The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

The Special Qualities of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche

by Tenzin
November 1, 2018
Thu, 11/01/2018 - 11:12 -- Tenzin

 He always acted in the most humble manner, free of any pretense or arrogance


Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche had forsaken all inferior motivations. He had overcome any sense of self-cherishing, and his great compassion was free from the defects of lassitude and agitation. He also accomplished the realization of bliss and emptiness through the completion stage and mastered the meditations for causing the winds to enter, abide, and dissolve within the central channel. Furthermore, when Trijang Rinpoche was twenty-five, he traveled to an amazing place in Chatreng, the abode of Avalokiteśvara called Protectors of the Three Lineages at Gangkar (Gangkar Riksum Gonpo). Each year, on the fifteenth day of the fourth month (Vaiśākha), a spring of water spontaneously emerged. During his visit, again and again, the sounds of various musical instruments could be heard. Also, on the tenth day of the twelfth month during the special month of Cakrasaṃvara and Vajrayoginī called Puṣya—a time when the ḍākinīs congregate—Trijang Rinpoche performed self-initiation in the sindūra mandala of Vajrayoginī and performed an extensive tsok offering, and while in a state of meditation, he completely stopped breathing, during which time his attendants and disciples made as many prostrations and supplications as possible. When he commenced breathing again, he immediately began singing songs of spiritual realizations, one of which began:

The powerful conqueror Je Losang

dwells in the pure Dharma land of Ganden,

inseparable from the kind Śrī Cakrasaṃvara—Dechen Nyingpo—

who remains on anthers of the eight-petalled lotus of my heart.

This was a clear indication that he had mastered the realization of the exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness by causing the winds to enter, abide, and dissolve within the central channel. Later, when he was twenty-seven, he sang more songs of spiritual realization while presenting a tsok offering in conjunction with Cakrasaṃvara at Kampo Mountain—a sacred site of Heruka Cakrasaṃvara in Dome Kampo—at which time the sound of ḍākas and ḍākinīs singing spontaneous vajra songs arose together with the sound of instruments.

Concerning his good qualities of training in wisdom, he had the wisdom that realizes the ultimate mode of existence of all phenomena, conventional wisdom such as the knowledge of the five sciences, and wisdom understanding the various ways of benefiting living beings according to their various dispositions. He had also fully mastered the wisdoms of explaining, debating, and composing as well as the profound, clear, great, and quick wisdoms. He had both innate and acquired wisdom due to his vast experience in listening, contemplating, and meditating. In short, he was the embodiment of wisdom that is matched only by fully enlightened beings revealing the aspect of great scholars. He had absolutely perfect reliance upon his own spiritual masters through his realization of the proper way to rely upon one’s guru as presented in such texts as the Marvelous Array Sutra and the Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path. Trijang Rinpoche himself had said that he had one hundred root gurus but that, among his root gurus, Kyabje Phabongkha was his primary guru. This is similar to the way in which Atiśa held Serlingpa as his primary guru out of his 157 gurus.

With regard to his studies of sutra and tantra, he had grasped all the teachings of the Conqueror embodied in scripture and realization. Seeing the great importance of hearing many teachings, he studied the great texts, debated their meaning, and eliminated uncertainties whereby he came to grasp the true intent of the scriptures of sutra and tantra. Through combining view, meditation, and action—or in other words, the three higher trainings—he studied at Ganden Shartse Monastery, where he received the highest degree available, that of a lharam geshe. Afterward he went to Gyuto Tantric College and studied the four classes of tantra in general and highest yoga tantra in particular. Among the highest yoga tantric practices, he mastered the root and explanatory tantras of Guhyasamāja and the commentaries composed by Tibetan and Indian masters.

Concerning the way he attained the state of an unparalleled scholar of explanation, debate, and composition, his qualities of explanation are without compare and are free from all faults; he was an outstanding debater, and his teachings perfectly reveal the true intent of the great scriptures, such as those composed by Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva, Candrakīrti, Asaṅga, and others. Above all, he was the foremost exponent of the profound teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa and his disciples. Whatever he taught was supremely effective for the mind, and were you to ask his disciples, they would all leave his discourses having received exactly what was needed to transform their minds. He always acted in the most humble manner, free of any pretense or arrogance. Although he never revealed any of his realizations or good qualities, one only needed to listen to his profound expositions to immediately understand the depth of his knowledge and realization.

