by Tsoknyi Rinpoche III
“The first Tsoknyi Rinpoche began the tradition of the Tsoknyi Nangchen Nuns more than a century ago with the simple but revolutionary idea of providing the same training for women that had been reserved for monks. His unique vision was of a time when these women would become among the most accomplished Buddhist practitioners in the world.
Because of the devastation of the Cultural Revolution, I thought that it was all gone, and I was sad that I hadn’t spent time with them. Then, when I visited Tibet, I realized that through the kindness and great effort of the older nuns, this tradition was kept alive and now is taking root again with a new generation of nuns.
When Tibet exploded, the Dharma was brought out. Dharma is carried by people, not be books. It is in the human mind naturally, and these nuns who are practicing are bringing the benefit out. ‘Benefit’ is not just material – doing something, producing something, showing me something. Benefit or value is non-material. It is spirit, love, compassion, kindness. It is a human value, not a material value.
The nuns embody the full richness of Buddhist love, compassion and wisdom in female form. It’s quite rare, I think. If this light of tradition is gone from this earth, even though we have texts, the experiential warmth and blessings of this living women’s tradition is gone forever.
Through the medium of video, we are able to share the warmth and blessings of the Tsoknyi Nangchen nuns with the world. May it be of benefit to all beings.”
~ Venerable Tsoknyi Rinpoche III
In 2005, Tsoknyi Rinpoche III led a small group of western students to Nangchen, a remote nomadic region in Eastern Tibet that is home to the Tsoknyi Nangchen Nuns. The travellers were mostly women Buddhist practitioners and their encounter with the nuns was a unique opportunity for the meeting of spiritual practitioners from east and west which is documented in “Blessings: The Tsoknyi Nangchen Nuns of Tibet.”
History Of The Tsoknyi Lineage
The Tsoknyi lineage began in the 19th century with the great yogi Drubwang Tsoknyi, also referred to as the first Tsoknyi Rinpoche. Drubwang is an honorific or title indicating a yogi who has attained a high level of accomplishment. The name Tsoknyi translates literally as ‘two accumulations,’ referring to the accumulations of wisdom and merit, which every Vajrayana practitioner must accumulate. Drubwang Tsoknyi was considered to be an emanation or incarnation of two earlier masters, Rechungpa and Ratna Lingpa. Rechungpa was the principal disciple of Tibet’s greatest yogi, Milarepa, and adept of the Six Yogas of Naropa. In the 15th century, Ratna Lingpa was one of the great tertöns or revealers of hidden dharma treasure (terma) belonging to the Nyingma school.
Drubwang Tsoknyi lived in the Kingdom of Nangchen in what is now Eastern Tibet. He was associated with Tsechu Gompa, a monastery located next to the royal palace by the Tsechu River at Nangchen Gar. Tsechu Gompa follows the Drukpa Kagyu lineage one of eight sub-schools of the Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism. Drubwang Tsoknyi fully mastered the practices of the Drukpa Kagyu, including the Six Yogas of Naropa, a group of very powerful advanced practices that result in great spiritual realization and apparently magical powers. Drubwang Tsoknyi was a contemporary of the three great lamas of that time: Jamyang Khyentse, Jamgon Kongtrul, and Chogyur Lingpa, and become the principal guru for the 6th Khamtrul Rinpoche and the great master Shakya Shri.
As an incarnation of the tertön Ratna Lingpa, Drubwang Tsoknyi was also a tertön, or treasure revealer, whose terma discoveries included a new version of a terma text first revealed about 500 years previously by Ratna Lingpa. Drubwang Tsoknyi excelled in the yogas of the Nyingma tradition of Ratna Lingpa. The termas he discovered are the basis of the Tsoknyi lineage, which belongs to the Nyingma tradition.
The second Tsoknyi Rinpoche was born into the family of the King of Nangchen in the first half of the 20th century and received the Six Yogas of Naropa from the 6th Khamtrul Rinpoche (who had received them from Drubwang Tsoknyi). He mastered all the teachings that his previous incarnation held.
The present incarnation of Drubwang Tsoknyi (Tsoknyi Rinpoche III) was born in 1966 and recognized at the age of eight as the reincarnation of Tsoknyi Rinpoche II by His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. He was born into a family of Dzogchen masters as the son of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and great-great-grandson of the treasure revealer Chogyur Lingpa (a contemporary of Drubwang Tsoknyi). Therefore, as well as being the principal lineage holder of the Tsoknyi lineage and a Drukpa Kagyu lineage holder, Tsoknyi Rinpoche III was trained by his father from an early age in the family tradition deriving from Chogyur Lingpa (the Chokling New Treasures).
When he was 13, Tsoknyi Rinpoche was brought to Khampagar Monastery at Tashi Jong in India, the seat (in exile) of the Khamtrul Rinpoche line. His teachers include some of the most renowned masters of Tibet: Khamtrul Rinpoche Dongyu Nyima, his father Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, and Adeu Rinpoche. In addition to his more than 30 nunneries and monasteries in Tibet, Tsoknyi Rinpoche is the spiritual head of three nunneries in Nepal, including Tsoknyi Gechak Ling in Kathmandu Valley to which the Tsoknyi Nangchen nun lineage is presently being transmitted. Yeshe Rangsal in Crestone, Colorado, is his seat in the West. Following the death in 2006 of the 8th Adeu Rinpoche of Tsechu Gonpa in Nangchen, Tsoknyi Rinpoche became the main lama for Tsechu Gompa, until the next Adeu Rinpoche incarnation was enthroned this past autumn, 2015.
Credits: Text adapted from “Blessings: A Companion Booklet to the Film,” compiled by Victress Hitchcock, Jampa Kalden, and Cynthia Kneen.
Photos 1 & 4 of Tsoknyi Rinpoche in Nangchen and with Mingyur Yogini, James Gritz;
Photos 2 & 3 of Tsoknyi Rinpoche, photographer unidentified.