A Summary of the Deeds of the IXth Incarnation
of Our Unsurpassable Guide, The Embodiment of Threefold Kindness,
the Great Scholar, Thrangu Rinpoche
First, His Recognition
He was born on November 17th, 1933, which is the water-bird year of the 16th cycle. A few years later, the XVIth Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, examined the circumstances of Thrangu Rinpoche´s rebirth with his wisdom, which is free from hindrances. In a vision, he saw that his father was Jamyang Dondrup and his mother´ name was Wangmo. They were living in a house whose entrance faced the east. At the entrance was a red dog with a puppy, a sign for a birth in a bird year. On these grounds, he recognized him and created an aspiration prayer for his long life:The Karmapa gave him this name together with auspicious wishes for good fortune, and also the examination by Tai Situ Pema Wangchok Gyalpo accorded with the Karmapa's vision, and so the reincarnation of the VIIIth Thrangu Tulku was found without any doubt. In the fire-ox year 1937, there was a great ceremony of enthronement in the monastery of Thrangu Tashi Chöling. Kyabje Thraleg Rinpoche performed the hair-cutting ceremony and gave the genyen vows.
"Karma Lodrö, splendor of the teaching, Excellent, flourishing Dharma,
may these good qualities spread throughout space.
May your lotus-feet remain firm, and may your activity of teaching
and practice be victorious in all directions and its glory shine forth."
The First Studies
In the earth-rabbit year of 1939, with his teacher Karma Wangchuk, he started to read and write, memorize tantras and learn about mahakala rituals. He presided over the section of sadhana and worship and fulfilled the expectations of faithful donors.
Living under the Traditional Monastic System and the Purification of Obscurations
In the water-sheep year of 1943, Thrangu Rinpoche went on pilgrimage to the Jokhang in Lhasa and to Tshurphu, the spring of the glorious Karma Kagyu teaching, supreme power-place of Akanishta and the great seat of the Drobolung valley. He prostrated and prayed at the lotus-feet of the Gyalwang Karmapa. "Supreme One, hold me in your great love and compassion. Please say which yidam deity would be best to practice." The Gyalwang Karmapa responded, "As a holder of the teaching, you will need a long life, so you should first practice intensely White Tara, the wish-fulfilling gem and a special realization will arise." In this way, Thrangu Rinpoche received the blessings of body- speech- and mind of the Gyalwang Karmapa. After visiting in detail the power-places of Ü, Tsang, and places in the south, and having perfectly purified his obscurations, he returned to his monastery.
The Stages of Accumulation and Purification
At the feet of the kind teacher Karma Wangchuk, he cultivated the four reflections, (the thoughts that turn one away from samsara), based on the instructions Torch of Certainty and The Words of My Perfect Teacher. Accurately guided by this, he perfectly completed the Preliminary Practice (Ngöndro) of the hundred thousand prostrations, and so forth . Then he performed the practice of some important aspects of Vajrakilaya, Vajrapani, and others.
Study of the Common Subjects of Knowledge
With his outstanding teacher, Thrangu Rinpoche studied orthography from the text, The Lamp of Speech, grammar in general from Thogden Lhaksams's Genuine Luminosity, and in detail from Situ Pema Wangchuk's great commentary. Concerning astrology, he studied The Summary of the Five Main Divisions, The Five Planets, and the astrology of the calendar, and on poetry, The Mirror and on Sanskrit, Dra Kalapa, the great commentary of Sazangpa. Through these, he extensively studied the calculations of explanations and commentaries.
