Code: ABP 031
Country: Tibet (south)
Date: 1450 - 1550
Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 79.5 x 104
Materials: Glue distemper on cotton
Sitting in pairs facing each other are four monastic figures resting on lavishly adorned thrones supported by lions. Surrounding them are deities, Indian mahasiddhas and Tibetan masters connecting them to the Sa skya school of Tibetan Buddhism. The lower range contains three protective deities and a monk presenting offerings.
The first pair of masters both perform the teaching gesture, and both have gray hair. The first has a discrete protruding ushnisha, symbol of a high realisation, and the utpala flowers blooming from his hands support the vajra and bell, symbol of Vajradhara. The third character wears a rounded pandit hat, typical of the Ngor sub-sect of the Sa skya school, connecting the painting to this tradition. The disposition of the four main characters indicates a succession of four masters, probably throne holders of a monastery, but the absence of inscription makes it difficult to identify them with certainty.
Stylistically, the red and blue dominated palette associated with the bountiful ornamentation (vegetal scrolls, pilasters…) and the strong geometrical composition testify of a Nepalese influence, a style very common to the Sa skya production.
Drogon Chogyal Phagpa
Holy Biography of the Fifth Founder of the Sakya Order
(Synthesized from a biography written by Sakyapa Ngawang Kunga Sodnam)
Drogon Chogyal Phagpa’s father was Sangtsa Sonam Gyaltsen, who was the younger brother of Sakya Pandita. Sonam Gyaltsen had five consorts, the first of whom was named Machig Kunchid from Tsanadap. Her eldest son was Drogon Chogyal Phagpa.
Chogyal Phagpa was born at Namring Lukhung in the year of the Female Wood Sheep on the sixth day of the third lunar month. At that time, his father, Sonam Gyaltsen was fifty-two years old.
At the times of Chogyal Phagpa’s conception and birth, many auspicious signs appeared. While he was still very young, even without being taught, he had great natural knowledge of reading and writing in diverse scripts. He also learned other subjects without difficulty.
From a young age Chogyal Phagpa also possessed clairvoyance and the ability to clearly recall his previous incarnations. For example, when the moment came to determine if he was, as suspected, the reincarnation of the famous teacher known as Saton Ripa, two of Saton’s disciples went to see him. At the time, Chogyal Phagpa was playing games with other children, but when he saw the two monks approaching, he said, “So you have come at last?” They said, “Do you recognize us?”, and he replied, “Of course.” And he named each of them correctly. This so dispelled their doubts and inspired them with great devotion that they prostrated to him.
Chogyal Phagpa’s father, Sangtsa Sonam Gyaltsen, was a great practitioner who concentrated on Ganapati practice. At one point Ganapati appeared before him and lifted him up into space to the height of a mountaintop, saying: “Look below.” But Sodnam Gyaltsen was afraid. After some time, he looked and beheld the three provinces of Tibet below. Ganapati said, “Whatever you saw, you will reign over. You saw the three Tibetan provinces, so your descendants will rule over those territories. But because you didn’t look down the moment I told you to, you will not rule them yourself.” Then he placed Sodnam Gyaltsen on the earth again.
For a long time Sodnam Gyaltsen had no son and being sorely disappointed he performed special praises to Ganapati. At length Ganapati appeared at the dwelling of Saton Ripa and said, “Sangtsa Sonam Gyaltsen is constantly invoking me, saying that he needs to command the three provinces of Tibet. But no matter what practice he does, he does not have the karmic connection to rule them himself. Therefore, a Bodhisattva who has accumulated much merit and would be able to dominate the vast world must take birth as his son. You, Saton Ripa, possess these qualities, so please take rebirth as Sonam Gyaltsen’s son with the aspiration to help all Tibetan people, particularly those in the three provinces.” Saton Ripa agreed and was later reincarnated as the child who became Chogyal Phagpa.
At the age of three, Chogyal Phagpa recited the elaborate Hevajra sadhana known as Druptap Tsokye (Lotus-Born) by memory. Everyone present was astonished and remarked, “There is no doubt that he is a true Phagpa(holy being)!” From that time on, he was known as Phagpa, and his fame was proclaimed far and wide.
At the age of eight, Chogyal Phagpa recited the Buddha’s life story. At the age of nine, while his uncle, Sakya Pandita, was turning the wheel of the Dharma, Chogyal Phagpa recited the second chapter of the Hevajra Root Tantra from memory. He also gave a profound public talk at a Dharma gathering. There were many scholars and other learned ones, yet they were all humbled by his knowledge and praised his natural good qualities and wisdom.
At the age of ten, Chogyal Phagpa journeyed to the area north of Sakya where Sakya Pandita was Abbot and Master of Ceremonies. Chogyal Phagpa received novice monk’s vows from Sakya Pandita, and then received instructions in the Vinaya rules and precepts from the Abbot of the Chormolung, Sherab Senge.
By the time Chogyal Phagpa was seventeen, Sakya Pandita had transferred to him all of his own teachings, good qualities, and responsibilities, and was very pleased with him. Seeing that Chogyal Phagpa had the ability to carry on his own holy activities, Sakya Pandita gave him his Dharma conch shell, alms bowl, and other religious objects. He also gave him the responsibility of leading his disciples, saying: “Now it is time for you to carry on the holy activities of spreading Lord Buddha’s doctrine and working for the benefit of all sentient beings. Know that you made this commitment in previous lives.” So saying, Sakya Pandita transferred to Chogyal Phagpa responsibility for maintaining the doctrine.
In the Year of the Ox, Kublai Khan, the Emperor of China, invited Chogyal Phagpa to his palace and asked him many questions that others could not answer to his satisfaction. Chogyal Phagpa responded with such logic and reasoning that the Emperor was pleased.
Later, the Emperor proclaimed that he would send tax collectors to Tibet and draft its citizens into his army. Chogyal Phagpa repeatedly urged the Emperor against this course of action, saying, “Tibet is a small country and located far to the west. It hasn’t much land, lacks material resources, and has a sparse population. The country is unable to sustain taxes and does not have enough citizens to man your armies. I beg you not to require this of them.” But the Emperor was adamant, and Chogyal Phagpa became discouraged.
“In that case,” Chogyal Phagpa said, “since I, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, am here as your guest, there is no reason for me to remain. I shall prepare to return to my own land.” The Emperor said, “Very well, go if you wish.” But Kublai Khan’s wife, the Empress Chu, said, “We cannot find a Dharma teacher anywhere like Chogyal Phagpa. All the previous masters who visited here have not even a small portion of Chogyal Phagpa’s good qualities, nor have they performed such wonderful deeds. It is not wise to let him return to Tibet. You should have further Dharma conversations with him and come to learn more of his good qualities.”
The Emperor heeded her and engaged in Dharma discussions with Chogyal Phagpa. At length, Kublai Khan developed deep respect for Chogyal Phagpa, and the Empress said to her husband, “Isn’t it wise that we didn’t let Chogyal Phagpa go back to Tibet? Now we should receive teachings from him. In particular, I have heard that the Sakyapa have unique Vajrayana empowerments not possessed by the other schools. We must ask him to give us these.” The Emperor replied, “First, you take them. If they prove worthwhile, I will then also take these them.”
The Empress then requested Chogyal Phagpa to bestow the Hevajra empowerment. She asked, “What special offering should I make for this empowerment?” Chogyal Phagpa replied, “As a sign of appreciation for receiving this empowerment, one should offer one’s physical body, material goods, and other possessions, especially anything to which one is strongly attached. These are appropriate tokens of one’s appreciation.”
The Empress said, “When I came to the court, my family gave me these earrings which are the most valuable part of my dowry. Normally, I never remove them from my ears, but I will now offer one to you.” So saying, she removed a large pearl from her ear and offered it to Chogyal Phagpa. Later, he sold it to a Mongolian merchant for a large measure of gold and one thousand measures of silver. When he ultimately returned to Tibet, he offered a part of these to a large gathering of the sangha at Tsang Chumig. With the remainder, he built a golden pagoda atop the Sakya monastery.
After the Empress received the Hevajra Empowerment, she told Kublai Khan, “The Dharma which I received is profound and extraordinary. You should receive it, too.” The Emperor then requested Chogyal Phagpa to give him the empowerment.
Chogyal Phagpa said, “After receiving an empowerment, one should venerate the guru who bestowed it and seat him on a throne higher than one’s own. With one’s body, one must prostrate to him; with one’s voice, one should follow whatever instructions he gives; and with one’s mind, one should not go against the lama’s intent. You may not be able to do these things.” The Empress suggested, “When the Emperor receives empowerment with a small gathering of his inner circle, he will seat the Lama on a throne higher than his, but when there are public gatherings, he should sit upon the highest throne to preserve the hierarchical tradition. Also, regarding activities related to Tibet, the Emperor should not give orders to the Tibetans without first consulting with the Lama. Regarding other decisions, they should be made by the Emperor in consultation with the Lama because the Lama has the nature of great compassion. However, because some people might take unfair advantage of the Lama’s kindness, he, in turn, should confer on all decisions with the Emperor. Chogyal Phagpa agreed to these conditions.
