The Fourth Pakpa Lha, Chokyi Gyelpo

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The Fourth Pakpa Lha, Chokyi Gyelpo b.1605 - d.1643

Name Variants: Chamdo Trirab 16 Pakpa lha 04 Chokyi Gyelpo ; Dorje Pagchok; Pakpa Chogyel; Pakpa Lha Chog Tamchele Nampar Gyelwa Gyatso De; Pakpa Lha Nampar Gyelwa Gyatso De

Pakpa Lha 04 Chokyi Gyelpo ('phags pa chos kyi rgyal po) was born in 1605, the wood-snake year of the tenth sexagenary cycle, in Longpo Topa (long po stod pa). He was the eldest among the three brothers. His father was Tsetar Dondup (tshe thar don grub) and his mother was named Gyalmo (rgyal mo).

According to the tradition, the child had a clear memory of his previous lives; a lama from Karchuck named Ngawang Zangpo (dkar phyug bla ma ngag dbang bzang po), gave the child the name Dorje Pakchok (rdo rje 'phags mchog). When the lama attempted to offer him a drink of chang (home-made beer), the child reportedly exclaimed, “I am not a lama that drinks alcohol! Make tea!” There being no pot for boiling water for tea, the child pressed his finger two stones, creating a concave deep enough for making tea. It is said that his mother took one of the stones as an object of faith and the other piece, which was painted with gold, was preserved in Dengpo Chotri Tang (deng po chos kri thang), a monastery that had been founded by the first Pakpa Lha ('phags pa lha, 1439-1487).

Having been identified as the reincarnation of the Third Pakpa Lha, Tongwa Donden ('phags pa 03 mthong ba don ldan, 1567-1604), at the age of four, in 1608, Chokyi Gyelpo was invited to Tashi Cholung (bkra shis chos lung), a monastery in Nyanpo founded by the First Pakpa Lha, Pakpa Dechen Dorje ('phags pa bde chen rdo rje, 1439-1487). The second Zhiwa Lha, Sanggye Jungne, (zhi ba lha 02 sangs rgyas 'byung gnas, 1543-1620), the fifteenth abbot of Chamdo Jampa Ling (chab mdo byams pa gling), the seat of the previous Pakpa Lha, arrived to greet him with robes, tea-blocks, and other offerings to see the tulku. He also offered him a long-life prayer.

In 1610 Chokyi Gyelpo was invited to visit monasteries in U and Tsang, including Ganden and Drepung, where he offered his "crown hair" (gtsug phud) to the Fourth Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 04 yon tan rgya mtsho, 1589-1617), who gave him the name Pakpa Chok Tamchad Le Nampar Gyelwa Gyatso De ('phags pa phyogs thams cad las rnam par rgyal ba rgya mtsho'i sde), and made a long life prayer.

Chokyi Gyelpo was invited to Tashi Pende (bkra shis phan bde) monastery, but due to disturbances in Kongpo region he shorten his trip with a brief visit to Tashi Cholung and then travelled to Kham. The second Zhiwa Lha, Sanggye Jungne, arrived at Chotri Tang to invite the lama to Chamdo. They travelled together through Gyalsho (rgyal shod), Naksho (nags shod), and Powo (spo bo), and eventually arrived in Chamdo. The abbot granted the tulku novice vows and subsequently gave number of teachings, transmissions, and empowerments in accordance with their heretical tradition.

Accompanied by the second Zhiwa Lha and other few senior lamas, Chokyi Gyelpo visited the king of Beri at his request and gave teachings, transmissions, and empowerments. In return, the king made plentiful offerings to the lamas. While they were at Lhagya Gak (lha rgya 'gag), Chokyi Gyelpo is said to have experienced certain divine indications for establishment of a dharma center there, and subsequently, Lhagya Dratsang (lha rgya grwa tshang) was established.

Soon after their return to Jampa Ling in 1620, Sanggye Jungne passed into nirvana. In his memory, Chokyi Gyelpo supervised the construction of a golden statue of Maitreya and its installation in the middle of the Central Hall of the monastery. He also arranged an extensive prayer festival for the late abbot. Soon after its conclusion Chokyi Gyelpo was enthroned to the seat of abbot of Jampa Ling, at the age of seventeen.

