From the integral nature of the all-pervading primordial state,
The Rupakaya of the uninterrupted unity of voidness and awareness,
The mother of the spiritual activities of the lord of the three times,
The widely manifested venerable Dakini—at her lotus feet, I do service.
Lately, a number of people have been asking about the venerable Khandro Rinpoche and her spiritual activities. This obituary is a modest attempt at presenting some information about the late divine mother’s spiritual life.
Khandro Rinpoche was born in Brula, in the province of Kongpo in Eastern Tibet, to the noble lawyer family of Dekyi Khangsar in the Water Female Pig year of the 15th 60-year cycle of the lunar calendar (1923). She was given the name Pema Dechen. From early childhood, she displayed noble signs of altruism such as mercy and compassion, together with an unshakable faith in Ogyen Rinpoche and the Vidhyadhara siddhas. Unlike the other children, when she played as a child, she would repeatedly assume the bare cross-legged posture and pretend to meditate, recite, make ritual offerings, etc., which awakened her divine predispositions.
Around the age of six, she learnt from her father the arts of reading, writing, and memorizing texts. During this period, she helped her family and successfully carried out similar worldly responsibilities.
At the age of 13, realizing that the answers to her prayers and aspirations had come, she became the consort of the great Dzogchen master Trulshik Rinpoche Pawo Dorjee (1897-1962) of Kham Minyak, Eastern Tibet. Since then, by means of the three ways of giving delight (respect, food, and meditative accomplishment) and long-term reliance, she received initiations, oral transmissions, and secret instructions of the Nyingma transmission, treasure, and pure vision teachings from Trulshik Rinpoche, H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1987), H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche (b. 1927), etc. In particular, she performed about 18 times the accumulation and purification of five hundred thousand preliminary practices of the profound ‘Ter-Sar’ teaching of the great treasure revealer Khragthung Dudjom Lingpa. It is believed that through the proper performance of the meditation practice based on the assembly of deities of guru, yidam, and dakini (the three ‘roots’ of Vajrayana practice: the guru being the root of blessings, the yidam the root of accomplishments, and the dakini the root of activities), she attained realization and experienced many signs of accomplishment.
Together with Trulshik Rinpoche, she traveled to various meditation places, hermitages, and mountain retreats in Tibet, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, etc., and practiced meditation—enduring heat, cold weather, and hardships, and relying only on scant food, clothing, and shelter—whereupon she had visions of tutelary deities and many miraculous dreams, reveries, and pure visions. Usually, as soon as she arrived at the place where she would spend the night, instead of relaxing, she would immediately begin doing a hundred prostrations, and only afterwards would she prepare her meals—which clearly shows her active engagement with spiritual activities.
While she was concentrating on meditation at the upper side of Kongpo forest, an ape approached her a few times carrying butter, tea, and meat to serve her. Thinking, ‘If I stay here any longer, only sins will result,’ she had to move somewhere else. The fact that even nonhuman local spirits wished to aid and venerate her is further evidence of her divine quality.
One day, while praying and circumambulating the nine-storey tower built by Milarepa at Lodrag Kharchu, the most holy place of Guru Rinpoche, she met a yogi with knee-length hair, wearing a meditation cord and white robe and holding a wooden bowl. As soon as she had completed another circuit, she looked closely at the same spot, but found that the yogi had disappeared. Wondering who it was, she asked the master, who replied, ‘Oh! You have met Milarepa in reality.’
On her pilgrimage to South India, at Sri Parvata, the place where Nagarjuna spent his last days, she saw a human corpse whose head was separated from its body. Later, when she recounted this to Lama Trulshik Rinpoche, he scolded her for being unaware that she had met with the real body of Arya Nagarjuna.
One day, during a pilgrimage to Nepal with her fellow pilgrims, she felt someone touch her from behind. When she turned around, she saw a young Indian girl carrying a human skull, begging. She gave her some money, but wondered ‘Who could that have been?’ Later, when she told H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche about it, she came to understand that Vajravarahi had appeared to her in the form of a beggar.
Another miraculous incident took place during her visit to the Stupa of Great Purity (where the Buddha had cut off his hair) in India, when three oranges suddenly fell from the sky into the palm of her hand. Extremely amazed, she took them and showed them to H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, who kept one and asked her to keep the remaining two oranges with her. Even after she had kept them for a very long time, they did not spoil or turn rotten.
She traveled with Trulshik Rinpoche to the sacred site in Mön Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) where Guru Rinpoche had engaged in meditation practices, and when they were individually doing meditation practice in that very place, she heard a loud cracking sound. Wondering what the sound could be, she looked up and saw the rock suddenly open up like a door. Fearing that if the boulder fell, it would land on her, she immediately ran out and asked the master, who replied by raising his thumb (which means ‘good’) and saying, ‘Oh! What a pity, it could have been like this,’ and then showing his little finger (which means ‘not good’) and saying, ‘But it was like this.’
