The Third Trijang, Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso

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The Third Trijang, Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso b.1901 - d.1981

Name Variants: Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso; Pema Garwang; Trijang 03 Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso; Yongdzin Trijang Dorje Chang

The Third Trijang, Lobzang Yeshe Tendzin Gyatso (khri byang 03 blo bzang ye shes bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho) was born on March 10, 1901, in Gungtang (gung thang). His mother was Tsering Dolma (tshe ring sgrol ma, d.1956); his father, Tsering Dondrub (tshe ring don sgrub, d.u.), was a descendent of an uncle of the Seventh Dalai Lama, Kelzang Gyatso (bskal bzang rgya mtsho, 1708-1759). Tsering Dondrub had previously been Tsering Dolma’s father-in-law, until they married after the death of his son, Tsering Dolma’s husband. Altogether Tsering Dondrub fathered children with three women, and in each case at least one male child was recognized as a tulku.

As a child he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Second Trijang, Lobzang Tsultrim Pelden (khri byang 02 blo bzang tshul khrims dpal ldan, 1939-1901), who served as the Eighty-fifth Ganden Trichen (dga' ldan khri pa 85) from 1896 to c. 1899.

After his recognition he was moved to Lhasa in 1904, first to Trijang Labrang (khri byang bla rang) and then to the Chubzang Ritro (chu bzang ri khrod) hermitage of the First Trijang, the sixty-ninth Ganden Tripa, Trichen Jangchub Chopel (dga' ldan khri pa khri chen byang chub chos 'phel, 1756-1838). Although the young tulku had been recognized by both the Nechung (gnas chung) and Gadong (dga' gdong) state mediums, the title was contested by a rival candidate for some time.

It was during these early years that Tendzin Gyatso first met his root guru Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo (pha bong kha bde chen snying po, 1878-1941). Pabongkha spent a number of years at the hermitage and spent time playing and eating with his young student. He also received teachings from Pabongkha, such as the jenang (rjes gnang) empowerment related to Mañjūśrī, including Dharmarāja, and instructions on how to draw the hearth maṇḍalas for fire rituals.

Tendzin Gyatso also studied with other teachers in his early youth. When he was eight he received the Kālacakra initiation from the famed yogi Serkong Dorjechang, Ngawang Tsultrim Donden (gser kong rdo rje 'chang ngag dbang tshul khrims don ldan, 1856-1918). In 1907 he received novice ordination from the fourth Reting Rinpoche, Ngawang Lobzang Yeshe Tenpai Gyeltsen (rwa sgreng rin po che ngag dbang blo bzang ye shes bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, d.u.).

His life was not without difficulties. When Tendzin Gyatso was five years old, his father took monastic vows, which eventually caused considerable difficulties for the family. His mother and her two other children were evicted from their house by the relatives who had been left to care for her, in a situation which Trijang Rinpoche compares in his autobiography to what happened to Milarepa’s (mi la ras pa, 1040-1123) mother. Tendzin Gyatso himself also often lived on the edges of poverty, at times going without sufficient food. To make things worse, during the brief Chinese occupation of Lhasa, which began in 1910, he contracted a severe case of smallpox. His brother, who also contracted smallpox during this epidemic, died.

When he was fourteen Tendzin Gyatso received numerous empowerments and teachings from Drepung Gomang’s Buldud Tulku Lobzang Yeshe Tenpai Gyeltsen ('bul sdud sprul sku blo bzang ye shes bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan, d.u.), including  those of Vajrabhairava (both Ekavira and Thirteen-Deity), Guhyasamāja Akṣobhyavajra, Luipa’s Sixty-two Deity Heruka Cakrasaṃvara, Ghaṇṭāpa’ Five-Deity Heruka and the initiation of The Great Compassionate One, Avalokiteśvara according to the lineage of Bhikṣuṇī Śrī Lakṣmī (alternatively Śrīmatī, 8th. century).

Most of Tendzin Gyatso’s youth was spent studying. He joined the Dokhang Khamtsen of Ganden Shartse Monastery (dga' ldan shar rtse rdo khang khams tshan) and was tutored by Geshe Lobzang Tsultrim (dge bshes blo bzang tshul khrims, d. 1936). After concluding his study of the five topics of Pramāṇa, Madhyamaka, Prajñāpāramitā, Vinaya and Abhidharma, in 1919 he received the Geshe Lharampa (dge shes lha rams pa) degree as well as full bhikṣu ordination from the Thirteenth Dalai Lama Tubten Gyatso (tA la'i bla ma 13 thub bstan rgya mtsho, 1876-1933). After this he entered Gyuto Monastery to engage in a detailed study of the tantras. When he turned twenty-one, at Chubzang, he received from Pabongkha the jenang of the Mañjūśrī cycle again, as well as the Thirteen Golden Dharmas of the Sakyapas. He also received the four initiations into the sindhura maṇḍala of Vajrayoginī Naro Kechari, together with commentaries on the generation and completion stages, as well as the Thirteen Pure Visions of Takpu (stag phu'i dag snang bchu gsum), including Cittamaṇi Tārā. Furthermore he received other teachings associated with the Ganden Nyengyu (dga' ldan snyan rgyud), such as the Geluk Mahāmudrā and the Fourth Paṇchen Lama Lobzang Chokyi Gyeltsen’s (paN chen bla ma 04 blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1570-1662) Guru Puja (bla ma mchod pa).

