The Khön family from which the Sakya lineage has descended is known by three special names, each of which tell a story. Because the family is descended from Gods of the Realm of Clear Light who entered the human realm, the family came to be known as the “Celestial Race.” Then because this family subjugated the raksas, a class of harmful spirits, they were called “the Family of Conquerors.” Finally, because they also established the Sakya Order, they were known as “The Sakyapa Lineage.”
In more recent times, because the palace of the lineage to which the present Sakya Trizin belongs was built next to the turquoise Tara shrine at the Sakya Monastery in Tibet, this divine family also came to be known as the “Drolma Phodrang” or “Tara Palace” lineage.
Since this celestial race descended upon earth over one thousand years ago, the lineage remains unbroken to this day. Many illustrious masters and practitioners have appeared in the lineage including the Five Great Masters of the Sakya Order. His Holiness, the previous throne holder of the Sakya tradition, is the 41st in an unbroken lineage that dates back to 1073 A.D.
His Holiness was born on the 7th of September 1945, the 1st day of the 8th Lunar month in the year of the Wood Bird at the Sakya palace in Tsedong. Immediately after his birth, in accordance with age old traditions to increase his wisdom, the syllable DHIH was traced on his tongue and profound rituals were performed. Many signs traditionally associated with auspiciousness were observed on this day: the milk collected from a 100 different dri (female yaks) and a statue of the Guru Padmasambhava were miraculously offered to the Palace.
Initially given the Sanskrit name Ayu Vajra, His Holiness was only later given his actual name of Ngawang Kunga Thegchen Palbar Trinley Samphel Wangyi Gyalpo, when his father Vajradhara Ngawang Kunga Rinchen gave him his first major initiation, that of the Nine Deities of Amitayus. When His Holiness was only four years old, he received the major initiation of the peaceful and wrathful aspects of Vajrakilaya and many other profound teachings from his father.
His Holiness lost both his mother and father when he was very young. His maternal aunt then dedicated herself to raising His Holiness. She appointed his first tutor with whom His Holiness learned to read, write, memorize and recite basic prayers. He also learned chanting, music, ritual dancing, mudras, and so forth from his junior tutor. Both tutors taught His Holiness how to perform all the rituals and prayers in the traditions of both the northern and southern Sakya monasteries. At the conclusion of these studies, a great celebration was held, in which His Holiness officially entered the Mahayana and Vajrayana Monasteries to perform the traditional Sakya ceremonies. In 1950, at the age of five, his main root Guru, the great Ngor abbot Vajradhara Ngawang Lödron Shenphen Nyingpo bestowed upon him the Lamdre and other profound teachings.
In 1951, His Holiness made a pilgrimage to Lhasa , where he was designated the throne Holder of the Sakya Order by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Accordingly, the following year, a preliminary enthronement ceremony was held in which he accepted the official Sakya seals. Even at this early age, he was exceptionally intelligent and skilled in fulfilling his responsibilities. At the tender age of seven, he passed an extensive oral examination on the Hevajra root tantra at the Great Sakya monastery. At the Ngor monastery, the Great Ngor abbot and his root guru bestowed upon him both the common and uncommon Lamdre teachings. In 1953, in response to his root guru’s expressed intention to enter into Mahaparinirvana, His Holiness performed his first long life initiation of Amitayus at Ngor monastery and also undertook his first Hevajra meditation retreat in Sakya. His Holiness was then only eight years old.
The following year His Holiness received the initiation and reading transmission of the “Collection of Sadhanas” from Ngawang Tenzin Nyingpoi, the regent of Vajradhara Ngawang Lodro Shenphen Nyingpo. He also received the initiation and profound oral instructions of the Three Red Deities and the two main Protectors of the Sakya Order from Lama Ngawang Lodro Rinpoche. He also presided over an elaborate Vajrakilaya Ritual in the main Sakya monastery. At the age of ten, His Holiness again made a pilgrimage to Lhasa , where he received religious instructions in the Potala from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Before a large audience, His Holiness gave an extensive explanation of the Mandala Offering, which caused his wisdom to be proclaimed throughout Tibet. On a pilgrimage to India he received many initiations and teachings belonging to the Sakya Tradition, as well as the Great Perfection and Dzogchen Teachings form Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro. In 1957, His Holiness received the Lamdre Teachings again, this time from the great abbot Vajradhara Khenchen Jampal Sangpo according to the Khon lineage transmission.
