The Samding Dorje Phagmo – The Courageous Female Incarnation Line

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Painting of the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma

Painting of the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma

I have never heard of the Samding Dorje Phagmo until several weeks ago when my teacher advised me to research and write about this illustrious incarnation line. As I embarked on my research, I became fascinated with this female incarnation line, starting from the 15th century princess Chokyi Dronma, who went against the social norms of her time by renouncing her royal status, taking ordination vows, and embarking on many beneficial projects such as compiling the written works of her teacher, Bodong Chokle Namgyal, improving irrigation works and so forth.

Painting of Bodong Chokle Namgyal

Painting of Bodong Chokle Namgyal

The Samding Dorje Phagmo incarnation line is known to have used a combination of skillful political maneuvers, charismatic presence and miraculous deeds to maintain her seat and increase her influence to benefit others. As a result, the holders of this incarnation line were able to continue to uphold their tradition and propagate the Buddhist doctrine.

I hope you will enjoy reading about this illustrious and courageous female incarnation line that has survived many social and political challenges of her time and also be inspired by her fortitude and spirituality. I would like to thank my teacher and mentor, H.E. the 25th Tsem Tulku Rinpoche for the opportunity to learn and be inspired by the Samding Dorje Phagmo incarnation line and my friends and colleagues, Pastor David Lai and Beatrix Ooi for their help in editing and uploading this article.

Valentina Suhendra

 


 

Introduction to the Samding Dorje Phagmo

Machig Labdrön

Machig Labdrön

The Samding Dorje Phagmo is recognised as the highest female incarnation line in Tibet and the third highest incarnation line within the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. This incarnation line is unique because since the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma, the Tulkus (Nirmanakaya or emanation body) of this line of incarnations have always chosen to be born in female form. She is considered the emanation of Buddha Vajravarahi and the incarnation of Machig Labdrön, a renowned 11th century female Tibetan tantric Buddhist master.

The Samding Dorje Phagmo is associated with the Bodong tradition of Tibetan Buddhism although several incarnations also took teachings from Nyingmapa, Karma Kagyu and Gelug traditions. The current incarnation, the 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo, has also received teachings and empowerments from Gelugpa Lamas such as His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

 

Emanation

Vajravarahi – the wrathful emanation of Vajrayogini.

Vajravarahi – the wrathful emanation of Vajrayogini.

The Samding Dorje Phagmo is regarded as the emanation of Vajravarahi, one of the main forms of Vajrayogini that is associated with Chakrasamvara Tantra. According to Judith Simmer-Brown, the Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies at Naropa University, “Vajravarahi’s iconography is very similar to that of Vajrayogini, but she is often [depicted as] having more prominent fangs and a more wrathful expression, and she prominently displays a sow’s head above her right ear.” In general, Vajravarahi is described as having a sow’s head protruding above her right ear, which represents the transmuting of ignorance.

 

Iconography

One of the distinctive features in the Samding Dorje Phagmo iconography is the black hat that is similar to the black hat of the Karmapa. This hat is often associated with Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal, the consort of the great Indian Tantric teacher Padmasambhava.

 

Incarnation line

Painting of the Samding Dorje Phagmo incarnation line at Samding Monastery. Click to enlarge.

Painting of the Samding Dorje Phagmo incarnation line at Samding Monastery. Click to enlarge.

Statue of the current Samding Dorje Phagmo wearing a monastic black hat

Statue of the current Samding Dorje Phagmo wearing a monastic black hat

  • 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma (1422 – 1455)
  • 2nd Samding Dorje Phagmo Kunga Zangmo (1459 – 1502)
  • 3rd Samding Dorje Phagmo Nyendrak Zangmo (1503 – 1542/3)
  • 4th Samding Dorje Phagmo Orgyen Tsomo (b. 1543)
  • 5th Samding Dorje Phagmo Yeshe Tsomo (17th century)
  • 6th Samding Dorje Phagmo Dechen Trinle Tsomo (17th century)
  • 7th Samding Dorje Phagmo Chodron Wangmo (d. 1746)
  • 8th Samding Dorje Phagmo Kelzang Choden Wangmo (1746/7 – 1774/5)
  • 9th Samding Dorje Phagmo Choying Dechen Tsomo (d. 1843)
  • 10th Samding Dorje Phagmo Ngawang Kunzang Dechen Wangmo (b. 1857)
  • 11th Samding Dorje Phagmo Tubten Choying Pelmo (b. 1896)
  • 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo Dechen Chokyi Dronma (b. 1938)

 

Highlights from the Samding Dorje Phagmo incarnation lineage:

The 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma (1422 – 1455)

The 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma

The 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma

The life of the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma is narrated in her biography, Ye shes mkha’ ‘gro bsod nams ‘dren gyi sku skyes gsum pa rje btsun ma chos kyi sgron ma’i rnam thar, a manuscript of 144 folios which is currently kept in the archive of Nationalities Palace in Beijing, China.

According to Dr Hildegard Diemberger, the rich details in the text indicate the biography was compiled by the contemporaries and close companions of Chokyi Dronma. At the beginning of the text, the author of the biography revealed the basis of his work:

“In order to complete the deeds of our great Lama, the omniscient Jigdrel (Bodong Chogle Namgyal), Vajravarahi, the female Buddha, took a human body and enjoyed the magic dance in this world. I am therefore writing a short biography of her. (folio 2a).”

– Dr Hildegard Diemberger (When A Woman Becomes a Religious Dynasty: The Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet, pg 77)

Chokyi Dronma was born in 1422 in Mangyul Gungtang. She was the daughter of the Buddhist King Tri Lhawang Gyeltsen who descended from the ancient Tibetan emperors of the Yarlung Dynasty. During the time of her birth she had no brothers and the court therefore attempted to present her as a potential heir to the throne in case no son would be born to the king. The court priests considered her as a divine incarnation and was given the name of Konchok Gyelmo or ‘Queen of the Jewel’, from a prophetic dream of her mother to reflect her potential as a great benefactor of the Dharma and to be ‘Victorious in all directions.’

The front page of Chokyi Dronma’s biography

The front page of Chokyi Dronma’s biography

Chokyi Dronma’s circumstances changed several years later when a son was born to the junior queen of King Tri Lhawang Gyeltsen. Now instead of being the potential heir to her father’s throne, she faced the possibility of being sent away to another country as a bride and political pawn. Despite this prospect, Chokyi Dronma continued to enjoy a happy and lively childhood. She enjoyed affectionate relationships with both of her parents and relatives. Her biography described her as having a strong and compassionate character, “compassionate toward animals, aware of worldly impermanence and daring in her choices”. She was an intelligent child, and able to read and write at the tender age of three. She was said to be able to speak Sanskrit, which seems to hint at her true identity as the emanation of Vajravarahi. However, she also suffered from several health problems and illnesses.

Dzongkha, the capital of Mangyul Gungtang and the ruins of the royal palace

Dzongkha, the capital of Mangyul Gungtang and the ruins of the royal palace

In 1438, when she was 17 years old, Chokyi Dronma was married off to the family of Lhato Lo rulers in Shekar in order to provide Mangyul Gungtang with a strategic political alliance. A great sense of loss was felt during her departure, which was said to have affected both humans and other beings in the area. In her biography it is stated that, “All living beings of Ngari felt as if they had lost their protector. It was as if the whole essence of the earth had been taken away and the earth had turned bleak.” During her marriage procession from Mangyul Gungtang to Lhato Lo, she met the master Bodong Chokle Namgyal from Porong Pelmo Choding Monastery who would later become her teacher.

A map depicting Chokyi Dronma’s journey as a young bride from Mangyul Gungtang to Shekar in Southern Lhato and later as a nun to be to Porong Pelmo Choding Monastery. The map also contains the itinerary of her subsequent travels from Mangyul Gungtang to Chung Riwoche in Northern Lhato, to Lhasa and eventually to Tsari where she entered clear light.

A map depicting Chokyi Dronma’s journey as a young bride from Mangyul Gungtang to Shekar in Southern Lhato and later as a nun to be to Porong Pelmo Choding Monastery. The map also contains the itinerary of her subsequent travels from Mangyul Gungtang to Chung Riwoche in Northern Lhato, to Lhasa and eventually to Tsari where she entered clear light.

Although her parents-in-law were great supporters of Buddhism, her husband Tshewang Tashi was a Bön religion sympathizer. Chokyi Dronma had a strong view against the Bön religion and openly expressed her delight when the Bönpo priests who came to greet her marriage procession were driven away by her retinue.

Ruins of the Southern Lhato Lo rulers’ palace in Shekar

Ruins of the Southern Lhato Lo rulers’ palace in Shekar

Initially, Chokyi Dronma adapted well to her new role as the princess of Lhato Lo. She was generally well-accepted and regarded as the carrier of good fortune to her new kingdom. When she was 19 years old, she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. When her child turned one, a major dispute broke in her father’s kingdom and she decided to return to Mangyul Gungtang and help in mediating the conflict.

When she was in Mangyul Gungtang, her daughter passed away in Lhato Lo. Although she appeared calm and composed, she was actually deeply affected by the loss. She blamed the passing of her daughter on the deeds against Buddhism. She then declared her wish to be ordained as a nun. Although her parents and in-laws refused to accept her request, she remained firm in her decision. In the meantime, she started to receive teachings from Bodong Chokle Namgyal, to whom she was deeply devoted.

Later, Chokyi Dronma read about the story of Prince Siddhartha Gautama and decided to follow his example by renouncing her royal life and strive towards enlightenment. However, her repeated requests to take on the monastic vows were denied by her family. In desperation, she took the drastic action of tearing her hair and injured herself in the process. This horrified her parents-in-law who finally relented and allowed her to renounce her family obligations. To her husband however, she decided to personally explain her decision. Although initially he could not understand her reasons, he eventually allowed her to leave the palace. Chokyi Dronma was not the first woman who resorted to such drastic actions in order to renounce the worldly life:

“The act of unbinding the hair as an expression of madness and transgression features prominently in the life of several female (and male) Indian Buddhist figures.”

http://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/First-Samding-Dorje-Pakmo,-Chokyi-Dronma/TBRC_P2CZ7891

Statue of Bodong Chokle Namgyal. This statue was originally enshrined in Pelmo Choding Monastery, but later moved to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Statue of Bodong Chokle Namgyal. This statue was originally enshrined in Pelmo Choding Monastery, but later moved to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Chokyi Dronma entered Porong Pelmo Choding Monastery and she was welcomed by Bodong Chokle Namgyal, who was sensitive to women issues at that time. Although he faced criticism for admitting a female disciple into a monastic community, Bodong Chokle Namgyal firmly defended his decision. Upon obtaining assurance that Chokyi Dronma had received proper permission from her family, she was allowed to take part in her first ritual as a member of the monastic community. From then on, Chokyi Dronma’s life revolved around her teacher and mentor Bodong Chokle Namgyal, from the time she joined the monastic community in 1442 until his passing in 1451.

The princess took her vows as a novice and was given the name Chokyi Dronma, ‘the Lamp of the Dharma.’ She used this occasion to declare her commitment to support the religious practice for women by stating, “Generally, there is no significant difference between those who succeed [in being born as male] and those who fail [and are born as female]. However, from now on, I will focus on supporting Buddhist practices for women, [especially those who follow a religious path], as they are the most trustworthy amongst women.” She was eventually fully ordained as a bhikshuni. According to her biography, the event is described as follows:

“Then she went to [Pelmo] Choding, the great center of meditation, to be fully ordained. She took along numerous monks whom she had invited from the religious colleges of Mangyul Gungtang. [Chokle Namgyal] who was particularly skilled in teaching the eighty-four thousand Dharmaskanda, performed the role of the abbot. Seated on his throne, [while] wearing his [monastic hat], the Venerable Chokyi Wangchuk, who was an expert of the Tripitaka, acted as the master of ceremonies. Surrounded by enough monks who were fully qualified, she reached the final stage and became a [fully ordained] bhikshuni. Further training in the monastic discipline had filled the vase of her mind, and she became an object of worship for all living beings.”

An 18th century Burmese painting of Buddha Shakyamuni and his followers holding begging bowls and receiving offerings.

An 18th century Burmese painting of Buddha Shakyamuni and his followers holding begging bowls and receiving offerings.

Following the example of the Buddha Shakyamuni, Chokyi Dronma spent a substantial amount of time travelling as a begging nun. The commoners and aristocrats who saw their princess begging alms were touched and lent their support. She was very successful in collecting donations to sustain the religious activities carried out by her master.

Throughout her life, Chokyi Dronma devoted her time and efforts to the recruitment and training of nuns. One of her close disciples was Delek Chodren who would play a crucial role in compiling her biography and finding her next incarnation. Chokyi Dronma was committed to their education as well as their practical needs such as the weaving and sewing of their robes. She taught them how to read and introduced a very effective system of teaching the Buddhist doctrine. Her teacher, Bodong Chokle Namgyal, established new ritual tradition for women and encouraged Chokyi Dronma to initiate the performance of ritual dances by nuns. This was a breakthrough role for women because during that time only monks could perform ritual dances and even female roles were played by monks. She would come to experience more successes in overcoming many social and cultural challenges of her time.

The painting of Chakrasamvara commissioned by Chokyi Dronma

The painting of Chakrasamvara commissioned by Chokyi Dronma

In 1451, at the end of the third month, Chokyi Dronma joined her teacher, Bodong Chokle Namgyal for the last time, in his meditation and to be with him at his passing. After her teacher entered clear light, Chokyi Dronma and other close disciples arranged for the master’s funeral rites. In addition, she mediated disputes that arose over the distribution of the relics from his cremation. “She distributed the bone fragments among all members of the monastic community and had little figurines (tsa tsa) made of clay mixed with his ashes which were given to the lay disciples and patrons.” After the passing of her teacher, Chokyi Dronma fell into a period of erratic behavior while mourning the passing of her teacher, but finally managed to emerge to care for the other students of Bodong Chokle Namgyal.

For the remainder of her life, Chokyi Dronma used her time productively for the benefit of the Buddhist teachings. In 1452, she mobilized the disciples of Bodong Chokle Namgyal and the people of Mangyul Gungtang to fulfill her promise to compile the entire teachings of her masters, to edit and have them published. In addition, she encouraged the use of printing technology in Tibet at the time when it was not common. She also executed an irrigation project that increased the yield of farming activities that would in turn support the Buddhist learning establishments.

