The Seventh Zhiwa Lha, Ngawang Trinle Tendzin Khenrab

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The Seventh Zhiwa Lha, Ngawang Trinle Tendzin Khenrab b.1925

Name Variants: Ngawang Khenrab; Seventh Zhiwa Lha; Zhiwa Lha 07 Ngawang Khenrab; Zhizang Rinpoche; Zizang Dunpa

The Seventh Zhiwa Lha, Ngawang Trinle Tendzin Khenrab (zhi ba lha 07 ngag dbang 'dzin 'phrin las bstan 'dzin mkhyen rab) was born in 1925, the wood-ox year of the fifteenth sexagenary cycle, in the Dakpo region (dwags po khul). His identification as the Sixth Zhiwa Lha is said to have been confirmed through use of the Golden Urn in front of the Jowo statue in the Jokhang in Lhasa by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Tubten Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 13 rgyal ba thub bstan rgya mtsho, 1876 -1933). Subsequently, the tulku offered his "crown hair" (gtsug phud) to him as token of his renunciation.

Soon after the Seventh Zhiwa Lha was escorted to Chamdo Jampa Ling and brought to the residence called Dechen Samten Choling in Seng Dzong (seng rdzong gzim khang bde chen bsam gtan chos gling). There Gelek Samten (dge legs bsam gtan) taught him reading and writing, memorization of daily prayer texts, and trained him in the duties and comportment of tulkus. This scholar also granted him an initiation on Yangchenma (dbyangs can ma) and an empowerment on the Oral Lineage of Cakrasaṃvara and other tantric subjects. Kadha Tritul Rinpoche Ngawang Lobzang Khedrub Gyatso (ka mda' khri sprul rin po che ngag dbang blo bzang mkhas grub rgya mtsho) granted him vows of novice monk (dge tshul). When the First Pabongkha, Dechen Nyingpo (pha bong kha 01 bde chen snying po, 1878–1941) was in Chamdo in the 1930s giving extensive teachings the Seventh Zhiwa Lha attended.

In 1938, at the age of about thirteen, the Seventh Zhiwa Lha travelled to Lhasa and enrolled in the Khenyen House of of the Sera Tekchenling Monastic University (se ra theg chen gling gi byes mkhas snyan grwa tshang). Geshe Lawa Kuni (dge bshes la ba khu ni) served the tulku as his main tutor for his studies in the five great traditional texts of the geshe course. He completed the course and obtained his Geshe Lharampa (dge bshes lha ram pa) title­ in 1945. While studying his regular courses, he also received a great deal of teachings, initiation, empowerment, and instructions from the high lamas including the regent of Tibet (from 1941 to 1951), the Third Takdrak Tritrul, Ngawang Sungrab Tutob (stag brag khri sprul 03 ngag dbang gsung rab mthu stobs); the First Pabongkha; and the Third Trijang Rinpoche, Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso (khri byang 03 blo bzang ye shes bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, 1900-1981), the junior tutor to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tendzin Gyatso, (ta la'i bla ma 14 bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, b. July 06, 1935). Trijang Rinpoche gave him his final monk's vows.

In 1945, after the completion of his course of studies in Sera Monastery, the Seventh Zhiwa Lha returned to Chamdo Jampa Ling. In the following year Tsultrim Drakpa (tshul khrims grags pa), the General Treasurer of Chamdo, resigned and the Zhiwa Lha was appointed to the post. During his tenure in the office he restored the tradition of the annual prayer festival (smon lam), feast offering (mchod 'bul) and offerings to the dharmapelas (bka' srung dges mchod) that were discontinued when the entire monastery was destroyed by the Chinese force in 1912. He also commenced the major restoration of the lama residence of the monastery.

When Chinese Communist forces entered Chamdo in 1950 on their way to Lhasa the Seventh Zhiwa Lha worked with Ngapo Ngawang Jigme (nga phod ngag dbang 'jigs med, 1910-2009), the newly-installed Tibetan governor-general of Chamdo, to avoid destruction. Some sources have it that the Zhiwa Lha accepted appointment to Communist offices.

In 1954, the Zhiwa Lha arranged the reception, stay, and departure ceremonies of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama who passed through Chamdo on his way to China to meet with Mao Zedong.

In the following year the Zhiwa Lha invited Trijang Rinpoche, then on his way back to Lhasa, to his residence at Jampa Ling. There Trijang Rinpoche gave oral transmission and teaching on the Lamrim Nyurlam Martri (lam rim nyur lam dmar khrid) to about four thousand people for fourteen days. Trijang Rinpoche gave other teachings and initiations and also inspected the debating sessions of various classes of philosophical courses in the monastery. The Zhiwa Lha also invited Ling Rinpoche Tubten Luntok Tendzin Trinle (gling rin po che thub bstan lung rtogs bstan 'dzin 'phrin las, 1903-1983), the senior tutor of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and honored him with the best hospitality. Both tutors were traveling with the Dalai Lama.

In 1959 the Zhiwa Lha travelled to Lhasa to arrange for ceremonies on behalf of his disciples, the Eleventh Pakpa Lha, Gelek Namgyel ('phags pa lha 11 dge legs rnam rgyal, b. 1940), on the occasion of earning his Geshe Lharampa degree. During the chaos that followed the flight of the Dalai Lama to India and the Chinese annexation of Tibet, the Seventh Zhiwa Lha went missing, and nothing more is known of his life. Some sources suggest that he took a wife to survive the later purges of incarnate lamas, but this is not certain.

In 1980 a boy named Tendzin Lobzang Chopel was born a family living in Switzerland and identified as the Eighth Zhiwa Lha (zhi ba lha 08 bstan 'dzin blo bzang chos 'phel). He was brought to Sera Monastery in South India for training.




Anonymous. 1986. Bod kyi lo rgyus rig gnas dpyad gzhi'i rgyu cha gdams bsgrigs. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang. Vol. 9, pp 199

Byams pa chos grags. N.d. Chab mdo byams pa gling gi gdan rabs. Chamdo: Chab mdo par 'debs bzo grwa par btab, pp. 377-380


Samten Chhosphel
July 2010