Terdag Lingpa was the eldest of the seven children of Sangdag Thrinley Lhundrub and Yum Lhadzin Yangchen Drolma. The second son, Terdag Lingpa's younger brother Gyalse Tenpa'i Nyima, was born in the Year of the Male Earth Rat (1648) at Dranang Dargye Chöling in Central Tibet.
From his father Sangdag Thrinley Lhundrub, the Great Fifth Dalai Lama and many other masters, Gyalse Tenpa'i Nyima received numerous teachings and transmissions of both the Kama and Terma lineages, and thus became very learned and accomplished in all branches of sutra and tantra. He was particularly renowned for his great erudition in compiling many precious texts on gar thig yang rol (gar thig dbyang rol)- the ritual dances, art of mandala drawing, ritual melodies and ritual music. Gyalse Tenpa'i Nyima also assisted in raising and teaching his younger brother, the Great Lochen Dharmashri.
The great master Gyalse Tenpa'i Nyima also became the first Mindrolling Khenchen, the abbot and holder of the vinaya lineage of Mindrolling. The lineage of Mindrolling has the line of Khenchens which is also known as khen rab. The Khen Rab is the line of vinaya holders who bestow the vinaya vows to the monks of Mindrolling and have always been renowned scholars and exponents of the Dharma beginning with Gyalsay Tenpai Nyima. Traditionally, the Mindrolling khenchens have always been the younger sons of Trichens or the throne holders. The line of Trichens is also known as tri rab. The eldest son would become the Trichen or throneholder of Mindrolling and the younger son would become the Khenchen.
Owing to many obstacles and due to not having accomplished certain samaya practices at the appropriate time, Gyalse Tenpa'i Nyima is said to have passed away at the young age of 27 in 1674 in the Year of The Wood Tiger.
Terdag Lingpa's sole inner spiritual son was his second younger brother, Lochen Dharmashri, the Great Omniscient Chöpal Gyatso, who is known as one of the foremost learned masters of the Dzogchen teachings. He was born in the year of the Wood Horse as the fifth child of the seven children of Sangdag Thrinley Lhundrub and Yum Lhadzin Yangcen Drolma.
Although Tibet has been blessed with the presence of many great enlightened masters, it is said very few are comparable to Lochen Dharmashri in learning and understanding of the profound dharma. The Terlung (gter lung- treasure prophesies), prophesized the birth of Lochen Dharmashri as the birth of "a great master with the name beginning with dharma, an emanation of Yudra Nyingpo, with unparallel wisdom and qualities of compassion and great devotion, who will uphold the victorious banner of dharma for the benefit of sentient beings."
Lochen Dharmashri was an emanation of one of the 25 disciples of Guru Rinpoche, Yudra Nyingpo. Yudra Nyingpo was a prince of Gyalmo Tsawe Rong (Gyarong) in Eastern Tibet. In Gyarong, Yudra Nyingpo received teachings from Vairocana, who was exiled in the area for a certain period of time. Studying with Vairocana, Yudra Nyingpo became a great scholar and translator. Later he traveled to Central Tibet and received teachings from Guru Rinpoche and he became one of the greatest masters of semde and longde teachings of Dzogpa Chenpo in Tibet.
Lochen Dharmashri's father, the great master Sangdag Thrinley Lhundrub, passed away into parinirvana when Lochen Dharmashri was only nine years old, still a young boy. Upon the passing away of his father, Lochen Dharmashri fervently supplicated to the kudung of his father while performing the kudung chöpa (sku gdung mchod) - prayers and offerings to the kudung. On the same night, he dreamt that Sangdag Thrinley Lhundrub appeared amidst rainbow lights and dissolved into himself. Lochen Dharmashri awoke immediately and experienced immense joy and clarity. It is said that at that time, his mind and the guru's mind merged into one and from then on Lochen Dharmashri's mind was filled with exceptional clarity and profound understanding of the dharma.
From his young age, Lochen Dharmashri was taught the dharma and brought up by his older brother Chögyal Rigzin Terdag Lingpa with great love and kindness. He was also lovingly taught and cared for by his other older brother Gyalse Tenpa'i Nyima and his mother Yum Lhadzin Yangcen Drolma.
At the age of thirteen, Lochen Dharmashri received the genyen (dge bsnyen) vows from Rigzin Terdag Lingpa who performed the tsug phü (gtsug phud), hair cutting ceremony. Terdag Lingpa then bestowed him the name Tenzin Jamyang Wangpo (bstan 'dzin 'jam dbyang dbang po).
At the age of fifteen, he received from the Great Fifth Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Tenzin Gyatso the rabjung (rab byung) vows and at the age of twenty, in the great palace of Potala, Lochen Dharmashri received from the Great Fifth Dalai Lama the gelong (dge slong) vows of full ordination.