Working with the Textual Tradition about the Inner Nature
Thrangu Rinpoche maintains the exegetical tradition of his own kagyu lineage, and he also follows the Madhyamaka Shentong tradition as it is presented by the omniscient Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, and by Situ Chökyi Jungne. From Shechen Monastery, Thrangu Rinpoche invited the great scholar, Khenchen Dorje Dzinpa Lodrö Rabsel, to Thrangu Monastery and established a new institute of higher studies. During six years with long hours of work, he studied with tremendous intensity and uninterrupted respect for the great treatises of the five sections of the Buddha's teaching [Madhyamaka, Prajna Paramita, Pramana or Dialectics, the Vinaya, and the Abhidharma], and the three texts special to the Kagyu tradition: The Profound Inner Nature, The Two Volumes [on Hevajra], and The Supreme Continuum [Ratnagotravibhanga]. Therefore, at the time of taking exams, whatever detailed questions were asked on classifications of the teachings or reasonings, and so forth, he was able to answer without hesitation or error. Thus, even though he was the youngest among the sangha members, he was famous as having the clearest wisdom.
Receiving the three vows: Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva, and Mantrayana
In 1954 (year of the Wood Horse), after Tibetan lamas had completed a tour of China and were on their way home, they stopped at Palpung Monastery, Thubten Chökhor Ling, where the Gyalwang Karmapa had arrived. Kagyu lamas, monks, nuns, and lay people from Kham had gathered there to meet him. Kyabje Thrangu Rinpoche thought, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could receive the blessing of the three vows from the one who is like a second Buddha?" and making arrangements for this to happen, he went to Palpung with this purpose in mind. During the enthronement of Situ Rinpoche's reincarnation, Thrangu Rinpoche offered him the supports of body, speech, and mind. Then according to his aspiration, on the fifteenth day of the third Tibetan month, the day for celebrating the Kalachakra, together with Surmang Garwang Rinpoche and Trungpa Rinpoche Chökyi Gyamtso, Thrangu Rinpoche received from the glorious XVI Karmapa, (whose full name is Palden Rangjung Rigpa'i Yeshe Lungtok Chökyi Nyima Trinle Dönkün Drubpa'i De), the three vows in succession: in the residential quarters of omniscient Situ Rinpoche, Chökyi Jungne, he received the Pratimoksha Vows, in the main shrine room, he received the Bodhisattva Vows from both traditions, and in relation to the mantrayana vows, he received "Eliminating All Obstacles" for accomplishing the heart/mind of Guru Rinpoche, the empowerment of Gyalwa Gyamsto with nine deities, and the Torma empowerment related to the entrustment of the Glorious Wisdom Protector, and so received the kindness of the Gyalwang Karmapa through his great compassion and affection.
Until this time, Thrangu Rinpoche had been engaged in outer, intellectual studies, and now on this occasion, there entered into his mindstream a special blessing, a true experience of the inner teachings. From this time he became a very fortunate one and saw the Gyalwang Karmapa as an actual Buddha, never as an ordinary being. (The above information was taken from Thrangu Rinpoche's own notes.)
The Empowerments, Reading Transmissions, and Commentary He Received
In 1960 (year of the Iron Bird), from the glorious XVIth Karmapa, Thrangu Rinpoche received completely the amrita of the genuine Dharma in the form of the Kagyu Ngakdzö, the Damngakdzö, the complete stages of commentaries on Mahamudra, the profound path of the Six Yogas, and so forth. He also received the Rinchen Terdzö, the Shejadzö, the Gyachen Kadzö, and many others. In brief, with the greatest respect, he took teachings and guidance from both Kagyu and Nyingma scholars and spiritual friends who were masters, and from authentic great beings, about seventeen in number. He saw them with great faith and received the nectar of Dharma, filling his mind with the treasures of the Sutra and Tantra traditions. Among the seventeen or so lamas from whom he received empowerments, reading transmissions, and commentary, the root lama, who introduced him to the very heart of the true nature, was none other than the glorious Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpa'i Dorje. Holding the position of the Defender in Debate, He Receives the Degree of Karam, Indicating the Highest Level of Achievement in the Five Divisions of Study
In 1962 (year of the Fire Sheep), according to the wishes of the glorious Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpa'i Dorje, at Baxa on the border of India and Bhutan, in the midst of powerful and expert spiritual friends of all traditions, along with 1,500 sangha members and a representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thrangu Rinpoche took oral exams on the five famous divisions of the great treatises, which are common to all traditions and, in particular, on the texts especially important to the Kagyu tradition: The Profound Inner Nature, The Two Volumes [on Hevajra], and The Supreme Continuum. He also took the difficult position of the defendant in debate. All the people who came were delighted by his performance and said how excellent it was. On this occasion, Thrangu Rinpoche generously offered tea, food, and money to the whole gathering. Like this, before everyone, this ninth supreme incarnation of Thrangu Rinpoche left the imprint of his deeds as a scholar and meditation master becoming more famous than his previous incarnations.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama bestowed upon Thrangu Rinpoche the title of Kagyu Khenpo, and at the main seat of the Kagyu lineage in Rumtek, Sikkim, the glorious Karmapa showered him with praise, bestowing the title of Great Khenpo and stated that his mindstream was one with that of Ngokchö Kudorje, Gyedze Marpa Lotsawa's close disciple, who held his exegetical lineage.
