Chime Tenpai Nyima

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Chime Tenpai Nyima b.1756

Name Variants: Moldrung Chime Tenpai Nyima; Neri Rikpai Paṇḍita Jampa Kunga Tashi; Rikmo Drung

Peer reviewed

Jetsunma Chime Tenpai Nyima (rje btsun ma 'chi med bstan pa'i nyi ma) was born in Sakya, Tibet.  Her father was Ngawang Tutob Wangchuk (nga dbang mthu stobs dbang phyug), who is the younger brother of the famous Sachen Kunga Lodro (sa chen kun dga' blo gros, 1729-1783), the Thirty-first Sakya Tridzin, and her mother was Tsemo Tashi Yangchen (sras mo bkra shis yang chen), from a Gerpa (sger pa) family. She was born in 1756, the fire-mouse year of the thirteenth sexagenary cycle, on the twenty-second day of the eleventh Tibetan month. She was given the name Chime Butri ('chi med bu khrid).       

From a very young age, she studied with her illustrious paternal uncle, Kunga Lodro. According to tradition, Kunga Lodro had a vision of Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (ngor chen kun dga' bzang po, 1382-1456), the founder of Ngor Ewaṁ Choden Monastery, who prophesized that he, Kunga Lodro, would have four pillar and eight beam disciples; Chime Bukhri would be one of the pillars, meaning that she would be one of the closest disciples who would carry on his teachings.   

Sachen Kunga Lodro bestowed on her the important and essential transmissions of both the Lamdre Tsokshe (lam 'bras tshogs bshad) and Lobshe (lam 'bras slob bshad) and all of the teachings concerning Vajrayoginī.  He bestowed on her many major empowerments including the Sarvavid Vairocana (kun rig rnam par snang mdzad), which is part of Sarvadurgatipariśodhana Tantra that is performed when a person is recently deceased. She became very learned and a holder of different religious master lineages including “Parting from the Four Attachments” (zhan pa bzhi bral) and the principal Vajrayoginī  teaching cycle.  In the Sakya Vajrayoginī lineage, she is the only female master. (Because lineages records include only part of her name -- Tenpai Nyima -- without the epithet of nun or Jetsunma, it is not widely known that the lineage includes a female master.)             

When she was twenty-six years old, in 1782, she took novice vows (śrāmaṇera) from the twenty-fifth abbot of the Sakya Lhakhang Chenmo, Jampa Chokyi Tashi (byams pa chos kyi bkra shis, d.u.) who gave her the ordination name by which she has come to be known, Chime Tenpai Nyima. 

In the next year, 1783, her main teacher, Kunga Lodro died.  As a holder of the Vajrayoginī teachings, she was requested to recite the Vajrayoginī prayers and accompanying offerings for forty-nine days after his death. Having the honor of being selected as a young woman to perform these important prayers and rituals indicated her mastery. 

Her main disciple was Derge Drubpon Ngawang Rinchen (sde sge sgrub dpon ngag dbang rin chen, d.u.).  According to tradition, she gave him the Vajrayoginī teachings late in her life, when she could no longer see well; her vision improved as she gave the teachings, and she told him, “Seeing a Lama like you in Tibet restored my eyesight.”  It is said that when she gave him the Vajrayoginī blessing (byin brlabs), during the inner blessing ritual (nang mchod) the ambrosia in the cup started to boil spontaneously. As Derge Drubpon Ngawang Rinchen drank much of the bubbling ambrosia, his understanding of emptiness expanded.

Her reputation spread across the Tibetan plateau, and she came to be regarded as an emanation of Vajrayoginī. She had numerous disciples all over Tibet.  She gave most of the Sakya Khon family members the Lamdre Tsokshe and Lobshe as well as the Vajrayoginī teachings. These members included the Thirty-third Sakya Tridzin and founder of the Dolma Palace in Sakya, Pema Dudul (padma bdud 'dul, 1792-1853); his son, Tashi Rinchen (bkra shis rin chen, 1824-1865) who became the Thirty-fifth Sakya Tridzin; and his daughter, Jetsunma Kelzang Tsultrim Wangmo (rje btsun ma skal bzang tshul khrims dbang mo, d.u.). She also taught the Thirty-fourth Sakya Tridzin, the founder of the Puntsok Palace, Dorje Rinchen, also known as Kunga Rinchen  (rdo rje rin chen / kun dga' rin chen, 1819-1867); and his son, Ngawang Kunga Sonam (sngags dbang kun dga' bsod nam, 1842-1882), who became the Thirty-sixth Sakya Tridzin. Other disciples included the brother (by another mother) of Pema Dudul and Dorje Rinchen, Ngawang Kunga Gyeltsen (sngags dbang kun dga' rgyal mtshan, 1792-1841); the forty-fourth abbot of Ngor Tartse, Jampa Namkhai Chime (byams pa nam mkha' 'chi med, 1765-1820); and his nephew, the forty-seventh abbot of Ngor Tartse, Jampa Kunga Tendzin (byams pa kun dga' bstan 'dzin, 1776-1862) and many others.

Her last residence was the Rigdzin Palace (rig 'dzin pho brang), which was located near the Lhakhang Chenmo (lha khang chen mo) in Sakya. It is unclear when she died but she must have lived a long life since among her disciples included four Sakya Tridzin with the youngest born in 1842. Her life span was such that she was commonly called Rikmo Dung (rig mo'u drung), or Old Noble Woman of the Rigdzin Palace.

Following her death a memorial statue of Vajrayoginī with a beautiful silver crown and ornaments inlaid with precious gems was made to contain her relics, which was installed in the Lhakhang Chenmo at Sakya. She is remembered as a great siddha and an emanation of Vajrayoginī.




Drag shul 'phrin las rin chen. 1992. Sa skya'i gdung rabs ngo mtshar rin chen kun 'phel. Chendu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang. W27310


Elisabeth Benard
August 2012