The preparatory ritual proceeding the official enthronement of His Holiness as the Sakya Trizin was performed in 1958. That year His Holiness also performed the Blessing Pill and Local Deity Rituals, as well as the extensive Vajrakilaya Ritual. In 1959, following a seven day Mahakala ritual, His Holiness was formally enthroned as the throne Holder of Sakya in an elaborate three day ceremony with the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in attendance. On that occasion, he bestowed an explanation of the “Illumination of the Sage’s Intent” to the assembly of Sangha, guests and lay followers.
Following the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, His Holiness moved to India, established the Sakya Guru monastery in Darjeeling and began the major task of reassembling the Sakya community. In exile he continued to receive extensive philosophical teachings in Logic, Abhidharma, the Prajnaparamita and the Clarification of the Three Vows from great scholars such as Khenpo Dosep Thubten, Khenpo Serjong Appey and Khenpo Rinchen. From Khenpo Serjong Appey, he received a thorough and detailed explanation of the Hevajra Root Tantra and many other related teachings. From H.E. Phende Khen Rinpoche, who was also one of His Holiness’ root Gurus, he received the initiation and explanation of Yamantaka in the Ra Lotsawas tradition, as well as the collected writings of Ngorchen Konchok Lhundup.
In 1962, at the age of seventeen, His Holiness gave his first Hevajra initiation in Kalimpong. After moving to Mussoorie, in 1963 he set about to re-establish the main seat of the Sakya Order in nearby Rajpur. The assembly of Sakya monks were relocated to the newly established Sakya Centre, where he gave many profound teachings and initiations. In the same year for the very first time, His Holiness gave the precious Lamdre teachings in Sarnath, Varanasi . A year later, he established the Sakya settlement, in Puruwala, Himachal Pradesh, for the lay members of the Sakya community.
In order to maintain the tradition of the Khön family lineage, His Holiness married Dagmo Tashi Lhakee in 1974. Within the year they celebrated the auspicious birth of their elder son Ratna Vajra. In the meantime His Holiness made his first teaching tour of Europe, America and various countries in Asia . In 1976 His Holiness gave his second Lamdre teachings at the Sakya Centre. The following year, at the request of H.E. Luding Khen Rinpoche, His Holiness taught the “Collection of Sadhanas” at the Matho monastery in Ladakh. In 1977, he again gave teachings throughout Asia, Europe and the United States . Two years later, in 1979, his younger son Gyana Vajra was born.
In 1980, His Holiness performed the opening ceremony of the main Sakya monastery, Thubten Namgyal Ling, in Puruwala, and bestowed his first Lamdre Lobshed teachings. In 1982, His Holiness the Dalai Lama paid an official visit to the monastery and bestowed many teachings. From Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, His Holiness also received the uncommon Tsarpa tradition of Lamdre teachings and the Jonang tradition of “The Hundred Explanations.” A year later His Holiness performed a special long life ceremony for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.
He once again taught widely in Asia and Europe in 1984. At Sakya Tsechen Ling in France he gave the Lamdre Lobshed teachings for the second time. The following year His Holiness consecrated the Maitreya temple in Kathmandu at the request of Chogye Trichen Rinpoche. At the end of that year he attended the Kalachakra initiation given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya.
In 1986, His Holiness once again gave the uncommon Lamdre teachings at the Sakya College to an assembly of monks and western Dharma disciples. In 1988 His Holiness presided over the consecration of the newly built Ngorpa Centre in Manduwala. His Holiness remained there for several months in order to bestow over thirty major initiations of the Sakya tradition. The next year at the request of his many disciples in Europe, the United States and Canada , he traveled to each of the Sakya Dharma Centers there giving extensive teachings. Since then for the benefit of the Buddha Dharma and for his disciples, His Holiness has bestowed numerous initiations, teachings and public talks, traveling extensively worldwide to do so.
In this way, just as water is poured from one vase to another, His Holiness has received all the profound teachings of the Sakya tradition and many of the teachings and transmissions of other lineages from numerous teachers of the other traditions, and has passed them on to his disciples around the world.
In order to promote higher education and extensive philosophical training, as well as to maintain the living transmission of the Sakya teachings, His Holiness has established the Sakya College in Rajpur and the Sakya Institute in Puruwala. For the benefit of the Sakya nuns, His Holiness established the Sakya Nunnery in Dekyiling, Dehradun where over 170 nuns are receiving religious instructions. This way, through His Holiness’ wisdom and insight, His Holiness has revitalized both the Sutric and Tantric traditions of the Sakya Order in particular and that of Tibetan Buddhism in general and ensured the continuity of Buddha Dharma.
