Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam
… was born at Tötrong in Tra Valley south of the center of Tibet, on the tenth day of the second month of the Earth Monkey year of the fifth Rabjung (1308). His father was Tenpa Sung, a tantric yogi of the Rok clan. His mother was Sönam Gyen of the Drom clan. At his conception his mother dreamed of a sun placed on the head of a lion illuminating the whole world. At his birth the Dharma protectress Namdru Remati appeared in the form of a black woman. Holding the baby in her arms, she said, “I will protect him,” and she handed him back to his mother and disappeared. Longchen Rabjam was an incarnation, or tulku, of Princess Pemasal, a daughter of King Trisong Detsen, to whom Guru Rinpoche had entrusted the transmission of the Khandro Nyingthig. In her series of lives, the incarnation directly preceding Longchen Rabjam was Pema Ledreltsal, who rediscovered the Khandro Nyingthig teachings as a ter. From childhood Longchen Rabjam was endowed with faith, compassion, and wisdom, the noble qualities of a bodhisattva. When he was five he learned to read and write with no difficulty. At seven, his father conferred on him the empowerments, instructions, and training in the practice of The Peaceful and Wrathful Aspects of the Guru and Kagye Deshek Diipa. His father also trained him in medicine and astrology.
At twelve, Longchen Rabjam took the ordination of a novice from Khenpo Samdrup Rinchen at Samye Monastery and was given the name Tsultrim Lodrö. He gained mastery of the Vinaya, the texts on the monastic law of moral conduct, and was able to teach them from the age of fourteen. At sixteen, with the master Tashi Rinchen and others, he started studying many tantras belonging to the New Tantric lineage, such as the two traditions of the fruit and path (Lam ‘Bras), two traditions of the six yogas (Ch’os Drug), the Wheel of Time (Kalachakra), cutting off [the ego] (gChod), and the three pacifications (Zhi Byed) traditions.
At nineteen, he went to the famous Sangphu Neuthang Monastery, and studied Buddhist scriptures on philosophy, logic, and meditation for six years. From the masters Lopon Tsen-gönpa and Chöpal Gyaltsen he studied the five mahayana texts by Maitreya, the treatises on logic by Dignaga and Dhamakirti, and many texts on the Middle Way (Madhyamaka) and Transcendental Wisdom (Prajnaparamita) philosophies. Also, with the translator Lodrö Tenpa of Pang he studied Sanskrit, poetry, composition, drama, and many sutras and Prajnaparamita texts. Then from the master Zhönu Töndrup, he received the initiations and instructions on the important Nyingma tantras, Do (sutras) of Anuyoga, Mayajala-tantra of Mahayoga, and Semde of Atiyoga. With about twenty teachers, including Master Zhönu Gyalpo, Zhönu Dorje, Lama Tampa Sönam Gyaltsen (1312-1375) of Sakya, and Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) of the Kagyu, he studied teachings and received the transmissions of sutras and tantras. While studying, he was also always engaged in meditative training in retreats, and he saw the pure visions of Manjushri, Sarasvati, Achala, Vajravarahi, and Tara, and realized various spiritual attainments. His training in studies and meditation opened the door of his speech treasure. By those who knew him he became recognized by the name Master of Infinite Realization (Longchen Rabjam) and Master of Scriptures from Samye (bSam Yas Lung Mang Ba).
At twenty-seven, as prophesied by Tara, the Buddha in female form, he went to meet master Rigdzin Kumaradza (1266-1343), the holder of the Vima Nyingthig teachings, in a retreat camp where about seventy disciples were living in temporary shelters in the highlands of Yartö Kyam Valley. The master received Longchen Rabjam with great joy and gave the prophecy that he would be the transmission-holder of the Vima Nyingthig teachings. He studied with Rigdzin Kumaradza for two years, receiving instructions on all three categories of Dzogpa Chenpo: Semde, the cycle on mind; Longde, the cycle on the ultimate sphere; and Me-ngagde, the cycle on the ultimate instructions. But the main emphasis of his studies was on the texts of the four divisions of Me-ngagde, namely Outer, Inner, Esoteric, and Innermost Esoteric teachings. These texts are the seventeen tantras and the branch or instruction teachings, namely: the four volumes with the one hundred and nineteen treatises of extensive instructions. Rigdzin Kumaradza conferred all his Nyingthig teachings on Longchen Rabjam and proclaimed him his lineage successor. While he was studying with Rigdzin Kumaradza, Longchen Rabjam lived under circumstances of severe deprivation. In order to combat his attachment to material things, it was Rigdzin Kumaradza’s practice to keep moving from place to place instead of settling at one location and getting attached to it. In nine months he and his disciples moved their camp nine times, causing great hardship to Longchen Rabjam and everyone else. Just as soon as he got his simple life settled in a temporary shelter, usually a cave, which would protect him from rain and cold, the time would come to move again. He had very little food and only one ragged bag to use as both mattress and blanket to protect himself from the extremely cold winter. It was under these circumstances that Longchen Rabjam obtained the most rare and precious teachings of the tantras and instructions of the three cycles of Dzogpa Chenpo. Finally the master empowered him as the lineage holder of the Nyingthig transmission. Then for seven (or six) years he observed meditation retreat, mainly at Chimphu.
