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The Fourth Tatsak Jedrung, Lhawang Chokyi Gyeltsen

ISSN 2332-077X

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The Fourth Tatsak Jedrung, Lhawang Chokyi Gyeltsen b.1537 - d.1603

Name Variants: Baso Lhawang Chokyi Gyeltsen; Chamdo Trirab 12 Lhawang Chokyi Gyeltsen ; Chokyong Gonpo; Jedrung Lhawang Chokyi Gyeltsen; Pawo Dorje



Jedrung Lhawang Chokyi Gyeltsen (rje drung lha dbang chos kyi rgyal mtshan) was born in 1537, the fire-bird year of the ninth sexagenary cycle, in Shukpuk (shugs phug) in Gungrume (gung ru smad) in Kham. In his childhood, he was called Chokyong Gonpo (chos skyongs mgon po) and also Pawo Dorje (dpa bo rdo rje). His father, Konchok Gyelpo (dkon mchog rgyal po) was described as be a kind and compassionate man whereas mother, Asi (a srid) was said to be an emanation of a wrathful deity. He is said to have had considerable aptitude in reading and writing, and had a strong desire to become a monk, even composing a letter in verse to his parents, at the age of seven, expressing his desire to ordain.

At the age of fourteen Chokyi Gyeltsen was recognized as the reincarnation of Baso Chokyi Gyeltsen (ba so chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1402-1473), a disciple of Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419) and the younger brother of Khedrubje Gelek Pelzang (mkhas grub rje dge legs dpal bzang, 1385-1438). His parents granted him permission to go to Gar (sgar) in Kham to ordain, where he received the name Lhawang Chokyi Gyeltsen with his novice vows.

Thereafter, he studied under the Second Pakpa Lha, Sanggye Pel ('phags pa lha 02 sangs rgyas dpal) who gave him empowerments, transmissions, and instructions. He also received a wide range of teachings and transmissions from Jedrung Ngakrampa Gendun Tashi (rje drung sngags ram pa dge 'dun bkra shis, 1486-1557), the eighth abbot of Chamdo Jampa Ling, and further teachings on various topics from other lamas at that monatery.

Chokyi Gyeltsen later returned to his hometown and spent few years in Japu Monastery (bya phud chos grwa) after which he traveled to U and Tsang where he studied sutra and tantra under a number of great masters including the Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 03 bsod nams rgya mtsho, 1543-1588). He took full ordination at Ganden Monastery under the Twenty-first Ganden Tripa, Gelek Pelzang (dga ldan khri pa 23 dge legs dpal bzang, 1505-1567) and received from him empowerments of Guhyasamāja, Heruka, Yamāntaka, and relating commentaries.

Chokyi Gyeltsen remained in U for eleven years, after which he returned to Kham. He initially served as the lama of Dongak Dargyeling Monastery (mdo sngags dar rgyas gling) and gave extensive teachings on both sutra and tantra. He built a gold statue of Tsongkhapa and also commissioned a golden vessel for the temple.

While Chokyi Gyeltsen was in retreat, Jedrung Sherab Wangpo (rje drung shes rab dbang po, 1500-1586), the eleventh abbot of Chamdo Jampa Ling, summoned him there and requested he assume the abbacy of the monastery. In 1580, at the age of forty-nine, the iron-dragon year of the tenth sexagenary cycle, he was enthroned as the twelfth abbot of Chamdo Jampa Ling.

In 1581, the Third Dalai Lama, was passing through Kham on his return to Tibet from Mongolia. Chokyi Gyeltsen invited the Dalai Lama to take over the abbacy and give teachings, which he did for about six months. The Dalai Lama, who had established Litang Chode, also known as Ganden Tubchen Chokorling (li thang chos sde; dga ldan thub chen chos 'khor gling), the previous year, also reviewed and revised the monastery's code of discipline.

Chokyi Gyeltsen's tenure as abbot is remembered as one of the most successful in terms of administration and education. He built a large statue of Amitāyus and also commissioned large cooking vessels for public assemblies and prayer festivals. There was, however, some discord that the abbot was forced to deal with, as a dispute between Chamdo Lingtod (gling stod) and Lingmed (gling med), two monastic houses within the Jampa Ling, which caused a great deal of distress and turbulence.

Chokyi Gyeltsen invited the Third Pakpa Lha, Tongwa Donden ('phags pa lha 03 mthong ba don ldan, 1567-1604) to Chamdo, arranged his full ordination and gave him empowerment and teachings. He appointed Pakpa Lha as his successor to the seat of abbot in 1594.

In 1595, the wood-sheep year of the tenth sexagenary cycle, Chokyi Gyeltsen left Chamdo for the southern region and entered retreat. The local leader donated a dharma center called the Karsar Chode (mkhar gsar chos sde) where he resided for few years, giving teachings, blessings, and empowerments to the many people who, because of his popularity in teaching and scholarship, sought him out.

Chokyi Gyeltsen passed away at Tatsak Lhundrub Dechen monastery (rta tshag lhun grub bde chen), in southern Kham, at the age of sixty-seven, in 1603, the water-hare year of the tenth sexagenary cycle, on the second day of the ninth Tibetan month. Relics were taken from his cremation ashes, and placed in a marvelous one-storey-high reliquary at the monastery. His reincarnation was identified as Ngawang Chokyi Wangchuk (ngag dbang chos kyi dbang phyug, 1606-1652), who was given the title of Fifth Tatsak Jedrung (rta tshag rje drung). Baso Chokyi Gyeltsen was then enumerated as the First Tatsak Jedrung. A man named Wonpo Lhakyab (dbon po lha skyabs, 1474-1502), who had been the nephew of the First Pakpa Lha, First Pakpa Lha, Dechen Dorje ('phags pa lha 01 bde chen rdo rje, 1439-1489), was given the title of Second Tatsak Jedrung, and a fictional person named Liyul Chogyel (li yul chos rgyal, 1509-1526) was created to bridge the gap between Wonpo Lhakyab and Chokyi Gyeltsen.

 

Sources

 

Byams pa chos grags. N.d. Chab mdo byams pa gling gi gdan rabs. Chamdo: Chab mdo par 'debs bzo grwa par btab, pp. 99-103, 517-518.

Grags pa 'byung gnas. 1992. Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun khang., pp. 1080-1081.

 

Samten Chhosphel
May 2010

 

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