Dudjom Sangyum Kusho Rigzin Wongmo
Her Holiness Dudjom Sangyum Kusho Rigzin Wongmo was born in Tibet in 1925. She was the wife and consort of His Holiness Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, a revered terton (treasure revealer) and high lama of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism who helped bring the tradition to the West. Her Holiness supported Dudjom Rinpoche in all of his activities, including helping him to establish Dharma centers around the world. Together they had three children. Their son, Shenphen Dawa Norbu Rinpoche, penned this letter after her passing in 2014:
“My mother, Her Holiness Sangyum Rigzin Wangmo, dissolved her awareness into the Dharmakaya on August 27th, 2014, at 5:55 pm at the Yeshe Nyingpo center in New York City. Immediately then, she went into Thug Dam (unwavering meditation to benefit all beings).
My mother is recognized as a manifestation of White Tara and of Yeshe Tsogyal. She was the predicted and prophesied consort for His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche. My mother received this divine prophecy from the Dakinis when she was just eight years old. At the same time, at that young age, my mother received Dakini teachings from Yeshe Tsogyal which she immediately put into practice.
Their meeting was arranged by His Holiness’s Dharma Protector, Shenpa. Shenpa appeared to my mother’s father indicating the prophecy for her to marry His Holiness. Shenpa simultaneously appeared to His Holiness indicating when the meeting would occur. Rinpoche married her in Tibet while she was still in her teens.
An interesting historical parallel is that, again as a manifestation of Tara, she was the consort of Dudjom Lingpa, His Holiness’s previous incarnation. In that life, she took her very body to the Buddhafield. One day when Dudjom Lingpa returned, she had already gone, with no trace…
My mother, Sangyum Rigzin Wangmo, has been the wisdom dakini manifestation who not only prolonged my father’s life but also fostered the auspicious flourishing of his wisdom revelations. I remember my father saying that his sunshine of happiness radiated when he first met my mother. I credit her with not only taking good care of His Holiness but also unceasingly encouraging his activity to benefit all parent sentient beings.
As many of you know, my mother spent most of her life in strict retreat. She took a proactive role in recognizing the reincarnation of many Lamas. Her dreams were clairvoyant: they were all predictions. Before any tragedy fell on the family or others, she would foresee it and indicate methods to reverse it.
At this moment, she is still in Thug Dam, following the tradition, as we know, of great enlightened beings’ realization in the Dharmakaya. The benefit of their deep meditation, which is the expression of their bodhisattva commitment, removes all dangers, calamities, and sufferings such as war, disease, famine, and earthquakes. As well, from that meditative state, they empower us in our practice and multiply our purification practice to the fullest extent…
We are indeed fortunate she lived for 89 years. Generally in our tradition, it is known that when a terton leaves his body, his Dakini consort follows. She had many visions and situations where she was invited by the Dakinis to leave her body to come to their Buddhafields, but she refused, saying she still wanted to be with her children. Once again I thank her for her consideration for being with us as long as she has been. I have no doubt that she has the full power to leave her body whenever she chooses.”
His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche wrote a longevity prayer for her in which he refers to her as an emanation of Yeshe Tsogyal, and she was also revered as an emanation of White Tara. As her son explained, Dakinis would visit her in dreams as well as grant her prophetic instructions on methods for extending Dudjom Rinpoche’s and other high-ranking Tibetan lamas’ life force. She was also considered gifted in the art of divination, and was active in the role of recognizing many tulkus, or incarnate lamas.
She was the epitome of a hidden yogini. After Dudjom Rinpoche’s passing in 1987, Kusho Rigzin Wangmo spent the last 20 years of her life in New York City, in a strict retreat in her brownstone house. She would not leave the house, but instead chose to spend her time engaged in spiritual practice. She said that when she passed there should be no elaborate ceremonies performed to honor her or on her behalf, nor should high lamas trouble themselves by visiting her body. In this way, she showed great humility.
The following story illustrates the extraordinary ways that Her Holiness supported the activities of Dudjom Rinpoche and enacted the activities of a wisdom dakini. This is an exerpt from a teaching given by Choggi Rinpoche at Kunzang Palyul Choling in 1988 explaining how His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche came to write his last prayer..
