded a Tsharpa retreat center at Lo Gekar in Mustang.

Outside Nepal, His Eminence has established centers in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The center in Hong Kong is named after Green Tara. With the sincere invitations of his disciples, His Eminence has traveled to these centers to give teachings and initiations. His Eminence is also the supreme patron of ten centres in Australia and New Zealand founded by his disciple, Lama Choedak. As two of the main centres in Australia are named after Rongton and Tsharchen. His Eminence regards them as future pillars of strength to uphold his teachings and practices. To acknowledge these developments in Australia, His Eminence made two important visits to Australia in 1996 and 2001.

It is believed that the name 'Chogye' has derived from the anniversary date of Khyenrab Choje, a member of the Kushang family and a tribute offered by the then Chinese emperor to his nephew. Khyenrab Choje was a teacher who possessed the direct lineage of Kalachakra received from Vajrayogini, and he was invited by the Sakya Trinzin Dagchen Lodro Gyalten to be 8th abbot of the Phenpo Nalendra Monastery.

During his time, Kyenrab Choje immensely impressed the Emperor of China. Although Khyenrab Choje was unable to visit China, his nephew Jamyang Donyoe Gyalsten visited China and became the spiritual preceptor of the Chinese Emperor. Inspired by Jamyang Donyoe Gyalsten's saintly qualities, the Chinese Emperor bestowed upon him eighteen precious tributes as praise for spiritual qualities he recognised in this master. Hence the name 'Chogye' which means 'eighteen' in Tibetan. It is from Kyenrab Choje that the lineage of the Chogye Trichens, all of whom came from His Eminence's family, began. The title "Trichen" means "throne holder", referring to the one whole holds the seat and title of the Chogye Trichen.

It is often said that His Eminence maintains the style of a hidden yogi as he has engaged in several three-year meditation retreats. Outside of these retreats, His Eminence spends most of his time in deep meditation and practicing tantric rituals and prayers from early dawn to many hours past midnight. His Eminence is regarded as the modern day manifestation of past Indian Buddhist siddha saints such as Mahasiddha Virupa. At the age of 82 today, His Eminence continues this very admirable practice every day. This in itself is already an inspiration to all practitioners.

His Eminence has continuously given initiations, transmissions, empowerments, teachings and instructions on Buddha's teachings. Those who have had the fortune to receive an audience with His Eminence will no doubt agree that he is also an enthusiastic storyteller. Every initiation or empowerment given by His Eminence is almost always accompanied by precious stories about the particular Bodhisattvas or teachers of that lineage, as well as stories that illustrate the importance of Boddhichitta and other precious teachings of Lord Buddha such as Prajna Paramita. His Eminence is the lineage holder of the highly prized uncommon esoteric teachings of the practice lineage of the Tsharpa school, such as Vajrayogini and Lamdre Lobshey, the uncommon Hevajra traditon for close disciples.

It is through the kindness of His Eminence that his disciples have met with the teachings of Lord Buddha. From his time in Tibet till today, His Eminence has continued to spread and cause the holy Dharma to flourish in the minds of all who have faith in Buddhism. His activity is evidence of his continuous and selfless efforts of giving the holy Dharma. Today, at the age of 82, His Eminence remains firmly committed in his mission to spread the teachings of Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings wherever they may be, notwithstanding that such lengthy teachings especially those conducted overseas must bring inevitable fatigue and strain to his physical body.

As examples of his teaching activity, His Eminence has bestowed major and minor initiations, transmissions, instructions and commentaries with oral pith instructions. His Eminence also offered the profound uncommon teachings of the Sakya tradition, particularly the uncommon Lamdre Lobshey according to the Tsharpa tradition, to His Holiness Sakya Trizin and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In addition, His Eminence also offered his major lineages to His Holiness Sakya Trizin, such as the Collection of Tantras (Gyude Kuntue) and the empowerments and transmission of Pith Instructions. Others who have been fortunate enough to receive teachings, initiations and empowerments from His Eminence include many rinpoches, monks and other lay disciples from all over the world.

His Eminence's commitment to spread the holy Dharma has no geographical boundaries and is truly global. This is evident by His Eminence's numerous travels overseas to give teachings, initiations and empowerments to his disciples abroad. For example, in 1988, His Eminence traveled to the United States and Canada. In 1994, His Eminence taught in Japan and in 1996, His Eminence visited Australia. In 1998, His Eminence visited Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Australia to give many initiations and teachings. In the same year, His Eminence bestowed the Kalachakra initiation and other teachings for an assembly of 6,000 disciples in Taiwan. In 2000, at the request of His Eminence Shamar Rinpoche, His Eminence visited France where he bestowed the Collection of Sadhanas. In the same year, at the request of the Sakya centers in Spain, His Eminence visited Spain where he gave the Kalachakra initiation and public talks in Barcelona on Peace in the World according to Kalachakra Tantra.

Most recently in this year, His Eminence has just completed a two-month trip overseas to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, New Zealand, Singapore and Kuching in Malaysia, where he bestowed upon his disciples precious teachings and initiations of many important Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In Australia during this recent trip, His Eminence added a new chapter to the history of Buddhism in Australia by ordaining twelve Australians as monks and nuns, in the same manner as Shantarakshita did in 7th century Tibet when he ordained seven Tibetans. The ripple effect of His Eminence's visit to Australia will definitely be felt for many hundreds of years to come.

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