The Twelfth Dalai Lama, Trinle Gyatso

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The Twelfth Dalai Lama, Trinle Gyatso b.1856 - d.1875

Name Variants: Dalai Lama 12 Trinle Gyatso; Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen Trinle Gyatso; Ngawang Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen Trinle Gyatso ; Trinle Gyatso

The Twelfth Dalai Lama, Trinle Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 12 'phrin las rgya mtsho) was born into the family of Bakdrok Nyang-tsangpa ('bag 'brog nyang tshang pa) at a small town near Olkha Dzingchi ('ol kha rdzing phyi) in 1856, on the first day of the twelfth month of fire-dragon year of the fourteenth sexagenary cycle. His father was called Puntsok Tsewang (phun tshogs tshe dbang) and his mother was named Tsering Yudron (tshe ring g.yu sgron). He had an elder brother named Yeshe Norbu (ye shes nor bu).

The young boy was one of three candidates for the reincarnation the Eleventh Dalai Lama Khedrub Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 11 mkhas grub rgya mtsho, 1838-1855) who were brought to Lhasa in 1857. It is said that he correctly identified personal objects of the Eleventh Dalai Lama, and that the Golden Urn was used to confirm the selection, as mandated by the Qing government in Beijing.

Following the identification the Regent, the Third Reting Ngawang Yeshe Tsultrim (rwa sgreng 03 ngag dbang ye shes tshul khrims, 1816-1863) cut his crown-hair and named him Ngawang Lobzang Tenpai Gyeltsen Trinle Gyatso (ngag dbang blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan 'phrin las rgya mtsho).

Two years later, at the age of five, in 1860, on the third day of the seventh month of iron-monkey year, Trinle Gyatso was formally enthroned. His education was supervised by the Seventy-sixth Ganden Tripa, Lobzang Khyenrab Wangchuk (blo bzang mkhyen rab dbang phyug, d. 1872).

Reting Ngawang Yeshe fell into conflict with the Kashak minister Shedra Wangchuk Gyelpo (bshad sgra dbang phyug rgyal po, 1795-1864), who insisted the regent deposit his official seals with him. Fearing a plot to overthrow him, the regent arranged for Shedra's exile, but when the popular minister's supporters rose up to protect him, the regent himself was forced to flee to China. Shedra then became regent, a post he held until his death.

In 1864, at the age of nine, Trinle Gyatso was granted the vows of primary monk (rab byung gi sdom pa) at the Jokhang by his tutor, Lobzang Khyenrab Wangchuk. That same year, following the death of Shedra Wangchuk Gyelpo, Lobzang Khyenrab Wangchuk was appointed regent. During his tenure as regent he foiled a plot of the Dalai Lama's personal assistant, Pelden Dondrub (dpal ldan don grub, d. 1871) to overthrow both the regent and the Dalai Lama.

Beginning in 1868 Trinle Gyatso began to attend the annual Lhasa Monlam, possibly the first Dalai Lama to do so regularly. In 1870 Trinle Gyatso visited Drepung and Sera monasteries and stood for examinations. He was examined again four years later at Ganden.

At the age of eighteen in 1873, on the tenth day of the second month of the year of water-bird, Trinle Gyatso took the formal charge of the Lhasa government. He was assisted in his duties by the Third Purchok, Jampa Gyatso (pur bu lcog 03 byams pa rgya mtsho, 1825-1901), who would later serve as tutor to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Tubten Gyatso (ta la'i bla ma 13 thub bstan rgya mtsho, 1876-1933). He travelled on a pilgrimage tour to Chokhorgyel (chos 'khor rgyal) and other places in the Southern Tibet during which he gave public audience and teachings at many places.

Trinle Gyatso granted the vows of novice monk (śrāmaṇera) to the Mongolian lama Tendzin Wangchuk (bstan 'dzin dbang phyug), the reincarnation of Kalkha Jetsun Dampa (khal kha rje btsun dam pa). He also presented gifts to Khural Khenpo (khu ral mkhan po), Ta Lama (tA bla ma) and other Kalkha lamas.

In late April or early May 1875, on the twentieth day of the third month of wood-pig year in the fifteenth sexagenary cycle, Trinle Gyatso passed into nirvana at the young age of nineteen at Potala Palace. He is said to have passed away while seated on a cushion in front of the throne in Zimchung Nyiwo (gzim chung nyi 'od), his residence in Potala Palace. His preserved corpse was installed in a reliquary named Dalai Serdung Tsejin Wobar (ta la'i gser gdung tshe sbyin 'od ’bar) in the Potala.




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Samten Chhosphel
November 2011