Palyul is one of the six major monasteries of the Nyingma school. The monastery is the seat of the Namcho Terma or Sky Treasure Terma, a teaching hidden by Guru Rinpoche and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal, and discovered by Terton Mingyur Dorje.
the Lineage Holders
and Masters of Palyul
In 1665, the Eleventh Rabjung year of the Wood Snake, the great Vidyadhara Kunzang Sherab (1636-1699), at the age of 30, arrived at the newly built Palyul Monastery to assume his position as the first throne holder of The Palyul Lineage. The successive throne holders and monks of the mother and branch Palyul monasteries practice the vinaya code of ethics as the foundational discipline. Upon this foundation, the second root practice, the mind training of the great vehicle of Mahayana called bodhicitta is placed. The aspirant trains to develop both aspirational and practical bodhicitta for the purpose of benefiting all sentient beings.
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The tradition of practice that these highly disciplined monks strictly enforced has caused The Palyul Lineage to become known as the tradition of accomplishment. This excellent establishment of pure traditional conduct and practice in the Palyul tradition is the result of the strength and kindness of the great Vidyadhara Kunzang Sherab, whose inconceivable compassion, activities and prayers continue to bless us until this present day.
Below is the list tracing the Palyul Dzogchen Linegage:
The 1st Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
When a new monastery was built by King Lhachen Jampa Phuntsog and Trichen Sangye Tanpa, they named it Palyul Namgyal Chanchub Choling and invited Kunzang Sherab to serve as the Head of the new Palyul Monastery. Encouraged by his guru, Terton Mingyur Dorje to fulfil the prophecy on the advent of the Palyul tradition by Guru Padmasambhava, Kunzang Sherab, at the age of thirty, assumed the position of Head of the Palyul Monastery on the eleventh Rabjung year of the Wood Snake (1665A.D.). Through skillful means and compassion, he guided many sentient beings towards the path of Dharma and nurtured a great number of disciples who displayed signs of success in their practices. Several had even actualised the attainment of rainbow body.
On the fifth day of the first month of the year of Earth Rabbit (1699 A.D.), Kunzang Sherab dissolved his body into the pure realm of the ultimate truth at the age of sixty-four. Although it was the coldest month of the year at the time of his passing, the weather suddenly became very warm and spring-like. Shoots sprouted and buds flowered out of season. When his disciples and monks from the monastery performed offering prayers in his honour, many experienced an extended period of clear light awareness. During the subsequent cremation ceremony, clouds of auspicious signs and a rainbow filled the sky. The sarira (bones relics) at the completion of the cremation included the skull embossed with the syllable AH. These sarisas together with the Longsal Terma of Avalokitesvara were placed inside a stupa erected in honour of the Great Vidhyadhara.
The 2nd Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
From the age of eight, Lhundrub Gyatso started to receive all the Namcho empowerments, transmissions and secret instructions from Vidyahara Mingyur Dorje. At sixteen years of age, he went to Palyul Monastery to receive more profound instruction on personal attainment from his uncle, the Vidyadhara Kunzang Sherab. By the time he was twenty-five, he came into direct experience with the true nature of the mind. Under the continued guidance of his uncle Kunzang Sherab who transmitted to him the Secret Oral Transmission lineage, Lhundrub Gyatso advanced his accomplishment with great enthusiastic perseverance. He took on the responsibility of transmitting the sutra and tantra at the Palyul Monastery after Kunzang Sherab dissolved his body into the pure realm of the ultimate truth at the age of sixty-four. At the age of fifty-four, he became the second Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage. Under his charge, propagation of the Buddha Doctrine flourished in all directions.
At the age of sixty-eight, on the tenth day of Saga Dawa in the year of the Fire Sheep (1727), Pema Lhundrub Gyatso entered into a state meditative equipoise, then his body dissolved into the sphere of clear light while loud thunder reverberated and streaks of lightning lit up the sky. During the proceeding of his cremation, treasure vases and wish-granting trees appeared on the sky and the images of deities could be seen clearly in the smoke. A great number of precious sarira (bones relics) was found in the ashes.
The 3rd Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
From his root guru Pema Lhundrub Gyatso, he received all the transmissions and practices belonging to the Palyul lineage. Due to his success in attaining accomplishment in all the teaching he received, he was given the title ‘Drubwang’ which means the Powerful Lord of Accomplishment. When Drubwang Pema Norbu performed the Lama Cham of Vajrakilaya from the Sakya tradition at the palace of Tenpa Tsering the Dharma King of Dege, the audience was astonished to notice that his feet did not appear to touch the ground. At the age of seventy-nine, the first Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche dissolved his mind into the pure sphere of truth. His body was reverently preserved inside a wooden stupa, which was assembled within the private chamber of his residence, and there he remained.