Source (edited): www.hhthesakyatrizin.org
His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trizin Rinpoche
His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trizin Rinpoche
Chair of the Board of Directors
His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trizin Rinpoche is one of the most important lineage holders of the Khön family, whose successive generations have provided an unbroken lineage of outstanding masters.
From birth, Rinpoche was the recipient of blessings, empowerments, initiations, and teachings from his Root Guru Vajradhara His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche and from many of the foremost masters and scholars of the age, including His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the late His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, His Eminence Luding Khenchen Rinpoche, and the late His Eminence Dezhung Rinpoche.
From 1980 to 1981, Rinpoche received for the first time the cycle of the precious uncommon Lamdre teachings from His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche. On October 8, 1981, in the presence of His Holiness his tutor, and prominent members of the Sakya Centre, Rinpoche took his first oral examination on the Remembrance of the Triple Gem, The Three Heap Sutra, The Confession Sutra, the Extended Lineage Guru’s Prayers and other texts. He then embarked on the basic monastic curriculum of studies, consisting of Tibetan reading, writing, grammar, memorization, and recitation of basic prayers, and rituals. In 1986 he performed his first retreat on Vajrapani Bhutadamara together with his mother, Her Eminence Gylyum Kushok.
In September 1987, when Rinpoche was 12 years old, he passed the challenging Vajrakilaya examination at the Sakya Centre and spent the following years pursuing the study of rituals according to the Sakya Tradition. In 1990, he joined Sakya College, where he spent years studying Buddhist philosophy under notable teachers, including the late Khenpo Migmar Tsering. While at Sakya College, Rinpoche distinguished himself through his academic excellence and passed all his examinations with distinction. In 1998, he graduated with a Kachupa degree, the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree in Buddhist philosophy.
Rinpoche has performed many retreats on the principal deities of the Sakya tradition and has presided over numerous ritual ceremonies in India, Nepal, and abroad. He has also given teachings and empowerments worldwide. Rinpoche is considered to be one of the most highly qualified masters of both the esoteric and exoteric teachings of philosophy and meditation according to the Sakya Order. He is renowned for his erudition and the clarity of his teaching.
Source (edited): www.hhthesakyatrizin.org
H.E. Luding Khenchen Rinpoche
His Eminence Kyabje Dorje Chang Luding Khenchen Jamyang Tenpei Nyima Rinpoche is one of the most highly respected and learned teachers of the Sakya tradtion and of Tibetan Buddhism at large. It is believed that H.E Luding Khenchen Rinpoche is an emanation of Vajrapani. His Eminence is the Head of the Ngor Lineage, one of the two sub-sects of the Sakya tradition. He was born to the clan of Shang, Sharchen or Ludingpa, which is renowned for producing great scholars and siddhas.
At the age of ten, according to the Luding lineage, H.E Luding Khenchen Rinpoche was ordained as a monk by his uncle and root Guru, the most gracious Khenchen Sharchen Jamyang Thupten Lungtok Gyaltsen Palsangpo. His Eminence then spent all his time learning and receiving instructions on Lamdre, The Seven Mandalas of Ngor tradition, The Thirteen Golden Dharmas and countless other initiations and teachings. His Eminence stayed on innumerable major and minor retreats, practicing almost all the deities of the Sakya and the Ngor traditions. At the age of seventeen, His Eminence stayed on a three-and-half year continuous retreat, practicing mainly on the sadhana of Hevajra and other major deities.
At the age of 24 in 1954, His Eminence was enthroned as the 75th abbot of Ngor Ewan Chodan Monastery. The position of the Head Abbot of Ngor was traditionally held for a 3-year period, in which extensive teachings are given, almost non-stop, of which Lamdre and the Seven Mandalas of the Ngor were the main teachings. Normally the 3-year period as head abbot of Ngor monastery alternates between its four Ngor Houses (Ladrangs), Luding, Khangsar, Thartse and Phende. After the year of 1959, the Ngor Lineage was continued by the Ngor Abbot H.E Luding Khenchen Rinpoche in India. His Eminence has effectively led and maintained the Ngor School up to 16th March 2000, when he handed the Abbotship to his nephew H.E Luding Khen Rinpoche (current abbot of Ngor Monastery).