Tendzin Gyatso was Pabongkha’s closest student, the one to whom he passed all of his lineages. In his autobiography Trijang Rinpoche notes that during his time at Gyuto he would often travel to wherever Pabongkha was teaching to receive instruction and that he would spend his free time meditating on the Lamrim and completing the retreats of deities such as Vajrayoginī, Vajrabhairava Ekavira, Ghaṇṭāpa's Five-Deity Heruka, Secret Hayagrīva and Bhikṣuṇī Śrī Lakṣmī’s Avalokiteśvara cycle. Each of these deities features prominently in Trijang Rinpoche’s writings. He also received the lineage of the Kadam Lekbam (bka' gdams glegs bam) from Pabongkha.

From Pabongkha Tendzin Gyatso also received teachings and transmission for the deity Dorje Shukden (rdo rje shugs ldan), which was the main protector practice emphasized by Pabongkha. Trijang Rinpoche never spoke out publicly on the controversy that erupted over the worship of Dorje Shukden in the later half of the 1970s due to the Dalai Lama's disapproval of the practice; instead he instructed his students to keep faith in both the Dalai Lama and Dorje Shukden.

After completing his education Tendzin Gyatso travelled throughout Tibet, including a visit to Kham. By this time he was already giving teachings, oral transmissions and empowerments, including those of Heruka, Vajrayoginī and Guhyasamāja. One of his earliest teachings took place when he was twenty-four. At the request of Geshe Yonten (dge shes yon tan, d.u.) of Ganden Shartse’s Dokhang Khamtsen, he gave the oral transmission of the collected works of Tsongkhapa and his main two students (rje yab sras gsum gyi gsung 'bum) to about two hundred monks.

Tendzin Gyatso visited India and Nepal in 1939, passing through Dungkar Monastery in the Chumbi Valley (gro mo lung), where he bestowed the empowerments of Guhyasamāja, Heruka Cakrasaṃvara, Vajrabhairava and others. Although the majority of his teaching activities were associated to the Geluk tradition, there are exceptions. When he was twenty-eight years old, for example, during a stay in Chatreng (cha phreng), Kham, he gave the jenang for the peaceful and wrathful forms of Padmasambhava and other Nyingma empowerments. Interestingly, later on in India, in 1965, he also gave the Fourteenth Dalai Lama the oral transmissions for two treasures of the Nyingma terton (gter ston) Chokgyur Lingpa (mchog gyur gling pa, 1829-1870), the Barche Lamsel (bar chad lam sel) and Sampa Lhundrub (bsam pa lhun 'grub).

After the passing of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama in 1933, Tendzin Gyatso played an important role in the construction and enshrining of the Dalai Lama’s remains inside a golden stupa in the Potala Palace. In his autobiography he recounts how he visited the Potala every day for year in order to perform the necessary offerings and rituals.

Following the discovery and selection of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tendzin Gyatso (tA la'i bla ma 14 bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, b.1935), in 1941 Trijang Rinpoche was appointed as his assistant tutor, and, in 1953, as his junior tutor, or yongdzin (yongs 'dzin), teaching him grammar and spelling. It was also in 1941 that Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo passed away.

Trijang Rinpoche’s Collected Works (yongs 'dzin khri byang rin po che'i gsung 'bum) comprise eight volumes. Famous examples of his work include a condensed sādhāna of the Heruka Body Maṇḍala, a gaṅacakra offering text of Heruka and a sādhāna of Cintacakra White Tārā. A comprehensive collection of ritual and other texts associated with Dorje Shukden which Pabongkha asked Trijang to complete, including the well-known “Music Delighting an Ocean of Oath-Bound Protectors” (dam can rgya mtsho dges pa'i rol mo), comprises a whole volume of his Collected Works (volume five, ca). The second volume (kha), further includes a number of essential ritual texts associated with the cycle of Cittamaṇi Tārā such as a four maṇḍala offering text, a gaṅacakra ritual, and a pacifying fire ritual text. Another important example of his writing includes the lyrics of the Tibetan National Anthem (bod rgyal khab chen po'i rgyal glu).