Then Chogyal Phagpa bestowed on the Emperor of China and twenty-four members of his retinue the complete Shri Hevajra empowerment, which is unique to the Sakya tradition. In this way, the Vajrayana began to be established in the lands of China and Mongolia .
In appreciation for receiving this empowerment, the Emperor made Chogyal Phagpa an offering of thirteen groups of ten thousand subjects each.
The Emperor’s second offering consisted of a famous, holy conch shell known as Chudung Karpo Jangdrak(Holy White Conch Shell). The Emperor also offered the religious communities and lay inhabitants of the three provinces of Tibet. The three provinces of Tibet comprised the following: the territory starting from the three Ngari regions of west Tibet up to the Sogla Kyawo Pass (Gray Pass of the Sog Region), which is known as the Holy Dharma province; the territory from the Sogla Kyawo down to the Machu Khugpa River (Mekong River) which is known as the Human Province; and the territory from Machu Khugpa River to Ja Chorten Karpo (White Stupa of China) which is known as the Horse Province.
During Kublai Khan’s reign, his kingdom encompassed eleven shings of which the three provinces given to Chogyal Phagpa were counted as one shing. In reality, the three did not have enough inhabitants to qualify fully as a shing, but since it was the land where the Emperor’s teacher resided, and since it was a place where Dharma became widespread, it was counted as one shing.
For the third empowerment Chogyal Phagpa requested the offering of the cessation of the practice of population cleansing. (At that time, it was common practice to cleanse the population every three years by drowning all failing elderly people and all disabled or deformed youth. By requesting a cessation of this practice, Chogyal Phagpa was sparing thousands of lives.) This offering was particularly pleasing to Chogyal Phagpa, and he composed the following song of appreciation:
“The elements of the sky are as red as blood.
The corpses of the flat footed ones fill the oceans.
I dedicate the merit of
The virtue of stopping such acts.
May the intentions of the Lord of Wisdom be fulfilled;
May the doctrine of benefit and happiness constantly flourish,
And may the Lord of Nations live long.”
Thus, the Great Lord of Dharma, Chogyal Phagpa, was venerated by the Emperor as a supreme teacher.
The Empress Chu had unshakable faith in Chogyal Phagpa and in the Sakya doctrine. While visiting Chogyal Phagpa one day, made the following request, “Rinpoche, in order to make firm the Emperor’s faith, please perform a miracle. Unless you do so, there is a risk that his trust and confidence will falter.”
Chogyal Phagpa replied, “If I can help the Emperor establish solid faith and maintain the samaya, I will grant your request. In the Vajrayana, it is said that if at a crucial moment, a teacher fails to fulfill the wishes of his student, he is committing a great fault. Therefore, bring me a sharp sword from the armory and ask the Emperor and his ministers to come watch while I perform a miracle. The Empress did as he requested.
When they had gathered, Chogyal Phagpa addressed the assembly: “Now I will bless my limbs as the five Dhyani Buddhas. All of you assembled here, make aspiration prayers to be reborn in whichever pure realm you wish.” So saying, Chogyal Phagpa cut off his head, arms, and legs which then transformed into four Dhyani Buddhas, and his head become Mahavairocana. Then the Emperor, Empress, and ministers did prostrations and circumambulations, and made aspirations, each according to his capacity. While performing circumambulations, they noticed that Chogyal Phagpa’s torso, which was still on the throne, was bleeding. Seeing this, the Emperor and Ministers cried and begged that he return to his former shape. Finally, Chogyal Phagpa reappeared in the form of a lama as before.
Later, many great scholars and well-accomplished mahasiddhasvisited China and performed various miracles, but the Emperor thought, “Though these are amazing demonstrations of great benefit to sentient beings, no one can exceed the good qualities manifested by our great teacher, Chogyal Phagpa.” From that day he had no further doubt about Chogyal Phagpa’s realization.
When Chogyal Phagpa was 19, he bestowed an empowerment upon Kublai Khan during the New Year celebration of the Female Water Ox Year. At this time, the Emperor offered his teacher the title of Tishri (Emperor’s Teacher). He also offered Chogyal Phagpa a seal made of jade which bore the letter sawith designs of jewels. Additionally, he offered gold, a Dharma robe adorned with pearls, a hood, shoes, a golden throne, a canopy, a tea set, and camels and mules bearing saddles decorated in gold. He also offered the subjects, provinces, and conch shell described above.
The following year, the Year of the Tiger, the Emperor issued a decree known as Bhande Shet Kyedma (Strengthening Buddhism). On that occasion, he offered Chogyal Phagpa 56 large measures of silver coins, 200 bricks of tea, 80 bolts of silk brocade, and 1000 bolts of other fabrics. In addition, the Emperor agreed to Chogyal Phagpa’s request that the Chinese no longer demand that their emissaries and messengers visiting Tibet be lodged in private homes, nor make private citizens responsible for their board and transport. He also agreed to cease imposing taxes on Tibetans. The decree stated: “In the west of China, the Buddhist religion should be practiced under the leadership of the Sakyapa.”
At one point the Emperor told Chogyal Phagpa, “All Tibetans should follow the Sakyapa tradition. No other sect should prevail. Let us make this a rule.” Chogyal Phagpa replied, “We must help beings to follow Buddhism, each according to his own tradition. It is not proper to forcibly convert beings.” From that time onward, the Emperor and his teacher determined that those traditions that already existed should continue to progress in their own way. Thus, both Emperor and teacher demonstrated their compassion and proper use of authority. Through the kindness and accomplishments of Chogyal Phagpa, all living beings in the region north of the Land of Snows found peace and happiness.
The Dharma Lord, Chogyal Chogyal Phagpa, the teacher who brought benefit and peace to many parts of the world in general and to Tibet in particular, taught the Dharma in many languages and spread the Buddhist doctrine throughout the land.
Chogyal Phagpa was prophesied by Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), who during the reign of King Trisong Deutsen, said:
“You, the translator Kawa Paltseg,
Will benefit beings in India and China .
Then you will associate with me, Padmasambhava, in Oddiyana Gana,
And will appear in the Khon family
In the Sheep Year at the place known as Tsang Trompa
With the name of Chogyal Phagpa.
You will uphold the doctrines of Tripitaka and Mantra
And will tame the savages.”
Chogyal Phagpa performed these activities as prophesied.
On the fifteenth day of the fifth month of the Female Wood Rabbit Year, Chogyal Phagpa took full monastic ordination from the Nyethang Abbot, Dragpa Sengge, at a place on the Chinese-Mongolian border known as Thele, on the banks of a large river. He also received Prajnaparamita teachings from him. From the Master Sonam Gyaltsen, he received teachings on the vinayaand pratimoksha. From Changchub Gyaltsen Yarlungpa, he received many teachings in logic, such as the seven categories of the Pramana. After this, he embarked on a program of detailed personal study.
That same year, on the evening of the 13th day of the 4th month, Chogyal Phagpa had a clear vision of Sakya Pandita who prophesied, “In one hundred thousand years you will achieve the excellent siddhi of Mahamudra.” Hearing this, Chogyal Phagpa felt as though new life had been breathed into him. He then paid homage to his teacher, saying:
I, who have long experienced the anguish
Of the many sufferings of existence,
Have now been given the breath of life through your holy words.
I prostrate and pay homage to you, Lord of Dharma,
Treasure of Compassion and Master of Wisdom.
With this homage, he wrote the verses of the inner offering known as Thupa Gyatso.
Later, Chogyal Phagpa also created a written script for the benefit of the Mongolian people who had previously had none. As a token of appreciation, the Emperor gave Chogyal Phagpa the Bhande Shet Kyedma, or authorization to rule over the three Tibetan provinces. The text of this decree was woven into silk brocade.
Chogyal Phagpa then turned the Wheel of Dharma in the Emperor’s palace. Many learned Chinese masters, who were followers of the teacher Tashing Lachen, attended these Dharma gatherings. They were strongly attached to their own tradition and view. The Emperor, foreseeing that they would distort the pure Buddhist teachings, asked Chogyal Phagpa to enter into debate with them and defeat them. He then selected seventeen of the most learned masters of that tradition and set a date for the contest. Chogyal Phagpa defeated all of them, placed them in the right view, and established them on the Buddhist path as ordained monks.
At the age of twenty-eight, Chogyal Phagpa sent many valuable things to the Sakya monastery and advised the leader of the Sakya region, Shakya Zangpo, to complete the monastery’s construction. To fulfill that advice, Shakya Zangpo built a shrine called “Sertok Chenmo” or “Golden Pagoda” on the western side of the shrine known as “Utse Nyingma.”