The 4th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
He became the heart disciple of Drubwang Pema Norbu and received all the transmissions and practices of Mahamudra and Dzogchen from his root guru. He was enthroned by Drubwang Pema Norbu as the fourth Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage in the presence of the thirteenth Karmapa Duddul Dorje and the tenth Sharmpa Chodrup Gyatso. With great vision to promote the Dharma to greater heights, he propagated strict doctrine among his disciples and established many retreat facilities within the grounds of the monastery.
At that time, Tsenltha Rabten, King of Gyarong had been at war with China for thirteen years when Karma Tashi was invited to China. A Bonpo lama who served as the guru of King Rabten decided to use his power of black magic to unleash a massive shower of rocks upon the Chinese forces from the sky. Out of compassion for the safety of the Chinese troops, Karma Tashi offered special protection cords to the soldiers to protect them against the ill fortune of war. As a result, not a single soldier who wore his protection cord was harmed and Tsenltha Rabten was defeated. It was an overwhelming victory for China and the Chinese Emperor Chan Lung, in a gesture of gratitude, appointed Karma Tashi as the State Guru of China.
Karma Tashi, also known as Chopal Zangpo, dissolved his mind into the pure realm of truth at the age of sixty-three. The sarira (bones relics) he left behind was preserved within a bronze stupa placed inside the Chag-dra-khang temple of Palyul monastery.
The 5th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
As the fifth Throne Holder of the Palyul lineage, Karma Lhawang had little interest in the running of the monastery. Instead he preferred to immerse himself in the pure nature of practices and spend most of his time in solitary retreat. The day-to-day administrative side of the monastery was left to his disciples Ah Sam and Lama Wangchug, while Karma Dondam, a heart disciple of Karma Tashi was tasked with the maintaining of the lineage of empowerment and transmission.
Karma Lhawang exhibited many signs of pure mind accomplishment consistently throughout his life until it was time for him to depart for the pure realm.
Gyurmed Ngedon Tenzin Palzangpo(1794 – 1851)
The 6th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
Similar to his root guru Karma Lhawang, Karma Gyurmed preferred to spend his time in solitary retreat. His principle Yidam in his Three Root practice was Vajrakilaya and he had frequent visions of the full assembly of all seventy-five deities of his Yidam. In one pure vision, he received a visit by Guru Rinpoche who instructed him to introduce the Mendrub Accomplishment Ceremony (the tantric ritual of making dharma medicine) into the Palyul Monastery. Karma Gyurmed also started the tradition of performing the Lama Cham of the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, on the tenth day of each Losar, in accordance to the pure vision of Guru Chowang (1212-1270).
Karma Gyurmed’s accomplishment in the Dzogpa Chenpo enables his disciples to heighten their insight simply by hearing his voice. He sometimes performed miraculous activities to remove the mental defilements from sentient beings, such as reading the thoughts of their minds and in one case by leaving a foot print indentation in a rock by the hot spring of Tilung.
On the twelfth day of the fifth month of his fifty-eighth year, Karma Gyurmed instructed his disciples to prepare a host of offerings when he became aware of the presence of the Buddhas of the three times around him in every direction. The following day, Karma Gyurmed dissolved his mind into the pure realm of truth. His life-like body shrank to the size of mere eighteen inches in height while the sky was filled with extraordinary cloud formations and rainbows. Gyatrul Rinpoche built for his root guru a temple and a two-storey stupa of gold and copper into which the body of Karma Gyurmed, the second Karma Kuchen Rinpoche was placed.
The 7th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
The young Gyatrul Rinpoche received from Karma Gyurmed all the transmissions of kama and terma of the Palyul tradition, then spent three years in the practice of Ratna Lingpa’s three kaya mind accomplishment. After taking his full ordination (gelong), he spent two years at the Palpung retreat centre with Jamgon Lodro Thaye from whom he received guidance in Sanskrit, poetry and literature. He went on to receive from Jamgon Lodro Thaye other profound transmissions and empowerments such as Rinchen Ter Dzod, Dam Ngag Rinpoche Dzod and Dukhor Wangchen. Gyatrul Rinpoche also received from Jamyang Khentse Wangpo all the transmissions of Longchen Nyingtig, Gyud Lug Phurba, Yonten Dzod and the two traditions of the view and practice of Bodhicitta – that of the ‘Profound View’ passed down from Manjushri, and that of the ‘Vast Conduct’ passed down from Maitreya.
