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Jangter lineage

Jangter Lineage begins with the discovery made by Rigdzin Gokyi Dem Truchen (Rigdzin Godemchen) of the yellow scroll which conceived prophecy-key. Thanks to this discovery a few months later, in 1366, Rigdzin Godem revealed the treasure called later as the Northern Treasure – Jang Ter.

Rigdzin Godem (1st Rigdzin Dorje Drak – 1337-1373) was an unusual person. He was born to a family of accomplished practitioners; his birth was accompanied by miraculous signs and his body was endowed with many special qualities. He was recognized as the incarnation of Nanam Dorje Dudjom and named Ngydrub Gyaltsen. When he was 11, three feathers grew on his head, and when he was 23 he had five feathers. He is depicted in paintings with those feathers. Ever since, he has been known as Rigdzin Godem – Vidyadhara with vulture’s feathers.

When he was 29, he discovered in Zangzang Lhadrag a chest filled with ritual substances and many important teachings. Among them were: Kadag Rangjung Rangshar, Kagye Dragpo Rangjung Rangshar, Dorje Phurba, and the entire cycle of Dzogchen teachings -  Kunzang Gongpa Zangthal. He also deciphered Zangpo Dragpa’s terma that is known as Leudunma.


During his many journeys, Rigdzin Godemchen discovered seven hidden lands, which were supposed to serve practitioners as shelters in times of unrest and dangers. One of them was Sikkim. In Sikkim, Rigdzin Godem discovered more termas. The traditions taught in his teachings still practiced there in the present day.

In 1389, he became a personal tutor of the king of Gungtang and he established Se Trazang Monastery. This gompa became the seat of his son, Namgyal Gonpo whose incarnation was Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche.


Rigdzin Godemchen departed his body in Zilnon in Sikkim. His discoveries were of great significance and he was considered as one of five Kings of Tertons. His teaching permeated all the Nyingma lineages. Jangter tradition is sometimes called the fifth school of Tibetan Buddhism. Rigdzin Godem transmitted his teachings in three lineages: Mother’s (Lady Lopon Pema), Son’s (Namgyal Gonpo), and Disciple’s (Gonpo Dorje). These three were unified by Rigdzin Padma Thrinley.


Namgyal Gonpo (1399-1424) died when he was twenty years old. Legden Dorje Dudjom and Ngari Palchen Padma Wangyal have taken over the leading roles in the lineage. Legden Dorje Dudjom (1452 – 1565) was considered to be the incarnation of Rigdzin Godem, and Ngari Palchen Padma Wangyal (1487-1542) was his brother. They were born in the long family lineage of tantric masters descending from the first kings of Tibet.


Legden Dorje (1452-1565) was considered to be the emanation of Gonpo Legden Dorje. He was a difficult child but after the death of his close aunt, he engaged in Dharma. He was traveling all over U-Tsang to receive transmissions and it is said that that time he had about one hundred teachers of various Buddhist traditions. His practice was so powerful that by means of meditation he was able to cure himself of smallpox. During his pilgrimage with his brother Ngari Palchen, they received Janter teachings transmissions from Rigdzin Godem’s disciple, Sakya Zangpo. Sakya Zangpo recognized him as the tulku of his own master. Thukse Namkha, another disciple of Rigdzin Godem, bestowed to him other Jangter teachings.

Legden Dorje devoted his life to intense practice. He spent ten years in a strict solitary retreat in Pelbar and there he experienced many visions. Then he became a wandering yogi. He also found many lost teachings and popularized those which were about to disappear. He is the author of the root commentary to Zangthal, which has been used in Jangter monasteries until the present day. He was also practicing and transmitting teachings of other Buddhist lineages. During his pilgrimage, he discovered in Samye three volumes of teachings, which later were incorporated to Jangter. Lekden Dorje visited Nepal, Sikkim, U, and Tsang. During one of his travels, he founded the Trazang Monastery. He died at age of 113 years and his heart son was Tashi Tobgyal Wangpo De.


Ngari Palchen Pema Wangyal (1487-1542) was Lekden Dorje’s brother. His first teacher was his father who passed on to him all the teachings of tantra. When Pema Wangyal was twenty years old he had a profound knowledge of Vinaya and Buddhist philosophy. He was widely known as panchen – the great teacher. When he was twenty-one he received many transmissions and started his first strict meditation retreat. When he was twenty-five he took monastic ordination in Sakya tradition. Since then he devoted his whole life to pilgrimages and meditation in retreats. During one of the retreats, he had many visions of Padmasambhava and recalled his life as King Trisong Deutsen. When he was 38 years old he started to teach Dharma to others. His writings are still studied at Nyingma shedras. One of them is the treatise about three kinds of vows from Nyingma perspective. During pilgrimage to Samye with his brother Lekden Dorje, a group of wandering yogis gathered around them, and with time they became known as Evam Chok Gar. In this period of time, Pema Wangyal discovered terma Rigdzin Gongdu in Vairochana’s statue in Samye and got engaged in the renovation of Samye Monastery. During that time he was 46 years old. Ngari Palchen died in Mustang at age 56. During his funeral gathered crowd witness a ball of light rising towards the sky. He took rebirth as Jangdak Tashi Tobgyal (1550-1603), Lekden Dorje’s closest student.         