Having accomplished great learning and mastering all sciences and philosophies, at the age of twenty-seven, in the presence of a great assembly, Lochen Dharmashri was granted the eminent distinction of the title of "The Great Learned One".
Most importantly, it is said that throughout his life Lochen Dharmashri was very particular in not creating any nyetung (nyes ltung) - transgressions and violations in relation to even the smallest of the vows. Like the brilliant sun and moon, Lochen Dharmashri always kept the most perfect conduct free of every stain. His precision and carefulness with his vinaya vows and samayas is even today considered to be the example of perfect purity within the vinaya lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Until this day, Lochen Dharmashri's commentary on the Dom Sum (sdom gsum) - the "Collection of Treatises on the Three Vows" is considered one of the most important and authoritative works on the topic of ethics in buddhadharma.
At the age of 12, on the auspicious 25th day of the 7th month of the Wood Snake Year, Lochen Dharmashri received from his older brother, Chögyal Terdag Lingpa, the entire cycle of teachings and the empowerment of Rigzin Thugthig (Terdag Lingpa's first terma Heart Essence of the Vidyadharas). The occasion was marked by many auspicious signs and it is said that Lochen Dharmashri had plucked an ordinary twig of a tree and put in into the bumpa, and as the empowerment was bestowed the ordinary twig bloomed with flowers.
At the age of 16, Lochen Dharmashri received the Dra Kalapa (sgra kalhapa) and Debgyor (sdeb sbyor) from Gungtang Panchen Shenyen Namgyal (gung thang pan chen bshes gnyen rnam rgyal) and also mastered the Lantsha (lan tsha) and Wartu (war tu) scripts.
From his older brother Gyalse Tenpa'i Nyima Rinpoche, Lochen Dharmashri studied the science of astrology. From the master Karma Küngyen (karma kun mgyan) he received the teachings of the Kalachakra and from Taglung Drubchen Ngawang (stag lung grub chen ngag dbang) the teachings and transmissions of Saraswati.
From his older brother, Chögyal Terdag Lingpa, Lochen Dharmashri studied ritual dances, the art of mandala, and ritual melody (gar thig dbyang gsum). It was from Terdag Lingpa that he also received the teachings on the Classes of the Three Vows (sdom gsum rab dbyed). From his second older brother Gyalse Tenpa'i Nyima, Lochen Dharmashri received the vinaya teachings, and the teachings on the conduct of the vinaya. At the age of 27, Lochen Dharmashri received the entire body of Longchenpa's teachings.
In particular, throughout his life, Lochen Dharmashri continued with deep devotion to carefully serve and attend to his incomparably kind teacher, Chögyal Rigzin Terdag Lingpa, from whom he received a vast amount of profound teachings and transmissions.
Included in these transmissions and teachings was a vast amount of terma teachings (gter chos) of great Tertöns such as Grubthob Ngödrub (grub thob dngos grub), Neten Dangma Lhüngyal (gnas brtan ldang ma lhun rgyal), Chetsün Senge Wangchug (lce btsun seng ge dbang phyug), Gya Zhang Trom (rgya zhang khrom), Lhaje Nubchung (lha rje gnubs chung), Ngadag Nyang Ralpachen (mnga' bdag nyang ral pa can), Guru Chöwang (gu ru chos dbang) and Pema Ledrel Tsal (pad ma las 'brel rtsal) and many more.
Furthermore, from Chögyal Rigzin Terdag Lingpa, Lochen Dharmashri also received the empowerments, teachings and transmissions of all of the termas revealed by Terdag Lingpa, such as the Rigzin Thugthig, Thugje Chenpo Desheg Kundu and the Atiyoga and Vajrasattva Cycle. Lochen Dharmashri also received many marvelous and profound teachings and transmissions from the Great Fifth Dalai Lama.
Lochen Dharmashri received the entire transmission of the root of all teachings - the Nyingma Gyübum (rnying ma rgyud 'bum). The Nyingma Gyubum consists of 25 (31) volumes containing a collection of transmissions of the three inner tantras. From the great master Dorje Drag Rigzin Chenpo Pema Thrinley (rdo rje brag rig 'dzin chen po pad ma phrin las), Lochen Dharmashri received the entire body of the newer tantras, the essential teachings and empowerment of Kalachakra, the Gyutrül Zhitro (sgyu 'phrul zhi khro) and Lama Sangdü (bla ma gsang 'dus).
From the great, learned master of the Sakyapa, Sakya Dagchen Künga Tashi (sa skya bdag chen kun dga' bkra shiz), Dharmashri received the transmissions of Yangdag Gonlug (yang dag 'gon lugs kyi dbang), Domsum (sdom gsum) and Rigter (rigs gter).