When Chokyi Gyelpo later travelled in U-Tsang, the Fourth Chakra, Ngawang Trinle Zangpo, (lcags ra sprul sku 04 ba ngag dbang phrin las bzang po, 1607-1667) was appointed as abbot for two years (1625-1626). In Lhasa, Cokyi Gyelpo studied at both Ganden and Drepung, this time having an audience with the infant Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso (ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, 1617-1682).

In 1625, at the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, Chokyi Gyelpo received full ordination from the Fourth Paṇchen Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Gyeltsen (paN chen bla ma 04 blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1570-1662). Chokyi Gyelpo offered gold to gild the entire statue of Śākyamuni Buddha and the faces of other statues and made ample additional offerings. The Paṇchen Lama gave Chokyi Gyelpo teachings on the texts including Tsongkhapa's  Lamrimchenmo (lam rim chen mo) and Ngakrimchenmo (sngags rim chen mo), as well as other foundational Geluk treatises. He also gave him initiations and empowerments on Vajramala and so forth. In the meantime, Chokyi Gyelpo visited the three main Geluk monasteries in the Lhasa area, making abundant offerings and received teachings from prominent masters.

Thereafter Chokyi Gyelpo travelled to the Kongpo region and gave teachings and empowerments in many places in the region including his monasteries of Tashi Cholung and Tashi Phende. Moreover, he gave transmission, empowerment and instruction on Cho (gcod) to some senior lamas including Khedrub Shakya Lhawang (mkhas grub shA kya lha dbang, 1586-1655), the First Kondor Tulku. Chokyi Gyelpo remained in Kongpo for some years, further strengthening the Geluk teachings as his previous incarnations had done.

Returning to Jampa Ling, Chokyi Gyelpo assumed the duties of the abbacy. He revised the codes of conducts in the monastery and also other rules and regulations. In the meantime, he invited some highly distinguished scholars to the monastery and received teachings, transmission and empowerment. His tenure is remembered as a particularly fertile period of the monastery.

Towards the end of his tenure the king of Beri, a devotee of Bon religion, began to invade and occupy neighbouring regions, allegedly forcing all Buddhist monasteries to convert to Bon and destroying those that resisted. Because of his previous relations with the king, Chokyi Gyelpo managed to save Chamdo, but he nevertheless reached out to Gushri Khan, the leader of the Mongols, whom certain actors in Lhasa had already invited to invade Tibet to wipe out the Karma Kagyu king of Tsang. In 1639 Gushri Khan swept through Kham, obliterating Beri and clearing vast territory for Geluk conversion. According to Chamdo histories, Gushri called a gathering of prominent Khampa lamas and charged them with obeying the Chamdo Pakpa Lha. The order was documented in writing in a bilingual, Tibetan and Mongolian, edict.

Twenty-three years after having been appointed abbot, Chokyi Gyelpo told the general body of the monastery that they should invite the reincarnation of Sanggye Jungne, the Third Zhiwa Lha, Zhiwa Zangpo (zhi ba lha 03 zhi ba bzang po, 1625-1717) to lead the bi-monthly confession ceremony and other monastic rites, and arranged for him to assume the abbacy of the monastery. Soon thereafter he felt ill and his health deteriorated gradually. He passed away in 1643, at the age of thirty-nine, in water-sheep year of the eleventh sexagenary cycle. Relics from his cremation, which was arranged in accordance with instructions sent by the Paṇchen Lama, were placed in a statue of Amitābha.




Anonymous. 1986. Bod kyi lo rgyus rig gnas dpyad gzhi'i rgyu cha gdams bsgrigs. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang. Vol. 9, pp. 36-44.

Byams pa chos grags. N.d. Chab mdo byams pa gling gi gdan rabs. Chamdo: Chab mdo par 'debs bzo grwa par btab, pp. 270-282, 519

Mkhas grub shAkya lha dbang. 2001 (1640). Zhal snga bka' brgyud kyi thun mong ma yin pa'i chos 'byung. Lhasa: Bod ljongs bod yig dpe rnying dpe skrun khang, p. 205-222.


Samten Chhosphel
June 2010