Yangdak Tashi Tobgyal (Tashi Tobgyal Wangpo De, 1550 – 1603) was born in the family descending from King Trisong Deutsen and was the incarnation of Ngari Palchen Pema Wangyal. He built many gompas. Among them, he established Sangngak Thekchok Ling Monastery, which became a famous center of tantra study, especially Guhyagarbha Tantra. In 1550 his family was expelled from Tsang and settled down in the Choying Taktse Palace in U. In that period Tashi Tobgyal got married and became a father to Ngagi Wangpo, Lekden Dorje’s incarnation. Tashi Tobgyal was a great tantric yogi. It is said that through his power he caused the king of Tsang’s death and rebirth in the higher realms. After that, he came back to peaceful activity, and during his journey through Mon, Kongpo, and Kham he healed many people and pacified conflicts and epidemics. Tashi Tobgyal discovered many termas, just to list discovered in Tsangrong Khambu Lung Karma Guru and Tsedrub Kusum Rikdukhor, discovered in Lodrak Dzonga Longchung Lhanglang Drak and Magyu Nyingpo Donsum, in Samye Nyongdrol Pemaraga, and in Kongpo Gyala. He is known having discovered a large amount of ter but they were not preserved until the present day. He is also known for miracles accompanying his teachings, for example during a violent storm the wind did not destroy the sand mandala. Another time he left a handprint on the rock just by moving his hand towards it. During a flood, he rescued people by reversing the direction of the flow of the river. His fame was so great that even his enemies became friendly to him. During this period he settled down in the community of practitioners in Evam Chokgar. He died at the age of 53 and his son, Ngagi Wangpo, became the heir of his lineage.


Ngagi Wangpo (3rd Rigdzin Dodrak) 1580-1639 was born in Drapche Choding Monastery in U. His parents were Tashi Tobgyal, the heart son of the 2nd Rigdzin Chenpo, and Yindzin Wangmo, born in the family of the king of Chongje. As soon as Ngagi Wangpo started talking, he announced that he is Lekden Dorje’s tulku. He was recognizing his former servants and belongings. Tashi Tobgyal declared him the head of Jangter lineage and arranged his education. After completing studies, Ngagi Wangpo started meditating in the solitude of various holy places connected with Padmasambhava. Then he began to travel. It is said that while passing through Yarlung, Trandrug, and Zapulung he gained control over many local deities. After his return to Tsang he settled in Evam Chokgar. He visited Samye and engaged in intense purifying practice consisting of circumambulation, butter lamps and tormas offering. About this time he moved the site of Evam Chokgar to the northern bank of Brahmaputra, to the auspicious place marked with a self-appearing vajra sign. He transformed the camp into the monastery and named it Thubten Dorje Drak Evam Chokgar. The exact time of this is not clear, but many documents mention dates 1632, 1610, 1618 and 1630. Tashi Wangpo was continuing the tradition of rituals and dances started by his father. This tradition has been upheld in the Jangter lineage until the present. He was very well known for removing the obstacles of whole monastic communities. It is believed that he pacified crime in Drakar, and in Samye he subdued the demon which couldn’t be handled even by Jatson Nyingpo. His fame was so great that he gained influence in the government of Tsang, became guru of the 5th Dalai Lama, and got an honorary title "hutuktu" from forefather Quing dynasty. When he was 60 years old and in good health, he called his disciples to give them some advice regarding Jangter future. Then he ordered the conduction of a confession ceremony concluded with many dedication prayers. After the ceremony, he went back to his room and departed his body. After his death, the monastery was looked after by his close disciples, Yolmo Tulku Tendzin Norbu and Zurchen Choying Rangdrol. 


Lobzang Pema Thrinley (4th Dodrak Rigdzin 1641-1717) was recognized as the incarnation and enthroned at the age of six. His first tutors were the closest students of the previous Rigdzin Chenpo. Thanks to his close relation of the 5th Dalai Lama with Jangter lineage, Pema Thrinley received from him the refuge and Vinaya vows. Since early childhood, he was known for his extraordinary intelligence and knowledge of all Buddhist disciplines. His writings were excellent. He wrote thirteen volumes on various subjects, mostly on Tantra and they form the cannon for studies and practice in Jangter lineage. On request of the 5th Dalai Lama he composed a liturgy for initiation of the main Anuyoga tantra, Gongpa Dupay Do, which became the main text for tantra transmission. As he was respected by all, Tibetan government requested him to perform necessary rituals for the state. He was guru of many greatest lamas of his that time and among his disciples were Terdak Lingpa and Lochen Dharma Shri. Pema Thrinley combined three Jangter lineages into one and established the way of performing rituals which are followed until the present. Like previous incarnations of Rigdzin Godem, he also discovered termas and holy places, one of them is Drak Yangdzok. When he was 77, he was killed by the Mongols during an invasion that completely destroyed Dorje Drak and Mindrolling monasteries.    


