Former incarnations of Za Choeje Rinpoche
I pay my homage to the successions of incarnation
Who, through their cultivation of boundless Bodhicitta
Cause the jewels of the three-fold secrets of the Buddhas
To manifest in physical form to the eyes of the fortunate ones.
First Incarnation: Arya Upali
I pray at the feet of Upali,
The greatest of all holders of Vinaya,
Who with deeds and activities like an alchemy
Shown by the great Shakyamuni Buddha.
Transforms the iron mind of sentient beings
Into precious qualities of the Buddha.
Upali (Sanskrit उपािल upāli) was a monk, one of the chief disciples of the Buddha. Before joining the order, he worked as a barber. He asked the Buddha if a person of low caste such as he could join the order. Buddha ordained him before the princes and asked the princes to bow and touch Upali's feet.
Later Upali became an Arhat. He became the main disciple in knowing the rules of the order and the foremost disciple in keeping precepts.
Second incarnation: Mahasiddha Saraha
I pray at the feet of the great holder of bow and arrows,
Who expounded the traditional path of the Mahamudra
The essence of the Highest Yoga Tantra, like a wish-granting jewel,
On the pontiff of an exquisite victorious canopy of Dharma treatise.
Saraha,(Hindi: सरह) originally known as Rāhulbhadra, was the first Mahasiddha in the Vajrayana tradition, and he is considered to be the founder of Mahamudra practice.
Saraha was born to a Brahmin family and completed his Vedic studies in the Hindu tradition. Later he became a Buddhist monk and studied at Nalanda University. He became an accomplished scholar in the Mahayana lineage. He was the teacher of Arya Nagarjuna and many other masters in Nalanda.
One day Saraha met a young woman who had appeared in his dream for long time. She was of low caste, an arrowsmith. He watched her intently forming each arrow, her gaze steady and not wandering to the left or the right. Saraha saw these actions symbolic of non-dual awareness and asked her to be his Master. He took to the life of a solitary Tantric wanderer. Then the couple lived and practiced in the cemeteries to teach the reality of life and death. Saraha composed a series of spontaneous realization songs, “The Three Cycles of Doha.”
Third Incarnation: Rinchen Chog
I bow down at the feet of the great master Rinchen Chog
Who with the sun-like wisdom on literal and experiential Dharma
Dispels the darkness of false conceptions
In this Medicinal land surrounded by fence of snow mountains.
Master Rinchen Chog was born into the clan of rMa and he was one of the seven foremost monks in Tibet. He was widely known as Lopon rMa Rinchen Chog. Having sought ordination from the Master Śāntarak ita (Hindi: शातरित), he trained in the Tripitaka and later became a highly acclaimed scholar. He also translated many Sutras, Tantras and their commentaries into Tibetan. Having received many Tantric initiations and transmissions from the great master Padmasambhava, he entered the profound Yogic path of the two Tantric stages, and was acclaimed as one of the twenty-five great beings comprising the King and his subjects. Since he exhibited great miraculous feats, in the “Eulogy to the Twenty-Five Great Beings Comprising King and his Subject” he was praised as one of the most generous teachers. He realized the siddhi of crushing rock and digesting it as food whilst dwelling for long periods in caves in the fulfillment of his samayas.
Fourth Incarnation: Dholton Wang-gi Dorje
I bow and pray at the feet of Dholton Wang-gi Dorje
Who through having accomplished the cultivation of mind
In accordance with the Mandala practice
Outshines the stars like a moon
In the galaxy of stars of practitioners in the practice lineage.
Dholton Wang-gi Dorje was born to Tantric practitioner Rinchen Dorje into the household of Tshur in Dhol area of Tibet. Just on hearing the name of the great Master Marpa, he generated deep unwavering faith and set forth to receive teachings from Master Marpa. He received Hey-Vajra and Guhyasamaja initiations with whole generation and completion stages instruction from him. He successfully completed his studies and, perfected in the superior teachings, he became one of the most accomplished teachers. He was the master beyond comparison to the many self-acclaimed meditation masters of Tibet.
Fifth Incarnation: Ra Lotsawa Dorje Drak
I pray at the feet of Ra-lo Dorje Drak,
With his flame of ultimate Yantra burn to ashes,
The malignant spirits and evil forces
Whilst the sun of goodness and happiness sets over the horizon.
