Kyabje Dzogchen Pema Kalsang Rinpoche
Kyabje Dzogchen Pema Kalsang Rinpoche
Kyabje Pema Kalsang Rinpoche was born on 6th June 1943 in the blessed region of Dzachuka, Eastern Tibet. A great many exceptional masters have come from this area, including the great Bodhisattva Patrul Rinpoche and incomparable scholar Mipham Rinpoche. Kyabje Rinpoche’s mother was the sister of the accomplished master Dzogchen Adro Socho and bore many signs of a dakini, including a naturally occurring AH syllable on her tongue. When Kyabje Rinpoche was still in the womb, his aunt dreamed that a luminous white crystal stupa fell on top of the tent where they lived. When he was born the surrounding area was filled with blossoming flowers that had never been seen before. This and many other special signs occurred, the news of which spread throughout the area. Rinpoche’s maternal uncle, the Forth Mura Rinpoche Pema Norbu, named the child Pema Kalsang.
When he reached the age of five, Dzogchen Kontul Rinpoche, who had lived with the Second Pema Banza, Kyabje Rinpoche’s previous incarnation, travelled to Dzachuka and the home of the family. As soon as he saw the master, young Pema Kalsang went to sit on his lap very joyfully, as if he was a good friend. He recognised the knife strapped to Kontul Rinpoche's belt saying ‘This is mine!’ The knife had belonged to the child’s previous incarnation, the Second Pema Banza. Not long after that, the names of Rinpoche’s parents, his place of birth and other details were found to correspond with the prophesies of Jamyang Khyentse Choki Lodro, the Sixth Dzogchen Rinpoche Jigdral Jangchup Dorje, Tulku Drime and other genuine masters, and Pema Kalsang was identified as the third incarnation of the Great Khenpo Pema Banza.
Dzogchen Bodpa Tulku went especially to Dzachuka, gave Kyabje Rinpoche his first set of saffron robes and looked after him. At the age of seven Rinpoche was taken to Jangma Monastery to study reading, writing and astrology with Dzogchen Khenpo Chogyur. He was a very gifted child and mastered his subjects quickly.
At the age of ten, together with Mura Tulku Pema Norbu, his parents and a group of more than twenty others, Rinpoche went to Dzogchen Monastery. A few thousand lamas, monks and lay people rode out for three days to welcome him. They were dressed in all their finery and formed a procession, holding silken parasols and victory banners.
When Kyabje Pema Kalsang Rinpoche arrived he was taken into the assembly hall at the very top of the lama palace and enthroned in the presence of the Sixth Dzogchen Rinpoche, Great Khenpo Jigme Yonten Gonpo and a large group of khenpos and tulkus.
Kyabje Rinpoche lived in the chambers of Dzogchen Rinpoche for many years, and together they studied under Khenpo Jigme Yonten Gonpo. During that time they received almost every one of the profound Buddhist teachings. In addition to that, Dzogchen Rinpoche gave him many important empowerments. He also received instruction and guidance from Mura Pema Norbu, the great spiritual master Ngawang Norbu, Bodtul Dhonuk Tenpe Nyima, Great Khenpo Tupten Nyendrak and the great scholar Pema Osel.
In 1955, at the age of thirteen, Kyabje Rinpoche received the vows of a novice monk from his tutor Khenpo Jigme Yonten Gonpo. Later he became fully ordained with the famous spiritual master Khenpo Wangde Rinpoche and was given the name Tupten Longdock Tenpe Gyaltsen.
Kyabje Pema Kalsang Rinpoche travelled with Dzogchen Rinpoche to the monastery of Dzongsar Khyentse Jamyang Choki Lodru three times especially to receive the empowerments of the old and new traditions, the sutras, tantras, canonical and treasure texts. They also travelled to Central Tibet and Tsang on pilgrimage and met many lamas including His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.
From the age of fourteen to sixteen Kyabje Rinpoche lived in the Dzogchen Long Life Retreat Centre with the great Khenpo Pema Tsewang, who taught him personally. During that time he would unfailingly pass every test of memorisation and comprehension of the scriptures without any difficulty. Everyone was amazed at his natural intelligence. Kyabje Rinpoche looks back on those years as the most happy of his life.
In the autumn of 1958, when Kyabje Rinpoche was seventeen, Dzogchen Rinpoche took him to Gyalgi Drakkar, the retreat centre of Great Khenpo Tupten Nyendrak. With tears in his eyes, Dzogchen Rinpoche requested the khenpo to give Kyabje Pema Kalsang Rinpoche the empowerment of longevity seventeen times, corresponding to his age. Dzogchen Rinpoche said to khenpo, ‘Not long from now the Buddhist tradition will face obstruction and destruction. At this time do not worry about me, focus your attention on this young one.’
During the winter of the following year, Kyabje Pema Kalsang Rinpoche together with Dzogchen Rinpoche and Great Khenpo Yonten Gonpo, was forced to stay in Dege for political re-education. At one stage Dzogchen Rinpoche and the khenpo managed to return to Dzogchen Monastery. When they were leaving, Dzogchen Rinpoche implored Sonam Gyaltsen, the manager of his residence who was with them, to look after Pema Kalsang Rinpoche very well. At that time, Sonam Gyaltsen thought Dzogchen Rinpoche was talking about looking after the young Rinpoche for a few days while he was away. Only later did he realise what he had been told was prophetic. This was the last time they saw either Dzogchen Rinpoche or Khenpo Yonten Gonpo.