In addition to Dzogpa Chenpo meditation, he also practiced the forms and rites of various divinities, and he beheld pure visions of the peaceful and wrathful forms of Guru Rinpoche, Vajrasattva, and the peaceful and wrathful deities. At thirty-two, while still in retreat, Longchen Rabjam for the first time conferred the empowerment and instructions of Vima Nyingthig upon his disciples at Nyiphu Shuksep, near Kang-ri Thökar. For a while all the surroundings turned into pure lights, mystical sounds, and divine visions. Soon his yogi disciple Özer Kocha found the text of Khandro Nyingthig, discovered as a ter by Longchen Rabjam’s previous incarnation, Pema Ledreltsal (1291—?), and he offered it to Longchen Rabjam. The Dharma protectress Shenpa Sogdrubma also presented him with a copy of the same text. Although he was the reincarnation of the discoverer of the teachings, in order to show the importance of preserving the transmission for future followers, he went to Shö Gyalse, a disciple of Pema Ledreltsal, and received the transmission of Khandro Nyingthig.
At thiry-three, he gave the Khandro Nyingthig teachings to eight male and female disciples including yogi Özer Kocha at Samye Chimphu.
During the empowerments, the Protectress of Tantra (sNgags Srung Ma) entered into one of the yoginis and gave prophecies and instructions. Some of the disciples beheld Longchen Rabjam transforming into the Sambhogakaya form. A rain of flowers showered down, and arches, beams, and circles of lights of different colors were witnessed all over the mountain. All the assembled people were singing and dancing with overwhelming wisdom energy. Longchen Rabjam saw the vision of Guru Rinpoche and his consort bestowing empowerments and entrusting the transmission of Khandro Nyingthig to him. They gave him the names Ogyen Tri-me Özer and Dorje Ziji. Dharma protectors appeared in physical form and accepted the offerings. For a long time, perhaps a month, the minds of the yogi disciples merged into a deep luminous clarity, which transcends designations of sleeping or waking. Longchen Rabjam sang his yogic energies in verses:
O yogis, I am very happy and joyous. Tonight we are in the Unexcelled Pure Land.
In our body, the palace of Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, Flourishes the assembly of Buddhas, [the union of ] clarity and emptiness.
Buddhahood is not somewhere else, but in us.
O meditators, you who hold your minds one-pointedly,
Do not hold your mind at one place, but let it go at ease. Mind is emptiness [or openness], whether it goes or it stays.
Whatever arises [in mind] is the [mere] play of the wisdom.
At the request of the Dharma protectress Yudrönma he moved his residence to Ogyen Dzong Özer Trinkyi Kyemö Tsal (the Fortress of Oddiyana in the Joyful Garden of Clouds of Lights) at Kang-ri Thökar, where he composed several famous works and spent a great part of his life.
At this place his meditative realization reached the state of perfection of awareness (Rig Pa Tshad Phebs) through the training of the direct approach (Thod rGal) of Nyingthig. In a pure vision Vimalamitra taught him and entrusted him with the Vima Nyingthig teachings.
Inspired by Vimalamitra, he wrote the Yangtig Yizhin Norbu (aka Lama Yangtig), a collection of thirty-five treatises on Vima Nyingthig.