From master Dingri Künpangpa Lodrö Tenpa (ding ri kun spangs pa blo gros brtan pa) Dharmashri received the wang (dbang), lung (lung) and tri (khrid) of the Zhije Ngachi Barsum (zhi byed snga phyi bar gsum kha 'thor dang bcas pa).
From the great master Khedrup Chöcong Gyaltsen (mkhas grub chos skyong rgyal mtshan) he received the entire teachings, empowerment and profound instructions of the Shangpa lineage. From Lochen Rinzang (lo chen rin bzang) he received the entire tri (khrid) of the Jor Drug (sbyor drug).
Furthermore, from Drubpei Wangchuk Lodro Gyatso (grub pa'i dbang phyug blo gros rgya mtsho) he received further teachings on Kalachakra and Jor Drug (sbyor drug).
From Dorje Dzinpa Künga Tendar (rdo rje'dzin pa kun dga' bstan dar) Lochen Dharmashri received the Sang De Jig Sum (gsang bde 'jigs gsum), Ngoglug Kyi Dorje Denzhi (rngog lugs kyi rdo rje gdan bzhi), Mahamaya, Marpo Korsum, (dmar po skor gsum) and Gurzhel Gyi Jenang (gur zhal gyi rjes gnang).
From Shenyen Jampa Phuntsok Namgyal (bshes gnyen byams pa phun tshogs rnam rgyal) he received the Chenrezig Senge Dra (spyan ras gzings seng ge sgra), Drozang Lug Namse Karpo Tshedzin ('gro bzang lugs rnam sras dkar po tshe 'dzin), Chenrezig Palmo'i Lug (spyan ras gzigs dpal mo'i lugs) and the Gurzhal (gur zhal).
From Domtsön Künga Dargye (sdom brtson kun dga' dar rgye) Lochen Dharmashri received the Uma Metog Threngjü ('dul ba me tog phreng rgyud), Sumjapa Tsadrel (sum brgya pa rtsa'grel), Uma Rigsthog Kor (dbu ma rigs tshogs skor), Dompa Nyishupa (sdom pa nyi shu pa), Lama Ngacupa (bla ma lnga bcu pa) and the Jowo'i Chöjung Jatsa (jo bo'i chos 'byung 'brgya rtsa).
From Lungrig Mawei Wangchuk Sangye Chödar (lung rigs smra ba'i dbang phyug sangs rgyas chos dar) he received Uma Tsajug Zhisum (dbu ma rtsa 'jug bzhi gsum), Namdrel (rnam 'grel), Dulwa Dotsa ('dul ba mdo rtsa), Ngönpa Dzö (mngon pa mdzod), Drelchung Dönsal ('grel chung don gsal) and Sapen Gyi Thubpa Gongsal (sa pan gyi thub pa dgongs gsal).
From Kyi Künga Tensal (skyi kun dga' bstan gsal) Lochen Dharmashri received the Gyuthrul Thramo'i Kor (sgyu 'phrul phra mo'i skor) and Zur Tsho Tölug Pa'i Gyuthrul Gyi Yigcha Threntsheg (zur tsho stod lugs pa'i sgyu 'phrul gyi yig cha phran tshegs).
From the master Zhalupa Rinchen Zangpo (zha lu pa rin chen bzang po) he received the transmissions of Drimed Namnyi (dri med rnam gnyis). From the master Kangyurwa Drubpa Dorje (bka' 'gyur ba grub pa rdo rje) Lochen Dharmashri received the Dode Kalzang (mdo sde bskal ba bzang), Jetongpa (brgyad stong pa), Ngedön Gyi Dothren (nges don gyi mdo phran), Jamchö Denga (byams chos sde lnga), Bodhisattvacaryavtara (spyod 'jug) as well as many teachings of the sutra lineage. From the master Drikung Trülpay Ku ('bri gung sprul pa'i sku) he received the Drami Nyen Pa'i Tshewang (sgra mi snyan pa'i tshe dbang).
Again, from Trewo Trülpay Ku Chöying Wangpo (tre bo sprul pa'i sku chos kyi dbang po) he received the Chagchen Lhancig Kyejor (phyag chen lhan cig skyes sbyor), Wangchig Dorje's Khriyig (dbang phyug rdo rjes mdzad pa'i khrid yig), Pehar Gyi Drubthab Trin Nag Khrig Pa (pe har gyi sgrub thabs sprin nag 'khrigs pa).
From the master Pawo Tülpay Ku (dpa' bo sprul pa'i sku) Lochen Dharmashri received the Chagchen Yige Zhipa'i Dön Tshugce Ma (phyag chen yi ge bzhi pa'i don tshugs bcad ma).
