Chokling Pema Gyurme
Short Biography told by Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche
Pema Gyurmey’s family was quite poor. At five years old, he was taken to Neten Monastery, where he studied extensively. When he was seventeen, together with many monks, he went to see Dzongsar Khyentse and received many teachings, including the bodhisattva vows. He received many empowerments and transmissions from Palpung Situ, Padma Wangchuk Gyalpo, before returning to his residence at Neten.
Pema Gyurme wanted a monastic college established at Neten, so he erected a new building for it. He invited Kyungtrul Karjam to Neten Monastery to give the Rinchen Terdzo transmission. After completing the houses for the college, he invited Khenpo Tsultrim Nyima, the highest khenpo from Katok, and studied the 13 great root texts of philosophy, many sciences and other topics with him.
At the age of 29 he thought, “This is not enough, I must go to see Dzongsar Khyentse.” He left in secret with only one or two servants. On the way a mule preceding him on the narrow path suddenly slipped over the edge of a very steep precipice. He pulled it back up with one hand. Many people saw this. At first he thought, “I must be very strong,” but he later realized it must have been the activity of the protectors. He did the solkha for Ekajati every day of the journey to help him arrive safely in Derge. “If you are going to Derge, I will help you!” Ekajati said to him.
Arriving in Derge, he went to meet Dzongsar Khyentse. The night before, Khyentse Rinpoche dreamed of Ekajati coming and saying, “I now put Chokling Tulku in your care.” He told Chokling, “Ekajati really looks after you.” When Chokling went to Neten Monastery as a small boy his mother did not go, but he always had a kind of mother unseen by others. Later on in his life, he realized that it must have been Ekajati.
From Khyentse Rinpoche he received the Rinchen Terdzo, Damngak Dzo and many other teachings of all the different schools. One day when Khyentse Rinpoche was ordaining many people, he told Chokling, “You should become a monk, but you will not remain one in the future. No Chokling Tulku has ever been a monk. In the future I will not be able to give ordination.” So Chokling took both novice vows and full ordination.
Chokling Pema Gyurme studied many root texts with many mkhan po and debated frequently. He studied linguistics and medicine as well. One day, while studying dialectics, he couldn’t understand anything. He prayed to Sakya Pandita, then closed the book and fell asleep. He dreamed of a monk with a long crooked nose, wearing a pandita’s hat over his shoulder. The monk sat down beside Chokling and asked, “Are you studying dialectics?” “Yes,” he answered, “But I understand nothing.” “There is nothing that cannot be understood,” the monk said. He opened the book at exactly the place which Chokling did not understand. The monk explained it once and Chokling understood immediately. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am called Kunga Gyaltsen,” replied the monk. Chokling immediately woke up thinking, “What an extraordinary dream.” Opening the book, he found that it was just as in the dream.
Chokling Rinpoche enjoyed great spectacles. One night he dreamed of Ekajati who said, “You like great spectacles, I will show you something: not only this world but the entire three thousand-fold universe.” Taking a knife she cut her chest open. Inside was vast space with many universes and world systems amassed like cloud banks, clearly and distinctly.
He saw Ekajati in another dream, standing with legs apart, on her head she had a tripod and skull cup with a torma, inside of which Guru Dewa Chenpo sat amidst scintillating rainbow light. As he looked, Guru Rinpoche dissolved into the torma and the torma dissolved into the rakta in the skull cup which then began to boil over. Ekajati immediately took down the skull cup, handed it to Chokling and said, “Drink this!” He drank it and then awoke, so drunk he could not stand. One day Dzongsar Khyentse told him of a special stone of Ekajati which could be discovered at a certain place. Finding it, Chokling gave it to Dzongsar Khyentse.
After staying at Dzongsar for quite some time, he returned to his own residence. He further developed the existing retreat center. At the monastic study center, Tsultrim Nyima was the first khenpo. After his death next was Khenpo Kuma Rinchen, then Khenpo Palden. The fourth, Khenpo Yeshe Rigdzin, was jailed by the Chinese together with Khenpo Palden.
Neten Chokling Pema Gyurme later became a tantric lay practitioner and married a daughter of the Langtsang family. During his life Chokling Pema Gyurme gave many empowerments and transmissions, chiefly of the Tersar, which he passed on four times. On the first occasion, he gave the transmission to 40 great lamas, tulkus and many other people at Neten Monastery. The second time he gave the Tersar was at Nyishen Monastery where he had many disciples.