Longchen Rabjam withdrew the gold concealed in a ter and with it financed the repair of the Um Zha temple in Drikung, built by Nyang Tingdzin Zangpo, one of the great disciples of both Guru Rinpoche and Vimalamitra. While the repairs were going on, workers inadvertently dug up many objects that had been buried under the temple in order to subdue the power of negative forces, and they flew around in the sky. Longchen Rabjam transformed himself into the wrathful form of Guru Rinpoche and reburied them again with the mystical gesture of power. At a time when there was great danger of a civil war in central Tibet because of the plot of Kun-rik, the proud leader of Drikung, Longchen Rabjam fulfilled a prophecy concerning an incarnation of Manjushri by diverting Kun-rik from his wrongful path of warfare to the path of Dharma and bringing about peace.
At first Tai Situ Phagmo Trupa (1302-1364), then the king of Tibet, was suspicious of Longchen Rabjam and sent forces to kill him, because he was the teacher of the Drikung, his sworn enemy. By his mystical power, Longchen Rabjam became invisible when the forces arrived. But the situation forced Longchen Rabjam to move to Bhutan. There he gave teachings and sometimes assembled about one hundred thousand disciples. In Bumthang he established Tharpa Ling Monastery.
In Bhutan he had a son named Tulku Trakpa Özer (1356-1409?) by his consort Kyipa of Bhutan, and his son became a lineage holder. Later, Tai Situ understood the impartial position of Longchen Rabjam and became a disciple, and Longchen Rabjam returned to Tibet. Longchen Rabjam was one of the greatest scholars and realized sages of Tibet, but he devoted his whole life to extremely subtle and strict spiritual discipline of learning, teaching, writing, and meditation to fulfill the purpose of his enlightened manifestation, which was to be an example of a trainee and a teacher of the Dharma. His mind and life were simple and open, natural, spontaneous, pure, and profound. Wherever he lived and whatever he was doing, it was natural for him always to be in the meditative state. He visited his master Rigdzin Kumaradza again and again to perfect his understanding and realization. Five times he offered all of whatever little he possessed to his master to cleanse his clinging to any material objects. Owing to the fame of his scholarship and realization, he could easily have built huge monasteries or household structures, but he avoided such works because he had no interest in establishing any institutions. Anything offered him with faith he spent strictly for the service of the Dharma and never for other purposes, nor did he ever use it for himself. He never showed reverence to a layperson, however high-ranking in society, saying, “Homage should be paid to the Three Jewels but not to mundane beings. It is not right to reverse the roles of lama and patron.” However great the offerings made to him, he never expressed gratitude, saying, “Let the patrons have the chance to accumulate merits instead of repaying it by expressions of gratitude.” He was immensely kind to poor and suffering people, and he enjoyed with great pleasure the simple food offered by poor people, and then would say many prayers of aspiration for them. For most of his life, Longchen Rabjam lived in solitude, in caves in the mountains, first in Chimphu near Samye and then mostly at Kang-ri Thiikar. The peaceful and clear environment of nature inspires peace and clarity in the observers; then the whole merges into one, the union of peace and clarity. Longchen Rabjam summarizes the merits of solitude:
Far from the towns full of entertainments,
Being in the forests naturally increases the peaceful absorptions,
Harmonizes life in Dharma, tames the mind,
And makes one attain ultimate joy.
He gave teachings in all fields of Buddhism, but his main emphasis was on Dzogpa Chenpo. Summarizing the meditation of Dzogpa Chenpo, he advised in simple words:
It is important to look straight at [the nature of] the thoughts when they arise.
It is important to remain [in the nature] when you are certain [about the realization of it].
It is important to have the meditationless meditation as your meditation.
With no waverings, maintain it. This is my advice.
The present mind, which is unhindered—No grasping at “this” [or “that”], free from any modifications or dilutions, and
Unstained by [the duality of] grasped and grasper—Is the nature of ultimate truth. Maintain this state.
At Lhasa, Longchen Rabjam was received with great fanfare, and he spent about two weeks there. Between the Jokhang and Ramoche of Lhasa, sitting on a throne, he gave the vow of bodhichitta and many teachings to a huge gathering from all walks of life. Through his scholarship and realization, Longchen Rabjam tamed the arrogant minds of many scholars and inspired them to attain the pure mind of Dharma. He sowed the seed of inspiration to pure Dharma in the hearts of many people. He became known as Kunkhyen Chöje, the Omniscient Lord of Dharma. Then he went to Nyiphu Shuksep and gave Dzogchen teachings to about a thousand disciples. Then at rocky hills near Trok Ogyen, he gave empowerments and teachings of Dzogpa Chenpo to about three thousand people, including forty known as the masters of Dharma.
