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:

Vidhyadhara Kunzang Sherab (1636 – 1699)
The 1st Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
Kunzang Sherab was born in the province of Do-Kham in the region of Bubor on the eleventh Rabjung year of the Fire Rat (1636 A.D.). He showed great capacity of compassion as a small child and would not cause harm to even the smallest creature under any circumstances. His connection to Dharma is so strong that he could memorize a great score of prayers at a tender age. With enthusiastic effort, he applied himself diligently in his practice and in the process actualised realisation of the instruction he received and showed signs of accomplishment in his practice.

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.

Pema Lhundrub Gyatso (1660 – 1727)
The 2nd Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
Pema Lhundrub Gyatso was born in the province of Do Kham in a place known as Seng-gang in the eleven Rabjung year of the Iron Rat (1660). His birth was prophesised in Terton Duddul Lingpa Vajrakilaya Terma as the reincarnation of Sogpo Lhapal, one of the twenty-five disciples of Guru Rinpoche.

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 First Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche (1679 – 1757)
The 3rd Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
The birth of the first Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche as an emanation of the great Pandit Vimalamitra and the Vidyadhara Terton Jatson Nyingpo was prophesised in Terton Jatson Nyingpo’s Ma-ning revelation. He was born in Chagril near the town of Ahchog in the eleventh Rabjung year of the Earth Sheep (1679).

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 First Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, Karma Tashi (1728 – 1791)
The 4th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
The first Karma Kuchen was born as Karma Tashi in the twelfth Rabjung year of the Earth Monkey (1728) in the town of Ahchog in Do-Kham. His birth was foretold in many prophecies. He was recognised as the incarnation of the condensed essence of many Great Vidyadharas of the past. Karma Tashi himself recalled that he was a manifestation of Mingyur Dorje. Other revelations acknowledged him as the body emanation of Kundrol Namgyal, the speech emanation of Kathog Drimed Shing Kyong and the mind emanation of Duddul Dorje.

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.

Karma Lhawang
The 5th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
Karma Lhawang was the nephew of Kunzang Sherab. He exhibited signs of recognising the true nature of the mind and demonstrated adept attainment in Dharma practice since childhood. His early years were spent at his uncle’s former quarters atop the Dzong-nang mountain where his root guru Karma Tashi transmitted to him all the teachings and essential practices of the Palyul tradition.

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.

The Second Karma Kuchen Rinpoche,
Gyurmed Ngedon Tenzin Palzangpo(1794 – 1851)

The 6th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
Karma Gyurmed was born at the foothill of Me-Chu Gang in Me Shod in the thirteenth Rabjung year of the Wood Tiger(1794). His birth was prophesised by Duddul Lingpa’s Terma revelation. Acting in accordance to the advice of the thirteenth Karmapa Duddul Dorje, the monks of the Palyul Monastery were able to identify the reincarnation of Karma Tashi, the First Karma Kunchen Rinpoche. After Karma Gyurmed was enthroned at Tai Situ Rinpoche’s Palpung Monastery, he started his study of Buddha Doctrine in earnest. The range of transmissions Karma Gyurmed received included those of the kama and terma of the Palyul tradition, the Kham tradition, the Longchen Nyingtig tradition, the Kathog tradition, the Dzogchen tradition, the Jigmed Lingpa tradition, the Duddul Lingpa revelation, and many others. Karma Gyurmed went on to incorporate the Longchen Nyingtig’s Three Roots practice of Lama, Yidam and Khandro into the Palyul tradition.

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.

Pema Do-Ngag Tenzin Ngesang Chokyi Nangwa (Gyatrul Rinpoche) (1830 – 1891)
The 7th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
Gyatrul Rinpoche was born amid many extraordinary phenomena into the household of a Chinese Emperor’s minister in Gyalmo Tsawai-rong in the fourteenth Rabjung year of Iron Tiger (1830). His birth was prophesised in Terton Sangngag Lingpa’s revelation. Since the young boy exhibited signs of pure awareness and demonstrated accomplishment in Tse Lung (Subtle Energy Qigong) from an early age, Karma Gyurmed had no trouble recognising him as the incarnation of Kunzang Sherab. Blessed with incredible faculties in reading, writing and perception, the young Gyatrul Rinpoche could remember the many incarnations from his past life as Rongton Shung-Gya, Shakya Gyaltsen and Kunzang Sherab. He could also give an accurate description of the Palyul Monastery from memory of his previous life. At ten years of age, he received the Namcho Ngondro practice from Lama Sangye Yeshe. Two years later, he arrived at the Palyul Monastery and was duly enthroned.

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.