Chokling performed many drubchens in Kham. Once, during a medicine drubchen, the dry medicine placed in a skull-cup later turned into nectar. When his patrons died and he performed the phowa transference from a distance of one day’s walk, the corpse’s head would jerk and from the top some hairs would fly off. Similar in character to the previous Neten Chokling, he drank a lot and took snuff. He was rumoured to have many girlfriends. He was also fond of guns and was a very good shot.
One night, asleep in his tent, he dreamed one of his girlfriends said, “These times are not good. Dzongsar Khyentse has gone to India and you should go as well.” Awakening, he immediately ordered, “Saddle up right away!” and went to Neten Monastery where he told some of his special patrons and friends that they should leave for India. They prepared for seven days and then set out for Lhasa. People thought he had gone crazy, “He has just started to build a monastery, spending all the wealth of the previous incarnations, and now he is leaving!” Sometimes he said he would not return. Anyway, he went straight to Lhasa, taking only the complete edition of the New Treasures with him. He visited the sacred places of Lhasa, such as Samye. Having been to Lhasa before, he did not stay long but went directly to Sikkim and met Dzongsar Khyentse to whom he offered the statue Tsedrub Dorje Trengwa as well as long life ceremonies. “Had Dzongsar Khyentse remained in retreat for three months, he would have lived for 113 years,” Chokling said. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Dzongsar Khyentse later returned the statue to Chokling and said, “It did not help for this life.” Chokling then went on pilgrimage in India and Nepal before returning to Sikkim. As a priest of the royal household, he performed many supporting ceremonies.
Dzongsar Khyentse then passed away, and to fulfill his guru’s wishes Chokling Pema Gyurme made another pilgrimage. In Nepal, many practitioners of the Chokling Tersar invited him to Nubri. On the way he gave the Chokling Tersar to more than 200 monks and nuns at Thar Drupche. At Ru Monastery in Nubri he gave the Chokling Tersar transmission to more than 500 people. He also performed the drubchen of Tukdrub Barchey Kunsel and gave the explanations of the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo. People were astonished at his learning and his teachings were too profound for most of them to understand. Returning to India, Chokling met H.H. Karmapa at House Khas in Delhi. Karmapa told him to start a center in India and gave him a lot of advice. He then proceeded to Tsopema and founded Padma Ewam Chogar, where he also performed a drubchen. He also began the construction of a second Neten monastery in India called Tenchok Gyurme Ling. Together with H.H. Karmapa, Khamtrul Rinpoche, Penor Rinpoche, Dzongnor Rinpoche, Katok Ongtrul and other lamas and Khampa chiefs, Chokling began the Tibetan Welfare Association to help poor refugees.
Chokling Peme Gyurme revealed many terma teachings and, from an early age, had many visions of the Copper-Colored Mountain. Notes on these visions were lost in Tibet. From Yegyal Namkhadzo he discovered the Khandro Gongdu Nyingpo. Likewise, in Bodhgaya he had a vision of Senge Dongma and received an extraordinary terma. At Tso-pema he had many visions of Guru Rinpoche and received teachings on how to supplicate the protectors of Tso-pema.
He once traveled to Varanasi with Khamtrul Rinpoche and they stayed in a bungalow. In the afternoon everybody had a nap because of the intense heat. Feeling that he should go out, Chokling got up. Not knowing how he had arrived there, he found himself in a forest conversing with a dignified atsara wearing a tiger skin skirt. The atsara was Guru Rinpoche. Giving some advice, his last words were “See you again soon!” Chokling turned to go back, taking two or three steps. Then, with still more questions, he looked around but the man was gone. He suddenly felt as if he had woken up and found himself in the deer park in Varanasi. He had no shoes on, having gone straight from his bed. He had trouble getting back. Chokling performed many drubchens in Bir. At the age of 47 he had an accident on the road from Delhi and died instantly from a skull fracture. Later he revived, took a long breath and then passed away. It was on the 19th day of the twelfth month. Unknown to anyone, he had left a letter of advice. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Khamtrul Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro’s reincarnation, Dzongnor Rinpoche and others were invited to come and perform the cremation ceremonies. A golden stupa, studded with jewels and decorated with many precious metals was made in his memory. It contains his relics and was placed in the temple in Bir.