In the Female Wood Ox Year, Chogyal Phagpa, then aged thirty-one, returned to Sakya. There he built a stupa known as Tashi Gomang(A Multitude of Auspicious Doors), encrusted with many precious gems and containing the deities of Vajradhatu. The stupa was placed inside the Golden Pagoda Shrine. In addition, he restored the stupas of the previous founders of the Sakya Order, placed canopies atop each, and a golden roof above. He also built an immense gold-plated, copper Dharma wheel. Inside the monastery, Chogyal Phagpa sponsored the writing in pure gold ink of over two hundred volumes of the Buddha’s teachings, including the sutras, tantras, and Prajnaparamita. He also turned the wheel of Dharma on many occasions before large assemblies who he brought to spiritual maturity and liberation.
Although Chogyal Phagpa had completed his education and was a Lord of Dharma, he had no conceit. In order to strengthen his devotion to Dharma, he continued to rely on a variety of spiritual teachers. From some of them, Chogyal Phagpa learned Theravada teachings, from others, Mahayana teachings, and from yet others, Vajrayana. In short, he learned nearly all the Dharma which existed in Tibet at the time, including the five major Buddhist sciences, the Tripitaka, the four classes of tantra, and all the treatises related to sutra and tantra. He also received the empowerments, blessings, instructions, and pith instructions, including their supplements. In this way, he worked with great diligence and dedicated all that he had for the growth of the Buddhist doctrine and the benefit of all sentient beings.
In the Female Fire Rabbit year, at the age of thirty-three, Chogyal Phagpa again received an invitation from Kublai Khan to return to China. At the age of thirty-three, Chogyal Phagpa set out for China with a large entourage.
On the way to China, Chogyal Phagpa gave countless empowerments and instructions to many fortunate disciples, placing them in the state of maturity and liberation. He was like the sun surrounded by brilliant light rays, or like the moon surrounded by countless stars.
When Chogyal Phagpa arrived in China, he was honored by a ceremony which was attended by the Emperor’s eldest son, his wife, and many ministers amidst a large gathering. Chogyal Phagpa was seated upon an Indian elephant adorned with jewels. To his right and left were many victory banners, countless musicians playing instruments, and lavish offerings. Chogyal Phagpa gave countless vast and profound Dharma teachings through which the doctrine of Buddhism arose in China like the sun in the morning sky.
The following year, the leader of the Sakya region, Shakya Zangpo, laid the foundation of the Lhakang Chenmo. He and another leader, Kunga Zangpo, were able to encourage the thirteen categories of ten thousand families to assist in completing the project. In addition, they built the Rinchen Gang Labrang, the Lhakang Labrang, and the Duchod Labrang.
In the Male Iron Horse Year, when Chgyal Pagpa was thirty-six, the Emperor of China requested empowerment. When he received the empowerment, he offered Chogyal Phagpa a six-pointed crystal seal known as the Sheldam Lingdrukma, similar to that owned by the King of Menyak. He also bestowed upon Chogyal Phagpa a decree of special recognition, saying, “You are the only son of the gods on earth and under heaven, an emanation of the Buddha, creator of the nation’s script, national peacemaker, great panditawho is most learned in the five types of knowledge, Imperial Preceptor, Chogyal Phagpa Tishri.
Along with this decree he made immense offerings of precious things and materials including one thousand large measures of silver and fifty-nine thousand bolts of silk and other fabrics. Whenever the Emperor met Chogyal Phagpa, he offered him a special katagand a large measure of silver. The Emperor’s combined offerings during Chogyal Phagpa’s first and second visits to China yielded one hundred measures of gold, over one thousand measures of silver, over fifty thousand bolts of silk, and many other items. In turn, Chogyal Phagpa placed the entire Mongolian population on the Mahayana path and spread the Buddha’s doctrine like the sun throughout all of China.
Chogyal Phagpa made preparations to return to Tibet, telling the Emperor that he would soon return to China. However, as Chogyal Phagpa was setting off, the Emperor had a vision that his teacher would not long remain in this world. As a result, both the teacher and the emperor suffered greatly at their parting. For this reason, Chogyal Phagpa’s progress in leaving China was slow, extending to weeks, months, and years.
Arriving in the foothills of Mount Pomralha near the Yellow River, the Emperor and Chogyal Phagpa took final leave of one another. Just before parting they stayed together for a time like the sun and the moon, surrounded by the Emperor’s retinue of four divisions of the army and over one hundred thousand civilian followers. The Emperor made immeasurable offerings, gave a splendid farewell reception, and accorded Chogyal Phagpa the highest possible veneration.
At that time, many auspicious signs appeared on the earth and in the heavens. A white cloud shaped like an elephant’s trunk extended toward the earth from the south east. Upon this cloud clearly appeared Mahasiddha Virupa, the Master Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, and many other Indian and Tibetan lineage lamas, surrounded by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. These signs were clearly perceived even by ordinary beings. It is also said that many other auspicious signs appeared that Bodhisattvas were performing benefit for beings in other realms of existence.
Through the blessings of the holy body, voice and mind of the Master Chogyal Phagpa, whose real name is Lodro Gyaltsen Palzangpo, most of the subjects of the Mongolian emperor had the seeds of white deeds planted in their minds. They attained higher rebirth through pure aspirations, and solidly trusted the Dharma in three ways through which they were placed on the path of liberation and guided toward the unsurpassable state.
In the Year of the Rabbit, at the age of forty-one, Chogyal Phagpa arrived at his seat, the Sakya Monastery, with a large retinue. Many learned masters of U and Tsang joined him, along with the leaders of nearby regions who wished to receive teachings and advice. Because Chogyal Phagpa’s renown had spread as far as India, Kashmir, and other lands, panditasfrom these countries also began coming to Sakya to receive his teachings because he had received virtually all of the major and minor teachings of sutra and tantra, which had come to Tibet from India. Without withholding anything, he gave countless vast and profound Dharma teachings according to beings’ needs, and he also helped many sentient beings with vast material gifts. In this way he worked day and night at the Sakya monastery to benefit everyone.
In mid-Spring of the Female Fire Ox Year, the Lord of Dharma, Chogyal Phagpa, turned the wheel of Dharma at Tsang Chumig Ringmo. One of the Emperor’s sons sponsored this teaching. During the teachings, Chogyal Phagpa honored over seventy thousand monks by giving each of them generous food offerings, a gold coin, and one bolt of woolen cloth for their Dharma robes. Besides the monks and nuns, many thousands of highly learned Dharma masters were also present. Counting ordinary beings, the crowd exceeded one hundred thousand people.
Chogyal Phagpa bestowed an extensive turning of the vast and profound wheel of Dharma for over fourteen days. On one of the days, he bestowed the Mahayana Bodhisattva Vow, to over one hundred thousand people, planting in their minds the seeds for reaching unsurpassable enlightenment. On that day, he also wrote a Dharma text known as Tentsi (Description of Teachers and Their Doctrine).
A few days after the teachings started, early one morning, a soft rain fell. There then arose a great wind which completely blew away all the dust and dirt. This was followed by a shower of flowers mixed with snow and sleet which cleaned the ground and covered it with flowers. Everyone became aware of a pervasive scent of perfume such as they had never smelled before.
When the crowd gathered in the morning, all saw that the sun was encircled by five layers of rainbows and that the sky was filled with celestial offerings. Eleven great masters possessing pure perception, and twelve chingsang also possessing pure perception saw Buddhas and Bodhisattvas emanating light rays inside the circular rainbows. The miraculous vision filled the whole of space.
Simultaneously on the roof of the shrine hall, vast material offerings were arranged, a silk carpet was laid out, woven with Chogyal Phagpa’s hand, foot, and head prints. Chogyal Phagpa stood upon this carpet and made offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as vast as those made by Samantabhadra, reciting the Petition to the Buddhas of the Ten Directions.
Then in front of them appeared the eighty vidyadharassuch as Nagarjuna, surrounded by the Mahasiddha Virupa on his right, and the Mahasiddha Padmavajra on his left, along with countless other vidyadharas, virasand dakiniscompletely filling space. The vidyadharasplaced their hands on Chogyal Phagpa’s head, gave him Dharma instructions and prophecies about the future, commended him for his holy activities, and recited verses of auspiciousness.
Many auspicious signs, such as rainbows and showers of flowers had occurred on each day of the teachings. On the fourteenth day, when the turning of the wheel of Dharma was completely accomplished. Chogyal Phagpa stood before the gathering and gave a detailed explanation of dedication of merit. Beginning early that morning, many particularly auspicious signs appeared.
The chief scholar of the Narthang region, Chomden Rigdrel, had not bestirred himself to attend Chogyal Phagpa’s teachings because he felt very superior. However, he did read some of Chogyal Phagpa’s biography. On the fourteenth day of Chogyal Phagpa’s teachings he thought to himself, “If I don’t give some thought to Chogyal Phagpa’s activities, I will be guilty of ignorance because his spiritual power has greatly influenced both ordinary beings and learned masters. I should go and see for myself what manner of being he is and what he is doing.” With that in mind he changed clothes and started out for the teaching.