Tangtong Gyelpo

Tangtong Gyelpo

Later, Chokyi Dronma met with Tangtong Gyelpo, the great Nyingma master who was famous for his religious deeds and miracles. She went to Lhato Jang where the great master was residing and met him at Chung Riwoche. Chokyi Dronma requested spiritual guidance from this great Siddha. Tangtong Gyelpo gave a prophecy that “… [Chokyi Dronma] would enjoy a long life but would have few disciples if she remained in her region, but would have an uncertain life span and a multitude of followers if she were to leave for the east.” This prophecy spurred her on her final journey to southeastern Tibet and the holy mountain of Tsari and explained her sacrifice in doing so.

Chokyi Dronma helped Tangtong Gyelpo to complete the construction of Chung Riwoche Stupa on the bank of Tsangpo River.

Chung Riwoche Stupa

Chung Riwoche Stupa

Due to the influence of Tangtong Gyelpo, Chokyi Dronma engaged in the tradition of ‘mahasiddha’ who used unconventional behavior to convey religious messages. Her biography recounts the story of a scholar who visited her when she was meditating in a cave in Lhato Jang. She displayed the strange and startling appearance where her hair appeared light blue in colour and stood on end. The scholar prostrated and asked for her blessings but she ignored him. The scholar’s faith was thrown into imbalance due to this experience, but he later realized “… the importance of not being dependent upon appearances and conventions in assessing religious value.” Chokyi Dronma remained in Lhato Jang until the end of the rainy season of 1454.

The text that refers to the skull of the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma.

The text that refers to the skull of the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma

Chokyi Dronma travelled widely after her stay in Lhato Jang. During her journey to Shigatse, Rinpung, the Gampa La pass, Lhasa and eventually Tsari, she encountered powerful political and religious personalities such as the Lord of Rinpung, Norbu Zangpo, the Indian Pandita Vanaratna and various local rulers. In 1455, Chokyi Dronma passed away at the age of 33.

At her funeral, Chokyi Dronma fulfilled the prophecy of Tangtong Gyelpo that “A skull with special features will come to this sacred place, together with a mountain dweller from Ngari.” A reference to this skull was also mentioned in a short text that is currently preserved at Samding Monastery.

 

The 2nd Samding Dorje Phagmo Kunga Zangmo (1459-1502)

The 2nd Samding Dorje Phagmo Kunga Zangmo (1459 – 1502).

The 2nd Samding Dorje Phagmo Kunga Zangmo (1459 – 1502)

The reincarnation of Chokyi Dronma, Kunga Zangmo was born in 1459 in Eastern Kongpo. She was found by the close companion of her previous incarnation, Delek Chodren. This incarnation was confirmed by Tangtong Gyelpo, one of the teachers of the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma.

When she was five years old, Kunga Zangmo was cared for by Delek Chodren and other nuns who used to be the close companions of her previous incarnation. She took refuge vows with Tangtong Gyelpo who also gave her various other teachings and empowerments. Around that time, her teacher sent her to Mangyul Gungtang to fulfill her previous life’s promise to perform Powa funeral rites for the mother of Chokyi Dronma. Because of this, Kunga Zangmo gained the support and patronage of the royal house of Gungtang and was able to take possession of her previous incarnation’s ritual items and a portion of her wealth.

Several years later, Kunga Zangmo’s niece was married to a powerful political family, Pakmodrupa and provided her with another powerful patron.

At one point in time, Tangtong Gyelpo sent Kunga Zangmo, accompanied by a monk colleague of Chokyi Dronma, to negotiate with the Mongols who had the intention to invade Tibet, an unusual role for a woman at the time. Kunga Zangmo negotiated between the warring parties, gave basic teachings on mantra recitation, ethics and most importantly, she gave divination suggesting the dangers that will be experienced by the Mongols should they invade Tibet. The divination was given based on the interpretation of an inauspicious omen of mice that had destroyed the year’s barley harvest.

Throughout her life, Kunga Zangmo spent most of her time travelling. She liked to visit Chung Riwoche, the seat of her teacher, Tangtong Gyelpo to whom she was deeply devoted. She always offered the alms she gathered to her teacher. In addition, she sponsored the newly gilded roof for her teacher’s residence.

One of Kunga Zangmo’s prominent achievements was the establishment of Samding Monastery in the Yardrok region, with the support of the rulers of that region who were her devoted patrons. She entered clear light in 1502. Following her death, Samding Monastery became the official seat of her subsequent incarnations.

 

The 6th Samding Dorje Phagmo

According to a famous tale, the 6th Samding Dorje Phagmo (most likely this incarnation due to the year of the invasion) was said to have performed the famous miracle by turning herself and the monks and nuns of Samding Monastery into pigs in order to evade the Dzungar Mongol invaders.

Samding Monastery where the inscription related to the miracle performed by the 6th Samding Dorje Phagmo is located.

Samding Monastery where the inscription related to the miracle performed by the 6th Samding Dorje Phagmo is located

In 1716, Dzungar (a name associated with several Western Mongolian tribes) invaders arrived in Nangartse, where Samding Monastery is located. Their Chief summoned the Samding Dorje Phagmo before him. He wanted to validate the rumors that the Samding Dorje Phagmo had a pig’s head. The request for meeting was refused and the Chief was furious. He tore down the walls of Samding Monastery and was surprised when instead of human beings, he found 80 pigs and an equal number of sows grunting under the lead of a big sow in the congregation hall. Because of this, the Chief and his followers canceled their intention to attack Samding Monastery.

After the Dzungars gave up the idea of attacking Samding Monastery, the pigs disappeared and transformed into venerable monks and nuns alongside their abbess, the Samding Dorje Phagmo. The Chief developed great faith and made abundant offerings to the monastery.

The inscription related to this miracle performed by the Samding Dorje Phagmo is depicted on Samding Monastery’s wall.

 

The 9th Samding Dorje Phagmo Choying Dechen Tsomo (19th Century)

The 9th Samding Dorje Phagmo was a Tertön (a lama who discovers hidden terma teachings) and famous spiritual master for both the Bodong and Nyingma traditions. She is said to have discovered termas, various hidden teachings that are key to Tibetan Buddhism. Today, the holy relic in the form of her skull is still preserved at a Nyingmapa monastery on the island of Yumbudo in Yamdrog Lake.

The 11th Samding Dorje Phagmo Tubten Choying Pelmo at Samding Monastery. Unlike most other nuns, the Samding Dorje Phagmo was allowed to wear her hair long, but was never to sleep lying down. In the day she could sleep sitting up in a chair, but was expected at night to remain in a meditative position.

The 11th Samding Dorje Phagmo Tubten Choying Pelmo at Samding Monastery. Unlike most other nuns, the Samding Dorje Phagmo was allowed to wear her hair long, but was never to sleep lying down. In the day she could sleep sitting up in a chair, but was expected at night to remain in a meditative position.

Another picture of the 11th Samding Dorje Phagmo

Another picture of the 11th Samding Dorje Phagmo

 

The 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo

The 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo Dechen Chokyi Dronma in her younger days.

The 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo Dechen Chokyi Dronma in her younger days

The current 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo is Dechen Chokyi Dronma. She was born either in 1938 (or 1942, according to another source). When she was around three years old, she fell ill. Her parents asked for divination from a monastery. The result of the divination was for her to become a nun at Tsangkhung. Her parents therefore sent her there to become a novice.

In 1956, Dechen Chokyi Dronma was recognised by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as the incarnation of the 11th Samding Dorje Phagmo Tubten Choying Pelmo. The following is the recollection of Kesang Dronma, Dechen Chokyi Dronma’s older sister, regarding the events leading to the recognition:

“When the time came to decide who the reincarnation was, there were naturally many other candidates… There are always issues of there being many reincarnations, of body, speech and mind, and so on [because a high lama can reincarnate in more than one body]. In any case, [the other candidates] became nuns. There were people supporting one or the other. Then the Regent of Tibet, Taktra, was asked, and he replied that this was the one. Then Kundun [i.e., the Dalai Lama] was asked. If he gave [his] approval, then the appointment would be definitive. And he confirmed it. The order was then passed on to the monastery and the monastery could not oppose this decision. The process of identification was sorted out in this way.”

In 1958, she went to Lhasa to receive Yamantaka initiation and Vajrayogini initiation from the 14th Dalai Lama and his junior tutor, His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche respectively. By this virtue, she became a student of the 14th Dalai Lama and Trijang Rinpoche.

Although she has received teachings and empowerments from the high lamas of the Gelug tradition, the 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo Dechen Chokyi Dronma is also trained in the Bodong tradition. The following is an account from Kesang Dronma validating the claim above:

“She had a teacher, a monk from the monastery. His name was Dongag. He was very expert in the scriptures and followed the Bodongpa tradition. This teacher was not a lama in a strict sense. But he had an amazing spontaneous expertise in the texts. He was very learned and knew all the different aspects of religious theory and practice. He was also very good at writing, despite the fact that he never went to school. I learned Tibetan writing from him. She stayed at the monastery until she was sixteen or seventeen. There was another teacher, Jiggyal Rinpoche, a Lama. He was one of the Bodongpa followers. His seat was in Rong in the Rinpung area. Jorra Tulku also gave teachings and empowerments before he died. [Therefore,] the Samding Dorje Phagmo received all the necessary empowerments, those of the Bodong tradition.”

In 1959, when the 14th Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet, the 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo and her sister decided to follow their leader. The two sisters managed to escape to Bhutan where they became the guests of the Bhutanese princess, Pema Chodron. From Bhutan, the two sisters continued their journey to Assam. They were treated with suspicion by the Chushi Gangdrug, the Tibetan guerrilla fighters who escorted the Dalai Lama and his entourage on their escape from Tibet, because their parents have received some “… some sort of salary from the Chinese government.” Their mother was beaten and their father managed to escape to Lhasa. The family therefore ended up right in the middle of the warring factions. Not long after, the two sisters decided to return to China voluntarily:

“… They sent some people from Phari [near the border with Bhutan, where the monastery of Samding had an estate] to look for us. From them we heard that we should come back and that the monastery did not suffer any damage. They confirmed that during the uprising many people had died, but said that if we were to return to Tibet now, nothing untoward would happen [to them]. In that difficult situation the idea of returning home became the simplest one. Once we have taken this decision, we established some contacts with the Chinese embassy in Delhi and stayed there for a few days.”

Upon her return, the 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo “… was appointed to various positions in the Chinese People’s Political Consulting Conference (CPPCC) at both the regional and national levels in the 1950s, and early 1960s, and again in post-Mao era. In 1984, she became the Vice President of the People Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR); she reconfirmed [her place] in this position [again] in January 2003.”

The 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo

The 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo in Tibet

Her decisions to return to Chinese-occupied Tibet and to accept appointments to various high positions within the Chinese government opened the doors for her to be accused of collaborating with the Chinese.

 

Another incarnation lineage in Bhutan

True to the belief that enlightened beings are not restricted to one emanation body at a time, there is another incarnation line of the Samding Dorje Phagmo. According to Dr Hildegard Diemberger, there is another Dorje Phagmo incarnation in Tibet, who was recognised by the Sakya Lama Rikey Jatrel. Rikey Jatrel is considered the incarnation of Tangtong Gyelpo, the teacher of the 1st and the 2nd Samding Dorje Phagmos.

 

The rise of the Samding Dorje Phagmo incarnation line

Mural painting of the 5th Dalai Lama that faces the painting of Dorje Phagmo at Nenying Monastery.

Mural painting of the 5th Dalai Lama that faces the painting of Dorje Phagmo at Nenying Monastery

Upon establishing his Tibetan government in 1642 with the help of Gushri Khan and the Khoshut Mongols, the 5th Dalai Lama granted a prestigious position for the Samding Dorje Phagmo incarnation line, particularly due to her association with Tangtong Gyelpo, the spiritual master who inspired him. Due to the rise in her incarnation status, the 6th Samding Dorje Phagmo Thrinley Tshomo or probably the short-lived 5th Samding Dorje Phagmo Yeshe Tsomo became a prominent figure within the world of Tibetan Buddhism.

The 7th Dalai Lama Kelzang Gyatso (1708 – 1757)

The 7th Dalai Lama Kelzang Gyatso (1708 – 1757)

The Samding Dorje Phagmo’s high incarnation status was further confirmed during the time of the 7th Dalai Lama Kelzang Gyatso. During that time, the 8th Samding Dorje Phagmo Kelzang Choden Wangmo supported the Dalai Lama and his ally, Pholhane who had the backing of Qing emperors against their opponent the Dzungar Mongols. The 7th Dalai Lama gave her the title of Khuthuktu, the Mongolian term for high-incarnate lama to ensure she was afforded the status of a high incarnation by the Chinese as well. During her lifetime, the 8th Samding Dorje Phagmo Kelzang Choden Wangmo had the opportunity to visit and be recognised by the Qing court.

 

Monasteries associated with the Samding Dorje Phagmo

Samding Monastery

Samding Monastery

Samding Monastery

Samding Monastery or “The Temple of Soaring Meditation” is the official seat of the Samding Dorje Phagmo incarnation line. It is located near Yamdrok Lake, about 10 kilometers east of Nangartse in Tibet, China. The monastery has a branch near Lhasa, in the small island of Yambu. The monastery became famous after an incarnation of the Samding Dorje Phagmo performed a miracle to subdue Dzungar invaders. Please refer to the incarnation line section above, for a recounting of the incident involving the transformation of the monastery’s occupants into pigs.

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Samding Monastery was destroyed. Today, the Chinese government has allowed the current incarnation, the 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo to reintroduce ancient customs and improve the monastic training of the monks and nuns of Samding Monastery. In 1996, the Samding Dorje Phagmo gave an interview regarding these initiatives, saying:

“After the destruction of the Cultural Revolution, Samding Monastery was partly restored, and now we are trying to improve the training of the monks by studying the scriptures of Chokle Namgyal and reintroducing some of the ancient ritual customs. This year, after many decades, we are again observing the great rituals of the 5th Tibetan month, which culminate in two days of sacred dances. These dances are peculiar to the Bodongpa tradition, and the great protector of this tradition, Tashi Obar, is one of the main characters.”