In 1976, the XVIth Karmapa asked him to travel abroad to give teachings at many Dharma centers. At this time, he conferred distinguished credentials on Thrangu Rinpoche, confirming with his special square seal that Thrangu Rinpoche is a great vajra holder of the three vows and embodies the essence of all the Kagyu lineage teachings of textual commentary and meditation practice. Every year, Thrangu Rinpoche goes abroad to open the wide door of Dharma for those of all capacities. It had come time for Thrangu Rinpoche to explain the profound Dharma of the sutra and mantra traditions to disciples of the Karma Kagyu tradition in both the East and the West. All over the world, in both hemispheres, he has trained numerous disciples with his teaching and brought many new people into Buddhism. Through space and time, his activity continues to flourish.
The Development of the Current of Teachings
From the beginning of 1968 (the Fire Monkey year) and for the next eight years, at the Karmapa's main seat in Rumtek, Thrangu Rinpoche held the responsibility of teaching the four main reincarnations, Shamar Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoche, Jamgön Kongtrül Rinpoche, and Gyaltsab Rinpoche, along with new and diligent members of the sangha to whom he explained extensively the great treatises, both those held in common with other traditions and those particular to the Kagyu tradition.
In 1976, at Kanying Shedrub Ling Monastery, he taught in detail The Jewel Ornament of Liberation and gave commentary and reading transmission for The Profound Inner Nature, The Two Volumes [of the Hevajra], and The Supreme Continuum. From 1983, again at the Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies at Rumtek, he gave teachings on the great treatises, and at the special pilgrimage place of Tagmo Lüjin (Giving His Body to the Tigress, also called "Namo Buddha"), encircled by fifty young monks, he taught the various main treatises and briefly, the diverse sciences.
Thrangu Rinpoche also fulfilled the responsibility of restoring both the main and branch monasteries of Thrangu Tashi Chöling and further developed those that had not deteriorated. He also took responsibility for the recognition and enthronement of Khyabje Tralek Rinpoche, Zurtrül Rinpoche, and Tulku Lodrö Nyima Rinpoche.
At Tagmo Lüjin, there are study and practice sections, and at Jarung Khashor (the Baudhanath Stupa), a monastery where all the various aspects of tantric studies are followed, and pujas are performed on specific dates. At the place called "Situpala", there is a nunnery where tantric traditions are studied and practiced. Mangal Duip (Pal Tashi Ling) is a primary and high school where about a hundred young monks in addition to lay students study various modern subjects (mathematics, social sciences, history, etc.) as well as English, Nepali, and Tibetan languages. All has gone well for the monastery and what it shelters, the monks, statues, texts, and so forth. All the monks are cared for and receive food, clothing, and Dharma teachings.
In brief, through both study and practice, the precious teachings of the Victorious One are developing and spreading. The activity of bringing about their remaining for a long time has gone well and continues to go well as the teachings are maintained and thrive. This brief account of the activity of Thrangu Rinpoche was composed by Drunyig Tendzin Namgyal by summarizing Thrangu Rinpoche's own history of his life. May all be virtuous.