It was said that Gyatrul Rinpoche was watched over by many dharma protectors during his practice. Through his tireless effort and the support of his Yidam, Gyatrul Rinpoche was able to assimilate the understanding of a great number of Buddhist Doctrines and frequently gave the impression of knowing them by heart from memory. He continued to manifest signs of authentic accomplishment and pure awareness in both generation and completion stages of Dzogpa Chenpo. Gyatrul Rinpoche devoted his entire life to propagating Buddha Doctrine. He gave ordination vows to thousands of monks; repeatedly gave many cycles of transmissions and empowerments to countless disciples; printed many scriptures and sponsored the new construction of stupas and temples.
On the twenty-second day of his sixty-second year (1891), Gyatrul Rinpoche entered into a serene state of meditative equipoise and passed into the pure realm. His body was placed within a newly completed two-storey stupa next to the Vajrasattva temple.
Orgyen Do-Ngag Chokyi Nyima (1854 – 1906)
The 8th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
The fourteenth Karmapa gave Do-ngag Chokyi Nyima the Refuge Vow and soon after he was enthroned as the eighth Throne Holder at the Palyul Monastery. After he received the full ordination (gelong), he was given the formal name Orgyen Do-ngag Chokyi Nyima. Transmission from many sources including those of the Palyul tradition were given to Do-ngag Chokyi Nyima by Gyatrul Rinpoche, Washul Lama Sonam Namgyal, Khangnang Lama Tashi Phuntsok, Dzogchen Dorje Rabten, Jamyang Khentsey Wangpo, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Lhatrul Pema Garwang, Drubwang Drodul Pawo Dorje, and many other eminent masters of the time.
Do-ngag Chokyi Nyima’s mind was full of compassion for all sentient beings. Much as he wished to be in solitary retreat, he opted instead to follow his root guru Gyatrul Rinpoche’s advice and devoted his life to propagating Buddha Doctrine. Regardless of how busy was his schedule, his personal practice started daily without fail at three in the morning. His successful attainment of having the mind inseparable from the four elements enabled him to performed many extraordinary deeds, which were deemed as miraculous by others.
In the fifteenth Rabjung year of the Fire Horse (1906), Chokyi Nyima dissolved into the pure realm of clear light. He was fifty-three years old. During the cremation ceremony, cloud formations resembling large tents manifested across an otherwise cloudless sky, accompanied by a mild shower of light rain. A large number of sarira (bones relics) were found on the ground. These were gathered together and placed within a stupa of gold and copper that was constructed to the left of the Avalokitesvara temple.
Pema Kunzang Tenzin Norbu (Thubten Chokyi Langpo) (1887 – 1932)
The 9th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
The second Pema Norbu was a scholar unequalled by his contemporaries. He was extensively schooled in the study of medicine, astrology, geomancy, poetry, Sanskrit, sand mandala construction and the ritual of chanting. He dedicated his life to propagating the Buddha Doctrine in a diversity of dharma activities. When he was not in solitary retreat, he tirelessly gave teaching to students, sponsored the new construction of temples and shedras, commissioned new printing blocks for the production of dharma texts, and made numerous generous offerings to support the sanghas of other monasteries.
In the autumn of 1931, the Second Drubwang Pema Norbu went into retreat at Khachu Trag. It was there he fell ill after he ate some food of questionable origin. His health gradually deteriorated. On the third day of the third month of the sixteenth Rabjung year of the Water Monkey (1932), his mind entered into a meditative state of dhyana. He was forty-six years old. Khenpo Ngaga made many prayers wishing the second Drubwang Pema Norbu a swift rebirth and after some time awakened his heart disciple from the absorptive state of samadhi. At the cremation ceremony a few days later, the earth shook; rainbows filled the sky; wafts of fragrance were in the air, while ritual music materialised of its own accord. The precious sarira (bones relics) of the second Drubwang Pema Norbu was placed inside a one-storey golden stupa that was constructed next to the main temple.
The 10th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
When Thegchog Nyingpo was fifty-one years of age, he decided it was time for him to pass beyond this world and transferred his life essence into the body of rainbow luminescence leaving nothing tangible behind. Twelve years later, in the Rabjung year of the Iron Dog (1970), the incarnation of Thegchog Nyingpo, the fifth Karma Kuchan Rinpoche was born in South India. He was recognised and confirmed by H.H. the Third Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche and H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche. The fifth Karma Kuchan Rinpoche was duly enthroned as a tulku and began his study of Buddhist Doctrine at the Namdroling Monastery. On the 14th of August 2000, the fifth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche was formerly enthroned at the main seat of Palyul Monastery in Tibet.
The 11th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
The 12th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
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