Some of his more well-known disciples include His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche, Drepung Gomang Kangyurwa Chenpo Losang Donden, Kumbum Minyak Rinpoche, Kyabje Simok Rinpoche, Drupwang Geshe Losang Samdrup Rinpoche, Rato Chubar Rinpoche, Gashar Song Rinpoche, Gashar Dzeme Rinpoche, the Second Phabongkha Rinpoche, Sera Me Gyalrong Khentrul, Sera Me Dagyab Rinpoche, Assistant Tutor Serkong Rinpoche, and countless other lamas and geshes too many to mention, “like the host of stars in the sky,” as we say in Tibetan.

As for Trijang Rinpoche’s writings, his collected works fill eight volumes and cover a wide variety of topics, such as the stages of the path, commentaries and sādhanas on both the action tantra practice of White Tārā Wish-Fulfilling Wheel and the highest yoga tantra practice of Cittamaṇi Tārā, various Dharma protectors, the practices of Cakrasaṃvara, and many other minor domains of knowledge. He is known for his spontaneous composition of brilliant poetic verses on any topic.

With regard to his moral discipline, he saw that maintaining pure moral discipline is extremely important and is the foundation of all paths to enlightenment. He perfectly maintained the prātimokṣa vows as set forth in the Vinaya, the bodhisattva vows and conduct as set forth in such texts as the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, and the tantric vows as set forth in such texts as Je Tsongkhapa’s Cluster of Attainments. Thus, without any sense of self-concern, he maintained the three sets of vows, thereby setting a perfect example for his faithful disciples to emulate. Dedicating his entire life to others, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche lived and breathed the peerless path to enlightenment as revealed by all the previous enlightened beings, not wavering even for an instant.

To give a few examples of his magical powers,in 1958, when my parents were returning to Lhasa after his father had completed his tour of duty as the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Bureau of the Dalai Lama in Beijing, my sister made requests to Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche for divinations and prayers. Trijang Rinpoche responded by indicating that there would be some obstacles on the day the party reached Lhasa. In order to avert hindrances, Trijang Rinpoche suggested having a number of sixty-four-part torma rituals performed in conjunction with the protector Dharmarāja. My sister invited a group of monks from Gyume Tantric College to perform the ritual offering. Of course, on the day they approached Lhasa, as they were crossing the narrow Kuru Bridge on the outskirts of Lhasa, passing motor vehicles startled the horses, causing them to become frantic. Apart from a few minor injuries, the party made it safely to the Rampa House. My family members were extraordinarily grateful to Trijang Rinpoche for his compassionate advice and display of his foreknowledge that guided them home safely that day.

Another fascinating story is told by the father of Lama Kunga, the nobleman Tsipon Shuguba, in his book In the Presence of My Enemies. When Lama Kunga was first born, he was on the brink of death, so his father invited Trijang Rinpoche to come to their home and say prayers on behalf of his ailing son. It seemed certain that the tiny infant that was to become Lama Kunga would pass from this world at any moment. Before beginning the ritual, Trijang Rinpoche said, “If you give me your son, I will save his life.” It seemed as though Rinpoche may have just been joking, but after a few moments of intense meditation, the child began to exhibit signs of a complete recovery. Afterward Rinpoche strongly suggested that the father send the boy to be a monk at any monastery, it didn’t matter which tradition. Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche gave this boy his name Losang Kunga Gyurme. Lama Kunga to this day lives as the spiritual director of Ngor Ewam Choden Sakya Center in Kensington, California.

Some of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s previous lives include Buddha Śākyamuni’s charioteer Candaka, Arhat Madhughoṣa, Candrakīrti, Atiśa, the Eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, and many others. There were many prophecies made about Trijang Rinpoche stating that he was in fact an emanation of Padmasambhava, Je Tsongkhapa, Atiśa, and others.


An excerpt from The Magical Play of Illusion: The Autobiography of Trijang Rinpoche

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