On the way, on a pass southwest of Narthang, he passed a place with creeks and a cave from which voices emanated. Looking into the cave, he beheld sixteen elderly monks wearing tattered Dharma robes. Seeing this he thought, “This great being, Chogyal Phagpa, is unlike other masters. Even these senior monks who are near the end of their lives and find it difficult to travel, nonetheless are determined to attend Chogyal Phagpa’s teachings.”
Reaching Chumig, he found Chogyal Phagpa seated upon the Dharma throne amidst an ocean-like assembly of monks and lay men and women. He perceived that his body was adorned with the major and minor marks of perfection; his voice proclaimed the vast and profound Dharma with the combination of unborn sound and emptiness; and his mind rested in the multiple samadhi of bliss and emptiness. From that moment, Chomden Rigdrel’s mind was completely overwhelmed and he could think of nothing but Chogyal Phagpa’s power.
When the teaching ended, Chogyal Phagpa explained the dedication of merit and ascended to the roof of the hall while the rest of the gathering remained in their places. Chomden Rigdrel himself smelled a delightful scent such as he had never experienced before. He went to Chogyal Phagpa’s personal quarters beneath the golden monastery pagoda and examined the inside and outside of Chogyal Phagpa’s shrine hall. Inside, near the top, were sixteen dharma thrones upon each of which five cushions were stacked. Extensive material offerings were also placed before them. Immediately, Chomden Rigdrel recalled the sixteen elderly monks he had seen on his way to the teachings and he thought, “Until now I have been ruled by my own conceit. In fact, this great master is not an ordinary being.” Feeling deep regret at not having attended the teachings, he thought, “I should erase all doubt about this great Lama from my mind.” At that moment the scent of perfume intensified, and he beheld the Sixteen Arhats upon the sixteen thrones, with Chogyal Phagpa reciting the Seven-fold Prayer and making offerings to them.
Feeling yet deeper chagrin, Chomden Rigdrel performed countless prostrations and confessed his fault. From that moment on, his mind became completely serene and devoid of pride. Ultimately, he became deeply devoted to Chogyal Phagpa and composed an elegant praise to him known as Tsangpa Drukdra (The Sound of Brahma’s Thunderbolt). Later in his life he was venerated by the Mongolian Emperor as a great scholar and received great offerings which were brought to Narthang by the Emperor’s messengers.
In this way Chogyal Phagpa performed miracles inconceivable to ordinary beings. He also sponsored the writing of 115 volumes of scriptures in gold ink which he placed in the Do Kham Gang shrine, and fourteen volumes of sutras, also in gold ink, which he gave to Tagthog Zhemocher. At the Sakya Monastery he built a stupa for Sakya Pandita’s holy relics which was constructed like Tashi Gomang and made of gold. He placed the stupa inside a shrine hall and erected a golden pagoda atop it. These and many other holy activities he performed for the benefit of the doctrine. In short, though he daily received limitless material offerings from every direction, he kept nothing for himself, not even a portion the value of a sesame seed. Everything given him was either offered to the Triple Gem or distributed to the poor.
As a result, Chogyal Phagpa became one of the best endowed teachers in the history of Buddhism. During his lifetime he was offered six sets of the Kangyur, and he himself sponsored over 2,157 volumes of texts written in gold ink. The Mongolian Emperor twice offered him over one thousand large measures of silver, as well as gold and countless other offerings. All of these Chogyal Phagpa dedicated for the benefit of the doctrine and sentient beings.
Chogyal Phagpa also benefited beings by preserving pure moral conduct and served as abbot for 1,425 ordination ceremonies for monks and nuns. One of his chief disciples, Chokye Gompo, served as abbot for 947 fully-ordained and novice monks in one year alone. Through this master, his disciples and lineage, the ordination of monks and nuns spread throughout China, Mongolia and Tibet.
Outwardly, through the samadhi precepts, Chogyal Phagpa appeared as a scholar, performing learned activities such as teaching, debating, and composing. Inwardly, his mind never wavered from single-pointed concentration. As a result, he directly perceived a multitude of tutelary deities and experienced unbroken luminosity in his holy mind. These and other qualities are beyond description in ordinary terms.
Through these and many other stories, Chogyal Phagpa’s powers of clairvoyance were widely broadcast. Because he was such a holy person who possessed unimpeded clairvoyance and a multitude of good qualities, he was able to perform vast activities for the Buddha’s doctrine without hindrance. By composing texts, teaching, and countless other activities, Chogyal Phagpa approximated the accomplishments of Indian teachers of old like Nagarjuna. His original compositions were easy to understand and elegant in style, and their meaning was profound and in accordance with the sutras and tantras. He produced a multitude of root texts, commentaries on sutra and tantra, letters responding to questions, advice for countless beings, and praise and supplication prayers to the lamas and deities. [The names of his original compositions are so numerous that they are not translated into English here. Those wishing this information may consult the Sakya Dungrab Chenmo by Ngawang Kunga Sodnam.]
No matter what Chogyal Phagpa composed, it was pleasing to hear, easy to understand, meaningful and readily recollected by whoever heard it. His writings have remained popular to this day. In this way Chogyal Phagpa spread the precious doctrine of the Sugatain every direction like the rays of the sun. By teaching, composing, and engaging in debate, he produced innumerable disciples. If one tried to count all of his disciples in China and Tibet , it would be impossible.
In short, during his lifetime and that of his chief disciple, the Buddha’s doctrine spread in a way which can be compared to its dissemination in India at the time of the Buddha himself.
Through his clairvoyance, Chogyal Phagpa placed countless beings on the stage of maturation and liberation according to their ability. But the moment came when he perceived that since in other lives, he would perform vast benefit for sentient beings, it was time to leave this life. Calling Dharmapala Rakshita to his side, he said, “Through the holy biographies of the great Sakyapa lamas we know that they performed great benefit for the Buddha’s doctrine and sentient beings. For myself, I acted according to my ability to benefit beings as widely as possible. Now is the time for you to take this responsibility, be alerted.”
In his youth, Chogyal Phagpa had a dream one night in which he was holding a bamboo cane with eighty knots, the forty-sixth knot being crooked. When he related the dream to Sakya Pandita, the latter said it symbolized his life span. However, since the forty sixth knot was crooked, this indicated that obstacles would arise when he reached that age and that he would have to take precautions at that time. Thus, Sakya Pandita prophesied Chogyal Phagpa’s life span.
Sakya Pandita also prophesied that when Chogyal Phagpa approached the time of entering into parinirvana, many celestial beings with clairvoyant minds, would enter into a state of mourning and depression. Many birds chirped discordantly, and their feathers faded. Even the sun was not as bright as usual, ordinary humans felt unrest and indecision, and crops that year were poor.
However, in his pure vision, Chogyal Phagpa saw that he was being venerated and given offerings by countless Bodhisattvas in Sukhavati, the realm of the the Buddha Amitabha, and many other Buddhafields.
On the night of the third day of the tenth month in the Year of the Dragon, Chogyal Phagpa dreamt that he had reached Glorious Mountain in India where Master Nagarjuna was seated in front of an enormous Bodhi tree, and that he was listening to six different collections of Madhyamika teachings and many other dharmas. At the same time, many goddesses, most notably the Queen of Dharanyi Mahamaya (Great Peacock), clearly appeared in space and made countless offerings. These and many other auspicious signs appeared to him both day and night.
At that point, Chogyal Phagpa commenced the annual anniversary offering to Sakya Pandita and continued to make great offerings throughout that month. His attendants asked why it was being held a month early that year, and he replied that “Although we generally start in the eleventh month, I made a commitment to perform it for a whole month every year, and I fear I might not be able to complete the ceremony if I were to begin making mandala offerings next month.” Thus, Chogyal Phagpa presided over the offering ceremonies each day throughout the tenth month, continuing until the eighteenth of the eleventh month.
On the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first of the eleventh month, he remained in his room. Early in the morning of the twenty-second he asked his attendants to arrange elaborate offerings. When they had done so, amid many auspicious signs, he took his vajra and bell into his hands and demonstrated passing into parinirvana. A rain of flowers fell, light rays pervaded the area, and celestial music was heard.
Thus Chogyal Phagpa entered mahaparinirvanaat the age of 46 in the Male Iron Dragon Year, in order to dispel the wrong views of those who cling to permanence, to demonstrate diligence to those who are lazy, and to benefit beings in other realms. At that time the earth trembled in six different ways in the Sakya region and delicious scents never smelled before pervaded space. Many other celestial offerings appeared.
During his lifetime Chogyal Phagpa engaged in many activities such as preaching the Dharma, building great monasteries, and accepting both spiritual and political responsibility for the Tibetan people while traveling between China and Tibet. In this way he worked diligently for the benefit of the Buddha’s doctrine and for sentient beings.
