The Fourth Dorje Drak Rigdzin, Pema Trinle

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The Fourth Dorje Drak Rigdzin, Pema Trinle b.1641 - d.1717

Name Variants: Dorje Drak 02 Rigdzin Pema Trinle; Lobzang Pema Trinle; Pema Trinle Tegchok Wanggyal; Rigdzin Pema Trinle

Rigdzin Pema Trinle (rigs 'dzin padma 'phrin las) was born into the noble Chanak (bya nag) family at the private palace of Mongar Namseling (mon mkhar rnam sras gling) on the south bank of the Tsangpo opposite Samye (bsam yas), which is still standing. His father was Karma Puntsok Wangpo (karma phun tshogs dbang po) and his mother was named Rigdzin Buti Wangmo (rig 'dzin bu khrid dbang mo).

At the age of six the boy was recognized by the Third Yolmo Tulku, Tendzin Norbu (yol mo sprul sku 03 bstan 'dzin nor bu, 1589-1644), and Zurchen Choying Rangdrol (zur chen chos dbyings rang grol, 1604-1669), as the reincarnation of the Third Dorje Drak Rigdzin, Ngakgi Wangpo (rdo rje brag rig 'dzin 03 ngag gi dbang po, 1580-1639) and was enthroned on the seat of Dorje Drak (rdo rje brag). Both Tendzin Norbu and Choying Rangdrol had been close disciples of Ngakgi Wangpo, the man responsible for locating Dorje Drak (rdo rje brag) Monastery at its present site. Because of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobzang Gyatso's (ta la'i bla ma 05 nga dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, 1617-1682) patronage of the Jangter (byang gter) tradition and of Dorje Drak (in contrast to Nyingma lineages and institutions that had close ties to the defeated Tsang King), the Fifth Dalai Lama took a strong interest in the young Dorje Drak incarnation, giving him refuge vows and later giving him his ordination as well, bestowing on him the name Lobzang Pema Trinle (blo bzang pad+ma 'phrin las).

Pema Trinle studied with the Dalai Lama's own Nyingma teachers, including Zurchen, Menlungpa Lochok Dorje (sman lung pa blo mchog rdo rje, 1595-1671), Minling Terchen Gyurme Dorje (smin gling gter chen 'gyur med rdo rje, 1646 –1714), and Kangyurwa Gonpo Sonam Chokden (bka' 'gyur ba mgon po bsod nams mchog ldan, 1603-1659).

The breadth of Pema Trinle's learning in both sutra and tantra was legendary. He practiced many teachings from the Sakya tradition, as well as his Nyingma heritage, but he was known principally as a matchless master of the formidable Jangter rituals. In this capacity he served for decades as the chief ritual officiator of the new Tibetan state, presiding over elaborate ceremonies such as the final consecration of the Potala Palace and longevity rites for the young Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (tA la'i bla ma 06 tshangs dbyangs rgya mtsho, 1683-1706).

Unlike most of his predecessors, Pema Trinle was a prolific and accomplished author, whose writings on a variety of subjects, chiefly the Nyingma tantras, filled some thirteen volumes. Among his more important works was one on the empowerment of the main Anuyoga tantra, the Gongpa Dupai Do (dgongs pa 'dus pa'i mdo), which became a central text in the tantra's transmission. (The work is titled 'dus pa mdo'i dbang chog dkyil l'khor rgya mtsho'i 'jug ngogs.) The composition was specifically commissioned by the Fifth Dalai Lama, and reflects the exclusion of Nyingma lineages out of favor with the Fifth Dalai Lama. He was also a treasure revealer, and his disciples included many of the eminent religious figures of the early eighteenth century. Like his predecessors, he also opened and developed several sacred places, including one at Drak Yangdzong (sgrags yang rdzong).

Through the 1660s and 1670s Pema Trinle greatly expanded Dorje Drak Monastery. He also gave extensive teachings on various topics from sutra, tantra, and common subjects regularly to over two thousand monks gathered at the monastery from near and far. It became a showpiece of aesthetic excellence and a center of the monastic arts, setting a precedent for its more ambitious twin, Mindroling.

In 1717, when he was seventy-seven, Pema Trinle was murdered by Mongol Dzungar invaders during their anti-Nyingma and anti-Bon rampage, and Dorje Drak was burned to the ground.




Bkra shis thobs rgyal. 1990. Bstan pa'i snying po gsang chen snga 'gyur nges don zab mo'i chos kyi yung ba gsal bar byed pa'i legs bshad mkhas pa dga' byed ngo mtshar gtam gyi rol mtsho. Delhi: Tibetan Cultural Printing Press.

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

Dalton, Jacob. 2002. The Uses of the Dgongs pa 'dus pa'i mdo in the Development of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, pp. 161-203.

Kun bzang 'gro 'dul rdo rje. 2004. Thub bstan rdo rje brag dgon gyi byung bam do tsam drjod pa ngo mtshar bai+DUr+ya’i phreng ba, pp. 51-55. TBRC W00KG03797.

Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho. 2007. Byang pa rig 'dzin chen po ngag gi dbang po'i rnam par thar pa ngo mtshar bkod pa rgya mtsho (byang chen rnam thar). In Gsung 'bum/ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, vol. 8, pp. 669-796. Dharamsala: Nam gsal sgron ma. TBRC W2CZ5990.


Samten Chhosphel
December 2009, updated October 2012