THE HISTORY OF KYABGÖN PHAKCHOK RINPOCHE
As a beginning, here is the history of Kyabjön Phakchok Rinpoche’s seat, the Taklung Martang Monastery, and next the account of its succession of throne-holders.
For the first, in Tibet, the Cool Land of the Snowy Ranges, the teachings of the Buddha arrived during two periods known as the Early and Later Translations. Among these, the latter, the New Schools of the Later Translations, the well-known Kagyüpa, the protectors of beings, were possessed the mandate for its Practice Lineage. It was the great master by the name Tilopa who received four such transmissions, from Vajradhara and Vajra Yogini, who appeared to him in person to entrust him with the treasury of the four sections of tantra.
The next in line was Naropa, the great pandita, who followed Tilopa by undertaking twelve major trials at the end of which he understood the complete meaning, simply through a gesture and a few words, and reached accomplishment.
Marpa Chökyi Lodrö of Lhodrak went to India four times where he met many learned and accomplished masters, headed by Naropa and Maitripa from whom he received all the teachings on Sutra and Tantra. In particular, he followed Naropa for a combined length of sixteen years and under his guidance Marpa integrated his learning, reflection and meditation training. He received the special Hearing Lineage of Chakrasamvara with consort in completeness.
Back in Tibet, Marpa had four chief disciples who propagated his profound teachings. The three for the Teaching Lineage were Mey, Ngog and Tsur, while it became Jetsün Milarepa who received the mandate for the Practice Lineage.
Among Milarepa’s disciples there were seven who departed to celestial realms at the end of their life, eight who became great repa-yogis, as well as innumerable others. Of his two chief disciples, one was the moon-like Rechung Dorje Drakpa from whom the Rechung Kagyü lineage sprung. The other was the sun-like Dakpo Dawö Zhönno who is also known as the great matchless Gampopa, extolled in prophecies by the Victorious One, and who was equal to Buddha coming back into the world.
Gampopa had an untold number of disciples that he brought to maturity and liberation, but his principal lineage-holders were Barom Darma Wangchuk who originated the Barom Kagyü; Pagdru Dorje Gyalpo who began the Pagdru Kagyü; the illustrious Düsum Khyenpa who founded the Karma Kagyü; the disciple of Öngom Tsültrim Nyingpo by the name Zhang Tsalpa Tsöndrü Drakpa, who founded Tsalpa Kagyü. These are renowned as the Four Greater Kagyü traditions. In addition there is the Dakpo Kagyü which originated from succession of masters, the Three Uncles and Nephews of Dakpo at the seat of Dakpo Tsalmi.
The Eight Lesser Kagyü schools sprung the five hundred parasol-bearing disciples of Pagdru: the Drigung Kagyü from Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön; the Taklung Kagyü from Tangpa Tashi Pal; the Trophu Kagyü from Drogön Gyaltsab, uncles and nephews; the Lingrey (Drukpa) Kagyü from Lingje Repa Pema Dorje; the Martsang Kagyü from Marpa Rinchen Lodrö; the Yelpa Kagyü from Yelpa Yeshe Tsek; the Yabzang Kagyü from Gyalwa Yabzang; and the Shugseb Kagyü from Nyepu Gyergom Chökyi Senge. Over time, each of these schools had innumerable chief and subsidiary monasteries.
Among these schools, today the Karma Kagyü among the four greater and among the eight lesser the Drukpa, Drigung and Taklung still exist independently.
From among all these masters, the one known as the matchless and precious lord of Dharma, the great Taklungpa Tashi Pal, who was the identity of the fivefold inexhaustible adornment-wheel of the Body, Speech, and Mind of all victorious ones, was someone whose banner of renown became clearly visible throughout the three levels of existence. This is just as Padmasambhava, the Second Buddha, proclaimed in the terma predictions:
When Dharmatala nurtures the Buddha’s teachings,
The monk known as Taklungpa will appear.
In accordance with this prophesy, two principal monasteries of the glorious Taklung Kagyü appeared through the aspirations of this master, the upper and lower. Of these two, here is an explanation of the vajra-holder Phakchok of Taklung Martang, the Riwoche Monastery in Dokham.
Phakchok Rinpoche’s emanation-basis is the Lord of Secrets Dharmevajra, the compiler of the teachings of the Great Secrets (Vajrayana) of all buddhas; the arhat Ananda, the foremost disciple of our teacher (Buddha Shakyamuni); Lhalung Palgyi Dorje, the direct disciple of the Second Buddha of Uddiyana (Padmasambhava); (Rechung) Dorje Drakpa, the lord of siddhas; and many others.
Having manifested an inconceivable display of magical emanations to influence beings in accordance with their needs, the first Phakchok incarnation was the thirteenth throne-holder at glorious Riwoche, whose full name was Tashi Wangyal Ngawang Drakpa Damchö Püntsok. He was born in the Year of the Earth Dragon in the twelfth cycle (1688) into the Taklung Gazi family among the six original family-clans of Tibet.
