The Second Pakpa Lha, Sanggye Pel

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The Second Pakpa Lha, Sanggye Pel b.1507 - d.1566

Name Variants: Lhari Sanggye; Pakpa Sanggye Pel; Sanggye Pel

Pakpa Sanggye Pel ('phags pa sangs rgyas dpal), was born in Chokhang Tsa (chos khang rtsa) in 1507, the fire-hare year of the ninth sexagenary cycle. His father, a yogi, was named Sanggye Tashi (sangs rgyas bkra shis) and his mother was named Choden Dolma (chos ldan sgrol ma).

According to the biographies, as a young child Sanggye Pel claimed to be the reincarnation of Pakpa Dechen Dorje ('phags pa bde chen rdo rje, 1439-1487), who had died twenty years before Sanggye Pel was born. Although local people were said to be unanimous in their acceptance of the claim, Pakpa Lha's disciples were bound with the instruction of their master, who instructed them to not search for his reincarnation. Instead, the story goes, Pakpa Lha told his disciples that he would find them. Consequently, Sanggye Pel, despite being eager to get on with his studies, was only officially recognised as the reincarnation when he was nineteen.

While still a child Sanggye Pel received his upasaka vows from Drung Gyongto Tulku (drung gyong thod sprul sku), who gave him the name Lhari Sanggye and became one of his teachers. He learned reading and writing from Kachupa Kunga (dka' bcu kun dga'). He also received teachings from his father until fourteen. Accompanied by his father, he received teachings, including practical esoteric instructions on tumo (gtum mo) from Drungpa Sonam Gyelpo (drung pa bsod nams rgyelpo).

He received his novice vows, and the name Pakpa Sanggye Pel, from Shakya Zangpo (shA kya bzang po), who also gave him teachings. Soon after he met the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (kar+ma pa 08 mi bskyod rdo rje, 1507-1554), who was travelling from Kham to Kongpo and he received a number of Kagyu initiations and teachings.

At the age of nineteen Sanggye Pel went to Ganden Monastery outside of Lhasa and there he received vows of the full ordination from Lobpon Namkha Pel (slob dpon nam mkha' dpal), who acted as abbot, assisted by Lobpon Sonam Gyeltsen (slob dpon bsod nams rgyal mtshan) and Lobpon Lhawang Peljor (slob dpon lha dbang dpal 'byor). He also received teachings from these masters.

At the age of twenty-three Sanggye Pel travelled to Kham where he served at Demo Lakha Loseling (de mo la kha blo gsal ging), and administered vows and gave teachings to a number of local people in Chudho (chu mdo), Sumzom (gsum rdzom) and other places in Kham. Thereafter he was invited to Naksho (nags shod) and he stayed for a long time in the monasteries of Tashi Cholung (bkra shis chos lung), which had been founded by his predecessor, and Relu Bumkhang (ri lu bum khang), among other places.

While in Kham he arranged the restoration of Longpa Tashi Cholung Monastery (long pa bkra shis chos lung). He sojourned in Puda (spu mda') and in Gar (sgar) he established a monastic college for the study of tantra, and then travelled on to Tsawa (tsha wa). He was requested to name the newly established monastery in Nagme (nag smad) by his father, and in response, he sent the message with the name "Tashi Chode" (bkra shis chos sde) for the monastery. He then went to Gomo Tedram (sgo mo te 'gram) and there he merged five small monasteries and established a large monastery and introduced the tradition of summer retreat. He distributed all the materials and offerings he received from his devotees among the monasteries.

Sanggye Pel was invited to Nyakdre (nyag bre) and there he received many teachings from Choje Shakya Rinchen (chos rje shA kya rin chen), Choje Namkha Singe (chos rje nam mkha' senge) and their disciples. He went to Deki Nyima Ling (bde skyid nyi ma gling), established by the First Pakpa Lha, and, taking charge of the monastery, appointed Lama Gyeltsen Tashi (bla ma rgyal mtsan bkra shis) as abbot. He donated gold statues, brocades, offering bowls and other objects of faith and decorative items for the Tashi Pende Monastery (bkra shis phan bde) in Kongpo. He donated materials such as copper, and gold and silver paints sufficient for the construction of a large statue (nine times of a normal human size). He also renovated the Sumpa Bridge and acted as mediator for the discords among people of Litang region.

