This photo taken probably in Pemakö, South-Eastern Tibet, shows Dudjom Rinpoche in his early years with his long hair wearing open, which is for a Ngagpa or tantric practitioner a rare event, exposing his power and showing his respect.
Dudjom Rinpoche studied with the most outstanding lamas of his time, beginning his studies with Khenpo Aten in Pemakod. He studied many texts and commentaries, such as the Dom Sum (Three Precepts), Chod Juk, etc. It was said by Lama Konrab that at the age of five, he started discovering Ter. When he was eight years old, he began to study Santideva’s “Bodhicaryavatara” with his teacher Urygen Chogyur Gyatso, a personal disciple of the great Patrul Rinpoche (A.D.1808-1887).
He studied for sixteen years with Za-Pokhung Tulku Gyurme Ngedon Wangpo and had great realizations on the teachings of Dzogpachenpo. From Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, he received the tantric teachings (Gyud, Lung, and Men-Ngag) of the “Sangwa Nyingthig”. He further received Dzogchen teachings from Jedrung Thinley Jampai Jungne (Dudjom Namkhai Dorje) of Riwoche.
In his teens, Dudjom Rinpoche attended the great monastic universities of Central Tibet, such as Mindroling, Dorje Drak and Tarje Tingpoling, as well as those of East Tibet, like Kathok and Dzogchen. It was to Mindroling that he returned to perfect his understanding of the Nyingma tradition. Thus from the Mindroling Vajracarya, Dorzim Namdrol Gyatso, he learned the rituals, mandalas, songs, dance and music of Terdak Lingpa, along with many other teachings. There were many other great teachers from whom Rinpoche had received all the teachings of the Nyingma School.
From Togden Tenpa, he received both the wang and lung of the “Dzogchen Nyingtig Yabshi”, which was the lineage of the great Khenpo Nyoshul Lungtok Tenpai Nyima. From Jedrung Rinpoche of Riwoche, he received the “Kangyur” lung, “Dam Ngag Dzod”, the seventeen “Sangchen Ngepai” tantras, “Nyingthig Yabshi”, and so on, as well as all the teachings of Dzogpachenpo. He received them completely and was considered his teacher’s heart son. From Tulku Kunzang Thekchog Tenpai Gyaltsan, he also received many deep and important teachings. From Ngagtsun Gendun Gyatso, Rinpoche received all the teachings of Pema Lingpa, the “Dzod Dun” (the Seven Treasures of Longchenpa, 1308-1363), among many others.
Furthermore, from the great Khenpo Jamde, Pande Odzer (disciple of Mipham Rinpoche, 1848 – 1912), Rinpoche received the “Nyingma Kama”, “Kagyed” empowerments, Sangye Lingpa’s “Lama Gongdu” and “Sangwa Nyingpo” according to the Zur tradition; as well as the cycle of the “Osel Sangwa Nyingthig”. He also received many tantra commentaries like the great commentaries of Mipham himself, the “Nyingthig Yabshi”, and so on. Rinpoche considered Khenpo Jamde as his second kindest Lama and took many vows of Pratimoksha, of Bodhisattva, and of Vajrayana from him. He also received teachings from the great beings who were disciples of the great Khenpo Nyoshul Lungtok Tenpai Nyima: Khenpo Ngawang Palzang, Chatral Sangye Dorje, Lama Urgyen Rigdzin, Kathok Chagtsa Tulku, Pulung Sangye Tulku, and Gyurme Phendei Ozer, among others. He received teachings from them and he also gave teachings to them.
Rinpoche’s Great Realizations
Taking his practice very seriously, Dudjom Rinpoche went to a secret place called Kenpa Jong (or Phuntsok Gatsel), and accomplished the Dorje Phurba of “Dudjom Namchag Pudri”. At Buddha Tse Phuk, Rinpoche did Tse-Drup and his Tse-chang boiled. He further received the auspicious signs when he was practicing the gongter of Dudul Drollo. When in Paro Tak-Tshang (the Tiger’s Nest), Dudjom Rinpoche rediscovered the “Pudri Rekpung”, the “Tsokye Thugthig” and the “Khandro Thugthig”, for which he wrote down the main parts. In short, in all these important holy places where he practiced, Rinpoche always experienced signs of accomplishment.
Dudjom Rinpoche was world-famous as a very prolific author and scholar. His writings are celebrated for the encyclopedic knowledge they display of all the traditional branches of Buddhist learning, including poetics, history, medicine, astrology, and philosophy. A writer of inspirational poetry of compelling beauty, he had a special genius for expressing the meaning and realization of Dzogchen with crystal-like lucidity.
His “Collected Works” (Sungbum), numbering twenty-five volumes, did not include his complete output. Among the most widely read of his works are “Fundamentals of the Buddhist Teachings” and “History of the Nyingma School”, which he composed soon after his arrival in India. These works have now been translated into English by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein and published by Wisdom Publications, while his Chinese spiritual representative Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsan (Guru Lau Yui-che), with the help of Ming-chu Tulku, had also translated it into Chinese and published by the Secret Vehicle Publications in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Another important and major part of his work was the revision, correction and editing of many ancient and modern texts, including the fifty-eight volumes of the whole of the Canonical Teachings of the Nyingma School (“Nyingma Kama”), a venture which he began at the age of 74, just as Jamgon Kongtrul had collected the Terma teachings. His own private library contains the largest collection of precious manuscripts and books outside of Tibet.
