Pomdrakpa Sonam Dorje

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Pomdrakpa Sonam Dorje b.1170 - d.1249

Name Variants: Darma Drak; Gyelse Pomdrakpa; Podrakpa; Sonam Dorje

Pomdrakpa Sonam Dorje (spom brag pa bsod nams rdo rje) was born in 1170 in Drigyel Dampa Chopuk ('bri rgyal dam pa chos phyug). According to the Blue Annals, he mastered reading at writing at age five, and at the age of nine he received transmissions in Cakrasaṃvara and Hevajra from a father and son pair known as Lama Nyen Lhakhang Gangwa (bla ma gnyan lha khang sgang ba, d.u.).

When he was fourteen Sonam Dorje met Sanggye Rechen Peldrak (sangs rgyas ras chen dpal grags, 1148-1218), a disciple of Dusum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa (karma pa 01 dus gsum mkhyen pa, 1110-1190). Together with a man named Nubton Tsul (snub ston tshul, d.u.) he received from him initiation in Vajravārahī. Following this he is said to have experienced numerous visions of deities.

He requested permission from Sanggye Rechen to go meditate in seclusion, but was refused. Later he again planned to leave Pelgo (spel sgo), the place he where had been told by Sanggye Rechen to reside, but now a vision of Dusum Khyenpa, whom he never met, dissuaded him, telling him to settle right where he was. Accordingly Sonam Dorje remained at Pelgo for sixteen years.

Sonam Dorje once asked Sanggye Rechen who would carry on his teaching. According to the Blue Annals, the elder lama replied: "My disciples can guide themselves! Among them, I had great hopes in you and in Lodro Rinchen (blo gros rin chen, d.u.), Between you two, you will be greater in work. The labors of your disciples and those of their disciples will be great."

After leaving Pelgo, Sonam Dorje received teachings from Tsangton Dorje Gyeltsen (gtsang ston chos rje rdo rje rgyal mtshan, 1137-1226) of Katok Monastery (kaH thog) in Kham.

He later took over and renovated the monastery of Tasho Pomdrak (khra shod spom brag), which became his seat and the source of his most commonly used title.

Pomdrakpa is credited with identifying the reincarnation of Dusum Khyenpa, Karma Pakshi, the Second Karmapa (karma pa 02 karma pakshi, 1204-1283). According to tradition, Pomdrakpa encountered the young boy, who, at age eleven, had received an ordination name of Chokyi Lama (chos kyi bla ma) or Chozin (chos 'dzin). (One of these names was possibly his birth name.) Pomdrakpa initially gave him lineage transmissions, including the Jinasāgara form of Avalokiteśvara, and came to believe that he was the incarnation of Dusum Khyenpa, the teacher of his own lama, Sanggye Rechen. Tradition holds that Pomdrakpa experienced a vision of Dusum Khyenpa stating that this was the case.

According to the Blue Annals Pomdrakpa's death was a result of disregarding a command from Sanggye Rechen forbidding him from going to Markham (dmar khams). Having gone there, he fell ill and soon passed away.




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Alexander Gardner
November 2011