Samding Monastery in 1959 before the Cultural Revolution

Samding Monastery in 1959 before the Cultural Revolution

After the Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje escaped from Tibet in January 2000, the Chinese government gave more attention to the high lamas of Tibet. The 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo was not an exception. The Chinese government allocated a substantial amount to the construction funds of the monastery, thus allowing the Samding Monastery administration to execute their restoration works.

The monastery has been a stronghold of the Bodong School of Tibetan Buddhism since the 14th century.

 

Nyemo Chekar Monastery

Mural painting of Tashi Ombar, protector of the Bodongpa tradition at Nyemo Chekar Monastery

Mural painting of Tashi Obar, protector of the Bodongpa tradition at Nyemo Chekar Monastery

Nyemo Chekar Monastery is a Buddhist monastery of the Bodongpa tradition in Nyemo County, Lhasa, Tibet. The monastery was established by Tashi Obar, the 16th century patron and protector of the Bodongpa tradition together with Chime Palsang, a Bodongpa lama.

Nyemo Chekar Monastery is famous for its mural paintings depicting the reincarnation of the Samding Dorje Phagmo, Tashi Obar and so forth.

Some restoration work has taken place in the temple in recent times. By 1996, the old wall paintings in the porch of the temple had been repainted.

 

 

Nenying Monastery

Nenying Monastery

Nenying Monastery

Nenying Monastery is a Gelug monastery located in Central Tibet where the 7th Gaden Tripa Lodro Tenpa received his ordination vows. This monastery houses mural paintings of the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo and the 5th Dalai Lama facing each other. The Samding Dorje Phagmo was recognised as one of the highest female incarnation line in Tibet during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama.

Mural paintings of the 5th Dalai Lama opposite of those of Samding Dorje Phagmo at Nenying Monastery

Mural paintings of the 5th Dalai Lama opposite of those of Samding Dorje Phagmo at Nenying Monastery

In her book, “When A Woman Becomes A Religious Dynasty: The Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet,” Dr Hildegard Diemberger mentioned that Nenying Monastery was given to the Samding Dorje Phagmo by the grateful King of Tibet, Pholhane Sonam Tobgye, writing that “According to the local monastic community, Nenying monastery was offered by Pholhane Sonam Tobgye (1689 – 1747) to the Samding Dorje Phagmo as a reward for a favor in a crucial moment: she presented him with a horse when he was escaping from his enemies. Later, when he became the ruler of Tibet, he remembered this and expressed his gratitude generously.”

 

Association with other schools of Tibetan Buddhism

Association with the Nyingma Tradition

The 1st and the 2nd Samding Dorje Phagmos have been associated with the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism through the association with their teacher, Tangtong Gyelpo who was a Nyingma lama. In addition, the 9th Samding Dorje Phagmo was considered as the holder of both the Bodong and Nyingma teachings.

 

Association with the Gelug Tradition

As her status rose to prominence during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama onward, the tradition that the Samding Dorje Phagmo belonged to the Bodongpa started to decline. Some of the Bodongpa monasteries were transformed into places of worship for the Gelug tradition. After some negotiations, some of these monasteries were allowed to retain the image of Tashi Obmar, the blue horseman and the protector of the Bodongpa tradition.

While the current incarnation, the 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo is trained in and still upholds the Bodong tradition, she is also known to have received teachings and empowerments from prominent Gelug lamas such as His Holiness Trijang Rinpoche and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

 

Association with the Karma Kagyu Tradition

The Samding Dorje Phagmo has a relatively close association with the Karmapa. According to Dr Hildegard Diemberger, “Kunga Sangmo used to meet Karma Chodrag Gyatsho and they would sit on equal thrones, one to the left and the other to the right, indicated not only her high status but also the symbolic complementarity that was achieved in relations to him.” In addition, the Sharmapa Chodrag Yeshe is said to be the root lama of the 3rd Samding Dorje Phagmo Nyendrak Zangmo.

A late 16th century mural depicting the 4th Sharmapa surrounded by the Samding Dorje Phagmo’s incarnations at Nyemo Chekar Monastery

A late 16th century mural depicting the 4th Sharmapa surrounded by the Samding Dorje Phagmo’s incarnations at Nyemo Chekar Monastery

At Nyemo Chekar Monastery, there is a late 16th century painting of the Red Hat Sharmapa surrounded by the Samding Dorje Phagmo’s incarnations, as can be seen above.

 

Conclusion

The Samding Dorje Phagmo institution has managed to survive many challenges, political turmoil and social convention of a generally patriarchal society. The 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma was everything but conventional. She was able to overcome many social challenges of her time and, against all odds, accomplished much within her relatively short life. Her subsequent reincarnations have been relatively successful in adapting to various political climates. The women who were enthroned to this title are known to be politically savvy, a trait that possibly plays the most important role in the survival of this incarnation line. It is not uncommon to read accounts of them mediating and negotiating between warring factions.

More recently the 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo appears to have been able to adapt to several political upheavals and because of this, has won the support of the Chinese government and managed to maintain her status and official seat at Samding Monastery. The Samding Dorje Phagmo is definitely a unique and illustrious incarnation line that managed to survive the test of time.

 


 

Addendum: About The Bodong Tradition

The Bodong School is one of the smaller traditions in Tibetan Buddhism that was founded by Bodong Penchen Lenam Gyelchok. Bodong Penchen was a prolific writer during his lifetime. His most famous work was Compendium of Suchness, which is considered the foundation of the Bodong Tradition.

The main seat of the Bodong School is Bodong E Monastery, which was established by Geshe Mudrapa Chenpo of the Kadam Tradition 1049. This monastery is located in Nyingtri in Central Tibet. Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug (Yellow Hat) Tradition studied the Mirror of Poetry from Lotsawa Namkha Zangpo at Bodong E Monastery.

 

Sources:

  • A Tibetan Woman-Lama and Her Reincarnations: A Study of the Bsam-Sdings Rdor-Rje Phag-Mo (15th – 21st century)-http://www.innerasiaresearch.org/woman%20lama/holy.html
  • Bodong – http://treasuryoflives.org/tradition/Bodong
  • Bodongpa – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodongpa
  • Diemberger, Hildegard (2007). When A Woman Becomes A Religious Dynasty: The Samding
  • Dorje Pakmo – http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/en/index.php/Dorje_Pakmo
  • Dorje Phagmo of Tibet. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0231143219
  • Legend of China’s only female Rinpoche – http://eng.tibet.cn/news/1449501375794.shtml
  • Nenying – http://treasuryoflives.org/institution/Nenying
  • Samding Dorje Phagmo – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samding_Dorje_Phagmo
  • Samding Monastery – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samding_Monastery
  • Samding Monastery – http://treasuryoflives.org/institution/Samding-Monastery
  • Simmer-Brown, Judith (2014). Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 978-0834828421
  • The First Samding Dorje Pakmo, Chokyi Dronma – http://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/First-Samding-Dorje-Pakmo-Chokyi-Dronma/13205
  • The Second Samding Dorje Pakmo, Kunga Zangmo – http://treasuryoflives.org/biographies/view/Second-Samding-Dorje-Pakmo-Kunga-Zangmo/13206
  • Vajravarahi – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vajravārāhī

 

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About Valentina Suhendra

Valentina met H.E. the 25th Tsem Tulku Rinpoche in year 2006 and became his student one year later. Prior to joining Kechara, Valentina was an advisory director at one of the big four accounting firms.

Currently, Valentina is the chairwoman of Yayasan Kechara Indonesia, a foundation working on social community projects to benefit the community. Read more of her writing on her blog: www.valentinasuhendra.com
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42 Responses to The Samding Dorje Phagmo – The Courageous Female Incarnation Line

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  1. Anne Ong on Dec 22, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Thank you Valentina for this exciting and interesting article of a Courageous Female Incarnation Line. This is the first time i read about femaile incarnation. Normally about male incarnations. And Magadha Sangmo is the only female in the line of Tsem Rinpoche incarnation.

  2. Datuk May on Aug 1, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Thank you Valentina for this exciting article of a Courageous Female Incarnation Line. It is good to know that in Vajrayana Buddhism, there are many female Enlightened Buddhas, best known is Vajrayogini.

    It is good that the current 12th Incarnation, Samding Dorje Phagmo is currently living in Tibet in harmony and adapting to the politics of China.

    This article reminds of what Tenzin Palmo said that she intends to attain enlightenment in the female form.

    Thus gives us female practitioners great hopes.

  3. Doreen Teoh on Jul 30, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    In my opinion, it is a very special as the line of Incarnations of Samding Dorje Phagmo has always been chosen to be born female, and it s the 3rd highest incarnation line within the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. In that era of existence, especially the cultural and expectation of woman at that time is to be submissive. She was able too change the mindset of the people on her work and practice. She has also provide path for woman at that time to practice dharma or to be a nun. Her line of reincarnation is also has teachings from High Lama and Great Gurus. For me, she has prove that enlightenment and practice of dharma has nothing to do with the gender of a person, but the motivation & effort of the mind. in addition she is considered the emanation of Buddha Vajravarahi and the incarnation of Machig Labdrön, a renowned 11th century female Tibetan tantric master.

    • Valentina Suhendra on Aug 13, 2016 at 3:16 am

      Dear Doreen

      I agreed with you. when I was researching about this article, I was pleasantly surprised with this female incarnation line. Almost in her every life she was able to change the conventional belief about women. Women have mostly been portrayed as inferior, but her charisma is so strong that she could even play political roles although it was not common for women to do so at the time.

      I am glad that I had the opportunity to write this article, the experience has given me another perspective about how one’s potential can surpass the conventional belief and perception.

      Valentina

  4. Joy on Jul 30, 2016 at 11:40 am

    What an amazing story of an amazing female who proves to us that female enlightenment is possible. Her story is an inspiration to everyone male and female because despite Samding Dorje Phagmo being a female, and having to face the many challenges put before her, she overcame every single one of them and rise above it all to the protectress of her lineage.

    They confirmed that during the uprising many people had died, but said that if we were to return to Tibet now, nothing untoward would happen [to them]. In that difficult situation the idea of returning home became the simplest one. Once we have taken this decision, we established some contacts with the Chinese embassy in Delhi and stayed there for a few days.”

    Her decisions to return to Chinese-occupied Tibet and to accept appointments to various high positions within the Chinese government opened the doors for her to be accused of collaborating with the Chinese.

    How very typical of the Tibetan Government, who tends to be very short sighted and who handles a lot of things with rigid narrow mindedness. I guess samsara is samsara, even if you are a Buddhist nation and supposedly have more Dharma, it is clear the Tibetan Government operates not just in samsaric manners but at times in very backward thinking. How do they expect to progress with such undeveloped thinking? Sorry side tracked a bit here…
    I think what is most inspiring thing about her is that she an emanation of Vajravarahi herself and I especially liked the miraculous part whereby the Chief of Dzungar summoned the Samding Dorje Phagmo before him and was refused. Furious he tore down the walls of Samding Monastery and to his surprised instead of human beings, he found 80 pigs and an equal number of sows grunting under the lead of a big sow in the congregation hall. Because of this, the Chief and his followers canceled their intention to attack Samding Monastery.

    Such miraculous activities gives us more conviction that enlightened being do exist. A part from this… like mother Tara, I love the fact that she vowed to support Buddhist practices for women and from here on in shall continue to incarnate again and again.

    “Generally, there is no significant difference between those who succeed [in being born as male] and those who fail [and are born as female]. However, from now on, I will focus on supporting Buddhist practices for women, [especially those who follow a religious path], as they are the most trustworthy amongst women.”

    Thank you Valentina for a good synopsis of the book and sharing this wondering information on powerful females of our time!

    • Joy on Jul 30, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Sorry just to make this point even clearer and based from today’s blog chat discussion:

      6. In your opinion, why is the Samding Dorje Phagmo line of incarnations so special?

      What’ amazing is she proves to us that female enlightenment is possible. Her story is an inspiration to everyone male and female because despite Samding Dorje Phagmo being a female, and having to face the many challenges put before her, she overcame every single one of them and rise above it all to the protectress of her lineage. An example is during the uprising many people had died, but they said if she returned to Tibet, nothing untoward would happen to her and her sister. She had to to make a very difficult decision and returning home became the obvious one. She did it to protect the lineage, teachings, people and monastery but Her decisions to return to Chinese-occupied Tibet opened the doors for her to be accused of collaborating with the Chinese. THIS is similar to what we Dorje Shugden practitioners/Lamas are facing NOW just cause we wish to PROTECT our LINEAGE/TEACHINGS. (sigh)

  5. JP on Jul 30, 2016 at 11:01 am

    This is a very interesting account of the works of an enlightened being. I noticed that enlightened beings and highly attained beings would always benefit people around them regardless of the circumstances they are in.

    In the case of Samding Dorje Phagmo, being born in an era where society is male dominated, she managed to arise above these conditions and spread the dharma. As a princess and married to another royal family, she could easily have chosen to remain to enjoy the abundance and privileges accorded to her. However, through her wisdom, she saw past this veil of delusion and showed everyone the importance of the dharma.

  6. Jill Yam on Jul 30, 2016 at 10:50 am

    This is a very inspiring article indeed. The 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma life story is so similar to our Guru Tsem Rinpoche who was also born a royalty but later became a Buddhist nun/monk. Both of them went through obstacles and hardship and still persevere to be what they set out to be. This is truly an act of compassion to serve and benefit all sentient beings.

    I’m also amazed at how determine she was to take up her monastic vows when her in-laws objected by tearing her hair and injuring herself.

    This is another example shown to us that if we wanted something we must go all the way and work for it and not be discouraged in any way. Another point is she never saw the gender problem and still proves that female practitioners can still achieved enlightenment just like the male practitioner.

    Thank you Valentina for the wonderful and inspiring sharing.

    Jill Yam

  7. Wan Wai Meng on Jul 30, 2016 at 4:42 am

    What an interesting lineage of enlightened female practitioner who is one with Vajravarahi. Her story reminds me so much of Tara and how she always took on a female body for the benefit of sentient beings.

