The Palge Lineage

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The name Patrul (the “incarnation of Pal”) name comes from the name of the Palge lineage. The first Palge Lama was Samten Phuntsok. Manjushri was his tutelary deity (yidam), and he had recited Chanting the Names of Manjushri[1] more than a hundred thousand times.

The story is told that once, when Palge Samten Phuntsok was on the way to visit Upper Dromza, he stopped in a place called Mamo Thang, the Plain of the Mamos,[2] to rest his mule. There he had a vision in which he heard the spontaneous sound of the mani mantra pervading the whole area. In accordance with this auspicious omen, Samten Phuntsok chose Mamo Thang as the site for his residence, known as the Palge Labrang,[3] also known as Palge Samten Ling.

A great geomancer named Detö Pönmo had come to Mamo Thang years before. She, too, had been struck by the auspicious geography of this wide oodplain, and wrote:

East: sun and moon, like offerings of light;
South: a sweet-smelling forest, like an offering of incense;
West: snow mountains, like an offering of tormas;
South: the cooling Dza River, like an offering of water.

She predicted that building a sacred monument in Mamo Thang would bring great benefit to sentient beings. Accordingly, Palge Samten Phuntsok erected a mani wall.

The wall was made of more than one hundred thousand at stones, each engraved with the mantra Om mani padme hung[4] and various mantras, sacred texts, and sacred images, carved by hand. This huge wall of mani stones towered higher than a man’s head and was twice as wide; eventually it extended for nearly a mile. The wall was dedicated to the benefit of all sentient beings—anyone who saw it, touched it, circumambulated it, kept it in mind, or even merely heard of its existence. After the death of Palge Samten Phuntsok, a stupa with white designs containing his relics was built along the Palge Mani Wall.[5]

The next Palge tulku was found in the Ralo family of the Gya tribe, and became known as Palge Umdze. Recognized by the 3rd Dzogchen Rinpoche, Ngedön Tendzin Zangpo, he manifested wondrous qualities from an early age, declaring as a child, “I’m the one who built the hundred-thousand-mani wall!” Palge Umdze enlarged the wall as an adult.

Once, while he was giving teachings to a crowd of people in Upper Dromza, his ceremonial hat fell off his head and into the lap of a local girl, Drolma—whereupon he said, “My next rebirth will be as her son.” When he was twenty-five, Palge Umdze decided to go to Lhasa. The night before he was to leave, he visited the Gya Kathok family. After he left them, the family found some ritual objects that he had left behind. When the family tried to return them to him, the tulku refused, saying, “I won’t be needing those for the time being.” He set out for Lhasa and suddenly fell ill shortly after arriving. He died near the hermitage of Götsang. At the place where his body was cremated, even though it was the dead of winter, owers burst into bloom. The local people built a stupa to contain the relics of this unusual young lama from Kham. Advice was sought from Taklung Matrul Rinpoche,[6] a lama renowned for his clairvoyance, as to where the Palge Tulku would take rebirth. The lama gave clear indications for finding the tulku. The epithet “Palge Tulku” can be abbreviated as Paltrul or Patrul (trulku is an alternative way of phoneticizing tulku). Thus, the Palge Tulku would become known as Dza Patrul Rinpoche, or Patrul from Dzachukha.

Several incarnations of Patrul Rinpoche became known in eastern Tibet. Tsö Patrul, in Amdo, was a well-respected lama who is said to have fulfilled a prediction made by Patrul Rinpoche (see the story “The Land of the Insect-Eaters,”). One of Tertön Dudjom Lingpa’s sons became known as an incarnation of Patrul Rinpoche; he was called Patrul Namkhai Jigme (his photo is shown alongside that of Tsö Patrul). Patrul Namkhai Jigme was the brother of Dodrup Tenpai Nyima and passed away in 1961. Khenpo Thubga (Bathur Khenpo Thubten Chöphel) was also considered by some to be an incarnation of Patrul Rinpoche. Since none of these masters was formally acknowledged as the 4th Palge (Patrul Rinpoche being the 3rd to bear the name), we have not included them in the Patrul Rinpoche Lineage Chart.


  1. The Manjushrinamasangiti (Tib. Jampel Tsenjö; ’jam dpal mtshan brjod, literally “Chanting the Names of Manjushri”) is one of the most advanced teachings given by Buddha Shakyamuni, one of the few among the vast number of existing tantras that he taught. Numerous commentaries have been written on this profound text.
  2. The Plain of the Mamos (mamo tang; ma mo thang) is not far from Patrul Rinpoche’s birthplace. At the edge of the plain, in a small cliff , is the Cave of the White Mule (Drelkar Phuk / drel dkar phug). Jigme Gyalwai Nyugu and Patrul Rinpoche both practiced meditation in this cave, which has two small chamber caves within it. Jigme Gyalwai Nyugu stayed in the upper, smaller chamber and Patrul in the lower one. They both stayed there at different times.
  3. Labrang refers to the residence of an important lama.
  4. Some sections of the wall were made of stones carved with the entire 103 volumes of the Tripitaka.
  5. The Palge Mani Wall (palge mani dobum / dpal dge ma ni rdo ’bum), located on the Plain of the Mamos, was dismantled during China’s Cultural Revolution. Since it was located in a remote area and made out of heavy stones, the stones were not taken away but were scattered in the area. Khenpo Dönnyi of Gemang Monastery says that local people began to reassemble the wall during the mid- 1980s, inspired by a lama called Gyaltsen Rabyang (Aku Rabyang). Once the wall was reassembled, it was gradually enlarged. Many stone carvers moved into the surrounding area, adding new stones when commissioned by others or simply out of personal devotion. In the 1990s, Akong Tulku commissioned the carving of the Kangyur, the 103 volumes of the Buddha’s teachings. Later, a line of large stupas was erected halfway along the length of the wall by a faithful disciple from Hong Kong known by her Tibetan name, Kachö Wangmo. Then, a lama called Kunga Zangpo (acknowledged by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche as a possible incarnation of Patrul Rinpoche) added many more stupas. Many stones were carved and added through the work of Lama Gangshar of Dzagyal. Today, local authorities will not permit any further additions to the wall. At present, by our rough estimate, the wall is about 1.8 km (1.1 mi.) long, 4 m (4.4 yd.) high, and 18 m (19.7 yd.) wide. It takes forty-five to fifty minutes to complete one circumambulation, walking at a brisk pace.
  6. This is most probably the 4th Taklung Matrul Rinpoche, Ngawang Tenpai Nyima (ngag dbang bstan pa’i nyi ma, also known as chos kyi ’byung gnas phrin las rnam par rgyal ba, 1788–?).