Rinpoche’s Spreading of the Dharma
Unique in having received the transmission of all the existing teachings of the immensely rich Nyingma tradition, Dudjom Rinpoche was famous in particular as a great Terton (treasure revealer), whose Termas are now widely taught and practiced, and as the leading exponent of Dzogchen. Indeed, he was regarded as the living embodiment of Guru Rinpoche and His representative in this time. A master of masters, he was acknowledged by the leading Tibetan Lamas as possessing the greatest power and blessing in communicating the nature of mind, and it was to him that they sent their students when prepared for this “Mind-direct” transmission. Dudjom Rinpoche was the teacher of many of the most prominent lamas active today.
As his teachers had prophesized, Rinpoche gave the “Rinchen Terdzod” (“Treasury of Precious Termas”) ten times, Pema Lingpa’s “Pedling Cho Kor” three times, the “Kangyur” and “Nyingma Gyudbum”, the Drupwang of “Kagyed”, “Jatson Podruk”, the complete empowerment and transmission of the “Nyingma Kama”, as well as teachings according to his own Terma (“Dudjom Tersar”) tradition, and innumerable other important teachings.
Dudjom Rinpoche’s main area of activity was in Central Tibet, where he maintained the Mindroling tradition, and especially at Pema Choling and his other seats in the Kongpo and Powo regions of southern Tibet. In Pemakod, Rinpoche established many new monasteries and two colleges for both Gelong (ordained monks) and Ngagpa (yogis). In the Kongpo region, he reconstructed the Thadul Buchu Lhakhang, and close to it he built anew the monastery of Zangdok Palri. He also erected anew the tantric centre of Lama Ling. Dudjom Rinpoche became renowned throughout Tibet for the brilliance of his spiritual achievements, for his compassionate Bodhisattva activities, as well as for his unsurpassed scholarship.
Upon leaving Tibet, Dudjom Rinpoche settled in Kalimpong in India in 1958, and then in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1975. When the Tibetan culture was at a difficult time, Rinpoche played a key role in its renaissance among the refugee community, both through his teachings and his writings. He established a number of vital communities of practitioners in India and Nepal. At Tsopema (Rewalsar), he established a retreat centre; at Darjeeling, Rinpoche established Tsechu Gompa; in Orissa, he founded Dudul Rabten Ling; and in Kalimpong, Rinpoche founded Zangdok Palri Monastery. Near the Great Stupa at Boudhanath, Nepal, Rinpoche erected the Dudjom Gompa. He also actively encouraged the study of the Nyingma tradition at the Tibetan Institute for Higher Studies in Sarnath.
In other parts of the world, Dudjom Rinpoche had also made tremendous progress in various Dharma activities. He founded many Dharma centres in the West, including Dorje Nyingpo and Orgyen Samye Choling in France, and Yeshe Nyingpo and Orgyen Cho Dzong in the United States. Over the last one-and-a-half-decades of his life, Dudjom Rinpoche devoted much of his time ot teaching in the West where he has successfully established the Nyingma tradition. In his first world-wide tour in 1972, Dudjom Rinpoche visited the centre of his Chinese spiritual representative Lama Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsan in Hong Kong, and also visited London at the invitation of Ven. Sogyal Rinpoche.
Rinpoche’s Family Life
Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche manifested as a householder with family, married twice. His first wife was called Sangyum Kusho Tseten Yudron, and they had altogether six children, including two daughters and four sons.
Their eldest daughter, Dechen Yudron, is now in Lhasa, Tibet and is taking care of Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche’s seat Lama Ling in Kongpo. Their eldest son Kyabje Dungsay Thinley Norbu Rinpohce, who is himself a great Nyingma scholar and master like his father, is also the father of Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche III. He is the emanation of Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam, as well as the rebirth of Terton Drimed Odser, the eldest son of Dudjom Lingpa. In his youth, Thinley Norbu Rinpoche studied for nine years at Mindroling monastery and received many teachings from many great saints throughout Tibet, besides his own father. He is now in his sixties and is residing in New York.
Their second son is Dola Tulku Jigmed Chokyi Nyima Rinpohce of mainly the Sakya lineage, and he is now the father of Kyabje Dudjom Yangsi Rinpoche. Their second daughter, Pema Yudron, lives near Dola Rinpoche in Qinghai. Their third son, Pende Norbu, who is also a tulku, is now living in Nepal. Their fourth son, Dorje Palzang, went to school in Beijing in the late fifties but was unfortunately killed during the Cultural Revolution.
Kyabje Dudjom Rinohce’s second wife is called Sangyum Kusho Rikzin Wangme, and they had three children, including one son and two daughters. Their eldest daughter is Chimey Wangmo, and their younger daughter is Tsering Penzom. Their son is Shenphen Dawa Norbu Rinpohce who is spreading his father’s teachings in both Europe and the United States.
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, who led a life encompassing the activities of one hundred tertons (treasure revealers), has said that Mopa Od Thaye (Dudjom Rinpoche’s future incarnation as the last Buddha of this Light Aeon) will have the activity of one thousand Buddhas. That this great being will perform the activity of all his previous lives and have many disciples is all due to his own power of Bodhicitta and prayers. As Buddha Shakyamuni, even though enlightened, performed the illusory activity of dying for the benefit of worldly beings, likewise Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche entered into Mahaparinirvana on January 17, 1987.
[This article was written with the acknowledgement of the following persons and articles:
Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje’s “History of the Dzogchen Secret Quintessence, Life Stories of the Vidyadharas of the Lineage”, in Terry Clifford (ed.) (1988) The Lamp of Liberation, pp.1-5.
Gyurme Dorje’s “His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987)” in The Middle Way, Vol. 62, No. 1 (May 1987), pp.25-28. “His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche 1904-1987”, in Vajradhatu Sun, Vol.8, No. 3 (Feb./ Mar., 1987), pp.1-3.
“The Passing of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche”, in Snow Lion, Spring, 1987, p.3.
Interviews with Bhakha Tulku Rinpoche in Pharping (Yang Leshod), Nepal on 18th September, 1997.]