“His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche’s wife had a special Dakini, a wisdom goddess, who would visit her in her dreams from time to time. This Dakini would predict many things to her. One day this wisdom Dakini appeared in her dream and asked her to please ask His Holiness for a prayer, which would be extremely beneficial for future human beings.
The next day His Holiness’ wife made the request. She said, ‘I had a dream. Please write a prayer for beings.’ And His Holiness said, ‘I have written so many prayers. There is no lack of prayers for people to read. It’s just that they don’t read. That’s the thing. There is no end to what I have written.’
And his wife thought maybe that was right, because in his last life, he wrote 23 texts of different practices. These texts were not just composed. They were wisdom manifestation teachings called terma.
During the time of the eighth century in Tibet, Padmasambhava realized that in the future the teachings would be disrupted. There would be negative forces – those who would try to change the essence of the teachings. So Padmasambhava and his Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal concealed those teachings. They concealed the teachings in the ground, in space, in the water, and predicted exactly at what particular time they would be revealed in the future and the name of the particular Terton that would reveal each teaching or practice. And that is exactly what has happened to this day. These terma revelations are so fresh, and therefore the whole teaching is preserved as it is.
The Terton, or treasure revealer, is like one who has been directly initiated by Padmasambhava himself. All the protectors who were keeping that wisdom took a vow with Padmasambhava that the terma would be given only to the right person, to the Chosen One of Padmasambhava. The whole teaching might be 300 pages, but the 300 pages are written in one line. It is secret and kept hidden in Dakini letters, which is itself hidden. No one can read that text except for the Terton initiated by Padmasambhava. Only he can read it. When discovered, there is only one line and through that a spontaneous text comes out. Terma is self-hidden wisdom. It is so important that we are able to have that. I feel very fortunate. We believe that His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche is the manifestation of Padmasambhava.
Then His Holiness’ wife had another dream. Twice the same Dakini appeared in her dream and this time she said, ‘I asked you before. It is very important that you request a prayer and you did not. Now please, ask him. Don’t neglect that. It is very important. There is big meaning within the prayer.’
So again she asked His Holiness. And then again His Holiness said the same thing. ‘No, I have written so many prayers. People just don’t do. From my side there is nothing lacking.’
And then she requested a third time. That morning His Holiness was in his Paris apartment in France. In the early morning hours, he was in his sitting room, and suddenly he had a vision of Padmasambhava. The whole room started to glow, and became big. A person wearing a white cloth and a symbol came dancing. And then Padmasambhava himself spoke. He said, ‘Establish the dharma. Plant it in your heart. In the depth of your heart, you will attain Buddhahood. Enter the Buddha land. Purify confusion. Happily the Pure land is nearby. Generate diligence in the essence practice. Without practice, who can get results? Looking at all of one’s faults is difficult. Laying down one’s own fault is the essential point. One day all defects will slowly purify themselves. And good qualities gradually flourish.’ That was the teaching. And then right at that moment, His Holiness wrote this whole teaching.
The life of a Terton is extremely interesting, because all communication is on an extremely subtle level. For gross consciousness it is very hard to understand. His Holiness immediately picked up a [glass from the] table and told the attendants to fill it with milk, and then he asked his wife and son Shenphen Rinpoche to come.
It was very early and Shenphen Rinpoche thought, ‘What’s happened? Is His Holiness’ health ok?’ He came rushing down. And His Holiness said, ‘Just sit down. And drink this milk.’ Now this is how delicate a Terton’s life is. If Shenphen Rinpoche did not drink the milk at that point, what would become of the teaching? Sometimes they say that one person represents all human beings when in front of a very powerful being. So Shenphen Rinpoche drank it all. And that showed that the blessing would be attained by all beings. He drank all the milk. And His Holiness said, ‘Good.’ This is how Tertons are.
Sometimes when one is next to a Terton, the Terton will tell you to get him something. He or she may tell you in the middle of nowhere, ‘Get me something’ which you can never get. But the Terton never has the idea that it is not possible to get it, so the only thing you have to do is pick up anything and just give it to him because for the Terton habit is totally dissolved. There is no such thing. And when you just present that, it manifests in that state. So when His Holiness said, ‘Drink the milk,’ his son drank all the milk. And His Holiness said, ‘Very good. Just now I had this vision of Padmasambhava.’ And then he wrote this prayer. This is the last prayer of His Holiness. And there is a tremendous blessing in this prayer.”
A translation of this prayer into English can be found here.