In 1959 His Eminence arrived in Darjeeling, India, close to the Indo-Tibetan border and in 1961 he propagated the Ngor Lineage in Gangtok, Sikkim. In 1978 until the present day H.E Luding Khenchen Rinpoche established the Ngor Ewam Chodan Monastery, a Sub-sect of the Sakya Tradition, in northern India where His Eminence has been residing for the last 25 years.
His Eminence has contributed greatly to the Buddhadharma by bestowing extensive Dharma teachings, empowerments, oral transmissions and re-establishing summer retreats in almost all of the Sakya Monasteries in India, Nepal and other Sakya centres around the world. He has given the precious Lam Dre teachings both common and uncommon 15 times, a countless number of initiations and teachings on the Thirteen Golden Dharmas of the Sakya tradition, the Seven Mandalas of the Ngor tradition, and major and minor deities of the Sakya and Ngor traditions.
Source (edited): www.ludingfoundation.org
H.E. Jetsun Chimey Luding Rinpoche
H.E. Sakya Jetsun Chimey Luding Rinpoche, the highest and most thoroughly trained female Buddhist teacher, was born into the Drolma Podrang, or Tara Palace of the Sakya Khön family in 1938, the year of the earth tiger. She began her dharma studies at the age of five. His Holiness, the 41st Sakya Trizin, was born when she was six years old. According to the tradition in her family, she took novice ordination when she was “old enough to scare crows away” at the age of seven. When she was ten years old, she made her first retreat. She meditated on the form of Vajrapani known as Bhutadamara, and in one month completed one million recitations of the short mantra, HUM VAJRA PHAT, and one hundred thousand recitations of the long mantra. In her eleventh year, her father, Kunga Rinchen, sent her on her first teaching assignment. She spent the fourth through the tenth Tibetan months among the nomads on the northern plains of Tibet , giving transmissions and teachings on Phowa, or transference of consciousness, as well as conducting torma offerings, performing lhasang, or incense offerings, and giving other teachings and empowerments. The third woman in the history of Tibet to have transmitted the Lamdre (the Path and Fruit) teachings, a fully accomplished guru and lineage holder, she is known for her teachings on Vajrayogini and is considered an emanation of that yidam of enlightened feminine energy.
Jetsun Kushok Rinpoche’s younger brother had died when she was four years old. Her mother died in 1948 when Jetsun was nine and His Holiness two. Their younger sister died in 1951 at age eight and their father died less than a month later, during an epidemic in Sakya. This meant that the teachings that would normally be conferred by their father would have to be offered by another guru. Their aunt took them to Ngor, where they received the Lamdre from the great Kangsar abbot, Ngawang Lodro Shenpen Nyingpo, Dampa Rinpoche.
In 1952, following the Dalai Lama’s recognition of her brother as the Sakya Trizin, their original plan to take teaching from the great Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro in Kham had to be altered since His Holiness could not venture too far away from Sakya and his duties. Instead, they went again to the great abbot of Ngor, Dampa Rinpoche, who lived closer by, for the Lamdre Lobshe (the intimate transmission of the Path and its Fruition), teachings central to the Sakya lineage. Unfortunately, he died before he could complete this transmission, and that task was taken over by the Kangsar Shabdrung, Ngawang Lodro Tenzin Ngingpo. Jetsun relates that from the time the Dalai Lama conferred recognition on her brother, ” His Holiness and I were constantly in each other’s company, and wherever he went, I went and I was always with him.”
From this time on until they fled to India they received the same teachings and made the same retreats. At the same time that she and His Holiness received the Lamdre Lobshe transmissions from the Kangsar abbots, they also received lung or scriptural transmissions for the biography of Ngorchen Kunchok Lhundrup from the Ngor abbot of the Phende house, Phende Khenpo, Ngawang Khedrup Gyatso. This was 1953.
In 1954 they received the transmission of the Druptap Kuntu from the Khangsar Shabdrung, Ngawang Lodro Tenzin Nyingpo. (The Druptap Kuntu is a large collection of empowerments and sadhanas from all four classes of tantra, compiled in the 19th century by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, and his principle student, Jamyang Loter Wangpo).
When Jetsunma was sixteen, she and His Holiness undertook the full retreat of Hevajra. Their teacher also went into retreat with them. Although they did the retreat in separate rooms, they kept contact through notes passed back and forth, and began on the same day and ended on the same day. They performed all the requisite recitations of the different Hevajra mantras, as well as the mantras of Nairatmya. They remained in this retreat for seven and a half months, and followed it with a one month retreat on Vajra Garuda, during which she recited the mantra one million, five hundred thousand times. When they had finished this retreat, Jetsun Kushok’s aunt requested her to do a seven-day retreat on Ling Gesar in order to develop her powers of divination by foreseeing the future in a mirror, and she completed this also.
