The Fourth Takpu, Pemavajra Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub

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The Fourth Takpu, Pemavajra Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub b.1876 - d.1935

Name Variants: Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub; Ngawang Lobzang Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub; Pema Dorje; Pemavajra; Takpu Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub; Takpu Pemavajra

The Fourth Takpu, Pemavajra Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub (stag phu 04 pad+ma ba dz+ra 'jam dpal bstan pa'i dngos grub), most commonly known as Takpu Dorje Chang (stag phu rdo rje chang), was born in 1876 in Naksho (nags shod), Kham.

Sources form the early nineteenth century give the incarnation line as follows: Gushri Pelden Dondrub (stag phu gu shrI dpal ldan don grub, 1382-1466) Zhangpo Chogyel Tendzin (zhang po chos rgyal bstan 'dzin, d.u.), Ngawang Chodrak Zangpo (ngag dbang chos grags bzang po, 1493-c.1559), Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen (blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, 1714-1762), Lobzang Chokyi Wangchuk (blo bzang chos kyi dbang phyug, 1765-c.1792) and Ngawang Lobzang Tendzin (ngag dbang blo bzang bstan 'dzin, b.1808). This would make Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub the seventh incarnation, assuming he directly followed Ngawang Lobzang Tenzin. However it appears there are several ways to count this incarnation lineage and earlier incarnations are sometimes not included.  

Another title commonly associated with the Takpu incarnations was that of Garwang (gar dbang) in its variant forms: Gargyi Wangchuk (gar gyi dbang phyug) and Gargyi Wangpo (gar gyi dbang po), already used by Lobzang Chokyi Wangchuk, who appears to have been known by this name. According to a title in his collected works (vol.2), Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub notes that he is the Fourth Gargyi Wangchuk (gar gyi dbang phyug bzhi pa), suggesting that either an incarnation is missing from the sequence listed above, between Ngawang Lobzang Tendzin and Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub, or that Tenpai Ngodrub counts Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen and not Chokyi Wangchuk as the first ‘official’ Garwang incarnation. The latter explanation would follow today’s usual presentation of the lineage as Tenpai Ngodrub appears to be regarded as the Fourth Takpu incarnation amongst contemporary Geluk lineage holders.

Regardless of its origin, successive Takpu incarnations are said to have been highly accomplished yogis and are well-known for their pure visions (dag snang) of deities and the ability to travel to various pure lands in order to receive teachings. Lobzang Chokyi Wangchuk, for example, is known for his cycle of Thirteen Pure Visions of Takpu (stag phu’i dag snang gsang ba bcu gsum) which includes deities such as Hayagrīva, Amitāyus, Avalokiteśvara and Tārā.

In 1888, at the age of twelve, Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub entered Drepung Loseling Monastery ('bras spungs blo gsal gling) in Lhasa where he studied Pramāṇa, Madhyamaka, Prajñāpāramitā, Vinaya and Abhidharma. He returned home to Naksho in 1894.

He returned to the Lhasa region at the age of thirty, spending much of his time at Chubzang Ritro (chu bzang ri khrod), one of the many hermitages above Sera Monastery outside of Lhasa. There he taught his most famous disciple, Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo (pha bong kha bde chen snying po, 1878-1941), whose multiple requests are credited with much of Takpu Pemavajra's teachings. These include, for example, the compilation of a new initiation manual for the Thirteen Pure Visions of Takpu. It was at Chubzang Ritro that Pabongkha in turn taught the Third Trijang, Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso (khri byang 03 blo bzang ye shes bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, 1901-1981).

According to tradition, after being prompted by the protector Dorje Shukden (rdo rje shugs ldan) Pabongkha requested Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub to travel to Maitreya’s pure land, Tuṣita. Tuṣita is particularly significant in the Geluk or Ganden lineage, as the tradition is named after the pure land and is believed to be the realm in which Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (rje tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419), the founder of the Geluk tradition currently resides. While in Tuṣita Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub is said to have received the complete cycle of instructions related to Dorje Shukden and his five families (rdo rje shugs ldan rigs lnga), including the life-entrustment initiation (srog gtad), from Tsongkhapa by way of Duldzin Drakpa Gyeltsen ('dul 'dzin grags pa rgyal mtshan, 1357-1419), who is believed to have been a previous incarnation of the deity.

Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub transmitted this elaborate cycle to Pabongkha, through whom it was later diffused throughout the Geluk tradition. Today, however, the nature of Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub’s experience is controversial within the Geluk tradition with some asserting this pure vision actually took place, while others, most notably the present Dalai Lama, Tendzin Gyatso (ta la'i bla 14 ma bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, b.1935), following the advice of the Nechung (gnas chung) medium, stating that this vision was not a blessing of higher beings but instead was a hindrance.

Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub’s involvement in the worship of Dorje Shukden is said to date to his first stay in U-Tsang. During that time the Ninth Demo, Ngawang Lobzang Trinle Rabgye (de mo 09 ngag dbang bio bzang 'phrin las rab rgyas, 1855-1900), was hosting a number of Nyingma lamas and practitioners at the regency seat of Tengyeling (bstan rgyas gling) in Lhasa. Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub was in Lhasa for the Monlam Chenmo (smon lam chen mo) and he noticed a ring of fire around the panbe (span bad) -- the maroon-colored brushwood parapet -- of Tengyeling. His teacher at the time, Lhotrul Ngawang Kyenrab Tenpai Wangchuk (lho sprul ngag dbang mkhyen rab bstan pa'i dbang phyug, d.u.), who was associated with both Drepung Loseling and Tashilhunpo (bkra shis lhun po), told his student that it was a manifestation of Dorje Shukden’s activity. Soon after, the Ninth Demo was arrested under accusations of aiming to harm the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Tubten Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 13 thub bstan rgya mtsho, 1876-1933) through the practice of black magic. Demo died in custody and Tengyeling was appropriated by the government. The entire episode is understood within this lineage of Dorje Shukden to be an act of Shukden's wrath against the pollution (that is, the presence of Nyingma practice) of the Geluk tradition.

Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub returned again to Kham only to make a third extensive trip to Lhasa in his late 1930s. During this third visit he again gave teachings and transmissions to Pabongkha, including Lamrim and Lojong teachings, completion stage teachings such as those of Guhyasamāja and the Six Yogas of Nāropā and the initiations and instructions of Heruka Cakrasaṃvara and the cycle of Cittamani Tārā. He also received teachings from Pabongkha on several occasions, such as those of the completion stage of Heruka and the initiations contained in the collection of The Hundred Which are a Source of Jewels (rin 'byung brgya rtsa).

Apart from his visions related to Dorje Shukden, Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub is said to have had numerous other mystical experiences. During a stay at Chubzang he had a vision of the sixty-two deity body maṇḍala of Heruka Cakrasaṃvara, from whom he received the four initiations (dbang bzhi). He was also able to reveal the location of a sacred cave called Takten (rtag brtan) near Chubzang, which is related to Heruka. During a retreat at the Nyang caves (nyang phug) near Samye (bsam yas), he had a vision of Padmasambhava, his consorts, and his entourage of disciples. Although this may be interpreted as contradictory to the often perceived sectarian nature of this lineage, Padmasambhava appears to have been held in high regard. Trijang Lobzang Tendzin Gyatso, for example, also bestowed Padmasambhava empowerments and related teachings.

Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub is also an important lineage holder of the close lineage (nye brgyud) of Cittamani Tārā and is believed to have been in direct contact with the goddess. Previous Takpu incarnations had also communicated with Tārā through such visions. The Cittamani Tārā cycle is unique in the Geluk tradition because it was taught by Tārā as an anuttarayogatantra practice, instead of kriyātantra, and contains teachings on the generation and completion stages, as well as the necessary empowerments. The cycle was later classified by Pabongkha as belonging to the Mother Tantra (ma rgyud) class. Following the death of Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub, the primary lineage holders of the this cycle were Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo and then Trijang Lobzang Tendzin Gyatso, both of whom composed a number of texts on the topic. The cycle is widely diffused throughout the Geluk tradition.

In 1923 Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub travelled to Lhasa again, arriving soon after that year’s Monlam Chenmo. As usual he met Pabongkha, with whom he went to the Takten cave where he again had a number of visions, including one of Dromtonpa Gyelwai Jungne ('brom ston pa rgyal ba'i 'byung gnas, 1005-1064).

During this stay in U-Tsang, Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub was also able to meet Trijang Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso. A man with the title of Sharpa Tulku (shar pa sprul sku, d.u.) requested Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub to give teachings at this time, which he did, giving initiations and instructions from his own pure vision cycles to a group of seven people including Trijang Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso and Takdrak Dorjechang Ngawang Sungrab Tutob (stag brag rdo rje 'chang ngag dbang gsung rab mthu stobs, 1874-1952). Trijang Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso also privately received the secret jenang of Cittamani Tārā directly from Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub, the final empowerment out of a series of three jenang empowerments related to this deity, the other two being the essential outer torma initiation and the inner body maṇḍala initiation. He also received the Glorious Grant of Immortality ('chi med dpal ster) long-life initiation, a visionary teaching of the yogi Tangtong Gyelpo (thang stong rgyal po, 1365-1434), which Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub had also bestowed on Pabongkha during an earlier visit to U-Tsang.

Due to his faith in Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub, Trijang Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso asked him for a divination concerning which deity to focus on as his main practice and what would happen to him at the end of his life. Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub is said to have communicated this request to Tārā, and she gave him eight lines of text as a response. Apart from Pabongkha, Trijang Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso, and those mentioned above, Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub had many other students as well as a number of disciples and patrons in the upper echelons of Tibetan society, such as the Prime Minister (srid blon) Lochen Shatra Peljor Dorje (blon chen bshad sgra dpal 'byor rdo rje, 1860-1919).

Pabongkha himself also travelled to Naksho several times in order to visit Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub, including visits in 1926 and 1935. During his first trip Pabongkha visited the Drubde Monastery (sgrub sde dgon), also known as Ganden Lukzang Kunphel Ling (dge ldan lugs bzang kun 'phel gling) in Driru Dzong ('bri ru rdzong), which had been established by Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub in 1920. Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub bestowed teachings and initiations on Pabongkha during these visits, including Ganden Nyengyu (dga' ldan snyan rgyud) teachings such as Guru Puja (bla ma mchod pa), a number of Lamrim teachings, the Thirteen Pure Visions of Takpu, as well as the life-entrustment initiation of Dorje Shukden following the close lineage which he had received in Tuṣita.  

It was also in the year of this final meeting in 1935 that Jampel Tenpai Ngodrub passed away. His death is often given as 1922, but in both Trijang and Pabongkha's biographies he was still alive in 1923 and later, and the later date is corroborated by other sources as well, particularly in the biographies of several Chamdo lamas, from the period, who received teachings from him there in the 1930s.




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Joona Repo
June 2011