Trijang Rinpoche’s most famous work is undoubtedly Liberation in the Palm of the Hand (rnam grol lag bcangs) a Lamrim text based on notes taken over twenty-four days during Pabongkha’s 1921 Lamrim teachings at Chubzang, which intertwined the Swift Path (myur lam) and Mañjūśrī's Own Speech (jam dpal zhal lung) Lamrim systems along with the instructions on the Seven-Point Mind Training (blo sbyong don bdun ma).

During the turbulent years following the Communist Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1949, Trijang Rinpoche stayed close to the Dalai Lama. In 1954, he accompanied the Dalai Lama to Beijing on the ill-fated meeting with Mao Tsedong, and, in 1959, he went into exile with him to India.

In India Trijang Rinpoche continued teaching and travelling throughout the Tibetan communities such as Buxa, Dalhousie and later in the Karnataka settlements. Ganden Monastery was re-established in Lama Camp no.1 in Mundgod, and a residence, Trijang Labrang was established there for his use. Apart from teaching to the assemblies of Ganden, Sera and Drepung, Trijang Rinpoche also regularly taught in Bodh Gaya and Dharamsala. During the late 1960s and early 1970s he frequently met with Ling Rinpoche Tubten Lungtok Tendzin Trinle (gling rin po che thub bstan lung rtogs bstan 'dzin 'phrin las, 1903-1983), the Dalai Lama’s senior tutor, in order to exchange teachings and empowerments.

He travelled widely internationally, teaching and giving empowerments in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany  and Switzerland, amongst others. In 1966 Trijang Rinpoche performed the site blessing ritual (sa chog) for the Tibet-Institut in Rikon. Later, in 1968, he consecrated the building together with Ling Rinpoche. During this 1966 trip to Europe, a delegation which included Trijang Rinpoche also met with Pope Paul VI (1897-1978, r. 1963-1978) in the Vatican, following the instructions of the Dalai Lama.

Trijang Rinpoche’s most famous students and lineage holders include figures such as the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tendzin Gyatso; Zong Lobzang Tsondru Tubten Gyeltsen (zong blo bzang brtson 'grus thub bstan rgyal mtshan, 1905-1984); the Fourth Zeme, Lobzang Pelden Tendzin Dargye (dze smad 04 blo bzang dpal ldan bstan 'dzin dar rgyas, 1927-1996); Loden Sherab Dagyab (blo ldan shes rab brag gyab, b.1940); Dakpo Lama Jampa Gyatso (dwags po bla ma byams pa rgya mtsho, b.1932); Denma Locho (ldan ma blo chos, b.1927); Gelek Rinpoche (dge legs rin po che, b.1939); Geshe Rabten (dge bshes rab brtan, 1920-1986); Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (dge bshes skal bzang rgya mtsho, b. 1931); and Lama Yeshe (bla ma ye shes, 1935–1984), all of whom were instrumental in diffusing the Geluk teachings internationally and have stated that they hold lineages from Trijang Rinpoche.

Trijang Rinpoche passed away on November 9, 1981.




Blo bzang dpal ldan bstan 'dzin yar rgyas. N.d. Khri byang rin po che'i rnam thar kha skong. In The Collected Works of Blo bzang dpal ldan bstan 'dzin yar rgyas, vol. 4, pp. 11-407. Mundgod: Zemey labrang, gaden shartse monastic college. TBRC W14376.

Blo bzang ye shes bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, 1965. Rnam grol lag bcangs su gtod pa'i man nag zab mo tshan la ma nor ba mtshuns med chos kyi rgyal po'i thugs bcud byan chub lam gyi rim pa'i nams khrid kyi zin bris gsun rab kun gyi bcud bsdus gdams nag bdud rtsi'i snin po. Sarnath: Mongolian Lama Guru Deva.

Blo bzang ye shes bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, 1975. Dga' ldan khri chen byang chub chos 'phel gyi skye gral du rlom pa'i gyi na pa zhig gis rang gi ngang tshul ma bcos lhug par bkod pa 'khrul snang sgyu ma'i zlos gar. India: [s.n.].

His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, 1997. My Land and My People. New York; Warner Books.

Kar rgyal don grub. 1992. Khri byang blo bzang ye shes bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho. In Mdo khams cha phreng gi lo rgyus gser gyi snye ma, pp. 101-108. Dharamsala: Bod kyi dpe mdzod khang. TBRC W21499.

Pabongka Rinpoche and Trijang Rinpoche, 1997. Liberation in the Pelm of Your Hand. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche and Geshe Lobzang Tharchin, 1990. Liberation in Our Hands: The Preliminaries. Howell: Mahāyāna Sutra & Tantra Press.

Thub bstan 'jam dbyangs. 1999. Bka' drin zla med 7 skyabs mgon rgyal ba'i yongs 'dzin skyabs rje khri byang rdo rje 'chang mchog gi sku par. In Rdzong chos chos 'byung bdud rtsi'i zil mngar, p. 352. Mysore: Zongkar Chode Monastery. TBRC W00EGS1017102.


Joona Repo
June 2011