Ra Lotsawa Dorje Drak was born in Nyenam, Tibet. Soon after his birth Goddess Palden Lhamo took him into her sleeves and travelled across Tibet. She showed him the Dho-Kham Eastern Tibet and prophesied that he will benefit many beings in that region in the future.
He travelled to Nepal and was trained under the great master Bharo. Master Bharo was a specialist in the Vajravarahi and Vajrabhairava Tantra. In addition, he trained with a Mahakaruna, a master in Naropa's lineage. From him he received a number of tantric initiations, including the Chakrasamvara.
Returning to Tibet, Master Ralo visited various parts of Tibet and taught the Dharma and helped many beings through his powerful Yamantaka practice. During the later phase of his life, he remained in the upper part of Kyishod and established Sang-ngag Choe-Dzong, a meditation retreat center in Nyonpo Dhoegtse valley.
Sixth Incarnation: Serlingpa Choekyi Dagpa
I pray at the feet of Serling pa Choekyi Dragpa,
In whose ocean-like heart
Fall the streams of the mind of enlightenment
Descending from the Buddhas and his disciples
Whose mind equals the expanse of the sacred Mansarovar.
Dharmarak ita Suvarnadvipi, Serlingpa Choekyi Dragpa, was born to the king of Suvarnadvipa, the haven of Dakas and Yoginis, which is counted as one of the twenty-four sacred places. It is an island close to Jambudvipa, called Indonesia in the present day. As a young boy he found a statue of Buddha to which he regularly made offerings and homage. As a result the harvests in the land improved and people were freed from diseases and illness. When he grew up he travelled to India and studied under the guidance of Master Maha Shri Ratna, the practitioner who specialized in loving-kindness practice. Having accomplished all his studies, he returned back to the island and taught Buddha-Dharma to his people. He composed an important Mahayana text called "The Wheel of Sharp Weapons." The great Master Atisha Dipamkara, enduring every hardship, set sail to the island and sought complete Bodhicitta instructions from him.
Seventh Incarnation: Lotsawa Chetsun Gawa Pal
I pray at the feet of Lochen Gawa Pal,
Who with the magical hands of the native language
Untied the knots of medicinal Dharma
Tangled in the yarn of the Sanskrit original,
Which pacifies the pain caused by the five poisons.
Master Lochen Gawa Pal, who through his skillful hands of native Tibetan language untied the knots tangled in the yarn of Sanskrit, a language alien to the Tibetans, taught the sublime medicinal Dharma which pacifies the pains of illness caused by the five poisons that strike all beings of his world. He was born into the household of Che, a family that held several accomplished Tantric masters in the past. Later, practicing as a fully ordained monk, he acquired vast knowledge of the general aspects of Buddhism and of other fields of science. In particular, he contributed greatly to Buddhism by translating many Sutras, Tantras and Shastras from Sanskrit to Tibetan. He also pursued studies and meditated on the principal tutelary deities of the lineage, including Goddess Palden Lhamo.
Eighth Incarnation: Drubwang Palden Dorje
I pray at the feet of the Supreme Master
Who through the four troops of effort
Destroys the enemy force of laziness
And actualized the state of union of Vajradhara.
Toelungpa Drubwang Palden Dorje, having incorporated in his mindstream master Tsongkhapa’s profound instructions, overcame all mental distractions and the root of laziness. He later became the principal disciple of Khedrup Je and inherited all the spiritual transmissions from him. He was renowned as the great meditation master Drubwang, who attained the rainbow-like body and who remains in the region of central Tibet even today.
Ninth Incarnation: Dhulwa Dzinpa
I pray to the great teacher Dhulwa Dzinpa
Who relishes the fruits of the four bodies
Ripened by the power of wisdom and meditation,
From the excellent seed of Bodhicitta.
The great master Dhulwa Dzinpa, sowing the seed of aspiring and engaging Bodhicitta in the soil of pure discipline, the root of the Dharma, relished the four Kayas of the Buddha—Natural Truth Body (Svabhavakaya), Wisdom Body (Jinanakaya), Complete Enjoyment Body(Sambhogakaya) and the Supreme Emanation Body (Nirmanakaya). The four Kayas are complete, with all good characteristics and free from all defects, achieved through meditative stabilization of calm abiding (Shamatha) and special insight (Vipassana), and the heart of wisdom realizing the lack of inherent existence of the three spheres.
Tenth Incarnation: Hor Choeje Lobsang Tenzin
I pray to the great master,
Whose precious immaculate mind is like a pole,
Wielding the victorious banner of four jewel bodies,
And the three principal aspects of the paths,
Balancing gracefully on the piles of garments.
