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Short Biography of Ogyen Rinpoche

Formal portrait of H.E. Ogyen RinpocheWith deep homage and devotion, we shall relate the life history of the great master lama Dorje Chang Palden Yeshe Zangpo, as narrated in Religious History of Clear Light Dzogchen (‘od-sal dzog-chen chö-’jung, vol. II, p.231) written by Yogi Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche Jamyang Dorje, and the life of his incarnation Tulku Ogyen Gyurmed Wanggyal Rinpoche, based on monastery records and contemporary eye-witness accounts.

The First Ogyen Rinpoche, named Dhana-Samtrita, was one of the eight great Indian knowledge holder sages (8 Viddhiya Dhara). He was famous for taming the fierce Mamo Woetong as his servant.

The Second Ogyen Rinpoche, named Drogmi Palje Yeshe, was one of the innermost twenty-five disciples (Rje’bang nyer lnga), the greatest Tibetan disciples of Padmasambhava. All of them attained the supreme accomplishment.

The Third Ogyen Rinpoche, named Gyalmo Yudra Nyingpo, was a personal disciple of the great translator Vairochana and became both an outstanding scholar and an accomplished meditation master.

The Fourth Ogyen Rinpoche, Ter-ton (treasure revealer) Samten Dechen Lingpa, was one of the main five Lingpas.

The Fifth Ogyen Rinpoche, was named Chima Dechen Lingpa, (which means “the second Dechen Lingpa“).

The Sixth Ogyen Rinpoche, was named Dudjom Dungral Lingpa.

The Seventh Ogyen Rinpoche, was named Kyabdhal Dorjee.

The Eighth Ogyen Rinpoche, named Trahkya Lama Palden Yeshe Sangpo, was a great master born in the Aago family from Trahkya in Nyagrong, in the Kham region of Tibet. Immediately after his birth, he cultivated a deep sense of renunciation and could recite Mani, the six-syllable mantra of Lord Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara). Later, he entered a monastery in Nyarong and remained there as an ordinary monk.

At the monastery, he met Lama Yeshe Dorje, the disciple of the Nyakla, the rainbow-body- attained Lama Pema Dhudul. He then entered Phowa Khug monastery and studied the Dzogchen preliminary and main practices called Essence of the Clear Vajra Nature (Long-sal Dorje Nying-po) and The Stages of the Path according to the Kathog (a branch of the Nyingma lineage; pal Ka-thog pa’i lugs-kyi lam-rim). He also did the practice of controlling winds and channels, whereby they eventually became plaint and serviceable. In winter he managed with only a single loin cloth. He avoided meat and rich clothing. He continued his practice by subsisting on nonphysical spiritual food, which is quite unusual even for advanced meditators. Draped in white woolen or cotton robes, he wore a pair of conch ear-rings and a tuft of hair. Later he approached Khenchen Ngawang Pelsang and received Nyoshul Lungtog Tenpae Nyima’s oral transmissions on The Innermost Essence Teachings of Longchenpa (Long-chen nying-thig) and several other teachings. Causing all conceptualized mental elaboration to dissolve, he gained the wisdom directly cognizing emptiness.

Thereafter, Khenchen Ngawang Pelsang was taken as his uncommon and principal Lama, who stated that the expression “beings attaining liberation in one life-time and one body by Dzogchen practice,” as explained in teachings, referred only to someone like Trahkya Palden. He was strict and careful in his practice of meditation. He lit lamps over his head and sat motionless meditating in his cave. Without a bed, not removing his belt, he undertook meditation retreat for many years. He always practiced in remote places on snow mountains or high hills. He mostly did his practice in Kabur snow mountain in the Dhomey region, where the cave remained closed throughout the year except during the first fortnight of the fifth Tibetan month.

One year, the snow did not melt for the whole year and none of his generous patrons could make their annual offerings to the Lama. Then in the next summer, they became worried about Lama, saying that they would like to take his mortal remains out of the cave for a proper funeral service and offering. But when they cleared the thick snow and ice that blocked the cave’s opening, they were stunned and astonished to see the Lama sitting in peaceful and serene meditative equipoise with his physical appearance glowing radiantly. When the cave door opened the Lama burst out in laughter and said, “ By the Triple Gem’s grace I’m well and good. Why did you do this?”

During those two years, by the power of his Dzogchen practice of non-conceptual space-like Yogic meditation and the Wheel of Clear Light, winter or summer, day or night, made no difference to him. By his practice, he gained the wisdom understanding the pure nature of phenomena, where internal and external objects appeared in an un-obscured form, unclouded by ideas of good and evil. Spontaneously arisen universes and their inhabitants appeared in the form of pure realms and celestial beings. When he was discovered to be alive, people experienced strong devotion and requested Lama to turn the wheel of Dharma.

