Namkhai Nyingpo

ISSN 2332-077X

Print this Biography
Cite this biography

Namkhai Nyingpo b.750?

Name Variants: Nub Namkhai Nyingpo

Namkhai Nyingpo (nam mkha'i snying po) was born at Nyang Karda Shampo (nyang dkar mda' sham bu), into the Nub (gnubs / snubs) clan. He was part of the first group of seven Tibetans who were ordained by Śāntarakṣita, and is counted as one of the twenty-five disciples of Padmasambhava.

He was sent to India alongside Vairocana, where he studied Yangdak Heruka under the siddha Humkara. Returning to Tibet, he was slandered by the pro-Bon ministers and exiled to southern Tibet. The ministers demanded his death, but Namkhai Nyingpo had previously cured the King of an illness, and so the King spared his life, exiling him instead to Lhodrak (lho brag). While he was living in a cave there, his brother, a poor farmer, asked him for some seeds to plant. Namkhai Nyingpo had none, but feeling his brother's shame, he gave him some pebbles and told him: “Throw these pebbles on the field, and at least pretend you are planting something.” His brother did as instructed and the next summer he produced the best crop in the valley.

He was one of the co-authors, together with Kawa Peltsek (ska ba dpal brtsegs, d.u.), of the Denkarma (ldan dkar ma) catalog of Buddhist scriptures done in the early ninth century under imperial orders.

Working with Yeshe Tsogyel, Namkhai Nyingpo is credited with concealing scripture for later revelation. Along with Gyelwa Jangchub (rgyal ba byang chub, d.u.) he transcribed and concealed the biography of Yeshe Tsogyel, revealed by Taksham Nuden Dorje (stag sham nus ldan rdo rje) in the seventeenth century.

According to legend, he once dropped his rosary while flying through the air. When he swooped down to the valley to pick it up, he left imprints of his five fingers in the earth. Flowers sprang out of these imprints, where stupas later appeared, built by ḍākinīs. When Namkhai Nyingpo departed for the celestial pure land, not a trace of his body remained behind.

His reincarnations include Changchub Lingpa (byang chub gling pa), Katok Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu (kaH thog rig 'dzin tshe dbang nor bu), and Kangyur Rinpoche Longchen Yeshe Dorje (bka' 'gyur rin po che klong chen ye shes rdo rje).




Smith, Gene. 2006. “Siddha Groups and the Mahasiddhas in the Art and Literature of Tibet”. In Holy Madness: Portraits of Tantric Siddhas. New York: Rubin Museum of Art, p. 71.

Tarthang Tulku. 1975. Bringing the Teachings Alive. Cazadero, CA: Dharma Publishing.

Bradburn, Leslie, ed. 1995. Masters of the Nyingma Lineage. Cazadero: Dharma Publications, 1995, pp. 40-41.

Dudjom Rinpoche. 2002. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein, trans. Boston: Wisdom.

Gu ru bkra shis. 1990. Gu bkra'i chos 'byung. Beijing: Krung go'i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, p. 168.


Arthur Mandelbaum
August 2007