Then, during the Fire Male Dog year of the 16th 60-year cycle (1946), both of them traveled from Tingri (a district in western Tibet) to Gangtok via Chöten Nyima (county of Gampa district in western Tibet bordering Sikkim) and Lachung, North Sikkim. By the power of the karma of profound spiritual relationships in past lives, Chögyal Tashi Namgyal and Crown Prince Palden Thöndup Namgyal of Sikkim, through their unflagging faith, became royal patrons of Trulshik Rinpoche and honored Rinpoche as the chief of the ecclesiastical order. In particular, Trulshik Rinpoche and Khandrola, in accordance with the unsurpassable intention of the Chögyal and the Crown Prince, accepted principal responsibility for instructing the Chögyal on the construction of the present Dudul Chöten at Deorali, Gangtok, considering it to be a most fortunate sphere for the accumulation of merit and the purification of the obscurations of all beings.
Having thus fulfilled the wishes of the Chögyal, Rinpoche and Khandrola went to the hidden valley of Pema kod (southeastern district of Tibet) and to Kongpo, where again the Crown Prince sent his messengers to invite them, but they could not come. Later, the Crown Prince went personally along with his attendant and convinced Rinpoche and Khandrola, who, agreeing to the invitation, came to Gangtok.
Later, during the Fire Female Bird year of the 16th 60-year cycle (1957), the Chögyal beseeched Rinpoche and Khandrola to stay permanently at Deorali Chöten. Initially, the old residence—presently in the front yard—was built. The Chögyal personally took the initiative for providing all of the facilities, such as monthly salaries, meals, clothing, servants, and firewood.
Considering the benefits for posterity, H.H. Trulshik Rinpoche eventually invited the master of Longchen Nyingthik (secret profound teachings) and the destined deity of our lifetime, Jigme Thupten Thrinle Palzang—popularly known as H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche—to the Chöten, where, at what is today his old residence, a grand ceremony was arranged and he was enthroned. H.H. Trulshik Rinpoche prayed that he stay at the Chöten and appealed to him to establish a centre of Buddhist learning. After instructing the Chögyal to give his royal patronage and honor to H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche as the chief of the ecclesiastical order, H.H. Trulshik Rinpoche, having attained the age of 66, passed away peacefully in 1962 (63?), accompanied by numerous miraculous signs.
By the power of the profound concern and inspiration, in the past, of the omniscient spiritual father and son (Longchen Rabjam and Jigme Lingpa), the 25 divinely emanated disciples of Padmasambhava, the Khenlob Chösum (Bodhisattva Shantarakshita, Padmasambhava, and Chögyal Trisong Deutsen, King of Tibet), etc., and especially by the power of the timely aspirational prayer, entrustment, and prophecy of Ogyen Maha Guru, H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche established the grand Nyingmapa religious institution of Dzogchen Longchen Nyingthik. Since then, the number of monks has increased and continues to grow every year.
In the meantime, Khandrola, for the benefit of sentient beings, applied herself to collecting the ‘three receptacles’ (statues, scriptures, and stupas) and the various other ritual instruments required for the monastery. Until her last days, she was actively involved as the chief patron for all of the auspicious religious observances such as Tshechu, Nyernga, the four great occasions of Lord Buddha, the summer retreat, and the great Dupchen of Phurpa Gudlug, which is usually performed at the end of each year.
Khandrola’s abundant affection and kindness towards us all was immeasurable. She received with warmth and affection all of the devotees from outside who came to obtain the blessings of Rinpoche, and readily offered them all possible help and support such as food, accommodation, etc. Immensely delighted and satisfied by her utmost humbleness and affection, even the affluent devotees were attracted to her like swans to a lake.
She consistently put into practice the sublime ‘Tersar Khandro Thugthik’ teachings, which she received from H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, without skipping a single day, and was appointed custodian of these teachings by the latter. Time and again, during her visualization, she was blessed with visions of Ogyen Rinpoche, tutelary deities, and protector deities, such as Masa Damsum and Nödzin Chiumar, who accompanied her and communicated to her good and bad prognostications. She then instructed the monk disciples to conduct a prayer for Rinpoche, even insisting that, if the prayer were performed by the entire monastery, there would be present and future benefit for everyone. It was in just this attitude of Khandrola that she surpassed the
nature of ordinary people.
Thus, during the progress of all of her inner, outer, and secret spiritual activities, Khandrola willingly manifested as a consort in order to help H.H. Dodrupchen Rinpoche for the sake of the precious Buddha’s teachings of doctrine and realization.