    With the Samding Dorje Phagmo having being influenced by other main Tibetan traditions and teachers but yet retain its uniqueness; of being tied closely to the Bodongpa tradition is something of a rarity, in my opinion. From this article even Lama Tsongkhapa had taken teachings from the Bodongpa tradition, and Lama Tsongkhapa who integrated many systems of teachings into the Gelug tradition, would have added the Bodong tradition into the Gelug Tradition as well, preserving it and adding to the corpus of the 84,000 teachings.

  8. Julia Tan on Jul 28, 2016 at 9:24 am

    I am amazed with the courage that Samding Dorje Phagmo had through out all her incarnations. She reminded me of mother Tara, one gained attainment despite her being a female which was impossible at that time. What strike me the most was her courage to return to China voluntarily after she had successfully left Tibet together with H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama. She’s at her age of 21 at that time.

    “… In that difficult situation the idea of returning home became the simplest one….” that showed the true compassion that she had towards her people that made her decided to go back.

    “Her decisions to return to Chinese-occupied Tibet and to accept appointments to various high positions within the Chinese government opened the doors for her to be accused of collaborating with the Chinese.” That’s extremely sad that people always accuse someone like the H.H. the 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo and trying to put her down. This is act out of anger but without any knowledge and looking into bigger picture of why she’s done to the people of Tibet by having good relationship with China in order to protect the people and preserve the pure lineage of Bodong school so that the teachings will continue to benefits countless people.

    I am grateful to her act of compassion and wisdom which showed that nothing is holding her back to benefit all sentient beings (one attained Bodhicitta) although she’s having a female body through out all her incarnations.

  9. Pastor Chia on Jul 27, 2016 at 4:01 am

    Is very rare seeing female practitioner incarnation line manifest in the Tibet to benefit sentient being. Samding Dorje Phagmo are unique and illustrious incarnation line that managed to survive the test of time pass down existing until now. Which send strong message to all the female practitioner in the buddhist world, female practitioner by practising dharma can achieved enlightenment same as male practitioner.

  10. June Kang on Jul 27, 2016 at 1:18 am

    Female reincarnation lineages are far less common . Hence the story of Samding Dorje Phagmo is a big inspiration for female practitioner— a long, powerful, and influential female lineage. It is very challenging for Samding Dorje Phagmo as a female lama in the male dominated religious country (Tibet), and she shows a powerful example being a female practitioner.

    Thank you Valentina Suhendra for compiling this information.

  11. Eric kksiow on Jul 27, 2016 at 12:17 am

    From the 1st incarnation till 12th incarnation, Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma – Samding Dorje Phagmo Dechen Chokyi Dronma showed us once of the 6 Paramitas ( The Perfection of Ethics (Sila Paramita) ) she never ever give up Dharma for many lifetimes. It’s great to learn from a great Buddhist practitioner.

    It’s an inspiration article, Thanks to Valentina for the write up.
    _/\_
    Eric kksiow

    • Valentina Suhendra on Aug 17, 2016 at 2:25 am

      Thank you for your comment Erick. I agree with you that throughout her life Samding Dorje Phagmo always exhibit the quality that never give up Dharma. In addition, she was able to rise about the social convention of her time and become a powerful lama and politician. I found that amazing and it shows that she is not an ordinary being.

  12. Pastor Antoinette Kass on Jul 26, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    This article is a big inspiration to female practitioners. The Samding Dorje Phagmo shows clearly that women or nuns can achieve the highest, enlightenment. The long incarnation line and emanation of Vajravahari and Machig Lobdrön shows its unique and illustrious beginnings.

    Thank you for compiling this information and making it accessible to all.

  13. Khoo Hou Haw on Jul 26, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    This is an inspiring story to read. Despite the gender-related challenges Samding Dorje Phagmo faced, she continue to prove with her wide-ranging activities and accomplishments that those who are commited to dharma are all equal be them male or female. Discrimination should not exist between dharma practitioners regardless of their race, country or linage.

    Thank you

  14. Albert on Jul 26, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    This is one great article I’ve read that explains the life story of the amazing lady, Samding Dorje Phagmo and her re-incarnation.

    From here, we clearly sees that her incarnations never had an easy life, she was going through different great challengers and still manage to keep intact on her spiritual journey and benefiting others.

    While reading the part that Samding Dorje Phagmo tearing her hair in desperation on wanting to become a sangha, this drastic action reminded me of H.E. the 25th Tsem Rinpoche, when Rinpoche was a teenage, his foster parents rejected his request for becoming a monk, they try all ways to stop him for becoming a sangha, but despite with the rejection, Rinpoche decided to run away from home and travel to India to become a monk. They both face the same rejection, but their mind are so firmed that nothing can stop them for becoming a sangha and working for the benefit of others.

    Samding Dorje Phagmo’s great achievements is never from luck or coincident, it was through her consistent effort from life after life to keep her practice intact. Her story has given us a very good lesson as when we want to achieve something in life, we must go all the way and overcome all challengers that is blocking our way, avoiding will never bring us there.

  15. Pastor Ong Moh Mei on Jul 26, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    Most major religions today in my opinion are patriarchal and to some extent inherently misogynistic. Even in Buddhism there appears to be no gender equality.

    Various schools within Buddhism hold different views as to the possibilities of gaining enlightenment in the female form.

    While in Vajrayana Buddhism, many female Buddhas do appear, there are also other Buddhist text mentioning that a woman can become enlightened, only not in female form. Some views on this gender matter has even gone as far as to imply that being born a female is a result of bad karma.

    There are countless male tulku incarnation line but very few female tulku lineages such as Samding Dorje Phagmo.

    Thank you Rinpoche and team for researching and sharing on the rare female incarnation line.

  16. nicholas on Jul 26, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    We always hear in modern day where people talk about equality and it’s so inspiring to read about Samding Dorje Phagmo during her time which has a long line of incarnation such an inspiring lady that took the foot step as Siddhartha Gautama to renounce her royal status becoming a nun and mainly to focus on supporting Buddhist practices for women especially those who follow a religious path. She see equality in enlightenment and her passion is to help the women to excel in their spirituality.

    It’s interesting to know that the 11th Samding Dorje Phagmo Tubten Choying Pelmo is also the student of Dorje Shugden Lama HH Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche.

  17. Pastor Henry Ooi on Jul 26, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    This article shows that women can achieve higher spiritual attainments and enlightenment as taught by the Buddha. Chokyi Dronma’s courage, efforts, passion, paved the way for more women to become ordained and that is a great achievement during her time. His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is always very respectful of women and shows high regard to ordained Buddhist nuns and female lay practitioners of Buddhism. Rinpoche says that women is at a disadvantage compared to men because of their gender. Thus women who strive to be nuns should be accorded respect for their efforts.

  18. pammie yap on Jul 26, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    “Generally, there is no significant difference between those who succeed [in being born as male] and those who fail [and are born as female].”

    I like what She said a lot! Especially when She comes back as a woman in every reincarnation and show us that it is not impossible so long as the motivation is pure and for the benefit of many. There is no difference so long as we practice and transform our mind. In every reincarnation, She expanded the Bodong tradition, brought it higher and it lasted till today.

    It was very courageous of the first Samding Dorje Phagmo to renounce everything, just like Buddha Shakyamuni. I am sure it was not easy at all back then to become a nun but She persevered and did it, just like all the stories we read of high lama’s spiritual path and their perseverance for the benefit of others.

    As time and people change, teachers tend to find suitable ways to connect to students. And Samding Dorje Phagmo found many ways to connect and benefit the students.

    Such an amazing post to read and learn. Thank you for such an inspirational post.

  19. Jace Chong on Jul 26, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    Thanks Rinpoche and Valentina for the article.

    I have never known about this sacred incarnation of Samding Dorje Phagmo, thanks to the information I can learn about the great reincarnation Lama after Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, and she is in a female form.

    I remember I read somewhere that it’s better to reincarnate as a male human to practise Dharma than female. This made me think I should make aspiration to be a male human in my next life. With Samding Dorje Phagmo’s history, I can say that I do not have to give up the practice this life as a female practitioner that however with this gender, there’s possibility to gain attainments in our Dharma practice.

    For me, Samding Dorje Phagmo is just like Tara who aspire to be a female enlighten Bodhisattva to help all sentient beings.

    Thank you.

  20. Li Kheng on Jul 26, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    In this modern day and age where the human race claim superiority based on the great advancement accomplished, we still face various obstacles related to gender equality. When I read that Samding Dorje Phagmo is third in line of position after the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama centuries ago, awes me speechless. In this, I see the equality that exists in highly attained and enlightened minds which is beyond barrier of time, civilization and development. A highly evolved mind that is rich in wisdom and compassion is real modernism, advancement and civilization.

    Expanding on this, in moving forward, the human race should refer to advanced ancient civilizations for lessons and inspiration. We truly do not have to seek in the blind as highly compassionate beings like Lord Buddha, Samding Dorje Phagmo and Trijang Rinpoche have already shed light on the “tried and tested” path.

    On a similar note, Samding Dorje Phagmo’s story shows us the true characteristic of feminism: grace, generosity, determination, commitment, kindness, forgiveness, skillfulness. There is not need to fight for rights because rights will be given to you if you act in manners that befits such authority.

    Thank you for this enlightening story of a power lady.

    • Mingwen on Jul 26, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      For centuries, the issue of equality between male and female has never been resolved. Personally, I think that male and female have no significant difference. However, what make male and female appear different is due to the way of upbringing , culture and traditions. A simple example, boy should love blue and girl must be having pink as her favourite colour. An obvious difference between male and female is physical strength, but why? Does male have stronger bones or muscles? It’s definely no! It’s all caused by the way of upbringing, female should not do hard works that include lift and move heavy objects or be the breadwinner of the family. All of these events would later have impacts on a female’s behaviours and strength. Hence, females are tend to be “weaker”.

      May all sentient beings free from sufferings and the causes of sufferings.

  21. Carmen K on Jul 23, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    The state of enlightenment and the gaining of attainments does not confine or restrict itself to gender, men or women or any labels. Of course, the history of Buddhism has predominantly been dominated by the male species, and Tenzin Palmo’s story has illustrated that, where it highlights that the same monastic treatment should be extended towards the female species as well.

    The Samding Dorje Phagmo line of incarnations displayed extraordinary abilities, that instills faith amongst many. They have learnt from different schools of Tibetan Buddhism, but what hit me also, was the similarity in practice, mainly in Guru Devotion. The 1st and 2nd incarnations of Samding Dorje Phagmo displayed great devotion to their gurus, just like Tsem Rinpoche who has great devotion towards HH Kyabje Zong Rinpoche Dorje Chang. Unflawed in their devotion, they exemplify the teaching that the root of all attainments comes from one’s guru.

    Valentina, Thank you for such a well researched article, on a line of incarnation I have never heard of, until I read about it today.

  22. KarenC on Jun 15, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    In Buddhism, we always believe in equality. Female and male are just labels and has no distinction. Labelling and projections are one of the sources of us being ignorant.

    These female developed great faith in Buddha’s teachings, took on ordination vows and eventually became so beneficial. Some other examples of powerful potent female who contributed in Buddhism are Magadha Sangmo, protectress Achi Chokyi Drolma, Mother Tara and the new era powerful women Mother Teresa, Tenzin Pelmo, Aung Sang Su Kyi etc.

    They are the fearless woman who has great wisdom to rise as who they want to be. Their inner strength is as strong as men. These strong women spent their whole life accomplishing one great thing after the other. Very inspiring and it proves anybody can achieve our goals.

  23. Wylfred Ng on Jun 15, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    谢谢Valentina 的分享。

    Samding Dorje Phagmo 的故事非常崎岖不平, 每一任转世都经过不同的困难, 不过每一世转世都把佛法带给很多人。 其实身为女性要面对的挑战都要比男性来得大。 不过Samding Dorje Phagmo 每一世都可以克服困难, 到现在她的转世的成就还是为人所津津乐道。

    在第一世的时候,Samding Dorje Phagmo 的其中一位上师,Tangtong Gyelpo 告诉她说: 如果你留在原地, 你会很长寿, 你将会有几位学生。 如果你往东方传授佛法的话你的寿命将会不稳定, 不过你将会有很多学生。 Samding Dorje Phagmo 毅然选择往西藏东方传授佛法, 利益很多人, 不过她的寿命也很短, 只是33岁就圆寂了。
    她一直都以别人的利益为先, 就算她知道她的寿命会短, 她还是选择利益更多人。

    谢谢

  24. Su Ming on Jun 15, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    The thing which struck me the most after reading this article is how Samding Dorje Phagmo shares similar hardship at the beginning when she wanted to embark on her spiritual journey with Tsem Rinpoche. Her drastic action at the beginning when her in laws rejected her wish to join the monastery was similar to the steps Rinpoche took when he wanted to become a monk.

    The fact that she is a women and from her first incarnation description tells that she must have made vows for her to return as a women as an inspiration to others. Just like Tenzin Phalmo.

    I do wonder what her stand is on Dorje Shugden issue since one of her teacher is H.H. Trijang Rinpoche ?

  25. Sock Wan on Jun 15, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    Dear Valentina,
    Thank you for sharing with us the story of Samding Dorje Phagmo. Her story clearly tells us even though we are female, we can gain attainment just like male, gender is not an issue at all, male or female we have equal opportunity in gaining enlightenment.

    Some enlightened beings take rebirth in female form on purpose to teach us whether male or female, we have equal opportunity to become enlightened. Another example of a female practitioner will be Tenzin Palmo http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/videos/tenzin-palmo-cave-in-the-snow.html

  26. Chin San on Jun 15, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you Valentina for researching and writing such a detailed information about the Samding Dorje Phagmo.

    I’m amazed at the way she sleeps that she was never to sleep lying down. In the day she could sleep sitting up in a chair, but was expected at night to remain in a meditative position. This is interesting!

    Since the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma, she always chosen to be born in female form. This is out of my expectation because most of people (including me) usually think that high lamas are mostly male, which is true, but gender can’t be labeled, what important is what he/she has done to benefit others.