When Kyabje Pema Kalsang Rinpoche was released from prison, they returned to Dzogchen Monastery and lived together as one family, just as Dzogchen Rinpoche had instructed.
The next twenty years brought terrible suffering, even before the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution began. Six thousand monasteries and one million Tibetan people were eradicated. From the oppression of the Buddha Dharma to great physical hardships, all kinds of negative conditions raged like a storm. During this time Kyabje Pema Kalsang Rinpoche prayed day and night for the revival of the precious Buddhist teachings. He risked his life to secretly store even the smallest piece of scripture or representation of the Buddha that came into his possession. He did not waste any time resting from the exhausting daily labour, but tirelessly practised the approach and accomplishment of the Yidam, and the practices of generation, perfection and great perfection. In this way he embraced the bad conditions into the path of Dharma.
In Kyabje Rinpoche's thirtieth year, the sun of the Buddha's teachings once again rose over the cool land of Tibet. He began to re-establish the great monastic seat of Dzogchen and re-unite members of the spiritual community. During the years 1978 and 1979 Kyabje Rinpoche managed to recover many important texts and statues, most of which had to be brought on foot from the Central and Tsang regions of Tibet.
In 1981, Kyabje Pema Kalsang Rinpoche, together with Zankar Rinpoche, established the first Tibetan Language College of Sichuan Province on the site of Shira Sing Buddhist University. He invited great non-sectarian masters, the chief holders of the Dzogchen teaching lineage, to come and teach. This was like adding new oil to the dying flame of the Tibetan scholarly tradition. In the same year he managed to rebuild the first story of the historical lama palace of Dzogchen Monastery. In 1982, at the age of thirty-two, Kyabje Rinpoche set out to make a pilgrimage to India, but was involved in a terrible car accident. He was seriously injured and almost died. Kyabje Rinpoche was forced to spend a year in hospital. In the words of Kyabje Rinpoche himself, "I had managed to survive all the obstacles that threatened my life. I was the only one left of all the lamas and monks who had lived in the lama palace of Dzogchen. That I was able to continue to work for the Dharma at that time of extreme weakness of the Dzogchen teachings was certainly due to the power of Dzogchen Rinpoche’s prayers, and the blessings of Khenpo Tupten Nyendrak's seventeen long life empowerments".
Not disheartened, Kyabje Rinpoche recovered his strength, and relying on two walking sticks travelled to India and Nepal. He made a pilgrimage to all the major holy sights and met Dzogchen Rinpoche in South India. From there he visited Europe and the United States of America, where he gave teachings to many fortunate Westerners.
Having returned to Tibet, Kyabje Rinpoche took responsibility for the completion of the lama palace as well as the reconstruction of the Grand Temple of Dzogchen Monastery. Despite the physical hardships, he worked on the construction personally every day. Pooling all his resources he built a golden reliquary stupa adorned with precious jewels to enshrine the relics of the Sixth Dzogchen Rinpoche, which he had risked his life keeping for twenty-five years.
From a prophesy of the Great Treasure Revealer Pema Namdrol Lingpa:
"On the great fearless lion throne
Of Shira Singha practice centre
Padma[sambhava]’s mind emanation, named Pema,
Will illuminate like the sun
The excellent and virtuous wisdom
Of the conqueror's teachings,
And the thousand-petal lotuses
Of many young Pemas bloom."
In 1988 this prophesy came true when the reconstruction of the great Buddhist University of Shira Sing began. Kyabje Rinpoche used the small amount of money he received in compensation from the road accident to start the building work. Working with a group of fifty monks, Kyabje Rinpoche constructed accommodation buildings for two hundred monks and a large temple. He invited scripture masters, and once again the great fire of teaching and contemplation of the sutras and tantras blazed. The Dzogchen valley, that had been dark and empty for thirty years, was once again illuminated with the holy light of Buddha Dharma.
In 1998 Kyabje Rinpoche began the construction of the Lotus Ground Retreat Centre in the secluded meadow of Dzogchen Pema Tung. This is the site of his previous incarnation's retreat centre. Having completed the stunning Temple of Great Perfection in 2003, Kyabje Rinpoche established the Pema Tung annual teachings and empowerments of the secret Heart Essence of Dzogpa Chenpo, for great numbers of fortunate students.
More recently Kyabje Rinpoche has been invited to the great monastic seats of Dorje Drak, Mindroling, Palri, Jigme Lingpa’s seat Tsering Jong, Samye and Drigang as well as over fifty of Dzogchen’s branch monasteries to give teachings and empowerments of the Nyingma scriptures and treasure texts. He has sent financial support, as well as tulkus and khenpos to these and many other monasteries and universities, all around Tibet and world-wide, to spread the Buddhist teachings. Kyabje Rinpoche was the first master to give the vows of ordination in Samye Monastery after the Chinese take-over, in the same temple where the first seven Tibetans became monks. He has also established extensive community aid programmes through his charitable organisation the Kalsang Foundation. In these and countless other ways Kyabje Rinpoche continuously extends his gracious efforts and the teachings of our precious tradition to benefit all beings.