Hor Choeje Losang Tenzin was born in the Tehor region in 1644. He cultivated great zeal and effort in reading, writing, and gaining proficiency in the Buddhist scriptures, instruction and rituals. He also studied at the feet of his uncle Kachu Namkha Woeser and his elder brother Hor Choeje Lhawang Chog Ley Namgyal. He received Hayagriva initiation and several oral transmissions from the Fifth Dalai Lama. In addition, he received novice vows from the Fifth Dalai Lama and studied extensively the Sutras, Tantras, and their commentaries. He suddenly fell ill and on his dying bed, he said,
"The compassion of the Three Precious Jewels,
And the blessings of the Truthful words
And Master Tsongkhapa Lobsang Dragpa, in particular,
Brought me here in the region of Dho-kham.
I, Lobsang Tenzin, a simple Buddhist monk,
Could practice the essence of the Dharma
Relying wholeheartedly upon many Masters,
Including my spiritual father Ngawang Palzang.
"Although I am going beyond this life,
I am confident and foster no anxiety,
Having trained in the five spiritual paths,
I have no fear of falling in the lower realms.
Having the Tantric practice in particular,
I now start my journey into next life.
My mind in the inseparable nature of Clear Light
Into the central channel (Avadhuti),
Cleared the knot of right (Rasana) and the left (Lalana) channels."
He died at the age of 23 and his mummified remains are enshrined in a Stupa in the Karze area.
Eleventh Incarnation: Za Choeje Rabjam Ngawang Phuntsok Jamphel 1668-1746
I pray at the feet of the great master
Who by realizing the teachings of Lord of Speech
As source of all excellent qualities
Strives in its study, flourishes and preservation
Even at the cost of one’s body and life.
Hor Choeje Rabjampa Ngawang Phuntsok Jampel, also known as First Za Choeje Rinpoche, was born in the Earth Monkey year 1668 . His family is from Mongol King Genghis Khan's lineage Hor Ser Chen Gyalpo. His father Wangpo was a grandson of Hor Namkha Gyaltsen and the chief of Dre-ho region and his mother Getsa Za was the local chieftain's daughter.
He was considered to be the reincarnation of Hor Choeje Lobsang Tenzin and trained in basic reading and writing by his uncle Ngawang Palsang. In 1675, he visited Lhasa and received refuge vows from the Fifth Dalai lama and was given the name “Ngawang Phuntsok Jampel.”
Later he visited central Tibet again and, under the guidance of the Fifth Dalai Lama, he studied extensive Buddhist Philosophy at the Drepung Loseling Monastery. He received various teachings and initiations from the Fifth Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama Lobsang Choegyan, Shalu Khenchen Rinchen Sonam, Terton Terdag Lingpa, Rigzin Pema Trinley, Neyten Jamyang Dakpa, Trichen Gendun Rinchen, and many others. At the completion of his studies, the Fifth Dalai Lama give him the title Tai Situ Wensha and officially declared him as the spiritual and temporal leader of the upper Zakhog to Lower Tawu area in Te-Hor region.
After returning back to Tehor, he took over the responsibilities of Hor Choeje Lhawang Chogley Namgyal with great dignity.
He founded Thirteen Gelug monasteries in Tehor area of Kham Region in Tibet: 1-Karze Shedrup Norbu Ling, 2-Trashi Dhargye Gon, 3- Drango Ganden Rabten Namgyal Ling, 4-Thawu Nyatso Thoesam Dhargye Ling, 5-Beri Palden Dro phel Ling, 6- Trashi Ganden Samdup Ling, 7- Chogri Ganden Shedrup Phelgey Ling, 8- Khangmar Geden Samdup Ling, 9- Dragchog Ganden Jampa Ling, 10- Za Lingri Trashi Lhatse Gon, 11- Khar-nya Trashi Dechen Ling, 12- Tsitsang Ganden Choejor Ling, 13- Za Gonsar Trashi Ganden Choephel Ling.
He resided at Kharkar in the Karze area, serving the spiritual and temporal needs of the people of the whole Tehor Region. He also served as the royal priest of the Tibetan Government and the king of Mongolia. He visited Central Tibet again for an audience with His Holiness the Sixth Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso.