During the cremation ceremony, one of Chogyal Phagpa’s chief disciples, Dragpa Zhonnu, who is also said to be an emanation of Blue Manjushri, approached the site and strongly supplicated the guru with loud lamentations, beating his head against the stupa. While this was happening, a piece of charcoal flew out of the stupa. In it Dragpa Zhonnu discovered a relic of Chogyal Phagpa’s thumb, its surface bearing clear outlines of the Five Dhyani Buddhas as finely traced as though executed by an artist. Again, Dragpa Zhonnu supplicated the guru, placing the relics on his own head. After this, the designs on the relic became yet clearer so that even the faces and hands of the Buddhas could be discerned. Later, he placed this relic inside an image of the Buddha and kept it in a shrine in Shangdud Monastery.
(Ref.: Abbreviated from a text in Sakya Dungrab Chenmo by Sakyapa Ngawang Kunga Sodnam. Translated by Venerable Lama Kalsang Gyaltsen and Victoria Huckenpahler.)
Loppon Sonam Tsemo
Holy Biography of the Second Founder of the Sakya Order Loppon Sonam Tsemo, second of the five founders of the Sakya Order was born in the Male Water Dog year (1142) in Sakya, Tibet. He was the eldest of the three sons born to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the first founder of the Sakya Order. His mother’s name was Machig Odron. His younger brother was Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen, who became the third founder of the Sakya Order.
It is said that when Loppon Sonam Tsemo was born, words written by dakinis appeared above the doorway to the great stupa in Bodhgaya, India where Lord Buddha Shakyamuni attained enlightenment. The words proclaimed, “The holy abbot Sonam Tsemo, emanation of Manjushri and owner of all Vajrayana Dharma, has taken birth in Sakya.” Immediately after taking birth, Sonam Tsemo amazed everyone in the birth chamber by saying in Sanskrit, “I am beyond childish behaviour” and sitting up in full meditation posture. When he was three years old, he directly perceived the Bodhisattva Manjushri and the deities Shri Hevajra, Green Tara, and Arya Acala. He also taught from memory the three Hevajra tantras, the Chakrasamvara Root Tantra and the Samucca Tantra and was able to describe memories of eleven previous lives. During his youth, Sonam Tsemo received many important teachings on Vajrayana Dharma from his father. He studied them deeply and learned them thoroughly. Before he was seventeen years old, he could recite forty different tantras from memory and his fame as the most learned scholar of the Vajrayana was proclaimed as far as the Ganges River in India.
At the age of seventeen, he told his brother Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen who was thirteen at the time, “I will go to central Tibet to study the sutras and the field of logic. You should remain here at this holy seat of Sakya Monastery to lead the disciples.” Thus, transferring his authority to his brother, he left for Sangphu Neuthok Monastery.
At Sangphu Neuthok, the great master Chapa Chogyi Sengge had eight excellent disciples who were known as the eight great lions. He had eight other disciples who were known as semi-lions. He had four disciples from noble families: Loppon Sonam Tsemo himself from the Khon family; Netso from the Khu family; Ramo from the Ngok family; and Oma from the Nyo family. Loppon Sonam Tsemo became the most outstanding and learned among all of the disciples.
When Loppon Sonam Tsemo was 26 years old, he composed the treatise Door to the Dharma at the holy shrine of Nalatse. This great work provides a flawless outline of the complete Buddhist doctrine and teachings. During this period, both day and night, he received immeasurable teachings directly from Mahasiddha Virupa and many other tutelary deities. Thus, he overcame all doubt concerning every aspect of the Dharma and attained perfect memory of all knowledge. By the age of 27 he was widely renowned as the central pillar of the Buddhist doctrine in the world.
The next year, at the age of 28, Loppon Sonam Tsemo bestowed the Lam Dre teaching in the ancient shrine of Sakya Monastery. On the first day of the month, while explaining the profound view of the nature of phenomena, the gathering of disciples perceived him in transformed aspect. Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen saw him as the Bodhisattva Manjushri seated amidst an ocean of offerings. Chosay Chagkyi Dorje saw him as Mahasiddha Virupa, the founder of the Lam Dre teaching. Nyak and Mokton Tsuktor Wangpo and the rest of the assembly saw him as the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. After these visions all of the disciples gained a special experience of meditative concentration.
During the empowerment, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen perceived boundless light rays emanating from his guru Loppon Sonam Tsemo and heard the music of countless celestial instruments. Loppon Sonam Tsemo demonstrated an actual emanation mandala and bestowed empowerment upon Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen within it. Thus, revealing the profundity of the mandala, he opened the door to inconceivable meditative concentration for his disciples.
Loppon Sonam Tsemo skillfully taught both the sutra and tantra according to the needs of each disciple. He was a great scholar of both the Pramanavirtika and the Excellent Dharma. He wore a yellow Dharma robe, symbolizing that he was unsurpassed in explanation and debate on both scriptural and philosophical topics. Loppon Sonam Tsemo authored many, many texts, which are like a garland of elegant sayings, including: Schematization of the Tantra; Rays of Sunlight: An Explanation of the Last Two Chapters of the Hevajra Root Tantra; Commentary on the Second Chapter of the Samputa Tantra; Door to the Dharma; Easy Entrance for Beginners; and Instructions for Reading Sanskrit.
Loppon Sonam Tsemo held the throne of Sakya for three years. Then he relinquished authority to his younger brother and spent the rest of his life in study and meditation in quiet and isolated places. Crowning his extensive great knowledge of sutra and tantra with long periods of intensive meditation, he attained the highest stage of realization.
At the age of 41, on the eleventh day of the Tibetan month of Malpo in the Male Water Tiger year (1182), the great Loppon Sonam Tsemo directly entered Sukhavati. As he passed into parinirvana, he manifested two different aspects of his body for the benefit of beings. The first aspect is described in the Supplication with a Mournful Melody: “During the evening of the tenth day, the two holy brothers performed a tsokoffering. The next morning Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen visited his brother’s room and found only a Dharma robe left behind, for Loppon Sonam Tsemo had departed to the Kechari realm without abandoning his body. Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen, with great fervour, recited the Supplication with a Mournful Melody and through it he received a special prophecy which emerged from the Dharma robes like the sound of a bee.”
The second aspect was described by an old woman who witnessed Loppon Sonam Tsemo depart. Standing on a rock at the holy spring near Sakya known as Chumik Dzingka, his body ascended gracefully into the sky, still holding his dog. Even today the footprints of Loppon Sonam Tsemo and the dog can be clearly seen in the rock, left for the benefit of living beings as a field from which to accumulate merit. This holy site was decorated by the great master Mantradhara Ngawang Kunga Rinchen. Other accounts say that he ascended from Gorum Library near Chumik Dzingka spring. A stupa containing his holy relics was erected there.
Thus it is written. In the perception of pure beings there is no doubt that Loppon Sonam Tsemo departed for Sukhavati without leaving his body. For the benefit of common beings, he manifested parinirvanawithout abandoning his body and traveled unhindered to the realm of Sukhavati.
(Ref.: Translatedfrom Sakyapa Ngawang Kunga Sonam’s biography of Loppon Sonam Tsemo contained in the Sakya Dungrab Chenmo. Translated in English in Holy Biographies of the Great Founders of the Glorious Sakya Order. Translated and edited by Venerable Lama Kalsang Gyaltsen, Ani Kunga Chodron, and Victoria Huckenpahler. Published by Sakya Phuntsok Ling Publications, Silver Spring MD, USA, 2000. Source: Cho Trin, Volume 1, Number 2)
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen
Holy Biography of the Third Founder of the Sakya Order:
Jetsun Rinpoche Dragpa Gyaltsen, the third of the five founders of the Sakya Order, was born in the year of the Female Fire Rabbit (1147) in Sakya, Tibet. His father was Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the first founder of the Sakya Order. His mother’s name was Machig Odron. His older brother was Loppon Sonam Tsemo, who was the second founder of the Sakya Order.
When Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen entered the womb, his mother had a very special dream in which a naga king approached her and requested accommodation. The birth was accompanied by many auspicious omens. As an infant, even when barely able to talk, he delighted in staying in isolated places and in studying. He was not attached to mundane concerns such as food and clothing. Although still young, he was completely beyond childish things.
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen received the brahmacarya upasaka vows from the Bodhisattva Dawa Gyaltsen at the age of eight, and from that time onward, he maintained the vows with great care. His purity in maintaining vows was greater than some fully ordained monks of that period, and, in fact, he strongly desired to receive full ordination.
He always urged his fully ordained disciples to perform the sojong practice to purify and renew their vows. During the sojong ceremony, he took pleasure in personally offering tea to the monks.
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen had clear signs and habitual tendencies of having been a fully ordained monk in his previous life. For instance, sometimes when his mind was relaxed he would say, concerning his food and clothing, “I think that I did not properly accept these according to the rituals appropriate for giving and taking by fully ordained persons.”
