The First Gangteng, Pema Trinle

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The First Gangteng, Pema Trinle b.1564 - d.1642

Name Variants: Gangteng 01; Gangteng 01 Pema Trinle; Gyelse Pema Trinle; Peling Gyelse 01 Pema Trinle

The First Gangteng Tulku, Peling Gyelse Pema Trinle (sgang teng 01 pad gling rgyal sras pad+ma 'phrin las) was born in 1564, the male wood-mouse year. His father was Yanpa Lode (yan pa blo bde, 1536-1597), a student of Dawa Gyeltsen (zla ba rgyal mtshan, 1499-1587), who was the son of Terton Pema Lingpa (gter ston pad+ma gling pa, 1450-1521). His mother, the daughter of local ruler of Chokhor (chos 'khor) in Bumthang (bum thang), was named Butri (bu khrid, d.u.). It is said that he was able to narrate stories of a previous life, Khenchen Tsultrim Penjor (mkhan chen tshul khrims dpal 'byor, d.u.), a disciple of Pema Lingpa.

His father declared that the young tulku would be the lineage holder of his grandfather Pema Lingpa in terms of his activity, and was accordingly named Pema Trinle, "trinle" meaning "activity." Receiving transmission from his father, he took full ordination as a monk in a ceremony presided over by the abbot Rinchen Sherab (rin chen shes rab, d.u.) and other monks.

As a young man Pema Trinle is said to have displayed many miracles, such as leaving the imprint of his hand and foot prints in rock. He is engaged in treasure revelation, producing self-arisen image of Padmasambhava as Guru Tsokyi Dorje (guru mtsho skyid rdo rje) from the stone of Yarlam Tsenpai Drakarpo (yar lam mtshon pa'i brag dkar po). This statue is presently at Gangteng Monastery (sgang steng dgon pa).

According to legend, Pema Lingpa had foretold the place to build the majestic Gangteng Monastery, even going to far as to bless the site. Pema Trinle identified the spot and established the monastery, overseeing the installation of all necessary objects of faith.

Pema Trinle later visited and re-consecrated monasteries, including the Tang Khendrap Lhakhang (stangs khan grab lha khang), Chel Tekchok Chokhor Tsuklakhang (cel theg mchog gtsug lha khang) and Kunzang Drak Zimkhang (kun bzang brag gzim khang). He also established the Trakar Lhakhang (spra mkhar lha khang) in Chume (chu smad) in which he founded a monastic school. His famous monastic discipline of Lingto (gling stod) and Lingme (gling smad) continuous to be the stem of monastic discipline even today.

Pema Trinle had many eminent disciples, including Tsultrim Dorje (tshul khrims rdo rje, 1598- 1669), Peling Tukse 03 Nyida Longyang (pad gling thugs sras 03 pad+ma nyi zla klong yangs, d.u.), Tsewang Tendzin (tshe dbang bstan 'dzin, d.u.). As his popularity and fame spread, even the great Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (zhabs drung ngag dbang rnam rgyal, 1594-1651) developed great regard and admiration for him.

When Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel paid a visit to Pungtang Dewa Chenpoi Podrang (spungs thang bde ba chen po’i pho brang), he made arrangements to receive Pema Trinle with an elaborate ceremony. When Pema Trinle arrived, Zhabdrung stepped down from the throne and prostrated equally, thus showing his highest respects and regard for the elder lama. Zhabdrung’s high regard and respect for him was further enhanced during the course of their conversations on the dharma and as he observed Gyelse’s personal conduct. While parting, they exchanged numerous gifts and advice, and Zhabdrung resolved that he would request from him the entire Peling teachings.

In 1642, at the age of eighty, on the auspicious tenth day of the ninth month of the eleventh sexagenary cycle, Gyelse Pema Trinle demonstrated the act of passing into Parinirvana.




Dge 'dun rin chen. 1976. Lho 'brug chos 'byung. Thimphu: Gges don zung 'jug grub pa'i dga' tshal.

Sgang steng sprul sku. 2009. Sgang steng gsang sngags chos gling dgon pa’i bla bgyud rim byon.


Acharya Karma Rigdzin
April 2011