At the age 48, he went to seek blessings from the Seventh Dalai Lama and made grand offerings to His Holiness. At the invitation of patrons from the region of Lithang, Serthar, Golog, he visited places as far away as Mongolia to help the people in their spiritual and religious practice.
In his practice, Dharma Protectors attended to him like honest servants. Especially, the four-armed Mahakala and Palden Lhamo, like a shadow, protected him at all times. Za Rahula is said to have assisted him as his servant. As a sign, the locals and the visitors could see fire blazing from inside and outside his room. When the battle of Drag-go was fought between the new and the old Dza clan, he made a knot on the sword to stop the war and asked Dharma protector Begtse to finish the battle.
At the age of 79, his body began to become weak and his attendant Yeshe Kelsang and many of his disciples made a long-life request ceremony, but he did not accept. Finally, Hor Choeje passed away in the fifth lunar month of Fire Tiger year 1746 and his sacred body was mummified in the monastery
Twelfth Incarnation: Za Choeje Kelsang Thutob Pelbar 1747- 1796
I pray at the feet of the great master
Who caused to spread in the ten directions
The glory of the Dharma preached by the Shakyamuni Buddha,
Whose mystical power and strength are praised like a white lotus
That stoically stands in a lotus pond as a master of this fortunate eon.
Hor Choeje Kelsang Thutop Pelbar, Second Za Choeje Rinpoche, was born in the Fire Rabbit year of 1747 to a merchant in the village of Sadho in Lingtsang. When he was first conceived, his mother Choethar Bum dreamt the giant Garuda dancing around her. Then a fair lady in a white dress with blue flowers on her head and a blue lady wearing a blue dress and a water lily on her head said to her, “The great master will be born from you.”
His Holiness the Seventh Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyatso, officially recognized him as the reincarnation of Hor Choeje Ngawang Phunstok and gave him the name Kelsang Thutob Pelbar. He was trained in religious studies and practice in Za Gonsar Monastery with Choekhor Khenpo Gedup Tenpae Gyaltsen.
To further his studies, he made a journey to Central Tibet at the age of eleven. He joined Drepung Loseling monastery and pursued his studies and religious practice. He received teachings on the Joyful Path of the Spiritual Stages from Master Ngawang Jampa Rinpoche on two occasions, and the Lama Choepa teaching from Changkya Rolpae Dorje. The Panchen Lama Palden Yeshe bestowed upon him the Kalachakra initiation and teachings on the Lamp of the Path (Bodhipathapradipam). From Serdhing Khenpo Jigme Wangchuk, he sought Sarvavid initiation and transmission on its ritual practice.He also sought many other initiations, transmissions and instructions from other high and accomplished masters.
The people of the upper and the lower regions of Tehor invited the Lama back to their land. During the summer, he remained in the Nomad area, and in the spring, he arrived back in the town to help the people. He reviewed and restored the practice of Mani Bum-drub back to 50 days. He then introduced Summer Retreat in the monastic curriculum.
In the Wood Tiger year, when he was 48, he traveled to Central Tibet, where he sought audience with His Holiness the Eighth Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso. In the Rabbit year, he returned to Tehor and entered into a long meditation retreat. The fourth month of Fire Dragon year, when he reached the age of 50, his illness became worse. The monks and people of Tehor undertook the task of a long-life ceremony but, to their dismay, he passed away at Samten Ling Monastery in Drewo. A stupa of gold and silver with a strong wooden base which enshrined his remains was erected as an object of worship.
Thirteenth Incarnation: Za Choeje Lobsang Tenzin Thutop, also known as Yangchen Nyempai Langtso 1797-1849
The Third Za Choeje Rinpoche Yangchen Nyempai Langtso was born in the Fire Snake year 1797. His family lineage came from Tramo Lingtsang, a noble family Hordhatsang. His father's name was Kalsang Phuntsok and his mother was Pema Tso. He was recognized by Panchen Lama Tenpai Nyima and Lamdrak Dorjechang Kalsang Namgyal. He took refuge vows from Panchen Lama and he was given Lobsang Tenzin Thutop as his refuge name.
He was trained to read and write and learned ritual practices at Za Gonsar Monastery. At the age of 14, in the Iron Horse year 1810, he went to central Tibet to further his studies in Buddhist philosophy. He joined Drepung Loseling Monastery and studied under the guidance of Karze Geshe Lobsang Tashi, Tsetsang Geshe Tsewang Rabten, Geshe Ngawang Choephel and Rongpo Khenchen Lobsang Phuntsok. At the age of 18, with permission from His Holiness and Panchen Lama, he returned to Tehor.