  27. jerry_sito on Jun 15, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    感谢您的分享

    这是我第一次详细地阅读有关与,女性活佛的文章,感谢您的整理,对于藏传佛教的活佛转世制度又有了新的理解与感觉受益良多。

    桑顶·多吉帕姆活佛为藏传佛教中地位最高的“女活佛”系统,桑顶寺的寺主活佛。为金刚亥母(即多吉帕姆)的化身,本名索朗真玛,在藏传佛教中续达赖尊者与班禅喇嘛的转世体系后,桑顶·多吉帕姆活佛的转世体系为第3高的活佛转世体系,并获得过“呼图克图”的封号,这是清朝及中华民国初年对一部分高级藏传佛教转世喇嘛所封的职衔,其的地位仅次于达赖喇嘛、班禅额尔德尼,高于一般的转世喇嘛。

    在阅读后让我感到惊讶与钦佩的是,身为一位女性修行者,想想但是的年代,对与一位女性修行者来说是困难重重的,而且在西藏里当时“比丘尼”是非常稀少的,在如此严峻与种种的困难,而且我相一位女性修行者肯定会引起更多的争议,然而她却从第一世一路到今天的第十二世成功地坚持了下来。

    我相信对于佛法,许多的高僧大德,他们是如此地大慈大悲,无论在背后默默地承受着让人无法想象的苦楚,给人批评攻击,或是非得经历一些巨大的牺牲,然而我们会发现,他们还是一世一世地乘愿转世回来,而且为了善巧地救渡一切有情众生,他们化做种种不同化身,把佛法带给了我们。

    谢谢
    Jerry

  28. Stella Cheang on Jun 15, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you Valentina for sharing detailed knowledge on the Samding Dorje Phagmo line of incarnations. I am very fascinated by the story of the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo. She was a princess of Buddhist King Tri Lhawang Gyeltsen, was married off to Shekar in Southern Lhato. After she suffered the loss of her daughter, she decided to renounce her worldly position and became the disciple of Bodong Chokle Namgyal.

    It was there that the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo realized that there is no significant difference when it comes to spiritual attainment for male and female. And she promised to focus on supporting Buddhist practices for women, henceforth courageous female incarnation line of Samding Dorje Phangmo.

    The Samding Dorje Phagmo is recognized as the highest female incarnation line in Tibetan Buddhism and the 3rd highest incarnation line within the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. She is believed to be the emanation of Vajravarahi (one of the main forms of Vajrayogini) and the incarnation of Machig Labdron.

    Thank you Rinpoche and Valentina for the informative article on Samding Dorje Phangmo.

    Humbly, bowing down,
    Stella Cheang

  29. dolma on Jun 14, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    om bendza berotsaniye hung : we can not find much info about her but she excists. So thanks for a bigger info. I gave you the only thing i had. Cleans house, space…

    • Pastor Elena Khong Jean Ai on Jun 15, 2016 at 2:59 am

      Hi Dolma, I totally agree with you. Information about the Samding Dorje Phagmo is not very easy to find online and it is spread out over many different websites and books.

      It’s a bit sad that it’s so difficult to find good information about her even though she is the third highest incarnation in the land after HH the Dalai Lama and HH the Panchen Lama. Valentina did an excellent job writing a very interesting article about this great being. She presented the information in a clear, easy-to-understand way.

      There are other articles on this blog which are also very interesting. When you can, please do take the time to explore Rinpoche’s blog. Thank you!

  30. Martin on Jun 14, 2016 at 12:45 am

    Very interesting post and what impressed upon me was how challenging it must have been for the first Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma to have transcended cultural and social norms to be recognised be regarded in her own right. What is more is how all the incarnations in the Samding Dorje Phagmo line have kept their tradition blameless and illustrious for so long, to the point of being accepted as the ‘third highest incarnation line within the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy.

    After I read this post, I did a search for other great female practitioners and highly attained yoginis and was pleasantly surprised to see their interesting stories. Some of these yoginis with incredible attainments are (in no specific order):

    *Shugseb Jetsun*

    Shugseb Jetsun Rinpoche was also known as Lochen. She was born in Rewalsar, India, and from childhood, Lochen was a diligent practitioner. Her mother was also a devoted practitioner, who accompanied her daughter on many pilgrimages and encouraged her practice. Her connection was mainly of Palden Drukpa and Sangag Nyingma tradition. She was invited by Ladakh King and the people of its region. When she visited Ladakh, the King and Queen of Ladakh, their ministers, and everybody wept in tears after seeing her (then only a little child) reciting Om Mani Padme Hung and encouraging everyone else to do so! She is known to be Vajrayogini.

    *Ani Lama Sherab Zangmo*

    Ani Lama Sherab Zangmo was a resident nun and meditation teacher at Gebchak Gonpa. Often referred to as “The Great Yogini of Gebchak Gonpa”, Sherab Zangmo was famed among the lamas in Eastern Tibet for her high realization. She passed away in the autumn of 2008 with many signs of an accomplished practitioner. She spent 70 years in unbroken meditation practice since first coming to Gebchak Gonpa when she was 16 years old!!!

    *Ayu Khadro* (Tsewang Dorje Paldron)

    Ayu Khadro was a teacher of Dzogchen and Tantric Buddhism in East Tibet. She was a student of both Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Nyala Pema Dundul. By many, Ayu Khandro was held to be an incarnation of Vajrayogini. She spent many dozen years in dark retreat and also practiced and taught a tantric long-life practice and was an adept Chödma.

    *Yeshe Tsogyal*

    Yeshe Tsogyal was born in the princely Kharchen family. Her father’s name was Namkhai Yeshe and her mother was called Gewa Bum. When she was born, a spring of fresh water spontaneously burst from the ground and formed a sizable pond next to her house. This pond came to be known as “Lha-tsho”, the Divine Lake. Later the spot would become a famous pilgrimage site for generations of devotees. Life was not easy for Yeshe Tsogyal. She was brutally raped by her first suitor and fought over by her second. When she fled from the latter, she was taken and placed in the King’s harem. Later the Dharma King Trisong Deutsan offered her as a consort to his guru, the Lord Padmasambhava.

    Guru Padmasambhava set her free and she became his disciple. Only then did she begin to discover happiness in her life. That was in the year 794 A.D., when Yeshe Tsogyal was sixteen years old. When she received Empowerment her flower fell on the sacred mandala of Vajrakilaya and through practicing the appropriate sadhana she rapidly gained accomplishment. She then received all of Guru Padmasambhava’s teachings and became his spiritual heir.

    *Gelongma Palmo*

    Gelongma Palmo also known as Bhikshuni Shrimati, introduced the Nyungnay practice, which is a special fasting practice of purification and merit accumulation based on Avalokiteshvara. She was a princess of an ancient Indian kingdom. Through devoted and extensive practice of One-Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshvara for twelve years, Gelongma Palmo overcame severe illness of leprosy and attained enlightenment. Thereafter, she passed the methods and blessings of this practice known as Nyungnay down through a lineage of great practitioners that continues to this day.

    This intensive practice involves maintaining the eight Mahayana precepts (not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to lie, not to take intoxicants, not to take high or luxurious seats, not to sing, dance or wear ornaments and not to eat after midday) on the first day, and taking additional vows of not eating, drinking or talking for twenty-four hours on the second day. The meditation and practice sessions include praises, prostrations and mantra recitation.

    • Carmen K on Jul 23, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Thank you for sharing these stories as an inspiration and encouragement towards our own practice, Martin! So amazing to read some of them, as it was reading this article itself.

  31. Sharon Ong on Jun 13, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    One of the things I love about Rinpoche’s blog is the variety of subject matter that this blog has. One will always find something new to learn with each post that is uploaded. In this post, not only was I acquainted with a new Buddhist tradition, Bodong, but more importantly, a line of female incarnation whose lives, works and courage are nothing short of extraordinary.

    It further reinforces my believe that it does not really matter if we were born as women as our body is a mere vessel. Ultimately, it is our mind that matters as Enlightenment is all about the state of mind.

    Thank you for this insightful read, Valentina!

  32. CindyH on Jun 12, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    Apart from the great compassion exhibited with their impressive accomplishments and deeds, there seem to be a consistent emphasis on letting go of projections present upon reading about the details of the reincarnations.

    On a general level, all of them courageously went against the social norms of their time (from renouncing royal status, to breaking away from society’s expectation settling down as a wife and mother, involvement of politics in religion etc) and also did not bend to usual order of things at that time. In fact, the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma’s declaration of her commitment to support the religious practice for women represent the ultimate challenge to the perception relating to the inferiority of female practitioners in a generally patriarchal society. Her line of incarnation can serve as testament that attainments are possible in a female form thereby negating the over-rated importance placed on the difference between a male and female body.

    Other specific incidents illustrating such emphasis include;
    • The 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma’s act of ignoring the scholar’s request for blessings which challenged the monk’s perception and led to him realising the “… the importance of not being dependent upon appearances and conventions in assessing religious value.”
    • The 2nd Samding Dorje Phagmo Kunga Zangmo who successfully negotiated with the Mongols who had the intention of invading Tibet thus accomplishing an extremely unusual role for a woman at that time and broke down the projections about limitations of women’s abilities.
    • In the face of an invasion threat, the 6th Samding Dorje Phagmo opted for an unconventional method which not only avoided the invasion but also caused the Chief of Dzungar Mongol invaders to develop great faith in Buddhism.
    • Based on the excerpts, it can be said that 12th Samding Dorje Phagmo braved the mistrusts and also accusations of her collaborating with the Chinese government to return to Tibet premised on the belief that she would benefit people more by doing so.

    Interestingly, came across materials indicating that Machig Labdron (a renowned 11th century female Tibetan tantric Buddhist master) also placed particular emphasis on letting go of projected concepts and fixation in order to achieve true freedom. Perhaps not that surprising since 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma is said to be the incarnation of Machig Labdron.

    Thank you for such an informative and inspiring post.

  33. May Ong on Jun 12, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    It is always very encouraging to read about tulkus who chose to return lifetime after lifetimes in female form as opposed to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in male form, which is more common knowledge. I can see that through the different incarnations of Samding Dorje Phagmo, she played many different roles as a female protector to help protect her lineage and will use whatever resources she had available around her to preserve it till today, even if she has to take on political role.

    Although politics and dharma does not mix but due to circumstantial environment in these trying degenerate times, even Bodhisattva have to adapt to changing situations to preserve their lineage from being lost.

  34. Pastor David Lai on Jun 12, 2016 at 4:44 am

    Ooooh I love this post very much and enjoyed helping Valentina out with the initial edits of this article. It’s incredible to learn about how powerfully beneficial she is because she is Vajravarahi incarnate. It’s very neat to learn that the Tibetan deities do not just exist in ancient texts, thangkas and the visualizations of practitioners because she also takes rebirth as a female lama.

    Just the fact that she chooses to always be female is a very powerful statement in itself considering the challenges of being a female lama in what is virtually a male dominated religious clergy of Buddhism. It empowers other female lamas and practitioners and also for their male counterpart, to look beyond what people expect of a lama. After all, male and female are merely labels that we impute upon others. I hope many more people are touched and blessed to read and hear about Samding Dorje Phagmo! Beautiful article and well done, Valentina.

  35. Sofi on Jun 12, 2016 at 1:07 am

    A throughly inspiring article for all female practitioners! I am always in awe of female practitioners who had to overcome tremendous odds to fully immerse themselves in their practices. Even with today’s increasing number of female practitioners, getting ordination is still not easily available.

    In Introduction section’s very first line captured my attention…”The Samding Dorje Phagmo is recognised as the highest female incarnation line in Tibet and the third highest incarnation line within the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.” It is amazing that the female line of reincarnation garners such status. This really goes to show that attainments of the mind transcend gender and depends on one’s willingness to strive for it.

    The ordination commitment of the 1st Samding Dorje Phagmo Chokyi Dronma, “I will focus on supporting Buddhist practices for women, [especially those who follow a religious path], as they are the most trustworthy amongst women.”, struck a deep chord. It is suppose to be our aspiration to be born with a male body as one of the good condition for practices and yet she had so much compassion to remain as a female, to be an example that attainments are possible in female form, as proven with her line of incarnation.

    Thank you Valentina and thank you Rinpoche for inspiring Valentina to research and share this line of lineage with us.

  36. Fong on Jun 11, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Thank, Valentina, for a very interesting article.

    I never knew that female practitioners could be so exalted. All I have ever read to date about female practitioners is that they had a ‘glass ceiling’. Even Tenzin Palmo had to get ordination in Taiwan and not India. There was a point when she was so agitated by the attitudes of the male monks that she boldly seek an answer for H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama – “We went to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama and he said that as far as he was concerned—male or female body—it made no difference.” (http://tenzinpalmo.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=73&Itemid=34)

    To read of the Samding Dorje Phagmo, and her triumphant work for Dharma despite the various odds against her is inspiring. When she was treated with mistrust by the Chushig Gangdruk and had no choice but to back track to Tibet while fleeing, it must have taken a lot of strength and courage to make a very hard decision. Even her previous incarnation of Yeshe Tsogyal had it tough before attaining enlightenment and Machig Labdron as well.

    There really is no difference between a male and female body. The training is indeed in the mind and we should not be limited by the body. The Buddha Tara, Yeshe Tsogyal, Mahig Labdron and the Samding Dorje Phagmo has proven that. So, whether male or female, one should just focus on our practice and not worry whether this body is suitable for the task at hand.

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  • Pastor Shin Tan
    Monday, Mar 27. 2017 06:42 PM
    According to the Buddhist teachings, we all have a unique blend of karma that determines where we are born, the circumstances of our birth and the quality of our life. Naturally, this is due to the actions that we performed in previous lives. Karma also dictates our characteristics and traits that determine how we act throughout our lives, which in turn leads to certain outcomes in this life and a determination of where we will take rebirth in the future.

    Karma, however, is not set in stone. We can change our circumstances through our own efforts – purification of karma and accumulation of merit. Tibetan astrology, based on these Buddhist principles, provides us the methods to ensure success in this life and a good rebirth in the future. Tibetan astrology can also predict what will happen to us in this life and our next rebirth based on the time of our birth.

    Discover your traits according to the Mewa, or Magical Square system of Tibetan astrology below, and find out how to purify your negative karma to improve your life!