The Third Karma Kuchen Rinpoche,
Orgyen Do-Ngag Chokyi Nyima (1854 – 1906)

The 8th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
The third Karma Kunchen Rinpoche Do-ngag Chokyi Nyima was born in Ahlo Khateng in the fourteenth Rabjung year of the Wood Tiger (1854). His birth was prophesised by a letter left behind by Karma Gyurmed, which clearly indicated the location of the birth. As befitted the birth of a great lama, light of rainbow colours suffused the sky and awe-inspiring resonances echoed through the air.

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.

The Second Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche,
Pema Kunzang Tenzin Norbu (Thubten Chokyi Langpo) (1887 – 1932)

The 9th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
The second Drubwang Pema Norbu was born in the fifteenth Rabjung year of the Fire Pig (1887) under the exact circumstances as prophesised by the first Pema Norbu. When he was seven years of age, he was taken to the Palyul Monastery where he received a full range of transmissions and empowerments from Do-ngag Chokyi Nyima, Palpung Lama Tashi Chophel, Khenpo Gyalsten Odser, and other eminent Lamas of the time. He received full ordination (gelong) from his root guru Khenpo Ngawang Palzangpo and was given the formal name Thubten Chokyi Langpo. Under the guidance of his root guru, the Second Pema Norbu actualised the full potential of Dzogchen Togyal and exhibited signs of having attained the view of the clear light, which exists in all phenomenon. He went on to receive Longchen Nyingtig transmission from Drodul Pawao Dorje, the Peaceful and Wrathful Manjursri transmission from Mipham Rinpoche, and the Chog-gyur Lingpa Thugdrub transmission from Jamgon Khomtrul Rinpoche. The devotion of the Second Pema Norbu to Do-ngag Chokyi Nyima was of such strength that even after the third Karma Kunchen Rinpoche had passed beyond this world, his precious guru still returned in a dream and gave the second Pema Norbu the entire transmission of the Kagyed Desheg Dupa.

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 Fourth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, Thegchog Nyingpo (1908 – 1958)
The 10th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
The fourth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, Thegchog Nyingpo was born in the fifteenth Rabjung year of the Earth Monkey (1908). He was recognised in accordance with the prophecy of the fifteenth Karmapa Khakyab Dorje and authenticated by Drodul Lama Azom Drugpa. After being enthroned as the tenth Throne Holder at the Palyul Monastery, he began his study in sutra and tantra and received all the lineage transmissions from the second Drubwang Pema Norbu, the Dzogchen Khenpo Rigdzin Odzer, Jamgon Tai Situ Pema Wangchog Gyalpo, Drodul Lama Azom Drugpa and Kathog Khenpo Legshed Jordan. He excelled in all the teachings he received and attained an all-encompassing mind that merged with the true nature of transcendental reality. Soon after the completion of a three-year retreat during which his main practice was Ratna Lingpa’s Three Kaya Accomplishment, Thegchog Nyingpo commenced his service to all sentient beings by giving teachings, transmissions and empowerments to a multitude of followers. During his lifetime, he commissioned the making of many thangkas and statues, having scores of Dharma texts printed, old temples renovated, new constructions erected, and gave generous support to a many sangha communities elsewhere.

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.

HH Kyabje Drubwang Penor Rinpoche (1932–2009)
The 11th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
HH Penor Rinpoche was born in Kham, Tibet in 1932 and passed away at Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe, India in 2009. In those all too brief 78 years he was raised, educated, trained in and accomplished the highest traditions and practices of Tibetan Buddhism to become the 11th throne holder of the Palyul lineage until the time of his death. He was also the supreme throne holder of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism from 1993-2001. As a refugee in South India after leaving Tibet in 1961, he and a handful of monks set about constructing a new monastery, Namdroling Monestary, now one of the largest outside of Tibet. Moreover, His Holiness travelled the world tirelessly, inspiring students, establishing Palyul centers, and preserving and promoting Tibetan Buddhism from Asia to Europe to North America to Australia. He sat in his final meditation on March 27, 2009 and displayed many miracles at that time. He will always be remembered for his ceaseless care for all beings, borne by the two wings of pure compassion and perfect wisdom.

HH the Fifth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche
The 12th Throne Holder of the Palyul Lineage
HH the Fifth Karma Kuchen Rinpoche was recognized by HH Dujom Rinpoche and HH Penor Rinpoche as the unmistaken incarnation of the previous Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, Karma Thegchog Nyingpo. He was invited to Namdroling Monastery where Penor Rinpoche looked after him and provided him with basic religious education. Karma Kuchen Rinpoche excelled in all the monastic training and mastered all the traditional knowledge of the Palyul Lineage. He also received numerous Nyingma Teachings from great masters such as HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and HH Penor Rinpoche. He was appointed by HH Penor Rinpoche as the Head of the Palyul Mother Monastery in Tibet in 1994. On 14 August 2000, he was formally enthroned as the lineage holder of the Palyul Tradition and is now the 12th throne holder of the Palyul Lineage. He is considered an embodiment of pure conduct in degenerate times due to his strict observance of the vows of a monk.

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