The moment this master was born he recited the Six Syllable mantra, possessed insight and wisdom from former training. The dakinis and guardians of the Dharma accompanied him day and night. When he grew up he was ordained by Taksham Nüden Dorje. While following numerous learned and accomplished masters, including Jedrung Drakpa Lekdrub, he completed his studies and training and became a great pandita and siddha who had visions of infinite deities.
After he had been enthroned at Yang-Gön, his activity expanded tremendously, both in secular and spiritual ways. The first Phakchok was bestowed special honors due to the kindness of Kalsang Gyatso, the Seventh Dalai Lama. The Emperor Yutrig conferred the Golden Credential upon him, and he was offered the Nomihan rank with the associated seal, palanquin, and parasol, as well as documents written in Tibetan, Chinese and Mongolian.
In the scripture shrine room within the Grand Temple of Riwoche, he had statues of the sixteen arhats, Padmasambhava’s eight manifestations, and many other sacred representations of Body, Speech, and Mind built and installed. After accomplishing an immense benefit for the teachings and beings through his mastery in miraculous powers and clairvoyance, he passed into nirvana.
The second Phakchok incarnation was Tashi Drakpa Gyaltsen, the fifteenth throne-holder (of Riwoche), born into the Lho Dashö Meru Pönyo family of the Lhugpo clan. Having been recognized as the rebirth of the previous Phakchok, he was brought to Yang-Gön at the age of five where he identified shrine objects belonging to his predecessor. From his early years onwards he had visions of his yidam deity. The ordination as a monk he received from Yizhin Trinley Chokdrub, the supreme Martang incarnation, and from Jedrung Rinchen Sherab. They also bestowed upon him the lineage of the ripening empowerments and liberating instructions of the profound Dharma.
After Jedrung Rinpoche passed on, he took the position of throne-holder of Yang-Gön and kept a very strict discipline for the monks at the monastery. In the Grand Temple he supervised the building of new statues of Maitreya, the Eight Close Bodhisattvas, Padmasambhava, and others. As representations of enlightened Speech, he provided a new set of the Kangyur, the collected words of the Buddha’s true meaning. He also renovated the accommodations for monks.
This Phakchok Rinpoche was highly respected by the dignitaries and influential people of both Tibet and China, but without prejudice he cared for people of every standing and helped them in accordance with the Dharma. Through his inexhaustible fourfold activity to propagate the Dharma traditions of teaching and practice, he helped to establish everyone, both clergy and laity, in the happiness of pursuing the ten virtuous actions. In short, up until the time of Phakchok Jigten Wangchuk, it is renowned that there has been no other throne-holder of Riwoche who developed the monastery more and kept a stricter discipline than this sublime master.
Numerous monasteries of all traditions in Ü, Tsang, and Kham he provided with donations and assistance. To all their sublime masters, headed by Drigung, Taklung, Kamtsang, and Drukpa, he made offerings and paid respect to their shrine objects. He also gave alms to the poor and thus manifested a life of goodness. At the age of sixty-two he passed into nirvana accompanied by wondrous signs.
The third Phakchok incarnation was Chöying Lhündrub, the seventeenth throne-holder (of Riwoche), born into the Bechen Khardru family during the thirteenth year cycle. In Lhasa he was opproved by the official divination and the installed in the seat of his predecessor. He became a great master endowed with the sublime qualities of learnedness, integrity and noble-mindedness through which he accomplished the welfare of the teachings and beings. In the Year of the Earth OX, 1829, the he dissolved his manifestation of the form-body.
The fourth Phakchok incarnation was Rinchen Lhündrub Drakpa Künsel Nyima, the nineteenth throne-holder (of Riwoche), born into the Rongko Longa Dzom family in Chamdo in the Year of the Iron Horse (1830). Having been opproved by the official divination, he was installed in the seat of his predecessor. After completing his studies and training with numerous learned and accomplished tutors he became a great pandita and accomplished master himself.
In Lhasa he received the rank of a Nomihan, after which he worked immensely for the benefit of the Buddhadharma and sentient beings in both spiritual and secular ways until his passing.
The fifth Phakchok incarnation was Ngawang Kunga Namgyal, the twenty-first throne-holder (of Riwoche), born into the Sedor Bongkar family in the Year of the Water Ox (1913). After being installed on the golden throne of his predecessor, he studied with numerous tutors and spiritual teachers the ocean-like Dharma topics of Sutra and Tantra. On completing his studies and training he became both learned and accomplished as well as bringing forth the realization of the true transmission.
He then went to Lhasa, where in an audience with the thirteenth Dalai Lama at the Potala Palace he was bestowed the official rank of his predecessor. Having benefited vastly the teachings and beings through his learned and accomplished qualities, he passed into nirvana.
The sixth Phakchok incarnation was Ngawang Jigmey Drakpa Tubten Namgyal, the twenty-second throne-holder (of Riwoche), born into the same Sedor Bongkar family, and then placed on the Dharma throne at Yang-Gön Monastery. From Jedrung Trinley Jampey Jungney, the lord of a hundred buddha families, and from many other tutors and spiritual masters, he completed the general studies of the graded path of Sutra and Tantra. In particular, he received the scriptures and teachings for the ripening empowerments and liberating instructions of the incomparable Taklung tradition. He spent long periods of time in retreat and became a crest-ornament among all learned and accomplished masters. He also erected innumerable sacred representations of Body, Speech, and Mind.