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/tibetan-astrology/tibetan-astrology.html
  • Tsem Rinpoche
    Monday, Mar 27. 2017 05:24 PM
    Very interesting:


    Radin explained in his book: “For a Western-trained academic, the mere existence of, say, telepathy would be considered supernormal and thus wildly extraordinary. But for an experienced yogi, it’s just a boringly normal minor siddhi [a Sanskrit term for a meditation attainment, or power]. A skeptical scientist, not having the benefit of thousands of hours of practice in yoga and meditation, would require repeatable, rigorously obtained experimental data showing odds against chance of a gazillion to one. The yogi merely requires his own experience.”


    Very interesting read: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/2157904-supernormal-abilities-developed-through-meditation-dr-dean-radin-discusses/?sidebar=morein
  • Samfoonheei
    Monday, Mar 27. 2017 01:45 PM
    Its indeed a beautiful place …..away from the city hectic life to visit and could stay over night too.Just to get away from work to relax ,get some fresh air ,do meditation and so forth .At Kechara Forest RetreatI,Bentong is where the largest Dorje Shugden statue in the world situated and we can receive blessing,make offering to the Buddhas as well as enjoy the tranquility of the beautiful gardens.I have recomended my friends and relatives to visit such a beautiful place at Bentong.
    Thank you Paul Yap for sharing.
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/kechara-13-depts/go-bentong.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Monday, Mar 27. 2017 01:15 PM
    Well…all pendants are beautifully designed,hand crafted to match each and every sacred images on it to suit all occasion for the wearer.I can see a lot of hard work for those involed in desgning and making of it.
    All pendants are very unique, modern, timeless and also sacred ,thats all i could describe it.Hope more people will be wearing these beautiful pendants to get connected with the Buddhas.Thank you Rinpoche for sharing and Kechara’s Louise Lee for creating Dharma art in in the form of jewelry
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/kechara-13-depts/timeless-and-sacred.html
  • Tsem Rinpoche
    Monday, Mar 27. 2017 12:41 PM
    This Mahasiddha is Kukkuripa (the dog lover). He loved dogs so much. When he meditated in the cave he had his doggie with him. She had kept him company for years in his cave. They shared bedding, food, water and company. When he gained high attainments, the Dakinis came to take him to Kechara Paradise. He was hesitant to go but the Dakinis insisted and he went with them.

    He arrived at Kechara (Paradise/Buddha abode of Heruka and Vajra Yogini) and enjoyed teachings and feasts up there and they asked him to stay longer if not forever…. But he kept thinking about his doggie left alone in the cave. He felt guilty and missed her. Kukkuripa would use his psychic powers to see his poor doggie alone and hungry waiting for him at the cave while enjoying the attention of the Dakinis and feasts. The cave was dark and had no food. The doggie had to go out and find small tiny scraps of food and was getting skinny. Kukkuripa saw this and it pained him. Worried she was not getting enough food. He use to share the offerings of food he would get from people with her. Doggie and him would delightfully eat the food together. Kukkuripa had no attachments to ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ in regards to sharing food with his dog. He had overcome this in his meditations. In ancient India, people would not co-habitate with a dog. It was considered unclean and filthy, but Kukkuripa had cast away those notions and loved his dog as she loved him. But he felt guilty to leave her alone while he was ‘enjoying’ himself in Kechara and could not stop thinking about his beloved dirty smelly dog in his cave alone…so he left Kechara Paradise and all it’s ‘delights’ for his doggie. He couldn’t abandon her. The Dakinis implored him to stay, but he was firm to return. The Dakinis said you will give up this paradise here for a mere dog???!! You can advance further in your meditations if you stay in Kechara and then help the dog later they attempted to persuade him. But Kukkuripa would not stay, he was loyal to his little dog as she had kept him company for many years in the lonely dark cave. She was loyal to him and how can he abandon her now. He couldn’t and he wouldn’t listen to the Dakinis. He left to join doggie. He never forget her companionship and loyalty. All the wonderful things in Kechara could not tempt him against his loyal friend the little doggie. He left everything for her.

    So he finally left Kechara to the Dakinis dismay and went back to his cave to be with his dog so she won’t be alone. Doggie was delighted to see her master and wagged her tail so much!! She licked him and he hugged her! She was skinnier for not eating well these few days he noticed. He fed her and hugged her and loved his doggie…He went back to his routine of meditation, receiving food offerings and sharing his food with doggie. They were happy together. One day, when he was scratching her in her favorite place and she licked him so his eyes were closed, when he opened his eyes she had suddenly turned into a Dakini shimmering with lights! The brilliance of the lights lit up the whole cave in front of Kukkuripa!! Kukkuripa was astonished to behold the splendourous lady in front of him! Of course this Dakini must be the Queen Herself he realized, as Vajra Yogini which was Kukkuripa’s main Yidam he had meditated on her for years in the cave. And She said to Kukkuripa, “Well done, you gave up paradise to be with just a dog..it shows you have given up attachements and projections of pleasant and unpleasant, now your Dakini will give you the final paradise (enlightenment)!”

    Kukkuripa attained full enlightenment blessed by Vajra Yogini by releasing the final subtle attachment to the non-existent self! After enlightenment his fame and name grew and many came to see him and he gave teachings to countless and benefitted many before he finally ascended to Kechara the second and final time. He was forever known as Kukkuripa the dog lover.

    I love him so much!!! This is one of my favorite Mahasiddhas along with Badrapa, Shantideva, Ghantapa and a few others. I wanted to share this story with you. I wanted you to know that there are many great true stories like this one about Kukkuripa that are true and can be applied to our lives. To inspire us.

    Tsem Rinpoche
  • Tsem Rinpoche
    Monday, Mar 27. 2017 12:29 PM
    The great and illustrious master Sonam Tsemo at the end of his life was described by an old woman who witnessed Sonam Tsemo depart. Standing on a rock at the holy spring near Sakya area known as Chumik Dzingka, his body ascended gracefully into the sky, still holding his dog. He loved his dog very much. Even today the footprints of Loppon Sonam Tsemo and the dog can be clearly seen in the rock, left for the benefit of living beings as a field from which to accumulate merit. It is a sign of a holy being when they can leave their footprints in stone for future generations to witness and make offerings on that spot to collect merits. This holy site was decorated by the great master Mantradhara Ngawang Kunga Rinchen later on. Other accounts say that he ascended from Gorum Library near Chumik Dzingka spring. A stupa containing his holy relics was erected there. Sonam Tsemo was a powerful practitioner of the Lady Buddha Vajra Yogini and at the end of his short life he ascended with his very body to Kechara paradise. He was 40 years old. Kechara is the sanksrit name of the special abode of Vajra Yogini. Those who practice Vajra Yogini to the highest level can ascend her paradise with their very bodies. Sonam Tsemo the great master of sutra and tantra was seen by an old woman flying off holding his beloved dog to ascend Kechara paradise. No one every found his body and his room was empty.
  • Lin Mun
    Monday, Mar 27. 2017 12:27 PM
    Congratulations to Mitra for his first dharma teaching in Nepali to the expats. So glad that Dorje Shugden practise can reach out to many in various languages and to different people. Mitra has done a good job in introducing Lama Tsongkhapa lineage and guided them on the benefit and iconography of Dorje Shugden.

    May Lama Tsongkhapa lineage and Dorje Shugden practise continue to grow and benefit more people.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/mitra-teaches-bhagwan-dorje-shugden-in-nepali.html
  • Samfoonheei
    Sunday, Mar 26. 2017 04:15 PM
    Very clear explanation of what is Vajrayogini’s left foot stepping on. Each time when i have a look at the beautiful statue of Vajrayogini this question will comes back to me. i am glad came across these blog by chance, i saw and read to understand better.A clear explanation ..stampling left and right foot significant of desire ,hatred and ignorance that cause us to be in samsara and she she able to control.Vajrayogni’s practices is so powerful in heliping us and that is the reason Rinpoche always ask us to start now.
    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing these short explanation in the video and the interesting story of Mahadeva.
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/facebook-question-what-is-vajra-yoginis-left-foot-stepping-on.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Sunday, Mar 26. 2017 02:44 PM
    Rejoice to all the families who had setup a Buddhist altar at home and conducted a house blessing puja. There are diverse benefits of conducting the house blessing puja, which ranges from bringing well-being on all levels – in one’s health, relationships, business, and family – to purifying the home. The puja ceremonies will purify the environment which helps the people who live there and people who are visiting there to experience general well-being. The puja can be personalised based on the request or need of the individual. Thank you for sharing with us the many photos of the beautiful altar of these families, it is very heartwarming to know that they will always be blessed by the Three Jewels.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/buddhas-dharma/10-amazing-house-blessings-by-kechara-pastors.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Sunday, Mar 26. 2017 02:24 PM
    Thank you for sharing this mindfully planned itinerary for everyone who is interested in visiting Kechara Forest Retreat. Kechara Forest Retreat has different facets that showcase different elements of spirituality and Tibetan Buddhism in this wholesale venue. One can enjoy the flora and fauna of Mother Nature, or embrace the contemporary architectures that feature many magnificent Buddha statues and authentic Himalayan decorations. Not forgetting to mention, in Kechara Forest Retreat sits the largest Dorje Shugden statue in the world! This is a holy place we must never miss to pay homage for blessings from the Three Jewels.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/kechara-13-depts/go-bentong.html
  • Pastor Shin Tan
    Sunday, Mar 26. 2017 01:07 PM
    金泽“财王”护法殿

    在禅修林的入口处的左边有一间小佛堂,是全天候二十四小时开放给大众的。这间佛堂的一砖一瓦都是由不同善心人士捐增的。也因为他们过后发了一笔小财,所以在大马文东,金泽护法一般被简称为“财王“。

    根据佛陀教诲,五蕴是组成众生的五个方面,分别是色、受、想、行、识。证悟者如多杰雄登能将五蕴分别化现成不同的本尊。金泽是多杰雄登“受”蕴的化现,作用是协助我们增长世俗和修行上的财富。“受”蕴是我们对愉悦或不悦感受的认知。我们执着于愉悦,避免不悦,而这正是导致我们受困和造下各种业,继而产生痛苦的因(此段原文: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_6d7edf5f0102x1n6.html)

    来到这里,我们首先要上香。做生意的朋友可要趁此机会拜拜,供养一个大的莲花蜡烛,上三根大香,祈求今年一帆风顺哦。

    摘自“GO BENTONG!与菩萨有约”
    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=120808
  • Lin Mun
    Saturday, Mar 25. 2017 11:02 PM
    Can’t imagine that a priest actually stabbed Pope John Paul. How can he do this when he as a priest is suppose to be compassion and love everyone but kill the religion leader. he should remember that he carries the name priest and hence must show good example and behaviour to others but instead took another person’s life.

    I respected Pope John who continued his trip even though he was injured. That shows the determination he had to teach so it can benefit others. Always put others first more than our own needs.

    Thank you Rinpoche for sharing this article.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/current-affairs/pope-john-paul-stabbed-by-priest.html
  • Stella Cheang
    Saturday, Mar 25. 2017 08:13 PM
    It is admirable for Sine Lindholm & Mads Ulrik Husum to place their design as open source for everyone to download and copy to manufacture. This shows how farsighted they are in propelling self-sustainability. The first step is always the hardest, and I believe what Sine and Mads had done is towards the right direction. In this way, people from all the around the world who genuinely are passionate and interested in growing own vegetables will be able to start on their own. Without needing to rely on middleman or manufacturer who might end up making the brilliant idea a commercial white elephant. Thank you, Rinpoche for this sharing.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/animals-vegetarianism/build-your-own-growroom.html
  • Alice Tay
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 10:05 PM
    Many companies especially in overseas are very considerate and allow their employees to bring their dogs to work. I personally think that this is a very good practice where the employees no longer have to worry about leaving pets at home alone. The work environments that cultivate loving kindness, caring and compassion create a much more positive and productive place to work. Besides, it may influence everyone especially those who do not have pet to be more kind to the animals.

    Nevertheless, the employer and employees may have to work together to maintain the safe and cleanliness work place such as reduce odour, provide clean air and many others.

    Thank you for this interesting article as a reminder to us to love and be kind to animals no matter where we are.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/animals-vegetarianism/inside-the-worlds-most-dog-friendly-office.html
  • Lin Mun
    Friday, Mar 24. 2017 07:06 PM
    Superb idea and very creative. Home farming in the cities ! Appreciate all the hardwork and ideas to produce Growroom. It’s just like putting a big puzzle and making the whole process so much easier to plant in cities where we always have limited spaces.

    We should support more people to come up with such ideas so we can eat our own food and cultivate self sustainability.

    http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/animals-vegetarianism/build-your-own-growroom.html

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

CREDITS

Concept: Tsem Rinpoche
Technical: Lew Kwan Leng, Justin Ripley, Yong Swee Keong
Design: Justin Ripley, Cynthia Lee
Content: Tsem Rinpoche, Justin Ripley, Pastor Shin Tan, Sarah Yap
Writer: Pastor Loh Seng Piow
Admin: Pastor Loh Seng Piow, Beng Kooi

I must thank my dharma blog team who are great assets to me, Kechara and growth of dharma in this wonderful region. I am honoured and thrilled to work with them. I really am. Maybe I don't say it enough to them, but I am saying it now. I APPRECIATE THESE GUYS VERY MUCH!