In the third lunar month of 2006, while relaxing in bed, she suddenly fell into a short sleep, and just before she awoke, she dreamt that there appeared before her a young girl, wearing a brilliantly ornamented headdress adorned with symbols of the five Dhyani Buddhas, who asked her age. Khandrola replied that she was 84, and the girl said, ‘Now it is time for you to leave.’ When Khandrola said that she did not wish to leave, the girl entreated Khandrola, saying, ‘No, no, this year you have to go.’ Later Khandrola narrated the whole incident to her close attendants.
Since the time she received the welcoming sign from the Dakini, Khandrola was bedridden due to an ailment that made it difficult for her to breathe—a misfortune for all sentient beings in general and for us, her disciples, in particular. Although her devout followers offered to take her to the hospital, she refused. ‘I don’t wish to go to the hospital,’ she said. ‘For whatever treatment is required, the physician should be summoned here.’ There was never a trace of bad odor emanating from her body, even on the eve of her passing away. Surrounded by all of her attendants, with a smile, she melodiously sang the following lines from the Pema Kathang text:
Embracing the five Buddhakayas, the self-originated truth;
By various skillful means, placing sentient beings in blissful rest;
Thoroughly fulfilling the desires of trainable beings;
To the Vajrakaya (the unchanging quality of the Buddha nature),
which is beyond birth and death (i.e., Guru Rinpoche), I bow down.
Finally, on the morning of the 12th day of the 7th month of the Fire Male Dog year of the 17th 60-year cycle of the lunar calendar (5th September 2006) Khandrola, in stages, held audiences with visitors, gave out blessed cords, blessed medicinal substances, and sanctified incense, and, with amusement, offered a silk scarf to each person, especially to the visiting patrons. Then, at 12.30 PM, her condition suddenly deteriorated and she passed away, absorbed into the sphere of eternal bliss.
At that time, Rinpoche and Lopön Kunzang Thegchok Yeshi Dorje, along with other incarnate lamas, led a single gentle recitation of the Tagdröl (Liberation through Wearing the Sacred Diagram) text of the Longchen Nyingthik and the Chöying Zöd (Treasury of Dharmadhatu).
For seven days, her physical body remained in meditation. On the eighth day, when the sign of release from meditation appeared, substances such as camphor, various other medicines, and fragrant water were applied to the body, and the incarnate lamas and senior monks performed ablutions with water blessed through the recitation of the Zhi Khro Ngan Jong text of the Longchen Nyingthik. Sacred letters were applied to each sacred place of the body. Then the precious body was wrapped in white aromatic cotton and fine silk, ornamented like an Enjoyment Body of the Buddha, holding a vajra and a bell, and kept on the bed for 20 days. All of the necessary offering substances were arranged in front of the body. At that time, countless male and female devotees from all around visited to receive the last blessing. The devotees were extremely amazed and profound faith was aroused in them when they saw that, even in the summer heat, and without the aid of any medical preservatives, her body did not putrefy.
On the 25th day of September, under the aegis of the Government of Sikkim, a throng of male and female devotees took the mortal remains to Tashiding, the centre of this hidden land, in a grand funeral procession. On the 26th day, at ‘Silwatshal’, the holy cremation ground, southwest of Tashiding, that had been blessed by Guru Rinpoche, in the midst of an assembly of more than 5,000 male and female devotees and patrons, the funeral rite based on the Dorsem Ngönga mandala ritual of the Longchen Nyingthik was led by Vajra master H.E. Yangthang Rinpoche, incarnation of Domang Terchen, and the ritual based on the Thug chen Dugngal Rangdrol mandala of the Longchen Nyingthik was led by Tsang Tingkey, H.E. Gönjang Rinpoche, at which time the cremation took place.
Straight out of the chamber containing the mortal remains, a dome of rainbow lights issued forth into the sky, along with a cluster of rainbow-colored clouds, completely filling the sky, and finally various relics, etc., appeared, thus satisfying the three highest distinguishing features of the Great Perfection of the Nyingma school: the ground, the path, and the fruit (the ground is ascertainment of the view, the path is meditation practice, and the fruit is the attainment of enlightenment). The people who assembled there to participate in the last funeral rites were very amazed, and their faith of conviction was evidenced by the tears streaming from their eyes. Finally, for a period of 49 days, those disciples who had been left behind fulfilled their aspirations to make offerings and completed the ritual activities in full.
This account of the Late Khandrola was written by Tulku Thogmed—who was born as a caretaker for the exposition of the teachings of the omniscient spiritual father and son (Longchen Rabjam and Jigme Lingpa), and who lives under the compassionate gracious guru, H.E. the 4th Dodrupchen Rinpoche of Sangche Ngödrub Palbarling Chöten Monastery, at Gangtok—during the 5th month of the Fire Pig year of the 17th 60-year cycle (2007), on the 25th day, which is the day on which the auspicious occasion of the Assembly of Dakinis is commemorated.
English translation by Tenzin Samphel and Carl Yamamoto.