Kalzang Pema Wangchuk (5th  Dodrak Rigdzin, 1720–1777) was born in Kham, in the family descending from the kings of Chakdu and Nyarong. His birth was foretold by many oracles, especially by the Dharma protector Nodzin Tsiu Marpo. Kalzang Pema Wangchuk received his refuge vow from the 7th Dalai Lama and was enthroned in the newly rebuilt Dorje Drak Monastery. Soon after he started his studies and received all the initiations and transmissions of the lineage. Then he engaged in the series of solitary retreats and practiced extensively kyerim and dzogrim. During practice, he experienced many visions of deities, who transmitted teachings to him. Later, he wrote down those teachings and they became the base for present rituals of wrathful deities in Jangter tradition. He also composed eight volumes of writings, among them Deshek Kadu Gyatso and his autobiography Lharik Kyi Tsunpa Kalzang Pemey Mingchen Rangnyi Kyi Togpar Jopa. Following the footsteps of his predecessors he „opened gates to hidden lands”. He was also the holder of Yatson Nyingpo’s lineage.


Kunzang Gyurme Lhundrub, known also as Khamsum Zilnon (6th Dodrak Rigdzin, 1770–?), was born in Kham. At a very early age, he demonstrated his clairvoyance abilities and discovered space termas. After being enthroned at Dorje Drak, he developed the monastery, gave many teachings, and sponsored printing texts, commissioned statues and stupas. He emphasized the quality of education in the monastery, especially studies of Jangter tradition. He also established Tsang Monastery in Kham. The exact date of his death is not known but is said that he was 35 when he passed away. According to witnesses of his departure, his body was surrounded by a canopy of light, and whole area was filled with a pleasant smell.


Ngawang Jampal Mingyur Dorje (7th Dodrak Rigdzin 1810?-1844) was born close to Samye Monsatery, in the same place as Rigdzin Pema Thrinley. It is said that when he was little his mother died and he was very seriously sick for a long time. Finally, he was cured by nagas who gave him big amber. The main disciple of the previous Rigdzin Chenpo recognized his as the incarnation of his teacher and became his tutor. When Lhundrub Dorje was 13 he was widely recognized as a scholar and known for his compositions. He was also famous for the purity of his Vinaya discipline. He died at the age of 32.   


Kalzang Pema Wangyal Dudul Dorje (VIII Dodrak Rigdzin, 1848–1880) was born in Lodrak in the family descending from Marpa Lotsawa. Khamsum Zilnon, the student of previous Rigdzin Chenpo, identified him as the tulku of his teacher and enthroned him in Dorje Drak. His main teacher was Chuzang Namkha Logjang, but he got a great number of teachings from various lamas of all Nyingma traditions. He did retreats in Dorje Drak retreat center and in Yongdzok cave. Thanks to the intense practice of Ati he experienced many signs of accomplishment and high realization. He became very famous and the greatest masters of the 19th century became his disciples, for example, the 8th Panchen Lama. During the Nepali invasion, the Tibetan government requested him to perform protective rituals. He received the honorary title "hutuktu". He died at the age of 33.


Thubten Chowang Nyamni Dorje (9th Dodrak Rigdzin, 1886-1933) was born in Lhasa in the family of tantric yogis. He was recognized as Rigdzin Godem’s tulku by Lharik Pema Wajra, the disciple of the 8th Dodrak Rigdzin. He received a very broad and thorough education in all aspects of Buddhist knowledge of all traditions. When he was 10, he started to learn practices and rituals according to Jangter lineage under the tuition of the abbot of Dorje Drak, Jigme Gyalwe Nyugu and Yongjin Kalzang Tsulthrim. When he was 20 he receive gelong vows and engaged in intense practice in Nyingma and Sarma traditions. Thank to practice in solitude he achieved signs of accomplishment, for example, he could write mantras in a solid stone with his finger, by mere pointing at a falling rock he could stop it and during the initiations, the water in the bumpa did not exhaust. He was famous for his writings, especially for the commentary on Bodhicharyavatara. He had many famous students; among them were 40th Sakya Trizin and 6th Sechen Rabjam. Rigdzin Nyamni Dorje expanded Dodrak Monastery and built the retreat center. In 1921, he visited branch monasteries in Tibet, among them Bane Monastery. He died when he was 47, though various sources give different dates: 1932 and 1935.


Thubten Jigme Namdrol Gyatso (10th Dordrak Rigdzin) was born in 1936 in Lhasa. His tutor was Gotsa Khenchen Thekchok. Because of the Chinese invasion, there is not much information about Dorje Drak Monastery and present Rigdzin Chenpo. The only known thing is that during the invasion the monastery was destroyed and it is still being slowly rebuilt. Rigdzin Chenpo is a secular practitioner.

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