Tsem Rinpoche

What Am I Writing Now

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Animal Care Fund
  Bigfoot, Yeti, Sasquatch

The Unknown

The Known and unknown are both feared,
Known is being comfortable and stagnant,
The unknown may be growth and opportunities,
One shall never know if one fears the unknown more than the known.
Who says the unknown would be worse than the known?
But then again, the unknown is sometimes worse than the known. In the end nothing is known unless we endeavour,
So go pursue all the way with the unknown,
because all unknown with familiarity becomes the known.
~Tsem Rinpoche

Photos On The Go

Click on the images to view the bigger version. And scroll down and click on "View All Photos" to view more images.
This mahasiddha Kukkuripa is easy to identify as he is accompanied by a small dog whom he loved very much.
yesterday
This mahasiddha Kukkuripa is easy to identify as he is accompanied by a small dog whom he loved very much.
Mumu taking a rest in the turquoise room. Over the years, I always feel very satisfied when I see him covered with a blanket, safe and sleeping. I always wanted to make sure he was safe from harm, illness and distress. I wanted him to have a happy and loved life. Tsem Rinpoche
yesterday
Mumu taking a rest in the turquoise room. Over the years, I always feel very satisfied when I see him covered with a blanket, safe and sleeping. I always wanted to make sure he was safe from harm, illness and distress. I wanted him to have a happy and loved life. Tsem Rinpoche
I wrapped my little Mumu boy up in my blanket and propped him up on my bed. He didn\'t move or wiggle and just looked at me. He is one funny entertaining little guy. Tsem Rinpoche
yesterday
I wrapped my little Mumu boy up in my blanket and propped him up on my bed. He didn't move or wiggle and just looked at me. He is one funny entertaining little guy. Tsem Rinpoche
March 2017-Coaxing my little Mumu boy to eat his meal. He was not well and therefore not hungry. Tsem Rinpoche
yesterday
March 2017-Coaxing my little Mumu boy to eat his meal. He was not well and therefore not hungry. Tsem Rinpoche
Click on picture to enlarge and see what Milarepa says. Profound.
1 week ago
Click on picture to enlarge and see what Milarepa says. Profound.
We are always trying to get somewhere, try something new, find some friends, get some entertainment and in the end we end up in the same place. Time to really practice Dharma seriously and stop wasting time we don\'t have. ~Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
We are always trying to get somewhere, try something new, find some friends, get some entertainment and in the end we end up in the same place. Time to really practice Dharma seriously and stop wasting time we don't have. ~Tsem Rinpoche
March 20, 2017-Mumu is just so adorable with his bright eyes.
1 week ago
March 20, 2017-Mumu is just so adorable with his bright eyes.
More and more people inviting Lord Dorje Shugden home to connect with on their shrines. I am so happy to see this as it will benefit them and their families so much. That is the purpose to be alive which is to benefit others as much as possible. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
More and more people inviting Lord Dorje Shugden home to connect with on their shrines. I am so happy to see this as it will benefit them and their families so much. That is the purpose to be alive which is to benefit others as much as possible. Tsem Rinpoche
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
1 week ago
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
1 week ago
His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche is a good sport watching his students do Halloween drag costumes for a charity show. Funny!
The Japanese are very innovative. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
The Japanese are very innovative. Tsem Rinpoche
Read this as it will be interesting
1 week ago
Read this as it will be interesting
Recite this before any meal or drinks for blessings of abundance. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
Recite this before any meal or drinks for blessings of abundance. Tsem Rinpoche
This sacred statue of Buddha is in Nepal brought originally from Tibet and has spoken on many occasions. Very blessed to see this holy image and keep a picture...bless you always. Tsem Rinpoche
1 week ago
This sacred statue of Buddha is in Nepal brought originally from Tibet and has spoken on many occasions. Very blessed to see this holy image and keep a picture...bless you always. Tsem Rinpoche
I love Mumu boy tremendously. We went through so much together for so many years. You are a great being to be with. Tsem Rinpoche
2 weeks ago
I love Mumu boy tremendously. We went through so much together for so many years. You are a great being to be with. Tsem Rinpoche
Dear everyone, I am sharing this beautiful and modern altar to Dorje Shugden in Malaysia. I am glad to see more and more people creating sacred spaces. Tsem Rinpoche
2 weeks ago
Dear everyone, I am sharing this beautiful and modern altar to Dorje Shugden in Malaysia. I am glad to see more and more people creating sacred spaces. Tsem Rinpoche
Lhamo Karmo, a female buddha form visualized above the crown of one\'s head at the time of death, to encourage consciousness to leave the body via the crown aperture. From my book \"The Female Buddhas.\"- Glenn Mullin
3 weeks ago
Lhamo Karmo, a female buddha form visualized above the crown of one's head at the time of death, to encourage consciousness to leave the body via the crown aperture. From my book "The Female Buddhas."- Glenn Mullin
The Tibetan female tulku Dorje Pakmo, from a fresco on the wall of the Dorje Pakmo monastery (Samding) in Tibet, near the Turquoise Lake. In Tibet the Dorje Pakmo was ranked with the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and Sakya Trizin as the four highest lamas in the country.-from Glenn Mullin
3 weeks ago
The Tibetan female tulku Dorje Pakmo, from a fresco on the wall of the Dorje Pakmo monastery (Samding) in Tibet, near the Turquoise Lake. In Tibet the Dorje Pakmo was ranked with the Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama and Sakya Trizin as the four highest lamas in the country.-from Glenn Mullin
Dharma boy, Mumu boy and Oser girl checking out the scene..cute
4 weeks ago
Dharma boy, Mumu boy and Oser girl checking out the scene..cute
My Dharma boy has such a cute expression here. He is a good boy!
4 weeks ago
My Dharma boy has such a cute expression here. He is a good boy!
February 9,2017-My Mumu boy and Oser girl are just relaxing together..super cute
2 months ago
February 9,2017-My Mumu boy and Oser girl are just relaxing together..super cute
Click on the picture to enlarge and see what Suzy from Hawaii commented on the Dorje Shugden issue after much research. She is very candid and honest. Refreshing. Original is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-4lIwxph4
2 months ago
Click on the picture to enlarge and see what Suzy from Hawaii commented on the Dorje Shugden issue after much research. She is very candid and honest. Refreshing. Original is posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-4lIwxph4
This is a good one to read
2 months ago
This is a good one to read
Mumu is silly and cute and funny
2 months ago
Mumu is silly and cute and funny
Mumu\'s hair is messy and he looks funny
2 months ago
Mumu's hair is messy and he looks funny
I am in the process of creating beautiful Dorje Shugden and Kechara Forest Retreat watches at this time. So we can take precious protector and Kechara Forest Retreat wherever we go and be blessed everytime we see what time it is. 
I am perfecting the designs with a great team and will update when done but these are just some samples that arrived. 
Feast your eyes! 

Tsem Rinpoche
2 months ago
I am in the process of creating beautiful Dorje Shugden and Kechara Forest Retreat watches at this time. So we can take precious protector and Kechara Forest Retreat wherever we go and be blessed everytime we see what time it is. I am perfecting the designs with a great team and will update when done but these are just some samples that arrived. Feast your eyes! Tsem Rinpoche
                        Pick the practice, devotion and precepts of Vajra Yogini\'s path over everything and anything in samsara. Samsara has nothing of value and nothing lasting to offer. You are born in suffering, live in suffering, die in suffering and enter bardo and future lives expecting more sufferings. This is not a negative way of looking at things but the truth. If the truth is negative, so it is the truth. Devote oneself to the guru, dharma work, dharma practice and bringing dharma to others compassionately. Choose to practice Vajra Yogini now with the preliminaries. You can start right now: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/inspiration-worthy-words/starting-on-vajra-yogini-now.html  Much care, Tsem Rinpoche
3 months ago
Pick the practice, devotion and precepts of Vajra Yogini's path over everything and anything in samsara. Samsara has nothing of value and nothing lasting to offer. You are born in suffering, live in suffering, die in suffering and enter bardo and future lives expecting more sufferings. This is not a negative way of looking at things but the truth. If the truth is negative, so it is the truth. Devote oneself to the guru, dharma work, dharma practice and bringing dharma to others compassionately. Choose to practice Vajra Yogini now with the preliminaries. You can start right now: http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/tsem-tulku-rinpoche/inspiration-worthy-words/starting-on-vajra-yogini-now.html Much care, Tsem Rinpoche
Message to Tibetans in English
3 months ago
Message to Tibetans in English
Message to the Tibetans
3 months ago
Message to the Tibetans
Left to right: Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche, Sharpa Choeje Jetsun Lobsang Nyima, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, 101st Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal. Great lamas of Gaden Shartse Monastery
3 months ago
Left to right: Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche, Sharpa Choeje Jetsun Lobsang Nyima, Kyabje Zemey Rinpoche, Kyabje Lati Rinpoche, 101st Gaden Tripa Jetsun Lungrik Namgyal. Great lamas of Gaden Shartse Monastery
A beautiful Indian rendition of Gyenze Dorje Shugden manifesting in wealth form
3 months ago
A beautiful Indian rendition of Gyenze Dorje Shugden manifesting in wealth form
This is my thoughts and determination to share with you. Please open and read. Thank you for your time. Tsem Rinpoche
3 months ago
This is my thoughts and determination to share with you. Please open and read. Thank you for your time. Tsem Rinpoche
Nepalese King Birendra receives His Holiness Panchen Rinpoche in Nepal
3 months ago
Nepalese King Birendra receives His Holiness Panchen Rinpoche in Nepal
Guess what Zava Damdin Rinpoche did in Mongolia recently with 7,800 people??? Very interesting and it is a must read:  http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=116206
3 months ago
Guess what Zava Damdin Rinpoche did in Mongolia recently with 7,800 people??? Very interesting and it is a must read:  http://www.tsemrinpoche.com/?p=116206
This huge Buddha in Korea is magnificent
4 months ago
This huge Buddha in Korea is magnificent
The very first oracle of Dorje Shugden in trance statue. I have commissioned this.
4 months ago
The very first oracle of Dorje Shugden in trance statue. I have commissioned this.
Such a old and ancient thangka painting of Dorje Shugden. He has been around in Tibet practiced for hundreds of years.
4 months ago
Such a old and ancient thangka painting of Dorje Shugden. He has been around in Tibet practiced for hundreds of years.
One of the "Four Exalted Brothers" Avalokiteshvara statues, Phagpa Wati of Kyirong, which is now with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
4 months ago
One of the "Four Exalted Brothers" Avalokiteshvara statues, Phagpa Wati of Kyirong, which is now with H.H. the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
Kyabje Zemey, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche
4 months ago
Kyabje Zemey, Kyabje Zong Rinpoche and Kyabje Pabongka Choktrul Rinpoche
My Oser girl and Mumu boy are so adorable
4 months ago
My Oser girl and Mumu boy are so adorable
Wow this meditator in his cave in front of a painting of Yamantaka draped with a white khata of respect. He sits among bones to remind him of impermanence and our future. The bones inspire him strongly to let go of all attachments in this life and focus on dharma, meditation and liberation and he is doing so. Very beautiful and inspirational. Tsem Rinpoche
4 months ago
Wow this meditator in his cave in front of a painting of Yamantaka draped with a white khata of respect. He sits among bones to remind him of impermanence and our future. The bones inspire him strongly to let go of all attachments in this life and focus on dharma, meditation and liberation and he is doing so. Very beautiful and inspirational. Tsem Rinpoche
Tenzing Norgay found this in Nepal. Guess what it is?
5 months ago
Tenzing Norgay found this in Nepal. Guess what it is?
Sir Edmund Hillary
5 months ago
Sir Edmund Hillary
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Wild natural plants and flowers are my favorite offering. Buddha\'s teachings on meditation and Yidam practice bring the ultimate results and happiness. ~Tsem Rinpoche
5 months ago
Halloween is my favorite holiday. Wild natural plants and flowers are my favorite offering. Buddha's teachings on meditation and Yidam practice bring the ultimate results and happiness. ~Tsem Rinpoche
Previous lives do resemble current lives especially if they are a recognized incarnation. If notice how similar the previous and current Trijang Rinpoche looks. The eyes, bone structure, expression, long neck, thin and overall look. Beautiful. I\'ve seen this phenomena over and over in many Rinpoche incarnations. Especially when you compare them with pictures of previous and current lives at around the same ages. Something powerfully karmic about this. Tsem Rinpoche
6 months ago
Previous lives do resemble current lives especially if they are a recognized incarnation. If notice how similar the previous and current Trijang Rinpoche looks. The eyes, bone structure, expression, long neck, thin and overall look. Beautiful. I've seen this phenomena over and over in many Rinpoche incarnations. Especially when you compare them with pictures of previous and current lives at around the same ages. Something powerfully karmic about this. Tsem Rinpoche
It\'s nice to have monks visitors and resident monks in Kechara
6 months ago
It's nice to have monks visitors and resident monks in Kechara
                         Taken in Lake Champlain in Canada. A huge water monster...neat...
6 months ago
Taken in Lake Champlain in Canada. A huge water monster...neat...
Click on "View All Photos" above to view more images

Videos On The Go

Please click on the images to watch video
  • Please watch this video, it's heartbreaking to see how people have to suffer.
    1 week ago
    Please watch this video, it's heartbreaking to see how people have to suffer.
  • Lady saves puppy from potential abuser
    2 weeks ago
    Lady saves puppy from potential abuser
  • Mr. Denzel Washington is a very intelligent man. Tsem Rinpoche
    2 weeks ago
    Mr. Denzel Washington is a very intelligent man. Tsem Rinpoche
  • Dear friends, please see this educational video on suffering for the sake of others.
    2 weeks ago
    Dear friends, please see this educational video on suffering for the sake of others.
  • A very neat footage of Bigfoot captured by Patterson-Gimlin.
    3 weeks ago
    A very neat footage of Bigfoot captured by Patterson-Gimlin.
  • [11/02/2017] Mumu darling is a very good boy.
    1 month ago
    [11/02/2017] Mumu darling is a very good boy.
  • [11/02/2017] Mumu wants to go bye bye!
    1 month ago
    [11/02/2017] Mumu wants to go bye bye!
  • [11/02/2017] I love you mumu boy
    1 month ago
    [11/02/2017] I love you mumu boy
  • [11/02/2017] Mumu and Oser eating together.
    1 month ago
    [11/02/2017] Mumu and Oser eating together.
  • Great spiritual rock carving in Tibet
    2 months ago
    Great spiritual rock carving in Tibet
  • You will Never be Ready
    3 months ago
    You will Never be Ready
    Dear friends, watch this video and ready, if we keep waiting till we are ready, that day will never come. Tsem Rinpoche
  • Stop asking for Easy
    3 months ago
    Stop asking for Easy
    This video is powerful because it's the truth. It applies to anything. It applies to our dharma practice. Watch the video and share it. Tsem Rinpoche
  • Must Watch this Video!
    4 months ago
    Must Watch this Video!
  • Sacred Tibetan Incense - Nyimo County, Lhasa, Tibet
    5 months ago
    Sacred Tibetan Incense - Nyimo County, Lhasa, Tibet
  • Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche on Samaya
    5 months ago
    Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche on Samaya
    ཁྱེད་ཀྱི་བཀའ་སློབ་དོན་སྙིང་དེ།།གང་གི་རྣ་བར་བདུད་རྩི་མོད།།འོན་ཀྱང་འགའ་ཡི་རྣ་ལམ་དུ།། བྲག་ཆ་བཞིན་དུ་འགྱུར་སྲིད་མོད།། ཚང་མས་ཚར་རེ་གཟིགས་རོགས།། Kyabje Denma Gonsa Rinpoche telling people that it is important to have guru samaya. It use to be that way in the great monasteries. We should not create problems and schisms. If we want to practice a protector, then do so, if not it's okay, but don't make trouble. One should just practice the Buddha Dharma well. To do good practice. If you have faith in Dorje Shugden and trust all the way, he will definitely help you. But most important is to practice the dharma. This is his advice in short here. It's good to let more Tibetans hear this holy speech and appeal by this very senior Rinpoche. TR

ASK A PASTOR


Ask the Pastors

A section for you to clarify your Dharma questions with Kechara’s esteemed pastors.