While Sanggye Pel was staying in Litang, the army of Jang Satam ('jang sa tham), in present-day Lijiang, surrounded the town and prepared for an attack. According to tradition, when Sanggye Pel tried to mediate and stop the battle, a captain of the Jang Satam army attempted to threaten him with his sword, but was unable to unsheathe the blade. Inspired with new faith in the power of the Geluk lama, the Jang forces ceased their attack. The Jang king sent messengers to invite Sanggye Pel to Jang Satam. It took a month and twenty days for the lama to travel from Litang to Satam. The king, Jamyang Drakpa ('jam dbyangs grags pa) requested teachings and invited Sanggye Pel to reside there for an extended period. This relation was possibly the first contact the Jang kingom, on the far south-east border of the Tibetan sphere, had with the growing Geluk power in Tibet.

Declining to remain in Jang Satam, Sanggye Pel advised the king to cease his attacks on Tibetan territory. The king is said to have refused, apparently under Chinese orders, but promised that he would refrain from violence for the following year; according to tradition he extended this to the next twelve years. Sanggye Pel then travelled to Podrang Go-be (pho brang mgo rbad).

However, when Sanggye Pel was about to leave for Kongpo, Sanggye Pel received orders from Paṇchen Sonam Drakpa (paN chen bsod nams grags pa, 1478-1554) and the Second Dalai Lama, Gendun Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 02 dge 'dun rgya mtsho, 1475-1542) stating that he must stay in Jang ('jang zabs) for sake of the spread of the Geluk teachings. This, ostensibly at the request of the king, he established Drangra Monastery ('brang ra dgon pa) there, and gave the king teachings for a month.

Still hoping to leave Jang, Sanggye Pel arranged for his father to summon him to Kongpo, after which he was able to travel to that region. After visiting with his father, he made offerings at the local monasteries and then returned to Tashi Cholung where he gave teachings and engaged in other activities relating to monastic and secular affairs. He mediated the disputes and battle between the Upper and Lower Naksho (nag shod stod smad), finding a solution to their conflict only after spending a great deal of wealth, including one hundred horses.

When Sanggye Pel was staying at Zeto (rdzi tho) he identified the son of a military commander as the reincarnation of Baso Chokyi Gyeltsen (ba so chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1402-1473). He ordained the child and gave him the name Lhawang Chokyi Gyeltsen (lha dbang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1537-1603). The boy grew up to become the twelfth abbot of Chamdo Jampa Ling.

After spending three months teaching at Chotri Tang (chos khri thang), Sanggye Pel received an invitation to visit Chamdo. There he was given a traditional welcome led by Olkha Jedrung Gendun Tashi ('ol dga' rje drung 01 dge 'dun bkra shis, 1486-1557), the eighth abbot of Chamdo Jampa Ling. Together with Gendun Tashi he ordained hundred of monks, including giving full ordination to Choje Ngawang, the Second Chakra Tulku, (lcags rwa 02 chos rje ngag gi dbang po, 1645-1711).

Sanggye Pel remained in Chamdo for about three years, after which he returned to Tashi Cholung. To honour Sanggye Pel's presence there local landlords donated land and materials to construct the monastery of Nyinda Tang (nyi zla thang dgon pa). A large golden statue of Maitreya was installed as the main object of faith in the monastery. Sanggye Pel donated much of the wealth he had accumulated during his stay in Chamdo. He and Choje Ngawang entered a Cakrasaṃvara retreat following the monastery's completion. However, the two fell into dispute and struggled with each other to take control of the monastery. Sanggye Pel ultimately prevailed, and the two lamas apparently repaired their relationship.

At the age of sixty, in 1566, the fire-tiger year of the ninth sexagenary cycle, Pakpa Sanggye Pel passed away, sitting in meditation posture (thugs dam) for some time. His remains were taken to Tashi Pende, where Choje Ngawang oversaw the funeral rites. Subsequently, lamas and monks gathered there from all over Kongpo and organized a huge prayer and soon after, silver reliquary was built in Demola and the entire body was placed in it for the object of faith for his devotees.




Anonymous. 1986. Bod kyi lo rgyus rig gnas dpyad gzhi'i rgyu cha gdams bsgrigs. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang. Vol. 9, pp. 7-22. TBRC W1PD96945.

Byams pa chos grags. N.d. Chab mdo byams pa gling gi gdan rabs. Chamdo: Chab mdo par 'debs bzo grwa par btab, pp. 205-241.

Mkhas grub shAkya lha dbang. 2001 (1640). Zhal snga bka' brgyud kyi thun mong ma yin pa'i chos 'byung. Lhasa: Bod ljongs bod yig dpe rnying dpe skrun khang, p. 98-177.


Samten Chhosphel
June 2010