He learned poetry, astrology, art, medicine and yoga from various teachers in central Tibet. He used “Yangchen Nyempai Langtso” as his pen name which means “Youthful one who pleases the wisdom goddess.” His astrological readings were so accurate that he founded the astrological chart book called “Chart book from Zakhog." He composed many books and poems in Tibetan and the original former HorChoeje's lineage story was written by him.
As requested by many fortunate spiritual seekers and spiritual masters, he turned the wheel of Dharma in many parts of Kham. He spent many weeks in retreat, practicing Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara, Yamantaka, Hey-Vajra and so forth. In 1849, when he was 53 years old, his body dissolved into Dharmadhatu and passed away.
Fourteenth Incarnation: Za Choeje Ngawang Choephel Tenpai Dronmey 1850-1927
Hor Choeje Ngawang Choephel Tenpai Dronmey was born in Zakhog area in the Iron Dog year 1850. He was recognized as the fourth reincarnation of Hor Choeje by Panchen Lama Tenpai Wangchuk. He was enthroned in Za Gonsar Trashi Ganden Choephel Ling Monastery and trained in the basic foundation of Buddhism. When he grew up, he went to central Tibet to further his studies in Drepung Monastery. In central Tibet, he studied with Master Drakgo Khenchen Lobsang Wangchuk, Serkong Dorjechang, Khangsar Kyabgon Lobsang Tsultrim, Yongling Lobsang Lungtok Tenzin Trinley, His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Phabongkhapa Dechen Nyingpo, Phurchog Jampa Thayeh and so forth. He practiced different levels of the Tantric systems and he was efficient with many rituals such as creating and stopping the rain based on when people needed or did not need it.
He travelled far and wide around Tibet and the Himalayan border of India, teaching and helping people in need. In 1927, he passed away and his disciple found many pearl-like relics found from his cremation.
Fifteenth Incarnation: Za Choeje Lobsang Palden Tenzin Choedrak 1928-1961
Hor Choeje Lobsang Palden Tenzin Choedrak was born in the Earth Dragon year 1927. His father died when he was young and he grew up in a poor family in Zamey area near Samdup Monastery. His birth name was Jangchup Choephel. He was recognized as the fifth Za Choeje Rinpoche by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. After his enthronement ceremony at Gonsar Monastery, he learned all the basic reading, writing, and ritual practices with Abbot Choekyong Dhargye. He received his refuge and novice monk vows from Master Trungsar Rinpoche Lobsang Palden Ngag gyi wangchuk from Karze Monastery.
At the age of 13, in 1940, he made the journey to central Tibet with many attendants and disciples. He joined Drepung and studied under the guidance of Drakgo Geshe Sonam Gonpo. He spent six years learning Buddhist philosophy and the debate system in Drepung Loseling Monastery. He received many transmissions and initiations from His Holiness the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Gyaltsab Tagdrag Ngawang Sungrab, Phabongkhapa Dechen Nyingpo, Yongzin Trijang Rinpoche, Yongzin Ling Rinpoche, Litang Shogdrug Kyabgon, and so forth.
Even though he wished to spend more time in central Tibet, he had to return to his local monastery, responding to the desperation of the people from the Zakhog region. Back in Zakhog, he gave several teachings around the entire Tehor area, benefiting many fortunate beings.
In 1958, during the Cultural Revolution, he was arrested as a political prisoner by the Communist Army and put in Minyag Ra-nga prison camp. In the prison he practiced compassion and prayed for everybody equally. He mentioned to his cellmate that he prayed to be born in the free land and he joked that he will be a tall person. In 1962, he decided to dissolve his body into the true nature and passed away while in meditation.
Who indeed can fathom the qualities of countless incarnations
The Buddhas and their spiritual sons
Emanate in countless forms in the pure and impure lands
To solely benefit the transient beings through the three-fold secret.
But, to help the people of the Dhokham region
According to their mental aptitude and disposition Hor-tsang Choeje Rinpoche's
Fame and popularity were praised even in the realm of Gods.
I here conclude the brief biographical sketch
Of the great Indian and Tibetan predecessors that equal to the number of reflections of moon in water narrated without the stains of exaggeration and underestimation
The virtuous beams of moon radiating forth
Unfolds the Utpala-like scriptural teachings and insight
And beautifies the garden of sentient beings
May all sentient beings relish the fruit of happiness and bliss.