In short, Lochen Dharmashri held and accomplished a vast body of gsar rnying ris med (new school, old school and rime school) transmissions, which he received from almost twenty different teachers. He remained extremely humble and always spoke of his learning and accomplishments as a drop in the ocean. In receiving all these various transmissions and teachings, Lochen Dharmashri not only received them, but also accomplished these practices. Furthermore, he played a pivotal role in the revival and strengthening of these transmission lineages.
He received vast teachings and transmissions from Chögyal Terdag Lingpa, his elder brother, whom he revered as his root teacher and served as an attendant. Of the many teachings and transmissions he received they included: the two kinds of Nyingthig, Kunzang Gong dü (kun bzang dgongs 'dus) and Ati Zabdön (ati zab don snying po), Dorsem Khri yig (rdor sems kyi khrid yig ma bu), Longde Dorje Zampa (klong sde rdo rje zam pa), Dong trug (dong sprugs kyi gzhung), Thrö nag (khros nag) and Cöd (gcod khrid). Lochen Dharmashri also received Terdag Lingpa's termas and many other kama and terma transmissions as well as pith instructions.
Subsequently Lochen Dharmashri practiced and accomplished each of these ocean-like teachings and spent many years in retreats. He gained deep insight of the profound path of teachings and spent much time in retreat and practicing the teachings he received.
In the Year of the Hare, seeing obstacles to his lifespan, he entered into a retreat of vajra recitation- rdor bzlas and accomplished great samadhi. From the age of 48 until 64, he taught extensively through the summer and winter each year.
In order to serve the Dharma and strengthen its foundation, he also bestowed and trained a huge body of monastics with excellent discipline, personally training them and giving them ordination to become exemplary monks. Following the tradition of avoiding large groups of people taking vows, he would ensure their sincerity and understanding by bestowing the vows directly to the individual or to very small groups. He is said to have personally bestowed the bhikshu (full ordination) to 447 monks, 1298 getsuls (novice- shramanera vows) and countless other vows to many fortunate ones.
He served the Dharma and his root teacher, Chögyal Terdag Lingpa throughout his life and became and a great example of "mkhas tshul gsum ldan": learning, exemplary ethics and compassion. To this day, Tibet owes the presence of the pure vinaya lineage brought into Tibet by the great Khenchen Bodhisattava to the efforts and contribution of Lochen Dharmashri.
In the Year of the Fire Bird (1717) - Lochen Dharmashri had reached the age of 65 when the great conflict with the Dzungar Mongols turned into a bloody war and the invasion of the region brought massive destruction to the buddhadharma and many monasteries were razed to the ground.
At that time, Chögyal Terdag Lingpa, who had passed into parinirvana a couple of years before, had established the magnificent monastery and sangha of Mindrolling and it had become one of the foremost learning centers of Nyingmapas. Mindrolling came under the destruction of the invasion and the entire monastery was destroyed and burnt.
Since the sons and daughters of Chögyal Terdag Lingpa were still young, Lochen Dharmashri was serving as the regent and administrative head of Mindrolling. He was captured and imprisoned by the Dzungar Mongol army in Lhasa. Along with many other teachers, Lochen Dharmashri was then taken to be executed. Before doing so, he was asked if he had a final wish.
Several years before, during one of his discussions with his older brother, Chögyal Terdag Lingpa had recommended that Lochen Rinpoche study and practice the accomplishment of Tsendeb Phowa (practice of transferring consciousness). He had accordingly followed that instruction of his Guru.
Lochen Dharmashri asked if he could be taken to the Lhasa Jokhang (the Lhasa Jokhang temple was built by King Songtsen Gampo in 642 and amongst many other important relics and representations of the three jewels also contains perhaps the most venerated object of Tibet, the Jowo Sakyamuni Statue) and be allowed to offer his prostrations to the Jowo statue before being executed. His hands were bound and he was taken there surrounded by the Dzungar Mongol soldiers. As he was walking to the temple, he began reciting the Zancö (bzang spyod smon lam)- Prayer of Excellent Conduct as he walked towards the temple. As he recited the line "gonpo kun gyi dung du dag chi'o"* he placed his head on the feet of Jowo and performing the tsendeb phowa, expelled his consciousness and passed away into parinirvana.
Since then, it is the tradition in Mindrolling that whenever the Prayer of Excellent Conduct is recited, there is a pause in the recitation at the point where Lochen Dharmashri passed into parinirvana. It is so that we can remember this great master's vast activities and infinite kindness and, most importantly, follow the profound path that he has shown us.
Those lamps of the world who have not yet appeared
Will progressively become enlightened, turn the wheel of dharma,
And fully demonstrate passing into nirvana, the final peace.
*I will arrive in the presence of all those protectors.