Even on special occasions such as tsog offerings, he carefully avoided all meat and alcohol. However, later in life, he began to accept more tsog offering substances than he had before. When asked why he now accepted more, he responded, “Earlier, I had such strong desire to drink chang that I even dreamed of it, but because I recognized this as Mara’s attempt to hinder me, I would take very little. But now I have no desire at all. Therefore, I accept more.” Throughout his entire life, meat and alcohol never touched his lips except on these special occasions.
At the age of ten, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen received the instructions on Candragomin’s Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattva Vow as well as instructions on the Hevajra sadhana according to the Padmavajra tradition. Then, at the age of eleven, he taught these to other disciples, and everyone was amazed at the profound understanding demonstrated by his explanation. He was given the name Lodu Chenbo, which means Great Intelligence.
One night when he was twelve, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen dreamed that he swallowed the three Hevajra tantras, and experience arose in which he attained realization of the suchness of all phenomena.
When his father, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, passed away, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen assembled a large gathering of disciples and taught a commentary on the Hevajra Root Tantra. All were astounded to hear such a wonderful and profound teaching from someone so young.
When Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was thirteen, his elder brother Loppon Sonam Tsemo left for central Tibet to further his Dharma education. From that time, until the age of 70, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was responsible for Vajrayana teaching at the Sakya Monastery. However, his guru had forbidden him to teach the Lam Dre for nine more years, and thirteen years actually passed before he gave that teaching. During that period, he received many teachings from various teachers including Loppon Sonam Tsemo, Nyen Tsuktor Gyalpo, Shang Tsultrim Drak, Nyak Wangyal, Dzaya Sena from Nepal, Tarma Yondun Lotsawa, and Palchok Tangpo Dorje the Sumpa Lotsawa.
From these teachers, he received the full commentaries on the Hevajra Root Tantra, and the Common and Uncommon Commentary Tantras, including the sadhanas and several different traditions of explanations. He received the entire explanation of the Chakrasamvara Root Tantra, including the supplementary texts; the explanations on the three Guhyasamaja Tantras of the Arya tradition with all the supplementary texts, and the explanation on the Guhyasamaja Tantra including the pith instructions according to the tradition of Yeshe Shap and Dzayen. Particularly, he received the pith instructions according to Yeshe Shap and Men Shap. He received the reading transmissions of all of these texts and all the other requirements.
From the yoga tantra tradition, he received the explanation on Sahaja-samaja known as Luminosity of Suchness, as well as the explanations of Vajrasisara, the Shriparamadhya Tantra, the Durgatiparishodhana Tantra, and many others, including explanations of all their supplementary texts. He also received the explanation of the Three Tantras of Yamari including the supplementary texts, and many related pith instructions; a commentary on the Manjushri Namasamgita, including supplementary texts; explanations on the charya tantra; the explanation of Arya Acala known as Great Concept; and many other texts.
From the kiriya tantra tradition he received many instructions and explanations such as the Guhyasamaja Tantra, the Vahubhadra Tantra, and others.
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen received many other Dharma teachings concerning the sutras and the history of Buddhism. He learned all of the teachings that he received thoroughly and comprehensively. Immediately after receiving the teachings, he memorized the texts, never postponing or procrastinating in his studies.
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen himself said, “I am not one who has received a large number of teachings from teachers. Rather, I am one who has read a large number of texts. There is almost no text relating to the Tripitaka which I have not read. However, I did not read the texts relating to the Vinaya, as I intended to become a fully ordained monk. However, now that I realize that I will not take ordination, I have since read those as well.”
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen exerted himself greatly in his daily practice of meditation and recitation of sadhanas. Each day, he spent until midnight in meditation. Then he arose early, even in winter, dressed in his Dharma robes, washed his face with cold water, and performed his meditations.
When Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen went to the monastery to teach, he performed the Hevajra sadhana on the way, and when he sat upon the Dharma throne, he took consecration and sealed his practice with the master of the race. At the end of the teaching, he performed the tormaritual, and used the Dharma teaching as the recitation of mantra. As he left the monastery, he would begin another sadhana, such as Chakrasamvara. In this way, each 24 hours, he performed the mandalas of almost 70 deities.
His attendants said that they never saw his body, voice, or mind relaxing in an ordinary manner. At all times, he was constantly engaged in meditation, reading of texts, or the turning of the wheel of Dharma. Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen devoted his entire life to teaching, and his explanations were easy for disciples to understand. He explained even difficult topics simply and clearly.
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen responded to all questions and challenges without difficulty, providing explanations according to scriptures and using his own knowledge. His teachings were always in accord with the authentic Dharma, and he dispelled the misunderstandings of other beings.
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was an extremely prolific writer and wrote many original works, all of which were elegantly composed. A few of the most famous are listed here. A full listing covering several pages is contained in the complete biography by Sakyapa Ngawang Kunga Sodnam. Among Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen’s compositions on anutara yoga tantra are: Supplication to the Lam Dre Lineage Lamas; a commentary on the last two chapters of the Hevajra Root Tantra known as Accurate; an explanation of what is to be realized through the tantra known as Wish-Fulfilling Tree; Explanation of 113 Sections of Tantra; Outline of Donton; Holy Biography of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo; Verses from the Holy Biography of Loppon Sonam Tsemo; Six-Limbed Hevajra Practice; Commentary on the Fifty Types of Guru Devotion; an explanation of the Vajrayana root downfalls known as Dispelling Errors, Explanation on Vajrayogini’s Behavior; and Brief Outline of Vajrayogini’s Behavior.
Among his many compositions on kiriya, charya, and yoga tantra are: General Explanation of Charya Tantra; Outline of Charya Tantra; the Sarvavidhya Vairochana ritual and supplementary practices known as Rays of Light Benefiting Beings; Text for Reciting the Manjushri Namasamgita; Outline of the Explanation of the Various Activities of the Twenty-One Taras; Brief Form of the Four-Mandala Green Tara Ritual; and Elaborate Form of the Four-Mandala Green Tara Ritual.
Among his other compositions are Explanation of the Lineage of the Shakya Clan; Brief History of the Early Rulers of Tibet; Explanation of How Buddhism Divided into Various Schools in India and Tibet; Explanation of Astrology’s Origins; Commentary on the Twenty Vows; Outline for the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life; a collection of various religious songs, and an explanation of Tibetan medicine and diagnosis known as King’s Treasury.
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen composed these and many other works. The main focus of his writings was not elegant discourse, but rather the benefit of beings. Therefore, his compositions are easy to read and understand, and suitable for both the learned and unlearned. All are delightful to read. Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was also skilled in sacred drawing, and drew various protection chakras, mandalas, and other works, which he sent to his disciple Nyakma.
Signs of Spiritual Attainment
There were many signs that Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen achieved high realization and was directly blessed by the tutelary deities. He attained clairvoyance, and even devas and nagas came to him with questions. He was able to dispel their doubts and they relied upon his advice. If Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen found it hard to understand a difficult work, he would make offerings and supplications to the gurus and deities. He stated that the Mahasiddha Virupa himself often directly revealed his face to him to dispel confusion.
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen had extremely strong devotion to his teachers, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo and Loppon Sonam Tsemo. He perceived them as true Vajradharas. When they were alive, he pleased them by offering every possible service of his body, voice, and mind, in any way that brought happiness to them. He always regarded them with perfect respect, never rudely jesting or joking with them. When their departure was near, he dedicated all of his material wealth and even his own body, without any clinging to material objects to ransom their parting. After their departure, he dedicated all of his and their possessions as offerings for his teachers.
Three times Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen hosted major turnings of the wheel of Dharma. He perpetually sponsored over one hundred Sangha members who engaged in constant meditation. He built a very special statue of Khon Konchog Gyalpo with golden ornaments known as Utse Nyingma and a stupa for his relics. He built a stupa for Sachen Kunga Nyingpo known as Tashi Gomang, as well as a golden statue of Loppon Sonam Tsemo and his younger brother. Before these statues, he offered 100 butter lamps for many days and nights. In addition, he erected canopies above the statues, victory banners, many bells, and a ledge of stupas for highly qualified teachers.
Whatever he received he offered to the gurus and the Triple Gem or gave to those in poverty. Although he received and offered vast quantities of material, at the time of his departure, he possessed only his Dharma robes and a meditation cushion. He possessed no gold whatsoever, not even a piece the size of a sesame seed, and not even a handful of other material possessions. These were the amazing signs of his high spiritual realization.
Memories of Previous Lives and Prophecies
Once Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen told a disciple, “When I was about 20 years old, one afternoon I fell asleep sitting in meditation position. I dreamed that I was reciting the Manjushri Namasamgita, and when I was about halfway finished, I awoke."
"Again, when I was about 21 years old, one afternoon, I fell asleep in meditation posture, and again dreamed that I was reciting the Manjushri Namasamgita, even though in this life, I had never learned it. Clearly, I must have memorized it in previous lives. Later, Manjushri revealed to me in a dream that he had been my special tutelary deity during my past seven lives.”