At the age of fifty-six, in the Water Hare year (1363) of the sixth Rabjung, he suddenly started dictating his spiritual testament, entitled Trima Mepe Ö (Immaculate Radiance), which includes the following lines:
As I have long ago realized the nature of samsara,
There is no essence in the worldly existents.
Now, as I am departing from my impermanent illusory body,
I shall tell you what are the beneficial things for you; please listen to me.
You are taking your life as real, but it will cheat you.
Its nature is changing and it has no reality.
By understanding its untrustworthy character,
Please practice Dharma from this very day.
Changing is the nature of friends, like [a gathering of] guests.
They get together for a while but soon separate forever.
By freeing yourself from attachments to friends,
Please practice Dharma that benefits you forever.
Honeylike wealth drips away even as you collect it.
Although you earned it, others will enjoy it.
Now, while you have the power, invest it for the sustenance of your future lives,
By earning merits by giving in charity. . .
People are impermanent like [groups of] earlier and later visitors.
Elder people have gone early. Younger people will go later. People of the present, none will live for a hundred years.
Please realize it [the nature of impermanence] at this very moment.
Appearances of this life take place like the events of today.
Appearances of bardo will take place like dreams in the night.
Appearances of the next life will come as fast as tomorrow.
Please practice Dharma at this very moment. . . .
Among all the dharmas, the ultimate pith of luminous clarity is the Nyingthig, the sacred meaning.
This is the supreme path that leads you to Buddhahood in a single life span.
Please [through this path] accomplish the great blissful universal sublime. . . .
The nature of the mind is the ultimate sphere, like space.
The nature of space is the nature of the mind, the innate nature.
In meaning they are not separate.
They are evenness, Great Perfection. Please realize the nature at this very moment.
Various phenomena are like reflections in a mirror.
They are emptiness while they are appearing, and emptiness is not other than the appearances themselves.
They are joyful [phenomena], free from designations as one or many. Please realize the nature at this very moment. .
My delight at death is much greater than the joy of traders who have made their fortune at sea,
The lords of the gods who have proclaimed their victory in war,
Or those sages who are abiding in absorption.
Now Pema Ledreltsal [Longchen Rabjam] will not remain here much longer.
I go to secure the blissful and deathless nature.
Then, when he reached Chimphu and was traveling through Samye, he said that he was going to die there, and he started to show the sickness of his body. But he kept teaching a huge gathering of people who were following him or who had assembled to receive teachings from him.
On the sixteenth of the twelfth month, with others he performed an elaborate offering ceremony. Then he gave his disciples his last teaching on impermanence and inspired them to practice Trekcho and Thogal with the advice:
If you have any difficulty understanding my teachings,
Read the Yangtig Yizhin Norbu [aka Lama Yangtig]; it will be like a wish-fulfilling jewel.
You will realize the state of dissolution of all phenomena into dharmata, the ultimate nature.
On the eighteenth, sitting in the posture of the Dharmakaya, his mind dissolved into absolute Dharma space. Those present experienced the trembling of the earth and heard roaring sounds. While his body was being preserved for twenty-five days, a tent of rainbows arched constantly across the sky. Even in the coldest months in Tibet, the earth became warm, the ice melted, and roses bloomed. At the time of cremation, the earth trembled three times and a loud sound was heard seven times. Many ringsel (relics) and five kinds of dungchens (large ringsels) emerged from the bones as an indication of his attainment of the five bodies and five wisdoms of Buddhahood.
Longchen Rabjam received teachings and transmissions of all the lineages of Buddhist teachings that were present in Tibet. Especially all the streams of Dzogpa Chenpo transmissions converged in him. Among the Nyingthig teachings of Dzogpa Chenpo that came to him were the Vima Nyingthig and Khandro Nyingthig. Longchen Rabjam wrote more than two hundred and fifty treatises on history, ethical instructions, sutric and tantric teachings, and especially on Dzogpa Chenpo in general and Nyingthig in particular.He presented all of his teaching in the form of composed literature. But many scholars affirm that most of his works on the tantras and on Dzogpa Chenpo are actually gongter, mind treasures, discovered through his enlightened power. To author
This biography is from Masters of Meditation and Miracles.