During the later years of his life, he mostly remained at the retreat center of Sengri Dorje Yuzong, which was founded by Terchen Drimey, of Kathog monastery, and Pema Gyaltsen, an incarnation of Kongtrul Thinleypa. To his followers coming from Vashul, Trom-thar, Adzi, Nyagrong, Gojo, Linga-shipa, Kathog, Ragchab and others he gave dharma teachings on upper and lower Long-chen Nying-thig and The Complete Purified Essence Teachings of Longchenpa (Long-sal Do-rje nying-po’i chö-’khor). He wrote Unobscured Dharma Treasure of the Primordial Buddha’s Deep Essence, Combined Practices of the Highest Stages of Dzog-chen (Dri-med Ter-choe kun-zang zab-tik gi drel-pa treg-chod toe-gal zung-jug gi shed-pa zog-rim), a text like a golden Vajra, and countless other texts which are still preserved in Tibet. As a sign of his having destroyed his craving and desire for worldly things, he did not have any interest in gaining wealth, riches, or other material comforts. Also Choeje Paltrul Rinpoche’s biography recounted that this great Lama Trahkya Palden Rinpoche had only a small bag of Tsampa (roasted barley flour) at the time of his dying. Finally, at the age of eighty eight, he passed away for the benefit of all sentient beings. At the time of his dying, a rainbow graced the sky, relics were left behind, and many auspicious signs of an enlightened being were seen. All his close disciples from Kathog Monastery, Ragchab Monastery and many other disciples who were great Lamas and Tulkus of his area made great efforts in spreading his teachings. and looked after his monasteries at Sengrigar and Ragchab, and Trahkya.

The ninth incarnation, His Eminence Tulku Ogyen Gyurmed Wanggyal Rinpoche was born in India, the reincarnation of Vajra Holder Trahkya Palden Yeshe Zangpo.

When the Chinese came to Tibet and were about to take over the country, Trahkya Palden warned the couple who would become the parents of his next incarnation that they should leave Tibet because bad times were coming. He told them specifically that he would meet them at a later time and gave them some precious stones like turquoise, coral and onyx from his Mandala offering set. When he was conceived, a Boddhi-tree grew in the middle of the front yard without being planted; no seeds for that plant are found in that area. When he was born there was a rainbow in the sky. When he started talking, he told his mom “You have kept my present very well,” pointing at her necklace where she had the turquoise.

H.H. Pema Norbu Rinpoche named him Ogyen Gyurmed, when he was 10 days old. H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche also named him Ogyen Gyurmed Wanggyal. (which means Odriyana, the place of Guru Padmasambava, unchangeable, powerful victory). In 1978, on the 10th day of the Monkey month, at the holy Jarung Khashor stupa in Nepal, he was formally recognized by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, the crown jewel of the Nyingma Lineage and the regent of Guru Padmasambhava.

In 1981, corresponding to 25th day of the fifth month of Tibetan lunar year 2110, he was enthroned by H.H. Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche and H.H. Pema Norbu Rinpoche, the incarnation of the great scholar Vimalamitra, in the presence of more than three thousand Tulkus, Khenpos and Lamas, at the East Victory Palyul monastery Namdrolling, in India, the sister monastery of the principal Palyul monastery in Tibet, the center of religious learning and meditation for the Ningmapa lineage. Before the age of thirteen he had mastered the skills of leading sacred rituals, making mandalas, presenting ritual dances, powah (transference of consciousness) and other essential parts of the Palyul tradition of spiritual practice. Along with these, he learned Tibetan traditional Medicine and Astrology from his uncle, the seventh generation physician Lama Pema Sherab. From the age of thirteen, he studied the teachings of the Sutras and Tantras, and other fields of Buddhist science at Ngagyur Nyingma Institute for nine years. After graduation, he was sent to Asia by His Holiness Penor Rinpoche to teach Buddha Dharma. As soon as he returned, His Holiness appointed him to be one of the professors at the main Nyingmapa university and nunnery college.

He received the Empowerments, oral transmissions and instruction on the whole Kama and Terma teachings (The distinct Nyingma teachings of the transmitted precepts and the rediscovered treasure teachings) from H.H. Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche, Namch‘o’e (Sky Treasure Dharma), Nying-tig (Innermost Essence) and Do-wang (Sutra Initiation) from His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche. He also received other precious and secret empowerments, oral transmissions and teachings of the Nyingma tradition from The Zog-chen masters H.H. Jadral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche, H.H. Minling Trichen Rinpoche, H.H. Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche, Tulku Thubsang Rinpoche, Ngoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje, Khenpo Pema Sherab, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsog, Khenpo A-choe Rinpoche, and others.

For many years, followers of his previous incarnation from Tibet requested him to visit his own monasteries and they asked permission from His Holiness Penor Rinpoche. Finally, in 2002, he was authorized to go to Tibet by His Holiness, and he visited Palyul monastery, Rachab Ogyen Samten Choeling, Senrigar Dorjee Yuzong and Nyagrong Do-Ngag Samten Ling and others. He stayed in Tibet for nearly a year and then went back to India. Then he traveled with His Holiness to Bhutan and then to the United States, and then on to many other countries around the world, helping with the teaching and empowerments. They hope to return to Tibet every year, to improve his monasteries there.

Photo of Ogyen Tulku, Upstate NY, 2003For the future, he prays that by the grace of H.H. Pema Norbu Rinpoche, he may forever be protected by the kindness of his root lama and the lineage Lamas and also, that he may engage in glorious deeds that please and delight the Buddhas, just like his former incarnation Trahkya Palden.

Photo at left of H.E. Ogyen Gyurmed Wanggyal Rinpoche at His Holiness Penor Rinpoche's United States retreat center, July, 2003.

Based on a text complied in Tibetan by Ragchab Ogyen, Samten Choeling Monastery.


Tulku Ajam Rinpoche
Tulku Chonjur Rinpoche
Tulku Dragmar Rinpoche
Tulku Ogyen Rinpoche

Note: these are the only biographies of tulkus available at the moment. More to come!

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