“Another time, when I was 22 years old, I dreamed of a life in eastern India in a region called Varendra, where I dwelt in a retreat cabin in a dense forest as an elderly panditaand Vajrayana practitioner. North of the cabin was a large city, where the king built a shrine. The panditawas requested to consecrate it, but he refused, saying that he was too old to travel to the city. Instead, the panditasaid that his name, Gothaye Lodro (Endless Doors of Intelligence), should be written above the door of the shrine, and that that would serve as a protection. He recommended that another pandita, one of his disciples, perform the consecration. After the panditapassed away, he was reborn north of Rajgir, near Magadha, and became a monk and panditalearned in the sutras. In his next life, he dwelt in a monastery in the north of Odiyana, as the leader of many disciples. These previous panditaswere me.”
“After two more lives, the names and locations I do not recall, I took birth in Tibet. There, I lived in a valley whose mouth faced the north, and at the end of the valley was a desert. On the eastern side of the valley, near the desert, was a monastery which also faced north, with a long staircase leading to it. On the south side of the monastery was a nest of black birds. On the north side was a shrine inside which was a golden stupa. In the shrine dwelt a senior Vajrayana practitioner who recited the Manjushri Namasamgita throughout his life. He read many commentaries on it and contemplated its meaning. The text has a brief description of the title, and was contained in a box, written in red ink. I can clearly remember it.” In this way, he remembered seven previous lifetimes in his dreams. Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen explained the dream to his attendant, Thonba, who found the box and the commentary, just as Rinpoche had described in his dream.
When Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was 37 years old, Loppon Sonam Tsemo departed for Sukavati. Shortly thereafter, early one winter morning, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen heard a sound like that of a bell emanating from Loppon Sonam Tsemo’s stupa. The sound conveyed the words, “You will take birth as the son of a universal emperor known as Sonam Thaye, in the realm of the Tathagata Serwo Nambar Tsenba, in a golden-colored world on the northern side of this universe, beyond many countless worlds. You will become a universal emperor known as Yonten Thaye.” This prophecy resounded in space. When Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was 49 years old, he had a magnificent dream in which he perceived those who would become his most learned and realized disciples. The miraculous signs surrounding his dream can be read in his full biography.
When Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was 56, he dreamed that his guru appeared before him, and taught him eight lines which summarized the entire Lam Dre teaching. From this teaching, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen achieved very high realization and completely realized all external and internal interdependencies.
Many amazing stories describe Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen’s spiritual power. In India there lived a meditator who practiced Yamantaka and had gained realization through clear visualization and the creation process. Yet he lacked altruistic thought and the completion process. After he passed away, he was reborn as a powerful spirit with nine goiters, in place of Yamantaka’s nine heads. When the Kashmiri Pandita Shakya Shri Badhra visited Tibet, the spirit followed him, and none could make it go away.
When Shakra Shri Badhra visited Sakya, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen welcomed the great pandita. Realizing that the evil spirit was following the pandita, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen placed his vajra and bell in space and expelled the spirit. As the spirit was disinclined to return to India, it went instead to the east, where to this day it follows those who travel with a great deal of wealth, and attempts to re-enter Tibet.
Another time, when Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was meditating in the retreat cabin known as Zimchel Karpo, Shakya Shri Badhra asked Sakya Pandita, “Where is your uncle?” Sakya Pandita replied that he was meditating. Shakya Shri Badhra asked to see him, and Sakya Pandita said that he would go to announce Shakya Shri Badhra’s arrival. But Shakya Shri Badhra asked instead that they go together to Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen’s room unannounced.
When they suddenly appeared in the door of the retreat cabin, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen had just completed the Guhyasamaja self-creation, and was making offering and homage to the front creation. Meaning to perform prostrations to Shakya Shri Badhra, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen stood up suddenly and tried to place his vajra and bell on the table. However, in his haste, he placed them in the air, and they remained there in space, without falling. Shakya Shri Badhra said, “This is an amazing sign of your realization.” But Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen replied, “I did not do this to impress you,” and performed prostrations to Shakya Shri Badhra. Shakya Shri Badhra returned the prostrations with his own prostrations.
Shakya Shri Badhra’s attendants, the lesser panditas, felt uncomfortable, as they had previously requested Shakya Shri Badhra not to do prostrations to Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen, as he was an upasika vow holder while Shakya Shri Badhra was a fully ordained monk. The lesser panditasasked Shakya Shri Badhra why he had not honoured the agreement, and Shakya Shri Badhra said, “Despite our agreement, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen is the real Vajradhara,” and explained that he had perceived Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen to be dwelling within the complete Guhyasamaja mandala.
Once, when Shakya Shri Badhra was staying at Sakya, he told Sakya Pandita that on a particular day there would be an eclipse of the sun and wrote down the predicted day and time. Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen advised that the prediction not be made public because the eclipse would not occur. The lesser panditas laughed and teased Dragpa Gyaltsen. Sakya Pandita and Shakya Shri Badhra visited Shang Shri Shing on the day that the eclipse had been predicted, but it did not occur. Shakya Shri Badhra said, “This much I do know, in the valley there is a senior upasika without pride.”
Another story illustrates Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen’s good qualities. Once Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen performed a retreat to the north of Sakya in two inter-connected caves with a skylight. On the full moon of the eighth month, his attendant saw many people arrive on horseback. They all dismounted and entered the cave. The attendant thought that the cave was too small to hold them all, but when he peeked through the opening, he saw that the cave easily held a great many people, who all spoke a language he had never heard before. The visitors made prostrations and requests to Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen, and their discussions were translated by an eight- or nine-year-old boy, wearing a white robe and a turquoise crown.
The visitors invited Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen to visit their country, but he replied, “I am already too old, and I do not have a karmic connection with your people and your land, so my visit would not be of much benefit. However, my nephew, Kunga Gyaltsen (Sakya Pandita, fourth of the five founders of the Sakya Order) does have such a connection with you, and in the future, I will send him in my stead.”
After a while, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen asked the attendant if they had any chang. The attendant replied that he had a small bottle for use during tsog offerings. Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen replied that that would be enough, and asked him to bring it, and then not to observe the visitors. After Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen blessed the chang and sprinkled it, the visitors were completely satisfied and pleased. The visitors were divine protectors of the Mongolian emperor known as Namlha Theu. The interpreter was the Tibetan local mountain god Nyenchen Thanglha.
When Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was 67, one night during the ninth month, he perceived his root guru, the great lama Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, in a dream surrounded by eight Bodhisattvas. On his right was Hevajra surrounded by eight goddesses. On his left was the Buddha Shakyamuni surrounded by the eight Arhats, such as Godanya and the rest.
Sachen Kunga Nyingpo asked, “If you wished to take full ordination, from whom would you take it? If you wished to take a major initiation, from whom would you take it?” Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen answered, “If I were to take either full ordination or a major initiation, you are abbot and vajra master combined, and you are the one from whom I would take it.” Sachen Kunga Nyingpo said, “You understand excellently, that is just how it is.” Saying this, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo gave breath to Dragpa Gyaltsen, and that night Dragpa Gyaltsen asked many questions, and dispelled many doubts.
At the age of 68, many celestial messengers came to invite Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen to Sukavati, but he refused their invitation, and dismissed them. At the age of 69, many deities appeared and described the excellent qualities of the Buddha realms, especially the wonders of Sukavati, the Buddha Amitabha’s realm, and invited him to go there. He replied, “For me, the pure realms are not particularly enjoyable, and the impure realms are not particularly unenjoyable. However, to purify the environment and realm, it is more exalted to live in an impure realm. As many protectorless beings depend upon me, I will not go to a pure realm just now.”
Then, at the age of 70, the deities again appeared saying, “This time, you really must come to the pure realm.” Hearing this, in his pure vision, he perceived the design of the pure realm of Sukavati. Many signs, such as earth tremors, celestial music, and balls of light rays appeared. Other masters, including Dharma King Sakya Pandita, also perceived that the deities had come to invite Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen to the pure realms. The next morning, as Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen sat in meditation position, and recited supplication prayers, he rested briefly. He perceived all of space to be filled with countless deities, who had prepared a precious throne decorated with precious jeweled loops and tassels, and infinite offerings arranged in space. The deities said, “We have come to invite you to Sukavati.”
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen remained silent and gave no reply, by which the deities saw that Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen was willing to depart for Sukavati. They pointed saying, “Behold the design of Sukavati!” Dragpa Gyaltsen looked and beheld the ground entirely made of lapis lazuli, with jeweled trees, and countless other ornaments.
One may wonder why Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen went to the pure realm of Sukavati, when one recalls that he had earlier prophesied that he would depart for the realm of Golden Light. This is because he made the aspiration, “May I take rebirth in the presence of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo and Loppon Sonam Tsemo,” and through the power of this aspiration, for the time being, he took rebirth in Sukavati.
Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen said that he perceived many other holy phenomena, but when he awoke, he could not remember them in detail. Then, preceded by the seven-fold prayer, he meditated on the deities of the mandala, after which he told Sakya Pandita, “First I will depart for Sukavati, the pure realm of Amitabha. There, after a little while, I will depart for the pure realm of Golden Light, where in the form of a universal emperor, I will purify my Buddha realm. After that, on the basis of my third body, I aspire to achieve the excellent attainment of mahamudra.” Saying thus, he entered single pointed concentration on profound mantrayana practice.