Just post your name and your question below and one of our pastors will provide you with an answer.

Scroll down and click on "View All Questions" to view archived questions.

  • March 28, 2017 09:11
    Lia asked: If the ushnisha is actually supposed to be a bump, then do we change the visualization of the top knot and replace it with a bump covered in hair or do we keep the ushnisha as the thangkas show?
    No reply yet
  • March 27, 2017 04:19
    Dongho asked: I have been reading on the tunes of certain sects and would like to ask on this. From what I've read, there are certain tunes to each sect and school of certain chants. Exactly where can I find the sheet music for these percussion and horns with the chants, such as to the one for invoking Kache Marpo or Dorje Shugden? Would it be possible to use school instruments for this?
    pastor answered: Dear Dongho, Thank you for your question, it is good to see you back and asking more questions. Yes you are right, there are differences in the tunes and chants between the lineages. The differences can vary significantly between the traditions, for example the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism is known for its extremely deep throat singing which is very powerful and is characterised by a low, booming voice, in contrast to the other traditions. Even within a particular tradition, there can be slight variations as to the manner in which the chants and tunes are performed. For example those monasteries are which are affiliated with Gyume will have one way of throat singing, where those affiliated with Gyuto will have another. As far as I am aware there is no professional sheet music for the rituals, most probably because the music is actually an integral part of the ritual itself. Therefore the music, tunes, and chants are all taught at the same time the ritual and prayers are. The tunes, and use of the instruments all have specific meanings, because they are considered to be offerings to the deities in the form of sound. The monasteries would not have copies of sheet music either, because sheet music is western practice. The use of ritual music within Tibetan Buddhism is more of one based on memory. In the Kechara organisation, the puja team was trained in such ritual instruments at the same time they learnt the particular ritual from monks from the monastery, such as the puja of Dorje Shugden. From what I saw of the training, the musical tunes, and use of instruments was not written down but taught experientially at the same time as the chanting. I have not come across any other instruments being used in pujas apart from the traditional ritual instruments, because even the instruments themselves have a specific meaning. That is not say that school instruments cannot be used. This is because, as long as the offering is sincere, the Buddhas and enlightened deities will accept it, and in turn you will generate great amounts of merit. Offerings should be made to the best of our ability, therefore if you do not have access to the ritual instruments, or do not know how to play them, but you know how to play other instruments, and use these instruments as offerings to the Buddhas during pujas, the amount of merit you generate will be the same. This is because you are sincere with your offering. I hope this helps. Thank you.
  • March 26, 2017 02:14
    Kunga asked: Does the Gelug have Begtse a protector? If so, could you please provide a sadhana for him here?
    pastor answered: Dear Kunga, Yes the Dharma protector Begtse exists within the Gelug tradition. He is also known as Chamsing. Begtse’s practice stems from India and was introduced to Tibet and therefore Tibetan Buddhism by the translator Nyen Lotsawa. Marpa Lotsawa also practiced Begtse, and so the practice exists in the Kagyu traditions. This practice was eventually transmitted to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the first of the five patriarchs of the Sakya tradition, who were the founding fathers of that tradition. Over time the practice of Begtse was incorporated into the Gelug tradition, founded by Lama Tsongkhapa, and was notably practiced by the 1st and 2nd Dalai Lamas. Over time the practice gained popularity within the lineage, especially when it spread to Mongolia. There the practice became an important one within the lineage as upheld there. Begtse is also affectionately known as the Dharma protector of Mongolia, because his practice is so popular there. If I am not mistaken, there is an oracle of Begtse in Mongolia as well. There is a mistaken account that the practice originated around the time of the 3rd Dalai Lama, with the subjugation of a Mongolian war god, but Begtse was definitely practiced before that time in the Gelug, Kagyu and Sakya traditions. While the practice of Begtse is very effective, I have not come across the practice of Begtse in my personal practice, therefore I do not have access to the Begtse sadhana to provide to you. Instead Begtse is propitiated in prayers that incorporate many other Dharma protectors, and Begtse is also considered one of the nine protectors of the Hayagriva (Tamdrin) cycle of tantric teachings. Therefore Begtse is included in the Dharma protector sections of the Hayagriva tantras. Surrounding Begtse are his sister, Sing Ma, and his main minister, Le Khan Mar Po. His inner retinue comprises of eight butchers who wield copper swords in their right hands and skull-cups full of blood in their left hands. They are portrayed as naked and are very ugly. His outer retinue comprises a further twenty-one butchers, who hold copper swords in their right hands, and this time, the entrails of butchered enemies. They wear the skins humans and oxen as clothes, with ornaments made from human bone. While this may seem violent, Begtse is actually a very powerful and beneficial protector, who helps practitioners clear their obstacles and create conducive conditions for their spiritual evolution. I hope this helps. Thank you.
  • March 24, 2017 20:12
    Azair asked: Venerable Rinpoche, I am doing a study in Kalachakra Tantra and I've heard from most of the lama's too that if you practice the Kalachakra Tantra, you'll be able to take control of your next rebirth. Ofcourse, it has been said that we will get our rebirth according to our Karma and desires but whether those dreams will get fulfilled will depend upon the actions that we take in this life. Thus, practicing the Kalachakra(till the end) after initiation will give you the opportunity to take rebirth anywhere you desire regardless of your Karma. My question is that, is there some truth in this statement.? Does this statement hold true for other tantra practices, such as Vajrayogini Tantra, Ghuyasamaja Tantra, Heruka Tantra, etc. I would really really like to know. Thankyou in anticipation, regards, Azair
    pastor answered: Dear Azair, Thank you for your question. Yes there is truth to this statement, both from a scriptural perspective and also by example, as the great masters have shown us. This is a unique feature of all Anuttarayoga Tantras or Highest Yoga Tantras, which Kalachakra, Vajrayogini, Guhyasama and Heruka are all examples of. This category of tantric practice can actually lead a practitioner to full enlightenment in this very lifetime. Even if enlightenment is not reached, very high levels of attainment can be reached nonetheless. This includes the ability to take control over your next rebirth. This is primarily engaged in so that the practitioner is born in an environment where they can eventually pick up their practice and further their spiritual path to enlightenment, or in order to be born in a place where they can benefit sentient beings the most, as part of the spiritual journey over many lifetimes. One of the reasons such an ability is very necessary on the spiritual path, is that usual death and rebirth occurs at the mercy of ones karma, specifically what is known as the ‘throwing karma’ or the karma that dictates what sort of rebirth a person is going to take. This opens up at the time of ordinary death, which most people have no control over. During the death process, many of our disturbing emotions will arise. Whichever of these is the strongest at the point of death triggers open a latent karmic potential, which becomes the ‘throwing karma’ and dictates where we are going to take rebirth and if that life will generally be full of suffering or not. Within Anuttarayoga Tantra, one of the key points of practice is to prepare for one’s death. This is done by simulating the dying process during one’s meditations, so that one becomes familiar with it. At the most pivotal part of this process, one practices achieving either the rainbow body or great bliss (in the case of the father tantras); or clear light (in the case of mother tantras). The tantras themselves are not defined in terms of the gender of the central deity, but by the method used to gain enlightenment. This is either the rainbow body/great bliss (classified as male, therefore labelled ‘father’) or clear light (classified as female, therefore labelled ‘mother’). Non-dual tantras such as the Kalachakra tantra can employ either of the two methods, a mixture of both, or alternate methods. In the case of superior practitioners, due to the power of their practice, they can achieve either of these two methods in their current body. Since they have familiarised themselves with the dying process, and a particular method of practice, they can also achieve enlightenment during their physical death. The great Lama Tsongkhapa is said to have achieved enlightenment at the moment of physical death, using the second of these. For other practitioners, they may not be able to achieve this either in their meditations while they are alive, or during the death process. However because they have familiarised themselves with the dying process, they remain in complete concentration at the time of death, not allowing any disturbing emotions to arise. Due to this level of concentration, meditation and awareness during the dying process, they are able to control where they next take rebirth. This is evident in the tantric scriptures themselves, and the life stories of many masters, who can state exactly where, when and to whom they will take their next rebirth, as they are in full control of the dying and rebirth process. There is a type of meditation called ‘thukdam’ which has been translated into ‘death meditation’. This is a final meditation some masters choose to engage in. During this meditation, the master themselves consciously begin the physical dying process themselves, engage in the meditation of dissolving the winds into the heart centre and remain in the most pivotal part of the death process, the mind of clear light of death. During this point they engage in meditations, either the methods of the father or mother tantras as mentioned previously, and or consciously choose where they are to next take rebirth. They can remain in this death meditation for long periods of time, days at an end, in which their consciousness has not yet left their body, although for all intents and purposes they are dead according to medical science, e.g. they have no heartbeat. At the end of their meditation, a drop of blood will be emitted from their nostril, and their head will slump over a little. Masters who engage in this meditation usually sit in full meditation posture, and their body remain supple and soft even though they have passed away from a medical point of view. I hope this brief explanation helps. Thank you.
  • March 23, 2017 23:01
    Brad asked: What is the significance of offering the Seven precious emblems of royalty to the Buddhas and enlightened Dharma Protectors? What are we symbolically offering up?
    pastor answered: Dear Brad, Thank you for your question. The ‘saptaratna’ or seven precious emblems represent on the one hand the ultimate state of temporal power, and on the other hand the ultimate spiritual attainments that we can achieve. By offering these to the Buddhas, we are actually creating the causes to achieve what they represent. Therefore it is good to know the meaning of each, so we can understand what we are creating the causes for by offering them up: Please see below for an explanation of the seven royal emblems: 1. The Precious Wheel: a thousand spoked wheel, representing the universal power of the Buddhas, as well as the teachings of the thousand Buddhas of our aeon. It is represented by the Dharmachakra, symbolising the ‘turning of the wheel’ or teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path. It is a symbol of a universal emperor’s spiritual and temporal power. It is also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect mindfulness, especially that of our own mind, thoughts, delusions and afflictions. 2. The Precious Jewel: an eight sided wish-granting gem, which fulfils all the needs of a universal emperor. This jewel has eight special qualities: it illuminates the night sky for hundreds of leagues; it is cooling when the temperature is hot and warming when the temperature is cold; it makes manifest whatever the holder wants; when thirsty it causes a fresh-water spring to appear; it has the ability to control the nagas, and other supernatural beings, as well as preventing natural disasters such as storms, floods, etc.; it gives off multi-coloured lighted which heals the various mental and emotional afflictions; it cures all illnesses; and it ensures that one dies a natural death, not an untimely one. It is a symbol of a universal emperor’s spiritual and temporal power. It is also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect mindfulness, or perfect discrimination, so one knows what to abandon and what to keep in the mindstream during the spiritual journey to enlightenment. 3. The Precious Queen: the most beautiful and virtuous of all women. She is described as a goddess who is the epitome of someone: with devotion; without jealousy; who is the embodiment of fertility; who works for the welfare of all beings; who possess feminine wisdom; speaks the truth; not attract to sensual pleasures or material possessions; and does not have false views. She is adored by all. She also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect effort. This is necessary to keep meditating until one gains spiritual attainments. 4. The Precious Minister: who has sharp intelligence, patience, and the ability to give wise counsel to the emperor. He is so attuned to the emperor that even before the emperor has spoken, the minister is already carrying out his command. He only wishes to support the Dharma, help sentient beings, and is an excellent strategist. He also represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect joy. This is also akin to the attainment of the first bodhisattva level, because you have come to an understanding of your own mind, which is like pouring ice-cold water into boiling water. The water stops boiling, as does the thoughts, projections, and delusions in the mind. He represents the path of the bodhisattva. 5. The Precious Elephant: who has the strength of a thousand normal elephants. He is white, with the perfect features that an elephant could have. He is majestic, graceful, and gentle, but in battle is fearsome, fearless and unyielding. He communicates with the emperor through a telepathic link. He represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect adaptability. This is important, as one needs to be able to adapt to the various mental afflictions as they arise, and suitably counter them. 6. The Precious Horse: who has all the marks of a celestial horse. Known as wind-horse, he is able to travel extremely fast, and can circumambulate the entire universe three time in just a single day. He is never fearful or startled, never makes a sound when galloping, and has extremely soft hairs on his body. He represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is single-pointed concentration. This is important because without this form of concentration, once cannot engage in the analytical meditations that lead to an understanding of emptiness, and therefore enlightenment. 7. The Precious General: who has mastered the arts of war and always wins in battle. He wears battle armour and holds many different weapons. He tries to avoid battle, but when necessary fights, and never gives up until he has won. He is fearless, and courageous in carrying out the emperors commands and ensures the emperors army carries out their duties. He represents one of the factors of enlightenment, which is perfect equanimity. This is because he overcomes all warfare, which is akin to the battle between things were are attached to and things we have an aversion for in our minds. In short, what you are offering up is the highest of all temporal treasures and abilities, as well as the entire path of the Dharma. Doing so creates the causes for you to receive all of this on your spiritual journey towards enlightenment. I hope this helps. Thank you.
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Dorje Shugden
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