In particular, in the Year of the Water Dragon, 1952, he invited Tendzin Drakpa of Katok, also known as Pema Rangdröl, a master possessing the threefold qualities of being learned, upright, and noble, to establish a new Shedra for the Taklung and Drukpa Kagyü traditions. Due to the unspeakable destructiveness of the savage invaders, he passed away in Chamdo in the Year of the Earth Sheep, 1979.
The reincarnation of this sublime master was the seventh Phakchok Rinpoche, Tendzin Jigmey Drakpa, born in the Year of the Iron Bird, 1981, of the seventeenth year cycle. The family he was born into is, among the six original clans, the Nangchen Tsangsar of the Khepaga line which were chiefly holders of the Barom Kagyü Dharma lineage, a family line who maintained an unbroken tradition of combining Kagyü and Nyingma.
It is from this lineage the glorious guru and lord of the mandala, the master whose name is difficult to utter, appeared, but for the sake of supplicating him, we will nevertheless here express: Kyabje Karma Urgyen Rinpoche. His son is the lord of beings Mingyur Dewey Dorje, the fourth incarnation of Tsikey Chokling, who is Phakchok Rinpoche’s father. The mother is Dechen Paldrön, who belongs to the Gatsal Tashi Delek family of Gyangtse, a family line descending from Zurchung Sherab Drakpa, the life-pillar of the teachings of the Early Translations.
Phakchok Rinpoche was born to these parents accompanied by wondrous signs and later recognized by the Kagyü regents as being the sixth in the line of the Riwoche Phakchok incarnations. He received ordination from Tendzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, and was given the name Tendzin Jigmey Drakpa.
Due to his outstanding brightness and inherent qualities from former training, he comprehended reading and writing, and when he later studied the topics of knowledge with Kungo Kalzang, Karma Urgyen Rinpoche’s younger brother, he gained effortless understanding by simply hearing what was said.
Here is a description of the ripening empowerments and liberating instructions Phakchok Rinpoche has received from masters of the Sarma and Nyingma schools of all traditions:
From Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche he has received longevity empowerments, the Six Volumes of Jatsön Nyingpo, Gyachen Kadzö (of Jamgön Kongtrül).
From Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche he has received the empowerments of longevity.
From Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche he has received the empowerments for the Rinchen Terdzö, the complete empowerments and reading transmissions for the Chokling Tersar, the Dzogchen Desum, the empowerments, reading transmissions and instructions for the Kunzang Tuktig, the empowerment of awareness-display and mind-instruction for Dzogchen, the complete empowerments and reading transmissions for the Root Volumes of Nyingtig, the Hundred Chö Empowerments, and the Namkha Gojey.
From Kyabje Taklung Shabdrung Rinpoche he has received the complete empowerments and reading transmissions of the Taklung Kagyü, and the complete empowerments and reading transmissions for the collected works and terma teachings of Jedrung Rinpoche.
From Kyabje Chobgye Trichen Rinpoche he has received the empowerments and reading transmissions for the Gyüdey Kündü.
From Sakya Dagtri Drölma Podrang he has received the complete Drubtab Kündü.
From his father, Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche, he has received the complete empowerments and reading transmissions for the Chokling Tersar.
From Dzongsar Khenchen Kunga Wangchuk he has received the reading transmission for the collected works of the Five Sakya Forefathers, the Prajñamula, Madhyamikavatara, and the 400 Verses, Sakya Pandita’s Tsema Rigter, Tsema Namdrel, the Higher and Lower Abhidharma and other works.
From Kyabje Tenga Rinpoche he has received the reading transmission for the Tenngyur, the Great Collection of the Translated Treatises.
From Kyabje Penor Rinpoche he has received the complete empowerments for the Rinchen Terdzö.
From Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche he has received the complete reading transmissions for the Rinchen Terdzö.
From Arik Khenchen Petse Rinpoche he has received explanation to the Guhyagarbha Tantra and the Manjushri Nama Sangirti, as well as mind-instruction.
From Kyabje Trülshik Rinpoche he has received the complete empowerments for the Collected Works of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
From Kyabje Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche he has received the Tögal Cycle of Khenpo Ngakchung’s Hearing Lineage, as well as mind-instruction.
From Kyabje Namkha Drimey Rinpoche he has received the empowerments and reading transmissions for the Gesar Cycle.
From Kyabje Dabzang Rinpoche he has received the reading transmission for the Nagya Pagsum.
From Kyabje Tsetrül Rinpoche he has received the Jangter Cycle of Gongpa Zangtal.
Thus he is gaining mastery of an ocean-like amount of studies and understanding.
This was written by The Riwoche Society for the purpose of adorning a publication celebrating the tenth anniversary of Ka-Nying Ling in Kuala Lumpur, and according to the wish of H.E. the Fourth Tsikey Chokgyur Lingpa, this was translated by Erik Pema Kunsang, at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, February, 2000.