The First Dzogchen Ponlob, Namkha Osel

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The First Dzogchen Ponlob, Namkha Osel d.1726

Name Variants: Dzogchen Namkha Osel ; Dzogchen Ponlob Namkha Osel ; Namkha Osel; Ponlob Namkha Osel ; Tukse Tuwo Ponlob Namkha Osel

Dzogchen Ponlob Namkha Osel (rdzogs chen dpon slob nam mkha' 'od gsal) was born in Naksho (nag shod) in Kham in early second half of the seventeenth century. His father, Sertsa Drubtob (ser tsha grub thob), a renowned tantric yogi, gave him the name Lodro (blo gros).

At a young age he received Mahāmudrā teachings and instructions, including the Ro-nyom Chodruk (ro snyoms chos drug), the Naro Chodruk (nA ro chos brug), and the Rechung Nyengyu (ras chung snyan brgyud) from a Kagyu teacher who may or may not have been the great scholar Karma Chakme (kar+ma chags med, 1613-1678), who was the teacher and patron of the treasure revealer Namcho Mingyur Dorje (gnam chos mi 'gyur rdo rje, 1645-1667).

He then practiced the teachings he had received on energy-channel, energy-wind, and the subtle mind and wandered widely, visiting and practicing at pilgrimage sites such as Tsari, in southern Tibet.

Back in Kham, at Samtendrak (bsam gtan brag) in Kharwa (mkhar ba) he met another disciple of Karma Chakme, Pema Rigdzin, the First Dzogchen Drubwang (grub dbang rdzogs chen 01 pad+ma rig 'dzin, 1625-1697). Pema Rigdzin became his primary master, and gave him extensive Nyingma teachings over the course of his life. He also received transmission of the Khandro Nyingtik (mkha' 'gro snying thig) from the Second Bakha, Chokyi Gyatso (rba kha 02 chos kyi rgya mtsho, d.u.) and Terchen Nyima Drakpa (gter chen nyi ma grags pa, 1647-1710), both disciples of Pema Rigdzin.

He spent many years in intensive retreat in secluded caves undergoing many hardships, after which he took the name Namkha Osel meaning “Illuminating the Sky”; he is said to have gained the ability to know the level of attainment of others and to control the elements of his body.

In 1684 Namkha Osel assisted Pema Rigdzin in establishing a hermitage called Orgyen Samten Choling (o rgyan bsam gtan gling) — later Dzogchen Monastery -- in the valley of Rudam Kyitram (ru dam skyid khram), to the northeast of the Dege capital. This was done with the support of Sanggye Tenpa (sangs rgyas bstan pa), the third abbot of Lhundrubteng and the son of Lupel (klu phel, d.u.), the thirty-seventh generation of the kings of Dege. The leader of Lingtsang, Gonpo Lhundrub (gling tshang mgon po lhun grub) also contributed funds for construction.

In 1697, while Namkha Osel was in retreat in a cave called Mokhyim Pukpa (mo khyim phug pa), Pema Rigdzin summoned him to Dzogchen and announced that he would soon pass into nirvana and invested his disciple with the abbacy of the monastery.

As the second abbot of Dzogchen Namkha Osel established the retreat center and established the annual teaching schedule, teaching Khandro Nyingtik himself each year. He also instituted the observance of the Vinaya.

Among Namkha Osel's main disciples were the Second Dzogchen Drubwang, Gyurme Teckchok Tendzin (rdzogs chen 02 'gyur med theg mchog bstan 'dzin, 1669-1758), whom he identified as a young boy, and his own nephew, Jewon Pema Kundrol Namgyel (rje dbon pad+ma kun grol rnam rgyal, b. 1706.). Other disciples included Kelzang Wangden (skal bzang dbang ldan, 1673-1757); Nyima Drakpa's son Orgyen Tendzin (o rgyan bstan 'dzin. d.u.) and his reincarnation, the Second Nyidrak, Pema Tekchok Tenpai Gyeltsen (nyi grags 02 pad+ma theg mchog bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1712-1771). He had large number of disciples in Miyak (mi nyag), Gyelrong (rgyal rong), Golok (mgo log), Nyakrong (nyag rong), Dzaling (rdza gling), Uper and Lower Hor (hor stod smad) and so forth.

Later in the life, he established Lekgon Sangchen Mindroling Monastery (legs dgon gsang chen smin grol gling) in Dzakok (rdza khog) to accommodate his ever increasing number of disciples.

He visited and gave extensive teachings at Takmogang (stag mo sgang), the seat monastery of Nyima Drakpa and also revised their monastic codes.

Namkha Osel's passed into nirvana in 1726, the fire-horse year of the twelfth sexagenary cycle. His heart, tongue, and eyeballs were said to have been found intact in the ashes of his cremation along with other relics. He was succeeded on the throne of Dzogchen by Second Dzogchen Rinpoche.

His reincarnation was identified in Pema Sangngak Tendzin (padma gsang ngag bstan 'dzin, 1731-1805), who was given the title of Dzogchen Ponlob, a title that has been retroactively applied to Namkha Osel.




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Samten Chhosphel
August 2011