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Pema-Lingpa

Concise presentation of the outgoing lineage of one of the most prestigious spiritual masters of Bhutan.

Ugyen Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) was one of the most famous Terton (treasure discoverer) of Vajrayana Buddhism.

The lineage of Pema Lingpa is rooted in the 9th century, in the time when the great spiritual master Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, spread Buddhism in the land of Tibet. In his great foresight and for the good of all beings, Padmasambhava hid during his lifetime, teachings or termas, called Treasures, in anticipation of times to come when the Dharma would experience barriers and degeneration. The most profound and subtle of them are those known as the Dzogchen or Atiyoga.

Padmasambhava prophesied who the Tertön would be, and under what circumstances the termas would be discovered. Hundreds of tertöns revealed, at present, thousands of teachings bequeathed by Guru Rimpoche. Among them were the five kings, including Pema Lingpa Tertön the fourth.

The lineage of Pema Lingpa began in Tibet, on the death of Lacham Pemasel, the daughter of King Trison Detsen, who died suddenly in his eighth year and that Guru Rinpoche brought to life in order to transmit to her the secret doctrine of Kandro Nyingtig (The Heart Pearls of the Dakini). He gave her the power to reveal these teachings in a future life. He blessed and prophesied that she would be reborn under the aspect of King Tertön Pema Lingpa and would reveal its more profound teachings.

Princess Pemasel revealed and taught the Kandro Nyingtig during her next incarnation under the name of Pema Lendreltsel, who then took birth as the great master Longchen Rabjampa (Longchenpa). Pema Lingpa is the direct incarnation of the omniscient Longchenpa.

Longchenpa was known for his understanding and his extremely vast and profound teachings. As Pema Lingpa thereafter, he could read and write at the age of five. At the age of 20, he had full knowledge of all sciences and an understanding of Buddhist Dharma without comparison. In his thirty second year, during a retreat in Chimpu, the Dakini Vajravarahi appeared and informed him that he would accomplish in his life the good of many people by teaching the Dzogchen. She also said that in his next life, he would be reborn in Boumthang as Pema Lingpa to help a larger number of people.

Born in 1450 in the town of Boumthang in Bhutan, Pema Lingpa is a descendant of the Nyingma lineage. In his childhood he attended a nonextensive Buddhist education. At the beginning of his adult life that, in the form of dreams and visions, he received the instructions that would allow him to find 108 great works, treasures and relics in Bhutan, Tibet and India. However, because of karmic causes and inappropriate conditions, he only revealed 32 of the prophesied treasures. However the revealed treasures contained the essence of the 108 treasures. This essence is summarized in the cycle of “Three Practices from the Heart” by Guru Rinpoche transmitted to Princess Pemasel.

Pema Lingpa was, in his time, a spiritual teacher of great importance. He was recognized as such by the four main schools of Vajrayana. He devoted his life to reveal the treasures of Guru Rinpoche, meditating in remote places, to give many teachings and initiations, build and restore monasteries and generate a tradition that continues today.

Today, the lineage of Pema Lingpa is represented by three emanations of awakened Body, Speech and Mind, namely Ganteng Tulku Rinpoche, Sungtrul Rinpoche, and Tukse Rinpoche. Unfortunately, His Eminence Tukse Rinpoche left his body in 2010.

His Eminence Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche is the ninth emanation of the Pema Lingpa’s body awake. He is the founder and spiritual director of Yeshe Khorlo. He leads many monasteries in Bhutan and teaches Dharma for the good of all beings in his country and all around the world .

The main source of this text is extracted from the book “The Life and Revelations of Pema Lingpa” published by Snow Lion. This book is highly recommended for a comprehensive introduction to the teachings and life of Pema Lingpa.

Short Biography

His Eminence Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche, Kunzang Pema Namgjal, was born in 1955 in a remote valley in Bhutan. He is the ninth incarnation of Pema Tinele, the reincarnation of the great principle of the Body of Tertön Pema Lingpa (1450-1521), the main manifestation of the Dzogchen master Longchen Rabjampa (1308-1363). He is recognized as a great Dzogchen master of the Nyingma tradition. His primary residence is located in a valley in central Bhutan, the monastery of Gangteng Gompa.

Rinpoche belongs to the Vajrayana school of Buddhism. He studied in Bhutan in the south of India and Nepal with Masters Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya. His most important teachers were Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Khyabdjé Kentchen, Tenzin Döndroup Rinpoche, Penor Rinpoche, and Chatral Rinpoche. Rinpoche spent 11 years of his life in retreat.

Today, Rinpoche manages about 35 monasteries and temples in Bhutan and centers in the West. He spreads the Dzogchen teaching of the Pema Lingpa tradition all around the world.

Detailed Biography

Rinpoche was born in 1955 near Trongsa in a beautiful mountainous and remote region of central Bhutan. He was recognized in his chilhood as the ninth body emanation of Pema Lingpa by His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, His Holiness Khyentse Dilgo Rinpoche and by other masters of Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism).

He received the traditional education given to young Tulkus as a monk at the monastery of Trongsa before being officially enthroned at age 16 as the 9th Gangteng Tulku at the monastery of Gangteng Gompa. This monastery is the traditional place of residence of the Gangteng Tulkus.

Rinpoche then undertook the spiritual direction of 19 monasteries and Nyingma hermitages (this number has since increased to over 35). Rinpoche has also launched a monastery dedicated to the complete education of Nuns (Pema Choling). The site of Ganteng Gompa was chosen by Pema Lingpa himself. It is now the largest Nyingma monastery in Bhutan.

Rinpoche has studied three years with Dudjom Rinpoche, who was spiritual leader of the Nyingma lineage. During this period, he received the full cycle of initiations and teachings of the Pema Lingpa lineage of the two great master Dudjom Khyentse Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. These masters had themselves received these initiations in Tibet and had taken in their escape the texts relative to these termas.

Then he spent eight years in almost constant meditation under the guidance of Je Khenpo Tenzin Dhendup, known to be one of the most highly realized masters of Dzogchen. Then followed by a period of intense study, in particular with Chatral Rinpoche.

Finally, in the mid-80s, on the incentive of his masters, Gangteng Tulku Rinpoche decided to come to the West to teach Dzogchen. He made his first journey alone, without even being accompanied by an assistant.

Then he undertook a new three-year solitary retreat which he left in 1992. Since then, he never stops working to uphold the tradition of teachings and meditation practices of Pema Lingpa. He set up some three years retreats and two isolated Dzogchen retreats centers, a nunnery and a shedra for women, a university of very high level adjacent to Ganteng Gompa.

Outside Bhutan, Rinpoche travels every year in Europe, North America and Asia.
He is responsible for the creation of retreat centers and Buddhist teachings in the West. Rinpoche’s teachings concern essentially the view and practice of Dzogchen. Thus the Yeshe Khorlo centers have emerged. He sent three residents Khenpos or Lamas, Khenpo Karma Wanguiel for Europe, Lama Dorje Lopon Phurba in USA and Lama Lopon Sangak Yeshe to Canada in order to spread the teachings of the Nyingma tradition and lineage of Pema Lingpa.