In this way, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen carried the responsibility of throne holder of the Sakya Order for forty-five years, from the age of 26 until the age of 70. Then, in the year of the Male Fire Mouse (1216), on the twelfth day of the second lunar month, he departed for Sukavati.
Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyeltsen or Kunga Gylatshan Pal Zangpo (1182–1251) was a Tibetan spiritual leader and Buddhist scholar and the fourth of the Five Venerable Supreme Sakya Masters of Tibet. Kunga Gyeltsen is generally known simply as Sakya Pandita, a title given to him in recognition of his scholarly achievements and knowledge of Sanskrit. He is believed to have been an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, the embodiment of the wisdom of all the Buddhas.
He became known as a great scholar in India, China, Mongolia and Tibet and was proficient in the five great sciences of medicine, grammar, dialectics and sacred Sanskrit literature as well as the minor sciences of rhetoric, synonymies, poetry, dancing and astrology. He is considered in Tibet to be the fourth "Great Forefather" and sixth Sakya Trizin, and one of the most important figures among the Sakya lineage.
He was born at Sakya of the noble family of Jam-yan-gon. His father was Palchen of Öpochey. Sakya Pandita was the nephew and became the principal disciple of Jetsun Dakpa Gyeltsen or Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216).
He is best known for his works such as the Treasury of Logic on Valid Cognition (Tsod-ma rigs-gter) and the Discrimination of the Three Vows (sDom-gsum rab-dbye). He also wrote a collection of moral precepts in verse which was imitated by others and translated into Mongolian. He focussed on doctrine and logic "basing himself upon the Pramanavarttika of Dharmakirti" and was very interested in rhetoric.
After the death of Genghis Khan in 1227, the Tibetans stopped sending tribute. As a result, in 1240, the grandson of Genghis Khan and second son of Ögedei Khan, Prince Kadan (sometimes written Godan), invaded Tibet killing some 500 monks and destroying and looting monasteries, villages and towns. Prince Godan asked his commanders to search for an outstanding Buddhist lama and, as Sakya Pandita was considered the most religious, Godan sent a letter of "invitation" and presents to him.
In 1244 he left for Prince Godan's royal camp with two of his young nephews, the ten year-old Phagpa and six year-old Chhana, who later published a collection of Sakya Pandita's writings. As he continually preached sermons along his way, he did not arrive at Prince Godan's camp until 1247 where he gave religious instruction to the prince and greatly impressed the court with his personality and powerful teachings. He is also said to have cured Prince Godan of a serious illness and, with the help of his nephew, Phagpa, he adapted the Uighur script so that the Buddhist Scriptures could be translated into Mongolian which, until that time, was an unwritten language. In return, was given "temporal authority over the 13 myriarchies [Trikor Chuksum] of Central Tibet."
Thus began a strong alliance and the capital of Sakya, gDan-sa, became the capital of Tibet. This lasted until about the middle of the 14th century. During the reign of the 14th Sakya Trizin, Sonam Gylatsen, the Central Tibetan province of U was taken by the Myriarch, marking the "beginning of the end of the period of Sakya power in Central Tibet."
Sakya Pandita died in 1251, at the age of seventy in the city of Gyu-ma. As he did not marry he chose his brother's son Chogyal Phagpa as his heir and nominated him before his death as his religious authority by giving him his conch shell and begging bowl. After his death Phakpa continued his mission.
In the lineage of the Tibetan Panchen Lamas there were considered to be four Indian and three Tibetan incarnations of Amitabha Buddha before Khedrup Gelek Pelzang, who is recognised as the 1st Panchen Lama. The lineage starts with Subhuti, one of the original disciples of Gautama Buddha. Sakya Pandita is considered to be the second Tibetan incarnation of Amitabha Buddha in this line.
Brief history of the Sakya Lineage and Order
Sakya is one of the four different sects of the Tibetan Buddhism. The Sakyapa tradition takes its name from the monastery founded in 1073 at Sakya (“the place of grey earth”) in south-western Tibet by Konchog Gyalpo, a member of the Khon clan. This influential family had previously owed allegiance to the Nyingmapa tradition but Konchog Gyalpo studied the theories and methods of the new diffusion of tantras current in eleventh century Tibet. The most important of the teachings, which he received from his teacher Drokmi Lotsava, a disciple of the Indian scholar Gayadhara, was the meditational system known as the Path and Its Fruit (Lam-‘Dre).
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Sakya tradition rose to a position of prominence in the religious and cultural life of Tibet. This was due largely to the endeavours of the five great masters: Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158); Sonam Tsemo (1142-1182); Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216); Sakya Pandita (1182-1251); and Chogyal Phakpa (1235-1280). Since that time the tradition and its two principal subsets, the Ngor sub-set founded by Ngorchen Kunga Sangpo (1382-1457) and the Tsar sub-set founded by Tsarchen Losal Gyamtso (1502-1556) and Dzongpa sub-set founded by Dorje Denpa Kunga Namgyal have been adorned by the labours and spiritual blessings of numerous illustrious yogis and scholars. Now the Sakya tradition under the compassionate guidance of His Holiness the Sakya Trizin (b. 1945), magnificent incarnation of the Khon line, is putting down roots outside Tibet in India.
His Holiness the Sakya Trizin fled to India in 1959 after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. In exile, His Holiness met all the religious leaders in 1963 including His Holiness the Dalai Lama and took permission to set up a monastery to preserve the Sakya tradition and heritage of Tibetan religion and culture. Thus, He created Sakya Centre which is located in Rajpur, North of India. Thereafter Sakya Institute was created at Puruwala to impart higher education in Buddhist philosophy. At Puruwala, a Tibetan settlement was also established for the people of Sakya.
Sakya Centre is regarded as the main monastery of His Holiness the Sakya Trizin and the Sakya Lineage outside Tibet.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Sakya Monastery, also known as dPal Sa skya or Pel Sakya ("White Earth" or "Pale Earth") is a Buddhist monastery situated 25 km southeast of a bridge which is about 127 km west of Shigatse on the road to Tingri in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
The seat of the Sakya or Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism, it was founded in 1073, by Konchok Gyelpo (1034-1102), originally a Nyingmapa monk of the powerful noble family of the Tsang and became the first Sakya Trizin. Its powerful abbots governed Tibet during the whole of the 13th century after the downfall of the kings until they were eclipsed by the rise of the new Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Its medieval Mongolian architecture is quite different from that of temples in Lhasa and Yarlung. The only surviving ancient building is the Lhakang Chempo or Sibgon Trulpa. Originally a cave in the mountainside, it was built in 1268 by Ponchen Sakya Sangpo in 1268 and restored in the 16th century. It contains some of the most magnificent surviving artwork in all of Tibet, which appears not to have been damaged in recent times.The Gompa grounds cover more than 18,000 square metres, while the huge main hall covers some 6,000 square metres.
Most of the buidings of the monastery are in Ruins, because they were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
Das Sharat Chandra writes:
“As to the great library of Sakya, it is on shelves along the walls of the great hall of the Lhakhang chen-po. There are preserved here many volumes written in gold letters; the pages are six feet long by eighteen inches in breadth. In the margin of each page are illuminations, and the first four volumes have in them pictures of the thousand Buddhas. These books are bound in iron. They were prepared under orders of the Emperor Kublai Khan, and presented to the Phagpa lama on his second visit to Beijing.
There is also preserved in this temple a conch shell with whorls turning from left to right [in Tibetan, Ya chyü dungkar ; and in Chinese Yu hsuan pai-lei], a present of Kublai to Phagpa. It is only blown by the lamas when the request is accompanied by a present of seven ounces of silver; but to blow it, or have it blown, is held to be an act of great merit."
A huge library of as many as 84,000 scrolls were found sealed up in a wall 60 metres long and 10 metres high at Sakya (Ch: Sagya) Monastery in 2003. It is expected that most of them will prove to be Buddhist scriptures although they may well also include works of literature, and on history, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics and art. They are thought to have remained untouched for hundreds of years. They are being examined by the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences.
Sakya Monastery in India
The current Sakya Trizin, trone holder of the Sakyapa went in exil in India in 1959 and he is now living in Dehra Dun. As all the leaders of the Sakya school, he is married. He has two sons, and the younger ones, Dungsey Gyana Vajra, born July 5, 1979 in Dehra Dun, is a monk and direct the Sakya Monastery constructed in India.
Chandra, Lokesh, 1996. Thangka-Kalender 1987. Haldenwang: Edition Schangrila. August: Vier Grosslama der Shakyapa-Schule
von Schroeder, Ulrich and von Schroeder, Heidi, 2009. Tibetan Art of the Alain Bordier Foundation. Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications. Pp. 24–25; plate 6