Soon after she left this retreat, in 1955, a crowd of monks from Kham arrived in Sakya, and requested the Lamdre teachings from His Holiness, who because of his own schedule was unable to accommodate them. Their aunt then urged Jetsun Kushok, who was then sixteen, to give the teaching herself. The Lamdre is a complete cycle which encompasses the full range of Buddhist teachings, from Hinayana through Mahayana and up to and including Vajrayana. It revolves around the central mandala or the Virupa transmission of Hevajra. Jetsun Kushok bestowed the short version of the Lamdre by Ngawang Chodruk, as well as the lung for all the various practices and ceremonies connected with the Sakya lineage. The whole teaching lasted around three months. Thus she became the third woman in Sakya history to have transmitted the Lamdre, and in 1956 when she and His Holiness went to Lhasa to receive the middle-length teaching on the Lam Rim from the Dalai Lama, she headed the procession, crowned with the Sakya hat worn by high Sakya lineage holders and proceeded by a golden umbrella.
It was also in 1956 that she and His Holiness received the full Nyingma transmissions of Long Chen Nying Tik from Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, who was in Lhasa at that time. Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro came to Sakya later that year to give them the Chak Mey Nam Zhi, or the Four Uninterrupted Practices, which those who have received the full Lamdre teachings are supposed to practice on a daily basis. They are: 1)The Lam Dus Hevajra sadhana, 2) the Vajrayogini sadhana, 3) the Bir Sung or Virupa Protection meditation, and 4) the Lam Zap or Profound Path Guruyoga meditation.
In early 1957, Jetsun Kushok, her brother, and entourage went to India on a pilgrimage at the same time as the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama went to India. It was here that she fist conceived the idea of learning English in a Western-style school, but her teacher was scandalized and wouldn’t hear of it. In 1958, her brother was enthroned at Sakya as His Holiness the Sakya Trizin. Several months after that, after the obvious loss of Tibet to the Communist Chinese, Jetsun Kushok, His Holiness, their aunt, and a handful of attendants fled to India .
In India, Jetsun Kushok describes herself as being quite a tomboy. She studied the Nang Sum (the three visions) and the Dom Sum Rabye (the vows of Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana) by Sakya Pandita. However, it became increasingly difficult for her live with the outer discipline of a nun in India without the support of monastic life. She found herself the object of ridicule and scorn because of her shaved head and robes, and after consulting the Dalai Lama and her brother, decided to give back her robes, although she continued in the inner deportment of a nun.
She began taking English lessons from a Christian missionary, and there met Luding Sey Kusho, who was the brother of Ngor Luding Khen. Since the Luding succession is a blood lineage, and the Luding family was an offshoot of the Sakya Khon family, her aunt and several older family attendants conceived of the plan that she should marry Sey Kushok. While she refused at first, she was convinced at last, since a male child of their union was needed to become the Luding Shabdrung. She was married to Rinchen Luding in 1964.
Their third child, a son born in 1967, was different from the others. Jetsun Kushok reports that he didn’t cry like the other children and that he would wake up and amuse himself by making mudras with his hands and mumbling to himself as though he were reciting texts. When he was three or four, he showed real interest in becoming a monk and took delight in being around ordained people. When there were religious ceremonies he would far prefer attending them than playing with other children. This was the child that became the Luding Shabdrung.
Leaving the four-year-old Shabdrung Rinpoche behind in the care of his uncles, H.E. Sakya Jetsun Rinpoche went with her husband and three young sons to Canada and settled on a farm as laborers in Taber, Alberta in 1971. In 1973 they came to Vancouver, British Columbia. They now live in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver.
At first she did not teach at all, needing to care for her young family and earn a living. However, when His Holiness and Dezhung Rinpoche began teaching in New York, they were repeatedly asked about authentic, living, women lineage holders. They both requested her to begin teaching again. Since then she has founded a dharma center in Vancouver, Sakya Thubten Tsechen Ling, and another in Oakland, California, Sakya Dechen Ling. She visits the other member centers of Palden Sakya (the association of Sakya Dharma Centers in the United States), in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and the Sakya centers in Minneapolis and Washington D.C . She has also taught in Europe, Singapore, and Hawaii.